Monday, 30 June 2014

Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens

Pages: 336
Publisher: Corgi
Release Date: 5th June 2014
Edition: UK proof, review copy

The first gripping Agatha Cristie-style mystery starring a brilliant new double act: feisty, funny, schoolgirl detectives, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong. 

When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Sciecne Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place...and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

It took me weeks of hearing how charming and fun and utterly wonderful Murder Most Unladylike is before I caved and requested it from NetGalley – it’s just not something I would pick up myself. I am so, so glad I listened to my Twitter feed!

A middle grade murder mystery set in a 1930s all girls boarding school brings too things to mind immediately: Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton – two things I bypassed completely in my childhood. They never appealed to me and now having read Murder Most Unladylike, I have no idea why. I think I missed out. I love the strong sense of place of a boarding school, the subtle differences of a familiar environment set eighty years ago, the intense friendships forged and how easy it is to sneak out in the middle of the night to investigate a murder.

The novel was set out in a way that suited the story perfectly. It was segmented into developments of the Case of Miss Bell as the book itself is Hazel Wong writing up their investigation as the Detective Society Secretary. I really liked the handwritten suspect list which was updated every so often with new evidence, alibis, motives and ruling outs. I especially liked this set up as Hazel is the sidekick in the operation for the most part of the novel, and yet it’s her that’s telling the story.

Daisy is the President of the Detective Society and she calls the shots. I have to admit that I ended up really disliking Daisy at points during the novel. Daisy and Hazel have a very unequal friendship, and though it’s not malicious or purposeful on Daisy’s part, I hate the way she pushed Hazel around and disregarded her opinions and feelings. I’ve been the sidekick in a lot of friendships and I know how horrible it can be – it made me react irrationally strongly to some of the exchanges between the girls! But both girls are such strong characters, each with different skills and personality traits to lend to their investigations which made them a brilliant detective duo.

The strength of character extended the whole cast of the novel, especially the teachers. Each was so distinct and played really strong roles in the hunt for Miss Bell’s character – it’s a great way to explore one of those things that was fascinating in primary and middle school – The Secret Lives of Teachers. It’s made me start to wonder all over again what my favourite teachers were up to...

Murder Most unladylike is witty, charming and so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad book two, Arsenic for Tea, is coming out in January.

Thanks to RHCP and NetGalley for the review copy.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Letterbox Love #53

Letterbox Love all of the lovely, lovely books I’ve gotten in the post, bought and everything else. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. Hosted by Narratively Speaking.

For review:

Landline, Rainbow Rowell (e-proof)

The captivating, quirky and heart-warming new novel from the bestselling author of Eleanor and Park.

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and he still loves her – but that almost seems beside the point now.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show, she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her – he is always a little upset with her – but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts...

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off in their marriage never happened?

I FINALLY got approved for this on NetGalley! Whoop, whoop! Thanks Orion!


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Haunt: Dead Scared, Curtis Jobling

Pages: 248
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 5th June 2014
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, Rage of Lions, Shadow of the Hawk, Nest of Serpents, Storm of Sharks, War of the Werelords

When Will finds himself in hospital, but unable to make anyone see or hear him, he realises that he never made it home from his first kiss with the school hottie. Knocked off his bike in a road traffic accident, Will is now officially dead – and a ghost. But somehow, his best mate, Dougie, can still see him, and, what is more, increasingly Will seems bound to Dougie, going only where Dougie goes.

Once they’ve exhausted all the comic possibilities of being invisible, they set about unravelling the mystery of Will’s predicament. Is it something to do with that kiss, or the driver that killed him and didn’t stop? Maybe they will find an answer by investigating the rumour that there is an unhappy spirit haunting the ruins in the school grounds, and if so, why? What they discover is a long-buried mystery, which stretches its fingers right into the present...

Ghosts aren’t really my go-to supernatural creature, but Curtis Jobling changed my mind. I was laughing aloud only a few pages in.

The banter between Dougie and Will is brilliant. They meanly tease each other in only the way best mates can, and these two really are the best of mates. I mean, there aren’t many people who’d let you haunt them are there? The genuine affection between the boys was so easy and natural that it was closer to brotherhood really – I really enjoyed reading their interactions, especially as they were full of pop culture references which were generally used to insult each other.

The stress of Will’s death and how it seemed that Dougie was going a little mad (proclaiming you’re dead best friend is a ghost can have that effect) did through a few fractures into their relationship, however. Dougie was unable to grieve and move on and was constantly being dragged into Will’s ghostly investigations into whether there were any other ghosts around. And of course, the person behind his hit and run. They worked around it though and ended up solving a few of their mysteries, catching a murdered and putting an old ghost to rest. Not bad for a term’s work, really.

Haunt is fresh, funny and incredibly easy to read. I can’t wait to see what Will and Dougie get up to next.

Thanks to S&S for the review copy.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Louder Than Words, Laura Jarratt

Pages: 403
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: 5th June 2014
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Skin Deep, By Any Other Name

Words on a page...
          They’re beautiful, powerful.

Words in my mouth...
          They don’t work.

They choke up inside me and won’t come out.

My pen has a freedom my mouth has never had. The last person I spoke to was my brother, Silas, and I was six. Since then, not a word. Silas says he’d give anything to hear me speak again.

Now I sit here and think the same about him.

A moving and heartwarming novel from the award-nominated author of Skin Deep and By Any Other Name.

I’m a big fan of Laura Jarratt’s novels; they’re warm and life-affirming and beautifully written, and while Louder Than Words is all of those things too, it didn’t quite hit the same notes for me as her others did.

Louder Than Words has an unexpected political edge to it. Rafi’s brother Silas becomes heavily involved in an anarchist group called ActionX who go to protests and start riots and horrible things like that. I have to admit that Lara and Dillon’s preaching on the subject made me uncomfortable. Though their ideals started in a good place, they ended up doing more harm than good – they were blinded to what they were actually doing. I honestly think that this storyline is what put me off the novel slightly as I loved the characters.

Silas is that brilliant older brother character. He loves his little sister dearly, gets involved in her life, sticks up for her friends, accidentally breaks girls hearts because they always like him more than he does and has issues with the rest of his family. It was really nice to get to know him more thoroughly through his unsent emails to his dad. Josie is adorably brash and bold and brave, and has a heart of gold. Those she could have so easily been annoying, I found her tendency to waffle endearing. Then we have Rafi, the star of the show. I love how much of her personality came through without her speaking. The snippets from Rafi’s collections of truths was really eye opening and shed a lot of light on her character and why she became a progressive mute.

Progressive mutism is something I have never come across in a YA novel before. I read about a child with selection mutism in a Torey Hayden memoir before, but Rafi’s experience was completely different. She hadn’t spoken a single word in eight years. I think that it’s still a condition shrouded in mystery, but Jarratt put Rafi’s struggles across sensitively and powerfully.

There are so many wonderful things about Louder Than Words and I strongly suggest you pick it up. I guess I just have issues with politics!

Thanks to Electric Monkey for the review copy.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

What pushes you to pre-order?

I have an illness. I like books. I like owning beautiful copies of them even more. This leads to lots of pre-ordering. Sometimes I go and take a look at my open orders on Amazon and cringe at the sheer amount of them. Admittedly, I usually end up cancelling a fair few as I receive the books for review, but I still end up with a fair few.

There are certain rules to my pre-ordering, however.

- I have to be almost certain I’ll enjoy it if it’s a debut, especially if it’s in hardback.
          - Hardbacks have to be over 300 pages.
- Certain authors are an instant pre-order: Sarah Dessen, Rachel Caine, Cassandra Clare, Tanya Byrne, Liz de Jager, Keris Stainton, Julie Kagawa, Maggie Stiefvater, Richelle Mead and worryingly, a few more...
- I have to read it within two months of it arriving.
- The edition has to be the same format as the rest of the series/collection. I have to admit that I don’t always stick to this one.

Although I spend a lot on my pre-orders, it actually saves me money in the long run. I get the lowest price guarantee which means I usually get the book for a lot cheaper than I would if I had waited until after publication.

And to be honest, there are few things as exciting as receiving an email saying a book you’re super excited about has just been dispatched. Especially when it’s early.

As I said, it’s an illness. One I’m perfectly fine not being cured of.

Do you pre-order? What makes you pre-order a book? Do you have any auto-pre-orders?