It’s that time again. Its domestic crime time. It’s friend versus friend. Secrets will be revealed and there’s danger at the end of every cul-de-sac. Yes, the fictional world where the nice old lady next door could be a cannibalistic mass murderer but that’s not the most thrilling thing to happen because it’s not happening to our uber relatable heroine. I read this book as it was sent to me as a proof to my office. They thought I would like it. They must have thought it was something different from the norm of that genre because my thoughts are quite plain. But this was special.
Vicky Seagrave is happily married to her university sweetheart who is dreamy, rides a motorcycle and has a good job in the city. They found out Vicky was pregnant while the relationship was quite new and they have been together ever since with two more children to make the perfect five. One more and you’d have to buy a people carrier. Her children are beautiful and polite. She tries hard to be the wonder woman people believe her to be. She can’t let anyone know the discomfort and lack of connect she feels with her son, the release of escaping into another man’s arms. All of that is slightly overshadowing by her leaving her son alone in the house only for a man to break in. The struggle leaves her son with a broken arm.
This is just the beginning. This is page 44. I say these things because you need to understand that Vicky does not have a grasp on anything. She’s spinning too many plates. After the break in, her friend Amber is her greatest ally. She sees to things. She is a source of comfort and answers. She lies. She knows the consequences of what happens if it gets out Vicky left her child unattended. The rest of the book is an essay in why Vicky should not have trusted Amber.
It’s dramatic sure, but it’s clever and well-constructed. It says a lot about the life behind the white picket fence. Rather than going to going out with a bang, it carefully wears away everyone’s exteriors to reveal that there’s no such thing as perfect. Even Amber, who seems calm and in control, has secrets and a past and wants the best things in life for herself. There is no good and evil, there is what they have and what you don’t. One women’s little mistake is another’s opportunity for control.
Survival. Survival. Survival. This is a book about survival. The place is Poland and the time is 1939. Anna is just seven years old when her father disappears. He said he would only been gone for a few hours and she is left in the care of a friend. When her father doesn’t return, she is thrown out on the street to fend for herself until she meets The Swallow Man. A gentleman who is more chameleon than a small bird. War is coming and the Swallow Man knows how to survive.
They leave for the cover of the woods. It’s cold and barren. They live on the smallest amounts of food and thin clothing. Winters and summers come and go. Anna learns how to forage but with the threat of war the most important technique she learns is how to adapt to people. The Swallow Man teaches her how to let the other party speak first. Mimic their language and mannerisms. You must present yourself as an ally rather than a foe. Never speak first and speak Road; a mixture of this technique and a back story that will help them live another day.
This book reminded me a lot of Our Endless Numbered Days. It is a survival story. Unlike Our Endless Numbered Days, there seems to be no end because there is no past and present told at the same time. There is only the present. Much like for Anna and the Swallow Man, we don’t know the destination or how many days they have. The only end we know is the end of the book. You’re running out of pages and there’s no hint of a resolution. How will it all end?! I wonder if the author knew or like Anna, we take each day as it comes and hope for a tomorrow.
I heard Benjamin Johncock talk so passionately I had to buy his book. Jim Harrison, great name, is a test pilot. He’s career is about risking his life for the development of flight. However, man wants to fly to the moon. Jim Harrison, great name, doesn’t see the need for a pilot. They want to move from monkey to man, they don’t need pilots but men with a death wish to sit on their hands and take the glory. That’s the historical aspect of the book, the angle Johncock was talking about that peaked my interest. Jim Harrison, great name, is a broken man.
It all starts out so promisingly. Jim and Grace are the perfect couple. Jim enjoys a drink or two at Pancho’s, great name, bar with his flying friends. As man shoots for the stars, Jim seems to sink deeper as his world falls apart. Despite the heart break, this book was a pleasant surprise. I had no expectations and it reached the stars themselves. Okay, bad puns over and I’ll talk about what I loved about the book.
For every squared jawed All American character, we have people of heart and one who’s down right bonkers. Pancho, great name, was my favourite character. She was eccentric but your best friend in a time of crisis. She’s the first to make fun of you but tell you if you’re being a dickhead. I adored her relationship with Jim. It was the stability Jim and we as the reader needed throughout the dramas and pressures that happen. For lack of a better word, it was a solid book. It had everything: history, drama, love, comedy, danger, action. It’s a flawless debut novel. Thank you Benjamin, pleasure to have meet and sorry it took me two years to finally pick up your book and read it.
Welcome back to the scary underbelly of America where demons reign and nightmares live. Not all demons are scary though. Amber is scary looking when she’s in her demon form but she spends more time as a shy, awkward human we all identify with. Amber is still on the run from her parents who originally planned to eat her but now want to kill her out of spite because she got them in trouble with The Shining Demon. He’s kind of a big deal.
Thankfully, Amber is not alone. She is joined by the maybe once bad, now good guy Milo. His background is eerily and mysterious as is his car. Brought together due to life threatening circumstances, the two now share endless verbal battles and a desire to stay alive. This brings them to Desolation Hill, a typical small American town with a big secret. Amber and Milo aren’t the only ones that notice something is off. The Derek Landy version of Mystery Inc have joined the party as well as five demonic bikes affectionally named the Hounds of Hell.
As you can imagine, this is escapism at its best. The danger is real but so is the humour. You cannot flaw Landy’s dialogue. There are no awkward pauses to be found. Everyone that comes into contact with our daring duel are meet with the wit and pace to rival the Gilmore Girls. However, I have one small criticism. I’m also partially to blame for that. During action sequences, such as fights and flights, I can get a little muddled. I’m reading at such a speed desperate for more but there could be more clarity. It’s a terrifying and confusing situation for our characters and they may not know themselves, but I’d kind of want to know what the hell is going on. Maybe for the third, I just need to slow down.
This big book is creepy as fuck. Unfortunately, not flawless. NOS4R2 is set in a world where some people have supernatural powers. For example, we have a librarian that can predict the present and the future with Scrabble tiles. But this story isn’t about her. With great power comes the two extremes: the good and the evil. Our protagonist Victoria McQueen is the good; she has the ability to find lost things by riding her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike over a bridge. Charles Talent Manx is the evil; he has created ‘Christmasland’ where it is Christmas every day. If you think that’s amazing, you are so very wrong. He lures children away from parents that ‘don’t deserve to be parents’ and the children are never seen from again. There’s nothing for terrifying than evil thinking they are good.
NOS4R2 is about two extremes of good and evil. Vic is persuaded by the Scrabble lady to save the children. Manx’s power is Christmasland is too great and she barely makes it out alive. She is saved from the side of the road by a biker and she attempts a happily ever after. It’s hard not to like Vic, she’s rebellious. She’s all the decisions you were too scared to make, she’s covered in tattoos and rides motorcycles. She’s not the perfect mother to her but her boyfriend is caring and patience. I loved the little dysfunctional family.
I like to think of that as book one in a saga which is what this books should have been. It feels like a trilogy squeezed into one book. All I’ve told so far was in the first couple of hundred pages. Both Vic and Manx’s are dissatisfied. Vic never thought of herself as the family type. Manx wants revenge. Vic wants Manx brought to justice. Manx thinks Vic doesn’t deserve her son and wants to take him to Christmasland. The third act of the book is a gun blazing revenge story.
It was too much for one book. The author has created an incredible world and a brilliant villain but towards the end I become reluctant to read it. I didn’t enjoy reading it, I just wanted to know how it finished because I had invested so much time in reading it. I hated myself for feeling like that. I would welcome a trilogy broken up with more stories of people with supernatural powers rather than a larger than life tale over 600 pages ending like a Michael Bay movie.
I am very proud to announce that I will be part of the 2017 Book Happiness Project. It all started with a tweet from the lovely @cupofwonderland aka Hannah Kaye Tindale when she asked for Book Tubers and Book Bloggers. Humbly, I bragged that I was both. After several Twitter messages, group threads and one googledoc, we present The Book Happiness Project. A year of happiness, love and all things bookish. This is how it’s going to work:
A booktuber and blogger team up each month with a theme, all of which begin with the ‘Happiness In’. To kick things off, we have the Hannah (ACupofWonderland) and Taylor (BookaflixTaylor) with Happiness in New. January will be all about new stuff like author’s you’re experiencing for the first time or from new countries you’ve never read from before. Get ready for a whole year of video challenges, readathons, moviethons, video challenges, writing challenges, blog posts, instagram challenges! There are no rules, it’s up to the hosts to fulfil the theme as they see fit. And where do I fit in? I have the pleasure of hosting May, September and October. Just a little tease, May is Happiness in Space and my co-host is a mystery Booktuber.
Follow us in the all the places to find out more:
Hashtags: #tbhp #TheBookHappinesProject
You can find me here:
Facebook: Charlie Emma Hay Reads
Lots of Happy Book Love x
This is a book that’s part detective drama, part action movie. Let me introduce to you a walking talking skeleton whose bones animated themselves out of sheer spite. He solves crimes and is a good guy. After his friend’s death, Skulduggery Pleasant meet’s his niece: a twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. This unlikely friendship blooms into a beautiful partnership of wit and fighting ancient evil with magic. I adored the world that Derek has created, it was just right. I would call it magical realism which I like to think of as subtle enough to be plausible much like Neil Gaiman’s works.
There is no faulting Derek Landy’s dialogue. Skulduggery meets an equal in Stephanie and it makes for fantastic reading. Cheesy but good cheese: the good guys saying something witty after disposing of a replaceable generic minion by knocking him unconscious with a tennis racket and remarking ‘ten – love’ or something similar. This is Derek’s realm of expertise, not mine. It reads and feels like an action film. There are chases, time is running out and we don’t know who we can trust. It’s a gripping read and I read it too fast, I would have to go back to re-read passages because I didn’t know how a character found themselves in the jaw of a monster. That’s an example, I don’t think that quite happened in the book. Or did it and I’m tricking you so I don’t spoil the ending. Read it for yourself and find out.
Occasionally, you need a book like Skulduggery Pleasant. I call them palate cleansers, like a sorbet at a fancy restaurant with several courses and a new wine for each one. I’m okay with the wine side, but I’ll stick to three courses. After reading crime or generally depressing but beautiful books, I want fun and hope. This falls in the fun category. I’m desperate for the rest of the series. Everyone’s shitting all over 2016 because it shit on us. For me 2016 was a good year and Skulduggery Pleasant was a part of that joy.