Best Novel – Sarah Perry

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I have nothing but admiration and awe for Sarah Perry. There are so many highlights I could spoil the entire book but instead I’ll share the most poignant part.

One of the characters is depicted sharpening a pencil with a razor and an almost tangible memory of my Grandad burst from the page. I remember he always had a pencil sharpened this way. It also made me remember the old, battered suitcase, full of felt pens and pencils that were kept for all the grandkids to use. I don’t know what happened to that. Thanks for the memory, Sarah. It makes the book so much more for me.

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Best Adventure – Matthew Reilly

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What a wild ride! This book is so much fun. Anyone who has read Reilly’s earlier work will have an idea of what to expect. For anyone reading Reilly for the first time, you’re in for a blast. Think Hollywood blockbuster for the page.

What surprises me is how many negative reviews for The Great Zoo of China appear on Goodreads. Seriously, what do people want? Most of the criticisms are shallow and snobby and I’m really shocked. Reilly even says, to paraphrase, he wants readers to enjoy his books and have a good time, which I did. I can understand people might find some of the elements cliched but so are a lot of books – think stereotypical Mills and Boon, half the fantasy I see being published or the young adult, I need to have a boyfriend to be a real girl, garbage, Walking Dead or half the dreck out of Hollywood lately. If these are the dominating books on your shelves, you will never convince me your argument is valid. Never. Ever.

Suspend your disbelief, go with the flow and enjoy yourself.

Most Beautiful – Billy Coffey

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Allie Granderson, 12 years old, and her best friend Zach go in search of her mother who disappeared during a tornado five hundred and forty three days ago. The first thing you learn about Allie is she’s independent, head strong and in some ways, older than her years.

It is actually quite difficult to write a review for this book because it so different from what I usually find myself reading and because it was nice. Nice is also an inadequate word because whatIn the Heart of the Dark Woods proves is that there are writers who can tell a story that is reliant on skill and talent rather than built on shocks and vulgarity. Do not misunderstand me, I also like these books but occasionally, it is a pleasure to step away from them.

The strength of the characters in this book and the imagery used to portray them are so stark and vivid. Coffey describes the desolation and the cold and the pains of the children’s bodies and all of the elements feel so real. There are moment in the book where I sighed aloud in frustration and disappointment as something went wrong for Allie and Zach.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to reset the reading button in their heart and soul.

There’s so much you can know and so much more you can’t and that’s why God has sharp edges. Hug Him anyway. A life with pain means more than a life without it.

Best Horror

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It is almost instantaneous that a reader understands this book will be different from others. We have the semblance of normal, working father in a mobile library, a bored kid who, through a series of events, turns into a passive, agreeable angel where once she had been a rude little shit. What makes this unique? The simple fact that the father, Oliver Gooch, doesn’t really like his daughter very much and quite easily sees the flaws in her. So refreshing from the gushing parent in fiction who thinks their child is perfect and how dare you not agree with them.

Our narrator, Oliver Gooch, isn’t terribly likeable but there is something addictive about him. Who of us hasn’t wanted a cozy job where you could virtually do whatever you wanted as the whim took you. Until Chloe’s accident, this is almost the life Gooch was living. When all this changes, Gooch decides to open a bookshop. The bookshop isn’t anything special, Gooch himself admits you could buy most of his stock in high street or charity shops but he has the alleged milk tooth of the great Edgar Allan Poe. Along the way, he inherits a crow and all strange things begin to happen. All of the strange things are entirely plausible and I found myself jumping at noises in my flat as I read them in the book. Graham has taken a mundane series of events and turned them into something other. There is a feeling throughout the book of a Stephen King influence. Even though I say there is a King style influence, I do not want anyone to think I am taking away from Graham because there is also a very English feeling to Wakening the Crow.

This isn’t your typical, cheap shocks, horror novel. It plays on your mind. You can imagine every moment of this book and it worms itself into your subconscious. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the horror genre who wants to scare themselves with their own imaginations.Wakening the Crow allows for your imagination to go into overdrive as the words are incredibly visual while not being overwhelmingly descriptive.

Wakening the Crow does feel as though it runs out of momentum towards the end as Gooch becomes increasingly haphazard. Some reviewers have seen this as a negative, however, I feel it works and completes the narrative because it shows the characters mind after a stressful twelve months.

I acknowledge I’m reading an ARC copy of this book but I hope it was given another once over by an editor as there are some glaringly obvious mistakes throughout this copy. My local library doesn’t have a final copy in their stock for me to check. (Sorry). Don’t let this deter you though. The book is so much better than a couple of mistakes!