Book Review… See You In the Cosmos Carl Sagan- Jack Cheng…

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.
All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a far and honest review.

From the first page, I started to fall in love with Alex a little bit. He reminded me very much of me at that age as I was space obsessed. He is an incredibly erudite 11 year old who has a rather different lifestyle to most 11 year old. From the start, you get the impression that his mother suffers with a mental illness and he is her carer.

As the story unfolds, you come across some incredible characters and they paint a rich series of colours that help to paint Alex’s life a different colour than he ever thought would be possible.

A four out of five star read.

I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK.

Book Review – Final Girls by Riley Sager…

Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…
They were called The Final Girls.
Three young women who survived unimaginable horror. Three victims of separate massacres grouped together by the press. Three strangers bound by similar traumas.
Lisa. Quincy. Samantha.
When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book begins in the past as one of the female protagonists, Quincy is fleeing for her life from the cottage her friends were killed in. The chapter is written very well and it conveys the character and her terror in a really concise way.

As she learns of the death of one of the other “final girls”, Quincy is devastated and realising that her past will once again take over her life. The other final girl, Sam, arrives out of nowhere shortly before they find out that Lisa’s death was not a suicide but was indeed a murder.

A journalist that Quincy hates tries to tell her that all is not as it seems with Sam and that she is lying to Quinn. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust and finds herself spiralling out of control. The memories that Quincy could not recall are starting to filter through the blackness of her mind.

This story is brilliantly written and the twists and turns keep you guessing right up to the end. I was so shocked when the culprit is revealed. I would never have guessed.

Great book. I give it five out of five stars.

I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Dutton for my copy.

Book Review: The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard…

When I was a little girl, my dad left me and my mum, and he never came back. And you’re supposed to be gutted when that happens. But secretly I preferred it without him, cos it meant I had my mum completely to myself, without having to share her with anyone. And I sort of inherited all the affection she used to give to my dad – like he’d left it behind for me as a gift, to say sorry for deserting me
So says eleven year old Shruti of her broken home in suburban middle England. But hopes of her mother’s affection are in vain: speaking little English, and fluent in only Hindi and Punjabi, Shruti’s mother is lost, and soon falls prey to family pressure to remarry. To find another husband means returning to India and leaving Shruti behind.
Meanwhile at school a new arrival, the indomitable Meena, dispenses with Shruti’s bullying problems and transforms her day to day life. Desperate for companionship Shruti latches on to Meena to the point of obsession, following her through high school and on to university. But when Meena invites Shruti to join her on holiday in India, she has no idea how dangerous her obsession will turn out to be…
I was given an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I found the style of language used in writing this story started to grate from around the third page. Shruti’s character was so insipid, I often wanted to put my hands through the page and shake some back bone into her.
The depiction of an Asian teenager’s school struggles were accurate but as time moved on I found it harder to cope with what Shruti’s character was doing and saying.
Her interactions with Meena show just how desperate she was to be liked, even at the darkest points of the story.
WARNING: I will add that this story discusses rape and sexual violence, which the book should carry a trigger warning for.
I’m sorry, but I have to be honest. This story gets a two out of five star score. I am profoundly grateful to Netgalley for my ARC.

Book review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth…

One choice can transform you-or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
Veronica Roth has a very subtle way of pulling a reader into a scene and captivating them to the extent that they feel just like they are standing right next to the characters.
There is much more emotional torment in this book. Tris is reeling from the loss of her parents and over the lives that she had to take including Will’s. She has real issues now and is not able to pick up a gun and fight.
There is an undercurrent of emotional trauma running throughout this book and we are made much more aware of Tris’s vulnerable side. She is trying to come to terms with the loss of her parents and this, compacts with her grief over Will to make her almost irrational at times.
We get to see more of Tobias’s emotional side too. He has genuine frustrations and fears over Tris’s behaviour and comes very close to ending it with her, despite the depth of his feelings for her.
Tris makes an incredibly brave (or totally stupid) sacrifice which places her in mortal danger. We learn that she is betrayed by someone you never thought would do that and equally shocking is who saves her life.
The twists and turns that follow the last part of the story show that trusting those we love is what helps us stay strong.
I’m giving this book a four out of five star rating. Many thanks to Netgalley for my ARC.

Book review: Divergent by Veronica Roth…

Divergent by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I was given an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
We first meet Beatrice in the lead up to her assessment. She tries hard to be what her Abnegation family want her to be.
When she goes through her assessment, she finds out that what she is may kill her. She is a Divergent. The Dauntless woman that did her assessment tells her that she must keep this to herself.
As the choosing ceremony draws closer, Beatrice realises that she has another option than Abnegation. She is drawn to Dauntless, the faction known for their bravery. But she feels that she must stay with her family. This confusion pulls at her until the choosing ceremony. Then the unthinkable happens – her brother Caleb crosses over to Erudite. Before she knows it, it is her turn and her blood is falling into the fires of the Dauntless bowel.
We are given, at this early stage of the book, a glimpse into Tris’s character. We realise that she is made of sterner stuff than we first thought. As we advance through Dauntless initiation with her, we learn that she has great strength and courage.
We discover that Eric, one of the sadistic leaders of the Dauntless is not what he appears to be, and he is a greater threat to Tris that was first thought.
Tris takes some risks that almost cost her dearly, and a surprise intervention is what saves her.
As the story progresses, several of the characters prove to be not what you think. The story picks up so quickly and has so many twists and turns, it left me breathless. 
I’m profoundly grateful to Netgalley for my copy of this book. A 5 out of 5 star read. Check it out!

Book review: Remember my Beauties by Lynn Hugo…

Remember my Beauties: Lynn Hugo
Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.
Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job-not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis-and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.
Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. A novel about perception, Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.
I have been given an ARC copy by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
We meet Jewel at the start of the story, hacking off her long blonde hair with a pair of shears looking in the bathroom mirror. An act of defiance after two failed marriages in a desperate attempt to renew herself in both her own eyes and the eyes of other people. A row with her husband prompted this act. 
(A side note: I’m disgusted by the way that the author writes about bipolar disorder in the opening chapter; describing a character with the condition as a dangerous nut job. Not cool.)
Jewel hates her brother and has a vehement reaction when her mother tells her that he is coming home. You sense the damaged family dynamic right from the off with the clever way that the author builds the layers of the story. We learn Jewel has a very good reason to detest her brother. He drunkenly tried to rape her when she was 16 years old. Her mother sided with Cal and still does. Jewel also has to care for her drug addled daughter and her scumbag boyfriend. It is hardly s surprise that we see the beginning of a break down. Jewel’s emotions are so tightly wound, they have to give up and snap some time.
Jewel tells her parents that she will not care for them anymore if they allow Cal back into the house. But as time passes, she starts to admit to herself that more than likely, she will continue.
She enlists her daughter Carley who is a drug addict, to help out her mum and dad. Yet Jewel finds Carley and Cal having sex. She loses it and goes to shoot Cal, but Carley puts her hand in the way.
This motivates Jewel to care for Carley, and to get her into rehab. We begin to see the shattered family dynamic and how the relationships are so damaged that there is little chance of mending them.
Jewel’s husband and Cal are conspiring against Jewel’s wishes for financial gain. This takes Carley out of rehab to care for the horses. Things go well until Jewel finds out. That same day a death rocks the family to it’s core.
This part of the story shows us that it is possible to heal family rifts in the most difficult of circumstances.
The characters blend well together and the story is told from the outlook of several of the characters which makes a pleasant surprise. The only beef I had with this story as I mentioned at the start of this review is the way that the writer talks about mental health. That’s what prevented me awarding 4 stars. Many thanks to Netgalley for my ARC. An otherwise pleasant 3 out of 5 star read.

Book review: Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson…

Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson…
The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?

Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?

Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.

Guy Fraser-Sampson is an established writer best known for his series of ‘Mapp and Lucia’ novels which have been featured on BBC Radio 4 and optioned by BBC television. This is his debut work of detective fiction, and the first title in the Hampstead Murders series.
I have been given an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The story opens with the discovery of a body by the dog of a local homeless person. Straight away it is established that this murder is the work of a serial killer. We start to meet the members of the team involved in investigation and realise the sense of despondence that pervades them as they have been investigating the serial killer for 18 months.
The investigation is led by DCI Tom Allen, a world weary man. He realises that with the discovery of the killers’ fifth victim that things are a little stale. However, when he receives a visit from his Detective Superintendent, he is taken off the case and ordered to take leave.
The team are jaded and feeling frustrated at the lack of progress in the case. The is, amongst some of the male characters, some misogyny towards one particular female character which left me feeling a little uncomfortable, which I felt was unnecessary on the part of the author.
There are some small advancements in the case which cause the team to feel a lot happier and feel like they are actually making progress. However, they soon realise that they were not making the progress that they thought they were. One of the team enlists the help of her partner to profile the killer. The profile leads to the arrest of a man who is sent to trial and convicted. He is assaulted and killed in prison, just as evidence comes to light, proving that he is innocent of the crimes.
The man that provided the profile slips completely into the persona of a great literary detective from the golden age. His character was an eccentric one to begin with, and he simply cannot accept that he may have contributed to the death of an innocent man. This point in the story makes it descend into a confusing mess, flipping backwards and forwards between reality and fantasy. What makes it even harder to accept is the press ganging of several police officers into role playing characters that were part of the detective story. Really? Come on! This just ruins what was turning out to be a credible murder mystery!
There is praise for this style of storytelling, but I’ve got to be honest. It spoils things for me. I love modern crime novels and classic ones too but this mashing the two together just doesn’t do it for me.
That said, the characters in the story are very well written and believable. I found the novel well written and enjoyable up until the ending, which left me feeling a little flattened and confused. I was left wanting to know so much. Overall an enjoyable 3 out of 5 star read. I’m profoundly grateful to Netgalley for my advanced copy, thank you very much!

Book review: Tough Justice #1: Exposed by Carla Cassidy…

Tough Justice #1: Exposed by Carla Cassidy…
I was given an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Description

Justice is worth every sacrifice.
Part 1 of 8 in the chilling, high-octane FBI thriller TOUGH JUSTICE from NYT bestselling author Carla Cassidy and Tyler Anne Snell, Carol Ericson and Gail Barrett.
A new job. A new case. A new criminal…?
Special Agent Lara Grant will do anything to get her mark—until her last undercover case, infiltrating the notorious Moretti crime ring, forced her to get close to the top. Way. Too. Close…
Now starting a new job in New York City, all Lara wants is to leave the ghosts of her past behind. Until a dramatic sniper attack leaves Lara’s face – and real name – all over the media. In the blink of an eye, her cover is blown, her identity exposed.
Then a woman’s body is found, branded with the ritual Moretti tattoo. Someone knows who Lara is…and exactly how to make her pay…

This is the first in a series of eight parts of a suspense filled story about FBI special agent Lara Grant. We meet her out on a high ledge trying to talk down a man who is threatening to jump. She gets him down, but before he gets to the car, he is killed by a sniper.
Then we meet Lara’s colleagues and learn why she was so desperate for her identity to remain secret. As they work the case, Lara and her new partner Nick really struggle to trust each other. 
The story is really faced paced and fascinating. I felt picked up and shaken as I read and read through the ten chapters in one sitting. The characters and the story are complex and well written and the backdrop for the coming parts of the story has been really well set here.
As the story begins to pick up pace, you begin to notice that Lara is not as tough and emotionless as she pretends to be. The facts of the case show that she has one major weak spot that is threatened right at the end of chapter ten. The way that this part of the story has been written has definitely left me wanting to read the other seven parts, which are available from Amazon at 99p each. 
I really enjoyed this part of the story and am profoundly grateful to Netgalley for the opportunity to have an advance copy to read and am happy to give this review in exchange for the story. The first part of this story is a definite five star must read. Check it out!