Contacts by Mark Watson

Reviewed by Lotte:

Mark Watson has written a book so intense, dark and scarily relevant in today’s society. It is a study in mental ill-health, social media and what it’s like to be ‘contacts’ in a person’s life.

He tackles the subject of suicide with sensitivity yet still being honest enough to be painfully aware of the thought processes both as the person intending to carry out the suicide and as one of the many receiving that message. As someone that has walked the road – on both sides of the situation – I found parts comfortingly familiar and others intriguing and insightful, reading things I hadn’t considered before.

I even felt that Mark Watson narrating the audio version was a great choice too. There’s something about his voice which is halting and nervous yet genuine and raw that pitches the perfect tone for the inner monologue of Brian and that book overall.

If it were appropriate, because I’m not sure it is, I would say this book is beautiful. However, it did leave me wanting more, almost wanting to sit down over a cup of coffee or tea with Mark and just discuss it all further. The content inspired an intrigue into the complexities surrounding suicide and the world we live in, who we are connected with and how. It has left me with many things to consider.

Thanks NetGalley, Harper Collins UK and Mark Watson for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Mark Watson
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Release Date: 29 October 2020

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

Reviewed by Lotte:

I certainly loved the premise of this book but the delivery did not live up to expectations or hope. It had all the elements I knew I’d love – the well-known parts of a would-be Sherlock Holmes and Watson, mixed with many fantasy elements and characters, a good dose of murder mystery, all set in a steampunk 1880’s – but nothing was fully fleshed out or explored, leaving me feel underwhelmed.

I think for me it felt like the author tried to include too many things, leaving not enough space for anything to truly flourish. For example, there were many fantastical characters but we barely got to see their traits played out within the plot, with the exception of Doyle (our would-be Watson) and a little of Crow (our would-be Sherlock Holmes). And speaking of Crow, despite his angel status being explained and some of the pros and cons of it, the angel part was not massively integrated into the plot, or at least nowhere near as much as it could. Overall it left me feeling like it was all superficial and too much was missing.

The same was true for the storyline, the author tried to weave in many sub plots within the over-arching theme but it felt like adding too much and not allowing any one plot to fully come to fruition. At one point it was almost information overload and not enough interesting, action, plot-moving stuff. It lacked that fast pace that we know and love from a Sherlock inspired theme. The author set up many potential interesting avenues, like the types of angel – those with a dominion, the nameless and the fallen – but there was a distinct lacking in the use of those set ups. So we knew they existed, they just didn’t really get included in the main storyline other than as token gestures. All of which just left me wanting more. Also, the synopsis of the book gives away the name of a murderer so as it’s playing out in the book we already know who it is long before they start using his nickname. This was disappointing and a bit of a pet-peeve of mine.

In summary, I would have preferred a much cut down version but with fully realised characters that played integral roles in the story, with their character traits woven throughout the plot – making the plot! Couple that with a detailed but again, fully covered storyline and I might have loved this book.

Thanks Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity of reading this re-released ARC.

Author: Katherine Addison
Publisher: Rebellion, Solaris
Release Date: 17 September 2020

Our Story by Miranda Dickinson

Reviewed by Lotte:

This is the story of Otty, an aspiring writer who gets the chance to make it big, and Joe, an up and coming name within the industry. The two are thrown together in both their living and then their working world with varying levels of success. But will their stories work out or will they end in disaster?

This isn’t the genre I would usually pick up but the literary element had me intrigued. My verdict – it was ok. As far as a lighthearted, easy to read book goes, it works but for me I wanted a little more.

I really wanted the whole Otty and Joe thing to work and wished there were more moments in the books where that was allowed to flourish. Instead I found myself getting frustrated at their actions which prevented them from understanding each other. In terms of the love story itself, I felt it was all pretty predictable and I could see the ending coming. However, that was one of the quickest round ups I’ve seen in while! It would have been nice to have seen more of their love story played out in the literary world rather than it just ending at the proposition.

The supporting characters were all basic and played no real role in the story telling. So for me it felt unrelatable and underwhelming.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with the ARC in return for an honest review.

Author: Miranda Dickinson
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release date: 25 August 2020

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #16)

Reviewed by Mark:

Peace Talks is the latest novel in the Dresden Files from Jim Butcher. Firstly, it’s safe to say that if you’re not up to date on this series, then jumping in at book 16 is not advisable. There’s been a break of some years since the last instalment, and I was very eager to jump into this given how much I’ve enjoyed the series to date (and re-read them at least twice).

The story essentially does what it says on the cover and follows the proposal and lead up to peace talks between supernatural nations after a period of war. Suffice to say that this isn’t the entire focus of the novel, with some other plot threads bringing some interesting developments early on. It’s also clearly one half of a larger story, which is somewhat frustrating given the lack of answers and resolution, but with the next novel in the series, Battle Grounds, due out within a few months it’s a forgivable annoyance.

Butcher delivers a solid story and build up here, with many characters from previous novels making an appearance and ticking the right boxes. I was left very interested to get to the next novel and will be making it a priority read on its release. The narrator, James Marsters, does as good a job as ever and perfectly embodies Harry Dresden. A joy to listen to and so easily digested. Great stuff!

Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: 14 July 2020