The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Reviewed by Lotte:

I’ve read all seven of The Seven Sisters books throughout this year and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed each one. The sisters are each named after a star constellation called the Seven Sisters of The Pleiades. We have:

Book one – Maia – The Seven Sisters #1
Book two: Ally – relating to Alycone – The Storm Sister #2
Book three: Star – relating to Asterope – The Shadow Sister #3
Book four: CeCe – relating to Celaeno – The Pearl Sister #4
Book five Tiggy – relating to Teygete – The Moon Sister #5
Book six: Electra – The Sun Sister #6
Book seven: Mary – relating to Merope – The Missing Sister #7

I really enjoyed how in each book every sister went on their own journey to find out about their past and that Riley was able to make their stories original. Without giving away any spoilers each sister was taken down paths with different histories, locations and backgrounds, discovering connections to family in different ways.

The narrative was told in both present and past day settings, so as the sister discovered parts of their past in the present day, Riley took us back to see that past playing out too. It made for interesting reading as the dynamic changed and gave us multiple perspectives. In present day I found myself eager to go back to the past to read the truth and when reading the past I was excited to find out how the sister was finding the information. I think this is what kept me hooked through these long books and throughout the whole series, because in the same way that I wanted to switch between past and present, I was also intrigued to find out the next sister’s story.

I don’t really think I can choose a favourite story but I did find there was more repetition within the plot as we progressed through the books. This was a useful reminder and I can imagine if you read them a year apart from each other it would be helpful but as I read them in a short space of time I found them unnecessary and tried to read through those parts quickly. With this in mind you could read each book on its own, as it contains enough backstory for it to be a stand-alone book. A friend actually read book 6 without having read the previous 5 books and loved it!

I know we all thought book 7 would be the last but it turns out we have one more to go – the story of the mysterious Pa Salt, the sisters adopted Father, and if I’m honest I’m looking forward to reading it! His actual name is Atlas, which fits with the theme because according to legend, Atlas was the Father of the Seven Sisters. So I’m captivated and hoping this last book will finally give us the rest of the answers we’ve been holding on to!

Author: Lucinda Riley
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: Nov 2014 – April 2021

Calypso’s Heart by M.C. Solaris

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book was absolutely fantastic!

Going into it I wasn’t sure if it was for me, and with it being a fairly lengthy read, I was dubious. But oh my word, it was sooooo worth it! I found it completely addictive, the plot line and characters were enthralling and by the time I was finished I felt cheated that I didn’t have the second book to hand to begin reading immediately. Brilliant read, fab author, so happy I stumbled across it!

Thank you to the author and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. Full review pending.

Author: M.C. Solaris
Publisher: MC Solaris LLC
Release Date: 15 May 2020

Sleepless by Louise Mumford

Reviewed by Lotte:

Sleepless was a great, pacey novel filled with suspense. It moved along at a nice speed with enough content to keep it interesting and enticing. There was plenty of events happening one after the other, which kept my attention throughout. The twists and turns gave the story more depth although some of them were a little predictable.

This didn’t take away from the enjoyment too much though because the plot line was based on a fairly original but conceivable concept. So many people suffer from insomnia and sleepless episodes, so the thought of being desperate enough to try a sleep trial is completely conceivable. And although the tech involved isn’t something yet created – thank goodness – the premise is sound and has potential to exist. This makes it a great read because it is so relatable and applicable to our lives. It was also refreshing to read something that hasn’t been completely over done in other novels. The ideas and story line were new and intriguing which made me want to read the book in the first place and continue reading chapter after chapter once I’d started.

However, it is lacking in the detail I often look for in a book, like information about the specifics of the tech involved, how does it alter REM sleep, how do the discs work etc. It also lacked reaction. So many things happened and yet our protagonist, Thea, barely reacted to them, or reacted very short term and then the next thing came along. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Thea, but I would have loved her more if I’d have seen and felt more from her. I would have also liked a little more from the ending. Without providing any spoilers we have no idea if and how Thea escaped successfully at the end and the way in which the whole situation was tied up left a lot of ambiguity – I have so many questions! This is the only part of the book that felt less feasible. I’m wondering if this is to leave it open for a future book or merely leaving us with a cliff-hanger. Either way I felt like it ended too quickly.

Overall, this was a good read and something I’d recommend if you want to be entertained without it being too heavy in information (something we all need in our reading pile!).

Thanks so much to NetGalley, HQ Digital and Louise Mumford for the opportunity to read this book.

Author: Louise Mumford
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 10 December 2020

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Reviewed by Lotte:

Ok so I should probably say I’m a complete Jodi Picoult fan – like, ride or die fan. I’m pretty sure I’d love anything she writes because up until now I haven’t been disappointed with a single one of her books (and I’ve read them all!). This one certainly didn’t let me down either – it was epic!

Within 16% Jodi had managed to intertwine the physics theory of quantum mechanics, the Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways, a love story and a moral dilemma. If that’s not mastery I don’t know what is!

So, let’s rewind slightly. The book opens with Dawn’s near-death experience and the thoughts she had in what she believed would be her last moments. She didn’t see the man she had married though, instead she saw the road she hadn’t taken. This is where the book splits into the Water Path (Boston) and the Land Path (Egypt). I don’t want to give any spoilers away so let’s just say we follow these two timelines as Dawn works through whether she should carry on in the life she was living or pick up the road not taken and finish the work she left behind in Egypt.

I found Dawn a pretty interesting character. For a start she was a Death Doula, not something I’d heard of before, and her history of academia, her mother and her current life were well-developed. This also included her flaws; we saw how human and real she was which made her really relatable. None of us are sunshine, roses and straight forward thoughts so it was refreshing to read.

I always enjoy the structures of Jodi’s books and this one was the same. Having the two paths playing out in parallel until later in the book when they converged was a super clever way of following the theory of multiverses existing. It was also a neat way of writing from different perspectives (although it was still Dawn throughout) which Jodi is well-known for. This structure really helped us understand the real dilemma that Dawn was facing because both ‘timelines’ could be completely feasible. How do you decide which one to choose? 

The other thing I really enjoyed was the level of detail in the plot. There is a lot of Egyptian terminology and names, lots of which I had to google (only because I wanted to attempt the correct pronunciation not because it was necessary, Jodi explains it all really well for us). The book is pitched in a way that combines these academic lives with the complexities of emotions and the different connections we have the people around us. All these different facets made it compelling to read and kept me engaged throughout.

This was yet another cracking novel from Jodi and a well-earned NYT #1 bestseller! But are you Team Wyatt or Team Brian?!

Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 20 October 2020

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal (Lady Astronaut #3)

Reviewed by Lotte:

This book takes place at the same time as the second book in this series, written from the perspective of Astronaut Nicole Wargin, whilst Elma is off on her Mars mission. I was worried I’d miss Elma, our Lady Astronaut, but I absolutely loved Nicole and loved this approach.

Nicole was such a great character to add to this saga. She was relatable, fallible and just all round really interesting and well-developed. I loved that she didn’t have to be perfect, that she was real and that it didn’t limit her either. She was still strong, independent, capable and reliable. That for me is true strength and the type of thing I want to read! It added so much depth to the plot too.

As for the story itself, all I can say is wow! I keep thinking I can’t enjoy this universe anymore and then Kowal just goes ahead and takes it to the next level. It was a genius idea to shift the focus and write this as a parallel to the previous story. It helped develop the world more, building on the details we already had, making the universe more substantial, and ultimately more intriguing and enjoyable, without it being laborious.

Add in all the mystery, sabotage, drama and ultimately the fight for survival, along with all the sci-fi elements and the complexities of space, and you find yourself with an epic read with so many facets. I was engaged every single moment and often found myself mulling over the pieces of the puzzle between reading sessions!

I’d just like to say how much I appreciated Kowal’s sensitivity in writing the parts that related to eating disorders and recovery. Including it was inspiring without ever being triggering or encouraging. This should be the gold standard for writing!

Thank you Mary Robinette Kowal, Tor and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Rebellion, Solaris
Release Date: 26 November 2020

The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow by Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch

Reviewed by Lotte:

This story is set at the boarding school Illumen Hall, immediately after one of their students was found dead. Her death was ruled as ‘misadventure’ with the police believing it was suicide. But was it? We get to see the story unfold from the perspective of Ivy – one of Illumen Hall’s top students, a prefect and all-round perfectionist, and Audrey – an American that recently had to move to England, attempting to leave her past behind. But it’s not always that straight forward.

I loved that the two authors, Sugg and McCulloch, each wrote from one of the protagonist’s perspective. I didn’t know this until after I’d read the book, but honestly you couldn’t tell there was a switch, their writing was perfectly in sync. I think the very subtle differences probably just enhanced the character definitions.

For me this was a modern day ‘Enid Blyton – The Naughtiest Girl in School’ (if you’re old enough to remember this trilogy!). The story held everything you could want from a boarding school novel: inter-pupil dramas, difficult backstories, a secret society, and even an unsolved mystery. The use of a mystery podcast presenter was a stroke of brilliance and very current. It added to the suspense and generally kept us pondering…is this more than it seems? And if so, who did it???

With a couple of twists and turns along the way, coupled with an unlikely alliance, we were kept guessing right up to the end. I found myself not wanting to put it down, helped by the shorter chapters, switching perspectives and intermittent podcasts. Of course, we also had that ending! I mean really?! Bring on 2021 when I can read the next instalment!

Thanks to the authors, publisher and Netgalley for granting my wish to read this ARC. Apologies, my review is a few days late due to ill-health.

Author: Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: 29 October 2020

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