Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Book review: The Killing Grounds - Jack Ford (Thomas Cooper #1)


Ex-US Navy-turned-investigator Thomas J. Cooper is tortured by the past.

A deadly fight with Somali pirates and a tragic accident at sea have left him struggling with PTSD and an addiction to prescription drugs.

When he and his colleague Maddie return to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a plane, what they find is far more sinister and dangerous…

My opinion.
Where to even begin. The Killing Grounds is a thrilling read with such a complex and multi-layered plot, it's difficult to just sum my reading experience up in a few sentences.
First things first: I love the cover. Great design - stands out without being too loud. The same goes for the blurb. It gives you just enough to draw you in, but not too much as to give away too much of the story-line. Perfect balance.
As I mentioned before, the story is pretty complex. There's lots of different characters, each with their own secrets, but also with their own dynamics between them. I can't say all of them came across right away (the dynamic between Cooper and Maddie is a tough one for me to really understand, and Rosedale took some getting used to as well), but slowly they all find their place in the story. The same goes for the complex puzzle they stumble upon in Congo. What starts out as a pretty straight forward mission soon becomes complicated, dangerous and very unpredictable. The plot grows bigger and more detailed and when it finally clicks.. well, it left me amazed and surprised.
The beginning of the story is a bit confusing with a lot of new characters and a lot of (unfinished) conversations. As a reader you get some hints about what happened in the past between these characters, but the emotions run high from the very beginning. And those more "heated" discussions or dialogues made it a bit difficult to find your bearing.
I was hooked from the moment their mission started and I have a feeling I will think back on this book, long after turning that last page. Because apart from some more "difficult" dynamics and dialogues between the characters, this was a thrilling read. The Killing Grounds has relationships, politics - both US and international - violence, grief, addiction, religion and superstition and so much more at its heart, all with an incredible amount of research and detail. I would definitely love to revisit Thomas Cooper in Jack Ford's upcoming novels.


Thank you HQ Stories for the opportunity 
to read and review an ARC of this thrilling read.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Book review: The Program - Suzanne Young (The Program #1)

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

And The Program is coming for them.

My opinion.
I remember a fellow book blogger raving about this book a couple of years ago. Both the title, the cover and blurb stood out to me back then and apparently left an impression, because when I accidentally stumbled upon 'The Program' at the library, I just knew I had to read this.
I'm not sure it completely lived up to my expectations of it. Meaning that reading the book didn't really have the same impact on me as I thought it would - or as hearing about it when it first came out did. 
That being said, the story is pretty brilliant. Not only does it raise the issue of mental health, it also pinpoints one of the main issues surrounding mental health: it's not talked about enough. Whether this has to do with shame, misconceptions, fear or the lack of trust, the topic is still too much of a taboo.
In Sloane's world The Program controls everything and with the threat of taking all their memories away, it suppresses Sloane, or anyone else, showing true emotions and honesty. So with the notion of The Program facilities, the yellow scrubs and horrible pills, this story is set in a different reality... but to me, this reality created by the Program is in a way an enlargement of how people struggling with mental health issues or depression may feel suppressed, stigmatized or scared to show honesty.
It's a powerful message, mixed with a touching story about how some connections run deeper than remembering anecdotes, how remembering a feeling can be just as powerful as remembering certain truths. How people can still find their way back to each other despite obstacles thrown in their way. 
So even though I don't feel the typical post-reading-YA-series-addiction, I'm really happy I read this book and I'll be very tempted to pick up the next books in the series to find out more about what happens to Sloane and James after The Program. 


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Book review: Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea - Liz Eeles (Salt Bay, #1)

Prepare to be whisked away to the Cornish seaside, where clear blue skies, crashing waves, and a welcoming choir await you. 

Annie Trebarwith has no family to tie her down, and she likes it that way. But when a letter arrives, unexpectedly inviting her to visit her great aunt Alice in her family’s ancestral home, curiosity gets the better of her and she travels to deepest Cornwall to meet the family she’s never known. 

Salt Bay is beautiful and Tregavara House imposing – but there’s no phone signal and some of the locals, like the gorgeous but brooding Josh, are incredibly grumpy. But Alice’s poor health compels Annie to stay, so to keep herself busy she relaunches the Salt Bay Choral Society

Annie is surprised to see how much the choir means to the community, and she even starts to break through Josh’s surly exterior. As she begins to put down roots in Salt Bay, Annie soon realises that there’s a lot to be said for finding the place where you belong after all… 

My opinion.
A commitment phobic heroine who detests the countryside... Not particularly traits I can relate to so I have to say I was a bit hesitant at the start of this. But all of a sudden I found myself, hours later and more than half of the story finished, apparently completely fallen in love with the Salt Bay and it's inhabitants - I hadn't been able to put the book down.
I was drawn to Liz Eeles' Salt Bay from the moment Annie arrived. It sets the scene for a wonderful, tight little community where - in the end - everyone looks out for one another. With a loud, bubbly Aussie best friend and an Aidan Turner look-alike neighbour, the countryside is proving a lot more interesting and surprising than Londoner Annie would have thought. As she gets to know the people in Salt Bay better, the sense of family and community is really strong and is bound to rub off on her... right?! How could you not love a place like Salt Bay...
Love, friendship, family, loss, grief and hope all come together in this lovely read.
Not the most original or memorable of stories, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Annie's Lovely Choir By The Sea. A fun, relaxing read that had me blink away a couple of tears at the end.
There might be a bit much title for me, to be honest, but the cute summery cover makes up for the blurb-like-title.