Review | The Craftsman by Sharon J. Bolton

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.

August, 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969

13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999

As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

Title: The Craftsman

Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Disclaimer: I was sent this book to review but my opinions are all my own and genuine.

So I haven’t read a good murder mystery in a while… maybe since Far From You, so this was a nice genre to get back into!

I’m the sort of person who tries to guess the killer within the first few minutes of a Poirot or Grantchester type show, so obviously I tried to guess the killer early on in this book too. I told my dad I knew who the killer was maybe… four times? All different killers! So clearly this method did not work on this occasion!

I liked the flip from the present to the past early on, it was really interesting to see how Florence came to the conclusion that Larry was the killer, and all the while keeping my eyes out for other suspicious characters. And there were a lot of those too, many shifty people and possible motives.

But it was also cool to read from a fairly suspicious narrator perspective because she overthinks every look and smile, and so then I also overthink every look and smile and start pointing my finger at everyone in the town.

This isn’t a book where you can guess the killer right from the start, and that’s high praise from me when it comes to mystery books.

I also loved the undertone of witchcraft blending with the history of Pendle. It didn’t stick out from the story and gave it a magical realism tone which I really liked.

I mean, there were some times where I couldn’t quite settle in to the book and fall into the story like a film inside my head, but I’m putting that down to the writing style. It was sort of like the main character was being interviewed? Or at least, that’s how it felt to me, so I felt a bit like I was hearing only half of a full conversation on occasion. A minor niggle, but one that drops a star for me.

Another reason for the dropped star was the number of names thrown at me early on. I couldn’t remember who was married to who, or who had which children, and sometimes it was just assumed you’d remember all of this via Florence mentioning one name. I started to think that my mum has the right idea when she reads murder mysteries: she writes all the character names down with a short description of who they are as she reads for reference later on. I got used to some of the major characters later on, but it meant some flipping back and forth to remind me.

On the other hand, there were some very good subtle and not-so-subtle in places examples of sexism. Even Florence being expected to make the tea for other equally as qualified police officers. I know a lot of this book was set in the sixties, but even knowing it was more normal then didn’t stop me from getting angry on behalf of Florence. It felt incredibly real, and had the frustration that goes alongside that too.

Also the general theme of being the odd one out was really well done, reminded me and I’m sure a lot of other people of that time in school when you feel like you’re never going to fit in. It made me really identify with Florence.

Oh! Another smidge of praise for the little bit of lgbt rep in a book that could have so easily hidden behind the time it was set with something like that. To me, every time it was brought up it was dealt with very nicely and any homophobia was contradicted enough for me to be happy. This book gets some extra thumbs up for that!

Overall it was a really nice comfort read. I’d definitely recommend it to other people, and it’s totally a good book to read in one sitting if you have the time.

Four happy stars here!

[SPOILER WARNING] Review | A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1) by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Paranormal

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed this book! (You can tell because it only took me two days to finish it!) Also, please don’t read further if you haven’t already read the book or others in this series, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Even understanding the bad reviews this is getting, I enjoy getting to go back to book-universes I’ve loved, even if there isn’t really a point to it or nothing much exciting happens, so it was a fairly good thing in my opinion.

However, I do get people’s reasoning behind disliking the fact they’ve spent the amount they usually would on a book and didn’t really get any plot with it. To be honest I think there was more shopping than anything else, so if you’re not here just for seeing the characters again then I can see why it would be disappointing.

There was also a lot of repetition in the writing itself. At least three times I saw this, but one stuck out: ‘It could have been me. It could have been Rhys.’ on one page and then ‘It could have been me. Or Rhys.’ on the opposite page… Not even a decent number of pages between that. It’s almost like Sarah J. Maas was writing it fairly quickly, had an idea for a bit of internal dialogue in her head, and then immediately forgot that she’d already used it.

I think an editor should have maybe picked up on how this sounded? Even if it was intentional, it came off sounding like an accident so kind of stopped me from falling properly into the world because I was a bit confused.

Another more personal thing: the characters seem to have an almost constantly on sex drive. Now, I know that Feyre and Rhys haven’t actually been together for that long in terms of in-book time, and I’m sure they’re still in the honeymoon phase, but for someone who isn’t too driven by sex itself it was quite a lot. Even the few conversations Feyre and Rhys have are always smattered with innuendo and throwing sexual memories at one another. It would have been nice to see them settle into other parts of their relationship and show that they work well together outside the bedroom as well as inside. Maybe have them go on one date, just the two of them, that doesn’t end in sex?

I’m really not a prude, honestly, I love a good sex scene as much as the next reader, but I also like the cute parts you see between two people. The thoughtful bits and the considerate parts; the running the other a bath or buying them something thoughtful or even just taking some work off the other’s plate. Those parts on top of everything make me really root for a couple and really see them as lasting a long time, long after even their sex drives have faded. (I assume this happens to Fae women as much as it does in human women eventually?)

Another point: Nesta.

*deep breath*

So Nesta… yeah. She wasn’t the nicest of people in the previous books either, to Feyre originally or to everyone after the cauldron, but even I didn’t think she’d be so mean to Elain! She was the one person Nesta wouldn’t even consider being rude to, let alone being as horrible as she was in this novella. I understand setting up for the next book and hopefully there’ll be some especially good character development for Nesta then, but in this novella she somehow went backwards even further!

The level of rudeness she gave off was so high I felt like punching her every time she was on the page. Even having a bit in her own perspective didn’t make me feel any sympathy for her. I mean, I get her being generally pissed off at everyone, but her sister went through exactly the same traumatic experience as her and she was horrible to her too! The others can take some hits, but Elain was so fragile in the previous book I hated Nesta for doing this and for possibly destroying any gain Elain had managed herself. It’ll take a lot for her to come back from this in the next book for me.

Anyway, onto things I loved about it!

I loved seeing everyone in the inner circle again. I’d missed them all, and I didn’t realise how much until I’d been able to read about them again. Their group dynamic is one I don’t get to see that foten in other books and it always makes me smile. It felt so nostalgic and comforting I couldn’t help but feel happy while reading.

Also, the parts about how Velaris and the Fae world has changed and is healing from the war that ended the previous book was a lovely addition. Many people die in wars and it felt satisfying that she showed this and showed how much people can hurt because of it, even lashing out at people they love. The paint studio being abandoned once its owner had been killed was a very good example of this and I was so touched by how Feyre used it afterwards, and how much she really wanted to help people affected by the war. It was a nice parallel of people coming together after World Wars 1 and 2 in the real world.

Overall I thought it was a nice and comfy read, the book equivalent of a comfy armchair. I can understand why people didn’t like it (notice how I didn’t care too much about the lack of plot) but I was pretty much all here for nostalgia and being in my favourite book-universe again. So for me, it ticked all the boxes and I enjoyed it!

[SPOILER WARNING] Review | A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

Title: A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harkness

Genre: Paranormal romance

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

So I really couldn’t help filling this review with spoilers, there’s just so much I want to say about it! Warning: this review is one of my longest yet.

I went into this thinking it was going to be awesome, a hands down five star read, and the beginning very much looked like that! But… then Matthew arrives on the scene. I’m not one of those people to judge others liking or reading any kind of book whatsoever (I also loved Twilight when I was younger too) but even the best books can hide dark issues that really need to be talked about.

Add to that the fact I know a few people who’ve been in an abusive relationship and how damaging it can be to think that some of this behaviour is okay or to take on blame yourself in these situations, and I hope people can understand why I needed to talk about it in this book.

Okay… let’s start.

I’m used to guys in YA being a bit possessive, a bit overprotective, a bit creepy sure. This was a completely new level! He starts off warily okay, so I’ll give my impressions as it progressed below:

Diana says she’s ‘done something wrong’ or ‘said something wrong’ when all she’s done is ask a question, or sometimes she doesn’t even know what she’s done to make Matthew mad. This veers on victim blaming in emotionally abusive relationships so I am not a fan of this…

I feel like it could have been fixed easily by replacing it with something more along the lines of ‘I’d clearly touched a nerve there’ or ‘he reacted viscerally to what I’d thought was an innocent question’ or honestly anything further away from ‘oh no, it’s my fault he’s mad.’ *rolls eyes as hard as I can*

Okay later he PHYSICALLY RESTRAINS her when she doesn’t want him to, and she thinks of things she’s learned in a SELF DEFENCE CLASS in order to escape from him. He again says that she knew how possessive and protective vampires were and puts it on her, just barely apologising later. (he doesn’t actually say he was sorry, so i’m not really counting it.)

Not to mention the number of times he doesn’t want her to ride a horse or go outside or do anything by herself without him constantly there to ‘protect’ her. He threatens her also, saying things like ‘if you’d have jumped that fence we would have gone back to the house instantly’ like she’s a child he has to tell off. And annoyingly these things are reinforced by the one time she goes outside unsupervised she almost immediately gets kidnapped and attacked. AND his constant saving her even though I seriously think she could have held her own in many more fights than she did.

*Sigh*

I described this book to my sister as ‘an adult twilight, but darker, and with witches.’ To be honest, I didn’t realise how right I was until I got past half of the book. It was a good thing towards the beginning of the book: a Twilight where the main character is intelligent, wary and actually powerful herself, but then the Edward-times-a-million level main character kind of marred it for me.

But it did hit quite a few of the same things as Twilight did: Vampire drawn to human because she’s special (adrenaline blood making her super attractive), him constantly saying she should be afraid of him or he’s dangerous, taking her out for a meal and them dancing around the whole vampire topic, him wanting to take it slow in the bedroom and waiting for marriage, her getting kidnapped and him coming to save her, etc. I actually paused a couple of times thinking about which had come first and whether Stephenie Meyer had read this book before writing hers…

Another thing: Characters keeping SO MANY secrets from each other!

This is usually ‘to protect them’ or just because ‘i don’t tell someone else’s tales’ which is so watery as a reason to hide things and further the plot. Matthew then doesn’t have a leg to stand on when Diana holds things back from him to ‘protect’ him (or usually so he doesn’t get scarily mad which is another bad sign), but she still manages to feel guilty about this.

*deep breath*

Okay, even though it might not look like it, I did actually really enjoy this book and found it fun to read (minus the occasional throwing it and screaming at it) so there were actually things to like about it!

A couple of characters I adored were Sarah and Em, Diana’s aunt and her partner. They were an adorable couple, acting so much like so many couples I knew that they felt so real and like parents I’d be happy to have. A book always gets some points from me for LGBTQ+ rep, but especially when that representation is real and lovely and shows how many awesome and varied people there are out there. Em always reigning in Sarah was so sweet and made me chuckle to myself quite a lot.

Talking of Sarah and Em, their house was absolutely awesome! It was practically a character in its own right; with expanding rooms and a sort of consciousness that knew what people needed at any particular time, including extra rooms for guests about to arrive. I can’t remember if this was because of all the ghosts in it or just a side effect of being around so much magic over the years, but it added a little bit of unpredictability to the story and gave a nice sense of magical realism in an otherwise purely paranormal book.

I also loved – being quite a science nerd myself – the science and history that weaved through the whole plot. Alchemy turned up a LOT and genetics and history and even medicine. (I’ve now seen time travel precautions for the first time ever in a book!)

The use of innoculations for hundreds of years old diseases was a nice touch too (though I did wonder if it was a modern strain or if they’d managed to preserve a super old strain of the bacteria for the vaccine so Diana would be safe so far back in the past) because usually people forget that even a cold could have killed us if it was a thousand years ago and our modern bodies weren’t used to anything like it.

Talking of time travel: I absolutely didn’t see that coming and it was a really nice touch for the book! I mean, I wasn’t sure if their future bodies go back and take the place of their past bodies, or if they jump to the past and their past doubles are still there also because it didn’t quite feel explained enough to me, but it was still something really fun to see. I look forward to more time travel stuff in the second book!

So yeah, that was about a page each of good and bad stuff, a fairly even mix! Hence the 3.5 star review. I’ve already ordered the second book so clearly I’m happy to keep reading this series, I just hope some of the toxic relationship side of things gets dealt with in an appropriate way.

Did anyone else have such a Jekyll and Hyde feeling about this book also?

Wrap Up | April: Quick fire Reviews!

Only three books this month, but they were some good ones!

24909347

Obsidio by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

Rating: 4.5 stars

An Illuminae Files book is always a good book option! Despite there being less tension and suspense for me in this than in the previous two books, it still holds up and is an emotional and satisfying ending to an amazing trilogy. Space battles, drama, mystery, and artificial intelligence! What more could you want from a book?

19547856

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 5 stars

If I could give more than five stars for any book, it would be this one! Simon is the most relatable character and his experiences are ones that many people have gone through and still struggle through now. It’s a heartwarming, amazing book that I’m sure will not only help a lot of people, but be an awesome read while doing so. A good book stays with you long after you’ve finished reading – I’m sure I could quote someone with that – and this book will probably stay with me for a freaking long time, I’m sure.

34928122

Artemis by Andy Weir

Rating: 4.5 stars

April seems to be the month of Space books (she says, having read two… but it’s a third of my April reads so still counts!) and both were pretty damn good reads.

Artemis is the Ocean’s Eleven/spy/murder mystery book in space that I never knew was the absolute perfect book for me! The pacing was awesome, the main character was sarcastic in the best way, and it left me with the best feeling: like I could take on the world.

A pretty good April if I do say so myself.