First Impressions (Mini Reviews)

I recently found a site called Readers First – are any of you on it?

Basically, if you’re in the UK you can sign up and read extracts of new (and newish) books. You post a review of these extracts, and get 100 points for each review, and another 100 points if you share that review – which all go towards a print copy of a book (you need 1,200 to claim a book, so 6 – 12 reviews; which isn’t bad at all). They also share an extract from a pre-released book every Monday, and, if you write a first impression, you are entered into a draw to win a physical ARC.

I’m quite excited about it! I love getting ARCs, and I remember how exciting it was when they first started arriving. But, the thing is… I hate e-books. I just can’t get on with them! I perservere for the ARCs, but I thought it might be worth a shot to see if I could get a physical copy for a change!

I’m already loving Readers First, so go check it out if you’re in the UK, and, like me, love an ARC.

My First Impressions

The Silver Road

Author: Stina Jackson | Publisher: Corvus

Three years ago, Lelle’s daughter went missing in a remote part of Northern Sweden. Lelle has spent the intervening summers driving the Silver Road under the midnight sun, frantically searching for his lost daughter, for himself and for redemption.

Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Meja arrives in town hoping for a fresh start. She is the same age as Lelle’s daughter was – a girl on the brink of adulthood. But for Meja, there are dangers to be found in this isolated place.

As autumn’s darkness slowly creeps in, Lelle and Meja’s lives are intertwined in ways, both haunting and tragic, that they could never have imagined.

Immediately infused with poignancy, the beginning of The Silver Road seems deliberately disorienting as it shifts between Lille and Meja’s perspectives; leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about how these two people, trapped in their own private hells, might be related. There is a lilting tension and sense of lurking suspense which keeps you hooked to the page.

The prose itself is delicate, elegant, and lovely. Any vulgarity all the more striking for the sense it is out of place against the backdrop of such evidently chosen language, and the effect is haunting.

The setting has an attractive, fairytale-esque quality, appropriate for such a fairytale mystery: missing children, vanishing into the forest as the midnight sun rises, and a girl trapped in a house with a wicked stepfather.

It’s a promising beginning, which tugs at the heartstrings of the reader and leaves them wanting more.

4 Archimedes


The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls | Publisher: Zaffre

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

The Familiars is immediately captivating, with a wonderfully tangible sense of place and lovely pen and ink line drawings conveying a sense of fantasy, as if to set up the premise that this is a book which will challenge the boundaries of the historical novel. And, with such high stakes set up from the very beginning, it would be impossible for the reader not to find themselves invested in Fleetwood Shuttleworth’s story.

The characters are cleverly animated in ways which seem invisible to themselves, but clearly draw on the reader’s own expectations – Richard’s moneybelt, Roger’s loud voice, and Fleetwood’s throwing her shoe in temper. However, there is a definite sense that all is not what it seems. From the very start, the reader finds themselves questioning what they think they know. Fleetwood herself is an attractively modern, and therefore relatable, protagonist: strongminded, independent, and bold.

Witchcraft is clearly going to be an important theme (given the title, and the fact that the book is set in Pendle), though the beginning of The Familiars is suitably mysterious and gives only hints as to what the outcome might be.

The Familiars makes a very intriguing start, and I will definitely be interested to see what happens next! This one’s going in my shopping basket, for sure!

4 Archimedes


A Brush with Death

Author: Richard King | Publisher: Zaffre

When a famous author is murdered, bookshop owner and wannabe sleuth, Sam Wiseman, once again finds himself drawn into the investigation.

Reuniting with Detective Gaston Lemieux, it seems that the investigative duo have their work cut out, and as they delve deeper into the case, they uncover criminals who will do anything to protect their secrets…

It’s always feel it’s a bit dicey picking up the second book in a series I haven’t read. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t standalone. I needn’t have been, as in the first few paragraphs of A Brush with Death the reader is treated to a turgid regurgitation of who the protagonist is, why they’re involved in solving crimes, and what happened previously – in the guise of expounding on some rather sloppy dialogue.

The whole set up of the story made very little sense, and I found it impossible to invest in the characters or the crime they were supposedly solving. To begin with, anyone who stumbles across a dead friend would know to call the police or an ambulance rather than their business partner, surely? It felt like the author had had to stretch disbelief a little too far in order to make it “fit” his plot.

It was also all a little obvious; naming the victim, a crime writer, “Ovid Holmes”, for example. A cozy mystery, as this was billed, can get away with a certain amount of kitsch, and I don’t mind that, but there has to be some limit if the book isn’t to be rendered ridiculous.

This could all perhaps have been saved by a more sophisticated writing style. However, unfortunately I was left unimpressed.

A Brush with Death doesn’t appeal to me, though I’ll concede I might feel differently if I’d read the first book in the series.

1 Archimedes


 

Have you read any of these books? Do you want to? What do you think of Reader’s First?

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