The Blurb

Soon after Sally Lockhart’s father drowns at sea, she receives an anonymous letter. The dire warning it contains makes a man die of fear at her feet. Determined to discover the truth about her father’s death, Sally is plunged into a terrifying mystery in the dark heart of Victorian London, at the centre of which lies a deadly blood-soaked jewel.

The Review

Having read the opening paragraph to this story with some students that I work with I was compelled to read more. The story of Sally Lockhart seemed both mysterious and dangerous; it sounded exciting and full of adventure and to be fair…it was full of adventure. However, for me after the initial first page thrill The Ruby in the Smoke started to drag.

I liked the characters in the story and I liked that Sally Lockhart joined a motley crew of friends who were all out to help save her; and indeed, Philip Pullman created some very ghastly villains but the story just fell flat with me. I was expecting a full on rollicking adventure and instead I found myself struggling to convince myself to turn the page.

It is not written poorly, the characters are fleshed out, the twists of the plot are very clever – The Ruby in the Smoke just wasn’t for me.

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman is available now.

Title: Where There’s Smoke

Author: Jodi Picoult

Pages: 41 pages

The Blurb

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult is ‘a master of her craft’ (Daily Telegraph) who writes ‘elegant, spare prose with the punch of a populist thriller’ (Elle). In this original short story, available exclusively as an eBook, Picoult introduces Serenity Jones, one of the fascinating characters from her eagerly awaited new novel, Leaving Time.

Even as a child, Serenity Jones knew she possessed unusual psychic gifts. Now, decades later, she’s an acclaimed medium and host of her own widely viewed TV show, where she delivers messages to the living from loved ones who have died. Lately, though, her efforts to boost ratings and garner fame have compromised her clairvoyant instincts.

When Serenity books a young war widow to appear as a guest, the episode quickly unravels, stirring up a troubling controversy. And as she tries to undo the damage – to both her reputation and her show – Serenity finds that pride comes at a high price.

The Review

As a huge fan of Jodi Picoult I was excited to start reading her short story Where There’s Smoke. Well, excited and a little apprehensive. You see, my favourite aspect of Pioult’s work is how she manages to change your mind throughout her stories. You go in with one solid unchangeable belief and before you know it you are siding with the antagonist. I worried how she would be able to portray this same quality in so few pages.

Fortunately, Where There’s Smoke is unlike other works by Picoult in that you do not come across this dilemma. Picoult gives you a brief insight into the world of television psychics and how their powers can be seen as both good and bad.

In her inimitable style, Picoult draws you in straight away and has you hooked and completely immersed in the world that she has created which is why she is one of the greatest writers of our time.

I cannot wait to read Leaving Time.

Where There’s Smoke by Jodi Picoult is available now.

Follow Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) on Twitter.

The Blurb

How do you solve a crime when you can’t remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable – just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding. She has been lucky enough to have spent most of her working life in libraries, bookshops and galleries. She completed the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel.

The Review

Firstly, let me just say wow. I only use a small word and not an expressive hyperbole because to be quite frank I don’t think that being hyperbolic expresses just how amazing Elizabeth is Missing actually is. Therefore, before I go into things I just want to congratulate Emma Healey on her impressive novel.

Elizabeth is Missing is one of the most engaging books that I have read this year. With its mix of past and present all jumbled together it just makes for a remarkable read. The story follows Maud, an older lady who is suffering from the most debilitating and heartbreaking of illnesses – Alzheimer’s disease. She is constantly forgetting things, places and people. She lives day to day by notes that she finds round the house ‘Don’t make toast’, ‘Don’t cook eggs’ – for the most part she looks after herself but has daily visits from her carers and her daughter Helen who has taken on the majority of duties as carer.

The story centres around Maud’s belief that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing however, as the reader we do not know whether this is a new event or a past event or something that Maud has made up in her confused state. The whole mystery of missing people is an allegory for the loss of mind and it is pretty powerful.

Elizabeth is Missing is truly heartbreaking and you want people to believe Maud, heck you want to believe her but equally you begin to question the validity of her statements. It is just an awful illness that Emma Healey has approached with such sensitivity that it makes it difficult to believe that Elizabeth is Missing is only her debut novel.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is available now.

Follow Emma Healey (@ECHealey) on Twitter

Elizabeth is Missing

The Blurb

Not many seventeen year old girls have a best friend who’s a ghost, but then Mary Hades isn’t your average teenager.

Scarred physically and mentally from a fire, her parents decide a holiday to an idyllic village in North Yorkshire will help her recover. Nestled in the middle of five moors, Mary expects to have a boring week stuck in a caravan with her parents. Little does she know, evil lurks in the campsite…

Seth Lockwood—a local fairground worker with a dark secret—might be the key to uncovering the murky history that has blighted Nettleby. But Mary is drawn to him in a way that has her questioning her judgement.

Helped by her dead best friend and a quirky gay Goth couple, Mary must stop the unusual deaths occurring in Nettleby. But can she prevent her heart from being broken?

The first in a series of dark YA novels, Mary Hades follows on from the bestselling Kindle Single ‘My Daylight Monsters‘. A spine-tingling tale with romance, readers will be shocked and entertained in equal measure.

With some scenes of horror and some strong language, this book is best suited for readers aged fifteen and up.

The Review

With YA fiction being so on trend at the moment I think that it is a really difficult market to enter. It is dog eat dog. However, when you have a really great story to tell – much like Sarah Dalton had – then you really have nothing to fear. Mary Hades is a chilling, unique story.

As a protagonist, Mary is really likeable. Maybe her best quality is that she doesn’t mope on her past as a reason for the way that she is. Also she isn’t fiercely independent and she does rely on the other characters. Oftentimes, characters are written in such a way that they aren’t allowed to show moments of weakness but I felt that Dalton created a realistic leading lady in Mary Hades.

As for the story, it made for a gripping read. I am so glad it has been made into a series because quite clearly Mary has more tales to tell.

Well done Sarah Dalton for writing a cracking book.

Mary Hades by Sarah Dalton is available now.

Follow Sarah Dalton (@sarahdalton) on Twitter.

Mary Hades