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White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock – Book Review

This picture was actually used in a buzzfeed article.

Synopsis

Sometimes, courage is just knowing what you’re more afraid of.

A taut thriller about murder, maths and the mind. Peter Blankman is afraid of everything but must confront truly unimaginable terror when his mother is attacked. Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength.

The Author

Tom Pollock has been described as “a powerful imagination” by the Guardian. He is the author of four novels, and an ambassador for Talklife, the peer support network for youth mental health, for who he blogs about his experiences with depression, anxiety and bulimia at https://blog.talklife.co/. Inspired by those experiences, White Rabbit, Red Wolf is his first thriller for young adults. He lives and works in London and can be found on Twitter: @tomhpollock.

What I Thought

In the promo material for this book we received a letter from the author Tom speaking about his own mental health difficulties including binge eating/bulimia and initially I thought I was going into a contemporary story exploring that. There was no synopsis included just the front cover saying “This Story is a Lie”. Having had my own experiences of binge eating I was a little nervous going into the book and although some of the scenes are quite graphic and whilst mental health is explored, this book moved way beyond focusing on main character Pete’s mental health “issues”

In fact it came as a complete and pleasant surprise in the form of a thriller. Pete’s scientist mum is heading to an awards evening at the Natural History Museum and she is dragging along her children Pete and Bel. Not only is Pete a teen who would rather be at home but he is someone who has severe anxiety and the events of the evening are not about to help with that. His mum is stabbed, his sister goes missing and he’s bundled away by spies!!!

Told from Pete’s perspective in the present, and in the past (in chapters titled Recursion with the time reference indicated) this was such an engaging and dramatic read.

I loved how Pete’s focus on numbers and logic help him both manage his problems and gradually unpick the mystery. Although perhaps there are things uncovered that might have been better left hidden. Pete is definitely a character you root for and empathise with.

The relationship between him and his sister Bel, and Pete and his only friend Ingrid are highlights and boy does this story have you questioning everyone. Is anyone who he thought they were, is he?

Like a cross between A Beautiful Mind, We Were Liars and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime I would highly recommend this captivating story.

Huge thanks to Walker Books for the surprise proof copy of this. Opinions as ever are my own.

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The Devil’s Poetry by Louise Cole – Blog Tour Book Review

Goodreads Link

Synopsis

Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back. When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies. The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.

Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides. She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?

Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.

Author

Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

What I thought

I loved the opening paragraph which was so evocative.

“I’d never realized war could be so quiet. The National Service letters had whispered through our doors that morning. It seemed such thin pages should have torn under the strain of such a heavy message.”

Initially because of this I thought this was going to be an historical novel – I’d read the synopsis ages before so went into it blind, but then the horror dawned. It was set now. In the days of Facebook and terrorism: National Service – Involuntary Conscription for those eighteen and above was back.

Callie is seventeen so it’s not her time yet but instead she has another battle to face. One night she is handed a book and told not to read it but keep it safe. Then the ‘men’ start coming for her. The Cadavari with haunted eyes.

This reminded me a little of Buffy which I love. There is definitely a chosen one vibe. The book switches between first person POV from Callie and third person exploring other character’s points of view from the Cadaveri to Jace Portman the man who mysteriously gave her the book, saved her life, disappeared, and then turned up at her school as a supply teacher. Callie has two close friends Amber and Gavin who are quickly pulled into the action and her ex Alec who she’d prefer to be far from it.

I really enjoyed Louise’s writing style and the book is quite fast paced. We get into the action quickly. I liked the mix of an almost dystopian near future with the threat of war and National Service with the Supernatural elements. As I said before fans of Buffy, and of Cassandra Clare should enjoy this. And it is great to see a UK based fantasy too.

Thank you to Louise and Faye for the e-copy for review. Opinions are my own. The follow up book ‘On Holy Ground’ will be going up on KDP Select shortly, I’ll definitely be ‘Reading’ it. I just hope the Cadavari don’t show up for me 😜.

Do check out the rest of the tour stops to see what everyone else thought.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Maloy – Blog Tour 

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy is a tightly paced thriller from Penguin Viking which is out now

Set on a Christmas cruise in Central America it follows three families and their search for their missing children after a day trip goes very awry. 

At the start, the book reads as a domestic drama, with two of the families being long term friends that clearly have more than their holiday packaging as baggage. 

Clearly some inspiration has been taken from real cases, and where to place the blame when something like this happens, is explored. 

We are not limited to the points of view of a few characters but instead hear from most of them over the course of the story, including the children and a few added extra characters who I thought perhaps muddied the waters slightly and complicated an already intricate plot. I think my usual Young Adult reading material means I get much more involved in a first person or limited third person narrative and is purely a personal preference. I enjoyed hearing from the children the most and have to admit that my lack of empathy with the parents did perhaps distance me from them. 

This isn’t a classic light summer read and I can’t promise that you won’t become alarmed. I know there were a few incidences where I was more panicked than the characters. 

Definitely worth your time and I can see this being filmed or made into a tense radio play. 

Thanks to Josie at Penguin for the review copy. Opinions as ever are all mine. 

Do check out what other bloggers thought at the other stops on the tour. 

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