Blog Tour: Only a Breath Apart

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Published 22 Jan, Tor Teen, 359 pages, £8.27

Katie McGarry brings another tale full of grit and heart. All her books have a raw, face-your-demons edge, but Only a Breath Apart takes a slightly darker path. It is filled with the ache of haunting memories, domestic abuse and the shadow of murder. At the centre is the significance of land and human bonds.

We start with Jesse, who is grieving the death of his beloved grandma. He has been brought up to believe that his family is cursed. Nothing but melancholia and disaster has befallen each family member, especially his mother. When he discovers that, in order to inherit his land, he must win the approval of an old childhood friend, he feels certain that he is doomed. His past has come to bite back. On the other end is Scarlett, imprisoned by her dominating father and bursting to come out of the icy shell she has formed to protect herself. When she runs into Jesse, the boy who used to be everything to her, she can feel that her control is going to crack for better or worse. Read an excerpt below and in my last post.

McGarry has long been one of my favourite YA writers. Her work has found a way to make my soul feel both ravaged and warmed (Walk the Edge I still listen on audiobook on loop). As described, Only a Breath Apart, is darker but not as forlorn as I may have outlined in the plot. It carries a strong hopeful tone with fierce characters that fight for the next sunrise. Jesse and Scarlett claw tooth and nail for their independence, whilst trying to figure out the depth of their attraction to each other (McGarry scores again with another dynamic couple). Scarlett’s situation, in particular, exposes the sinister extent of domestic instability and its manipulation of security and control. I love the supernatural theme that carries throughout, circling around anxieties about the future, the afterlife and the role of destinies. Some parts of the story lingered a little too long on the over-riding message about land and relationships. Overall, it will sweep you into McGarry’s world of rural dust-bitten America and teen love.

Thank you Tor Teen for my copy! xxx

*EXCERPT*

~SCARLETT~

“I thought you said you were meeting Camila.”

I jump at the sound of Dad’s voice and spin in his direction. “I am.”

Dad studies me, and I hide my hands behind my back to conceal the slight quiver that could announce my guilt. When I left him, he was in good spirits, but his moods can quickly shift. There are two patched up holes in my bedroom that can testify to this. Dad replaced the drywall, covered it with fresh paint, but the perfection can’t take away the memory of the way my heart pounded through my chest as he drove his fist through the wall.

He inclines his head toward the booth of balloon animals. “Camila appears to be working.”

“She’s getting off soon,” I say too fast as I bite back the need to ask why he didn’t go home like he said he was.

“Why did you leave us if she’s still working? You said Camila would be done by five-thirty.”

My mouth dries out, and the tremble in my hands travels to the rest of my body, but I force out a cleansing breath. Show no fear. Don’t give him any reason to doubt a thing I say. “She was supposed to be off by now, but her parents asked her to work a few more minutes.”

“If Camila isn’t getting off until later, you should have told me,” There’s a subtle sharpness to his tone that causes hurricane warnings in my brain. “I was showing you a great deal of trust by letting you find Camila on your own.”

“She’s only running a few minutes late. Her parents are watching me so I’m okay.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I glance over and my heart lifts when I notice Camila’s mom watching us. Her stare gives credibility to every falsehood rolling off my tongue. She’s not watching because she thinks I need a babysitter, but probably because she’s mentioned to Camila that she’s perplexed by my father’s strict rules.

I touch the crystals on the table as if I’m interested in them. It’s difficult to act normal as Dad looks at Camila’s mom then studies me. Please believe me, please believe me. Please.

I’m so stupid. I should have never left Dad early. I should have never lied. But I did. Dad was having fun at the fair, Mom was having fun and my sister, Isabelle, was having fun. They were all laughing and smiling. They’ve forgiven him, and I haven’t. I can’t, not again, and this is one of the many ways life is no longer simple.

I want to peek at him in an attempt to understand my fate, but I don’t. Eye contact doesn’t help when he’s angry. It only makes it worse.

Being in public won’t soothe his temper. He’ll just be more discreet. Like last year when Dad had arrived early to pick me up at a football game and saw me heading to the bathroom by myself. After I had returned to my friends, he called me away with a smile on his face. He had placed a seemingly loving arm around my shoulder, but his fingers dug into my arm as he severely whispered in my ear how I was irresponsible and that it was time to go home.

Dad didn’t cause a scene at the game. The yelling started the moment we were alone in his car and continued until he left me in my room. I stayed on my bed for hours, curled up in a ball and sobbing.

My throat swells as I think of how this will play out. Will it be like Christmas? Will he throw a lamp and force Mom to clean it up as I watch? Or will it be like this past spring and he’ll flip the kitchen table, breaking all the dishes that had been placed there for dinner?

Dad steps closer to me, and I’m filled with dread. “Next time, in a situation like this, you return to me and have Camila text you when she’s done working. I don’t like the idea of you being alone.”

All I want is to be alone, for my thoughts and actions to belong only to me. But he’s not angry, he’s believing me, and I release a breath I had unknowingly held and take the small win.

 

Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophesies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?

“A gorgeous, heartfelt journey of redemption and love” (Wendy Higgins), ONLY A BREATH APART is a young adult contemporary novel from critically acclaimed Katie McGarry. “Haunting, authentic, and ultimately hopeful” (Tammara Webber), order your copy of ONLY A BREATH APART now!

 

About ONLY A BREATH APART:

They say your destiny is carved in stone. But some destinies are meant to be broken.

The only curse Jesse Lachlin believes in is his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year.

A fortuneteller tells Scarlett she’s psychic, but what is real is Scarlett’s father’s controlling attitude and the dark secrets at home. She may be able to escape, but only if she can rely on the one boy who broke her heart.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings, but as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

 

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Gritty and real, Only a Breath Apart is a story of hope conjured from pain, strength drawn from innocence, and love earned from self-respect. Beautiful, poignant, and fierce.”
―Kristen Simmons, critically acclaimed author of the Article 5 series


 

Add it to your Goodreads today!

 

 

 

Katie McGarry Bio:

Katie is the author of the PUSHING THE LIMITS series, THUNDER ROAD series, SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME, and the upcoming YA novel, ONLY A BREATH APART. Her novels have received starred reviews, critical acclaim and have won multiple awards including being a multiple Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for YA Fiction, multiple RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award Finalist for Best YA Fiction, including a win in the category, and she was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick.

 

 

 

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Blog Tour: One Day in December by Josie Silver

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Published 18 Oct, Penguin, 432 pages, 99p on Amazon Monthly Kindle deal

If you want to weep, laugh, melt and cry out in anguish during the chilly months, then One Day in December is your perfect fix, an ideal Christmas romance for fans of Richard Curtis tearjerkers. It not only deals with the sentimental and cosy parts that love-stories should tick off, but the infernal frustration and rage involved. This debut novel proves that fate can be both cruel and wondrous.

I do genuinely believe in love at first sight, or a certain connection that two people can have which is almost instant. You have to believe in this theory, even a tiny bit, to enjoy the story. Two strangers, Laurie and Jack, glance at each other through a misty bus window and experience just that. Everybody knows how buses can get during the winter;  jam-packed, foggy and cough-fumed. For Laurie, all of this evaporates for one second of life-altering, mysterious magic. Then it’s gone as her bus drives away. She spends a whole year searching for ‘bus-boy’ only to be introduced to him as her best-friend’s new boyfriend. She convinces herself the whole concept of Jack as her instant soul mate is insane and gets on with life. And life certainly barges through, another point this novel conveys successfully. Through new careers, holidays, illnesses and even marriage, time slips by ruthlessly. The only way to claim moments is to be fearless and take chances. Ten years can be filled with everything and nothing.

We have all been a Laurie; out of uni and trying to figure out how to be independent. She is sweet, passionate and realistic. I have just watched the Bridget Jones double dose of lunatic and heart-warming tumbles. The films came out when I was too young to understand all the jokes grown-up girls and mums were making around me. One Day… reads like a homage to the great Bridget. It has the same hilarious manic narration but navigates a style of its own. It does well in keeping a reader’s attention through the spirals of diverting events. The language was at times quite dated, perhaps a generation behind. Overall, it was a pleasure to have been part of Laurie’s and Jack’s beautiful journey, which truly left me in awe about life’s magic moments.

Many thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin General for my copy xxx

 

 

Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Pushing The Limits #2)

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Published by May 2013, Harlequin Teen, 456 pages, £3.49

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Before embarking on an 11 hour flight across the world, I knew I needed a Katie McGarry. Everything she writes somehow both soothes and excites me. Pushing the Limits, the first in this series was great, full of crackling chemistry and drama. I would recommend reading this book first as it contains the characters’ history, which isn’t completely essential, but boosts the engagement.

This story follows Beth, another girl from the wrong side of town (Check out Red At Night). All she has known since she was a child was to protect her mother from everything.. drugs, a violent boyfriend and prison. Growing up with unsavoury characters, she has learnt to be tough as nails and sharp as a whip in order to survive. Her character jumped out at me with her dialogue ringing out loud and clear. Her vulnerability and strength also felt raw.

As problems spiral out of control, Beth is forced to move away with her uncle who makes it his mission to reform her. Scared for her mother, separated from her best friends and attending the local ‘hick’ high school, she experiences her worst nightmare. Despite this, she finds herself drawn to the most stereo-typical guy she should avoid, golden boy jock Ryan. He is your average High School Musical star, but with baseball and a bit more muscle. On track to play pro, the cracks in his perfect life start to inch further into the book; a domineering father, a depressed mother and an estranged brother. What starts off as a dare to ask out scary skater girl, leads to deep attraction and mutual understanding. This romance started off quite slow with a lot of back tracking, which made the book longer than necessary. I was impressed with the shift in Ryan’s character, who started off as an macho airhead.

Beth and Ryan have to face a lot of courage to make their relationship a reality. They have to face abilities that have been suppressed or forgotten. For Beth it’s trust, while for Ryan it’s rebellion.

Happy to continue my journey through the series..

XXX

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Published by St. Martin’s Press, September 2013, 481 pages, £1.19

What started as a light-hearted story about a young woman’s first days at Uni quickly evolved as a thoughtful tale about mental health. Do not be fooled by the cutesy cover. While it is upbeat and quirky, it moves into darker corners of everyday life.

Cath lives and breathes fandom. She and her twin sister Wren devoured a children’s fantasy series called Simon Snow. They wrote wreathes of fanfiction, hung out in forums and went to late night book releases. Their obsession grew at the same time their mother had left them. In that sense it was not so much a craze but a way to cope. For Cath, it was not only the option to live in someone else’s world, but to have their words become yours. In writing fanfiction, she ensured that the story that comforted her during the painful separation, never ends. This is a notion that really hit home. Cath takes comfort-zone to a whole new level.

As the sisters head off to college, Wren is keen to become independent and live apart. So Cath is faced with a terrifying new life, away from a once inseparable twin and a father who also never fully recovered from the family trauma. We soon realize that this is more than your usual freshmen jitters. Cath has trouble engaging with new environments and people, preferring to almost starve than ask where the food hall is. A big bulk of the novel focuses on how she navigates through this, with the help of some zesty characters and a cute farm boy. This is when the plot slows a little, but the author easily maintains a constant liveliness to the story.

Cath is a very sweet character and I imagine she speaks to many types of ‘fangirls’. We all understand how special certain books are, their characters, worlds and most importantly their words. We root for Cath to grow in confidence and independence, not so she can cast away her past but so she can finally create her own stories.

xxx

Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds by Cordelia Fine

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Heated discussions during a heat wave…

Published by Icon, February 2017, 256 pages, £13.48

I was kind enough to receive a review copy from Icon Books after hearing a lot of enthusiasm about new research that prepares to challenge time-old myths about gender. This book, from notable scientist Cordelia Fine, argues that gender is a social rather than biological construct. That male and female, human and across the animal kingdom, are not in fact that different. The author attempts to subvert the accepted mantra that certain ‘evolutionary make-up’ makes men and women tick, why they are believed and remain unchallenged.

Whether you are up to date with the latest in biological research or not, we have all heard again and again that men are the naturally promiscuous sex and women are more nurturing beings who prefer to stick to one mate. Men are apparently overridden by a monstrous hormone that fuels their active and risk-taking nature. This is supposedly the reason for deep-seated inequalities in modern society. It is this ‘Testosterone Rex’ that allows men to get promoted and become effective risk-takers. Fine basically rains on all of these ideas.

With a robust and entertaining voice, Fine dissects and questions respected scientific claims, some that have gone untouched for decades. Her findings exposes the ridiculousness of simple gender divisions, the popular mindset: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. She tries very hard to involve the non-science reader with her witty and personal anecdotes. However, at times it was tricky to stay on top of all the scientific jargon. I particularly liked the chapter called ‘Sky Diving Wallflowers’ which questions the notion of risky behaviour, which has always been assigned a masculine trait. Firstly, she goes against the findings that were meant to prove this very general connection. And then secondly analyses the meaning of ‘risk’ and how it is an ultimately a subjective act.

Fine’s book offers some pretty solid arguments and is a good start to those who are interested in this topic. But it may be a smoother ride if you are more versed in science.

Many thanks Icon xxx

The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Published by Penguin, April 2017, 340 pages, £3.99

5 stars

This book blew me away. A world in which young women develop electric powers to zap and kill. It was a truly thunderous read which left me feeling shocked and singed. The remnants of the story are still crackling in my thoughts, so much that I’m not sure how to convey all of them in this review.

The book follows 4 main POVs: Margot, an American mayor who acquires the power from her daughter and fast tracks her way to the White House. Alison, who runs away from an abusive foster system to a convent where she forms a new religion. Roxy, a British teen who is the daughter of a mobster and takes over his business. And Tunde, a young Nigerian man who is one of the first to record the phenomenon on his phone and quickly becomes a revered journalist, travelling everywhere to document the growth of the power.

I found this eclectic mix of characters very engaging, although at times some were more interesting than others. As the power awoke in more girls and gained momentum we see a very fascinating shift in society, cleverly traced by the author. Some are dramatic but some are subtle changes that overthrow years of social conditioning. Rape on men grew, men’s rights activists begin bombing women’s health centres and when a young man is found dead it is usually assumed a woman is behind it.

I enjoyed how a male news anchor was replaced by a young handsome man, leaving the female to assume the distinguished role. I also found it interesting when girl’s blamed boys for ‘secretly liking’ the zap (a reversal of the ‘asking for it’ culture) and how girls would ridicule others who can’t or won’t use the power, calling them names that suggest weakness.

I had heard a lot of buzz about this novel, before it won the ‘Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction’ ( the kind of prize that is ironically subverted in the book’s message- there are no ‘Men’s prizes’ after all…). But I was worried it would be too scary or violent and I wasn’t wrong. This book contains scenes of graphic rape and killing. However, at that point I was too far invested into the story, so it didn’t feel jarring or unnecessary, just a sense of grim acceptance.

I was hooked on the plot which follows the power as it snows balls into what feels like a final showdown- wars, primal cults, weapons of mass destruction, drugs, new laws… Nothing really out of the ordinary or otherworldly if you think about it. Alderman writes in an article about this book that: ”Nothing happens in this book that hasn’t happened to a woman”, which is true. It’s not a dystopia, but a reversed image of our own reality. It’s only truly disturbing in the way it exposes us, not just through division of gender but race and other forms of inequality.

And yes, I would really love to have the power.

#Passionthepower

Thank you Penguin for my review copy xxx

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The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

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Published by Piatkus, May 30th 2017, 352 Pages, £5.99

I can think of no better way to kick off the heat wave than sinking into Julia Quinn’s world. This is a romance author that can do little wrong. I flew past this new installment of The Bridgerton Series. Like any of the series’, no prior knowledge is required. Quinn’s pens a world that effortlessly welcomes both newcomers and fans.

This little tale is about Cecelia Harcourt, a young women who learns of her beloved brother’s injury during war in the Colonies. Penniless after her father’s death and faced with marriage to an oily cousin, she dashes across the world to New York in the hopes of reuniting with her brother and taking care of him. Instead she finds his best friend, Edward Rokesby, a man who she had gotten to know through her brother’s letters. He is unconscious and clinging to life. Just when senior officers usher her away from the hospital, with little enthusiasm to help her search, she blurts out that she is Edward’s wife.

Edward wakes to the sound of her voice and recognizes her, the sister of his dearest friend. The one who wrote the loveliest letters. Letters that he looked a little too forward to reading. The problem was he couldn’t remember marrying her. His injury wiped away six months of his memory. But the fact that she claims to be his wife did not feel off-balance, given his circumstances. There was a comforting logic to it, even if it was a tad confusing. Here Quinn serves us a clever example of instant-love. For a reader who prefers the passionate hate-love transition, this was a charming start to the story. It was a situation that deepened without feeling flat. A case in which the language of truth and lies are no match for base feelings. Despite Cecelia lying for practical reasons, she finds that it’s not just morals getting the way of her revealing the truth.

As Edward gradually recovers, they help each other search for Cecelia’s brother feeling the heat snow-balling between them. Quinn successfully switches between endearing newlyweds to determined lovers. However, there were moments in which I thought the conversations pushed too long. Repeated comments about pretty facial features filled a page or two longer than necessary. I also wished there was more building of secondary characters, who rapidly flit in and out. The mystery of the brother was well sustained but wraps up a little awkwardly. But look forward to a heated and satisfying ending of declarations.

Many thanks to Little, Brown for my review copy xxx

Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh

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Published by Penguin, 13th July 2017, 345 pages, £7.99

3 stars

I spent the last week in Kenya. It was 1952, political unrest had taken a vicious turn and the young Queen Elizabeth is soon to be crowned. Eighteen year old Rachel returns to the country after spending six years in England during the wake of her mother’s death. Turning her back on this life, which included a stifling boarding school, cold nights at her grandparents and meager rationing, she looks towards her real home with a tentative, but relieved heart. Her father, who remained in Kenya, kept very little contact whilst she was away and she hopes to reunite with him and revive memories of her mother. However, on her arrival he remains distant and is living with an unlikable woman and her quiet son.

This was my first time reading Jennifer McVeigh’s work, recommended as being a fan of Dinah Jefferies. I think anyone who favours stories about young women negotiating life and love in an exotic setting would enjoy this.  The time I spent with this novel was a warm escape. It started off with a very calming pace, like sun rays settling onto my back. I saw Kenya through Rachel’s young and hopeful eyes, its endless landscape, dusty beauty and rural way of life. As Rachel struggles to reconnect with her father and rebuild her childhood memories, she runs into Michael, a former tutor and local. The intrigue and attraction between the characters was there, but I didn’t feel their romance was full-bodied enough. Michael started as a masculine and intellectual enigma, revealing very little until the end. Their relationship leaned more towards silent acceptance rather than a heady whirlwind.

The slow pace that begins the story almost stagnates in the middle, leaving me wondering if there would be any action. It eventually picks up and speeds towards a dizzying tumble of events. The title ‘Leopard At The Door’,  becomes more apparent towards the later half of the novel.  Danger in multiple forms slink around. The story becomes stabbed with graphic violence (too much for my taste) as the threat of Mau Mau rebels looms closer. Not only this, but the deteriorating relationships in the house and the sadistic nature of the British enforcement close in. The novel also comments on the chilling treatment of women and mental health under Imperial rule and its obsession for sweeping issues under the rug.

The novel ends perhaps too quickly and wraps up with a mixture of unresolved acceptance, sadness and the survival of hope.

Many thanks to Penguin for my review copy xx

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Published by Penguin, 1 June 2017, 368 pages, £5.99

4 stars

Penguin cleverly sent around press releases daring me NOT to like this book. They boldly claimed that there was not a single reader who disliked the book. So of course I had to accept the challenge, even though I knew it was a marketing bait. I knew that my weakness for high school murder mysteries (a la Pretty Little Liars) will guarantee a base interest. This novel has a bit of everything, intense sleuthing, teen drama and romance. Its attempts to handle darker elements like death and mental illness might be its one flaw.

This is one of the most exciting YA books I have read so far. Five different characters collide in one detention session, all with secrets. Like those who didn’t grow up in the American school system, I have a fondness for their (damaging) stereotypes: the brain, beauty queen, jock, drop-out and outcast. None of these students know why they had detention and at the end of it, Simon the outcast is dead. The rest of the group become suspects. With each day the police are increasingly determined to bring them down. And get this, Simon’s gossip blog continues to post, the topic being the famous four and their secrets. So who is determined to ruin their lives, some elusive stranger or one of them?

If I do say so myself, I had started to get an inkling of who the culprit was. But I do applaud the many twists and turns the plot leads you down. Despite their different worlds, the characters bond with motivating results. They shed their stereotype shells, help each other’s problems and embrace their real selves. There are transformations, society challenges and an additive unlikely romance. However, the story navigates shakily with the topic of depression. The illness was clumsily explained for the rage and revenge that fueled death. But I think the author means to highlight it as a condition partly caused by the school cliques and separations (ones that we in turn find so appealing) in which the main characters ultimately take apart.

Many thanks to Penguin for my review copy xxx

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

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Published by Mira Ink 2012, 395 pages, £3.49

4.5 stars

It’s been a Katie McGarry week and I never want it to end. Thankfully, there are about five more (plus a novella) in this Pushing the Limits series. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to start it. The drama, passion and fiery energy the author brings to her characters warms me from each page. Unlike the Thunder Road series, there are no biker gangs, but focuses on domestic drama, bereavement and mental illness.

Echo and Noah are from two ends of the social spectrum (McGarry is at her best with opposite attraction). Echo was once popular girl, dance team member and on track for an art scholarship. But after the death of her older brother and a traumatic episode involving her mother, she becomes withdrawn and distant from everyone, hiding her inner and outer scars. She is also repressed by her controlling father and his new wife, who was embarrassingly her childhood babysitter.

Noah is the labeled ‘dodgy’ boy who sits at the back of class and lunch, involved with violence, drugs and hook-ups. After the death of his parents and the painful separation from his younger brothers, he has been through the mill of abusive foster care. He is someone who has given up on trust, especially from authority figures, and fights tooth and nail to get his brothers back. Both Echo and Noah’s days are filled with anger and silence. When a guidance councilor brings them together, their initial impression of each other- impressions created by gossip and stereotyping, gradually sift away to make room for their consuming attraction.

Their romance is so fierce, but the wounds from their problems are so raw, McGarry creates an exiting struggle of wanting and never wanting to be the characters. The plot is driven by the mystery of Echo’s memory, as she fails to remember the detail of her trauma. Echo’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and she fears that she will also loose control and be accused of ‘craziness’. The story deals with the lack of understanding mental illnesses and how it is dealt with. As Echo’s memory comes back in fearful shards, she tries to loosen her father’s safety grips, while Noah does battle with society to reclaim his brothers. Everybody’s limits are tested as the characters challenge those that restrict them as well as pushing their inner scars to extremes. Long at times, the novel was an addictive whirlwind of fatal build-ups and made me look forward to my train journey after a trying day at work.

xxx