Pick of the Day

Sparks Fly by Sarah Sanders

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Take every love-at-first-sight movie; add to that every romantic movie of falling head-over-heels in love with someone in a ...

Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood by Anna Burke

⭐⭐⭐☆★

Set in medieval England, Nottingham re-imagines the story of Robin Hood and his merry men in the Sherwood Forest with an entire female, lesbian cast.

The Sheriff of Nottingham is a cruel man given to punitive acts of terror and brutality. Robyn and her brother, Michael, are fletchers but are far from dear to the Sheriff because of lovely Gwyneth who chose Robyn’s brother over the Sheriff. Life is difficult enough for the Fletchers, but when the Sheriff finds and excuse, he gladly hangs Michael leaving Robyn and the very pregnant Gwyneth in dire straits. In a moment of desperation, Robyn does the same thing for which Michael was hanged – poaches in the prohibited parts of the forests. She gets caught and ends up killing one of the Sheriff’s men. To save herself, Gwyneth and her little boy, Robyn takes the help of her cousin, Midge, fakes her own death and disappears into the depths of Sherwood to become and outlaw. Marian, daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is one of Lady Emmeline’s handmaidens along with Willa and Alanna. Politics and their fathers’ greed sees Willa and Marian promised to undesirable, but rich and higher-ranking men. The man Willa is promised to is much-married, a known wife-beater – and most importantly, Willa is in love with Alanna, a minstrel. The worlds of the genteel ladies and the outlaws are set on a collision course with the Reverend Mother of the Edwinstowe Priory playing and anchor to the lives tossed in an upheaval.

The fraught times in Nottingham, and of all the characters, are evocatively written. The desperation of the townspeople evokes strong empathy much like in Hunger Games. Burke writes a whole cast of very strong women who are strong and loyal. They have an unshakable commitment to their convictions and emotions. Interestingly, the most impulsive character is Robyn. When compared to the others, she is emotionally immature and doesn’t have the same strength of commitment to her feelings or respect for the others’ in her orbit. However, as a story it all works because the others are just so awesome.  

If romance and action float your boat, you can hardly go wrong with this. Truly. 

⭐⭐⭐☆★

Say Her Name by Stefani Deoul

⭐⭐⭐

We feel that YA novels usually are more layered and tackle many more subjects than the regular novels for not-so-young. There is also more idealism in the characters, which is always nice.

Sid Rubin, a nerd and coding-queen, has a group of five close friends – Imani, Jimmy, Ari, and Vikram. When Sid sets eyes on her Mystery Dream Girl (MDG), the group gets behind her effort to find the green-eyed beauty. MDG is Ava who turns out to be deaf. A determined Sid decides to learn sign language and Imani accompanies her for the classes. The ‘posse’ is with Sid every step of the way till Sid and Ava start dating – and Sid is unable to balance her romantic and friendship relationships. A snowball fight in Central Park which includes Sid, Ava, Sid’s friends and Ava’s bestie, Joe leads to Imani tumbling down and landing on a skeletal hand. Turns out to be eight skeletons literally chained together and the group sets out to find out who they were even as Ava leaves Sid and Sid struggles to get back her footing with her friends – especially with best friend, Imani.

Though the books starts off with the romance, the mystery and group dynamic is more the focus. However, Ava is an intriguing character. We’d love to know her better and so, so want a happy romance and life for her. Though Ava leaves Sid, we empathised with Ava more than with Sid. We found Ava completely justifiable and justified. The other character that we totally loved was Imani. (A side note: we are expected a romance between Imani and Sid soon.) And yes, the whole ‘posse’ of friends is also cool. We loved the writing style. YA novels tend to have youth-speak, created new words, lots of pop culture references, and in this case a huge amount of extra bits of interestingness thrown in because of Sid’s propensity for digressions which make them highly readable and entertaining. We loved Imani’s sentiment of returning respect to the unknown people they’ve literally stumbled upon (that’s the idealism we spoke about earlier).

This is a fast moving, very entertaining YA read.  

⭐⭐⭐

Body of Work by Charlotte Mills

⭐☆

Given that we’d thoroughly enjoyed Mills’ Payback, we wanted to like this one. Like really, really wanted to. But alas! That was not to be.

Noa Stevens is a London-based artist struggling to cope with the loss of her wife, Kim. Plus she has not yet dealt with her brother’s disappearance thirty years ago. Her agent, Marcus Greenly is supportive but now finally pushing her because she has an upcoming show looming and there are no paintings from her because she’s not produced any new work in the past four years. As an intervention, Marcus takes her to a place in Woodbridge, Suffolk, to get back her groove. What Marcus doesn’t share with Noa is that there are mildly disturbing messages addressed to her referencing her brother that he has been receiving. Paige Clarke, a district nurse, was unceremoniously dumped by her partner, Cass. Leaving just a note for Paige to find, Cass had driven away with their son, Isaac, towards Isaac’s sperm donor, but an accident killed both, Cass and Isaac. When Paige meets Noa, she is drawn to the socially awkward (to the point of rude) almost-recluse and makes an effort to bond with Noa despite Noa. While the two women are building a relationship, the notes to Noa continue and at the opening of her show, one of the notes finds its way to Noa, completely derailing her.

The prologue was exciting setting stage for something exciting. But that was about it. The mystery aspect and the whole build-up with the notes was a complete fail. Noa is neither likeable nor someone we could understand or empathise with. We totally failed to see her appeal to Paige, who wasn’t half-bad. Noa never really committed to her relationship with Paige which was evident in all her actions particularly towards the end. Paige surely deserved better. This one fails on every count including as a romance and as a mystery.

You can safely skip this book altogether.

⭐☆

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