#BlogTour #Review: Death Before Coffee by Desmond P. Ryan @BakerPromo @RealDesmondRyan

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Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Canadian crime fiction writer Desmond P. Ryan’s second novel Death Before Coffee. Picking up thirteen years after the death of his partner Sal, Mike O’Shea is back at it chasing down leads and raising hell in Toronto. Just as gritty and just as real as 10-33 Assist PC, this is an outstanding sequel and an intensely gripping read.


10-33AssistPC_FINAL224pgsTitle: Death Before Coffee

Author: Desmond P. Ryan

Publisher: Copper Press Publishing

Publication Date: February 8, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Human Trafficking, Crime

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

By 2:27 on a Thursday afternoon, the one-legged man from Room 8 at 147 Loxitor Avenue has been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Twenty-eight minutes later, Detective Mike O’Shea is testifying in a stuffy courtroom, unaware that, within an hour, he will be standing in an alleyway littered with beer cans and condoms while his new partner—the man who saved his life thirteen years ago—flicks bugs off of a battered corpse with a ballpoint pen. When a rogue undercover copper prematurely hauls in the prime suspect, Mike blows a fuse, resulting in an unlikely rapport developing between him and the lead homicide detective sergeant, a woman known for her stilettos and razor sharp investigative skills. At the end of his seventy-two-hour shift, three men are dead and Mike O’Shea is floating in and out of consciousness in an emergency room hallway, two women by his side. Death Before Coffee, the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, weaves a homicide investigation through the life of an inner-city police detective intent on balancing his responsibilities as a son, brother, and newly single father with his sworn oath of duty. When faced with death, Mike is forced to make decisions that stir up old memories, compelling him to confront his demons while fighting the good fight.


My Review

I have a confession.

Okay, maybe not the kind that needs to be recorded and documented but I feel it’s only fair to get it out in the open – I am typing this review rather heavily medicated for what seems to be the never-ending-February-head-cold and am worried that this may not be my best piece of writing. Please be kind when it comes to any spelling and grammar mistakes, as I am not catching things the way I normally do!

But on to the book which is fabulous, Canadian, and intensely action packed.

All of the things that I loved in Ryan’s first novel lived on in the second, and it was both refreshing and incredibly sad to see that Mike hadn’t walked away from Sal’s murder scott free. Too often I read crime fiction and series where the lead investigator witnesses tragedy after tragedy and seems to ruck on mentally unscathed – but that is not the case with Michael O’Shea. He’s broken, irreparably damaged, and incredibly real. He has flashbacks, suffers from PTSD, generally denies the reality that he needs some professional help, and yet manages to be stubborn and callous in the most endearing way possible.

I must admit though, I did not expect traffic man Ron Roberts to wind up as Mike’s partner, and loved how harshly their personalities clashed with one another. They were automatic chemistry, tension, and humour all rolled into one. And yet, I can see these two odd ducks – the living legend and the rules & regs man – forming a bond and partnership that will carry them through some serious cases and personal hard times. Of course, it makes sense that those involved in Sal’s open case would eventually gravitate back towards one another, and I simply can’t wait to see where this cold case goes given the whoppers that were dropped in the final pages. I mean – Oh. My. Giddy. Goodness. Who doesn’t love a little dirty-cop drama? And now we have to sit patiently for the next instalment to be released!

Impatience aside, this review would not be complete without some serious attention to Detective Sergeant Amanda Black. I am totally in love with this boss lady. Everyone might call her a bitch but she is seriously bad-ass! Driven, successful, damn good at her job and a family lady to boot, she sets the bar pretty high when it comes life goals. I absolutely adored her laser-vision attention to detail, ability to assess and manage a team, and especially her lady-balls when it came to dealing with condescension, insubordination, and the persistent gender gap in her given profession. She’s the perfect balance to Mike’s get ’em cowboy ways and Ron’s by the book approach, injecting a little femininity and a healthy dose of sarcasm into some seriously heavy police work. We need more ladies like her in fiction AND the real world. Period.

And let’s to forget the structure of the book itself. I loved how it was broken up into tightly packed segments delineated by date and time. It gave the feeling of reading through a police report while simultaneously drawing you into the action. It created this sense of everything moving both incredibly fast and unbearably slow at the same time, much the same way I imagine first 48 hours following a major crime feels to the investigating team. It allowed for intense focus on key moments as well as breaks in time to advance the plot while maintaining a seamless and easy to read presentation.

The case was tantalizing, and presented plenty of obstacles to ramp up the drama and keep the pages turning. I felt for the officers running the gauntlet with the media vultures, and found myself steaming with rage when officers went out of their way to disobey, or worse, looked like they might be dirty and on the take. I appreciated the power dynamics, the distinctly different units that have to converge to work on a case, and the need to balance safety with legitimacy when approaching any serious situation. The result was incredibly realistic and believable.

Would I recommend this book? In a heart beat! And I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge advocate for Canadian content, I’m saying it because this baby packs a serious punch and is shaping up to be an awesome series. Death Before Coffee is gritty, raw, and heartbreakingly real. It hits close to home, and makes you consider some pretty serious issues in an unobtrusive way. Read it my fellow crime lovers, you won’t be disappointed.


About The Author

thumbnail_img_1467For almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan began every day of his working life with either a victim waiting in a hospital emergency room, or a call to a street corner or a blood-soaked room where someone had been left for dead. Murder, assaults on a level that defied humanity, sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the individuals who were no more than objects to the offenders: all in a day’s work.

It was exhilarating, exhausting, and often heartbreaking.

As a Detective with the Toronto Police Service, Desmond P. Ryan wrote thousands of reports detailing the people, places, and events that led up to the moment he came along. He investigated the crimes and wrote synopses for guilty pleas detailing the circumstances that brought the accused individuals before the Courts. He also wrote a number of files to have individuals deemed either Not Criminally Responsible due to mental incapacity, or Dangerous Offenders to be held in custody indefinitely.

Now, as a retired investigator with three decades of research opportunities under his belt, Desmond P. Ryan writes crime fiction.

Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.


Many thanks to Shell Baker at Baker’s Blog Tours and Promos for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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#BlogTour #Review: The Forgotten Children by Isabella Muir @SussexMysteries @rararesources #Giveaway

The Forgotten Children

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Forgotten Children by Isabella Muir.  Disturbingly real, deeply emotional, and absolutely gripping Emily’s journey will leave you questioning the motives and secret histories of everyone you’ve ever dared to judge.


The Forgotten Children PAPERBACK frontTitle: The Forgotten Children

Author: Isabella Muir

Publisher: Outset Publishing Inc.

Publication Date: November 29, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Family

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

A woman’s search to find her son uncovers the shocking truth about one of Britain’s darkest periods

Struggling with the demons of her past, Emily is a children’s author with a dark secret, and a guilt that threatens to consume her.  For twenty years she has lived in Brighton, England, trying to forget the day they took her baby from her, just hours after he was born.  But now, in the summer of 1987, she decides to begin the search for her son.

Emily takes refuge in a small town on the Isle of Anglesey to plan the search, where she meets Walter, a gentle stranger, who helps her with his words of wisdom and kindness.  But it is when she decides to return home to Hastings, that she really has to face her demons.

Estranged from her parents when she was just sixteen, Emily is shocked by what her mother has to tell her about events that occurred before Emily was even born.

Beside her, throughout her search, is Emily’s beautiful Irish friend, Geraldine, recovering from her own sad experiences.  Together they uncover a truth that shocks them all.

The Forgotten Children draws the reader into lives affected by narrow-minded beliefs and blinkered thinking at the highest level. Children who weren’t allowed to be born, children who were abandoned, and children who were taken, forced to lead a life thousands of miles away from everyone and everything they knew – leaving scars that may never heal.

At its heart, The Forgotten Childrenis a story of survival, but the journey that Emily has to take is painful.  Even more so because she knows it was allowed to happen by individuals, religions and governments, who should have known better.

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forgotten-Children-chilling-inspired-events-ebook/dp/B07GZYHLKV

US – https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Children-chilling-inspired-events-ebook/dp/B07GZYHLKV


My Review

If you enjoy gushy, uplifting reads, walk away now.

The Forgotten Children is deep, uncomfortable, and entirely confrontational. It forces you to question motives, suspend judgement, and look more closely at ‘official’ histories. Oh, and did I mention that it’s an absolutely outstanding read?

Set in the not-too-distant past, the familiarity of the place and society of Emily’s world is so close that it’s almost tangible. Full of nostalgia, heartbreak, and lasting preconceptions it’s almost impossible not to get lost in Emily’s story as she strives to make peace with her past, her mother, and her son. Muir confronts loss on so many levels – through miscarriage, through adoption, through choice, between parents and children, amongst siblings, lovers, and friends. It deals with some incredibly harsh realities, and yet it delivers an incredibly cathartic experience that evokes both empathy and understanding.

Emotions aside, there’s a damn good story in the mix as well. I enjoyed being let into Emily’s life, especially those moments with Ralph, and felt that the journey she experienced was particularly believable. Walter and Patrick were a breath of fresh air, and I appreciated the ways in which Walter always turned a question in on itself. I also loved Gee, and her persistently optimistic outlook on life. But most surprising, was the degree to which I found myself empathizing with Emily’s mother. Granted, it took some time for me to warm up to her, but about the time she joined Emily in Wales I was as much invested in her story as I was in her daughter’s.

I must admit though, that I found there were a few too may happy endings given the circumstances. It seemed unlikely that there would be so many reunions in light of the times, the distance, and the practice of changing children’s name when they were transported overseas. The reality is that closed and/ or anonymous adoptions can be difficult to track at the best times, let alone across an ocean and when paper files were prone to natural attrition or convenient destruction. Don’t get me wrong, I needed a little hope and happiness after Emily’s rollercoaster ride, but this was perhaps the only element I found a bit stretched.

Regardless, The Forgotten Children is the kind of book that makes you think. It tugs at your heartstrings in every way possible, and has a relatable character for just about everyone. It’s balanced, provocative, and sadly sweet.  If you enjoy contemporary fiction with a bit of grit and a healthy does of drama this one will definitely be for you.


Giveaway

Giveaway  – Win a signed copy of The Forgotten Children (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494188/? 


About The Author

The Forgotten Isabella Muir

Isabella Muir has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.

As well as her newest title, The Forgotten Children, Isabella is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series.  These Agatha Christie style stories are set in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, who has a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.

Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/

https://twitter.com/SussexMysteries

https://isabellamuir.com/


Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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#BlogTour #Review: 10-33 Assist PC by Desmond P. Ryan

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For my first blog tour of 2019 I am delighted to showcase Canadian crime fiction author Desmond P. Ryan and his debut novel 10-33 Assist PC. Giving a dark and gritty glimpse into Canada’s underbelly and the heartbreaking world’s of human trafficking and child prostitution. Canadian contest aside, this is some damn good crime fiction, and I couldn’t be happier to have 10-33 Assist PC as the kick start to my touring year.


thumbnail_1033covernewlarge copy (2)Title: 10-33 Assist PC

Author: Desmond P. Ryan

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: September 15, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Human Trafficking, Crime

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

D/C Mike O’Shea, a young cop with a knack for working hard and following hunches, is on the verge of cracking a prostitution ring when an undercover from another unit burns him. With only days left before their pimps shuttle the girls out of the country, Mike pushes his team into overdrive. Hours later, with too little information, sleep, or luck, the unthinkable happens.

And now, the chase is personal.

In the first of the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, 10-33 Assist PC draws us into the dirty world of human trafficking through the eyes of the cops who put their lives on the line every day to shut it down. Written by a Real Detective, 10-33 Assist PC is the story of a cop who must decide how to move forward without forgetting the past.


My Review

Oh. My. Giddy. Goodness.

It has been a while since I picked up a book that demanded to be read in a single sitting, and that’s exactly what 10-33 PC Assist did. I started my day with dreams of being productive, started reading with morning coffee, and the next thing I knew I’d missed lunch, hadn’t done a single load of laundry, and ended up serving leftovers for dinner because I had decided that finishing the last chapter was more important than cooking a meal.

Yep. It was that kind of read.

One of the main things that I loved about this book is that it isn’t a behemoth. On the smaller side, this is the type of high impact read that can be devoured in one sitting without any (excessive) guilt. But don’t let it’s small size scare you away, 10-33 PC Assist carriers a heavy punch. Filled with solid characters, intriguing dynamics, a captivating case, and the kind of crimes you can’t make up, I was completely lost in every moment.

I love that Mike and Sal challenged many of the cop stereotypes while simultaneously embodying others. What I loved the most though, was Mike’s inclination not to shoot, even when it would have been the easier and more instinctual option. However, it was the fact that the JPTF saw each and every one of the children that they encountered as both human and as a victim, rather than as the inconvenient collateral damage of a dirty business that really had me hooked. Too often we see sex workers and trafficked individuals in the same way as the Morality unit in this book does – inconvenient, dangerous, dirty, and as more trouble than they’re worth. The human touch of the JPTF was not only needed, but grounding, especially as it became clear how the types of cases that the JPTF handled can quickly wear down the officers that work them.

I appreciated too, how Julia also defied convention, with her designer touch and immaculate presentation. She was a wonderfully strong character who showcased how career, fashion, and family ambition can all coexist in a single being – that it doesn’t always have to be an either-or decision. I loved her Italian heritage, the constant colloquialism and expressions, and her endearing hot-headedness. Combine that with Mike’s Irish family, Sal’s stoically independent personality, Hoagie’s dedication to his wife and children (thank you for tackling supportive husbands and post partum depression head on!) and you have the quintessential Canadian melting pot in a single unit.

Also, freaking Barb. I have never encountered a supporting character that made me laugh so much. Hello To-ron-to! Ballsy, indignant, and cooperative in the most stubborn way possible. Her bitterness and eccentricity had me in stitches, and I was desperately wishing that Mike and Sal would pay her another visit.

I enjoyed the familiarity of Toronto, and though it makes me profoundly uncomfortable at times when reading, genuinely appreciated the head-on way in Ryan addresses problems rarely associated with the Party in the Attic. It was both horrifying and engrossing to see how young girls were targeted, groomed, and pressed ‘into the game’. I found myself laughing, crying, and even having to take breaks when situations became too intense to handle. And to think, this is only the start of the series.

Beautifully written and powerfully real, 10-33 PC Assist is an absolutely incredible book! For lovers of crime fiction and police procedurals this is an absolute must read.


About The Author

thumbnail_img_1467Very few books give you the real crime experience because even fewer authors have it.

Desmond P. Ryan has it.

For almost thirty years, he worked the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Often heartbreaking.

Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond Ryan dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. He wrote thousands of reports describing their lives, the places they lived, and the things they did. He investigated their crimes and wrote detailed accounts of the activities that brought him into their world. Detective Ryan also held victims as they wept, talked desperate people off of ledges, and sat beside the decomposing bodies of men and women who, in life, had been discarded and long-forgotten by society.

Now, as a retired detective with three decades of research opportunities under his belt, Desmond Ryan write crime fiction.

Why?

Because he wants to tell you a story like no other. Because he wants to bring you inside a world that will both fascinate you and challenge what you thought you knew about human nature. Because he wants to seamlessly weave truth and fiction together to create a place for you where the Good Guys ultimately win.

And because you deserve to have the most authentic crime fiction experience every time you pick up one of Desmond Ryan’s books.


Many thanks to Shell Baker at Baker’s Blog Tours and Promos for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#ARC #Review: The Light Over London by Julia Kelly #HistoricalFiction #WWIIFiction

Today I’m delighted to return to my love of WWII fiction with a glowing review for The Light Over London by Julia Kelly. I don’t normally go for books with a strong romance theme, but this baby had enough other, amazing stuff going on that I was happy to set general dislike of mush aside and dive right in. Pull up your stockings ladies, this one will leave you empowered, angry, and ready to take on the world.


lightTitle: The Light Over London

Author: Julia Kelly

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: January 9, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction

Themes: Family, Friendship, Survival, WWII, Romance

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.


My Review

While I enjoyed Louise’s story, with her war-time dance hall romance not so dissimilar from how my grandparents met, it took me a touch longer than normal to connect with her character. At first I found her mousy and almost dull (as I’m sure was intended!), and it took Louise and Kate running away to enlist before I really started to care about her character. And I really started to root for her when she took her position in the Ack-ack command and then refused to be controlled by her paramour because she finally her own personal value and the value of the work that she was doing.

Cara on the other hand, I connected with almost instantly. Perhaps it was the conviction with which she removed herself from a toxic relationship (seriously, we need more pop-culture characters that reject rather than glorify such dangerous pairings!) or the fact that she worked for an antiques dealer and discussed in-depth the same bits of cultural ephemera with which I have always been obsessed, we simply clicked.

I enjoyed too how the men in this book were polar opposites from one another. The shy, almost absent minded professor set against the cocky, play-boy pilot. And Yet, it was entirely believable how each woman for her lover. They were both charismatic and endearing, yet simultaneously flawed and complex in ways that create depth and relatability.

I loved the split narrative between present day and WWII. the stories of these two women had enough contrast to create interest, but were complementary enough to create an entirely harmonious narrative. Both women were deceptively strong yet awash with self-doubt, and most definitely on the road to discovering their strength and purpose as individuals rather than in relation to their romantic partners.

The diary served as the perfect bridge between their stories. At times it was impossible to tell if the diary passages were being written by Louise or read by Cara which worked to help bend the timelines and aid in the willing suspension of disbelief. And the way in which the diary was presented really worked to highlight the universality of Louise and Cara’s experiences, with each representing the beginnings and endings of the same type of relationship – always in juxtaposition – which created a feeling of cycles and balance.

But what I loved the most about the diary is how it addresses head on is the flaws of biography and life writing. Especially when Cara finally locates the family of our diary owner, and Louise’s perception of herself and how others viewed her is thrown into question. It forces us, as readers, to question the authority of the narrator(s) and immediately triggers a demand for reflection and the reconsideration of key moments through a different lens. These moments of revelation were perfectly timed for maximum effect, sneak up when you are least expecting them, and change everything.

Would I recommend this book? Sure thing! It might be on the light side, even firmly in the realm of women’s fiction, but it’s carefully crafted and demands reflexive introspection. Kelly stitches a believable balance of between historical fact, imaginative fiction, and heartwarming romance. For lovers of WWII fiction and women’s fiction alike, The Light Over London is sure to hit the spot.


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

#ARC #Review: To Best The Boys by Mary Weber #YALit #Dystopian #Fantasy

Today’s review is for To Best The Boys by Mary Weber. Don’t let the short page count fool you, because there is an absolute ton packed into this baby including deep discussions of class stratified societies and gender roles. And despite this all, it never feels like an overwhelming or heavy read as we follow a plucky heroine on her journey to find a cure, love, and higher education. Beautifully imagined and expertly written, To Best The Boys is Coco Channel meets The Maze Runner, and it’s an absolute must read!


bestTitle: To Best The Boys

Author: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy, Dystopian

Themes: Family, Friendship, Survival,

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.


My Review

A lot of this book will feel familiar to readers: There are two distinct classes, uppers and lowers (I’m sure you can figure that one out), that makes achieving valuable social change difficult; then there’s rigid and firmly entrenched gender roles, where the men and boys get educations and the women and girls tend to the home – any one who breaks from this pattern is seen as a rebel who needs to be tamed; and then there’s he whole dystopian survive the contest trope. But guess what, these things are familiar because they work, and in To Best The Boys they work incredibly well together.

We’re brought into a society where courtship is formalized, exposed ankles are scandalous, and walking home with the wrong fellow can ruin your reputation. Enter Rhen Tellur – she’s bright, driven, irreverent and against all odds an absolutely brilliant scientist. She’s not afraid of getting her hands dirty, or even covered in the effluence of a dead body, she’s determined to find a cure for the crippling disease that’s making it’s way through the Lower community in Pinsbury Port – especially since the Uppers only seem to care about their parties, pastries, and stationary choices.

Matters are complicated but the fact that Rhen belongs to both worlds – her mother was once an Upper who lost her standing when she married a brilliant (but Lower) alchemist.  As a result, Rhen must divide her time on either side of the river attending Upper parties with her cousin Seleni only to return home to the working class community in which she lives to run experiments with her father in their basement laboratory. Why the duality when Rhen could easily accept what’s offered from the Uppers? He mother has been hit with Crippling Disease.

Oh, and lets just make things a little more complicated – brilliant though she may be, the last hope of the lowers, she’s also dyslexic.

Cue the moment of awakening where the next Katniss/ Tris/ Eowyn is born. Rhen boldly says the ‘hull’ with it all and enters an all-boys competition to win an education and hopefully save her mother. And let’s be honest here, I fell for this story hook, line and sinker (fishing pun and reference to lover-boy Lute fully intended). I can’t say too much more about the plot without risking spoilers other than Rhen’s time in the maze is fast paced, exhilarating, and utterly amazing.

The supporting characters are wonderful as well – Beryll with his constant screams and disapproval, Seleni with her unwavering commitment to supporting the ones she loves, Vincent with his ridiculous ego unbearable condescension, and Lute with his brooding and unpredictable moods. Now add in a healthy dose of magic, ghouls in the mist, sirens out at sea, and a parliament that only serves the rich and you have the perfect recipe for a smashing read.

The only reason why this baby didn’t land a 5* review is that some of the bigger issues, such as gender disparity, are too often and too obviously stated. I think that the story itself was strong enough to cary this message without being outright, and the constant reminders almost devalues the intelligence of the reader when it comes to drawing conclusions and making connections. Don’t get me wrong, my feminist heart is rejoicing after reading this sucker, I’m just someone that believes in the power of a whisper over that of a shout.

Regardless, would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It’s fun, thoughtful, challenging, and surprisingly sensitive with regards to it’s diverse and special needs characters in a way that dystopian literature often is not. To Best The Boys is a thrilling read, and I can only hope to see more of Rhen, Lute, Seleni, and Beryll in the future.


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.