Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Review: No Angel - Samantha Summers

No Angel by Samantha Summers, published September 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
When a group of teenage assassins waged a war against the clandestine government branch that created them, their freedom came at a price. Not all of them made it. One never wanted to. This is the story of Gabriel, a boy whose angelic good looks hide a monster within. It’s the story of how he came to be there on the fateful night he sacrificed everything to save his unit. It’s the story of a moment in time, when he saw there was more to life than the death that had followed him his entire existence.

'No Angel' is a Project Five Fifteen novella. I was lucky enough to receive a copy from the author and I'm thrilled to say that I absolutely loved it! Project Five Fifteen is one of my favourite series and I'm so glad that Samantha Summers has taken another step into that world because I have been desperately wanting to see more of the characters.

The focus this time around is on Gabriel and Zach, who originally featured in the series containing 'First Light', 'As You Were' and 'Becoming'. The story shows them trying to survive on their own (prior to their later reunion). Zach wants to find a small beach town and finally settle down to a real life but Gabriel is struggling to adjust to normal life and finds oblivion in bar fights and one night stands. Anything where he can forget, if even for a short time, the things they were forced to do. Their lives are made up of this pattern, until Gabriel meets Lo. The first girl to see beyond the mask he always wears.

Gabriel was a really interesting character. He thinks he's incapable of feeling love but he protects Zach and would give his life for him. Although he has his faults, he cares about the people that matter to him and he's more selfless than he realises. I enjoyed getting to find out more about him and Zach and how they operate as a team. Survival is their number one concern but Gabriel's feelings for Lo certainly shake things up. The growing romantic relationship between Gabriel and Lo was one that I enjoyed seeing unfold over the course of the book. On the surface, they may have initially seemed like an unlikely couple but they provide some much needed balance for each other and a level of mutual trust and support that I don't think either of them has ever really had before.

The character perspective alternates between Gabriel and Zach, as we see the latter secretly meeting with a therapist. Zach is such a sweetie and is always trying to keep Gabriel on the right track. I definitely thought that he deserved the normal life he craved in the book, although he has his own demons to confront.

After reading 'No Angel', I got all nostalgic and dug my copies of the original trilogy off my shelves, ready for a re-read sometime soon. I'm a massive Samantha Summers fan and would beg you to read her books if you haven't discovered them yet. This was a fabulous addition to the series and I'm hoping (with all my body parts crossed!) that there might be more to come in the future.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Blog tour: The Caged Queen - Kristen Ciccarelli

Today, I'm thrilled to be part of 'The Caged Queen' blog tour. Published today in the UK by Gollancz, I'm sharing my review of Kristen Ciccarelli's phenomenal book.

'The Caged Queen' is a companion novel to 'The Last Namsara' which was a standout read for me. This is a book that I was desperate to get my hands on. Once I started it, I was completely drawn into the story and swept away by the adventure, romance and daring of the plot. I would almost say that I enjoyed 'The Caged Queen' even more than Ciccarelli's first book, as the theme of unbreakable love was one that really captured my heart.

The protagonist of the story is Roa, daughter of the House of Song and wife of Dax, the dragon King. Dax is the brother of Asha who fans of the author will already be familiar with. Roa was a wonderful central character. Strong in body and mind, she helped Dax to take the Fiergaard throne, in return for becoming Queen. An overarching theme in the novel is love. The tentative but quelled feelings she refuses to acknowledge for Dax were beautifully portrayed, as well as her undying love for her sister Essie. After a terrible accident, for which Dax was responsible, Essie lost her life and her soul became trapped. Roa would do anything for her sister and is desperate to reclaim her.  

I loved the bond between the sisters but for me, the relationship between Roa and Dax was my favourite part of the whole book. They are both hiding from each other and they are both capable of hurting each other because those we love the most, are the ones with the most power to wound us.

Although the book started quite slowly, it just kept getting better and better as it went on. I enjoyed the short sections interspersed throughout which delved into the past and showed events from Roa's childhood and her memories of growing up with her sister and Dax by her side. They provided a lot of additional insight into the characters and their actions.

'The Caged Queen' is an example of tremendous storytelling and beautiful writing. There were some passages near the end that actually brought tears to my eyes. I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone and I really don't think it matters if you haven't read 'The Last Namsara' because this is enough of a companion book that it works well as a standalone novel too. Absolutely magnificent!

Don't forget to check out all of the other stops on the blog tour and look out for #The CagedQueen on Twitter.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Review: A Spoonful of Murder - Robin Stevens

A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin on 4th January 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
When Hazel Wong's beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel's family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong.

But when they arrive they discover something they didn't expect: there's a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn't just the detective. She's been framed for murder!

The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel's name - before it's too late . . .

'A Spoonful of Murder' is the sixth instalment in the Murder Most Unladylike series. Oh how I adore these books! They are sooo good and such a treat to read. Everything else just fades into the background when I'm reading about Daisy and Hazel.

The story is set in Hong Kong in 1936. It was interesting to see the whole book set on non-English soil and how this affects the behaviour of the characters. With Hazel back with her family (Daisy in tow), Hazel is suddenly the one who is more in charge as she knows the language and the culture. It was strange to see Daisy having to take a backseat for once as normally she is always barrelling ahead but she is now on slightly uncertain footing. I absolutely love Hazel, so I enjoyed seeing her leading the investigation and growing in confidence throughout the book. The exchange of roles between the two is well written and really well done. I honestly sometimes forget that the two girls are only fourteen because they seem much more mature than that with everything they have had to face together.

I also loved learning more about Hazel's family and the ways and rituals of Hong Kong society. Her little sisters, May and Rose are very sweet too and I wonder if there is potential for a future spin-off starring them.   

The mystery was deliciously intriguing and yielded a lot of surprises. Robin Stevens always ensures that the books are well plotted so I'm never able to guess the outcome which makes for even better reading. I'm tempted to say that this was my favourite book in the series so far. Impossible to put-down, full of puzzles and intrigue and wonderfully written. Stevens does it again! I hope we have many more Wells and Wong adventures still to come.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Review: Show Stealer - Hayley Barker

Show Stealer by Hayley Barker, published by Scholastic on 2nd August 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Hoshiko and Ben have been on the run since they burned Silvio Sabatini's circus down to the ground. But Ben's mother will stop at nothing to track him down and get her revenge: backing him into a corner where he is forced to sacrifice himself to save Hoshiko. The deadliest show on earth has been resurrected and if Ben thought he'd seen into its dark corners as an outsider, the true extent of the horrors that lurk beneath the Big Top are about to be revealed as he becomes the circus' new star attraction...

Review:This is a stunning follow-up to last year's debut hit Showstopper. It is an incredibly enjoyable read and had me engrossed from start to finish.

Each chapter alternates between the viewpoints of Ben and Hoshiko, with the story picking up from nearly a year on, after their escape from the Cirque and evil ringmaster Silvio Sabatini. Still on the run and being hunted by Ben's mother and the police, there is a huge reward for their capture.  This means that they are not even safe from the other dregs who, given half a chance, will turn them in.

I really loved this book and I didn't want it to finish. Hayley Barker has let her imagination run riot which means that there are a lot of unexpected surprises in store for the reader. I don't want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling anything but needless to say, you are in for a real treat. This is YA fiction at its best.

The characters are very special and for me, they help to make the book come alive. Ben and Hoshiko are captivating, likeable and engaging and there are some truly wonderful secondary characters, such as Greta, Jack, Ezekial and Sean. Plus, a terrible villain who you will love to hate.

The overall message of the book is about society itself and how it should be working together to unite people from all walks of life. Although the Pures and the Dregs have been made to hate one another, there's definitely a glimpse of what could be a brighter future if they could only accept each other and learn to change their attitudes to those who may be different from themselves.

I can't recommend this book enough and if you haven't read Showstopper yet then I would encourage you to go out and buy both books, clear your weekend schedule and find somewhere comfy to cozy up in while you dive into these amazing stories. You won't regret it.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Review: The Alaskan Chronicles: The Provider - John Hunt

The Alaskan Chronicles: The Provider by John Hunt, published by Lodestone Books on 14th June 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
The year is 2020 and President Trump has just announced that the world is bracing itself for the effects of a huge solar storm.

17 year old Jim Richards is a gawky, unimpressive teenager in Anchorage, Alaska. As chaos descends and society breaks down into anarchy and violence, his family team up with others to leave the city and take their chances in the Alaskan wilderness. They can no longer flick a switch to get what they want, no mobile or internet, in fact no communication at all with the wider world, how will it play out?

Jim must step up, and in doing so, find his true self, his first love, and his destiny. How will the human race survive in this new world?

This book had an interesting premise but didn't quite pull me in as I was expecting it too. The second half was better than the first as it had a lot more pace but overall, I found it very slow.

The story is set in the year 2020 when President Trump announces that a huge solar storm is about to hit. When solar flares take out the entire electricity grid, the world plunges into an age without phones or the internet; cars no longer run, TVs don't work and all modern commodities are gone in the blink of an eye. The plot centres around teenager Jim and his family who head into the Alaskan wilderness to seek refuge from looters and mass mobs when the whole of society starts to crumble.

I normally always enjoy survival stories which are set in remote locations. It's interesting to see how the characters have to use every survival tactic in the book to rebuild their lives, including learning how to catch food and build shelter. However, there was something about this title that just didn't hit the mark for me. I struggled with some of the characterisation and dialogue which didn't seem to be very realistic. The characters were slightly one-dimensional and although there were some things about Jim that I liked, I never really rooted for him as the hero of the story.

The ending was strange and didn't entirely feel like it fit with the rest of the book. I also don't think that I will be continuing with the series as I wasn't left with a burning desire to find out what happens to them all next.
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