Saturday, 2 February 2019

My top 2019 releases

There are so many books that I'm looking forward to reading in 2019. It looks like it's going to be an incredible book year. I've narrowed my list down to jus a few of my top titles that I will definitely be pre-ordering.

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie (published 4th April 2019 by Penguin)
Poe Blythe, the seventeen-year-old captain of the Outpost's last mining ship has revenge on her mind as she and her crew voyage up the Serpentine River in search of gold. But there is something Poe wants even more than gold, however - to annihilate the river raiders who, two years ago, killed the boy she loved.

As Poe navigates the treacherous waters of the Serpentine and realizes there might be a traitor among her crew, she must also reckon with who she has become, who she wants to be, and the ways love can change, even and especially when you think all is lost.

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (published 7th March 2019 by Scholastic)
Sorrow Ventaxis has won the election, and in the process lost everything... Governing under the sinister control of Vespus Corrigan, and isolated from her friends, Sorrow must to find a way to free herself from his web and save her people.

But Vespus has no plans to let her go, and he isn't the only enemy Sorrow faces as the curse of her name threatens to destroy her and everything she's fought for.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly (published 15th May 2019 by Hot Key Books)
Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

No Judgements by Meg Cabot (published 17th November by William Morrow)
When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.

Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout (published in US on 11th June 2019 by Inkyard Press)
Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she's been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens--gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they'll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers. When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity's safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she's ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again--but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity's secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she'll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed...

Murder Most Unladylike #8 by Robin Stevens (published 8th August 2019 by Puffin)
Daisy and Hazel are finally back at Deepdean, and the school is preparing for a most exciting event: the fiftieth Anniversary.

Plans for a weekend of celebrations are in full swing. But all is not well, for in the detectives' long absence, Deepdean has changed. Daisy has lost her crown to a fascinating new girl - and many of the Detective Society's old allies are now their sworn enemies.

Then the girls witness a shocking incident in the woods close by - a crime that they're sure is linked to the Anniversary. As parents descend upon Deepdean, decades-old grudges, rivalries and secrets begin to surface, and soon Deepdean's future is at stake. Can the girls solve the case - and save their home?

Do you want to read any of these? Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2019?

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Review: Two Can Keep A Secret - Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus, published by Penguin on 10th January 2019

Goodreads synopsis:
Ellery's never been to Echo Ridge, but she's heard all about it. It's where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen's murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery's family is still haunted by their loss.

Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen's death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother's remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge's upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm's brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.

Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe. And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

I'm on a big murder mystery kick at the moment so Karen M. McManus's new book was exactly what I was looking for. Unsolved murders, a killer on the loose and homecoming Queens turning up dead - it ticked every single one of my boxes. Plus I absolutely loved her debut 'One of us is Lying', so I was more than a little bit excited to read her new thriller.

The story is set in the small town of Echo Ridge, where twins Ellery and Ezra are headed to live with their Grandmother while their mother is in rehab. The town itself is small enough that everyone knows everyone and trying to keep secrets buried is an impossibility. The narrative alternates between Ellery and local teenager Malcolm, whose brother was a previous suspect in the disappearance and murder of a local girl at the Murderland Halloween Park.

There are some great characters in the book, my favourite being Ellery. She has a fascination with true crime and has always wondered what really happened to her Aunt Sarah who vanished when she was a senior in high school. Ellery is extremely perceptive and as an outsider to Echo Ridge, is able to view things with an unbiased and fresh perspective. I wish that we could have seen more of Ezra in the book as I felt like I never really got to know him properly, which for me, kind of wasted the twin angle somewhat.

I enjoyed puzzling over the deaths and disappearances in the story and while it wasn't as twisty and complex as McManus's debut, it still kept my brain busy trying to put all the clues together. I went through a myriad list of suspects as I kept changing my mind about who was responsible and why and I only guessed the culprit just before it was revealed.

Besides wanting to see more of Ezra, my only minor grumble was with the mystery surrounding Ellery's Aunt. There was a superb bombshell right at the end in regards to this but I would have liked to have seen more exposition of this plotline. That aside, this was a hugely enjoyable read that was absorbing, thrilling and packed full of plot twists, red herrings and suspicious characters.   


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Review: Shadow of the Fox - Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, published by HarperCollins on 1st November 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns...and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple's greatest treasure - one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.  

Julie Kagawa is one of my favourite YA authors of paranormal/fantasy. She's someone whose books I always look forward to reading and she's a familiar name on my auto-buy list. Although I find her a phenomenal writer, just occasionally I've been a bit love/hate with her. I absolutely adored the Talon and Blood of Eden series but I wasn't such a fan of the Iron Fey books, which is a shame because I know a lot of people love them. I was unbelievably excited about reading 'Shadow of the Fox' but I could tell after the first few chapters that this wasn't going to be a hit with me. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why but I think I found the Japanese mythology too overwhelming and complicated. The world building was so hard to follow that it meant I lost my connection to the characters and their destinies. I had to keep going back to read parts again because I couldn't always work out what was happening or how everything linked together. For instance, the first chapter threw me completely because it didn't seem to have any relation to the story that followed. I found it bewildering and an odd opening to the story, although later on in the book, it did admittedly slot into place.

The characters are extremely unusual. Yumeko is a kitsue - part human and part fox. Kage Tatsumi is a samurai, deadly and dangerous. The two are brought together when their paths cross, involving the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers - an ancient artefact which is being hunted by many of the people in the book. The big problem I had was that I didn't particularly care for either Yumeko or Tatsumi. Yumeko was intriguing in the beginning but then she became a bit one-dimensional and was far too quick to fall under the spell of Tatsumi, rather than standing on her own two feet. I wanted to see her be more independent and develop over the course of the novel, which just didn't happen.

The pace of the novel was very slow and I found the plot oddly disjointed. I ended up putting the book down for several days, before starting it again, which isn't normally my style of reading. If I'm enjoying a book then I like to devour it in one sitting. I'm afraid 'Shadow of the Fox' just didn't excite me or keep me hooked in the way that some of Julie Kagawa's other series have. I desperately wanted to love it but found little to entice me into wanting to continue with the rest of the series.

Check out the rest of the blog tour stops for 'Shadow of the Fox'.


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Review: Genuine Fraud - E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, published by Hot Key Books on 31st May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.  

Deceptive and deliciously dark and twisty, this is a fiendishly good YA psychological thriller.

The story focuses on two friends - Julie and Imogen.  Imogen is an adopted child and an heiress. She's gifted with everything she could ever want. Used to having everyone fall at her feet and fawn over her, she has never had to struggle for anything. Julie is her opposite. She's had to become tough. She's survived on her own and is a fighter but after so long trying to become something more, she finally sees another way forward.

The timeline for this book is so clever. It skips around a lot between 2016 and 2017 and the story almost unfolds backwards. My advice to you is don't trust everything you read because appearances can be deceptive and E. Lockhart has thrown in so many brilliant twists that you are constantly kept on your toes. The locations change too, with the story moving from Mexico, to New York, to San Francisco. It's important to try to keep track of the place and time because this helps when all the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.

This was a blisteringly good read. I definitely loved it more than 'We Were Liars' and I've been recommending it to everyone ever since. I'm almost jealous of anyone getting to read this for the first time because it's so clever and unique that reading it is such an immensely enjoyable experience.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Review: Glass Town Wars - Celia Rees

Glass Town Wars by Celia Rees, published by Pushkin Press on 1st November 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Tom and Augusta are from different places and different times, but they meet in the virtual world to combine forces in battle, to save a kingdom, escape a web of deceit and to find love. In a place where fictions can be truths and truths fictions, learning who to trust is more than friendship, it is about about survival.

'Glass Town Wars' is Celia Rees first YA novel for over 6 years. She returns with an imaginative and inventive tale which is inspired by the early writings of the Bronte siblings.

The plot focuses on a boy called Tom who is in hospital in a coma. Cut off from the real world, Tom's friend Milo makes him a test guinea pig for a new virtual reality gaming device that draws him into a dizzying world, far from the one he lives in. Tom meets Augusta who is fighting to save her kingdom and becomes part of the on-going battle. The story switches between this world and that of London in the present time, where his family and friends are desperately trying to bring him back, meshing together imagination and reality.

I enjoyed parts of this book but I found other bits confusing and I wasn't entirely sure I understood everything that happened or the meaning behind certain events in the story. It was incredibly unique and had such an interesting concept but some of it didn't make any sense to me. It's definitely an ingenious idea to take the fictitious world written about by Emily Bronte and co and bring it alive on the page. Rees embellishes it with her own flourishes and gives it a beating heart which draws the reader in. However, although I find the Bronte juvenilia fascinating, I'm not entirely sure the novel as a whole worked.

At times it was very slow and it also took me quite a while to get into the story. I kept having to go back to read sections again and even then I felt like I was missing something that would have helped everything click into place. I actually enjoyed more, the parts of the book that were set in the hospital, rather than in the virtual world, where Tom is being read 'Wuthering Heights' by another character called Lucy, who is trying to bring him out of his coma.

The book itself felt very experimental and although I wanted to love it because it combines Celia Rees and the Brontes, it ended up falling short of my expectations.         
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