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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Review: The Fallen Kingdom - Elizabeth May

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May, published by Gollancz on 15th June 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

Review:
I have been longing for this book ever since I finished the last page of  'The Vanishing Throne'.  The wait has been unbearable but was oh so definitely worth it.  What a spectacular conclusion to The Falconer trilogy.  This was without doubt my absolute favourite book in the series and I never wanted it to end.  It was a truly spectacular read and one of the best books of 2017.  I loved it so, so much!  If you are a fan of this series then you will not be disappointed. 

'The Fallen Kingdom' has everything you would want and more!  It had humour, some deftly comical moments, sadness and romance and so many exciting scenes that you will find it impossible to put it down. 

The story starts with the resurrection of Aileana who is struggling to remember who she is.  Something is different.  She has no memories of her past and doesn't recognise the people who she is closest to.  As she strives to regain her identity, she is also tasked with breaking the curse which is destined to destroy her world and the people she loves. 

I loved every single page of this book.  Aileana is one of my favourite literary characters ever and her story is one that has entranced me from the very beginning.  I couldn't wait to find out what would be the final outcome for her and her fae King Kiaran and I had my fingers crossed for them the whole way through.  As much as I love Aileana, I truly think that there is something to love and adore about nearly every character in the series, even those who seem past redemption.  One of my personal favourites is Derrick the pixie who is always given the best lines and who shows his heroic and loyal side yet again in the story.  Never was there another pixie quite like him.

I thought that the plot was fantastic.  Nail bitingly exciting and epic in scale.  There were so many brilliant moments and the twists and turns of Aileana's journey have been incredible to follow.  I bow down to Elizabeth May.  She has written one of the best YA fantasy trilogies that I've ever read.  I can't wait to see what she writes next and I will definitely be putting her on my auto-buy list. 

An incredible conclusion to a spectacular trilogy.     

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Review: Royal Bastards - Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, published by Disney Hyperion on 8th June 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries. The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . .



Review:
'Royal Bastards' has been on my radar for ages.  There's been quite a buzz around this title, so I was hugely excited to get my hands on a copy.  Described as Game of Thrones for teens, I was expecting great things of it. 

The story centres around a group of royal bastards who are brought together under terrible circumstances and end up having to undergo an epic journey in each other's company.  Tilla, the narrator, has longed for nothing else than to be by her father's side.  She has been forgotten however, in lieu of his legitimate children and so instead spends most of her time in the company of her half-brother Jax.  The two enjoy exploring the tunnels beneath the castle and generally getting into mischief. 

The opening quarter of the book was quite exciting as Tilla and Jax, along with Miles and Zell, a Zitochi warrior, witness a terrible crime.  This leads to them having to flee the kingdom to protect the life of Princess Lyriana.  I was immediately hooked on the sense of danger and adventure and couldn't wait to see where their journey was going to lead. 

Although this book falls firmly into the fantasy genre, what I did find quite strange about it was the surprisingly contemporary dialogue which didn't always feel like it fit the style of the novel.  It was an unusual mix and I'm not sure that it worked for me.  I think this is why I didn't properly connect with any of the characters, so although I liked Tilla, I didn't find her as pivotal and engaging a heroine as she should have been.  There are also touches of romance in the book but again, this didn't feel like a romance that I could believe in and root for.

For a series opener, 'Royal Bastards' was pretty good and the concept was awesome but although for the most part I enjoyed the adventure, I want more in terms of character development from the next instalment.    

Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: Caraval - Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 31st January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.




Review:
‘Caraval’ is a book that I wanted to read as soon as I first heard about it. It sounded exactly like my kind of story. I’m pleased to say that I loved it as much as I was expecting to and couldn’t put it down. It was a glorious read that quite literally swept me away.  

The story centres around Scarlett and her sister Tella, who are desperate to escape their home on the Isle of Trisda. Scarlett is the main narrator and paints a bleak picture of life with their controlling father. They are punished if they step out of line and they are not allowed to do anything or go anywhere without their father’s approval. Escape is the only thing on their minds, although they each have different plans for their method of escape.  

Julian is the sailor who comes into their lives and presents them with a way off the island. Caraval is the once a year, week long performance that they are invited to take part in and which gives them an opportunity to win something priceless which might change their lives forever. 

I thought that Scarlett was a fantastic main character and someone that I enjoyed reading about immensely. I identified with the protective nature of her relationship with her sister and her feelings of responsibility towards her. The two siblings are very different in nature but Scarlett knows that she would do anything for her sister. I also really loved the love-hate relationship between Scarlett and Julian and seeing how the link between them changes and grows as the story progresses. 

All of kinds of unusual things happen as part of Caraval and the trick for the reader is to figure out what they should believe and who they should trust. Magical, mysterious and enchanting are words that instantly spring to mind about this story. I really never wanted this book to end. ‘Caraval’ was a glorious technicolour adventure with surprises around every corner. I never had any idea what was going to happen next which was such a treat to experience. I’m a reader that nearly always guesses the plot twists!

The ending left me in no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of Caraval and I for one can’t wait to continue the adventure. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review: Show Stopper - Hayley Barker

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker, published by Scholastic on 1st June 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land must watch their children be taken by a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.



Review:
‘Show Stopper’ by Hayley Barker was a really unique and original read. I whizzed through it pretty quickly because it was gripping and fast-flowing and hard to put down. 

There were two things that I particularly enjoyed about the book. The first was that the author has chosen to base the concept for the story on the divide which is apparent in today’s society between natural born citizens and immigrants. The twist on this, is that she has depicted a near-future society where immigrants have become so reviled that they are called ‘dregs’. Their lives are not valued, they have been ostracised and pushed aside and in some cases, their children have been taken from them. In comparison, the ‘pures’ consider themselves to be the best of society and as the ruling class, they treat the ‘dregs’ as nothing more than servants or a tool for their own entertainment. I thought this was such a brilliant story idea as it’s so topical and explored at its most extreme.

The second thing that I loved about ‘Show Stopper’ is the fact that most of the action is set in the circus. There just aren’t enough stories which use the big tent as a back-drop and yet it’s something that always really attracts me towards a book. Barker’s circus is a place where dreg children are taken and made to perform for the entertainment of the pures. They are given little food, kept in squalid conditions and seen as expendable commodities. If their deaths provide an evening’s entertainment then so be it.

The way that the story wove between the two perspectives of Ben, a pure and Hoshiko, a tight-rope walker was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Hoshiko who is at the mercy of the circus ring-leader and although physically beaten down, never lets her will to live and her desire for freedom, die. Ben is fascinated by Hoshiko and through her, his ideas about right and wrong, freedom and liberation, begin to change. It’s Hoshiko’s relationship with some of the other circus performers though that I especially enjoyed reading about. They have become a family in response to being taken away from their own flesh and blood.

If the thought of a YA novel set in the circus isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then I can tell you that this is also an imaginative and unique read which is wonderfully written and a treat to dive into. Get your hands on this book as soon as you can!
         

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review: The Possible - Tara Altebrando

The Possible by Tara Altebrando, published by Bloomsbury Childrens on 1st June 2017



Goodreads synopsis:
It's been thirteen years since Kaylee's infamous birth mother, Crystal, received a life sentence for killing Kaylee's little brother in a fit of rage. Once the centre of a cult-following for her apparent telekinetic powers, nowadays nobody's heard of Crystal.

Until now, when a reporter shows up at Kaylee's house and turns her life upside down, offering Kaylee the chance to be part of a high-profile podcast investigating claims that Crystal truly did have supernatural mind powers. But these questions lead to disturbing answers as Kaylee is forced to examine her own increasingly strange life, and make sense of certain dark and troubling coincidences .




Review:
‘The Possible’ is the first book that I’ve read by Tara Altebrando but it definitely won’t be the last because boy, was it good!  I read it in one evening because I couldn’t put it down.
 
What I particularly liked about this title was that the story wasn’t formulaic and it made me question everything that I was reading.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I could trust Kaylee, the narrator of the book and so this threw a lot of doubt onto some of the events that took place throughout the story.  Did it really happen?  Is Kaylee telling the truth?  Half of the fun of the book was trying to unravel everything and find out what was really going on.  This kept me on the edge of my seat as the mystery deepened and the suspense intensified.
 
I have to admit that the plot of the book is not normally one that would attract me.  The main character Kaylee is approached by a woman who is making a podcast series about her birth mother Crystal.  Twelve years ago, Crystal was found guilty of killing Kaylee’s younger brother Jack but always maintained her innocence.  At the time of the murder, there was quite a bit of furore surrounding Crystal and whether or not she had telekinetic powers.  This definitely isn’t the type of story that would appeal to me normally but I was in the mood for something different and this fit the bill.  What was so great, is that I ended up loving it.  It really hooked me in and I was desperate to get to the bottom of the mystery. 
 
As Kaylee finds out more about her birth mother and remembers her own role in events at the time, she becomes more and more curious about her own abilities.  I like the way that Tara Altebrando explores the topic of perception and shows that a lot of things that happen can be interpreted or seen in different ways, according to the individual’s perception of them.  Kaylee is quite a unusual narrator and I wasn’t entirely sure that I liked her in the beginning, but she had grown on me a lot by the end of the book.
 
I would encourage you to pick up ‘The Possible’ if you are a fan of mysteries, love a good suspense novel or are just looking for something different and original to read.  I want to read Altebrando’s entire back catalogue now which I hope are all as good as this brilliant title.       

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: Runemarks - Joanne M. Harris

Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris, published by Gollancz on 20th April 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
It's been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion - the Order - has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand - a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don't know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy's only real friend, her ruinmark - or runemark, as he calls it - is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else..

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.



Review:
I thought that ‘Runemarks’ was magnificent and one of Joanne M. Harris’s best books. I loved ‘The Gospel of Loki’ which I’d read previously and this was just as good, if not better.  

It’s aimed at a YA audience, although the story is so sophisticated and the adventure so thrilling that I think adults would also enjoy it.  

I really love Norse mythology and tales about the Gods – Loki, Thor and Odin. I’ll admit that I don’t always remember every one of the varied cast of characters but I enjoy reading about them immensely, especially Loki the Trickster. I only wish that my knowledge and understanding was better so that I could appreciate all of the nuances even more.

Harris has done an incredible job weaving a story around them. The catalyst for the tale is a young girl called Maddy who lives in the small village of Malbry and has a special mark on her hand – a runemark no less, which gives her magical abilities. She also has an unusual friendship with a one-eyed stranger who visits her every year.     

Maddy and her journey through the World Below with Loki (am I the only one that pictures Tom Hiddleston in my mind every time he is mentioned?!) was thrilling to read and kept me gripped for all 513 pages of this bumper book. There are twists and turns aplenty, as well as tons of excitement and adventure and some life and death situations thrown into the mix too. I loved it all!  

I really need to read ‘Runelight’ now. I didn’t even know that there was a follow-on when I started reading this book but now I want it desperately. ‘Runemarks’ had me enthralled and I can’t wait to continue the adventure.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Review: Fire in You - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Fire in You by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 27th April 2017
Goodreads synopsis:
Six years ago, Jillian Lima's whole world was destroyed. The same night her childhood love Brock Mitchell broke her heart, her life was irrevocably altered by a stranger with a gun. After years spent slowly rebuilding the shattered pieces of her life, Jillian is finally ready to stop existing in a past full of pain and regret and is determined to start living. The one thing she never expected was the impossibly handsome Brock walking back into her life...

Brock can't believe that the breathtaking woman standing before him now is the little girl who used to be his shadow growing up. Unable to stay away from each other, their tentative friendship soon sparks into something more and the red-hot chemistry sizzling between them can no longer be denied. But falling for Brock again risks more than just Jillian's heart. When the past resurfaces, and a web of lies threatens to rip them apart, the fallout could lay waste to everything they've ever cared about...




Review:
‘Fire in You’ was a sizzling and sensational romance. I absolutely loved it. Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my favourite authors and she hands down writes the BEST romances.

It’s funny because when I started reading this book, I wasn’t completely sold on the character of Brock. He seemed to have just waltzed back into Jillian’s life on a whim and he appeared overly cocky and arrogant. But then I began to fall for him as he showed his softer more caring side. He won’t give up on Jillian and is determined to prove to her that he is there to stay. By the second half of the book I wanted them to get together so badly.

I loved Jillian. She’s been in love with Brock ever since she was a little girl. She has never loved anyone else like she loves him. She’s also incredibly brave and has had to overcome the events of one terrible night which is continually hinted at throughout the first half of the story. 

I really liked the setting of the book and the backgrounds of the characters. Jillian comes from a long line of Lima’s, who run a very successful family business. They own a string of mixed martial arts facilities where they train fighters. Brock is one of their MMA champions. These are definitely not your traditional occupations but I enjoyed reading about them.   

As Brock begins to break through Jillian’s defences, she starts to open up to him and shows him a side of her that she had long hidden. I loved the scenes where they begin to get to know each other again. They were perfectly written and one of my favourite parts of the book.

‘Fire in You’ was absolutely fantastic and such a treat to read. I’m eager now to get my hands on all of the other books in the series. There were lots of different characters and couples referenced throughout the story and I’m looking forward to reading more about how they all ended up together.:
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