About Me

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United Kingdom
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.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Review: Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe - Melissa De La Cruz

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz, published by Hodder on 16th November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy's only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she's too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas... let alone to allow romance into her life.

But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet - the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy's enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry... well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love - or will her pride, and Luke's prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?

A contemporary Pride and Prejudice retelling with a difference, involving gender swapping and a small town place called Pemberley, Ohio.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I first picked it up.  Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favourite classics and I was curious to see how Melissa De La Cruz was going to put a fresh spin on the story.  For the most part, I really enjoyed it, although there was never any doubt that Austen's original would be knocked off its perch.

The main character Darcy Fitzwilliam, is now a woman.  Yes, that took me a minute to wrap my head around too.  She is a successful partner in a New York hedge fund and is extremely wealthy. Like mega-bucks wealthy.  She has the means to buy anything she could want, but the one thing she has failed to attain so far is love.  When her mother is taken seriously ill, she returns home to her family for Christmas - the first time in years that she has returned Pemberley.  At her family's Christmas party she meets Luke Bennet, who she once went to school.  Sparks fly and before you know it Darcy has fallen heard for her own small town guy. 

The gender-swapping aspect of the novel actually worked really well.  It was interesting to see Darcy being the successful and independent businesswoman who has never had time to find real love, while Luke has never left Pemberley and has four brothers to contend with.  In the original, a lot of the sub-plot revolves around Lizzie's sister Jane and her romance with Mr Bingham.  This time, Jane is now Jim, Luke's older brother and Bingley is Darcy's gay best friend.  I thought Jim and Bingley were really sweet together and this was a good way of bringing the story more up-to-date. 

The story itself was pretty predictable and resembled quite a light-hearted rom-com that I finished fairly quickly.  I enjoyed a new spin on a classic tale and the festive touches particularly appealed to my love of Christmas.  If you are a fan of the original then sit back, curl up and enjoy this contemporary re-telling which I guarantee will make you want to dig out your battered old copy of Austen and read it all over again.         


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review: Bonfire - Krysten Ritter

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter, published by Hutchinson on 9th November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

I was hugely intrigued to read 'Bonfire' after I found it was penned by Krysten Ritter, star of Jessica Jones and Breaking Bad.  This is her debut novel, a psychological thriller that sounded pretty dark and twisty.  Exactly what I was in the mood for. 

The story follows Abby Williams, an environmental lawyer, originally from the small town of Barrens Indiana.  Abby has returned home for the first time in ten years to investigate Optimal Plastics, a company that has set about transforming her home town but whose presence Abby has her suspicions about.  Abby's investigation leads her to suspect a possible connection with local girl Kaycee, who supposedly ran away and was never seen again.  She was both Abby's friend, as well as her tormentor but Abby has never been able to put her disappearance behind her.  She's about to open up some old wounds that might have been better left alone. 

I liked the character of Abby but there were times when I wished that she had been able to stand up for herself a bit more.  She has made a success of her career and moved on to better things but she still seemed to let people walk all over her at times.  I also would have liked to know more about her family history and childhood.  Both were touched upon but I think if there had been more details provided, it would have given a better insight into her character. 

I loved the claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere of the small town setting, where everyone knows everything about each other and where peoples' reputations follow them - past mistakes are never forgotten and secrets can't be buried forever.

I thought that the ending was slightly rushed and the big expose could have been more dramatic, although it did take an interesting turn in the last few chapters.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns, as it made me suspicious of everyone and I constantly felt like I wasn't sure who could be trusted and who was waiting to stick the knife into Abby's back.  All in all, a brilliant debut from Ritter and one that I would definitely recommend if you are keen on psychological thrillers.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Review: Namsara - Kristen Ciccarelli

Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli, published by Gollancz on 5th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

When I started 'The Last Namsara' I was a little bit worried that it was going to be too fantasy-driven for my tastes.  However, after the first few chapters I was completely drawn into the amazing world that Kristen Ciccarelli has created.  There's danger, dragons, romance and a whole cast of unforgettable characters that had me turning the pages faster and faster. 

The story tells the tale of Asha - a dragon slayer.  Marked by a dragon when she was just a child, Asha's whole life is about redemption.  After making a deal with her father the King, she sets out to track down and kill one particular dragon - but not everything is as it seems and Asha begins to uncover a web of lies, along the way to some truly startling revelations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the mini stories that were interwoven throughout the book.  They were fascinating and linked with certain things that were happening in the plot, adding a level of depth and richness to the storytelling.

One of my favourite parts of the story was the romance which develops between Asha and one of the slaves.  There is a lot of focus in the book on the divide between the people of the city and their slaves.  The treatment of the latter is often cruel and degrading and they do not have any rights at all.  A relationship with a slave is forbidden, so Asha takes some huge risks when her feelings begin to develop for one particular slave.  Asha is an incredible character and she really drove the story along and kept me riveted throughout.  I enjoyed seeing her personal development and the way that she gradually becomes more enlightened as she uncovers secrets and truths which have been kept from her for far too long. 

'The Last Namsara' is an amazing YA fantasy which will captivate and entrance readers.  The first in a new series, I'm very intrigued to find out what will happen to Asha next.      

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Review: The Warrior in the Mist - Ruth Eastham

The Warrior in the Mist by Ruth Eastham, published by Shrine Bell on 24th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Aidan's village is under siege. A fracking company has moved on to the land.
Once drilling is complete, the paddocks looked after by Aidan's family will be gone, along with his home and the horse he loves.

Aidan and his best friends Emmi and Jon have one last hope. Legend has it that the warrior queen Boudicca is buried close by. If only they can find the tomb... prove this is the site of her last great battle against Roman invaders...

As the mists of time separating ancient history from present day swirl and fade, Aidan must face a deadly enemy. He must fight to uncover the truth of the ghostly sisters, before it is too late.

I've previously read 'The Memory Cage' by Ruth Eastham which was very good, so I was looking forward to starting 'The Warrior in the Mist'. The blurb sounded interesting and I also like supporting British authors. 

The story is set in Carrus Village where a fracking company has moved onto the land.  Aidan and his friends are determined to try to stop them from destroying their homes.  The only way they can think to do this is to find the lost tomb of Queen Boudicca and her daughters which will win the land protected status.  Aidan, along with his friends Emmi and Jon are clever and capable teenagers who soon start connecting the dots and grow closer to the location of the hidden tomb.  However, someone wants to stop them from doing so.  I honestly didn't guess who the baddie was going to be, so it was a good surprise when it was revealed who was standing in their way and the lengths they were prepared to go to in their desire to stop the teenagers

I liked the theme of protecting the environment which ran throughout the story and the battle between the destruction versus the preservation of the land.  It's unusual to see something like this featured in a book for teenagers, so it was quite a refreshing change.  I actually think this book is probably more suited for middle-grade readers, rather than teens, due to the writing style and the fact that the characters are slightly younger.

I also enjoyed the historical aspects of the story but I wasn't as convinced by the supernatural parts dealing with the ghosts of Boudicca's daughters.  It just didn't entirely work for me. 

A fairly quick and enjoyable read, I think it will appeal to the majority of readers.   

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Review: The Crow Garden - Alison Littlewood

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood, published by Jo Fletcher on 5th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible. Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Victoria, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results: Victoria starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism ...and a desperate need to escape. Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of seances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Victoria and save her. But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind.

'The Crow Garden' was a really intriguing and enigmatic read.  Described as 'Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins', I knew from that single line that I had to read this book.  I loved the Victorian meets Gothic meets psychological chiller atmosphere of the story and I found it a real page-turner and exactly my kind of story. 

The setting immediately drew me in.  Crakethorn Asylum is creepy and atmospheric and almost makes you want to shiver.  It becomes the new place of employment of Doctor Nathaniel Kerr who has walked away from his prestigious consultant position, to work in a 'mad house'.  At Crakethorn, he meets Mrs Victoria Harleston, one of his new patients and becomes obsessed with understanding her and finding out her secrets.  This leads to a dangerous experiment in mesmerism which causes things to begin to unravel for the Doctor.

The book is divided into three parts, switching between Crakethorn, London and then back to the Asylum again.  I liked the three distinct sections and the way in which the story was perfectly balanced and kept me glued to the pages throughout.  It really did remind me of some of my favourite nineteenth century Gothic novels in terms of the plot and the storytelling. 

I thought it was very clever how the author drew a veil of intrigue over many of the events in the novel.  I was never quite sure whether I could believe everything I read because it's unclear who still possesses control over their minds and who is being controlled.  Really puzzling to the reader but in a good way. 

I haven't read anything by Alison Littlewood before but I was very impressed by 'The Crow Garden' and will be checking out some of her other novels now, as well as future offerings. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Review: The Crystal Maze Challenge - Neale Simpson

The Crystal Maze Challenge by Neale Simpson, published by Headline on 17th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Packed full of over 100 new games, mind benders and riddles, with this book you can now play the ultimate game show in the playground of your own home. Join ranks with family and friends as you travel through the four iconic zones - Aztec, Industrial, Future and Medieval - guided by Maze Master Richard Ayoade. Some games are quick, so you can have a spontaneous game if you fancy, whilst others require a bit more preparation but they can all be played with household items!

Test your skill, mental and physical abilities as you try to leap around your living room without touching the floor, solve puzzles and brainteasers, and complete treasure hunts around the house, all the while trying to win the crystals before heading to The Crystal Dome ... and remembering not to leave anyone locked in any cupboards!

I love watching the Crystal Maze on TV so I thought that this book was going to be a brilliant and fun read.  My favourite parts of the book were some of the interviews that featured with the creators, the original Maze masterminds and the best quizmaster of all, Richard O'Brien.  I would have loved to have seen more of this.  It could have included features on the other quizmasters: Ed Tudor-Pole, Stephen Merchant and Richard Ayoade, as well as interviews with some of the contestants on the show. 

The majority of the book contained features on how to recreate some of the many games which appear on the show, as well as how to set up your own Crystal Maze at home.  While a few of these would definitely be possible, others just seemed like they would take you forever to recreate, by which time I'm not sure you would have much excitement left to actually play the game. 
Some Crystal Maze mad-fans might still enjoy this but I finished it feeling disappointed and ready to instead re-watch one of the classic episodes of the show which never fail to provide me with an hour of pure entertainment.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Review: Undercover Princess - Connie Glynn

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn, published by Penguin on 2nd November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty - a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she'll soon discover that reality doesn't always have the happily ever after you'd expect...

Before I started reading this book I had some trepidation about the fact that it was written by a Youtuber.  I'm not terribly familiar with Connie Glynn's videos but I curious to see if she could turn her talents to writing.  I loved the initial idea for the story and it ticked lots of my 'happy' boxes.  It was set at a boarding school, it featured a Princess and it had an utterly gorgeous cover.  I was excited before I'd even read the first page. 

The story centres around teenager Lottie Pumpkin, who is starting her first year at Rosewood Hall, a boarding school that she has always dreamt of attending.  As a bursary student, Lottie worries that she might not be able to fit in with the other girls but she never could have imagined that the reason why they might treat her differently is because they think she is a the Crown Princess of Maradova.  Lottie's roommate Ellie, is the real Princess, a secret she agrees to keep hidden.  Lottie soon finds herself thrust into another world filled with danger, excitement and betrayal.

I thought that the two main characters were very well written and I loved the friendship which develops between Lottie and Ellie.  Although it gets off to a slightly shaky start, they become extremely close and I liked the way that they had each others backs and were willing to stand up for each other.  Their close friendship leads to a surprising twist which I won't reveal, except to say that it certainly added an interesting slant to the story.  Another character that I loved, was Jamie, who has quite a mysterious background but who we gradually get to know more about.  He added a nice touch of romance to the story, which I hope Connie builds on as the series progresses.    

I mistakenly thought that this was a stand-alone but 'Undercover Princess' is actually the first in a series.  It's aimed at a YA audience but I tend to think that it's better suited to middle-grade because the characters are only fourteen which is a lot younger than most of the YA books I read.  There are a lot of big events which happen very quickly in the story and that also surprised me when I discovered that it was a series.  However, I think it was a great start, very enjoyable and with plenty of potential for book two.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to Lottie next.         

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