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.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review: The Potion Diaries: Going Viral - Amy Alward

The Potion Diaries: Going Viral by Amy Alward, published by Simon and Schuster on 24th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Having managed to find her great-grandmother's potion diary, escape Emilia Thoth, save her grandfather's memories AND become a Master Alchemist, surely it's time for Sam to have a good, long rest? And maybe, just maybe, a date with her boyfriend Zain?

But now that Evelyn is married and showing symptoms of the Gergon illness, it looks as though Sam's adventures are just beginning...

'The Potion Diaries: Going Viral' continues the series about Sam Kemi, Master Alchemist, as she is called upon to once again save the day.  A strange virus is spreading through the city; Princess Evelyn has disappeared and no one seems to know how to stop events from endangering all of the Talented.  It's up to Sam to work out what's going on and to put things right.

A sub-plot in the book is the fact that Sam is the subject of a documentary being made about her.  As well as following her as she travels to the far-flung country of Zhongou to try to find a cure for the virus, the crew are also interested in the continuing romance between Sam and her boyfriend Zain...if they can ever find the time to go on a date.

When this series started, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening instalment.  It was fun, inventive and entertaining and with a main character that shares the same name as me, what was not to like!  The second book in the series was also pretty good but I felt like 'Going Viral' let the side down somewhat.  Yes, it was fairly entertaining and a quick, light-hearted read but I thought the plot was lacking any real sense of danger or excitement and didn't have enough substance, while although I really like Sam and Zain as a couple, the romance in this title was sadly lacking.  Please Amy Alward, give us more of our favourite ship!

I originally thought that this was going to be the last book in the trilogy but I discovered recently that there is another one scheduled for publication next year.  Maybe the series can still go out on a high.  I'm certainly hoping so. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Review: Even the Darkest Stars - Heather Fawcett

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett, published by HarperCollins on 5th September 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

'Even the Darkest Stars' is the first in a new fantasy duology and is the debut novel of author Heather Fawcett. This book swept me away on a cloud of adventure and danger. I loved it!
I actually found the first few chapters quite slow and I wondered initially whether this was going to my kind of book.  I was dubious about the characters and the plot and very nearly put it to one side.  Thank goodness that I didn't because a couple of pages later and everything clicked into place.  The action kicked up a notch and I was absorbed completely from that moment on.  It was fabulously entertaining for the rest of the book. 
The main character Kamzin, agrees to lead the Royal Explorer, River Shara, on an expedition to Raksha, a tall and deadly mountain.  He is seeking a talisman that the Emperor has requested he retrieve.  Kamsin was a fabulous character.  She thrives on adventure and exploration and dreams of scaling new and undiscovered territory across the Empire.  She can be hot-headed at times and doesn't like being told what to do, but she is incredibly loyal and won't back down from a challenge.  I thoroughly enjoyed following her journey and I absolutely adored her Familiar, Ragtooth the fox. 
The story was fast-paced and thrilling and there are lots of climactic moments in the book that have you on the edge of your seat.  There is always some kind of danger or peril lying in the path of the characters that they must face and overcome. The book is quite light on romance, although there are hints of it between Kamzin and River and also between Kamzin and her best friend Tem.  I'm quite glad that this took more of a back seat to the main plot as I think it may have distracted from the action otherwise.  
The ending was brilliant and really twisted everything and turned it on its head.  I still think there's more to it than first meets the eye but it has left me desperate for the next book in the series now.  I don't always enjoy fantasy but I really, really loved 'Even the Darkest Stars'.  I read it in one sitting on a wet, rainy Sunday where I ended up dreaming about wintery mountains and a dark and magnetising magic. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Review: City of Circles - Jess Richards

City of Circles by Jess Richards, published by Sceptre on 10th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents, after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret.

Over the years, Danu pushes away her grief and develops elaborate and successful high-wire acts with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu's birthplace, Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by the temples, spice mists, and pleasure seekers within the intoxicating outer circle district.

Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something far more unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city?

'City of Circles' is an unusual and unique read.  I hadn't heard a lot about it before reading the novel but I was attracted to it by the premise of the story.  It features a character called Danu, who at the beginning of the book loses both of her parents.  She struggles to deal with her grief within a community of fellow circus performers.  Soon after their deaths, she begins a high-wire act with Morrie, a hunchback performer who loves and wants to marry her.  Danu however, is restless and unsettled; unsure about where she sees her life headed.  When the circus arrives in Matryoshka, the city of 3 circles and Danu's birthplace, she is drawn to her new surroundings and attempts to find the answer to a secret from her past.  

There were some things about this book that I loved and others that I wasn't quite so keen on.  I really enjoyed the circus theme which is something that I'm seeing more and more of lately in books.  It's interesting to see characters that are always on the move and with such unique occupations.  There's always something truly magical and mysterious about the circus too.  Although the story is mainly told from Danu's point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed the parts that showed things from Morrie's perspective.  He is a character that I wasn't sure I was going to like at the beginning but he really grew on me throughout the book, particularly as I began to understand more about the depth of his feelings for Danu.

I felt frustrated by Danu at times but she was also a wonderfully interesting protagonist and I loved the second half of the book when she is exploring Matryoshka and all its wonders.  The city was amazing and brilliantly imagined by Richards.  It definitely made me wish that it wasn't purely fictional. 

The big disappointment for me was the ending.  It wasn't at all what I was expecting and after such a big build up throughout the story, it felt like a bit of a let down.  This was a real shame because I did enjoy 'City of Circles' and up until the very end I would have gladly recommended it to others.  It felt somewhat rushed and wasn't the conclusion that I was hoping for.    

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Review: S.T.A.G.S - M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett, published by Hot Key Books on 10th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin' shootin' fishin'. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry's parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports - hunting, shooting and fishing - become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school...

I've wanted to read 'S.T.A.G.S' for ages.  As soon as I heard about it I was interested and intrigued.  I was expecting this to be an edge of your seat thriller, set at a creepy boarding school but that's not quite what was delivered.  My overall impression at the end was that this book could have been so good but sadly veered towards being a bit safe rather than pushing the boundaries.

The main character Greer is first introduced as a new scholarship student at St Aidan the Great boarding school.  Isolated and friendless, she struggles to fit in, until she is invited by the Medievals to an annual weekend of huntin', shootin' and fishin'. The Medievals rule the school and as Greer already has a crush on Henry, she agrees to go along.  Henry's home, Longcross, is actually the main setting for the story, rather than the school itself, which was a shame as I love boarding school stories. 

Greer is joined by two other pupils of the school, as they begin their weekend with the Medievals, without any parental supervision.  She admits at the very beginning of the book that she, along with the other two, are murderers.  You don't know yet who they are supposed to have killed but as the story unravelled, I had a very good idea who it was going to be.  

I would really have loved to have seen a lot more action, danger and excitement than there actually was.  It felt all the time like the author was playing things safe.  There's a reference in the book to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None which is bone chillingly scary because the characters get picked off one by one and meet some awful fates.  I was expecting 'S.T.A.G.S' to be along these lines but instead it felt a bit like extreme bullying but not life and death by any means. 

The book was an enjoyable enough read and the ending was very good but it could have been a lot more tense and thrilling than it turned out to be.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Review: Domina - L.S. Hilton

Domina by L.S. Hilton, published by Bonnier Zaffre on 10th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Judith Rashleigh has made it. Living in luxury amidst the splendours of Venice, she's finally enjoying the life she killed for.  But someone knows what Judith's done.

Judith can only save herself by finding a priceless painting - unfortunately, one that she's convinced doesn't even exist.  And she's not the only one seeking it.

This time, Judith isn't in control. Outflanked and out-thought, outrun and outgunned, she faces an enemy more ruthless and more powerful than she ever imagined.

And if she doesn't win, she dies.

The opening prologue of 'Domina' knocked my socks off and led me to expect great things from the rest of the book.  Sadly, the reality was that I felt quite disappointed by the time I got to the very end.

An early disclaimer to this review is that I have not read the first book in the series, 'Maestra'. I didn't think that it would matter and I thought that I would be able to follow the plot regardless, but there were so many references to things that had previously happened to the main character Judith, that I struggled to get to grips with everything.  I would definitely advise starting at the beginning of the series.

I assumed that this would be a tense and taut thriller.  Exactly what I was in the mood for.  It turned out to be much slower and more sedate than I first thought and quite a struggle to get through.  I was excited to see that it was partly set in the art world which I was expecting to be really fascinating but instead it almost seemed to hold back the pace of the plot with too many details and references for my taste. What I also didn't like were the lurid sex scenes and the overly graphic nature of the book. 

The main protagonist Judith was an extremely love/hate character.  I actually quite liked her in the beginning but my respect for her dwindled as the story progressed and I didn't know what to make of her by the end.  I liked the flashbacks to her early life with her mother as I thought these helped to show how she had developed the fighting side of her character. 

The story ended on a cliff-hanger which made me wonder a little about what was going to happen next.  Although I don't think that this series is for me, I may be tempted to read the final book in the trilogy 'Ultima' but only if I get around to reading 'Maestra' first. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Review: SweetFreak - Sophie McKenzie

SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 24th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Carey and Amelia have been best friends forever. Then Amelia starts being trolled by SweetFreak, a mysterious and hateful online account, and Carey is accused of being behind the vicious comments.

Shut out by her other friends and shunned by Amelia, Carey is determined to find out who's really sending the messages. But as the online threats spill over into real life, events start spiralling out of control...

Can Carey expose the real SweetFreak before it's too late?

'SweetFreak' was another good read by British author Sophie McKenzie, although I didn't love it as much as I was hoping to.  I found it a fairly quick read and finished it in one sitting.  It had a fair amount of drama, but it wasn't as tense or as gripping as other YA novels that I've read lately.  Please don't take that to assume that I didn't enjoy it, I did, but I've also read better edge-of-your-seat thrillers than this.

Best friends Carey and Amelia are at the centre of the story.  Amelia is sent disturbing messages online and Carey ends up accused of being the culprit, something which she vehemently denies.  Carey has to prove who the mysterious SweetFreak is and clear her name in the process. 

Although this book was described as CyberBully meets Gone Girl, I just didn't find it as exciting as I was expecting it to be.  I guessed the culprit quite quickly and although there were some further twists near the end of the story, I didn't feel any sense of real danger. 

I like the way that McKenzie has explored themes of online and offline bullying and the abuse of social media.  It's all too easy now for people to hide behind their computers and I think the book did a good job of showing the harm that online bullying can cause to a person.  This is something which is really topical and I thought that the author very effectively highlighted the danger of this.

'SweetFreak' is probably better suited to slightly younger teenage readers but I think that anyone who is a big Sophie McKenzie fan will still enjoy it.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review: Lost and Found Sisters - Jill Shalvis

Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 20th June 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.'s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she's looking for a missing piece she can't find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn't quite fit in right away, she can't help but be drawn to the town's simple pleasures...and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there's another surprise in store for her. She must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have - and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she's searched so long for.

'Lost and Found Sisters' is yet another gem from prolific author Jill Shalvis.  She is my go-to author when I'm looking for a heart-warming and emotional read and this book definitely didn't disappoint me on both fronts. 

The story centres around LA chef Quinn Weller who at the beginning of the book discovers a huge secret about her past which ends up changing her whole life.  Cue Quinn deciding to head to the small town of Wildstone which holds more revelations waiting in store for her.  As she begins to settle into Wildstone, she meets handsome 'handy-man' Mick and it seems that romance might also be on the cards. 

Shalvis is the absolute master of writing about small town communities so brilliantly that you can't help but wish that you lived there too.  There's a real sense of community spirit about Wildstone and it almost becomes a character in its own right.  I could definitely understand how it drew Quinn in, even though it took her a while before she realised just how much she had fallen for it. 

The book deals with the theme of grief and bereavement and shows how it's possible to experience great tragedy but also to move forward with life and everything that it holds.  It was interesting to see Quinn start a new life based on her own choices and decisions, rather than following the path that someone else has chosen for her.  She was a great main character and I was rooting for her the whole way through. 

I love a new Jill Shalvis book and this one was packed full of real emotion and romance and a sense of the importance of family.  I enjoyed it enormously and found it a truly memorable read.         
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