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.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Review: The Wicked Deep - Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, published by Simon and Schuster on 8th March 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything...

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

'The Wicked Deep' is a beautifully written tale of love and sisterhood.  The writing is gloriously vivid and so evocative that I sensed I could almost smell the salty tang of the Sparrow sea air.  Every word sounds like it's been carefully selected and used to create a lyrical and enchanting feel to the novel. Just like the tourists are drawn to the seaside town of Sparrow each summer, I was equally drawn into the life of local girl Penny and the story of three sisters and their quest for revenge.

I found this title impossible to put down.  I was immersed completely in the characters and in discovering all of the secrets they were hiding.  I couldn't wait for the release of this title and then I ended up devouring the whole book in one evening!  I would have liked to have stretched my enjoyment out for longer but it was too good to go to bed before I'd finished. 

Stories about witches have been done before and I've read a lot of them but author Shea Ernshaw really nailed her presentation of the Swan sisters and their summer of revenge; dragging boys to their deaths in the watery depths of the small town.  I was intrigued by the secrets and revelations of their pasts and as I was reading, I couldn't wait to discover more about them and their thirst for death. 

The narrator, Penny Talbot, lives with her mother on a small island across the waters from Sparrow and was a character that I liked straight away. She seems so capable and independent, although she is still struggling to cope with the disappearance of her father and her mother's withdrawal from the world.  She develops a connection with new boy in town, Bo Carter, although they are both less than honest with each other in the beginning.  There's a big twist which I'm not even going to hint at regarding the characters but it worked brilliantly and was fiendishly clever.

'The Wicked Deep' is a gorgeously written, glorious tale of life and death, secrets and lies, set amidst a backdrop of suspicion and revenge which percolates away in the small town.  A five star read, I fell head over heels for this book which is a stunning debut by Shea Ernshaw.  She is definitely an author that I will be watching in the future.     

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Review: The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, published by Gollancz on 8th February 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

There has been a lot of pre-publicity buzz surrounding 'The Belles' which I seem to have seen featured everywhere.  In addition, the book made my 'most anticipated reads' list of the year, so I was beyond excited to get my hands on a copy and get stuck in.  The cover is absolutely gorgeous and really eye catching. It looks so pretty sitting on my bookcase. I'm definitely a sucker for beautifully designed cover art. The book doesn't really fall into one particular genre, although I guess it might fit the fantasy niche most of all. 

I absolutely loved the concept of the story.  It's set in Orleans where people are born grey and damned and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.  Belles have something unique called arcana which they can use to shape peoples' looks and change things like their hair colour or the size of their waists.  Orleans itself is magnificent and opulent and all the Belles want to stay there and be chosen as the Queen's favourite.

The story is told through the eyes of Camellia Beauregard who wants nothing more than to serve the Queen and make people beautiful.  Although out of all the characters Camellia was my favourite, she wasn't somebody who I had a deep connection with and at times I found her a bit self-centred.  She often finds it hard to follow the rules set out for her and her wilful personality definitely gets her into trouble at times.  There are elements of romance with someone she meets at the Palace but I actually enjoyed the relationship between her and the other Belles the most.  They are like sisters and are stronger when they are all together supporting one another.  My love to hate character was Princess Sophia who really gave me the creeps.  She represents someone who may look beautiful on the outside but has darkness and an evil streak inside of her. 

The author certainly has a strong message to send about what beauty is and how people covert it.  Beauty is often depicted as only skin deep and yet seen as something which is valued above all else. There are different notions of what makes someone beautiful in the story and how everyone wants to be unique and prettier or more handsome than anyone else.

I enjoyed finding out more about the origins of the Belles and as this book is the first in a trilogy, I expect there to be a lot more revelations to come.  I wasn't quite as blown away by it as I was originally expecting which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it but it didn't grip me as much as I thought it would.  The second half was a much slower read than the first half and the story veered down a different path which opened up new possibilities for the rest of the series. 

An original and unique story which  was a lot of fun to read and which I will be continuing with when the series resumes.  

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black - Emily Barr

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr, published by Penguin on 11th January 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.  And realises her life has been a lie.

Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place her mother and father will never think to look - the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret - the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .

I love books that constantly take me by surprise and 'The Truth and Lies of Ella Black' certainly did that.  The story is quite dark and twisted, keeping me on my toes throughout.  There were quite a few aspects of the plot that turned out very differently to what I had been originally expecting.

The main character is a seventeen year old called Ella Black, who it is soon evident is far from a normal teenager.  She has another personality inside of her who she calls Bella and who is extremely dangerous when let out.  Ella tries her best to keep Bella under control but there is a real power struggle between the two of them.  There's a pretty nasty scene of animal abuse quite early on in the book when Bella temporarily takes over and I found that extremely hard to read.  I originally thought that Ella might have schizophrenia which could have been causing a split personality disorder but then later events made me change my mind.

This was a story that felt like stepping on sand.  The ground beneath my feet was continually slipping as new elements to the story unravelled. One minute Ella is hanging out with her two best friends and the next minute her parents are whisking her off to Brazil.  She's made to leave everything she knows behind - her friends, her cat Humphrey and all traces of her old life.  The reader is left guessing the reason for the quick exit for quite a while, although there are hints given about the real reason behind the trip.

Ella's love interest in the book is a slightly older guy called Christian, who she meets in Brazil.  It's definitely a case of insta-love which I found slightly creepy.  He seems to fall very quickly into the shoes of white knight to Ella but I didn't find his character believable at all.  He doesn't question anything that Ella reveals to him, even though he's only just met her and I found it hard to believe that he'd go so far out of his way to help her.

The final chapter of the story was unexpected and again made me rethink my thoughts about some of the characters in the book.  I did prefer the first half more than the second, as I thought the pace was much slower at the end and some of the events seemed a little far-fetched.  This was the first book I've read by Emily Barr and overall I enjoyed it.  If you like YA thrillers with complicated heroines then this is definitely worth a read.  

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Review: The Amateurs - Sara Shepard

The Amateurs: Follow Me by Sara Shepard, published by Hot Key Books on 5th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Everyone knows Chelsea Dawson. Day and night, her tens of thousands of followers on Instagram watch her every move. So when she goes missing from the sunny beachside town of Lafayette, it makes headlines.  The police are searching everywhere for her kidnapper, but when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees Chelsea's picture, she knows instantly who took her. Chelsea looks exactly like her friend Aerin Kelly's murdered sister - and Seneca's own mother, who was killed five years ago.

Seneca's suspicions are confirmed when the killer contacts her, threatening to hurt Chelsea if Seneca goes to the police with what she knows. Seneca makes the only move she can, reaching out to Aerin and Maddox and Madison Wright, her friends from Case Not Closed, an amateur crime-solving community. Together they go to Lafayette to work the case, to save Chelsea, and to bring the killer to justice.

But the killer has a plan of his own. He wants Seneca and her friends in Lafayette, but he wants them to play by his rules. One wrong step could mean the end for Chelsea - or the Amateurs.

This is the follow-up to the sensational 'The Amateurs' by Sara Shepard which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The second book in the series was an absolutely brilliant read - a cunning whodunit with a cat and mouse game played out between the mysterious Brett and Seneca and her friends. I love detective stories and this one kept me well and truly on my toes. 

When a local girl goes missing in a small beachside town, the Amateurs believe that the game is on again. Their suspicions are confirmed when Maddox receives a taunting letter in the post and so they head to Lafayette to begin the chase.

I love Seneca's determination not to be beaten by Brett and her desperation to make him face justice for her mother's murder.  She and Brett are well matched opponents, although he always seems to be two steps ahead of them.  Some chapters were told from his point of view and it was creepy being in his head.  I suspect there is still a lot to be revealed about him, his past and his motives. 

I was hooked on this book and read it in practically one sitting.  Sara Shepard has such an ingenious mind and plots incredibly well crafted stories that always leave you puzzling over the series of events.  There are so many twists and turns and well planted red herrings that it makes for fantastic reading.  I was totally engrossed from start to finish.

The ending of the book was a real jaw-dropper.  I can't believe that Sara Shepard left things hanging where she did. I'm so impatient to get my hands on the next in the trilogy - this is a series not to be missed. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw - Michelle Hodkin

The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin, published by Simon and Schuster on 17th November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

This is one book that I didn't see coming.  I loved the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin but I never expected there to be any more books in the series, even if I was still intrigued to find out what was going to happen to Mara and Noah after their happily ever after.  Hodkin takes the reader right back into their twisted universe with this opening chapter of the Noah Shaw confessions trilogy.

I do have a confession of my own to make before I continue this review.  As much as I enjoyed the original trilogy, it's a long time since I read it and I honestly couldn't remember everything that had happened previously to all the characters.  I wish that I had reread the books prior to picking up this one because I think it would have helped enormously to have refreshed myself on all the details.  Previous events are referred back to and there are some brief memory jogging moments but I would have got into the story quicker if I'd had time for a reread first.

It was interesting to see all the events in the story happening from the perspective of Noah.  He was always my favourite, more so than Mara, so I enjoyed getting more of an insight into his thoughts and feelings.  He and Mara are keeping secrets from each other and there's a sense throughout the book that one wrong move and everything they had built together would all come crashing down.  I think they have a rocky road ahead of them.  There are lots of other characters in the book too, including some very familiar faces and it was great getting to learn more about the Gifted and their abilities.   

The story itself is quite slow, particularly in the beginning but it does pick up the pace in the second half and concludes with an extremely dramatic climax that hooked me right back in.  Fans of the original will definitely enjoy plunging themselves back into this world, however strange and twisted it may be at times.  I personally can't wait to see what Hodkin has up her sleeve next!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Books I'm looking forward to in 2018

I love the start of a new year because there are so many wonderful new books to look forward to.  Here are just a few of my most hotly anticipated titles for the first half of 2018.

A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens
Published by Puffin on 8th February

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 . . .

The Prophecy by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Hodder on 8th March

The end has come.
Old gods will fall.
New ones will rise...
and Seth and Josie will need more than love to survive the final battle that could not only destroy them, but the world as they know it.

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
Published by Orchard Books on 27th March
After Maddie's Secret Service dad takes a bullet for the president, he takes Maddie somewhere he thinks they'll be safe - far away from the White House and the president's son, Logan.

But when Logan comes to Alaska, so does the danger.

If there's one thing Alaska has taught Maddie, it's how to survive. And now her best friend's life depends on it ...  
A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury on 1st May
Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated - scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their court.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Published by Gollancz on 8th February
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.  Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.
Are you looking forward to any of these too?
Which books do you have on your wishlist for 2018?

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.         

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