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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.

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...




Review:
'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.


 
Review:
'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?



Review:
'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...



Review:
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.


Review:
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?



Review:
'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.


Review:
'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.         

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Review: Breaking - Danielle Rollins

Breaking by Danielle Rollins, published by Bloomsbury on 10th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Charlotte doesn't fit in with her two best friends, or with anyone else at The Underhill Preparatory Institute, her cut-throat school for the rich and gifted. But when those best friends die suddenly, Charlotte doesn't know where to turn.

Were they keeping secrets? Could Charlotte be the reason they did it? Because Charlotte has a secret of her own, and now she must decide how much she will risk to discover the truth.


Review:
'Breaking' was a brilliant read, very fast-paced and exciting with a killer twist at the end. 

The story is set at a boarding school called Underhill Preparatory Institute.  Main character Charlotte, is a pupil at the school but has never been good enough or clever enough to satisfy her mother who is always pushing Charlotte to study more and get better grades. Although the relationship between her and her mother is strained, she has her two best friends by her side and with them she feels like she finally has a family. 

Her best friends however, both die in strange circumstances.  Charlotte is desperate to find out what really happened to Ariel and Devon but her investigation puts her in danger, as she begins to get closer and closer to the truth.  The tension builds gradually, as flashbacks reveal more about the three friends and clues are revealed that point to the fact that there may be more to their deaths than first suspected.

Gorgeous Jack who was dating Charlotte's best friend Ariel, has a bigger role to play in the second half of the book and I thought he made a great supporting player.  I was never quite sure whether he could be trusted or not and how he was involved in the mystery surrounding the school. 

The last few chapters had me absolutely hooked and I had to stay up late to finish the story.  The end has left me with high hopes that there might be a sequel.  If so, I most definitely want to read it, as well as any other offerings by Danielle Rollins in the future.  An addictive read with a killer twist that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Review: The Death House - Sarah Pinborough

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough, published by Gollancz on 29th May 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Toby's life was perfectly normal . . .
Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House. Isolated from the outside world the inhabitants of are watched for any signs of a mysterious illness . . .

Clara was a girl who had everything. Adored by her friends and her family, her life was destined for greatness. Now, Clara is the newest resident of the Death House and she's determined not to allow her life to end there.

This is Toby and Clara's story.


Review:
I loved Sarah Pinborough's previous YA novel, '13 Minutes' so I was excited to get stuck into her latest offering.  The premise sounded extremely intriguing and immediately piqued by interest.

The story is set in a world where children undergo a mandatory blood test to find out if they are Defectives.  If so, they are separated from their family and taken away to live in The Death House.  Although the whole concept was fascinating, I wanted more background information.  What are the Defectives, how did the problem start and how was the testing devised?  Answers to these questions weren't given which left me quite frustrated at times. 

The main character in the book, Toby, is one of the oldest in the Death House.  He seems to have accepted his fate and is just waiting for his time to die.  It's not until new girl Clara turns up that Toby finds he may have something to live for after all.  Clara is like a breath of fresh air.  She and Toby have an instant bond and begin to spend their nights awake together.  Their feelings for each other grow throughout the story, as their relationship strengthens because of their shared experience in the House. 

The theme of death seems to be one that is a recurrent in a lot of YA novels at the moment.  I think in the case of 'The Death House' it had even more impact because some of the children featured are so young.  You would expect them to have their whole future ahead of them and instead they are just waiting for the end to come. 

The ending of the book completely took me by surprise and was quite shocking.  I hadn't seen the twist coming and it was so sad and tragic.  I finished the story with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart.     

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Review: Madame Bovary of the Suburbs - Sophie Divry

Madame Bovary of the Suburbs by Sophie Divry, published by MacLehose Press on 27th July 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
The story of a woman's life, from childhood to death, somewhere in provincial France, from the 1950s to just shy of 2025.

She has doting parents, does well at school, finds a loving husband after one abortive attempt at passion, buys a big house with a moonlit terrace, makes decent money, has children, changes jobs, retires, grows old and dies. All in the comfort that the middle-classes have grown accustomed to.
But she's bored.

She takes up all sorts of outlets to try to make something happen in her life: adultery, charity work, esotericism, manic house-cleaning, motherhood and various hobbies - each one abandoned faster than the last. But no matter what she does, her life remains unfocussed and unfulfilled. Nothing truly satisfies her, because deep down - just like the town where she lives - the landscape is non-descript, flat, horizontal.


Review:
What initially drew me to this title was the idea of it being a contemporary reimagining of Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' which is one of my favourite books.  This isn't a direct retelling as the author takes her main character in a slightly different direction to Flaubert but there are a lot of similarities.  Translated from the French by Alison Anderson, this was a story that I could identify with at times and which charts the path of one woman's life from cradle to grave.

The book had an extremely unusual and unique narrative style which at first I wasn't sure I was going to get on with.  It employs a second person narrative which I'm not entirely sure I've come across before but Divry uses it so effectively that it just fits the story beautifully.  It almost seems to speak to the reader and I think this works well with the idea that the main character, M.A. shares a fate which could belong to any one of us. Her story is universal.  

Never properly named, M.A. is seen growing from childhood into adulthood and traversing the various stages of life's well trodden path.  She grows up longing to move away from her parents and her childhood home and embark upon a new adventure.  She goes to university, she has her first boyfriend, she marries, has children and does everything that is expected of her, even while she wishes for something more.  Something which she can't quite name and always seems to be just out of her reach.  The circle of life is effectively portrayed as she grows older and morphs into the role that her parents once had. 

This was a very different read to the one that I started out thinking it was going to be and while it reflects many aspects of the original, it is also exquisitely unique.  I love the way in which Divry presents the character of M.A. and her search for more out of life.  She is never content with what she has and always appears to be looking towards the next thing and the next without ever truly being satisfied.  This is a book that I would highly recommend by an accomplished author who I will be keeping my eye on in the future.        

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Review: The Girl From Summer Hill - Jude Deveraux

The Girl From Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux, published by Headline Eternal on 2nd May 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Chef Casey Reddick has had it up to here with men. Arriving in the charming town of Summer Hill, Virginia, peace and quiet on the picturesque Tattwell plantation is just what she needs. But the tranquillity is broken one morning when she sees a gorgeous naked man on her porch.

Enter Mr. Darcy. What Tate Landers, Hollywood heartthrob and owner of Tattwell, doesn't need on a bittersweet trip to his ancestral home is a woman spying on him. His anger, which looks so good on the screen, makes a bad first impression on Casey - and she lets him know it.

The plot thickens. Sparks fly when Casey is recruited to play Elizabeth Bennet opposite Tate's Mr. Darcy in a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. As they spar on and off stage, Casey begins to think she's been too quick to judge. But then Tate's handsome ex-brother-in-law, Devlin Haines, who is playing Wickham, tells Casey some horrifying stories about the man she's falling for. Casey needs to figure out who to believe. Is the intense, undeniable chemistry between her and Tate real, or is this just a performance that ends when the curtain falls?

Review:
This is the first book I've read by author Jude Deveraux.  I was sold on the description of this as a modern day retelling of 'Pride and Prejudice', which is one of my favourite classic novels.  Set in the small town of Summer Hill, it draws on the idea of a group of local townspeople staging a production of the novel.  Cue all the main characters who fit neatly into the roles of Austen protagonists.  I thought that this was a great twist and I applaud Deveraux for having a go at tackling a contemporary version of such a beloved story. 

Casey, the main character, is a chef but also ends up playing the part of Elizabeth and acting opposite Hollywood heartthrob, Tate Landers, as Mr Darcy.  The opening scene in the book between Casey and Tate is one of the best starts to a romantic novel I have ever read.  Sparks fly between the two from their very first encounter and I have to say that it grabbed my attention in all the right ways.  I was definitely keen to read on and see how the rest of the story was going to unfold. 

'The Girl From Summer Hill' was a fun, light and enjoyable read.  There weren't too many surprises along the way and obviously it wasn't hard to work out how everything was going to end but I enjoyed it regardless.  I adored the setting as small town communities are something that always appeal to me and I thought that the love/hate relationship between Casey and Tate was brilliantly written and fun to read about. 

I'm excited that this is the first in a series and I'm looking forward to reading more by Jude Deveraux.

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.:

Friday, 19 May 2017

Review: Crimson and Bone - Marina Fiorato

Crimson and Bone by Marina Fiorato, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 18th May 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
London, 1853.
Annie Stride is a beautiful, flame-haired young woman from the East End of London. She is also a whore. On a bleak January night Annie stands on Waterloo Bridge, watching the icy waters of the Thames writhe beneath her as she contemplates throwing herself in. At the last minute she's rescued by a handsome young man.
Her saviour, Francis Maybrick Gill, is a talented artist. He takes Annie as his muse, painting her again and again and transforming her from a fallen woman into society's darling, taking her far away from her old life.
But there is darkness underpinning Annie's lavish new lifestyle. In London and in Florence, prostitutes are being murdered. There's someone out there who knows who Annie really is - and they won't let her forget where she came from...




Review:
I am always eager to read anything by Marina Fiorato because her stories are captivating and her writing is beautifully lyrical and descriptive. Her newest offering, ‘Crimson and Bone’, was a real treat and I devoured it in a couple of evenings.  

The story focuses on a common prostitute, Annie Stride, who at the beginning of the book is ready to end it all. Life has not been kind to her and down on her luck, she decides that she doesn’t want to live anymore. Events however, take a different turn, when she is saved by a handsome painter, Francis Maybrick Gill, who offers her comfort and safety in return for her becoming his model.

At the beginning of each chapter, Annie’s story is accompanied by that of Mary Jane who was Annie’s best friend. At the start of the book, I wasn’t entirely sure why this was included, but as Annie’s story progresses, it made a lot more sense and all the threads of their stories wove together brilliantly at the end.

My favourite part of the book was actually the beginning which was set in London. It was interesting to see Annie adjust to her new surroundings and gradually become more refined under Francis’s tutelage. She revels in no longer having to share her body with a man and in being protected by someone with seemingly pure and good motives. The other two parts of the book are set in Florence and Venice. I could sense Marina Fiorato’s love of these places in the way the language of the book flowed so easily in these sections and in the way she described Annie’s surroundings.
  
The tension built throughout as the story headed towards a revealing and shocking finale.  I was utterly gripped until the final page as revelations about the main characters come to light.  Overall, 'Crimson and Bone' was a hugely entertaining read and one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Review: One Italian Summer - Keris Stainton

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton, published by Hot Key Books on 4th May 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Milly loves her sisters more than anything - they are her best friends. But this holiday is different. The loss of their dad has left a gaping hole in their lives that none of them know how to fill. Heartbreak is a hard thing to fix ...

Still, there is plenty to keep the girls busy in Rome. A family wedding. Food, wine, parties and sun. And of course Luke .... Luke is hot, there is no way around that. And Milly will always have a crush on him. But this summer is about family, being together, and learning to live without Dad. It isn't about Luke at all ... is it?






Review:
I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton. I bumped it straight to the top of my TBR pile. I’ve loved all of the books I’ve read previously by this author so I couldn’t wait to dive right in. Initially, I thought that the book was going to be quite a light and breezy read. The story is set in Rome and follows three sisters and their mother, as they embark on holiday. This, however, is the first time they have been to Rome without their father. His death has hit them hard and they are all dealing with it in different ways. Grief and bereavement are prominent themes in the book which made some parts quite difficult to read. I felt very emotional while reading certain scenes which really packed a punch. This definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and made this title far more than just a summery, beach read. 

I really loved the relationship between the three sisters, Milly, Leonie and Elyse. It was refreshing to see their sibling bond portrayed in such a positive light, as there seem to be so many books where all the sisters ever do is bicker and squabble. It was interesting to see how each of them coped with their feelings about their father’s death and how his passing had changed their lives. 

The middle sister, Milly, narrates the story, so events are seen through her eyes. She is afraid that everything will be different now that her Dad isn’t with them. She has a constant fear of letting the people around her go. She worries that something might happen to them, which in light of events, is completely understandable. She is also afraid to see Luke, the boy that she has had a crush on for as long as she can remember. As readers, we know that something significant happened between them but we’re not quite sure what until later in the book. Although I thought that the issue of grief was handled well in the story, I wasn’t as convinced by the romance between Milly and Luke. I’m not really sure why but I just didn’t particularly see them being together. This made the whole thing fall a bit flat for me. 

Personally, I enjoyed the fact that the theme of family was at the centre of the book. It was interesting to see how the dynamics of their family had changed and adapted and how the summer trip to Rome brought them all closer together.

If you are looking for a YA contemporary read with real heart then look no further than ‘One Italian Summer’.                

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Review: Girlhood - Cat Clarke

Girlhood by Cat Clarke, published by Quercus Children's Books on 4th May 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can't escape the guilt of her twin sister's Jenna's death, and her own part in it - and she knows noone else will ever really understand.

But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels...loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died. Then Kirsty's behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper's? And why is she so obsessed with Harper's lost sister? Soon, Harper's closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity. How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her?




Review:
‘Girlhood’ by Cat Clarke is good but I’m afraid that I can’t rave about it like I could with some of her previous books. I did enjoy it and it was well-written but for me, the story itself fell a little short.

It is set at a Scottish all girls boarding school. I love, love, love stories which feature boarding schools. I think this can be traced back to adoring series like the Chalet School and St Clares when I was younger and more recently Robin Stevens Murder Most Unladylike books. It makes for such a brilliant setting for a story.

The first few chapters of ‘Girlhood’ introduce the reader to the main character Harper and her three best friends Rowan, Ama and Lily. There is some background provided to Harper’s family history and Harper confesses that she feels responsible for her sister’s death. Now, at this point, I was expecting the book to develop into a psychological thriller with lots of twists and turns and surprises along the way. That has typically been the formula with most of Cat Clarke’s other books and is something that I always enjoy. Instead, we are presented with a story which focuses mainly on an exploration of the relationship between best friends. In Harper’s case, her friends are like her family. They tell each other everything, spend practically all of their time together and live in each other’s pockets. The close bond between the girls is upset when the dynamic shifts with the arrival of new girl Kirsty. Suddenly their tight little group of four, doesn’t feel quite so cosy anymore.   

When I reflect on the story, I honestly don’t feel that an awful lot happened and that contributed to the slow pace of the narrative. The focus is firmly on how Kirsty’s arrival affects the relationship between Harper and her friends and how things change as they begin to ready themselves for the next step in their lives.

There were some parts which I thought might have been expanded on more, such as the events surrounding Harper’s sister’s death and there were some bits which I felt seemed less than believable, such as the reaction of the girls at the end of the book. With regards to the latter, it appeared that everything was leading up to a big showdown at the end of the story which then didn’t really happen.  

I know that it must sound like I didn’t particularly enjoy ‘Girlhood’ but the truth is that I did. I guess the problem was that I had certain pre-conceived ideas about the book which didn’t match up to the reality of reading it. Although this wasn’t a five star read for me, I have loved some of Cat Clarke’s other books in the past and will still be looking out for new titles by her in the future.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Review: Girls Can't Hit - T.S Easton


Girls Can't Hit by T.S Easton, published by Hot Key Books on 20th April 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously - until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She's the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve.

Fleur's overprotective mum can't abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won't she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don't get it either and even her boyfriend, 'Prince' George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite - but it's Fleur's body, Fleur's life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it's better to drop your guard and take a wild swing!






Review:
‘Girls Can’t Hit’ is the third book I’ve read by T.S Easton and I think my favourite one yet. The story centres around a teenager called Fleur who gets bitten by the boxing bug and soon finds herself itching to get inside the ring.

I found that the story started quite slowly and initially I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my kind of book. The first few chapters focused on Fleur and her friends Pip and Blossom who all live in a small village near to the site of the Battle of Hastings. They spend their Saturdays dressed as Saxon peasants, talking to tourists about the Battle and the history of the site. Although the start was slow, what really got me hooked was when Fleur discovers a local boxing club. What starts initially as a protest against the division between men and women’s’ only boxing nights, turns into a real passion for Fleur.

I loved seeing how Fleur channels all of her time and energy into her new hobby. She starts cycling with her Dad, she lifts weights, she trains hard and she eats like she’s never eaten before! Although I’ve never boxed, I do run and I know the discipline it takes to train and get yourself into physical shape. Fleur’s newfound love of boxing isn’t embraced by everyone though and she finds herself at odds with her Mum and at times her friends, over the amount of time she is spending on it.

There is an underlying message about feminism and equal rights in the book, but personally, what really struck a chord with me, was how boxing makes Fleur more confident and ultimately improves her relationships with those close to her. She has a fractious relationship with her Mum which takes a different turn near the end of the story, her Dad loves getting to spend time with her on their bikes and her friends gradually begin to see a new side of her. There’s also Tarik, a handsome boxer at the club, who definitely catches Fleur’s eye.

This turned out to be a brilliantly entertaining read which at times made me laugh out loud. I’d love a follow-up book all about what happens to Fleur next.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Review: The Struggle - Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Struggle by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 23rd March 2017 

Goodreads synopsis:
The war against the Titans continues, but now the most dangerous, most absolute power lies elsewhere... with Seth.

The Great War fought by the few is coming...
All may doubt and fear what Seth has become. All except Josie, the woman who might be his final chance at redemption.

In the end, the sun will fall...

The only way Seth and Josie can save the future and save themselves is by facing the unknown together. It will take more than trust and faith. It will take love and the kind of strength not easily broken. No matter what, their lives will never be the same.

For what the gods have feared has come to pass. The end of the old is here and the beginning of the new has been ushered in...




Review:
‘The Struggle’ is the third book in Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Titans series and personally I think it may be the best one yet. The action picks up straight after the events of the previous book and we see Seth leaving Josie behind to protect her from what he has become. I’ll admit that I did struggle a little bit at the very beginning to recollect exactly what had happened but it didn’t take long before I had all of the threads of the story straight and from then on I was well and truly sucked back in.  

I have to say that I just love Jennifer’s writing. Her dialogue is always spot on, making me want to laugh and then cry in the space of a heartbeat. She writes amazing characters that come alive on the page and which you instantly want to root for. Also, don’t get me started on the romance. No one can write an intimate scene better than her. The relationship between Seth and Josie is at the heart of the book and it’s tough to see what they both have to endure along the way before they can get anywhere near a happy ending. Josie is determined to find Seth no matter the cost but she has to pay a heavy price and Seth too begins to learn more about who he is and what he is capable of. Both characters are big favourites of mine and it’s been interesting to see them change and grow so much throughout the series. 

The ending consisted of a jaw-dropping cliff-hanger. I’m not sure how I’m going to possibly last before I can get my hands on the next book. The wait is going to be endless.  

There was plenty of action and excitement in ‘The Struggle’ and it kept me gripped the entire time. I practically inhaled it and finished it in one evening. If you haven’t yet discovered this series then you really need to give it a try. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It had everything and more that I look for in a book and it was an incredible read.     

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Review: Scorched - Joss Stirling

Scorched by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 6th April 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Ember Lord is facing charges for the murder of her father. She was found at the scene of the crime, holding the murder weapon, and refuses to explain herself.

Joe Masters is tasked with getting under Ember's skin, and breaking through her stony facade; to gain her trust and find out what her plans are now her father's legally-questionable business is under her control.

But as the two get closer, Joe begins to break down the wall that Ember has built around herself, and gets a glimpse of the truth behind. Is he really falling for a cold-hearted killer? Or is there more to the murder than meets the eye?



Review:
‘Scorched’ is the final book in Joss Stirling’s Young Detectives series. It revolves around Joe, who was introduced in earlier instalments of the series and the mysterious Ember Lord, who at the beginning of the book is being held on suspicion of her father’s murder. The story places Ember in the middle of a terrible situation. She struggles to recollect the events of that night and how she came to be standing over her father’s dead body. She is initially not sure of her own innocence and has only one desire – to protect her twin brother Max.


In the training centre where she is being held pending trial, Joe and co. are charged with finding out what she knows about her father’s shady business dealings. Before they do that though, they have to get close to Ember and gain her trust. Hence the staging of a Shakespeare play, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, giving Joe the opportunity to get close to Ember without raising her suspicions. I loved the scenes where they are staging the play because it gives Ember a chance to show her true character. She has had to hide who she is to protect herself from her father and his associates but through the words of Shakespeare she begins to open up and we see what kind of person she really is.  

I thought it was interesting to see Joe having so many doubts too about his suitability to be part of the Young Detectives Agency. He is still trying to recover from the events of the first book in the series and his confidence has been knocked terribly. While he is attempting to help Ember open up, she unknowingly, begins to help him see what he is capable of.    

I loved seeing all of the other couples in the story too: Kieron and Raven, Nathan and Kate and Damien and Rose. It reminded me of all the great adventures they’ve had together and what they’ve had to endure to come out stronger on the other side.

‘Scorched’ was a worthy finale to the series but it was sad to say goodbye to so many well loved characters. I can’t wait to see what Joss Stirling is going to write next. I will definitely be along for the ride!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Review: The Pavee and the Buffer Girl - Siobhan Dowd

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd on 2nd March 2017 by The Bucket List



Goodreads synopsis:
Jim and his family have halted by Dundray and the education people have been round mouthing the law. In school the Traveller kids suffer at the hands of teachers and other pupils alike, called 'tinker-stinkers', 'dirty gyps' and worse. Then the punches start. The only friendly face is Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing and teaches him to read in the great cathedral chamber of the cave below the town. With Kit and the reading, Jim seems to have found a way to exist in Dundray, but everyday prejudice and a shocking act of violence see his life uprooted once again.







Review:
This graphic novel was a quick read but at the same time I found it to be very touching.  The story is illustrated beautifully by Emma Shoard in an extremely unique style which helps to bring life to Siobhan Dowd's words.  Apparently this was originally published as part of an anthology which I would be interested to read.

The story is about a traveller boy or a Pavee as he is known, who develops a new friendship with a non-traveller or a Buffer girl.  Jim and Kit are both outsiders but the relationship that forms between them, helps each of them to feel less alone.  As Jim has never properly attended school before, Kit helps him to learn to read and gives him the gift of words.  However, when something terrible happens, everything changes.

I found the ending quite sad but at the same time it was tinged with hope for the future.  I would recommend this title if you are looking for something short but moving to read.    



Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review: See How They Lie - Sue Wallman

See How They Lie by Sue Wallman, published by Scholastic on 2nd March 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
If you got to live in a luxury hotel with world-class cuisine, a state-of-the-art sports centre and the latest spa treatments, would you say ‘yes please’?
Well, that’s kind of what Hummingbird Creek is like. No wonder Mae feels lucky to be there. It’s meant as a rich-kid’s sanatorium, but she isn’t sick. Her dad is the top psychiatrist there. But one day Mae breaks a rule. NOT a good idea. This place is all about rules – and breaking them can hurt you…



Review:
'See How They Lie' is the second book by Sue Wallman and in my opinion, much better than her debut YA novel.  This is a psychological thriller set at a wellness centre for psychiatric and troubled teens.  Although Hummingbird Creek sounds amazing and appears to have everything you could ever possibly want, the residents of the centre have no access to the outside world and restrictions are placed on what they eat, when they sleep, how much exercise they get and a hundred other things, including heavily filtered access to the internet.  Instead of sounding like a perfect paradise, it ended up resembling something more like a prison.

The main character Mae, lives with her mother and Doctor father at Hummingbird Creek.  It's the only home she has ever really known and she has very few memories of life out in the real world.  Mae has a close friendship with one of the other residents, Drew and together the two of them revel in tiny acts of rebellion which make them feel like they are living, rather than being kept prisoner. 

As the story unfolds, Mae begins to suspect that everything may not be quite as it seems.  Her teacher, Mrs Ray, is worried about he gaps in Mae's education.  Mae herself, begins to suspect that the vitamins she is given on a regular basis, may not be quite so innocent after all and her mother exhibits worrying behaviour that leads her to investigate what is really going on.

I loved following Mae's journey to discovery and found myself gripped by multiple revelations.  My only real disappointment with this book was the last few chapters, when everything was wrapped up really quickly.  I would have liked more of a big finale and I was waiting for something a little more spectacular to happen.  After drawing out the threads of the big reveal, it seemed like everything was concluded much too quickly.  That aside, I enjoyed 'See How They Lie' a lot and found it a quick and intriguing read.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: Gilded Cage - Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James, published by Pan Macmillan on 26th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.


Review:
I thought that this book was brilliant!  It really took me by surprise and swept me away to a modern Britain where slavery still exists and where magic runs in the air. It was an unusual mix of historical and urban fantasy genres but it blended together so well.

The premise of 'Gilded Cage' is that there is a magical aristocracy that all commoners have to serve for ten years of their life.  The story follows one family, the Hadleys, who all agree to serve their ten years together at the beck and call of one of the most ruthless magical family of all - the Jardines. However, while Abi and Daisy end up with their parents, their sibling Luke is taken away to Millmoor, a slave factory town.

I initially found the book slightly confusing because nearly every chapter is alternatively told from a different characters' perspective.  In the first ten chapters alone, there are six different points of view.  What made all the difference was when the characters began to grow on the page and I developed a picture of them in my mind.  It was then much easier to visualise them and their stories.  My favourite chapters were at Kyneston with the majority of the Hadley family. The magical element of the book was so unusual that I found everything that happened absolutely fascinating. 

The Jardines themselves were also incredibly interesting.  There is brutal Gavar who I couldn't decide if I liked or hated, middle brother Jenner who I immediately wanted to see more of and younger brother Silyen who is the most mysterious one of them all.  He has a dark skill that may change the world but was incredibly enigmatic and mercurial.

I'm not always a big fan of fantasy books but this was definitely my cup of tea.  It had a really intriguing and original plot which had me hooked.  I loved the whole concept for the series and I'm dying now to read the next in the Dark Gifts trilogy.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review: The Scarecrow Queen - Melinda Salisbury

The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury, published by Scholastic on 2nd March 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .




Review:
The eagerly awaited finale to the series is finally here!  There was no stopping me after I got my hands on this book and I couldn't wait to dive straight in.  This was a fitting end to a superb series which did not disappoint.

Although I thought that the previous book, 'The Sleeping Prince' had suffered a little bit from middle book syndrome, Melinda Salisbury held nothing back in 'The Scarecrow Queen' which was an exciting and explosive read. 

Twylla and Errin may have been separated and their forces divided, but they are by no means defeated yet, as we see them preparing to do battle against the Sleeping Prince.  The book alternates between their two perspectives as each has their own challenges to face in the final show down.  I actually ended up enjoying the parts of the story told by Errin the most, as she quite literally has to extricate herself from under Aurek's control.  He was very creepy and such a great villain in the story.  Errin has an ally in Merek and desperately wants to save Silas too but her situation is precarious.  Twylla meanwhile is attempting to bring together a band of rebels as the time for battle draws near.  I enjoyed seeing all of the characters and the threads of everyone's' stories gradually coming together

The story was fast-paced and gripping and there were some incredible twists and turns lying in wait.  I couldn't have guessed how the story was going to be concluded but it was genuine brilliance.   

A perfect example of a YA fantasy series that knocks your socks off!  I loved it and can't wait to read more by Melinda Salisbury in the future. 
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