Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Review: Sanctuary by V.V. James

Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 8th August 2019

Synopsis:
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. Daniel's death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge - or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .


Review:
When I first heard about this book I knew immediately that I wanted to read it. I'm a big fan of the author's previous YA Dark Gifts trilogy, written under the name Vic James and I love her writing, so I added 'Sanctuary' to my wish list straight away. It turned out to be a really refreshing read because it felt so unique and original and unlike anything else that I'd read recently.

Described as Big Little Lies meets The Craft, 'Sanctuary' takes the reader on a journey where you never quite know where you are going to end up. Each chapter was full of surprises and there were lots of unexpected twists in the story that I didn't see coming. I loved the sense of anticipation I felt while reading it and the fact that I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. The story and the characters really hooked me in and kept me turning the pages well into the night.  

The story is set in the small town of Sanctuary where modern day witch craft is still alive and well. No longer hidden away or shunned by those who fear it, local woman Sarah is a practicing witch who has helped many of the residents of the town with their day to day problems. Her coven consists of her closest friends who lend energy to her spells and with this ability Sarah has helped to change for the better, the lives of those around her. Devoted to her teenage daughter Harper, her only sadness is that Harper has not inherited her abilities.

The catalyst which drives the plot on, is the death of the local star quarterback. Daniel was the son of one of her closest friends, Abigail and his death is the spark which causes everything to start to unravel. Soon Sarah's daughter Harper is under suspicion for his death and the local community start to turn against the witch who lives among them.

The narrative unfolds from the perspectives of Sarah, Harper, Abigail and Maggie. The latter is a detective who is assigned to investigate Daniel's death and determine what really happened to him. Was his death a tragic accident or did someone kill him? I enjoyed seeing events happen through the eyes of different characters who each have their own view on the events of both the present and the past. As the story picks up pace, there are hints about something terrible that happened years ago and which has been kept secret until now. I couldn't wait to find out what it was and I loved the way V.V. James teases us with it until near the end of the book when suddenly I had quite a change of heart about many of the characters in light of this revelation.

The witch craft element to the story was written brilliantly. It felt entirely plausible that magic could still be employed to sort out modern day problems and also that people would eventually turn against something that they couldn't fully understand or comprehend. Sarah becomes the scapegoat for the town and it was scary to see how quickly things escalated near the end of the story. I literally couldn't put the book down!

'Sanctuary' was a gripping read with an intriguing mystery at it's centre. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved the way that it incorporated so many different genres. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to other readers. 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Review: The Shamer's War by Lene Kaaberbol

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Published: 4th July 2019

Synopsis:
The Dragon Lord of Dunark is ruthlessly hunting down Shamers and burning them at the stake. He must be brought down, and so a rebellion is formed.

Rebellions need leaders, and what better choice than the legitimate heir to Dunark, Dina's friend Nico? Nico is reluctant to kill even a rabbit. Still, Dina's considerable powers should help him triumph over the Dragon Lord. But Nico knows only too well that heroes have a nasty habit of ending up dead . . .


Review:
'The Shamer's War' is the epic final book in this truly stunning fantasy series. Now that Pushkin Press have republished Lene Kaaberbol's series in full, I really hope that they get the acclaim they deserve in the UK. This is definitely a series that has flown under the radar so far but it's ridiculously good and is definitely one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. I'm quite sad that the journey is over now as I've enjoyed enormously reading the books and following the characters on all their adventures.

The final instalment picks up Nico's storyline, as the book builds towards a showdown between Nico and his cousin Drakan. This is something that I've been anticipating and waiting for from the very beginning. It's been simmering away in the background all the time, so it was great to see Nico finally step up and determine to do something to save his people from further bloodshed and loss of life. Plus, as my favourite character, I loved seeing him more involved and active in the central plot.

Dina is right by Nico's side, as she has been from the beginning. I really adore the bond that the two of them share. Although she's younger than him, I always thought I could detect a slight romantic undercurrent between them but I think their relationship has developed more into big brother, little sister. Dina has some difficult choices to make in the book. She now has two gifts: the Shamer's gift and the Serpent gift. She is torn between them and feels like she's lost her path. However, Dina learns a lot about who she is, where she fits and her role in her family. She has always been brave and courageous and those qualities really come to the fore.

The narrative is once again shared between Dina and her brother Davin, who also gets a pretty epic storyline. His character has developed a huge amount since 'The Shamer's Daughter' and it was great to see the arc and the journey that he has been on. He is still suffering after his experience in the Hall of Whisperers but he hasn't lost his overwhelming need to protect the people he loves. There's a touch of romance for him too which I really enjoyed, as I wanted him to find someone special.

Forces converge in the book to bring all the characters together, leading to a nail biting ending which had me on the edge of my seat. The conclusion was actually quite unexpected and Lene Kaaberbol managed to throw in a few last twists to surprise me. I would be so happy if this series could go on and on as I think there's potential for so much more. It's sad to think that I've got to the end of this exciting adventure and it's all over now. However, Dino and co will live on long in my memory and I look forward to rereading the entire series at some point in the future.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate link from Amazon.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Review: The Serpent Gift by Lene Kaaberbol

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Published: 4th July 2019

Synopsis:
A watching face in a market crowd, a mist-shrouded figure on the moor, a haunting presence seen only when he wants to be seen--Sezuan, possessor of the Serpent Gift for lie and illusion, is a chilling and ambiguous figure at the best of times.

He is also Dina's father.

And when he comes to claim the daughter he has never seen, the Shamer and her family are catapulted into reckless flight and danger. With nowhere else to turn, Dina must learn to see through her father's deceit and use her own powers to her advantage.


Review:
'The Serpent Gift' was another riveting instalment of this wonderful series which is just getting better and better. I think this was my favourite book so far. The plot was packed full of action and adventure, the characters are maturing and becoming like old friends and there was also a lot of powerful and emotional moments in the story.

Dina and Davin once again pick up the narrative reins, as the story begins in their Highland home. The local fair means a time of fun and celebration but all of that is ruined when Dina's long absent father unexpectedly appears. Dina's mother refuses to let him see his daughter and insists that her family leave immediately and secretively in order to escape him. I was very intrigued about Dina's father, Sezuan. We're told that he has the Serpent Gift but it's a little while into the story before it becomes clear what this is exactly. Sezuan wants to know if Dina has inherited his gift as well as her Shamer eyes. I found the father-daughter relationship in the book extremely well depicted and there were some particularly emotional and touching moments between the two. Dina doesn't know anything about her father and isn't sure if he can be trusted but I enjoyed seeing a fragile bond gradually begin to develop.

After having her gift abused in the previous book, Dina is also going through something of a crisis of faith. She has temporarily lost her Shamer ability and starts to question who she really is without it. Even though she may not be able to do what her mother can, she can always rely on her own courage and bravery to put her on the right path which is something I admire about her.

I loved the epic scope of the story and the scenes during the second half of the book which are set in the town of Sagisloc and the Sagisburg prison. Danger and desperation touches everything that befalls the characters and they are constantly having to find a way out of some very hazardous situations. Every chapter feels like it ends on some kind of cliff hanger.

Reading this series, almost feels like watching a big budget fantasy TV series unfold before my eyes. I started this book immediately after finishing the last one, so not having a break in the story has made me feel even more invested in the characters and what happens to them. If I had to be nit-pick anything, then it would just be that I'd like to have seen more of Nico. He is firmly entwined in Davin's storyline but I would even more of him because he's my absolute favourite.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate link from Amazon.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Review: The Shamer's Signet by Lene Kaaberbol

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Published: 4th July 2019

Synopsis:
Dina has recently come into her uncomfortable powers as a Shamer, and now even her brother, Davin, no longer dares to meet her gaze.

Yet in these dangerous times there are far worse things in store for the young Shamer, who is kidnapped and forced to use her gift as a weapon against innocent people. Dina must get free. Can her brother help her escape?


Review:
'The Shamer's Signet' is the second book in The Shamer Chronicles. I loved the first instalment of this series, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into the rest of the main character Dina's story. After facing extreme danger in the previous book, Dina and her family have started a new life in the Highlands. After fleeing from the evil Drakan, the Dragon Lord at Dunark, it seems that they might finally have found some safety to try and rebuild their home and their lives.

This time the story is told through the alternating perspectives of not only Dina but her older brother Davin too. He's finding it hard as he faces the transition from being a sixteen year old boy to a man. He wants to protect his family from future danger but doesn't really know how. Without a father to look up to or to help train him in defence, he looks for other ways to learn sword skills and how to handle a weapon. I liked seeing more of Davin, as he didn't feature very heavily in the first book. He doesn't have the gift that their mother has passed to Dina, so it was interesting to see the role that he tries to adopt in their family. He's very torn between his family and his own desires.

The story splits into two paths when Dina is kidnapped by someone that wants to use her gift as a weapon and it looks like her only hope of rescue is from her brother. As a reader, it was interesting to see how Dina attempts to survive her ordeal, as well as getting to enjoy the more action driven part of the book, with Davin attempting to find her and bring her home. The contrasting chapters ensured that I stayed engaged in the plot and kept my interest high as I enjoyed the exciting adventure.

I really loved getting to return to the incredible world that Lene Kaaberbol has created. It was great to see different geographical areas outside of Dunark and I adored the epic nature of the story. It feels like it has real width and breadth with all the ingredients for a majorly exciting and winning series.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate link from Amazon.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Review: Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Publisher: Piatkus
Published: 8th August 2019

Synopsis:
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?
  


Review:
I can't believe that 'Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating' is the first book I've read by Christina Lauren, the pen name of writing partners Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. It's even more extraordinary because I love the contemporary romance genre, so I don't know how this author has escaped me so far. This was a sweet, funny romance with lots of touches of comedy along the way. I read it in one day and now I'm going to be hunting down the rest of their back catalogue.

The story is about the friendship turned romance between Hazel and Josh who have known each other since they were at college together. Hazel has always admired Josh's perfection and has a history of always ending up in embarrassing situations which he has been witness to. Ten years after their college days have ended and not having seen each other in all that time, they finally meet again. Hazel is now an elementary school teacher and her best friend turns out to be Josh's sister. What is so great about these two characters is that they are complete polar opposites who find that they actually provide balance and support for each other. Hazel is wild, impulsive, funny and pretty zany. She does her own thing and she doesn't care what people think of her. Josh on the other hand is more serious and reserved but still incredibly thoughtful and kind. Each chapter provides their alternating point of view as they become best friends and then possibly something more.

But romance isn't on the cards for them yet. First, they have a go at double-dating with other people. I thought all the scenes in the book when they are trying to set each other up with blind dates were so funny. There are some really great comedic moments in the story and I found myself laughing out loud at times. So many things end up going wrong for them but their experiences ultimately bring them closer together.

Josh is part of a Korean family which gave me an interesting insight into a different culture and his extended family. I really liked his sister Emily who is influential in bringing Hazel and Josh back into each others lives and I thought Josh's mother was very sweet too, particularly her need to provide constant amounts of food for her children.

My absolute favourite thing about this book was the super sweet epilogue. I can't say anything about it because I don't want to provide any spoilers but it was written to perfection and made my heart sing. If you enjoy contemporary romance then you need to get your hands on this book. It's a light, fun filled escapist read which totally swept me away.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Review: A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Published: 6th August 2019


Synopsis:
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.

But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.

As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost?


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0062857339/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0062857339&linkId=30e053bb8db25fa6bd9bcdc8461e428c

Review:
Autumn Krause's debut novel 'A Dress for the Wicked' combines both fashion and politics in the fictional city of Avon-upon-Kynt. I have to admit that the first thing that attracted me to this book was the luscious cover. The artwork is simple but striking and oh so pretty. It really made me want to pick it up and start reading.

The setting of the book is based on aspects of Victorian London with its class structure and rules of etiquette. It doesn't however fit within the historical fiction genre. I find it quite hard to say exactly which genre I would slot it into, as it combines so many different elements: historical, fantasy and even dystopia. There is a strong political undercurrent running throughout the story. The main political party in the book are the Reformists Parliament Party, who every year grant an arts budget to the Crown. The Crown then pass on a large portion of this to the Fashion House which is run by the inimitable Madame Jolene. The Reformists now want to cut the arts budget and create cheaper fashions but there is a lot of opposition to their plans.

The main character in the story is Emmaline Watkins or Emmy as she is known, who gets a place in the prestigious Fashion House competition. She gets the chance to compete against a number of other girls to become a design apprentice - a position that she aspires to. Emmy becomes the token 'girl from the country', with no one expecting her to rival the other competitors, who are more privileged and well connected. She does not know who she can trust and does not even appear to have the support of her Publican mother, who has remained behind in Shy.

The plot reminded me a little bit of 'The Hunger Games' but with dresses and definitely not as deadly. There are however high stakes involved with each girl having different reasons for taking part that are gradually revealed throughout the story. I did find the start of the book much slower than I was expecting and it took me a good few chapters before I got used to the style and rhythm of the writing. It definitely improved as the story progressed and I found myself enjoying it more and more. There is a lot about fashion in the book which wasn't something that particularly appealed to me, although it was interesting to see Krause's take on using fashion to reveal the character and personality of the main players. I also liked the way that she provided a nod to the real fashion world, with her imagining of what the first fashion show could have looked like.

This was a book that started with a slow burn but really grew on me. I thought that there was a lot of interesting character development in the second half and even some romance to keep me happy. After reading the ending, I assumed that there was going to be a book two to look forward to but I believe that currently this is a standalone novel. I do hope that Autumn Krause gets to return to the world of Britannia Secunda and the district of Avon-upon-Kynt because I would really like to know what happens to Emmy next.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please considering purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Review: The Demon World by Sally Green

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 1st August 2019

Synopsis:
After narrowly escaping the fall of Rossarb, Princess Catherine leads a rag-tag group of survivors into the barren wasteland of the Northern Plateau.

With the Brigantine army snapping at their heels, Edyon and Ambrose become separated from the group, while demon hunter Tash leads Catherine and March to an unlikely refuge - the hidden tunnels of the demon world itself. They soon find that the tunnels hold their own dangers and, while Tash travels deeper, hoping to learn more about their mysterious inhabitants, Catherine and March must return to the surface to resume the war.

But the world above is in turmoil. King Aloysius's army has captured the Pitorian prince, Tzsayn, and is poised to overrun the whole country. To have any hope of challenging her father's tyranny, Catherine needs to form her own army, but when danger lurks at every turn, how can she tell an ally from an enemy? What Tash discovers in the demon tunnels could change everything, but if the message doesn't reach Catherine in time, the war might already be lost . . .



Review:
'The Demon World' by Sally Green is the follow-up to last year's 'The Smoke Thieves'. I had a rocky relationship with the first book in this fantasy series. There were some aspects of the plot that I really enjoyed and it definitely finished on a high note but I had issues with the use of multiple narrators making the story feel slightly disjointed and the overall slow pace of the book. I therefore approached the sequel with some trepidation, although I was intrigued to see how Green was going to continue the characters' stories.

The book picks up immediately after the events of 'The Smoke Thieves', with the characters fleeing to the Northern Plateau - demon country. As the group end up being separated from each other, the story divides as each person has a different path they must follow. It took me a little while to recollect everything that had happened in the previous book but soon I was back up to speed and sucked into Green's world. Once again, I particularly enjoyed seeing the stories of Catherine and Tash unfold as they are my favourite two characters in the series. I like strong, female heroines and both of these women are on challenging journeys but still manage to stand tall amidst the chaos. I found myself really looking forward to their chapters in the book and getting impatient when the focus switched to some of the others. Now that I'm more familiar with all the characters in the series though, I did find that the narrative was less disjointed and flowed a lot more smoothly.

The action was constant throughout the book and the pace rocketed along, drawing the reader in for the ride. Green keeps you wanting more with clever storytelling and lots of carefully placed surprises along the way. There were several times when I was wrong-footed by the characters or by plot twists but that made the book even more fun to read.     

The ending of 'The Demon World' was shocking and the book finished on a big cliffhanger. It feels impossible to have to wait to find out what happens next but that's exactly what readers will have to do. Roll on book three in the series! 

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Review: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 4th April 2019

Synopsis:
Poe Blythe, the seventeen-year-old captain of the Outpost's last mining ship has revenge on her mind as she and her crew voyage up the Serpentine River in search of gold. But there is something Poe wants even more than gold, however - to annihilate the river raiders who, two years ago, killed the boy she loved.

As Poe navigates the treacherous waters of the Serpentine and realizes there might be a traitor among her crew, she must also reckon with who she has become, who she wants to be, and the ways love can change, even and especially when you think all is lost.



Review:
I've read all of Ally Condie's previous books and 'The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe' featured heavily on my list of the 2019 new releases I was looking forward to reading. It sounded intriguing and my interest was piqued by the thought of a dystopian adventure set at sea and featuring rival factions who are fighting over gold. That's pretty much what was delivered and on the whole I enjoyed Condie's latest offering.

The majority of the story is set on-board the Gilded Lily - a ship captained by Poe Blythe. The ship's mission is to dredge the Serpentine River of gold and return it to The Outpost, where it will be delivered into the hands of the Admiral. Poe has always followed orders in the past but this time she wants revenge on the river raiders who killed the boy she loved and was planning to escape with. She has designed a wicked and deadly set of armor to protect the ship and is determined to make the raiders pay for what they took from her. It's a unique and inventive story concept which kept me glued to the pages as Poe's journey unfolds.

The pace was a little slow at the very beginning of the book but then the sense of adventure kicked in and I could almost sense the motion of the ship, the claustrophobia of the crew and the smell of the sea. Anything vaguely pirate related and I'm there, so this was an aspect of the story that I particularly enjoyed.

The one thing that I thought was missing a little bit from the book was more insight into some of the characters. As the main protagonist, the story revolves around Poe who was a character that I greatly liked and admired. She is stubborn and tough, incredibly brave and not used to letting people in. She does however learn how to rely on others for support when she is given a new crew to take with her on her mission. I would have loved to have known more about some of the secondary characters. Her second-in-command Brig was quite a dark horse, who Poe is never quite sure if she can trust or not. I wanted to know more about him as a person and his past. Part of me wonders if this was a deliberate choice by Condie because it means that like Poe, the reader is never sure either who can be trusted on the ship and who is attempting to sabotage the mission and help the raiders.

As far as I'm concerned, the ending tied up some but not all of the threads of the story. So while, I believe that this is currently a stand-alone, I would not be surprised to see Condie return to this world and these characters. I'll definitely be along for the journey.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

And if this sounds like a book you would enjoy, then why not watch the official trailer:


Friday, 26 July 2019

Blog tour: Find the Girl: All That Glitters by Lucy and Lydia Connell

I'm hosting today's stop on the blog tour today for 'Find the Girl: All That Glitters' by Lucy and Lydia Connell

Lucy and Lydia were kind enough to answer the MOST important question of all among book lovers:

'What are your favourite YA books – now, or when you were growing up'.

"We loved reading so much when we were younger, especially Lucy. She would always have a book in her hand. She was obsessed with every Jacqueline Wilson book and would read one after the other. Her favourites were Double Act, Illustrated Mum, Lola Rose! Also we both LOVED the Mary-Kate and Ashley books and Princess Diaries books. Lydia LOVED A Series Of Unfortunate Events and we both loved all the Hunger Games books!"


I absolutely loved their latest book about twins Nancy and Nina, so read on for my full review.

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 25th July 2019

Synopsis:
Nancy Palmer used to be Insta-famous and her twin Nina used to shy away from everyone. Things can change pretty quickly. Nina has been accepted onto a Guildhall music course and is famous because of her pop star boyfriend, Chase. Nancy is trying to put her name on the map by becoming a music journalist and is not getting distracted by Chase's hot bandmate Miles.

When their estranged dad shows up out of the blue and shows an interest in Nina's budding music career, Nancy isn't sure he's just there to make amends. As they attempt to find their way through new challenges, they both have to remember that you have to pave your own path to success and sometimes fame comes at a price.



Review:
'Find the Girl: All That Glitters' is the second book about identical twins Nancy and Nina. This is a great series which is ideal for fans of contemporary YA. Written by YouTubers Lucy and Lydia Connell, in collaboration with author Katy Birchall, the writing style is extremely engaging and overall the book is a fresh, sparkling, enjoyable read. It does help to have read the first book, 'Find the Girl' as this established a lot of the main characters but it's not absolutely necessary as there's a recap of events at the start.

The book follows the same format of alternating points of view between Nancy and Nina. This gives a nice take on the different perspectives of the twins. Nina was still my firm favourite, as we see her at the beginning of the story, winning a place on the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's weekend programme. She's constantly worried that her musical ability is not good enough and I thought it was good to see the angst she goes through, constantly comparing herself to everyone else. This is something that I think a lot of people do, often to their own detriment, so I liked the message that emerged about being true to yourself and focusing on your own abilities and achievements, rather than those of anyone else.  

Nancy on the other hand, is worried that she is going to be left behind. Everyone around her seems to have a passion or interest that they're throwing themselves into and she feels like the odd one out. It was good this time to see Nancy facing her share of insecurities. Although she is the confident, outgoing twin who often is the one leading the way and blazing a trail, she came across as someone who I could empathise more with because she worries that she hasn't found her niche yet - that special thing that will drive her and which she can throw her efforts into. She matures a lot in the book and became a more well rounded character.

For those romance fans, the gorgeous Chase Hunter returns, although there is some trouble in paradise for Chase and Nina. I can't reveal any more! Plus, Nancy is very distracted by Miles, the drummer of the band, who seems to keep appearing everywhere she goes. You will not be disappointed in the outcome of that storyline!

There's lots of drama too, when Nancy and Nina's Dad reappears. I enjoyed the family dynamic which was introduced, although I guessed from the start that their Dad might well have an ulterior motive for coming back into their lives.

I thought this was a brilliant book which really suited my reading mood and would be a perfect addition to your holiday suitcase. Fun and light but with just the right amount of depth to draw you in and keep you reading, I'm hoping that the twins will be back for more in the future.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.



Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Review: Find the Girl by Lucy and Lydia Connell

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 26th July 2018

Synopsis:
As kids, Nina and Nancy were inseparable. As teenagers, not so much...

Where Nancy is popular, an Instagram star, and obsessed with boy band heartthrob Chase, Nina is shy, a talented classical musician, and shuns the spotlight that her sister thrives in.

But when the wrong twin unwittingly ends up at the centre of a romantic social media storm, the bonds of twin-ship will be tested like never before...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0241340292/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0241340292&linkId=26909a0ef8d923470dcc5e192a783c0c

Review:
'Find the Girl' is written by well known YouTube stars Lucy and Lydia Connell, in collaboration with author Katy Birchall. I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I was actually really pleasantly surprised and I enjoyed reading it. Twin stories are always intriguing and great fun which is exactly how this book turned out.

Nancy and Nina are twin sisters who have drifted apart. They have separate friendship groups, different interests and their personalities are pretty much chalk and cheese. Nancy is the more outgoing sister who is obsessed with boy band lead singer Chase Hunter. And by obsessed, I mean obsessed! Nina is much shyer and quieter and is absorbed with getting into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. First though, she has to conquer her fear of playing the piano in front of an audience. The twins end up attending a Chasing Chords concert together, where Nancy hopes to meet her dream boy. However, it's Nina who finds herself having an unexpected encounter which may end up tearing the sisters apart for good.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of Nancy and Nina. I definitely enjoyed the Nina chapters the most because I found her a much more appealing character. I also loved her burgeoning romance which was incredibly sweet and cute to watch unfold. Although Nancy did grow on me a lot as the story progressed, she originally came across as very shallow and self-absorbed and I didn't like they way she treated her twin when her friends were around. As the book progressed, it was interesting to see the two girls develop as individuals but also as sisters - a bond which they had sadly lost.

The plot is fairly predictable but it unravelled in a fun and engaging way that kept me hooked. The ending had a fair few surprises which definitely added to the drama. This was a fresh contemporary YA which would make a perfect summer read. Devour it in time for the sequel 'Find the Girl: All That Glitters' which is due to be published on 25th July 2019.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Also don't forget to come back on Friday when I'll be taking part in the blog tour for Lucy and Lydia's latest book 'Find the Girl: All That Glitters'. I have a very exciting guest post to share with you.

 

Monday, 22 July 2019

Cover reveal: Crave by Tracy Wolff

Today I'm taking part in an exciting cover reveal from publisher Entangled Teen.
 
One of their biggest YA books for 2020 is Crave by New York Times bestselling author Tracy Wolff. I'm pleased to be able to share the absolutely stunning cover for the book which I think is really striking (and a bit Twilight reminiscent).  



Crave is a romantic and thrilling tale of forbidden love, about the undying battle between feeling nothing and feeling so much, it could destroy everyone you love.

It will be published by Entangled Teen on April 7th 2020.  

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Review: The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Published: 13th June 2019

Synopsis:
Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn't want to go to parties - in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book. It's like she hasn't found her people ...

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING - especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it's the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed's fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself ...

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1444949233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1444949233&linkId=83bb36799354fad59f2d5fd408655716

Review:
'The Paper & Hearts Society' by Lucy Powrie is a book that I would like to press into the hands of every teenager. It highlights the ups and downs of growing-up in a time when social media is everywhere and the pressure to fit in is sometimes overwhelming. There was so much about the story and characters that I identified with and I think the majority of readers will feel exactly the same. I read it in one sitting and was really, really impressed with Powrie's debut.

The story is about teenager Tabby Brown, who at the beginning of the book, has moved to a new area with her family. She's staying with her Gran, while her Mum and Dad pack up their old house. She's browsing books in the library one day when she comes across a flyer for a new book club. She's initially hesitant about going along but her Gran thinks it will be a good opportunity for her to make new friends and soon the club becomes the start of a whole new chapter in Tabby's life.

Tabby is a wonderful main character because she's just so real and relatable. She worries about fitting in with a group of friends that have already known each other for years and have a shorthand that she doesn't initially know. Although Olivia, Henry and Ed are warm and welcoming, she doesn't get off to the best start with Cassie who seems to resent her presence. Her anxiety about joining in with an established friendship group is something that I suspect most people have experienced at some point or another. Although it initially feels awkward, I thought that it was brave of Tabby to keep trying and to acknowledge that it would take time to properly fit in. As well as Tabby, I particularly liked the two boys: Henry and Ed. They have quite different personalities but they both help Tabby to feel more comfortable and at ease and are straightforward, easy-going characters.

There are lots of different themes explored in the book. One is the power and pressure of social media and how it can be used as a tool for bullying. I'm really glad that I didn't grow up with social media and some of the technologies that we have today. I love Instagram and Twitter, but they can be extremely invasive and I felt for Tabby and what she goes through.

I LOVE the fact that 'The Paper & Hearts Society' celebrates books and reading and makes it cool to be obsessed with buying a stack of new books, or visiting literary landmarks or having an Austen-themed fancy dress party. I know exactly how the characters feel when they express their love of a particular author and plan an exciting road trip to see some famous literary cities. I've visited both Bath and Stratford Upon Avon many, many times and could share their excitement and awe because that's exactly the way I've felt in the past when I've visited Shakespeare's grave or seen the house where Jane Austen resided. I really need to plan my own trip to Haworth now!

This is a gem of a book which has a fresh contemporary voice and exemplifies all the best qualities of the Young Adult genre. I felt like I was reading about myself at times which is a characteristic you don't often come across. This was a 5 star hit for me and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Mid-year 2019 books review wrap-up

I'm a little bit late with my 2019 middle of the year wrap-up but I thought it would be interesting to look back at how my reading is going so far this year, what some of my favourite books have been and what I've been enjoying and recommending.


1. My reading tally.I set myself the challenge of reading 180 books in 2019. I had a bit of a blip last year when I had a lot of other things going on and didn't have quite as much time as normal for reading. I also went through a spell of not particularly enjoying a lot of the books I picked up. I was determined that this year would be different and so far it has been! I've read 109 books between January and July (yes, I'm a fast reader!) and have discovered some absolutely phenomenal novels and new authors. There are lots more fantastic releases due out during the rest of the year and I'm once again head over heels in love with books.

2. My favourites.
Choosing favourites is always hard but I've narrowed it down to a top 5 (in no particular order). These haven't all been published this year but I'm picking from the titles that I've read in 2019.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (published by Bloomsbury)
An incredible end to the Throne of Glass series. 980 pages of pure enjoyment from one of my favourite authors.
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408872919/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1408872919&linkId=a4f29e0349ef944a08b5c1f8030f0019
 
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (published by Bloomsbury)
I'm loving the trend this year for fairy tale retellings. This is a brilliant twist on the traditional Beauty and the Beast story. Kemmerer's storytelling perspective is fresh and original and I loved this one. Read my full review here.  
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408884615/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1408884615&linkId=4ad4f73c85085eb34838dee706b8e12a
 

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly (published by Hot Key Books)
Another twist on a classic fairytale but this time it's an inventive take on what happened to the ugly stepsisters after Cinderella was whisked off by the Prince. A sheer delight to read and a book which made me so happy!
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07HQJRTHB/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07HQJRTHB&linkId=2426e205209dd07851c1644ee6479c0a
 
 Viper by Bex Hogan (published by Orion Children's Books)
I am obsessed with this book! If I could only recommend you read one thing this year, then it would definitely be 'Viper' which has reignited my love for all things pirate.
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1510105832/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1510105832&linkId=9e6a978e15797905b368d872dd8f1f1e
 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (published by Harper Collins)
The only adult read to make my top 5 of the year so far. A murder mystery thriller which is reminiscent of a classic Agatha Christie who-dunnit. Kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0008297118/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0008297118&linkId=d6595e4b132e0c38868d79e921fd2411
 
3. Book/Author obsession
This has been the year that I've discovered and become obsessed with everything Agatha Christie related. I've been devouring her books and every week have come home with huge piles of her novels from the library. My favourite so far has probably been Poirot's very first case, 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' but it's hard to choose because I have enjoyed so many. I now only have about 16 still to read (which I'm madly hunting for) but I don't know what I'm going to do once I've finished! 
 
4. Book miss
I was excited about reading 'The Record Keeper' by Agnes Gomillion but I really struggled with it. I do like some science fiction but this was quite heavily rooted in the genre and it didn't spark a lot of enjoyment for me. I've since seen some really positive reviews of the book from other readers that loved it though, so I always think it's worth giving books a go and making up your own mind. You can read my full review here
 
5. Surprise hit 
I picked up 'A Sky Painted Gold' by Laura Wood without knowing much about it. I thought that the cover was pretty and it sounded like my kind of book. I was really pleasantly surprised about just how much I enjoyed it. It's a wonderful read for summer, set in Cornwall (which isn't far away from me), features a dreamy romance and has brilliant characters that leap off the page. Laura's new book, 'Under a Dancing Star' has recently been published, so I'm desperate to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.  

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Review: Viper by Bex Hogan

Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Published: 18th April 2019

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He's the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne's father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves - and perhaps even her life?  


Review:
I've had an obsession with all things pirate related ever since I first watched the film Cutthroat Island and saw Geena Davis as a take-no-prisoners female pirate, on a quest for buried treasure. If I hadn't become a librarian then maybe life upon the high seas would have beckoned! I tell you this because it helps to explain my absolute obsession with 'Viper' by Bex Hogan. A debut which has stolen my heart.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it! A fantasy pirate adventure, it delivered everything I want in a book and more. It conjured up the salty smell of the sea, the tang of spilt blood and the taste of danger. It gripped and entranced me from start to finish and my only criticism is that it wasn't twice the number of pages, so that I could have prolonged my enjoyment. It's one of the BEST books I've read so far this year and one that I'm going to be begging everyone else to read too.

The first in the Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy (oh thank goodness that there will be more!), the story follows the main character of 17 year old Marianne. She is the daughter of the Viper - the deadliest Pirate Captain on the seas and the 'supposed' defender of the Twelve Isles. The Viper is as evil and ruthless as they come and although Marianne is his daughter, he has never shown her any love or understanding. He only knows how to punish and cause pain. Throughout the course of the story the father-daughter dynamic is explored in depth, as Marianne struggles to make sense of her relationship with him. One of the main elements to draw me into a book, is a strong female protagonist with a powerful narrative voice. Marianne was exactly that and I became very invested in her journey and what lay ahead of her.

There are some terrific secondary characters in the book too. One of my absolute favourites was Bronn, who was her childhood friend on-board The Maiden, until he became her father's most valuable assassin. There's also Grace, who is another female member of the crew and who veers hot and cold a lot with her emotions. Plus Prince Torin who it took me a while to warm-up too then suddenly became amazing about half-way through the book. Complicated relationships are actually quite a strong characteristic in the story, probably because everyone seems to be hiding something. Also, a word of warning. It might not be safe to get too attached to anyone because literally every character in the book is in danger at some point.

I thought that the world-building in the novel was particularly impressive. Each of the islands is unique because of it's setting and landscape, which is reflected in the people that live there. I felt like I could visualise each of them perfectly and I enjoyed the exploration of many of these as I found out more about them and their history.

Hogan interweaves lots of action and adventure into the story which is laced with traces of magic and blushes of romance. I hope we get to find out more about the magical mythology that was touched upon as I found this really intriguing. I have a feeling that there is lots more of that to come.

'Viper' delivered on every level and if there's one book that I want everyone to read this year, this is it. I'm so happy to see pirates emerging as a genre within YA novels as I will literally devour anything in this niche. Bex Hogan's debut though is certainly a novel that is hard to beat. I was beyond thrilled to find out that the second book in the series will be called 'Venom' but not so happy to discover that I've got to wait until 2020 for it to be released. Until then, I'd better dig out my pirate boots.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Review: The Shamer's Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Published: 4th July 2019

Synopsis:
Dina has unwillingly inherited her mother's gift: the ability to elicit shamed confessions simply by looking into someone's eyes. To Dina, however, these powers are not a gift but a curse. Surrounded by fear and hostility, she longs for simple friendship.

But when her mother is called to Dunark Castle to uncover the truth about a bloody triple murder, Dina must come to terms with her power--or let her mother fall prey to the vicious and revolting dragons of Dunark.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1782692258/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1782692258&linkId=53677bc5ba073c31616799f91d41c8a5

Review:
'The Shamer's Daughter' is the first in a middle-grade fantasy series called The Shamer Chronicles. Although aimed at a slightly younger audience, I found the book really enjoyable and I think there is a lot in it to appeal to older readers too. The series is written by a Danish author who is also responsible for translating it into English. Although originally published in 2002, I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the series before, so it's great that Pushkin Press are republishing all four books for a brand new audience of readers.

What originally appealed to me was the description of the book as high fantasy with dragons, magic and adventure. I also noticed that comparisons had been drawn between this series and His Dark Materials (which is one of my favourites!), so my expectations were pretty high.

The story revolves around the main character Dina. An 11 year old girl who is the daughter of a Shamer and who has inherited her mother's gift. They have the ability to look into another person's eyes and see all of their guilty secrets. Although this is an incredible power to have, Dina often sees it as more of a curse because of the fact that no one wants to be friends with her or can look her in the eye. One night, Dina's mother is called upon to go to Dunark Castle, after a terrible crime is committed. She is tasked with helping to identify the guilty party. However, things are not as they seem and Dina becomes embroiled in a terrible power struggle which threatens everyone she holds dear.

I loved the premise for this story which immediately hooked me in. I don't think I've read anything else quite the same as this which made it very unique. Dina is an absolute delight of a heroine. She reminded me a bit of Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia because is brave and inquisitive and always ready to help anyone out. Her first person narrative was extremely engaging and I loved her interactions with the other characters, particularly Nico and Rose. Nico is great because although he is flawed that makes him more real and likable. He has his faults but he starts to face up to them. Rose was a fantastic addition to the story because she gives the appearance of being tough but underneath she has her own insecurities and fears. Dina helps her to see that she is not responsible for her own precarious situation in life.

The plot moves quickly and there is so much that readers will enjoy. Yes, there are dragons (and deadly ones at that!) but there is also a dangerous power struggle, a quest for justice and lashings of action and adventure.     

'The Shamer's Daughter' is a fast-paced fantasy. I got sucked into Dina's story right from the start and couldn't wait to find out what her fate was going to be. I found it a quick read which was well-paced and crammed full of mystery, magic and mayhem. I'm really eager to read the rest of the series now and find out what other adventures lie in wait for Dina.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate link from Amazon.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Review: Wolf Rain - Nalini Singh

Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 6th June 2019

Synopsis:
Kidnapped as a young girl, her psychic powers harnessed by a madman, Memory lives a caged and isolated existence . . . until she comes face-to-face with a wolf. Labelled an empath by her bad-tempered rescuer, Memory knows that her 'gift' is nothing so bright. It is a terrible darkness that means she will always be hunted.

But Memory is free now and she intends to live. A certain growly wolf can just deal with it. Alexei prefers to keep his packmates at bay, the bleak history of his family a constant reminder that mating, love, hope is not for him. But Memory, this defiant and fearless woman who stands toe-to-toe with him awakens the most primal part of his nature - and soon, he must make a choice: risk everything or lose Memory to a murderous darkness that wants to annihilate her from existence . . .

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07MZ91PJG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07MZ91PJG&linkId=a3d794c7e75d4b4208d88d0ce9bccaed

Review:
'Wolf Rain' is the latest addition to Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. I haven't yet read all of the books in this fantastic series but that didn't stop me from being very excited about this new release. It hindered me slightly because of some of the references to particular characters and events but at the same time I don't think it affected my overall enjoyment at all and I found it easy to immerse myself quickly in this incredible story.

I really enjoyed getting to return to the SnowDancer pack and their world. It's my absolute favourite and I've missed reading them about. The story focuses on Alexei, one of Hawke's Lieutenants. He is a brilliant character who is still mourning the loss of his older brother Brodie who turned rogue. Alexei is extremely strong but sensitive too and is a central part of the Wolf pack. At the beginning of the story, we see him rescuing a new character called Memory from an underground prison. She is a Psy who has psychic abilities that are being used by a madman. Memory was interesting because although she has been held captive since she was a child, she has still tried to educate herself and learn about the outside world. She is well prepared to assimilate back into society if the chance to escape arrives and she hasn't been broken by her traumatic experience.

The relationship between Alexei and Memory is at the very heart of the story. They are brought together under difficult circumstances but there is an instant bond between them. They need each other in different ways which they begin to understand as the story progresses. Alexei allows Memory to explore who she is outside of her prison and she in turn, brings light and life into Alexei's world. She makes him laugh and opens his heart in a way that he has never experienced before. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them both, although there is the added complication of the fact that Memory's captor is still trying to get her back. This means that danger stalks them both and the stakes are higher than ever.

I loved the SnowDancer community and all of Alexei's pack mates. I could sense the love and support between them and it was great seeing them interact with each other. They are very welcoming to Memory and they make her feel part of their family - something that she was robbed of.

The plot was fast-paced and exciting. I couldn't put the book down. I suspected from the start that it was going to come down to a head to head between Alexei and Memory's kidnapper, so I was on the edge of my seat up to the thrilling final conclusion.

Nalini Singh has done it again with this amazing new instalment to the series. 'Wolf Rain' is paranormal romance at its very best and it won't disappoint fans of the series or even those who are newcomers to this incredible world.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

How my reading habits have changed

My blog is coming up to its ten year anniversary. This got me thinking about how my reading habits have changed over that time. Some of the changes have been a direct consequence of blogging and some have just changed naturally over time.


1. I DNF (Did Not Finish) books that I'm not enjoying. This has definitely been the biggest change for me, as in the past I would always finish every single book I started...even when I wasn't enjoying it. I always thought the book might improve near the end, or that I would miss out if I didn't finish it. I even occasionally felt ashamed if I didn't read every single page of a book, as how could I then record with good conscience that I'd read it. About 6 years ago, I was laid up in bed recovering from an operation. During that time I read a LOT of books. I needed to read to distract me from the pain. I needed the story to enchant me, sweep me away and fully occupy my attention. If I started reading something that didn't do that then for the first time in my life I would give up on it and put it down. I've decided since then that life is too short to read books that I'm not enjoying. There are so, so many books that I do want to read that I'm much more likely to DNF a title that is not ticking all my boxes.

2. I read a lot more new releases. I think this is a direct consequence of blogging because I'm lucky enough to receive a lot of new releases from publishers. I'm also more aware of new titles which I either buy or hunt for in the library.

3. I plan my reading schedule. Before I started blogging, I would read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now however, I plan what I'm going to read next based around the publication date of new books that I want to review, or around blog tours that I'm taking part in. I often try to get ahead of schedule with books I'm reading or blog posts that I'm writing. This then enables me to have some time during the summer or at Christmas to take a break and maybe read some non-fiction or whatever I fancy. This works for me as I'm super organised and it helps me not to get stressed with keeping up with my blog.

4. I read a wider selection of authors and genres. I've always read extremely widely but I think I'm now reading even more genres and trying more books by authors that I might not have come across before. There are very few books that I wouldn't at least try a few chapters of. I LOVE discovering authors with huge back catalogues that I can then go and binge on (e.g. the Agatha Christie love knows no bounds!)

5. I think more critically about what I read. This helps when it comes to reviewing books on my blog. Again, I've always tended to do this (which is a consequence I think of having a Literature degree) but I've noticed that I make more notes now when I'm reading or jot down points about the book that I want to remember when I'm writing reviews.

Have your reading habits changed? If so, how do you read differently? Has blogging had an affect on your choice of books?  

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Review: The Weight of a Thousand Feathers - Brian Conaghan

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books on 13th June 2019

Synopsis:
Who is Bobby Seed? He's just your average sixteen-year-old - same wants, same fears, same hang-ups. Dull, dull, dull. But then there's the Bobby Seed who's a world away from average. The Bobby Seed who has to wipe his mum's backside, sponge her clean three times a week, try to soothe her pain. The Bobby Seed whose job it is to provide for his younger brother, Danny, to rub his back when he's stressed and can only groan and rock instead of speak. That's Bobby Seed. Same, same, same, yet different, different, different ...



Review:
'The Weight of a Thousand Feathers' is Brian Conaghan's fourth novel and winner of the 2018 Irish book award for Teen and YA Book of the Year. It's the story of teenager Bobby Seed, who is your average 16 year old, apart from the fact that he is a carer to his Mum and also looks after his younger brother Danny. Bobby's mother has MS and is dependant on him for her care. He has to cook, clean and basically do everything for her.

I haven't read any YA books before that are told from the point of view of a family caregiver and especially not one who also happens to be just a teenager. As well as caring for his Mum, Bobby is also trying to navigate his own issues at school, shield his younger brother and deal with relationship dramas and questions about his own sexuality. Bobby was an extremely strong voice in the story who ends up confronted with an impossible dilemma. His train of thought is full of indecision, guilt and angst and I really felt for him.

During the story, Bobby meets Lou at a young carers support group. He is attracted to him and they share their emotions and thoughts with each other but I wasn't actually very keen on Lou. I found it hard to feel the same sympathy toward him as I felt for Bobby.

The book explores the ethical dilemma of assisted suicide or euthanasia which makes it an incredibly hard-hitting read. It is such a complex and difficult question: would you help ease the suffering of a loved one if they were dying or in pair or with no quality of life? It is an extremely controversial and emotive issue and one which creates a lot of debate. I thought that Brian Conaghan presented the situation with care and a sensitive touch. I found it so heart-breaking and extremely difficult to read at times. My heart went out to Bobby and his brother. 

This is a story that is both thought-provoking, as well as incredibly sad and moving. Be prepared to read with a big box of tissues by your side.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Review: The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, published by HarperCollins on 24th January 2019

Synopsis:
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world. Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?  

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0008297118/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0008297118&linkId=f2ff7d50043c379c318c0e62616b2ca0

Review:
I wanted to read 'The Hunting Party' after I heard it described as 'like Agatha Christie on acid'. Since I'm knee-deep in the middle of a huge binge on Christie's books, I decided that I absolutely had to read Lucy Foley's debut crime novel.

The story is set around New Year's Eve, when a group of old school friends gather in the Scottish Highlands at the remote Loch Corrin Estate. They've known each other for 10 years and always gather once a year on a celebratory getaway trip. The location is remote, they are practically the only guests there and with the snow falling heavily, they have no way out. The celebrations seem to be in full swing until a body is found in midst of a thick blizzard and all signs point to the fact that this was not an accidental death. There is a murderer among them.

The narrative switches between various characters in the book, giving differing perspectives on events. There's the glamorous Miranda, who always seems to get everything she wants and who loves making a project of those who are less fortunate than her. Then there's Emma, who is a slightly less polished version of Miranda, hasn't always been a part of the group but who this year, has planned the whole trip. And finally, Katie, who was one of my favourites. She is the quiet one, the odd one out among all of the other couples and the person who came across as having changed the most since their school days at Oxford. In addition, the narrative is also shared between Heather, who manages the Estate and the gamekeeper Doug. Everyone seems to have their own secret and it was interesting trying to work out what they were all hiding.

I thought it was a stroke of genius, not to reveal immediately who the dead guest was. I made my own guess (which turned out to be right) but I enjoyed the not knowing at the start. I also loved trying to work out who the murderer could be and why. It kept me absolutely gripped and even when I briefly put the book down, I was still thinking about the story and trying to puzzle the mystery out.

The setting was brilliant and reminded me exactly of an Agatha Christie novel. The remote setting seems at first to be a wonderful spot for a getaway but eventually the silence and claustrophobia surrounding the place, begins to expose all the cracks in the relationships between the old friends. There is no where for them to escape each other and being in close confinement means old wounds being opened, secrets being brought to light and their true feelings about one another finally being exposed. I could easily picture the snowy wilderness and feel the chilling atmosphere, as the sense of fear begins to surround them.

This was exactly my kind of book. Lucy Foley keeps the tension and suspense high throughout the story, proceeding to turn it up a notch when the murderer starts to get desperate and things begin to spin out of control. The storytelling was fast-paced and I was gripped by intrigue from the very first page. I loved this book so much and I hope that Foley will stick to this winning recipe in the future. If she does, I'll be first in line to get my hands on her next offering.

Also, I'm thrilled to discover that the TV rights to the novel have been sold, so we should see 'The Hunting Party' in the future, on the small screen. Great news! 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Review: The Record Keeper - Agnes Gomillion

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, published by Titan Books on 18th June 2019

Synopsis:
After World War III, Earth is in ruins, and the final armies have come to a reluctant truce. Everyone must obey the law--in every way--or risk shattering the fragile peace and endangering the entire human race.

Although Arika Cobane is a member of the race whose backbreaking labor provides food for the remnants of humanity, she is destined to become a member of the Kongo elite. After ten gruelling years of training, she is on the threshold of taking her place of privilege far from the fields. But everything changes when a new student arrives. Hosea Khan spews dangerous words of treason: What does peace matter if innocent lives are lost to maintain it?

As Arika is exposed to new beliefs, she realizes that the laws she has dedicated herself to uphold are the root of her people's misery. If Arika is to liberate her people, she must unearth her fierce heart and discover the true meaning of freedom: finding the courage to live--or die--without fear.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07RP3RVZX/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07RP3RVZX&linkId=e9beb9a67398ab3185b62de764bfe16d

Review:
'The Record Keeper' is Agnes Gomillion's debut novel. It is described as a 'fresh new take on the afro-futuristic science-fiction genre', which made me curious about the book but also wonder whether it was going to appeal to my tastes. I haven't read a lot of science-fiction and it's not normally a genre that I choose.

The story is set in 170 AE (After the End). Earth has been left in tatters after World War III and a fragile peace has been met. The main character Arika, is taken from a community nursery when she is very young. She is destined to become a member of the Kongo elite but before then she has to survive the years of training that lay ahead of her under the watchful and sometimes brutal eye of Teacher Jones. Arika becomes an exemplary student, always ready with the correct answer in class but never quite forgetting her earlier rebellion when she was seven and tried to rally her fellow comrades. Her carefully constructed existence and beliefs come under threat when a new pupil arrives at the school and cracks start to form. Arika is no longer sure if she can follow the path set out for her as Hosea opens her eyes to the truth about the society they now live in.

One of the book's main themes is racism. The white English ruling class have the dominant place in society and the Kongos' job is to work the fields and provide food for them. The balance of power is uneven and black people are suppressed by the ruling class. They are made to go through a Rebirth, where they have to take a pill that reprograms their memories and makes them forget their pasts. This is simply a tool that is used to control them and ensure they stay in their place. Everyone in the story has to fulfil their role and obey the law or they threaten the peace of society.

This was an interesting and unique read but I did struggle to fully engage with the story and the characters. I think a large part of that is down to the fact that there was nothing familiar that I could grasp onto and I found the world building a bit lacking. I couldn't quite find my feet in the new world that Gomillion had created and this meant that I often couldn't follow all the nuances of the plot. I think that is probably down to the fact that science fiction isn't my favourite genre, so if you do like SF then that won't be a problem for you. Arika was an extremely strong protagonist and her courage and determination were definitely qualities that I admired. Her journey is not easy but she is tough and fierce and gradually becomes a new voice to be listened to in a world where people have long been quietened.
Related Posts with Thumbnails