Monday, 22 February 2016

Review: The Sleeping Prince - Melinda Salisbury

The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury, published by Scholastic on 4th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

First things first…the cover art for this book is mesmerising!

I initially thought that this was going to be a straight sequel to the superb ‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’. I was expecting the action to pick up with the main character Twylla, so I was puzzled at the beginning why the characters didn’t seem familiar. I soon realised that this was more of a companion novel. It takes place in the same world originally created by Salisbury but features a new protagonist and approaches the story from a different direction. It’s not until near the end of the book that everything starts to make more sense and the threads of the plot weave together.

I enjoyed ‘The Sleeping Prince’ but I did find it quite slow. Most of the action in the first-half takes place in the home of Errin, a young apothecary-in-training who has been left alone to look after her mother. Her brother turns out to be Lief, who readers will be familiar with from the previous book. The only help Errin receives is from the mysterious Silas who she knows little about, except for the fact that she is unwittingly drawn to him.

When the neighbouring kingdom of Lormere is invaded by the Sleeping Prince, a fairy book nightmare come to life, Errin has to make the difficult decision to undertake a dangerous journey to save her mother.

At the start, I kept wishing for things to speed up a bit more. I liked Errin and I was intrigued by Silas but it was slow. Be warned. Don't give up too quickly. The second half of the book was much faster paced and featured a whole host of new and old faces. I was drawn more into the story and into Errin’s struggle and I started to really enjoy it.

The ending was such a cliffhanger and left me frantically checking that there weren’t just a few more pages to enjoy!  It's going to be utter agony waiting for the next instalment.

Overall, not as gripping as ‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ and suffers a little from middle book syndrome but sets things up deliciously at the end for the big finale.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Review: 13 Minutes - Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough, published by Orion on 18th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don't remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this - it wasn't an accident and I wasn't suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you're a teenage girl, it's hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I'm sure of it. But that doesn't mean they didn't try to kill me. Does it?


'13 Minutes’ by Sarah Pinborough is a dark and captivating tale, inspired by a true life event. I picked it up with the intention of reading a few chapters and ended up finishing the whole book in one sitting. The plot is gripping and the various twists and turns throughout the story ensured that I was constantly kept on my toes. The killer twist near the end was absolutely brilliant and made me want to turn back to the first page and read everything again but in a new light.

The story highlights the fraught teenage friendships that are formed in high school, the power of the Queen Bee and the changing dynamics of female friends. Who’s in and who’s out is all important. With echoes of ‘Pretty Little Liars’, the book centres around a pivotal event which unfolds right at the start of the story. The near drowning of Natasha who is found just in time to prevent disaster, but who was technically dead for 13 minutes, is the mystery that gradually unravels. With no memory of what happened leading up to the event, did she slip or was she pushed? And who would have wanted to cause her harm?  

Much of the story that follows is told by her former best friend Becca. Pushed aside by Tasha when she formed a friendship with two other girls, Becca is gradually drawn back into Tasha’s circle by a series of circumstances. The dynamic between the two girls is interesting and well written. I liked the chess analogy and the way that you are never quite sure if they really are friends or adversaries.

I enjoyed the structure of the book itself, and the way that the characters have to work backwards to make sense of what really happened. The addition of notes from Tasha’s journal and the case notes of the Detective on her case, also added an extra layer to the narrative.

There are some jaw dropping moments in the book and a dark edge to the plot. It reminded me a little of ‘Suicide Notes of Beautiful Girls’ by Lynn Weingarten, but although it had similarities, it was still a unique and original read.

Pick this one up if you are looking for a gritty, captivating suspense tale about the dangers of trusting your friends too much.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl - Melissa Keil

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil, published by Stripes Publishing on 11th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails.
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

‘The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl’ is written by Aussie author Melissa Keil.  It’s the first of her books I’ve read but it won’t be the last!   The title alone was enough to pique my interest, although I wasn’t initially sold on the blurb.  I did have my doubts that it was going to be my kind of read but I was very pleasantly surprised.  There was a real warmth to the characters that I wasn’t expecting which drew me in and made me care about what happened to them. 

The story is set at the start of the summer and is based around the central character of Alba, a budding graphic artist and comic book fan.  She is genuinely happy with her life, which was actually refreshing to see.  She loves her home town of Eden Valley, she loves living behind her mother’s bakery, she has a great group of friends and adores her best friend Grady who she has known since childhood.  What could she possibly have to deal with?  The story focuses on what happens when you have everything you think you want and are afraid to take the next step because it might never be as perfect as it is in that moment.  Alba has to face making big decisions about her future without knowing if they are the right ones to make.  Should she stay in Eden Valley or leave and go to university?  Will Grady always be her best friend or is there more between them?  These are questions that will be familiar to most teens.  I thought that Keil did well to make these issues in the book so realistic and easy to identify with.

There is a humorous steak throughout which made me laugh and smile as I was reading.  The idea that Eden Valley is the only safe place when the end of the world comes, was somewhat strange but actually worked well with the overall themes of the story.  You don’t always know what is around the corner so you should live life to the full and enjoy every moment you have.

My absolute favourite thing about this book was the friendship between Alba and Grady.  It’s easy, it’s comfortable and it’s the kind of best-friend bond that I would have loved to have had with someone growing up.  These two practically live in each other’s pockets and have supported each other through thick and thin.  Their friendship has taken a different direction by the end of the book but this works so well and was a joy to see develop.

This is a contemporary YA novel that you won’t want to miss.  Grab it now and bump it straight to the top of your TBR pile.   

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: How Not To Disappear - Clare Furniss

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss, published by Simon and Schuster on 28th January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to 'find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant with Reuben's baby…Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future…

This is the second book by Clare Furniss, after the success of her debut 'The Year of the Rat'. It deals with difficult and emotive subjects but doesn't shy away from painting the realities of life, however hard they may be.

There are two perspectives and stories in the book which intertwine.  Teenager Hattie, who finds herself pregnant at the very beginning and her great-aunt Gloria.  As Gloria recollects her past and a dark secret she has always kept, her memories help Hattie to move forwards with her future.  I thought that the two central characters complimented each other well and it was interesting hearing about Gloria's life in the 1950's, as well as Hattie's in the present day.  Both women were written equally well.  I don't always find I enjoy stories with multiple narrators but this was easy to follow and both had captivating storylines.

The plot surrounding Gloria was actually much sadder than I was expecting.  I found it upsetting at times but I thought that it dealt honestly and truthfully with the subject of dementia.  This is something that I haven't seen a lot of in books, especially those in the YA genre.  It's a terrible thing to happen to someone but it was dealt with very sensitively.

'How Not To Disappear' is a very good second novel by Clare Furniss, which is sure to do as well as, if not better, than her debut. 
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