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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.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw - Michelle Hodkin

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

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

They’re wrong.

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

He shouldn’t.

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

They’re right.



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

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

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

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

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Books I'm looking forward to in 2018

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

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

When Hazel Wong's beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel's family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. But when they arrive they discover something they didn't expect: there's a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn't just the detective. She's been framed for murder!

The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel's name - before it's too late . . .



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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 November 2017

Review: Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe - Melissa De La Cruz

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz, published by Hodder on 16th November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy's only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she's too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas... let alone to allow romance into her life.

But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet - the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy's enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry... well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love - or will her pride, and Luke's prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?


Review:
A contemporary Pride and Prejudice retelling with a difference, involving gender swapping and a small town place called Pemberley, Ohio.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I first picked it up.  Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favourite classics and I was curious to see how Melissa De La Cruz was going to put a fresh spin on the story.  For the most part, I really enjoyed it, although there was never any doubt that Austen's original would be knocked off its perch.

The main character Darcy Fitzwilliam, is now a woman.  Yes, that took me a minute to wrap my head around too.  She is a successful partner in a New York hedge fund and is extremely wealthy. Like mega-bucks wealthy.  She has the means to buy anything she could want, but the one thing she has failed to attain so far is love.  When her mother is taken seriously ill, she returns home to her family for Christmas - the first time in years that she has returned Pemberley.  At her family's Christmas party she meets Luke Bennet, who she once went to school.  Sparks fly and before you know it Darcy has fallen heard for her own small town guy. 

The gender-swapping aspect of the novel actually worked really well.  It was interesting to see Darcy being the successful and independent businesswoman who has never had time to find real love, while Luke has never left Pemberley and has four brothers to contend with.  In the original, a lot of the sub-plot revolves around Lizzie's sister Jane and her romance with Mr Bingham.  This time, Jane is now Jim, Luke's older brother and Bingley is Darcy's gay best friend.  I thought Jim and Bingley were really sweet together and this was a good way of bringing the story more up-to-date. 

The story itself was pretty predictable and resembled quite a light-hearted rom-com that I finished fairly quickly.  I enjoyed a new spin on a classic tale and the festive touches particularly appealed to my love of Christmas.  If you are a fan of the original then sit back, curl up and enjoy this contemporary re-telling which I guarantee will make you want to dig out your battered old copy of Austen and read it all over again.         

 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review: Bonfire - Krysten Ritter

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter, published by Hutchinson on 9th November 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.


Review:
I was hugely intrigued to read 'Bonfire' after I found it was penned by Krysten Ritter, star of Jessica Jones and Breaking Bad.  This is her debut novel, a psychological thriller that sounded pretty dark and twisty.  Exactly what I was in the mood for. 

The story follows Abby Williams, an environmental lawyer, originally from the small town of Barrens Indiana.  Abby has returned home for the first time in ten years to investigate Optimal Plastics, a company that has set about transforming her home town but whose presence Abby has her suspicions about.  Abby's investigation leads her to suspect a possible connection with local girl Kaycee, who supposedly ran away and was never seen again.  She was both Abby's friend, as well as her tormentor but Abby has never been able to put her disappearance behind her.  She's about to open up some old wounds that might have been better left alone. 

I liked the character of Abby but there were times when I wished that she had been able to stand up for herself a bit more.  She has made a success of her career and moved on to better things but she still seemed to let people walk all over her at times.  I also would have liked to know more about her family history and childhood.  Both were touched upon but I think if there had been more details provided, it would have given a better insight into her character. 

I loved the claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere of the small town setting, where everyone knows everything about each other and where peoples' reputations follow them - past mistakes are never forgotten and secrets can't be buried forever.

I thought that the ending was slightly rushed and the big expose could have been more dramatic, although it did take an interesting turn in the last few chapters.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns, as it made me suspicious of everyone and I constantly felt like I wasn't sure who could be trusted and who was waiting to stick the knife into Abby's back.  All in all, a brilliant debut from Ritter and one that I would definitely recommend if you are keen on psychological thrillers.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Review: Namsara - Kristen Ciccarelli

Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli, published by Gollancz on 5th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.



Review:
When I started 'The Last Namsara' I was a little bit worried that it was going to be too fantasy-driven for my tastes.  However, after the first few chapters I was completely drawn into the amazing world that Kristen Ciccarelli has created.  There's danger, dragons, romance and a whole cast of unforgettable characters that had me turning the pages faster and faster. 

The story tells the tale of Asha - a dragon slayer.  Marked by a dragon when she was just a child, Asha's whole life is about redemption.  After making a deal with her father the King, she sets out to track down and kill one particular dragon - but not everything is as it seems and Asha begins to uncover a web of lies, along the way to some truly startling revelations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the mini stories that were interwoven throughout the book.  They were fascinating and linked with certain things that were happening in the plot, adding a level of depth and richness to the storytelling.

One of my favourite parts of the story was the romance which develops between Asha and one of the slaves.  There is a lot of focus in the book on the divide between the people of the city and their slaves.  The treatment of the latter is often cruel and degrading and they do not have any rights at all.  A relationship with a slave is forbidden, so Asha takes some huge risks when her feelings begin to develop for one particular slave.  Asha is an incredible character and she really drove the story along and kept me riveted throughout.  I enjoyed seeing her personal development and the way that she gradually becomes more enlightened as she uncovers secrets and truths which have been kept from her for far too long. 

'The Last Namsara' is an amazing YA fantasy which will captivate and entrance readers.  The first in a new series, I'm very intrigued to find out what will happen to Asha next.      

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Review: The Warrior in the Mist - Ruth Eastham

The Warrior in the Mist by Ruth Eastham, published by Shrine Bell on 24th August 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Aidan's village is under siege. A fracking company has moved on to the land.
Once drilling is complete, the paddocks looked after by Aidan's family will be gone, along with his home and the horse he loves.

Aidan and his best friends Emmi and Jon have one last hope. Legend has it that the warrior queen Boudicca is buried close by. If only they can find the tomb... prove this is the site of her last great battle against Roman invaders...

As the mists of time separating ancient history from present day swirl and fade, Aidan must face a deadly enemy. He must fight to uncover the truth of the ghostly sisters, before it is too late.


Review:
I've previously read 'The Memory Cage' by Ruth Eastham which was very good, so I was looking forward to starting 'The Warrior in the Mist'. The blurb sounded interesting and I also like supporting British authors. 

The story is set in Carrus Village where a fracking company has moved onto the land.  Aidan and his friends are determined to try to stop them from destroying their homes.  The only way they can think to do this is to find the lost tomb of Queen Boudicca and her daughters which will win the land protected status.  Aidan, along with his friends Emmi and Jon are clever and capable teenagers who soon start connecting the dots and grow closer to the location of the hidden tomb.  However, someone wants to stop them from doing so.  I honestly didn't guess who the baddie was going to be, so it was a good surprise when it was revealed who was standing in their way and the lengths they were prepared to go to in their desire to stop the teenagers

I liked the theme of protecting the environment which ran throughout the story and the battle between the destruction versus the preservation of the land.  It's unusual to see something like this featured in a book for teenagers, so it was quite a refreshing change.  I actually think this book is probably more suited for middle-grade readers, rather than teens, due to the writing style and the fact that the characters are slightly younger.

I also enjoyed the historical aspects of the story but I wasn't as convinced by the supernatural parts dealing with the ghosts of Boudicca's daughters.  It just didn't entirely work for me. 

A fairly quick and enjoyable read, I think it will appeal to the majority of readers.   

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Review: The Crow Garden - Alison Littlewood

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood, published by Jo Fletcher on 5th October 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible. Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Victoria, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results: Victoria starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism ...and a desperate need to escape. Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of seances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Victoria and save her. But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind.


Review:
'The Crow Garden' was a really intriguing and enigmatic read.  Described as 'Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins', I knew from that single line that I had to read this book.  I loved the Victorian meets Gothic meets psychological chiller atmosphere of the story and I found it a real page-turner and exactly my kind of story. 

The setting immediately drew me in.  Crakethorn Asylum is creepy and atmospheric and almost makes you want to shiver.  It becomes the new place of employment of Doctor Nathaniel Kerr who has walked away from his prestigious consultant position, to work in a 'mad house'.  At Crakethorn, he meets Mrs Victoria Harleston, one of his new patients and becomes obsessed with understanding her and finding out her secrets.  This leads to a dangerous experiment in mesmerism which causes things to begin to unravel for the Doctor.

The book is divided into three parts, switching between Crakethorn, London and then back to the Asylum again.  I liked the three distinct sections and the way in which the story was perfectly balanced and kept me glued to the pages throughout.  It really did remind me of some of my favourite nineteenth century Gothic novels in terms of the plot and the storytelling. 

I thought it was very clever how the author drew a veil of intrigue over many of the events in the novel.  I was never quite sure whether I could believe everything I read because it's unclear who still possesses control over their minds and who is being controlled.  Really puzzling to the reader but in a good way. 

I haven't read anything by Alison Littlewood before but I was very impressed by 'The Crow Garden' and will be checking out some of her other novels now, as well as future offerings. 
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