Monday, 31 October 2016

Reckless: The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 336
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Released: 11th of October 2016 (first published November 2010)

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father's abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He's also made many enemies and allies — most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob's younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl — a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell — before it's too late.

What I Have to Say 

Reading this, I can kind of see why this didn't take off the first time it was released. I know there were bits added that were meant to improve it, so I don't know how the original book was, but I have to say a lot of the start of it really bored me. 

It took so long to get into the main plot that I probably would have put it down if I didn't have to review it and it wasn't Cornelia Funke. It was beautiful writing and an interesting concept, but there was just nothing to grab me and pull me in to the story. Other than the fairy tale theme, which, to be honest, I didn't really take in until later on when I was more invested, it just felt like any other fantasy book on the market. 

It picked up as I got into it, but probably not enough for me to read on. If the next book is put up on Netgalley then I might read it and review it, but I can't see myself picking it up in a bookshop. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Pushkin Press for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Released: 1st of November 2016

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

What I Have to Say

Normally I get so bored by this kind of book. And I was a little at the start, but from the point when she starts her career of dog theft, I somehow got endeared to her and started to get really invested in her journey towards forgiving herself for what happened. 

I think it was mostly the dogs, but the love of chinese food and the kindness that Shelby showed through the book both to animals and humans. It makes makes her so lovable that the reader starts to really want her to get the life she deserves. 

I would have liked it if the plot had been more action based than just a redemption tale, but I liked it a lot and it really surprised me. 

My thanks go to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 288
Publisher: Orion 
Released: 6th of October 2016 

In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds. It is this book that will guide this new group to get to the very top.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story... 

What I Have To Say 

This book terrified the life out of me. I really need to stop reading ghost stories, especially when I'm doing most of my reading at night with all the lights out, but when they come from one of my favourite authors, how can I resist? 

Mountaineering is not something I'm interested in, so I wasn't sure whether it would take me some time to get into this book. But I should have trusted Michelle Paver more, because she made even the many technical parts of the book thrilling and a joy to read. The   actual mechanics of mountain climbing were woven in by the superstitions and culture of the native people to give enough foreshadowing to take the reader smoothly to the main action of the plot. 

And the ghostly happens on the mountain themselves were worth the build up. As I said, they were terrifying. The mountain itself and the loneliness and isolation that was described in the book due to the atmosphere and the snow added to this and made it the perfect setting. 

My thanks go to Orion and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Maskmaker's Daughter by Holly Webb

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 132
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 6th of October 2016 

Colette lives with her mother, making beautiful dresses for the rich women of Venice. She's never known her father, and her mother won't speak of him - but Colette's embroidery moves and dances, and she's sure that there's magic in her blood ...

And then Colette discovers the truth: her father is a famous maskmaker and a powerful magician. But when he's ordered to create a mask that will bend others to its will, the magic becomes too strong for him to resist. Can Colette, with the help of a talking alley cat called Max, save him?

What I Have to Say 

I had no idea this was the third in a series until about three seconds ago, so if you want to start this series, don't worry about just diving straight in. And I think you should try this series. Anyone who likes interesting settings and magic. I can't say about the other books in the series, but this one was a beautiful. 

I think part of it is how much I like Venice as a setting. It's such a magically city to begin with and adding in magic too that, especially something as interesting as moving embroidery is a brilliant way to making it feel even more, well magical. It was made a truly beautiful world. 

The characters were really interesting as well. I liked Colette and the way she was so ready to run away and make a new life for herself. And Max. Who couldn't like Max? 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 437
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books UK
Released: 30th of August 2016 

New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

What I Have to Say 

I wasn't sure at all if I would like this book. Privileged rich kids being awful to each other is not my idea of a good story, but this wasn't like this at all. Partly because it wasn't just rich kids. There were main characters from several different levels of the tower, both rich one at the top and less privileged ones at the bottom. It was a good variety of perspectives and it made it much better than I thought it might be. 

The tower was really fascinating. The level of privilege was only the start. There was so much information woven into the story about the layout and way that the tower worked in a way that left me with so many questions. I'm looking forward to the next book in order to find out more about how the society works. 

The only thing that got to me was the sibling romance. It always gets to me. It's just one of my pet peeves. I know that this sort of relationship happens and it can get really complicated, especially in situations like this where adoption is involved. But for me it just puts me off a book. 

Really though, I was happily surprised by this book. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel too! I cannot wait to see what happens. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Risuko by David Kudler

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 230 
Publisher: Stillpoint Digital Press 
Released: 15th of June 2016 

Can one girl win a war?

My name is Kano Murasaki, but most people call me Risuko. Squirrel.

I am from Serenity Province, though I was not born there.

My nation has been at war for a hundred years, Serenity is under attack, my family is in disgrace, but some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be a very special kind of woman.

All I want to do is climb.

My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls me Squirrel.


Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan -- or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems. 

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.

Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl, more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Yet she finds herself enmeshed in a game where the board is the whole nation of Japan, where the pieces are armies, moved by scheming lords, and a single girl couldn't possibly have the power to change the outcome. Or could she?

What I Have to Say 

This book could have been really good if it had been fine tuned a little more. I enjoyed parts of it, but the writing just felt slightly clumsy. But I liked the setting and the main character Risuko was smart and easy to like. Some of the other characters were good too. I liked all the scenes in the kitchen with the cook. 

I think part of it though was that there was this whole mystery as to what they were training for, but because I read a lot of books like this, I know what a Kunoichi is, so it wasn't really much of a surprise to me when they revealed what it was. 

The whole thing just wasn't written well. It could have way better than it was if more time had been put into polishing it. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

As I Descended by Robin Talley

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Mira Ink 
Released: 6th of September 2016 

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

What I Have to Say 

I think Robin Talley is one of my new favourite authors. I was gripped completely by Lies We Tell Ourselves and adored it completely. As I Descended was just as good. I was interested to see the interpretation of Macbeth, to see what take Talley would use. I think her beautiful writing combined with the spooky atmosphere of the book, made something wonderful. 

I wasn't sure at first whether I would like the switch that Talley made, from the three witches of Macbeth to Ouija boards and haunted lakes, but I found it really helped to make the atmosphere of the book. 

As perfect as it was and as beautiful  Lily and Maria were in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, I wasn't as keen on the ending. I felt it didn't follow as closely to the play as it did. I may be biased, because Talley didn't reference the part I was most interested to see, the descent into madness of Lady Macbeth (although don't worry, there is plenty other madness in this book). I understand that it didn't fit so well into the book though, so I forgive it. I just would have liked more parallels. 

Despite that tiny point against it, I really did love this book. I would recommend it to everyone, it was fantastic. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Orion Children's Books 
Released: 6th of October 2016 

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez - twenty metres outside town lies a fence, and beyond it, America - the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he's been working for. He's dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he's on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they're as good as dead.

Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) - she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian. 

What I Have to Say 

This wasn't a book for me. Sedgwick lately has been getting very arty in his books, which in this book,  I didn't find too bad. It's the grimness in this book that I think put me off. I'm not that interested in drugs and gangs anyway, but there was just no optimism in this book. Even before Arturo turned up and the plot started there was no hope there at all. 

Once the plot started it got a little better, because there was something happening other than people being miserable, but there was just something that held me back and stopped me from getting into it fully. 

This just really wasn't the book for me, but it could really easily be a great book for someone else. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Dear Charlie by N.D Gomes

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 222
Publisher: Mira Ink 
Released: 20th of October 2016 

Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie.

At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed.

Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong. 

What I Have to Say 

This is another book that I've found a bit too depressing for me. I don't really want to put down the book as bad because of it. It's about grief and grief is not a happy subject. But the books that I like are the ones that touch you. The emotions reach into you and elicit a response from the reader. This book just didn't do that. 

That's not to say I didn't emphasise with the characters. Sam's journey to understand his brother's death and find a way to grieve when the town around him won't let him was something that I could really understand. It really shows well the aftermath of such an event from an angle that hasn't been looked at before, with the family having to cope with the death of the son alongside the guilt of the terrible thing he did. 

It was a good book, I think. It just fell flat for me. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Whisper of Horse by Zillah Bethell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Released: 11th of August 2016 

Serendipity loves horses. No-one in Lahn Dan has ever seen one, apparently they died out before the Gases - but there are statues of them around the city, paintings and drawings too if you know where to look. And there's the little lost wooden horse Mama gave Serendipity when she was little. 

When Mama dies, Seren is taken under the wing of Professor Nimbus, a storyteller. Nimbus is kind and knowledgable, but Seren has started to question the Minister's rule and life beyond the high, impenetrable Emm Twenty-Five wall. Hidden among Mama's few possessions was a map which suggests there is life outside of Lahn Dahn, and a place where horses live and roam freely - out beyond the wall and the Minister's grip. So, with the help of a trader boy called Tab and his little dog Mouse, Serendipity heads into the unknown, searching for the beautiful creatures she's always dreamed of. But the Minister is behind them, determined to hunt her down. . . 

What I Have to Say 

I kind of wanted to see more of this world than we did. I loved Seren's journey to find the horses and how she had to travel through places with people surviving in different ways, but through it all, I was so interesting in Lahn Dahn. I wanted to know more about how things changed from our world to this so controlled society being told lies about how there's no one left outside and they can't leave the city. 

The society was so interesting, how it was divided into these three castes that were vastly different from a financial standpoint. But again, I wanted to know why they were given the names they did. How exactly did it get to the point where the very rich started hoarding all the technology and hoarding themselves away. 

The language both annoyed me and fascinated me. One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when they change names to things like Lahn Dahn to make it such an obvious future setting. But again, I found myself wondering how they got distorted, what process the names went through to be changed in this way. 

So all in all, this book was rather frustrating. It was a lovely story about a girl's search for horses and trying to escape the people trying to track her down and drag her back to Lahn Dahn, but I just wanted so much more information than there was on offer.