Saturday, 29 December 2018

OtherEarth by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Rock The Boat 
Released: 30th of October 2018 

Simon saved his best friend, Kat, from the clutches of the Company and their high-tech VR gaming experience, Otherworld. But it was at a steep price. Now he, Kat, and their friend Busara are on the run. They know too much. About the Company's dark secrets. About the real-life consequences of playing Otherworld. And about Kat's stepfather's involvement in everything. The group is headed to New Mexico to find Simon's old roommate, who is a tech genius and possibly the only person who can help them reveal the truth about the Company before it's too late and the line between what's real and what's fantasy is erased . . . forever.

Imagine a future in which you can leave reality behind and give in to your greatest desires. That future is now. And the future is terrifying. 

What I Have to Say 

This series is getting so interesting. Even though they were out in the real world for most of this book, Otherworld was very much there and starting to spill into the real world.... I liked the way that Simon was starting to show a slipping grip on reality, not knowing what's real and what's not. Though I have to say, it was hard to believe he didn't know what colour would be weird for a scorpion to be. 

I do feel like Kat and Busara are kind of shoved to the back a bit as characters though. It sort of feels like Kat is only really around to be Simon's girlfriend. It may be a bit harsh a reading, but I'd like to see more of the girls personalities coming through, especially now Elvis is around. Busara was a bit better, with looking for her father being a prominent part of the plot, but again it's Simon doing everything and Kat and Busara just hanging around in the background. 

Despite that, I am still really enjoying the series. It seems to be gearing up towards a really exciting finale in the next book and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Rock the Boat for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Bantam Press 
Released: 27th of December 2018 

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

What I Have to Say 

A gripping thriller, perfect for anyone wanting to see a real modern day witch hunt. Set in a small town, it showed the way that rumour can spread and how damaging it can be to small town life and anyone caught in the way, innocent or guilty. To me, it also showed how unforgiving people can be, how people can have their lives ruined forever by things they do when they're children. It raises the moral question of whether someone should be forgiven for such actions and how much penance and rehabilitation they would have to do to get to a point where they aren't waiting for their past to catch up with them. 

It was interesting to see how the rumour spread and Joanna's part of it. How her need to be accepted by the other mothers and therefore get her son more integrated into the school. Her actions of spreading what she felt at the time was a piece of harmless gossip and how it escalated was so interesting to see and really puts across the message that you should be careful what you say. 

The ending was perfect. I didn't see it coming at all and it was so gripping. I enjoyed it completely. 

Want a gripping thriller to curl up with in these cold winter nights, this is a great choice. 

My thanks goes to Netgalley and Bantam Press for providing me with this copy for review. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416 
Publisher: Stripes (Red Eye) 
Released: 10th January 2019 

‘She sat us all down and told us a story. About things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night.’

For Charlie, a school ski trip is the perfect escape from his unhappy home life. Until a storm blows in and the resort town is cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped on the mountain, the students wait for the blizzards to pass, along with mysterious ski guide Hanna. 

But as night falls and the town’s long buried secrets begin to surface, the storm is the least of their problems….

What I Have to Say 

A good old fashioned vampire story. I'm not ashamed of liking vampire romances, but I do feel this was a good way to start bring vampires back into YA. It's about time to get a few back in, in my opinion. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next. But I do think, that bringing back scary Nosferatu inspired vampires was the perfect start. 

I was a little disappointed this wasn't a bit more creepy. I have to admit, I was in this for scenes of vampires creeping around in the blank whiteness outside while the characters were hiding and hoping not to be found and there was less of that and more of vampires trying to break down doors, but it was still really gripping. 

I loved the characters. It was good that the characters thrown together by the events were people who didn't know each other that well. It created great tensions between the characters and watching them come together and get to know each other, when they had only before known themselves in passing. 

I loved the vampire mythology they used too. This is definitely a great point horror vampire book. 

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

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 180
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 27th of September 2018 

Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma's cabin and became blind in one eye.

Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor - only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.

Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in . . .

What I Have to Say 

I loved the mythology in the book and the way the author weaved it into the story, how everything fitted in to the myths and legends of Norway. I loved Martha so much. She was an interesting character, I loved how she could read clothing. It seemed like such an interesting ability and one I hadn't come across before. 

The creepiness was a good level for me. I wasn't too scared by it but it did have a creepy atmosphere that sent shivers down my spine. The isolation and the storm made the whole thing feel so much more risky. I wanted so much for them all to survive, especially Gandalf, the dog. 

It was just a good story with a solid foundation of mythology adding to the story. I loved the way that it all worked perfectly as a story, the world of gods and norns fitting smoothly into a modern setting. 

Definitely great for mythology fans. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Growing Pains of Jennifer Ebert, Aged 19 Going on 91 by David M. Barnett

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304 
Publisher: Trapeze 
Released: 15th of November 2018

Nineteen-year-old Jennifer is regretting her hasty move into Sunset Promenade, an unusual retirement home taking in students to save money. Despite their differences in age, Jennifer and the older residents thrive and embark on a series of new adventures. But when Sunset Promenade is threatened with closure, cracks begin to show, and this quirky group of friends must work together to save their home.

What I Have to Say 

This combined my love of old movies with my love of books that have a different take on what's normal. I love the idea of uni students lodging in a care home with old-aged pensioners and it really highlighted the tensions that we have going on between generations at the moment. Add in some mysterious disappearance of personal items and Jennifer's love of old movies and a strong desire to reinvent herself and become Lauren Bacall and it's a wonderful book full of mystery, hijinks and people who aren't quite what they seem.

But of course Lauren Bacall, traditional femme-fatale and oh so glamorous movie star, doesn't quite fit Jennifer's actual personality and the constant strain of trying to be someone she's not inevitably gets to Jennifer and it turns into a lovely story about identity, about finding herself and working out how to bridge the gap between who she is and who she wants to be.

The story has so much more than this, but if I go into everything I loved about it, it would become one of those reviews that says more about what happens in the story than what makes it good. Just know that it has a thrilling mystery, amazing characters that not only are quirky and fun but also feel very real and sinister goings on that will make you feel like you're in an old film-noir.

I got this book because it sounded fun, but I didn't realise quite how good it would be. I absolutely loved it and I hope you do too!

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

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Children's 
Released: 27th of December 2018 

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Clue meets Riverdale in this page-turning thriller that exposes the lies five teens tell about a deadly night one year ago. 

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens each played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true. They were each so desperate for the prize, they didn’t question the odd, rather exclusive invitation until it was too late.

Now, they realize they’ve been lured together by a person bent on revenge, a person who will stop at nothing to uncover what actually happened on that deadly night, one year ago.

Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free?
Or will their lies destroy them all?

What I Have to Say 

This Lie Will Kill You gripped me right from the first page. The secrets, the lies, the mysterious murder mystery dinner party that they're invited to, which they know and the reader knows that is definitely far more sinister than the invitation would suggest. 

It was just perfect. The emotions from each of the characters, the lies and secrets that are revealed throughout the book. It kept me wanting to know more and more without leaving me too long between each snippet of information that I got bored and frustrated. 

And the story when it came out was dark and full of conflict and passion and so many twists. No one is who they seem and everything was captivating. 

Looking for a good mystery? Look no further. 

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

Saturday, 15 December 2018

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 3rd of December 2018 (Kindle only, paper release 24th of January 2019)


Bristling with tension, bitter rivalries, and toxic friendships, get ready for the most hotly-anticipated thriller of 2019.

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

What I Have to Say 

The ending ruined this book to me. The reveal of the murder. Because the author took the same way out that tons of other crime writers do to explain why this person did the things they did. So, SPOILERS FOR MOTIVE OF MURDER BUT NOT THE ACTUAL KILLER: surprise surprise, it was a personality disorder, because why else would someone kill someone? If there were more books about people with personality disorders living healthy lives without being cast as the villain every time, this wouldn't be so big of an issue. The fact is there are people living out in the world with these issues. And every time they see themselves in fictions they are the twist in a crime novel. The world is sending them a message to say that they are destined to kill someone and THAT IS NOT OKAY. 

Until that, I really liked the book. I'm really upset with how that one bit of the book ruined the rest of it for me. Because the plot was really engrossing. The characters were engaging and completely dis-likeable in the way that some plots work with dislikeable characters and the setting was beautifully written. I loved the feeling of beauty all around that was created at the start of the book and the way it changed to an isolated, desolated landscape as the storm hit. 

I wish I could recommend this book, because it really kept me reading and enjoying it for most of the book, but I know the damage it does to people with personality disorders, so I just can't. 

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

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Codename Villanelle and No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

Codename Villanelle 

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 224 
Publisher: John Murray 
Released: 26th of June 2017 

She is the perfect assassin.

A Russian orphan, saved from the death penalty for the brutal revenge she took on her gangster father's killers.

Ruthlessly trained. Given a new life. New names, new faces - whichever fits.

Her paymasters call themselves The Twelve. But she knows nothing of them. Konstantin is the man who saved her, and the one she answers to.

She is Villanelle. Without conscience. Without guilt. Without weakness.

Eve Polastri is the woman who hunts her. MI5, until one error of judgment costs her everything.

Until stopping a ruthless assassin becomes more than her job. It becomes personal.

Originally published as ebook singles: Codename Villanelle , Hollowpoint , Shanghai and Odessa. 

No Tomorrow 

Pages: 256 
Publisher: John Murray 
Released:  28th of November 2018

In a hotel room in Venice, where she's just completed a routine assassination, Villanelle receives a late-night call.

Eve Polastri has discovered that a senior MI5 officer is in the pay of the Twelve, and is about to debrief him. As Eve interrogates her subject, desperately trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, Villanelle moves in for the kill.

The duel between the two women intensifies, as does their mutual obsession, and when the action moves from the high passes of the Tyrol to the heart of Russia, Eve finally begins to unwrap the enigma of her adversary's true identity.

What I Have to Say 

I really enjoyed Killing Eve, the series on the BBC, so when I saw the books, I thought I'd give them to read. It wasn't as good as the series, the writing was a little clunky and the plot was quite long and drawn out (which is more understandable now that I know it was a series of eBooks), I think that the way that they changed it for TV was better. It did however make much more sense in the books when they went to Shanghai. I'm not sure why they changed it to Germany in the series. 

I did like having more details about the characters. Villanelle got a lot more background and detail in Codename Villanelle and it was so cool to see more about her life and the way she became an assassin. In the second book it was Nico who I loved to see more from. In series he was kind of in the background being there and getting annoyed at Eve's growing obsession with Villanelle. But in the book he was funny and quirky. He was so sweet and he had goats. It was worth reading for the antics of the goats. 

The other thing that I liked better in the book was the ending. It was so different from the series and it was far more satisfying. 

I think it was worth reading, but I was off-put by a lot of the sex and the gritty stuff that wasn't really needed. Villanelle was unecessarily crass in some scenes and it just wasn't my thing. I also felt that telling everything about Villanelle's identity in the first few paragraphs took away all the mystery and suspense. The series kept a lot of surprises so it kept you watching and guessing. The book was very lacking in this respect. 

If you loved the series though and want to see more behind the characters and the parts of their personality that had to be dropped for the series, then it's worth reading, but perhaps not if you're not into grimy, gritty crime. 

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

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 4th of October 2018 

They called us the Mercies, or sometimes the Boneless Mercies. They said we were shadows, ghosts, and if you touched our skin we dissolved into smoke ... 

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work.

Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate.

But glory comes at a price …

What I Have to Say 

For me this was Skyrim in book form. Or at least Skyrim the way I play it. Tough Nordic Girls battered into warriors by years of harsh winters and fending for themselves. April Genevieve Tucholke's writing drew me so deeply into Frey's world that it felt like I was part of the sisterhood. And it was a beautiful sisterhood. I could have read about these four girls fighting to make something of themselves beyond where their fate had led them all day. 

This for me is the perfect Feminist book. It didn't have the background of so many of the books around where women are subjugated through rape only. Books that try to empower women and show them fighting back while still reducing them to just their bodies. In The Boneless Mercies, the only mentions of rape are alluded to pleasure houses and it shows the few options there are for women without actually showing the violence that is used against them. Coming to the story at the end of the struggle. When the Mercies make the decision to fight for more was the perfect way to show the struggles of women without showing the violence. 

Every word of this book was perfect: the ending and fighting the monster, the Cut-throat-queen,the empowerment of women through the entire book. There wasn't anything I didn't like. It was beautiful and made me feel like a warrior just reading it. 

This is supposedly a standalone, but the ending certainly left it open for more. If I never get to see another story from the Mercies and this world, I will be very disappointed. 

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

Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 368 
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre 
Released: 18th of October 2018 

Campaigner, feminist, doctor, humanitarian - all words that Kumari would use to describe herself. Potential princess? Not even in the vocabulary.

But when Kumari's charity work catapults her into the limelight and brings her to the attention of Prince Benedict - playboy prince and sixth in line to the British throne - all bets are off.

Royal party boy, charming rogue, England's most eligible bachelor - Prince Benedict is all those things. Or at least he was. These days he's taking life more seriously, following in his dear mother's footsteps and focusing on charitable causes.

When he meets Kumari the attraction between them is instant. But, according to the press, Prince Benedict might just have found the most unsuitable bride.
Will love win the day?

What I Have to Say 

This was a lovely book, but another one that just didn't have enough Christmas in for me. From the cover, I expected a book filled to the seems with Christmas, but it was only the last hundred pages that really was about Christmas at the palace. If it hadn't had Christmas in the name, I wouldn't have minded so much, it was just that my expectations were so different. 

I also think the way that they did the flashback for the main content of the story didn't really work for me. It didn't leave much suspense as to whether they'd end up together or what would happen in their relationship. 

I loved Kumari's character though. I loved how focused on charity she was, how brazen she was. How she wouldn't take no for an answer for a lot of the time, despite the fact that it could get her and the whole royal family in trouble. 

The romance may have fallen a little flat for me, but Kumari made up for everything. I loved her so much. 

My thanks go to Bonnier for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Evie's War by Holly Webb

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 300
Publisher: Scholastic 
Released: 4th of October 2018 

In the seaside town of Whitby, when the United Kingdom is on the cusp of World War One, Evie and her family are touched by tragedy when Evie's younger brother Alexander dies unexpectedly.

As Evie's mother and father struggle in their own ways to come to terms with their loss, Evie's older brother David distracts himself with the ever-growing threat of war and Evie and her sister Kitty find ways to keep their spirits up.

But when the threat of war turns into reality and David enlists in the army, Evie's mother is truly heartbroken. And as the family does their best to contribute to the war effort, they also struggle with the sacrifices each of them are forced to make.

Based on the real-life bombing of Whitby in 1914, this beautiful, powerful and important read by Holly Webb is devastating but also wonderfully uplifting

What I Have to Say 

This was everything that I wanted from Skylark's War but didn't get. I loved setting, the relationship between the family members, the angle of loss that was clear from the very start of the book. I loved the way that Evie and her sister Kitty contributed to the war effort (especially the horse blanket) and I loved love loved the dogs. 

I've never thought about dogs during wartime, as so as not to spoil parts of the books, I won't say too much now, but the dogs were definitely my favourite part of the book. It can be hard to find decent representations of dogs in fiction sometimes, but Max and Brandy were perfect. Max was definitely my favourite, he was just written so perfectly. 

The backdrop of Whitby was a very interesting one. I've never read a book set in one of the seaside towns during wartime before. The way that the war touched them in such a massive way, with the bombing of Whitby and the ship really brought home the danger of the war in ways that home front war books often doesn't. 

This was such a sad, dramatic story and was written in an uplifting way. It's a hard balance to write about the subject matter in a way that treats it serious and puts across the horrors of war while also leaving the reader feeling uplifted.

If, like me, Skylark's War left you a little wanting or you just want to see more of the home-front during WW1, I would definitely recommend Evie's War. 

My thanks go to Scholastic for providing me with this copy for review. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Frostfire by Jamie Smith

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House 
Released: 1st of November 2018 

Chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver - a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home - Sabira embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home. In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain - but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths ...

What I Have to Say 

This took me a little while to get into, but I really loved it by the end. The scenic background of the book made it stand out compared to other books I've read lately. The description of the mountain and the vast scale of it really come across in the writing. You can almost feel the cold of it chilling you to your bone. It really brought home the situation that Sabira is in, stuck on the moutain, alone (mostly) and having to rely on all of her wits and those of the frostliver just to survive. 

Everything beyond that fitted in perfectly. The conflict between the two societies worked really well and the way that it played into the main story as well as the backstory of Sabira's brother and his own attempts to get a frostsliver were perfectly entwined with with the story. 

If I had one complaint, it's that the frostsliver didn't have a name. It had a nicely defined personality but I really think that it would have been given a name at some point. 

My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me with this copy for review.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Shadow of the Fox Blog Tour: Guest Post by Julie Kagawa

I am so happy to be part of the Shadow of the Fox blog tour. It is truly an honour to host Julie Kagawa, as she has been one of my favourite authors for so long. 

I also was able to request a piece that meant a lot to me, as I'm so fascinated by language, especially Japanese. So I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. 

The Language of Shadow of the Fox 

Language was very important to me while writing Shadow of the Fox, especially the specific meaning of certain names.  For example, Yumeko, the kitsune protagonist of the story, has a very specific name. Yume is 'dream' in Japanese, so her name translates to dream child or child of dreams.  Tatsumi's demon possessed sword Kamigoroshi literally means 'godslayer,' and his family name  Kage (pronounced 'kah geh' not 'cage') is Japanese for 'shadow.'

Similarly, the families of Iwagoto are all named after the elements. The four Great Clans are the Hino, Mizu, Kaze and Tsuchi: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth.  The minor clans make up the Tsuki, Sora and Kage: Moon, Sky and Shadow, while the Imperial family is the Taiyo, the Sun clan.  The clans often reflect their families' element, with members of the Fire clan being seen as impulsive and hot tempered, the Earth clan as stubborn and immovable, and the Shadow clan as secretive and mysterious.

Even the names of the cities and buildings are important.  Chochin Machi, a small town that Yumeko and Tatsumi come across in their travels, means 'Lantern Town,' and is strung with thousands of red paper lanterns that light up the night.  The Shadow clan's home castle is Hakumei-jo, which means Twilight castle.  The Hayate shrine in the Wind district of the Imperial city means 'gale.' From the people to the towns to the forests and buildings, almost every named thing has a hidden meaning. And while most of them are not in the glossary at the back of the book, I took great care in all the names that went into Shadow of the Fox.  

Shadow of the Fox is available from any good book shop or online retailers. For my review of the book, go here

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 1st of November 2018 

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

What I Have to Say 

This is a book of thirty stories but I could have read a hundred. I loved the titles and how witty it all was. I loved the characters and how every story was a twist on reality. It embraces the absurd, bringing it together with emotions grounded in reality to make a beautiful story that's powerful and feminist and so fun to read. 

The Woman Who Wore Pink was my favourite. It was such a hilarious look on the gender construct and a look at how society would be if these concepts of gender policing were taken to an extreme, with gender police (dressed in pink and blue, obviously) were there to patrol to make sure each gender is staying in their respective lanes: writing in the right colour pen, drinking from the correct colour cup and using the bathroom assigned to them based on the shape of their private parts. It serves to highlight some of the problems surrounding gender expectations in our society by showing it in such an over-exaggerated extreme. 

The other stories ranged between humour and heartbreaking, but all of them had an underlying message of female power and strength. A feminist must read. 

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

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 600
Publisher: Mantle 
Released: 20th of September 2018 

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

What I Have to Say 

Kate Morton is a master of creating beautiful places. As much as many of the characters fell in love with Birchwood Manner, it was so easy to fall in love with it as the reader. I'm not a very visual reader, but even so, it's easy to imagine coming out of the trees and seeing the house appear, the many chimneys, the beautiful gardens with the roses and the Japanese maple, tended to nicely or not depending on the time period, and of course the light shining out from the attic window, welcoming you into the safety of the house. These images are so memorable and they feel so real.

I loved the characters, each different voice telling a different part of the story from a different time, part of the house's history and the secrets, both when they're happening an when they're being revealed. It was so fascinating to see each character finding out different secrets and keeping them hidden in various places for Elodie to have to piece together at the end.

My favourite voice was naturally Birdy's. She interwoven so deeply into the house and the story about it, existing timelessly, both outside of the narrative watching what happened and so deeply interwoven with every secret and every story. I think the way she talked about it all and the fairy story that made up the history of the house and how it was passed from person to person were my favourite parts of the novel.

This is the second book of Kate Morton's that I've read and I've been captured and transported by every word of each. They're more than a mystery story, they are a perfect escape from life and into a dark, twisting tale that will leave you guessing.

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: 8th of November 2018 

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy. 

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku.

What I Have to Say 

This is definitely one of my new favourite books. Set in a world where yōkai live alongside humans, mistrusted and feared so much that they are enslaved, their powers bond by metal collars, it was so interesting to see the tensions between them and the ways that the different yōkai were fighting back against the system. 

I loved Mari. She was a beautiful character with so much strength in some ways and so much vulnerability in others. I loved that she struggled with her yōkai abilities and how she was so kind and different from the rest of the women in Tsuma. It was a really great take on the Crane Wife and showed the strength of women taking power back from the men who would enslave them. 

I loved it all. From the competition between the girls in the season rooms to the range of characters and their interactions in and out of the palace to the perfect ending, satisfying and compelling right to the last page. I loved the romance between Mari and Taro and was heartbroken by the way things changed over the course of the novel. 

There wasn't a character in this book that I didn't love (or love to hate) and I adored the little snips of stories about the gods throughout the book. This is definitely a book that any fantasy lover should pick up. 

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

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Blog Tour: An Excerpt from The Curious Case by Julia Golding

Happy Sunday, I'm here to share with you an excerpt from The Curious Crime, a thrilling new middle grade series from award-winning children's author, Julia Golding. The series looks into an alternative timeline in the Victorian era, picturing a world where women are banned from practising science and religion of any kind is outlawed. 

Released on the 7th of November, this fantastic new series is the perfect way to get children to look at science and the rights of minorities in a new way while following Ree and Henri and their menagerie of animal friends on their adventures, for a few synopsis click here!

Chapter One: 

 Of Dodos and Men 

There was a creature trapped in the rock.

Ree ran her fingers over the capital stone, feeling for the shape that lay just under the surface. A fin like a shark. Spindly hind legs like a frog. A beast that inhabited two worlds, walking out of the water to colonize land. Her desire to release it burned in her chest as she took up her chisel. She loved this moment just before she began to carve her picture. 

But what were the eyes like? The museum fossils gave no clues. Perched on the scaffolding, Ree looked beneath her at the display case covered with a sheet. Scuffing at a corner with the toe of her boot, she pushed the cotton aside. Exactly as she remembered, the stuffed turtle gazed mournfully up at her. Eyes like that would be perfect for the creature she was carving, she thought, imagining it leaving the tropical sea for the last time.

The dodo perched on the scaffold next to Ree croaked and deposited a dropping on the planks. “Philoponus, behave,” murmured Ree, picking up her mallet, “or do I have to put you back in your pen?”

Her friend, the last known of the species, made a deep grumble before he pecked up a fragment of stone she had already chiselled off. He hated it when she stopped paying full attention to him and concentrated on her craft. “Are you sure you should be eating that?” She asked absent-mindedly. Phil stretched his neck, his long broad beak with its hooked end pointing at the vaulted glass ceiling. He shook himself. Downy grey feather flew. 

Ree sneezed. “Idiotic overgrown pigeon. Look, I’ve got to work and you know it.” Setting the wooden handle of the chisel in her palm, she raised the mallet and gave a tap on the well-worn end. The blade cut into the sandstone, releasing a trickle of dust. Her fingertips caressed the gritty surface, wiping it clean. Her father had taught her that each block she worked already had its own ideas about what it should become. She had to ease the picture out, not force it against its will.

The boards creaked as her father, the foreman of the works, approached. A stocky man, nose bent on the bridge, he moved with the even pace of one who knew things should not be rushed. His knees clicked as he crouched beside his daughter.

“How is your project coming along, Ree?” 

She took a swig from her water bottle to clear her throat. “Good, Da. I’ve decided to do the animals moving out of the water onto land – you know, like the guides tell visitors?”

“That’s grand.” James Altamira scratched Philoponus’ neck, causing the bird to shiver with delight and lean heavily on the chief stonemason. The dodo really was the most affectionate, if attention-seeking, creature. “But keep your hat on right and tight, darlin’. Lord John and the trustees are making a surprise inspection sometime this week.” 

With a sigh, Ree picked up her cap and pulled it down over her ears, tucking her plaits inside. She wanted to cut her hair short but her father insisted she keep it long, ready for the day when she would have to go back to wearing women’s clothes. It was a dickens of a pain though because the dodo thought it was funny to pluck off the cap when she least expected. The dangerous joke had grown very tired. She had given up wearing the cap this morning, trusting that her high position would keep her hidden. 

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned Phil, recognising the look in his pale eyes, black pupils dilated. Most people would mistake the expression as wide-eyed innocence. She knew it to be mischief. “You’ll get me into hot water.”

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 240
Publisher: Puffin
Released: 4th of October 2018 

The original, magical story with a brand new cover from Quentin Blake! 

October 2018 marks 30 years since Matilda was published! This brand new jacket comes with a never-before-seen illustration of Matilda as the Chief Executive of the British Library - one of the careers that Quentin Blake himself has imagined that Matilda might have at 30 years old.

Matilda Wormwood
A remarkable child with a magical mind.

Mr and Mrs Wormwood
Matilda's parents - liars, swindlers and TV addicts.

Miss Trunchbull
Headmistress of Crunchem Hall and the world's biggest bully.

Bruce Bogtrotter
Chocolate-cake-eating extraordinaire!

These are just some of the unforgettable characters from this classic story by the world's number one storyteller - now with a brand-new cover design from Quentin Blake to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the publication of Matilda.

What I Have to Say 

I grew up as a book loving child in a house full of books. Matilda was one of my favourite movies. I must have watched it hundreds of times over the year. So it seems crazy to me that up until now I hadn't actually read the original book! I have no idea why I never read it, I think it's a book I would have adored as a child. 

Unpopular opinion time: I never really got along with Roald Dahl. I read a lot of the books but there were only a couple that I actually liked and if I'm honest, even those I liked the movies more than the books. I just find them a bit gross. The descriptions of a lot of the characters, especially the villains, the way that Dahl as the narrator talks about the kids... Reading this as an adult, made the bits that I didn't like really clear to me. Especially as I could compare the bits I really enjoyed about Matilda to the bits  I really didn't like about the other books. Such as the Twits, which I really hated and is mostly comprised of the gross grotty bits.

Aside from my dislike of Roald Dahl, I really did enjoy reading this book. Despite how I feel about it, Dahl is a massive part of my childhood and it really took me back to that and to the movie that I really loved. It was nice to see the new illustrated cover by Quentin Blake (be sure to check out the other covers that have been released for the 30th anniversary) and it's so great to finally know that I've read this book and what I've thought about it. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for providing me with this copy for review. 


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Spooky Reads for Halloween!

If you've been a regular reader of this blog for a while, you might know that I'm a complete wuss when it comes to scary stuff. Books are easier for me than movies which tend to give me sleepless nights because I can't get the imagines out of my head, but some books still scare me so much.

That said, there are some scary books that I've really loved, so here are a few of the ones I'd recommend.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co.) by Jonathon Stroud 

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood and Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

Some of these books have scared the life out of me and left me reading until daylight because I'm scared to turn the lights off, others have been milder, but it's still a series I really enjoy. The characters and plots are worth being so scared and yeah okay, maybe I enjoy it just a little. 

I tend to find these books alternate with the first, third ect. being super scary but the second, fourth ect. being a lot milder. I'm not sure if this is deliberate or if it has just happened to land that way, but for me it's helps me feel prepared. I prefer the milder ones, but they're all fantastic. 

The Name of the Star (Shades of London) by Maureen Johnson 

Jack the Ripper is back, and he's coming for Rory next....

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him - the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target...unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

I read these so long ago now, it's high time for a reread! I didn't find these books particularly scary. They were more fantasy/ adventure to me. But there's ghosts so they totally count.

The Name of the Star was my favourite, mostly because of Jack the Ripper. I loved to see an American take on England though. It was interesting to see my country and the boarding school experience through a different perspective. Maureen really did her research well though and has been over here a lot so I would say they're pretty accurate in terms of Britishness.

As I Descended by Robin Talley

“Something wicked this way comes.”

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. 

This one frightened me a lot. I read it during the day so I luckily was able to get the stuff out of my head before I had to go to bed, but there were some really creepy scenes. 

This a retelling of Macbeth but set in an elite boarding school and Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both girls. It's lesbian Macbeth! I loved it so much: it was an amazing retelling and knowing the original play fairly well made me really enjoy seeing the way it was adapted to the setting and different versions of the characters. 

So that's just three of my top spooky reads.  Have you read them? Do you want to? What are your favourite books when you're in the mood for something a little creepy? Let me know in the comments! 

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 374 
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: 6th of November 2018 

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel.

But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

Trigger Warnings: Kidnap, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, rape, animal death.

What I Have to Say 

I have been looking forward to this book ever since I heard about it, which was a very long time ago. Every step in between from seeing the cover to finally getting hold of a copy at YALC this year has added to the excitement. It was so, so amazing to read it after all this time. I'm so glad it was good, because with that amount of hype it would have been a huge letdown! But it lived up to my excitement and now I'm desperate for the sequel. 

So lets talk about girls. This book is LGBT and the girl that Lei falls in love with is my new crush. A beautiful, bad-ass girl with hidden secrets that just make me love her more. The LGBT representation in YA has been so much more geared towards male pairings that it's just so amazing for me to have such a beautiful fantasy book that has two girls who are madly in love at it's centre. 

The world building was beautiful. Gorgeous and inspired and so wonderful to see so many of the different parts of Asia represented in the girls. I hope we'll get to see more of the world in the next book. I could do a whole paragraph on the world-building, but the girls are at the heart of this novel and I've only had time to talk about two of them! Every one of the girls is wonderful. I loved all of them. It was interesting because I couldn't help but love each character for the way they affected me, but at the same time I found myself hating a couple of them because of their actions.  I am fully invested in all of them though. I want to see them reach their full potential and get out of the horrible position they're in!

I really cannot wait to find out what happens next. These girls have far from reached their full potential, because like the title says, they may be paper, but at their hearts they are fire.

My eternal gratitude goes to Hodderscape for having ARCS on their stall at YALC. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272 
Publisher: Agora Books 
Released: 13th of September 2018 

Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn't you want to know about the other half? 

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

Trigger Warnings: Domestic abuse, some child abuse, animal death, stalking

What I Have to Say 

This book was pretty good if a bit predictable in a lot of ways. I think by the end there wasn't much that I actually hadn't guessed. But I really liked the characters and the plot was compelling. Sometimes I do find it nice to have a mystery story when I guess a lot of it. It makes me feel clever. Mostly though, this was just a nice relaxing read. It was a good story that I didn't have to work too hard to understand.

I liked Robyn a lot as a character. The changes between her sections when she's older and when she's younger are really well defined. It's easy within seconds of starting a chapter to know which ones are which. (They were also alternating so it's really not hard to keep track, but my concentration has been really bad this week and a couple of times I forgot and read a few sentences before I remembered). It's really great to see two different voices for the same person that have distinct differences but without any doubt that it's the same person. 

The other characters were good as well. The theme of hidden abuse running through the whole story was perfectly done. The way that it was all connected together worked really well and highlighted how bad spousal abuse can be for many women and children stuck in terrible circumstances. 

 3.5 stars

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

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: HQ Young Adult 
Released: 1st of November 2018 

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself. 

What I Have to Say 

This was basically an anime with the unique style and twists I've come to know and love from Julie Kagawa. Though without the actual animation bit, naturally. Kagawa has taken some of the stereotyped characters from Japanese anime and given them her own touch, managing to keep the characters that anime fans know while giving them a touch that is so specific to Kagawa's writing.

This book is everything I've ever wanted. Kagawa has brought in so many myths and creatures from Japan and brought them to life in a beautiful and vivid world. I love the epic quest style story and the twists and turns that used to create this story. It's so amazing how a simple fantasy structure can be so revitalised with a different type of mythology to draw from for inspiration. 

Yumeko is the sweetest. I love her so much. From the first page, I was drawn into her character, how she had the trickster side of the fox but there was also a side of her that was a sweet kind caring human girl that peeked out through her actions at some points during the book. I also love the fact that her strength is shown so much through tactics and tricks rather than outright fighting. It's become a bit of a problem with YA that all of the supposedly "strong" female characters are strong just because they can fight. It's great to see someone who's definitely a strong female character but who relies more on illusions and tricks as well as her knack for persuasion to get what she wants. 

Tatsumi is great as well, though maybe a little predictable that he's falling into a romance with Yumeko. And Okame! So many sarcastic comments about being a ronin (disgraced samurai) and his drinking and general roguish nature. I laughed out loud so much at some of the jokes in these books, especially some of Okame and Yumeko's lines. 

This was one of those books that I almost didn't want to pick up each day because it meant I was closer and closer to finishing it and having no more to read. I can't wait for the sequel. 

My thanks go to HQ for providing me with this copy for review. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

My Reading Companions

It's Sunday! Hope you're all having a nice lazy day with lots of time for reading. I thought this would be a nice time to do a little post about my pets. Everyone wants pictures of cute pets right! So allow me to introduce my reading companions and what they add to my reading experience (gotta keep it book related somehow right?)

Meet Hera (left) and Jess (right), two Cocker Spaniels who live with me and my family. We've had them for quite a while now, re-homing them both when they were puppies.

Hera is the oldest, we got her in 2009 and she's been my baby ever since. She hangs out curls up with me on the couch, sleeps in my bed and follows me out the room in order to look over me when I'm away from the rest of the family. My favourite thing is reading in bed with her nestled up with me under the covers. You don't know comfort until you've had a dog snuggled against you as a hot water bottle.

Jess is less good at being a reading companion, despite her being the one pictured snuggling with me in the picture at the top of the page (it's a very posed picture and Hera won't snuggle on command). One of my strongest memories of her as a puppy was trying to read Teri Terry's The Book of Lies on my kindle while I was watching over her. She kept licking the screen and losing my place by turning the pages. It wasn't so funny at the time but now it's a good memory. Nowadays though, she does sometimes come settle in the basket I have for them in my room, so she has become better at allowing me time to read as she's grown up.

Neither of them have ever destroyed a book. Hera did have a run in with one when she was a puppy, but she didn't harm it and luckily it was only one particular book she wanted. Jess will steal everything from forks to wet wipes, phones to make up brushes, but luckily books have never held any fascination for her so they're both completely safe in our house full of books!

For me, my dogs are truly the best company when it comes to reading I love having my dogs with me when I'm reading and just the sound of their breathing helps me relax so much. I can't imagine what my life would be like without dogs.

Do you have any stories about reading with pets? Or just stories about pets? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! 

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 336 
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 
Released: 18th of October 2018 

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. 

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it. 

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

Trigger Warnings: Animal Death, rehab, hoarding, sacrificial style murder 

What I Have to Say 

This book was intense. I loved everything about it from the prologue to that ending (that ending! Okay I'm also a little furious about that ending. But it was completely perfect.) The story was so intriguing, knowing virtually nothing about the suspects except who didn't do it (though maybe they did and it's all just a ruse to make you sure that it's not them?). 

I think seeing how the people who have been accused or arrested, but not convicted of a crime, are treated is a new favourite thing to read about in crime novels. It's so awful how people just assume that person is guilty from the moment they're arrested, despite the mistakes that police can make and it's such an interesting thing to show. These two girls have gone through so much harassment and worse at the hands of a community that is so sure that they're guilty; the way they've suffered and found their own ways of escape for five years, it's emotional but so fascinating to read.  It just makes it so interesting to see a story start from there and work through them trying to prove their innocence. 

I loved the excerpts of Lovelorn and the fanfiction that the girls wrote as well. Especially as it was so integral to the plot. It was great hunting for details in every excerpt to try and work out whether it was important. The only thing I'd say that was not so great about this book was how gory some of it was. 

Honestly, if you're still unsure about whether to read this book, read the prologue. It left me breathless with excitement for the rest of the book. 

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