Friday, 13 September 2019

A Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith Barton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 11th of July 2019 

How can I hold myself together, when everything around me is falling apart? 

Neena's always been a good girl - great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she's been slowly falling apart - and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous.

As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena's grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point.

But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.

What I Have to Say 

A great new novel to add to the ranks of excellent depictions of mental health in YA. This story explores grief and how much it can affect your mind. It shows Neena's spiral into complete breakdown in a slow gradual way, building up symptoms and issues, going unnoticed by those around her until it's too late. 

I love how deeply it delves into how the mind can trick you. How it can tell you things that you know can't be true, but still you believe them. The way Neena got so utterly convinced that her brother was helping her finish her paintings, the way that they were better when she woke up to them finished.

It was good to see a mental health book that really highlights the taboos surrounding mental health and discussion of it. The way Neena's mother doesn't leave the house but won't talk about it, pretending that everything is normal. The way she treats Neena's medication, hiding them away and treating them like a dirty little secret that she shouldn't tell people around. 

I also loved the cultural aspects. The descriptions of food made my mouth water! 

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

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: HQ Young Adult 
Released: 25th of June 2019 

Yumeko the shapeshifter had one task: take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple and prevent the summoning of the great Kami Dragon. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, has escaped and possessed the samurai she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with Genno, the Master of Demons, to break his curse and set himself free. But Genno wishes to overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness. To do that he needs only one thing, the scroll Yumeko is hiding. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross again the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.


What I Have to Say 

I fell back into this world so quickly that it was like coming home. Sometimes it's so hard to remember what characters are doing and who they are when you've had a year between books, but Kagawa has a knack of reminding you everything without making it feel like an info-dump. You just get back into a beautiful setting with fantastic characters. 

I loved seeing how much Yumeko grew in this book. It felt for a start like Kagawa was falling back into old patterns of having female characters being protected by the males because they have no fighting skills, but instead what we saw was Yumeko going through a journey of learning how illusion can be used to fight and do damage. She became a complete badass and I can't wait to see more of her fox magic, especially because it's such a unique form of fighting that isn't utilised much in books. 

I just love to get lost in Kagawa's writing so much. I love this setting and these characters. I can't wait for the third book. 

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

Sunday, 11 August 2019

We are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 
Released: 4th April 2019 

In a sealed-off city, it begins with a hunt. A young woman, Lena, running for her life, convicted of being a mage and sentenced to death. Her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear - those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. She knows only too well how the people of Duke's Forest loathe magic. Years ago she escaped before her powers were discovered. But now she won't hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud unites them. It descends over the dukedom and devastates much in its wake. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine ... Only Lena and Constance hold the key to destroying the spell. Though neither of them realise it, they need each other. They are the blood and they have the thunder within. 

What I Have to Say 

A fantastic new addition to the UKYA fantasy scene, Kesia Lupo brings in a fascinating new world full of prejudice, magic and elaborate plots. The different prejudices come forth right from the start where we meet Lena, banished to the tombs to tend to the dead out of sight of the general population. 

The intricacies of the fear and prejudices that have been built up to surround Duke's Forest and the way that they are used to keep the people under control, living in a state of fear of the storm and sickness that plague their land. 

All is not what it seems in Duke's Forest though and the twists and turns that surrounded it all were completely unexpected, but in such a skillfully crafted way that when everything slots into place and you finally see the full picture, it all makes perfect sense. 

I'm hoping to see more from this world, especially the places outside of Duke's Forest and the magic system they have in place. 

I can't wait to see more from Lupo in the future. 

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

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 374 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 
Released: 1st of July 2019 

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship...

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

TW: Mentions of Suicide/ finding someone post suicide, disability post suicide, pregnancy 

What I Have to Say 

This was such an interesting read, going deep into the idea of morality and the shades of grey that go with it. It follows the path of two teenagers, one who made a mistake and cheated on her SAT exam and another who has to deal with his father having cheated a lot of people out of a lot of money. It shows how the community sees these people and how they can recover from what happened. There's also the story of Meagan's sister who has to deal with a pregnancy and the fall out from that/ the power that the father of the child has over her. 

It also looks into the Robin Hood-esque concept of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. It debates whether stealing to help your friends buy food or expensive shoes that their mother needs for her job is okay if the people who have the money won't notice. It really looks deep into the issue and the opposing sides of the argument. 

It was most interesting to see Rob's side of things, with his father having been the one to do the crimes, but Rob having to suffer through the repercussions. Having lost all his families money, all his friends and having to help look after his father after the failed suicide attempt. It was really interesting to so how much Rob was seen as the villain by his classmates when it was his father who had done the crimes. 

A great read with deep complex issues. 

My thanks go to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 355
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 
Released: 11th of June 2019 

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

It's like she hasn't found her people ...

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

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

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

TW: Friendship endings, mental health, panic attacks

What I Have to Say 

THIS IS THE BOOK THAT HAS BEEN MISSING FROM EVERY BOOK LOVERS SHELF! Especially for contemporary fans. Lucy Powrie has written a book lovers dream, filled with references to so many of my favourite books! Every time a title of a book I loved was name dropped, I felt a rush of excitement!! It especially feature a lot of UKYA books, which Powrie has always been a big supporter of, which I found so great because it's always nice to get some good British culture in books that I can relate too! 

As a former resident of Bath, I loved the bits where they were in Bath. It's just always so fun to see familiar places in books. And though there were some very important places missed out (Sally Lunn's Buns? THE JANE AUSTEN CENTRE!!!) it was written so well that I can definitely forgive Powrie for her oversights. I very much loved the scene set in Topping's Bookshop as that is a lovely place to shop for books! 

The issues tackled in the book were so important and well written as well. Obviously, I want to spend this whole post fangirling about books, but it was so good to see Powrie tackle the break down of a friendship and the after effects of that kind of life event and how it can haunt you and follow you as you try to make new friends. 

This book has so many things going for it. I can't sing it's praises enough.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder Children's Books for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 342
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: 7th of March 2019

With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia Beaureguard, the former favorite Belle, must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia's imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camille, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen.

With the help of an underground resistance movement called the Iron Ladies--a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely--and the backing of alternative newspaper the Spider's Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and attempt to restore peace to Orléans. But enemies lurk in the most unexpected places, forcing Camille to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice to save her people.

What I Have to Say 

I loved the Belle so much, so I was really excited for this one! It was so easy to sink back into the world of Belles and Beauty work where everything is so defined by how you look. The writing is so evocative and I just love how Clayton shows so many different definitions of beauty in her books. She shows people picking out any skin colour or eye shape even while showing the dark side of this obsession with beauty and pushing the limits of what's possible. 

Everlasting Rose really upped the stakes for Camille and the other fugitive Belles. They really did deep into how much the Belle system is being abused and Sophia tightening her grips on the society. Sophia is such a frightening character. She shows the abuse and addiction of both the thrill of power and of the beauty work that the Belles do. 

I have so many questions about the world. I want to know more about the Iron Ladies and the Gris. I feel like there are more lies to be uncovered and so much more to tell about the world. I look forward to seeing what comes next. 

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Blog Tour: Peril on Point: Writing What You Know with Helen Lipscombe

Today we are lucky enough to have with us the lovely Helen Lipscombe, author of the new middle-grade spy series, to hit the scene: Peril on Point, to talk about the ultimate piece of writing advice! 

On Writing What You Know 

When I tell people I’ve written a children’s book about ballet and spies, the first question they ask is, are you a dancer? (Luckily, they never ask, are you a spy? Because then obviously I’d have to kill them).

In fact, far from writing what I know (which is usually the first piece of advice you hear as a newbie writer), I found myself writing about something I didn’t. It was fun dreaming up impossible spy gadgets and evil ballet mistresses, but I was anxious. I wasn’t being authentic.

The truth is my ballet career went down a plug hole – quite literally – age six, but that’s another story. So what did I know about ballet?

I knew it was tough. It was technical. It had a language all of its own. Taking on the subject as a non-dancer, I felt like an imposter. I began to read books with impossibly beautiful photographs, articles on the shoemakers’ craft. I attended adult ballet classes, a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House. I went to see Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. I watched films on tutus, on ballet shoes, on rehearsals – all part of the Royal Ballet’s excellent online resource.

I still felt like an imposter.

It’s no surprise that I didn’t know much about spies either. It’s not easy to research secret agents – they’re, well, secret. My knowledge extended to James Bond movies circa 1979, reading my dad’s library books as a child, and the books my sons loved by Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore. I turned to autobiographies, journalistic accounts, stories about the incredible female spies of the second world war.

It was only when I’d finished my second draft and started thinking about the central themes in Peril En Pointe, I realised that I did know about some things – school, friends, bullies, family, fear, love – that feeling of never being good enough. Maybe if I could convey how Milly felt when she danced – the fear and excitement of being a spy – I could still make my story work?

I also had other experiences I could draw on that related to my story.

I’d lived in London.

Growing up, my grandmother and aunties all performed in the local theatre.

Who hasn’t experienced teachers who have favourites; those kids who always get to play Mary in the school nativity?

I thought back to some of my friends at school; sensitive boys, sometimes eccentric, who despite the tropes, were often best friends with the confident sporty types who got away
with everything. And I recalled an old friend who’d put me up in Singapore for six months. She was kind. She was loyal. She was tiny. She was fierce.

And even though it wasn’t consciously done, a little bit of me is in Milly. We both suffer from imposter syndrome. We both rely on our friends. We both love our mums.

My anxiety began to subside. Perhaps I’d been writing what I knew all along?

PERIL EN POINTE by Helen Lipscombe is out now in paperback 
(£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at and follow Helen on twitter @Helen_Lipscombe

Want to follow along with the tour? Here are the hosts for the rest of the stops! 

Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272 
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks 
Released: 21st of May 2019 

This is the second title in a paperback original series about a girl whose classic literary crushes manifest in real life, this time told from Rory Campbell’s point of view and inspired by the timeless classic Little Women. Rory likes Toby, but Toby likes Rory’s sister Merrilee, even though Merrilee is already dating Toby’s friend Fielding—and it’s all about to get even more complicated at Reginald R. Hero High . . . where our leading ladies’ romantic fantasies come true, often with surprising consequences. Perfect for younger readers of YA or older readers of middle grade, this squeaky-clean series is sure to charm any reader who’s ever had a book boyfriend of her own.


What I Have to Say 

I adored Merrilee's tale in A Date with Darcy and I've been excited ever since to see what will happen with Rory and Little Women. It was really great to see more of Rory, especially a new side of Rory. I don't remember much of her in A Date With Darcy other than her role as Lydia in the party scene with Merrilee's Romeo, but what was great about this book was that that we didn't just see more of Rory. We saw her side of her relationship with Merrilee. We saw her as the prickly little sister and now we get to see Merrilee as the older sister who keeps leaving poor Rory out of things. We see why Rory sarcastic and bitchy to Merrilee. We see the defences she's built up in response to the very close relationship between Merrilee and Lily. 

It broke my heart though. Merrilee's story came with enthusiasm and a love of books and a boy who you know she's misjudging from the start. Rory's story comes with a lot of loneliness and longing and a constant of anxiety about how they're going to do the bit in Little Women with Beth. I fell in love with Rory so much in this book and I wanted to cry at everything that went wrong for her. 

This book had everything. Romantic gestures, strong emotions and even references the Magic School Bus! But I do have two parts that I had problems with. The first was that I felt that Toby switched his attention from Merrilee to Rory a little too quickly. Especially considering we all knew that it was coming, not just from the plot of little woman, but because the other characters made no secret of the fact that they knew it too, I feel like we could have had a lot more little things to show the feelings that he had for Rory that he wasn't noticing because of his feelings for Merrilee. 

The second was that it spoilt the Great Gatsby for me!! I signed up for this book to read about Little Women, I wasn't expecting to get a book I hadn't read ruined for me in the process. Though I can forgive it, because it sounds like it's not something I need to read anyway. 

Looking forward to see what's more to come in this world where life imitates art! 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Amulet Paperbacks for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Switch Up by Katy Cannon

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Stripes Publishing 
Released: 13th of June 2019 

Drama queen
Fashion guru
Looks like Alice

Allergic to fashion
Looks like Willa

LAX Departure Lounge. Two girls board the same flight to London as complete strangers. When the plane touches down, it’s the beginning of the craziest plan ever. Can Willa and Alice really swap lives for the summer?
Things are going to get complicated...

The first in a fun new series, this summer read is The Parent Trap meets Freaky Friday and is perfect for fans of GEEK GIRL and SUPER AWKWARD. 

What I Have to Say 

This might be a new favourite series! I loved the girls so much, how different Alice and Willa were but also the way that became friends so quickly. They have nothing in common except a 
very similar appearance and the fact that they're so desperate to get away from their current plans for the summer, but by switching summers and keeping in contact in order to keep up the ruse, they become proper friends. 

I loved the way it changed the girls too. It pushed them both out of their comfort zones and made them do things differently to the way they have always done. With Alice it's an obvious change. To pretend to be Willa she has to be more outgoing and has to dress completely differently. For Willa, she has to contain her enthusiasm more and think about the people around her more. It was so interesting to see how this effects their personalities as they change and grow over the course of the book. 

Learning it's a sequel is interesting. I don't know where they have to go now, but I'm sure Cannon will come up with more adventures for them. I just hope they involve more hijinks and pretending to be one another! 

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

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 384
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released:  2nd May 2019 

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.

After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex - led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel.

While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals - warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology - the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society - Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance - is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself. 

What I Have to Say 

Toxic friendships, peer pressure and bad girls, taken to the very extreme. Dabbling with drugs to be part of the popular crowd is something, but witchcraft and murder? This makes it so much more exciting. I loved how it was a book about friendships and trying to fit in while also being a book about murder and summoning ancient beings of vengeance at the same time. 

I loved how awful Robyn was. How toxic she was and how she just kept pushing the girls further and further into witchcraft and worse. I liked the relationship between all four girls to be honest. But Robyn's interactions with each of the girls was the most interesting. 

The only problem I really have with this isn't really a problem at all. I'd like a good witch book about nice witchcraft and real Wicca, but this wasn't it. It was a great book regardless and I'm really happy about how good it was. 

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

Friday, 31 May 2019

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Head of Zeus 
Released: 11th of April 2019 

1906: A large manor house, Wake's End, sits on the edge of a bleak Fen, just outside the town of Wakenhyrst. It is the home of Edmund Stearn and his family – a historian, scholar and land-owner, he's an upstanding member of the local community. But all is not well at Wake's End. Edmund dominates his family tyrannically, in particular daughter Maud. When Maud's mother dies in childbirth and she's left alone with her strict, disciplinarian father, Maud's isolation drives her to her father's study, where she happens upon his diary.

During a walk through the local church yard, Edmund spots an eye in the undergrowth. His terror is only briefly abated when he discovers its actually a painting, a 'doom', taken from the church. It's horrifying in its depiction of hell, and Edmund wants nothing more to do with it despite his historical significance. But the doom keeps returning to his mind. The stench of the Fen permeates the house, even with the windows closed. And when he lies awake at night, he hears a scratching sound – like claws on the wooden floor...

Wakenhyrst is a terrifying ghost story, an atmospheric slice of gothic, a brilliant exploration of the boundaries between the real and the supernatural, and a descent into the mind of a psychopath. 

What I Have to Say 

This book was everything I wanted it to be. It's a great mystery, full of obsession, madness, demons and all things creepy. Paver is a master at creating an atmosphere that pulls you completely into the scene and keeps you there in suspense, unable to put the book down. 

This book really delves into the dark sides of Christianity. It shows the madness and religious fervour that can be brought on by those who would use it as a form of control, but it also explores the nature of questioning the concept of Christianity. Whilst escaping from the control of her father and his version of religion, she also questions the mortality of it all. The idea that everyone is born in sin and have to redeem themselves. I really liked to see all her thoughts and explorations while escaping from the strict rules of her father's household. 

It was really interesting to see the study of the medieval fixation on the afterlife, the fixation on the punishment and demons in hell rather than the bright happy reward of heaven. This really is a fantastic look at the history of Christianity both medieval and during Maud's time. 

A damn good mystery focused on how things went down and what actually happened. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for providing me with this copy for review.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 385 
Publisher: Wednesday Books 
Released: 2nd of April 2019 

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.. 

What I Have to Say 

This had a lot of potential, but I didn't feel the hype as much as some of the other bloggers who've talked about it seem to. I think it has enough in it that it could become an amazing series, so I want to give the next book a chance. For now though, it just fell completely flat. 

I did like a lot of elements of the book. I liked the implications that the gods are not quite what they seem. How much question there was about who was really good and who was really bad. It did well about exploring the grey areas with Nadya and Serefin, both on different sides of the war but doing the best they can. 

Like I said, this series has a lot of potential and I think it could turn into something amazing. But it's just not there yet. I'll be interested to see how the next book goes. 

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

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416 
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books 
Released: 23rd of May 2019 

Jana Novak's history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she's uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she's unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.

But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.

Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall ...

Honest and raw, this is a timely exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. It might just be Juno Dawson's most important book yet.

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse, anorexia, bulimia, mentions of prostitution, drug use, anxiety, depression

What I Have to Say 

This book. Oh. This book. It gave me chills, it was so good. Dawson is an expert at combining a fairly casual style full of quirky metaphors and tons of pop culture metaphors with topics that are gritty and real and so, so dark. This book delves deep into the dark world of the fashion industry and does it in a way that gives you an enjoyable reading experience while still getting the point across in a way that makes you want to stand up and take action. 

I loved the way that Dawson was upfront about the darkness of the book from the start. How she put the foreshadowing front and centre, making it clear that this wasn't going to be a fairytale model story, but that things would get dark and that Jana would end up hurt. It added a creepy sense of foreboding to the whole thing and led me to pick up little things right from the start that showed the industry's core and the lies of those in charge of Jana's agency. 

Dawson also did a fantastic job of treating the issue at hand with respect and sensitivity, showing real, raw emotions without doing it to solely to shock and disturb the reader. 

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

Friday, 24 May 2019

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288 
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 2nd May 2019  

Misfit witch Willow Moss holds the fate of the magical world of Starfell in her rather unremarkable hands . . . A spellbinding new fantasy series for readers aged 8–12, perfect for fans of Cressida Cowell.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, has a magical ability for finding lost things – like keys, or socks, or wooden teeth. Her magic might be useful, but it’s not exactly exciting . . . Until, that is, the most powerful witch in the whole of Starfell turns up at her door needing Willow’s help.

A whole day – last Tuesday to be precise – has gone missing. And the repercussions could be devastating. Can Willow find the day to save the day?

What I Have to Say 

A brand new misfit witch ready to take the world by storm, especially considering the group of friends that she collects on her adventures! With adorable illustrations from Sarah Warburton, this brand new world is perfect for any kids wanting something quirky and fun to get absorbed in. 

I loved the way that magic was so limited to one skill per person and how unique Willow's power was. It was used so well throughout the book, showing that even what seems to be a dull, if reasonably useful power, can be viewed in different ways and skilfully tweaked into something incredible. 

I can honestly say that this book surprised me at every turn. Everything was unexpected and felt completely natural even as Willow collected her band of misfits to join and help her in her adventures. The ending came together perfectly as well with everything slotting into place so well. I really hope it becomes a series so that I can see more from these characters. 

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

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 419 
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company  
Released: 9th of April 2019 

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death... because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

What I Have to Say 

This book was great, but a little overhyped for me. So in this review I'm going to try and be objective and see past the fact that I wasn't blown away by how fantastic it was and focus on the stuff that I did really like. I loved the characters. Hesina was a really deep, well thought out character. Joan He did a fantastic job of showing the pressures that are put on rulers and how much it takes to be a good one. 

The murder mystery element was also a fantastic addition. We need more murder mystery fantasy novels. Especially with the high political stakes that this was had. It was made even better by the twists that were revealed later in the book. There was some stuff I guessed, but wow, there was one very major thing I just did not see coming! 

I liked the different factions, the sooths and those that wanted them gone, the neighbouring countries that are ready to use that to their advantage. I liked how much of Hesina's work was a balancing act between all of it, as well as how she quite clearly had a side despite not being able to show it in her role as queen. 

I really really liked this world and these characters and overall, while I didn't get that feeling of amazement and love that I expected to get from this book, I just want to see more of this world. 

My thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company  and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Friday, 3 May 2019

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 14th of May 2019 

'In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters - a maiden, a mother, and a crone - are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .'

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?

What I Have to Say 

This books was so beautiful, full of feminism, strength and fairy tale scenery, but it felt a little disconnected to the original Cinderella story. I felt that Isabelle should have felt more guilt over how she and the rest of her family treated Ella. She just didn't really think about it that much. I liked the way they showed how her mother had treated her and turned her into a girl who would bully her sister and cut off her own toes in order to win the prince, but if felt like the change back from that was a little abrupt. 

That said, I loved Isabelle's character so much. I loved how both the stepsisters had their own strengths that aren't seen as "feminine" and "attractive". Isabelle being so brave and so fierce, a natural born fighter. You can see her destiny and her strength from really early in the book. The potential to be beautiful. And Tavi, academic and so, so smart. It was so great to see this story changed to bring these other strengths to the forefront, to show how they can be celebrated. 

I was also glad that the book did all that without completely stepping on the girls who are more sweet and gentle. Ella was still seen as a strong woman and while the stepsisters were obviously jealous of her in the original story, they didn't really hate her and managed to find their place alongside her as strong women. 

Anyone who's a fan of fairytales, anyone who wants to see different types of strong women. This is a must read for feminists. 

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

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Blog Tour: Hold Your Own Faerie Beltane Celebration With Anna McKerrow!

Today we are doubly lucky as it's Beltane AND we have the lovely Anna McKerrow with us to give her tips and advice for how to celebrate this festival. For anyone who's interested in Paganism, beginning to practice, or just more interested in more background culture of the faeries and witches in Daughters of Light and Shadows and Queen and Sea and Stars, this post is for you! 

Tips for a Faerie Beltane

Beltane is one of the eight pagan festivals of the year, and is the pagan name for what’s now in our calendar as May Day, May 1st.  It’s a fertility festival, celebrating the lush fecundity of nature, as well as a fire festival (as celebrated on 30 April in Edinburgh every year).

Faery folk, or the fae, are believed to be an ancient race of people who lived in the British Isles long before the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons arrived. They are believed to have descended from the Tuatha De Danann (the tribe of the goddess Dana), a magickal race who flew into Ireland in ships descending from the clouds on Beltane. They came from the four great magickal cities - Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias - and brought with them the four great treasures; the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny), the sword of Lugh, a magic spear, and the cauldron of the Dagda. In Daughter of Light and Shadows and Queen of Sea and Stars, I used these four faery lands as the map of the elemental kingdoms that Faye journeys to from her ordinary modern day existence.

Beltane is one of the best times to connect to faeries because, as spirits of nature, their energy is high at this point of the year. One nice thing to do would be to create a small (or large!) faerie garden or altar in your home or garden. If you don’t have a

garden or outside space, that’s totally fine - creating a space indoors to honour the faeries that might be present in your house, protecting it (and even, according to some legends, tidying up when you’re asleep! I don’t think I have one of those faeries in my house…) is a nice thing to do at Beltane.

You can make this as simple or complicated a job as you like. Indoors, you could use a plant in a pot as the focus of your faerie offering and add in some crystals, a drawing or a picture of the fae, shells, something glittery… check out Faery Craft: Weaving Connections with the Enchanted Realm by Emily Carding or Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft by Storm Faerywolf for more ideas.

It’s an ancient practice to leave a bowl of milk out for the house faeries in a hearth or on a shelf or something. In Daughter of Light and Shadows, I had my main character Faye help her friend try to placate faeries doing this. You could certainly leave something out for the faeries on Beltane night and thank them for keeping you and your house safe and blessed, and ask for their continuing help.

In outside space, if you have a tree, you could dedicate some space under it. I have a plum tree at the end of the garden which I dedicated as a faery space because there’s a big bush next to it where frogs seem to like to hang out, and frogs are much beloved in faerie. So I cleared a little area and put in a garden goddess type statue that someone had given me as a present. She has a flat lap which is ideal for leaving little offerings for the faeries. I leave shells, flowers, sometimes butter or milk. I say a few words honouring the garden faeries whenever I go there. Once I found a dead frog in the garden so I laid it to rest on the statue’s lap there, which seemed like the right thing to do.

Faeries have links to apple trees, rowan, hawthorn and hazel trees; they also like all manner of flowers and herbs including lavender, verbena, yarroe, thyme, petunia, zinnia, foxglove, primrose, cowslips, pansies, bluebells, clover, St. John's wort, oak, willow, elder, birch, alder, ash, and toadstools. You could plant some of these in an area of your garden you decide will be your faerie space on Beltane.

After planting/organising your space, maybe light a candle and burn some incense. Have a glass of wine, milk or water or some kind of nice treaty soft drink like fizzy elderflower with you. Toast the faery realm, call out to them and welcome them into the space you have created. Ask for their continuing blessings for you, your family and your home over the next year. If you’re outside, pour a little of your drink onto the earth and leave an offering of food, crystals, shells, or something you’ve made, as an offering. Dance under the moon if you like! Have this as something private or make it a nice occasion with friends, and have a feast and dancing afterwards. Enjoy it! The faeries are full of fun, and at Beltane, they might just come and dance with you…
Queen of Sea and Stars: Anna McKerrow Blogtour - 8th April until 1st of May: 8th Rachel's Rambling Reviews, 10th: Reality's a Bore, 13th: Feeling Fictional, 15th: Luna's Little Library, 17th: Lucy Turns Pages, 19th: Organdie, 22nd: YA Under My Skin, 30th: Never Judge a Book By It's Cover
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Daughter of Light and Shadows and Queen of Sea and Stars and both available at all good bookshops and online retailers now! 

Faye Morgan, a hereditary witch, moves away from her tiny coastal village in Scotland to London to be with her new boyfriend, Rav. But though she hopes she can live a normal life in a new city, her blood bond to the realms of faerie can’t be denied. With a faerie war brewing, can Faye realise her destiny and discover who she really is? A tale of faery magic, desire and modern witchcraft. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Wolf Light by Yaba Badoe

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 202
Publisher: Zephyr
Released: 4th of April 2019 

A leopard dances under the moon. 
A wolf prowls. 
A red-beaked bird flies free.

Three girls born on the same day in wolf light are bound together to protect the world. They can dazzle or destroy. They have wind-song and fire-fury at their fingertips, but their enemies are everywhere.

From the bleak steppes to the tropical forests of Ghana and the stormy moors of Cornwall, the lands they love are plundered and poisoned. The girls must rally to perfect their skills and prove the strength of sister-magic.

Steeped in elemental myth, Wolf Light is a call to us all to hear the ancient power within us and conserve our heritage.

What I Have to Say 

This is a beautiful coming of age story about three girls, magic and sacred roles of protection. Though it was little too character based for me, being more about the girls developing and growing into their roles and powers, I really enjoyed the premise of the book. I loved the fact that these were three different girls, from three very different cultures and places, with three different forms of power. 

I really liked how much power was connected to nature. How the girls were protecting their particular environment from the people who don't respect it and want to use it for their own gain. I liked the way that each girl's personal bond with the land they were tasked to protect was so seeped in their culture and traditions. 

The other thing that I found really good about this book was how distinct each girl's perspective was. How you could tell which girl was which before they were identified. 

If you like very character driven coming of age stories full of magic, culture and respect for the environment. 

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

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Pog by Pádraig Kenny

Synopsis (from Goodreads and Chicken House

Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

David and Penny arrive in a strange new home in a forest. Other creatures live here – magical creatures – like Pog. He’s one of the First Folk, tasked with protecting the boundary between the worlds. But David is drawn into the forest, lured by a darker entity, who tells him there’s a way he can bring his dead mother back …

What I Have to Say 

Pog was a really well written tale, full of deep themes of grief and loss. I enjoyed it a lot, but not as much as Tin, though I felt this a really fun story. I think Pog is a great character who will appeal a lot to the kids reading this book. He's very quite with an interesting way of talking, but he's also got so many other attributes. He's a fierce protector who quickly grows to care for the family living in the house. He also has his own emotions and history which complement the grief felt by the family a lot. 

David and Penny were also great characters. You could really feel love between the family and between the kids and Pog by the end. You could feel the loss of their mother and how much it was driving them into their own forms of grief. 

I really love Kenny's way of bringing such deep personal issues into a magical adventure story and how he brings everything back to the theme without it seeming like he's pushing the issue. 

It's a very authentic story filled with adventure and emotion. 

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

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Year After You by Nina de Pass

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Ink Road 
Released: 14th of February 2019 

New Years’ Eve, San Francisco. The most promising party of the year ends in a tragic accident. Cara survives. Her best friend Georgina doesn’t.

Nine months later, Cara is struggling, consumed by guilt and grief. Her mum decides a Swiss boarding school will be the fresh start Cara needs. But Cara knows that swapping sunshine for snow won’t make a blind bit of difference. Georgina is gone, and nothing will bring her back.

Up in the Alps, Cara’s old life feels a million miles away. At Hope Hall, nobody knows about her past. And she intends to keep it that way. But classmates Ren and Hector have other ideas. Cara tries to keep her distance, but she’s drawn to the offbeat, straight-talking Hector, who understands her grief better than anyone. Her new friends are determined to break down the walls she has so carefully built up. And, despite it all, Cara wants them to. 

The closer Cara grows to Hector, the more Georgina slips away. Embracing life at Hope Hall means letting go of the past; of her memories of that fatal New Year’s Eve. But Cara is quite sure she doesn’t deserve a second chance. 

What I Have to Say 

Exploring the themes of grief, loss and survivors guilt, this touching novel explores how deep the damage of losing someone in an accident can be. It deals heavily with the responsibility that someone can attribute to themselves when something like this happens and how moving on can feel like betraying the person you lost. 

The best thing about this book for me was how it showed that fears can sometimes not seem logical to an outside viewpoint. Cara is terrified of going in lifts and cars, because her mind tells her that if it crashes then it's her responsibility because she got in the car. This is the way that the mind can twist things based on past experiences, but de Pass when deeper, exploring the fact Cara is completely fine with planes. I've experienced this kind of logic in my own condition with my OCD a lot. People don't understand why this is fine but /this/ isn't. It's something that's hard to understand. So it made me feel really understood to see a similar twisting of logic and fear shown in The Year After You. 

I loved Cara so much as a character. I loved her interactions with Hector and with Ren. It was heartbreaking to see her story and the way that her fears and grief from the past controlled her. It all felt very real and well thought out. 

There's so much more I haven't said in this review, but these are the parts that really touched me.  I really, really recommend getting a copy and seeing Cara's story for yourself. 

My thanks go to Ink Road and Netgalley for providing me with this free copy for review. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352 
Publisher: Knights Of Media 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

The detective duo everyone is dying to meet! 

Summer in London is hot, the hottest on record, and there's been a murder in THE TRI: the high-rise home to resident know-it-alls, Nik and Norva. Who better to solve the case? Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and unlimited time - until the end of the summer holidays anyway. 

What I Have to Say 

While bringing a beautifully teenage feel to the genre, Jackson created two great characters and a fantastic community that I can tell will create great mysteries to future books. I loved how real the Nik and Norva felt, utilising smart phones for everything. Because why would a modern day teenager have a case book and write everything down when they can just reach for their smart phone and have a document they can edit and update whenever they need? The way that current teen culture was used in this way (and others!) just made it feel really authentic. 

I loved the relationship between Nik and Norva as well. Jackson did well to show how sisters really are, a complex relationship where they love and hate each in equal measures. I really liked the way they bickered and fell out, teased and needled one another but at the end they were there for each other all the time. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing more from the Tri and it's inhabitants in the rest of the series. It's looking like a really great addition to the middle-grade crime genre. 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 4th of April 2019 

Alex loves magic – its glamour, tricks and illusions.

He’s good at it, too: he’s reached the semi-finals of a prestigious competition for young magicians. But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos’s back garden while running from his former best friend, Alex sees something he can’t explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Fire magic. Real magic. Soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry ...

What I Have to Say 

Magic, adventure and adorable little baby jin, what's not to love! The story was maybe a little predictable concerning who was going to come after the Ifrits, but there were things that I really didn't see coming. 

Alex was a really good character and I loved his former friend turned bully and their story-line. I felt it was just a really good story-line between them both with all stuff that had happened between them and the way their story develops. 

Mostly though I have to admit, I loved the Ifrits. I loved the way that these little baby Jin were described and the way that their connection with Alex worked. I loved Sally and the way she became a particular friend to Alex through a bond that works without any language. It's so interesting to see a communication that exists without language and it was really well written. 

This was just a really good adventure story with great characters, a good plot and a few surprises. 

My thanks go to Chicken House and Laura Smythe  for providing me with this copy for review and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour.