Thursday, 28 February 2019

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480 
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books 
Released: 21st of February 2019 

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians...

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she's playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…

Trigger Warnings: Domestic abuse, gambling, references to drugs 

What I Have to Say 

My latest book love! This is a world that's easy to sink into, a world that will enchant you, every world pulling you deeper and deeper in to the story, the character's lives, Paris. Paris around the revolution was a perfect choice for this book. Trelease shows a world of two sides, the starvation and hunger on the streets, people who can't afford bread to feed their families, who can't afford the medicine to treat their sicknesses, who can't afford to pay their rent but on the other side, it's a world of excess. It's a world where people leave picnics unfinished on the steps, who wear a different outfit to every occasion, who spend their time playing games and throwing ridiculous amounts of money away at the gambling tables. Living in these two worlds is fascinating, especially for someone like Camille who crosses between them. Add in magic and it becomes even better. 

Like Camille, it's easy for the reader to get caught up in the world of Versailles, to think she's safe and can live in peace with her sister, but Versailles is filled with predators and game playing. The secrets of magic, of the history of the court and its magicians. It's a dark world, which is the best kind when it comes to fiction, in my opinion at least. I loved the danger. I loved how Camille was so addicted to this world and the security it has to offer. I loved the way that it made me simultaneously want her to settle down with Lazare and enjoy a life of safety and hot air balloons. But like Versaille, Lazare is not everything he seems. 

I loved the language in this book. The snippets of French made it so easy to feel absorbed in the world. It made the character's voices come alive in my head and reminded me at every turn that this was France. It's sometimes the case that a book can be set somewhere, but you can completely forget it's there because the story could literally be taken and placed somewhere else, but Enchantée was French to it's core. The story was so entwined with France during that time period: in the court of Marie Antoinette and the upcoming revolution. For me, the language used reflected that beautifully. 

I could gush and gush about this book, but any more and it would be spoiling plot twists! So instead you'll just have to go and read it for yourself and discover this beautiful, enchanting book. 

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

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Proud edited by Juno Dawson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Stripes 
Released: 7th of March 2019 

A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.

A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.

Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.


What I Have to Say 

This was a fantastic anthology. The fact that I loved almost every single one of the pieces (I just wasn't that fond of the first poem) is something that I've never experienced in an anthology before. Some of my particular favourites were:   Penguins by Simon James Green (and the adorable artwork to go with it by Alice Oseman), The Phoenix's Fault by Cynthia So (a new author found for this collection and a beautiful story from a Asian-inspired fantasy world), I Hate Darcy Pemberley (another new author with a lesbian retelling of Pride and Prejudice) and the Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell (a lovely story of D & D players sneaking around the school to make everything in it gender neutral).

Along with each story is a piece of artwork to go with it. The art made a really great addition to each story or poem, though art can be a lot more subjective than stories, so I did find some of them were just not art styles that I liked. I really liked their inclusion though, it made the book so much more than most anthologies.

With all the contributors, writers and artists alike being LGBTQ+, this is an amazing book based on many different perspectives and experience.

Whether you're LGBTQ+, questioning or an ally, this book is definitely a MUST READ,

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

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368 
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

A moving portrayal of a teenager coming to terms with a secret about her mother that her father decided to keep from her... was he right to do so? Saffron must work that out...

Seventeen year old Saffron discovers a secret in the attic - a secret that changes both her past and her future...

Having believed ten years ago that her mother had become ill and subsequently died, Saffron learns that her mother is in fact alive and well. Angry at the years of deceit from her father and step mother, she goes in search of the truth about her mother - and leaves home. 

Homeless and alone, Saffron has to deal with the mental turmoil and anger at her father as she processes the lies she has been told. And then Saffron comes face to face with the dangers of being a homeless teenage girl... 

What I Have to Say 

I really didn't get on with this book, but it gave me a lot to think about. The issues surrounding homelessness were present through so much in this book but there's also themes of privilege and assumption included that I really want to talk about. 

So one of the first problems I found with this book was that neither of the characters were really very sympathetic. Saffron was very angry throughout the book and I understand that. It's obvious how much pain she was going through. But the fact is that an abrasive character like this is really hard to like. Tom was easier to sympathise with, but I hated him so much for just dismissing Saffron's pain as "drama" and leaving her on the street because he assumes that she'll just go home.

I got into the book a bit before the end and there were some really touching moments, especially between Melanie and Saffron.

It was a book that said a lot and I wish I could have liked it more.

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

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Burning by Laura Bates

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 21st of February 2019 

 A rumour is like a fire. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames ...
New school.
New town.
New surname.
Social media profiles?
There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.
At least that’s what she thinks … until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…

Trigger Warnings: rape,  public humiliation, torture, bullying, cyber bullying, rumours, mention of abortion

What I Have to Say 

This only thing this book was missing was a bit more witchcraft. I loved the parallels that Bates used between Anna's story in the present and Maggie's story in the past, showing that the way women were oppressed in the past are still very much still being used today. 

Anna and Maggie were both normal girls who made the mistake of trusting the wrong guy. I loved how Anna delved so deeply into her research on Maggie, how the information wasn't as easy as just going to the library and reading a story that was laid out nicely for her in a book or too. I find the details of real historical research fascinating, making a mystery so much harder for a character to find and much more satisfying when they get the information. 

I've seen so many books about cyber-bullying and naked photos lately, so I'm just really interested in seeing Bates bring forward a new way to tell this story. Her characters and plot are interesting, but it's definitely the historical witch hunt element that sets this book apart from others of it kind. 

Another must read for feminists! 

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

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

To Be Perfectly Honest by Jess Vallance

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304 
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

The second book in a brilliantly funny YA series featuring the trials and embarrassing tribulations of teenager Gracie Dart.

Uncovering a family secret, Gracie decides she's had enough of lies and pledges to be completely honest to everybody she meets.

For fifty days, nothing but 100% brutal honesty at all times. But total honesty doesn't always go down well when you've got

What I Have to Say 

I was really upset to find that I didn't like this book. I loved the first so much, but I think with the concept of being honest, too many people got hurt in Gracie's misadventures for me to feel any sympathy with her. 

In the first book I felt she was a little dumb and took things to extremes but in general she was sweet and easy to like. But with her decision to be honest and specifically to tell the whole truth it meant that she was just really harsh to everyone around her. Because quite often we hide things and don't tell the whole truth to people just to be kind to them. Because if everyone went around being so blunt about everything the whole world would be filled with arguments and hurt feelings. I really feel like Gracie should have come to this realisation earlier. 

I really hope that the next book is better, because I like Gracie's way of seeing the world around her. I like how she viewed this whole honesty thing as a research project. I want to like her again. 

But for this book, I just found that I couldn't. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key books for providing me this free copy for review. 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Against All Gods by Maz Evans

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: Chicken House 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

In the series finale of Maz Evans' bestselling Who Let the Gods Out? series, Elliot faces his darkest period yet. As well as facing up to his fears, he realises that the future of mankind - and the survival of everything he holds dear - is at stake. But can a bunch of misfit gods, a lost constellation and a mortal boy stand up to the daemon hordes?

What I Have to Say 

This series is silly, has a cringe-worthy sense of humour and I love it so, so much. It's fun to see a load of really bad puns and over the top characters all keeping in touch with the essence of Greek Mythology. Using very British humour on Greek characters may see a little weird at first, but they connect with the heart of the myths and make them into characters that children will love to connect to and enjoy. 

With each book of the series, I've learned to love the characters all over again, coming back to them and remembering the joys of their personalities and interactions. It was really great to see all the characters come together for the last book, bringing back characters I've forgotten from the earlier books as well as others that we've met more recently. The final battle was as epic, compelling and written with all the heart and humour that the books in the rest of the series have had. 

I will miss Elliot and his family of gods and constellations. I'm glad to see his story come to a conclusion and for him to finally find peace, but I have to admit, I will miss these guys. I might cringe at Hermes being such a bro or feel that maybe Zeus's womanising is a little over the top (although it is Zeus.... can it be over the top?), but I love them despite that, because the ridiculousness of it  is a part of what makes these books great. 

I can't wait to see what Maz Evans does next! 

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

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Banard

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 354 
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

'This time around, I'm going to be so much better. I'm going to prove to them that it was worth waiting on me.' 

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She's back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they're about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you're the one left behind?

What I Have to Say 

It was so great to get to see Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne again, especially from Suzanne's view point, because I find Suzanne an amazing character. I love how perfectly she's written, a screwed up survivor coping with PTSD and her crappy family, who still, after everything she went to, defend her father and see her as being dramatic.

I felt so much for Suzanne. She's been through so much and now she's out in the world having to live on her own. Though at some points it's frustrating (ask for help, Suze!!!) you can't help rooting for her. It's like she's a friend. You can definitely see how Caddy and Rosie feel trying to support her. She's such a sweet person but her life is so hard and she has some bad habits when she gets triggered.

I just really really loved seeing it all from Suzanne's viewpoint. It worked perfectly, in the same way that the first book worked really well from Caddy's point of view. I just want so much more from these characters.

And it has a dog in it! What more can you ask for?

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

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304 
Publisher: Delacorte 
Released: 5th of February 2019 

Twelve-year-old Iris has never let her deafness slow her down. A whiz at fixing electronics, she has always felt at home in the world of wires and vacuum tubes. 

School, on the other hand, isn't so simple. Iris is the only Deaf student in her classes, and she finds herself frustrated by the way people interact with her deafness, whether it's her teacher talking down to her or an overly helpful classmate signing childlike ASL in her face.

During science class, Iris learns about Blue 55, the loneliest whale in the world. Saddened by the animal's inability to speak to other whales, Iris uses her tech skills to come up with a plan to communicate with Blue 55. 

One small problem: the whale is swimming off the coast of Alaska, nearly three thousand miles from Iris's Texas home. But nothing will stop Iris, and with her Deaf grandmother by her side, she sets out on a trip to meet Blue 55 and make sure he's finally heard. 

What I Have to Say 

This book touched me so deeply. Iris' feelings of loneliness from being in a school where only her interpreter understood her, of being in a family where her dad hasn't even bothered to learn how to communicate with her? It was so, so sad. 

Her connection to Blue 55 was beautiful, both metaphorically and in the real sense of the journey she went on to find him. I loved how her interest in him and in whales in general brought her a real friend who put the effort in to learn from her in order to communicate properly and also how it led to her and her grandmother connecting more. The whale, so central to the plot, brought so many people together and it was just so perfect to the story. 

Iris was a lovely character as well. She was so well built and so determined. She felt so very real to me and I felt so much for her. I loved her determination, her tech skill and her sense of self. 

This book was just beautiful from cover to cover. 

My thanks go to Delacorte for providing me with this free cope to review. 

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Star-Spun Web by Sinéad O'Hart

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages:  384 
Publisher: Stripes Publishing 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange star-shaped device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs...

What I Have to Say 

Parallel worlds, science-enthusiast characters (male and female) and a whole load of mystery. This was a very promising start to this new series! Apart of my arachnophobia having a couple of issues with Violet (although less squirmy moments than I'd expected). 

I really liked Tess as a character, but I did feel that she didn't do that much for most of the book. The book was more focused on the way she studied the Starspinner from a science perspective, but I prefer a much more action packed adventure story. It picked up towards the end, but I do hope that there's more adventure in the next book. 

I really liked the way they wove in the historical elements with Tom's world. It was interesting to have him in Dublin during WW2 while Tess was in her own world, connecting to him through the starspinner. It was really interesting to see what was happening in Dublin during WW2 and how it was woven in with the plot in Tess's world. 

I'll be interested to see what happens next to Tess, Tom and their friends! 

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

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Publisher: Chicken House Books 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India.

Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a wicked aunt arrives. She’s determined to seize the property – and the treasure rumoured to be hidden on the land. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan embark on a journey to the city, across the Himalayas, to find her father and save her home …

What I Have to Say 

This was a beautiful story of faith, adventure and family. I loved how determined Asha was, running away from home and fighting so many dangers in order to find her father and save her family. I also loved how deeply religion was woven into the story with Diwali and , showing the rich, vibrant spirituality of Asha's family and so many other hindu families in India.

The idea of ancestors and spirits were also very central to the book, as you can tell from the title, Asha's story revolves around a spirit bird, specifically the spirit of her grandmother returned in the form of a bird. The spirit bird brings magic to the story as well as reinforcing the feeling of family, even when Asha is out on her journey with only Jeevan for company, her grandmother is watching over her and keeping her safe. 

This is just a really, really gorgeous book filled with so much heart. I'm so happy I got the chance to read it. 

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

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Orion 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....

What I Have to Say 

This book was an incredibly wild ride. A good one for the most part, but the ending kind of disturbed me a bit. If you like that sort of disturbing thriller, then that's fair enough, but I found it rather creepy. I don't want to give it away too much, but I feel like the way that power was abused was just a bit much for me. 

I also felt like the handling of mental health was a bit off. For psychotherapist, working with mental illness, the narrator, Theo talked rather a lot about seeing "madness" in people. Including himself. This felt kind of insensitive. I can maybe put some of it down to the character, but it's hard to say. It's just not okay to talk about people with mental illness being mad or having madness inside them. We can joke about it in relation to ourselves, but this was different. This just felt more offensive. 

The plot was really gripping though. From the first page, I was entranced by this book, speeding through it to find out. It was definitely written to engross and intrigue the reader. 

Definitely a page-turner, but some of it made me really uncomfortable. 

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

Saturday, 2 February 2019

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK 
Released: 7th of February 2019 

Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger? ..

What I Have to Say 

This book was a little slow, but was a great story. It had some great characters, a really, really good plot and a fascinating setting. I loved the ending most of all, how everything was resolved was just genius, but it's hard to go into detail about why I liked it without posting spoilers. 

I love the way that Michelle Harrison uses magic in her books. I've thought it before when reading the Thirteen Treasures books and I thought it again in this one. The way that each of the items worked and the powers that they had were brilliant. I loved the nesting dolls and how which doll that you placed something in was important to the magic. I loved the way that you had to pull the bag inside out in order to work it (and the fact that you would literally just have to carry it around with you completely empty all the time and hope no one notices) and the mirror, projecting your face randomly into the air in front of the person you're talking to so you just have to make sure they're alone before you use it. 

The setting was really interesting. It was really great how it was made to be fairly timeless, so that you could imagine it in the modern day or in any time you wanted really. And the way that the story of the witch was told throughout the plot as girls search for a way to break the curse, slowly revealing so much about her until both the curse and the objects are explained. 

It was a very cleverly written book and perfect for any middle grade fantasy fans. 

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