Wednesday, 22 August 2018

My Literary House!

Anyone who knows me will know that I love my books, reading is one of my ultimate favourite past-times. But it isn't just the reading that I love, it is the world that each book creates, the feeling of belonging somewhere, of immersing yourself in a whole new universe. To me books come to life, the characters are my greatest friends or deadliest enemies, the worlds they create are places for me to escape to, to forget about my own troubles.
When I fall in love with a book, I fall completely, and as such love to enjoy that world to it's full extent.
Which is why I made my house a literary palace, a place where the walls reflected the worlds of books I loved, and why I was heartbroken to have to leave it.

That's right - I had to say goodbye to my literary house!!!  It was the worst moment ever, and I shed more than a few tears, but I took pictures before I left and I want to share them with you now.

So let me walk you through what was once my world.

As you entered the house you were in a narrow hallway, on the left hand wall I had funky photo frames where I displayed photos of my friends and family. Under these photos I had a tribute to 'Alice in Wonderland' with the simple saying - 'We're all Mad here!"




Next to the doorway I painted my own 'Sigil'.
I am a huge fan of a series called 'Skulduggery Pleasant' by Derek Landy, and in the book some of the characters have hidden symbols either on themselves or in their homes, these hold powers that when touched activate. So right next to my front door, I painted the Skulduggery Pleasant logo.
I joked that in order to gain freedom from the house you must touch the sigil to activate the door! Even if it didn't work - it looked pretty cool.
Took me hours to get it right with all the twisty bits at the bottom!

As you walked through the hallway, you came to the dining room, on the left hand wall I painted another quote from Alice In Wonderland with some illustrations of the Hatter's hat, a tea cup and the Cheshire Cat's smiling face.

On the opposite wall to that I painted the five Faction symbols from Divergent - I absolutely love those books and the faction symbols were what I thought represented the books the best. They are probably one of the things that took me the longest to get right, especially the sign for 'Erudite' and 'Abnegation' but I was so pleased with how they turned out. My plan was to write the faction names around each symbol but I never got round to it.


Then on the back wall in the Dining room that lead to the kitchen, I drew a Gruffalo and his child. I am a massive fan of these books and the film version and definitely wanted him on my wall.
It took me a couple of days to finish them both, getting them in proportion and colouring them with the fur effect, but they came out so well.
The Gruffalo did start to peel and was due some repair work when I left, but overall he looked awesome, and he was pointing at the kitchen, as though he was getting ready to sneak in and steal our food.
The final picture I had in my Dining room, fit perfectly between two doorframes. It is from 'The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy' which is one of my husband's favourite books. And he is a character that you can't help but love.
It is of course, Marvin the Paranoid Android
 He came up with the answer to the most important question - 'What is the meaning of Life' and the answer is of course '42' which is made up of 'Life, the Universe and Everything' - hence the Venn diagram above his head. (My husband is also a Maths genius so the Venn diagram was for his benefit)

I always say that my husband is my 42, so I had to have Marvin on the walls somewhere. Although made of what looks like simple shapes, he was harder to draw than you would expect! But he made me smile everytime I walked past him.


The next part of the tour takes you upstairs, on the wall at the bottom of the staircase, I had the following quote:
This then lead you to the top of the stairs where you really did enter Narnia. I had the famous Lamppost landmark surrounded by snowy fir trees.
This was the full height of the wall, from floor to ceiling, and involved balancing on chairs at the top of the stairs (fully safe of course).
I loved being able to have the feeling of Narnia in my house, the stories always held a feeling of magic and wonder to me and it felt very homely and comforting.

On the wall opposite I had a quote from my all time favourite series - Harry Potter! Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I am a total Harry Potter obsessive. I have t-shirts, socks, bags, phone cases, pictures, merchandise, bracelets - you name it, I probably have it. So right by my upstairs light switch, I had the following quote:
And yes, I even had 'Nox' and 'Lumos' on the light switch. This was one of my favourite quotes from Harry Potter and a good message to remind you of each day.

The next wall decoration was actually the first one I did and the biggest. My friend Loushae and I spent an entire day in the study (which is actually a pretty small room), painting this masterpiece, and it was one of the most enjoyable and frustrating days of my life, but I loved every minute.
We created a wall size version of 'The Marauders Map'




Apart from 'Solemnly' being spelt wrong and there only being 3 Tables in the Great Hall instead of 4, I think we did an amazing job, and although I lived with those mistakes for over 2 years, I could never bring myself to change them - it was our little quirk and a point of laughter whenever we showed it off to anyone. We measured each line, each gap, each corridor and placed each set of footprints within it. The Whomping Willow in the middle probably took the most work, and trying to scale it so that we could fit in as much of Hogwarts as possible, this is merely a fraction of rooms and corridors, but it was our masterpiece and something that I will always be proud of.

That just leaves me with 2 more pictures. The next one is my absolute favourite and the one I was most proud of. I wanted to show this off to anyone and everyone that came round my house, and think it is the one that actually looks the best.
I became a huge fan of 'The Hunger Games' when the series came out, I have read the books multiple times and seen the films countless times. I only have to hear the music and I feel all emotional. They are incredible books and something that really made me feel like part of a world.
The most obvious symbol of Panem and more importantly the Rebellion that Katniss was part of, was of course - The Mockingjay, so above my staircase I created this:
It took me hours, I did every detail and every bit of shading by hand, leaning across my staircase, stretching up but it was worth every minute.
Everytime I went down my stairs or across my hallway I would see this and get the same warm feeling, it made me happy everyday and this is the painting i will miss the most.



So that leaves me with my final picture, as you head back down the stairs and out of the front door, I bid you farewell with a quote from The Hitch-hikers guide, complete with dolphins at either side, we say 'So long... and thanks for all the fish'




For anyone coming round our house who didn't know the series, it was funny to see the confused looks on their faces, it was always a topic for conversation. And what better way to say goodbye.

So that was my literary house, I was lucky because I was renting the property from family and I had permission to draw whatever I wanted on the walls and make the house my own. I had so many more plans for other pictures and designs.
But then both my husband and I got jobs in Milton Keynes and after commuting back and forth for a year we decided to move to MK, to save petrol and reduce the stress of traveling back and forth on a by-pass in peak traffic everyday.
So now we have moved house and we are renting the traditional way, from a proper landlord which of course means that the walls are not to be drawn on. So I have left behind all my wonderful pictures, and hope that one day I will own my own home and be able to re-create all my masterpieces and add even more, but until then, I cry with the knowledge that my wonderful pictures have been painted over and forgotten by everyone else. But I will always have the pictures to remind me.

What did you think of my pictures? Which one was your favourite?
Who would you have painted if you had the chance?




-- All images copyrighted to their franchise, I don't claim to own any of the pictures or quotes, merely my drawings of them --

Book Review - The Uprising

Title: The Uprising
Author: Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken (Book 2)
Publisher: Orchard Books
Release Date: 7th November 2013
ISBN13: 9781408318812

Synopsis
In this dystopian sequel to The Forsaken, Alenna has survived the brutality of life on the wheel--but her fight is not over yet.
Alenna escaped. It was expected that she would die on the wheel, the island where would-be criminals are sent as directed by the UNA--the totalitarian supercountry that was once the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But Alenna and her boyfriend, Liam, made it to safety. Except safety, they will soon learn, is relative.
In order to bring down the UNA, they must first gain control of the wheel. If the mission succeeds, the wheel will become a base of revolution. But between betrayals, a new Monk leading a more organized army of Drones, and the discovery of a previously unknown contingent, Alenna, Liam, and their allies might be in over their heads. One thing Alenna knows for sure: There will be a reckoning. And not everyone she loves will make it out alive.

My Review
After finishing 'The Forsaken' I was desperate to know what would happen next, book 1 ended on such a cliffhanger that I was desperate to find out what becomes of Gadya, Alenna and Liam and if the Wheel ever gets defeated. I had to wait 2 days for the book to come in the library (actually very quick service, but feels longer when you are waiting to find out what happens next).
I did enjoy the first book but I wasn't blown away by it, I was just captivated enough that I have to know what happens next so I approached this book with eager hands but not expecting much.
After Alenna escaped from the wheel she wasn't sure what to expect from her life, with her boyfriend by her side but her closest friends left behind amidst the danger of the wheel she has some choices to make. Stay safe in the secret community or fight for freedom from the UNA. Making the choice to return to the wheel means sacrificing her life and being thrown back into a world of violence and uncertainty, but Alenna isn't a scared little girl anymore, she is a fighter and a survivor and she wants to stand up for herself and her friends, and the future of the world. Plus in some ways it seems like she doesn't really have a choice!
I honestly wasn't expecting much from this book, thought it would be like the first, I wanted to read it quickly and see what happened next but that was it. However when I started to read I found myself quickly pulled into the world and really enjoying it. The characters are so much more developed - not just Alenna and Liam but even characters we haven't met before like Dr Barrett and Alenna's mum. The world is really well set up and the imagery is amazing, I could visualize every tunnel, every room, every aspect of the wheel. It really came to life off the page. The storyline is good and well paced, there are a lot of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat and a few curveballs that I certainly didn't predict. 
Alenna and Liam put a lot of their trust into people they don't know, mainly scientists running the rebellion and also other rescued survivors. We meet Cass, a sassy girl with a streak of revenge in her blood, she wants to fight back to the ones who ruined her life on the wheel and her friend Emma, a rather meek and quiet young lady but with a fierce intelligence and hidden strength. 
When they return to the Wheel it is nothing like the place they have left, the Drones are organized and brutal, bloodthirsty and almost like zombies, but harder to kill. They have all been controlled and being led once more by the mysterious 'Monk' With all their plans going wrong, Alenna, Liam and Cass have a much tougher fight on their hands than they ever expected.
I got this book home and read it in 3 sittings over 3 days, I read it so quickly - I was desperate to find time to sit down and read, I just couldn't get enough, I had to know what happens. This book still has slower moments but they felt more needed and well placed, but overall the action carries you through the pages and I found myself really enjoying the story. It was so much better than book 1.
I am now desperate to know what happens in the third installment and can't wait to get stuck in. This book takes the premise of the first book and ramps it up about a hundred gears! Well worth a read.
 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Book Review - The Forsaken

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken (Book 1)
Publisher: Orchard Books (This Edition) Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781408318805

Synopsis
Alenna Shawcross is a sixteen-year-old orphan growing up in a police state formed from the ashes of Canada, the US and Mexico after a global economic meltdown.
But when she unexpectedly fails ‘the test’ - a government initiative which supposedly identifies teens destined to be criminals - she wakes up alone on a remote island reserved for the criminally insane.
Terrified and confused, she soon encounters a group of other teen survivors battling to stay alive, including Liam, a boy who will become her love... and her lifeline.
Soon Alenna makes the terrifying discovery that there’s more to the island (and her past) than she could ever have guessed... But who can she trust? And can she ever escape?
 


My Review
This is another book that has sat on my shelves for years, I remember buying this one - seeing it in the shops with the tagline on it saying 'If you love the Hunger Games, you'll love this'! and of course I am a huge fan of HG, so I automatically wanted to read it. I don't remember why I didn't read it back then but either way it's still sat there.
Working my way through my shelves I was picking out books that were on their own, trying to get through as many as possible. Of course I didn't realise that this is now the first part of a trilogy!!!
I found the start of the story a bit slow, you meet Alenna and see a bit of the world inside the UNA, but from reading the blurb you know that she is going to be sent to the Island so I kind of wanted it to get a move on to that point and stop all the 'will she, won't she', stuff. Once she gets on the Island, it really did remind me of the Hunger Games, an island where kids run savage, kill each other and try to survive - the Island is divided into segments and each segment holds a different danger (remind anyone else of the clock island in Catching Fire!) The similarities for me were a bit too close at first and I nearly stopped reading a couple of times, but I decided to persevere and see if the author could take the book in her own direction. The more she sets up the Island the more it takes on it's own life. The world turns out to be very different and run in a rather alarming way. The characters are great, there is a good variety and a few little side stories but not too many so you don't get confused. 
Alenna starts off quite wimpy and rather pathetic but the more she lives through, the more she develops a back-bone, this is of course helped along by Gadya - a fierce and fiery Villager from the Blue Sector. She hasn't got time to babysit and she believes that everyone should fight equally. She's so sassy but also has a softer side. She's just trying to survive like everyone else, but wants to make sure she takes fate into her own hands.
You also meet David on the Island, a seemingly weak and wimpy guy who seems to have a hidden agenda, you are never quite sure who's side he is on and it's actually quite fun trying to work it out. 
Not knowing who to trust and how they will ever get off the Island I found myself reading quicker the more I got through the book. The book was written in a way that meant I could picture the Island and all the characters, the imagery was really good, but there were some occasions when I wished there was more detail on a situation, or that the story would develop a certain way but it would suddenly jump to something else, and likewise there were things that sometimes felt a bit forced and went on a bit too long. There were a couple of times where the pace slowed and I found myself maybe skimming the odd word but overall I actually enjoyed the book. At 426 pages it's quite chunky, but I read it in just 2 sittings.
I'm not sure I would ever re-read the book but I enjoyed it this time round, and was hooked in enough to want to know what happens next - after all it ends on quite a cliffhanger. I actually got to the end, growled and threw down the book, I was so frustrated that I didn't have a full conclusion - I jumped straight online and ordered book 2 and 3 from the library, but knowing I have to wait a couple of days to find out what happens to them is going to drive me mad!
Overall a surprisingly good read, glad I have read it.

My Rating
  

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Book Review - The Carrier of the Mark

Title: The Carrier of the Mark
Author: Leigh Fallon
Series: Carrier (Book 1)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 27 Oct. 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0007445950

Synopsis
When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. She makes close friends with the girls in her class, her relationship with her dad is better than ever, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to gorgeous, mysterious Adam DeRis.
Adam is cold and aloof at first, but when Megan finally breaks down the icy barrier between them, she is amazed by the intensity of their connection. Then Adam reveals a secret about the magical destiny that will shape both of their lives but also threatens to tear them apart…

My Review
Now that I have finished my degree, I actually have time to read again! I have about 60+ books on my shelves that I have bought over the years but never got round to reading. Looking through the shelves this book caught my eye, I know it was popular when it came out and it sounded like a good read so I thought I would start with this one. 
I got into the book quite quickly, Megan is an instantly likeable character that you can relate too, she has moved to a new country and doesn't know anyone, she is nervous and a bit shy but doesn't let things hold her back, she is used to moving around and wants to make a fresh start in Ireland. She is quite quirky, a good sense of humour and a strange fear of water which makes you want to know more. She makes a friend really quick with a girl who is very bubbly and a bit mad - reminded me a bit of myself. 
Then Megan meets Adam DeRis, he's mysterious and a bit moody, there is an air of strangeness around him but Mega is drawn to him. I know - sounds like typical teen broodyness and lust, but it is actually written with more depth.
Adam also has a sister and a brother and they are all considered weird - as Megan starts to learn more about them she is pulled into a world that she never would have believed existed. 
I enjoyed reading about the 'Carriers' and their myths and history. Seeing how it affected each of the characters and how Megan fit in. Some of the information and descriptions seemed a little bit long, and the book did slow it's pace a little, but it's quite a short book and didn't affect it too much.
I enjoyed reading about the characters and really liked that there were little side stories involved with Megan's friends, but I kept waiting for it to really pick up the pace and kick off, the book was good and I am glad I have read it but I am not invested enough to read the next book or want to re-read it again in the future. It was well written and the characters well developed, but just didn't make me go WOW.
Overall a nice way to spend an afternoon and a good story but not my favourite. 

My Rating
   
 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Book Review - La Belle Sauvage

Title: La Belle Sauvage
Author: Philip Pullman
Series: The Book of Dust (Book 1)
Publisher: Penguin Random House Children's and David Fickling Books
Release Date: 19 Oct. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0385604413

Synopsis
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy...
Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust--and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl--just a baby--named Lyra.


My Review
I was such a huge fan of Philip Pullman as a teenager, I read all of his books -multiple times. A few years ago I re-read the Northern Lights - it was part of a Book Club thing at work and I really struggled with it, maybe because I had to read it, it lowered my enjoyment. I decided not to re-read the rest of the series.
Then this book was announced and I was excited - regardless of my previous feelings I actually felt really happy that there was more coming from this world. I requested it at the library and had to wait for it and with studying for a degree and working at the same I didn't get round to it. Friends read it and told me it was really good but I still didn't pick it up.
Until last week - I had some spare time and decided to get started. Immediately I was hooked, I had forgotten how good Pullman was at weaving a story, he does it in such a way that the words seem to wrap around you and carry you away on their adventure. I read quickly and eagerly, desperate to know more. 
In total I read this in 3 sittings, each time desperate to get back into the book and discover what would happen to Malcolm and Alice. I loved being back in the world of Daemons and mystery and intrigue. 
Malcolm is a great protagonist, he is cheeky and adventurous but also intelligent and curious. I loved his fierce loyalty and sense of right and wrong. He's a plucky young boy with a sensible head. I really enjoyed following him down the length of the Thames. Pairing him with the slightly sour and moody Alice, who is just as fierce and protective, yet not all that forth-coming. Yet you can't help but like her.
Bonneville is the perfectly wicked villain who you can't help but find creepy and yet strangely captivating at the same time. I kept waiting for him to appear, almost like he was jumping out at me and it made my skin crawl. His Ha Ha Haaaa laugh will haunt you! But he was so well written and devious.
It's cool seeing Lyra as a baby and how she started her life. We get to know some of the characters we know very well in the other novels, but here we are introduced to them from a different angle. I found myself wanting to go back and read the Dark Materials series again. 
The book ends on a very frustrating 'to be continued' and I am desperate for the next installment but there is no release date or sign of when that will happen. I need more!!!

My Rating
   
  

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Book Review - Whistle in the Dark

Title: Whistle in the Dark
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: 3 May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0241327623

Synopsis
Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.
Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.
Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”
For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.
 

My Review
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I've never actually read Emma Healey, I know her first novel was very popular but isn't really my go to genre. However this arrived and I thought it sounded interesting. The cover is very pretty and when you take the jacket off the book is embossed with birds, it's a nice effect -they've really worked on the presentation, I just hoped the inside would match up to it.
I started to read and was instantly intrigued, I wanted to know what had happened to Lana and how her parents were going to cope with the aftermath of it all. The book is narrated by her mother who I found to be funny, slightly neurotic, a bit of a hypocrite, totally insecure but very likeable - she was human, she gave off a real feeling of the sort of personality a real mother in her situation would be. Sometimes she was annoying and I wanted to shake her but other times she was very endearing, but all of her actions had an origin and a point to them, it is her way of dealing with the situation - not only the days of panic and grief when Lana was missing, but the not knowing what happened to her when she was gone. Lana also suffers from depression and has made suicide attempts in the past so Jen still has that worry on her mind - every time Lana leaves she wonders if she will see her again.
This book deals with some very sensitive and very sincere issues in a compassionate and concise way, it didn't feel like I was being preached at or warned or scared, but informed and understanding about the characters problems and how they do effect others. 
Lana herself is very closed off, she's quiet, doesn't want to engage and seems very unsure of herself, you could feel her pain and misery without even knowing the full story, despite her problems though she still has a wicked sense of humour and loves to wind up her mum, she's quite tongue in cheek.
The Dad doesn't make much of an appearance but when he is you can tell that he is a big support for both his daughter and his wife but also a voice of reason and he has some of the best one-liners in the book, I actually laughed out loud at times.
I read this book in 2 days, I had to know what was going to happen. There is quite a lot of descriptive text but to me it didn't feel slow or dragging, it all just helped set the scene and characters and I found myself turning the pages and racing through the story. I stayed up til almost Midnight to finish it as I just couldn't wait to find the truth of what happened to Lana.
Part of me was hoping for a more dramatic ending, some great revelation that no one was expecting, but then again the ending also felt right - you could completely understand why the author went that way and it did fit with Lana's character, it all made perfect sense and I loved that her mother was the one to discover the truth. 
This story is quite sad, but very moving and really makes you feel for the characters. It is a book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions but it will be a ride you won't forget. I really enjoyed Healey's writing style and would definitely read other books by her.

My Rating
  

Friday, 22 June 2018

Book Review - Midnight


Title: Midnight
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant (Book 11)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Release Date: 31st May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0008284565



Synopsis
For years, Valkyrie Cain has struggled to keep her loved ones safe from harm, plunging into battle — time and time again — by Skulduggery Pleasant’s side, and always emerging triumphant.
But now the very thing that Valkyrie fights for is in danger, as a ruthless killer snatches her little sister in order to lure Valkyrie into a final confrontation. With Skulduggery racing to catch up and young sorcerer Omen scrambling along behind, Valkyrie only has twelve hours to find Alice before it’s too late.
The clock is ticking…'

My Review
I have loved the Skulduggery Pleasant series for years! I have met Derek Landy a number of times and have every single book signed in my collection. So I always knew that I would be buying and reading this book as soon as it came out. I collected my Special signed edition from the bookshop the day after it came out and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. With work and other commitments I didn’t get to dive in as quickly as I wanted to but finally last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the book and within 2 days I had completely finished it. That’s one thing I love about Landy’s books – they are so well written that you are guaranteed to be swept up into the world and carried along, you never want to put it down until you know what will happen next.
         As it’s been a while since I read the series I was worried that I wouldn’t remember what had happened in the last book, but there are enough hints and reminders within the story to bring it all back to you without feeling like he is rehashing something you’ve already read. Events and characters started coming back to me and I was once more immersed into that magical world.
         Valkyrie is back but still recovering from the whole Darquesse incident and trying to forget about the whole Cadaverous Gant thing, she’s woring with Skulduggery again and they are back on top form. The two of them together is the ultimate dream team, such chemistry! Their conversations never feel forced, they are so natural it feels like you are there talking to them as well. I love how Derek has developed them over the series too, they really do grow and adapt over the course and are always changing.
I really liked having more chapters with Omen Darkly too, he’s such a good character, kind of wimpy and pathetic but you know he means well and you can’t help but wish him well, I’m still waiting for him to turn around and save the day at some point. He has a good sense of humour and a bit of a no nonsense approach – although he day dreams a lot he does know what he wants, he’s just not sure how to get it. I also like that we saw a softer side to his brother, he’s not just the ‘chosen hero’, but a real person too.
When Alice is kidnapped Valkyrie must race to rescue her, but the rules are she can’t contact anyone for help, this is between her and Gant, and time is running out. Meanwhile Skulduggery is on his own mission. The suspense of the story is perfect, nothing is for sure, I kept wandering if Skulduggery would find Valkyrie or vice versa. Every time I thought I had figured out what would happen next, Landy would through in a curve ball.
The book ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger in that it reveals some things that you definitely want answers to! Derek Landy is such a tease with his books, so evil having to make us wait for the next one. But I just can’t get enough! Each book is just as incredible as the previous and Landy is a real legend of storytelling.

My Rating

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Book Review - The Trilogy of Two

Title: The Trilogy of Two
Author: Juman Malouf
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
Release Date: 7 Jun. 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1782692041

Synopsis

Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. They were found one night by Tatty, the Tattooed Lady of the circus, in a pail on her doorstep with only a note and a heart-shaped locket. They've been with Tatty ever since, roaming the Outskirts in the circus caravans, moving from place to place.

But lately, curious things have started to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

My Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The premise of the story sounded really interesting to me – two young girls raised in the circus with amazing musical talents that become magical, it appealed to me in a number of ways which is why I accepted it for review. I love magic, I love Circus based stories and I love mysteries, we’re on for a winner, right!?
Sonja and Charlotte are twins, raised in a circus on the ‘Outskirts’ by Tatty – a lady covered from head to toe in tattoos. They have extraordinary musical talents that they perform in the ring but lately it’s started causing magical things to happen and the customers are getting freaked out. The girls must learn to control their powers or find somewhere else to live. The opening of the book was very exciting and powerful, it put you right into the moment and introduced you to the twins and I was encouraged. The writing style was a bit blunt – a lot of short sentences but I could get past that.
The twins hear about an audition for a famous music academy, and they decide it’s worth a try, even with the possibility of magical mishaps - and that’s when things go wrong, that night their talents get stolen, Tatty gets kidnapped and they end up on a journey to try and save themselves and their adoptive mother. Along the way they meet a host of characters and end up in a variety of different situations. However this is where the book went downhill for me, I found Sonja and Charlotte to be very annoying, Charlotte falls in love with every boy she meets, has no regard for anyone around her and basically ignores her twin, whilst Sonja complains about everything, whines that life isn’t fair and basically makes every situation ten times worse with her bad attitude. They were both very dislikeable characters and I found myself irritated by them and basically wanted to smack their heads together and tell them to grow up a bit. They didn’t really act like the twelve years they were supposed to be.
I also found myself getting confused with who everyone was, you meet so many characters, some that are only present for a few pages and then seem to disappear again but I was never really sure what their purpose was in the first place, and many of them have more than one name, it just got so confusing. Throughout the story they also traveled to a number of places and I found myself getting lost and very confused.
The twins meet a group of characters and they start to travel together to try and save ‘the key’ to the ‘Seven Edens’ (a concept that sounded really cool, like a whole other hidden world that is basically a paradise). Anyway, the team arrive at some sort of factory and the story started to get interesting, I found myself settling into the book again, there was a real edge of mystery and excitement, it was quite creepy but the imagery was great, I could picture all the children and the dark corridors and sinister people, I really found myself engaging with the story again, I started to read quicker again, and I actually wanted to know what would happen next, but that was over far too quickly and then they were out and back on the run again. I just found the whole thing very hard to follow and the writing style started to irritate me again, I wanted flowing sentences that would carry me through the story but I found them to be short and abrupt, very matter of fact and stilted. I just couldn’t get on with it. I found myself counting how many pages were left until the end, I just couldn’t get to grips with it.
I did like the introduction of Wolf-boy and his friend Moritz, they had some real personalities and added a bit of humour to the story. The villains were creepy and twisted just like villains should be, but I didn’t understand their motivation for what they were doing – they just seemed to be evil for the sake of it – at least with the Contessa anyway. With Katz you learn a bit more about his backstory which makes certain things make sense, but I just didn’t feel like I understood the purpose of it.
I also didn’t understand how Alexandria acted throughout it, without giving away any spoilers, her behaviour towards the twins did not match up with her feelings at the end, there was just no arc or development between the two situations and I wondered how anyone could act so coldly all those years if they were feeling something else. She was a mystery to me- although saying that, I loved her magical powers. She was a very cool woman and I did like her sassy attitude.
The book also has illustrations within of the characters, I can see the skill in the drawings but to be honest they kind of freaked me out a bit, they didn’t look quite human to me, and they didn’t add anything to the story, but some people may like them.
Overall I was disappointed with this book, I felt like it had so much potential but it left me feeling flat. There were moments that got me excited and carried me along but they were few and far between. There is a good baseline in there though but for me it didn’t reach it’s potential.

My Rating
 


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Review - The Miniaturist

Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Publisher: Picador
Release Date: 1 Jan. 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1447250937

Synopsis

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

My Review


I saw adverts on the TV over Christmas for the adaption of this book and it looked interesting, but I am one of those people who has to read the book first. So I ordered it from the library. I got the Spoken Word version as I didn’t really have time to read the book at this point so thought I could have it on in my car on the way to and from work every day (I have about a 35 minute drive each way so it shouldn’t take me too long)
Needless to say it took me longer than I thought as I car-shared occasionally and some days I opted for the radio instead, so by the time I had finished it, I had missed the TV adaption and still haven’t been able to look it up to watch. However I did finish listening to the book and have to say I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
When I first started it, I wasn’t hooked straight away and struggled to get into the story, but I persevered and soon I was invested in the characters and their stories. Nella is very endearing and although comes across quite shy and weak, she’s not afraid to stand up for herself. I hated Marin at first, it was like she had sucked lemons and I wanted to tell her to lighten up but as the story progressed I found myself liking her and wishing the best for her.
Although the book is called ‘The Miniaturist’ you never actually meet that person, she is mentioned and spotted in crowds but never actually appears fully. Yet she has a vast influence over Nella and the events of the book, and will have you as the reader desperate to know more. The characters are all very strong and different in their own right and I felt myself hoping they would all get a happy ending.
Without giving any spoilers, I found the ending really sad and in a way not fully finished. I wanted to know what would become of them in the end. I have to say though, that I figured out who the father of the baby was quite early on – the big revelation wasn’t really a surprise for me, in fact to me it was totally obvious.
It’s an enjoyable read though with many plot twists that will keep you hooked. Warning for younger readers – some scenes are quite graphic and there is sexual content.
Overall I am glad I managed to read it and I can understand why there has been so much hype around this book, it was very well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

My Rating
 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Book Review - Shattered Frost


Title: Shattered Frost
Author: Liz DeJesus
Series: 'The Frost' - Book 3
Publisher: Indie Gypsy
Release Date: 17th August 2015
ISBN13: 9780692422106

Synopsis
Bianca Frost and her BFF Ming Lee return to Everafter to attend the Winter Ball with their boyfriends, Terrance and Prince Ferdinand. They were looking forward to a short vacation, especially Bianca, who is being bullied at school. She is looking forward to the day when she can finally graduate from high school. But all is not cute hair and fancy shoes as a mysterious count sets his sights on Bianca at the ball. When Count Jonathan Bleu kidnaps Bianca and Ming, the pair must do everything in their power to escape his clutches. In this amazing adventure, Bianca and Ming find themselves traveling down a rabbit hole, where they have to survive the madness of Wonderland in order to make it back home to the men they love. Bianca and Ming must travel to the Queen of Hearts labyrinth, find Bluebeard's key and save Jack of Hearts before Bianca loses everything she holds dear.


 My Review
I was lucky enough to read the first two books in this series when they first came out and I really liked Liz’s style of writing and the world she had created. When this book came out, I was very excited to be asked to read and review it and was sent a free e-book copy.
I have to ashamedly admit that I have since had it for 2 years! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it, because I really did, but I got so behind with all my reviews and what with doing my English degree and working full time as well I just haven’t been able to read for pleasure that much. And when I do have time, it’s much easier to pick up a paperback book than load up my ebooks However I finally had a break from coursework over the holidays and decided to pick up a book for pleasure. I found this on my list of books I still needed to read and picked it out straight away.

Having been so long since I read the others in the series it took me a while to get back into what was happening, but there is enough information and gentle reminders to bring you up to speed and soon I was off on another adventure with Bianca and Ming and it felt like we were old friends reuniting.
Ming and Bianca are travelling back to the land of ‘Everafter’ to spend the holidays with Terrance and Ferdinand, the girls can’t wait to be back with their beau’s and are praying for a quiet but enjoyable time. But things are never that simple when Bianca is involved and soon they are fighting off ghosts, kidnappers and even the Queen of Hearts. Yep, that’s right – the girls end up making their escape into Wonderland. Once there they discover that nothing is as it seems, there is danger round every corner and a million things they must accomplish before they can hope to get home. Meanwhile back in Everafter, Terrance and Ferdinand are desperately trying to track the girls down and bring them home safely.

Bianca is a great character, she’s a bit ditzy at times and always in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet she is determined, brave and fiercely loyal. She always tries to protect her friends and do the right thing. She is definitely flawed but this makes her all the more realistic and loveable. Her best friend Ming can be a bit of a wimp and I kept waiting for her to have a moment where she would say enough is enough and stand up tall, although it doesn’t come in a kick-ass, empowered way, she does get stronger and stands up to her fears at the end. Maybe she will continue to grow and burst out of her shell in the next book.
Terrance is a great character, he is so feisty and full of the desire to do something that you can’t help but cheer him on. He may have some anger issues, but he’s a sweetheart really.
I loved the setting of Wonderland, there was an interesting twist on the world we think we know and DeJesus has adapted it enough to make it her own. I love the mix in of the traditional characters, but none of them are quite as you remember them. Maggie Hatter is an amazing addition (daughter to the mad hatter), she says the perfect responses to things and really made me laugh at times. She’s strong and not afraid to get involved and help others.
I really enjoyed the book and was happy to be immersed back into those worlds with characters I have come to really like. I can’t wait to see what happens with Bianca, Ming and Maggie in the real world and what Terrance and Ferdinand get up to in Everafter whilst the girls are gone. The book is definitely set up for a sequel and I look forward to reading it.
Thanks again to Liz and once more apologies for taking so long to read it. But here is the review as promised J
If you haven’t read the series yet, I strongly suggest you do – you won’t regret it!

My Rating