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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Friday, 18 May 2018

Book Review - Darkest Night

Title: Darkest Night
Author: Will Hill
Series: Department 19 (Book 5)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 4th June 2015
ISBN13: 9780007505906


The brave men and women of Department 19 have fought Dracula at every turn, but now Zero Hour has passed and the ancient vampire is at full strength.
Inside Department 19, the Operators are exhausted and fractured. Jamie, Larissa, Matt and Kate are each struggling with their own demons. When the friends need each other most, they are further apart than ever.
Outside the Department, the world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined.
A final battle looms between the forces of darkness and the last, massed ranks of those who stand against it. A battle that will define the future of humanity. A battle that simply cannot be lost…

My Review

I love the Department 19 series, have followed it since the start. I met Will Hill at YALC in London a few years ago and he signed the first book for me and was really nice and approachable. I then met him again last year at the same convention and I got another Department 19 book signed (which made a change as his new book ‘After the Fire’ had just come out so everyone was getting that signed – also another great book, check out my review here) Will asked me if I had read this book yet and I had to confess that I hadn’t, with all my coursework for my Open University degree I haven’t read as much over the last couple of years, but I promised him it was a priority and that I would definitely review it when I was done. (I kept my promise Will, sorry it took so long though).
I have had this book by my side for a long time, I would have it on the side table in the living room, then carry it upstairs to bed to read before going to sleep but it never really happened. I would end up doing coursework or being too tired to read. But I was still desperate to find out what happens to Jamie and his friends.
Then the best idea occurred to me – my husband wanted to go and watch the football the other week and I usually go with him as it’s just the odd game, but I usually take something with me in case I get bored. Well the tables in the pub are too small to spread out my coursework – so I took this book. Best idea I have ever had! In the 90 minutes +20 minute break, I managed to read the first 160 pages. I was so absorbed in the book, I didn’t even notice everyone cheer when Chelsea scored a goal – and that includes my husband and his mate sitting right next to me. Everything around me just disappeared as I was fully submerged in the world of Department 19.
As it has been a while since I have read the others in the series it took me a few minutes to remember who everyone was and what was going on, but I soon found my feet and it was like reuniting with old friends. And now I had started reading, I had to keep going, I put off my coursework assignment that evening and read more when I got home. I squeezed in another hour the next day when I should have been doing housework, and by the next weekend I had finished all 731 pages.
Although the book was quite long, it never felt like I was having to trawl through it, the words just flew off the page and wrapped themselves around me and carried me along, everything was relevant, everything kept you engaged, everything made you want to read more. There are a number of storylines going on at the same time, but the transition between them is smooth and clear – luckily because I am easily confused! But I knew exactly what was going on in each one.
So Zero Hour has passed and Dracula is back – and oh boy is he back with a bang. He wants the world to know he means business and what better way to do that than create utter carnage and mayhem. The officers in Department 19 are stretched to their limits, relationships are breaking down and missions are becoming more dangerous. I really liked the twists in the story, without giving away spoilers – Larissa’s decisions made me want to cry but I also understood her motives and I really liked her development as a character. Jamie has some serious issues and sometimes you just want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it, but overall you can’t help but like him. But my favourite character has to be Valentin – so smooth, so self-assured, and so mysterious!
If you are at all squeamish then parts of the book may make you want to turn away, there is quite a lot of blood and gore and Will Hill doesn’t mince his words – he just says it straight, but in doing so it doesn’t seem unnecessary. I hate it when people put blood and violence in just for effect – but in this book it feels real, it makes everything that much more believable and helps you to empathise with the characters – understand exactly what they are up against.
This book really emphasised why I love Will Hill as an author, he is an amazing storyteller whose characters and worlds come to life around you.  Everything seems believable, every situation will have you wanting to know more and feeling like you are standing next to Jamie and the Department 19 officers, waiting for instructions, ready to work alongside them and fight Dracula. This is a world that will stay with me for a long time and one that I know I will go back to again.
However I am cross with Will Hill for one of those deaths at the end – why did you have to do that!? Actually made me scream ‘No!!!’ when it happened. How could you Will, how could you? – I’m not going to say who though because that would give it away.
Overall an epic conclusion to an amazing series. I can’t wait to see what Will brings out next. Definitely worth a read – I highly recommend.

My Rating

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Book Review - Barefoot on the Wind

Title: Barefoot on the Wind
Author: Zoe Marriott
Publisher: Walker Books; 01 edition
Release Date: 1 Sept. 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1406333374

A magical retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a fairytale Japan. A companion title to Zoë Marriott’s critically acclaimed Shadows on the Moon. There is a monster in the forest... Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects..

My Review
When I was much younger I read ‘The Swan Kingdon’ and ‘Daughter of the Flame’ and really enjoyed them, I still have them on my bookshelves today. At YALC in London last summer Zoe Marriott was on the guest list, remembering how much I enjoyed those other books I knew I wanted to meet her. As I’ve been a bit out of the loop with YA releases the last couple of years as I’ve mainly been reading old classics for my English degree, I wasn’t aware that Zoe had any other books out. When I got to the convention I saw posters for this book ‘Barefoot on the Wind’ and another called ‘Shadows of the Moon’. They sounded so good, I love things to do with Fairy-tale retellings so I was desperate to get a copy, however by the time I got to the book stall at the convention both of these books were sold out – the supplier had underestimated their popularity. I was gutted, but I still had the other two original books with me so I queued up and got them signed. (Zoe by the way was absolutely lovely and a pleasure to talk to) I promised I would get hold of the books and read them and then write reviews, so once back I ordered the books from the library and waited eagerly for them to arrive.
This one arrived first and I dived in as soon as I could. Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by a forest, no one ever goes into the forest as there are rumours of a beast lurking within. Every now and then someone disappears and is said to have been captured and taken away by the beast. When Hana’s father is the next victim, she swears to put an end to it all once and for all. But nothing is ever as it first seems and Hana faces more than just a simple beast, and the beast himself is nothing like she expected.
The world in which this book is set is amazing, the imagery Marriott uses really lifts the small village off the page, I felt like I was walking down the dirt tracks by Hana’s side, playing in the river, going out hunting. I could picture everything and it was beautiful yet slightly ominous at the same time.
Obviously, knowing the story of Beauty and the Beast, there were some points that were going to be obvious and I was waiting for them to happen, but even the most obvious events were transformed into something exciting with Marriott’s own little twist to make you stop and think, nothing is as you expect.
Hana is a great character, strong, determined, and feisty and I felt myself connect to her and her story, the beast was also something else. The man is a gentle and calming spirit, he feels a connection to the earth around him and seems so helpful. How can a beast lurk within?
This book will sweep you into a world of magic and wonder, excitement and adventure and will leave you wanting to know what happens next.
An excellent read that I highly recommend.

My Rating

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Book Review - After the Fire

Title: After the Fire
Author: Will Hill
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Jun. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1474924153

The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

My Review

I’ve been a fan of Will Hill for years, I loved his Department 19 series and Ive met him a couple of times at the London Young Adult Literature Convention. He was on the guest list again last year so I queued up again to meet him. I didn’t know he had a new book out so we had a chat. He was pleased to see a Department 19 fan amongst the new fans and he signed one of my old books, but we also discussed ‘After the Fire’, he told me what it was about and I was very intrigued. So as soon as I got back I ordered it from the library to read.
I did actually read this back in September but hadn’t managed to get round to writing the review until now. However the book was really good and it’s stuck with me so it shouldn’t be too hard to write a review after a couple of months. I never normally get behind on reviews but life has been hectic lately.
Will Hill has created a small community, a place inside a fence. Those inside are aware of the outside world, but don’t speak of it and only one select person ventures out each month to collect supplies. Everything inside The Fence is controlled by Father John, he tells them when to worship, what work to do, who to talk to and who to love. He is there to show them the ‘true path’, a way to salvation.
Moonbeam has grown up inside The Fence, it is all she has ever known, but over the years she has seen things change. Now she is outside of the Fence, and her whole world has changed, but how did it get to this? What started the fire? And What was really going on behind closed doors?
The book switches between the present where Moonbeam is in a hospital facility, recovering from the Fire and everything else that led up to it and the past, where you learn all about life inside the Fence, the other inhabitants and the events that go on behind closed doors.
The book is very raw and has a sense of danger about it, but it’s the sort of book that you just can’t put down. You have to know every detail of what has been happening and what will happen next. Moonbeam is a bit of a mystery throughout, but Will Hill gives you just enough information to keep you hooked and wanting to know more. You feel like you are learning the truth of the past with Moonbeam, everything she is discovering and recounting you are there beside her, feeling the shock, the excitement, the betrayal – everything. It really submerges you into the story and makes you need to keep reading. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has hooked me as much as this one, but it seriously had me clutching the book in my hands at every available moment.
There are moments in the book that will have you smiling but there are also some harrowing moments that will leave you thinking and just make you take a deep breath but Hill finds a perfect mix of the two that makes this book just so beautiful.
It’s one that I will definitely never forget, it makes you question things about life but also realise just how amazing life can be.
I would definitely recommend this book, it’s such a powerful read and one that you will want to share.
May not be suitable for younger readers due to some mature content.

My Rating