Saturday 22 December 2018

Book Review - Glass Town Wars

Title: Glass Town Wars
Author: Celia Rees
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
Release Date: 1 Nov. 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1782692225

All these Glass Town intrigues. No matter how long you'd been absent, how far you'd travelled, once you were back, it was as though you'd never been away.
Tom and Augusta are from different places and different times, but they meet in the virtual world to combine forces in battle, to save a kingdom, escape a web of deceit and to find love. In a place where fictions can be truths and truths fictions, learning who to trust is more than friendship, it is about about survival.
Glass Town Wars, inspired by the early writings of the Brontës, is a captivating, magical novel by the renowned Celia Rees.

My Review
I was offered a copy of this book to review from the publisher and was so excited to accept. I had read some of Celia Rees' books as a teenager and although I don't remember much about them now, I do remember that my friends all read 'Pirates' when we were at school and we loved it. So I had high hopes for a new book by this author. I gratefully accepted and looked forward to getting stuck in.
May contain some spoilers ****
I started this book about 6 weeks ago, I don't have as much time to read as I used to so it is taking me longer to read books, but I also struggled to get really invested in this one.
When I first started the book I was intrigued, Tom is in a coma after and illness or an accident - I'm not really sure, he has a host of people visiting him, including his girlfriend, a mate named Milo and a nice young girl named Lucy who sits and reads to him not knowing whether Tom can even hear her.
Then one day Milo sneaks something onto Tom and it transports him into a Virtual World, thrown in at the deep end, Tom must learn to survive. Whilst there he meets Augusta who I think is a princess of some sort, and together they fight battles, meet magical creatures and a host of other adventures.
This book had a really promising start, I was a little bit confused as to what was going on at first but I slowly started to get into the world. I liked Tom as a character, he is a bit shy but not afraid to get stuck in and seems polite and thoughtful. The Virtual world seemed like a really interesting place and I was looking forward to seeing what Rees would do with it next. 
There are quite a lot of characters and I must admit I don't really know who all of them were or what they did. I ended up having a couple of weeks when I didn't read much and I when I came back to it, I was totally confused as to who most of the people were. It took me a bit of effort flicking back through some pages to place who was who and even then I was a bit puzzled with some but I kept reading in the hope it would become clear.
When I did get back into it, I was quite quickly back into the world and reading quite fast. This book to me is a bit of a puzzle though, parts of it I really enjoyed and other bits I either found a bit slow or just a bit annoying. I wanted to get back to the main story but there seemed to be a lot of side plots going on. 
There was something about a forced marriage that took me a while to get into, especially as it was clear Augusta loved Tom at this point, but the next thing I knew they were flying away in a Helicopter (that didn't even exist in the time the 'game' was set - but is then explained as a development from the game player) Then they were fighting Zombies and running away somewhere, I got really confused as to what on earth was happening.
All the while you are split between the Virtual world and the Real world. This book had some truly amazing ideas and some really well written chapters and some great imagery and adventures but at the same time it had some really confusing bits.
I still can't decide if I actually enjoyed it or not, it just left me confused. Maybe if I read it again in one go, or with less of a delay in the middle it might make more sense, but I don't think I liked it enough to want to read it again.
It just left me feeling like I wanted more, or if not more - something different, something more direct - follow the parallel story lines but keep them parallel - don't let the Virtual one zoom off in a million different directions. 
Overall I think it is a book that could be enjoyed and has some great ideas but to me felt a little bit muddled.
I realize that it is also apparently based on some childhood stories written by the Bronte's but the inclusion of 'Emily' in the book didn't really add anything for me. In fact it was just another name I had to work out. 
This is a book that will certainly take you on a ride of emotions, but to me - left me mainly confused.

My Rating

Sunday 7 October 2018

Book Review - The Defiant

Title: The Defiant
Author: Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken (Book 3)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Release Date: 7 July 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1442432727

In this gripping conclusion to The Forsaken Trilogy, Alenna's loyalties are put to a test of life and death.
Alenna Shawcross and the others who escaped the wheel are working toward an all-out assault on the United Northern Alliance. The plan is to dismantle it from the inside--and Alenna is one of the few people who can access the organization's inner sanctum. But when she returns to the home she has nearly forgotten, she encounters old friends and is swept into a secret plan that puts everything she loves in danger.
Knowing what is at stake for her and her friends, Alenna ventures into the heart of the treacherous UNA. She's determined to bring them down, because freedom is the only choice. Or is it?

My Review
After reading book 1 I was left wanting to know more. After reading book 2 I was fully engulfed in the series and invested in the characters, for me book 2 was much better than the first and I hoped that the author would continue to get better as we headed into book 3.
The Wheel is now history, that battle has been fought, but a much bigger one stands ahead. It is now time for Alenna to face the UNA head on, right in the middle of it’s own territory – by returning to where she grew up. After undergoing extreme training, Alenna and Liam are ready for the next battle, but it isn’t long before they are separated and once again fighting desperately for both their own survival and victory over the UNA. We have other characters make a return appearance such as Gadya and Cass, they are a refreshing addition and probably my favourite characters.
I expected this book to be ram packed with action and be really fast paced but I actually felt like it was a lot slower again and I found myself getting bored in places, I just wanted them to get on with it.  For example Alenna in the Farm house labour camp – this was a necessary addition to the story, her captivity and submission but for me it just dragged on that bit too long, constantly waiting for her to break out and yet not daring to.
For me the story was a bit too political, I knew it was a fight against a government but instead of a clear battle, there were so many debates about what was right and what was wrong and why things were being done, and whether that was the right thing to do for all civilisation – it just got a bit tedious. There were also so many bad guys – or even possible bad guys that is started to get a bit confusing as to who was really in the wrong and who was just misguided. You never know who to truly trust – and to a certain extent that can make for good reading –keeps the tension, but again it was just too multi-layered and I just got a bit fed up and assumed everyone was evil.
There were some exciting moments and some quite sad moments and there were times when I really did start to race through the book again, but overall I found this book disappointing. It had so much potential from book 2 to make an epic conclusion, it just felt like things got a bit lost on the way.
I’m glad I finished the trilogy and it was worth a read but I don’t think I’d want to read it again. It just didn’t wow me.

My Rating

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

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

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

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