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 ZoĆ« 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