Book Review: The Book of Fire – Michelle Kinney

 

Release Date: 27th August 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 384
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was kindly given a copy of this book at YALC.

Synopsis:

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told.

Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders.

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret.

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred Book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever.

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

Review:

This is a vivid and wonderfully written dystopian fantasy. The one thing that I really adored about Book of Fire is the imaginative setting and exciting plot. After a nuclear war, only those who live inside the dome are supposed to exist, but Talia and her family exist on the outside, and they thrive in the natural environment. When part of her family are captured, Thalia has to venture into the dome to save the ones she love. But all is not as it seems inside the domes, and she has some tough choices to make in order to survive and find her way out. I really loved the idea for this book. On one side the outsiders, those living in harmony with nature, living in treehouses and working with the land. On the other those that used technology to live an advanced and clinical life.

Book of Fire is a really interesting read, and it puts forth some really interesting questions about the way we live and the advancements of technology – just because we can doesn’t mean we should. The plot was well paced, with plenty of mystery and action to keep the reader intrigued. There were a few times when I just couldn’t put the book down, so desperate was I to know what was coming next. The world building is also superb, laying down the foundations and ideas well, without dumping all the information on the reader.

The characters in Book of Fire were also fantastically written. Thalia who will stop at nothing to get her family back, her wise caring grandfather and my personal favourite is definitely the mysterious August, he’s part of the elite inside the dome but he isn’t all that he seems. I thought the characters felt very human, the make mistakes and stupid decisions, they aren’t perfect all rounded people. These excellent characters are really what made the book for me and I was rooting for them almost from the get go. Book of Fire is a fantastic read and I really can’t wait to find out what’s next in store.


Blog Tour: Wunderkids – Jacqueline Silvester

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15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and… two very different boys. 

However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal. 

Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run. 

Today is my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous Wunderkids by Jacqueline Silvester! With Wunderkids being set at a boarding school, Jacqueline has kindly written a post about her top boarding school settings in books and film. Take a look!

 

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1. Catcher in the Rye

Though Holden Caulfield’s boarding school only plays a small(ish) part in his story, it’s still and important one. This classic was my first experience with a coming-of-age narrative and a boarding school setting. Thus, it deserves a spot at the top of the list.

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2. Fallen by Lauren Kate

The Fallen series by Lauren Kate centers around two boarding schools, Sword and Cross Reform School in Savannah Georgia and Shoreline School in Northern California, both schools have one fabulous thing in common- they are both populated by angels.

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3. Wild child

A rich and spoilt Malibu teen is sent to a strict boarding school in England as punishment for her latest prank. Hilarity ensues. Featuring Juno Temple, great uniforms, and Alex Pettyfer behind the wheel of a 1958 Austin Healey Sprite.

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4. Little Princess

A young girl is left at a prestigious school in England when her father has to go off to fight in the war. When he is presumed dead, the young girl is forced into servitude. Based on the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this film is beautiful and it will make you cry. I was absolutely in love with this film when I was little.

 

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5. A Great a Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A mysterious, gothic, and beautiful YA series that takes place in 1895 and tells the story of Gemma Doyle, a young girl whose I uprooted from her life in India and send to a boarding school in England. If you’ve read my novel Wunderkids you know that I have a weak spot for creepy, sinister academies.

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6. The Chorus

The Chorus is a gorgeous French film. It’s about a music teacher who starts a job at a boarding school for troubled boys. Once there, he founds a choir to help the boys channel their energy into something positive. It has been years since I’ve first saw the film but I still have the entire soundtrack on my phone and listen to it all the time.

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7. She’s The Man

Cheesy? Yes. But this film is also hilarious, and takes place at a boarding school, and it never once failed to cheer me up. Also, who wouldn’t want to be dorm mates with Channing Tatum?

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8. Never Let Me Go (film)

Based on the book by the Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, this film has everything I love- dystopia, romance, and boarding school.

 

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9. Gallagher Girls by Aly Carter

Boarding school for spies? Yes, please! Paired with Ally Carter’s dynamic writing, great storytelling, and a cast of kickass schoolgirls who can hack into CIA databases and disable bombs. Perfection.

 

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10. Vampire Academy

The setting for this series is St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for Vampire royalty and their protectors. Enough said. Just do yourself a favor and skip the film.

 

Thank you so much to Jacqueline for her wonderful guest post! What are your favourite books/films that feature boarding schools? (Mine has definitely got to be Harry Potter!) Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out the other blog stops!

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Blog Tour: Herself Alone in Orange Rain – Tracy Iceton

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For those that haven’t heard about Herself Alone in Orange Rain yet, can you tell us a bit about it?

Herself Alone in Orange Rain is part two of my Celtic Colours trilogy which explores 100 years of conflict in Ireland. Part one, Green Dawn at St Enda’s, focuses on the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and came out last year to coincide with the Rising’s centenary. Green Dawn’s main protagonist is a schoolboy, Finn, who becomes embroiled in the Easter week rebellion.

But this is not a typical trilogy where part two picks up shortly after wherever part one left off and Herself Alone in Orange Rain is mainly set in the 1980s. The novel is about a young woman who joins the IRA, becoming an active service volunteer for them and taking part in many of the high profile attacks of that period. Before the late 1970s women were not commonly ‘on the front line’ for the IRA but that’s what I wanted to explore so that meant setting the book about 70 years later than Green Dawn.

The main character in Orange Rain is a 19 year old art student called Caoilainn. A family connection runs through the whole trilogy so she’s related to Finn from part one (I’m not saying how– you’ll have to read to find out!). This way I can show how the Irish conflict impacts on one family down the generations. Caoilainn (and Finn) is entirely fictional but her experiences, attitudes, decisions and actions are based on the real life accounts of IRA women from this period. I think people who’ve read Green Dawn may be surprised because part two is very different, telling a more emotive and divisive story. But the one thing that both books have in common, and part three will develop this too, is the cost of conflict.

Where did the inspiration come from for the book?

Once I had the idea for Green Dawn and started doing the research I quickly realized I would be writing a trilogy; there was too much for one novel. I always felt part two would be set during the 1970/80s because, historically, that was a pivotal period in terms of IRA activity but originally I thought I’d be writing about a man because, probably like most people, I assumed the IRA was all male. Then a friend and fellow writer, Natalie Scott, said it would be interesting to tell the story from a female perspective. This was an intriguing proposition that raised lots of questions about the role of women in the IRA and about how that is portrayed in fiction so I started researching, discovered that women had indeed operated in combatant roles for the Provisional IRA and from the extensive research came the novel. In fact there was such a wealth of research to do that the novel actually became my creative writing PhD project.

What was the writing process like for the book, did it take you long to complete?

The whole process of researching, writing and editing took me three years because that’s how long I had to do the PhD. But of that the research and the editing took far more time than the initial drafting because doing a novel in an academic context for a PhD meant I

had to go much deeper with the research. Handily it has resulted in a much strong, more maturely written novel, I feel.

Now that the book is about to be released, what are you working on next?

I’m furiously tapping away at part three of the trilogy which currently has the working title White Leaves of Peace. This concluding part is focused on life in Ireland since the signing of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and will go up to 2016, looking at whether or not there truly is peace in the north of Ireland. Again there is a family tie the main protagonist, a young man called Cian, is related to Caoilainn from Orange Rain (but again, I’m not telling you how).

You’ve written in a whole range of areas, from non-fiction to flash fiction, do you find it difficult switching between them?

I don’t really find switching between types of writing difficult. After I’ve finished doing this feature I’ll be back later today to working on part three of the novel. I just take a short brain break in between, I’ll probably go to the gym. What also helps is thinking about what I’m writing before I sit down to do it. I write in my head constantly and if I know tomorrow I’m doing a short story I’ll be thinking about it when I get up, while I’m in the shower, eating breakfast, cleaning up etc. so that when I sit down I’m already in the ‘short story’ zone.

You’ve also been a writer in residence on several occasions, what was that experience like?

Being a writer in residence is, aside from writing, my favourite writer’s job because it gives you an extended opportunity to work with others on a particular project that really focuses creative energy and sees amazing results produced. When I was working on the Silent Voices project in Helmsley for an exhibit at nearby Rievaulx Abbey I got to work with an entire primary school of enthusiastic young writers who were all thrilled to be able to exercise their creativity.

More recently I’ve been writer in residence for the Crossing the Tees book festival, working with them on a brand new aspect to the festival: a short story competition. And I’ve been privileged to help emerging writers really develop their craft through a series of short story writing workshops and some one-to-one mentoring sessions, hopefully inspiring them to keep writing and one day seeing their work in print too.

Finally, can you recommend us a good book you’ve read recently?

I recently read what I think is one of the most brilliantly creative, experimental pieces of storytelling published in a long time. It’s called This is the End of the Story by Jan Fortune. She happens to be my editor so, admittedly, I read it because I was curious about her own writing, especially when I’ve had to read some harsh, but justified, criticisms of my writing from her. But, having read her novel, I hold my hands up and say my God, she can write and I consider myself lucky to have her as an editor, guiding my creative practice.

Big thanks to Tracy for answering my questions, and be sure to check out the other stops listed below!

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Blog Tour: The Red Beach Hut – Lynn Michell

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Release Date: 4th October 2017
Publisher: Inspired Quill
Pages: 260
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads. Inspired Quill Bookshop
Source: I was kindly sent a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

“Their eyes met and locked. Pulling his hand from his pocket, Neville waved. Once.”
Eight year old Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again.
Abbott, panicked by what he believes is a homophobic cyber attack, is on the run. The hut is his refuge and shelter.

Inevitably man and boy collide. Their fleeting friendship is poignant, honest and healing. But Abbot’s past threatens to tear him away, as others watch and self-interpret what they see.

An evocative portrayal of two outsiders who find companionship on a lonely beach, Lynn Michell’s novel is about the labels we give people who are different, and the harm that ensues.

Review:

 

I took this book on holiday with me because I thought it sounded like such a fascinating read. I unfortunately didn’t get to it until the very last day, and the dreaded wait in the airport. I settled in to start The Red Beach Hut and before I knew it the two hour wait had gone by. I was completely sucked in by this beautifully written book, so much so that I wish I could get the chance to read it for the first time again.

I loved everything about The Red Beach Hut. I could picture the quiet slightly run down seaside town, the kind of place I probably visited with my parents as a child. The images Michell conjours up are so vivid, and so typical of British life. I also thought the characters were fantastic. Child protagonist Neville is perfect, equal parts trusting and questioning. There’s also a host of secondary characters that I thought were really fascinating: Neville’s mum doing whatever she can to make ends meet, as well as the nosy neighbours Bill and Ida who make it their business to get involved with everything that is happening around the little seaside town. These characters felt very realistic, perfectly capturing the essence of real people.

The writing in The Red Beach Hut is enthralling, and I found myself completely absorbed in Michell’s words. The plot is a really fascinating one to think about: a lonely boy makes friends with a man living in a red beach hut, and how that looks from the outside perspective. It gives the reader a lot to think about, and is incredibly relevant with today’s media. I enjoyed The Red Beach Hut immensely, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Feature: September Book Haul!

Or as I’m calling it the month I bought waaaay too many books. In my defence, my birthday was in September, I also finished my dissertation at the end of August and had to celebrate and loads of really good books came out that I had to get my paws on. So here we go!

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1. Frostblood & Fireblood – Elly Blake

So I absolutely loved Frostblood when I read an E-ARC from Netgalley late last year, but for some reason I hadn’t gotten around to picking up a physical copy. I was dying to read Fireblood, so I thought now might be the perfect opportunity to pick up a copy of each! (You can also read my review of Frostblood here).

The frost king will burn.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

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2. An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

I have sadly never read An Ember in the Ashes. I’ve heard such wonderful things about it from tons of bloggers, so when I saw it just after I finished my dissertation was submitted, I knew I had to rectify that and get myself a copy!

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

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3. Obsession – Amanda Robson

I saw lots of posts on Twitter about this book when it first came out and lots of bloggers were raving about it, so when I saw it on sale for just £2 in The Works, I picked myself up a copy. Looking forward to reading it on one of these chilly autumn evenings!

One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could?
It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life.

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4. The Fifth Season – N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season is a book I’ve always wanted to read, so again when I saw it in The Works I rushed to buy a copy. Can’t wait to read this beauty. 

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
Three terrible things happen in a single day.
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

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5. High Stakes – ed. by George R. R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass

I love George R. R. Martin’s books, and I read pretty much everything he’s ever written. I’ve never read his Wildcard series, which he edits along with Melinda Snodgrass, so I figured I might give it a shot and see how it goes!

Perfect for old fans and new readers alike, High Stakes (Wild Cards) delves deeper into the world of aces, jokers, and the hard-boiled men and women of the Fort Freak police precinct in a pulpy, page-turning novel of superheroics and Lovecraftian horror.

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6. Kingdom of Sleep – E. K. Johnston

I absolutely adored A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, but for some reason had heard virtually nothing about this beauty. I was browsing in Waterstones when I came across Kingdom of Sleep, and if that beautiful cover doesn’t make you want to read it, the blurb will have you hooked!

The world is made safe by a woman . . . but it is a very big world.
It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen saved her country from fire and blood – but now, the kingdom of Kharuf is threatened by a demon gathering power. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with her final blow: a curse that will cost that princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

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7. A Skinful of Shadows – Frances Hardinge

I ashamedly have never read anything by Frances Hardinge (I know!) but I know a lot of people were really excited for this book coming out. I picked it up in the airport bookshop while I was waiting for my flight and it just sounded so good that I couldn’t resist.

This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .
Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide. 
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding. 
Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard. 
And now there’s a spirit inside her. 

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8. The Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo

I don’t think I have to say too much about this one, it’s probably one of my most anticipated books of 2017. It has pretty much gone to the top of my TBR.

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.
Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.
Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

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9. Sleeping Beauties – Stephen & Owen King

I’m so excited to read this mammoth book. It looks absolutely stunning, though I’m not looking forward to lugging it back and forward with me on my commute!

In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?
In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.

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10. Legend, Prodigy & Champion – Marie Lu

I saw a box set of this series for only £6 so I figured now was the perfect time to pick up some beautiful paperback copies!

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

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11. Perfect Remains – Helen Fields

This is another series I’ve always wanted to read. I recently volunteered at the Bloody Scotland book festival and Helen was on a panel. She talked a lot about her series so I thought it would be the perfect time to pick up a copy, and she signed it which was a fab bonus.

The first in a nail-shredding new crime series. Fans of M.J. Arlidge will be gripped from start to finish.
On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.
In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness.

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12. I Let You Go – Claire Mackintosh

Likewise Claire Mackintosh did a fantastic panel at Bloody Scotland. I didn’t have any pennies on me at the time to pick up a  book, but I did manage to pick up I Let You Go at a later date from my local bookshop, and I’m so looking forward to reading it!

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street … 
I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past. 
At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

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13. Tower of Dawn – Sarah J. Maas

This is another one that I probably don’t have to say much about. The next instalment in an absolutely wonderful series.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

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14. King’s Cage – Victoria Aveyard

I absolutely loved Red Queen but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to reading the rest of the series. Planning to rectify that over the next few weeks so I picked up the latest instalment, and I cannot wait to read it!

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.
 


Book Review: Wonderwoman: Warbringer – Leigh Bardugo

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Series: DC Icons #1
Release Date: August 29th 2017
Pages: 369
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Penguin Random House kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Review:

 

This was a bit of an odd read for me. I love DC Comics, but have never really clicked with Wonderwoman. When I heard that Penguin were doing a YA series of DC heroes I jumped at the chance to read them, even more so when I found out that Leigh Bardugo (one of my favourite authors) would be writing one. However I was still a bit unsure how it would go when Wonderwoman wasn’t a story I was all that familiar with.

It took me a little while to get into the story. I found the beginning with Diana on the island a little slow, but as soon as Diana got to New York, I was sucked in and couldn’t put the book down. I’m so glad I was given the chance to review this book, because it’s honestly one of the best superhero stories I’ve ever read.

Warbringer really has it all. It’s full of action, Diana fighting bad guys and kicking butt, being the strong and fantastic heroine. It’s also full of mythology and meticulous research, a wonderful cast of characters – I loved scientist and all round geeky girl Alia and her best friend the fashion and style icon Nim so much. The one thing that really took me by surprise was how funny the book was. Bardugo gives Diana a really distinct voice, and it’s a wonderful story watching her be both Amazon Princess and a young woman doing normal things (interacting with boys, making friends, living up to the expectations of her mother). It’s a well crafted and multi-layered story that I lost myself in for hours on end.

As well as the fantastic characters and funny moments the story is just a really intriguing concept, the idea of the warbringer and the effect it has on the world. There were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming, and that made the story all the more enjoyable. This has even more solidified Leigh Bardugo’s place as one of my favourite authors, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next in store for the DC Icons series.

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Blog Tour: The Dancing Girl and the Turtle – Karen Kao

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Release Date: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Linen Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. LP Bookshop.
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to review.

Synopsis:

A rape. A war. A society where women are bought and sold but no one can speak of shame. Shanghai 1937. Violence throbs at the heart of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai and freedom when she is raped and left for dead. The silence and shame that mark her courageous survival drive her to escalating self-harm and prostitution. From opium dens to high- class brothels, Anyi dances on the edge of destruction while China prepares for war with Japan. Hers is the voice of every woman who fights for independence against overwhelming odds.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is one of four interlocking novels set in Shanghai from 1929 to 1954. Through the eyes of the dancer, Song Anyi, and her brother Kang, the Shanghai Quartet spans a tumultuous time in Chinese history: war with the Japanese, the influx of stateless Jews into Shanghai, civil war and revolution. How does the love of a sister destroy her brother and all those around him.

Review:

 

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Haunting and beautifully written, The Dancing Girl BTThe Dancing Girl and the Turtle is the story of Song Anyi, a young woman who after the death of her parents, travels to Shanghai to stay with her Aunt and Uncle. On the way there she is attacked by three men, raped and left for dead. What follows is her descent into prostitution and self harm in an attempt to deal with this horrific event.

This book is a really powerful one, and the story of Song Anyi is incredibly compelling reading. At times it was uncomfortable, but throughout it was vivid and well portrayed. The book is broken up into short chapters, and each one features differing view points of characters – some from Anyi and her brother Kang, and other times her cousin Cho and their maid Blossom. I really loved these differing points of view, it offered a chance to see Anyi and the story from different perspectives and really served to highlight the way that the Song family attempt to deal with what happened to Anyi – with a sense of shame, pretending it never happened.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle also has a really fascinating backdrop – China in the 1930s – a time when women had no voice and little say in their lives. This combined with the country preparing for war with Japan, makes for a very rich and compelling setting. Initially I thought The Dancing Girl and the Turtle might be a quick read – being only 280 pages – but there is so much history, so much detail about women fighting for their right to be heard, that I found myself really taking my time, in order to savour this beautiful novel. If you only read one book this autumn, make it the beautiful and atmospheric Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

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Blog Tour: The Cost of Living – Rachel Ward

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After a young woman is brutally attacked on her way home from the local supermarket, checkout girl Bea is determined to find out who’s responsible. She enlists the help of Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee – but can she really trust him? Customers and colleagues become suspects, secrets are uncovered, and while fear stalks the town, Bea risks losing the people she loves most.

Now read an interview with author Rachel Ward!

1. For those that haven’t read The Cost of Living, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Cost of Living is a detective story with a difference. It is set in and around a fictional supermarket and my ‘detectives’ are Bea, a smart checkout girl, and Ant, a seemingly gormless new trainee. It’s at the cosy end of the crime spectrum, although there is still some darkness in there.

2. What inspired you to write the book?

I started with my main characters. Bea wandered into my head first. I knew what she looked like and where she worked and it occurred to me that all human life passes through a supermarket and it was rich material for a book. I’d wanted to try a detective story for ages and the two things just came together.

3. You’ve written books in several different genres, did you feel in any major differences writing The Cost of Living versus Numbers/The Drowning?

For some reason writing The Cost of Living was much easier than writing all my YA books, except Numbers. I think with both of these books I was writing without any expectations, just telling myself the story. With a crime book there are certain conventions (at the very least you need a crime near the beginning and some sort of resolution at the end), which I enjoyed playing with.

4. What was the writing process like for the book, did it take you long to complete?

This was a new process for me. For the first time I sent it chapter by chapter to my husband’s kindle. He gave me feedback on each chapter and was keen to receive the next instalment. This continued when he had to live in hospital waiting for a heart transplant. It was a rather wonderful thing, actually. The book took just under a year to write, with a few breaks for other writing and domestic upheaval. I’m continuing with the writing in instalments process for my next book. So far his feedback has been positive!

5. When coming up with new characters how do you go about it? Are they based around people in your life or completely creative?

I try not to base characters on people that I know, although occasionally they sneak in. Sometimes I go shopping for characters by deliberately observing people when I am out and about, noting down appearances, clothes, etc. on my phone if I think they might be useful. I also get inspiration from tv programmes, especially reality and talent shows, the news and films.

6. Now that The Cost of Living is about to be released, what are you working on next?

I’m about halfway through a sequel. I’ve got quite a few plots in mind for Ant and Bea and I hope I get the chance to write them.

7. The cover for The Cost of Living is really striking! Did you have any input into the overall cover design?

I love the cover! It really sums up the book for me, both the content and the tone. It was designed by the very talented David Wardle, commissioned by Sandstone Press, my lovely publisher. They did show me an early design and asked for my feedback. All I could really do was gasp and go ‘Wow, I love it!’

8. Finally can you recommend us a good book you’ve read recently?

Oooh, I mostly read crime these days and the series I’ve enjoyed recently is by Jorn Lier Horst, a Norwegian writer and former police investigator. I’ve rattled through all his William Wisting books that have been translated so far and am eagerly waiting for more. Taking a break from crime, I read Ready Player One. I had bought it for my son, who is a gamer, and he loved it and insisted that I read it. I can see why – it’s a cracking story, believable, authentic and exciting.

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Blog Tour: Fire Lines – Cara Thurbourn

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Release Date: September 26th 2017
Publisher: Bewick Press
Pages: 294
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. 

Synopsis:

When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?

Review:

Welcome to my stop on the Fire Lines blog tour, run by the lovely A Daydreamer’s Thoughts. Fire Lines is a lush story in a fantastic magical setting, and one of the things I most enjoyed about this book was the excellent world building. The magick and history were all very well laid out, and really helped to centre the reader in the midst of the story.

Emi and the rest of the cast are also really likeable characters, and it wasn’t hard to become completely absorbed by their story. They are well rounded and developed – you root for Emi almost from the get go, and there’s plenty of exciting moments to keep you reading along the way. I also think that cover is fantastic, it’s really eye-catching and I can’t wait to buy a physical copy to have on my shelves.

I did feel some parts of the story were a little slow, particularly in the early chapters of the book, but once everything kicks off towards the latter half of the book, I definitely found the book hard to put down. It was engaging, well written and had plenty of the magic and mystery that YA fantasy fans will love.

I really enjoyed Fire Lines and really enjoyed seeing the different cultures and groups that live outside the wall. It’s a really exciting read and if you’re looking for a new YA fantasy series, this is definitely not going to be one to miss. I for one am now desperately waiting for book two!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Fire Lines blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!

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Blog Tour: Prisoner of Ice and Snow – Ruth Lauren

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Release Date: September 7th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads. 
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of the book for this blog tour.

Synopsis:

 

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.

No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …

An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.

Review:

This is a beautifully written story about the friendship between two sisters. It’s an engaging, enjoyable story, and one I think a lot of people will really love. The plot is full of twists and turns and has that perfect blend of action and plot that fantasy fans will just love.

The main character Valor is a brave, determined young lady, and she’ll do anything to help her sister – even commit a crime. I admired her strength and courage, she’s a wonderful leading lady and I think she would be a fantastic role model for younger children reading A Prisoner of Ice and Snow. There are a few smaller characters that I would like to get to know as well as Valor, but perhaps that will come along later in the series.

The prison that Valor and her sister end up in is certainly a horrible one, and they depictions of the different settings – most notably the prison – is certainly vivid and well laid out. At only two hundred and eighty eight pages the book is quite a quick read, but there is plenty to keep you guessing and  wanting more. If you’re looking for a fun enjoyable MG fantasy, Prisoner of Ice and Snow is definitely a book to pick up. I for one am particularly looking forward to seeing what’s next in store for the series!

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