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Book Review: Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

29748925Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Release Date: 28th March 2017
Pages: 536
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Review:

Strange the Dreamer is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2017. I always feel a bit of trepidation when I start a book that is as hyped up as this one, but it absolutely lived up to expectation, it’s a stunning book from beginning to end.

The world building in this book is just astounding. Everything is mapped out and there’s so much depth that I sunk into the story immediately. This is the kind of book I want to carry around with me all the time, it’s fantastically written with the most beautiful prose. Strange the Dreamer isn’t a crazy action packed story –  it’s much more of a slow burner – but I enjoyed it all the more for that reason. It gave you the opportunity to really get to know the world you’re in, and of course the exceptional characters.

Normally for me there’s always one or two characters that stick out as my favourite, but with Strange the Dreamer I loved them all – Lazlo, Sarai, Eril-Fane and Ruby, they’re all expertly crafted and fully rounded out characters. Each one is dealing with a complex past and I loved getting to know each and every one of them, I honestly cannot praise this book highly enough. If you only read one book in 2017, it should be Strange the Dreamer.

This book has pretty much everything a reader could want – there’s magic and mystery, action and explosions and of course a dash of romance. As well as all that the story is wrapped around the young characters coming of age and learning their place in this magical world. This book gave me one hell of a book hangover, and now I am (not so patiently) waiting for book two in this fantastic series. I also have to confess that somehow, despite owning several of Laini Taylor’s books, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. I am now away to barricade myself in a room, to catch up on the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series.


Book Review: Ink – Alice Broadway

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Series: Skin Books #1
Release Date: 2nd February 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I won a copy of this book in a Twitter competition run by the publisher.

Synopsis:

Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

Review:

Ink follows the story of Leora as she deals with her fathers death and discovers that his past might not be all that it seemed. In this setting, every action and moment of your life is inked on your body. Live a good life and you’ll be remembered forever in the form of a skin book. Lead a bad life and your book will be destroyed. As soon as I read this premise I was desperate to read this book. Given tattoos can be such a source of contention in our society, I  just knew I had to read this.

The world building in this book was fantastic, the fables and the history of their community really came alive in the story. The idea of those with tattoos versus those without was just fascinating, and I really enjoyed the overall plot of the book. However I was less impressed with the characters. Leora is interesting enough and works well as the main protagonist, but I did feel more all round character development was needed. I enjoyed the aspects of her starting her apprenticeship and growing into adulthood, but I felt it a bit lacking in emotional depth. Most of the secondary characters felt like bit parts just there to push the story along, though perhaps we might see more of them in the books to come.

Despite this, the story is still a hugely enjoyable one. The premise is completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before and the story keeps you hooked pretty much from the outset. I struggled a little with the romance aspect as I felt it was a little forced, but fans of romance plot lines might appreciate it more than I did. That being said, Ink is definitely a superb debut, and one that YA fans will enjoy. The cover art is also completely stunning, and I am very much looking forward to what comes next in this series.


Book Review: Remix – Non Pratt

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Release Date: June 4th 2016
Pages: 300
Publisher: Walker Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was given a copy of this book by Walker Books

Synopsis:

Boys don’t break your heart; best friends do. A funny touching story about friendship from the Guardian’s “writer to watch” Non Pratt, author of Trouble – one of the most talked about debuts of the year. Kaz is still reeling from being dumped by the love of her life. Ruby is bored of hearing about it. Time to change the record. Three days. Two best mates. One music festival. Zero chance of everything working out.

Review:

Non Pratt is an author that I’ve never read anything by. I’ve heard loads of great things about Trouble, so when I was sent a copy of Remix I was pretty eager to read it. As a teenager I loved going to gigs and festivals so I thought this book, about music and friendship was going to be so up my alley. Unfortunately it just wasn’t for me.

The book follows two main characters – Kaz and Ruby. Kaz has recently been dumped by Tom, and hopes the weekend at the festival will be just what she needs to win him back. Ruby on the other hand has found boyfriend Stu was cheating on her, and is looking to get over their relationship. I thought the book would be about their friendship and the bands they were going to see with some fun and laughter along the way but it predominantly focused on relationships and their various different partners over the course of the weekend. There was plenty of cheating, one night stands and break ups going on over the three day setting, and while I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy that aspect of the story, I was left feeling a little disappointed by the lack of chapters about the bands they were going to see, what happened during the shows etc.

The other thing that really bothered me was the structure of this book. The book has alternating point of views between Ruby and Kaz, but they last maybe half a page before switching to the other character. For the first chunk of the book I was trying to remember which one was Kaz and which one was Ruby and which boy they were associated with. I wished the chapters had just been laid out with each character having a full few pages each. I think this would have allowed me to enjoy the book a whole lot more and get into the characters.

Kaz and Ruby are likeable enough characters, they’re young teenagers growing up and having fun, but I found their motivations a little difficult to understand, and that also made the read a little frustrating. Both of them knew what they were doing was hurting their best friend, yet they continued to lie and keep secrets, making all the situations worse. Both characters for me spent a large portion of the book moaning and crying about their respective situations, and that just wasn’t what I wanted to read for 300 pages.

The book felt very cliche and the whole Ruby having sex with a band member thing just seemed ridiculous when she’s only 16. All in all I was really disappointed in Remix, it definitely wasn’t a book for me. If you’re a fan of books about relationships and all the drama involved, you might have much more luck with this one.


Book Review: See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

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Release Date: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Tinder Press
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads
Source: I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

Review:

 

There are no words to describe how good this book is. Dark, atmospheric and chilling, this book is an intense read, and one amazing debut. There are so many things I want to say about this book. It’s exquisitely written, the claustrophobic setting, the uncomfortable feelings you get all the way through the story. This is one book that has stuck with me long after I’ve finished reading it, and I’ve recommended it to just about everyone I know.

The novel is based on the real life story of Lizzie Borden, a young women who was accused of murdering her father and step-mother. Her case went to trial but she was acquitted due to lack of evidence. The story mixes the facts of the case with a narrative that switches between before the murders occurred, and the aftermath.

The book differs in point of view between that of Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget and a stranger named Benjamin. The different perspectives are really fascinating because they give such differing views of the messed up Borden family. Each scene in the book is laced with familial tension, and Schmidt’s writing oozes with a sense of dark heat and atmosphere.

The thing that stands out most is the writing style of this book. Schmidt writes in such a fascinating way, often slightly poetic, every word adds another layer and the readers senses are continually assaulted by the descriptions of the tastes and smells of the Borden household. The story is certainly a vivid one, and it is completely unlike anything I have ever read. I think I read See What I Have Done in maybe two sittings, purely because I was completely sucked into the story.

I knew very little about Lizzie Borden prior to reading this book, bar of course the famous rhyme:

‘Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.’

But after finishing the book I found myself spending a large time googling Lizzie and the case, it’s such a fascinating story. The family being sick the day before the murders, Lizzie’s contradicting story and lack of remorse over the whole thing. Did she murder her father and step-mother? We’ll never know. I loved this book from start to finish. The characters were well constructed and fleshed out, the writing impeccable and the story probably one of the best I have ever read. This is easily my favourite book of 2017. I cannot wait to see what Sarah Schmidt writes next.


Book Review: Spellslinger -Sebastien de Castell

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Release Date: 4th May 2017
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 416
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: A copy of this book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

“There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is surviving your fourteenth year. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.”

Kellen’s dreams of becoming a powerful mage like his father are shattered after a failed magical duel results in the complete loss of his abilities. When other young mages begin to suffer the same fate, Kellen is accused of unleashing a magical curse on his own clan and is forced to flee with the help of a mysterious foreign woman who may in fact be a spy in service to an enemy country. Unsure of who to trust, Kellen struggles to learn how to survive in a dangerous world without his magic even as he seeks out the true source of the curse. But when Kellen uncovers a conspiracy hatched by members of his own clan seeking to take power, he races back to his city in a desperate bid to outwit the mages arrayed against him before they can destroy his family.

Spellslinger is heroic fantasy with a western flavour.

Review:

So let me start by saying that me being the scatterbrained book blogger that I am, was a bit behind on my review books when I picked up Spellslinger. Seeing the rather large size – just over 400 pages – I was a bit concerned I wasn’t going to finish it in time to post a review on pub day. After just two chapters I was completely hooked and I missed meals and was almost late to work on more than one occasion last week as I was so busy reading Spellslinger. I absolutely loved this book.

This book is fantastically written, it’s clever and witty – the plot keeps you wanting more and the characters are so great. I immediately loved Kellen. He’s so well written and you immediately become attached, wanting him to succeed. Besides, who doesn’t love an underdog? Ferius Parfax by far the most mysterious and intriguing character in the book, was another one of my favourites.

This book really does have it all. Plenty of magic and mystery, as well as some evil baddies, loads of magical duels and a fair bit of humour thrown in as well. Spellslinger is a unique YA book, there’s a complex layer of magic, mystery and mythology all wrapped up in this fantastic story. I also must say how much I love that cover, it’s absolutely stunning. The world building in this book is superb, and I really felt sucked into the story. My only complaint is that now I have to wait so long to find out what happens to Kellen next. Spellslinger is one fantastic book, and is already one of the front runners for my favourite book of 2017.


Book Review: Sleeper – J D Fennell

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Release Date: April 28th 2017
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 228
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will’s notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will’s memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing? Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.

Review:

This is one action packed story! Sleeper follows sixteen year old Will Starling who is anything but ordinary. I really loved this book. I was sucked in almost straight away. Sleeper is written in short punchy chapters, that always leave you wanting more. I found myself often saying ‘oh the chapter is short, I’ll just read another one’ and still being there an hour later. Sleeper is a well-spun narrative, and one that fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider will just adore.

I really loved the setting. London during the blitz is an already action-packed setting, and it really comes alive in Fennell’s story. Couple this with the high body count and loads of fast-paced scenes and you’re in for one wild ride of a story. The story blends the historical setting and contemporary narrative in a seamless way, and the two elements make for a very compelling story.

I loved Will. He’s such a fascinating character, and I really enjoyed following his story. It’s really interesting to see how Will reacts in different situations, as he discovers the skills he’s got.  I also really liked Anna Wilder, an MI5 agent who helps Will along the way. Combining the fast action of the plot with the fascinating characters (and that stunning cover!) makes Sleeper a really gripping read, and one that people of all ages will enjoy. Sleeper is one hell of a debut – I guarantee you’ll be hooked from start to finish.

Thanks so much for checking out my stop on the Sleeper blog tour. You can read my interview with J D Fennell here, and make sure you check out the rest of the stops!


Blog Tour: Sleeper – J D Fennell

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will’s notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will’s memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.

Now read an interview with Sleeper author J D Fennell!

1. For those that haven’t read Sleeper, can you tell us a little about it?

Sleeper is a pacey thriller that follows the journey of sixteen-year old Will Starling in 1941, who is pulled from the sea with no memory of the past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. The notebook is Will’s only way of uncovering who he is. But other people also want the notebook. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor.

2. Congratulations on your debut novel! How does it feel to finally have it out there?

It has still not really sunk in. When I first held a printed copy, it was the most extraordinary feeling. I sat down, opened the pages and without realising it, read it as if it was not my book. It was strange but nice at the same time.

3. The book reminded me a little of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, what was your inspiration for writing Sleeper?

Well, first up I love the 1940s period, the fashion, cars and basic technology. I am also a fan of fast paced thrillers and the dramatic setting of the blitz just seemed such a perfectly treacherous location to drop my characters into.

4. Did you always have plans to write the story as a trilogy?

I thought it might be a series. Of what length I was never quite sure. A trilogy seems about right, for now, at least.

5. As a newly published author, what advice would you give those looking to get their book published?

Work on your craft and always try to write the best book you possibly can. Get to know the agents you want to submit to, look at their other titles and ensure they are right for you. If possible, attend literary events and meet agents and other industry professionals; networking is nice, however, if you have written a great book, it will be picked up sooner or later.

6. I really love the cover for Sleeper. Did you have any input on the cover design?

Yes I did, which is quite unusual for a debut writer. My publisher and I sat down and reviewed the four proposed designs. We both agreed on our favourite, but wanted a few more changes, including the addition of the sniper scope, which finished it off beautifully. I could not be happier with the cover.

7. Now that Sleeper is released, what are you working on next?

I am working on the follow up to Sleeper. There is more to come for Will Starling.

8. And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Spellslinger by Sebastian De Castell, a YA fantasy with a western theme. I am doing an event with Sebastian in Waterstones Newcastle on 3rd May, to talk about our books. I am loving the world he has created. It is really terrific.

Thanks goes to J D Fennell for answering my questions. Sleeper is available now from Dome Press.


Blog Tour: The Second Sister – Claire Kendal

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Release Date: May 4th 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 467
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon.
Source: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

It is ten years since Ella’s sister Miranda disappeared without trace, leaving her young baby behind. Chilling new evidence links Miranda to the horrifying Jason Thorne, now in prison for murdering several women. Is it possible that Miranda knew him?

At thirty, Miranda’s age when she vanished, Ella looks uncannily like the sister she idolized. What holds Ella together is her love for her sister’s child and her work as a self-defence expert helping victims.

Haunted by the possibility that Thorne took Miranda, and driven by her nephew’s longing to know about his mother, Ella will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth – no matter how dangerous…

Review:

Today we’re kicking off the blog tour for the magnificent The Second Sister. Claire Kendal’s new novel follows Miranda as she attempts to discover the reasons for her sister’s disappearance ten years ago. This book is such a wild ride – it hooks you in from the very first page and absolutely does not let you go. I loved The Second Sister, and it definitely shoots right to the top as one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year.

Part of the reason I really enjoyed this book so much was the wonderfully written characters. They’re depicted very realistically, and Kendal really gives you the opportunity to delve deep and get to know her characters. I loved Ella’s little boy Luke, he’s such a clever and interesting character. Likewise Ella is a really interesting character, and I really enjoyed watching the story play out as she attempts to discover what happened all those years ago. You really begin to root for her, hoping she finds the answers that she needs.

There is some love interest in the story too – I didn’t enjoy this aspect as much as the creepy mystery elements, but it adds another layer to an already complex and fascinating plot. This book isn’t a fast action type thriller, it’s much more slow burning and atmospheric. There’s plenty of twists along the way, and the plot will keep you guessing right until the very end. I always feel slightly let down when I figure out the mystery well before the reveal, but that definitely wasn’t the case with The Second Sister. The second half of the book is particularly intriguing – I won’t say too much so I don’t spoil it for anyone! – but this really is the perfect book for thriller fans. A creepy mystery, a plot that keeps you guessing and some fantastically written characters – what more do you need?

Thanks for checking out my stop on The Second Sister Blog Tour! Be sure to check out the other stops below!


Blog Tour: We All Begin As Strangers – Harriet Cummings


Release Date: 20th April 2017
Pages:400
Publisher: Orion
Find It On: Amazon. Goodreads.

Synopsis:

It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary village of Heathcote.

What’s more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed ‘the Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.

When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes the Fox is responsible.

For the worried residents, finding Anna will be difficult – but stopping the Fox from exposing their darkest secrets might just be impossible…

Review:

Welcome to my stop on the We All Begin As Strangers blog tour!  This title is very loosely based on a true story, and that definitely piqued my interest straight away. This book is beautifully written, and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

The story is centred on a small country village, and the depiction of the setting is absolutely excellent. As someone who has never lived in small village, the atmosphere and writing really transported me into the setting, and it was really easy to delve into. The writing throughout the novel is very detailed and excellently described, it was very easy to vividly picture the scenes and characters. The characters are particularly well written, each one is well fleshed out – Deloris is my favourite – and you definitely start to empathise with them along the way.

The story is told from the point of view of four of the different village residents, and I really liked the idea of seeing things from different people’s perspectives. The plot is quite a slow building one, but the descriptive nature of the story really helps to build that sense of atmosphere and place. I did find it a little slow in some places, but overall I think this is a beautifully crafted novel.

I won’t say too much about the ending because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I did guess who The Fox was. This didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story though, there’s still plenty of little surprises along the way, and the ending is executed perfectly. This book is ultimately about relationships and the value of human interaction. I think the title is a particularly fitting one, and that cover art is absolutely stunning.

Overall, We All Begin As Strangers is just a lovely read. It is at times witty and clever, and other times devastating and sad. It’s the sort of book I want my friends and family to read, just so I can spend hours discussing it with someone – this is definitely one I recommend

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Blog Tour: Done Dirt Cheap – Sarah Nicole Lemon

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Synopsis:

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline. But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

 

I absolutely loved this book, the two main characters, Tourmaline and Virginia are fantastic, and you can check out my review of Done Dirt Cheap tomorrow. In the mean time check out these fab character profiles!

Done Dirt Cheap was published March 7th by Amulet Books.