Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-12T210248.673.png
Release Date:
May 14th 2019
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 352
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-11T210836.240The story of Cinderella and the story of the ugly stepsisters has been told in a million different ways, so to find one that takes the story in a completely different direction was something I immediately wanted to read. Stepsister follows Isabelle, one of the ugly stepsisters to the newly crowned Ella, Queen of France. Reviled for the way she treated her stepsister, Isabelle and her sister Octavia are left with little options – they have tried to be sweet, pretty girls and find husbands but they never live up to their perfect stepsister. With war brewing and no way to protect themselves, Isabelle and Octavia must stand up and fight, proving that girls are a lot more than pretty possessions.

I am completely torn about how to rate this book. It took me quite a while to get into the story, I particularly found the early chapters quite slow, however once I got further into the story I really started to fall in love with these Isabelle and her sisters. They’re brave, intelligent, brilliant girls and I was rooting for them the entire time. The message of this story is so powerful and so important – that you don’t have to be what everyone expects you to be, that you should follow that dream no matter if others think you won’t succeed.

The story provided a really interesting take on this tale, and I loved the vivid world of France at war. I also liked the additional stories of Fate and Chance, two beings waging a bet over Isabelle’s life. It added a fascinating perspective to the tale and one I really enjoyed. One of the things that did put me off this book is the incredibly short chapters. Most were only a few pages long and for me it was a little off putting, it felt like as soon as I got back into the swing of the story I was at the end of the chapter again. The crazy amount of chapters (over 130) also put me off a little.

This is an emotional and inspiring story and if you’re a fan of retellings this is absolutely a must read. Stepsister is an exciting, feminist take on the ugly stepsister trope and I hope this trend of feminist retellings continues because I am fast becoming obsessed with them. If you love all things fairytales, you’re definitely going to love this one.
3 stars

N.E.W.T.S Magical Readathon TBR!

N.E.W.T.S Magical Readathon TBR!

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-11T223740.259
In April I participated in the O.W.L.S Magical Readathon and had so much fun, it really pushed me to read some extra books and that is definitely what I need this month. I started a little late because I was moving house, but I’m so excited to dive into my TBR. If you want to know more, G at BookRoast has all the details!

I completed 10 O.W.L.S in April but there are three prompts for each exam this time around so I’m not sure how many I will make it through but I’ve created a TBR to give me a shot at getting Outstanding in each.

Astronomy

book cover (2)
A: Moon on the cover or anywhere in the title:
Empress of A Thousand Skies Rhoda Belleza
E: Word ‘night’ in the title or series names: Nevernight- Jay Kristoff
O: Read a sci-fi book (or stars on the cover): The Stars Now Unclaimed – Drew Williams 

Arithmancy

Copy of book cover (42)
A: Book that ends on an even number: A Chain Across the Dawn – Drew Williams
E: A standalone: Hunted – Megan Spooner
O: Book that’s longer than 350 pages: Tidelands – Philippa Gregory

Charms

Copy of book cover (41)A: Read a book you think has a gorgeous cover: A Dress for the Wicked – Autumn Krause
E: Read a comic/graphic novel/manga: Batgirl of Burnside – Cameron Stewart 
O: Spongify (softening charm) read a paperback book: The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich

Defence Against the Dark Arts

Copy of book cover (15)A: book that’s black under the dust jacket: Blood and Exile – Brian Naslund
E: Gilderoy’s Memory Charm! First book you remember from your TBR: Perfectly Preventable Deaths – Deirdre Sullivan
O: Cornish Pixie! Swat it away with a book written by an English author or set in England: D.O.G.S – M.A. Bennett

Divination

book cover - 2019-04-28T204859.244
A: Read a white book: Suicide Club – Rachel Heng
E: Read a short story or collection of short stories: Wastelands: The New Apocoloypse – John Joseph Adams
O: Read the last book you bought/ got from the library: Shrouded Loyalties – Reese Hogan

Herbology

Copy of book cover (43)A: Mandrake! Headphones on, listen to an audiobook: These Rebel Waves – Sarah Raasch
E: Read a book between 350 and 390 pages: The Sword of Silence – Shaun Curry
O: Read a book with a flower on the cover: All the Bad Apples – Moira Fowley – Doyle

History of Magic

Copy of book cover (44)
A: Read a fantasy: Into the Crooked Place – Alexandra Christo
E: Read a book that includes a map: We Are the Dead – Mike Shackle
O: Tom Riddle’s diary, reread an old favourite (or read a classic): A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

Muggle Studies

Copy of book cover (40)
A: Cover that includes an actual photo element: Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager
E: Book set in our real world: Sanctuary – V. V. James
O: Book written by a person of colour: We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal

Potions

Copy of book cover (45)
A: Pollyjuice potion, read your friends favourite book! Feed – Mira Grant
E: Book with the colour of your Hogwarts House: Dragonslayer – Duncan M. Hamilton
O: Book that starts with a prologue: Magic For Liars – Sarah Gailey


Transfiguration

book cover (41)
A: Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation: Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
E: Read a book that’s not the first in a series: Dark Ink – Gary Kemble
O: Read a book over 500 pages: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang


So those are all the books on my N.E.W.T.S TBR! I know I won’t get to them all but I’m hoping to at least read all the A’s and maybe get to a few O’s! What are you reading for the magical readathon?

Blog Tour – Sanctuary – V. V. James

Blog Tour – Sanctuary – V. V. James

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-08T000116.426.png
Release Date:
August 8th 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .

Review

Copy of book cover (40)This book gripped me from the very first chapter and refused to let me go. I couldn’t put it down, racing through the chapters quicker and quicker to find out what was going to happen at the end. This is the perfect tense and thrilling story, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Set in a small American town, the story opens on the death of a young quarter back named Daniel. His death is ruled an accident but rumours start to fly that his ex girlfriend Harper could have been involved – especially when she tells everyone Daniel isn’t as innocent as he makes out to be.

I loved everything about this book. The small little town that is gripped by paranoia and mistrust really leapt off the page. It really added to the tension and was the perfect setting for this dark and twisty tale.

The story is told in a number of alternating POVs and I really enjoyed getting to see the story from different view points. Each of the voices felt quite distinct and realistic, and I enjoyed seeing the characters attempt to figure what was going on, and who to trust.  Sanctuary also does come with quite a few trigger warnings, including sexual assault and violence so definitely make sure to take a look if needed.

Sanctuary is a dark and thrilling story, one that fans of James’ previous work will just adore. Her beautiful writing will suck you and and definitely keep you reading long after you’ve meant to go to bed. I ended up reading late into the night because I was just so desperate to see how it was going to end. If you love clever twists, a well executed plot and an engrossing mix of magic and mystery, Sanctuary should absolutely be your next read.
5 stars
Sanctuary-Blog-Tour-Banner

Blog Tour: The Undoing of Arlo Knott – Heather Child

Blog Tour: The Undoing of Arlo Knott – Heather Child

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-04T213223.280.png
Release Date:
August 1st 2019
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

What if your life had an ‘undo’ button?

Arlo Knott discovers he can rewind time – just by a minute or two – enough to undo any mistake, say the right thing or impress his friends with his uncanny predictions…

But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing is too much to resist.

Review

Copy of book cover (39)I became completely hooked on the tale of Arlo Knott. The story follows Arlo as he explores the rare gift he has – he can rewind time. Not by months or hours but only by a few minutes, enough to be able to make predictions, but not much else. We see Arlo attempt to understand his gift, and use it to write the wrongs of his past.

This is just the kind of book I love. It’s a story of family and life, with that little science fiction twist thrown in. The book was beautifully written and I really fell in love with this thought-provoking tale. We follow Arlo from a young age – during a particularly traumatic period – all the way to adulthood and we see him develop his gift, flaunt it and use it for power, as well as trying to stretch it and understand why he has been given it. The story is a really deep character study, really giving the reader the opportunity to get to know our protagonist. I thought Arlo was brilliant and I loved seeing him take this journey and develop from a grieving child to this fascinating adult. He’s a flawed character, particularly in his University years, but that makes for an all the more interesting protagonist.

The Undoing of Arlo Knott is the kind of book that sucks you in early on and keeps you turning pages faster and faster as the stakes get higher. While Arlo is the star of the show there is an interesting cast of secondary characters, and the whole book felt well written and engaging. The story packs a lot in, touching on friendships, love and finding your place in the world. The story is a pretty unique one and I loved the blend of everyday life mixed with this incredible power.

The Undoing of Arlo Knott is a must read – if you love fast paced stories with characters that leap off the page, this should absolutely be your next read.
4 stars
Arlo Knott

Book Review: See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Book Review: See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-03T094657.320.png
Release Date:
May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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

Copy of book cover (38)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.
5 stars

Blog Tour: Wanderers – Chuck Wendig

Blog Tour: Wanderers – Chuck Wendig

Release Date: July 11th 2019
Publisher: Solaris
Pages: 800
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy for this book by Tracy @ Compulsive Readers
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Review

I have always wanted to read a book by Chuck Wendig and I was so excited when I got an email about The Wanderers. The book is absolutely massive but honestly I think this is the quickest I’ve ever read an 800 page book. It was exciting, intense and everything I wanted and more.

The story follows a young girl who wakes up one morning and discovers her sister, vacant eyed and unresponsive but somehow still walking. She is soon joined by other ‘sleepwalkers’ and the strange disease spreads the cast of characters attempt to work out exactly what’s causing the sleepwalking.

This might be my first Chuck Wendig book, but it is definitely not my last. I got completely hooked on this story, it was fast paced and so addictive. I really liked the writing style and I’m absolutely planning to order Chuck Wendig’s back catalogue.

I really liked the characters in this story – Shana the daughter who has always lived in her sisters shadow, but is still desperate to protect her. She was really fascinating and I found her a really likeable main character. There’s a really vivid and interesting mix of characters and I really enjoyed the disgraced CDC doctor trying to find redemption storyline. I really appreciated that the book was on the longer side, it really gave you the chance to get to know the characters.

If you’re looking for a fresh take on the mysterious disease sweeping the nation story, this is absolutely one to pick up. It’s an exhilarating ride and I enjoyed every minute of it.

June Wrap Up!

June Wrap Up!

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-07-21T161904.113
My super late wrap ups continue with all the lovely books I read in June!

Copy of book cover (1)
1. What Lies Around Us – Andrew Crofts
This is a little book that packs a punch, following a ghostwriter who delves into the secrets behind Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It was twisty, exciting and I really enjoyed this one. Full review for my stop on the blog tour can be found here! (4/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (26)2. The Boy With the Porcelain Blade – Den Patrick
I thought it might be time for a reread of one of my favourite series. I raced through this dark and addictive fantasy story. It was so fun to return to a world that I love so much. Lucien is probably one of my favourite characters of all time, and I definitely think this is an underrated series. Looking forward to continuing my reread with books two and three. (5/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (31)3. The Colarado Kid – Stephen King
This was a fascinating little novella, the first in Titan’s Hard Case Crime series. It was the perfect read for a Sunday afternoon and I ended up reading it in one sitting with the story winding you in deeper and deeper. It’s written very much like an old detective tale and was a really fun read. I really liked that there’s no clear resolution at the end, and it’s left quite ambiguous. (3/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (32)4. Beautiful Disaster – Jamie McGuire
This was absolutely not for me. I was in the mood for a light and fluffy read and thought I might give it a go but I really struggled to finish it. Both the main characters were horrible and when they weren’t making each other miserable they were screaming at each other or treating the other like a possession. I also felt the whole plot was so dramatic and over the top, definitely won’t be continuing this series. (1.5/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (2)5. Maresi – Maria Turtschaninoff
This is a series that I’ve wanted to read for a while and I’m so glad I finally picked up the first book in the series – I completely fell in love! This is such a beautifully written tale and I adored the cast of characters and the stunning island they called home. I cannot wait to continue into book two, and if you want to read my full thoughts my review can be found here! (4/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (34)6. The Wolf – Leo Carew
The Wolf is pretty much my idea of a perfect book. The story of two warring kingdoms and their leaders who will stop at nothing to win. It was a thrilling read and I loved the high stakes, the political intrigue and the devious tactics the characters use to try and gain the upper hand. The Spider is definitely high on my TBR list for next month because I need to know what’s going to happen next. (5/5 stars)

book cover17. The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
I’ve been reading more and more thrillers recently and so I’ve been guessing plot twists more frequently. However the twist in this one completely blew my mind. Every time I made up my mind how it was going to end it went in a completely different direction. This is one of those super fast paced, dark thrillers that will have you on the edge of your seat. (4/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (33)8. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
I saw this book mentioned on BookTube and thought it sounded like a quick, engrossing read. For some reason I struggled to connect with the story. It was well written and interesting but it ended up taking me ages to finish it and I found myself kind of slogging through it. I think because the book is so short you only really get a snapshot of the world and the magic, and I struggled to get to grips with it. (2.5/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (35)9. The Tall Man – Phoebe Locke
This was kind of giving me Slender Man vibes and I thought it sounded like just thing I was in the mood for. I love those mysteries where you never quite know if it’s supernatural or not. It follows several different timelines and perspectives, which can at times be a little confusing. It is a quick and dark read though, one that I think thriller fans will really enjoy. (3.5/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (36)10. The Kingdom – Jess Rothenberg
This is a bit of a difficult one for me. I really really enjoyed this book. It’s a brilliant science fiction tale about an AI who works in a fantasy theme park. She’s there to help guests in any way, but when she starts to develop emotions things quickly spiral out of control. It was a terrific read but I think I had built it up in my head a bit too much, so even though it was really good I still felt a little disappointed. That’s probably just me though! (4/5 stars)

Copy of book cover (27)11. An Illusion of Thieves – Cate Glass
This was definitely the surprise read of the month. I picked this up on a whim and ended up completely adoring this epic fantasy with a fantastic mix of characters. The plot was exciting and I raced through this and I’m already desperate for more. This will easily end up on my favourite books of 2019 list. (5/5 stars)

So those are all the books I read in June! If you’ve read any of them I’d love to know what you thought and also what your favourite June reads were!