Book Review: Mirage – Somaiya Daud

Book Review: Mirage – Somaiya Daud

BOOK REVIEW (31)
Series:
Mirage #1
Release Date: 28th August 2018
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received an E-ARC via Netgalley and then I picked up a copy of this in my local bookshop.

Synopsis

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Review

THIS BOOK. I requested a copy of Mirage on Netgalley because it sounded like it had quite an interesting premise. After meaning to get around to it for a while I picked it up on a whim and honestly this is easily one of my top five favourite books of the year. I could not put this down and I’m so excited to find out what’s going to happen next.

Untitled design (97)Mirage is a stunning debut that complexly weaves fantasy and science fiction elements to create this gorgeous world where no one is safe and things can change in the blink of an eye. I love the blend of planets and technology with mythology and faith. It worked so well together and I enjoyed every second in this world.

The story is fast-paced and told from the point of view of our main character Amani. My one criticism with this book would be that I wanted more, I’d have loved more time to explore the different places Amani visits, and find out more about the different cultures and people that are ruled by the Vathek. The characters are also completely fascinating. Amani who is dealing with this horrific situation of being a body double and pretty much a slave – she chooses to remain strong and fight back instead of breaking under such an awful situation. I also really loved Maram, she’s a complex character – a future Queen hated by everyone for being half Vathek and half Kushaila, on the surface she seems like your typical villain but there’s so much more going on.

Mirage blends so many themes and ideas in a really beautiful way. There’s family and friendship, what it means to belong and a dash of romance too. There’s also much darker themes as the story looks at the subjugation of the Andaalan people who are forced to speak a new language and serve the new ruling Vathek. This story is gripping and engaging and will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more. Your only problem is going to be waiting for the release of Court of Lions in 2019.
5 stars

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner

Book Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner

BOOK REVIEW (30)
Release Date:
25th September 2018
Pages: 464
Publisher: Orbit Books
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

Review

The Sisters of the Winter Wood captured my attention from the very beginning and absolutely did not let me go. This is a stunning fairy tale style story that will definitely be on my list of favourite books of 2018.

Untitled design (96)The story follows two sisters – Liba and Laya – who live on the outskirts of a forest. When their parents leave to travel to their father’s home town, the girls must fend for themselves as well as deal with the secrets that they have learned – that Liba can transform into a bear, and Laya into a swan. But not everything in the forest is friendly and with people in nearby towns spouting anti-Semitic views, the sisters must fight to save each other.

I loved everything about this book. The writing style is gorgeous, and the chapters alternate between the two sisters. Liba’s chapters are told in a traditional format and Laya’s are told in short prose like sentences. I loved the difference between the two and it really brought to life the difference between the practical sister and the dreamlike one.

The plot is exciting and beautifully paced. I raced through this book in two days because I could not put it down. I adored the wealth of detail in the magic and the way Rossner weaved all the magical elements into the story.

The story isn’t just a reimagining of the classic fairy tale. Woven into the tale is a life in a small village and how the seeds of hatred can spread through a nation. As bad things happen and people are discovered dead, the townspeople look to blame the Jewish for their bad luck. I thought this was a really fascinating element to the story and was even more intrigued to discover that this was inspired by true events that occurred in the authors ancestry. It definitely added another fascinating layer to this brilliant story.

The story deals with so many topics, friendship, family, sister love and loss. It’s a stunning debut and fans of books like The Bear and the Nightingale will absolutely adore this one. For me it was the perfect autumn read, full of gorgeous depictions of the forest and plenty of dark and creepy moments. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a magnificent, engrossing read that you definitely need to add to your wish list.
5 stars

Blog Tour: The Girl In the Broken Mirror – Savita Khalan

Blog Tour: The Girl In the Broken Mirror – Savita Khalan

BOOK REVIEW (29)
Release Date:
29th March 2018
Publisher: Trokia Books
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The author kindly contacted me to participate in the blog tour and sent me a copy to review.

Synopsis

Jay’s creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with ‘they lived happily ever after’. But the way her life is panning out she’s not sure it will ever reach that stage. A powerful moving gripping story which explores themes of family, loyalty and culture clash but is ultimately about hope and understanding.

Review

This is an incredibly moving story that I found difficult to put down. I picked it up early in preparation for the blog tour and found myself still sitting in the same spot a few hours later, absolutely gripped by this emotional tale.

Untitled design (95)This book covers a lot of difficult topics such as suicide and rape, so this is by no means a light read, but it is a beautifully written tale that stays with you long after you’re finished reading. The book follows Jaya – starting with the morning after she is raped and then jumping back to the events leading up to that night. The story really hones in on different cultures and Jaya’s attempts to be both English and Indian and in particular keep to the traditional Indian beliefs.

This is a gripping story that really looks in depths at relationships, between friends as well as between mother and daughter and I found it such a fascinating insight. The characters were wonderfully written and I definitely became attached to Jaya. On more than once occasion this book brought me close to tears and I think that’s a mark of a very powerful story.

Previous to 2018 contemporary YA was not something that I read all that often but recently I’ve found myself picking up books in that genre more often. This is a really excellent piece of contemporary YA that I would definitely recommend. It might be a hard hitting read, but it is most definitely worth it.
4 stars
Girl in the Broken Mirror blog tour

Book Review: The Blue Salt Road – Joanne Harris

Book Review: The Blue Salt Road – Joanne Harris

BOOK REVIEW (28)Release Date: 15th November 2018
Publisher: Orion Books
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. Waterstones.
Source: I won an ARC of this at YALC.

Synopsis

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

Review

This is the second of book by Joanne Harris based on The Child Ballads. The first being A Pocketful of Crows which I read last year and adored. This time around the story focuses on selkies and Harris weaves a beautiful fairytale of adventure, love and loss.

Untitled design (94)The story follows a young woman named Flora who tricks a Selkie into becoming her mate. Once pregnant she steals his seal skin meaning he can never return to the water. According to myth when the Selkie is separated from his skin he cannot remember who he truly is. The story follows the Selkie as he seeks to reclaim what is his, as well as protect his newborn child.

Joanne Harris really is the Queen of beautiful, lyrical writing and her style fits so well with this kind of story. It allows you to really sink into the story, enveloping you in this world of wild seas, full of danger and violence.

Like A Pocketful of Crows I found this book fascinating. I loved the bold story with memorable characters and the gorgeous illustrations really helped to bring the story to life. Although it’s a short little book (in fact I read in a single sitting on the train from London to Edinburgh), it certainly packs a punch and I still think about it even though I read it a while ago.

With gorgeous artwork both inside and out, this really is a stunning book. The story is a beautifully woven tale of magic, adventure and love. Fans of Joanne Harris will definitely not be disappointed and if you enjoy fairy tales and retellings, this should absolutely be on your wish list.
4 stars

Blog Tour: Shadow of the Fox – Julie Kagawa

Blog Tour: Shadow of the Fox – Julie Kagawa

BOOK REVIEW (27)
Series: Shadow of the Fox #1
Release Date: 1st November 2018
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 454
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

Review

This is the first book in an all new fantasy series from renowned fantasy author Julie Kagawa. The story is told in alternating points of view, following characters with pieces of an ancient scroll that has the power to awaken the great Kami Dragon. This story is exquisitely told and complexly weaved with mythology and lore.

Untitled design (93)This is my first book by Julie Kagawa and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to her work. I loved her characters – Yumeko is a kitsune, a half fox demon. She’s not altogether human and I love her mischievous cunning side. Kage too was really fascinating and unusually I enjoyed both characters perspectives equally – something that I find doesn’t often happen when you have multiple POVS. Her characters were well developed and I enjoyed the amount of character depth as they found themselves on this wild adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kagawa’s writing style. The story is quick paced and continues to ramp up as the story progresses. The book touches on some really important themes, like friendship, family and ultimately doing what is right. It’s a really gorgeous fantasy story and I loved learning more about Japanese mythology. The setting was beautiful and I loved the sense of atmosphere that shines through in the book. The story is very much a journey, and I am already dying to know what’s going to happen next. If you’re looking for a new own voices fantasy that’s chalk full of fantasy and mythology, Shadow of the Fox is definitely the book for you.
5 stars
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October Book Haul!

October Book Haul!

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This is, as is traditional with Nicole and book hauls, a very late post. So I’m just going to dive right in and talk about the books I picked up/was sent in October!

From Publishers

Untitled design (83)1. The Conviction of Cora Burns – Carolyn Kirby
This was a piece of surprise book mail that arrived from No Exit Press. It’s a piece of historical fiction about a young woman born in prison, who fears she might inherit her mother’s violent tendencies. It’s for fans of Sarah Schmidt and Laura Purcell so I am definitely intrigued to read this one!

Untitled design (92)2. Odd One Out – Nic Stone
Another piece of surprise post was Odd One Out by Nic Stone. I’m yet to read Dear Martin though I do have it on my wishlist. I’m excited to read this one and it looks like it will be quite a quick read so hopefully I get to it before the end of the month.

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3. The Haunting of Drearcliff School – Kim Newman

I love Kim Newman’s books so when Titan offered to send me a copy of his newest Drearcliff School novel, I jumped at the chance. Newman’s books are always fast paced with such fascinating spooky plots that I’m sure I’m going to love this one as much as the other Kim Newman books I’ve read.

Untitled design (90)4. Girl Squads – Sam Maggs
This is a non-fiction book about ’20 female friendships that changed the world.’ I started reading this today and honestly it’s completely fascinating. The stories range in time and location, covering athletes, artists and everything in between.

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5. The Dark Vault – V. E. Schwab

My new found love affair with books by V. E. Schwab continues with this bind up of The Archived books. I am yet to pick this up because it’s absolutely massive but I’m going to try and binge read it at the start of December.

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6. A Remedy For All Things – Jan Fortune

I participated in the blog tour for this fascinating book – you can read my guest post from the author here – and Jan kindly sent me a copy of the book to review as well. I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet but I’m really looking forward to giving it a go.

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7. The Silver Queen – Josie Jaffrey

Josie kindly sent me a copy of The Gilded King a few months ago and I loved it. (Review for that is here). She also very kindly sent me a copy of the next book in the series, The Silver Queen. I’m honestly dying to know what happens next so I am for sure picking this up as soon as possible.

Books I Bought

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8. I’ll Be Gone In the Dark – Michelle McNamara

I’ve heard really fascinating things about this book and I’m trying to read more non-fiction instead of just fantasy and science fiction all the time so I thought this might be a really interesting read.

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9. Mythos – Stephen Fry

I’ve never read anything from Stephen Fry but I’ve always wanted to read more about the Greek myths. I saw the paperback copy of this for sale online and thought I may as well pick up a copy.

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10. The Missing Girl – Shirley Jackson

I’ve been wanting to read more Shirley Jackson since I read We Have Always Lived In the Castle earlier in the year so this short little book of short stories was a perfect chance to read more of her work. I read it earlier in the month and gave it 3/5 stars.

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11. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Along with The Missing Girl I also bought a copy of The Haunting of Hill House. This has definitely been my favourite of her work so far. It was creepy and odd and I really enjoyed it. I gave this one 4/5 stars.

Untitled design (85)12. Sea – Sara Driver
This was in all honesty a cover buy. I picked it up in a second hand book shop because I love pirate-y/sea type books and I’m basically looking for something to fill the void that The Wicked Deep left. It sounds like a fun and quick fantasy read and I’ve heard pretty good things about it already!

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13. The Shining – Stephen King

I also bought this in a second hand book shop because I’ve never read The Shining. I saw the movie a long time ago but I don’t really remember the story so I’m excited to go into it with a blank slate and I’m hoping I really enjoy it. I was hoping to read this at Halloween but that obviously didn’t happen so hopefully soon!

Untitled design (16)14. Small Spaces – Katherine Arden
Katherine Arden’s middle grade novel was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was dark, spooky and very entertaining. I (unsurprisingly) gave this 5/5 stars and I’ll have a review up for it very soon.

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15. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
I ordered this as soon as it came out because I was really intrigued with this fresh perspective on the Frankenstein tale. I read it really fast and I loved Kiersten’s writing style and take on this classic story. This was another 5/5 star read and one of my favourites of the month.

Waiting on Wednesday #7: Holy Sister – Mark Lawrence

Waiting on Wednesday #7: Holy Sister – Mark Lawrence

BOOK REVIEW (25)
Synopsis

They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.

The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.

Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.

Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.

The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.

A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.

Thoughts

Untitled design (80)I am so excited for the release of Holy Sister in 2019. I’m a big fan of Mark Lawrence, he always creates these gorgeous worlds with plots that you absolutely cannot get enough of. I race through all of his books but I must say this series – The Book of the Ancestor is one of my favourites. I gave both books one and two five stars and I’m sure Holy Sister will be just as kick ass and intense. Nona is just a brilliant protagonist and I’m desperate to know what happens to her next. Whilst the covers are not really my favourite (I prefer the cover art for The Prince of Thorns), I’m so excited to add this book to my collection. Holy Sister is publishing April 4th 2019 from HarperVoyager UK.