Book Review: Stain – A. G. Howard

Book Review: Stain – A. G. Howard

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Release Date:
15th January 2019
Publisher: Abrams Books
Pages: 512
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins…

After Lyra—a princess incapable of speech or sound—is cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt, a witch saves her life, steals her memories, and raises her in an enchanted forest … disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, in Lyra’s rival kingdom, the prince of thorns and night is dying, and the only way for him to break his curse is to wed the princess of daylight, for she is his true equal. As Lyra rediscovers her identity, an impostor princess prepares to steal her betrothed prince and her crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of the night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice, and strong enough to pass a series of tests—ultimately proving she’s everything a traditional princess is not.

Review

book cover (75)This is my first book from A. G. Howard – I have always wanted to read Splintered but haven’t gotten around to it yet – so when I heard about this it immediately went on my TBR. A Gothic fairy tale retelling of The Princess and the Pea? Where do I sign up? I was completely sucked in by that beautiful cover and the synopsis. After just a few chapters I completely fell under the spell of this beautifully written book.

Stain has that gorgeous, lush fairy tale setting and it was so easy to fall into the story of Lyra. She’s a fascinating protagonist – a princess unable to speak or make a sound. I really liked seeing things from her perspective as she grows and survives the trials she has to get through. She’s a strong protagonist and it was so interesting seeing her gain more power and strength. The tale also features a whole host of supporting characters that really added to the story. Vesper was also one of my favourites. He’s the mysterious and intriguing Prince of Night and I really enjoyed the interactions between him and Lyra.

As you can imagine the story does obviously feature a romance but the romance is definitely something of a slow burn – it doesn’t have that insta-love that so many fairy tale stories do. I really liked this as it felt more natural to watch the relationship develop.

Featuring excellent world building and a whole host of lovable characters, Stain is definitely one of my new favourite reads and I’m so looking forward to reading more from A. G. Howard.
5 stars

Book Review: Before I Let Go – Marieke Nijkamp

Book Review: Before I Let Go – Marieke Nijkamp

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Release Date:
January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 358
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…

Review

Where do I start with this strange, beautiful book? I have yet to read Nijkamp’s This is Where It Ends (I have now ordered it and that will soon change), but this book had a really interesting premise and sounded like a good read. After reading just a few pages I was completely sucked in, and I can safely say Before I Let Go is already a contender for my top reads of the year. (I know it’s only January, but it was so so good).

book cover (97)The book is set in this eerie, dark little town called Lost Creek in Alaska. Our main protagonist Corey grew up there but has since moved away, returned after the death of her best friend Kyra. But Lost has change in the months she’s been away, and Corey is no longer part of the community, she’s an outsider which the townspeople don’t take too kindly too. I loved this setting, it was so vividly described and such a claustrophobic and unsettling place. There were more than a few times when I felt a shiver from this cold dark landscape.

I don’t want to say too much about what happens in the story because I would hate to spoil it for anyone, but it touches on so many fascinating subjects – friendship, loyalty, belonging and mental health. It’s a fascinating book, with so many twists and turns that I absolutely didn’t see coming.

I loved Before I Let Go from start to finish – I loved the short chapters that kept my mind racing (and itching to know what was going to happen next). Nijkamp did a fantastic job building up the tension and the suspense, and some of those climax scenes I couldn’t have put the book down if the world around me was ending. The story is set over six days, but so much happens in that time. Corey was such an interesting protagonist, dealing with the grief of losing her friend, of being shunned from the community. I loved her determination, to stand up for what she thought her friend would have wanted, and to find out what really happened.

This spooky eerie thriller will have you on the edge of your seat, The beautiful vivid writing will linger in your mind longer after you’ve finished reading, and if you love a book that will keep you guessing Before I Let Go is just what you need.
5 stars

Book Review: The Wicked King – Holly Black

Book Review: The Wicked King – Holly Black

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Series:
The Folk of the Air #2
Release Date: 8th January 2019
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy from my local Waterstones.

Synopsis

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Review

This book gave me such a book hangover I’m not sure I will ever enjoy another book again.

book cover (13)I’m pretty sure that’s all the review you need but I’ll attempt to go into a little bit more detail. The Wicked King is the second instalment in the Folk of the Air series. This is already a massively popular series and book one – The Cruel Prince – was on everyone’s best of 2018 list (including mine). Going into The Wicked King I had a certain amount of trepidation – what if it’s all filler and suffers from second book syndrome?

Well that absolutely was not the case. The Wicked King is unputdownable. The stakes are higher, the plot twists are earth shattering and it is without a doubt one of my all time favourite books. Holly Black has created this immensely lush and beautiful world that is just a dream to be in. The characters are so complex and fascinating – Jude and Cardan are everything but there’s also a whole host of secondary characters who fascinate me so much. Jude is such a fascinating protagonist, fighting for what she wants and I loved seeing things from her perspective.

There’s plenty of action and excitement in The Wicked King too – not to mention a dash of romance. If you’re a fan of twisty fantasy this is definitely a series to pick up and binge read immediately – if you’ve already raced through The Cruel Prince then The Wicked King is worth the wait and definitely needs to be your next read.
5 stars

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

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Release Date:
February 8th 2018
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! 

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

Review

This vivid rich tale has absolutely stolen my heart and I could not put it down. A blend of magic and history, this book has definitely rocketed to one of my favourite books ever. The Toymakers is written in an incredibly beautiful style and the plot draws you in from the very outset. I couldn’t get enough of this book, with its bright depictions and stunning characters.

book cover (67)I’ve seen this book described elsewhere as a ‘fairy tale for grown ups’ and I think that’s incredibly accurate. In many ways it has that beautiful dream like quality, but with something darker lurking underneath. The story spans through two World Wars, and the effect that has on the emporium. The Toymakers is definitely the kind of book that you want to read when you have a good few hours just to sit and become completely absorbed in the story.

The characters are exceptionally well written too and definitely come alive in the setting. Cathy, Jack, Kaspar and Emil all feel like three dimensional characters, having their own motivations and desires. The book encompasses so much – jealousy, desire, friendship and hope. I don’t want to say too much about the plot as this is definitely one of those books that should be read with no spoilers, but there are a few surprises along the way that I didn’t see coming. It also has the most gorgeous cover ever, so many people asked me what I was reading when I was on my lunch break!

If you’re a fan of The Night Circus, I would definitely recommend this stunning book to you. If you’re looking for a magical and emotional tale that will leave you breathless, The Toymakers is exactly what you’re looking for.
5 stars

Book Review: Starfish – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Book Review: Starfish – Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Release Date:
April 5th 2018
Publisher: Ink Road
Pages: 353
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Review

I picked up Starfish when I had the weekend off work, thinking to get ahead in my blog tour reading. For two afternoons I was completely immersed in this emotional roller coaster of a book. It’s a beautifully written book and was a joy to read. If you haven’t added Starfish to your wish list yet, you absolutely have to because I’m already calling this as one of the best books of the year.

The thing I loved most about Starfish has to be Kiko and the amount of depth she had. book cover (50)She was an excellently written character and one that I could probably write about for days. I absolutely loved her and I became attached so quickly to this beautiful protagonist. The representation of anxiety in this book is completely spot on, and I loved watching Kiko as she grows and develops as a character. Starfish is sweet and sad in equal measure and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

There is of course a romance aspect to the story, but I really enjoyed that it was a slow building relationship one that was well thought out and developed, it definitely added another layer to the story and made the characters feel more realistic. Jamie too is an excellently portrayed character, he’s sweet and determined and just the nicest character ever.

This book deals with so many more themes and topics beyond anxiety. I won’t say too much because I wouldn’t want to spoil this beautiful book for anyone but the story deals with trauma during childhood, dealing with a difficult home life as well as what it’s like to be bi-racial. This quiet, subtle book is all about finding yourself and creating an identity, and it’s the kind of book that stays with you long after you’re finished reading. It’s an absolutely stunning debut (with one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen!) and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Akemi writes next.
5 stars

Book Review: Ace of Shades – Amanda Foody

Book Review: Ace of Shades – Amanda Foody

BOOK REVIEW (35)Series: The Shadow Game #1
Release Date: 17th May 2018
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 459
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…
and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Review

I must admit that I bought a copy of Daughter of the Burning City (Amanda Foody’s debut novel) last year and I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’ve heard amazing things and after reading the blurb for her newest book I knew it would be right up my alley.

book cover (10)Ace of Shades follows Enne Salta as she travels to the famous City of Sin in search of her mother. Enne is a proper young lady, well trained in etiquette and manners, but as she delves deeper into the underworld of New Reynes, she’s not sure how much of herself she’s willing to lose.

I absolutely loved this book. I thought the world building was really solid, the story started a little slowly but it really ramped up until I was racing through the final few chapters. I really appreciated the originality of this book, the City of Sin has the different mafia groups and dodgy dealings, but also magical talents, acrobatics and plenty of secrets.

I think part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the really terrific characters. I loved Enne, she has a tremendous amount of character development as she goes from polite lady to a strong and determined heroine. Likewise I loved Levi, who on the surface seems like any other gang lord and conman but is so much more.

The book definitely throws you right into the action and there’s plenty of big shock reveals and action packed scenes. This book was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, and I’m so glad that it lived up to the hype. I’m now off to read Daughter of the Burning City and lament that King of Fools will not be released until 2019.
5 stars

Book Review: Mirage – Somaiya Daud

Book Review: Mirage – Somaiya Daud

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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