Book Review: Beautiful Star & Other Stories – Andrew Swanston

Book Review: Beautiful Star & Other Stories – Andrew Swanston

BOOK REVIEW
Release Date:
January 11th 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her grand-daughter. This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Review

beautifulSome days there’s nothing I love better than curling with a good historical fiction and enveloping myself in a different time period. When I was offered the chance to review Beautiful Star & Other Stories I jumped at the chance, not only because I love Andrew Swanston’s Incendium, but because something I’ve read very little of is historical fiction short stories. This collection has seven different tales, all from differing time periods and locations. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, giving a fascinating snapshot of that time period.

The stories are all in some way based on a true event or a true person, and that made the stories all the more enjoyable, knowing that I was learning about stories that are not often talked about. Each story was richly described with a very personal narrative voice. They were vivid and unique, dealing with a variety of themes from friendship and family, to loyalty and courage.

Of the seven stories there were a few that particularly stood out for me. I loved the story of Lady Mary Bankes, who defended Corfe Castle when it was sieges by Parliamentarian forces. This was something I had never heard of, and after doing my own research I am now eager to go and visit the ruins. I also loved the story of the young monk who dreams of learning to fly, as well as the story of a young boy who meets Charles I in a rather unexpected place. It’s the mark of incredible writing that each time period and setting comes alive, and that is definitely the case with Beautiful Star and Other Stories.

Richly detailed and thoroughly researched, Beautiful Star and Other Stories is a wonderful mix of stories. Full to the brim with realism and human voices, it is everything a historical fiction fan could ask for.
4 stars

Book Review: Shadowscent – P. M. Freestone

Book Review: Shadowscent – P. M. Freestone

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Series:
Shadowscent #1
Release Date: February 7th 2019
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Pages: 448
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

In the empire of Aramtesh, scent has power.

When disaster strikes and the crown prince lies poisoned, long suppressed rivalries threaten to blow the empire apart. It’s up to a poor village girl with a talent for fragrances and the prince’s loyal bodyguard to find an antidote.

To succeed, the pair must uncover secrets – cryptic, ancient tales as well as buried truths from their own pasts – in an adventure that will ignite your senses.

Review

book cover (39)As soon as I read the synopsis of this book it went on my wish list. It sounded completely unlike anything I’d read before and I was so fascinated by this beautiful sounded story. I’m so happy to say that it was everything I wanted and more. This is a superb start to a new fantasy  series that will have you hooked and leave you wanting more.

The story follows Rakel a young girl who is brilliant at detecting scents and understanding fragrances. When the crown prince comes to visit her village he is mysteriously poisoned and Rakel is suspected to be the poisoner. With the help of Ash, the prince’s Shield she must work to find an antidote to the poison, clear her name and uncover the secrets surrounding her past.

I honestly loved this story. It’s told in alternating points of view between Ash and Rakel. This was great because it gave you the chance to understand the magic system and the world from two different perspectives – Rakel is a poor village girl trying to earn enough to help her father and Ash has spent the majority of his life behind palace walls protecting the prince.

I really loved the scent based magic system in this story, it was such a unique idea and I enjoyed the way that the different scents were weaved into the plot and the mythology of the world. It’s was a really brilliant way to evoke smells and bring the story to life. The two main characters are really fascinating and each had really interesting story arcs that weaved together. They both have secrets surrounding their pasts and I was so intrigued to find out what was going on and who was behind it all.

The story is quite slow building in the begin as you get to know the world of Aramtesh and I did feel a little confused in the begin as I struggled to understand the world and how it worked. I soon settled into the story though and I definitely struggled to put the book down as the plot ramped up and the stakes were even higher. This is definitely a new favourite of mine and ended on such a cliff hanger that I am already dying to know what’s in store next.

If you enjoy beautifully told, slow burn fantasy stories full of mystery and intrigue, Shadowscent should definitely be the next book you pick up.
5 stars

Book Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

Book Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

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Series:
The Folk of the Air #1
Release Date: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 370
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy of this book through ReadersFirst.
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Review

book cover (55)This is such a perfect book. I couldn’t put it down and I definitely didn’t want it to end. The Cruel Prince is the first in a new series from ‘Faerie Queen’ Holly Black, and I can totally see why she deserves that name because this book is so stunning. Books about the Fae are not something I read particularly often, though I recently read An Enchantment of Ravens and really enjoyed it. With that in mind I decided to give this a go, and boy was I not disappointed.

Jude Duarte has become my most favourite character ever. She’s a strong woman, she wants to be a knight and fend for herself and she doesn’t expect others to do the work for her. She’s brash and determined, she makes mistakes and works hard. Black portrays her so realistically and so humanly, that I could not help but love her. She’s a fantastic protagonist and it’s so exciting to watch her grow and evolve. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other amazing characters. I loved Cardan and Vivi and The Roach too.

For me what made this book really stand out was the lush, vivid settings and the plot that kept me guessing. Each character in this book has their own motives, and everyone is playing a game. I was never sure who to trust, who was being honest and who wasn’t. So many times I’ve read a book and I’ve guessed what’s going to happen, but that definitely wasn’t the case with The Cruel Prince.

The book is pretty fast-paced and there’s plenty of action and excitement to keep you on the edge of your seat. If you love faerie stories, or you’re a fan of the immensely talented Holly Black, you need to pick up this book now, you won’t regret it.
5 stars

Book Review: The Fandom – Anna Day

Book Review: The Fandom – Anna Day

BOOK REVIEW (99)
Series:
The Fandom #1
Release Date: January 4th 2018
Publisher: Chicken House
Pages: 403
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly gave me a copy of this book at YALC 2017.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis

Violet’s in her element. Cosplay at the ready, she can’t wait to feel part of her favorite fandom: The Gallows Dance, a mega book and movie franchise that she and her friends know EVERY WORD of (canon and fanfic included).

But at Comic Con, a freak accident transports Violet and her friends into the story for real. And in just the first five minutes, they cause the death of the heroine, and get taken prisoner by the rebel group she was supposed to lead to victory.

It’s up to Violet to take her place, and play out the plot the way it was written. But stories have a life of their own, and when you change the script in one place, the rest gets revised too…

Review

the fandomHow many times have you read a book and wished you could go and visit the world in which it’s set? We’d all love to go and visit Narnia or Hogwarts or Middle Earth, but what would you actually do when you got there, and more importantly how would you get home?

I absolutely loved the concept of this book. Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con, they’re having a great time and meeting the star of their favourite book turned film, The Gallows Dance. Somehow they end up travelling to the universe the book is set and have to find a way to keep the story moving, and keep themselves alive.

The story is action packed, and well paced. The story is multi-layered, Violet is attempting to keep on the track of the original story, Alice is forging a new story and Katie is being help prisoner. Meanwhile everyone is trying to figure out how to get back home. The group soon find that just because you know everything about a story, doesn’t mean you actually want to visit.

The one thing that surprised me about this book is how funny it was. The colourful swear words that Katie uses, how clumsy and awkward Violet is, adds another layer to these fascinating characters, and really made me fall in love with them. You really root for Violet and her little brother Nate. I also loved the references to well known YA books – “Just like Tris and Katniss.” This book really appeals to my inner fan girl, and I loved that.

The book is divided up into pretty short chapters, and that also helps to make the book feel even more fast paced and action packed. I definitely thought this was a unique read and something I’ve never come across before. I did feel there was a bit of repetition which jarred a little – Katie’s soft scouse accent must have been mentioned seven or eight times, but overall I really enjoyed this fun and excited story.
4 stars

Book Review: The Feed – Nick Clark Windo

Book Review: The Feed – Nick Clark Windo

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Release Date:
January 30th 2018
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 355
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

It makes us. It destroys us. 

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.

Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.

Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.

Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

Review

book cover112As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew it would be a cracking read, and I absolutely wasn’t disappointed. I read this book in two sittings on the train and just could not put it down. The Feed is brilliantly written and utterly terrifying at the same time.

The story is set in a future where our love of technology has expanded even further, all social interactions are done online in the feed, no one really talks in the real world anymore. The world over is addicted, but what happens when it goes down and people no longer know how to cope?

One of the reasons I loved this book so much was how believable it felt. We’re all already addicted to social media and this dystopian world seems inherently possible as a result. This made The Feed a really scary read, but at the same time I just couldn’t look away.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, it is just a fantastic read that I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it is set after the feed goes down as a group of people attempt to go on living without the technology they were so addicted to. The characters are all very well executed, dealing with their own grief and horror at how the world has changed. The point of view changes throughout the book and it’s a great chance to see events from different characters perspective.

The book is excellently detailed and just a wonderful read. It’s also pretty topical, hitting on not just issues around social media but the environment as well. It was really fascinating watching characters attempt to understand one another through everyday interactions because they are no longer sure how. The Feed is a tense, gripping dystopian thriller that I guarantee is going to be one to watch in 2018.
5 stars

Book Review: Shell – Paula Rawsthorne

Book Review: Shell – Paula Rawsthorne

BOOK REVIEW (93).pngRelease Date: January 4th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Pages: 416
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5

Synopsis

What if you thought you had died, only to wake up to find that your brain and eyes had been transplanted into someone else’s body?

When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn’t choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?

Review

book coverThis book was so freaky. Imagine waking up in someone else’s body, but with your personality and all your memories? All your friends think you’re dead and you have to pretend to be someone else. Could you do it?

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I couldn’t think of a better celebration than this fantastic retelling. This book is quite fast paced, developing quickly as Lucy adapts to her new life in a new body. I really like Lucy as a main character, she was flawed and at times difficult, but that made her all the more realistic. I also found her parents really complex and fascinating, attempting to understand their motivations and looking at how far they will go to keep their daughter alive.

Shell touches on a lot of different themes, doing what’s right, finding yourself, friendship, bravery and family are just some of them. These really help to hook you in, and I definitely felt for Lucy and her struggle to keep going despite everything she’s been through. She has to make a lot of tough decisions, but the book is all the more intense and gripping for that reason.

Shell definitely also has some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The ending is quite a surprise and definitely gives you some food for thought. At times I found the book pretty dark and gory, but also dramatic and addictive. This is a superb modern retelling, and if you’re looking for something different to read, or you’re a fan of Mary Shelley’s version, you definitely need to give this a try.
4 stars

Blog Tour: Slay On Tour – Kim Curran

Blog Tour: Slay On Tour – Kim Curran

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Series:
SLAY #2 (See my review of the first book in the series here!)
Release Date: January 10th 2019
Publisher: Usborne
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

SLAY are BACK…and this time they’re headed to Tokyo to track down another hell-raising demon. When they’re invited on tour with a super-cool band of holographic girls, SLAY find themselves whisked off around Japan – until strange things start happening on their tour train. Suddenly it seems it’s not just SLAY’s fans following their every move…

Review

book cover (100)Slay are back with even more adventures and demon killing! I read the first book in this series last year and adored it so I was so excited to get back to this fun and exciting story. This time round the band are in Tokyo and are joined by a band of holographic girls. Of course some odd things start happening and the band find themselves dealing with a new enemy – what could possibly go wrong?

Reading the first book I fell in love with Milly and the band and it was so wonderful to be back following their story again. Milly has become a member of the band and it’s wonderful to see her character develop as she takes on the role of Milo. The characters are all really well fleshed out and I love all the banter and fun moments between the band and of course their manager Gail.

As can be expected the story is full to the brim with action and adventure and I loved the sense of mystery – attempting to discover who was behind all the goings on. There were a few twists and turns too which definitely kept me hooked and eager to know more. I loved the new setting for this story, Curran weaves in the sights and sounds of Japan and it adds for another fascinating layer to this addictive tale.

Curran creates a multi-layered plot with the demon slaying, the band leading a double life, Milly pretending to be a boy and love triangle that has been developing throughout both books. I loved the way it all meshed together to create such a fun and exhilarating story. If you’re looking for a fun and fresh new series, these books are perfect for a weekend binge read.
4 stars
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