Book Review: A Sky Painted Gold – Laura Wood

Book Review: A Sky Painted Gold – Laura Wood

BOOK REVIEW (23)
Published: July 5th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Pages: 356
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, sixteen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer – a handsome, dashing brother and sister – Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams.

But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions… And is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family?

Review

A Sky Painted Gold is a YA reminiscent of The Great Gatsby with the glitz and glamour of the 1920s. The story follows Lou, a young girl living in a small village in Cornwall. She has always dreamed of who might own the secluded mansion house in her village. When the owners arrive Lou is swept into a world of parties, glamour and romance.

Untitled design (75)This is definitely not the kind of book that I would typically read. I do love historical fiction but I tend not to pick up romance heavy books. This however really caught my eye and I’m so glad I picked it up because honestly I absolutely adored this book.

This book is gorgeously written and really envelopes you in the sights and sounds of the era and that gorgeous mansion by the water. I loved sinking into the story and it is definitely the perfect read for a beautiful summer’s day. The plot was well paced and it felt very character driven, giving us the time to get to know the wonderful characters in this story.

Our protagonist Lou is definitely one my new favourite characters. She’s smart, quick and just a brilliant character to follow. Although the story does follow a romance, there is so much more going on and there were so many other characters that I adored in this story. The book touches on such a wide variety of themes – family, class, relationships and so much more. Something I found really fascinating about this book is the way that Wood portrays Lou’s family. She has a big loving family and she’s incredibly close with her sister who has recently been married. It’s fascinating to see the dynamics change and the relationships evolve as Lou spends more and more time at ‘the big house.’

A Sky Painted Gold is a beautiful engaging novel. It has a gorgeous setting and exquisite writing. A Sky Painted Gold was easily a five star read and I’m so excited to read more from Laura Wood in the future.
5 stars

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

BOOK REVIEW (16)
Release Date: 7th March 2018
Publisher: Zephyr
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

Review

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realism novel that follows fourteen year old Sante and her friends as they live off the grid and travel around Europe. Sante has a recurring dream about a shipwreck and longs to know the meaning of her dreams and what really happened to her parents.

Untitled design (52)I really wanted to love this book, I thought it sounded like a really fascinating book and I loved the blend of real life and magic but in truth it fell a little flat for me. I thought the cover was stunning and the story was a wonderful mix of magic and folklore, but for I couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot felt a little chaotic for me.

Badoe has a really beautiful writing style and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. I liked our protagonist Sante well enough and she undergoes a massive amount of character development in the book but I just didn’t fall in love with the story the way I was really hoping to. I liked seeing her relationships with the rest of the circus troupe – how they look after each other and become such a close knit family.

The story highlights a lot of really important issues, focusing on human trafficking, refugees, friendship and family. The plot is pretty quick paced and the world building was interesting. Overall this book is a fascinating debut and I definitely want to read more from this author but was a bit on the disappointing side. If you’re a fan of magical realism or quick paced stories, this one might be just what you’re looking for.

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Blog Tour: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

Blog Tour: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

BOOK REVIEW (15)
Series: Skyward #1
Release Date: 6th November 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 528
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

Review

Skyward is the first in an all new Science Fiction trilogy from acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson. Now I’m going to hang my head in shame and say I’m not totally familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue. I own quite a few of his books and I recently read and loved Snapshot, but other than that I don’t know too much about his books. I can safely say that after just the first few chapters of Skyward I was planning to read everything he’s ever written.

Untitled design (51)This book was just… wow. It was honestly like someone had asked me ‘what would be your perfect sci-fi book?’ and Skyward was the end result. I couldn’t put this book down and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved everything about this book. Brandon Sanderson is a master writer, weaving the many layers of the plot seamlessly together. The story starts off slowly, giving you the chance to learn about the world and set up for some of my new favourite characters of all time. Spensa is a magnificent protagonist. She’s brave and strong and determined to reach her dream of becoming a starfighter pilot. She’s an outcast who finds new friendships and she shows an immense amount of character growth as she changes from a brass and cocky student to someone who knows the value of friendship. I definitely grew attached to her and her ragtag bunch of flightmates. As the story ramped up and the pacing quickened, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to them next.

Brandon Sanderson finds the perfect balance with this book. The characters are well crafted and there were so many beings Spensa that I adored. The engaging plot and the detailed world building combine to make a story that you aren’t going to forget in a hurry. If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work already you will no doubt adore this book and if you’re a little late to the party like me, this will leave you desperate for more of his books.
5 stars
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Book Review: The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

Book Review: The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

BOOK REVIEW (10)
Series:
The Smoke Thieves #1
Release Date: 3rd May 2018
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 512
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received an ARC of this in an Illumicrate box.

Synopsis

A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our four heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

Review

This is my first time reading a book by Sally Green. I know loads of people read and loved her Half Bad series, but I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet. I was therefore unsure what to expect with this book, but I thought it was an excellent start to what I’m sure is going to be a phenomenal series.

Untitled design (37)The book has been dubbed “Game of Thrones for a younger audience” and I can totally see the similarities. The world building is good, with this wide world full of magic and different kingdoms. I loved the politics in this book, so many of the characters were scheming and vying for different things. There were plenty of battles and fighting and the book was a real page turner.

The story really sucked me in and I raced through the final few chapters. The story follows five main characters (a princess, a soldier, a traitor, a hunter and a thief) and each chapter alternates point of view for them. Although I liked all the characters I did feel like five was maybe too many. There were certain ones I preferred over others – I really liked Catherine and Ambrose, but was less interested in March. The characters were well fleshed out and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop as the series continues.

The chapters are really short so it definitely made me say ‘oh just one more chapter’ until it was the wee hours of the morning. Fast paced and exciting, The Smoke Thieves is a fantasy book that you definitely don’t want to miss.
5 stars

Book Review: Legendary – Stephanie Garber

Book Review: Legendary – Stephanie Garber

BOOK REVIEW (9)Series: Caraval #2
Release Date: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 432
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I picked up a signed edition at my local bookshop.

Synopsis

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

Review

I absolutely loved Caraval and Legendary was one of my most anticipated books of 2018. Legendary picks up right where Caraval finishes, although this time the focus is Scarlet’s sister Tella. The book is full of magic and mystery and I raced through this book, I just couldn’t put it down.

Untitled design (36)The second book in the series is much more complex, as this time it’s even more difficult to tell what is real and what isn’t. The book was well paced and I enjoyed the glimpses of characters from the first book as well as the introduction of new characters. I did feel the book was a little too romance heavy, but overall I thought it was a really terrific read.

The world building and character development are truly excellent and I definitely felt that Stephanie Garber upped the ante this time around. Tella is a really fascinating character, she’s wilful and stubborn and has to make some really difficult decisions in the story. Although I preferred Caraval, I definitely felt like Tella was a more interesting protagonist.

Legendary is full of magic, excitement and beautiful writing. If you loved the first one then you will not be disappointed. If you haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet you should definitely do it now – plenty of time to binge read both books before Finale is released.

5 stars

Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

BOOK REVIEW (7)
Series: Sleeper #2
Release Date: 25th October 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.

Synopsis

Sleeper spy Will Starling has been drafted in to the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance in the fight against the Nazis; but Will’s memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. Despite this, he has not forgotten his pledge to find and rescue his sister, Rose – if she is still alive. When his mission in France is compromised, Will suspects he’s been betrayed.

Back in London he hears that VIPER are in league with the Axis powers and are developing a new and deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies. Who is the mole in the British Secret Service? As they close in on VIPER’s Swiss headquarters, it seems no one can be trusted. Are Will and Anna able to prevent the unleashing of the Red Storm that will bring mass destruction on a scale even the Nazis haven’t dreamt of?

While Will tries to save the world, Rose has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

Excerpt

A Sniff of Betrayal

Chartres, France, 14th July 1943, the following evening,

Untitled design (22)Will Starling lies on his belly, concealed under bushes and weighed down by a backpack crammed with twenty-five pounds of Nobel 808 explosive. It is a warm summer evening, his clammy face mists up the lenses of his contact, Canadian, 6×30 binoculars. He blows on them before wiping the glass with the cuff of his shirt. Adjusting the focus, he watches the blurred shades of green and grey form into lush green meadows and the sturdy steels legs of a towering pylon, an immense obelisk transmitting power from Paris through to Chartres and beyond – power the Nazis were using to their advantage. Will takes stock of the tower, sweeping the binoculars up the ugly lattice structure. It would take a lot of explosive to bring it down.

‘Is it clear?’ asks Emile.

Will nods. ‘It’s clear.’

‘We should hurry, no?’ whispers Claudette.

‘Not just yet,’ says Will. His eyes follow the sun as it sinks and disappears behind a distant forest. The sky is brushed with an amber glow and provides enough light for them to carry out the operation without attracting unwanted attention with torches.

Emile and Claudette huddle on either side of them. Despite being the leader of this mission, he can’t help feeling like a spare wheel. His companions are newlyweds. Emile is athletic and handsome in a typical Gallic way and Claudette is pretty with dark hair and a wicked sense of humour that has Will laughing out loud sometimes. They are hopelessly in love, living each day as if it were their last. It is the perfect disguise for being amongst the occupying German forces, who find them innocuous and therefore ignore them.

Untitled design (23)Behind the smiles and sunny expressions, however, Emile and Claudette detest the Nazis, their feelings buried deep, emerging in the hidden meeting rooms of back-street bars and cafes where Will and other members of the Special

Operations Executive and French Resistance meet to discuss the latest orders from London.

‘Before we go, I have something to ask you, mon cher,’ says Claudette.

Will hands the binoculars to Emile.

‘Oui, ma cherie?’ says Emile, scouring the landscape.

Claudette snorts. ‘I was talking to Will.’

Like Will, Claudette has just turned eighteen. She has become like a sister to him and, despite remembering almost nothing about his real sister, he has, on occasion, had to stop himself from calling Claudette by Rose’s name. He knows he should have kept his distance, but Claudette’s personality, her humour and passion are just too seductive.

He often thinks about Rose and wonders if she is like Claudette. In his dreams she appears in snapshots. She seems innocent, fragile, but also stubborn – nothing unusual in any of those traits. However, Rose was not like other girls. Will had acquired secret research papers authored by his father, which revealed a little more about his past. His father had worked for Teleken – a VIPER-funded, scientific organisation that had developed a wonder drug, which allegedly gave the user kinetic powers. Will’s father had championed it and his mother had agreed to be one of the guinea pigs. However, the drug had been a failure. None of the guinea pigs had developed anything other than the need to vomit for three hours after taking it. All except Will’s mother, that is. She had vomited the morning before taking the drug, unaware that she was pregnant with Rose.

Neither Will’s father nor his mother could have anticipated what fate had in store for them. The drug had fed the foetus and seemingly modified Rose’s genetic make-up. Will’s father had no explanation as to how this could have happened. A miracle of modern science, he had concluded.

In the paper, Will’s father described how, at the age of five, Rose had lost her temper and her scream had caused all the windows in the house to shatter. Reading this had stirred an uncomfortable and frightening memory for Will. He remembered his parents being confused, scared even, and recalled a terrified Rose sobbing and apologising for something she knew she had caused but had not been able to control.

In another episode they had been in a local park on a sunny afternoon. Their mother had been unpacking a picnic and an eight-year-old Rose watched on as Will and his father tried out a new cricket bat. His father had bowled a googly, catching Will off-guard. Will had whacked the ball with fervour and accidentally sent it spinning towards his mother. As he panicked and cried out, the ball suddenly stopped in mid-air and spun slowly before flying obediently into a smiling Rose’s waiting hands. To his parents’ horror, other people had witnessed this event. This had been the beginning of the end. Soon after that, the agents of VIPER had come for Rose and the family.

Review

Sleeper: The Red Storm is the second instalment in the series following sleeper agent Will Starling as he attempts to fight against the Nazis in World War II. The first book in the series is an explosive, action packed story and I was so excited to find out what was in store next for Will and his friends. If it’s possible The Red Storm is even more of an intense wild ride, and I loved every second of this thrilling story.

The story picks up several years after the events in the first book. Will has grown but he’s still searching for his sister. The plot hits the ground running and doesn’t let up the entire time. There’s twists and turns and plenty of exciting moments. I really enjoying getting to see the characters I’ve become familiar with, especially seeing Will continue to grow and learn new skills. Along with the old faces there were a few new characters which added another dynamic to the plot. The characters, like the plot are well developed and expertly created. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for them.

In this series J. D. Fennell has created a really fantastic setting. Europe during the Second World War really comes alive and you can easily become completely absorbed in the explosions, fighting and espionage. I certainly found myself saying ‘oh just one more chapter’ more than a few times in my desperation to know what was going to happen. It’s intense, action packed and unputdownable. The Red Storm certainly lives up to the first book in the series and ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, making me desperate to know what’s coming next in this well crafted series.
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Blog Tour: Strange Ink – Gary Kemble

Blog Tour: Strange Ink – Gary Kemble

BOOK REVIEW (5)
Release Date: 9th October 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 391
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

After moving into a new house, journalist Harry Hendrick wakes up with tattoos that aren’t his…

When washed-up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes one morning with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out. But soon more tattoos appear: grisly, violent images which come accompanied by horrific nightmares – so he begins to dig deeper. Harry’s search leads him to a sinister disappearance, torment from beyond the grave, and a web of corruption and violence tangled with his own past. One way or another, he has to right the wrongs.

Review

Untitled design (12)This is a hard hitting thriller that is completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The story follows a journalist struggling with his career who one day wakes up with a tattoo he has no memory of getting. He believes it to be a drunken mistake but as more tattoos begin to appear he learns that something much darker is going on. The idea of tattoos appearing that weren’t yours really intrigued me and I’m so glad I picked this up. It’s a dark mysterious story that hooks you from the very first chapter.

The plot is intricately weaved and incredibly clever. It’s a mystery/thriller with a pinch of horror and a dash of romance. It mixes together to create a really memorable and enjoyable read.

Harry is a really fascinating protagonist. His job at the Chronicle leaves much to be desired and things aren’t really going his way. I really enjoyed watching him progressed as the story went on, and there’s an impressive amount of character growth in this story. He’s a complex character and one that readers are really going to grow attached to.

The story is pretty quick paced with short chapters that make you keep saying “one more chapter.” Strange Ink’s original concept, gripping writing and beautiful cover should certainly make it top of your wish list this autumn.
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