Book Review: The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

Book Review: The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

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Series:
Middle Earth Universe
Release Date: 21st September 1937
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I have a battered old copy from my childhood
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

Review

Copy of book cover (28)No matter how many times I read this book I always completely fall in love with it.

The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a reluctant hobbit forced to go on a nasty adventure and help a band of dwarves retake their homeland that was invaded by a dragon. The Hobbit is quite a short book that captured my imagination at a young age, and it continues to do the same as an adult. Whenever I get the urge to reread it I always get that feeling of nostalgia and fall straight back in love with it. The story is told in a beautiful whimsical manner and it’s easy to fall into the story and Tolkien’s writing.

If you’ve never read any of Tolkien’s work The Hobbit is definitely the perfect place to start. It’s fun and exciting and is full to the brim with adventure and monsters. It’s a great introduction to Middle Earth and those characters that so many people know and love.

This time around I listened to the audiobook, something I had never done before. The audiobook was such a great way to read the story and the narrator did a brilliant job bringing to life the wide cast of characters.

The Hobbit is obviously a classic of the genre and its fascinating reading it knowing it had such a big influence on many of the most popular fantasy works today. It’s a beautifully told story, and I love how full of mischief and wonder this tale is. If you haven’t had the chance to read The Hobbit yet, it’s definitely worth reading – the film adaptation has decidedly mixed reviews but it’s also worth a watch once you’re finished!

5 stars

Book Review: Spontaneous – Aaron Starmer

Book Review: Spontaneous – Aaron Starmer

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Release Date: May 4th 2016
Publisher: Canongate Books
Pages: 368
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly gave me a copy of the book when I was an Intern
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Mara’s senior year is proving to be a lot less exciting than she’d hoped, until the day – KABAM! – Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to explode without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason, while the students continue to pop like balloons. But if bombs or terrorists or a government conspiracy aren’t to blame, what is?

With the help of her oldest friend, her new boyfriend, a power ballad and a homemade disco ball, will Mara make it to graduation in one piece? It’s going to be one hell of a year, where the only test is how to stay alive and where falling in love might be the worst thing you can do . . .

Review

This was such a fun and quirky YA read and I raced right through it. The story follows Mara as she’s finishing her last year at high school in a quiet American town. Things go from bad to worse when her classmates start exploding, and no one can figure out why – or who’s going to be next. When I read the premise I wasn’t sure this was going to be for me, but the spontaneous combustion plot works really well and I found myself really enjoying this unique little book.

The book is divided into really short chapters (which is great for “oh I’ll just read one more…”). The book is full of bleak, dark humour and I really enjoyed that about Spontaneous. The characters are dealing with such a horrific event, but they power through to try and save the rest of their class. I also loved that weaved in the story was the usual YA tropes like new relationships, friendship and finding yourself. Spontaneous is a clever little book and one I think YA readers will really enjoy.

The book is told from the point of view of main protagonist Mara, who is rude, says exactly what she thinks and ultimately hilarious. I loved seeing the story unfold from her perspective – how her friendship with Tess and relationship with Dylan in particular are fascinating to watch and excellently plotted. If you’re looking for a fun and quick YA read – and one on a topic you’ve probably never read anything about (I mean how many YA books are there about spontaneous combustion really?) then Spontaneous should definitely be your next read.4 stars

Blog Tour: Soul of the Sword – Julie Kagawa

Blog Tour: Soul of the Sword – Julie Kagawa

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Series:
Shadow of the Fox #2
Release Date: June 25th 2019
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

Review

41733208Soul of the Sword is the second instalment in Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox series. This quick, action packed adventure was one of my favourites of last year so I was so excited to return to this world. What I got was even more action, even more gripping plot and of course the characters that I love.

The setting for this story is just so beautiful and it really comes to life in Julie Kagawa’s writing. The vibrant world leapt off the page, and I loved every second of being in that world. The plot is very much a journey as the characters continue on their quest and I really enjoyed seeing the different places they ended up. Soul of the Sword is incredibly quick paced, and definitely has that anime-adventure feel to it.

The story is told in alternating POVs between quite a few different characters, and I really liked getting to see things from these different perspectives. Yumeko is absolutely my favourite character, she’s so sweet and lovely and I loved her take on the world. There’s lots of fun banter between the characters, which split up the action nicely too.

This second book is everything you could want. The plot went places I absolutely didn’t expect and the last few chapters had me racing through to find out how it was going to end. I am now absolutely desperate to read book three and I can’t wait to see where Kagawa takes this brilliant story next.
4 stars

Book Review: Blackwing – Ed Mcdonald

Book Review: Blackwing – Ed Mcdonald

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-06-26T130909.277.pngSeries: Raven’s Mark #1
Release Date: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 360
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Review

Copy of book cover (14)What can I say? This is one bloody brilliant book. Blackwing is set in a sort of post apocalyptic land, The Misery is a wasteland fraught with danger, monsters and who knows what else. The story follows Captain Galharrow, a man tasked with finding and executing any criminals who have fled into The Misery.

The book is full of action and excitement. It’s also very dark and vivid. Ed McDonald certainly holds nothing back and the reader is treated to all the sights, sounds and smells of life in this world. It felt like a very unique read, and unlike any other fantasy book I’ve ever read.

Blackwing also has quite a lot of terminology and names relevant to the story such as ‘Spinners’, ‘gracked’ and ‘darlings’. This was a little confusing at first, but you quickly pick up who is who as you delve into this absorbing story. This book is really fantastically written and in between the action the reader is treated to plenty of world building and explanation about the magic and monsters of The Misery.

The story’s main protagonist – Captain Galharrow is also a truly fascinating character. He’s straight to the point and unlikeable to many, but he’s also loyal and stands by those in his team. Galharrow is supported by some other really excellent characters – Nenn who I just loved, she’s battle crazy and has no nose, as well as Tnota who can find the team a route of just about anywhere, and Ezabeth the mysterious Spinner that Galharrow has to protect. The chracters were all really excellently portrayed as flawed human beings, and the story was all the more enjoyable for that.

Blackwing is a magnificent read. I was sucked in by the first few chapters and before I knew it I’d read half the book in one sitting. It has easily jumped into my top books for 2017. If you love books by authors like Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie, you should pre-order this one now. It’s dark, gory and full of action and magic. I mean honestly what more could you possibly need? This is a stunning debut, and I definitely cannot wait to see what’s in store next!
5 stars

Book Review: What Lies Around Us – Andrew Crofts

Book Review: What Lies Around Us – Andrew Crofts

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Release Date:
13th June 2019
Publisher: Red Door Books
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

It is possible that since this book’s publication you will have heard that I have died in ‘suspicious circumstances’. Obviously I hope that will not be the case, but I believe it is worth taking the risk in order to get this story out there.

Why would one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful billionaires offer a British ghostwriter a million dollars to write the autobiography of Hollywood’s biggest star?

Only once he is living and working among the world’s richest and most beautiful people does the ghost realise that there is way more than a publishing deal at stake.

The ghostwriter must face the dark underbelly of the tech industry. He must face corruption and manipulation, come to blows with people who will do anything to remain at the top of their game and uncover the dark truth behind what it really means to be an influencer . . .

What Lies Around Us takes the reader into a world of myth-makers and power-brokers and reveals who is really running the world. Who is telling the stories and controlling the way we all think with a mixture of old media, social media and fake media?

Review

Copy of book cover (1)I read and loved The Secret of the Italian Gardner by Andrew Crofts a while ago, so when I was contacted about What Lies Around Us I jumped at the chance to read it. If it’s possible this book was even more gripping and addictive and I could not put it down.

Andrew is a British ghostwriter and is contacted out of the blue by Roger, a Silicon Valley tech giant about ghost writing a new book. The book isn’t about him, but about a leading actress of blockbuster films and reality television. So why is Roger so interested in getting this book published? He’s willing to pay a million dollars for Andrew to write it, but he’s very specific about what he wants. As Andrew gets to know his subject a devastating set of events occur and Andrew begins to wonder is it mere coincidence that he was writing the book – or has somebody planned this?

This might be a small book but it really packed a punch! There were so many mysteries going on and I just had no idea how it was going to end. When I turned the last few pages I was so surprised. The plot is brilliantly executed and definitely kept me guessing.

The characters are really fascinating and Andrew really gives you the opportunity to get to know them – Roger the seemingly nice business man with ruthless ambition, Jo-Jo the beautiful actress with her perfect husband and family. As the story goes deeper the curtain is peeled back to see there’s so much more going on underneath.

I loved the gorgeous setting of the story – it really came to life in this book. I also really liked the writing style and found myself wanting to read more and more just to find out how it was going to end. I ended up reading the book in two sittings because I just couldn’t get enough. The story focuses on a whole range of themes but is most notably about power and ambition, and just what you’ll do to get it. The story also broaches the subject of social media and the influence it has on the world – I found this aspect really interesting and overall thought it was a thoroughly engaging read.

If you’re looking for an exciting, fast read, What Lies Around Us is a must read. It’s an engaging, thought provoking thriller and I’m so looking forward to reading more books from Andrew Crofts.
4 stars

Book Review: Two Can Keep A Secret – Karen M. McManus

Book Review: Two Can Keep A Secret – Karen M. McManus

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Release Date:
January 10th 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this in Sainsbury’s
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-17T113630.477I really enjoyed Karen M McManus’s debut novel – One of Us Is Lying, so I was excited to give her new book a shot. The story follows twins Ezra and Ellery who are sent to live with their grandmother whilst their mother is in rehab. The small little town is famous for the murder/disappearance of two Homecoming Queens – one of which is the twin’s aunt. Whilst getting acquainted with the town strange things start happening and the mysterious killer claims to have returned – but will Ellery be able to uncover the truth about her aunt’s disappearance?

Two Can Keep A Secret is the sort of book you take on a plane ride or pick up on a quiet afternoon to while away a few hours. You start off reading a few pages and it immediately sucks you in – hours later you’re still sitting there, desperate to know how it’s going to end. That was definitely my experience of reading this book. It’s a twisty, turny read and definitely lots of fun.

I really liked the setting in this story, the creepy little town filled with secrets really gave me Riverdale kind of vibes and I loved that the twins take jobs in an odd, creepy theme park. The characters are interesting ones too although at times I did feel like they could be more fleshed out. The story gives us alternating points of view between Ellery and Malcolm, a local boy who ends up involved in the mystery. Both characters give interesting perspectives and I liked seeing things from different points of view, particularly as the intensity heightening and the mystery was revealed.

The story is a multi-layered one and there are quite a lot of themes and ideas within the novel, covering topics like family, friendship, understanding yourself and lots more in between. It’s an engaging story that’s executed well. I enjoyed the overall story and definitely felt surprised at some of the shock twists. One or two of the twists were a little predictable but even though I knew what was coming, I still enjoyed the way it was revealed and tied into the rest of the story.

If you’re looking for a fast paced and engaging read, Two Can Keep a Secret should definitely be on your list. If you’ve read One of Us Is Lying, I’d absolutely recommend picking this up because this will definitely be a new favourite in the YA-thriller world.
4 stars

Book Review: Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Book Review: Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Release Date:
April 4th 2019
Publisher: Ink Road
Pages: 375
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this at NYALitFest
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-03T110806.863Last year I read Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and completely fell in love with the characters and the beautifully written tale. When I heard Summer Bird Blue was going to be published in the UK I snapped up a copy straight away. The story follows Rumi, a young girl who loses her sister in a car crash. Her mother, consumed with grief sends her to live with her aunt in Hawaii over the summer and there Rumi has to learn to cope with her grief and find the music that was so important to her and her sister.

This is such a unique, beautifully told story about family, friendship and grief. The story very much focuses in on Rumi as she tries to figure out how to live her life without her sister. It was well executed and I enjoyed seeing Rumi make friends with next door neighbour Kai and find a way back to the music that she loves so much.

Starfish was a five star read for me and part of the reason for that was the realistic characters. The characters in Summer Bird Blue are very realistic and well fleshed out, but I didn’t connect with them in the same way I did with Starfish. I really enjoyed the story, but it didn’t take my breath away like the previous book.

The story is incredibly emotional and I love the beautiful Hawaiian setting. I also loved that Bowman could so easily have introduced a romance between Rumi and Kai and instead have them remain friends. The story touches on a lot of incredibly important issues – not just grief but finding yourself, relationships and what it means to be a family. It isn’t a particularly light book, the story is quite a heavy one, but it’s executed extremely well.

While I really enjoyed it this book just didn’t blow me away, but I know Akemi Dawn Bowman fans will be overjoyed to read another gorgeous book from her. If you’re looking for a story that will keep you turning the pages but will also give you a lump in your throat, you should definitely pick up Summer Bird Blue.

3 stars