Book Review: Tunnel of Bones – Victoria Schwab

Book Review: Tunnel of Bones – Victoria Schwab

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Series:
Cassidy Blake #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: 5th September 2019
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 272
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this from my local Waterstones
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Review

tunnelI absolutely fell in love with Cassidy and her ghost best friend when I read City of Ghosts last year. A spooky tale set in Edinburgh, I was so eager for more. Tunnel of Bones was definitely high on my most anticipated releases list, and I ended up reading it in a single sitting.

We’re back following Cassidy as she goes with her parents to film a new episode of The Inspecters, and this time they’re in Paris. They visit all the iconic places, heading up the Eiffel Tower and descending into the eerie Catacombs. As she explores Cassidy awakens a spirit much stronger than those she’s faced before. Hellbent on all kinds of mischief and mayhem, Cass and Jacob have to find a way to send him back before he ends up haunting Paris forever.

This story is so fun, it’s a wonderful spooky read and it’s absolutely perfect to cuddle up with on a dark autumn night. It has plenty of spine tingling moments, and I loved seeing the dark and eerie spin that Schwab puts on those infamous landmarks. The setting is fascinating and really comes alive in the story (I honestly can’t wait to see where Cass and the gang jet off to next!)

Tunnel of Bones also features a bit more character development, we learn more about best friend Jacob, and Cassidy starts exploring her powers as a ghost hunter. I enjoyed seeing plenty of familiar faces from book one as well as the introduction of some new characters, I particularly liked little Adele.

If you’re a fan of Victoria Schwab or you’re read the first book in the series, you’re going to absolutely love this one. If you haven’t had a chance to pick the first instalment up yet, these will make perfect Halloween binge reads.
5 stars

Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

Book Review: The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

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Series:
The Poppy War #1
Release Date: May 1st 2018
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Pages: 544
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought this in my local Waterstones
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Review

book cover (41)Pretty much everyone I know has read and loved The Poppy War. I must admit to being a bit nervous going in, I wasn’t entirely sure it would live up to the expectations I had set with so many people giving it five star reviews. I’m so happy to say that I absolutely adored this book, it is without a doubt one of my favourite reads of the year and I can’t wait to read more from R. F. Kuang.

The story follows Rin, a young war orphan who passes the Keju, a test given to every child in the Empire to determine if they should be admitted to the prestigious military schools. The country might be at peace whilst Rin is learning tactics and war, but unease is brewing with old enemies across the sea. Rin also discovers she can yield a shamanic power, but will it help save her people – or destroy them?

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. It’s quite a hefty book but I raced through this, finishing it in only a couple of days. I completely fell in love with the characters, they were so well fleshed out and there was plenty of character development. There were so many characters that I loved, Rin was fantastic and I loved Kitay and Nehza so much. I’m already scared to find out what will happen to them in the next instalment.

I recently went to see R. F. Kuang talk in my local Waterstones and it was fascinating to hear her explain how the story draws real life parallels with Chinese history. It really brought a whole new dimension to the story, and is definitely something I want to know more about.

The Poppy War is a grimdark tale and is therefore full of dark and gory scenes. It contains quite a high number of trigger warnings too so that is definitely something to consider before reading. All in all I found this book fast paced with a tense, exciting plot and a brilliant cast of characters. I’ve already picked up a copy of The Dragon Republic because I’m dying to know what happens next!
5 stars

Blog Tour: The Song of the Sycamore – Edward Cox

Blog Tour: The Song of the Sycamore – Edward Cox

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Release Date:
August 22nd 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 496
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

On the broken world of Urdezha, Wendal Finn died on the hostile plains of the wasteland, one more casualty in the endless war between the city-dwellers and the clansfolk. But now Wendal has returned to his home city of Old Castle, possessed by something he brought back from the wasteland, something old and best left forgotten. The spirits are calling it Sycamore, an ancient entity out to avenge all victims of murder. And in a city like Old Castle, no one is innocent.

With his mind trapped inside a dead body, Wendal can do nothing but watch as Sycamore turns him into a serial killer. Until the magicians take an interest in him. Preserving Wendal’s body and trapping Sycamore inside it, the magicians now have the perfect assassin at their disposal. Whenever they need an enemy removed, they can set the killer loose on Old Castle. Between these moments of horror, Wendal struggles to piece together the remnants of his former life. He wants to know why his wife died while he was fighting in the war, but no one will tell him, no one wants him to know. Left to his own devices, Wendal picks at the scabs that cover the dark secrets of the magicians and reveals a threat to every city on Urdezha.

The clans are massing. A supernatural storm is raging across the wasteland. It has already destroyed one city, and now it is heading for Old Castle. And the only one who might prevent oblivion is the murderous entity who the spirits are calling Sycamore.

Review

Copy of book cover (49)This is my first time reading a book by Edward Cox and I can tell you straight away it will not be my last. The Song of the Song of the Sycamore hooked me from the very beginning, and I could not put it down.

This complex tale tells the story of Wendal, who becomes a casualty of war and dies out in the wasteland. He awakes possessed by a mysterious entity known as Sycamore, a spirit hungry for vengeance. With no way of controlling the spirit Wendal must watch as Sycamore murders and destroys, all the while uncovering the dark secrets that surround the war between the people of the city and the clansfolk.

This is book is exceptionally dark and incredibly creepy. Told from both Wendal and Sycamore’s points of view, I loved getting to see things from both perspectives and Wendal/Sycamore made for a fascinating protagonist. The world building was also brilliantly done in the story and it was easy to dive into this complex world.

The plot was engaging and really kept me hooked from the outset. I almost missed my train stop on more than one occasion as I was so sucked into the story on my commute to work.  The story has plenty of dark moments, murder and action as well as a bit of a mystery surrounding the death of Wendal’s wife. Each layer of the plot was blended together seamlessly and it made for an unputdownable reading experience.

The Song of the Sycamore is definitely one of the most original books I’ve read in a while, and if you’re looking for an action packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is one for you.
5 stars

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Blog Tour: Brightsteel – Miles Cameron

Blog Tour: Brightsteel – Miles Cameron

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Series:
Master & Mages #3
Release Date: August 22nd 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 448
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

Every war come down to the flash of bright steel.

Even when the air is full of magic . . .

Aranthur and his friends have come together across different continents and realms with one purpose: to strike back against the forces which have torn a hole in the heavens and threaten to tear the world beneath them apart as well.

With time running short, and treason at home, there are battles to be fought on the field, in the magical arena, and in the ever-deadly realm of politics, and they cannot fail anywhere or everything will fall. Victory will require enemies to trust one another, old foes to fight together, spies to reveal the truth and steadfast allies to betray long-corrupt rulers.

Is Aranthur, a twenty-year-old student, really the master strategist to bring it all together? And can he and his friends build enough trust to overcome aeons of lies when their plans inevitably fall to pieces?

Do they even know, for sure, who the enemy is . . .

Review

Copy of book cover (48)The Master and Mages trilogy has been one of my favourite series of late, and I’ve absolutely loved each instalment in this fast paced and enjoyable tale. In Bright Steel Miles Cameron takes this epic story to even new heights, and I loved every minute of it. This is a brilliant series from start to end, and definitely should not be missed.

It’s difficult to talk about the plot of the third book in a series without giving away spoilers, but we continue to follow Aaranthur our protagonist from the previous two books. Aaranthur makes for a wonderful hero in this story and it’s really fascinating seeing him develop and grow over the course of the story. He is constantly pushed to the limit, and fighting that line good and bad. I really liked that he’s not your absolutely perfect hero, he makes mistakes, questions his judgement and grows as a person.

One of my favourite aspects of this series is definitely the writing. Cameron really sucks you in and Bright Steel has a really engaging plot that will keep you wanting more. It’s so easy to fall back into the story and the world building is incredibly well done. The story has something for everyone with plenty of action, politics, betrayal and magic.

If you’ve read the previous two instalments, you are definitely not going to be disappointed in the conclusion. If you haven’t had a chance to start this brilliant series yet, now is the perfect time to binge the entire series.

4 stars

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Blog Tour: We Are the Dead – Mike Shackle

Blog Tour: We Are the Dead – Mike Shackle

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-08-17T172418.633Release Date: August 8th 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 488
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

The war is over. The enemy won. Now it’s time to fight back.

For generations, the people of Jia – a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals – have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, but their enemy has not been idle. They have rediscovered magic and use it to launch an overwhelming surprise attack. An invasion has begun.

And in moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the warriors are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.

Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet… there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby… and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.

A brand new epic fantasy: gritty and modern featuring a unique ensemble of characters who will lead a revolution against their overlords.

Review

Copy of book cover (44)I must admit what drew me to this book was that eye catching cover, but after just a few pages I knew I was going to completely fall in love with this dark and engrossing tale. This brand new fantasy, set in a vivid world full of magic and fighting was everything I wanted and more.

Jia is a fascinating place, one that has been completely torn apart my magic and war. I loved the tense atmosphere, you could feel the fear and misery that surrounded the characters and it added another brilliant layer. The world building was incredibly well done and the setting practically leapt off the page. I found it so easy to get engrossed in the story, it was well plotted and excellently paced.

We Are the Dead is an excellently told story, I really enjoyed Shackle’s writing style and the characters were well developed. The story is told from multiple POVs, giving you the opportunity to see things from different perspectives. Each one was really fascinating and brought something interesting to the story.

It really is a dark tale, and there are plenty of brutal and gory moments throughout the book. I found the story so gripping and at times I struggled to put the book down. We Are the Dead is a brilliant fantasy tale, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Mike Shackle.
5 stars
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Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

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Release Date:
May 14th 2019
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 352
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-11T210836.240The story of Cinderella and the story of the ugly stepsisters has been told in a million different ways, so to find one that takes the story in a completely different direction was something I immediately wanted to read. Stepsister follows Isabelle, one of the ugly stepsisters to the newly crowned Ella, Queen of France. Reviled for the way she treated her stepsister, Isabelle and her sister Octavia are left with little options – they have tried to be sweet, pretty girls and find husbands but they never live up to their perfect stepsister. With war brewing and no way to protect themselves, Isabelle and Octavia must stand up and fight, proving that girls are a lot more than pretty possessions.

I am completely torn about how to rate this book. It took me quite a while to get into the story, I particularly found the early chapters quite slow, however once I got further into the story I really started to fall in love with these Isabelle and her sisters. They’re brave, intelligent, brilliant girls and I was rooting for them the entire time. The message of this story is so powerful and so important – that you don’t have to be what everyone expects you to be, that you should follow that dream no matter if others think you won’t succeed.

The story provided a really interesting take on this tale, and I loved the vivid world of France at war. I also liked the additional stories of Fate and Chance, two beings waging a bet over Isabelle’s life. It added a fascinating perspective to the tale and one I really enjoyed. One of the things that did put me off this book is the incredibly short chapters. Most were only a few pages long and for me it was a little off putting, it felt like as soon as I got back into the swing of the story I was at the end of the chapter again. The crazy amount of chapters (over 130) also put me off a little.

This is an emotional and inspiring story and if you’re a fan of retellings this is absolutely a must read. Stepsister is an exciting, feminist take on the ugly stepsister trope and I hope this trend of feminist retellings continues because I am fast becoming obsessed with them. If you love all things fairytales, you’re definitely going to love this one.
3 stars

Blog Tour – Sanctuary – V. V. James

Blog Tour – Sanctuary – V. V. James

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Release Date:
August 8th 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .

Review

Copy of book cover (40)This book gripped me from the very first chapter and refused to let me go. I couldn’t put it down, racing through the chapters quicker and quicker to find out what was going to happen at the end. This is the perfect tense and thrilling story, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Set in a small American town, the story opens on the death of a young quarter back named Daniel. His death is ruled an accident but rumours start to fly that his ex girlfriend Harper could have been involved – especially when she tells everyone Daniel isn’t as innocent as he makes out to be.

I loved everything about this book. The small little town that is gripped by paranoia and mistrust really leapt off the page. It really added to the tension and was the perfect setting for this dark and twisty tale.

The story is told in a number of alternating POVs and I really enjoyed getting to see the story from different view points. Each of the voices felt quite distinct and realistic, and I enjoyed seeing the characters attempt to figure what was going on, and who to trust.  Sanctuary also does come with quite a few trigger warnings, including sexual assault and violence so definitely make sure to take a look if needed.

Sanctuary is a dark and thrilling story, one that fans of James’ previous work will just adore. Her beautiful writing will suck you and and definitely keep you reading long after you’ve meant to go to bed. I ended up reading late into the night because I was just so desperate to see how it was going to end. If you love clever twists, a well executed plot and an engrossing mix of magic and mystery, Sanctuary should absolutely be your next read.
5 stars
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