Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Nearest Faraway Place - Book Review


The Nearest Faraway Place

Hayley Long 

YA Contemporary 


Synopsis:

Griff and Dylan are driving into Manhattan with their parents when the worst happens. There is a terrible car accident and Dylan and Griff’s parents are killed.

The boys are suddenly orphans with nowhere to go, until a kind aunt and uncle give them a new home in Wales. Now Dylan and Griff have everything they need. Love, a happy home and a future. But Dylan is worried about Griff: whether he is ok, whether he is coping with his grief. He doesn't seem to want to speak about it or really acknowledge the loss of their parents.

But Dylan needs to be even braver than Griff, because there is something very important he needs to face up to before he can move on. 

Review:

I always applaud books that make me cry - and this one really teared me up. Beautiful and bittersweet, this is a story that will surprise you, even as it breaks your heart. It is a book that fans of Moria Young’s The Road to Ever After will love. 

When Dylan and Griff lose their parents in a fatal accident, their life of jet-setting around the world comes to a total standstill. Now taken in by their Aunt and Uncle, they must make new lives for themselves in Wales. But Dylan hides a terrible secret that keeps him from moving on, and its a secret he must keep close if he ever hopes to see his brother, Griff, smile again... 

This is by no means a fast paced book. However the voice behind it is strong, steady and filled with an empathy toward grief that will tug at your heart strings. Its a beautiful, poignant read, and the story deals with death in a way that makes this a must read for anyone struggling with loss. 

Told from the older brother, fifteen-year-old Dylan’s perspective, the book takes you on a journey through each stage of grief and acceptance. I particularly adored that both pets and music played a big part in the brothers healing process. 

I also liked all the characters the brothers came into contact with. However what I appreciated most were the flashbacks of their travels. Seeing how happy their family were was lovely, but undeniably sad, but it really makes you feel for everything the boys lost.

What really sold this book for me though was the big plot twist toward the end. It’s not often I’m taken by surprise and this book really threw in a huge curve ball. I overlooked every clue, and although I caught a few lines that puzzled me, I never came close to seeing the finished picture. Massive applause to Hayley Long for her skilled writing!

All in all, a spellbinding read of family, loss and the bond between brothers. 4 stars!

What are your thoughts? Have any of you picked up this book?

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Savage Dawn - Book Review


The Savage Dawn
Melissa Grey
YA Fantasy
The Girl of Midnight Book #3
UK Publisher: Atom

Other Books in the Trilogy:

Synopsis:

The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

Echo awakened the Firebird. Now she is the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed… right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tannish has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master its overwhelming force. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. With Caius no longer by her side, she doesn't know if she can do it alone. Is she strong enough to save her home and the people she loves?

Whether Echo is ready to face this evil is not the question. The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.

Review:

A great wrap-up of the trilogy! The Savage Dawn is the final instalment of what has been a a whirlwind adventure. Fantastical through every page, with strong world building, character growth and beautiful word play, it ended on a magical high note that left me satisfied, yet still hoping for more. 

Echo is losing the war. Her beloved Caius has been captured and she is stuck on the island, duty bound to protect what is left of the Avicen people. But as travel through the in-between becomes unstable, Echo learns Tanith is plotting to wipe out the world… and Echo is the only one who stands a chance of stopping her. But just what sacrifice will victory demand, and is Echo willing to pay it?

Aside from a few nit-picks, I really enjoyed this book. What really sprang at me were the characters, most especially the secondary ones. Jasper and Dorian… I could write a whole review based on their relationship alone. I heart this pairing so much and was thrilled to see their emotions hit full bloom. 

However the whole cast, Ivy, Ronan, the Ava… they are a diverse and witty group with lots of quirk. Their interactions with one another really helped bring this story to life and they are one of the reasons I enjoyed this series as much as I did.

Echo has done heaps of growing in this book too. She is more mature after all the trials of book two-and by finally putting her past behind her-she made strong decisions throughout book three. This also allowed her relationship with Caius to move forward, and together they made one impressive unit. 

However my true love for this trilogy lies in Echo’s obsession with collecting words. Once again, these were beautifully threaded throughout the story, allowing Echo to express herself in the most meaningful of ways. Keeping a notebook handy while reading is most recommended!

As for the plot, it was less emotional than book two. Also while I enjoyed the winding journey Echo took, I do feel some readers might grow impatient with the pacing. There were also one or two scenes that I felt were quite similar to events in previous books - but these were all minor niggles that didn't really impede my enjoyment of the story.

The ending though really blew me away. It was open-ended, bittersweet, but still full of hope. It reminded me of Laini Taylor’s ending to her daughter of smoke and bone trilogy… and I think its an ending that people will either love or hate. Personally, I liked it. However I will still be keeping my fingers crossed for a novella of some sort… there is definitely room for one. 

All in all I really enjoyed this book, and the trilogy as a whole. Melissa Grey is definitely an author to watch out for.

4 stars!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

June in Review

(Me Sky Diving in Vancouver... Don't I look fashionable)

June in Review

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting my June wrap up at the end of July—and all I can say is— I completely forgot about it! Which is a shame, because for me June was a pretty exciting and productive month.

Here are the highlights:

  • I went to the cinema and saw WONDER WOMAN - which I loved. True it was a little cheesy in places, but I adored the soundtrack (It’s now my background writing music) and all in all, it was an empowering film.

  • And speaking of empowering, I went SKY DIVING! A truly exhilarating experience… nothing is more freeing than throwing yourself out of a plane. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do (I'm not crazy, I promise). But a huge applause for my beloved caveman for jumping with me - no small feat considering he’s afraid of heights. He also melted my heart with a real Titanic moment of “If you jump I jump”... made slightly less romantic with his pasty, green-faced, I’m-about-to-throw-up expression.

  • I HIT 68K with my Middle-Grade WIP! Although 60k was my actual word goal… however the story is still going, and going… and going! I’m not too worried because I know much will be cut during edits, but when I think about the amount of slicing and dicing I’ll need to do… Well, for now I’ve decided not to think about it!!

  • I READ 11 BOOKS! As you can see, another fab reading month for me… but I’m crazy behind on reviews! However my favourite reads were Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (No contest) followed by A Court of Wing’s and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. 

Books Read

  1. This Savage Song by V.E Schwab **** (Loved!)
  2. Scythe by Neil Shusterman *****
  3. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby *****
  4. Gilded Cage by Vic James ***
  5. A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab *****
  6. The Forever Court by Dave Rudden ***
  7. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard ** 
  8. Six of Crows  by Leigh Bardugo ***** (ADORED!)
  9. Mind Games by Kiersten White ***
  10. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodbine ****
  11. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas ***** (LOVED!)

Books Reviewed

Other Posts:


Hope everyone else had a fab June. I'll be posting July's wrap up tomorrow :)
Love & Hugs
x

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Glittering Court - Book Review


The Glittering Court - Book Review
Richelle Mead
Historical Fantasy
UK Publisher: Razorbill
(The Glittering Court #1)

Synopsis:

The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian Countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the new world. But to do that, she must join the Glittering court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the new world. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin, and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise - first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

Btu no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An Attraction that, if acted on, would scandalise the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

Review:

I have always been a big fan of Richelle Mead, but for me THE GLITTERING COURT was a big let down. Although the book dazzled me in the beginning, the story soon turned into a repetitive, longwinded tangle of plots lines. I really had to force myself to read through to the end. 

When Adelaide is forced into an arranged marriage, she seizes the first opportunity to flee by taking on the name of her maid servant and joining the glittering court—a type of finishing school where young women of the working class are trained in the ways of high society—before journeying across the seas to  the new land of Adoria . There, they are guaranteed rich husbands, but Adelaide must keep her identity a secret at all costs, or she will be forced to return home to life she no longer wants.

Adelaide was a strong character but I didn't understand her motives at all.  She fled an arranged marriage for the opportunity to go to a hostile country, where another arranged marriage was waiting… only to toss all her careful plans into the wind when she falls into the arms of  a man who was by her side the whole time…

Honestly while I liked the adventurous side of this book, the story fell flat. The whole plot rode on Adelaide’s whims and fancies, and with all the twists and turns, I’m just not sure what this book was trying to be. While I did enjoy the beginning— the initial set-up and premise of the story were really strong— this story just goes on and on and toward the end, my attention was definitely wandering. 

Not only were the conflicts in the story resolved too quickly, but Adelaide never really suffered any consequences. She got everything she wanted in a nice tidy bow and as a reader, I just kept waiting for something more to happen. 

The romance at least was sweet and I did cheer for Adelaide’s chosen man. I liked all the secondary characters and the world itself was beautifully depicted. The book though should have been half the size it was. 

It jumped from high society to finishing school, to ship, then  onto the wild west with Scottish style savages. It tried to be so many things, go in so many directions that the story felt thin. And although labeled a fantasy, there is nothing fantastical in this book. Despite being set in a made up world, the most magical things were the place names. 

All in all, this book was a huge disappointment for me. 2 stars!

Have any of you read this book? Curious to know, what did the rest of you make of it?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Love & Gelato - Book Review



Love & Gelato
Jenna Evans Welch
YA Contemporary Romance
UK Publisher: Walker Books

Synopsis:

The dying wish of 16-year-old Lina’s mother was for her daughter to live in Tuscany and get to know her father, whom Lina has never met.

“Howard is the best man I’ve ever known,” her mother says, “he’ll keep you safe.” Why did her mother wait so long to tell her about him? Lina has a happy life in Seattle and doesn't want to leave. Shortly after she arrives at Howard’s home, Lina meets Sonya, who gives Lina a diary that belonged to Lina’s mother, the one she had kept while she was a photography student in Florence. While Lina is living her life and exploring Tuscany with her handsome neighbour, Ren, she follows in the footsteps of her mother and gets to know her as never before. She also finds out the truth about her father. Mostly she finds out about herself.

Review:

Love & Gelato is the perfect summer read! The writing is smooth, using all five senses to draw you into a breathtaking world of heartache, new love and the magical country that is Italy. I must admit though that I thought parts of the end were a little cheesy, but in good way that left me smiling, even if I was shaking my head. Still I enjoyed every page of this book, cheesiness and all!

After her mother’s untimely death, Lina is forced to spend a summer in Italy with the father she has never met. Plotting her escape back to the states, her days are only made bearable by the amazing food, and a sparking friendship with a boy named Ren. But when she is gifted an old diary of her mothers—detailing the eighteen months of her mum’s own Italian adventure—Lina discovers a side of her mum she never knew. A side full of secrets that are about to rock Lina’s whole world, all over again. 

Romance, beautiful scenery, a story within a story… along with mouth watering food descriptions, this book has it all. It also left me with a huge yearning to fly to Italy immediately… and the biggest craving for pizza and gelato! 

Lina is a very honest character. Her feelings are very raw and as a reader, you can’t help but feel bad for her situation. She is very relatable as a person, however her restraint toward reading her mum’s diary drove me a little crazy. I really wanted to know what happened next!

Thanks to the dairy, this was also a story within a story, allowing the author to seamlessly flow between mother and daughter's POV. This gave us an in depth look at both characters, and their relationship. It made for a thrilling yet heart-wrenching read.

As for the romance, it was delicious in its slow burn and friendship building way. Ren is instantly likeable and quickly proves himself as a great guy. Watching him and Lina flirt was super cute and they were the sort of couple you're just begging to hurry up and kiss already :)

I did have a couple of gripes with this book though. As I mentioned, I thought parts of the end were a little cliche, but still cute and fitting with the story. However Lina could be a little naive at times and she doesn't always make the best choices. Ultimately though these were all small things and I still turned the last page, completely satisfied with the story.

All in all I can’t wait for this authors next book - I just discovered it will be set in Ireland - which I’m super excited for! Jenna Evans Welch is definitely a writer to watch out for.

Swoon-worthy, emotional and full of colour, I give Love & Gelato 4 stars!

Talk to Me!

Have any of you guys read this book? If so what are your thoughts? Any more summery reads you would recommend?

Monday, 19 June 2017

The Forever Court - Book Review


The Forever Court
Dave Rudden
MG Fantasy
Knights of the Borrowed Dark Books #2
UK Publisher: Puffin Books

Other books in the Series:

Synopsis:

Life is retiring to normal for Denizen Hardwick. Well, the new normal, where he has to battle monsters in quiet Dublin bookshops and constantly struggle to contain the new powers he has been given by Mercy, the daughter of the endless King. But Denizen may need those powers sooner than he thinks - not only are the Tenebrous stirring again but the Order of the Borrowed Dark face a new threat from much closer to home…

Review:

I liked this book but felt it was a heavier read than the first. The characters have matured, new enemies were introduced but for all the subplots and intriguing undercurrents, sadly, I felt this story lacked the spark that made the first book so unforgettable. 

Denizen is now an official knight in training. Struggling to contain the power given to him by Mercy, the daughter of The Order’s greatest enemy, the endless King - he lashes out at those closest to him, isolating himself away before he can hurt someone. But when a new threat rises, and the Knights are called to action once more, Denizen will need all his wits if he is to defeat the evil that is rising, and rising with a power that matches his own…

A lot of new characters were introduced to the story, and at times the switching POV’s were a little confusing. However I liked the new, fire-wielding bad guys, but missed the variety that the Tenebrous (and their mishmash bodies) brought to the previous story. Unlike book one which really excelled at creating a creepy atmosphere, I found these pages pretty lacklustre. 

Having said that Dave Rudden’s beautiful writing remains intact, and I liked the sarcasm and humour threaded through the story. The Epitaphs on the gravestones really made me smile, as did the witty banter between fights.

 Denizen though has done some significant growing and comes across older, and much more mature. He has begun to develop an interest in girls, but is closed up about his feelings. Whenever it came to building bridges with his mother, he turned into a typical petulant teenager, which although entertaining to read, took up a lot of his thoughts making this story less action based and more emotional.

I also felt that many of the original characters didn't get much page time. While everyone was present, most were given fleeting appearances meaning we got no more backstory, or character development from them. Mostly I just really missed the teamwork aspect that played such a significant part in the previous book - this novel read like a Denizen solo. 

As for the plot, it really picked up toward the end, and  it was engaging enough that I will read the next book. Despite the negativity of this review - I did ENJOY this book, I just didn't connect to this story the way I wanted to. I’m crossing my fingers the next book will feature more evil Tenebrous!

3 stars!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Last Duchess - Book Review



The Last Duchess - Book Review
Laura Powell
MG Historical Fantasy
UK Publisher: Macmillan children’s books

Synopsis:

Pattern is only thirteen, but is already rising through the ranks at Mrs Minchin’s Academy of Domestic Servitude and seems destined for a life below stairs. But fate intervenes when she is packed off to the small and secretive Duchy of Elffinberg, to serves as lady’s maid to the lately orphaned Grand Duchess.

Pattern’s young new mistress is excitable and paranoid, yet despite their differences the two girls forge an unlikely friendship that quickly turns into a battle for survival. For picture-perfect Elffinberg hides an extremely dark and deadly secret…

Armed only with her trusty sewing basket, a bottle of smelling salts and J. Bulcock’s inestimable guide, The Duties of a Lady’s Maid, Pattern will need all her wits and resourcefulness when dealing with above-stairs conspiracies and below-stairs intrigue. Darning stockings has never been so dangerous.

Review:

This was a super cute story, and one I think fans of Katherine Woodfine and Holly Webb will enjoy. Very character driven with vivid, old worldly descriptions, The Last Duchess was a lovely book with which to while away an afternoon.

Pattern’s ordinary life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds herself shipped away from London, back to the country of her birth to serve as a ladies maid to a young and orphaned duchess. But the land of Elffinberg holds many myths, and Pattern is about to discover that the palace sits on top of the biggest secret of all.

As the residents of the castle gossip, bribe and attempt to plot their way to the throne, Pattern will need all her skills if she is to help her new mistress survive. But first Pattern must gain the duchess’ trust, or be sent back to London in disgrace… 

I couldn't help but enjoy this book. In a merge of history and fantasy, Laura Powell brings to life a small country faced with one very big problem. A dragon. And like in any good fairytale, the only way to appease the dragon is to offer him a princess to snack on…. But the characters in this book are no helpless maidens.

Pattern is hearty heroine. Although mousy on the outside, she is quick thinking and practical, winning her battles through sheer will and kindness. A loyal servant, she is a good balance for the hot tempered duchess, and together the two spark a heart-warming friendship.

However the book is set in a fantastical country, and I was a little sad we didn’t get to visit more of it. Most of the book takes place within the palace, with only short jaunts into the countryside. But the village itself teems with life and I hope in the next book we get to see more of Pattern’s world. 

The story is also full of plot twists and I often found myself surprised. Between each page and the next I would suspect one thing only to find myself proven half-right, which left me with just the right amount of smugness, yet still enough intrigue to delight in the truth. 

All in all, a sweet MG read. 3 stars!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

YA in Japan

(View from Kawagushi Shrine)

YA Set in Japan 

Hey lovely people!

 So while I was in Japan, I put together this post on all my favourite YA books that have a Japanese theme or setting. 

These are the same books that first seeded my desire to see Japan, then later became even more enjoyable when I started to recognise and relate to the words and culture now so familiar to me. 

I want to share these book with you today because each story is beautifully unique, and they all capture the real flavour of Japanese life. Everything from the culture, scenery, customs, food, etiquette… even the folklore. 

I hope you will enjoy these as much as I did. Now in no particular order, here they are:



The Ink Trilogy 

Amanda Sun

YA Fantasy - but with a modern-day setting!

I really enjoyed the imagination behind this book. The main character is western girl whose life is suddenly up-rooted to Japan and I found her reactions to be really relatable. She of course meets a gorgeous Japanese guy… but he has dark secrets and an even darker power…

You can find my review of the first book HERE


Shadows on the Moon 
&
 Barefoot on the Wind 

 Zoe Marriott

YA Fantasy/ Retelling

These books are simply beautifully and are re-tellings of the classic fairytales, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Given a Japanese twist, and set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan, they are a definite must read!

Find my reviews HERE and HERE


The Name of the Blade Trilogy 

Zoe Marriott

YA Fantasy with modern day setting!

Yes, Zoe Marriott gets a second mention because her books are just that awesome! And although this trilogy is actually set in London, the main character is of Japanese heritage and her adventures are something straight out of a manga. Another must read!

My Reviews for the first all three books are HERE and HERE and HERE


The Red Winter Trilogy

Marie Annette

YA Fantasy with modern day setting!

I only recently discovered this series, and am desperately waiting to get my hands on the last book. Its got everything! Romance, Demons, a heart-pounding plot and so much page-turning goodness!!

I’ve reviewed Book’s one and two HERE and HERE.


Tales of the Otori
 (Across the Nightingale Floor)

Lian Hearn

YA Fantasy

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this series (back in my pre-blog days) but there was a lot to like about it. In fact… I think its time I gave this one a re-read myself!

Chat to me!


Any that I’m missing? If you know of any more great Japanese themed books please shout them out to me in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for more - whether they be Middle Grade, YA, NA or Adult :)

Take care guys and happy reading!