Book Review

Legendary (Caraval #2) – Stephanie Garber

51bmaeHrI-L._SY346_I am a massive fan of Stephanie Garber’s debut, Caraval, so, as my friends could tell you, I was more than a little excited to get my hands on this little beauty. The enticing world of Caraval is full of magic that is both wonderful and terrible in equal measure. The vivid descriptions of the world that the mysterious Legend creates draw you in and make you wish that you could join the game, but at the same time make you pray that you never find yourself there. In a world of games and make believe, you can drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of what is real, and what is just a performance for the participants.

Legendary starts just hours after the end of Caraval, but although the game is over, it is still impossible to tell who can really be trusted and who is playing a role. Told from Tella’s point of view, the new game of Caraval, held in honour of the Empress Elantine, has an altogether darker feel. Set in the very real streets of Valenda, rather than a magical world of Legend’s creation, it becomes harder than ever to know what is real and what is just part of the game. This lends a sinister air to the whole book, and creates an even higher level of tension.

Whilst Scarlett remains my personal favourite of the sisters, this book would not have worked if she was the one playing the game. I find that Tella comes across as somewhat conceited, but it is her impetuous nature that is essential for the game to play out as it must.

Stephanie Garber’s world building, with its beautiful descriptions and fatally flawed characters, draws you into the book, much as the Dragna sisters were each drawn into the game of Caraval, and leaves you doubting whether you can truly believe what you have read. All I can say is, I hope there is a third book to follow this one, because I have many, many questions that need answers! Now, if I can just track down my very own Deck of Destiny…

 

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Book Review

The Songs of Us – Emma Cooper

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SYNOPSIS:

If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

REVIEW:

The Songs of Us is quite possibly my favourite of all the books that I have read so far this year. What could have been a thoroughly depressing book, given the hand that has been dealt to the main characters, is in fact surprisingly warm and funny. The entire premise of the book is completely heartbreaking, and yet there is a feeling of hope throughout, and the author’s sense of humour shines out through the pages.

I often find when reading that a book will draw me in to the pages so that I completely lose the world around me, but it is rare that one will grab me by the heart and refuse to let go. As each member of the King story shares their perspective on family life, you feel every second of their individual turmoil, and sing along with every song that breaks free from Melody’s thoughts.

I am not a person who normally laughs audibly while I am reading, but on more than one occasion, this book had me snorting with laughter – keep your eyes peeled for one particularly spectacular misunderstanding in a conversation between Melody and Flynn (I am saying no more, this you have to read for yourself!)

There are moments of pure writing genius throughout the book, ranging from Melody’s wonderful description of a bookshop:-

“The smell inside the bookshop is like a favourite pair of fluffy socks, soothing your aches and warming your ice-cold toes.”

To Flynn’s insightful thought of:-

“His wife that he just left – you know, the opposite of right.”

This is a book that takes you on a real rollercoaster ride through your emotions making you laugh and cry in equal measure. Be warned, you will need an entire box of tissues before you reach the end. I pity the next book that I pick up because The Songs of Us is an incredibly tough act to follow, and has left me with the worst book hangover that I have suffered in quite some time.

The Songs of Us is released on 31st May as an e-book and on 28th September in paperback. Don’t miss out. Pre-order your copy now here.

Book Review

The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

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SYNOPSIS:

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

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father, while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioner’s block.

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 five 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:

The Smoke Thieves gets off to a promising start, and not just because I can’t resist a book with a map at the beginning. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the five main characters, and this keeps the book moving along nicely, as the action moves around their very different environments. When books are written in this way, I often find that I am drawn more to one character than the others, and I end up speed reading chapters just to get back to my favourite character more quickly. However, I found each of the characters equally endearing in very different ways, and I was keen to catch back up with each of them in turn – and equally keen to see when or if their paths would eventually converge.

Aside from the five main characters, I feel I should also mention demon hunter Gravell, who despite appearances cares deeply for his young apprentice, and sinister inquisitor Noyes, who, quite frankly is just plain creepy, skulking around in the background.

There were a few areas of the book that I found a little slow and overly concerned with the politics of war, but not to the extend that I would be put off reading the next book in the series. In fact, after that ending, I will be queuing up for the next book.

Book Review

The Cocktail Bar – Isabella May

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SYNOPSIS

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of the Three Chosen Ones. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…

REVIEW

While I try to avoid judging a book by its cover, it is almost impossible with The Cocktail Bar, as it just screams “Read me!” the second that you see it. The beautiful colours grab your attention and set your imagination, and your taste buds, running at full speed. Even better, once you step through the front door of The Cocktail Bar, the story itself more than lives up to the cover.

Isabella May’s beautiful descriptions of the locations in this book make you feel as though you are right there next to River, experiencing the exhilarating sights, sounds and even smells as he starts out on his adventure in Mexico.

As the action moves back to River’s hometown of Glastonbury, the story unfolds with just the right sprinkling of magic and wonder that I had hoped for in a book set in a town that I have always wanted to visit but haven’t yet made it to. Having read this book, I now want to go there even more than ever, and I just hope that they have a decent cocktail bar for real.

I fell in love with every character in this book, from the delightful Alice to the devilish Georgina, from cat crazy Cassandra to fierce taxi-driving Hayley. As you read this book, and get to know each of the characters, you just know that you want to be in their gang, sharing one of River’s amazing cocktails.

This book is a must for anyone with a fondness for cocktails, love, and the magic that being surrounding by true friends can bring.

Well, after all that alcohol, I think I need some food now, so I am off to read Isabella’s first novel, Oh, What a Pavlova, whilst I eagerly await her next culinary offering.

Buy The Cocktail Bar here

Book Review

The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

34846987SYNOPSIS

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! 

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

REVIEW

Every now and again a book comes along that takes you by the hand and pulls you down into the pages, refusing to release you from it’s spell until the very last page. The Toymakers is one such book and I was captivated from the very first page. Dinsdale’s beautiful descriptions and style of writing made me feel as though I was right there in Papa Jack’s Emporium, and, as Papa Jack’s toys work their own special magic, I felt a sense of anticipation reminiscent of my own childhood Christmases. From the second I was introduced to the Emporium, the book lit up a childlike wonder in me, just as Papa Jack’s toys in the adults that loved them as much as the children that they were bought for. The real world fell away, and I was lost in a world of imagination.

The book follows runaway Cathy Wray as she discovers the wonderful world of Papa Jack’s Emporium, and builds a new life for herself among the toy-filled aisles, aided by the charming Godman brothers. Papa Jack’s boys couldn’t be more different from each other. The only things that flamboyant, charismatic Kaspar and sweet, gentle Emil have in common are their adoration of Cathy and a burning desire to make toys as good as their father’s. The outbreak of World War One changes everything, and just as it stole the innocence of the boys who went off to fight, so too did it steal the joy that lived inside the Emporium. As the magic begins to fade, desperate measures are taken that change the face of the Emporium forever.

The Toymakers left me with an overriding sense that even in the depths of despair and devastation, there is still magic to be found. The magic of Papa Jack’s Emporium lives on in all of the children whose lives the toys touched, and will live on in all of us, for as long as we have books like this, and, of course, our own imaginations.

Book Review

A Dangerous Game – Madeline Dyer

ADG SYNOPSIS

LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY…

All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?

But, when a face from her past suddenly–and secretly–shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.

Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Dyer gives us a strong heroine, high stakes, vivid world-building, and gorgeous writing all wrapped up in one package… What more could you ask for?” — Kelley York, author of OTHER BREAKABLE THINGS.

Read the prologue here.

Print ISBN: 978-0-9957191-6-3
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9957191-7-0

27331730_10157808034959616_3481663711033174333_nREVIEW

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I love Madeline Dyer! I was first introduced to her books a little over a year ago and I have been hooked ever since. Her Young Adult dystopian Untamed series had me hooked from the first page.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the Untamed live in a world where addiction to chemically produced augmenters is encouraged, and those who choose to remain “Untamed” are actively hunted, and forcibly converted to become Enhanced. The upside – no more illness or painful emotions. The downside – you become a shell of your former self, devoid of humanity. The Untamed survive by staying hidden and carrying out raids on the Enhanced towns.

A Dangerous Game is a standalone novel, set in the Untamed world, but sitting just before the events of the series, and with a brand new protagonist. Fans of the Untamed series will be pleased to see Seven Sarr and her family make an appearance, but I am confident that they will love Keelie Lin-Sykes just as much.

Keelie is older, angrier and more cynical than Seven, and this grittier approach gives the whole book a more grown up feel. Left alone with her twin brother, Elf, autistic older sister, Bea, and the baby of the family, Mila, after being separated from her parents and best friend during an Enhanced attack, Keelie will do whatever it takes to protect what is left of her family, and keep them together. This determination can lead to her making some unwise decisions and placing herself in danger. When a familiar face reappears, Keelie is left not knowing who or what to trust.

Seeing characters that I was already familiar with through Keelie’s eyes changed how I saw some off them, and helped build a bigger, more rounded picture of the community. The inclusion of an undiagnosed autistic character adds an interesting dimension as she struggles to cope in the ever changing, frightening, and dangerous world that the Untamed live in.

You don’t have to have read the Untamed series to love this book. it is an emotional rollercoaster all of its own, and the end left me reeling (no spoilers here, you’ll just have to read it). That said, if you haven’t read the series, you really should. You have a few months to catch up before the fourth and final instalment is released later this year (watch this space for more info!)

Add this book on Goodreads

Buy the eBook: AmazonB&NKobo, or iBooks

Buy the Paperback: Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAWaterstonesBook Depository, or Barnes & Noble.

Book Review

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back – Sariah Wilson

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back (The Ugly Stepsister Series Book 1)  As a Cinderella retelling, viewed from the perspective of an ugly stepsister, this book had the potential to be all too predictable and sickly sweet. However, the delightfully cynical nature of Mattie, the eponymous ugly stepsister, stops this from being the case. Constantly belittled via Skype by her absent mother, Mattie has cast herself in the role of ugly stepsister and misfit, viewing the beautiful, outgoing Ella as the perfect fairy tale princess, complete with handsome prince in the form of Jake, Mattie’s crush since she was a child. But, as this book shows, what people see on the outside is not always what is true of the person on the inside, and princesses don’t always want to wear their crowns.

The inclusion of chapters showing the story from Jake’s point of view is a lovely touch, and adds a depth to a character who might otherwise appear unworthy of our heroine’s devotion.

With touches of John Hughes and The Princess Diaries, this book is a must read for fairy tale lovers of all ages.