Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be reviewing all of the books I read in the final month of 2018 (which I still can`t believe is over, to be honest!). Onto the books!
The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis
In this companion to The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, we follow Aventurine`s friend as she is enlisted to spy on the highly secretive fairies- those responsible for the disappearance of her parents years prior to the novel`s beginning- who have just emerged from a long period of hiding in order to visit Drachenburg. It was great to see characters I knew and loved again, such as Aventurine (who is as hilarious and daring as ever, and a truly wonderful friend to Silke) and Marina, as well as to gain much more insight into Silke, whose talent for talking herself out of trouble and determination made her such an enjoyable heroine. I also loved learning more about Princesses Katrin and Sofia and I thought that the fairies made for excellent villains; they are so menacing and sinister even before we know their true intentions and how cruel they really are, and I was on edge every time they were on the page. Finally, I think Drachenburg is such a well-built world- the writing style conjured up such an image of it in my head, and Silke knowing the city so well meant that the reader also gets a great deal of insight into the different areas of the city and the people who live in them. I`m so looking forward to reading Sofia`s story after it comes out next summer! 4.5/5
Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In her 2nd novel, Lucy Strange tells the story of a girl called Pet, who lives in the lighthouse that serves her small coastal town, as World War Two and the policies it triggered begin to tear her family, and subsequently her rather idyllic life, to shreds. My heart was more or less in shreds from the opening too (and things remained that way throughout, and if anything got progressively torn to bits even more!) because the situations that Pet and her family face are all heart-rending and so hideously unjust. First of all, I absolutely adored Pet, and it`s actually quite to difficult to explain just how much. Everyone, including Pet herself, sees her as mousy and a wimp, but in reality she has a quiet strength that I admired so much, and it brought me so much delight to see her self-confidence grow as the book progressed. This understated bravery was especially noticeable due to the contrast between Pet and her sister Magda- who I loved very much too- who is fiery and much more overtly strong, and the way that both are instrumental in their lives improving. I also loved the writing style, which is so beautifully descriptive and evocative that I felt as if I was watching the action rather than reading it, and I had a vivid picture in my mind of each setting. Another element I really appreciated was that the book focuses on an area of the war I have never seen explored before, and I found so interesting as it really highlights what the struggles of being on the home front would have been like. The different mystery elements that Pet sets out to solve throughout were all incredibly intriguing, and between these, the amazing reveals they result in and how worried I was for her and Magda, it was almost impossible to stop reading this for even a moment. I strongly suggest picking it up, and also saving it for a day where you won`t need to drag yourself away from this gripping, stunning adventure. 4.5/5
The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In his debut novel, Samuel J. Halpin tells the story of a girl named Poppy, who goes to stay with her grandmother in the eccentric town of Suds, and is caught up in investigating why children frequently disappear under unusual circumstances, and have done for many years. First of all, the mystery is super intriguing, and I really enjoyed following along as Poppy and her friend Erasmus uncover more and more of the truth. Poppy and Erasmus made a great detective duo, and I thought the development of their friendship was wonderful, and it was lovely to see them trying to distract each other from both the magical and more realistic dangers they`re facing at different points. Speaking of the book blending magic and realism, it was expertly done and tackled both perfectly. I also appreciated the way that the inclusion of the fairy tale really added to the story in the present day, as well as being interesting to read in their own right- I don`t always enjoy that sort of thing, but this was so well done that I couldn`t not enjoy it. The climax of the book was thrilling, and the reveal of who the Peggs were and the extent of their evil actions was so satisfying; they lived up to the sinister, creepy villains I had expected from what we know about them by the time they are unmasked. I`m looking forward to seeing whatever the author writes next. 4.5/5
Sami`s Silver Lining by Cathy Cassidy
I have loved Cathy Cassidy`s books for a long time, and this was no exception. Much like her Chocolate Box Girls series, each book of the Lost and the Found series focuses on a different member of the titular band, and this one is Sami`s story. Sami is a refugee, who has only newly arrived in England, and his book sees a new relationship and his involvement in the band beginning to bring down the walls that he has built up around himself to protect him from the incredibly harrowing experiences he has had since war broke out in Syria. In addition to this, the other main part of the plot is a truly terrible keyboard player replacing the one who was forced to leave, and this has some pretty hilarious results The members of the band are all so much fun, and I just adore all of them- my particular favourite is Marley, but I wanted things to go well for all of them, and there isn`t a single one of the core group that I don`t love. Seeing things from Sami`s perspective was so interesting, as well as utterly heart-breaking in places, and the progress he makes in coming to terms with his past and trying to build his future is so heart-warming and emotional, as is a certain unexpected event that I don`t want to spoil. I can`t wait to read Sasha`s story in the 3rd book, especially given the hints as to what issues she is facing given in this book, and frankly I`d love it if I got a book for every single member, even though this band is considerably larger than the average group. 4.5/5
Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Karen McCombie seems to be able to turn her hand to any genre, and while I adored her contemporary series and then her more magical releases, I think this book has confirmed that my favourites of her work are the historical novels- I loved Catching Falling Stars, and I thoroughly enjoyed this too. It`s set on the small Scottish island of Tornish, and follows a girl named Bridie (also known as Little Bird) and her family, who are forced to flee the island after a new oppressive laird gains control of the island. As someone from Scotland, I know disgracefully little about its history, and it was really interesting to get a glimpse into what life in the era might have been like- especially since Bridie`s voice felt so authentic. The book was incredibly compelling, and it felt like the sort of historical drama that makes for an excellent adaptation because I got so invested in all of the characters` lives- from Bridie herself to her family and even the members of the new Laird`s household that aren`t necessarily there by choice. This feeling was added to even further by how beautifully the setting of Tornish was depicted as, and how well the later settings following the escape from the island were described. I`m so excited to continue on in the family`s journey in Little Bird Lands, whenever it comes out. 4.5/5
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
This book is the story of three siblings- Grace, Maya and Joaquin- who were given up for adoption when they very young, and what happens when they all discover that the others exist now they are teenagers. I loved how unique this concept was, and I adored the relationship that develops between the siblings. I also enjoyed that we saw things from all three perspectives, and I grew so attached to Grace and Joaquin- I couldn`t wait to see the way that their stories would turn out (spoiler: I was delighted with how it ends for them, and I shed several tears at the final chapters for each sibling!). Additionally, and somewhat hypocritically given my praise of the fresh concept, I thought Grace and Raf`s flirtatious friendship/romance was utterly lovely, and I thought he was such a supportive, kind love interest. However, I couldn`t really gel with Maya`s narration, and as such her chapters didn`t hold my interest as much, even though I did feel sympathy towards her as her family situation is so tough and she has a lot to deal with, and I liked her development as the book progressed. Overall, this was a really interesting contemporary that tackles a variety of topics (such as teenage pregnancy and the foster care system) that aren`t seen that often in books. 4/5
Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Beautiful Broken Things was one of the first YA books I remember reading and loving, and ever since that day in 2016 when I devoured it in a single sitting, I have thought often of Suzanne, who was Caddy`s new best friend in that book who had to leave Brighton at the end due to difficult circumstances. In this sort of sequel, set two years later, we see things from Suzanne`s point of view as she returns to Brighton and attempts to build an adult life for herself after leaving the care system, while also having to deal with her past and her abuser continuing to torment her, a romance with a handsome musician she`s been warned off of and the way that her friendships with Caddy and Rosie shift when they leave for university. As you might have guessed, I already really loved Suzanne, and her narration only added to this; she is so flawed, yet utterly loveable, and I admired her so much for how far she has come since Beautiful Broken Things, and how hard she is still trying to create a happier life for herself, even though it is so unfair that she has to. I also love the portrayal of the friendship between Suze, Caddy and Rosie, Suzanne`s romance with Matt was gorgeous (I can`t tell you how hard I was rooting for them) and I adored the new additions of Kel and Dilys too. They all felt so real to me, and I think this was due to the super natural dialogue and inclusion of messages/group chats between them. I couldn`t put this down because I so desperately needed to see how everything was going to turn out, and the writing is so beautiful that it was very easy to lose myself in Suzanne`s story. I don`t think I`ll ever stop thinking about how Suzanne might be getting on, but I really like where we left her at the end of this. Prepare yourself to feel every emotion possible, and pick up Beautiful Broken Things and then this. I really don`t think you`ll regret it. 5/5
The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
This middle grade fantasy tells the story of a girl named Emily as her parents vanish into the world of the Midnight Hour (a Victorian London frozen in time, where lots of weird and wild magical creatures live) and she must set off to save them, accompanied only by a runaway mouth that lands her in trouble a lot, a hedgehog and some sandwiches. I initially struggled a little to understand the world and what it was, which made it slightly tricky for me to get into the book, but I really started to get into it once the plot got properly going, and I thought the 3rd person narration was really funny and enjoyable from the very start. The world was so interesting and I loved learning about some of the types of magical people and the really cool abilities they had, and it was lots of fun following Emily as she tries to rescue her parents from a dangerous enemy. Information was revealed slowly about not just where they were throughout, but also who had taken them, why they had done so and the nature of Emily and her family`s connections to the Midnight Hour, and I thought all of these reveals were super intriguing and made known to the reader at just the right time. Additionally, I thought Emily was a fantastic character- she is feisty and funny and full of bravery- and her sidekick Tarquin (also known as Tarkus) was great too; they make an excellent team, and I loved how clever they both were in terms of bringing down the villain (or trying to, anyway…). The villain was also absolutely brilliant- she was so horrible and sly- and her evil plot is certainly suitably awful. After the thrilling climax, I`m looking forward to seeing more of this world and these characters in the next book of the trilogy, and I`m interested to see what will happen next. 4/5
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
I didn`t love this finale to the Lara Jean trilogy quite as much as I did the second instalment of the series that I read the month before this, but I still had such a great time reading it. This book sees Lara Jean applying to colleges and navigating her last few months of high school, and as I too have just applied to universities, I could really relate to the former of those, and loved seeing the insecurity it provokes captured so well on the page. My very favourite thing about this series though is just how cosy a vibe all of the books have; I`ve seen a lot of people criticise them for being light on plot, but while I agree that that`s true it just somehow works in these in a way it doesn`t in most books for me. I find spending time with Lara Jean telling you about her life is incredibly relaxing and fun, regardless of what`s happening in it, and I love her as a narrator. I also can`t begin to describe how much I love her family, friends and boyfriend Peter, because they`re all so distinctive and because we see them from Lara Jean`s perspective I almost feel like they`re people I know, if that makes any sense. I especially love Peter and Kitty, because they have made me laugh so much throughout the series. The romantic moments of this book were all super lovely too, and I think they`re fabulous examples of YA romance books; if you haven`t picked them up yet and enjoy that genre, I definitely think you should give them a try, because I`ve had so much fun reading all three in the series this year. I`m so sad that this is probably the last time I`ll get to read about LJ and her life and the people in it, but I look forward to seeing the adaptations of books two and three on Netflix, hopefully not too far in the future. 4.5/5
The Year After You by Nina de Pass (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
I had expected to like this book, but I don`t think I could ever have predicted how much it would blow me completely and utterly away. It is the story of a girl named Cara- who is grieving the death of her best friend G who died in a tragic accident that Cara blames herself for on the New Year`s Eve nine months prior to the book`s opening- and how her being “exiled” to Hope Hall, a boarding school in Switzerland known for helping troubled teens, and meeting new friends there helps her begin to heal. This book has one of my favourite first lines ever, and I knew from the moment I read it that I was going to fall in love with this book. Cara is such an engaging, complex narrator, and even though she has shut herself off from the world when we meet her, every emotion she is having comes through the text and I just wanted things to get better for her so badly. She makes a lot of mistakes both in the past, which we get flashbacks of, and present, but I still loved her so much as a main character. The supporting characters are also exceptional, particularly the friend group Cara accidentally joins upon arrival. They all have their own problems and Hector and Ren`s home lives both made me cry (as did Cara`s situation; I basically spent most of this book with tears streaming down my face…), but they all do their best to support each other and their dynamic is the absolute best. Cara and Hector`s slowburn romance was incredible too, and their chemistry was palpable from the moment they met. I could barely breathe at some points when I was reading this because I was so stressed and upset on all of their behalves, and because I was desperate for things to end well. I won`t say what happens, but I 100% thought the ending was perfect, and I know her debut hasn`t even been officially released yet, but honestly, I already can`t wait to see what Nina de Pass does next, because if this book is any indication, she`s going to be one of my new favourite authors. 5/5
SLAY: On Tour by Kim Curran (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
In the 2nd book of the Slay series, we follow the demon-slaying boyband to Tokyo, where there has been a spate of recent demon sightings, as they join the tour of a group of hologram girls as a support act and are targeted by an unknown enemy who seems to cause the group great harm. The characters in this series are all fantastically done- heroine Milly and the members of Slay are all wonderful and I adore the band`s manager Gail so much I can`t find the words to explain how much, but the sinister demons and new supporting characters are all so well-characterised too. One of my favourite things about book one was how action-packed it was, and while this certainly kept that up, I also really liked its quieter moments where the dynamics between characters shift (I`m a BIG fan of the love triangle in these books!) and also where they reflect on the various life-changing events of book one and the effect it has had on all of them. That said, the book isn`t sombre in the slightest, and the banter between the band is still absolutely hilarious. I was hooked on the mystery of who was responsible for the various accidents on the tour throughout (as well as the other mysteries that spring up as you get further in) and the reveal was better than I could have ever guessed, and I was so shocked by it. I haven’t heard anything about there being further books in the series yet, but if there are I will absolutely be reading them to see where Slay goes next, and who they come up against when they get there. 4.5/5
The Dog Who Saved the World by Ross Welford (received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)
This was my final book of 2018, and this sci-fi adventure was a lovely way to finish off my reading year. It`s the story of a dog-obsessed girl named Georgie and what happens when every dog in the world- including her beloved pet Mr Mash- become infected with a deadly virus, and she must enter the future via a virtual reality machine created by an elderly eccentric scientist she has become involved with recently in order to save not just Mr Mash, but everyone in the world. Georgie is a fabulous character with a unique and funny voice, and I liked her a lot for many reasons, but most of all for her unswerving love for dogs and desperation to protect them throughout. Her relationship with Mr Mash is incredibly touching, and I also loved the loyal friendship she shared with Ramsay, as well as finding her rather complicated with Jess super interesting. Other than the characters, I thought the book was really well paced and I often found myself saying just one more chapter every time I picked it up. Also, I really appreciated how well the science elements were explained, as I often struggle to understand books that feature it heavily, and though the concept of this was pretty difficult to wrap my head around, I actually managed to grasp it and could follow everything that was going on. There are some incredibly sad moments and I was very worried while I was reading, but there is also a lot of comic relief and some lovely relationships between the characters to add some lightness. This is a really quirky and enjoyable read, and I`m looking forward to picking up some of Ross Welford`s back catalogue now. 4.5/5
Have you read any of these books? Are some of them on your TBR, or are you going to add them now? I`d love to hear in the comments!
15 thoughts on “December Reviews 2018”
Slay is such silly fun I cannot wait to get to read the sequel!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I really hope you enjoy it! X
I really need to get Far From The Tree read. I’ve had it on my shelf for a long time now. Same with Slay.I am also excited for the new Sara Barnard and very intrigued by the year after you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think you’ll probably really like Far From the Tree (the humour between Grace and Raf is EXCELLENT), and I hope you enjoy Slay too- it’s so much fun! I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on Fierce Fragile Hearts (I’m here to support you as you read it and it breaks you 😘) and I thoroughly recommend the Year After You. It actually reminded me a bit of Sara’s writing, so I really think you’ll love it. X
I’ve got a lot of the MG ones here waiting to be read – I’m particularly looking forward to The Peculiar Peggs, The Midnight Hour and Our Castle by the Sea. I don’t know of Little Bird Flies but that sounds good too!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ooh I really hope you enjoy those three! Little Bird Flies is wonderful; I’d definitely recommend it 💜
Also, I finished Swimming Against the Storm last night and I LOVED it x
I knew you would! Didn’t you just feel like you were there?!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Absolutely! Jess is exceptional at worldbuilding, isn’t she? X
Definitely, it’s the thing I like best about her books. The way she manages to really immerse you in a culture/time/place.
LikeLiked by 1 person
These all sound brilliant! I have only read The Girl With the Dragon Heart, which I loved, but just picked up Our Castle By the Sea and P.S. I Still Love You from the library. I have a copy of Far From the Tree on my shelf but haven’t read it yet. I also really like the look of The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods, The Dog Who Saved the World, The Year After You and Little Bird Flies.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ooh I hope you love them all! I can’t wait to hear what you think 💜💜💜
LikeLiked by 1 person
I will let you know!