November/December Reviews

Hello everybody!

Today I`m going to be sharing my reviews for November and December. I haven`t read as much as I`d have liked over both, but I have been rereading for most of December so it`s not too bad. Onto the books!

The Fabled Beast Chronicles series by Lari Don

While I initially found this series harder to get into than the Spellchasers trilogy, by just the 2nd book I was absolutely immersed in the story of Helen, a talented fiddler, as her life becomes entwined with the fabled beasts when a centaur turns up at her house and asks her to heal him and their subsequent thrilling adventures. I thought Helen was an amazing heroine; strong, capable and independent, and I loved getting to know the fabled beasts. My particular favourites were Sapphire the dragon and Yann the centaur, but I also enjoyed getting to see more in depth how most of the species lived and their customs through excellent worldbuilding over the course of the quartet. I really hope Lari Don has another middle grade fantasy series of some sort coming soon, as she`s a master of them. 4.5/5

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan

In her debut novel, Helena Duggan tells the story of Violet as she moves to the unusually perfect town Perfect, and her journey of realising that all is not as it seems. There is a sense of sinister foreboding from the off, and the tension increases gradually until I was absolutely glued to the book towards the end. Alongside the mystery plot of working out what`s gone wrong with the town and who`s behind it, I liked the friendship between Violet and Boy a lot, and them as individuals, and the secondary characters (good and evil alike) jumped off the page. On that note, the worldbuilding was so well done that I felt as if I were actually in Perfect with the characters, and the multi layered backstory was fabulous. I`m not sure where this will go in the sequel, but I`ll definitely be reading to find out. 4.5/5

The Polar Bear Explorers` Club by Alex Bell (illustrated by Tomislav Tomic)

Alex`s first foray into the middle grade genre is, in my eyes, is an example of MG at its very finest. It tells the tale of Stella Starflake Pearl, who longs to be an explorer, as she sets off with her adopted father Felix on her first expedition and ends up separated from the main group along with the three other children of the voyage. I absolutely adored the group dynamics, and each character. Beanie was particularly delightful (he is quite possibly one of my new favourites of all time) but I also liked wolf whisperer Shay (I want to whisper with animals, please), Stella was an excellent leader, and it was so interesting to see how initially hostile Edward developed over the course of their journey. I also fell in love with the different animals and magical creatures the group encounter over the book (except, of course, the baddies) and loved how the book moved from one magical incident to another fluidly and always furthered either the relationships or plot. In case it`s not clear, I was completely obsessed with this book from beginning to end, and I have my fingers very tightly crossed for a sequel (or ten). 5/5

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn

While I had expected to adore this book, it didn`t quite live up to my expectations. The writing style wasn`t especially to my taste, and I struggled to get to grips with the overcomplicated mystery plot, which never felt entirely linked to me. However, there were also parts of the book I enjoyed more. I liked the main trio, especially main character Lottie herself, and the friendships they strike up, as well as the unique and interesting system of monarchy, and getting to see both the dangerous and glamourous aspects of this. I also liked the ending, which was genuinely surprising and will probably lead me to pick up the second in the series at some stage after it`s released. 3.5/5

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I went into this book with no idea of what it was going to be like, except knowing that it focused on Cameron Post as she grew up in a rural area in the 80s and explored her sexuality as a lesbian. I really liked Cameron as a character as I thought she was resilient, sometimes funny in her narration and strong, while also being flawed, and I also liked some of the secondary characters, especially those she meets during the 2nd half of the book after her aunt takes the drastic action alluded to in the blurb. Another thing I found interesting about the book, although it was a minor inclusion, was that Cameron`s aunt has neurofibromatosis (the condition I`m believed to have, albeit not the type it`s suspected I personally have and she experiences it very differently), which I was quite emotional to see represented in a book for the first time. However, there were also several aspects of the book I really struggled with. I found the first half of the book, which is rather long at almost 500 pages, incredibly slow to the point where I was close to DNFing, and I found the prose too “purple”. Overall, this was a book I learnt quite a lot from, but it wasn`t my cup of tea. 3/5

The Ghost Light by Sarah Rubin

I see very little buzz around the Alice Jones mysteries online, but I`ve thoroughly enjoyed both instalments so far. This book tells the story of Alice, who lives in Philadelphia, as she becomes in another mystery, this time involving sabotage and scary accidents at a local theatre. I love what a clever, independent heroine Alice is, and the colourful characters who surround her from her lovely journalist dad to arrogant film stars starring in the seemingly cursed, haunted play. I also thought the conclusion to the mystery was interesting as I only partially guessed the culprit, and there were several surprises. I did, however miss the presence of Sammy from the Impossible Clue, and thought the book felt quite different in tone too, but overall I think these are definetely underrated and I’d like a few more in the series. 4/5

The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters

After having this recommended to me, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I found it initially quite hard to get into and connect with narrator Hannah, but I soon did and was swept up in this contemporary middle grade tale of a girl trying to save her family`s farm from being sold when the landlord bumps up the rent, while also putting on a play. It has the same whimsical, modern classic feel that Natasha Farrant captured in the Bluebell Gadsby series, and it features a large group of siblings. I loved that things weren`t perfect between the family in the slightest but they were still always there for each other and the gentle humour sprinkled throughout the book. I worried desperately about the characters till the end as there were so many twists when I thought they were nearing a happy ending, though I did love the one they eventually got. 4.5/5

Hole in the Middle by Kendra Fortmeyer

After seeing an excerpt from this book, I knew I wanted to read it, but the reality was very different to what I`d imagined. I didn`t find the book anywhere near as funny as I`d hoped, though I did find the plot of Morgan`s treatment for the hole in her torso interesting. I also liked the romance between her and Holden, as despite it being an odd addition after their initial reaction to one another they shared some lovely moments. Another element of the plot I enjoyed was the way the media treats Morgan, and finally the dysfunctional relationship between Morgan and her mother. I was less keen on the aspects previously mentioned, Morgan`s narrative style and the rather abrupt ending. 3.5/5

Rocking Horse War by Lari Don

After loving both the Spellchasers trilogy and the Fabled Beast Chronicles, I had high expectations for Rocking Horse War and it delivered. While I initially struggled to get into it, and I hadn`t realised for some reason it was set historically, I was very intrigued by Pearl`s story of waking up one morning and discovering her troublesome triplet siblings gone. She becomes tangled up in mysterious magic, and must battle to take the triplets home. I liked Pearl a lot; she was so determined and focused, and never gave up. Another thing I thought was great was that we got to see the impact of the first world war on a family, which isn`t especially common but I find fascinating. Finally, as always, Lari Don`s worldbuilding and magic system was exceptionally well done, particularly as we are learning more about it along with Pearl gradually so it never feels like an infodump despite the small page count. 4.5/5

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge

This was a lovely read, and I`m so glad I finally picked it up. It tells the story of Albie, whose mum has just died, and his experiment with quantum physics to try and find a universe she`s still in. It was a slice of life style format where we see a few hours in the lives of Albie`s counterparts (my personal favourite of which was Alba) and I found it such an original, clever idea. I also thought that Albie was a really sweet character, and unusually for me I actually grasped most of the science and never found it to overwhelm Albie`s journey. I definitely want to read more from Christopher Edge in 2018. 4.5/5

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

Vashti Hardy`s debut is so incredibly special, and I can`t wait for everyone to be able to read it. It`s about twins Arthur and Maudie as they set off on a skyship adventure and attempt to clear their dad`s name of stealing fuel from another ship on his last expedition. I absolutely loved the twins, and their relationship with one another, and I thought the secondary characters added to the story marvellously. The thought wolves, especially gentle, noble Tuyok were simply incredible, and more than one part of this book left me breathless and in tears because I fell so hard for this world and these characters. Another addition I liked hugely was that it championed STEM, and I was impressed with it tackling disability, a real rarity in fantasy worlds, with Arthur only having one arm. I guessed a twist or two but I still had quite a few surprises, and after the conclusion I`m already desperate for the sequel. 5/5

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher (illustrated by Shane Devries)

I`ll admit I was pretty sceptical going into this, seeing it`s by a celebrity author, but the overwhelming praise in the bookish community and shiny, pretty gold cover convinced me to pick it up, and I`m really glad I did. It`s the story of William Trundle as he faces ableist bullying at school until he receives a magical (and unintentional) Christmas gift from Santa that changes his life. I really liked William as a character, and the way his disability is portrayed, and I also had fun getting to know the multi layered secondary characters. Shane Devries` illustrations were a fantastic addition, and the book zips along at a great pace. My absolute favourite bit of this book, though, was the superb worldbuilding of the North Pole, which made this a truly magical read and I think children would adore it. 4.5/5

Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll (received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Having been excited for this book since the day it was announced, I was absolutely thrilled when it came through my door. I was gripped by the story of Magpie, a young orphan/pickpocket living in France as she becomes unexpectedly involved in a bid to become the first country to fly a hot air balloon. Emma Carroll`s writing is as beautiful and lyrical as ever, and never falls down the trap of going too far with this in favour of advancing the plot. I also adored Magpie as a character as she was so brave, clever and really deserving of the happiness she finds by the end, as well as her friend Pierre and the incredibly sweet animals; Coco, Voltaire and Lancelot. I got through this in two sittings despite having very little time to read at the time, as I couldn`t wait to see what would happen next. I`m so excited for Emma`s next book already! 5/5

Thank you so much for reading! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

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October Reviews

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m finally sharing my reviews for the month of October, except for the couple of books I didn’t enjoy. Without further ado, onto the books! 

The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix by Kate Saunders

In this return to the magical world we first visited in the Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, Kate Saunders sends Oz, Lily and Caydon on a new adventure to protect Britain from magical terrorists. Even though the chocolate shop and magic related to chocolate didn`t feel as prominent in this instalment, I still really enjoyed what we did see of it. In addition, I found the time travel element of the plot really confusing and ended up a bit lost for part of the book. However, I feel that the real strength of these books is the characters as there is a really likeable main trio and I liked all of them individually as well as their dynamic as a team. I also thought new character Silver was an excellent addition and she actually ended up becoming my favourite of the children. I wasn`t just as keen on the villains in this book in comparison to first, but they were still suitably scary, and Alba was especially sinister. My absolute favourite characters had to be Demerara the cat and Spike the rat who were so sweet and funny. 3.5/5

Vlad the World`s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson, and illustrated by Kathryn Durst

In this utterly lovely younger middle grade book, we follow Vlad, a young vampire who is struggling so much with his vampiric studies that he decides to give human school a go instead, with some interesting results. This was really gentle but also well paced; it was a one sitting read for me mainly due to its length (between 150 and 200 pages), but also because I was so immersed by Vlad`s world I didn`t want to put it down. The book`s humour also appealed to me- I was chuckling constantly. Vlad`s fabulous pet bat Flit was the source of much of this; he was totally hilarious. Finally, Kathryn Durst`s illustrations added so much to my already extremely positive view of this book as they truly brought the story and the characters to life. I couldn`t have been more overjoyed when I discovered a few days later that there`s going to be a sequel in a few months! 4.5/5

Countless by Karen Gregory

In her important and topical debut, Karen Gregory tells the story of Hedda, a teenage girl with anorexia as she falls pregnant and her life changes as she calls a truce with the disorder (which she calls `Nia`) for the duration of her pregnancy. While I can`t speak for the accuracy of the anorexia portrayal myself, it came across as well researched and realistic, and also gave insight into Hedda`s mind and how the disorder can manifest in a sensitive way. It also never felt sensationalised. Hedda was a wonderful, brave character who I definetly sympathised with throughout the novel. I loved how much she developed throughout and became a very different person for her baby. I actually found this true of all the characters, for example Hedda`s family (who I found frustratingly unsupportive at times, and were excellently portrayed as it shows not all people who face challenges like this have a support system). Considering the book takes place over a long period of time, this seemed true to life. Another thing I found interesting in this book was that we actually got to see Hedda have her baby and adjust to life as a mum, which I don`t remember ever seeing before in a book about a teen pregnancy. The only thing I`d have liked slightly more development in was what led Hedda to develop anorexia as it was only briefly touched on but I would have been interested to  Finally, the ending broke my heart in some ways but also put it back together in others, and I liked the hopeful note on which we left Hedda a lot. I`m looking forward to seeing what Karen Gregory writes next. 4/5

The Spellchaser Trilogy by Lari Don

In this middle grade fantasy/magical realism trilogy, Lari Don tells the story of Molly, a girl who has been cursed into shapeshifting into a hare, as she meets other cursed characters and works with them to reverse the curses. First of all, the worldbuilding is phenomenal. It`s well explained and detailed, but never info dumps, and I adore the magic system and idea of curses being so important to so many magical groups. The characters were also well developed and really interesting. My personal favourites were Beth the druid and Atacama the sphinx, but I rooted for all of them (except the horrible baddies!) in lifting their curses and beyond. The plot of the trilogy worked fabulously as well; it was never predictable and I loved all the shocks and surprises that the team faced, and it`s the best constructed trilogy I`ve ever read. There was a standalone plot to each book that kept me interested, and also longer threads interwoven throughout, which weren`t resolved till book three and therefore, made that very satisfying. 5/5

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

In her first book after the end of the How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell tells the story of Wish and Xar, who are from opposing warring tribes, as they meet and go on an adventure together. I found it incredibly slow paced and considered DNFing more than once, but it did pick up slightly in the second half, and I also enjoyed the construct of the mysterious narrator. I also found the main characters quite difficult to connect to, particularly Xar, although I did love a few secondary characters rather a bit (namely Caliburn and Squeezjoos). Another high point was Cressida Cowell`s stunning illustrations. I especially adored the wolf drawing, which is around page 116 I think. I doubt I`ll be continuing with this series, but I`m thinking about giving How to Train Your Dragon a chance as it sounds fantastic. 3/5

Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

In her laugh out loud hilarious debut, Chloe Seager introduces us to Emma, a 16 year old who has just been `ghosted` by her sort-of-boyfriend Leon, as she dips her toe back into the dating pool in a bid to improve herself, while also tackling friendship drama and family problems. I found this similar to the humour in the Electra Brown series by Helen Bailey (which I adored), and I snorted more than once. I adored the characters in this huge amounts. Emma was such a relatable main character, but I also loved her best friend Steph and madcap mum. The only thing I found slightly difficult was the short chapters as it was slightly jarring as it was hard to tell where I`d left off, but as this was such a fast paced, fun read and I got through it in a few sittings it wasn`t too big a problem! I can`t wait to see what Emma gets up to in book two… . 4.5/5

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

In a dazzling debut novel, Jessica Townsend writes the story of cursed child Morrigan Crow, as her predicted date of death arrives and she is saved by enigmatic Jupiter North and taken to the magical land of Nevermoor to compete in trials for a place in the Wundrous Society. I was gripped from the first page and constantly desperate to read on throughout due to the perfect pacing, and I thought the worldbuilding was utterly exceptional. I loved getting to know Nevermoor and its customs, and I especially enjoyed the Christmas scenes. Though I guessed the conclusion to the mystery of the book partially, there were still some shocks and twists I hadn`t anticipated, and it`s left me so excited to see where the story will go in the next book. Finally, the characters were also incredible. I loved Morrigan, who was a heroine I could get behind absolutely, her mentor Jupiter and his many eccentricities and her friends Hawthorne and Jack. My very favourite, however, was undoubtedly Fenestra the Magnificat, who was so feisty and funny and fabulous. I`ve been anticipating this book eagerly for around a year, and it didn`t let me down. A future classic for sure, in my opinion. 5/5

The Witch`s Kiss by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

From the very first page of this, I was intensely invested in Merry and her story. Merry is a teenage witch who isn`t very interested in powers, as she becomes embroiled in protecting her town from a terrible magical danger and falls in forbidden love while trying to defeat the enemy. The standout thing in this for me was the sibling relationship between Merry and Leo; they felt realistic and never overly mushy, but also have each other’s` backs no matter what. I also loved the blend of contemporary and fantasy, as well as the dual timeline (I was equally interested in both time periods, which I`m not usually), and this doesn`t feel quite like anything I`ve ever read before. I did get slightly muddled during the very fast paced climax, but I liked the resolution and overall, I really enjoyed this. 4.5/5

The Witch`s Tears by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

In this excellent sequel to the Witch`s Kiss, we see Merry on a new adventure when her gran goes missing and odd, dangerous events begin to take place, and she has to work out what`s going on, while also trying to fit into a coven and deal with other issues. I found it very different in tone to the first book, and if anything I actually preferred it as it read more as a mystery with fantasy/contemporary subplots to me, and I adore mystery books. I also liked how much the characters, especially Merry`s wonderful big brother Leo, changed and developed, and that even though this was mainly a different story we still saw the effects of book one on their lives. I enjoyed getting to see new characters too, and I love Finn in particular. After THAT ending, I`m dying to get my hands on book 3, and if you love any of the genres I`ve mentioned that I think this books fits into, I strongly recommend you pick them up. 4.5/5 

The Eye of the North by Sinead O` Hart (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

In this mesmerising, magical adventure, we meet Emmeline and follow her on her journey to the North to rescue her kidnapped parents. The characters in this book are amazing. Emmeline`s sidekick Thing was so sweet and such a good friend, and I adored him, and I thought that the other main secondary character Sasha was wonderful too. Emmeline was one of my favourite heroines in ages, possibly of all time; I saw a lot of similarities between us and I thought she was just an imperfect heroine trying her very best, which I love. I really liked being able to see all the characters when they weren`t together at some points, even though some of the switches were quite sudden. The world was all-enveloping, and I felt like I was journeying alongside the characters. I want my own ice horse immediately, though I wouldn`t like to run into the super sinister villains that O Hart has created. I`m so very hopeful for a sequel someday soon, particularly after an event in the climax that made me cry buckets and the lovely ending. 4.5/5

The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

In the fourth and final book of the series, we see Sophie and Lil attend a Winter Ball to solve a mystery there, and finally discover the identity of the notorious Baron. It was fast paced and most intriguing, and it was wonderful to see snippets of Christmas at Sinclair`s Department Store, which made me feel really festive even though I read it in October. It was also fun to see how all of the main quartet have grown and changed since The Clockwork Sparrow, and I loved that many of the minor characters were brought back in this book too. Woodfine`s writing continued to be as elegant as ever and brought her world to life, and made me want to jump into it in many places. Finally, I thought the conclusion of the series`s arc of the Baron was phenomenal, and there were some gasp-worthy moments in the last few sections of the books (which are split into parts, with titles, and each new one has a stunning Karl James Mountford illustration to signify it). 4.5/5

Goodybe Perfect by Sara Barnard  (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

In my opinion, Sara Barnard`s third novel is her best to date, which I didn`t think I`d say as a huge fan of both Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder. It`s the story of Eden as her best friend runs away with her boyfriend (her music teacher). I found it interesting to read about a teacher-pupil relationship from the point of view of a friend, as I haven`t seen this before, and I love Barnard`s character focused writing, that keeps me completely hooked even though the plot isn`t full of action. I devoured Goodbye, Perfect in a single afternoon. Eden was a glorious main character. She was so misunderstood in places and I was behind her all through the book. I found living in her head for a few hours amazing; and some scenes (such as those with Bonnie`s mum) really made me laugh. I also adored some of the side characters, in particular Eden`s sister Valerie and her boyfriend Connor (I loved that their relationship was prominent, but didn`t go through any issues. I can`t remember seeing anything like that in another book).  In short, this book was stunning in every way imaginable and made me go through so many emotions in a relatively short amount of pages, and I highly recommend picking up a copy come February. 5/5

The Rise of Wolves by Kerr Thomson (received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

In a lyrical, exciting middle grade mystery/contemporary, Kerr Thomson tells the story of Innis, a boy who lives on Nin in Scotland as he decides to try and jump the Bonnie Laddie`s Leap in order to become Laird of Nin and not have to move due to his grandfather`s deteriorating health, while also trying to work out why there are wolves on the island and why they`re so interested in him. I thought Innis was a lovely, yet still flawed, main character and I felt really sympathetic towards him when things were tough.  I also enjoyed his friendship with Kat (who was such a fabulous character in her own right; a very strong female), and how his relationship changed throughout with moody, mysterious Lachlan Geddes, who is somehow linked with the wolves. I felt like I learnt some new things from this (namely about the history of Nin and wind turbines) and I`m an absolute sucker for island settings, so I was guaranteed to fall in love with this book). The only thing I`d have liked was for the book to have continued on a little longer after the end, but I suppose it had to end somewhere 😉 . I`ll be seeking out the Sound of Whales soon! 4.5/5