June Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be reviewing most of the books I read in June- there are a few not in here this time due to me not having enough to say about some for a full review, a DNF and doing blog tour reviews for a couple. Onto the post!

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May Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be reviewing all the books I read in May, of which there were rather a few. Onto the post!

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April Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be reviewing all the books I read in April- of which there are quite a few, all of pretty great quality. It`s quite a long one today, so I`d maybe recommend settling down with a snack before you dive in… Onto the post!

Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green

This is the story of wannabe reporter Lil Potkin, and what happens when ghost Nedly Stubbs comes to her for help with solving his murder. First of all, I adored the setting of Peligan City- it was very noir-esque and reminded me rather of Blade Runner`s version of 2019, though this book is considerably less miserable and brooding in tone that than that film was, so I liked it far more. I really liked the titular duo and their bantering back and forth dialogues with each other, as well as how much how they came to care for each other and the main secondary character of Abe. I thought the pacing was fantastic- I was hooked to this and feel that the way the mystery came together was super satisfying. I did occasionally want more details in terms of the worldbuilding, though I`m hoping there may be some in the sequel, which I definitely plan to pick up due to some very intriguing enigmas that were hinted at towards the end. 4/5

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson

This is the story of Ro Snow, whose mum is a hoarder, and how her life is changed by her new friendship with a very persistent girl called Tanvi Shah and a newfound talent. I absolutely loved Ro as a main character, and I was so worried about her that it was genuinely difficult to put this down from the very beginning. I also loved Tanvi (who is just the loveliest and such a good friend!), Noah and Mr Millford; both for their individual traits and how much of a positive impact they have on Ro and her life. Ro and Tanvi`s friendship was another real highlight for me in this and it was joyous to see it blossom and grow as they had such a great effect on each other. The other central relationship of the book is Ro and Bonnie`s, which in contrast to the aforementioned one I found utterly heart-breaking to read, but again I loved seeing it develop and change over the course of the novel. The exploration into hoarding was also heart-breaking, as well as being fascinating since this book considers what it would be like to live in that environment if you didn`t choose it and were powerless to change it. This is just wonderful. 5/5

Storm Hound by Claire Fayers

This follows Storm, who is part of Odin`s hunt, as he is left behind and arrives on Earth, where he is adopted by a girl named Jessica, and they both face grave danger when sinister strangers show up and take a bit too much interest in the local dogs. I loved both Storm and Jessie a lot, and I liked that the 3rd person POV showed both of their perspectives- Storm`s was especially great as he was hilarious in how he viewed earth and humans- and allowed insight into secondary characters (such as David) too. They all had their own plots, and it was great to see them unfold alongside the main action of Storm navigating his new life and dealing with the people who threaten his. Finally, I thought the pacing of this was absolutely fantastic- the mystery side of it was so intriguing and I loved seeing the story unfold and different elements tying together to create a really fantastic ending. This definitely delivered on the Lilo and Stitch vibes I was hoping for as well, which was great. A super fun fantasy that I`d definitely recommend, especially to dog lovers and/or fans of mythology! 4.5/5

When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll

I`ve been a fan of Emma Carroll since not long after she was first published, so by this point I don`t need any more proof that she is an exceptional author. However, this book provided it anyway. It`s a book of three short stories about different children in World War Two- two of which revisit previous Emma Carroll settings and one that is entirely new. All of them are so readable and interesting that you could definitely read this without prior knowledge of Frost Hollow Hall and Letters to the Lighthouse, but I would recommend reading them first anyway as they`re fabulous and also so you get the full impact of the stories, because I found returning to Frost Hollow Hall incredibly emotional (I literally started weeping the second it appeared on the page, and sobbed quite solidly for the rest of the story because of the way it linked to Frost Hollow Hall). The first story- which is the one that features Frost Hollow Hall- was my favourite for this reason and also because of the fact that Stan was my favourite of the three protagonists as his quiet strength was so lovely, but I absolutely loved both other stories and their characters Olive and Velvet too. Something I else I particularly loved was the clever way in which all three stories are linked, and the nods to the others in each one. This is phenomenal. 5/5

The Last Spell Breather by Julie Pike (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is Julie Pike`s debut novel, and I utterly adored it. It follows an apprentice spell breather named Rayne- who lives in a world where words are quite literally magical- as she accidentally damages her mother`s spell book and must embark on a quest in order to save her village as a result. I thought this was a superb concept, and the execution most certainly fulfilled its potential- the book feels every inch like a classic yet entirely new and fresh too. The characters were a huge strength of the story too. Rayne is a fabulous heroine who I was backing to hilt from the very beginning, and I loved seeing her confidence grow so much. The antagonist was another particularly great one, as they were truly chilling to the point where I was on edge both every time they were on the page and even when they weren`t, especially during the climax. Frank, however, definitely took the crown as my absolute favourite due to him being so enigmatic, elegant and having such a subtle sense of humour that aligned so well with my own. I also need to give a mention to the incredible worldbuilding, as there were so many fantastic creatures (I especially enjoyed the Grotesques!) and the magic system was so stupendous I can`t think of a strong enough superlative for it. 5/5

Secret in the Stone by Kamilla Benko

In this sequel to the Unicorn Quest, which I read and really enjoyed in March, we see Claire and her sister Sophie navigating life in Arden- where they have stayed to try and save the land- and the secrets they uncovered about who they really are in book one. I continued to really like Claire, and I thought her development was great. I also enjoyed seeing more of Sophie, who was not present for most of book one, and I found her and Claire`s complicated relationship really interesting. I was also a huge fan of the world again, and it was especially wonderful to learn more about the Gemmers (who like Sophie were largely heard about and not seen in the Unicorn Quest) and see things introduced in book one further explored. My favourite thing in this series is definitely how epic the twists are though; the climax of this was packed with so many that had me utterly shook, especially as there were so many in so few pages. It made for an utterly thrilling climax! I`m absolutely desperate to get my hands on book three; can it please just be February already?! 4.5/5

The Gentleman`s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
This is the story of aristocrat`s son Monty as he sets off on his Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend Percy (who Monty is secretly hopelessly in love with) and his studious sister Felicity, and what happens when a stupid, impulsive decision tangles them up in a dangerous plot. While I found this really slow to get started and oddly paced throughout, I did really enjoy other parts of it. I thought the characters were absolutely wonderful- all three of the main characters were so well characterised and were such interesting, nuanced individuals. I particularly adored Felicity, but I was very fond of Monty and Percy too, and their slow-burning relationship was lovely. Another thing I really appreciated was the way that the book highlighted the inequalities present in the 17th century (which the book is set in), as I hadn`t expected it to somehow as this has always been described to me as being primarily funny (it is definitely very funny in places, but I enjoyed the more serious side of it a lot). Overall, this isn`t a new favourite but I did have fun reading it and I look forward to picking up the companion sequel narrated by Felicity, who is epic. 4/5

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson

I`ve been excited about reading this for absolutely ages, and it was a great mystery. It follows siblings Nik and Norva as they attempt to solve the murder of a neighbour that they were fairly close to, and I had such a good time reading it. The mystery is clever and I loved seeing the investigation unfold as the book went on, particularly as the cast of suspects were all fleshed out and all of them seemed plausible. Nik and Norva were fabulous characters too- I really loved them both- and I thought they made a brilliant detective duo; they were super clever and their individual strengths really complemented each other`s. I also liked some of the twists throughout as there were definitely some I didn`t expect, and it was so fast paced as well that I always really struggled with putting it down, especially towards the end. I`m so looking forward to seeing more cases solved by Nik and Norva in the Tri! 4.5/5

The Golden Butterfly by Sharon Gosling (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of a girl named Luciana, whose grandfather Marko has just died, as she tries to learn more about his mysterious and sudden exit from stage magic and protect his most acclaimed trick (the titular Golden Butterfly) from malevolent forces. I adored Luciana as she was so strong-minded and determined, and I really liked her friend Charley too- their friendship was so lovely. The supporting characters who help them along the way were fabulous too. I also really enjoyed the writing style, which brought every setting and the story in general to life. The mystery element of this was wonderful too, as it moved at a great pace, kept me gripped throughout and all came to a super satisfying conclusion. This is a truly wonderful historical adventure full to the brim with magic, mystery and magnificent women. 4.5/5

Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I`ve enjoyed all of Lisa Thompson`s books to date, and this novella also met the really high standards I`ve come to expect from her. It focuses on a boy named Owen, whose mum is suffering from mental health issues, as he attempts to save the war memorial in the local park, which he has a rather unique and really special attachment to. Owen was, in true Lisa Thompson, a brilliant main character. I adored him instantly, and I desperately wanted things to improve for him during this as he goes through a lot, as well as for him to save the soldier. The way he goes about it was so gripping to follow along with too, particularly as I felt so invested in the outcome. The absolutely beautiful ending made me cry, and I`m already looking forward to whichever story Lisa Thompson tells next. Owen and the Soldier may be short, but it certainly packs an emotional punch. 4.5/5

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon by Christopher Edge (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of three children- Charlie, Dizzy and Johnnie- who get lost in the woods when night falls unexpectedly, and their journey of finding the way out. I became very attached to all three children, even though Charlie was my favourite, thanks to how brave and determined they were in the face of danger. This felt so high stakes and fast paced due to the way in which time passes in the woods, and it was very tricky to put this down when I was so engrossed by the different obstacles and challenges the trio were facing. As ever with Christopher Edge, this blends science and story and fact and fiction in such a clever way, and is a thought-provoking read as well as a highly entertaining one. I don`t want to say too much else about this though, as I thought the reveals throughout this and the end were fantastic (I especially loved the epilogue!) and I don`t want to spoil any of it. 4.5/5

The Switch Up by Katy Cannon (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This follows two girls called Alice and Willa with rather similar faces, who meet in an airport lounge and hatch a plan to switch identities for the summer to escape having to stay with people they very much do not want to. I really liked both girls (I particularly related to Alice), and loved that the dual narrative allowed me to see both their perspectives and summers. I also loved the friendships they form; most notably with each other of course, but also with the absolutely wonderful people they meet whilst pretending to be each other (Luca was my particular fave, but I was also very fond of Mabel and Hal) I also really liked the humour within the book as it made me chuckle a lot, and I thought the London and Italy settings were so fun to read about (especially Italy- the descriptions were gorgeous!). finally, I thought the way both girls developed throughout the book was wonderful, and it was lovely to see them change and learn as things went on. The perfect book for a sunny day, or even one when you need a splash of metaphorical sunshine to brighten life up. 4.5/5

Check Mates by Stewart Foster (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

Check Mates follows a boy named Felix who has ADHD and is subsequently struggling at school, and what happens when his grandfather changes his life by teaching him how to play chess. I really liked Felix as a character- I was rooting for him from the beginning- and his development due to chess, and his grandfather`s, influences. His grandfather was a fantastic character too, as were Felix`s friends Jake and Rebecca. I also really enjoyed watching the progression of Felix and his grandfather`s relationship, and it was fun to learn a bit more about chess than I`d known before reading this. My very favourite thing about this book, though, was the incredibly clever twist, which most definitely surprised me and was very emotional to read. This was simultaneously so heart-warming and gripping, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4.5/5

No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of Emily, who is confident, clever stylish, funny, happy and absolutely thriving, and also fat and what happens when she meets Joe at a party, declares him the best-looking boy she`s ever seen and starts to pursue a relationship with him. First up, Emily was such a joy of a narrator to read from the perspective of; she is wise and completely hilarious (I laughed so often while I was reading this!) and just utterly fantastic. I also loved the ending, as while it wasn`t what I`d predicted it was actually much better and left me with a huge smile. Something else I especially loved about her was her love of music, as while I didn`t share any favourite artists with her, I also really love music and it was so great to see a character who makes music a huge part of their life too. Emily`s friends and family were also super enjoyable to read about- they all felt so multi-faceted and three-dimensional too, just like Emily was as the protagonist. I think this has some really important messages in it about body positivity that I loved and it`s such an incredibly empowering and feelgood read overall that I`d definitely highly recommend it. 4.5/5

Max Kowalski Didn`t Mean It by Susie Day (received an early copy in a giveaway)

I`ve been waiting on a new Susie Day book for what feels like ages now, and Max`s story definitely didn`t disappoint- I think it may be my new favourite of her books, in fact. It follows the titular character Max as his dad disappears under rather shady circumstances and he has to look after his younger sisters, which he chooses to do by running away to Wales, where he ends up trying to slay a dragon so he can acquire the riches legends claim it guards. I found Max to be an utterly lovable hero and I also adored the secondary cast/Max`s relationships with them. The bond he shares with his sisters was particularly lovely, and I really enjoyed how he was willing to go to extreme lengths to try and make his family happy. The humour of this was also wonderful and it made me laugh loads- Susie Day`s trademark quirky humour is always so fun to read and this book is no exception. At the same time, though, it`s also full of heart and contains a super important message about toxic masculinity, and the ending made me cry as a result. If you enjoy contemporary MG, make sure to pick up a Susie Day book. 4.5/5

D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of a boy named Jack, who is alive in the present day and very attached to his dog Finn, as he researches the story of a paratrooper with a canine companion for a school project while he is also forced to navigate changes to his family life. I thought the way in which the book explored war was really sensitive and interesting- and I loved the way it questioned the morality of the very concept of war and certain specific situations relating to, while simultaneously recognising the bravery of those who serve in the army. I also loved how much the book celebrated dogs and how what wonderful, loyal companions they are. Jack`s character development throughout was another highlight, as were the secondary characters of his friends, the bus driver and his wonderful, compassionate teacher. It was even more interesting to learn that Emile Corteil and Glen were real people and their story actually happened too, as it was an area of the war I`d never seen explored before. I definitely cried as much as I predicted I would while reading this, and it was overall a moving and compelling short read that I devoured. 4.5/5

Which books did you read in April, and are there any you`d especially recommend? What did you think of the books I`ve read? Are any on your TBR? I`d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

February Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, it`s time for my February reviews post, which is a little bit later in the month than usual because I`ve had lots of school deadlines/speaking exams. Onto the post!

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January Reviews 2019

Hello everybody! Today, it`s time for my January reviews post, and I`m so excited to talk about all of the books I read (barring one for school that I hated which I had to read for Spanish coursework!), as they got my reading year off to a pretty excellent start. Onto the books!

The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I saved this debut mystery-adventure specially so that it could be my first read of the new year, and I`m so glad I did as it got things off to a great start. It is the story of a girl named Clara, who lives with her emotionally negligent uncle, as he abandons her to fend for herself. Then the savvier Peter and his cat Stockwell arrive and it seems like life may actually be better for Clara, but soon they must unravel the mysteries of Clara`s past and save Clara`s deteriorating mansion, and themselves, from dangerous outside forces. Clara is such a classic book heroine, and I think a lot of people will adore her- she has had a really rather horrid childhood, she is bookish and best of all, she is extremely brave throughout all of the situations she faces, no matter how afraid she is. I also adored clever, caring Peter and their friend Amelia Ann, and of course Stockwell. The mystery element is also wonderful. While we learn fairly quickly who is posing a danger (it is very hard to talk about this part of the book without giving spoilers!), this only serves to make the antagonists more menacing, and I loved learning about the motivations behind their actions. I was totally glued to the book as I got further in, and I stayed up ridiculously late to finish it because I was just too worried about the characters and mystified about why things were happening that I simply couldn’t sleep without finding out. The ending and the revelations that come by the conclusion concluded this story so well, and I really love how things end for Clara and Peter. This is a really excellent, gripping story, and if you enjoy MG books in this vein then I`d highly recommend this one. 4.5/5

The Farm Beneath the Water by Helen Peters

I was already really quite ashamed that it had taken me so long to read the sequel to the Secret Hen House Theatre before reading it, and after doing so I was even more so. It follows Hannah and her family as their farm is once again threatened, this time by a reservoir project, and their attempts to save it, as well as the school play Hannah is part of. Both of these elements were really enjoyable to read- the school play was such good fun, and it was so heart-warming and inspiring to see Hannah, her family and her friends stand up for what they believed in and fight for the farm (the head of the reservoir project absolutely boiled my blood, and I think it would be impossible to be rooting for them to succeed). I also really like how this series has a contemporary and classic feel at the same time, and I adore the subtle but super enjoyable humour throughout, particularly in regards to Hannah`s family and their interactions, because each member is hilarious in their own way and I love them all a great deal. This is a really charming, lovely MG contemporary, and I really wish this wasn`t only a duology. 4.5/5

Asha and the Spirit by Jasbinder Bilan (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her debut novel, Jasbinder Bilan tells the story of a girl named Asha as a moneylender threatens to evict her family and she must set off in search of her father- who very suddenly stopped sending money home from his job in the city- to prevent this. Asha is such a compassionate heroine, and her determination to save her family really endeared me to her, as did her treatment of everyone she encounters- she unfailingly shows kindness, and I thought she was wonderful. I also absolutely loved her friendship with Jeevan, because the closeness of their bond is just so gorgeous to read about. The magical realism aspect was done so well too. Asha feels as if a bird that watches over them is the spirit of her grandmother, and the hope and strength that this provides her with was one of my favourite things about the book- there was one scene near the end that relates to this which made me especially emotional as it is so incredibly powerful. Finally, the writing was just as excellent as all of these other things, and it made the Himalayan setting feel so alive- I could picture every detail of every place that Asha and Jeevan are in throughout the book. This is an absolutely beautiful book all round, and I`m already excited to see what the author does next. 4.5/5

Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones

I`ve been meaning to read this Victorian murder mystery for ages, and I`m really glad I finally got to it. It is the story of the titular Wild Boy, who is a performer in a “freak show”, as he is accused of murder alongside acrobat Clarissa Everett, and they must team up to solve their names. I found this really difficult to read in places because the way Wild Boy is treated is so utterly horrendous and unjust, and I felt so much sympathy for him as a character, so I was fully on his side from the very beginning and just wanted his life to get better. Another reason I adored him was that he reminded me a lot of Patrick Jane (one of my absolute favourite fictional detectives) due to his excellent observational skills, and I was also a big fan of feisty Clarissa, who was such a good friend. The mystery was incredibly intriguing and well-paced too, and I was very proud of myself for managing to guess whodunit as it wasn`t obvious (I think it was more luck than any real detecting skill!). If you enjoy a pacy, gripping mystery with lots of adventure and action, I think you`ll like this a lot. I`m looking forward to picking up the second in the series at some point! 4.5/5

Swimming Against the Storm by Jess Butterworth (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I don`t think there is any other author who I find it quite as hard to write reviews for their books as I do Jess Butterworth, because everything she has written to date has been so special and masterfully done that it is hard to put that into words. This is the story of Eliza, and her attempt to save the swamp community she lives in from the dangerous rising water levels. Jess`s writing style is absolutely amazing. The description is so well done that I could practically feel the humidity of the Lousiana setting and my arms itching as if the flies were biting me as well as the characters. As well as this, I really loved the way that Eliza`s narrative voice is done, because the way she describes things is very representative of her background, and who she was a person and what mattered to her was clear before she ever explicitly stated them. The pacing is perfection too. The bulk of the book is set in one night, and it is so tense and dramatic to read about as it is incredibly eventful to say the least, yet nothing feels rushed or on the opposite end of things, dragged out. Sentence structure was used incredibly effective to this end also, as short sentences added even further to the fast pace. I also have to mention how much I loved Avery and Eliza, both as individuals with their own loveable, distinctive personalities that are so well conveyed, and their sibling relationship, because while it is complicated at times their love for each other is unwavering and so wonderful. Monsieur Beau Beau definitely continued the tradition of Jess`s books having epic animal characters too, because he was brilliant! I absolutely can`t wait for Jess`s fourth book, because I have no doubt it will be just as spectacular as those that preceded it. 5/5

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

This is the story of Ghost (aka Castle Crenshaw), who is a rather troubled young boy who is struggling to cope with things after a tragic family event before the beginning of the book, and how his life changes when he is recruited into an elite junior track team. Ghost is such a wonderful character, and even though he makes a lot of mistakes, it is impossible not to love him and want him to do well in his both this new endeavour and as a whole. His narrative voice felt so authentic too, and I was absorbed in his story from beginning to end. His relationship with Coach was another thing I really loved, because Coach has such a positive impact on Ghost`s life, and the bond they form is so special. This was also true of the friendship that forms between Ghost and the rest of the new track team members, who are all complex and interesting in their own ways, and have difficult or unusual home situations too. I`m very excited to learn more about them in their own books as the series progresses. This was heart-breaking in places but so heart-warming in others, and I`d highly recommend it if you`re looking for an MG contemporary that`s a bit grittier in tone. 4.5/5

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

I have been excited about reading this for so long, and I`m so glad that I finally picked it up this month because it didn`t let me down. It is the story of Reiko, a girl still wracked with grief over her sister`s death a few years before the book begins, as she begins a relationship with a boy called Seth that isn`t really right for either of them. Unless I`m just drawing a memory blank, I don`t think I`ve ever read a book with the concept of a romance that is basically doomed from the offset before (which is one of the key parts of this plot), and it was so interesting to watch things unfold in Reiko and Seth`s relationship, particularly at the beginning when things are going reasonably well for them. I definitely didn`t like them as a couple as they just didn`t seem like a good fit, and it was a really strange but fun experience to be rooting for a couple not to get together. As a character on her own, though, I absolutely loved Reiko. She doesn`t always make the right decisions and she is to blame for some of the things that go wrong with Seth, but I felt so much sympathy for her and her heart was very much in the right place, so I was supporting her wholeheartedly throughout, no matter what she did. I also loved Dre, her best friend, and her family, who were incredibly supportive of her and really tried their best to help her navigate her feelings about her sister Mika`s death. I also need to mention Katherine Webber`s writing, because it is stunning and I felt transported to the desert setting as I read this; it is so lush and vivid in the way it describes things, and every emotion Reiko feels is palpable through it too. This is a very strong follow up to an exceptional debut novel, and I cannot wait to read even from Katherine Webber in the future. 4.5/5

Against All Gods by Maz Evans (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

I have been a huge fan of this series since it first came out two years ago, and while I am incredibly sad it is ending I don`t think this could have been any better a send-off for Elliot and the Gods. This picks up almost immediately after the end of Beyond the Odyssey and as such I can`t really tell you the synopsis without spoilers, but when we pick up it is safe to say everything is up in flames and Elliot and the Gods must fight a final battle against the Daemon Thanatos in order to save not only themselves, but the entire world. My very favourite thing about this series is the characters, because they are all amazing. Elliot is so incredibly strong, the Gods are the perfect mix of wacky and wonderful, and the villains are exceptionally well done- they manage to feel like very real threats, whether they are mythological or from the real world. I also loved how clear the way everyone has developed since the first book was in this (there is one character in particular who I thought was particularly epic in here that I really hadn`t expected to be so brilliant!). I also love the humour, both in the narrative voice and in the dialogue between the aforementioned amazing characters. Don`t be deceived by the fact that these books are hilarious though, because they also cover some really important topics (most notably the fact that Elliot is a young carer to a mum with dementia) and are incredibly emotional in places. I wept on numerous occasions during this, and even though I cry all the time so am not a good gauge I would recommend even people who don`t shed tears so easily go into all of this series, but especially this final instalment, armed with tissues. This was an emotional rollercoaster in the very best way, and as I said at the beginning, this was the epic finale I knew Maz would deliver for this wonderful series. 5/5

The Curses by Laure Eve

I reviewed the Graces when I very first started blogging and I absolutely loved it, so I couldn`t have been more simultaneously excited to pick up the long-awaited sequel this month. I can`t believe I`m saying this, but I honestly think it was even better than the Graces. This picks up a couple of weeks following the explosive (and extremely spoilery) ending of that book, and it is narrated by Summer Grace, who is the youngest of the siblings (the others are Thalia and Fenrin, if you`re unacquainted) and it focuses on the family and some of their friends trying to undo various very deadly curses that have affected them in the past and are affecting other people in the present. I know that`s very vague, but I think this is definitely one to go into with only a very sparse idea of what will happen, because I loved all the twists and turns and the way it blew my mind. I wasn`t sure what I`d think of Summer`s narration, but I was honestly obsessed with her. She is very rebellious and headstrong, and I had the absolute BEST time seeing the world through her eyes (there is one scene especially that I can`t begin to describe how much I loved- all I`m saying is that I would not want to get on the wrong side of Summer and her siblings…) The other really fun thing about seeing things from Summer`s point of view was that you get much more of an insight into the enigmatic family- who they really are and what they really do- than we do when seeing things from an outsider looking in like we did with River in the Graces. Along the same lines, but also as a separate point, I thought the sibling relationships were fantastic, and their interactions were often hilarious (between this and Summer`s narration, I was laughing a LOT while reading this, even though it gets pretty dark in places). The writing style is also brilliant in the way it creates a sort of otherworldly atmosphere, and it`s just so enjoyable to read. As already alluded to, I also really loved the mystery/intrigue side of things too, and I also adore the subtle and unique magic system. Basically, get onto reading the Graces if you`ve somehow managed not to in the years since it`s been released, and then pick up this. They`re officially among my favourite series I`ve ever read. 5/5

The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her first foray into the fantasy genre, Fleur Hitchcock tells the story of a boy named Athan Wilde, who must protect the revolutionary flying machine that he and his mentor Mr Chen built together when the latter is murdered by people who will stop at nothing to get it. I must admit I had quite a tricky time getting into the story, but as I got further in it really started to pique my interest, and by the end I was absolutely gripped- and this was especially true when I reached the thrilling climax, which was tense and twisty and wonderful, and is followed by a beautiful yet very bittersweet ending. Other than this section, my favourite thing about this book was the characters. Athan is definitely a character that you`ll root for, and I defy anyone not to adore Beatty. I also really warmed to his mum and Polly over the course of the book, but my dislike of his grandmother remained steadfast. Another phenomenal character outwith Athan`s family was the primary villain, who was absolutely ruthless, and as such created some pretty scary moments throughout. Overall, I thought this was an interesting hybrid of fantasy and thriller, and reading it has reminded me once again that I need to read more of the author`s back catalogue. 4/5

Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente (received for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)

In her dazzling debut, Dominque Valente tells the story of a young witch called Willow (who feels very inadequate as her only power is the ability to find lost items), as Starfell`s most famous witch Moreg Vaine arrives one day and unexpectedly asks her for help, because last Tuesday has gone missing and Willow must find it in order to save Starfell. First of all, the worldbuilding in this was amazing. Starfell has a really interesting history and magic system, and I absolutely loved learning about both, as well as seeing so many different subsections of the world and meeting the various different people/creatures who live them in them as Willow travels throughout the land. The dry-witted narration made me laugh a lot as I read, and another feature of the writing style I enjoyed was the sections we got every couple of chapters that hinted at who the antagonist was and what they were doing, which made the mystery aspect of what happened to the lost day even more intriguing and clued me in as to how far the villain would go long before Willow encountered them, which made that part a tense reading experience. I also absolutely adored each and every character (except the baddies, obviously)- Willow was a lovely heroine and I was so fond of her, her companion Oswin is a complete and utter DELIGHT (I can`t even express how much I love him) and the quirky, individual personalities of the supporting cast made all of them so fun to read about. The ending was so unexpected for me and it made me weep, and if her debut is this phenemonal then I couldn`t be more excited to see what Dominique writes next. If you`re a fan of Nevermoor, this is definitely one to keep an eye out for! 5/5

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

I have been meaning to read this book for ages, and I`m so glad that I finally did due to needing to research for an essay I`m planning for my English folio, because it was wonderful. It is a non-fiction book that recounts Adam Kay`s experiences as a junior doctor via the diaries he kept at the time and I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed it- I had heard it was wonderful, but didn`t know whether or not to believe the hype, so let me tell you that it really is worth all of it. For a book that tackles something so important and nails why the NHS funding crisis is so horrific, it manages to be completely hilarious almost all the way through. The wit and humour are tremendous, and I audibly snorted on more occasions than I care to mention. That said, it really packs a punch emotionally too, and there are some incidents that made me very teary indeed. I also enjoyed the informative footnotes (which also contain lots of jokes so it`s worth reading the explanations of medical jargon!) as they aren`t at all jarring or out of place like I feel they are in the majority of books. It`s so hard to review this book because it is someone`s personal experience and as such I can`t talk about characters I loved (though there were many people who feature in the book under pseudonyms who are wonderful) or how much I adored the setting, but I had a wonderful time reading it and would definitely recommend it. I didn`t think it was possible to feel more grateful to the NHS, but somehow this book made my gratitude even greater. 4.5/5

What books did you read in Janaury? Have you read any that I`ve mentioned, or would you like to now? I`d love to hear in the comments now!

Amy x

December Reviews 2018

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!
Amy x

November Reviews 2018

Hello everybody! Today, I`m going to be sharing my thoughts on all of the books I read in November (excluding a couple for school!), which were all pretty great- it`s definitely been amongst my best months for quality if not quantity! Onto the post!

Continue reading “November Reviews 2018”