15 May 2015

An ember in the ashes - Review


Available 4th June 2015
harpercollins.co.uk 

What's it about?

What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.
My review
An ember in the ashes, for me was one of those books that had been so hyped up that I went in with my expectations way too high and came out the other end underwhelmed. While it is a good book, I found it had a slow start and just wasn't as exciting as I'd been expecting.
The description and title give the impression that something small one of the characters does sparks a revolution and while this is kind of true, its not until the end, the rest of the book feels like more of a build up, except its a standalone novel which has left me confused. With the steady build up of tension and an ending left pretty open, it seems perfect for a second book, a second book I would definitely read.
Because while I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped, it's clear the author is very talented, she's done an amazing job of building an intricate and believable world. There's a class system that can be identified with, complex characters, just a hint of magic to give it a fantasy side and some scary bad guys. An ember in the ashes ticks all the boxes for an epic fantasy and sets the scene for so many further adventures.
Told from both the point of views of Laia, a scholar girl and Elias, an elite soldier in training we get to see how the world works from both ends of the spectrum, and then see how they end up coming together. It worked well and I felt both characters had completely different voices and were likeable. I liked how they both go through personal growth which is what brings them to the conclusion of the book. Laia is determined despite everything she goes through, her strength is really tested. Elias on the other hand has his morals tested and has to decide if he wants to stand up for and maybe even die for what he believes is right.
It's well written and I certainly won't be saying no to more books by this author in the future, because next time I'll know exactly what to expect.

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12 May 2015

The territory - Review

The territory by Sarah GovettAvailable now
fireflypress.co.uk 
What's it about?Limited Space requires Limited Numbers
The year is 2059. Noa Blake is just another normal 15 year old. Except in the Territory normal isn’t normal. The richest children can download information and bypass the need to study. In a flooded world of dwindling resources, Noa and the other ‘Norms’ have their work cut out to compete. And competing is everything – anybody who fails the TAA exam at 15 will be shipped off to the disease-ridden Wetlands, to a life of misery, if not certain death.
But how to focus when your heart is being torn in two directions at once?
My review
The Territory was an interesting read which really explores a lot of thought provoking subjects. Like how far can a government go before anyone will truly oppose it? When there just isn't enough to go around, what's really the fairest way to decide who deserves it? In The territory where Noa lives all children are tested at the age of fifteen and only the ones who pass are considered smart enough to be a credit to society and can stay. The kids that fail are sent out into the wetlands, which everyone knows is pretty much a death sentence.
First of all, just imagine the stress of that for a fifteen year old, one test will literally determine your future, It really plays on the reality of the pressure that is put on kids to do well in school.
While The territory had an interesting subject and an obviously well thought out setting, I think I would've enjoyed it more if Noa had been slightly more grown up.
I did like Noa for the most part, but sometimes she can be a typical immature fifteen year old, however she's not stupid, she sees and understands more than the adults in her life realise. I liked that she asked a lot of questions about how things are run and had her ideas of what would be better, she's actually very clever.
As the story goes on, it becomes more intense and there's some shocks in there too, by the end, I wasn't sure what was going to happen.
I'd certainly recommend it to fans of the genre and will be looking forward to book two.

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27 Apr 2015

Hook's daughter - Review


Available now
doublecluck.co.uk 

What's it about?
It's not easy being the daughter of Captain Hook. Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of following in his footsteps - but her grandfather sends her to finishing school instead. When her father meets his unfortunate end, Jocelyn sails to Neverland to avenge his death. But she hadn't bargained on ticking crocodiles, lazy pirates and a troublemaking boy called Peter Pan.
My review
I'll be honest, the first chapters of Hook's daughter, well, they kind of bored me. I knew from the synopsis that she would be going to Neverland, so I was just waiting for her to get there and for her adventure to begin. Don't get me wrong, its good that the author took the time to set up the story and let us 'meet' Jocelyn properly but I really just wanted to get to the fun part and also see the authors take on Neverland and what new, if anything, she could add to this world that's been retold and reimagined so many times already.
That being said, once jocelyn's journey did begin, the book became harder to put dowm, its not just filled with magic but written magically too, it makes you feel like anything is possible and that the strange place of Neverland could be a real place, you just have to be in on the secret of how to get there.
In such a short book we still manage to meet the pirates, of course!, the Indians, the mermaids, the crocodile, the lost boys and Tinkerbell and of course the boy himself, Peter Pan. However it didn't feel like it had all been tightly packed in a smashed together, the story has a real flow to it and each encounter feels natural to the story.
Jocelyn herself was an interesting character, though she may not be completely grown up by the end, she certainly learns some lessons about friendship, love and loyalty and that being completely rebellious will only get you so far in life.
Overall, it was a fun book with a new perspective on Peter Pan and I would recommend it to all.

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23 Apr 2015

The blood of Olympus - Review


Heroes of Oylmpus book five.
Available now
penguin.co.uk 

What's it about?
Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaia. Her giants have risen—all of them, and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaia plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake. The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps. The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaia's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
My review
What I loved most about the Heroes of Olympus series was the closer connection we got with the characters during the series and really seeing them grow up, it was something I never realised was missing from the original Percy Jackson series until I read this. Each book is told from multiple narratives from all seven characters in turn, all of whom are very different but come together to make a perfect band of misfits discovering themselves and forging forever friendships.
As well as a great story, these books also teach the importance of friendship, relationships and being yourself which are always great lessons for younger children, and sometimes even adults!
Although The blood of Olympus wasn't quite the explosive ending I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it. Everything was wrapped up nicely and I was genuinely happy with everyone's endings, the ones that were expected and the ones that weren't. And perhaps I'm the only one that may think this but I would love to see Nico get his own series as I feel like we've still only scratched the surface with who he is.
I'm so sad to say goodbye to the gang but I can't wait for Riordan's new series based around Norse mythology to start later in the year and in the meantime, there's the new Percy Jackson/Carter Kane crossover to look forward to!


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17 Apr 2015

Monsters love underpants - Review


Available now

What's it about?

Underpants are monstrously funny in this playful picture book from the team that brought you Dinosaurs Love Underpants and Pirates Love Underpants.
Monsters around the world have different ways to scare, but they all share a love for zany underpants! Every Saturday night, you will find them in a secret cave, showing off their pants as they dance the Monster Bop, but they have to make it home before the sun comes up. After all, who would be scared of monsters in pants that were stripped and dotted?
Our review
As with the rest of the books in this series, the kids really enjoyed it. It's bright and colourful and funny. I always prefer a book I can enjoy too when I'm reading to my children at bedtime because then we all have a good time and this fits into that category, I was giggling right alongside them as we turned the pages.
The illustrations are fun and stand out in such vivid colours that there's plenty to look at for all ages.
If you haven't guessed or aren't familiar with this series, then the book is about the love monsters have for underpants and when they like to wear them but that its a secret as they don't think we'd find them particularly scary if we saw them parading about in their pants and knickers.
It's short and rhymes making in very enjoyable and one that can be read over and over again as I'm sure it will be in my household, just like the rest of our collection.

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6 Mar 2015

Blog tour; Hook's daughter: Ten little known facts

Ten Little Known Facts About Hook’s Daughter
  1. Jocelyn is named, in a way, after Peter Pan’s mother. Peter was inspired by the friendship J.M. Barrie had with the Llewelyn Davies family, or more particular, the Llewelyn Davies children. The boys’ mother was named Sylvia, but Barrie preferred to call her by her middle name: Jocelyn. 
  2. I listened to the soundtrack to the 2003 live action Peter Pan film dozens of times as I wrote and revised, sometimes putting a single song on repeat for a chapter or two to help set the right mood.
  3. Eight years passed from the time I first began thinking about Captain Hook’s daughter to the time I held a finished copy of her story. 
  4. When my daughter was small, she was fascinated by the American television program, Dirty Jobs. In each episode, the host, Mike Rowe, spent a day working difficult, dirty jobs such as Garbage Pit Technician or Worm Dung Farmer. For some reason, my daughter got the impression that Rowe’s name was Dirty Bob. I thought that would make an excellent name for a pirate.
  5. Blind Bart was inspired by a character—a pirate with eye patches over both eyes—in the picture book, That’s How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon. 
  6. After offering to represent me, the man who would become my literary agent sent me a link to a song by the Decemberists: The Mariner’s Revenge Song. From that point on, I never started a revision session without listening to it to put me in a piratical mood. (You can listen here.) 
  7. Nubbins was originally named Stumpy. It was very late in the process—after the manuscript had been through copyedits—that I changed it. I was sitting in church when the new name occurred to me. Divine inspiration?
  8. Years before the character of Nanette Arbuckle came into existence, I caught a glimpse of a man as he drove past me. In the split second I saw him, he was just about to sneeze. I thought, What if he always looks like that? I wrote in my notebook: “He had the pinch-faced look of a man perpetually on the verge of a sneeze that never would come.” When I conceived of Nanette, that description seemed perfect for her.
  9. I don’t know exactly how many drafts I wrote before this story was finished, but I believe it was at least twenty. In the first drafts, Roger was a minor character and only mentioned in a few paragraphs.
  10. The letter Captain Hook writes to Jocelyn, sending her on her great adventure, has only changed by a few words from the version I wrote way back in 2006.


It’s not easy being the daughter of Captain Hook. Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of following in his footsteps – but her grandfather sends her to finishing school instead.

When her father meets his unfortunate end, Jocelyn sails to Neverland to avenge his death. But she hadn’t bargained on ticking crocodiles, lazy pirates and a trouble-making boy called Peter Pan.

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2 Mar 2015

Looking for Alaska - Review

Available now
harpercollins.co.uk 
What's it about?
Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps. Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. It is poignant, funny, heartbreaking and compelling.
My review
Considering Looking for Alaska was first published ten years ago, it seems a bit late in the day to posting a review right? lol. However, it just so happens that I read it at the start of the year, when it was Alaska day and then a few days later a beautiful surprise 10th anniversary edition arrived through my letterbox and so how could I not express my feelings for a book I thoroughly enjoyed? The answer is that I couldn't of course.
Looking for Alaska actually started off kind of slow to me, I liked Miles but I wasn't a big fan of Alaska herself, and I still wasn't by the end, but it's a compelling story and Miles gives good narrative.
This is (at least partly) a story of unrequited love, something I think most of us have felt at some time and can relate to. Miles is such a nice, sweet guy and he falls hard for Alaska. Alaska on the other hand is very flaky and self centred, I'm not entirely sure what he saw in her beyond her looks, I think perhaps that he just wanted to 'fix' her and look after her.
Romantically, Miles and Alaska never would've worked but I think she, unintentionally, gives him something more than that, there's definitely a life lesson in this story for Miles as he tries to uncover the mystery that is Alaska he actually learns a lot about himself and the world, he grows up, he feels and he faces some hard times. It was these points that really made the book brilliant for me.
Looking for Alaska was a thought provoking and beautiful read, it'll make you stop and think and feel and then feel some more.

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27 Feb 2015

Captive - Review


Available 29th january 2015
simonandschuster.com 

What's it about?
I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a slice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. 
Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.
Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.
Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all...
My review
I read Captive two months ago and then totally forgot to write my review! Luckily it was a good enough book to stick with me so that I can still remember enough to put some thoughts together about it for you.
For starters it felt very realistic and I flew through the pages, reading it in just a couple of days. It could've been a lot more in depth and complicated but I liked that it wasn't, Captive is more about Robyn's isolation than it is about politics, it's about her feelings as she discovers secrets she's not sure she wants to know and meets a boy in a highly unlikely situation.
As the story is told from Robyn's point of view, when she is held captive we feel held captive with her because we know as much as she does about what is going on in the outside world, which is nothing. We're locked in a room right alongside Robyn and only know what our kidnappers are telling us with no idea if it's the truth or not.
As a reader, I felt you really get to feel the solitude and confusion Robyn feels as the book progresses, which was explored well within the writing.
Robyn was a strong willed character and very likable, okay it wasn't the best love story in the world but that's not why I picked up this book anyway, I read it for the psychological and thriller aspects of the books, and on those points, it delivers, And considering the love story was developed under intense circumstances, I still think it was handled very well, I'd like to have seen more of what happened after.
After reading Captive I'd be interested in reading more by this author for sure, its a great debut set at a satisfying pace, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next from her.

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12 Jan 2015

Liquorice book cover - Review

Executive book cover 

But, what is it?The stylish Bagabook book cover comes in a variety of patterns and colours and also comes with a range of matching products than can be purchased separately.
It comes with a Unique Inner Support to fit a variety of book sizes of paperback and hardback, also diaries and note pads and a magnetic clasp. Other features include a hand strap, integrated bookmark, pen holder, travelcard and ticket slot and a concealed zipped pocket ideal for mobile phones and valuables.
Measures: 17.5 cm (6.9") L x 22 cm (8.7") W x upto 6 cm (2.4") depth depending on thickness of book.
My review
This book cover is a handy little accessory to have around. I pretty much always have a book with me when I go out but, as many book lovers will know, having them in my shoulder bag along with my purse, keys, lipstick and other bits of rubbish that are in the depths of my bag, some of my books have gotten bent and battered and even ripped in, sad times right! So why its taken until now for someone to create this, I have no idea! Unfortunately its a bit too small to fit a tall hardback into it, so a range of sizes would be awesome, but its great for a paperback or smaller hardback. I was worried about having to bend and stretch my book to get it into the case initially but actually the case is pretty flexible so I didn't have any trouble and I was able to read my book just fine with the cover on.
I also like the built in bookmark that can be tucked under at the bottom so there's never any fear of it falling out and it doesn't dangle out the bottom either.
And if you enjoy taking notes when reading, there's a penholder and a pocket in the back where you could easily fit some notecards or a small notebook so you'll always have them to hand.
In my opinion is a must for any book lover, its perfect for protecting those precious paperbacks and keeping your little book tools in one place.

Still not convinced? Here's a LINK to the whole collection and enter the code BH020 for 20% off and be sure to check out the matching scarves, tote bags and iPad cases.

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2 Jan 2015

Briar rose - Review

Briar rose by Jana OliverAvailable now 
What's it about?For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.
My review
Picking up Briar rose, I wasn't sure what to expect from this modern day retelling of Sleeping beauty, I questioned how the fairy tale would fit into our world, but I needn't have worried because Oliver did a great job of making it seem believable.
Only a small portion is set in the present in Georgia, while the rest is set in Briar's dream, when, instead of dying she awakens in a literal fairy tale and must find a way to fight her way out if she wants to live.
I really loved this mix of reality and fairy tale, it gave the story a ring of truth and gave it all a magical feeling, while also being a completely new take on a classic story.
This is my first book by Jana Oliver and I found her writing to be on point throughout, the world building was great and imaginative, while still leaving room for me to daydream about how it looked as well.
I liked the characters and the back story and was pleasantly surprised at some twists that I hadn't been expecting and at Oliver's own little add ons to the story.
So, if you like your fairy tales dark and scary then I would recommend picking up Briar rose right away, its a great book set in a richly imagined world with some wonderful characters.

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