Monday, 5 December 2016

The Dragon With The Chocolate Heart - Book Review


The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart - Book review
Stephanie Burgis
MG Fantasy
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury 
UK Release: 9th February 2017

Synopsis:

Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when the human she finds tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw.

But she’s still the fiercest creature in the mountains — and now she’s found her true passion: Chocolate! All she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time… won’t she? 

Review:

A truly delicious read! I loved this book from beginning to end. The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart will capture the imagination of both children and adults alike. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this book!

Aventurine considers herself the bravest and most fearsome dragon on the mountain. In her haste to prove herself to her family, she sets off on her own to capture the most dangerous and tricky prey of all. A human being. But the human she finds has something very valuable in his possession. Hot chocolate.

With one sip, Aventurine is insnared by its taste, but after one swallow, she finds herself changed forever into a mere human girl. Now with her fangs and claws gone, but her fiery spirit intact, she sets out in search of her new passion: Chocolate, and ends up at one of the cities famous chocolate houses. Because as long as she has chocolate, life can’t be so bad, can it? But getting her weak human hands on the heavenly food will prove harder than she ever imagines…

I adored Aventurine. She is a spunky, hot-tempered character who - thanks to her dragon upbringing - has a very unique view on the world. Blunt in her opinions, flamboyant in her dress and dedicated to her chocolatey passion, her narrative is both relatable and humorous. I laughed out loud on several occasions - and if I wasn't laughing, then it was because I was drooling at the chocolatey descriptions.

The secondary characters were wondrous. So many strong personalities with colourful words and descriptions of their own. My one and only nit-pick however was the villain, the mayor. Since most of his misdeeds were carried out by his lackeys, we didn't really get to see the man who was causing all the trouble for Aventurine. Also he was more a petty villain than an evil one, however he still caused Aventurine plenty of heartache, and his absence didn't impact at all upon my enjoyment of the story.

Unfolding at a fast pace, the plot is packed with action, triumphs and downfalls. As I mentioned, the descriptions were truly amazing, particularly the chocolate heart house (I seriously wish such a place existed so I could visit!) and some of the concoctions sounded so mouth-watering that I had to pause in my reading to go root through my cupboards for a chocolatey treat of my own.

The ending had its own surprises and wrapped everything up beautifully. Overall this was such a feel good book. Stephanie Burgis remains my favourite middle grade author. I really didn't think anything could top her Kat Incorrigible series, but A Dragon with a Chocolate Heart may just have nudged into first place.

A delicious, gooey mass of magic and mayhem, A Dragon With A Chocolate Heart has been my favourite read this year. 5 stars!

:)

Friday, 2 December 2016

November in Review

November in Review

My lovely birthday gifts: A sloth hot-water bottle, boxing gloves, ears muffs, notebook and teacup :)

Hey guys! It’s been a long while since I last did a wrap up, so here are this month’s highlights :)

  • I turned 27 on the 28th of November - although I still have the mentality of a teenager, just maybe a couple more grey hairs lol. You can see my wonderful birthday presents featured above, courtesy of the other half. And yes, those are pink boxing gloves!

  • I handed in my notice at work. I’m thrilled to say that come March 1st I will be quitting my job here in China, and will be moving back home back to England! After four years away its time to throw in the towel. I’m super excited for this, not only because I plan to spend at least a few months blissfully unemployed, but I’ll be back just in time for easter :) Bring on the cadburys!

  • NaNoWriMo was an epic failure this year! I managed a grand total of 6000 words, which is less than what I would usually write in a month anyway! But hey ho - that puts my current WIP at around 25K. Even slow progress is progress…

  • I also tried making pulled pork for the first time and it turned out beautiful. So easy, so tasty, SO will be making this again soon.

Books Read and Reviewed

  1. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis - 5 stars!
  2. The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead - 2.5 stars (readable but longwinded)
  3. A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson - 4 stars!
  4. The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles - 3 stars! (Too much instant love)
  5. The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld - 4 stars!
  6. A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani - 4 stars!
  7. Pax by Sara Penny Packer - 3 stars! (Loved, but didn't like the ending)
  8. Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard - 4.5stars!
  9. Wendy Darling: Seas by Colleen Oakes - 4 stars!

Currently Reading

So I always have a few book on the go at once, although I didn't actually realise quite how many until I wrote this list though. Also don't be surprised if you see me still “Currently reading” them next month too… Books are picked up based on my mood swings, and some book have literally taken me years to finish!

  • The Road to Ever After by Moria Young
  • A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Moon chosen by P.C Cast
  • Fearsome Dreamer by Laura Eve
  • Lorali by Laura Dockrill


And that wraps up my November. How was your month?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Wendy Darling: Seas - Book Review


Seas: Wendy Darling
Colleen Oakes
YA Fantasy / Retellings 
UK Publisher: Sparkpress

Other books in the series:
Stars: Wendy Darling #1 - Review HERE

Synopsis:

Seas finds Wendy and Michael abroad the dreaded Sudden Night, a dangerous behemoth sailed by the infamous Captain Hook and his blood-thirsty crew. In this exotic world of mermaids, spies and pirate-feuds, Wendy finds herself struggling to keep her family above the waves.

Hunted by the twisted boy who once stole her heart and struggling to survive in the whimsical Neverland Sea, returning home to London now seems like a distant dream - and the betrayals have just begun.

Will Wendy find shelter with Peter’s greatest enemy, or is she a pawn in a much darker game, one that could forever alter not only her family’s future, but also the soul of Neverland itself?

Review:

This is the second book in Colleen Oakes’ fabulous Peter Pan retelling and I have to say, I enjoyed this book so much more than the first. Wendy finally grows a spine and becomes the action orientated character we all wanted her to, and the reader is taken deep into the histories of Pan and Hook. The revelations, the character development and sheer maddening cliff-hanger of an ending have all left me thirsting for more!

Hunted by the lost boys and their leader - the dashing but darkly twisted - Peter Pan, Wendy finds refuge in the most unlikely of places. Captain Hook’s Ship. But life with the pirates brings its own dangers, and Wendy needs all her wits and courage if she is to have any hope of surviving… But in her heart Wendy knows Peter pan is coming for her. And he will do anything to get her back…

Wendy’s development was one of things I loved most about this book. She grew from a soft, timid society girl into strong and capable woman. She made hard choices, puts others needs before her own and many times was forced to show her bravery. I really like who she has become.

In regards to Peter Pan however, surprisingly, he is barely in this story. While the glimpses we see of him continue to show his dark and psychotic personality, most of his appearances come via backstory. The reader finally gets a grip on why Peter is the way that he is - a spoiled and greedy child who hate’s his toys taken from him. Of course, I still can’t gush enough over how much I ADORE the fact that Peter Pan is the VILLAN. 

In terms of plot, the story is balanced between action and backstory. Wendy faces lots of new challenges, as well as dangers from all across Neverland Island. Meanwhile the readers are also given an in-depth look into Pan and Hook’s history, revealing surprising elements to both their personalities and hearts. 

There are also some new characters - as well as many revelations which turn the tables on old characters you thought you knew. Just so many people to love and hate! And then there was the ending. I have to be honest, I totally did not see it coming and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. This is a trilogy that has truly captured my attention.

 A truly and imaginative spin on a classic tale. I give Wendy Darling: Seas, 4 stars.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

A Girl Called Owl - Book Review


A Girl Called Owl
Amy Wilson
MG Fantasy
UK PUBLISHER: MacMillan Children’s Book
Released: 26th January 2017

Synopsis:

It’s bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl, but when you’ve got a dad you’ve never met, a best friend who needs you more than ever, and a new boy at school giving you weird looks, there’s not a lot of room for much else.

So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she’s tempted to just burrow down under the duvet and forget all about it. Could her strange new power be linked to her mysterious father? And what will happen when she enters the magical world of winter for the first time?

A glittering story of frost and friendship, with writing full of magic and heart. A Girl called owl is a stunning debut about family, responsibility and the beauty of the natural world. 

Review:

This was a charming read that captivated both my heart and imagination. A story of magic, myth and self-discovery, this was a truly delightful book. I can’t wait to read more from this author - and I would love to see Owl’s story continue.

Owl has always been told she is special, but only when she starts creating icicles — and freezing her science homework — does she begin to understand just how special she is. She’s never known her dad, and now evidence points Owl toward a man of myth and legend. But could such a man ever be a father?

Pulled into a world where creatures from all seasons bicker and fight over power, Owl suddenly finds herself the centre of an evil plot. A plot intended to get rid of both winter, and her father, once and for all…

I really enjoyed this book. Owl is a very relatable heroine who on top of a crazy mum, magical powers and stalking imps - still has her own real world problems. I believe she deals with everything just as any other pre-teen would. Lies. Avoidance, followed by some bad choices. The truth is shared only with one person, naturally, her best friend, Mallory.

However I really liked all the characters in this story. Especially the otherworldly creatures such as the Green Man, Queen of the May and of course, Jack frost. They were all cleverly written, showing both the good and bad sides of their natures. I also liked that every few chapters you got a glimpses of her mother’s story, which goes to explain a lot about her mothers character.

In terms of plot, a lot does happens, but in a subtle way. There isn't really that much action and I never felt the stakes were particularly high, or that Owl was ever in danger of… well anything really. Ultimately though this is a story of Owl’s journey to discover who and what she is.

Overall though this book was very sweet and I think girls of all ages would enjoy reading this during the long, cold nights of autumn and winter. Beautifully written with magic, mischief and a dusting of frost  "A Girl Called Owl" is a lovely debut novel. I look forward to seeing what Amy Wilson comes up with next.

3.5 stars!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Edge of Everything - Book Review



The Edge of Everything
Jeff Giles
YA Contemporary Fantasy
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: Feb 9th 2017

Synopsis:

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident, and her neighbour’s mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother and brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods— only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the lowlands, sent to claim the should of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Review:

This story had a very interesting premise with a unique storyline. I can understand why it has captured so many people however, while I did read the story from start to finish, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Instant love, lots of unanswered questions - I actually found this book a real struggle. However what I really did like about this story were the characters - all a little crazy, all extremely special in their own way. They are what made this story enjoyable for me.

No one recovered their dad’s body. Now both Zoe and her brother Jonah are haunted with the image of their dad’s bones lying cold and forgotten at the bottom of a cave. But their dad was not the hero they thought he was. During a sub-zero blizzard, a shady man from their father’s past attacks Zoe and Jonah. They are saved by X, a mysterious bounty hunter sent by the Lords to drag their assailants soul down to hell.

But X has sin’s of his own. And when he and Zoe fall hard for each other, X will do anything to get back to Zoe’s arms, even defy the Lords themselves. But when he is given one final task, both X and Zoe must face a trial that will test the limits of their love. Failure will cost Zoe and her family their lives… and X his soul. 

The story is told from the dual POVs of X and Zoe, and despite them being from different worlds, apart from a couple of paranormal moments - for the most part this book was pretty contemporary. 

The opening of this story really pulled me in. For the first 20% I literally couldn't put it down, but after that my excitement for it sort of fizzled. The story was intriguing, and the plot unpredictable, however I felt that everything that happened to X was centred around him trying to get back to Zoe. And this was where my biggest issue lay. In the romance.

While there were a few sweet moments between them - their love for each other seemed to sprout from nowhere. Zoe seemed dazzled by X’s otherworldliness, while X seemed ready to fall in love with the first person who was kind to him - like a puppy. And for all his badass skills, I did find X very puppy like. 

Again with Zoe - I just couldn't understand where her feelings came from. Especially as she had another boy who doted on her with genuine affection. X only saved her life… albeit accidentally too, but after that she seems determined that X is the man for her.

The big saving grace for this story though was its cast of characters. Ripper being hands down my favourite. But generally all the characters were memorable with strong and distinct personalities. All the secondary characters also had a huge baring on both Zoe’s and X’s lives, and I liked how they helped push the story forward.

Something else I really liked was Zoe’s relationship with her younger brother, Jonah. Their feelings for each other were very strong and it was nice to see such a great sibling relationship, despite both Zoe and Jonah carrying their own emotional scars. I liked how they were each others supports and go to’s.

Overall I was pretty conflicted over how to rate this book. So I decided on 1 star for the characters + 1 star for Zoe & Jonah’s relationship, plus another for the general uniqueness of the story. In total, 3 stars!


A crazy, whirlwind of a read. I would be interested to see what else this author comes up with. :)

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Secret City - Book Review


The Secret City
C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
The Alchemist Chronicles Book #2
YA Fantasy
UK Publisher: Atom

Other Book’s in the Series:
The Secret Fire #1 - Review HERE

Synopsis:

Locked away inside the fortified walls of Oxford’s St Wilfred’s College, Surrounded by alchemists sworn to protect them, Taylor and Sacha are safe from the darkness. For now. 

But time is short. In seven days Sacha will turn eighteen, and the ancient curse that once made him invincible will kill him, unleashing unimaginable demonic horror upon the world. 

There is only one way to stop it.

Taylor and Sacha must go to where the curse was first cast - the medieval French city of Carcassonne - and face the demons.

The Journey will be dangerous. And the monsters are waiting for them.

But as the darkness descends on Oxford, their choice is stark. They must face everything that scares them, or lose everything they love.

Review:

I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy - and this second one was even better! With more romance, dark deeds and an impending apocalypse, this was a deliciously page turning story.

Generations ago, a curse was cast on Sacha Winters’ family. Since then, every first born son his died on their 18th birthday. Sacha will be the last of his line to die, and with his death, a terrible evil will be unleashed on the world. 

Now with his birthday only 7 days away, his only hope of survival lies in Taylor Montclair - an alchemist and the great, great granddaughter of the witch who laid the original curse. But Taylor can’t control her powers, and both demons and dark practitioners will do anything to see the curse fulfilled…

One of the biggest pluses for this book was its romance. Since the book is told from both Sacha and Taylor’s perspective, I loved that we got to see inside both characters heads. We could watch their feelings grow, despite them both having their own reasons for not wanting to become too emotionally invested in the other. I also liked that how what they saw as weakness in themselves, was seen as a strength by the other.

However both characters have a lot of personal development in this book, most especially Taylor. She faces many fears, must learn to control her powers and learns to trust in her own instincts. Sacha on the other hand is troubled by his uncertain future - and the fact that he may just cost Taylor her life. His is a more emotional journey and I really liked how he dealt with every situation.

The setting’s in this book were also rich in life. Oxford College, the french country side, as well as Carcassonne Castle - everything was describe with scents, colours and atmospheric detail. The authors really did a brilliant job in bringing this book to life.

However, one of things I didn't enjoy was the bad guy and his Zombie like creatures. This is simply because I felt in the last book, The Bringers were much scarier villains. However the plot still sucked me in and overall, I enjoyed this book and felt that everything was wrapped up nicely. 


4 stars! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Maskmaker's Daughter - Book Review


The Maskmaker’s Daughter (A Magical Venice Story)

Holly Webb

MG Historical Fantasy

UK Publisher: Orchard

Released: 6th October 2016

Synopsis:

Colette lives with her mother, making beautiful dresses for the rich women of Venice. She’s never known her father, and her mother won’t speak of him - but Colette’s embroidery moves and dances, and she’s sure that there is magic in her blood…

And then Colette discovers the truth: her father is a famous maskmaker and a powerful magician. But when he’s ordered to created a mask that will bend others to its will, the magic becomes too strong for him to resist. Can Colette, with the help of a talking alley cat called Max, save him?

Review:

A charming read that takes the reader into the beautiful canals of old world venice. This a story of magic, talking cats and one girl’s determination to conquer her fears in order to save her father. A lovely tale from beginning to end.

When tragedy strikes Colette’s home, she is saved from servitude by a man she believed long dead. Her father, a famous mask maker and magician. Now Colette knows why her sewing comes alive. Why her embroidery moves and dances. Magic is in her blood.

But when her father is ordered to make a mask with powers of persuasion, the magic consumes him. Now with the mask controlling her father, Colette must fight to free him of the magic… before it gets her father killed for treason. 

This was such a lovely story. A mix of history and fantasy, the author Holly Webb paints such a vivd picture of a thriving Venice. She opens with Colette’s life, showing the reader the hard work the poorer class did just to survive. This makes the reader feel instant sympathy for Colette, and we are moved by her plight when her world crumbles around her.

Colette herself is a sweet heroine. Practical and brave, with just a pinch of mischief that lets her break the rules. I liked her straightaway. Max, her talking cat, also adds much humour to the story and is a great friend to Colette.

I also like the historical details woven throughout out story. Nothing to telling, but just small facts and descriptions woven in here and there that helped bring the world to life.

In terms of plot, the story jogs along at a nice pace. Bumps of action, a few paces of character reflection, a stretch of intrigue. All of which lead to a very satisfying conclusion. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing this series!

History spiced with magic, this is a book I think girls under twelve would really enjoy. 3.5 stars!