Thursday, 12 October 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks - Book Review


The One Memory of Flora Banks
Emily Barr
YA Contemporary 
UK Publisher: Penguin

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumour that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town.

Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind. And sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meets him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. 

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake.

But from the moment she arrives in the artic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home. 

Review:

The One Memory of Flora Banks is a very accurate title for this book. It sums the story up neatly, and I loved the protagonists unusual voice - childlike, but with flashes of the woman trying to fight through. A most intriguing story. 

Flora is seventeen, and she has kissed a boy. Yet the true shock of this tale is, she remembers it.

When Flora was ten, she suffered a trauma to her brain. Unable to make new memories, she must rely heavily of her trusted notebook to tell her who she is, and any important events that have happened. But that all changes when she remembers kissing her best-friend’s boyfriend on the beach. Convinced love is the cure she is looking for, Flora sets off on a journey to find the boy that can bring back her memories, and give her the fairytale ending she deserves...

Both the beginning and end of this book really wowed me, although parts of the middle dragged on a bit and I found myself impatient for something to happen. However Flora’s journey to Svalbard, the sheer bravery and determination behind it, really moved me. It showed she was so much more than the tragic, parent-dependent girl everyone labeled her as. 

Flora’s character is awesome in her simplicity. A rather unreliable narrator, the reader is caught up in her world, knowing only what Flora herself chooses to remember. This leads to some nice twists later on in the story, and given Flora’s chosen optimism, makes for a pretty positive read. 

However I both love/hated the repetition of information. In many ways, Flora’s constant rehash of events was annoying, yet at the same time, it really ties you to the realities of her life. It also helps you sympathise with the less-Flora-friendly decisions made by some of the other characters, because despite her childlike innocence, Flora’s condition does require a lot of patience from the people around her. 

At the same time, I admired the glimpses we got of grown-up Flora, that are mixed in with her ten year old self. While Flora accepts her situation, she understands she is no longer a little girl - although she often forgets this face - and most importantly WANTS her own life and independence. 

The ending also had me tearing up. I love how Flora’s brother - a character we never actually meet - could have such a huge sway on the story. It really packed and parcelled the ending with a nice shiny bow. I can’t wait to read more of Emily Barr’s work.

3 stars.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Aug & Sep in Review


August & September In Review

So summer is officially over! I’m actually super excited because not only is Autumn my favourite time of the year, but it’s also when I’m most productive. I actually got ahead of myself and started a lot of projects early… 

Here are my highlights for the last two months!

DISCOVERIES!

  • Hotel Chocolat make chocolate tea! That’s right, CHOCOLATE TEA! Which has now become a daily part of my life! The peppermint and chile versions are now my reward for hitting word count goals, and as the long nights begin, they also make me feel really festive :)

  • I didn't think anything could top this, until I ventured to the food festival in York last week. After getting lost, I stumbled across York Cocoa House and all I can say is… dark chocolate flakes with a hint of peppermint… that is heaven in a cup!

  • Then I found Marzipan Coffee!

TRAVELS

  • Truthfully the marzipan coffee wasn't a new discovery, but since I haven't drank any since I was fourteen (Almost 14 years in itself) it certainly counts as a re-discovery :) You can find it in Germany - where at the start of September, I spent a beautiful week visiting my aunt and uncle. Now I’m looking forward to going back in December for the Christmas markets!

  • Otherwise aside from a couple of long (wet) weekends caravanning in Scotland, I had a self-imposed writing retreat up at my family’s cottage in Alnwick. And on the 17th of October I will be meeting my other-half in POLAND for some wintery adventures :)

PROJECTS

  • Patchwork Blanket! So when I about six, my grandmother taught me to knit, but it wasn't a skill I ever put to any use. However I’ve always wanted to make myself a patchwork blanket and this year I decided it was time I do it. I’m about 18 squares into the 36 I need but so far its coming together quite nicely.

  • I’ve also been knitting scarves - they make excellent Christmas presents - and I’ve just finished scarf number two. I was using Sirdar Aura Chunky yarn because not only is it super soft, but the colours are stunning!

  • Blackberries! There seems to have been an abundance of blackberries around my local area this year so I’ve made jars upon jars of jam. Blackberry Jam, Apple and Blackberry Jam… plus several mason jars of blackberry liqueur. Yum Yum :)

  • Editing my MG Fantasy - After two months distance the time for editing (or in my case, seriously slicing and dicing my word count) has begun. I’m currently onto chapter four and have ditched just over 2500 words so far… which means I still need to cut about 18,000 more! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Books Read in August:

  1. The Next Together by Lauren James (BB) ****
  2. Missing Arabella by Kathryn Siebel ***
  3. The Nearest Faraway Place by Hayley Long (BB)  *****
  4. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (BB) ****
  5. Air Awakens by Elise Kova ***
  6. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle ****
  7. Fire Falling by Elise Kova ***
  8. Hear the Wolves by Victoria Scott **
  9. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr (BB) ****
  10. The Secrets of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange (BB) *****
  11. Heist Society by Ally Carter ***
  12. The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy  ****

Books Read in September:

  1. A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan ****
  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik *****
  3. The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington (BB) ****
  4. Earth’s End by Elise Kova ***
  5. Secrets in Death by J.D Robb ***
  6. Aurabel by Laura Dockrill (BB) ***
  7. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh ***
  8. Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis (BB) ***
  9. Darkness Rises by Lily Blake (Reign Novella) *** 
  10. The Prophecy by Lily Blake (Reign) ***
  11. The Haunting by Lily Blake (Reign Novella) ***

POSTS



How is life treating the rest of you? Any adventures of your own last month?
X

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Red Ribbon - Book Review


The Red Ribbon

Lucy Adlington

YA Historical 

UK Publisher: Hot Key Books

Synopsis:

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.

Every dress Ella makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival. 

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.

Review:

I teared up so many times through the course of this story. A few times with happiness, but so often at the cruelty and injustice the prisoners suffered. However despite the grimness, hope flowed - a hidden undercurrent - through each and every page. THE RED RIBBON is a spectacular work of fiction, woven with shocking truths to form an incredibly emotional read. Warning: do not attempt to read without some tissues nearby!

Ella’s identity is gone. Snatched from her family, denied a name and any worldly possessions, she has become a stripey. Just another number in a roll-call of black and white uniforms. But unlike many in the Auschwitz work camp, Ella is determined to survive.

A skilled dressmaker, Ella claws her way into the tailors workshop - a better job than most - but with over ten thousand new arrivals everyday, no position is safe. In Auschwitz, everyone is replaceable. Now Ella must make a moral choice: help others and risk death, or help herself and risk losing her humanity… 

I had a hard time putting this book down. Anxious over which characters would and wouldn't survive, I devoured this story overnight. It is a tactfully told, haunting tale that somehow brings to life the horrors suffered, but without going into graphic detail. Steeped in emotion, this book really questions what it is to be human. 

Ella is strong protagonist. I loved how she assigned her fellow prisoners animal-titles, referring to them as a bear, or hedgehog, squirrel or shrew. It instantly opened up their personalities in a single line of description. But what caught me about Ella, is that from the get go, she knows she can’t be a mouse if she is to survive. 

In contrast to Ella is Rose. Generous, positive and kind, Rose signifies what every person hopes they would be in a time of crisis. Her friendship, I believe, kept Ella from becoming one of the darker characters who looked out only for themselves. However without Ella pushing Rose to be a little selfish at times, Rose would have been swallowed by the more bloodthirsty creatures. 

A line near the end of the books said something like, their came a point when all the mice, squirrels and ducklings were gone. Only the predators remained. This was in reference to the prisoners, and it broke my heart. 

Overall this is a real shades of grey story. Set in a place where you can’t judge who to trust, the book is written with a complexity where morals can’t be simplified into either good or bad. Even the prison guards couldn't be truly hated. 

I think  however the real beauty of this story was how it didn't focus on one group. It didn't zero in on any one race, religion or political belief. Instead it encompassed them as a whole, telling everyones story. In doing so, this book did a fantastic job of putting me, the reader, in that prison camp. Because Ella lacked description, and was stripped to very base of what it is to be human, her character will resonate with all. 

A truly unforgettable read. 5 stars!


Talk to me 

Have any you read this book? How do you feel about war stories as a whole? I must admit they aren't generally my thing, but this book really blew me away!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Disappearances - Book Review


The Disappearances 

Emily Bain Murphy

YA Magical Realism

UK Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books


Synopsis:

Every seven years something disappears in the town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep, and some secrets want to stay hidden - and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past. 

A beautifully told story of love, loss, and finding the truth - no matter how difficult that may be.

Review:

I have read a lot of magical realism lately, and this one has been by far one of my favourites. With elements of magic, grief, romance, and a fantastically twisted plot, this story had it all. 

When Aila and her brother move to small village of Sterling, they begin to notice that things aren't quite normal. Scents have disappeared. Reflections aren't there. The stars no longer shine... and the people of Sterling are certain Aila's mother is the cause...

This is a slow burn story. Time is taken to build the world and the characters, so that when the magic is revealed, it blends seamlessly into reality. I often found myself waiting for something to happen, only to realise that something HAD happened several pages ago, I just hadn't picked up on it’s relevance straight away. That probably sounds strange, but if you read the book I’m sure you would understand.

However I also feel this is a story where you really need to pay attention to the details. There is a lot to absorb so I took my time with it, only reading a couple of chapters each night over a few weeks - crazy considering I read most books within two days, but some stories you really need time to digest. This is one of them. 

I also really enjoyed the writing in this book. There were some really poignant descriptions and I liked the main characters quirk of having a “finishing word” for every conversation, which summed up both her feeling and attitude toward things. 

However what I loved most about the characters was their ordinariness. Despite suffering under a magical curse, day to day, the tried to continue on with normal lives.  Dating, schoolwork, family dinners… while I thought this was sweet, it does keep the pacing fairly slow. That doesn't mean its boring in anyway, but for those of you who like an up and down beat, be aware that the pace of this book stays pretty steady throughout. 

In regards to the characters, most of the story is told from Aila's Pov. However there are interludes of another character, whose true motives and identity aren't revealed until very near the end of the story. Huge congrats to the author for keeping the reader guessing so long, it was certainly unpredictable. 

This of course meant that the plot had several seemingly unrelated threads, however by the last page, everything does come together nicely, with only a few things left a little open.  

Overall, this is a great read for fans of Shakespeare, Magical realism and although witches aren’t ever mentioned, I feel if you like a good story steeped deep in a curse, then this is a book for you. It reminded me a lot of Moira Fowley-Doyle's, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, so if you were a fan of that, then be sure to pick this one up too.

4 stars!

Chat with me

What are your thoughts on magical realism? Anything books you would recommend?



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

July in Review

(A sunny day in Scotland - I forgot how glorious the UK could be!)

July In Review

So today I’m posting my July wrap up (I’m a little behind on things, I know!) but my normal routine has gone completely out the window. Why? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’VE RETURNED TO ENGLAND… temporarily. 

I think I’ll be here until about October, which makes this my longest stay in about five years. As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do with friends and family… then there was the scary process of retrieving all of my stuff from storage. My room is currently a bed surrounded by 101 boxes of clothes, stationery (Why I have a thousand blank notebooks I will never know) and of course, books books books! It doesn't help that with me gone, my room became storage space for my parent’s things too.

So my highlights for July were:

*CLEAR OUTS! So far I’ve donated about a dozen boxes to charity, sold most of my Manga on eBay, and yet still more boxes of my stuff keep appearing from the depths of the garage. Its strange, but after living out of one 60 litre backpack for so long, I’ve become very un-materialistic. For me the rules have become simple.

  1. Clothes - If it doesn't fit, it goes. If it hasn't been worn in a year, it goes = about 3/4 of my wardrobe.
  2. Books - If they’ve been read and I wont re-read them (my feelings 98% of the time) they go. I think this stems from the fact that I HATE the idea of a perfectly good book only being read once. I truly believe a single book should be passed through as many hands as possible, which is why I adore book swaps and charity shops.
  3. Everything else - If I forgot I had it, its goes! If it has no purpose or sentimental value, it goes! If its never been used, it goes!

*MY MUM GOT ENGAGED! My mum and my soon-to-be-step-dad are finally tying the knot! They’ve only been together 17 years, and I’m so so thrilled. Although my mum has deviously planned the wedding for December 23rd. Her way of ensuring me and my boyfriend will be home for Christmas, instead of freezing our butts off in Mongolia like we had planned…

*ZERO WRITING - yep, you read that right. Not a single word has been added to my MG WIP. I have utterly failed my self-imposed deadline. However, I did hash out my query letter and half-a-synopsis (getting a little ahead of myself I know) but I’m totally in love with my query—it gives me chills (the good kind) — but first… I really have to finish the book….

And that pretty much wraps up my July. A quiet month for me compared to the rest of the year, but at least I got lots of reading done :)

How was July for the rest of you? Did you do anything exciting? And for those of you who attended YALC, know I am extremely and utterly jealous since I’m certain you had an unforgettable time!

Books Read:

  1. Hunted by Meagan Spooner *****
  2. Avenged by Amy Tintera **
  3. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes ***
  4. Immortal Fire by Annette Marie ***** (This shall live on my shelves and be worshipped forever!)
  5. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordon ****
  6. The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey ****
  7. Blood Red Road by Moria Young ***
  8. Hollow Pike by James Dawnson ****
  9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern ****
  10. Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab **** (Beautiful but bittersweet!)

POSTS


And that’s a wrap. And yes, I am totally ashamed by my lack of posting… I’m heading off now to catch up on some long over due reviews!

Love and Hugs!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Nearest Faraway Place - Book Review


The Nearest Faraway Place

Hayley Long 

YA Contemporary 


Synopsis:

Griff and Dylan are driving into Manhattan with their parents when the worst happens. There is a terrible car accident and Dylan and Griff’s parents are killed.

The boys are suddenly orphans with nowhere to go, until a kind aunt and uncle give them a new home in Wales. Now Dylan and Griff have everything they need. Love, a happy home and a future. But Dylan is worried about Griff: whether he is ok, whether he is coping with his grief. He doesn't seem to want to speak about it or really acknowledge the loss of their parents.

But Dylan needs to be even braver than Griff, because there is something very important he needs to face up to before he can move on. 

Review:

I always applaud books that make me cry - and this one really teared me up. Beautiful and bittersweet, this is a story that will surprise you, even as it breaks your heart. It is a book that fans of Moria Young’s The Road to Ever After will love. 

When Dylan and Griff lose their parents in a fatal accident, their life of jet-setting around the world comes to a total standstill. Now taken in by their Aunt and Uncle, they must make new lives for themselves in Wales. But Dylan hides a terrible secret that keeps him from moving on, and its a secret he must keep close if he ever hopes to see his brother, Griff, smile again... 

This is by no means a fast paced book. However the voice behind it is strong, steady and filled with an empathy toward grief that will tug at your heart strings. Its a beautiful, poignant read, and the story deals with death in a way that makes this a must read for anyone struggling with loss. 

Told from the older brother, fifteen-year-old Dylan’s perspective, the book takes you on a journey through each stage of grief and acceptance. I particularly adored that both pets and music played a big part in the brothers healing process. 

I also liked all the characters the brothers came into contact with. However what I appreciated most were the flashbacks of their travels. Seeing how happy their family were was lovely, but undeniably sad, but it really makes you feel for everything the boys lost.

What really sold this book for me though was the big plot twist toward the end. It’s not often I’m taken by surprise and this book really threw in a huge curve ball. I overlooked every clue, and although I caught a few lines that puzzled me, I never came close to seeing the finished picture. Massive applause to Hayley Long for her skilled writing!

All in all, a spellbinding read of family, loss and the bond between brothers. 4 stars!

What are your thoughts? Have any of you picked up this book?

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Savage Dawn - Book Review


The Savage Dawn
Melissa Grey
YA Fantasy
The Girl of Midnight Book #3
UK Publisher: Atom

Other Books in the Trilogy:

Synopsis:

The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

Echo awakened the Firebird. Now she is the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed… right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tannish has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master its overwhelming force. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. With Caius no longer by her side, she doesn't know if she can do it alone. Is she strong enough to save her home and the people she loves?

Whether Echo is ready to face this evil is not the question. The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.

Review:

A great wrap-up of the trilogy! The Savage Dawn is the final instalment of what has been a a whirlwind adventure. Fantastical through every page, with strong world building, character growth and beautiful word play, it ended on a magical high note that left me satisfied, yet still hoping for more. 

Echo is losing the war. Her beloved Caius has been captured and she is stuck on the island, duty bound to protect what is left of the Avicen people. But as travel through the in-between becomes unstable, Echo learns Tanith is plotting to wipe out the world… and Echo is the only one who stands a chance of stopping her. But just what sacrifice will victory demand, and is Echo willing to pay it?

Aside from a few nit-picks, I really enjoyed this book. What really sprang at me were the characters, most especially the secondary ones. Jasper and Dorian… I could write a whole review based on their relationship alone. I heart this pairing so much and was thrilled to see their emotions hit full bloom. 

However the whole cast, Ivy, Ronan, the Ava… they are a diverse and witty group with lots of quirk. Their interactions with one another really helped bring this story to life and they are one of the reasons I enjoyed this series as much as I did.

Echo has done heaps of growing in this book too. She is more mature after all the trials of book two-and by finally putting her past behind her-she made strong decisions throughout book three. This also allowed her relationship with Caius to move forward, and together they made one impressive unit. 

However my true love for this trilogy lies in Echo’s obsession with collecting words. Once again, these were beautifully threaded throughout the story, allowing Echo to express herself in the most meaningful of ways. Keeping a notebook handy while reading is most recommended!

As for the plot, it was less emotional than book two. Also while I enjoyed the winding journey Echo took, I do feel some readers might grow impatient with the pacing. There were also one or two scenes that I felt were quite similar to events in previous books - but these were all minor niggles that didn't really impede my enjoyment of the story.

The ending though really blew me away. It was open-ended, bittersweet, but still full of hope. It reminded me of Laini Taylor’s ending to her daughter of smoke and bone trilogy… and I think its an ending that people will either love or hate. Personally, I liked it. However I will still be keeping my fingers crossed for a novella of some sort… there is definitely room for one. 

All in all I really enjoyed this book, and the trilogy as a whole. Melissa Grey is definitely an author to watch out for.

4 stars!