Friday, 28 April 2017

The Pearl Thief - Book Review


The Pearl Thief - Book Review
Elizabeth Wein
YA Historical
UK PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Childrens 

Synopsis:

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realise that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital. 

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation. 

Her memory of that day returns in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them form being framed for the crime. 

Review:

I enjoyed this book, although admittedly it’s a really slow paced read. However the history and old world setting lend this book a lot of charm - not to mention it reminded me a lot of Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five books - although maybe with not so much adventure. 

The Pearl Thief is also a prequel to Elizabeth’s Wein’s debut, Code Name Verity which sadly, was a book I never finished. However I do think I will be giving it another try.

In this prequel the story follows fifteen-year-old Julie who, after the death of her beloved grandfather, returns to Scotland for the summer. But as her grandparents possessions are sold off, their stately home turned into a boarding school, only Julie seems to notice that the family pearls have gone missing.

But when a body is found in the river, Julie begins to suspect foul play. Befriending a family of travellers, she enlists their help to uncover the mystery before the summer ends. But there is more than one deadly plot underfoot, and Julie will risk it her life to see the world set to rights…

The setting of this book was incredible. Thanks to Elizabeth Wein’s beautiful writing the Scottish moors, the old ruins, the river pearls… everything was brought to life in a very colourful manner.

There were also many levels to the mystery. So many plot threads that when the twists came, I totally didn't seem them coming. However as much as I enjoyed trying to figure out who did what, I felt the story dragged in many places and the mystery itself lacked any kind of urgency. 

In regards to the characters, they hailed from all walks of life, and each comes with an backstory along with unique quirks and traits of their own. For anyone wanting to learn more about Julie before the war, this is a great book to pick up. She is much more innocent and naive than the women we meet in CODE NAME VERITY, however I sort of wish this story had been kept to a novella, rather than becoming a full blown out book.

I say this because, while I enjoyed the story as a whole, it was often rather boring. There are pages upon pages where nothing happens - at least nothing relevant - and sometimes I got restless which made the book very easy to put down. 

Sadly I didn't connect with the romance either. While I liked the fact that Julie appeared to be bi-sexual, I don't know how I felt about her kissing so many people… or encouraging a relationship between herself and a much, much older man. Yet conflicting with that - it was refreshing to read about a girl unafraid to explore her sexuality, even if it did get her in a bit of trouble.

Overall though I still enjoyed this book. If you are the kind of person who likes to have more than one book on the go, this one makes a good back burner. Otherwise I would say prepare yourself for a slow and very scenic trek through Julie’s world.

3 stars!
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Have any of you read Elizabeth Wein’s books? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

King's Cage - Book Review


King’s Cage - Book Review
Victoria Aveyard
YA Fantasy
Red Queen Book # 3
UK Publisher: Orion

Other Books in the series:
Glass Sword

Synopsis:

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightening, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a King, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country — and his prisoner. 

As Mare bears the weight of the Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organising, training and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled Prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire - leaving Norta as Mare knows it, to burn all the way down.

Review:

I have really enjoyed this series so far, but I must admit that this third book didn’t exactly start with a bang. Having said that, I did enjoy the in-depth look we received into all the characters, even if I did feel the first half was really drawn out.

This third book picks up straight from where the previous book ended. Mare is now Mavens prisoner, and with her will broken and lightning powers leashed she soon finds herself the new king’s puppet. Thankfully Cal - the exiled Prince turned rebel - will do anything to see Mare set free, no matter the lives cost.

Now with brother fighting brother, and the powerful new-bloods battling the God-like silvers, Mare’s country is being destroyed from all sides…

I’m still pumped on all the action and thrilling revelations that came with this book’s ending. Enough so that I’ve almost, almost forgotten how little I actually liked the beginning. For me the problem was that Mare is super withdrawn and depressed (although considering she spends months locked in a room unable to use her powers it’s understandable) but not exactly fun to read. 

However what did redeem it for me was the in-depth look we got at Maven’s backstory. Although still the villain, he is easy to pity for his childhood and we get a glimpse at the boy he could have been had his mother not turned him into a monster. Mare’s pity and soft spot for Maven is finally relatable. However I the first half of the book was so long winded that I was going a little crazy waiting for something to happen.

The action, when it came though, was definitely worth waiting for. The latter half of the book unleashed all the intrigue, explosion and first-book-goodness that I was waiting for. I actually thought it all became very Game of Thrones like, what with the backstabbing, new alliances and additional characters, not to mention a couple of new POVs woven into the flow. 

As for the romance, for the most part I liked it. Mare and Cal’s relationship has always been deep and meaningful, yet they both remain quite selfish people. This in particular came across really well in this book, and I’m super curious to see what will be in store for them next. 

All in all, this is a good read but I thought it was a little filler like. I probably would have liked it more if the beginning had been at least one hundred pages shorter - however I’m still excited to read the final book in the series which will release next year. Overall, I would give King’s Cage 3 stars!

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What are you thoughts on this series? Are you enjoying it so far?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cogheart - Book Review


Cogheart - Book Review
Peter Bunzl
MG Steampunk
(The Cogheart Adventures #1)
UK Publisher: Usborne 

Synopsis:

Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat…

Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her though the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends—Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox—Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realises that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.

Review:

Cogheart was utterly charming. I thought it had a style similar to Cornelia Funkes Inkheart, mixed with a dash of Neil Gaiman’s imagination in stardust. Throw in a bunch of airships, some mechanical wonders along with a helping of friendship and hey presto! A magical book is made.

Set in a fantastical version of Victorian London, the story follows eleven-year-old Lily as she sets out on a journey to find her missing father. Pursued by silver-eyed men who are certain Lily holds the key to unlocking her father’s “secret work” Lily must dodge every scheme they throw at her… or see a powerful weapon fall into the wrong hands…

A really great book! There were so many aspects of this story that I enjoyed. First I loved the world-building, full of airships and mechanical people/animals, but I was saddened by how the humans of the world treated the technology so coldly and without feeling. However this offered a sharp contrast against Lily’s warm character and I adored her own mechanical family. They were so amusing, with distinct personalities and word choices of their own, “Clanging crumpets!”

However I felt the beginning of the story quite slow and it takes several chapters to pick up the pace.  It’s not until Lily runs away from her guardian that the story starts to take a more interesting turn, but these beginning chapters also allow the reader to get a feel for Lily’s tom-boyish character.

Sadly though I actually saw the big plot-twist coming, but it was delivered in a dramatic manner that I think younger readers will enjoy this immensely. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I'm most curious to see where Lily’s adventures take her next!

A heart warming Middle Grade read. I give cogheart 3.5 stars!

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Has anyone else read this book? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments :)


Monday, 10 April 2017

Dark Tempest - Book Review


Dark Tempest - Book Review
Annette Marie
YA Fantasy
(Red Winter Trilogy #2)

Other Books in the Trilogy:

Synopsis:

Emi has dedicated her life to becoming the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu, but the insidious betrayal of another deity has changed everything. Now Amaterasu has charged Emi with an urgent mission: to find and free the earthly gods before mankind is brought to its knees beneath divine tyranny.

At her side is Shiro, the mysterious fox spirit. When she first saved his life, she could never have imagined that behind hid cunning and confidence, he was lost - his power bound by a devastating curse and his memories obscured. His veiled history is somehow tied to the missing gods, but he can’t remember how or why.

As their search leads them into the murky depths of the spirit realm, the shadows of Shiro’s past begin to emerge. With each brief awakening of his true self, she loses a little more of him. The fate of the heavens and earth rest in her mortal hands, and she must find the missing gods before time runs out for her world - and for Shiro.

Review:

I am totally addicted to this series! Although this second book gets off to a slightly slow start, when the action does kick off it does so with a bang! The drama, the mythology… the romance (did I mention its the forbidden, heart-racing kind) Ah, I just want to jump about and squee! It’s so so so good!

Picking up shortly after the last book, Emi now finds herself in an even bigger predicament. Tasked with freeing the Earthly Gods before the solstice, Emi must fight against strong enchantments and powerful demons - all while maintaining her purity - but even as she struggles to control her ever-growing feelings for Shiro, the handsome Kitsune demon, she knows her first duty is to her Goddess Amaterasu and the world, but love might just prove to be Emi’s biggest weakness yet… 

This story really blew me away and I devoured it in less than a day. The action (once it starts) leads into a super fast-paced plot, all twined with elements of humour, romance, backstory and underlying intrigue. 

While the main plot really captures attention, it’s the slow burn romance between Emi and Shiro that has really hooked me. This second book see’s their relationship growing stronger and they are becoming more vocal about their feelings. It’s all made even more delicious by the fact that fate and Gods are vying to keep them apart. So dramatic! 

There is also a lot of character development. Emi now uses both her wits and growing magical skill to help in battles. She has earned the respect of the Yokai travelling with her and all the while she stays strong, despite the many burdens on her shoulders.

Shiro is still the sarcastic fox we came to love in book one, but we get a deeper look into his past which offers up a more vulnerable side to him. His interactions with the crow demon Yumei are totally comical and all the characters in this book deserve a huge applause. 

Dark Tempest, like its predecessor, also has lots of Japanese culture woven into the story. Words, food, etiquette, mythology and so much more - they all combine to make a really authentic tale that reads just like an anime in my head. 

And isn't the cover for this book just gorgeous? And the illustrations inside… they are all beautifully done and really help bring the world to life. I honestly can’t gush over this series enough. If you haven't already, go check out the first one, RED WINTER, it won’t disappoint. 

An easy 5 stars!

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Have any of you read this series? If so I would love to hear you're thoughts in the comments :) May we all gush over this book's awesomeness together :)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sea - The Huntress Trilogy - Book Review



Sea - Book Review
Sarah Driver 
Middle Grade Fantasy
(The Huntress Trilogy Book #1)
UK Publisher: Egmont

Synopsis:

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka….

Review:

This was a really unique story with a fabulous young heroine. With Pirates, deadly sea monsters and a spice of magic, this was a splashing start to a sea churning adventure.

When Mouse’s dad goes missing—and a long-lost crew member returns to claim the vacant spot of navigator—Mouse knows something is amiss. Then she finds a hidden message that leads to dangerous waters, depths where myths come to life and crew turn on their captains…

Admittedly, this book was a little confusing in places, and Mouse’s unique voice took me several chapters to click with. At first I didn't even realise Mouse was a girl! However once I got into the rhythm of the story, I soon found myself swept away. 

The story offers a really unusual set of characters, all memorable by there personalities, physical traits or magical abilities. However I didn't understand the motivations of some of the crew, and look forward to the next book to see if more puzzle pieces are slotted together.

One of things I really enjoyed though was the dialog - words like, “heart-courage” and “heart-thanks.” All simple words that conveyed so much. I also liked that Mouse was gifted with the ability to speak to animals, and I found the animals speech really entertaining. Several times I even laughed out loud.

In terms of plot, the story moves at a fast pace although I feel we don't know the bigger picture yet (again, something I hope is revealed in the next book) but overall this was a most enjoyable read and it's a series I definitely will be continuing. 

All I can say, is that due to the writing style I really hope new readers persevere and give this book a chance. Despite the choppy beginning you’ll find that once you click with the story, you will be well and truly hooked!

3 stars!

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Have any of you read this book? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments :)


Monday, 3 April 2017

March in Review



March in Review

So I spent most of March in Tokyo, and now have just arrived in sunny Australia :) As you can guess this has been an exciting month of travel, great food, so many books (Yay for reading time) but sadly… not so much writing.

So at the start of the month I officially said goodbye to China. My boyfriend and I spent several lovely (yet smoggy) days in Guangzhou, before we headed on to Hong Kong. For once we treated ourselves to an expensive hotel and made full use of the pool and spa facilities. It was awesome!

A few days later, we said our goodbyes as my boyfriend flew to the Philippines for a holiday with his family, and I flew to Japan for a holiday with my dad.

First things first, seeing my dad in Japan was priceless. It was his first time in Asia, and while it did take him a few days to learn to use chopsticks, I’m pleased to say he had the time of his life. In fact, he’s already making plans to return next year. Annual trips to Japan… I can totally live with that :)

If any of you are interested, you can see the highlights of my trip in these two posts:


Otherwise I’m just about managing to keep up with the blog! There are a lot of upcoming reviews so be sure to look out for them. Otherwise, I’m just planning to your enjoy my time in Australia. The plan is stay another 4 days in Brisbane, then me and some friends will be driving up to Sydney :)

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If any of my Australian readers or fellow travels could give me some shout outs of things to see and do in Brisbane or Sydney it would be much appreciated! Also… maybe a location of some great YA bookstores….

Meanwhile - Here are my book stats for the month…


Books Read
  1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  2. The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine (Can’t wait to read the rest of this series)
  3. The Huntress: Seas by Sarah Driver 
  4. The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone  (Loved this series so much!)
  5. A Gathering of Shadows of V.E Schwab
  6. The Naming by Alison Croggon (The First Book of Pellinor) 
  7. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl.
  8. Judged  by Liz De Jager (Blackheart #3)
  9. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Tearling #3) - The ending of this killed me!

Review Posts


Currently Reading:

Frail Mortal Heart by Zoe Marriott
The Raven Boys by Maggie Steiefvater (Still haven't progressed any further)


And hows things with everyone else? Did you have a good March?