Category Archives: book review

Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Review. 

Caraval is Stephanie Garber’s debut YA novel. Set in an alternative world, it focuses on the main characters Scarlett and Donatella, two sisters who are desperate to get out from their father’s tyrannical control. 

Scarlett is planning on getting to get married to a mysterious Count in order to free herself and her sister from their father’s control. But then all of a sudden their invited to the mysterious Caraval, a game/carnival which Scarlett has been trying to wrangle an invite too for years. But now with her wedding looming the timing isn’t great. 

Somehow though the two sisters end up there. That’s when everything starts going wrong. Donatella is kidnapped and made a part of the ‘game’ and Scarlett is sent on a dangerous chase to find her sister before the game’s nefarious organiser ‘Legend’ does something awful to her. 

I liked the concept of this novel a lot. Mysterious carnival game, evil intentions it seemed to have it all. But I didn’t really engage it with it as much as I expected to in all honesty. I liked it but it didn’t hold my attention enough. The characters were quite underdeveloped and I felt that it tried to hard to involve lots of different things all at once so that I was finding my concentration was drifting. 

The world isn’t fully developed either, we have no real idea of where it is, it’s clear it’s supposed to be an alternative world as the islands all have names the reader have never heard of and the dress of the characters are different to modern day and more like the 1800s, but beyond that we know nothing about it or the time it’s supposed to be set on. While I didn’t dislike the novel I felt that the lack of development on both characters & world really let it down. 

A Mask of Shadows by Oscar De Muriel. Review 

‘Yer may nae. Do as I said, else I’ll punch yer snooty face.’ 

Welcome back to the notorious ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and his eloquent language when interviewing a potential witness. I fell in love with McGray when I read A Fever of the Blood last year and I was really pleased to be granted an ARC of A Mask of Shadows the third book in the series. 

Once more we see the beguiling if slightly eccentric McGray, along with his partner Ian Frey thrown into a mysterious entanglement of murder, mystery and the supernatural. This time there’s a banshee haunting Henry Irving’s performance of ‘The Scottish Play’. 

I love that Bram Stoker is one of the main characters in this book, it reminded me a little bit of the mini TV series Houdini & Doyle with the two men searching, one for supernatural causes (Doyle = McGray) and one for the reasonable explanation (Houdini = Frey). It has the same wonderfully entertaining banter between the two. I love that McGray treats Frey so badly calling him everything from a ‘pansy’ to ‘Percy’ after he finds out his middle name. Yet despite the good ribbing he constantly gives him, you can tell the two have a great connection and that McGray would miss Frey should he be sent back to London. 

I also really liked how the character of Frey was developed in this novel. Usually he is the one trying to rein in McGray but this time he has a good Pop at people himself and it’s really great to see him get a pair of his own and I’m not talking tartan trousers! 

The novel features a ton of famous characters from actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry to the aforementioned Bram Stoker and even a cameo from Oscar Wilde and mentions of friendships with Lewis Carroll. 

It is engaging from start to finish and I really didn’t have a clue who was behind everything. Nothing was clear as every time the author threw a red herring that’s all it seemed it be. Everyone stood a chance of being guilty and that is the truly clever skill of Oscar De Muriel that he is able to convince us that it might just be a supernatural explanation after all…. 

Moroda by L.L McNeil. Review 

Moroda is L.L McNeil’s debut novel in the epic fantasy genre. It focuses on the character of Moroda, a young girl who has lost her status as a Goldstone after her father dies. To top it off she just got arrested and then a dragon attacked their city. Her only option seems to be escape from the city with an eclectic bunch of people which includes; a sky pirate, a Varkain (scary snake man), two Itallans (shape shifters), an Arillian (guy who can fly and create storm weather) and a member of the Imperial Guard. That’s where the adventure begins. 

As they journey across their world, mayhem and magic abound as Moroda is taken out of her comfort zone and has to learn how to fight, fly an airship and try desperately to defend the ones she loves against the evil Aciel. 

Despite being quite a long book, Moroda is an easy read, the characters are easy to remember and the author creates a world much different to our own and yet one which the reader can get lost in. Even better the book is written well and more importantly, edited well making it a very enjoyable read. 

Moroda sometimes came across as a bit of a weakling but don’t worry if you’re getting that vibe because she wins her badass stripes in the end! 

I really enjoyed the history of the different races/species in this book as well. The ideas were new and well written and character creation was authentic and well imagined, more importantly it was original. I especially liked the Varkain and hope I get to read more about them and their history in upcoming novels in the saga. I also loved Amarah the Sky Pirate she is a super cool badass and it’s nice to see a woman in the position of pirate and hellraiser! 

I loved the background on the dragons as well and the idea of them being gods. Dragons have always fascinated me and it was a very interesting take on their nature and responsibilities to the world they inhabited. 

I can’t wait to read more in this saga and can recommend it to lovers of all fantasy series but particularly if you like books like Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series.

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty. Review 

I really like Lianne Moriarty’s books, I’ve read The Husbands Secret & Truly, Madly, Guilty and liked their style of constant build up with the big reveal at the end. Big Little Lies follows the same pattern. 

In the beginning the reader is immediately aware that there has been a murder at the school trivia night but we don’t know ‘whodunnit’. Instead we are taken back to a few months before the evening and introduced to the characters. The novel mostly focuses on three friends, Madeline who is obsessed with clothes and makeup and a typical girly girl who you can’t help but love, Celeste who’s stunningly beautiful and stunningly rich but nice with it, and Jane who’s much younger, only just moved to the area and lives up to her name as the ‘plain Jane’. I’ve been watching the TV show so of course I wanted to read the book even more and of course there’s differences, the show got rid of some characters like Madeleine’s daughter Fred. 

Each family has their secrets and lies. Madeline is suffering through fights with her teenage daughter who seems to prefer her father and stepmother. Celeste is hiding the horrors of her real family life behind the rich, beautiful facade. As for Jane she’s got a whole heap of baggage not least that her son Ziggy is being accused of bullying. 

I must admit that I didn’t find this novel as engaging as the others I’ve read by this author but I don’t know if that was partially because I’ve seen the beginning of the series and so sort of knew what half of it was about, but I found the characters likeable and the plot was great! Of course the end was a huge shock in line with Lianne’s usual way of writing. There’s not one but two major twists and the ending leaves shock waves rebounding through the reader. 

The House by Simon Lelic. Review 

‘When my hand slips from the knife, my first thought is that using it wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be. I feel elated, initially, until I notice the blood.’ 

Creepy stuff! The House is the first novel I have read by Simon Lelic and it was a thrilling experience. No pun intended! 
Syd & Jack move into their new house, excited for fresh beginnings. Both come from tough, if very different backgrounds. They’ve saved up, suffering through crummy bedsits and shared accommodation until they’ve finally afforded a place of their own, and despite it being in high demand their offer has been accepted. 

When Jack finds something gruesome in the attic he keeps it from Syd as well as everyone else. Something he’s going to really regret. A nightmare begins. 

When the reader enters the story Syd and Jack are writing down everything that’s happened to them. It’s clear they’ve been keeping secrets from one another and suspense and intrigue build as we, the readers try to work out what exactly has happened. 

There’s a master manipulator at work and this novel builds the suspense making you unsure of who to trust. I really enjoyed this novel and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author! 

Reading Challenge 2017 – Week 8 

Week 8 of my Reading Challenge is a book I like by someone who isn’t a writer. This was tricky as anything fictional is obviously written by a writer and a lot of the non fiction books I’ve read are written by other types of writers such as journalists. In the end I settled on my favourite comedienne’s book; part autobiography, part life lessons, Miranda Hart’s Is it Just Me? 

A hilarious tale of Miranda’s awkward experiences from strangers fondling your feet (pedicure) to using chopsticks and sitting elegantly on a bar stool. 

Miranda gives us what she refers to as ‘an attempt at the manual’ on how to cope with becoming, and then surviving as an adult. 

This book is laugh out loud funny and I cannot recommend it enough, even if you don’t usually like this sort of thing I can guarantee you will find this funny and love it from beginning to end. 

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards. Review 

The Lucky Ones is the second novel by Mark Edwards that I’ve read. I really enjoyed Follow You Home the story of a couple who are traumatised by their experiences on holiday in Eastern Europe. 

The Lucky Ones is a different story completely. Although it keeps to the thriller element but this time it has more of a British Detective novel setting. 

A serial killer is at loose in rural England, in the tiny village where Ben lives with his son Ollie. Two women and a man have been murdered right after they reached their happiest point in life. Detective Imogen Evans has moved from the City of London Police to a more rural setting after the death of a colleague. Now she’s desperate to catch the killer and prove herself. 

The novel is very gripping. I started it one morning and by the evening it was finished, despite being at work all day, I just couldn’t put it down on the bus, on my lunch, in the bath and for the rest of the evening. The characters were easy to remember despite there being quite a few of them, all of them had endearing qualities (apart from the serial killer of course), and the killer was particularly well written. It was only in the last few pages that i started to suspect correctly who the killer was.

Mark Edwards takes the reader on a wild goose chase where there’s literally nobody we can trust. Everyone is a potential suspect and it is so cleverly written that it makes sense for the killer to know everything without giving away who they are.  Interesting back stories are also provided for the killer but again there’s even a twist to that plot too. I won’t say too much more as not to ruin the story or give spoilers but I’ll be recommending this to anyone who loves a good crime thriller!