Tag Archives: reviews

Flame in the Mist by Reneè Ahdieh. Review 

I want to clear something up with regards to this book. It is not a Milan retelling despite what’s been going around. For one it’s set in Japan not China and for two other than cross dressing it has no similarities at all. Disclaimer: I will be using Mulan Gifs in this review because I can 😉 


Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the review. 

I received Flame in the Mist in my May Fairyloot box and instantly fell in love with the cover. I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover and this one is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! The premise interested me as well, I’ve not read much about Japanese folklore or myths and legends and my entire experience of any kind of Japanese literature is the novels of Haruki Murakami. So I was admittedly very interested to step out into the unknown. 

I’m really glad that I did! Mariko is travelling to the imperial city in a litter when it is attacked, all her samurai and servants are killed and Mariko, convinced it is the work of the infamous renegades, The Black Clan, sets out to find them, infiltrate them and find out why they wanted her dead. I loved the character of Mariko or at least the idea of her, not once was she described as particularly beautiful apart from in the view as a prize for the Emperors son. Instead she is smart, a scholar, a whiz with her mind and with inventions and you know what? That’s really cool and makes a nice change. Lots of books feature smart girls but often the focus is on the fact that they are beautiful and smart. It was nice to see something fresh here. 


I liked all of the characters who all had a lot of story, I’d certainly like to know more of their stories though as it feels a bit like we were fed titbits. This combined with the ending is definitely making me hope for a second novel! 

I also really liked that Mariko didn’t become some fearsome warrior because that would have just been too Mulan inspired for words. In fact she is an individual in her own right completely separate from any other fictional character I’ve read and I loved her the more for it! 


The storyline was well played if a little slow to begin with. It soon picked up the pace and we were treated to folklore, culture, division between rich and poor, man and woman, dark magic and most importantly what I viewed as the moral of the story that the lines between good and evil are not always that well drawn. 

In summary I really liked this book and feel that it is off to a promising start for a series or at least a second book, so fingers crossed there will be one! 

Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine. Review. 

Please be aware that this review while not containing spoilers for this book, will contain spoilers for the first book Ink and Bone. 

Paper and Fire picks up where Ink and Bone left off and it’s a great sequel! Jess and friends are still reeling from the events of Ink and Bone, their friend Thomas was killed, their other friend and sort of Jess’ girlfriend; Morgan has been imprisoned in the Iron Tower of the Obscurists and Jess no longer knows who he can trust. Especially when a routine training excercise of his company in the High Garda turns sour. 


This book is another teaser at what the library may contain, what secrets are hidden inside its walls and what the people at the helm will do to protect it. It is a story of friendship and relationships that are stronger than those of blood. In a world full of secrets it’s impossible to know who can be trusted and who would just as soon Knife you in the back. It’s down to Jess and his friends to fight the library to the bitter end. 


I love that this series is all about books, it’s such a great concept and it’s easy to see that it’s taken some inspiration for the onslaught of ebook readers on the market today. I find the premise incredibly engaging and interesting, sometimes the second book in a trilogy can read like a ‘filler’ and be a bit flat but that is not the case with this one at all. I can’t wait for Ash and Quill now. 

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Review. 

As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of the classics but hallelujah I seem to have found an classic author I can actually get on with. 

Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd is not a great tome of a book and neither is it a difficult read in terms of language or content. But the messages it gives are big ones. 

Bathsheba Everdeen is a headstrong young woman with no less than three suitors. First there is Gabriel Oak who proposes to her first when he is attempting life as a gentleman farmer, then there is an actual gentleman farmer Mr Boldwood who also proposes marriage and is asked to wait. Finally there is the seductive soldier Frank Troy who is completely unsuitable but hey, everyone likes a bad boy right? 


Literally though, Bathsheba is the worst! She’s so annoying! So conceited, so arrogant, she clearly thinks herself to be stunning and strong and usually I’d love the idea of such an apparent feminist but in this case she doesn’t even come across as a feminist. What she comes across as is selfish and at times just a little bit bloody stupid! 


I did enjoy the novel because the prose is excellent and the storyline well put together. It is not a criticism of the author’s work to say that Bathsheba is what she is, it is more that I think Hardy probably wrote her that way. She could never discover the error of her ways after all if she didn’t make errors in the first place! 

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson. Review 

I’ve loved Milly Johnson’s novels since I picked up a sample of Its Raining Men in Waterstones, Meadowhall a few years ago. I was really excited to receive my copy of The Queen of Wishful Thinking from the publishers Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. 

As usual I really enjoyed the book. This one deals with a lot of sensitive issues, as is expected with the romance/chic-lit genre it focuses on two people who are unhappy and find happiness with each other. But it also deals with the more serious issues of infertility, abortion, infidelity and euthanasia. I also love that there are funny anecdotes at the beginning of several chapters which are extracts from The Daily Trumpet as usual posting hilarious misprints. Being a Yorkshire lass myself I found the one about a 12 year old called Beyoncé-Jane particularly funny, because I know for a fact that there’s probably kids called that in S.Yorks. 

Anyway, back to the storyline; Bonnie is in a loveless marriage with Stephen who controls everything about their lives, to top it off she’s also unhappy in her job, until she unexpectedly lands a job at a new antique store called Pot of Gold and gets more than she bargained for when she falls for her boss Lew. Lew is having problems of his own with his golddigger wife who is fast becoming unrecognisable. Having just recovered from a heart attack, Lew just wants a quiet life. And his feelings for Bonnie are developing as well. 


Alongside the love story, as aforementioned there are lots of other issues going on, but it all comes together very nicely. Milly has a skill of putting together novels which make you equal parts laugh along with the characters and fall apart with them as their world comes crashing down around them and they struggle to pick the pieces up. But friends are on hand, support is there and these friends go to outrageous lengths to protect their own. 


And of course in the end they all get to live happily ever after which is the best part about all of Milly’s novels! 

Monthly Round Up

Introduction

Welcome to the first of my monthly round ups with the lovely Josh over at http://www.joshbates.co.uk. Each month we’ll be bringing you a collaboration like no other as we chat about the books we’ve read this month and what we’re looking forward to in the upcoming ones.

I became friends with Josh after we exchanged several emails when he interviewed me for his website. After a few conversations about what we both wanted from our sites it became apparent that it would make sense to run a project together, so here we are!

 

Leonie’s Wrap Up: 

This month I’ve read 20 books. Some good, some not so good, so without further ado, lets get into it!

Keys to the Kingdom seriesThe Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix 

The first books I read this month were the final 5 in The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Namely; Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday & Lord Sunday. They follow the story of a young boy called Arthur Penhaligon who unwittingly becomes the heir to The House at the centre of the universe. They’re really fun books to read and have a lot of magic & adventure in them. 


A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde was next on my list. I love Katie’s writing but didn’t really enjoy this one as much as usual. It follows two characters Lorna & Philly who discover a Secret Garden, and with it, true love. The romance was unfortunately a little dead in this one but I’m full of faith that Katie will pick up again in her next novel. 


The Bear & the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a dark YA novel based on Russian fairytales. You can read my full review here: http://ow.ly/tzaU30bkrNC


Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott is an exciting new fantasty/sci-fi debut and you can get my full review here: http://ow.ly/O6Be30bks0v


Descent by Katie O’Sullivan is a fantasy tale about the son of a mermaid. You can get my full review here: http://ow.ly/ouVT30bkscQ


The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards is a crime thriller. Full review here: http://ow.ly/4egH30bksAM
The House by Simon Lelia is another crime thriller to tingle the spine. Full review here:  http://ow.ly/X1Q430bksOl 


Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty. Full review here: http://ow.ly/hi9H30bkt0m

Moroda by LL McNeil is a debut fantasy with fantastic world building. Full review here: http://ow.ly/C5V530bkt9z


A Mask of Shadows by Oscar De Muriel is the third in the Frey & McGrey series and you can check out my full review here: http://ow.ly/svoY30bkHTe


Caraval by Stephanie Garber could have been a lot better, I was expecting more from this but it lacked world and character building. Read my full review: http://ow.ly/x1NA30bkLpy


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is one of the best books I’ve read in a longtime. Not that I expected any less from the woman who brought us Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Read my review here: http://ow.ly/fOUC30bkLyJ
 


 Witch Child and Sorceress were my nostalgic reads for the month and so different when reading them back as an adult and understanding the themes and concepts more. You can read my review which talks a lot about the theme of race here:  http://ow.ly/EWqi30bl9aV


Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson is a book I started a couple of years ago and didn’t finish but my grandma loves the series and promises me it will get better so I’m persevering! I still wasn’t hugely impressed by Book 1 but we’ll see how I go… 


Blackbird & Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck were my recommended reads of the month and were recommended by my friend Sasha at work. They’re non-fiction true life stories and they were surprisingly enjoyable. Good quality writing and an interesting if heart wrenching storyline! 

This month I’m most looking forward to reading Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth & Wintersong by S Jae Jones. 

Don’t forget that if you’d rather watch my wrap up than read it, you can check out my April Wrap Up on my Booktube channel here: http://ow.ly/act530bl9Mu

  Intro:
Each month me and the lovely Leonie plan to write about our monthly book reads.

I became friends with Leonie after an exchange of e-mails during the process of writing an article about her for my blog. Please subscribe (if you haven’t already) to her wonderful channel here:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCs0_TWR_r0SPVlVdT7UV9hg

Josh’s Diary:

I’m quite a slow reader. It takes me a long time to read . But I didn’t do too badly this month. So let’s have a look at the books I read:


I started the month reading “Goldfish Boy” by Lisa Thompson. I’ve never cried so much reading a book before. It really touched me on so many levels. I liked every character in the book. The book covers the topic of family, friendship and hope. The messages in the book are very positive. A book about OCD sounds dark and heavy but Lisa Thompson writes on this subject with great insight, skill and sensitivity. Very highly recommended.


I then read “Call Me Sunflower” by Miriam Spitzer Franklin. It was an enjoyable read. I read the book in under a day. Children’s books are easy and simple to read. This book also touched on issues around identity, family and friendship.

The final two books – “Rez Runaway” by Melanie Florence and “School Monitor” by Alex Dunn didn’t impress me.


“Rez Runaway” tells the story of Seventeen year old Joe Littlechief who is raised on an Indian reserve. He lives with his Mother who is a devout christian. Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend and he is driven out of the Rez. The frantic pace led me to feeling breathless and disoriented. Very Short chapters crammed in too much detail.


I found “School Monitor” by Alex Dunn very disturbing and unpleasant. The violent scenes ranging from punching, kicking, spitting and attempted drowning – made me feel sick. The messages and morals in the book seemed totally inappropriate. The ending was deeply unsatisfying.

Leonie introduced me to Netgalley this month. I also discovered some lovely bookish goodies which I might treat myself too soon.

Thanks for checking out our first Monthly Round Up, we hope you’ve been able to take something from our mini reviews either good or bad, and we look forward to sharing with you in the future! 

Lots of love 

Leonie & Josh 

Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees. Double review. 

I first read these two books when I was about 12-13 years old. They remain among some of my favourite books from my childhood and a recent bout of nostalgia convinced me to read them again 15 years later. I’m really glad I did. 

As a 12 year old girl my fascination was with the magic the books enthralled me with. The adventure of the child Mary Newbury escaping across the country, hounded as a witch in both England and America, followed by ancestors who could turn into animals and rescued by the Native Indian people who took her in as their own. 


Pocahontas, was, and remains one of my favourite Disney movies. It is criticised for its historical inaccuracy and its romanticising of the terrible wrongs done to the indigenous people of Native America. But it is my favourite because of the beauty of life it shows. The natural way of living, the interaction with animals and plants, the culture, laws and customs. Yes it’s romanticised but we all know animals and trees do not speak and raccoons do not braid hair. 


But It is a children’s film and what I took from it most of all, is what I took from Celia Rees’ acclaimed novels Witch Child & Sorceress. Shame. 


A lot is said about the bad people of history. But what we must remember is that before Hitler’s horrific attacks against the Jewish people, the English were just as bad. To watch, or read about people, my own ancestors somewhere down the line who attacked and killed people, stole their land and possessions, built towns on their burial grounds, desecrated their sacred places, and had the affront to call them the savages, makes me ashamed to be a white British person. There is no glory in the ‘finding’ or the ‘conquering’ of America. There is shame, and nothing else. 


I feel like I’m digressing a lot here and should probably get back on track, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes books and even, yes, Disney movies can teach us much about acceptance of other cultures and people. That we can learn from them and live in harmony without forcing them to become more like us. What rights do we have to what is ‘normal’, what is ‘right’, to stipulate religion and dress, to decide what is termed as ‘savage’. 

Witch Child & Sorceress, make this point so passionately, so pointedly that I have left them in a whirl of emotion. Both books have an important story to tell and I urge you to listen to that story. In the words of Grandmother Willow, listen with your heart… 



Descent, Son of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan. Review 

Descent by Katie O’Sullivan is the first YA book about mermaids I’ve actually read. I love all things fantasy but for some reason haven’t come across a mermaid related book before. But I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one! 


Shea McNamara is a normal boy who lives on a farm with his dad and deals with fancying girls, hating the spoilt rich kid and trying to get a pass to spend his birthday at a baseball game with his best friend John. Oh and trying to ignore the weird traits he has like being able to remember everything he ever reads, and eyes which adjust to the dark. 

But when his father is killed in a freak, flash tornado, Shea has to move to Cape Cod to live with his grandmother. Here he begins to unravel the mystery of his mother’s disappearance and enters a world he never believed could exist. 


The story is really engaging and quite a quick read, mainly because it’s quite short. I found the characters interesting, and the plot engaging if simple. The underwater world is well constructed and the ending perfectly set for another instalment!