Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Dog Who Saved The World - Book Review


The Dog Who Saved The World - Book Review

Ross Welford
MG Science-Fiction
UK Publisher: Harper Collin’s Children’s Books.

Other Books by the Author:

The 1000 Year Old Boy

Synopsis:

When eleven-year-old Georgie befriends an eccentric retired scientist, she becomes the latest test subject for a thrilling new experiment: a virtual-reality 3D version of the future.

But then a deadly disease threatens the life of every dog in the country and Georgie’s beloved dog, Mr Mash, gets sick. And that’s only the start of her troubles.

Soon, Georgie and Mr Mash must embark on a desperate quest: to save every dog on earth, and maybe even all of humanity… without actually leaving the room.

Review:

This book was so brilliant I devoured it in one sitting!

A mix of adventure and science fiction, The Dog Who Saved The World follows eleven-year-old Georgie as she sets off on a quest to save her beloved dog, Mr Mash from a terrible fate. For a deadly disease is sweeping across the world, a danger to dogs and humans alike, and now humanity’s only hopes lies in finding a cure that does not yet exist… unless like Georgie, you happen to know a mad-scientist who has a prototype, glitch-ridden time machine… what could possibly go wrong?

I’m not usually a fan of time travel stories, but I loved everything about this one. With just a pinch of imagination, Ross Welford made the idea of jumping to the future seem very possible, without going into great depth about the actual mechanics of it all. Plus the idea of a future with no dogs in it really tugged at my heartstrings, and with such high stakes I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 

The main characters, Georgie and her best friend, Ramzy are such a fun pair. Their friendship has such solid touchstones of trust and respect, despite the utter difference in their upbringings. Then there is Dr Pretorious, the mad genius behind it all. Her humour really helped level out some of the more serious elements in the story and her personality is so huge it lights up every page. 

However all the secondary characters each have their own zing about them. From crazy aunts, to moody older brothers, sweet vicars and sharp tongued police. I adore that every character (be they two legged or four) gets their own distinct voice. 

When it came to the plot though, Ross Welford is a master story teller. Between the layers of heart pounding, tear spiking and edge-of-your-seat fiction, the author weaves many sensitive issues into his work. However he presents everything in a relatable, child friendly way without pushing any opinions onto the reader. It’s inspiring how he can open your mind to world, making you consider all the people and animals that share this planet with us and the problems others face. Even without the awesome writing I would applaud him for this alone!

All in all, Ross Welford is one on my favourite, auto buy authors for a reason. Not only are his books all stand alone reads, but each one is set in the North-East of England (In and around the towns I was actually born and raised, winning him extra points with me!). 

His latest book, The Dog Who Saved The World was yet another gripping read full of fun, adventure and futuristic spark! An easy 5 Stars!

Chat with me

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

Monday, 6 May 2019

Rumblestar - Book Review


Rumblestar - Book review

Abi Elphinstone
MG Fantasy
UK Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Other Books:

The Night Spinner
Sky Song 
Winter Magic


Synopsis:

Eleven-year-old Casper Tock hates risks, is allergic to adventures and shudders at the thought of unpredictable events. So, it comes as a nasty shock to him when he accidentally stumbles into Rumblestar, an Unmapped Kingdom full of magical beasts.

All Casper wants is to find a way home, but Rumblestar is in trouble. An evil harpy called Morg is sending her followers, the Midnights, into the kingdom to wreak havoc and pave the way for her to steal the Unmapped magic for herself. But Casper cannot turn a blind eye because the future of his own world, he discovers, is bound up with that of the Unmapped Kingdoms.

And so, together with Utterly Thankless, a girl who hates rules and is allergic to behaving, and her miniature dragon, Arlo, Casper embarks upon an adventure full of cloud giants, storm ogres and drizzle hags. Can he, Utterly and Arlo, the unlikeliest of heroes, save the Unmapped Kingdoms and our world from the clutches of Morg and her Midnights?

Review:

From the beginning I have been a huge fan of Abi Elphinstone’s stories but RUMBLESTAR is her best book yet! … Although I’m sure I said the same thing about her last release, however this authors writing just keeps getting better.

RUMBLESTAR follows Casper, a list-making, time-keeping, rule-obeying boy who suddenly finds him thrust into a magical world where nothing is neat or orderly. All he wants is to return home, and to do that his only hope lies in teaming up with Utterly Thankless, a wilful girl with a penchant for getting into trouble alongside her tiny dragon, Arlo.

Together the trio are forced on an adventure to protect their worlds from an evil harpy and her army of Midnights. Armed with only their wits and a well-stocked canoe, they must face down magical beings, navigate impossible weather and decipher the most-tricksy of riddles if they are to succeed. Yet the Harpy is cunning, and she will do anything to stop Casper and his friends from disrupting her plans!

To say it simply - this book was amazing! Imagination and creativity at its finest, these pages hold a might of magic and brilliance, bringing to life a fantastical world full of unique characters.

I loved both Casper and Utterly who are total opposites in every way. Watching their friendship grow was heartwarming, and I thought they balanced out each other’s strengths and weaknesses perfectly. And for everything else there was Arlo, the cutest, cleverest dragon in all of Rumblestar.  

However all the characters in this book were well thought out and added extra humour or malice to the story. Definite shout out to the trolls, cloud giants and Zip, the best hot air balloon ever made… I hope we see all these characters again soon!

The plot is also very fast paced. Jumping for problem to problem, the author pushes the characters to be brave and find the strength to battle onward. The story is also centred strongly on the bonds of friendship and trust, and overall I thought everything was excellent. I simply cannot praise this book enough. 

Smooth and utterly satisfying! An easy 5 star read!

Chat with me

I'm a huge fan of MG fantasy and am always looking for more books, would love if you could recommend me some in the comments below!

Friday, 3 May 2019

The Hazel Wood - Book Review


The Hazel Wood - Book Review
Melissa Albert
YA Contemporary Fantasy 
UK PUBLISHER: Penguin

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate - The Hazel Wood - Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. 

Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to The Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began…

Book Review:

For a debut book, I think The Hazel Wood was an outstanding read and I’m only sorry I didn't pick it up sooner. Dark and delicious, it pulls the reader into a real-life world that becomes increasing warped and twisted as the realm of fairytales sneak in. 

The story centres around seventeen-year-old Alice who has spent her entire life on the road, running from something her mum refuses to name. But when Alice’s mum is stolen away, Alice will pay any price to get her back. But when her search leads her to the The Hazel Wood, the hidden estate where her grandmother - famous author of a book of obscure fairytales - chose to reside, Alice discovers the true reason her life has been shadowed by strange incidents. Because maybe her grandmothers stories weren't so made up after all….

This is a delicious, and beautifully constructed book. Admittedly it did creep me out, but in a good way. Its the kind of story that hooks you, even as it gives you chills, but you’ll keep on reading in the hope something good will happen to chase those chills away.

It has a very layered plot. And by this I mean a real crows nest of plot threads and sharp maze turns that will keep you guessing all the way through. Not only did this make the story hard to predict, but even where guesses could be made, every storyline had its own unique twist.

Actually this shadowy storytelling reminded me a lot of Holly Black’s Tithe series, only better. Not only is THE HAZEL WOOD a book that contains stories within stories, but the main character herself is extremely complex.

While not a particularly likeable person, Alice is a compelling protagonist and I adored all the pop-culture references she would make. Normally I don't like when authors do this, but in this story it just helped make Alice so much more real, and it separated her from the otherworld of the fairytale. 

But be warned, the fairytales in this story aren't the kind that come with happy endings. Creepy, gruesome, yet lyrical and vivid with imagery, they haunt the mind long after you step away from the story. Which yes, did make it a bit hard to sleep later that night. 

However this book was so beautifully written. I am very excited for the second instalment of this series which with release in the autumn of 2019. I can’t wait to see what the author, Melissa Albert will do next.

The Hazel Wood is a 5 star read!

Chat with me

Have any of you read this book? Would love to know you're thoughts on this one, were you as creeped out as I was?


Sunday, 10 February 2019

A Pinch of Magic - Book Review


A Pinch of Magic - Book Review
Michelle Harrison
MG Fantasy
UK Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Other Books:
The Thirteen Treasures Trilogy

Synopsis:

Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.
Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.
Will they be enough to break the curse?
Or will they be led deeper into danger?

Review:

A PINCH OF MAGIC was a sweet read that I loved from start to finish. Focusing hard on sisterly friendship, this story is packed with so much adventure that you just won't be able to stop turning the pages. 

The book follows three sisters, Fliss, Betty and Charlie, as they rush to break an ancient curse that keeps their family confined to their island home. Yet when their plans to end the spell only make it worse, they find themselves in a race to save their own lives. Now they begin a dangerous journey, one that will lead them to escaped convicts, magical objects, and dark family truths. But can they break free before the clock strikes midnight… or before their grandmother finds out what they’ve done?

One of things I loved most about this book was that it contained a story within a story, and more than one set of characters lives were at stake. It kept me in a constant state of curiosity as the secondary tale is scattered like breadcrumbs through out the book, containing a mystery I was dying to solve. 

However the story mostly unfolds via the middle sister, Betty’s perspective. She is the most independent of the siblings, while the oldest, Fliss - despite her flirtations - is the meeker of the three. Charlie, the youngest is absolutely adorable! A total tom boy character. What really caught my attention about these sisters - aside from the strong bond they shared - was that I think all readers will find something relatable in all of them.

However the girls’ grandmother is one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a long time. She is no sweet little old lady - but a tough woman who enjoys a drink, a smoke, and will beat down anyone who dares harm her precious granddaughters. I love that she owns a pub where the girls all help out. 

Then there was the idea of magic and the three gifts given to help the sisters on their quest. I love what each unique object does, and I found it realistic that while magical, each item had its limits. Along with the world building and setting - all the place names are suitably gloomy and fairytale like - I was just fully absorbed into this world.

The ending though - while complete - left a few things open. Enough to leave me curious as to what happened to two characters in particular, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a sequel!

Regardless, I cant wait to see what Michelle Harrison writes next. She is one of my auto-buy authors. I have adored all her books to date and A PINCH OF MAGIC was no exception. This author has such an old school, story-by-the-fire voice that she just draws you into these magical worlds… and doesn't let go!

 A magical journey that tugged the heartstrings, A PINCH OF MAGIC is a 5 star read!

Have you read this book? Would love to know your thoughts in the comments :)

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Spellslinger - Book Review


Spellingslinger - Book Review
Sebastien De Castell
YA Fantasy
(Spellslinger #1)
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books

Synopsis:

There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to preform the high magic that defines our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday when I learned I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.

Magic is a con game.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage’s duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spell caster. There’s just one problem: his magic is gone. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argoisi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She’s difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen’s only hope…

Review:

I have fallen in love with this series, and my only regret is not reading it sooner. How was I to know that I needed a fantastical western with a talking squirrel-cat in my life? And trust me when I say you need it to! This was such a fun read and as I write this I’m already halfway through book three and am even more in love with the story.

Spellslinger follows Kellen, an aspiring mage fast approaching his sixteenth birthday and the trials that will determine his future path. But unlike his classmates, Kellen's magic just won’t spark. Now with time running out, Kellen must resort to cunning tricks to deceive his way through the trials… or risk falling into a life of servitude. But magic darker than he ever dreamed is at work, and kellen’s is about to discover, his noble people may not be so grand and noble after all…

I am in love with Kellen. He is such an unfortunate character and everything in his life goes from bad to worse. Each time I prayed and hoped for some magical miracle (it is a fantasy after all) none ever arrived. Even Kellen’s victories get shadowed by ominous news, and following Kellen from one disaster to the next was riveting. I simply could not put this book down! 

At heart Kellen is just a normal guy, and the idea to have this normal guy head a fantasy story is just brilliant. Kellen is literally the underdog, written as the hero and wow does it work well. His suffering, his triumphs, they all add together to make you love Kellen more and more. 

I also adored the main cast of characters - but I’m sure everyone’s favourite will be Reichi, the talking squirrel cat. He threw in a dose of much need humour - plus plenty of drama - from the moment he entered the story. Without doubt he gets the best dialog and I like how his tough thinking balances out Kellen’s timidness. 

Then there is Ferius, another tough character who’s backstory I can’t wait to discover. And her choice of weapon… steel edged cards! She is a woman not to be messed with!

Sadly though I found the secondary characters somewhat lacking in, well… character. Aside from fancy names that confused me (at times I really couldn't keep straight the bad guy or his cronies) there was very little else to distinguish them. And while I enjoyed the magic system (Kellen, I think, explains it really well) I wish the world building had a bit more depth. 

Otherwise the book has very little romance - although the pinch that’s in there is remarkably sweet. However this wasn't a deal breaker for me as Kellen did indeed have much bigger problems than worrying about his love life. 

All in all though I really liked this story. It just sucked me in and wouldn't let go until I had turned the last page and I instantly needed to jump into book 2, then 3 with 4 soon to follow :)

4.5 Stars!

Monday, 22 October 2018

Blackbird - Book Review


Blackbird - Book Review
N.D Gomes
YA Mystery 
UK Publisher: HQ Young Adult

Synopsis:

My name is Alex. I am fifteen years old, and I don’t know where my sister is. Or if she will ever come back. 

On New Year’s Eve 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead. The same day Olivia McCarthy went missing from a small coastal village in Orkney.

Now her younger sister Alex is on a mission to find out just what happened to Olivia. But does she really want to know all the answers?

Review:

This is a quick paced thriller, and one that I enjoyed despite both the synopsis and opening lines being misleading.

 “On New Year’s Eve 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead.” I know writing craft books urge writers to pull in readers from the get go, but while certainly intriguing, the blackbirds are never mentioned again and are in no way connected to the story. Therefore, if you were expecting a paranormal, witchy sort of read, think again. This book is a straight up thriller - and a good one - if you don’t let unmet expectations spoil it for you. 

Taking away the blackbirds, the story follows fifteen year old Alex and the search for her missing older sister, Olivia. As you can see, not such a snappy sounding read after all, but still one I enjoyed. 

The book brings with it a huge emotional impact. The reader is taken through the devastation of loss and sees how it rips through a once happy family, and the stages of grief, depression and solitude that every family member experiences. I thought each element was done very well, and I found myself following along with the family’s ever growing urgency for answers. 

The reader is also given snippets of Olivia’s view point, just a few scenes here and there which I adored. I liked getting to know Olivia’s character and seeing things from her point of view.

I found the detectives backstory a little heartbreaking but liked how it added another layer to the story. I also love how his first name is held back until the very end, and the friendship he and Alex cultivate is particularly moving. Their final scene together really choked me up, but made me smile.

However in terms of plot, the story was fairly predicable. Despite a few red-herrings, one scene about midway through the book cemented the culprit behind it all, and the ending, when it came, was swift and efficient. This really was a fast read and I devoured it in one sitting.

All in all, a nice book for a rainy afternoon. 3 stars!

What are your thoughts? Have any of you read this book? And isn't that cover gorgeous! 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

All the Bookish Things I'm Loving - 2018 Edition


While looking for crabs, my friends stumbled onto this beautiful creature on a beach in Bali ... meanwhile I was house sitting their cat. Just wanted to share as I think its one of the most beautiful pictures I've seen in ages!

All the Book Things I’m Loving 

(2018 edition)

Hey lovely people! It’s been a very long time and what feels like an even longer “no see” since I checked in with the blogging world. 

I would like to say that I’ve been off doing amazing, writer-like things, or travelling the world, but honesty, not so much. 

Instead I’ve been pretty focused on my job and fighting for all the overtime I can get. I gave myself some pretty big financial goals this year and while they are going successfully, everything else I love sort of went on hold (So she says, as if her Goodreads doesn't show 73 books read so far this year!) :P

However book blogging is something I’ve really missed. Its such an awesome community to be a part of and more than anything - I NEED more people in my life with which to gush over pretty covers and awesome stories with :) 

Which is a very long winded way of saying - “Hey guys, I’m back!”

But despite my four measly posts this year, I have found/read a few things I want to share with you all. So in no particular order, here they are :)




Writing Craft books

I’m still plodding away at the second draft of my MG Fantasy (plod, plod, plod) and here are some of the books that have been a big help to me recently:

  • Anything by JAMES SCOTT BELL - "Just Write" is my favourite so far but every book I’ve read by him has been helpful.

  • THE MILE HIGH WORDCOUNT by Rick Smith - really useful exercises to help up your word counts. Works well if you read it alongside Chris Fox’s 5000 WORDS PER HOUR. I sort of mish-mashed the two methods and it really boosted my productivity.

  • THE PROCRASTINATION EQUATION by Piers Steel - while not directly writing related, I found this book insightful. It made me question how I approach writing and helped me build good habits.

Another one I want to shout out isn't a book, but any aspiring writer should definitely check out Susan Dennard's website. It has the best writing advice and she is so transparent about the industry. This woman is the best! And if you do find her advice useful, please consider buying her a coffee or two :)



Young Adult Books

I’ve read quite a lot of books this year, but these are the ones that stood out the most for me. Hopefully some reviews will follow soon :)

  • A GENTLEMANS GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzie Lee

  • HERO AT THE FALL by Alwyn Hamilton. This was book 3 and trust me, you need this trilogy in your life!

  • AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao - I think I loved this so much because I have lived in China almost six years. I just love how the main characters parents were portrayed as its so spot to what I've experienced with traditional Chinese beliefs and culture!

  • THE SPELLSLINGER SERIES by Sebastian De Castell. The characters in this book are just amazing. I fell in love with this series so hard that be warned, I will be mentioning it again with many fan-girl squeals!

  • STARFISH by AKEMI DAWN BOWMAN - not sure what it was, but something about this book had me utterly gripped! Also the best representation of social anxiety I’ve ever seen!



Middle Grade Books

I think because I’m trying to write a MG, I’ve been reading more of these books than I usually would. However MG can be so brilliant and I really wish more people would give them a try!

  • PERIL IN PARIS by Katherine Woodfine. This is a spin off to her SINCLAIR’S MYSTERIES and I love these books so so much. If you haven't read them already, please go start with THE CLOCKWORK SPARROW!

  • MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE SERIES by Robin Stevens. More murder mystery, but I love the cast of diverse characters and the mysteries themselves are pretty hard to work out. There is always some kind of twist!

  • THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON HEART by Stephanie Burgis. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and I loved it. Please go read A DRAGON WITH A CHOCOLATE HEART first though - only then can you truly appreciate the characters. 

  • THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS CLUB by Alex Bell. Such an awesome adventure.

And finally...

THE BEST PODCAST EVER!

I've followed 88 CUPS OF TEA for a long time, but in my opinion its still the best! Interviews with authors such Sarah J. Maas, V.E Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, Leigh Bardugo and many many more. 

The show's host, Yin Chang, asks great questions and really goes into the details of what goes on behind the scenes with writing life. 

Inspirational and fun, I discovered so many new books from this podcast. It also helps remind me that everyones road to publication is different.

However I'm always on the look out for podcasts similar to 88 Cups of Tea. If you have any recommendations please let me know :)


TALK WITH ME

So how is the bookish world for the rest of you? Any amazing story gems you want to share? What about gold nugget releases you can’t wait for? 

I’ve sincerely missed talking with you all so please let me know what’s been happening in the months I've been silent.

Otherwise speak to you all soon!