Saturday, 12 September 2015

Poppy - Book Review

Poppy - Book Review
Mary Hooper
YA Historical
Poppy Book #1
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books


England, 1914, Poppy is fifteen, beautiful and clever, but society has already carved out her destiny. There’s no question of her attending grammar school - it’s too expensive and unsuitable for a girl. Instead, Poppy will become a servant at the big house. And she’ll keep out of trouble.

But Poppy’s life is about to be thrown dramatically off course. The first reason is love - with someone forbidden, who could never, ever marry a girl like her. The second reason is war. Nothing could have prepared her for that. As she experiences what people are capable of - the best of humanity and the very worst - Poppy will find an unexpected freedom and discover how to be truly her own person.


I always enjoy Mary Hooper’s books. They are generally short, read-in-a-day sort of stories that have strong, independent heroines and lots of historical facts concealed within their pages. Poppy was no exception and yet another really enjoyable read.

Set during the first world war, the story is told from the view point of fifteen-year-old Poppy Pearson. A simple parlour maid, her life is changed forever when the rich family she works for have their house requisitioned for use as a hospital. Deciding to seek her future elsewhere, Poppy, with the support of an old teacher, joins the up to the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and soon finds herself nursing wounded men at one of the biggest medical facilities in England.

Here she learns to deal with and care for the many thousands of men wounded in action. Lost limbs, broken faces and most of all, crushed spirits, one by one, Poppy learns to assist them all. But fear continues to dwell in her heart for her brother, fighting on the frontline. For as if facing bullets and bombs was not enough, she know’s he is a coward at heart and may do something stupid if it would get him out of the war… 

But Poppy is also distracted by the charming Officer DeVere. After a couple of romantic meetings, Poppy knows she is in love, but the gentry are still off limits to girls like her, but with social barriers crumbling left right and centre, she can only hope DeVere will choose to defy his family's wishes and pick her. But Devere has secrets of his own, and with the war raging no one knows who will live and who will die…

One thing I always love with Mary Hooper’s novels is how much I learn, and this book was bursting with historical detail. Things from the giving of white feathers to cowardly men who avoided fighting for their country, to the tin-nose shops where plastic surgery began, taking form in the shapes of new faces for wounded soldiers. 

The characters are also well written. Friendships develop throughout the book and I was amused when - since all the VADs are referred to by last name - Poppy failed to remember the first name of girl with whom she considered herself a close friend and confidant. 

Also the descriptions in this book really immerses you into a World War setting. Through Poppy’s eyes the readers sees everything, from the unity of the people to support the soldiers, the tears shed by those who mourn, the morbid details of the newspapers… the joint effort to keep smiling in a hopeless situation. However the descriptions are tastefully done and perfect to engage the imagination of younger YA readers without giving them nightmares. Instead, this book will offer them a heart-moving insight into life during the war.

I only have two smalls criticisms of this story. The first being that I kept holding my breath, waiting for something irreversibly bad to happen - although I was very much relieved when it didn’t. However I felt Poppy was lucky that most of the bad events happened to people she only knew vaguely. While this was good for Poppy, I didn't come to love her in quite the same way as some of Mary Hooper’s other heroines who suffered more heartache. 

Also I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, however I didn't realise there was a second book, Poppy in the Field. I now plan to get my hands on that as soon as possible to continue the story and find out what is next in store for Poppy. 

All in all, a very nice story. 3.5 stars!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Bitter Kingdom - Book Review

The Bitter Kingdom - Book Review
Rae Carson
YA Fantasy
Book #3 of the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy
UK Publisher: Gollanzc

Elisa is a fugitive.

Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa ne Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three loyal companions deep into the enemy’s kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal  magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.

But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for. 

Even of those who hate her most.


From beginning to end, this series has been amazing and I’ve loved every page of Elisa’s journey. The Bitter Kingdom brought about a spectacular conclusion to the trilogy and I can’t wait to see what else Rae Carson will throw at us with her next book. She is definitely an author to watch out for.

With her country on the brink of civil war, and her councillors conspiring against, Elisa is forced to flee her own city and head into the realms of the enemy. For they have stolen the man she loves, and Elisa will sacrifice everything she is to get her beloved Hector back, for only with him at her side can she have any hope of saving both her country and her crown. 

But Elisa is more than she seems, she is Gods chosen champion. Blessed with a Godstone imbedded in her navel, she is tasked to carry out a sacred duty that comes before all else, she only hopes that by ending the war, her task will be complete. But God, it seems, has other plans…

I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a trilogy quite so much. Elisa’s journey has been truly enrapturing. Through the series we have seen her evolve from an uncertain bride to a rebellious Queen. Facing the hardships of war, death and destruction, she has conquered her fears and at last emerged triumphant. A truly remarkable heroine.

However all of the characters are unique and contribute to the story in some big way. Hector, Storm, Mara, they all deserve an honourable mention. These characters made me laugh, made my heart ache and now the book is finished, I almost feel like I’ve said goodbye to very dear friends.  The characters played a huge huge part in making this book awesome for me and I’m glad most of them got happy endings.

In regards to the romance, I thought the scenes between Hector and Elisa were very well done. Throughout the three books their relationship bloomed slowly, based on a foundation of trust, loyalty and the kind of connection that can only be formed from the trials and suffering these two faced together. They make an excellent pair and after everything they’ve been through, I feel like they truly deserve each other.

In terms of plot, this story never has a dull moment. Moving from one catastrophe to the next, the characters are thrown into deadly situations which not everyone emerges from. A lot of the story is told while the characters are travelling, and the sense of underlying urgency in the beginning kept me turning pages long after I should have been asleep. A really gripping read.

So overall, I give this book - and the trilogy as a whole, 5 stars! This is definitely a series that will forever have a place on my bookshelves. A brilliant piece of YA fantasy. In you haven't already, I wholly recommend you pick up the first book, A Girl of Fire and Thorns.

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Secret Fire - Book Review

The Secret Fire - Book Review
C.J. Daugherty & Carina Rozenfeld
YA Urban Fantasy
The Secret Fire book #1
UK Publisher: Atom


French teen Sacha Winters can’t die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on Earth who can save Sacha.

There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world?


This book has some incredible writing and I enjoyed each and every page of it. Rather than jumping us straight into the action, the authors took their time setting up the story, allowing the reader to get to know the characters and their histories bit by bit. While this may put off some readers, I found it really interesting and liked the pace in which everything flowed. I can’t wait for the next book, for I think that’s where the story will truly come alive.

Sacha Winters cannot die. No matter what gruesome assaults he puts his body through, he continues to walk away each and every time, yet his days to live are numbered. For generations, every first born son within his family dies upon their eighteenth birthday, and Sacha’s is only 7 weeks away. Determined to find away to prolong his life, Sacha begins to research into his family’s history, and what he discovers, is witches!

Taylor Montclair is an average English girl with an above average intellect. Yet when she starts exploding sound systems, wiping memories and tossing her boyfriend around like he’s confetti, she begins to understand there is more to her family than meets the eye. But as she begins to learn about her newfound powers, she also finds herself the target of dark magic.

For both Sacha and Taylor are part of a greater prophecy - one set to bring about death and destruction to the world around them. Only together can they hope to defeat the evil that plagues them, but evil is determined to keep the two from meeting. And what hope do Sacha and Taylor have when they are strangers who live hundreds of miles apart…

There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. First, as main characters, Sacha and Taylor both have very distinct voices and completely different lives. Watching them cope with their own troubles was interesting, and normally I’m skeptical of books when they try to bring two people together via email… however in this case I really think it worked. Everything read very naturally and plausibly.

The other characters were also interesting, particularly Louisa and Taylor’s grandfather. Louisa added just the perfect touch of humour and sarcasm while Taylor’s grandfather brought about the more serious elements. However the bad guys I totally loved. They strongly reminded me of “The gentleman” from Buffy, and they read especially eery and were described very well. 

I also liked that the book has no romance in it, however it sets up for a potential romance in the next book. Why I like this is because, one, I don't think there was time for romance to spark given everything that was happening. And two, I really love that the authors are giving the characters time to get to know each other first, instead of having them fall instantly in love. Both huge respect and major points to the authors for doing that!

In terms of plot the story is quite intricate. Everything is connected in one way or another and while the pacing of the book is rather slow, I didn't have a problem with it. All the information is given out in trickles that I think, spike just enough interest to keep you turning the pages. But the action picks up a bit more towards the end of the book, and I was sad when I turned the last page. I felt like the story was only just starting to unfold so I’m looking forward to seeing how things will play out in book two, since a lot of loose ends were left hanging. Great ending!

I think readers who enjoy world building and getting to know the characters before being plunged into the story will really enjoy this book. I personally really liked it and can’t wait for more. 4 stars!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

As White As Snow - Book Review

As White as Snow - Book Review
Salla Simukka
YA Mystery
(Lumikki Andersson Book #2)
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books


Lumikki Andersson may be innocent, but she’s no Snow White…

Three and a half months have passed since Lumikki Andersson was left for dead in a snowdrift - a bullet wound in her thigh and frostbite creeping into her skin. But the scorchingly hot streets of Prague in summer provide a welcome contrast to that terrifying time, and now Lumikki just wants to move on - forget the events of the past year, forget about the Polar Bear’s crime ring - and escape her parents oppressive concern… she’s alone again, which is just how she likes it.

But Lumikki’s peaceful solitude is about to be shattered. She is approached on the street by a nervous young woman, who, unbelievably, thinks she might be Lumikki’s long lost sister. Lumikki is unconvinced - although Lenka’s story seems to ring horrifyingly true - but there is something weird about her. Something jumpy and suspicious. 

Turns out Lumikki is right to be wary, as Lenka is part of a dangerous religious cult who believe they are the descendants of christ - and that Lumikki is one of them, and must be martyred alongside them. On the run for her life again, Lumikki must once more draw all of her powers of resolve and strength if she is to survive…


Despite being quite short for a YA novel, I really enjoyed this story. The plot was intriguing  and the main character, Lummiki, once again managed to capture me with her bad-ass toughness and logical view of the world. However , compared to the first book in the series, As Red As Blood, I did feel there was less action in this story, with some parts of the plot not as fleshed out as they could have been. However,  it was still a nice book to while away a long train ride.

While the first book began in the cold of winter, this second book starts in the oppressive heat of summer. Venturing to Prague for a holiday, Lumikki wants a few weeks to herself, away from her concerned  parents and the new found fame that arose after she helped uncover a local crime-circle.

But mystery seems to follow Lumikki wherever she goes, and no sooner does she arrive in Prague when she is approached by a young woman claiming to be her half-sister. And as much as Lumikki wants to deny the claim, she suddenly finds herself plagued with nightmares that just maybe, are long suppressed memories from her childhood. 

But Lenka is no ordinary girl, and suddenly Lumikki finds herself forced to flee for her life when she inadvertently uncovers a cult of religious fanatics… fanatics who wish to go out with a bang! And they plan on taking Lumikki and her new half-sister with them…

What originally captured me with these books was Lumikki’s character. After being extensively bullied as a child, she has grown up tough and independent, yet so emotionally scarred that she detests physical contact with strangers and is quite the loner. However she is still compassionate enough to help people in trouble, and so openminded that she often sees things that others would pass over.

While parts of her past are still only hinted at, this book saw quite a few things revealed through a series of flashbacks. There is no romance in this story, yet we finally discover more about the person who broke Lumikki’s heart last summer, and I’m really hoping they will make an appearance in the next book. Also Lumikki’s childhood remains a mystery - and although we have been give more parts to that puzzle - the picture is still not clear enough to see. A great way to assure that I will be reading the next book!

I also really enjoy Salla Simukka’s writing. Its vivid, while also being direct and to the point. The description is great and the suspense is usually high. Mainly told in Lumikki’s POV, a couple of scenes are written from the POV of mystery people and that certainly keeps the reader intrigued and guessing. However I did feel like the book finished a bit suddenly, and as I said before, parts of the plot could have been expanded on and given us a bit more meat to chew on, so to speak.

Ultimately though I enjoyed this story - probably more than I did the first which is unusual for me. However I now know more about Lumikki, and because I read this book more for the main character than anything else, that’s probably why As White As Snow appealed to me more. 

Overall, the series has really captured my attention. 3.5 Stars!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Firewalker - Book Review

Firewalker - Book Review
Josephine Angelini
YA Fantasy
Book #2 in the Worldwalker Trilogy
UK Publisher: Macmillan children books


“You think I’m a monster by choice, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified.”

Lily is back in her own universe, and she’s ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fuelled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves …


Firewalker is the second novel in Josephine Angelini’s Worldwalker trilogy. Packed with emotions, backstory and a few new surprises, it was a most enjoyable read. However as much as I liked this sequel, it didn't wow in quite the same way as the first book, Trial by Fire.

Picking up within minutes of where the last book left off, this book sees Lily returned back to her world. Yet her other self, Lillian, still resides in the alternate reality of New Salem, and she is desperate to have Lily return. Even if it means revealing a truth that will tear Lily and Rowan apart.

Yet as Lillian begins to share the her own memories with Lily, Lily finally begins to understand that Lillian may not be as evil as she first appears. In fact- she is just trying to prevent the demise of her own world, and for that she desperately needs Lily’s help.

But Lily cannot help Lillian on her own, but the question remains, just how much is Lily willing to sacrifice for a world that is not her own? And which of her friends will make it through the war with the Woven alive?

Despite a few nit-pickings, I ultimately enjoyed this book. Firewalker sees the return of some old characters, who add a great emotional depth to the story, and its also nice to see Lily expanding her circle of friends. However while their quick acceptance of Lily’s situation seemed a little unnatural, its didn't take away my enjoyment of the plot.

Yet while the plot is slower paced, we finally get to learn more about Lillian’s character through a series of flashbacks and shared memories. I really enjoyed this backstory as Lillian is somewhat of an enigma, and the more I learn about her the more interesting she becomes. 

Lillian also helps Lily grow as character, for while Lily doesn't necessarily agree with the choices Lillian has made, Lily at least now understands the reasons behind Lillian's seemingly ruthless decisions. Not only does this allow Lily enough information to make her own choices, but she is smart enough to learn from Lillian’s mistakes.

The romance in this book also becomes more complicated. Lily becomes forced to keep secrets that of course, lead to conflict between her and Rowan. And while Lily’s old flame Tristan is in the story, it was a little heartbreaking to see how the dynamics of their friendship have changed after Lily’s time in the other world. While Tristan may have been a jerk in the previous book, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him in this one. 

Overall a great read! With such a cliffhanger of an ending leaving me thirsting for more, I can’t wait to get my hands on the last book! 4 stars!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Hide and Seek - Book Review

Hide and Seek - Book Review
Jane Casey
YA Mystery 
Book #3 in the Jess Tennant series
UK Publisher: Corgi Children’s


Jess Tennant’s classmate is kidnapped right before the Christmas holiday in this third novel in Jane Casey’s brilliant YA mystery series.

It’s Christmas in Port Sentinel, the tiny English town where Jess Tennant has been living for more than a year now. She wasn't sure how she felt about moving away from London when her mom dragged her to Port Sentinel right before the beginning of high school, but even Jess has to admit the town has completely outdone itself for the holidays. There’s a Christmas market complete with mini ice-rink, and fairy lights decorate the bare trees all over town.

For one of Jess’s classmates, though, the Christmas season is anything but magical. She’s been kidnapped and is being held in a dilapidated cottage near a deserted beach. And Jess might be the only one who can figure out where she is in time to rescue her.

Hide and Seek is another delightful clever young adult mystery from beloved author, Jane Casey.


When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was actually book 3 of a series. However Jane Casey is a great writer and although I was new to the character of Jess Tennant and her world, I had no trouble understanding the story. It seems each book is written with a standalone mystery and any important events that happened in previous books are always rehashed through the main characters thoughts. It’s very nicely done.

In this book Jess investigates into the disappearance of one of her classmates, Gilly. But with only a few cryptic clues from Gilly’s diary - Jess doesn't have much to go on. With her boyfriends father, Police detective Dan Henderson hassling her to stop interfering, Jess knows she should just leave the investigation to the police. But after being one of the last people to see Gilly, Jess can’t help but want to help. Yet her curiosity may just cost Jess and her friends their lives, because Jess never considers that just maybe, Gilly doesn't want to be found…

I really enjoyed this book. It has an emotional depth to it, with so many characters connected together through secrets, history, lies and deeds best forgotten. So while the mystery of Gilly’s disappearance is  still the main plot, their are so many sub-plots branching out in and around Jess character that you feel she is constantly being plagued with other peoples problems.

Not only does Jess devote herself to looking for Gilly, but she must deal with untangling the web of chaos all the secondary characters cause her through their interwoven lives and interactions. Its been a long time since I read a book where each of the characters comes with their own story and I think this alone really show cases Jane Casey’s talent as a writer.

I also liked the subtle ways that Jess manages to gather evidence about Gilly’s disappearance - all while being scolded by the police each time she is caught interfering. I felt this gave the story credibility with its realism, as she never did anything out of the realms of possibility for a teenage girl detective. 

To be honest, my only criticism of this book is the mystery itself. I actually worked out who the culprit was a couple of chapters in, however I was intrigued by Jess’ life and kept reading to see if I was right. I was. However the ending had a nice little twist that I didn't predict, yet had the mystery been more of a mystery, then I probably would have rated this book higher. 

Having said that I am definitely intrigued to read more by this author and plan to check out the earlier books in the Jess Tenannt series. Nice read! 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Blackthorn Key - Book Review

The Blackthorn Key - Book Review
Kevin Stands
MG Historical
Book #1 in The Blackthorn Series
UK Publisher: Puffin

London 1655. Fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn. In Blackthorn’s shop, Christopher learns the delicate secrets of transforming simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions and weapons. His beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand - instilling him with confidence and independence that prove increasingly vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on the most learned men in London.

The murders are growing closer and closer to home and soon Christopher is torn from the shop with only a page of cryptic clues from his master and the unambiguous warning: Tell no one!

Helped by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must decipher his master’s clues, following a trail of deceit towards an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart. 


A fantastic and brilliant MG read! Christopher’s character charmed me from the start with his curious nature, a nature that always seems to get both him and his best friend into trouble. This book is a really great start to what promises to be a very enjoyable new series.

Apprenticed to a master apothecary, Christopher spends his days learning the delicate art of brewing medicines, mixing potions and experimenting with his masters more powerful and dangerous formulas. But when a cult begins killing off other apothecaries throughout London, it is only a matter of time before they find their way to Christopher’s door.

Now accused of a crime he didn't commit, Christopher’s learning is really put to the test. Using his skills to hide himself within the streets of London, he has only the help of his best friend and a page of cryptic clues to help him prove his innocence. 

But can he crack the clues and follow the trail  his master left for him before its too late? Yet as each piece of the puzzle falls into place, Christopher finds himself in the centre of more trouble, as clue by clue, he uncovers a secret that could change the course of the future. For the power to wield death is now in Christopher's hands…

I really enjoyed this story. Christopher is a fun and resourceful character who faced trial after trial with every chapter. I’m curious to learn more about his past, something that I hope will be explored more in the next book, however the beauty with this first book was that with every new catastrophe, Christopher’s future looked more and more uncertain. It is a story that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls alike.
The plot is fast paced and full of historical fact and things of interest - I love learning when it doesn't feel like learning - and I think the author did well in keeping true to the time period. Also the book held plenty of mystery. With indecipherable clues, secret societies, hidden passages and bodies turning up left right and centre, this books certainly keeps you on your toes.

My only criticism was the ending. While I enjoyed it, and certainly didn't see it coming, I was a little confused over how some parts came to be. But maybe its just me not connecting all the dots… However everything came to a satisfying conclusion and I will most definitely be reading the next book. 

Overall a gripping adventure that will leave you thirsting for more, I give The Blackthorn Key 4 stars!