Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Spindles End - Book Review

Spindles End – Book Review
Robin Mckinley
YA Fairytale Fantasy
The princess has been missing since she was a baby. And Rosie, an ordinary girl, is growing up in an unremarkable little village far away from the royal city.
Unremarkable, that is, in a land where magic is so common that it settles over everything like dust. But a fairy curse is the kind of magic nobody wants, because it always comes true. And Rosie cannot stay ordinary forever…
Robin Mckinley reweaves a classic fairytale sparkling with adventure and magic, some wonderful animals and birds and – of course – fairies, both good and bad.
A retelling of Sleeping Beauty, ‘Spindles End’ is an odd book in many respects. Written in a voice that is all narrative it took me awhile to get into, however even though it was heavily descriptive with very little dialogue I thought it had the perfect fairytale ring to it – So much so that I could picture myself sitting around a fire having someone read this book to me rather than actually reading it myself (Those who’ve read it will understand what I mean).
Also ‘Spindles End’ doesn’t really have a main character. Written into five parts it sort of follows the life of one character until about halfway through the book until Rosie is old enough to take over, from which point the story starts truly being about her. While some people may find this a little disjointed and I thought it worked rather well, giving plenty of back-story and allowing the underlying tension to build up slowly.
However that leads me to the writing style itself. As I mentioned earlier the story is heavily descriptive and honestly, at times incredibly random. For instance several pages could be devoted describing the customs of magic or the speech of animals and birds, or as in the opening chapters – the magic dust that gathers in tea pots. While interesting to read these pages don’t really progress the story any further and makes the book unravel at a very slow pace. (However as I discovered – this makes it perfect for long train journeys)
Yet I really liked how Mckinley used aspects of the original fairytale throughout the story, shaping and twisting them into her own moulds to create a more compelling read that kept me engrossed for hours. With lots of unexpected plot twists and again – much randomness – ‘Spindles End’ created a vivid magical world full of unique characters who were always doing the unexpected.
All of which led up to an ending that I never saw coming – at least not in the way I imagined – and closing the book I was left with that nice, satisfied feeling that always comes after finishing a good story. I must comment though that due to the heavy text and descriptions I don’t think that this book would be for everyone yet if you love unique retellings of fairytales, massive amounts of world building and much randomness that doesn’t always make sense (but is fun to try and work out), or are just wanting to read something a little different then this is a book for you.
Magical, old-worldly and all sorts of other things in-between, ‘Spindles End’ is a bed-time-story perfect for people of all ages and I’m looking forward to reading other works by Robin Mckinley, she is a truly talented author :)

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Most Improper Magick - Book Review

A Most Improper Magick – Book Review
Stephanie Burgis
Middle Grade Fantasy
9 – 12+


At twelve years old, any proper young lady should be sitting quietly at home practising her embroidery, learning French and keeping her opinions to herself.
But Kat Stephenson is no ordinary young lady.
Kat’s father may be a respectable vicar, but her late mother was a notorious witch, her brother has gambled the whole family into debt, and Kat herself is the newest target of an ancient and secretive magical order.
In this first thrilling instalment of ‘the unladylike adventures of Kat Stephenson’, Kat sets out to win her older sisters their true loves, battling highwaymen, practicing magic and breaking all of society’s rules along the way…


I must admit that when I first picked up ‘A most Improper Magick’ I had never heard of it before. In fact I just thought that it had a really nice cover and I only ever intended it be a light read to kill some time while I waited for my friend to finish her shift at the library.
 I never imagined how quickly I would get drawn into Kat’s world of magic and mayhem and an hour later I was completely engrossed!
I think Stephanie Burgis is a genius!  ‘A Most Improper Magick’ was extremely well written and although I may sound a little old fashioned, the phrase ‘it was simply a delightful’ seems to fit it perfectly. 

 Light-hearted with plenty of plot twists, Kat is a fantastic character. Funny and outspoken, this book is about her determination to save her family from both social and financial ruin, find her sisters love (even if she doesn’t really understand the point of a husband herself) , all while discovering how to use the powers left to her by a mother she has no memory of. All, while enduring the endless rules and etiquette enforced upon her by her stepmother and older sisters. 

Yet despite their determination to keep her out of trouble Kat constantly finds ways to break the tight fitting rules of society, all of which lead to her adventures with magick mirrors, secret orders and daring highwaymen.
Honestly this book was such a fantastic read I think it would be loved by people of all ages, but most especially young girls, tomboys and anyone with annoying older siblings! 5 stars :)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Red Riding Hood - Book Review

Red Riding Hood – Book Review
Sarah Blakely-Cartwright
YA Fairytale
Valerie's sister was beautiful, kind and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats faster for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.
After her sister's violent death, Vaerie's world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the wold has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them - it could be anyone in town.
It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the ony one who can hear the voice of the creature. The wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes... or everyone she loves will die.
After watching the movie I was really interested to read 'Red Riding hood' especially when I learned the unusual fact that the book was written as an adaption of the film, rather than the other way around.
Therefore, despite not being overly impressed with the film, the book captivated me right away and I really enjoyed the back-story the book provided on Valerie's and her sister Lucie's life. It had a slower build up which made the death of Valerie's sister that much more dramatic as she was a character that you had actually seen and cared about, rather than the movie's version of events in which her part was pretty much that of a dead girl.
Also the romance in the book blossomed much slower than is seen in the movie, adding a realism to it that made the book really enjoyable. Continually the relationships between all the characters felt deeper and there was more connection between the villagers, giving them a sense of unity that I felt the film had lacked.
However the story still left me disappointed. I felt that many of the plotlines were predictable (and not just because I had seen the film) however, the one answer that constantly eluded me was, who was the wolf? There were so many possibilities that I was just itching to know and in this respect I have to admire the author, Sarah Cartwright as even though I already knew from the movie who the wolf was, I found no clue of it in the story. Cartwright successfully kept the wolf's identity a secret up until the very last chapter. Which was fantastic except for one thing, the chapter wasn't there!
While I know this was done as a promotion to make people go and see the film, I still found it incredibly irritating that I had to wait and then log on to a website to read the ending. I felt a little cheated, like the book I had brought was incomplete (which I suppose it was). Therefore if anyone is thinking of buying it, you might want to check if your book has the ending.
Yet despite these things I did enjoy the written version of 'Red Riding Hood' much more than the film, so I would still recommend people read it. Although while I personally think it would appeal more to a younger teen audience, I have seen many mixed reviews on this book so be prepared, you'll either like it or you won't.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Everlasting - Book review

Everlasting – Book Review
Alyson Noel
YA Paranormal Romance
Ever and Damen have loved and lost each other for hundreds of years –facing deadly enemies, dark secrets and a powerful curse. Now their love will be tested to its limit.
Ever and Damen finally have the chance to discover their true destiny. The choice they’re about to make will unite them – or tear them apart – forever…
Ah the Immortals series… I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan but I was captivated by the ideas Alyson noel laid down of soul mates and reincarnated love. Also despite some odd little niggles, I really did enjoy this last book.
Moving at what felt like a slower pace compared to the other books in the series, Everlasting was a story of ultimate love, sacrifice and choices. Also for the first time the main character Ever seemed to make the right decisions and after journeying through five books with her, it was nice to see how much she had grown and changed as a person. Going from the insecure, lonely girl in book one to the confident, smart young woman she was meant to be.

Unfortunately though, it was Damen’s character that I didn’t care much for. I preferred his sexy, charming guy persona in the first book to the heavily brooding, somewhat boring guy he turned into by book six. Although I did like that his love for Ever never changed or wavered - which led to some really romantic and ‘aww’ moments in the end - I would have liked to have seen some more of the old flirty Damen back, you remember, the one who wore his leather jackets and handmade Italian leather motorcycle boots, (That’s the Damen everyone fell in love with).
Yet overall I still think the fans of the books are going to love everlasting. It was a perfect and somewhat surprising end to Alyson noels popular series, The Immortals. Now I’m looking forward to see what she will be writing next.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

In My Mail Box #1 & RAKs (July)

Ok, I know that most people do this as a weekly meme but usually I don’t get that many books so I'm going to limit my thank-yous and book bragging to a monthly basis. This month however I got a few unexpected and brag-worthy surprises so therefore, without further ado, check this out...

By some amazing stroke of luck I won LUCY COATS' competition on ABBA's Online Litfest winning a set her 12 book series Greek Beasts and Heroes as well as...

the latest MG and YA releases by Orion Publishers that include:
  Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John
· The Case of the Deadly Desperadoes by Caroline Lawrence
· White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
· Magus of Stonewylde by Kit Berry
· An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons
· The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 Meaning I won a total of 18 Books! So a big big thank you to Lucy Coats and the lovely people at Orion for hosting the competition. I can’t begin to express how much winning them made my day.

And finally my RAK's for July...

Thank you to both Michelle @muchlovedbooks for sending me Clock Work Angel
and Amy for mailing me a copy of Entangled.
I can't wait to get stuck into all of them - Reviews soon to follow!
Thanks guys

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Starcrossed - Book Review

Starcrossed – Book Review
Josephine Angelini
YA Fantasy Romance
When shy awkward Helen Hamilton meets Lucas Delos she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has ever seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.
An ancient curse means Lucas and Helen are destined to loathe one another. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the Gods themselves can prevent what will happen next…
For me Starcrossed was very much an impulse buy. After hearing the title mentioned a lot on other blogs, usually followed by the words GO BUY IT NOW, I have to admit I was curious. In the end I snagged myself copy of it at the airport about five minutes before my plane left, despite knowing almost nothing about it other than it had a nice, velvety feeling cover :)
Anyway it was a long flight, it was a long book and I’m happy to say, I was not disappointed. Filled with themes of self-discovery and forbidden love, all wrapped around a centuries old feud brought about by amazing characters that were inspired by Homers Iliad and the Trojan War, Starcrossed was a book I literally had to be torn away from. It also added a whole new twist to how I looked at Greek history.
Having me completely gripped from the first chapter, Josephine Angelini has written a compelling debut novel that takes an ancient story and throws it straight into the modern world where it comes out, better, shiner and filled with teen loving goodness. With elements of romance, humour and drama Starcrossed delivers the full package.
Invigorating, fast paced and incidentally – educational to anyone who’s not familiar with Greek Myths and Literature – It is a truly a fantastic book that everyone would enjoy. Totally 5 stars!