Wednesday 31 August 2016

The Other Alice - Book Review

The Other Alice - Book Review
MG Fantasy
Michelle Harrison
UK Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK


What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This a story about one of those stories…

Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and - most of all - stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.

When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, THE MUSEUM OF UNFINISHED STORIES, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.

But every tale has its villains - and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all . . .


This book really captured my imagination. A story within story, where characters walk off the page and magic finds a place in the real world - this book was everything I hoped it would be and more. 

When Midge’s sister, Alice goes missing, he knows something really bad has happened to her. Then he finds a talking cat, a girl who looks eerily like his sister, and a strange boy/thief who can charm anyone with a song. The three only have one thing in common. They were characters in his sisters book. Yet now, something has brought them off the page and into the world. 

But they aren't the only ones who escaped Alice’s notebook. And not all the characters are happy with the end Alice has planned for them. Now Midge, and his odd trio of companions must find Alice so she can finish the story, before the villain’s can create a twisted ending of their own.

Such a delicious story! THE OTHER ALICE is a superbly written tale based around the premise of unfinished stories. Its something that will enjoyed by all ages alike, as its about family and friends, combined with a dash of magic and a pinch of the impossible.

The characters have so much depth and life to them - each stunningly unique in their own way. Everyone from the talking cat to the simple corner shop owner, everyone in the story is memorable, both main and minor characters alike.  Sometimes its their appearance, their manner of speech or personality, everyone just simply dazzled. 

Midge in particular is a great hero - although admittedly, I didn't read the blurb and missed the fact he was a boy. It took me several chapters before I cottoned on - however watching him move from one clue to the next in search of his sister was simply heartwarming.

Although I think my favourite character had to be Tea, the talking cat. She made me laugh on so many occasions. But I was also intrigued by the villain of the story, and I loved the idea she was created by what Alice (the writer) feared most. Although I felt all the “story” characters had a little of Alice in them, and this book really paints the picture of what authors mean when they say each character carries a part of themselves.

I also throughly enjoyed the riddles in this book. I often found myself setting the book aside just so I could try and figure them out myself - and while I didn't quite get the big riddle, I was close! In a way, this also made reading the story more satisfying as I felt I was solving the clues right there along with Midge … as well as testing my own intelligence :)

In terms of plot, the story was fast paced and pretty intense. Full of mystery, action, puzzle solving and magic, this book would surely capture all imaginations. I must confess though I was anticipating the final plot twist regarding the villain, however I find that with this story, it didn't quell my enjoyment. More like I just HAD to keep reading to check I was right, because there are certainly enough side plots to keep you uncertain.

My only nit pick was the ending. While I really liked the line, that all fictional characters continue their story long after the book is closed, and that a book is just a window into that particular time and story… I REALLY wanted to know what happened next for Alice’s characters! I sincerely hope Michelle Harrison considers writing a sequel, because this book was just beautiful.

Basically if you enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s Ink Heart Series then you will absolutely love this book as well.  There are also some hints of Alice in wonderland, as well as some other classic and lesser known stories hidden throughout the book. I feel like Michelle Harrison took a little inspiration from everywhere, and through it her love of books really shines through. Both as a reader and a writer. 

A dazzling story woven with spellbinding thread, you can tell this was a work of the heart. I give THE OTHER ALICE 5 stars!

Saturday 27 August 2016

The Shadow Hour - Book Review

The Shadow Hour - Book review
Melissa Grey
YA Fantasy
The Girl at Midnight #2

Other books in the series:
The Girl At Midnight #1 - Review HERE


Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: that she is the firebird, the creature of light, the bringer of peace.

But the firebird has not come into the world alone. Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance: Cosmic forces that threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome. Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the Shadow Hour.


Once again, Melissa Grey swept me away with her beautiful prose and world building. With a fast paced plot and the return of a fabulous cast of colourful characters, this was a most enjoyable read. A fantastic second book to THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT trilogy.

Echo succeeded in waking the firebird, but her selfless act also unleashed a terrible evil on the world. Taking the form of a dark shadow, it spreads death and disease upon all it touches. Mindless and cruel, it has but one desire. To Kill the Firebird. To kill Echo.

Now with the death tolls rising, Echo undertakes a journey to discover the true extent of her powers. But with the shadow close on her heels and the ones she loves in great peril, can Echo save the world once again? Or will the end of the world be on her hands…

My favourite thing about this series is Echo’s love of words. The prose is full of new and interesting adjectives (thank goodness for the kindles built in dictionary!) that I needed to keep a notebook next to me  just so I could keep track of them all. However while such words can make the writing a little flowery at times, I found the descriptions of places and people so interesting that it didn't really bother me.

In terms of plot, this story is fast paced with each character thrust from one situation to the next. Just like the last book there are many fight scenes, break ins, run ins… along with lots of general mayhem and magic. 

I still really enjoyed Echo as a character. I loved how this book delved more into Echo’s past, however I felt she lost some of her self-assured sparkle along the way. In this story Echo was more solitary and full of doubt. I really hope the next book brings back more of her shaper wit and humour. 

Caius and Echo’s romance also was a little plain, and by that I just felt it didn't develop any more depth despite the pronounced I love you’s. I think that is partly due to the re-introduction of Rowan (Echo’s ex-boyfriend) as a love interest. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles and this three-way relationship was a large undercurrent of the story.

What I absolutely adored though was Jasper and Dorian’s relationship. Not only is Jasper a literal peacock and my favourite character, but watching him kindle a romance with the stoic draconian, Dorian - well let’s just say it was heartwarming to watch Dorian melt. Huge cheers for Jasper and Dorian!

My biggest nit-pick however was the ending. It’s a cliff-hanger! Those evil plot devices that I both love and hate. While it does ensure I will be  counting down the days to the next and final book, it’s also going to drive me crazy. 

A tantalisingly delicious binding of words! I give THE SHADOW HOUR 4 stars!