Saturday 28 October 2017

Flame in the Mist - Book Review

Flame in the Mist - Book Review
Renee Ahdieh
YA Fantasy
UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton


The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her own twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks though, Mariko finds for the first time she's appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love - a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


I enjoyed this book, but didn't really see it as the big “Mulan” retelling many have labelled it as. Not only is the story set in Japan, but the pages carry hints of mythology, dashes of fantasy and a nice slow-burn romance. I will most definitely be reading the next book.

Mariko knows her greatest weapon is her mind. Yet being born a girl, she grimly accepts her fate to marry and remain silent like any good future empress should. But when her carriage is attacked and Mariko left for dead, she rises from the ashes and sets out to find the men responsible for her supposed demise.

Disguising herself as a boy, she succeeds in infiltrating the enemy camp, but there she discovers more than just her family’s best kept secret. For the first time Mariko’s opinions are valued, and she learns there is more to these thugs and thieves then she could ever have imagined. Now Mariko must choose between following her heart… or protecting her family from the man she loves…

I enjoyed this story, but it was slow to start and took me a few chapters to sink into. It wasn't until I was nearly a third of the way through that I became really invested in the story, but after that point the pacing really picked up and I devoured the rest in a night.

And boy does this book pack it all. Samurai, Ninja, Demons, Magic, Emperors, Betrayals… the list goes on and on. These elements were creatively woven together to produce some great imagery that made for a winding tale dotted with hidden twists and surprises. 

However in terms of world building, I occasionally struggled to keep track of all the politics and reasons behind who was fighting who and for what reason. The same with the magic system. I didn't fully grasp the mechanics of it, especially since the magic exploded into the story nearer the end of the book. However I’m sure this will be explained more in book 2. Yet despite these few gripes, I still really enjoyed this book. The descriptions were detailed and the prose flowed very smoothly. 

As for the characters, I think many girls will relate to the heroine, Mariko. While not physically strong, she was in no way a helpless maiden. She put effort into learning new skills, while calling on her other, hard-won abilities to ensure her own survival. 

Having said that, another gripe I had was that we spent the first half of the book hearing (generally from Mariko herself) about just how clever she was, but we didn't really get to see her sharp mind put to use until near the end. I often found myself questioning her decisions throughout the story, but then again, the plot was often fuelled by her choices which led to the story’s progression.

Romance also has a part, but it’s a back burner to the main plot. However the unexpected love adds extra conflict and intrigue to the plot and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. 

The Black Clan were also a very diverse group of characters, and I really hope in the next book we get to dip more into their backstories. I’m also intrigued to see the fates of everyone else mentioned. The ending wove in plenty of new subplots which I’m sure will expand the world and perhaps even add in a few more POVs to the story. 

All in all - FLAME IN THE MIST was a nice read. While I’m not thirsting for the next book, I’m definitely hooked enough to pick it up. I’m also very much in love with this cover! It's gorgeous!

3 stars!

What were you’re thoughts on this book?

Thursday 12 October 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks - Book Review

The One Memory of Flora Banks
Emily Barr
YA Contemporary 
UK Publisher: Penguin


Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumour that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town.

Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind. And sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meets him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. 

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake.

But from the moment she arrives in the artic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home. 


The One Memory of Flora Banks is a very accurate title for this book. It sums the story up neatly, and I loved the protagonists unusual voice - childlike, but with flashes of the woman trying to fight through. A most intriguing story. 

Flora is seventeen, and she has kissed a boy. Yet the true shock of this tale is, she remembers it.

When Flora was ten, she suffered a trauma to her brain. Unable to make new memories, she must rely heavily of her trusted notebook to tell her who she is, and any important events that have happened. But that all changes when she remembers kissing her best-friend’s boyfriend on the beach. Convinced love is the cure she is looking for, Flora sets off on a journey to find the boy that can bring back her memories, and give her the fairytale ending she deserves...

Both the beginning and end of this book really wowed me, although parts of the middle dragged on a bit and I found myself impatient for something to happen. However Flora’s journey to Svalbard, the sheer bravery and determination behind it, really moved me. It showed she was so much more than the tragic, parent-dependent girl everyone labeled her as. 

Flora’s character is awesome in her simplicity. A rather unreliable narrator, the reader is caught up in her world, knowing only what Flora herself chooses to remember. This leads to some nice twists later on in the story, and given Flora’s chosen optimism, makes for a pretty positive read. 

However I both love/hated the repetition of information. In many ways, Flora’s constant rehash of events was annoying, yet at the same time, it really ties you to the realities of her life. It also helps you sympathise with the less-Flora-friendly decisions made by some of the other characters, because despite her childlike innocence, Flora’s condition does require a lot of patience from the people around her. 

At the same time, I admired the glimpses we got of grown-up Flora, that are mixed in with her ten year old self. While Flora accepts her situation, she understands she is no longer a little girl - although she often forgets this face - and most importantly WANTS her own life and independence. 

The ending also had me tearing up. I love how Flora’s brother - a character we never actually meet - could have such a huge sway on the story. It really packed and parcelled the ending with a nice shiny bow. I can’t wait to read more of Emily Barr’s work.

3 stars.

Thursday 21 September 2017

The Red Ribbon - Book Review

The Red Ribbon

Lucy Adlington

YA Historical 

UK Publisher: Hot Key Books


As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.

Every dress Ella makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival. 

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.


I teared up so many times through the course of this story. A few times with happiness, but so often at the cruelty and injustice the prisoners suffered. However despite the grimness, hope flowed - a hidden undercurrent - through each and every page. THE RED RIBBON is a spectacular work of fiction, woven with shocking truths to form an incredibly emotional read. Warning: do not attempt to read without some tissues nearby!

Ella’s identity is gone. Snatched from her family, denied a name and any worldly possessions, she has become a stripey. Just another number in a roll-call of black and white uniforms. But unlike many in the Auschwitz work camp, Ella is determined to survive.

A skilled dressmaker, Ella claws her way into the tailors workshop - a better job than most - but with over ten thousand new arrivals everyday, no position is safe. In Auschwitz, everyone is replaceable. Now Ella must make a moral choice: help others and risk death, or help herself and risk losing her humanity… 

I had a hard time putting this book down. Anxious over which characters would and wouldn't survive, I devoured this story overnight. It is a tactfully told, haunting tale that somehow brings to life the horrors suffered, but without going into graphic detail. Steeped in emotion, this book really questions what it is to be human. 

Ella is strong protagonist. I loved how she assigned her fellow prisoners animal-titles, referring to them as a bear, or hedgehog, squirrel or shrew. It instantly opened up their personalities in a single line of description. But what caught me about Ella, is that from the get go, she knows she can’t be a mouse if she is to survive. 

In contrast to Ella is Rose. Generous, positive and kind, Rose signifies what every person hopes they would be in a time of crisis. Her friendship, I believe, kept Ella from becoming one of the darker characters who looked out only for themselves. However without Ella pushing Rose to be a little selfish at times, Rose would have been swallowed by the more bloodthirsty creatures. 

A line near the end of the books said something like, their came a point when all the mice, squirrels and ducklings were gone. Only the predators remained. This was in reference to the prisoners, and it broke my heart. 

Overall this is a real shades of grey story. Set in a place where you can’t judge who to trust, the book is written with a complexity where morals can’t be simplified into either good or bad. Even the prison guards couldn't be truly hated. 

I think  however the real beauty of this story was how it didn't focus on one group. It didn't zero in on any one race, religion or political belief. Instead it encompassed them as a whole, telling everyones story. In doing so, this book did a fantastic job of putting me, the reader, in that prison camp. Because Ella lacked description, and was stripped to very base of what it is to be human, her character will resonate with all. 

A truly unforgettable read. 5 stars!

Talk to me 

Have any you read this book? How do you feel about war stories as a whole? I must admit they aren't generally my thing, but this book really blew me away!

Sunday 17 September 2017

The Disappearances - Book Review

The Disappearances 

Emily Bain Murphy

YA Magical Realism

UK Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books


Every seven years something disappears in the town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep, and some secrets want to stay hidden - and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past. 

A beautifully told story of love, loss, and finding the truth - no matter how difficult that may be.


I have read a lot of magical realism lately, and this one has been by far one of my favourites. With elements of magic, grief, romance, and a fantastically twisted plot, this story had it all. 

When Aila and her brother move to small village of Sterling, they begin to notice that things aren't quite normal. Scents have disappeared. Reflections aren't there. The stars no longer shine... and the people of Sterling are certain Aila's mother is the cause...

This is a slow burn story. Time is taken to build the world and the characters, so that when the magic is revealed, it blends seamlessly into reality. I often found myself waiting for something to happen, only to realise that something HAD happened several pages ago, I just hadn't picked up on it’s relevance straight away. That probably sounds strange, but if you read the book I’m sure you would understand.

However I also feel this is a story where you really need to pay attention to the details. There is a lot to absorb so I took my time with it, only reading a couple of chapters each night over a few weeks - crazy considering I read most books within two days, but some stories you really need time to digest. This is one of them. 

I also really enjoyed the writing in this book. There were some really poignant descriptions and I liked the main characters quirk of having a “finishing word” for every conversation, which summed up both her feeling and attitude toward things. 

However what I loved most about the characters was their ordinariness. Despite suffering under a magical curse, day to day, the tried to continue on with normal lives.  Dating, schoolwork, family dinners… while I thought this was sweet, it does keep the pacing fairly slow. That doesn't mean its boring in anyway, but for those of you who like an up and down beat, be aware that the pace of this book stays pretty steady throughout. 

In regards to the characters, most of the story is told from Aila's Pov. However there are interludes of another character, whose true motives and identity aren't revealed until very near the end of the story. Huge congrats to the author for keeping the reader guessing so long, it was certainly unpredictable. 

This of course meant that the plot had several seemingly unrelated threads, however by the last page, everything does come together nicely, with only a few things left a little open.  

Overall, this is a great read for fans of Shakespeare, Magical realism and although witches aren’t ever mentioned, I feel if you like a good story steeped deep in a curse, then this is a book for you. It reminded me a lot of Moira Fowley-Doyle's, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, so if you were a fan of that, then be sure to pick this one up too.

4 stars!

Chat with me

What are your thoughts on magical realism? Anything books you would recommend?

Thursday 17 August 2017

The Nearest Faraway Place - Book Review

The Nearest Faraway Place

Hayley Long 

YA Contemporary 


Griff and Dylan are driving into Manhattan with their parents when the worst happens. There is a terrible car accident and Dylan and Griff’s parents are killed.

The boys are suddenly orphans with nowhere to go, until a kind aunt and uncle give them a new home in Wales. Now Dylan and Griff have everything they need. Love, a happy home and a future. But Dylan is worried about Griff: whether he is ok, whether he is coping with his grief. He doesn't seem to want to speak about it or really acknowledge the loss of their parents.

But Dylan needs to be even braver than Griff, because there is something very important he needs to face up to before he can move on. 


I always applaud books that make me cry - and this one really teared me up. Beautiful and bittersweet, this is a story that will surprise you, even as it breaks your heart. It is a book that fans of Moria Young’s The Road to Ever After will love. 

When Dylan and Griff lose their parents in a fatal accident, their life of jet-setting around the world comes to a total standstill. Now taken in by their Aunt and Uncle, they must make new lives for themselves in Wales. But Dylan hides a terrible secret that keeps him from moving on, and its a secret he must keep close if he ever hopes to see his brother, Griff, smile again... 

This is by no means a fast paced book. However the voice behind it is strong, steady and filled with an empathy toward grief that will tug at your heart strings. Its a beautiful, poignant read, and the story deals with death in a way that makes this a must read for anyone struggling with loss. 

Told from the older brother, fifteen-year-old Dylan’s perspective, the book takes you on a journey through each stage of grief and acceptance. I particularly adored that both pets and music played a big part in the brothers healing process. 

I also liked all the characters the brothers came into contact with. However what I appreciated most were the flashbacks of their travels. Seeing how happy their family were was lovely, but undeniably sad, but it really makes you feel for everything the boys lost.

What really sold this book for me though was the big plot twist toward the end. It’s not often I’m taken by surprise and this book really threw in a huge curve ball. I overlooked every clue, and although I caught a few lines that puzzled me, I never came close to seeing the finished picture. Massive applause to Hayley Long for her skilled writing!

All in all, a spellbinding read of family, loss and the bond between brothers. 4 stars!

What are your thoughts? Have any of you picked up this book?

Friday 11 August 2017

The Savage Dawn - Book Review

The Savage Dawn
Melissa Grey
YA Fantasy
The Girl of Midnight Book #3
UK Publisher: Atom

Other Books in the Trilogy:


The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

Echo awakened the Firebird. Now she is the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed… right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tannish has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master its overwhelming force. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. With Caius no longer by her side, she doesn't know if she can do it alone. Is she strong enough to save her home and the people she loves?

Whether Echo is ready to face this evil is not the question. The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.


A great wrap-up of the trilogy! The Savage Dawn is the final instalment of what has been a a whirlwind adventure. Fantastical through every page, with strong world building, character growth and beautiful word play, it ended on a magical high note that left me satisfied, yet still hoping for more. 

Echo is losing the war. Her beloved Caius has been captured and she is stuck on the island, duty bound to protect what is left of the Avicen people. But as travel through the in-between becomes unstable, Echo learns Tanith is plotting to wipe out the world… and Echo is the only one who stands a chance of stopping her. But just what sacrifice will victory demand, and is Echo willing to pay it?

Aside from a few nit-picks, I really enjoyed this book. What really sprang at me were the characters, most especially the secondary ones. Jasper and Dorian… I could write a whole review based on their relationship alone. I heart this pairing so much and was thrilled to see their emotions hit full bloom. 

However the whole cast, Ivy, Ronan, the Ava… they are a diverse and witty group with lots of quirk. Their interactions with one another really helped bring this story to life and they are one of the reasons I enjoyed this series as much as I did.

Echo has done heaps of growing in this book too. She is more mature after all the trials of book two-and by finally putting her past behind her-she made strong decisions throughout book three. This also allowed her relationship with Caius to move forward, and together they made one impressive unit. 

However my true love for this trilogy lies in Echo’s obsession with collecting words. Once again, these were beautifully threaded throughout the story, allowing Echo to express herself in the most meaningful of ways. Keeping a notebook handy while reading is most recommended!

As for the plot, it was less emotional than book two. Also while I enjoyed the winding journey Echo took, I do feel some readers might grow impatient with the pacing. There were also one or two scenes that I felt were quite similar to events in previous books - but these were all minor niggles that didn't really impede my enjoyment of the story.

The ending though really blew me away. It was open-ended, bittersweet, but still full of hope. It reminded me of Laini Taylor’s ending to her daughter of smoke and bone trilogy… and I think its an ending that people will either love or hate. Personally, I liked it. However I will still be keeping my fingers crossed for a novella of some sort… there is definitely room for one. 

All in all I really enjoyed this book, and the trilogy as a whole. Melissa Grey is definitely an author to watch out for.

4 stars!

Monday 10 July 2017

The Glittering Court - Book Review

The Glittering Court - Book Review
Richelle Mead
Historical Fantasy
UK Publisher: Razorbill
(The Glittering Court #1)


The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian Countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the new world. But to do that, she must join the Glittering court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the new world. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin, and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise - first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

Btu no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An Attraction that, if acted on, would scandalise the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…


I have always been a big fan of Richelle Mead, but for me THE GLITTERING COURT was a big let down. Although the book dazzled me in the beginning, the story soon turned into a repetitive, longwinded tangle of plots lines. I really had to force myself to read through to the end. 

When Adelaide is forced into an arranged marriage, she seizes the first opportunity to flee by taking on the name of her maid servant and joining the glittering court—a type of finishing school where young women of the working class are trained in the ways of high society—before journeying across the seas to  the new land of Adoria . There, they are guaranteed rich husbands, but Adelaide must keep her identity a secret at all costs, or she will be forced to return home to life she no longer wants.

Adelaide was a strong character but I didn't understand her motives at all.  She fled an arranged marriage for the opportunity to go to a hostile country, where another arranged marriage was waiting… only to toss all her careful plans into the wind when she falls into the arms of  a man who was by her side the whole time…

Honestly while I liked the adventurous side of this book, the story fell flat. The whole plot rode on Adelaide’s whims and fancies, and with all the twists and turns, I’m just not sure what this book was trying to be. While I did enjoy the beginning— the initial set-up and premise of the story were really strong— this story just goes on and on and toward the end, my attention was definitely wandering. 

Not only were the conflicts in the story resolved too quickly, but Adelaide never really suffered any consequences. She got everything she wanted in a nice tidy bow and as a reader, I just kept waiting for something more to happen. 

The romance at least was sweet and I did cheer for Adelaide’s chosen man. I liked all the secondary characters and the world itself was beautifully depicted. The book though should have been half the size it was. 

It jumped from high society to finishing school, to ship, then  onto the wild west with Scottish style savages. It tried to be so many things, go in so many directions that the story felt thin. And although labeled a fantasy, there is nothing fantastical in this book. Despite being set in a made up world, the most magical things were the place names. 

All in all, this book was a huge disappointment for me. 2 stars!

Have any of you read this book? Curious to know, what did the rest of you make of it?

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Love & Gelato - Book Review

Love & Gelato
Jenna Evans Welch
YA Contemporary Romance
UK Publisher: Walker Books


The dying wish of 16-year-old Lina’s mother was for her daughter to live in Tuscany and get to know her father, whom Lina has never met.

“Howard is the best man I’ve ever known,” her mother says, “he’ll keep you safe.” Why did her mother wait so long to tell her about him? Lina has a happy life in Seattle and doesn't want to leave. Shortly after she arrives at Howard’s home, Lina meets Sonya, who gives Lina a diary that belonged to Lina’s mother, the one she had kept while she was a photography student in Florence. While Lina is living her life and exploring Tuscany with her handsome neighbour, Ren, she follows in the footsteps of her mother and gets to know her as never before. She also finds out the truth about her father. Mostly she finds out about herself.


Love & Gelato is the perfect summer read! The writing is smooth, using all five senses to draw you into a breathtaking world of heartache, new love and the magical country that is Italy. I must admit though that I thought parts of the end were a little cheesy, but in good way that left me smiling, even if I was shaking my head. Still I enjoyed every page of this book, cheesiness and all!

After her mother’s untimely death, Lina is forced to spend a summer in Italy with the father she has never met. Plotting her escape back to the states, her days are only made bearable by the amazing food, and a sparking friendship with a boy named Ren. But when she is gifted an old diary of her mothers—detailing the eighteen months of her mum’s own Italian adventure—Lina discovers a side of her mum she never knew. A side full of secrets that are about to rock Lina’s whole world, all over again. 

Romance, beautiful scenery, a story within a story… along with mouth watering food descriptions, this book has it all. It also left me with a huge yearning to fly to Italy immediately… and the biggest craving for pizza and gelato! 

Lina is a very honest character. Her feelings are very raw and as a reader, you can’t help but feel bad for her situation. She is very relatable as a person, however her restraint toward reading her mum’s diary drove me a little crazy. I really wanted to know what happened next!

Thanks to the dairy, this was also a story within a story, allowing the author to seamlessly flow between mother and daughter's POV. This gave us an in depth look at both characters, and their relationship. It made for a thrilling yet heart-wrenching read.

As for the romance, it was delicious in its slow burn and friendship building way. Ren is instantly likeable and quickly proves himself as a great guy. Watching him and Lina flirt was super cute and they were the sort of couple you're just begging to hurry up and kiss already :)

I did have a couple of gripes with this book though. As I mentioned, I thought parts of the end were a little cliche, but still cute and fitting with the story. However Lina could be a little naive at times and she doesn't always make the best choices. Ultimately though these were all small things and I still turned the last page, completely satisfied with the story.

All in all I can’t wait for this authors next book - I just discovered it will be set in Ireland - which I’m super excited for! Jenna Evans Welch is definitely a writer to watch out for.

Swoon-worthy, emotional and full of colour, I give Love & Gelato 4 stars!

Talk to Me!

Have any of you guys read this book? If so what are your thoughts? Any more summery reads you would recommend?