Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Blurb

"Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic 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 Hinterland, 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.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong."

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by Flatiron Books
With thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy to review.

My Review

This is a riveting, enchanting tale with elements that feel like a traditional fairytale, where there isn't always a happy ending. 

Alice is a spiky, independent character with anger issues and a bond with her mother that means she doesn't need anyone else, which is good when they have spent all her life running and hiding.

When her mother goes missing, her friendship with Ellery Finch grows, but his obsession with her grandmother's fairytales means she always keeps him a little at arms length.

The story is mysterious and chilling at times, and it is hard to know what is real and what isn't for the reader as well as Alice. The descriptions are magical and eerie, and the setting almost becomes a character itself. I also really enjoyed the snippets from her grandmother's fairytales.

I was completely enthralled by Alice's story. This is a world to get lost in, if you dare. 4 out of 5 from me.


The Author

Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for Time Out Chicago, SparkLife, MTV and McSweeney's.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Five Years From Now by Paige Toon

The Blurb

"What if you met the right person at the wrong time?

Nell and Van meet as children when their parents fall in love, but soon they are forced worlds apart.

Five years later, they find each other.  Their bond is rekindled and new feelings take hold, but once again they must separate.

For the next two decades, fate brings Nell and Van together every five years, as life and circumstance continue to divide them. Will they ever find true happiness? And will it be together?

‘One day, maybe five years from now, you’ll look back and understand why this happened…’ "

Kindle Edition400 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Simon & Schuster UK


My Review

This is such a fantastic book! I have been a fan of Paige Toon for a long time but I think this is one of her best books yet. I read it in one sitting and I have no regrets about dedicating my entire Sunday to it.

We meet Nell and Vian/Van when they are five years old and after a bumpy start they are soon best friends, exploring the Cornish countryside, having boating adventures and encouraging and supporting each other.

Following some tragic circumstances they are separated and don't meet again for five years and such a lot has changed for them in that time. The story follows them as they get older and life brings them together and apart again through mistakes, misunderstandings and factors beyond their control.

I loved Nell and Van's characters, they were so different and yet fit together so well. I was rooting for them the whole way through. I also loved Nell's relationship with her Dad and with her group of friends. The surfing exploits were also entertaining to read.

The story was enhanced by beautiful descriptions of the Cornish setting, which helped to create a magical childhood setting for Nell and Van, and a romantic atmosphere later in the book.

Five Years From Now is a sweet, funny, romantic and heartbreaking read. Paige Toon's writing feels so natural that all of the characters feel real. A well deserved 5 out of 5 from me. 


The Author - in her own words

I was born in 1975 and my dad’s career as a racing driver meant that I grew up between Australia, England and America. I worked at heat magazine for eight years as Reviews Editor, but left to have a baby. I’m now a full-time author and freelance journalist. I live in North London with my husband Greg, son Indy and daughter Idha.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

La Belle Sauvage, The Book of Dust: Volume One by Philip Pullman

"Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy...

Malcolm's father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust--and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl--just a baby--named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm."

Hardcover, 546 pages
Published October 19th 2017 by David Fickling Books

My Review

I am a big fan of the original His Dark Materials trilogy so I was very intrigued to find out what the new prequel trilogy would be like. Of course that also meant rereading Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, but I wasn't complaining - any excuse really! I'd say you don't need to have read the original series to enjoy this book, but I think it definitely added to my enjoyment recognising some of the characters and being back in Lyra's world, and finding out more about her start in life.

It felt like quite a gentle start to the book, introducing the main character Malcolm Polstead and his daily life helping in the pub with his parents, having an unspoken agreement to ignore the washing up girl Alice and visiting the nuns in his pride and joy, his canoe La Belle Sauvage. Whenever I read His Dark Materials and now La Belle Sauvage I almost feel like I'm going back in time and entering another pace of life, where children stay children for a lot longer and are content with simpler things.

However, Malcolm's simple world is turned upside down when he finds a secret message and becomes involved with spies working against the Magisterium (the church in this world).

The book soon becomes a bit of a mystery and an adventure story, with Malcolm braving many dangers to help bring Lyra to safety. The story also takes a darker turn at times and there are some more adult themes with a scene that suggests that a character is raped. Younger readers may not realise what has happened as it is tactfully written (if that is the right word) but you can tell that something violent and distressing is taking place.

I loved the relationship Malcolm had with Lyra, completely in awe of this tiny baby, and Lyra being equally intrigued by him. I really enjoyed reading about how different Pantalaimon (Lyra's dæmon) was when she was a baby, it seems strange but it didn't occur to me that he would be smaller! The author seems to always bring deeper questions to the fore of nature vs nurture and how personalities develop.

This is a really entertaining story which builds up the pace as the novel progresses and brings more to the world that Pullman created over twenty years ago. It definitely feels like the start of the story though as it ends on a cliffhanger.  I'm definitely keen to read the next instalment when it comes out. I've given this 5 out of 5. 


The Author




In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards for his literature, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for exceptional children’s literature in 1996, and the Carnegie of Carnegies in 2006. He is most famous for his “His Dark Materials” trilogy, a series of young adult fantasy novels which feature freethought themes. The novels cast organized religion as the series’ villain.











Also how beautiful are these 20th anniversary covers of the His Dark Materials trilogy?! I love them :)


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher


"AGAINST ALL ODDS, SHE SURVIVED.
THE FIRST GIRL BORN IN FIFTY YEARS.
THEY CALLED HER EVE . . .

All her life Eve has been kept away from the opposite sex. Kept from the truth of her past.

But at sixteen it's time for Eve to face her destiny. Three potential males have been selected for her. The future of humanity is in her hands. She's always accepted her fate.

Until she meets Bram.

Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom.

But how do you choose between love and the future of the human race?

EVE OF MAN is the first in an explosive new trilogy by bestselling authors Giovanna & Tom Fletcher."



Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 31st 2018 by Michael Joseph
With thanks to NetGalley and the authors for my copy of the book.

My Review

Wow, this had me hooked from the first page! Giovanna and Tom have created a well drawn out, complex society with a rich history. While I have read other books with a similar idea of girls no longer being born in the world, the authors have brought a fresh spin to the idea in a gripping and enjoyable read.

Eve is a likeable character, strong-willed but thoughtful and caring about those she knows and loves. She has been brought up in a very sheltered existence and is naive in many ways, but is always curious about the world. I loved seeing her character develop throughout the story and I look forward to seeing how she develops further in the rest of the trilogy.

The other key protagonist is Bram, who Eve has had a connection to all her life, although she's never known his name. I really enjoyed reading the story from his point of view. It helped me realise just how much Eve doesn't know about her world and just how many secrets are being kept.

The story is fast paced and there is an aura of mystery and secrets. I did find it a little cheesy at times when some of the characters talk about mother nature and what 'she' would want, but it did work in the context of the book. 

The book ends on a major cliffhanger and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. 5 out of 5 from me.

The Authors

Giovanna

Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books.

At thirteen she left Essex behind to attend the full-time Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she met her husband Tom Fletcher. Following SYTS she completed an acting BA (hons) at Rose Bruford – since then she's been acting, chaperoning mini actors and dabbling in a spot of freelance journalism.

Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at www.giovannasworld.com, or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher

Tom

Tom Fletcher is an English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and children's author.


Friday, 28 July 2017

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher - Blog Tour

Hardcover, 280 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by Viking, Penguin UK
With thanks to Penguin UK for sending me an advance reader's copy of this book.

Blurb:

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?

My Review:

This is a book that examines the grey areas in life and how hardship can push people to their breaking point.

The story is told between the present, where Beth is in prison, to the past, showing how Beth's life progressed. From trouble with foster parents, to issues at school and being thrust into the working world and supporting herself independently from a young age; Beth had a hard life. However, her counsellor Erika asks her to try to remember the good things in life and in doing so we realise there is more to Beth than meets the eye and Beth learns that too.

Most of the characters in this book frustrated me but at the same time I could see how they had become the way they were.

Beth's voice is very distinctive in the book, seeming both very young and older than her years. Her naivety and lack of knowledge about things everyone should have the right to know shocked me. Her crime wasn't a surprise but the journey of how she reached that point was heartbreaking.

This was an interesting, emotionally charged read and an apt social commentary which deserves discussion. I would give it 3 out of 5.

About the Author:

Clare Sita Fisher was born in Tooting, south London in 1987. After accidentally getting obsessed with writing fiction when she should have been studying for a BA in History at the University of Oxford, Clare completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls. All The Good Things is her first novel. She now lives, writes and works as a bookseller in Leeds.