Recent Reads: Sept 18, Part 1 #BookReviews

 

Recentreads

Here are some thoughts on my recently read books – yes, I’m very behind!

midwinterreview

Midwinterblood // Marcus Sedgwick // October 2011 // Indigo // Goodreads

I’m a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick. He’s written some of my favourite books (My Swordhand is Singing; Blood Red, Snow White; She is Not Invisible), and I’ve been slowly working my way through his back-catalogue. Midwinterblood had been on my list for a while and I’m pleased I finally got round to it.

It’s an odd book, and I mean that in the best way. It’s one of those books that’s like reading a dream. It explores the theme of soulmates in that deliciously dark tone that you’d recognise in Sedgwick’s early novels if you’ve read any. It’s mysterious and tantalising, in that as you encounter the several versions of the protagonist, the truth feels like an unobtainable thing. I found that this forced me to keep reading, but in some ways made me want to give up too.

The setting helped too. I wonder if Sedgwick had Fair Isle in mind as that’s all I could think of as I was reading which made it all the more mesmerising. 

I can’t say Midwinterblood is gripping in the normal way a thriller or mystery book is, but its strangeness made it impossible for me to stop reading. 

unicorn rating 4

 

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My Name is Leon // Kit De Waal // April 2017 // Penguin Books // Goodreads

I heard Kit De Waal talk at an event long before I picked up this book. She is a truly inspiring woman, so it’s no surprise that this novel, her first, was nominated for various awards. 

My Name is Leon what I class as a quiet novel. It’s a small story making a big point, but it’s not throwing that point down your throat. I think it was a great idea to set Leon’s story in the 80s. It highlights the mindset of that decade and lets us contrast it with today. Are we backtracking to that time in terms of equality and race relations? Would mixed-race Leon have had the same opportunities as his white brother today? Maybe.

The whole of this novel is written from nine-year-old Leon’s POV which can’t be easy, but De Waal does an excellent job. Leon can’t quite make sense of what is happening and he often misinterprets things and lashes out. It must have been tempting for De Waal to explain or rationalise Leon’s behaviour at times, but she does it perfectly and sensitively through his actions alone.

I didn’t find this a mind-blowing novel by any means, but I definitely enjoyed its big heart.  

unicorn rating 4

 

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Ink and Bone // Rachel Caine // The Great Library #1 // July 2015 //  Allison & Busby // Goodreads

This series is a book-lovers dream. Rachel Caine is most well known for her Morganville Vampires series, so this is quite a departure for her.

Ink and Bone introduces us to a world where owning physical books is illegal. All books,  are contained by The Great Library, and therefore knowledge within those books is strictly governed. Protagonist Jess is a book runner – buying and selling books on the black market, but when he gets the opportunity to try-out as an apprentice for the Great Library, he learns just how corrupt the whole system is. 

Books, magic, adventure, danger, a dash of romance…whats not to like!?

I enjoyed this book. Sometimes I felt that Caine had maybe bitten off more than she could chew as the world and plot got a bit lost to me at times, but she always managed to pull it back into a believable world. I liked the mix of characters, especially the professors who were ruthless, but their humanity shone though when it need to. A fun, YA read. 

unicorn rating 4

 

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Cinderella Boy // Kristina Meister // July 2018 //  Triton // Goodreads

I knew I’d enjoy Cinderella Boy but I didn’t expect to not be able to put it down. I read it in one sitting on a lazy Sunday afternoon – I’ve not done that for a long, long time!

Cinderella Boy is a true coming-of-age tale. We follow Declan on his journey of self-discovery. From angst and torment to confidence and peace, it’s the story of a shy geeky kid exploring his gender-fluidity and becoming free from his anxieties.

I absolutely adored Declan. He had that great mix of vulnerability and strength, and I loved that although he was scared of being different and how people would react if they knew he was living as Layla as well as Declan, he knew that being both genders is who he is, and only by being himself would he be happy. It helped that he managed to bag a hot guy as both Layla and Declan.

This book wasn’t perfect, of course. I found it quite hard to believe that no one could tell that Layla was Declan…I mean just how good was that make up? It was also a little predictable at times, but it didn’t matter. It’s a wonderful, diverse story, a great romance, and the pages just seemed to turn themselves!

 

unicorn rating

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

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30 Days of Horror #15: Department Zero #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

Welcome back to another horror highlight. Tonight I’ve chosen a book which was released at the beginning of 2017. I’ve only just discovered this book, and hope to read it soon. A protagonist who cleans up crime scenes for a living and discovers that everything H.P Lovecraft wrote is true? SOLD! It looks wonderfully batshit…

deptzero

Available in paperback & ebook, 32 pages

Published January 24th 2017 by Pyr

THE END OF THE UNIVERSE IS ONLY A HOP, SKIP, AND SLIGHT STUMBLE-THROUGH-A-WORMHOLE AWAY

Harry Priest just wants to make sure his ex-wife doesn’t take away his visitation rights, and his dead-end job cleaning up crime scenes for the past ten years isn’t doing him any favors.

But when Harry attends what he thinks is a routine death, he stumbles onto a secret multiverse of alternate realities all reachable through universe-hopping gates. Policing these worlds is Havelock Graves, the Interstitial Crime Department’s top agent for ten years running (according to him). When Harry accidentally messes with the ICD crime scene, Graves and his team are demoted as low as they can go: Department Zero.

They’re recruiting Harry too—not because he charmed them, but because he just might hold the key to saving the universe…and getting their old jobs back.

To do this, Graves and his team set out to solve the crime that lost them their jobs. A crime that involves a cult planning to hunt down and steal the fabled Spear of Destiny in order to free the Great Old One Cthulhu from his endless sleep in the Dreamlands. (Because that’s another thing Harry soon finds out. Everything H. P. Lovecraft wrote is true. Like, everything.)

The team will have to fight its way through realities filled with Martian technology and evade mad priests (Harry’s favorite kind) in a realm of floating landmasses where magic really exists.

And Harry has to do it all in time to say good night to his daughter.

Goodreads // Not My Review

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Book Review: The Silent Companions

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine #BookReview #YA

 

princeofshadowsTitle: Prince of Shadows
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Publication Details: February 4th 2014 by Allison & Busby
Genre(s): YA; Retellings
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from the library.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

From the author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series comes an exciting retelling of the classic love story, Romeo and Juliet.

‘A plague! A plague on both your houses!’

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and – if they survive – marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona – and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona.

Review

I have to say I was pretty sceptical going into this but I was intrigued regardless. Having read Caine’s Morganville Vampire series (or most of them at least), I was pretty shocked to find this in the library. A Shakespeare retelling, really? Hmm…

You can’t help but love the tale of the two doomed lovers, right? And you know what, this wasn’t a bad retelling. It’s told from Benvolio’s POV, who is forcibly entrusted to keep his cousin and Capulet heir, Romeo, on the straight and narrow. But that pesky boy has a habit of getting into serious trouble and falling in love with all the wrong girls. Then there’s his bff Mercutio with his own doomed love Tomasso, both of whom will be killed if discovered. Poor Benvolio has got a lot on his plate!

On one hand I really enjoyed this book. I liked reading from Benvolio’s point of view. It was an action-packed, fun retelling with a modern twist. The pages flew by. But on the other hand I did find myself cringing a lot. ‘Shakespeare turning in his grave’ was a phrase which often sprang to mind. But I guess there would be no point in retelling it without a new spin on the traditional.

I felt like the whole business with the curse was a double-edged sword. It made the story new and fresh, and Caine does paranormal very well, such is her remit! But for me, it meant that the story lost all its romance. Which is surely the point of any Romeo & Juliet story?

I really respect Rachel Caine for taking on such an iconic story and introducing a fantasy element. It’s a pretty bold move, and I think it mostly worked. Her writing is always so readable. Not one for the purists though, obviously.

unicorn rating 3

Lazy Saturday Review: The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin #MiniReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

icedragonTitle: The Ice Dragon
Author: George RR Martin
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 128 pages
Publication Details: December 4th 2014 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Children’s; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

From ancient times the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child — and the ice dragon who loved her — could save her world from utter destruction. 

Review

This is a beautifully illustrated book (Luis Royo) from the Game of Thrones author. It’s a charming, short tale suitable for children and adults alike. I enjoyed it a lot.

Protagonist Adara was both adorable and strong and I loved that she was a sort of Winter princess, and the only one who can help defeat the dragons destroying the land. Full of rich mythology and folklore, this a much more accessible George RR Martin for those like me who are intimidated about starting the GoT books.

The illustrations are what really make this book special, and I think it would make a lovely gift. Especially for Christmas, with its celebration of Winter. Worth a read for sure.

unicorn rating 4

 

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Horwitz #BookReview #ChildrensFiction

Title: The Wingsnatcherswingsnatchers1
Author: Sarah Jean Horwitz
Series: Carmer and Grit #1
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details:  April 25th 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre(s): Children’s (middle grade); Fantasy; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.


Review

The Wingsnatcher’s is the first book in a series featuring Grit the one-winged faery princess and Carmer, a (failing) magician’s apprentice who live in two very different worlds but have one thing in common – they are both in need of help. And so they make a pact to help each other and become firm friends along the way.

I loved the premise of this book and the story itself did not disappoint. Horwitz has created a fantasy world that is both adorable and edgy. Some will fall in love with Grit and her plight of being a one-winged faery, a disability she has accepted and overcome, and others will love Carmer and his ambition of being this great inventor but who feels a loyalty to the hopeless magician who took him under his wing.

Together, the unlikely duo try to discover who is attacking faeries, and win the invention competition as Carmer’s livelihood and future is at stake.

I really enjoyed the dynamic of these two characters, and their dialogue was great. I also really enjoyed Steampunk elements of the story; there are these demonic mechanical cats who were genuinely scary so I’d bear that in mind when giving to a younger child – I loved them though.

Great action, great descriptions and interesting characters; I just thought the pace was a tad slow, and that the book didn’t need to be over 300 pages, especially considering the target market.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

The Invisible Hand by James Hartley #BookReview #YA

 

Title: The Invisible Hand theinvis
Author:
 James Hartley
Series: Shakespeare’s Moon #1
Format: Paperback, 168 pages
Publication Details: February 22nd 2017 by Lodestone Books

Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeares Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

Review

I’ve always really liked Shakespeare – even at school – which is strange because I remember hating most things I was forced to read for school. Shakespeare always seemed more interesting though. I enjoyed having to decipher the language to discover the meaning, but I also totally understand why people dislike it, and why children and young adults find it difficult.

I’m therefore always pleased to see more accessible books based on Shakespeare, and its modern-day retellings. The Invisible Hand is the first in a new series to be set in the same boarding school, with each book based upon a different Shakespeare play. In this case it’s Macbeth.

In this short novel, Sam is quite perturbed about his strange, vivid dreams where he finds himself in Scotland in what seems like medieval times. Whilst trying to make sense of the dreams, he’s also trying to keep his head down at the boarding school but is finding it increasingly harder to concentrate in the present day. Especially when the girl he has a crush on in his dreams starts to turning up at school.

Things get even weirder when Sam starts studying Macbeth in English and the events of the play bear more than a passing resemblance to Sam’s dreams that may not be dreams after all.

The Invisible Hand was a great introduction to Macbeth. It was a simple but action-packed story which uses some of the events in Macbeth and gives them a modern relevance. I enjoyed it a lot. It was fun and speedy. If I had one thing to criticise though, it would be that I wished Hartley had taken it further. I wanted more Shakespeare, more detail. It was too short!

The Invisible Hand has certainly piqued my interest however, and I would love to see what they do with other Shakespeare plays. I definitely think there is room for more Shakespeare inspired YA novels like this to show that it’s not all about archaic language and ruffled collars.

unicorn rating 4

 

This Week in Books 22.03.17 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

I’m afraid my answers are pretty much the same as last week as I’ve just not been feeling it. Hope you’re all having a better week!  Here’s what I’m still reading…

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Now: King’s Cage ~ Victoria Aveyard // The Time Machine ~ H.G Wells

I’ve been choosing TV over reading lately for some reason , but I have at least got about a third of the way through King’s Cage. It’s OK, but it hasn’t managed to pull me out of my slump yet. I’m also stiiiiiiiiiiill going on The Time Machine at lunch-times.

Then:  The Invisible Hand ~ James Hartley // Girl in Disguise ~ Greer Macallister

I haven’t finished anything new so here is my response from last week: I really enjoyed both of these. I’ve just finished The Invisible Hand which is part of a new series with each book based on a different Shakespeare play. I think it’s a great way to get kids and young adults interested in Shakespeare. My review will be up soon. Girl in Disguise was a fun book about the first female Pinkerton detective. My review went up yesterday.

Next: ??? 

Still something from my physical TBR shelf again. Six of Crows and The Chemist are at the top of my pile or I might go for something completely different like Misery by Stephen King.

New on the Shelves

I bought these two Alan Bradley books from a charity shop at the weekend but that’s it!

I’m Waiting On…

Nothing has caught my eye yet this so I’ll lazily stick with last week’s answer…soz!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

 

Because, the cover is so stunning, and it sounds great too. A bit similar to The Space Between Us perhaps, but I only saw the movie!? There’s quite a wait til September though…boo!

theloniestgirl

 Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . .

Expected Publication: September 7th 2017 by Walker Books

So that’s my week in books, now why don’t you tell me about yours!?

Leave your answers or the link to your post in the comments and I’ll take a look 🙂