Picture Book Review: The Santa Thief by Alane Adams #ChildrensBooks #Review

santathiefTitle: The Santa Thief
Author: Alane Adams
Series: N/a
Format: Digital ARC, 32 pages
Publication Details: November 7th 2017 by Sparkpress
Genre(s): Children’s Picture Book
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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It’s winter in Girard, Pennsylvania and the pond is completely frozen over–ready for a young boy to go skating!–but Georgie’s ice skates are too small. All Georgie wants for Christmas is a new pair of skates. But times are tough in 1920s Pennsylvania, and he gets the disappointing news Santa might not come this year.

Follow Georgie as he decides to take matters into his own hands and steals Santa’s identity–and discovers what Christmas is all about. The Santa Thief is a heartwarming tale of boyhood set in 1920s Pennsylvania for children ages 4-8.

 

Review

 

The Santa Thief was a nice little story about a boy who is told that Santa won’t be coming this year. It’s set in the 1920s, and times are hard for Georgie’s family who would like nothing more than to buy him a new pair of ice skates, but they just can’t afford it, so Georgie decides that he’ll just have to be Santa himself!

I thought this book was written well and the illustrations were lovely, and I’m sure it will capture the heart of very young children, but I was a little disappointed by it. I didn’t find it that heartwarming or imaginative which is something I look for in festive stories.

However, The Santa Thief has a nice moral which I’m sure will be a hit with parents over the Christmas period. Worth a read.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

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 

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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

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister #BookReview #MarchReleases

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girlindisguiseTitle: Girl in Disguise
Author: Greer Macallister
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 308 pages
Publication Details: March 21st 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Adventure; Mystery 
Disclosure? Yep, I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review!

Goodreads 

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For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.

In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.

Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can’t. She’s a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she’s been assigned to nab.

Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective’s rise during one of the nation’s greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

Review

I didn’t know what to expect from Girl in Disguise having not read Macallister’s debut novel The Magician’s Lie or knowing much about the Pinkertons/ that era of American history to be perfectly honest. However, I do enjoy a good historical yarn now and then as long it’s not too bogged down in facts and figures, so I was eager to give it a try.

We first meet Kate Warne – famous for being the first ever female detective – when she is setting out to be just that. She answers an ad in a paper knowing full well that it will be difficult to persuade them that she’s the right man for the job, as it were. But of course she does, and so we follow Kate as she begins her training with Allan Pinkerton to learn everything she can about being an undercover operative.

Kate has a bit of a shaky start, including a run-in with colleague Bellamy but after that we watch her go from strength to strength and become more confident and cunning in her abilities.

I really enjoyed Macallister’s take on Kate Warne. She could probably come across quite cold and stern to some but because we hear the story from her point of view we know differently, we know it’s merely a self-defence tactic which is necessary for her to adopt considering all the things that are stacked against her. The main one of course being that she is a woman in a time where ‘respectable’ women aren’t even supposed to have jobs, never mind this kind of job.

I liked that Girl in Disguise is an action-packed adventure but also uses Kate Warne’s story to explore a lot of interesting issues surrounding equality. In a time of female oppression, Kate not only makes ground-breaking steps forward, she is also fiercely aware that other women are so accustomed to inequality that they’re often their own worst enemies…

They don’t hesitate to hang women down here”

“Could they be so awful?”

“What’s awful about it?” she shrugged. “Our crimes are as serious as theirs. Our punishments should be too.”

“A miserable sort of equality to hope for.”

Even in these terrible circumstances, she looked proud. “If we take the good, we also have to take the bad.We don’t get to fetch it up piecemeal.”

I think that sort of double-standards still rings true today. There is also the character of Deforest who Kate – whilst working on her tracking skills – discovers he is harbouring a secret that would see him hanged – he’s gay. Kate and Deforest’s friendship was my favourite in the novel, and I liked how the author captured her initial reaction and how her attitude towards him changed throughout the book. It rang true to the era and didn’t take the easy route of making Kate completely ambivalent towards it.

“In some way, I couldn’t possibly fathom him, his unnatural interests, his decision to be like he was. But the undertow of his terror, I understood.”

Macallister has done a great job in researching the real Kate Warne and building on that with her own version of the detective. Like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of historical fiction when it’s all facts and no storytelling but there was definitely a lot of storytelling here, with the facts seamlessly embedded. I thought some of Macallister’s descriptions were lovely too, making it a compelling read.

“The woman lay on the carpet as if resting, which I suppose she was, only forever.”

My one critique is that first half of the book felt a bit like a montage of events which made the pace nice and fast but I longed for more detail; it sometimes felt like Macallister was trying to fit too much in at once. She could have concentrated on just one or two of Warne’s interesting cases rather than an overview of many. This was most definitely improved on in the second half of the book though.

In this novel we see Kate Warne’s rise and fall, and the changing attitudes towards her from those around her. It’s a fun, rollercoaster of a read, and one which reads as a love letter to plucky women whose actions make the world a better place. Therefore it’s bound to be called a great feminist story, but I’d prefer to just call it a great story, Full Stop.

unicorn rating 4

 

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson #BookReview #YA

silentsongbirdTitle: The Silent Songbird
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim #7
Format: Digital ARC, 304 pages
Publication Details: November 8th 2016 by Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn’t even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Review

My request-happy trigger finger strikes again and I requested this book based on the cover alone. What I didn’t realise was that it’s number 7 (SEVEN!) in a series, and that Melanie Dickerson is a popular Christian author. Oh dear.

Thankfully, the books in the  Hagenheim series can be read as stand-alones. Some characters do seem to crossover but each book follows a different protagonist. So no disasters so far.

The whole Christian thing however, was slightly more of an issue for me. I’m not religious at all, but I like to think I have an open mind so I didn’t let it put me off. And to be fair, I still enjoyed the story, but I did get a bit bored with all the praying. As the story progressed it got more and more preachy.

However, let’s go back to basics. The Silent Songbird is a gentle story about Evangeline, a sheltered princess-type who feels stifled living in the King’s castle. When the King insists she marry his conniving but trusted adviser, it’s the last straw and Evangeline runs away.

In a bid to hide her identity, she becomes Eva, and claims to be mute. She ends up working as a (pretty terrible) servant and falling in love with a handsome farm-boy.

There was definitely a lot to like in this book. I enjoyed the romance and that Evangeline could be feisty. I liked that she was willing to fight for what she wanted and that she wouldn’t settle for what most girls of her stature usually would. I thought she was a good role model.

Lord Shiveley, the man whom Evangeline has been promised to was a great villain who left a bad taste in my mouth and I was rooting for our protagonist and Westley the whole time.

I did however find the story pretty predictable, and as I said earlier, the praying and god-talk got a bit much at times. It was also supposed to be a retelling of  The Little Mermaid and other than the protagonist having red hair and a beautiful singing voice, I don’t think that came through much. There did seem to be lots of nods to The Princess Bride though, which I loved.

This was a nice introduction to Melanie Dickerson, and despite the Christian theme, I’d be interested to read more of her work; it was a very readable, enjoyable YA historical fiction romance.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay #BookReview #Magic

a7Title: The Witches of New York
Author: Ami McKay
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: October  2016 by Orion Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Magic Realism; Supernatural
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Review

Although not a sequel, this book follows a character from McKay’s acclaimed novel The Virgin Cure, which if I had known before (lack of research on my part) would perhaps have put me off requesting it. Fortunately it didn’t seem to matter. Unfortunately, my first foray into the world of Ami McKay didn’t quite beguile me like I thought it would. 

The Witches of New York follows young Beatrice who is seeking employment. When she sees an advert in the paper from a strange-sounding tea shop where ‘those averse to magic need not apply’, she feels like this will be the start of a new life for her, and it is.

Owned by Adelaide, a seer (and Moth from The Virgin Cure) and Eleanor, a witch, the tea shop is a front to a growing magic business. Beatrice soon becomes an invaluable apprentice but her visions begin to haunt her, and she’s weakened and easily exploited.

I liked some parts of this book, but I just don’t think I was in the mood for it. I can imagine enjoying a lazy Sunday reading this, but trying to read it during a busy schedule didn’t work. The pace was painfully slow and although the descriptions were beautiful and elegant, they were subtle and drawn-out. I found myself skim reading a lot.

This novel does have a great magic-realism atmosphere, and McKay is clearly a talented writer, but this book was too light for me. She reminded me a lot of Alice Hoffman, albeit with something missing.

However, I liked the way she presents these real-life witches – as strong, independent women in an era where women had no rights, were discriminated against, and most certainly should not have worked in a shop, never mind owned one. AND I liked that the heart of this book was about women’s relationships in that hard time where it was extremely brave of them to be proud of who they are.

Basically, I enjoyed what McKay was tying to do here, but I needed more to take hold of to keep me interested in the plodding plot.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller #MiniBookReview #GreekMyths

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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!

songofTitle: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publication Details:  April 12th 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Mythology
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from the library.

Goodreads 

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Review

I have to cover this book in a ‘Lazy Saturday Review‘ because I loved it so much I don’t think I could produce an actual, balanced review. I just want to gush about it. 

After only a few chapters in I was annoyed with myself for not reading this when it first came out! I’ve always loved mythological stories but despite owning a copy of The Iliad for about 10 years I’ve never read it. Like most people though, I thought I knew the story of Achilles, the kind but brutal warrior, but Miller’s version was both familiar yet surprising, and I loved every second of it.

The Song of Achilles is a beautifully written story of war, love, betrayal, and tragedy, written from the perspective of Patroclus best friend and lover of Achilles, making this version of the legend more human than it is God-like. I loved seeing Achilles through Patroclus’ eyes. With all of his faults, Patroclus’ love for the half-God warrior never wavered and he was the true hero of the story. 

Miller effortlessly incorporates the Greek Gods into this very human story making the likes of The Iliad seem much less of a challenge. I really will pick it up now! I also can’t believe this is her debut novel – it reads as if she’s been honing her skills for years – that being said, I did read somewhere that it took her ten years (or so) to write. I for one, am eternally grateful that she persevered.

The Song of Achilles excited me, made me swoon, made me angry, and made me cry. It’s a book I now need to buy so I can read it again. ALL THE UNICORNS. 

unicorn rating 

 

Book Blitz: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicole Taylor #BookBlitz #XpressoBookTours

 

 

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Welcome to another book promo on Lipsyy Lost & Found. This time it’s thanks to Xpresso book tours for arranging the blitz and giveaway for this intriguing Peter Pan-inspired YA Historical Novel.

Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

norakettlePublished by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: February 29th 2016
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing.

Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

Goodreads // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks

EXCERPT

 

This is some medieval contest. Teeth gnash, men who smell much too much like men and… fish… grab at each other’s heads and hair, pull each other down and claw at each other’s necks. They are a desperate, scrabbling entity. I stand back from the jostling crowd, wondering whether I can do this. I bite my lip, lock my limbs, and decide it can’t be worse than anything else I’ve experienced. So I take a deep breath and await instruction.

“You don’t have to do this,” Kettle says as he edges into the throng from the western side.

Yes I do.

“I want to,” I say, trying to keep my voice low this time. Kettle chuckles at my attempt to sound like a boy, his blue eyes flashing with excitement.

Over the noise, he yells, ducking when a fist comes flying at his shoulder, “You’re small, fast, try to squeeze your way in.” He shoulders his way in and disappears. I hear him shouting underneath a tangle of arms, “If you don’t make it through, wait for me outside.”

He doesn’t think I’ll make it. It makes me more determined to prove him wrong. I test a foot on the edge. It instantly gets stepped on. I grimace.

Think.

I think about a slap coming toward me, my father’s palm aching to mark my cheek red. If I could have avoided it, ducked out of the way, what would I have done? How would I have done it?

Each man in this throe of clashing bodies becomes my father. And I’m surprised that instead of wanting to hurt them, all I want to do is get through, stand on the inside of the fence where he/they can’t get to me anymore.

There are small shadows of space opening up before my eyes, and I hurl toward them, I stop thinking, stop worrying, and just react. Under elbows, between bodies, over large legs trying to stomp on me. There are no walls to be thrown against. No one to protect. There is an escape, a way through for me to find.

The freedom tastes delicious, salty and hard-earned on my tongue.

I’m nearly there. The fence vibrates, ringing for me. Calling—You’re close, so close. My hand stretches to the wire and I grab at it, missing as my head suddenly jerks back. Someone’s fingers dig into my collar and pull me backward. The top button on my shirt presses into my neck and I can’t breathe, a strange cacking, gurgling noise coming from the back of my throat. I turn around to meet the owner of the hand. A small, twisted man, a skeleton almost. My cap tips back and he sees my face clearly, suddenly releasing me. “Sorry, ma’am,” he says. Then he’s scattered behind me like a spilled bag of bones, and I’m thrust forward.

The gate slides open and my feet don’t feel like they’re connected to the ground. I’m carried along, through the gap by a sea of muscled, grunting flesh and thrown into the clear, sea air.

The guard at the gate claps it shut and shouts at me, “Lucky last, eh?”

I made it. Me.

Meet the Author

noraauthorLauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!

Enter the Blitz-wide giveaway and you could win a Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box (INTL)! Huge thanks to the publishers and Xpresso Book Tours. 

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