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 

bookdepo

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

 

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily #MiniReview #YA

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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!

twelvedaysdashlilyTitle: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Series: Dash & Lily #2
Format: Digital ARC, 240 pages
Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Electric Monkey
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Romance
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Glorious new collaboration from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life.

Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.

Review

I was a little bit disappointed by this latest collaboration from these two get authors, probably because the bar was so high. I wanted to love it as much as Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and Nick & Norah, but something was definitely missing.

This story is all about Lily’s holiday funk. She is depressed and even Christmas, her favourite holiday, and Dash, her favourite person can’t cheer her up.

I didn’t dislike this story at all, but it really suffered from Dash & Lily’s lack of connection. Their romance was at the heart of the first book, and without that, there wasn’t a whole lot left to be honest.

It wasn’t serious enough about Lily’s angst and ‘issues’ for it to feel like a  YA book that was cleverly tackling the issue of depression, instead the wishy-washy underlying theme of depression put a downer on the book itself, for me. Thankfully it had a happy ending or I’m not sure I could have coped. There’s just something about Lily’s sunny disposition that doesn’t suit being unhappy so instead of making me feel sad for her, it just annoyed me. Sorry, Lily!

Overall this was an OK story. It was a super-quick read that was written nicely. But it wasn’t anything exciting or surprising, and it didn’t feel nearly festive enough!

unicorn rating 3

Out now in paperback & eBook formats

 

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin #BookReview #Christmas

a9Title: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky
Author: Holly Martin
Series: A Town Called Christmas #1
Format: Digital ARC, 332 pages
Publication Details: September 22nd 2016 by Bookouture
Genre(s): Romance; Christmas
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

Curl up with this gorgeously romantic tale and let the glistening snow and the roaring fires of Stardust Lake Hotel get you in the festive spirit this Christmas.

Review

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Winter and Christmas is fast approaching. It’s my favourite time of the year and I love everything about it, especially festive reads. 

I knew from the moment I saw it that Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky would be my first festive read of the year, and after a very busy Horror October it was just the light, heart-warming story I needed. 

The story centres around Piper, or Pip, a mystery guest who travels the world reviewing hotels and resorts. Her final assignment before taking a sabbatical sends her down memory lane to a remote Shetland island where she once spent a holiday with her best friend Gabe and his family. 

Pip is completely charmed by the winter resort from the off, that is until she realises that Gabe is the owner. We discover their complicated past, and why they haven’t spoken in 12 years, but a reunion in a magical place over Christmas might be just what to two of them need to put the past behind them…maybe!

I loved a lot of things about this book, but especially the setting. For a winter lover like me, Stardust Lake Hotel sounds like Heaven with its glass igloos for watching the Northern Lights, its miniature town called Christmas where the inhabitants sell homemade crafts and food, and of course, the Ice Palace. It’s literally like Holly Martin has taken all of my favourite things about Christmas and put them in this book. It was magical.

I was also intrigued by Pip’s character. She’s a bit of loner with no family or friends but a successful job and passion for photography. I found it interesting that her job was a way of life for her that made it easier to never have to make friends or put down any roots. She didn’t even have a home for ten years, choosing instead to stay in the hotels she was reviewing, even over Christmas.

I thought Gabe was sweet and you could see how the sudden break-up of their relationship and dissolution of their friendship affected them in very different ways. I was rooting for his success with the hotel and with Pip!

It certainly wasn’t a perfect book. I felt like there was a bit too much repetition of Pip and Gabe’s feelings, especially her turning over what had happened in the past again and again. It was also all a little bit too good to be true. Although I read in the author’s notes that the resort is based on a real hotel in Lapland, it didn’t quite fit with my image of Shetland. It was all a bit too perfect and glitzy -like it would have been more suited to Las Vegas than a remote Scottish Island, but that was all part of the fun I guess!

I couldn’t put this book down, and it certainly gave me that lovely warm and fuzzy feeling that I only get from reading festive books like this. The story itself wasn’t all that special, but the setting certainly was. I want to live there, even if it sounded too amazing to be true. 

I ordered the second book in the series as soon as I finished this one. Need. More. 

unicorn rating 4

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is available now in paperback & ebook, as is book 2, Christmas Under a Starlit Sky. 

Haunt Me by Liz Kessler #HorrorOctober #BookReview

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hauntme

Title: Haunt Me
Author: Liz Kessler
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 400 pages
Publication Details:  October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Supernatural
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they’ve gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn’t the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide – life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe’s brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school – but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are – including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin’s decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

Review

I thought this YA ghost story would be a good way to ease myself in to Horror October this year, and I was right. 

Haunt Me is centred around Joe and Erin. When we first meet him, Joe is slowly realising that he’s a ghost. He can’t remember how he died but he has this horrible certainty that his brother Olly was responsible.

Erin has had a lot of troubles in the past. She’s always struggled with fitting in, and has been the victim to horrible bullying which led to panic attacks, depression and even with her trying to commit suicide. So in an attempt at a fresh start her family have moved to a whole new place. Into Joe’s house.

Erin loves her new room, and instantly feels happy there so when she sees Joe for the first time she isn’t scared; she’s glad to finally have someone to talk to even if it is a ghost. Or even if he’s just a figment of her imagination.

Erin and Joe have a lot in common. They are both introverts who are creative and love poetry. They both live (or lived as the case may be for Joe) in the shadow of happy-go-lucky siblings, and they fall for each other hard. But as Erin discovers, falling in love with a ghost is pretty complicated.

There was so much about Haunt Me that I should have hated. I should have hated the multiple narration. I should have hated the instalove. I should have hated the love triangle. But I couldn’t bring myself to. It was just so damn cute!

I was hoping it would be a bit darker, considering I’m reviewing this as part of my Horror October month, but at least it’s a good book for those who like their horror a lot more cutesy than gory.

What I really did dislike about the book though, was that everything was so easy. And everyone was so willing to believe in ghosts. Erin’s mum was sure there was a ghost and her dad didn’t question it. They get a Medium in to exorcise Joe from the house and it works. The Medium tells Erin that he might be banished to his next most familiar place and she just finds him there. You know… too easy!?

However, Haunt Me was not only a quick read that flowed nicely, it explored teen depression and anxiety in a clever way and for that I think it should be applauded.

horroctrating-3

This Week in Books 28.09.16 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to my weekly post, where I sum-up what I’ve been up to in bookland the past week. 

It’s Wednesday so you know what that means…time to share how our reading week is shaping up! Don’t forget to leave your link in the comments for everyone to see 🙂 

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Now:  Self-Made Man ~ Poppy Z. Brite // The EnchantedRene Denfeld

Self-Made Man is a book of short stories that I picked up for Horror October. I love Brite’s novels but her story collections haven’t always won me over. I’ve been wanting to read this for ages though. Good so far! And I’m still working on The Enchanted up in my breaks at work. Suffice to say that I haven’t gotten very far. Really liking it though. 

Then:  Cut to the Bone ~ Alex Caan // Haunt Me ~ Liz Kessler

I enjoyed both of these. My review for Cut to the Bone went up on Monday, and Haunt Me will be my first review for Horror October!

Next: ??? 

Definitely Reckless by Cornelia Funke

New on the Shelves

From Netgalley:

shockawe.pngThe first complete epic history of Glam Rock from ’68-’76 by the finest music writer of his generation, Simon Reynolds.

As the sixties dream faded, a new flamboyant movement electrified the world: GLAM! In Shock and Awe, Simon Reynolds explores this most decadent of genres on both sides of the Atlantic. Bolan, Bowie, Suzi Quatro, Alice Cooper, New York Dolls, Slade, Roxy Music, Iggy, Lou Reed, Be Bop Deluxe, David Essex — all are represented here. Reynolds charts the retro future sounds, outrageous styles and gender-fluid sexual politics that came to define the first half of the seventies and brings it right up to date with a final chapter on glam in hip hop, Lady Gaga, and the aftershocks of David Bowie’s death.

Shock and Awe is a defining work and another classic in the Faber Social rock n roll canon to stand alongside Rip it Up, Electric Eden and Yeah Yeah Yeah.

Expected Publication: Oct 6th by Faber & Faber

 

Waiting on Wednesday

(Linking up with Breaking the Spine

 The Christmas Town~ Donna VanLiere

 

IT’S NOT TOO SOON OKAYYYY!
 thechristmastown
Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

Expected Publication:  October 18th 2016 by St. Martin’s Press
 So, that’s my week in books, now how about yours?
 

If you’re joining in leave the link to your answers in the comments so everyone can take a look 🙂

P.S Horror October is coming….

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Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige #YA #Bookreview

stealingsnowTitle: Stealing Snow
Author: Danielle Paige
Series: Stealing Snow #1
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details:  October 6th 2016 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; Retellings
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …


She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

Review

I read the original Snow Queen at the beginning of the year after getting it as a Christmas present. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s an odd little fairy-tale but totally compelling. I am also a huge fan of Frozen (which is very, very loosely based on Andersen’s tale) so I was really excited when I saw the premise of this book. 

Snow resides in a psychiatric hospital in New York. We’re not sure why she’s there but she seems to have accepted it. It’s all a bit of a mystery; she doesn’t seem ill enough to be in a secure hospital, although she does have one hell of a temper. Her best friend and part-time boyfriend Bale is also a permanent resident there. But he’s been kept away from Snow ever since he fractured her wrist the first time they kissed. 

But Snow knows he didn’t mean it, he’s just unwell. And she becomes convinced that he’s been kidnapped and taken into another world via a magic mirror.

OK, I know this all sounds a bit hokey but this was actually the most believable and exciting part of the story.

I loved the hospital setting. It was written well and full of intrigue. The characters – both the staff and the patients- were interesting and fleshed out, and the bond between Snow and Bale felt real. Paige seems to have taken a lot of care in building this world for it to be used in such a small part of the story. 

Snow manages to pass through the mirror to the other side – Algid. And this is where it all goes a bit wrong. I felt like Snow was just dumped there with no thought as to where the story should go. The world-building from here on out was almost non-existent, the characters she met were bland and one-dimensional, and quite frankly I had no idea what was going on.

All of a sudden, Snow is a princess who can summon ice and snow, and conjure these elements whenever she feels like it. There was no transition period at all. No fleshing out, no descriptions, it was all just a bit too fast and brief. WhamBamNoThankYouMam.

I felt really disappointed and let down by everyone involved in this book to be honest. Mainly because it had such great potential. It could have been this amazing Snow White / Snow Queen mash-up, but instead it was just painstakingly flat and messy.

I did like that Paige preserved some of the original story, and the idea that Snow’s icy kiss was slowly killing Bale but I couldn’t see past the rest I’m afraid. 

If it wasn’t for the great first couple of chapters and the idea in itself, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish the book, never mind give it two unicorns, but I think it’s a fair rating for the potential alone. 

P.S Three love interests, really!? Sigh. 

unicorn rating 2

 

 

Lazy Saturday Review: Siege & Storm #MiniBookReview #YA

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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!

siegeTitle: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
Format: Paperback, 435 pages
Publication Details: June 5th 2014 by Indigo
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope. I borrowed it from the library. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

 

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Review

I was looking forward to this book after loving Shadow and Bone, and I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed, but I definitely didn’t love it as much as the first book.

I quite liked the plot of this one; with Alina and Mal on the run, the Darkling’s extra-dark return, and a whole lot of trust issues surrounding everyone involved. That was all good. It was the characters that bugged me…

Alina went all whiny on us, and then power mad and abrasive, and she could probably win some sort of Martyrdom award. Mal wasn’t any less annoying either. He became petty, and jealous and didn’t even try to understand what Alina was thinking, or why she was doing what she was, but I liked that he still stood by her, as much as he was able.

However, pretty much all of that is insignificant because ENTER: Sturmhond. My favourite character by far. Bardugo really knows how to write them doesn’t she!? Sturmhond was cheeky and witty. One of those all-round-good-guys-hidden-behind-an-armour-of-sarcasm-and-razor-edged-tongue kind of deals.

I never really saw him as a love interest because I kinda pictured him as this larger-than-life scruffy pirate but I’m so rooting for him now. Not that Alina will ever choose him over Mal but one can dream. Sigh.

There were other great new characters too which I hope will return in the third book to sort his whole shadowy mess out.

Next! Thankyouplease.

unicorn rating 3