A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1) by Alyxandra Harvey

18633458In 1814, three cousins-Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope-discover their unknown family lineage of witchcraft. Beyond the familiar manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, a dangerous, alluring new underworld visible only to those with power is now open to the cousins.
But unbeknownst to them, by claiming their power, the three cousins have inadvertently opened the gates to the Underworld.
Now the dead, ghouls, hellhounds-and the most terrifying of all: the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters-are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers.
And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies.
Can the cousins unravel the clues and mystery behind their heritage and power before their gifts are stripped away …or even worse, another witch is killed?

I really wanted to love this. I’d heard good things about Harvey even though I never got round to her other series, The Drake Chronicles. The cover drew me to it (so pretty) and I loved the synopsis, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it.

That being said, I’m not entirely sure if the book is to blame or if it was a timing issue. I was so busy I was trying to snatch 15 minutes here and there to get through it but every time I picked it up my heart wasn’t in it and I found it hard to follow, which probably wouldn’t have been an issue if I had time to sit down and read it for longer periods of time.

The book started promising enough. It was action-packed from the off and I really loved the humorous tone of the narration.

In a nutshell, A Breath of Frost is about three cousins who discover they are witches, just at the same time that they have more important things to worry about such as debutante balls and finding husbands. When their powers are awakened, an ancient evil known as the Greymalkin is too and we follow the cousins through the discovery of their ancestry, their powers and responsibility, and generally just trying to stay alive. Oh and throw in a bit of Romance too, of course. (I liked Cormac a lot!)

Breaking into a dead woman’s house was easy work since she rarely complained. Breaking into a dead witch’s house was a different matter entriely.

We come across vampire pigeons, goblin markets, LADIES WITH UNICORNS…As I’m writing this really starting to wonder how I didn’t ADORE this book. I even found the writing beautiful and inventive at times:

“The others looked at her as if she were made of spiders and thorns”

A girl meandered out of the shrubbery, her long, pale hair, falling like shining swan feathers to her waist. She was all moon-beams and mist, delicate pearls and orchids, apart from the wickedly jagged knife at her belt.”

So why did I find it so hard to read? Answers on a postcard please.

I found a lot of similarities to The Worst Witch too, (with Daphne being the mean one but most talented, and Emma being rubbish and getting up to all kinds of things) albeit a more grown up, Regency Era Worst Witch.

What’s not to like? I might have to give it another go at some point!

unicorn rating 3

Disclosure?: Yep, I received a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Details: Paperback, 496 pages
Publication Date: January 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s
My Rating: 3/5
If you like this try: Nightworld by L.J Smith

Secrets & Lies: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

17167166 (1) An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

This book was actually lot to different to what I was expecting. For some reason I thought it was going to be about Celaena, now the King’s Champion, killing people against her will but then rebelling and fighting back, or fighting for her freedom. But it wasn’t really.

I mean, sure she was tricking the King into thinking she was fulfilling her duties but I expected more Celaena Vs the King going on, I thought she’d escape and start a rebel group or something.

Anywayyyyyyyy, that didn’t happen…but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy what did happen!

I especially enjoyed seeing Celaena properly kicking ass in this book because in Throne of Glass there was a lot of talk about her kicking ass but we didn’t get to witness much of it. We just had to have faith that she was as awesome as people described her.

As for the love interests, well. Obviously I’m rooting for Prince Dorian because, he’s a Prince and got that brooding, wounded heart thing going for him. But I like Chaol too even if he was a bit soppy. I generally don’t get on with characters that are too nice (Peeta) and soppy all the time, such is the blackness of my heart. But in the end I did warm to him.

I think my favourite parts of Crown of Midnight were those involving Mort, a talking brass gargoyle-type knocker thing a-la Labyrinth (The best film ever) and Baba Yellowlegs, a terrifying witch with iron teeth who Dorian and Celaena seek out for answers. She was a hoot.

Oh, and here’s one for the Buffy fans out there:

But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.

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All in all, I’m still pretty in love with Celaena but I think there is so much more that needs to happen. I felt like Maas was holding back on too much and I’m impatient. I want to know it all right now! I’m already praying for next book to land swiftly!

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure: None, I bought it!
Details: Paperback, 418 pages
Publication Date: Published August 15th 2013 by Bloomsbury Children’s
My Rating: 4/5
Is it a Keeper? YES!
If you liked this try: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends out there!

Werewolves, Ghosts & A Christmas Ball: The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

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The tale of THE WOLF GIFT continues . . .

As lush and romantic in detail and atmosphere as it is sleek and steely in storytelling, Anne Rice brings us once again to the rugged coastline of Northern California, to the grand mansion at Nideck Point—to further explore the unearthly education of her transformed Man Wolf.

The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.

From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers . . .

Before I start this review I have some confessions to make. Firstly, I requested this from NetGalley thinking I would have time to read the first book in the series beforehand – I did not. And secondly, those of you who have read some of my previous posts will know that I just was not in the mood to read ANYTHING for like two weeks. Major book funk.

So, it’s quite hard to review this objectively. It has never taken me so long to read a 400 page book, and I honestly don’t know if it was because of my book funk, or because I just couldn’t get into it.

But, I can tell you one thing for sure, Anne Rice writes beautifully.

From what I’ve read about the first book, The Wolf Gift, Reuben, a young reporter heads to the magnificent mansion Nideck Point to interview a woman about the estate. While he’s there he is attacked by a group of Wolf Men and in turn, receives the Wolf Gift himself, becoming one of them, The Morphenkinder. He struggles with his new animalistic, vicious side throughout.

In The Wolves of Midwinter, Reuben is now the owner of Nideck Point, pursuing his love for Laura (who is in the midst of also becoming one of the Morphenkinder), and trying to keep the wolf attacks underwrap from the village.

There were things I liked in this book that convinced me to not give up on it despite really not being in the mood to read. For one, being set at Christmas is a big win for me this time of year. In the hopes of being accepted by the village, The Morphenkinder plan a grand Christmas ball. The descriptions of the lavish festivities, decorations and food had me seriously pining for Christmas and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

However, I was expecting something terrible to happen at the ball when it eventually came about, but it didn’t.

And that’s kind of the way this book went for me. I kept expecting things to happen but they just didn’t materialize. The main conflict in the story was that of Marchent, a ghost (who I assume was a main part of book 1) whom the Morphenkinder are being haunted by. They clearly loved her once, and seeing her ghost upsets them, especially Reuben who tries to help her despite being scared of her appearences. But that never really went anywhere either.

And then there’s Reuben’s Dad. I really enjoyed their relationship and thought it was quite refreshing to see a man’s relationship with his father in a genre like this. It doesn’t seem to happen very often. But, I found the rest a bit predictable – Reuben’s dad comes to stay with them at Nideck Point and he finds out that they are Werewolves. Didn’t see that one coming. And again, not much happens. It turns out that his dad already knew what he was and doesn’t care!

Overall, I think if I’d read this at a different time, and after having read the first book (usually helps) that I might have liked it a bit more, but there just wasn’t enough conflict or surprise in this for me. I loved Anne Rice’s style, and the beautiful way she has of describing her opulent worlds, but the story fell a bit flat.

Disclosure: I received a copy from the Publisher via Netgalley for an HONEST review. Many Thanks!
Details: Hardcover, 400 pages. Published November 7th 2013 by Chatto & Windus (Random House UK)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
If you liked this try: Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

Horror October: Where it all began (Point Horror, boiii)!

My love of all things horror was spawned from two main things.

1. My family, who never really censored what we watched and me trying to get one up on my older brother by swearing I wasn’t scared of any of the films he put on. Somewhere along the line, I got a taste for it. I also remember trips to the video shop (RIP VHS) on Friday nights in which I would usually have a friend over (the promise of horror films at the age of 13 was always good for the popularity ratings) and my dad would let us pick any 3 of the bargain nasties (50p for 2 nights!!), any our hearts desired. Some that spring to mind are, Salem’s Lot, Amityville Horror, and Child’s Play.

2. My discovery of Point Horror books. I love these books. Reading them now they are silly and a bit of fun but back when I was 10, I thought they were the best thing ever. And they really got me back into reading when reading wasn’t considered cool. I stupidly sold all of my original copies when I thought I’d out-grown them, but I’ve been slowly building up my collection again.

Here’s what I have so far:

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And here are some of my favourites. I haven’t reread them all yet but these are the ones I remember the most!

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The Snowman – R.L Stine
Heather feels cold all the time. Alone. Her guardian hates her. He’d like to see her dead. He’d like all her money. But for now he settles for controlling it, and making Heather’s life miserable.

Poor little rich girl, just like Cinderella…

Then the gorgeous, ice-blond guy shows up at the crummy restaurant where Heather works after school. He understands about Heather. He’s her Prince Charming. No one can get to Heather now.

Heather feels so safe. So loved. So warm…

The Cemetery – D.E Athkins

When an innocent game played by a group of teens leads to the death of one of them, the surviving friends must figure out who among them is the killer

The Cheeleader – Caroline B. Cooney

Cheerleaders are beautiful, popular and exciting – girls that Althea longs to be. But Althea is nobody – she gets no phone calls, shares no laughter and has no friends. Then one day she meets him, a vampire who offers to make her a cheerleader in exchange for a simple bargain.

The Window – Carol Ellis

It should have been the skiing holiday of a lifetime. But Jody sprains her ankle and finds herself alone with nothing to do but gaze out of her cabin window.

Gazing into the cabin of a beautiful neighbor she witnesses the fight, the murder and the killer…or does she?

And if the murder is real, has the killer been watching Jody?

The Girlfriend – R.L Stine

Scotty has the perfect life. And the perfect girlfriend. But one weekend while she’s away, Scotty goes just a little…astray. Suddenly he has a new girlfriend. One who won’t go away. His one wild night has become a nightmare.

Because his new girlfriend has decided that she loves Scotty…to death.

The Boyfriend – R.L Stine

Sometimes, love is murder. Too bad about Dex. He was in love with Joanna. She broke up with him. And then he died.

Joanna’s sorry, of course. But it’s not her fault he’s dead, is it? Besides, she never loved him. Boys are just toys, to be used and thrown away.

But this time, Joanna’s gone too far. Because Dex is back. From the dead. For one last date with her….

I really want to find this one next:

459353When the Devil’s Elbow roller coaster goes off track, killing one teenager and maiming two others, everyone thinks it’s just an accident . . . except Tess. She saw someone tampering with the track. Then another “accident” occurs in the Funhouse and Tess may have been the intended victim.

Here’s Danny! Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

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16130549

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I don’t know where to start with this book as it gave me a bit of a book hangover! Ideally, I need some time to digest and reflect…but I have too many books and reviews to get through this month so you’ll just have to bear with me.

I don’t know how Stephen King does it. He somehow makes you care about every single word he writes, which is quite a feat considering the length of some of his novels. This one is pretty short for him, coming in at around 500 pages depending on the edition.

I was glued from the off. He made me care about every character -even the minor ones- in one way or another (and there’s quite a lot of them). I instantly fell in love with Dan Torrence, now all grown up and in a bad way, alcoholic Dan is lost in life. The ghosts from the Overlook have continued to follow him around as well as some new ones and he moves from place to place, trying to find somewhere he can call home.

It’s when he arrives in Frazer that things change, especially his introduction to Abra. Abra was such a wonderful, in-depth character too. Her powers are crazy-good and a lot of weird shit happens to her from the age of 2 but she just kind of gets on with it. She’s not scared of it and when she grows up a bit, she sets her mind on using her Shining to help people. Little does she know, that she will end up having to save herself the most.

Abra was totally the star of the show for me.

I also love that this book wasn’t just about cheap scares (then again, when is anything Stephen King does about that!?), it was essentially about Dan’s redemption. I thought the link with The Overlook was done excellently, too.

The only reason this wasn’t a 5/5 book for me was that it didn’t scare me at all. It took me a while to appreciate what was going on with The True Knot (the big bad) but once I understood what they were supposed to be I did enjoy the creepiness of them; there were some great touches in there. The Cycling for one!

Overall, I’m so glad I got to have some kind of closure on Daniel Torrence. As a sequel, or a stand alone book, I certainly recommend it.

Oh, and I definitely almost cried in two places.

Disclosure: None, I bought it!
Details: Hardcover, 531 pages. Published September 24th 2013 by Scribner
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
If you liked this try: Phantoms by Dean Koontz

New Find for Horror October: The Seance by Tricia Drammeh (free on Kindle this weekend!)

This has been a weekend of giveaways and free books for me. WIN! So I thought I’d share the joy. I love the sound of this.

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Ninth grade can be a nightmare when you don’t fit in at school, your crush chooses someone else, and your parents tell you they’re having a new baby. Abby was prepared for normal high school problems. She wasn’t prepared for the demon.

Abby has always been fascinated by the paranormal, but after an ill-fated séance, she discovers not all Spirits are benign. A dark entity unleashed during the summoning sets out to destroy Abby, and within days, she loses her best friend, incurs the wrath of her parents, and becomes a prisoner in her own home. With time quickly running out, she assembles an unlikely group of helpers: the most hated guy in school, a retired psychic, and the cute clerk from her favorite bookstore. Unless the demon is defeated, Abby and her new baby brother won’t stand a chance.

What people are saying about The Séance

As an avid horror fan, I tend to approach a new book with a ‘bring it on – scare me!’ attitude. The Seance did not disappoint.

Mandy White – Goodreads

I absolutely loved this book! Although this book is for young adults this old adult enjoyed the heck out of it. I couldn’t put it down.

Diana – Goodreads

Get your free copy this weekend here.

Favourites Friday #13 (Horror October Edition): The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom

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It was expecting them.

Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house’s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims “belongs to the house.” Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife….

Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna’s American dream into a relentless nightmare.

An extraordinary marriage of supernatural thrills and exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force.

OK, so I’ve only just seen what a bad average rating this book has on Goodreads and I haven’t read it since it came out in 2009 but I’ve wanted to read it again ever since. I think the main thing I liked about this book was that it pays homage to the great haunted house/ posession films that I grew up on like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist and added a better back story.

Despite being a bit of a tool, I liked Conrad as the protagonist and when the shit starts to hit the fan I felt sorry for him, knowing that there was no way he was gonna get out that house unscathed. Nadia, the seductive and down-right odd teenager next door, the crying babies at night and the proper weird stick-doll thing which may or may not be a figment of Conrad’s fucked up imagination, all worked for me.

It was a little bit horror-by-numbers, but for a debut novel I thought Ransom did a good job. The Birthing House was a quick, atmospheric read with just enough creep-factor to satisfy my creepiness.

A Winter’s Tale: Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

Title: Frost Hollow Hall
Author: Emma Carroll
Details: E-book, Paperback, 368 pages
Expected Publication: October 3rd 2013 by Faber and Faber
Disclosure: Thanks to Emma Carroll & Faber and Faber for providing a copy for an HONEST review
My Rating: 4 Unicorns out of 5

The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut.

Tilly’s heart sinks. Will’s at the door of their cottage, daring her to come ice-skating up at Frost Hollow Hall. No one goes near the place these days. Rumour has it that the house is haunted . . . Ten years ago the young heir, Kit Barrington, drowned there in the lake. But Tilly never turns down a dare.

Then it goes horribly wrong. The ice breaks, Tilly falls through and almost drowns. At the point of death, a beautiful angel appears in the water and saves her. Kit Barrington’s ghost.

Kit needs Tilly to solve the mystery of his death, so that his spirit can rest in peace. In order to discover all she can, Tilly gets work as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall. But the place makes her flesh crawl. It’s all about the dead here, she’s told, and in the heart of the house she soon discovers all manner of dark secrets . . .

Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly’s unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery.

I fell in love with the cover and synopsis of Frost Hollow Hall from the moment I saw it. Mainly because I’m a bit strange and actually looking forward to Winter. There’s just something magical and mysterious about Winter and the cover promises these in abundance.

I was not disappointed. Tilly is a great protagonist. She’s kind and hopeful despite the rough hand she’s been dealt. Poor Tilly is used to being second best; always in the shadow of her sister who constantly sides with her mum leaving Tilly feeling left out and like the black sheep but Tilly doesn’t let it get her too down, she’s independent and headstrong.

When Will Potter dares her to go ice-skating on the frozen lake in the forbidden grounds of Frost Hollow Hall she goes along. Not because she likes him like all of the other girls in the village but because she craves adventure and excitement in her life. This is when the story comes into its own. Emma Carroll’s descriptive prose is perfect in portraying Frost Hollow Hall as an intimidating yet beautiful place, full of mystery and dark secrets.

Spread out before us was the thickest, most marvellous frost I’d ever seen. The grass was so pale it might have been snow, the trees all white like bones.

I was so intrigued by the place, I was instantly hooked and wanted a glimpse inside even more than Tilly.

And then there’s Kit Barrington, who appears to Tilly when the inevitable accident happens and she falls through the ice. He’s a beautiful ghost and needs her help. I do wish we’d seen more of Kit in the story though as he was the driving force behind everything that happens but we only encounter him properly that one time and in Tilly’s dreams. I wanted more – probably because I couldn’t help but picture him as a younger version of Kit ‘you know nothing Jon Snow’ Harington from Game of Thrones…err hot.

Will is pretty cute too and I’m glad this never really turned into a love-triangle. I like how Will started off almost arrogant and annoying but throughout the story we see kindness in his actions and it becomes clear that he really does care for Tilly. I was rooting for him by the end.

Thanks to Tilly’s strong characterisation I was invested in all the goings on at Frost Hollow Hall. When Tilly was excited, (despite all of the other maids being terrified) I was excited, when she was scared, I was scared for her…I love stories that are rollercoasters, and this definitely was. The pace only dropped once and I found myself wanting to skip on once Tilly had gotten the job as a maid but hadn’t managed to find much out about Kit or the Barringtons but it soon picked up again when the ghostly activity was cranked up a notch.

With creepy rooms, terrified maids, a house-keeper who seems to be hiding something and Lady Barrington mad with mourning, Frost Hollow Hall is a compelling read.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of Children’s or YA Historical Fiction out there and this made me wish there was. Carroll’s narrative voice and descriptive language set the scene and time excellently and I loved it. The perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dark night.

Follow Emma Carroll on twitter @emmac2603

ARC Giveaway: The Screaming Staircase (Children’s/YA Supernatural)

The Amazing World Book Day have another great YA giveaway this month. Get Involved Here.

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FIVE advance copies of Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase to be won!

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

‘You’ll want to leave the lights on . . . Stroud is a genius’ Rick Riordan

Closes at midnight on Friday 13th September 2013