Book Review: Final 7 (Kerry Drewery)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 224

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Martha and Isaac have escaped, but are now on the run – the government has branded them rebels and a danger to the public. Despite the rewards being offered for turning them in, Martha and her friends are safe in The Rises, the area of the city full of the poor and the powerless. But then the Prime Minister orders a wall to be built around The Rises. Is it for the the safety or the poor – or is it to imprison them? Martha needs to act, and to act fast, in a tale of breathtaking treachery that reaches right to the heart of government…

 

Review:

It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was reading and reviewing  Day 7 and it’s weird to think this great series has come to an end now.

Final 7 picks up straight after the previous book, with Martha and an unconscious Isaac being driven to safety by a mysterious woman. Martha and her friends are blamed for the bombing at the Justice Building and are labelled the Rises 7. The media portrays them as a terrorist group and the government use this to further the separation between those in the city and those in the Rises by building a wall around the Rises.

The public believe Martha to be in prison so she spends a lot of this book sneaking around and in various disguises. Eve is arrested and taken to Old Bailey, which serves as a new death row with a historical twist. The chapters from her point of view were really grim and showed how badly the prisoners were treated. There’s a scene with her which I won’t go into because of spoilers, but it really brought a tear to my eye.

Max struggles to find his way in this book as he realises how far he will go to save his mum from death row. Martha faces a similar dilemma as she discovers which of her friends she can’t trust, and which of her enemies she can form alliances with.

The climax is intense and surprising and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t see any of it coming but I loved the way things turned out for everyone. My favourite part was definitely the aftermath when we see how the future might look for Martha, her friends and the whole of England. Have they really won, or have they traded one bad position for another? I’d love another book to find out!

This is a fascinating, extreme dystopian about corruption, privacy and the influence of the media. Although it seems a far cry from the system we have today, Drewery makes you question where we might be heading…

If you like a tense mystery-thriller with really compelling characters then I urge you to give this series a go.

4

Book Review: The Lie Tree (Frances Hardinge)

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Release Date: October 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen.

Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

Review:

Frances Hardinge’s writing is just painfully beautiful, and this book is no exception. I love reading her books, but it makes me despair too, as I know I can never have that magical way with words that she has.

Faith has a secret thirst for knowledge that she starts to satisfy when she reads her father’s journals and uncovers his greatest discovery: a tree fed on lies that can tell you truths. But each lie she tells has real life consequences – are the truths revealed worth the price she may have to pay?

I loved the idea of the story and especially loved Faith’s character. She was quiet and plain and smart and brave and everything I want in a heroine. I was fascinated by the lie tree and just wanted to read more about it: Hardinge could publish a history of the plant and I would devour it.

This book also defies the stereotype of boring, passive women in period pieces. Women can be intelligent and strong and even villains (!) no matter what time period you’re in. I loved the realisation Faith had at the end, so much that I’m going to quote it here:

Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.

That to me is the final say on the ‘not like other girls’ trope and it’s perfect.

This edition also has beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. They’re so intricate and detailed it took me twice as long to read this as it should have because I kept staring at the pictures.

This is definitely a modern classic and one that should be taught in schools to show young people the sheer joy of reading beautiful language. I loved it and I hope you will too.

Best Books of 2017

January

31380398

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

I started off reading a lot this year and January was an incredible month for books. The Call stood out above the others though as a book I couldn’t put down. It creeped me out but had me hungry for more and I’ve been recommending it all year.

Honourable Mentions: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff and The Yellow Room by Jess Valance

February

rsz_28101625

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy

This was a really raw and powerful book which I, appropriately, read during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It was difficult to read at times, but in a good way, and the writing and characters were excellent.

Honourable Mentions: Silver Stars by Michael Grant

March

rsz_34035652

Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

This prequel just blew me away. While I loved Maresi, this one sucked me completely into the world and characters and they felt so real to me: their pain was my pain. It’s not the nicest of stories but it’s powerful and there’s hope there too.

Honourable Mentions: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

April 

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill

This was a fun read and I think I really connected with it from my drama days. I can’t wait to read both the sequels next year.

Honouable Mentions: Girlhood by Cat Clarke

May

The Fallen Children by David Owen

I loved this take on The Cuckoos of Midwich -this is one of those books I wish I’d written and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

Honourable Mentions: Release by Patrick Ness

June

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This was one of the most hyped books of this year, and with good reason. It was the cutest little romance and I couldn’t help but love Dimple and Rishi.

liHonourable Mentions: Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfiled

July

 

And I Darken by Kiersten White

I completely fell in love with this retelling of Vlad the Impaler as a woman. Lada is now one of my favourite anti-heroes and I can’t wait to see how her story ends.

Honourable Mentions: Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson

August

Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte is one of my favourite horrors and I was super excited to read this prequel. It was creepy and atmospheric and didn’t disappoint at all.

Honourable Mentions: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

September

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

I raced through this book and loved every second of it. Space, loneliest, distant love – what’s not to like? It’s made me crave more sci-fi YA, especially ones set in space.

Honourable Mentions: No Shame by Anne Cassidy

October 

Monster by Michael Grant

Despite hacing not read the Gone series, I really loved this continuation of that world. Grnat’s writing can be brutal and I love that – will be checking out the Gone series next year for sure!

Honourable Mentions: Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

November

Wild Fire  by Anna McKerrow

This was the thrilling end to an amazingly different series. I love the world that it’s set in and loved learning about the different goddesses – and seeing Melz get a happy ending!

Honourable Mentions: Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell

December

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge’s writing makes me marvel and despair: I love reading her books but it makes me feel useless in comparison. She’s just magical with words and I loved this book

Honourable Mentions:  Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

I’ve read some amazing things this year, and am looking forward to doing the same in 2018. I feel like blogging has taken a backseat towards the end of this year as I’ve been focussing on family and writing. While this will probably carry on into next year, I will be making an effort to have at least one post per week.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2018 is wonderful for you all!

Book Review: Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt)

Publisher: Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 464

Release Date: February 1st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing…until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray.

In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…

Review:

Lexi has grown up helping out at her Dad’s conventions and being super organised, but when an unexpected guest turns up in the green room that all starts going out the window.

This was a great story about falling in love and finding yourself. The book references and fangirling are perfect for YA fans and avid readers: I loved the nod to Melinda Salisbury especially.

The romance was a slow burner, but I loved that because it made it so much more believable than insta-love *shakes fist* Lexi’s annoyance with Aidan was perfect and they played off each other really well: it captures that mega crush you have where you just snark at each other to hide your true feelings.

This is a great read, with a romance that is cute without being too gooey, and a wonderful sense of discovering yourself and finding the people you belong with. It’s funny with a geeky charm and I’d recommend it for the reader in your life.

November Wrap Up

It’s been a quiet reading and blogging month as I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo… and I completed it! It’s the second time I’ve done it and it’s really motivated me to keep writing. I planned it a lot better this year and think my manuscript really benefited from it.

What I Read

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell

Wild Fire by Anna McKerrow

Book Post

I’ve had some really exciting book post this month and need to get back into reading so I can get through them all!

Final 7 by Kerry Drewery

(Thanks Hot Key books!)

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland

(Thanks Walker Books!)

What I Wrote:

As I said, I’m now an official NaNoWriMo winner. I think I owe the success in part to M. G. Leonard: I started listening to her podcasts on writing and was inspired to get up early to write instead of trying to do it after work when I’m exhausted. So I got up at 5:30 most days in November and it’s done wonders for my writing routine! I’d really recommend checking them out.

What I watched:

TV

This month we’ve  watched the latest series of American Horror Story, and it was a struggle. I really wanted to like the series but it just didn’t do anything for me. We’ve moved on to Electric Dreams now and that’s really interesting.

What Little Moore Did

Little Moore has had two trips to the transport museum this month and has really loved it. He just wanders around pointing and saying ‘Car! Wow! Brummm!’ So cute!

Book Review: Wild Fire (Anna McKerrow)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 530

Release Date: November 14th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The last book in the Greenworld trilogy follows Sadie, Roach’s daughter and Danny’s former girlfriend, as she finds a new identity as the third branded witch along with Danny and Melz. Sadie, a natural healer, is training to be a witch in Tintagel, Cornwall, as well as trying to deal with her own difficult past. Plus, she’s fallen in love with Melz, but Demelza Hawthorne is a tortured soul. Can Sadie’s love bring Melz back into the light, or will she be lost altogether?

Meanwhile, a global network of resistance is forming against the corrupt, dystopian Redworld governments. Sadie travels by accident through the portal to Mount Shasta, home to a Native American tribe, who indicate that they too are holding out against the Redworld. The war for fuel is over, and new solutions have to be found fast. But in Tintagel, Lowenna Hawthorne, Head Witch of the Greenworld, is in denial about the need for change.

In the final dramatic climax to the trilogy, the Greenworld witches have to do something more difficult than they ever have, but saving the world means refusing to be separate anymore. Can they join with others, despite their differences, and usher in a brave new world? Or will the Greenworld disappear altogether?

Review:

I remember finishing Red Witch and being so excited for the next book, and theorising who would be telling the final part of the story. I can now confirm that – hey, I was right, it’s Sadie’s turn!

Sadie is the third branded witch, along with Danny and Melz and this new generation has plenty to deal with. As well as dealing with the fallout of the actions of their parents, the Greenworld is filling with refugees from the Redworld. The war is over there but the troubles are far from solved. To add to all that, Sadie has to deal with massive crush she’s developed on Melz.

I loved seeing Sadie’s story. I don’t think we’ve seen much of her yet, and it was great to get to know a new witch, especially one who wasn’t as born into it as Danny and Melz were. She has a lot of bottled up emotions from her past – the actions of her abusive father, Roach, the terrible act her mother committed in the previous book – and it’s interesting to see how she deals with them as the book progresses.

The situation with the Greenworld and Redworld is fascinating. While at first glance the Greenworld might seem like a protected utopia, it soon becomes clear that separation is not sustainable and another solution will need to be found. Not everyone is open to change though, and Sadie and Melz have to make some tough decisions in the interest of the Greenworld.

I still have a soft spot for Melz and it was great to see a resolution of her story. Hers has definitely been the most complex and emotional across the three books and she’s got a special place in my heart now. I loved the relationship that slowly blossomed between her and Sadie and it was great to see her finally let herself be loved and be happy.

This didn’t go the way I expected to and I was happily surprised with the progression of events. The ending is beautifully hopeful and gave me an embarrassingly gooey feeling inside, without being too twee. This is a fantastic trilogy and I’d really recommend picking it up if you haven’t yet.

4

Book Review: Chasing the Stars (Malorie Blackman)

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 496

Release Date: April 21st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety.

Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.

Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced. But not everyone is pleased.

Surrounded by rumours, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?

 

Review:

I was so excited when I heard about this and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it. I read an amazing space YA in The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and had high expectations for this.

Unfortunately, I found this a bit of a letdown.

The characters felt rather one dimensional and it committed one of my biggest book faux-pas:  insta-love. Pretty much as soon as Vee and Nathan saw each other they were in love and their relationship went hurtling at light speed. And I just couldn’t buy it. No matter how many moments or nice conversations they had, no matter how lonely Vee had been before, I couldn’t see their relationship as real.

I called the big twist pretty early on too, and although I felt it was obvious, it was quite a cool idea. I liked the world building and was intrigued by the Mazons and the Authority and wished I could have a story about them rather than a space romance.

Then came the inevitable relationship breakdown as Vee succumbs to suggestions that Nathan is unfaithful and grows paranoid about his actions. I just couldn’t bring myself to care at this point. None of it was subtle and I lost respect for Vee for falling for it all so easily.

I understand this is a retelling of Othello so that’s where the basis of the plot came from but I don’t think the romance was strong enough to hang it all on. It’s hard to say I’m disappointed by a Malorie Blackman book but it just didn’t live up to expectations. I still enjoyed some aspects of it but I don’t think it’s one I’ll be re-visiting.

I’m off to re-read Noughts and Crosses to remind myself how wonderful Malorie Blackman is.

 

October Wrap Up

I feel like I’ve managed to read a lot more this month, and I think that’s because I’m blogging less. I’m not worried about writing reviews for books, just trying to enjoy them. I’m trying to get through all the books I got last Christmas which are shamefully still sitting on my TBR (ready for a new bunch in a couple of months!)

What I Read

Another Beginning by Lauren James

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (Audio Books) by Suzanne Collins

Monster by Michael Grant

The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich

Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick

Book Post

After being really good last month and not requesting any books, I went on a little spree this month. I just couldn’t resist!

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

(Thanks Electric Monkey)

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

I Am Thunder by Muhammas Khan

Renegades by Merissa Meyer

(Thanks Macmillan Children’s Books!)

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

(Thanks Puffin!)

Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

(Thanks Gollancz!)

A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Luedecke

(Competition win – thanks Lisa Luedecke!)

A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen

(Comeptition win – thanks Walker Books!)

I also had my beautiful, limited edition of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage arrive. I can’t bring myself to start it yet, it feels it needs a special occasion/hours to sit down and binge read!

What I Wrote:

I slacked off a bit on the writing front at the beginning of the month and slowly brought myself back into it by deciding to do NaNoWriMo again this year. So I’ve planned in detail and am hoping to get the bulk of the novel written in November (fingers crossed) So if it’s a bit quiet on here in November then that’s why!

What I watched:

TV

This month has been all about Louis Theroux. We started off watching his new series on the BBC, and then binged some of his older ones on Netflix and Prime. I could watch him go just about anywhere, I love all his shows.

Films/What I Did

This month we watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe which was super creepy and fun – I’d definitely recommend it. We also got my sister to babysit and had our first date night in months. We went to see It and loved it – that perfect mix of creepiness and gore and laughs. I need to rewatch the original now, as I only have vague memories of being terrified of that when I was a tween!

What Little Moore Did

Little Moore is growing far too fast! He’s really into speaking at the moment and his vocabulary is growing by the day. He loves to say ‘car’ still, and now has a wide range of animal noises he can do, from camel to elephant to giraffe! He’s teething at the moment, which seems to be a never-ending trauma – I can’t wait for him to finally have his full set of teeth!

Book Review: Electric Dreams (Philip K. Dick)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 224

Release Date: September 14th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Based on the stories contained in this volume, the ten-part anthology series, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex), with Oscar nominated Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) both executive producing and appearing in the series.

Each episode will be a sharp, thrilling standalone drama adapted and contemporised for global audiences by a creative team of British and American writers. The series will both illustrate Philip K. Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized Sci-Fi novelist’s work. Other guest stars include Janelle Morae, Anna Paquin, Timothy Spall and Benedict Wong.

The ten stories included are:

THE HANGING STANGER, THE COMMUTER, THE FATHER-THING, EXHIBIT PIECE, IMPOSSIBLE PLANET, SALES PITCH, FOSTER YOU’RE DEAD, THE HOOD MAKER, HOLY QUARREL, IF THERE WERE NO BENNY CEMOLI, AUTOFAC and HUMAN IS

Review:

I’ve not read any Philip K Dick before, but I have seen a lot of films inspired by his books and figured it’d be my kind of thing. I already had the Electric Dreams TV show set to record when Gollancz offered it for review – and we all know it’s better to read the book first, right?

This has all the stories that inspired the episodes, with an introduction to each one buy the people who adapted them.

I really enjoyed all of the stories, though some more than others, of course. It was a refreshing read as it’s not my usual kind of book and I was worried I wouldn’t get on with it, but I raced through each story.

PKD plunges straight into each story with no explanation, just immersing you straight into his new world and adding enough detail to make sure you catch up.

My favourites were The Father-Thing – there was something very creepy about seeing all of it through a child’s eyes – and The Hanging Stranger – the end of that, when everything falls into place, packs a real punch. I’d say my least favourite was Autofac – it was interesting enough but just didn’t capture me the way the others did.

If you’ve watched or are planning on watching the TV show then I’d definitely recommend getting this. Whether you’re a newbie to PKD like me, or a veteran fan, there’s guaranteed to be a story in there you’ll enjoy.

Book Review: Monster (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 464

Release Date: October 19th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

When the dome came down, they thought it was the end of the troubles. Truth is, it was just the beginning.

Shade Darby witnessed events that day, with devastating consequences, and vowed never to feel that powerless again. Now, four years later, she gets her hands on a part of the meteor that began it all – and that’s when she changes.

Trouble is, Shade’s not the only one mutating, and the authorities cannot allow these superpowers to go unchecked . . .

Review:

Confession time: I’ve not read the Gone series by Michael Grant. I’ve seen the name around a few times as I’ve read some of his other books, but when this one dropped through my mailbox I didn’t realise it was the continuation of another series.

After reading this, I really need to read the Gone series. There’s something quite cool about reading something and finding out there are more books to read before this story takes place. I was really into this story and able to understand what was going on, but it’s nice to know that I can read in full all the previous events that were alluded to.

Shade Darby was there when the dome came up, a helpless child who saw her mother die in the chaos that followed. Now older and determined never to be helpless again, Shade has tracked down part of the meteor that began everything and is going to take matters and power into her own hands. But other people have come across parts too, and their intentions might not be as good as Shade’s.

This book does have some old characters from the previous series in it, and lots of references to what happened in those books, so I guess I was starting on the back foot a little with it, but I still really enjoyed it. It has a similar format to Grant’s Soldier Girl series, in that lots of different viewpoints and stories are covered, rather than seeing things from one protagonist’s point of view, and that helped show the scale of the problem as bits of the meteor landed and were discovered across the world (my particular favourite was the baby who used part of it as a teether in Scotland).

There’s a lot of graphic and gross descriptions in the book that made it feel very gritty and real. While there are lots of references to comic book superheroes, our characters are very different from the usual spandex-clad heroes. Their powers come with grim transformations: no one sounds graceful or beautiful, they’re all monsters in their own way.

The book deals with questions of power and responsibility, and what happens when great power like this gets into anyone’s hands: wrong or right, there’s always going to be consequences. Even with someone like Shade, who means well, good intentions often aren’t enough to stop you from making terrible decisions and hurting the ones you love.

This is an exciting, action-packed story that grips you from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next to these characters and the changing world they’re in, as well as reading the Gone series to see how it all started.