Book Review: Brightstorm (Vashti Hardy)

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

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 352

Release Date: March 1st 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died! The twins don’t believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation. As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew. But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek?


This was a fantastic middle-grade story, jam-packed full of action and adventure, family and friends and flying machines!

When Arthur and Maudie’s father is reported dead on a mission, after supposedly stealing fuel from another explorer, they set out to complete his mission and clear his name.

I loved the pace of this story. So much happened in such a short space of time: it moved quickly from one thing to the next, not lingering too long on anything so even the sad moments aren’t sad for too long.

There’s a great host of characters, not least of which are the twins. Arthur is desperate to prove he is useful on the ship, despite having only one arm, and to clear his father’s name, so much so that he sometimes doesn’t think before he acts. I loved how smart and practical Maudie was, and how supportive she was of her brother.Their captain, Harriet Culpepper, is an amazing leader, and there’s a villain that’ll make your toes curl too.

I also want to shout out to the amazing cover – it’s so beautiful I could stare at it all day. I’m sure a lot of people will pick it up off the shelves based on its looks alone, and they won’t be disappointed by what’s inside!

This is such a fun book with a host of quirky characters and non-stop action and adventure from start to finish. Get this for the young readers in your life and let them join Arthur and Maudie on the adventure of a lifetime!


Book Review: The Belles (Dhonielle Clayton)

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

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 448

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (From Goodreads):

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.


There was a lot of buzz about this book last year, so when I was offered a review copy I jumped at the chance to read it – and I’m so glad I did!

In Orléans everyone is born a Gris – with grey skin and red eyes and straw-like hair – and only the Belles can make them beautiful. Camellia wants to be the favourite Belle, selected to live in the palace and be Belle to the royal family, but she soon learns that it might not be all she hopes for.

This book reminded me a bit of The Selection. It had a lot a lot of beautiful dresses and people, lots of palace life and glamour. Unlike The Selection though, there was a lot more plot and intrigue going on. It was like everything I wanted The Selection to be, and then some.

The writing is absolutely stunning. I just ate up the descriptions: almost literally, as a lot of it made food comparisons and made me really hungry. It was quite description heavy sometimes but it meant I could really visualise this world of beauty and hidden darkness.

I felt the world was built really well, without being too info-dumpy or too vague on things. I was interested in learning how the Belles originated and how their powers worked, and this wasn’t dumped on the reader, but leaked out slowly. There are still some questions I have on how the Belles are born and I’m hoping they’ll be answered in the next book.

The villain of the book made me shudder at times with her sweet face and despicable actions. She was like every mean girl in a movie times a thousand and you will just love to hate her.

Behind the fast-paced plot and pretty faces lurks something much more sinister: a raw look at society’s obsession with beauty, our desire to conform to what other people say is beautiful, and the lengths we are willing to go to (because the Belle’s work comes with a price of pain). Deep down, everyone in Orléans is unhappy with who they truly are and for many this tale will feel familiar.

I raced through this book and will be raving about it to anyone I can. It’s beautiful and dangerous and I can’t wait for another book in this series.

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?


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.


Book Review: The Huntress – Sky (Sarah Driver)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 384

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seek the scattered Storm-Opals of Sea, Sky and Land, before an enemy finds them and uses them to wield dark power. . .

The trail of the Storm-Opals takes Mouse further than she has ever been before. With her little brother Sparrow and friend Crow alongside her, she stumbles into the world of Sky, where fortresses are hidden amongst the clouds, secret libraries (skybraries) nestle atop gigantic icebergs and the sky swirls with warring tribes and their ferocious flying beasts. Can they solve Da’s message before it’s too late for their ship, their tribe and the whole of Trianukka?

Continue reading “Book Review: The Huntress – Sky (Sarah Driver)”

Book Review: Flame in the Mist (Renée Ahdieh)

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

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Pages: 402

Release Date: May 18th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.


The description of this book reminded me a bit of Across the Nightingale Floor, which I loved as a teen, so I knew I had to read it.

When Mariko is ambushed on the way to her political arranged marriage and her guards and servants kills, she decides to disguise herself as a man and find out who tried to kill her, and why.

I really enjoyed this book at first but I found my attention waned about halfway through. It was still good, but it just wasn’t quite doing it for me: there was no ‘oh, the feels, stuff just happened and I read it and that was that.

Mariko was an interesting character. I do love reading about women trying to overcome the stereotypes and oppressions that are put on them because of their gender, especially in societies very different to the one I live in. I admired Mariko’s determination to prove her worth beyond a political marriage, but I did question the way she went about things a lot of the time.

She didn’t want to go home after being ambushed as there’d be questions about her maidenhood etc, so instead, she dresses as a man and hangs out with a group of men… how is that any better?! She constantly saying how smart she is and how she outwits everyone, but she rarely proves that with her actions – amongst the men of the Black Clan, she seems to be a bit out of her depth.

The twist at the end wasn’t particularly surprising and it didn’t really punch me in the stomach like I wanted it to. The romance was predictable and didn’t really do much for me either. Still, this was an enjoyable read and an interesting take on a Mulan style story.


Book Review: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (Jim Henson, A.C.H Smith)

Publisher: Archaia

Pages: 288

Release Date: April 22nd 2014


Sarah has thirteen hours to save her brother from a land where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.

Finally back in print and for the first time in hardcover, the novelization of LABYRINTH written by A.C.H. Smith and personally overseen by Jim Henson, is the first in a series of novels from the Jim Henson Archives.

This beautiful hardcover features unpublished goblin illustrations by legendary illustrator and concept artist Brian Froud and an exclusive peek into Jim Henson’s creative process with 50 never-before-seen pages from his personal journal, detailing the initial conception of his ideas for LABYRINTH.


The first thing to say about this is it’s a massive nostalgia fest. I’m not sure you’d get as much enjoyment out of it if you weren’t a fan of the film/hadn’t watched it when you were younger. This doesn’t apply to me as I was a huge fan of it when I was younger. It came out about five years before I was born but I remember having it on VHS and watching it over and over with my sister and cousins.

Labyrinth is a coming of age fantasy about Sarah, a young girl who resents her stepmother and half brother and wishes the Goblin King would take him away. Lo and behold, the Goblin King (still David Bowie in my head when I read this) does just that and gives Sarah thirteen hours to solve his labyrinth and save her brother. She meets a whole host of colourful characters, learns some lessons about fairness and friendship and eventually faces down the Goblin King. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure story with some great puzzles and riddles and some truly weird characters.

Throughout reading, I was constantly picturing the film. The prose was fairly simplistic: I’m not really sure what age this is aimed at, other than people like me who loved the film. While I really enjoyed reading it, I think it lacked a bit of the magic of the film, and that’s because it didn’t have the film’s amazing visuals: the puppets, the amazing sets, David Bowie… It did remind me how much I loved the film though.

In this edition, there’s extras at the end which were really interesting. There’s several pages of original drawings by Brian Froud, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator, and notes from Jim Henson when he was coming up with ideas for the film. Froud’s drawings were truly amazing and I could spend ages looking at them. I struggled with Jim Henson’s notes: while the idea of reading them was exciting, I’m terrible at reading handwriting, and couldn’t really make out what a lot of it said. That’s a personal thing, though.

If you’re a fan of the original Labyrinth film and want to have a good old dose of nostalgia then this book is definitely for you.


Book Review: Here Be Witches (Sarah Mussi)

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Shrine Bell

Pages: 476

Release Date: March 1st 2017


All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the middle of a BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL. A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake; mythical creatures and evil ghosts have risen. And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD. Thank heavens for loyal friend George, disloyal bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey. Armed with Granny Jones’s potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to REVERSE THE SPELL, stop the EVIL White Dragon and find Henry. As an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just THREE DAYS to SURVIVE and complete their quest.


When I was contacted about reviewing this book, the main reason I wanted to was because of the setting. I went to university in Bangor in North Wales and lived there for five years. There’s something weirdly exciting about reading a book set where you’ve lived. I got a little thrill when she mentioned Bangor, could really picture the scary beauty of Snowdon and even picked out the odd Welsh word I knew (my Welsh is terrible). Bonus points also as my best friend, who still lives there, is called Eli.

That’s a pretty personal reason for liking a book, so I’ll move on…

This is the second book in the Snowdonia Chronicles series. I haven’t read the first book but managed to pick up enough from this one to figure out what had been going on in it. I don’t think it really affected my reading and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Ellie is a fun narrator. She’s funny and sarcastic and I loved how she’d sometimes write what she meant, then cross it out to put something nicer. The narration style was very chatty and that made her feel relatable, like you were reading something from a friend. I also loved George’s Gran, who was a bit eccentric but also right about all the weird things she said and gave them good advice with her sound knowledge of Wales and folklore.

I wasn’t as keen on George and Rhi. George’s love for Ellie just seemed odd to me. It felt weird for him to keep going on about him fancying Ellie to her face all the time: it would make me feel awkward if I were her and I just didn’t like the relationship. Rhi was another thing altogether. She does some pretty bad stuff (no spoilers) and while Ellie is mad at her for it, she forgives her far more easily than I would have. Rhi also goes on about loving George all the time to and I found that weird.

The folklore in the book was really interesting and has made me want to read up on some of it more. I loved that it referred to The Mabinogion a lot and used a lot of Welsh words and phrases. A lot of things were explained with footnotes, which was handy, although they were often explained between the characters in the book too, which felt a bit like overkill.

 I didn’t always feel the danger of the book: while they kept saying the stakes were high, I don’t think I always felt it. I found some of the characters a bit too annoying and unrealistic, but others, like Ellie, felt spot on.If you like fantasy and folklore then this is a great book for you. There are some things you’ll probably find familiar but a lot might be new to you, as it was for me, and I know I want to look into some of these things more.


Book Review: Naondel (Maria Turtschaninoff)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 480

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose – to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.


This book just blew me away. I really enjoyed Maresi when I read it but this was in another league. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the prequel but this perfectly told the story of the women who founded the Red Abbey.

The book is told from the point of view of each of these women. It starts with Kabira, a young girl who is the guardian to a powerful spring called Anji. When Iskan, the son of the Vizier enters her life, he seduces her and she tells him Anji’s secrets. He uses them to gain power for himself, forces Kabira to marry him and takes control of her life. As he gains more and more power, he enslaves other women and destroys many lives.

The book weaves together the stories each of the women beautifully. Once Kabira’s first section was done I thought I’d struggle to start reading someone else’s story but I quickly became invested in each women’s tale. I loved how they connected to each other, even though their connection was Iskan and the horrible things he did to them. It helped the story cover a large time span without feeling like you were jumping too far forward or missing anything and it was interesting to see the women through each other’s eyes.

I felt most connected to Kabira, probably because she started the story off and I felt she suffered the most at Iskan’s hands. It wasn’t just the rape, but what he did to her family, her children and how he controlled and ruined her entire life. I really felt her pain and grief and sometimes when I was reading it just made me so sad. The other women were all very interesting and different: I particularly liked Estegi and Sulani’s story, especially the revelations at the end (no spoilers!) Orseola’s dreamweaving was fascinating and Iona’ story was really intriguing and sad.

Iskan was an incredible villain. I seriously hated him. He had no redeeming features in my eyes, not after what he did to all of them. He was very well written, his motivations clear and his actions all true to his character. It takes skill to write a character that you can loathe like that: he made my skin crawl whenever he was on the page.

This is a gritty read and it feels weird saying I enjoyed it when I think about all the horrible stuff that happened in it. But it was beautifully written with incredible characters, and while the main part of the book was filled with heartache and tragedy, there was also hope. If you’ve read Maresi then you know what these women go on to create and you get a glimpse of this at the end, though this book is really the story of their lives before they founded the Red Abbey. After all they go through at Iskan’s hands, it’s easy to see why they created a place where men weren’t allowed and women could be taught their worth.

I cannot recommend this book enough, whether you’ve read Maresi or not. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale or Only Ever Yours then you’ll love this. It’s tragic and painful and hopeful and empowering and I just loved it.

Book Review: The Huntress – Sea (Sarah Driver)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 336

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka .


This book was sent to me wrapped up in a beautiful piece of fur with a gorgeous bookmark and map in a bottle. It was such a pretty package and the book lived up to it’s wrapping!


Mouse is going to be captain of the Huntress when she grows up, but for now she has to look after her sickly brother, Sparrow. When their Da goes missing and a mysterious stranger arrives on their ship, things take a bad turn for Mouse.

This felt like a great, old-fashioned adventure story, like ones I loved when I was younger. There’s danger, there are wild beasts and animal friends, magic and fighting and a race to save a loved one. The pace is fast, the story moves quickly from one danger to the next and you’re never bored when reading it.

The language of the book is really distinctive too. Mouse’s voice is so real it was like she was speaking in my head and I could picture her really clearly. In a Q and A in the back of the book, Sarah Driver mentions reading Spellhorn and speaking like the Wild Ones after reading it, and that’s what this reminded me of (also I’d forgotten the name of that book so thanks to her for reminding me!) The Tribe have their own dialect that helps to develop their culture and makes them very memorable. The descriptions are beautifully vivid too; it’s just a delight to read.

I loved Mouse: her impulsiveness and determination and honesty just made her really likeable. She reminded me a bit of Lyra from His Dark Materials. Her ability in ‘beast chatter’ made the creatures around her more interesting too: rather than having standard talking animals, Mouse has a gift that allows her to hear them and communicate back. She talks to her sea-hawk and Sparrow’s moonsprite and uses her gift to help her on her adventures.

This is a really rich, exciting tale, beautifully told and clearly the start of an exciting series. It’s aimed at younger readers but the language can be a little complex and I think it could be a little challenging, but it’s so captivating I think adults and children alike can enjoy.


Book Review: The Scarecrow Queen (Melinda Salisbury)

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 336

Release Date: March 2nd 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .


This is one of my favourite new fantasy series and I was so excited/sad to read this final book. After reading books from Twylla and Errin separately it was great to see their stories come together as they both battled the Sleeping Prince in their own way.

Warning: spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the previous books. You have been warned!

Errin and Silas are prisoners of the Sleeping Prince, victims of his whims and forced to do as he says for fear of the other getting hurt. Meanwhile, Twylla has been left to pick up the pieces of their shattered rebellion.

Before reading this I re-read The Sin Eater’s Daughter and The Sleeping Prince and it was great to reabsorb myself in that world and remember all the events that had come before. On second reading, I didn’t really like Merek until this book. In the first book I found him a bit closed off and up himself, and I didn’t like the things he asked of Twylla. He really came into his own in this book though and I found myself hoping he and Twylla would get together, even though before I was totally Team Leif.

Speaking of which… what a frustrating character! I think some people have found his actions baffling but I kind of get it. He’s like the kid in the playground who sides with the school bully and wants to please him without upsetting everyone else too much. He’ll pull your pig tails but say sorry later. Only in Leif’s case his actions are a lot more serious and can’t be made up for so easily. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers but I did like his storyline, despite wanting to give him a good slap most of the time. While I was kind of over the whole him and Twylla thing, I did wish he’d help his sister out more.

The Sleeping Prince was even more wonderful in this book, probably because we got to see him a lot more. There’s a casual cruelty to him that just makes my skin crawl. The things Errin went through while living in the castle with him… *shudders* I don’t know how she stayed so strong, to be honest.

In the last book I wasn’t sure about Twylla when she just announced that she was going to raise an army and fight the Sleeping Prince. But by Gods, she went and did it in this book! I liked that she started off uncertain and got off on the wrong foot (when she started the whole thing with the chamberpots I was rolling my eyes – glad it didn’t work out for her!). She proves herself to be a worthy leader though, and while I understand her frustration at having destinies written for her all the time, she does manage to take this one and make it her own.

The ending was not as bad as I expected. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I was expecting to have Mel drive a knife into my chest and cut a perfect cirlce and drag out my still beating heart… but it was relatively tame. It was exciting and dramatic and yes, a little sad, but it didn’t break my heart too much. It felt like the right way to end things: rebellions can’t be won without loss and pain, and there was some of that, but there was also hope and resolution and I think the balance was just right.

This has been an incredible series and is one I still recommend to friends all the time. I loved the writing and the rich worldbuilding and I can’t wait to see what Melinda Salisbury writes next.

Copy of an art exhibit