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

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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

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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

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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!

A Christmas Book Haul

I don’t often to book hauls, mostly because I don’t really get a lot of books in one go, but I was lucky enough to get so many wonderful books for/around Christmas that I just wanted to share them.

From Publishers

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Before Christmas I got a few exciting booking parcels in the post. One was this lovely set of It Girl books by Katy Birchall from Egmont. I loved the first two books and am excited to see what happens to Anna next. The new covers are gorgeous and I love this new design.

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I also received a copy of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, from Walker books, which I’m reading at the moment. So many people have been tweeting amazing things about this book and I feel really lucky to have a copy.

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And finally, I have The Fireman by Joe Hill, from Gollancz. When I was emailed about this I’d just finished reading Horns and the offer of another book by Joe Hill was just too tempting.

From Nathan

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The majority of my presents from Nathan were books, which is alright by me! They were a good mix of things he knew I wanted – Noughts & Crosses which I used to borrow off my sister so never had my own copy, Goldenhand because I love The Old Kingdom series, a beautiful illustrated copy of The Lie Tree – and some new things to try as well. I’ve already read Scarlet Witch and can’t wait to get stuck into the rest of them.

From the In-Laws

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Nathan’s parents really know how to do Christmas well, and I was lucky to get a lot of books from them. The one I’m most excited about is The Call by Peadar O’Guilin, which I’ve heard great things about, and The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich, as I loved The Dead House by her.

From my Mom

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And lastly, from my dear old Mom, I got The Muse by Jessie Burton. I read The Miniaturist last year and quite enjoyed it, though I’ll admit I struggled a bit as adult books aren’t really my thing. but it was still an interesting story and I’m looking forward to picking this one up.

This year I’ve decided to prioritise the books I got for Christmas, as last year some of them got lost in all the review books and new books I got throughout the year (I still haven’t read some of them…) So I have my new books in a separate pile and am going to work my way through them, alternating with review books when I have them.

I hope you all had a very bookish Christmas and that the new year holds lots of exciting things for you to read.

Best Books of 2016

It’s been a busy year for me outside of the blog but I’ve still found time to read, which I’m really pleased about. Although I did end up cutting my Goodreads challenge down from 120 books to 100, I do think the initial target was a bit ambitious considering all that’s gone on! Still, I beat that target and am ending the year on 106 books, which is pretty awesome.

For the end of this rollercoaster of a year, I’m picking my favourite book from each month, which is a pretty tough call! So tough, in fact, that I’ve added a couple of books that deserve an honourable mention each month. These are books that I have read this year but not necessarily been released in 2016.

January

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The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

This is easily one of my favourite modern YA fantasy stories. After winning a copy of the first book in a competition in 2015, I was hooked, and was super excited to be part of the blog tour for this book and to get to read it early. I can’t wait for The Scarecrow Queen to come out next year.

Honourable Mentions: Front Lines by Michael Grant, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

February

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This was an incredible debut with one of my favourite protagonists and a setting that really differed to most of the books I’ve read. I loved the Arabian Nights feel to it and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year.

Honourable Mentions: Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma, Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

March

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

The thing that carried this book was the characters. It’s so rare to see a boy-girl platonic friendship in YA and it was really refreshing to read. It’s also great not to read the same straight, white characters too: this book was really beautiful in its diversity.

Honourable Mentions: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

April 

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Saga by Brian K. Vaughan  Fiona Staples

Easily the best graphic novel I’ve read all year, possibly ever. The Deluxe Edition is beautiful although I hate that I have to wait so long for the next edition. The story, characters and art all weave perfectly together and I just loved this book.

Honouable Mentions: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

May

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Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

This was brutal book that hurt to read but somehow filled me with hope too. I’ll admit, part of me wished it was a Seed sequel but if I can’t have that then this is the next best thing from Lisa Heathfield!

Honourable Mentions: In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Waas

June

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

I’d seen this book around a lot and had it sat on the shelf for a while before I read it. I regret leaving it so long: it said so many things that I was thinking about femnism and mental health and is a book I really wish had been around when I was a teenager.

Honourable Mentions: Blame by Simon Mayo

July

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The Deviants by C. J. Skuse

This is one of those books that just punches you in the gut and leaves you breathless. As a group of friends reconnect, secrets from their past won’t stay buried and will end in tragedy. The ending hurt me. I’d really recommend it.

Honourable Mentions: The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson, Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

August

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What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

After reading the first two books in the Spinster Trilogy earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. As soon as I read the synopsis I knew it was going to be awesome. Lottie’s challenge to call out sexism was inspiring to read and got me thinking about sexism I see every day too.

Honourable Mentions: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by lots of awesome UKYA authors

September

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More of Me by Kathryn Evans

After struggling with reading for a bit, this book got me absolutely hooked. I read it at every opportunity and genuinely struggled to put it down. Unlike anything I’ve read before, I’ve been recommending this to everyone.

Honourable Mentions: Eidolon by Sofi Croft, Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

October 

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

No review for this one as I’ll be publishing it next year, closer to publication. This was a book I heard tons of praise for before I read it, and it certainly delivered. Magical and beautiful and twisting and turning. I loved that I could never tell what was the game and what was real.

Honourable Mentions: The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt, The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

November

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i love this part by Tillie Walden

November was a bit of a quiet reading month for me so while there wasn’t a lot to choose from, this was an easy pick. It’s different to a lot of things I’ve read: not quite graphic novel or short story, more like an art book with a beautifully sad narrative.

Honourable Mentions: The King of Rats by Melinda Salisbury, Horns by Joe Hill

December

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Review coming next year, closer to publication date. I love anything to do with Alice in Wonderland and this really hit the spot. An origin of the Queen of Hearts, it somehow fleshes out this insane, angry character into someone you can actually sympathise with.

Honourable Mentions: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne (no review for either of these yet, check back next year!)

So there you have it. These are some of my favourite books of the year, but they’re only a selection of all the marvelous things I;ve read this year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to me in books! Happy New Year everyone. Hope you all have a wonderful one x

Book Review: Mystery & Mayhem – Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries (The Crime Club)

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

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 304

Release Date: May 5th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children’s crime writers writing today.

These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Review:

I don’t read a lot of mystery stories so this was something new for me. I’ve heard of a lot of the authors but not read their stories, so this was a little taster into their worlds.

Some seemed to be stand alone stories while others were clearly characters from their novels. Don’t let this put you off if you’ve not read them: it’s easy to follow and you won’t feel like you’re missing anything if you haven’t read them. Be warned though: it’ll probably make you want to go and read all the novels!

As is always the case in short story collections, there were some I enjoyed more than others. The ones I enjoyed least were ones where I solved the mystery too quickly: I much prefer the ones that kept me guessing right until the end.

The highlight for me was probably the final story, The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens. This one was really intriguing and probably the most complex of the mysteries. I also really enjoyed the Wild West themes in The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle, by Caroline Lawrence, and anything by Frances Hardinge is just beautifully written.

While these stories spanned many places and times – Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskerville even ventures into fantasy – they all have a very traditional, old fashioned mystery feel to them, and there’s sure to be something for everyone here.

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Book Review: A Face Like Glass (Frances Hardinge)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Release Date: January 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone’s an artist . . .

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare — wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed …

Review:

I really loved this book. It’s bizarre and imaginative and more than a little bonkers and that makes for a great read.

The book has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, which is always a good thing in my book as I love anything Wonderland related. It feels similar in its bizarre logic, crazy ruler and other kooky characters, but it’s not really based on it as a story or anything (in case that was going to put you off).

Our main character, Neverfell, is different from the other inhabitants of Caverna as she is unable to control her facial expressions: while everyone else has set Faces which they learn, she shows all her emotions on her face as you or I might, and that is terrifying to everyone around her. After years of keeping her face hidden, she finds herself playing the dangerous games of the court, getting caught up in the antics of the Kleptomancer and leading a revolution.

I found the ideas in this book all fascinating, from delicacies that can affect memories or make you taste songs, to the mad Cartographers and the topsy-turvy world of Caverna, but I especially loved the Faces: their names, the limited Faces available to the lower classes and the way it made it impossible to know who was trustworthy and who was lying. It just sparked my curiosity and imagination and I loved it.

Neverfell has a kind of tragic character progression which we see through the changes in her face: from wide-eyed wonderer, full of innocence and able to marvel at the world of Caverna, to the heart breaking disillusionment as the darkness of the world is revealed to her.

Hardinge’s writing is truly magical and her imagination is just incredible. This is the first book I’ve read by her, but I know now that I want to read a lot more. If you’re a fan of fantasy and adventure and are looking for something completely different and new to read then this is for you.

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