Monday 9 December 2019

Review on The House with Chicken Legs

Is it possible to escape your fate? Marinka is destined to be the next guardian of death, a job that involves guiding the dead into the afterlife. Although her grandmother, Baba Yaga is doing her best to teach Marinka how to be a guardian, all Marinka wants is for her house to stay in one place long enough for her to make friends with the living. Marinka longs for a friend who will stay more than a day, but things are never that simple when your house has chicken legs!

I’ve heard a lot about this book, so when I saw it at the library I had to pick it up! I don’t read as much middle grade fiction as I’d like to, and I often prefer it over YA so I’m going to do my best to read more! I loved that this book was based on Russian folklore. We often see retellings of popular fairytales like Cinderella and Snow White, but I’ve never come across a book that focuses on Baba Yaga before. Even though I’d heard of Baba Yaga I didn’t know much about her, and I actually spent a bit of time researching her before starting the book! In most cases she is portrayed as a scary looking old witch who usually tries to hinder the hero in some way, often threatening to cook or eat them, but she has also helped people, such as saving a girl from her abusive family. I loved that Sophie decided to portray her in this way rather than as a villain. Instead of tormenting people, the Baga Yaga in this book helped the dead pass into the afterlife and was a kind old grandmother. I loved her relationship with Marinka, and how she had raised her when her parents died when she was a baby. I loved that she helped all the dead, no matter if they were confused, upset or scared. She was selfless and always prioritised the dead over herself, and I found it to be an interesting take on her character.

I loved that other Yaga existed, all who guided the dead and had houses with chicken legs. I couldn’t find a mention in the original stories of there being other Yaga, and I loved how Sophie took Baba Yaga and made her into her own character. I loved the idea of there being hundreds of houses with chicken legs running all over the country, and it made me wonder how many sightings had been reported. I imagine chicken leg house sightings would be similar to UFO sightings!

Even though I liked Marinka, she did come across as quite selfish. When Baba goes missing, her main motivation for trying to bring her back seems to be that if she comes back she can resume her role as guardian, meaning Marinka won’t have to become the next guardian. Even though Marinka does seem to genuinely miss Baba, that doesn’t seem like the main motivation for her search. Being forced into something you don’t want to do can be horrible and I sympathised with Marinka for that, but her selfish side came out when she refused to guide the dead. When the dead don’t pass through the gate and remain in the living world, they eventually fade out of existence. Marinka didn’t seem to care about this, and despite the house urging her to help them she refused. She was cruel to Baba, the house and her pet jackdaw at times, and didn’t appreciate those who looked after her. I loved that Marinka eventually came to realise she was pushing people away, and that she didn’t have to change everything about herself to make friends.

I of course have to talk about the house! I loved that the house was a sentient being, capable of thoughts and emotions. I loved Marinka’s relationship with the house. As she had grown up living in the house, it had become both a parental figure and friend to her. I loved how the house was able to change depending on Marinka’s needs, such as creating a safe place for her lamb to stay in and creating new rooms. The house sounded homely and had a sense of safety despite it being able to run. Honestly I wish I had a Yaga house so I could travel without having to pay for transport and hotels.

One of my favourite characters was Benjamin, a living boy who Marinka becomes friends with. He was such a sweet character and I loved that he stayed with Marinka even after he saw the house stand up. Honestly if I saw a house running towards me on chicken legs I’d probably die of fright! Benjamin adapted to the situation quickly and I loved that his main priority was helping Marinka. Along with Benjamin, Marinka has two animal friends, a lamb and a jackdaw. I particularly loved Jack and how smart and funny he was. I always love animal companions and Jack was no exception!

I have to briefly talk about the gorgeous illustrations that ran throughout the book. The downside to reading mostly YA is that YA books rarely have illustrations, so I loved coming across them in this book. As a lover of space and galaxies I loved coming across these illustrations. However, as much as I loved the pages with white text on a black background, it made me think of my friend who struggles to read it. Even though it was pretty, it could potentially ruin the reading experience for anyone who struggles to read white text on a black background.

I adored this book and would recommend it to adults and children alike. Although the story was mostly light-hearted, it also touched on some important themes such as grief, guilt and loneliness. I also loved how despite not having a family, Marinka came to see Benjamin, his parents and the Old Yaga as her family. It perfectly showed that family doesn’t always just mean the people you’re related to. I recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, adventures and fairytales!

Friday 22 November 2019

Blog Tour- The Blighted Fortress

Page Count: 383
Genre: YA fantasy, Historial
Publisher: Clink Street

Goodreads Summary:

This story begins in modern Chicago then moves to fifth-century Transylvania.

The teenage protagonists, Glenda and Traveler, are sent
by Theo, their sanctuary god, deep into the primeval
forests of the Carpathian Mountains. They must locate
then neutralize an ancient demi-god called a “fire beast”.

The two must also survive the daunting challenges of
isolated fifth-century Transylvania. Rome is now in its
final death throes and the hoofbeats of Attila the Hun
echo across Europe. Civilization and Pax Romana
are distant memories.

Magic, wits, and youthful courage must combine to
face the fire creature. Survival, much less winning,
is up for grabs.

Today is my stop on The Blighted Fortress blog tour! This book immediately caught my attention while looking through my emails as it combines two of my favourite genres, Fantasy and Historical. We get a little of everything in this book, from modern Chicago to Ancient Egypt and fifth century Transylvania. After reading the first book (review on that to come!) I was looking forward to seeing where Traveller and Glenda’s adventures would take them next, and I wasn’t disappointed!

I’ll go into more detail on this in my review, but I found the first book to be a little too slow and lacking action, so I was happy to discover that this one was more action packed. Traveller and Glenda have to face all sorts of problems, from being hunted by a pack of dogs to avoiding getting eaten by a huge bear. I loved that we got to see their special abilities in action more in this book, as the first one focused more on the theory of the skills rather than the practical, as they spent a good part of the book studying. Instead of practicing in a safe space, they finally have to put their skills to the test in life threatening situations, which made everything far more interesting! There were however a few things that annoyed me in the first book that came back to annoy me in this one too, such as the constant mentions of them eating, sleeping and bathing. Honestly, there’s only so many times you can talk about taking a bath without making it boring.

I was disappointed that two of my favourite characters from the first book, M and Theo were barely in this one. We learned a lot about M’s past near the start of the book, something that I was looking forward to and found really interesting, but then M sends Traveller and Glenda on a quest while he presumably stays in the Sanctuary sipping tea and reading books. It didn’t make much sense to me to go through the trouble of giving us a back story for M when he wasn’t going to be around for the majority of the book. I felt the same about Theo, the giant cat God. For me, the book would have been a lot more interesting if Theo and M had joined them on their adventure rather than being established as characters only to be left behind. I would have loved to have seen M continue to make meals for them in this new setting!

Even though my favourites were sadly left behind, I did end up having a new favourite, which was Olaff, a huge but friendly man who helps Traveller and Glenda capture the jinn. He was an interesting character and I loved his stories about his adventures. It was just a shame that he came into the book so close to the end, as I would have loved to have got to know him better. I also loved the addition of Attila, as I always love when real life historical people end up in fiction! Again we don’t see much of Attila, but one of my favourite scenes in the book was his interaction with the jinn. I loved how it took an unexplained historical event and put its own twist on what had happened.

Even though there were some things I didn’t enjoy, I did enjoy it a lot more than the first one. One of my main problems with the first book was that the author described every single little detail, and this was toned down quite a bit in this one. I love seeing authors improve over time, and in my opinion, David’s writing has definitely improved from the first book! I’m not sure if these books were intended as a duology, but I definitely think Traveller and Glenda’s adventures could continue, and I would love to read more as long as M and Theo are invited along for the ride next time! 

The Blighted Fortress is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository 

Monday 14 October 2019

Review on Solitaire

Tori Spring is starting her first year of sixth form, another year of needless, boring education and spending too much time on her blog, or so she thinks. When Solitaire makes itself known through a series of post it notes, Tori discovers she isn’t the only person at this school with a blog. Solitaire appears to be a prank blog, with different pranks happening in the school every week in what seems to be an attempt to make things less boring. Tori doesn’t care about Solitaire, but as the pranks continue, Tori’s new classmate, Michael Holden starts to notice a pattern, a pattern that just might point to Tori. Tori is soon determined to find out who is behind Solitaire, and why the pranks seem to be based around her.

I’ve wanted to read an Alice Oseman book for a while now,so I was happy when I found a copy of Solitaire in my local library. Solitaire is Alice’s debut novel which she wrote when she was just seventeen, which is a huge achievement all on it’s own! I’ve heard a lot of good things about Alice’s books, so I was eager to read one.

The book follows Tori, a girl who has attended an all girls school throughout high school. However, her sixth form (basically the last two years of school that are optional for any confused Americans!) allows boys to attend, which causes all kinds of problems for Tori, including awkward interactions with her ex best friend Lucas, and Michael Holden, a boy with a bad reputation who for some reason is insisting on trying to make friends with Tori. Oh, and there’s Solitaire. The Solitaire storyline was probably my favourite part of the book. I loved the mystery and how the prank aspect was based around Tori, such as playing songs she loved over the loudspeaker and getting revenge on her enemies. Although I did correctly guess who was behind Solitaire around the middle of the book, it still made me want to find out what pranks would be pulled next, as each prank became more extreme to the point that they eventually became dangerous. I loved how Michael and Tori teamed up in an attempt to learn more about Solitaire, and find out who was behind it.

I loved the main characters, particularly Michael. He was such a sweet character and I felt bad for him that most of his classmates thought he was weird, and how he didn’t have many friends. Something I completely adored about Michael was that he never defined his sexuality and refused to label himself. Society is so obsessed with putting people into boxes and I loved that Michael refused to put himself in a box. Honestly life would be so much easier without all the unnecessary labels we’re expected to conform to.

I found Tori relatable, especially with her mental health problems. Tori is a huge pessimist and always sees the worst in herself and other people. She feels as if she is unworthy of having Michael as her friend, and questions why he is even bothering with her, which is honestly something I do when someone talks to me. I loved that Michael didn’t just give up and realised how Tori was feeling, and made her realise he wasn’t just being nice to her because he felt sorry for her. I did however find Tori’s friends more relatable overall, especially with all the fandom references! I loved that Drarry and Destiel were brought up, as it reminded me of all the hours I used to spend on Tumblr reblogging gifsets of my favourite ships.

I adored Nick and Charlie, and I think I found out about halfway through the book that these are the characters who Alice’s webcomic Heartstopper is based on! I am definitely planning on reading Heartstopper as I would love more stories involving these two. Apart from Nick and Charlie, I didn’t really care too much about the rest of the side characters and found them pretty two dimensional. There is one point in the book where Tori has an argument with her best friend Becky, but I found it strange that she stopped talking to the rest of her friends too. I think I would have preferred if Tori had kept some of her friends instead of pretty much abandoning them all to hang out with Michael. I’ve had friends stop hanging out with me once they get a boyfriend, so I felt a little bad for Tori’s friends, as it seemed like that was what she was doing to them.

Speaking of the romance between Tori and Michael, I didn’t really care for it. The cover tells us that “this is not a love story,” so I was expecting little to no romance. I spent the majority of the book believing that Tori and Michael didn’t have romantic feelings for each other, and that there was going to be a cute platonic friendship between them. I was 100% ready to praise the book for having such a lovely friendship between a boy and a girl with no romantic feelings involved, something that seems to be rare unless one of the characters is gay. Honestly I don’t think I’ve been more disappointed about a kiss happening before, and I had to throw all the praise I was going to give this book for not turning their relationship romantic out the window. Not every story needs to include romance, and this ruined the idea of friendship being just as important as romantic relationships.

Apart from the romance I enjoyed this book overall and thought it was a fantastic debut novel. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Alice’s books in the future!

Friday 4 October 2019

Review on Beautiful Broken Things

Before her seventeenth birthday, Caddy wants to have achieved three things. Get a boyfriend, lose her virginity and experience a "Significant Life Event." However, Caddy gets more than she bargained for when Suzanne comes into her life, a girl who has recently moved to Brighton, and goes to the same school as Caddy's best friend Rosie. Suzanne is spontaneous, adventurous and a troublemaker, everything that Caddy isn't. The more Caddy learns about Suzanne and her past, the more she wants to help her. As Caddy spends more and more time with Suzanne, she realises that not all Significant Life Events are good.

When I learnt that this book was about friendship I was thrilled! I often don't tend to enjoy contemporary romance, so I loved that this book focused on friendship rather than romance. Teen girls can often be quite mean to each other, so I loved that this story was about a group of girls who would do anything for each other, and supported each other no matter what.

Caddy was an interesting character, and I related to her throughout the book. I particularly related to her near the start when Suzanne first started being friends with Rosie, making Caddy feel like the third wheel. Caddy feels that Rosie is replacing her with Suzanne, and feels unwanted and left out. I understood this feeling completely, as on a few occasions I have introduced two of my friends to each other only for them to become better friends with each other than with me. It's upsetting to see friends constantly hanging out together and never inviting you along, and it's easy to feel unwanted. It was interesting to find out that all the girls felt this way at some point, as Rosie was jealous when Caddy started going on adventures with Suzanne, while Suzanne was jealous of how long Rosie and Caddy had been friends, and how they knew everything about each other.

Feeling unwanted is a theme that runs throughout the book, as we soon learn about Suzanne's traumatic past and uncertain future. Suzanne was physically abused by her dad, giving her no choice but to move in with her Aunt Sarah. As Suzanne tries to cope with what happened to her, her behaviour becomes more erratic and unpredictable, with her constantly sneaking out the house in the middle of the night, drinking and smoking weed. Things go from bad to worse for Suzanne, as eventually, her Aunt decides her behaviour is too much for her to deal with, making Suzanne feel even more unwanted. Although this was an upsetting storyline, it was heartwarming to see Caddy stick by her friend no matter what, even when her parents tried to stop her from contacting her. When it seemed like everyone else had given up on Suzanne, Caddy was still doing her best to be there for her and do anything she could to help. Caddy went above and beyond to help Suzanne, and if saving the life of a friend isn't a significant life event then I don't know what is!

I adored the setting of this book! I've never actually been to Brighton, but Suzanne's love of Brighton's beach has made me want to visit. I thought Caddy was lucky to live so close to the beach, and like Suzanne, I would probably end up there all the time! I also loved that Caddy got to visit Suzanne's home in Reading. Although we don't see much of Reading, it's obvious that Caddy is out of her comfort zone, and isn't used to such a big city. I loved that we got to see where Suzanne used to live, and learned how different her life was to Caddy's. Whereas Caddy finds herself boring and hates that nothing interesting has happened to her, Suzanne has been through some terrible experiences. After going through a horrifying experience herself, Caddy seems to realise that nothing happening is far better than something terrible happening.

I have to talk about the mental health representation, which I thought was dealt with perfectly. Fortunately, I can't relate to Suzanne completely, but something I did relate to was the panic attacks.People experience panic attacks differently. It's not always the case that you start hyperventilating, but you always want to get away from the thing that is causing you to panic and go somewhere quiet while you calm down. Suzanne's panic attack caused by seeing her dad was practically identical to what happened to me once in a busy pub. Even though my parents had already ordered drinks, the number of people in the bar and the noise made me feel trapped, and as my anxiety got worse and worse, I just had to get out of there, which is how I came to have a panic attack while sitting alone in the middle of Leicester Square. Even though some people who have experienced panic attacks may not relate to Suzanne's experiences, I found it to be very real and believable. 

I overall loved this book and felt that it dealt with Suzanne's mental health perfectly. It's rare to find a contemporary YA book that focuses on friendship rather than romance, and I honestly wish there were more books like this! Sara Barnard is quickly becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors, and I can't wait to start Fierce Fragile Hearts to read more about these wonderful characters I've come to love!

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Review on P.S. I Still Love You

Lara Jean never expected she would actually be dating Peter Kavinsky. After pretending to date him for so long, Lara Jean realises her fake relationship with Peter just might be turning into something more. However, Lara Jean is convinced that Peter still has feelings for his ex girlfriend, Genevieve. To make matters worse, a video of her and Peter in the hot tub on the ski trip surfaces on the internet, and Lara Jean is convinced that it was Genevieve who posted it. When John suddenly comes back into her life, Lara Jean must decide if she is going to try to save her relationship with Peter, or if it's time for her to move on.

After reading To All the Boys I've Loved Before I just had to continue reading this series! It's rare for me to read a contemporary romance series, but I completely fell in love with these characters. As the first book was practically a slow burn romance, I was excited for Lara Jean and Peter to finally be a proper couple.
Something that I loved was that although Lara Jean and Peter were officially together, there were still problems between them. I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect relationship, and there were definitely some unresolved issues between them. Lara Jean thinks Peter still has feelings for Genevieve, while Peter sees John as a rival. I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, but I actually loved the addition of John. It helped to cause a little drama, and John was actually a sweet character. Even though I adore Peter, I could see why Lara Jean was drawn to John's good looks and charm.

One of the main themes in this series is the importance of friends and family. I talked about Lara Jean's relationship with her sisters in my review on TATBILB, so I want to talk about her relationship with her best friend Chris this time. I loved how the two girls were always there for each other, and how Lara Jean was able to share her problems with her. As Margot is at University and Kitty is quite bit younger than Lara Jean, Chris was often the only person that Lara Jean felt comfortable sharing her problems with. I always love seeing a strong friendship between girls, and these two were the perfect example of a healthy friendship.

I was a little disappointed that Lara Jean and Josh didn't really stay friends. There was some awkwardness between them in the first book, but I was hoping they would be able to put that aside and go back to being friends. Margot seemed to be the glue to their friendship, and without her their friendship fell apart. The sad reality is that sometimes you just drift away from friends for no good reason. I had a friend last year who I would talk to every day, Skype with all the time and tell all my problems to, and now we never talk. Even though I miss her, I realise sometimes people just move on or become too busy, and the friendship just naturally breaks apart. I feel as if this is probably what happened between Lara Jean and Josh, which is sad but something that just sometimes happens.

I have to talk a little about Lara Jean's dad, who is honestly the purest character. There were some sweet scenes between him and his daughters, and I loved how he always made time for them despite having to work long shifts at the hospital. Even though he has to deal with his daughters relationship drama, he has never dated anyone since his wife died, and Kitty takes on the role of match maker, trying to set him up with their neighbour. This was such a funny and sweet subplot, and I particularly loved how unsubtle Kitty was about her intentions!

Even though Kitty is my all time favourite character, I have to mention how much I love Stormy, an old lady who lives at the retirement home Lara Jean volunteers at. Stormy is hilarious, and I loved her stories about her ex husbands! Stormy really lived her life to it's fullest, and I loved how even though she was now living in a retirement home, she was still full of life and energy. Even though I'm not personally planning on getting married multiple times, I did find myself hoping that when I get to Stormy's age, I would be able to look back on my life with happy memories and stories to tell. Honestly, I wish Stormy was my grandma so I could listen to all her stories!

I do think To All the Boys I've Loved Before had a better and more unique plot, but I still loved this one and liked the addition of John. A bit off topic here but I finally watched the Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I've Loved Before and thought it was brilliant! I'm glad I read this book before watching it as it does include some things from the second book, so just a heads up if you're like me and prefer to read the book first. Even if these books aren't your cup of tea, the movie is still worth a watch. I'm looking forward to reading the last book in the series once my library reservation comes in!

Monday 19 August 2019

Review on The Demon World

After losing Pitoria to her father, Princess Catherine must make the difficult decision of leading the remaining survivors across the Northern Plateau, a barren icy wasteland full of demons. Chances of survival are slim, but the situation becomes even more dire when the group accidentally gets split up, leaving Tash in the demon world, and March and Edyon on the Plateau where the Brigantines are trying to kill them. Catherine must do what she can to get Prince Tzsayn’s people on her side, but will her lies be her downfall?

I was so happy when Penguin sent me a copy of this book! I loved The Smoke Thieves, so I was excited to find out what would happen to Catherine and her friends. The book wastes no time in jumping back into the action, where the Brigantine army is invading Pitoria. As the first book understandably contained a lot of world-building, I loved how this one was more action packed and didn’t focus quite as much on traveling. We were immediately given unanswered questions such as if Prince Tszayn has survived, and what would happen to Pitoria now that the Brigantines had invaded. I loved how some questions we were made to think about weren’t answered until near the end of the book, giving us plenty of time to mull over them and come up with our own theories.

Something I said in my review of The Smoke Thieves was that I didn’t like Catherine very much, as she seemed like a typical damsel in distress. This completely changed in this book, as Catherine became a strong leader and took on roles that were traditionally done by men. I loved how she made the men feel uncomfortable with how she succeeded in leading her people and advising the army. I definitely liked Catherine more in this book than in the first one! However, I sadly can’t say the same thing for Ambrose, who I found to be quite whiny and selfish, especially with how he reacted when he believed Catherine had married Prince Tszayn in secret. Although I understood why he would be upset over this, I found his reaction to be quite immature and selfish, as he threatened to leave. I felt as if his duty to protect Catherine should have come before his personal feelings for her. Honestly I low key want her to ditch his ass and be with Prince Tszayn. He truly is the most underrated character in this series.

Something I loved in the first book was Tash’s friendship with Edyon, so I was disappointed that she spent the majority of the book in the demon tunnels with only one other character.Come to think of it I don’t think Edyon and Tash interacted at all! Apart from this, I did enjoy Tash’s storyline. This book delves deeper into where the smoke actually comes from and how demons are created in the first place, and I loved learning about the demon tunnels and the unique way the demons communicate with each other. We were also introduced to Twist, a demon who Tash manages to befriend. I loved that after years of demon hunting, Tash comes to realize that everything she thought she knew about demons was a lie.

I of course have to talk about my faves, March and Edyon. Edyon continued to be a pure cinnamon roll while March spent most of the book feeling guilty that he had initially planned to betray Edyon. I felt bad for Edyon, who had no idea about March’s secret and only saw good in him. I wanted to climb into the book and tell March’s dumbass to tell Edyon the truth, as I just knew that the longer he put it off the worse it was going to get. I loved that March started to admit to himself that he had feelings for Edyon, and there were some really sweet moments between them. I loved that they stuck by each other no matter what, and were constantly saving each others lives. The chemistry between these two characters is brilliant,  and I have my fingers crossed that March will do something for Edyon so he’ll be forgiven, as I don’t think I could cope with them hating each other for long!

Sally is extremely good at creating suspense and cliffhangers, and this one ended in a huge cliffhanger! By the end of the book, most of the characters are in some sort of horrible situation, and I have no idea how I’m going to be able to wait for the final book in the series to come out to find out what will happen to everyone! My hopes are that Catherine will defeat her father and take his throne and March and Edyon will make up, live together with Tash as their annoyingly smart little sister and live happily ever after. I mean I can dream,, or write fanfic if everything goes wrong and all my faves die. This series just keeps getting better and better and I will patiently wait until the final book is out!

The Demon World is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

My review on The Smoke Thieves can be found here

Friday 19 July 2019

Review on The Priory of the Orange Tree

It has been 1000 years since The Nameless One was first defeated, but the time is fast approaching when he will rise once more. According to legend, as long as a Berthenet sits on the throne of Inys, The Nameless One can not return. When Queen Sabran fails to produce an heir, the Berthenet line is in danger of coming to an end. Meanwhile, Ead Duryan, Sabran's Lady of the Bedchamber isn't what she seems. She is loyal to the Priory, a society of mages who have given Ead the task of keeping Sabran safe. It is up to Ead and the dragon rider Tane to slay The Nameless One once and for all.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK OMG. I adore big fantasy books and this one is BIIIIIG! Like most people, I was intimidated by how huge it was, but once I was through the first few chapters, I was so invested in the story that I barely noticed the size. The only bad thing I have to say about the size was that it made it difficult to read on the train, as it literally felt like I was carrying a brick around! It's definitely not a book you can just whip out on the daily commute.

As this is a stand-alone high fantasy, there is a lot of world-building and a lot of characters. It was practically impossible to remember who every character was, but the character glossary at the back of the book was an actual lifesaver. I was constantly referring back to it when I couldn't remember who a character was, and I would have been a confused mess without it! I also always love a good map, and with a book like this, it's pretty essential to have one. I loved tracking the character's journey on the map and was constantly checking it when a new place was mentioned. The description and imagery made it easy to imagine what each location looked like, and I felt that Inys even gave Middle Earth a run for its money!

You'd expect a book like this to be plot-driven, but the characters are just as important as the plot. None of the main characters have the same outlook on life as they did at the start, and most go through major character development. I particularly loved Niclays Roos' journey, as despite losing his home and the people he loved, he continued on and never gave up despite his situation becoming worse and worse. The book is full of brave, selfless characters who will willingly sacrifice themselves, but what I loved about Niclays was he wasn't one of them. To me he was the most realistic character, and he tried to preserve his own life even if it meant doing things he knew were wrong. Something I loved about Niclays was how strongly he loved, and despite being unwilling to risk his own life the majority of the time, he did so when his friend was in danger. Niclays was definitely one of my favourite characters in the book!

I adored the strong female characters in this book, and how Inys was a Queendom rather than a Kingdom. Even though the Berthenet Queens only ever produced female heirs, I loved how in other situations in the book, non of the men seemed to have any sort of advantage over the women. Even though we see things such as Loth's father wanting to tell a family secret to him rather than to his sister, it is only because Loth is the eldest child and not because of his gender. I loved how even though we saw women who were physically strong or powerful such as Tane and Ead, we also had Sabran who was brave and smart. The "damsel in distress" actually turning out to be the heroine was a brilliant twist! Too many fantasy novels are male-oriented, so having a fantasy novel where the majority of the characters were women was a breath of fresh air. There can never be too many fictional badass women!

I have to talk a little about my favourite character, Ead. She was such a complex character and I loved how she came to care for Sabran and her country over her role as a Red Damsel in the Priory, something she has longed for since she was a child. I'm trying not to give anything away but I have to say how much I loved the relationship between Ead and Sabran. Also, Ead secretly protecting Sabran with her magic reminded me of Merlin!

One of my favourite things about the book was the dragons! I loved how the Western fire dragons were the enemies, while the Eastern water dragons were allies. I particularly loved Nayimathun and her relationship with her rider Tane. They had such a strong and trusting bond, and I loved how Nayimathun was always forgiving of Tane's mistakes. Tane and Nayimathun both risked their lives for each other, and honestly, I was jealous that I don't have a dragon friend.

Apart from the dragons, the other big bad was Kalyba, an immortal shapeshifter. I thought she was a brilliant villain, and I loved all the plot twists involving her. There were so many clever things involving Kalyba that I wasn't expecting! I love when a twist happens that I hadn't already worked out before it's revealed. I'm usually good at guessing things in advance, but I always love when I've guessed something completely wrong!

One of the few things that I didn't like about the book was how short the battle with The Nameless One was. One of the main plots of the book is that an ancient fire breathing dragon known only as The Nameless One is set to return after being locked away for a thousand years, and the characters have to search far and wide for the sword and two jewels that will get rid of him for good. The majority of the book is a lead up to his return, but when he does finally return towards the end of the book, the battle lasts only a few pages. I was disappointed that despite reading 800 pages that were leading up to this moment, the actual event lasted about five minutes. For me it would have been more satisfying if The Nameless One had caused more chaos than he did, and if the characters had had to chase him down. Even though Kalyba was a great villain, I can't say the same about The Nameless One.

I overall loved this book and it reminded me why fantasy is my favourite genre. I could talk about this book all day, but with the risk of either spoiling the book or making this review as long as the book, I'm going to stop here. Even though this book is an absolute brick, it is definitely worth the read, and in my opinion, it lives up to it's hype!

Thursday 20 June 2019

Blog Tour- Tulip Taylor

Hello, today is my stop on the Tulip Taylor blog tour! I thought I’d tell you a little about the book and share my thoughts 🙂

Tulip Taylor, make up vlogger extraordinaire has just
one problem, her controlling mother. Tulip is forced
to endorse brands she has never even heard of, and
to make things worse, her mother is planning on
starting her own reality tv show, where Tulip and her
siblings lives will be broadcast on the internet 24/7.
When the new boy at school challenges her to go on a
survival TV show, Tulip agrees. Sure, she’ll make a fool
of herself on national tv, but this might be exactly what
she needs to stop her mum's ridiculous ideas and get
back to her normal life. The problem is Tulip must first
brave the wilderness and actually come out the other
                                                   side alive.

When I saw the cover of this book I didn’t think it would be my thing, but I soon changed my mind when I saw what it was all about! Tulip Taylor is a popular makeup vlogger with thousands of subscribers. However, not all is as it seems, as although she enjoys what she does, her mother is exploiting her for money, forcing her to endorse product after product, and turning her hobby into their main source of income. Tulip’s mother was awful and was constantly trying to profit off her children. Even her five year old twins were put on the internet, and making money through their antics was all she seemed to care about. It makes me uncomfortable when I see parents documenting their child's whole life online. One day they are going to be old enough to realise their parents have been posting everything they do online for the whole world to see. Children can be cruel to each other, and if with a few clicks they can bring up a video of 8 year old Charlie crying his eyes out at age 4 well- I don’t see things going over too well.

Even though Tulip goes through a lot of character development, I actually liked her at the start. Tulip is a popular vlogger, but she’s never cocky and is always kind to her classmates. I loved how she always stood up for herself and didn’t allow people to think she was dumb just because she was a makeup vlogger. Girls can be smart while looking great and Tulip proved that!

There were lots of important themes in this book, but my favourite was the importance of being yourself, and not changing who you are to please others. Harvey’s older brother is constantly telling him he needs to act like him, which results in some pretty funny moments but also makes Tulip think he’s a bit of a dick. Tulip only starts liking Harvey when he stops listening to his brother's bad advice and starts to be himself rather than trying to be his brother. Unlike Harvey, Tulip is herself from the start, and although her peers initially dislike her, she soon shows them she isn’t as dumb as they assumed, and that the internet can actually be a useful source of information. I loved how her teammates eventually warmed up to her and saw there was a method to her madness.

Another theme that I loved was the importance of preserving the environment. Tulip experiences firsthand how plastic washes up on beaches, does her best to help clean it up, and decides to make lifestyle changes such as using less plastic and only using cruelty-free makeup. I loved how experiencing nature and wildlife, and the damage people cause to it made Tulip more conscious about the environment.

Taking a break from social media is something we can all benefit from. Every day we check our timelines to see hate, homophobia, and racism. Although we only follow those who share our ideals, we still see news stories of people doing terrible things, and often see hate targeted at a group of people. Seeing this on a daily basis can negatively affect our mental health, and it’s important for us to step away when it becomes too much. I loved how despite everyone telling Tulip she was obsessed with her phone, she was able to leave it behind and focus on the present. I did, however, feel like it gave a bit of a “phones are evil, the internet is bad” vibe, as when Tulip returned from being on the reality show, she completely ditched her phone seemingly for good. Despite showing how she had learned life-saving skills through researching them online, the end result seems to show Tulip as thinking the internet is bad, as she deletes her vlog channel and her social media accounts. I thought this was a little extreme, and felt there should have been more of a balance between Tulip’s real life and internet life rather than cutting out the internet part completely.

One of the things I loved about the book was how it showed that just because a girl wears makeup doesn’t mean that’s all she cares about. Tulip showed that makeup doesn’t completely define a person, so I was disappointed when after the show, she no longer seemed interested in makeup. Like the internet situation, the end made it seem as if Tulip was now a better person for no longer being interested in makeup. There is nothing wrong with enjoying wearing makeup and being on the internet as long as these things aren’t the only things that define you, so, despite all the other messages that I loved, this seemed to be telling girls that people will think they’re silly and self-absorbed if they wear makeup and take selfies. Wearing makeup and taking pride in how you look doesn’t make you a bad person, and if it makes someone feel more confident about themselves then I say go for it! I think I actually preferred the Tulip we met at the start of the book.

I adored Harvey’s character development and thought his realisation that he should just be himself went perfectly. However, Tulip’s character development seemed to miss the mark, and is the reason why I’m not rating the book five stars. However, I did adore the reality TV part of the book, which was like a more extreme version of I’m a Celeb. Tulip conquered her fears and never backed down from a challenge, and I loved how she soon came to realise she was more capable than she thought. There were some things that were terrifying and I would definitely not have been able to do half of the things Tulip did. Something that I adored was how Harvey didn’t hide his emotions during one of the scarier tasks. Boys are often told they can’t cry or be afraid, but Harvey didn’t try to hide how scared he was despite his brother being the poster child of toxic masculinity. I loved how despite pushing his sons, Harvey’s dad was proud of him for what he’d achieved rather than reprimanding him for showing weakness. I also loved how Tulip and Harvey came to trust each other, and their relationship progressed naturally and at a steady pace.

I overall enjoyed this book and thought it gave some great messages about the environment and not changing who you are to please others. This was a fun and action-packed contemporary that made me want to leave the internet behind for a week and go on an adventure!

Tulip Taylor is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Saturday 25 May 2019

Review on Dark Lands #3 The Forgotten

Webb's final battle with The Dark Man is fast approaching, and it isn't looking good. With the help of the Not Where, The Dark Man has created an army of nightmares that the Glorians have no chance against. With The Dark Man once again planning on bringing war and chaos on the living world, the Glorians must find a way to stop him once and for all. However, Webb soon discovers Kane's plan to send Iggy into the Dead Forest, knowing there is little chance of Iggy and his companions surviving. With time running out, Webb has no choice but to go along with a plan that is almost guaranteed to fail.

So here it is, the last book in the series! I've really enjoyed reading this series, and Lyn I Kelly is definitely one of my favourite Indie authors. I've loved going on this adventure with Webb and Sundown, and I'm actually quite sad I won't be reading about these characters anymore.

This book was definitely the darkest in the series (pun unintended!) Webb lost a lot of people he was close to in this book, and it soon became a case of who would survive rather than wondering which character would die. Webb suffered a lot of grief and guilt, turning all of these emotions into pure hatred and anger towards The Dark Man. Webb's anger issues are something I've wondered about throughout the series, so I was happy that it was finally addressed. As The Dark Man feeds off fear and anger, it was important for Webb to rein in these emotions. It was practically like asking Harry to not feel anger towards Voldemort, so letting go of that fear and anger was a huge step for Webb. I loved how once it was clear that no one feared him anymore, The Dark Man lost all his power.

There were plenty of emotions running throughout this book, but the thing that broke me the most was Iggy's back story. We are not told exactly what Iggy's disability is, but we do know that he was born with a disability that made his mother see him as too much work. We learn early in the book that Iggy is terrified of his closet, which we come to learn is because his mother used to lock him in there for hours on end, and eventually killed him. This part of the story was particularly difficult to read, as parents often do abuse their children, and find them undesirable if they have a disability. Although we are never told exactly what happened to Iggy, it is hinted at that he is going to a better place.

I was a little disappointed that Fangus didn't become a more central character. I've found him interesting ever since it was revealed that he was once a Glorian, and even though I correctly predicted that he would go against The Dark Man, he was never developed as a character, and his only role was helping Iggy towards the end of the book. I felt as if Fangus had potential that was sadly wasted. The one other thing I wasn't too keen on was the addition of a God-like figure towards at the end of the book. This seemed a little out of place and unnecessary, and seemed like a lazy way of giving everything a "meaning". Throughout the series, there is no indication that Webb even believes in God, so to me, it felt as if the author was just trying to explain some of the complex storylines through religion, which did little but leave a lot of questions unanswered.

This book was thankfully less confusing than book three and brought up some previously unexplored information about the characters. The most mysterious character was The Willkeeper, a man who records the history of every living thing. I loved that we were given some backstory on The Willkeeper, and learned about his connection to The Dark Man. I loved how although they started out on similar paths, The WIllkeeper was able to right the wrongs he had done, while The Dark Man remained on the path of darkness and chaos.

I still have so many unanswered questions, but I also love when books keep you thinking about the story long after you turn the final page. It gives the reader the opportunity to create their own theories. Honestly, the one downside to Indie's is it's difficult to find other readers to discuss them with! If you do decide to read this series then please come talk to me about it! Aside from a few minor hiccups, I'm impressed with the quality of this series. Indie's tend to get a bad reputation for poor editing, but if I didn't know better I would assume this series had been traditionally published. I highly recommend Dark Lands to all fans of YA fantasy!

Dark Lands: The Forgotten is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Thursday 18 April 2019

Review on Unboxed

When Alix was thirteen, she made a promise to her friends that they would meet up in five years to open a time capsule they had made. However, everything Changes when Millie dies. Alix promised Millie they would stick to the plan and open the box without her, but with every item that is removed from the box come memories of Millie, both happy and sad. After years apart, the friends come together to grieve the loss of their friend.

I knew this book would break me the second I learned what it was about, but apparently I enjoy pain and suffering, as I still decided to read it. The book follows Alix, a girl who's friend Millie has recently died. Alix meets up with her three friends who she hasn't seen in years to open the time capsule they had made with Millie. This book was equally heart warming and heart breaking. It's always difficult to lose a close friend or family member, but sometimes it can be worse when you lose someone you haven't spoken to in a while. I think it's rare to stay close to childhood friends, as everyone moves away and starts down a new path. Eventually, you start realising you have nothing in common with that person anymore and lose touch despite still caring about them. This is exactly what happened to Alix, and her school friends, and Millie's death added a layer of guilt to their grief for not staying in touch with her.

Even though this is a short book, the characters were fleshed out and given their own personalities and problems. My favourite subplot was Alix worrying that her friends would find out she was gay. As she hasn't seen them in a while, she has no idea how they will react, and is reluctant to let them know. I loved that she was brave enough to read her letter to them, and that they all reacted positively. No one ever just comes out once, it's something that people in the LGBT community have to do constantly, and it never seems to get any easier. I was happy for Alix that her friends were so accepting and didn't make a big deal out of it.

I have to talk a little about Ash, who has probably made it onto my list of most hated characters. Ash was Zara's boyfriend, and the fifth wheel that no one wanted. He was the most unsympathetic asshole the world has ever known, and instead of dropping Zara off with her friends then leaving, he stuck around and made horrible comments. Even though the time capsule was clearly important to Zara, he was constantly telling her to hurry up so they could leave, and thought it was okay to make fun of their grief, and commented on how Zara had never mentioned Millie to him so she couldn't have liked her that much. I was so happy when Zara finally stuck up for herself and told Ash to leave without her. Ash was completely toxic. Anyone who doesn't support their partner when they're grieving clearly don't deserve them. I loved how even though she hadn't seen them in a while, Zara's friends were the ones who were there to support her, and were the only people who truly understood the grief she felt. Sometimes the only people who can truly understand how you feel are those going through the same thing, and I was glad that they all had each other for emotional support. 

I really enjoyed this book and think it's perfect for anyone new to YA or reading for fun in general. The large font makes it easy on the eyes, and the paper being a pale yellow helps the contrast to be less harsh. As someone who can't read outside in the summer without being blinded by the bright white paper, I think more books should be like this! Non Pratt is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future!

Monday 18 March 2019

Review on The Boy in the Dress

Dennis seems like an average boy. He loves playing football with his friends, visiting the local shop to buy sweets, and reading Vogue magazine... Okay maybe that last one isn't as average. Dennis is heartbroken when his father finds his copy of Vogue and throws it out, but everything changes when he meets Lisa, a girl from his school who is an aspiring fashion designer. Dennis is blown away by the dresses Lisa has made, and even tries some of them on. However things take a turn for the worst when Dennis is expelled for wearing a dress to school, and to make matters worse, he isn't allowed to compete in his school's football match, and without Dennis the team has no chance of winning. With the help of his friends, Dennis must convince their headmaster to let him play, and make him see that a boy wearing a dress really isn't a big deal.

I've never actually read a David Walliams book before, but I found this one in the charity shop I volunteer at and just had to buy it! I used to love Little Britain, so I went into the book expecting it to be full of light hearted humor. Even though part of it was what I was expecting, there were also some darker and serious topics that I'll get round to talking about a little later.

The book follows Dennis, a boy who lives with his dad and older brother. Dennis' mother left them, leaving Dennis with nothing but memories of her, and a single photograph he managed to save when his dad burnt all the photos of her. Dennis obviously misses his mum, and it's difficult to not feel some sort of sympathy for him. The book never actually explains why his mum left, but I felt sorry for the boys as they clearly weren't to blame. Even though we don't know the circumstances, I couldn't help but wonder how she could just leave her children like that. If parents go through a divorce, I feel that it's wrong for one of them to completely cut off all contact with their children, as they could end up believing it was their fault.

The thing that I loved the most about this book was that in challenged gender roles, and asked us why can't boys wear dresses? Dennis' interest in women's fashion is frowned upon by the adults, particularly by his dad. Dennis' dad is a typical manly man. He is an overweight truck driver who loves beer and football, and when he finds Dennis' copy of Vogue, he throws it out and tells Dennis it was wrong for him to have it.I've seen dads like Dennis' multiple times, telling their young sons not to play with dolls or tea sets because they are "for girls." I've honestly had to bite my tongue so many times when hearing dads say things like this. Gender roles are ridiculous, and parents should be encouraging their children's hobbies rather than telling boys they can't be interested in fashion, and telling girls they can't be Scientists because only boys are Scientists. Dennis' dad wasn't a bad father, but as he had obviously been brought up believing boys couldn't be interested in typically feminine things, he passed these ideas onto his sons. I loved how Dennis' dad eventually changed his mindset and was proud of his son rather than ashamed.

Despite burning all the photographs of Dennis' mum, Dennis' dad obviously misses her, and suffers from depression because of this. He often tells his sons to leave him alone, and suffers alone rather than admitting he is struggling. Men, in particular, don't get help for their mental health, as society has deemed men who ask for help to be weak. This is such a toxic mindset and results in thousands of men taking their own lives each year. Something that I loved was how Dennis' dad eventually opened up more and wasn't afraid of showing his emotions. Even though he started out being practically the definition of toxic masculinity, he eventually changed to become a great dad to his sons.

There is a stereotype that men who are interested in fashion or dress in drag are gay, so I love how Dennis having a crush on Lisa was mentioned. This book was brilliant at breaking stereotypes, and I loved that this was one of them. I loved the message that everyone should be free to wear whatever they want to despite their gender identity. Even though we have reached a point where women wearing trousers instead of dresses is normal, a man wearing a dress would still turn heads. Masculinity and femininity have no correlation with sexuality, yet people will assume a man wearing a dress is gay, yet a woman wearing a suit is seen as stylish and powerful. Society needs to stop seeing men wanting to be feminine as a negative thing, as gender equality will never be achieved when we see women dressing masculine as a positive thing but men dressing feminine negatively.

I have to quickly mention the illustrations. The book is illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is, of course, best known for illustrating Roald Dahl's books. As I grew up reading Roald Dahl, this gave the book a nostalgic feel to it and almost made it feel like I was rereading an old favourite rather than a book I was reading for the first time. Quentin Blake was the perfect illustrator for this book and did a perfect job of complimenting the story.

I loved this book and its diverse characters, and I feel as if most children would feel the same way! I definitely want to read more David Walliams books in the future!