Still reminding me of Narnia and still a great read – Traitor to the Throne, book 2 from Alwyn Hamilton

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized

A year after Amani joined the rebels in the desert, she’s become well known as the Blue-Eyed-Bandit and honed her skills in battle and in her magic power. But still, she is captured and imprisoned in the Sultan’s harem, where she is stripped of her powers, her support and her freedom. But plots are thickening in the city and the rebels are determined to reach her – and she is soon embroiled in more plots and works from within for the rebels cause.

It’s been a little while since I read this, so some points are a bit hazy for me: but I know I really enjoyed it. As I commented on the first instalment, to me it feels like an expanded study on sections of The Horse and His Boy, which makes it hugely attractive to me! Remember flashes of it and writing this makes me want to read it again – so that’s definitely a win!

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When a sequel more than lives up to the first – I can’t get enough of Katharine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts

After running from a home that is no longer safe (after events of first book…) Vasya tries for adventure, determined to travel the world and see it’s wonders. But evil is on the loose and children are being stolen – and it seems she may be the only one who can stop it. With her ability to see and speak to spirits, her much-more-than-ordinary horse and her instinct she must try to discover what is happening and save Russia, battling evil, politics, convention and even her own family along the way.

The first book of this series, The Bear and the Nightingale, has been one of my very favourite books this year, so when I found out there was another one and I could read it I was ecstatic! And the sequel didn’t disappoint. It jumped straight back into the story and hurdled through adventure, character development and a twisting plot with a fantastic blend of the familiar and the new. The setting continues to entrance me; Vasya is a terrific heroine and basically there isn’t anything I don’t love about these books. And there will be more, hooray!

More answers and more mysteries – Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Uncategorized


Rose Franklin died. But now she’s alive again, and not sure how, or how she feels about it. Meanwhile the world situation since the rebuilding of the alien being she found as a child has become far more serious. More and more of them are appearing on earth, and there is nothing except the original robot that can even try to stop them. And a little girl called Eva Reyes is having nightmares, and Kara Resnik and Vincent Couture have found a hard worn happiness, which is about to be tested again…

The conspiracy laden, sci-fi apocalyptic series continues with another book full of mystery, danger and personal stories set against a huge threat to the world. Having been fairly bemused by the first book I nevertheless felt it was worth another try – and found more answers than I was expecting. I have no idea how many books are going to be in the series, but this book packs no punches in racing forward with the plot. For me, it was probably an experience in intrigue more than enjoyment.

I’m amazed I could get into this – The Impossible Fortress by Jason Reculak

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, teen book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing Thoughts


1987. Computer obsessed and low-achieving teenager Billy and his friends are desperate to get hold of a copy of Playboy with the famous pictures of Vanna White, but at fourteen it’s a challenge. Along with a local hooligan they make elaborate plans to break into the local convenience store, but it all depends on Billy getting the code from the shopkeeper’s overweight daughter. But as he spends time with her he not only realises she may be the only person who can help him win a computer game design competition, but that she may be more than just a friend…

I don’t think I even read the description of this book before I got it, and now I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have thought a book with the storyline as described would ever be something I wanted to read, but actually I was touched and compelled by the humanity and understanding that it shows for a lonely teenage boy. We are drawn, totally and without any cynicism or mocking, into his world. And it was great.

This is possibly the cleverest book I’ve ever read – The Changeling by Victor Lavalle

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A new father is obsessed with his baby. Proud, loving, caring, desperate to care for it. But it’s mother does not think it’s a baby. When she commits the unspeakable then disappears, the father is left devastated – but in the middle of his grief and anger is drawn into a far stranger world than he ever imagined, which he must conquer to recover what has been lost.

This is probably the strangest book I have ever read – and certainly one of the cleverest. And also one of the most difficult. I am thoroughly glad I read this book a few months ago and not after my baby has been born (scheduling ahead from maternity leave here…) as I could only just about cope at that moment. It crosses boundaries books don’t usually broach, but follows it up extremely well. I was left shocked, surprised, thrilled, confounded and delighted by different parts of the story, and continue to think of it with complete amazement. What a triumph!

This book was so much more fun than I thought it would be – Welcome to Lagos by Chibundo Onuzo

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Chike Ameobi is running away from the army. As he heads towards Lagos he finds himself picking up other runaways, and by the time they reach the city there are five of them, including a nervous woman escaping a bad marriage and a boy desperate to be on the radio. Their arrival coincides with a political scandal: the minister of education has disappeared with a large amount of money. Their attempts to create new lives for themselves and find opportunities leads them to consequences they would never have imagined…

I didn’t know what to expect here. I’d been to an event with the author and really liked her so was excited to delve in, but, with complete prejudice which I repent of totally, I expected this to be very worthy, very intense and probably a little boring. It was anything but. The plot was compelling and fascinating, the characters relatable, their interaction convincing and the setting varied. I felt thoroughly pleased to have read this book, and am this very moment thinking through who I should buy it for.

Am I finally getting too old for YA? The (fantastic) Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy – Laini Taylor

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing


Stunning, secretive Karou has lived a strange life in different cities, never putting down roots or having a real family. But that’s because she lives at least half of her life elsewhere – in another world, where a strange monster who is the closest thing she has to a parent sends her on missions to collect teeth. But when angels, and one particular, very handsome angel, crash into her world and a supernatural, inter-universal war that has continued through centuries…

Obviously I can’t really summarise three action and emotion packed books above, but that gives the kind of basic setting. This is a huge, ambitious, far-reaching and cataclysmic trilogy with exceptionally strong world-building, well established foundations and sympathetic characters who weave their way compellingly through gripping circumstances. It’s got gorgeous young adults who fall passionately in love, it’s got supernatural powers, friendship, betrayal, crazy monsters… just all you could possibly need from a YA fantasy series. And in many ways, I loved it. But in the end I think I’m left feeling I’m just a bit too old.

I learned less but felt more than I expected in Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

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The Gods of Asgard live a strange existence; seeking knowledge, battling enemies, trying to contain the nefarious Loki and restrain the hot-headed Thor. Gods, giants, trolls and more plot, scheme, fight and invent in this series of myths spanning from creation through to Ragnarok; the end…

I was really excited to read Gaiman’s retelling of Norse myth. For several reasons: I love Gaiman, I love Norse mythology, and I wanted to know more about it. The book wasn’t quite what I expected. I was looking for more depth, more information and a more cohesive plot. But that’s not what myths are, and soon I found myself bewitched by the simple storytelling and strange world that I was encountering.

Why on EARTH did Persephone Books choose William – An Englishman by Cicely Hamilton as their first ever book?!

Book Reviews, book shops, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Uncategorized


William’s controlling mother dies suddenly, and his new freedom finds him swept into the world of pre-war socialism. Finding love as well as dogmatically-parroted views in fellow campaigner Griselda, they marry and embark on a lonely, isolated honeymoon in Belgium. When they emerge three weeks later to the local village war has begun, and they encounter soldiers and the brutal reality of war in ways that shatter their previous reality.

It took me a long time to get round to reading this book. I bought it from Persephone Books, and was excited about the concept; the design, the ethos. Rescuing the forgotten, important novels of history written by women. I chose to buy this one, the first selected by Persephone, the first published and neatly labelled No.1 on the back. But something held me back from reading it until now, and my instinct was right. I’m pretty sure it if would be better if this particular book had remained buried by history.

The White Queen totally overruled my anti-Philippa Gregory bias

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, London, Recommended, Uncategorized


Widowed Elizabeth Woodville stands ready to greet her King, her sons in tow and dressed at her most beguiling. The bond they forge leads to a passion that leads her family to the highest position in England – but not a stable one. Elizabeth must plot, scheme and do all in her power to subdue her enemies, please her husband and protect her family, but the odds against her are great…

Historical fiction based on real people is always troubling for me. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about a person and period in a fun and interesting way – but on the other, I resent that thoughts, actions and motives are placed upon them in a way that just cannot be accurate. Imagine someone in four hundred years trying to piece your life together into a story… I don’t think I’d like it much. BUT despite my reservations and long term avoidance of Gregory also due to an aversion to Tudors caused by their over-study in the British history curriculum, I was hooked.