A black forest gateaux of a series – Caraval and Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, teen book reviews

Scarlett and Donatella Dragma escape their cruel and controlling father to enter the magical world of Caraval, a magical game and competition run by the mysterious Legend. Each sister must risk their lives and test their daring and their love as they compete, to save each other’s lives and more as the alluring world sweeps them into it’s depths and stories. In a world where they can’t know what is true each sister has secrets and plans that in turn will affect the whole world around them.

Trying to summarise two books is difficult!! I thought I had already reviewed Caraval, but it seems not so I’m doing two in one. First thought – these are great! They are the books most like one of my favourites ever The Night Circus that I have read. They draw you in quickly and deeply, the world they create is exciting in it’s twists and turns and evocative and sensual in it’s magic and setting. I’ve really enjoyed them – but I do think they’re a bit over done, a little over sensual and over descriptive. A little over flavoured – like a black forest gateaux.

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A refreshingly paced read full of humanity and heart – Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, teen book reviews

Taliah gave up on her father long ago: he never responded to any of her letters, and he’s a rock star. But one day the famous Julian Oliver turns up on her doorstep to whisk her away, not only to get to know him but her whole family. With her mother ignorant and out of the country Taliah has only a three days to find out where she came from, and why she’s never known him before.

This book was great! Probably my favourite thing about it was that the whole story, a fairly short novel, took place over only three days. We journeyed with Taliah in (much closer to) realtime, with each encounter and moment, not missing a conversation or encounter. I don’t remember when I last read a book like that, and I really enjoyed it.

The story of this book was better than the book itself – There was a Time by Frank White.

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Writing, Writing Thoughts

A manuscript, wrapped in string, appeared at the Hodder and Stoughton offices. Attached was a note: I used to be a Hodder author. I am now one of the few people left who were alive at the time of the Second World War, one of the only people who can capture the feeling of those times. I have written it into a book, and this is it. (My paraphrase).

So far, so exciting. But sadly, this is the story OF the book, not in the book. Author Frank White, in his own words now, says: “What I aimed to do was to capture the feeling of those times and remind people of what the country went through.” If that is so, my main takeaway from this book is that during these times everyone committed adultery.

I thought this was going to be the perfect book for me but it broke my heart – The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended

When Ásta and most of the rest of her Icelandic village are kidnapped and shipped off to Algiers she was about to give birth, and her third child is born in the hold of the ship, surrounded by people she has known for many years. Her family is separated and sold to different owners, and her husband is sent back to plead a ransom. Ásta finds her new world a confusing mixture of abhorrent and compelling, and must try to tread a path between mourning her lot and making a new life.

I was so excited when this book arrived. The cover is beautiful, it’s set in Iceland, the title suggests selkies (a Scottish and probably beyond mythological creature: a seal that walks out of the water and turns into a woman) and goodness gracious me, it’s actually a book about a mother. And boy was it excellent, but it was also utterly heart wrenching.

I only worked out what this book was about at the very end – Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Uncategorized

Henry Aster’s father bought an old gothic house in a middle of a small American town where no one understood him, his writing or his obsession with books. Henry and his little sister grew up in the shadow of his father’s ambition, depression and genius, until one day his was gone. When he moves away to university Henry must deal with all of this, with his own writing ambition and becoming his own man. 

For the first bit of the book I was just trying to work out where it was going, what it was about. It seemed to just chronologically be telling this guy’s story, with various flashbacks to his childhood. I couldn’t grasp if there was a central point: apart from his Dad. I eventually gave up trying to suss the book out and went with the flow, then at the end worked out what it was going on about all along. I’m not sure if this made me more or less satisfied.

A fantastic concept overtaken by a boring romance – City Of Circles by Jess Richards

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, teen book reviews

Danu is a part of the circus. Her life has been beset by tragedy and mystery, and when they visit the City of Circles, a city split into levels that spins, the mystery only deepens: there is something here for her. Meanwhile Morrie at the circus has been teaching her to tightrope dance, and has been falling deeply in love with her. She must decide to pursue romance or the mystery of her family, and either way she feels she will lose out.

I was really excited about the concept of this book and the mystery at it’s heart: the City of Circles, and the main character’s story and origin. The circle was a nice place to start, the characters interesting – but the start dragged on for far too long. She stayed in the circus for too long: she stayed with Morrie for far far too long and the bit I’d been waiting for, the bit that really felt like the story getting started, didn’t happen until the very last section of the book.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo – I really did not expect to enjoy this.

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized

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You know, don’t you? Like the film? No? Alright then. The Don presides over a vast array of networks and family, and through the book navigates the balances of power, warfare and affection that moves around him. Rival gangs fight. People ask for favours. Protection is given. But The Don is old, and his eldest son is only interested in women, the middle isn’t up the the job, and the youngest spurned the Mafia life long ago. With enemies closing in and the centre of power seeming to fail, what will happen to the family business?

I never ever thought I’d read this. I haven’t even seen the film. But when a friend with almost flawless taste recommended it, I had to give it a go. And to my shock, and despite a whole load of things that usually put me off, I really enjoyed this book. It draws you in so cleverly to the world of the Mafia; to their alternate morals and loyalties, to their feuds and family.

The Eight Books to buy this Christmas – my ultimate literary gift guide

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, children's books, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized

Stuck for present ideas? Look no further! A book is a thoughtful, pleasingly weighty and easily wrapped gift. It says, I’ve thought about you. I’ve considered what you might like. I’ve invited you onto a journey, nay, adventure, through these pages I have purchased for you. I believe that you can read.

And here I’ve done the thought and research for you. Pick the most appropriate gift for the person you love, tolerate or are obligated to buy for and get wrapping! Plus my top book of the year is hidden in there too…

Here are my top tips for:

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – a ridiculously good adventure that I’ve already read twice

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, children's books, Recommended, teen book reviews, Uncategorized

Morrigan Crow has always known when the end would come. As a cursed child, she is destined to die on her eleventh birthday, but instead at midnight Morrigan finds herself apprenticed and semi-kidnapped by an extraordinary figure called Jupiter North and taken into a land that she never knew existed, and where she finds she has been entered into a contest to join the mysterious Wundrous Society, despite her apparent lack of a qualifying ‘knack.’ But on the journey through her trials she finds freedom, fun, loving family for the first time and hopes desperately that there is something she can do to let her stay…

This book was just so good. It put an almost constant smile on my face the whole way through. It begins with the maudlin and melancholy of Morrigan with her family, but moves into such a fantastic blend of warmth, crazy fantasy and humour that I was completely enchanted. It’s probably a book for 9-12 year olds but I’ve been recommending it to anyone who loves this sort of thing anyway – and I can’t wait for the next in the series.

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!