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.

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.

As magic as I could have wished for – Goldenhand, the last instalment from Garth Nix.

Book Reviews, children's books, teen book reviews

The King and Abhorsen are away again and Sam gets news from his old friend Nick across the border. From the borders of the world free magic is attacking again, and Lirael, Sam and Nick must solve more mysteries, fight old enemies and revisit old friends to defeat it once and for all.

I find I already can’t remember the plot of this too well, which is very exciting as it means I’ll get to read it again really soon. I didn’t expect that it could be as magical and as enjoyable as reading the other book for the first time (and I was a bit disappointed by Clariel as was my friend Ian) but this was a complete delight. 

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

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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!

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.

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

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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.

This book was like going to Narnia – The Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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


Amani is sick of the small town life she seems destined to live, and the family determined to marry her off. Using her unusual sharpshooting skills she escapes into the desert – and into even more danger. Here she meets magic, a mysterious stranger and the rebel force, and finds herself drawn into what she never knew would be a destiny.

My VERY FAVOURITE THING about this book is that it reminds me so thoroughly of The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. It’s probably not that similar, but from the very start I was transported to my mental landscape where that book takes place, and I like it there. Hooray! Otherwise, this was a pacy and exciting book without too many original ideas but a thoroughly good mix up of old ones that take you on an exciting adventure.