55 Followers
58 Following
sunsetxcocktail

sunsetxcocktail

Currently reading

Empress Of All Seasons
Emiko Jean
Progress: 24 %
Girls of Paper and Fire
Natasha Ngan
Progress: 10 %
A Discovery Of Witches (All Souls, #1)
Deborah Harkness
Progress: 537/688 pages
The Towering Sky
Katharine McGee
The Arsonist
Stephanie Oakes
Progress: 209/493 pages
Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
Tehlor Kay Mejia, Tristina Wright, Emery Lord, Andrea Cremer, Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood, Brandy Colbert, Robin Talley, Anna-Marie McLemore, Zoraida Córdova, Brenna Yovanoff, Nova Ren Suma, Shveta Thakrar, Kate Hart, Lindsay Smith
Progress: 205/405 pages
The Outsider
Stephen King
Progress: 71 %
Mirage
Somaiya Daud
Progress: 31 %
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding
Alexandra Bracken
Progress: 21 %
The Abyss Surrounds Us
Emily Skrutskie
Progress: 16 %

Bookish Bingo Updates - final call

Sequel - Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber

Blue Cover - The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2) by Katherine McGee

Pirates - The Unbinding Of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

Religion - The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oaks

 

I'm changing my pick for Metallic letting because my Uk paperback of Children of Blood and Bone only has shiny silver lettering down the side not on the front. I'll use Children of Blood and Bone for the freebie square and the UK paperback of Renegades by Marissa Meyer for Metallic letting, (the uk paperback is covered in shiny metallic blue writing and decoration)

 

Changed again - Metallics - Give The Dark my Love by Beth Revis

Continued Summer Bingo updates

A book you've been putting off: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

LGTBIA+: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

2018 Debut: The Window by Amelia Brunskill

Red Cover: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Scifi: Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Magic: Onyx and Ivory by Mindy Arnette

Review: Look for Me

Look for Me (D. D. Warren) - Lisa Gardner

Review - Look For Me

 

I received a copy from Netgalley 

 

This was something I received from one of those read it now for the first 100 members or so. Is usually like murder mysteries and police procedurals so this one caught my eye and I was lucky and quick enough to get in on the read it now. 

 

However, I didn't realise at the time it was book 9 in an on going detective series. I did flit through some of the mixed reviews on Goodreads and it looks like each book can be read as a stand alone, but of course, coming in on book 9 there's background history to the characters and things about on going relationships you're just not going to know. 

 

And frankly, the whole thing was kind of bland. The mystery itself was intriguing enough, a family is found murdered, working mom and her boyfriend, and two young children, the teenage daughter and the family dogs are missing. Is the daughter a victim for is she the suspect? And as the investigation continues the narrative is twisted so it could be either one. 

 

It's a tough case, and the family and the teen girl in question were the only characters I really felt anything for. The mom was a recovering alcoholic who lost her children and worked really hard to get them back. The oldest daughter was the one who took care of the family until CPS got involved and the kids were forced into care. The two sisters stayed together but they were separated from the youngest child, a new kind of hell to deal with. The girls went through a nightmare in the foster care group home they were assigned to. The mom pulled herself together met the legal requirements for having her kids returned to her. Life wasn't easy but it was getting better. They moved and started fresh. 

 

Then mom met a new boyfriend. A decent guy, but he lived in the area where the nightmare group home was. 

 

And now there is a tragedy. The two detectives have to piece together what happened to the family. I didn't get much feeling for either of the two detectives, everything felt - at least to me -  two dimensional, boring and wooden. The emotion came from the family drama, and some of the history of what happened to them learned through a series of essays written by the missing teenager about what family means to her. 

 

There's a second non-official investigator on the case, a woman called Flora, who seems to be some sort of victims' advocate. She survived a horrible tragedy herself (the plot of a previous book in the series) linking her with the detectives. She's struggling to cope but getting on with her life by running a support group for other victims. She was an interesting character, I am actually kind of interested in knowing more about Flora. She became a key part in solving the mystery and helping unravel the case.

 

The end was a bit eye rolling and over dramatic for my tastes . I'm not interested in going out and get all the other books in this series. I may try this author again in a different series. While the characters were a little dull, there was enough intrigue in the case itself to keep reading to know what happened. And I didn't actually guess what happened.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for the opportunity to view the title.

Even more summer bingo updates

Someone Else's Pick for you - Time Shifters Episode one of the Chronicles of the Harekaiin (recommended by Lora's Rants and Reviews)

Adventure - Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Set During Wartime - Reign the Earth by A.C.Guaghen

Travel - Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier

Freebie - Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 

 

So that leaves

LGBT+ (I have so many books for this square I just need to pick one)

Red Cover

Blue Cover - possible pick The Dazzling Heighs by Katherine MgGee (second book in the Thousandth Floor trilogy, UK paperback has a lovely shiny blue cover)

Sequel

2018 Debut

Religion

Scifi

Pirates

A Book You've Been Putting Off - possible pick - The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (I've had this as soon as it came out but I've been putting it off forever worried I'll be the black sheep - it's a very important book, what if I don't like it? Or Illuminae - I have this entire trilogy but never got round to reading it. Illuinae would work for sci-fi too. Always and Forever Lara Jean - I love this series to pieces but if I read the last book the series will be over. 

Freebie

Review: Undead Girl Gang

Undead Girl Gang - Lily Anderson

Review: Undead Girl Gang

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First To Read.

 

This. Book. Was. Awesome. 

 

I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a finished hard back. There are some books you know from the tone of the first page if you're going to love them and the main character, and for me, this was one of those books. 

 

I felt a connection with Milla right away. I loved her don't give a fuck snarky tone. She's clearly grieving, the book opens with her best friend Riley's funeral. She has quite an interesting perspective on the funeral itself, a bunch of people from their school wailing and crying who would never have given Riley the time of day. Riley died in mysterious circumstances. The third death to happen to students from their class recently. Two of the schools most popular mean girls June and Dayton were also found deceased recently in what looked like a suicide pact. 

 

Neither Riley nor Milla fit in with the other students, they were heavily into Wicca, spending all their time at the local new-age magic shop or an abandoned house they found where they practice their spells and hang out. Riley's family own the local funeral home and Riley found herself a outcast, she and Milla connected and became best friends and have been for years. Though she'll never admit it Milla has an epic crush on Riley's hot, popular older brother Xander.

 

He's actually talking to her after the funeral. Milla is struggling with school, mandated meetings with the school shrink, and certain people (namely her chem lab partner) being a dick about her weight. She has two annoying younger sisters who don't seem to get 'personal space' and is generally miserable.

 

It's well written and believable without being over the top with the goth Wicca scene. The characters are well fleshed out as well. Milla's voice, despite her attitude problems, is easy to connect with. Her family drama, her school problems, it's not surprising she's not coping as well as she's saying she is. It's a sort of read between the lines thing. 

 

So she decides she's going to perform a spell to bring Riley back from the dead, find out what happened so she can bring the person who killed Riley to justice. It's not a simple basic spell, there are things she needs to get, certain times it can be performed. Kinda complicated. The method she received the volume of spells in which the actual spell to cast came to her is a little spooky. 

 

And of course when she heads to the magic shop with the  book, the lady who runs the shop tells her its a very old book and a dangerous one. Naturally of course, she doesn't listen to a word of warning. Hardly surprising then, when the spell works it not only brings back Riley, but June and Dayton too.

 

No one knows how it happened and it's not so much fun anymore with the two mean girls back again. They're all still dead, and discover some less than pleasant things about being a sort of zombie as they go along. No one remembers what happened before they died. The book from then on focuses on figuring out what happened to June, Dayton and Riley.

 

Some secrets come out as the novel progresses. And it has moments where it's very entertaining and quite funny as well. Though it has it's fair share of deep emotions and a few surprising twists to boost. Hints at something that could finally start to progress between Milla and Xander when they start developing a friendship of their own. 

 

One thing I did like was there wasn't really much romance involved. Hints and teasers, but it was more about the friendship with Milla and Riley and dealing with June and Dayton than about hooking up with the hot boy. 

 

A few more twists by the end when things start going wrong. Though when the truth is finally revealed, it's one of those why didn't I see this coming thing? It was quite clever. A tad over dramatic, maybe. Also, a standalone. Everything wrapped up decently and there wasn't any well what happened about so and so and no unanswered questions. 

 

I loved this book through and through and would definitely read it over and over.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: More Than We Can Tell

More Than We Can Tell - Brigid Kemmerer

Review: More Than We Can Tell

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I loved the predecessor for this book Letters to the Lost, which introduced one of the main characters in this one. There was clearly so much more to Rev than was explored in Letters to the Lost so I'm so pleased he got his own book.

 

Major trigger warnings for abuse - mental and physical. 

 

This book was a tough and very emotional read. I could only cope with about 100 pages at a time. (Same way I had to read the first one) On the one hand we have Rev, an apparent tough guy who keeps to himself. He lives with his foster mother and father (who are some of the best YA parents ever).

 

 

The novel starts with Rev getting an unexpected letter from his biological father, a bible thumping preacher  who was put in jail for some serious abuse of his own son. He used region as a weapon both to psychologically manipulate and terrorise Rev as he grew up as well as an excuse for physical punishment. 

 

Rev hasn't spoken to him in years and lost all contact. Despite his tough guy exterior Rev is battling some very complex and conflicting emotions. Regardless of the suffering his father put him through something about his words in the letter still resonate. It's heart breaking to read about as Rev struggles with his feelings and what to do. While he's not telling his parents anything, he does have the support of best friend Declan who's there regardless of the time of day or night. 

(show spoiler)

 

On the other hand, we have Emma, a girl in Rev's class. Up until now they've never had reason to cross paths. Emma is a gamer who loves to code, she stays up late into the night gaming. She even created and launched a game of her own, which seems to have a lot of players. It's a secret she keeps from her parents, particularly her mom who doesn't seem to approve of her habit of locking herself in her room and spending all hours on her computer. Mom is an overworked doctor and kind of a bitch. Emma's father is a computer programmer for a big computer game company. Yet Emma seems almost embarrassed to tell him about her own coding skills. 

 

She's dealing with some serious harassment problems from one of the players in her game, a player who calls themselves 'Nightmare' and seems to hate the fact that she's a girl and she's the moderator and one in charge. The threats and messages are getting nastier and nastier. She can't seem to tell anyone other than her best friend Claire, and Ethan, another player she has a friendship and a strong connection with. 

(show spoiler)

 

There's tension between Emma's parents and it's really uncomfortable, so it's not surprising at all that Emma's on edge, especially with her own drama going on. She runs into Rev one night whilst walking her beloved dog, Texas (Texy). They have a brief conversation but there are clear sparks (even though neither realise it until much much later) they've started a dialogue. 

 

Things are getting more and more tense in both their home situations. Emma's parents are fighting more and more, the harassment from Nightmare is getting worse. No matter how much she bans him, he pops up again and again and is sending violent images through emails as well as nasty messages. Rev has a new foster kid living with his family, a young teenage boy named Matthew, who's moody and uncommunicative. He's getting more messages from his horrible biological father, mainly revolving around bible quotes that actually have Rev reflecting on his own behaviour and not in a good way. He's trying to be understand of Matthew's difficult circumstances but it's difficult and with other things going on...there's only so much anyone can take before snapping.

(show spoiler)

 

 

Both he and Emma continue to meet and talk, both in person and via texting and email. They have developed a friendship in which they can talk to each other about personal stuff and things they have difficulty talking about to other people. And of course the friendship turns into something deeper and more romantic. It's a slow burn romance and it's wonderful. They're both so considerate of each other. 

 

Things are going wrong and darker in both their lives, eventually the other's families learn of the friendship. Emma's so frazzled with her family troubles and online harassment she's taking it out on her best friend, who doesn't know what's going on. Her relationship with her parents hits rock bottom. She picks fights over stupid things with people who haven't really done anything wrong. 

 

And when something really bad happens to Emma towards the end of the novel, it's those people who figure it out and turn up and save her. While the danger Emma finds herself in is quite frightening, its a little predictable as to how it's going to turn out.

 

That being said, it's a really good read. It's a tough one that deals with some hard subjects yet manages to be uplifting in its own way. Brilliantly developed characters. This is the second book I've loved by this author which puts her on my auto-buy list. 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

 

More updates for Summer Bingo

A Reaper At The Gates, Sabaa Tahir for June July Aug release

A List of Cages, Robin Roe for realistic fiction

The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton for reread

The Thousandth Floor, Katherine MgGee (UK paperback) for yellow cover

DNF: These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights - Victoria Namkung

Another one for the DNF pile.

 

Just not interested in finishing this novel. It's certainly a very relevant novel, it's about a graduate from a very exclusive private girls school who starts a job with a local newspaper and decides to write an expose on a teacher she had a fling with. The teacher seduced her, made her feel special and then dropped her when she started realising what a mistake she'd made. Something she had been shamed into keeping silent for years. And once the bomb drops...she's not the only victim. Other students from past and present start coming forward and it looks like there's a giant cover up by the school.

 

Problem is while it's got the markings of an interesting plot, the characters are so flat and uninteresting. There's very little emotion involved, or at least for my tastes, for such a deep subject. I'm finding myself not wanting to pick it up and not really caring about how it ends anymore. 

 

So another one for the DNF pile it is. 

 

Thank you  Griffith Moon Publishing for approving my request to view the title. 

Bookish Bingo Summer reading list

so far I've got

 

Lies They Tell Gillian French for Summer Thriller

Memories Wake Omnibus Selina Fenech for Illustrations

Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson for Water on Cover

Siren's Call by Devyn Quinn for Over 5 years Old

American Panda Gloria Cho for Asian Author

Summer 2018 Bookish Bingo

 

 

I decided his morning to out my currently reading list on hold to participate in Pretty Deadly Reviews Summer Bookish Bingo Card. I haven't done one of these in ages and usually really enjoy them. So let's see how it goes.

 

 

DNF: The Silent Corner

The Silent Corner - Dean Koontz

Not for me. Don't like the main character, plot is choppy and irritating enough to DNF at 6%, not interested in anymore. 

Review: A Charm and a Curse

By a Charm and a Curse - Jaime Questell

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This for me was a case of interesting premise but boring execution. I can’t say it was a bad book, but this reader was just meh about the whole thing really.

 

Carnivals/Circuses with hints of a magic are a recent favourite of mine. So the premise of this book caught my attention right away.  Teenager Emma has gone to the carnival with her friend. Emma across as likeable from the tone of the writing. She’s more fascinated by the artwork murals she spots than making out with cute boys like her friend Juliet.

 

A strange encounter for Emma when a weird boy gives her a coin. She and Juliet find themselves trying the fortune teller – The Boy in The Box. Emma soon finds herself alone.  And shortly later hanging out with the Boy in the Box. And going on the Ferris wheel with him, drinking a bottle wine provided by the boy, kissing the weird boy and falling off said Ferris wheel.

 

When she wakes up Emma finds herself unable to feel anything and is shocked to discover she has been cursed. The Boy in the Box, Sidney, tricked her into taking his curse which can only be taken away with a kiss. She can try and get someone else to drink the mysterious wine and kiss them and shove them off the Ferris wheel.

 

Naturally, Emma is completely freaked and completely furious. (Who wouldn’t be?) Her reaction to the sudden change in her life is well written and completely believable as she realises her whole life is changed. She can’t go home, she has to stay with the Carnival while she is under the curse. The curse is a little more complex than first it seems but like anyone in this situation, there’s only so much information you can take in.

 

The Carnival people turn out to be pretty awesome (with a few exceptions of course) but most of the supporting cast were fantastic. The other acts who were around Emma’s age start to become real friends and help her deal with the situation. There are a few people who are absolute assholes and creepy (who turn out to be the baddies of the story).

 

None of this was too bad. It was really unique and interesting and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen. I like Emma as a character and I loved the supporting characters. What really spoiled this book for me was the romance.

 

Dual narrated the novel is from the point of view of Emma and Benjamin, one of the carnival workers who strikes a friendship with Emma which quickly becomes something more. Initially when we’re introduced to Benjamin it appears he’s working with the carnival along with his cousin both are hoping to save enough money to leave and start their own lives. But as soon as Emma comes into the picture he’s fascinated. Ben’s mother Audrey who also works at the carnival is livid about the idea of him hanging out with Emma who is now trying to get used to her new role as The Girl in the Box. Though the reasons for Audrey’s unnatural dislike and distrust of Emma become clearer later in the novel it just seems weird.

 

Of course being teenagers who are in insta-love they completely ignore the warnings about the two of them being together. The curse is a little more complex than Emma first realises and things are happening at the carnival, accidents are occurring that haven’t happened before and Emma is getting the blame. There’s a mystery to solve as to why all going back to the origins of how the curse came into being in the first place.

 

The novel is well written and the plot is interesting enough to want to know what’s going on but the romance between Ben and Emma is just so eye rolling it spoiled the whole book for me really. Even when they finally figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

 

Good idea, but in the end just not for me.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Entangled Publishing LLC for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Keeper

Keeper - Kim Chance

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

First time I’ve ever been approved by anything from Flux...and sad to say I really didn’t like the book. The cover caught my eye on this one and it sounds like the kind of cheesy  kind of YA paranormal romance I usually really like (even if the plot is rather silly).

 

The premise of this one was interesting enough, study mad Lainey is attending some sort of convention with her pop culture obsessed best friend, she has a strange encounter with seeing someone -  a woman in what looks to her like a costume - starts feeling sick and dizzy, and decides to bail. Also, an encounter with a cute guy she just brushes off. 

 

Her parents are deceased so she lives with her uncle Gareth and his odd new agey wife. Heading home Lainey has another encounter with the strange woman, who calls herself Josephine...and seems to be drawn into her memories.

 

The idea was fairly interesting. Lainey was a reasonably likeable main character, there was nothing particularly off about her. She’s fairly smart, quite logical. The writing itself isn’t bad. The story picks up and starts taking shape with chapters from Josephine’s point of view several centuries ago. 

 

Josephine is last in a line of very powerful witches tasked with protecting an ancient Grimoire the bad guy really wants to get his hand on and isn’t afraid to kill or do whatever he has to do make sure he gets it. Josephine is having none of it. Lainey through some bizarre connection is watching all this unfold...and finds her own life getting stranger and stranger. The cute guy she had a brief encounter shows up again, Ty, and she finds herself getting to know him quite well. 

 

A fair amount of action, not too much focus on the inevitable romance. There’s a battle between good and evil, and an ordinary girl thrown in who discovers she may be the key to everything. I didn’t find there was much emotional depth (at least not for my taste) but there’s enough mystery and enough questions to keep the reader interested and wanting to know what’s going on. 

 

What really spoiled this book for me was the romance angle, Ty, who was flat and boring as hell and completely uninteresting. Though of course with twisty REASONS for his actions. The other thing that drove me up the wall was Maggie, Lainey’s best friend. Maggie was constantly spurting out pop culture references - comic books, TV shows - ALL. THE. TIME. It was fucking annoying. And every time something happens she comes out with her signature phrase “Holy crapkittens!” Which pissed me off to no end. Every time she said it - which was a lot - I wanted to slap her silly and tell her to shut the fuck up. 

 

Though to be fair, Maggie did stick by Lainey’s side throughout the whole thing, when Lainey discovers secrets about herself and her family that her Uncle had hidden from her, was on hand to listen and be there. (She must really be a good friend - she’s the one who’s magic/paranormal/superhero obsessed and her best friend is the one who gets the superpowers? And she’s not even a little bit put out or jealous?) Just such a shame she had such an irritating personality. Combined with her and Ty who were a major part of the story it really let it down for me. 

 

The revelations were kind of silly and eye rolling as the novel got to the end. It’s left quite open but it doesn’t look like there’s a sequel. There could be. I’m not sure I will be rushing out to get it if it does come.

 

It was okay, the novel had it’s moments and a fun concept, but in the end just not to my taste I guess.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Flux for approving my request to view the title. 

Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After - Emily X.R. Pan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Another case of really good book but I’m not all that sure I really liked the main character much. The novel is about dealing with deep depression, and grief after the suicide of a parent and learning about said parent’s cultural heritage. 

 

One thing I really loved about the book was the look into Taiwanese culture, something I know nothing about. Main character Leigh is half white on her dad’s side and Taiwanese on her mother’s side. She’s never known her mother’s parents who live in Taiwan, when her mother left to marry her father it caused a big split in the family.

 

Leigh has a huge crush on her best friend Axel, over time her feelings for him have developed and she’s super jealous of Axel’s girlfriend. (This was really annoying. There weren’t many females Leigh’s age mentioned in the novel other than Leigh’s one other friend Caro and anyone girl who wasn’t Caro Leigh doesn’t seem to like, from what I remember, it got annoying fast.)

 

Leigh is an artist, she loves drawing and sees the world and her emotions in color. She and Axel have a thing where something is happening and Axel will ask her “what color?” and she will respond with whatever shade she sees at that particular moment. I don’t think it was synesthesia just her way of looking at the world. Initially this came across as kind of pretentious. I very nearly DNFed this book several times at the beginning. It felt very long winded and over written, and maybe there was something about it I just wasn’t getting. 

 

The description for the book hinted and magical realism which is one of my favorite things, so I stuck it out to see where it would come in. 

 

Leigh’s world changes, starting with a defining moment with Axel to the sudden shock of her mother’s suicide. She’s completely numb and devastated. Her emotions are all over the place and it’s completely understandable. While I could empathize with Leigh and could understand the massive trauma and shock such a horrific thing can do to a person, as a character I found her flat and hard to connect with. 

 

She finds herself heading to Taiwan to meet grandparents from her mother’s side she never knew while her dad throws himself into his work for the summer. The grandparents don’t speak much English and Leigh doesn’t speak much Mandarin though she is learning. There’s a lot of foreign language spoken in the book which sometimes can be very jarring when you don’t speak the other language (or can be for me which sounds terrible and very white privilege, I know) though in this book it just fit in the narrative and was really interesting to learn some new words and phrases. 

 

Leigh has an experience before heading to Taiwan where she thinks she sees her mother in the body of a red bird and becomes convinced she has to find the bird and the bird has now turned up in Taiwan with her. There is a cultural legend revolving around the reasons why.

 

A young lady called Feng, a friend of the grandparents shows up to help with the cultural differences and language barriers. Leigh learns about Spirit Week and some of the festivals taking place at the time she is visiting. While thanks to her mom’s influences Leigh is fairly well versed Taiwanese cooking, but there’s a whole host more to learn when she’s there. The descriptions of the food sound absolutely divine.

 

The narrative is in a then and now format - what happened with Axel and Caro before and what’s happening in the present. This also ties in the magical realism aspect when Leigh starts accessing her memories of her mom and not just her memories. There’s a really fascinating element where she can see her mom’s past memories as well. Leigh learns some things she never knew about, and has to come to terms with some things she did but couldn’t really bring herself to accept. 

 

There’s a wonderful family dynamic as hard as it can be for one family, when she meets her friend Caro, Caro’s family is so different and vibrant from Leigh’s own more sombre one. The difference is kind of heart breaking but interesting at the same time. 

 

Leigh and her family visit all her mom’s favorite places in Taiwan. Which again is completely absorbing. It’s beautifully described and beautifully written. Though Leigh can be quite a bitch to Feng who’s only trying to be nice and help. Feng has a really unexpected back story and there’s a twist to her character as well.

 

The other focus of the novel is Leigh’s plans for college and her future. She desperately wants to follow art but her dad is pressuring her to find something more practical. Leigh has to figure out whether she wants to do something that’s right or follow her heart to find something in the field that she really loves. 

 

And then there’s her relationship with Axel. (Kind of predictable and bit eye rolling) but did make me smile at the end. 

 

Despite a rocky start, I’m glad I stuck with the novel as it really did get better and by the end I loved it, and it made me quite teary in places. While sad in some respects, there were some uplifting moments. An honest and believable novel, at times hard and unflinchingly difficult in the narrative. But definitely worth a read. And most certainly an author that is going on my auto buy list. I loved this so much by the end I did buy a finished copy.

 

Thank you to Netalley and Hatchette Children’s Books for the review copy. 

Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is one of those strange conflicting books where I loved the premise, I loved the writing, the story but I hated the main character. Frankly, Alice was a giant bitch. (Narrative did reveal REASONS for her behavior but still.)

 

Alice has spent most of her life on the road with her mother, whom she refers to by name, Ella, rather than call her Mom. Bad luck seems to follow them where ever they go. They start settling down, things go wrong and they have to leave. Because of this Alice is never in one place for long so never really makes any friends or forms attachments to people. Which must be difficult but its the life she’s used to so it’s sort of understandable that she’d be cold and standoffish. 

 

She has an attitude right off. She lives under the shadow of her reclusive grandmother whom she’s never met, the author of a book of very dark fairy tales. The fairy tale book seems to have a sort of cult following. There is very little information about the grandmother. At the start of the novel Ella has received a letter telling her that the grandmother Althea, has died and she has inherited her estate, the mysterious Hazel Wood. Which she wants nothing to do with. 

 

The writing is quite dark and lyrical, the abysmal characters give the whole thing a dark murky feel to the story, when Alice starts looking into the grandmother and the book of fairytales, it fits as it turns out the stories are very dark. The book is now out of print and hard to find. Alice makes a connection with a boy at her latest school, Ellery Finch who has an interest in the fairytale book. Ella’s latest boyfriend is a very very rich older man with a daughter Alice’s age, so she and Alice attend a private school for very rich kids. Finch, is one of the wealthiest students there. 

 

Of all the characters in this book, Finch is probably the nicest and was one of my favorites. He offers Alice a tentative friendship and is nothing like the stereotypical rich boy you get at private schools. He’s kind of a nerd and adorable. 

 

Alice’s world is thrown into chaos when she goes home one afternoon to find her mother missing and her mother’s boyfriend in a fury after himself, his daughter and Ella were kidnapped. The two were let go, and he’s naturally furious. More for scared for himself and his daughter than Ella it would appear. The only clue Alice has is something to do with being told to stay AWAY from the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s mysterious estate.

 

Of course, with a bitchy teenager who is told not to go somewhere - it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen. Alice completely ignores the warning and freaks. She finds herself calling on Finch to help her, since he’s apparently read the fairytale book. He’s got involved with the people looking for the estate. Finch is the only person willing to help. Alice is freaking and she’s really being nasty to him. Yet almost reluctantly seems to resign herself to the fact she needs Finch and the help he is offering. Her nasty attitude during these bits made me constantly want to slap Alice. I really did not like her at all.

 

Though this is where the fairytale darkness seeps into the novel and it seems that reality is mixing in with the world of the mysterious tome written by her grandmother, a strange fairyland called The Hinterland. Is this really happening or is it the influence of the Hinterland?

 

Things get stranger and scarier as Alice and Finch investigate, ignoring all warnings to stay the hell away. Alice can’t do it. The more she digs, the more questions she finds with no answers. Despite the unlikeable characters, there is something very compelling about the darkness of the mystery as it unfolds.

 

I won’t recap much more because there would be some serious spoilers but things get weirder by the minute and finally, things start happening and answers start coming. There were a few twists before the final revelations.

 

Some misgivings, but definitely worth a read. It’s somewhere between a fantasy and a mystery. Vivid and quite dark and sometimes dreary. At the same time it has a way of making you want to know what the hell is going on. It’s definitely very original.  And that book of disturbing fairytales sounds like something this reader would be dying to get their hands on. And according to Goodreads it looks like there will be a sequel (though I can’t imagine where the sequel will go) and the fairytale book from the first book will actually be written. I am certainly very intrigued to go. 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title. 

 

 

Review: Royals

Royals - Rachel Hawkins

I received a copy from Penguin’s First To Read

 

This book was like a giant rom-com cliché. The alternate history for the Royal family was eye rolling and cringe worthy. That being said once you over look those things, it was actually a very entertaining read. Irritating as hell, but fun.

 

(Especially like me if you have a guilty pleasure for Royal gossip)

 

In this alternate world there is a Scottish Royal Family, and the heroine Daisy’s sister Ellie has fallen in love with Prince Alexander, heir to the throne. They are getting married. Daisy lives in Florida with her mom and her ex British rock star dad. She lives a pretty normal life. She has a part time job at a local convenience store and is looking forward to a planned trip to Key West with her BFF Isabel where they will go to a convention to meet their favourite fantasy author and get their books signed. All pretty normal.

 

But all this is thrown out of whack when Ellie announces she’s marrying the prince and the Royal family have invited the whole family to Scotland for a few weeks for the summer to get a taste of what’s coming.

 

Every other chapter is a page from a magazine or a gossip blog/tabloid.

 

Daisy is fuming but agrees on the basis that the Royal assistant Glynnis who has come with Ellie and Alex can arrange for a singing at a book shop near where they are staying and bring Isabel along later.

 

So off to Scotland they go given a Royal treatment – first class flights, fancy cars, the fanciest hotels. To add to the chaos, Alex’s younger brother, charming, Sebastian (who is Daisy’s age, 17) the most eligible teen in Scotland is there as well with his group of fancy friends. Sebastian is an ass, crude, full of himself and flirts with everything in a skirt. Daisy finds herself getting into a snit with his best friend Miles when a drunken Sebastian decides to head into her room.

 

The dialogue is sharp and witty and as soon as Miles and Daisy start snarking with each other it’s completely predictable as to what’s going to happen. Daisy has to go to several royal events and dress the part (something she’s not happy about) and of course things go eye rollingly wrong (including a rather amusing incident where she finds herself getting looked down on by some of the posh women and does a delightful job of holding her own and insulting them right back).

 

It’s cheesy as hell. However, at the time, I did find myself reading this with a grin on my face most of the time. Daisy is struggling to cope with major culture shock, even when her best friend finally arrives (Isabel’s huge crush on Sebastian not helping) Daisy finds herself unwittingly creating a scandal that catches the eye of the disapproving Queen. And Miles to the rescue.

 

Which leads to a fake dating plot.

 

As a lead character Daisy was immensely likeable, easy to understand where she’s coming from. Easy to follow her story as she moves between the very different world and gets to know the real people behind the tabloid gossip and learns maybe Miles isn’t the stuck up ass he pretends to be. They have some quite interesting conversations about their differences.

 

The end is absolutely gag worthy. But kind of works.

 

Not the most brilliant book I have ever read, but certainly an entertaining one.