• For the Lost Time – Heather Blair

    Thank you, Booktamins and Heather Blair, for having me as part of the blog tour for this sweet gay time-travel romance! I’ve been in an odd reading mood recently, so reading something with barely any fantastical elements has proven a welcome distraction from my usual diet, and it was fun to read a new adult romance for once!

    RELEASE DATE: 21/04/20

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: When Diego Delgado closed his eyes it was 2020. When he awoke, he was one-hundred years in the past. Thrust into the dawn of the Jazz Age with no money and nowhere to go, Diego encounters a veritable bouquet of acquaintances including a kind-hearted factory owner, a free-spirited flapper, a worldly-wise mystic, and a strong-willed heir named Thomas Greely. Diego, desperate to return to the future and reunite with his young daughter, must blend in with the roaring twenties lifestyle while searching for answers. But distractions are all around him, especially Thomas who is both beautiful and charismatic, and Diego must grapple with the reality that even if he succeeds in returning home, half of his heart will stay behind.

    OPINIONS: Now, I want to begin by saying that I really enjoyed reading For the Lost Time. It is a cute story about two men finding themselves and figuring out who they are and who they want to be, and as a romance, there is of course a HEA. While the main characters were not as deep as they could have been, they were written in ways that made the readers feel with them, and hints for the ending were strewn nicely throughout the book without giving too much away before it was time. And I mean, yeah, Diego and Thomas were the stars of the show, but Dora stole my heart. I love me a feisty woman who can hold her own in a man’s world.

    However, as it is a self-published work, it shows that it has not been thoroughly edited by someone other than the author. This might partially be me picking up on this more as someone trying to get into the industry and editing myself, but the prose is inconsistent, and heavily overwritten at times. The author often tells rather than shows, and there are a few logical inconsistencies. I am confident that a professional edit could help improve the book immensely, as the bones of the story and characters are strong.

    If you are intrigued, add For the Lost Time on Goodreads here, or order it from Amazon US as a paperback or ebook here!

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Blair is the author of new adult romance novels including Lucid Dreaming and Wide Awake. She was born and raised in Vermont and has spent much of her adult life in New York and Los Angeles. She currently resides in Connecticut with her two cats. You can find her here:

  • Looking Glass – Christina Henry

    Happy book birthday to this quirky little book out today! A series of interconnected, but utterly different, novellas featuring characters from the world of Christina Henry’s Alice, a dark Alice in Wonderland retelling, Looking Glass follows that twisted fairy tale vibe…

    Many thanks to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for the review copy in exchange for this honest review!

    RELEASE DATE: 21/04/20

    STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY:

    • Lovely Creature: In the New City lives a girl with a secret: Elizabeth can do magic. But someone knows her secret – someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly that was supposed to be gone forever, a butterfly that used to be called the Jabberwock…
    • Girl in Amber: Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm she stumbles into a house that only seems empty and abandoned…
    • When I First Came to Town: Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive…
    • The Mercy Seat: There is a place hidden in the mountains, where all the people hate and fear magic and Magicians. It is the Village of the Pure, and though Alice and Hatcher would do anything to avoid it, it lies directly in their path. (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: I loved how this was a book of novellas, separate stories, but still interconnected through their characters and a slight overarching plot threading through. As my attention span has suffered massively through this pandemic, I’ve been turning to shorter fiction wherever I can, so it’s been a treat to read something that is both shorter in itself, requiring less attention span, as well as part of a larger narrative.

    My favourite of the four must have been “Lovely Creature”, with its classic portal fantasy atmosphere. It is written in a way that lets the reader lose themselves completely in Christina Henry’s world, trying to solve the mystery of Elizabeth’s heritage and magic. Most out of all of them, it is reminiscent of the original Alice in Wonderland tales in its spirit if not direct content, as well as linking back to the beginning of Christina Henry’s Alice.

    I also really enjoyed “When I First Came to Town”, another origin story, that of Hatcher. While this did not give off such strong Wonderland / fairy tale vibes, it still had an innate focus on character and character development, which continuous readers of this blog will recognise as something I look out for. In this, Hatcher was exceedingly well written, and as a reader I ached and longed with him.

    Sadly, I did not connect as much with the remaining two stories. Focusing on the real-time characters of Alice and Hatcher after the events of the earlier two books, it felt like they relied on reader loyalty too much. As someone who had enjoyed Alice and Red Queen quite a while ago, I have forgotten much of what happened, and thus feel quite disconnected from the characters, and it seemed like there wasn’t enough effort made to move them forward, making Looking Glass hard to access for new readers.

    If you are curious about this collection of novellas, here is the Goodreads link, and you can order a copy from Waterstones here, or your indie of choice!

  • Eden – Tim Lebbon

    To finish off the big Titan Books blog tour for Eden by Tim Lebbon, I’m honoured to add my review to the lineup! A fascinating, unique read that got me scared, which is no easy feat.

    Thank you to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for the review copy and the inclusion on the blog tour! I’m feeling ill today, so I hope no silly mistakes have made their way into the post!

    RELEASE DATE: 15/06/20 (UK)

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Earth’s rising oceans contain enormous islands of refuse, the Amazon rainforest is all-but destroyed, and countless species edge towards extinction. Humanity’s last hope to save the planet lies with The Virgin Zones, thirteen vast areas of land off-limits to people and given back to nature.

    Dylan leads a clandestine team of adventure racers, including his daughter Jenn, into Eden, the oldest of the Zones. Jenn carries a secret––Kat, Dylan’s wife who abandoned them both years ago, has entered Eden ahead of them. Jenn is determined to find her mother, but neither she nor the rest of their tight-knit team are prepared for what confronts them. Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way.  And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend. (from Titan Books)

    OPINIONS: Eden might well be the creepiest, scariest book I have ever read. This pacey read keeps you on your toes from beginning to end, trying to figure out its mystery. Rather than fighting a clear evil, this book’s villain is unclear throughout most of the story, and it is that uncertainty that drives the plot and atmosphere. Hopelessness, loss, sacrifice and love are all themes strongly present in Eden, and while it is a horror thriller, it is just as much a family drama at its heart.

    Dylan and his daughter Jenn lead a ragtag group of adventurers into one of the remaining virigin zones, Eden. Ostensibly there to push boundaries and come out on top of the community, the team soon finds out that Kat, Dylan’s estranged wife and Jenn’s mother has gone missing inside Eden weeks earlier and that there might be more to their expedition than glory and adventure. And once they are inside the zone, they start finding impossible bodies before the first members of their own team start disappearing. That’s when things become creepy and terrifying. I think quarantine has made me a bit soft, but I actually had to take breaks while reading, which I don’t remember ever doing before.

    Massive strengths of the book are worldbuilding and pacing, which both Eden, and the genre in general depends on. Sadly, one victim of this is character development – while a couple of characters are a bit more fleshed out, they are generally relatively one-dimensional. Think stand-ins for plot and world to happen to them, rather than agents of story as a driving force. I do think this is to a large part due to genre, but I would have wished for a bit more depth.

    If you are looking for an escape from lockdown life, I definitely recommend you pick up this eco-horror mystery thriller! Add it on Goodreads here, and order it from Forbidden Planet or your indie of choice.

  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust

    Another victim of the COVID-19 release date delay, Girl, Serpent, Thorn was originally supposed to be published in May, and has now been moved to July instead – I’m running out of books to feature for my May Hype Post as all of the ones I was planning on writing about keep having their dates moved! But never worry, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is worth the wait. A lavish retelling of a Persian myth, featuring the most amazing bi protagonist? I’m so in. And the cover is simply stunning – I’ve been drooling over this book ever since I first heard about it!

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Hodder for the advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

    RELEASE DATE: 07/07/20

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away from everyone, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

    As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

    Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming . . . human or demon. Princess or monster. (from Hodder & Stoughton)

    OPINIONS: Over the past couple of years, I’ve been noticing that among the books I enjoy most are the ones that are based on mythology and fairy tales. Having a gem like Girl, Serpent, Thorn be based on myth from a culture that is all too rarely represented in YA fantasy is refreshing and made me love the book from the beginning – before reading this, I had never considered that ‘Once upon a time…’ is a Western concept, and of course stories based in other cultures would follow different rhetorical conventions. I had simply not interrogated the customs of storytelling – which is silly, given that I have done multiple university degrees in literature, history and related subjects – and I now want to go back and read as much traditional storytelling in a form as close to the oral tales as possible, because I am curious about how these customs of storytelling differ between cultures. So what I mean to say is that Girl, Serpent, Thorn is an amazing book, and has already affected me in ways I haven’t thought possible for a single book. Or maybe quarantine is doing funny things to my brain.

    Anyway, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is full of beautiful, lavish prose, evoking a world of mystery and betrayal. It is compulsively readable, and the pacing works well. The plot is twisty and not what you expect – there is no rescuing the princess in this book! Soraya makes for a great main character. Over the course of the story, she undergoes character growth, and develops from a mostly weak and scared princess into a complex, morally gray character to be reckoned with. She is also obviously bi – and I’m all here for that rep! She also forces her way into so much agency, something which is all too often sorely lacking in YA fantasy. Not only does she make mistakes, she owns them, she lives with them, and she actively tries to do better. We need more characters like her. The romance is slow-burning and seductive, which is wonderful too, but I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to spoil anything…

    This is it. We need more books like Girl, Serpent, Thorn. Publishers, listen up, and commission them, please! I recommend you help me shout about it, and add this to your Goodreads, and pre-order it from Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository or your favourite indie.

  • Queen of Coins and Whispers – Helen Corcoran

    There has rarely been a book that I’ve heard as much buzz about from authors whose judgement I trust as there has been for Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran. I already wrote about it in my Hype Post for April, so I obviously jumped at the chance to read this gem early, and could not put it down until I finished. All the praise is warranted, and I hope Helen gets all the success that she deserves once this wonderful book comes out on June 1st [moved release date due to COVID]!

    Many thanks to Netgalley and O’Brien Press for the advance reading copy in exchange for this honest review.

    RELEASE DATE: 01/06/20

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster – who took the job to avenge her murdered father – they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason. 

    Lia won’t mourn her uncle: he’s left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She’s sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her father’s murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision.

    When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other. (from O’Brien Press)

    OPINIONS: Three queer teenagers against the rest of the world. What more is there to want? And, oh, they don’t have magic or anything, their superpowers are brains, logic and spy-craft in a medieval-level second world setting. Lia, Xania and Matthias are amazing lead characters for a novel and damn, I need more!

    The world-building is strong with this one, and while I was worried that I went into Queen of Coin and Whispers with expectations too many expectations, they were entirely warranted. This is not to say that the book is without its flaws – in parts it feels like issues get resolved too quickly on a psychological level and in some instances trust, at least superficial trust, gets established very soon. I guess what I mean to say is that I wish that it was paced slower, allowing for even more focus on the wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. But then, I’m weird and I like slower books.

    And oh, I’m here for all the wonderful sapphic books coming out in 2020. The nuanced portrayals of consent and developing relationships between ladies, in worlds where there is no inherent judgement about same-sex relationships (apart from the obvious issues about heirs, but that is a different matter altogether) is refreshing. I’m not sure if it has to do with the nature of FF relationships, or if writers of heterosexual romanced have simply not made it past toxic masculinity yet, but the depicted relationships are on much more even footing and serve as better role models for the teens the YA. People actually talk things out!

    Back to the reasons why Queen of Coins and Whispers is great. There is a learning curve! Neither Lia nor Xania start out being great at their jobs or knowing everything – they have to figure out how the position works, how to navigate it and learn to get good at what they do. They make mistakes, they do better next time. And the writing is great. It does not let you escape the lavishly built world until the very end. In short, I need more. And you need this book in your life. Add it on Goodreads here, and pre-order it from Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, or preferably, your indie of choice.

  • Sanctuary – V.V. James

    Today I’m here to talk to you about one of my favourite books of last year, Sanctuary by V.V. James. While it came out in a beautiful hardback last summer, it is being re-released in a shiny new paperback and Orion are celebrating with a full fledged blog tour (and obviously, saving the best for last!). I am very excited to share my first ever author interview with you all, and I’m very happy that it gets to be with one of the loveliest authors I know.

    A genre-defying gem of a story, Sanctuary is the story of a murder in a small town, with all the drama and social implications that brings with it. However, in the world of Sanctuary, witches are a part of society, and this murder seems to have been committed through magic… Outsider Maggie Knight is brought in to investigate, and the young cop has her work cut out for her: the blame gets assigned quickly and factions built, murder becoming more of a social game rather than an objective investigation.

    The story is intricately crafted, and reveals are written in the magical way where the balance between ‘I did not see this coming’ and seeing all the little hints dropped on the way build to the logical conclusion once you have gone past the point of the reveal. When I finished Sanctuary, I immediately wanted to reread it – apart from its unique approach to magic, it is the first book I’ve ever read that included tweets from the president. It is a great book, and we need more of them! Order yourself a copy of the shiny new paperback via Hive or Waterstones.

    What was your inspiration behind the concept of having witches as a known, but strictly regulated part of society?

    I’ve always loved writing worlds that are recognizably our own, but off-tilt by five or ten degrees. My first trilogy is recognizably modern Britain, with the tweak that the elite 1% who have all the wealth and power also have magic. SANCTUARY sprang from a world rocked by the Women’s Marches, and Me Too, and is about many things, but certainly women’s anger and disenfranchisement, yet also their strength. It seemed possible to embody those qualities within witchcraft.

    Our whole notion of what it is to ‘be a woman’ has been created within a patriarchal culture that polices the boundaries and acceptable forms of women’s existence. So a policed and regulated witchcraft is my expression of that in the world of SANCTUARY’s alt-America.

    Which character did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

    Maggie. I love her humour and pragmatism, and the way she listens to both her heart and her brain. The way she respects but challenges her boss, and teaches and supports her assistant. The way she constantly strives to determine the right thing, on a case where nothing is simple or easy. The fact that she loves doughnuts. (I can’t tell you how many gratuitous doughnut moments were struck out by the editor’s red pen! I was definitely projecting…) Maggie is a good, decent human navigating a complicated world – like Luke in my first trilogy. I love inhabiting characters like that.

    What was the biggest challenge writing SANCTUARY after your initial fantasy trilogy?

    My trilogy used multiple narrators – my brain is really drawn to 360-degree storytelling – and is also very ‘plotty’, but one huge change was switching from writing in the close-third person to first person. Also, in SANCTUARY, our three key narrators are adult women, whereas in the trilogy we heard from both adults and teens, male and female. I knew it was vital that cop Maggie, bereaved mother Abigail, and witch Sarah were clearly distinguished, so I worked hard on their language and interior thought patterns, as well as their very divergent outward behavior. I was absolutely thrilled when the audiobook was cast with three different narrators, rather than one narrator varying her delivery. Go have a listen!

    One of the central elements of SANCTUARY is fear and mass hysteria – do you see any parallels between the threat of Sanctuary’s witches and how we are dealing with the current pandemic?

    It’s ironic, when I was writing SANCTUARY the one plot element I worried might strain the reader’s willing belief was the quarantine at the end, when Sanctuary is locked down by local authorities. And here we are in the time of Covid-19. I’m writing these answers in my London flat which I only leave for an hour a day to go for a run, and by the time you read this I maybe won’t even be able to do that. You’re absolutely right, the book is about what fear does to a community – and sadly we’ve seen plenty of examples recently, most shamefully in the panic buying of the first weeks of lockdown. And it is about how a frightened population can turn against individuals and the group they represent – just look at the boycotting of Chinese restaurants at the first whispers of Covid-19, the awful hostility endured by people of East Asian appearance, and the persisting narrative of the ‘Chinese virus’ that’s still coming down from the highest levels. Hatred is never the correct expression of fear. Community is the only answer.

    As an aspiring editor, I am always curious about the author/editor relationship. What can you tell us about working with the fabulous Rachel Winterbottom?

    Rachel is the person responsible for SANCTUARY existing in the first place! We were having coffee when she talked about how much she’d love to see a ‘Big Little Lies with witches’ book – and I just knew the right person to write it was me! We talked then about how I’d been in the US making documentaries during the time of the Women’s Marches after the Trump election, the national mood, Lana del Rey’s apparent call for witches to hex the new president … and the sinkhole that subsequently opened up in the White House lawn! SANCTUARY is really tightly plotted, and again, Rachel was pivotal – we kicked an outline back and forth, finessing twists. And then I went away and wrote it, and it all just flowed. The first thing you learn when your debut gets bought by a publisher is how close and collaborative the writer-editor relationship is. Usually that input comes after you’ve finished the first draft. In this case, it was front-loaded – Rachel literally waved a wand and magicked SANCTUARY into being, championing it within Hachette at acquisition. We were a coven of two!

    What are some books you are excited to read in the upcoming weeks or that you have loved recently?

    I just binged Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT – wow wow wow. Possibly the best fantasy trilogy of the past ten years? GIDEON THE NINTH by Taz Muir was a wild ride and I am desperate for the sequel. And I am loving that we’re seeing more of the feminist fantastical, from Samantha Shannon’s magisterial PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE to Mel Salisbury’s slender-but-devastating HOLD BACK THE TIDE, to the otherworldly SISTERSONG coming next year from Lucy Holland, which I was lucky enough to read in draft.

    Thank you, Vic, for your wonderful answers!

  • A Kind of Spark – Elle McNicoll

    Today is the second of April, official Autism Awareness Day – so it seems fitting that this review goes up today. This is one of the most special books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing and I hope you give it a chance too! Add it on Goodreads, and pre-order it directly from the publisher’s bookshop, Round Table Books here.

    Thank you so much to Knights Of and Eishar Brar for sending me an advance copy for reviewing.

    RELEASE DATE: 04/06/20

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

    SYNOPSIS: Autistic eleven-year old Addie thinks sharks are way cooler than dolphins. When she learns about witches in school, she is shocked to find out about her small Scottish town’s involvement in the early modern witch hunts. Feeling the need to do something, she decides to petition for a memorial to be put up for the victims. However, that’s easier said than done…

    OPINIONS: A Kind of Spark is one of those rare treasures of a book that have the potential to change the world for the better. Addie is an unapologetically autistic girl fighting for what she believes in, despite what people around her think. Just like her, Elle and her book pave the way for autistic girls and their acceptance in a world determined to make things difficult for them.

    I could go and write about how inspiring Addie’s story is. But I feel that that would be both besides the point and belittling – Addie is, and Addie follows her dreams and that’s that. And that is why I think it is so great that this is an own voices story. Elle captures the struggles and insecurities, the obstacles faced from both within and without of a girl growing up and feeling like she is somehow never enough with nuance and turns them into a captivating story. She is a writer to watch, and I can’t wait to read more of what she has to say in the future.

    Growing up with an autistic brother as an overly smart, bookish, socially awkward and not necessarily neuro-typical kid, I learned about the world through reading books for most of my life. Reading a book like A Kind of Spark as an eight or nine year old would have helped me understand much better. So, from me, and on behalf of kids like me, a heartfelt thank you for writing this book.

  • Graphic Novel Favourites

    I don’t know about you, but with everything going on at the moment, my attention span has suffered hugely. While I’m still reading and reviewing, it is taking a significant portion of my available energy every day, and I’ve often been reading in bit-sized pieces rather than the binges I’m used to. What’s worked really well instead have been GRAPHIC NOVELS! In case this is something that might work for others as well, I decided to put together a list of my current favourites. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve enjoyed all of these. (And while I’ve given order links to places that still ship, I do encourage checking with your local comic stores or indies whether they are able to procure them for you instead!)

    The book that started this whole post. Stuck for something to read, I picked up this graphic novel and fell in love. A whimsical YA tale of a witch and a non-binary werewolf, up against a mysterious force in the woods. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu is adorable, and the graphic novel equivalent of a cuddly blanket and a mug of tea. While it is not the deepest story, it is captivating, and embraces its format and audience. This is the perfect thing to read while stuck in quarantine! Get yourself a copy from Waterstones or Book Depository.

    The Wicked and the Divine is the original graphic novel series that got me into the genre! Now complete in nine volumes, this series follows a number of teenagers turned temporarily into Gods, mixing a variety of mythologies with the modern cult of celebrities. It has its highs and lows, but it is always entertaining, the art is stunning, and the antagonist is complex and unexpected and the story is twisty until the bitter end. And did I mention that the series is done now and you can binge it in one go? I highly recommend you check it out for yourself – get the first volume from Waterstones or Book Depository.

    I’ve been going back and forth about what to include in this lineup, and ultimately decided to go with series that had a very different vibe. The next, Monstress, is drawn in an amazing Art Nouveau style by Sana Takeda – something I have not seen in any other graphic novel series, features a one-handed protagonist, and TALKING CATS. The story is weird, and it doesn’t always make sense, but its so beautiful you won’t mind. You’ll just root for my love Maika and go with the flow and that’s that. And oh, my, I just saw that there’s a fourth volume out that I completely missed… to the order machine I go! If you’re intrigued, you can get your own from Waterstones or Book Depository.

    It’s no secret that I love everything that V.E. Schwab writes – and her comics are no different. The Shades of Magic trilogy ranks among my all-time favourites, and the Steel Prince comics are its prequels. Featuring adventures of the stern king Maxim Maresh back when he was a rash young prince, these graphic novels showcase V.E. Schwab’s signature storytelling and add mythology to the universe. Accompanied by Andrea Olimpieri’s wonderful art, they are a must for any Schwablin! Get them from Forbidden Planet directly.

    Last, but not least, a manga that I’m looking forward to checking out as soon as it arrives is Vinland Saga. While this Japanese series has been around for ages, even in translation – the English version is at Book 11 now, it’s anime adaption only came out recently. I’ve been watching it religiously with my friend and loving it, so I can’t wait to see the source material for our favourite disaster boy Thorfinn! Inspired by the Icelandic sagas and the legendary discovery of Vinland (America) by Leif Ericson a thousand years ago, this tells the story of young Thorfinn, son of Thors, a tale of pride and war. Vikings told through the Japanese lens. I love it. Order this from Waterstones or Book Depository.

  • The House of Hidden Wonders – Sharon Gosling

    Today, I’ve got something truly special for you: The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling (with a gorgeous cover by Hannah Peck). I don’t write about children’s books a lot, and I don’t read them nearly enough, but I really hope to do so more, as this was an absolute treat from beginning to end.

    Many thanks to Charlie Morris and Little Tiger Publishing for the review copy in exchange for this honest review.

    RELEASE DATE: 02/04/20

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

    SYNOPSIS: Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders.

    Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear? (from Little Tiger)

    OPINIONS: So, all I had to hear was history, adventure, museum and curious girls, and I was hooked! Once I started reading, it took no time for me to lose myself in Zinnie’s Edinburgh, and join her on her quest to protect her sisters and discover the secret of the House of Wonders. The House of Hidden Wonders is a thrilling story of a group of young girls making their way in a world stacked against them, featuring themes of found family, diversity and acceptance. Through the story of ghosts and mystery, ultimately, Zinnie shows the world around her how crucial it is to see beyond the obvious and accept and support each other for who they are. We modern grown-ups would do well to listen to her!

    In its historical Edinburgh setting, we encounter some familiar figures, such as a young Arthur Conan Doyle, a medical student who is embarking on his first writing exploits, or Sophia Jex-Blake, one of the first female doctors, who opened a practice in Edinburgh in the late nineteenth-century. Others, such as Lady Sarah or Macduff might not be historical figures, but fit into the story just as well, and round out the cast of adults. The girls, Zannie, Sadie, Nell and Aelfine are all utterly different and equally wonderful, each with their quirks and flaws, but lovable to the core. Nell is portrayed as dark-skinned, and Aelfine was likely born with what we would call Down Syndrome today – making Zannie fiercly protective of them, and educating the world in how they should be treating them. It is clear that much care went into researching The House of Hidden Wonders, and the effort pays off.

    In short, this is everything I would have wanted in a children’s book back when I was a child, and I would happily buy The House of Hidden Wonders for any child in my life! (And really, kidlit is great for getting your mind off things during this awful situation, so why not try it for yourself?) Add it on Goodreads here, or pre-order it from Waterstones or your retailer of choice, you won’t regret it!

  • Between Burning Worlds – Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

    March is almost over! Although it feels as if this month has lasted a lifetime, it is finally nearing its end – and with it the series of FFBC blog tours I had planned for you. But never fear, I have lots of fun and exciting content planned for April as well… Today though, we are here to discuss Between Burning Worlds by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, the second the System Divine series, which is basically Les Mis in space!

    Check out the full tour schedule here, and have a look at the posts my lovely co-bloggers have created for their stops on the tour. Many thanks to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for the inclusion on the tour, and to Netgalley and Simon Pulse for the eARC.

    RELEASE DATE: 24/03/20

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SYNOPSIS:

    A thief. An officer. A guardian.

    All from different backgrounds, but sharing one same destiny…

    The planet Laterre is in turmoil. A new militant revolutionary group has emerged calling themselves “The Red Scar” and claiming responsibility for a spate of recent bombings. The infamous rebels known as the Vangarde believe that in order to bring about a peaceful revolution, their charismatic leader, Citizen Rousseau must be freed from prison right away. Otherwise the bloodshed will only escalate.

    Soon Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette all find themselves pulled into battle with extreme consequences.

    Marcellus is determined to uncover his corrupt grandfather’s plan to seize Laterre—even if that means joining the Vangarde.

    Aloutte, trying to unearth the truth about her past, becomes a captive of Marcellus’s grandfather, the general.

    Chatine, who is serving time on Bastille, hopes to escape the brutal and horrifying reality of the prison moon.

    But the failed attempt to break Citizen Rousseau out of prison launches Aloutte, Chatine, and Marcellus into the middle of a dangerous war for control of Laterre. And in the midst of it all is the legend of a secret and dangerous weapon that could mean complete and absolute power to any that wields it.

    OPINIONS: Set at a bit of a distance from the first book, Sky Without Stars, Between Burning Worlds dives right into the action. Following the parallel strands of Chatine, Marcellus and Alouette’s stories, it continues to depict the social unrest on Laterre, and the threat of complete revolution and devastating war. However, at the end of Sky Without Stars, Marcellus had discovered that his grandfather, the General, had been behind much of the brutal, supposed revolutionary action, trying to rule the population through fear. In Between Burning Worlds, Marcellus and his friends discover that there might be even more to his grandfather’s plans than they suspected, a quest that takes them further than they ever thought possible…

    While the first book dragged at times and needed to introduce a lot of world-building, this second installment is action-packed and thrilling. Introducing several new factions and places into the mix, as well as leaving more space for reflection and growth, this collaboration comes into its own in Between Burning Worlds. Characters get more depth, and a number of open threads get resolved – although we still end up with many unanswered questions by the end of the book!

    I really appreciate how these books advocate for peaceful rebellion over bloodshed, how violence on both sides is shown as something to avoid. All too often, righteous violence is depicted as positive, when, really, it too needs to be avoided. I’m glad the characters struggle with their conscience if they have to defend themselves, even if the situation is clear in context. In the current climate, we need more pacifism.

    I recommend you check these books out yourself, add Between Burning Worlds on Goodreads, or order it from Book Depository or your retailer (or indie!) of choice.

    ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

    JESSICA BRODY knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape. After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author. Since then, Jessica has sold many novels for teens, tweens, and adults. Her books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado. You can find here here:

    JOANNE RENDELL is the author of four novels and holds a PhD in English Literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids, as well as online writing classes at Udemy.com and Lynda.com. Joanne is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, she divides her time between New York City and New Paltz, New York. Her weblinks are as follows: