Review: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

Genre: Fantasy, YA,

Publisher: Harper Teen, Harper Collins

Publication Date: 10 April 2018

Blurb: The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle, the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

My Review: Wow. I absolutely loved this book!

Jessica Leake’s superb world building made this thrilling tale of a kick-ass female warrior and a brutal Norse warrior ever more exciting. Ciara and Leif’s story is one filled with honour and romance. Leake handles the Irish/ Norse mythology with sensitivity and style.

Leake weaves themes of romance, action and identity into a tapestry of excitement that enthrals as well as moves. There are moments in the story that you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards Ciara, who has faced challenges in her life as a child and young woman.

As for Leif, it is apparent from his arrival that he will become significant in Leake’s story and she drops some very clever bombs that surprised me, making the read less predictable and more enjoyable.

I loved this story and thoroughly enjoyed the world and characters Leake built.

I’ll definitely be picking up whatever Leake publishes next.

4🌟🌟🌟🌟

Lots of love,

Bex

PS. Photos are taken from my Instagram account.

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Review: Summer’s End by Kristy Brown

Genre: YA fantasy, Romance

Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing

Publishing Date: 24 July 2018

Blurb: She wakes up in the hospital, badly burned with no identity.

He’s been trained to kill her before she burns the world to ashes.

When they finally meet, will he be able to take her life now that he’s started to feel for her?

His fate is already written.

The prophecy is already set.

Love between them is forbidden.

My Review: After Reading the blurb I was excited to get stuck into this fresh new YA fantasy novel. Throwing in the fact that it is written as a dual narrative, I was really intrigued!

I was immediately gripped as we met Summer and she has no memory of the terrible events that have left her in the state she is in. Her two friends, Coral and Persia, help to support her but their behaviour becomes suspicious quite quickly and we’re slowly given clues and hints that there is more to find out.

We very quickly meet ‘Dooney’ who is a feral, focused young man with one mission – to find ‘The Light’ and to destroy it. Their paths cross and the dual narrative helps to understand each character’s thoughts, feelings and motivations.

I don’t want to give too much more away as this is a story built on mystery and intrigue. The introduction of Andie, later in the story is fun, and she brings some reality and humour to the story!

I enjoyed this book and I read it in just a few hours sitting over a few days. Kristy Brown’s writing is fun and easy to follow, it wasn’t difficult to understand or keep track of the plot. The characters are well developed and believable – filled with strengths and flaws. There were new conflicts introduced to keep the pace and there are enough questions left at the end to find out more in the next book!

A solid 4🌟🌟🌟🌟 from me! Great quick read that’s lots of fun!

You can grab a copy from amazon here.

Lots of love,

Bex

PS. You can take a look at what I am reading now over on my Instagram.

🌸 Thank you to Kristy Brown for providing an e-copy of her book in return for an honest review. You can find out more about Kristy over on her Twitter account.

Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Publication Date: 23 August 2018 (UK)

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Blurb: 17th century England, Thomas Fawkes is infected with the Stone Plague. Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague; Igniters think the Keepers did. All Thomas knows is that it’s spreading and that, if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate the king of England-claiming it will put an end to the plague-Thomas is in. The plan is to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow the Igniter King James and his Parliament sky high. The problem is that doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other. No matter what he chooses, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the Colourant masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

My Review: From the moment I saw Nadine Brandes’ book appearing on Instagram and Twitter I knew I wanted to read it! The cover is exquisite and demands to be read; it promises layers of magic and mystery in amongst historical facts and events.

The only thing I really knew for sure when going into this story was that a chap called Guy Fawkes was part of a plot to murder King James I in England during the early 1600s. I also knew that the plot was foiled and Guy Fawkes was captured – he later became the infamous ‘guy’ we burn on our bonfires when we celebrate Bonfire Night on November 5th here 🔥

Knowing the potential ‘ending’ of the book meant that I needed Nadine Brandes to add layers of intrigue and to surprise me… which she did! The invention (although a birth record exists) of Thomas Fawkes was a unique idea and a surprising little touch. Reading about Thomas and his struggles with confidence, identity and plague was interesting – but it did go on a little more than necessary, and at times he came across as a bit of a moaner!

What really interested me was this idea of colour magic and colour masks. I hadn’t come across this brand of magic before and I found it fascinating. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about which colour I would bond with and why (read the book to know more!).

I also enjoyed the character of Emma Areben, who symbolically demonstrated the inequalities young women of the time faced (and still do in many parts of society). It becomes clear early on in the book what sort of woman Emma is, and you have to admire her strength of character. I felt Nadine’s presence here.

Yes, I am young and I am a woman. But I guarantee you my skill will rival any man’s.

Nadine Brandes’ writing style is luxurious and warm – it is intricate and enjoyable, with detail laced in allowing you to clearly imagine the world and characters she has built. I will certainly pick up whatever she writes next!

Overall I really did enjoy this book, but it dipped a bit in pace for me and felt longer than it needed to be at times. If some bits were cut this would have been a real page turner! Nadine’s writing is beautiful. Looking forward to reading more!

3.5 🌟🌟🌟

Lots of Love,

Bex

PS. Photos are taken from my Instagram account.

Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Taken from my Instagram account @mummyisreading

Genre: Fairytale retelling, YA fiction,

Publisher: Scholastic

Publishing Date: 3 May 2018

Blurb: Taken from Amazon… Deep beneath the sea off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of being human… but at what terrible price? Hans Christian Andersen’s dark original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, storytelling at its most spellbinding.

My Review: Let me start by saying that this is one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen, and every time I look at it I notice another small detail. It is intricately designed and beautifully put together.

I have not read any of Louise O’Neill’s other published works and so I can not compare this to other examples of her writing. After reading this, I certainly would pick up another of her books, as I can imagine they would be just as rich and fierce as this one.

The Surface Breaks is a retelling of The Little Mermaid and I was pleasantly surprised to find that whilst elements of the narrative felt familiar to Disney’s classic animation, there were clear changes to the tone and story. O’Neill brings a darker, more chilling tone to this story and our main character, Gaia, is dealing with some quite serious issues from the opening. Gaia is the most beautiful, and so favourite daughter of the Sea King. But the King rules with an iron fist, cruelty and misogyny. The culture of the Sea King’s kingdom is filled with abuse and sexism – which makes for an uncomfortable reading at times for younger or more sensitive readers.

As a main character, Gaia is likeable. She is the youngest of the daughters, but appears to bear the heaviest weight of demands upon her by the Sea King and his mermen. I particularly feel for her in the dealings with Zale, who made my skin crawl just reading about him. As the story develops, Gaia’s sense of helplessness is emotive and I empathise with her situation, however she then very rashly enters into a decision that throws her from one misogynistic situation to another, where she is facing all of the same problems dressed up in a different bow.

This review is a NO SPOILER zone, so I will refrain from giving too much away now. If you’ve read/ watched The Little Mermaid then you will already have an idea of what happens. In this version, Prince Eric is replaced by Oliver who is a rich, spoilt brat (quite frankly) and is so self absorbed that it’s difficult to understand why Gaia insists she needs him and is in love with him. He just isn’t likeable.

Then there is the ‘curse’ and how that unfolds. Again, the description of this over the weeks she is on land just weren’t realistic. If she really was ‘falling apart’ and suffering so much, how would she have managed? I found this really frustrating.

As for the ending of the story, I was pleased with the final choice O’Neill made for Gaia. It wasn’t the most obvious and it stayed true to the lesson Gaia (finally) learned about herself, about men and about society’s pressures and expectations.

It’s a good read. It deals with serious and timely issues that should be addressed in society, particularly for young women. But I was left frustrated at times with some of the plot points and events.

3 🌟🌟🌟

Lots of love,

Bex

PS. Some photos are taken from my Instagram account.

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K.Rowling (Illustrated Edition)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Publication Date: 3rd October 2017

The Blurb: Celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter magic! An extraordinary creative achievement by an extraordinary talent, Jim Kay’s inspired reimagining of J.K. Rowling’s classic series has captured a devoted following worldwide. This stunning new fully illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban brings more breathtaking scenes and unforgettable characters – including Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Professor Trelawney.
With paint, pencil and pixels, Kay conjures the wizarding world as we have never seen it before. Fizzing with magic and brimming with humour, this full-colour edition will captivate fans and new readers alike as Harry, now in his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, faces Dementors, death omens and – of course – danger. (Taken from The Book People – where you can buy a copy of this book).

My Review: Anyone who knows me or follows my bookstagram account will know that I really do love all things to do with Harry Potter, and J.K.Rowling’s Wizarding World. I mean – we honeymooned there, so, you know… It’s no wonder then that I adore this illustrated edition.

I recently published my review of the first book in this series of editions, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and then my review of the second book in this series of editions, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The book itself is beautifully presented; Jim Kay has wonderfully shaped the style of the book to continue the precedent he set with the first two books. As this one is one of my favourite books of the series, I was a little more excited to see what he would do with it, but Kay certainly didn’t disappoint!

Kay certainly didn’t disappoint!

Firstly, the cover blows your mind as you see the Knight Bus come in to fruition; for me it was perfectly how I had imagined it to be when reading the books – and it complimented the film versions we have already been introduced to.

The story itself bubbles and fizzes with intrigue, mystery and magi; Jim Kay’s illustrations really capture the sumptuous details of our most beloved characters from the first two books, and of course some of the more impressive new ones. I am particularly fascinated by this truly beautiful illustration of Professor Remus Lupin (who is one of my all time favourite bookish characters).

I’m not here to review the story itself, but it is one of my most favourite books in the Potter series, and Jim Kay’s gorgeous illustrations bring a fresh and new perspective to the world we all know and love so well.

Lots of Love,

Bex

PS. Some photos are taken from my Instagram account.

Review: The Universe is Expanding and So am I, by Carolyn Mackler

Genre: Teens, YA, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publishing Date: 6th September 2018

Blurb: Six months ago, Virginia decided to ignore the ‘Fat Girl Code of Conduct’ she used to live by and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official. But now things are getting complicated. She’s not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her brother Byron – she’s not she’ll ever know how to feel about him. And then she meets Sebastian. He funny, sweet and he doesn’t want to talk about family, and Virginia’s fine with that. But then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything.

Fifteen years after the publication of the acclaimed The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, funny, fierce Virginia Shreves is back for round two.

My Review: Wow! I was so intrigued by the cover, and the title of this book, but I absolutely was NOT expecting to fall in love with Virgina Shreves.

I hadn’t heard of, or read Carolyn Mackler’s previous release, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, and I was a little hesitant that I might feel I was missing something. On the contrary, I adored this book. It was easy to read it as a stand alone, and Mackler’s writing through Virginia’s narrative was compelling. You see – I was 16 year old Virginia (and at heart, I think I still am!).

On the contrary, I adored this book.

With skill, Mackler tackles big issues such as rape, body image and sexuality in this novel; she does so with subtlety and positivity, trying to offer some way to solutions or ways to deal with these issues. But it is Virginia’s character that is spell binding…

Virginia is honest and true to herself. She struggles with self confidence and with loving her body, but she knows her own mind and what she likes or dislikes. Her voice has a sensitivity to it, you can imagine being her friend and spending hours texting or fangirling about things – she’s likable and feels lived in – very authentic.

But it is Virginia’s character that is spell binding…

The story was interesting and I found myself reading through it quickly, without being ‘desperate to see what happens’. Mackler writes about Virginia’s feelings towards Sebastian in a way that any teenage girl – or ‘has been’ teenage girl can relate to, and her references to desire and attraction are nicely done.

I was genuinely surprised by this, and as a Teacher of 11-16 year old students, I will definitely be recommending it to them and our school library! A wonderful read.

4🌟🌟🌟🌟

Lots of love

Bex

PS. Some photos are taken from my Instagram account.

*Thank you to the publisher for approving my request, on NetGalley, for this ebook in exchange for my honest review.*

7 Things I Love about Harry Potter!

For almost 20 years now I have been obsessed with J.K.Rowling’s Wizarding World. It seems that the more obsessed I get, the more I find to love and adore about this fizzing, whizzing and popping magical universe.

As a young adult, it was the adventure that I loved. Harry’s narrative really struck me and I felt a keen sense of righteousness that all young adults feel when growing up. But, as I got older I just found more and more things to love about Harry Potter’s world.

It seems only fitting that today, on Harry Potter’s and J.K.Rowling’s birthday, I should share 7 things I love about Harry Potter and the wizarding world!

1. Hogwarts – When Harry first arrives at Hogwarts, J.K.Rowling writes, Continue reading “7 Things I Love about Harry Potter!”