The Spiral Cage – Al Davison

3390365I’ve never reviewed a graphic novel before (I’ve actually never read one before this either) so this will be short but sweet.

The Spiral Cage is an autobiographical graphic novel in which Al Davison explores his struggle to overcome the disability he was born with: spina bifida. It is powerful and thought-provoking (if a little confusing at times). As someone so unfamiliar with graphic novels, this might not have been the best one to start with, but I certainly found it interesting. A lot of pages contained no words at all and I found it difficult to follow, especially as there are a lot of time-shifts and a lot of emotional expression.

I did enjoy reading this book (and appreciating the illustrations) but there was a serious disconnect for me which was mainly down to a lack of comprehension.

Defender- G X Todd

29758033In a world where the voices inside people’s heads lead to mass suicide and murder, the few that are left struggle to survive. A lone traveller comes across a young girl selling lemonade at the edge of the road. That chance meeting joins the pair together in an epic journey facing horror and violence, friendship and family, and the voices in our heads.

I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and Defender is up there with the best. It isn’t as dark or emotional as the likes of The Road, but doesn’t sugar-coat the horror aspects either. It actually has quite a YA vibe, with a strong female heroine and playful relationships between characters, but then some very violent aspects which make it difficult to put into the YA genre. (An aspect I particularly enjoyed was the lack of romance. Romance following an apocalypse always seems absurd and unnecessary to me, but for some reason so many authors feel the need to put it in. Not Todd – thank goodness!)

I really liked both Lacey and Pilgrim. And the bad guys were good bad guys (if you get what I mean: they were evil and scary without being caricatures). I felt Alex was a bit superfluous, but I imagine she’ll be built up more in the next book. After all, this is only Book #1.

Defender is well-written, intelligent and completely absorbing. The story is heading in a really interesting direction, with lots of unanswered questions and a really well set up plot for the rest of the series, so I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book. Without giving away too much, I can tell you there are some serious ‘NOOOO!’ moments. I’m still in recovery.

Take the Body and Run – Jada Ryker

31842341Macey’s first day at her new job in the college relations department doesn’t go to plan. She’s attacked at knife-point and pisses off all the wrong people (basically, everyone). Unintentionally gathering a team of unlikely sidekicks, Macey claws her way to the bottom of a series of murders, all the while trying to keep her past and her true identity secret.

I have to be honest: I DID NOT GET THIS BOOK. Everyone is so mean and unprofessional. Like, what? How have they not all been fired? It’s so unrealistic. The women in Macey’s office are awful. They’re inappropriate and nasty, and then, suddenly, two-thirds of way through they’re all best friends. Very confusing. The only character I did like was Brett and he basically just laughed the whole time. Also, I never fully understood why Macey got involved in the murder investigations in the first place. It’s not in her job description, and she was weirdly keen on drawing attention to herself for someone on the run.

The story did take off a bit in the second half of the book (although the bizarre fight scene between Macey, Brett, Leila and Sergio was super hard to follow – I’m still not sure what happened), but the rest was slow and seriously flawed. I’ve read worse. After all, I did at least make it all the way through this book, but I would not recommend it to anyone looking for something serious or clever.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

25489134A beautiful, intriguing story about a young girl living on the edge of the Russian wilderness. The winters are long and harsh, but Vasilisa and her siblings get by listening to old fairy tales about demons and spirits. But after her mother dies and her father brings back a new wife from Moscow, Vasilisa starts to realise the importance of the old traditions honouring the spirits of the house, and that fairy tales are based on truth. As the villagers begin to let go of the old ways, danger creeps closer and Vasilisa must defy the ones she loves to protect them all from a terrible evil.

Despite reading multiple reviews before starting this book, it took me by surprise. It reads exactly like a fairy tale, but is deeply detailed and imaginative. The story is truly beautiful. There is no wild, grand adventure, but rather a slow burn of constant magic and mystery of Russian folklore, and Vasilisa’s relationship with the spirits that protect her village. I don’t know how authentic the Russian or the folklore is, but it certainly felt authentic. The writing is perfect. The style flows and is unbelievably easy to read considering the number of unfamiliar words and names. I was well and truly sucked in.

Every character is comprehendible, even the ones who do bad things. Pyotr is driven by love of his family and that can be seen in every decision, even the ones I didn’t agree with. Father Konstantin is devoted to God and genuinely believes he is doing God’s bidding, though even he can admit that he is driven by temptation and greed. Anna is the only character that I truly disliked, but she lived her entire life in fear and it drove her insane. I liked that these characters were all fully developed, with understandable reasons behind their madness and hate.

The Bear and the Nightingale is dark and engaging, and truly impressive as a debut novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wondrous – Travis M. Riddle

wondrous9-year-old Miles goes to sleep in his bed at home, and wakes up in a magical kingdom, torn apart by a bitter feud between the king and queen. Simultaneously learning to harness his newly discovered magical powers, trying to repair the rift in this world, and processing his own thoughts and feelings about the death of his grandmother and the break down of his parent’s marriage, Miles fights to find his way home.

I loved everything about this book. The combination of this magical world and Mile’s struggle to cope in the real world is really clever, and very well done. The two threads integrate perfectly, somehow without any confusion or interference with the adventure. To begin with, it felt a lot like a children’s story, but as it went on it dealt with some quite complex topics so I wouldn’t limit it purely to a young audience.

I particularly liked that none of the characters (except the veratt) were intrinsically evil. Although there did appear to be a good side and a bad side, Miles got along well enough with both and that was a really nice touch (and very clever as it reflected the split between his parents). The cover art was also very helpful as it made it easy to clearly picture what the different ‘species’ of characters looked like.

Basically, I really liked it.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Release date: 17th January 2017.
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wondrous-Travis-M-Riddle-ebook/dp/B01MR4OV3P/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484226059&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=wondrous+travix+m+riddle
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Wondrous-Travis-M-Riddle-ebook/dp/B01MR4OV3P/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484190980&sr=8-1&keywords=wondrous+travis+m+riddle

Class of ’59 – John A. Heldt

classof59In the fourth stand-alone book of the American Journey series, a young man from 1959 discovers a way to travel forward in time, where he runs into Mary Beth McIntire, who is vacationing with her sister, Piper, in the very same house 60 years in the future. Sharing his secret with this beautiful stranger, Mark and his brother, Ben, invite Mary Beth and Piper to travel back with them to 1959 for the adventure of a lifetime. But how can four people from different times build a lasting friendship? And what happens when someone else gets a hint of their big secret?

Class of ’59 is my favourite John Heldt book so far. There is absolutely no dilly-dallying around: the story gets into full flow within minutes. There is a danger aspect in the form of LA mobsters, but the majority of the book focuses on the romantic relationships between Mary Beth and Mark, and Ben and Piper. It’s a sweet, well-written romance a good deal of history and some excitement thrown in for good measure.

The insight into 1950s America is fascinating: from drive-ins to school dances, the period has been researched well and presented in a surprisingly believable manner. The characters are likeable and realistic, if a little too optimistic considering the situation they’re in. As always with Heldt’s stories, the outcome is predictable but how it will come about is a mystery until the end.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Rise – Cara Brookins

29939316Rise is the incredible true story of a family who built their own house. Following multiple abusive marriages, Cara and her four children decided to start over – by building their house from scratch. Using nothing but online instructional videos and some serious determination, they constructed their new home and became stronger people, no longer afraid of what the world might throw at them.

It took me a while to get used to the structure of the book. Alternate chapters follow the construction of the house, while the rest look further into the past at the domestic abuse Cara suffered at the hands of one husband, and the emotional trauma inflicted on the whole family by another suffering from schizophrenia. Once I got the hang of the alternation, it became easier to read.

No one can deny that this is an impressive story. The details of Cara’s experiences with her ex-husbands and the feat of building an entire house out of nothing sounds like a work of fiction, but it really happened. However, putting it into a book must have been almost as difficult. The real problem is that it doesn’t read like fiction, because it’s not fiction. But it almost feels like it should. The writing style and flow is bumpy and imperfect, which helped to remind me that the events inside really did happen, but also made it difficult to get into. There were a few threads I didn’t get (Benjamin, an entity inside Cara’s mind, being the main one) and I found it difficult to connect with Cara. This may well be because I’ve never experienced any of the things she had to go through, but it left me disengaged.

It’s a difficult book to judge because it is the story of a person’s real life. An impressive story, but you can really tell that it’s not written by a professional writer. I honestly wish I could say I’d enjoyed it more, but I can definitely say I’m impressed by what they achieved.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After – Jenny Colgan

27258100When she’s made redundant from the job she loves, librarian Nina makes a drastic choice: she buys a van, leaves Birmingham and moves to a rural town in Scotland to run a mobile bookshop. Her new life in Scotland turns out to be everything she’s ever wanted, including – possibly – a real life romance.

Books about people who love books are always great. It creates an instant connection with the character because we understand each other. It was really fun following Nina as she looked for her fairy tale romance, only to realise that what she really wanted was a real-life relationship. The story is light, and well-written. The characters are quite likeable. There are no parts that are dark or too serious, making it a lovely light read. It’s just the thing for lovers of cute and easy romance. However, it’s a long way from the best in the genre. There’s nothing in particular wrong with The Little Shop of Happily Ever After, it’s just not totally gripping or exciting and I’ve definitely read better kitsch romance novels.

Special Post: Inkitt for Android

Hi guys, today I wanted to share with you a new bookish app. It’s already available for iOS, and is now being made available for Android too (going live today, I think)!

Inkitt is an online platform where writers can share their work and we readers can discover fresh authors. What’s more, Inkitt analyses reading behaviour to predict future bestsellers. So, basically, if readers love it, Inkitt publishes it.

For more information about the app, here’s the press release…


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THE INKITT APP BRINGS THOUSANDS OF NOVELS BY INDIE AUTHORS TO ANDROID
Inkitt empowers readers and publishers to discover world’s next best sellers

BERLIN, JANUARY 7, 2017: Inkitt, the world’s first readers and data-driven book publishing house is introducing an Android app for phones and tablets, globally available from today.

Inkitt’s iOS app became available back in November and was well received by users: The app was not only featured on the US App Store but also on numerous other App Stores around the world, as well as on the front page of Product Hunt, ranking in the top 10 in Tech.

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Inkitt for iOS featured as a top Books app in the US App Store

Following the warm welcome by the iOS community, and in order to meet the demand of their own fast growing user base, Inkitt is now bringing their digital library with thousands of novels by emerging authors to Android devices.

“It was a great reward to see Inkitt featured as a top app in numerous App Stores around the world and receive such great feedback from users” says Inkitt’s Founder and CEO, Ali Albazaz. “Readers were really excited about the iOS app but kept asking when we’re launching on Android too. We heard them, worked really hard and today we’re bringing Inkitt to Android devices. All readers will now be able to discover tomorrow’s bestsellers on the go and read great novels by upcoming authors wherever they are.”

Inkitt for Android – 4 key features:

  • Access to thousands of novels from all fiction genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, drama, action, adventure, YA and more
  • Personalized reading suggestions: hand-picked novels based on a reader’s favorite fiction genres
  • Customizable look to match user preferences (e.g. font size, color combinations)
  • Online/Offline: readers can save novels to their offline library to access them anytime

Beyond being a platform connecting aspiring authors with book lovers, Inkitt’s mission is to become the world’s fairest publishing house: Its in-house developed algorithm analyzes reading behavior to determine the potential of a novel to become the next bestseller. Using this unique data-driven approach, Inkitt wants to ensure that great works by new and talented writers never again stay in the dark.

Since July, Inkitt has published 7 novels: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (Fantasy), Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan (YA Romance), I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben (YA Romance Mystery), Esper Files by Egan Brass (SciFi) and Caged by Onaiza Khan (Psychological Thriller), King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc (Fantasy Romance) and Three Fat Singletons by J.M. Bartholomew (Humor Romance), six of which became bestsellers on Amazon.

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Inkitt for Android will be available to download on Google Play from the 7th of January 2017


If you like the look of this app and want to take a closer look, you can download it from Google Play here: https://inkitt.app.link/booklovers

Esper Files – Egan Brass

32493342In 19th century London, some people have developed amazing powers. They are known as Espers. But not all Espers are using their power for good. A group of skilled agents team up with a young girl with icy abilities to fight the dark forces that have kidnapped her brother.

The whole premise of Esper Files is very reminiscent of Heroes – people with special powers; a man who can learn other people’s abilities; a baddie who takes other’s abilities via the brain… It’s not very original. But that doesn’t make it bad. Although the basic ideas appear to be have been borrowed from somewhere else, the plot is different and enjoyable. The main characters could do with a little bit more development, but hopefully that will happen as the series continues, otherwise they’re likeable and easy to root for.

The writing itself is very juvenile. This is clearly a debut novel and that really shows in the writing (it’s very repetitive and basic). Despite this, it’s still very easy to follow and an enjoyable read.

I received a copy of this book from the team at Inkitt in exchange for an honest review.