A Trail Through Time – Jodi Taylor

43445723._SY475_Having died and been placed in an alternate universe of sorts, Max is reunited with Leon and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Unfortunately, they don’t even make it past breakfast. On the run from the Forces of Darkness, aka the Time Police, Max and Leon travel from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt to Pompeii, eventually taking refuge at St Mary’s, where the fight against the Time Police comes to a head.

A Trail Through Time has the Chronicles of St Mary’s back on the up. I was quite disappointed with the previous book, but in this one the lighthearted humour and general madness is back. As this story is essentially made up of a chase through time followed by a massive battle, the pace is fast and exciting, with almost non-stop disasters and witty quips.

I’ve always enjoyed Max as a main character, but it was definitely a relief to have her back to being less serious again. Although there are still a couple of darker, more serious themes, the overarching feeling is one of joy and general excitement, which is definitely what I want from this series.

Suffice it to say, A Trail Through Time has restored my faith in Jodi Taylor and the Chronicles of St Mary’s. This series can be very same-y, so a break is definitely needed between books, but I’m looking forward to reading the next one when enough time has passed.

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

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Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

31199021._SY475_Fat Charlie Nancy’s life is pretty normal, until the day his father drops dead in a karaoke bar. Returning from London to Florida for the funeral, Fat Charlie makes a series of unexpected discoveries, including that his father was a god, and that he has a secret brother he never knew about. Fat Charlie unwittingly invites his brother, Spider, into his life only for him to decide to take it over completely, leaving Fat Charlie with little option but to take drastic measures to get his flat, his fiancé, and his life back.

I really loved Anansi Boys. I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, and I think this might be my favourite yet. I had read American Gods before this, so I was familiar with Anansi already, but that is my no means necessary. This is NOT a sequel to American Gods, and the fact that Anansi appears in both is the only real link between the two.

The characters are excellent (as Gaiman’s characters usually are). I really liked Fat Charlie, and the way his confidence and personality grew throughout the story was very effective and realistic. Spider, Daisy, Rosie and her mum were all also brilliant, but the other top stand-out characters for me were definitely Maeve and Mrs Higgler.

The way race is represented in this book is, in my opinion, incredibly well done. All the main characters are black, but this isn’t explicitly mentioned for most of the book. Instead, it’s implied through their language and behaviours. I really liked that the protagonists were black without it being a gimmick or key plot feature (beyond the context of Anansi being an African god).

The plot isn’t particularly epic or fantastical. It is, essentially, one man trying to solve the problem of his charismatic brother, but with some mythology and magic thrown in. The magical aspect of this book is particularly good. I loved the way Spider’s magic worked; with things being a certain way or people thinking things just because he says so. He isn’t casting spells or really ‘doing magic’ as such, but he’s the son of a god, so if he says something is so then it must be.

I 100% recommend Anansi Boys to all Gaiman fans, fantasy or mythology fans, and all fiction readers in general. It’s Gaiman at his best, with all the thought-provoking depth of American Gods but much lighter and more humorous.

Finally, I read the version illustrated by Daniel Egneus, and the visuals are stunning. They complement the style and the story so incredibly well, I definitely recommend reading this particular version.

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The Binding – Bridget Collins

40162746._SX318_Books are dangerous things. They contain painful memories that people have chosen to forget. After falling ill with Binder’s fever, Emmett Farmer is sent to become an apprentice to a binder – someone with the power to take a person’s memories and bind them into a book. But when events start spiralling out of Emmett’s control, dark secrets and forgotten lives are revealed.

I didn’t realise at all before reading, but The Binding is basically a gay romance, set in an unspecified historical period, with magic. I think I was expecting it to be predominantly a fantasy novel, but the romance is really the main feature of this book. Once I realised this (the romance doesn’t kick in until part two), I really enjoyed it. I found part one of the book pretty boring and slow, but I would say it’s worth pushing on because things really pick up in part two and beyond.

The idea of books containing people’s memories (and the person consequently forgetting) is a good one. Especially when questions of morality are brought it. It felt a bit trivial to begin with, but you can really see how much thought the author put into it when we’re introduced to people selling their happy memories for money, or evil people like Darnay Senior forcing others to have their memories wiped in order to carry out their own sick desires. It’s a clever idea which is vital to the story.

Besides Emmett and Lucian (from whose perspectives the story is told), the rest of the characters are good enough but not particularly memorable. The way the plot unfolds is effective, with the reader experiencing the story alongside the characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story, but I’m not really sure it deserves all the hype it’s been given. It was good when it got going, but that really took too long.

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

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The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix

49119425._SY475_The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a supernatural thriller set in a suburban community in Southern USA. The story centres around Patricia, a housewife who has recently moved to the area with her family, but is dissatisfied with her quiet suburban life. The one saving grace is her weekly book club meetings with the other wives in the neighbourhood, where they discuss true-crime and suspense novels. Then, a newcomer arrives in the neighbourhood and Patricia’s life is turned upside down. She, and her book club, are the only things standing in the way of a dangerous and terrifying threat.

I’d never read Grady Hendrix before, but I certainly will again. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a real gem. The plot is strong, while the supernatural horror elements are really effective without being overly gory, and the writing is just phenomenal.

I also think the characters are brilliant. I could have read an entire book about Patricia and the other women just going about their daily lives and having their book club meetings, without any of the more intricate plot developments – that’s how good they are.

Some parts of the story were really frustrating. Namely, the husbands showing up and spoiling everything (of course). But the key reason it was so frustrating was that I was so invested in the characters and their story. Even the women who backed down against their husbands and didn’t help Patricia for the majority of the book were somehow still likeable, and it was easy to understand why they didn’t want to get involved. But, ultimately, this is a book of female solidarity and sisterhood (plus vampires), and I loved it.

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

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The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep – H. G. Parry

50365831._SY475_Charles Sutherland has the ability to read characters out of their books. For his entire life, he has had to hide this ability, and his brother Robert has repeatedly had to come to his aid, to catch and put characters back in their books when he’s bought them out by accident. However, when Charley accidentally brings Uriah Heep into the real world, he comes with a warning: A new world is coming. But what will happen to the one that’s already here when it does?

I looooooooved this book. Loved loved loved it. The concept – characters being read out of their books and into the real world – isn’t new, but the way Parry does it is. The focus being on Dickensian characters worked really well, and I thought Parry’s analysis of different interpretations of the characters was really interesting. The beloved characters have clearly been well researched, and remain true to their original incarnations, but with more comedic personalities.

Rob and Charley were both fantastic lead characters, while Millie and the supporting fictional cast were delightful. I loved the Mr Darcys and Heathcliff, in particular.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is funny, exciting and very well-written. It isn’t exactly a fast-paced story, but it’s very eventful and captivating throughout. It’s the perfect mix of mystery, family drama and Victorian literature – a bibliophile’s dream.

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

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Crowfall – Ed McDonald

42615701._SY475_Crowfall is the gritty conclusion to the epic Raven’s Mark series. The power of the Nameless lies broken. The Blackwing captains are being picked off one by one. The Deep Kings have grown stronger. Ryhalt Galharrow has spent six years in the Misery, absorbing it’s power in preparation for one final mission to defend the Range and stand against the Deep Kings, but all power comes with a price.

I can say honestly that the Raven’s Mark series is one of the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever read, and Crowfall was an excellent conclusion. It is engaging and thrilling throughout, and brilliantly written.

Galharrow is a fantastic main character, incredibly likeable despite being so rugged and grumpy, and he goes through some great character growth. By Crowfall, he has crossed over the edges of insanity, which is presented very effectively. I thought the inclusion of the ghosts of Galharrow’s past was very well done, and it was also nice to have some of the beloved characters we lost along the way to still be present in ghost form in the final book.

I would love to see this series turned into a movie, but it would need the full Lord-of-the-Rings treatment. It is an epic adventure with big battles, amazing scenery, gruesome creatures, magic, emotion and a whole lot of heart. I’ve seen other people refer to this series as GrimHeart, and I know exactly what they mean.

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

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Sampler Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini

48829708Note: I was lucky enough to have early access to Part 1 of this book, so this is a review of just Part 1 of the story and NOT the entire book.

During a survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that transforms her life and will alter the course of human history.

I was super excited to get to read some of Christopher Paolini’s new book. I absolutely adored The Inheritance Cycle and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a totally new story, in a totally new location: Space. I really enjoyed the writing style. It’s fully immersive and very easy to read. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t grab me. I can’t put my finger in what the problem was. Maybe it was that I didn’t care much for Kira, the main character, or maybe it was that I’m generally not massively into space-fantasy. Or perhaps it was just the fact that it wasn’t Eragon. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I didn’t find the story gripping enough and, knowing how long the full book is going to be, I don’t have enough interest in it to read the whole thing.

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

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Magic For Liars – Sarah Gailey

34594037._SY475_When Ivy Gamble is hired to investigate a suspicious death at the magic school her sister teaches at, she gets drawn in by much more than the case. The longer she spends at the academy, the more she begins to lose herself in a life she’d convinced herself she never wanted. All the while, a killer is on campus and it’s up to her to find out who it is.

Magic for Liars is a good book, but a teeny bit too “YA” for me. The detective aspect of the novel felt really unrealistic (yes, I realise this is a fantasy novel and therefore not super realistic generally, but the crime/detective element could definitely have been based more on reality). It seemed very unlikely that a real detective would have gone about the investigation the way that Ivy did, and it felt like a very “teen” mystery, despite the main character being a grown woman and the murder itself being pretty grisly.

That being said, I did find Ivy kind of juvenile (so maybe it made sense for her to carry out her investigation in the way that she did) and irritating. She was there to investigate a serious crime, but spent most of her time over-analysing her relationship with her sister, starting up a romance with a teacher at the academy (also, a potential suspect) and carrying around a massive chip on her shoulder re not having magical abilities. She was unprofessional and kind of tedious.

Other than that, I actually really enjoyed the story and the way it was written. The writing style was very easy to follow and the plot wasn’t particularly complex, but was quite gripping nonetheless.

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

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The Unspoken Name – A.K. Larkwood

48336125._SY475_On Csorwe’s fourteenth birthday, she is due to be sacrificed to her god – a destiny chosen for her at birth. But when Belthandros Sethennai shows up and offers her an alternative, she escapes death by running away and becoming his personal assassin. So begins an adventure in two parts: firstly infiltrating Belthandros’ home city and helping him to reclaim power, then going in search of the Reliquary of Pentravesse. Csorwe has to go through a lot to complete her mission, facing her past and making unexpected decisions about her future.

The plot of The Unspoken Name is quite ambitious, mixing high fantasy with a kind of science-fiction and a heck of a lot of action. There are gods, gore, magic and a decent amount of banter, but also some more meaningful elements regarding the choices we make and living with the consequences of our actions.

There was some excellent world-building, with the scene being set without too much time spent of descriptions, as well as some great character development. The story spans over 8-9 years, giving a lot of time for characters to grow and change in quite realistic ways. Csorwe was a good heroine, but I especially loved Oranna, Shuthmili and Tal when we got to know them better. Tal and Oranna in particular bought the majority of the humour to the book, and stopped what was quite a dark story from becoming unbearable.

One of the other great things about this book was the queer romance. Csorwe is 100% queer and faces absolutely no discrimination for this. The romance is relevant to the plot, but the fact that it’s a queer relationship isn’t mentioned or pointed out at all because, well, why should it be?

The Unspoken Name is a very exciting and well-written novel, remarkable for a debut. I would definitely recommend to fantasy fans.

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

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The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen & MinaLima

35397031._SY475_This is a collection of thirteen classic fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen almost two hundred years after their original publication, accompanied by specially commissioned illustrations and interactive elements by MinaLima.

As The Little Mermaid isn’t actually a very long story, this book is padded out with some of Hans Christian Andersen’s other classic fairy tales which all have their own stunning, unique illustrations to go with them. Quite a few stories are crammed in, so there’s a good amount of variety. My favourites (besides The Little Mermaid) were The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

As mentioned, these are the classic versions of the fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen, not the Disney versions, so they aren’t all magic and sparkles and they don’t all have a happy ending. The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl both end in death, while The Red Shoes and The Tinder Box are surprisingly violent, so I would bear that in mind before giving this book to a small child. There’s also an unpleasant emphasis on pretty things being good and ugly things being bad, as well as some general sexism which shows the age of these stories. Unfortunately, there’s an obvious reason why these stories have undergone multiple adaptations over time.

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