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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One Year of Ugly – Caroline Mackenzie

51137113Yola Palacio and her family fled Venezuela to start a peaceful life in Trinidad. They are just a few of the many people living illegally on the island, and things seem fine until Yola’s Aunt Celia dies and the family’s quiet life is turned upside down. It turns out Celia owed a lot of money to local criminal, Ugly, who drags the entire Palacio family in to settle her debt. The year that follows is one filled with drama and trauma for the Palacios, as they are forced to open their homes as safe houses for other illegal immigrants escaping Venezuela, and later as staff in an illegal strip club. However, amidst the struggle of working for Ugly, Yola finds herself fatally attracted to Ugly’s right-hand man, Roman. How can she start a relationship with the man responsible for enforcing Ugly’s reign of terror over her family? But how can she resist?

This story follows a year in the life of one family as they struggle to survive as illegal immigrants at the same time as being forced into further criminal activity, thanks to one family member’s bad decisions. It covers some complex social and cultural issues, which I found fascinating because I knew nothing about the difficulties in Venezuela before reading this book.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Yola is a brilliant lead character, with a very witty and relatable narrative voice. Her blossoming romance with Roman was very sweet to read about, and provided some light relief amongst the rest of the drama.

One negative note, though, is that it took a very long time for me to really get into this book, because it took so long for the story to properly kick off. Large portions of the first two thirds are mainly just Yola either stressing about her feelings for Roman, or reminiscing about Aunt Celia. Fortunately, the lagging plot was mostly saved by the fantastic characters. To be worthy of a 5-star rating, the first sections of the book needed to be as captivating as the last.

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

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Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith

40847246._SY475_Ali Smith’s modern remix of Ovid’s Metamorphosis explores the fluid romance between  two women, Anthea and Robin, how Anthea’s sister processes this relationship, and makes a statement about love, transformation, women’s rights and fluidity.

I wasn’t at all familiar with Ovid’s original Metamorphosis, but luckily Girl Meets Boy includes a short re-telling of the story, in which two women, Iphis and Ianthe, fall in love and, thanks to some divine intervention, Iphis becomes a man and they are able to get married. I did enjoy the summary of Iphis’ story, but the main focus of this book is the commentary on the position of women in the world and loving whoever you love. It’s a story of it’s own, rather than a modern re-telling of a myth, which is what the other books in this collection are.

I was able to follow probably about half of this book. Robin and Anthea’s love story, and Imogen’s coming to terms with her sister being gay were easy enough to understand. What I didn’t get was whatever was going on with the girls’ grandparents at the beginning. They seemed to be telling a story, which abruptly stopped and turned into Anthea’s story without any kind of segway leading into it. Overall, I found the style and general story-telling very confusing.

As much as a didn’t get on with the writing style, the story itself is meaningful and contains some very poignant observations.

I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher.

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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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Confetti at the Cornish Cafe – Phillipa Ashley

33368340._SY475_Demi and Cal are launching Kilhallon Resort as a wedding venue, and their first clients are internationally famous actors Lily Craig and Ben Trevone. With the pressure on to host the perfect celebrity wedding, Demi has a lot on her plate, and Cal is too distracted to be much help.

This is the third book in the Penwith Trilogy. Reading the previous two books definitely help with knowing the characters and understanding the background context, but is definitely not essential. Confetti at the Cornish Cafe is a twee, feel-good novel and I don’t think it would hinder your enjoyment to read it as a stand alone book.

There’s a lot of drama to keep things interesting, as well as some great characters (Polly is my favourite), although I did find it slightly less gripping than the first two instalments. The story was a little bit too drawn out and repetitive, with a couple of quite raunchy parts thrown in which I didn’t think really fitted with the vibe of the book.

This was a good end to a great series. I would strongly recommend to anyone looking for an easy, feel-good distraction.

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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 Beauty and the Beast – Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve & MinaLima

30166719._SY475_The MinaLima version of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s The Beauty and the Beast is a stunningly illustrated edition featuring interactive elements and beautiful designs to complement the classic fairy tale.

This is the original fairy tale, in which a beautiful woman goes to live in the palace of a beast in order to save her father – very familiar, right? Where it differs most from the Disney-fied version is how the story continues after the beast has turned back into a prince, and the rather lengthy explanations for how and why he was cursed in the first place.

The Beauty and the Beast is the kind of story often referred to as a ‘timeless classic’ but, actually, it hasn’t aged well. The love-story is one of the least romantic things I’ve ever read, while the entire book is filled with duty-bound actions and appalling sexism. Without the many retellings and modern versions of this story, it would not have survived the test of time.

It’s a lovely, traditional story – despite the overt sexism – but what really makes this book special are the illustrations. They bought the book to life.

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The Sky Weaver – Kristen Ciccarelli

43905500.jpgAt the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard-helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as The Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman ability to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Then Safire and Eris-sworn enemies-find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara.

From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Sky Isles, their search and their stories become threaded ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world, and the next.

The Sky Weaver is a standalone novel set in the world of The Last Namsara. It can definitely be read without having read the previous two books, but it does contain some of the same characters and I would recommend reading them for context and world-building purposes.

As can be expected from this series at this point, there are some fantastic, strong female characters. This one focuses of Safire (whom we met in Book #2) but is also told from the point-of-view of Eris, who is an equally interesting character.

One of my favourite things about this book (and the entire series) is the use of mythology. The world of the Iskari is built on fully developed mythologies and cultures, which we are given in intermittent mini-chapters in between the main story chapters. This helps to give the story a very fairy-tale feeling and really adds to the already excellent world-building, which is a really important feature of good high fantasy.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I enjoyed the romance in this book. Enemies-to-lovers is often a frustrating trope and can be difficult to pull off, but Ciccarelli did a good job of creating a dynamic and well balanced relationship between the two women, and it was lovely to read.

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

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Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

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

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Blog Tour: The Moments – Natalie Winter

Today is my day on the tour for The Moments by Natalie Winter! I enjoyed this book so much, so I’m very pleased to be able to share my review. Remember to check out the other stops on the tour as well! (More info is available at the bottom of this post). Thanks for stopping by!

Life is made up of countless moments. Moments that make us who we are. But what if they don’t unfold the way they’re supposed to…?

hbg-title-9781409184850-15Matthew and Myrtle both feel like they’ve never found the person they’re destined to be with. They both make their way through life trying to find the happiness they desire, but never feeling like they’ve truly found where they belong. But they’re meant to be together, if only they can find each other.

The Moments follows the respective lives of Matthew and Myrtle, all the way from birth into old age. Their stories are told in a series of moments, which was a style that I truly loved. The snapshot-style of story telling meant that the plot progressed at a good speed without lingering too long on any particular periods, which really kept the pace up and stopped the book from ever getting boring.

The central thinking-point of the book is whether happiness can be missed by missing the right moment – like getting on the wrong bus or using the wrong gardening company – or will happiness find you eventually? It’s a really intriguing concept, which is explored beautifully through the choices Myrtle and Matthew make throughout their lives.

Myrtle and Matthew are very good lead characters. They were both a little bit annoying in their own ways, but likeable enough and well developed. I had mixed feelings about the rest of the characters in the book, because some of them were pretty hard work, and most of the good ones has some very negative moments. However, this did help to make them feel like real people.

Overall, The Moments is a very readable and pretty emotional story about relationships, missed opportunities and the moments that determine our lives.

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

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