Reign of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

39216289.jpgIn book #2 of The Oremere Chronicles, it is all kicking off. As more people learn the truth behind the deadly mist and King Arden’s treachery, war is brewing. Scattered across continents, Bleak and her friends are forced to choose sides, forge their own alliances and prepare themselves for the battles ahead.

I adored book #1 in this series, Heart of Mist, so I was really excited to get straight on with reading book #2. It didn’t disappoint.

At the start of the book, all our main players are separated and spread out across the continents. This meant there were a few different threads to follow simultaneously. Initially, I was concerned that this would make the story too complicated (and one of my favourite things about this series has been the relationships between characters, so splitting them up was not so good), but fortunately the whole gang was reunited fairly quickly and all my concerns were dispelled.

The plot progresses much quicker in this book. There are a lot of characters to follow and a lot of politics to cover, but none of it felt rushed or lacking in detail. The pacing was pretty much spot on to keep the story moving and maintain excitement. The story really comes to life through Scheuerer’s brilliant writing, fantastic characters and strong world-building.

I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy series this much in so long.

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

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Naturally Tan – Tan France

41223314Naturally Tan is a funny, sassy and touching memoir from Tan France, star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, in which he tells his origin story alongside fashion guidance and general life advice.

As a gay, South Asian Brit – one of the few people of colour growing up South Yorkshire at the time – Tan has a perspective on life which isn’t often shared in the media or in popular culture. Although there is, as you’d expect, some unpleasant (to put it mildly) racial abuse, Tan’s natural charm and humour shines through the writing, which keeps some serious topics light without trivialising them at all.

I really loved the way this book is written. The style is super conversational, and it genuinely feels like Tan is speaking directly to the reader. His stories about growing up, trying out every job under the sun, and meeting the love of his life are interesting and well told, and I absolutely loved the inclusion of Public Service Announcements and ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ about style and dating. Naturally Tan also has some really cute chapter illustrations which add a little touch of detail to really help make it a special book.

I knew next-to-nothing about Tan before picking up this book. I found him funny on Queer Eye, but I never would have said I was a fan. I am now.

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

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A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor

43450940.jpgIn Book #2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, things are as crazy as ever. The St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research are an organisation of historians who travel back in time in order to carry out research and make sure that History stays on track. In the second instalment of the series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, observe the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett, undertake the recovery of some dodos with no survival instincts, and make a risky visit to Mary Queen of Scots in an attempt to prevent an old enemy from changing the course of History.

A Symphony of Echoes is fast-paced and action-packed. Multiple adventures are stuffed into one book, so it’s a bit full-on but very well done and so much fun. I really love the quirky humour and adventures of these books; there really isn’t a dull moment. The characters are incredibly likeable and reasonably well developed, and I enjoy the time jumps. The historical elements seems to be reasonably well researched and accurate, up to the point where accuracy becomes irrelevant due to the actions of the characters.

My only criticism would be that there’s too much going on. The plot is a bit hard to follow because it really doesn’t stop, and story-development takes a clear back-seat behind the humour and wackiness. That being said, it’s such a fun read that none of that really matters.

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My Name is Monster – Katie Hale

40951767.jpgThe Sickness and the bombs have killed off the last of humanity, leaving only Monster, emerging from the arctic vault that kept her alive. Believing she is now alone in the world, Monster washes up on the coast of Scotland and begins the long journey back to her parent’s house. One day, she finds a girl. Naming the girl after herself and changing her own name to Mother, she tries to teach the girl everything she knows. But young Monster has her own desires that are very different to those of the Mother who made her, but didn’t create her.

The dynamic of this book – being a mother and young daughter in a post-apocalyptic landscape – bears some similarities to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. It isn’t doing anything particularly new, but it is well-written and convincing enough to remain engaging throughout.

The back-story was extremely vague which I didn’t love. The causes of the apocalypse are only alluded to, in reference to the Sickness and the war, but the full story of what happened is never told. In some cases, this can add a level of intrigue or highlight that the point of the story is now not then, but in this case it felt more like the author just hadn’t really thought that much about that part of the story.

However, I did enjoy Monster’s story. Especially the first half, before she finds Monster Jr and becomes Mother. I found it difficult to empathise with either character. They both felt quite one dimensional, despite the quite obvious intention for them to be complex, but it was a good read nonetheless.

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

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Heart of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

34865933All Bleak wants is a cure for her power. The ability to hear the thoughts of others may seem like a gift, but when the only way to drown it out is through copious amounts of alcohol, it’s more of a curse. Despite never telling anyone of her abilities, Bleak is suddenly snatched from her home by the King’s Army and summoned to the capital. But the journey doesn’t quite go according to plan as Bleak is rescued by the queen of a nation if female warriors, the Valian Kindred. Saved from one form of captivity and pulled straight into another, Bleak finds herself right in the middle of a power-struggle, with a much bigger role than she ever could have anticipated.

It’s really difficult to guess which YA/New Adult Fantasy books are going to be good, and which are going to be mediocre. As a serious fantasy lover, I haven’t come across many that I thought were bad, but truly great ones are few and far between. Heart of Mist is one of them. I absolutely loved it, from cover to cover.

I pretty much loved every character. Bleak was probably my least favourite, but she’s got tough competition and, with the full cast supporting her, she’s a fantastic protagonist. I adored Fiore from the moment we meet him and thought he would be my instant favourite, but then we were introduced to the Valians and suddenly everyone was my favourite. Even Swinton really grew on me as the story progressed.

The plot is fairly slow paced, but because the characters were so fantastic and I know there’s more to come in the series, I was totally fine with the pacing. The story has a good amount of depth to it, with the main story line being backed up by a couple of mysteries which I’m really looking forward to finding out more about.

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

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William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Mean Girls – Ian Doescher

42060068.jpgMean Girls, in the style of Shakespeare. What’s not to love?

“On Wednesdays, we array ourselves in pink!”

I’ll admit I’m not actually familiar with Shakespeare. I know his work, I’ve seen some of the film-adaptations, but I’ve never actually read one of his plays. However, I am vaguely familiar with the general Shakespearean style, and I know Mean Girls almost word-for-word. This meant I found this book really easy to read, and I would definitely recommend it to other readers who might know the film better than they know the bard.

This book is hilarious. It is the movie, in it’s entirety, re-written into a Shakespearean play, complete with stage directions and iambic pentameter. I really, really enjoyed seeing how the most iconic lines were going to appear: “Say, is thy muffin butter’d well? Shall I find a helpful volunteer, Who would most gladly butter up thy muffin?” 

It’s really well done, with references to original Shakespeare scattered throughout, while staying completely true to the movie. The illustrations and pretty pages separating each act were a nice touch. Such a fun read – 10/10.

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

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Have You Seen Her – Lisa Hall

42701375.jpgOn Bonfire Night, Anna takes her eyes off Laurel for one second. That’s all it takes for her to disappear. Hours pass, and then days, and Laurel still hasn’t been found. Her parents, Fran and Dominic, are frantic and cannot stop the cracks in their relationship from growing, while Anna has her own secrets to hide. Someone knows what happened to Laurel, and they’re not telling.

This is one of the most believable thrillers I’ve read. The characters and the plot (including all the twists) were completely logical and plausible. Mystery and thriller novels usually have some inevitable eye-roll moments, but Have You Seen Her manages to avoid that.

It is very well written. The story is gripping and easy to read, making it hard to put down. It’s told from Anna’s perspective (the nanny), who has a really strong narrative voice. She’s likeable enough to generate empathy, but is still mysterious and suspicious enough to stay interesting. And the ending is so satisfying.

I thought the characters were pretty good. Everyone seems guilty in some way, so it was difficult to guess who was actually responsible for Laurel’s disappearance. Fran and Dominic were awful in their own ways but entirely realistic, while Anna was an interesting main character. My only criticism is that Dominic was arguably too hateable. I wanted him to be guilty.

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

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The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie

39395857.jpgFor centuries, the Raven has watched over and protected the kingdom of Iraden. His power is sustained by the sacrifice of Iraden’s ruler, the Raven’s Lease, every generation. But when the Lease disappears without paying his debt and a usurper takes the throne, the power of the Raven appears to be dwindling. Is he even there at all? It is left to Eolo, loyal aide to the true heir, Mawat, to uncover the truth hidden inside the Raven’s Tower.

The writing style is really interesting. It’s written in the second person, from the point-of-view of The Strength and Patience of the Hill, to Eolo, the character who the story follows. This has the effect of placing the reader inside the story, using a really unusual technique. However, this was a bit of a double-edged sword because, while being new and different is both good and impressive, it took me a really long time to get used to the style which stopped me from being able to get into the story.

The lore in this book is very good. The system of the gods and their magics has been well thought-through, and I love gods and mythology so this really worked for me. It was interesting to be following the humans and the gods simultaneously, but it was sometimes a bit confusing because it took a minute to work out which thread we were on with each new chapter.

The Raven’s Tower is a good book, and a solid piece of fantasy-fiction. But the pace is slow and it took me a looooooong time to read, despite not being that long. For that reason alone, I can’t give it full marks, but it is worth a read.

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

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Bored Of The Rings – The Harvard Lampoon

45298617.jpgThis funny, rude parody of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tells the story of Frito the boggie and his friends, Goodgulf, Arrowroot, Legolam, Gimlet and the rest as they head off to destroy a magic ring in the pits of Fordor.

Honestly, the best thing about this book is that they managed not to overdo it. The entire Tolkien trilogy is covered in less than 200 pages and, somehow, no vital aspects of the story are left out. The first book is parodied in a lot more detail than #2 and #3, but that’s really for the best because, although it’s funny, Bored of the Rings would have dragged if it had been much longer.

The humour in this book isn’t subtle in any way. It is silly, rude and childish, often falling back on the simplest forms of wit (Uncle Dildo being a prime example), and yet it is somehow very clever. There are quite a lot of cultural references that are out of date (e.g. Goodgulf is apparently a reference to a brand of gasoline), but enough of it has withstood the test of time and will be amusing to most generations.

The funniest parts were almost definitely the character names and their altered personalities. Arrowroot, son of Arrowshirt, a useless dolt instead of the handsome, heroic Aragorn and Tim Benzedrino (Tom Bombadill) as a drugged-out hippie were my favourites.

I’d never read a parody before this, and I can see both sides of why people do or don’t like them. On the one hand, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything having read this book. But on the other hand, it did make me laugh.

I received a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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A Question of Trust – Jonathan Pinnock

44562832.jpgTom’s girlfriend, Dorothy, has vanished, along with all the money and equipment of the company she ran with her friend, Ali. Tom and Ali’s investigations into where Dorothy and their things have gone lead them into some unexpected and dangerous situations, while Tom simultaneously tries to untangle his father from a cryptocurrency scam, locate a missing python, and work out who is messaging him from a dead man’s LinkedIn account.

So, it turns out A Question of Trust is Book #2 in a series. I didn’t realise this, but events from the first book (The Truth About Archie and Pye) were mentioned for context and it became clear very quickly that I’d missed quite a lot. However, although I would say it might be helpful to have read Book #1 first, I think this one also works as a standalone (once you get past the first few chapters).

I wasn’t fully sold on the plot, although I couldn’t tell you why. It’s very fast-paced and there’s a lot going on, but I found myself skimming a fair bit and therefore (my own fault) I wasn’t always entirely sure what was happening. However, I LOVED Tom. He was inept enough to be sweet and funny, but not so much that the whole thing was completely implausible – which is a very difficult line to draw.

Overall, it’s a good read, with a bonkers story-line and some great characters.

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

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