The Unadjusteds – Marisa Noelle

48874066._SY475_.jpgSilver Melody is an Unadjusted, in a world where 80% of the population has altered their DNA to gain special abilities and enhancements like wings, horns, strength or intelligence. Despite her parents being the creators of the pills used to deliver these genetic alterations, Silver doesn’t agree with what they’ve done and is proud of her unadjusted state. But then, when President Bear announces that all unadjusteds must take a pill, Silver flees to a hidden resistance camp, where she will play a key role in taking a stand against President Bear and his altered army.

The Unadjusteds is an action-packed story with a fast-paced plot. There is very little background information or world-building; instead, we are thrown straight into the action, with Silver fleeing the city within the first few chapters.

The pacing of this book left very little time for much character development, which was kind of a shame. There’s a significant romantic aspect (this is YA, after all) but it plays out in a slightly random love-triangle with next-to-no build up which felt a bit flat and unconvincing. I didn’t find this book particularly immersive, but at least it wasn’t boring.

Marisa Noelle has come up with a fantastic concept, exploring the problematic nature of a genetically modified humanity, and her writing style is good – very readable. I enjoyed The Unadjusteds, but I do think it could have been better.

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

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Then She Vanishes – Claire Douglas

44428372Jess and Heather used to be best friends, until Heather’s sister disappeared and Jess started to pull away from her. Years later, Heather is the prime suspect in a brutal double murder, but no one can understand why she did it. With Heather in a coma having attempted to kill herself, Jess – now a reporter – returns to her childhood town to get the inside scoop on Heather and the inexplicable shootings.

I didn’t love this story as much as I loved some of Claire Douglas’ other books. Then She Vanishes is well-written throughout, but it’s a bit predictable and I didn’t like the characters, particularly Jess. I think it’s important that the main character in this genre of book be likeable, and I simply couldn’t get on board with Jess. I found her quite self-involved, and her personality didn’t seem to match up with the outwardly playful character that the author was trying to make her, based on her fashion choices.

Then She Vanishes was a thrilling and easy read, but it isn’t anything special. The predictability was a shame, and there was just something about this book that makes it very easy to forget.

That being said, the opening chapter is truly excellent. It’s a shame the rest of the book couldn’t match up.

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

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Lion’s Honey – David Grossman

41187479In Lion’s Honey, David Grossman takes an in-depth look at the myth of Samson, from his birth to a barren woman, to his death after being betrayed by the woman he loved.

As this book is one of Canongate’s “The Myths” collection, I expected a (probably fictionalised) retelling of the Biblical story of Samson. Instead, Lion’s Honey is more like an analysis of the story. That’s not to say it isn’t good, but it certainly isn’t what I was expecting.

Grossman’s analysis is interesting and thought-provoking, taking a particular focus on the women in Samson’s life, his relationship with his parents, and his compulsive attraction to the Philistines.

This interpretation of the myth of Samson is compelling and entirely readable, but don’t go into it expecting the “retelling” it’s marketed as.

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

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Top Ten Books of 2019

2019 turned out to be a surprisingly busy year, so I didn’t read as many books as I had planned (and didn’t even come close to shortening my TBR list), but I did read some good ones. So here are my Top Ten Books of 2019:


Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher

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Mean Girls, in the style of Shakespeare, and incredibly well done.

Power struggles. Bitter rivalries. Jealousy. Betrayals. Star-crossed lovers. When you consider all these plot points, it’s pretty surprising William Shakespeare didn’t write Mean Girls. But now fans can treat themselves to the epic drama–and heroic hilarity–of the classic teen comedy rendered with the wit, flair, and iambic pentameter of the Bard. Our heroine Cady disguises herself to infiltrate the conniving Plastics, falls for off-limits Aaron, struggles with her allegiance to newfound friends Damian and Janis, and stirs up age-old vendettas among the factions of her high school. Best-selling author Ian Doescher brings his signature Shakespearean wordsmithing to this cult classic beloved by generations of teen girls and other fans. Now, on the 15th anniversary of its release, Mean Girls is a recognized cultural phenomenon, and it’s more than ready for an Elizabethan makeover.


The Oremere Chronicles by Helen Scheuerer

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One of my all-time favourite fantasy series. It has everything you could ask for, and more.

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.

Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.

But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers. The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.

 

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The realm’s darkest secret is out.

The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents.

On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak’s friends are forced to decide where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust. But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.

 

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War is here.

Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conqueror queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm.

Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. But the search is a treacherous one – and it will push her to the very limits of endurance.

Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they’ll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough?

As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.


Survivors by G X Todd

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The third book in a must-read series for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who hear voices, and those who want to silence them.

Pilgrim is a man with a past he can’t remember. When he wakes alone in a shallow grave, there is a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. It explains who he is and what he’s done. It tells him he has one purpose: to find a girl named Lacey.

As Pilgrim is drawn north to Missouri in search of Lacey, he must also travel back to where it all began – to those he left behind. War is coming, and Pilgrim is going to need all the allies he can get.


The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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Wonderfully well-written, mysterious and slightly haunting.

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, noblewoman of Gawthorpe Hall, one of the finest houses in Lancashire, is pregnant for the fourth time. None of her previous pregnancies have been successful, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a hidden letter from the doctor who delivered her last stillbirth, she learns of the prediction that she will not survive another pregnancy. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby and prove the physician wrong. But Alice herself is soon drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the area. Fleetwood must risk everything to help clear her name.

But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the now infamous Witch Trials of 1612 approach, and Fleetwood’s impending delivery looms. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman

45303582._SY475_Gaiman’s dark and twisted retelling, with stunning illustrations from Colleen Doran.

A chilling fantasy retelling of the Snow White fairy tale by bestselling creators Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran.

A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren’t so happily ever after.

 

 


The Lost Man by Jane Harper

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A story is filled to the brim with secrets and mysteries, that made me want to keep reading more.

Two brothers meet at the remote fence line separating their cattle farms under the relenting sun of the remote outback. In an isolated part of Western Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes three hours’ drive apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron, who lies dead at their feet.

Something had been on Cam’s mind. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…


Spit and Song by Travis M. Riddle

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Another original adventure from Travis Riddle with brilliant characters and fantastic world-building.

Kali is a merchant who yearns to leave the harsh deserts of Herrilock and travel across the sea, trading goods and soaking in the sights and cultures. With a new potion on the market undercutting her profits, though, her seabound dreams are put on hold indefinitely.

Failed musician Puk hits rock bottom after yet another catastrophic performance. Wandering the city streets in search of any sip of booze or whiff of fire-spit he can get his hands on, he resigns to the fact that he’s stuck in the desert with no way back home to Atlua.

Until one day, their paths cross with an illicit job opportunity. With its hefty payday, Kali and Puk could afford to finally escape the desert heat and set sail across the gulf.

The black market job would see them travel endless dunes on a road made from a massive dead beast’s ribs and out to a mythical city in the sea, scuffling with monsters and thugs in search of a long-lost book that might be the most dangerous object in the world.

How hard could it really be?


In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

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A brilliantly written, straight-talking, up-front and funny read.

Until recently, Julia hadn’t had sex in three years.

But now, a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis; a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art; and she’s wondering whether trimming her pubes makes her a bad feminist.

Julia’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love – and satisfaction – in all the wrong places…

 


The Last by Hannah Jameson

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I really loved the idea of this book, and it turned out to be even better than I expected.

BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
BREAKING: London hit, thousands feared dead.
BREAKING: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm.

Jon Keller was on a trip to Switzerland when the world ended. More than anything he wishes he hadn’t ignored his wife Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city, they wait, they survive. Then one day, the body of a girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer…

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what happens if the killer doesn’t want to be found?


Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

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Dark and spooky, with an air of menace from the very first page.

In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens: a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard ancient secrets. Maud is a lonely child growing up without a mother, ruled by her repressive father. When he finds a painted medieval devil in a graveyard, unhallowed forces are awakened.

Maud’s battle has begun. She must survive a world haunted by witchcraft, the age-old legends of her beloved fen – and the even more nightmarish demons of her father’s past.


And finally, some other five star reads from 2019 that deserve a special mention:

I Go Quiet by David Ouimet; Naturally Tan by Tan France; The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman; Slenderman by Anonymous; The Quanderhorn Xperimentations by Rob Grant & Andrew Marshall

The True Queen – Zen Cho

43502690._SY475_Sisters Sakti and Muna wake up on the shore of Janda Baik under a curse and with missing memories. Determined to discover who cursed them and how to break it, the girls had to England to the Sorceress Royal’s academy for female magicians. But, on the way, Sakti vanishes, leaving Muna alone and terrified of what may have become of her sister. Finally arriving in England and enlisting the help of the magiciennes of the academy, Muna embarks on a mission to enter the Unseen Realm and rescue her sister from the Fairy Court and the powerful Fairy Queen.

First things first, I haven’t read the first book in this series, Sorcerer to the Crown, and you absolutely don’t need to. I understand that some of the characters appear in the first book, so it might be helpful for background information, but the main characters are different and The True Queen reads perfectly well as a standalone novel.

The narrative voice is quite ‘posh’ and old fashioned, which made it feel quite stilted and not particularly smooth to read. I didn’t really like this at first, but it really grew on me because it fit with the time of the story and the fact that the main characters were not native to England.

The story is fun, with some very sweet relationships and charming characters. Henrietta was an absolute delight, while the rest of the cast were also very likeable. The only real flaw was that the none of the characters seemed to feel any particular urgency to get on with important things, like rescue Sakti and prevent a war between England and Fairy – which really seemed like it should have been a priority. Instead they were quite content to be having balls and generally faffing about, before getting on with anything actually productive.

The True Queen took a few chapters to get into, but I enjoyed it overall.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Snow, Glass, Apples – Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran

45303582._SY475_.jpgSnow, Glass, Apples is a magical fantasy retelling of Snow White, in which a not-so-evil queen attempts to rid the world of her monstrous step-daughter.

This a dark and twisted retelling, very different from the classic fairy tale. In this version, Snow White is a blood-sucking creature who causes the death of her own father and terrifies the young queen into taking drastic measures to be rid of her. It contains many elements of the original fairy tale, following the same general plot, but with a totally different, much more chilling vibe.

Despite being a fairy tale, this book is definitely not appropriate for younger readers. There is explicit content, both sexual and violent, that make it very adult.

Colleen Doran’s illustrations are stunning. They’re detailed and beautiful and complement the story brilliantly. Even if you’re not usually a fan of graphic novels, there is no denying the beauty of this one.

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Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

37797266._SX318_People have never been more connected, yet many of us feel alone. We worry about everything, from politics to celebrity to body image. How can we stay sane in a world filled with so much that makes us mad? In Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig takes a look at how to stay happy and human in the 21st century.

This book is good. It makes you think, and every aspect is relatable. But I did find it a little bit boring. Some chapters are a bit repetitive, and it’s a lot of the same thing.

I have also seen in other reviews that, for some people, this book made them feel less alone. That’s fantastic, obviously, but for me, it kind of made me feel like I was being told off at times. When it was late at night and I was reading instead of sleeping, I would come across a chapter telling me I should switch off and sleep more. While the information and instruction in this book isn’t wrong, it was a bit like getting a lecture and wasn’t an entirely enjoyable reading experience all the time.

I did really like the general disorganisation of the book (each chapter appears to have been written and added as and when the author thought of it – which works really well) and the writing style. It’s also brilliant how open Haig is about his own experiences with depression.

Overall, Notes on a Nervous Planet is a relevant and insightful commentary on modern life. It’s definitely worth a read, just maybe don’t read it all in one go.

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Spit and Song – Travis M. Riddle

48516172._SY475_Kali is a merchant who longs to travel the world, trading good and seeing the sights. Puk is a musician with a drug addiction who has hit rock-bottom and finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar city with no way back home. A chance meeting and an illicit job opportunity bring the unlikely pair together on an epic journey that could change both their lives.

As usual, I am blown away by Travis’ originality. The creatures in this book are like nothing I’ve seen before. Set in the same world as Balam, Spring, there are one or two familiar species, but also many more completely new and unique ones. The world-building, scenes and characters and all brilliantly developed, so the entire thing is very easy to picture while reading.

The plot is a little bit slow-paced, but this isn’t a bad thing. The story focuses much more on the journey Kali and Puk embark on, rather than their destination. They spend a fair amount of time making plans and preparations, discussing their ambitions in life and singing songs. However, there are still some pretty action-packed parts along the way.

The characters are brilliant. I loved Puk – he was rude and sarcastic but extremely likeable, while Kali had a good amount of attitude as well. My favourite character by far, though, was Voya the ujath.

The only thing I didn’t really need was all the very detailed descriptions of the different food items the characters consumed throughout the book. These were just a little distracting and unnecessary to me but, that being said, it was wonderful to see just how much thought the author had put into every element of the story.

Lastly, how stunning is that cover? And look out for me in the acknowledgements!

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

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Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense – Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

40554543Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense is an anthology of lesser-known stories from literary masters, including the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger have collected these stories and set them in historical context, with an explanation of the significance of ghosts in literary fiction over the past two hundred years,

It should be noted that the stories in this collection are truly classic ghost stories: They are short, atmospheric tales of ghostly and spiritual encounters – definitely NOT modern horror. They aren’t gory or shocking, and in my opinion aren’t exactly scary, but they are creepy and rather spine-tingling.

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy every story. The writing quality of a couple of them was surprisingly questionable considering who the authors are, and one or two (particularly The Family Portraits by Johann August Apel) really dragged on despite being so short. Also, some of them are pretty old, which obviously isn’t a bad thing in itself, but this meant that the language used was sometimes quite difficult to follow.

My favourite stories were definitely The Signalman by Dickens which was the one I found the scariest and probably the best-written, and Sweet William’s Ghost which is actually a classic ballad.

I enjoyed the opening essay on ghost stories in literature, and the contextual description at the beginning of each story. This book is a definite must-read for lovers or ghost stories and classic paranormal fiction.

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

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Imaginary Friend – Stephen Chbosky

46131509._SY475_Determined to improve life for her son, Christopher, Kate Reese flees an abusive relationship and starts over in the town of Mill Grove. It seems like a safe and idyllic town, until Christopher vanishes for six days. When he emerges from the woods at the edge of town, he is unharmed but different. Before, he struggled at school, now he’s one of the brightest kids there. Now, he speaks to an imaginary friend who gives him a mission he must complete by Christmas. Now, Christopher is wrapped up in a war between good and evil where he has a vital role to play.

This book is much more than just a horror. It covers family, friendship, community and good and evil. It is chilling and full of twists, as well as being surprisingly heartwarming. Honestly, how Stephen Chbosky went from Perks of Being a Wallflower to this is beyond me. Imaginary Friend is truly creepy and haunting, with an exciting and atmospheric plot – a far cry from the emotional angst of Perks.

My biggest piece of criticism would be that it is quite a bit longer than it needed to be. Some aspects of the story are very repetitive (Christopher seemed to spend an awful lot of time actively seeking out the Hissing Lady, finding her, and then running away. Like, why are you looking for her if you’re just going to run away?) Although I did love this book, I definitely think it could have benefited from having a few chapters cut. The unnecessary length and repetitiveness unfortunately got in to way of this being a five (or even four) star book.

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

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