Currently Reading

Currently reading: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis [Review]

Written by: Kat Ellis.
Published by: Penguin.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 9th July 2020.
Rating: 4/5.

Official synopsis: "Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone's expecting you . . . Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker - she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she's swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she's never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father's most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map - and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there's someone - or something - stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola's got secrets of her own. And if she can't find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her..."

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I will preface this review by saying I do not like scary things as a general rule. Normally books are okay as you can use your imagination to dampen it down a bit, but scary movies, no thank you... No. Thank. You. And you only have to look at the (albeit stunning) creepy cover for Harrow Lake to know that things aren't going to be all sunshine and kittens...

Lola is sent to live with her grandmother when her father (who is a successful film director...) is attacked in their own home. She has never met her grandmother, knows very little about her mother and has a strange relationship with her father who she only ever refers to by his first name. When she arrives, her bag has gone missing and so she must wear her mums old clothes something that seems to both please and annoy her grandmother. As Lola begins to explore the little town which was the setting for one of her fathers most successful films, which coincidentally starred her mother, strange things begin to happen. People look at her strange, they whisper and she begins to see that she isn't welcome. And then she learns about the urban legend of Mister Jitters and how her mother may somehow be involved...

Honestly, Harrow Lake surprised me. I went into it with an open mind, almost expecting to have to shut it and say I couldn't go any further, but I kept going and I am so glad that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it from the very first page. It's engaging, wonderfully written and has a thriller feel to it, keeping you glued to the page wondering what on earth is going to happen next. There were a few moments that made me jump, moments that made me smile and laugh, moments that made me feel for the characters and the situation they have found themselves in. Harrow Lake has it all. I loved all the little twists and turns. 

I loved the feel of it all. The setting that seemed to be stuck in time, never evolving from the moment the cameras finished rolling whilst the film was being made. Everyone dresses old fashioned. It's classic old-school horror aesthetic. Small town. Seemingly cut off from the outside world. Secrets around every corner.

I would highly recommend you read this, even if you aren't a horror fan. It was chilling and fun at the same time and it'll have you jumping at something moving in the corner of your eye for a while after reading it too!

My thanks to Simon at Penguin for my review copy in exchange for an honest review!

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini [Review]

Written by:
Christopher Paolini.
Published by: Tor.
Released: 15th September 2020.
Format: Hardback.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: Kira Nav├írez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare... During a routine survey mission on an uncolonised planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . . 

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I have been a long time fan of Paolini, since around the time that Eldest came out and I followed the Inheritance Cycle all the way to its thrilling conclusion and have been waiting to see what he would do next. Now, nine years after the release of the last book in the series, Inheritance, we finally have our answer in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. A book that Paolini has been talking about and teasing for several years as he went through the process of drafting and re-drafting the novel several times, often posting pictures on social media of the manuscript growing chapter by chapter.

I will admit, I am not normally a massive sci-fi fan, particularly that aimed at an adult audience, but I knew the moment that this was announced it would be a must-read for me as I had been anticipating a new Paolini book for a very long time, and from the very first page I was hooked and was well and truly along for the ride. And what a ride! For a book that clocks in at just under 900 pages I cannot explain just how much it flew by. The pacing ebbs and flows. When the book begins it doesn't really take long for the action to begin and then it kind of settles for a little while just building everything up, getting all the key players into place and then BAMN. This bad boy exploded. Quite literally. There were times where I felt like I couldn't keep up - it was relentless and I loved it. The last two parts of the book itself where simply mind-blowing. Every page would bring a new "WOW WTF THIS IS CRAZY!!!!" moment and just when you thought it was going to climax it would reach a new high and just keep going. Breathtaking.

It's difficult to really say much without spoiling the book. What I loved about it more than anything was that it wasn't what I had expected at all. I had in my head what I thought it was going to be and it just completely surprised me from the word go. I liked this as no one likes a predictable read, there's no fun in it! The book itself is quite dark in places (not just because it's in space...) but there is some humour interspersed in there too which I really liked, helped break up some of the more hard-hitting moments.

As for the characters, we obviously spend the most time with Kira, a xenobiologist who has been on a mission to help determine whether or not human colonies can be set up on a planet many, many lightyears away from the home planet, Earth. She's firey, determined, doesn't take anyones crap. I loved her. There is also a great supporting cast too. A large one at that! I did sometimes find it a little complicated to keep track of who was who and who and said what and who had done what but soon found myself getting into the rhythm. One character I particularly loved was a ship mind called Gregorovich who was a particular highlight.

I really feel like Paolini's writing has improved a lot as well. It's been several years since I read the Inheritance books (re-read, anyone?) but it just flew like in the years that he's been working on it he has really honed his craft. The action scenes were tight and so much fun to read. The quieter, more emotional moments were soft and equally enjoyable.

Overall this book was well and truly worth the wait. Breathtaking. Exhilarating. With more planned in this universe and a prequel novel already completed (according to his own live stream I watched a few weeks ago) it looks like there'll be plenty more Paolini to enjoy! I'll be here waiting!

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman [Review]

Written by: Neal Shusterman.
Published by: Walker.
Released: 6th August 2020.
Format: Hardback.
Rating: 4/5.

Official synopsis: "Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour. Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn."

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I haven't read many of Shusterman's books in all honestly. I have read Scythe, the first book in the Arc of the Scythe trilogy and I absolutely adored it and have been meaning to get around to the rest of the trilogy, I just haven't had the chance yet. But then I saw this pop up on Netgalley and the premise really drew me in and I just knew I had to read it.

I can't lie, when I first started it I was a little thrown. Mostly the book is made up of very, very short chapters that flit about from one place to another very quickly. One moment, Caden is at school, trying hard but failing to keep up with his friends conversations. The next he is aboard a ship and trying to keep up with the captains demands. I found the complete flips sometimes quite hard to wrap my head around, but once I got used to it it was okay. Once I got into it the book itself was such an intense and all consuming read that you just cannot put down. The fact that the chapters are so short only adds to this as the old "ooh, just one more chapter before bed" leaves you a little unsatisfied as they're so short it actually turned into another ten or fifteen chapters before bed... Following Caden as he struggles with his mental health is a real journey and one that I really enjoyed being along for the ride. It's a weird book because some of it makes little to no sense at all... the chapters on the pirate ship for example... Sometimes I read a few of them a couple of times thinking I'd read it so quick I had missed it, but they literally make no sense at all and I think this is intentional, as sometimes these thoughts that invade our minds make no sense either. 

It is an incredibly thought provoking read, dealing with a rage of hard hitting topics, suicide included and there are some really hard hitting moments that actually made me have to put the book down for a few moments just to compose myself to carry on. I don't profess to be a mental health expert, but there were certain aspects of this book that really hit home with me from when I was younger and some of the thoughts I had after my mum passed away. This book felt like the most realistic depiction of mental health that I have read for a while and for that I must commend Mr. Shushterman.

It was also a very poetic read, just the way it was written, the structure of some of the chapters. Once you really got into it it was very easy to get carried away.

I also saw when googling the book that Disney are making it into a film for their Disney+ service so think it will be interesting to see how they interpret and make it for a wider audience. 

Overall I really enjoyed this and would highly recommend it to others! It is out right now so do go and check it out!

My thanks to Walker/Netgalley for my review copy!

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer [Review]

Written by: Stephenie Meyer.
Published by: Atom.
Released: 4th August 2020.
Format: Hardback.
Rating: 3/5.

Official synopsis: When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger? In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

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Way back in 2008 when Stephenie Meyer revealed that there had been a leak of a book she had been working on from Edwards point of view I remember being sad that we weren't going to get it anymore. We got those initial 12 chapters that she had written but she said she didn't know if she would ever return to working on it. Fast forward to 2020 when Midnight Sun was finally released! Does it add anything to the world of Twilight? Hm... marginally. There are some things that have been expanded upon. Behind the scenes knowledge so to speak.

I feel like to do a full blown review would be pointless seeing as everyone is reading it so I won't go too deep into it but I will say that I curse my FOMO. I hate missing out on the big things, big releases that I wouldn't necessarily feel the need to partake in. I mean yeah, I enjoyed the original series back in the day, but you have to admit it hasn't aged very well. And this book only showed just how creepy Edward really is. Within seconds he was thinking about ripping Bella apart, even a whole classroom full of teens just because he didn't want to leave any witnesses to his rampage... Then all of a sudden he can't decide if he wants to kill her or protect her... The obsession... it isn't cute...

The highlight of the book? Rosalie. She was ace. The rest... Meh. It was just too long. A few weeks before the release of the book I saw a video on youtube where Meyer was talking to a book tuber  back in 2019 and she said that it was long, that she had been writing it because her mum wanted it and she'd just gotten to the meadow scene and it was already longer than Twilight itself. Edward just overthinks things too much and I had to keep stopping myself from reading because it was just too much. There just wasn't enough new info to warrant 750+ pages in my opinion. If anything I feel like this has only dampened the flame that I once held for Twilight as a fifteen year old reading it for the first time.

And now there is word that there will be 2 more books to come... In the same video I mentioned earlier she said that she has plans for some books about Jacob and Renesme and I pray to god these aren't the two books she has planned because it just gets creepier, but you know my FOMO is going to make me read every single word. Argh. Why can't I just miss out for once. Argh!

It got a 3 out of 5 simply because it did bring back some nostalgia, but I didn't like it enough to go any further than that.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye [Review]

Written by: Kevin van Whye.
Published by: Penguin Random House.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 21st May 2020.
Rating: 4/5.

Official synopsis: "Everyone at Fairvale Academy knows Bryson Keller, the super-hot soccer captain who doesn't believe in high-school relationships. They also know about the dare Bryson accepted - each week he has to date the first person who asks him out. A single school week is all anyone gets. There have been no exceptions to this. None. Until me, that is. Because brilliant Bryson Keller forgot one thing. He never said it could only be girls . . ."

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After reading two big books back to back (the angsty Midnight Sun and the balls to the walls sci-fi thriller To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini) I really wanted something a bit shorter and something fun, something cute, something contemporary, which is weird for me as I am not normally a contemporary type of guy. I'm here for fantasy and complete and utter make believe. But this book is totally what the doctor ordered and I fell head over heels in love with it! Honestly, this book is ADORABLE!

Bryson Keller is dared at a party to date the first person that asks him out every Monday at school, for one whole week. After that they are to go their separate ways and someone else has to take their place. Everyone knows about the dare. It has its own hashtag, girls queue up to get the opportunity to be Bryson's girlfriend for the week, and why wouldn't they? Handsome. Athletic. Popular. Bryson is everything the girls want. But after a disastrous morning, and with the dare affecting him, Kai decides that he wants to take a pop at the whole thing and asks Bryson out.  I mean, no one said it was just girls that could ask, right? For the next five days, Bryson is his. He's the first person that Kai has come out to (not counting his ex-best friend who did a one-eighty on him after he came out...) and he's shocked by the reception he gets. But Bryson is just being the good guy that he is, right? He's straight. Of course he is... Isn't he?

Honestly this book felt like a warm hug, apart from the moments when everything just goes wrong and even then it felt like a safe space. It made me laugh, it made my heart swell, it made me cry. Oh it made me cry, alright! Yikes. This book gave me all of the emotions and I cannot recommend it enough. The characters were all great, both Bryson and Kai themselves who were different to your standard jock/nerd pairing. Bryson isn't just a meathead like most jocks are portrayed to be. He has heart, he's kind and gentle and super-swoonworthy. Kai wants to be a writer but he isn't your stereotypical nerd. He's not too bad at sports. He has other interests. Bryson is the kind of guy you can see yourself falling for, just the little things he does, you can't help it. And Kai is the kind of guy that you feel for. You want him to have everything good in the world. And then there is the supporting cast. Kai's family were a particular highlight in particular his younger sister, Yazz. Bryson's mum and his sister. Kai's best friends Donny and Priya were great. Even the bad guys, or as they are often referred to, assholes. The sort of characters you just know from the off are horrible people.

My only problem with the book is that when I got to the end I wanted more! More, more more. I turned the page and was actually sad that it was over. Hopefully we get a sequel one day. There was so much left unresolved. The book spans just 2 weeks and there are so many questions I want answered. I need to know!

It was nice to see an own voices coming out story. The market is getting better but it still too overly saturated with the straight white female offerings which can be good but sometimes feel slightly fetishised. So it was nice to feel like you were in good hands, someone who knows exactly what they are talking about. Their lived experience. More of this please! Coming out is hard. As someone who has been there and done that, I know. 

The only reason this got a 4 and not a 5 was just that in some places it felt a little clunky and awkward, which I get in parts was due to Kai being awkward anyway, but it sometimes drew me out of the story a little bit. Sometimes the dialogue was a little too clunky and I'm not a fan of when someone is called by their full name ALL the TIME. Bryson Keller. Bryson Keller. Bryson Keller. It gave me slight flashbacks to reading The Fault In Our Stars when we were subjected to Hazel Grace Hazel Grace Hazel Grace every five seconds. We get that that is your name. Your first name will do. But that was a very small problem just one that got on my nerves slightly. But still, I adore this book and demand that you read it now. It's fun, cute, SUPER cute! I cannot recommend it enough!

I am excited to see what Kevin van Whye has in store with his next book, Nate Plus One, due in 2022. A book that is pitched as What If It's Us meets Crazy Rich Asians!

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy via Netgalley!

BUY FROM AMAZON UK

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Book of Snow & Silence by Zoe Marriott

Written by: Zoe Marriott.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 30th June 2020.
Rating: 4.5/5.

Official synopsis: "Fierce Princess Theoai is devastated when betrayal by her own sister destroys her chance to inherit their mother’s crown. Exiled across the sea to wed a prince she has never met, she soon finds that taking possession of her new crown will be more perilous than she could ever have imagined. The snowy realm of Silinga is rotten to the core, and Theoai’s handsome Prince is spoiled and reckless, with eyes only for the beautiful mute who washed up on the shore the day after Theoai’s arrival: Shell. But though she enchants the entire palace with her unearthly dancing, Shell is more than just a romantic rival, and against her will Theoai is drawn to her. As they both navigate the glittering, treacherous court, their relationship changes from hostility to friendship – and then to a love that will shake the very foundations of the cold kingdom that seeks to tear them apart. THE BOOK OF SNOW & SILENCE is a sweeping, Feminist novel of enchantment, ambition and, above all, love."

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The moment I saw Zoe announce this book on twitter I just knew that it was up my street. A queer retelling (of sorts) of the original Has Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid. Erm, yes please and thank you very much.

Princess Theoai is aboard a ship destined for her new home, the frozen world of Silinga, a far cry from her desert homeland of Yamarr, where she is to wed the Prince, the spoilt and Uldar. When disaster strikes and Theoai finds herself alone in these foreign lands, she is determined to do what it takes to get the crown. But as she finds herself more and more entertained with the mysterious mute, Shell, things will not be as easy as she had first hoped.

I really enjoyed this book and I had thought that I would. It features some of my favourite things. First off, I am a winter guy. Give me winter over summer any day of the week and I will be happy. I like it cold. I like snow and ice and so this was perfect for me. I adore The Little Mermaid both Disney and Hans Christian Andersons decidedly darker original. When I was younger, I wanted to be the actual mermaid herself so I have always loved any variation on the tale. But for it to be a queer retelling. Ugh, be still my beating heart. I love betrayal, I love the sea, I loved so much in this book that it was a pleasure to read from start to finish. 

There is a great cast of characters for you to fall in love with and also to dislike. From our narrator herself, to Shell, the Crown Prince. Captains of the ships. And the animals! They're characters too, right?! I loved the use of animals in the book. The second I saw the word orca I was sold. If you want to get me hook, line and sinker just mention orcas and I am down. And the bears. Good lord, the bears. I shall say no more. 

Zoe's writing is so fluid and rich, it was a joy to read. I felt like I was being taken along for the journey, almost as if I was there. It was that engaging and entrancing. The world is so well fleshed out and it just made sense. The different nations and their cultures. The differences between them, and indeed their similarities. It all felt so real.

I really hope that this is the beginning of something because I want more. It was so fun and enjoyable that I don't want it to stop more. Sequel? Please and thank you!

My thanks to Zoe for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me a sneak peak at this wonderful world!

It is out TODAY! Go get it. You won't regret it!