Book Review

Book Review: Strange Alchemy by Gwenda Bond

Published August 1st 2017 by Switch Press.

34145337Goodreads Synopsis: On Roanoke Island, the legend of the Lost Colony—and the 114 colonists who vanished without a trace more than four hundred years ago—still haunts the town. But that’s just a story told for the tourists.

When 114 people suddenly disappear from the island in present day, it seems history is repeating itself—and an unlikely pair of seventeen-year-olds might be the only hope of bringing the missing back. Miranda Blackwood, a member of one of island’s most infamous families, and Grant Rawling, the sherrif’s son, who has demons and secrets of his own, find themselves at the center of the mystery.

As the unlikely pair works to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony, they must dodge everyone from the authorities to long-dead alchemists as they race against time to save their family and friends before they too are gone for good.

My Review: I didn’t have much knowledge of this book when it arrived in the post, or when I started reading! So it was only when I put this blog post together that I discovered this is actually a new version of Bond’s first book, Blackwood, which was published by Strange Chemistry (RIP, you brilliant company). If you hadn’t heard of Blackwood, I’d really recommend checking out new version now.

The set up for the story was really engaging, exploring Miranda’s unconventional life as a theatre worker and member of the most hated family on the island. The theatre Miranda works at tells the story of the ‘lost colony’ of the island from centuries ago – and when history begins to repeat itself, Miranda finds herself at the centre of the mystery.

Dual narratives can either make or break a book for me – I either love them or hate them! In this case, it was a really great way of telling the story. Chapter narration switches between Miranda and Grant, a misfit teenager who returns to the island to try and hear the spirits. For the most part, I enjoyed their dynamic; two outcast teenagers, newly reunited, on a mission to save the residents of the island. [spoiler, highlight to read – I didn’t really like the slow-burn romance between the two, it felt a little forced and obvious… but I still enjoyed the book overall]

Miranda was a really likeable protagonist! Though a typical outcast-teenager character, it felt refreshing to read about her. Bond takes a lot of time to delve into her family history, which intertwines with the mystery of the island, and I adored that. The character of Grant didn’t stand out to me as much, but I really enjoyed his narration too.

I have to admit that the plot lost me a little, about two thirds in. I didn’t quite understand how the 114 disappeared and later events unfolded. It became a little complex for me; I definitely enjoyed reading the initial mystery more. I couldn’t quite get my head around some parts, but nevertheless the book still gripped me and I carried on reading. Bond takes fascinating elements of real history, and blends it with fantastical imagination to create a really inventive story.

Overall, I would certainly recommend Strange Alchemy if you love a mystery! It’s inventive and gripping. Bond has re-imagined history to create an even more eerie story, and it’s fantastic.

My Rating:

three

I received a copy of Strange Alchemy from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review

Book Review: Waking in Time by Angie Stanton

Published March 1st 2017 by Curious Fox Books.

27919161Goodreads Synopsis: Still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother and shaken by her mysterious, dying request to “find the baby,” Abbi has just arrived at UW Madison for her freshman year. But on her second day, she wakes up to a different world: 1983. That is just the first stop on Abbi’s journey backward through time. Will is a charming college freshman from 1927 who travels forward through time. When Abbi and Will meet in the middle, love adds another complication to their lives. Communicating across time through a buried time capsule, they try to decode the mystery of their travel, find the lost baby, and plead with their champion, a kindly physics professor, to help them find each other again … even though the professor gets younger each time Abbi meets him. This page-turning story full of romance, twists, and delightful details about campus life then and now will stay with readers long after the book’s satisfying end.


My Review: Being a massive Doctor Who fan, I love anything time-travel based, but I read sadly little of this kind of thing. So when this arrived, I was super excited about it! Waking in Time has such an intriguing premise, and a beautiful cover to match.

I really did adore the concept for the book – Abbi, the protagonist, moves into college whilst still grieving for her grandmother. After falling asleep in her dorm bed, she wakes in the wrong year. And it keeps happening – but are the dates she’s travelling to connected, and why is she the one travelling?

It’s a brilliant idea, and executed pretty well. I really enjoyed how Stanton sets up each new decade Abbi appears in, with all of the cultural references and the changes in settings. I loved envisioning it. The story unfolds really cleverly, as Abbi’s time travel is linked to a huge event that ties lots of aspects of her life together. I felt her frustration as travelling backwards, where the people she knows know less about the story, whilst she’s starting the piece together the mystery – and was really eager to see how the mystery unfolded. It was such a strange ending, one I definitely didn’t see coming!

As with every time travel story, there are inevitably some strange things that don’t quite add up, and some things that seemed a little too convenient. But the main thing I couldn’t really get on with in this book was the love story, between Abbi and Will – without giving anything away, he’s the other time traveller she encounters. They’re travelling in opposite directions, but are in love, and I just… nope. No thanks. I didn’t really understand it, and the romance seemed a little forced and it didn’t have a clear connection to the rest of the plot. The two characters become infatuated with one another within a few meetings, and I just didn’t understand why!

However, I didn’t have a problem with the protagonist, and I adored how the story is strongly centred around her grandma – the plot plays out really cleverly. It’s so hard to talk about without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that it’s really intricate and in-depth, which I loved.

Overall, Waking in Time is certainly a must if you’re into complex mysteries. It certainly wasn’t what I’d expected. To me, some events seemed a little too convenient or forced, but then again – the book plays with the idea of fate and history, so I guess it’s quite cleverly done! It’s certainly a fun read you can become completely absorbed in.


My Rating:

three

I received a copy of Waking in Time from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Blog Tour

Children of Icarus Blog Tour: Caighlan Smith on Writing and Editing

I’m pleased to be introducing Caighlan Smith on the blog today! Read below for her guest post about her process of writing and editing her latest book, Children of Icarus. But first, a little about the book:
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Over to Caighlan!
Caighlan Smith photo 1You know the concept of binge-watchers? Well I’m a binge-writer. When I’m hooked on an idea I’ll write from the moment I wake up (half past noon) until dinner—or Coronation Street, whichever comes first. Then I’m back to writing and up late enough to justify waking after noon the next day. That’s my writing process; dive in and don’t look back until the first draft’s done. I only let myself reread what I’ve written if it’s been a while since I worked on the project, which doesn’t happen too often. I like to start a project when I know I’ll have a solid week to work on it without interruptions. So when I’m done the draft, my editing process starts. That used to involve crying and procrastination. Now it involves focus and only occasional procrastination. I’ve edited a lot on my own, and had experience with a bunch of different editors, and it’s all taught me how essential editing is to bettering a book, so it’s Children of Icarus high resnot nearly as painful as it used to be. To be honest, I actually enjoyed editing my new book, Children of Icarus. Prior to this I’d evolved enough to get through editing without tears and questioning the necessity of grammar, but do actually enjoy editing? That made me want to cry for an entirely different reason. It taught me that when you have an outstanding editor and a novel you really want to work for, editing is more an angel than a soul-sucking demon. Speaking of both of those things, they feature (in some ways) in Children of Icarus. The story revolves around a girl who ends up trapped in a labyrinth, which she believed would lead to paradise. With a group of other youths, she has to survive long  enough to escape—if escape is even possible.

Children of Icarus is out now in the UK from Curious Fox Books.
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Interviews

An Interview with Sharon Gosling | Author of The Diamond Thief

Related Posts: Book Review: The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

I adored The Diamond Thief, book one of the Remy Brunel trilogy, when I got the chance to read it at the beginning of this year. So naturally, it’s very exciting to have Sharon Gosling, author, on The Bibliomaniac today to discuss the trilogy, its genre, and Sharon’s upcoming projects. Enjoy the Q&A!

GW: Hi, Sharon! Firstly, could you tell us a little about the diamond thief, for anyone who hasn’t read it?
SG: Hi! The Diamond Thief is set in London in the late 1800s. It introduces Rémy Brunel, who is a French circus performer famed for her talent on the trapeze and the high wire. She also happens to be the best jewel thief in kx3J8Y0kEurope. She’s brought to London by her nefarious circus master in order to steal the famous diamond the Darye-ye Noor (the Ocean of Light), the sister-stone to the Koh-i-Noor (the Mountain of Light), which is in the Queen of England’s crown. As she attempts to steal it she comes up against a young detective called Thaddeus Rec, who is determined to stop her. Together they discover that something terrible is happening below the streets of London’s East End, and are forced to work together to stop it. As they do they also discover some disturbing things about Rémy’s past. 

What books inspired you to write, growing up?

As a kid I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on, but with a dad who loved Sherlock Holmes, I developed an early love for detective fiction – and fact, come to think of it. I remember one librarian being a bit concerned about me taking out a lot of adult books about Jack the Ripper when I was probably a bit too young to be reading them. I also read a lot of classic children’s books – I had a lot of Enid Blyton books and Rémy is probably in part inspired by her circus stories. I can remember wishing that our family could pack up and join a circus! Life on the road and the idea of being in a new place every week always sounded so exciting – I loved travel adventures, especially anything that took place in South America, as jungles really appeal to me. So The Hardy Boys were another favourite. I think all of these combined to encourage me to make up my own adventures, which led to writing my own, too. 

You do some really interesting things outside of writing fiction, such as writing about sci fi and The Diamond Thieffantasy in magazines. What’s the most exciting related article or project you’ve worked on?

As a result of writing non-fiction tie-in books for television and film, I’ve spent quite a lot of time on film sets, which I always find really fascinating. Oftentimes watching a TV show being made can actually be quite tedious, as there is a lot of time spent setting up, moving from one set to another, resetting, re-taking the same scene, and so on. But I love it because there’s a very specific energy that occurs on a film or television set, which I think comes from having a large group of very talented people who are all creative in different ways working on one huge project. I always find that very exciting. A year or so ago I wrote the companion book ‘The Art and Making of Penny Dreadful’ – the series is filmed in Ireland, just outside Dublin, and I spent a few days on set at the end of the shooting for the first season. That was a particular thrill for me as I got to meet and interview Timothy Dalton. I know most people would be excited about that for him being a former James Bond, but for me it was because he’ll always be my Mr Rochester! Jane Eyre is my favourite classic novel, and the BBC adaptation that he was in years ago will always be my touchstone for how it should be produced on screen. Of course, Penny Dreadful was created and written by John Logan, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of films such as Skyfall, Gladiator, Rango and Hugo – meeting him was pretty special. He’s a lovely man and an extraordinarily talented writer. 

Is there a reason you are drawn to sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk stories?

I think those three genres capture the idea that there are still things to discover and still reasons to be intrepid, which really appeals for someone who always wanted to be out there exploring inaccessible parts of the globe. Today, the world feels so much smaller. It feels known, as if there’s nothing left to discover, no mysterious corners that haven’t been mapped, photographed and given a Wikipedia entry. Genres such as science fiction, fantasy and steampunk open up new possibilities for exploration and invention. That’s probably why I love them so much.

Do you have any plans for books after the Rémy Brunel trilogy?

Always! I’ve got two that I’m currently re-drafting – one for a slightly younger audience that’s set in modern-day London and another which is a horror for a much older YA audience. So they’re both very different, which is fun. Then later in the year I have two more I want to start work on – one is a children’s adventure set in late Victorian England (I’ve realised it’s a favourite setting of mine!) and the other is the first in an adult detective series set in a village very like the one I live in now. So many stories, so little time…!

I hope you enjoyed the interview! Thank you to Sharon for answering the Q & A questions, and to Georgia at Curious Fox for organising this and introducing me to the trilogy. Interested in checking out the Remy Brunel trilogy? Read my review of The Diamond Thief here!

Book Review

Book Review: The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

This edition published January 2016 by Curious Fox books.

The Diamond ThiefGoodreads Synopsis: No one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Rémy Brunel. But Rémy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

Meanwhile, young detective Thaddeus Rec is determined to find the jewel and clear his name. Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Rémy that he needs to save?

My Review: This book has been on my to-read list for ages, and for some reason, I’ve simply never gotten around to buying a copy. However, when Curious Fox were kind enough to send me some of their titles a while ago, I saw that it had been given a cover makeover – I’m in love with the new look! I thought this was a great opportunity to finally get into the trilogy.

The Diamond Thief pulled me in immediately, with a beautifully written and gripping trapeze scene  – and all the way through, there was never a dull moment. Protagonist Rémy is not your usual travelling trapeze artist – as well as a secret and mysterious past that she doesn’t fully understand herself, she lives a double-life as a jewel thief and is in London to steal a famous gem.

The plot was gripping and entertaining. Not so long ago, I was hugely into steampunk and fantasy stuff – I feel like more recently, I’ve moved into reading more contemporary fiction. The Diamond Thief felt like coming home to an old friend that I haven’t seen in a while. It was 300 pages of pure, riveting escapism – a classic steampunk-inspired story with some beautifully elaborated Victorian elements.

Rémy is an awesome main character – she’s a classically adventurous and courageous heroine. Also, kudos for her to standing up for herself and refusing to be defended. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about her and another character, whose chemistry is hinted at and I’m sure will be evident in the next book! However, I really did enjoy reading about the unlikely gang Rémy finds herself banding together through her journey to get the diamond and uncover the truth.

Overall, I definitely recommend The Diamond Thief to anyone who loves mystery stories, or ones with steampunk elements. It was a really great read – perfect for fans of Pantomime by Laura Lam and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. I can’t wait to read on in the trilogy and see how Rémy’s story develops.

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of The Diamond Thief from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Intrigued by The Diamond Thief, or already a fan? Come back to this blog this time next week, for an interview with the author!

Book Review

Book Review: Image and Imagination by Nick Healy and Kristen McCurry

Published March 2016 by Curious Fox Books.

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I used to write all of the time – I’ve got notebooks and ‘how to write’ books bursting with stories I wrote when I was younger. Since about year eight or nine, I’ve neglected them – focusing more on school and leaving behind that hobby. When I received this book in the post, I was really intrigued by it, as it seems like a fresh, new and inventive way to kick-start writing ideas.

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As soon as I opened this, I fell in love. Image and Imagination is a book solely full of sentence-long prompts and images to accompany them, nothing more, but that’s what makes it stand out among its market. It’s beautifully presented, with some really inspiring ideas and gorgeous, full-colour photos. (And, as a total font nerd, I spent just as much time squealing over the typography as I did imagining what I was going to write!)

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Although marketed for young adults and teen writers, I’d actually really highly recommend this to anyone looking for an exciting new way to find inspiration. Prompts range from half finished sentences, to quotes, to photos of characters to build profiles of, to encouragements to delve into your personal life and draw inspiration from it. With no boundaries or other guidelines, it’s a lovely and free way to start crafting stories. There’s blank spaces to begin your stories on each page, but lined paper at the back of the book to continue them on, too!

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Overall, I really recommend Image and Imagination to teenagers and adults alike. It’s a great book whether you want to start writing, or if you’re just stuck for ideas and need some stimuli. I’m sure this is a book I’ll make a lot more use of in the future, as it’s so beautiful to look at that I can’t help but want to fill it up with words!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of Image and Imagination form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Uncategorized

#WearableBooks: Book-O-Masks by Lemke & Lentz!

Not my usual book review post…

A few weeks ago, I received this book in the post. At first, seeing the edges of a cardboard book, I thought it must be a baby book, sent to me by accident. It wasn’t… but it wasn’t like anything I usually read or review either. As soon as I saw the title I recognised it from Twitter and started laughing. The Book-O-Masks is pure GENIUS.

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This is one of two books in its series being published this month – the other is Book-O-Beards. 

Illustrated by Lentz and with witty captions written by Lemke, this book is weirdly one of the most entertaining books I’ve seen! It’s perfect as a gift or stocking filler especially for kids – even at fifteen I was giggling a lot at it – but from what you can see below, it’s got some appeal for adults!

The ‘wearable books’ idea is brilliant – check below for my mum modelling some of the pages. (She asked to model, btw, very eagerly. She’s excited to make her blogging début.)

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We did take pictures of every page of the short book, but we’ll leave it to you to go find a copy of it and have a go yourself! Curious Fox Books is talking about these books a lot on social media, so check out more funny pictures from readers using the hashtag #WearableBooks on Twitter and Instagram.

I received a copy of Book-O-Masks from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.