Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: BOO by Neil Smith

Published 21st May 2015 by Windmill Books.

24702495Goodreads Synopsis: When Oliver ‘Boo’ Dalrymple wakes up in heaven, the eighth-grade science geek thinks he died of a heart defect at his school. But soon after arriving in this hereafter reserved for dead thirteen-year-olds, Boo discovers he’s a ‘gommer’, a kid who was murdered. What’s more, his killer may also be in heaven. With help from the volatile Johnny, a classmate killed at the same school, Boo sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy who cut short both their lives.
In a heartrending story written to his beloved parents, the odd but endearing Boo relates his astonishing heavenly adventures as he tests the limits of friendship, learns about forgiveness and, finally, makes peace with the boy he once was and the boy he can now be.

My Review: As soon as I’d read the synopsis for Boo I knew it would be my kind of book – it reminded me of an old favourite anime series, Angel Beatswhich is about a high school that deceased teenagers find themselves at. The ‘heaven’ in this book is quite different, though shares similar themes, so I was really interested in reading Boo.

Boo is the nickname of the protagonist, Oliver – who wakes up in an afterlife consisting only of American 13 year-olds like himself. He thinks he’s died of a heart problem in school – but when he finds his sort-of friend there with him, Boo has to track down who killed them.

The story is very dark and unnerving at points – but is also unexpectedly a heart-warming story about the bonds people make. I couldn’t predict a single thing about the plot – it turns in ways impossible to imagine. The ‘reveal’ was abrupt and shocking. There’s no way I could’ve guessed it, but as soon as I finished the book I was wondering how I’d missed it! It definitely sent a chills through me, though.

Neil Smith’s imaginative ability is admirable. His version of heaven in Boo felt completely individual and was the perfect backdrop for the mystery plot. As fantastical as it was, it seemed so real: Each uniquely crafted character of the strangely bound community seemed to jump from the page, brimming with personality.

The main protagonists were incredibly memorable. Oliver is a slightly awkward thirteen year-old, who is more engrossed in his science fascination than anything else. I saw a little of my thirteen year-old (and current…) self in him and his voice grabbed me from page one. I’m sure I say that the voice stood out about a lot of books I read, but Boo was just different. The narrative was flawless to me and I felt Boo’s vulnerability and curiosity shine through.

Overall, I’d without a doubt recommend Boo. It’s certainly not for everyone, given its disturbing subject – but it’s hard to fault Neil Smith’s writing. His characterisation and narrative were brilliant – as was the plot, which unravelled cleverly. Boo didn’t turn out the simple ghost murder mystery I thought it would be: It was addictive, ingenious and the kind of book that breaks your heart then sticks it back together again. Multiple times. I can see Boo getting a lot of attention!

My Rating:

four and a half

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

Review-Graphic: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

I borrowed Belzhar based on Lucy @ Queen of Contemporary‘s review from a little while ago. I devoured the book in one evening and was blown away. It was just stunning! Revision has been a little time consuming lately so I’ve done a little graphic instead of a full review…

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I borrowed a copy of Belzhar from my local library.

Book Review: The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone

Published (in paperback) 1st January 2015 by Harper Collins.

21096480Goodreads Synopsis: Half of your soul is missing.
The lost part is in the mirror.
And unless Sylas Tate can save you, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for the nature-influenced magic of the Fourth Way, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place.

Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas as to the true nature of the Other. As violence looms and the stakes get ever higher, Sylas must seek out a girl called Naeo who might just be the other half of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…

My Review: I had seen copies of The Bell Between Worlds everywhere last year, when it was first released in hardback, though didn’t get around to reading it – so I was really pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of the paperback edition, which had just been released. I hadn’t read a huge amount of fantasy so far this year and I dived straight into this not knowing too much about the story, apart from what the synopsis said!

I was really taken by Johnstone’s writing style. In a lot of places, it was very lengthily descriptive. I really loved that; visualising this fantastical world so clearly was as much fun as reading about the events within it unfolding! Though, in some places, it did mean the story dragged a little, especially in the more action-packed parts, or that it took a while to get to the action.

The world building is stunning and unforgettable. I am in love with the concept of the mirrored worlds – our world of science, and the Other; a world of magic – as well as all of the fantastical elements such as the Passing Bell. The world of The Mirror Chronicles quickly became one of my favourite fantasy settings – and considering I decided this halfway in, and this is only book one, I guess that shows how much I loved it.

Overall, The Bell Between Worlds was a much more enjoyable read than I’d actually anticipated! I haven’t been reading much fantasy lately but this has definitely rekindled my love for the genre and I’m looking forward to reading many more similar books, as well as the next Mirror Chronicles book, Circles of Stones. Johnstone’s fantastical world has a very unique feeling to it, and the characters are fantastic. I can’t wait to read more about Sylas, Simia and Naeo!

My Rating:

fourI received a copy of The Bell Between Worlds from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Blog Tour: The Darkest Part of the Forest #BookishWishes

I’m a really big fan of Holly Black, and have been ever since I read the Spiderwick Chronicles when I was younger – so I’m really excited for the release of The Darkest Part of the Forest this month!

This post is part of the #BookishWishes blog tour, where lots of bloggers are sharing their book-related dreams. You can find lots more blog posts from great bloggers by stalking the hashtag on Twitter! 🙂

My Bookish Wishes:

I wish two of my favourite fantasy authors would team up for an ultimate fairy tale retelling – Holly Black and Neil Gaiman. Because how cool would that be?! I’ve recently really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s retellings of The Sleeper and the Spindle and Hansel & Gretel – I would love to see him collaborate with Holly. Preferably about fairies. Because faaaaaaairies.

And, as fairy godmother (and thanks to Indigo/Orion for being so awesome), I wish to bestow a copy of The Darkest Part of the Forest upon my school’s library – I’m sure our lovely librarian and all of the kids who use the library would love to read the new Holly Black book.

About The Darkest Part of the Forest:

IMG_3262Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the centre of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does… As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

About Holly Black:

Holly Black is the bestselling author of YA and children’s books including being co-creator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, a NEW YORK TIMES No.1 bestselling phenomenon and hugely successful film. She has been a finalist for the MYTHOPOEIC AWARD, the EISNER AWARD and a recipient of the ANDRE NORTON AWARD and a NEWBERY HONOR. She currently lives in New England in a house with a secret door.

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Published 23rd February 2015 by Harper Voyager.

23849652Goodreads Synopsis: When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.
Nobody.
They were born together and they will die together.
One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.
The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.
The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.
Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.
The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

My Review: From her début novel, I can already tell that Francesca Haig is already a rising star of fantasy: I’m sure I’ll be reading a great many more books from her. The Fire Sermon was an incredibly inventive and original work: I’ve never read anything quite like it.

The world-building was stunning. I found the idea behind the novel actually plausible – after a nuclear war, dubbed ‘the Before,’ the leftover radiation has tampered with the evolution of the human race, and now newborns always come as twins – one stronger Alpha and one weaker Omega. It was such a great premise.

I’ve been really interested in reading about dystopian societies recently, and The Fire Sermon has such interesting politics on the Mainland, where the book is set. I found the way the Alphas and Omegas interacted very thought provoking; as not only is the segregative behaviour very shocking, but it can be compared and related to real life past – and current – situations, and I think that brings a further sense of realism to the novel.

I really enjoyed the plot of the novel, for the most part, as Francesca Haig wrote some awesome plot twists. I can’t wait to see how the situation develops further in the next book. The beginning and the ending were enthralling, but I did feel like parts, especially towards the middle of the story, got a little dragged out – much of the book was the protagonists just running!

The main protagonist, Cass, was really likeable and I did enjoy her story but I don’t think I warmed to her as much as I thought I would. Her background was so interesting; Cass was born the Omega, but she suffered no visible affect. Instead, she has a different kind of mutation… and it made the story so so tense and gripping! The other main character of the story is Kip: and though the reveal of his past was really great I got so tired of his dialogue. I’m not sure if this was just me but he seemed to almost always talk in a really sardonic way. His frequent sarcastic remarks towards everything did irk me a little.

Overall, I think The Fire Sermon was a very stunning début novel. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of fantasy – or if you’re like me and love a book with an inventive world and a societal focus. Admittedly I did find some parts a little repetitive where it was just walking/running away/etc etc… But The Fire Sermon was most definitely an incredible and thought provoking debut.

My Rating:

four

 

Also: In this post I wanted to take a moment to highlight the amazing Advanced Reading Copies / publicity campaign for The Fire Sermon! It was so cool. The premise of the book is that people are born as twins, either Alpha or Omega – so proof copies were labelled as one of the two, and numbered. It was really fun finding my twin Shannon!

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

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Review-Graphic: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A little while ago, I was sent A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU for review from Harper360. I was really excited about reading it, after hearing lots about it on American book blogs! I have to admit, I did pick up the book largely because of the very beautiful cover (don’t judge a book by its cover, ehh, I know…) But luckily, I was not disappointed. Claudia Gray’s new title is absolutely stunning and captivating – with a truly brilliant and misleading plot that I can’t wait to see continued.

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

Book Review: The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan

Published September 2014 by Hot Key Books.

18196516Goodreads Synopsis: “No one can take your memories from you… can they?”

Seven is a thief with a difference – he steals downloadable memories from banks and memoriums to sell onto London’s black market, trading secrets and hidden pasts for a chance at a future of his own. He makes sure he keeps some special stuff back to ‘surf’ himself though – it’s the only real form of entertainment he can afford. But one night, as Seven is breaking into a private memorium in a wealthy part of London, he is caught in the act by one of its residents; Alba, the teenage daughter of London’s most famous criminal prosecutor. Instead of giving him away, Alba promises to keep Seven’s secret – as long as he allows her to go memory-surfing herself. In doing so, they discover a hidden memory about Seven’s past, revealing a shocking secret about Seven’s childhood, the government and a mysterious experiment known as The Memory Keepers…

Now Seven and Alba will have to race against time to unlock the maze of The Memory Keepers – but can they keep themselves out of harm’s way before the London Guard – and Alba’s father – catches up with them?

My Review: I read and loved Natasha Ngan’s striking fantasy début, The Elites, when it was released last year. Ever since I finished the last page of it I was eager to read more from Natasha! I was so glad when this arrived in the post, I delved straight into it and devoured the story in a day. It’s richly fantastical, but scarily real and possible at the same time. I’m so glad I enjoyed it as much as The Elites!

I adored Natasha Ngan’s world-building in her début novel, and was eager, but nervous, to see what her new dystopian world would be like. Ngan is so inventive and creative: Long after I put the book down, I was wondering about the futuristic imagining of London. It’s divided completely between a rich north and a poor south, with technological advances like memory recording. The book explores so much of the city and there were a lot of well developed parts, like the Underground communities… I’d really love another book set in the world of The Memory Keepers, as I was fascinated by the world-building.

The plot was really awesome. It was actually much darker and much more action-packed than I’d initially anticipated, though that’s not to say I didn’t love it! I was hooked from start to finish. I thought I’d guessed the ending, but it turned out to go in a completely different direction! I think the only thing that I would’ve liked in the book was to see more about the whole “memory” viewing technology. Of course, it’s a hugely central part of the book – but being really nerdy, I wanted to know a bit more about the history of it and how it came to be. That sci-fi element really interested me 😀

The book is written in switching narratives between Alba and Seven, who both lead completely different lives but are brought together when Seven breaks into Alba’s house to steal one of her family’s memories. I loved the narration immensely. The switching narrative was perfect for the story and Natasha Ngan has crafted two great, individual voices. I love Alba and Seven, the protagonists, too! I connected with them a lot and really didn’t want to put the book down while reading, eager to know what happened next to them.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Memory Keepers – there was a part of me a little nervous I wouldn’t love it like I did Natasha Ngan’s first novel… but it exceeded me expectations and was a total thrill ride of a book. The sci-fi elements of the story are imaginative, inventive and really clever. I loved Ngan’s writing even more with her second book. I think the narration was brilliant. Highly recommended, whatever your genre preference:)

My Rating:

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

Graphic Novel Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

[Original story by Neil Gaiman, adaptation by P Craig Russell & chapters illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott]

Published 29th July 2014 by Bloomsbury.

18738869Goodreads Synopsis: The first volume of a glorious two-volume, four-color graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by an extraordinary team of renowned artists.

Inventive, chilling, and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s luminous novel.

Volume One contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while Volume Two will include Chapter Six to the end.

[View synopsis for The Graveyard Book here!]

My Review: I’m a really big fan of Neil Gaiman, and especially of his children’s novel, The Graveyard Book – so predictably, I was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous when I was offered the chance to review the graphic novel! Excited, because I was intrigued to see the story told in a different, more visual formant… But nervous, because I read P.Craig Russell’s comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline earlier in the year, and while it was okay, it didn’t seem to reflect the magic and horror of Gaiman’s story.

However, this adaptation of The Graveyard book was so different to the Coraline graphic novel; so original and magical and sinister at the same time. It’s really captured the essence of the original story, and is just as engaging as the book was. Though it’s been a while since I read The Graveyard Book, I could tell this was a very faithful adaptation of the story – and the images are exactly how I imagined they would be when reading the original book. I was completely captivated especially by one chapter about the Macabray dance, which was my favourite scene from the novel. It was so beautifully and flawlessy depicted.

The art in this graphic novel is stunning. Each of the chapters is illustrated by a different artist (and one chapter is a clever collaboration). I loved the diversity of the artwork – each was individual, striking, and perfect for each chapter. However, (and I get this with pretty much every graphic novel that does it), the frequent changes did annoy me a tiny bit, because I’d get used to one artist’s style then suddenly be introduced to another!

Overall, the graphic novel of The Graveyard Book was incredibly beautiful, and definitely exceeded my expectations. The adaptation was very faithful to Neil Gaiman’s book and the story was just as magical (and maybe even more so, in ways) in graphic novel form! Highly recommended to anyone. I can’t wait for the conclusion in volume two.

My Rating: 

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

Book Review: City of Halves by Lucy Inglis

Published 7th August 2014 by Chicken House.

18523130Goodreads Synopsis: London. Girls are disappearing. They’ve all got one thing in common; they just don’t know it yet…

Sixteen-year-old Lily was meant to be next, but she’s saved by a stranger: a half-human boy with gold-flecked eyes. Regan is from an unseen world hidden within our own, where legendary creatures hide in plain sight. But now both worlds are under threat, and Lily and Regan must race to find the girls, and save their divided city.

My Review: Upon hearing about City of Halves, I was sure it was just my kind of book, and that I’d really enjoy it. Then, after receiving a copy, I was a little apprehensive: I re-read the blurb, and then double checked the cover, and thought to myself, “This sounds familiar.” Bits on the cover and synopsis like ‘hot tattooed boy;’ ‘Unseen world hidden within our own;’ and even the title, beginning with ‘City of…’ Despite those elements being frequent in YA, it all sounded a bit too The Mortal Instruments for me!

I was scared the content would be all too similar to Cassandra Clare’s series – so I started it pretty nervously… However, after a while, I found myself really enjoying it – It was a great urban fantasy YA début.

The story focuses a lot more on its fantasy elements and setting more than its characters and their relationships, I felt. That did bother me a little bit, but I quickly grew to like that – I loved Lucy Inglis’s descriptions of London, where the book is set. It’s easy to tell this book was largely written fuelled by the author’s feelings for London. Inglis has set major events in the best, magical feeling locations, like St Paul’s Cathedral, and I think the fact that I was very familiar with areas made it all seem really real.

The fantastical elements in the story were all really imaginative. The book read like a standalone novel, but I really hope that there will be a sequel or follow-up story of some description; I’d love for the author to elaborate a little more, as I was really interested in this urban fantasy world and its inhabitants.

I’m always looking for unique protagonists who stand out, but whilst Lily was likeable, I don’t feel like I ever really engaged with her as much as I’d thought I might. She’s a little strange at points, especially at the beginning of the book, when she discovers this whole new side to her city, and seemingly isn’t very shocked or fascinated at all. However, while she lacked in some areas, she did have an interesting back-story, which made up for it! I wasn’t sure about Regan, aka the ‘hot tattooed boy’ who saves her life. I feel like I was meant to really love him but I just couldn’t, for some reason. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure other readers will.

Overall, City of Halves was not what I expected it to be. I was really unsure as to how I would find it, as the book’s blurb was too similar to City of Bones… But it did become a very different, individual fantasy book. Though I struggled to like the protagonists a little, I adored Lucy Inglis’s talent in weaving fantastical elements around a well-loved city, and I’d love to read more YA from her. Recommended if you’re a fan of the genre, or if you’re looking for a read with a really clever ending!

My Rating:

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