For review

I have compiled a list of books that I have received for review over the past few years to keep track of them all. Although I don’t see myself getting through them all any time soon, if ever, it’s nice to have them all recorded in one place; books in bold are of the highest priority. I will remove books as they are read and reviewed, adding to the list as appropriate. Continue reading

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A Winter Dawn

Above the marge of night a star still shines,
And on the frosty hills the sombre pines
Harbor an eerie wind that crooneth low
Over the glimmering wastes of virgin snow.

Through the pale arch of orient the morn
Comes in a milk-white splendor newly-born,
A sword of crimson cuts in twain the gray
Banners of shadow hosts, and lo, the day!

– L.M. Montgomery

Shadow Weaver (Shadow Weaver, #1) by MarcyKate Connolly

Shadow Weaver

Received from NetGalley for review. 

3.5 stars

Shadow Weaver is a dark middle-grade fantasy full of shadows, danger, and magic. It’s full of wonder and suspense, and although I found it to be a little slow in places, I think it is a wonderful addition to the middle-grade fantasy genre.

‘The first time my shadow spoke to me, I was a mere infant in the cradle.’

Shadow Weaver started strongly with a strong nod to fairy tales and an unmistakably strange atmosphere. The protagonist, Emmeline, is a shadow weaver – someone who can control shadows – and her only friends are the shadows that she calls to her, and her own shadow, Dar. I loved the idea of being able to manipulate shadows – Emmeline not only calls them to her, she can mould them into toys to play with, and use them to cloak herself and hide – and I liked how there was immediately a sinister undertone with Dar, who seems to revel in hurting, distressing, and playing tricks on others. The darkness continues when strange men visit Emmeline’s family and claim to be able to ‘cure’ her of her talent, with things escalating to breaking point when one of the men in left in a coma, forcing Emmeline to run.

Although the story is full of magic, darkness, and uncertainty, I found it to be lacking in places. The plot moves quickly at first, but once Emmeline is on the run I found it to be very slow – she gets taken in by a family with a talented son and the tension seems to dissipate, especially in the second half of the story. There are mysteries about Dar’s true nature and how she became a shadow, and Emmeline’s foster family, but I found them a bit predictable and could have guessed the outcome before I was halfway through. I wanted a bit more from this – more danger, more danger, more uncertainty – but even though my interest wavered, I know many readers will love reading Emmeline’s story.

Read: December 3rd-9th 2017

3.5/5 stars

Little Bits

Wicked Like a Wildfire (Hibiscus Daughter, #1) by Lana Popović

This is a slow, sumptuous novel that focuses on ancient magic and overwhelming beauty in all its forms; it was not entirely what I expected, and the language could be somewhat flowery, but I really enjoyed it.

Read: November 19th-22nd 2017

4/5 stars

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne

DNF

I read the beginning and couldn’t get any further. If it gets better I am not willing to stick around and find out; Bree seems like such a deplorable character that I could not stand to read any more of her privileged whining (yes I know suffering and mental illness can affect anyone, but it was shoved down my throat so violently within the first three pages that I could have gagged). Rich, whiny, self-righteous teenagers fucked me off when I was a teenager myself and they still fuck me off now (yes growing up is difficult, no you don’t have to open a novel complaining about all the ways life is oh-so-tragic).

Read: November 22nd 2017

1/5 stars

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I read about half of this last year and it has since disappeared from my memory and become hidden amongst hundreds of other books. From what I can remember it was quite compelling, but obviously not enough to make me want to read it all.

Read: sometime in 2016

Reviewed: November 22nd 2017

2/5 stars

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

Black Bird of the Gallows

Received from NetGalley for review. 

DNF

Young Adult paranormal romances, a summary: the boy is hot, the girl is shy but possesses hidden depths or ‘special’ abilities, they nearly die but love saves the day.

I tried. I really, really tried. But this is just the same monotonous bile that has been spewed into the ‘ya paranormal romance’ genre since Twilight, except, for some reason, none of them ever manage to pull it off in quite the same way. I don’t know why – possibly because I was sixteen when I read Twilight and could overlook the nauseating prose and ill-disguised abuse that was masquerading as love, possibly because it was my first real experience with the genre – but what I do know is this: this genre is mostly dull, mostly repetitive, and rarely original in any way.

Black Bird of the Gallows follows the same formula we know and (love to) hate: attractive but strange person appears, the protagonist falls in love despite there being something strange and secretive about the newcomer, death is narrowly avoided because LOVE. This is certainly the case for Angie, who seems to immediately fall for Reece, and begin obsessing about him, despite knowing nothing about him and experiencing some very odd things around him. Is it a teenage thing I’ve missed to be obsessed with hidden meanings and messages after only knowing someone for a day? I’m not trying to be condescending but how many times do teenage first loves actually turn into anything? From my experience, first loves are not last loves – so much growth and change occurs when growing up that I can’t imagine life unfolding like it does in these novels.

I won’t lie – I found this to be both dull and unbelievable, but I seem to be more in the minority. I think there was definitely potential with the harbinger of death angle, but unfortunately this just reads like every other paranormal romance I’ve encountered. Admittedly I didn’t read the whole thing closely, so for all I know it did get better in places (I’m not convinced of that, though). I will say, however, that it is a very easy and quick read, with a creepy undertone that is perfect for this time of year, and will probably be greatly enjoyed by younger readers who have not yet been overwhelmed by this genre – it wasn’t for me, but I can easily imagine it being devoured by others, even if my review suggests otherwise.

Read: November 13th 2017

2/5 stars

BBoTG-Teaser7

 

To the few

Heads bent solemnly in remembrance
As the prayers of thanks are read
Those here have walked the byways of the dead
And have brought tales for the young
That death may not visit them so easily
Seas of faces that should be so much more
Line the walkway of the monarch
Who has stood with them since youth
And still stands now
As they do
Hymns lace the air
And many fly with the notes
Scenes pass before their eyes for a moment
Then are gone
As they pull themselves forward to the now
As the last post echoes through the hills
Of lands that have been torn, or part of war
And the tears roll out of the buglers mouth
And join the tracks on the faces of the few
And then silence

Silent contemplation

Then reveille
And the remembrance that life follows death
And will for all time

But not all is black this day
For happy times are shared
Of battles fought
And friends met once again
Who many thought had gone long ago

Songs of their time are re-enacted
And Churchill lives again through the actors art
And many return to those speeches
And remember their resolve in those dark days

Fluttering butterfly wings of banners
Carried by those once arthritic
Have made the final push to stand and be counted
Marching to the songs of their lands
Men stand to see them pass
Though regiments that held their names
Have gone into histories archives

Then the march to end all marches
As the warriors of old give it their all
As if their youth had revisited them
And the streets are lined with the grateful
And those who came for their own reasons
And the waves follow them
Lapping gently at their heels
Until every space is filled outside the place of Royalty
And then the beast of war awakens
And flies over as it did in the days of need
Red petals cascade upon the watchers
And a nations heart opens
Filling the air
And says thank you

– Ann-Marie Spittle

The Snow Angel by Lauren St. John

The Snow Angel

Received from NetGalley for review. 

The mountains were her friends.

The Snow Angel is the perfect story for a cold, rainy day, where you can hide yourself away with a hot chocolate and a fluffy blanket, and delve into Makena’s world as she experiences heartbreak, magic, and miracles. Venture from Nigeria, with its chaotic streets, vibrant colours, and crime ridden slums, to the frigid Scottish Highlands. The messages of grief, hope, love, and family come through strongly in the story, and although Makena’s life takes a difficult turn, hope and love ultimately win out.

‘Then you have to make it your mission to get another. Everyone has to have a mission. Without that, why would they get up in the morning – except to see the sunrise? That can be yours. One day you’ll fill a new jar with snow.’

Makena, a young Nigerian girl, is obsessed with mountains and mountaineering – her father’s job as a mountain guide has always fascinated her and she dreams of climbing mountains with him. Her happy life is shattered, however, when her parents die and she finds herself abused, scared, and alone. Taking refuge into Mathare Slums become her only option, and we are given an insight into the very real problem of life is slums that many people around the world face. She finds herself in a dark place, wondering if she can trust Snow, the albino girl who befriends her, or the sparkling fox who seems to show up just in time. A series of events leads to her arrival in Scotland, another thing that just doesn’t seem to go right – except for the wild beauty of the mountains.

But what the mountains of Scotland lacked in height, they made up for in windblasted ruggedness. The wildness of the crags and clouds that sent dragon-shadows swooping across the village set Makena’s skin tingling.

Although The Snow Angel deals with a lot of serious themes – forgotten children, poverty, death – it also showcases how magic can exist in the most unlikely places, and how nature can heal us when we are at our most broken. Despite her struggles, Makena always finds some inner strength and, helped along the way by a little bit of magic and some incredible people, she never gives up. That prevalent feeling of hope never disappears – your heart will break for Makena, but you’ll never stop rooting for her and hoping that things work out in the end. Could there be a better story to enjoy on a crisp, winter day in front of the fire?

Read: November 5th-8th 2017

4/5 stars

Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

Things a Bright Girl Can Do

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘Rise up, women, for the fight is long and hard…’

Things a Bright Girl Can Do is an excellent historical romp through the Suffragette movement in England. It follows three girls with vastly different backgrounds – Evelyn, May, and Nell – between 1914 and 1918, as they navigate suffrage, love, and war. Much of the story can be found within history – most of us have at least a basic idea of the Suffragette movement and WWI, but I loved the way that Nicholls combined the two without causing one to overshadow the other. Although the novel is rooted more in the experiences of girls and women during the time, and the struggle for the vote, the impact of the war is also shown, with the devastation it caused to all.

The narrative is split between the three main characters – Evelyn, May, and Nell, three young women who all find themselves within the world of suffrage. Evelyn is rich and bright, and is expected to marry, have children, and keep house like her mother, but she wants more – she wants to be able to go to university like her brother, and finds herself drawn into the world of the Suffragettes by her longing for equal opportunities. I loved that even though Evelyn initially became more involved with the movement to rebel against her parents, she soon realises that the right to vote, to go to university, to be seen as an equal, is important for all and can be worth dying for.

Evelyn was aware of the two ideologies sitting alongside each other in her head; the nice young girl from Hampstead who wanted to be respected, and the rebel woman who wanted to bring down the pillars of the world.

May has grown up within the movement, her mother is a Quaker as well as a feminist, and has long campaigned for equality and peace. Although she is not as wealthy as Evelyn, May and her mother have never really struggled for money. May’s views are very black and white, and I enjoyed how she grew up within the novel, especially after she meets and falls for Nell; she begins to realise that things are not as simple as women being automatically treated the same as men, and conflict being resolved before a war happens, that there are many grey areas within the world that will take many years to change.

Nell, in complete contrast, has grown up in poverty and hardship. She has a loving family, but there are many mouths to feed and not always the resources to do so. She has grown up hard and strong in a world that tells women to be soft and gentle, to mind the children, to let others curse and fight. The relationship that develops between May and Nell was incredibly interesting as they have such different life experiences and viewpoints; they are very much a ‘chalk and cheese’ pairing, and I think Nicholls has done an incredible job of showing the impact of upbringing and how it can shape our world view.

The war had taken even that away, Nell’s glorious battle for freedom. What did women’s freedom matter now? What did anything matter?

As well as exploring the Suffrage movement, Nicholls shows the impact that WWI had – on women, men, children, the wealthy, the poor – on everyone, alongside the impact it had on suffragettes campaigning for the vote. So many different viewpoints are explored – pacifism, patriotism, racism, sexism, and how it all effected people for a vast array of different reasons, and they have all been explored with fairness and sensitivity. I don’t think I can really find fault with this book – highly recommended for anyone who wants a slightly fictional take on two very important moments in history, or who wants to read about a plethora of amazing feminist figures from the past.

I am a Suffragette because for the first time in my life, I feel as though I have a purpose, a goal. I feel as though I am useful. I am powerful. I am doing the job I was put on this earth to do.

Read: September 29th-October 15th 2017

4/5 stars

Little Bits

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

4.5 stars

Heartbreaking and hopeful, the best kind of book.

Read: August 1st 2017

4.5/5 stars

The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson

Two lovely stories showcasing themes of tolerance, respect, and kindness, with an extra bit of special added to them – at least £4 of every £4.99 sale goes to Oxfam projects that empower women and girls all over the world.

Read: October 2nd 2017

5/5 stars

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Once again John Green puts thoughts and feelings into words in a way that I could never manage. If nothing else this book is an outstanding take on mental health, life and death, and love (I personally think it was so much more than just that, though). Superb.

Read: October 11th-15th 2016

5/5 stars