book reviews

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book Review
43453718._SY475_The Deathless Girls 
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Rating: XXX

Published September 19th 2019 by Orion Children’s Books

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

A few months ago now I heard about a new feminist teen YA series from Hachette Children’s Group, called Bellatrix with an aim to “engage readers with stories, voices and characters that demand to be heard in the modern world”, said the publisher. Then at YALC I saw that one of the first titles would be The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, the gorgeous cover pulled me in and when I read it was a feminist retelling of the brides of Dracula I was giddy with excitement! As such, I requested it on Netgalley as soon as I was able and I finally read it this week (my backlog is immense people).

First off, I would like to say that The Deathless Girls is well written. I enjoyed the narrative style, the world was, although hugely similar to a lot of fantasy YA books has great potential as did the characters who I think I could have grown to become attached to but it was just..missing something? (slight spoiler incoming) If you had asked me what that was at around 60% I would have said, Vampires. It was missing vampires. “But”…I would have said, “don’t worry they’re coming soon, I know it!”

There are mentions and tidbits spread throughout a lot of the book that kept edging me on and thinking “the vampire stuff can’t be far off now, stuff is gonna go dooown.” As a result, I read this fairly quickly but in reflection, it feels like this was because the plot was effectively a carrot on a stick, teasing something that, in my mind at least, it just failed to deliver.

The Deathless Girls is not inherently a bad book and I’m not sure if it is purely my own expectation that ruined it for me because it sounded amazing and I did enjoy it as I read it, I almost felt invested and but it just ended up falling short. I feel it really needed to elaborate on that ending.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is out now and although I didn’t enjoy quite like I thought I would plenty of other people have and maybe it will be your thing too? If you enjoyed The Deathless Girls, sound off in the comments and tell me what you loved about it!

 

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free, Uncategorized

Christmas at the Beach Hut – Blog Tour Spoiler Free Review

Christmas at the Beach Hut (002)Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 15th by Orion
(I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and underappreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Just like Lizzy, I love Christmas. Everyone has been excited about Halloween recently and I do love Autumn but I’ve been wishing the holiday away to bring us closer to Christmas sooner. I may be a little bias because my birthday is also December 25th but I just love the time spent with loved ones, exchanging gifts, endless Christmas buffets, the decorations, the music and even the chillier weather. I also enjoy going to the beach with my family so when I saw this book I knew it was bound to be something a book I would like, even still I hadn’t expected to end up loving it as much as I did.

I don’t really read any general fiction, usually going for sci-fi, fantasy or most things YA so this was a different read for me and most certainly a welcome one and an author I will be reading again (I found out afterwards that I actually already owned “How to Fall in Love in a Bookshop” by the same author but hadn’t got around to reading it – I’ll be rectifying that mistake for sure). Although I would say the main character is definitely Lizzy there different points of view from other characters and I especially liked that each one felt organic and relevant as they appeared, it all just fit together so well. The characters themselves were all a joy to read as well, they all had memorable but not necessarily stereotypical characteristics and they all had real human flaws which just helped to give them a real depth and made them easy to connect with, get attached to and become invested in. The range of ages of the characters themselves also means that I think this book would be a good read for teenagers and up as there is a bit of something for everyone here.

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The plot unfolds itself so beautifully it’s hard to describe, everything just flows together so smoothly and at a great pace, there’s never too much going on to keep track of but also never so little that it becomes boring, there is a perfect balance that had me turning pages and unable to stop. Despite sounding like a comfortably tame book there is still conflict and intrigue throughout and although not in the same way as a lot of the other genres I read it felt no less important through the eyes of these characters and especially relevant for myself as both a mother, a big fan of family tradition at Christmas and a daughter and it touched on a lot of subjects I understood which really helped to keep me even more invested.

Christmas at the Beach Hut perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Christmas and family, it’s a lovely read that I highly recommend cuddling up with under a nice blanket while enjoying a good hot chocolate or some mulled wine to get you in the festive spirit. This book is heartwarming and sad but beautiful and cosy too, a great book for the cold winter months.

As part of the blog tour we have also been asked to share our stories of Christmas disasters but I’ve always been pretty lucky when it comes to Christmas and to my own memory at least the extent of my misfortune had only really gone as far as drinking too much in the morning that I was a bit too tipsy to open my birthday presents in the evening. My mum though always loves to tell the story of the when me and my brother were little and tried to wake her and my dad up at two thirty in the morning as our stockings were full and “Santa’s been!” Obviously we were told to go back to bed so we did, I then managed to crawl back into my parents room on my hands and knees and snuck over to their alarm clock at the side of their bed and proceeded to try to change the time to a more reasonable hour so we could get up and open our presents. Sadly I was caught.

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Me and my brother decided if we couldn’t open our stockings then we could go peek at the presents under the tree instead. We tried to sneak downstairs and look at the presents under the tree. We snuck downstairs and the front room where the tree was at the time had no real door, there was some fancy brick archway instead. Now our parents had told us we were not to go into the front room without them and that they would know if we did. naturally me and my brother assumed this meant they had a laser security system across the archway and because we were four and six years old respectively we decided the best thing to do was to use deodorant and flour to try to expose the laser beams so we could climb over or through them and make it to the front room. I think it’s safe to say this didn’t work and we just made a lot of mess so maybe a mini-disaster for my mum?

Don’t forget Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry is out on November 15th and available to pre-order now in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

 

 

Events, Uncategorized

Orion Blogger Brunch

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On Saturday 7th July I attended my very first blogger invitational event! I was excited, terrified and nervous. I got a later bus than I’d planned, left my bank card at home meaning I couldn’t collect my ticket then realised I didn’t get the ticket I thought I had etc etc. I may have been a little sweaty and a little sore BUT I got there and it was fantastic!

There were books upon books, upon books, air con, chilled orange juice, bloggers, cupcakes, booksellers, pin badges, authors, strawberries, tote bags and an entire break slot dedicated to pizza! The lovely people at Orion know the way to this bloggers heart that’s for sure!

Genn and Stevie from the Gollancz/Orion team went through some of the latest books to come out and some that were still yet to come in one minute bursts and there are quite a few I’m definitely looking forward to!

An absolutely remarkable thing – September 25th 2018
Little Eve – July 26th 2018
The Caged Queen – October 18th 2018
The books of Earthsea – October 25th 2018
Fierce Fairytales – September 6th
The Belles – Out now
The Blue salt road – November 15th 2018
Empire of Silence – Out now
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – January 2019
The Girl King – January 10th 2019
Ravencry – Out now
Skyward – November 6th 20118
Swordspoint – August 11th 2018
Overshare – October 4th 2018

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We got some special video messages from Hank Green and Mimi Yu about their upcoming books, a fun little personality test from Rebecca at Orion to find out if we were curious or cautious, I turned out to be curious although I was a bit of a mixed bag. (Also personality tests in my opinion should always involve jelly beans.)

There was a brilliant talk/discussion with Ed Mcdonald (Blackwing, Ravencry etc) and Catriona Ward (Raw Blood, Little Eve) as well as Candice Carty-Williams talking about her debut book Queenie which is out next year.

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We got a chance to get our hands on some lovely books, talk to the authors and get our books sign which was lovely and has totally got me excited for YALC at the end of the month. Also did I mention pizza? There was an entire break dedicated to pizza. I’m so thankful to the team at Orion and Gollancz for inviting me, I had a fantastic time and can’t wait to attend another event.

Another bonus was that I managed to snag the last very special signed and doodled  in copy of The BookShop girl by Chloe Coles from Foyles today as well and made some new friends as well as meeting people I’d only spoken to online. A great finish to a great day.

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book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Adrift – Spoiler Free Review

35959734Adrift by Rob Boffard

Published: June 5th 2018 by Orbit

Rating: XXXXX

“Sorry.” Stop saying sorry. She tries again, still failing to bring up the main menu. “It’s my first day.”

In the far reaches of space, a group of tourists board a small vessel for what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one…
They are embarking on a tour around Sigma Station – a remote mining facility and luxury hotel with stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula.


During the course of the trip, a mysterious ship with devastating advanced technology attacks the Station. Their pilot’s quick evasive action means that the tour group escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realize they may be the only survivors . . .

Adrift in outer space, out of contact with civilization, and on a vastly under-equipped ship, these passengers are out of their depth. Their chances of getting home are close to none, and with the threat of another attack looming they must act soon – or risk perishing in the endless void of space.

So I have a really bad habbit of spending a lot of time browsing Net Galley when I have other books to read and then something catches my eye and I need to have it, Adrift was one such book. I had just finished The Illuminae files and I was hungry for more SF, this was a little different to the hordes of YA I’ve been reading lately as it’s an adult book (with a lot of varried aged characters) but it peaked my interest and I requested it. A little while later my request was accepted and I dove right in and I’m so glad this book caught my eye.

This is such a well balanced book, the writing was interesting and engaging, chapters were perfect snappy beats with a few longer ones slotted in when neccesary and the language not only helped move events along, create tension and evoke emotion when needed but also helped world building elements to feel natural and organic.

The story itself is mysterious and is covered pretty well in the blurb above, I love a book where you don’t really know who you can trust and at some point you end up suspecting pretty much everyone and this is no exception. I like to learn things piece by piece and enjoy stepping back and looking back at the big picture at the end and thinking “oh yeah!”

There are multiple narrative points of view which I found really interesting as they were all very different from each other. We had Corey a ten year old boy, Hannah a teenager on her first day working as a tour guide, Jack, a hotel reviewer with some baggage, Lorinda an eldery widowed ex miner and the mysterious Roman. Each character has a distinctive voice and style to them making the POV swaps very easy and not jarring at all. In addtion to the events they witness on board we also get insightful glimpses into each ones backstory and things that have helped shaped who they are now and how they react and deal with situations. In some circumstances the past events would probbaly feel like filler but they helped to develop a bond and understaning with each character and I found them to be a great addtion.

Overall although the story is great I think its the characters that really made this for me. It was nice to see (as we seem to more often in SF – possibly why I love it so much) a couple of same sex relationships featured in a normal off hand way as well! Without going into spoiler territory I would like to say also that I was fairly happy with the ending, especially for a stand alone which I’m begining to love more and more. We do have a a small part that is missing however and although I assume this was done for effect I was a little confused and dissapointed at first and wrote it off as lazy writing, it doens’t detract from the over all enjoyment of the book and is something I’ve seen happen in films and the occasional book before, I just hadn’t anticpated it at the time.

Adrift by Rob Boffard is available today and well worth checking out if you love SF and like a little mystery/thriller. Thank you to Orion books and Net Galley for my digital advance copy.