Friday, 7 October 2016

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4)
Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills.

But now Lockwood needs her help.

Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal.

It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover!

What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick.

But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core . . .

Returning to the team, Lucy understandably feels torn; it feels like home but she is worried about Lockwood. Not to mention George feels hurt and abandoned, and Holly thought it was because of her. Actually everyone thought it was because of Holly! But before long, Lucy is back at it again, running off with Lockwood into thrilling danger and defeating ghosts and bad guys alike. We started with the notorious Ealing Cannibal (really shouldn’t have read that bit before bed!). This case was incredibly scary, just a dark atmosphere and super creepy feeling, plus, you know, bones in the basement and stories of bits of flesh in the fruit bowl… urgh.

Lockwood then pulls the team to a tiny village that appears to be the epicentre for a hell of a lot of ghost activity – it also happens to be right next to a Rotwell research institute so while they are there… might as well investigate! Between the multitude of hauntings in this village and the secrets behind what the institute are actually researching, we suddenly had a conspiracy feel to the storyline. Which was fantastic, as we sacrificed individuals cases like previous books for threading details together
and adding into the story behind the Shadow.

What I adore about Stroud's books are the hugly character driven plots; a lot of this story was the tension between Lucy and the rest of the team and that all melting away as they work together again. Plus I am a huge Lockwood and Lucy shipper and the few moments they get in this installment just makes me heart melt, as well as feel like my stomach has dropped out because it was utterly terrifying! Finally, I can't not mention the Skull. As witty and hurtful as ever, the Skull actually becomes a major character as he is stolen and part of the conspiracy plot to learn more about ghosts.

A brilliant story and amazing developments both to the characters and the overall plot, Stroud always leaves me a little breathless from the thrills and secrets (sometimes literally) exploding within the pages. There are few secrets left, but after the massive cliff hanger right at the end, all I can say is: bring on the finale!

Published 15th September 2016 by Corgi.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Haunt Me by Liz Kessler

Haunt Me

Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they've gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn't the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide - life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe's brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school - but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are - including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin's decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

You know when you are really excited for a book but honestly so scared you won't like it? Yeah, I had that reading this. I saved it for autumn even though I got a copy in July because ghosts are perfect for Halloween reading. And I might have read it at the wrong time, right after the latest Lockwood and Co which has very different kind of ghosts! But I still really liked it; the writing was quite soft and flowy, built up this traditional romantic atmosphere but had this undercurrent of issues.

It was a slow start, not a lot happens but get a very good sense of the characters, especially Erin. And yet, the love story felt rushed. Time lapsed a little to skip ahead to the good parts which means we didn't really feel Erin and Joe fall in love, it just... was. 

Joe’s monologue as he struggles to come to terms with what he is now, not being able to touch or feel anything, not remembering how he died, was pretty amazing. How one of the first things he remembered was his relationship with his brother, and then the therapeutic way he wrote poems but kept them hidden, 
revealed a lot about his character and what sort of person he was before he died. I didn't always like the way he was with Erin but I really appreciated the difficulties he had with his identity without his memories; very interesting.

Like I said, the insta-love almost ruined things for me but I really liked the different style love triangle, as Erin is drawn to Joe's brother Olly. Now their love story I really supported; it was adorable and tender and tentative. They really got to know each other without previous baggage and I think did them both good.

Alongside the super-cute romance, Kessler dealt with quite heavy issues – bullying, self-harm, drugs among others – accumulating into that finale where Erin feels so hopeless that she doesn’t see any other way out. All the drama was in the second half and it was a really unique coming of age story with first loves, death and grief, and true friendship. Definitely one to remember and my new favourite of Kessler's. 

Published 6th October 2016 by Orion. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Weekly Highlights: the 'October TBR' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

Ah, October - orange leaves, a nip in the air and most importantly: my birthday! September has been pretty full on, as I expected. Work has been manic with new students and the sudden increase in hours has nearly killed me. Never mind, it's nearly my birthday and then it's half term!

On The Blog
Some of my favourite posts from the last month:
Review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (4 stars)
Review of Double Down by Gwenda Bond (4 stars)
Review of And I Darken by Kiersten White (5 stars)
Review of I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (4 stars)

Currently Reading
As mentioned in my Friday Reads, I'm reading The Last Beginning and Empire of Storms.

On My Bookshelf
Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

All I can say is: ahhhhh!

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4)Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills.
But now Lockwood needs her help.

Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal.

It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover!

What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick.

But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core . . .

I have been looking forward to this all year. I read it almost immediately and finished it in 3 days - it was so damn good!
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act
The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen
Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

I picked this up as a non-Marvel or DC graphic novel and I've heard great things about it so can't wait to dive in to this world. Speaking of graphic novels, my friend Alyce has got me into the new DC Rebirth of Harley Quinn, so for the first time ever I'm collecting comic books!

October TBR
So I've got Empire of Storms before the Lit Fest, I'm planning on reading Dracula and possible The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins for Halloween classics, and I've got a review e-copy of Holding Up the Universe which is due out on the 6th. Anything else I should be keeping my eye out for this month? And what are you guys hoping to read in October?

Friday, 30 September 2016

Friday Reads: The Last Beginning

The Last Beginning (The Next Together, #2)Work has been taking over my life recently so my reading has slowed somewhat. So in lieu of some more reviews, have an update!

Right now, I’m reading The Last Beginning by Lauren James, which I am beyond excited about! It’s being published next week, on the 6th; I was lucky enough to get a copy from Walker which arrived Wednesday and I started it immediately! I was a little lost at the beginning; it's been a while since I read the first book, but I'm loving it so far.

Earlier in the week I read Haunt Me by Liz Kessler, another book coming out on the 6th, and I quite liked it. I had some minor issues with it but a lot of that might have been because I’d just finished the latest Lockwood and Co which has a whole different sort of ghost! Reviews of both of these titles will be up soon. 

This weekend I’m hoping to finish The Last Beginning and start Empire of Storms, which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet! But I need to get right on that, because me and a friend from work will be going to see Sarah J Maas at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival on the 9th! 

Tell me what you’re planning on reading this weekend and if you could meet an author at an event like the Kids Lit Fest, who would it be and why?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink' is the first line of this timeless, witty and enchanting novel about growing up. Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian and impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Her journal records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer's block. However, all their lives are turned upside down when the American heirs to the castle arrive and Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the first time.

Written like a diary, Cassandra recounts the day to day activities of her family and their slightly strange lives in an old castle. The story was very character driven, with portraits of her family was described by Cassandra, as best she can. And what a mad bunch they all were! Poverty stricken and reliant on their novelist father, who has written anything in years, the family are used to struggling to make ends meet. Which is why when the family of their old landlord turn up, they all have green arms from dying their dresses.

Suddenly there are new males to get to know, to flirt with - Rose in particular takes this as a challenge and uses her knowledge gained from Victorian romance novels to bat her eyelashes and laugh prettily, but all that does is freak them out! Even though Cassandra was aware of how handsome the men were and was daydreaming of possible happily ever after scenerios, she didn't take the whole thing very seriously, which was refreshing and highly entertaining to read.

The romance didn't go the direction I expected, which was actually kind of nice. It was definitely an exploration of maturing and personal growth as Cassandra battles her own feelings with that of her sister's for the man they want. It was also more about the overall happiness of their family and the fragility of their father's mental state, with Thomas and Cassandra going to extreme lengths to unblock his writers block.

I went into this knowing very little, having not really heard of it before, and ended up really enjoying it. It was almost like a 20th century Jane Austen, with its romance drama and family weirdness, and I loved it.

Published 5th February 2004 by Vintage. First published 1948.

Friday, 23 September 2016

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

You Know Me WellWho knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other -- and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Some people you are just meant to be friends with, and that's definitely the case of Kate and Mark. They come into each others lives at the right moment, when they both need someone subjective to tell them to sort their life out. With Kate it's plucking up the courage to meet her crush, and Mark needs to tell his best friend how he really feels about him.

Told in alternate chapters, we really see the effects of their friendship and how being pushed out of their comfort zone does them both good. Kate needed the support to find the courage to finally meet Violet, the girl of her dreams. Quiet and worried that she won't live up to expectations, Kate runs away from their first meeting and bumps into Mark, a guy from school, dancing on the bar! Mark needed the boot up the butt to tell his best friend how he really feels but ends up getting heart broken when Ryan is crushing on someone else.

This story really is short and sweet. Spread over about a week, we follow Kate and Mark navigate first loves and suddenly realise the truths that they were avoiding. The whole thing was really cute but could have been so much more. It had an incredible diverse and LGBT-centred cast but it was so short, I wanted some more, proper character development. And yet, it ended very hopeful, and actually worked well just spreading it over Pride Week in San Fransisco. So all in all, a very enjoyable and different teen romance with an important message of finding yourself and being honest to yourself about what and who you want.

Published 2nd June 2016 by Macmillan.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (Conqueror's Saga, #1)No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

A feminist re-telling of the history of Vlad the Impaler, I was immediately drawn to this before I even knew what it was about! But I was drawn in to the historical fiction/high fantasy vibe, the rich detailing of the history of the Ottoman Empire and its utterly badass heroine.

Straight out, Lada is a fascinating character. Determined to gain her father’s love, or even attention, Lada is a fierce and tough little girl. Also completely psychotic, Lada strives for physical power and develops a brutal fighting style, grows cold in her lack of affection and learns to only rely on herself. It got really interesting in the second half, once she’s grown up, a bit more… comfortable might be too strong a word but close enough, in her femininity. She still wants to be one of the men and brute strength is all she knows, so she never really knows how to use her femininity to her advantage like some of the other women do. 

As children, Lada and Radu are starved of affection, they grow up knowing their father has traded them for safety and then later abandoned them for his own gain, and they quickly learn that they language and their people are slaves to the whim of the sultan. The two siblings had a strange relationship as Lada protects him without showing it, without showing weakness. But from Radu's perspective, we see how Lada’s toughness affects him, makes him feel unloved and how he finds comfort and falls in love with Islam – while Lada only trusts herself, Radu needs the security and peace that comes with faith.

Onto their new protector in foreign land and future sultan, Mehmed. Even though Mehmed had his idiotic moments (like thinking he could keep Lada safe from battle. Does he know her at all?! This is the same girl who has killed two men before they killed you! Idiot.), I really liked him. He desperately wanted to be a good leader and live up to his country’s expectations, plus he was a very good fighter and strategist, and friend to Lada and Radu. Speaking of, there was a different kind of love triangle, which would normally annoy me beyond belief but here I was so on-board with the diversity, it didn't have a chance to irritate me!

I wasn’t sure I wanted there to be a romance but they practically grew up together, it was almost inevitable. There were a few instances near the end as Mehmed proves that loving Lada doesn’t mean he isn’t going to… partake in his perks as sultan. Honestly, when a second child of his was born in mere months, I wanted to smack him upside the head! I hate to generalise but is it a teenage boy thing to only think with his dick? Because that’s what Mehmed was doing. And it annoyed the crap out of me. This is a tough case of modern feminist versus historical accuracy and luckily it worked, as I was really rooting for Mehmed and Lada towards the end.

All throughout, we are shown different types of power: physical strength and political know-how, which are as different as the two siblings who use them. The story was slow-moving as we see the shift in power, as Mehmed matures and learns how to control and provide faith in his people. It was very slow to start but the rich history, the incredible characters and their development, and the volatile time period it was depicting kept me hooked. And as you can see, I had a lot to say about it! It really was a coming-of-age beginning for Lada and I cannot wait to see how she grows into the fearless leader we recognise from history. 

Published 7th July 2016 by Corgi.