Sunday, 29 January 2017

Chasing Shadows Blog Tour

This is the last stop on the blog tour for 'Chasing Shadows' by T.A. Williams. Let me tell you a little bit about the book and then we'll get to the review.

Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.
The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…

1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.

As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value. (Publishers' blurb)

I don't read much historical fiction but I was really excited by this blurb. I found this an enjoyable, romantic read and I really liked the historical elements. 

My favourite aspect of this book was the modern story line running alongside the historical one. It definitely kept me interested and was easier to follow than I expected. I loved the fact that Amy and Luke were researching the time period and visiting the locations from the time of the Templars.

The historical aspects were threaded neatly into the narrative, without feeling overpowering, and felt well researched. I also enjoyed the modern Spanish setting and found it very authentic.  

Some elements of this book were a little predictable and I found the fixation on Amy's beauty to be distracting at times.

Despite that, I really liked Amy and Luke as characters. It was refreshing to read about a blind character, especially one portrayed as a rounded person where her blindness is only one aspect. On Jess Hearts Books' blog tour spot (which you can read here), I learned that the author T.A. Williams gave a lot of thought to the writing of a blind character and I think this showed.

After reading this, I'm determined to read more historical fiction and I'll check out more of T.A. Williams' books in future. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr - review

Publisher: Penguin

Please note that I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest, impartial review.

I read this book as part of the British Books Challenge, which is a wonderful opportunity to read more British Books. If you want to sign up, you can do so here.

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can't remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn't, and the next day she remembers it. It's the first time she's remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he's moved to the Arctic. Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

I've recommended this book to anyone who will listen! It's a long time since I've read a book that provoked such a strong emotional response in me. 

One of my favourite parts was trying to unpick the questions posed in the blurb - who can Flora trust? Which memories can she rely on as being true? The book is very cleverly plotted, with the reader trying to work things out as Flora does. It was so interesting and devastating to watch her trying to piece everything together, sometimes with less success than she's had before. 

I loved Flora's sweet, optimistic naivety and I really wanted things to go well for her. The climax of the book is utterly brilliant and made me feel a whole host of emotions. Flora's voice comes through really strongly, creating an authentic reading experience.

Another massive strength was the secondary characters. Flora's relationship with her parents was believable and her mum's struggles were portrayed really well. I also got very attached to her brother Jacob. He was so supportive and lovely!

This is a gorgeous, heartbreaking book that I can't stop thinking about. 

One to five star review

If you liked the sound of this, now try Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Tour #WJPhotoTour

It's great to be part of the Wing Jones photo tour! I've heard fantastic things about this book and I've finally got my hands on a copy.

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!

One of my favorite things about living in the South was the incredible food! Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles was, and still is, one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. I love it so much that I put it in WING JONES.

Thanks for checking out my stop on the tour! Coincidentally, I've eaten at the same restaurant that this photo was taken in and I can vouch for how amazing it is! Follow the #WJPhotoTour hashtag to check out the other photos.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - Review

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

I’d read a lot of great things about this book online and I’m so happy that it lived up to the hype! I’ve always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper and the forensic investigations really appealed to my macabre side.

One of my favourite aspects of this was the historical accuracy. Not only did it feel authentic when I was reading it, but I was really impressed by the information at the end of the book that explained how much research had gone into it. This is a perfect example of historical fiction, where the plot isn’t weighed down by the facts but at the same time you feel like you’ve accessed another world.

As a follow-on from this, I found Audrey Rose’s voice really appropriate for the time period and I really responded to her as a character. I loved how she resisted against the constraints of that time in a way that didn’t feel too excessive or unbelievable.

The mystery aspect was also very well-plotted. I enjoyed following the unravelling of the clues and the unexpected turns of the plot towards the fantastic finale!

Finally, I have to say a few words about the romance. Lately I haven’t been a massive fan of romance for the sake of it but this definitely wasn’t an example of that! Thomas was a great love interest and a worthy partner for Audrey Rose. I got a Sherlock Holmes vibe from him that I enjoyed and I felt their impending relationship enhanced the plot.

This book made me feel like reading more YA historical fiction and definitely left me with a thirst for the sequel!

Usually this is the point where I’d offer recommendations but historical fiction isn't my area of expertise! Can anyone suggest a historical YA as enjoyable (and preferably gruesome) as this one?

Monday, 2 January 2017

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter - review

Publisher: Tor Teen (13th October 2016)

In Vassa's neighbourhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighbourhood. But Babs won't be playing fair. Inspired by the Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful" and Sarah Porter's years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl's search for home, love, and belonging.

This was my last book of the year and one of the most original that I've read all year. I didn't know much about this when it arrived in my Fairy Loot crate, but I knew I'd love it as soon as I read the blurb. I'm a sucker for a fairy tale retelling and I haven't read many as great as this one! 

The plot is amazingly compelling, cleverly weaving in elements of the original folktale to create a suspenseful, wonderfully offbeat story. I got really invested in this and it was great that I didn't know where it was going. It's a while since I've read a book that delivers such an exhilarating string of emotional punches!

Much of the story plays out in the convenience store and I was captivated by this setting. The escalating magic and eccentric characters were a breath of fresh air, like nothing I've ever read before. Who would have thought I'd feel so strongly about a disembodied, enchanted hand?

The narrative structure was also really awesome! The histories of Vassa and her family are gradually unfolded and it's only by the very end that you get the whole story.

This is one of my favourite books of the year and one of my favourite fairy tale retellings of all time. 

If you liked the sound of this, try Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott,a gorgeous feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast.