Kat's Books

Photographer, reader, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England. I'm usually busy taking cat photos at a cat rescue or reading books...

I put my reviews up on Goodreads, Amazon, and take part in the Penguin First to Read program. I have MS so I'm tired a lot but it's a good excuse to have a lie-down and read a book!


Currently reading

Carrie (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
Stephen King
Progress: 50/304 pages
Gods of Howl Mountain: A Novel
Taylor Brown
Progress: 50/304 pages
Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman
Progress: 270/608 pages

‘Time Bomb’ is like ‘The Breakfast Club’ with an awful school bombing; suggests teens might just be ticking ‘time bombs’

Time Bomb - Joelle Charbonneau

This was an extremely fast read for me; I flew through ‘Time Bomb’ in a matter of hours, and it almost felt like I was following a similar clock to the one that was ticking away in the book. Six exceedingly different students, not unlike seen with the setup in the movie ‘The Breakfast Club’, find themselves trapped together because of the horrific circumstance of someone having set off bombs at their school (although, conveniently, school isn't quite in session yet, so there aren’t mass casualties).
The wrecked and damaged school that has them stuck inside, suspicious of each other, is a reminder of all the problems that schools represent for schoolchildren today: the gun debate because of the mass shootings inside schools, bullying, kids and their constant need to live up to certain standards, whether it’s their own or others’, unchecked mental illness, prejudice of others based on appearances...and by bringing ALL of this up in the teens’ conversations and through their own perspectives, Charbonneau makes the novel about more than just the bombs going off at this high school. The different stereotypes that the kids all fit into, serve to remind us that, right up until the end, when we find out ‘whodunnit’ all these kids are essentially ticking ‘time bombs’ waiting to go off. If not then, they could at some point. I think it’s easy to focus on the event of the bombs in this book, and kind of ignore that it’s all emblematic of the tumultuouness of teenagehood.
While ‘Time Bomb’ held my attention all the way through, I think this all could have been delved into in a more concrete way, because there were a lot of open doors to explore the hard issues that these teens were going through. Overall though, it’s a definite page-turner as far as the story and action go, with a surprise twist at the end.

Medieval fantasy that hits all the right spots: compelling characters, action-packed story, brilliant writing, different kingdoms - I didn't want this to end. 'The Smoke Thieves' has it all!

The Smoke Thieves - Sally Green

'The Smoke Thieves' had me thoroughly captivated as soon as I started to read it, and I can honestly say I didn't want to be interrupted at all once I fell into this brilliant medieval fantasy that author Sally Green has created. Woven around five main characters, from different walks of life, a story deepens to reveal a war between different kingdoms, an impending royal marriage, forbidden love, long-held family secrets, and the real reason why demon smoke is so sought-after.


The main characters are all wonderfully fleshed out in their nuances and are all given equal page time; the individual chapters follow their movements and whereabouts, whether in the war-mongering Brigant, or the more liberal Pitoria, and they embark on their own personal and physical journeys, keeping this novel action-packed. It's hard not to get attached to their individual situations as we follow each story.


We are treated to a princess, Catherine, who is ready to forge her own path, against the will of her father and brother, and she shows those around her that she will not stand for the brutal ways of her father, the King, and wants to create her own new strong identity. Ambrose is the princess' loyal guard, who has just seen his sister die, accused a traitor, and at the same time as being loyal to the crown, he is wrestling with feelings for Catherine. Then there are the demon hunters, including Tash, at only twelve years of age, she's nimble and fast on her feet (Green says she likes to include a runner in her books because she's a runner herself). The other two 'main' characters are March and Edyon: one who is a servant to Prince Thelonius, caught up in a plot to bring Edyon, a compulsive thief, back to Calidor under false pretenses, but the two of them end up falling for each other's charms.

There are whole host of other minor characters in the story and they fortify the novel with rich dialog and plot twists. Green has also created wonderful contrasts between the different kingdoms and made sure to point out language/accent differences, eye color traits, and clothing styles, and other things that add to the vivid world-building she carefully undertakes throughout the book. Simply imagining the parade leading Princess Catherine up to the castle in Pitoria is just brilliant.

*There is a lot of violence and appropriate blood and gore, as comes with war and fighting (it's medieval times, after all); sword-fighting, spears being thrown and that sort of thing, but there was no unnecessary sexual violence or triggers to warn about. Swearing happens, but that's life.


I honestly didn't want this absolutely engaging book to end, and I'm so glad that the story will continue; the end of the book saw the individual exploits of these characters entwine, and I can see the ensuing adventure becoming even more complex. I'm hooked! Demon smoke wasn't even needed.


*Thank you to Penguin Random House for my early copy of this (epic) book.

Insanely long dystopian/apocalyptic novel that holds on to you tightly; vivid imagery, could be shorter

The Fireman: A Novel - Joe Hill

So I read this as it was someone else’s pick for the ‘Horror Postal Book Club’ I’m in, and my first reaction when I received it was ‘oh my goodness, this book is huge’. It happened to be the first Joe Hill novel I’ve got around to reading, and it really was a wild ride. A long one.
It feels dystopian, apocalyptic, and sometimes sci-fi, and has huge sections that have a lot of action, but then it also felt quite slow in parts. I definitely feel like it could have been a lot less than 762 pages to get the story told.
Since I’ve journaled my way through my reading of this for my book club (we are mailing the book to each other; all the way from Singapore to me in Seattle, and back to out to Asia by way of BC, Germany, and Spain), I won’t babble too much here, especially since there are tons of reviews. My next Joe Hill will have to be NOS4A2, so I’d love to see how his writing compares between novels. This is entirely entertaining (and depressing, in too many ways!), but not the quickest read.
*Note: I don’t like it when the Space Needle gets hurt in books...

A historical fairy tale that has gone straight on to my favorites list, and I’m not usually big on fairy tales OR mermaids! Christina Henry has written something special here

The Mermaid - Christina Henry

'The Mermaid' has immediately gone onto my favorites list, so I can tell you right away that this book is an absolute treat.
When I grabbed my early copy of it at Emerald City Con at the weekend, I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I certainly didn't harbor any expectations for it, and to be honest, I'm not even a big fan of fairytale retellings. Plus I had to dispel any recent images of killer mermaids I still had in my head after reading 'Into the Drowning Deep’ by Mira Grant, and I thought this would be the perfect way to do that.

'The Mermaid' is a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who wasn't content enough with life in the ocean so she decided that life on land, with a man called Jack, who she feels is the love of her life, was where she needed to be. Amelia was able to come and go from the sea as she pleased, and it seemed as though her life was everything she needed it to be...until Jack grew old (and she didn't). She was then discovered by the great P.T. Barnum. The same P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus Company, who is famous for coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."

That's where Amelia's life completely changed, and the story of the mermaid becomes loosely based off the 'Feejee Mermaid' hoax that Barnum orchestrated. Author Christina Henry obviously did a lot of research to include details about Joice Heth and Tom Thumb (reading the novel will make this all clear!); I found all of this, and all Barnum's various 'humbugs' to be absolutely fascinating (and shocking).

Through the eyes of Amelia, who is essentially a stranger, 'an alien' to this foreign modern world that is New York circa 1840, she questions all sorts of things: why wear all the silly trappings of clothes, why are women not afforded the same rights as men, why are animals treated so poorly, why are people who are not white or Christian 'savages', and so on. And she dares to question her new 'employer' Barnum*, who basically is raking in the dough with her mermaid exhibit.
*I have no idea what to make of P.T.Barnum as a person or character, but Henry does say this rendition is the one that suits her story.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters who fit within the actual mold that was cast, but who now have been brought to life, the writing of Henry's that seems to flow so beautifully and seems so befitting of the time, and all the questions and ideas that spring off the pages through the character of the mermaid Amelia.
And then there's the idea of the mermaid herself, something we think we have an idea about, and here it is done again; I felt like what I was reading was subtle and ethereal, and in the way that that Amelia was trying to show her reality within the book to others, I was being made to believe it too. There are also themes of sadness, loss, and longing, new love, and acceptance, in the book, and I felt those emotions from the characters clearly. It was wonderful to read all of that and move along with the feelings like waves.

Absolutely wonderful book. I already want to own whatever special edition is made. And the Funko Pop.

I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!

Suspend your disbelief for this wild novel about a girl with healing powers who kickstarts the apocalypse; also takes on topics like suicide and bullying

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza - Shaun David Hutchinson

I wanted to read this crazy book from the moment I read the synopsis, and a kind soul surprised me with a pre-order of it.
It’s the sort of book that you’ll either be stoked, like me, when you get your hands on it, or one that you will steer clear of because it’s way too outlandish. And that’s because if you fully intend to immerse yourself in a book where a young girl called Elena Mendoza exists because she is the product of a virgin birth (parthenogenesis), it means suspending your disbelief (a lot), but not reading if you are prone to seeing that very premise alone as blasphemous.

The concept of the book becomes even more interesting after Elena realizes she has the gift of healing people, but she discovers this only after her crush, Freddie, is shot outside the Starbucks she works at. Big problem with this though: innocent people are ‘raptured’ every time Elena heals someone, and the number grows the longer she does it, and she has inanimate objects telling her she must do these healings. Not to mention that this all kicked off the apocalypse.
There’s so much else in here other than this wild story though, that will have the reader thinking all the way through. Having the main character as a bisexual girl of Cuban descent (kudos to Hutchinson) struggling with the ‘voices’, dealing with bullies, and her feelings toward her crush (who honestly isn’t very nice to her), there are a whole host of teenage issues even without the impending apocalypse and feeling like an outcast because she’s a product of a virgin birth. There are also lots of other things brought up such as grief, suicide, gun use, and ultimately the fate of the world becomes the final big conversation.

It’s hard not to read this and not have yourself thinking about how Elena is ‘playing God’ and also about how the world might end. So you can read this and think about how silly it is that Elena is hearing a voice coming from the siren on the Starbucks cup, but you can also appreciate that there are some big questions and topics that Hutchinson is tackling within this wonderful, thought-provoking novel. Sometimes you have to tackle the big subjects within these parameters because otherwise they’re even more overwhelming!
My only major issues with the book were with some passages that seemed to drag that made pacing odd, and a little bit of preachiness at the end. Overall though, this is a wonderfully-written, decidedly different and fun YA novel. A unique read!

Tragic, and poignant, this beautifully-written book blew me away; the gun debate will rage on at the back of your mind, and your heart will break for the lead character

Gun Love - Jennifer Clement

This amazing, tragic, beautiful book completely blew me away. The gawdy pink and yellow cover and a title that can only imply a tale that’s going to leave you with something unforgettable, immediately made me want to read this, even though I will unashamedly say I detest firearms...and yes, there are a lot of guns in this book.
This poetically-written novel drew me in right away, as it’s really a tale about a young girl called Pearl who has spent her short life of 14 years living with her mom in a car parked at a trailer park, in Central Florida. The novel is written in three parts, and told from Pearl’s perspective, as if she were telling someone her story, her absolutely heart-wrenching story; it is told with the naivety of someone who is even younger because she has seen so little, yet this is also a little girl who has had to come to terms with not knowing who her father is, has her ‘wardrobe’ in the trunk of the car, and has smoked cigarettes since she was 10.
Huge issues come up in this pretty short book, and my heart broke over and over again, at the same time my head was screaming on about the gun debate (there’s no coincidence that this is set in Florida, but it comes at a time where recent incidents make this novel all the more poignant, regardless of the specific story contained within). It’s hard not to connect thoughts and feelings with current events when reading this. It’s also very hard to read this without a lump in your throat.
I’ve not read any of author Jennifer Clement’s work before but this is spectacular. I can’t give too much away regarding the full storyline, but the way Jennifer weaves words together is just magic, and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the page. This is one of the best things I’ve read so far this year and I won’t forget ‘Gun Love’ any time soon, especially given the sad tale within, and the tragedies brought on by firearms in the real world. Absolutely masterful and poignant.

Light, somewhat suspenseful YA fare with grief at its core; needed fleshing out to really hit the mark

Uncover - Amanda Linehan

I managed to read this in its entirety on a plane ride from Jacksonville, FL, back to Seattle; it’s a simple and pretty light YA read, and not too long, from a quite accomplished young writer, Amanda Linehan (she’s written three novels now, and a substantial amount of short fiction).
The premise is centered around a teen girl called Marissa, and several of her close friends, as they try to find closure to their friend Olivia’s sudden death in a car accident. They have questions as to whether it’s even an accident, and then go on a mission to find a journal that’s supposedly hidden in the woods, based on information that Olivia’s younger sister has.
Admittedly, I totally went along with this plot, although there were actually a few holes (now that I look back), so I quickly read this, but this is lighter young adult fare than most of the stuff I usually read. But the fact that it wasn’t a heavy read wasn’t really what I ended up being frustrated by.
I understand that these are teenagers and that they may not have been ready to deal with the fact that their friend had passed away. I DO feel that if you write a novel where death and subsequent grief (and questions about it) are the reasons for the story, it must be addressed with a bit more clarity and seriousness. Sometimes I felt like the language and conversation were moving in that direction but it didn’t quite get there. I may be expecting that the audience wants that but maybe it did hit at the right level? It’s hard to know; accepting the death of a teenage friend would be difficult to talk about, so the way in which the friends ‘walk through’ the story may be apt. I’ve been through sudden ‘inexplicable’ loss and I know my own reaction so I only have that to compare it to. I suppose I wanted this to be an opportunity to look at the feelings behind grief more thoroughly.
I also see immense talent in Linehan that is bursting to get through; I have another of her novels to read and review that she has written some 5 years after this one. I am interested to see how this compares to her newest book. Her writing style is fluid and incredibly easy-going for young readers who want a simple page-turner with a little bit of adventure, suspense, romance (just a bit!), and some thought-provoking ideas.

‘Ash Princess’ brings dark themes of abuse and violence to YA fantasy but it’s wholly absorbing; bring on the Astrean rebellion!

Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian-Coleman

This was admittedly a little slow for me to get into but it had quite a bit to do with me starting it while away on a sunny beach at Amelia Island in Florida (it was in stark contrast to the dark world in the novel, so I had competing worlds in my head).

Nevertheless, once I got into 'Ash Princess' further, I became captivated by the darkness, and contrary to some interpretations of it being a story that is there to shock its readers with the relentless abuse, and of murders of whole populations, I read this book and absorbed this in a very different way. I'll get back to all of that in a moment...
The novel is centered around a young girl, the 'Ash Princess', Theodosia, who is now known as Lady Thora, who is being held captive in the palace that her mother, the Fire Queen was murdered. The cruel and murderous Kaiser, has subsequently enslaved the Astrean people, and now the Kalovaxians rule the land, although there's a rebellion brewing.

Theo's position is complicated to say the least. She has suffered a decade of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother's murderer, but she knows that if she is to survive, she needs to bide by the Kaiser's wishes. Theo's closest friendship is also complex, since she is friends with the daughter of the enemy Theyn, the Kaiser's right-hand man; Crescentia is close with Theo, but looks the other way when things are hard for her friend (namely, her beatings), quite happily will give her the less flattering dress to wear, and doesn't see many things that are right under her nose (luckily).
Another complication: where would a good YA novel be without a little bit of confusion over what boy you like? It's even more complicated when one is supposed to be the enemy, the Prinz (and your best friend hopes to marry them some day), and the other is a long time friend, and orchestrating the plot to escape, amongst other things (*no further spoiling!).

Beyond the walls of the palace, there are also battles fought for more land, in the name of the Kaiser, and in terms of how this comes across to me, is that I liken this to how I see much of European history. I'm not talking about the Kaiser specifically but when I think back to what I know of centuries of history across Europe and all the battles fought, particularly for land, the pillaging of villages, the murdering of its people, these sorts of things happened. I liken what I'm reading to that sort of knowledge I have of history of the way that lands are conquered; even royalty has been imprisoned within their own castle walls. History really has been that cruel, so when I read something like this (or like many other fantasy novels), it really has been played out. What's wonderful in a book like this though, is that the people are waiting for this young woman, Theodosia, to take back the throne again.

So, ultimately I felt like this was a tale of survival in a very harsh world, where Theo has to make hard choices to not only survive, but to try and fulfil what she believes is a destiny expected of her by the Astrean people. It leads her to do some things she doesn't want to do sometimes, and through that, she actually becomes stronger as the novel progresses, but at a cost.

This is not a novel for someone who wants their books about fallen kingdoms to be light and with frequent uplifting turns; this book is pretty heavy, and high on dark content, but if you're willing to fall into a novel where kingdoms don't get taken back easily, and in which many lives are lost in the process, you will be ready for this. There are strong characters in this and I hope they're developed even further in the next book. I'm looking forward to seeing the rebellion of the Astrean people continue!
YA fantasy has ANOTHER amazing author, Laura Sebastian, to pay attention to!

Absolutely riveting thriller inspired by a real-life case; I couldn’t put this down!

Mister Tender's Girl: A Novel - Carter Wilson

I waited with baited breath to receive my finished copy after reading the initial excerpt, and I was not disappointed when I got the actual book in my hands. ‘Mister Tender’s Girl’ kept me riveted from start to finish; the tension, and gripping story just didn’t let up for the entire novel.


The main character, Alice Gray (formerly Hill), has been victim to the atrocity of being attacked and stabbed by the Glassin twins, some 14 years ago now, and the crime was ‘encouraged’ by their fanatical attachment to graphic novels that Alice’s father wrote and drew about a character called ‘Mister Tender’. For many readers (and author Carter Wilson writes about this at the end of the novel), this will remind them of the real-life crimes spurred on by the Slender Man case.

Alice now lives in a world where she has tried to run away from her terrible past back in England, where her father was also later attacked and killed, her brother has been diagnosed with mental illness, although her mother is pulling all the strings for him; along with all that, Alice gradually finds out there’s a whole online community dedicated to following Alice’s new life, obsessed with her struggle, and she comes to learn that the past is catching up with her. There’s now a ‘Mister Interested’ on her tail, and figures from her past are popping up, making her her terrible PTSD symptoms and panic attacks incredibly difficult to deal with, especially in her new life that she has tried to create; she now owns a coffee shop, and has dedicated time to make her body and mind stronger in response to her past. It seems her changes are not enough though, as she is living in a world of constant terror, anxiety, and fitful dreams.


I feel like this is more than just a thriller though; it kept me glued to my pages for 2 days straight, as often as I could get reading time in, Wilson has done an excellent job in creating a character who has worked hard on herself and fights back against all odds, shows great tenacity, and although she is struggling with problems like PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks, she continues to rule out being a victim any longer. She also wants to have strong bonds with her brother and sees his struggle as well. I like that Wilson delved into the ‘scary depths’ of mental illness here because this was important to these characters.
I know you have to suspend your disbelief about the cops becoming involved at certain junctures of the plot perhaps (I’m trying so hard not to reveal what happens!), but the tension and drama in this book doesn’t let up and I was INSIDE this book all the way; it was written THAT well.

For writing Alice as a survivor who decided to fight back after she became a victim, I say bravo. And for making it so that I forgot about about real-life scenario comparisons, extra kudos. I also enjoyed the writing tactic of taking the reader inside other worlds within the book successfully, without losing me in the least: the children’s story, the graphic novel, the past storylines, the dreams, the Internet chatroom, all very cleverfully employed.
*Extra points for taking me back to Dover, England, where my dad lives.


Overall, this was one enthralling suspenseful read, and just like I couldn’t wait to get this in my hands, I can’t wait to read what Carter writes next. I couldn’t get ENOUGH of this book, I just wanted more. That’s ALWAYS a sign of a good book.
*Thank you to Sourcebooks and BookishFirst for my copy of the book.





**First Impression of what I’ve read so far (written after reading initial EXCERPT):
I actually slept on my first look of the book before writing this ‘impression’, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what I read. I also lapped up those first 30 pages (and kept swiping, hoping there was more on my Kindle, because I didn’t want it to end yet), because I was immediately drawn into the story that Carter has written. Alice is gripped in this world of anxiety and ongoing terror after what happened to her (and her father) so many years ago, and those feelings just emanate off those pages. I was immediately made to feel what she was feeling and because I love psychological thrillers in general, this just felt unique, with the graphic novel element, just jumping off the pages too. The writing was smooth and felt natural as Alice’s ‘voice’, and out of all of the ‘First Impressions I’ve read yet, this is the one that has pulled me in the fastest. Alice is haunted daily by her past, while trying to hide behind a veneer in a different world where no one really knows her, and now this ‘Mister Tender’ shows up?! I absolutely am dying to know what happens next and I would be honored to read and review an early copy of this thriller. It looks fantastic.

Overall a fun read about one of the most iconic superheroes; needed a bit more action and emotional insight

Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons Series) - Marie Lu

I couldn't wait for this book to come out, having enjoyed the first book in the DC Icons series, 'Wonder Woman: Warbringer', and because it was author Marie Lu that would be taking on the task of the story of the origins of the Dark Knight. I think that anyone taking on such an iconic character outside of graphic novels is pretty brave, but massively exciting! After reading 'Warcross' it seemed like Marie was primed to take this on.

First of all, as a reader of a story about such a notorious character as Batman, I needed to remind myself going in, that this wasn't the character with the mask and the cape and the gadgets. This is about a teen called Bruce Wayne, with his teenage friends, who still has the sad backstory of his parents being brutally murdered in an alleyway in Gotham City, and he is primed to now inherit the family fortune. He has barely realized his desire to rid the streets of the 'bad guys' yet, and he hasn't developed the emotional 'shield' that we witness in various popular incarnations of his character. It's like reading a fresh and quite naive version of the young Batman/Bruce Wayne we have all come to know, to the point that we are wondering if it's the same guy...until about the last quarter of the book, where the action picks up for young Bruce Wayne.

The novel seems pretty slow because from most of our recollections of this character, where he's usually busy doing what he does best: hauling in the crooks for the police department in Gotham City. In 'Nightwalker', Bruce Wayne is doing community service work inside Arkham Asylum (as you do), mopping floors, and talking to a mysterious and beautiful criminal called Madeleine (so there's quite a bit of talking and mind games, honestly). You get the sense that Bruce has a lot of personal work on himself to do, and has a long way to go before he's going to be a kick-ass crime-fighter (this girl really knows how to pull a fast one on him). But you see the beginnings of the Batman that eventually emerges and how his personal relationships are a vital catalyst for him. It's fun to read his interactions with his butler Alfred, and I'd love to have seen more of that, but that's probably out of familiarity that I say that.

Overall, it's a fun read, but low on action content (I hoped for more!), and I wanted more insight and a deeper window into his personal and emotional world; there could have been more development with his friends, especially given his age. This fits in pretty nicely after 'Warbringer' and I enjoyed reading the snippet of the Catwoman book at the very end; I have high hopes for that one too, even though I know less about that character. My son's biggest complaint (he's just ten), is that these well-known YA authors (to me!) are not doing his favorite Marvel Icons as well. Captain America, Adam Silvera?

Quirky book that crosses the tech world with a LOT of bread-baking; I say make it into a TV show

Sourdough: A Novel - Robin Sloan

What an interesting read, as in, I’ve never read anything quite like that before, and I’ve never come away from a book that was NOT a cookbook, thinking about food like I have with this one. Bread, glorious bread! It’s the central subject, and I was actually warned before reading it about the ‘dangers’ of reading it on an empty stomach, and about how you end up craving your carbs afterwards. A young lady who discovers a love of baking bread and gives up her life in the tech world is the simplest way to put this book, but it’s SO much more.

What I didn’t expect was the underlying long-distance love story, which I enjoyed very much, and several other little quirks that author Robin Sloan brings to the (restaurant) table. He has a way with words that is so unusual and full of fabulous descriptions that your senses are filled up when you read this book. I hate to admit it, but there were times that I was so distracted by the descriptions of noises (these were surprisingly the most amazing to me), smells, tastes, that I lost track of the story at times. Sloan also comes up with the most glorious names for characters! And the contrast in the book between technology and the basic act of doing something simple like baking bread is such a fantastic thing to think about. What may turn off some readers is the constant dialog about bacteria and fungus (which of course is central to the basis for starting off bread, as well as cheese); I’m not squeamish but it distracted me sometimes! But there’s a lot of science in cooking, and that has to brought up if you’re talking about this topic in-depth.

I can absolutely see this novel being made into a TV show, and these characters and the concept being written about by the creators of maybe ‘The Good Place’ plus the writers of ‘The Office’. There’s a lot of ‘food for thought’ for a TV version for something even beyond the confines of this book. 

I can see why this has become an unusual, and almost ‘cult’ hit of a book; just don’t read it  when you’re hungry. 

*It’s also the best advertisement I’ve ever seen for King Arthur Flour. 

‘Shadowsong’ takes on a dark tone in this second half of this lavish duology

Shadowsong - S. Jae-Jones

First of all, I want to fully appreciate the sentiments of the author’s at the very beginning of the book, about mental illness, and how S. Jae-Jones is writing the main character Liesl as a person with bipolar disorder. She makes a grand gesture by opening her book in this way, and by recognizing that self-harm and suicidal ideation are struggles that should be talked about, and that anyone who is depressed should not be alone.
In turn, she’s acknowledging that while Wintersong may have been a bright mirror of having her voice heard and valued, Shadowsong is the dark one, and reflects another side of her. We all know that authors’ works are personal, but we immediately and literally feel that shadow.
The writing and language is as beautiful as ever, but I will admit to sometimes finding myself bogged down and confused. I also had trouble getting invested in any character and Liesl, as the protagonist, because she struggles with her moods, it’s hard to support her ventures and forgive her misgivings, even though you know she needs ‘help’ with it all. Overall, it made the story take on a tone that is quite different from Wintersong and I’ll be interested to see how many fans see this part of the duology.

Exhilarating read set at the dawn of WW2; a young Jewish girl becomes a spy and infiltrates Nazi academy

Orphan Monster Spy - Matt Killeen

This was such an exhilarating read and a book that really is so different from anything else in the YA genre right now; I read this in its entirety during one day of the '24in48' Readathon this weekend, I absolutely couldn't put it down.
Set at the dawn of World War 2, Sarah has just witnessed her mother's murder, after fleeing their home because of Jewish round-ups, and somehow lands in the care of a British spy, Captain Floyd. He takes her under his wing, who realizes that her long blond hair, pale skin, and blue eyes, make her look less like the Jew that she is, and more like the Aryan Elite that makes her a perfect infiltrate at the Rothenstadt boarding school, an academy for Nazi general's daughters. Now under a new identity as Ursula Haller, Sarah is suddenly on a mission to gather secrets from within, and she is thrown among the wolves where some of the nastiest discipline happens in the name of the Fuhrer.
Every day, it feels like there's a danger of her identity being discovered, and even her recurrent nightmares threaten to give her away; throughout the book she has them, and she also continuously 'speaks' to her 'Mutti' for strength, although she has passed away. You constantly get the feeling it's very difficult knowing how hard it is to get through each day without a person to confide in, with no one to trust.
The entire book is built around the character Sarah/Ursula, and author Matt Killeen depicts a young teen who has to be very strong, makes hard decisions, has to be very brave, and at times, wishes she could just break down, and in many ways, is still so so immature. I would imagine this to be the way it was for many children forced to grow up in war time (regardless of circumstance).
While I don't know how many readers will go into this with extreme detail of World War 2 (being from Britain, having a WW2-obsessed dad I know plenty, believe me), I had SO much anxiety for Sarah throughout the book. I couldn't trust a single, sodding character! I fully realize that this is YA, and Killeen wasn't about to turn this any scarier, but it did get me wondering how much worse things could have turned... There's a lot more war left, after the point the book ended too! More adventures for this spy?
I'm going to say immediately that it will be definitely be in contention for a top ten spot for me this year. Any book that sucks me back into a time period where you think about how your very existence could be always in questionable danger, makes such a mark on me, and I hope others reading really felt that too. It made such a change to read a novel about this era for this age group. Put it on your TBR, everyone!!!

A quick novella before moving onto the real deal: bring on the killer mermaids

Rolling in the Deep - Mira Grant

So this was a quick read, in preparation for reading 'Into the Drowning Deep' for my Horror Postal Book Club. It's a quick novella, and gives you a little 'bloody' taste of what's to come in 'Drowning Deep', and gives background to the novel. Killer mermaids finally have their own book, and I'm looking forward to the real deal!

Compelling and timely read; came away with a lot more than I anticipated

Anatomy of a Scandal: A Novel - Sarah Vaughan

I have come away from reading this novel with so much more than I anticipated. This is more than a portrait of a marriage rocked by an affair. More than a story about a scandal that rocks the Houses of Parliament and ends up in the the Daily Mail. And it's more than a droll courthouse drama with a Junior Minister at the center of the story.

Told from several perspectives, and from both the past and present, 'Anatomy of A Scandal' is primarily told in the first person by Kate Woodcroft, who is the prosecuting lawyer in the case against James Whitehouse, accused of raping Olivia Lytton, his researcher and with whom he had an affair with. His wife Sophie wants to believe he didn't actually rape her but continues on as if she is willing to forgive his transgressions. All these characters are well-fleshed out and developed; Sophie and Kate's emotions are raked through with a fine-toothed comb and it's difficult to read much of it without feeling incredibly involved with their contrasting worlds. It's also so rich with descriptive prose, as it's written so meticulously and with such care and thought.

The novel is hard to completely discuss without giving too much away (massive twists) but I will say that Sarah Vaughan has written such a timely and compelling novel: it's so much more than an ordinary thriller or courtroom drama, and it needs to be on everyone's list of books to read, especially if they intend to read any book this year that will make them ask difficult questions about morality, power, privilege, and the most difficult topic on everyone's lips right now - sexual assault. The book gets so uncomfortable at times, it's hard not to see conversation coming out of it. While there may be parts of the book that might be hard to read, Vaughan has crafted both an excellent drama with a fantastic twist, but also a timely novel that can't help but be a conversation piece.

Powerful and beautiful collection of adult fairytales, that would have impressed the Brothers Grimm

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic - Sara Kipin, Leigh Bardugo

This is a powerful collection of fairytales, and it would have made the Brothers Grimm incredibly impressed. Leigh Bardugo has such a disctinctive ‘voice’ when it comes to her writing, and it lends itself well to allegorical tales such as these, with vivid imagery, and vibrant characters, some frightening, and some beautiful.

You can’t help but be drawn into even the most scary stories, just like you did when you heard Little Red Riding Hood’ for the first time, but this you realize is on a much grander and more lavish scale.
The book itself is a delight to hold and read, and the illustrations by Sara Kipin make it a keepsake you’ll want to treasure. It’s not a book to rush through and the stories are definitely ones that make you think. Thorny, sumptuous and very clever.