Blog Tour + Review: A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons

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Imogen should be nice to her little sister Marie. She should be nice to her mum’s boyfriend too. And she certainly shouldn’t follow a strange silver moth through a door in a tree.
But then… who does what they’re told?
Followed by Marie, Imogen finds herself falling into a magical kingdom where the two sisters are swept up in a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a very grumpy hunter… and even the stars above them.

Thank you to Kaleidoscopic Tours and Harper Collins for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was so much fun! I don’t read much middle grade, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this. It follows the story of two sisters who find a hidden door to a world. It had such Narnia vibes which I loved and felt perfect for Autumn.

The characters were great and I thought they were very well written. We had so many people to be introduced to: the sisters, Miro and the rest of the royal family in this mystical land, and their enemies, the skret. The skret felt like such cool monsters but I adored how they ended up being so much more – having their own story which was interwoven with the land and the royal family themselves. The two sisters were such lovely characters and it felt so bittersweet to leave them at the end of the story.

Some of my favourite parts of the book were the parts travelling across the land, which sounded beautiful and fantastical. I loved the tree-houses and the castle itself, with the rich descriptions working well alongside Riddell’s beautiful drawings. I loved the adventure aspect, with the plot being so fun and entertaining as they discovered more and more about the world.

My only slight complaint is this book seemed quite long (especially for a middle grade!) and the plot did lose me slightly at times. Other than that, this is definitely worth a read and I can see a younger me loving it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (#2) by Michelle Hodkin

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Mara Dyer knows she isn’t crazy. She knows that she can kill with her mind, and that Noah can heal with his. Mara also knows that somehow, Jude is not a hallucination. He is alive. 
Unfortunately, convincing her family and doctors that she’s not unstable and doesn’t need to be hospitalised isn’t easy. The only person who actually believes her is Noah. But being with Noah is dangerous and Mara is in constant fear that she might hurt him. She needs to learn how to control her power, and fast! Together, Mara and Noah must try and figure out exactly how Jude survived when the asylum collapsed, and how he knows so much about her strange ability… before anyone else ends up dead!

This book was somewhat better than the first one. Mainly in the fact that I didn’t roll my eyes quite as much as I did for the first book. As Mara doesn’t spend any time in school, the tropes seem to be slightly less prominent. Which meant I cringed slightly less, and enjoyed it slightly more.

The creepiness level is still up there, and I loved it. In fact, if the third book is anything like this one, I’m slightly worried about reading it while home alone! Some of the scenes are really chilling, and the horror is written really well, I can’t deny it.

If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them.

I also loved the twists and turns in this book. It wasn’t all perfect, and I did predict one or two things that were going to happen. But most of the aspects of the plot twists I didn’t get and they left me reeling. I loved the ending, and the last 150 pages or so were full of twists that kept me gripped until the end. The writing is pretty good, but choppy at times.

The characters were…okay. They filled their roles and did their jobs. But no one really overly impressed me. I sympathised with Mara a lot, and she’s probably my favourite character in most ways. Noah melted my heart and also managed to really annoy me. Their relationship seemed all over the place but both refused to even attempt to sort it out or talk things through, which got on my nerves after a while.

If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.

This series continues to tug me in two directions. It’s still annoying me and has a lot of problems, but also grips me and the plot if so fun and so entertaining, I’m definitely going to read the last one and see what it has in store for me!

★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (#1) by Michelle Hodkin

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Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

Firstly, I’m so glad I decided to save this book for spooky season. It was absolutely perfect for a Halloween-y, fall read. It is deliciously haunting and creepy. But that’s….kind of where the good stuff ends.

The first thing I realised about this series is it did not age well. If you’re wondering how different a book can be in just eight years, choose one set in a private high school with every 2012 trope and cliche going. Welp. Some of the sentences in this book (for example, one along the lines of ‘what an overdramatic thing to commit suicide over’) made me want to throw it at a wall. I almost DNF’d it multiple times. I’m pretty sure this stuff wasn’t appropriate even back in 2012. So, why didn’t I just put it down?

Thinking something does not make it true.

I can’t deny this book is gripping. It made for a super quick page turning read. I flew threw 100ish pages a day, which is pretty good going for me. In places, it is spine tingling, and once I got through the first 200 pages, I found I could overlook most of the problems and mostly enjoy this book for the cringe-fest it is.

I expected to hate Noah, but in fact I struggled with Mara herself more. She’s just kind of annoying. And I get it, she’s broken, and the story would be boring if she just….got the help she needed. But like most of this book, her temperament is another thing to overlook at times.

Wanting something does not make it real.

So overall, this book was okay. I’m giving it 3 stars for now, but it’s definitely a low 3. I got through it quickly and I will be carrying on with the series, and I am intrigued by where it will lead. If you think you can overlook all the cliches and tropes of bad boy, broken girl and high school drama for the haunting undertones, you just might enjoy this book.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Serpent & Dove (#1) by Shelby Mahurin

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Goodreads

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.

If love makes fools of us all, this book damn well made a fool of me.

Wow. This just ticked all the boxes. I admit, I’ve wanted this book for so long because of how beautiful the hardback edition is. I’ve also heard so many good things about it and…it has witches. What more could a reader want? But I never expected this book would become, well, one of my favourite books ever.

I picked this up because I was unsure about buying the Blood & Honey Fairyloot box without reading the first book, so I started it so I could make a decision. Immediately, I was gripped. By the time I reached the patisserie on like, page 25, I was in love. Serpent & Dove is set in the beautiful city of Cesarine, which I imagine to be Paris. It feels like a fantastical Paris, and it fits so well. I’m a sucker for fantasy set in a beautiful city, and the way Mahurin talked about the landscape just took my breath away. I was immersed from the start.

There are some things that can’t be changed with words. 

And then there’s the romance. I can’t. This has every trope going, love to hate, slow burn romance, love triangles are even thrown in…but I loved it. Most of the time, cliche tropes will make me roll my eyes, but this just swept me along for the ride. I loved the characters and just wanted them to be together.

Which brings me on to…the characters! Ah, Lou. How I loved your badass spirit and determination, with a soft heart underneath. Reid, with your gentle, loving soul and bravery. Ansel, with your loyalty and resolve. They were broken and real and tormented and I adored them all.

Everything about this book just took my breath away. I wanted to read it constantly and I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I would read it first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I was reading 100+ pages a day without even batting an eyelid.

Some things have to be seen. They have to be felt.

One last thing to note is I would definitely count this as New Adult rather than YA! It is on par with Sarah J Maas with the…ahem..quite steamy scenes.

As you can probably tell, I loved this book so much. If magic/witches, fantasy in a beautiful city and a slow burn romance sounds like something for you, you need to read this book. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J Maas!


★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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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..

I didn’t plan to read this book just before Halloween, but I’m really glad I did. It is mystical and haunting and just perfect for Autumn. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up really enjoying it. I read The Girl of Ink and Stars a couple of years ago and really liked the writing, so I was glad to delve back into her worlds.

The writing really didn’t let me down. It was so atmospheric and beautiful, and made the book fly by. This book is fairly short, clocking in at just over 300 pages, and I loved that about it. I got into it super quickly, and read 50-100 pages for a couple of days and finished it so quickly!

I thought my silence, my stillness, was a fine way to be. 

The characters really carried this story for me. I loved the relationship between the two main characters, who are sisters. I also really enjoyed reading about the romances, which included a lovely, positive f/f relationship that I adored reading about so much.

I was a little hesitant going into this book after my friend Courtney read it and was disappointed by the ending. I can really sympathise with why she didn’t like how it ended, and maybe I would have felt differently without the knowledge that I might not enjoy it. However, I didn’t mind the ending. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, but I find I appreciate a hopeful one more. And although the ending felt a little rush in the decisions of the main characters, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

But now I realised it made me as bad as those men who took the side of a monster, who watched a locked door as children starved to death inside.

I wasn’t aware this book was a retelling about Dracula’s brides until I read the acknowledgements at the end, but knowing only added more. I can really visualise how the story has evolved into the beautiful and haunting narrative that is The Deathless Girls.


★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Wayward Son (#2) by Rainbow Rowell

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Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…
So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?
What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…
That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.
They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

Alex and I decided to buddy read this book, which I’m really happy about because it has been out for a year and I still hadn’t picked it up! I usually find it difficult to motivate myself to pick up the second book in a series so long after the first one, but I actually found reading a quick summary online was enough for me with this series. I don’t remember Carry On in much detail, but I remember enough of the characters and big plot points that it was okay!

I found this book so fun. I didn’t manage to read for a couple of days in the middle of the week due to just being busy with other things, but I managed to catch up on Thursday evening/Friday just because it was so quick and easy to read. The action was such a high for me in this book. It was so ludicrous and entertaining and it made me fly through the chapters. I remember loving the action in Carry On, and the writing style definitely continues in this one.

I’d give him all that I am.
I’d give him all that I was.

The characters were great, and I loved reading about them. Shepard, who is a new character who joins possibly around halfway, I loved. He was so quirky and fun and such a great addition to the series! I always love when the second book in a series has a new character because it just adds something new and interesting. I really liked Baz and Simon and I’ve always loved reading about their relationship. I also found it really interesting to read about them while their relationship wasn’t that perfect all the time, yet they still loved each other. Because it was real.

Alex and I had a few slight problems with this book, however, that we both picked up on. For a start, the characters just seem utterly clueless about America. I understand that some British people may not know that much about it, but there are a few comments the characters make seem really odd? For example, they don’t seem to know the drinking age is 21, or have any idea how big America is compared to England. There was also a really odd comment about animal products which as a vegan, I found incredibly strange in the wording.

I’d open up a vein.
I’d tie our hearts together, chamber by chamber.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected, but I found a few small problems with it that knocked down my rating slightly. If you’re looking for a road trip book full of magic and adventure, this book is definitely for you!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Double Cross (#4) by Malorie Blackman

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Tobey wants a better life – for him and his girlfriend Callie Rose. He wants nothing to do with the gangs that rule the world he lives in. But when he’s offered the chance to earn some money just for making a few ‘deliveries’, just this once, would it hurt to say ‘yes’?
One small decision can change everything . . .

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I see this book as the last in the series, purely because it was the last for so long, and Crossfire is set so long after the original four.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book so much. It was probably the most fast-paced book in the series and I flew through it quicker than any of the others. Especially the last 100 pages, they were so amazingly full of action that I didn’t want to put the book down.

That was all it took – a shower of rain, the slam of a door, the thrust of a knife or a gunshot – 

But – and it’s a big but – it wasn’t enough. I really enjoyed the plot, the action and adventure. It was a compulsive and compelling read. But it almost left no room for anything else. No room for emotion, connection, family, friendship. I didn’t really feel like I knew Tobey before this book, and I don’t feel like I know him afterward, either. I did feel for them as a couple, and I won’t lie, I did have tears in my eyes at the end of the book.

I just wish I had more time to connect to the characters, to feel more for them so that when the plot climaxed, I would connect to how it affected everybody around Tobey, himself included.

and just like that, a person could be gone with nothing but the memories of others to show that they’d ever existed.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t add enough to the original story for me at all, and the balance of emotional connection and plot was not right. I wanted a par of both of them, and even though the action and plot were exceptional, it didn’t win me over, just made the book very readable!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Checkmate (#3) by Malorie Blackman

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Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

If Knife Edge left me wanting more, Checkmate gave it to me. I was blown away by this book, and I can’t believe how different I found it from the second. The second really felt like a lull for me, suffering from the classic ‘filler’ feeling second books in series sometimes have. But in Checkmate, the action ramps up, emotions run high, I loved it.

I cannot congratulate Blackman enough for writing an absolute roller coaster of a series. The way Checkmate was structured, non-linear and flitting between Callie as she grows up and Sephy, Callie and family in recent years, is astounding. I wanted to rush through the pages in order to find out what happens, and of course, Blackman leaves you on the edge of your seat until the very final pages.

But remember this if nothing else: I love you more than there are words or stars. I love you more than there are thoughts and feelings.

As well as the plot being amazing, the characters were very well structured, too. In Knife Edge, I struggled with how Jude acted, and I felt Sephy’s feelings and more specifically, depression, were not dealt with very well. All of that goes out of the window in Checkmate, for a more developed and well rounded cast. I finally felt like I was there with them for every step, feeling everything they did. It was everything I wanted from this series, finally in my hands.

The repetitiveness in the writing has also vanished. Instead of feeling like Blackman was struggling to fill a page, I finally felt like every word meant something, every word needed to be there for the story. The only slight downside was the amount of POV’s could be confusing at times and felt like they were flitting around a lot. Despite this, I still really enjoyed it and found it digestible enough to read.

I love you more than there are seconds or moments gone or to come. I love you.

This is a story about race. A story about divide. A story about women, family and friendship and love. I cannot wait to see where the next book takes me, and I only hope it lives up to this one.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Knife Edge (#2) by Malorie Blackman

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Where there has been love, now there is hate.
Two families have been shattered by the divided and violent society they live in.
Sephy Hadley – a Cross, supposedly powerful and privileged – has bound herself forever to her nought lover Callum McGregor’s family.
But Jude McGregor blames Sephy for all the tragedies his family has suffered. And he is determined to force her to take sides, and destroy her life . . . just like she destroyed his. . .

There is absolutely no doubt that these books shake you to the core. They are so powerful, shocking and hard hitting. Some of the scenes left me reeling.

But, and it is a big but. I was bored. It is so hard to balance a book which is important as this series is, with a concept behind it that is so needed and prominent and children’s literature, with the fact that I found the writing…not that great.

The media called us ruthless terrorists. We’re not. We’re just fighting for what’s right.

I remember being gripped by the first book, not wanting to put it down. I remember reading most of it in one sitting. But with this one, the only saving grace was Jude’s storyline. His heartbreaking sections were interesting and thought provoking. I still believe his thoughts and feelings could have been portrayed in a way that made him a little more three-dimensional, but for the most part his storyline was really enjoyable.

But unfortunately, it ended there. I found Sephy difficult to read about. She is obviously struggling, but it is not explained in detail why, with her instead pushing everything and everybody away and acting like a brat. I found the first half of this book much better than the second, which is rare for me. She just seemed much more rounded and well developed, then shutting herself off to the world in the second part, making her very two-dimensional. I understand that this may be the point with her depression, but it fell flat in the writing for me.

I also found a lot of the chapters very repetitive, especially those from the point of view of the mothers or other secondary characters. Meggie would often repeat herself for a whole page and fixate on one small issue, which I found frustrating to read about.

Being born a nought shouldn’t automatically slam shut myriad doors before you’ve even drawn your first breath.

Overall, I am very torn about this book. Blackman is incredibly talented, and it shines through in very small scenes, which show anger, passion and frustration for an oppressed community. I just found it to be in much smaller doses than I expected, which was an incredible disappointment.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

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Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

This book made me realise you should never judge a book because it is written in verse. Having just read two absolutely beautiful books written in verse, after not reading verse for years, I have been absolutely blown away.

The language is flowing, beautiful and tender. It explored the grief of two young girls, separated by an ocean, only beginning to learn that they are sisters. It made my heart ache with hurt and pain and grief. But there is no denying that it is pure beauty.

Can you be from a place

I feel like this book explores so many difficult topics in such a breathtaking way. It explores anger, hurt, loss, forgiveness, family, friendship and grief in a way I don’t think I’ve ever read about before. It captures you by the shoulders and shakes you, until your world feels just as upside down as Camino’s and Yahaira’s has been made by the death of their father.

I loved the way this book spanned oceans, exploring life in both the US and the Dominican Republic. It reflects an everyday tragedy in such rawness and tenderness, through the eyes of two girls who were deeply affected by a plane crash.

One of my only complaints is that in some ways I found it difficult to differentiate between the voices of the two girls, who felt very similar to me in tone. Although I can see this being intentional, I found it difficult to read, especially towards the end where their sections are shorter. My only other small complaint would be I felt something missing in parts, especially when it came to the two sisters meeting and coming to terms with the new relationship they had found with each other. I almost felt we left their story having not explored the relationship between them far enough.

you have never been?

Overall, this is such a beautiful verse novel, and I can’t wait to read more by Acevedo. It pulled on my heartstrings and left me so full of emotion, warmth and hope in light of the darkness.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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