June 2016 Chrissi Cupboard Month

All posts tagged June 2016 Chrissi Cupboard Month

If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch

Published May 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What happens in the woods, stays in the woods. . .

Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn’t, will she ever be free?

For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in a camper van in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa. Her mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey’s only priority – until strangers arrive and everything changes . . .

What did I think?:

If You Find Me was another book pushed onto me by my sister, Chrissi Reads and I included it in one of my bi-yearly Chrissi Cupboard Months. I’ve mentioned before when she recommends that I read a book, I really should listen because she is preparing me for something amazing but I really wasn’t prepared for how outstanding this novel was. Warning – it deals with some VERY tough and emotive subjects, including child neglect/abuse so if you’re particularly sensitive to those subjects, this might not be the book for you. However, I was surprised by how much hope and joy filled these pages, despite the horrific past that our main character and her sister have had to suffer. Additionally, although some people have criticised the “tied up in a bow,” ending, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap up a heart-breaking yet optimistic story.

Our female lead is a fifteen year old girl called Carey who lives with her younger sister, Jenessa (Nessa) in a camper van in the middle of the woods with their drug addict mother. Carey is responsible for all of her younger sister’s care and her mother disappears for long periods of time, sometimes days, occasionally weeks meaning that Carey must look after, feed and entertain a little girl who hasn’t known anything different from the life that they lead.

One day, their mother has been gone for a particularly long time and strangers arrive to take the two girls away, back to a family of their biological father, stepmother and a stepsister who have been living their lives completely ignorant of the trials that Carey and Nessa have had to suffer. Both girls must now learn to live in a world where school is mandatory, large groups of people and noises can be terrifying and they must get to know a complete stranger who calls himself their father. Meanwhile, Carey is hiding a terrible secret about their time in the woods, something that no-one must find out. Yet people are starting to ask questions, especially as to why Nessa remains mute and refuses to speak. What secret could be so dangerous that they are petrified to tell another living soul?

As I’ve alluded to in the beginning of my review, this book goes to very dark places and I don’t think you’ll be able to read this story without being moved in some way. For me, it was a very peculiar experience. The reader only sees a snippet of their time in the woods, they are rescued quite early on in the novel but what I saw was seriously enough for me. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach, that horrible lump in your throat when you try not to cry and at times, I thought I would have to take a break. It’s not explicit in the slightest, let me assure you. Although I was horribly upset at the situation Carey and Nessa found themselves in, I think I was really affected by the relationship between the siblings. I’m the oldest of three children myself and as you’re probably aware, I’m very close to my little sister. Carey’s relationship with Nessa very much reminded me of the way I feel towards Chrissi – hugely protective, almost as if I was a bear and she was my cub! (Chrissi’s so going to laugh at this….).

In all seriousness, Carey is like the mother that Nessa has never had and I really felt awful for her, having to grow up well before her time and take on all that responsibility of the care-giver that SHOULD have been down to their mother. This is also reflected when she is taken away from the situation, the adult way of speaking she uses, the way she tries to fit in at school and how she reacts to her father and new family. Carey has always had to be the strong one and protect Nessa, despite the feelings she has herself which are often hidden as a way of shielding her sister. It broke my heart at times how much she tried to hold it together and be resilient. I just wanted to give her a hug!

Most of this novel is based after Carey and Nessa escape the woods and although I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with this part I was incredibly wrong. I loved seeing their journey, how they adapt to “normal life,” the moments when they realise that they might be safe and no-one will hurt them again and, of course, the revelations of the huge secret and burden that the girls are carrying with them. This is a stunning, emotional and powerful piece of writing that was difficult to read at points but so very rewarding. Wait a minute…it’s a debut novel?! I will certainly be looking out for other books by Emily Murdoch and indeed reading anything else she happens to write.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Haunting – Alex Bell

Published January 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Some curses grow stronger with time…
People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.
Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…
A chilling new title in the Red Eye horror series from the author of Frozen Charlotte.

What did I think?:

I’ve been a fan of Alex Bell for a little while now and have really enjoyed her adult reads including The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn, which I read in my pre-blogging days and of course, her relatively recent release of Frozen Charlotte with Red Eye publishers. The Haunting is her second book for Red Eye and once I realised that it involved something “witchy,” I was completely sold. I’m loving Alex’s foray into young adult fiction, particularly horror as it’s something I used to read almost exclusively when I was a teenager. When I read things like Frozen Charlotte and The Haunting I’m reminded of the Point Horror books released in the 1990’s which I used to adore and spend all of my pocket money on. As a result, reading her books written in this vein are incredibly nostalgic and I find myself just as gripped by the narrative as when I used to read books under the duvet with my torch in the middle of the night.

The Haunting follows our disabled protagonist Emma, confined to a wheelchair after a horrific accident as she goes to visit her sick grandmother in Cornwall. Her grandmother owns an inn called The Waterwitch and begs Emma not to return there, swearing that it is haunted and therefore dangerous but when Emma sees a mysterious light in the inn one evening, she is determined to investigate with her trusty assistance dog, Bailey. Reunited with her old friend Jem and his sister Shell, strange and creepy things start happening at The Waterwitch and Emma begins to realise that one particular spirit has a mission she is resolved to carry out, which could prove deadly for anyone that stands in her way.

As with most thrillers/mysteries I don’t want to go much more into the plot than I already have for fear of spoilers. I really loved the whole atmosphere of this novel, including our plucky characters (and I’m always a sucker for a brave dog too!). It was wonderful to see a protagonist that was not able-bodied and I appreciated her unwavering need for answers, returning to the place where her accident occurred and facing things that would have most ordinary people running for the hills! Alex Bell sets the scene beautifully with an inn that is built from the remains of a shipwreck of the same name, The Waterwitch, to tell a story that will give you chills and have you checking the darkest corners of your room before you go to sleep. It’s delightfully eerie but the perfect level of fright for teenagers without giving them nightmares so for that I heartily recommend it. Finally, I really appreciated a young adult piece of fiction that wasn’t all about the romance, had friendship and family much deeper at its core and wasn’t afraid to travel to some very dark places. I can’t really compare it to Frozen Charlotte if you’ve read that – in my eyes, it’s just as uncanny and definitely has the potential to raise a few goosebumps.

For my interview with Alex Bell, please see my post HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Heart Of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) – Mary E. Pearson

Published December 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

What did I think?:

The first book in the Remnant Chronicles, The Kiss of Deception, was a huge surprise for me a couple of years ago in that I was shocked how much I enjoyed a novel quite heavy on the romance side of things. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you might remember I tend to roll my eyes/turn my nose up a little bit when things get a bit romantic. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy love in novels, I do of course but it has to be done in just the right way otherwise things can get a little bit cringey. The Kiss Of Deception really spoke to my cynical little heart and I kid you not, I was practically swooning at the sweetness of it all. My worry with The Heart Of Betrayal is that it wold suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome and my expectations for the series were already sky high. Whilst it was not a five star read like its predecessor, it was still a brilliant read and I’m excited to see how the story is going to conclude in the final novel, The Beauty Of Darkness.

So, trying to avoid major spoilers, Lia has become a prisoner in Venda, under the rule of the dangerous Komizar, taken there by a man she thought she trusted. Her magical gift has been discovered and the people of Venda begin to revere her and are delighted by her presence. Meanwhile, Rafe hot-foots it to Venda too in an attempt to rescue Lia, in disguise as the Royal Emissary of Dalbreck to disguise who he really is. Both struggle to maintain their relationship when the memories of their mutual deception threaten to overwhelm them. Lia is also wrestling with her opinion of Kaden who she feels has betrayed her but ultimately, the real test of her strength lies in pacifying and fooling the Komizar of Venda, who develops a rather particular and obsessive interest for her. Set against war, major political upheaval and dastardly plans, Lia must draw on all her resources and make some questionable allies if she is to have any hope of escape.

A lot of people have expressed their thoughts on the love triangle in this series and I’d like to throw my own opinions into the mix. I honestly don’t believe there actually is a love triangle to speak of in this novel – in that the main female protagonist has feelings for both of the male leads in love with her. It is pretty clear to me where Lia’s heart lies and I think she deals with the situation very well. Kaden as a character I have to admit I’m not warming towards and indeed at times I was a little bit frustrated with his thoughts and actions. However, I adore Lia for her determination, pig-headed stubbornness and kindness of heart and there were a number of other secondary characters introduced that I also enjoyed. The Komizar was a fantastic “love to hate him,” villain with such darkness and brutality behind his character that he made for a tantalising reading experience. The world-building as with the first novel was top notch although I would have liked a little more political intrigue and a little more action, rather than all the thrills being concentrated in the final moments of the story. This made for a jaw dropping ending, that’s undeniable but I felt it kind of threw the pace of the entire book off slightly. Saying that, this was a wonderful sequel to The Kiss Of Deception and I’m now one hundred percent invested in this world, the characters and their future, however tenuous that might seem.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Six Of Crows (Six Of Crows #1) – Leigh Bardugo

Published November 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

What did I think?:

I’ve read some reviews of Leigh Bardugo’s work and generally, people seem to have quite strong opinions of her Grisha trilogy (Shadow And Bone, Siege And Storm, Ruin and Rising) compared to the Six of Crows duology in that they prefer one over the other. I was one of those people that loved the Grisha trilogy and when I heard all the hype about this novel I was beyond excited. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was just as brilliant although I did find it quite different stylistically speaking, and you can clearly see a stronger development of writing in the creation of some fantastic, unforgettable characters and an intricate, thrilling and very nail-biting plot.

Told from a number of different perspectives, Six Of Crows focuses on a motley crew of six main characters (hence the name!) that are all flawed, wanted criminals, tricky and sneaky in their endeavours or lost and just seeking a family to call their home, never mind how unconventional it might be. All our characters: Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan have their individual little secrets or tragedies in their pasts and all have their own motives for attempting to pull off the most unbelievable heist. They are offered a vast sum of money and in return must recover a notorious scientist imprisoned in the impenetrable Ice Court. Impenetrable, as its boundaries have never, ever been breached. However, with confident Kaz Brekker in the lead, this dysfunctional group of friends start to believe that they might just be able to pull it off.

There’s been many comparisons of this novel to a young adult version of Oceans Eleven and I would definitely agree with that although it does have some quite violent scenes, which adults might want to be aware of for younger readers. However, the absolute power in this beauty of a novel comes with the characterisation. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a gang of characters as dubious as these for such a long time – I really wanted them to succeed in their mission and I really loved the complexity of their personalities, their difficult pasts and their relationships with each other, which were just gorgeous and quite heart-breaking at times. Like most reviewers, I fell head over heels for the romance between Kaz and Inej (which was portrayed just delicately enough for this cynical romance reader right here!) but I also loved the difficult relationship between Nina and Matthias and Jesper’s wonderful humour brought some much needed light relief to the narrative during the multiple nerve-wracking moments. Just writing this review has brought back memories of how invested I was in the characters when I read it and I’m determined to read Crooked Kingdom as a priority early next year. I can’t wait to see how the story ends!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) – Marissa Meyer

Published November 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

What did I think?:

It’s finally time for my review of the last book in The Lunar Chronicles, Winter. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series and love young adult fiction with adorable, sassy and unforgettable characters and a magical, fairy-tale edge please go right now and read Cinder, the first novel in the series. If you finish it feeling a bit underwhelmed, do me a favour and just give Scarlet, the second novel a shot. This is exactly how I felt and as soon as I read Scarlet and then Cress, I became a sucker for this world and all the characters within it. How do I feel now that I’ve read the last book in the series? A bit deflated I have to admit, but oddly satisfied at the same time. Everything was wrapped up beautifully in my opinion and the entire novel itself (all 800+ pages of it!) was a wild, thrilling ride that I never wanted to end.

Each book in The Lunar Chronicles has chosen to focus on a different female protagonist, loosely based on a fairy-tale character i.e. Cinder/Cinderella, Scarlet/Little Red Riding Hood, Cress/Rapunzel and in this latest instalment, we focus on Princess Winter/Snow White whose evil stepmother in the plot is a familiar villain in the series, Queen Levana whom we got to know very well indeed in the novella just prior to this book, Fairest. Princess Winter is another fascinating protagonist – sweet, kind, instantly loveable but slightly crazy from Lunar sickness. This is because she refuses to use her Lunar power in the same way that her stepmother does and suffers intense and troubling hallucinations as a result. The novel follows all the protagonists from the previous novels in the series as they land on the planet Luna and attempt to overthrow Queen Levana, with the help of a terrifying revolution and, of course Princess Winter.

I don’t think I need to say much more than that, that’s pretty much the plot in a nutshell, avoiding all potential spoilers! You would think being such a long novel (particularly for a young adult book) it would be slightly tedious and take far too long to read. Not the case at all. I flew through this story in a matter of days, partially due to the sheer number of exciting action sequences and last minute plot twists that made Winter such a roller-coaster and a genuine pleasure to read. It’s not literary fiction – so don’t expect flowery prose and intelligent, intricate language but I read it for the thrilling plot and the wonderful characters which, by the end, I couldn’t get enough of. As a piece of fantastical young adult fiction, it fulfils the brief and so much more besides and I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they need a little magic or escape from the monotony of regular life.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) – Marissa Meyer

Published November 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

What did I think?:

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my arguments for giving a series another shot. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the first book in the series, Cinder but I was persuaded to carry on and after Scarlet and Cress, I became quite the fan. Fairest is another fantastic addition to the world that Marissa Meyer has created and is in fact, a novella that should ideally be read between the third book, Cress and just before the final book in the series, Winter. I don’t think you should feel obligated to read this short tale (I know not everyone loves novellas) and you won’t miss out on anything important but personally, I thought it really brought something special to the series as a whole and if you have the opportunity and the inclination to read it you definitely should!

I say you won’t miss anything if you choose not to read it because in Fairest we actually travel back to the past, more specifically the past of Queen Levana, following her childhood and adolescence with absent, cold parents and the events that precipitated the horrific accident she had which leads her to hide her true self away from others by using glamour. I don’t really want to say too much about what happens in her life but the reader certainly comes to understand why she has become such a wicked, calculating villain in the most recent novels. Levana certainly goes through some harrowing experiences which may even lead to you feeling some sympathy for her as a character but in fact, it is the way that she deals with these issues and wreaks her revenge that leaves you with little hope for her redemption.

This was such a fascinating insight into the heart and mind of the Lunar Chronicles’ most despised villain and even though it is brief, at merely 222 pages, it packs an almighty lot of action, intrigue and emotion into those pages making it feel much “meatier,” as a result. I love to hate Queen Levana in this series but I was so impressed how Marissa Meyer managed to elicit my pity and sympathy at points in the narrative when she faced certain trials in her life. Not for long, mind you. By the end, she was completely back to the mean, nasty and despicable character that we know and appreciate from the full-length novels in the series. I just have to mention the cover art as well for this series which is truly magnificent and was a huge factor in me picking up these books in the first place. The Lunar Chronicles is due to finish with the final novel, Winter which I’m eagerly anticipating but have to admit to feeling a bit sad realising this is soon all going to be over! Until the re-read that is.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) – Lauren James

Published October 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

What did I think?:

I really love having a sister who is also a book blogger. She understands the excitement of review copies and makes some brilliant recommendations that, because she is my sister and obviously knows what I like, I’m certain when she raves about a book that I should expect great things. This was the case with The Next Together, part of a duology and encompassing so many genres that you would think it would feel a bit muddled. Not in the slightest. This novel is part historical fiction, part science fiction, part fantasy and part romance and manages to slot into each of these categories with ease and grace making it such an exciting and rewarding reading experience.

This is the story of Katherine and Matthew who have lived many lives/reincarnations, from the The Siege of Carlisle and The Crimeon War in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, to the near futures of 2019 and 2039. Each time they live their lives they encompass different roles i.e. a noble lady and her servant, an ambitious journalist and his eager assistant, two talented scientists who make a breakthrough discovery and finally, two teenagers who are attempting to find out more and clear the names of the scientists who pre-dated them. In each life, they meet each other and fall deeply in love and then are torn apart when something happens in that particular time period to kill one of the pair. The story based in 2039 is critically important and may shed some light on why Katherine and Matthew can’t simply have a “happy ever after,” but we get some wonderful glimpses of those three other past lives that are both poignant and heart-warming.

As I mentioned before, this book has got a bit of everything genre wise, and I loved how the author combined all the elements to make this a fascinating, exciting and at times, nail biting read that I thoroughly enjoyed. As with all romance novels, I’m always worried that the romance could come off as a bit cheesy but I had no need to worry with The Next Together. Katherine’s wonderful and hilarious sense of humour and Matt’s strong, dependable persona made their relationship a delight to read about and wasn’t at all sickly sweet or unbelievable. I adored how Lauren James told the story in a mixture of notes, emails etc between Katherine and Matt which provided a lovely modern contrast between the more historical sections of the narrative and again, for me, made the love between them feel all the more authentic. I’ll be reading the second novel in the duology, The Last Beginning very soon and cannot wait to get started (especially after the gripping ending!) If it is in any way, shape or form as beautiful as The Next Together I’m in for a huge treat.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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