Monday, July 30, 2018

Mini Book Review: Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Title: Big Bones
Author: Laura Dockrill
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: March 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Borrowed

Description: The latest teen novel from the sparkling Laura Dockrill, introducing Bluebelle, and her moving, hilarious take on food, body image and how we look after ourselves and others

A heart-warming teen story from the unique voice of Laura Dockrill, about Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones - a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she's perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. Moving, memorable and hilarious. 

My thoughts: Big Bones opens with Bluebelle at the doctor's, being told she should keep a food diary because of her weight. At first she refuses, but then makes a bargain with her mum: if she keeps the diary all summer, her mum will let her start an apprenticeship in the autumn rather than going back to school. Each chapter is named for a food, usually something BB eats during that chapter. But rather than just a list of foods, she also brings in memories of that food in her childhood, feelings associated with particular comfort foods, people associated with certain things, etc etc. It's a lovely look at the importance of food in a life beyond just sustenance.

It's very body positive, which is great to see in a young adult book. BB's attitude and thoughts are shaken a bit after an accident in the family. I found it interesting to read about how her opinions developed over the course of the book. Overall, it's a nice, upbeat book with a good message but it's not going to be something which stands out to me in December when I think back over what I've read this year. I'm giving Big Bones 6 out of 10.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Title: Snakewood
Author: Adrian Selby
Publication date: 19th January 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Traded with a friend


Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.

Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.

One by one.

My thoughts: I heard Adrian Selby read from this book last year at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club in London, and thought the concept mercenaries who drank potions to help them in battle, then suffered various side effects from those potions, was really interesting. It sat on my wishlist until a friend was giving away his copy earlier this year, and I snapped it up. At the beginning of the book, two friends who used to be part of an elite group of mercenaries are going into a fight, and one of them gets shot, leaving him with a wound which they both know will be slowly fatal. They start to make the long journey across the country so that he can die at home, but quickly discover that they might have bigger things to worry about when the leader of their old band sends them a message to say that members of the group are slowly but surely being killed off.

For a fairly simple core concept, this book is full of drama, twists, and huge fight scenes. It's brilliantly executed, and had me absolutely gripped from the early chapters all the way through to the end. It's a fantasy novel which sprawls across a continent, with multiple narrators, including the 'baddie', flashbacks to the glory days of the mercenary band, and past events which shaped the motivations of some of the key players.

It's hard to find a uniquely new idea within the fantasy genre, but I think Adrian Selby has pulled that off with Snakewood. The tension stays high through the whole book, and I was really rooting for the characters. I laughed, I cried, and at the end of the book I was recommending it to anyone within earshot. It's one of the best books I've read this year, and I think all fantasy fans should pick up a copy if they get the chance. I'm giving this one 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book review: Ravencry by Ed McDonald

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Ravencry by Ed McDonald!

Title: Ravencry
Author: Ed McDonald
Publication date: 28th June 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Raven's Mark #2
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets - especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.

The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady has begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.

Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult - or about strange orders from the Nameless - but when Crowfoot's arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he's propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.

My thoughts: Blackwing, book 1 in the series, was one of my favourite books I read last year. I was eager to hear more about the world, and what might have happened following the events at the end of book one. It's four years on from the end of Blackwing, and fortunes have changed a bit for Ryhalt and his companions: they've got a large office building, their rank is acknowledged across the city, and there's not been too much trouble from the Misery recently. But when Ryhalt goes to meet an old acquaintance and ends up almost shot, it leads to a horrifying discovery.

Favourite characters from Blackwing play an important part, including Nenn and Tnota, and I enjoyed reading the insult-strewn camaraderie between them. There are also some new faces, including a 14-year-old orphan who does odd jobs around the office, and a smart woman who looks after all the accounts, and tries to look after the team as well. They're all interesting, three-dimensional people and I'll love to read more stories about each of them, which I think is a good test for how well built a character is.

One of the best bits about Blackwing was the pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you plot twists, which would send the characters scrabbling to adjust their plans. Ravencry was just as capable of surprising me, although I was a lot more on the lookout for twists, and was a bit more nervous than Ryhalt when he thought he had everything figured out a couple of times. There's a lot of action at the begining and end of the book, but there's a bit maybe three quarters in set in the Misery which I found a lot slower, and not as interesting, although it did feel very appropriate to be reading about people slogging through a desert while I was crammed into a hot commuter train.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ravencry. Ed McDonald has produced another fantasy novel packed with action, foul-mouthed characters and enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on your toes. I'll definitely be recommending it to other fantasy fans, particularly if you enjoyed book one in the series, and I'm now anxiously waiting for the next book in the series. I'm giving Ravencry 8 out of 10.

Have a look at the banner below to see the other stops in the Ravencry blog tour.