Monday, April 8, 2019

Book Review: White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock

Title: White Rabbit, Red Wolf
Author: Tom Pollock
Publication date: 3rd May 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Source: Review copy from publisher
Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength.

My thoughts:
I’d read one of Tom Pollock’s other books before, which has a strong fantasy element, and while this is very different I knew going in that I liked his writing, and I was intrigued by he fact it deals with an eating disorder and other mental health issues. White Rabbit, Red Wolf gets started very quickly, and is one of those books that's packed with twists and turns, making it very hard to talk about without spoilers!

The portrayal of Peter's panic attacks and how they link in to compulsive eating and other actions was fascinating. I've read that Tom Pollock has an eating disorder himself, and I wonder if that's part of what made it feel so authentic, understandable and real. Peter's best friend in the book, Ingrid, also has OCD and their mutual problems are part of what help them bond so strongly.

While there was the odd twist that I could anticipate, for the most part, I was completely surprised by them. Unlike some books where the 'surprising twists' just seem to crush the story so far and laugh at the reader for how they've been misdirected, the turns in White Rabbit, Red Wolf felt totally believable within the story. It's fast paced, dramatic, and one of those books that when I finished it, I immediately wanted to reread it knowing what you do by the end of the book. I completely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a thriller, even if you wouldn't normally read YA. Overall I'm giving it 8 out of 10.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

Title: The Governess Game
Author: Tessa Dare
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Description: The accidental governess…

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart... without risking her own.

The infamous rake... 

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

My thoughts: I'll start by saying that this is the best historical romance I've read in a long while. The writing is very smooth, the plot flows along at a good pace, and the characters are very likeable and fun to read about, with the secondary characters seeming just as well developed as the main pair. Beyond that, it does a few particular things which I enjoyed reading about.

Alexandra, or Alex as she's known to her friends, works for a living and is lucky enough to know a trade: she maintains clocks for wealthy customers in London. She's very practical, but that hasn't stopped her from daydreaming about the man who literally bumped into her in a bookshop several months ago. When they meet again, he thinks she's there to fill the vacancy of Governess to his two wards. The encounter leaves her flustered, and she ends up losing the mechanical piece she needs for her clock-setting business. Instead of accepting help from her close friends, she returns to Chase and takes up his offer of the governess position.

Right from the start, there is a lot of sexiness between them. She's very attracted to him, and he to her, and all of their interactions sizzle. In the last few years, I've become much more aware of the significance it can have on a 'relationship' when one person has power over another. Although Chase is employing Alex, none of their kisses (or beyond, and there is *plenty* of beyond-kissing) felt like Alex was in an uncomfortable position. She can leave this job if she wants to; her reputation isn't watched as closely as it would be if she was on his social level.

That ties in nicely to one of my other favourite things in The Governess Game: consent. There is a lot of emphasis on her consenting to things. Chase even says "I need to hear you say it" at one point, when Alex has just nodded. I love that Tessa Dare included things like that, and made it sexy in itself.

The final aspect I want to mention is Alex's friendship group. I gather that there may have been a previous book with one of these women as the main character, who is married in this book, and I'll be looking out for that to read it as well. The women are from slightly different societal backgrounds, but they haven't let that get in the way of their friendship. There is a hugely deep loyalty between them all, and they're very protective of each other. They are slightly unconventional for their time, without it ever coming across as there being a 'you're not like other girls' aspect to it in Chase's relationship with Alex.

The Governess Game was a really lovely, sexy book, and a perfect example of Regency romance. Beyond the romance, the importance of family, and building a found-family, is such a key theme and brought me to tears several times as it looked at the bonds being built between the wards and Alex and Chase. I highly recommend this to all fans of the genre, and will be looking for more Tessa Dare books to read soon. I'm giving it 9 out of 10.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Book Review: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake by Janice Preston

Title: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake
Author: Janice Preston
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description: 'He’s completely unsuitable… he’s a rake.'

After being plucked from peril by resolute bachelor Lord Hugo Alastair, Lady Olivia Beauchamp is secretly outraged that he doesn’t even try to steal a kiss! He’s a notorious rake amongst the ton and as a result, utterly forbidden to an innocent debutante like her. But their attraction is magnetic. Will she risk her reputation for a passionate encounter?

My thoughts: Lady Olivia Beauchamp has had a very fortunate life. Her family are high in British society, she has two older brothers to secure the future of the family, they're well off financially and her father is able to provide a good dowry for her so she needn't worry too much about her future husband being wealthy himself. She knows how to behave in public to appear as a proper young lady, but in private she's a little more rebellious. Her brothers have always overshadowed her, and she feels like her sex has held her back from a lot of opportunities in life. That leads her to the situation at the beginning of the book where she has disguised herself and persuaded her brother to take her to Vauxhall Gardens one night while their father is away. Unfortunately, things go wrong, and Lord Hugo steps in to rescue her.

They then meet several times through various circumstances and despite knowing he has a reputation as a rake, Lady Olivia finds herself very attracted to him. I liked Olivia for her daring, and the way she balanced the lady she needed to appear as to society against the person she was inside. There are a couple of times in the book where she makes very silly decisions, without really thinking about possible consequences, which was a bit frustrating but I think that's an accurate reflection of the fact that she's eighteen and just doesn't have a clear picture of the harsh realities of the world yet.

While you don't get to see much of what the secondary characters are up to, there are references to some adventures which I think must play out in the other books in this sequence, called 'The Beauchamp Heirs'. I'd be interested to read more, I think, but I'm not necessarily going to seek them out over other historical romance books that might be available to me when I'm next choosing something.

Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake was a light, easy read and that was exactly what I was looking for. It's nicely written Regency romance, and I'd read other books by Janice Preston in future. I'm giving this book 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Book Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Title: Foundryside
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Publication Date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Divine Cities trilogy #1
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth - but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.

There's not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she's offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons - but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead - and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.

Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive - because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.

My thoughts: I haven't read anything by Robert Jackson Bennett before, but I thought the blurb sounded interesting, so I was excited to give Foundryside a go. It starts with a young woman called Sancia stealing a mysterious object for her unnamed client. She wouldn't normally take a job this big and complex, because the consequences if she gets caught could be death or the painful loss of a limb, but this time the money was so good she couldn't say no. She duly gets hold of the box, but she can't resist the urge to look inside - despite having been told specifically not to by the client - and see what someone would go to all this trouble for. It turns out to be a magical object that's totally different from anything else, and Sancia realises her client wont let her live with any knowledge of it.

The book hooked me quickly, with Sancia's street-smart attitude and a lot of action that painted a good picture of the city and how the magic in this world works. Be warned, it's not a short book. I found the 10-20% section dragged a bit, but then things picked up again and I got sucked right back in. The last 30% flew by, and where part way through there had been moments where I wasn't sure if I'd continue with the series after Foundryside, by the time I finished reading it last night I knew I need to read the next book!

The majority of the book is focussed on Sancia, but there are occasional short paragraphs from some of the other key characters. There are a variety of narrators, and I think Robert Jackson Bennett did a really good job at giving the main characters distinct personalities and motivations. I liked the character development of all the key players over the course of the book, and I'm interested to see what happens to them in the sequel.

With Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett has created an exciting, believable world and a plot full of twists. It picks up momentum as it goes along, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the second book in the series has in store for readers. Overall, I'm giving Foundryside 7 out of 10.

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.


Term of Use

If you would like us to review your book, do an interview or host a guest blog, you can contact Ailsa at: or Emily Cross

We are happy to review any genre of books - get in touch and we can chat.

The Book Bundle Copyright © 2009 Flower Garden is Designed by Ipietoon for Tadpole's Notez Flower Image by Dapino