Friday 15 December 2017

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell

Illustrated By: Simini Blocker
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2nd November 2017
Number of Pages: 144
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Contemporary, Romance, Short Stories, Coming-Of-Age, YA
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Swearing, Alcohol References
Author's Site: Rainbow Rowell

Blurb From Goodreads:
Midnights is the story of Noel and Mags, who meet at the same New Year's Eve party every year and fall a little more in love each time . . . 
Kindred Spirits is about Elena, who decides to queue to see the new Star Wars movie and meets Gabe, a fellow fan.
Midnights was previously published as part of the My True Love Gave to Me anthology, edited by Stephanie Perkins and Kindred Spirits was previously published as a World Book Day title.

Mags and Noel met at a New Year’s Eve party – Noel later claims she saved his life that night.  All Mags did was tell him the pesto had nuts in.  As the New Year’s Eve parties come and go with the passing years, their friendship changes yet stay the same... 
Elena thought the queue for The Force Awakens’ opening night would be longer.  Instead it’s just her, a kid her age with his nose stuck in a book and a blonde bearded guy who’s been to like every Star Wars queue ever.  So it’s safe to say it isn’t quite the party Elena was hoping for – but she’s here for Star Wars, her one true love, and she will stick with this queue!  Besides, a lot can happen when you camp outside a movie theatre for a week...
When I got sent Almost Midnight (and a totally adorable and delicious box of goodies) from MyKindaBooks in preparation for the Almost Midnight readalong, it was almost impossibly not to dive straight into this gorgeous little book!  I adored both of the short stories in this little anthology and the illustrations just made me fall even more in love!  Rainbow is one of the few contemporary authors I always read – I’m such a fantasy girl that I almost never read contemps – but I always make an exception for Rainbow!  And she so didn’t disappoint with these adorable, fun and hilarious stories! 
I loved Midnights so much!  Mags and Noel were just too precious and adorable for life!  Mags was so very much like me – I really related to her!  And Noel was just hilarious and so very sweet – a big, beautiful, brilliant weirdo who wore a three-piece white suit to a New Year’s Eve party.  Only Noel.  Only Noel.
Kindred Spirits is a story that so appeals to the crazy fangirl in me!  I love Star Wars (though definitely not as much as Elena – she’s a true, hardcore fan of Star Wars!) so I really enjoyed all the references and the marvellous geekiness of this story!  Plus Elena was literally the cutest thing ever, Gabe was really sweet and Troy was so funny.  Also the ending was just hilarious – I laughed so much!  It seems like just the kind of thing I’d do.
Rainbow’s writing was, as ever, beautiful and compelling and brilliant.  It sucked me straight in and made me care so much about these characters in a really short space of time – something that’s often really hard in novellas that aren’t linked to a favourite series of mine (which is generally the type of short story I read).  And as for those illustrations?  They just added an extra level of beauty and brilliance to this story and make me wish every book could be illustrated by Simini Blocker!  
If you’re a hardcore Rainbow Fangirl or just a lover of quick and utterly cute stories, you have to check Almost Midnight out!  You won’t regret it – promise!  You especially must pick it out if you love cute dorks in white suits, Star Wars, coffee or want to get into the festive spirit!  I know I’m going to be rereading Midnights at least before New Years – I love it so much!  Rainbow, you’ve done it again!  You’ve made this fantasy-obsessed girl oh so very very happy to read about reality – and that it not an easy thing to do!

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The It Girl by Katy Birchall
Let It Snow Anthology

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review

Thursday 16 November 2017

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, Book One
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback
Published: 27th February 2015
Number of Pages: 400
Book: Bought 
Genre:  Fantasy, Historical, Action-Adventure, Mystery, YA, Adult, Crossover
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Sexual and Sexual Assault References
Author's Site: V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last travellers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. 
There’s Grey London, without magic and ruled by the mad King George III.  Red London – where magic is revered, and where Kell is raised alongside the heir to the empire.  White London – where people fight to control the remaining magic and magic fights back. 
And once there was Black London... 

I've read a lot of fantasy in my time.  But little compares to the pure brilliance of V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic.  Gorgeous, clever, addictive and unique, I am just so very in love with this book.  So please be warned: fangirling ahead.
"I'm not afraid of dying.  But I am afraid of dying here."  She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city.  "I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still."
Kell is an Antari – a rare magician with the ability to travel between worlds.  He lives in Red London – a vibrant place where magic and people both thrive, where Kell is raised by the King and Queen.  Grey London is the world that has forgotten all about magic.  White London is a world hungry for magic, starving for it, a place leeched of colour.  Once there was Black London, but there magic devoured the people, leaving the world dead...
Kell is running a typical message between worlds when he is asked to deliver a mysterious package.  He accepts, despite his reservations (and the fact that this is so very against the rules), and is then ambushed upon arriving in Red London.  Inadvertently, he has brought a forbidden relic to his world – a relic that could destroy them all.  He flees to Grey London and is found by Lila Bard, a thief, wanted (wo)man and pirate at heart.
Together, they must return the relic to where it belongs.  Together, they must save the remaining worlds from the curse of the lost one...
I honestly don't know where to start with this review.  Because I just love A Darker Shade of Magic and Victoria herself so freaking much.  Both are just amazing – brilliant, fantastic, wonderful, magical, vicious...  Just... wow.   
This review would go a hell of a lot better if I could just get over the blown-mind after effects...  But since I don't see that time coming any time soon, I'll just get on with it anyway.
Kell... Kell was a brilliant hero.  Brave, good, strong and also so very flawed, he managed to be both incredibly powerful and yet vulnerable all at once.  He didn't always make the smart decisions, he focused a little on the whole woe me at times and he was occasionally a little daft – and it all just made him even more loveable. 
And Lila was just amazing!  Vicious and blood thirsty and obsessed with knives!  I mean, this is really just my kind of girl.  She was just so cool and funny and sharp and I loved her to pieces.  I have my favourite crush in the series – and it's the swashbuckling, badass Delilah Bard.
I loved watching Kell and Lila together – they were funny and brilliant together.  There was next to no romance in this book – maybe there will be in the next book, because ships were definitely hinted at, just not fully realised.  I'm intrigued to see where this goes next because I just love these two together!
I also really loved seeing Kell with Rhy, his brother.  Rhy was just the sweetest – silly and flirtatious and funny, he was so much more than the rich playboy he first appeared to be and I just loved him for that.  Plus his relationship with Kell was just so sweet – they really did love one another, despite the brotherly conflicts.
The Danes were bloody terrifying!  They literally sent tingles of fear up my spine whenever they were around – they were so damn scary!   
As much as I adored the characters, the world just blew them all out of the water.   Bloody hell, it's amazing.  Just the very idea of these four unique Londons, all so different and so wonderful...  Mind-blowing.  My mind is officially and irreparably blown.  I am just in awe of Victoria.  It's hard enough to contrast a single fantasy world – she made three!  Three utterly unique, beautiful and horrible Londons – four, if we're counting the lost Black London.  Each London was so unique and detailed and amazing.  Red London was definitely my favourite – it was the thriving, alive London.  Grey London was a magic less, more historically accurate, place ruled by a mad King.  And White London...well.  Let's just say I'd avoid White London at all costs.  I just can't believe how much work and detail Victoria put into these worlds and I just can't wait to explore them more.  Amazing – just incredibly, wonderfully, perfectly amazing.
Unsurprisingly, the Slytherin queen of magic was a true wizard when it came to her writing. Gorgeous, witty and beautiful, she sucked me in from the very first sentence and had me utterly hooked from that same line.  I adored how we switched between Kell and Lila and then a few...added extra POVs.  I loved exploring all the Londons, seeing them through Kell's well travelled eyes and Lila's almost-as-new-as-our eyes.
And god, I just adored the storyline.  The idea of a quest across worlds, an evil stone, crazy rulers and brilliant characters – I mean, what's not to love?  I loved the race, the battles, the quest.  I loved the excitement, the adventure, the adrenaline-pounding pace and suspense...  I just loved all of it and cannot wait to get my hands on A Gathering of Shadows to find out what happens next!
So, if you haven't gathered, I loved A Darker Shade Of Magic just a little bit.  Ok a lot bit.  A bloody ginormous bit.  Victoria is my Slytherin queen and she has crafted a truly magical and amazing book here, one I love to absolute pieces.  It has magic, pirates, adventures, backstabbing, blood, drama, excitement and just so much more.  I am seriously struggling to find the words to do A Darker Shade of Magic justice – I just can't find the words to explain how much I bloody adored it.
Here's another attempt:
A Darker Shade Of Magic had me falling in love from the very first page.  I fell for the worlds, for Kell and Rhy and Lila, for Victoria's writing, for just about every damn thing.  I have read a lot of fantasy and I can say with certainty that this series is in the top five of my favourites – I just love it so damn much.  I honestly can't recommend it enough.  Just read it.  Read it, get your own mind blown, and then shove it into another person's hands.  Let's spread A Darker Shade of Magic like the black fever (you'll get the reference after you read the book)!  
Now I'm off to read A Gathering Of Shaodws because I gots to know what happens next!   Happy reading, Grey Londoners! 

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Happy Reading

Monday 23 October 2017

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Orion's Children Books
Format: ARC**
Published: 21st September 2017
Number of Pages: 464
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Science-Fiction, Action-Adventure, Historical, Mystery, Romance, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Alcohol References
Author's Site: Ryan Graudin

Blurb From Goodreads:

Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

“There wasn't much solitude among four souls, one mannequin, and a red attack panda...”
Farway McCarthy is unique.  He is a boy born out of time aboard a time travel machine, the son of one of the greatest time travellers around.  He's always wanted to follow in his mom's footsteps, explore history like she did.  
Which is why he isn't going to let a fexing sim of Marie Antoinette foil him. 
And it’s also how he ends up with the Invictus, the captain of his own TM, chasing through history for treasures with his crew.  It's aboard the Titanic that everything begins to unravel. 
Eliot is a mystery and a nuisance, an enigma and a thief.  Far doesn't trust her, but he must – it's the only way to stay alive.  
But Eliot has more secrets than just her last name and where she hid that fexing enormous yellow dress she wore aboard the Titanic.  And her secrets could mean the end of everything Far holds dear – the end of history itself...
I adore Ryan Graudin.  She is an amazing amazing author – and Invictus has proven she can write bloody anything.  I fell in love with her Wolf By Wolf series so when I saw they were giving away proofs of Invictus at YALC, of course I had to join the queue.  I made friends, I waited, I chatted and then finally I had this beauty in my greedy little hands and wanted to cheer.  I also wanted to start reading it right that very second, but anyone who's been to YALC knows there's ironically not all that much time for reading while you're there!  So I waited, took Invictus on holiday, started reading on the plane, and was over 100 pages in without even realising it. 
Oh. My. God!  I love all of Ryan's books so much that I can't choose a favourite – but Invictus is just phenomenal!  It has everything – sci-fi, history, romance, adventure, mystery, a blue box, a red panda and more!  I fell in love with everything about Invictus – it's just hashing marvellous! 
The characters – oh how I loved them all!  I fell for each and every one of the Invictus crew – although a certain fuzzy beastie stole my heart good and proper!  I want a red panda like Saffron now – I never knew I could want a red panda so much.  I may need to buy a cuddly one and call it Saffron because I'm pretty sure having a real one is all kinds of illegal.  
Onto the human cast now!  It's hard to make third person POVs sound unique to each character – especially when you're writing from as many as Ryan did over the course of Invictus.  And yet she managed – each character had their own way of narrating, their own way of thinking, and I bloody loved it.  Plus the characters were all just so three-dimensional and likeable – and all had brilliantly unique senses of humour! 
Far was brilliant – brave, clever, determined, a hero I could really get behind and root for.  He also wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I loved him more for it.
Imogen was literally adorable – I love my cousins to pieces, but I must admit Far’s cousin was just amazing and I want her!  I loved how cheerful she was, I loved how she changed her hair colour every day, I just loved her so much!
Eliot was an intriguing character and I loved how we slowly learnt about her over the course of the book.  She was mysterious, funny, brave and badass – I loved her!
Priya was also really adorable!  The medic of the crew, she thought anything could be cured with some chai tea – and as a Brit I can relate the this notion of tea fixing everything whole heartedly!  I also loved her relationship with Far, although I do wish we’d seen more of how they got together.
Gram was really cute – a scientist at heart, he was very logical and practical and not brilliant at the human interactions at times!  I adore him and his relationship with Imogen was just everything!
Oh my god, this story!  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, reading like a mad thing, totally unsure about what would happen next.  The twists were insane – and truly brilliant!  I loved the beginning of the story, where the crew of the Invictus go about time stealing priceless artefacts that would otherwise be lost to disaster.  That was awesome and a lot of fun to read!  But then the second half, where the stakes kick up by a million and the race is on – not to save an artefact or two but life itself?  Yeah, I loved that!  
Also I really really wanna live in Far's time – travel through history, recording and experiencing, observing and learning.  It just sounds amazing!  And while the futuristic aspect could be hard to grasp, I found it so easy to immerse myself in everything about Invictus – and loved every minute! 
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am normally a total fantasy girl.  I love dragons and magic and potions.  I don't really read sci-fi all that much – but god am I glad I read Invictus!  Invictus was hazing amazing and I loved every single second of it!  So whether you live for sci-fi, fantasy or fuzzy red pandas, read Invictus!  This book has just secured Ryan’s place on my auto-buy list for all of time and space and I really just cannot recommend it enough!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Doctor Who

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Orion in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Saturday 14 October 2017

The Last Namsara Blog Tour: Q&A With Kristen Ciccarelli!

I am so very excited to be taking part in the blog tour for the wonderful The Last Namsara! I adored this book and I was so excited when I got the chance to pick Kristen Ciccarelli's brain for more information about her book! If you haven't read The Last Namsara, I really can't recommend it enough! There be dragons in it! Dragons!!!
But first, here is my interview with the lovely Kristen Ciccarelli! 

Hi Kristen!  Thank you so much for answering all my fangirly questions!  It’s a real pleasure to have you here today!

Thank you for asking them! It’s a pleasure. :)

For those who haven’t read The Last Namsara, can you tell us a little about your wonderful book?   

The Last Namsara is about a dragon slayer who must hunt down the deadliest dragon of all and bring her father its head, or she’ll be forced into a political marriage!

The Last Namsara has the most amazing setting - I adore your world building!  Especially the fact that, in this world, certain stories are dangerous and can get you killed.  Where did the idea for the world and story come from?

Thank you so much! I essentially stole the story from my own life. I’ve spent a lot of my life being ashamed of the things I love most: creativity, imagination, and storytelling. So when I started writing The Last Namsara, I wanted to explore a world where these things actually were shameful. So I made them dangerous things that get people hurt. That way I could write a protagonist who was a) good at wielding these stories and b) ashamed of herself as a result—like I was. That was how it started. And then I built the world around that character and concept.

Ok, so anyone who knows me is aware of my dragon obsession (it’s alarming, honestly).  Where did you get the inspiration for the dragons in your story?!  

I was completely dragon-obsessed growing up. So obsessed, in fact, that my art teacher actually banned me from drawing them for all of high school (I kept sneaking them into my projects). I first fell in love with Smaug, then Draco (from Dragonheart—I can still recite the old code off by heart, lol) and Toothless. So in lots of ways, my dragons were influenced by the dragons I grew up loving. Where my dragons differ, though, is in the fact that they’re lured by stories. They covet stories the way traditional dragons covet treasure.

The Last Namsara has a cast of amazingly badass girls!  Are they inspired by yourself, anyone you know or a kick-arse girl of YA? 

All of the above, but most especially: I wanted to write the kinds of girls I needed growing up. I will never forget the day I read the chapter in LotR when Eowyn defeats the Witch King. Eowyn gets hardly any page time in that series, and yet there she was, a girl doing what no one else could do. Vanquishing a monster. It felt like Tolkien was throwing me a bone, you know? I clung to that bone. I clung to all the girls wielding weapons and going up against monsters and tyrants (Eowyn, Sabriel, Lyra—to name just a few). These girls were my mirrors. They showed me what I was capable of.

I know it’s like making you choose between your babies, but do you have a favourite character in The Last Namsara?  

Definitely Asha. She’s so strong and fierce and ambitious, yet so wounded and vulnerable. I feel a bit protective of her. Torwin is a close second, though. :)

You are an amazing writer - do you have a favourite thing about being an author?  

You are very kind! And this is a really good question. I think my favourite thing about being an author is hearing from readers—especially young adult readers. It’s amazing to me knowing there are people out there (sometimes on the other side of the world!) reading my story and getting what they need from it.

What advice would you give to all the aspiring fantasy writers out there?

Don’t be afraid of failure. (All the best things come out of failure.) And definitely don’t let it stop you. If you write because you love it, if you truly deeply believe in your stories, if you stay hungry & improve your craft, then you’ll make it. It might take a while, but you’ll get there.

While we’re on the topic of authors and writing, what has been your top read of 2017 so far?  The Last Namsara is one of my favourites! 

Oh gosh. This is such a tough question! Most of my favourite reads this year are actually books coming out in 2018, so it doesn’t feel fair to list them here. I think my top read of 2017 is FIRE BLOOD by Elly Blake. If you like Kristin Cashore’s books, chances are high that you’ll like this book too.

A suitably fantastical penultimate question: If you could have any mythical creature as a pet, which would you have?  And, to the surprise of no one, I would have a dragon.

Definitely a dragon! I mean, it could a) protect me, b) fly me places, and c) keep me warm by making fires. ;)

Finally... what can we expect from book two of the trilogy?  Any chance we could get a little spoiler?

Book two, The Caged Queen, picks up right where The Last Namsara leaves off, only its told from Roa’s point of view. You get more of Asha and the dragons, but you also get to learn who the mysterious Roa is, why she makes a certain deal with Asha’s brother in book one, and what the consequences of that deal are.


Ah, I can't wait for
The Caged Queen! Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain, Kristen! And everyone, go read The Last Namsara! I know I've already said this, but it bears repeating: There are dragons!
Everyone, definitely check out Kristen's website, follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and add The Last Namsara to your Goodreads TBR ASAP list! 
Oh, and check out the awesome The Last Namsara official book trailer too!  God, I love this book!

Happy Reading Everyone!

Sunday 26 March 2017

Demon Road by Derek Landy

Series: Demon Road, Book One
Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Format: ARC**
Published: 27th August 2015
Number of Pages: 512
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Fantasy, Horror, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Cannibalism, Swearing

Blurb From Goodreads:
Full of Landy’s trademark wit, action and razor sharp dialogue, DEMON ROAD kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in...  Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.
Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…


Omigod omigod o-mi-freaking-god!  
Times this, add a few swearwords, crazy dances, shrieks of excitement and hugs of this book to my chest, you might begin to gather the excitement Demon Road has caused me.
Probably not though.  It was OTT even for me.  Because – hello!  Derek Landy!  Road trip!  Demons!  Supernatural!  Evil freaking cars, people!  This book is like everything I have ever wanted all wrapped up in one – and all of this even before I started reading!
I think I've fangirled enough...  For now, at least.
Oh who are we kidding.  This whole damn review is going to be me fangirling my little head off.  I apologise in advance.
“Her parents were monsters.  They had grown horns.  They'd killed cops.  Her parents - and their friends - were going to kill her.”
Amber Lamont's already having a bad day.  Being attacked by two jerks and going red just tops it all off.  So does the finger Amber bites off.  Yeah.  Ew.
Her parents take the news surprsingly well.  Celebrate it actually.  By drugging Amber.  And trying to kill her.
Turns out they're all demons and her parents want to eat her to amp up their own powers.  So now Amber is on the run with the mysterious Milo.
Oh, and if she doesn't find a guy specifically skilled at hiding in three weeks, her soul is toast.  
And so begins the roadtrip of a lifetime – maybe literally, because death (or worse) is a real possibility.  And while Amber might go red and grow horns, she isn't the worst monster in America.  Oh no.  Not when she's encountering countless demons, serial killers and even murderous cars, all along a stretch of highway called the Demon Road, a very path of darkness that has no map and could be Amber's only chance of survival...  
Ah, how I adore Derek Landy!  I've been reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series since the age of nine or something and I have been a huge fangirl ever since.  I was devastated when SP finished (and then delighted when I learnt it wasn’t – summer, hurry the hell up!), but before that I heard about Demon Road.  It was described as Supernatural for teens with Derek Landy's signature brilliance – and that was all I needed to hear!  I was sold!  And I must say, Demon Road really didn't disappoint – although I, and lots of other SP fans I’m sure, will see definite Skulduggery-esque character and dialogue correlations.  I didn't really mind, but it might bother some.  Just a tiny warning.  But if you love SP and can't get enough, go and buy Demon Road right this very second!  I'll be waitin'...
You back?  Awesome.  On with the review.
Characters first!  Our leading gal, Amber, was a total badass – and also a scared, lost teenager.  And so totally relatable!  I mean, she was just so... normal.  You know.  Except for the monster, scales, horns, occasionally-killing-dudes bits.  But otherwise totally normal!  Like she went to the toilet, she felt self-conscious about her weight, she was funny and snarky and sometimes didn't make decisions that were overly smart or whatever – but she was just so real..  And awesome - and so unlike your average YA heroine.  Sometimes in gross ways – but still cool.
Milo was the Skulduggery to Amber's Valkyrie.  Only....not really.  'Cause he was nowhere near as funny as SP – mainly because he didn't have a sense of humour.  At all.  Which was funny.  Like he was funny because he wasn't... um funny...  Let's move on.  Milo was protective and also a badass and he had a car that ate people and he was a big ol' softy under the stoicness – you don't fool me, Milo. 
Glen was such a dork – very Fletcher-ish, but (I think) slightly less annoying?  At the very least, he didn't have such high maintenance hair.  Seriously though, you could always count on ol' Glen for some timely and hilarious comic relief!  
The rest of the characters were... well, a varied bunch!  From homicidal parents, hilarious writers, demons, serial killers and a people-eating car, there was a mix of hilarious, terrifying, sweet and awesome people.  Oh and some bad ones.  VEry very bad ones.  But awesome anyway.  In a bad way. Kind of.  I don't even know what I'm saying anymore – and I totally blame Derek Landy for being his usual awesome self and blowing my tiny mind.  This mess of a review is all his fault.  Obviously.
Let's move on, yes?  
Ok, I do love Derek's writing – the way he uses dialogue so much, the witty quips and banter between his characters.  He's hilarious and utterly addictive as hell (heh – pun intended).  I loved the action, the adventure, the suspense, the gallons of gore and blood and icky stuff, the humour, the touching moments, the unusual places visited along the Demon Road.  It was all just so awesome.  Obviously.  This is Derek Landy we're talkin' about here.  The man is a master of the funny-scary, of awesome plots that suck you in from the beginning and take you on a wild ride you don't wanna get off!  
And FINALLY!  A book that mentions going to the toilet like a normal person!  And finds it weird that another character doesn't pee!  Halle-blinking-lujah!  As if Derek Landy wasn't enough of a god amongst men – he then goes and does this.  I bow to him.
Wow, I really didn't get enough sleep last night.  Again, Derek Landy's fault.  I am so tired because I just couldn't put Demon Road down.  Apparently tiredness inspires hero worship in me.  Who knew?
Ok, so it might not just be my need for like four hours more sleep.  It's also 'cause Demon Road was freaking awesome and I loved it to pieces.  Sure, it had definite Skulduggery Pleasant-esque qualities.  But y'know what?  It was damned awesome in its own right and I loved it and I need more and when can I have more and please go read it now and OMG it’s so brilliant and where is my bed? 
Seriously though.  Demon Road was pure awesomeness with awesomesauce and awesome chocolate sprinkles.  It was hilarious, exciting, gory as hell, gripping and did I mention awesome?  It had moments of laugh-so-loud-and-sudden-you-snort-a-little and touching moments that tugged at the ol' heartstrings.  It had brilliant characters (who were brilliant in their own right and totally different from the SP ones, despite the similar dynamics) and tons of action and fighting and demons and blood.  It had everything a Derek Landy or Supernatural fan could want (including flannel shirts and a killer car – albeit 'killer' in two totally different senses) and then some.  And man I can't wait to get my hands on Desolation!  
Also sleep.  Sleep is required right now.  So I'll leave you to read the awesomeness that is Demon Road while I go back to bed for a few hours.  Goodnight and may Derek Landy rule over YA as he does MG – with a swagger, lots of laughter and a twisted imagination.

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Happy Reading
* This book was received from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Friday 24 March 2017

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Series: Black Widow, Book One
Publisher: Parragon Books
Format: Paperback
Published: 2nd May 2016
Number of Pages: 416
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Superhero, Action-Adventure, Science-Fiction, Thriller-Suspense, YA
Recommended Age: 11+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing and Smoking References
Author's Site: Margaret Stohl

Blurb From Goodreads:
Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…
Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.  The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious saviour, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
Until now.
When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.

"This mission, to attack us?  He said it had a name."  Her eyes met Coulson's.  "Forever Red."
Once upon a little girl was given the name Black Widow by her teacher.  She was taught in all manner of things – but mostly in how to kill, deceive and spy.  She was experimented on in the Red Room and she became the most dangerous assassin in the world.
After escaping the clutches of her teacher Ivan Somodorov, Natasha Romanoff became a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Her mission?  To take down Ivan.
She found him with a little girl, who she saved after bringing the building down upon her former mentor.  She took the child to America and told her she would be OK.  And then she left her in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s care..
Now seventeen, Ava Orlova has run away from S.H.I.E.L.D.  She has learned not to trust anyone.  That she cannot rely on the red-haired woman who called her sestrenka, little sister.  All she knows is she has to be her own hero – and that she dreams of a boy called Alexei with a Black Widow tattoo, even though she has never met him.
Natasha has never been much of a big sister.  But when children begin vanishing in Eastern Europe and rumours of the Red Room start up, Natasha fears her former teacher is not as dead as she hoped and his reaches, influences and plans go far deeper than she ever could've imagined...
I'm a huge Marvel fan.  I've had many a discussion with family and friends regarding the best team, character and film in the Marvelverse (team being either the new Guardians of the Galaxy or the X-Men, character being Remy LeBeau, AKA Gambit and film being Guardians of the Galaxy – my brother loudly disagrees with that final point).  So when I was offered the chance to review a book about the awesome Black Widow, how was I meant to refuse?!  Natasha Romanoff is a badass – a gorgeous and deadly agent with a fascinating backstory I really don't know enough about.  Awful, I know, but I love what Margaret Stohl has done with the character.  I just really enjoyed this book – it was like watching a Marvel movie and reading one of the comics all at once and I just loved it.  Also after reading this there needs to be a Black Widow standalone film – I am now in love with her.
Natasha Romanoff is one of MCU's most recognisable and awesome characters.  The Natasha from Forever Red is a mishmash of MCU Black Widow and the comic version – her backstory is more like that of the film Natasha and not the comic Natasha, although she's colder and sharper than movie Natasha.  Which is awesome!  Because – hello – Natasha's backstory is fascinating in the film's and I loved seeing more of it – and of those signature Black Widow death stares.  Who doesn't watch the films (and the brief flashes we get into her past) and think let me know you!  Just me?  Really?  Huh.  Anyways, Natasha was cold and businesslike (as expected) and yet she had these moments – these flashes of confusion and affection and anger that made her so very human and brilliant and ergo loving her.  This was Natasha says I'd never seen her before – as badass and tough as ever, but also broken and hurting and afraid and so very very human indeed.  And I loved it – I want more of this Natasha, this Tasha.
Despite the book series being titled as Black Widow, it's more about Ava – who I discovered after a quick Google upon getting the book is a superhero in her own right and has recently been introduced into the Marvel comics.  She was understandably confused and lost and a little angry at the world, but she was also funny and brave and badass as hell!
Alex was so sweet - he was brave and badass and kind and smart.  He was also pretty darn cute at times, I must admit!  
I must say the romance between Ava and Alex was rather insta-love-y.  After one twist I was like yes, this makes more sense now!  And then I was like hang this does not make more sense it in fact is a little weird now and then my head started hurting as I considered all the facts and then I had to go lie down and watch the Avengers.  But I digress.  They were adorable!  Like so cute – and so incredibly protective of one another, as would be expected in two teenagers tossed in the middle of a plot by a crazy man.
And OMG I loved all the little cameos!  Like Coulson – he's always a favourite of mine in the MCU and I loved seeing his quippy, funny self in Forever Red.  And Tony Stark's scenes?  Literally some of my favourite ones in the whole book!  I adore Tony and he was so perfectly Tony.  Margaret Stohl captured him so absolutely perfectly!  I must admit, I did miss the presence of one hawk-eyed archer (who is often portrayed as Natasha's BFF and also BF at times, though not the latter in the film's) – it was so sad not to have him doing a little cameo or at least being mentioned.  She trusted Tony enough to involve him – so why not Clint? 
The writing was awesome!  It started off from Natasha's POV (which I loved – being inside her head was amazing) and then switched.  We got a split POV between Natasha, Ava, Alex and then transcripts from an official S.H.I.E.L.D. interview of Natasha.  It was all third person – and did occasionally jump perspectives within a set characters' chapter – and I just loved it.  I loved getting into everyone's heads – although I must say Natasha's chapters was my favourite.  I loved her, if you haven’t gathered, and may possibly be a tiny bit obsessed now.  I regret nothing.
The plot – oh my god!  It was like reading a Marvel movie.  The plot was fast-paced and exciting, there were mysteries a plenty, there were thrills and twists – oh that last twist!  It left me in tears – the finale was explosive and then there was just this moment after, a moment of pain and sadness and why Margaret why that left me speechless and in shock.
If you can't tell by now, I loved Forever Red to pieces.  It was so much fun – a real roller coaster of excitement and awesomeness and superheroes and mysteries.  I cannot wait for Red Vengeance – I need in my life like you cannot imagine.  Stay Red, people – because after this series I ain’t ever going back! 

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer
Lois Lane by Gwenda Bond
The Avengers

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Parragon in exchange for an honest review