Book Reviews

Anyone who follows me on here and on Twitter might be aware I, not that long ago, started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews. The focus on there is horror, but I review a variety of genres here on my blog, too.

More and more recently, I have been contacted directly by publishers and authors with requests to review their work. For me, that is so exciting, and I love having the opportunity to help promote new and indie authors. I’ve also started taking part in blog tours!

Because of this, I have now added a Review Policy to this website, with my contact details for any authors, publishers etc who might be interested in me reviewing one of their books.

It basically outlines the ideal information for requesting reviews, but importantly also has my new review e-mail address, so if you’re trying to promote a book, please feel free to get in touch, either on Twitter (@elleturpitt) or via my new e-mail, elleturpittreviews@gmail.com.

 

Esme’s Wish – Elizabeth Foster [Book Review]

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Blurb

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about Ariane, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

Review

Esme’s mother disappeared when she was a child, and when her father remarries, Esme believes he’s making a mistake, convinced her mother is still out there, somewhere. Esme has always been a loner, neither her nor her mother quite accepted into the community. But when she discovers a new world, she finds more layers to her mother than she could have thought possible. Retracting her mother’s steps, Esme untangles the secrets of Aeolia, an enchanting world with magic and dragons, as well as making new friends, Daniel and Lillian, who help her find out both about Aeolia and her mother.

Esme’s Wish is the debut novel for Elizabeth Foster, and the first in a series for MG-to-YA series, and it was an absolute delight to read. From the opening chapters, to the strange world of Aeolia, Foster completely draws the reader in, connecting them instantly with Esme and painting a picture of such a beautiful if dangerous secondary world.

The threads of the novel wind together really well, and the characters remain believable and engaging throughout. From the strange, mysterious figures who seem to follow Esme, to the mayor and enchantress who might not be completely trustworthy, to the mystical beings inhabiting this world, everything about this novel keeps the reader riveted and keen to read on.

Esme is a really great character to follow, confident in her choices, yet uncertain about everything she discovers. The way the friendship was formed between the core three was handled really well, and felt realistic for characters their age, including the initial hostility between Daniel and Lillian, and the way they put this aside for Esme. The writing is magical and engaging, the descriptions stunning without being too much, and the worldbuilding handled really well.

Overall, this was a fantastic novel, one I definitely think younger, MG readers would enjoy, and which leaves plenty of room for the sequel. I’ll really be looking forward to book two in the series.

The Author

Elizabeth Foster grew up in Brisbane, Australia, and now lives in sunny Sydney. Apart from writing and reading, she loves swimming in the ocean, walking, and playing the piano (badly). She has just finished the sequel to Esme’s Wish and is now hard at work on the final story in the Esme series. You can usually find Elizabeth on Twitter @e_foster3

Praise for Esme’s Wish

‘Absorbing, enchanting, whimsical, Esme’s Wish is a story to lose yourself in. I would recommend this book to readers one and all.’ – Isobel Blackthorn, author.

Wendy Orr, NYT bestselling author of Nim’s Island, commended Esme’s Wish as ‘…a fresh new fantasy, of an enchanting world.’

Get the book via Amazon

Blogtober Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology

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Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

Under My Hat is an anthology, featuring some of the best known voices in fantasy fiction. The stories are all based off the idea of witches, some with the traditional ideas we know but with a slight twist, others with more varied, unrecognisable characters, and each one a delight to read.

There are elements of fantasy and horror in here, but most lean away from horror, focusing on other aspects of witchcraft. The first (Stray Magic) is a really sweet, endearing story about a dog separated from her master. There’s a story about a young woman who has recently joined a wiccan coven, and is searching for her belief. A tale about a cursed girl takes an interesting twist when her dead grandmother is bought back to life to protect her. And a young man in a forest comes across a woman who seems to be half cat, half human.

The anthology is well written, really well put together, and none of the stories blur into the other. Each has its own voice, and its own unique charm, carrying you from one tale to the next and making the book as a whole quite difficult to put down.

Overall, this is a really strong, interesting collection of stories, one that’s perfect for spooky season, and one that takes what could be seen as a stock character, and adds layers upon layers to it, without making the witches completely unrecognisable.

blogtober

Rose – Rami Ungar – Book Tour

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Welcome to my stop for the Rose book tour, the horror fantasy novel by Rami Ungar, and thanks so much for the invite from Blackthorn Book Tours. See my review below for this gripping novel.

About the Book

Rose wakes in a strange greenhouse, with no idea how she got there, her memories missing, and her body transformed. As she struggles to discover what happened to her, she finds she now has buds sprouting from her, her skin is green, and she has somehow gained roots, requiring her to settle in soil every so often to feed off the nutrients.

Enter Paris, claiming to be her boyfriend, who explains Rose was involved in an accident the night before, and he found a way to bring her back. She’s in his greenhouse, and Paris tells her how completely in love they are, and how he’s going to protect her – she has nothing to worry about.

My Review

The reader is drawn into the situation, gripped by the events happening to Rose, and Ungar does an excellent job of ensuring the reader never quite knows what to think, leading them through twisted corridors and constantly second-guessing everything.

The majority of the novel is set in just Paris’ apartment and his greenhouse, but Ungar does great things with the space, making the reader feel as penned in as Rose, but never losing them with the containment. And when the novel moves, it really moves, dragging the reader along with the characters, increasing the pace and tension with every step.

It’s hard not to feel for Rose, trapped as she is and unable to interact with anyone, as her memories slowly start to come back. And it’s hard to get a handle on Paris, the impression being that perhaps in their previous life together, he wasn’t that great of a boyfriend.

The twists and turns in the novel feel natural rather than jarring, and the tension is kept high throughout, without feeling like its all just too much. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it to any horror/fantasy fans.

The Author

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Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

Don’t Forget
You can read my previous reviews about Rose on Goodreads and on Dead Head Reviews
Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour, too.
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Dangerous Women – Edited by George R.R Martin & Gardner Dozois [Books]

dangerous womenI always find it exciting, to open up a new anthology. To discover what stories wait inside, whether it’s a genre-specific anthology covering different themes, or a themed anthology covering different genres. Dangerous Women falls into the latter camp, with stories here ranging from fantasy to sci-fi to horror to historical.

And they’re good, though with the authors involved, you’d kind of expect that. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice & Fire fans will enjoy Martin’s novella, a glimpse into the history of Westeros – one which, honestly, feels like it adds to Dany’s story in the TV series. Maybe they should have gone into this one a bit more, before the last few episodes.

ANYWAY!

The stories are all vastly different from one another, ensuring any fan of genre fiction will find something they enjoy in its pages. From a post-apocalyptic society where women are either mothers or nurses, to a strange forest where shades haunt the trees and kill anyone who doesn’t follow the rules, to a Russian pilot determined to kill. These women are strong and formidable, and make for compelling characters.

There was only one story in here I wasn’t really fussed on, a shame because I’ve read other stories by the same author and enjoyed them. The noir tale had a female character who, rather than feeling like her own fully fleshed, individual woman, felt more like she’d been ripped straight from the ‘femme fatale cliche’ cookie cutter. It was a tale that in an anthology titled ‘Dangerous Woman’, felt a bit jarring.

Other than that, the stories in here are really good, and it’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Would definitely recommend this one, especially to fans of SFF & horror.

Circe – Madeline Miller [Books]

circeSometimes, you read a book that is so wonderfully and beautifully written, with heaps of description aiding the characters and plot, that it feels like you really are transported to the novel’s location.

Circe is, without a doubt, one of those books.

Circe is the daughter of a Titan and a nymph, but lacks the power of her father and the beauty of her mother. As she grows, however, it becomes clear she has a different kind of power, one which frightens even the powerful Olympian gods. Circe is exiled, and makes her home on a small island. There, she develops her powers as a witch, and pays attention to the people who wash up on her shore, meeting various figures from across Greek mythology.

This book is vivid. We are taken through Circe’s childhood, flashes coming at us in quick succession (as immortals grow quickly), and get to see the world around her, her father’s palace, as well as her grandfather’s, and the area she and her brother claimed as their own, where Circe would meet her first mortal. Everything is completely and utterly through her eyes, allowing us to see what she sees, feel what she feels, in a truly unique perspective. We get fully inside Circe’s head, but are still allowed a reader’s perspective, reading between the lines and perhaps grasping things more than her, or before she is able to.

There are many characters in the book familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of Greek mythology, as well as characters perhaps not as well know, but still rooted in the sources. We get glimpses of heroes unlike the ones we know from myths, seeing them this time through a woman’s eyes, rather than as part of epic poems constructed by men. Perhaps the strongest achievement of the book is through Circe’s emotions. We feel her sadness, her fury, and her happiness, throughout each stage of her life. And each scene is coloured by this, with language used to its fullest.

Overall, Circe is a beautiful retelling of ancient stories, offering a new point of view on familiar tales, and is an excellent read. I will definitely need to get hold of Song of Achilles, and will be picking up any of Miller’s future novels.

 

Spin The Dawn – Elizabeth Lim [Books]

spin the dawnFirstly, look at that cover. It is absolutely stunning, and I spent ages just looking at both before and after reading Spin The Dawn.

This novel is the story of Maia, a young woman who wants to become the best tailor in the land. However, standing in the way is the fact she is a woman, and so is left to simply ‘help’ her father – despite doing most of the work – while her brothers go off to war. But when her father’s presence is requested at the palace, to compete in the search for an Imperial Tailor, Maia disguises herself as a man, takes her brother’s name, and goes in his place.

Reflection, the Mulan book for Disney’s Twisted Tales, was written by Elizabeth Lim, and as it is my favourite of the series, I had extraordinarily high hopes for Spin The Dawn. These hopes weren’t just met – they were exceeded, far beyond anything I expected.

Maia is a strong, young woman, willing to do anything for her family, but keen to achieve her own goals as well. She’s determined, ambitious, and resourceful, and though she starts a little naive when she arrives at the palace, she soon proves herself among the other tailors. As if Maia herself wasn’t enough to draw the reader in, from the moment she arrives at the palace, the mystery and intrigue surrounding the competition, the other tailors, the Emperor and his bride-to-be all work to keep the reader engaged throughout the first half of the novel.

And then there’s Edan. The court enchanter, Edan keeps a particular eye on Maia, and perhaps doesn’t fully believe her disguise. She is determined to avoid him, but keeps finding herself in his path.

Spin The Dawn is a romantic fantasy, combining various elements to create a rich, beautiful, and enthralling tale, one that proves absolutely impossible to put down. I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel.

GOODREADS

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON UK AMAZON US / BOOK DEPOSITORY

 

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds – Gwenda Bond [Books]

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Suspicious Minds is the first Stranger Things tie-in novel, and as such, I was really excited to read it. I love the Netflix series, adore the characters, and was eager to find out more about the Stranger Things universe, prior to the events of the TV show. Especially as this novel focuses on Terry, Eleven’s mother.

And boy, was I disappointed.

[MILD SPOILERS AHEAD]

I read this book prior to the release of season 3, and it honestly managed to drain my excitement for the upcoming season. (Luckily, excitement was full-blown shortly into the first episode)

It is so difficult to write a novel. It’s even more difficult when it is a novel based off an existing property, where fans are already going to have their own ideas about events, especially in a prequel book.

The writing wasn’t bad. But the way the events of the novel pan out just really did nothing for me. The characters surrounding Terry felt flat, including her boyfriend, especially her sister, and even the others going into the lab. The doctor is supposed to be the big bad, but he doesn’t feel anywhere near as scary as he did in the series. And Kali…

God, Kali was so badly used in the novel.

There are references literally every page, either to 60s events or, repeatedly, LOTR. I get that LOTR is important to Stranger Things, as much as D&D is, but almost every character in here references, persistently, and it just feels forced. I could have a checklist of 60s events next to me, and have ticked them all off within the first few pages. Moon Landing. Manson Murders. Woodstock. Vietnam. Etc etc etc.

It just got a bit boring. And the ‘Fellowship of the Laboratory’ all come up with different ways to try to stop Dr Brenner, but way too often their schemes come down to

-Use Kali

-Hope she doesn’t tell

And, oops, she’s a kid! A kid who gets punished for lying to Brenner, yet these ‘adults’ put it on her over and over again.

I wanted to find out more about Brenner, and Terry, and the experiments conducted at the lab and maybe some of the other kids involved. Instead, we get very little of that. Just Terry and friends running around like the Scooby Doo gang, peeking behind doors and DETERMINED to bring down the lab. There’s no tension with this, because having seen season one of Stranger Things, we know this doesn’t happen. We know the experiments continue and Brenner takes Terry’s child and Jane becomes Eleven. It’s the same problem many sequels have – trying to build tension from events where we already know the outcome.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

I think, even for diehard Stranger Things fans, it might be worth passing over this book. Nothing gets added to the wider world of the series, and personally, it left me feeling a little cold. Hopefully the other tie-in novels will be better.

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum [Books]

wicker kingReceived this as a gift from my lovely boyfriend, because he heard me raving about The Wicked King  (which he got me for Valentine’s Day) and got confused. But this was on my wishlist, so I still really wanted to read it.

And, you know what? I loved it.

August and Jack have been best friends for years, and remain so, despite their vastly different friendship groups. Jack’s memories aren’t always real, and he relies on August to confirm events, but it soon becomes apparent that Jack is seeing something else, experiencing hallucinations that are now intruding on his day to day life. He enlists August’s help, in order to fulfil the prophecy of The Wicker King, and the two try to prevent Jack’s ‘other world’ from being destroyed. But August is torn, unsure if what Jack is seeing is real or not, only knowing that what they are doing is dangerous.

I read this book in two days.

Even for shorter books, that’s unusual for me. But the book itself was easy to read, flowed really well, with chapters broken by images, letters, notes, or mixtape lists.  They all added in some way to the plot, or gave deeper understandings of the characters. I read this book so quick because it was, in some ways, an absolute joy to read, with the relationship between August and Jack, and the people around them. In others, I was desperate to find out what would happen next, if they would be okay, if something was about to happen to disrupt their world/s.

The book focuses on these two characters, but there’s a lot of people around them, too, fully fleshed, fully realised people who pop in and out of both August and Jack’s lives, including absent adults, and well meaning teens who don’t really know what they’re doing.

The question of whether Jack’s visions are real is present, subtly, throughout, and handled really well. I found myself honestly wondering about them, even when August didn’t, and at some points, I had as much faith in Jack as August did, though I also kept hoping both sought extra help, outside of each other.

Overall, this is a really well written, fast paced book that explores mental health and relationships in an engaging way, drawing you completely into the world Jack and August inhabit. Strongly recommended by me.

Any books you’ve enjoyed recently, that explore similar themes? Or have you read The Wicker King? I’m always happy to see what other people thought!

The Doll Factory – Elizabeth Macneal [Books]

the doll factoryThe Doll Factory is author Elizabeth Macneal’s debut novel, telling the story of Iris, a young woman who earns to escape the doll shop she is trapped in, and who wants to paint. A meeting with a pre-Raphaelite painter changes her whole life, but there are other dangers, lurking in the shadows.

The novel is told from three different point of views. Iris, Albie, a loveable street urchin with no teeth, and Silas, a creepy, strange man who runs a shop of ‘curiosities’. In parts, the story reads like Dickens (in a good way), completely plunging the reader into the underbelly of Victorian-era London, allowing us to see the dregs of society alongside the fairly well-off painters, as the site for the Great Exhibition is built, and the PRB try to gain some small measure of critical acclaim.

Honestly, this book is beautiful. The language is gorgeous and an absolute pleasure to read. I have to admit, I don’t often read Historical fiction. Not because I don’t like it, I just don’t seek it out, and I tend to lean more towards books with elements of fantasy or horror. But I am so glad I read this one. There are some very small horror elements in there, combined with aspects of thriller, and they all come together to create a rich atmosphere, really bringing the setting to life.

Although the characters are Victorian, and very much rooted in that era, they have a relevance to the present, as well. Iris is constantly holding back parts of herself, scared of what people will think, fretting about being alone with men, and Silas…Silas will be all too recognisable to anyone who’s ever had an unwanted ‘admirer’.

I would seriously recommend picking this up. Vibrant characters and settings in an atmospheric world, London on the cusp of change as much as Iris is, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Find out more about the author and book on Elizabeth Macneal’s website, including links as to where to buy in the book in the UK & USA.