Tuesday, 21 August 2018

BLOG TOUR | EXTRACT | 'Show Stealer' by Hayley Barker

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you an extract of the brand new novel Show Stealer by Hayley Barker, which was published at the beginning of this month. Show Stealer is the second book in the Show Stopper series. Check out the blurb here...

Hoshiko and Ben have been on the run since they burned Silvio Sabatini's circus down to the ground at the explosive finale of SHOW STOPPER. But Ben's mother will stop at nothing to track him down and get her revenge: backing him into a corner where he is forced to sacrifice himself to save Hoshiko. The deadliest show on earth has been resurrected and if Ben thought he'd seen into its dark corners as an outsider, the true extent of the horrors that lurk beneath the Big Top are about to be revealed as he becomes the circus' new star attraction... 

And today I am thrilled to be sharing an extract from Show Stealer! If you like what you see be sure to grab the book for your summer holidays or to cure your back to school blues :)


As we approach, a helter-skelter looms in front of me, rising up over the fences and, in the distance, an enormous big wheel towers over everything. It’s not enough any more to just to have the shows and the side stalls – there’s a fairground now too. No, not a fairground, a theme park: vast, expansive. 

I think of everything we’ve been through, Hoshi and Greta and me.

We blew up the arena. We escaped. So what? 

They killed Amina, the person Hoshi loved most in all the world – strung her up in the arena and auctioned off her parts on the internet to the highest bidder. They killed Priya – the first person in the world to ever tell me the truth about anything—and turned her into a zombie, there to be used as target practice by excited thugs with their shotguns. 

What did they die for, Amina and Priya? 

Nothing. We achieved nothing. 

The Cirque has picked itself up, dusted itself off and risen up, bigger, better, stronger than ever. 

People will go on dying in the name of entertainment, just like they always did; there’ll just be someone new at the helm. 

Still, whoever it is can’t be as bad as Silvio Sabatini. I shudder just thinking of him. At least we destroyed him. They’ll never be able to take that away from us.

“Why have you brought me here?” I call out, as the car rolls ever onwards. 

The officers ignore me.

We pass a road sign. The Cirque, it says. Two hundred metres.

“Stop the car!” I shout.

We turn left, past a huge plastic clown face grinning inanely at us as we pass, its wide eyes moving from side to side, and proceed up a long driveway, past the huge empty car parks until we reach a wall, covered in bright three-dimensional images of lions and elephants and acrobats and more clowns.

The officer driving the car winds down his window, tapping a code into a panel outside. 

The wall moves then, and I realize it’s not a solid wall at all; it’s a pair of huge double gates. They swing slowly open, the action apparently signalling the start of music. 

It’s the same music as before, gaudy hurdy-gurdy circus music which once, a lifetime ago, filled me with excitement but now fills me with dread and fear and loathing. Waves of panic rise up inside me.

“Stop the car!” I cry again. They just ignore me. I try the door. It’s locked. “Stop the car! Stop the car!” 

There’s nothing I can do.

I don’t want to be here. I should never have let them take me. Once I’d seen Hoshi and Greta and Jack were gone, I should have just shot myself.

We’re in a huge open-air entrance hall lined all across with ticket booths, gleaming and new and unused. In the middle of them, a huge sign flashes its greeting in bold neon 

Welcome to the Cirque! it declares. The Show Must Go On!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3

Buy Show Stealer here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Show-Stealer-Stopper-2/dp/1407179683/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534267845&sr=8-1&keywords=show+stealer

Check out Hayley Barker here: https://twitter.com/hayleyabarker?lang=en

Until next time :)

Monday, 13 August 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'The Trilogy of Two' by Juman Malouf (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you another book review, this time of a brand new middle-grade/YA fantasy novel, The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf. When I read the blurb for this book it sounded so interesting and unique and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! 

The Trilogy of Two follows twins Sonja and Charlotte, who live at a circus and entertain crowds every night with their beautiful, haunting music. However, recently, things have started to become a little... odd. Like, the audience levitating when the girls play their instruments. They soon have no choice but to set off on a dangerous journey to find out the truth behind their powers, and to stop the people trying to take it away.

I was kindly sent a copy of The Trilogy of Two by Pushkin Press in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. They were found one night by Tatty, the Tattooed Lady of the circus, in a pail on her doorstep with only a note and a heart-shaped locket. They’ve been with Tatty ever since, roaming the Outskirts in the circus caravans, moving from place to place.

But lately, curious things have started to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

The premise for this story was so interesting, and I'm pleased to say that it lived up to expectations. I think Sonja and Charlotte were fantastic characters and had a great chemistry. I also loved their relationship with Tatty as well, and I think this aspect of the text was brilliantly explored. It definitely was not your average orphan tale, which worked well in avoiding cliché, and made the story that much more unique. 

Like all good fantasy stories, the setting was gorgeously and intricately described, and this really added to how much I enjoyed this novel. The journey that Charlotte and Sonja embark on was so interesting to read about, and the fact that I could visualise all the parts of their journey and the places they visit definitely added to this enjoyment. The illustrations were beautiful and made the whole novel that much more magical.

The writing itself was very polished and the descriptions were wonderful; it very much tied the brilliant characterisation and the setting descriptions all together to create a brilliant story. Malouf perfectly masters the art of creating a story for children that is sophisticated, yet with a certain air of playfulness. The mystery at the heart of the novel surrounding Charlotte and Sonja's background was maintained well throughout the story, culminating in an ending I was not expecting! Even though fantasy is not my favourite genre, overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I'm intrigued to find out what Malouf comes up with next!

Check out Juman Malouf here: http://www.jumanmalouf.com/about-juman-malouf/

Until next time :)

Monday, 6 August 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'Gravity Well' by Melanie Jootsen (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am thrilled to be sharing with you another book review, this time of a spectacular new novel called Gravity Well, by Melanie Jootsen. I had no idea what to expect going into this, however I must say I found myself hooked on the story and what happened to the characters. I don't think I have ever read a novel that is about space that isn't a sci-fi book, so I was very intrigued to find out what this novel was all about.

Gravity Well follows Lotte and her former best friend, Eve, and how after many years of being estranged, multiple events force their lives to become entwined again. Lotte has just been handed a life-changing diagnosis, and Eve is battling her own demons, trying to figure out what point it was that everything changed. But things have a way of resolving themselves in their own time, and the two women have no choice but to accept the way things have become. Can a friendship be rebuilt after even the most devastating loss?

I was kindly sent Gravity Well by Scribe Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Lotte is an astronomer who spends her nights peering into deep space rather than looking too closely at herself. When she returns to her hometown after years in South America, reeling from a devastating diagnosis, she finds that much has changed. Lotte’s father has remarried, and she feels like an outsider in the house she grew up in. She’s estranged from her former best friend, Eve, who is busy with her own life, and unsure of how to recover the closeness they once shared. Initially, Lotte's return causes disharmony, but then it is the catalyst for a much more devastating event — an event that will change Lotte and Eve's lives forever.

If families are like solar systems — bodies that orbit in time with one another, sometimes close and sometimes far away — what is the force that drives them? And what are the consequences when the weight of one planet tugs others off course?

The long-awaited second novel from the award-winning Melanie Joosten, 'Gravity Well' is a striking and tender tale of friendship and family: both the family we are born to, and the family we choose. Deeply compassionate and profoundly moving, it is a heartrending portrait of how we rebuild when the worst has happened.

I am always one to champion books about female friendship, however this novel explored it at a level of intricacy and complexity that I haven't seen that much in literature. Add in the fact that one of the main characters is an astronomer, and this was probably one of the most unique and interesting novels that I have read all year. Gravity Well is not only gorgeously written, but really gets into the very heart of what being part of a family feels like; the good times, and the catastrophically bad times. Both Lotte and Eve were very interesting and complex characters, and I liked the two narratives in the story, it really made the whole novel more interesting. I think the other relationships in the novel were also facinating to read about their development - especially Lotte's relationship with her mother and father. Altogether, the human relationships in this novel were brilliantly portrayed and explored and this helped to drive the plot forward.

Lotte's career as an astronomer was something I was interested to read about, and I was not disappointed on this front. I think the astronomy in this book had obviously been very well researched and it didn't go completely over my head, which I was grateful for! It was refreshing to read about a strong and independent woman who loved what she did and was career-focused, despite certain people either not understanding that or not being okay with it. The challenges that both women face in this book were portrayed brilliantly and very realistically. The emotion really came through and I cared for them both throughout the whole novel. Gravity Well is itself an astrological definition, but the novel is about people, and their interactions, and how they survive on a planet and its workings that often aren't very kind to them. 

Altogether, I loved Gravity Well and it was unlike any book I have read before. If you're looking for a gorgeously written novel about astrology, female friendship and human relationships, then this is definitely the novel for you.

Check out the Q&A I did with Melanie Jootsen as part of the Gravity Well blog tour, here: http://delightfulbookreviews.blogspot.com/2018/05/blog-tour-gravity-well-by-melanie.html

Check out Melanie Jootsen here: http://www.melaniejoosten.com

Until next time :)

Friday, 3 August 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'What Girls Are Made Of' by Elana K. Arnold (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am excited to review another brilliant book I have read recently - What Girls Are Made Of by Elena K. Arnold. When I first read the blurb for this book, I had high expectations that it would be an important, fierce feminist read. I'm pleased to say that I was not disappointed :)

What Girls Are Made Of follows sixteen-year-old Nina, who is just coming to terms with being a young woman, and is for the first time experiencing all that comes with it. New relationships, not having control over her body and its functions, the simultaneous beauty and the goriness of it. Nina's relationship with her boyfriend, Seth, is perhaps the most confusing part of it all. Is pain an inseperable part of love? Could she have been a better version of herself, even if she wasn't loved in the first place? All of this is explored and more, in this brutal yet tender portrayal of a girl growing up, and discovering that what girls are made of, is perhaps the most complex question of all.

I was kindly sent What Girls Are Made Of by Andersen Press in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

A 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature Finalist

This is not a story of sugar and spice and everything nice.

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she'll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What if she is not a girlfriend? What is she made of?

Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. She's been volunteering at a high-kill animal shelter where she realizes that for dogs waiting to be adopted, love comes only to those with youth, symmetry, and quietness. She also ruminates on the strange, dark time her mother took her to Italy to see statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine. Is this what love is?

This was definitely not a comfortable read, but often, the most important books aren't comfortable, and that's the point. What Girls Are Made Of really made me explore and scrutinize what it really means to be a woman, and how if you think about it, not much has changed in terms of how people view women who overstep the boundaries. I thought this book was an honest and unflinching portrayal of what it means to be a woman, and what women are made of - both physically and emotionally. I think all the discussion about sex, contraception, and abortion were all very well dealt with - and were both honest and informative, without any frills. It's so important to have topics like these normalised in fiction, particularly YA fiction, because they are a normal part of everyday life for women, things they are constantly taught to be ashamed of. 

I think Nina was a very interesting character, and was portrayed as a realistic teenage girl. She wasn't perfect, but then which teenage girl is? Her experiences, however confused and messy, were portrayed brilliantly - Arnold did not shy away from describing Nina's experiences such as abortion and orgasm in minute detail. Although this wasn't easy reading, I did really appreciate the effort made to show the female experience in all its (at times) gruesome detail. 

I liked the interludes in between chapters that were 'written' by Nina, exploring what it means to be a woman, using examples from history and myth, and I really enjoyed the distinct flavour of magical realism in these passages. I think these sections added gorgeously to what the book was trying to do, in terms of sharing every aspect of what it means to be a woman, and how the experience can actually inspire creativity in the most magical way. 

Altogether, although it was definitely not easy reading, I very much enjoyed What Girls Are Made Of. It is an incredibly thought-provoking, intricate exploration of sex, society and the circumstances that shape a person to what they become. The writing was exquisite, and I hope many more young women and men read this book, as it is an undeniably important novel.

Check out Elana K. Arnold here: http://elanakarnold.com

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'A Sky Painted Gold' by Laura Wood (****)

Hey guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you another book review (I'm on a roll, I know!) of a wonderful summer YA novel I read recently: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood. I made it my mission to read lots of summery YA novels these next to months and I'm so happy I picked this one up to kick off my summer reading right!

A Sky Painted Gold follows sixteen year old Lou, who is enjoying yet another langorous summer in Cornwall, with not much to do but write her stories, hang out with her family, and spend afternoons sneaking into the Cardew house. But this summer is set to be different than any other before it. Lou's sister Alice is getting married and moving out of the family home, and the Cardews are back in their house for the summer, leaving Lou with no place to hide. Suddenly instead of writing her stories, Lou finds herself right in the middle of one: champagne, cocktails, scandal and new friends that live a life of excess. Is this really the summer of a lifetime, or will Lou lose herself along the way?

I was kindly sent A Sky Painted Gold by Scholastic in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, sixteen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer - a handsome, dashing brother and sister - Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams.

But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions... And is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family?

A gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop, this is perfect for fans of I Capture the Castle and Eva Ibbotson.

I didn't quite know what to expect from this book, however I soon found myself completely enchanted by the story and the characters. I don't read them very often but when I do, I love historical novels, and this one set in 1920s Cornwall sounded like one I would totally fall in love with. Spoiler: I was right. The writing was lyrically beautiful and so reminiscent of the lazy summers I myself have experienced in Cornwall for many years. Right from the start I really cared about Lou and related to her state of helplessness in regards to where she saw her future. Obviously as a woman living in the 21st century I have a lot more choice in regards to my future plans, however I did understand Lou's feeling of pressure to bow down to what her family wanted her to do. Lou is an facinating, strong female character and I found her development so interesting to read about. I particularly enjoyed how she loved writing. 

All of the characters were so interesting and complex, and this definitely added to how much I enjoyed the story. I think Lou's family were portrayed brilliantly, especially between Lou and her mother and her sister. I also loved the friendships between the women in the Cardew house - A Sky Painted Gold definitely has a Gatsby feel, however the way that Wood portrays the women in the novel is a million miles away from Fitzgerald's writing. 

As I mentioned before, the writing was so beautifully crafted so evocative in its descriptions. It is unlike any YA novel I have read before in terms of the story, and I particularly enjoyed the underlying darkness that lingered throughout most of the story. Despite the fact that A Sky Painted Gold is set in the past, Wood included a fair bit of diversity in the book, which is refreshing. I think some people forget that even though at the time diversity was not considered to be important, or a good things, people of different sexual orientation and race still existed, and they are important to be included in new 'histories' that we write.  

Overall, I absolutely adored A Sky Painted Gold, and it is definitely the book you need to be packing to take with you if you are going on holiday this year. If you're going to Cornwall like me, even better!

Check out Laura Wood here: https://www.lauraclarewood.com

Until next time :)

Monday, 30 July 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'How to Write a Love Story' by Katy Cannon (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I'm thrilled to be sharing with you another book review, of Katy Cannon's brand spanking new YA novel, How to Write a Love Story! The premise for this book is unlike any other YA book I have heard of before, and I was so excited to start reading it and see if it lived up to expectations. I love books that explore the theme of writing itself and I was super intrigued to see how Cannon explored this in her novel. 

How to Write a Love Story follows Tilly Frost - grandaughter of Beatrix Frost - one of the most notorious and well-loved romance authors. Tilly has always adored her grandmother's books and recently, even helped her grandmother in the process of writing them, but everything suddenly changes when, for Beatrix's next novel, she wants a little more than Tilly's suggestions. For the first time, Tilly has to step into her grandmother's shoes. But how does one write a rip-roaring romantic novel without any experience in romance herself?

I was kindly sent How to Write a Love Story by Stripes Publishing in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Tilly Frost has grown up reading her grandmother's bestselling romance novels - so when the one and only Beatrix Frost is taken ill, Tilly finishes writing her latest work. Then Tilly agrees to start the next book. But what is her gran hiding from her? And how can Tilly write a heart-pounding romance when she's never been in love? Can she turn her school crush into something more? One thing Tilly should know is that the course of true love never did run smooth...

If you liked FANGIRL, you'll love this!

As I mentioned before, I love stories about writing stories. This was such a great premise for a YA novel, and I'm happy to say that this book completely lived up to my expectations. I thought Tilly was a fantastic character who knew her own mind and her own capabilities, and I especially loved the dynamic between her and her grandmother, Beatrix. You don't get that many grandchild/grandparent relationships in YA, and I was happy to see one presented so well. 

The plot itself was great, and I was intrigued to see how Tilly got on with both her writing and her quest to fall in love. I think Cannon depicted the writing process brilliantly, and it was so interested to read about. I enjoyed all the twists and turns and how things eventually worked out in a way that I wasn't expecting. All of the characters were carefully crafted to add some complexity to the story, and I loved how they interacted together. I particularly liked the friendship between Tilly, Anja and Rohan. 

Just like in the last Katy Cannon book I read, And Then We Ran, I thought the writing was wonderfully fresh and brilliantly descriptive. Cannon is undoubedtly a master storyteller, and understands the teenage mind so well. This is so important for YA novels, as what kind of teenager wants to read about a teenager who doesn't seem like one at all?! How to Write a Love Story is a superbly unique story all about writing and friends and family and staying true to yourself and your feelings. It is definitely one that you need to get on your TBR list, you won't regret it!

Check out Katy Cannon here: https://katycannon.com

Until next time :)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | 'Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates' by Elizabeth McKay and Maria Bogade (****)

Hey guys and happy Thursday! Today I am thrilled to be sharing with you another brilliant children's picture book - this time it is Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates by Elizabeth McKay and Maria Bogade. This is another brilliant children's book by Floris Books, delightfully Scottish, and such a joy to read aloud (cue pirate dialect!) 

Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates is a fantastic book all about adventure and magic (with some pirate action sprinkled in, of course). Harry and Emily are off to Arran on holiday with their beloved Wee Granny, but of course there are obstacles along the way... however no problem is too big for Wee Granny or her magic bag. However, when some pirates need help finding their buried treasure, does Wee Granny's magic bag have the ability to help them?

I was kindly sent Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates by Floris Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Get ready for excitement and surprises as Wee Granny (Scotland's very own Mary Poppins!) and her magic tartan bag set off on another adventure. Wee Granny is going on holiday with Emily and Harry to Arran but they've missed the ferry. Don't worry; Wee Granny's got just the thing in her magic bag -- a rowing boat! But shiver me timbers, on their journey Wee Granny and the children meet Captain Shoogle and his pirate crew. Does Wee Granny have anything in her magic bag to help the pirates find their buried treasure? You'll never guess what unbelievable thing she'll pull out next! The third book in the hugely popular Wee Granny's Magic Bag series is a hilarious tartan-Jolly Rodger mash-up with plenty of fun for pirates and landlubbers alike. Turn each page to reveal a brilliant mix of colourful illustrations and an exciting story full of surprises!

This book has everything a child who loves stories could ask for - loveable characters, packed with adventure and excitement and... pirates! The story is gloriously heartwarming and thrilling and is sure to keep little ones entertained from beginning to end. This was such an enjoyable book to read and the illustrations by Maria Bogade really made the story come to life. Wee Granny is such a brilliant character and is definitely Scotland's answer to Mary Poppins... but as far as I know Mary Poppins never had to help out a band of pirates!

Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates is a book that children of all ages will enjoy, and is the perfect book to take on your summer holiday this year to keep all of the little ones entertained, especially on those long car journeys...

Buy Wee Granny's Magic Bag and the Pirates here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grannys-Magic-Pirates-Picture-Kelpies/dp/1782504753

Check out Elizabeth McKay here: http://scottishbooktrust.com/profile-author/83924

Check out Maria Bogade here: http://www.mariabogade.com

Until next time :)