Fireborn by Aisling Fowler – A Review #ultimateblogtour

Hi! Today’s my stop on TheWriteReads tour for Fireborn by Aisling Fowler.

Fireborn by Aisling Fowler
  • Publication date: September 30th 2021
  • Publisher: Harper Collins
  • Genre: MG Fantasy

Lyra. Lucy. Percy. Once in a generation, a hero emerges whose story enthralls readers worldwide.

Fireborn is an epic quest, perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials and The School for Good and Evil series, that will spin readers into a magical world like no other—and introduce them to an unforgettable new heroine named Twelve.

Ember is full of monsters.

Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them—so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.

But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny—and the very fate of her world.

First of all, a big thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads, the publisher and the author for organising this tour and providing me with an earc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love middle grade fantasy. There’s just something about those stories that make the reading experience magical, cosy and fun. I also understand that when something doesn’t quite work for me in them it’s because I am not the target demographic for those books. I think that is the case with Fireborn.

There are many things I appreciated in this book. For one, I think the premise was very interesting. It’s what sold me on it in the first place. It sounded like heaps of fun and exactly what I look for in MG fantasy.

I thought the world building was fascinating, but a bit too ambitious. I feel has it been simplified, it would’ve worked better, because for the sheer amount of plot, action and back story vs. descriptions, we just didn’t get enough info about the world and why things were the way they were. Instead, we got big paragraphs describing different creatures, which felt info dumpy. I would 100% appreciate those more as an extra to an already fully developed world I loved, rather than one I’m just discovering.

Found family trope is one of my favourites, and I really love a mentor/unlikely guardian trope and both of those are in some form present in Fireborn. The problem was… I didn’t like or care about any of the characters. Twelve, our main protagonist, wasn’t likeable or relatable and very little changed about her throughout the book. The other characters in the book didn’t get enough “screen time” for me to form any actual opinions.

I am definitely in the minority here. I do believe I’m the only person who rated this lower than 4 stars. So, please don’t base your opinion on mine and if Fireborn sounds like something you feel you’d enjoy definitely give it a go. It’s fast paced and full of adventure – it was just not for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thank you for reading. Follow the Fireborn and TheWriteReads hashtags on Twitter to find all the other glowing reviews. I’ll speak to you all soon!

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone – A Review – TheWriteReads Tour

Hi! Today is my stop on TheWriteReads tour for Mirrorland!

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
  • Publication date:
  • Publisher: Scribner Books
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

First of all, thank you to Dave at TheWriteReads and the publisher for providing me with an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I am in the biggest reading and life slump at the moment, and honestly, reading hasn’t been much of a priority for me. But this book sounded really fun, and twisty, and I think thrillers are the best books to get one out of a reading slump, so I dived in hoping it’d do so for me.

Although the premise of this book isn’t anything special or unique, considering it is a debut novel, I thought the concept was fairly well thought out and still interesting. Domestic thrillers can be done in so many different ways, they don’t always have to be very unique in plot to offer something new.

From the get go the story was a little bit confusing. The way it is told, with the past and the present mixed together was disorienting at the start, but I definitely got used to it pretty fast. And the mystery was enough to keep me reading and engaged until about halfway through.

I felt very lukewarm towards all the characters. The mystery took over any character development, sadly, and I had no idea what to make of the main character, Cat, and as the story progressed, I liked her less and less. I have no problems with unlikeable characters, but when the whole story is full of them, it becomes a bit of an issue.

I found Mirrorland extremely atmospheric and quite well written, especially for the author’s first novel. So, although some things didn’t work for me, the writing and the uneasy feeling the book gave me, definitely made me want to read and find out more. But I do have to echo one thing that has made its rounds on everyone’s review, regarding the writing… what the hell is a Poirot?

I think, overall, Mirrorland was a mixed bag. It had things I enjoyed, and things I thought needed more attention. The book could’ve ended 20% earlier. The ending felt drawn out. But the mystery kept me reading and I did like the writing. Sadly, though, the reading slump is still very real.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Check out the Mirrorland and TheWriteReads hashtags to read other reviews of this book!

As always, thanks for reading! Talk soon!

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus – A Review #TheWriteReads #UltimateBlogTour

Hi! It’s my stop on TheWriteReads tour for The Cousins by Karen M. McManus (as you can tell by the title)! This one releases in December, so keep an eye out for it – it’s a fun one!

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
  • Publication date: December 1st 2020
  • Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
  • Genre: Mystery

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Thank you to the publisher and Dave at TheWriteReads for a free e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Karen M. McManus book surprises me, and I think by now I should know and expect to enjoy them. I liked and flew through her other books, and The Cousins was no different.

The story follows 3 estranged cousins: Milly, Aubrey and Jonah, who are invited to spend a summer at their grandmother’s resort. The catch is, she disowned her own children 24 years ago and has not kept in contact with either of them since. So, why is she reaching out now?

I was pretty hooked on the premise from the get go. I really enjoy family mysteries, the more twisted ones, the better, so I was looking forward to reading it – although I kept my expectations low, because YA mysteries tend to be too predictable for me. The story really took off from the first few chapters (as it’s told from alternating POVs of the 3 cousins), though it didn’t capture me fully until the halfway point.
I enjoyed all three of the cousins’ perspectives and how different they and their circumstances were. Once the flashbacks were introduced, I started caring a lot more about the past events, though, and I wish the story focused more on the Story children, and not the grandkids. Truth be told, the mystery worked either way.

I think Karen M. McManus is really good at pacing her stories and giving the readers just enough info to keep them interested and engaged. Like with her other books, I didn’t once get bored and want to put the book down to take a break. I had fun reading it start to finish, although it wasn’t perfect by any means.

I could’ve done without the romance, but I say it every time. I know parts of it put things in motion when it comes to plot, but I think I’d enjoy it more if literally anything else happened.
Although I didn’t fully figure out where the story was going, I had a pretty good inkling how it’ll end, and the finale didn’t surprise me. It’s not always detrimental for me to be shocked by the reveal to enjoy a story, as long as the rest of the book makes up for it, and I’ll happily admit it did. I think as far as YA mysteries go, this one turned out pretty impressive.

Next time Karen M. McManus comes out with another book, I’ll try not to doubt her. She’s proven to write continuously fun and engaging stories.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

Make sure to follow TheWriteReads on Twitter and check out all the fantastic reviews from other bloggers, as this tour is a huge one.

Thank you for reading!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – A Review

Hi! Happy Monday. I hope you’re doing great. I am back with another tour stop and another review. This one is for The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (as you can tell from the title). I’m excited for this one.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Publication date: September 1st 2020
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Genre: Mystery

She came from nothing.

Avery has a plan: keep her head down, work hard for a better future.

Then an eccentric billionaire dies, leaving her almost his entire fortune. And no one, least of all Avery, knows why.

They had everything.

Now she must move into the mansion she’s inherited.

It’s filled with secrets and codes, and the old man’s surviving relatives –

a family hell-bent on discovering why Avery got ‘their’ money.

Now there’s only one rule: winner takes all.

Soon she is caught in a deadly game that everyone in this strange family is playing.

But just how far will they go to keep their fortune?

The premise of The Inheritance Games sounded pretty interesting, but having put in a lot of faith into YA mysteries in the past, I was quite cautious setting my expectations, not to be disappointed. What I feared would be a dissatisfying read turned into a pleasant surprise – I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

The Inheritance Games follows Avery – a girl from a poor family who, after her mother’s death, is being raised by her older half-sister. She works hard, both in school and outside of it, to earn a better future. Until one day she’s summoned into the headmaster’s office and told she’s been named as an heir of a eccentric billionaire who she didn’t know. But to take ownership of the money and assets she needs to move into the Hawthorne House where all of the billionaire’s family still lives, and stay there for a year. Needless to say, the remaining family is not happy about that, and Avery gets roped into a scavenger hunt/game to win.

It took me a good few chapters to get into the story. I found the beginning, which set up the story and introduced the reader to the characters, slightly boring and mediocre. I will admit, Avery is not a character I particularly liked or found interesting. And while she is the main character, she really played a backdrop for the story’s actual main characters – the Hawthorne grandsons.
I liked all 4 of them. I understand that they’re the cliche YA male protagonists, misunderstood, spoiled, weird, sarcastic, pretentious etc., but what can I say? I saw right through from the very first page and yet I still fell for their charm! If I were to rate them best to worst, I’d pick Xander, Jameson, Grayson and Nash.
Like I said, though, Avery was not my favourite. The female cast did not impress me whatsoever, with Avery’s sister not having much personality, either, and Thea and Rebecca being mostly plot devices. The only interesting female character the story had was Emily, and she was dead, so that really paints a picture for you.

If I didn’t like the main character or any other females and the start was boring and mediocre, why did I enjoy the book, then, you ask? Well… the plot, once it started moving, was very addicting. I wanted to solve the mystery myself. I wanted to know why Avery was chosen as an heir. I wanted to see more of the Hawthornes. After the introductory chapters the pacing improved immensely and the book got better. I don’t necessarily need to like the main character to enjoy the story, as long as I don’t hate every single one of the characters.

I didn’t realise the book was a first in a series, and so the lack of ALL answers and a cliffhanger ending really surprised me. I did still enjoy it, I think as far as YA mysteries go, it was well done, but I am just not big on cliffhangers. Overall, though, I thought the story was well written and paced, and a real page turner once everything was set in place. I am curious where it will go in the next book and will definitely be picking it up!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you for reading! I will chat to you soon.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar – A Review

Hi! I’m back with yet another exciting review – you KNOW how much I love The Write Reads tours and the whole gang. This week we’re gushing over The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar, and today is my stop. Can you tell I really loved this book?

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar
  • Publication date: June 16th 2020
  • Published: Puffin
  • Genre: Fantasy

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.

First of all – thank you to Dave for organising this tour and Puffin for providing me with a physical copy!

I don’t know where to begin gushing about this book, so I think I’ll start with the cover, because oh my goodness, she’s STUNNING. The little window on the paperback? chef’s kiss I know that is absolutely not up to the author, but whoever did design the book deserves a raise.

I was hooked on this book before I’ve seen the cover, though. A middle grade story full of magic, a literal Ship of Shadows and an all female pirate crew? What could possibly sound more amazing? My expectations were very high and… all of them were met.

Aleja, the protagonist, always wanted to travel the world but she was told girls couldn’t be explorers, so she lived out her dreams through reading. Born and raised in Spain, she taught herself how to read and speak English, as well as French and Arabic. And when she got tangled up in a bad business and accused of stealing, she found her refuge on… a pirate ship.
I loved Aleja as a main character. She was smart, bold and adventurous, a perfect protagonist to follow. But what stole my heart was the crew of the ship. Every single one of those ladies were badass, talented and amazing in their own way. I loved that they were unapologetically themselves and challenged all of the gender stereotypes – it’s nice seeing that in MG books, as I think it’s the influence kids need now more so than ever. If I had to pick a favourite character it would definitely be Frances. We could bond over cake.

The book was so incredibly addictive! I read most of it in one sitting. I’m a sucker for adventure stories that involve quests, especially MG ones as they’re usually the most magical. Reading The Ship of Shadows gave me a feeling of nostalgia and I wish it was a book I read as a kid, because I think it’s one of those books (like The Storm Keeper’s Island) it would be great growing up with. The writing was fantastic, the right amount of descriptive without slowing down the plot. I think the indication of great writing is the fact that I can clearly see what happened in the book as if I watched it as a movie, when I think back on it.

Goodreads does not indicate whether this will be a series although the way the story ended leaves lots of room for expanding. I do hope it becomes a series as I’d love to follow Aleja and the crew on more adventures, visit more places, fight more monsters and learn more about the shadows (which are THE COOLEST and so intriguing).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you so much for reading! As always, follow the hashtags to read more reviews from so many awesome bloggers taking part in this tour.

I’ll speak to you soon!

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis – A Review

Hi! Today is the last day of the Harrow Lake Ultimate Blog Tour hosted by Dave at TheWriteReads on Twitter and it’s my turn to share my thoughts on the book!

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
  • Publication date: July 9th 2020
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Genre: Thriller

Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you . . .

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley and Dave for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thrillers have become one of my favourite genres recently, even though I’ve rated very few of them 5 stars. When this tour was announced, I was ecstatic! The blurb, though quite vague, had me hooked. I love small creepy towns, close knit communities shrouded in mysteries, and that kind of vibe.

Harrow Lake definitely delivered in that regard. From the get go, the story and the world building were very mysterious and atmospheric. The first couple of chapters set up the mood of the story brilliantly and hinted at some supernatural aspects, which is not my favourite kind of mystery, but it can work when done well. The mentions of Mister Jitters and unexplained disappearances were just the right amount of spooky for me.

Unfortunately, after a strong start, the story went downhill. For the most part of the middle the plot was nearly non existent. In trying to keep everything creepy and mysterious, and explore the superstition of Mister Jitters and making the reader believe he exists, the plot was pushed to the side and it’s when the book slowed down for me and lost the initial excitement.

I feel like the characters were somewhat sacrificed for the sake of the atmosphere, too. I wanted more development for Lola, especially to justify the choice the author made about the ending of the story. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the “twist” at the end of the book needed more to be fully believable, in my opinion. I thought she was well done, for most of it, but some parts just didn’t make sense because they were revealed too late, to justify the twist. The supporting characters needed to be more fleshed out, too, mostly Lola’s grandmother. She had a really big role in the story especially in bridging the supernatural with Lola’s mother’s disappearance, but she was reduced to the creepy old lady who wasn’t always all there.

Some of the most interesting bits of the story were never actually explained, and it’s the main reason for my rating. Like I mentioned before, the plot hinted at the supernatural, and revolved around Mister Jitters and the legend of him, just to flip towards the end and change into a psychological thriller – no doubt for the shock value – yet it just left a lot of loose threads, which I wish were addressed more and tied together. Again, not to spoil anything, I filled in the blanks myself which I think was the author’s intent, but it didn’t satisfy me in the end.

I’m torn on the rating. I think I will settle on 2.75 rounded up to 3 for the sake of Goodreads and this star business.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Check out other people’s reviews by following TheWriteReads Twitter and if this YA thriller sounds interesting to you make sure to pick it up when it comes out in July! Just because it didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

Thank you for reading! As always, I will talk to you all soon!