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 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!

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall – A Review

Hi! It’s time for another The Write Reads tour review. Dave has been spoiling us with great books lately and this one was no different. Let’s just get into it.

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall
  • Publication date: June 18th 2019
  • Publisher: Capital Station Books
  • Genre: Fantasy

Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

I think the whole gang reached a consensus with this book – we all seemed to really enjoy it and it’s a rare sight. I haven’t heard of this series until Dave announced the tour and as a fantasy reader, I’m surprised why more people don’t talk about it, because it ticks all the boxes.

It took me no time to get into the story. Knightmare Arcanist doesn’t waste any time to introduce you to the world and plot – it throws you right in. Volke is hell bent on becoming an arcanist and making a name for himself. It’s not easy growing up on an island where your heritage is everything, and coming from a family of thieves and murderers. Being apprenticed by the gravedigger he’s not allowed to compete in order to bond with a phoenix, but he finds a way to bond with a mythical creature and becoming an arcanist anyway.

I really liked Volke as a main character. He was an interesting protagonist and narrator, and I really liked his determination. Actually, thinking about it, I didn’t hate any of the characters. Granted, I didn’t think all of them were fleshed out to the point I’d like them to be, but they were fun to follow, especially for the purpose of seeing different mythical creatures and the magic they could perform with them.

I think Knightmare Arcanist fits the younger end of YA and in many of those cases the author struggles to find the tone for the story, or takes heavy inspiration from other books. Stovall managed to make this one stand out in a line up. I found the story to be fast paced and engaging and the world rich and developed, without info dumpy paragraphs. It was a fresh story and it’s what made it so enjoyable for me. It’s not the shortest, yet if not this dreadful reading slump, I’d see myself reading it all in one sitting and that says something.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed thoroughly was Stovall’s writing. She managed to paint the world clearly with her words without using language that’s too flowery – seeing as the story is told from Volke’s point of view. I love a healthy balance between descriptive writing full of imagery and Tolkien’s 3 page long descriptions of grass, and I think Stovall managed it very well.

I am looking forward to continuing with the series as it pleasantly surprised me. If you like magical fantasies and mythical creatures, you should definitely give it a go.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you all for reading. Make sure to check out the hashtags and follow @ TheWriteReads on Twitter to find all the other fantastic reviewers taking part in this tour. I’ll talk to you all 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!

The Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen – A Review

Hi! I’m back, just like I said I would be, with a very exciting review! It’s my stop on #TheWriteReads blog tour for A Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen! I’ve reviewed the first book as well, and you can read my review by clicking HERE

The Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen
  • Publication date: August 31st 2007
  • Publisher: Host og Son
  • Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fantasy

Philip’s adventures as the Devil’s apprentice have changed him—in a good way. Although he misses his friends in Hell, he has made new friends in life.

But when the future of the underworld is threatened once again, Philip’s help is needed. Death’s Die has been stolen and immortality is spreading across the globe.

Philip throws himself into the search—and discovers a horrible truth about his own life along the way.

*First and foremost, I have received a free e-copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

This series really took me by surprise. I mean it in the best way possible. As I said in my first review, I was afraid it wouldn’t be my cup of tea (for reasons unknown to me), but the first book turned out to be a great, super fun and original adventure story. I’m happy to report the second book didn’t disappoint either!

We start not too long after we left off. After his time in Hell, Philip comes back changed – he makes new friends and leaves his angel ways behind. He’s not quite the devil he’s turned into under Lucifer’s wing, but he’s definitely easier to tempt and give into some not-so-innocent fun. Just as he thinks he is back for good – the underworld needs him again! The die of Death has been stolen.

I want to start with saying it was such a pleasure returning to this world. I didn’t realise just how attached I got to it until I went back to the story. Hell is an interesting place, and we find out even more about its rules and inner workings. Just like in the first book we meet a few biblical and historical figures, and those small references interwoven in the story really add a lot of depth to the overall world building. Andersen adds so much richness to the world, expanding the underworld and showing us the outer perimeter of Hell and Mortimer’s house, as well as telling us about more sinister places I’m sure we’ll visit in the later books.

I said it before and I’ll say it again – Philip is a great protagonist to follow. He’s incredibly likeable, even when he strays, and you really root for him throughout the story. I loved seeing all the other characters, too! When Philip comes back to Lucifer’s palace, it’s like a family reunion. It’s heart warming as Philip comes from a broken family and has never met his father. I really like how consistent the characters stay in the second book – in some books, especially in sequels, the secondary characters tend to loose their personality a bit, especially if they’re taking the back burner after being one of the mains in the first book. Instead they become plot devices. That wasn’t the case in The Die of Death.

I loved the plot and pacing of this one. Philip is back in Hell to find Death’s missing die. Without it, Death can’t establish the length of the humans’ life – and that makes them immortal. While investigating the missing die, Philip discovers something about his own family and things get even more complicated. There’s never a dull moment in The Die of Death. The plot is gripping from start to finish, with more intrigue added as we go. First book talked a lot about morality and in this one we focus more on immortality and what it means to live forever. I really like that there is depth to each of those stories other than just the adventure story we see on the surface. My only qualm is the subplot with Philip’s father and the fact that it was done twice. I understand where it came from, but it made the ending seem a bit repetitive and predictable.

I can’t wait to continue with the series and I’ll be picking up the third book real soon, as this was a pleasure to read!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Please follow @ TheWriteReads on Twitter to find more reviews of this book!

I’ll talk to you very soon! Thanks for reading!

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – A Review #UltimateBlogTour

Hi! It’s my stop today, on the #UltimateBlogTour for The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen. I’m very excited to post, as it’s my first tour ever! So, let’s go!

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen
  • Publication date: 2005
  • Publisher: Host og Son
  • Genre: Middle Grade/YA Fantasy

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

I have received an ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Devil’s Apprentice was such a fun and fast paced book. I didn’t know what to expect, going into it. It sounded interesting, but also not entirely in my comfort zone. I was wrong – it’s exactly the book I would read!
I’m going to start with saying that, while marketed as a YA fantasy, I would definitely categorise it as a Middle Grade novel. The narration style, as well as a lot of themes in this book fit a MG much more than a YA book.

One of the strongest points of this novel was the world building. As you can guess from the title, most of the book takes place in Hell. The setting of Hell was vivid and very well developed. I am not a religious person myself, but I’m familiar with the bible and biblical stories, and I think weaving those through the story and adding a different spin or dimension to things and people so widely known was a great idea. It added a lot of depth to the story.

I really liked the main character, Philip. As MG protagonists go, he wasn’t the most fleshed out character out there, but he was likeable and believable. Sure, he made stupid decisions, but they were necessary to the plot and also… he’s 13 years old. I’m twice his age and let’s not get into my decision making abilities… The whole cast of characters was “good” (or as good as devils and other Hell creatures can be) – I didn’t dislike any of them, which really made for an enjoyable read. My favourite was definitely Lucifer.

The plot of the book was quite predictable, though by no means boring. I enjoyed myself from the beginning till the end. I really liked the take on this story – though morality is explored a lot in various books, I haven’t read anything with a similar setting and plot. Philip’s adventure was engaging and fun. There wasn’t anything profound about it, but it did it’s job – to entertain.

All in all, I’m happy I got a chance to read this book as it’s not something I would’ve picked up on my own. It’s a solid adventure story, which is a bit darker than most MG/young YA, and which explores interesting topics of morality and what it means to be good or bad. I would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you might be interested in yourself.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Follow the #UltimateBlogTour #DevilsApprentice and #TheWriteReads hashtags to find more reviews for the book (we’re all very active on Twitter).

I’ll talk to you soon!