Friday, 14 June 2019

My Secret Lies With You blog tour – Faye's Favourite Mysteries

I'm a huge fan of Faye's tense, intriguing books, so it's lovely to share one of Faye's favourite YA mystery novels as part of the blog tour. You can check out my review of My Secret Lies With You here.

Lying About Last Summer

What I loved about this book was that we were in one location for a short period of time and we weren’t sure, once we got there, who we should trust. A tragic past event takes us into the world of the book; Skye’s parents now are sending her to a camp for bereaved teens after the death of her sister. We go with Skye there. 

In many ways this story has all the makings of a classic Agatha Christie mystery in its set up. And what I loved about it was the ending, which for me, felt like the gift that kept on giving. I can’t say too much about it here because I don’t want to create spoilers, but clearly endings are completely crucial to the success or not of a mystery story. The end of a mystery needs to be satisfying – it needs to answer all the questions that the reader has asked as they’ve read – and it also needs to be credible, authentic to what has happened to get us to this point. As a reader we look for resolution in a way that continues to sit well with the characters we’ve got to know. We hope for a resolution that still might, in some way, surprise us. But we don’t want the surprise to be so outrageous as to be ridiculous or so slight as to be disappointing. Endings need to deliver on the built up tension. They need to entertain. 

For the writer this can be a hard thing to achieve – it requires a specific graft to deliver a conclusion that does all of these things – and I felt that Sue Wallman delivered it perfectly in Lying About Last Summer. In lots of ways the ending crept up on me. I was aware of building tensions between characters throughout the story, but because I was so intent on the resolution to the main mystery, and because I was so immersed in its conclusion, I didn’t anticipate the ending would unfold quite as it did. Here was a real finale! There was danger, in fact there was proper peril – I really felt it – and then as the danger subsided an internal resolution emerged. For me this was a thrilling and satisfying ending brilliantly done and I loved it! I’m looking forward to Sue’s new book, Dead Popular, which is due out in August 2019.

I agree, Faye – Lying About Last Summer is a great mystery with a memorable ending. Thank you for sharing one of your favourite mysteries Faye!

My Secret Lies With You is out now. 

Saturday, 8 June 2019

My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird – review

Three close friends… Two unforgettable summers… One girl’s darkest secret…

Alys appeared last summer, and then she vanished without a trace.

Ifan fell in love with her. Hannah hated her. And Marko regrets what they did.

This summer, Cait is new in town, and a girl has been reported missing. Cait needs to uncover the truth. What happened last summer? And who is Alys?

I really enjoyed What I Couldn't Tell You by Faye Bird and this is another intriguing, unsettling mystery.

The wild Welsh coastal setting suited the mystery perfectly and made me want to spend more time in Wales. The location was gorgeously described and used to great effect in the plot.

I also enjoyed piecing together the plot from the viewpoint of different characters. Each voice is distinct and reveals another part of the mystery.

I love a summer book and I liked the idea of forcing the characters to reflect on disturbing events from the previous year. It was interesting trying to see how the two timelines would intersect, though I felt the events could have been explored in more detail. 

This is a quick, tense read with an engaging mystery at its heart. Look out for my stop on the blog tour next week, with one of Faye Bird's favourite mysteries.

Thank you to Usborne for the review copy! 

Monday, 3 June 2019

Gumiho (Wicked Fox) by Kat Cho – review

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret--she's a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead--her gumiho soul--in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl--he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to men. He's drawn to her anyway. When he finds her fox bead, he does not realize he holds her life in his hands.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous and reignite a generations-old feud . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon's.

As soon as I read that blurb, I knew I'd love this book. Gumiho (Wicked Fox) is a gorgeously written YA fantasy that weaves the gumiho Korean myth into an addictive story set in modern-day Seoul. 

I'm a huge fan of fiction grounded in mythology and I was hooked from the moment I read about the gumiho myth. It makes for a deliciously dark hook for a YA novel and I thought there was a really interesting contrast between Miyoung's life as a gumiho and her sweet relationship with Jihoon.

I really liked the way Gumiho immerses the reader in Seoul with gorgeous, sensory descriptions and I enjoyed reading about modern Korean culture. It felt very authentic and well-researched (and it's own voices too). 

I also very much enjoyed the romance. The progression of Miyoung and Jihoon's relationship felt very natural (and I love a good hate to love story arc). It's also refreshing that the book explores the relationships of both main characters with their families, from the good moments to the heartbreaking ones. 

Gumiho (Wicked Fox) is a thrilling start to the series, with a gripping plot, evocative writing and plenty of romance.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood – review

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.

When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancĂ©e, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?

With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love... A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

A Sky Painted Gold was my favourite book of last year so my expectations were exceptionally high for Under a Dancing Star. Somehow, it managed to exceed all of them and I loved it even more than A Sky Painted Gold. It's another deliciously dreamy, romantic and summery book. 

The romance is my absolute favourite thing about it. Laura Wood crafts connections and chemistry between characters so beautifully. The mounting tension between Bea and Ben is incredible and I don't have the words for how good the kissing scenes are... 

I also thought the characters in this book are brilliant. Even the most fleeting of appearances was memorable and the secondary characters had their own stories. I think Ursula was my favourite of them and I would happily read a whole book about her.

The character I liked the most though had to be Bea. She's so smart, strong-willed and hilarious. She had me laughing out loud at some of the situations she found herself in and her character arc through the book was very satisfying. I could also write a whole review about the loveliness of Ben, but I'll keep it brief. Once again, Laura has created an exceptionally appealing book boy and I enjoyed his interactions with Bea so very much.

I found the descriptions in this book so gorgeous and sensory. The settings are evoked brilliantly and the food sounded mouth-wateringly good. 

It's a really creative idea to write a prequel to Much Ado About Nothing and Under a Dancing Star executes it brilliantly. I want to read the play again to see how all of the elements tie in. It felt very well researched  the details of each location and the time period brought the story to life. 

I loved everything about this book and I felt so uplifted by the end. Along with A Sky Painted Gold, this is one of my favourite YA books and I can't wait to have the gorgeous finished copy in my hands.

Thank you to Laura Wood for the beautiful photograph of the book!

Alex in Wonderland review

In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben... who, as Alex's bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.

Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems...

Simon James Green's story in Proud was one of my favourites, so I was really excited to read Alex in Wonderland. It's just as good as I hoped, with plenty of humour, romance and even a mystery thrown in.

Alex is a great narrator – funny, believable and likeable. This book is very much a coming of age story and I loved how it explores all different aspects of Alex's life, including his family, friendships and summer jobs. His fears and insecurities are so relatable.

The romance in this book is so very sweet and slow-burning. I was rooting for Alex's relationship from the start and I was very happy with how it ended. It's a testament to how good these characters are that I didn't want to let go of them at the end. If there's not a sequel, then I'll definitely have to read Alex in Wonderland again!

I feel like humour is one of the hardest things to pull off in a book, and Simon James Green does it flawlessly. Situations escalate to hilarious conclusions and he really knows how to find the funny, awkward parts in everyday life.

I had so much fun reading this book. It's the perfect sweet, summery read and I can't recommend it enough!