Book Review: Ink

I have a confession to make. I picked Ink by Alice Broadway up almost entirely because of its shiny cover. It’s gorgeous! I’d also heard a lot of buzz about it though, all the way from YALC in July right up to release, and I was intrigued by the premise, which is that if all significant life events are tattooed on your skin, what happens if you have a secret?

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Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

I found Ink a very interesting book indeed. I hadn’t realised the theme of faith was quite so deeply embedded in it as it was – in fact my only inkling that faith was an aspect at all was because of the UKYA chat themed around the book – so it was a bit of a surprise to find that faith was pretty much at the centre of the plot. The people of this world, you see, believe that by inking their lives onto their skin, they will always be remembered. The skin is kept and bound into books that the family keep – as long as the person who has died is found worthy in the weighing of the soul ceremony. If they are not, they are deemed to be ‘forgotten’, their book is burned, and their family is forbidden to talk about them ever again. Belief in this concept is constant for Leora and everyone she knows – until new acquaintances and discoveries about her father push her to question what she’s always been taught. There is also a community of people who don’t believe in this concept, known as the Blanks, who were expelled a number of years earlier to live in what is essentially a ghetto, cut off from the rest of the population, and about whom horror stories are told.

The book starts off a bit slowly and I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Because it’s told in the first person, but there’s a lot of world building to get in, it sometimes feels like Leora is telling a story, rather than living the experience. However, within the world of the book this kind of makes sense – stories are so important to this world, I quite like the idea of Leora narrating her own. (My favourite story is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which just has the best ending. I think I shouted out loud when I read it!) Once I got into it, I found it very difficult to put down, and the world building is incredibly detailed and well written. I’m really fascinated as to how this dystopian society actually came into being, because the myths that have obviously built up around it are very detailed.

As for the characters, I did find Leora a bit annoying sometimes. She believes so absolutely in the ideas the society is based on that when she finds evidence to contradict what she’s being told, she won’t believe it, even if she sees it with her own eyes. I also think her mum could have headed a lot of trouble off at the pass if she’d just explained things properly (but then there wouldn’t be a story of course!). I loved Verity and Obel though, and it was nice to see Leora at least start to question things through the book.

By the end of Ink I was desperate for the sequel, whch I assume I will have to wait a year to read. I have no idea how many books are planned for the series, but on the basis of this first, I will be eagerly awaiting all of them!

4/5

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A Week in Books

I don’t normally do a weekly wrap-up, and I don’t think it’s something I’m going to start doing regularly, but I have had such a great, bookish week this week that I wanted to write about it before I forgot!

I read three books this week – The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, and Ink by Alice Broadway, which I just finished today. I enjoyed all of those books a lot, and as reading weeks go, I think that’s pretty good! Next up is A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab, and I am so looking forward to reading this!

But what was really exciting about this week was the three book events I was able to attend. I am so, so lucky to live within relatively easy reach of two fabulous Waterstones – Liverpool One and Manchester Deansgate – and they both get some amazing events. Over the last few years, I’ve met a huge proportion of my favourite authors at both stores, and they both also have awesome staff. This week I got to meet Stephanie Garber, Maggie Harcourt, Holly Smale and Lisa Wiliamson. Isn’t that an amazing week of book events?!

It started on Wednesday with Stephanie Garber talking about Caraval in Liverpool One. She explained her writing process and how she came to write the book in the first place, including how the concept of it being about two sisters was the first thing she decided on. She also warned us not to set a book at night because it makes everything more complicated! Stephanie was lovely, and I may have a spare signed copy of Caraval to giveaway in the near future. *g*

Yesterday (Saturday), the Liverpool store had a visit from Maggie Harcourt as part of her Unconventional tour. Usborne had sent our book club some proofs of the book before Christmas and everyone who read it LOVED it (and you have no idea how unusual that is for our book club!), so we were very excited. This was a much more informal event and it was one of the best book events I have ever been to. I loved Maggie – she is definitely One of Us, and it turns out we fangirl over a lot of the same things. I don’t think I’ve ever been as vocal in an event as I was yesterday, but it felt like just another meeting of book club. I wanted to review Unconventional this month, but I need to re-read it first. Trust me when I say you need this book in your life though! It’s an amazing, slow burn romance set behind the scenes of SFF conventions and it’s WONDERFUL.

And today I headed over to Manchester to see Holly Smale and Lisa Williamson, along with Maggie again. I love Holly and Lisa and their books so much. Holly was promoting Forever Geek and Lisa was promoting All About Mia, both of which are amazing. I love listening to them talk about their books and influences, and a big theme of today seemed to be family, as all their books have important family relationships in them. It was a really fun event and it’s always lovely to see Holly and Lisa. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a book event, I urge you to take it. They’re so much fun!

The week ahead does not have any book events sadly. What it does have, hopefully, is reviews of Ink, History Is All You Left Me and Caraval, a monthly wrap-up post and the winner of my The Sin Eater’s Daughter giveaway, which ends on Wednesday night. I also want to try posting a TBR list for March, but I’m not very good at prioritising my reading! The other thing I would like to do is start adding graphics to the blog so if anyone has any advice, please let me know in the comments!

Book Review: We Come Apart

I’m going to come right out and tell you that I loved We Come Apart. Written in free verse and alternating view points, it’s the story of Nicu, a Romanian immigrant, and Jess, a troubled British teen and it is wonderful.

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Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan have joined forces to tell the story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

The word I’ve used most to describe We Come Apart is painful, but it’s painful in a good way (if that makes any sense at all). It was painful for me because I felt what Nicu and Jess were going through, because the writing was so good. I don’t know how the authors split the writing, but I wish I did. They both have very troubled lives – Nicu finds himself an immigrant in Brexit Britain and is increasingly targeted by his peers, but he doesn’t particularly like being at home either, where his parents are obsessed with finding him a bride back home. Jess has a very worrying home life which she daren’t tell anyone about, and she has the worst friends in the world. And then they meet, while taking part in a young offenders’ programme, and despite Jess’s reluctance to get involved, they become friends and more, giving each other hope.

I will tell you right now, I wanted to reach into the book and remove Nicu and Jess from their terrible situations and just look afte them. Nicu in particular is just the sweetest, but I really liked seeing the way Jess’s friendship with him changes her for the better. She becomes that little bit less cynical, and a little bit more accepting.

It’s hard to talk in too much detail about We Come Apart, because I feel there are so many potential spoilers, and I don’t want to give too much away, but believe me when I say you should read this book. I really, really loved it, and I wish I’d been able to sit down and devour it in one sitting.

4.5/5

ARC received from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: The Painted Dragon

Another week, another illness. Only another cold, but it left me with no energy to even think about blogging, and I have so many posts I want to write! In the meantime though, a review of The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, which I was very excited to read, having read and enjoyed the previous books in the series.

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When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead . . .

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

First of all, just look at that cover design – isn’t it gorgeous?! I love how it perfectly encompasses the Edwardian setting of the book and I must admit that the cover was the first thing that attracted me to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, which was the first book in the series (although ironically, I ended up buying it in ebook format!). I love that they’ve kept to a similar design throughout the series.

I really enjoyed The Painted Dragon, and thought it was the best yet. It’s always nice when you’re reading a series to feel that you’re watching the characters grow over the course of each book, and that’s certainly true here. Sophie and Lil are still friends, and still building their reputation as detectives while trying to maintain their day jobs (or in Lil’s case, evening job), but they each also have their own concerns. Lil is worried about her brother, Sophie is worried that Lil is getting too busy for her, and that her work at Sinclair’s is slipping. Fortunately, a case comes along that brings them back together and tests their abilities as detectives. There’s also a secret society and Sophie’s obsession with The Baron and what happened to her parents to deal with, which seems like a lot, but Woodfine ties everything together brilliantly. I will say that I guessed who the culprit was pretty quickly, but there was still plenty to keep me engaged.

What I really liked about this book was the introduction of Leo, an art student who is connected to the case. Leo walks with a crutch, but doesn’t let it stop her doing anything she wants, and we get to know her really well at the start of the book. I hope we get to see a lot more of her in future books, in the same way that we got Mei and her family recurring in this book from the last. I also liked Jack a lot, and I suspect there is romance in the offing for some of the characters, although as it’s a Middle Grade series, I’m sure it won’t be a main driver of the books.

The Painted Dragon is a fun, well written Middle Grade mystery that moves the series on without sacrificing the plot of this novel. I highly recommend it, and the previous books in the series!

4/5

ARC received from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

GIVEAWAY! Win a complete SIGNED set of The Sin Eater’s Daughter series

I’m really, really nervous about posting this, because it’s my first ever giveaway and I’m sure I’ll have done something wrong! But here goes anyway.

When my local Waterstones held the fabulous ‘What Makes a Girl Strong’ tour event with Melinda Salisbury, Katherine Webber, Catherine Doyle and Sara Barnard, I decided to purchase some spare copies of The Sin Eater’s Daughter series and get them signed by the wonderful Melinda in order to give them away on this blog. It’s taken me slightly longer than I would have liked to have done this, but sometimes life interferes!

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(Please excuse the dodgy lighting!)

You know how much I love these books, right? I felt it was only fair to share the joy (and by joy, I obviously mean heartbreak and woe. *g*). In all seriousness though, this is a fantastic series and yes, Melinda Salisbury will happily tear your heart out with her writing, but she’ll do it so well you won’t mind a bit.

The winner will receive:

1 SIGNED copy of THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER

1 SIGNED copy of THE SLEEPING PRINCE

1 SIGNED copy of THE SCARECROW QUEEN

1 SIGNED copy of THE KING OF RATS (the short story published at YALC 2016)

1 postcard

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Wanda Maximoff thinks you should definitely enter this giveaway!

Terms and Conditions

To enter, click the link below, which will prompt you to do the following things: tweet about the giveaway, follow me @donnamk79 on twitter, leave a comment on the blog telling me your favourite book series and follow The Untitled Book Blog on WordPress or Bloglovin’. Each action will get you at least one entry, but make sure you click the link below to tell me what you’ve done! The giveaway is open internationally, although depending where you are it could take a while for the prize to reach you.

The giveaway will end at 23.59 on 1st March 2017. Good luck!

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

(The link will take you to Rafflecopter)

Book Review: Who Let The Gods Out

When I was in town on Saturday, I decided I needed something quick and light-hearted to read. I knew Who Let The Gods Out was not only Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, but Maz Evans was also the featured debut author over at the British Books Challenge, so I’d heard quite a bit about the book and thought it was exactly what I wanted. This wasn’t quite the case, but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and there are a lot of funny moments.

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Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

First off, the book *looks* lovely. There’s lots of shiny on the cover, and there’s a sprayed edge with a lightning bolt outlined (and I’m a sucker for a sprayed edge.). Obviously this means that the moment I put it in my bag the pages got a little damaged, but never mind. I like a book that looks like it’s actually been read!

Aesthetics aside, I really liked the story. It wasn’t the laugh-a-minute I was expecting, and actually had some quite serious themes – Elliot is essentially a young carer for his mum, with no support, and as a result is doing quite badly in school – but when it was funny, it was really funny. I liked the idea of the Greek gods retiring and ceding control to a bureaucratic council mired in rules and regulations (I’m also a sucker for anything that brings the ancient Greek/Roman Gods to present-day Britain – I’ve been reading Tom Holt books since I was 13!). I liked Elliot a lot too. He’s just a kid trying to look after his mum and cope with an incredibly surreal situation. I must admit that I found Virgo more annoying than anything, but she does improve as the book goes on, and the rest of the characters more than make up for her. I can’t decide which of the gods I love the most, but I did love them all.

Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth picking up Who Let The Gods Out. It’s a really enjoyable, middle grade book and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

3.5/5

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is something I’ve seen other bloggers doing for years. I can’t find a current meme host (if anyone knows of someone, please let me know in the comments!), but I want to try and move away from book review after book review and add some other content too, and this seemed a good place to start! I can’t promise I’ll manage it every week, but I’ll try.

So this week I am desperately excited by:

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A Conjuring of Light!

A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab is out next week and I am DESPERATE for it. I’ve written before about how much I love V’s work, and A Gathering of Shadows was definitely one of my favourite books last year – and it left us on a giant cliffhanger! Having to wait a year for the resolution has been killing me, and I can’t believe we’re now down to a week. I cannot wait!

Book Review: The Scarecrow Queen

Oh. My. God. This book you guys. This book! I have been looking forward to it ever since I read The Sleeping Prince last year and I was lucky enough to get an early copy at the event I went to. It lived up to every expectation. I loved it. I’m also sad the series has ended, but it was done so perfectly that my sadness is slightly assuaged.

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The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .

I don’t think I know how to even start reviewing this book. I mean, apart from anything else, it’s difficult to say anything meaningful without spoiling The Scarecrow Queen or its predecessors! It’s written from the points of view of both Twylla and Errin, the heroines of the previous two books. Twylla is desperately trying to find a way to a.) survive and b.) defeat Aurek and rescue Errin and Silas, who have been taken to Aurek’s castle. Twylla in The Scarecrow Queen is AMAZING. I loved her. Her upbringing means she’s never quite sure of herself, but with the help of the people who have become friends, she doesn’t let it stop her, and her ending is perfect. Just perfect. One of my biggest problems with Twylla in the first book was that she was just a little bit too naive, but it has been a pleasure to watch her grow over the three books. Errin is also amazing, and never stops fighting, even when she knows it could literally kill her to continue.

I really can’t talk too much about The Scarecrow Queen without spoiling people, and you really should go into it without knowing anything, so I shall have to leave my thoughts about Lief and Merek and various other characters, not to mention the plot, in my head. Just know that I really, really loved The Sleeping Prince, and The Scarecrow Queen matched it. I had to read it in one go because I couldn’t put it down. I cannot wait to see what Melinda Salisbury does next!

The Scarecrow Queen is out on 2nd March in the UK and US.

5/5

Book Review: Margot & Me

Time to catch up on some reviewing I think! I was really looking forward to reading Margot & Me – I love Juno Dawson, who is an all round fantastic woman, and I had a lovely chat with her about the book last year at an event – and while it took me a little while to get into, it didn’t disappoint in the end.

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Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . .

Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales – the grandmother who she doesn’t get on with – with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that’s the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss’s every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!

In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot’s diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot’s deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with…

Margot & Me is set primarily in the late 1990s where we meet Fliss, her mother and her grandmother, Margot. It is not a spoiler to say that Fliss and Margot do not get on. Fliss has been used to doing pretty much what she wanted while she was caring for her mum, and she doesn’t like Margot imposing rules. I must admit, Fliss comes across as something of a spoiled brat in the early pages, and I did find it hard to connect with her at first, but as I got further through the book, I found her more sympathetic. (I also suspect I was being a bit mean – I’m not sure how well I’d have taken to being uprooted from my city life and moved into an isolated Welsh farmhouse at 16 to be honest!) By about a quarter into the book, I liked Fliss a lot. I liked 1940s Margot a lot more though. She is such a fantastic character. Her diary starts as she is evacuated to Wales, and through it we see her change from a slightly cosseted teenager into a capable, forthright young woman, who’s not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, and who has some very progressive views for the 1940s. I really liked that we got to know this person at the same time as Fliss had her eyes opened to her grandmother’s true self and it was the 1940s scenes that made this book for me.

I always love books that cover a split period, whether that’s through time-travel or, like this, a window into an older time, and Margot & Me was no exception. It was also funny and moving and there may have been tears at certain points. The strength of this book as its characters though, and I’m very glad I got to meet Fliss and Margot.

4/5