Brief blogs for busy bees

Recent Posts

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

‘It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.’  When Starr’s friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, her world is turned upside down. Already struggling to juggle two personalities – the person she is in her ‘hood, Garden Heights Starr, vs. the person she […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Underappreciated books I love

Top Ten Tuesday: Underappreciated books I love

It’s been two years since I last wrote a post about all of the underappreciated books I love, but it’s still one of the most fun lists I’ve ever made so I’m glad that I get to write a follow up. The topic for this […]

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race.

It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an ordinary boy who meets Moss on his way to get beaten up by a bully, impressing the dwarf with his ‘bravery’ in facing someone tougher than he – to save the day (and hopefully avoid getting grounded in the process…)

As this is the first book in a new series for children (the second book, Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Goblin Army, slated for release at the beginning of September) I wasn’t surprised that some aspects of the story were rather clunky. Establishing the lore of the world (introducing Moss and the dwarves, the Witchwatchers and Warlockwatchers, and goblins, ogres and dragons, too) causes the pace to suffer, the amount of exposition making it hard to keep track of the plot at times.

However, that’s both a negative and a positive thing. Although it makes the book feel a bit too long, it also proves Alex Gardiner has done a lot of world-building and has crafted this with potential for expansion in mind. The attention to detail shows Gardiner is invested in the story and the characters, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are quite a few installments in the Mossbelly MacFearsome series to come.

There’s even a bonus chapter at the end of the book featuring a fairy tale which is referenced regularly throughout the story, making you feel even more involved in the world.

I read Mossbelly MacFearsome out loud to my partner and daughter, and had much joy trying to embody the various members of the gang. This book is a perfect bedtime story, as there are lots of made up words that will get children giggling, but it also features a few difficult terms that will help expand your child’s vocabulary.

If you’re looking for a series for your child which will be fun for you and them, give Mossbelly MacFearsome a try.

Alyce

X

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite couples

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite couples

As it’s Valentine’s day in two days, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is focused on the ten best couples in books. I couldn’t think of ten bookish couples which didn’t feature ones I’d already gushed about in the past, so I’ve decided to pick couples […]

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

‘I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing his silhouette; his ghost crawled from the sewer drains. But in a town covered in residue, how could there have been such a lack? Outrage. Sound. Where were the sirens? The panic? Benjamin Whitaker was dead! Dad was dead! […]

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

When Saffron discovers a briefcase in the attic of her family home, she discovers that her father has lied to her. Ten years ago, he told her that her mother was dead, but she’s alive and out there somewhere and Saffron is determined to find her.

Saffron runs away from home, unwilling to be around her father or his new wife Melanie for a moment longer. But when her oldest friend Tom refuses to let her stay with him, telling her instead to just go home, Saffron ends up sleeping rough and discovering there’s a lot more to life than designer labels and having a walk-in wardrobe.

I wasn’t a fan of Phyllida Shrimpton’s first novel, Sunflowers in February, but I decided to give The Colour of Shadows a chance. There aren’t many young adult novels that feature the characters running away from home or sleeping on the streets, but it’s a scarily common problem – over 100,000 young people asked for help regarding homelessness last year, according to Centrepoint.

However, it feels like Phyllida Shrimpton knew that she wanted to talk about homelessness and abandonment and had to string together a very unstable plot to allow her to explore the issues. It just doesn’t hold up under questioning.

If I found a briefcase in the attic filled with cards to my supposedly dead mother, I would assume that my father had kept them for sentimental reasons. I wouldn’t assume that it meant that she was actually alive.

Then again, if I was Saffron’s dad I would have disposed of the briefcase when I moved into a larger home with my new wife, rather than keeping it and risking one of my children discovering it…

Another aspect that doesn’t compute is Saffron’s age. Throughout the first few chapters I believed Saffron was supposed to be 13 or 14, but the way she was stomping around the house and refusing to let anyone speak screamed pre-teen behaviour. Then it was revealed that Saffron is actually meant to be 17. I was baffled. Some of her childish, spoilt behaviour can be explained away by her upper middle class background, but it makes the narrative jarring. I kept thinking I was reading a middle-grade book rather than a YA with a protagonist in her late teens.

Shrimpton gets points for discussing homelessness so cleverly, tearing down preconceptions regarding homeless people that I’m sure a lot of readers will unconsciously believe. She also explores the difficulties of being a young carer, although I hope she goes into this topic in more detail in a future release, as I can only think of one other YA novel focused upon the subject (Tender by Eve Ainsworth).

But although The Colour of Shadows is filled with important topics, I just can’t rate this novel higher than two stars. The plot is just far too transparent, and I feel as though the story needed to be stronger to make this book a success.

Alyce

X

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Lost Man blog tour. I’ve taken part in the blog tours for both The Dry and Force of Nature, so I jumped at the chance to read and review another of Jane Harper’s novels. My excitement grew when I learnt that this […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Releases I’m on the fence about

Top Ten Tuesday: Releases I’m on the fence about

The prompt for this week specifies that we’re supposed to be talking about upcoming releases, but I’ve been absent from the blogging community for the best part of the last six months so most of the releases on the horizon have completely slipped under my […]

Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea

Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea

It’s hard to believe over a week has passed since I hopped on the bus to London and headed to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea, but I couldn’t resist sharing my experience with you all anyway.

Unfortunately, on the morning of the event I woke up and my phone had refused to charge overnight, so I didn’t manage to get any pictures of my own during the event. I’m embedding some pics from fellow attendees in this post. Check out their feeds to see even more snapshots of a brilliant afternoon!

I was a few minutes late to the event – I have a terrible internal compass, so I turned the wrong way onto the road and didn’t realise until I’d reached the opposite end, oops! – but managed to arrive moments before Gabriel Dylan began reading a section of his debut novel Whiteout, the tenth Red Eye horror novel that Stripes have published.



I’m a big fan of horror, but the excerpt from Whiteout that Gabriel chose to read sent shivers down my spine. It takes a lot to unnerve me, but the way that he describes some of the events in the book have made me equally excited and terrified to read it.

The main focus at this event was on Proud, the upcoming LGBT+ anthology compiled by Juno Dawson. Three of the new voices featured in the anthology – Cynthia So, Kay Staples and Karen Lawler – were in attendance, each reading the first page of their story and answering questions, while Michael Lee Richardson – contributor of The Other Team – had recorded a short video interview, too.



With stories ranging from lesbian retellings of Pride and Prejudice to teenagers running away to their local Travelodge, the big names involved in the project might gain attention for Proud but I think the new authors are going to be the shining stars in this collection.

Then it was time to hear from Alex Bell. Music and Malice in Hurricane Town is her tenth novel, but even her years of experience didn’t save her from having to start the book from scratch – twice!



Talking about New Orleans and the parts of the culture that inspired the novel – and how she’s twisted those aspects to incorporate them into the story – you could tell that Alex is really passionate about the country. I can’t wait to see how that translates onto the page. Teaching us about Madame Lalaurie, mardi gras beads and kissing gates, I’m sure everyone in the room discovered something new. Music and Malice in Hurricane Town is being published on April 4th.

After a brief break for cupcakes, we heard from Randy Ribay
(who wasn’t in attendance as he lives in America, but had recorded a video clip for us) – author of Patron Saints of Nothing, releasing June 27tyh – before Sarah Shaffi, editor-at-large at Stripes, introduced her first acquisition, My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, which is being released on May 2nd.



Nisha Sharma was busy getting married at the time of the event – how exciting, eek! – but Sarah was so obviously excited about My So-Called Bollywood Life, and her enthusiasm was infectious. With every attendee given a handout recommending some must watch Bollywood films, I’m looking forward to fully immersing myself in the culture while reading My So-Called Bollywood Life.

Then it was time to do some mingling! I have horrendous social anxiety, but I’m proud to say that I introduced myself to a few people and didn’t run out of the door as soon as the informal section of the afternoon began.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to Charlie Morris, for inviting me to this event – it was such a fun day, and I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing all five of the books I went home with.

Which of these five Stripes releases are you most looking forward to, and why?

Alyce

X

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

‘Even when there’d been a whole universe to explore, Cloud Lake and Tommy had been my everything. “So that’s it?” I said. “I’m just supposed to go on living my life no matter how much the universe takes from me or how small it gets?” Dr. Sayegh nodded. “It’s what the rest of us do, Ozzie.” Ozzie’s boyfriend, Tommy, has vanished. […]