Thursday, 19 September 2019

Review: Tunnel of Bones

Tunnel of Bones 
Rating: 5/5 
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass's parents are filming their TV show about the world's most haunted cities. Sure, it's fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there's true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter -- and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she's unleashed could haunt the city forever.

I'm not going to lie to you all, I enjoyed this one even more than City of Ghosts. As much as I enjoyed City of Ghost's the long explanation about chips annoyed me and I was disappointed to see so few Scottish characters as well as so little of Lara, along with the other things Victoria was quite vague about, and while I enjoyed the book it had a few...niggles. 

When it comes to Tunnel of Bones, I was extra excited to read it after my visit to Paris last year and get to see Cass journey to places I'd seen and been and she even used the Metro which brought the whole experience flooding back to me! Of course, I didn't get to go in to the Catacombs so I enjoyed reading about them, and the urge to go back and visit what I didn't get to is even stronger than before.  

Unlike City of Ghosts, we actually had French characters in the form of Pauline, the camera crew and Adele who was a lot of fun as well, and there wasn't quite the faff with wording. The settings are once again vividly written, and like I said, it brought my whole trip flooding back and I enjoyed getting some historical tidbits and ghost stories to go with the locations. But we have such a different vibe and atmosphere than we did in the previous book set in Edinburgh, giving the two different cities very different feels which is obviously true to real life. Of course we dip in and out of history a time or two in equally as vivid and atmospheric moments as Cass delves in to the Veil, bringing that particular moment in time to life brilliantly. 

There's a nice pace as we're immediately in Paris from the start, then we get straight down to things with a trip in to the Veil before filming starts and we're exploring the well known spots of Paris...and being presented with this books mystery. This book is definitely a lot creepier than the first book, it's chilling and somewhat menacing, and the mystery we have in this one is a different breed than the previous book. We have to dig for information on the star ghost of this book, using what few clues we have which I really enjoyed, as sad as it was. 

While Cassidy has become a little stronger so has Jacob and he has...bursts that aren't quite like him. Lara's words are clearly weighing on him and perhaps hinting at the direction his character is going to take, it all felt a little foreboding. I think it's clear he's going to have an inner battle not to turn into the thing we see in this book, perhaps? But what I love about Jacob is that Cassidy has a tendency to just jump in and do things, and Jacob reigns her in whenever she wants to do something foolish, they make a good team. 

We get to expand and develop the ghost lore a bit more as we see a new type which I loved because I was so fascinated by it in the first book, we also get to delve into the characters a little bit more. I feel like Jacob has become more of a fleshed out character this book, and Cassidy has become a bit more sensible with her power, although I was disappointed that we didn't see more of Lara. 

Tunnel of Bones was nice and creepy at points, always atmospheric and slightly sad too in this case. Exploring a new city and seeing a new type of ghost to add to the ghost lore was interesting and it all wrapped up nicely with a little thread of mystery to presumably carry us over to the next book, where we're heading to New Orleans! 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Review: Sanctuary

Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 
The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. 
Daniel's death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died. 
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge - or something even darker? 
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching . . .
You all are well aware of how much I love Vic's books so I've been anticipating Sanctuary a lot, stalking the GoodReads page for any information about it and then practically going feral at the Gollancz Blogger Evening whenVic told us all about the book, her inspirations for it and so on. I was ready for this...but still not entirely sure what to expect, and I was surprised multiple times throughout the book. 
With an opening chapter that grabs your attention, you'll soon find yourself hooked in to this as the plot builds up alongside things within the town building up and coming to a boiling point. It's easy to find yourself lost in this book as you visit the town of Sanctuary and become hooked on the lives of the townspeople, let alone the murder mystery itself. There's never a dull moment, things never slow down and even in the quieter moments of the book there's something...insidious creeping in to the narratives, something dark starting to stir. 
The POV's for this book surprised me, as we didn't get Harper's which made things all the more intriguing, and meant that I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about her for a part of the book. You're left to wonder...did she really do it? And if so..why? With a few things mentioned about her that definitely leave you unsure as to her guilt, until of course a certain reveal. My heart broke for her, to be honest, even more so as she's being vilified for what happened. 
Sarah is one of our main POV's, she's Harper's mother and the magic she uses is certainly interesting. She knows a lot about the people of the town because they're all more than happy to go to her for help with their problems and she's very serious about not using her power to hurt people, even if she does seem to stray in to a grey area a time or two when it comes to helping people. 
Maggie was my favourite character, she's our investigator. Something was so clearly up with her from the start and I had money on the fact she'd been made to forget something...but what. Which was another little mystery alongside the main one. What I appreciated, was that she was willing to listen to what everyone had to say...but not necessarily take it face value, and she was so compassionate when it came to Harper and wanting to help her. She did her utmost to help Harper and Sarah, and to fight in their corner and I loved her character. I also kinda loved Remy too who was absolutely hilarious and had me snorting with laughter! 
Our final POV is Abigail, Daniel's mother. Don't get me wrong, I really felt for her. She's left her career behind, her husband is more interested in his work than anything else and now she's just lost her child. Her grief about his death was so raw and vivid, but while I understood her and the way her mind was working, she eventually lost my support when she started her witch hunt against Harper and started her little campaign. She truly believed she was the hero, and ignored the fact that Sarah has done nothing but help her whenever she needed it. I could understand her...but she still frustrated me. 
As is usual when it comes to Vic's books, the writing is so very clever. We get Harper's POV in the beginning...and then not again until the end. Then for the entirety of the book we get the adults POV's, and they're three very different ones at that. You have the cool, level headed detective who's impartial although you could say she's a little bit biased towards Harper at one point, then you have two different ends of the scale. Sarah who's trying to defend and protect her child and prove her innocence, and the rage and grief of Abigail and her vendetta, and of course the characters are so wonderfully written that even if you don't agree with the characters and their can understand where it's coming from. I also enjoyed the police interviews, news articles and so on that were also included as part of the storytelling. 
There's also a lot of diversity seamlessly included throughout this book, with a non-binary character (something I very rarely see and there was a nicely handled conversation on pronouns included), f/f and m/m couples, and black and POC couples and I enjoyed getting to see such a nice range of diversity included, especially as some of them were in powerful positions. 
The world of the book had me in mind of Pretty Little Liars, it's a nice town, everyone knows each other, everyone's friendly and it seems all quaint and cheerful on the outside...but once you scratch the surface you start to see the darkness within, along with all the drama and scandals, some of which are brought to light thanks to the murder mystery. I feel like the town becomes more and more tainted as the book goes on and the insidious hate created by Abigail starts to take over, thoroughly destroying its image as a 'sanctuary'. 
The world has been subtly twisted to allow for magic to exist, being written in to laws and so on and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the magic in this book. There's no hand waving, magic powers kind of thing, it's a lot more natural and earth based with the rituals and the ingredients used and it was interesting to read about, along with its limitations and various rules. 
Vic mentioned at the Blogger evening that some of her inspirations for this was the Women's March as well as the Brett Kavanaugh Case, and she talked about the Me Too movement along with the question is an accusation enough? I feel like Vic did an excellent job of bringing this real world issue to the world of her book and examining it. I felt so incredibly sad reading this, that Harper had suffered so much yet people turned on her for being brave enough to speak out about it, and found it easier to do so than believe her. Also it was actually quite scary to see how easy it was for the entire town to just turn on she and Sarah because of their fear of magic. It was easy to see how such things came about in the Dark Ages, but to see how swiftly it happened in the book, with just a few words here and there and a heavy dose of was terrifying. 
Everything unfolds nicely, and it draws you in with high levels of intrigue and the everyday drama and gossip of the town. There's the mystery of the murder, and the mystery of what happened that night a few years ago...not to mention some mentioned activities of Daniel that already had me side eyeing him and feeling somewhat...queasy when it came to him because I knew. Things step up even more when Harper makes her accusation and things really spark off in a dangerous way. I have to be honest, I got pretty mad on her behalf as I was reading, I was on her side, I believed her and I know that no-one wants to get a hard, nasty truth about their kid but it was just...frustrating to see her trauma brushed to the side. 
Sanctuary was so very easy for me to binge read, it reaches a particular point when you just can't put it down and it's one hell of a powerful read that leaves you thinking even once you've put it down. The writing lures you in, as does the subtly twisted history and world, but the issues we see in this book are very, uncomfortably real. There might be magic thrown in but it's still problems and issues from the real world that are present and Vic shines a light on them in this book with her excellent writing, along with well crafted characters that you can understand even if you don't agree with them or like them. 
The themes are dark, with rape, sexual assault of a minor, substance abuse and more, there are a lot of hard issues tackled in this book and we get a hard look at what happens when herd mentality takes over in this book...and it's horrifying to watch. This is by no means a YA book, it is an adult book, and while it is dark in it's themes, it's also very powerful and I feel like there's plenty of much needed conversations to be started because of this book and the issues that are highlighted.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Manga: Bungo Stray Dogs 11

Bungo Stray Dogs Vol 11
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

The Armed Detective Agency receives an anonymous request-and it's asking for Kyouka's help by name. But during her investigation with Atsushi, ex-Guild member Montgomery keeps mysteriously getting in their way! And as another old foe defies death while seeking a triumphant return, a newer enemy-the sinister Dostoyevsky-bares his fangs against both the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia. Threatening to slowly but surely swallow the dark underbelly of Yokohama, how will this devil of a man alter the playing field...? 

Kyouka's permit has finally come in which means it's time for her to officially start work, luckily a job comes in that's just for her. I liked getting to focus on her a little more for part of this volume, and along with getting to see more of Montgomery which was fun, we got to learn a lot about Kyouka and her past, as well as her parents...along with the surprising truth about what happened to them and about Demon Snow. So right away from the start of this volume we had some interesting reveals to deal with! 

Things take an even more shocking turn when Fitzgerald makes a comeback, and we actually spend quite a lot of this volume with him as he picks himself up out of the gutter, which is admirable don't get me wrong...but I still don't like him, and starts scheming with the help of Alcott. Interestingly, he does lead us in to a murder mystery, and obviously opens the door for bigger things and plenty more intrigue when it comes to he and his ultimate plan. 

This volume is largely setting the players up for the hunt for this specific book, as well as finally telling us what the book is and setting up the Mafia and the Agency for some kind of mutual destruction thing courtesy of one particular player in the game! Volume 11 is nicely paced, provides plenty of intrigue and tension and sets up for some big things to come! 

Monday, 26 August 2019

Manga: Kaiju Girl Caramelise

Kaiju Girl Caramelise Vol 1
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Suffering from a rare, incurable illness that causes frightening changes to her body, loner Kuroe Akaishi spends her high school days avoiding her classmates--especially class idol Arata Minami and his groupies. But when Arata starts making her heart skip a beat with irritating regularity, Kuroe discovers that her illness actually has a big--make that MONSTER--secret: Romance turns her into Love-zilla...literally! 

I've been super intrigued by this ever since I spotted it...and after reading this first volume I think it might end up being one of my favourite new manga of the year! The colour pages are all pink, purple, girly kind of colours and I loved it, and then when she monsters out for the first time we get another colour page but the colour palette is less pinky pastel and more vibrant, bold colours. I really enjoyed the art, the character designs are cute which contrasts with the more realistic/kinda scary monster parts of her...and you know when she goes full monster. I also really loved how her eyes are drawn, as well as the monster version of her! 

I was drawn in from the first page of this volume with the kids reaction to her, and then we had the reveal right on the next page and I was like 'woah okay this is gonna be awesome'. Our main character Kuroe is so cute, even if she can be quite grumpy and serious with Arata at least, and she shows an adorable side of herself when it comes to sweets like pancakes and stuff. She was amusing, but you could also feel sorry for her and empathise with her and her situation. 

Arata surprised me because I was expecting him to be a bit of an arrogant a** that she has a crush on kind of thing? I wasn't expecting him to attach himself to her, and be so sweet. I could even relate to him a little bit as well! I just wasn't expecting him to be so earnest and genuine when it comes to hanging out with her, wanting to spend time with her and pursuing her, so I actually quite liked him! 

I am so intrigued to see how this romance is going to play out because things were all cute, and it was such a sweet start to a romance...and then it turned in to an actual scene out of Godzilla and she's determined not to repeat that for obvious reasons! So things aren't going to be easy and of course her monster identity is going to be a secret...I'm actually quite excited for it all! 

I also really enjoyed Manatsu, one of the other characters, she's hilarious with the butterfly costume and her love for Harugon, but I appreciated her being a much needed friend for Kuroe. Although I do feel like she's quite genuine, I am worried she's only using Kuroe but I guess we'll see. 

Honestly, I loved this. It's different, it's a lot of fun, and it's definitely going to prove to be interesting. This initial volume is fast moving, introducing us to Kuroe and her little problem, as well as Arata and sparking off the romance a little bit too! It does an excellent job at piquing your interest and leaving you wanting more, and I personally can't wait to see what's going to happen next and how Kuroe is going to handle this! 

Friday, 23 August 2019

Manga: A Terrified Teacher at Ghoul School 7

Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

Haruaki's summer has only just begun, and it's turning out to be anything but a vacation! Hospitalized after getting injured in a building fire, he'll be on a bumpy road to recovery as late-night medical horrors, an investigation into the mystery of how youkai are born, and a supernatural incident at Sano's part-time job won't give him a moment to relax! 

It's the start of summer break as we embark on this volume, and Haruaki obviously kicks the break off at the hospital courtesy of the last volume! We get to spend some time with the creepy doctor in this volume, as he takes quite an interest in Haruaki and his visitors Amaki and Izuna. I really did enjoy getting to see some more of Izuna, and the doctor was a fun addition to things...but don't worry the creepiness is offset by the humour! 

We got a hilarious look at each of the students summer vacations, along with Miki and the Principle and I also enjoyed how those little snippets were done. Of course we get a longer look at Haruaki's summer break as he volunteered to let Sano stay with him. There's a nice, creepy change of pace thanks to the cursed book which was enjoyable, before it descended in to hilarity pulling in some familiar faces we haven't seen a lot of, or at least in a while! 

Of course, I love mythology, legends and lore so I loved getting a lot more of the youkai mythology in this volume, particularly looking at the origins and birth of the various different types of youkai and it lead to an interesting reveal! 

However, I think my favourite part of this volume aside from the horror movie style cursed book chapters...were the chapters with Beniko at her family's B&B. Not only was it fun to spend time with Beniko and her three dads, one of whom (Kotake) cracked me up, but it was nice to get a bit of good old spooking too, reminiscent of the start of the series when they tried to get rid of Haruaki. I just love that we get to see more of some youkai than others for a volume and then for the next volume switch to a different one! I feel like the series is letting us get a good look at each of the youkai characters by doing things this way! 

Focusing back on youkai mythology and letting us get a good look at the students powers again, this volume was a slight return to the earlier volumes I feel, and we're presented with another fun and entertaining volume with hints of creepiness offset by the humour! 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review: The Demon World

The Demon World 
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

After narrowly escaping the fall of Rossarb, Princess Catherine leads a rag-tag group of survivors into the barren wasteland of the Northern Plateau.

With the Brigantine army snapping at their heels, Edyon and Ambrose become separated from the group, while demon hunter Tash leads Catherine and March to an unlikely refuge - the hidden tunnels of the demon world itself. They soon find that the tunnels hold their own dangers and, while Tash travels deeper, hoping to learn more about their mysterious inhabitants, Catherine and March must return to the surface to resume the war.

But the world above is in turmoil. King Aloysius's army has captured the Pitorian prince, Tzsayn, and is poised to overrun the whole country. To have any hope of challenging her father's tyranny, Catherine needs to form her own army, but when danger lurks at every turn, how can she tell an ally from an enemy? What Tash discovers in the demon tunnels could change everything, but if the message doesn't reach Catherine in time, the war might already be lost . . .

When I read The Smoke Thieves last year I completely loved it, and The Demon World has been one of my most anticipated sequels of the year so I can finally see what happens next! While I did enjoy this every bit as much as the first book, I couldn't help but be a little bit disappointed simply because we spent the last book watching everyone come together so I was excited to see them all teaming up again in this book...but it's not long before they all end up separated again and I couldn't help but be disappointed by that. Especially as they were all in the same groups/pairs as before. Then there's the fact I was looking forward to seeing more of Tzsayn and getting to know him better but we barely catch a glimpse of him in this book. 

I also have to say, that while I liked Catherine in the previous book, in this one she went down a little in my opinion. The thing is, she's being looked down upon for being a woman and trying to do 'men things' like leading an army and I appreciated seeing her fighting against that prejudice, and having to battle against the snakey Farrow who'd I'd love to punch, but she was getting a bit too friendly with that demon smoke. She's intelligent and she's focused and the demon smoke ruins that but she does overcome it and come back to herself and I liked seeing her take control of her life. However I think my biggest problem is Ambrose. I don' him? I don't like his attitude, and I don't like him with Catherine because I think he's a negative influence on her as this book showed me. Whenever she was with him she seemed to just...not be quite herself, her judgement was off and yeah. 

Aside from those few gripes, we did pick up immediately where we left off, so we're back in the midst of the battle for Rossarb, leading in to a tense chase..and it's from there that things take an even more interesting turn than I had expected. We get to spend some time in the demon world, an interesting move to make and it led to some interesting discoveries and twists! I found Tash's POV particularly interesting as we got to explore the demon world a little more with her, than with all of the others, and discover how it works and how the demons it were. Just when I thought the demon lore couldn't get any more interesting...I was proven wrong and I really do live for it! 

I really do love Edyon, this book hammered that home for me, he provides so much humour, although he does make things politically tricky for Catherine. She did kind of have me on edge when it came to things with Edyon because of the demon smoke issue, I didn't entirely trust that she'd sort it all out.  March continues to hit me in the feels with the secret he's keeping and how he's unused to the love and affection...and general caring that Edyon shows him and there's some angst at the end of the book courtesy of them! Their relationship, and romance is my favourite of this series, I have to say. 

The writing and world building continue to be rich, painting vivid scenes with the world continuing to be built up and expanded upon. The POV switches are smooth although I did partially wonder if Ambrose's was really necessary at one point. I feel like Tash remains as a strong character along with Edyon and March, although while I understand Catherine and Ambrose are both going through a lot...I find Ambrose to be quite annoying, whereas with Catherine...I still like her but I don't necessarily like everything about her and that she does. 

We've got action, tension, and the plot continues to move forward with our characters moving about and winding up in various different places. One allowing us to have a lot of huge reveals, another finally ending up in the place they're supposed to be, and we have a nice angsty, cliffhanger ending after a book filled with some excellent twists and reveals to keep us on our toes! 
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