Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

18298890
The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak. 'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'
Macmillan 2014
409 pages in paperback.
Summary from Frances Hardinge’s website
When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it's too late…
*******
I could merely write ‘extraordinary’ and leave it at that. 
‘Cuckoo Song’ is not just exquisite writing but better still a fabulous story – in both senses of the word. All the lovely phrasing and imagery in the world will not correct a poor tale – but this shadowy fairy story is built upon a strong blackthorn skeleton.
Frances Hardinge tells her strange story with all the many-layered depth of a folktale retold. It is rooted in the period just after The Great War. It reflects the changes in society we know
from history as well as the unsettling wonders and inventions readers of her work have come to expect. There’s family conflict deep in the heartwood of this powerful drama – lies, self-deception and sibling rivalry. But the leaves and branches are hung about with galls and cobwebs and the remains of small dead things.
It is not for the faint-hearted or those in search of a quick, easy read. It will delight confident readers willing to immerse themselves in a parallel historical world full of disquieting beings. They also need to be able to keep track of a moderately complex though fully resolved plot - and a quirky sense of humour would help.
I have only one reservation – which has nothing to do with the writing: the cover. The crackle glaze effect is good- and the haunted look of the girl matches the subject. But I deeply dislike photographs of the key character’s face. It limits what that person can look like in the reader’s imagination. It is not inclusive – publishers take note. Give me art work any time. Something like this would reflect my perception better...
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Detail from album cover of Never Forever Kate Bush – by Nick Price
Back to the book. It is her most moving work so far – simpler and stronger than earlier stories. It is one of those tormenting books where on one hand I was desperate to find out what happened next to Triss, but on the other I didn’t want it to end. I shall be reading it again.
If you love Neil Gaiman’s’ Coraline’ or any of Catherynne Valente’s ‘The Girl Who...’ series, do give this a go.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Secret Serendipity Seven with Daniela Sacerdoti

 Being a huge fan of the Sarah Midnight books, I am pleased to welcome the fabulous author, Daniela Sacerdoti, onto the blog, to tell us seven secrets about herself as the final stop on the Spirit blog tour.
Dani2Med
1) I used to be a Primary teacher. I love children and I miss teaching, though writing is better! 
2) I am a Libra. Very, very much of a Libra. My birthday is on the 19th of October. I’ll be 41.
3) I recently took up running, and I love it. I’m very slow and horrifically unfit, but it makes me feel so good (after I catch my breath, that is).
4) My dad was Jewish, and his great grandfather changed the family name from Cohen to Sacerdoti to make it more Italian and less ‘foreign’, so to speak. Both Cohen and Sacerdoti mean ‘priest’, in Hebrew and Italian respectively. 
5) I adore Halloween and everything that’s dark and spooky. I decorate the whole house and my children and I do a lot of art and baking and Halloween-related fun. Halloween doesn’t exist in Italy, it was a completely new thing for me when I moved to Scotland, and I have wholeheartedly embraced it! 
6) I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon. In Watch Over Me, the hero is called Jamie after Jamie Mackenzie Fraser of Outlander fame.
7) My claim to fame is that I wrote an episode of Nina and the Neurons on Cbeebies.
Spirit 9 APPROVED
Spirit, the final instalment of The Sarah Midnight Trilogy, is published this September by Black and White Publishing.
To find out more about Daniela Sacerdoti:

Monday, 15 September 2014

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

21263150
The rusted Chevy pickup truck clanked to a stop, and when Lauren Huntsman’s head thumped the passenger window, it jolted her awake.
Published by Simon and Schuster in October 2014
Pages – 392
Summary
Britt Pfeiffer has never been that adventurous, but that's about to change. Wanting to impress her ex-boyfriend, Britt convinces best friend, Korbie, to take a trekking trip with her. But when a freak storm leaves the girls stranded they seek shelter in a cabin, where they find two knights in shining armour. Or so they think.
Britt quickly realises that the girls need to get off the mountain, fast. In exchange for her life, she is forced to guide the boys down, and as they set out on a harrowing journey through the cold and snow, Britt realises the only way to escape with her life is to pretend she is on their side. But is gorgeous, sexy Mason an enemy or an ally? Tension mounts, and it's only a matter of time before things turn deadly . . .
*****
I honestly feel like I have to defend this book, as after reading it and rating it a five, I realised there wasn’t a lot of love for the story. I was surprised by the amount of people who really disliked it and how many couldn’t finish it.
I have read the other reviews and I could see why people didn’t necessarily gel with the main character, Britt. They believed she was a spoilt brat, but I didn’t see this. Yes, her friend, Korbie, had the spoilt brat image down to a fine art, but Britt, didn’t come across like that. If anything, she was rolling along on Korbie’s money rollercoaster. She was also struggling with her emotional attachment to Calvin and her feelings were continually swaying in different directions.
When considering the theme of the book, I kept thinking it was about being self reliant. Britt starts off by relying on everyone around her to help her. She acts the innocent, highly dependent character perfectly, but as the book progresses you witness the real Britt shining through. No one is about to hold her back, least of all Calvin, Korbie or Jude.
I also felt the book explored friendship quite deeply. This book shows that if you are in competition with the people closest to you, then you are cohabiting in a fake friendship. Friends don’t keep scores on everything you do.
I can’t tell you anything about the plot without giving the story away. All I can say is watch out for Jude, because he is one hell of a character.
This is completely different from Becca Fitzpatrick’s best selling paranormal series, Hush, Hush. It must be difficult for an author to embrace something new, but I think she has done exceptionally well in writing such an intense, romantic thriller.
If I had to have any quibbles about it, I would only have one. It might’ve been nice to have a dual perspective within the story, as sometimes it was difficult being just in Britt’s head when so much was going on around her.
However, I can put my hand on my heart and say I really loved this book. I was glued to the pages from the very beginning. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be – Expect the Unexpected!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I Can Do It! By Tracey Corderoy and Caroline Pedler

 18701072
Baby Bear had a new rucksack. It was brilliant, but the big green button was tricky for little paws!
All morning, Baby Bear tried and tried to open and close it.
"Mummy! Look!" he cried at last. "I can do it!"
Summary From Little Tiger Press
If your toddler thinks they can do just about anything, then you’ll love the third Baby Bear book from the talented author and illustrator team, Tracey Corderoy and Caroline Pedler. Determined little fingers will love touching the soft, fuzzy textures, while bold, simple illustrations and a gorgeously warm story will help small children learn why it’s ok to accept a little help from Mummy sometimes. It’s a big day for Baby Bear. He can now do up buttons all by himself – even the tricky one on his new rucksack! He is so happy. But now Baby Bear wants to do everything himself...
*****
This is a well-illustrated, colourful book about endearing Baby Bear, a typical toddler, and his determination to do things for himself. It imparts an important message for young children – that perseverance and having a go pay off, but that it's okay to ask for help with the things that are just too difficult to achieve alone.
The story has an every day feel, with Baby Bear doing things that any toddler might, such as playing with his new rucksack and his favourite soft toy, visiting the library and listening to a story. Children will be able to relate to Baby Bear's experiences and see how perseverance could work in their own lives, but the story is very far from being a stiff moral tale; it's full of warmth and gentle humour. There are also a few funny surprises in the illustrations that are worth looking out for. Baby Bear manages to button up his own coat, but he doesn't get it quite right. And his soft toy, Barnaby, has a few unexpected changes of facial expression.
It's a lovely book, good for bedtime or anytime reading. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Baking Life of Amelie Day by Vanessa Curtis

22955520
There was this poem Mum used to read to me when I was six.
Boys were made up of slugs, snails and puppy-dog tails. Girls were made up of sugar, spice and all things nice.
You would have thought that I’d give Mum the evil eye when she read that bit out.
Published by Curious Fox in September 2014
Pages – 168
Summary
My name is Amelie Day and I live to bake. Cupcakes, biscuits, bread, tarts and muffins - flour power! Now I've got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the Teen Baker of the Year award. But it looks like my stupid cystic fibrosis might get in the way. Will my mum let me go to London to compete?
*****
I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did. In fact, I was completely bowled over by it. Where do I start with the abundance of praise I have for it?
Let’s start with Amelie. She is one feisty girl who won’t let her medical condition stand in her way. Even though she is constantly putting her life at risk. Amelie has Cystic Fibrosis. I have to be honest and admit to knowing very little about the illness. Before reading this book, I was aware that it had something to do with the lungs and involved a lot of physio. This book really opened my eyes to the condition and I was surprised by how much I learned while reading.The effects of the disease on the lungs and stomach were eye opening. Poor Amelie, spent most of the book, constantly trying to find enough energy to keep going. Everything we do we take for granted and this book made me appreciate my health.
The story is well written and goes off at a steady pace. There are touches of humour mixed in with moments of sadness, that really bring the book to life. I basically read this book in two days.  I found myself constantly creeping back to it to read it.
I felt the book was extremely in fashion with the interests of society today. With The Great British Bake Off still as popular as ever, it was easy to imagine Amelie being picked to enter a baking competition for kids. I loved the recipes scattered between the chapters. I found myself constantly drooling. This book should come with at least one cupcake, to make reading it easier.
This is the first book I’ve read by Vanessa Curtis but I am positive it won’t be the last. A beautiful blend of humour and sadness.  A book that will have you reaching for your spatula before you know it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock

20319204
Published 7th August 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books
435 pages in hardback
Cover art by Ghost
Summary from Publisher’s website
Ever since Beth Bradley found her way into a hidden London, the presence of its ruthless goddess, Mater Viae, has lurked in the background. Now Mater Viae has returned with deadly consequences.
Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating pedestrians; and towers fall, their foundations decayed.
As the city sickens, so does Beth – her essence now part of this secret London. But when it is revealed that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond the borders of the city, Beth must make a choice: flee, or sacrifice her city in order to save it.
*****
This final book in the Skyscraper Throne Trilogy is even more enjoyable if you have read I and II, but it works alone. Re-acquaintance with characters such as the gender-changing litter-spirit Gutterglass and the oily Johnny Naphtha just adds to the pleasures of this YA adventure in an alternative London.
Usefully for both newcomers and those who don’t recall too well, there are quick recaps here and there as characters need to be briefed themselves. This is just as well with a fairly complex plot to follow. You might also appreciate the interactive map on the Jo Fletcher site.
As with the other two, this is a story to exercise your mind’s eye. Full of lively and sometimes gruesome invention, amongst the fast-paced action there are striking images that will stay with you. It’s the sort of story you have to run with, accept on its own terms and revel in the exhilaration. Parkour for the imagination.
Nonetheless, there is a strong emotional storyline involving the major characters – it’s not all verbal SFX. There is a definite and moving resolution to the whole trilogy – but I can’t say more for fear of spoilers.
The Skyscraper Trilogy is ideal for older confident readers with a taste for baroque urban fantasy. All three books feature strong female characters and richly reflect the diversity of contemporary London. Well worth reading – and reading again.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Come Back To Me by Mila Grey

come back to me med cover
A whorl in the glass distorts the picture, like a thumbprint smear over a lens. I’m halfway down the stairs, gathering my hair into a ponytail, thoughts a million miles away, when a blur outside the window pulls me up short.
I take another step, the view clears, and when I realize what I’m seeing, who I’m seeing, my stomach plummets and the air leaves my lungs like a final exhalation.
Published by Macmillan in June 2014
Pages - 373
Book Summary
Home on leave in sunny California, Marine and local lothario Kit Ryan finds himself dangerously drawn to his best friend's sister, Jessa - the one girl he can't have.
But Kit's not about to let a few obstacles stand in his way and soon Jessa's falling for his irresistible charms.
What starts out as a summer romance of secret hook-ups and magical first times quickly develops into a passionate love affair that turns both their worlds upside down.
When summer's over and it's time for Kit to redeploy, neither Kit nor Jessa are ready to say goodbye. Jessa's finally following her dreams and Kit's discovered there's someone he'd sacrifice everything for.
Jessa's prepared to wait for Kit no matter what. But when something more than distance and time rips them apart they're forced to decide whether what they have is really worth fighting for.
*****
Wow! What a scorching tale of romance mixed with a topical, contemporary situation. I loved this book from the beginning until the end. For those of you who don’t know, Mila Gray is the pseudonym for Sarah Alderson, an extremely talented YA author. Well,with this New Adult novel, Mila (Sarah) has shown she can turn her hand to anything.
The story is told from the dual perspectives of Jessa and Kit. Jessa lives under the strict eye of her military father. She can’t even breathe without his say so. She is fairly innocent when it comes to love and romance, but she can’t hide the feelings she has for Kit.
Unfortunately Kit just happens to be her older brother’s best friend and the least popular person on the plant, according to her father, so any kind of romance will be hidden from the prying eyes of her family. The element of forbidden love, really added to the spiciness of the novel. Kit was oozing with hotness and yet gentlemanly in every way.  The sparks  of electricity between these two characters almost melted my Kindle! They really are a  hot couple.
I loved the plot to this book. Both Kit and Riley, Jessa’s brother, are Marines and are due to be shipped out to a war zone very soon. In today’s society, this really is a topical subject and I felt the novel gave an insight into what it really is like to be in love with a soldier during such uncertain and dangerous times. Not knowing when your loved one will return, of if they ever will return, must be so hard to live with on a day to day basis. At times this novel is very gritty and realistic, reminding you of the unstable times we live in.
In this book, the title, Come Back To Me, really captures the theme of the book. Not only is Jessa praying for Kit to come back to her safely, there are times when Kit is hoping and praying that Jessa will return to him. Each character is yearning the return of someone into their lives and some are struggling to deal with the fact that their loved ones may never return to the person they once were.
I really loved Sarah’s first New Adult novel and I hope it will be something she will quickly be returning to again.
 
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