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.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas By Britta Teckentrup

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
a partridge in a pear tree. 
Summary From Little Tiger
Introduce children to the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, in this beautiful new book, featuring illustrations by Britta Teckentrup. The peep-through pages reveal each new Christmas gift, creating a stunning layered effect. A perfect gift for your true love! 
This book is very cleverly designed. Every present that 'my true love' handed over during the Christmas season is drawn on the last page of the book, and the pages before it are cut out in such a way that the gifts only become visible when the reader reaches the appropriate page. But the drawback to this way of presenting this well known Christmas carol is that the pictures are rather small which probably means it will appeal to older children, rather than the under-5s. 
The front cover shouts Christmas with its dark blue background and silver holly leaves and snowflakes, the title page is Christmassy and there are snowflakes on the back of every cut-out page, too, though some of the pages have flowers or autumn leaves which detract a bit from the seasonal feel.
I imagine this book will sell well as Christmas approaches. It should be particularly popular with people like me who are always singing but can never remember whether the drummers come before the pipers or the other way round. I've got no excuse now for getting the words wrong and neither will you have with a copy of this book on your bookshelf!  

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson

A key is buried under the front stairs of 208 Water Street. Scorched on one side, was it in a fire? Who lost it, and when?
From me, it’s a clue, a piece of the past. Because the yard of this house is a graveyards of moments, and everything left behind is a reminder: sand paper, a bracelet, a love note, some letter, a match, a movie stub, a postcard.
Published by Orchard Books in August 2014
Pages – 256
There's a ghost haunting 208 Water Street. She doesn't know who she was, or why she's still here. She does know that she is drawn to Maggie, the new girl in town, and her friends - beautiful, carefree Pauline and Liam, the boy who loves her.
But the ghost isn't all that's lurking in Gill Creek... Someone is killing young girls all across the county. Can the ghost keep these three friends safe? Or does she have another purpose?
Although I enjoyed this story, I found myself confused about it for nearly three quarters of the book. It wasn’t until I reached the end, that I truly understood what was going on.  From the first few pages, we know a killer is on the loose in the little town, but we never ever find out who it is. It felt as though a certain aspect of the story was set up in the beginning but unfortunately not carried through to the end.  I couldn’t see the point of making such a big deal about the murders if they weren’t integral to the plot.
Out of all the characters in the book, Maggie was definitely my favourite. She was a bright young thing, who worked hard at her studies and did all she could to make her parent’s lives easier.  On arriving in town, she was soon befriended by Pauline, who annoyed the hell out of me. Pauline came across as flighty and immature. I felt that she used Maggie when ever she felt she needed a friend. It was pretty obvious from the start that Pauline would always win every outcome.
This story is told mainly in third person, apart from the sections where the spirit speaks in first person. Now I’m a big fan of using  a mixture of narrative points of view in one novel but I will be honest, I struggled with it in this book until the very end. By the time I reached the conclusion,  it finally dawned on me why it had been written in this way and completely made sense; however I felt that was a bit too late to appease my annoyance throughout the rest of the book. 
The ending was the saviour of this story. However I was quite shocked to discover the true identity of the ghost in the last chapter. This was an OK read with a really strong ending. If you enjoyed  A Certain Slant of Light, you would probably enjoy this one too.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Waiting On Wednesday - The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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I haven’t participated in this memo for quite some time, but as there seem to be so many new books coming out in the next few months that have caught my attention, I wanted to show my share my excitement with you.
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published by Indigo in January 2015
I am so excited about Holly Black’s new book! She is without a doubt, one of my most favourite writers. She could probably rewrite the phone book and I would read it.  In this book, Holly goes back to her fairy tale roots to bring us this exciting new tale.
Book Summary
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the centre of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Afternoon Tea with Zoe Marriott

A few weeks ago I was invited to afternoon tea with Zoe Marriott at Walker Books headquarters. It was a brilliant event, which included some gorgeous cakes, a few of my favourite book bloggers and the always inspirational Zoe Marriott. At the event, we also got to meet Annalie, Zoe’s editor and Maria, the designer of her book covers.
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Zoe told us all about her new book, Frail Mortal Heart, which is the final book in the fantasy trilogy, The Name of the Blade and will be published in July 2015. She hasn’t any plans  to ever write another trilogy, so with it being the last book, Zoe decided that she had to go big or go home. Her main intention is to make us cry and break out hearts into tiny pieces, in the grand tradition of Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan! In the second book, The Darkness Hidden, the characters went through a very dark time, so by this book they needed to do something really different. Zoe decided to send them into a different realm, which is both beautiful and parallel. Lots of unexpected things happen in the third book and we are told on good authority, that some people die. We all gasped at this news, as no reader likes to discover their favourite characters are about to be killed off.
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Zoe reading a chapter from Frail Mortal Heart
Zoe talked about plotting. She mentioned how everyone thinks she is really good at plotting because of all the diagrams and plans she has showcased on her blog. But in actual fact, Zoe feels that plotting is her weakness. She often goes back to the beginning of the book to make it match the end. However when writing a trilogy, she couldn’t do that. She had to make sure her characters stayed with the original plot.  The only way Zoe could plot this trilogy was by writing a really detailed synopsis. It was 10 pages long and she threw everything into it. She then folds it up and puts it in the back of her very special notebook and it very rarely sees the light of day again. So plotting really feels like a controlled fall for Zoe, where she hopes she will catch a branch on the way down and save the whole story.
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Zoe revealed the cover for the final book, Frail Mortal Heart.
Zoe also talked about world building.  It is one of her favourite things to do and she does it instinctively. If it is a real setting, Zoe likes to be culturally respectful and realistic as possible, so she immerses herself in research until her brain feels saturated, in the hope that it will inform the story. Zoe includes a lot of the information she has discovered in her story, but it is often cut out at the editing stage.  When creating a new fantasy world, it can be even harder to develop. You need to have a base line of reality in the story and it has to be even more solid., because the reader is unable to imagine what the world looks like.
Zoe also talked about her journey to publication as well as diversity in books, which is an area that Zoe was pioneering long before it became fashionable.
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During the event, Zoe revealed the final cover of the trilogy, which we all thought was stunning. She then went on to read a chapter, which had us all desperate to read the rest.
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We all had a lovely afternoon at Walker Books. I want to thank Zoe for inspiring us all. And I would also like to thank Annalie Grainger, Zoe’s editor who organised the event.

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Some of our lovely UK book bloggers who also attended.
To find out more about Zoe Marriott:

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

The boy had never spoken to the old man before, nor scarcely noticed him. The old man, had he been asked, would have sworn under oath, hand on the Bible, that he had likewise never seen the boy.
But the truth was, over the last few years, they had passed within inches of each other a hundred times. The old man had even brushed the boy aside more than once as he beetled his way to his office. To the old man, the boy was just another tiresome obstacle to be avoided. To the boy, the old man, along with all the other hard-faced strangers like him, was yet another reason to hate the world.
Published by Bloomsbury in November 2014
180 pages in hardback
Summary adapted from Chris Priestley’s own site
“The Last of the Spirits is the last in my trilogy of metafictions - books that have been inspired by, and run parallel to, stories that had a big impact on me when I first encountered them.
It began with Mister Creecher, linked to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, then The Dead Men Stood Together, inspired by Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and now there is this book - a story that takes a sideways step out of the world and characters of Dickens 'A Christmas Carol.”
This is the best retelling of ‘A Christmas Carol’ I have encountered – and I am a great fan of the story in its many forms.
This version reads if Chris Priestley were present at the same time – but filming from a different angle. He’s taken away the worst of the Victorian clutter, and given us a sparer, stronger tale. There’s all of Dickens’ anger and compassion shown through a modern lens –on two unexpected characters.
You know the basic story too well for there to be spoilers – but this does have an alternative take. It is not a contemporary re-imagining, it is firmly set in the19th Century – but it does still resonate with today’s world. It’s rather easier to read than the original – but there still is that recognisable Dickensian ‘look’.
A pleasing and rather humble extra to this relatively short book are two ‘bonus features’ about Dickens and other versions of the story. The production values throughout are also high quality. The only thing that could improve it for me would be more illustrations inside, whether by Zdenko Basic who did the eerily attractive cover art, or Chris Priestley himself.
Highly recommended for any confident reader wanting a ghostly Christmas story with humanity at it heart.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tales from the Crafting Corner– Pom Pom Wreath

So many of you know that earlier in the year I started a part time job in a rather large craft chain. I was looking for something to get me out of the house as writing most days on my own can become quite lonely and I felt it was time I entered the world again and socialized with people in person rather than just online. However what I didn’t expect when I took the job, was to rediscover my passion for craft. When I first started this blog back in 2009, I used to feature a  lot of my scrapbooking pages. Now I’m crafting again, I want to be able to showcase some of the things I’ve made. These posts  will run sporadically on a weekend; this way they won’t affect the book reviews and author posts which I usually run during the week. So the weekend, is time out for other interests from now on.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been really busy making things for work and for home. So be prepared for a few regular posts as I update you on my makes.
If you follow me on Twitter,  I’m sorry if you have already seen these pictures. I’m just so darn excited about the things I’ve learnt to do and make in the past couple of months.
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This week, I wanted to share with you my pom pom wreath. I was asked to make it for work for a demonstration evening. If I’m honest, when I agreed to it, I didn’t have a clue if I could actually make it look nice. So I was quite blown away by my own achievement.
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This is the what it looked like when it was completely finished. I needed help from one of my colleagues with the bow as I can’t tie them. The little silver ones were bought already made and added on. I used Snowflake wool to make the pompoms using a pompom maker. If you’ve never used a pompom maker, then I would highly recommend it. Not only is it therapeutic, but it is so much easier than the round bits of card often used to make them. I also stuck the pompoms on a polystyrene ring which gave it the depth it needed. Also the best thing to stick the pompoms on with is a glue gun.
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This wreath is now on display at our store for the next month. I enjoyed making it so much that I’m now making another one for home. I’ve put in some pictures below of the products used, in case you get the urge to make one yourself.
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I hope you enjoyed this post and will pop back over the next couple of weeks to see more of my creations.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Setting The Scene–The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

I am so pleased to be part of The Walled City blog tour this month. I loved the book so much and you can read my review here. As part of the tour, the author, Ryan Graudin has written a post about Kowloon, the real walled city, alongside her fictional version, Hak Nam.
Ryan Graudin
Picture this: A hive of buildings with no formal architecture, stacked fourteen stories high, interconnected with bamboo bridges and ladders, crammed so thickly together that sunlight cannot penetrate the lower levels. There is no formal drainage, so water from rains long past drips down walls in a constant flow. The streets are more like tunnels, usually no more than one to two meters wide and covered with pipes. These are lined with a plethora of human activity: illegal dentist shops, apothecaries selling powdered sharks fins and various herbs, steel mills, noodle makers, brothels, kindergartens, opium dens. The upper levels consist of apartments, most no more than twenty-three square meters. The window and verandas of these places are covered in bars to deter thieves. 
This neighbourhood is only six and a half acres wide, but it is crowded. More that 33,000 people live within its walls. Shop owners, prostitutes, school children, street hawkers, enterprising dental hygienists… people from all walks of life thrive in this place. It’s a no-man’s land in terms of the law, which means that heroine and gang activities abound, but the city’s inhabitants manage to keep a strange balance of crime and community.
This is the Hak Nam Walled City, the setting of my YA novel THE WALLED CITY. The place my three characters—Jin Ling, Mei Yee, and Dai—all find themselves trapped in. 
This was the Kowloon Walled City. A real neighbourhood that existed in Hong Kong in the 1980s. I first found out about this place in 2011, when I met a woman named Jackie Pullinger who lived in Hong Kong and worked in the Kowloon Walled City for over twenty years. She described it much as I did in those first two paragraphs. The place sounded so surreal, so much like a setting out of a dystopian fantasy, that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. I was fascinated, and started to research the place by watching documentaries (made by film crews who explored the city before it was torn down in 1993) and reading all of the literature I could get my hands on.
The more I researched the Kowloon Walled City, the more I knew I had to write a story in its setting. Instead of letting my plot build my world, I did the opposite. The concrete, unique setting of the Kowloon Walled City helped me develop my plot. As I started thinking about the neighbourhood's inhabitants, three different characters came to mind. Jin Ling lives under a tarp in the Walled City’s streets, disguising herself as a boy to stay safe as she searches for her lost sister. Her sister, Mei Yee, was taken from their farm and is now trapped in one of the many brothels that line the city’s sunless streets. In order to get a look inside these places, Jin Ling must complete drug runs for a mysterious boy named Dai, who has his own life or death mission.
Although I altered some of the city names to highlight how surreal this neighbourhood was, most of the details of the actual city are unaltered in the novel.
It’s written to be read on two levels. It can work as a dystopian-esque story, or as realistic fiction. It’s my hope that readers, when they get to the end of THE WALLED CITY and read the author’s note (where I talk about the real Kowloon Walled City) will be driven to research it on their own and discover more about this truly fascinating place.
Thank you Ryan for a fantastic post.
THE WALLED CITY will be published by Indigo on 6 November 2014 9781780621999/ Trade paperback at £9.99 and eBook at £5.99
Author info:
Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, South Carolina with a severe case of wanderlust. When she's not travelling, she's busy photographing weddings, writing and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog.
To find out more about Ryan Graudin:
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