Review: Doctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack

royalbloodDoctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Doctor Who: The Glamour Chronicles

Date Published: September 8th, 2015

Publisher: Broadway Books

Pages: 240 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: An original adventure tying in to the ninth season of Doctor Who, the spectacular hit series from BBC Television, featuring the new 12th Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”

The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.

But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue…

Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?

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This is a spoiler-free review.

As I’m sure you know or can tell, I am a massive fan of Doctor Who, and I find the book series to be so fun, especially when waiting for new episodes. As soon as this particular novel was released, I was immediately intrigued by it. I love stories dealing with politics and conspiracy within a kingdom—particularly anything set in a medieval or medieval-esque time period. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling very disappointed by this novel. While it is a quick and light read, there are many, sometimes glaring, issues that are impossible to ignore.

In this novel, the Doctor and Clara find themselves in the land of Varuz where tensions are high, war is on the horizon, and secrets are profuse. Aurelian, the duke of Varuz is struggling to keep his city from falling apart completely. His enemy, Duke Conrad, is eager to capture the city for himself, and Aurelian is contemplating making Varuz’s last stand against the waiting army. After The Doctor’s path collides with Duke Aurelian’s men, he is mistaken for a holy man, and he and Clara are taken to the court of the duke. Aurelian is eager to receive The Doctor’s opinion on the decision, and the pair plan to leave as soon as he has given one. But The Doctor and Clara are soon enraptured by the fate of Varuz and the potential treason going on behind-the-scenes.

Even though I finished this novel a few months ago and have spent time thinking through it, I’m still finding the majority of the plot somewhat baffling. I’ll start off by saying that one of the biggest problems pertaining to the actual text itself is the massive amount of typos and grammatical errors. Frankly, I am stunned that they were so prevalent—you can find at least one spelling or sentence structure issue on every single page. It is as if no one bothered to proofread before publishing the book. This ended up being quite distracting, and made the lack of polish of story as a whole even more prominent.

After reading the synopsis of this book, I was very intrigued—it sounded like a story or episode of the show that I would have adored, and I wanted so badly to enjoy it. I love reading the novels about the Twelfth Doctor, especially ones containing Clara as I think she is a strong and intelligent protagonist. The interplay between the two is always enjoyable—they have so much chemistry and make a fantastic pair, balancing each other well. This is what I was hoping to find in this tale of their adventures, but I came out feeling very lukewarm about absolutely everything.

The plot just did not live up to it’s potential, and this could have been such a wonderful one in so many ways. It promised mystery and drama and suspense, but proved to be lacking all three. Too many facts are revealed too rapidly, and then it is essentially a slough to the end. Personally, I think it was a mistake to write this storyline in first-person in general, but even more so because of the character McCormack chose to be the main narrator. This choice ruins all of the enigmatic nature of the plot, the primary element on which it is heavily riding. We also spend a far too short amount of time focusing on The Doctor himself, a pitfall that the novels in this series sometimes run in to.

McCormack’s writing is sufficient, but definitely mediocre and much weaker than I was expecting. There are a number of aspects of the various settings in the novel that are depicted with a reasonable amount of detail, however, the world-building is quite wholly inconsistent. For me, there were times where I found it challenging to imagine what the city of Varuz, and the outside environment in general, looked like. This adds another challenge when trying to become immersed in the world.

I also found the character depiction in this story to be very hit or miss, particularly with the Doctor and Clara. Early on, McCormack does a decent job of replicating the personalities of the characters we already know and love. However, she soon slipped up, and they began to come across the wrong way. Their personalities are in constant instability—one moment things are matching up and then they suddenly talk or act in ways that are completely uncharacteristic of the characters from the show. The side characters in the narrative are, for the most part, very bland and one-dimensional. They are not built up well enough for the reader to feel any sort of connection to them.

While I generally judge these types of books on a bit of a different scale due to the simple and fun nature of them, this particular installment had a greater quantity of weaknesses than I typically find. With this all being said, it is still an interesting enough novel, and makes for a light, quick read. Despite its flaws, the imperfections do not make it so difficult that it is impossible to understand. And while this should not be entirely the job of the reader, one’s imagination and inner editor can easily fill in the gaps and make corrections when needed. As always though, the books from the Doctor Who literature series are always nice to have around when the show is in between seasons.

2.5 TARDISes

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Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases of Fall 2018

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The first week of last month started out very strong. I was in more of a reading mood than I had been for quite a while, and I was already flying through my TBR. I was also really eager to get back to posting more regularly, as I’ve had some pretty slow months lately. Then, I can honestly say, I experienced the worst week of my entire life. For the rest of the month, I was spending a lot of time with family, and was just generally a mess, and all the reading and posting I was planning on doing sort of went out the window.

I’m still not feeling great, but I know it’s going to take some more time, and I’m ready to ease myself back in to reading and writing. I am so sorry my content has been so spotty, and I truly appreciate you all for sticking with me anyway. Hopefully September will be a much better month all around!

Now, on to my most anticipated releases coming this fall!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (September 20th, 2018)

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My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.
In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets? 
Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love, and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab (September 25th, 2018)

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**** CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST NOVEL, VICIOUS ****

The sequel to Vicious, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.
Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.
Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (October 9th, 2018)

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The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar, family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (November 13th, 2018)

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A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.
The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. 
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (December 4th, 2018)

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For fans of television shows Black Mirror and Westworld, this compelling, mind-bending novel is a twisted look into the future, exploring how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen and what it means to be human at all.
Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of “human.”
This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to the most this fall? I’d love to hear about your reading plans for the next few months, so make sure to let me know about them in the comments!

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Down the TBR Hole #6

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This was created by Lia from Lost in a Story. I’m going to attempt to do this post every week as the rules say, but since I have such a massive TBR, I’m going to be picking out 20 books instead of 10. So, let’s see how this goes!

The Rules:

Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: keep it or should it go?
Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Current “To Read” Shelf: 1533

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daughterofsmokeandboneDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

There is absolutely no question about this one—definite keeper! The end! 🙂

Judgment: KEEP

thepredictedsThe Predicteds by Christine Seifert

This one’s a no go these days. I can understand why this would have interested me at one point, but I’ve simply grown out of it.

Judgment: GO

thenameofthestarThe Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I am definitely holding on to this one. Despite taking so long to get around to it, this series sounds absolutely fantastic and right up my alley!

Judgment: KEEP

variantVariant by Robison Wells

I had a lot of trouble making a decision with this one. On one hand, I love dystopian novels and this does still sound somewhat interesting for that reason. On the other hand, I’ve had this sitting around for so many years now—am I really going to pick it up? And I think I’ve finally come to the decision to give this one up.

Judgment: GO

thesleepwalkersThe Sleepwalkers by J. Gabriel Gates

Here’s another one that I’ve gone back and forth on quite a bit. It’s one of those novels that isn’t always appealing to me—only when I’m in certain reading moods. I do love creepy/thriller type novels, so there is still enough about it that piques my interest. I feel like I should really get to this soon, though, while I am in that reading mood.

Judgment: KEEP

lieslandpoLiesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

I’ve never read a Lauren Oliver novel—though I do have at least one other on my TBR—and I tend to keep putting them off. I always hear extremely mixed reviews, and none of her books have personally been really intriguing. However, this one sounds extremely sweet and more like something I would enjoy compared to her other books. I’ll be keeping this one for now.

Judgment: KEEP

throneofglassThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I feel like most of the reviews I have read or heard about this novel are very polarizing—either people love it or hate it. But there are some that fall in the middle, and that is what pushes me to read it. With the hope that I enjoy it at least enough to continue on with the series, which I’m told gets much better, I do really want to give this a go.

Judgment: KEEP

article5Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Coming back to this novel and checking it out again, my initial interest in it is just not there anymore. It sounds like something I would have much preferred when I was younger and first getting into dystopian novels. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good dystopian, but I’ve definitely become quite a lot picker, and this sounds a bit too “samey” for me these days.

Judgment: GO

incarnateIncarnate by Jodi Meadows

I’ll admit, this was sort of a cover buy for me initially. It is normally the type of novel that I would’ve just picked up from the library because I wasn’t totally sold on it. However, I do own it, and honestly, I am definitely still interested enough to give it a try. I’ll be keeping this one.

Judgment: KEEP

beckoninglightBeckoning Light by Alyssa Rose Ivy

I have been interested in this book—and the series as a whole—for quite a long time now. And I’m still just as eager to pick this up as I was back when I first got it. I’d love to get this read at some point in the next few months.

Judgment: KEEP

stayingfatforsarahbyrnesStaying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

I’ve seen a few of my Goodreads friends read and enjoy this novel, and I think that is where I first picked it up. But I really don’t think it’s for me, and hasn’t been for awhile. So I think it’s time to get rid of this one.

Judgment: GO

fiveflavorsofdumbFive Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Yes, I know it has been ages since I got this book. But I’m still incredibly excited to read it! And now that it’s being brought to my attention again, I really want to try to finally get to it sometime this year.

Judgment: KEEP

betweenBetween by Jessica Warman

I picked this one up toward the very beginning of my Goodreads life, and I remember being extremely interested in it then. I’ve been recently been trying to unhaul some of my books (there will definitely be a post about this!) and found this again. And, to be completely honest, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what exactly had interested me. So, while I’m sure it’s a good novel, it’s just not for me anymore.

Judgment: GO

thescorpioracesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Definitely still want to keep this one. Apart from it just generally sounding fantastic, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. My relationship with Stiefvater’s writing had a rocky start, but I’m happy to try some more of her novels (this and The Raven Cycle) and hopefully change my mind.

Judgment: KEEP

popularPopular by Alissa Grosso

I remember myself being so excited when I first found this—at the age of probably sixteen-ish. However, it really has not aged well, and as an adult, there seems to be just way too much angst and drama for my taste these days. So…nope!

Judgment: GO

withouttessWithout Tess by Marcella Pixley

I have kept almost picking this up for many many months now. So despite the fact that I do keep putting it aside, I really do still want to read it!

Judgment: KEEP

thetalkfunnygirlThe Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo

Despite the fact that it has been so many years since I first added this to my TBR, I still really do want to read this. It sounds really bittersweet and funny and heartwarming, and I think it will be a really nice read.

Judgment: KEEP

thetwinsdaughterThe Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logstead

Another one of those books that I got way back in the early years of having a Kindle. It was a bit hard to decide whether or not I wanted to keep this one. Part of me thinks it still sounds interesting, but not all of it. And, realistically, there is only a very slim chance I’ll be getting around to it at any point in the near future.

Judgment: GO

flowersintheatticFlowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

This is not really the type of book that I would normally read. But it is such a hugely popular novel that I hear a lot about. Plus, the main reason I’m keeping it is that one of my best and longest online friends is a massive fan of the entire series, and she has recommended it to me many times. So I definitely still want to read it!

Judgment: KEEP

11/23/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

I absolutely love Stephen King, and I did have a rule that all of his books were an automatic keep. However, I’m going to have to break my rule for this one. I’ve had this on my Kindle since it first came out, and it does still sound good to some extent. I just don’t think I’m actually going to pick it up at this point, or at the very least, not very soon. So I’m going to remove it for now.

Judgment: GO

Getting Rid Of: 8/20

TBR Total: 1525

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August 2018 TBR

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Happy August, everyone!

This month has already been absolutely insane for me! But I have huge, exciting news—I’m starting university next month! 😀 I’ll be majoring in Creative Writing + English and Forensic Psychology. This is such a special moment for me. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, and it’s finally happening!

Since next month is probably going to be a slower reading month as I get into the swing of things, I’m hoping I can get a lot done this month. So please excuse the following, most overly ambitious TBR on the planet! 😛

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

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This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. 
When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
For anyone . . .

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

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The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician–whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended–when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna’s Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

How to Fracture a Fairytale by Jane Yolen

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Fantasy legend Jane Yolen (The Emerald Circus, The Devil’s Arithmetic) delights with this effortlessly wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. Rediscover the fables you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in―or a much better version of it.

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

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In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society. 
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech–rather than say anything at all–she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks

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Elliot has lived his first thirteen years confined to his home, incapacitated by fear. Now he’s out of pills, snow is falling, and his only safe person is missing. A terrifying thriller from Carnegie Medalist Kevin Brooks.
From the moment of his birth, Elliot’s life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear — a beast that holds him prisoner in his room. The beast is kept at bay, though not eliminated, with a daily regimen of pills. But on Christmas Eve, a mix-up at the pharmacy threatens to unleash the beast full force, and his mother must venture out in a raging snowstorm to a store that should be only minutes away. Hours later, when she still hasn’t returned, Elliot sees no choice but to push through his terror, leave the house, and hunt for her. What happens if the last of his medication wears off and the beast starts scratching at the doors of his mind? Everyone has a breaking point — will Elliot come to his? With plot twists and turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats, multi-award-winning author Kevin Brooks offers a high-suspense exploration of fear and what it means to truly be afraid.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (Re-read)

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Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. 
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find–aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge–but who will be left alive at the end? 
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

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When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

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Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

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Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might have all been friends together. But this was Birchwood.
As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.
Every dress she makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.
Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.
Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration with her captors, or is it a means of staying alive?
Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose? 
One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud – a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.
In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.
Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.
But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

theassassinationofbrangwainspurge

Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms.
Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

What books are you guys reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Mini Review: Pillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

pillowthoughtsIIPillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Pillow Thoughts II

Date Published: August 7th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 224 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Following the smash success of her best-selling book, Pillow Thoughts, Courtney Peppernell now returns with the follow-up sequel Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart

Peppernell understands that healing is a process, and Pillow Thoughts II eloquently captures the time and experience that one goes through on their journey to peace through restoration. 

A collection of inspirational and comforting poems for anyone who is mending from a broken heart.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I read this a few months ago, as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and I am still at a loss for words when it comes to describing this work. I’ll start by saying that the message of “healing the heart” rang so true all throughout these pages. It entered my life at the best possible moment—as I have been going through the mending of my own heart—and touched me incredibly deeply. She has a talent for crafting poems that are seemingly unassuming and straightforward, but that are, in actuality, extremely complex, vivid, and multi-dimensional. And the beauty of her writing lights up every line.

Each section of this collection focuses on a different type of healing, and makes for the perfect book to pick up either when in need of overall healing and positivity, or when going through a specific healing process. The range of emotion shown in these poems hits its mark time and time again, and makes this a widely accessible piece. Peppernell’s words seamlessly fill one’s soul with the comfort it is craving, as well as the healing you didn’t even know you were in need of. There is such safety and peace within these pages, a reader’s sanctuary where one can comfortably grieve and find release.

On a brief, more personal note, I discovered Courtney Peppernell’s work about a year ago and she immediately flew to the top of my favorite poets list. The messages, values, and general positivity that she puts out to the world through her words has been exceedingly impactful for me, and I truly admire her—she is an absolutely beautiful person. I want to have the strength to fully acknowledge and express who I am one day, and it is people like Courtney that, without knowing it, give me more courage. She has a way of always inspiring me both in my writing and in accepting and striving to be my true self—and this is a gift that is meaningful beyond words.

And since I honestly cannot rave enough about her work, I very highly encourage you to check out this collection, as well as Courtney’s previous poetry collections. I have reviews on both, if you’re interested! (Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between)

5.0 TARDISes

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Kate Marshall’s Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

IAmStillAliveBlogTour

Huge thanks to Kate Marshall for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, I Am Still Alive, is a captivating survival thriller that comes out on July 24th. In anticipation of its release, Kate is here to share the top five must-haves in an author survival kit! Please make sure to check Kate out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads! I will be posting a full review of I Am Still Alive very soon!

Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

You might think that an author, set adrift in the wilderness, has the same survival needs as any other person. You would be wrong. Authors are peculiar creatures, and need specialized gear even for short excursions into the wild. Before handing your author a compass and dropping them in the deep woods, make sure you’ve packed their bag with these essentials.

Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Authors become less tolerant of sunlight the closer they come to deadlines. The mid-draft author may, in fact, become confused when exposed to bright light, and attempt to find the keyboard shortcut to dim the sky. Liberal application of sunscreen will allow the off-roading author to slowly acclimate to the presence of the daystar without suffering sunburn.

Notebook & Pens

Ask any park ranger, and they will have a harrowing tale to share of encountering a lost writer in the woods, searching beneath bushes for an outlet to charge their dying laptop, having failed to secure shelter, water, or food in favor of this fruitless quest. To prevent such tragedy, replace the laptop with high-quality, water-resistant notebooks and pens.

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Books

It may seem as if books are an impractical choice for wilderness survival—unless you’re talking about survival guides. But while manuals on plant identification, hunting, and other survival skills are useful, for the author it is particularly important to pack some of their favorite reads. This is because a bored author is a dangerous author. The key to survival is caution. The bored author gets “creative.” You don’t want to discover that instead of gathering firewood, your author has turned the kindling into a stick-person society complete with lushly detailed culture, rituals, and myth. Keep your author entertained, and you’ll keep your author alive.

Caffeine

Many a hiker has come across a listless author on the trail. Most wilderness first aid courses now teach how to nurse the author back into consciousness through the gradual introduction of coffee or other caffeinated substances, first by waving the thermos under their nose, and then allowing small sips. But the best treatment is prevention, which you can accomplish by supplying your author with a ready source of caffeine. Coffee may be impractical; “the coffee gap,” the well-known phenomenon in which mistakes are made in the acquisition of coffee due to not having had your coffee yet, is exacerbated in a wilderness situation. We suggest chocolate-covered espresso beans as an easy substitute.

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Simulated Companion Object

While authors are often solitary animals, they frequently require moral support, brainstorming, and appreciation for their wit. To prevent a repeat of the “stick-person culture” scenario, consider identifying an object (any object will do, really) as their “companion.” Draw a face or heart on the object if your author seems reluctant to bond. Encourage your author to “just bounce some ideas off of it” to get things rolling. You will know you have succeeded when your author creates social media accounts for the companion object. You have gone too far if the author begins laughing at the companion object’s jokes.

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As you can see, there are special responsibilities in outfitting an author for a wilderness excursion. Nonetheless, I highly encourage exposing your author to a variety of such experiences, as (if they survive) the benefit they provide to the author’s descriptive abilities will prove rewarding to author and readers alike. 

Author Bio

KateMarshallPhotoKate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

Check Out The Book:

iamstillaliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Synopsis: After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.

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Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

themermaidThe Mermaid by Christina Henry

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: June 19th, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the author of Lost Boy comes a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea for love and later finds herself in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum as the real Fiji mermaid. However, leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was.

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P.T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

The Mermaid is yet another beautiful novel from one of my favorite authors. After first hearing about it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I, like many other readers, immediately thought we would be getting a retelling of The Little Mermaid in typical Christina Henry fashion. It surprised me to see that this novel would be a historical fiction tale with fantasy mixed in—but, whatever the story, I was here for it. Going in, I knew I would enjoy it, but it surpassed all of my expectations. It is a different style of story than Henry’s most recent works, but it retains all of the raw emotion, vivid backdrops and memorable characters, and that undercurrent of magic that becomes almost tangible.

In this novel, we watch the life of a mermaid named Amelia unfold—as she finds her freedom and her place in the human world. This journey begins when a fisherman accidently catches her in his net. He could not bear to keep her, so he set her free. But Amelia does not forget glimpsing the deep loneliness in his eyes.  She realizes she could not stand letting him remain alone, so she found her escape from life in the ocean and transformed into a woman. And so the pair led a beautiful and happy married life together, until the fisherman was lost at sea.

Meanwhile, P.T. Barnum is looking for his next big exhibit to astound the public with, and he is determined to have it feature a mermaid. When he hears tales of a supposed mermaid living on a cliff by the sea, he is eager to find her. In his eyes, she is the exhibit that will ensure his riches and success. Though he agrees to Amelia’s terms—that she should be free to leave whenever she wishes—he doesn’t intend to keep his promise. There is no way he is going to let his most valuable treasure walk away.

I absolutely adored that this tale was based on historical events—events which I knew very little about prior to reading this. Being able to research P.T. Barnum and his American Museum on the side made my experience with the novel even more enthralling. The way that Henry so fluidly weaves magic into the lives that were real, the places that existed, is beyond brilliant and incredibly enchanting. I have never read a novel quite like this one, and Henry has the perfect style and voice to truly bring something like this to life.

I could talk for ages about Henry’s writing style in itself. Her words flow seamlessly, taking the reader over the pages with ease and leaving them not wanting to let go. The way she builds the settings so vividly and creates the tone and atmosphere with such strength pulls you right in—the sounds, the smells, the intensity of the emotion travel along with you. Her words transfer you into an entirely new place, one that is unique, yet comfortably familiar. I always feel so invested in her characters’ lives, and like I am such a part of their world. And this is how a bit of extra magic is created for us as readers.

There are important messages threaded throughout the events of the narrative as well. Amelia is a strong woman, and she is determined to be independent, no matter what anyone else says. From the very first time we meet her, she is searching for her freedom, and once she has it, she keeps it and holds her own. She doesn’t care what people think or about conforming to the pressures that society puts on women—it is unfamiliar to her, and she will not let her mind be changed by it. Due to being brought up and learning to be a woman under much different circumstances, Amelia has a remarkable insight into the importance of unapologetically being yourself and living the life that is healthiest for you.

As I said before, this novel was everything I wanted and so much more. The multi-dimensional narrative is a joy to get lost in. It is bitter and sweet, heartwarming and heartbreaking, aching with loneliness, longing, and love. This is a beautifully crafted work that will have you spellbound. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for everyone, but especially for those who love to get swept up in a fantastical yet thought-provoking tale.

5.0 TARDISes

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