Book Review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

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51lDNLBOP+LThe Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror

Publishing Info: January 2019 by Hot Key Books (first published 2018)

Pages: 248

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye.

Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.

Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in . . .

Set in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, THE TWISTED TREE is a ghost story that twists and turns – and never takes you quite where you’d expect.

 

Can’t lie, the cover is partly what attracted me to this book. I love trees as a visual, and often take photographs of them, so that got my attention. The cover also gives off creepy, mysterious vibes that piqued my curiosity. I also liked that it sounded a little unique, and certainly quite different to other YA fantasy I have read.

Rachel Burge does an amazing job of creating a mysterious, spooky atmosphere. The suspense is great and really had me on the edge of my seat and rooting for the main characters. It’s actually scary at times. The plot didn’t follow the typical heroes fighting evil villain route as such, which I found refreshing. Norse mythology was weaved in well with the plot and fit very naturally.

The detail put into Martha’s ability to tell things about someone by touching their clothes is incredibly inventive. Different materials have different properties and so she sees/senses different things about the person depending on the material. That added depth to the ability, making it not just a superficial ‘magic power’ but something that had been really well thought through.

It made a nice change to read a short book as well, and one that was well paced. It was the right length for the story being told, rather than being drawn out or having too much crammed in. Burge did a great job of developing the friendship between Martha and Stig so well in such a short space.

This book was so close to being a 5 stars for me, but I didn’t like how the author brought questions about Stig up near the end that were left unanswered. It didn’t even seem to have any particular effect to leave it that way. I don’t mind authors leaving some things unanswered or ambiguous, but I can’t see why it was done on this occasion. It just meant I was left slightly unsatisfied. It made me wonder if it has been left open for a sequel, but I’m not sure one would be necessary. It felt like a self contained story, and I was satisfied by the resolution of the main plotline.

Overall, I loved it. The Twisted Tree is a very gripping read. I can highly recommend for anyone looking for something with a bit of mystery, and something that’s a little scary!

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Mid-year Reading Round Up 2019

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12406320I can’t believe we’re halfway through 2019 already! Where have the days gone? So far this year I have only read 8 books, which isn’t as many as I was hoping to get through. Though I did spend a while reading George R. R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings, which is a behemoth of a book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is my favourite book of the year so far. It absolutely blew me away! It was so imaginative and intriguing, and totally pulled me in. Another highlight was Clockwork Princess, the final book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy. Having read so many of her Shadowhunters books, I thought my interest might wane, but that hasn’t been the case so far. I can’t get enough of her world and her writing.

Other highlights so far are Frostbite by Richelle Mead and The Rose Society by Marie Lu. Having been surprised how much I enjoyed Vampire Academy, I was glad Frostbite was a great sequel, and I’m looking forward to continuing that series.

Ringer, the second book in Lauren Oliver’s duology, was a little disappointing. It didn’t quite live up to expectations, and I enjoyed the first book much more. Although it started well, Everything Everything also didn’t quite hit the right notes for me, and I had concerns about the way serious illness was represented in the book. Internment by Samira Ahmed was one of my most 19258492anticipated reads of the year, and although it is a highly significant and important book, it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

I’m currently reading The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge and loving it so far. It’s so dark and creepy. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s actually creeped me out.

Next on my to-read list is The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli. I haven’t read any of her books before so I’m looking forward to discovering a new author!

Book Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

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38167114Internment by Samira Ahmed   

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: March 2019 by Atom

Pages: 386

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

 

Having seen the description for this book, I just had to buy it. The idea drew me in right away because of its relevance. Negative attitudes towards Muslims have sadly become more prominent lately, which is completely unfair. This book imagines what could happen if the situation in America escalated, and shows how quickly things can change. I wanted to love this book. It had so much promise, but I was a little disappointed. Although I felt it could have been better, it was also incredibly shocking, as well as moving and heartbreaking.

Rather than being set in a far-flung ultra-futuristic setting, Internment is set in a near future that unfortunately you can really believe could actually happen. I think it being near future makes it more terrifying. So many dystopias are set in a distant future that feels a long way away, like something that wouldn’t happen for a while. But sadly you can imagine this happening now. The book tackles big issues such as Islamophobia and illegal detainment, and it’s so good to see serious subject matter explored in young adult fiction.

The opening few chapters had me completely hooked. I really felt in Layla’s shoes, experiencing her thoughts and emotions. The fear and suspense was brilliant. However, Ahmed didn’t quite manage to sustain that through the rest of the book. While it was good, it wasn’t great.

The Director was very under-developed as a villain. He became a bit of a caricature. Almost comic, actually, rather than scary and intimidating as he should have come across. There was also a lack of intimidating presence from the guards. They were just sort of always there in the background, and I felt the author could have used the constant threat of their presence more to further present the sense of fear in the camp.

In terms of the execution and writing, the dialogue was a bit clunky in places. More depth and subtlety could also have helped the description and wording have more impact, rather than the author just throwing stuff in your face. Yes in places being blunt is really effective, but some more subtle touches mixed in could have made the book even better. There isn’t enough nuance to really pull it off.

This book does have flaws, but it’s such an important and relevant book. The execution lets it down. Even so, people need to read it. People need to open their eyes and see how wrong it is to treat people like this because of their religion. Will we never learn from the mistakes of the past?

Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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51toTzgHGXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2011 by HarperVoyager (first published 1998)

Pages: 913

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising. From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war. As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

 

Having read A Game of Thrones last year and being completely sucked in, it was no surprise that I picked up its sequel, A Clash of Kings. For contextualisation, this is my first time reading the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and I haven’t watched any of the TV series.

I wondered whether A Clash of Kings could live up to the high bar set by the first book, and while I think I enjoyed A Game of Thrones more, there was still plenty to love about A Clash of Kings. With Westeros divided, there are plenty of rivalries and tensions between the various houses to provide conflict. Many of the characters have now been well and truly separated, meaning it feels like there are more threads to try and keep track of. It does get a little confusing at times trying to remember who belongs to what house and who is allied with whom.

There was a lot of emphasis on the red comet blazing through the sky at the beginning of the book, but then allusions to it sort of disappeared. I’m guessing at some point it was no longer in the sky, but considering such emphasis was placed on it, it seemed odd that it was never referred to again later on.

Sadly Daenerys’s plotline was rather uneventful. I felt quite bored reading her chapters because nothing much was happening to drive her story forward. I’m hoping her plotline will pick up in the next book as she is an interesting character.

There was one rather boring chapter in the final battle which is one rather lengthy description of a sea battle. I was totally lost as to what was happening, and so many names of ships were mentioned that I totally lost track of who was fighting on what side. Aside from that, the rest of the book kept me as engaged as A Game of Thrones did. There were a few unexpected twists and turns which kept the book’s momentum going and made sure I was hooked. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue, characters to root for (and characters to hate).

A Clash of Kings did not disappoint. It was just as thrilling and addictive as the first book. I’ve already bought a copy of the third book, A Storm of Swords, and am eager to continue reading the series.

 

TV Review: The OA Part II

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mv5bmty5otkwndkzof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdeynzi1nzm40._v1_Aired: Netflix

Created by: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij

Starring: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Jason Isaacs, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Patrick Gibson

Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

When I watched the first series of The OA, I remember thinking it seemed rather bizarre, but somehow it still pulled me in. By the end of Part I I was invested, and eagerly awaited its return for Part II. I will be avoiding spoilers in this review where possible (to be honest, there are some pretty big and crazy concepts involved that I’m not sure I could explain properly anyway) as it’s best to go into this show without knowing anything.

The first episode left me feeling rather perplexed. The first series was complex and I struggled to remember what had happened. I’d recommend taking a look at a recap of Part I! Episode 1 starts off with new detective character called Karim searching for a missing girl. How this connected to the rest I had no idea. However the ending of the episode suggested things would be coming together. And they did in the second episode. While I wasn’t exactly sure how things were going to connect, I could see the beginnings of hints and foreshadowing that everything was going to come together.

In the third episode some of the characters from the first season finally made a return. Since they’d had such a big role in the first series, I was worried their story was over. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. I’d become invested in these characters so was relieved to see them continue to be part of the story.

Things got a bit weird in the middle of the series. I couldn’t see what the weird house and video game had to do with anything. Plus there was the simply plain weird scene with some kind of mind-speaking octopus that I still don’t understand. It’s like they were trying to throw too much at the show, making it overcomplicated.

The ending of Part II left me desperately wanting more. It opened up even more possibilities, and once again ended on a cliff-hanger. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so many years for Part III. I also liked that the second series didn’t feel repetitive. Some TV shows go through the same motions each series, but The OA feels like one long continuous story, which makes it more engaging because the storyline is anything but repetitive.

I would highly recommend giving this show a go, even if you think it’s not your kind of thing. Despite being baffling and at times hard to follow, The OA is somehow addictive. It draws you in. I like that it’s unique and doesn’t shy away from exploring big concepts.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books From My Favourite Genre

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My favourite genres are fantasy and science fiction so as they’re often grouped together, I’m going to do my top 10 favourite SFF books. It’s so hard to pick only ten!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A McKillip – This is my favourite book. It’s just so enchanting and mysterious, and a little strange, in a good way. It was the first McKillip book I read, and I’m so glad it introduced me to her work because she is one of my favourite authors.

2) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I usually put Catching Fire on these kind of lists, because it’s my favourite of the trilogy, but I’ve decided to put the first book on this list for a change. The Hunger Games kick-starts the series, and I love it just as much as Catching Fire.

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3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I read this recently and it has catapulted straight into my favourites. The world building is amazing, and I felt so drawn into the story and invested in the characters. I couldn’t put it down.

4) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – This book isn’t that well known, but it is so good. More people need to read it! Most YA science fiction tends to be dystopia or post-apocalyptic, so it made a change to read one set in space.

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5) Blood Red Road by Moira Young – I read this years ago now, but I’d still count it among my favourites. I remember not being able to put it down.

6) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I love Bardugo’s Grishaverse world. So far I’ve only read the Shadow and Bone trilogy, of which the first is my favourite.

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7) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – This is such a good and interesting book. Written in diary form, it follows a mentally disabled man who takes part in an experiment to try and increase his intelligence. It’s very thought provoking and moving.

8) Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – I have loved dragons for a long time, and remember getting this book out of the library as a kid. I really want to reread the series, as it’s been such a long time since I last read it.

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9) The Young Elites by Marie Lu – What I love about this book is how dark it is. The protagonists arc doesn’t follow the typical arc of a hero, which was really refreshing to read.

10) Eragon by Christopher Paolini – Another one I read quite a long time ago. I devoured this series, and would love to reread them again.

May Book Haul!

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I ended up having a bit of a book buying month in May. Having just finished the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (review coming soon), I went out and bought the third book, A Storm of Swords. It’s published in two volumes here in the UK because it’s so long! I’m quite glad they did it that way, as it would be rather heavy to hold!

I’m planning to go to the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London this July, so decided to do some reading in preparation. When I was looking through the list of authors attending, Rachel Burge’s The Twisted Tree really caught my attention. It sounds dark, mysterious and unique so I’m looking forward to reading that.

I’ve read a few verse novels and enjoyed reading a story told in a different form, so when I spotted The Poet X I made a bit of an impulse purchase. Verse can be a really effective way to tell a story when done well.

Having heard a lot about Internment, I just had to go out and buy it. I’m reading it right now, and so far it’s really good. It’s so relevant to current issues in our society and is actually a terrifying near-future dystopia. I’ll be posting a review when I’ve finished it!

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Mental Health

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This week’s topic is in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month. Awareness about mental health is something that is really important to me, and I’ve read many books about mental illness. Here are five that particularly stood out to me. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonSpeak explores the protagonist’s life following a traumatic incident. This is such a beautifully written book that really managed to capture the voice, experiences and emotions of the narrator. The depth and symbolism in it is just stunning.

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The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – I found this a really emotional read, and gave it a rare 5 stars, because I found it so impactful.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – This book has been seen as a little controversial, and the television adaptation especially so, but I thought the book was brilliant. It tells the story of a girl who is trying to understand why she feels the way she does, why life feels so hopeless, and how to come to terms with everything going on in her life and in her head. This book has an important message to tell.

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins – This book is written in a novel in verse form, which works really well with the subject matter. Hopkins explores drug addiction incredibly effectively through this style of writing.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Another book by Laurie Halse Anderson makes this list. While I felt Wintergirls didn’t have the same impact as Speak, it is still a very good book. It tells the story of two girls with bulimia and anorexia. As this is something I didn’t know much about before reading the book, it was interesting to see a story told from the perspective of someone with anorexia.

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Books Released In the Last Ten Years

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This topic was actually trickier than I thought it would be. Looking back at release dates, I realised I haven’t actually yet read any books from 2018 or 2019! I need to catch up! So my list spans the 10 years from 2008-2017.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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2008 – Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – I loved the Eragon series, and would really like to re-read them sometime. I remember the second book, Eldest, being a little boring in places, but thought the other books were great.

2009 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – The whole Hunger Games trilogy is brilliant, but of the three I think I’d have to say Catching Fire is my favourite.

2010 – If I Stay by Gayle Forman – Having read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, I am glad a realistic fiction book makes this list. I found If I Stay to be such a touching and emotional read.

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2011 – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I read this book this year and absolutely fell in love with Laini Taylor’s storytelling. Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read.

2012 – Blood Red Road by Moira Young – It feels like such a long time since I read this book, but it remains high up on my list of favourites, and I’d like to revisit it sometime.

2013 – Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Mass – I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this series. I read the first and second books last year, and want to read the rest when I can get my hands on them.

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2014 –City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments is one of my favourite series and this was such a great conclusion to it. Cassandra Clare has such an amazing way of bringing her characters and stories to life.

2015 – The Rose Society by Marie Lu – The darkness of this series is what drew me in. Seeing the dark inner conflict of the protagonist written in such a way was so fresh and exciting to read.

2016 – Replica by Lauren Oliver – Although I was disappointed by this book’s sequel, Ringer, at the time when I read Replica I was captivated by the unique format of the book and felt invested in the characters.

2017 – Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – One of my favourite recent reads. This book blew me away. I thought it was absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Top 10 Tuesday: Page to Screen

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There are so many options for this freebie! I considered writing about the best film adaptations, or the worst, but ended up deciding to do something different. Here are my top 10 films or TV shows I’ve seen, but haven’t read the book they’re based on.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) The Expanse, based on the series by James S. A. Corey – I was so relieved when Amazon picked up this TV series because it is absolutely brilliant. I would be tempted to read the books, as I loved the TV show so much.

2) Ready Player One, based on the book by Ernest Cline – I loved the film but I’m not sure I want to read the book. I’d wanted to watch the film after I’d read it, but didn’t get round to it in time. Somehow I don’t think it would be the same reading it after seeing the movie.

3) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han – I really enjoyed this film, but when I read a sampler of the book I just couldn’t get into the writing style. As much as I enjoyed the story, I’m not sure the book is for me.

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4) The Shannara Chronicles, based on the books of Terry Brooks – I’ve only seen the first season so far but I enjoyed it. I’ve not read any of Terry Brooks’ novels before but heard they are good.

5) The Notebook, based on the book by Nicholas Sparks – This and many other films based on Nicholas Sparks novels would fit on this list. I’ve never read any of his books, but seen several films based on them.

6) Inkheart, based on the book by Cornelia Funke – This was one of my favourite fantasy films as a kid, but I never got round to reading the books.

7) The City of Ember, based on the book by Jeanne DuPrau– I’ve watched this film several times but never read the book. I really enjoyed the concept.

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8) Me Before You, based on the book by Jojo Moyes – This film had such a mix of comedy and sad moments, I’m not sure my heart can deal with the book!

9) The Host, based on the book by Stephanie Meyer – I have read Twilight but was not a fan of it. However, I got The Host on my Kindle thinking I’d maybe give it a go. I haven’t read it yet but I have seen the film, which was watchable if not amazing.

10) Warm Bodies, based on the book by Isaac Marion – It’s a while since I saw this film but remember thinking it was really good, so maybe I should pick up the book someday.