Saturday, 18 September 2021

An Epic Tale of War and Loss: 'The Spanish Girl' by Jules Hayes ★★★★☆

The Spanish Girl by Jules Hayes | Book Review | Historic Fiction

I'm so pleased I chose historic fiction as my theme for my holiday away in Spain. My second read is especially relevant as I've chosen Jules Hayes's The Spanish Girl, a historic novel spanning both the Spanish Civil War in the 30s and the death of Franco and subsequent rise of the Basque separatist movement in the 70s.

I initially believed that The Spanish Girl wasn't for me, incorrectly believing it to be a light romance novel. Granted, I'd sought out that exact genre due to suggestions from other readers on how to overcome my pandemic reading slump, but The Spanish Girl exceeded my expectations in every way.

The Spanish Girl begins in December 1937, at the height of the Spanish civil war, with a young boy witnessing the horrific murder of a mother and newborn baby. The reader is swiftly transported to Bilbao, Spain in May 1976 where journalist Isabella prepares to meet with a member of the Basque nationalist movement.

Isabella soon learns of an incredible personal connection between the people she is meeting and her own mother who disappeared before Isabella ever met her. Told through alternating timelines between the 30s and 70s, we learn of the full story of Isabella's parents and how she comes to learn about her own true history.

There is definitely romance in The Spanish Girl but if romance isn't really your thing (it's not really mine as a stand-alone genre) I believe that the epic story between these pages would appeal nonetheless.

This the the second novel I've read about Franco's Spain, the first being Ruta Sepetys's excellent historic novel The Fountains of Silence. Both novels have served to make me thirsty to learn more about Spain in the 20th century, which makes sense seeing as I spend so much time here.

The Spanish Girl is a rich and powerful novel, invoking the sights and aromas of Spain with vivid descriptions of its music, geography and food. The vibrancy and colour of this beautiful country is juxtaposed with the horror and violence of the Spanish civil war, fascism and terrorism, all of which is brought to life by Hayes's impressive research.

For bringing to life two pivotal moments in Spain's history, I give The Spanish Girl an excellent four out of five stars and recommend to lovers of historical fiction, especially non-WWII history. Don't get me wrong, I've read a lot of WWII history myself but steer towards non-fiction accounts of WWII lately.


I received an electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me.


Friday, 10 September 2021

Lyrical Yet Brutal: Morowa Yejidé's 'Creatures of Passage' - Book Review ★★★★★

Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejide | Book Review

One of the absolute truths about judging novels is that a review can in no way adequately capture a book and this is never more true than in Morowa Yejidé's incredible Creatures of Passage. Compared to Toni Morrison's Beloved, Creatures of Passage is a beautifully written, lyrical novel that deals with exceptionally heavy topics. As such, it must come with trigger warnings for child rape, murder, grief, racism, slavery and genocide.

Creatures of Passage is a tale about several lives torn apart by the actions of men. Nephthys Kinwell has been floating through life, cast adrift by the unexplained murder of her twin brother Osiris and burdened by the unbearable inertia of one.

Her alcohol-soaked existence is disturbed by the arrival at her front door of her great-nephew Dash. Dash has been plagued by visions of something he witnessed at school and he has been holding conversations with a ghost on the banks of the Anacostia River. It will take Nephthys longer to figure it out than the reader, but Dash is in grave danger.

Critical to Creatures of Passage is a magical realism that is so well written that the reader can't help but suspend disbelief. Of course magic, ghosts and post-life experiences are real in a novel that puzzles together the whole of existence in 1970s Washington DC from ancient cultures, through genocide, slavery, Jim Crow and racism, to murder and child abuse.

Creatures of Passage by Morowa Yejide | Book ReviewCreatures of Passage is a brutal read and I can understand why readers might feel unable to complete it. It raises the question of how do you talk about child sexual abuse, especially in fiction? In her unflinching style, Yejidé digs deep into the planning, intention, manipulation and delusion of the paedophile. These are not accidental events but a planned assault against a vulnerable individual. I once found myself in the crosshairs of such a person and despite my own trauma and triggers, I carried on reading to access that insight.

While this is but one topic in Creatures of Passage, Yejidé treats all of the other topics with a similar brutality. It's been a while since I've highlighted passages with such regularity in a fiction novel, moved as I was by the concepts and writing.

"And there would be latter-day nationalists and citizen circles and patriots, who from the forgotten fiefdoms of the territories heard the claxon bells of an orange-skinned king"
"And here Rosetta stopped, panting and dizzy, because she knew - as all the abused do - that there were no nouns or verbs or grammatical constructs to describe the depths of her outrage and pain"

I give Creatures of Passage a superb five out of five stars. This book stopped me in my tracks, causing an existential discomfort and making me contemplate the sheer unfairness of it all. Recommended for fans of literature that pushes the reader to contemplate the big issues.


Creatures of Passage is available on Amazon and (note: both these links are affiliate links; I will receive a small commission if you purchase using these links at no extra cost to you).

I received an electronic copy of this novel for the purposes of this review. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me.


Friday, 27 August 2021

Blog Tour / Excerpt: Tehlor Kay Mejia's 'Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares' (Paola Santiago # 2)

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE FOREST OF NIGHTMARES by Tehlor Kay Mejia Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the Book


Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia

Pub. Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 336

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD,

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the sequel to Tehlor Kay Mejia's critically acclaimed own-voices novel about science-obsessed Paola Santiago.

Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona, life is nothing like she'd expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what's worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend. Even with her chupacabra puppy, Bruto, around, Pao can't escape the feeling that she's all alone in the world.

Pao has no one to tell that she's having nightmares again, this time set in a terrifying forest. Even more troubling? At their center is her estranged father, an enigma of a man she barely remembers. And when Dante's abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman.

Pao's search for her father will send her far from home, where she will encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Will the truths her father has been hiding save the people Pao loves, or destroy them?

Once again Tehlor Kay Mejia draws on her Mexican heritage to tell a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges.


Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares



There’s Almost Nothing Worse Than Meat Medley Pizza

If it hadn’t been for the dream she’d had about her estranged father the night before, maybe Pao’s bonding time with her mom’s new boyfriend wouldn’t have been quite so awful.

But her luck never worked like that.

Six months ago, Paola Santiago had walked out of a collapsing magical rift after defeating the legendary ghost turned god, La Llorona, and freeing the spirit of the Weeping Woman’s last remaining lost child.

Pao had tamed a chupacabra.

She had even earned the respect of the girl who had tortured her in sixth grade. And yet, she still didn’t have the power to turn this guy into dust? Ideally right now, across the sticky table of this pizza place?

Maybe if she glared at him a little harder . . .

Pizza Pete’s was full tonight, with chattering families, screaming kids, and illuminated arcade machines trying to trick dads into digging deeper for quarters. GHOST HUNTER 3! one of the games flashed in acid-green letters.

No way that’s realistic, Pao thought, narrowly avoiding a scoff. Like a series of zeroes and ones blinking on a screen could ever get close to the real thing. Binary code was incredibly versatile, of course, but Pao had learned firsthand that there were some things that math and science couldn’t fully capture.

Pao’s mom looked at her like she had heard the almost scoff. Pao stared back insolently, tempting fate.

Ever since winter break had started three days ago, Pao had been prohibited from scoffing. Also scowling, smirking, stomping, and swearing (even using mild words like stupid or jerk). The message was clear: There was no room for sullen Pao when Aaron was around.

To be fair, though, it didn’t seem like there was much room for any version of Pao. So why couldn’t she mope to her heart’s (dis)content?

Because moms were unfair, that’s why.

In the arcade, three boys a little older than Pao were hurtling full speed toward Ghost Hunter 3. “I hear it’s, like, actually scary!” one of them squeaked.

“Yeah, Sully said the guys that made it went to real haunted houses and, like, slept in them and saw things.”

“So cool! They’re like actual experts!”

I’m so sure, Pao thought, returning to her scathing inner monologue. Like a bunch of white guys with phone cameras in a tourist trap knew anything about real ghost hunting.

But the truth—and Pao’s terrible secret—was that she would have given anything to be fighting real ghosts or monsters right now. She would have been thrilled to see a terrible hairy Mano Pachona, or a full-grown slavering chupacabra. Anything to prove that last summer had been real. That she had actually been through something. That she wasn’t just a freak who no longer belonged in her own life.

Across the table, Aaron shifted uncomfortably in his seat, grinning goofily when he caught Pao looking at him. No one had spoken a word in nine minutes and forty-three seconds. So much for bonding.

Her mom was looking desperate now, and for a second, Pao almost felt sorry for her. But only for a second.

After Pao’s disappearing act last summer, things had improved between her and her mom. For a while. But Pao had quickly realized that accepting her mom’s differences, as she had done while trapped in the endless throat of a magical void, was actually a lot easier than getting along with her in real life.

Especially now that her mom was dating Aaron.

Pao tried to ignore him, thinking of her dream the night before instead. Even a nightmare was better than this guy. She’d been walking through a dense pine forest, a weird green light filtering through the trees. The road she’d walked was long and straight, and at the end of it was a silhouette she’d somehow known was her dad. It made sense, Pao thought, that she hadn’t seen his face. She hadn’t seen her dad in real life since she was four years old. Her mom never even talked about him. But in the dream, Pao had run toward him anyway, like he was coming home from a long absence and she couldn’t wait to throw her arms around him.

Of course, she hadn’t made it that far. Just before she’d gotten close enough, the ground had opened at her feet. A massive crack in the earth took Pao with it as it gave way, leaving her father shouting from the cliff above.

After waking from a nightmare like that, shaking and sweating, was it any wonder Pao didn’t wanted to spend the evening fake-smiling over greasy food with a total imposter?

Across from her, Mom and Aaron chewed in silence, exchanging an awkward look between them.

Pao could have made it easier for her mom, she knew, but right now that was the last thing she wanted to do.

Why would she want to help someone who hadn’t even noticed that her daughter was suffering the aftereffects of one of her notorious nightmares? The kind she had experienced ever since she was little and had led her to enter a magical rift to fight a legendary ghost.

Her mom was supposed to be highly attuned to this stuff. She always had been before . . . But tonight she’d just told Pao to get a handle on her hair and wear a clean shirt. Like it mattered how Pao looked for this totally inappropriate ordeal.

Mom had met Aaron, a firefighter, at the bar where she worked and within six weeks had decided that he was meet-the kid material. But impulsive choices were kind of the norm for Maria Santiago. Even Bruto the chupacabra puppy had given them an isn’t this too soon? look as they’d left the apartment tonight.

For about a month, Mom and Aaron had lied about him coming over to “fix the TV” or “drop off a book” or “look for a stray neighborhood dog” (Pao’s personal favorite excuse). Last week her mom had finally come clean, and now they all had to play nice. At first, Pao had been offended by the lying—she was almost thirteen, she could handle the truth!—but an hour into forced bonding, she found herself wishing Aaron really was just the guy “redoing the shower grout.”

The boys in the arcade were fully enthralled by Ghost Hunter 3 at this point. The screen showed one of those cheesy paranormal activity videos, all shaky camera and blown-out colors and vague, pixelated shapes.

Pao remembered a time when it would have been her and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, crowded around the machine. Dante would have been effortlessly good, Emma hilariously bad, and Pao in the back, refusing to play, mocking people for believing in ghosts.

But she’d barely spoken to Emma in two months. And Pao and Dante were pretending things were normal between them . . . but then why had she told her mom that he was too busy to tag along tonight when he really wasn’t?

Not even science held her in the same thrall these days. Her microscope lay unused on the dusty top shelf of her closet. And she hadn’t bothered entering the fall science fair at school.

Everything had changed. And Pao didn’t know how to change it back.

“Ooh, that game looks scary!” Aaron said, snapping Pao out of her moody thoughts. “I’m not sure I could play it. Probably give me nightmares.”

This time, Pao really, really couldn’t help it. The scoff took over. It used her body as an unwilling host, like rabies in the brain of a raccoon, and a pfft sound escaped her lips. All Pao could do was hope no one heard it. But of course, her mom had laser-focused on her the moment Aaron had said nightmares.

And in terms of death glares, La Llorona had nothing on Pao’s mom.

She smiled at Pao, a kind of snarly smile, all her teeth showing. A don’t screw this up or I’ll take away that phone you just got kind of smile. “Paola, why don’t you tell Aaron what you’re working on in school?”

“Invisibility,” Pao said after a beat, pulling a pepperoni off her pizza and rolling it up into a greasy little tube. Her mom hated when she did that but wouldn’t dare say anything in front of “company.”

“Sounds pretty advanced for seventh grade!” Aaron said earnestly. His blond hair fell into his eyes, and he pushed it back. His face was that healthy-looking kind of tan that white people get when they go skiing or something. Pao wanted to wipe pepperoni grease on it.

“It’s more of a social experiment than a scientific one,” Pao clarified, watching her mother’s eyes narrow even more. “You know, camouflage, deflection, that sort of thing. Luckily, I’m getting plenty of practice at home.”

Pao had always distrusted people who smiled all the time, and Aaron’s ski-catalog grin never faltered. She matched it with something akin to a grimace, knowing she’d pay for the comment later but not caring.

“Well, middle school is a tough time,” he said, leaning down to look her in the eye. “I’m sure things will get better. Hey, only a year and a half until high school, right!” “Yeah,” Pao said. “Because high school is historically easy on freaks.” “Mija, you’re not a freak,” her mom said, waving a hand. “You’re just advanced for your age—the other kids are probably jealous.”

Pao would definitely had rolled her eyes if her mom hadn’t snapped her head to look across the room right at that moment.

“Oh! Isn’t that Emma?” She waved, not noticing that her only child was ready to sink into the floor. “Emma! ¡Mija! Over here!”

It was noisy, and Emma was sitting at a crowded table with at least five kids from school. Pao kept her eyes on her plate and hoped that Emma didn’t hear her name being called.

“Who are those kids she’s hanging out with?” Mom asked, craning her neck. “They sure have . . . interesting hair!”

Emma’s new friends dyed their hair in bright colors and wore jean jackets with patches and pins all over them. They kept up with current events and sometimes participated in protests. Across Pizza Pete’s, they all laughed loudly at something, and Pao glanced up reflexively, just for a second. Emma didn’t look their way.

“The Rainbow Rogues,” Pao muttered, trying not to sound sarcastic.

It didn’t matter anyway. Her mom was back to talking to Aaron, and Pao was back to being invisible.

Her eyes drifted over to where Emma’s blondish-brown hair (complete with a new purple streak) was just visible over the tall back of her seat.

In September, when Emma had decided to come out to her parents, Pao had been with her—via speaker phone—for moral support. Emma had been nervous, but after all the worry and wondering, her parents had been nothing but supportive. Mrs. Lockwood had even bought a LOVE IS LOVE sticker for their SUV.

Emma had confessed her secret to Pao just a week after they’d returned from the rift, and together they’d plotted the best way to tell her parents. After Emma did it, Pao was so proud of her best friend she’d thought her heart might burst. The next day, they’d eaten every flavor of frozen yogurt in one giant cup to celebrate.

Pao had known this meant Emma could finally stop hiding. At last she’d get to be her whole, shiny self for the world to see. Pao had even convinced her to go the first yearly meeting of the aforementioned Rainbow Rogues, Silver Springs Middle School’s LGBTQIA+ club.

They’d both been surprised by how many openly queer kids went to their school, and Emma had walked out bubbling with excitement and plans to go back.

But the more time they’d spent with the Rogues, the more out of place Pao had felt. There were plenty of kids in the club who weren’t ready to decide how they identified yet, and even kids who just called themselves “allies,” so it wasn’t her lack of specified queerness that made Pao feel left out.

It just seemed like most of the kids who were comfortable enough to be out at school were, for the lack of a better phrase, rich and white. Their parents drove them to and from the meetings in their fancy cars and sent them to school with organic lunches. They bought their kids unlimited poster board and, like, the nice markers in every color whenever they wanted to make protest signs.

Pao, with her bus pass and her subsidized lunch, couldn’t have the Rogues over to her small apartment or chip in for supplies. They never made her feel bad about those things, of course, but the way they were overly nice about them somehow made Pao feel even worse.

And then there was Emma, who was so focused on making sure Pao had a good time that sometimes Pao felt she was holding her back. There was no reason for Emma to be the odd one out. She fit in perfectly, and Pao wanted that for her.

So the next time Emma asked Pao to join in—they were protesting a new Starbucks going in across from a locally owned coffee shop—Pao had made up an excuse. After she did it enough times, Emma had stopped asking.

Pao knew it was normal, people growing apart. But that didn’t make it any less sad. She pushed her plate away, her appetite suddenly gone. “I have homework. Can we go home now?”

Aaron had just taken another slice of “meat medley.” The worst pizza variety ever. Sausage, ham, and pepperoni? What was it trying to prove?

Her mom opened her mouth, undoubtedly to chastise Pao for being rude, but before she could form the words, Pao’s drinking glass exploded in front of her, soaking her space-cat shirt in all thirteen types of soda she’d combined from the fountain. It left them a whole different kind of speechless than before, which Pao couldn’t help but enjoy just a little.

There were glass shards on her lap and all over Aaron’s slice of meat medley. Next to the glass, a quarter was spinning like a top. It must have come from one of the kids playing in the arcade.

After taking a second to recover from her shock (and to make sure Emma and her cool friends hadn’t seen), Pao glanced at her mother, who looked murderous.

“Come on!” Pao said. “You can’t possibly think this is my fault! It was a freak accident! Look!” She held up the quarter, which had just stopped spinning and fallen onto its side.

Tails, Pao noticed, then shook herself before she went down a probability and statistics hole.

Her mom, thankfully, had turned her withering glare onto the kids shrieking in front of Ghost Hunter 3. “Honestly, where are their parents?” she asked, looking at Aaron to check his reaction. When he nodded, she continued. “Throwing quarters around, breaking glasses? So irresponsible.”

Pao bit her tongue. Her mom had left her unsupervised (or in the care of their elderly neighbor, Señora Mata) for the greater part of her childhood. Now that Aaron was around, she was suddenly Suburban Susie of the PTA?

Not that she was judging her mom for how she’d raised Pao. It was hard to juggle a kid and a more-than-full-time job on your own. But why did her mom have to pretend to be someone else just to impress this guy?

Wasn’t that, like, the opposite of what she always told Pao to do?

As the two adults chattered about bad parenting, Pao tried to soak up the soda on her shirt with two paper napkins, only to end up leaving little bits of wet pulp all over it. She was almost too lost in thought to notice.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Pao said, standing up abruptly.

No one stopped her.

At least this nightmare is nearly over, she thought.

She should have known better by now than to think things like that.

About Tehlor Kay Mejia

Tehlor Kay Mejia is an Oregon native in love with the alpine meadows and evergreen forests of her home state, where she lives with her daughter. When she's not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is the author of Paola Santiago and the River of Tears and the YA fantasy novels We Set the Dark on Fire and We Unleash the Merciless Storm. Follow her on Twitter @tehlorkay.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

Note: this post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you.


3 winners will receive a finished copy of PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE FOREST OF NIGHTMARES, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Blog Tour / Review: Darren Shan's 'Archibald Lox' Volume 2: Archibald Lox and the Kidnapped Prince

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the ARCHIBALD LOX VOLUME 2: ARCHIBALD LOX AND THE KIDNAPPED PRINCE by Darren Shan Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the Books


Author: Darren Shan

Pub. Date: July 1, 2021

Publisher: Home of the Damned Ltd

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 144

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD

When a couple of assassins catch up with Archie, he's forced to flee to the Merge in search of friendship and safety.

As his skills develop, he opens a gateway to a long-forgotten crypt, where ancient secrets are revealed.

In a city of ice, the greatest gropsters of the six realms have assembled for a legendary Tourney, but a small group of plotters are more interested in kidnapping...

Book four of the Archibald Lox series by Darren Shan, the New York Times bestselling author of Cirque Du Freak and Lord Loss.

This is the first of three books in VOLUME TWO of the series.


Author: Darren Shan

Pub. Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher: Home of the Damned Ltd

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 197

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo

The Tourney has kicked off, and it's the biggest draw in the Merge.

Archie has a ticket to every match, and is soon caught up in the excitement.

But when a scheming king sets his sights on the young locksmith, all thoughts of grop are swiftly forgotten, and Archie might fight for his freedom and his sanity...

Book five of the Archibald Lox series by Darren Shan, the New York Times bestselling author of Cirque Du Freak and Lord Loss.

This is the second of three books in VOLUME TWO of the series.


Author: Darren Shan

Pub. Date: September 1, 2021

Publisher: Home of the Damned Ltd

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 211

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo

The kidnapping of a prince shocks the Merge and turns the Tourney on its head.

In New York, a desperate Archie and Inez play a cunning game of chess with the fates.

But if they are to force a checkmate, they must travel to the heart of an enemy empire and face down the rulers of a merciless realm...

Book six of the Archibald Lox series by Darren Shan, the New York Times bestselling author of Cirque Du Freak and Lord Loss.

This is the third of three books in VOLUME TWO of the series.

Grab Volume 1 Now!

Addicted to Media reviews

It's no secret that I'm a fan of this series. Click through below for links to all previous reviews.

Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds (Archibald Lox #1)

Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan (Archibald Lox #2)

Archibald Lox and the Vote of Alignment (Archibald Lox #3)

Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt (Archibald Lox #4)

Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds


I focus on the people crossing the bridge. Many are tourists. A few joggers pant past. Men and women in business suits march by, talking loudly on their phones. Foreign students on school trips.

And then I spot the girl.

She’s my sort of age, darker skinned than me. She has black hair cut short, and wide brown eyes, dressed in plain cream trousers and a red, long-sleeved top. Her boots are navy, scuffed and stained with dry mud.

She comes running along the bridge in a panic, stops near where I’m standing and starts grimacing bizarrely. Her nose twitches, her lips gurn, her eyebrows shoot up and down, her tongue flickers out and around.

At first I think she’s pulling faces at me and I open my mouth to snap at her, but then she throws a worried – no, terrified – glance backwards, and I realise she hasn’t even noticed me.

Two men are striding towards us. They’re dressed in white suits, white shoes and white ties. One is black, the other pale like me. Both are bald, except for a curved, thin strip of white hair that arcs across their foreheads, the tips of the crescents pointing towards the backs of their heads.

The pale man is holding a long, narrow knife, the sort they called a stiletto in the old days. The darker man is carrying an axe, swinging it through the air in short, menacing strokes.

It’s clear that the men are chasing the girl and will kill her if they catch her. The girl gulps, then pulls more faces. She’s staring at the paving slabs. I want to cry out and warn her of the danger, but she’s obviously aware of the threat. I can’t understand why she isn’t fleeing, why she’s drawn to a halt and is wasting precious time pulling those ridiculous faces.

I think about intervening – I could tug the girl away from the onrushing men and help her escape – but I’m rigid with fear, breathing shallowly, eyes wide, shocked by what’s happening.

When the men are several metres away, a couple of slabs in the bridge shimmer and a hole yawns open. I think it’s a trick of the light, so I do a double take, but it’s definitely a hole, a gap where a moment before there had been solid stone.

With a victorious yelp, the girl throws herself into the hole. The men’s faces twist with rage and they pick up speed, but the girl yells something, and in an instant the slabs are back in place.

The hole is gone.

The bridge is solid again.

The girl has disappeared.

Darren Shan

Darren Shan is a globally bestselling author who broke onto the fantasy/horror scene with Cirque Du Freak in January 2000. He has published more than fifty books, for children and adults, including the 10-book Demonata series and 12-book Zom-B series. Cirque Du Freak was adapted into a major Hollywood movie and it was recently announced that the Electric Shadow Company and Fantastic Films have teamed up to adapt his Zom-B series for television. Shan’s books have sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, in 40 countries and 32 languages. He has topped the bestseller charts in the US, UK, Ireland, Japan, and elsewhere. He lives in a small village in Ireland, with his wife and children.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

Note: this post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you.

Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.

3 winners will receive ebooks of ARCHIBALD LOX VOLUME 2, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Saturday, 7 August 2021

Charlotte Nicole Davis's Incredible Debut 'The Good Luck Girls' | Audiobook Review ★★★★★

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis | Audiobook Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

How do I love this book? Let me count the ways.

One. The narrator Jeanette Illidge is absolutely brilliant, capturing each of the many characters' voices with individuality and distinction.

Two. This is a steampunkish, speculative, fantastical novel set in an alternative Wild West where dustbloods, whose shadows were torn from them generations ago, remain indentured and vulnerable to being sold into sexual servitude.

Three. It's a great adventure story where five girls embark of a journey of escape across a landscape littered with 'vengeants' (think savage spectres) and mercenaries known as 'raveners'. Their ultimate goal is to remove their delicate yet brutal neck tattoos that define them as Welcome Girls.

Four. That cover is exquisite as is the US cover.

Five. Diversity. This is a book about five girls who get to head a Western adventure and engage in capers from chases to bank heists. Main character Aster is a seventeen-year-old, dark skinned, formidable young woman who will do anything to protect her sister Clem. The book also features the sweetest queer couple who I will stan for the rest of time.

Six. Despite the high capers, the book deals with several heavy issues with trigger warnings for rape, sexual slavery and discussion of suicide.

Seven. The sequel comes out on 10 August 2021 and I cannot wait.

I give The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of YA, steampunk and kick-ass girls.


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Saturday, 17 July 2021

Camryn Garrett's 'Full Disclosure': A Novel About an HIV Positive Teen ★★★☆☆

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

This is a book that battled with its desire to write portray an HIV positive teen in an accepting, affirmative manner while simultaneously realising that a book without conflict would be too neatly wrapped up. So the drama is created by introducing a blackmail plot with an extremely underdeveloped antagonist. We learn nothing about why this character would make the moral decisions he makes.

Full Disclosure is a book about an HIV positive student who has to move schools after her HIV status is discovered and her life made an bearable. There is so much to love about this book including the information that we learn about living with HIV, the normalisation of the experience, the idea that you can live a full life with HIV and that there are precautions you can take to ensure that the disease isn't passed along to those around you.

There are two things that somewhat marred another fantastic diverse interesting novel. The first is that the main character is awful. She creates drama with there is none, she treats her friends terribly and she is a remarkably selfish young woman. The second is that despite the main character being awful there is a rather lovely but unlikely scenario that her friends and her boyfriend are all fabulously accepting of her HIV status when she tells them and they offer her unconditional support. It simply didn't seem statistically probable that everyone would've been so accepting, the more likely scenario being that her friends would've been burnt by her terrible behaviour and somehow hit back at her.

I am a terrible fiction writer. I know this because when I was 15 we had to write a novel for school. I wrote a story about a girl who has a car accident and while she recovers in hospital, her estranged parents reunite and fix their marriage. My teacher told me it was the worst book she had ever read. She said it was a fantastical story and that life just didn't work like that. That's how I felt about this novel.

As mentioned in the intro, there is a thread throughout the novel of the main character being threatened by letters to out her HIV status if she doesn't leave her boyfriend. I thought the theme was very much under-developed and the resolution very dissatisfactory. Although, even though we didn't get to know the perpetrator's motives, his reaction was the most likely in the novel. People suck in real life.

I can see what the author was trying to do. She was trying to create an HIV story that reflected the positivity of having an HIV experience rather than simply focusing on the negativity and the scary things. And I think there could have been ways to express that positivity and to express how HIV positive people can show agency and competency in the management of their condition, without creating a fairytale where everybody was supportive except for the evil jealous boy next door.

I give Full Disclosure an okay three out of five stars.



Sunday, 11 July 2021

Darren Shan's 'Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt' (Archibald Lox #4) ★★★★☆

Darren Shan's Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt | Book Review| Superior Young Adult Fiction

Through the darkness of the past 15 months, one good thing has been introduced to the world: Darren Shan's Archibald Lox series. With stunning covers and equally enticing storylines, this series has been a welcome escape from the real world and is now entering its second volume. In the Missing Princess trilogy, young Londoner Archie discovered the Merge, a whole new world where murdered people go when they die. He also discovered that he was a natural, highly-skilled locksmith, able to unlock portals both to the Merge and within it. Armed with his new skills, Archie becomes involved in a quest to save the Merge from certain destruction.

That should have been the end of it but it clearly wasn't. Welcome to the next story in the Archibald Lox adventures.

When Archie's old nemeses Orlan Stiletto and Argate Axe catch up with him in London, Archie escapes to the Merge once again and travels through it to find himself in a cold and wintery Moscow. With the assassins close on his heels, Archie is rescued by none other than King Hugo, a Merge royal with a love of motorbiking and the Born, the world we know as our own.

Hugo reunites Archie with his old friend Inez, a skilled artisan in her own right, and Cal, former protector to King Lloyd of the Diamond realm of Merge and now Sapphire resident. Hugo, Inez and Cal are about to embark on a new quest in the Merge - one I shall keep secret for fear of spoilers - and they invite Archie to join them again. How can our locksmith possibly refuse?

So the friends return to Cornan, location of their final adventures in the Missing Princess trilogy and they prepare for the Grop tournament of their lives. In the meantime, Archie will hone his already-impressive locksmith skills and discover a secret that has been hidden for 500 years.

Darren Shan's Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt | Book Review| Superior Young Adult FictionArchibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt is the first book in the second volume of the Archibald Lox series. It starts off a little slowly but really speeds up once Archie makes his big discovery and I suspect the action is going to continue apace into the second and third books of the trilogy. With every page, author Darren Shan weaves a richer and more colourful world in the Merge and he's expanded those possibilities even more in the Forgotten Crypt.

What Shan has done with this series is so interesting. Each book is short, at an average of 200 pages each, aimed at young readers and adults like me who've developed the attention span of a goldfish during the pandemic. In turn, each trilogy forms one story and will be combined into a single volume for readers who prefer a meatier volume.

Once again, Liam Fitzgerald has designed the cover and it's exquisite. I think these might be my favourite series of covers of all time.

Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt is the 500th book I've read since I picked up a book about a boy wizard in 2005 and started reading fiction again. I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate this milestone with any other book and I give it an excellent four out of five stars. Recommended to reluctant readers and anyone else seeking an escape to surreal and magical worlds.


An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided for the purposes of this review. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me.

Support local bookshops and visit the Addicted to Media YA Fiction Bookshop to see my recommendations. All links and widgets in this post are affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you.


© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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