Strange Star

strange-star

Strange Star was written by Emma Carroll and first published in 2016. It is middle grade novel which presents a fantastical account of how Mary Shelley found the inspiration to write Frankenstein. The novel stands alone and so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

June, 1816. The year that a bright new star appears in the sky, drawing a long tail behind it. Lord Byron invites four esteemed guests to Villa Diodati on the shore of Lake Geneva for an evening of ghost stories to chill the blood. For his young servant, Felix, it is an exciting night. Not only is it a good time to prove he is worthy of being Byron’s footman but he can also listen to tales told by some of the greatest thinkers in England.

Yet as darkness falls and a storm begins, there comes a frantic knocking at the door. Felix reluctantly answers it to find the body of a girl on the doorstep. Although Dr Polidori declares her dead, Mary Shelley is not prepared to give up on her. Through sheer force of will she manages to revive the girl, and the girl immediately accuses her of having kidnapped her younger sister. Horrified at the accusation, Mary denies any wrong doing, but the girl has a terrible story to tell.

As Felix and Mary listen, the girl – named Lizzie – tells a terrifying story of her own. One that began the previous winter in a small English village. It is a tale of freak storms and stolen livestock. Impossible science and the possibility of curing death itself. Although Mary is not sure if she believes Lizzie, her story is truly more terrible than anything that the writers could have dreamed of.

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Lumière

Lumiere

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Lumière, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Lumière was written by Jacqueline E. Garlick and first published in 2015. It is a science-fiction/fantasy novel that focuses on a teenage girl who is searching for a machine that will cure her debilitating seizures. The story is the first book in The Illumination Paradox series and is followed by Noir (2015).

Eyelet Elsworth lives in a world where witches are punished by death and the mentally ill are treated like monsters. Afflicted with seizures since childhood, her parents have gone to great lengths to hide her condition from the world to prevent their daughter from living out her days imprisoned in an asylum. Her father tries to develop a machine called the Illuminator that will cure her, however he dies before it can be completed. On the same day, a brilliant flash lights up the sky and the sun fails to rise again.

Over the years that follow, Eyelet dreams of completing her father’s work. When her mother is executed for witchcraft, she leaves one item in her daughter’s care – a glowing pendant that holds the ability to save everyone. With pendant in hand, Eyelet sets off in search of her father’s stolen Illuminator but discovers it just in time to see it being stolen.

Hitching a ride on the back of his carriage, Eyelet soon finds herself stranded in a subterranean mansion in the woods. Unable to escape due to the encroaching deadly vapours, she reluctantly finds herself in the care of the thief – a disfigured youth by the name of Urlick Babbit. Although Urlick is sullen and his house is full of secrets, Eyelet soon realises that she needs to work with him if she is ever to get the machine operational. What she doesn’t know is that the true purpose of the device is more terrible than she could ever have imagined…

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Sweet Unrest

Sweet Unrest

This is another unplanned review. It turns out that I picked up an ARC of its sequel on Netgalley the other day so figured that it was probably best to take a little look at this one first!

Sweet Unrest was written by Lisa Maxwell and first published in 2014. It’s a Southern Gothic novel which focuses on a teenage girl discovering the source of her strange dreams. The book forms the first part of the Sweet Unrest series and is followed by Gathering Deep (2015).

Lucy Aimes never wanted to move to New Orleans. She had her life pretty much figured out and her parents’ sudden decision to move south to help excavate an old plantation really squashed her dream to become a professional photographer. Lucy only came with her parents on one condition – if she’s good and helpful they will allow her to move back to Chicago after the Summer holiday.

Yet the plantation has a strange effect on Lucy. She has always had strange dreams about drowning but now they are filled with strange places and people that she seems to know, despite having never met. Central to all these dreams is the handsome socialite Alex and his relationship with Armantine, a photographer’s assistant.

When Lucy meets a Voodoo priestess by the name of Mama Legba, she comes to learn that dreams are just memories of previous lives. It is not long before she starts seeing Alex around the plantation and realises that his lingering presence is a mystery that can only be solved in her dreams. Yet focusing on the past is dangerous. By focusing on Armantine’s life, she could put her own and any future existences in jeopardy.

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Mortlock

Mortlock

Mortlock was first published in 2010 and was the debut novel of Jon Mayhew. It was the first of The Mortlock Books and was followed by The Demon Collector (2011) and The Bonehill Curse (2012). Although all three novels share a setting and some background characters, they are stand-alone stories and can therefore be enjoyed in any order.

In 1820, three men – Edwin Chrimes, Thurlough Corvis and Sebastian Mortlock – journeyed deep into the jungles of Abyssinia in search of the Amarant, a legendary flower which was rumoured to have power over life and death. Although they succeed in finding the plant, they realise that using it would come at a horrible price and swear an oath that none of them will ever take it for themselves.

Thirty-four years passed and Chrimes has since made a living for himself as a stage magician under the name of the Great Cardamom. He has also become the guardian of an orphan named Josie, who acts as his knife-throwing assistant. The two of them live in relative comfort until one evening when three women, claiming to be Chrimes’s Aunts, appear on his doorstep.

As Chrimes is suddenly taken ill, Josie comes to realise that the Aunts are not all that they seem. There is something unnatural about them and they are fixated on retrieving the Amarant for their master. As Chrimes finally succumbs to his illness, he manages to impart a final request on Josie. To unite with her twin brother – a boy that she never knew existed – and destroy the Amarant forever.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 4-6

A Series of Unfortunate Events 4-6

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my review of these novels [here].

I am sorry to say, dear reader, that you have stumbled upon this blog at precisely the wrong time. While other internet reviewers may be currently looking at novels that focus on talking animals or handsome princes, it is my unhappy duty to delve further into Lemony Snicket’s chronicles pertaining to the multitude of misfortunes to befall the Baudelaire Orphans. This review is likely to contain coupons, pinstriped suits, parsley soda and (most tragically of all) no chance of a happy ending. If you would rather read a review about talking animals or handsome princes, you have come to the wrong place and I advise that you return to Google and search for a more pleasant blog. If you continue reading, I advise that you prepare yourself for the very worst as I analyse the next three instalments of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to keep up that writing style for the rest of the review (sure is fun though). As you might have gleamed from the title, today I’m going to be looking at The Miserable Mill (2000), The Austere Academy (2000) and The Ersatz Elevator (2001). These are novels #4-6 of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. They were preceded by The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999) and The Wide Window (2000) and followed by The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006).

The novels follow the continuing adventures of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire as they are shunted between different guardians, all the while trying to avoid being captured by the evil Count Olaf. The children have inherited a vast fortune after their parents died in a fire (though can’t claim it until Violet turns eighteen). Olaf is intent on stealing their fortune and is prepared to kill anyone or adopt any disguise in order to do so.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 1-3

A Series of Unfortunate Events 1-3

Although I am not going to argue that A Series of Unfortunate Events is in any way aimed at a teenage audience, I’ve decided to make it the subject of today’s review. As I noted in my FAQ, I will also occasionally consider books for a younger market if I feel that they have the ability to appeal to older readers. I think that this series more than fits that criterion.

A Series of Unfortunate Events was written by Lemony Snicket (pen name for the author Daniel Handler) and is a fascinating series for many reasons. The first novel, The Bad Beginning, was original published in 1999 but has been rereleased in a number of different special editions since then. It was rapidly followed by twelve sequels – The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Miserable Mill (2000), The Austere Academy (2000), The Ersatz Elevator (2001), The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006). Many short supplementary novels have also been published in order to further flesh out the story, though I’m not going to talk about them (if you wish to learn more, Wikipedia is your friend). For the purpose of this review, I am only going to focus on the first three novels only.

The series are told by Lemony Snicket himself, an unidentified individual who has been researching the tragic story of the Baudelaire siblings. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire were three ordinary children whose lives were thrown into disarray when their parents were suddenly killed in a terrible house fire. Their parents left to their children an enormous inheritance and stated in their will that they wanted their children to live with a relative until Violet turned eighteen and was able to claim it.

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