#Review: Before I Found You by Daisy White #Mystery #Thriller #CrimeFiction

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the latest instalment in the Ruby Baker novels, Before I Found You. Picking up a few months after Before I Left leaves off Ruby, Mary, and Johnnie are back it again hitting the parties and using the salon to solve mysteries. Perfectly balanced between the 60s party scene and a twisty mystery, this is the perfect read for someone who likes their crime a little on the lighter side.

foundTitle: Before I Found You

Author: Daisy White 

Publisher: Joffe Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Period Fiction, Murder Mystery, Thriller

Themes: Family, friendship, child abuse, murder, postpartum depression

Features: Glossary of terms

My Rating: 4/ 5


From Goodreads…

Do you love gripping mysteries? Then discover Ruby Baker, a young woman with a talent for uncovering the truth.

A child found alone on the beach, shouting into the waves.

A mother who served ten years for a crime she says she didn’t commit.

Ruby Baker is back with another seaside mystery. When she and her friends rescue a child from the beach in a storm, police are baffled. Nobody has reported a child missing, and the girl seems so traumatised that she is unable to speak.

In Johnny’s hairdressing salon, the notorious Beverly Collins makes an appointment with Ruby, but it soon becomes clear the woman wants more than a haircut.

Beverly has just been released from Holloway Prison after serving ten years for child cruelty. The body of her missing daughter was never found, but Beverly insists she is innocent,and she wants Ruby Baker’s Investigation Bureau to prove it.

This isn’t going to be an easy investigation. Opinion is divided on Beverly’s innocence. Reporters Kenny and James are keen to uncover a big story, while Ruby’s best friend, Mary, is distracted and struggling to deal with motherhood.

As Ruby tries to unravel the past, she discovers that Beverly Collins’ release seems to have triggered a bizarre chain of events.

Was she really framed, and if so, where is her daughter Ella now? And who is the mystery girl on the beach?

My Review

I’m always nervous diving into sequels, especially when I loved the first book in a series. But, Daisy White doesn’t disappoint with the second instalment in the Ruby Baker mysteries. Right from the opening scenes I was drawn back into 1960s Brighton with the party scene, the fashion, and of course, the whole series of events surrounding Beverly Collins and her daughter. Just like the first novel, we are thrown right into the thick of things with the action kicking off in the first chapter and only getting more intense from there

I will say though, while this novel can certainly stand on it’s own, it is one that is best read in sequence as it frequently refers to events and people in the debut novel. Without reading the first book, the references to Ruby’s murders and Will’s involvement take a little time to become clear. But with that out of the way, the dynamic between the characters is engaging, realistic, and wonderful in it’s imperfection. I loved how Ruby is afraid of Will, how Johnnie has to deal with the realities of his ex, and how perfectly the mood of a tight-knit and highly judgemental community is portrayed.

Once again White takes on some heavy hitting issues including the illegality of homosexuality in the 60s and the risks that these individuals endured on a daily basis, the harsh reality of postpartum depression and how it effects everyone involved, the censure and judgement that accompanies being an unwed mother, as well as police corruption and human trafficking. However, these elements are balanced out with a touch of romance, gossip at the Salon, and some cracking fashion. There is just enough grit to turn your tummy, but not so much that you’re hesitant to turn the pages – which was a huge plus as I read this sucker late at night and would have had issues sleeping otherwise!

It was neat to see the threat against Mary and Ruby transfer from being external, to an internal one where the forces threatening to tear the girls apart were the darkest depths of their own selves. I definitely felt that more time was spent developing the girls back stories, and as a result I found myself starting to connect with them much more easily. I do hope, however, that we’ll get some more tidbits about Johnnie’s adventures in London and some morsels about Will as these were two areas that were kind of left off like loose ends. Fortunately though, this is shaping up to be an exciting series and I’m sure that more details will be revealed with each instalment.

And finally, I have to say that I adore the almost frenzied feeling of the plot. With so many instances and events taking place, and over such a great period of time, it was exciting to see them all come together in one final crescendo. Ella’s moment of triumph was entirely unexpected, as was the cliff hanger ending (pun intended!).

Would I recommend this book? Hells yes! Quick and gritty the Ruby Baker novels are shaping up to be some of my favourite period mysteries. The fashion sparks the imagination, the situation are real enough to be revolting, and they’re set not so far in the past as to be distant. I love the spunk and determination of the girls, and look forward to seeing what case the Ruby Baker Investigation Agency takes on next.

Many thanks to Daisy White and Joffe Books for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 


#Review: Ruins by Joshua Winning #YALit #Fantasy @JoshWinning @SentinelTrilogy

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing the second novel in Joshua Winning’s amazing Sentinel Trilogy, Ruins. I first reviewed Sentinel back in January, and genuinely loved it, but I am pleased to say that Ruins continues to set the bars even higher. Action packed and expertly crafted, this is a series that is sure to appeal to teens and adult readers alike.

ruinsTitle: Sentinel

Author: Joshua Winning 

Publisher: Peridot Press

Publication Date: May 18, 2015

Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction, Fantasy

Themes: Survival, Family, Apocalypse, Demons, Witchcraft

Features: N/A

My Rating: 5/ 5


From Goodreads…

Filled with monsters, magic and mystery, Ruins is the thrilling second instalment of the critically-acclaimed Sentinel Trilogy.

In his desperate search for answers about the Sentinels, an ancient society of demon hunters that his parents belonged to, fifteen-year-old Nicholas Hallow is tipped into a fresh nightmare of terrifying monsters – and even more sinister humans – which threaten to send the world spiralling into chaos. Can Nicholas track down the mysterious girl who holds the key to their fate?

My Review

I loved Ruins, even more than I loved Sentinel. It was so fast paced that I felt as though I blinked and the entire book had gone by. Although the first instalment in this series was absolutely outstanding, the Sentinel trilogy is proving to be one that just keeps getting better and better with every new addition.

As mentioned in my previous review, I was left with a fair few questions at the end of book one and almost all of them were answered right out of the gate in Ruins. We’re given more information about the Sentinel organization, who the Dark Prophets and the Trinity are, more about the Hallow family, and some juicy tidbits about Jessica and Isabel. As each piece of information is handed out, it felt as though puzzle pieces were falling into place and that a complete picture was being painted, even as new twists and turns were being presented.

I really loved the introduction of Rae’s character and the scenes that were written from her perspective. Her fear, anger, and vulnerability really shone through and I ended up feeling far more for her than I ever did Nicholas in either of the books. When contrasted against Nicholas’ curiosity and unending support system, Rae’s presence creates both tension and balance in what can only be described as an already precarious situation.

I have to say though, that I am a little hesitant to get attached to Rae! I mean, at times it feels like Mr. Winning gave George R. R. Martin some license with his books, because seriously! So many of my favourite characters have received the chop at the most inopportune (read dramatic and gut wrenching) moments. However, these loses are balanced out by the introduction of new and exciting characters like Nale and Dawn who bring new skills and facets to the story. I am excited to see where the arc involving Nicholas, Dawn and Rae is going as the start thus far has given me high hopes for the final instalment.

Once again, Winning impress with his historical accuracy on some of our more obscure practices from the past. That part of me that still clings to my degree in history of the book was delighted by the mention of anthropodermic books (books bound in human skin), especially since it was a rather rare and macabre practice to bind copies of the judicial proceedings of criminals in their own skin. This detail was rather poetic given the timing and setting in which it was brought up. I was equally impressed with the mention of the Vikings and their belief in Norns, and the depth of detail with regards to the witch trials that took place in Bury St. Edmunds in the 1600s. And while these details might slip past some younger readers who are simply following the action, they lend a degree of authenticity to a tale that might otherwise be read strictly as fantasy.

Finally, I was pleased to see Ruins stick to the shorter length established in Sentinel. At just over 300 pages, Ruins remains visually approachable for those reluctant readers scared away by behemoth tombs. Now add in the fact that the chapters are fast paced, frequently shift perspective, and the tactful use of dialogue to relay essential information as opposed to exposition and you have a composition that is delightfully easy to follow.

Would I recommend this book? In a heart beat! I was involve with Sentinel and absolutely blown away by Ruins. So much so that I have already given my copies to our school library so that my students have the chance to enjoy it as much as I did. Winning’s books are well written, original, and absolutely riveting. And the best part is that Witchpin is set to come out this summer – I simply can’t wait to see how this trilogy ends!

Many thanks to Joshua Winning for providing paperback copies of both Sentinel and Ruins in exchange for an honest review. 

#Review – The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How To Draw by Mark Crilley #Nonfiction #GraphicNovel

Today I am delighted to take on another new adventure, nonfiction! Admittedly, I am sticking with YA and graphic novels, but what better way to teach art and techniques than through an inherently artistic format? The Drawing Lesson is sure to appeal to aspiring artists of all ages, but is definitely one that I’ll be chasing down for my school library.

drawingTitle: The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel The Teaches You How to Draw

Author: Mark Crilley

Publisher: Watson-Guptill

Publication Date: July 5, 2016

Genre: Nonfiction, Comics, Graphic Novel

Themes: Drawing, Art, Mentorship, Coming of Age

Features: N/A

My Rating: 5/ 5


From Goodreads…

An instructional art book in narrative graphic novel form that uses the tale of one aspiring young artist and his reluctant mentor to impart easy-to-follow lessons on the fundamentals of drawing.

With over 10 million views and growing, Mark Crilley’s YouTube drawing instruction videos have an enormous worldwide legion of fans and have been featured on sites such as Yahoo News and Reddit. In addition, Crilley is an accomplished graphic novelist. Now for the first time, he pairs both strengths resulting in a one-of-a-kind art instruction experience. Through the story of aspiring, overeager young artist-in-the-making David and his helpful, but often flustered mentor, Becky, readers gain a grounding in the basics of drawing and rendering, along with a helping of laughs and poignant entertainment. Each lesson builds off the previous, with sidebars at the end of each chapter that direct readers to tackle some of the very same drawing exercises that David has just completed. The sequential art format provides the perfect vehicle for these step-by-step lessons, and the Pixar-esque approach to the surrounding characters and story ensures an enjoyable experience that readers will want to revisit again and again.

My Review

I don’t know where to begin with this book, it’s so dang good! Everything from the colour and composition, to the lessons, and the underlying storylines was absolutely outstanding. It captures a child’s passion and drive perfectly, while simultaneously embodying what it means to be a mentor and the immense power and responsibility that comes with stepping into that role.

I loved how the traditional structure of an informative text was maintained, while all of the information was translated into comics format. The sepia ton, lose pencil lines, and simple characters and compositions really allowed for the focus to remain on the concepts being conveyed. And what better way to discuss complex concepts such as composition, perspective, and blocking than to show it rather than tell it. I loved too, how it constantly encouraged openness, observant, self critique, and the willingness to make mistakes and constantly improve.

Most importantly though, I love ow it hammers home that are is an individual pursuit and not a competition. While this message might not be as important to adult readers, for younger readers this is such and important point! Given that personal pursuits such as music and art are constantly graded and ranked in school settings, having an impartial voice saying that your efforts are enough, and that your personal improvement is enough, is so essential that it hurts.

What was really cool though, was how all of the life lessons that were woven into the art instruction were brought together at the end. I loved the incorporation of healthy parameters between mentors/ mentees, and especially the moment when David becomes a mentor himself. I does a really wonderful job of speaking to the intelligence, curiosity and emotional capacity of children – and doesn’t pull any punches when some of those adult decisions and responsibilities get uncomfortable.

Finally, lets talk about those little mini lessons and activities at the end of every chapter. not only did they give a guided chance for readers to incorporate the teachings of the chapter, they are vague enough that these activities can be as simple or as complicated as each artist would like. I particularly liked the exercises on reflected light and squinting to create a composition where less is more.

Would I recommend this book? There are not enough affirmatives in my vocabulary for this one! I have already put in an order for my school library, and I am hoping to convince administration that it would be an ideal textbook for our grade 4, 5 and 6 art classes. Whether you’re an adult looking to get into art, or you’re looking for books to feed the imagination of a budding young artist, this is one is a must have.


#BlogTour #Review – The Torcian Chronicles: Defiance @rararesources @PJReed_author

Torcian Chronicle

Today I am delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for P. J. Reed’s epic fantasy The Torsion Chronicles: Defiance. Filled with rich imagery and rag-tag cast of characters that come together to take on the impossible, this one will lave you rooting for the underdog and cheering at the most unexpected moments.


TorcianChronicles_CVR_LRGMesham sits dejectedly in a tiny garret above an inn, as the lands of Torcia fall to the magically-enhanced army of the infamous Mivirian Horde. One of the last surviving ancient warlocks of Torcia, Mesham knows he is marked for death.

The Torcian king knocks on Mesham’s door later that evening and offers him the chance of rejuvenation in return for a seemingly impossible mission into the heart of Mivir. Mesham reluctantly agrees, only to realise the evil of Mivir has spread to the very top of the Torcian government.

As Mesham undertakes his quest to complete the mission, he finds himself hunted by his king, by the mighty Torcian warbands, and by the Horde.

But he cannot fail, for the fate of Mesham’s beloved Torcia rests in his hands.

Purchase from Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2lDC4nR


It’s been a while since I read a solid, original fantasy that brought together kingdoms, loners, and unlikely heroes but this one certainly did the trick! I loved the premise of the lacklustre son, the exiled captain, and outcast warlock who’s been given a new lease on life having to come together against all odds. Their quest was not only exciting, but necessary, and though the concept of warlocks is not new their magic in this story was unique. In fact, Reed’s world building is complete and encompasses different peoples, places, threats and creatures – not once did I feel that there was a lack of detail. This isn’t one of those fantasies where you feel like you’re reading the same old stuff – it’s new, exciting, and undeniably fun.

I was surprised by Mesham’s loyalty and determination to complete his quest despite his knowledge of the king and the corruption running rampant in the kingdom. After all that he had suffered – the daily persecution, having to wear the arm bands, living in forced poverty, and the constant fear of his powers – I half expected him to break off on his own and have this amazing and epic adventure. But, this definitely made for a waaaay cooler story with lots of tension, drama, and unexpected twists.

I appreciated too, how power always came with a price. Whether this was Captain Sicam being sent into exile for speaking the truth, Mesham being physically and mentally drained after using his magic, the funnelling or trading of faulstan crystals and aweosung power as currency – all of it hammered home the true cost of things. And I loved how things were never perfect! Whether this was Mesham miscasting a spell, Shadral falling prey to self doubt, or the great womanizing Sicam ending up in the larder of demon. The frequent fallibility put this story on a relatable level where so many fantasies seem so perfect as to be unobtainable.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a few chapters to get used to the writing style for this one. Perhaps it’s because I spent so many years having that ‘less is more’ style of technical writing hammered into me that I notice when things are a touch more on the descriptive side. But, after a few chapters, and some pretty hefty advances in the action, I was so sucked in that I barely noticed and was hungry for more. There is a beautiful balance between world building and action, sorcery and sword play, and rarely time to let your mind wander. There is always something new and interesting going on, or little tidbits being revealed about each of the main characters.

Would I recommend this book? Oh, heck yes! It’s fun, exciting, and entirely unexpected. I am excited to see where the Torcian Chronicles will take us next, as I am sure the adventures will be even more intense! This one is sure to appeal to lovers of Tolkien, Lackey, McCaffrey and Zimmer Bradley.

Author Information 

PAM 1 (1)_pp

P.J. Reed – Writer of warlocks and other magical creatures.

P.J. Reed is a writer and poet from England. She holds a BAEd from Canterbury Christ Church University and an MA from Bradford University. She has been widely published in anthologies and collections.

P.J. Reed currently lives in Devon, with a handful of teenagers, one feral cat and a dog called Fizz.

Social Media Links 

Website – http://fantasyworlds.jigsy.com 

Twitter-  https://twitter.com/PJReed_author

Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/TheTorcianChronicles

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this tour, and to P. J. Reed for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Torcian Chronicles Full Banner


#Review – The Zodiac Legacy: Tiger Island by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and P. H. Marcondes #YALit #Comics #GraphicNovel

Today I am delighted to offer a review for another title that I read and reviewed for work, The Zodiac Legacy: Tiger Island. This is the first instalment in a relatively new series by the legendary Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, and is most definitely a graphic novel created for YA readers. It’s great to see Stan Lee still creating, and to engage with some exciting new comics characters!

zodiacTitle: The Zodiac Legacy: Tiger Island

Author: Stan Lee and Stuart Moore

Illustrated ByP. H. Marcondes

Publisher: Papercutz

Publication Date: September 29, 2015

Genre: YA Fiction, Comics, Graphic Novel

Themes: Friendship, Loyalty, Good vs. Evil, Superheroes, Superpowers

Features: N/A

My Rating: 3.5/ 5


From Goodreads…

When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-American teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He’ll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries, and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac.

My Review

This is another title that I checked out from the public library to read and review for work, as we need a stronger collection of comics and graphic novels in our school library. And while I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, there were a number of things that just didn’t sit right – especially when looking at gendered representations and stereotypes. Ultimately, I was really torn in giving this book a 3.5 because 1) I adore Stan Lee and 2) there is so much that is, and could be, amazing.

As the start to a new series, the introduction is absolutely ace. The backstory is clear and engaging, each character is presented with their powers and stories being clearly defined, and the teams of good vs. evil have a obvious distinction in age, style, and appearance. What’s better yet, is that with such a broad cast of characters, is then whenever a character re-enters the story, their powers and association are included – which acts as a handy little sign-post to help readers keep track of who’s who.

The vocabulary too, is very youth friendly. Whenever complex words and concepts are introduced they are always accompanied by an explanation or definition. Regardless of whether this book is being read by teens or adults, this format helps to promote the expansion of vocabulary, and indeed a greta number of the words presented even appear on the American SATs!

The subject matter also reflects a respect for YA readers maturity levels and ability to comprehend and engage with complex concepts. Tiger Island tackles some heavy hitters such as race and ethnicity, the judgement and appearance of blended families, the emotional challenges of immigration, emotionally distant parents and/ or unreasonable expectations on teens, and even the vulnerable need that young adults have for their family and parents after they have struck out on their own. All of these issues were handled with a tact and diplomacy that never once trivialized the subjects, and often prompted readers to consider their own situations, behaviours, and societal norms.

Marcondes’ art work is absolutely outstanding as well. With the cast of the young Vanguards taking on a very Archie-esque appearance with clean lines, bold colours, and ambiguously relatable appearances. Kim is blonde like Betty, Steven is like Archie, and so on and so forth. The Zodiacs are equally distinct in their appearance, featuring more complicated line work and costumes, a darker colour palette, and more mature bodies and often highly sexualized depictions of the female characters. But, the colours are engaging, the layout easy to follow, and the mood is clearly defined from moment to moment which creates an awesome reading experience.

Where I struggled the most was with the stereotyping and gendering of characters. For example, with the Zodiacs the Snake/ Monkey dichotomy was really difficult to read through – with the female Snake sporting the classic comics tit-window, and preferring to be cunning and use her feminine wiles to achieve her goals whilst the very male Monkey shows a district lack of intellect and prefers to use brute force to achieve his objectives. This division of male/ female roles extends to all characters with female characters taking on ‘softer’ roles and powers such as being able to move people our of harms way, screaming really loud (really?), and playing the nurse or saviour while the male characters revolve around diving in head first, brute strength, and their fighting prowess. Even in the leadership roles, the female characters are subjugated – as Jasmine is meant to the leader as she is the Dragon of her team, yet young Steven takes centre stage. And while there is an even split in male/ female characters, and it’s clear that the creators have been intentional in creating a diverse cast, the reliance on gender stereotypes to carry the story came across a trite, common, and unoriginal.

Ultimately, I am left with mixed feelings on this one! It is beautifully crafted, well organized, and offers a bounty of visual and textual aids to readers make their way through the story. The art is clean and simple, and the traditional reading pattern makes this text easy to follow for both seasoned and emergent comics readers. The storyline is interesting, and it’s clear that there is lots of action to come, which promises an exciting series. But, and this is a giant but, I feel that the character construction falls back on the misogynist structures that gave the comics industry a bad rap in the first place!

Would I recommend this book? After all I’ve said above, the answer is still a yes. I think that young readers will be interested in the storyline and able to relate to the characters. I think too, that it is an excellent tool to start conversations about gender stereotyping and how to combat it. This one where I would say read it and judge for yourself.