The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen (ARC Review)

The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen

About the author

Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer that is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until then, she will write about fairy tales, monsters, magic and mythology because that’s the next best thing. She is the author of The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.

Blurb

In the heart of Venice, a woman is sacrificed to a forgotten god, sparking a mystery lost for thousands of years.

Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.

Penelope has spent her entire life trying to ignore the unexplainable and magical history of Atlantis, but when she meets the enigmatic Alexis Donato, everything she believes will be challenged. Little does she know, Alexis has spent the last three years doing his best to sabotage Penelope’s career so doesn’t learn the truth—Atlantis had seven magicians who survived, and who he has a duty to protect.

As Alexis draws her into the darkly, seductive world of magic and history, Penelope will have to use her heart as well as her head if she is to find the answers she seeks. 

With the new MOSE system due to come online, and Carnivale exploding around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to stop the killer and prevent dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea.

Review

Thank you to NetGalley and BHC Press for granting me an advanced copy of this book for an honest review.

I was so happy that my request on NetGalley was granted for this book and a couple of days ago I started the book and to be honest finished it in a matter of hours, I simply could not put it down. Even though the book has not been published yet I am desperate for the sequel to be published.

I found the story to immediately hook me in and wanted to keep reading, the idea of a forgotten language and god suddenly arising after thousands of years was fascinating. I also thoroughly enjoyed the idea of magicians existing in the world for thousands of years hidden from mankind but one human has managed to get through to them and that person is Dr Penelope Bryne.

Penelope has always loved the mystery of Atlantis and even though people make fun of her she never gives up trying to find it and prove that it exists. I loved her drive and passion in the book, she is a massively strong character but also has her weaknesses but she knows how to control this using her yoga and meditation practises. I have never had much time for yoga but reading this book has made me want to try it again.

The setting of the book was beautifully chosen, what better place to choose than Venice? I would love to visit Venice because it always strikes me as a magical place especially when Carnivale is taking place. I hope in the next books Venice will feature heavily and we get to see more of the catacombs and hidden parts of Venice.

The seven magicians were brilliant as they all have their own individual characters which comes through their magic. So each magician engages their magic differently depending on how their magic is formed and created. They all reminded me of Greek Gods and by their descriptions they look like Greek Gods as well. Although they also seem like teenagers when left unattended by a responsible person for too long. All in all it seems like a fun place to be when they are all playing around.

I loved this book so much I have actually pre-ordered the hardback of the book to read again and hopefully one day will have a hardback sequel to add to the collection. I highly recommend this book to fantasy and history lovers. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons and cannot wait to read it again.

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Review)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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About the author

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Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. He studied law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson was against the Presbyterianism of both Edinburgh’s professional classes and his devout parents, but the influence of Calvinism started his fascination with evil. After much travelling Stevenson eventually settled in Samoa with his wife, he passed away at the age of 44.

Blurb

Published as ‘shilling shocker’ in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the popular idea of the split personality. Set in a hellish, fog-bound London, the story of outwardly respectable Dr Jekyll, who unleashes his deepest cruelties and most murderous instincts when he transformed into sinister Edward Hyde, is a Gothic masterpiece and a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

This edition also includes Stevenson’s sinister story ‘The Bottle Imp’.

Review

This is another book I am ashamed to say I have never read and just recently I bought a lovely little edition from Waterstones and it has been sat on my TBR pile ever since. I decided it would be a good book to discover Robert Louis Stevenson’s work as I have never read any of his work before.

The first and main story is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I went into it with high hopes, however it quickly started to disappoint. Mr Utterson the lawyer and good friend of Dr Jekyll is a perfect gentleman and shows the reader that you would be blessed to consider him your friend. Mr Utterson in fact was my favourite character and he was probably the only reason I kept reading. Mr Hyde was also a good character, he was bad to the bone and showed a man with no morals to guide him or conscience, he was happy with his actions, showed no remorse and was dangerous to all around him.

Dr Jekyll is the character which I disliked greatly! He was weak and pathetic he had bad desires within him and a perverted mind that lay hidden because of his status in society and his title. We have no idea what horrors he performed in his past but they are hinted at, now due to getting older the desires are still there but he can not act upon them without losing everything or facing the gallows. Then Mr Hyde comes along, Mr Hyde is Jekyll’s answer to everything, Hyde does all the horrors and faces the gallows and Jekyll remains the good Dr. In my opinion Jekyll is evil, he just does not show it.

Jekyll tries to reform himself but this soon fails and Hyde starts to take over. Hyde was always going to take over because Jekyll is weak but also enjoys what Hyde does, if he was truly horrified and repulsed by Hyde’s actions he would have beaten Hyde and got his life back. Jekyll did not deserve the life he had or the dedicated friends like Mr Utterson in my opinion because he was as guilty as Mr Hyde.

This story annoyed me greatly because Dr Jekyll is shown in a light where the reader should feel sorry for him but I disagree with that. Dr Jekyll was weak and evil and in my opinion worse than Mr Hyde because he had the power to stop Hyde but did not. This story on its own would have only got 2 Dragons from me.

The second story in this book is The Bottle Imp and that was my favourite out of the two. This story is about a magical imp that lives in a bottle and can grant you any wishes, however it comes with conditions that could leave the owner going to hell.

The story contains many topics greed, love, hopelessness, despair, faith, courage and much more. I really enjoyed how Stevenson came up with the story and the morals behind it. Keawe is not a greedy man he does not ask for millions off the imp he asks for enough for his dream house that he can live in for the rest of his life and enjoy it. Kokua is the woman that Keawe falls in love with and risks everything for and she in turn risks everything for him. Their love is so strong they will do anything for each other. Others in this story do not show such selflessness and greed is the dominant trait in their characters. These two people are not greedy they just want to live happily together for the rest of their lives, but can they?

A real love story that was beautiful to read and not too long. I gave this one 4 out of 5 Dragons, so overall balancing the results I gave the book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman (Review)

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

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About the author

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Josh Malerman is an American novelist, short story writer and one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung. It was during touring with the band that he wrote his novels.

Blurb

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

Review

After hearing all the hype about the movie starring Sandra Bullock I was quite excited to see the book on Kindle for 99p. I always like to read the book of something before I see the movie and so I got reading straight away.

The book focuses mainly on Malorie from the time when the strange events start occurring to five years later when not much of mankind remains. Malorie has two young children to look after and try to make a better life for but she must first tackle the river whilst something follows them. As the three of them travel the long journey Malorie thinks about the past and the reader gets to see flashbacks.

Through the book Malorie becomes a strong independent woman because she has to; she has two children to look after and nobody to help her, all her friends are gone. She lives in fear of seeing the thing that drives everyone to madness and violence, this fear she has taught her children and trained them to develop their hearing so they can see using sound.

At first I loved this book and could not put it down but before long I found that it started to drag and at times I found it frustrating. I wanted to find out more about the creatures but the questions I had were never answered. I constantly wanted to know more detail and just found it lacking. It was an excellent horror story and the attic scene was by far the best but other elements in my opinion remained disappointing, there were times when an element could have been brilliant but it just felt like Malerman had given up or lacked experience to develop that element of the plot.

One element I found very unbelievable was what Malorie achieved straight after child birth, yes she had to, to survive but after all that trauma and blood loss I am not sure I believe the feats she accomplished and on so little food, whilst feeding two newborns. The part of the story I hated the most was what happened to Victor, that I really did not enjoy.

It was a good plot line, the idea of something we can not identify causing mankind to go mad, so at all times mankind must keep their eyes closed is excellent and a terrifying thought, even though we do not know what the creatures look like, or what they are, they are deadly. Without seeing them mankind has no way of fighting them, so I could not but wonder what hope is there for mankind to survive.

The book overall was a bit hit and miss for me, parts I loved parts I did not, so overall I gave the book 3 out of 5 Dragons. I am not entirely sure that I will bother with the film but I will see in the future, one thing I do know is that Sandra Bullock is way too old to play Malorie.

Lady Book Dragon

 

Review 11: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is an English author who writes comics, books, graphic novels, short stories, film and theatre and has won many awards for his work. He was a great reader from an early age and states that JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major influence to him and he read it a great deal as a child. Gaiman started his career as a journalist and his first book was a Duran Duran biography. Gaiman now lives in the United States.

Blurb

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy. Apart from the fact that he lives in a graveyard and is being raised and educated by the ghosts, and his guardian belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of should; friendship with a witch; and so much more.

But it is in the land of the living that the real dangers lurk, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

Review

I was so excited to read this book after reading the short story in Coraline and Other Stories which is the fourth chapter in this book. So on my next bookshop visit I managed to buy a copy of the book. Sadly though I was rather disappointed with the book as a whole.

The book is about the life of Nobody Owens as a child and teenager and the struggles he goes through. Nobody or Bod for short escaped the same fate that his family went through and was protected by the ghosts of the Graveyard he wandered into and his guardian, Silas who is neither in the land of the living or the dead. 

Bod is a typical boy growing up, he is full of wonder and the drive to learn however he lacks the fear and trepidation that most people feel because he has seen death is not all that bad. His best friends are ghosts, death holds no fear for him. He has also sampled the powers that the dead have and that the living do not and knows that they are very advantageous. 

The first chapter shows how Bod came to the graveyard and I must admit I almost shed a tear when Mrs Owens finds him. The chapter was full of emotion and you can not help but desperately root for Bod, but also wonder how the ghosts of the graveyard will look after the child. 

The subsequent chapters show snippets into Bod’s life at about yearly intervals. These chapters I must admit frustrated me as it left me wanting more and the things that were in the chapters were quite often never touched on again or even mentioned. I also wanted to know more about Silas and Miss Lupescu but that was not to be and the reader is left guessing. The character Jack and his kind are only lightly touched upon and this was another disappointment, all the time I wanted to know more details. My favourite chapter still remains The Witch’s Headstone.

The concept of Sleer was brilliant, I really liked the idea of a creature who is unbelievably ancient that nobody even remembers its reason for existence or even that it does exist. Sleer still remembers its purpose though but at the same time is desperate for somebody to become its master again. In a way it is like Bod, Bod wants answers and adventures and Sleer just wants a master a reason for it to still keep protecting.

There were moments in the story that really pulled on my heart strings and almost brought tears to my eyes and I absolutely loved the character of Bod and Mr and Mrs Owens. However I also found myself losing interest in places and that is one of the main reasons for the lower rating. I think reading the fourth chapter first as a short story was a mistake because the rest of the book just did not live up to my expectations.

The edition of the book I read had some beautiful illustrations in by Dave McKean which really added to the story and worked brilliantly in setting the dark mysterious scene of the graveyard. Here is one of my favourites.

A good read for adults and children and I think it would make an excellent film one day. 

Just 3 stars out of 5 from me.

Lady Book Dragon

Review 6: Coraline & Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

Coraline and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

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About the Author

Neil Gaiman is an English author who writes comics, books, graphic novels, short stories, film and theatre and has won many awards for his work. He was a great reader from an early age and states that JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major influence to him and he read it a great deal as a child. Gaiman started his career as a journalist and his first book was a Duran Duran biography. Gaiman now lives in the United States.

Blurb

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own – except that things aren’t quite as they seem. There’s another mother and father in this house and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home … but will she escape and will life ever be the same again?

Elsewhere in this collection, a sinister jack-in-the-box haunts the lives of all the children who ever owned it, a stray cat does nightly battle to protect his adopted family, and a boy raised in a graveyard confronts the much more troubled world of living. From the scary to the whimsical, the fantastical to the humorous, Coraline and Other Stories is a journey into the dark, magical world of Neil Gaiman.

Review

I have been going through a bit of Neil Gaiman phase just recently so expect a few more book reviews of his work in the near future. Also this is the second book I’ve read in less than a month with a black cat on the front cover. My husband believes a theme is developing. 

Coraline

I was very excited to start reading this book, as a few of my family and friends had recommended it to me, and I had managed to avoid the film, so had no idea of the story. However sadly when I started reading it and was 20 pages in a young student of mine, an avid reader herself, saw it on the side and got very excited and told me the entire plot. So sadly the surprise of reading the story was no longer there. That did not stop me thoroughly enjoying it though.

Coraline to me is a little bit like Alice in Wonderland but instead of Coraline falling down a rabbit hole she walks through a mysterious door into a another flat exactly like her own with another mother and father, but who are not her mother and father. This other world seems like great fun to start with, these other parents want to spend time with Coraline and do not seem to be working all the time. However there is something dark and sinister about this other world and Coraline knows it is not right and must fight to save her own reality. 

The characters in this book are wonderful: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible the retired actresses who love to regale anybody who will listen about their times on the stage and the crazy old man upstairs who trains mice, but nobody has seen these wonderful mice, who Coraline is wary of. Then of course there is the haughty black cat who hangs around the gardens and Misses Spinks and Forcible’s Highland terriers Hamish, Andrew and Jock. These wonderful animals have parts of their own in the story.

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(My haughty black cat)

Coraline is a typical child who just wants to explore and do things, she gets easily bored and as it is school holidays, in a new house and area, she is all alone apart from her parents and neighbours. Coraline loves to be different, but her parents are very ordinary, they both work with computers from home and they work a lot, so Coraline does not get much time with them. 

Coraline’s adventure to save her reality is dark and mysterious and leaves you constantly wondering what will happen next. I did not want to put the book down and due to its short length I soon finished the story of Coraline.

On its own I rate this story 5 out of 5 stars. 

The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds

This was fantastic! I never would have thought of having my old favourite nursery rhymes  turned into an American gangster style private detective film. To start with I must admit I was a little confused and then it all started to make sense and I was hooked. At only 14 pages long this story was soon read with a mug of tea and a biscuit to accompany it. 

The whole new take on popular characters like Humpty Dumpty the criminal, Jack Horner the private detective, Cock Robin who sadly died before we got to know him, was amazing and really well thought out. 

I loved the atmosphere Gaiman created with this story, I was basically imagining it all as a black and white film and everyone had American accents talking about hooch and dames. I do think it would make a wonderful short film as Gaiman has written it all out already for the film makers.

A truly fantastic read and it made me see my favourite nursery rhymes in a different light. There is no turning back for me now, my nursery rhymes will always be set in American gangster times.

A massive 5 out of 5 stars for this amazing short story.

Troll Bridge

I did not enjoy this story sadly, I found it very depressing and in places annoying. The story is about Jack a 7 year old boy meeting a troll, and subsequently growing up with the knowledge of this troll haunting him. 

The thing I did like was the imagery of how Jack’s surroundings were changing, more roads and houses appearing, steam engines disappearing and being replaced by diesel engines and certain railway stations and lines stopping. Each time he returned to the place where the troll’s bridge was the landscape had changed again and Gaiman describes it all in detail, it really makes you feel like you are there.

The first thing I did not like was the description of the troll, it started good but what jolted me out of the narrative was Gaiman’s need to describe the troll’s genitals. I really did not find that necessary and I would not like a child of mine to read that at young age. It just seemed like he was trying to shock the reader and I did not think it was required.

The main thing I did not like was Jack, he was a very selfish character and as he got older he got even worse and with added nasty traits. By the end I was rooting for the troll.

I know this story is all about growing up and rites of passage but it just did not work for me, thankfully the other stories make up for what it is lacking. I would have been very annoyed if I had bought this as a separate book.

A disappointing 1 star out of 5.

Don’t Ask Jack

This is a very short story and in my opinion the scariest so far in the book. The story is about a Jack-in-the-box who lives in a children’s nursery and nobody knows where the toy came from. The parents think it is a lovely little box and like to show it on the shelf but the children like it hidden deep in the toy box.

This was a sinister read for me, probably because a jack-in-the-box is my worst nightmare. This spooky toy has a certain power over the children and they fear it, hence why they hide it and the reader is left wondering what exactly this toy actually does to the children.

I loved this story, a real good one to read at halloween.

4 out of 5 star rating.

How to sell the Ponti Bridge

I found this story rather long winded and a bit on the dull side. It did not really keep my interest and I struggled to read it all the way through. It just did not seem to flow very easily.

The story is basically about the biggest scam that was ever pulled off in the Seven Worlds, a futuristic world in another galaxy. However, it seemed based around 17th and 18th century ideas. 

Only 1 star out of 5.

October in the Chair

I really enjoyed this story and I loved the idea of the different months actually being people, whose characters reflect the months’ attributes. The story is about the twelve months meeting up and one month being sat in the chair and nominated to tell a story. The month who is in the chair is October and he tells a very sad and spooky story, just like a ghost story you would tell in October to celebrate halloween.

I just loved the interactions between the months and the jokes they make with each other. October’s story is very sad and moving and also terrifying. It really made me think and want to know what happened in the end, however Gaiman leaves us hanging so we have to make up our own minds as to what happens at the end of October’s story.

A riveting read that I could not put down.

5 out of 5 stars.

Chivalry

The first word I thought of with this is story is adorable, it made me smile and have a little giggle.

Basically the story is about a little old lady called Mrs Whitaker who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop and buys it because she thinks it will look good on her mantelpiece. And of course there is a knight in shining armour, because what story about the Holy Grail does not have a knight in it?

Mrs Whitaker is a typical widow who goes once a week to collect her pension, meets with her friend, bakes cakes, potters about her garden and tries to be the best person she can be but who is ultimately rather lonely since her husband passed away. Galaad is a knight of the round table who seeks the Holy Grail and turns up on Mrs Whitaker’s doorstep. He is noble, kind, handsome and a perfect gentleman with a noble steed called Grizzel.

I truly enjoyed this story but I also found it a little sad in the end. To begin with I loved the character of Mrs Whitaker and thought she sounded like everybody’s ideal grandmother. Then I loved the idea that you could buy the Holy Grail from a charity shop for 30p and that Mrs Whitaker knew it was the Holy Grail but just wanted it to go on her mantelpiece. The icing on the cake was when Galaad turned up to begin his quest to get the Grail.

This feel good story was magical to read and I am so pleased I read it, however I was a little disappointed with the ending and that has affected my rating.

My overall rating for this story is 4 stars out of 5.

The Price

Now this story upset me greatly, especially as I have a black cat who I would do anything to protect. This story is a short horror story, that shows not to judge people by appearances. 

The story is about a black cat who fights every night to protect his adopted family from a great threat. The man who tells the story describes how his family take in strays and look after them and the strays either decide to stay or go on their way. However the black cat turns up and adopts the family but everyday the family notice he has more wounds on him and that he is getting weaker. The man tries to find out what is hurting the black cat and whether he can help.

I am not great with stories about animals that get hurt and so I found this story hard to read and digest but I did find it a good story and I enjoyed the narrative. The fact that this family always goes out of its way to help stray cats and happily pays the vets bills and feeds them and opens their home to them make this family every cat’s dream. So it seems that they deserve a guardian angel as a reward and this angel comes in the form of the black cat. The black cat I like to think has seen all the kindness this family bestows on cats and so decides to adopt them. 

Black cats always have a bad press and are considered bad luck and in the UK are always the last cats left in cat shelters. So I love that this story has turned the tables and made a black cat the hero, the knight in shining armour and the good luck charm to the family.

A really good read but a disturbing one for me that made me a little angry.

3 out of 5 stars.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

The two characters Vic and Enn are typical teenage boys, one who is really good at chatting up girls and his friend who is very shy and awkward around girls, who tries his best but ultimately always sees his friend go off with a girl and is left somewhere at the party with nobody to talk to.

Vic and Enn are heading to a house party of a friend of theirs but when they show up it is clear that it is a different house party and they do not know anybody there. Vic immediately makes himself at home and starts to get along with the prettiest girl there and Enn awkwardly tries to take his friend’s advice and talk to the girls at the party. However as Enn talks to more girls you soon see that something is not entirely right with these girls.

The story is a very stereotypical plot of teenagers full of hormones wanting to drink, party and manage to go upstairs into one of the bedrooms with somebody. I must admit when I started reading it, I thought ‘oh no! Not another of these storylines’ but I should have trusted Gaiman, as he never goes for the ordinary mundane storyline. 

It was a good read but I was pleased it was a short story as it was not very engaging for me and left me unimpressed. If it had not been part of the book, I probably would not have read it.

3 stars out 5.

Sunbird

I did enjoy this story even if it was a little predictable, the idea of a club where people gather to eat as many different foods as they can and not care about the consequences on their body is brilliant. This is a club for very greedy people, who do not care if what they seek to eat is endangered or near extinction as long as they get what they want.

The members of the Epicurean Club plan to find and catch a Sunbird to eat it and their planned expedition is very amusing. 

The outcome of the story to me was rather obvious, but that did not stop me enjoying the story and having a good chuckle whilst reading it. The best part was I read this story whilst eating my lunch, which I thought fit in rather well. 

The characters were well written and all rather amusing, if anything I would have liked the story to be a little longer and the characters to be fleshed out a bit more, but then it would not have been a short story.

A good short story to read whilst on your lunch break. 4 stars out of 5.

The Witch’s Headstone

This has got be my favourite story of the book! I just loved everything about it and I have ordered The Graveyard Book so I can read the whole story as I believe this short story is a chapter from the book. 

The character Bod is wonderful, he is so kind and thoughtful and sweet natured, everything you would not expect from a child brought up in graveyard by ghosts. From the moment I started reading this story I was hooked and wanted it to be longer, I wanted to know Bod’s past and future – it was brilliant.

Bod is fascinated by the potter’s field and the reported witch who is buried there and after he accidentally meets her he wants to be her friend and get her a headstone as he finds it unfair that her burial site is not marked or remembered in any way. 

An excellent read that finished way too soon.

5 out of 5 stars from me and I hope The Graveyard Book is just as good.

Instructions

Confused! This last story? Or whatever it is had me very confused, yes it is a set of instructions but to what? I got my husband to read it and he said it was almost like instructions for a video game. I would not know anything about this as I was never allowed video games as a child so missed out on that whole thing, apart from the odd game I played at friends’ houses. 

It just had me confused and bored and to be honest I skim read it in the end. It was a really disappointing ending to me and I wish the book had finished with The Witch’s Gravestone.

Sad to say but the book ended with 1 star out of 5 for me.

My overall verdict on this book is 4 stars out of 5 because there were a few disappointing stories for me. However it is a great read and one that you can dip into and read a story when you have a few spare minutes. 

Thank you for reading my longest review so far on my blog.

I hope you have enjoyed it, please leave me a comment if you would like to discuss the book.

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Lady Book Dragon.