Book Review: Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

I have always been of the mindset that an adult shouldn’t dismiss a book as childish or uninteresting just because it was marketed as a children’s novel. Intrigue and mystery are the very essence of this debut novel. Set in Victorian England, Frost Hollow Hall is an intricate ghost story that is both captivating and surprisingly deep. This is one of the reasons why I consider this novel to be one of my all-time favourites.
The following is a spoiler-free review which was requested by Violetrosy0.

frost hollow hall book cover by Emma Carroll for review

Summary: The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut. Winter, 1881. In the middle of a frozen lake, a girl is skating. She’s not supposed to be here. No one is. Not since Kit Barrington drowned at Frost Hollow Hall ten years ago. But the dead don’t scare Tilly Higgins. The ice is thin. It cracks. Suddenly she’s under the water, drowning. Near death, a strange spirit appears to her, a boy so beautiful Tilly’s sure he’s an angel. But he’s a ghost. And a very troubled ghost. And he desperately needs her help…

This novel is beautiful in every sense of the word. It’s not what I expected when I first looked at the cover. But it’s how I felt after I finished reading the book. The principle mystery of the story is, why is the main character being overwhelmed with ghostly visions? What does the spirit of the young boy want from her? And what are the inhabitants of Frost Hollow Hall hiding behind their heavily closed doors? The story is delivered in an enticing way that leaves the reader hungry for more, to the point where you can easily read the book in a single day. There are small clues scattered throughout the book to answer these questions and the big reveal at the end is absolutely worth it. For those who aren’t fans of ghost stories, this one isn’t as scary, as much as it is life-affirming.

Just to give some idea about the characterisation, the main character, Tilly, is a vivacious and strong-willed girl who is easy to relate to. She often feels at-odds with her family and has an amusing love-hate relationship with her schoolboy crush, Will Porter. The other characters are also interesting, particularly the hosekeeper, Mrs Jessop, who is a paradox of forboding and maternal personalities, appearing to be hiding secrets of her own. In other words, if you are looking for a book with good characterisation and an engaging storyline, this might just be the book for you. I would absolutely recommend it.

R/T: Rose and Thorn          (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 4.5/5

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Book review: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Heart-breaking and absolutely inspiring. This book played at my heartstrings and then healed them completely. I was hooked from the get-go and by the time I reached the end, it seemed like I had completely flooded the house with my tears of catharsis. This is a must-read for couples in a serious relationship or those considering one in the future. The following is a spoiler-free review.

All your perfects book cover by Colleen Hoover for review

Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

Then: The last thing Quinn expected was to meet the love of her life just outside her fiance’s front door. A year after leaving behind their cheating partners, Quinn and Graham are in a perfect relationship that seems designed by fate.

Now: Seven years later, Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair. All Your Perfects is powerfully moving story about a broken couple whose future hinges on promises made in the past, reminding us that the enduring power of love is the ultimate saviour.

Quinn and Graham are a couple with some major relationship issues. They’re not perfect people. In fact there were several moments where I felt quite peeved and wanted to shake them into seeing sense. I found the alternating ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ chapters to be particularly effective in gradually introducing the reader to the two characters and building a contrast which is immensely emotive. We are given a view into how they first met (where they humourously stole their cheating spouses’ Chinese takeaway and proceeded to eat it in front of them) and how their relationship blossomed into something extraordinary. This is in stark contrast to seven years later, where the couple has to deal with some heart-wrenching personal problems which appear set to ruin them forever.

However, the couple made a promise the day before they were married that should they ever want a divorce, they would open a wooden brown box with some secret contents. Whatever is inside could be their saving grace. Naturally, we don’t find out what’s inside the wooden box until near the end of the book.

Upon finishing this book I felt amazed at how poignant it was. Hoover has worked her magic once again by showing us the importance of communication, support, and most importantly never losing sight of why you made a promise to love someone in the first place. A stunning read.

My favourite quotes from the book:

When you meet someone who is good for you, they won’t fill you with insecurities by focussing on your flaws. They’ll fill you with inspiration, because they’ll focus on all the best parts of you’

If God didn’t believe in me, then I’d have to believe you were just a coincidence. And you being a coincidence in my life is a lot harder for me to fathom than the mere existence of a higher power’.

And of course… ‘If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim’

R/T: Rose and Thorn          (please see About section for information) 

Rating: 4.5/5  

Happy New Year!

To joyful readings and plenty of blogging!

Sparklers

My New year’s eve was spent with great music, dancing, and AMAZING food! Some fun games, and a fantastic view of fireworks.

I’ve only just started out with book blogging but I enjoy it loads and it’s lovely sharing it with all you wonderful people 🙂

Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

A heartfelt story of love at first sight, second chances, and the obstacles that two people face in making their deepest desires come true. This book made me feel frustrated, emotional, and best of all, it made me cry like a baby from sheer happiness. This story takes place over several years as the characters wade their way through new challenges, new romances, and attempts to subdue their feelings for each other. It is so obvious that Laurie and Jack belong together, and they both know it subconsciously.
But this is no simple love story. This is a spoiler-free review!

One day in december book cover for review by Josie Silver

Book description: Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away. Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus. Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

The novel starts with Laurie making eye contact with Jack whilst she is on a bus and he’s sitting at a bus stop. She thinks it’s love at first sight and they share a romantic moment, but the bus speeds away before he gets a chance to board it (I know right, how annoying). I must admit, at this point the critic in me thought, how realistic is this really? I found the moment touching but a bit hard to take seriously that she fell in love without having even once talked to the guy. I guess this is my main criticism, along with that fact that Jack at times acts like a volatile teenage headcase with a sex addiction. I don’t really see what Laurie sees in him, but hey, to each their own. Maybe they were made for each other.

Other than that, I loved the intricate design of this romantic story. The way in which this story took place over several years really worked in this book and we feel like we really get to know the characters and how they develop. The female friendship between Laurie and Sarah is heart-warming and inspiring. I wouldn’t really class this as a traditional love triangle, so don’t worry about this if you weren’t a fan of Twilight! Both Laurie and Jack have big decisions to make with regards to each other which could potentially ruin their closest friendships. One thing I should point out about this novel is how human the characters felt; none of them is perfect, they each have their flaws and upsides. Some readers may like this whilst others may prefer more idealistic characters. This book is one of a kind and I agree with previous comments that it has all the feels of a romance movie. I absolutely loved loved loved the ending of the book! It was a fairy-tale ending that put a huge smile on my face. Uplifting and powerful.

R/T: Rose and Thorn          (please see About section for information)                  Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Just get together already! The build-up of sexual tension between Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn is electrifying and only gets stronger with each chapter. The romance between this couple is real and the fact that they are close friends makes it even sweeter. I turned the pages with impetuous excitement, eager to find out how this story would unravel. Enchanting, imaginative, and romantic. Lady Midnight is a book of forbidden romance, family loyalty, and supernatural experiences. This is a spoiler-free review!

Lady midnight book cover by Cassandra Clare for review

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word. A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love. Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Emma and Julian are shadowhunters, friends and also paratabai, which means that they always have each other’s backs but cannot get involved together romantically. They made this supposedly unbreakable vow when they were young and vulnerable; Julian was left to care for his many siblings and Emma also had no one else to turn to. What they once thought would strengthen their bond forever, would turn out to be the reason for their frustrations, uneasiness, and heartache. For this we can’t help but feel for them. I was rooting for them to fight against the shadowhunter rules and to follow their feelings. However there is an astounding revelation which we learn about later in the novel which complicated the situation. No more to be said on this subject, you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

I absolutely loved the ballroom scene with Emma and Julian. You can really feel the longing they have for each other but which they have to keep hidden from public view. I especially liked the description of the alluring interaction between Emma and Julian.

‘The space between them was heated, electric. His fingers curled around her hip. His other hand slid down her back, slowly, gliding along her hair until he reached bare skin where the back of the dress dipped down…He had never touched her like this.’ 

Hot and enticing. If you liked that, you’ll love the beach scene.

Besides the romance, there is plenty of shadowhunter action; fighting insect-like demons, interactions with enigmatic dangerous Faerie folk, and a mission to find a serial killer in order to keep Mark, Julian’s brother, within the family. You can’t help but like the Blackthorn siblings who have a very interesting dynamic within the household. The world that Clare has created is imaginative and action-packed. If you love supernatural mystery adventures then this might just be the book for you!

R/T: Thorn          (please see About section for information)   

Rating: 4/5              

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

In my honest opinion, this book is unlike any other and left me with some mixed feelings. It is the sort of book where you finish reading it, quietly put it to the side and then sit where you are, processing the entire story in order to try and gather how you feel about the whole novel. I had no idea how to feel because I had very mixed opinions about the characters and their choices. But I do know that I have read something powerful. Little Fires Everywhere is a thought-provoking book which explores the significance of social class, race, and motherhood in modern America. This is a spoiler-free review!

Little fires everywhere book cover by Celeste Ng for review

Book Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

As I began reading this book, I felt slightly confused by the opening scene. We are introduced to the different characters who are each experiencing different thoughts about a significant event caused by a certain character in the book. It was hard to keep up with all the different characters’ names and their significance due to the simultaneous introduction. Having asked a fellow reader, it seems she also held the same thoughts. It wasn’t until the end of the novel that the opening scene began to make sense, as the ending was a repetition of the beginning. Having said that, the beginning does draw you in and have you wondering what, how, and why. It made me eager to find out the back-story behind this dramatic beginning.

The novel is set in Ng’s childhood town of Shaker Heights. It appears to be a stifling but perfectly-kept town where everything is controlled (including the length of the grass on your lawn) in order to maintain its own pristine image. Everything is done a certain way in these upper-class streets, and it is clear that nothing has disturbed the peace for a very long time…until the arrival of eccentric artist Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl.

Mia Warren likes to do things her own way, in stark contrast to her landlord Elena Richardson who sees herself as a do-gooder, yet seems unable to look at things outside her little world. It is when her Mrs Richardson’s white American friends decide to fight to keep a Chinese-American baby from its mother that we see the rise in animosity between Mia and Elena, with Mia set on helping the baby’s birth mother. This starts Elena’s digging into Mia Warren’s past with her own daughter which has devastating consequences for all parties involved. I felt that the gradual deterioration of their relationship was portrayed very powerfully, particularly with regards to creating atmosphere when it came to the characters trying to hide their own or find out other people’s secrets. And yes…it seems almost everyone in this entire book has secrets. It’s like a very complicated episode of a drama series.

Something that I really liked about the book was Ng’s portrayal of human emotions and the actions which result from them. This is particularly true with the portrayal of maternal love from several major characters. Mia’s love for her daughter is evident when certain actions from her past are revealed. The emotions of Bebe Chow, mother of the baby May Ling, are so devasting that we can’t help but be moved by her story. I was eager to find out who would win the case for the baby and what Mia Warren’s dark secret was. On the other hand, I found that I disliked practically all of the characters in the book, with the exception of Bebe Chow. I wanted to like Mia and Pearl but found their characters to be somewhat irksome, particularly with regards to their secrets. This made it difficult to connect with the characters, and is not the type of novel I would usually read for this very reason.

I also like that the book raises some important questions. For instance, is a bad decision based on poverty enough reason for a court to remove a child from her parent? Should a white American couple be allowed to adopt a baby from a minority background when they do not have sufficient knowledge of her ethnic culture? This is a novel that really makes you think about the deeper topics affecting the characters.

In conclusion, this book explores some important issues in society and is certainly engaging with its storyline. There is no doubt that Ng is a talented writer, the issue simply being that the characterisation was not completely to my taste.

R/T: Thorn          (please see About section for information)                 

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Wow! Honest, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. This book is one of the ones that everyone is raving about, and rightly so. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I personally consider it to be one of Hoover’s best works (but not the best, for that, I still reserve the place for Hopeless).  This is a spoiler-free review!

Warning: Contains content which some may find upsetting. I didn’t want to put details of the trigger warnings on the review as it could act as a spoiler. Please do not hesitate to ask for more information if you have any questions.

It ends with us book cover by Colleen Hoover for review

Book description: SOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST. Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened. 

I started reading this book without much clue as to what it was about. I knew it was a love story of some sort, but I was completely taken by surprise when I reached a certain point in the story. Hoover had me following a certain narrative, and then she suddenly turned everything inside out and had me grappling with who I thought a certain character in this book really is. I can completely understand how some people may not like this, however, in my opinion, this is no different to how we see people in real life.  We think we know someone. We think someone is perfect. But that’s before they reveal their true colours to you in a moment of weakness. There is a complexity to the author’s characters, and to me, that makes the story raw, emotional, and beautiful. 

I absolutely loved Lily’s character and found her to be immensely strong and relevant to women everywhere. She has some pretty tough decisions to make throughout the book, and not just in a romantic sense. For instance, it is pretty inspiring to see her create and manage her own business from scratch in a new city. This character is bold and is not afraid to go against the norm. For that I applaud her. 

Ryle is Lily’s love interest throughout the book and it is with regards to him that I  have one criticism to make. Ryle is both enigmatic and charismatic. I found the typical enticing ‘hot, rich, complicated male’ persona a tad exasperating and he did rile me up at times (pardon the pun). Having said that, there is a lot more to both Ryle and Atlas (Lily’s first love) than first meets the eye. They both care for Lily, although at different depths and at different capacities. I definitely found Atlas to be an endearing character and someone who I would consider to be the more attractive love interest. He’s not perfect but he does have a caring heart. I’m team Atlas as you’ve probably already sussed out!

Back to the actual story, I must say that this a deep novel that tackles some serious topics. But it does so absolutely beautifully and I really do feel that Hoover does it complete justice. Even more stirring is that the author based this on events in her own life, and that makes the novel even more stunning. This story isn’t just about love; it is also about friendship and the power of women who stick by each other. There is one moment in the book where Alyssa, Lily’s best friend and coworker, threatens to end their friendship if Lily makes a certain decision. I know it sounds horrible if you haven’t read the novel, but trust me, that moment in the book was amazing for a very good reason. Alyssa’s words were spoken out of love for a fellow woman and friend. You’ll just have to read the story to find out why! 

Overall, this novel is definitely one worth reading if you love inspiring romances with twists and raw characters. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it for all the above reasons!

R/T: Rose and Thorn          (please see About section for information)                  Rating: 4.5/5