Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

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Normally, when I review a book, I have it on the desk beside me to I can glance through the pages and jog my memory. Not this time though, because I’m soft. After mentioning the book a couple of times to a girl in my class, she somehow got me to promise to give her the book as soon as I’d finished it. Clearly the bookseller in my is dying a hard death. Really, I should charge.


What genre is Cogheart? If you agree with the assertion  (if you don’t, get out) that children’s literature is not a genre but a movement, and one that actually contains all genres and it not limited to fiction, then this novel is steampunk.

In other words, if you enjoy stories in a Victorian setting, but would gladly trade the constant death, oppression of women, poor sanitation and all morally crippling religiousness for spunky female main characters, clockwork gadgets and moustache (and mutton chops) twirling villains, this is your genre. And it’s fantastic.

I immediately love the no-nonsense, let’s just do it because I don’t wanna die attitude of the main character, Lily. Girl got moxie. We first meet her in an exclusive and stifling boarding school for young ladies, which she attends under a fake name. Needless to say, lock picking, Penny Dreadful reading Lily is the black sheep at school as well as the target for bullying at the hands of both her classmates and her teachers. Another thing that sets Lily apart is the affinity she shoes towards mechanicals. Her father being a renowned inventor, Lily was half raised by the family’s household mechs, and loves them as she would any other family member. To everyone else, however, mechs are treated with contempt, in much the same way lower classes would have been in a parallel setting.

I  appreciate the subtle debate throughout the story on what constitutes as being alive. Bunzl humanises the mechanical characters to great effect, bringing to them a warmth and lovability that many of the “flesh and blood” characters lack.  It makes for some uncomfortable reading during situations where it comes to a toss up between the life of a human and a mechanical person. My approach for this book was usually ‘if in doubt, save the mechanical fox’ because aside from being a talking mechanical fox (come ON!) his often snide wit offsets the more macabre moments in this story. Overall some quality world-building is evident in Bunzl’s writing but never did I feel as though I was wading through information dumps.

Cogheart is a high-flying adventure story with well written characters, plenty of chemistry and truly creepy villains (spoiler: they have mirrors for eyes, and the surgeon wasn’t too neat about it.) It contains a satisfying plot twist and a there is plenty at stake to keep readers of any age mesmerised until the turning of the final page.


Knights of the Borrowed Dark – and a protagonist with a difference – by Dave Rudden

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Yes, I know. I’m quite late in reviewing this, and I bet I’m the last person to do so. But I’m nothing if not honest and I’m writing a post about this book as part of my promotion of superb MG books that are not by David Walliams. It was only a matter of (not much) time before I started waving this one tantalisingly in front of my class with the promise that it was dark – dark enough that I (loudly) considered not letting them have it.
That worked.
However, you can recommend a book to kids, but unless that book is earth-shatteringly good, those kids will never listen to you again, and then you’re are trapped in teacher/librarian/bookseller purgatory. Thankfully my soul is safe. And after using a passage from this book as the subject of a creative writing lesson on writing action scenes, it looks like I’m going to have to get a couple more copies for the classroom (because they’re not getting my signed copy).
I loved this book because of the nature of the evil in the story. The Tenebrous exist in an in between place between this world and another using shadows to bridge the gap, in order to feed off the misery of humans (especially kids of course), and generally wreak havoc. I love them because they are undeniably scary. Rudden captures what he calls “a fundamental wrongness” to the way they look and move which is hard to pin down and yet deeply unnerving. More effective still is that fact that they are properly, mass-destructive and lethally dangerous. There’s no daring-do hero leaping between the clichéd hap-hazard blows of some blundering monster. These things take no prisoners – except when they do, then it’s a building full of orphans whom they gleefully torment and suck the life from. Aside from that, there’s this feeling that a character is alway seconds from dismemberment throughout the book. Even the adult mentor figures, the Knights that stand between blissfully ignorant people and violent annhialation, however skilled, are often absolutely terrified.
Which brings me to the main character, Denizen. He’s not quite your typical orphan, plucked from monotony to learn about a noble heritage and a grand heroic destiny, which he accepts bravely and graciously. He’s suspicious, sceptical, and spends most of the start of the book being pants-wettingly scared. His sass would give Harry Potter a run for his money. He is righteously angry and resentful upon learning the reasons why he was abandoned to spend his childhood in an orphanage, and expresses this in explosive magical thirteen-year-old style. In other words, he’s a real boy!unknown-1                                             Comment if, like me, you read that in his voice.

Another thing I really, deeply appreciated the concept of power involving a sacrifice, a negative and irreversible side-effect. Gone are the days when readers of any age will buy into the idea of someone just getting away with having awesome powers, especially if they’re the good guys. The effects of “the cost” in KOTBD makes me cringe every time one of the Knights uses their power. The nature of the sacrifice these characters make renders them irresistibly lovable – even the Malleus herself, who makes Judi Dench look like a kitten.

Lastly, and most importantly for me anyway, the quality of the writing is something that you don’t see that often in modern MG anymore. It makes deeply descriptive but smooth reading, effortlessly conveying darkness, danger, humour and tragedy within the confines of an age category some would mistakenly call restrictive. This is my favourite book of 2016, and the UNESCO City of Literature’s pick for Dublin for 2017.

In other words, if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Apple and Pain.

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This is a review of Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan. I have to disclose that I did not read her first work entitled The Weight of Water, but I swear that it is now on my TBR list now that I have finished Apple and Rain. What a little gem!
We meet Apple, a girl on the cusp of her own self-discovery, ever so slightly smothered by her adoring, pecking grandmother, under whose rule she lives.
Apple’s mother is not on the scene, and hasn’t been for some time. There are some wrenching scenes of I-wish-my-mother-was-around” though they are written as though these are new thoughts, they ring old and true, which I liked.
As the plot moves gently along, you become as resigned as Apple does in her mundane, yet adorned life, thinking that nothing will ever change until it, quite explicably, does.


Apple’s mother shows up, looking like a two day old cigarette and Apple is in raptures. The grandmother, needless to say is not.
There are some delicious characteristics written here but I don’t want to ruin anything on future readers, this is a moving book and sweeter to read than eating a bowl of sugar. I recommend it to readers of any age really,  as there isn’t much in it that is too unsuitable for younger readers.
Lisa C

Review Time! Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

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Ok so I know that this blog has been a bit quiet of late, but for me at least, having two jobs and dancing too gives me precisely six hours per twenty four to sleep and eat. I had to make survival choices….dammit!

However, I am currently fed and (kinda) well-rested, so I thought that I would write a quick review of my most recently read book. As you all know, I predominantly read in the YA realism genre but have been known to stray off the beaten track once in a while.

I finished Anatomy of a Misfit in about two days, which surprised me because I spent most of the first few chapters frowning at the tone and voice of the main character Anika. It irked me that she was referring to (rather) grown up stuff (like the fact that one of her best friends is a slut and sleeps around) yet her tone and her voice were seemingly at odds with her age.

It felt like I was reading t18340210he voice of a 12 or 13 year old girl, when in reality, Anika is more like 15. So I was intrigued-annoyed-irked by the author’s seemingly blatant disloyalty to the character’s age and interests.


The plot thickens. See, Andrea Portes is one smart mo-fo. Not only did she trick me into believing that all was sweetness and light, selling her character as an innocent and almost Judy-Blume-esque kinda flower girl something something, she did it very well.

Which is why the ending literally made me do a double..nay, triple-take. Andrea, WHY???

Turns out she was dealing with dark and VERY real teenage and family issues the WHOLE TIME and I was sleepily reading a lovely character much akin in tone to Lauren Child’s Ruby Redfort or Clarice bean with extra sass, until the shizzle hit the fan.

I literally felt like standing up and applauding because it is such a clever writing device to use. She lures the reader in with the safety of an almost predictable character and then BOOM, you’re dead.

Anika, the main character often describes herself as being a bit candy covered and popular in school, but on the inside she is spider-stew. Well, Andrea Portes, YOU are the spider, and I was indeed lured in, so I guess I’ve been eaten by this book. Kudos!

I would definitely read anything this author publishes. If I can survive the heart-wrenching content of Anatomy of a Misfit, I’d like to think I can survive some more…

Lisa C….. out!

So here’s what I have been reading…

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Okay, so this is a random (who doesn’t love random?) post about the books that I have been reading recently and what I am planning on read in the next wee while…
First up is the sexy More Than This by Patrick Ness. Like seriously, if you haven’t read this book, you should actually go and commit yourself to the local mental institution, because you CRAZY!!
This book made me light headed because I actually sometimes forgot to breathe while reading it. And I never forget to breathe… well, almost never… there was that one time.. never mind.
I’m not even going to tell you what the book is about, except to tell you not to skip ahead at any point while reading it. (I’ll be lurking behind the bookshelves, so I’ll KNOW if you do).
I’m just going to tell you that this book will float up out of the pool of books at the bottom of your mind long after you have finished it.  For at least six months to a year, you will be unable to find a book to rival its pull. So read it. Now. That’s an order.

Second up is the amazing Monument 14 trilogy by Emmy Laybourne. Like seriously, is it just me or does she have the most adorable name ever? I’m so stealing this as a character name.
I started reading this at the bookshop where I work, (while neglecting my actual work) and realised that I must read all of them as soon as possible or I was pretty sure that the world would end.
The plot is basically about a bunch of kids trying to stay alive after a natural disaster causes their world to go to utter crap. Unlike similar books of this genre, the characters are insanely developed, to the point where they all could literally have their own series of books and I would read them. Particularly Josie, Jake and Sahalia.
Each character moved me, and I devoured each book in less than three days. So if you’re looking for something to rival Michael Grant’s Gone series, give this a gander, you definitely won’t be disappointed! She also told me that she’s writing more for me to read so I am waiting patiently at my letter box.. any day now… just joking… I’m not that sad. Or am I?

Third up is the super Rainbow Rowell. I actually read Eleanor and Park and Fangirl a while ago, but wanted to get Attachments read too before I blogged about her. To be honest, I’m still mourning about the fact that there’s nothing left to read by Rainbow Rowell, til she writes some more.
Attachments was by far my favourite, even though it doesn’t actually feature teenage characters, which is something that I usually don’t like, and normally would avoid, because I love the rawness of teen characters more than the mature angst that features in older characters…
So this attachment (see what I did there?) surprised me, I loved Lincoln and Beth and Jennifer, such loveable characters and such a lovely love (loverly) story. I highly recommend this author for fans of the Green, and of Stephen Chbosky. Because I said so and I’m always right.

Here’s what I plan to read this week: Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms by Julia Suzuki, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith and Echo Boy by Matt Haig. Watch this space! I said watch it!




Thanks for reading! Lisa C xx

Christmas Gifts Part 3 for readers aged 8-12

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One of the best books I read this year was The Jade Boy by Cate Cain. I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone under 11, as it is at times frightening and gruesome but it was one of the most exciting historical novels I have read in years. Set in the time of the restoration just before the Great Fire of London it features Jem a mistreated servant boy and his two friends a selectively mute black boy called Tolly and Ann a young witch, with magic mystery and adventure this is a gothic and thrilling read.

Another great historical novel with a ghostly twist was Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll. You can read my review here

Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is another debut with historical elements which I adored. I reviewed on my other blog

The Keeper by Darragh Martin is new fantasy, perfect for fans of Percy Jackson or Arthur Quinn and will I hope be the first in an exciting new series. Featuring journeys on the DART, Celtic myths and mysterious books this is a thrilling read for 10 and upwards.

The Powers by Kevin Stephens illustrated by Sheena Dempsey is a a fun filled read for readers aged 8 plus featuring a family of super heroes who don’t always get things right. Check them out on you tube

The Ark of Dun Ruah Protectors of The Flame by Maria Burke is the second book in the Dun Ruah series continuing the story of Simon and Kerry here is my review of the first in the series this series will appeal to fantasy fans aged 10 and upwards.

A Rosette for Maeve? and Colm’s Lambs by Anna McQuinn are the first of a planned series of books for younger readers, perfect for reading aloud or for beginners reading alone. Published by O’Brien Press in association with The Farmer’s Journal they feature farming life , animals and nature. Age 6 plus.

Rebecca Rocks by Anna Carey is the third instalment in the fun and award winning series featuring contemporary teens as they attempt to become rock mega stars. A great read perfect for fans of Saran Webb. Ages 11 and upwards.

Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Chris Riddell  A rollicking, fun and inventive read featuring Gaiman’s trademark wit and silliness and Riddell’s  illustrations not only add to the story but also contain hidden clues. This will be loved by young readers aged 8 or 9 but would make an ideal bedtime story for kids from 5 upwards.

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable although this was actually published last year it deserves a mention here because this is a wonderfully exciting book which hasn’t had the attention it deserves. It has a very girly cover which some love and others really hate, this is a magical and at times dark tale  dealing with loneliness and friendship. A thrilling historical fantasy and it has wolves.  Here is Mara’s review from earlier in the year.

Arthur Quinn and Hell’s Keeper by Alan Early is the dramatic conclusion to the Father of Lies chronicles which have been a massive hit with 9 to 13 year olds featuring an Irish setting and Norse mythology this is a sure fire hit with fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

Ask Amy Green; Wedding Belles by Sarah Webb  I know I mentioned it in my first Christmas round up but in case you missed it I cannot recommend this series highly enough. These books are laugh out loud funny and sadly this is the last one but make a young person you know chuckle through Christmas by buying them this book. Ideal for ages 11 and up.

Darcy Burdock By Laura Dockrill is another very funny book ideal for readers aged 8 and up featuring a wonderful heroine who likes to notice everything around and write about it. The book also featues Laura’s fantastic illustrations. For anyone who enjoys the Wimpy Kid books this is a must.


Top Books for Teens this Christmas or Great Books for Christmas Part 2

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With Hunger Games fever still running high there is no sign of interest in dystopian fiction slowing down. If you have a Hunger Games fan in the house they may also love Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant.


insurgent allegiant


This photo features just some of the amazing books that have been published for teen readers this year. Some of our highlights include;

More Than This by Patrick Ness. 

The captivating, dramatic and thrilling new book from the award winning author is a must read.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

This a simple but sensitive story about two very different boys with the same name. John Green has been the man of the hour this year in teen fiction but I feel certain that 2014 will be David Levithan’s year.

Forgive me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

A look at some dark issues including mental illness and suicide which is nonetheless hopeful.

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

A coming of age story about a musical prodigy.


Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Three intertwining stories full of romance and Christmas spirit.

Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a’Bháird

A stunning debut from an Irish author check out Lisa C’s review from earlier in the year

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

A stunning historical fantasy set in the North American wilderness, epic.

Rose under Fire Elizabeth Wein

Follow up to the stunning Code Name Verity, this is the story of a young American pilot in WW2

Witchfall by Victoria Lamb

The second instalment of a magical trilogy about a young witch at the Tudor Court.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

This debut is a stunning ghostly fantasy

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

A new book from Cooper is always reason to celebrate and this is  a thought provoking and courageous historical tale.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The master of fantasy takes on YA fiction with this thrilling steampunk tale, perfect for fans of Harry Potter and Skullduggery Pleasant.

Lockwood & Co The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The first in new series about a ghost hunting agency sure to delight fans of Joseph Delaney and Darren Shan

Heart Shaped by Siobhan Parkinson

Home grown and brilliant

check out the inkies review

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