Book Review – The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Author – Kiera

I have so much I want to say about this book. I have a feeling words are going to erupt from my brain all over this post, so I’m going to try my best to be articulate!

From what I have seen online a lot of people are not giving this book the praise I think it deserves because it is ‘similar to Harry Potter’. If you break it down to it’s most basic elements, of course it will seem that way, but then that could be said for thousands of other books. Are The Hobbit and Game of Thrones the same because they both have dragons? No. Books can have the same elements and still be very different. Now with that little rant out of the way, here is what I think.

iron trial cover

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

The Iron Trial is the story of a boy called Callum Hunt, aka Call. He is a twelve years old, lives with his dad and has a mangled leg from an incident that also caused the death of his mother. Call is aware of magic as his father has been telling him about Mages and the abhorrent things they do for most of his life. He hopes that he will not develop magical ability, but to his dismay he discovers he has. He is summoned to the Magisterium (the school that teaches children to control their magic) for a test that will determine whether or not he will be enrolled. He is.

Away from his father, Call tries to remember all the horrible things he’s been told about magic, the masters and the school in general, but finds as time passes that he is enjoying learning about magic, and for the first time in his life he has friends. This is as much as I will tell you about the main story line, because any more information will spoil the plot twist.

I really enjoy the magic system in this book! Their magic is based on an elemental system – fire, air, water, earth and chaos, and use five principles.

1. Power comes from imbalance; control comes from balance.

2. All elements act according to their nature: Fire wants to burn, water wants to flow, air want to rise, earth wants to bind, chaos wants to devour.

3. In all magic, there is an exchange of power.

4. You can change a thing’s shape, but not it’s essential nature.

5. All elements have a counterweight. Fire is the counterweight of water. Air is the counterweight of earth. The counterweight of chaos is the soul.

To me, it just makes sense. You take energy from an element and have to stabilize the imbalance. I find things to be much more enjoyable when I can work it through in my mind and have an understanding of it all. Though, that could just be me.

The students are taken on by the masters of the Magisterium as apprentices, Call is chosen by Master Rufus, a place that is coveted by other students and as such causes discord between them and Call. There are two other apprentices chosen by Master Rufus, Tamara and Aaron. I enjoyed reading the relationship between the three students as they are made to work together as a unit, and form a bond that has them standing up for one another and fighting side by side.

The world building in this story is fantastic! I could picture the school with all it’s damp, moss covered hallways, cavernous rooms filled with stalagmites and rock formations, and the underground river systems used to travel quickly around the school. The pacing of the story was just right, revealing important parts of the worlds history and back story like bread crumbs, keeping me wanting to read more and more.

The only gripe I have is that time periods throughout the book are only briefly touched on, and we miss large chunks of time. It doesn’t detract from the story in anyway, if anything I can see why it is done this way, as it is a book aimed at children and it needs to keep them interested. I think it’s just me being selfish and wanting more.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book (can you tell?) and have already made my husband start reading it. It is funny, creepy, frustrating and endearing. Read it!


Friday Favourites

Yasmin Top 5












Hey there! Like the others I found it very difficult to narrow my favourites down to only 5. But no matter how much I whined and complained they wouldn’t let me do a top 10 😦 I eventually did manage 5 so here they are.

1. The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning


The reason I love this series is because the author wove an amazingly beautiful story with her words, and took you to different worlds. My favourite thing about it is the incredible journey you take with the main character, Mac. She starts off as a naive pretty girl in her own bubble and her only worries are what colour nail varnish will go with her outfit! That is until she travels to Dublin to find justice for her murdered sister as the police have closed the case. This is where you start seeing the amazing change she goes through; she learns of other beings living in her world, she finds herself out of her depth more than once but continues to fight on and ends up shedding her naive pretty girl image. The character growth is amazing and that is an important thing for me in reading a series; to see them grow and change from all the things life throws at them. And it certainly helps that she meets one of the sexiest alpha males ever! ( In my opinion )


2. The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward


This series holds a little special place in my heart as it was the first series I bought for myself when I got back into reading as an adult. The main reason I love it so much is the characters, they are all amazing and all bring something slightly different in every book, and as you delve deeper into the series you notice it has a very strong, loyal and loving family dynamic. So whenever I pick up one of the books for a re-read ( which I’ve done lots, it never gets old ) it kind of feels like coming home. To my extremely hot extended vampire family 🙂


3. Experiment In Terror by Karina Halle


I never liked watching the ghost shows on telly as I think they are crap, and while that’s what this series is about ,there was something about it that just pulled me in and I’m glad it did. I’ve not read many books like this before and the story was so good I couldn’t get enough. The main characters are brilliant; I love Dex and Perry ( especially Dex, he’s crazy, hot and wonderfully wired which I love! ). Their relationship starts off a bit strained and awkward, which makes up for a lot of ups and downs, emotional moments and hilariously funny ones. Now I don’t scare easily, blood and gore doesn’t bother me, and though I wouldn’t go as far and say these books scared me they definitely have some seriously creepy and disturbing moments that freaked me out! All in all the whole series is extremely enjoyable.


4. Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane


Now I’ve never read anything like this series and I absolutely love it!! It’s not your normal urban fantasy romance with the perfect looking girl and seriously hot guy, both characters have some seriously deep flaws, especially the lead female, which I found very realistic and relatable. And the guy, although tough and rough around the edges and is described as someone who’s maybe been hit in the face with a shovel one too many times, is extremely loyal,  protective and when you get past his hard outer shell is soft in the heart, I love him! And it’s refreshing to read about characters that aren’t always physically beautiful though broken on the inside, neither is perfect in anyway. There’s also magic, action and sex: what more could you ask for?


5. Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh


This is another series for me that was very different from others I’ve read. The shifter or werewolf/leopard has been done many times, but the twist was the Psy. They are a race that have many abilities, from telepathy to telekinesis and visions of the future, they also have, to me, a fascinating way of communicating with each other through their minds on a web-like connection called the psy-net. Years ago the leaders of the Psy race introduced a program called Silence, which was created to erase emotions in their children to hopefully stop the killings and psychopathic tendencies in the new generations. This ended up making their race very cold and calculating to deal with, and also backfired on them in certain ways where Psychopathics were able to hide their nature behind the cold wall of silence. Then you have the Changelings who are all about emotion, touch and bonding which creates for a strained and difficult relationship between the two races. But there are those of the Psy trying to hide their emotional flaws which the Changelings can pick up on, and this is how feelings are developed and relationships built between the two races which in turn opens up romantic connections for the characters. This series has lots of twists and turns, action and romance which makes this a great series to read.



Book Review – Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Author – Kiera


Hello, and welcome to a book club book review!

Each month one of us picks a book we like the sound of, and that is the book we read and discuss. We thought that instead of one us writing a full review, we would all contribute to it, giving you five (quite different) opinions.

This month it was my choice. I spend about a month before it’s my turn reading blurbs, looking at covers and generally researching books. I was in the mood for some New Adult this month, and after I had chosen and then re-chosen my pick a few times (and finding one that one of us hadn’t read) I decided on this one. It has an amazing rating on Goodreads, and a blurb that had me intrigued.

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.


Making Faces is written in third person and from multiple points of view. There are also flashbacks for each character that are relevant to the current situation. Now all that could get very confusing, but it transitions so smoothly I hardly noticed, and not once did I find myself having to go back and check who’s view point I was reading from. I really enjoyed the flashback scenes, and found that they helped me connect to each character much better and thought they showed the foundation for the characters relationships too. There are so many things that I really loved about this book, like how many issues it confronts. There is war, disability and domestic abuse to name a few, and it does it in a realistic and honest way. The characters are authentic and I really felt like I went on a journey with each one. Bailey provides such a fresh perspective on life and is wise beyond his years.

‘Victory is in the battle’

There were a few things that I didn’t enjoy as much. The story is laced with religion, which isn’t anywhere in the blurb, and isn’t normally what I would read, but it was almost subtle in a way that it wasn’t such a big deal. Also the message of the story was very in your face, (no pun intended) and while I like the overall message it did feel like it was being shouted at me when it could have been spoken.

I was definitely left to think after finishing this book. Life can be hard, but there are always things to be grateful for. I will be recommending this book to everyone.

‘Everyone is a main character to someone’

Author – Laura

Warning – This is a powerful book. I cried. Quite a lot actually. I’m not going to tell you I enjoyed it, because I’m still not entirely sure that I did.

The story was well written, the characters were thoroughly developed and it all flowed together seamlessly.  I think it’s a great story, told sympathetically but without the saccharine mush that could make a book like this hard to digest. The subject matter is handled sensitively, and the three main characters are really likeable, without being annoying. The dialogue is snappy, and some of Bailey’s little snippets had me laughing out loud.

I’m really glad I read it, but would I read it again? Probably not. I’m almost out of Kleenex.


Author – Hazel

This novel is beautifully written. It is emotional, gripping and funny. The characters all had individuality and were relatable. My favourite character is Bailey, he is very blunt, to the point but humorous at the same time. I would definitely recommend this book, a great story, 5/5*’s :mrgreen:


Author – Toni

This book took my breath away! I found it to be an amazing read. It let me experience different emotions throughout – love, hate, anger, tears and happiness. I thought the characters were so courageous and had so much to offer. I particularly took a liking to Fern. I thought she was an inspiration. Her dedication to Bailey, her true friendship with Rita and the continued fight in her towards Ambrose. It felt a bit short though, and i would have liked just that little bit more.


Author – Yasmin

This book for me was very emotional and heartbreaking at points and I cried often throughout reading it, but it also has its funny moments where you can have a little giggle. The author has a wonderful way with words which made the story gripping from the very beginning. I loved all the characters and their personal stories of struggle, overcoming grief and finding support, friendship and love. I would definitely recommend this book for those who want a real heart warming story.


‘Books allow you to be whoever you want to be, to escape yourself for a while’.


And there you go! We did make a list of some of the questions asked, but as this is still new and we’re figuring out the format we weren’t sure if people would be interested in seeing them. If it is something you would want to see, let us know and we can include them from now on 🙂

Next months book is Yasmin’s pick – Book of the Fallen (Requiem #1) by Adriana Noir.

Friday Favourites

Laura's top 5


This week it’s Laura’s turn to share her top 5 favourite books of all time…

“Love them or hate them, these are the books that make me feel. Be it sad, happy, excited or just plain old comfy, these stories have a very special place in my heart.”

In no particular order…

Laura's Top 5

Stephenie Meyer

I know, I know! I can hear the collective groans from here. But this book is beautifully written, regardless of what you think of the content or subject matter. It’s emotive and has real depth – this is a YA book dealing with some pretty dark themes; forbidden love, power struggles and death, and you still come out the other end unconditionally, and irrevocably, in love with a vampire.Although in my case it was Jasper, not Edward. But still…
Good Omens
Neil Gaiman

I’ll just throw this out there – this is probably my favourite book in the whole wide world. I’m not even sure what it is that I love so much – I can’t decide if it’s the characters, the storyline or the setting. It’s probably a combination of all three. As well as the sarcasm and dry humour that is abundant throughout. It just makes me feel good when I read it, like a big snuggly jumper that you still wear in summer because it feels so comforting.This was the first time I’d read anything by Neil Gaiman, and it sparked a bit of a fangirl sitch. I hope I never meet Neil Gaiman. It would be embarrassing for both of us.
Lost at the Fair
A.J. MacGregor

This is a childhood favourite for me and my brother and sister. We had a small hardback Ladybird edition, which was read to death. Even now we can still recite the lovely rhyming story. “Fast asleep was Dormouse Cottage, up on silent Sunny Hill…”Beautiful, innocent storytelling at its best.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J. K. Rowling

I’ve picked a specific HP book, rather than the whole series, because as much as I adore all of them this one has always been my favourite. It’s the first time you really feel that the fight between good and evil is much bigger than just Harry and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It’s also the first time Harry is really a part of a family, fighting for a cause with wizards who were there with his parents the first time round. It’s full of mystery, heartbreak and raw determination, which makes it the first really dark Potter book. I love it.
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern

If you read my review a couple of weeks ago here on the bookspa, you’ll know that I have a warm, gooey place in my heart for this beautiful book.Read my reviewJust read the book. You’ll see why for yourself.

Book Review-Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Author – Hazel

Winter’s Bone is a story about a young 16 year old girl searching for her father.  It is set in the Ozark’s, Missouri part of the Appalachian mountains of the USA. imageBasically, Ree Dolly the female protagonist of the story has been left by her father to raise her two younger brothers, Sonny and Harold, look after her mother who is catatonic and look after the house and land. Her father Jessup has upped and skipped town in lieu of his upcoming court date and unbeknownst to Ree, has put up the house and land for bail bond!

The story follows Ree in her struggle to find her father. And the townsfolk’s unwillingness to help, leads her to think that her father has met an untimely end. Along the way you meet some colourful characters, Gail, Ree’s best friend, Uncle Teardrop and Blond Milton to name but a few.

The harsh winter that the story is set in provides the ideal backdrop for the violence and brutality that Ree encounters on her search.

‘The sightless eye was fattened shut and stretched tight. She felt the swelling and tried to pry the eyelid open, but could not even sense daylight through that eye. Blood had to be spit and came out in heavy wads trailed by stringy drools that lapped onto her chin and cheeks. With her tongue she could feel shreds of her own meat broken from inside her lips. Her skirt was thrown up and her legs were decked with bruises that coloured uglier as she watched.’


So, what did I think?

Well, I struggled with the prose and dialogue to begin with which reflects the dialect of the people who actually live there, I got used to it after about 40 pages or so but there were the odd few words I had to look up because I had no idea what they meant. ‘Crank’ was one of those words. I thought that maybe it was my naïveté and ignorance towards drugs but no, several people I spoke to about it didn’t have a clue either!

The story is fast paced and flows really well and although I struggled with the dialogue, the author kept me interested enough to keep reading. It’s not my usual sort of book, I bought it on a recommendation and although I could not relate to the characters or story it ended up being somewhat enjoyable.

Overall, the story had interesting characters, lots of action and adventure, humorous dialogue and a mostly happy ending. All but a couple of things, I look for in a good novel.

Good reading 🙂






Friday Favourites

hazel's top 5

As Kiera said in her top 5, this is actually incredibly difficult to do. It took a lot of time and thought but eventually I managed to narrow it down, so here goes…..


1. Matilda by Roald Dahl

This was my absolute favourite as a kid. And as many books as I read back then, this one stuck in my head. The story follows a little girl called Matilda who discovers something magical about herself and how it can make the people she loves, lives better.
And who can resist a character who loves to read!


2. Dark Angel by V.C Andrews


I was given this book, along with a box of others, from my mums friend at the time. I think I was about 14 when I read it for the first time and it took my hormone driven mind on a journey that I’ll never forget. I remember crying and swooning and being shocked because it was the first book I read that included sex scenes.
It is about a girl who moves to live with her incredibly rich and vain grandmother, she starts a new private school, meets a boy and deals with a lot of family drama.
My first ever book boyfriend, Troy Tatterton!


3. The Commonwealth Saga by Peter. F Hamilton


Pandora’s Star was the first ever Sci-fi book I read. I was apprehensive to start because it wasn’t the easiest Sci-fi book for a beginner! I was challenged by my now fiance to read it and although I had to ask the meaning to some of the Sci-fi jargon, I absolutely fell in love with the book and immediately read the second one, Judas Unchained. These books are not just Sci-fi. They have action, adventure, romance, mystery, crime, the lot!


4. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer


OK, some of you may groan and sigh but these books hold a special place in my heart. I was in a very long reading slump and was up to my elbows in nappies and all things baby (after having 3 children in quick succession) when two of my younger sisters said one day ‘you need to read this book’. I looked at them after hearing the synopsis and thought, really a young adult book, I’m 24! But they insisted so I took the book home and boy I’m glad I did. I instantly became hooked (well almost, by chapter 4 really) and somehow I managed to read the entire series inside a week! And out of my reading slump I came 🙂
And of course, I’m team Edward all the way, hehe.


5. The Blackdagger Brotherhood series by J.R Ward


Well, what can I say about these. After storming my way through a lot of young adult books, I was itching for something, well, more. Yasmin, my fellow blogger and sister in law, came round for a visit with my newest edition to the family and said ‘you have got to get this book, oh my god’. Of course I immediately ordered it from amazon and eagerly awaited for my package to arrive (this was before my Ipad and kindle app days). It did not disappoint! I vividly remember holding my breath and slowly flushing from my toes up at a particular scene, not that far in. It was the first time I had read a graphic sex scene! By the end I had completely fallen for Wrath, the male protagonist in this book and although I have read all but the last one so far in this series, he’s still my favourite brother.


Now as much as these are my all time favourites, I do hope that this list will evolve. I have every confidence that I will find and read a book or many, that I adore as much, if not more than those currently on my list.

Good reading guys xxx


Book Review – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Author – Laura

You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.

The Night Circus Book CoverThis book creeps under your skin and, like the titular circus, comes alive at night to invade your dreams.

The Night Circus is full of beautiful description and vivid imagery, which is no mean feat when you consider the circus is entirely black and white; a stark palette which contrasts with the scarlet of the scarves and boutonnières of the people who follow it around the world. But for all the beauty and elegance there is a sinister undertone that one never quite escapes from…

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a dreamer. There is not. But dreams have ways of turning into nightmares.”

The plot centres on a terrible wager made by two old conjurers, which develops into a deep and fragile relationship between the two main characters, Celia and Marco, both of whom are vital to the continuation of the circus. Supporting Celia and Marcus is a host of unusual and unlikely characters, whose stories are all well developed and add both humour and gravity to the tale.

I loved this book. It is luxurious and nostalgic, but with pace and depth that only comes from great writing. Not only is this a great book, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.

So I will make a wager of my own with you – I wager that you will fall in love with the Circus, and all it’s mystery. Your move…

Toujours un rêveur x

Buy this book on