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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Blog Tour Review - Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train by Martin Stewart

 Blog Tour Review - Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train 

by Martin Stewart

Belle-on-Sea is getting ready for the Night of the Hungry Ghosts, the spookiest time of the year. Mr Vanderpuff's bake will be the centrepiece of the whole parade, but he needs a new creation and he's totally stumped. To make matters worse, salty old seadog, Captain Lufty, and his Hat Rat, Barry, have warned that something is coming to Belle-on-Sea. Something terrible.

When a ghost train is seen rattling into town, and people start to go missing - first the librarian, then the Mayor - Bridget and Tom begin tracking the train's tracks, delighted to be in the thick of another mystery.

Then the unthinkable happens: the ghost train takes Mr Vanderpuff! Someone - or something - is out to destroy Belle-on-Sea. But they've forgotten one important detail. This is Bridget's town.

Bridget must save the missing people from their perilous prisons, rescue the parade, and come up with an idea for Mr Vanderpuff's Hungry Ghosts bake, before it's too late.

I really enjoyed the first Bridget Vanderpuff book, for which you can find my review here. So I was very eager to read the second one.

It's a fantastic sequel. It hits so many of the themes and points that made the first book such a joy, while being fresh and different at the same time. Bridget is now safely out of the horrible orphanage, and living happily with Mr Vanderpuff. It's really so lovely seeing them bonding as a little family, with Pasqual the elf making three. Bridget feels very settled and secure and I really appreciate that that sense of security isn't what is directly threatened, though it is still something of an undercurrent. Bridget deserves a family and it's great seeing her as a happy part of one.

Several of the elements from the first book are still there. Bridget's inventions are as inventive as ever and her baking attempts are as catastrophic as they were previously, but they're not as much of a major focus as they were in the first story. Instead the focus is firmly on her mystery solving abilities and the baking and the inventions fall in line quite naturally with her adventures. 

The key mystery is, of course, the ghost train. It's a terrifying spectacle that gets scarier as the story goes on, but for a long time Bridget has a hard time convincing anyone that it is real. There's also the creepy old sailor and the charming new lord of the manor and hide and seek champion, two wonderful new characters absolutely full of, well, character. It's great to see more of the town of Belle-on-Sea too, with different townsfolk, particularly those working in the library, playing a much larger role and really helping to flesh out the strange little town. 

One of the things I love about this book is how sensory it is. It's filled with baking and delicious treats that really come to life in the descriptions. You can practically smell them as you read, and the sights and sounds and scents of the bakery are depicted so vividly it's just frustrating I couldn't actually pop into Vanderpuff's Bakery when I'd finished reading. 

Another thing I loved was how much of the story was about love and family, and how firmly that was intertwined with the baking. Given Bridget's background, that really felt so important and it's so clear throughout the story how much love there is. It really is beautiful.

There's also a very mean villain, and while I figured out who it was fairly early on it was still incredibly entertaining following what was going on, and there were a few twists that really open up a world of possibilities for future books, and that I really didn't see coming.

My only complaint would be the illustrations. While the illustrations by David Habben are very pretty, the same ones get used again and again throughout the book. There are a small number of scene-specific ones, but character art and incidental art gets repeated, but flipped or rotated or positioned off the side of the page so that it's slightly less obvious that we're seeing the same picture of, say, the mayor that we've seen six times already. It just got a little repetitive and took away from what really are quite lovely illustrations.


Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train by Martin Stewart is out now, published by Zephyr.

I was given a review copy in exchange for this honest review and participation in this blog tour.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour!


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