Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi

“Time is beyond our finite comprehension. It’s endless, it exists outside of us; we cannot run out of it or lose track of it or find a way to hold on to it. Time goes on even when we do not.”

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Blurb: “It should have taken Juliette a single touch to kill Warner. But his mysterious immunity to her deadly power has left her shaken, wondering why her ultimate defense mechanism failed against the person she most needs protection from.”

After rereading Shatter Me and not loving it as much as I did previously, I approached the sequel with trepidation. It took a few restarts because that fear was too much. And after I got passed that, I discovered that I didn’t need to worry at all.

Tahereh Mafi is a superb writer. She has this incredible way of stringing together metaphors to describe feelings that fit every single time. She manages to balance every thread of a story so perfectly that nothing feels neglected.

The narrative choice of crossed out sections continue to show Juliette’s state of mind. It’s an interesting framing that really works well for the character and this story. They are less frequent than Shatter Me and I already know that they continue and change over the course of the series. It’s a great way to show the crucial moments when the protagonist doubts herself.

Unravel Me doesn’t fall to that “second book syndrome” and I think a lot of that is the knowledge that it is now an extended series. At the time of release, it was a trilogy. Now, it’s a six book series. Either way, even in the slow moving sections I was completely hooked.

Unravel Me is a triumph and Tahereh Mafi continues to prove that she is a writer that is going to be around for a very long time.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Tunnel Of Bones – Victoria Schwab

“You are my best friend. In life, in death, and everything else in between.”

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Blurb: “Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual. She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.”

The sequel to City Of Ghosts sees protagonist Cassidy Blake doing more ghost hunting, but this time things are getting even more dangerous. The series as a whole gives me immense Coraline vibes and does a fantastic job of balancing the mystery and downright creepiness of the situations. Unlike its predecessor, Tunnel Of Bones takes place in Paris which feels like a breath of fresh air, and also opens up ghostly happenings to the rest of the world which I only hope continues with future books.

Victoria Schwab has a fantastic talent for descriptions and visuals. She weaves aspects together in such a way where they are detailed, unique and incredibly distinctive. Everything just clicks together and fits perfectly.

Of course, every book needs a menace to overthrow and in this one, it’s a pretty nasty poltergeist. The mystery and tension around him is unbearable at many points and he defies everything that both Cassidy and the reader has learned about how the veil world works so far.

The absolute gem of this story is Cassidy and Jacob’s relationship and how it continues to grow and flourish. Their lives are so woven and interconnected and I have so many fears for the future. But for now, I will enjoy the wonders of their friendship.

Tunnel Of Bones shows that Victoria Schwab continues to grow as an author and is one that we are very, very lucky to have.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Infinity Son – Adam Silvera

“I’m dead set on living my one life right now, but I can’t say the same for my brother.”

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Blurb: “Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures. Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day. Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.”

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Adam Silvera has always been a hit and miss author for me. I tend to find that I really love his ideas but the execution falls a little short. However, when I heard that his new book was not going to be a contemporary but in fact was a YA fantasy, I was really intrigued to see with what he’d come up with. Adam talks in the introduction of this book about his experiences with fantasy and gay fiction growing up and how it was something that he never really saw representation until he came across City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare. It made him realise those kinds of stories can be published and began working on his own. Initially, the heroes in this book were heterosexuals and changed to gay leads later on.

Emil and Brighton are brothers but totally different. Brighton is famous online and wants to be a celestial whereas Emil wants to live the most boring and mundane life possible. This world is made up of specters, celestials and spell walkers but there’s not much distinctive explanation given to fully understand what makes them different. With the main characters already existing in this world, daily things are told through dialogue more as a “you already know this” than a “we need to explain this to you and therefore the reader.” Emil is a gay teen but the nice thing to see is that it’s more a footnote in the wider story. While coming out stories are incredibly important, the ones where those characters just exist alongside their sexuality are equally important; especially in fantasy where diversity is sometimes lacking.

It’s multiple perspective which at times I felt was detrimental to the story. I wanted to learn more about Emil and Brighton in their little duo and the breaks away from them were sometimes jarring and done so to flesh out another part of the world.

The story is set as if this is in modern day so technology is used to capture footage of the magical beings and often swung a certain way to feed the agenda of respective sides. Interesting world building in a political sense but just wish the finer details of magic were explained a bit better. There’s a lot of “it’s not like that” at story clichés that end up being true such as the chosen one. It reminded me of how in movies they’d go “this isn’t a movie.” A small niggle but it felt like an attempt to distance itself from stories that existed within the world to try and make it more real and its own entity. 

The ending of this book was truly incredible and has me gasping that I have to wait even longer to find out what happens next. Adam Silvera’s first fantasy book is a triumph and I look forward to seeing him grow over the series in this new genre.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Every Heart A Doorway – Seanan McGuire

“Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.”

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Blurb:”Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.”

Nancy is one of many children who have opened up doors and found themselves in another world. After being spat out out of a universe in which death surrounds her, she is now expected to return to life as normal and forget everything she uncovered. Sadly, it’s not that easy and her parents ship her off to the Wayward Home for Children; which is basically a sanatorium for girls in similar situations.

Every Heart A Doorway has incredible set up and the information being delivered through dialogue not only prevents heavy exposition dumps, but gives room for readers to feel out this new place along with the protagonist. As children start to turn up dead I was just hooked on all the possible ways this story could go. It does have very gory moments that feel played up very much for shock value until the threads start to tie together and the relevance of the horror emerges.

This book gave me serious Coraline and Miss Peregrine vibes because every girl in the home is adapting to the “real world” again after coming back from a door, and it had this creepy air of mystery and dark magic to it.

The only grievance I really had was that the story is too short. It feels almost like a short story than a full length book and it reached its peak just as it ended. I would have liked more time to flesh out the surrounding characters and learn more about them as the ones that were given backstories were super interesting.

Every Heart A Doorway is equal parts creepy and intriguing but will keep you in its clutches until the final page.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

The Witch’s Tears – Katharine & Liz Corr

“There was a photo of Merry and her brother on her bedside table. In the photo, Leo was smiling. She tried-failed to recall the last time she’d seen him look that happy. Today was the first morning of the summer holidays. But the brighter the sunshine, the more they both seemed to be lost in the shadow.”

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Blurb: “It’s not easy being a teenage witch. Just ask Merry. She’s drowning in textbooks and rules set by the coven; drowning in heartbreak after the loss of Jack. But Merry’s not the only one whose fairy tale is over. Big brother Leo is falling apart and everything Merry does seems to push him further to the brink. And everything that happens to Leo makes her ache for revenge. So when strangers offering friendship show them a different path they’d be mad not to take it…”

After reading The Witch’s Kiss, I knew that I had to jump into the next book immediately, and thankfully I was smart enough to buy the whole series because I was that sure I’d love it.

The Witch’s Kiss takes place shortly after the events of the previous book and the emotions are still raw. Merry and her brother, Leo, become divided as they try to process what happened: Merry is embracing her powers and getting trained by the coven and her Grandma, while Leo – who has become resentful of witches – is mourning the loss of someone close to him and starting to explore his sexuality more. This book is a slow burn as it focuses more on shaping the characters and feeling into their development than overwhelming the reader with plot and not giving the characters that much needed time to recover. In fact, this book isn’t what I expected at all and that is a good thing. I feel like I left the reading experience knowing much more about the characters and how their minds work and feel closer to them for it.

As the story muddles through the recovery process, Leo meets a wizard called Ronan who he feels connected to and begins to explore the possibility of a romantic relationship. Merry is naturally suspicious which only furthers the gap between them. He was a really interesting addition to the series and gave me certain vibes and had me almost giving the side-eye as I continued through the plot. However, it was nice to see someone appearing to care about Leo and take the time to get to know him.

When witches begin to disappear without a trace and it appears to mimic something that’s happened before, the plot takes a direction I never could have prepared myself for. Katharine and Liz Corr do a fantastic job of planting the little seeds along the way in those quieter moments to the point where the story hits its climax and I was left cursing myself for not working things out sooner.

The Witch’s Kiss is a fantastic sequel and I cannot wait to dive into the next one.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | Six Of Crows

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It felt like January was going to last forever, and now it feels like every time I blink it’s a new month and time to pick another audiobook to listen to.

My selection for August is a rather popular one in the YA book community, but also one that I’ve been incredibly wary about delving into. Naturally, books with a lot of hype around them can go one of two ways for me, and more often it tends to be that I don’t like them. I’ve downloaded the chapter sampler many times for Six of Crows and wasn’t able to stick with it. As the audiobook has multiple narrators, I decided to give it a go in a different format and see if that makes any difference to my enjoyment.

Six of Crows is essentially one big heist mission in which the typical brooding YA male, Kaz Brekker, is the leader and facing the delicious prospect of a lot of money if he succeeds. It’s set in the Grisha universe, although it’s not required for you to have read Leigh Bardugo’s other series in order to get your footing in this story.

So far, the world-building is super intriguing and it’s interesting seeing all the different motivations the characters have for agreeing to do the mission. However, Kaz seems to be the only real prominent voice and he just oozes all the stereotypes you’d expect from a YA male; he reminds me a lot of Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments series. It’s not fully engaging me at the moment so if I had stuck with the book I think I would have put it down, but it’s still the early stages and I expect it will pick up soon. At the time of writing this I am only 30% into it. So we’ll see!

Have you read Six of Crows?

Let me know your thoughts!

Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Out Of The Blue – Sophie Cameron

“It was our 9/11, our Princess Diana, our JFK. You’d always remember where you were when you heard about Being No. 1.”

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Blurb: “When the angels start falling from the sky, it seems like the world is ending. Smashing down to Earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted. Not a single one has survived.”

I first became aware of Out Of The Blue when Sophie Cameron was a guest on the weekly Twitter book chat #UKYAChat and was fascinated by the concept. This is a book that captures the reader from the first line, luring them in with little bread crumbs of information building up to the bigger picture.

The protagonist, Jaya, is introduced just as her life is uprooted to Edinburgh for the summer because her father believes that is where the next Being will fall. It was interesting seeing how the world had adapted to these sudden Beings falling from the sky and the various ways individuals reacted made it feel so real; like it could actually happen in our world and this plot is how things would unfold.(My particular favourite was the  angel theme restaurant) I like that there’s no real explanation as to why this suddenly started happening and the readers are really felt to create their own interpretation of what the falls could mean. For example, Jaya links their meaning to the recent death of her Mother.

Through a series of events, Jaya ends up witnessing the fall of a Being that survives and she is forced to hide it from sight, determined to help the creature find a way back home. It was compelling to witness Sophie Cameron weave together a story like this which featured a language barrier and how Jaya was able to build up the Being’s trust despite that block in place. I found it simply hilarious when the Being – soon named Teacake – started to randomly parrot adverts it had heard on the radio.

It’s important to note that Jaya is gay and this isn’t made a big deal of in the story; it’s simply part of her identity. It was interesting to see the parallels between her and her ex (Leah) as it just highlighted the many ways individuals have been affected by the strange phenomenon.

The narrative does lull in the middle as Jaya works out what to do but really picks up in the final third which left me screaming at many pages. Out of The Blue will make readers think about their place in the universe and really how small our lives can be in the grand scheme of things.

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Posted in children's fiction, fairytale retelling, fantasy, review

The Land Of Stories: Worlds Collide – Chris Colfer

“Think about how wonderful this world could be if we all saw it through the eyes of a child.”

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Blurb: “ All of the Land of Stories fairy tale characters–heroes and villains–are no longer confined within their world! With mayhem brewing in the Big Apple, Conner and Alex will have to win their biggest battle yet. Can the twins restore order between the human and fairy tale world?”

In the sixth and final instalment of The Land Of Stories series, Alex is missing and it’s down to Connor and his band of fairy-tale friends to find her. Meanwhile, evil is brewing as the literary army and a group of witches, among many other evil villains, descend on the real world.

The Land of Stories was a series that initially took me by surprise. Like many when it comes to “celebrity” books, I didn’t expect it to be any good and Colfer was quick to prove me wrong. This universe that has been created is so cleverly woven together in a way that makes it impossible to find any glaring cracks. Each book has slowly added more players to the game, building up to Worlds Collide where… well… worlds do exactly that. I will admit that I’ve found the series to shaky overall. For me it really peaked at The Grimm Warning which left me quite worried when it was announced that the sixth book would be the finale. Thankfully, Colfer finds a brilliant way to bring everything together, tie loose ends and make it a very satisfying finish overall.

I felt like this was the perfect time to change the game and combine the fictional and real worlds together, giving the good guys some advantage over the impending threat. I loved the insight into the government trying to cover up the magic that was taking over the city (and frankly doing a terribly job of keeping it quite). It’s another book that sees Alex and Connor going down separate paths and focused a lot more on Connor than was expected. But this worked really well. It was nice to spend that time with Connor as an individual, rather than the duo with his sister, and watch him grow as a character and stand up as a leader. The fairy-tale characters such as Red continue to prove those hilarious scenes that remind you just why this series works so well.

The only big issue I have is that with building up the world so much prior to this book, it means there are a lot of characters. All of the characters that played significant roles in the previous books are present in the same city in this one which makes it rather overwhelming at times. It could be argued that this works in showcasing the scale of the problem that Connor faces, but at times it was very hard to tell who was who and at times even remember who was on which side.

Overall, not entirely perfect but an incredibly satisfying end to a series if you really do love it.

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Posted in review, young adult

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

“You be as angry as you need to be,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Not your Grandma, not your Dad, no one. And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them good and hard.”

 

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Blurb: “The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.”

A Monster Calls is an original idea from author Siobhan Dowd who sadly died before she got the chance to write it. Leaving behind some of the framework and a beginning, Patrick Ness took the project on board as a tribute to her, adding his own flare in the process. Accompanied by illustrations from Jim Kay (illustrator for the illustrated Harry Potter editions) any reader who picks up this book is in for an emotional rollercoaster.

The story follows a thirteen-year-old boy called Conor who is struggling to cope with his mother’s illness. One night, a monster shows up at his house and says that he will tell Conor three stories and, once he is finished, Conor must reveal a story of truth in return.

At its core, this is a story about grief, sorrow and denial. Conor floats through the story, isolated from his peers at school and having to endure constant sympathy from his teachers, all while having to deal with one fundamental fact that he can’t admit to himself: his mother isn’t getting better.

The contents of this novel will resonate with anyone who’s experienced losing a loved one and while some of the writing can feel simplistic at times given the subject matter, it really does pack a punch and the addition of the illustration feels like someone has reached into your chest and began twisting your heart. It’s impossible not to sympathise with, and understand, Conor’s intentions and his actions, especially when the only friend he has to turn to is a monster disguised as a tree in his garden.

A Monster Calls is a fundamentally heart-breaking, tender and complex book and by gosh it’s one you should read.

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Traitor To The Throne – Alwyn Hamilton

“This was what the desert did to us. It made us dreamers with weapons.”

 

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Blurb: “Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.”

 

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Rebel of the Sands
was the book that regained my faith in Young Adult fiction when I was considering moving on from it completely. There was just something so magical and truly wonderful about the characters and the world that Alwyn Hamilton had woven together, and now she’s back with the highly anticipated sequel Traitor To The Throne.

It’s hard to give a summary for this book without spoiling the previous one so all I will say is this: the rebellion at this point lies solely on the Sultan not knowing exactly how small the rebellion actually is, and also not discovering that Amani is in fact the Blue Eyed-Bandit.

As I often find with sequels, it’s easy to forget the story so far without re-reading which I struggle to do a lot of the time but thankfully Hamilton includes a glossary as the start of the book detailing each character and their roles, and the first chapter is quite simply a recap of the story so far. I found it incredibly helpful to have a guide within the book to go back to without having to pause and do an internet search to remind myself of certain information.

Alwyn Hamilton has this real talent for introducing new parts of the world she’s created without throwing the reader into them, hoping they find their own way. Instead she eases the reader in gently which I’m finding so rare lately.

It’s really interesting to see what was happening on the Sultan’s side of the rebellion and get a glimpse into why these people are rallying against him. It provided moments of action and excitement and I loved seeing the character development of Amani. However this book just seemed to fall short of its brilliant counterpart. Unfortunately it seems to suffer from “second book syndrome” where the lull periods go on for too long but that, at the same time, can’t be helped because of the nature of the plot. It just seemed to lack that something that made me love the first one so much.

It has its moments of greatness but overall  it feels like a pebble compared to the rock that was Rebel Of The Sands.

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