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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Posted in fantasy, review

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

“You’ll be a rumour. A whisper. The thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the night. The last thing you will ever be in this world, girl, is someone’s hero.”

 

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Blurb: “In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledging killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.”

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

Nevernight is the first book in a new adult fantasy series by Jay Kristoff who many of you will recognise as the co-author of YA sci-fi novel Illuminae.

In a world where three suns never set, in a city built from the bones of dead god, lives a girl called Mia who has outlived her family. She is seeking vengeance on the people who executed her father and labelled him a traitor, and so she begins learning how to kill, taught by a man named Mercurio who sends her on the path to The Church of the Red which is a school for assassins. But Mia has the upper hand: she has the ability to control shadows and her shadow companion Mister Kindly goes everywhere with her. However, Mia finds that she isn’t the only person seeking training from the Church of the Red and only 4 people will receive it.

This book switches from past to present frequently throughout which adds so much to Mia’s character as it gives an insight into the parts of her life that shaped her and just makes her  more believable, well-written character.

I found the story quite slow and hard to get into/follow what was happening at first but once the plot picked up momentum there was no stopping it.

With the popularity of schools/training elements in many fantasy books, it’s difficult to find something slightly new but Kristoff managed to achieve that with the Church of the Red. I was completely hooked on how it was run and what the different candidates had to do in order to gain a place in one of those top 4 spots.

This book has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read and to find out what it is, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book!

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Mist And Whispers – C.M.Lucas

“Is it so far out there to believe there could be another world alongside ours? Think, how many stories have we read that have taken place in other worlds?”

 

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Blurb: “In the West-English town of Little Wolf Green, Scott’s bookshop is about to close down. Convinced the bookshop holds the key to her mother’s identity, sixteen year old Anya Piddling vows to serve Scott’s, whatever the cost. When four books of magic and myth take the world by storm, Anya begins a journey to discover the truth about the author, known only as the Weaver. Followed closely by her friends, and one surly, bitter ex-boyfriend, Anya soon realises a whole new world awaits: a world gone very wrong, with maddening whispers in the forest, magical winged kings and a dragon-boy that understands her, inside and out. But this world need a saviour… and everyone is looking at her.”

The story follows Anya who has obtained a job working at her favourite bookshop, Scott’s. She struggles with her identity as she lives in a foster home and her surname is that of the home’s founder. A rival bookshop makes a fascinating discovery of several handwritten books and the name of the author is unknown; all they have to go on is “by the weaver” written on the cover. The books were found in an abandoned manor house in North Yorkshire and the books sell 10 million copies in the space of eight weeks. The result of this puts Scott’s in turmoil; if things don’t change quickly, the shop will shut.  Anya then vows to find the other books by the weaver in the hopes of returning Scott’s to glory. Her adventures leave her not just to an abandoned house, but to another world.

I feel the need to put a disclaimer that my review is more of my experience while reading this book, than it is of the book itself.

I really enjoyed the start and getting to learn how Anya thinks and the conflict with the other bookstore had me hooked. However, after the characters ended up in the new magic world, this was where I started to feel uneasy. I expected this book to go a certain way and (I know this sounds silly but) when it did feel a little let down. It had the feel of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy from the Narnia series but when they come back to the world for the second time. There was no adjustment period from any of the characters and it seemed like they were coming back home in a sense. As much as I yearn for some fantasy worlds to be real, I’d still panic a bit if any of them became my new reality.

I found myself skim-reading large sections of text from that point onwards.

I loved the relationship between Anya and Lorcan – the dragon boy – and that was the main thing that kept me powering through.
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Posted in fantasy, review

The Queen Of The Tearling – Erika Johansen

“This is a dangerous time, Kelsea.” Carlin spoke to the window, her voice distant. “Beware of the Regent, uncle or no; he’s wanted that throne for himself since he was in the womb. But your mother’s guard are good men, and they’ll surely look after you.”

 

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Blurb: “It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They came to escort her back to the place of her birth – to ensure she takes possession of what is rightfully hers. But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen year olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous. Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known… or be dead within the week.”

The story follows Kelsea, a nineteen year old girl who has spent her lifetime in isolation. That is until soldiers turn up at her door one day. The Queen is dead and Kelsea is the rightful heir. It is time for her to leave everything she has ever known for a life of royalty. Told through several different perspectives, character motivations and thoughts on the new Tearling queen are revealed and many will do anything to swiftly remove her from the throne.

The initial start of this book was very slow for me as it was your generic “get person from point A to point B” formula and it wasn’t until quite far into the book that I felt hooked. I did, however, like that a lot of the information about the world, the ideals, and the kingdom were revealed through dialogue as Kelsea couldn’t provide this in her narratives as she was separate from that world.

Different perspectives in books can often be very hit and miss (*cough* Allegiant) and unfortunately for me, I didn’t get on with them. Some of the perspectives were interesting and made me want to read on but when that changed abruptly to others who I had no interest in, I felt like I was trying to make my way through thick mud.

On top of this the story didn’t pick up much of a pace and it was an incredibly slow build up that by time the action came around I didn’t care that much.

I left the overall experience feeling quite disheartened.
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Posted in fairytale retelling, fantasy, review, young adult

A Court Of Mist And Fury – Sarah J. Maas

“You want to save the mortal realm?” He asked. “Then become someone Prythian listens to. Become vital. Become a weapon.”

 

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Blurb: “Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring court – but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politic, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms – and she might be the key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future – and the future of a world cleaved in two.”

This is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling book A Court Of Thorns and Roses. The story opens with Feyre recovering from the events of the first book and dealing with how she’s going to tell her lover, Tamlin, about the deal she made with Rhysand; the High lord of the Night Court. Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding approaches and Tamlin becomes increasingly more protective of her, demanding that she only stay within the house, and occasionally extends this to the grounds. But it’s been more than a month, and Feyre knows that Rhysand will show up soon to cash in on their deal: having her for one week, of every month, for the rest of their lives. And now Feyre is immortal, this is a deal that will last a very long time.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a book.  This book is over 600 pages long and there didn’t seem to be much plot or substance to it at all. I’ve noticed recently with Sarah’s books is that (despite me being a fan of her work) they’re just getting longer and it feels like they’re long for the sake of being long; most of the content could easily be cut down.  So it felt like a long-winded book anyway and I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters like I had in the previous book, I just found myself resenting most of the characters throughout my reading experience. Character motivations seemed all over the place.

I honestly can’t really tell you what the plot is about because there just didn’t seem to be any and it just appeared masked by roaming around different places to open up the world, endless conversations and a lot of very very graphic sex scenes. (I note that while this is a YA book there was no “mature content” warning on the book itself) I’m all for sexual liberation etc but it was just out of place and thrown in there to create something a little steamy to keep the readers interested.

The only thing I really liked what the process of Feyre discovering her powers and learning to control them, but with Rhysand being the one to train her it just felt creepy and made me quite uncomfortable. Another thing I noticed was that Rhysand was constantly referred to by two names: “Rhysand” and the shortened “Rhys.” While this could just be me being a little picky, the constant interchanging on the two names made me feel like there were two different people there. And Feyre, for the most part, wasn’t comfortable around him so her resorting to nicknames again felt out ofplace.

In Sarah’s latest newsletter she talked about this book and how she actually wrote this series before Throne of Glass and how A Court Of Thorns And Roses had just been gathering dust on her computer. After reading this book, I really wish it was just a stand-alone and had stopped at the first book.
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