Book Review: Wild Fire (Anna McKerrow)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 530

Release Date: November 14th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The last book in the Greenworld trilogy follows Sadie, Roach’s daughter and Danny’s former girlfriend, as she finds a new identity as the third branded witch along with Danny and Melz. Sadie, a natural healer, is training to be a witch in Tintagel, Cornwall, as well as trying to deal with her own difficult past. Plus, she’s fallen in love with Melz, but Demelza Hawthorne is a tortured soul. Can Sadie’s love bring Melz back into the light, or will she be lost altogether?

Meanwhile, a global network of resistance is forming against the corrupt, dystopian Redworld governments. Sadie travels by accident through the portal to Mount Shasta, home to a Native American tribe, who indicate that they too are holding out against the Redworld. The war for fuel is over, and new solutions have to be found fast. But in Tintagel, Lowenna Hawthorne, Head Witch of the Greenworld, is in denial about the need for change.

In the final dramatic climax to the trilogy, the Greenworld witches have to do something more difficult than they ever have, but saving the world means refusing to be separate anymore. Can they join with others, despite their differences, and usher in a brave new world? Or will the Greenworld disappear altogether?

Review:

I remember finishing Red Witch and being so excited for the next book, and theorising who would be telling the final part of the story. I can now confirm that – hey, I was right, it’s Sadie’s turn!

Sadie is the third branded witch, along with Danny and Melz and this new generation has plenty to deal with. As well as dealing with the fallout of the actions of their parents, the Greenworld is filling with refugees from the Redworld. The war is over there but the troubles are far from solved. To add to all that, Sadie has to deal with massive crush she’s developed on Melz.

I loved seeing Sadie’s story. I don’t think we’ve seen much of her yet, and it was great to get to know a new witch, especially one who wasn’t as born into it as Danny and Melz were. She has a lot of bottled up emotions from her past – the actions of her abusive father, Roach, the terrible act her mother committed in the previous book – and it’s interesting to see how she deals with them as the book progresses.

The situation with the Greenworld and Redworld is fascinating. While at first glance the Greenworld might seem like a protected utopia, it soon becomes clear that separation is not sustainable and another solution will need to be found. Not everyone is open to change though, and Sadie and Melz have to make some tough decisions in the interest of the Greenworld.

I still have a soft spot for Melz and it was great to see a resolution of her story. Hers has definitely been the most complex and emotional across the three books and she’s got a special place in my heart now. I loved the relationship that slowly blossomed between her and Sadie and it was great to see her finally let herself be loved and be happy.

This didn’t go the way I expected to and I was happily surprised with the progression of events. The ending is beautifully hopeful and gave me an embarrassingly gooey feeling inside, without being too twee. This is a fantastic trilogy and I’d really recommend picking it up if you haven’t yet.

4

Book Review: Traitor to the Throne (Alwyn Hamilton)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Pages: 512

Release Date: February 4th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert – and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

Review:

I was lucky enough to have this granted as a wish on NetGalley (just like the first book!), so big thanks to them and the publisher for the opportunity to read it.

I loved Rebel of the Sands last year and was itching to get my hands on the sequel. It’s been a while since I read the first book and it did take me a little while to ease back into the world and characters. I couldn’t quite remember who everyone was or what had happened, but luckily there’s a little recap and character guide at the start of this book, which I appreciated. More sequels need that!

The book plunges straight into the action, which threw me a little a first but I soon got into the swing of things. My gripe was that I couldn’t figure out how much time had passed since the last book. Worse, some big stuff had gone down between Amani and Jin and we weren’t privvy to any of it: it all happened between books and we just saw the fallout of it. It was a bit frustrating, but I still loved their relationship.

After seeing Amani discover her powers in the last book, way this book explored the Djinni powers and rules. Having to obey orders under certain circumstances, being unable to lie, powers of disguise and illusion: it all makes for one fascinating read with so many twists you could never tell where it was going next.

I love the intrigue and intricacies of the court, the relationships there and the balance and fight for power, trying to figure out who was lying and who could be trusted. It’s so different from the dessert world and rebel camp of the first book but I still enjoyed it, even if I did miss Amani having a gun in her hand. She proved that she was capable of looking after herself without any weapons or powers at all, and that just makes her all the more dangerous and awesome.

While I did miss some of the characters from the last book – Jin, Ahmed etc – who don’t appear as much, there were some amazing new characters and the return of a few I didn’t expect. I won’t spoil those here but man, I learned to love/respect a character I didn’t think I could! The book was full of myth and stories too that really bring the world to life: I can fully believe this is a real, functioning world and not something made just to tell this one story. It has history and depth and I just want to disappear into it.

The best part of the book was Amani’s relationship with the Sultan. For someone who was built up as evil in the last book… I weirdly kind of liked him. And that’s what made him so dangerous. Even Amani found herself coming round to his way of thinking sometimes and that’s what made him so formidable: he was persuasive and somehow made you crave his approval.

The ending was so incredible. It was the perfect climax of thinking their grand plan was going to work and then seeing everything falling around their feet. My heart was actual pounding as I finished the last page and I can’t believe I’ll have to wait a year or more for the sequel. Write fast, Alwyn!

If you’ve not picked up this series yet then do it now, it’s unlike any YA I’ve ever read and I can’t get enough the characters and the rich, beautiful world.

Copy of an art exhibit

British Books Challenge 2017

So, I’m planning on signing up for my third British Books Challenge.

I can already tell you how it’s going to go:

I’ll be really enthusiastic the first few weeks, maybe even months. I’ll tag my reviews with ‘British Books Challenge’ and make sure I’ve linked them all up before the end of the month.

And then I’ll trail off until eventually I’m not doing it at all.

That’s how it’s gone for the last two years anyway, despite my best intentions. It’s not that I don’t want to read British books, or even that I’m not doing it, I just forget to link up and eventually give up altogether.

But I’m doing it again next year anyway, because I think it’s a great thing and I do enjoy it while I remember. This year it’s being hosted by Chelley Toy at Tales of Yesterday and it sounds like she’s got some fab things lines up.

I don’t really have a list of books I’d like to read next year, but a few do spring to mind that I’m looking forward to:

  • The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
  • Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
  • Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Book Review: A Face Like Glass (Frances Hardinge)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Release Date: January 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone’s an artist . . .

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare — wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed …

Review:

I really loved this book. It’s bizarre and imaginative and more than a little bonkers and that makes for a great read.

The book has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, which is always a good thing in my book as I love anything Wonderland related. It feels similar in its bizarre logic, crazy ruler and other kooky characters, but it’s not really based on it as a story or anything (in case that was going to put you off).

Our main character, Neverfell, is different from the other inhabitants of Caverna as she is unable to control her facial expressions: while everyone else has set Faces which they learn, she shows all her emotions on her face as you or I might, and that is terrifying to everyone around her. After years of keeping her face hidden, she finds herself playing the dangerous games of the court, getting caught up in the antics of the Kleptomancer and leading a revolution.

I found the ideas in this book all fascinating, from delicacies that can affect memories or make you taste songs, to the mad Cartographers and the topsy-turvy world of Caverna, but I especially loved the Faces: their names, the limited Faces available to the lower classes and the way it made it impossible to know who was trustworthy and who was lying. It just sparked my curiosity and imagination and I loved it.

Neverfell has a kind of tragic character progression which we see through the changes in her face: from wide-eyed wonderer, full of innocence and able to marvel at the world of Caverna, to the heart breaking disillusionment as the darkness of the world is revealed to her.

Hardinge’s writing is truly magical and her imagination is just incredible. This is the first book I’ve read by her, but I know now that I want to read a lot more. If you’re a fan of fantasy and adventure and are looking for something completely different and new to read then this is for you.

 Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: Consumed (Abbie Rushton)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

Pages: 352

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Myla used to love spending long, hot days on the beach with her sister, Asha. Until the day Asha was taken from her and the sun went out. Forever.

That was two years ago. Myla hasn’t been down to the beach – or even left the house – since. Crippling agoraphobia and panic attacks keep her locked inside a nightmare of the day she can never forget. Her main contact with the outside world is online – until she meets Jamie.

Jamie is new in town and also struggles with things most people find easy. Nobody gets why it’s so hard for him to eat. But, like Myla, Jamie is trapped by his fears and feels anxious, awkward and alone.

Gradually the pair begin to trust each other. Are they willing to reveal their secrets – and risk discovering the truth? Or will they let their pasts consume them for good…

Review:

There were some things I really liked about this book, but other bits that I really struggled with, which kind of spoilt my enjoyment a little.

I liked the mystery element, wondering who murdered Asha and what their motivations were. I managed to guess the person after a couple of obvious clues about half way through, but I didn’t mind as it was still interesting to see the characters work it out and understand how and why it had all happened.

I also liked the main characters. It was great to see a male protagonist with an eating disorder, and I think it’s the first I’ve come across in a book before. That’s really important to me, as I think too often eating disorders are seen as a ‘girls problem’ which just isn’t true. Myla was also a great protagonist. I loved that she was a blogger and a baker. It was interesting to see the effect of the loss of her sister had on her and her family and the different ways which they dealt with it.

The relationship between Jamie and Myla developed nicely in some respects. I liked that they didn’t love each other at first sight – or even like each other really. But neither had anyone else to turn to and circumstance forced them together, which meant a nice little romance developed between them.

What I didn’t like, however, was the was they each helped to ‘cure’ each other’s mental illnesses. Very early on in the relationship, Jamie encourages Myla to leave the house, and she seems willing to do it for him, a guy she barely knows. I know she wanted to get out for herself too, but it just felt a little corny/unbelievable that this basic stranger could come along and get her out the front door when her family and professionals had been unable to. Similarly, it made me cringe to see her trying to make him eat, though I think his recovery was a little slower and more believable.

So I had my problems with how some of the issues were dealt with, but I think that could just be how I interpreted things – you might read it differently. It’s still a well written and interesting book, and a quick and easy read.

3

Book Review: Love Song (Sophia Bennett)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Chicken House Books

Pages: 384

Release Date: April 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

A million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina’s not one of them.

She’s the new assistant to the lead singer’s diva fiancée, and she knows it’s going to suck. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn’t as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina’s determined to stick it out – and not fall for any of them …

Review:

This was a lovely little read, and I can see it being one of those ‘feel good’ books of the summer.

Love Song reads a bit like a fan girl’s biggest daydream – only happening to the wrong person. Nina’s sister, Ariel, is a big fan of the band The Point, but it’s Nina who is chosen to be the new assistant to the lead singer’s fiance. While she may not be their biggest fan, she soon warms to them as she gets to know the band as people, rather than egotistical rock stars.

I’ve never really fallen in love with a boy band the way people seem to do today – One Direction for example – but I did see and understand the attraction through Nina and her sister’s eyes. This book appeals a lot to my inner teenager and I can see it being really successful, especially in today’s world of fan culture.

Nina is a great protagonist. Despite not being too enthralled with the boys to start with, even she has to admit they are gorgeous and talented and probably most girls dream boyfriends. But not hers, or not to start with at least, which, according to the band’s manager, makes her the perfect person to look after them. I loved how grounded Nina was: she didn’t really show off about her new position, even though it would have impressed/made everyone at school extremely jealous. She wasn’t after the boys for their fame or good looks or money, and she stood her ground when certain moral resolves were tested.

This is a real feel good read, filled with drama and surprises, and fulfills a daydream that most of us have had secretly at least once. It’s also a great example of ‘Happy YA’ – something talked about on Twitter recently – proof that not all YA is dark and disturbing. I’d definitely recommend picking this up if you want a book to make you smile and feel warm inside.

4

Book Review: Read Me Like a Book (Liz Kessler)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

Pages: 297

Release Date: May 14th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling – that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It’s enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents’ marriage troubles. There’s just one thing bothering her . . .

Shouldn’t it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way – not Miss Murray, her English teacher?

Review:

I don’t normally like stories that centre around coming out – while I recognise they’re important, especially in YA, as they can really help young people struggling with these issues, it’s just not the kind of story I normally go for. Saying that, this was a beautifully written story and I did enjoy reading it.

Ash is having a difficult time and it makes her a really sympathetic character. She’s having to make big decisions about her future, is struggling at college, her parent’s relationship is falling apart and she’s having boyfriend and best friend problems. Throw in some confusing feelings about a female teacher and it’s a wonder the poor girl doesn’t completely fall apart.

If all that sounds a little much or too depressing it really isn’t: Ash finds support and new friends throughout the book, and while everything doesn’t end on too much of a high note, it’s definitely not a bitter ending either. I felt hopeful for Ash at the end of it, and I think that’s an important result after all she goes through in the book. I was a little disappointed by one of the reactions of a character to her coming out though – I won’t spoil it and say which one – but I’d thought better of them and really hope they come round.

One thing I didn’t like was the fact that everyone – and I mean everyone – seemed to guess Ash was gay before she’d even had the thought cross her mind. When it happened with one character I could understand it, but there were so many who apparently knew and were waiting for her to come out, it just felt quite unrealistic.

While I wasn’t sure going in to this, I’m glad I gave it a go as it was a really enjoyable read, and I’d definitely like to check out more of Kessler’s books in future.

4

Book Review: Radio Silence (Alice Oseman)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Pages: 400

Release Date: February 25th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Review:

This was such a good read! I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it so much, and I was most pleasantly surprised.

I think what stood out most was the voice of our narrator, Frances. It was so real, I could fully believe she was an actual person talking to me and not just a character on the page. A lot of this is helped by modern references – talking about The Office and Tumblr etc, and I wonder if that will have an effect on its lastability (these references could be well out of date in a couple of years). That’s not really important, just something I was musing on.

There’s a great sense of diversity in this book, racially and sexually, and I love the fact that that’s not the point of the book: it’s not about being bisexual or mixed race, it just there in the characters, as this book reflects real life and the diversity you find there every day.

I really appreciated the lack of romance in this book. Frances states herself that it’s not that kind of book, she’s not going to fall in love with Aled, and I respected that. It would have been a different, more predictable book if she had, and I don’t think I would have liked it as much.

The themes of finding yourself and becoming comfortable in your own skin are typical ones to be found in YA, but it’s handled really skillfully here. I felt like I could relate to the situations facing the characters really well, despite no longer being in that kind of position myself: it just rang true with my teenage years, and I wish I’d had this book to read back then.

One of the most important messages in this book is to do with education and choices for your future. With two younger sisters in secondary school at the moment, I’ve seen the kind of stress they can be put under: I’ve seen my 15 year old sister in pieces over a test, because if she failed then she’d fail her A levels and not get into university and not get a good job. It’s horrible to see someone so young worrying about that kind of thing, but that’s what young people face these days. There’s an expectation now to go to university: we were taught in school that it was the path that would get you the best job. This book explores the idea that university isn’t for everyone, and not having a degree or good grades doesn’t mean you won’t get a good job.

That’s not to say that education isn’t important, or that university is bad. I went myself for an undergraduate and Masters degree, loved every moment of it and wouldn’t change a thing. But that path isn’t for everyone, and this book highlights this and the need to offer other options to people who maybe aren’t as academically focussed.

Slight rambly tangent there, but basically this book is awesome, and a perfect read for 13-18 year olds especially who are having to decide there futures right now.

4

Book Review: Forbidden (Tabitha Suzuma)

Publisher: Definitions

Pages: 432

Release Date: May 27th 2010

Summary:

She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

 

Review:

Around this time last year I read an extract of Forbidden in Love Hurts and was really intrigued by it. It’s a pretty brave topic to write, especially for YA, and I really wanted to know how the relationship developed and how the story would end.

I can’t ever imagine feeling that a sexual relationship between siblings is right, and I liked that this book didn’t shy away from the wrongness of their actions, or try to romanticise it: they were aware that what they were doing was wrong, and eventually had to face the consequences of their actions. But I felt that their difficult home life probably led to their feelings and made it more understandable.

Lochan and Maya are basically parents to their 3 younger siblings: their mother is irresponsible, often drunk and, as the book progresses, increasingly absent. As well as the usual teenage stresses of school and friendships to deal with, Lochan and Maya have to get their siblings to school, cook, clean, put the kids to bed and worry about bills and being found out by social services. It’s a dysfunctional family that puts so much pressure on them and forces them to act as adults, each falling into a mother/father role.

This is the ultimate forbidden love story that makes others look weak in comparison: warring families, different races, even teachers and students – they’re all nothing compared to loving your sibling, as no one sees that as right. It’s difficult to read about, and even though I knew what they were doing was wrong, I did have a lot of sympathy for their feelings and the impossibility of their situation.

I wasn’t sure how Suzuma was going to end things: I didn’t think it would be right to allow them to end up together but an odd part of me didn’t want things to end tragically either. They weren’t bad people, just in a difficult situation, but I knew there was no way they could end up happy. I won’t spoil the ending but it was a little heartbreaking.

This is a difficult read about a taboo subject that may not be to everyone’s tastes. I’ve seen lots of reviews from teen readers with siblings who say it made them feel uncomfortable, which is understandable. Still, it’s unlike anything I’ve read before and I’d definitely recommend it.

4

Book Review: Red Witch (Anna McKerrow)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books

Pages: 416

Release Date: March 10th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen, heartbroken, powerful; Melz has run away from home, run away from the safety of the Greenworld. In the cities of the Redworld, Melz discovers she’s special, desired. And not just for her magical talents. When Melz meets the young but influential Bran, their attraction is instant and electric. In the Redworld, with Bran by her side, unrestrained by the customs of her former life, Melz knows she can reach her true potential. But the world Bran wants to give Melz is ravaged by war and violence. Oil is running out, and people will do anything to gain control of the remaining resources. Melz may be more powerful than ever, but even great power can be a curse when used against you.

Review:

It feels weird writing a review for a book that I was waiting for/really excited for a year ago – I’ve only been blogging for a year so it’s nice to see things coming full circle. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing a review for the next installment and marvelling at all the time gone by.

Red Witch picks up where Crow Moon left off, only now we’re following Melz instead of Danny. I loved seeing her side of the story: she’s a great narrator and goes through such a big change throughout the book. At the start she is full of raw emotions, still hurting from the end events of Crow Moon and embarking on her biggest journey ever: into the Red World.

After hearing little snippets about it in the last book, it was great to see the Redworld, especially from a Greenworlders perspective. And vice-versa, it’s great to see what the Redworlders think of the Green World. We start to see a little of these two worlds colliding towards the end of this book, and I’m excited to see how this progresses and resolves in the next book. There’s a lot of similarities between the two that they probably don’t even realise: the way both have been lied to about the other world, and the manipulation of the people by those in power.

I loved every time the Morrigan appeared – she’s a real scene stealer and I just wanted more of her all the time. She’s definitely my favourite of the gods and goddesses and I hope we see more of her again. It’s interesting to see Melz’s relationship with her and how she helps her heal and develop throughout the book. Melz goes from a naive, slightly broken girl at the beginning to becoming more confident with herself, in her mind, body and powers, and I loved her even more by the end of the book.

McKerrow has done it again – the world she’s created is vivid and gritty and magical and her characters just leap off the page. Once again, while the main plot is resolved by the end of the book, there is plenty left open to leave us gagging for the sequel (seriously, do we have to wait another year?!) I’m excited to see how things are going to wrap up, and whose story we’re going to follow next time – I have my theories but I won’t say anything just yet (spoilers!). I guess I’ll just have to patient (and maybe re-read both in the meantime!)

4