Book Review: The Huntress – Sky (Sarah Driver)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 384

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seek the scattered Storm-Opals of Sea, Sky and Land, before an enemy finds them and uses them to wield dark power. . .

The trail of the Storm-Opals takes Mouse further than she has ever been before. With her little brother Sparrow and friend Crow alongside her, she stumbles into the world of Sky, where fortresses are hidden amongst the clouds, secret libraries (skybraries) nestle atop gigantic icebergs and the sky swirls with warring tribes and their ferocious flying beasts. Can they solve Da’s message before it’s too late for their ship, their tribe and the whole of Trianukka?

Continue reading “Book Review: The Huntress – Sky (Sarah Driver)”

Book Review: The Huntress – Sea (Sarah Driver)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 336

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka .

Review:

This book was sent to me wrapped up in a beautiful piece of fur with a gorgeous bookmark and map in a bottle. It was such a pretty package and the book lived up to it’s wrapping!

IMG_7384

Mouse is going to be captain of the Huntress when she grows up, but for now she has to look after her sickly brother, Sparrow. When their Da goes missing and a mysterious stranger arrives on their ship, things take a bad turn for Mouse.

This felt like a great, old-fashioned adventure story, like ones I loved when I was younger. There’s danger, there are wild beasts and animal friends, magic and fighting and a race to save a loved one. The pace is fast, the story moves quickly from one danger to the next and you’re never bored when reading it.

The language of the book is really distinctive too. Mouse’s voice is so real it was like she was speaking in my head and I could picture her really clearly. In a Q and A in the back of the book, Sarah Driver mentions reading Spellhorn and speaking like the Wild Ones after reading it, and that’s what this reminded me of (also I’d forgotten the name of that book so thanks to her for reminding me!) The Tribe have their own dialect that helps to develop their culture and makes them very memorable. The descriptions are beautifully vivid too; it’s just a delight to read.

I loved Mouse: her impulsiveness and determination and honesty just made her really likeable. She reminded me a bit of Lyra from His Dark Materials. Her ability in ‘beast chatter’ made the creatures around her more interesting too: rather than having standard talking animals, Mouse has a gift that allows her to hear them and communicate back. She talks to her sea-hawk and Sparrow’s moonsprite and uses her gift to help her on her adventures.

This is a really rich, exciting tale, beautifully told and clearly the start of an exciting series. It’s aimed at younger readers but the language can be a little complex and I think it could be a little challenging, but it’s so captivating I think adults and children alike can enjoy.

4

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: 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

Book Review: The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)

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

 

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 323

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

Review:

I was completely intrigued by the idea of this book – the accident season, the one month in the year when one family is suddenly plagued with falls down the stairs, bumps to the head, and some more serious accidents too.

The story is incredibly well crafted: all the different plot lines laced together well, and everything felt plausible, despite the idea the accident curse. But what really drove the book was the relationships. I enjoyed the romance ones as they were delicate and real (and awkward in some cases) with no insta-love to be found. But I loved that at the heart of it were the siblings and their relationships with each other.

While we’re on the relationships, I did find one (I won’t name it, but you’ll understand when you read it) a little odd and awkward at first, but the way it was written was so touching and tender that I was completely rooting for them to get together, despite the obvious barriers.

This book was recommended to me after mentioning I liked to see LGBTQ+ relationships and characters in stories that aren’t all about ‘coming out’ – don’t get me wrong, I think those kind of stories are important, especially within YA, but I love it when those types of characters are in a story and it isn’t all about their sexuality: that’s just part of who they are, rather than what the story is about. And that’s what happened in this story, and I really appreciated it.

There was a bit of a mystery feel to this as Cara tried to find the elusive Elsie, and I loved how everything tied together towards the end in a way I didn’t expect and was also very satisfying. Some of the scenes were just spectacularly written: the party scene in particular felt like a perfect depiction of that drunk feeling where nothing seems to happen in the right order and everything moves too fast.

The magical elements of the story were a little odd to me at times. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, and some of it certainly added a creepy feeling to the proceedings, but it was the kind of thing I didn’t want to overthink too much, as if trying to analyse it would just confuse me.

This is a wonderful story with some of the most beautifully crafted characters I have read in a while, and I can’t recommend that you read it enough.

My Verdict:

4

Book Review: When My Heart Was Wicked (Tricia Stirling)

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 192

Release Date: 24th February 2015

Blurb (from Goodreads):

“I used to be one of those girls. The kind who loved to deliver bad news. When I colored my hair, I imagined it seeping into my scalp, black dye pooling into my veins.

But that was the old Lacy. Now, when I cast spells, they are always for good.”

16-year-old Lacy believes that magic and science can work side by side. She’s a botanist who knows how to harness the healing power of plants. So when her father dies, Lacy tries to stay with her step-mother in Chico, where her magic is good and healing. She fears the darkness that her real mother, Cheyenne, brings out, stripping away everything that is light and kind.

Yet Cheyenne never stays away for long. Beautiful, bewitching, unstable Cheyenne who will stop at nothing, not even black magic, to keep control of her daughter’s heart. She forces Lacy to accompany her to Sacramento, and before long, the “old” Lacy starts to resurface.

But when Lacy survives a traumatic encounter, she finds herself faced with a choice. Will she use her powers to exact revenge and spiral into the darkness forever? Or will she find the strength to embrace the light?

Review:

I won this in a competition over at Jim’s blog (Ya Yeah Yeah), so big thanks to him and agent Molly Ker Hawn for the copy!

I found this a little bit of an odd read, but I did enjoy it very much. I loved that it had a non-nuclear family at the centre of it: after her mother abandoned her and her father died, Lacy lvied with her step mother, Anna, who is not a wicked, fairy tale kind of step mother, but a sweet and loving one. I adored her and really felt bad that she had not rights to Lacy as a parent even though it was clear who was better for her.

Lacy was really relatable in the way that she felt flawed. She wasn’t the perfect protagonist by any stretch of the imagination, and sometimes I got angry when she did things I didn’t want her to, but it all made her very normal and human, and I really appreciate that in a character.

I thought her mother, Cheyenne, was superb as well. Horrible, of course, but a brilliant character. There’s something about a character like that – one that’s so unpredictable, one that’s sometimes horrible but you want to love her anyway – that I find really interesting, and I think it’s a real skill to write someone that you can both like and dislike that much.

The magic parts of the book did confuse me a little sometimes. I just felt like I needed more ‘rules’ around it to understand what was going on, but I got used to it as the book went on, and I really enjoyed some bits of magic that were dark and creepy.

This is a short read, but an intense and thought provoking one that I’d definitely recommend.

4

Book Review: Crow Moon (Anna McKerrow)

Publisher: Quercus

Pages: 384

Release Date: March 5th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn’t want to follow in his mum’s witchy footsteps.

Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea…

But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?

Wickedness and passion combine in this coming-of-age adventure.

Review:

This book has been one of the most talked about releases this year and I was so happy when I finally got my hands on it. And then worried. Because when something’s been built up so much, it’s easy to be disappointed.

Happily, this wasn’t the case with Crow Moon.

The scene setting was perfect: there was no overload of information, but there was enough for you to understand the world: split into two, the Redworld, filled with gangs and fighting over the world’s last scraps of fuel, and the Greenworld, an environmentally friendly community split into covensteads and led by witches.

Danny lives in the Greenworld and his mother is head witch of one of the covensteads. He’s a great character and reads like a very realistic teenage boy (or how I imagine a teenage boy to think and feel at least, having never been one myself). I liked the idea that he wasn’t really sold on Greenworld and witchcraft at the beginning. If he’d been more gung-ho about it I think it would have been less convincing, but the fact that he has doubts and knows the Greenworld is flawed made it all the more believable.

The book is diverse and challenges some cultural ideas on witches – Danny is a male witch, in a world heavily dominated by females. While the Greenworld is supposed to be ‘colour-blind’ Danny still feels singled out because of the colour of his skin, which was another indicator of their less than perfect world and mirrors our own imperfect society.

All of the characters were wonderfully imagined and fleshed out, but one of my favourites was Saba. I was a bit wary of her at first, expecting some kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I really enjoyed the flaws in her character and how Danny’s opinion of her hanged throughout the book. Roach is also a great villain because what he’s proposing doesn’t sound like an evil master plan – it actually could make sense, and it’s his way of doing things that really makes him the villain. Melz was another highlight and I really can’t wait to see where her story goes in book two.

While I enjoyed the novel all the way through, it was towards the end when I really started to love it. The unconventional love triangle between Danny-Saba-Tom took a dark turn which I loved and had me yelling at Danny not to do what he was about to. The ending became very sobering at times, but also had some fantastical elements that were really incredible. McKerrow paints beautiful pictures of Devon and Cornwall and her mythology and goddesses are all really well imagined.

As the first book in a series, I think the ending was spot on. While part of the main story line for that book was finished off, giving closure, there’s enough cliffhangers and intrigue to leaving you yearning for the next book. Bring on March 2016 and the sequel!

My Verdict:

4

Book Review: The Novice – Summoner Book One (Taran Matharu)

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

22297138

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 400
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs. 

Review:

I’ve heard this book described as a cross between Harry Potter and Pokemon, so loving both of these, I was sold straight away.
It was easy to get into and the scene was set very well. The first few chapters, set in protagonist Fletcher’s home of Pelt were actually some of my favourite bits. There was a really gentle introduction to the world and characters that completely involved me in the world from the start.
For me though, it started going downhill a bit when Fletcher went to the academy. All the subtly of the first few chapters was suddenly gone and I felt bombarded by information. I understood why: there were a lot of thing that needed explaining to both Fletcher and the reader, and a school setting is a great place for that, but it just didn’t come across very naturally.
I loved the demons, especially Ignatius, who quite often reminded me of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (so completely adorable, basically!) However when it came to explaining classes of demons it all felt a bit technical, like learning the rules to a complicated board game. There were many parts where I felt like I’d like to play this story out as a computer game rather than read it as a novel.
Fletcher as a character was likeable enough but I sometimes found him a bit too good. I liked that he wasn’t the cleverest of the most gifted, but when it came to things like morals (like treating dwarves and elves the same as humans) he annoyed me as he felt a little holier than thou. The other characters felt a little cliché, and the nobles vs. commoners things felt very predictable and a little too OTT to read comfortably.
Overall, this was an enjoyable enough read but the characters felt too predictable and flat for me to really make a connection with them. There’s an interesting storyline though and I would like to see where it goes next.

My Verdict:


I enjoyed – give it a read


Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black)


20875019
Publisher: Indigo
Pages: 272
Release Date: January 13th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?


Review:
I received this book through a giveaway run by Daphne at Winged Reviews so massive thanks to her.

I’ve been on a bit of a fairytale rampage lately and this was more than satisfying. I’d heard a lot about it and was certainly not disappointed.

This books takes a lot of familiar fairytale creatures and myths and places them in the modern world, where humans live alongside the Folk, albeit not always happily. It’s amazing to see the juxtaposition of the modern and Folk worlds: the image of the Prince sleeping in his coffin made of tears while teenagers get drunk and make out around him just sang to me. It was great to see the way the two worlds blended and how the strange creatures and happenings weren’t just explained away, but (mostly) accepted as magical.

The characterisation in this book was brilliant. From the first chapter I identified so much with Hazel and was more than happy to follow her story along. It was easy to see how the secrets grew between her and her brother Ben, even though I kept yelling at them to ‘fess up and get it over with. But we all know how hard it can be to tell the truth after lying for so long…

One of the things that drew me to the book was the diversity I’d heard talked about: in the beginning, both Hazel and Ben are in love with the sleeping Prince. I loved their different relationships with the Prince but most of all I loved how normal it was: it wasn’t a big deal that a boy loved another boy, it was just there and it was normal and that’s how it should be! (Labouring the point there but I love diverse books that aren’t solely about being diverse).


I thought the world building worked wonderfully, and loved the different bits of mythology that was dropped in, some which I recognised and others which I now want to read more about. The monster of the forest was truly creepy – the words it spoke really chilled me – and the action sequences were heart pounding and intense.

This is my first venture into Holly Black’s writing and I’m already lining up more of her books to read. This is a magical read with action, romance and plenty of shocks and surprises littered throughout. A definite one to read this year.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Book Review: Nightbird (Alice Hoffman)

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

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 208
Release Date: 26 February 2015
 

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, baker of irresistible apple pies. A new girl in town might just be Twig’s first true friend, and ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse. A spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town’s famed apple orchards.


Review:

I enjoyed this book: there’s something very easy going about it. As a MG book it’s not too taxing or complicated in its plot. Twig is a lonely girl with a family secret to hide, but it all soon unravels when a new family moves next door, a family who just happen to be descendants of the witch who cursed the men in Twig’s family to be born with wings.

Alice Hoffman weaves a beautiful tale of this isolated family and their struggles and creates a very real town with some beautifully written characters, in such a natural way that it didn’t feel like reading fiction at all. My criticism would be that some things were found out a bit too easily: a lot of clues were handed out to the young girls when I think we could have had more fun searching for clues with them. The revelation of Twig’s father was very predictable too, and while Twig admits she probably knew it all along, it would have been nice to hear her musing on the idea.

The ending felt a little rushed and stilted: a lot of information is told very quickly and I felt I would rather have experienced them as a few scenes rather than “this happened and this happened”, but it was one of those stories where I was glad to have a happy ending for everyone. Despite some of the tough times Twig goes through and the rough mix of emotions she feels, I felt it was an overall happy book. There was little doom and gloom about their situation even if no one was exactly over the moon about it. It has some great messages for the younger readers as well: conservation and friendship being two of the key ones.

This is the kind of book I’d be happy to pass over to my little sisters: light and engaging with some relatable characters and good sprinkling of magic.

My Verdict:

3