Category: Young Adult (page 1 of 2)

The Elementals – Book Review

This has been on my TBR list for ages. I now have the whole series to work through…not a bad thing! Would definitely recommend this book and have put it in my YA book giveaway that I’m running this month!  

 

 

 

Descent

MC, Nicole doesn’t know she’s a witch! The story is a gentle descent into the magical world. However, it was the typical setting of a high school, where the story begins and plays out – so a star off here for me.  In her new class, her teacher uses magic and Nicole discovers she is a witch. (The reason for her ignorance is explained later when her family history is explored.) A quiet, approachable girl, Kate takes Nicole under her wing, promising to catch her up on the witchcraft stuff.

The unavailable hot guy, Blake is thrown into the mix early on. And the blending of witchcraft and Greek mythology starts. “Did you know that we – meaning everyone in our homeroom – are descended from Greek gods?”

We see Nicole develop her witchcraft, with descriptions of using energy, visualised as colour.

There’s a malevolent undercurrent in the use of energy with stories about how Danielle (Blake’s girlfriend) has used energy to hurt people. Blake too, hints at there being another side to their powers.“…once a witch takes someone else’s energy – from a human or another witch – their body stops producing energy of its own. They become leeches…until they’ve taken it all.”

.“…once a witch takes someone else’s energy – from a human or another witch – their body stops producing energy of its own. They become leeches…until they’ve taken it all.”

Depth

After the intro into this world, the outlines of its dangers, the real story starts when the witches do meditation one night when a comet is due to be visible. Although the rest of there class is there, it is only Nicole’s group (Blake, Danielle, Kate and Chris) that feels different afterwards. Gradually, they come to realise that they can control one of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. The fifth, being aether. Darius, their teacher and one of the Elders of Witches, gives them a prophecy that he reckons pertains to them, about the five elements. About midway through, they are attacked by a “two-headed scorpion-tailed dog monster”, a Chimera of sorts, and there is a sense of real danger. I enjoyed their first battle in the playground here, with fireballs.

Ascent

When they reach the end of their quest to solve the prophecy, the object they find waiting for them, is being guarded by another mythological creature, a harpy type woman, half bird, half woman. The reasons for them being led here and what is at stake escalates quickly. The exciting battle scene is well-written and paced, with plenty at stake for our MC. And…even better, there is a nice twist at the end, another secret that Nicole is forced to bear alone. This very much made me want to read on, and I’m looking forward to reading volume two.

Heart of Mist – Book Review

This isn’t my usual choice of read as I generally prefer urban-fantasy but I looked at one of the prequel stories that Helen Scheuerer released prior to Heart of Mist and it was so well written and the character voice so strong, that I was really looking forward to reading the full book on its release. And it did not disappoint!

 

 

 

Descent

The beginning is gritty, visceral and emotionally-raw. “Bleak’s gut clenched as she vomited onto the dirt that spun before her.” We meet MC, Bleak, struggling to live with the magic she has, or “her condition” as she terms it, early on. We quickly learn that Bleak’s condition means that she can hear people’s thoughts. And, despite her defensive and surly manner, her drinking and pick-pocketing, we quickly come to empathise with her.

There is brilliant exposition and characterisation woven through the story as skilfully as Bleak ties her fisherman’s knots!

The regions of the world are wonderfully introduced in such ways as the goods throughout the market and in the descriptions of the soldiers early on in the narrative. There is a lot of world-building, with lots of names, history, and religion to get to grips with but all this is interspersed extremely well throughout the narrative.

Depth

I thought the characters were all very well fleshed out. Particularly Fiore and Swinton. Bleak is rescued by Henri, a proud warrior and queen of the Vallians. These people are a warrior clan that live in the forest and have a strong matriarchal society. A fifth of the book in, we’re introduced to Dash, who lives in the main city in Angovia. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent how much the Ashai, (people with magic) still exist in the populace. I got really into the narrative from Bleak’s point of view and struggled a little with the shift to Dash. I think this is a personal preference though as I tend to like stories narrated from one or two viewpoints. Still, I was very invested with Bleak, Swinton (captain of the guard) and Henri (warrior queen) as all of these characters were involved early on with Bleak. I felt the shift to Dash’s narration (although understandable for developing the wider world) detracted a little from the immediacy of the story.

After Bleak’s defensiveness, her surliness, her closing herself off for so long, I would have liked more to pass/happen between her and Bren when he found out the enormous secret she had kept all her life from him. It was true to character for bleak but it was annoying how she did just walk away. There’s a fantastically gory scene three-quarters of the way in when Bleak comes into her magic in a way we haven’t seen. All the anger and pain she’s been keeping at bay seeps out and the events definitely linger with you.

Ascent

I was very eager to see what happened to Bleak by the end of the book. There is plenty left open-ended and I will definitely be purchasing a copy of the next book in The Oremere Chronicles.

Firebolt: Book Review

I thought this was a fun, lighthearted read. I enjoyed the fast-paced entry into the story. However, I thought putting the MC, Elena straight into school in the world of Paegeia was a little bit dull and predictable. Not to mention that it meant that there was a lot of info-dumping whilst not much else was going on plot wise. It’s fine when a character is learning about the world, and I understand you need this, but it made the middle really lag.

 

 

 

 

Descent

As I said, entry into the world was fast-paced and good fun, with plenty of drama in the first chapter. The MC’s voice is infused with typical teen melodrama: “…the engine and the hard rain on the roof, a percussion that became a soundtrack to my misery. Utter loneliness consumed my heart while I stared at the white picket fences…” Her angst about constantly having to move around is instantly overshadowed when we find out the reason she and her dad are on the run. DRAGONS!

Depth

This is where the story fell down….or didn’t rather! Elena has to learn about the world of Paegeia and most of the middle is info-dumping through the vehicle of lessons in the school – anatomy, history and weapons classes, as well as through her two friends, Becky and Sammy. She learns about Dragonians and the dragons and the partnerships/relationships these form. This is interesting but I couldn’t help but think it could have been executed in a more concise and exciting way so that the information about all the dragons and the history of the world wasn’t so overwhelming.

Ascent

I did read this very quickly because, despite the annoyances above, I really enjoyed the story and once Elena and her friends got out of school, I was very curious to see events unfold. I just kinda wish that had happened sooner! Am tempted to read on in the series when I want another fun-filled read.

 

 

 

The Lie Tree: YA Book Review

This is a great one to start with for my new rating system. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The mystery and intrigue was built up well and I really enjoyed venturing with the MC, Faith to uncover her father’s secrets. And a great one to start my new watery themed rating system as at the beginning we find ourselves literally at sea. “The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth. The islands just visible through the mist also looked like teeth…”

The Descent

I enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions on entering this book – suitably setting the tone for the luscious language throughout and the imagery of bones foreshadowed that which was to be a central topic in the story. We are introduced to Faith, the MC and her father, mother and brother. In terms of action however, not much occurs and we get a lot of backstory (intriguing – why have the family had to leave their home behind, what are these rumours that are circulating about the Reverend, Faith’s father?)  Nonetheless, the beginning third of the book is a slow burn. In other words – entry takes a while. If you’ve got the time – and the breath to spend on it – fine. But if you’re in a hurry, maybe choose a different time to read this one.

Depth

The depth in this book comes from the conflict within Faith’s father and the other learned men of his generation; torn between what scripture has taught them of the world and what scientific enquiry proves. This debate is built upon throughout the book and darkens as the story explores the lengths people are willing to go to in order to prove their beliefs.

Some of my favourite quotes: “The sea licked the flesh off shipwrecks, leaving the bare wooden bones in the lightless deep. Its mermaids were green-skinned and squid-eyed with long hooked fingers and breath that smelt of old fish.”

“It was a house of the dead now. All the curtains were drawn. Dark cloth was draped over every mirror, like a dull lid drooped over every eye.”

The Ascent

There’s no doubt it’s a slow burner. More than that, I’d say that the best part in the novel for me was when Faith discovers her father’s true secret. The fact that the events of the second half of the book don’t live up to this discovery in the middle meant the second half lagged for me. I’m not saying that I wasn’t intrigued by the rest of the story, but it didn’t live up to the idea at the heart of the novel. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Element: Descendants of Eden

The world-building in this book is detailed. The descendants (who descend from Adam and Eve) are sketched out intricately – their natures and personalities varying depending on who they originate from. I found the painting of the demons and the darker elements of this world very vivid too. For instance, the thing you fear most is the form that the demons take on – this led to lots of interesting and disturbing scenes.

Lucy, the main character, is sketched well. Someone who is conflicted about most things: misses her parents but resentful of the isolation they brought her up in, wants to be around others and fit in but fears the threat her powers pose.

At the heart of the story is Lucy’s need to find out the truth about her powers and who she descends from. I personally, would have liked to see Lucy focus a bit more on this but she seems more absorbed by the two love interests in her life. Not a bad thing – especially as she’s an eighteen-year-old girl! And I did get caught up in following Lucy’s feelings for the two guys and wanting to find out what happened.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. It is a unique and thought-provoking read, with lots of magic, mythology and some good action scenes to boot. You can purchase a copy here on Amazon.

The Graces: YA Book Review

This one…I heard things about… There were whispers and rumours… People said it was like The Craft – that movie, which is a cult movie if you got into witches like I did as a teenager in the 90s. Even if I wasn’t expecting The Craft, perhaps a little bit of comic witchcraft, Charmed anyone? No, no – it was more…ah, are they witches, or aren’t they? Ah, is there a story here, or isn’t there?

Saying that, I didn’t stop reading. There was something in the MC’s desperate wish to be a part of the Grace family’s life. Yes, there was the typical story of unrequited love that MC feels towards Fenrin, the Grace boy, but there is a little more as she idolises the entire family. It does aptly describe the thrall that some teenagers go through in believing that others lives are better, that if they could just have him as a dad, or her as a mum then things would be…better.

Would I recommend it though…hmmm, no. I felt the Graces were similar to the Cullens’ in Twilight. Perfect, but lacking in substance – wooden. I won’t spoil the twist in case you do read it, but it was very “high school” too. I felt like the MC at the end was like the awkward, nerdy girl, who shows up at her high-school reunion – changed, just to say – I told you I’d make it!

The Graces on Amazon

Water Lily: YA Book Review

Water Lily is a YA, Paranormal Romance by Crystal Packard. I love YA and Fantasy, but don’t tend to stray into those that are more Romance heavy. This was a brilliant read though and where it might have got weighed down by romance, there was no chance of this happening as the author has just the right blend of humour to balance it. I found myself giggling along with some of the comic exchanges that occurred between the characters.

From the offset, I was immersed and invested in the MC, Lily, who is stifled and grieving at the beginning of the novel. It was thrilling to watch how events unfolded and how the fantasy world was introduced (no spoilers 😉 ).

Within the fantasy world (Tellis), there was so much to enjoy. The story occurs within this new world – rich with tales of elemental magic and strange communes. There’s a hint of darkness – with stories of child snatchings. It was fascinating to see how Lily coped and became a part of this world. There are strange, exotic creatures, a new language and troubling family secrets all to be discovered.

I’m definitely excited to see what happens to the characters next – and read today that the next instalment might be called, Fire Lily.

Crystal Packard’s site to read more about Water Lily and its author

Water Lily on Amazon

Smoke: Book Review

I got a lovely hardback copy of Smoke by Dan Vyleta  for my birthday 🙂 Something a little different too: YA Fantasy, but set in an alternate Edwardian England. It details a world where sin shows up as soot on skin. I hear you, the old adage: “there’s no smoke, without fire”, except in this world there is. Or more the sins and evils that burn within us are excreted through the pores as smoke and cover everyone and everything in the world with soot.

I found the concept really interesting with lots of links to Christianity and the concept of evil, as well as the consideration of one’s emotions and desires – how much is expressed or hidden of the individual.

Vyleta opens the novel with a quote from Dickens that inspired the story. Rightly so, the language and style feels very Dickensian with the squalid descriptions of London and the constant sense that the characters are going to be consumed by the smoking city. Thomas and Livia, two of the MCs when they come to London, are described thus:

“A cold drizzle is falling, taunting them with the kind of proximity they resorted to during the night, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. They ignore it and sit yards apart. Even so he is conscious of her Smoke; feels it reach across the gap and tug at his very bones. It is as though he were built to drink her sin. London is a place where people touch. Before, he had not understood the implications of this simple truth.”

I found the story itself a little slow to get off the ground and even when it did it lacked the  momentum of most YA reads these days. That is no bad thing  in my opinion. In a world where everyone’s looking for the next fix, this book makes you sit back and ruminate. It is more about the slowly built tension and unease between and within the characters that draws you. Mostly, I read on for the  interesting concepts behind the story. Don’t expect a fast-paced read, but certainly, a thought provoking one, that lingers like a cloud of billowing smoke.

Image from: http://londonbeep.com/nicknames-of-london-city

 

Book Review: The Scarlet Thread

Thought I’d give this D.S.Murphy book a try as I wanted to read a little more in the Myth and Legend category of Amazon. (Technically my series that I’m releasing in March will be in this so I should be reading more from here). Although, it can be categorised as Urban Fantasy too so….

Anyways, I enjoyed bits of this. I’ll say some good things first. The heroine is painted well: Kaidance, a disillusioned teen girl, living in a kind of juvenile detention centre.

Quickly, we come to understand that she’s not a bad person, just that she’s got freaky powers that led her parents to put her in here unjustly. (Going to add here – I think there was a little too much backstory drawn out in the first two chapters to do with this, which halted the momentum of the story.)

I particularly liked the first meeting/interaction between Kaidance and Puriel.

“Before I could stop him he licked his thumb and brushed it against my cheek to wipe away the blood…That’s when I saw the stars. I thought I might have blacked out. My vision was filled with millions of them, whole galaxies, everything converging together into one blinding light, and then nothingness. Just empty, black void.”

I’ve been looking a lot at first meetings between the love interests in YA Fantasy books and I thought this was nicely handled. It also alluded to the vast, mind-boggling world Kaidance will soon find herself in.

Okay, other than that I found the next bit – when they get to a kind of house/training camp way too Percy Jackson-esque and the characters (stroppy, antagonistic girl), (hot, nymphomaniac guy)  a bit of a cop out. I’m definitely up for using the Greek Gods and their well-known characters as a foundation to build a character, but not to find anything unique and different in them is disappointing.

Lastly, I’d say it was a great pity that it was only part one of the story. The way it ends mid-battle scene is…unfulfilling.

Checking out D.S.Murphy’s stuff  – I’ve seen that he has a lot of useful info about self-publishing, promoting your book and other useful stuff. So definitely worth having a look at if you’re considering self-publishing.

Courtesy of: https://southridgeblog.com/2014/04/16/the-scarlet-thread-part-3-john-316/

Book Review: Pure

Pure by Julianna Baggott was recommended to me by my brother ages ago – finally got round to reading it. A YA Dystopian novel that is definitely unique. The story takes place after a nuclear detonation and features a world where some survivors are living in a Dome, shielded from the detonations, whilst the others are victims living outside and bear the marks of the detonations.

It is this grizzly world on the outside that is captured so well that captivates: people have become fused with objects (one of the main characters, Pressia has a doll head fused over her hand). This new world becomes more horrific with people fused to animals, to the earth and to one another. It’s the fantastic world-building that keeps you reading and is its greatest strength.

On the downside, I found that telling the story from so many viewpoints weakened the story and I wanted to get back to the MCs Pressia and Partridge. Another issue was that I felt that there was a lot of backstory interjected about how the world used to be, which slowed down the pace and to my mind was unnecessary at certain times. Okay, last annoyance I’m going to mention is that the threat/antagonist (I’m not going to ruin it by saying what it is) becomes all too knowing and far-reaching. I felt the antagonist cheapened itself and the whole story because of this.

I want to say lastly that I found the way Pressia was schooled by her grandfather in how it was in the past very touching. There’s a lovely poignancy built up in some of the contrasts to the present with what used to be. For instance OSR, who control and govern the people outside the dome take part in death sprees now and then, killing those they hunt down. The sound of this deadly game conjures up this thought in Pressia:

“Her grandfather refers to the different chants as bird calls, each one supposedly distinctive.”

A good read on account of the unique and fascinating world building.

(Image from http://elfinal-delahistoria.blogspot.co.uk/)

 

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