Tag Archives: Magic

Book Breakup: The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

Ails­bet loves noth­ing more than music; tall and red-haired, she’s impa­tient with the arti­fice and cer­e­mony of her father’s court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inher­its the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trou­ble is that nei­ther princess has the power–or the magic–to rule alone, and if the king­doms can be united, which princess will end up rul­ing the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strate­gic mar­riage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

For some rea­son, I got my authors mixed up when I requested this on Net­Gal­ley. I vaguely thought this was a new novel by Eva Ibbot­son. After think­ing Ms Ibbotson’s writ­ing wasn’t any­where near as inter­est­ing as I remem­bered, I realised my mistake.

It turns out The Rose Throne is by the same author of Tris and Izzie, a book I thought was pretty poor and said so two years ago.  Had I known, I wouldn’t have requested this one for review, but I did, so I felt obliged to give it a go. How­ever nowa­days I’m much less inclined to con­tinue read­ing a book I’m not inter­ested in and at 19% I’m mov­ing on from this one.

I don’t think it’s really fair to give a full review of The Rose Throne hav­ing read so lit­tle, but I will say that I do think this is a bet­ter book than Tris and Izzie. The two main char­ac­ters are bland, and don’t seem to really react to any­thing, but on the up side, they don’t inspire feel­ings of com­plete dis­gust in the short time I spent with them.

That being said, I don’t see any signs of this being a great book either. The writ­ing is just too emo­tion­less for me, some­thing I recall both­er­ing me in Ms Harrison’s pre­vi­ous work.  Unfor­tu­nately, it’s a bit like read­ing one long monot­one.  There appears to be two types of magic taweyr and neweyr, in Harrison’s world. The author kind of dumps the reader in the mid­dle of all this with­out cohe­sively explain­ing it, but from what I can gather, neweyr is a female power, con­nected to new life, growth and nur­tur­ing, while taweyr, the magic of death and war, is a male power. The exis­tence of taweyr in a woman, or neweyr in a man is deemed unnat­ural and those with the wrong weyr are despised, hunted down and killed. Not being at all con­fi­dent this author could explore this uncom­fort­ably sex­ist mag­i­cal sys­tem in a sat­is­fac­tory way and being com­pletely bored by the prose, I swiftly decided The Rose Throne, sadly, wasn’t for me.

As with Tris and Izzie, I really do love the cover though.

Many thanks to Egmont USA and Net­Gal­ley for mak­ing this ebook available.

*Please keep in mind that this review is based on an Advanced Review Copy from Net­Gal­ley and there­fore some of the nar­ra­tive and dia­logue may change before publication.*

Book Review: A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton

I was given A Witch in Love for review a long time ago, so I have to apol­o­gise to both the author and Hachette for tak­ing so long to get around to read­ing this.

Anna still finds it hard to believe that Seth loves her and has vowed to sup­press her pow­ers, no mat­ter what.

But magic – like love – is uncon­trol­lable. It spills out with ter­ri­ble con­se­quences, and soon, Anna is being hunted.

Some spoil­ers for A Witch in Winter

As the title sug­gests, there is a big­ger focus on romance in this book, and that’s prob­a­bly why I didn’t enjoy A Witch in Love quite as much as its pre­de­ces­sor. I had hoped the books (and the char­ac­ters) would move on from Anna’s love spell but we’re left rehash­ing much of the same stuff and it all gets too melo­dra­matic and angsty for me. Read­ers root­ing for these two will love this book but I was never a fan of Seth and Anna. Seth is far too per­fect and con­se­quently dull, while Anna turns rather needy and pathetic when­ever it comes to Seth. These two are just way too wrapped up in each other and I don’t feel the chemistry.

Emma­line was sorely missed in this book. She pro­vides any witch-related answers for Anna as needed, but she’s lost her snark (or any sort of plot line of her own), which so endeared me to her in the pre­vi­ous book. In fact, the major­ity of the sec­ondary char­ac­ters I was eager to recon­nect with are absent from A Witch in Love. Abbe (who I was hop­ing would be fleshed out in this book) con­fesses some­thing towards the end that has a lot less weight than it should have done, mostly because he only pops briefly in and out of the story twice in the lead up to it. Also miss­ing is the atmos­phere from the first book. Though it makes sense that A Witch in Love should be more focused on events rather than set­ting the scene, I missed it all the same.

If all this sounds like A Witch in Love was a big dis­ap­point­ment to me, than it wasn’t. Over­all I think the book is a pretty good read, and didn’t suf­fer too much, in my opin­ion, from ‘sec­ond book syn­drome’. A Witch in Love has a com­pelling plot line, one where Anna is try­ing to find out about her past and who her mother was. Anna is a far more like­able char­ac­ter when she is strug­gling to uncover her family’s secrets, com­pared to her acts of petty jeal­ousy or moon­ing over Seth the rest of the time. Ulti­mately, Anna still remains a lit­tle too ‘vanilla’ to be a truly remark­able hero­ine. There’s also a dan­ger­ous hate group gath­er­ing in Win­ter and Anna is refus­ing to learn how to con­trol her magic. Need­less to say, this causes some seri­ous reper­cus­sions along the way.

Much of my feel­ings and issues from the first book remain and this sec­ond install­ment def­i­nitely didn’t strike as good a bal­ance between romance, friend­ship and plot as the first. But A Witch in Love is still an enjoy­able and well-paced read and I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing how War­bur­ton con­cludes every­thing in the final book.

 *Many thanks to Hachette Children’s Books for send­ing this in exchange for an hon­est review*

Book Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

I’ve yet to read all of Ms Snyder’s work, but I’m start­ing to won­der if she’ll ever be able to sur­pass her first novel, Poi­son Study. Like many of her read­ers, I can’t help but com­pare her later fan­tasy books with her first one. And in the case of Touch of Power, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d read it before. Char­ac­ters, rela­tion­ships, the basic sto­ry­line, even spe­cific scenes, were all very famil­iar. Touch of Power is a bit like read­ing an early ver­sion of Poi­son Study, one that’s nowhere near as well writ­ten or developed.

Lay­ing hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and dis­eases into her­self. But rather than being hon­ored for her skills, she is hunted. Heal­ers like Avry are accused of spread­ing the plague that has dec­i­mated the Ter­ri­to­ries, leav­ing the sur­vivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hid­ing, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shock­ingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her cap­ture. Their leader, an enig­matic captor-protector with pow­ers of his own, is unequiv­o­cal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a cam­paign against her peo­ple. As they tra­verse the daunt­ing Nine Moun­tains, beset by mer­ce­nar­ies and mag­i­cal dan­gers, Avry must decide who is worth heal­ing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

Touch of Power def­i­nitely has an intrigu­ing set up: fif­teen king­doms dec­i­mated by a plague. A Healer’s Guild that has been com­pletely destroyed, its Heal­ers hunted down and exe­cuted, a school where future lead­ers are sent to hone their skills in diplo­macy and manip­u­la­tion, magi­cians, death eat­ing plants (a sub­plot I still don’t quite under­stand). What’s dis­ap­point­ing is that we learn lit­tle else beyond this. Touch of Power is the first book in a tril­ogy, so I wish more time had been set aside to allow the reader to actu­ally expe­ri­ence some of these places instead of learn­ing of them through a brief char­ac­ter con­ver­sa­tion. The world build­ing in this book is pretty vague and light on detail.

A lack of inter­est in any of the char­ac­ters also pre­vented this from being a mem­o­rable read. Too many of them read like pale imi­ta­tions from the author’s pre­vi­ous work, but even some­one new to Snyder’s writ­ing would likely find them fairly nondescript.

Avry in par­tic­u­lar felt unde­vel­oped and unre­al­is­tic. Avry isn’t what I would describe as a closed off char­ac­ter, yet she never seems to react to any­thing. She accepts her sen­tenced exe­cu­tion in the open­ing chap­ters with­out a fight. She shows no hurt or dis­be­lief after being betrayed by peo­ple she trusts, or lit­tle regret over her strained rela­tion­ship with her sis­ter. Even more con­cern­ing is how she never expresses any real anger, fear or sense of vio­la­tion over Tohan’s treat­ment of her.

Avry can heal peo­ple, but only by tak­ing on their dis­ease or injuries her­self. Here we have a hero­ine who is per­fectly will­ing to sac­ri­fice her health, not to men­tion her life, time and time again for every­one else. She’s never once resent­ful about this. Why does she heal peo­ple who would recover per­fectly well on their own in time or with med­i­cine? Avry is an extremely self-sacrificing char­ac­ter, to the point where she shows lit­tle con­cern or thought for her own life. While there are char­ac­ters that care for her, every­one finds it per­fectly nat­ural that she should spend her life tak­ing on other people’s pain and suf­fer­ing. I wanted Touch Of Power to explore at least a lit­tle some of the emo­tional impact all this would have had on Avry. I wanted a lit­tle self­ish­ness of Avry’s part, for her to ques­tion if being a healer is all she wants from life. She claims heal­ing is her choice, but the descrip­tion of her magic con­tra­dicts that. If any­thing, she seems to have lit­tle con­trol over the rise of when­ever any­one nearby is hurt.
So much about Touch of Power sug­gests this is a fan­tasy aimed at young read­ers – the light world build­ing, the lack of char­ac­ter depth, the fairly basic, pre­dictable sto­ry­line, the sim­ple nar­ra­tive and often child­ish, mod­ern dia­logue at odds with the set­ting (‘Yippee’. ‘Kill. Me. Now’ etc). But a twenty-year-old pro­tag­o­nist and cer­tain con­tent sug­gests this book is intended for a more mature reader.

I don’t know. Touch of Power has enough action and adven­ture to make it an enter­tain­ing read, (I read it in one sit­ting) but it’s miss­ing the emo­tion – the soul, to make it a fan­tas­tic story. Even the prob­lem­atic romance was dry for me. I’m not really inclined to revisit these char­ac­ters, despite hav­ing the sec­ond book for review on Net­Gal­ley. It’s alright if you enjoy light fan­tasy, but I could cer­tainly point you in the direc­tion of far more sophis­ti­cated and sat­is­fy­ing books within the genre.

Book Review: Charmfall by Chloe Neill

A while back I was sent Fire­spell and Charm­fall for review, books one and three of a series. I wasn’t overly impressed by Fire­spell and unfor­tu­nately, the same points I flagged in that review are still present in Charm­fall.

High school can be a bat­tle­field, but for Lily Parker, sur­viv­ing at St. Sophia’s School for Girls is a mat­ter of life and death…

Pro­tect­ing Chicago from the dark side can be an exhaust­ing job, espe­cially when you’re a junior. So when the girls of St. Sophia’s start gear­ing up for Sneak, their fall for­mal, Lily decides to join in on some good, old-fashioned party prep—even if it means not giv­ing demons, vam­pires and the twisted magic users known as Reapers her undi­vided attention.

But when a Reaper infil­trates the school, Lily doesn’t for­get what she’s sworn to pro­tect. She reaches deep into her­self to draw out her magic—and finds that it’s gone. And it turns out she’s not alone. A mag­i­cal black­out has slammed through para­nor­mal Chicago, and no one knows what—or who—caused it. But Lily knows get­ting back her magic is worth the risk of going behind enemy lines…

The pac­ing is still slow. The major­ity of the story actu­ally con­sists of Lily giv­ing the reader incon­se­quen­tial and point­less infor­ma­tion. There’s a run­ning com­men­tary on the brat pack’s move­ments, their cloth­ing, the dec­o­ra­tions Lily’s putting together for a school dance etc. It’s just not infor­ma­tion we need, nor really care, to know.

The Adepts are sup­pos­edly at war with Reapers, but there never seems to be any sort of, well… fight­ing going on. As with the first book, there is a dis­tinct lack of dan­ger or action and despite words like ‘bat­tle­field’, ‘life and death’ and ‘pro­tect­ing Chicago’ thrown around in the syn­op­sis, nobody really does any­thing. As far as I can tell, mostly the Adepts sneak down into the under­ground tun­nels most nights and have meet­ings in their secret room, which turns out to be pretty much round the cor­ner from the Reaper’s under­ground base. Per­haps I missed all the major move­ments in book two, but con­sid­er­ing noth­ing seems to have changed or moved on plot-wise from the end of the first book, that seems unlikely.

Some­one is behind a mag­i­cal black­out, forc­ing the Adepts and Reapers to work together to gain their magic back. This could have been a poten­tial inter­est­ing plot line, but it ends up being mostly a lot of talk­ing, some faffing around, a con­ve­nient (and poorly writ­ten) fairy tale that pro­vides the answers and the whole thing is fairly eas­ily resolved with lit­tle trou­ble by the end of the book. There’s seem­ingly noth­ing to stop the cul­prit from work­ing the same mojo again, but some­how that ques­tion never comes up.

In fact, there are quite a few unre­solved ques­tions pop­ping up through­out this series. Do Lily’s par­ents really know about magic? What are they hid­ing? Is Adept HQ as trust­wor­thy as first believed? (Prob­a­bly not) Are Reapers truly as evil as they’ve been told? (Prob­a­bly not) Can Lily trust Sebas­t­ian? (Who cares — he’s a lot more inter­est­ing than Jason.)

It’s just all a bit flat. Charm­fall has a lot of unnec­es­sary filler and no char­ac­ter or plot pro­gres­sion. A shame, as I saw some poten­tial in book one, but I’m not inclined to con­tinue with these books. They are shap­ing up to be a long, light­weight, inof­fen­sive and ram­bling para­nor­mal series. Not bad for the casual reader but why bother when there are much more sat­is­fy­ing books out there?

*Edit: Just read that there are no fur­ther plans to con­tinue this series. I guess the pub­lish­ers, or pos­si­bly the author, aren’t feel­ing this one either.

Orig­i­nally review over at Mostly Read­ing YA

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

I was left with very mixed feel­ings about The Divin­ers by Libba Bray. It took me nearly two months of bore­dom, frus­tra­tion and annoy­ance to get through the first half, and about an after­noon to read the sec­ond half. The only rea­son I per­se­vered was out of stubbornness.

And I’m glad that I did in the end. Some­where in this gigan­tic tomb of a book is an inter­est­ing story and Bray clearly has a very def­i­nite plan for this series. Her writ­ing is evoca­tive and The Divin­ers is seeped in an eerie atmos­phere, not to men­tion the sheer amount of research that has gone into this book.

It’s 1920s New York City. It’s flap­pers and Fol­lies, jazz and gin. It’s after the war but before the depres­sion. And for cer­tain group of bright young things its the oppor­tu­nity to party like never before.

For Evie O’Neill, it’s escape. She’s never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scan­dal, she’s shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she’s always wanted: the chance to show how thor­oughly mod­ern and incred­i­bly dar­ing she can be.

But New York City isn’t about just jazz babies and fol­lies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being mur­dered across the city. And these aren’t crimes of pas­sion. They’re grue­some. They’re planned. They bear a strange resem­blance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can’t solve them alone.

Evie wasn’t just escap­ing the sti­fling life of Ohio, she was run­ning from the knowl­edge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mys­te­ri­ous power that could help catch the killer — if he doesn’t catch her first.

Aside from the over-the-top and grat­ing use of slang, the Roar­ing Twen­ties is richly drawn. Bray weaves Amer­i­can his­tory pretty seam­lessly into the pages, not just flap­pers and speakeasies and the glam­our of the period, but there are also nods to the pol­i­tics of the time, reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions, the Immi­gra­tion Act, the eugen­ics move­ment, racial atti­tudes, the fear of com­mu­nism, Pro­hi­bi­tion, the rise of orga­nized crime. Even with the vaguest under­stand­ing of Amer­i­can his­tory I was able to appre­ci­ate just how much Bray has put into recre­at­ing the period.

That being said, I have some prob­lems with The Divin­ers. Glanc­ing through reviews, I can see that I wasn’t the only per­son com­pletely put off by the annoy­ing overuse of 20’s speech. Every other word was, ‘see you soon-ski!’, ‘you bet-ski’, ‘pos-i-tute-ly!’ It sounded ridicu­lous and was unnec­es­sary, given how well Bray builds up a strong sense of the era through­out the rest of the novel. Thank­fully, once the main story line really takes off, the slang is dras­ti­cally toned down. Unfor­tu­nately it takes roughly 240 pages to get there.

And therein lies one of the main issues I had with this book. It felt like one long, long intro­duc­tion. Bray spends the major­ity of the novel build­ing up detailed back-stories for her many char­ac­ters, metic­u­lously lay­ing the ground­work for the rest of the series. The trou­ble is, none of these plot threads come together, indeed the major­ity of the char­ac­ters don’t really have any­thing to do with the main plot at all and I was left feel­ing that a whole lot of it felt, well… irrelevant.

Despite spend­ing an end­less amount of time estab­lish­ing Evie, Mem­phis, Theta, Will, Sam, Mabel, Jeri­cho and sev­eral oth­ers whose names I can’t remem­ber, I never felt a con­nec­tion to these char­ac­ters. A mix­ture of flat and stereo­typ­i­cal, there was the vague feel­ing I’d met them all before. Mem­phis’ chap­ters in par­tic­u­lar dragged. He seemed to just do the same thing over and over again (mostly won­der about, scrib­ble a few lines of poetry and worry about his brother), and yet how many pages were given over to telling us that? Sadly, Evie, the lead­ing hero­ine in this book, is a brat. A spoilt shal­low girl who I found so dis­taste­ful I very nearly aban­doned the book altogether.

This is one book I can’t rec­om­mend nor dis­cour­age from read­ing. There is some beau­ti­ful, pow­er­ful, evoca­tive imagery, that is occa­sion­ally over­done. Too much time is spent set­ting every­thing up for the (admit­tedly intrigu­ing) over­ar­ch­ing plot line of the series, but, at times, to the detri­ment of this novel. The occult mur­ders are grue­some and one vic­tim in par­tic­u­lar is very clev­erly set up, but Naughty John, whilst main­tain­ing an air of sin­is­ter creepi­ness, kind of felt like a cheap thrill. I find myself both itch­ing to re-read it just to immerse myself again in the world Bray has cre­ated and relived that I even fin­ished it at all.

A store­front psy­chic whose con­nec­tion to the spir­its was noth­ing more than the pull of a string with a toe to make a knock­ing under the table felt com­pelled, quite sud­denly, to cover her crys­tal ball with a cloth and lock it up the a wardrobe. In Chi­na­town, the girl with the dark hair and green eyes bowed rev­er­ently to her ances­tors, offered her prayers and read­ied her­self to walk in dreams, among he liv­ing and the dead. North along the Hud­son, in an aban­doned, ruined vil­lage, the wind car­ried the ter­ri­ble death cries of some ghostly inhab­i­tants, the sound rever­ber­at­ing ever so faintly in the vil­lage below so that the men bent over their check­ers in the back of the gen­eral store glanced ner­vously at one another, their play sus­pended, their breath held for sev­eral sec­onds until the wind and sound were gone. Else­where in the coun­try, there were sim­i­lar stir­rings. A mother dreamed of her dead daugh­ter and woke, she could swear, to the chill­ing sound of the words ‘Mama, I’m home.’ A Klans­man who’d left his meet­ing in the woods to piss by an old tree jumped sud­denly, as if he’d felt hang­ing feet drag­ging across the tops of his shoul­ders, mark­ing him. There was noth­ing there, but he brushed at his shoul­ders any­way, scur­ry­ing back toward the fire and his broth­ers in white. A young Ojib­way man watched a sil­very shim­mer of a hawk cir­cle over­head and dis­ap­pear. In an old farm­house, a boy nudged his par­ents awake. ‘There’s two girls call­ing me to play hide-and-seek with them in the corn­fields,” he whis­pered. His father ordered him sleep­ily back to bed, and when the boy passed by the upstairs win­dow, he saw the incan­des­cent girls in their long skirts and high-necked blouses fad­ing into the edges of the corn, cry­ing mourn­fully, “Come, come play with us…”

~ page 372

Book Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Anna Win­ter­son doesn’t know she’s a witch and would prob­a­bly mock you for believ­ing in magic, but after mov­ing to the small town of Win­ter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power.

When Anna meets Seth, she is smit­ten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwit­tingly ampli­fies a deadly con­flict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s con­trol­ling his pas­sion, then she is as mon­strous as the witch clan who are try­ing to use her amaz­ing pow­ers for their own gain.

I have always, always loved sto­ries about witches and witch­craft, espe­cially his­tor­i­cal nov­els about witch­craft. When I realised A Witch in Win­ter was a con­tem­po­rary, I was momen­tar­ily a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed, but War­bur­ton cre­ates quite a rich, his­tor­i­cal atmos­phere with her set­ting that there was no chance of this becom­ing too Sabrina-like. I like my modern-day witches to have a strong con­nec­tion to the past and A Witch in Win­ter def­i­nitely achieved that.

A Witch in Win­ter is a fun read, a strong debut and def­i­nitely my kind of book. I loved how Eng­lish this book was, with its fan­tas­tic set­ting, evoca­tive of an old Cor­nish town by the sea, held up over the cen­turies by the var­i­ous spells and enchant­ments placed by the witches who have lived there over the years. The old, crum­bling house Anna moves in to with the witch marks carved into the wood, and the old gri­moire found in the fire­place, these were high­lights of the book for me. It was great to read about a sec­ondary school where the kids are study­ing their A Lev­els (although oddly, I still didn’t recog­nise some of the classes Anna was tak­ing). I loved all the British insults and it made me smile to hear phrases I’ve heard all my life instead of Amer­i­can ones.

It also made a nice change to have a fairly aver­age pro­tag­o­nist. Anna won’t go down as one of my favourite hero­ines of all time, she’s too pale to make that big of an impres­sion. But I really appre­ci­ated how she reacts to the knowl­edge that her inad­ver­tent love spell has caused Seth to fall in love with her. She knows it isn’t real, she knows it was a ter­ri­ble thing to do to some­one, is hor­ri­fied how it makes Seth act and is deter­mined to undo it, no mat­ter how she feels about him. Since I like my hero­ines a lit­tle more feisty, it was Emma­line I par­tic­u­larly liked, and who I hope to see far more of her in the sec­ond book, but Anna felt like an every­day teenager, which isn’t a bad thing

War­bur­ton has cre­ated a romance that I can see a lot of read­ers root­ing for. Seth seems like a gen­uinely nice guy (apart from a few overly pos­ses­sive moments). It is an exam­ple of the dreaded ‘insta-love’ but in this case there is a more plau­si­ble rea­son behind it. I liked that nei­ther Seth, Anna, or the reader, can be sure if the grow­ing feel­ings between these two are real, though I had a few issues. I per­son­ally didn’t find Seth all that inter­est­ing (I far more intrigued by Abbe). Seth was a bit too much of a ‘golden boy’ and the grow­ing romance between him and Anna got a lit­tle too sappy for my lik­ing. Seth also for­gives her far too quickly and it just seemed too easy that the boy she barely knows and acci­den­tally casts a love spell on turns out to be the right guy for her any­way. But this is still the first book in a planned series, and War­bur­ton has def­i­nitely set up more than one obsta­cle for these two to be together.

A Witch in Win­ter isn’t just about a love spell gone wrong. There are darker, more dan­ger­ous sides been drawn in this first book and the begin­nings of a quite excit­ing premise that sets the tone for the series nicely. There are more witches and war­locks con­verg­ing in Win­ter than Anna realises as she finds her­self right in the mid­dle of a pow­er­fully dan­ger­ous society.

A Witch in Win­ter sets just the right tone for Young Adults Para­nor­mal Romance that I think younger and older read­ers will enjoy. I would have liked a grit­tier story with more prac­ticed witch­craft and was des­per­ately hop­ing War­bur­ton would tell us more about the gri­moire and the orig­i­nal witch who owned it, but I can­not com­plain. There’s noth­ing overly unique here but A Witch in Win­ter is fresh, atmos­pheric and has plenty of action, mys­tery and romance. Though it’s a series and there are some unan­swered ques­tions, there’s no major cliffhanger and it works as a stand alone novel. I’ll def­i­nitely be pick­ing up A Witch in Love this July.

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Check out my inter­view with the author here.

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*Many thanks to Hachette Children’s Books for send­ing this in exchange for an hon­est review*

Book Breakup: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts

I feel par­tic­u­larly bad about not fin­ish­ing this, since Tem­plar kindly sent it to me for review, and it seems like the kind of book I prob­a­bly would have enjoyed as a kid. I’m not going to rate it, because if I did based on my own enjoy­ment it would pretty low and I don’t feel that is exactly fair, given that I not only didn’t fin­ish read­ing this, but that I’m also roughly fif­teen years older than the intended audience.

I have read and thor­oughly enjoyed a lot of junior fic­tion, but this one, for what­ever rea­son, just didn’t click for me. The writ­ing was just too sim­ple and I found the char­ac­ters un-engaging. Unfor­tu­nately I couldn’t warm to the hero­ine. She was the kind of char­ac­ter who is incred­i­bly naive yet thinks she knows best and basi­cally causes a lot of bother for every­one else along the way. Some­times this works and some­times it doesn’t. In this case, I found her bossy and dif­fi­cult to like. This is quite a long book for its age group and I per­son­ally found the story slow going.

Con­tinue read­ing

Book Review: Shattered Dreams by Ellie James

Sixteen-year-old Trin­ity Mon­sour wants noth­ing more than to live a nor­mal life. But that isn’t as easy as it seems. Trin­ity is dif­fer­ent. She is spe­cial. She sees visions, and for those she’s seen, it’s already too late.

Trin­ity arrives on her aunt’s doorstep in New Orleans with vir­tu­ally no knowl­edge of her mys­te­ri­ous her­itage. She begins set­tling into life at a new school and even starts mak­ing friends. But all too quickly her dreams accel­er­ate; twisted, ter­ri­fy­ing visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheer­leader, Jes­sica, goes miss­ing, Trin­ity knows she has no choice but to step for­ward with what she’s seen.

But peo­ple believe that Trin­ity has infor­ma­tion about Jessica’s dis­ap­pear­ance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dat­ing Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jes­sica did pull a nasty prank on Trin­ity. Revenge seems like the like­li­est scenario.

Noth­ing pre­pares Trin­ity for the dark odyssey that ensues while search­ing for Jes­sica, includ­ing the sur­pris­ing romance she finds with Chase, or the shock­ing truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone miss­ing, but the past that has been hid­den from her.

 

First of all, I feel I should point out how mis­lead­ing this cover is, it really doesn’t reflect the dark tone the book was aim­ing for at all.

Shat­tered Dreams is one of those books you fin­ish read­ing and think, what the hell hap­pened!? If this book has taught me any­thing, it’s that I am obvi­ously far too stub­born for my own good (and quite pos­si­bly a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment), because I made myself read the whole thing even though I wanted to put it down after the first few chap­ters. Con­tinue read­ing

Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate lives in a world of super­sti­tions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daugh­ter, Kate held a carv­ing knife before a spoon, and her wooden tal­is­mans are so fine that some even call her ‘witch-blade’, a dan­ger­ous nick­name in a coun­try where witches are hunted and burned in the square. 

For Kate and her vil­lage have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leav­ing her alone in the world. And a mys­te­ri­ous fog now cov­ers the coun­try­side, ruin­ing crops and spread­ing fear of hunger and sick­ness. The towns­peo­ple are look­ing for some­one to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate. 

Enter Linay, a stranger with a propo­si­tion: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a fam­ily, a place to belong. But Kate soon real­izes she can’t live shad­ow­less for­ever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

So I’ll admit, I bought this book purely because of the cover (isn’t it just lovely) and because its been a while since I read a really good children’s fan­tasy book that adults could equally enjoy.

Sim­ply put: I adored Plain Kate and can say with­out a doubt it has become one of my favourite reads this year.

The main rea­son for this was, of course, Tag­gle. Why is it that talk­ing ani­mals tend to make the best char­ac­ters (Manchee and Mog I’m look­ing at you!)? I loved Tag­gle. Utterly and com­pletely (any­one who knows me won’t be at all sur­prised by this). Bow cap­tures him per­fectly; arro­gant, regal, sar­cas­tic and totally adorable. Loyal and pro­tec­tive of Kate, Tag­gle comes across as very human at times, and hilar­i­ously cat-like at others,

 

Tag­gle climbed into her lap. “Hello,” he said, then rolled over and peered up at her appeal­ingly, “I am fond of you and present my throat for scratching.”

 

Their friend­ship is very spe­cial and my absolute favourite part of the book. Kate is alone in the world, her father has died and the local vil­lagers are wary of her because of her quiet nature and expres­sive carv­ings. She expe­ri­ences prej­u­dice and fear from both strangers and those she con­sid­ers fam­ily and through­out it all, it is Tag­gle who is her one true friend and con­stant companion.

Kate was a char­ac­ter I really came to admire and like — she is a quiet, deter­mined girl with an inner strength and has had to learn how to sur­vive on her own, rely­ing on the kind­ness of strangers and her own carv­ing skills. But she also comes across as incred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble and yearns to be accepted, to be part of a fam­ily. It was won­der­ful to read a story that focused on an inde­pen­dent, soli­tary hero­ine in search of her own place in the world.

Bow’s char­ac­ters are well drawn and have a com­plex­ity you don’t always find in younger children’s lit­er­a­ture. Linay, the ‘vil­lain’ of this story isn’t just a cor­rupt, evil char­ac­ter, his motives are very human and I enjoyed see­ing the pro­gres­sion of his char­ac­ter. He does some ter­ri­ble things, but he also shows Kate kind­ness, per­haps more than most. His rela­tion­ship with Kate is com­pelling right through to the end.

Plain Kate is rem­i­nis­cent of one of Grimm’s fairy tales. It is has melan­choly feel to it, is very dark and quite vio­lent in places. Bow explores dif­fer­ent cul­tures, tra­di­tions and beliefs and how sus­pi­cion and prej­u­dice can all too eas­ily turn to fear and hatred. But it is also very much a tale of redemp­tion, love, friend­ship and per­se­ver­ance. The nar­ra­tive flows beau­ti­fully and is quite lyri­cal in its simplicity.

This is a lovely story. Some read­ers may be put off by the quiet tone and pac­ing of Plain Kate as most of the action does take place in the last third of the book. I found it dif­fi­cult, at first, to engage with Kate. She is a dis­tant char­ac­ter due to her expe­ri­ences, but I fell in love with her all the same. The end­ing is just per­fect. Bit­ter­sweet, heart­break­ing and exactly what it ought to be. The only thing I have to com­plain about is that I didn’t want it to finish.

 

Ciri came tod­dling up to them. He was the young prince of the Roamers, a boy of two, the favorite of the dozen naked and cheer­ful chil­dren who chased chicken and snuck rides on horses in Roamer’s camps. Just now he had Tag­gle in a headlock.

“Help,” croaked the cat.

Drina shed her anger and pulled boy and cat into her lap. 

“Ciri, Ciri,” she said, and dropped into the Roamer lan­guage, a liq­uid coax­ing in which Plain Kate caught only the word ‘cat.’ Ciri unfolded his elbows, and Tag­gle spilled out, buy-eyed.

Plain Kate picked him up and scratched his ruff. “Thank you for not killing him.” By this time she knew how to flat­ter a cat: praise of feroc­ity and civil­ity both.

Tag­gle preened. “He’s a kit­ten.” He arranged his dig­nity around him with a few care­fully placed licks. “Else I would have laid such a cross­hatch of scratches on him he’d have scales like a fish.”


Book Review: Crushed by K.C Blake

The Noah sis­ters rule Titan High with their beauty, brains, and mag­i­cal powers. 

Each year they play a secret game: Crushed. The girls pick their tar­gets care­fully and blow enchanted dust into the boy’s faces, charm­ing them, but this year Kris­ten makes a grave mis­take. She chooses the wrong boy and almost dies that same day. Coin­ci­dence? Maybe. 

But some­thing isn’t quite right about Zach Bevian. He doesn’t behave like a boy who’s been Crushed. He goes from hot to cold, from look­ing at her with con­tempt to ask­ing her out on a date. She doesn’t know what to think. Does he hate her or is he truly falling for her? Is he try­ing to kill her, or is he try­ing to save her?

Crushed is a fun, light­hearted read and despite its pre­dictabil­ity, I enjoyed it. Con­tinue read­ing

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