Monday, 29 February 2016

The Book of Lies by Teri Terry

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 24th of March 2016

They are trapped, frozen. Waiting. Straining against the wood that holds them. The unwary catch a glimpse now and then - feel their desperate hunger, see a glint of red eyes - and scurry out of the shadows of the wood, back to the light.
She's coming; it will be soon.
They will run free on the moors again. The Hunt will return. 
And the ground will run with blood.

An ancient curse placed on a family of witches foretells that twins will be born - one good, one evil; and one will destroy the other. But who can be trusted when no one is as they seem?

What I Have to Say 

Every time I pick up a new Teri Terry book I find I have forgotten how amazing a writer she is. It's a wonderful thing to rediscover every year. The Book of Lies is a perfect example of her strengths. She creates a wonderful mystery piling secrets upon secrets to reveal dark truths throughout the book. 

Piper and Quinn were amazing characters as well. They came from such different backgrounds and had different ways of looking at things. She made the differences between them so subtle at first as well, creating the idea of each girls personality before revealing the things hidden underneath. 

I also find that she has a great way with words. Almost every scene has the reader fixed to the page. The words are all the right ones for the scene. It's something that only the very best writers can do but it makes for beautiful writing that makes reading the most enjoyable experience. 

These are just a few of the reasons Teri Terry is one of my favourite authors. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn by Tania Unsworth

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Orion Children's Books 
Released: 10th of March 2016 

11 year old Daisy has never seen the outside world.

She has lived with her mother in their family home, the splendid but crumbling Brightwood Hall. But when one day her mother doesn't come home and a strange man arrives at the house, Daisy must use her wits to survive.

What I Have to Say 

This wasn't what I expected, but even so, it was good. I expected more of Daisy starting to find out about life outside of Brightwood Hall, for her to be learning how to live around real people, but instead it's more of an adventure story. It's Daisy being brave and standing up for the house that is hers. 

I liked the subtle way that they showed Daisy's loneliness and how messed up such an isolated childhood has made her through the paintings and animals that she talks to. It hints at the darker side of her life there without intruding on the coming-of age adventure story that it is. 

I love how much of this takes place with only Daisy's imaginings. She needs help with what she's facing and so she makes a person to help her, in the form of Frank, a made up explorer's assistant. I really liked Frank's attitude to everything. Her straight forward way of relating everything to the adventurer lifestyle, calmly leading Daisy through the danger. 

This unique tale of a girl facing the danger of a strange man, isolated from everyone, with only her wits and her imagined conversations to help her, this is definitely a story that's worth reading. 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Alice Jones and the Impossible Clue by Sarah Rubin

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd
Released: 4th of February 2016

Maths-whizz Alice has already solved a mystery or two. Persuaded by wannabe sidekick Sammy to investigate a scientist's disappearance, she's soon entangled in her trickiest case yet. Dr Learner is reputed to have invented an invisibility suit, but is whacky science really to blame for his vanishing? With the unlikely help of erstwhile nemesis Kevin, Alice solves the puzzle - only to face another. Should she reveal the truth, or protect her most devoted friend?

What I Have to Say 

Alice Jones is a young detective like no other. Unlike other Middle Grade mystery books on the market these days, she isn't an aspiring young crime solver always on the look out for a new case. She prefers the sedate method, working on impossible to solve maths problems until a mystery falls into her lap. 

She's a very different type of protagonist. She's got less of the enthusiasm and more of the analytical, logical approach. I think I will always prefer the excitable young Sherlock Holmes- wannabes, but Alice certainly was a nice change. I think she's a very good addition to the genre. 

I loved the ending. I don't want to give anything away, but it was an ending to make you think, to take you away from the hero and criminal labels that mystery novels usually had. It showed that not everything is quite so simple and sometimes, it might be better for a mystery to remain unsolved. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 416
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books 
Released: 10th of March 2016 

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. 

What I Have to Say 

This is another sequel that I think was even better than the first book, even though the first was fantastic. I continue to love the worlds that McKerrow has created, both the already established Greenworld and the way we got to see our first real taste of the cities of the Redworld. 

I think one of the best things about the book was the contrasts that McKerrow was constantly making. The obvious contrasts were between the Redworld and the Greenworld and between the Greenworld's female deity and the strong male god of the Redworld, but also the comparisons made between the Goddess's of the Greenworld and tales of Proserpina. 

I think the best thing about this series is how flawed the Greenworld is. It would have been very easy for McKerrow to show the Greenworld as a Utopia of Paganism and the Redworld as the fuel-chugging darkness of everything that's wrong with society, but she's made sure to show the good side of the Redworld and the slight racism and prejudice of the Greenworld, as well. 

I really like the direction she is going with the Greenworld, trying to find balance with both the female and male aspects of their gods and the paralleling balance that I think they will have to find between the two worlds. I can't wait for the next book! 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 416
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Released:  10th of March 2016

Toby and Ayla have to infiltrate a sect of sun worshippers to steal the equipment their ships need. They enter a trial to be chosen as the Sun and the Moon, a position of great honour for the sect. As the trial commences, Toby and Ayla discover the true cost of failure. But there are other young couples who are equally desperate to win...Can Toby and Ayla survive days without sleep, hours sitting in the blistering sun and a deadly maze? They'll need to work together to win - their mission depends on it...

What  I Have to Say 

After setting up her new world of salt heaving seas and scavenging pirates, Bryony Pearce has followed with a fantastic continuation of the series, which I think I may have enjoyed even more than the first. 

In Phoenix Burning, we see a very different side of the world that Pearce has created. With any devastated world comes a group of religious fanatics who are desperate to find meaning in everything that has happened. The cruelty that the challenges that Ayla, Toby and the other competitors faced was suitably dark for this kind of sect, though this is certainly not the kind of book for those who are squeamish! 

The ending was filled with twists and intrigue, leaving me with the feeling I always get when I read something really good. I definitely am looking forward to seeing what's next for Toby. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 3rd of March 2016 

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer.

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever. 

What I Have to Say 

I really want this to be a series. I love the idea of travelling through time like sailing through the ocean, the rules of using maps drawn on a certain date and not being able to use the same map twice. I love the mythology aspects, going to places that people believed in and taking fantasy creatures and items away to make things easier. There is so much that can be done in this world and it would be awful if the author leaves it as a standalone book. 

The main setting is beautiful as well. It was the perfect choice for a story that combines mythology and historical fiction, especially with the conflict that the book ties so perfectly into. 

The main theme, of course, is one of identity and abandonment. Even Nix's name seems to show how little she means to her father. The books shows the touching story of a girl trying to find out who she is and come to terms with the fact that her father seems to want to change everything she is, all while her future is about as uncertain as a future can be. She doesn't even know if she will exist in said future. 

This book has something for everyone, fantasy, historical, action and adventure. It shows a touching story alongside a magical one. It is definitely not one to let pass you by, 

My thanks go to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this copy, 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Baker's Magic by Diane Zahler

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 336
Publisher: Capstone
Released: 1st of February 2016 

Bee is an orphan, alone in a poor, crumbling kingdom. In desperation, she steals a bun from a bakery, and to her surprise, the baker offers her a place at his shop. As she learns to bake, Bee discovers that she has a magical power. When a new friend desperately needs her help against an evil mage, Bee wonders what an orphan girl with only a small bit of magic can do. Bee's journey to help her friend becomes a journey to save the kingdom, and a discovery of the meaning of family.

What I Have to Say 

This book was really cute and very funny. It was one of those eccentric books that doesn't take itself too seriously, with characters who crack jokes whenever they can. 

I loved the bakery setting and the magic that Bee used. Magic in books are often big impressive spells from people who know what they're doing, but every so often, you find a book with innate magic that they practice without knowing that they're doing it. It works so well for Bee and  I love the way that she bakes the feelings that she's feeling at the time into anything she bakes. It can't be stopped as well, so it's really interesting the way she has to control herself or calm herself down, or not, as the occasion warrants. 

This is a bit young for some readers, but honestly I think everyone should read it. It's a great story and it's so lovely to connect with a book like that. It's almost like being a child again. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Capstone for providing me with this copy.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Rivers of Ink: Genesis by Helen Dennis

Synopsis (from Netgalley

Pages: 359 
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 
Released: 14th of January 2016 

What if a teenage boy washed up on the banks of the River Thames, soaked to the skin and unable to explain who he is?

What if the only clue to the boy's identity is a sketch he made of a strange symbol?

Who would help him? Who would hunt him? 

Who is River Boy?

When a mystery teenage boy emerges from the River Thames drenched, distressed and unable to remember anything about himself, he becomes the focus of worldwide media speculation. Unable to communicate, the River Boy is given paper and a pencil and begins to scribble. Soon a symbol emerges, but the boy has no idea why he has drawn it even thought it's the only clue to the mystery of his identity...

As the boy begins to build a new life under a new name, the hunt for his real identity begins.

What I Have to Say 

This was a good opening book of the series. It set things up nicely, starting off the mysteries and setting up the characters. It had enough danger and mysteries to keep the reader occupied, while leaving plenty of things unsolved too keep you interested in the series. 

I liked all the alchemy in the book. The use of the symbols that they didn't understand. I only with there could have been more of it. Other than the Ouroboros, it felt a bit like they were handed the answers on a plate (or through google searching) and then just guessed how they fitted together. It would have been nicer to have some evidence to show they were right other than the people chasing them. 

Other than that, I enjoyed it. It's a series that I'm sure I'll continue reading, though perhaps not one I'll eagerly await the next book of. 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 31st of December 2015 

Parker Grant doesn't need perfect vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.

When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there's only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.

What I Have to Say 

This is a book that really hits you with how hard it can be to be blind, not just the obvious lack of sight, but the way that even good intentioned people treat the blind. Her list of rules and entire attitude towards people show how hard it's been for her without much need to say it outright. It's really easy to see how her defenses have grown around her over the years.

Despite how pessimistic Parker's attitude is, I really liked her. Her voice was interesting and sassy, making it really enjoyable to read, even if her humour was dark. She felt real in a way that opened your eyes, rather than making you especially sympathetic. It made you see her as a real person that you might want to be friends with. It would have been easy for the writer to have tried to make the reader feel sorry for her and leave her as just the "blind girl", which is precisely what Parker spends the book trying not to be.

This is more than just a book about a blind girl. This is a book about grief and suppressing emotions, about making mistakes and having to own up to them. It's a great step for diversity and so much more.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Harper Collins Children's Books for providing me with a copy to review. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Puffin 
Released: 4th of February 2016 

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

What I Have To Say 

This is very much not a book for the faint-hearted. It is tragic and heartbreaking from the word go, taking it to harrowing extremes in the climax. Sepetys writes about a great tragedy without holding back from the details of it. There are some images in this book that will stay with me for a long time. 

Each voice was very different. I loved the switch between the voices in the narrative, showing things from different perspectives and revealing the character's secrets bit by bit. I only took a couple of days to read through it, because the characters and their mysteries caught me up in the story and compelled me to read on. 

This is definitely one for those who like a good cry at sad books. It's also a very good and well researched look into Germany and the surrounding countries during the Second World War. 

My thanks go to Netgally and Puffin for providing me with this e-Arc. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 294
Publisher: Mad Mystical Journey Press 
Released: 1st of November 2015 

After his mother dies in a freak accident, eight year-old, disabled Moojie is sent by his disapproving father to live at St. Isidore's Fainting Goat Dairy, where he befriends a clan of outcasts from an alternate universe. Six years later, this forbidden friendship and subsequent events reveal an extraordinary boy’s tale of loss and connection, first love, and self-discovery.

What I Have to Say 

It took me a little while to warm up to this book, but I really got into it. Moojie is not the type of character I normally like and neither really was a lot of the humour, as it was quite dark humour, but it was written in a really captivating fairy-tale-like voice that drew me in. 

I'm not keen on stories starting with the birth of the main character or the main character being a baby. I feel like usually there's not much story to tell, though in this case, so much of Moojie's disabilities and development is explained throughout his early life, that this was actually a good place to start. 

I don't think this was ever going to be one of my favourite books, but I liked it well enough. It went through a lot of issues about racism, disability and poverty and is worth reading if you get the chance. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Mad Mystical Journey Press for providing me with this e-Arc. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

See How They Run by Ally Carter

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 14th of January 2016
Other Books in the Series: All Fall Down 

Grace thought finding her mother's killer would bring her peace. But the truth has only made her a target. on Embassy Row, trust is a luxury. Death is a very real threat. And a girl like Grace should be very careful about which secrets she brings to light..

What I Have to Say 

Ally Carter has fallen into this habit of ending her books a few pages too soon. It leaves me distressed and desperate for more, normally in public. It's something that only the best authors can achieve. 

I'm enjoying this series a lot. It's not Gallagher Girls, but it has enough danger and great characters, that I can enjoying without thinking wistfully of the other series. Grace is a strong character, dealing with a lot of mental health issues and guilt which makes her feel a lot more realistic than action characters often are. 

The story is developing really well. I like the depth that Ally Carter has put into the conspiracies and how every time something new is uncovered it shows that the secrets run deeper in the society than they thought, adding a new element of danger. 

I just need less of the cliff-hangers. I don't think my heart can take much more! 


Monday, 1 February 2016

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 294
Publisher: Little Tiger Group 
Released: 11th of February 2016

Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails. 
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

What I Have to Say 

This is a book about comic-books! Well, not just about comic-books. It's also about art, the possible end of the world and the fear of leaving what's comfortable and safe in order to go out into the big wide world and do something with your life. But they had me at comic-books, everything else just made it extra awesome. 

I'm almost ashamed to say how confused I got with the setting of this book. I couldn't work out how it was the summer holidays and the end of school at the same time as it was coming up to Christmas. Luckily as soon as I realised it was Australian, it all fitted in. 

As I said, this book is about the scary part of life where you let go of your comfortable home life in order to go out into the big wide world. I think a lot of people know what this feels like. I know I do. It shows an very realistic look at how the need to make this decision and take the plunge can be paralyzing and watching your friends do it with relative ease can be the worst thing in the world. 

I think this is very relevant for the teenagers getting ready to go off to University as well as people in their 20s starting to head out into the workplace. 

Though to be honest, at any stage of life there are places where you may have to make this kind of decision. 

Also, comic- books!!