Review: Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy

About the book:

Marit vowed never to use magic again – its force can be fatal. But when her best friend Eve is adopted by a legendary former dancer, Marit draws upon her powers to secure a job with the wealthy family so that she can watch over her. But Marit has another, secret motivation: her father died while working in the family’s mines, and she has reason to believe he was murdered.

Among the glittering surfaces and intrigues of her new life in Copenhagen, Marit begins to investigate her father’s death. But every step closer to the truth brings more danger and soon she is caught in a deception that goes all the way up to the king. Magic may be the only thing that can save her – if it doesn’t kill her first.



Review by Katy Haye:

Splinters of Scarlet was a sumptuous treat. A historical fantasy based in a magical nineteenth-century Denmark, it was rich and absorbing.

The magic that formed the core of the book was beautifully handled – equal parts blessing and curse, all users of magic are aware that they are on borrowed time, using abilities that will one day freeze their blood and kill them.

Marit was a wonderful character, bearing the scars of losing both her parents and her sister (who died from magical ‘firn’ in front of her eyes), and her devotion to Eve, the fellow orphan whom she loves as a sister provided her with powerful motivation to do whatever was required to in order to ensure Eve’s happiness. This balance between staying safe and risking all for another provided a wonderful push and pull throughout the book.

The mystery running through the story of what happened to Marit’s father held some glorious twists and turns, and the denouement made me blink back tears.

Highly recommended!

Posted in fairytale, families, fiction, friendship, historical, magic, review, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Review: Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

About the book:

Eve is 16 and special. She lives alone in the Tower under the strict gaze of the Mothers, because she is the last girl on Earth. Now it’s time for Eve to face her destiny. Three males have been selected and the future of humanity lies in her hands. She’s always accepted her fate. Until she meets Bram. Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom. But can you choose between love and the future of the human race?



Review by Katy Haye:

Eve of Man was a real treat – absorbing and entertaining while also thought-provoking. It had a little of everything: romance, thriller, post-apocalyptic, coming of age. The pages simply swept past as the tension rose and danger tightened around our heroic pair.

The premise was great – for the past 50 years all babies have been male … except one. Eve is now of age to start reproducing, and that’s the future she faces, with whichever of the very small shortlist of males found for her. But of course, life never goes to plan (or not in stories, at least).

The world-building was very strong, creating a very slightly sinister and unsettlingly likely post-apocalypse. I loved the way Bram started to peel back layers and connect the dots and I absolutely loved how it all tied together. As is perfect for the first in a series, as one issue was resolved, the danger increased and the world opened up and twisted to something different and more threatening.

Eve and Bram have a whole new species of problems waiting for them, and I’ll definitely be reading along!

PS, sorry to US readers. Until I went on Amazon to copy the back cover copy, I didn’t realise Eve of Man wasn’t out everywhere. I’ve had the paperback on my shelves for months but you’ve got to wait a couple of weeks, or splash out on the hardback.

Posted in dystopian, fiction, review, Romance, teen, thriller, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , ,

Review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

About the book:

Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye.

Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.

Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in . . .

Set in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, The Twisted Tree is a ghost story that twists and turns – and never takes you quite where you’d expect.


Review by Katy Haye:

Oh, this was a real treat! The story is based on Norse mythology (the twisted tree of the title being Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life), but set in the modern day. Its atmosphere of creeping danger was utterly compelling and – at times – hair-raising. Martha was a fabulous character, discovering her strengths as she was thrown in at the deep end when myth collides with her reality.

Stig provided an excellent foil for Martha, as well as driving the narrative by asking the questions the reader couldn’t. I especially liked that there was the definite potential for romance, but this wasn’t rushed and convenient, and even this was coloured by the creepy uncertainty of the story as a whole.

If you want something a bit different which will grab hold of you and not let go until the last word, I highly recommend The Twisted Tree.

Posted in contemporary, families, fantasy, fiction, Ghost, mythology, review, supernatural, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Red Rider by Kate Avery Ellison

About the book:

Werewolves. A human resistance. And a girl caught between two worlds.

Red Riding Hood meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this post-apocalyptic YA fairytale retelling!

In a land where a werewolf army called the Sworn rule over the humans and walking corpses called treecrawlers roam the wilderness between settlements, orphaned Red has a secret that she and her grandmother have been hiding for years. She’s one of the Chosen, the despised young women selected to bear children in the stead of barren female werewolves.

Red keeps her identifying mark hidden, and she doesn’t take advantage of the luxuries available to the future mothers of the Sworn. But her secret is discovered when she rescues her rebel boyfriend from execution for treason, and she can hide the truth no longer.

Red is intercepted by a dangerous young Sworn named Vixor Rae, a prince among the werewolves, and taken through the dangerous wilderness to serve her fate in the capital.

Vixor intrigues Red against her will, but he is her enemy, and she wants nothing more than to see him dead.

But when treecrawlers attack the Sworn caravan headed for the capital, and only Red and Vixor survive, the two must rely on each other to make it out of the perilous wilderness alive.

Review by Katy Haye:

I had mixed feelings about Red Rider. It’s fabulously creative, with a glorious fantasy world intermingling paranormal elements with good old human foibles. I really enjoyed the twists and turns as Red was taken out of her element and nothing was quite as it seemed.

However, I found the writing a little pedestrian in places. There’s no need to use the word “weak” three times in one paragraph – brush off your thesaurus or get a proof-reader to suggest some alternatives.

In summary, the story is highly entertaining, and if you aren’t a ridiculous pedant like myself I’m confident you’ll enjoy Red Rider tremendously. If you are a ridiculous pedant, be warned that you may be dragged out of the story now and then by lack-lustre prose, but hopefully the vibrant world-building and tense situations will make up for that!

Posted in fairytale, families, fantasy, fiction, friendship, magic, review, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , ,

Review: Legacy Witch by Ashley McLeo

About the book:

I had no idea what I was getting into by enrolling at Spellcasters Spy Academy.
Nada. Zilch.
I was such a sweet summer child.
But honestly, who would guess that no one likes a Legacy who skips out on the academy entrance exam?

Oops.

Also I’d really like to know why my crush hates my guts?

Mega ouch.

Or why no one ever mentioned that someone is killing off students in my year.

Yikes . . .

And just when I think I’ve found my footing, I discover that my magic has been hiding something incredible all my life.

WTAH?

So what’s a witch supposed to do about all these problems? Unleash my power, find the murderer, and show my peers what sort of awesome they’ve been missing out on all year—that’s what.

Review by Katy Haye:

Legacy Witch is a lively, fun read. It’s full of good things: a mystery to be solved, friendships to be forged, the class uberbitch to be defeated, magic to be unleashed, demons to be hunted, and hot guys to be kissed.

I loved the relationships, and particularly the way the romantic aspect was simply one thread amongst many and not the be-all and end-all of Odette’s time at college. The friendships were strong and convincing, and I just love reading about healthy friendships. Even the enmity with Diana was convincingly drawn, was put aside when more important matters arose and was resolved satisfactorily without anyone becoming a stereotype.

Legacy Witch is the start in a series I think is now complete, and it makes for a great introduction to an exciting world. Highly recommended.

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Review: Dragon Mage Academy: Princess of Dragons by Cordelia Castel

About the book:

A disguised princess. A murder most malicious. A dragon condemned to death.

Desperate to escape a forced marriage, seventeen-year-old Princess Alba disguises herself to join the all-male Dragon Mage Academy.

Her plans go wrong when a dragon accused of murder forms a telepathic link: the deepest possible bond between dragon and rider.

And it can only mean one thing:

If the dragon is executed, Alba will die.

With her fate intertwined with that of the condemned dragon, Alba must prove its innocence to save both their lives.

But can she achieve this before the Academy’s rigorous regime breaks Alba’s spirit?

Review by Katy Haye:

Good fun, and a lively addition to the dragon genre. I loved the world Cordelia Castel created, with a mash up of fantasy and fairytale.

Alba was a lively, entertaining character. I loved her independence and determination. I was initially annoyed by her refusal to query Fyri’s claim of innocence. She’d only just met the dragon, so I thought her instant belief was unlikely. Either she should have challenged Fyri and discussed the matter fully, or there could have been some fantastical explanation – because they were linked, she *knew* Fyri was telling the truth, for example. As it was, I thought it made her come across as rather naïve.

I did enjoy the friendships she built with the other students – and her interactions with the faculty were extremely amusing.

The story was fast-paced and the eventual resolution was very satisfying and provided a perfect conclusion to all the twists and turns we encountered.

I’ll definitely read more from Cordelia Castel!

Posted in fairytale, families, fantasy, fiction, friendship, magic, review, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

New Release Klaxon: Nine Dragons Gold by Katy Haye

Congratulations to Piranha Katy Haye, whose new book is out today. Nine Dragons Gold takes the reader on another excursion into the Firethorn Kingdoms.

The cover of Nine Dragons Gold, featuring a dark-haired young woman on a background of orange flames.

A courtly game. An impossible prize.

Lady Hanna is used to being the neglected, unwanted daughter, ignored by a father who only values his sons.

Until Muirland’s crown prince needs a wife.

Suddenly, Hanna is dragged from her quiet life and taken to the royal court, where it is a matter of life and death to fulfil her father’s ambitions by beating the other candidates and winning the prince’s hand.

But four other girls – beautiful, clever and determined – are also vying to become the princess. Inexperienced Hanna must learn to navigate the treacherous currents of court life – and friendship – if she is to have any chance of securing a glittering future for herself.

Click on the image to step into Hanna’s world, a place full of magic … and danger.

 

Posted in families, fantasy, fiction, friendship, magic, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Girl of Flesh and Metal by Alicia Ellis

About the book:

Is she the killer she’s hunting?

It was supposed to help her—not turn her into a monster.

Now, Lena’s stuck with this cybernetic arm, and her friends are terrified of her.

Maybe they should be.

The arm’s artificial intelligence takes Lena’s thoughts to the extreme. It acts when she doesn’t tell it to, even when she’s asleep.

Ever since she got the new limb, she’s been sleepwalking and waking in odd places. To Lena, this is just another example of how CyberCorp—her parents’ company and the manufacturer of the arm—screws up everything.

As the rollout of CyberCorp’s new android approaches, a murderer targets children of the company’s employees. And thanks to her sleepwalking, Lena doesn’t know what she was doing during the murders.

When the evidence points to her, Lena decides to prove her innocence—or her guilt.


Review by Katy Haye:

Oh my giddy aunt, Girl of Flesh and Metal yanked me right out of the reading funk I’d fallen into. I loved this story from the first sentence and zipped straight through it, interrupted only by the need to sleep. Rude.

Lena is a fabulous character, and I especially liked her relationships with the other characters. It was all so very messy and real: the problem of trying to extricate herself from her old boyfriend’s life, combined with guilt about the accident that harmed both of them, then the new, uncertain relationship with Hunter (loved him!), and the female relationships were also strong and a pleasure to read. Friendships were difficult, but there was no “mean girls” nonsense here.

Lena’s parents were possibly slightly caricatured: workaholic parents who care more about their business image than their children, but you’ve got to have characters to roll your eyes at, and when push came to shove they showed what was really important to them.

The thriller/mystery element was very well-handled. I had a few ideas, but the twist of whodunnit was fabulously unexpected.

Loved this – hugely recommended!

Posted in contemporary, crime, families, fiction, friendship, review, Romance, sci-fi, teen, thriller, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Faerie Games by Michelle Maddow

About the book:

I’m Selena Pearce, and in the past few days I’ve been kidnapped by the fae, gifted with powerful magic, and forced to compete in a twisted, televised game to the death.

Growing up on the magical island of Avalon should be great… but I have no magic to speak of. And my parents forbid me from leaving.

So when I sneak out to Earth for a night and meet a hottie named Julian with ice blue eyes that leave me breathless, of course I say yes to a date with him. But when Julian pulls me through a magical portal, I realize he isn’t human. He’s a half-blood fae sent to bring me to his realm of the Otherworld. Because apparently, I’m a half-blood fae, too. And I’ve been chosen to compete in the annual Faerie Games—a brutal, gladiator-like competition where half-bloods fight to the death.

Too bad I can’t get my new magic under control. But with all eyes on me, I only have two options: Die in the Faerie Games, or win and earn my freedom.

Now the other players—including Julian, who still captivates me even though I should hate him—better watch out. Because I’m determined to get home.

And I’ll fight anyone blocking my path to get there.

Review by Katy Haye:

The Faerie Games is another masterclass in pacing. Michelle Madow’s books are impossible to put down because they are just hook after well-crafted hook. The Faerie Games takes the reader on another trip into mythology where ancient gods and supernatural creatures collide.

I loved the friendship between Selena and Torrence. I wasn’t quite as sure about the romance. I found Selena’s determination to hate Julian rather annoying – but there’d be no story if characters did the sensible thing!

A fast-paced, highly enjoyable read.

Posted in contemporary, families, fantasy, fiction, friendship, magic, review, Romance, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Extraordinary Lies by Jennifer Alsever

About the book:
Julia and Charley may come from two completely different worlds, but they’ve been called the same names all their lives. Psycho. Liar. Witch. It’s the price of being a supernaturally gifted female in sexist, narrow-minded 1971.

Until they’re invited to join the Stanford Research Institute. There, a team of scientists are conducting experiments on people like them—people with the ability to tell the future, read minds, move objects without lifting a finger.

At first, the institute seems like a safe haven. For the first time, Julia and Charley are not alone. Surrounded by others with powers like theirs, they finally make real friends. But as the experiments become darker and more dangerous, and the test subjects’ lives are increasingly at risk, the two girls must work together to unveil the truth behind the scientists’ experiments—and the extraordinary lies they’ve been told to keep them in the dark.

Review by Katy Haye:

Ooh, this was something delightfully different. Extraordinary Lies took me to the 70s, with a convincing cold war/conspiracy background and a cast of characters who’ve spent their entire lives at the edge of things (I particularly loved that even Dr Carillo was herself set apart by both her sex and her disability).

The main focus was on Julia and Charley (POV characters for the majority of the book). I especially loved Charley’s growing self-awareness and the ability to see that she was making mistakes almost the moment she made them. And there were lots of mistakes made by all of them. As an adult reader I thought they were frustratingly naïve at times – but what is your teen age for if not the perfect time for stupidity and foolish mistakes?!

I utterly loved the finale, with the young womens’ friendship growing stronger and their self-determination leading them away from manipulation and helplessness into a vibrant future. Recommended!

Posted in fiction, friendship, historical, paranormal, review, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,