Book Bites – more to get your teeth into
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Hogwarts on acid
About the book:
Tristan Fairholm has always liked fixing things. It makes up for everything in his life he can’t mend—his parents’ divorce, his father’s alcoholism, and his little brother’s weak heart. But when he kills his brother in a car accident, he destroys the only thing he truly cared for.
He has nearly given up when a mysterious woman appears and offers him a place at her school. Along with fifteen other juvenile delinquents, Tristan is given a chance to escape penitentiary while he studies magic in the wild mountains of Canada.
As he learns to extract and shape raw magic, Tristan finds unexpected friendship in his fellow students, from lovable Rusty Lennox to mysterious, fey Amber Ashton. But when the school is threatened by a vandal who endangers the lives of everyone living there, Tristan learns that the magic they are harvesting is being put to a dark and dangerous use. While he races to uncover the vandal before his friends are harmed, Tristan must decide if his new friends and his freedom are more important than his morals.
Review by Katy Haye:
Tristan was a fabulous character – scarred inside and out due to a road accident that killed his brother, which seems to have been indirectly caused due to an earthquake that never happened. That was so intriguing I had to read on.
I really liked the relationships between the students, especially between Tristan, Amber and Leila. I can’t wait to see more of them.
Starting steadily and picking up pace, The Natural Order finished with a superb action sequence finale. The revelation of what was really going on and why was breathtaking, and once I reached it I could understand why the teachers didn’t tell them earlier.
My only niggle was that I thought Tristan and his friends trusted Evvie far too easily – she refused to give any specifics of what she’d found out and wouldn’t reveal her sources. I expected the others to be more sceptical than they were -but perhaps that just reveals my cynicism!
The Natural Order is well worth a read. There are more in the series and I can’t wait to get started on the next. Even better, for a short time, you can get a copy of the ebook FREE. Grab your copy here (you’ll need to provide your email address, and you will be subscribed to RJ’s newsletter list, but if you decide The Natural Order isn’t for you after all you can simply unsubscribe).
Tone and topic are at odds
Kinsella is a great writer and parts of this book are excellent. But other parts are … just not quite right. She’s chosen difficult topics to treat in a jokey way – bullying and mental illness. A lot of the time she does it extremely well, but at others the clash of subject v. tone jars. She also jumps through Audrey’s recovery process in a way that isn’t at all realistic.
There is lots to like about this book. The scene with the bullying girl Izzy whose parents can’t see she did anything wrong is spot on. Audrey’s mother is a bit over the top, but then I think Kinsella does specialise in over-the-top characters, and they have enough real touches to be relatable. The brother Frank is also excellent, as is the relationship between the two siblings. I think it’s just the premise of the story I’m not comfortable with, or the way it is handled.
Some set piece scenes that feel like Kinsella wanted to write them because they are fun/funny rather than necessary for the story or realistically likely to happen.
An enjoyable book to read if you aren’t currently suffering from bullying or mental illness. If you’re feeling fragile I’m not sure it’s one for you. Audrey makes a fairly miraculous recovery and not all of us manage that. Mental illness is not something that can be cured by finding a boyfriend.
If we did half-stars I’d probably give this 3 and a half, but as I don’t it’s a 3.
Review by Gill-Marie Stewart
Gill-Marie writes YA mystery/romances as Gill-Marie Stewart. As Gilly Stewart she also writes women’s contemporary fiction. The first book in her YA series about George and Finn is Music and Lies (try out the first chapter here).
Discord by Katy Haye comes out December 8th but the trailer is out right now.
About the book:
Beth forgot her past. What if there’s nothing to remember?
Seventeen-year-old Beth has brain damage. That’s why she lives in a hospital in the middle of the English countryside filled with therapeutic music and medical tests. Some days she feels well enough to go home, but other days – the days filled with shadows and ghosts, and a strong sense of déjà vu – she fears she’ll never get better.
Toby’s arrival signals a turning point. Beth faces her fears instead of hiding from them. But even with Toby’s help, is she strong enough to face a truth that is stranger than anything Beth could imagine?
Watch the trailer:
Welcome to the Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Dystopian Reader Appreciation Giveaway!
We’re so glad you stopped by! In this giveaway, EVERYONE who enters will win TWENTY FREE – EXCLUSIVE – ebooks by the sponsoring authors (to be delivered at the conclusion of the giveaway), and one GRAND PRIZE winner will also receive a $1000 Amazon Gift Card! The Winner will be announced on February 1st at our Facebook Event. The winner will also receive an email directly.There will ALSO be other prizes and giveaways happening at that event between now and our Grand Prize announcement! So make sure you mark yourself as attending so you don’t miss those great opportunities to win more prizes and snag more freebies!
Here are a couple of sneak peeks!
Lost Wolf Excerpt
by Stacy Claflin
Beads of sweat broke out along my hairline. I wiped them away, tightened my ponytail, and ran faster along the dirt trail, jumping over exposed roots and ducking under low-hanging branches. Pine trees, firs, and alders turned my path into more of an obstacle course than a trail.
A twig snapped behind me.
I glanced back, but didn’t see anything. Probably just a raccoon.
My sneaker hit a root and my arms flew in front of me. I landed on my hands and knees, and slid down an incline. Rocks and branches dug into my skin until I crashed into a huckleberry bush.
I stood and dusted myself off. Blood dripped from my legs. I pulled twigs, dirt, and small rocks from the cuts.
“Nice work, Victoria,” I muttered to myself.
Sasha had said I shouldn’t have gone into the forest for my first jog. But having just moved to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, I wasn’t about to join a club when I had the great outdoors. Birds chirped all around and a stream bubbled nearby. It was like the woods were telling me I’d made the right choice.
“Who’s there?” I sounded a lot braver than I felt. My heart thundered against my ribcage and I whipped my head around. My roommates had said the woods were safe, but I was also trusting people who had been strangers only a couple days earlier.
Why had I gone into the woods alone? Wasn’t that how half of all horror movies started?
I thought of Sasha running on a treadmill, flirting with cute college guys. Maybe she was the smart one.
“Hello?” I called.
Nothing. The birds had even stopped singing.
“Is anyone there?”
The footsteps came closer.
My pulse drummed in my ears. I fought to breathe normally.
A small gray and black wolf stepped out from behind the tree. He made eye contact with me.
I didn’t move a muscle, holding its gaze.
ETERNA Cross to Bear: A Gabriella Cross Paranormal Romance Book 1
All around her, the sounds of baying wolves echoed in the night. Trees slapped her face as she ran, and she tripped more than once. She was crying now and mumbling to herself, terrified. She dared not look back, knowing that the wolves were pursuing her. She came out of the woods into a clearing leading to a tall hill. The howls came from all directions. Shadows flew through the woods in her peripheral vision, and Gabby cried out. She fell again, skinning her knee badly on a jagged rock. In her terrified state, she felt no pain, but continued as fast as she could and ran up the hill.
A snarl came from directly behind her, and she instinctively turned and cried out. A wolf was bearing down on her fast. She turned and raised a hand as the beast leapt at her with gleaming claws leading the way.
“NO!” Gabby cried.
To her amazement, the wolf changed form in mid-flight and turned into a naked man. He landed at her feet on all fours and snarled at her.
“Get away from me!” she screamed.
The naked man backed away from her warily, glancing down at his human hands with a look of confusion and shock. More wolves were coming out of the woods. They stopped when they saw the one who had turned into a human in the light of the full moon.
Gabby wasted no time considering her luck and ran as fast as she could up the hill.
“Gabriella Cross, stop!” Michael’s voice rose up over the howls.
Gabby could hardly see through her tears. She didn’t dare look back, knowing that she would find death closing in on her. She reached the top of the hill and ran across the flat expanse of rocky earth.
“Gabriella!” came the voice again.
The wolves were gaining on her.
She darted between two pines blocking her way, receiving many scrapes on her face and arms. Half blinded by tears and slapping branches, she stumbled out from between the trees and suddenly came to a steep cliff. She tried to stop, but her momentum was too great. With a terrified cry she fell forward over the cliff.
She frantically thrashed her arms as she fell to her death. Above, on the ledge, a mournful wolf cried out. The ground was coming up fast to crush her, and Gabby closed her eyes, not wanting to see her death.
Then. Suddenly. Gabriella was weightless.
Strong arms held her firmly. She opened her eyes to find a winged beast staring back at her.
Gabby passed out.
“a book that celebrates the strength and capability of women”
Here is a book that defies all that anyone ever told you about writing for children and makes you wonder why anyone made that stuff up in the first place. To start with, there’s the idea that the protagonist must be around the same age as the readership. It’s plainly ridiculous when you consider the classic books which are pure YA fodder – I Capture the Castle, Wuthering Heights. There’s absolutely no reason why young adults should be limited to reading about people under the age of eighteen. I’m not sure if the age of Maddie and Julie is stated anywhere in Code Name Verity, but I imagine them both in their early twenties. It’s World War Two and in a complicated series of loops and flashbacks, we learn that these two friends have flown to Nazi-occupied France, Maddie as pilot and Julie as a spy. When the plane crash-lands, Julie is captured and suffers horrifying torture at the hands of the Nazis, while Maddie first goes into hiding and then works with the resistance to attack the prison where Julie is being held.
I’ve already mentioned the complexity of the plot; the point here is ‘verity’ or truth. Julie narrates the first half of the story, and her account is oddly disjointed and unsettling. Why is she telling us these particular facts? Can she really be the feeble collaborator she makes herself out to be? It’s impossible to discern the truth, because the script she is writing is for the eyes of her captors. At first, she doesn’t even refer to herself in the first person in the story she’s unfolding. We learn how Maddie and Julie met and became friends, the circumstances that led to their ill-fated trip to France. She declares that she is betraying her country as she lists details about planes and airfields. Her situation is terrifying, her fear palpable; she does not know, as we do not, when they will tire of her writing and decide to send her onwards to her death.
Then the second half begins, Maddie’s half. We see the same story from her point of view. You’ll find yourself leafing back through the pages to see how Julie’s account tallies with Maddie’s. I’m going to have to tread carefully here, so as not to give anything away, but suffice to say, questions from the first half are answered by Maddie, things begin to make sense. The first half was a gruelling read in places, but the second half … so much more harrowing! Did I cry? Of course I did. And I relished the heroism of these young women. If you’re looking for a book that celebrates the strength and capability of women, Code Name Verity could not be perfect.
So … children’s book or not? I’d judge it perfectly suited to a young adult reader – thrilling, personal, emotional. But at the same time, I see nothing here that would make an adult dismiss it – it’s complex, fantastically well-researched, original and beautifully written. I’ve already ordered two more Elizabeth Wein books!
More to Read!
There is a wealth of fabulous books about the experience of young people in World War 2. Two of my favourites are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.
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The Paisley Piranha YA newsletter Book Bites brings you brand-new author interviews, bookish competitions and other fabulous book stuff.
Unsettling – and captivating.
…But if you’re a ridiculous stickler, you’ll notice a few proofing errors.
About the book:
It’s survival of the fittest, but first you have to fit in.
Shae is sure the icy rage that eats away at her is driving away her friends and pulling her closer to the wrong boy. But, as her protected world unravels, she discovers the violent supernatural world that lurks in her quiet hometown and the ancient feuds that threaten to destroy both her friends and her family. To save those she loves, Shae must succumb to her own fury, but at what cost?
Review by Katy Haye:
I didn’t know a lot about Sanctuary before I started, I was just curious because I seemed to have seen it around a lot (and that cover IS beautiful). From the first paragraph I loved the writing. I was intrigued: I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I really wanted to figure it all out.
The atmosphere was gloriously unsettling and the world Melle Amade has built was utterly absorbing. Nothing was completely unique – but it was all twisted a little bit to make it different, clever and captivating.
The finale was a triumph and the ending was brilliant. No cliffhanger (I’m sure you know our opinion of willful cliffhangers amongst the Paisley Piranhas!), but I definitely want to read more about Shae and her friends. There were a few proofing errors (breaks for brakes; pouring for poring), but you’ll probably only notice them if you’re cursed to be a preposterous stickler like me.
Oh, and – there’s a character named Zan. Which has got to be a tick in its favour from me (In case you don’t know – my heroine in The Last Gatekeeper is Zan).
If you like shifter novels – and even if you don’t – I’d recommend Sanctuary. I loved it.