Review: Ninja Girl by Cookie O’Gorman

About the book:

Seventeen-year-old Snow-Soon Lee kicks ass–literally. She teaches at her family-owned martial arts gym, The Academy, and cares more about training to be the next Bruce Lee than hooking up. In fact, Snow’s never even been kissed. But when Girls Night rolls around, Snow decides to prove to her friends (and herself) that she’s not just some boring tomboy. Impulsively, she kisses a hot stranger and even manages to escape his two security guards.

One stolen kiss…

Ash Stryker’s senior year sucks. His politician father pulled him out of Chariot High, separating him from his championship-winning soccer team. Now he’s stuck at a prissy private school with no friends, no team and no chance of being scouted. On top of that, thanks to the death threats his dad’s received, Ash has a security tail aka professional babysitters. When the mystery girl from the movies shows up at his school, rappelling from the rafters, Ash knows one thing: he won’t let her get away again.

One interesting job proposition…

After a seemingly random attack, Ash’s mother surprises everyone. She hires Snow to be Ash’s personal bodyguard until after the election. But can Snow’s kick-ass skills hold up against the rising threats to Ash’s family? More importantly, can Ash convince his ninja girl to screw ethics and kiss him again?

Opposites attract in this YA romance where a smooth talker meets his match in the tough girl who (literally) sweeps him off his feet. Moral of the story:

Sometimes even bad boys need a bodyguard.

Review by Katy Haye:

I said I wanted more by Cookie O’Gorman, and I finally found time to scoot this to the top of my TBR pile.

Ninja Girl was lovely, with fabulous characters and great writing, just like Adorkable.

Like Adorkable, though, I wasn’t entirely convinced. I know adolescence is horrible and teenage insecurity is legend, but I did think they were making unnecessarily heavy weather of emotional matters.

And the threats subplot … hmm, I’ve never seen CSI, but I was screaming at the characters to get suspicious long before they did.

However, it’s still a gloriously enjoyable read, flaws and all!

Katy Haye writes speculative YA fiction. Try steampunk short, The Replacement Princess, set in an alternate, war-torn 1840s England, for free.

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Review: Blood Oath by Raye Wagner and Kelly St Clare

About the book:

More than anything, I crave adventure. But in the disease ridden land of Verald, life is mapped out much like the well-established rings of our kingdom.

At the very heart reigns our vicious king with Lord Irrik, an invincible dragon shifter, at his side. Their power poisons the land and the people, leading to a steadily mounting number of enemies.

But change is coming.

When the rebellion surges, the king strikes back. Captured by Lord Irrik, I’m suddenly embroiled in a deadly game. One where I’m desperate to understand the rules.
Because I’m not only fighting for my life . . . but also a love that could be the very key to my freedom.

Click to start reading.

Review by Katy Haye:

I’d read anything by Kelly St Clare, let’s get that straight up front, she’s one of my favourite authors. In Blood Oath Kelly and Raye take on dragon shifters (not literally – although that I would like to see!) with the creation of Lord Irrik (who could glower at me any day), a Drae (dragon lord) bound by oath to stop the rebellion Ryn has become accidentally embroiled in.

The world of Verald had some fabulous fantasy staples: a cruel, immortal ruler and a budding rebellion, coupled with some interesting twists (I loved the relationship with Arnik). Ryn’s journey of self-discovery through the book was excellent, with lots of reveals I didn’t see coming.

If I’m being very particular (and I’m always particular when it comes to books), the pace wasn’t quite as snappy and fast as I would have liked. I thought the imprisonment section in particular could have been streamlined to reach the reveals more quickly and keep the drama levels up, but overall I loved it.

Plus, I can’t say exactly what because I don’t want to let a spoiler slip, but the denoument of Blood Oath brought something I’ve found missing in the dragon-shifter books I’ve read so far, so I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series when it’s out. Roll on more from Ryn and Lord Irrik!

Katy Haye writes speculative YA fiction. Try steampunk short, The Replacement Princess, set in an alternate, war-torn 1840s England, for free.

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Film review – THOR: RAGNAROK

“This was awesome, awesome, awesome!”

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Marvel films and especially those where Thor has the starring role.  So it won’t come as any surprise that I absolutely loved Thor: Ragnarok and will be going to see it again tomorrow.  Yep, it was that good.  I could have just done a one-line review, or even one word – awesome! – but that wouldn’t really help anyone else to make up their mind whether they want to see it or not, so here are some of my thoughts.

First of all, the blurb (copied from www.imdb.com ):-

Imprisoned, the almighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally.  Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

As I’ve said before, the thing I love most about the Marvel films is the humour.  The characters are superheroes, but they don’t take themselves too seriously, and the banter in this particular film between Thor and the Incredible Hulk is wonderful.  Hulk is supposed to be a big, thick brute, and you can almost see his thought processes in his expression, but he still manages some brilliant come-backs to Thor’s attempts to make himself seem better and stronger.  You can also feel the genuine camaraderie between them and although they’re larger than life characters, they are also somehow very human.

My favourite characters in this particular movie, however, were the villains.  Loki returns and is his usual smarmy, devious self and the actor Tom Hiddleston does this so well.  Just the way he talks, in that delicious, superior upper-class kind of way, makes you shiver as you know he’s up to no good, even when he’s pretending to help.  And the super-baddie of this story, Hela – a hitherto unknown older sister to Thor and Loki – is superb!  She’s played by Cate Blanchett and she fairly oozed evil through every pore.  Even the way she walks shows her enjoyment of being mean and badass, and when she smiles the malice glitters in her eyes.  I loved her (even if I wanted Thor to kill her, obviously)!

Although this film was pretty much perfect, as far as I was concerned, there were a couple of minor niggles.  First of all, the film’s title – Thor: Ragnarök (yes, the o should have two dots over it, or possibly a line depending on which Scandinavian language you’re using) – no one seemed capable of pronouncing the word Ragnarök, which is the key theme!  It probably annoyed me more than it would most people because I’m half Swedish, but come on!  If you’re going to use a Norse word as the underlying premise and title of your film, at least get the characters (who are supposed to be Norse gods) to pronounce it correctly!  It is definitely not Rag-nah-rock, I can tell you that much.

And secondly – the first two Thor films set up this great big romance between Thor and the mortal Jane, a brilliant scientist, and there was an “aaahh” moment at the end of film two when he returns to her and they can finally be together.  Ok, so maybe happy-ever-after doesn’t always work out, but in this film Thor very casually drops one line into the conversation, saying that he and Jane broke up.  WTF?  Why?  How?  What happened?  This is a guy who literally moved mountains and realms to be with her, defying his father for the great love of his life?  Sorry, but whoever wrote that into the script should be shot.  I’m assuming Natalie Portman wasn’t available to play the love interest in this film – or they wanted Thor to fall for someone else (there are hints) – but still, could have been handled better.

Which brings me to my final gripe – the Valkyrie.  Yep, that’s all we get – the poor girl isn’t given a name, even though she has quite a big role.  Could they not come up with one?  I know she’s supposed to be the only surviving Valkyrie, but she would still have had a name at some point, surely?

But apart from those things, this was awesome, awesome, awesome!  And I can’t wait for the next instalment in the franchise, Black Panther.


Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting.  The fourth one in the series – New England Dreams is out now!

 

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Review: The Magic or the Rulership by Emily Marth Sorensen

About the book:

Tevan loves having a talent for magic. He never took the oath, yet he can do things the magicians around him can’t even dream of.

As a vassal, that’s a great thing. As a newly-chosen landowner heir … well … it might pose a slight problem, since he just learned that magic is forbidden for landowners.

But never mind! He probably won’t get caught. And they’re not serious about that death penalty anyway, are they?

The Magic or the Rulership is available exclusively in Shatter Worlds.

Review by Katy Haye:

This magical story was a real treat. I loved it. It’s set in a fantasy world and had some glorious touches – I adored the idea that being a mathematician was a surefire way to poverty, and the system for power in the world was fascinating, and delightfully different from anything I’ve read before.

Tevan and Ainlinn were a wonderful couple, and although it was fantasy, their relationship had a wonderful thread of realism that made me smile.

Above all, it was infused with delightful humour. I laughed out loud several times and read the whole story with a smile on my face.

Highly recommended!

If you dash across now, you’ll catch Emily’s last day on the Shattered Worlds read-along!

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Review: Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke

About the book:

When seventeen-year-old salt witch Kinneret learns of a lost island of silver, she sets out to find it, raise her status, and finally have a chance to wed Calev, the high-caste friend she secretly loves.

But when a madman enslaves her sister, Kinneret must make a deal with the local ruler: Find the island to secure the ruler’s place in history. In return, the woman’s fighting sailors will rescue Kinneret’s sister.

Using Salt Magic to navigate cursed waters, Kinneret and Calev struggle to hide their taboo, caste-breaking feelings, knowing if the ruler witnesses the attraction, she will cancel the agreement. But when Calev makes a terrible mistake, Kinneret must choose between the life of her only remaining family member and saving the boy she loves from a traitor’s death.

Review by Katy Haye:

The world Alisha Klapheke created in Waters of Salt and Sin reminded me of Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt: gorgeous, lush, complex, and with a delicious sprinkling of magic thrown in. This is somewhere I’d happily go on holiday to.

As well as the world building,the characterisation was superb. In particular, I loved the relationship development between Calev and Kinneret. I so wanted matters to work out for them.

The plotting wasn’t quite flawless. Characters seemed to be a bit aimless at times, or at least not as urgent as I wanted them to be, so I was shouting at them to get on and do what I thought they should be doing about matters. But even with that, Waters of Salt and Sin is so lush and gorgeous I have no hesitation in telling you to grab a copy right now.

PS, she’s spot on about chickens.

Katy Haye writes speculative YA fiction. Try steampunk short, The Replacement Princess, set in an alternate, war-torn 1840s England, for free.

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Review: The Space in Between by Jen Minkman

About the book:

When Moira helps out her sister and brother in a Wiccan ritual on Halloween, the last thing she expects is to be swept away to a mystical wilderness. Sitting within the stones of the ancient circle of Penmaenmawr, Wales, she’s convinced it’s an illusion. But the dark-haired, handsome man with amnesia that Moira meets during her trance cannot be blinked away like a dream.

Hayko, the mysterious stranger, won’t let go. After returning home from her stone circle adventure, Moira is beckoned back night after night to the outlandish dreamland by an invisible force. But the hardest part isn’t having to fight the terrifying creatures of these nightmares–it’s realizing she’s falling for a guy without a past who isn’t real.

What if you really can fall in love with the man of your dreams?

Review by Katy Haye:

I’ll be honest, this started a little bit slowly, so feel free to speed read the first chapter. But DO stick with it, I swear it’s worth it. Every aspect of this story made me sigh with satisfaction. In essence, we had a split between the contemporary story with Moira, her family and her boyfriend Patrick, and then the otherworldly story where Moira needed to unravel Hayko’s background.

Usually, stories like this are unbalanced with one being stronger than the other, but these were so well put together each was a delight to read. AND THEN, they came together in a single thread that was so well plotted I am quite green with envy!

And finally, Hayko is gorgeous. Enough said, get your copy if The Space in Between now!

Jen Minkman is hosting the Shattered Worlds Facebook takeover for the next three days. Check out what she has to say about the book, her characters, and grab your chance to take part in some great giveaways.

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Guest Blog: Scottish Settings by Barbara Henderson

Barbara 1

A huge welcome to Barbara Henderson, whose book Punch we reviewed yesterday (and loved). Today she is doing a guest blog, and has a …

… wee challenge for you:

Name 10 children’s books set in Victorian times. Come on! Oliver Twist, Black Beauty… Yes, Treasure Island can count, I guess. Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, Berlie Doherty’s Street Child… and also the more recent steampunk incarnations like Cogheart and Moonlocket… Then there is Hetty Feather… hey, nearly forgot about Gaslight!

Any more?

Struggling?

My question is: Where is Scotland?

Where IS Scotland in all of this? The vast majority of titles about the Victorian age are set in London, or near London.  I know; Gaslight is set in Cardiff – a welcome change! But no Scotland. Wait, you could mention Janis Mackay’s The Reluctant Time Traveller series which features some Victorian flashbacks.

I don’t understand it! There were so many interesting events in Scotland at that time. There is a general fascination with the Victorian era, and Queen Victoria herself – and she and Albert put Scotland firmly on the map, didn’t they? Aside from that, ‘the Victorians’ is a common school topic both north and south of the border, surely publishers will want to tap into that?

I began searching for a Victorian event which could act as a catalyst for my plot and bring my characters to life. This came two-fold: an old picture of delivery boys sitting on sacks in the middle of the Victorian market in Inverness, and an online article about the fire that destroyed the self-same market in 1889. Bingo – my main character is a delivery boy, in the wrong place at the wrong time as the fire breaks out. His refuge with a Punch and Judy showman is a perfect device for getting him travelling!

So, without further ado, here are my main Scottish settings for Punch!

Inverness: It is where I live, so research into local history is relatively straightforward. The wonderful Highland Archive Centre is nearby, and their AmBaile website is host to many useful images for the discerning visually-wired author :), and I am a frequent visitor to the Victorian Market. I was able to run across the original Victorian footbridges because they still stand. I know what the church bells sound like because they still ring, and I know the river looks almost black at night because I walk a dog that way most days. Inverness was easy!

Barbara 2

Perth: It made utter geographical sense – and it lent itself to the marketplace culture, while the river also provided potential for plenty of drama. Yes, Perth with its pretty setting had earned a few chapters, especially as it was on the way to…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Balmoral: As soon as I knew that Queen Victoria took an extended holiday in Balmoral during the summer of the fire, I couldn’t miss this out as a perfect setting, could I? Who, even amongst republican-inclined lefties like me, could pass on an opportunity for a wee royal cameo? Balmoral had to feature. I did visit, but even if I hadn’t, the internet is awash with images!

Edinburgh: Auld Reekie is another place where the past oozes from every crack in the cobbles. I also studied there, got married there, had my first child there – a decade of my life is not easily forgotten. I decided to focus on places I knew well: the Grassmarket, the Meadows and, less familiar to me, the Morningside Road (I needed an affluent setting).

It’s hard to list all of these without giving away the plot, but I do think that the Scottish settings shaped the story into something unique, something which isn’t out there yet.

And now it is! A Scottish-set Victorian children’s novel. Mine.

I’m still pinching myself when I think about it like that!

Punch cover inc. quotes

 

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