JellyPages.com

Thursday, 16 July 2015

As Red As Blood - Book Review


As Red As Blood - Book Review
Salla Simukka
YA Thriller
(Lumikki Andersson #1)
UK Publisher: Hot Key Books

Synopsis:

In the Midst of the freezing Arctic winter,  seventeen year old Lumikki Andersson walks into her schools darkroom and finds a stash of wet, crimson-coloured money. Thousands of Euros left to dry - splattered with someone’s blood.

Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumina ignores the cliques, the gossips, and the parties held by the schools most popular and beautiful boys and girls.

But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business. 

As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces around her -and she’s running out of time to set them right. when she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends, or herself…

Review:

When I picked up this book, I was under the impression that it was a fairytale retelling. However, while it has a couple of elements that sound familiar, I would have to say this book is only very loosely based on Snow White. There are no dwarfs, no poison apples, or any kind of Prince Charming. Yet it was still an enjoyable read.

When Lumikki enters the school darkroom, she finds herself surrounded by thousands of bloodstained Euros. Yet when she returns to the room a few hours later, the money is gone. Only the retreating footsteps of the schools bad boy give Lumikki a clue to follow, and only after an overheard conversation, an escape from some drug dealers and a fairytale themed ball in the woods, can Lumikki begin to unravel the mystery of the bloody-money…

I’m on the fence over how to rate this book, as I think what I enjoyed about it wasn't so much the story but the main character Lumikki. She is a loner with an interesting (possibly even abusive) past that is only hinted at every now and then. Because of this past she has learned the art of self-defence, and how to blend into a crowd and remain unseen. 

However on the other hand you also know she has two very loving and over concerned parents, so therefore I was confused at what made her past appear so dark, one of the main reasons I plan to read the next book. I just cant wait to find out more about how and why Lumikki became this tough and capable woman.

The other characters are all very normal (although quite self-absorbed) people and unfortunately I found most of them either stupid or annoying.  However the plot is quite action packed with lots of mystery that will keep you guessing. It kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know the reason behind the bloody-money among other things, and everything is brought to a very satisfying conclusion. Also while there is to be more books in this series, I was happy to see that this book didn't have a cliffhanger ending. 

A fast, intriguing read that ultimately, I liked. 3 stars!

Cleo - Book Review


Cleo - Book Review
Lucy Coats
YA Historical
UK PUBLISHER: Orchard Books

Synopsis:

Her precious mother is dead - and it isn't an accident! The young Cleopatra - Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter - must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret sisters of the Living Knot. 

But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her Goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power - on pain of death!

But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the uber-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Review:

I love historical fiction and was thrilled when I found out Lucy Coats had based a book on the adventures of a young Cleopatra. Woven through with facts and interesting tidbits about the Gods and daily lives of ancient Egypt, this book will open up your mind to a long forgotten time. Giving young readers a chance to put themselves in the sandals of one of histories greatest figures, Cleo is a very enjoyable read!

When the horns sound, declaring her mothers death, Cleo knows her own demise can’t be far behind. Deserting her home city of Alexandria, she and her beloved body-slave, Charm, flee to a temple of Isis where years later, Cleo emerges a fully fledged priestess. Now charged by the Goddess herself to recover a map stolen long ago, Cleo’s bravery is tested to the limits when she is forced to return back to the palace of her childhood. But much has changed while she has been gone.

Her two evil sisters now sit upon the twin thrones of Egypt and the whole kingdom suffers from famine and plague. Abandoning the true Gods, her sisters now worship the bloodthirsty Am-heh, better known as the devourer, and now his evil taint hangs like a dark cloud over the palace. Only Cleo, chosen of Isis, can save Egypt, but first she must find the map and restore power to the real Gods… but many dangers await her, and Cleo will need all her courage if she is to complete the tasks ahead…

I really liked this book, but ultimately I think a younger YA or older MG would be its true target audience.  I passed this book along to my friends sister who is thirteen and she just adored it! Mostly I think because Cleo acts and speaks in a very modern way in which the Tweens and Teens of this generation can easily relate to.

Cleo herself is actually a very girly sort of character. Conscious of her looks, she constantly doubts herself and often needs reassurances - and the occasional push from her best friend - before she gets things done. While sometimes she comes off as a little whinny, she is at the core just a young girl who has been thrown a big destiny. Yet there are moments when you see her growing into the confident, clever queen she is one day to become.

One thing I really liked about this book though was her blind faith in the Goddess Isis. Cleo trusts in her goddess to make everything alright, but I like when Cleo comes to understand that the Gods can’t be everywhere at once, and sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It’s a harsh reality check for her, but I think it makes her realise people must make their own destinies. And while the Gods can’t always solve problems, they will always be there to listen to them. 

However a niggle I had with this book was the instant love between her and the hot librarian Khai. I really hope they get to know each other more in the next book as right now, other than there love of learning and devotion towards Isis, I don't get the impression they have much in common. Hopefully we will get to see their relationship develop more.

Otherwise this book does have a cliffhanger of an ending. Cutting off right at a very action packed moment which - not having the next book - can be quite frustrating. Although it does assure that I will be reading the next one :) 

Overall Cleo was a fun read with a very relatable main character. A nice book to while away an afternoon. 3 stars!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Heir of Fire - Book Review


Heir of Fire - Book Review
Sara J Maas
YA Fantasy 
(Book #3 in the Throne of Glass Series)
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury 

Synopsis:

Celaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak - but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth… a truth about her heritage that could change her life - and her future - forever.

Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat the, Celaena must find the strength to not only fight her inner demons but battle the evil that is about to be unleashed.

The King’s assassin takes on an even greater destiny and burns brighter than ever before…

Review:

I completely adore this series! Sara. J. Maas never fails to astound me with the depth and imagination of her writing. Just like the rest of the books in the series, Heir of Fire was a brilliant and spellbinding read.

After becoming the King’s assassin, defeating otherworldly demons and revealing to the man she loves the well guarded secret of her heritage, Celaena is at last, ready to face her past. Now, this book sees her returning to the land of magick, where her fae aunt rules over the land with a firm hand. 

Insisting that Celaena be trained in the fae arts of magic, Celaena must face down old fears and learn to control her natural powers. But Celaena has been running from her past for so long, that facing it will take her down a perilous path that will attack her mind, body and soul… It is a journey that will either make her, or break her!


Celaena’s character development in this book is phenomenal. For the first time we see her weighing the decisions of her past by looking at the person she was, to the person that she’s become. This gives the reader real insight into Celaena’s mind and I loved how, as strong as she is, she secretly hates herself for abandoning her kingdom - admitting to her own cowardice - only now she is ready to do something about it. I cant wait for the next book where I hope we get to really see Celaena leave the assassin behind, and emerge the Queen she was born to be. 

This book also includes some new characters… and a new love interest, who comes in the form of Fae Prince, Rowan. Stoic, series and otherworldly handsome, he is a great addition to the cast. He challenges Celaena in a way most people aren’t capable of, and pushes her to excel beyond her limits, (even if it means beating her up everyday) yet beneath his tough exterior, he is quite the softy underneath.

Yet my heart still went out to the other important men in Celaena’s life. First Dorian Havilliard - the Prince and only child of the evil King of Ardalan. He has really grown from a womanising boy into a mature, and strong man. But he still has a ways to go. Not only in mastering his powers, but standing up to his father too. But I really liked that he is at last moving on from Celaena and has began a fresh romance of his own.

Of course there is also Chaol, the gorgeous captain of the guards. I loved when him and Celaena became a couple, even though it did damage his friendship with Dorian. However with their friendship on the mend, now I can only hope that Chaol comes to accept Celaena for who and what she really is. Because I think at the core, it is with Chaol that Celaena’s heart truly lies. 

Another great addition to this book is the witch, and Princess of her clan, Manon Blackbeak. Part of the Ironteeth covern of witches, she is strong, determined and feisty. If she were not currently fighting for the King of Ardalan, I believe she and Celaena would be (if not friends) deadly allies. There and similarities between their personalities and I hope they get to meet in the next book. 

In terms of plot, the POV’s are divided between the above characters and now each character is working to their own agenda, but I feel they all want the same goal. The death of the king of Ardalan. Yet the plot moves at a fast pace, jumping from one life threatening situation to the next. The stakes are high in this book and the suspense will keep you turning pages.

The world building in this story is also mind-blowing, but overall it was Celaena’s emotional journey that truly blew me away. With her past now come to light, I feel the reader now fully understands her as a character and I cant wait to see where her story will take us next. With a cliff hanger of an ending that will leave you thirsting for more, I consider Heir of Fire to be Fantasy writing at its finest. A truly epic read - 5 stars!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Red Queen - Book Review



Red Queen - Book Review
Victoria Aveyard
YA Fantasy
(Red Queen Book #1)
UK Publisher: Orion

Synopsis:

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with God-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a seventeen year old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the Silvers control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Review:

This book has been on my TBR pile for such a long time, and I can’t believe I didn't pick it up sooner! This was a great YA Fantasy, verging a little on dystopian. I will definitely be reading the next book!

Mare is one of the Red-bloods, just a poor girl from a hardworking family, living under the rule of the Silvers, who use their God like powers to control the lesser Reds. But when an accident befalls upon Mare, instead of killing her, she learns she too has great power. The power to control and create lightening.

Fearing what this could mean, the King and Queen invite Mare into their household. Spreading a rumour that Mare is actually a long lost silver from an old family name, only Mare and the two Princes know the truth. The genetics of the Reds are changing… and for the first time in generations, they may just have the ability to fight back against the tyranny of the silvers…

This book has several plot lines that twist and turn, keeping you on your toes as you turn the pages. Full of action, romance, deception and betrayal, it is a hard book to put down! Set in a world where power reigns supreme and only the strong will survive, there is a great cast of characters and nothing ever happened as I imagined. A great premise with brilliant descriptions and writing.

Mare is a strong heroine. Unwilling to except her life as a Red, she does everything she can to defy the Silvers rule, even going against her families wishes to just accept the hand fate has dealt her. Smart and quick-witted, she is a fighter through and through.

The Princes on the other hand are harder to read. As reader, I found I tended to like once Prince more than the other (generally Cal) although sometimes my opinions on them would swap. And while I would say through most of the book there was a love triangle, the ending of the book will shut down that theory pretty quickly. 

And what an ending it was! With lots of action, conflict and a total cliff hanger, the book offers up a few revelations that will make you beg for the next book. A great read! 4 stars!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Crown of Embers - Book Review


The Crown of Embers - Book Review
Rae Carson
YA Fantasy
(Fire and Thorns Book #2)
UK Publisher: Gollancz

Synopsis:

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy’s gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten - and forbidden - clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom - despite everything  -  she is falling in love with.

If she is lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

Review:

A brilliant middle book to a fantastic trilogy, I enjoyed Crown of Embers immensely. If you haven't already picked up the first book, Fire and Thorns, I highly recommend that you do so. Rae Carson is a fantastic writer of YA fantasy and she is definitely a writer to be added to your ‘I shall forever read this author’ list!

This book picks up a few weeks after the events in the previous book. Elisa is now queen and sole ruler of her kingdom. Yet the war is not over, and although the sorcerer army has been defeated, a much larger force is now making their way towards her kingdom. Unsure who to trust, as even her closest allies work to their own agendas, she puts together a group of unlikely heros, consisting of an enemy spy, a known traitor, her best friend, and the commander of her queens guard - a man she happens to be falling desperately in love with.  Together, the set off on a journey so that Elisa can learn the true power of her Godstone (a sapphire stone embedded in her navel, marking her as Gods chosen champion) so that she can defeat the sorcerers once and for all.

But sacrifices will be demanded of her, and Elisa will discover what the true price of ruling is. An explosive sequel to the first book, The Crown of Embers will take you on an adventure of love, magic and new found wonders. A truly spectacular read.

Elisa has become one of my favourite female protagonist. She has grown into a brave and intelligent young woman, and is finally becoming comfortable in her role as queen. While she was once the fat, over-looked second princess of a small kingdom, she is now considered a powerful queen and war hero. Yet despite all the changes she remains at the core a kind and selfless person, learning from each mistake while still naive to many matters of the heart. She truly grows as a character and you can’t help but love her. 

Yet all the characters are amazing. The commander of the queens guard, Hector, makes a suitable match for Elisa, yet I love how they were friends long before the romance sparks. And as the commander was the best friend of her late husband, it makes their connection so much deeper. 

However it was nice to see old characters from the previous book. While some characters didn't return until almost the end, their stories have become interesting and despite everyones own self-serving agendas, its nice to see that ultimately, everyone likes Elisa and tries to help her in their own ways.

The plot in this book was particularly enchanting. Full of adventure, political intrigue and just a dash of magic, its a rollercoaster of a ride and its hard to find a good place to put the book down for a breather. A real page turning read! Although while the cliff hanger of an ending was a little frustrating, luckily I had the next book ready on my bedside table (I would definitely advise buying all three books before picking up the first). While usually I refuse to read books in a series back to back - in this case, I was unable to control the urge to find out what happens next!

Overall a really great read. This series, FIRE AND THORNS,  has earned a special place on my bookshelves and I really hope you will pick it up and see for yourselves just how good it is. I give The Crown of Embers 4.5 stars!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A Whisper of Wolves - Book Review


A Whisper of Wolves - Book Review
Kris Humphrey
MG Fantasy
Guardians of the wild book #1
UK Publisher - Stripes Publishing

Synopsis:

When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a whisperer - a guardian of the wild. After many years of peace in the kingdom of Meridina, rumours are spreading of a planned invasion - could the demonic Narlaw be returning from the darklands? It is up to the whisperers and their animal companions to defend Meridina, protect Princess Ona and stop the Narlaw from destroying the world.

When hunters from her village disappear without a trace, Alice suspects that something sinister is at work. With the help of Storm, her wolf companion, Alice fights to save her village. The Narlaw are on the attack and it’s up to the whisperers to stop them…

Review:

I liked the premise of the book and found it to be a sweet and simple story that I think will be enjoyed more by younger MG readers. I say this as I didn't find the ‘bad guys’ at all frightening, and I felt the suspense is always underlined by the safety net that you just know everything will be ok in the end. Still, A whisper of wolves made for a quick, light read and I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

Alice is an apprentice whisperer. Never knowing her parents, she was chosen at birth by the white raven, and gifted with the magical ability to connect with the earth and communicate with her animal companion, a wolf named storm. But around her small village a sickness is spreading through the forrest, signs that an ancient evil is returning to the world.

Meanwhile on the other side of the kingdom, Dawn has just finished her apprenticeship, and with the passing of her teacher, has graduated into a full fledged whisperer who is now in charge of protecting the palace, and its royal residents. But because of her young age, she is met with opposition from the kings officials. No one will believe her that evil has returned to the kingdom and so she and her raven companion, Ebony, must strike out on their own to save the palace before its too late.

As both girls battle to save their homes, they fight to be believed by their elders, all whilst training to attain the highest ability of a whisperer, the power to banish demons…

I quite enjoyed this story. Both heroines have strong personalities and aren't afraid to break the rules over what they know to be right vs what people believe is right. Their animal companions seem to act older, and often offer wisdom to their human friends, but I must admit I thought having a wolf and a raven was a little cliche.

Also while I thought the writing itself, along with the descriptions were pretty good, the plot - while action based - seemed to lack a little something. As I mentioned earlier, I felt tasks were achieved a little too easily so higher-level readers may find themselves a little restless with this story.

However the book was sweet in its simplicity. The bad guys, the whisperers powers and the location of the girls were all explained in an easy to follow manner. This would be a good MG book for younger readers wanting something a little more challenging, but keeping with the ‘nothing bad will happen’ plot lines of younger books. Not once did I ever feel the characters were in real peril!

So overall a nice, short read that I think will really capture the imagination of a younger reader. Sweet stuff! 3 stars!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Tease - Book Review


Tease - Book Review
Amanda Maciel
YA Contemporary
UK Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 

Synopsis;

Emma Puton is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. 

Now Sara is the one who is ostracised, already guilty according to her peers, the community and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court recommend therapist, Sara is forced to recollect on the events that brought her to this moment - and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy.  And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over…

Review:

This is a deeply moving book that I think would get teenagers to really consider the consequences of their actions. Neither black nor white in its telling, the story will take the reader on a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions, a truly eye-opening read! 

The story follows Sara, a teenage girl who is facing criminal chargers for being part of group who took it upon themselves to bully classmate, Emma Putnam, who’s troubled life eventually led to Emma committing suicide. Now several months after Emma’s death, Sara is forced to face the consequences of her actions. 

Shunned by her schoolmates, penalised by the public and media alike, and divided from her close friends by their lawyers need to place blame, Sara feels isolated from the world she once loved. And she hates Emma Putnam now more than ever! While her therapist and parents hound her to show remorse, Sara struggles to let go of her of her anger. Because her anger will lead her down a dark path and all Sara knows is that, because of Emma, her life will never be the same again…

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. While I rarely pick up contemporary YAs, I’m glad I chose to read this one, just for its sheerly unique perspective alone. With the chapters split into two parts of past and present, we see through Sara’s eyes the events leading up to Emma’s death, the scenes in which the bullying took place, and Sara’s reasoning behind it. However the story mainly stems from the present day where we see how Sara and the world are coping several months after Emma’s passing, revealing the drastic changes to Sara’s life.

Normally when I read a book, I generally like the main character straight away. This was not the case with Sara. At first I thought she was a selfish harpy who was truly convinced of her own innocence, yet as the story goes on, you do begin to see her side of things and realise how unfair it is to judge her actions. This is a high school setting after all, and in high school, life is never simple. 

While I do not think Sara was blameless, the story shows that Emma was a troubled girl who did little to help herself, proving that there really is more than one side to a story. I would have been really interested to read a little of Emma’s perspective, just to see how she interpreted Sara’s actions and what went on through her mind as the bullying escalated. 

What really hit me about this book though was the selfishness of the characters - both Sara and Emma alike. Sara is too small a person to see how comments that mean little to her, can rock the foundations of another persons world. She is actually incapable of telling when the joke has gone to far, especially when  words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ are thrown so casually around her own social circle, that she is unaware of the impact such words can have on others outside her group.

Emma on the other hand, doesn’t do much to help herself. Occasionally it seems she tries to antagonise Sara (perhaps her way of standing up for herself?) while at others she is meek as a mouse at Sara’s taunting. Emma also never seemed to consider her parents or the friends she leaves behind, seeing only her own pain. 

However this book, Tease, also calls to attention the teachers lack of ability to help. For while most schools are big on their anti-bullying policies, their actions can only be effective when they have an actual culprit to blame and often, Sara and her friends got away with things easily. Yet after Emma’s death, when Sara suddenly found herself the centre of ridicule and taunting by her fellow classmates, the school again did little to stop it and so the cycle continued.

Another question raised is, are Sara’s classmates, those who stood by and only watched Emma’s torment - are they also to blame? Arguably standing by and doing nothing can be considered the same level of cruelty as those who actually do the bullying. However I thought it was interesting that after all was said and done, Sara was the only one who seemed to consider this.

Overall, Tease is an incredibly written book that will open the eyes of many to the world around them. It’s a story that show’s people should be given second chances, that mistakes can be made - and while they will always have to be lived with - those mistakes should not define you as a person. 

A story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. 5 stars!