Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Title: Shadow Study {Soulfinders #1; Study#4; The Chronicles of Ixia #7}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: HarlequinTeen Au March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 26 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study launches an exciting new fantasy adventure trilogy by Maria V Snyder featuring characters familiar from her Study and Glass series.

It opens as Yelena, on her way to meet Valek for a brief reunion, is attacked by a hidden assailant who shoots her with a poisoned arrow. Able to heal herself, Yelena enjoys a passionate reunion with Valek before he returns to Ixia, but twenty four hours later she realises her magic has disappeared. Returning to Sitia, Yelena is desperate to find out how she has been stripped of her powers, and how to get them back. Without them she is vulnerable, especially since an old enemy is bent on revenge, and a new one is determined to destroy her.

While Yelena sets out to find the answers she needs, Valek is busy in his role as the Commander’s second after being gone for almost a year. His point of view details life at the keep, as well as Valek’s recall of his past as a student of the The School of Night and Shadows, desperate to avenge the murders of his family, and sets up what I assume will be the main thrust of the plot for this trilogy – a brewing war between Sitia and Ixia.

I don’t think it is strictly necessary to have read the previous books set in this world to enjoy Shadow Study, but those that have will have the slight advantage of being privy to both the history of Snyder’s world, and the development of the characters and their relationships. Snyder does introduce a few new characters in Shadow Study, most notably Onora, a talented assassin with her eye on Valek’s job, and Gerik, a soldier, who are partnered with Janco and Ari.

For established and new fans alike, Shadow Study should prove to be a fast paced and entertaining fantasy adventure. Fair warning though, the book ends on a cliffhanger and the second book, Night Study, won’t be published until 2016.

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YA Adventure

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

Title: Red Queen {Red Queen #1}

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Published: Hachette Au February 2015

Status: Read from February 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard’s debut trilogy.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formulaic concept. Aveyard pits an elite group – the Silvers – against an oppressed faction – the Reds. The Silvers, so called because of their silver blood, have a range of special abilities and hold all the wealth and power. The Reds, who bleed red blood, have no such gifts and are used as little more than slave labour or as fodder for the war with neighboring factions, subject to the whims of the ruling class. Enter the Scarlet Dawn, a band of Red rebels determined to overthrow the Silver’s.

“We will rise, red as the dawn.”

In terms of plot however, the author ably develops exciting conflict, intrigue, and betrayal. There is plenty of tension, high emotion and drama as Mare struggles to deal with the dangerous situation she finds herself trapped in. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and the obligatory romantic triangle, though with a surprising twist.

“I see a world on the edge of a blade. Without balance, it will fall.”

I liked Mare a lot, she is daring, feisty and loyal to those she loves. She has never simply accepted her lot in life as a Red, rebelling by becoming a petty thief in order to help support her family, and she jumps at the chance to become part of the revolution. Mare’s idealism is tempered with a hard earned streak of pragmatism but it proves to be not quite enough to protect her from intrigue of the Silver Court. She makes mistakes, tending to take things at face value, and as such is vulnerable to placing her trust in the wrong people with dramatic consequences.

“It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance.”

The other main characters introduced in Red Queen also prove to be interesting, particularly the Silver Princes, Cal and Maven. Their complicated dynamic is integral to the plot development and Aveyard uses it well.

“He’s strong, he’s talented, he’s powerful – and I’m his shadow. The shadow of the flame.”

Entertaining and exciting I really enjoyed Red Queen and I am looking forward to the next book.

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Review: A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

 

Title: A Small Madness

Author: Dianne Touchell

Published: Allen & Unwin Feb 2015

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

” The heat was over, along with summer. They walked the dunes in a flush of new shyness, talking of the beginning of their last year of high school.”

Rose and Michael have just had sex for the first time, they are in love and shyly thrilled with their new intimacy. In the heat of the moment they forgot to use a condom, just twice, but as each others first, Michael’s older brother assures him, at least they don’t have to worry about disease.
Two months later, Rose counts the days in her student diary – her period is 61 days late and a pregnancy test, obtained by her best friend Liz, shows two bold pink lines.

“‘I’ve worked it out. We won’t tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It’s not real….These things go away all the time.'”

With compassionate insight, Australian author Dianne Touchell explores Rose and Michael’s responses to their unplanned pregnancy in A Small Madness. Ill-equipped to deal with the reality of their situation, Rose and Michael take refuge in denial that only grows deeper as time passes, leading to horrendous consequences.

Rose and Michael are ‘good kids’ from middle class families who regularly attend church, gets good grades and have plans for their future. I can’t profess to understand their behaviour, but I feel that Touchell communicated her characters rationalisations well and my sympathy was stirred for both characters despite their egregious mistakes.

“She was a good person. And she was as genuinely appalled as everyone else by speculative descriptions of the monster who must have done this dreadful thing in the bush. Because it wasn’t her.”

The premise of A Touch of Madness may seem far fetched to some, but it was inspired by an American case reported in the media. I was curious to know just how common Rose’s denial of her pregnancy is. I was quite stunned to learn that it happens in about 1 in 2,500 cases, and less than half the instances involve teenagers.

An emotionally powerful and provocative cautionary tale for both young adults and their parents, A Small Madness is beautifully written examination of a complex issue.

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Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

 

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: Allen & Unwin Jan 2015

Status:  Read from January 28 to 29, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

“This chronicle is an attempt to mark out the contributing elements in Frankie Landau-Banks’s character. What led her to do what she did: things she would later view with a curious mixture of hubris and regret.”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an intelligent, witty story of a contemporary teenage girl’s determined rebellion against the expectations of those that surround her.

“”She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her she should be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.”

This novel has a definite message. Alabaster Prep School is a microcosm of wider society, and within it, Lockhart explores some major issues including social order, the hierarchy of power and gender inequality. Frankie is determined to challenge the status quo by surreptitiously taking charge of The Loyal Order of the Basset Hound – the all male secret society on campus, and giving the pranks she devises a politically motivated agenda. Frankie’s motives aren’t entirely pure though, and inevitably neither do things go exactly to plan.

I liked Frankie, she’s smart and feisty though she also has her flaws, but it’s the contradictions in her actions and her thought processes that makes her so interesting, and I think is probably the point of the whole novel. Frankie may be slightly more self aware than many teen girls but she hasn’t yet got everything figured out. Like most girls, Frankie struggles with her desire to be true to herself and her wish to fit in. This is particularly an issue in her relationship with the handsome, wealthy and charming Senior, Matthew Livingston. Frankie is delighted by his attention, proud to be chosen by him, even when she realises that he isn’t really interested in what she wants or thinks.

“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

Despite the serious themes, the overall tone of the novel is lighthearted. The narrative is often witty and the story is well paced.

I enjoyed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, it’s a thought provoking novel that, from my perspective, explores some interesting contradictions. I’ve passed it on to my teen daughter and I’m eager to see what she thinks.

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Giveaway: Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

 

Title: Breaking the Rules {Pushing the Limits #1.5}

Author: Katie McGarry

Published: Harlequin Teen AU January 2014

 

“For new high school graduate Echo Emerson, a summer road trip out west with her boyfriend means getting away and forgetting what makes her so . . . different. It means seeing cool sights while selling her art at galleries along the way. And most of all, it means almost three months alone with Noah Hutchins, the hot, smart, soul-battered guy who’s never judged her. Echo and Noah share everything—except the one thing Echo’s just not ready for.

But when the reason behind Echo’s constant nightmares comes back into her life, she has to make some tough decisions about what she really wants—even as foster kid Noah’s search for his last remaining relatives forces them both to confront some serious truths about life, love, and themselves.

Now, with one week left before college orientation, jobs and real life, Echo must decide if Noah’s more than the bad-boy fling everyone warned her he’d be. And the last leg of an amazing road trip will turn . . . seriously epic.”

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Harlequin Books, I have

3 print editions of

Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

to giveaway

to three lucky Australian residents.

CLOSED

Entries close Dec 28th, 2015

Review: Whisper the Dead by Alyxandra Harvey

 

Title: Whisper the Dead { The Lovegrove Legacy #2}

Author: Alyxandra Harvey

Published: Bloomsbury December 2014

Status: Read from November 28 to December 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

“Gretchen is struggling with her newfound gift as a Whisperer; the constant buzzing in her ears from detecting spells is more frustrating than fun, especially when she is spending time with one of the Order of the Iron Nail’s Keepers, the icy but strikingly handsome Tobias Lawless. While Gretchen tries to hide the truth from him, London fades from beautiful and bustling to deathly silent . . . Something evil is once again menacing Mayfair, and Gretchen and her cousins must use their powers to prevent a horrible sacrifice.

This second book in the Lovegrove Legacy trilogy is full of dark twists, spellbinding suspense and sweeping romance – perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, Lauren Kate and Ruth Warburton.”

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Review: Laurinda by Alice Pung

 

Title: Laurinda

Author: Alice Pung

Published: Black Inc Books November 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from November 15 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Alice Pung has received critical acclaim for her memoirs, Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter which explore her experience as an Asian-Australian.

Laurinda is Alice Pung’s first fiction novel and features a teenage girl, Lucy Lam, who is awarded the inaugural ‘Equal Access’ scholarship to the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College.

Lucy is the daughter of Chinese/Vietnamese ‘boat’ immigrants who live in a ‘povvo’ area of suburban Australia. Her father is a shift worker in a carpet factory while her mother, who speaks almost no English, sews in their garage under sweatshop conditions while caring for Lucy’s baby brother. As an Asian-Australian scholarship student without a background of wealth and privilege, Lucy is an outsider at Laurinda in more ways than one, but wants to fit in and take advantage of the opportunities the school affords her.

Initially Lucy feels confident she will be able to hold her own at Laurinda but she soon realises that there is a cultural and social divide she is at a loss as to how best negotiate. In particular, Lucy is both fascinated with and horrified by the dynamics at the school which contrast sharply with her experience at Christ Our Saviour College. Laurinda is in thrall to three young women known as the Cabinet who wield a frightening amount of influence within the school with the tacit approval of the headmistress, Mrs Grey. Amber, Chelsea and Brodie are manipulative and cruel yet have cultivated an aura of power that none of their peers, and few of their teachers, are willing to challenge. As Lucy is absorbed into the school’s insular environment she is caught up in the ethos of Laurinda, and nearly loses herself, but eventually finds a way to forge her own path.

The narrative is presented in the form of a series of letters addressed to ‘Linh’ whom we assume is a friend of Lucy’s from her previous school. The author’s portrayal of Lucy is compassionate, sensitive and achingly real. Lucy is smart, capable and strong, but she is also a teenager and as such is beset by bouts of insecurity and vulnerability. Though I do not share the same ethnicity nor background as Lucy, I found her, and several of her experiences, easy to relate to.

Part satire, magnifying the pretensions of private school and the aspirations of immigrant families, part poignant coming of age tale, Pung draws on her own experiences which gives the story a sense of authenticity. Privilege, racism, class, identity and integrity are all themes explores in the novel. Pung also skilfully captures the almost universal experience for teenage girls negotiating high school where a small number of students often have an inexplicable cache of power and wield it without mercy. While Lucy is not the only victim of the Cabinet’s bullying, she also has to negotiate the additional stress of cultural discord and the expectations of Laurinda’s principal who demands Lucy is suitably grateful for, and repays, the privilege she has been given.

The writing is sharp and witty with characters and scenes that are vividly portrayed. The pace is good and the structure works well to deliver an interesting surprise. Laurinda is a clever, entertaining and insightful novel, suitable for both a young adult and adult audience and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to either.

 

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*****

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Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: Talon { Talon #1}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: HarlequinTeen November 2014

Status: Read from November 04 to 05, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Ut omnes segimus. As one, we rise.

Talon is the first in a new contemporary fantasy young adult series from author Julie Kagawa.

Centuries ago, dragons were forced into hiding, hunted near to extinction by the legendary dragonslayers, The Order of St George. Shifting into human form allowed dragonkind to survive and even thrive in secret, building a network which has successfully infiltrated human society, biding their time until the day Talon will rise up and reclaim the world.
Ember and Dante Hill are hatchlings who have lived their whole lives hidden within a Talon facility learning the skills they will need to survive as operatives within the organisation. Their last training task requires them to seamlessly assimilate into human society and so for one summer they will live as human teenagers on the sunny coast of LA. Ember is delighted with her new found freedom, but her experiences living among humans, as well as a chance meeting with a rogue dragon, causes her to begin to question the dictates of Talon and when she learns of the organisations plans for her, she is forced to make a difficult choice.

Talon unfolds through the perspectives of Ember, the teenage St George soldier, Garret Xavier Sebastian, tasked with discovering the human identity of the dragon known to have been seeded into the locale, and later, Riley aka Cobalt, a rogue dragon on the run from both Talon and the dragonslayers.

The pace is a little slow to begin with, allowing Kagawa to establish character and back story. There are elements of suspense, intrigue and drama as Ember defies Talon, her scary trainer, Lilith, and her brother, Dante, in search of the truth, while the Order of St George grows ever closer to exposing her. I enjoyed the action as it develops and the last few scenes are tense and fast paced.

Though the love triangle has a bit of a twist in that both Garrett and Riley – one a St George soldier, the other a rogue dragon – are ‘bad’ boys, it is still, well, a love triangle, not my favourite trope. That said, I liked both of them and there is chemistry between each boy and Ember.

Talon isn’t as strong as I perhaps hoped, the plot lacks some originality, but there is potential for Kagawa to create something more unique as the series develops. Talon is a light, quick and entertaining read, but be warned, there is a cliffhanger ending and the second book, Rogue, won’t be published for another six months or so.

 

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Review: The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters

 

Title: The Cure for Dreaming

Author: Cat Winters

Published: Amulet Books October 2014

Status: Read from October 16 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley)

My Thoughts:

“Your future is to become a respectable housewife and mother. Women belong in the home, and inside some man’s home you’ll stay.”

Set in the year 1900, seventeen year old Olivia Mead is a bright girl dreaming of one day going to university, but in Portland, Oregon ‘respectable’ women are still expected to desire little more than becoming wives and mothers. Olivia supports the voices of the suffragettes clamouring for the right to vote, to wear bloomers when they ride their bicycles, to choose education and independence but her father, a dentist, is appalled by his daughter’s rebellious attitude and hires a young traveling hypnotist, the renowned ‘Henri Reverie’ performing in town to ‘cure’ Olivia of her ‘unfeminine’ dreams.

The Cure for Dreaming is an unusual tale combining a specific historical issue and era with a twist of the paranormal. Aimed at young adults, the plot and characters are fairly simplistic, yet it is a thought provoking read, sprinkled with an appealing mix of romance, horror, magic and mystery.

Henri modifies Olivia’s father command for his daughter to accept society’s demands of women somewhat by telling Olivia she will wake and the see the world as it truly is. Her new perspective is frightening and far from supporting her father’s world view it shows faded and caged women, men with red eyes and sharp teeth and simply makes Olivia’s belief in female emancipation even stronger. With help from a contrite Henri, Olivia eventually reclaims her voice and her dreams.

The setting is vivid and atmospheric and supported by the inclusion of half a dozen photographs from the period. For much of Winters’ young adult audience the history about the rights of women is sure to be an eye opener.

A quirky and quick read, I think The Cure For Dreaming would be a wonderful choice for any mother/daughter book club in particular.

 

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Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James

 

Title: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead

Author: Rebecca James

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 13 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When Cooper Bartholomew’s broken body is found at the base of a cliff his death is declared a suicide but Libby, Cooper’s girlfriend, refuses to believe him capable of it. Desperate to understand what led him to the edge, Libby retraces Cooper’s last hours, eventually unraveling a tale of betrayal, jealousy, and shocking secrets.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Cooper, Libby, Sebastian and Claire, and shifts between ‘then’, detailing the events that led up to Cooper’s death, and ‘now’, exposing its aftermath.

Though well paced, the novel lacked much of the tension I had been expecting, this is more of a psychological drama than a thriller. I found the plot fairly predictable and while the circumstances surrounding Cooper’s death, when finally revealed, are emotionally powerful, they didn’t come as a surprise to me. However, I found the narrative very compelling, due in no small part to my investment in the characters.

All four protagonists felt genuine in ways to me that other characters in the New Adult genre have rarely done, I believed in their emotion, motivation and actions. The characters have distinct voices, which is important given the structure of the narrative, and are complex individuals. The relationship dynamics are also convincingly drawn.

An engaging read about friendship, first love, loss and lies, I really enjoyed Cooper Bartholomew is Dead. This is Rebecca James’ third novel following on from Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage.

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Also available {Click for my reviews}

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