Reviews

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

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The first death

Seventeen-year-old Lin Fox finds a body in an orchard. As she backs away in horror, she steps on broken glass.

The second death

Then blood appears on her doorstep – blood, and broken glass.

The third death

Something terrible is found in the cemetery. Shards of broken glass lie by a grave.

Who will be next?

As the attacks become more sinister, Lin doesn’t know who to trust. She’s getting closer to the truth behind these chilling discoveries, but with each move the danger deepens.

Because someone wants Lin gone – and won’t give up until he’s got rid of her and her family. Forever.

After a discussion about YA thrillers and horror, Helen kindly arranged for her publisher to send me out a copy of The Glass Demon to try. Helen seems to be classed as a YA writer, but this particular book would definitely appeal to all age groups (as do many YA books, of course).

It’s actually a difficult book to classify, as it’s unclear for most of the story whether this is a straightforward thriller, or if there’s a supernatural element. I felt this added just the right level of uneasiness, and I won’t spoil the story for anyone by revealing which it is.

The story revolves around a mysterious set of stained glass windows – most people deem them to no longer exist, and yet there are some who believe they are hidden away. Lin’s father is a historian, and the Allerheiligen Glass is his latest obsession. The Glass is also meant to be haunted by a demon, who can kill anyone who looks at him.

As people start to die around Lin, and strange things occur, she realises that her and her family are in danger, but she doesn’t know who from.

Add to this that she’s been taken by her father to Germany, and she’s trying to fit into a new school, and cope with the attention of their nearest neighbour, Michael!

As I said, there’s a really good level of threat and unease about this book – there’s lots of tension, which keeps you reading, there is danger, and yet it’s not too disturbing. I think this is the key to the wide range of audience.. I would recommend this to both teen readers, and older (like myself!). Oh, and I’ve added all of Helen’s books to my wishlist! :)

Recommended!

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The Territory by Sarah Govett

territoryanne1_0

At this time of the year, there are many young people revising for, and taking exams, and we all know there’s a lot of pressure on them. However, imagine if a failure could mean being sent to your death…

Noa lives in a near-future where climate change and flooding have drastically reduced the amount of liveable land, now known as The Territory. To be allowed to stay, children at 15 must achieve a high pass on their exams. The rest are sent to the Wetlands, where conditions mean a life of misery, and often death.

If that isn’t difficult enough, the richest children have been equipped with a ‘node’, which allows them to download the information needed for their exams – exams which are based more on fact recall than application…

Sarah has managed to achieve a lot with this book. On one level it’s a compelling dystopian story, and her world building is so well done that this future world feels very real, and scarily close! The flooding which led to the Territory formation is explained, as is the technology available for the rich.

Running through the story however, are also thought-provoking issues, which will make you think a little more about our education system, rich and poor, politics, the climate etc.

Then added to this, is a very real day to day story of a teenager, as she deals with issues of friendship and relationships, school and study.

Despite all this going on, it’s a fast paced story, which kept me turning those pages to find out what would happen next. It has a satisfying conclusion, but is all set up for the rest of the trilogy, which I’m waiting impatiently for.

Firefly Press kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and is my first experience of this new publisher. I will certainly checking out more of their books, and have already bought Lost On Mars.

Published by Firefly Press April 2015

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Phoenix Yard Books – Colouring for Adults

And now for something a little different… you may have heard that ‘colouring for adults’ has become popular, and indeed it’s something I have started to do myself. The lovely people at Phoenix Yard Books spotted my new hobby on twitter, and offered to send me their new range to take a look at.

mandalaThe largest is the Mandala Colouring book. Mandalas are repetitive, circular designs, and they are traditionally used as sources of wisdom and meditation.

There are a variety of designs, some with intricate patterns, and others with thicker lines. Due to the size, this probably best done on a table rather than whilst sitting in a comfy chair, but it does boast thick paper – there was certainly no showing through when I used pen, but I haven’t yet tried paint.

books

The next set of three books are of a smaller size, and these are the ones I’d personally use more often. They’re the size of a large paperback book, and each offer a variety of pages to colour. The first is for ‘grown-up children’, which is designed to make colouring acceptable for older children. Some pages have animals, buildings or scenes, but are nothing like traditional colouring books, plus there are lots of patterns.

The next two are for adults – again there are some pages with animals, buildings etc, but these have a definite ‘grown-up’ feel to them, plus there are lots of patterns.

One problem with these is that the paper is a little thinner. For me, this isn’t a problem, because I much prefer pencils, but when I did try with some fineliners, I could see some of the colour on the reverse side. The publishers do state however that they are suitable for pencils, crayons, and some paints.

travelThe final offering is a travel version. This has less pages, which makes it lighter, it comes in a slipcase, and the spiral binding makes it much easier to work on one page at a time. Again, it offers a combination of patterns, animals and buildings.

I have to admit that I personally prefer animals, scenes etc, and I tend to avoid the patterns. For me, it’s a way to be a little artistic, and I like to see something come to life as I colour it. However, others use these books for meditation, mindfulness etc, and may prefer the patterns.

I have to be honest, if you prefer scenes, I would have to recommend the Johanna Barsford books – but if you’re unsure, these books do provide a wide range of pages to choose from, with lots of variety, so you can find out what it is you prefer.

Published by Phoenix Yard Books – thank you again for letting me try them.

 

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The Imagination Box by Martyn Ford

boxThere is a box. Anything you imagine will appear inside. You have one go, one chance to create anything you want. What would you pick?”

Tim is an adventurous 10 year old who lives in the hotel his adoptive parents run. When a professor stays in the hotel, Tim discovers his invention, and is able to make it work. When the professor goes missing, Tim joins up with the professor’s granddaughter to work out what’s going on.

There’s quite a mix within this book – firstly is the main adventure, complete with crazy scientists, people who aren’t who they seem, and the technology. Within are also other issues, such as Tim’s relationship with his adoptive parents, and overcoming his fears.

Central to the story is of course the Imagination Box, asking the reader to consider for themselves.. just what would they wish for for themselves? One of the first things Tim makes is a finger monkey – of course – who’s probably the star of the story. The monkey is called Phil, he talks, and he loves chocolate and bananas!

The Imagination Box is the first in a trilogy, aimed at age 9+, with a mix of adventure and humour.

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Early Review: Way Down Dark by James Smythe

wddThere’s one truth on Australia.

You fight or you die.

Usually both.

Way Down Dark is published in July, but I’d been begging the publishers for an early copy for a long time. I’d read The Machine by the same author, and I was interested to see what James would do with a YA book.

Chan lives on a large spaceship, which was sent away from a dying Earth hundreds of years ago. The ship is now not fairing much better, not only is it physically falling apart, but the society within has become dangerous and violent, with various gangs.

Chan has learnt to take care of herself, she knows her way around most of the ship, and knows which parts to avoid. As a particularity violent gang attempts to take over more of the ship, things start to change.

Just as I thought I had a grasp on the book, something unexpected happens, and everything changes drastically. I’m not going to go into that, and I hope other reviewers stay clear too.. it’s s turning point in the book which I want everyone to discover for themselves!

Personally, I found the final part of the book to be a little rushed, and I struggled with some of the information being given. This is part of a trilogy, and I wonder if this part could have finished at a slightly different, earlier part. It is rather a cliffhanger ending, but that can’t really be avoided.

Despite these slight negatives, the strength of this book is in it’s fast paced storyline, and the darkness of life on the ship. It’s a cliché, but it’s a book which you literally won’t want to put down, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where James is going to take the story in part two.

Highly recommended!

Published by Hodderscape July 2nd 2015

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True Face by Siobhan Curham

trueface

Don’t show me your tweet-face

Or ur txt spk

Show me your True Face 

And let your heart speak.

Siobhan Curham has an important message for young people in her book – to work out who they are, and to be themselves. It’s backed up by a website http://www.truefacerevolution.co.uk and it’s obviously something she’s very passionate about.

The first part of the book encourages the reader to keep a journal, and Siobhan guides them through exercises to work out what they were like as children, and what they want to be right now, whilst turning the inner negative voice into a positive one.

After this, she looks at being yourself in various circumstances, such as dating, friendship, finding your style etc.

Whilst it’s aimed at young people, there are aspects within which any age group can make use of – although I would really like to see a version aimed at older readers, who may have very different types of negative aspects and experiences to overcome and turn around.

I’m not sure that many teenagers would fully engage in the journal aspect of the book, but it’s done in such as way that it’s not essential.. it’s quite possible to consider the aspects in your mind, although taking more time with it may help. Overall though, the messages within this book are so important, and I hope it makes its way into every school library – and I hope young people start to take notice!

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Starborn by Lucy Hounsom

Starborn-cover

Kyndra’s fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age – powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.

This is always going to be a difficult review to write, because Fantasy is not something I read regularly, so I therefore find it hard to make comparisons with other authors, books etc. I’m not really sure what regular fantasy readers feel makes a good fantasy book, so I may be way off. All I can say is that personally, I thought it was excellent, and I loved it. :)

As I said, fantasy is not something I read regularly, but after chatting to the author about another book we both loved, I decided to take the publisher up on their kind offer of a review copy. I enjoyed the writing style from the beginning, and I knew I was hooked once Bregenne and Nediah turned up, and especially once I started to learn more about their powers – what can be better than a power fuelled by the sun or the moon?!

I really enjoyed the world building from Lucy – I only get to read my books in short bursts, so it doesn’t take much for me to get confused, but not once did I feel lost in this world. From the powers I’ve already spoken about, to airships, to a hidden city, I was able to lose myself in it every time I picked it up.

Kyndra is a great main character, who goes through a lot during the book, but my favourites were Bregenne and Nediah, who are excellent characters both on their own, and also as a pair. They are coupled by their opposing powers, but there’s also their own personal relationship to explore.

I don’t want to go into any more details, but anyone who follows me on twitter will know how much I’ve enjoyed this one. There’s a wrapped up story within this book, but it’s nicely all set up for the next book, which I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Find out more at LucyHounsom.com

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Early Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted (1)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka lives a simple life in her village, along with her best friend Kasia, but they are constantly under the threat of the corrupted wood on their borders – sometimes the power of the wood will reach out, and cause harm and damage. The people in the village rely on a wizard, known as the Dragon, to protect them, and offer his magic against the wood’s effects.

In return for his help, he takes a young woman from their village every 10 years. They are returned, but will not speak of their time, and they leave the village as soon as they are able. Everyone expects Kasia to be chosen when the next 10 years comes around, but instead the Dragon takes Agnieszka.

I was sent a review copy of this book, but I had no idea what it was about, nor had I heard of the author before. As I often do with books I’m unsure of, I started to read the first few pages. I was immediately caught by the writing style, and the character of Agnieszka, and yes, the spell was cast!

Uprooted is a fantasy book, with Agnieszka discovering that she in fact has powers of her own, and also learning more about the mysterious Dragon. There are spells, magical creatures, and adventure. However, there was something a little different about this one, which really did captivate me. It reads like a beautifully told fairytale, which also has it’s dark side. Agnieszka’s growth is as touching as her loyalty, and the aspects of her relationship with the Dragon are also well done. I loved the way the magic was handled, from Agnieszka’s personal path, to the powerful war magic.

There are only certain fantasy books which catch my interest, and this is most certainly one of them. It’s hard to describe any further without wandering into spoiler territory, but if you like fantasy, fairytales, magic and adventure, told with a beautiful style, then you need to try this!

Published by Macmillan 21st May 2015

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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatist

This offering from Sanderson is aimed at the teenage market, but that is certainly not a bad thing. I loved the Mistborn series, but made the mistake of going from one book to the next, and by the middle of the 3rd it seemed to be dragging, and I gave up. This is not something which will happen with this book once you’re into it, so as long as you know what to expect, I think most adults would enjoy it too.

Joel is fascinated by the magic of the Rithmatists, which he sees studied at his college. Rithmatists use special geometric shapes and creatures which they draw in chalk, and bring magic to. Although Joel is skilled in the drawings, he has no magic, and so can not be a Rithmatist.

When some of the students go missing, and the college is attacked, Joel has to work together with Melody, a Rithmatist apprentice, to try to stop the killer.

Personally, I loved the idea behind the magic, which is basically drawing protective, magical shapes and creatures, to avoid being attacked. This is helped in the book by the illustrations from Ben McSweeney, which include the special shapes used, some of the creatures, and the chapter headings.

The story itself is fast paced, and I would recommend it as an introduction to fantasy for anyone, teen or older, or as a shorter, snappier read for those used to more epic fantasy. There are themes of family and friendship throughout, with a credible world and magic system.

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A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install (Early review)

robotgarden

Set in a near future, where androids are used for various tasks, Ben wakes one day to find a robot in his garden. Compared with the human-like androids, this is an old fashioned, broken robot, and Ben has no idea where it’s come from – and his wife Amy wants him to take it to the tip.

Instead, Ben finds himself intrigued by this little robot, who calls himself Tang, and when Amy leaves him, he decides to track down his maker, to try to fix the broken cylinder inside him.

It’s impossible not to like Tang, with his childlike charm and innocence, and I completely fell in love with him. Yet there’s so much more to this book, as Tang is the not the only one who needs to be mended.

I don’t want to talk too much about the journey taken, and the unfolding story, but I will say that this is a book with both heart and humour. It’s hard to believe that such a book can be a début for the author, and I will be advising everyone to read it when it’s published in April 2015. #JoinTheTangGang

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