Book Review: Infinite Blue

Infinite Blue – Darren Groth and Simon Groth – Orca Book Publishers – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Ashley Drummond is an elite swimmer. Clayton Sandalford is a talented artist. From the  moment of their first meeting, they were destined to be together.

Staying together, however, will test the limits of their love. A world-record swim, and the strange vision that accompanies it, raises questions about the couple’s connection.

Then a life-altering incident triggers a mystical change, which will demand that both of them let go in ways never imagined.

My thoughts

Just like its cover, Infinite Blue is beautiful, ethereal and just a little bit magic. Mixing fantasy with realism, Infinite Blue is an epic love story about accepting your destiny and letting go.

The day Ashley and Clayton meet seems fated. Ashley appears almost out of nowhere to save Clayton’s life. As Ashley’s swimming career progresses to new heights, Clayton is her steadfast support. Yet as they face the challenges of time and distance they promise each other forever. Yet, neither could predict the impact that a terrible accident will have or the ways in which they will both have to let go.

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Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury – Tracy Banghart – Hodder Children’s Books – Published 26 July 2018

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Synopsis

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace – selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?

My thoughts

Grace and Fury is a compelling and thought-provoking fantasy – no magic, just an invented world that feels historical and transports you to a place much like Venice – that asks, what would you do if you were a girl in a world where women had no power?

I am a huge fan of Tracy Banghart’s Rebel Wing series, so when a fellow reader recommended Grace and Fury to me I was quick to take up the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this thrilling and unique YA fantasy.

Tracy has a wonderful way of capturing the essence and voice of her characters, and Grace and Fury centres around Nomi and Serina – two sisters, both trapped in a world that offers women very few choices. Serina has trained all her life to become a Grace – a concubine of the King’s Heir, a position of esteem and luxury, if not power. Nomi hates everything about the world she lives in and rages against the constraints forced upon her. When she accompanied her sister to the palace as her handmaiden, Nomi knows she must hide her rebellion and her deadly secret. But when Nomi is chosen as the Heir’s Grace and Serina is sentenced to an island prison for Nomi’s crime, both girls must decide how much they will risk to survive.

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Book Review: The Brink of Darkness

The Brink of Darkness – Jeff Giles – The Edge of Everything #2 – Bloomsbury – Published 12 July 2018

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Synopsis

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable – he’s given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands.

X is determined to break the lords’ hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he’s never experienced and a past he’s never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe… or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for.

My thoughts

The Brink of Darkness is the sequel to the amazing and thrilling The Edge of Everything. As divine as it is horrid, as funny as it is touching and sad, as sweet as it is rough around the edges, The Brink of Darkness is a stunningly crafted – wild, thrilling and beautiful.

The Brink of Darkness continues the story of Zoe, a young human teenager whose life has been thrown into chaos after meeting X, a boy raised in the Lowlands, the only living person amongst thousands of damned souls. In The Edge of Everything, Zoe and X risked everything for a chance to be together, yet to save Zoe and her family, X sacrificed his freedom and was forced to return to the Lowlands. No longer allowed to walk the earth as a bounty-hunter, X doesn’t know when he will see Zoe again – but neither he nor Zoe have given up hope of a brighter future.

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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Rising #1 – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

My thoughts

The Queen’s Rising is a gorgeous fantasy, spectacularly crafted, imaginative, unique and so deliciously easy to be swept up in. It came as a complete surprise and I loved every minute of it.

For seven years, Brienna has struggled to master a passion – music, art, whit, drama and finally knowledge. On the eve of her seventeenth solstice, Brienna will have to prove she has the right to become a Passion and earn a patron. When her fears of failing are realised, she is granted reprieve when a lord agrees to become her patron father. But he seems less interested in her knowledge passion than he is in her new and volatile ability to flash back hundreds of years ago, to a time when the realm to the north was rightfully ruled by a queen. Brienna must decide if she is to become entangled in a plot to over throw a king, and if it is worth the risk to discover more about her secret paternal heritage.

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Book Review: These Rebel Waves

These Rebel Waves – Sara Raasch – Stream Raiders #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 7 August 2018

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Synopsis

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

My thoughts

The first in a new fantasy series, These Rebel Waves is the story of rebellion and fighting for freedom. With a new and complex fantasy world, Sara Raasch uses this first book to set the scene for an intriguing series.

Three individuals – one a prince, one a solider spy and the last an outlaw – have each experienced the horrors of the civil war and the drive of Argrid’s church to stamp out magic. Adeluna knows the war is over, but she discovers that the Council is not as neutral as they should be. When the infamous outlaw, Devereux Bell is captured, Adeluna knows he could be the key to revealing Argrid’s plans. Meanwhile, Ben is Argrid’s prince. Challenged by his father, he must walk the thin line between exploring the power magic offers him and not being labeled as a heretic. The three must choose which side they are on as their countries march towards war once again.

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Book Review: Allied

Allied – Amy Tintera – Ruined #3 – Harper Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Emelina Flores and her sister, Olivia, were determined to bring peace to the people of Ruina. But as the war for liberation raged on, what triumph and freedom meant to Em and Olivia slowly changed. As Olivia’s violence and thirst for vengeance became her only ambition, Em was left to pick up the pieces.

But it’s not only Em who is upset by Olivia’s increased violence. Other members of the Ruined army are beginning to see the cracks, and soon a small group of them defects from Olivia’s army and joins Em instead. The two sisters are soon pitted against each other in an epic battle for the kingdom and the future, and only one will win.

My thoughts

Allied is, sadly, the third and last book in Amy Tintera’s Ruined series. This fabulous fantasy comes to a satisfying end with plenty of action, romance and intrigue.

Em and Cas have faced many challenges in their efforts to bring peace to Lera. But Em’s sister, Olivia, will not stop in her quest to bring down revenge on those she sees as responsible for the plight of the Ruined. Em must once again choose between her future with Cas and deserting her sister. As enemies march on Lera, Em and her allies will have to draw upon all their resources to fight for the peace they so want.

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Book Review: Onyx & Ivory

Onyx & Ivory – Mindee Arnett – Balzer+Bray – Published 15 May 2018

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Synopsis

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

My thoughts

Onyx & Ivory is an epic YA fantasy, with equal shares magic, intrigue, power, desperation, uprisings, politics, friendship, and romance.

Three years ago, Kate Brighton’s father attempted to assassinate the High King. Now, Kate is branded as Traitor Kate and works as a Relay Rider, risking her life as she rides between cities. If she doesn’t make it behind protected barrier walls before nightfall she will be attacked and killed by the monstrous Nightdrakes. But Kate hides another deadly secret – she is a Wilder, magic that if discovered will mean she will be put to death. When Prince Corwin appears in Kate’s new hometown it resurrects memories of their shared childhood. Then a horrible Nightdrake attack leaves Corwin’s travelling company killed and himself injured, and as Kate comes to his rescue, their future becomes intwined once again as they face a growing uprising, spreading Nightdrake attacks, and an unsettled political climate.

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Book Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 20 March 2018

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Synopsis

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

My thoughts

Imaginative, and with lyrical writing, The Astonishing Color of After is perfect if you enjoy a touch of magical realism served alongside plenty of heartbreak. Addressing the impact of suicide and the devastation it brings to the surrounding family members and friends, The Astonishing Color of After tackles this sensitive topic with delicacy, magic, and a sincere forthrightness.

When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, Leigh’s world is thrown into chaos. One thing of which she is sure: her mother has turned into a beautiful, red bird. And that bird wants her to travel to Taiwan. Meeting her grandparents for the first time, exploring the places her mother once visited, and trying to uncover the long-buried truths of her family, Leigh slowly starts to face her mother’s death and the events leading up to it.

Over the years I have called many a book ‘important’. And yet, The Astonishing Color of After is important with a capital I. The Astonishing Color of After tackles the topic of suicide and the aftermath of suicide in an upfront way, which is so very needed in today’s society. The author’s note only expands on the very clear level of care, understanding and personal experience that has gone into making this book as considered and profound as it is.

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Book Review: Esme’s Wish

Esme’s Wish – Elizabeth Foster – Esme Series #1 – Odyssey Books – Published 30 October 2017

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Synopsis

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

My thoughts

Esme’s Wish is a delightful fantasy that captures the beauty of a watery, magical world, the trust of true friendship, and the strength of one girl’s loyalty to her mother.

Esme longs to discover what happened to her mother, who disappeared several years ago. Everyone else, including her father, have moved on, but for Esme, the unanswered questions plague her. Until, in her search, she finds herself magically transported to the world of Aeolia. There she discovers that her mother had an extra life full of art, magic, and danger. With her two new friends, Esme begins to uncover the mystery of what really happened to her mother.

I had Esme’s Wish sitting on my bedside bookshelf (thanks very much to the author for a copy) for a month before finally getting around to reading it. Why, oh why did I delay? Because Esme’s Wish is delightful right from the very first page. And I loved that first page. Hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.

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Book Review: The Traitor Prince

The Traitor Prince – C.J Redwine – Ravenspire #3 – Balzer+Bray – Published 13 February 2018

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Synopsis

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

My thoughts

With The Traitor Prince, C.J. Redwine once again delivers an epic fantasy, with aching romance, adventure, heart-pounding injustice, and high stakes as the characters fight for their survival.

Prince Javan has spent the last ten years away at school, working harder than all his classmates to fulfil the promise he made to his mother to be the best, learn the most, so that he can become a just and strong ruler. But when he is attacked on the eve of his return home, Javan knows he must now fight for his future and the safety of his kingdom. Thrown into the treacherous prison, Maqbara, while a traitor takes his rightful place, Javan tries to befriend the prison slave girl, Sajda, who has her own dangerous secret to protect. Forced to fight against monsterous creatures and defend himself against the other prisoners, Javan and his few allies put into place a plan to return him to his throne, but it will not be without sacrifice.

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