Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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Book Review: Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles – Erica Cameron – Ryogan Chronicles #1 – Entangled: Teen – Published 14 February 2017

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Synopsis

In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

My thoughts

Island of Exiles is a rich and epic fantasy, incredibly detailed with superb world building. I am picky about what fantasy novels I read, but this one far surpassed all my expectations and I am now eagerly awaiting book two in the series.

When I was offered a chance to read Island of Exiles I was told it was suited to readers of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes. That’s a pretty high standard to reach, but despite that, I was still surprised when this book was actually really very good. It reminded me in parts of Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels) and The Host by Stephanie Meyer (just the parts about a subsistence culture living in a harsh, desert-like surround, with a strong community focus).

Island of Exiles has some intense and well-layered world building. Every little detail is considered, but there are never any information dumps or description-heavy sections. The new vocabulary in this novel is huge. And yet I never found myself confused or lost. There is a glossary at the back, and while I admit that some of the ranks went over my head so too would any military ranks we use in the real world, so I just kept reading, paying attention to each new word, creature or name as it was introduced. The terms give this novel a distinct Eastern feel and yet the setting, culture, language and people of this book are unique. There are also a whole range of magic powers, a third gender and diverse sexual orientations.

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Book Review: Rescue Me

Rescue Me

Rescue Me – Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #2 – Revell – Published 31 January 2017

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Synopsis

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. He’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

My thoughts

Rescue Me is literally heart pounding, both the action and the romance. This story was addictive, leaving me wanting more – more of the sizzling romance, more of the touching soul searching and faith affirmation, more of the tense action that just kept building and building and building. Rescue Me has so much going for it, so much packed into one novel. I can’t wait to read book three in this awesome series.

Deputy Sam Brooks knows what it takes to be the reliable one. He has to, especially because his brother continually shirks responsibility for fun and danger. And dating Sierra fits Sam’s ideals of organisation and commitment. Willow, Sierra’s younger sister, knows she is nothing like responsible Sierra. Willow aches for the day she might capture the attention of someone like Sam Brooks, but she feels that no one could ever want some one as irresponsible and impulsive as Willow. It’s why the church is going to overlook her for the role of youth pastor, why she isn’t trusted. But a series of high-risk accidents, starting with a grizzly bear attack, leave Sam and Willow relying on each other to save themselves and the teenagers in their care. Continue reading

Book Review: The Edge of Everything

edge-of-everything

The Edge of Everything – Jeff Giles – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 31 January 2017 (9 February 2017 UK, AUS and NZ)

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Zoe is still reeling from her father’s sudden death and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance. Then on a terrifying sub-zero night, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He’s from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone besides his victims, X casts aside the rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past and their fate. But escaping the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

My thoughts

What was that? That cannot be the end? I can’t even. It’s resolved and yet totally unresolved. It’s not quite a cliffhanger but it left me just as desperate for the next book. And there has to be a next book. Got that Jeff Giles? Because I want more X, more Zoe, more Jonah, more of their tough mother, more Ripper and I would really like to see certain heads roll. Edge of Everything is part love story, part supernatural adventure survival story and part heartwarming tale of family. Once I started reading I didn’t want to stop.

This is a good old paranormal, reaper story. A boy locked in the bowls of the Lowlands and forced to reap souls. He has never questioned his role until he meets Zoe. The girl who wasn’t supposed to see him. The girl who fights to save herself, save her brother and even, maybe save him. Zoe knows she and her brother wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the guy who mysteriously appeared and saved them from their attacker. She takes him home, makes room for him in her grieving little family, shares her hurt, listens to his story without judgement and, unknowingly, brings all the terror of the Lowlands down on them.

The romance in this story is pretty good but it was the characters, that incredible sense of family that really drew me in. Jonah, Zoe’s younger brother, was my favourite character. But then I also loved Zoe’s colourful friends, Zoe’s mother, vegan, believer in all faiths and fiercely protective, X’s Lowland cell mates, and, of course, X and Zoe themselves.

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Book Review: Dawn Study

dawn-study

Dawn Study – Maria V. Snyder – Soulfinders series #3, Ixia Chronicles #9 – Mira/Harlequin Teen – Published 23 January 2017

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Synopsis

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

My thoughts

Dawn Study is the long-awaited conclusion to the Soulfinders series and the Ixia Chronicles. How I have loved every single minute spent with Valek, Yelena, and the gang. They have grabbed my heart, taken me on wild adventures, driven me slightly crazy with tension, and changed forever the way I look at books. Dawn Study is everything I was expecting and waiting for. Incredible doesn’t do it justice. Prepare yourself, because this is going to be a long review – when I am this in love I get longwinded.

Yelena and Valek have long been working towards establishing peace between Ixia and Sitia. Now they must face their final battle. The magicians of Sitia are under the control of a rogue group and the Commander is threatening to invade. Yelena, Valek and their friends have until the hot season before they lose their chance of peace once and for all. They will need to sacrifice everything in the hopes of one day being able to raise their family in safety.

Dawn Study kind of felt like both a second-last and last book in the series rolled into one. There is so much contained within its pages. Along with Yelena’s first-person-narrated chapters, readers are treated to chapters from Janco, Valek, Leif and also Heli’s perspectives, told in third person. This keeps the reader well informed about all the different angles of the story and made me pay attention as it sometimes takes a while to circle back around through all the characters. It also made it a little hard to pick the story back after putting it down (because, you know, my boss doesn’t like it when I read all day, although “it’s Dawn Study” might have proven a worthy excuse). But these multiple perspectives are necessary to continue the story and I absolutely love the extra insight we get into all the characters.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Continent

The Continent

The Continent – Keira Drake – The Continent #1 – Harlequin TEEN – Published 3 January 2017

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Synopsis

For her sixteenth birthday, Vaela Sun receives the most coveted gift in all the Spire—a trip to the Continent. It seems an unlikely destination for a holiday: a cold, desolate land where two “uncivilized” nations remain perpetually at war. Most citizens tour the Continent to see the spectacle and violence of battle—a thing long vanished in the Spire. For Vaela—a smart and talented apprentice cartographer—it is an opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.

But an idyllic aerial exploration is not to be had: the realities of war are made clear in a bloody battle seen from the heli-plane during the tour, leaving Vaela forever changed. And when a tragic accident leaves her stranded on the Continent, she has no illusions about the true nature of the danger she faces. Starving, alone, and lost in the middle of a war zone, Vaela must try to find a way home—but first, she must survive.

My thoughts

The Continent is an interesting sort of fantasy novel – no magic, but set in a new and strange world that is half old-world traditions and some of today’s technology where peace and civility reigns and half a land torn apart by war, where the inhabitants fight the elements and each other to survive.

Vaela lives a safe and privileged live in the Spire, where there has been no wars for many years. She is a cartographer and thrilled when her parents gift her with a trip to the Continent, where the landscape is rugged and a bloody war is still fought between the natives. But Vaela’s exploration of the Continent ends in disaster and she is left alone to fight for survival, both against the icy and treacherous landscape and the natives. But as she makes a home there, Vaela learns to look anew at life on the Continent and hopes the war can somehow be ended before she once again loses everyone she holds dear.

It is the writing that makes this book, that sets it apart from other books. The writing truly creates the setting, with the old-worldly phrasing evoking images of the Edwardian era of long dresses, suits and hats, propriety and old fashioned traditions.

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Book Review: Spindle

spindle

Spindle – E.K. Johnston – A Thousand Nights #2 – Disney-Hyperion – Published 6 December 2016

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Synopsis

The world is made safe by a woman…but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled–and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

My thoughts

Honestly, I don’t think I have the words to convey how wonderful this book is. It simply deserves to be read and enjoyed.

Yashaa’s life changed the night the curse was laid upon the Little Rose. It might have been the princess who was cursed but it was Yashaa, his mother and their community of spinners who left their home in the castle and were forced into exile. Now Yashaa is grown and his mother is dying. He has little choice when she requests him to take his friends and attempt to make a better life away from their camp. She would never expect him to try and find the cursed princess and could never dream how Yashaa’s life threads, and those of his friends, will become tangled with the princess’s.

This book is the second book in the A Thousand Nights series. It is more of a companion novel, set many, many years after the events of A Thousand Nights. It was lovely to, from the distance of time, see how Lo-Melkhiin and the Storyteller Queen’s tale continued and sparked the creation of a new story. Spindle is part adventure quest, part love story. You can see the threads of the fairytale wrapped up and expanded in the delicious details of this world and its vibrant characters. If the characters in A Thousand Nights remained anonymous, those in Spindle become as dear and familiar to you as old friends.

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Book Review: Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames – Sarah Raughley – Effigies #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 22 November 2016

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Synopsis

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.

When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.

But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.

Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.

Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.

Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?

My thoughts

I love superhero books, so I was excited by the premise of a strong cast of females with impressive powers (and a touch of both glamour and drama) in a fantasy setting. Fate of Flames delivers plenty of action and mystery, and all the drama you would expect when throwing four girls together and hoping they can save the world.

Maia knows everything there is to know about the Effigies, four girls gifted with the powers of the elements to fight the Phantoms that plague the world. Maia just never expected to become an Effigy herself. But with a new villain who can seemingly control the Phantoms, Maia will have to quickly get used to playing the hero, even if she’s not sure how.

The description of Avengers meets Sailor Moon is apt, I think. Especially the part where the Avengers fight between themselves and generally create destruction wherever they go. Similar too is the organisation that seeks to control the Effigies, while keeping many things hidden from them. It’s fun going on an adventure with Maia as she travels some major cities of the world, fighting monstrous beasts (or running away from them) and trying to uncover the villain’s evil plan.

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Book Review: Where There’s Smoke

Where There's Smoke

Where There’s Smoke – Susan May Warren – Montana Fire #1 – Susan May Warren Fiction – Published 31 May 2016

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Synopsis

She’s a smokejumper afraid of fire…

Kate Burns is a legendary smoke jumper, known for her courage and willingness to risk everything to get the job done. Only she has a secret, one she won’t admit to anyone.

He can’t forget the love they once shared…

Supervisor Jed Ransom commands the Jude County Smoke Jumpers with a reputation as a calm, level-headed leader. Kate is the only one who’s ever gotten under his skin.

They must face the flames together…

A raging wildfire in the mountains of Montana brings Kate and Jed together to train up a new team of jumpers. Suddenly, they must face the past they’ve been running from and the secrets that keep them apart. When an arsonist goes after their team, Kate and Jed must face their deepest fears—and learn to rely on each other as they fight a blaze that could destroy them all. 

My thoughts

Where There’s Smoke is an exciting and spark-filled romance.

It was stressful reading Where There’s Smoke, but in a good way. I was on edge most of the time with jumping from planes, parachutes that won’t open, tangled chute lines and deadly wildfires. And when all that wasn’t happening the tension from the romance is off the charts.

Kate grew up wanting to be a smokejumper just like her father, fighting the deadly fires that roar through the Montana landscape. But her father never wanted her in such danger, so she chose to walk away from their relationship rather than give up fire fighting. Now, Kate has returned home in the wake of a devastating fire that has left her father and others in his crew dead. She finally has a chance to join the Jude County Smokejumpers, but so too has her old crush, Jed Ransom, leaving Kate once again battling to prove her ability to be a jumper.

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Book Review: Skyfire

Skyfire

Skyfire – Michael Adams – Scholastic Press Australia – Published July 2016

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Synopsis

Seven talented and driven teenagers from around the world have been selected by trillionaire Internet King Felix Scott to form an elite group of young people committed to help make a difference in the world. They meet at the ceremony announcing their selection, then their lives are bound together on a quest as they come to realise that each of them has been sent part of a code that predicts an unknown disaster.

My thoughts

Skyfire begins The Seven Signs series where seven young people are entangled in a dangerous and compelling mystery that puts the whole world in danger. It is fun, fast-paced and full of action.

Seven young people have entered a competition that is set to change their lives. As the winners, they are granted the chance to work with the internet and technology king Felix Scott. They are gifted the latest in phone technology, rides aboard space-skimmers and even one million dollars. But as they are named winners they become targets for a cruel and dangerous plot to destroy the world. They each receive a sign, which together they must decode before terror is unleashed on the world.    

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