Book Review: Seasons of the Storm

Seasons of the Storm – Elle Cosimano – Seasons of the Storm #1 – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.

Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.

Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight.

My thoughts

Seasons of the Storm is the first book in a new fantasy duology. It’s kind of like Hunger Games meets the folklore of Jack Frost. Fighting, hunting, rebellions, breakouts, romance, teamwork and magical powers connected to nature and the weather combine to make an epic fantasy.

Jack is the embodiment of winter, just one of hundreds of seasons who have been saved from death and given a second life. There are strict rules a season must follow and the only interaction one season has with other seasons is to hunt and kill the season that comes before them and be hunted and be killed by the season that comes after them. But Jack is falling for Fleur, the spring whose job it is to kill him each year, and her reciprocated feelings are causing her to plummet on the rankings board and risk termination. For a chance to be together, Jack and Fleur have to decide if it is worth risking everything to challenge the system, break the cycle and try and find another way to survive.

This book is set on Earth in a very real and recognisable world. The only difference is that seasons, embodiments of the four seasons, walk among us and control the passing and changing of the seasons with their magic. What the seasons do during their season isn’t really explored all that much. The focus is on the times of change over, when Spring comes to kill Winter, and the time spend in stasis and recharging to go back out into the world again. We also have Chronos and Gaia as Father Time and Mother Earth who are father and daughter. Together with Chronos’ guard, they control the seasons, turning the days spent above ground into a sort of game, with rankings, a score board and a system where those who fall below the red line are culled.

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Book Review: Don’t Call the Wolf

Don’t Call the Wolf – Aleksandra Ross – HarperTeen – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.

Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

My thoughts

I adored this gorgeous fantasy novel. It feels like a fairytale, but one of the original versions, with truly scary monsters and lots of bloodshed. It also feels like a unique fantasy quest novel, again one that is dark and devious. I loved the characters and loved how they oh so slowly came to like each other and learn to work together. I loved the twist at the end. I loved the magic, the monsters and the evil the characters must face, which brings them all together. But most of all, I loved the world that has been build and the beautiful, descriptive writing that ties it all together and brings it to life.

Ren is Queen of the Forest. With her lynx family and wolf friends, she tries to stave off the ever encroaching press of monsters and darkness that seeks to suck the life out of the forest. They must also avoid humans, who don’t understand them and who cause more harm than good. Lukasz, the youngest of ten brothers is now alone, the last of the Wolf-Lords to traverse the world, fighting monsters and evil. The brothers were exiled from their homeland after the Golden Dragon arrived and over the years, each of the brothers has felt the call to return and try and take their home back from the dragon. Now Lukasz must also return. But as he and Ren reluctantly join forces, they realise their goals are not so different from the other’s.

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Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban – HarperTeen – Published 17 March 2020

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Synopsis

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

My thoughts

Well, that’s how you start a book. Talk about getting hooked. All Your Twisted Secrets, as the title implies, is a thrilling book told in now and then sections about the secrets six teens will reveal when faced with a life-threatening situation. This book is compelling, addictive and shocking – I know teen readers will soak this up.

When six teens are invited to a prestigious dinner as scholarship recipients, they are shocked to discover they are locked in the room with a bomb, a syringe filled with deadly poison and a choice – kill one person or all be killed. Amber knows there must be another way to get everyone to safety, if she could just get the others to stop fighting. But as the clock ticks down, the six must face the events of the past year, and reveal the secrets they have kept hidden.

This book is thrilling from beginning to end. The short countdown chapters are perfectly spaced between the longer flashback sections. I won’t say too much about the characters or plot because the book is so brilliantly done I don’t remember what I didn’t know at the start and what I learnt as each fragment and detail is revealed throughout the book. I desperately wanted to flip to the back of the book to see how it would end and I’m so glad I didn’t. The build up and reveals are worth it. Stay away from spoilers if you can and enjoy the journey Diana Urban has masterfully created. With some important messages about friendship, bullying and social justice, this book has heart as well as guts.

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Book Review: Spellhacker

Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

My thoughts

Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.

Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.

Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.

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Book Review: The Sky Weaver

The Sky Weaver – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #3 – HarperTeen – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

At the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

My thoughts

And so concludes the Iskari series. I have loved this fantasy series. Three stories which interconnect but feature three sets of separate main characters set against a colourful magical world of dragons, old tales and fearsome gods.

The Sky Weaver is Safire’s story. Throughout books one and two we readers have learnt only a little about Safire. Cousin to the king but never treated as an equal due to her mother’s low standing. Now she is King Dax’s Commander. When a thief steals a precious gem intended to be sold to buy grain after a devastating famine, Safire vows to catch the thief. Eris would do anything to escape the control of pirate Jemsin, including steal precious gems, sneak her way into the palace and even capture the Namsara. As she and Safire go up against each they, they will discover that sometimes the sides are not so clear and the path of right and wrong not so easy to choose.

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Book Review: A Constellation of Roses

A Constellation of Roses – Miranda Asebedo – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

My thoughts

A Constellation of Roses is a poignant novel about finding your family and a place to belong. With just a touch of magic, this is a realistic novel that is magical in every other way – from the magic of the scent of good baking, to the love and acceptance of family.

Trix has a gift. She can steal anything without being caught. It helps her to survive, especially since her mother left her and never came back. Living week-to-week in run-down motels, Trix is shocked when the police and then the foster system catch up with her. But nothing can prepare her for being told she has a family, that she has an aunt that she will be going to live with. The McCabe women, Trix’s Aunt, cousin and Great Aunt all have gifts, and for once, Trix may finally have found somewhere she could belong — if she can stop herself from running.

Trix is such an awesome character. So strong and brave, yet so heartbroken underneath all that bluster and confidence. I loved that Trix is a good friend. Loved that she is there for people, even if she doesn’t feel like she belongs. Loved that she makes good decisions and is smart and kind, even if she thinks she is not.

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Book Review: The How and the Why

The How and the Why – Cynthia Hand – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

My thoughts

The How and the Why is a touching, remarkable novel about family. Cynthia Hand delivers sad and funny moments that will have readers chuckling even as they wipe away tears. A story about adoption, belonging, acceptance and love.

Cass has always known she was adopted. It’s something her parents have shared with her, even if there were no details about her birth parents, their lives or why they gave her up for adoption. But as Cass’s mother waits for a heart transplant that seems increasingly unlikely, Cass is struck by a desire to find her birth mother.

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Book Review: The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol – Shamim Sarif – HarperTeen – Published 8 October 2019

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Synopsis

Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.

My thoughts

The Athena Protocol is a fantastic YA action thriller with a whole cast of strong and diverse women who are unafraid to take risks to bring the bad guys down. High action scenes, surveillance with cool tech, hand-to-hand combat and sniper shootouts all with a positive message about working together, family, belonging and righting the wrongs of the world. I seriously loved this book and can’t wait to see where the next book in the series leads.

Jessie is part of the Athena Protocol, a secret group of three highly-trained female operatives led by a group of powerful women. Jessie may only be young, but she has been trained by the best of the best in surveillance, combat, research, weapons, coding, and hacking. Which is why she and her team are surprised when, on their most recent mission, Jessie breaks orders and shoots their target. Suspended from the team, Jessie knows they will need her help as they go after a human trafficker with extensive resources. So, Jessie does her own research and fieldwork, but going rouge means she is without the support of her teammates and when things get really dangerous, she will have to watch her back.

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Book Review: Serpent & Dove

Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

My thoughts

Serpent & Dove is an evocative fantasy, with witches and the clergymen that hunt them, one girl torn between two worlds, determined to survive, and very steamy romance.

Lou is a witch. Having left her coven, her magic is something she keeps hidden from most people to avoid the stake and the Chasseurs who hunt witches. But Lou also has another secret, one that makes her do dangerous things. When she and her friend and fellow witch, Coco, attempt to steal a magical ring, she unwittingly puts herself in the crosshairs of Chasseur Reid Diggory. Neither she nor Reid could ever work together, but their paths are irrevocable tied when they are forced into an arranged marriage. As the Chasseurs continue their hunts and the witches grow more bold in their attacks, Lou must keep her identity hidden or risk certain death – from both sides.

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Book Review: Fan the Fame

Fan The Fame – Anna Priemaza – HarperTeen – Published 20 August 2019

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Synopsis

Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.

My thoughts

Fan The Fame is a relatable novel about responsibility, doing and saying the right thing and speaking up – or choosing not to. With three distinct character perspectives and voices, this is a clever and thought-provoking novel.

Lainey: not much into gaming. Her brother is a huge YouTube star and she can’t quite understand why so many people subscribe to his videos when he so racist, sexist and rude. Working for Cody, aka Codemeister, this summer means carting around his video gear at the gaming conference and seeing his jerkiness up close.
ShadowWillow: an up and coming successful, and very good, female gamer and streamer. When her fans start shipping her with Codemeister, she knows joining someone so famous would really up her subscriber numbers.
SamTheBrave: young gamer with not many subscribers, but hilarious jokes. Feels like the gaming world is the one place he might actually belong. Also wants to get the attention of Codemeister at the conference.

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