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Dead Time: The Murder Notebooks
Dead Time: The Murder Notebooks
by Anne Cassidy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars YA murder mystery series with potential, 15 July 2012
Rose is an unlikely heroine at the start of the book because she expresses so little emotion. She's hidden inside herself and withdrawn from connecting with other people on any level so that she won't get hurt emotionally. This is only compounded by her cold aunt, who offers her no affection or love. But deep down Rose is tough and forthright and when Emma asks for her help she can't resist helping her and later on investigating the two deaths. Partly because no one did for her parents, but also because underneath her tough shell she is kind and caring. If you give her time, she will grow on you.

Joshua is this strange combination of friend, step-brother, and potentially something more. Rose is really uncertain of her feelings towards him, and because of his apparent sisterly feelings for her, she is afraid to do anything about it. There isn't really any romance, more of an underlying hint and allusion to something that could happen. I'm hoping the rest of the series builds on this and we might see something develop between or change between them. I also we get to see more of Joshua and what he is like behind his obsession to find his dad.

There is a lot of intrigue and tension in Dead Time. As Rose becomes drawn into the murders of two fellow students at her school, the tension started to rise. Rose couldn't help but investigate who was behind the murders, and often I wanted to shout at her because you could just feel something bad was going to happen. With the murders and her parents' disappearance there are different clues to follow and questions to answer, and whilst I enjoyed all the mystery behind the story I wanted there to be even more. I wanted more action, drama and intrigue, and I wanted to get a little further into the mystery behind her mum's disappearance.

Dead Time is a murder-mystery ride infused with intrigue and danger.

Rating: 3.5*


The Peculiars
The Peculiars
by Maureen McQuerry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars YA Steampunk - not as special as I wanted, 15 July 2012
This review is from: The Peculiars (Hardcover)
On her 18th birthday Lena Mattacascar decides to leave the safety of home and travel to the dangerous and wild lands of Scree to find her father and discover the truth behind her goblin-like hands and feet. On her journey she meets young Jimson Quiggley on his way to start a new life as librarian to Mr Beasley at Zephyr House, and he offers Lena a job and a safe haven when she needs it. But as the hunt for peculiars increases, Lena, Jimson and the eccentric Mr Beasley must flee to Scree to survive.

Lena is on a journey of self discovery as she heads off to Scree to find out who her father really is and if the rumours of her being descended from a goblin are true. As being a peculiar is a considered shameful and peculiars are treated with discrimination, contempt and mistrust, Lena tries to hide her hands and feet and who she really is. As she travels further north though, she is faced with people who accept her for who she is and others who vilify her, and she must learn to stand up for herself and accept herself no matter what. She does this with courage and bravery, and she was a great protagnoist for the story.

The most intriguing characters for me were the inventor Mr Beasley and his mysterious cat. Mr Beasley was an eccentric, missing his eyebrows, and able to invent pretty much anything; and he was constantly joined by his cat, who seems to be rather human-like and hyper-intelligent and potentially hiding some deep dark secret. I loved the mystery surrounding this unusual pair and the fact that they seemed to somehow know everything and could pretty much solve anything too.

I was intrigued to find out who the peculiars might be. Do they have special abilities? Are their abnormalities just genetic anomalies? Is Lena one or not? In fact peculiars seems to pass down unusual traits, such as wings or goblinism. I would tell you more about them, but actually these are the only two types of peculiars that were mentioned and I don't know much else about peculiars in general. I spent a lot of the story waiting and wanting to find more peculiars but it never happened, and because of this expectation I was a little disappointed at the end. From the research I've done, this seems to be a standalone book. But actually it reads like there is more to come and frankly I think it would benefit from a follow-on book as such, which could involve more peculiars and more of a definitive conclusion to the story.

I had to admit I also had trouble placing the time and setting of the story. At first I thought it was set in a completely new fantasy place with Scree as a wilderness at its north. But as references were made to Darwin, Lister, and historical authors, I realised it was set somewhere in the late 1800s to early 1900s. I always get thrown a little when fantasy and reality are mixed together this way, and whilst other readers might not find it an issue I prefer historical and fantasy genres to be kept pretty separate.

The Peculiars is a steampunk infused, historical fantasy. Although I didn't necessarily enjoy some of the different aspects of the story, I think there is still plenty of potential for character development and more involvement from peculiars which could be better harnessed in a second book.

Rating: 3.5*


Dreamless (Starcrossed)
Dreamless (Starcrossed)
by Josephine Angelini
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab YA sequel with Greek mythology twist, 15 July 2012
Although I enjoyed Starcrossed, I didn't fall deeply and madly for it. But I have to say Dreamless totally won me over. I loved Angelini's style of writing, which was easy to read and flowed well. The story had great pace as so much happened action and plot wise, and there are so many twists, turns and revelations that I just couldn't guess what direction the story might take. I was completely drawn in and really wanted to find out if Helen could free scions.

In Starcrossed we find out that Helen and Lucas are first cousins and all hope of them having a relationship is destroyed. It's a bit of a sticky situation, because despite knowing they shouldn't be they are still inevitably drawn to each other and struggle to suppress their feelings; but being cousins makes it wrong and slightly icky. With the addition of hunky, funny and caring Orion, Helen has someone else she likes but is forbidden to be with. This makes for a great love triangle, as they all need each other but their feelings for each other are forbidden. The fact that all of them is well rounded with their own strengths and weaknesses and can standalone as a character makes it all the more real - why wouldn't Helen fall for Orion, as he's down to earth, protective and kind?

Greek mythology is an integral part of Dreamless's plot, and its been worked in really well. Obviously a lot of thought, research and planning has been done, to match the story with myths and effectively create and develop the characters, and it shows in the reading. Helen's nightly visits to the Underworld are hellish (quite literally!) and a really great addition is that we get to see a lot more of the Gods from Hades, Persephone, and Ares. Despite having a huge cast of characters, Angelini has managed to build in relevant backstories for each and create well rounded individuals.

Dreamless is a fast paced action-packed whirlwind of forbidden romance and greek mythology. This series just gets better!

Rating: 5*


Whisper
Whisper
by Chrissie Keighery
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Must read contemporary YA, 15 July 2012
This review is from: Whisper (Paperback)
Whisper was very focused on Demi's personal journey which was really touching and moving, making me empathise with her new situation in life. She struggled to cope with losing her hearing, trying to stay in touch with her old friends, and deal with the insecurities of being deaf. Demi felt pulled in two different directions: trying to maintain a normal life with hearing friends and family, and trying to connect with her new deaf friends who can completely understand her. Being written in first person, it really put me in her shoes and made me feel the frustration she felt when she couldn't `hear' or lip-read someone or when she couldn't quite keep up with fast signers.

Stellar is the cool girl at Demi's new deaf school; she is confident and very secure with her identity as a deaf person. She isn't necessarily easy to sympathise with though because she has such strong views on how `hearies' and deaf people should stick to their own communities and deaf shouldn't make any concessions for hearing people. Her role however is crucial as she gives an insight into a very different life to what I'm personally used to - she has grown up in a completely deaf family, never having to socialise or compromise with hearing people. It was a different type of discrimination to what I had expected, but her opinions were certainly thought provoking.

To contrast against Stellar, Demi's mum firmly wanted her to maintain as many links with the hearing world as possible. She constantly nagged and tried to show how staying in her `normal; school would be better for Demi. These polar opposites played a big part in influencing and shaping Demi's thoughts but also causing her to question herself, other people and her choices.

In terms of the other characters I loved them all - Keisha was so upbeat; the nephews Harry and Oscar were absolutely adorable; and her perfect sister was a surprise. Each had their own distinct personalities. I would have liked to have seen Ethan in more depth and seen a bit more of him and Demi getting to know each other. But I still liked him and really enjoyed the moments him and Demi shared together.

There were a few incidences and hints of past events played up at the start as big issues, but as we learnt what they were, they didn't seem that big to me as a hearing person anyway. But I think it is important for the reader to appreciate that something that would seem small to us could be a huge thing for something who can't hear. Situations can easily become out of control when hearing and non-hearing people aren't able to communicate and understand each other. For Demi, whose deafness was fairly recent, it is these misunderstandings and conflicts that caused her so much anxiety and anger.

Whisper was really easy and enjoyable to read and I finished it really quickly. Demi's narrative was insightful and the story was a captivating and absolutely fascinating insight into a young girl's life without hearing. I think every school library should have this book and every teenager should read it.

Rating: 5*


The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1
The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1
by Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy with a russian romantic feel, 15 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Fantasy is one of my favourite favourite genres, but sometimes when I read fantasy books I can get completely overwhelmed by the setting and world building and the history of the story. But The Gathering Dark wasn't like that at all. The concept of magic wielding Grisha living in Ravka was set up beautifully, so that it completely captured my imagination and was easy to read and get into. With the menacing Shadow Fold splitting Ravka in two, there was a sense of foreboding underlying and driving the plot. As Alina discovered some hidden powers, she was thrown into a completely new world which tested her, amazed but also surprised her.

I loved the idea that Grisha had hierarchies based on their gifts and area of expertise, whether that was healers or Fabirkators. From the outside, Grisha seemed magical, perfect and beautiful - a life of splendor. But on the inside there was actually jealousy, prejudice and fighting. With the Darkling at the top of that hierarchy, everyone deferred to him and fought for his attention. It was these psychological complexities that added so much intrigue as I tried to understand each of the characters and whether they could be trusted or not.

The Darkling was the most mysterious character of all; he was aloof, secretive and powerful. He would often disappear for weeks, coming and going as he pleased. As leader of the Grisha, he had this appeal and attraction surrounding him that people in positions of power often have, and like Alina I could feel myself drawn to him. Despite this, there was also something about him that felt a little dangerous and exciting but I couldn't put my finger on it and figure out what that was. But I liked the fact that he oozed mystery because it kept me guessing.

Alina was the kind of protagonist that I like, as she started off weak and vulnerable and to be honest a little snappy. But as she developed her gifts she became much more positive and happy. I liked the fact throughout the story she still kept her own sense of personality and didn't submit to everyone else's wishes.

Mal and Alina have had this close connection since childhood when they met in an orphanage. They've been best friends for years, but Alina can't help but feel something more for him. But he doesn't seem to notice her, which made me want to shake him senseless. To start with we didn't really see much of Mal, but later into the story he really came into his own and I have to admit I started falling for him a little. His protectiveness and caring side balanced really well against his manly, rugged, independent side making him the perfect hero to any story.

The Dark Gathering was a thrilling and enchanting fantasy; easy to read and hard to put down.

Rating: 5*


Stolen Away (Drake Chronicles)
Stolen Away (Drake Chronicles)
by Alyxandra Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars FAIRY DELIGHT, 25 Feb. 2012
For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric-who may or may not betray them.

Review: When Stolen Away landed on my doormat I was first taken by the stunning cover. Then I read the blurb: "Anyone who has swooned over David Bowie in Labyrinth, Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings or Tom Cruise in Legend will love the heroes and villains in this book". And I knew I would have to read this one straight away.

The story was told from the dual narrative of Eloise and Jo, best friends but very different characters. I wasn't expecting this and found it a little surprising, but I did like both of them but for different reasons: Eloise is down to earth, into rockabilly, and learning to stand up for herself, whilst extrovert and flirty Jo finds herself falling for one mysterious guy. I think my favourite was Jo's narrative because it was filled with heart-quickening seduction and some steamy chemistry. The fact that Jo and Eldric's relationship was forbidden only made their meetings even hotter! Jo's friendship with the little fairy was also really sweet and I liked the two of them paired together, being both sassy and caring towards each other.

In terms of the plot, it was fairly simple but still intriguing with twists and mystery strewn in. When the book finished I was disappointed, because I wanted to read more and see what else might happen.

One thing I couldn't fail to notice was how captivating the faery world was. Every sense was appealed to; colours dazzled, sounds floated on the air...well, you get the picture. This sensory style of writing really brought the strange world to life and made it feel so magical. The fact that this is juxtaposed against the constant threat of Lord Strahan and the Cold Ladies, also made the Faery world feel foreign and dangerous.

Stolen Away is a quick, light, easy read that captivates your mind, quickens your pulse and enchants your senses. Look out for this one in January!


Fracture
Fracture
by Megan Miranda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ BOOK, 25 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Fracture (Paperback)
Eleven minutes might as well be eternity underwater. It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten. Delaney Maxwell was underwater for eleven minutes. And she's alive.'

Review: I just loved Fracture and couldn't put it down - so much so that I read it in one day despite working a full 8 hours, because I couldn't go to sleep without finishing it. There's something about a good book that actually makes it hard for me to write a review, because I don't scrutinise the plot or characters or wonder what's going on; I just get drawn straight in and plough my way through the story. But I do love finding books like Fracture that just work, that seem to be written so naturally and fluidly it's as if the book has been plucked straight from the author's (or even character's) head. And I was completely caught up in Delaney's `return' to life and miraculous survival.

The plot and characters really kept me engaged and on my toes, as the story turned and twisted with suspense and intrigue. Delaney's persistence to prove that you could make a difference to other people's lives really endearing and the different relationships she had with Decker and Troy was fascinating; the first being the neighbour and best of friends, and the latter being mysterious guy in town who shared something so unusual and personal with Delaney.

For me, what really makes a story and its characters are the little details. In Fracture, these very typical, normal behaviours and thoughts added real human touches and made Delaney feel so natural and genuine to me. Her thoughts and questions about life and death were natural for her situation, but as a reader they also made me think about what I would do if I had one day left to live, and the unfairness of why some people die young, some survive and others live long into old age. Despite having a paranormal element the story felt so realistic, weaving Delaney's gift seamlessly into the other worrisome areas of her teenage life.

Blending paranormal elements with romance, mystery and intriguing characters, Megan Miranda really nailed her debut novel. I can't wait to see what she produces next. As a start to 2012 releases, it couldn't be better!

Rating: 5*


Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, Book 2)
Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, Book 2)
by Kiersten White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars PARANORMAL YA DELIGHT, 25 Feb. 2012
After breaking free from the IPCA, Evie and Lend now share a normal teenage life together; studying, working part-time, and having each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. But for Evie, the transition hasn't been easy, and she craves some paranormal action in her somewhat boring life. So when Raquel offers her the opportunity to help tag and bag bad paranormal Evie jumps at the chance, even if it means working with the energetic Jack. However Evie finds herself sinking into trouble as more and more fae find her, and as she hides more and more things from Lend.

For some reason it took me a while to get into this second book of the series; probably because it had been so long since I read the first one that I couldn't actually remember what had happened. Once I did get back into it though, I remembered what was so enjoyable about Paranormalcy. Evie is witty, funny, endearing, and in this book walking a thin line between good girl and bad girl. Her desire for a normal life has come true - she goes to high school and works at a diner - but having always lived outside of normal society, she just can't get used to it. As she tries to figure out who she is and what her life is about, she ends up lying, running off, getting herself in sticky situations, and being tempted by the souls of others.

I have to admit, I would have liked to have seen more of Lend. Typical good guy, he is endlessly patient and forgiving. I would love to see both him and Evie getting up to some adventures together, and see their relationship tested a bit more without him always being so forgiving.

In Supernaturally, we get to see more types of paranormals. I really like the idea that there is so much hidden out there in Evie's world that even Evie doesn't know about. Meeting these paranormals with Evie is really interesting and special in some strange way, although often they aren't as nice as could be. This array of paranormal characters that White has created and the fact that they aren't always what they seem highlights that life isn't clear cut black or white. For me it also presented an interesting dilemma when I came across a new character, as I started becoming suspicious of everyone's actions and motives. I'm still not sure what to make of some characters who appear to be up to no good, but hopefully all will be revealed in Endlessly.

Although I could kind of guess what was going on overall, the plot was still exciting and intriguing. White is good at end-of-chapter cliffhangers, which are thrilling and make me want to keep reading! This book did focus a lot on how Evie dealt with her new life, and at some points I did want to shake her for not appreciating what she had but I guess her behaviour was natural for a teenager that hasn't really lived a normal life. I am really keen to see where the story goes next, as there is a lot of scope for things to develop with the fae as well as with Vivian who is currently and permanently asleep.

Supernaturally incorporates humour and wit, plenty of captivating and mystifying paranormal characters, journeys into the fairy world, and some much loved bleeping.


India Dark
India Dark
by Kirsty Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1900s DISCOVERY OF INDIA, 25 Feb. 2012
This review is from: India Dark (Paperback)
It was 1909 when Posey Swift left Australian shores to tour America with the Lilliputian troupe, filled with dreams of singing and dancing her way across the country. But as funds run low and the Lilliputian group detours across South East Asia, the children find themselves fighting against the company owner Mr Arthur. How far will the children go to protect their rights, their freedom and get back home?

Based on a true story, India Dark is set in a time when travel to different countries was limited to the rich or the British Empire army, and encounters with people of different cultures and heritages was rare. For the children in the Lilliputian dance and musical theatre troupe, their travels to South-East Asia and India open their eyes to different worlds, and the narrative has been written to encapsulate this and ensnare the reader's senses and bring alive a land of foreign and beautiful wonders. The harsh treatment of the children did impinge on my enjoyment of the country's wonders but it made me understand why many of the children began to hate certain parts of India, associating them with maltreatment and negative experiences.

The story is told from two perspectives: Posey Swift, a young and naive girl of 13 who is making her first journey with the Lilliputians, and 15 year old Tilly Sweetrick, who is much more world-wise and on her second tour. I liked Tilly because she was transparent in what she wanted, and saw people for what they really were, but she verged on manipulative and harsh. On the other hand, Posey was just so sweet and innocent, but didn't realise what was going on around her or how her behaviour might affect others. Although it could be a little confusing trying to keep up with whose narrative I was reading, I think the story benefited hugely from the dual perspective. The fact that the two girls had different experiences of the tour and were completely different characters, helped me see what happened from different viewpoints and sympathise with different characters.

Like Posey, I fell for Charlie, as his interest in magic and the Indian fakirs (magicians) was really exciting. Reading about the illusions with mango trees growing on stage felt so magical, and I could see why he was entranced by the mysterious of India. He was also able to stay out of the fights and seemed wise beyond his years. The fact that he would dress like the locals and sneak out to see the real India was very courageous and rebellious (for a boy of 13), and I really admired that in him.

Starting in the courtroom, the story jumps back to before the children set off on their long journey, and follows them as things go from bad to worse. The plot was filled with lies, deception, excitement, suspense, drama, upsets and fighting, and throughout there was an underlying feeling of dread at what might happen to the children. Although the story slowed towards the end, I still wanted to know what happened to the cruel Mr Arthur and how the children were affected by their experiences in the troupe. The story most certainly touches on the children's loss of innocence and it feels such a shame and a crime, that the amazing adventure for the children turns so sour.

This captivating historical story will take you back to a different era and completely immerse you in the travels and troubles that happen on tour. Kirsty Murray has done a great job bringing the childrens' tale to life!


Moon Spell (The Tale of Lunarmorte Book 1)
Moon Spell (The Tale of Lunarmorte Book 1)
Price: £2.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WEREWOLF ROMANCE, 25 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Caia has spent her life isolated from the other wolves in her pack, with no friends or family except Irini. When she returns to the pack, it is a to mixed welcome - not everyone is glad to see her back. She knows little of pack life and even less about her own family history, and no-one wants to tell her what secrets they are keeping. When her own powers threaten their safety, something must be done, and pack leader Lucien must decide how to protect Caia and his pack.

Moon Spell is the first in a series about the war between good and evil paranormals. Caia, a 17 year old girl that is part of a werewolf pack, is stuck in the middle of the war although she has no idea why. Caia is a very likeable protagonist because she's got that kind of balance I love between being humble and being caring and also being able to stand up for herself. Mostly this is with Lucien, pack leader and alpha male, which leads to some tense but physically charged encounters between them. The suspense of when they might actually get together was superb and one of my favourite parts of the book!

The story was written from the dual perspective of both Caia and pack leader Lucien. I have to admit I love reading about the guy's perspective and in this case it really helped me understand the feelings, emotions and dilemmas behind Lucien's reactions. Although Caia can pick up other people's emotions and we can get a little insight into other characters during her narrative, there was the benefit of hearing his internal struggle between wanting to protect and be with Caia whilst needing to maintain status as aplha. Without this Lucien may have come across as a chauvinistic arse, but in reality he makes a great male lead, being strong, protective, physically domineering and yet vulnerable.

My one niggle were the few occasions when the flashbacks felt a little like information dumps, to catch us up on the pack history, world building and Caia's past. Although the information was really needed to help understand the context to how the pack lives and why certain prejudices exist, it still felt a little dry and awkward.

For what I understand is a self-published book, Samantha Young has done a great job. The writing and elaborate world building are fab, feeling fresh and exciting despite being about werewolves and witches, and the plot leaves so many questions and possibilities.

Ideal for fans of werewolf and paranormal romances, Moon Spell is fast paced and action packed with strong characters and a fiery romance.


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