30 September 2012


Earlier this week I had the great privilege of meeting Leigh Bardugo as part of her tour for her first YA fantasy The Gathering Dark (aka Shadow and Bone). Not only is Leigh an amazingly lovely person, but as Leigh described how she came up with the idea for her debut book, I literally got goosebumps...

Previously Leigh worked as a makeup artist. And as Halloween was always a time when everyone wanted spooky makeup done for free, Leigh decided to go out of town and escape from work. Her getaway with friends included a Halloween party for which she kindly offered to give the hosts a makeover as a goodwill gesture. Unfortunately they offered the entire party a free makeover courtesy of Leigh. So after several hours of slaving away at the party, Leigh wasn't best pleased. As a show of her feelings, the next night she decided to stay in and read when everyone else went out partying. But after falling asleep, she awoke in the strange country house to pitch blackness. As she panicked trying to find the light switch, she started thinking about a place where the dark was permanent and couldn't be turned off by the flick of a switch. This is turn made Leigh think about where this dark place would be and who might create such a terrible place. And thus, with some research which included Russian post-war stories, Shadow and Bone was born.

Having read the book, I can truly say it is beautifully written and enchanting. I loved the Russian elements, and now having heard of Leigh's background some of the characters and their roles in the book make perfect sense. In case you are intrigued, here is the blurb for the book:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free? 
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

There seems to have been a spate of YA books being bought recently for film, and The Gathering Dark is no different. Dreamworks have picked up Leigh's book for future film production and I can't wait to see who is cast for it. A few months back before this news was known, Casey at Dark Readers also saw the book's potential and decided we needed to make a trailer for the book.

So here is the video trailer the fab Casey and Amina put together for The Gathering Dark.

You can check out Leigh and The Gathering Dark here:


29 September 2012


Author: Lee Battersby
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Angry Robot
UK Release date: September 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are. And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running away.

Marius de Hellespont is a liar, cheat, thief and witty charmer. A little like Jack Sparrow, he seems to always land on his feet no matter what ridiculous situation he ends up in. And trust me, he ends up in a number of bizarre and unexpected circumstances, and usually on the wrong end of the law or moral compass. Particularly because he is now dead. Marius' initial response to his situation and duty to find a new king was to run away, and it makes him seem as cowardly and pathetic as you would expect a looter of the dead to be. Whilst his character developed and grew throughout the book, making Marius a just-about likable character, his daring, cunning and unreprehensible behaviour really made the story.

At first the writing tended towards the over descriptive, which sometimes slowed the plot down with its tangential diversions. But further into the book, the plot, dialogue and wit improved by bounds and had me chuckling away. In fact the story reminded me a little of the madcap adventures that befall Voltaire’s character Candide in his book of the same name. Both plots have a philosophical bent to them and involve a series of rather absurd adventures and mishaps.

Although some of the secondary characters could have benefitted from a little more fleshing out to avoid them feeling one dimensional, my favourite character was King Nandus, who had a slightly strange (and possibly inappropriate) affection for horses. Found in the underwater wreck of his groundbreaking ship, the skeletal form of Nandus unfortunately takes on a few too many horse-like qualities, which made the story both humorous and endearing. The fact that the poor man didn't even realise the truth of his situation made it all the more pitiful and comical.

Despite the darker themes of death, deception and looting, overall the story had an underlying moral and spiritual emphasis, as Marius very slowly started to see the error of his ways. I loved the rather maccabre idea of the dead needing a king to rule their deathly kingdom, and being able to extend their deathly grip into the mortal realm to get Marius and Gerd to find them a ruler. What on earth would their job be as a King of the Dead?

The Corpse-Rat King is an absurd and fantastical tale of a man about to learn the error of his ways the hard way.

Rating: 4*

27 September 2012


Today I am really excited to have author Tera Lynn Childs joining me on the blog to talk about some of the nasty and smelly mythological creatures her characters face in Tera's urban fantasy Sweet Venom.

Gretchen’s Top Three Mythological Monsters

After four years of hunting down human-thirsty beasts and sending them back to their bleak home, I think I’ve encountered pretty much a one of everything. Some were easier than others but, one way or another, I’ve fought and won every single time. There have been a few close calls, a handful of monsters that I’d rather never see again.

1. Cynocephali – A vicious tribe of dog-headed dudes. Every breed of dog is represented in their numbers, and the labs and collies are more bark than bite. The Dobermans and pit bulls, however, are bite-to-the-death types.

2. Sphinx – While the Egyptian version might be a riddle, the Greek beast with the body of a lion, eagle’s wings, a poisonous serpent for a tail, and the head and torso of a woman is real up front in her intention to kill. No mystery there.

3. Manticore – Big, brawny, and dumb as a pile of hollow rocks, manticores are human and huntress killing machines. Anything with the body of a lion is a tough hunt, but that spike-covered tail is a powerful deadly weapon.

If you see one of these walking down the street—not that you would, but if you did—then find another street. Or, better, find another town.

When I run into these creatures, if I’m not distracted by other problems like diva sisters and missing mentors, I like to use the element of surprise. They can’t smell me coming the way I can pinpoint them, so I put myself in position to sneak up on them or trap them. Then I get my bite in fast and hard, as close to the pulse point as possible. The less time these beasties spent in this realm the better. For all of us.

Thank you so much Tera for taking time to talk about Sweet Venom's Gretchen and the monsters she fights! I love Gretchen's attitude and the way she describes these nasties. If you would like to find out more about Tera Lynn Childs and her book Sweet Venom you can find it here:

Tera's website

Sweet Venom was released earlier this month by Templar Publishing. You can read my review of it here or you can head on over to Amazon to grab yourself a copy.

Tera is also doing a live webchat on Monday 1st October at 7pm (UK time). Just use the password getbitten.

26 September 2012


Author: Kat Zhang
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Harper Collins
UK Release date: 27th September 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

As a dystopian, I loved that Zhang's concept of being born with a dual soul was completely original, unique, and very thought provoking. In What's Left of Me, Eva lives in the Americas where being a Hybrid with two souls is forbidden, taboo and considered a huge threat to society. My mind couldn't help but ponder the scientific implications of this idea: what might the evolutionary benefit be of having two souls? Could I have been born with two souls, but never have realised? Why did one soul just disappear? And what must it be like to share one life and one body with someone so close to you, that isn't you? Eva and Addie's relationship was like normal sisters, but so much more intense because they had to cope with situations that no-one would normally have to do with someone else in such close proximity. I can't imagine what it would be like to have someone else directing me body to do things I wasn't exactly comfortable doing. This difference in desire, motivation and needs often lead to big emotional dilemmas and experiences between the pair which kept the story fresh and gave lots of different viewpoints to consider.

With the story written from Eva's perspective, it gave a very unusual slant to the story. This is because whilst being a first person narrative, Eva simultaneously used a completely different narrative mode by using 'we' and 'ours' to describe what her and Addie were both doing together. It took a little getting used to, but it instantly added a unique element to the story.

Eva's fight to be more than a recessive soul that just disappears was completely compelling. Eva was so full of life, despite having no body of her own or control of her shared one, that it seemed wrong and cruel to think she could be ripped out or made to disappear. Both her and Addie had their strengths, and with Eva as the narrative voice, she didn't seem like the recessive one at all. I did make me think though about what makes us individuals and real people: do we need a body or is a soul enough to allow us to live and function happily in the world? What makes someone dominant and is dominance always best?

In terms of the plot, I expected a little more to happen setting wise. Don't get me wrong, I found the plot really thrilling and often it was fast paced and full of suspense. But I did want a little more action and adventure - which I think we will probably get in the next book.

One of the interesting aspects to the plot was the underlying romance between Eva and Ryan, Devon's recessive soul. I found it really intriguing that Addie didn't fancy Devon or Ryan, but Eva liked Ryan. I can see why, as he showed her a lot of tenderness. I was however a little dubious as to why exactly Ryan liked Eva, as they didn't exactly spend much time together when both of them were in control and able to talk or do things together. For Addie however, it must have been a very strange situation to be in.

What's Left of Me is a gripping and thought provoking insight into one girl's struggle to stay alive in a society that controls even your soul.

Rating: 4*

24 September 2012


Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Walker Books
UK Release date: 2007
Genre: YA Paranormal

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

When it came to understanding the people around her and putting two and two together, Clary was a little naive. Which meant that she sometimes frustrated me and she ended up in a love triangle without even realising it. Despite this, Clary was a very likeable character. She was quick witted and brave and would jump into situations to save the people she cared for. I loved the witty banter and repartee between her and Jace. Yes, Jace was cocky and arrogant. Very arrogant. But there was something undeniably magnetic about him. Perhaps it was the sense of humour that went with that arrogance, that made him more playful and fun. I could totally see why girls would be instantly attracted to Jace, but I think it helped that he was flawed and vulnerable like everyone else.

What I liked about the secondary characters within the Shadowhunting group, was that they all had very dynamic relationships with each other that took time to work out and understand. Isabelle and Alec were brother and sister and like family to Jace, but like Clary it was easy to imagine Jace and Isabelle getting together romantically. As an outsider, Clary kind of came in and disturbed the balance of the group which meant that there was some hostility towards Clary particularly because they considered her to be an ignorant human. Alec was the quiet, brooding one in the group, and at first his hostility towards Clary made me very wary of him, but as I discovered his hidden feelings I came to feel sorry for him and wished he could really embrace who he was. I really do hope that he can come out and not only accept himself for who he is but also be accepted by his family and the Shadowhunters in the rest of the series.

City of Bones had quite a complex plot and history to it. There were some plot developments that were glaringly obvious but Clary just didn’t see, and a little part of me wanted to shake her and say “hurry up and catch on a bit quicker”. Despite this there were plenty of shocking twists and turns that I hadn’t expected, particularly at the end where I wanted to ask Cassandra Clare “why the hell did you do that?!”. I’m not sure if I’m completely happy with the final turn of events in the book, so I will have to reserve judgment until I read the second book and see what happens. There was quite a lot of back story behind the Shadowhunters truce with ‘demons’ which meant that at certain times, the story had to flashback to the past to catch us up on events through retellings by particular characters. At times this felt quite natural, but they were also parts when huge chucks of the past were filled in in one go, making the story a tad disjointed.

With City of Bones currently being filmed, I couldn’t help but want to read it. And I wasn’t  disappointed. It’s a fast paced, action packed urban fantasy with brilliant heroes and heroines and a wickedly clever villain. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing the film when it comes out!

Rating: 4*

21 September 2012


Author: Sean Cummings
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Strange Chemistry
UK Release date: October 2012
Genre: MG & YA
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.

In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.

Sean Cummings writing style was the first thing that grabbed me when I started reading. It flows naturally, and perfectly encompasses Julie's character including her sassiness, wit and outspoken teen voice. It reads so naturally like a teenager that I instantly got a sense of what Julie's personality was like and I loved her.

Although I guessed pretty much from the outset what was coming at the end, I'm not sure if this was down to my extra good guessing abilities or easy to read plot/characters. Despite this there were still a few twists and surprises that threw me so that I still enjoyed the ending, and the plot overall was energetic and action packed. The premise behind the story has so much potential and I can see Julie getting into a whole host of adventures, or misadventures, in future books and I think it would work so well as a TV series.

The magical elements bring the story to life, with the grimoire passed down to Julie, her mother's collection of unusual smelling concoctions, the shadowcull legacy and don't forget a bit of grave digging.

After Julie, I liked Marcus the best. Because he provides the 'reasonable' and scientific perspective. He tries to fit magic into science and his understanding of the physical world, remains a little sceptical, but also makes steps to believing some of the crazy things that are happening around him.

Although it hadn't really crossed my mind at the time, Non at Catnip, pointed out how well the content and style for Poltergeeks would be appropriate for a younger Middle Grade age range. I think younger audiences would really relate to Julie, the confusing situation she is in with Marcus and their changing relationship. Although she's not popular in school, she is quirky, quick-witted and completely herself. For young girls I think she shines as a role model.

Poltergeeks is a sassy, funny, and thrilling YA debut.

Rating: 4*

20 September 2012


Today I am really excited to have author Sean Cummings joining me on the blog to kindly answer a few questions about his new YA novel Poltergeeks. You can read my review tomorrow here on the blog or you can head on over to Amazon to grab yourself a copy. Be sure to check the bottom of the post for links!

How would you describe Poltergeeks to a potential reader?
A supernatural action movie in book form with spills, thrills, fantastic characters and angsty teen romance thrown in for good measure.

What sparked the ideas for this new book?
I’d be lying if Buffy wasn’t one of the inspirational points for POLTERGEEKS. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series is a massive inspiration in the colourful characters and multiple sub plots. But mostly, I think the primary inspiration came from a desire to write a solid urban fantasy for teens as opposed to a paranormal romance. There’s been a blurring of the lines between paranormal romance and UF, so I really wanted to write something with a strong central character who is focused on working the mystery and saving the day.

Photo by David Marc Anderson
Poltergeists and the paranormal feature heavily in Poltergeeks. Did you need to carry out any research to help you write the book, and if so, what did you research?
I watched the best ghost movie ever made, Poltergeist. I actually went to the theaters to see it 30 years ago and it’s still a damned scary movie after all these years. I spent a bit of time online watching YouTube videos of poltergeist activity (most of which is fake, but cool nonetheless) and I researched the reasons why paranormal investigators think that poltergeists exist.

The other books you’ve written, like Unseen World, have been aimed more at adult audiences. What led you to write about Julie a teenage girl, and for a younger audience?
Believe it or not, I wanted to see if I could do it. That’s been my personal driver when it comes to writing – to see if I can actually pull off writing a story that is believable and enjoyable. When I started writing POLTERGEEKS, I didn’t have an agent. Little did I realize at the time that my story would be the little manuscript that could. I found an agent thanks to this book and I found a publisher with distribution all over the world. My first three books were with Snowbooks – you don’t need an agent to submit, but you do with Angry Robot.

Who was your favourite character to develop and write for in Poltergeeks?
Betty – end of story. She’s a bit amoral and a very colourful character. When you have a character with no moral code other than an understanding of good vs evil, you get to write in a no-holds barred kind of way. So I really wanted a character who’d leap off the page in her eccentricities – Betty wears a garish leopard skin outfit – she looks like someone you’d see in an ad for a 1958 Chevrolet. She’s larger than life and fun as hell to write.

Julie is a very sassy character – did you enjoy writing from her perspective?
There’s a certain amount of snark required of all protagonists in urban fantasy.  There’s a bit of the happy warrior/self-deprecating hero in those kinds of characters. Julie is a great character because she is utterly fearless in the face of impossible odds but she’s terrified of losing those people closest to her. She’s a little bit doomed, but I think all UF protagonists are a little bit doomed in their own way. She’s strong, she’s sassy, she’s not at all afraid to unleash hell on earth to defeat the bad guy. She’s also vulnerable in the way that all teenagers are vulnerable.

If you were to 'sell' Poltergeeks using a single quote or line from the book, what would you choose?
“I’m a girl. I’m a witch. I’m a Shadowcull. Someone is going to pay.”

As a self proclaimed ‘comic book geek’, do you see yourself ever producing your own comic book?
I’ve never really thought about it. If I were to do it, I’d probably want to do a graphic novel that is very bleak and disturbing and filled with non-stop action so, you know, zombies. I do love zombies.

Which authors, characters or comic books inspired you when you were growing up?
When I was a teen there was no Young Adult genre. So we all read Stephen King or John Saul. King is the starting point for all good novels where we’re asking the reader to suspend belief for a few hundred pages. THE STAND is at the epicenter of this, I think. But anyone who wants to write something creepy where young people are involved needs to read John Saul’s earlier works like “When the Wind Blows” or “Comes the Blind Fury”.

If you could be a superhero what would your special powers be?
Flight and the ability to cause things to explode with just a thought. 

What can we expect next from Sean Cummings?
The sequel to POLTERGEEKS has been submitted to my editor at Strange Chemistry. It’s called STUDENT BODIES and it’s a much darker book.  My agent is shopping an adult UF called TIM REAPER and I do hope it finds a publisher because it’s a thrilling read with a great central character who is even more amoral than Betty in POLTERGEEKS. I have to do revisions for an apocalyptic YA novel I’ve written called THE NORTH.

Thank you so much Sean for taking time to answer my questions! If you would like more information on Sean or his first YA book Poltergeeks which will be published on October 4th 2012 by Strange Chemistry, you can find it here: 

19 September 2012


Here's a quick bit of info, in case you missed it first time around like me.

An Evening with David Almond and Oliver Jeffers, chaired by Sarah McIntyre

Wednesday 26th September at 6.30pm

Tickets £5/£3 for loyalty card holders, available in store or via events@piccadilly.waterstones.co.uk or 020 7851 2400.

David Almond, multi award-winning author of Skellig and Kit’s Wilderness will be joined by internationally acclaimed artist, writer and illustrator, Oliver Jeffers, whose books include Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star and the new release This Moose Belongs to Me, where they will be discussing their new book The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas, through a special words and pictures event, chaired by illustrator and writer, Sarah McIntyre.

More details: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/displayDetailEvent.do?searchType=1&author=David|Almond

18 September 2012


Author: John Dickinson
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers
UK Release date: September 2012
Genre: Children’s / MG
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Everyone has a Lifetime Deed Counter (LDC). It works like this: You offer to help with the housework: Lifetime Good Deeds +1. You steal your little brother's sweets: Lifetime Bad Deeds +1.
When Muddlespot is promoted from a devil's janitor to special agent, the pressure is on for him to infiltrate Sally Jones and make her Bad. If he doesn't, it will be Very Bad for him. But as his mission leads him down Sally's ear and into the deepest recesses of her mind, all becomes unclear. Just what does it mean to be good? And can it be good to be bad?

Muddlespot has been sent on a mission of great importance: to turn Sally Jones to the dark side. For an overgrown wart that cleans up entrails, his promotion to special agent was a pretty big deal, but despite being taken out of his comfort zone he seemed to muddle his way through somehow. In fact Muddlespot was the most unsuspecting protagonist there is. At least I think he’s the protagonist. Coming from Pandemonium, aka hell, he should be the antagonist. But for someone who lives in Pandemonium, he isn’t really all that bad. In fact I rather liked him. I wish I knew more about him, but I’m not sure that you could know more about someone that has been grown from a wart by his evil master Corozin purely to clean up the left overs of the other special agents that fail.

It took me a while to realise that the 'Win' in the book title actually referred to Windleberry, a tuxedo wearing angel sent down to save Sally. With a Lifetime Deed Counter that absolutely no bad deeds, Sally is very special. And it is up to Windleberry to jump into Sally's head like some James Bond character and protect her from evil thoughts. I loved the way that Sally's organised and almost repressed brain and thoughts change, so that when Windleberry enters her brain, it's full of vandalised statues and graffiti. And I also liked the psychological element of the angels and demons influencing people and I could imagine people in the real world struggling with good and bad thoughts being feed to them from external forces before acting. Hearing little snippets of what was being whispered to Sally's teachers and mum was funny and you could see the point at which they sometimes broke and committed a bad deed.

The story takes a very blasé attitude to gore and violence. In Pandemonium, torture is commonplace, with fleshed peeled from bones and eyes literally rolling across the ground. I can imagine that some young boys would rather enjoy all the gory details and jokes within the text, but personally I’m not sure such a throw-away attitude would be good for every young reader.

The idea of an angel and devil whispering away to the subconscious mind, isn’t a new one. But the way John Dickinson has written Muddle and Win, and included such unusual characters, brings up so many questions and moral dilemmas. What makes someone good or bad? Can being bad be justified? Can you be bad but still be good? Maybe using the terms good and bad is too black and white. Sometimes standing up for yourself can seem like being bad, but for someone like Sally, who has always done everything other people’s way, a bit of selfishness certainly wouldn’t hurt her. Well, maybe. For younger readers, I think the book will be a good prompt to think about their own behaviour. It certainly made me think.

Sally’s ‘naughty’ sister, Billie couldn’t do anything right. As we were introduced to the inner Billie, Scattletail, her resident demon, and Ismael, her guardian angel, I enjoyed seeing why Billie acts the way she does. At first she just seemed like the naughty, selfish one, but as I started thinking about how people and their actions interplay and rebound, I kind of felt sorry for her. She’s always been compared to her sister and struggles to do anything as well. But when you get inside her head, the relationship between inner Billie, Scattletail and Ismael was much more balanced and relaxed and seemed like a lot more fun, especially when they played cards together.

Although I enjoyed the story overall, it seemed to take a long time for Muddlespot and Windleberry to both get inside Sally's mind. In fact the story was half way in, before any of the really interesting 'thought-persuasion' and angel versus demon dilemmas started. 

Muddle and Win: The Battle for Sally Jones is a thought provoking book about good, bad and deeds somewhere in the middle.

Rating: 4*

16 September 2012


Author: Jana Oliver
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK Release date: 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father's footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen.
But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart—and her life? (Goodreads)

The main protagonist Riley is a very independent and feisty young girl. Despite the fact that so many people don't think she can or should be a Demon Trapper, Riley is determined to prove them all wrong. She's had a hard life but she still keeps picking herself up and carrying on. It was also good to see a kick ass heroine cry and show her vulnerable side. I have to admit though, she might have meant well but her insistence of doing things her way and fend for herself (often to spite Beck) didn't always work out best.

I was impressed and surprised by the world building which was added in throughout the story. Riley lives in Atlanta, where poverty is rife, unemployment is the norm and people will steal anything and everything including odd bits of metal. Schools are run from old coffee shops because there is so little government funding. Oliver has taken the current economic climate and recession and pushed it into something dangerous, gritty and almost depressing. And in Riley's Atlanta, demons run riot. Usually they are on their own, but things have started to change. Most of these demons were pretty scary, able to whip up tornadoes and such. But I found myself liking the little magpie in Riley's apartments, because he didn't seem intentionally mean or horrible. In fact he seemed sweet and endearing, and I would have loved to seen him a bit more. I'm excited to see what happens with the demons in the next books - can the perceptions of them change, and can the demon vs demon hunter relationship change?

When it came to Beck, Riley was a bit of an idiot quite frankly. She couldn't get past the fact that he had 'rejected' her years ago and that he had a strong relationship with her father. She was mean to him, grumpy, and often judged his actions without thinking. With some parts of the story told by Beck, I could see that he was in fact a decent guy that had overcome some pretty horrible stuff. He was tough, rugged but protective of Riley. I may even go so far to say I liked him a lot.

The three main men in Riley's life were the aforementioned Beck, Simon her new boyfriend, and the mysterious Ori. Each was very different. Whilst Beck swigged down beers, Simon was thinking about the religious implications of things. Whilst I didn't begrudge him being religious in the slightest, his tendency to think that all demons were automatically evil rubbed me up the wrong way. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens between Riley, Beck, Ori and Simon, in their big love...square...?

Forsaken is a dark, kick ass urban fantasy and a great start to the Demon Trappers series.

Rating: 4*

14 September 2012


Author: Andy Mulligan
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
UK Release date: 2011
Genre: Children's / MG
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three "dumpsite boys" make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.
One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It's up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat--boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money--to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.

Trash is written from the perspective of three young boys: Raphael, Gardo and Rat. They live in extreme poverty, trawling everyday through rubbish and collecting what can be used or sold from a huge dumpsite. Raphael's unabashed account of how they search through faeces looking for something of value instantly made me feel so sad. With the additional accounts from Father Julliard, Sister Olivia and Grace, it makes the story a truly believable account. But it also heartbreaking. How could a country's leaders allow its people and children to live in such squallor? Unfortunately it happens in many third world countries, and Andy Mulligan based the dumpsite on a visit to Manila, and it really brings home how other people live and survive in the world.

Life for the boys is pretty bleak until they discover this exciting and dangerous bag. At last there is some hope in their lives. But it brings so much danger with it. The plot twisted and turned as the boys risked everything on what they might find, and when Raphael was taken to the police station for some very questionable 'questioning', I was really scared for the little boy. But each of the boys surprises you in them determination to not give in. They are three little survivors.

Each of the boys had a distinct voice and character. Raphael was more innocent and childlike of the three, able to win anyone with his smile; Gardo was the protector, looking after Raphael; and Rat was a little enigma. Rat really caught my attention because he described himself as ugly with his broken teeth, got his name from living with rats, and had no family to look after him. And yet underneath the lost and ugly exterior, he was smart, tough and cunning. Despite all the odds against the boys, I really wanted them win out and triumph over the evil police and politicians.

There is an ongoing theme of morals in this book. Not only are the police corrupt and unafraid to kill, but politicians and leaders are bent, taking money from their own people who live in stark poverty. It made me so cross, and as I could see what was coming in the plot I couldn't help but smile. The actions and decisions of the boys, starting with keeping the bag to themselves, is also up for scrutiny. But honestly I don't think anyone would blame the boys of any wrong doing once they've seen how they live.

Trash is a heartbreaking and hopeful account of three friends that find a miracle in amongst the rubbish.

Rating: 4*

13 September 2012


Following on from my previous review of the crime thriller Crusher by Niall Leonard, here is the trailer for the book. As the video trailer and music suggests, this story is at times intense and violent. Take a look....

12 September 2012


Author: Niall Leonard
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
UK Release date: 13th September 2012
Genre: YA Crime thriller
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

To catch a killer, Finn Maguire may have to become one....

Everything changed the day Finn found his father in a pool of blood, bludgeoned to death. His dull, dreary life is turned upside downas he become's the prime suspect. How can he clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him?

Facing danger at every turn, uncovering dark family secrets and braving the seedy London underworld, Finn is about to discover that only the people you trust can really hurt you...

Crime isn't usually my genre of choice, and whilst I didn't necessarily like the violence in this story, the young protagonist Finn made the story for me.

Finn has had more than his fair share of bad luck and rough patches in his life, what with his mother leaving him and his dyslexia. He's had to help his dad pay the bills and fell into petty crime in the past. Now his father is dead and there is no-one to help or look out for him. I instantly liked his no bull attitude, and ability to pick himself up and carry on. He was absolutely determined, no matter what the cost, to find out who killed his dad. Even if it meant getting himself into a whole heap of trouble and giving the police a bit of smart-assed lip. Finn had no fear and it was his reckless behaviour and outspokenness that made the story. I did feel a little sorry for him, because his step-dad had been the best thing in his life and suddenly he had no-one. But Finn isn't really the kind of person you can feel sorry for. He doesn't mope around or want sympathy; he's a born survivor.

I was expecting the plot to be really fast paced and action packed, but to start it wasn't. Although the book spans roughly a week of Finn's life, in which his questions get him the wrong kind of attention, the plot didn't have much sense of urgency. It was only towards the end when Finn was in some serious and violent trouble that the action became nerve wracking and scarily intense. I did however find the mystery of who killed his father compelling. With so many suspects and different leads coming out of the woodwork, the 'whodunnit' element kept me reading as much as Finn's bravado and outlandish behaviour. I enjoyed the twists and changes from one subplot to another, although there were some rather convenient 'coincidences' that helped move the plot along. I didn't see the ending coming at all and enjoyed seeing where it ended up.

As you may or may not know, Niall Leonard is the other half of E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Although I'm not really fussed on who's who or the hype around a book, and even though Crusher isn't normally my kind of book, Leonard has made a very promising start as a writer and will be worth keeping an eye on.

Crusher is a gritty crime thriller with spells of violence and swearing; with a protagonist with no fear and a crime overload that had me seriously scared.

Rating: 4*

9 September 2012


Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Templar
UK Release date: September 2012
Genre: YA, Mythology
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Watch out, all you mythological beasties roaming the streets of San Francisco - There's a new kick-ass team of demon-fighters coming your way - Meet Grace, who just moved to San Francisco. Then, there's Gretchen, who is fed up of monsters pulling her out into the small hours, especially on a school night. And Greer, who has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But everything tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're all sisters. These three teenage descendants of Medusa must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight. (Amazon)

I found Sweet Venom to be a fun and sassy read, and I loved the mythological twist of Greek-style monsters roaming the streets of San Francisco. The monsters were creepy, smelly and each very distinct. Tera Lynn Childs did a great job of recreating snarling beasts, and having been trained to send them back to their world, Gretchen was the perfect, feisty monster hunter. Straight away we were thrown into Gretchen's monster fighting life, giving the story instant pace and action. As Grace and Greer became involved in the foray later on, their attempts at sending the monsters back were a little clumsy and haphazard but it made the story feel more dangerous, as well as humorous.

The story is told from the points of view of three sisters: Grace, Gretchen and Greer. Each girl has a very distinct personality and narrative voice making it easy to distinguish whose POV you were reading. I loved Gretchen's fierce and tough attitude, and Grace's sweet and caring nature. Grace was a pushover but I could relate more easily to her, as she struggled to fit in at a new school. As she gained strength throughout the book I was there cheering her on. Greer, who enters the story much later on, was a bit of a snob who won't accept less than the best. She wasn't easy to like to start, but all of the sisters changed and learnt a little over the story and it made them all more admirable for it.

Lots of things started going wrong for Gretchen, with the plot taking unexpected twists and turns. Her mentor Ursula has disappeared and the rules that means only one monster can be in the human world at a time has changed. Straight away there is a sense of danger, and although Gretchen flounders a little, Grace sees everything in a positive life. There are plenty of questions that need answering and mysteries to solve. Although the story ends on a positive and hopeful note, there was little resolution to any of the plot questions, leaving a lot to be answered in the next books. Whilst I like to resolve some things at the end of every book, I'm still intrigued and excited to find out what happens next.

I think Sweet Venom would really suit a young teen, female audience who would be able to relate to one of the sisters in some way. There's also some subtle morals woven into the story too, about standing up for yourself, being yourself and looking out for family which might hit home more at this age.

Sweet Venom is a sassy action adventure with a fun mythological twist. Perfect for younger teens, this is a great start to the series.

Rating: 4*

7 September 2012


Please note: there may be spoilers for The Iron Witch, #1 in this series, but there won't be any spoilers for The Wood Queen.

Author: Karen Mahoney
Series: Yes, #2
UK Publisher: Corgi
UK Release date: February 2012
Genre: YA Faerie

To keep her best friend, Navin, from being killed at the hands of vicious wood elves, Donna Underwood stole the elixir of life. Now she's facing an alchemist tribunal while her mother lies dying, succumbing to the elven curse that shattered her mind. In desperation, Donna seeks an audience with Aliette, the fierce and manipulative Wood Queen, who offers a deal: if Donna can use her strange and burgeoning powers to help the wood elves, Aliette will free her mother from the curse. Along with Navin and Xan, the half-fey guy she's falling for, Donna struggles to unlock the secrets of her iron tattoos in time to save her mother's life. But some secrets are better left untold.

Donna is the kind of girl that tries to do everything herself, but often things end up going awry and not at all according to plan. Having been told faery stories by her father as a child where the heroine never waits to be rescued by the hero, Donna has learnt to charge into a situation and try to handle it herself. But I had to admire Donna for wanting to do help save her Mum and solve her problems with the Wood Queen on her own, even if it didn't always work out for the best. She's got guts and determination and for that I liked Donna, rather than throw my hands up in frustration at her. She also started developing new powers and I can't wait to see how these develop further.

Despite the slow start, the story's plot covered 3 days making it feel well paced and very real as it followed Donna's life and the dilemmas and problems she faced. Although there was plenty of action, excitement and surprises, the book felt to me like it was setting everything up for the final book; asking more questions and presenting more mysteries and clues but never actually resolving anything. For me this book didn't quite follow up The Iron Witch with as much gusto as I expected, but I'm hoping that all the set up will make The Stone Demon that much better.

In this book, there were a lot more questions about the Order and what its true purposes are. Could its leader Simon by trusted? Would Donna's aunt Paige really do the best for Donna? Sure the Order protect people from the Fey but do they actually do good? With the introduction of new characters such as Robert Lee there was even more interest and intrigue surrounding the witches. Robert, a member of the Order of the Crow, was a great new addition - I couldn't figure out at first if he was a good guy or bad guy, but his quick wit and mysterious air made me want to know more about him.

What can I say about Xan - he's gorgeous, irresistible and practically perfect in every way. He helped Donna, fought along side her, and made my knees a bit wobbly. I just hope we see as much if not more of him after the revelation of the trial.

The Wood Queen is an easy enjoyable read that leaves a lot of action and answers for the final installment in the series.

Rating: 3.5*

6 September 2012


Picture of the goody bag
Following the lovely launch of Strange Chemistry, I was lucky enough to get an extra goody bag to offer to 1 UK resident as a giveaway.

The giveaway prize includes:
  • Strange Chemistry reusable bag
  • ARC of The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Clare Rose
  • ARC of Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
  • 3 postcards
  • USB with ePubs of Strange Chemistry launch titles, and an excerpt from Broken by AE Rought 
  • 1 unicorn pencil topper/rubber
  • Bottle of pirate bubbles

Unfortunately due to postage, I'm only offering this as a UK giveaway. You can enter below until Friday 21st September 2012. On 22nd September I will contact the winner and you will have 2 days to reply, otherwise the giveaway will be offered to another entrant.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 September 2012


There is some very exciting new today from Random House Children’s Publishers, as they have launched a new website aimed at teen and YA readers, TotallyRandom books.

It features author information with book samples, book trailers, blog posts written by authors and you can even vote on what's hot. 

Over the past 3 years RHCP has built an active teen community via Facebook and teen mailing lists and the new site provides a platform to grow this community, connecting readers from some of RHCP’s most successful teen brands including Lauren Kate, Christopher Paolini and Malorie Blackman, and introducing them to up and coming teen and YA authors.

The site launches with a feature on Jenny Downham before the forthcoming release of the Now is Good film adaptation of her YA novel, Before I Die.

Go check it out now!

4 September 2012


Author: Melissa Marr
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Harper Collins
UK Release date: 4th September 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

I have to admit I was a little dubious reading this one as I haven't exactly loved other books by the author in the past. But this book gripped me straight away, and I absolutely loved it.

The plot was a cleverly crafted, beautifully woven and complex web. The different subplots interplayed so fluidly that at points when I was thinking 'what the hell just happened?!', things came together and fitted like another piece in a jigsaw puzzle. The plot was a little like a chess game, with wild twists and turns happening as each character made their next move in the desire for power. (Sorry for all my game analogies, but as you can probably tell I think the plot was really well worked out, with such clever changes and huge surprises and revelations. Along with the world building and strong character motivations there were so many different layers to this story, but they all worked perfectly together.) There was also plenty of action and intrigue to keep me utterly captivated and guessing what might happen next, but honestly with this book I couldn't rightly predict anything!

To start, the world building with its history of wars and hostility between witches and daimons and changing between the human and daimon worlds, had me a little confused. But soon I became fascinated with The City and its Carnival of Souls. This daimon world was a little more brutal and violent than I had expected, and it harked back to medieval times where caste systems were still strongly adhered to and those at the bottom had to fight, steal, kill or whore themselves to survive. Danger lurked around every corner and the Carnival felt very dark and unpredictable. The stark contrast of the two worlds was brilliant, and although there was less action in Mallory's human world, it didn't make it any less interesting.

Carnival of Souls featured a large cast of characters, and each one was well developed with distinct personalities and very focused motivations that catapulted the action and created the shocking plot twists. I felt a little sorry for Mallory, raised in the human world and pretty much oblivious to the truth. She'd been sheltered by Adam for her own protection and although he'd trained her, her ignorance made her practically defenceless against daimons or witches. She also had no say in her life - Adam pretty much controlled what she did, who she saw and where they lived, and even Kaleb started making decisions that impacted her life without her knowledge or consent. Although this felt right within the plot and with an understanding of why Kaleb was making these decisions, it still felt wrong that Mallory was often used by people as a tool. I respected the fact that she didn't just fall straight into Kaleb's arms, and I would have liked to have seen a little more happen or shared between the pair to better understand why Kaleb liked her so much.

In terms of Kaleb, he was very dangerous and violent. But his past and low social standing left him pretty much no other option on how to survive in The City, so I couldn't help but feel for him. I also admit that I kind of fell for his tough exterior and caring protectiveness over pack member Zevi. He was an enigma, scheming away and making dangerous power plays, but I think his boldness and determination attracted me to him.

At first I was also a little uncertain of Aya, because she was so forthright, cold and brutal. But she grew on me as the story progressed and I admired her strength and courage. She wasn't immune to caring, asking for help but she was very clever.

With some of the characters I couldn't tell what they might be up to and whether they could be completely trusted but this just intrigued me more. I can't wait to read the next book and see what happens to the individual characters and in the greater was between witches and daimons.

Carnival of Souls is beautifully crafted and deliciously dark. A must read for this year.

Rating: 5*

Carnival of Souls is out today and can be bought as an ebook too :)

2 September 2012


Author: Gwenda Bond
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Strange Chemistry
UK Release date: 6th September 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other. (Goodreads)

In Blackwood, Gwenda Bond has taken a seed of truth from history and created something mysterious, alchemical and dark. Roanoke is a tiny little island with a real past - 114 people went missing back when America was first being explored, and in Blackwood, 114 people mysteriously disappear again. I loved this concept of taking elements of history and a mystery from real life and turning into a modern day story.

The way aspects of the backstory and history fitted together with the present day did however confuse me a little. I wasn't 100% certain what the strange gun really did, or where the people actually disappeared to. The writing style was also a little halting as the character point of view changed with chapters from Miranda to Phillips, slowing down the flow, and I did struggle in the last third of the story as the pace slowed down.

Miranda was the island's resident 'freak', and her father was the town drunk. They came from a long line of Blackwood's, each shunned as their ancestors were. The family curse placed on her would probably overwhelm most people. But Miranda was determined and unstoppable. Together with Phillips, who has his own reputation, Miranda and Phillips were an unlikely but interesting pair to solve the Island's mystery.

At first Phillips comes across as pure bad boy. He steals his parent's car, sneaks off campus, and breaks into buildings. But as I got to understand him more, I realised he was caring, reliable, and trusting. I would have liked to have known more about why Phillips liked Miranda. I know he does, I know that he feels some affinity with her, but I wanted him to spell out what he liked about her. For me that would have made his feelings more tangible and real, rather than something that just existed.

Dee, the famous alchemist, is linked into the story as the master behind the history of the island. What made him into the bad guy for me was the fact that he inhabited someone else's body (I won't say who) which was rather gross. He was very creepy and sinister character, making him a perfect bad guy to the story.

Blackwood is a dark and interesting fusion of historical and modern day alchemy, mystery and magic.

Rating: 3.5*