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review 2017-10-20 09:39
Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy
The Hawkweed Prophecy - Irena Brignull

I received a copy from Netgalley. An interesting quick read with a switched at birth plot with a magical twist. A UK based YA paranormal romance.

 

Teenager Poppy has always been awkward and never seemed to fit in anywhere. Whenever she gets stressed, angry or upset, strange things just seem to happen. And as a result Poppy keeps getting expelled from school. Even though she has no idea what happened most of the time. Doesn’t help that her dad is a workaholic and almost never home. Her mum had some sort of breakdown and is an institution convinced that Poppy is not her daughter.

 

Another teen, Ember lives with a coven of witches in caravans who live off the grid and by their own female only society rules. Ember is really pretty, sweet and innocent and made fun of by the other girls. She’s by far the worst witch in the group and seems to have little to no magical talent whatsoever. Her cousin Sorrel is the meanest of the mean girls. Sorrel’s supposedly destined to be the next Queen of the Witches. Sorrel’s mom Raven is the sister of Ember’s mum Charlock. T

 

here’s some sort of prophecy and Raven has interpreted it to her favour. The witches only take normal men as lovers in order to become pregnant, only the girls are allowed to live. They seem to know when its going to be a boy and the mother is given a potion which kills the baby in the womb before it can be born. Raven’s been manipulating Charlock with potions and spells to make sure if she gets pregnant it’s only ever boys that she knows will never be born. Until something changes and Charlock finds herself pregnant with a girl. Raven is furious at this, she wants her daughter to be the next Witch Queen so the two of them to conspire to make Ember as miserable as possible.

 

Which sucks because not only is it unecessarily cruel, Ember is really nice. Very naive, but good and pure and wants to believe the best in everyone. Ember has a secret little hang out just on the edge of the witch’s property. By chance Poppy finds her way there one afternoon and meets Ember. They become fast friends, a connection sparking between them immediately. I really enjoyed the friendship between Ember and Poppy. How they connected with each other, Poppy tells Ember about her normal ever day world and even though she’s not supposed to tell, Ember tells Poppy about hers. Poppy’s world suddenly starts to make sense. She becomes obsessed with magic and witches and convinced that that is why the things around her happen as they do.

 

While all this is happening Poppy meets homeless teen Leo when a couple of nasty men try to mess with her. Leo intervenes and saves her. I can’t say I really liked Leo all that much. Compared to Poppy and Ember he didn’t seem to have much of a personality, he seemed like a generic love interest with a tragic background, and didn’t do much, while Poppy and Ember and the other background characters all seemed to leap off the page and to life. Leo has an instant connection with Poppy and feels like they were destined to meet. It’s eye rolling YA insta-love at it’s best. Sometimes insta-love works, sometimes not and for me, this one was just annoying.

 

Poppy starts spending more and more time with Leo, and eventually brings him to meet Ember, who of course having never actually met a boy before is fascinated with him. Meanwhile, Sorrel has noticed Ember’s been sneaking off to hang out with Poppy and blabs to her nasty mother. So Raven has Sorrel spy on Ember to find out where she’s going. And Sorrel spots her with Leo. Next thing you know, Sorrel is suddenly consumed with jealousy. She’s falling for Leo as well.

 

The plot takes a few darker twists as Poppy learns more about magic and some home truths are revealed. Silly love triangles aside, this was actually quite a good read with some interesting takes on magic. I really liked Poppy and Ember as main characters, both were quite unique and full of life. She makes some interesting choices towards the end of the book. Some of the plot twists were kind of obvious right from the start, but either way, it was a well written book and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Books for the review copy.

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review 2017-06-13 11:45
Review: The Turn
The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death - Kim Harrison

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Since The Hollows is one of my favourite urban fantasy series, and probably one the series that got me hooked on urban fantasy in the first place, a prequel to the Hollows was a must have. I put in a Netgalley request as soon as I saw it. (Even though I’m only up to book 7 in the series).

 

Though after reading it, I can’t honestly say I liked it all that much. It was okay, somewhere between a two and a three star read for me. The first half of the book was full of science stuff that I found incredibly boring and a slog to get through. I’ve never DNFed a Kim Harrison book before, so series and author love made me determined to finish it.

 

 I found it quite confusing, it didn’t help also that I could have sworn there was a Trent Kalamak in the Rachel Morgan series. It was only when I was reading reviews on Goodreads and saw the questions about this book section that someone else had asked the same thing that was puzzling me. Not the same character, two different characters (though there was a ding! moment towards the end of the book that made me go aaaah, that’s why).

 

One or two familiar characters also popped up, demon Algaliarept (who’s name I can’t pronounce to save my life) was his usual delightfully obnoxious (and somewhat amusing in a snarky way) self and Quen.  One of the vampires makes an appearance towards the end as well.

 

This is all about two dark elf scientists who are fighting it out for funding, Trent and Trisk, both of whom hate each other, Trisk’s created a genetically engineered tomato that will supposedly end third world hunger. Forced to work together each have their own separate agendas. As I said, the first half was all very technical and the two of them playing off each other to get to their own goals. (I had to keep reminding myself this was set in the 60s as well). Favourite classic songs are on the radio as new music.

 

But of course, jealousy rears its ugly head and one thing leads to another, something goes hideously wrong. This resulting in a wide spread disease that nearly wipes out the human race, bringing out the fear and repercussions of a bunch of vampires, witches and other species trying their best to get head of it and survive as well.  While at the same time Trisk and a companion, the Dr who created the virus in the first place, there’s links to her genetic tomato, and Trent trying to keep on top of things.

 

The second half was much more exciting as things went from bad to worse and Trisk and her friends try to fix the problem. There’s something – satisfying is not the word I’d use – but there’s definitely a so that’s how it all happened feeling about now knowing how The Hollows all started, but it’s certainly not a favourite novel. Though I am glad I read it, and would certainly recommend to Hollows fans.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-03 19:52
Review: Witchtown
Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

An enjoyable YA fantasy with a rather unique take on witches. In this novel witches have been living among humans forever, Natural witches, witches born with power, and Learned witches, those who become witches with training. The secret came out and there was wide spread panic, leading to the US government creating “havens” for witches. Towns just for witches where they can feel safe and be with their own kind.  There’s also a darker more mysterious kind of witch known as a Void witch. Little is known other than they’re bad news.

 

Most havens aren’t the best places in the world to live, someone came up with the idea of making a town better than all the other havens, a multi billionaire with big government influence created a spectacular, wealthy haven called Witchtown.

 

The novel starts with teen Macie and her mother Aubra arriving in Witchtown to start a new life. Only Aubra and Macie have a secret – they’re con artists and thieves there on a specific mission – to rob Witchtown.

 

Aubra is the latest addition to my Worst YA Parent list. She’s obnoxious right from the get go, Macie is clearly struggling with something that happened in the last Haven they conned, something to do with a boy she really liked, but right off there’s an impression it ended badly and the mother was to blame. She flat out ignores Macie’s obvious objections to being where they are now and heads off on her plan. Aubra is a very powerful Natural witch, Macie has a secret about her own power and Aubra often holds this against her to manipulate things to her advantage. She really is a horrible piece of work, but can be very charming when greasing the wheels.

 

Macie was much more likeable. I don’t usually con artist main characters and definitely not characters who are thieves. Though there is something quite sympathetic about Macie, that as a reader I found myself actually liking her as a character. She was a bit stubborn and sulky, under the circumstances this is quite understandable. She could be a bit of a bitch herself, but as the novel progresses, Macie shows some pretty impressive character growth over what she feels is right and wrong.

 

Aubra’s determined to go ahead with her plan to rob the town, and gets to know the right people. Macie finds herself fitting in more than she ever has anywhere and as she gets to know some of the other teens in town, she learns not everyone is what they first seem. There’s much more to people, and as she starts getting to know people and make friends she begins to think of a life without her mother’s overbearing presence.

 

Through flashbacks we learn a little bit of Macie’s history, what happened the last time she had a potential friend, and why she’s so reluctant when the kids she meets in Wichtown want to get to know her.

 

It goes to Macie’s character growth. Over the novel as Macie learns more about Witchtown and the people and discovers her own inner strengths, she also learns some pretty shocking secrets about herself and her own levels of power. And some pretty terrible deceptions on her mother’s part as well.

 

It’s a fun easy read with some great world building, and decent, well fleshed out characters, twisty secrets and some good friendships built, though not without a little drama thrown in. There’s also a little hint of romance but not the main focus of Macie’s attention. Macie shows a tremendous amount of strength and self-worth as her story is told. Also, a really interesting and different take on YA witches, something I’ve not seen before.

 

I would definitely read something by this author again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-03-29 20:10
Review: The Witch's Tears
The Witch's Tears: (Sequel to The Witch's Kiss) - Katharine Corr,Elizabeth Fernando Corr

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A delightful follow up to the Witch’s Kiss. A few months later witch in training Merry and her brother Leo are still trying to process the evens of the first book. It’s the summer holidays, no school. Merry is focused on her witch training. Leo has become moody and withdrawn.

 

Merry’s witch training isn’t going quite as well as she would like, she’s got much more power than anyone seems to realize, and she can do things that there aren’t written instructions for. I really like the way witchcraft works in the novel, the way the spells are performed and the history surrounding it. Though it’s a little surprising while there’s a big coven there seems to be so few teenage daughters. Only one other teen besides Merry shows up in the novel. That aside, the coven working together aspect is pretty interesting.

 

Though it’s not surprising that for Merry it can get incredibly frustrating because all these women are trained witches and grownups to boot. So when Merry accidentally stumbles on a file in her grandmother’s house about a women who turns out to have been murdered, and was a witch as well…it’s a new mystery to solve. Of course Merry is told to leave it alone.

 

Merry’s prophetic-like dreams are back as well, this time telling of a fairy-tale monster. But is there something more to this?

 

On top of this Merry’s grandmother has disappeared, more dead witches are turning up, Leo is becoming more withdrawn. Two different new boys turns up, one a drifter who camps in the woods near the Black Lake strikes up a friendship with Leo, which has potential to turn into something more, and the other shows up at Merry’s grandmother’s house around the time Gran goes missing. Both have secrets and mysteries about them.

 

The story telling is as a top notch as the first book, Merry is an incredibly likeable main character. I enjoy her voice immensely. She still manages to be sassy, and snarky, sensible, though not without faults. Her magic for one – still difficult to control and comes out at inopportune moments, especially when she’s pissed off – which happens a few times, leading to a few plot twists.

 

Didn’t like Leo quite as much in this book, he’s pulled away from Merry and has become quite stubborn and moody, he’s struggled to cope with a certain death from the first book, so it’s sort of understandable, but at the same time, his secretive attitude is annoying. He’s not outright mean to Merry or anything, but he’s got a definite chip on his shoulder attitude, and being secretive and shutting her out, which is sad considering how close they were in the first book. At least we get Leo’s point of view, so the reader does get a bit more insight into his character. Plus, Leo gets a romance in this installment, so yay for that.

 

An intriguing mystery to solve and new characters to unravel and get to know. And one hell of a cliff-hanger at the end! I really hope there is another installment ASAP.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

 

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review 2017-03-13 18:33
Bad Blood
Bad Blood - Demitria Lunetta

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I pre ordered this ages before I requested a review copy from Netgalley. I must admit I pre ordered based on cover and the fact that the title is Taylor Swift song. I probably read the blurb at some point and forgot what it was about.

 

And to my immense surprise my Netgalley request was actually approved.

 

Possible trigger warnings for self-harm.

 

This was a fun book about a girl who’s visiting relatives in Scotland while at the same time having strange dreams about twin girls in the time of the Scottish Witch Trials. (I usually don’t like books where the characters have the same name as myself, but thankfully this was a first person novel so it didn’t grate on me too much). The main character Heather has some disturbing compulsions that make her carve intricate designs into her skin, which make her bleed.

 

At the start of the novel she’s been caught by her parents and been sent to a Wellness Centre for recovery. Which at least seems to be working, she’s taking meds, talking to a therapist and come home, and been allowed to go on to her annual vacation to visit her Aunt Abbie in Scotland.  With check ins with her parents and on line Skye sessions with her therapist.

 

Only the need to carve the weird designs into her skin haven’t really gone away. She’s got it under control enough to fool the grownups into thinking she’s okay when she’s really not. To be fair though, she knows she’s doing something wrong, there is something unexplainable about the way the sudden compulsion over comes her. But she can’t cope or do anything until the design is carved into her skin. It’s a weird intricate knot type design.

 

There’s a historical element to the novel telling the story of twin sisters Prudence and Primrose who lived in the 1700s. Their story starts with one of them being burned as witch. Their history is revealed to Heather in the modern day through her dreams. Once loving sisters learning the healing craft of their ancestors with the mother, things turn sour turning the twins into bitter rivals going deeper into magic they should not be messing with.

 

All this is having a big effect on Heather in the modern day. In Edinburgh with her aunt Abbie, Heather gets some bad news about her aunt, and also has to deal with the fact that her grandmother has dementia and has been put into a home. Not fun on top of increasingly frightening nightmares starring Prudence and Primrose.

 

Having been to Scotland every summer for years and years Heather has made some really good friends with some of the other teens in town. She gets to see them in the summer. They’re all quite excited to be together again, though initially Heather is a little disappointed the older boy she likes isn’t there that summer, just his brother Robby who she’s known forever is. They’re good friends, but there’s a definite spark between them that everyone but Heather seems to see.   

 

As the dreams get worse and worse, and a few visits to grandma reveal some surprising information, talk of witches in the family, something bad involving using blood for spells, Heather does some digging. And discovers some home truths she never knew.

 

It’s a good story with a great historical and some really good mystical elements. Some good teen angst added in and with an inevitable romance. My only real issue with this which is why it was a four star rather than a five star read was I found most of the characters very two dimensional. They were all likeable, but I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from any of them really.

 

The novel was exceptionally well written, so it didn’t really matter that the characters were a little flat, the history and mythology worked well, and the magic elements were well done and quite unique. There’s also a really good sense of place, the Scottish setting is brilliantly done. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Edinburgh and the Scottish countryside. Both modern day and historical it felt really authentic, beautifully written and easy to picture.

 

Despite a few flaws, it was a really good read and definitely something I would read again.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for approving my request to view this title   

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