Category Archives: Reviews

The Left Hand of God a novel by Paul Hoffman


Occasionally one is lucky to stumble across a book that is mind-blowing in its intensity that you just have to stop and appreciate the sheer art that went into its creation.

The Left Hand of God is one such book! It was so brutal, gripping and amazing that I had trouble in putting it aside until I had finished, that said it took me three days to finish reading it.

I have not felt annoyance at having to go to bed or to work or in fact do anything other than quietly sit and absorb the story in ages.

Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie, for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary…

So begins the story of Thomas Cale, Kleist, Slow Henry and Riba. Cale’s entire life, and that of Kleist and Henry has been one of deprivation, and cruelty, a life in which they are being moulded in special ways to fight against the enemies of the Redeemers.

Forced to flee the Sanctuary after becoming witness to a crime that was hideous & brutal even to him, he becomes a prize that the Redeemers will never cease to chase. Finding, not exactly sanctuary, but relief with the Materazzi who capture them, Cale and his friends are schooled in the life of a culture that values good food, fine women, humour and the importance of nobility and class over capability, Cale and his friends learn that brutality and heartlessness exist even outside the walls of the Sanctuary.

Thomas Cale remains an enigma throughout, a tactical genius and born fighter, he looks upon battle less an art and rather something to be settled quickly and as brutally as possible. Showing flashes of cruelty and kindness to his few friends and (ever-growing number of) enemies, his back-story is eked out gradually over the course of the book; but the true nature of his importance to the Redeemers is kept a secret until the end.

Part historical epic and theological mystery as well as being a high-octane adventure thriller, The Left Hand of God takes place in a world familiar yet subtly different. Throughout the tale I kept catching glimpses and snippets of historical facts that I recognized but were strangely unfamiliar¬

The Left Hand of God is a book that could easily be my favourite book of the year, the only thing I want to do now is say write faster Paul Hoffman! I need to find out what happens next!

Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling

‘YOU’RE THE LAST OF THE WEREWOLVES. DON’T FIGHT IT, SON; EMBRACE IT. CONQUER IT.’

When the air is clear, sixteen year-old Drew Ferran can pick up the scent of a predator.

When the moon breaks through the clouds, a terrifying fever grips him.
And when a vicious beast invades his home, his gums begin to tear, his fingers become claws, and Drew transforms . . .

Forced to flee the family he loves, Drew seeks refuge in the most godforsaken parts of Lyssia. But when he is captured by Lord Bergan’s men, Drew must prove he is not the enemy.

There is something about epic fantasy that makes me geek out in a major way, and Rise of the Wolf is no exception. I had only ever heard about Curtis Jobling in connection with is you know who and when I was sent a copy of Return of the Wolf to review, I was not too sure about what to expect. The werewolf on the cover looks too friendly and fluffy to be a ravening beast of terror– although in hindsight after reading the book it fits in with Drew’s personality.

Even better is that although it looks like paranormal fantasy (the cover has a full moon, a moodily handsome main character and is shiny) it is not paranormal fantasy, it is epic fantasy and although it has therianthropes (were-beasts), magic and teenagers in peril it is not paranormal fantasy or even an urban romance.

Brief disclaimer: I do enjoy YA Paranormal Fantasy/Romance but I have been reading so much of it lately.

Having a good old-fashioned sword & (some) sorcery with added werelords made a welcome change.

Rise of the Wolf
is a brilliant beginning to looks like an awesome series!

Why did I like it? The structure is almost perfect for the beginning point of a series, the introduction of Drew, who is very much a homebody with very little interest in the wider world until something very bad™ happens and he has to flee for his life. As the story progresses we learn with him – about who he is, how his world works and how were-beasts get their abilities as well as touching on politics and social inequality with oblique references to humans as second class citizens. Fantasy worlds have always interested me, and, as I have previously mentioned I am a big fan of epic fantasy, and in this type of series the characters usually have an entire world to play in. Hints and brief descriptions of far-of lands are peppered throughout the book which bodes well for travel in future titles of this series. I also really enjoyed the flashes of horror that cropped up – werewolves experiencing monster attacks is something new for me! The politics was also interesting as a sub-plot with past betrayals and old broken alliances hinted at and at the end the son of a dead Wolf-king versus the King of the Beasts.

My 15 year-old inner reader LOVED this book, I am currently 20 years older than him and I loved it too!

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Another Christmas Eve review written in rhyme. This time Andrea Cremer’s new YA novel Nightshade gets the treatment…
‘Twas the night before Christmas, in old London Town
The snow lay outside, turning slushy and brown.
I wanted to go out, but it was too cold
So I picked up a book, of which I’d been told!

A novel called Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer
I’d heard it was good, man it was a screamer!
A tale about Calla, who could turn furry,
A Guardian – not werewolf (though the difference was blurry).

She saved a young lad named Shay, from attack
A choice that could mean death by her pack
The rules they were harsh, and completely unfair
but desire took root in her heart then and there.

The Guardians protect from the Searchers, the Keepers
I looked to the sky and shouted Goodness Jeepers!
This book it is good and once you begin
in a battle between this and your bed – book will win!

This book it is great, but over too soon
and when you crawl into bed and look at the moon.
Do not feel sad as you turn out your light
Because there will be more, so you can have a good night!

There is only one thing to say after reading this book and that is ZOMG! this book is fantastic!

A strong female lead, mysteries, wrapped in enigmas, teasing revelations throughout the book (but not enough to make everything clear), raging teenage werewolf hormones, the perils of interspecies romance.

It is a massive cliché to say this but: I did not want this book to end, sadly it did and it left me wanting more! Damn it, the second book is not out yet, they say that delayed gratification is good, but I want it now!

The Atomics

Atom, the young adult fiction imprint of Little, Brown, is delighted to announce the creation of The Atomics – a brand new young reviewers programme for readers aged twelve to eighteen.

Atom
has been busy expanding their list to include a wide-range of young adult titles, including mystery, adventure and humour alongside their more well-known paranormal series. And now they want to share it with everyone else!

Anyone who joins The Atomics will get the chance to receive pre-publication copies of new titles to review. The reviewers for each month will have their reviews posted in a new, dedicated section of the Atom website where they can be seen and commented on by anyone else who is interested in Atom’s books.

Atom is committed to making sure that every Atomic will get the opportunity to review a title they like the sound of, but hope that many more people will join in the conversation!

The intention of The Atomics is to provide a safe, dedicated space for under-eighteens to discuss books and hone their review skills, as well as giving our fans the chance to read books before they’re published!

Read more and sign up at The Atomics

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Guest review by Charlie Morris
Carol Lynch Williams’ The Chosen One tells the story of Kyra, a thirteen year old girl living in an isolated, oppressive religious community in rural America.

Kyra has grown up never questioning the iron rule of ‘the Prophet’ who controls the community or why her father has three wives and she is one of twenty one brothers and sisters.

As tensions in the community mount Kyra finds fragile escape in library books borrowed and read in secret and a forbidden romance with Joshua, another teenager member of the community.
When the Prophet decrees she is to become the seventh wife of her sixty year old uncle she is forced to put not only herself but all those she cares about in danger to save herself.

The Chosen One is a powerful and compelling story about freedom and love for ones family told through the eyes of a believable character. This is an intensely gripping read and it is easy to empathise with Kyra and feel afraid for her plight as this absorbing story develops.

The Chosen One has strong parallels to real situations in contemporary America and therefore could perhaps benefit from the inclusion of some factual information to put this commanding story into a more ‘real life’ context for readers who may be new to these issues.

I'd tell you I love you, but then I'd have to kill you by Ally Carter

Knowing that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through the breastbone is of no help when you are trying to win it
If James Bond had not sprung fully-formed from his creators mind and if he had not had the disability of being male, then the chances are that he would have been a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.

I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you is the first book in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter and introduces the reader to Cammie (the Chameleon) Morgan, a resourceful young woman fluent in 14 languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways. She is, in fact the perfect spy in training. She is also a teenager, with all the shortcomings that being 15 years of age brings.

Being trained as a superspy is no help when she meets a cute boy when she is out on assignment, add to this a devilishly attractive male teacher and a troublesome new classmate and you have the makings of La Femme Nikita meets Gossip Girl (only far superior).

I’d tell you I love you but the I’d have to kill you is BRILLIANT! A New York Times bestseller, it has strong female protagonists that will appeal to teen boys as well s their female counterparts. It has been my guilty pleasure read this week and it made me the envy of my Teen Book Group.

I am now looking forward to Cross my heart & hope to spy

Fire Djinn by Linda Davies

Set three months after the events of Sea Djinn, Fire Djinn opens with Finn Kennedy and his fellow Light Fighters Georgina and Fred enjoying a night under the stars in the deserts of Dubai. Struck by a plea for help and a vision of destruction they are again plunged into the battle between the Djinns of the Dark and the Light for the life of the world.

Bleaker in tone than the first book; Fire Djinn is just as compelling and entertaining. Ushering in new villains to challenge the at times reluctant heroes with a horrific plot to scorch the face of the world leaving only a chosen few survivors dedicated to serving the dark. With the Light Fire Djinn missing and his forces scattered and broken, Finn and his friends stand alone, his allies in the sea kingdom being of limited use against the earth-bound power of the Dark Fire Djinn.

Linda Davies makes good use of the characters standing in the many shades of grey between the Light and the Dark. I was kept guessing about the motivations and allegiances of a number of the characters up until the end. The secondary characters are proving to be just as interesting as the primary protagonists, with a number of new faces popping up and hopefully staying around to be fleshed out more in future books. A number of the story strands from Sea Djinn were tied up in Fire Djinn and others were expanded and elaborated on. There is a firm sense of continuiity from the first book and Fire Djinn felt like a firm continuation of a solid narrative. The main characters are developing nicely and the morals within the tale are subtle and give pause for thought long after the end of the book.

An epic book that starts with a bang and burns through its pages to a satisfying conclusion and set up for further adventures!

Shrink by Heather Morrall

Shrink is the story of sixteen year old Eloise Meehan and the difficulties she faces as a teenager with an eating disorder. The story takes place just as she is preparing to sit her GCSE exams. Eloise lives with her dad and although their relationship is a loving one trauma in the family’s past has put a massive strain on their relationship. As her father tries to rebuild his own life Eloise increasingly feels his actions are at the expense of her own wellbeing and has nowhere left to turn.

Eloise has caring friends but is unable to speak about the terrible events of her past even to those she feels closest too. As her eating disorder becomes more and more the focus of her life she realises she must seek support and begins therapy.

Eloise is a believable, likable character whose difficulties in facing her past are mirrored in her narration of the story as she takes the reader on a journey of revelation. Her illness and treatment are handled in a sensitive, yet candid and often surprising way as she negotiates the real life intricacies of NHS psychiatric treatment. The way in which Morrall conveys this keeps interest high and adds to the emotional pull of the story and the reader’s empathy with Eloise.

Shrink shows that difficulties happen to ‘normal’ families and solutions to problems are often not as straightforward as we might hope. Shrink is written in an adult style which compliments its subject matter and engages the reader throughout.
Review by Charlie Morris

Meteorite Strike by A.G. Taylor

A meteorite has struck earth without warning, unleashing a deadly alien virus. Thousands fall victim… but not Sarah and Robert.

Instead they develop strange side-effects – psychic abilities. And that makes them targets for the the Hyper-Infectious Disease Response Agency (HIDRA), a rogue international agency determined to turn them into lab rats, just like the other kids they’ve already captured – kids who can control fire, create storms and tear steel with their minds.

If they can work together, these kids might stand a chance against HIDRA…

This is the debut novel for A.G. Taylor and has made the shortlist for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize for 2010. Meteorite Strike is the first book in the Superhumans series, with a second book Alien Storm due out later this year.

On their way to Australia to live with a father they have not seen in years, Sarah and Robert are typical siblings that bicker and argue. When their aeroplane is brought down in the aftermath of a meteorite strike they have to depend on each other and a parent they have no reason to trust to stay alive. Pursued and captured by HIDRA they are soon caught in the middle of a power struggle between the senior echelons of the agency to determine the core functions of HIDRA – saving lives or creating human weapons of destruction.

It is easy to see why Meteorite Strike has made the Waterstones’ short list as it is a gripping, well told story that takes the time-honoured staple of children gaining superpowers and polishes it up for a new century. Throw in a corrupt multinational agency an unknown disease and you have the makings of world class sci-fi! It is not all science fiction though – space-borne plagues are a possibility, and there are some theories that alien diseases have already reached the Earth.

On a personal level I found Meteorite Strike to be an extremely enjoyable read, the characters were well-written and believable and overall it set the pace for what I think is going to be a fantastic series, the strands that were left dangling at the conclusion make me want to get my hands on Alien Storm as soon as possible.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide by William Hussey

Posting a review of a horror book on Christmas eve may be a bit odd but seeing as it is the season to be jolly, I have entered into the spirit of things in the writing of this review…

Jake Harker is an outsider, a loser whose nose is always in a horror comic. That is until horror stops being fiction and the Pale Man and his demon Mr Pinch stop Jake on a dark, deserted road. That night, under a tree called the demon’s dance, Jake will learn the true meaning of terror . . .

‘Twas the day before Christmas
and as I lay on the beach
Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
Lay within reach.

I picked it up
to read a few pages.
Next thing I knew
I had been reading for ages!

In each generation
blood must be shed.
All this and more
I learned as I read.

Demons lie trapped,
they wait to be freed
by a coven of witches
a dangerous breed!

The Elders oppose them
the Demontide to deny.
To halt the invasion
an innocent must die!

Jake Harker (aka Horror Boy Harker) is a 15 year old loner and horror fan and makes a credible hero of this new series that combines magic, demonology, horror and cutting edge science. Jake will appeal to readers of all ages and genders but will grab the attention any readers who feel like outsiders (and seeing as this is written for teens there will be many).

No punches are pulled in the telling of this tale, the horror is visceral but never feels forced and none of the characters are two-dimensional caricatures. The lack of black and white morality makes the story far more interesting as shades of grey always have more depth. The story twists and turns like a spider on a pin and I was never sure of the motivations of all the players until the closing chapters. Dawn of the Demontide is a chilling read on a hot summers day, it will be even better late at night with a winter storm howling outside the window.

William Hussey is being heralded as one of the new masters of dark fiction, and with this book his ascent begins.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide
by William Hussey will be published in March 2010 by Oxford University Press