Category Archives: Reviews

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This moving account of one boy’s escape from the Sudanese war and subsequent survival begins in 1985 and is based on a true story. Intertwined with a second story set in 2008-9 where young Nya is unable to attend school as it is her daily task to collect water for the family, Salva’s story begins in 1985 and ends with meeting and helping Nya and her whole community.

An incredible 11 year journey of survival ensues as Salva flees from both rebels and government forces waging war on the largest African country. Frightened and alone, will Salva ever see his family again? Crossing three countries on foot, Salva’s resilience and strength grows as he does, from a frightened 11 year old boy, to a man who becomes a leader and a visionary.

Although simply told, A long walk to water is a powerful book: a high interest but easy to read story that will resonate with readers and stay with them long after the last page has been turned.

Although recommended for ages 9+, A long walk to water is a harrowing but engaging read that I believe would be more fruitful for readers aged 12-13. What readers will find most amazing is that Salva’s story is true. Their empathy for someone of their own age facing such a disaster will assure engagement with the text.

Author Linda Sue Park is a Newbery medalist. Her website is http://www.lspark.com

See also: http://www.waterforsudan.org

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park free of charge by the publishers.

Prom and prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom and prejudice is a contemporary take on the classic Jane Austen  romance.

 

The updated story is clever, funny and a real pageturner. The action takes place at, you guessed it, Longbourn. But this time Longbourn is a private girls’ school in New York.  Scholarship student Lizzie Bennet and sweet Jane Netherfield have lately met a certain Charles Bingley and his friend Will Darcy, students at the neighbouring elite Pemberley Academy.

The focus of much of the story is the upcoming school prom and will Jane be asked to go by Charles Bingley? Jane’s younger sister Lydia is a totally modern reinvention of the original, but with the added aid of YouTube to record some of her more embarrassing moments.

As per Pride and prejudice, Lizzie and Darcy come to verbal blows over money and position in society while teen Caroline Bingley is quite as vile as the original. Once again, Lydia brings the family name into disrepute with George Wickham (it appears that getting drunk is the worst of it) and yes, it’s Darcy to the rescue again, but this time he couldn’t do without Lizzie’s assistance.

Although advertised to be a romance and yes, the story is generally a love story with a happy ending, there is much more to Prom and prejudice than just romance. Lizzie is a talented pianist and performs a challenging piece,  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the spring recital. She is a hard working and likeable student who, unlike the original Lizzie Bennet, has the opportunity to remain financially independent in the future. There is much to discuss for the reader as the decidedly strong, independent females characters who feature in Prom and prejudice are the authors of their own future, unlike the original story where young ladies had to rely on husbands, fathers or brothers for survival.

Prom and prejudice has a number of themes including bullying, superficial social lives, consumerism, prejudices, wealth, the GFC and of course, friendship and love.

This is a charming version of the classic and popular love story. Elizabeth Bennet, Will Darcy and Jane Netherfield are well drawn and strong characters and the way the author has reinterpreted the characters, circumstances, events and setting of Pride and prejudice is quite inspired.

An appealing book for girls aged 12+, I wouldn’t be surprised if once finished Prom and prejudice, they seek out Austen’s Pride and prejudice.

 

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

MEGHAN CHASE HAS A SECRET DESTINY— ONE SHE COULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.
I finished reading The Iron King today, it took me three days to read this book (in my defence I was also preparing for a job interview).

This book made me fall in love with fairy tales again. The story starts, as all good fairy tales do, with a loss, this is narrated in a very matter of fact way by our narrator, Meghan Chase. It is through her that the story is told, we are introduced to her brother, mother and step-father and her world. The Iron King mixes old fairy stories with modern 21st century life, and the travails of being a teen – unrequited love, cyber-bullying and some truly creepy scenes involving Meghan and Ethan (especially when he tells her what his toy bunny whispers to him).

The Iron King is not a new story, it takes the oldest tales of the fey and the dangers they represent and makes them new again. When Ethan is stolen away and replaced with a Changeling, Meghan risks everything to follow him into the Nevernever with only her oldest friend Robbie Goodfell (a puckish lad) at her side to guide and defend her, but even he is something more than he seems.

The faeries in this book are the Lords and Ladies of the old tales; ancient, proud and utterly inhuman, but possessed of the finest courtly manners. In the courts of the fey beware of what you say or promise as words have power and your word.

Meghan learns that both Seelie and Unseelie Courts are weakening but neither hold her brother. To find him she must brave the terrors of the Iron King and an new, unknown power growing hidden within Faery – the Court of the Iron Fey.

Read it! Loved it! Would recommend it to everyone who enjoys fantasy and fairytales in their YA Fiction

The Sunday Express is giving away 1000 ebook copies of The Iron King here

Richard Denning Blog Tour

Richard was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire, UK and lives in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands. He works as a General Practitioner (family doctor)with a North Birmingham practice. He is 43 and married with two children.

He is a Young-Adult sci-fi, historical fiction and historical fantasy writer. He also writes book and board game reviews and online articles on historical and gaming related topics. He owns his own small publishing house, Mercia Books and is part of a board game design house Medusa Games.

A keen player of board games and other games he is one of the directors of UK Games Expo (the UK’s largest hobby games convention). He is a board game designer and his first Board Game, ‘The Great Fire on London 1666’ was published by Medusa Games and Prime Games in October 2010.

Author website: http://www.richarddenning.co.uk

Tomorrow’s Guardian Review

When schoolboy Tom Oakley discovers he can transport himself through time, he draws the attention of evil men who seek to bend history to their will.

Tom’s family are obliterated and he soon faces an impossible choice: To save the world he must sacrifice his family.

Tom Oakley is a normal boy, growing up with friends and family until he starts having funny turns, hallucinating about jumping in time an space as well as dreams where he finds himself in other peoples bodies reliving the terrifying final moments of their lives he starts to think that he is going mad. Add to this the general concerns of bullying, school work and the life a young boy on the cusp of becoming a teen he starts really worrying about his mental well-being.

Mixing in historical fact and real characters to the story Richard Denning has created a fantastic yarn that educates as it entertains. The historical detail is richly detailed and described, from the battle formations of the Zulu armies to the Great Fire of London.

What really made the story stand out for me was the opposing side – all good time-travel stories have an adversary and Tomorrow’s Guardian is no exception. Captain Redfeld makes a brilliant counterpoint to Tom’s guide Septimus who has less than pure ideas on how to usehis power. Redfeld is open about his desires to use his powers to change the world rather than for personal enrichment, making offers that Tom struggles to reject.

Battles across time have been done before and the ultimate enemies have been around for some time but all the concepts are neatly handled. The choices Tom is faced with are as old as time itself – using power for the good of all or the good of a few and how fart would you go to protect loved ones.

Tense and gripping stuff – Tomorrow’s Guardian is a classic time jumping yarn that mixes high adventure, historical fact with a nail-biting finale. This book will be fantastic for pre and early teen readers that love action adventure with a dash of history and mystery.

View other stops on Richard Denning’s blog tour here

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