Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes

sabaatahir-anemberintheashesWhat if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.

For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.

When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.

Sabaa Tahir’s debut An Ember in the Ashes was one of the books that really caught my eye when I first saw it announced last year. Its Imperial Rome-inspired, militaristic secondary world setting sounded intriguing and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a nice ‘revolution against the despots’-narrative? So I was really stoked to receive an ARC for the book, especially as it was also a very pretty book as well. And yes, that is exactly as shallow as it sounds. And while I truly enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes and I definitely want to know what happens in the next book, I also had some big problems with the narrative.  Read More …

Lydia Syson – Liberty’s Fire

lydiasyson-libertysfireParis, 1871. A new revolution.

Life since the war has been tough, but Zéphyrine finds inspiration in the hope offered by the city’s radical new leadership. And she has fallen in love.

Dashing young violinist opens Zéphyrine’s eyes to another new world. He in turn is swept away by her passionate beliefs.

But not all their friends are convinced. With the enemy at the gate and the barricades rising, can love and friendship both survive?

Lydia Syson’s Liberty’s Fire is set in a turbulent era of French history following after a war that is often overlooked between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War—even if it was perhaps the last major war in the West that was fought without modern, by which I mean motorised, artillery. The French-Prussian war is often just a footnote or just a string of dates to learn in history class and Liberty’s Fire taught me more about how the aftermath of this war rocked the French Republic than six years of history classes in grammar school ever did. I’d never realised that there were more revolutionary periods than just the French Revolution in France for one or that Paris for a time was such a socialist commune as it was in the book.  Read More …

I.W. Gregorio – None of the Above

iwgregorio-noneoftheaboveWhen Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

None of the Above, I.W. Gregorio’s debut novel, first drew my attention when its cover was revealed on the Book Smugglers. I thought the cover was eye-catching in its simplicity, able to convey all of the important information about its contents in one glance. And once I’d read the accompanying flap text and the interviews with the cover designers and the editor, I was completely sold on this story. And Gregorio didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Once I started the book I was completely hooked, both by the writing and Kristin’s voice. None of the Above is a powerful story about discovering who you are and how those who truly matter will look beyond the surface to truly see you.  Read More …

Author Query – David Hair

davidhair-thepyreLast week Jo Fletcher Books published The Pyre, the first book in David Hair’s new series, The Return of Ravana. But new is a relative concept here, as The Return of Ravana is actually a re-issue, the series having been originally published by Penguin India and Penguin New-Zealand. I’m really excited for this Ramayana-inspired series, so I’m very glad to be able to share this interview with David Hair with you, in which he shares some details about what inspired the series, his love of football (the proper, round ball kind), and whether he revised The Pyre at all from its published version. Check back for a review of The Pyre somewhere in the coming weeks.  Read More …

Delia Sherman – The Freedom Maze

deliasherman-thefreedommazeAMERICA, 1960: thirteen-year old Sophie is frustrated. Her mother has sent her to spend summer with Grandmama on their family’s old estate in sweltering southern Louisiana. Bored, lonely and far too hot, Sophie starts exploring. When she discovers an overgrown maze, she makes her way inside. Lost among its pathways she finds a magical creature who promises her the adventure of a lifetime . . .

AMERICA, 1860: Sophie is transported a hundred years into the past to the Oak River plantation in its heyday. Her own ancestors mistake her for a slave girl and set her to work alongside the hundreds of other slaves who tend to the fields, the house, and the white family’s every whim. As the reality of slave life becomes horribly clear, Sophie starts to wonder how long she’ll survive; and how – or if – she will ever get back home.

The Freedom Maze is a very special novel about slavery, survival and the many paths to freedom.

As I had heard and read a lot of praise for Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, I was excited to receive a review copy for the UK edition. And I was in no way disappointed by the story. The Freedom Maze was every bit as magical as I’d expected. This novel packs a lot in a slim package and I hope I can do it justice.  Read More …

Alison McMahan – The Saffron Crocus [Blog Tour]

alisonmcmahan-thesaffroncrocusVenice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. And now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business?

Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita’s past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus fast, before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.

Alison McMahan’s The Saffron Crocus drew my attention because of the setting in Venice. I love books set in Venice during its heyday and The Saffron Crocus sits squarely in that box. And factoring in that the story isn’t just a historical, but a murder mystery and YA to boot, accepting this review copy was a no-brainer. And while the book was a fun read with some great twists, I did have my issues with it.  Read More …

Bryony Pearce – Phoenix Rising

bryonypearce-phoenixrisingSail. Salvage. Survive. 

Toby’s father is a wanted man. For as long as Toby can remember, they’ve been on the run. The Phoenix has become their home, their backyard the junk-filled seas surrounding it. 

The crew of the Banshee lives for hunting down the Phoenix and now they’re closing in. Ayla has spent her whole life fighting – preparing for the moment when the Banshee will face its ultimate enemy. 

But Toby doesn’t want to run any more and Ayla is his only hope. Can he turn an old feud into a new alliance? 

The future is in their hands. 

Bryony Pearce’s last book, The Weight of Souls was one I enjoyed tremendously, so I was looking forward to reading her next book. What made Phoenix Rising even more interesting was that it is a departure from what Pearce has written previously; both Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls were supernatural YA stories, where Phoenix Rising is very much a dystopian narrative. The future Pearce evokes for us is bleak and its causes are frighteningly plausible.  Read More …

Author Query – Danielle L Jensen

danielleljensen-hiddenhuntressDanielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird was one of Angry Robot’s late and lamented Strange Chemistry imprint biggest successes. I very much enjoyed the story and as such was saddened by the fact that we might not get its sequel for the foreseeable future. When Angry Robot announced that they had picked up the entire trilogy and planned to publish Hidden Huntress on schedule, I was stoked. To celebrate Hidden Huntress‘ publication next week today Danielle drops by the blog for an Author Query.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is Danielle L Jensen?

I’m a human living in Calgary with my other half and our newly minted progeny. I used to work in finance, but it wasn’t a career that rewarded daydreaming about dragons, so I jumped ship and turned to writing. I haven’t regretted that choice once!  Read More …

Graham Marks – Bad Bones [Blog Tour]

grahammarks-badbonesSome things are best left buried. Gabe is feeling the pressure. His family has money troubles, he’s hardly talking to his dad, plus lowlife Benny is on his case. Needing some space to think, he heads off into the hills surrounding LA. And he suddenly stumbles across a secret that will change everything. A shallow grave.

Gabe doesn’t think twice about taking the gold bracelet he finds buried there. Even from the clutches of skeletal hands. But he has no idea what he’s awakening…

Graham Marks’ Bad Bones is the fourth book in Stripes Publishing’s Red Eye series. I’ve enjoyed the series so far, so I was looking forward to the next instalment. Unlike the previous books, Bad Bones is set in the US, in LA to be exact, which makes for an interesting change of location and possible sets of problems. But while Bad Bones was a fun read, I was a bit disappointed by the narrative and the ending in particular.  Read More …

Natalie Whipple – Fish Out of Water

nataliewhipple-fishoutofwater‘People like to think fish don’t have feelings – it’s easier that way – but as I watch the last guppy squirm in his bag, his eyes seem to plead with me. I get the sense that it knows just as well as I do that bad things are on the horizon.’

Mika Arlington has her perfect summer all planned out, but the arrival of both her estranged grandmother and too-cool Dylan are going to make some very big waves in her life.

Told with Natalie Whipple’s signature whip-smart wit and warmth, this is a story about prejudice, growing up and the true meaning of sticking by your family.

Natalie Whipple’s Fish Out of Water rather caught me by surprise. I’d been interested in the book based on the publisher’s marketing copy, so I requested a review copy and I’d expected to be at least entertained by the book. What I hadn’t expected, was that the book drew me in to the extent that I actually stayed up until half three to finish it. (Thank you Wiebe for pulling morning duty and let me catch up on sleep the next day—well, later that day.) Mika’s summer was completely engrossing and I just had to know how it would end.  Read More …