Archive for YA

Sally Gardner – The Door That Led to Where

sallygardner-thedoorthatledtowhereWhen the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past

AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change — but he could never have imagined by how much.

Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain’s means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They’ve gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the country’s finest writers, THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.

Before The Door That Led to Where, the only book I’d read by Sally Gardner was The Double Shadow. I completely fell in love with that book, which not only offered an intriguing story and wonderful characters, but also had me put my English Lit degree to good use. Thus I was pleased to receive a review copy of The Door That Led To Where, not least because it was a fantasy book set in my favourite of all places, London and it had time-travelling to boot. The idea of a secret door to a different time or place is an old one, who hasn’t wished they had a magic wardrobe at least once as a child or to be able to cross to Platform 9 3/4? In Gardner’s capable hands this premise led to a wonderful story that is not just about solving a murder, but about friendship, love, and the ties that bind.  Continue reading »

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Red Eye Double Bill: Frozen Charlotte and Sleepless [Blog Tour]

redeyeThis month saw the launch of Red Eye, Stripes publishing’s new YA horror line. With Red Eye, Stripes is aiming to give horror a frighteningly contemporary makeover mixing pop culture, violence and technology and reaching a new generation of teen horror readers. The first two books in this line-up are Alex Bell’s Frozen Charlotte and Lou Morgan’s Sleepless. I was very excited for both of these stories, so I’m quite pleased that today as part of the inaugural Red Eye blog tour, I get to bring you a double-bill: reviews for both of these novels. Don’t forget to catch up with the blog tour tomorrow over at Studio ReadsContinue reading »

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Freeing Hostage: even series are hybrid these days

manijabrownsmith-strangerLast year I read and reviewed the wonderful Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. Now this is a book with history. In September of 2011 Brown and Smith opened up about their experiences trying to get an agent to represent them to sell the book that became Stranger. One agent expressed interest in taking the book on, provided they would either turn their gay main character straight or lose his point of view and any reference to his sexual orientation. This sparked a lot of discussion and gave rise to #YesGayYA. Stranger was eventually picked up by Viking in 2012 and was finally released last November. After the groundswell of support in 2011, I would have expected far more of a splash on publication, yet when it finally arrived, it did so relatively silently.  Continue reading »

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Liz de Jager – Vowed

lizdejager-vowedA Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils…

Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.

Then Kit digs too deep, and uncovers a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.

In a nice cyclical move, the penultimate book I review in 2014 is the sequel to the second book I reviewed this year. Full disclosure: Liz de Jager is a dear friend. This doesn’t mean I haven’t read this novel critically, because I have. Besides, she would kick my ass if she thought I’d cut her slack. But for the sake of transparency I thought it important to mention it upfront.

Vowed is the second book in De Jager’s Blackhart trilogy and returns us Kit a number of months after the ending of the last book. Having physically recovered from her ordeal at the end of Banished, Kit has not escaped unchanged, both magically and mentally. Her magic has bloomed and become for more powerful than it was before, while her heart remains somewhat the worse for wear after the events of the previous book and her separation from Thorn. Now located in London, the irrepressible Kit is working the family business and taking on assignments on her own. This brings us to the case at the heart of Vowed. Because this case she can’t work alone. Her employer demands she work together with Dante Alexander, a member of the Spook Squad. And Kit is not amused with this development.  Continue reading »

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Jennifer E. Smith – The Geography of You and Me

jenniferesmith-thegeographyofyouandmeOwen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking…

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can’t shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can’t, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy – and pain – of first love.

And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.

Having enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith’s previous books The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like tremendously, when I got the chance to request The Geography of You and Me for review I jumped on it. And Smith’s third YA offering doesn’t disappoint. With an easy writing style and some quirky playing with chapter lengths, The Geography of You and Me offers a charming exploration of love at (almost) first sight, but also of two young people trying to find their feet in the world independent of their families.  Continue reading »

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Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (eds) – Kaleidoscope

krasnosteinrios-kaleidoscopeWhat do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices:

Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

One of the most buzzed about anthologies of 2014 was Twelfth Planet Press’ kickstarted title Kaleidoscope. Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, Kaleidoscope collects twenty YA stories around the theme of diversity. Diversity of gender, of sexuality, of origin, ability, and race; it’s all present in Kaleidoscope. The result is a wonderful book filled with wonderful stories, some of them funny, some scary, some heart-breaking, but all of them engaging and emotionally touching. None of the stories disappoint, there wasn’t a single dud for me, but the following five were my favourites.  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: YA April-June

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. YA books have become a steady part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. This is the second one. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!   Continue reading »

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Alex Campbell – Land

alexcampbell-landThe sea rose. Civilisation drowned. Land became our saviour.

Seventeen-year-old Christy knows that life is a set of rules, and rules are inherent to survival. The rules of Land decide what colour clothes you must wear. What job you must do. How much food you can eat. Where you can live. How long you can live for.

Rules are not there to be broken. Not in Land.

So when an unexpected path is laid out for Christy, she quickly realises that taking it will have extreme repercussions. This new life – one of danger, that of rebel, spy, lover and assassin – will mean choosing death.

What initially drew me to Alex Campbell’s debut Land was its setting. Land is set in the closed community of Land, a walled-off island somewhere in Europe, surrounded by water after the majority of earth has been submerged by a major flood. Living in a country where much of the land was hard-won from the water and where dikes and dams are what keep our feet dry in the western part of the country, this is a catastrophe that is very much a real probability, even if most likely on a smaller scale. As such, Land’s setting intrigued me and I was curious to see how Campbell would use it to create her dystopian society.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in review, YA | 1 Comment

Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: YA January-March

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. YA books have become a permanent part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, I’ve had to spread my YA picks over three posts. This is the first one. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!   Continue reading »

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Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith – Stranger

manijabrownsmith-strangerMany generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

Stranger was one of the books I flagged in my anticipated books series six months ago and I did so solely on the basis of the above blurb. It sounded like an engaging post-apocalyptic adventure with a bit of a Weird West vibe, something that I’d enjoyed in several other books earlier in the year. And it was all of that, but it was even more than that. Because this book? This book could be the poster child for the We Need Diverse Books movement. The book features protagonists of colour, sexual orientations all over the spectrum, characters with disabilities, and none of these elements feel shoe-horned in to hit some sort of diversity quota. Instead, the story and its characters feel organic, set in a world that feels true and fully realised.  Continue reading »

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