Many 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
By 14 December, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review, YA
After the attack that leaves her little sister, Ella, close to death in a snowy cornfield, Claire Graham is sent to live with her aunt in Manhattan to cope. But the guilt of letting Ella walk home alone that night still torments Claire, and she senses the violence that preyed on her sister hiding around every corner. Her shrink calls it a phobia. Claire calls it the truth.
When Ella vanishes two years later, Claire has no choice but to return to Amble, Ohio, and face her shattered family. Her one comfort is Ella’s diary, left in a place where only Claire could find it. Drawing on a series of cryptic entries, Claire tries to uncover the truth behind Ella’s attack and disappearance. But she soon realizes that not all lost things are meant to be found.
Andrea Hannah’s Of Scars and Stardust was a compelling read, but also one that is hard to review. Saying too much might spoil Hannah’s careful build-up of the narrative and the story’s suspense, but at the same time it’s hard to talk about it without touching upon anything that might give hints about how the story ends. So, be warned, I’ll try to review the story without spoilers, but there might be some. Continue reading
By 1 December, 2014
Posted in contemporary, review, YA
Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.
Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch, and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.
As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.
One of the two inaugural authors for Strange Chemistry back in the day and one of my favourites from their list is Gwenda Bond. I’ve read and enjoyed both her previous novels, Blackwood and The Woken Gods, and thought her newest offering, Girl on a Wire sounded very intriguing. Thus, when the author approached me about reviewing it, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And it has to be said, that with Girl on a Wire Bond remains on form. It was a delightful story with some very dark twists and genuine heartbreak. Continue reading
By 12 November, 2014
Posted in fantasy, mystery, review, YA
In the aftermath of a brutal tragedy, Jason and Passion are on the run. Marcus is lost beyond reach, and The Hold is in shambles. If that weren’t enough, Olivia Black has been taken by the CAMFers to be used as Dr. Fineman’s personal lab rat in his merciless quest to uncover the mysteries of Psyche Sans Soma once and for all. But only if he can break her.
They are scattered.
They are devastated.
They are ruined.
Their only hope is Olivia’s stubborn determination to thwart her captors and unlock the secrets of her ghost hand before Dr. Fineman can. Will she finally find the strength within herself to embrace the full power of her PSS?
And will it even matter if Marcus has already betrayed her?
Ghost Heart is the third book the in the PSS Chronicles and not – as I expected – the last, but only the next instalment in the series. In fact it is not an ending at all. Rather it is very much a beginning, of the next phase in the battle against the CAMFers and the Hold and of a new life for our protagonists. Discussing a third book in any series without giving spoilers is hard, but in the case of Ghost Heart it is almost impossible, so out of necessity, this review will contain minor spoilers and will be less extensive than usual. Continue reading
By 20 October, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review, YA
People are falling from the rooftops of Ghent. But did they throw themselves off – or did somebody push them?
Veerle has seen enough death to last a lifetime. But death isn’t finished with Veerle just yet.
When people start to die in her new home town, some put it down to a pate of suicides. Some blame the legendary demons of Ghent. Only Veerle suspects that something – somebody – has followed her to wreak his vengeance.
But she watched the hunter die, didn’t she?
I love Helen Grant’s brand of YA mystery. I’ve read all of them so far and enjoyed them all. They’re always tightly plotted and very well-paced, with a psychological and/or paranormal element added in the mix. With the first book in the Forbidden Spaces trilogy, Silent Saturday, Grant moved away from standalone stories and started a trilogy. While the ending of that book was a bit of a cliffhanger and left me wanting Demons of Ghent immediately, I found that Grant’s abilities to pace a story worked just as well in a series setting as it did in a standalone story. Starting Demons of Ghent though was a bit disorienting; it was a continuation of Veerle’s story, but not a direct one and Veerle’s life and situation has completely changed. Continue reading
By 7 October, 2014
Posted in mystery, review, YA
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny.
Billed as Sherlock meets Dr Who and provided with a gorgeous cover, Jackaby first caught my eye when I saw it on one of the Book Smugglers Radar posts. And despite having watched neither show, only being aware of them through my twitter timeline, I was intrigued. With good reason as it turns out, because William Ritter’s debut is a delightful read. Continue reading
By 5 September, 2014
Posted in crime, fantasy, historical fiction, review, YA
New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.
Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.
On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.
Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.
When I first learned of TimeBomb, I thought it sounded really interesting, which meant I was stoked to have won an ARC via Twitter. Described as a YA trilogy featuring time travel and Roundheads and Cavaliers, it sounded like it should be a tremendous amount of fun and that is exactly what it was. TimeBomb was a page turner of a story, with a cool premise and fabulous characters. Continue reading
By 29 August, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review, science fiction, YA
It’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist – and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite – discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russian and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology… This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.
Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durga Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever.
Jani and the Greater Game is not your usual Eric Brown, at least not at first blush. There are no huge space ships, or alien invasions or travel among the stars, at least not judging from the synopsis on the back of the book. Instead, we’re given a YA steampunk adventure set in an alternative 1910 British Raj. Yet it turns out Jani and the Greater Game actually is classic Eric Brown: the book explores societal change and how his characters react to this, though in this case the change isn’t brought about through alien occupation, but through the rise of Indian Nationalism and the threat of invasion from places unknown. Continue reading
By 26 August, 2014
Posted in review, science fiction, YA
A shocking new world. A dangerous choice. Two futures preparing to collide . . .
Having left her soulmate White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its technologically advanced culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World’s fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences.
She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams – dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar.
But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be just to survive.
The Illusionists is Laure Eve’s second novel in the Fearsome Dreamer sequence. While I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer, I did have some niggles with it, mostly to do with pacing and structure. In The Illusionists these problems have all been ironed out and the book is a far smoother read and the story is still as interesting and complex as Eve’s debut. As an added bonus, the protagonists are easier to relate to as well, having lost some of their rougher edges. Continue reading
By 18 August, 2014
Posted in fantasy, review, science fiction, YA