Monday, 31 August 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: The Wanderers by Kate Ormand.


Product details:
Publisher: Sky Pony Press.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: September 1st 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 A Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?


Quirky, exciting and packed with action, The Wanderers marks an intriguing new direction for one of UKYA’s most remarkable voices. Yet even with one foot in urban fantasy, one foot in contemporary, another in dystopia, and more still planted in action-adventure and sci-fi, this book is no beast. It’s a cleverly written and surprisingly slim story; it has just enough twists and turns to keep you reading – and a body count that could give Game of Thrones a run for its money.

If there’s anything that stands out about The Wanderers, it’s a single glittering word which holds an almost mythical power for readers and writers alike: shapeshifters. It’s such a magical, tantalising idea. It lies in the very foundations of fantasy, and is an eye-catching addition to any shelf. It’s little wonder, then, that The Wanderers was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015. 

This isn’t just any old shapeshifter story, either. It’s a race for survival with plot twists you won’t see coming, pulling together ideas that have been done before into one new and thrilling escapade. Ormand populates her take on the shapeshifter myth with a ramshackle circus, sinister betrayals and ruthless hunters; Flo’s world is a risky place to be, and readers will be hooked on this heart-pounding runaway adventure. 

Flo can transform into a beautiful grey horse – a particularly brilliant choice as it’s not something we often see in fiction and paves the way for some thrilling action sequences – but her worries and fears are incredibly human. My favourite character by far was bear shifter Jett; wonderfully drawn and totally down to earth, his cheeriness is a great foil to Flo’s more serious side. 

Jett and Flo's romance was one of the highlights of the book for me – they’re fantastic together, and I loved the fact that they’re in an established relationship. So many YA novels focus exclusively on first love or falling in love, but what about after the happily-ever-after? Positive, diverse, long-term relationships are something I’d love to see more of it in YA, so Flo and Jett’s relationship alone earns a whole star for the book from me.

As for the menagerie of personalities and abilities in the secondary cast, you’ll find shifters of every type filling out Flo’s precarious existence: monkeys, lionesses, parrots, even a horde of tiger shifters. The characters behind them, however, are a little less memorable. The cast – whether friend or foe - is just so huge, it’s hard to keep track of them all, and even harder for any of them to make an impression. The first half of the book is quite slow, dragged down by false starts and Flo’s fears over an otherwise simple circus stunt. The book needed better world-building and more description, too, as readers are left wandering without the richness of description the tale deserves. Of course, the book’s straightforward, accessible writing style has the potential to bring in a wider audience. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help wondering if the book simply needed something more - more drama, more flair, more passion. 

The Wanderers would have made for an astonishing epic fantasy, yet we’re left with a murky mix of genres that never quite hits the high notes it’s truly capable of. I wanted it to soar and show its spirit, opening the door for an entire series of shapeshifting mayhem, all chaos and charisma, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Thankfully, there really is a lot to enjoy about the rest of the book, and I’d love to see more authors take on big, fantastical concepts like this one. If they can do it with even half the adventure The Wanderers has, the UKYA scene will be in for a treat. 

In short: Secrets and treachery abound in the dangerous world of The Wanderers, but the real heart of the book can be found in its brilliantl romance and twisting plot. It’s not perfect and didn’t deliver everything I’d hoped to find in it, but it keeps you reading and you’ll be racing to find out what happens to heroine Flo and her friends. I can’t wait to see what Kate Ormand turns her hand to next.

--Arianne.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Non-Bookish: A Few of My Favourite Things From August.

Image via Kickstarter

I've been looking for a new podcast obsession ever since Serial wrapped up - and this is it! The Black Tapes podcast is a docudrama (perfectly) described as Serial meets The X-Files and I AM HOOKED! I listen to this late at night (for added spooky effect!) and it gets better with every episode.

Also, I think this would translate into a GREAT TV show! I'd love to see the burgeoning relationship between narrator Alex Reagan and the mysterious Dr. Richard Strand on the small screen!  


*****



A very fun departure from my usual TV habits UnREAL is a dark comedy/drama that goes behind the scenes of a reality TV show and shows just how far some people will go to grab a ratings winner. I took a chance on this after reading some glowing reviews, and I'm so glad I checked it out. It's pretty addictive - and contains great performances from Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer.


*****

My new music find of the month is Pixx. Have a listen to her debut EP below. It's so very dreamy.



******

Image via Etsy

I was browsing Etsy one day (on the lookout for a new tote) when I found this shop. It's now a new favourite of mine!  There's lots of great stuff on offer - everything from cushions and hand warmers to make-up bags, notebooks and planners. I picked up a new tote and key ring as my first purchases.

Check out the shop: here. There's also a dedicated website: http://www.ceridwenhazelchild.co.uk/


Image via Etsy

A photo posted by shutterbug99 (@daisychainbookreviews) on

*****


Some great scary book post this week! Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics is described as Little House on the Prairie meets The Crucible meets The Exorcist and is said to be perfect for fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story. Sounds good to me! I'm hoping for some good scares from this one!



*****

Friday, 28 August 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: The Almost King by Lucy Saxon.


Product details:
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Paperback, 416 pages.
Release date: June 4th 2015.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Series: Take Back the Skies #2.
Other Books in Series: Take Back the Skies.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 Aleks Vasin is the youngest of four brothers, each with his path mapped out. But Aleks doesn't want to work in his father's shop and live with his family in a village in the westernmost corner of Siberene. And when he hears his parents fretting about money, he decides to save them the cost of his keep and leave.

First he heads south - though everyone tells him not to - to Rudavin, headquarters of the kingsguard, and he signs up for the army, little knowing what brutality it entails. After only a few weeks, Aleks realizes that this garrison is full of liars and thieves; he's signed away four years of his life to a commander who steals his money and a captain who's already hurt Aleks's beloved horse. This is not a noble destiny.

After a brutal beating, Aleks escapes, hoping to find safety and a new life somewhere in the north. And there, this deserter finds love, adventure, and a skyship in which he might just prove himself a hero after all - if he can evade the soldiers who seek to capture him.

Prepare for another sweeping adventure in this second book in a unique six-book series. Each book is set in a different land within the Tellus world, with repeating characters and related, nonlinear storylines that combine to create a one-of-a-kind, addictive reading experience.

If you’ve read my review for Take Back the Skies – the first book in the d├ębut Tellus series from incredibly talented teen author and cosplayer extraordinaire Lucy Saxon – you’ll know that I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel all year. 

Take Back the Skies told the story of feisty aristocrat Catherine as she hopped aboard a skyship, unravelled long-hidden secrets and initiated the downfall of an entire government. But while some of us are still reeling from the shock of that book’s ending (!), The Almost King takes place in a different country with a different cast. The only links between fan-favourite Cat and newcomer Aleks is that they’re both runaways and both live in the same fictional universe – but you don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one, so new readers can dive in right away. 

Besides, The Almost King has its own fair share of adventure, danger and mystery. The series is evidently still gunning for a movie deal, with its exciting action sequences and cinematic locations. I actually thought there’d be more hype and buzz for it, perhaps some events or competitions, particularly as The Almost King has the potential to appeal to a totally new audience. Take Back the Skies was firmly marketed as YA, but I said at the time that it would’ve been more suited to older children’s or younger teen readers, and with a new, more illustrated cover style planned for the series, it looks like Bloomsbury are seeing those possibilities, too. The best thing about this series for me, however, will always be its steampunk roots and style. It’s still one of the most unique series on the UKYA shelf, and The Almost King is a quick, easy read, perfect for slotting in between hard-hitting contemporaries or heavy historical fiction. 

The plot is clear and straightforward, and I loved seeing more of Tellus as a world, too. The Almost King is a wonderfully visual story, which works particularly well when it comes to the characters. Female leads Raina and Saria are downright brilliant - both kick-ass and clever, down-to-earth and still so much fun. They stand on their own two feet and really bring something special to the narrative. Quicksilver, Aleks’ horse, gets a handful of stars all by himself. He’s sent away about halfway through the book, but I would have loved to have seen more of the bond between Aleks and his noble steed, increasingly dangerous events around them or not! There’s a wide range of secondary characters, from Aleks' older brothers and family back at home, to Bodan and Ksenia who help Aleks’ forge a new family after his desertion.

If only I’d liked Aleks as much as I liked the other characters. The book suffers from a slow, robotic start, and it’s almost as if he Aleks was simply designed to carry out the plot, instead of letting the story unfurling naturally and surprisingly ahead of him. The decision to switch protagonists has clearly come back to haunt the series, and I just couldn’t invest in it the way I did with Take Back the Skies. There's no passion in the writing and it lacks the spark that makes a fantasy novel truly spring to life. It's not as emotional or shocking as it could be, and a lot of readers will miss seeing the story of Cat and her friends unfold. The romance, while thankfully not a love triangle, was flat. I think it’s to do with the writing style more than anything – it’s very compact and economical, and doesn’t conjure the magic and wonder of books like Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas or Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I kept willing the story to take risks, to be bold and sweeping and carve out a new path, but with its troubling lack of diversity and a plot that rarely challenges the reader, it just didn't ignite the way it should have.

In short: The Almost King is a quick, easy read, packed with action and some truly fantastic characters. As much I enjoyed the previous book in this series and I was let down by its writing style and execution. That said, it could be ideal for younger readers just starting to read YA.

--Arianne.


Reviewed by Liz: Made for You by Melissa Marr.


Product details:  
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's.
Paperback, 336 pages.
Release date: March 26th 205.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 13+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Liz from Planet Print.

 Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital to discover an attempt has been made on her life. But who in her sleepy town could have hit her with their car? And why? Before she can consider the question, she finds that she's awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people's deaths when they touch her.

While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old friend, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva's power to keep her friends - and themselves – alive. But the killer is obsessed and will stop at nothing to get to Eva…


Eva Tilling is walking home from a party when she’s hit by a car and left for dead. After she wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the crash, she realises that broken bones and scars aren’t the only thing she’s been left with. Eva has developed a morbid ability - whenever someone touches her bare skin, she sees how they will die. And it seems that several people in the town of Jessup are going to end up dead - soon. All the deaths seem to be connected, which means a killer is out there, and they’re obsessed with Eva and the people surrounding her. And while Eva maybe be able to see how the people close to her will die, there’s one thing she doesn’t know - who will be next.

Made for You was a lot creepier than I thought it would be. Some chapters were told from the killer’s point of view, and a few scenes were fairly disturbing, which I did not expect. I have to admit the killer’s POV was interesting, because it really gave insight into how messed up this killer was. Seriously. If you thought the killer POV in The Body Finder was creepy, you should definitely give this book a go. I do think two POVs would have been enough though (Eva and the killer’s) - I don’t think Grace’s POV was really necessary - it didn’t add much and I’m generally not a huge fan of multiple POVs. It wasn’t too bad, however, and at least each person had a fairly distinct voice so I wasn’t getting confused as to whose chapter I was reading.

Eva was a pretty decent main character, but she started off as a little bit of a walkover. She didn’t really express her opinion much, and she let people treat her badly. She became more assertive later on though, and I like how she was able to confide in Grace and Nate about her ability and ask them to help try and find the killer (though I think Nate believed her way too easily when it came to the whole seeing people’s deaths thing). Grace was probably my favourite character, she was such a great friend and was always there for Eva. She was the first person by her side at the hospital, the one who brought her a change of clothes and snacks and all the other stuff she needed. She was also really funny (probably one of the only truly funny characters in the book) and was generally just lovely!

Nate had to grow on me a little bit. To be honest, at the beginning he really seemed like an idiot, and his behaviour toward Eva was never really explained. But he seemed to care a lot about Eva, and was willing to help her and listen to all her theories in regard to the killer. They were kind of sweet together, but the romance was probably not the highlight of this book. Nate did also seem to be really close to his brother, and I actually really liked the way families were portrayed. Eva’s parents were shown originally to be a bit aloof and absent, but after Eva was hospitalised, they (and Eva’s mum, especially) realised they weren’t the best of parents, and actually tried to be better, which I think was great, and not something you really see in many YA books.

Plot-wise, I was actually kept guessing for a while as to who the killer was. I did sort of suspect the person, but they weren’t my main suspect until the last third of the book. And wow, some of the things that happened I really did not see coming at all. Made for You really is not for the faint-hearted, because the kind of things this killer did were just horrible (though you might disagree with me if you are a regular watcher of crime shows/horror films and are used to this kind of thing, which I am not). I do think some things were a bit unrealistic at times (I can’t explain what without spoiling, but I wanted to mention it) but it didn’t detract from the story too much.

Overall, Made for You was a good thriller, and while I didn’t love it, it was worth reading. If you’re in the mood for something creepy, definitely give this a go!


--Liz.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Five of my Favourite Non-Bookish Blogs!

Image via We Heart It


You may have noticed that from time to time I like to take time out from book reviewing and mix it up a little on the blog. Well, I'm doing just that today and sharing a handful of my favourite non-bookish blogs. The following are some of my favourite daily reads which I follow through Bloglovin' - my favourite way to follow blogs!

If you're so inclined you can follow this very blog on there too: Here's the link.


Celebitchy: I admit it, I am a total slave to celebrity gossip. I mean, who isn't - right?!  These days, I'm totally hooked on reading about the Affleck/Garner divorce and all the crazy twists and turns happening there. I mean, can you even believe that story about the nanny?! Anyhoo, Celebitchy fulfills all my gossipy needs. Also, the comments on this site are GOLD. I mean it; sometimes the comments are even better than the scandalous stories! 

A Cup of Jo: I've been reading A Cup of Jo for a couple years now, although I can't remember exactly how I happened upon this blog.  This is the perfect coffee break blog - great to dip in and out of during the day.  A Cup of Jo discusses fashion, travel, interiors, food and just about everything else  in between. It's also where I first heard about the Serial podcast - and we all know how much I loved that!

Wish Wish Wish: I only started reading Carrie's blog last year, but I have to say, it was love at first sight! Gorgeous photography, a great wardrobe and travel escapades galore, this is my kinda blog! 

Pretty Much Amazing: This is my one-stop shop for all the latest music news. A must read if you're a fan of Indie/Alternative music. 

Mini Adventures: Funny story - I found this blog when Milly won a competition on my blog (it must be a few years ago now!) and I've been reading about her London adventures ever since! Books, music, food, and London life, Milly's adventures are definitely worth checking out!


I read a lot of other non-bookish blogs, but as per the title of this blog post, I can only list five here. Maybe I'll do another post sometime. 

What blogs do you read? Do you have any recommendations to share? I'd love to find some good foodie (preferably vegetarian) blogs, so if you know of any, let me know in comments.

That reminds me, I have to give special mention to one of my all time favourite blogs - I forgot to include this in my top five only because it's not updated all that often anymore, but: Grilled Cheese Social - a blog completely dedicated to all things grilled cheese. Best idea for a blog EVER?!


Related Posts with Thumbnails