Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, teens and YA.
Well, re-tellings are a bit hit and miss for me, some I’ve adored and others…well, lets just say I didn’t. This story though, based on the old Grimms fairy tale, pulled at me. I adored Grimms as a kid, any fairy stories but especially those, and I’d read them over and over.( Mum used to say “Jeannie, you’re too old for fairy tales.” I’d have been maybe 9 or 10….) I’m much, much older now – frankly, you’re Never too old for fairy tales 😉
I remember this one so well, the poor sister spinning and knitting sweaters out of nettles…
Elizabeth makes the sister a princess, and the brothers princes. Sets them in a beautiful Eastern setting, with woods that stretch for miles, huge snow covered mountains, harsh dusty roads. There’s a very pronounced master/servant divide that works so well for the story.
The closeness of Shiori and her brothers grows, she’s always been loyal to them, loves them, but they’ve grown apart over the years. Now though, forced into each others company, depending on each other to break the curse, they grow back as one unit.
I loved this book, loved the addition of dragons, loved the fantasy elements that were still true to the original story but changed to fit this new one. I enjoyed the way Eastern beliefs and myths were woven into an essentially European fairy tale. It all added to that overall roundness of the story, made it feel believable.
I really liked seeing the day to day life, the little things like Shiori struggling to work for the lady she tried to steal the boat from. There were some great characters, harsh ones, kind ones, and of course my favourite, the cruel but clever, wicked ones.
Shiori grew so much in this book, from a sweet but selfish princess, into a much more rounded and understanding character. I enjoyed the gentle romance that grew towards the end, loved the way poor Shiori and her brothers seemed to take one step forward and two back. Those setbacks all added to the story, pushed her and her brothers into devising even more ways to try to break the curse. Kiki though, Kiki really was the star for me. I loved her, and can’t wait to see where Elizabeth takes her and Shiori on the next adventure.
This story is complete but…there are seeds sown for a follow-up that I’d love to read.
Stars: Five, a fun read for all ages, not just teens and YA.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Learning to Live, (Infinite Love 1), Kira Adams
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: YA/NA Romance,
I rarely read YA novels, I find it hard to relate the the characters but this had the underog theme that does appeal to me so as its on KU I decided I’d try it.
I was pleasantly surprised, the characters weren’t juvenile and silly, the thing that puts me off many YA reads ( though I’ve read books were people in their 30’s act like YA). Older teens I guess, that makes a difference, these are mostly either side of 18 and that extra maturity shows.
The mean girls – I love those charactes, and they were creatively mean to poor Ciera. I loved her, she was head down and ignore, and of course having been bullied much the same many, many years ago I could relate. Report them as everyone says? OK, then who’s going to be around when they come at you even harder? So we just keep heads down and do our best to avoid bullies. Its wrong, they win that way, but in practical terms it needs adults to be watching, to take action.
Ciera has home problems too, her widowed mum and two much younger siblings don’t have much money, and she works after school to help out. Not only that but later we learn she has her own issues to deal with.
Topher was one of those who didn’t outwardly join in the bullying, but didn’t see what was wrong with it, and didn’t do anything to stop it. Apart from her friend Mack Ciera is alone at school, until an incident with the bulles prompts someone to step in.
From there things change, not always for the better, but it makes Topher look at his own actions, and I thought, finally, he can see whats in front of him. Of course that means standing up against his friends, the top group, the alpha predators, and what will happen then?
Its a sweet and moving love story, and has a huge surprise I didn’t see, but with hindsight there were clues. It did make me cry, Ciera was so brave and I so felt for her and her family. I was luckier than her when faced with similar, but could empathise with the scary side and what she was facing. You’d think fate had put the family through enough without this.
The story covers some heavy issues, not just the bullying. It was well done, well handled, not just a simple bullying school love story, and had surprising depth to it.
I won’t suddenly beome a YA lover, but it proves some well written YA books can have a wider target.
Stars: Four, surprised me how much I enjoyed it. I’m actually going to borrow the next book from KU just to see where things go, although this book is a stand alone and complete.
The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa
Genre: Teens & YA, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Oh how I wanted to like this story. I’ve not read any of Julie’s work, but have recently read several excellent YA books.
Sadly this didn’t work for me. Its very well written, and I can see that others love it, but I just couldn’t connect with it. I put it aside a few times and came back to it as I thought maybe it was this strange time we’re living in, that has affected my concentration and reading, but unfortunately it still wasn’t a good fit for me. 😦
I stopped about a third of the way through, knowing it just wasn’t going to suit me. I’m gutted, I was so looking forward to getting my teeth into a new trilogy, but that’s the way it goes.
Not all stories appeal, however well written.
Stars: Two, a story others love but which didn’t connect with me. NB: I only read to just past 30%.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
I loved Naomi’s Uprooted, and was so hoping this book would be along those lines. It sounded fun and exciting but….from the start I really disliked El, she’s rude, arrogant, stand offish. When we know more about her I understood much of why she was that way, but I never really got to like her.
The school is just weird and I didn’t understand why parents were so desperate to send kids there, given so many of them died. I’m not sure what they gained from being in all that constant danger that they couldn’t have been taught in safety.
I just found it hard to connect, with the story or the participants and eventually gave up halfway through. A shame as I so loved Uprooted and was certain I’d enjoy this. Still, it won’t put me off trying Naomi’s next book.
Stars: Two, One to miss for me, a shame as I love a fantasy series and this sounded so promising. As always though it works for others, that’s the subjective side of reading.
Arc via netgalley and publishers
The Night Girl by James Bow
Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.
Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA
I’m way past the target age range, but reviews suggested that this book would still appeal and I’ve loved other fantasy reads aimed at this age group. Sadly I’m on the fence about this one.
I really liked the sound of this, a very different fantasy read and was excited to start. I found Sasha hard to like though, she’s really not a particularly nice girl to those around her. I know she’s worried about becoming ill like her mother, but that’s more recent and her behaviour seems to have always been like this.
I was puzzled at how things changed, how she actually got pulled in to the other world, it seemed one page she was in this world, worrying about illness, feeling strange and then she was in the next, though her body remained here. I didn’t see the transition, needed a bit more detail there.
Then she’s in a horrible situation, has become a thrall, among thousands more. For a time she simply doesn’t realise who or what she is but slowly that changes. Even then she’s still a hard to understand person, there are flashes of when she knows there’s something wrong, but mostly she carries on. As with the best war/slave/fantasy reads there’s an underground movement though and they see Sasha as someone they can help…..
I found the writing absorbing but the actual story very difficult to follow. I didn’t wholly see how things worked, how they found potential thralls, how they pulled them in. Sasha still remained someone I found difficult to understand.
I felt this book had a lot going on, but jumped too quickly from one situation to the next without fully explaining how things happened or worked. As a reader I had to follow the text and guess. There were explanations for parts, but other things just had to be accepted and the reader just go with. Its hard to explain, the apostate for instance, this person/name just popped up without explanation of who or what he was, ( other than he lived on an island) and yet he was a fairly important part of the story.
Overall for me it was an ok read, not one I’d re-read, and one that left me with questions as I was reading that largely seemed to be unanswered. If things like that don’t bother you, then like others you may love this unique fantasy read.
Stars: Three, an on the fence read for me. I loved parts but there were too many unanswered puzzles for me.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
In His Kiss, The Unrequited Series, Ava Alise
Genre: New Adult, Romance
I wanted to like this book, best friends to lovers? Those classic words “this was a mistake” So tempting.
I did like it, just so many little irritations. The biggest one was that Jordan was 24, Xia 21 and yet they both were still in school? I guess that’s a US/UK thing. Here we finish school/college at 18, uni at 21 and its off to the world of work then. By 21 you’re expected to act as an adult, be mature, yet these two were like teens so much of the while, teen drama stuff. It really irritated me at times, I wanted to say to them Grow Up! There was so much to and fro stuff about their emotions, so much inner musing, one step forward, two steps back it got old fast. Usually that’s fine with me, but there seemed to be no real reason for the constant vacillating. I wanted to say to them stop playing around, talk to each other, Do Something. TBH I didn’t really feel anything between them more than friendship with a bit of lust, and I guess that’s why I found it hard to get invested in a relationship between them.
In contrast Xi’s parents story was much more interesting 😉 but unlike Xia, there’s no way I could not have asked more, contain my curiosity about pictures etc. Xia had her life turned upside down by her parents issues, and yet when she finds out some pretty curious pics she does nothing?
Then there’s Jordan’s issues about his home, and then the problems with his ex. I love stories that have more than one plot, that have side issues to keep things interesting, but here I felt that they were only very tenuously connected, and rather than back up the main story that actually detracted from it. My issues of course, I’m sure others will love this story – its that horses for courses thing again. No story suits all readers, we all like different things.
Stars: Two, a story that just didn’t resonate with me. I found it hard to invest in the characters. My issues though, others love it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Indie authors need readers support, and if youre a lover of dystopian type fiction this may be for you. Its out now at £3.99 and also available on KU.
Horned Winged Blessed
Horned Winged Blessed opens in a post-world war three world,with an all-female, all-wiccan government in charge. They are known as theSilver Party, and have led Broken Britain through the war. Now, they are pavingthe way to a utopia in which hate crime and sexual assault are things of thepast.
The story follows the protagonist Joan Wood’s journey tounderstand the issues within this society and eventually finds her taking itdown. She is the daughter of the founder that started the Silver Party, and shestarts the novel under the illusion that this is indeed a utopia. However,after various attacks on her home from the rebel party the Grounded, as well asvarious friends warning her that life isn’t a rose-tinted as she thinks, she becomes aware that the Silver Party, and her mother, have indeed taken things too far, and many of the non-binary folk in society feel oppressed and labelled.
In the later half of the book, Joan actually finds her way to the rebel faction, and joins them in their aim to take down her mother and bring a true version of gender equality and LGBT liberation – rather than the erroneous attempts at such by her mother.The book ends with a showdown between her and her mother, eventually with her prevailing to crack her way through the Silver Party, with the help of her Grounded comrades.
I’ve not read this book, not my kind of read, but for fantasy/sci-fy/gamers its worth a look. Its free as an ebook, all that’s asked is you consider a donation to Michael’s charity.
“Michael’s story” was written for Michael Holyland, a 15 year old Elite Dangerous player who died on 22nd May 2019. It was created in 3 days from start to finish, by the combined talents of Frontier Developments and the Elite Dangerous player community.
Best selling novelist Drew Wagar wrote the story, Antony Taylor created the amazing cover, Anthony Hunt created the iconic Eagle glyph, Commander Cryptic Echo, Commander Orange Phoenix, their respective teams and numerous Elite: Dangerous players contributed to the project by creating materials that are still being used to promote this touching tribute to a brave and inspirational Commander.
An audiobook version was also produced as by the end his treatment was affecting Michael’s ability to see. This was produced using the magnificent soundscape of Elite: Dangerous by Frontier Developments and features stunning performances by Amelia Tyler, Richard Reed and Jay Britton. It was edited by Joe Hogan and produced by Zac Antonaci. It is available for free on Drew’s website here.
This story would not exist without Michael’s Uncle Matt Westhorpe reaching out over Twitter to help bring this project together. Thank you Matt, you are the best Uncle a boy could ask for.
Legendary, Stephanie Garber
Genre: Sci fi and fantasy
I was so looking forward to this, I adored Caraval, and amazingly I think Legendary is even better. It’s another magical book, full of secrets, of things that are not as they seem, of twists and turns that predicting who is who and what will happen just isn’t possible. And the “is it a game or are things real this time “ conundrum. Poor Tella, she has a series of really difficult choices to make and she doesn’t know, and the consequences are so very different if its real this time.
As with Caraval its has that YA feel to it, and yet its one that will appeal to all ages, there’s nothing childish about the story, and its so full of changing consequences, riddles, pure magic or possibly illusion – how can Tella know whats real. As an adult I certainly couldn’t!
This story is told from Tella’s POV, I liked seeing Scarlett and the mysterious Julian again, along with of course Dante and some of the other minor characters. There’s some fabulous new people too, and as before knowing if what they say is true or not is important but incredibly hard to tell. Tella has struck a bargain with Jacks, but as she gets closer the consequences become more clear and she doesn’t know whats the best thing to do, whichever way she jumps people will be hurt but doing nothing isn’t an option either.
I’m still full of questions, who, how, why and what about….I could go on for ages, it seems like when one question gets answered there’s always the chance that it may not be the Correct Answer, just An Answer 😉 and trying to work it out is like herding cats, simply impossible. Just let it flow and enjoy the magic.
Stars: Five, a read to take you away for a few hours, though That ending was incredibly frustrating for me. I understand more of Caraval having read this, and would up my rate for that to a five now
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers