Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: A Witch in Winter

A Witch in Winter (The Winter Trilogy: Book 1)
Release Date: 5th January 2012
Pages: 346
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Author: Ruth Warburton
Source: Purchased at Bookstore
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her—but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain. When love is tangled up in magic, how do you know what's real?

Trailer:




Review:
A Witch in Winter is the first in The Witch Trilogy told in the first person. Anna, a young girl tell us her story of her new life with her father after her mother left them. They start fresh in a town called Winter. From the get go, with a name like Wicker House, you already get the sense something will be eerie about their new house. One thing Anna doesn't know... she is a witch, from a long line of witches, who unfortunately learn the trade from their mothers. With no mum in tow, it's up to Anna to figure out what and who she is. It gave me a quick flashback to Spellcaster as the mothers keep abandoning their families and daughters who aren't full witches.
When Anna finally discovers she has powers, she takes it all in stride and you get the sense she is just an ordinary girl, nothing out of the ordinary, which was a relief for a change. That is until she meets a new group of witches, new friends and Seth. 

It reminds me of those moments when teenage girls wish they could enchant a boy to fall in love with them... well Anna and her new friends accidentally do it without evening knowing. Unfortunately, while Anna might really like Seth, having a boy fall madly in love with you under a spell doesn't feel the same. Even if they break the spell, how will she know if it is truly broken or if Seth really loves her? Now that is torment! My only negative comment on this is that Seth isn't too memorable in my opinion, not a heartbreaker that you want to dive into the book for. But who knows, my opinion could change in book two.

Aside from this little complicated romance, there is a battle looming between two groups of witches, sort of like the Cullens vs Volturi. It's normal witches sick of a group of witches trying to control their way of life. The cool thing about it is that they use their magic to fight, but again I really felt like I was comparing it to the Breaking Dawn battle scene, even though I tried not to.

I chose this book solely on reviews online and recommendations from fellow book bloggers. There was a lot of chatter around it, and I felt like another YA witch book.

Cover:
Simple cover with a girl and a backdrop of a house and lightning. Nothing too spectacular, but not dull either.

Final Comments:
This book was interesting, I read through it fairly quickly. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but there really wasn't an expected cliff hanger leaving me wanting to read on. I almost thought there was no book two. 
I'm always a fan of giving new British writers a shot, and was pleased with the first book. I recommend it to YA fans who like a bit of witchery, or someone looking for a light book that you can fly through. Not too heavy, not too light... just right! On to book two!

Rating:

New Series: Witch Finder

I am currently in the middle of writing my review for A Witch in Winter and stumbled across a new series being written by Ruth Warburton - Witch Finder. I haven't read much about it except the blurbs and a few reviews, but as we all know, every review is different and you can't honestly judge it until you read it yourself. I would say it is an on the fence book at the moment from what I have read, but you have to admit, the digital cover is pretty cool (to the right)!

Aside from the cover, this book intrigues me because it is based in London in an era that I love to read about. Also due to the fact I used to work in Spitalfields and developed an interest in it's rich history. Throw in some witches, it may be a good read. 

The book is out now, so if you loved Ruth's Winter Trilogy, you can grab a copy now as the book came out in January. If you have read it, feel free to get in touch with your review so I can share them along with my review when I finally get my hands on a copy.

Goodreads:
London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.



Friday, 24 January 2014

Review: Spellcaster


Spellcaster
Release Date: 1st March 2013
Pages: 389
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers Australia
Author: Claudia Gray
Source: Purchased at Kmart
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
When Nadia's family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed - and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed. 

Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.

Trailer:

Review:
Spellcaster is a paranormal YA - the first in a trilogy by Claudia Gray (pseudonym). Like the last book, I chose this book based on the cover and the blurb, which caught me on the promise of a star-crossed romance.
Nadia, her father and brother move to Captive's Sound to start fresh after her mother left them. Nadia is descendant from witches, and as the rule goes, the mother teaches the daughter how to develop her magic and no man born of a woman can ever know the truth about witches. Well with her mum out of the picture, her magic may be strong, but not developed enough to take on something bigger, which is a problem considering something is brewing in the new town.

Something unique about the way Claudia reinvented witches is through spells. Instead of mixing potions, spells are done through memories, thoughts and emotions while touching pendants on jewellery. One example is when she did a spell to part water. She thought "The love of a child. A living thing rising from the earth. Hope through grief" as she touched her pendant. However this didn't work on its own, she then had to think about old memories - her brother taking his first step, spring and their move. It was a bit of a risk for Claudia to do this, but kudos for trying something new. The downside to this is it got a bit annoying for me and I found myself skipping past her memories.

The entire town seems to be ridden with magic, secrets, curses, mysterious deaths and strange behaviour. It is Nadia's mission to find out what is causing everything and to be an end to it, to save her family, new friends, the town and new love interest.
In terms of the characters, they are a bit weak, but I put it down to the curses and I have a feeling they will build up in the next book. There isn't as much drama as I expected, which is refreshing.

Down to the reason I chose this book - the promise of a star-crossed romance between Nadia and Mateo. Sadly I was disappointed in the lack of any romance. It was the equivalent to two children holding hands in a playground - a lack of passion and no connection. I finished the book wondering if the main characters wanted to be together at all. Claudia writes as though they were in love and meant to be, but based on the events in the story, nothing happens beyond a glance or two.

Cover:
Simple and magical cover with a great choice of fonts and colours. The cover doesn't give anything from the story away, except that it's about a girl.

Final Comments:
This book was good, however I found that it dragged on a bit and I was just waiting for things to happen. It has some interesting bits and I think the overall story is strong, but the build up is so slow that it took me several attempts to read it. There is a cliff hanger which is expected, and I liked most of the characters, but it just didn't have a wow factor for me. 
The story continues with Steadfast which will be out in March this year.

Rating:

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: Switched


Switched
Release Date: 5th January 2012 (first published 2010)
Pages: 335
Publisher: Tor
Author: Amanda Hocking
Source: Purchased at Kmart
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right. She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her. Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit. But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth: Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home.

Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening. And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become…


Review:
Switched is the first in the series of the Trylle trilogy. I actually picked this book with my grandpa. He was trying to help me find a new book to read when he spotted the cover. I do as I always do, read the blurb on the back and give it a quick google. Didn't sound too shabby.

It tells the story of Wendy Everly, a bored girl that feels unloved and no sense of belonging, which is only made more real when her mother tries to kill her when she was six, claiming that she was a monster and didn't belong in her family. It makes you think, what could a little girl do so wrong to make her mother claim she isn't hers... She is raised by her loving brother Matt and aunt Maggie. That is until a mysterious boy named Finn shows up in her life and convinces her to run away with him to her real home and place where she belongs.... in Forening, home to the Trylle (trolls). In Trylle, Wendy discovers a new magical place, where she is important for a change, however darker forces are looking to tear everything apart before it begins.


When I first realised this was a book about trolls, I thought if an author can put an interesting spin on it, then I could at least give it a go. This book was pretty good - interesting, engaging and told in the first person. A refreshing break from what I usually read. Not a thriller or a romance, just a cool YA fantasy novel.

Wendy is not your average teen, which I was pleasantly surprised with. She is a handful but it is her attitude and desperation to find where she belongs that eventually wins you over. Plus she doesn't let anyone push her around. She is also a big deal, destined for greatness!
In terms of supporting characters, we get an interesting group of guys and gals, some potential love interests and others what I envision could be best friends. I have yet to read the second book, so I can't predict anything yet. Finn of course wins hands down for the hotty of the book. He does frustrate me at times - one of those guys that wants something, but doesn't really chase after it. One of my favourites is actually Matt, Wendy's brother. He is a very supportive, intelligent, gentle guy who gives everything he can for his sister, a real rarity.

Wendy does get her go at a bit of romance, however it felt like more of a build up to something that could become bigger in the second book. Plus, when she has everyone against who she wants, you know this will drag on for a while

Cover:
I love the Australian cover for this book (the one above), it is what got my attention. Doesn't give much of an insight into the story but it feels a bit whimsical and mysterious.
The US cover (to the right) is equally superb. I love the colours and mystery in the cover, from the castle down to the flowers. 

Final Comments:
This book was great, however my only annoyance is the ending. It concludes abruptly, but not even with a cliffhanger that makes you wanting to read on. It is almost as though someone tore out the last few pages of the book and left you confused. The only solution to this is to buy Torn (book 2) and continue on. 

Rating:

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Review: The Shape Stealer


The Shape Stealer
Release Date: 14th March 2013
Pages: 352
Publisher: Bantam Press
Author: Lee Carroll
Source: Purchased on Amazon
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
Jewelry designer Garet James is the Watchtower—the last in a long line of powerful women sworn to protect the world from evil. Although she had once defeated evil in New York City, her pursuit of her true love, the 400-year-old vampire Will Hughes, has now unleashed an age-old evil onto the modern world, and the entire planet is at risk.

Marduk, the ageless descendant of a demonic Babylonian deity, is now loose in Paris. He has joined forces with the villainous John Dee in a plan to destroy the world’s economy and plunge the entire world into chaos.


To fight this threat, Garet enlists the help of a modern-day band of knights who are dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the timeline. As she and her allies face this threat, new challenges arise in the form of a rival faction of knights who will stop at nothing to bring about the destruction of everything Garet holds dear.


Review:
This book is the third and final in the series by Lee Carroll, author of the first book Black Swan Rising. I was really looking forward to this book after the cliffhanger in The Watchtower (Book 2), where Garet James was on the hunt in another time for the man she loves, Will Hughes. While she does finally find "Will", that is when the story begins - life gets complicated and you get thrown into a book of hedge funds, magical and demonic beings and time portals .

While Will does return, he is technically not Garet's Will, but a young version from the past, centuries before her time. To begin with, he lacks character and Carroll made him very dull. Over time, he does improve, but not enough to leave any lasting impression. Obviously those centuries of experience the older Will gained is what intrigues the reader.

The entire story follows Garet and her new companions in a quest to kill John Dee, Marduk and the Malefactors (I can't begin to explain what they are), while trying to move through time, save time, stop demons from changing history, return young Will and find older Will. It was a bit much. At times I found myself bored with the over-use of technical words that honestly weren't necessary. Having grown up in the financial market, even for me it was a bore. We get a fair amount of poetry, which at times works as we get an insight into older Will's thoughts, as he lives his life second time around thinking of Garet. Other times, I don't get it.
The chapters are back and forth between different characters and we only hear Garet in the first person. The remainder of the time you are following one of many other characters.
To be honest it drags on and when you think it is about to pick up, you are disappointed again. 

Cover:
Similar to those before, not much to say. In the start I didn't understand the reason for the bridge, but mid way it makes sense. 

Final Comments:
This book was okay, but there was a lot that could be improved. Perhaps a concrete plot, a bit of suspense and drama. There was not an ounce of romance between Garet and Will, which I found highly disappointing since they are supposed to be madly in love. You would think they were just friends that haven't seen each other in a few weeks. While it did continue from Book 2, it didn't pick up at any point, therefore I only suggest you read it if you are desperate to hear what happens after Book 2. I almost wish they left it at Book 2 with us wanting more.

Rating:


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Review: The Selection


The Selection
Release Date: 7th June 2012
Pages: 327
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Author: Kiera Cass
Source: Purchased at Waterstones
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.


Review:
I was recommended this book by the Sales Assistant at Waterstones Piccadilly Circus. As I love watching romantic reality shows like Ready for Love and The Bachelor, although I wish they weren't as staged. The thing that really intrigued me about it was the blurb - "In a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels, The Selection is the chance of a lifetime: to compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon's heart. But for American Singer it means turning her back on her secret love, and leaving home for a prize she doesn't want".
As you can see, its not exactly like the dating shows, but better! America already is in love, and is only entering for the sake of her family. Confused? Then read on.

The Selection follows the story of America Singer, who lives in a world of social castes. America herself is a five, at the lower end of the system. With the lower castes obviously not as well off as the higher, America's mother convinces her to enter the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart. It's simple, marry the Prince, be rich and save your family! The downside... well every single other girl want's the same thing. To give this story a bit of juice, America doesn't freely enter the competition with an open heart, she is secretly in love with Aspen, who belongs to a lower caste, which in this world, doesn't get approval from your parents. Assuming she wouldn't be chosen, she enters and gets the shock of a lifetime when she becomes one of the chosen 35. From here on out, there is drama! Think cat fights, sabotage, confusion and more!

In the middle of all the competing and romance is a bit of political drama with rebel attacks due to the caste system. At first, I thought this was a bit odd, but when you get into this book, you come to appreciate the small details outside the Palace walls. The royal life is not as black and white as you would think, and you really get to see multiple sides of the royal family. It is a bit of a back story, but the lower castes obviously don't like how things are run. This ultimately will continue and build up through the series.

When it comes to boy candy, there is enough to go around. With the choice of Aspen (America's secret boyfriend) and Prince Maxon, America has a choice to make. The guy that will save her family's fate or the one that has always been there for her. I found myself torn over and over again who I thought she should end up with. Both of them have qualities fit for America, drawing you into a love triangle that you can't get enough of. Prince Maxon may be the one making the choice, but with America having her own private show on the side, who will ultimately make the decision?

The only downside of the story for me is America's need to mess things up. I understand she is confused, but her constant need to lash out at people that didn't deserve it and to disobey rules just irritated me. Then again, it's this confusion that keeps you on your toes because you never know which way the story will go.
The story was so addictive, I ran to the store the next day to pick up the second book. I'm just disappointed that I can't read book three until next year.

Cover:
This cover grabbed me instantly, the gorgeous dress and simplicity. You really don't need to see much else because you spend more time in the book.

Final Comments:
I loved this book and highly recommend it to any YA or dystopian fans. If you love your reality dating shows, well then this is perfect for you. Not only do you have a dozen girls vying for one man's attention, but you have a second on the side which spices it up!
And if you find yourself wanting to know more about Prince Maxon, there is a book from his perspective, going into more detail behind the scenes, titled The Prince.

Rating:
Continuing my book loving spree, I'm giving it 5 acorns as it was one of the best books I have read!


Friday, 23 August 2013

Review: Beautiful Disaster


Beautiful Disaster
Release Date: 14th August 2012
Pages: 416
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Author: Jamie McGuire
Source: Purchased (Kmart Australia)
Purchase Book: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Goodreads:
INTENSE. DANGEROUS. ADDICTIVE.

Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

Review:
I chose this book on a whim while I was hunting for something new to read. My 18 year old cousin and I were reading the back of every single book to see what sounded interesting. To be honest I did put this book down a few times as the blurb on the back was confusing and didn't give much insight into the plot. It deserved something much better.

Another refreshing change for me, this book had no supernatural storyline. To put it simply, its an intense story about a girl named Abby who heads off to college with her best friend America looking for a new start, away from her family who caused enough trouble for her as it is.

The story wouldn't be complete without Travis, the dangerous tattoo covered hot guy who has girls throwing themselves at him from every angle... Abby obviously finds his arrogance annoying and a turn off. Although, what bad guy can resist a girl that's a challenge?
The difference with Travis is that he is unbelievably passionate and devoted to those close to him. You can feel every ounce of emotion through the pages. Jamie McGuire obviously knows how to write from the heart.

Other major characters in the story are Shep and America. America is Abby's best friend and Shep is Travis's. They are two very supportive characters who I think play a vital part in the story. Jamie goes into so much detail with personalities that you feel you already know and love them all.

It is written from Abby's perspective which I always feel grabs the reader in more as you feel like you are there with her the whole way. The best way I can describe what this story does to you is comparing it to a snow globe. You shake and enjoy watching the snow fall and then have to shake again, watching the same thing happen over and over again. I put it down to the fact that Abby is a bit of a drama queen who can't decide what she want's in a guy. If you have ever been in that situation where you feel a guy isn't right for you but you can't resist him, then honestly this is your book. This book sucks you in and you just can't help but read through the night... at least that's what I did. Abby and Travis's relationship is as complex as it gets but I think that is what makes the story. After all, who wants a simple story about a good girl catching the bad boy - It's done all the time.

The other great thing about this story is that its set in a college and not high school, so you don't get that immature teen romance, these character have a bit more perspective which is what I think makes it more intense. I do have to advise any parents buying a book for their younger child, as this is based in college, you do get the occasional bedroom scene that gets down to detail. It wasn't that bad, but I feel this story needed that oomph just to emphasize both the passion and strains in their relationships.

Cover:
A decent cover, nothing that is too attention seeking and the blurb is useless, but I am extremely glad I gave this book a chance. It's a random butterfly in a jar and I am not entirely sure how that connects with the story.

Final Comments:
I loved this book, despite the annoying stop and go throughout the book. But I have to give it to Jamie, nothing could stop me as I stayed up a whole night trying to finish this book. I am only disappointed that the only follow up to this book is the story told from Travis's perspective. While I definitely will go out and pick it up, I would have love to see this book turned into a series. I have no idea where it would go, but I'm just not ready to abandon Abby and Travis yet.

If you do decide to continue on, check out Travis's story in Walking Disaster which is out now. When I get a hold of it, I will follow up with that review.

Rating:
Once again in my journey to find books I love, I'm giving it 5 acorns as It sucked me in! While I am not usually into bad boy types, I doubt I could avoid Travis.