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

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?


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.

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!


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.

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

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

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.


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.

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.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Review: 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

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…

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

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. 


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

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.

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. 

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.