My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: Allen and Unwin Publishers

An interesting book that I flew through in a matter of hours.

What starts off with character profiling and world building, I thought this would be a crime/thriller – a case of ‘who done it’? – however, it sends you on a rollercoaster ride to something completely different.

The book is told in various perspectives however it focuses on Jazmin Little who has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared – however, Becky didn’t just disappear – she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground!!! Like she simply vanished into thin air!! Since Becky’s disappearance, the question remains – did Jazmin have something to do with her friend’s disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus? an infamous character you get to know as you read the book.

A short book approx. 215 pages, It had a futuristic Frankenstien vibe to this story. The characters’ voices were projected quite well throughout the story though some of the dialogue got a little annoying – I guess teenagers communicate a little differently these days. As the story goes on, I found myself turning the page wanting to know what happens next and where all of this “mess” was coming from. I can definitely see a sequel coming out of this one. I liked the plot and how we get to know each character by the page – the story isn’t an info dump, it progresses and the plot thickens at each turn. I recommend this to fans of YA Sci-Fi and Thrillers.

Special thanks to Allen dnd Unwin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed from page 1. The plot was so intriguing and although this is an alternative history story, I can see the immense research the author put into this book.

Taking us back to the era of the Ottoman Empire, this book follows a female protagonist one may consider cruel and brutal, though if you were a Princess who was abandoned by their father to be raised in Ottoman Sultan’s courts and living in a world where women did not have rights, I guess I can understand Lada Dragwyla’s character. Ruthlessness is her key to survival, especially when her lineage has made her and her brother targets in this cruel world.

As the story progresses, Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and her brother Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes!!! The characters were so well defined which made the story so great. Lada was the ruthless one, Radu is struggling to be true to himself and Mehmed is the misunderstood son of the Sultan that Lada plans to seek vengeance on.

Personally, I found the plot intriguing even the strain between Radu, Lada and Mehmed wasn’t cliché, it was interesting given the year and time it was set in. I found the alternative history setting very thorough and I was especially excited to see accurate Islamic representation in this book through the dialogue as the characters discussed the 5 pillars of Islam, prayers and even the Umrah/Hajj pilgrimage!! This is the first of an epic trilogy and I am really excited to read the sequel, “Now I Rise” as soon as possible.

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Fast Paced – Action – Adventure!!!

It hasn’t been the best week for Jessica McClain. Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge but Jessica is playing for keeps. Because she’s the only female werewolf in town, it comes with its own set of rules and powers. Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means. All in a day’s work for a girl.

The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full on action adventure featuring one angry Goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties. The old adage of ‘it doesn’t rain but pours’ holds true for Jessica McClain.

Hot Blooded takes you on a fast action adventure, where the main character doesn’t fully grasp of what’s in play. We also get told that there is a prophecy is in play around Jessica and the very little we do know, we find out more when Jessica does.

-Meredith

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: The Realm – Hachette Publishers

When I first saw this book, I saw the caption: “A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.” And yes.. I agree!!! This book was very enchanting and sends you into a world of Wunder and Magic!!! I loved it so much, I wish I had a magic umbrella now. The book is very well written and the storyline captivated me from page one. Although the characters are young in age, the content is definitely suitable for fans of YA Fantasy Fiction – or fans of Harry Potter!!

An interesting story of a girl, Morrigan, who was born on ‘Eventide’ which is deemed a very unlucky day for a child to be born and all her life she’s believed to be cursed – the cause of all misfortune around her and she her life was to end at midnight on her eleventh birthday however as she waits for this terrible fate to come, Jupiter North appears – whether he’s her saviour or the channel that simply prolongs her fate is yet to be seen – however, Morrigan finds herself swept into this new world, Nevermoor – where she is to engage in several trials to deem her work in the Wundrous Society.I found the trials and magic to be very creative and the world of Nevermoor to be quite unique. A great storyline, interesting and funny characters – witty dialogue and very easy to follow.

There were moments I couldn’t put this book down.. the story is very engaging and OMG.. THAT TWIST!!! (wont say anymore for fear of spoilers).

Due for release this October, I highly recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman or fans of general YA Fantasy Fiction.

Special thanks to The Realm: Hachette Publishers for giving me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

Enchantment by Brittany Riley + Exclusive Q&A

I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany at the Allen and Unwin YA Fan Fest in 2016. When Brittany told me she published her first book, I was most excited to read it… And did not disappoint!!! Having read this book, I can highly recommend it to fans of mythology, folklore, fae and YA urban fantasy. Brittany gave me a copy of her book and once I read it, I managed to do a quick Q&A with her to share with you all..

Enchantment
The protagonist is Elise Dawson and she has led a pretty sheltered life being home-schooled and protected by her parents from the suspicious eyes of the world. Like thousands of others, the Dawsons are the descendants of the UndeAdlic Acolitus, or Immortal Lightbearers–a subspecies of faerie with only one enemy: the Banshees – an evil version of the Lightbearers however, Elise has no idea who she is, what her power or destiny is as she feels suffocated under the overbearing protection of her parents. Little does she know she is the descendant of the first water elemental, Lennox Henderson, and that she has the ability to control all water sources on Earth. This is a story of a young woman who discovers her true identity and must choose between her destiny as an elemental or someone who should be her enemy.

Again, I recommend this for fans of YA fantasy/urban fantasy fiction who like reading about elementals and fae. The book is very well written and I was gripped from the prologue right to the end – it’s very easy to read and the suspense keeps you hanging, wanting to know what will happen next. The family dynamic and friendship was illustrated very well and I also like how the author illustrated the initial meeting between unlikely allies: Elise and Christian- their initial meeting and continued interaction, I found, set itself apart from other YA characters interaction, it wasn’t so cliché. The characters and the storyline progressed quite well and the structure was very easy to understand and follow. A great debut novel!!!

Special thanks to author, Brittany Riley, for giving me a copy of her debut novel in exchange for my honest review…

Pictured: Brittany Riley

Exclusive Q&A with author Brittany Riley

Your debut novel, “Enchantment” was published in 2016. What was your inspiration to write your first novel?
I actually come up with the idea when I was in high school. I’m not sure of the exact ‘lightbulb’ moment, but I remember sitting in class and getting excited over the opportunity to see this idea through. Mind you, it was a very different version back then, in almost every respect. It was only over the following years that I fully developed the storyline, characters, cliff-hangers and aspirations for worldwide publication.

Is there any particular reason you chose fantasy fiction as the genre for your debut novel?
I’ve always been obsessed with fairy tales and magic. Even as a child, my favourite creatures were fairies. I guess the most amazing thing about writing and even Y.A is that I can explore these concepts while adding my own dark, personal twist.

How did you come up with the characters and their interaction? I liked Elise’s interaction with Christian throughout the story – I guess forbidden fruit is always interesting…
I wanted to be different in how my characters came together and interacted. I didn’t want my book to be your average fairy tale, because too often, even in real life, love stories are messy and beautiful and catastrophic all at once. I’ve always loved the idea of forbidden fruit; it’s far sweeter. I think Christian and Elise’s love story is very different from all the rest.

I found “Enchantment” touches on real life themes such as family relations – when Elise is struggling to understand her parent’s decisions which they believe are in her best interests but with limited to no context of these decisions, Elise felt so suffocated and tempted to rebel, were these sorts of themes inspired by real life stories you may have heard or even experienced yourself?
I personally have never felt Elise’s level of suffocation, but I think the concept of constriction, in whatever context, can relate to many people on many levels. I empathise with both Elise and her parents in a way, because I know if it was my child I would want to protect them, but if I was put in Elise’s positon, I’d be frustrated beyond comprehension too. It’s a fine balancing act between what’s “right and wrong” and how these definitions differ in the eyes of those around you.

It looks like a lot of research went into your novel – I liked how there is a lot of information presented in the book so the reader can read exactly what Elise was reading when she was researching her history – without revealing ‘trade secrets’ how did you go about your research?
I’ve always loved European history, so it was actually fun to write! I had to find a medium between factual and fantastical to suit the story. Obviously Elise was in need of information about her own identity and the audience needed context because it was the first book, so I thought this particular presentation of information was the best option.

I won’t give anything away other than – at the end of the book, I felt it was a bit of a cliff hanger… will we see a sequel? When?
I’m working on the sequel as we speak, however, I still have a day job and need to dedicate time to that as well. In terms of release date and publication, I am currently querying agents so I can get the book/TV deal I’ve always dreamed of! I’m hoping doors of opportunity open soon so everyone can immerse themselves in my books on a far larger scale!

There are five books in the series. I know exactly how each goes and how the whole story ends, and believe me when I say there is a whole lot of love, heartbreak, scandal and breathtaking moments to come in the series!

When you’re not writing, what could we find you doing?
I love coffee, so you’ll generally find me at cafes watching the world go by. I’m very close to my family as well, so I love spending time with my mum at the gym or shopping. I love watching TV series too, especially Shadowhunters, Reign, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries; anything Y.A based, really. I find it inspiring as I want a TV adaption for my own series one day. Apart from all these activities, I love scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and finding inspiring stories, writing quotes and opportunities for discovery.

Do you enjoy reading yourself? What genre/s do you enjoy?
I do love reading, and I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Y.A writer myself or my age, but I rarely read anything that isn’t Y.A. I love Becca Fitzpatrick and Fleur Ferris, and any author that can transport me to another exciting, heart-pounding universe.

How can readers contact you or get hold of a copy of “Enchantment?”
My website contains all the relevant information! It’s: http://www.brittanyrileyauthor.com. I also have a Facebook page (Brittany Riley – YA Author), Twitter page (@brileyauthor) and a few other social media links. My website has specific links to all the online stores where my book is available! I love seeing comments from readers and am aiming to continue building my online presence.

-Review and Interview by Annie

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

“Live by the Sword.. Die by the Sword.. No matter how often the Sword yells at you.. “

Release Date: 31 October 2017

Get ready boys and girls.. it’s time for a chivalrous quest!!!

This is an epic story that follows the Odo, Eleanor and Biter – an unlikely knight, a stubborn, head strong girl and.. a talking sword as they embark on a thrilling adventure to save their kingdom from the danger that comes in both human and dragon form. This is one fantastic collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams. A very fun story to read that I was easily engrossed in, I always wanted to know what happened next and I grew fond of the characters very quickly. Yes I even enjoyed a laugh or two. I particularly liked the use of ‘medieval’ font for each time the sword, Biter, would speak – the setting of the scene really puts you there. I also loved the witty dialogue between Odo and Eleanor that presents a strong friendship and importance of team work. I found Eleanor’s character to be an important part of the story – being quite intelligent and head strong, Eleanor demonstrated strength in female characters which I find to be important for middle grade literature – it doesn’t always have to be a heroic prince or a male knight who has ability to embark on a quest and to save their kingdom. Although I can see this story is suitable for a younger audience, it would also be suitable for older readers and fans of adventure reads for young adults. It’s definitely a family friendly adventure that’s well written, easy to read that pulls you in from page one. I certainly enjoyed this one, another favourite for 2017.

Special thanks to author, Garth Nix for giving me this Advanced Review Copy at the Read3r’z Re-Vu session held in May as we hosted the “Author in Focus: Garth Nix” theme.

-Annie

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

fantastic sequel that was just as epic as its debut!!!

“When two imperfect people come together, they make a perfect whole…”

“Nothing is more remote than yesterday, nothing is closer than tomorrow..”

In a nut shell.. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

This story continues from where we left off in the The Crown’s Game and we return to the characters I love so much.. Vika, Nikola and Pasha.. For those who read the first book, you remember what happened to these guys? (Really don’t want to give any spoilers here) Like book 1, book 2 kept me on the edge of my seat however I found this story to have even more mystery, intrigue and action!! The Crown’s Game focused on the building of alternate Russia and gave us insight into how The Crown’s Game worked – where enchanters entered into a competitive battle to win the position of Imperial Enchanter. However, now.. we look at the burning question – what happens when it’s not about fighting for the position of Imperial Enchanter anymore? It’s a fight for the throne…

Written so incredibly well, the story flowed amazingly even with various storylines. I absolutely loved the accurate referencing to Russian history within a fantasy story of magic set in alternate Russia. It’s definitely one of those books you can tell the author put a lot of thought, plan and research into it. I can officially say this book is another 2017 favourite!!

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie