Book Review #80: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Sunday, 19 June 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Scholastic UK! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: The Sleeping Prince
AuthorMelinda Salisbury
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Format: ARC
Publication DateFebruary 4th 2016
Pages: 367
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

The Sin Eater's Daughter was the introduction to this fantasy world. A book where medieval  royalty plagued the lands, where confinement and routine are drilled into your minds, where treachery and betrayal looms around every corner. The Sleeping Prince took that initiative and developed it beyond my expectations. Focusing on a completely new character, The Sleeping Prince introduces us to Errin, her story and the trials that she faces in her day to day life. Whilst Errin's story plays out, in the background the Sleeping Prince is awake and his hell-bent revenge and path of destruction knows no bounds.

Errin's tale was totally different to Twylla's and I found myself so engaged for completely different reasons. Whilst I admired Twylla's bravery to survive, I also loved the shared interest to survive from Errin, even if the scenario she was in was completely different. I really loved the contrast between Errin and Twylla - one full of fear and passion and the other embodied by mystery and hope - their narration really makes the story and I'm so glad that Melinda decided to tell their tales in two halves.

Delving into this whole other world, the dynamics of Errin's life are unique. Life as a apothecary has it's hardships for Errin, fighting to survive for a simple meal and to keep the roof over her head, let alone having to deal with the loss of her father, a missing brother and a mother whose mental health is declining so badly it's becoming a danger to herself and Errin. When war against the Sleeping Prince threatens Errin's doorstep she becomes thrust into a world of alchemy, magic and darkness. Her only lifeline is Silas, and the hope of a mystical cure for her mother that takes her across the realm with the threat of the Sleeping Prince hot on her tail. With the introductions of familiar faces woven throughout, readers will be delighted to wonder in this mythological infused fantasy. You'll just have to ignore the brutal and merciless trail of bodies that Melinda leaves in her wake. 

For those of you who have read The Sin Eater's Daughter, you will know that Melinda isn't afraid to take risks, but considering the prologue of The Sleeping Prince leaves readers with a blood volume higher than Dracula's private storeroom, fans of Salisbury's lust to defy reader's expectations will be eternally satisfied. 

In my review of The Sin Eater's Daughter I mentioned that I would have liked to have explored the history and mythology of the Sleeping Prince more, and in this book my desire was granted ten-fold, as Salisbury crafts a mythical lore that will leave readers in awe. The Sleeping Prince is not a force to be reckoned with and the passion in his mythology brings his tale to life. It is truly phenomenal and I cannot wait to see where his vengeance takes the story next.

All in all, the journey that this book takes you on and the woven themes that are presented in both books make this series easily one of my favourites. Whilst I may not be able to completely put my finger on why, it's unique development of it's characters gives this story an edge over other YA titles currently out there. It's no wonder that Melinda's book has been nominated for so many awards, it's truly a magical tale. The Sleeping Prince leaves readers with an epilogue that screams continuation, and whilst 2017 seems like an absolute age away, you can be assured that I will be on the waiting list to read the novel first. I award The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale.Congratulations Melinda, you've provided a delightful adventure for young readers to explore, find themselves in and to be completed absorbed by.

Book Review #79: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Orion! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: Orion
Format: ARC
Publication DateFebruary 9th 2016
Pages444
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

It's always difficult to review a book when the only notes you have left for yourself are ' That ending! Those deaths! Why?!' Seriously helpful, Daniel. Looking back on Glass Sword, it is definitely evident to see that Victoria Aveyard has stepped up a notch in providing her readers with something extra. Red Queen was an introduction to Norta and the story of Mare Barrow, and that itself packed a mighty punch. Glass Sword was unreal - a complete opposition to Red Queen in it's story, and yet there was so much development that it left me craving for more.

We continue the story immediately from where Red Queen left off, and we're once again thrust into Aveyard's world of deception and mystery. Escaping from the vindictive and newly crowned, Maven, Mare surrounds herself by old friends as well as a new rebellious force behind the Scarlet Guard. Over time, Mare's story journeys to far off areas of Norta, giving readers a wider angled view of the country we began to learn about in Red Queen, as she seeks out the newbloods on her list - individuals embodied with silver abilities disguised within red blood. As we venture through the lands, we're exposed to some new characters, reunited with old characters and provided with a developed sense of bond and unity that holds the rebellion together. All in all, it was very impressive to see the counter side of the fight after spending the majority of Red Queen investing in the world of the silver bloods.

Whilst at times the story seemed repetitive, constantly seeking out the next newblood, Aveyard provides her readers with intense action sequences and a variety of twists and turns along the way, each darker and more suspenseful than you could imagine. That is one thing that impressed me so much in Red Queen and in Glass Sword it blew it out of the water - Aveyard's ability to provide surprise that will literally get your heart pounding. 

Character development is a major feature of Glass Sword, especially for our main protagonist. In this novel, Mare changes quite a bit, dealing with the impacts of Maven's kingship as well as the extension of her abilities. As she learns to battle against herself, the forces of revolution around her remind her of the trials and tribulations she is yet to face under Maven's rule. You can definitely see there is going to be a scene or two in the third book where Mare is going to have to confront everything she has learned to battle against, especially within herself, and it's going to be explosive. I can't wait. 

Now a book wouldn't be good without a good death and boy oh boy does Aveyard smack you in the face with the death count. Whilst her body hits aren't as torturous as George R.R.Martin, Aveyard certainly knows how to caress your heart and then crush it into a thousand pieces when it comes to her characters. I'm not going to bother spoiling who dies and so on and so forth, but my advice to readers is simply to prepare yourself because it cripples you. As soon as you read it, you'll soon know the sweet torture that Aveyard delivers.

In consideration of everything, the element that makes this book what it is has to be the ending. Aveyard wasn't afraid to shock us in Red Queen with Maven's dramatic turn, and yet in Glass Sword, when we thought Aveyard couldn't brutalise her cliffhangers much more, she drops the bombshell on us that is the Glass Sword ending. My goodness, if you weren't eager for the next instalment then you certainly will be now - the ending is torturous, heart-breaking and yet devilishly delicious. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book to see where this dark and twisted finale will take us. I award Glass Sword a 4 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale - a delicious wonder to behold for those who enjoy sinister betrayal and an explosion of character development. I eagerly await the next book. 

Book Review #78: Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Harper360! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Ice Like Fire
AuthorSara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Format: ARC
Publication DateOctober 13th 2015
Pages479
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

After finding Snow like Ashes a more than pleasurable read, I was extremely delighted to dive straight into the sequel, Ice like Fire. Expanding the world of Primoria beyond what we only glimpsed at in the first book, Raasch definitely provides her readers with a whole new experience, picking up almost immediately where the last book left us.

It's been three months since the book ended and King Noam has put in force his plans for the Winterians. Digging away in the mines, striving to uncover the magic chasm that the kingdom's conduit were forced from, our story takes a very different twist from it's predecessor as whilst previously there is a greater impact placed on character development, Ice like Fire is quite heavily focused on the action. That isn't to say however, that there isn't a sense of character development in this book because the way the chapters are split up into Meira and Mather's points of view definitely explore all angles and feelings about whats happening in Primoria. 

Setting off to warn the other kingdoms of Noam's imminent invasion, Meria journeys to the Summer kingdom and meets the princess Ceridwen. Ceridwen for me was my absolute favourite new introduction by Raasch - her determination and defiance of even her own kingdom's beliefs was refreshing and her eased up attitude added a great deal of humour to scenes of such a darker nature.

This books definitely takes a darker turn than Snow Like Ashes did and you can see this simply from some of the themes that are brought about. One of these themes, in particular, is the theme of secrecy. In this novel, Meria discovers many truths that were previously held secret to Winter and the other Kingdom's as well as that of secrets that other character's are hiding themselves. The most mysterious of these would be Theron in this book, and whilst in Snow Like Ashes I adored Theron, in this book I definitely read Theron differently and this dark mysteriousness to him aided this reading. It was a shame to see such a significant turn in Theron's character, and yet the ending, whilst it surprised me, opens up so many opportunities for Theron to develop. This twisted result favours Raasch's ability to surprise and prove some even darker twists and turns which I'm sure will be revealed in Frost Like Night. 

Overall, Ice Like Fire is a difficult book to review without giving away major spoilers because this is definitely a book that changes multiple perspectives. However, these perspectives completely credit the book and Sara Raasch's writing and I found Ice Like Fire to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and one of the most surprising I've read in a while. I award Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch a full 5 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale, a dark and delicious sequel to what is developing as a stunning series. I eagerly await the final instalment from Sara - I just hope she isn't too merciless to some of our beloved characters.

Character and Voice - A Guest Post by Olivia Levez

Thursday, 7 April 2016 0 comments
Hey guys! I'm here today with a fantastic guest post by Olivia Levez, author of the newly debuted 'The Island'! In order to promote the release of The Island, Olivia is here today to talk to you about character and voice, and how she met her main protagonist Fran Stanton. So without further ado, I'll pass you straight over to Olivia!

"Character and voice- how i met fran stanton"

In YA fiction, you’ve got to find the voice. But first the voice has to find you.

The first time Fran spoke to me, I was in the kitchen, doing something mundane, like putting dishes away.

Hurriedly, I grabbed a pen and listened.

Then it started to happen more and more. Her voice would slip into my head, and she’d say something so real, so raw, that I’d sigh and look for my notebook/receipt/piece of kitchen roll, and scribble it down.

Eventually, all these random gatherings became, of all things, a letter.

This girl, Frances, told me she was on a desert island. She was fuming mad because she’d been trying and failing to make a recipe out of berries she’d foraged.

I called it ‘Poison berry Trifle’. She was speaking to a fictional daytime cookery show presenter, and it was all very ironic and fairly random. My writing group was quite polite about it. Eventually, I took it out of the book. I mean, she didn’t even have a pen, and I didn’t think she’d be the sort of person to watch daytime cookery shows.

But it was the first time I wrote in her voice.

It needed toning down a bit. I mean, it was very sweary. And the visceral description of the physical effects of food poisoning probably wasn’t necessary in quite so much detail. But there she was, speaking to me. Spitting angry. Scared. Frustrated. Needing to connect, but hating everyone.

This Frances character swore. A lot. And, being mindful of school gatekeepers, I wondered about showing that. In my previous fantasy book I used ‘faecking’. For Fran I came up with ‘frickin’. No end apostrophe, just because it seemed more like her actual word, not an abbreviation. Also, I worried that so many apostrophes could be irritating in large doses. In original drafts she said ‘cause’ instead of ‘because’ (‘coz’ and ‘cus’ being too baby-ish) but that got removed in editing as it was too confusing for the reader.

Another thing my character does is make lists. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, but something that gradually happened, and it became a big part of her voice. Maybe it’s because in her real life, Frances has to forage too. Her mum, Cassie, is too lazy and useless to stock up the cupboards, and Fran and her little brother live mostly on Snickers bars.

It made me wonder why people make lists. Because things are scarce, and you want to keep a check on things? Because you’re anxious you may forget something? Because there are things on your mind that disturb you unless you list them, write them down? Maybe new sensations are worth listing. Maybe lists are a mindful way to connect, properly connect, with your environment.

My current ‘to do’ list – don’t ask about the mould on the ceiling!

The Island is full of lists, whether it’s lists of the disgusting foods Fran finds, or foods she longs to eat, or a list of her first impressions of the magical otherness of the setting. Or when, filled with horror, she lists the noises she hears as she’s cringing and flinching in her washed up liferaft, that very first night by the forest. For whatever reason, lists became a big part of Fran’s voice.

So I had lists, and I had ‘frickin’, but mostly I felt and heard the character; I was her. I felt very low and lonely, writing the parts of the book where she is really suffering. I have already talked about method writing in my own blog, where I became a ‘caravan castaway’ in order to write the book, and this isolation really did make me feel Fran’s experiences.

In my teaching job at a secondary school, I have known Frans. Many of them.

Late for lessons, surly, up for a fight. Looked after. Pupil Premium. Disadvantaged student. There are lots of labels. Often such pupils are carers, for their mum, their kid brother or sister. There are reasons why they’re tired in class, why knowing the success criteria for the lesson isn’t exactly top of their agenda.

Sometimes, creative writing is an outlet. I’ve been a GCSE examiner, and in the past read hundreds of stories, when that used to be part of the exam. And sometimes, you’d read one, and think, uh-oh, that’s too real, that’s not fiction, and the events described would be so harrowing that you’d contact the exam board to report it as a possiible safeguarding issue.

Because students write the truth, in the exam hall; they believe they’re writing to an anonymous audience, that it’s a safe place. So, in the same way, my character Fran writes her ‘story within a story’.

Fran Stanton is streetwise. She’s lived in Brixton all her life, and only once been to the seaside, when her mum took her and her brother to Weymouth. So what would she do on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Already used to stealing, foraging, toughing it out, sleeping on rooftops, how would she use her urban skills to survive? I thought it would be fun (though not for Fran) to make her self -destructive at first. So that she’s the antithesis of your typical Bear Grylls-type survivor.

Tobacco Caye, Belize, one of the places that inspired Fran’s island.

So she wastes everything through sheer recklessness, pours away water and refills with vodka, wastes all the matches by having a seagull party on the liferaft. She doesn’t care if she survives or not, because what’s the point?

But then there’s her brother. And all the memories. And of course the healing nature of the island itself.

And that is how I met Fran Stanton.

I just needed to work out why the frick she was on a desert island…

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Olivia Levez is a YA author who's debut, THE ISLAND was published in March 2016 by Rock The Boat. She is a writer, a blogger and a teacher. She is a Gryffindor and prefers snow days over heat-waves. Her caravan is her writing place - her room of one's own and she can almost do a headstand!

Twitter: @livilev
Instagram: olivialevez


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There were friends once, but they melted away. Things are different now I am a monster.

Frances is alone. Cast away on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, she has to find water, food and shelter. But survival is hard. Especially when she is haunted by memories of the things that she did before, the things that made her a monster. Pushed to the limit in extreme conditions, she battles to come to terms with her past, and find a future worth fighting for.

This is a gripping and thought-provoking story about one girl’s journey to become the person she believes she can be.

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Book Review #77: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Saturday, 26 March 2016 1 comments
Title: Snow Like Ashes
AuthorSara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Format: eBook
Publication Date: October 14th 2014
Pages432
Source: Bought
Rating☆☆☆
PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making. Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow Like Ashes was one of those books that from afar I looked at and thought, 'Yes, I need to read you.' The cover was intriguing and the plot had me hooked - I just needed to actually find the time to read it. When I eventually did, I was so glad as I thoroughly enjoyed it! The setting of Primoria was extremely unique, the world being split into both season and rhythm; the way the story was crafted around these factors was fascinating to read and unbelievably enjoyable to indulge within. Raasch provides her readers with a phenomenal, medieval YA fantasy novel to become completely absorbed in.

Right from the get go, readers are pulled into a story already in drastic motion - and for readers I often think this is the most crucial incentive to want to continue on with a story. Revealing the tragedy of the Winterian's past, readers are instantly captivated to read on. Raasch provides a plot line that just keeps on giving - giving reader's romance to root for, a vindictive enemy to loathe and a strong female protagonist to spur on throughout as she fights her way through her journey. As the plot progresses, reader's are provided with a constant array of events, meaning there is never a dull moment. Although a war is beginning to rage in the background, it is the character's inner turmoils that really turn heads in this novel. From Meria's internal struggles with adapting to prove herself as a warrior, or Mather's fight as Winterian's royal, readers are constantly kept on the edge of their seats with some new twist in the tale.

The world of Primoria is vast, and whilst only a small portion of it was explored in the first book, you could feel the potential oozing out of every page. Exploring the history of the conduits through Queen Hannah's memories, readers are provided with a fuller and richer reading experience by which they can truly feel part of the novel's world and understand it's culture. What I adored to read about in this world was how the character's reflected the traits of the kingdom they came from. Whilst Meira and the Winterians were pale of skin and snow white of hair, the people of Spring don golden hair and green eyes. As the links to the kingdom's was plain and clear to see, it made the ability to picture them in one's mind incredibly easy.

When speaking of characters, Snow Like Ashes had no short amount of them and right at the forefront of those characters is our protagonist, Meria. As an individual, Meira is headstrong, determined and feisty and as a main lead, she not only is remarkable but also rememberable. One of the things I often dislike about female leads is that there is that often doubt in upholding their own beliefs. In Meria's case, there are several occasions where she strives to fight for herself and her own beliefs and that is what makes her strong. Never does she belittle herself for being exactly who she is; never does she allow herself to be beaten.

Now quite often in books I will always find some element that makes me want to tear my hair out, and the majority of the time it is to do with the dreaded love triangle. Whilst Snow Like Ashes is no exception to the use of the love triangle, there is something about it that doesn't grind on me as usual. There were a few things right in the beginning of the novel (such as the constant side glances and never ending lip-bites) that made me question whether at times I wanted to continue. Thankfully, the plot and the world gave me more of an incentive to venture on than the annoyance of an initially torturous romance ever could. The more the novel went on however, the more I tolerated and at times actually enjoyed it. The two characters, Mather and Theron were both incredibly interesting - although I must admit I am totally Team Theron. Mather for me was moody and ignorant at times, whilst Theron was consistent in his development.

Overall, the twists and turns in this novel definitely kept me on my toes as I turned each page. I sped through the book quicker than I had imagined, and whilst at times some elements were predictable, I found them to be so in a very positive way - strangely. If you are a lover of high fantasy, dictators and a unique and developing world then this is definitely a book you should be picking up. There is so much potential for this world to continue to keep growing and I cannot wait to become a part of it as I explore further into the second and third volumes of Meira's story. I award Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale. I eagerly await the next surprise in store from a very talented author.

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