Book Review: Charmfall by Chloe Neill

CharmfallA while back I was sent Firespell and Charmfall for review, books one and three of a series. I wasn’t overly impressed by Firespell and unfortunately, the same points I flagged in that review are still present in Charmfall.

High school can be a battlefield, but for Lily Parker, surviving at St. Sophia’s School for Girls is a matter of life and death…

Protecting Chicago from the dark side can be an exhausting job, especially when you’re a junior. So when the girls of St. Sophia’s start gearing up for Sneak, their fall formal, Lily decides to join in on some good, old-fashioned party prep—even if it means not giving demons, vampires and the twisted magic users known as Reapers her undivided attention.

But when a Reaper infiltrates the school, Lily doesn’t forget what she’s sworn to protect. She reaches deep into herself to draw out her magic—and finds that it’s gone. And it turns out she’s not alone. A magical blackout has slammed through paranormal Chicago, and no one knows what—or who—caused it. But Lily knows getting back her magic is worth the risk of going behind enemy lines…

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Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

I was left with very mixed feelings about The Diviners by Libba Bray. It took me nearly two months of boredom, frustration and annoyance to get through the first half, and about an afternoon to read the second half. The only reason I persevered was out of stubbornness.

And I’m glad that I did in the end. Somewhere in this gigantic tomb of a book is an interesting story and Bray clearly has a very definite plan for this series. Her writing is evocative and The Diviners is seeped in an eerie atmosphere, not to mention the sheer amount of research that has gone into this book.

It’s 1920s New York City. It’s flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It’s after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things its the opportunity to party like never before.

For Evie O’Neill, it’s escape. She’s never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she’s shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she’s always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.

But New York City isn’t about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren’t crimes of passion. They’re gruesome. They’re planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can’t solve them alone.

Evie wasn’t just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer – if he doesn’t catch her first.

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Book Review, Interview and Giveaway: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

If you’re a historical purist, than Witchstruck may not be the book for you. Lamb has woven together historical figures and events with fictional characters and the supernatural. It’s an unusual combination but one that I really, really enjoyed.

Set in 1554, Witchstruck introduces the story of Meg, servant to the closely guarded Elizabeth, and a practicing witch. It’s not long before a desperate Elizabeth turns to Meg for help, asking her to use her magic to foresee the future. Will she or won’t she be queen?

With growing political unrest, the arrival of a Spanish priest who seems determined to uncover her secrets and a ruthless witch hunter closing in on her, Meg finds herself in increasing danger. It’s not long before her loyalties are tested when she inadvertently becomes mixed up in treasonous plot that could see Elizabeth crowned, or executed, with Meg right alongside her.

I’ve always been drawn to stories about witchcraft, whether they lean towards the supernatural, featuring kick-ass women with actual powers, or focus on a more historical portrayal. Both fascinate me and Witchstruck, to my delight, is a combination of the two. Meg and her Aunt are both witches, a dangerous practice in Tudor England. In order to survive, Meg must hide who she really is, trusting no one, yet she cannot help but find herself drawn to Alejandro, a young priest sent to spy on Elizabeth’s household.

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Book Review: Firespell by Chloe Neill

Publisher: Indigo

Published: 5th January 2010

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Genre: Supernatural, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 6/10

Amazon/Goodreads

As the new girl at the elite St. Sophia’s boarding school, Lily Parker thinks her classmates are the most monstrous things she’ll have to face…

When Lily’s guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia’s. Lily’s ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke, and on top of that, she’s hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building.

The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout’s a little weird—she keeps disappearing late at night and won’t tell Lily where she’s been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster.

Firespell is a slow book. Too slow. I quite enjoyed it once the story finally picked up, the problem is, it takes roughly two thirds of the book to get there.  Continue reading

Book Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Publisher: Hodder

Published: 5th January 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 346

Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon/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.

I have always, always loved stories about witches and witchcraft, especially historical novels about witchcraft. When I realised A Witch in Winter was a contemporary, I was momentarily a little disappointed, but Warburton creates quite a rich, historical atmosphere with her setting that there was no chance of this becoming too Sabrina-like. I like my modern-day witches to have a strong connection to the past and A Witch in Winter definitely achieved that. Continue reading

Book Review: The Court Painter’s Apprentice by Richard Knight

The Court Painter's Apprentice by Richard KnightThis is an unusual story. While the writing is suited to its target audience, this short, historical novel has a sophisticated, intelligent and moralistic edge to it, that reminded me very much of the short novels I studied at school (which I used to enjoy, in case you’re thinking that’s a criticism!) I can actually see this one sitting among them quite comfortably.

‘Paint what you see, Johann; not what you think you see.’ This is the advice that Hugo, master portrait painter, gives to his protege, Johann. But Johann’s talent for painting the truth runs deeper than anyone can ever imagine. Johann soon discovers how changing the portraits he paints, can change the lives of his subjects- from fixing the pox-marked skin of a lowly serving girl, to changing the course of history by painting a petulant and spoiled heir to the empire as a noble ruler. But with the power to bring good fortune to those around him, Johann is soon tempted to change his own…

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Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 28th September 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Genre: Paranormal,  YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 9/10

Amazon/Goodreads

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. 

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

OK. I loved this book.

I’ve been reading some average books lately. None was as good as I’d hoped, or held my interest for long. And then along came The Name of the Star, a book I’d been vaguely interested in reading for months now but for some reason had always been pushed to the back of the pile.

I was hooked from the first chapter. Continue reading

Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Publisher: Egmont UK Limited

Published: 2nd May 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 435

Genre: Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Rating: 6.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?’

Pretty good, but didn’t blow me away. I think that sums up how I ultimately felt about Unearthly.

Which is kind of what I expected, but then again, everyone insisted that this was the paranormal book to read if you don’t tend to get on well with books such as Hush, Hush, Fallen etc.

Unearthly is definitely in a league above these, but I still found my attention wandering at certain parts. Continue reading

Book Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Books

Published: 4th August 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 8/10

Amazon/Goodreads

’17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever. Or thereabouts.After a mugging on the streets of South London goes horribly wrong and exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust – her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them. Trying to uncover the truth of why her mother was killed, and the real remit of The Unit, Lila becomes a pawn in a dangerous game. Struggling to keep her secrets in a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone – there are others out there just like her – people with special powers – and her mother’s killer is one of them…’

I’ve been very lucky lately in that I’ve read several very good books in a row recently, which doesn’t happen often. I bought Hunting Lila purely because I hadn’t read a single negative review. Even the Goodreads ratings are overwhelming positive, which is pretty rare. After reading it for myself, I’m not at all surprised it’s so popular, Hunting Lila is a fun, flirty read and looks like it could become a great series.  Continue reading