The Secret Fire (The Alchemist Chronicles #1) by C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld

The Secret Fire Cover

French teen Sacha Winters can’t die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She鈥檚 also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.

There鈥檚 only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world?

My Review of The Secret Fire

The Secret Fire (The Alchemist Chronicles, #1)The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sacha is 17, he lives in Paris and he can’t die. Until the day he turns 18 when the curse that protects him will kill him.

Taylor is just a normal English teenager trying to do well in her exams. But she starts getting terrible headaches and odd things start happening around her when she gets upset.

Their teachers ask them to work them together so Taylor can help Sacha with his English but they soon start to realise that it’s not an accidental pairing – Taylor holds some sort of key to breaking the curse that is going to kill Sacha.

I got caught up in the story behind Sacha’s curse. I liked his storyline better than Taylor’s and I liked reading the parts from his point of view more because they felt like they flowed better and were grittier and just more interesting than Taylor’s.

Taylor’s magic is explained as being ‘spiritual alchemy’ – it’s basically a science, where certain people are capable of manipulating atoms with the mind. Erm, no, I don’t think so. I can accept magically manipulating elements and all that but trying to pass it off as ‘just a science thing that some people can do’ just feels daft. It might not make much sense but it just doesn’t work for me.

Everything else about the book I liked though. Taylor and Sacha’s friendship and their trust in each other develop realistically, it wasn’t rushed and they just work well as a couple.

It’s a pretty standard young adult plot but it has enough new ideas and a strong enough personality on its own to make it worth picking up.

It’s easy and fun to read and there’s more than enough magic, action and adventure to keep it interesting. I started the next book as soon as I finished this one!

The Secret Fire
The Alchemist Chronicles
C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld
Young Adult Fantasy
September 3rd 2015
Kindle
424

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem

jem volume 3 cover

Something is wrong with SYNERGY! As JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS’ first tour begins, something or someone called SILICA is after them but who, or what, is she? Meanwhile, THE MISFITS need to replace their lead singer fast and maybe even permanently?!?

My Review of Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark JemJem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m still loving this series!

It’s nice to see this volume drops a lot of the relationship angst, it has an actual storyline!

The Misfits and Pizzaz get some character development and I think that was a very good decision. It keeps things interesting and adds the potential for more inventive storylines. I always preferred The Misfits to The Holograms so it makes me very happy to see that they are treated as more than the ‘bad band’.

The art is as good as ever, the outfits are stunning and the meatier storyline pays off, making this my favourite volume so far.

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 3: Dark Jem
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell
Graphic Novel
August 30th 2016
Paperback
136

The Sapphire Throne (Jewelfire #2) by Freda Warrington

The sapphire throne cover

The war appears to be over. Helananthe, granddaughter of the mad king, Garnelys, has gathered her forces and reclaimed the Amber Citadel of Parione, defeating its evil Bhahdradomen advisers…but matters are never simple. The destinies of Tanthe and Ysomir, sisters whose journeys from their village home of Riverwynde had a massive impact on the war, have driven them apart.

Ysomir is held in the Citadel, accused of killing King Garnelys. Tanthe is pulled through a portal to the realm of the mysterious Aelyr by Auriel – an Aelyr youth who insists he is her brother. And there are yet darker schemes afoot.

Tanthe faces challenges from her human friends and her Aelyr “family”. Rufryd, brother of Ysomir’s dead beloved, rages against the world and becomes Helananthe’s ambassador to the Bhahdradomen on the island of Vexor, where a terrifying fate awaits him. All will be changed forever.

In the second volume of her stunning Jewelfire Trilogy, Freda Warrington explores the machinations of the Bhahdradomen as they creep towards their ultimate aim – complete domination of the Nine Realms.

My Review of聽The Sapphire Throne

The Sapphire Throne (The Jewelfire Trilogy #2)The Sapphire Throne by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sapphire Throne is a huge improvement on the first book.

The Amber Citadel introduced so many characters and backstory and such a massive amount of history that the story got bogged down. The Sapphire Throne takes all the setup already done and runs with it!

The story is exciting and well paced and Freda Warrington throws surprises in almost every chapter. She turns the expected fantasy storylines on their heads and writes something a bit different with a strong personality – often sorely lacking in the fantasy realm.

The ending leaves things in such a desperate state I NEED to get my hands on the next book to find out what happens.

I have a serious love / hate relationship with the characters in this series. All of them have things about them I dislike and make me angry but I still care about them. There’s so much less whinging that in the first book that I actually quite like Tanthe and Rufryd, though they still make some very questionable choices (especially Tanthe). It’s a refreshing change to have heroes that are flawed and human instead of humble and self-sacrificing to the point of saintliness.

I’m hooked – can’t wait for the next one!

The Sapphire Throne
Jewelfire
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
2000
Paperback
527

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral (Jem and the Holograms #2)

jem cover volume 2

Jerrica and her sisters face their biggest threat yet鈥攕uccess! Meanwhile, the Misfits aren’t taking these upstarts lying down… as they find themselves under new management. Plus, go behind the scenes and see THE HOLOGRAMS and THE MISFITS from a whole new perspective… that of music columnist Rio Pacheco!

Written by聽Kelly Thompson聽with art by聽Emma Vieceli,聽Corin Howell聽and聽Amy Mebberson聽with colors by聽M. Victoria Robado.

Collects issues #7-10, the聽Outrageous Annual 2015, and the聽2015 Holiday Special.

My Review of Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: ViralJem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume starts off with a bit of fun! The girls fall asleep watching movies and each of them has a short sequence聽of their different movie dream!

And then it’s back to the normal programming as Shana angsts over whether to stay in the band or follow her fashion dreams to Italy, The Holograms choose a label to sign with, and The Misfits hatch plans to bring down The Holograms and become more popular.

So business as usual really!

The art is fun, bright, colourful and the outfits are still amazing! There’s a little bit more about the girls and their lives in this one, their personalities come through a lot stronger than in the first volume. The writing and story lines showcase the strength of friendships and it’s nice to read stories about women with strong bonds between them.

My only complaint – I could do with slightly less of the relationship angst between Kimber and Stormer. They are cute together and I wish they would just get on with it.

I absolutely adore the artwork and the costumes and though the story doesn’t bring anything new it’s done well and the dialogue works. I’m loving this series!

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Emma Vieceli, Corin Howell, Amy Mebberson, Maria Victoria Robado
Graphic Novel
May 3rd 2016
Paperback
152

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye Cover

Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood — unbearable betrayals and cruelties — surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years.

Cat's EyeCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.”

Cat’s Eye is an in-depth look at the effects of childhood bullying and how it has long-term, lasting effects.

Elaine Risley escaped her bullies and went on to be a successful artist but the buried memories of her childhood still haunt her. It’s only when she returns to Toronto as an adult and reminisces as she visits the places she used to live and her old school that she realises much they still affect her and have harmed her relationships with other people in her life.

A strong theme running through the book is that revenge – an eye for an eye – is a dead end; it hurts everyone involved. Elaine got revenge on her bullies by becoming harder and meaner than them but that had knock-on effects on her relationships with other people. Elaine has to forgive herself for her actions as much as she has to forgive the people who bullied her.

“But I began to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of the other. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water.”

Time changes the way you view things, memories change and you see people and events differently as you age. When Elaine looks back on her childhood she can see that the bullies were trying to compensate for problems in their own life, it wasn’t anything Elaine did that caused it. She realises that her bullies weren’t concerned with her but with themselves. You are never the centre of other people’s stories: they are.

Margaret Atwood has a knack for telling complex and in depth stories in an accessible and easy to understand way. I think she’s brilliant at character observation: she knows exactly what to do to bring her character’s personalities to life. She also has this open and friendly writing style that just makes her stories super readable. I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by her, and this has to be one of my favourites so far.

I loved reading Elaine’s life story, how she travelled with her family and her experience of growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Actual events from history are woven in around Elaine’s life, which really helps to ground the story in reality. I’ve never been to Toronto but I was so engrossed in the story I felt like I could imagine myself there with Elaine. Now, I feel a bit like I have actually visited the city itself!

This is another brilliant book by Margaret Atwood. It’s very cleverly done and it’s also very enjoyable. Highly recommended!

Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood
Fiction
1990
Paperback
421

Fire (Engelsfors #2) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren

Fire Cover

The Chosen Ones are about to start their second year in senior high school. All summer they have been waiting for the demon’s next move. But the threat comes from another direction, somewhere they could never have foreseen.

It becomes more and more obvious that something is very wrong in Engelsfors. The past is woven together with the present. The living meet the dead. The Chosen Ones are tied even closer together and are once again reminded that magic cannot make you happy or mend broken hearts.

My Review of Fire
Fire (Engelsfors #2)Fire by Mats Strandberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fire is very Buffy inspired in that it’s as much about dealing with the horrors of high school and adults that think they know better, as it is about dealing with actual demons and magic users intent upon nefarious deeds. It even has a morally dubious magic council trying to police and control the witches powers. But Fire is moving and deep and transcends its Buffy influences by creating a wonderful story all of its own. This is definitely one of my favourite series about high school magic users, up there with the Brooklyn Brujas books by Zoraida C贸rdova.

I’d say the first 50% of the book there isn’t really any magic in it though, it’s just the girls dealing with life and family and friends. The magic side of the story is a slow burner, building up in the background all the time the girls were dealing with the fallout from Anna Karin’s magic use in the first book. Then when I’d actually stopped caring about the lack of magic because I was just enjoying the story, it all starts to kick off and the magic use amps up!

All through the book, there has been a demon touched witch lurking in the background influencing and controlling the townspeople. The girls kinda brush it to one side whilst they are surviving the magic council’s attentions as the ‘bad’ witch gains more and more power.

Both sides of the story are done well, I wasn’t bored waiting for the magic bits like I would normally find myself with this sort of book. I know what it’s like to be an ‘outcast’ at school and I think Fire captures that feeling so well. The girls are dealing with all sorts of family and relationship issues and then on top of that they have to deal with the magic council turning up too. It’s very realistic in the way it portrays the girl’s personalities and the cliques which exist in high school.

We have Minoo – super shy and retiring, she struggles to make friends and has little confidence in her magic.

Vanessa – a wild child whose self-worth is wrapped up in her boyfriend.

Ida – the school bully who has had her eyes opened to the effect her actions have on other people.

Linnea – an independent loner that tries to deal with everything on her own.

Anna Karin – an overweight outcast who feels that she has no control over herself or her life direction.

There is massive character growth in Fire: these five girls are still almost strangers at the start of the book but by the end, they see the good and the potential in each other. They start to trust their magic circle.

I’m kinda heartbroken by the ending, but I feel hopeful it’s just setting up for a killer storyline in the final book.

Basically, I loved it all! I can’t wait to read the finale.

Fire
Engelsfors
Mats Strandberg, Sara Bergmark Elfgren
Young Adult Fantasy
June 20th 2013
Kindle
687

Ready Player One (Ready Player One #1) by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One Cover

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS.

Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize.

The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win鈥攁nd confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the story. It’s interesting, fun, clever and I can totally see why they’ve made it into a film.

I liked the 80’s stuff but didn’t relate to it all because Wade seems to have very different tastes to me. Maybe I was a bit too young in the 80’s; I was into cartoons and toys and I’d watch the films Grease and The Little Mermaid on repeat. The video games we’d play in our house were Sonic or Paperboy, or Mission Impossible on the ZX Spectrum. But also there are no films / music / games by women in this – all male. I can kind of understand since Wade is a teenage boy in the 80s but surely there could have been some 80s female-led references squeezed in there?

The romance could have been left out, it didn’t add anything for me and I think the character of Atr3mis could have been way more awesome. It’s disappointing she’s relegated to ‘the love interest’.

Other than that I found it very entertaining, if slightly daft. The virtual world of OASIS was brilliantly done and the story is a thrill ride, I raced through it! The sci-fi and tech made me very happy.

Ready Player One
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Sci-Fi
August 16th 2011
Paperback
374

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu

Legend Cover

From different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths…

Until June’s brother is murdered, and Day becomes the prime suspect.

In a shocking turn of events, the two uncover what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths to which their country will go to keep its secrets.

My Review of Legend

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Legend a lot, it’s very readable and I flew through it. It’s also a bit (ok, a lot) predictable, more than a bit overly dramatic and a bit daft.

I liked the characters, June was intelligent and analytic and for once it actually came across in the writing. She does the Sherlock Holmes thing where she picks up on little details that make her seem almost psychic but it’s done in a subtle sort of way that just works without being too blatant.

Day is a good character too but not as convincing as June. He’s supposed to be able to pull off amazing stunts and thefts but messes up everything he tries during the course of the book. Then the way he is described and the way he acts makes him seem like a child, I would have believed it if he was supposed to be 13 but I think he is supposed to be about 15 / 16. This made the attraction between him and June feel a bit odd. I never felt that they were falling for each other and they went from meeting to falling in love over what felt like one smile. I wasn’t interested really I think it would have been better if it had just been left out, or left to develop in later books.

The rest of the story and the action made up for it though. It’s daft but fun and fast-paced enough that it never gets boring. It is predictable, (you can guess right from the start how it’s going to end) but the character’s voices keep it interesting.

An enjoyable read, it maybe takes itself a bit too seriously but it doesn’t stop it from being fun. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Legend
Legend
Marie Lu
Young Adult Sci-Fi
April 16th 2013
Paperback
305

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida C贸rdova

Labyrinth Lost Cover

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation – and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland.

My Review of Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida C贸rdova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young adult fantasy about a Bruja living in Brooklyn.

The book starts when Alex is living with her mother and sisters in Brooklyn, dealing with school, family, and the emergence of her magic powers. This was my favourite part of the book. The story moves to the world of Los Lagos and though I enjoyed their fairytale-like journey through that land it was the parts set in Brooklyn that felt the most real and the most interesting to me. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be set in Brooklyn.

I feel like it does take a lot of inspiration from the Mortal Instruments series but it manages to completely have its own personality and actually I enjoyed this a lot more. There’s a lot of original elements in to keep it interesting, the story is fun and fast moving, and I loved the characters. Rishi deserves a book all of her own, and Alex is fun to read.

If I wanted to look for faults with it I could say that the writing is mostly ok but has moments where it’s a bit stale; there’s a fair bit of explaining what’s just happened instead of showing it. The ending felt rushed and the big fight at the end was over almost before I realised it had started, there wasn’t enough of the Labyrinth in it! But these are only minor issues for me, I very much enjoyed reading it and really I just wish it were longer.

Give this one a go, it’s a fun and interesting read with a lot of originality and characters that will get under your skin, in a good way!

Labyrinth Lost
Brooklyn Brujas
Zoraida C贸rdova
Young Adult Fantasy
September 6th 2016
Kindle
336

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Fragile things cover

Let me tell you a story. No, wait, one’s not enough.

I’ll begin again?

Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Let me tell you of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of breaking down and making up, of dead men walking and missing fathers, of little French ladies in Miami, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls.

There are stories within stories, whispered in ears in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made up using just 26 letters arranged and rearranged again and again to form tales and imaginings which, if you let them, will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

My Review of Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & WondersFragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some stories I liked, some I wasn’t sold on. I do love his imagination and his writing style though, and I think this is a book that will benefit from re-reads.

My favourite story was Instructions – a guide to how to survive in a fairytale! I absolutely love this one and it’s the main reason I went with four stars instead of three.

When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders
Neil Gaiman
Fantasy
September 25th 2006
Paperback
422