The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries #1) by Maryrose Wood, The Duchess Of Northumberland

The poision diaries cover

foxglove

oleander

moonseed

belladonna

love

In the right dose, everything is a poison

My Review of The Poison Diaries

The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries, #1)The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a weird little book of weirdness. It’s a bit dark and a bit gothic and was hitting just the right note for a book to read at the change of the seasons.

It starts out ok, a story set sometime in the 1700’s about Jessamine, a teenage girl living in a disused chapel with her botanist healer father. Jessamine’s father has a poison garden that she is not allowed into. Of course, that’s the only thing she really wants out of life, to get into this garden and to be allowed to take care of the plants.

Then Weed turns up, a malnourished and shy boy the same age as Jessamine, who has some strange knowledge of plants and their uses. Her father takes him in and Jessamine cares for him and brings him back to health.

The inevitable happens and Jessamine falls in love with Weed. She finds out his secret about the plants, and yes it’s odd, but not that odd, and I’m thinking: ok, I can go with this. Until Jessamine gets sick and then the weirdness is truly unleashed and at that point, it lost me. I skim read the last few chapters because I just couldn’t believe the tangent it had gone off on.

The switches to Weed’s voice just didn’t work for me and the story, in general, went too far into unbelievable silliness.

I loved the Gothic tone of the book but I just can’t get on board with the ending.

The Poison Diaries
The Poison Diaries
Maryrose Wood, The Duchess Of Northumberland
Young Adult Fantasy
May 27th 2010
Paperback
238

The Bees by Laline Paull

the bees cover

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

My Review of The Bees

The BeesThe Bees by Laline Paull
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the idea and the glimpse of life inside a beehive but I wasn’t convinced by the way the bees have human emotions and such human social structures.

I also didn’t like the way that Flora was always at the forefront of events. She was a bit too perfect to be likeable, she was always the first to jump into a fight and always the one to have the discussions with outsiders and be the saviour of the beehive. She didn’t care at all for herself or her own safety, just for the hive as a collective and for her children. A Mary-Jane in bee form!

It’s well written though and easy to read – it would make a good summer holiday novel. I can’t help thinking that because the story is quite simple but requires a rather large suspension of disbelief it would have been better as a children’s book.

The story is certainly something different though and it has made me think (worry!) more about bees and especially how they must be suffering this year after all the flowers have died in the long, hot summer.

So, it’s interesting but didn’t hit the mark for me, it was just too forced – the story felt like it fit around the events the author wanted to happen and not the other way round.

The Bees
Laline Paull
Fantasy
January 1st 2015
Paperback
352

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 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

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

the lie tree cover

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

My Review of The Lie Tree

The Lie TreeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Lie Tree is set in the time when the Origin of the Species was rocking faith in creationism. Faith’s father is a vicar and a scientist who is a firm creationist supporter. The family has good social standing and an easy life until a scandal causes him to lose his job and his reputation. All of a sudden the family have to uproot themselves and move to a remote island.

When Faith’s father dies Faith finds his notes that tell of a plant he is cultivating that can show you the truth, but only if you feed it lies. The lie tree is supposed to show the truth but I think Faith realises that it only shows us visions of things we already know to be true but we just didn’t want to face.

Her father is horrible! I hate to say it but I was willing him to hurry up and get written out. He was a nasty character and I thoroughly hated him.

Faith irritated me for most of the book. She was very naive, she didn’t look past appearances. She hero-worshipped her horrible father and she didn’t think much at all of her mother, who was the one trying to hold the family together with the only tools women in Victorian times had – charm and manipulation of the men. Faith believed that other women were weak and useless, spending their time gossiping and worrying about social status. She thought herself the only smart and useful woman, she couldn’t recognise that other women were smart too and very clever at surviving in the world the only way they could.

But the author does very well at bringing to life the awkward stage the time between child and adult. Faith was stuck between both worlds, existing in neither and both at the same time. The Lie Tree is more a coming of age story than anything else: Faith loses her father which makes her look outside herself and she starts to see behind appearances. She has some nasty shocks that show her that what you see isn’t always what you get and people aren’t always what they pretend to be.

I have to admit that she redeems herself in the end. My favourite part of the whole book is when Faith realises how blind she has been accepting standard beliefs about women. She is not the only woman that does not fit in.

“I’m not like other women but neither are other women”

I thought the whole thing about the Lie Tree was a bit daft. I don’t know if it was supposed to be magic or magical realism but it wasn’t convincing either way. The danger Faith was supposed to be in didn’t feel real either. I enjoyed the coming of age theme about Faith waking up to the world but it just didn’t make for a very exciting story.

The Lie Tree
Frances Hardinge
Young Adult Fantasy
May 7th 2015
Paperback
410

Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

Magonia Cover

Since she was a baby, Aza Ray Boyle has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

My Review of Magonia

Magonia (Magonia, #1)Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I loved the writing style, it’s almost poetic and a bit dreamy but never too much that it overwhelms the story.

I didn’t like Aza or Jason to start with, every paragraph was about how intelligent and special they are and honestly, it made me hate them a little. And Aza is horrible to everyone, she’s nastily sarcastic and treats everyone like they are idiots. When Aza was kidnapped by the sky people though it’s turned around and she’s the one that has no idea what’s going on. She becomes a lot more likeable when she has no one she can act superior to!

The story is just too far-fetched: birds that live in your lungs and sing magic I could just about believe in, doors in chests, birds that turn into people, air plants? And people on the ground never see any of it? Hmm. I tried to go with it but it’s just too much “how is that even possible? It would never work” for me. It actually felt a lot like watching a pantomime.

In the end, the writing style won me over and I did enjoy reading it. I’m just not sure I want to read more of this daft story – I might look at the other books she’s written and try those instead.

Magonia
Magonia
Maria Dahvana Headley
Young Adult Fantasy
April 28th 2015
Paperback
309

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 Córdova.

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

Scary Mary (Scary Mary #1) by S.A. Hunter

scary mary cover

Mary just wants to be left alone, but the cheerleaders, jocks, guidance counsellors, and ghosts won’t stop harassing her. When a new boy starts school, he surprises Mary by befriending her. That’s a rare thing for the school freak, but her unusual abilities put a rift in their budding friendship when Mary has to tell Cy that his home is haunted and not by Casper, the friendly ghost. Mary has to get rid of the ghost, thwart the school bully, do her homework, and not get detention. Mary’s sure she can do all of that except for the last part.

Scary Mary (Scary Mary, #1)Scary Mary by S.A. Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary is an outcast at her school, teased and bullied by the other kids because she is different. When a new kid, Cyrus, joins Mary’s school and shows an interest in her Mary is wary at first but soon starts to warm up to him.

But Mary really is different; she can hear ghosts, and when a ghost in Cyrus’ house starts causing mayhem Mary is the only one that can get rid of it.

This was a fun story to read. It’s fast-paced and full of ghost hunting action. I liked Mary and her sarcy voice, sometimes she came across as very immature but then she is a teenager so I can understand that. I admired the way she went after the ghost though. If it was me I would have just left Cyrus to it after he blamed her for damage she didn’t cause.

Clunky writing slowed the story down occasionally. Some bits read as though the author was making notes about what they wanted to happen, but then never actually got round to writing it.

“She remembered that she didn’t have his number or his address and got both from him. He got her info as well. After a few seconds of just staring dumbly at the scrap of paper with his address and number scrawled on it, Mary said to her shoes, “Well, I’ll see you this weekend.”

Other bits were just awkward and there were points when I couldn’t understand the things people were doing – why was Mary blamed for all the altercations with the other students? why did Mary stay for the seance? Why did Cyrus blame her for the damage?

The writings not brilliant but I enjoyed the story. It’s quick, fun and action packed but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to read the rest of the series.

Scary Mary
Scary Mary
S.A. Hunter
Young Adult Fantasy
August 16th 2006
Kindle
144

Keepers (The Mentalist Series #3) by Kenechi Udogu

Keepers Cover

The dust appears to have settled after the brief descent of the Progressive Empaths on Sandes. But, if there is any truth to Anthony’s story, Gemma and her friends know they might soon have to face the mysterious Keepers. Myth or real threat, one thing is certain; running is no longer an option, for any of them. Can Gemma protect the ones she loves without forming an unlikely alliance?

My Review of Keepers

Keepers (The Mentalist Series, #3)Keepers by Kenechi Udogu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun story with likeable characters and lots of action but I ended up getting lost with the plot and that made me lose interest towards the end.

Gemma and Russ just think about things too much. The different groups and their different powers are complicated, and remembering what’s happened, who’s who, and what everyone is doing is hard enough on its own. Add in Gemma and Russ speculating and thinking about everything everyone says and it’s very hard to keep track of what’s happened and what they thought might have happened / could happen.

All it really needs is a good editor. There is a decent story here and the characters are interesting and likeable. I really like the way the ‘bad’ people aren’t actually bad – they want something other than violence and evil for the sake of it. They just want different things to the main characters.

The Mentalist is a fun and original series that has masses of potential. I’m very interested to see what the author does next.

Keepers
The Mentalist
Kenechi Udogu
Young Adult Fantasy
December 19th 2016
Kindle

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Córdova

Bruja Born Cover

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back.

My Review of Bruja Born

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas)Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. Bruja Born gave me everything I was wanting after reading the promising first book, Labyrinth Lost.

Bruja Born is set in Brooklyn, so it doesn’t have the Alice in Wonderland style of the first book. I think this is a good thing because the bits of the first book that were set in the real world were actually my favourite bits. I like to see magic brought into a real-world setting and it was done almost perfectly here.

This book also had more magic in. Lula is not as powerful a Bruja as her sister Alex is but she uses magic more as part of her everyday life. And I loved the character of Lula. She’s gone from being the perfect older sister that Alex saw her as into a real person with strengths and flaws. She makes some big mistakes and her misuse of her magic has impressively destructive consequences, but it’s her love for her family and friends (and her perfectionist streak) that drives most of her decisions. I was cheering her on inside the whole time I was reading.

The Brooklyn setting is just perfectly suited for the atmosphere of this series. This time around there is so much more world building – it doesn’t feel like the sisters exist in a vacuum anymore. Bringing in the girl’s friends and the other Bruja families makes their world feel real and alive like somewhere I can imagine actually existing.

I liked the style, the atmosphere, the characters and the magic. There are some big surprises that I just did not see coming! Romance is not the focus at all, it’s the love of a family and the strength of sisters looking out for each other that is the main theme running through the story. It’s good to read a young adult book that isn’t all about finding the perfect boyfriend.

I have nothing bad to say about this at all. Bruja Born is fun, it has masses of personality, and I enjoyed it a lot more than that other series about teenagers using magic in Brooklyn! This deserves to become a very popular series and I can’t wait for the next book.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review. 

Bruja Born
Brooklyn Brujas
Zoraida Córdova
Young Adult Fantasy
June 5th 2018
Kindle
352

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

June 1st 2009

In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly –

Slipping away from them –

And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.

“Miri I conjure you ”

This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.

My Review of White is for Witching

White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t get the creepy vibe I was really after from this. All the elements were there but it felt like the author was using the haunted theme to try to say something else. It never came together in a coherent haunting and there was a disappointing lack of witches.

There were a lot of different themes that seemed to be running under the surface but nothing stood out enough to say anything. The thing with the refugees never went anywhere, I’m not sure why it was included. Whatever the author was trying to say was not obvious for me to understand what it was.

There are a few different narrators (one of them the house!), all of them unreliable. You never know what’s real and what’s not, what’s made up and what’s just imagined.

Miri was the main narrator but I didn’t find her very interesting. Intended to be fragile she came across as a pretentious. She had a lot of issues that weren’t really dealt with. Her twin brother was trying to distance himself from her and her father didn’t seem interested in trying to understand her problems, convincing himself he can solve her eating problems by discovering what food she would want to each. Miri starts to slowly fade away, becoming paler, thinner, and more and more distant. The book starts when she has disappeared completely.

I really enjoyed the part of the book that was told from Ore’s point of view. I liked her voice and she had an interesting story.

It’s a slow paced book but the writing is beautiful. I may not have understood it but I know it’s not really a haunted house story, it’s more about love and loss. I enjoyed the slow pace, I think it worked well with the writing style. It kind of lulled me into feeling like I was in a daydream.

I didn’t get the point of the book and that just left me feeling frustrated. I do like the way Helen Oyeyemi writes though, she has a poetic style that’s captivating to read.

White is for Witching
Helen Oyeyemi
Fiction
June 1st 2009
Paperback
244