Book Review

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan.

ShadowboxerThai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her…

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Every now and then I see a book talked about that hooks me instantly, I proceed to read it and love it, and then wonder how on earth I’m going to even attempt to review it. Shadowboxer is one of those books. I never realised I wanted a book about a female fighter as much as I did until I read this book and then it went and exceeded every expectation I didn’t even know I had.

Jade, our main character, is truly awesome. She’s tough talking, tough acting and this has the potential to get her into lots of trouble both inside the cage where she fights and outside it. She has huge potential as a fighter, but she’s angry. So angry, and this is putting that potential at risk – you can’t have a fighter with poor self control. She gets sent to Thailand to focus on training and that’s where the secondary plotline of the book really starts to twist around Jade’s story.

We have another great girl character you see, Mya. The first couple of times we meet her I must admit I was a little lost as to what was going on, there’s a strong mythology feel to her story and it didn’t relate to anything I knew. I had the gut feeling that I just needed to go with it though and this was absolutely right, the more I saw of Mya’s world the more I understood what was going on. Since reading the book I’ve discovered that the story around Mya in particular draws from Thai mythology – I definitely want to read more now and learn about these fascinating stories.

The plot is really exciting, I was warned that once I started reading I wasn’t going to want to stop – this was very accurate. There are plenty of twists and turns and unexpected reveals – there were a couple of things that became apparent about key characters that I really hadn’t expected, though they felt very true to the characters and what we knew about them. It’s really hard to talk about them because you really do need to discover them as you read, I’m looking forward to re-reading the book knowing what I now know.

This book has a really fresh feel to it. It is exciting, energetic and just down right brilliant. I find I can sometimes get a bit lost when reading written fight scenes but in this book there was absolutely no chance of that happening. They’re written really clearly and are very engaging – the author has martial arts experience and this shines through in the writing. The characters leap off the page, they’re well imagined and feel very real. There’s plenty of diversity represented within this book, many of the characters are from different ethnic backgrounds.

I absolutely loved this book, my only sadness was that it had to end. I think I could have read about Jade for a lot longer!

Shadowboxer is published by Ravenstone in the UK from 9th October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Recent Reads: The Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin and Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo.

A round up of some of the books I’ve recently read. These books are both the second in series, there will be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the first books.

imageThe Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin. Indigo.
Bethany Griffin continues the journey of Araby Worth in Dance of the Red Death—the sequel to her teen novel Masque of the Red Death.

In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.

Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.

This is the second half of the duology that began with The Masque of the Red Death, a book that I really enjoyed. I was really pleased to see that it picks up the story immediately from the end of the first book, this worked well both to grab my attention and to pull me back into Araby’s world.

I found that even though it was about a year since I had read the first book I very quickly remembered who everyone was and how the world worked. Griffin wove reminders neatly into the text so that I never felt like information was there purely to recap the first book. I know that this is always a challenge with sequels, I personally feel this could be held up as an example of it being done well.

There’s plenty of action in this book, but I particularly loved the quieter moments nestled in between the big scenes. Spending time with the characters, seeing their quiet interactions, made me really feel connected to them, and invested in their story. I was going to list a couple of examples, but even now as I start to think there are too many to include.

I was really satisfied with the conclusion to the story. It’s neat without feeling too neat, there’s no magic wand waving, no pretty ribbons and bows, just a believable ending with hope.

imageSiege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. Indigo.
Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.(less)

I have to start this by admitting to being a bit of an idiot. This is the second book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, I adored the first book Shadow and Bone and so put off reading this sequel for a while – scared it wouldn’t live up to my hopes. I was, naturally, entirely wrong and my hopes were entirely satisfied.

The book picks up the story a short while after the events at the end of Shadow and Bone, there’s a brief bit of breathing space to allow the reader to reconnect with Alina and Mal before the tension and action ramps up again. This then continued throughout the book, big bit of action followed by time to regroup before the next big action. I really liked this, it built a real sense that there was something big coming.

I liked the way Alina and Mal’s story and relationship develops throughout the book, it continues to be challenging for the two characters – something I don’t feel I get to read enough of in books. It was really nice to see characters from the first book revisited and developed alongside the introduction of new characters. There are three significant new characters, I loved them all and was really glad to get to know them – the intriguing Sturmhond most of all.

When the aforementioned something big does play out it’s brilliant, and thrilling, and entirely compulsive reading. I was so gripped by it that I read it far too quickly and then went back and read it again at a sensible pace so I could take every last detail in.

I’m so excited for the third and final Grisha book, this time I will be dropping everything to read it as soon as I have a copy in my hands.

Book Review

Book Review: The Night Itself by Zoë Marriott.

imageWhen Mio steals the family’s katana – a priceless ancestral sword – from her parents’ attic, she just wants to spice up a fancy-dress costume. But the katana is much more than some dusty antique and her actions unleash a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets if unsuspecting London. Soon Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, appears to protect Mio – and threatens to steal her heart. With the gods and monsters of Japanese myth stalking her and her friends, Mio realises that if she cannot keep the sword safer and learn to control it’s legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life… but the love of a lifetime.

I have enjoyed every one of Zoë Marriott’s books that I’ve read, and when I heard her new project was The Name of the Blade an urban fantasy trilogy I was really excited by the prospect. The early reviews for the book were brilliant, so I sat down to read it with pretty high expectations.

I fell in love with this book within the first couple of dozen pages. The characters grabbed my attention, and I was instantly drawn into their world – I did not want to put this book down for anything!

Mio, the leading lady, is a wonderful character. I loved how well rounded she is, whilst she’s strong and capable, smart and quick, she’s also real – she’s flawed, she makes some really stupid decisions, and she’s imbued with the singlemindedness that can come with being a teenager. I really, really love her – it’s so nice reading a character who feels completely genuine, and one that you think you’d be quite happy to spend time around!

There are a number of key supporting characters, I felt like I got to know them all well – they weren’t purely there for Mio’s benefit. I could happily have read many more stories of her times with her grandfather in particular, this was such a lovely relationship. I also loved the friendship she had with Jack, and how this evolved once Shinobu, the warrior boy, and Hikaru, representative of the London Kitsune, joined the mix. The dialogue between this group is just my kind of thing, the banter is balanced well with the sense of everyone having their role to play.

This is the first book of a trilogy, and as such has to establish the world, who the key players are and what’s at stake. I found this to be done really well, whilst there’s plenty of information to get across it never feels expositiony, there’s plenty of action and plot progress with some fantastic fight sequences. The air of mystery and creeping sense of peril grows throughout the book, keeping you turning the pages as fast as you can read them.

I loved the way Japanese mythology is woven into the plot, and how cultures are woven together. I found there were many things in the book I’d never come across before, and they were so interesting to read about. I ended up making a note of a few of them to read more about once I’d finished the book.

This is such a great opening to what I think is going to be a brilliant trilogy. I don’t tend to read a lot of urban fantasy, but when I do I always love it. This book is definitely right up there with some of my favourites. I can’t wait for the other books (even though I know I must)!

The Night Itself is the first book in The Name of the Blade trilogy. It is published by Walker Books in paperback and eBook. Whilst my copy was provided by the publisher all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Incubus by Carol Goodman

Ever since moving to Fairwick to take up a teaching post at the local college, Callie has been having vivid, erotic dreams about a man made out of moonlight and shadows. Dreams she begins to fear as well as anticipate…

She learns that her home – a Victorian cottage at the edge of a wood she bought on a whim – is supposedly haunted. And then her new – and rather strange – colleagues tell her a local legend about an incubus demon with a human past who was enchanted by a fairy queen…

I enjoyed Carol Goodman’s book Arcadia Falls earlier this year, and her cowritten book Black Swan Rising last year so I was really excited to read her new book Incubus, the first in a new urban fantasy series.

The plot starts pretty slowly, Callie moves to Fairwick to teach folklore. Very quickly as the reader you start to get the feeling that something is a little unusual about Fairwick, but it takes Callie a lot longer to catch on herself. I actually found this a little frustrating, Callie is supposed to be an expert in things including fairy tales, gothic fiction and demons but she just doesn’t seem to question what’s going on around her. For me the book really got into its stride after about the first third when Callie begins to discover the truth about Fairwick and her colleagues at the school. Whereas it took me a few days to get through the first third, once the plot really kicked in I couldn’t put the book down and finished it within a couple of hours.

Callie is an interesting character, I generally found that I liked her but as I’ve already said I did find her frustrating at times and wanted to shake her. I did really like the supporting cast of characters, and I liked the fact that as well as ticking the usual supernatural boxes there were a few supernatural species included that I’ve haven’t seen appearing frequently. For me this meant that there were new lores to learn a bit more about, and I think this definitely helped to keep my interest.

I think that this is a decent start to a new series and I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series. I just wish that it had had a stronger opening and that I could have loved the book instead of thinking it was pretty good.

Incubus is published in paperback by Ebury Press in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.

Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family – and the battle for the fate of the world.

I read the first book in Cassandra Clare’s new series The Infernal Devices earlier this year and I loved it. Whilst I’m waiting for the next book in the series to arrive this September I thought I’d make a start on the Mortal Instruments series, starting of course at the beginning with City of Bones.

I very quickly found myself being caught up in the world of the Nephilim once more. This series is set in the modern day and it was great to see that the plot fitted as well in a modern American setting as it had in Victorian England. The plot was fast paced and brought in lots of characters with a range of supernatural backgrounds. With every new discovery I found I wanted to keep reading to find out how this new character would fit in to the story.

I liked the main character Clary, though her naivety and oblivious nature did at some times frustrate me a little. Her best friend, Simon, was hugely likeable and I was pleased with how he kept reappearing in the story. Jace, the Shadowhunter that Clary first met was typically mysterious and attractive, though as yet I don’t find him quite as engaging as I did Will and Jem from Clockwork Angel. The character I’m most interested to read more about is the warlock Magnus Bane, I fell for him instantly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit back into the world of the Nephilim. Whilst City of Bones didn’t grab me quite as much as Clockwork Angel I still had a wonderful time reading it and I can’t wait to carry on with the series.

City of Bones is published in paperback by Walker Books in the UK priced £7.99

Book Review

Book Review : Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman.

For two hundred years, painters, poets and musicians have come to the Catskill Mountain village of Arcadia Falls to escape the pressures of modern life and pursue their artistic visions, and Arcadia College was founded with a mission to nurture young artists and writers.

When Meg Rosenthal gets an offer to teach at Arcadia College, it seems a godsend – an escape from a life that’s fallen apart. She hopes, too, that Arcadia Falls will be a place where she and her daughter Sally can find some peace and reconciliation.

But even though Arcadia Falls proves to be even more beautiful then Meg imagined, it is hardly peaceful. Soon she begins to realize that the public story behind the school conceals deceit, betrayal, and perhaps even murder. As Meg struggles to reconcile the choices she’s made in her own life, she begins to fear that by coming to Arcadia Falls she’s put herself and her daughter in danger.

I found this book to be a little slow when I first started reading it, but within a few chapters it started to take a hold of me. The more I read the more gripped I got, by the last third I found it hard to tear myself away from it.

The plot centres around Meg, a grieving widow who takes a job at Arcadia Falls because the death of her husband has left her and her daughter Sally finding it hard to make ends meet. It has the added bonus of being a school with a strong artistic heritage, Sally is a talented artist and Meg’s own research interests into folklore and fairy tales seem an ideal match. The day they arrive at the school is First Night, a school celebration based on an ancient fertility rite. When this ritual ends disastrously Meg starts to wonder about the school she has brought her daughter to and starts digging but doesn’t like what she finds.

I really liked Meg. I found her to be an interesting character and really enjoyed the parts of the story where she was teaching – it felt at times like I was sitting there in the classroom along with her pupils and I found myself thinking about my own answers to the questions she was posing. I found Sally, her daughter, harder to like but I feel she was really well written. The sense of turmoil following the loss of her father and the move from everything familiar she was experiencing really came through.

The book has plenty of twists and turns as it progresses. The last few chapters twist back and forward so much that I found myself reading slower to make sure everything was sinking in. I liked this particularly as just when I thought the author couldn’t trick me again another twist unfolded on the page.

I enjoyed this book and I imagine I’ll read more by the author in the future.

Arcadia Falls is published in paperback by Piatkus in the UK from today priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : “The Infernal Devices 1: Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare.

Magic is dangerous – but love is more dangerous still… When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Friendless and hunted, Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by – and torn between – two best friends, and quickly realizes that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Seeing the gorgeous cover for this book on various book blogs made me think that it was a book for me, so after checking it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read any of the Mortal Instruments series I bought this book and quickly settled to read it. Once I’d started I was completely hooked and found it very difficult to put down.

The plot is intriguing, and I felt that using Tessa as a device to explain the Downworld and Shadowhunters to the reader was excellent. It made the necessary exposition seem natural, to me there was never a feeling of the author having to shoehorn it in. I loved the world that Clare has created, the Victorian London backdrop worked so well and allowed for beautifully descriptive passages. The book contains some battle sequences, something I often don’t enjoy as much as the rest of the book. These were well written and had me reading with baited breath, sometimes not wanting to turn the page and find out what was about to happen.

I found the characters to be interesting and engaging. I’m always a sucker for male characters who are hiding something, Will and Jem both fit this description well and I wonder as the series progresses which one I will love the most. I found that I was really invested in what happened to the characters, there was a moment late on in the book that I hadn’t been expecting that left me crying on a train. Tessa herself still remains something of a mystery but I felt that this worked within the book, she is learning so many new things that her character is evolving with them.

I absolutely loved this book and am now planning to catch up with all of the Mortal Instruments books. The epilogue of Clockwork Angel has left me eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this prequel series.

Book Review

Book Review : “Black Swan Rising” by Lee Carroll.

I must admit that I haven’t read a lot of grown up urban fantasy though I’ve covered a lot of the YA bases. I was really intrigued therefore to read this, the first installment in a new urban fantasy trilogy.

Garet is a jewellery maker living and working in New York. She stumbles across an antiques store when she’s looking for shelter from the rain and is asked for help by the owner. He has a silver box with a seal that matched the ring Garet wears, an heirloom passed down from her mother. He’s unable to open the box so asks Garet if she would be able to do so. Taking the box and agreeing to open it is a life changing moment, she falls into a new life realising that everything she thought she knew is wrong, or merely half a truth.

I really enjoyed this book. Garet is an intriguing character and the life she finds herself catapulted into is a fascinating one. It works really well, in the same way Harry Potter worked, having the main character know nothing about the fantasy world so that the exposition feels neither clunky or shoehorned in. I loved the way that the supported cast of characters were introduced, and how they fit into the knowledge of our world whether it be Shakespearean characters or more recent internet slang. There’s a really interesting mix of supernatural beings involved in the plot, which I found refreshing.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will certainly be looking forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.

“Black Swan Rising” is published in paperback by Bantam Press on 25th November 2010 in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.