Thursday, 16 June 2016

ARC Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima.

I am a fantasy lover through and through but wow did this book blow me away! Huge thanks to Alice at Harper/Harper360 for my ARC; this however in no way affects my opinion or rating.

A burning vengeance. Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it? A blood-based curse. Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught. Destiny’s fiery hand. Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

Flamecaster contains everything I ever wanted in a YA fantasy. This is a riveting, action packed story set in a beautiful, evocative world and filled to the brim with smart, strong and engaging characters. Racing through it in four days, I really struggled to tear my hands from the pages; it was that good.

Although I own The Warrior Heir, Chima was a brand new author to me. It was the plot that drew me to request this book but it was Chima's writing - the style, pace and rotating POV's - and her ability to weave multiple character and story arcs so effortlessly that has me coming back for more. Simply put, Flamecaster was not only enjoyable to read, but beautiful. The twists and turns - the ending especially - left me breathless, and anxiously awaiting the sequel, but it was the characters that truly kept me glued to the pages.

I personally think that a good character is not just entertaining and intriguing, but relatable. I find it very hard to empathise and engage with a character if I can't relate to them, and so - being family orientated myself - one of my favourite aspects is family driven characters. From Kell and Errin to Clary and Darrow, family themes and motivations are at the heart of many of my favourite books. Flamecaster - its characters driven by such themes - now joins those ranks.

Jenna was by far my favourite. Driven by her love for her friends and father yet haunted by her origins, she was the perfect combination; both relatable yet fantastical. I found myself cheering for her success from the start, and her romance with Ash was perfect; equal parts sweet and sassy.

Ash too was fabulous and has definitely been added to the list of book boyfriends. Kind hearted but with a simmering darkness, and a royal Prince with an affinity for animals, I was swooning from the get go.

Last but not least, street smart Lila had my head spinning, opinions about her constantly shifting. The perfect finale in our triquetra  of heroes, I'm eager to hopefully learn a lot more about her in future books; fingers crossed.

Simply put, Flamecaster was perfect. Just when I thought I had everything figured out Chima threw in one last curveball.

I cannot fault it one ounce.

If you're a fan of fantasy, especially Tolkien, Raasch and Maas, do yourself a favour and go buy this book. If you somehow regret doing so after reading, I'll (metaphorically) eat my shelves!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Review: Timebomb by Scott K Andrews.

'Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey... stuff.'

Do you feel like reading a book that bends your mind but has you craving for more? Then look no further; Timebomb has quantum physics, shattered time streams and futuristic gizmos in spades. Thanks to Hodder for the review copy; I adored this book from the get go, and its sequel whose review will be up in a few days.

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground. Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she's knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room. On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future. Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army... all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

Time bomb follows a period in the lives of Kaz, Yana and Dora; three teens from different time periods whose lives have inexplicably crossed. At first they are unsure why or how their worlds have collided, but as soon as they start to uncover the secrets behind their time travel, they realise the reasons may be far more complicated than they originally anticipated. This is definitely a book for fans of Dr Who - one where you have to think to follow the story, whilst not being so overly complicated as to detract from the enjoyment.

What I loved most however, as always, was the characters. Loyal Kaz, strong Jana, determined Dora, and mysterious Quil were the heart of the story; each with their own darker side and shadowed past. Their interactions with each other were consistently fascinating, their personal motivations and histories riveting.

Jana especially was enchanting - a fireball of wit and courage - but what I loved the most was how at times she reverted back to simply being a teen. Yes she's the unelected leader of their little group, but deep down she's just a regular teen; awestruck by their adventures, by the sights and sounds, and excited simply by the prospect of being free. Throughout reading she felt constantly real, grounding the story for all its sci-fi elements in a palpable, tangible world. She was by far my favourite of the four, with Quil a close second.

No good book would be perfect without a cliffhanger though, and Timebomb was no exception. I was just glad I already had the sequel with me!

Overall I give Timebomb a well deserved five stars! Second Lives, the sequel, was recently released on 19th May 2016, and my review will be up shortly; I hope you stay tuned for it.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Sunday, 5 June 2016

ARC Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

A beautiful, heart-rending tale with just the right amounts of love, loss, danger and magic. A story of friendship, and how far one would go for the other. Thanks to Jazz at Chicken House Books for the gorgeous proof copy.


Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

As soon as I received this beautiful book from the wonderful Jazz at Chicken House I was hooked. I may not have been able to devour it as quick as I would have liked due to busy days, but I fell in love as soon as I began. The writing was impeccable, like poetry rolling off the pages, drawing me straight into the world Hargrave had created. Joya is a magical world with a deep, rich background and its history was just as much a joy to read as the story itself.

Our main character is Isabella, daughter of a cartographer with a love and talent for maps. Strong willed and fierce, she knows who she is and who she wants to be. That said there's a part of her that clings to the stories that her father told her about Joya, but its through her adventures that she learns the truth of those stories, of heroes and how they are forged, and of the sacrifices made in the name of the greater good. It's in these adventures that she grows, and it was a joy to witness.

Lupe too, Isabella's best friend for whom she takes off on her adventures to find, was a fabulous character. Her own strong will and self belief rivalled Isabella's, and every scene between them was both heart wrenching and joyful.

I don't think I can say any more without spoiling the wonderful adventure within, but what I will say is that The Girl of Ink and Stars is a wonderful story within a gorgeous book that you will not regret adding to your shelves. I award it a well deserved five stars!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Thursday, 2 June 2016

ARC Review: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh.

Burning Midnight was everything I wanted to read in a sci fi. I'm a little late in posting, but huge thanks to MacMillan for the review copy. I loved it!

Seventeen-year-old David Sullivan’s life is about to change—all because of one tiny, priceless item found in the murky bottom of a Brooklyn water tower. Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the more expensive—and the greater the improvement. When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them. There’s no question the Gold is worth millions, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

As I said, Burning Midnight was everything I wanted to read in a sci fi. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I'll admit that the ending threw me a little, seeming maybe a touch 'out there', but I loved it none the less.

The story begins, uncommonly, on our earth, and stays there for the whole 320 pages. There's a slight difference though; the world is filled with shining orbs that when burnt as a pair give humans super human abilities in varying levels.

Sully is our main character, and he sells these spheres on the market for some extra money to help his mum. But it's not much. Alexander Holliday pretty much owns the sphere market and despite Sully's grudge after Holliday ripped him off in a deal, there's not much he can do about it. Until he meets Hunter that is, a rogue sphere hunter with a knack for finding rare and expensive spheres. Hunter is the girl Sully dreamed of, and while their romance is not typical nor overwhelming as in some YA, it's presence throughout the story is utterly perfect; bubbling beneath the surface to its crescendo. These two were fantastic characters and along with friends Mandy and Dom, the story had a very 'team' feel to it, which I loved. It was very reminiscent of my days watching 'Buffy' or 'Charmed'. Their dynamics were interesting and at times hilarious, making the whole story a joy to read.

Though the story took place over different continents and there were quite a few scenes with little action, the pace was consistent and entertaining; it never slowed. Then I reached the last fifty or so pages and BOOM. Action galore. Danger. Excitement. The perfect ending for a fabulous story. I won't say anymore lest I spoil it. All I will say is that I urge everyone to read it. You won't regret it, I'm sure.

I give Burning Midnight a solid, well deserved 5 stars! I can't wait to read more by this fabulous author.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf