Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman #BookReview #YA

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Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road #2
Format: Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Publication Details: November 7th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Adventure; Historical Fiction; Western
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

 

REDEMPTION IS NEVER FREE
When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece’s path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.


Review

Vengeance Road was a tour de force, so I was thrilled when I heard there was going to be a sequel (of sorts – more on that later), and although it’s not released until November, I couldn’t wait. I devoured it ASAP.

And you know what, I wasn’t disappointed. Thank the unicorns!!

Retribution Rails is a companion novel, not a direct sequel, so if you missed out on Vengeance Road you need not worry (although you really should read it!), there are two new plucky main characters to focus on, and it’s set around ten years after the first book.

Charlotte Vaughn is a young aspiring journalist who is determined to succeed despite all the odds that are stacked against her. Inspired by her hero (and real-life feminist icon) Nellie Bly she takes matters into her own hands and heads off in search of a story worthy of being her big break. A story so big that the newspapers won’t be able to turn her down. Even if she is a woman.

When Charlotte’s train is targeted by the fearless and ruthless Rose Riders, it could be the answer to her prayers, or it could be the death of her. Her encounter with the infamous Rose Kid sets in motion a whole train map of trouble, leading her on a wild west adventure that’s a little more than she bargained for.

This book was a rip-roaring adventure full of heart. Erin Bowman’s ability to bring history to life with a fresh and modern outlook is nothing short of a revelation, and I really think she’s paved the way for a whole new strand of YA. It’s a great, empowering story for young girls, and full of action for any thrill-seeker.

I couldn’t remember the ins and outs of Vengeance Road going into this (probably because I’m old and drink too much), just that I really enjoyed it, but as we are reunited with Kate and Jessie from the first book it all slowly came back to me. It was so nice to back in their company and see how life had panned out for them ten years on.

I loved everything about it. The adventure, the romance, the historical accuracies, the suspense, the heart-break, the everything. More please!

Have ALL THE UNICORNS.

unicorn rating

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Horwitz #BookReview #ChildrensFiction

Title: The Wingsnatcherswingsnatchers1
Author: Sarah Jean Horwitz
Series: Carmer and Grit #1
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details:  April 25th 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre(s): Children’s (middle grade); Fantasy; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.


Review

The Wingsnatcher’s is the first book in a series featuring Grit the one-winged faery princess and Carmer, a (failing) magician’s apprentice who live in two very different worlds but have one thing in common – they are both in need of help. And so they make a pact to help each other and become firm friends along the way.

I loved the premise of this book and the story itself did not disappoint. Horwitz has created a fantasy world that is both adorable and edgy. Some will fall in love with Grit and her plight of being a one-winged faery, a disability she has accepted and overcome, and others will love Carmer and his ambition of being this great inventor but who feels a loyalty to the hopeless magician who took him under his wing.

Together, the unlikely duo try to discover who is attacking faeries, and win the invention competition as Carmer’s livelihood and future is at stake.

I really enjoyed the dynamic of these two characters, and their dialogue was great. I also really enjoyed Steampunk elements of the story; there are these demonic mechanical cats who were genuinely scary so I’d bear that in mind when giving to a younger child – I loved them though.

Great action, great descriptions and interesting characters; I just thought the pace was a tad slow, and that the book didn’t need to be over 300 pages, especially considering the target market.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

vengeanceroadTitle: Vengeance Road
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital Review Copy, 336 pages
Publication Details: September 1st 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads

Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When hers father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

Review

Vengeance Road is a fast-paced, action-packed, tale of adventure and revenge in the shape of a good old-fashioned Western.

Plucky protagonist Kate thought her father was hung for the sake of it, but when she makes her way to Abe’s ranch, someone her father instructed her to seek out should anything happen to him, she discovers that she didn’t know him as well as she thought.

Hell-bent on seeking revenge for his death, Kate, along with Abe’s children – for he too is dead when she gets there – heads off across the arid plains on the trail of the Rose clan – the notorious band of outlaws who killed him.

Hurrah for this is basically what I want to say! It’s not often you come across new and exciting strands of YA, and Vengeance Road was definitely that. Bowman weaves a thrilling, old fashioned yarn of an adventure and makes it look all shiny and new.

Kate is a wonderful character. She’s strong-willed, resourceful, and presents herself as fearless. But deep down she’s just like any teenager, lacking in confidence, and feeling lost in the world.

I really enjoyed this book the whole way through. I enjoyed Kate’s banter with the brothers, and her unlikely friendship with Lilulwe, an Apache girl. It has a bit of everything.

There is of course some romance too, this is YA after all.

This was my first helping of Erin Bowman, and I think she’s certainly one to watch. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next, and I might even have to check out her previous books on the strength of this one.

unicorn rating 4

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

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Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #3
Edition: Paperback, 562 pages
Publication Details: September 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads // Purchase

Celaena Sardothien has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak—but at an unspeakable cost. Now she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth…a truth about her heritage that could change her life—and her future—forever.
Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. To defeat them, Celaena must find the strength to not only fight her inner demons but to battle the evil that is about to be unleashed.

The king’s assassin takes on an even greater destiny and burns brighter than ever before in this follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Crown of Midnight.

Review

I don’t know what it is about this series. I love it at the time of reading, but then I fall out of love with the idea of it and I struggle to find the motivation to pick up the next book. That’s what happened with Heir of Fire.

I bought a copy not long after its release but it took me this long to pick it up. And even when I finally did, I couldn’t get into it at all! I was pretty close to giving up on the series altogether to be honest…but then I got hooked again. Ugh make up your mind, Woman!

I think I only fell in love with this book about half way through, but then I didn’t want to put it down.

In this, the third instalment of the Throne of Glass series, Celaena Sardothian, the once all-powerful, all-confident assassin is a broken woman. She’s walking the streets in a booze-induced stupor, almost starving, getting into fights and losing most, because her strength has all but gone.

She doesn’t seem to have any direction, and although I found it interesting to see this fall from grace, it was all a bit dull to start with. Until, that is, she meets Rowan.

Rowan, a prince of fae is ordered to train Celaena to control her fae powers so she can once again fight against those who plan on enslaving her and her people. Of course, she’s reluctant at first, tired of fighting for other people, but it’s not long until the fire in her is ignited, and with the help of brutal Rowan, Celaena slowly becomes herself again.

I’m not gonna lie, for a lot of this book I didn’t really know what was going on. I kind of skimmed the beginning because I couldn’t get into it and then when I got to the good stuff I was confused. But I couldn’t go back, because I couldn’t tear myself away.

I loved how the relationship between Rowan and Celaena developed and as much as I wanted them to get in on – he is clearly mega hawtttt – I’m glad that instead their friendship became solid and trustworthy. I felt like Celaena really needed that instead of another romance. It was refreshing.

There were a lot of things I didn’t like about this book, for example, I had no idea what the witch-clan chapters were all about, and I found myself skipping some of them but they are pretty terrifying characters and make great villains so I’m hoping it’ll be explored better in the next book.

Despite everything, I still ended up loving this book. I can’t really explain it. I think I’m just destined to have a love/hate relationship with this series.

As it stands, I can’t wait until the next book, but by the time it comes around, I’ll probably feel differently. Sigh!

unicorn rating 4

Heir of Fire is available in paperback from Waterstones now.

Paladins & Politeness: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Rebel Belle #1
Edition: Paperback, 368 pages
Publication Details: March 3rd 2015 by Speak
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Review

If you’re looking for a fun, quirky, fast-paced read then Rebel Belle should be right up your alley. It does exactly what it says on the cover – ‘high spirits and high-jinks’ it certainly was. I came away feeling elated.

Harper Price is a bit of a goody-goody. She’s that girl in school who’s involved in all the extra curricular events and a bit of a teacher’s pet, but she’s also extremely popular – and I liked that. I’m bored of the popular girls being the mean girls!

She can also be seen as your typical southern belle. She’s polite to the point of annoying, and holds old-school values like always respecting your elders (even when they’re trying to kill you) and not cursing (even in the face of death).

It all begins when Harper is attacked in the school toilets and ends up killing a homicidal teacher with her stiletto, discovering that she appears to have super-strength, ninja-like abilities. FUN!

I pretty much liked everything about this book. The action was good, I was invested in the characters, and it made me laugh. There were a few moments when I snorted at the ridiculousness of it, but that shouldn’t come as surprise with a book that was pitched as Legally Blonde meets The Terminator – seriously!

I can’t help likening this to Buffy as well, and not just because there are references to Harper trying to find ‘her Giles’; it has that perfect balance of wit, high-school drama, and mythology, not to mention an awesome, reluctant heroine.

Can’t wait for the next book!

unicorn rating 4

Lazy Saturday Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Series: The Maze Runner #1
Edition: Paperback, 371 pages
Publication Details: August 4th 2011 by Chicken House
Genre(s): YA; Dystopia
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads
Purchase

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside.

Review

OK so this is more of a book-to-movie rant than it is a review. Soz.

I really wanted to read the book before I watched the film, but that didn’t happen. And it turned out that I really loved the film. I needed to know what happens next so I figured I’d finally pick up the first book and move on to book two ASAP…but now I’m not really sure I want to.

In my experience with book to movie adaptations, I ALWAYS prefer the book, and spend a lot of time ranting about what they changed or missed out…but I also nearly always read the book first.

Therefore, with The Maze Runner, I found it really hard to judge how much I would have enjoyed it if I’d read it first, because seriously guys, I preferred the film so much more. I found myself picking out parts they did better in the film and completely agreed with why they changed some things.

In the book, protagonist Thomas is a bit of a cry-baby to start with and I just found him annoying throughout. I also much preferred the relationship between both Thomas and Chuck and Thomas and Teresa in the film. The book felt quite one dimensional and evoked little emotion from me.

I guess I liked that the whole solving the maze was more about the code in the books, but then I think what they did in the film with the Griever’s machinery as it were, was genius.

Overall, it is a really great story full of action and suspense but I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. Don’t get me wrong, I do still really want to know what happens next, but I kind of want the movie version not the book one.

And that my friends, is truly a first.

It leaves a weird taste in my mouth.

unicorn rating 3

The Maze Runner is available in paperback now from Waterstones.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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Title: Prince of Thorns
Author: Mark Lawrence
Series: The Broken Empire #1
Edition: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Details: April 12th 2012 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy; ‘Grimdark’
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from a friend!

Goodreads
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When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him–and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

I had such high hopes for this book. Numerous people have told me that I should give Dark Fantasy, or Grimdark – as all the cool kids are calling it – a go. I like action. I like violence and gore, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones (although I have yet to embark on the books), so it sounds like a match made in Heaven, but unfortunately Prince of Thorns didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me.

Our protagonist is young Prince Jorg, who’s on a mission of debauchery and revenge along with his own band of loyal, marauding brothers. He has two main goals: The throne, and revenge on Count Renar who killed his mother and brother. Both of these goals lead him back to his father’s castle, where he must face the ghosts of his past.

The way in which I was pitched this book was kind of like imagine Joffrey let loose on a kingdom, and I liked the sound of that. We all love to hate characters like Joffrey, right? But I didn’t quite get that with Jorg.

Having a protagonist who rapes and murders for a hobby is always going to be tricky, and a bit of a risk. It’s not even that I always feel like I need to relate to the protagonist, but I need to have some kind of feelings towards them. With Prince of Thorns, it took me too long to find that. I felt like I needed something extra to get myself invested in Jorg’s story. I didn’t even particularly hate him, I just kind of felt sorry for him.

Saying that, I was compelled to keep reading. I liked the flashbacks to Jorg’s earlier life in the castle, and then, once he returned and faced his father, I definitely started getting into the story as I felt I could finally understand him a little. It was here he showed the first signs of fear and vulnerability, and you could finally see him for what he is – a disturbed and scared boy pretending to be a man.

As for the writing and style of this novel, I’m torn. On one hand I loved the epicness of it, but on the other I found it a bit OTT, enough with the metaphors already.

I love the whole medieval-meets-post-apocalyptic world, but at times I found it hard to picture what was going on, probably because it was over-written for my taste, again, the metaphors!

I’m not at all put off by the Grimdark genre though, or by Mark Lawrence. As a debut novel, Prince of Thorns was a ridiculously daring feat, and I look forward to trying his later offerings to compare.

unicorn rating 3

Prince of Thorns is available in paperback from Waterstones now.