The Invisible Hand by James Hartley #BookReview #YA

 

Title: The Invisible Hand theinvis
Author:
 James Hartley
Series: Shakespeare’s Moon #1
Format: Paperback, 168 pages
Publication Details: February 22nd 2017 by Lodestone Books

Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeares Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

Review

I’ve always really liked Shakespeare – even at school – which is strange because I remember hating most things I was forced to read for school. Shakespeare always seemed more interesting though. I enjoyed having to decipher the language to discover the meaning, but I also totally understand why people dislike it, and why children and young adults find it difficult.

I’m therefore always pleased to see more accessible books based on Shakespeare, and its modern-day retellings. The Invisible Hand is the first in a new series to be set in the same boarding school, with each book based upon a different Shakespeare play. In this case it’s Macbeth.

In this short novel, Sam is quite perturbed about his strange, vivid dreams where he finds himself in Scotland in what seems like medieval times. Whilst trying to make sense of the dreams, he’s also trying to keep his head down at the boarding school but is finding it increasingly harder to concentrate in the present day. Especially when the girl he has a crush on in his dreams starts to turning up at school.

Things get even weirder when Sam starts studying Macbeth in English and the events of the play bear more than a passing resemblance to Sam’s dreams that may not be dreams after all.

The Invisible Hand was a great introduction to Macbeth. It was a simple but action-packed story which uses some of the events in Macbeth and gives them a modern relevance. I enjoyed it a lot. It was fun and speedy. If I had one thing to criticise though, it would be that I wished Hartley had taken it further. I wanted more Shakespeare, more detail. It was too short!

The Invisible Hand has certainly piqued my interest however, and I would love to see what they do with other Shakespeare plays. I definitely think there is room for more Shakespeare inspired YA novels like this to show that it’s not all about archaic language and ruffled collars.

unicorn rating 4

 

Bizarro High: Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz #YAReview

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Title: Sanctuary Bay
Author: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: January 19th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin (USA) // February 13th (UK)
Genre(s): YA; Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing.

Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

 

Review

I fell in love with the cover of this book instantly, and when I read that co-author Melinda Metz was one of the writers of Roswell (one of my favourite TV shows of all time – no shame!), I knew I had to read it.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the premise though. The elite prep school part appealed to me, and I assumed the story would follow the mystery of the missing room-mate, but Sanctuary Bay was SO much more than that.

Protagonist Sarah is really interesting character. She witnessed her parents getting killed when she was just three, and she remembers it vividly. Everyone tells her that it’s impossible to remember at such an early age, but Sarah knows that her brain works differently to other people’s.

Sarah has grown-up in foster homes, some good, some terrible. She considers herself pretty poor, and she’s determined to make something of herself. When she’s offered a scholarship out of the blue to the most elite prep school in the country, it’s practically a miracle. But Sarah wants to believe her luck has changed, and feels that she deserves this great opportunity, so she’s determined not to mess it up.

But of course, if something’s too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. And Sanctuary Bay is definitely not your average school.

Marketed as a ‘full-immersion’ school, in which pupils can never leave (it’s on an island so they really, really, can’t), or have any contact with the outside world including family, apart from being allowed monthly care packages to arrive through the post.

The students are therefore quick to form bonds. At first Sarah is blindsided by how friendly everyone is, and she soon feels like part a family – something she has longed for her whole life. But it’s not long until things start getting weird. She’s initiated into a secret society whose ‘missions’ get weirder and weirder. And then her room-mate goes missing and Sarah is stuck between loyalty to her brothers and sisters, her own sanity, and the truth.

There is so much more to this story as well. I absolutely loved Sanctuary Bay and couldn’t put it down! I liked the contrast between the futuristic-type technology at the school and that part of it was built on a POW camp, and how all of this is woven into a great mystery.

The setting was awesome, I couldn’t fault the writing, and it was a fast-paced, thrill-ride.

I’m extremely happy and impressed at how the YA genre has evolved over the last ten years, and it’s all down to diverse, unique, and exciting books like this one. Success all round.

If Sanctuary Bay is anything to go by, 2016 is going to be another great year for YA…have ALL the unicorns!

unicorn rating

Lazy Saturday Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

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Title: Shadow Kiss
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #3
Edition: Paperback, 460 pages
Publication Details: November 13th 2008 by Razorbil
Genre(s): YA; Paranormal Romance
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads
Purchase

It’s springtime at St. Vladimir’s Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since Mason’s death, Rose hasn’t been feeling quite right. She has dark flashbacks in the middle of practice, can’t concentrate in class, and has terrifying dreams about Lissa. But Rose has an even “bigger” secret . . . .She’s in love with Dimitri. And this time, it’s way more than a crush. Then Strigoi target the academy in the deadliest attack in Moroi history, and Dimitri is taken. Rose must protect Lissa at all costs, but keeping her best friend safe could mean losing Dimitri forever…

These books will be the death of me. I swear not a lot happens for 300 pages and then BAM just before the end Richelle Mead hits us with a brick and makes it impossible to not buy the next book. What’s up with that!?

In this, the third book in the series, everyone is concentrating on graduating to become fully fledged Moroi Guardians, or for the Moroi themselves (vampire royalty) just staying alive long enough to be assigned on of the said guardians.

A lot of the story surrounds the last test for the trainees, a six week long field experiment where they’re assigned a Moroi to protect and can be attacked at any time by the guardian teachers pretending to be the crazy, murderous vamps known as Strigoi. Rose can’t wait to prove herself, but one thing is getting in the way – Mason’s ghost, and he’s not the only thing she is seeing.

I enjoyed Shadow Kiss. It just sort of ambled along nice and pleasantly for a while and then the shit hit the fan and I have no words. Mead upped the ante in respect of the action, and the romance, and I need to know what’s going to happen next with Dimitri and Rose, and Adrian and Lissa. Ahh too many good characters!

The more I read of this series, the more it stands out in the vampire genre. There’s definitely a lot more to it than you’d think, but I feel like the plots are getting thinner as it goes on.

unicorn rating 3

The Vampire Academy Series is available in paperback from Waterstones now.

Not Your Average School Ski Trip…

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

spr4It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

Well, getting hooked on this series was probably inevitable. Some hot vampires and a kick-ass female lead, in a high school setting…now, where have I seen that before!? I was really impressed with the first book in this series though, as I wasn’t expecting it to be so rooted in Vampire Lore. (You can check out my review of book 1 here.)

Frostbite, continues where we left off. Rose is getting closer to becoming an official guardian and trying to keep her distance from hot russian Dimitri, whilst Lissa is sickeningly in love with Christian and trying to control her weird Vamp powers.

It’s Christmas (yay) and they are all forced (not that you wouldn’t go willing by the sounds of it) to spend it at an exclusive ski resort to keep hidden from the deadly Strigoi who are still picking off the Moroi royalty one by one. Of course! Where else would one go?

I was pleased that this book has a prologue that went over what we’d learned thus far; the gospel according to Dhampirs, Moroi and Strigoi if you will (I still can’t pronounce them), to remind us of all the intricacies involved in their society and the stigma that comes from certain choices, should they make them. However what I wasn’t OK with was all of the other catch-up sessions in the book. The prologue was perfect, I really didn’t think we needed the rest.

There were a few other things I was disappointed with in this book as well, maybe disappointed is a bit harsh considering I couldn’t put it down, but I felt like all the dark shiz that made me love the first book was gone.

Now they know what Lissa’s deal is, there’s no self-harm (which is obviously a good thing but it made for good reading!), no dead animal corpses in her dorm, and now that Lissa and Rose are permanently back at St Vlads (yes, we’re on nick-name terms already, I move fast) no hot ‘dirty’ feeding sessions. Bore off.

But, I digress. Overall, Frostbite wasn’t boring at all. With the focus taken off Lissa and Rose a little, we get to explore some of the minor (and new!) characters a bit. There’s definitely more of Christian, Lissa’s boyfriend, who I’m really hoping is going to turn out to be evil, right? Because if not what is he good for?-Creating tension between Lissa and Rose I guess, but it was a bit meh.

We also get more of Mason, who grew on me throughout the book, he’s pretty adorable. And then there’s the introduction of tall, dark, mysterious and probably deadly Adrian who seems to be stalking Rose a bit. Well, who wouldn’t!?

AND OF COURSE, there’s Dimitri. Oh delicious Dimitri… Richelle Mead you really are spoiling us!

I liked that they didn’t get together too quickly (because you know, it’s wrong), but I really hope it’s not going to end up being a whole on/off, on/off thing for the next 4 books too.

I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS right now. Sigh.

One thing I wasn’t expecting however, was that Rose started to annoy me a bit in this book. I like a protagonist that is confident, but in Frostbite, her self-assuredness (that’s not even a word is it? Bitca!) got a bit too much. She’s constantly pointing out how hot her body is, like anyone actually ever says that to themselves all the time! Pfft, anyway…

No matter what, I couldn’t put Frostbite down. It definitely has some flaws but I’m too far gone to care. I’m invested in Rose, Dimitri and Lissa, and GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE NOW.

Ahem. Please.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I bought it!
Title: Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)
Author: Richelle Mead
Details: Paperback, 327 pages
Published: April 10th 2008 by Razorbill
My Rating: 4/5

3 Vamps, 1 Stone: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

345627 St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

What surprised me most about this book was that it surprised me.

I’d been meaning to start this series ever since it came out in 2007 (woah, has it really been that long?), so I figured I knew what it was going to be about. I expected another fluffy teen vamp read. Which it kind of was. I expected a cross between Twilight and Gossip Girl. Which it also kinda was. But what I didn’t expect was that it would be heavy on mythology and be a unique take on Vampire Lore. That, was a pleasant surprise.

Let me try to explain, more for myself than anything. There are three different kinds of vampires in Mead’s series. Rose is Dhampir, non-royal but strong and whose mission in life is to train as a guardian to protect the Moroi, the weaker of the vampires who have their own royal family. Dhampir’s and Moroi exist together in relative peace although the Dhampir’s that do not train as guardians are often seen as scum. These two breeds of vamps are living, mortal vampires. The Strogoi however, are not. And they’re the bad guys who prey on the moroi (especially the royalty) hence the need for guardians.

It’s pretty ridiculous but it works. I enjoyed the dynamic between Rose and Lissa, who by the way have a psychic bond, and the sexual tension between them was pretty transparent. Hot though, obviously. I liked the whole getting bitten by a vampire is addictive, but dirty thing. In fact we are pretty much bombarded with both actual rules and social suicide rules that these vamps must abide by in order to stay respected. That rang pretty true in a school setting.

Overall, I was impressed by the complexity of Vampire Academy as I was expecting more of a throw-away story, but it was also that complexity that dragged it down sometimes. I felt like this book was just an introduction to a much bigger story (which it obviously is considering how many books there have been) that throws too many ideas around too soon. But I still really enjoyed it.

I look forward to seeing what happens with Dimitri (Rose’s hot Russian Mentor) and Rose’s doomed love story.

I’m obviously going to get hooked.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, Oh Chrys sent it to me as part of her Bookish Christmas Bookswap 🙂
Title: Vampire Academy (#1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Details: Paperback, 332 pages
Publication Date: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill
My Rating: 4/5