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

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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 

bookdepo

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

 

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick #BookReview

foreshadowingTitle: The Foreshadowing
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 305 pages
Publication Details: July 2005 by Orion
Genre(s): YA; Supernatural; Historical
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

 

It is 1915 and the First World War has only just begun.

17 year old Sasha is a well-to-do, sheltered-English girl. Just as her brother Thomas longs to be a doctor, she wants to nurse, yet girls of her class don’t do that kind of work. But as the war begins and the hospitals fill with young soldiers, she gets a chance to help. But working in the hospital confirms what Sasha has suspected–she can see when someone is going to die. Her premonitions show her the brutal horrors on the battlefields of the Somme, and the faces of the soldiers who will die. And one of them is her brother Thomas.

Pretending to be a real nurse, Sasha goes behind the front lines searching for Thomas, risking her own life as she races to find him, and somehow prevent his death.

Review

I read The Foreshadowing quite a while ago now (I’m really behind on non-ARC reviews), but it’s still quite vivid in my mind, such is the command of Marcus Sedgwick. 

I had this book sitting on my physical TBR shelf for ages, just waiting for the right time, and after a string of blahhhh reads I finally picked it up. And did Sedgwick let me down? No of course not, he rarely does!

The Foreshadowing is a harrowing tale of plucky Sasha who is gifted (or cursed) with premonitions of people’s deaths. Her parents and brothers don’t believe her, or more to the point – don’t want to believe her because her gift terrifies them, and in turn they make her life unnecessarily difficult and isolated, as well as perpetually plagued by these horrific visions. 

All Sasha wants to do is help people. She wants to be a nurse, but her father believes young ladies of her stature should marry, not work. But when the war begins, things start to change. Sasha convinces her father to let her volunteer at the hospital. It is here her premonitions really start to haunt her and it’s only a matter of time before she sees her brother’s death and realises that she’s the only one who can save him. 

This book was everything I’ve come to expect from Marcus Sedgwick. It is beautifully written, full of mystery and a sprinkle of magic, with characters so well developed you want to take a bullet for them. 

The Foreshadowing is a book you’ll get emotionally invested in with a protagonist who relentlessly tries to right the wrongs of war and oppression. 

unicorn rating 4

The Foreshadowing is available now in paperback, hardback and digital

A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1) by Alyxandra Harvey

18633458In 1814, three cousins-Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope-discover their unknown family lineage of witchcraft. Beyond the familiar manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, a dangerous, alluring new underworld visible only to those with power is now open to the cousins.
But unbeknownst to them, by claiming their power, the three cousins have inadvertently opened the gates to the Underworld.
Now the dead, ghouls, hellhounds-and the most terrifying of all: the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters-are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers.
And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies.
Can the cousins unravel the clues and mystery behind their heritage and power before their gifts are stripped away …or even worse, another witch is killed?

I really wanted to love this. I’d heard good things about Harvey even though I never got round to her other series, The Drake Chronicles. The cover drew me to it (so pretty) and I loved the synopsis, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it.

That being said, I’m not entirely sure if the book is to blame or if it was a timing issue. I was so busy I was trying to snatch 15 minutes here and there to get through it but every time I picked it up my heart wasn’t in it and I found it hard to follow, which probably wouldn’t have been an issue if I had time to sit down and read it for longer periods of time.

The book started promising enough. It was action-packed from the off and I really loved the humorous tone of the narration.

In a nutshell, A Breath of Frost is about three cousins who discover they are witches, just at the same time that they have more important things to worry about such as debutante balls and finding husbands. When their powers are awakened, an ancient evil known as the Greymalkin is too and we follow the cousins through the discovery of their ancestry, their powers and responsibility, and generally just trying to stay alive. Oh and throw in a bit of Romance too, of course. (I liked Cormac a lot!)

Breaking into a dead woman’s house was easy work since she rarely complained. Breaking into a dead witch’s house was a different matter entriely.

We come across vampire pigeons, goblin markets, LADIES WITH UNICORNS…As I’m writing this really starting to wonder how I didn’t ADORE this book. I even found the writing beautiful and inventive at times:

“The others looked at her as if she were made of spiders and thorns”

A girl meandered out of the shrubbery, her long, pale hair, falling like shining swan feathers to her waist. She was all moon-beams and mist, delicate pearls and orchids, apart from the wickedly jagged knife at her belt.”

So why did I find it so hard to read? Answers on a postcard please.

I found a lot of similarities to The Worst Witch too, (with Daphne being the mean one but most talented, and Emma being rubbish and getting up to all kinds of things) albeit a more grown up, Regency Era Worst Witch.

What’s not to like? I might have to give it another go at some point!

unicorn rating 3

Disclosure?: Yep, I received a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Details: Paperback, 496 pages
Publication Date: January 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s
My Rating: 3/5
If you like this try: Nightworld by L.J Smith

A Winter’s Tale: Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

Title: Frost Hollow Hall
Author: Emma Carroll
Details: E-book, Paperback, 368 pages
Expected Publication: October 3rd 2013 by Faber and Faber
Disclosure: Thanks to Emma Carroll & Faber and Faber for providing a copy for an HONEST review
My Rating: 4 Unicorns out of 5

The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut.

Tilly’s heart sinks. Will’s at the door of their cottage, daring her to come ice-skating up at Frost Hollow Hall. No one goes near the place these days. Rumour has it that the house is haunted . . . Ten years ago the young heir, Kit Barrington, drowned there in the lake. But Tilly never turns down a dare.

Then it goes horribly wrong. The ice breaks, Tilly falls through and almost drowns. At the point of death, a beautiful angel appears in the water and saves her. Kit Barrington’s ghost.

Kit needs Tilly to solve the mystery of his death, so that his spirit can rest in peace. In order to discover all she can, Tilly gets work as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall. But the place makes her flesh crawl. It’s all about the dead here, she’s told, and in the heart of the house she soon discovers all manner of dark secrets . . .

Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly’s unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery.

I fell in love with the cover and synopsis of Frost Hollow Hall from the moment I saw it. Mainly because I’m a bit strange and actually looking forward to Winter. There’s just something magical and mysterious about Winter and the cover promises these in abundance.

I was not disappointed. Tilly is a great protagonist. She’s kind and hopeful despite the rough hand she’s been dealt. Poor Tilly is used to being second best; always in the shadow of her sister who constantly sides with her mum leaving Tilly feeling left out and like the black sheep but Tilly doesn’t let it get her too down, she’s independent and headstrong.

When Will Potter dares her to go ice-skating on the frozen lake in the forbidden grounds of Frost Hollow Hall she goes along. Not because she likes him like all of the other girls in the village but because she craves adventure and excitement in her life. This is when the story comes into its own. Emma Carroll’s descriptive prose is perfect in portraying Frost Hollow Hall as an intimidating yet beautiful place, full of mystery and dark secrets.

Spread out before us was the thickest, most marvellous frost I’d ever seen. The grass was so pale it might have been snow, the trees all white like bones.

I was so intrigued by the place, I was instantly hooked and wanted a glimpse inside even more than Tilly.

And then there’s Kit Barrington, who appears to Tilly when the inevitable accident happens and she falls through the ice. He’s a beautiful ghost and needs her help. I do wish we’d seen more of Kit in the story though as he was the driving force behind everything that happens but we only encounter him properly that one time and in Tilly’s dreams. I wanted more – probably because I couldn’t help but picture him as a younger version of Kit ‘you know nothing Jon Snow’ Harington from Game of Thrones…err hot.

Will is pretty cute too and I’m glad this never really turned into a love-triangle. I like how Will started off almost arrogant and annoying but throughout the story we see kindness in his actions and it becomes clear that he really does care for Tilly. I was rooting for him by the end.

Thanks to Tilly’s strong characterisation I was invested in all the goings on at Frost Hollow Hall. When Tilly was excited, (despite all of the other maids being terrified) I was excited, when she was scared, I was scared for her…I love stories that are rollercoasters, and this definitely was. The pace only dropped once and I found myself wanting to skip on once Tilly had gotten the job as a maid but hadn’t managed to find much out about Kit or the Barringtons but it soon picked up again when the ghostly activity was cranked up a notch.

With creepy rooms, terrified maids, a house-keeper who seems to be hiding something and Lady Barrington mad with mourning, Frost Hollow Hall is a compelling read.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of Children’s or YA Historical Fiction out there and this made me wish there was. Carroll’s narrative voice and descriptive language set the scene and time excellently and I loved it. The perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dark night.

Follow Emma Carroll on twitter @emmac2603

Upcoming Release! (I’m a NetGalley convert)

I was a bit dubious of signing up to NetGalley or any of the other reader services out there because I’m not a huge fan of reading e-books, and I like to feel free to read what I want, when I want.

But, I’ve come to realise that I should really review more new and upcoming releases..it’s my duty as a book blogger, right? It’s got nothing to do with getting free books…honest. So I caved, and wow…how easy was that! I’ve been approved for my first ‘assignment’ and I’m actually really excited about reading it; it looks awesome!

Winter is Coming!

Winter is Coming!

Title: Frost Hollow Hall
Author: Emma Carroll
Details: E-book, Paperback, 368 pages
Expected Publication: October 3rd 2013 by Faber and Faber

The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut.

Tilly’s heart sinks. Will’s at the door of their cottage, daring her to come ice-skating up at Frost Hollow Hall. No one goes near the place these days. Rumour has it that the house is haunted . . . Ten years ago the young heir, Kit Barrington, drowned there in the lake. But Tilly never turns down a dare.

Then it goes horribly wrong. The ice breaks, Tilly falls through and almost drowns. At the point of death, a beautiful angel appears in the water and saves her. Kit Barrington’s ghost.

Kit needs Tilly to solve the mystery of his death, so that his spirit can rest in peace. In order to discover all she can, Tilly gets work as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall. But the place makes her flesh crawl. It’s all about the dead here, she’s told, and in the heart of the house she soon discovers all manner of dark secrets . . .

Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly’s unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery.