Mini Reviews: YA & Childrens

Hello!

Final post for today with some mini reviews for YA & Childrens books that I’ve requested and read over the last few months.

“Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley for these in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.”

The Last Bear – Hannah Gold

HarperCollins Children’s

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Book Summary:

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to a faraway Arctic outpost.

But one night, April catches a glimpse of something distinctly bear shaped loping across the horizon. A polar bear who shouldn’t be there—who is hungry, lonely and a long way from home.

Fusing environmental awareness with a touching story of kindness, The Last Bear will include full-page black-and-white illustrations as well as a note from the author with facts about the real Bear Island and the plight of the polar bears.

Review:

The Last Bear was one that I picked up on a whim, I liked the premise, and the cover is beautiful, but neither prepared me for just how much I loved this book. When I started reading, I couldn’t stop, and I stayed up to the early hours, completely and utterly enraptured by the story and characters that Gold has created here. It is hard to believe that this is a debut because it was perfect and beautifully poignant. April was a fantastic protagonist, her thoughts and feelings, relatable, believable and endearing and the friendship that she develops with the stranded Polar Bear was so beautifully written that it felt as though you are becoming friends with them too, and I loved the build-up to it, the learning to be together and to be themselves.

Learning to Roar.

This is a book that will stay with you for a long time, I know I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It has a magic to it that will appeal to all ages, and in the current state of the world, there is so much in this book that needs to be heard. A powerful story with a living, beating heart at its centre.

I loved this so much that I immediately ordered a copy of it, and it will be a book that I will return to many times.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Iron Raven – Julie Kagawa

HQ | HQ Young Adult

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

Review:

This was by no means a bad book but compared to the other Kagawa books that I’ve read it just didn’t feel like it had the same heart to it. I can understand why some people will love it, especially with its ties to the previous series, but this one felt as though it was following a path with nowhere really to go, and where there was build up, it seemed to fizzle without reaching anything. Puck was fantastic though, but unfortunately not enough to make me love this book.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

A Tangle of Spells – Michelle Harrison

Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

Genre: Children’s Fiction | Middle Grade

Book Summary:

Everyone knows that magic and trouble go hand in hand…

A dangerous spell cast over an unsuspecting village.
An enchanted painting locked in a hidden room.
A desperate race against time to break the spell before it’s too late…

It should have been a fresh start for the Widdershins. Finally free from the misty gloom of Crowstone and beginning a new life. But all is not as it seems in their postcard-pretty village. Their neighbours are acting strangely, and why do they flinch at the mere mention of magic?

The Widdershins sisters have their own secret: a set of enchanted nesting dolls with the power to render their user invisible. The sisters must use their wits – and their magic – if they’re to break the dark hold over the village, and save one of their own . . . but have they met their match this time?

Review:

I loved everything about this one. The plot was engaging with a excellent balance of eerie atmosphere, action and character moments and the writing was beautifully enchanting, but it was the characters that really stole my heart, and I was sad when the book came to an end.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Circus Maximus: Race to the Death – Annelise Gray

Head of Zeus | Zephyr

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Book Summary:

Circus Maximus, the greatest sporting stage of the ancient Roman world, where the best horses and charioteers compete in a race to the death, and one girl dreams of glory. Ben Hur meets National Velvet in the ultimate 9-12 adventure story by debut children’s author, Annelise Gray.

Twelve-year-old Dido dreams of becoming the first female charioteer at the great Circus Maximus. She’s lost her heart to Porcellus, a wild, tempestuous horse she longs to train and race. But such ambitions are forbidden to girls and she must be content with helping her father Antonius – the trainer of Rome’s most popular racing team, The Greens – and teaching the rules of racing to Justus, the handsome young nephew of the Greens’ wealthy owner. When her father is brutally murdered, she is forced to seek refuge with an unlikely ally. But what of her dream of Circus triumphs and being reunited with the beloved horse she left behind in Rome? And the threat to her life isn’t over as she faces a powerful and terrifying new enemy… the emperor Caligula.

Review:

This one took me a little while to get into, but once I did I was hooked. The writing is absolutely fantastic, and the author does a fantastic job of bringing to life the historical period with all the little details that breathed life into the narrative without ever getting overwhelming, and that attention to detail was exactly what I wanted. The characters were well-fleshed out and believable, and the action, especially the racing was so vivid that I was on the edge of my seat for many of them. An absolute joy to read.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Calculated – Nova McBee

Wise Wolf Books | Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)

Genre: Multicultural Interest | Mystery & Thrillers | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

Set in Shanghai and Seattle, Calculated is a gritty, modern day blend of The Count of Monte Cristo and Mission Impossible.

She has many names – Octavia, Double 8, Phoenix, Josephine. She’s a math prodigy, a calculating genius and everyone wants her.

In seventeen-year-old Jo River’s complicated world of numbers, there’s no such thing as coincidence. When she is betrayed by someone she loves, kidnapped by the world’s most wanted smuggler, and forced to use her talent to shore up a criminal empire, Jo deems her gift a curse—until she meets Red.

Fellow captive and unlikely sage, Red teaches Jo to harness her true potential, so she can do more than just escape. Before he dies, Red reveals a secret about her enemies and makes her vow to right his wrongs. But Jo has a vow of her own. With help from Chan, a bitter billionaire, and Kai, his off-limits son, Jo rises into a new role, ready to take down those who ruined her life. Until a mathematical error comes back to haunt her with a threat much more dangerous than the criminals on the loose.

To beat the odds, Jo must decide who she really is and if risking everything is worth it.

After all, history is not made—it’s calculated.

Review:

I have some mixed feelings on this one. The premise was fascinating, and it was well-written and developed, and it did an excellent job of exploring some very serious topics, and I could see this being a good story for an adaptation. I just found myself not really connecting with any of the characters beyond a surface-level interest, I kept reading because the plot was interesting, but I didn’t feel compelled to follow the characters, although I think that is more of a personal preference than anything. I did like how it was wrapped up though, and it was a satisfying conclusion to the book.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

***** *****

Mort the Meek and the Raven’s Revenge – Rachel Delahaye

Little Tiger Group | Stripes Publishing

Genre: Children’s Fiction | Middle Grade

Book Summary:

On Brutalia violence is a way of life. Ravenous ravens circle overhead, monstrous grot bears cause chaos and the streets are bulging with brawls. But Mort isn’t like the other islanders – he’s determined to live peacefully. His struggle is made even tougher when the cruel queen appoints Mort as Royal Executioner. No one has challenged the royals and lived to tell the tale. Can Mort keep his head and outwit the queen?

Review:

This was unfortunately not a book for me, and I ended up being unable to finish it. This was in part due to the widespread use of capslock words, which kept throwing me out of the text. I liked the premise of this story, and I can see that this is one that will be popular with many young readers, it just wasn’t for me.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Secrets of the Starcrossed – Clara O’Connor

HarperCollins UK | One More Chapter

Genre: New Adult | Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Panem meets the Grishaverse in this explosive new YA trilogy perfect for readers of Marie Lu, Bella Forrest, and Cassandra Clare.

Review:

Unfortunately, this was just not the book for me. While I enjoyed the writing style, and I absolutely loved the premise of this book – alternate history is something I will always be interested by, that was about all I enjoyed. The worldbuilding had promise, but ultimately ended up feeling to fractured and scattered, rather than providing a cohesive backdrop to the story. The pacing was also off, with the first half flowing very well before all but reaching a standstill in the second half, and the ending – setting the foundation for the second book, felt too abrupt after that, and I just wasn’t able to connect with the characters. That said, there were nuggets of promise all throughout this book, and I can see why some people have enjoyed it so much, it just wasn’t a good match with me.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Place Beyond Her Dreams – Oby Aligwekwe

Eclat Books

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

At the sudden death of her grandfather, Ona’s pain drives her to mystical Luenah—a place of infinite possibilities. There, she discovers she is an Eri, chosen to accomplish a special purpose on earth, and is handed a box in exchange for what she desires the most.

Burdened by her quest, Ona learns that dreams carry a hefty price, and no one is who they seem. As evil looms, she must unmask the villain and save the one she loves, even at the risk of losing everything she holds dear.

Set against the backdrop of two warring towns, The Place Beyond Her Dreams delivers life lessons using a powerful fable. This coming-of-age fantasy takes the reader on the path to self-discovery and demonstrates the transformation one must go through to realize and eventually occupy their purpose.

Review:

I really wanted to love this one, because the premise was fantastic and there were moments when that potential really shone through. I loved the moments where Luenah were involved, but unfortunately beyond that the book just didn’t click with me.

Rating:

Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

***** *****

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