Fighting Back Countdown: One Week!

Fighting Back, Book 4 of the Battle Ground series, will be launching on Amazon in ONE WEEK!

From November 28th, Kindle and paperback editions will be available to buy direct from Amazon – and on November 28th and 29th, the Kindle box set of Books 1-3 will be FREE to download (normal price £3.99).

Don’t miss the Fighting Back blog tour, starting November 28th. We’ll post links to all the blogs here so you can see what the reviewers think of Book 4!

Don’t forget to leave your reviews of the Battle Ground series on Amazon, and on your favourite review sites. Every review makes a huge difference, and helps us to reach our audience. Thank you!

Meet the Author!

The Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, one of the largest Christmas markets in the UK, takes place this weekend – and Rachel will be signing and selling the first three books in the Battle Ground Series on the Suffolk Authors stall!

Find the Suffolk Authors at the Guildhall, on Guildhall Street. Five authors, with books ranging from YA and SF to fantasy, contemporary fiction, and crime. Meet the authors, and buy original gifts for the readers on your Christmas list.

Plus the Guildhall has toilets and a café, which is pretty much the Holy Grail at the Fayre. 😁

See you there!

YA Review: The Toll (Arc of a Scythe #3)

Title: The Toll
Author: Neal Shusterman
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5

I’ve been waiting for the third and final book in the Arc of a Scythe series for twelve months, so when I heard there were copies in Waterstones I threw on my coat and went out in the rain to buy one! Thunderhead, book two in the series, ended on a serious cliffhanger, so I wasn’t going to wait to find out what happened next.

The Toll is a larger book than its predecessors, and there are plenty of plot twists packed into its pages. The book continues the story of the Scythes, the only people licensed to kill in a society where no one dies. The Scythedom was set up to manage the population in a post-mortal world, but with the balance of power shifting and new-order Scythes taking a little too much pleasure in ending lives, The Toll explores the ethics of death, dying, and post-mortality.

Following on from book two, the god-like point-of-view character plays a major role in The Toll, interacting with one character in particular, and struggling to overcome its own programming. At the same time, the Scythedom is trying to come to terms with the new-order Scythes and their actions, and looking for other ways to achieve the same ends. The cliffhanger from the previous book is resolved, but the characters are almost immediately thrown back into danger. It feels as if everyone is trying to change the world – but no two groups are aiming for the same outcome.

The scene is set for games of cat-and-mouse, and power struggles on a truly global scale. There’s excitement and scandal, world-changing discoveries and crushing tragedies, and an ending that I didn’t see coming.

I’m still not sure what I think of this series. I didn’t like the characters at the start of Scythe. I didn’t like the setting or the scenario. But I have enjoyed the plot, and the way the author uses his post-mortal society to examine the corrupting influence of power, the ethical dilemmas of a god-like character, and the injustice of death and dying. It’s an interesting read, but be warned: the book two cliffhanger really is painful!

Have you read the Arc of a Scythe trilogy? How long did you have to wait to find out what happened after the end of Thunderhead? And what did you think of the ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Meat Market

Title: Meat Market
Author: Juno Dawson
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

When sixteen-year-old Jana Novak is scouted by a modelling agency, she thinks she’s going into her new career with her eyes open. She doesn’t think of herself as beautiful, and she accepts that her recruitment is based on her height (5’11”) and her on-trend androgynous looks. Her parents, friends, and committed boyfriend support her, while helping to keep her grounded, and her agency finds her work with top fashion brands. She seems well-placed to succeed.

But the pressure and loneliness of long-distance travel, and the demands of the people she works with, start to take a toll on Jana. As she discovers the truth about the industry that pays huge sums of money to use her face and body in their advertising campaigns, she is forced to choose between her career and her conscience.

This is compelling story. Jana is a believable girl-next-door character from a South London housing estate. She hasn’t dreamt of being a model, but she embraces the opportunities her agency provides, and learns as she goes what life as a living mannequin is really like. There are some touching moments, as she connects with the models she meets as she travels the world, and there are some shocking twists as she discovers the realities of surviving a punishing schedule and meeting the expectations of the people and companies who pay her wages.

The book doesn’t shy away from depicting the darker sides of the fashion industry, touching on dieting, eating disorders, drug use, and inappropriate sexual behaviour. But in spite of this, it is an optimistic story, narrated by a likeable, brave teenage girl. Her family and friends feel real and rounded, and her relationship with her boyfriend is lovely. At times, they feel like a much more mature couple, and he helps to keep her connected to her home and her life outside modelling.

Despite the twists and turns of the plot, Jana remains a sympathetic and relatable character, keeping the reader engaged with her story. The clever structure of the narrative – sections of interview alternated with sections of story – is explained at the end of the book, and finding out who was asking the questions made me want to back and read the book again, with this in mind. This is an important and accessible #MeToo novel, and definitely worth a read.

Have you read Meat Market? Did it make you think differently about the fashion industry? Did you think it was an optimistic story, or a depressing one? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Noughts and Crosses

Title: Noughts and Crosses
Author: Malorie Blackman
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Noughts and Crosses front cover image

Wow. I’m all for hard-hitting, challenging stories, but this takes the prize for leaving me breathless and traumatised – and it is brilliantly done. In her introduction, the author describes her ‘desire to tackle the subject of racism head on’ by putting her characters through humiliating situations that she had experienced herself as a black teenager. Personal experience and anger at ‘the artificial divides we always seem to put between ourselves and others’ gives this book a raw, realistic feel, and the clever flipping of the black/white power balance allows racist ideas to be challenged, free from readers’ preexisting assumptions.

The narrative is split between two main characters, with alternating Point of View chapters. Thirteen-year-old Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class – and her fifteen-year-old best friend Callum is a Nought – a member of the pale-skinned underclass. Noughts were once kept as slaves by Crosses, and society is still stacked against its pale-skinned members. Schooling is segregated, and very few Noughts achieve a high level of education, or well-paid jobs. The growing relationship between Sephy and Callum provokes resentment from their families, and from the people around them. The plot makes some shocking twists, while staying true to the characters and the setting, and by the end I was angry, upset, and thoroughly invested in the outcome of the story. It took me a while to fully sympathise with both main characters, but when the plot grabbed me, I couldn’t put the book down.

It is very hard to say anything else without giving away spoilers – and trust me, this is a story you don’t want to spoil. It’s a book that makes the reader question their own invisible prejudices, while following the characters through some tough decisions, and eventually shouting at the words on the page. It is an important story, accessibly told, that will stay with me long after the book goes back on the shelf. Very highly recommended.

Have you read Noughts and Crosses? What did you think? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.