YA Review: Black Heat

Title: Black Heat
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Black Heat

My absolute favourite book of 2023, Black Heat completely consumed me. Three strong female leads with very different lives, all affected by – and contributing to – a war they have been powerless to prevent. What do the princess, the blacksmith and the midwife have in common, and how will their individual actions shape their common goals?

I loved every part of this book. The three women have different motives and different positions in society, and each brings a different type of strength to the story. Marzal, the princess, searches for ways to survive and protect herself in a royal court where everyone is playing dangerous games, and no one can be trusted. Rayn, the blacksmith, seeks revenge for the deaths of her family while negotiating her own survival on a battlefield dominated by dangerous men. Elena, the apprentice midwife, must trust in her abilities and find a way to protect herself and the secret she carries.

Their stories, while told in individual strands, all play essential roles in the search for peace in a war-torn country – and in the need for revenge.

The world-building is fantastic. Telling the story from three points of view, three locations, and three utterly different social positions allows the author to paint a comprehensive picture of the setting without infodumping or excessive description. We see what we need to see, and the different points of view allow the reader to witness the war and its effects, from the palace to the battlefield, and the homes of the people caught up in the fighting.

This isn’t a romance. This isn’t a story about men, or women chasing men. This is a story about female strength and perseverance in the face of a war, and a political struggle in which they have no part. Men – good and bad – appear in the story, but the focus is always on Marzal, Rayn, and Elena, and the choices they make for survival, peace, and revenge.

Did I mention that I love this book? It’s an absolute treat to read. If you enjoy strong female leads, dangerous plots and dangerous secrets, and a satisfying dose of revenge – what are you waiting for?

Have you read Black Heat? What did you think of the three women and their stories? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Black Heat 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.

YA Review: The Thing About Lemons

Title: The Thing About Lemons
Author: Tasha Harrison
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: The Thing About Lemons

This is a sweet YA romance, and therefore not my usual choice of reading, but it grabbed me from the start and kept the pages turning right up until the satisfying ending. It’s a perfect holiday beach read, with the power to make it feel like summer even as I was reading it in October.

Ori is looking forward to a summer of camping and festivals with her best friends from school. Her mum will be in Chicago with her new boyfriend, their flat is being rented out on Airbnb while they are both away, and everything is lined up for the perfect holiday … until Ori makes a really, really big mistake and loses most of her friends overnight. Camping is off, festivals are off, and the flat will be someone else’s home while her mother is out of the country.

Enter Ori’s grandfather Claude – a notoriously clueless womaniser who lives in France, and calls in to see her once every few years. She’s dreading spending time with him, let alone staying with him in his small French village, helping him convert an old barn into a music venue for the local community. But that’s what her mother has organised, and she has nowhere else to go.

But Claude turns out to have hidden depths, eccentric family connections, and neighbours with a student grandson who is also staying for the summer. Despite life giving her lemons, Ori decides to make metaphorical lemonade, and enjoy her enforced holiday as much as she can.

It’s a fun story, with family feuds and secrets to uncover, neighbours and extended family to meet, and an absolutely gorgeous setting. I wanted to join Ori and her grandfather as they spent their days preparing the barn for a grand opening, and their evenings swimming in the river at the edge of his property. The descriptions of the village, the great food and drink, and their progress on the barn made the story glow.

Feel-good and engaging, this book surprised and hooked me, a taste of summer between its pages.

Have you read The Thing About Lemons? Do you think Ori deserved to lose her friends after her mistake? And who had the better summer in the end? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Thing About Lemons 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.

YA Review: Ocean Heart

Title: Ocean Heart
Author: Ally Aldridge
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Ocean Heart

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance or love triangles. That said, while Ocean Heart is a PNR with a love triangle, it’s also a gripping story where the rival love interests are integral to the plot. And – possibly my favourite kind of fictional relationship – there’s a lovely male/female friendship that I really wanted to survive the story!

Mariah has no idea she has powers. She’s just an ordinary teenager with a hippie single mum, and her best friend Jace living next door. True – she has an allergic reaction to seawater, and she’s not allowed to swim, but allergies aren’t uncommon. When she’s persuaded to join the swimming club at school she has to keep it from her mother, who would not approve. But Mariah feels at home in the water in a way she can’t explain, and she’s soon promoted to a place on the school team.

Meanwhile Jace is trying to spend time with his girlfriend, Kiely, but her brother Murray, star of the swim team, is always around as a chaperone. When Jace asks Mariah to distract Murray so he can finally kiss Kiely, he has no idea what the consequences will be. Powers are awakened, secrets are exposed, and Mariah has to decide whether to follow her destiny or her heart.

Mariah’s story had me turning the pages and staying up late to find out what would happen next. I loved her relationship with Jace, and their very real questioning of the way they felt about each other. Murray is an interesting but flawed character, and I was constantly dreading what he might do next. Mariah’s relationship with her mother felt natural, and her mother’s spellcasting and potion-brewing felt innocent and eccentric – at least in the beginning. No spoilers, but all the relationships evolve throughout the book, and the explosive showdown opens up intriguing possibilities for the sequel. Bring it on!

And could we just please take a moment to appreciate this book’s gorgeous cover? It’s stunning (and it would look great on your bookshelf!).

Have you read Ocean Heart? What did you think of Mariah’s story? Did you enjoy the love triangle, and do you think Mariah makes the right choice? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Ocean Heart 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.

YA Review: The Exiled

Title: The Exiled
Author: Sarah Daniels
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: The Exiled

I absolutely loved The Stranded when I read an ARC last year, and waiting a whole year to read the sequel was tough! I rushed out and bought The Exiled on launch day, and jumped straight back in to the dystopian plot.

To recap: refugees from a war-ravaged Europe have been stuck at sea for more than forty years, confined to the cruise ships that were supposed to bring them to safety. A fractured US refuses permission for them to come ashore, fearful of the weaponised virus that might lie dormant in the bloodstream of everyone on board.

I don’t want to give too much away, but after the events of The Stranded, protagonist Esther’s hopes for a better life are fading. Leaving her cruise ship – the Arcadia – and making it to the Federated States was supposed to be her ticket to freedom, but the refugee camp isn’t where she hoped to end up. She’s exchanged shipboard anarchy for land-based oppression and gang rivalry, her parents and friends are missing, and she’s wanted by the Federated States.

Narration is shared between Esther, Nik (her sister’s former boyfriend), Meg (a girl from the Arcadia), and Janek, this book’s utterly delicious baddie. I thought Hadley, the sadistic administrator of the Arcadia in The Stranded was a fantastically nasty antagonist, but Janek is even better. Unlike Hadley, she’s in a position of power in the Federated States, with the means and motive to punish the refugees and prove her loyalty to the president. As Janek’s efforts provoke support for rebellion in the camp, Esther finds herself in even greater danger. Unsure of who she can trust, she is pushed into taking risks she has been desperately trying to avoid.

It’s another twisty plot, with heartbreak and bravery, adventure and betrayal, and a constant feeling of being on the edge of disaster. I absolutely loved it.

Have you read The Stranded and The Exiled? What did you think of the story? Did you enjoy reading the baddies’ chapters as much as the good guys? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Exiled 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.

YA Review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love

Title: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love
Author: Lex Croucher
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love

Arthur and Princess Gwendoline have known each other all their lives. They were betrothed at birth in a bid to unite Gwen’s family (her father is the King of England) and Art’s, and while they have only seen each other during Art’s short visits to Camelot, the only thing they can safely say is that they truly hate each other.

Gwen feels the pressure from her family to be the perfect princess – to turn up to events, to dress and behave appropriately, and never to risk her reputation, or that of her father. Art is everything she detests – a habitually drunk young man who delights in provoking her, staying out all night, and spending his days lounging about and nursing his inevitable hangover. To Art, Gwen is uptight and judgemental, and he has no idea of the expectations she struggles with every day.

To prepare for their wedding, Art arrives at Camelot with his friend and manservant Sidney, who promptly falls for Gwen’s Lady in Waiting. Before long, Gwen discovers Art kissing a stable boy, and Art uncovers Gwen’s diary, complete with wistful passages about Lady Bridget Leclair, England’s only female knight. As much as they hate each other, Gwen and Art agree to keep each other’s secrets, and grow into allies as the book progresses. But Art and Gwen are not the only people affected by their forbidden feelings. As Art finds himself falling for Gabriel, Gwen’s older brother and heir to the throne, and Gwen’s relationship with Bridget develops, they need to decide what to do about their wedding – and the rest of their lives.

What can I say about this book? I loved every moment! Gwen, Art, and Sidney are beautifully written, strong-willed and witty, and their constant banter and snark sparkles on the page. Lady Bridget is a tough young woman, competing alone in the man’s world of tournaments and fighting, where she is not welcome. Her bravery, independence, determination and loyalty make her the perfect fit for Gwen, who finds her own life of formality and etiquette suffocating. Gabriel is the bookish older brother, fiercely intelligent and never happier than when he’s studying in Camelot’s library – and definitely not ready to be king.

While the early stages of the book are immensely enjoyable, with verbal sparks flying every time Gwen and Art are forced to spend time together, their relationship matures as the story progresses. Their banter becomes less about one-upping each other, and more about navigating the political expectations around their marriage. There’s a tense build-up as their secret relationships develop, and an exciting finale where I genuinely feared for everyone’s safety.

I loved the pseudo-Arthurian setting, in a country where King Arthur and his knights are revered historical figures, and Camelot is still the seat of power. The castle and the town are vividly imagined, and every step along the corridors and the streets feels completely real. Gwen’s restricted life contrasts beautifully with Bridget’s dare-devil adventures, and of course the book addresses homophobia and the process of finding out who you are – and what to do about it.

Come for the inconvenient arranged marriage trope, be drawn in by the constant smile-raising banter, and stay for the genuine against-the-odds love stories. An unequivocal five stars from me.

Have you read Gwen and Art Are Not In Love? What did you think of their story? Did the characters grab you as much as they grabbed me? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love 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.

‘Angels’ is arriving tomorrow!

Whether you’ve pre-ordered your eBook, or you’re waiting to grab a paperback, Angels – the new UKYA from Battle Ground Series author Rachel Churcher – launches tomorrow!

If you’ve pre-ordered, a massive THANK YOU! If you’ve ordered a Kindle edition, it should be delivered direct to your Kindle or Kindle App tomorrow.

If you’re waiting for a paperback, physical copies will be available from Amazon and your favourite bookshop tomorrow!

We’re very excited to share this book with you.

Still undecided? Here are a couple of ARC reviews to tempt you!

Angels launches tomorrow!
Angels launches tomorrow

YA Review: Finale (Caraval #3)

Title: Finale (Caraval #3)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Finale

The plot twists continue in the final book of the Caraval trilogy, and both Scarlett and Tella have narrating roles throughout the story. With a new Emperor about to be crowned, the city of Valenda is in a holiday mood, but revelations about their family and their love interests lead both sisters further into danger.

It’s hard to review Finale without dropping all sorts of spoilers. Scarlett and Tella find themselves deeply involved in the struggles of the immortal and dangerous Fates while navigating the complexities of relationships they can’t control and the safety of people they care about. The story is darker than the previous books, and the stakes are higher. There is no Caraval to bring a sense of order and reward to their actions, and failure would mean consequences for the entire Empire.

It’s a complex plot, and I confess to losing track of some of the threads at times, but Scarlett and Tella’s relationships keep the pages turning. While their strong personalities drive the story, each sister learns to adapt to a rapidly changing environment – Scarlett becoming more daring and brave, and Tella drawing closer to the people around her. There’s an exciting climax and a satisfying ending, and an Encore chapter that had me grinning as I turned the final page.

The Caraval series is an exciting – and exhausting – journey through magic, danger, deception and love. I cared deeply about Scarlett and Tella, and about where they might end up, and I’m pleased I finally picked up their story. The series would be a excellent beach or holiday read, and a perfect place to escape to when you have plenty of time to relax with a book. Definitely worth stepping into Caraval and allowing yourself to be swept away.

Have you read Finale? What did you think of the final book in the series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Legendary 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.

YA Review: Legendary (Caraval #2)

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Legendary

Scarlett and Tella Dragna are back, and this time Tella has the chance to narrate. With the more daring sister steering the story, this book ramps up the danger and brings complications and plot twists for both sisters, their family, and their love interests.

The Empress has commanded Legend to run another Caraval in honour of her seventy-fifth birthday, so the company travels to the capital, Valenda, to prepare for the game. Scarlett and Tella, having escaped from their father, travel with them. Neither intends to participate in another Caraval, but Tella owes a debt to a stranger and Scarlett is revelling in her new freedom.

This Caraval promises to be more than a game. The Fates, powerful beings imprisoned for centuries, are fighting to return – a disaster that would threaten the Empire, and turn everyone into their playthings. The players are charged with finding the magical object that will destroy the fates and safeguard the future of the Empire. Tella and Scarlett are drawn into the game, only to discover that the solution is more personal than they imagined.

Legendary is a maze of a book, with truth and deception twisting around Scarlett and Tella as they follow their paths through their second Caraval. It’s a story of fear, pain, and surprises, and the lengths Tella, as the younger, bolder sister, will go to to protect her family. The relationship between the sisters remains key to the plot, but both sisters find themselves entangled in love triangles with potentially deadly consequences.

Once again, the final chapter opens up an entirely new facet of the story, and I had no choice but to keep reading …

Have you read Legendary? What did you think of Tella’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Legendary 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.

YA Review: Caraval (Caraval #1)

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Caraval

The Caraval trilogy has been sitting on my Kindle for ages, and finally made it to the top of my eBook TBR. Why did I wait so long? The story is captivating, the characters interesting, and the setting is literally magical.

The first book of the series follows seventeen-year-old Scarlett Dragna, the older of two sisters, as she prepares for her wedding to a mystery suiter selected by her cruel father. Scarlett is the sensible sister, constantly trying to protect her younger sibling and making sacrifices to keep them both safe from their father’s obsessive controlling behaviour.

But Scarlett has a secret. Since she was eleven, she has been writing to the mysterious Legend, the magical master of Caraval – an annual immersive game where participants experience illusions and puzzles at the hands of Legend’s group of actors, and compete for valuable prizes. She knows that Donatella, her impulsive younger sister, has always wanted to experience Caraval, but Legend never responds to her letters.

Ten days before her wedding, everything changes. Legend writes back, inviting Scarlett, Tella, and Scarlett’s fiance to participate in an invitation-only Caraval on his private island. Tella is desperate to go and never come home, but Scarlett is determined to take her sister with her she gets married, and keep them both safe from their father. Her plan fails, and Scarlett finds herself heading for Caraval with Tella.

Separated from her sister, and accompanied by the sailor who brought them to the island, Scarlett must negotiate the games and illusions of Caraval. Desperate to find Tella, Scarlett has no choice but to engage with the game, and attempt to see past the magic to discover who she can trust, and who might be working for Legend. Along the way she finds love, loss and impossible choices, and experiences everything Caraval has to offer – wonderful, mysterious, and terrifying.

While the magic and mystery of Caraval is gorgeously described and entirely captivating, the heart of this book is its characters. Even with their contrasting personalities, Scarlett and Tella are entirely believable as sisters, used to protecting each other from an abusive father. Scarlett is sensible, careful, and afraid of letting Tella down. Tella is impulsive, confident, and always on the look-out for thrills and danger. Much of this story centres around Tella, but telling it from Scarlett’s point of view invites the reader to care about the younger sister, and fear for her safety as Scarlett does. It’s a clever twist, and it kept the pages turning as I needed to find out what would happen to both sisters at the end of the book.

The short epilogue kick-starts another stage of the story, and I couldn’t help reading on into Legendary, book two of the series.

Have you read Caraval? What did you think of Scarlett’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Caraval 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.

YA Review: We Are All Constellations

Title: We Are All Constellations
Author: Amy Beashel
Edition:
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: We Are All Constellations

The Paper Orange UKYA Book Box continues to deliver excellent YA fiction! I can see why this book came bundled in the book box with a tissue and a restorative eyemask – it’s definitely a tear-jerker.

Iris’s mother died when she was ten, and she’s spent the years since being strong, independent, and fearless. She explores abandoned buildings as a hobby, and thinks nothing of heading into the woods alone in the dark or climbing on rooftops to find a new place to explore.

Life with her dad, stepmum and stepbrother is calm and peaceful, and nothing like the excitement she used to experience with her mother. She remembers joyful dancing in the kitchen, driving out in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower, and a surprise meal when her mother decorated the living room and pretended they were in France. But there are darker memories, too, and Iris tries not to remember the times when her mother’s behaviour was frightening rather than fun.

When Iris discovers the truth about her mother, she doesn’t know where to turn. Her best friend Tala is distracted by a poetry event, her boyfriend wants to come with her on the very definitely solo gap year she has planned, and the mysterious Orla might hold the key to the secrets of Iris’s past.

It’s a story about grief, friendship, and showing up for each other. What truths we tell, whether our actions match our words, and how we protect the people we love. Iris is a brilliant protagonist – she’s brave, resourceful, and independent, but also romantic, hurt, angry, and not as reliable as she claims to be. There’s a constant feeling that she might make the wrong decision at any moment, and a nagging uncertainty over whether she will push her bravery and independence too far.

I read We Are All Constellations in a weekend. Iris’s story is addictive, and the reader is drawn further into her world as the book progresses. I didn’t want to put it down, and I desperately wanted to find out how her plans, reactions and relationships would resolve in the end. Highly recommended.

Have you read We Are All Constellations? What did you think of Iris’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: We Are All Constellations 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.