YA Review: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

Title: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis
Author: Roxy Eloise
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

I love a good, original YA Dystopia, and this ticked all the boxes! A training centre for teenagers learning to be Enforcers of curfew and other laws, arranged marriages, strict relationship rules, games with life-changing rankings for the winning teams, friendships and romances, a mysterious commander with a grudge against the narrator, and a really interesting twist with a setup for book two.

Aurora has been raised in the Boulderfell Institute for Young Enforcers. Her only memories of a life before the institute are dreams of running with her friend Tayo, and being caught by Enforcers at the age of three. The book begins with her move from the children’s quarter to the adult section, following her sixteenth birthday. The author captures the fear and anxiety of the move – relatable for anyone who has changed schools or employers and worried about how they will survive in a new environment.

And Aurora is right to be anxious. The adult section brings the potential for an arranged engagement, a step up to dangerous competitive games, patrols in the outside world, and conflict with the commander of the Institute. It doesn’t take long for her to find herself in serious trouble, betrothed to a stranger, and targeted by older trainees who are threatened by her physical abilities. When she discovers someone from her past at the institute, everything she believes about herself is challenged, and she must decide who – and what – to believe.

I loved this book. I loved the story and the setup. I loved the characters, and Aurora in particular. I loved the people who supported her, however secretly, and I loved the twist at the end. This is the beginning of an excellent YA dystopian series, and I’m looking forward to book two!

Have you read The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis? What did you think of Aurora’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: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Prisoner’s Throne

Title: The Prisoner’s Throne
Author: Holly Black
Edition:
Hardback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: The Prisoner's Throne

Holly Black is back, and so are Wren and Oak, and I couldn’t wait to jump back into the story and find out what happened after the cliffhanger at the end of The Stolen Heir (reviewed here).

This is a hard book to review without dropping spoilers, but I’ll do my best.

The first surprise is that The Prisoner’s Throne opens not in the Citadel, where the previous book ended, but by skipping back in time to before Oak set out on his quest in The Stolen Heir. The second surprise is the change in narrator, from Wren to Oak. Before the resolution of the story can begin, we learn what inspired Oak’s journey in The Stolen Heir, and about his self-appointed and secret role in Elfhame, protecting the High King and Queen.

Oak goes on to use his charm and determination to influence Wren and her court, and bring about a confrontation with Elfhame. Jude and Cardan make a welcome reappearance in the story, finding their loyalties tested when Oak’s clandestine activities come to light. There’s political plotting, dangerous magic, murder, poison, betrayals and family loyalties, and once again I loved it.

Giving the narration to Oak works beautifully – to balance the storytelling between the two books, to highlight the growing tension between Oak and Wren, and to give the reader more of an insight into the dangers and plots behind the scenes of the Court of Elfhame. The Stolen Heir gave us Wren’s view of Oak, and this book flips the point of view to give us Oak’s view of Wren, which can only add to the intrigue of the story, and our understanding of the characters.

Another delicious and satisfying visit to Elfhame. Five stars.

Have you read The Stolen Heir and The Prisoner’s Throne? What did you think of the change of narrator in this book? And what about Oak’s secret role in the Court of Elfhame? 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 Prisoner’s Throne cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

Title: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces
Author: Linda Cheng
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

Confession time: I love ‘behind the scenes in the music business’ stories. Think Daisy Jones and the Six, Coyote Ugly, Espedair Street or Almost Famous. I even loved Julie and the Phantoms. I don’t know what it is about catching a glimpse behind the curtain at the off-stage antics and work ethic of band members, but I’m hooked.

So how could I resist Gorgeous Gruesome Faces, which promised dark secrets, female rivalries, personality clashes, and the gruelling selection process for a K-Pop band? Sign me up!

And the book delivered. From the flashbacks to narrator Sunny’s former band, a disastrous love triangle and the death of a band-mate, to the competition to become part of a new K-Pop sensation, everything I was looking for was there, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

What I wasn’t expecting was the dark twist, and the genuinely unsettling psychological horror of the present-day storyline. This element of the story builds slowly, with flashbacks introducing the theme, and gradually creeps into the narrator’s experiences as she works to win her place in the band. I’m not usually a horror fan, but this had me gasping, turning pages late into the night, and desperately trying to work out what was going on.

The high-stakes, life-changing competition and the clever psychological storyline work so well together, and I couldn’t put the book down. Interesting characters, burning rivalries, and deadly mistakes come together to produce an un-put-downable novel. The end was not the resolution I had been expecting when I opened the book, but it is definitely a satisfying ending for the narrator. Recommended if you’re looking for a dark twist on the K-Pop celebrity dream.

Have you read Gorgeous Gruesome Faces? What did you think of Sunny’s story? Did you guess what was happening? 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: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Where Sleeping Girls Lie

Title: Where Sleeping Girls Lie
Author: Faridah Abike-Iyimide
Edition:
Kindle ARC
Rating:
3.5/5

YA Review: Where Sleeping Girls Lie

An intriguing take on the unreliable narrator trope, Where Sleeping Girls Lie follows Sade as she finally leaves home to attend an expensive boarding school, following the death of her wealthy father. Her mother died when Sade was ten, and we very quickly learn that the teenager is haunted by visions and flashbacks of an unnamed girl she couldn’t save from drowning.

The formerly homeschooled Sade is shown round the sprawling school grounds by her roommate, Elizabeth, who helps her through the culture shock of the world of uniforms, timetables, and sneaking into places you shouldn’t have access to. But when Elizabeth disappears less than twenty-four hours after Sade’s arrival, the plot twists begin to pile up, and Sade discovers that there is more to her new school than lessons, sport, and clubs.

The key word in the title is ‘lie’. Everyone in the story lies, misrepresents themselves, and disobeys the rules – including Sade. As the story progresses, and the reader finds out more about Sade’s background and her reasons for coming to this school, the extent of the lies and omissions start to come into focus. In time all the pieces come together – what happened to Elizabeth, why Sade blames herself for the death of the girl who haunts her, and which of her friends are lying to protect a disturbing secret. It’s an interesting read, because figuring out the truth is almost impossible until Sade uncovers the secrets and puts the connections together.

Touching on sensitive subjects, including sexual assault, suicide and grief, Where Sleeping Girls Lie is a cathartic story – and an uncomfortable one. The constant lies, threats, and physical danger enhance the feeling of being lost in a new environment, and ignored by the people in authority who should be offering protection. There are some lighter moments – Sade’s friendship with Baz, Elizabeth’s best friend before her disappearance, is lovely, as is the growing affection between Sade and Persephone – but these elements of the story act as a contrast to emphasise the secrets and lies.

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to recommend this book, but I’m still thinking about the story – and that’s probably as good a recommendation as any.

Where Sleeping Girls Lie will be published on March 14th. Thank you to NetGalley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Where Sleeping Girls Lie? What did you think of Sade’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: Where Sleeping Girls Lie cross-posted to GoodReads.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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