waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

51zujlmmr9l-_sx324_bo1204203200_Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A dark and gorgeously drawn standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory.

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

Full of fierce girls, bloodlust, tenuous alliances, and unapologetic quests for glory, this elegantly spun tale challenges the power of storytelling—and who gets to be the storyteller. Perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater, V.E. Schwab, and Heidi Heilig. birdWhy I can’t wait to read The Boneless Mercies

  • This has been described as feminist Beowulf. I love folk stories, but if there is one thing I noticed as a child it was the lack of female warriors. (Interesting fact – my name means ‘female warrior’. I figure we have always existed.) I never wanted to be the princess who was rescued from the tower. I wanted to be on horseback with a bow and arrow. 
  • I want to know about ‘the heroic sagas of her people’. I love books which examine the formative role of stories. Books which show how stories become part of a national consciousness. Current favourites include Ink by Alice Broadway and The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli. 
  • I am interested to know how a group of girls ended up in ‘the death trade’. This promises to be a fantastical take on patriarchal society and I’m totally up for it. 
  • Perfect for fans of Heidi Heilig. I adored Heidi Heilig’s narrative about a time-traveling ship and a girl who wants to be a captain. It wasn’t a straight fantasy, or a straight adventure, but a happy mix of the two. I hope The Boneless Mercies has the same blend of magic and excitement. 

 

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Simon And Schuster UK (UK)

October 2018

 

 

 

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Round-Up · Young Adult Reviews

Round-Up: 6 wonderful historical YA titles

 

I’m loving historical YA right now. Books take me to places I can’t visit, from the smoggy streets of Victorian London to the dining room of an inter-war mansion. I love films too, but scenes can be fleeting. Only a book gives me the time I need to savour the details.  They also help us to empathise with people from the past. 

There is a great selection of historical YA right now. I thought I would share some of these titles with you. bird

Unveiling Venus by Sophia Bennett

Mary is no longer a maid. Hiding behind her alter-ego of Persephone Lavelle, she becomes a muse to painters and a regular at the high society events of Victorian London. 

When her identity is exposed, Mary flees to Venice with her friend Kitty. There she encounters a man who offers her the world – at the cost of her friendship with Kitty.

Unveiling Venus continues the story started in Following Ophelia. I love the continuation of Persephone’s story, and how the story focuses so much on her friendship with Kitty. Sophia Bennett’s world-building is sublime. If you’re looking for historical fiction which takes you right into an era, put this series high on your list. 

 

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

Olivia was born in the workhouse and raised on the streets of London. When she is taken in by a wealthy uncle, she finds it hard to leave behind her thieving ways. She also refuses to forget the children living in London’s streets and slums. 

Olivia meets Jack, the boy once known as the Artful Dodger. Jack too has risen to higher places. He sees it as an opportunity to rob the people of high society. 

The pair must decide whether to turn their backs on their comfortable lives in favour of love. 

This is on my TBR. I am interested to see a retelling of Oliva Twist with a female protagonist. I hope there will be some interesting heist scenes before the lead pair figure out what they want in life. 

 

The Goose Road by Rowena House

 

1916. 14 year-old Angélique poromises to keep the family farm running until her brother returns from the war. To keep her promise, she will have to embark on a journey across France, accompanied by a flock of geese. 

I’ve been looking forward to The Goose Road for months now, and have it on good authority that it is the sort of book that you want to last forever. The idea of a young girl travelling with a flock of geese stuck with me. Maybe it is because I live in an area where migratory geese winter. They fly over the house twice a day for half a year, and I stop what I am doing to look up every singe time. 

 

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

News of a mermaid who lives on shore reaches P.T. Barnum, showman extraordinaire. The mermaid becomes part of his museum. Leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was. 

P.T. Barnum was a real-life figure. His story was recently told in The Greatest Showman On Earth. I am interested to see how Christina Henry portrays him. It sounds as if this story focuses on the unheard voices of the people in Barnum’s ‘museum’.  

 

The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew

Mim and Alex have been raised in a traveling show. Money is tight and Mim is afraid she will be thrown out on to the street. Mim and Alex start plotting to overcome their problems, a plot which is interrupted by the arrival of Dr Sebastian Fox. Fox uses electricity to give Mim a new identity. He bills her as the girl whose kisses are truly electrifying. Now Mim is in the spotlight as men queue up to buy one of her electrifying kisses. 

I adore books set in Circuses and performing communities. This book shows history in its gory reality. Think poverty and guts and stench. This makes an interesting juxtaposition with Alex and Mim’s story of love and self-discovery. 

I found the narrative a bit unusual. It is told in alternating sections, some of which are addressed to animals – a parrot and a pig. This made more sense when I found out the story originated as a radio play. It took me a little while to get used to the unusual voice. 

 

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

Aspiring writer Lou has always wondered about the grand house which has stood empty for years. When the owners arrive home for the summer, Lou is swept into a world of cocktail-parties and glamour beyond her dreams. As she grows closer to the Cardews, she becomes aware of a darkness at the heart of the family. 

This is on my TBR. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages. As a teenager I loved big house stories. Anything with a Du Maurier vibe and I was there. I’m looking forward to reading A Sky Painted Gold. This is one my younger self would have adored. 

 

Do you have any favourite historical fiction? What is on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below

Louise Nettleton

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton

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Extract:

Seth carried the dessert carefully through the kitchen. He had added a finishing touch of slices of plump, fresh apricot and placed the whole perfect confection ready in a bowl of ice to keep it at the correct temperature. He checked that the label which read For the special delight of Dr Thallomius was in place and held his creation out to Tiffany as they arrived at the lobby, where Mr and Mrs Bunn were hovering anxiously. birdSynopsis:

Seth Seppi is the downtrodden kitchen boy at The Last Chance Hotel. Since his father disappeared, Seth has slaved away in the hotel’s kitchen. He is bullied by the owners, the horrible Bunn family, not least their daughter Tiffany.

A magical gathering takes place at the hotel, and a prominent magician is murdered. Seth is the main suspect – except he is innocent. He must solve the mystery and clear his name, but the hotel holds strange secrets. Magical secrets …

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Review:

Imagine Dumbledore was murdered in a closed-room mystery. Throw in a spooky hotel, a downtrodden kid, and a talking cat and you have the makings of a brilliant story. I love the mix of magic and murder-mystery.

The murder-mystery is set-up Agatha Christie style. A series of suspects arrive at the hotel, the murder takes place in a locked room, and the suspects are investigated before the mystery is solved. I loved the solution. I had a shrewd idea who had dunnit, but there is so much more to the story, and the answer completely satisfied me.

I adore the setting – the remote hotel and the magical company. This isn’t in-your-face, solves-all magic. It is subtler and spookier. Think strange shadows and mysterious books. I’m a sucker for secret societies and I enjoyed learning more about Dr Thallomius and his cronies.

I liked the wide cast of characters, from the miserable Bunns to Dr Thallomius to Angelique with her magical cane and a few secrets of her own. Seth has been pushed around by the Bunns for so long that he doesn’t know his own worth. I love how he developed across the story until he was able to see a future outside the LCH kitchen.

A good mystery with a touch of magic. Highly recommended.

 

Thanks to Chicken House Books and Jazz B for my copy of The Last Chance Hotel. Opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Charmcaster by Sebastien DeCastell

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Extract:

While Ferius is a master of trickery, and Rechis is two furry feet of sharp teeth, claws and a total disregard for the consequences of violence, I’ve got one and only one skill that matters in a situation like this: a piece of breath magic that relies on quick hands and the twin powders I keep in the pouches on either side of my belt. 

(Charmcaster by Sebastien De Castell. P10.) 

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Synopsis: 

Kellen, Ferius and Rechis are back for their third adventure. They make their way to Gitabria, a city of inventors and innovators, where a mechanical bird is about to cause huge problems. 

Both Kellen and Ferius are confronted with old faces from the past, and all word of the Jan’Tep indicates war. 

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Review:

Spellslinger is my favourite fantasy series. It follows a band of outlaws who have fallen on the wrong side of a magical dictatorship. Kellen, Ferius, and Rechis are back for their third adventure. This time they meet an old friend, visit a city of innovation and go on the hunt of a mechanical bird which might change the fate of the world. 

Charmcaster was an unputdownable as books one and two. I was pleased to see Neph return. In book one she was a side-character with little agency, but in Charmcaster she has a voice of her own, and she is something of a legend. I love the characters are developing across the series. Ferius’s backstory is an interesting strand, and I was pleased to learn more about her life and about the Argosi way. 

Now we are three books in, and war is on the horizon. We are learning more about the different cultures in the world, and about their motives and plans. The Jan’Tep are gaining power, but their society is built on flawed values. I’m not certain from the ending of book 3 where the next story is going, but that is one of the things I love about this series. De Castell is brilliant at setting up an adventure whilst throwing the reader completely off-trail.

My favourite thing about the series is the main characters. They are the kind of characters who remain in the reader’s head beyond the story. Now we are three books in, the bond between the key characters has been established. I love the dynamic between Ferius, Kellen, and Rechis. Although they are not sentimental about each other on the surface, they have each other’s backs. 

Witty, fast-paced and slightly subversive. Like the best YA books, these question the status-quo. The characters may not be successful by the conventions of their society, but they follow their own path and live good lives. 

These are must-reads. The countdown to book four begins. 

 

Thanks to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books for my copy of Charmcaster. Opinions my own.

Louise Nettleton

Middle Grade Reviews

Blog Tour: Curse Of The Nomed by BB Taylor

Curse of the Nomed

 

Extract:

You were meant to get lost. You were meant to feel nervous about making new friends. At no point did anyone mention the freaky Headmaster and mass army of zombie-like students. 

(Curse Of The Nomed by BB Taylor. P10.)

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Synopsis:

Nora, Jacob and Stefan are late for their first day at Nomed Academy. They reckon they will be in trouble for missing assembly. Turns out trouble is an understatement. They witness the other pupils being put into a trance by the headmaster. The same trance which holds all the pupils and teachers at Nomed Academy.

This is no ordinary school. The headmaster is actually the Ancient Egyptian god Sett, and he is a danger to all the pupils. The only way to stop him is to find The Book Of Life which is held in an underground vault.

The adventure has just begun.

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Review:

A short and lively adventure about a less-than-normal day at school. 

This story began with a competition aimed at children. Five groups of children pitched their story ideas, for the chance to see them written and illustrated by professionals. This story is the result. 

One of the core ideas of the competition was to write a story about the transfer to secondary school which promotes mental health awareness. I am delighted to see this issue raised because I think the difficulties some children face can be overlooked. The lovely thing is the story doesn’t spell the issues out, but the characters all have conflicting thoughts and feelings about their new school. 

I enjoyed the adventure through the labyrinth. The children encounter obstacles from quicksand to sphinxes and face up to their own internal conflicts. 

Although this was described as YA, I would suggest it is suitable for children of 6 or 7 upwards. As well as being an enjoyable adventure, it would make a lovely starting point for conversations about secondary school transfer.

 

Thanks to Faye Rogers PR for organising this blog tour, and for my e-copy. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

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Extract:

My House has chicken legs. Two or three times a year, without warning, it stands up in the middle of the night and walks away from where we have been living. It might walk a hundred miles, or it might walk a thousand, but where it lands is always the same. A lonely, bleak place at the edge of civilization. 

(The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Andersen. P7.) 

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Synopsis:

Marinka’s house has chicken legs. Marinka dreams of a normal life, where she stays in one place long enough to make friends, but that is impossible. Her grandmother is Baba Yaga. It is her job to guide spirits from the world of the living to the next work. Marinka is destined to become the next Yaga, and follow in her grandmother’s footsteps.

Marinka sets out to change her destiny, but her house has other ideas.

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Review:

This book appeared on my Twittersphere sometime last year. It sounded intriguing. How can you not be intrigued by a house with chicken legs?  Now I have read the story, I can confirm it is more than cute or intriguing. It is one of the best fairytales I have ever read and is going on my list of ultimate middle-grade novels.

I fell in love with the world straight away – a world where the newly dead are comforted by a spirit guide who listens to their stories and feeds them up for the journey ahead. I loved the idea of a child caught between respect for these traditions, and tedium at the lack of living companions. I loved the jackdaw and the fence of bones and the traditional dinner. It was a world I could imagine with all my senses.

We know straight out what Marinka wants. She wants friendship, and routine, and all those other things people who live in normal buildings have. She ventures into the world of the living in a bid to change her destiny. Her story will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered whether their future is set in stone.

The other big theme is mortality. It is lovely to see a children’s book about death which is not centered around the death of one person. Death is the one inevitability, and yet it is something we are uncomfortable talking about. This book will open up conversation about appreciating the people around us, and living our lives in the moment.  

 Sophie Anderson’s writing is beautiful. From the opening words, My House Has Chicken Legs, you will be drawn into the story’s spell. A masterful debut, and a wonderful piece of work.  

 

Louise Nettleton

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

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Extract:

‘I will call you Hurriyah,’ I say softly to the fox in Arabic, and then in halting English I add, ‘I will … call you … Freedom.

I do not know why I have chosen that word out of all the many more suitable ones I could have picked. I only know that it is her name. And it is also a wish for her future.

(The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson. P56.)birdSynopsis:

Caylin feels completely alone. She steals food and money from other children and hasn’t been able to wash her clothes for weeks. She can’t tell anyone in case they separate her and Mum.

Reema feels lost in a new country. Her home in Syria is miles away, and Scotland will never feel like home. There is a new language to learn, a little sister to protect, and a brother who has been missing since the family was forced to leave him behind.

Caylin and Reema are not obvious friends, but when a wounded fox appears with her cubs, the girls come together to protect her and find they have more in common than they thought.

A beautiful story of friendship and hope.

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Review:

The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle is a beautiful story about people coming together and discovering they have more in common than they realise. They support each other, and together they are capable of more than they are alone.

Caylin feels a conflict between being liked and taking money to do the shopping. She puts on a tough-girl act but is embarrassed by her lisp. Reema wants her little sister to share her memories of pre-war Syria and is fed-up of people making assumptions about her culture. Both Reema and Caylin felt like real people. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Victoria Williamson has taught children from similar backgrounds, or that she researched her characters’ backgrounds.

The narrative is shared between Reema and Caylin. I was pleased they both got a voice. We see their initial suspicions of each other and

I love how nature brings the children together. The fox, like the children, has struggled at times to survive. She is misunderstood – an animal in a city where nature is often unwelcome. Her story is told through a series of poems, which also reflect the girls’ experiences.  

While the story of the fox is simple, it is used to explore some complex emotions and experiences, and the result is beautiful. It is a story of friendship and tolerance and would be a lovely book for promoting empathy.

 

Louise Nettleton

Thanks to Kelpies and Victoria Williamson for my review copy. Opinions my own.