Legendary

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Caraval. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Legendary was written by Stephanie Garber and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy novel that forms the second part of the Caraval series, following on from precisely where Caraval (2017) left off. Because of this, you do really need to read the novels in sequence to have any idea of what’s going on. The final instalment of the series – provisionally titled Finale – is expected to be released in 2019.

With the help of the mysterious Legend and his Caraval, Donatella Dragna managed to escape her father and save her sister from an arranged marriage. However, all of that has come at a price. It was made possible by the sway of a mysterious friend and now he wishes for payment. There is only one thing that the stranger wants is Legend’s true name. Unfortunately for Tella, that is a closely guarded secret.

It comes as a surprise when Legend announces that there will be another Caraval, only days after the previous one ended. This one is to take place in the opulent city of Valendia to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Empress Elantine. When Tella learns that the victor this time will meet Legend in person, she knows that she has found her chance. All she has to do is win the Caraval and she will be able to pay her debt.

Yet Tella should have known that nothing is ever easy. The Caraval this time is very different and feels more real than ever before. Tella soon realises that it is not just her life that is in danger but those of every person in the city. Legend became a master magician by stealing power from a pantheon of immortal beings, and now they want it back…

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Cell 7

Cell 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2016. It is a dystopian thriller set in the not too distant future, where the court system has been abolished at all crimes are judged by the general public in the form of a reality TV show. The novel forms the first part of the Cell 7 Trilogy and is followed by Day 7 (2017) and Final 7 (2018).

Almost everyone agreed that the court system didn’t work. How else could you explain why so many high-profile killers seemed to get off scot-free? Everyone could see that the new system was an improvement. Each convict was placed into the Cells, moving each day until they were placed in Cell 7 – the execution chamber. Over this time, their story was broadcasted to the public on Death is Justice – a reality TV show that allowed them to vote on whether they thought that the accused was innocent or guilty. It’s clear that the new system works much better than the old. In over two thousand cases, only fifty have ever been found innocent.

When Jackson Paige is murdered, the whole country is shocked. Jackson is one of the most beloved celebrities, known for his charity work and the fact that he even adopted his son from the High Rises, England’s poorest area. His killer – Martha Honeydew – was born in the Rises and was found holding the gun, declaring her guilt. There is no need to review any evidence. As Martha is placed in Cell 1 the polls start out at 97% guilty and there’s no reason why they would ever shift.

However, Eve Stanton has her doubts. As Martha’s councillor, she is the only person who is allowed to speak with the accused and she has reason to believe that Martha is lying to protect someone. As Eve investigates Martha’s past, she learns that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Jackson Paige is not who he seemed and has some surprising ties to Martha. The only trouble is proving it. How can Eve save Martha from the wrath of the public, when Martha insists that she is guilty?

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Charmcaster

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Spellslinger | Shadowblack

Charmcaster was written by Sebastien de Castell and first published in 2018. It is the third instalment of the Spellslinger series and follows on directly where the previous two – Spellslinger (2017) and Shadowblack (2017) – left off, so you really do need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them. The story follows the continuing adventures of Kellen, an exiled spellslinger, as he avoids bounty hunters and seeks to protect the innocent people who have been unknowingly targeted by the Jan’Tep.

As Kellen, Ferius and Reichis cross the desert, they come across an unfortunate Jan’Tep bounty hunter who has been targeted by a band of Berabesq devouts. Although Kellen is keen to let them suffer, Ferius’s Argosi ways prevent her from standing idly by and she rushes to the rescue. Kellen is shocked to discover that the victim is not a hunter at all, but is his former crush, Nephenia, who has also been left disfigured and exiled by the Jan’Tep. However, their reunion is cut short. Ferius is badly injured and in desperate need of medical attention.

As Ferius recovers, she is approached by a pair of Argosi who have a discordance for her, bearing the image of a mechanical bird. This card leads her to Gitabria – a technologically advanced city of research and innovation, where they witness the unveiling of the bird. However, even at a glance, the party know that something is seriously wrong. The bird is not simply a machine – it seems to have a consciousness of its own.

As all nations begin bidding on the bird, Kellen realises the true danger of the creation. While the bird is innocent in itself, if others knew how to build it they could apply the principles to larger and more powerful machines. It’s not long before the Jan’Tep find Kellen and offer him a proposition. Either he destroys the bird and its engineer, or they will allow his innocent friends to suffer.

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Leah on the Offbeat

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Leah on the Offbeat was written by Becky Albertalli and first published in 2018. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a bisexual girl developing a crush on one of her friends. The story is part of the Creekwood series and takes place a year after Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), however it does largely stand alone and could probably be fully enjoyed even if you haven’t read this book.

Leah Burke has known that she was bisexual for years but has never told any of her friends. Even though they were all supportive when they learned that Simon was gay, she’s always been paranoid that they would act differently to her. It’s never seemed very important anyway. She’s never had a relationship with anyone as she’s just not that kind of person. She’s more interested in her fandoms and drawing than being all lovey-dovey like her friends Nick and Abby.

However, the end of high school is drawing closer and now all that anyone can think about is the Prom. The need to find dates and plan their final blow-out is putting tension on everyone and cracks are starting to form in their friendship group. Leah breaks off a friendship with one friend after she makes a racist comment, Nick and Abby’s relationship starts to fall apart, and Garret actually asks Leah to the Prom. While Leah accepts his promposal, she immediately starts to regret her decision. She doesn’t really like Garret in that way and he seems to be getting really into it.

But more complicated still is her friendship with Abby. While Leah and Abby used to be good friends, they haven’t been close in over a year. Now, both of them have discovered that they’re going to be at the same university and Abby is keen for them to take a road trip together to check it out. Leah’s life seems to be spiralling out of control and she’s not sure what to do to keep things together. How can she cope with the fact that the end of the year is looming and nothing will ever be the same again?

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Love Song

Love Song was written by Sophia Bennett and first published in 2016. It’s a contemporary romance that focuses on a teenage girl who finds love while travelling with a boy band. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Everyone knows who The Point are. Jamie, Angus, Connor and George are the biggest boy band to ever roam the earth and almost every teenage girl would give her right arm for a chance to meet them. Unfortunately, Nina is not one of these girls. She only attends a meet and greet with the band to chaperone her sister but while she is there something happens that changes her life.

When a freak accident almost injures Sigrid Santorini – reality TV star and fiancé of the beautiful Jamie – Nina is lucky enough to come to her rescue. A few days later, Nina is contacted by the band’s manager and offered a place on tour. Sigrid’s personal assistant has resigned and she wants to hire Nina to take her place. Although Nina is reluctant, the tour does offer a unique opportunity to see the world and so she accepts.

However, things soon prove to be a lot more difficult that she was expecting. Sigrid is rude and demanding and Nina soon starts to see that her continued presence is starting to put a strain on relationships between the band members. Slowly, Nina begins to help the boys overcome their problems and realises that they’re all quite different to how they appear on TV. However, in befriending the band she gradually starts to make an enemy of the jealous Sigrid…

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The Other Alice

The Other Alice was written by Michelle Harrison and first published in 2016. It is a middle grade fantasy novel which focuses on a young boy’s attempt to save his sister when the characters from one of her stories come to life. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Midge knows that his sister can be a little odd but he has always loved her stories. Alice’s imagination seems to be endless and she believes that every story should have an ending, no matter how silly. However, Alice seems to be having trouble with her new novel. She’s foregoing sleep and food but can’t seem to find a way to make the story end.

At first, Midge feels like Alice is over reacting but then one morning she suddenly vanishes. After that, things start to get very strange. A talking cat shows up at the house and he meets someone who looks strikingly like his sister, only seems to be unable to speak. When Midge finds his sister’s notebook, he realises that the characters from her unfinished story have come to life and are now wandering the village with no idea that they are fictional.

However, some characters seem to be more aware than others. It’s not long before Midge encounters the sinister Dolly Weaver and realises that his sister has a particular talent for writing psychopaths. Dolly is desperately hunting for Alice’s book and Midge knows that she does not care who she hurts in order to get it. Knowing that he has to find it first, Midge befriends a few of Alice’s friendlier creations – mute Gypsy, roguish Piper and Tabitha the talking cat – but in doing so he finds himself in trouble. How will they react if they find out that they’re just characters in a story?

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After the Fire

After the Fire was written by Will Hill and first published in 2017. It is a psychological thriller which focuses on a teenager coming to terms with the horrors that she experienced while growing up in the isolated compound of a fanatically religious sect. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Moonbeam was seventeen years old on the day of the fire. She lived to witness the compound being overrun by the Governments and saw her brothers and sisters gunned down before her eyes. It was just like Father John had always taught them. The world outside the fence was filled with the Servants of the Serpent and the Governments existed to wipe out anyone who held the true faith.

Stripped from everything that she has ever known, Moonbeam is taken with the rest of the survivors to a psychiatric hospital and put under the care of Doctor Hernandez. Moonbeam knows that she is not to talk to anyone outside the commune in case their sins infect her but gradually finds herself opening up to the doctor. The truth is, her faith has been shaken ever since the Purge separated her from her mother and, for the first time ever, someone seems to be taking her side.

However, Moonbeam is not sure how much she can divulge. When an FBI agent also begins to attend her sessions, she realises that she needs to be careful. It’s clear that the Governments are trying to piece together exactly what happened on the day of the fire and, if they do, Moonbeam knows that they will uncover the depth of her sins. What will they do to her if they find out that she is responsible for every single death?

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The Children of Castle Rock

The Children of Castle Rock was written by Natasha Farrant and first published in 2018. It is an adventure story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on a young girl’s adventures at boarding school. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Alice has become increasingly withdrawn since the tragic death of her mother. While she was once adventurous, now she just sits in her room and spends all of her time writing stories. When her family is forced to move from their beautiful home, Alice is devastated and her father and aunt worry about her isolating herself further. In an attempt to help her to find herself, they enrol her at Stormy Loch, a remote Scottish boarding school that is known for taking in wayward souls.

Although Alice feels abandoned, she quickly finds that Stormy Loch is not what she expected. Teachers encourage children to discover their talents and regular “Challenges” are a way of life. The school also doesn’t believe in punishments, though sometimes the consequences for failing the Challenges aren’t much better than these. It’s not long before Alice starts to enjoy herself and gradually starts to make friends with Fergus, a genius with a habit of getting into trouble.

When the school holds an open day, Alice is eager to show her father how great Stormy Loch is. However, he she is disappointed when he does not turn up. Later that day, Alice receives a strange parcel and a note telling her to deliver it to her father on an uninhabited Scottish island. Alice and Fergus soon hatch a plan to enable her to get there in time. However, carrying it out will require the map reading skills of their classmate, Jesse. And there is no way that Jesse will break the school rules knowingly…

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. You can read my review of this novel [here].

2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious was written in 2018 by Shannon and Dean Hale. The young adult novel is a prequel to Marvel’s popular The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series, though you don’t really need to have read any of the comics to fully appreciate it. However, this book does carry on directly where Squirrel Meets World left off, so you may want to read the novels in sequence in order to fully appreciate what’s going on.

Doreen Green has found that having a superhero alter ego is a lot more complicated than she thought. In the town of Shady Oaks, Squirrel Girl is now a household name and she’s finding it hard to live up to people’s expectations of her. The Squirrel Scouts are always disappointed if they don’t get to see her beat up the bad guys, yet she’s sure that most problems could be solved if she just talks to them.

Yet being Doreen seems to be more complicated still. A teacher at school seems to detest her, and Doreen doesn’t understand why. To make matters worse, something is wrong with Ana Sofía. Her BHFF has been strangely distant with her lately, and Doreen is worried that she is about to lose the only person who knows her secret. Yet having friends is new to Doreen and she has no idea how to put things right.

To make matters worse, there seems to be a sinister plot at work. A contest to choose the mascot for a new mall is causing people to fight like cats and dogs. When mutant animals also begin to terrorise Shady Oaks, Doreen starts to suspect that HYDRA might be the ones behind it. Unable to enlist the help of the Avengers, its up to Squirrel Girl and her squirrel army to discover the truth and save the day.

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Jinxed

Jinxed was written by Thommy Hutson and first published in 2018. It is a horror story which focuses on a teenager and her friends as they are hunted by a masked serial killer. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to full appreciate it.

The Trask Academy is one of America’s wealthiest and exclusive art schools. Teenagers who attend there are ear-marked to become the celebrities and Broadway stars of the future, and the best of them can expect to be scouted at the school’s annual showcase. Layna is disappointed when she loses out to her friend Sydney, but totally understands why. Sydney is stunning and talented, while Layna is at the school on a scholarship. However, she receives her chance a few days later after a tragic turn of events.

Sydney is found dead, apparently having thrown herself from the window of her dorm. Although the school is keen to write this off as an isolated incident, Layna and her friends can’t quite shake off their doubts. Sydney showed no sign of being unstable and was really looking forward to the showcase. It’s not long before their fears are justified when another of Layna’s friends mysteriously vanishes from the library.

The group soon discovers that they are completely isolated as the school is on a remote island and the phone lines are down. As a killer in a theatre mask stalks the halls, Layna comes to learn that he has some connection to both her and an unperformed play written by a former student. However, as the killer continues to strike those close to her, she realises that she must find out what that connection is and unmask him before the curtain falls on her forever…

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