winged reviews
Review, Young Adult / March 9, 2015
Seraphina by Rachel HartmanSeraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens, Random House Children's Publishers
Date: January 2013
369 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Quite honestly, Seraphina deserves nothing short of a glowing review! I absolutely adored it. I’ve never been much of a re-reader, but I can easily see myself picking up Seraphina again and again – in fact, I wanted to do just that, the minute I turned the last page.

I was attracted to this book after binge watching GOT – I was curious to actually read a book about dragons; creatures that I was so unfamiliar with but oh so very curious about. read more

By: Sarah
Middle Grade, Review / July 21, 2014
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin StevensMurder Most Unladylike
Author: Robin Stevens
Series: Wells and Wong #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens, Random House Children's Publishers
Date: June 2014
324 pages
Source: Review copy from author
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Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

If you put Nancy Drew in a boarding school, set it in the 1930s and sprinkle heavily with Sherlock references, bunbreaks and Cluedo, you’re getting close to describing the sheer charm that is Murder Most Unladylike. I absolutely adored Robin Stevens’ debut novel featuring the first case of the Wells & Wong Detective Society. As a warning, you will definitely want to read this book with a cup of tea and baked goods within arm’s reach. read more

By: Daphne
Middle Grade, Review / August 29, 2013
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudThe Screaming Staircase
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
Date: August 2013
440 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal
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When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

In trying to articulate my excitement for wonder that is The Screaming Staircase, I was going to write my shortest ever review and leave it at that, because it summarises the book so well: freaking brilliant. (Well, freaky and brilliant, really).

Then I thought it might help to elaborate. My expectations were set extremely high when I first heard about this book at the Random House Children’s Publishers blogger brunch. It ticked all the right boxes for me—great author, alternative London setting, a cavalier hero, smart female narrator. Plus, actually having Jonathan Stroud there demonstrating how to fight ghosts with a rapier, salt, chains and a teapot was pretty perfect. read more

By: Daphne
Review, Young Adult / October 20, 2012
Mystic City by Theo LawrenceMystic City
Author: Theo Lawrence
Series: Mystic City #1
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Date: October 2012
397 pages
Source: Review copy from publisher
Genres: Dystopian
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Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.

It started out with such a great premise—Romeo and Juliet meets the X-Men—and such a gorgeous cover that I immediately knew I had to read it. Sadly, even with the cool dystopian Manhattan setting, Mystic City fails to live up to my expectations.

In this world, Manhattan has suffered from the effects of global warming and is flooded. A new city is built high above the island called the Aeries (which I pictured to be just like the Jetsons) where only the rich live. Mystics (those with special energy and powers) are considered dangerous outcasts who get drained of their powers and are confined to live on the remains of Manhattan in relative squalor. Mystic energy is used to fuel the Aeries, but was also once used as a bomb against the city hence the ‘dangerous’ tag. I thought the world was fascinating and well-realised and I could imagine the colourful lights of the Aeries as well as the polluted rivers down in the Depths vividly. read more

By: Daphne
Review, Young Adult / October 15, 2012
Crusher by Niall LeonardCrusher
Author: Niall Leonard
Series: Crusher #1
Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
Date: September 2012
384 pages
Source: Review copy from publisher
Genres: Crime
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The day Finn Maguire discovers his father bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in the murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.

Trawling the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, Finn exposes dark family secrets and faces danger at every turn. But he's about to learn that it's the people you trust who can hit you the hardest...

Like everyone else, I was intrigued by this NaNoWriMo project written by the husband of the author, E.L. James (you may have heard of her). Crusher is a tight crime novel set in West London, which follows 17 year-old Finn Maguire as he tries to discover the reason behind his father’s murder. I definitely enjoyed this debut more than I did the Fifty Shades books, although I’m not sure how reliable that benchmark is. read more

By: Daphne