Blog Tour: ‘Scars Like Wings’ by Erin Stewart

Title: Scars Like Wings
Author: Erin Stewart
Genre: Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 384 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Simon & Schuster on October 1st, 2019
RRP: $17.99 AUD (paperback)

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Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see…

16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?

When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that’s being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green.

The first thing that you should know about this book is that you WILL need tissues. My eyes were perpetually brimming over with tears throughout and I don’t normally consider myself a watering pot! However the story itself isn’t morose and angst-ridden (thank goodness), it’s life-affirming, heartwarming and, as much as our protagonist would hate me saying this, inspirational. But the fact remains that seeing the world through Ava’s eyes in the aftermath of suffering horrific burns from the fire that killed her family is no walk in the park.

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ARC Review – ‘Into The Crooked Place’ by Alexandra Christo

Title: Into The Crooked Place
Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Allen & Unwin Australia on October 1st, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

A deliciously darker take on YA fantasy? Don’t mind if I do! The central premise of this book is that the best people to save the realms from moral peril is…a bunch of criminals. I’m used to the common trope of heroes on a quest to save the kingdom, but substituting a bickering group of crooks in their place creates a refreshing and entertaining new dynamic!

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Book Review – ‘Serpent & Dove’ by Shelby Mahurin

Title: Serpent & Dove
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 528 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on September 2nd, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year and I’m so glad to report that it blew my socks off as hoped! Serpent & Dove combines two of my favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced-marriage, which meant my expectations were sky high, but kudos to Shelby Mahurin, she became an instant fave author with this spectacular debut novel. ❤

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ARC Review – ‘Beyond The Black Door’ by A. M. Strickland

Title: Beyond The Black Door
Author: A. M. Strickland
Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT
Word/Page Count: 400 pages (hardcover)
Publication Details: by Imprint on October 29th, 2019
Pre-order from: Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Amazon (further options here)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

Do you like dark fantasy? Did you watch Labyrinth and wish that the Goblin King would romantically sweep you around a ballroom? Are you one of the Phantom of the Opera fans that think Christine made a mistake and should’ve chosen Erik? Fascinated by the myth of Hades and Persephone? Well, here’s the perfect book for you!

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ARC Review – ‘Crown of Coral and Pearl’ by Mara Rutherford

Title: Crown of Coral and Pearl
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on August 5th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

This is a captivating and fast-paced fantasy read that pulled me in from the first line and didn’t let me put the book down til I turned the last page. I thoroughly recommend it as a fun way to spend a weekend. 🙂 I’m all the more impressed at how effortlessly engrossing this was considering it’s the author’s debut novel!

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ARC Review – ‘Dark Blade’ by Steve Feasey

Title: Dark Blade
Author: Steve Feasey
Genre: YA, Epic Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on August 5th, 2019
RRP: $15.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A sweeping epic fantasy perfect for fans of the Summoner trilogy by Taran Matharu and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

WHEN GODS FAIL, WHO WILL KEEP THE DARKNESS OUT?

Lann knows nothing of his mysterious past, but by his fifteenth birthday he will come face to face with destiny. For Lann must wield the Dreadblade, an ancient sword forged to defeat terrible monsters.

Across the mountains a King has been murdered. His daughter, Astrid, is a warrior with no desire to bear the crown. Only she can uncover her father’s killer before her brother is framed for the crime.

Evil is stirring. Lann and Astrid are the kingdom’s last defence. Together, they must face the greatest darkness their world has ever known.

Dark Blade is the first book in the Whisper of the Gods series and is the perfect introduction to epic fantasy for younger readers. In my early teens, I was obsessed with The Belgariad series by David Eddings and this follows the same tried-and-true path in which a simple farm boy finds himself caught up in an epic quest to defeat true evil, a task which only he is qualified for (despite his inexperience) due to the whims of destiny and meddling gods.

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Book Review – ‘The Rift’ by Rachael Craw

Title: The Rift
Author: Rachael Craw
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 368 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Walker Books Australia on November 1st, 2018
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

When the Rift opens, death follows.

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

This has to be one of the most creative and unique books I’ve ever read – the author’s pitch is ‘mythology and dimensional rifts and mutant space dogs‘, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg! There’s also a running theme of the importance of environmental conservation and it’s amazing how naturally this nestles in alongside the paranormal aspects of the story. It’s easy to see why ‘The Rift’ is a finalist in The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults!

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ARC Review – ‘Becoming Dinah’ by Kit de Waal

Title: Becoming Dinah
Author:  Kit de Waal
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on July 23rd, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A YA coming-of-age road trip novel about obsession, self-discovery, female power, and the people we meet along the way – by Costa Award shortlisted author Kit de Waal. The perfect read for anyone who’s ever wondered where they came from and where they might be going next.

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted Kit de Waal responds to classic Moby Dick by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl.

Dinah’s whole world is upside down, dead things and angry men and cuts all over her head that are beginning to sting….

Seventeen-year-old Dinah needs to leave her home, the weird commune where she grew up. She needs a whole new identity, starting with how she looks, starting with shaving off her hair, her ‘crowning glory’. She has to do it quickly, because she has to go now.

Dinah was going to go alone and hitch a ride down south. Except, she ends up being persuaded to illegally drive a VW campervan for hundreds of miles, accompanied by a grumpy man with one leg. This wasn’t the plan.

But while she’s driving, Dinah will be forced to confront everything that led her here, everything that will finally show her which direction to turn…

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted author Kit de Waal responds to the classic Moby Dick with entirely new characters, a VW campervan, and by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl who’s determined to find a new life, far away from her unconventional upbringing.

Becoming Dinah‘ is the first in the Bellatrix collection of YA books recently launched by Hachette Children’s Group which is focused on bringing attention to a diverse range of women’s stories written by leading female voices. Kit de Waal reimagines the classic 1851 novel ‘Moby Dick‘ by Herman Melville via our present-day society with the male sailor Ishmael going from a minor player in Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge to a young woman important in her own right at the center of her coming-of-age story.

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Book Review – ‘Heartwood Box’ by Ann Aguirre

Title: Heartwood Box
Author: Ann Aguirre
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date: July 9th, 2019
Word/Page Count: 336 pages (hardcover)

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A dark, romantic YA suspense novel with an SF edge and plenty of drama, layering the secrets we keep and how appearances can deceive, from the New York Times bestselling author.

In this tiny, terrifying town, the lost are never found. When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to live with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right?

Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind. To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried…

This book caught my interest with that gorgeous cover and the blurb which per the author’s pitch is Stranger Things meets The Lake House. I recently binge-watched season 3 of Stranger Things, I’m a massive fan, so those vibes got me excited, and I’m old enough to have watched The Lake House when it was released 13 (!!) years ago, which makes me feel decrepit as the main character notes “If my great-aunt knows about it, then it’s probably pretty old.

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Unfortunately the sci-fi thriller conspiracies didn’t mesh well with the time-crossed love story, with not enough attention given to either leading to both plots feeling inadequately developed in the story. The premise was excellent as I could see the bones of a great book here, which is why I kept reading even when I was tempted to give up, but it was frustrating to see the lack of sufficient follow-through on either of the main elements because it kept me from being emotionally invested.

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ARC Review – ‘Wilder Girls’ by Rory Power

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 9th, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

I added this book to my Goodreads TBR on December 22nd 2018, and now that I’ve finally closed the last page on this book, I’m reeling. This is a brutally dark and engrossing read, and while I don’t think ‘enjoyed’ is the right word, it definitely met my high expectations which only increased from anticipation after waiting for all these months!

Btw, in case you think I’m exaggerating about how dark this is, make sure you check out the list of trigger and content warnings posted by the author so that you can prepare yourself!

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