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Book Reviews: Black Door by Evans Light

Black Door cover

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Eleven-year-old William, his father and two younger brothers are on their way to a new Summer Camp as their local favourite is out of operation.

What starts as a long car trip turns into a journey through an unknown environment with a starkly painted black door…

What’s behind the door? Why are the campgrounds abandoned? Several questions that might be answered should William take that first step through the black door.

This is a short story perfect for reading to eight-year-olds and above around the campfire. But be warned – there will be a lot of questions!

It’s such a short read that most of my review is really in my rating. I obviously wanted more, but for it’s age range it’s great to kick start imaginations. A good example for kids looking for the next step up in a reading challenge Black Door will keep them turning the pages! 

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall Cover

Before I Fall Details

February 12th, also known as ‘Cupid Day’ for senior Samantha Kingston at Thomas Jefferson High School. Every American High School has a day like this. Students buy flowers, write a message and send them to whomever throughout the day. It’s a race for popularity to see who receives the most. Sam’s one of the most popular girls in school along with her best friends Lindsay, Ally and Elody. Her boyfriend Rob is the hottest guy in school and tonight she’s going to lose her virginity to him.

With popularity comes a way to act and for Sam this is no different. Cruel and cold to all the other students in her class, she doesn’t bat an eye to painful pranks pulled by Lindsay against her enemy Juliet Sykes. When the group attend a party by geeky guy Kent in school, Sam watches as her life pools at her feet. Tired and drunk from the festivities, Sam sits in the front of the car as Lindsay gets behind the wheel. They were supposed to make it home, Sam is too young to die, but the car hits something and suddenly she’s falling.

However, that isn’t the end of Sam’s story as she wakes up to a brand new February 12th. Stuck in the ‘in between’, Sam must figure why she’s reliving her last day on Earth. A journey of self-discovery that comes too late, Samantha Kingston, this was your life.

This is the kind of book that you might not originally like whilst reading, but it’s after you finish that it creeps into your heart. Sam Kingston is your typical mean girl and I really struggled with her character throughout most of the book. Her redeeming qualities took forever to come about and I felt as if most of the novel was just an excuse for her to piss all over everyone simply because she could.

Yet, the ending gives me what I want and as each day begins anew there’s a little bit more of Sam that is less snobbish and more genuine. This isn’t a story of the Mean Girls; it’s a story behind every insecure teenager trying to get through High School in one piece. Sam does evolve and I grew to like her for learning to stand up for herself. This is the kind of book that does take you back to those four years when everyone though they were invincible, that the future was bright and open. You’ll anxiously await turning the pages, wondering what Sam is going to do or learn next.

Many thanks to Stacey of PrettyBooks for this book!

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Arwat Chadda

Arwat Chadda’s not a stranger to young adult fiction and Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress is an exciting second novel. It’s got action, ancient Indian history and a fight of good versus evil between the great god Rama and Ravanna. For someone who isn’t well versed in the Indian myths and legends, it’s an excellent introduction to the fascinating culture that has shaped India.

Set in Varanasi, India thirteen-year-old Ash and his ten-year-old sister Lucky are spending the summer holiday with relatives. Initially thrilled at the idea of occupying the months surrounded by the treasures of the holy city, Ash struggles to adjust to the differences of London. After two weeks of reality he’s desperate to return home.

Dragged to an elaborate party thrown by wealthy English Aristocrat Lord Savage, Ash discovers there’s more to this millionaire’s love of historical artefacts. Surrounded by demon henchmen Ash overhears Lord Savage’s plan to find the Iron Gates. A long forgotten buried prison holding the reincarnated evil god Ravanna for over four millennia.

When trouble strikes it’s up to Ash to protect Lucky and do whatever it takes to return to England. Even if it means trusting strangers and coming to terms that demons in are in fact real. Unable to ignore his higher purpose, Ash discovers strength buried deep inside and the truth as to who he is really is. With a guide and help from the goddess Kali Ash must do whatever it takes to help the world prevail and defeat the army of demons of the Savage Fortress.

Fast paced and cleverly blended Chadda creates an exciting tale of a boy fighting for the survival of not only his sister as well as himself but also the fate of the world. Although over 300 pages the pace of the novel is perfect for eight to twelve year olds. With spirited characters and situations that the readers can relate to, the novel relays the importance of believing in oneself.

Arwat Chadda’s Ash Ministry: and the Savage Fortress is sure to strike interest for any young reader and keep them engaged until the very end. Arwat Chadda’s not a stranger to young adult fiction and Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress is an exciting second novel. It’s got action, ancient Indian history and a fight of good versus evil between the great god Rama and Ravanna. For someone who isn’t well versed in the Indian myths and legends, it’s an excellent introduction to the fascinating culture that has shaped India.

This book was supplied  by The South Asian Literature Festival for an honest review, many thanks!

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Nora Dearly is currently trying to adjust to her once empty home becoming overrun with the undead. But in the nice cohabiting way, not running and screaming kind. With the Siege over and a vaccine found it seems there is finally hope for the living to move and rebuild alongside the dead. During a public execution however, a zombie becomes out of control and bites others. Some who have had the vaccine, but now are infected…

This is new strain of the Laz could ruin everything Nora’s father has worked for. It’s only the start as masked vigilantes start parading around town kidnapping zombies that never return. To continue a peaceful world Nora’s father is going to have to discover the root of this new infection and take down the zombie-harming group. As is those were the only problems. A gathering group of zombies called the ‘Changed’ continue to increase and they want the dangerous zombie that is somehow the beginning of answers to this undead puzzle.

My first reaction: Too long, just way too long for my taste. Perhaps it’s because I’m not huge fan of Steampunk, but I like my YA’s way under 500 pages. For those that do love zombies, romance and everything that is Steampunk, you’ll not be disappointed by Habel’s amazing continuation of her Gone With the Respiration series. What I did enjoy was the chance to see the world through previous antagonists’ Michael Allister and Vespertine Mink’s eyes. New character Laura is also gives a fresh perspective outside of the Z Corp world from the debut book and I praise Habel in her voicing talent.

Whereas the first book is about discovering and mystery, this second continuation focuses on politics. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but that’s not to say others won’t fall in love with the story further. Characters grow and relationships deepen. The cruelty of living and breathing humanity against those that are different is frighteningly current. Although set in the future, this is a modern piece of work underneath the fictional pretence. I did feel that this book left me wanting something different, but that’s me and others looking to venture back to New Victoria you will be welcomed back with open (and sometimes undead) arms.

Buy it now! (US only)

Many thanks to publisher Random House Publishing Group and author Lia Habel for providing this ARC!

*Released Today* Refuge by Carole Rummage

17-year-old Laney Lowell has lost everything. During the national gymnastic qualifications meet, her world flips after learning her family has died in a car accident. As she moves from Salt Lake City, Utah to Columbia, North Carolina, Laney tries to move forward with an aunt and uncle whom she barley knows. It’s her memories of the outdoors with her family that pulls her to the Refuge, a wildlife preserve where she meets Gabe Randall, who’s rumored to be infected with a serious disease. Ignoring warnings Laney can’t help but fall in love with him, finding light in her world of dark grieving. As she gets closer to discovering his secret, their love will be put to a test she can’t prepare for.

I loved the cover of the book and the premise of the story, but after reading it I personally found it a bit of a disappointment. It gave me the impression it had potential as an adult crossover, but this is not the case.  After researching the publishing company Cedar Fort, it made more sense. I appreciate that a religious publisher can publish a book that’s not consumed with religious themes. I felt that faith had an appearance in the book but it didn’t take over, which I enjoyed. However, Laney’s story isn’t anything new and I guessed at the ‘twist’ right from the first chapter.

Regardless, this book is full of love and secrets. I’d recommend this book for younger readers, around the ages of 12+. It’s a YA on a younger scale and for that I think Rummage did a wonderful job. She covers good values, has easy to relate to characters and describes a beautiful setting with some slight mystery and suspense. It’s well written for its market that has the opportunity for religious and non-religious exposure. For young readers that are looking to read something full of heart, Refuge is a great start.

Cedar Fort gave this book as an ARC for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher and Carole Rummage!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

There is a house that rests nearby an ancient graveyard. One night the man named Jack enters the house and murders the family living there, all except for a little baby that unintentionally escaped to the graves. Too young to know his own name, the ghosts of the graveyard adopt him and christen him ‘Nobody Owens’ or Bod for short. Shielding the baby from danger, the ghosts become his family, his friends and teachers.

With a guardian to provide food and teachings of the world, Bod grows from a baby to a boy then teenager. But the graveyard isn’t what it seems and there are dangers that Bod can’t understand that coexist with the friendly haunts. As the years pass and Bod grow restless for knowledge about himself and the world, he’ll have to rely on his wit and ghostly friends as the man named Jack is still on the hunt for him…

Beautifully illustrated and decorated with in depth characters, alive or not, Gaiman is the master at creating environments that readers just accept. The ghosts are hauntingly intriguing and the setting of the graveyard with its secret nooks and creatures is beautifully crafted to lure the reader in.

Although a bit long for my taste, The Graveyard Book is still a wonderful adventure to behold. Gaiman is a talented writer and nothing is lost throughout this book. What Gaiman excels at is providing settings and characters that don’t need a full explanation, but are better left up to the discretion of the reader. The beginning is shrouded in mysterious, the middle full of complex lessons and adventures, but the ending is exciting and before you know it the book has ended. Like Stephen King, Gaiman is able to create constantly new material each book, nothing repeats and it’s never boring. The Graveyard Book is a great YA novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth and mystery.

Day 29 – 30 Day Book Challenge

Honestly, I don’t know if people hate The Host, I just know that I don’t like Stephanie Meyer’s writing from Twilight. It’s been a while since I read the book but it was my beginning of reading dystopian and enjoying the genre. Aliens take over and the world comes to an end. Yet people continue to survive. I liked it because there’s a part of me that’s on the alien’s side, although if it happened during my lifetime I would change my view. I liked it and how uncomfortable it made me feel. Don’t judge me too harshly over this.