Marney_Every BreathLife hasn’t been the same since Rachel Watts moved to Melbourne. Having spent her whole life working her family’s property in Five Mile, the city is a loud and unwelcoming stranger. The one saving grace is James Mycroft, her neighbour. He is at home in the city that she hates, but he can also see a different side to it than most people can. While most people are caught up in the busyness of the city, Mycroft befriends the tram drivers and homeless.

When Watts and Mycroft find their homeless friend, Dave’s, body with the throat slit open, they are thrown into a mystery that may well be their last.

A lot of people have touted Every Breath as a modern Sherlock Holmes with teenage protagonists and a female Watson. This is not the best mindset to have when delving into this novel. There are some nods to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, and it’s fun to see how many you can pick out. Even Mycroft and Watts allude to the similarities; but that’s all it is. Mycroft is no Sherlock and Watts is no Watson.

The mystery doesn’t have the same feel as a Sherlock Holmes novel either. It’s more involved, with Watts and Mycroft risking themselves to hunt down clues rather than drawing conclusions from the minute pieces information available. This approach is more suited to the YA market, leaving more room for action.

The characters in Every Breath are largely well drawn. Though it occurred years before, Mycroft is still reeling from the car accident that caused his parents’ deaths. He puts on a good show, but has trouble coping with stressful situations. He lives with an aunt who provides the physical things he needs, without emotional attachment. Watts is similarly lost. While she has the support of a loving family, the move to the city has unsettled her. Going back to the country isn’t optional, but she doesn’t want to accept the city as her new home.

Some parts of the relationships in Every Breath work well, while others leave me baffled. It’s weird that Watts’s parents basically force her to kill their dogs but they’re so strict that they won’t let her spend the night with Mycroft. It might just be me, but if she’s old enough to do one then she’s old enough to do the other – and, of the two, the former would scar me for life.

On the other side of that, Watts’s family are loving. They’re often tired from long shifts at work, but they all pull together to get the house-work and cooking done, and they take the time at the end of their day to see how everyone is. Mycroft and his aunt are evidently not close, but there are enough hints there to show that the strain in their relationship might be due to the unexpectedness of his parents’ deaths and of the sudden responsibility that has fallen on the aunt.

Every Breath is a good start to a new series. While it could stand on its own, there are a lot of characters arcs here that are nowhere near finished, and I’m looking forward to revisiting Watts and Mycroft in the next instalment.

 

Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Allen & Unwin (September 1, 2013)

ISBN: 9781743316429



Graudin_growsEmrys—a fiery, red-headed Fae—always embraced her life in the Highlands, far from the city’s draining technology, until she’s sent to London to rejoin the Faery Guard. But this isn’t any normal assignment—she’s sent to guard Prince Richard: Britain’s notorious, partying bad boy and soon-to-be King. The prince’s careless ways and royal blood make him the irresistible for the dark spirits that feed on mortals. Sweet, disheveled, and alive with adventure—Richard is one charge who will put Emrys’s magic and heart to the test.

When an ancient force begins preying on the monarchy, Emrys must hunt through the London’s magical underworld, facing down Banshees, Black Dogs and Green Women to find the one who threatens Richard’s life. In this chaos of dark magic, palace murders and paparazzi, Emrys finds herself facing an impossible choice. For despite all her powers, Emrys has discovered a force that burns brighter than magic: love. 

Paperback, 463 pages  Published February 11th 2014 by HarperTeen  ISBN 0062187414 (ISBN13: 9780062187413)

 

Emrys is assigned to guard Prince Richard, but soon finds that her veiling spell has malfunctioned and he can see her. She introduces herself to him as his fairy godmother and explains that nobody else can see her. This causes problems because she is never supposed to reveal herself to any human. Plus, now that Richard can see her..he begins to fall for her. When the birds send the warning that trouble is coming, Emrys must help gather beings of all forms to fight against it.

Set in a modern day England, Richard is next to take the throne. Richard and Emrys begin to fall in love, but right away their differences seem to separate them. The royal blood line has dormant powers of its own and it’s the Frithemag who have sworn to protect them from creatures wishing to shed their blood. The message that danger is coming, sends all of the Faery Guard into a frenzy and soon nobody will know who to trust.

This story is very much a modern day fairy tale with supernatural creatures of all kinds. There is a focus on the environment as the technology and iron of today have an affect on the faery guard and their magic. Emrys battles constantly with her heart and her head. Richard is her soft spot and she struggles to control her actions when he is involved.

It is a very fun, light read that took me back to the fairytale stories like Cinderella. Castles, magic, dancing, beautiful clothing and woodland creatures. I felt that it was very well put together with a lot of twists and beautiful ideas of love and happily ever afters. I recommend this story to lovers of fairytales and elaborate romance escapades. I was very happy to have picked up this book because it is a very sweet read and great for sunny weather reading.



Burgis_Cat IncKat, Incorrigible, written by Stephanie Burgis, was originally published as A Most Improper Magick. I read the book to review it, and as is often the case lately, I didn’t even read the synopsis before diving into the story. As a result, I had no expectations at all, and was pleasantly surprised by how charming the book is. I was drawn in immediately by the opening lines:

“I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy and set off to save my family from impending ruin…”

and from there I was utterly entranced with Kat and her shenanigans.

Set in Yorkshire, in Regency England, Kat, Incorrigible contains all the elements of a Gothic Melodrama: an unpleasant step-mother concerned with gossip and the trappings of Society, crumbling gothic estates, highwaymen, family debt and a sinister older fiancé. These elements, however, are mere scenery in the grand scheme of the story.

Katherine Ann Stephenson (Kat) is the youngest of 4 children: Charles, who we barely see, is facing debtor’s prison; Elissa, the eldest sister, fancies herself to be like one of the heroines in the Gothic Romances that she stays up late to read, and Angeline, no less romantic than Elissa, is determined to save her family by dabbling in magic. Kat’s father is a poor country Vicar, and her mother died when Kat was only ten days old. Kat’s father remarried some time later, and all of the mother’s remaining belongings are locked away. The Stepmama has her hands full with the children, especially with Kat, and finds being a poor Vicar’s wife somewhat tedious.

As indicated by the opening words of the book, Kat’s plan is to run off to save her family from their impending doom. The Stephenson family already has somewhat of a reputation as Kat’s biological mother was a known witch, and carelessly practised magic in the company of others. Kat’s father is not in a position to cover Charles’s debts, nor could the family recover from further social stigma if Charles was to be incarcerated. The Stepmother’s solution is to marry off her eldest step-daughter, to a rich older suitor, Sir Neville.

Sir Neville’s intentions are somewhat dubious, especially considering the large social gap between himself and the Stevenson’s (regardless of Stepmama’s “connections”), and also considering the mysterious death of his first wife. Elissa, being the romantic that she is, willingly martyrs herself to save her family. Angeline, while made of much sterner stuff than Elissa, is no less a romantic. She casts a love spell with comical results, in the hope of attracting a love match that would enable her to save the family from dire straits. A burgeoning witch she may be, but her magic is not yet up to the task.

Kat continues to look for solutions to aid her family, and she too tries the magical route. It is here that things take an interesting turn (the first of many).  Kat never knew her mother, and she has only gleaned little glimpses into the woman that she was. While looking for her own magical solution Kat learns a great deal about her mother.  She was more than a Witch; she belonged to an ancient secret Order, with their own magical abilities.

Kat attracts the attention of the Order and the sinister Sir Neville. Can she use her wits, her new found magical talents and the magic portal that she inherits from her mother, to save herself and her family from disaster before time runs out?

Kat, Incorrigible is a middle grade book that will appeal to an older audience. It is well written, and is an easy read. I did find myself caught up in the story but, at the same time, the book lacked a little depth, especially with some of the secondary characters.  I have found that a first book in a series often lacks depth, as the author tries to introduce the characters and create the world in which they live. That aside, I would highly recommend Kat, Incorrigible and I have plans to read this to my younger children. Kat is a feisty character and, at times, it’s easy to forget that she is 12 years old. She can be somewhat of a brat, but she is strong, determined and, like Jo March of Little Women, she challenges the social constraints for girls of her time. I look forward to reading her other adventures.

 

Kat, Incorrigible – Stephanie Burgis

Atheneum (2012)
ISBN: 1416994475

 

 



bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Gold Coast based YA author, Marianne Curley.

 

Marianne CurleyQ1. Fearless (the third book of your Avena series) will be released later this year and is already available for pre-order. Your star-crossed lovers, Ebony and Nathaneal, are determined to reconnect, though Ebony is trapped in a hellish reality. Will he free his angel?! How does your romance background inform your YA novels? And are you a romantic in real life?

What a loaded first question! In the upcoming finale to the Avena Series, Ebony and Nathaneal are determined to reconnect, but whether they do, and whether or not Nathaneal is able to free his angel, is not something I’m willing to divulge at this time. In other words, you have to wait until Fearless is released on the first of July to find out! But I can tell you that Fearless is packed with action, and whether the star crossed lovers reconnect or not, it won’t be from a lack of trying by the both of them.

I’m assuming by romantic background that you mean the eight manuscripts I wrote and submitted to Mills & Boon twenty odd years ago. They were enormously helpful even though Mills & Boon didn’t publish them. I refer to those manuscripts as my learning phase, my writing apprenticeship. Those were the books that taught me discipline, patience, persistence, and above all, how to write romance. All my young adult novels, from Old Magic to Fearless, have strong romantic elements. Almost all great books have love stories at their core. It’s the love story that drives the characters as they forge ahead to eliminate the obstacles that keep them apart.

Your question whether I consider myself a romantic intrigued me, and I had to check what being a romantic actually means. There are quite a lot of ideas and interpretations on the Internet, but it seems the general consensus is that a romantic is someone with a sensitive nature and who has an awareness of people’s feelings. They can tell when someone is sad, for instance, and they give love out as much as they receive, and probably more. Their view of love is idealistic, believing in the happily ever after scenario, and their actions and gestures come from their hearts. In other words, they’re sincere. And finally, they look for beautiful things and beautiful ways to express themselves. Is this me? Other than being slightly jaded from life’s occasional bitter experiences, I would say, yes, at heart I am a romantic.

Curley_HiddenQ2. I read the amazing story of how one of your avid Guardians of Time trilogy fans actually wrote a sequel to your story. How does it make you feel to know that you’ve made such an impression on your audience, and if you could continue, or extend, a favourite storyline, which would you choose and why?

I am consistently floored and humbled by my readers. Whether my writing has inspired someone to create a drawing of my characters, a poster or book cover for a school project, or write a 500 page sequel, or go on to become a published writer, every time I’m made aware of their achievements, I feel privileged and inspired to write more and more.

The storyline I would continue is The Guardians of Time, a fourth novel to pick up after the final battle in The Key. I’ve thought about doing this many times, even to the point where I created a plan for a new series based on the same characters but one year later. The reason I would like to do this is simple, this series doesn’t feel finished.

Q3. Where to after the Avena series, Marianne?

It’s going to be something different for me next. I’ve written a young adult contemporary manuscript, title not yet confirmed, that I have just sent to my agent to read. My fingers and toes are crossed as I wait a verdict. After that I will be writing another YA contemporary novel. And following that book, I will likely return to writing paranormal fiction.

Q4. Which of your characters burns brightest?

Without hesitation the character who burns brightest in my family of characters is my most recent member – Ebony Hawkins. I’ve watched her evolve from being a confused girl who knows she is different to something unique and special. From the start Ebony knows she does not fit in the normal world. Questioning her parents, she learns of her unusual adoption. Then a remarkably-beautiful stranger enters her life. He tells Ebony that she’s an angel. And while trust doesn’t come easy to Ebony, nothing will now stop her from searching for the truth. Ebony goes on a roller coaster ride, breaking free of restraints that were forced on her at birth, learning more about herself with each chapter, each volume, until she evolves into her true self.

Curley_brokenBio:

Marianne never thought she would be a writer. It was not until her mid-thirties, while teaching office studies and computers to adults at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus that she began to write, taking courses and experimenting with various styles and genres.

Marianne’s first four novels, Old Magic, The Named, The Dark and The Key, were published by Bloomsbury Publishing in Australia, the UK, and the USA, with translations into more than a dozen foreign languages. They have won numerous awards, and sold in numbers well in excess of half a million books worldwide.

In 2004, just as The Key was being prepared for printing, Marianne was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone marrow cancer called Myelofibrosis. With only a short time to live, she was given a stem-cell bone marrow transplant using her sister’s cells, which saved her life. Marianne has now been cancer free for ten years and has written a new trilogy called the Avena Series. The first two books, Hidden and Broken were published in 2013 and 2014, with the third, Fearless, is to be released on the first of July, 2015.

 

 



gallagher_my not soMy Not-So-Still Life revolves around an average teenager who is ready to grow up, move out, and do important things. Vanessa always wants to be different and stick out from the crowd. She wants to explore the person she really is, and she does this by dying her hair crazy colors, wearing bold makeup and dressing up like no one else.

Vanessa is at the point of her life where she feels that high school is completely useless. She doesn’t like going and doesn’t see the point of it. She knows she wants to work with art, so she doesn’t understand why she needs all these other things if she never plans on using them in the future.  When she applies to her favorite art store, and gets the job, Vanessa feels like it’s her dream come true, and just one step further into her future.

What could be better than working at your favorite store with cool people? And getting out of the house more often? Nothing!

As Vanessa is working one day, she spots a really cute older guy roaming the aisles and chatting with one of her co-workers. She can’t help but notice just how handsome he really is, even though he is much too old for her. But things quickly turn sour when Vanessa gets herself in a tough situation him, when she realizes she can’t handle a “relationship” with such an older partner. Vanessa finds herself taking half naked photos for his calendar, and completely regretting it by the next day.

As things start to get too hot and heavy for Vanessa, she tries to escape the entire situation. Her mom forces her to quit the job, and instead focus on school. Vanessa quickly learns that being yourself and sticking out, doesn’t mean dying your hair crazy colors, and wearing extremely bold makeup. But being unique can be done in subtle ways too.

My Not-So-Still Life is a short and light read that could be perfect for a sunny day off in the back yard or on the beach. Overall I thought the story was alright. I couldn’t really connect with the character besides her drive to want to do something important; but other than that she and I are completely different. I enjoy going to school and learning things, even if they might have nothing to do with what I’m “planning” for the future.

I probably won’t be re-reading this book, simply because I don’t feel the drive to. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to read it the first time. Have you read My Not-So-Still Life? Let me know what you think!


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