Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters living in the leafy English county of Surrey. They both read history at university and worked as professionals in London. Then they both stopped working to raise families, not realising that children are far more demanding than clients or bosses. When they both decided to write novels – on account of fictional people being much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious they should do it together. When Katharine’s not writing, she likes playing the harp, learning dead languages and embracing her inner nerd. When Elizabeth’s not writing, she likes sketching, dancing round the kitchen and plotting for more time free of children and cats. They can sometimes be found in one of their local coffee shops, arguing over which character to kill off next.
Can true love’s kiss save the day…?
Electrifying dark magic debut by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.
Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse.
Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?
Wunderkids: Part 1 - Wildwood Academy
by Jacqueline Silvester
Published in March of 2017, apparently by the author. Good for her.
4.8 Stars with 9 Reviews
The Cover copy reads:
15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and... two very different boys.
However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal.
Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run.
***About the Author***
Jacqueline has had a colourful and dual life thus far; she's lived in a refugee camp in Sweden, a castle in France, a village in Germany, and spent her formative years in between Los Angeles, London and New York. As a result, she speaks four languages. Jacqueline has a Bachelors in English Literature from the University Of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Screenwriting from Royal Holloway, University Of London. After graduating she wrote her first novel and began writing cartoon screenplays. The two years she spent in an arts boarding school in the woods have inspired the particular world described in her debut novel Wunderkids. She lives in London with her husband, her excessive YA collection and a hyper husky named Laika.
Wunderkids has been translated into a number of languages and featured in Vogue magazine!
The Amazon preview has the first two chapters. I am going to read you the first.
Here we go:
My thoughts about Wunderkids.
I've always said, or at least I've said for a few years now, that any author who uses the word "Unceremoniously" should be ceremonially flogged. Jacqueline Sylvester uses it on virtually the first page. I'm trying to forgive her for that.
I think the first chapter gives an entirely different feel to the story than the cover blurb does. In this first chapter we discover the ruin of Nikka's life as her mother blunders into what sounds like just another failure. The mother is upbeat about the future, looking for jobs in interesting places like Seattle.
We meat Sonya who takes Nikka on a dangerous but scenic drive through the mountains, which appears to be a stalling tactic of her mother's, and a set up to get her to go to the academy. Sonya's presence seems to be comic relief--unless I'm reading her wrong.
At one point during conversation between Nikka and her mother, we get the impression that Daria knows something about this academy, but clams up. Then at the end of the chapter it's as if Stamos and Daria share an inside joke, as they toast with champagne. I mean. There was supposedly no phone number for Nikka to call, how did Daria have one?
None of this foreshadows the terrible things implied in the cover copy. And if Nikka will be putting her life on the line before the end of the book, then her own mother appears to have knowingly set her up for this death.
One reviewer describes the story as a combination of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, which two books have entirely different feelings, if you look at the first books. In hunger games, we have a sense of dread and doom from the beginning chapters. In Harry Potter, life appears to be drab for Harry, but always hopeful and ultimately safe.
I like the voice of this book, coming from Nikka, and I'm willing to read on the next couple chapters to find out if the theme resolves into the light hearted adventure (Harry Potter) or life threatening danger of the hunger games.
One thing that bugged me in the first chapter was reference to the San Jacinto Mountains where the Wildwood Academy is supposed to be and of the pamphlet that shows dense redwood forests. I wonder if the pamphlet is misleading her, because if there are any trees in the San Jacinto Mountains, they're not dense redwoods. They're more likely to be scrubby and sparse lodge pole pines. If we go to the next chapter and find these dense redwoods it would throw me right out of the story. Perhaps the author's goal was to create a fictitious place in southern California where you will find dense redwoods. If that is the case, she should have given the place a fictitious location, instead of a place anyone can easily google and look up.
In closing, I think that girls will like this book because of the strong female character of Nikka. I think boys will like this book because the central image on the book cover is a girl with an extremely short skirt.
I think Jackqueline Sylvester is a good story teller and I give this first chapter a four star recommendation to read further.
This book was reccomended on a podcast I often listen to, The Writing Excuses Podcast. They had JR Johansson on as a guest. Half way through the podcast they always reccomend a book and gave her the opportunity to choose the book of the week. I respect all of the authors on the podcast, and I've often talked about Brandon Sanderson as being one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with the podcast and are an aspiring writer at any point of the journey, you are missing out on some great instruction on how to make your writing the best it can be.
Anyway, Johansson pitched The Row and told a little about it. It sounded good to me and I vowed to review the first chapter. Well, the first two in this case, I like to do about 15 pages. The book was on the more expensive side, as ebooks go. It was $9.99 which is about double what most ebooks cost.
The Row has a 4.5 star average with 25 reviews.
It was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 11, 2016)
Here is the cover copy:
Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.
Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she can’t forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.
The Amazon preview has the first three chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 are the first sixteen pages, so I'm going to read you that....
(Read first two chapters)
What's there to like about Riley?
She's smart. She's learned the routine to see her father without causing waves. She's made friends with the prison staff and warden so that they're on her side.
She thinks her mother is resilient, but I get the idea that she's not really. I may be wrong, but I think we are going to see that her diligence at the office and her staying away from visits is her way of creating distance so that her work life goes smoothly and her security isn't affected as it was in the past. I'm predicting that she is creating a new life for herself without her husband.
I think Riley is the resilient one.
I like her dedication to her father how she faithfully visits him every week, year after year and how she saves every letter he has written to her. Being the father of daughters, myself, I understand how Riley's father could come to depend on her visits to feel grounded to the outside world. My first daughter was sixteen before we added more children to our family through adoption. She was truly one of my best friends. She brought, and still brings, a lot of joy to my life.
So, I want to read on to find out what happens at the hearing, and now, knowing the rest of the preview, how Riley will react when her father tells her his committed the crimes.
by JM Davis
Self published by the author in June of 2016
It has a five star average with three reviews.
Awaking in a strange place, Eleanor is afraid, and panicked. Unfamiliar people claiming to be her family nurse her back to health, but their vague answers seem to only stir up more questions. Where is she? How did she get the scar in the center of her chest? And what happened to her memories?
Over time, Eleanor learns she has been fitted with a mechanical heart, and the body she inhabits once belonged to someone else. With the truth finally revealed, depression nearly drives her to her deathbed. After being rushed to the hospital, Eleanor must learn to accept her second-chance at life.
Believing she is less than human with her steel heart, Eleanor needs a reminder that she is more than just clockwork, and gears. Percy Oliver, does just that. But, is her heart capable of love? Or is it just a machine crafted of cold metal?
The Amazon preview has three chapters. Here's the first one.
Before I talk about this chapter I want to say that I had originally planned on reviewing a different book. I saw it advertized on facebook and twitter several times. Based on the book cover and the title, the story sounded like it would be mysterious and engrossing. The story started with a prolog. Fifteen pages in, I was looking ahead to see how much longer this prolog was. I was bored. The story was introducing the characters, their personalities and some of the plot, but there was nothing which was intriguing or mysterious. I realized there was nothing I could reccomend from what I had read, and rather than read it and give a bad review, I would move on to the next book on my list.
I want to give people ideas of books that they want to read, and not which ones to look out for.
A first chapter, or prolog, if the book has to have one, should be gripping and make me want to read more, make me want to move on to the next chapter. Not make me look ahead to see how much longer I have to read.
Gear Girl was this way. Even if it is written in first person present tense.
The author gives us enough information to sympathize with the main character, the feelings of confusion and disorientation, and ultimately of threat and violation from the man who enters the room.
Obviously, if we've read the cover copy, we know our protagonist has a clockwork heart and we can assume that the two people she interacts with in the first chapter are well meaning. But it's clear that Eleanor doesn't know this, and why she doesn't know this is one of the reasons I want to go on to the next chapter to find out why.
The story is clearly steampunk. It looks like Davis has created the environment and setting for an exciting speculative fiction.