Book Review: The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine #2)

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeline #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Magic, Young Adult
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: February 2014
Pages: 544
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Time slides around the world so strangely …

It’s not easy being Princess Ko. Her family is missing, taken to the World through cracks in the Kingdom, which were then sealed tightly behind them.

Now Princess Ko is running the Kingdom, and war is looming.

To help her find her family, she gathers a special group of teens, including Elliot Baranski of the Farms. He’s been writing secret letters to a Girl-in-the World named Madeleine Tully – and now the Kingdom needs her help.

Madeleine and Elliot must locate the missing royals, convince them of their true identities, and figure out how to unlock the dangerous cracks between the Kingdom and the World.

All before their enemies can stop them.

My Review:

One of the best things that has happened to me in the past two years of blogging is discovering Jaclyn Moriarty’s books. She has a beautiful way of telling stories and this second book in the Colours of Madeline series did not disappoint.

Elliot Baranski, a boy who lives on a farm in a Kingdom named Cello, and Madeline Tully, a girl from the world we know in a city called Cambridge, are still communicating though a crack between the Kingdoms. A broken TV turned art installation and a malfunctioning parking meter allow the two to pass messages to and fro from Cello to Cambridge. Madeline is still not completely sure she believes the boy is real and the tales he tells about colours harming and seasons with minds of their own – but she lets best friends Belle and Jack in on the secret. Elliot is entrusted by the Princess to try to work out how to use the crack to bring her family back… that is if they are even there to begin with.

I love the characters in this series. They’re as vibrant as the colours which wreak havoc in the realm of Cello. Madeline is inquisitive and unwilling to take things on faith. She needs to find things out for herself and disbelieves things – even things in front of her very eyes – without some kind of scientific proof. Elliot is almost her opposite. He gives his all for everything he does and doesn’t do anything half-hearted. His belief in his family and himself is strong and he would do anything, sacrifice anything, for his loved ones. Where Madeline is theoretically based, Elliot is physical and spontaneous. They work well off each other despite being worlds apart – both physically and metaphorically.

This book is a great addition to the series. Elliot being inducted into the Royal Youth Alliance causes much drama. He has to covertly carry out secret missions for the Princess whilst at the same time pretending just to be there for the sake of uniting the Kingdom. His liaisons with Madeline grow strained under the pressures of the missions but throughout it all they are there for each other. Getting to experience what the different parts of the kingdom of Cello have to offer though Elliot’s eyes was interesting and I loved the trip to the Lake of Spells. Cello is a world that is full of magic and yet it feels believable because of how similar it is to the World Madeline inhabits.

At over 500 pages, this is a long book but it never felt that way. I couldn’t wait to find out what was next for Elliot and Madeline and their friends. The plot took me places I wasn’t expecting and I enjoyed the journey. There are surprises and a lot of questions still to be answered. What happened to the Royal Family? Will they come back? Why are the cracks between the worlds? What’s the deal with the rebels? And whilst many of these questions were not either fully or partially answered – I felt so involved in the story that I didn’t mind not knowing.

The ending was one I wasn’t anticipating but perfect. That said – I’m incredibly eager to find out what Jaclyn Moriarty has next install for Elliot, Madeline and the people of the two Worlds they come from. I enjoyed every step in this novel and recommend the series for fans of well written and exciting young adult literature.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Also by Jaclyn Moriarty:

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine, #1)

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeline #1)

Book Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L Armentrout

Half-Blood (Covenant, #1)

Title: Half-Blood (Covenant #1)
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult, First in a Series
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: September 2011
Pages: 281
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi pure bloods have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals–well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem–staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

My Review:

Alex has been on the run from daimons since she saw them murder her mother. After another attack, and nowhere to go, Alex is taken to the Covenant – a boarding school for Hermatoi, offspring of the gods – and the very place where she and her mother fled from three years earlier. Alex was not the best student and her past behaviour record threatens to have her expelled before she is even a student again. She has a choice – to train with the gorgeous pureblood, Aiden St Delphi, or become a servant in her stepfather’s mansion.

I’ve wanted to read this series for a while. I have a weakness for books with strong heroines and magical boarding schools. I’d heard that this series has a lot in common with Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books and there is a lot that feels familiar (the forbidden romance, the class system, even the boarding school itself). However there is enough different about these stories that I wasn’t constantly comparing the two.

Alex is the kind of girl who acts first and deals with the repercussions later. But she isn’t blindly rebellious. She knows when to pull her head in and when to break the rules. Her loyalty to her mother and her friends is fierce and there is logic behind her decisions. The forbidden romance between Alex and Aiden is fun to read but it did feel a touch like déjà vu.

The plot is interesting. There’s an Apollyon, some mythical half-blood with the power of the elements and super daimon fighting skills. Mix with that some great fight scenes, some mean girls, evil stepfather, ominous and mysterious uncle and a heartbreaking decision. Armentrout is not kind to her characters and I admire Alex all the more for what she goes though in this novel.

I’m curious as to what happens next for Alex now she knows a little more about herself and I intend to read the next books in the series but it’s not a priority. I like the characters and the plot yet there are other series I want to catch up on first. 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red (The Ruby Red Trilogy, #1)

Title: Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy #1)
Author: Kerstin Gier
Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel, Paranormal, Historical
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 2012 (first published January 2009)
Pages: 324
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesly. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.

She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any centrury . . .

My Review:

Gwen has always known that time travel is possible. Rare members of her family have been born with the time travelling gene allowing them to go back into the past. Her cousin Charlotte is one of the chosen few and has been training for her trips to the past since birth. But Gwen unexpectedly travels through time and isn’t ready for the pressures that being a time traveller brings. Her clothes are wrong, she can’t fence and languages aren’t her forte. Lucky for her that Gideon’s family also have the time travelling gene and whilst he may be unbearable – at least he knows Victorian era manners.

I’ve been excited about this book for a while and am glad that I finally took the plunge. As the first book in a series, Ruby Red does a brilliant job at laying the groundwork. Gwen is as new to the world of travelling though time as we are and its great learning about how the gene works as Gwen learns herself. There are some amazing characters from the best friend Lesly who is an expert at using the Internet, pop culture and has Gwen’s back no matter what to Gwen’s eccentric and possibly psychic Great Aunt Maddie. I was impressed with the wealth of detail regarding the difference between the past and present as well as some of the difficulties one might face if they were to go back in time. Another thing I loved was the insufferable Gideon – gorgeous yet obnoxious. It’s great to have a potential love interest that the heroine isn’t head over heels for the moment she meets him. There’s some bickering and frustration that I found to be fantastic.

There is a lot going on in this book and by the end a lot is still a mystery. Whilst it’s great at making me want to read the second book, Sapphire Blue, it meant that in terms of action, Ruby Red fell a little short. With all the descriptions and back story, there wasn’t a huge climax in terms of drama and activity in this first book. That said, and without having read the next book yet, Ruby Red is fantastic at laying the ground work. There’s so much happening – from Gwen’s inexplicable ability to talk to ghosts to a future hinted at though one of Gwen’s travels. It’s exciting and I loved being a part of the journey. The time travel is different from ones I’ve read before and I liked this particular take. The family mystery and quirky relatives are fascinating yet formidable.

Ruby Red was originally written in German and I wonder if perhaps that was a reason for why the novel read a little young for me. There were times when the book felt like it was more suitable for middle grade rather than young adult but it’s possible that some of the nuances were lost in translation.

I enjoyed this book and bought a copy of Sapphire Blue as soon as I finished Ruby Red! The main character, Gwen, is exciting, brave and intelligent. The banter with Gideon is a pleasure to read and there are so many secondary characters who are both mysterious and amusing. This was a great book to read and I liked the different take on time travel.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon| Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty

Finding Cassie Crazy (Ashbury/Brookfield, #2)

Title: Finding Cassie Crazy (Ashbury /Brookfield #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Epistolary
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: November 2003
Pages: 383
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Told entirely through letters, diary entries, emails, and other writing, Moriarty’s novel introduces us to Emily, Lydia, and Cassie — all students at Ashbury High — who begin writing to their Brookfield High counterparts through the schools’ organized pen pal project. Readers learn quickly that each girl has her own writing style and that at two of the Brookfield boys (Seb and Charlie) seem to be smitten with Lydia and Emily. The only trouble is Cassie’s pen pal, Matthew, a shady character who first sends her short, threatening letters and then becomes strangely sweet toward her. Nobody can figure out why Cassie keeps writing to him, but after she has a crushing meet-up with Matthew, Cassie discovers — with the help of her friends and the Brookfield guys — that he hasn’t been honest about his identity. All could be ended there, but when Charlie helps take revenge and Brookfield High gets mysteriously vandalized, the group comes together to deliver justice and save the endangered pen pal project.

This book is also published under the title: The Year of Secret Assignments

My Review:

Mr Botherit is at it again with his attempt to join Ashbury and Brookfield through a pen pal project. Trying to engage his year ten class with the Joy of the Envelope, Finding Cassie Crazy is an epistolary novel featuring best friends Lydia, Cassie and Emily. Diary entries, letters and the odd noticeboard announcement tell the story of Lydia’s secret agent adventures, Emily’s dating coach advice and how Cassie is keeping it all together after losing her father to cancer a year ago.

What I liked most about Finding Cassie Crazy was how different and distinct the characters were through their writing. Emily is the girl with stars in her eyes and has a unique gift of making up words. As as self-appointed girl guru, she’s not shy in giving pen pal Charlie advice on dating. Lydia is both creative and sarcastic. She plans on becoming a writer and comes up with brilliant secret assignments for the girls – and Brookfield pen pal Seb – to complete. Poor Cassie gets stuck with Matthew as her writing buddy – but she perseveres and doesn’t let threats or creepy love letters dissuade her from writing back. Moriarty interwove the stories fantastically and there was never a doubt as to which one of her characters was writing at any time throughout the novel. The guest appearances of Elizabeth and Christina from Feeling Sorry for Celia was a bonus!

As unique as the girls are from each other – there’s also a definite strength in their friendship. They are their own people and yet, when it matters most, they’re there for each other. Whether it be breaking into a teacher’s car, painting over hideous orange walls or getting revenge and justice for one of their own – despite their difference they share a deep bond.

After reading (and loving) Feeling Sorry for Celia, I was thrilled to have enjoyed Finding Cassie Crazy just as much. Moriarty’s style is so much fun to read and I loved the mixture of fun, romance, mystery and friendship that was combined to make up the plot.  

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

I thought that after I was RAVING about this book I better try and get my feelings down in a somewhat coherent review.

Title: Feeling Sorry For Celia (Ashbury High #1)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Epistolary
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: May 2000
Pages: 288
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the “Joy of the Envelope,” a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter…

A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards—and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.

Feeling Sorry for Celia captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty’s hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember—and every bit as harrowing.

My Review:

Feeling Sorry for Celia is a story told though letters and notes – both real and imagined in Liz’s head showing a very small snapshot of what life is like for somewhat typical Australian teenage girl. A scatter-minded yet well-meaning single mother, absent father and a best friend who runs away to join the circus are all parts of Liz’s life but somehow she keeps it all together.

Liz is a great narrator as such. Most of the letters within this novel are letters to her from organizations such as The Association of Teenagers. And then there’s Christina – the pen pal Liz’s teacher assigns her from a local high school. I loved the letters exchanged between these two. They’re honest and random and yet perfect. This is one of those books that make me remember just how much I love reading books set in Australia by Australian authors. There are things so intrinsically HERE about this book – things that I can’t even describe to people from overseas and yet I feel like other Aussies would know exactly what I’m talking about. I could relate to Liz in a way that feels bizarre consider how little we have in common and yet I felt like this book was a window into my teenage soul. Oh my… that sounds a little trite but I’m keeping it in because that’s exactly how I feel. 

One of my favourite things about this book is how relevant it still is. This book may have been first published over thirteen years ago but you wouldn’t know it. The concept of letter writing makes perfect sense within the constructs of this novel and I never once thought that the addition of technological advancements (such as email or text messaging) would have added anything extra to the novel.

This is a great novel that I can imagine appealing to young and old – and I can’t wait to make a trip to my nearest library and check out the rest of the books in this series!

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Depository

Book Review: Truth or Dare by Ella Monroe

Title: Truth or Dare (Capital Girls #3)
Author: Ella Monroe
Genre: contemporary, romance, chick lit
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 2013
Pages: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Jackie, Lettie, and Laura Beth barely survived the holidays . . . literally.  Jackie’s on lockdown while the hunt is on for her stalker, who somehow got into the White House and left her an ominous note. Laura Beth and Sol are finally back together after a scandal almost tore them apart, and Lettie, who’s forced to live with Whitney and her gossip-mongering mom, has let down her guard enough to fall in love with Daniel.  For the Capital Girls life is always complicated, especially when they’re under 24-hour media scrutiny. But that won’t stop the three friends from making their senior year the most amazing ever—even as the mystery deepens over Taylor Cane’s death and First Son Andrew Price’s role in it.

My Review:

Truth or Dare is a brilliant addition to the Capital Girls series. Things are getting more complicated for the Capital Girls. Laura Beth’s stepdad-to-be is ramping up his political campaign and putting a wedge inbetween LB and her BFF Jackie. But Jackie has more on her mind than just politics. She’s caught in a love triangle between the First Sons not to mention her stalker still hasn’t been caught. Lettie is trying to adjust to life with her parents living in a different country and her being taken in by a celebrity blogger who is using Lettie’s White House connections to further her career.

Things just keep getting more and more entangled as the girls mourn Taylor’s death whilst at the same time trying to get to the bottom of just what happened on the night of the car accident.

I loved how this book managed to combine so many different storylines and dramas whilst at the same time successfully weaving them together. All the girls are managing to grow – all three seemed more mature than in the previous book – but still keeping their teenage sensibilities  Laura Beth is learning that maybe her dreams of the spotlight aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. Jackie has a personal dilemma to sort out and doesn’t know if she should follow her heart or keep her head in the political game. And Lettie is the sweet girl who balances out her larger than life friends.

I recommend this series for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl who love Mean Girls with a political twist.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon
Book Depository 

Also by Ella Monroe:

   Capital Girls (Capital Girls 1)
Amazon / Book Depository

Secrets and Lies (Capital Girls 2)
Amazon / Book Depository 

Book Review: The Heiresses by Allison Rushby

Title: The Heiresses 
Author: Allison Rushby
Genre: Historical, New Adult
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Publication Date: May 2013
Pages: 352
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
In Allison Rushby’s Heiresses, three triplets–estranged since birth–are thrust together in glittering 1926 London to fight for their inheritance, only to learn they can’t trust anyone–least of all each other.

When three teenage girls, Thalia, Erato and Clio, are summoned to the excitement of fast-paced London–a frivolous, heady city full of bright young things–by Hestia, an aunt they never knew they had, they are shocked to learn they are triplets and the rightful heiresses to their deceased mother’s fortune. All they need to do is find a way to claim the fortune from their greedy half-brother, Charles. But with the odds stacked against them, coming together as sisters may be harder than they think.

My Review:

Thalia, Erato (also known as Ro) and Clio are triplets separated at birth who could not have lived more different lives. Thalia , a lively girl with a party spirit, lived with a busy family but isolated from loved ones. Ro is as scholarly as her adopted uncle and spent her days at boarding school broadening her mind. And then there’s Clio – the youngest – who grew up in meagre surroundings but never lacking for love.

These three girls are strangers in every way but blood and brought together by their Aunt Hestia upon their birth father’s death. A fortune being held from them, family secrets and the complicated business of growing up brings drama to them. Will they stand together or fall divided?

This book started its life as an e-serial – a five-part digital series of novellas. I think that’s such a cool concept. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other historical fiction aimed at the New Adult market. Because of its form there are mini cliff-hangers at the end of each novella which I liked – there is always something happening to keep my attention.

The girls themselves are so much fun to read for different reasons. Thalia is the belle of the upper society social set – giving the party girls of the day a run for their money. Clio is trying to find her feet in a world that is more dream (or nightmare) from her every day reality. And then there’s Ro – my personal favourite – who is so logical and measured but when faced with love, her common sense gets in the way. They are each charming in their own way and the best part of the novel for me as a reader was seeing how they each faced the same situations with such varied backgrounds.

The supporting characters and villains are fantastic at propping up the three sisters in their search for truth and family. Aunt Hestia is very interesting and I’d love to be able to read her back story (Allison – if you ever wrote a novella regarding Hestia I’d devour it in an instant!).

I recommend this book for fans of historical dramas like Downton Abbey. There’s scandal in a way that only books set in a past era can deliver as well as quirky yet charming characters and sinister villains.

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Thanks to Allison Rushby and Pan Macmillan for the review copy

 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Book Depository| Pan Macmillan