Series: Pandora Jones #3
Published by Allen & Unwin on May 1, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Thriller
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Pandora Jones's problems appear insurmountable. She must convince her team that nothing is as it seems and that they must escape and expose The School to save the world from the plague she unwittingly inflicted on it. The only thing Pan has on her side is her gift of intuition, and her belief in the people she cares about.
But with the clock ticking, can she find a way to stop the plague, and should she do it at any cost?
Pan and her friends face off against the might of The School as the final pieces fall into place in the hugely compelling Pandora Jones series.
This Aussie YA read is a mix between psychological thriller and dystopian, and I’m glad I ended up sticking through the series with Reckoning. Pan has learnt to harness her abilities for the greater good, convincing the student body that they need to escape. She really grows in her confidence and her ability to convince people, and I liked seeing her and Jen lead the charge.
“My greatest crime was that I was different. People don’t care for the different, Pan. It rattles their worlds and they’ll do anything to restore normality. And cruelty, horrific cruelty, was my childhood companion’s choice.”
While I had problems with the slowness of the middle book, Reckoning is filled with action. The plot is faster paced, with Pan and her friends focused on escape and overcoming the constraints of the School. I loved the psychological thriller elements, with Pan’s ability to invade people’s minds and to take control of them. There’s a fairly sinister plot in the background, with some scientific elements for an impending pandemic which were believable. It’s these elements that really made the series stand out for me.
However, Reckoning still retains the overall problems of the series – the third person perspective makes it hard to relate to Pan, even in the third book. She comes across as dry and expressionless, with her overlying trait – determination. That’s where the secondary characters shine with the fiesty tough girl Jen, Sanjit’s hacker skills, and Wei Lin’s kindness.
Pandora Jones: Reckoning was an epic conclusion to a unique dystopian series, with some believable pandemic elements and an interesting psychological power. Although there’s a few problems with perspective and characterisation, I enjoyed the series as a whole.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for the review copy.The Potion Diaries (Potion, #1) by Amy Alward
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on July 2nd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
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When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. No big deal, then.
Combining alchemy, magical creatures, adventure, royalty and a sprinkle of romance, The Potion Diaries was incredibly fun, fast paced and engaging. Samantha Kemi embarks on a quest to find the rare and mysterious parts of a love potion to save the nation’s Princess, which takes her to some dangerous and wonderful locations. She encounters an Abominable Snowman, an Aphrodite mermaid, exotic plants and even a unicorn, in her hunt for the rare ingredients.
The quest was such a fun part of the book and I loved how Samantha added her own flair to it. Potion mixing requires a certain skill to break down ingredients, knowing their properties and understanding how they would react to each other as a whole. Sam is a prodigy who constantly thinks of ingredients for ailments and has the keen sense to understand how potions work as a whole – which made for a really fun read.
I can’t imagine why anyone would want a love potion. Why would anyone want to go through this pain? Why would they suffer this voluntarily? Because if there’s one thing history has ever taught us about love potions, it’s that they always, always end in tragedy and disaster.
When it comes to potion mixing, there is no one better than the Kemi family with their natural and hard to find ingredients. Except for their nemesis, the ZoroAster Corp who has risen to fame and money by synthesising all the potions. This is where it gets a little convoluted – The Potion Diaries is set in a modern world, filled with magic, princesses, creatures and potions. The clash of the magical world, with modern technology, media mongering and synthetic ingredients overlapped haphazardly at times. For example, Sam has to go through magical means to contact the royal family, and later just pulls out her phone and enters a phone number. If things were so easy – why didn’t they just go the easy route?
Princess Evelyn’s curse was actually quite hilarious, accidentally drinking a love potion and falling in love with herself. Her brief perspectives throughout the book were actually quite zany and slightly disturbing, but it was refreshing to have a Princess that wasn’t the portrait of perfection.
The Potion Diaries was an unexpected surprise, offering a fun and magical romp into a modern land. I loved the alchemical potion mixing, the characters and the adventure they embark on, although it felt a bit young/middle-grade at times. While the modern elements of the book made it a little confusing, I enjoyed this light read for it’s wonderful charm, creativity and pure fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury for the review copy.Afterlight by Rebecca Lim
Published by Text Publishing on June 24th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
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From the acclaimed author of the Mercy series and The Astrologer's Daughter.Since her parents died in a freak motorbike accident, Sophie Teague’s life has fallen apart.But she’s just enrolled at a new high school, hoping for a fresh start.That’s until Eve, a beautiful ghost in black, starts making terrifying nightly appearances, wanting Sophie to be her hands, eyes and go-to girl.There are loose ends that Eve needs Sophie to tie up. But dealing with the dead might just involve the greatest sacrifice of all.Dark, thrilling and unrelentingly eerie, Afterlight will take you deep into the heart of a dangerous love story, revealing the otherworldly—and deadly—pull of past wrongs that only the living can put right.
Afterlight is an elegantly written tale about a ghost who haunts a teenager who has lost her parents. It’s fast paced, filled with thrills and diversity, and I read it in one sitting. I loved the Melbourne setting as well, with the description of school being quite realistic for Australians.
The haunting in the novel is a creepy and fascinating part of the book – where the ghost Eve, sends Sophie on missions to tie up loose ends of her life and to perform good deeds. It was weird how Sophie was strangely accepting of this, but she’s lonely and coping with grief so she just goes along with it. I loved how following Eve’s lead gave Sophie a sense of direction and confidence, taking her mind off her parents death.
“She was dark energy momentarily corralled into human form, and somehow I knew that the testing was over, that whatever this was that Jordan and I were doing, we were already deep into the play. This was the main game, and Eve was in control.”
Sophie is a tall redhead, who is often insecure and worries about her place in life, and Jordan is a hot mysterious guy with tattoos. Once Jordan figures out that Sophie could see Eve as well, he takes it upon himself to help her with her missions. Things moved a bit fast between them for my liking though, they barely knew each other and are soon making out. But thankfully the romance doesn’t overtake the story.
It was fantastic how the diversity was just a part of Afterlight. A tall girl, guy with tattoos, crazy cat lady, gay drag queen and motorcycling gangs are all weaved into the story. It was incredible how precisely the author described bad smells and dodgy people, I could picture these things vividly in my head.
Things get pretty intense in the latter half of the book but the supernatural elements become hard to believe. It also ends rather abruptly; I wish there were more pages to tie it off properly.
Afterlight is a fast paced ghost story with thrills, a wonderful amount of diversity and a relatable Melbourne setting. The story is written beautifully and elegantly demonstrating a journey of closure and understanding of oneself. Another great Aussie YA title!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Text Publishing for sending me a review copy.
So my mini reviews didn’t end up being very mini hahaha!