Mini Reviews #2 – Pandora Jones Reckoning, The Potion Diaries & Afterlight

August 12, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, 4 stars, Books, Features, Mini Reviews, Reviews

Mini Reviews #2 – Pandora Jones Reckoning, The Potion Diaries & AfterlightPandora Jones: Reckoning by Barry Jonsberg
Series: Pandora Jones #3
Published by Allen & Unwin on May 1, 2015
Source: Publisher
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.

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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

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Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for the review copy. 

Mini Reviews #2 – Pandora Jones Reckoning, The Potion Diaries & AfterlightThe 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.

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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

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Thank you to Bloomsbury for the review copy. 

Mini Reviews #2 – Pandora Jones Reckoning, The Potion Diaries & AfterlightAfterlight by Rebecca Lim
Published by Text Publishing on June 24th 2015
Source: Publisher
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.

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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

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Thank you Text Publishing for sending me a review copy.

So my mini reviews didn’t end up being very mini hahaha!

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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27 responses to “Mini Reviews #2 – Pandora Jones Reckoning, The Potion Diaries & Afterlight

  1. Rachel Lightwood

    I am so glad you enjoyed The Potion Diaries too! I personally loved it. I am dying for the sequel. The ending left me hanging so much! I am little hesitant in picking up Afterlight since I rather disliked the author's other book, The Astrologer's Daughter, but your review is calling at me to give it a go anyway. We'll have to see. Great reviews, Jeann!
    My recent post Sunday Overview: Somewhat Successful Week

    • It was so great Rachel! I completely agree, I wonder of TPD is going to be made into a sequel. Afterlight was a quick read, I haven't read Astrologer's Daughter though.

  2. Braine-Talk Supe

    I'll take The Potion Diaries! That does sound fun and a bit whimsical, saving a Princess with a potion. The Zoroaster corp is a clever name too. Are there gods in the book?

    • It was definitely so much fun Braine! There's no gods in the book – it's set in modern times (but with magic…yeah figure that lol)

      • Braine-Talk Supe

        Darn it! I was hoping Ahura Mazda is going to make an appearance since its Zoroaster Corp. & all. It still sounds fun!

  3. Psychological thriller and dystopia? That's an interesting combo and it appeals to me for sure. It's a shame that the characters were hard to connect with and that it was slow at times.

    I'll be reading The Potion Diaries soon so I'm really glad to see a positive review for you. It sounds like all kinds of entertaining and funny!

    Afterlight sounds like it has a great writing style. I'm very curious about it and I liked the diversity it seems to have. I'll look mroe into it.

    Lovely review, Jeann!
    My recent post Review : Make Me by Tessa Bailey

    • Yup, it was definitely an interesting thrilling combo Nick. Looking forward to your review on TPD! It was so much fun and a blast. I really enjoyed Afterlight as well 🙂

  4. Afterlight:

    I'm thinking it is going to be the first book in a series, because the ending is SO OPEN! I couldn't believe it. So I hope it is a series, because I think it has great potential!

    I really love reading books set in Australia, because our school and young adult experience really does differ quite a lot from the US experience that we see all the time.

    I did that that Sophie accepted her predicament pretty easily, but I also thought everything was pretty interesting, so I went along with it.

    I was a little sad that the romance moved so quickly, because I think there was a lot of potential for Jordan and Sophie, and it was just rushed over. If it does become a series, I really hope that he romance develops a little more realistically.

    Lovely review, Jeann <3
    My recent post we won’t do it until the third book, or: sex in YA

    • I know, I\’m not sure if it would be a series because it seemed like everything wrapped up by the end, except for those extra few pages where we could have seen what happened. I totally agree with the Aussie YA reads and setting! Thankfully the romance wasn\’t TOO big of a focus.

  5. keionda

    Omg that one book with the potion makers sounds KA-RAY-ZAYYY! Haha and the fact that she fell in love with herself makes it that much more enjoyable. (And like you said, it's a good thing she wasn't described as being perfect because that would have been kinda awkward.) js.

  6. Eugenia

    I *still* need to read Reckoning! I am looking forward to finishing the series though, especially because I need some answers and am looking forward to seeing what twists are still to come. Glad to see you liked The Potion Diaries as well – I loved how lighthearted and fun it was to read, especially in those scenes with 'Lyn'. Afterlight sounds promising, and I love books set in Australia so it should be good! Thanks for sharing these wonderful reviews Jeann 🙂
    My recent post Mini Reviews: Because Another Day You'll Never Meet Me Before Sunrise

    • I know, not many people had picked it up but it was good to get some closure! This book was faster paced than the last. The Potion Diaries was definitely a lot of fun! Thanks for reading Genie.

  7. danielleisbusyreading

    I wasn't sure The Potion Diaries would be a good book for me – it does sound very silly – but since you liked it so much I'll definitely keep it on my radar!
    Lovely reviews!

  8. I'm super curious about Afterlight buuuut I didn't really like the Astrologer's Daughter, so I'm kind of hesitant to try it, tbh. I'm glad you liked The Potion Diaries though. 😉 hehe, I didn't have such a good time with it, but I just know that fluffy fantasy isn't my thing. SO YEAH.

    • I haven\’t read that one but I enjoyed her writing in this one. It was so fast paced and a quick read. I know, I read your review and could see why it wasn\’t your thing!

  9. Kara Terzis

    I've actually heard quite a bit about the Pandora Jones books–but haven't picked them up. Damn that ever-rising TBR list. xD The Potion Diaries sounds adorable. I think if I don't expect anything too serious, then I think I could definitely enjoy it! I also had NO idea that Rebecca Lim had a new novel out! This one looks especially creepy–although a shame the ending wasn't properly tied up for you. Lovely reviews!
    My recent post Sunday Weekly Wrap Up (68) &amp; Stacking the Shelves (48)

    • I know what you mean about the TBR it\’s crazy lol XD The Potion Diaries was so much fun! Rebecca Lim\’s new novel was a quick read.