#Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner #YASciFi #ScienceFiction #SeriesReview

Summer + COVID Lockdown = Jessica reading whatever the heck she wants!

I made the choice early on in the pandemic that I was going to dramatically slash my blog tour commitments and use my reading to feed happiness when the world descended into the symbolic dumpster fire that is 2020. So fair warning friends, the vast majority of the reviews that I post in the coming weeks are going to be YA, mostly fantasy, and probably part of a series that I started ages ago and just recently got around to finishing (because my heart needed to know the ending).

First up, This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – the second book in the epic Starbound series.

shatteredTitle: This Shattered World

Series Title: Starbound

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: December 23, 2014

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Themes: Romance, Rebellion, Cost of war, Fight the state

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4/ 5


From Goodreads…

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Purchase Links:

Canada: https://amzn.to/3l8j8dY 

UK: https://amzn.to/34v5b3R

U.S.A.: https://amzn.to/2EqtuVQ

As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.

My Review

If you had told me that I would end up falling in love with a YA SciFi series heavy on the fuck-the-corporation sentiment (which I’m almost always there for) and heavier yet on the romance I would have laughed and said yeah right. But guess what? I’m kind of obsessed.

I checked out These Broken Stars a while back because it was available for immediate listening through my library’s Libby platform and because I had loved Kaufman’s collaboration on The Illuminae Files. I knew going into this series that there was going to be more focus on the romance than I typically enjoy, but I was looking for light and fun while still being cerebral, and I most definitely found it.

I adored the flipped gender roles with our heroine being the snarky and mysteriously resilient soldier, and the reluctant hero being an idealistic soft-boy pacifist (though why this has to be read as flipped gender roles is an entirely different discussion). They both exhibit and command different modes of loyalty and pathways to honour, and when combined together highlight the reality of disparate narratives on major issues.

At the start of the book they both start off firmly entrenched in their ideals but quickly fall into the grey space that comes with having their beliefs rocked to the core. This ambiguity provides the foundations for some serious character development and when combined with the generous exploration of their emotional wounds creates characters that are both easy to fall in love with and even easier to root for.

To top it all off, the enemies to lovers trope is used exceptionally well. While there is certainly a touch of instant attraction, this attraction remains an appreciation of physicality until the characters are given the grounds and opportunity to develop a legitimate romantic attraction. The romance is both sweet and complicated, but the challenges presented ultimately bring them together in realistic ways.

Normally a trilogy suffers from second book syndrome where the first book is amazing and does a fabulous job of setting the stage, book two carries things along and builds a lot of tension without a whole lot of action, and then book three is the big finale with all the fireworks. I am pleased to say that second book syndrome is not at all present here! In choosing to have each book focus on a different romantic arc with only cameos from the other instalments, This Shattered World is a self-contained bundle of excitement that doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘slow’.

The world building in this book is second to none. It’s got an extensive backstory layering historical precedent with political depth, and an evocative setting reminiscent of a cross between Higgin’s Moon from Firefly and Star War’s Dagobah. In stepping away from the empty world discovered by Lilac and Tarver and onto societally fraught Avon, we get to explore the whispers and the corporation that’s abused them from an entirely different angle. Readers are presented with corruption, class suppression, and bigotry at every turn and must work to unpack the messages buried beneath the action and romance.

Though this book was published nearly six years ago, I have no doubt that today’s teen readers would have no problem drawing parallels to the corporate and political corruption running rampant in the world today. It might be Sci-Fi, but all the best fiction has foundation in reality.  

#Blogtour #Review: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles @Janella_Angeles

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I love coming across new fantasy, especially fantasy that is so luscious and so different from everything else hitting the shelves that you can’t help but get wrapped up in the story in the most delectable way. Where Dreams Descend is that book. It’s sumptuous, rich, and exquisitely magical.

The perfect blend between enchantment, imagination, and thrilling mystery, this stunning debut will keep you tearing through the pages from first to last.

Where Dreams Descend_CoverTitle: Where Dreams Descend

Author: Janella Angeles

Series: A Kingdom of Cards

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Friendship, Romance, Mystery, Magic


In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Purchase Link:https://read.macmillan.com/lp/where-dreams-descend/


What do you get when you throw together a talented orphan with a mysterious past, a master magician who tells more fictions than truths, a renowned performer who walked away from the stage, and a competition that could change it all? What you get is a darkly beautiful and terrifically theatrical adventure that will keep you wondering why you bought that reading chair because you’re only using about four inches of the seat.

This book is magic.

No, seriously. This book is absolute magic.

I was spell bound from the opening scenes and enraptured through to the very last page. Packed full with larger-than-life characters and set in an imaginative world of magic and mysteries I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Beyond the lyrical prose and evocative descriptions that had me dreaming in Bob Mackie meets Cirque du Soleil, I was completely mesmerized by the world that Angeles created. There’s structure, there’s nuance, and there’s a sense of collective memory that unifies the disparate POVs into a cohesive and enchanting read. To top it all off, the magic system presented is not only deliciously original – but the use of it comes at a heavy price. The ways in which this plays out are complex and varied, and the ambiguity surrounding as to what’s the price of power as opposed to a bigger trick at play will have you guessing right up to the cliff-hanger of an ending.

I adored the cunning and caustic Kallia, and simply can’t wait to see more come book number two. She’s witty, she’s sharp, and she’s not afraid to chase what she wants no matter the cost or the societal norms standing in her way. If you’re looking for a damsel in distress this is not your book. However, if your looking for determined female protagonist who is a balanced blend between drive and femininity, as well as power and vulnerability, then this might just be the one for you.

Unabashedly powerful and unflinchingly feminist this was the fantasy read I needed to cap off the summer. It’s fun, it’s dark, and it’s crafted so infuriatingly well that it gives almost nothing way.

If you’re in the mood for haunting beauty, marvellous magicians, and a distinct theatricality that will take your breath away, then I can’t recommend Where Dreams Descends highly enough. It’s spectacular!

About the Author

Mei Lin Barral Photography_Janella AngelesJANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Social Media:

Twitter: @Janella_Angeles

Instagram: @Janella_Angeles

Many thanks to Meghan Harrington at St. Martin’s Press & Wednesday Books for inviting me to participate in this tour and for proving a copy of Where Dreams Descend in exchange for an honest review.




#Blogtour #Review: Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny @rararesources @valeriepenny

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Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Val Penny’s fifth instalment in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries – Hunter’s Secret. The perfect blend between cutting social social commentary and the best of police procedurals, this face-paced standalone will have you tearing through the pages and gripping the edge of your seat in the best possible way. If you’re a fan of crime fiction then I highly recommend!

Hunters Secret CoverTitle: Hunter’s Secret

Series Title: The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries

Author: Val Penny

Publication Date: August 8, 2020

Publisher: Crooked Cat / Darkstroke

Genre: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Murder Mystery

Themes: Murder, Hate Crimes, Diversity


Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. DCs Tim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu found a corpse, but when Hunter arrives it has disappeared, and all is not as it seems.

Hunter recalls the disappearance of a dead body thirty years earlier. The Major Incident Team is called in but sees no connection – it is too long ago. Hunter is determined to investigate the past and the present with the benefit of modern DNA testing.

Tim has other problems in his life. His father, Sir Peter Myerscough, is released from jail. He, too, remembers the earlier murder. There is no love lost between Hunter and Sir Peter. Will Hunter accept help from his nemesis to catch a killer?
Hunter’s own secret is exciting and crucial to his future. Will it change his life? And can he keep Edinburgh safe?

Purchase Linkhttp://mybook.to/hunterssecret


This was my first introduction to Val Penny, and readers, I think I’m in love.

Not only did I get to spend two fabulous evenings lost in a thrilling new mystery with a quirky investigative team, but was also treated to a long overdue visit with my beloved Edinburgh by way of memory and imagination. I got to revisit some of my favourite pubs (Deacon’s House & Fiddler’s Arms), drift back to the Christmas Market, and then fall asleep reliving my walk back from the NLS to my little flat in Merchiston above the Gregg’s by way of the pubic triangle (if you know, you know). The only thing missing from my jaunt down memory lane were some sandwiches from Oink.

But enough about me, we’re here to talk about a book, and a darned good one at that!

Though Hunter’s Secret is the fifth in a series, it’s written as a standalone that can be enjoyed by series veterans and newbies alike. I was immediately drawn in by the diverse and dynamic team, and really appreciated that there was a tactful mix of less obvious on-page representation alongside some much more in-depth conversations. Honestly, it was refreshing to read a gripping, twisty crime thriller that didn’t revolve around a homogenous, white, cis, male base – the result is that it actually felt like the team was more representative of the world we live in than most crime fiction I’ve been reading of late. And the best part about it all? When confronted with those annoyingly bigoted types there is never any doubt as to who’s the douche.

I really enjoyed the multitude of ways in which this book came together. From the balance between Hunter’s past and present, to the blend of perspectives, and especially the careful dispensation of personal details throughout the text the flow felt absolutely effortless. And to top it all off, the dialogue is spot on. Not only does it feel natural and engaging, the way in which Penny renders dialect really helped for me to hear each character’s voice. Even with such a big team to wrap my brain around their distinctness on the page really made it easy to keep them apart.

Finally, I should probably mention something about the cases this book revolves around! No one expects to come across a body out of the blue, and no one expects them disappear just as quick, but sometimes lightening strikes twice. You have two cases, thirty years apart, with some tenuous connections. But as the cases progress it becomes clear that not only are the team looking for a potential serial killer, but that the killings are most definitely hate crimes. The targeting of specific minorities within the LGBTQ community may be triggering for some, but I do think this book offers a valuable look at the ways in which both the police and society at large fail those they don’t care to understand.

Overall this was an absolutely smashing read. I was engaged from the first page to the last, and have no doubt that I will soon be coming back form more. Packed full with characters that are both easy to love, and easier to hate, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself screaming at the pages in the same way that I did. Emotionally gripping and action packed Hunter’s Secret is book that I would happily recommend!


Giveaway to Win a .mobi of Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

—> ENTER HERE<—hunter's secret

About the Author

Hunters Val Penny 2Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter @valeriepenny



Website https://www.authorvalpenny.com                    

Hunters Secret

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.




#Blogtour #GuestPost: The Borrowed Boy by Deborah Klée @rararesources @deborahKlee

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Most days I trust WordPress to do its job and publish my scheduled posts without fail. Yesterday, because it was a glorious 30 degrees out and I received no notifications on my phone that needed sharing, I completely failed to register that the guest post I had scheduled for Deborah Klée’s The Borrowed Boy failed to publish. Enter guilt at the maximum. Especially since it’s gotten so hard to launch and promote books during this pandemic.

So, a day late but no less wonderful, I hope you enjoy exploring the setting of Jaywick Sands and the memories that tether this eclectic gem to fiction… and reality.

TheBorrowedBoy_coverDesign_finalTitle: The Borrowed Boy

Author: Deborah Klée

Publication Date: August 1, 2020

Publisher: Sherman House

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Themes: Family, Community, Belonging


A borrowed boy, a borrowed name and living on borrowed time.

What do you put on a bucket list when you haven’t done anything with your life? No interesting job, no lovers, no family, no friends. Believing she has only weeks left to live, Angie Winkle vows to make the most of every minute.

Going back to Jaywick Sands, is top of her bucket list. Experiencing life as a grandmother is not, but the universe has other plans and when four-year-old Danny is separated from his mum on the tube, Angie goes to his rescue. She tries to return him to his mum but things do not go exactly as planned and the two of them embark on a life-changing journey.

Set in Jaywick Sands, once an idyllic Essex holiday village in the 70s, but now a shantytown of displaced Londoners, this is a story about hidden communities and our need to belong.

Purchase Links

Amazon.com – https://amzn.to/2CZIEAz

Amazon UK –  https://amzn.to/2CZJ6yL

Other digital platforms:


Guest Post

Jaywick Sands

The Borrowed Boy is set in Jaywick Sands, a real village in Essex. It is a place that holds a fascination for me. I first came across Jaywick when we were on holiday in a nearby coastal resort. My husband was looking at property prices in a local paper, as you do, and exclaimed when he saw a home advertised at a ridiculously low price. We booked a viewing, knowing nothing about the area. The estate agent said sagely as he drove us to Jaywick Sands, ‘You’re not from around here.’ And, ‘I don’t think that this is going to be suitable for you.’

As we drove into an unmade road of ramshackle huts and cabins, a few raggedly dressed children chased after the car. It was like entering the film set of a western. If there was tumbleweed it would have been a-blowin’ across our path. The property for sale was not much bigger than a beach hut. It was crammed with filthy mattresses a cooking stove and greasy pans. We couldn’t get away fast enough.

Years later, we moved into the same district and I came to know it better. I found out from talking to people who had been rehoused from Jaywick, that they regretted leaving the close community. ‘People look out for each other in Jaywick,’ was often said.

Although Jaywick is one of the most socially deprived places in the UK it has not always been so. It was developed in the 1920s as part of the Plotlands craze, a scheme to encourage people from the city to buy up disused land to build holiday homes. There were no building regulations and councils were not required to provide sanitation, electricity, or drainage.

Land in Jaywick was bought up by employees of Fords, as it was relatively close to the Dagenham based factory. Chalets were typically constructed from Fords’s packing cases and the streets were named after cars.

During the second world war, London’s East-enders moved out of their bombed homes to live permanently in Jaywick. Whereas other plotland sites in England were developed into new towns, the residents of Jaywick refused to budge.

Over the year’s residents petitioned the council for funding towards sanitation and electricity, and this common purpose created a strong sense of community. Today there have been improvements with roads resurfaced and better facilities.

The halcyon days of Jaywick Sands as a holiday village, are fondly remembered by many Londoners and local people today. A London cabbie once spent our entire journey telling me about his happy childhood memories of Jaywick. There are lots of shared memories on the internet of the Elsan man who emptied the portable toilets, and the bingo and fancy-dress competitions in the clubhouse.

I often ride my bicycle along the coast through Jaywick. Many of the things I write about in The Borrowed Boy have been inspired by things I have seen: the handwritten sign in the window of a chalet that said, burger and chips, fish fingers and chips, sausage and chips, all one pound. The elderly couple in full Hells Angel regalia riding mobility scooters. People in outlandish dress and homes with a stamp of originality. The Irish house with its bright green shamrock and Irish music piped out full volume – did not feature in my novel, but it always makes me smile as I cycle past.

I love Jaywick, and feel it is unfairly maligned by the press. It had to feature in one of my novels and provided the perfect setting for The Borrowed Boy. It was when a writer friend said, ‘It would be a great place to hide out,’ that I had an aha moment, and the story spilled out of me.

About the Author

The Borrowed Boy - head and shoulder DK.jpegDeborah has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.

Her protagonists are often people who exist on the edges of society. Despite the very real, but dark, subject matter her stories are uplifting, combining pathos with humour. They are about self-discovery and the power of friendships and community.

The Borrowed Boy, her debut, was shortlisted for the Deviant Minds Award 2019. Just Bea, her second novel will be published in 2021.

Deborah lives on the Essex coast. When she is not writing she combines her love of baking with trying to burn off the extra calories.

Social Media Links – http://abrakdeborah.wordpress.com

Twitter @deborahKlee

Instagram: Deborah Klee Author

The Borrowed Boy

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.