Reviews: Dark Spell and The Testing

Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnott

Dark Spell

Publication date: August 1st 2013

Publisher: Kelpies

Number of pages: 216

Source: From the publisher in exchange for review. This is my honest opinion.

Date finished reading: 19th December 2013


 Goodreads synopsis:

Fifteen-year-year-old Callie Hall has just found out that she is a witch…and things keep going wrong. Sometimes her mind seems to make things happen, things she cannot control. She can set fire to things without a match, and when shes angry people can get hurt. Her friend Josh understands that shes a bit strange, but it is only on a dark and dangerous visit to the tunnels beneath the ruins of St Andrews’ castle that he realizes just how strange she really is. Something comes back with Callie–in Callie–something she cannot escape. Can Callie control her power long enough to send back the darkness before it takes over her life? Will Josh ever understand her secret? A brilliant, engrossing young peoples fantasy from the author of Winterbringers and The Keepers Daughter.



I really don’t like giving books a rating under three stars. But in this case I pretty much have to, due to this being a review book.

Most of my issues we Callie (the main character) related. She wasn’t particularly smart and her challenges were typically brought on by herself. Then there was her relationship with Josh. It was very unrealistic and I didn’t believe in it. The way she and him spoke was basic and once again, unrealistic.

One thing I did like, was that it was a quick and easy read.

Dark Spell is definitely meant for a younger audience. There were some scenes a nine year old might enjoy and find spookier, so maybe I’d recommend it for 8-10 year olds (mature 8 year olds). I like the cover and think they would quite like it too.

 2/5 stars!

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 Goodreads author bio:

Gill ArbuthnottI was born and brought up in Edinburgh, where I went to James Gillespie’s High School, famous as the school where the author Muriel Spark was educated, and on which she based her most famous book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Almost all the teachers when I was there seemed to be wildly eccentric spinsters. There was one maths teacher who would climb into a cupboard at one end of the room, and reappear out from a cupboard door at the other end! Then there was Miss Dalgliesh. She was my teacher in Primary 5. She always wore a black teaching gown, and used to swoop round the room like a large, friendly rook. She had a stuffed tawny owl in her room, and if you were particularly good, you might be allowed to take it home for the night! She used to invite some of us (we were all girls in Gillespie’s back then) to the flat she shared with her sister, to eat cream cakes and listen to her sister play the piano… I don’t think they don’t make teachers like that any more, sadly.

When I finished school I went off to St Andrew’s University to study Zoology, then did teacher training (just so I could have another year lolling around as a student really). At that point, I thought I wanted to be a proper Scientist, so I went off to Southampton University to start a PhD. Unfortunately, I was rubbish at research. I wasn’t nearly clever enough. So I became a Biology teacher instead!

All the time though, what I really wanted to do was write. I wrote in secret (I know, how sad is that?) so that not even my family knew my Dark Secret. I tried a couple of books for adults, but just amassed a splendid collection of rejection slips. Then I saw the Millennium Clock in the museum in Edinburgh, and suddenly I was writing the Chaos Clock, and suddenly it had turned into a childrens’ book. I still don’t quite know how that happened. It seemed to just decide it was a childrens’ book, and I didn’t feel I was in a position to argue with it.

Now, I can’t imagine why I ever wanted to write for adults. This has got to be the best job in the world… 


 The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, #1)

Publication date: June 4th 2013

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Number of pages: 336

Series: The Testing (1#)

Source: Borrowed. This is my honest opinion.

Date finished reading: 22nd December 2013


 Goodreads synopsis:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.



This is pretty much the perfect book for Hunger Games fans. Cause basically, it’s like The Hunger Games with super smart people!

That being said, I can’t ignore all the similarities to The Hunger Games. That’s why I’m only giving this book 4.5/5 stars. At first after reading reviews of this book, and seeing reviewers mention the likeliness to The Hunger Games, I was a bit skeptical. Then I read about a third of the book and was like, well there are some small similarities but nothing major. But the further into the book I got, the more similarities grew. I saw characters from The Hunger Games in this book. This is a minor spoiler but people died from poisonous plants in this book. There were bombs and crossbows etc.

I just felt like I had to put that in case you are looking for a very unique book. To be honest, I didn’t really mind all the similarities because a lot of them were ones that I liked. Strong main character who was smart. Her logic was really impressive, as was her survival skills.

Boy was there betrayal in this book. That quote at the bottom of the synopsis really sums it up – “Don’t trust anyone”. I had no idea who to trust.

Also, some very unexpected events happened. I have warned you.

But my absolute favourite part of The Testing was the, well, testing. The tests were really intense and kept me up way past than I wanted to be up. I just HAD to know what was going to happen and if she’d pass.

I really need to read Independent Study now. I need to know what will happen to Cia now. The only problem is that it’s not released yet. You know, a slight issue. I’m pretty sure the final book is also being released next year which isn’t such a bad thing either.

  4.5/5 stars!

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 Goodreads author bio:

Joelle CharbonneauI am a storyteller at heart. I have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children’s theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.

While I’m happy to perform for an audience, I am equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use my experience from the stage to create compelling characters on the page. I am the author of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series (Minotaur Books), The Paige Marshall Glee Club mysteries (Berkley) and The Testing YA triology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).


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