Categories
Review

Black Sun

By Rebecca Roanhorse

Publication Date: 10/13/2020 ~ Genre: Fantasy

Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

Thoughts:

I was initially drawn to this book just because I’m  a lover of epic, sweeping fantasy novels and that’s all I knew of Black Sun. When I learned it takes place in pre Columbian era America and includes native peoples I was even more excited to read this story! The initial scene draws you in and connects on an emotional level with the reader, piquing curiosity and inspiring you to read just one more page. 

Rebecca Roanhorse creates such distinct, interesting characters. They have their flaws, as we all do, which make them more relatable and well developed. We follow three protagonists, and a forth to a certain extent, in this story and I found I enjoyed each POV, which is usually not the case for me. Each individual plays a part of the overarching narrative and the reader learns aspects of the back story, when necessary, and how each character connections to the present storyline. I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the count down of days just to know how and what was really going to happen; how were each of these lives going to be drawn together and forcefully pulled apart. And it was awesome! I feel like I didn’t get enough of that event; I need to know more. What happens next?

I loved the cultural references included in this story and how the author draws from both fantastical and actual historical references. She’s taken an amazingly diverse, colorful tapestry and made it that much more beautifully intricate. I found myself wanting to know more of the world and the beliefs of each culture.

Overall, this was an interesting, expansive, and beautifully imagined work. I  cannot wait to go back into this world. This is one of my favorite books of 2020. I recommend to all fantasy lovers. Read it and come back and discuss with me as I need others to talk to about this. 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Categories
New Release

New October Releases

Greetings and welcome to a very long list of new October book releases. Below are the 17 books I’m most excited for so pull up goodreads and get ready! Here’s to growing that TBR list! 😀

October 6th

Synopsis:

Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.

Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? 

Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis. 

Synopsis:

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport. 

Synopsis:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Synopsis:

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives

Synopsis:

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.

But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered.

And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

Synopsis:

Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds these words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring the peculiar bunker—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more you fear them, the stronger they become.

With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s LabyrinthThe Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.

October 13th

Synopsis:

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists. 

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

Synopsis:

Emanuela Ragno always gets what she wants. With her daring mind and socialite schemes, she refuses to be the demure young lady everyone wants her to be. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to marry Alessandro Morandi, her childhood best friend and the heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia. Emanuela doesn’t care that she and her groom are both gay, because she doesn’t want a love match. She wants power, and through Ale, she’ll have it all.

But Emanuela has a secret that could shatter her plans. In the city of Occhia, the only source of water is the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses magic to make water from blood. When their first bruise-like omen appears on their skin, all Occhians must surrender themselves to the watercrea to be drained of life. Everyone throughout history has given themselves up for the greater good. Everyone except Emanuela. She’s kept the tiny omen on her hip out of sight for years.

When the watercrea exposes Emanuela during her wedding ceremony and takes her to be sacrificed, Emanuela fights back…and kills her. Now Occhia has no one to make their water and no idea how to get more. In a race against time, Emanuela and Ale must travel through the mysterious, blood-red veil that surrounds their city to uncover the secrets of the watercrea’s magic and find a way to save their people-no matter what it takes. 

Synopsis:

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade. 

Synopsis:

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she was a child.
            Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north. But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden. Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend.
            But when the time comes, she’ll have to choose: safety, anonymity, and the favor of Winter—or the future of the island that she calls home. 

Synopsis:

In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move.

On top of all that, Evvie’s magic abilities are growing stronger by the day. Her family calls it jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents waken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface…

And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.

Synopsis:

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling. 

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan. 

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

Synopsis:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

October 20th

Synopsis:

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

October 27th

Synopsis:

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Synopsis:

Reinmar of Bielau, called Reynevan, flees after being caught in an affair with a knight’s wife.

With strange, mystical forces gathering in the shadows and pursued not only by the Stercza brothers bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools, a medieval asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order.

The ‘patients’ of this institution form an incomparable gallery of colourful types: including, among others, the young Copernicus, proclaiming the truth of the heliocentric solar system. 

Synopsis:

Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.

A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.

A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.

A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.

And if you made it this far, you’re pretty amazing! 🙂 Did you add any of these to your TBR? What are you most looking forward to? I’m currently reading Black Sun and it’s amazing! Definitely recommend to my fellow fantasy lovers. Happy reading, all!

Categories
Review

The Switch

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Pub Date: August 8, 2020 ~ Genre: Contemporary

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects.

But stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find true love? In Beth O’Leary’s The Switch, it’s never too late to change everything….or to find yourself.

Thoughts:

This book was such a lovely surprise! 

I don’t often read contemporary but I gave this one a shot as it was available to me through NetGalley audio. I would recommend this on audio, as I found the narrators enjoyable and like listening to good friends. That being said, I did buy this in actual book form for my non-audiobook -listening mom. I feel it’s a great read in any form. 🙂

The Switch follows Eileen and Leena, a grandmother and a granddaughter, both reeling from the loss of Leena’s sister and Eileen’s granddaughter, Carla. We follow the two as they’ve become accustomed to their lives a year after Carla’s death. Leena is living in London, doing her best to survive by avoiding her mother and speaking to her grandmother occasionally on the phone, but mostly remaining buried in work.  

Eileen is the picture of a warm grandmotherly type, who just wants the best for everyone and hosts all the family get-togethers. Eileen is one of those competent, caring women who could step into your life, immediately recognize what needs to be done, and start to work on it. She proceeds in this fashion in the lives of everyone around her and I got the distinct feeling she elevates the lives of those lucky enough to be close to her.

Eileen and Leena make the switch with Leena moving to her grandmother’s cozy home two hours away and Eileen moving into Leena’s London flat. All goes as predicted with each woman attempting to navigate the new environment and bumbling along through the other woman’s life and relationships but each flourishes in her own way. Leena learns some new self-truths and Eileen gets to explore living a life she dreamed about as a younger person but never got to pursue.

Overall, I loved this book for its warmth and genuine approach to loss. Avoidance is a common emotional response to pain. Leena’s avoidance of the feelings related to her mother, in relationship to her sister felt authentic. I wish there had been some mention of attending therapy for grief and loss as this would have been beneficial to Leena but that’s really the only concern I had with this book. I would recommend this to anyone needing a funny, cozy fall read. This one just hit the spot. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Categories
Review

The Year Of The Witching

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Pub Date: July 21, 2020 ~ Genre: Horror/fantasy

Synopsis:

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her. 

Thoughts:

Blood, blight, darkness, slaughter. 

This is a dark feminist tale that somehow manages to capture misogyny, racism, and xenophobia in one story and truly makes it work in this puritanical, fictional world full of devils of our own making.  This story emphasizes the most heinous parts of reality today, while set in the distant past. So much happens in this story but I think its best to go in mostly blind. I’ll keep this short. 

Immanuelle is a character closed off to the world around her, happy with her world as is, comfortable with her limited understanding. Except, not really. Immanuelle has always felt a pull from the dark woods where she knows she cannot go. Evil exists in the dark woods; when you go in, you don’t come back out. Along with this mysterious pull to darkness, Immanuelle feels the injustice of her world and sees how things could be better. A turning point happens with she learns the full story of her mother and then knows exactly what she must do.

Overall, this is a fast paced novel with an ominous atmosphere and gruesome, bloody parts that just keep you turning the pages. I didn’t find this too creepy though it definitely belongs in the horror genre. Pick this up for spooky season! 🙂 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Categories
Review

When Life Gives You Mangos

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

Thanks so much to the publisher for supplying an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub Date: September 15, 2020 (this date may have been pushed back, as amazon says October 20)

Genre: Middle Grade

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there’s nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah–even though lately she’s not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn’t been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks…only she knows those aren’t her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island–and give Clara a summer she won’t forget.

Thoughts:

This is such a fun book, packed full of important messages regarding trauma, bullying, and grief and loss. Clara is a 12 year old girl living the island life. She spends her summer playing games with other island kids and hanging out with her best friend. We learn, early in the book, Clara is having some difficulty remembering events from her past. When the cause of the memory loss is revealed,  it’s the perfect twist ending.

Prior to the end though, we follow along as Clara learns things aren’t always what they seem. Clara teams up with a new friend, Rudy, who teaches Clara to challenge what she’s been taught and find her own answers. I really enjoyed my time with Clara and could almost hear the ocean waves as Getten’s writing is so descriptive and immersive.

Overall, I finished this book in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. As the reader becomes more familiar with Clara’s world, it’s difficult to leave it with questions left unanswered. I recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a feel-good island book with a little mystery thrown in. You just can’t go wrong with this one. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Categories
Review

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Pub Date: September 15, 2020 ~ Genre: Adult Fiction/Sci-fi

Thank you to BookishFirst.com for supplying an ARC of this book. 

Synopsis:

It was supposed to be a routine research mission on an uncolonized planet. But when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, the outcome transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.

Her journey to discover the truth about the alien civilization will thrust her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact, epic space battles for the fate of humankind, and the farthest reaches of the galaxy.

Thoughts:

I am a sci fi fan. I feel quiet comfortable stating that as fact so I was so excited to learn about this new space opera from the author of Eragon. Receiving this book in the mail I was initially confused by the size of the package and thought it was two books at first. This chunky story is 825 pages. I absolutely love a chunky story when the story is one I love but this one, not so much. It feels like this book is two in one. There’s a clear build to culminating events in both parts of the story, with supporting events along the way.

I almost wish they would’ve made this two books. I think I may have enjoyed it more. Not to say I didn’t enjoy this story, I did, but I also feel, if you’re not a huge sci fi fan, this may not be the book for you. The reasons are as follows. This story is extremely plot driven, to the point where the reader feels little to no connection to the characters whatsoever. I was about halfway through this book and just felt like something was missing. When I reflected on my attachment to the characters, I realized it was nonexistent. The overall story is amazing but the characters felt underdeveloped.

For example, the first major event in the story, in which the MC experiences something entirely traumatic, we never get to see the character react to the event. We never see her fully express emotions about that event besides mentioning it occasionally and it just didn’t feel right to me. Throughout the first half, I was waiting for this trauma to be a big deal to the MC but I felt like it never was. It was pushed aside to allow the MC to continue her role in the plot.

Also, the romance was such an afterthought, I’m wondering why it was attempted at all. It doesn’t make sense besides a matter of proximity but I guess sometimes that’s all that’s needed (?).  

Now a word or two about the storyline, which was awesome! As I mentioned, I am a sci fi fan and this book gave me just what I craved in every sci fi story. I love first contact books and this one gives it to you in such creative ways. The plot is fast paced to such an extent as to give you whip lash at times but propels the reader through this lengthy book at quite a clip! I really enjoyed the research that went into this story and respect the author’s dedication to the quality of his work and the information presented. The scientific aspect is impressive!

Overall, this story had such character potential! There’s a bad-ass captain, a relatable second in command, and crew each with a semblance of their own personalities but were never fully actualized. However, the storyline was beyond interesting and if the character element had been there, this would have been one of my favorite sci fi stories of all time. Unfortunately, it just didn’t hit the mark for me. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Categories
Review

Raybearer

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Pub Date: August 18, 2020 ~ Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Thank you so much to the publishers for providing an ARC audiobook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The epic debut YA fantasy from an incredible new talent–perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as the Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But the Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn–but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love. 

Thoughts:

The need for unconditional love and acceptance is at the heart of this story. Tarisai is a girl created for a specific purpose by her mother, otherwise known in this world as, The Lady. Tarisai grows up never feeling unconditional love rather, The Lady visits once a year and keeps her child at a distance to be raised instead by staff. Though the reader learns the reason for this later in the book, it never felt justified to me, more like the agenda of a person on a mission and choosing to sacrifice a relationship with a child for revenge. 

Tarisai is shaped by her upbringing and I like how the author keeps her behavior consistent throughout the narrative. I never felt like Tarisai suddenly became someone else, no, she was and is the person her mother helped form. This story, to me, feels like an epic fantasy and that’s what we see in the beginning. The world building is vast and the magic system is intricate, I never felt lost though, it’s just another facet of the world.

The reader follows along as Tarisai goes from childhood to older teen, becomes a chosen one, counsel member, and gains a new understanding about her power. The character of Tarisai grows and becomes more insightful, shifting her perspective.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in this world and am looking forward to continuing on in the next book. I did listen to this on audio and loved the sounds and songs included in the story. The audio adds a little more depth to this immersive story. I would recommend this to anyone who loves strong world building and well developed, complicated characters. This book will take you on a ride. 🙂 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Categories
Review

The Lion’s Den

The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John

Pub Date: June 30, 2020 ~ Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend’s yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she’s aboard the luxurious Lion’s Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle’s dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host-and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. 

Belle realizes she’s going to have to keep her wits about her — and her own big secret closely hidden — if she wants to make it off the yacht alive.

Thoughts:

This book was a highly addicting, highly entertaining, fast paced read! 

The Lion’s Den is one of those books that pulls the reader in quickly and completely with an immersive narrative and relatable main character. It started as an escapist, below deck, type of story in which one wants to just binge all the episodes all at once. But, as the story continues, the narrative becomes deeper and darkly ominous.

The reader follows the main character, Belle, a struggling actress who is beautiful and confident as well as realistic and kind. The story weaves between the present and the past, providing readers with a foundation of the friendship between Belle and Summer.  Belle’s really the only character of substance in this story, as the side characters are all shallow, vapid, and obsessed with the elite lifestyle. Belle agrees to celebrate her best friend Summer’s birthday, aboard Summer’s rich, much older, boyfriend’s yacht in the Mediterranean. The dynamic is tense among the party goers from the start and the reader feels conflicted at times, knowing Belle’s thoughts about Summer but of course, we never know everything until the end.  The tension continues to increase as the manipulation and gas lighting escalate.  The unclear aspects of the story come together as the past story intersects with the present and the reader is left on pins and needles anticipating the culmination of events. 

Overall, this was a highly entertaining, fast paced read that I enjoyed from beginning to end. The cattiness and passive aggressive behavior contributes to the addictiveness of this read. I could not put it down and I didn’t want to! Do yourself a favor and pick up this escapist thriller asap! 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Categories
Review

Author Interview: Jason Price

I recently read and reviewed Pleasant Grove by Jason Price. You can find my full review here. Pleasant Grove is such an entertaining story that I jumped at the chance to interview the author. Below we discuss inspiration, character development, and the continuation of the story.

All questions included in this interview are my own.

1. Can you tell me about what inspired this story or where the idea originated? 

Jason: The novel is dedicated to my wife and daughters. The girls are in grade school and they’ll soon be reaching the same age when I first discovered Amblin films. I wanted them to read a book that captured the same sense of wonder and magic. Specifically, girls on an adventure. The story idea originated with the third act, which is difficult to discuss without spoiling the fun. As for influences, there’s certainly Spielberg and Serling. A touch of R.L. Stine and King. I’ve always enjoyed stories where you’re not entirely sure what genre you’re in.

2. Each of the characters in Agnes’ friend group feel like distinct people, each with their own personalities. Can you tell me about the character writing process and how you made each character’s voice unique? 

Jason: Each of the girls’ personalities is informed by their home life. Agnes is curious; she asks questions, even when her parents are less than forthcoming…and she’s determined to discover the answers to those questions at any cost. Dakota, on the other hand, her parents are absent, and the promise of adventure thrills her. She’s also a little reckless. As for Maddie, her parents want to keep her from growing up, so the looming danger terrifies her. Her character arc will force her out of her parents’ shadows. I also wanted the reader to feel empathy toward the grownups in the town – to understand the lengths parents will go, and the secrets they’ll keep, to protect their children from the truth of the world. My favorite supernatural stories are rooted in the familiar, where as much care is given to the ordinary as the extraordinary. 

3. There’s a culminating event in which the characters are put in a pretty serious situation. Did you struggle to keep the narrative within the middle grade age range? 

Jason: While it was important to strike the right tone, I didn’t shy away from the scares. There’s not a lot of violence in the novel, but I wanted the threat to resonate, for any violence to have consequences. I wanted the story to be dangerous, but not traumatic. Fun, but not frivolous. It’s probably upper middle-grade for this reason, but my hope is that it’s enjoyed by readers of all ages. It’s for the child inside us all, who still remembers that the biggest adventures can begin in the backyard of an ordinary house in a small town. As the kids attempt to escape the lockdown, the story becomes a meditation on what it means to grow up, to leave a hometown, what’s gained and what’s lost. Like those transformative middle-grade years, the book is an epic adventure that’s a little scary…a little funny…and maybe a little heartbreaking. 

4. What was your favorite part about writing this book? 

Jason: The town. Pleasant Grove is a farming community, where the clothes are DIY, like something from the 1850s, like Little House on the Prairie. The neighborhood, with its identical houses framed by white picket fences, with street names like Maple and Oak Creek, it could be out of a 1950s sitcom, like Leave It To Beaver. Then there are those wind turbines rising at the edge of town like spires and the towering glass dome that encloses the town…like something from 2050. I wanted the reader to have a map of Pleasant Grove in their mind, for it to feel as familiar as their own hometown. In those early chapters, while I’m introducing mysteries and opening the door of possibilities, I’m also establishing Pleasant Grove as a character. It was a thrill to create something so unlike anything I’ve ever read. A town that, in many ways, exists outside of time.

5. Do you have a favorite Pleasant Grove character?

Jason: Old Man Turner, Agnes’s neighbor. He’s the Boo Radley of the town. We don’t know his first name because the kids don’t know his first name; so, they form an idea of who Old Man Turner is. He’s the guy on your street who’s a little strange, who’s perpetually grumpy, who keeps to himself. His third act reveal was a surprise to me…I hope it’s a surprise to the reader as well. Like Mockingbird, there’s a payoff for his aloofness – one that enriches both his character and the story itself.

6. The ending left off on quite a cliffhanger. Is book two in the works? 

Jason: Here’s the interesting thing about the final scene: it was originally the beginning. But the story took on a life of its own; and, so, I tucked away that little kernel of an idea until I could use it. Then it became the curtain call. Some of my favorite stories end with a twist that stirs the heart and mind. I have kernels for book two, but we’ll see if the popcorn pops. 

7. Did you always want to be an author?

Jason: I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote screenplays in high school. In college, my stage plays were performed at the Alley Theatre and Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston. I studied under Edward Albee at the University of Houston. While a play isn’t complete without a cast and crew, a novel is complete at “The End.” There’s a unique freedom in the long-form narrative that appeals to me.

8. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers? 

Jason: I hope you have as much fun reading Pleasant Grove as I had writing it. There’s nothing more valuable than time. And whether you give me one page, or ten, or the full 377, know this: I consider your time valuable. I hope I’ve made every word count. 

About the author:

Jason: I grew up in a suburb of Houston. As a kid, I stayed up late watching movies, sometimes writing reviews I’d leave for my dad to read before he left for work in the morning. I’ve worked in film publicity and promotions for almost 20 years.

Thanks so much to Jason Price for allowing me to do my first author interview and providing me with a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. I had a blast in this world and recommend to anyone looking for an eerie, creepy setting in which to escape. 🙂 Get your own copy here.

Categories
New Release

New September Releases

Who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of new book releases in September? Nah, it’s too exciting! 😀

Let’s start with September 1st

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Synopsis:

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Synopsis:

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear? 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis:

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. 

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

September 8th

Publisher: Harperteen

Synopsis:

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

Publisher: Orbit

Synopsis:

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people. 

Publisher: Scout Press

Synopsis:

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be? 

September 15th

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis:

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid? 

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Synopsis:

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

September 22nd

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Synopsis:

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New. 

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Synopsis:

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? 

September 29th

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Synopsis:

The Karensa Federation has conquered a dozen countries, leaving Mara as one of the last free nations in the world. Refugees flee to its borders to escape a fate worse than death―transformation into mutant war beasts known as Ghosts, creatures the Federation then sends to attack Mara.

The legendary Strikers, Mara’s elite fighting force, are trained to stop these monsters. But as the number of Ghosts grows and Karensa closes in, defeat seems inevitable.

Still, one Striker refuses to give up hope.

Robbed of her voice and home, Talin Kanami knows firsthand the brutality of the Federation. Their cruelty forced her and her mother to seek asylum in a country that finds their people repugnant. She finds comfort only with a handful of fellow Strikers who have pledged their lives to one another, soldiers determined to push Karensa back at all costs.

After another devastating battle, Mara seems ready to fall. But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? Or could he be the weapon that will save them all?

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Synopsis:

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students. 

Finally, two sequels I’m dying to read! The Forgotten Kingdom releases 9/15 and The Trials of Koli releases 9/17. I feel like I read The Lost Queen so long ago and I read The Book of Koli earlier in the year but I can’t wait to dive back into these immersive worlds!

So, those are the books I’m most excited for, releasing in September. September is my birthday month so I feel like I’m getting a big gift with the release of so many amazing titles! 😀 Please let me know what you’re excited for so I can increase my TBR even more! Thanks for reading and have an amazing day!