Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Nightingale, by Amy Lukavics

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Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   Nightingale
Author:   Amy Lukavics
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old June Hardie does not fit in. In 1951, young women are expected to want marriage and a family, and to know how to cook and clean and take care of their husband. June wants to write stories about alien abductions and travel the world as a writer. Her father forces her into a relationship with his partner’s son, and June finds herself practically engaged to the domineering boy, her dreams of becoming a writer shattering, along with June herself.

June ends up in an asylum, a hospital to help women get better. But things there don’t make sense. The words of the other girls make her realize she’s not the only one who thinks this, but those who speak up disappear or worse. And there’s something odd about the head nurse and the doctor. Maybe June really is losing or mind—or maybe there’s more to her story than she ever imagined.

This is marketed as horror, but I didn’t think it was scary—and I’m a big chicken. Instead, it was just weird. Okay, the complete lack of women’s rights plus what was expected of women was horrifying, but the rest of the books was just odd. June is an unreliable narrator at best, and I spent the entire book wondering what, exactly, the point was. The cover is beautiful, though.

Amy Lukavics writes horror fiction. Nightingale is her newest novel.

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Book Review: Embolden, by Syrie James and Ryan St. James

embolden
Image belongs to LDLA Publishing.

Title:   Embolden
Author:   Syrie James and Ryan St. James
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

Being half angel isn’t easy for Claire Brennan. Her mom and grandmother keep a constant eye on her. She must keep her angel boyfriend, Alec, secret from the local Watcher. She’s trying to find her angel father, who was kidnapped 16 years ago. She tries to avoid her vengeful enemies. And then there’s high school, with all its drama, including the school musical.

Claire is developing new powers, ones that will have every person in her life afraid, but it’s the only way to find her father and keep Alec safe. Except Alec is keeping secrets of his own, secrets that could prove dangerous for them both.

I read Forbidden and Embolden back-to-back. I like the premise of angels and Nephilim but have a few difficulties with the basic set-up of these books. Like, why is Alec, over a hundred years old, interested in a teenager? That’s a little creepy. No matter what he looks like, the life experience puts a pretty big gap between them. And Claire herself is…basically a selfish, clueless teenager. She has no problem using her powers on those around her. She only wants to talk about her problems and can’t understand her friends wanting to have their own lives. She’s willful, whiny, and childish, and somehow thinks it’s a good idea to tell all her friends the details of the whole angel/Nephilim world, which is supposed to be a secret. So, not smart, either. Again, interesting concept, but the characters detracted significantly from the execution.

Syrie James and Ryan St. James are a mother and son writing team. Embolden is their newest novel.

(Galley provided by LDLA Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Darkest Star, by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:   The Darkest Star
Author:   Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

When Evie Dasher agrees to go to a club where humans and Luxen can both hang out, she never expects to be caught up in a police raid. Nor does she expect to find herself talking to the very attractive Luc, who annoys her from the beginning. But, one lost cell phone later and Evie finds herself back at the club in search of Luc.

With girls from her high school turning up dead—and left in public places—it’s not safe for Evie to go anywhere, much less with the mysterious Luc. She thinks he might be one of the Luxen, and the girls appear to have been killed by one. But Luc is hiding bigger secrets than that, and soon Evie finds herself right in the middle of a battle.

I’ve never read any of the Luxen books—or anything else by this author—so I was pretty neutral going in. I ended up enjoying the read, despite a few predictable “twists.” Luc was not the most likable character. I found him quite arrogant, and Evie has a few clueless moments, but I still enjoyed the read.

Jennifer L. Armentrout is an award-winning and best-selling author from West Virginia. The Darkest Star is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Umbertouched, by Livia Blackburne

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Image belongs to Disney Hyperion.

Title:  Umbertouched
Author:   Livia Blackburne
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   5 out of 5

Zivah and Dineas failed at their mission and barely escaped with their lives. They have information, but they have no proof of what they know. They desperately need to get home before Ampara attacks their people—who need to be warned of the looming danger.

Dineas spent months thinking he was an Amparan soldier—and now his fellow Shidadi warriors question his loyalty—as does he. Zivah made choices during their mission that broke her healer’s vows, and she’s not sure she can ever regain what she lost—especially when the leaders ask the unthinkable of her. She and the Dineas from Sehmar City were in love, but that Dineas is gone now, leaving both stumbling over their feelings and their history. As Zivah’s plague symptoms return, she struggles to come to terms with her reality—and Dineas fights battles of his own.

I loved Rosemarked, and Umbertouched is just as good! These characters and this world are so vivid and so compelling, that I just can’t put the books down. Zivah is a strong person, but she struggles under so many burdens, afraid to hope as she suffers. And Dineas is torn between two truths:  his whole life as a Shidadi warrior, and his brief time as an Amparan soldier.

Livia Blackburne has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from MIT. Umbertouched is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Salt, by Hannah Moskowitz

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Image belongs to Chronicle Books.

Title:   Salt
Author:   Hannah Moskowitz
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Indi has only ever known one life:  roaming the oceans with his parents, his older sister, his younger brother, and his younger sister as they seek out and destroy the sea monsters plaguing the seas. Their life is spent in secret, trying to keep others outside their calling from knowing about the monsters. Indi grew up thinking it was normal, until his parents disappeared while on the trail of a huge monster, leaving he and his sister Beleza to take care of their younger siblings.

Beleza wants revenge on the monster that killed their parents and will stop at nothing to track it down. Oscar seems intent on becoming a pirate, or at least a very adept thief. Six-year-old Zulu is brilliant but has no chance at an education on the ocean. Indi just wants to take care of his family—and maybe, just maybe, do something for himself just once.

The premise of this novel is pretty incredible:  sea monsters exist, and families that have hunted them for centuries continue to do so, keeping them secret from the rest of the world. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth and fleshing-out of the characters, but the concept was unique. The final battle was a bit of a letdown, but I still enjoyed the adventure.

Hannah Moskowitz’s new novel is Salt.

(Galley provided by Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Boneless Mercies, by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Title:   The Boneless Mercies
Author:  April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre:   Fantasy, young adult
Rating:   5 out of 5

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies. They have no homes, and no families but each other. They travel around dispensing death quickly, quietly, and mercifully when they are hired to. The sick wife with a lingering illness. The elderly man who feels he’s a burden on his children. The father with a child who is suffering and will never recover. The Mercies take care of them all and ease their way from this life.

But Frey and the others are tired of the death trade. When they hear of a ferocious monster rampaging a nearby region and killing everyone it meets, Frey decides it’s their one chance to make enough money to leave their old lives behind. The fame they will earn as well will give them a fresh start. But that monster isn’t the only obstacle they’ll face and ending up in the middle of a witches’ war might be the last thing they’ll do.

I loved this book! The concept was beyond unique, and the setting and mythology—reminiscent of the Norse—was compelling and detailed. There are layers in this story:  layers of mythology, history, and culture that make it feel so vibrant and alive. l loved the characters as well. Their cohesiveness is wonderful, but their individuality really shines. Go read this!

April Genevieve Tucholke lives and writes in Oregon. The Boneless Mercies is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Tomb, by S.A. Bodeen

the tomb
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends.

Title:   The Tomb
Author:   S.A. Bodeen
Genre:   YA, fantasy, sci-fi
Rating:   3 out of 5

Kiva grew up going to school, dreaming of being a doctor, and missing her best friend, Seth, the prince she hasn’t spoken to in three years. Life in ancient Alexandria was simple but good. Or so she thought.  Until she finally speaks to Seth again, and his first words are “Nothing is as it seems.”

Then Kiva finds out her world never existed at all. Instead, she’s been in a sleep chamber in deep space for years, and her world was all virtual reality. And Seth woke up three years ago and never told her the truth.

Now the two of them must find the part their spaceship needs if they are to survive, but there’s been no contact with the other ships harboring the remnants of humanity for years. They’re not sure where they’re going. They’re not sure how to find what they need. And they’ll need all their broken trust in each other if they’re to survive.

This book had an interesting premise, so I was excited to read it. However, within a few pages, most of my interest had faded. I’d love to read something actually set in ancient Alexandria, but I found things a bit anachronistic at first. Which makes sense, considering it was all virtual reality. I never grew to like Seth, and found him condescending and annoying, and Kiva was very naïve, so I didn’t trust anything she said or did. I felt like the story was still a little rough and wasn’t quite fully realized. The premise was promising, but the execution was less-than-stellar.

S.A. Bodeen grew up in Wisconsin, has lived in Africa, and now resides in the Midwest. The Tomb is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: I Do Not Trust You, by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

I do not trust you
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  I Do Not Trust You
Author:   Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out 0f 5

Memphis grew up traveling the world with her father, visiting archeological digs and learning lost languages and cultures. But when her father died unexpectedly, her life changed to boring, normal school with people who think they know more than she does under the watchful eyes of her guardians, friends she never knew her father had.

Until one evening she realizes a shadowy figure is following her. When she catches him by surprise, Memphis meets Ash, sent by an ancient cult to discover the secret her father might have been able to solve. Memphis finds out her dad is still alive, held captive by another ancient cult also after the icons to be found if the secret is revealed.

There’s no way Ash can decipher the clues and find the icons himself. And Memphis doesn’t know where her father is being held. They’ll have to work together for them both to get what they want.

I Do Not Trust You had such an intriguing premise:  adventure, ancient cults, archeological mysteries…but the delivery was a bit short on the adventure front. Memphis was a great character, just a touch naïve, which makes sense, considering she hasn’t had much interaction with people her own age. I loved her intelligence, and her determination. Ash…was just kind of “meh” for me. He wasn’t horrible, just kind of wishy-washy. But this was still a fun, quick read.

Laura J. Burns grew up on Long Island. Melinda Metz grew up in San Jose, California. I Do Not Trust You is the duo’s newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lantern’s Ember, by Colleen Houck

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Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Title:  The Lantern’s Ember
Author:   Colleen Houck
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Jack made a deal with the devil 500 years ago. He doesn’t remember much about that. Or when he was alive. Now he spends his days as a Lantern, one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, which is full of dangerous creatures. And he watches Ember, a young witch who lives in his town.

Ember is curious about Jack. And the Otherworld. She wants to get to know both. When Jack refuses to take her there, she runs away with a mysterious and charming vampire with ulterior motives. But Jack knows someone powerful is after Ember—and her power—and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe.

I loved the steampunk feel of The Lantern’s Ember. And you have to love Jack, the Lantern. That pun alone made it worth the read, along with the Headless Horseman similarities. Ember and Jack both are pretty naïve, but her wonder at the Otherworld shines through every page. A magical read!

New York Times-bestselling author Colleen Houck’s newest novel is The Lantern’s Ember.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes

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Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   Fawkes
Author:   Nadine Brandes
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.

Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.

When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.

I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.

Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)