Tag: fantasy

Book Review: The Forgotten Book, by Mechthild Gläser

the forgotten book
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.

Emma’s life is pretty good. She attends a prestigious boarding school. Her friends all trust her enough to ask her for advice. She’s pretty sure the guy she’s had a crush on for ages is about to ask her out. Things are going well. Except for arrogant Darcy de Winter, the heir to the family who owns the school, who’s there searching for clues about his missing sister.

Then someone trashes the abandoned library Emma and her friends have taken as “theirs,” and Emma finds an old book hidden there. The book is filled with pages written by many different people over the years. A diary of sorts, Emma thinks, and she starts writing in it as well.

When the things Emma writes in the book come true—sort of—Emma realizes there’s more to the book than she thought. But someone else knows of the book’s power, and will stop at nothing to take it from Emma. Emma must unravel the mysteries hidden in the book—and the school—if she’s to figure out what the book is—and who’s after it.

The Forgotten Book is labeled as YA, but that seems a tiny bit too old for this book, to me. Or maybe Emma’s led such a sheltered life that she seems younger. And, considering this is a boarding school, there is surprising little conflict or animosity between a group of students who all live together. Everyone gets along. That was the most far-fetched part of this book for me. Not the magic book.

I enjoyed the mystery, as Emma tries to figure out the secrets of the book, as well as the mysterious creature mentioned in the book. The school sounds like a fantastical place to live, or at least to visit. Emma is an interesting character:  she’s very innocent and oblivious to some things, but she’s inquisitive enough to make up for her naivety.

Mechthild Gläser is an award-winning German author. The Forgotten Book is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

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Book Review: The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden

the girl in the tower
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Vasya has long seen creatures from legend, and her ability to see has brought trouble down upon her and her family. Only the aid of Morozko (Frost, the winter demon from the stories) has kept her alive so far, and the love of Solovey, her magnificent stallion. With her parents dead and her village casting her out as a witch, Vasya knows her options are limited:  life in a convent or marriage to a Moscovite prince. She wants neither, and disguises herself as a boy as she sets out to explore the world.

She finds burned villages, missing girls, and bandits that vanish leaving no traces behind. After she rescues three girls from the bandits, the Grand Prince of Moscow calls her a hero, and she is reunited with her brother and sister. But Vasya cannot reveal that she is female, or her entire family risks disgrace and death. Soon she realizes that a danger stalks Moscow and the Grand Prince, and even Morozko, who she no longer knows if she can trust, may not be able to help her.

Have you ever identified with a character so completely that it almost broke your heart? That’s how I felt about Vasya as I was reading The Girl in the Tower. Everyone wants her to be content to marry, raise a family, and be conventional, but she wants anything but that. She wants to travel, live her life, and be happy, but the people around her don’t want that for her:  they want her to conform. And she doesn’t want to hurt those she loves, so she’s torn.

Vasya is a powerful character, so relatable that you want to cry for her struggles. This is a magical, vibrant book, and wonder permeates every page. The setting is so vividly depicted that I found myself shivering—and I hate cold weather!

Katherine Arden is from Texas, but lived in Vermont, Russia, Hawaii, France, and Hawaii (again). She has picked Macadamia nuts, made smoothies, and sold real estate, but now she writes. The Girl in the Tower is her newest novel, the second book in The Winternight trilogy.

Go. Read this! And if you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale, read it first!

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Gorgeous covers!

(Galley provided by Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Seventh Decimate, by Stephen R. Donaldson

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Image belongs to Berkely.

Belleger and Amika have been at war for centuries, with their sorcerers hurling destruction and pestilence at each other and tearing the nations apart. Then Belleger’s sorcerers are stripped of their magic, and Belleger is on the verge of falling. But Prince Bifalt refuses to let that happen.

He sets out in search of the library that is the repository of the sorcerers’ knowledge, to find a decimate greater than the one used against his land, but what he really wants is to destroy all sorcerers. Through battles, desert, and near-starvation, Prince Bifalt searches for the repository, unaware that there are greater things in motion than he can even imagine.

I’ve read the Thomas Covenant books several times, and enjoyed them, but Covenant is not a likeable character. And neither is Prince Bifalt. Frequently, I felt the urge to shake him, for his blindness and refusal to consider anything but his own beliefs. Donaldson creates a vivid world, but I had a really hard time connecting with the Prince, and that made the book drag a bit for me.

Stephen R. Donaldson was born in Ohio, but grew up in India. His is the author of the Thomas Covenant books. His newest novel, Seventh Decimate, is the first in The Great God’s War trilogy.

(Galley provided by Berkely via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Rosemarked, by Livia Blackburne

rosemarked
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Zivah has barely become a healer when she is tasked with caring for the ill soldiers of the nation oppressing her own. Eager to save as many soldiers as she can—to keep her people safe—she cares for the commander, who survives, but Zivah falls victim to the plague. She knows she’ll die from the plague, she just doesn’t know when.

Given the chance to continue helping her people. Zivah agrees to a spying mission with Dineas, a warrior broken by torture who lives only to overthrow the empire intent on crushing both their people. The two will have only each other to rely on as they journey into the heart of enemy territory, desperate to find any chance of saving their people.

Rosemarked is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. From the first page, I was enthralled by the world, the plot, and especially the characters. The concept of the rose plague is fascinating—a deadly virus that kills most of its victim, leaving only some alive as carriers destined to die, and a few lucky immune, both forever marked by the virus. Zivah struggles with pitting her beliefs against her loyalty to both her people and Dineas, and her conflict weaves throughout the story. Dineas is so emotionally scarred all he can see is revenge, yet he is conflicted after getting to know some of the enemy. The dynamic between the two is absolutely riveting. You MUST read this! I cannot wait for the next book.

Livia Blackburne is the New York Times-bestselling author of the Midnight Thief series. Rosemarked is her newest novel, the first in a new series.

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

Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

beasts of extraordinary circumstance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves. He met Mary when she was 11 years old, when he saved her from an angry wolf. Weylyn knows strange things happen around him—like stopping that tornado on Christmas Day—but he prefers to give the credit to his horned pig, Merlin.

Freak storms, trees that grow overnight, hurricanes that mysteriously dissipate; Weylyn has been around them all. Though it all, his love for Mary stays strong, until he realizes that she might come to harm. Then he knows he must move on. Instead of stopping hurricanes, the magic in his life now consists of fireflies who make phosphorescent honey. But, through it all, his love for Mary remains strong. All he needs is the courage to knock on her door.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is classified as fantasy/sci-fi, but to me, it’s more magical realism. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, and different is a very good thing. This is told not only from Weylyn’s point-of-view, but from that of those who know him. There is magic on every page, and wonder hides here as well.

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Scotland, but moved to Ohio when she was four. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

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

 

 

Book Review: The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

the beautiful ones
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books.

Antonina Beaulieu is more used to country living and studying beetles, but when she comes to the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, that changes. Under the guidance of Valérie Beaulieu, her beautiful and cold aunt, Nina sets out to find a husband. She’ll just have to keep her tendency to say what she thinks and her telekinetic powers under wraps if she wants to keep the gossip at bay.

Then Nina meets Hector Auvray, a telekinetic performer who sees her powers as a gift. As Hector helps Nina develop her talents, she falls in love with him. But Hector is keeping a dark secret that could tear Nina’s world apart.

The Beautiful Ones is both magical and beautiful, with a Jane Austen-like feel for its also being a comedy of manners. Nina is a brave girl who stumbles as she enters a new world she doesn’t understand. Nina’s propensity to speak her mind and act without thinking gives her trouble at the hands of the elite of society, but her love for Hector gives her hope.

Hector is battling demons from his past, and his good intentions are often derailed at the hands of long-held dreams. The battles he faces are as hard as those of Nina, and the darkness threatens to overtake them both. I loved this book! Very different, with hints of steampunk twisted with a classical literary feel.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an award-winning author. The Beautiful Ones is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

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Book Review: The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz

Midnight-Dance
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Seventeen-year-old Penny loves dancing at the Grande Teatro, a school where she and eleven other girls are training to become the best dancers in all of Italy. She loves to dance. And she loves the Master, the handsome owner of the school. Or…does she?

When Penny starts seeing flashes of a life she doesn’t remember living, she starts asking questions, which lands her in trouble with the Master. But Cricket, the kitchen boy, helps her and she realizes that her life is not what it seems. Desperate to find out the truth, Penny searches for answers, but the Master is one step ahead of her every move. If she does not find the answers she seeks, her memories will be stolen from her forever.

The Midnight Dance starts off when Penny first notices something strange, and the reader sees everything through her eyes, sharing her confusion and fear. This dark novel is both captivating and creepy, told in alternating timelines as the Master’s past is revealed. Penny struggles with the mystery and with the pain of having her memories removed, but she keeps fighting despite the overwhelming odds. I enjoyed this very much, and am looking forward to more from this author.

Nikki Katz has a degree in rocket science. The Midnight Dance is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Select, by Marit Weisenberg

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Image belongs to Charlesbridge Teen.

Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.

There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.

So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing?  What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.

Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Select is the first book in the Select series.

(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller

mask of shadows
Image belongs to Sourcebooks.

*Just to be clear, the main character of Mask of Shadows is gender-fluid, and the author would like reviews to use they/them pronouns for continuity, so that’s what I’m doing.*

Sallot Leon is the only survivor of a shadow war that sacrificed their entire nation years ago. More than anything, Sal wants revenge. When one of the Left Hand—the queen’s elite quartet of assassins—dies, Sal decides to stop being a thief and become Opal.

But competition for the spot of Opal is fierce. It’s more than fighting. The competition also includes lessons in healing, poisons, and even reading—where Sal meets Elise, a scribe who’s also frustrated with the status quo at court. Only one apprentice becomes Opal. The rest die. And meals and lessons are the only violence-free times, so Sal must be alert always if they want to stay alive, while trying to find out just who was behind the massacre of their people so they can finally have their revenge. And winning would be nice, too.

There’s been a big deal made about Sal being gender-fluid, and the novel itself shows a dichotomy of sorts. 1)  The characters in the novel really don’t make a big deal about this. Sort of Oh, you’re gender fluid? Cool. Whatever. 2) Sal gets emotional when someone treats them like the gender-fluidity is no big deal, as if it has normally been a big deal in the past. Which one of these things is accurate? Because I don’t think they can both be accurate:  it’s either a big deal, or it isn’t. I noticed the dichotomy, but it didn’t detract from the story for me.

That issue aside, I enjoyed this book immensely. I’ve also seen a ton of “Oh, this is just like The Hunger Games” comments. Yes, there’s the whole there-can-be-only-one-survivor competition angle that’s the same, and…that’s the only similarity I saw, so I wouldn’t say just like The Hunger Games. The history in the novel wasn’t super clear to me—I did not get a clear picture of the political climate and what happened with the destruction of Sal’s nation—nor did I find out as much as I wanted to about the shadows, but the book was a great read, with plenty of action and conflict, and a unique main character that I liked a lot.

Linsey Miller is a former biology student turned MFA candidate. Mask of Shadows is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dream Me, by Kathryn Berla

dream me
Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

Babe is always the new girl in town. Always. So, when her family moves to Florida one summer, she doesn’t expect much, just a regular life working for the local country club and its upper-class members. But she makes friends and starts to imagine a life there. Then the headaches start, terrible, blinding ones that seem to be caused by the dreams she has every single night.

Zat is a dreamer from a far distant future where people no longer dream and Earth is dying. In his dreams, he sees red-haired Babe and longs to experience the life she embraces. Instead of leaving Earth with his family, he chooses to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams, but he never imagines those dreams will cause her so much pain. While Babe clings to their dream life together, Zat tries to pull away so he no longer hurts her. Soon they must make a choice between dreams and reality.

I’ve read some great books lately, and Dream Me is one of them. The whole premise is unique, since Zat only exists in Babe’s dreams, but the characters are so vivid they feel like I know them personally. Zat’s bleak existence made me feel sorry for him, and I could relate to Babe’s tough exterior, caused by her challenging life. These characters are deep and compelling, and the novel blends YA with fantasy seamlessly, with an added does of mystery—what is Zat hiding? Will they find a solution? Even the setting—the steamy Florida coast—lives and breathes on the page. If you love YA, fantasy, romance, or sci-fi, you should read this!

Kathryn Berla lives in San Francisco. Her newest novel, Dream Me, hits shelves on July 11th.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing in return for an honest review.)