Tag: fantasy

Book Review: The Girl and the Grove, by Eric Smith

the girl and the grove
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   The Girl and the Grove
Author:   Eric Smith
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Leila hasn’t had an easy life. Bounced from foster home to group home, the only constant she’s had is her best friend Sarika. Now Leila is adopted, and she loves her new home, even if she’s still waiting on the other shoe to drop and her new parents to decide they don’t want her.

To make new friends, Leila joins an environmental group at a local high school, and soon finds herself chatting with the cute leader of the group, whose ex-girlfriend is determined to make trouble for Leila and Sarika.

Then the voice in Leila’s head starts demanding her attention, and her coping methods no longer work. On impulse, she follows the voice’s direction to a grove deep in the local park. The grove is a place of old magic, and Leila discovers the truth about herself, and a danger that threatens the entire city.

A YA book about environmental issues? Yes, please. Throw in a diverse cast of characters who also fight against racism, and that upped my interest even more. I loved the premise of this novel, and the magical element made it even more promising. With Leila’s fears and insecurities from being adopted front and center, there was a lot going on in this book.

However, Leila and Sarika weren’t consistent enough to make them completely believable to me. Leila had a wonderful strength, was very outspoken and strong-willed, yet sometimes she seemed so naïve and childish in her thoughts and actions. Sarika was brazen towards others, although she showed her softer side to Leila. Their friendship was amazing, but then they’d throw in an f-bomb or two, and it seemed totally out-of-character, as if the cussing was just to make them seem more adult. Gratuitous profanity just didn’t fit the rest of their character. Actually, all of the teenagers had this dichotomy of personality, so their actions and personality were never cohesive. I never got a good sense of the why behind this erratic behavior.

Eric Smith is an author and literary agent. The Girl and the Grove is his newest novel.

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

@ericsmithrocks #thegirlandthegrove

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Book Review: Song of Blood and Stone, by L. Penelope

song
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Song of Blood and Stone
Author:  L. Penelope
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:   4.5/5

Jasminda lives in an isolated cabin in Elsira, where her Earthsong, though weak, makes her an outcast—as does her being half Elsiran and half Lagrimaran. She has no one, and she prefers it that way, as too many people have always treated her like trash. When a dangerous group of soldiers from nearby Lagrimar invade her home to escape a storm, she must convince them she’s not a danger—and that she’s one of them.

Their prisoner, Jack, captures her attention. His mission to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall at the hands of the True Father almost cost him his life. Only Jasminda’s power kept him alive, and now he needs her help to escape, and to save all Elsira.

As the power of the True Father grows stronger, Jasminda and Jack must uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps if they are to stop his despotic power from overwhelming their land. But the enemies they face are not just outsiders, and they must choose between what they want and what they must do if they are to survive.

Because I choose to read books on whether the plot is appealing to me (okay, and depending on how much I like the cover), I didn’t realize going in that this book is, as the author says, “a fantasy romance about brown people.” I also didn’t really pay attention to this fact while reading it, and only noticed while reading some of the publicity surrounding it, and the author’s site. However, the truth of what it is lent the story some incredible nuances and layers that brought the entire world to vibrant, shimmering life.

I was hooked from the very first page. Jasminda is a strong character, but she’s hiding her hurts behind many protective layers because society just isn’t receptive to her existence. So, she lives alone, survives on her own, and is determined to continue living life the way she sees fit. Until fate steps in and turns her world upside down, when she meets—and saves—Jack, a soldier on an undercover mission, pursued by enemy soldiers, who turns himself in to keep Jasminda safe.

The worldbuilding is complex, and I love how the history is layered in with flashbacks. This helps to give a very real feel to the setting. I loved the diverse cast of characters and read this straight through in one sitting. Can’t wait for the second book!

Leslye (L.) Penelope is an award-winning writer. Song of Blood and Stone is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Circe, by Madeline Miller

Circe
Image belongs to Little, Brown, and Company.

Title:   Circe
Author:   Madeline Miller
Genre:   Fiction, literary fiction, mythology
Rating:   4.5/5

Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and the mightiest Titan. Her mother is both cruel and alluring. Circe is not like either of them. Nor is she like her three siblings, striving for power and fame.

Circe prefers the company of fragile mortals to that of the powerful—and cruel—gods. In her search for companionship, Circe discovers she does have power:  that of witchcraft. Her power to transform her rivals into monsters makes the gods fear her, and she is banished by Zeus himself to a deserted island.

There, Circe learns her craft, growing in power and knowledge as she comes to know some of the most famous individuals in mythology:  The Minotaur, Medea, Daedalus, and especially the mighty Odysseus. But Circe draws the anger of one of the most powerful god in existence, and it will take all of skills and cunning to survive—and to decide if she will be a god, or a mortal.

I’ve always loved mythology, and I knew a tiny bit about Circe from a year spent studying mythology in high school (Thank you, Mrs. Skidmore!), but this novel is a riveting and personal journey into Circe’s life. Her treatment at the hands of the gods made me sad—kind of like the behavior of a lot of society these days—and her fumbling attempts to find friends and figure out her own truths drew my sympathy.

I loved reading about mythology from an insiders’ view—I truly felt I was part of the tale, experiencing Circe’s pain, grief, horror, and happiness right along with her. Well-written and engrossing, this book is a journey readers will love to take!

Madeline Miller is the award-winning author of The Song of Achilles. Her newest novel is Circe.

(Galley provided by Little, Brown, and Company in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sky in the Deep, by Adrienne Young

skyinthedeep
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Sky in the Deep
Author:   Adrienne Young
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5/5

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn grew up fighting beside her family and her Aska clansmen in their rivalry with the Riki clan. All she does is train and fight as she tries to keep herself alive and kill as many enemies as possible. Then she sees her brother on the battlefield, fighting with their rivals, a brother who died five years before.

Her father doesn’t believe her, but Eelyn sees her brother again, and is captured by him and his best friend, Fiske, in an effort to keep her alive. Her only choice is to spend the winter as a slave and escape in the spring to return home.

As she lives with the family who made her brother one of their own, Eelyn struggles to adapt to being surrounded by the enemy. Fiske thinks she’s dangerous, as do most of the clan, but she starts to see the Riki as more than just warriors. When the village is raided by a clan from legend, it is up to Eelyn and Fiske to get the Aska and the Riki to work together. Together, they have a chance, but they will both fall if they cannot work together against their common enemy.

This was a fantastic book! I read it straight through in one sitting, unable to put it down. Eelyn is a complex character dealing with the upheaval of everything she’s ever believed—and betrayal where she never imagined it. This is a brutal, violent world, and Eelyn is a brutal, violent warrior, but her entire world changes as her eyes are opened to possibilities beyond the traditions her people have believed in for generations.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book!

Adrienne Young was born in Texas, but now lives in California. Sky in the Deep is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: The Fairies of Sadieville, by Alex Bledsoe

fairies
Image belongs to Tor books.

Title:  The Fairies of Sadieville
Author:  Alex Bledsoe
Genre:  Fantasy…ish.
Rating:  4/5

When graduate students Justin and Veronica find an old film cannister with three words on it, “This is real,” they aren’t prepared for the film inside, which shows a girl transforming into a winged fairy. Justin is desperate to find a topic for his thesis, so the two set out to find the mysterious Sadieville, a town that vanished off the face of the earth over a century ago.

In rural Tennessee, everyone seems to have secrets. Secrets that point to the Tufa, a clannish group with dark skin, dark hair, and white teeth. They all look similar and they seem to have an unusual affinity for music. But not everyone likes Justin and Veronica asking questions, although Tucker Carding seems happy to help them—for reasons unknown.

Soon, Justin and Veronica find a secret, hidden for years, that will have all the Tufa asking a question they never dreamed of:  if they could go back to their homeland of Tir na nOg, would they?

I should probably say that this is the first Tufa novel I’ve read. That really didn’t matter, as I was able to follow the story/history with no problems at all. This read like smart literary fiction with a fantasy element. The setting here is tremendously well-done, with Appalachia full of living, breathing life on every page. I really enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it!

Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee and now lives in Wisconsin. He’s the author of the Eddie Lacrosse novels, the Firefly Witch novels, the Memphis Vampires novels, and the Tufa novels. His newest novel, The Fairies of Sadieville is the final Tufa novel.

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

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic, by Lawrence Davis

BFM
Image belongs to WildBlue Press.

Janzen’s life as a package courier in Cleveland, Ohio isn’t glamorous. He works, hangs out at a hole-in-the-wall bar, and goes home drunk to his dog. It’s a life, just a dull one. Five years ago, Janzen was an apprentice Artificer, living on the edge in a group of practitioners intent on fighting evil, but now he’s alone.

So, Janzen works, drinks, and sleeps. And repeats. Until the day he’s delivering a package and finds himself fighting for his life against a Stalker—a creature from the Abyss—defending a young witch against the dark predator.

Now Janzen must figure out who sent the Stalker, delving into his past for any scrap of help he can find, before the monster succeeds in killing him—and the witch. All in a day’s work, right?

This book. From the first page, I was drawn in by Janzen’s dry, self-deprecating humor and his unflinching honesty. He left the magical life behind years ago, but he doesn’t hesitate to step back into his role when danger threatens a young stranger. This character made the book—but the whole gritty urban fantasy/detective noir feeling didn’t hurt, either. A great read!

Lawrence Davis is the author of Blunt Force Magic, the first book in The Monsters and Men trilogy.

(Galley provided by WildBlue Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

More reviews at <a href=” https://tamaramorning.com/”>Tomorrow is Another Day</a>

Book Review: Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman

tess
Image belongs to Random House.

In Goredd, reputation is everything and there are certain expectations about women and their place. Expectations that Tess just can’t seem to live up to. Trapped in her duty to her family, Tess is bitter, angry, and hopeless. Also, a little bit of a drunkard. Which leads to the incident at her sister’s wedding…

Before she’s forced into a nunnery, Tess chops off her hair, dresses as a boy, and sets out on the Road, ins search of one of the World Serpents, creatures of legend she’s been fascinated with for years.

The Road is more challenging than Tess ever imagined, and every day, she must make the decision to live one more day. She meets friends in unexpected places as she searches for who she really is, learning to heal from the pain of her past so she can seek the future she dreams of.

There’s some darkness in Tess of the Road. Tess begins as a hateful, unlikeable character—although with her past, who wouldn’t be hateful? This is a book about growth more than anything, and Tess’s journey is magnificent as it unfolds, and she learns there is so much more to the world than what society expects.

Rachel Hartman has a B.A. in Comparative Literature. Tess of the Road is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton

the belles
Image belongs to Disney Books.

In the world of Orléans, people are born damned. Gray. Above all, they want Beauty. It is only with the help of Belles, who control Beauty, can they be made beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. All her life, Camellia has wanted to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen to live in the palace and work with the royal family. The most talented Belle.

But at court, Camellia and her sisters learn there’s far more to this world of beauty than they ever imagined, and there’s more to their powers than they know. When the Queen asks Camellia to help the sick princess, Camellia must decide whether to help the Queen—and risk her whole world—or to continue to be the favorite Belle, the one who does everything that’s expected of her.

So, this book is more than a fairytale/fantasy epic. Orléans absolutely reminds me of the Capitol (from The Hunger Games), with over-the-top costumes and obsession with appearances and popularity. So much. But this book is really a commentary on issues we face in society today—and not just vanity—with layers and layers of reality and mystery twined together. On the surface, a book obsessed with beauty isn’t my cup of tea. But the world is richly-detailed, and the characters are complex and driven, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes them next.

Dhonielle Clayton is an author and the COO of We Need Diverse Books. Her newest novel is The Belles.

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

Book Review: The Book of Pearl, by Timothee de Fombelle

the book of pearl
Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Joshua Pearl doesn’t belong in this world. He comes from the world of story, of fairy tales, where he no one knows he exists—and they certainly don’t know he’s the younger brother of their cruel and brutal king. His love keeps him alive, but he’s cursed to live in a world that doesn’t believe in magic. This world.

In Paris just before World War II, Joshua lives and works in a marshmallow shop beloved by many. He’s found a family. He has a home and a job he adores, but something is missing. As his memories of his life before start to fade, Joshua searches for objects of mystery—starting with a mermaid’s scale—that might help him prove his own story, before his memories are lost forever.

Sometimes, I’m not terribly observant when I’m picking out books. Like picking up the third book in a series, having no idea it’s part of a series. In this case, I didn’t realize The Book of Pearl was a translation. Not that that matters in the least. I found this book magical and ethereal in places, but realistic and gritty in others. The fairy tale world is not the Disney version—all sunshine and light—but much more Grimm’s brothers. The settings came alive on the page, and if the characters were a little more distant than I would have wished, this could be just a difference in style between French and English. Regardless, this was a wonderful, enchanting read.

Timothee de Fombelle is a French author who taught literature before heading to the theatre. The Book of Pearl is his newly-translated book.

(Galley provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert

thehazelwood
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have been haunted by bad luck as long as Alice can remember. Not run-of-the-mill bad luck, either, but strange things happening in even stranger circumstances. And Alice’s mom won’t allow her to speak of her grandmother, a reclusive author who lives on a mysterious estate called the Hazel Wood. It’s the two of them against the world.

When Alice’s grandmother dies, Alice’s mom is stolen away by mysterious creatures from the Hinterland—where Alice’s grandmother’s creepy tales are set. The only lead Alice has is her mom’s message, “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

But Alice will stop at nothing to save her mom. The only person she can turn to is Finch, a Hinterland superfan…and Alice is sure he’s hiding something. To save her mom, first they must find the Hazel Wood. Then Alice must venture deep into the woods, where she just might find out what’s wrong with her own story.

The Hazel Wood is absolutely magic! Dark magic, to be sure, but magic all the same. Alice is such a fascinating character, filled with rage but yearning for the light. The Hinterland and the Hazel Wood are places of magic…terrifying magic. I was enthralled with the story from the very first page, and that continued through to the very last page. Loved this book!

Melissa Albert is the editor of the B&N Teen Blog. The Hazel Wood is her first novel.

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