Tag: YA

Book Review:  A Light in the Sky, by Shina Reynolds

Image belongs to Wink Road Press.

Title:   A Light in the Sky
Author Shina Reynolds
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Aluma Banks has always dreamed of soaring freely through the skies astride a powerful winged steed of her own. But flying is a privilege granted only to the Riders of the king’s Empyrean Cavalry, the aerial warriors who defend the borders of their land from the fallen Kingdom of Laithlann.

 Each year, Rider hopefuls across Eirelannia compete in the Autumn Tournament for the honor of joining the Cavalry. Aluma, trained to ride and fight by her retired Empyrean Rider father, knows she has what it takes to prove herself worthy—if only her father hadn’t forbidden her from joining their ranks, in the hope of protecting his only daughter from the perils of war. To make matters worse, Thayer, Aluma’s best friend who could be becoming something more, is competing—and if he wins, he’ll leave her behind.

 When Aluma’s father is tragically injured just before the Tournament, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into this year’s competition. But as Aluma begins to pursue her dreams, she learns devastating secrets about the king and his never-ending war with Laithlann. In her quest for the truth, Aluma discovers a power deep within herself that may be the only way to save Eirelannia and the people she loves from the darkness that threatens to consume them all.

 I enjoyed this creative fantasy read. Flying horses—created, not born, like Pegasus—and the soldiers who ride them, a publicized contest, an evil and overbearing king (of course), and a secret rebellion. Granted, the last two are, but when put together with the others and with characters I liked, this made for a fun read. I could have done without the love triangle, but it didn’t really surprise me. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Shina Reynolds lives in Texas. A Light in the Sky is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Wink Road Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  All of Us Villains, by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen.

Title:   All of Us Villains
Author:   Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins. 

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death. 

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted. 

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.

 But this is a story that must be penned in blood. 

This was a pretty dark read. Every time I though I liked a character, they did something awful, stabbed someone in the back, killed someone…Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this read. It’s well-written, with strong characters and lots of action, but it’s just so dark.

Amanda Foody lives in Boston. Christine Lynn Herman lives in Brooklyn. All of Us Villians is their new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  You Can Go Your Own Way, by Eric Smith

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   You Can Go Your Own Way
Author:   Eric Smith
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing? 

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

 Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

 But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

I know basically nothing about pinball games, but this was a fun read. I loved the banter between him and Whitney. Whitney….the people in her life kind of suck (except her mom). Seeing her realize that and change what she could was a positive journey. This was a really solid read, perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon.

Eric Smith lives in Philadelphia. You Can Go Your Own Way is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: I Am Margaret Moore, by Hannah Capin

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   I Am Margaret Moore
Author:  Hannah Capin
Genre:   YA
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

I am a girl. I am a monster, too. 

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

 Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

 But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

 Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?

This book just didn’t work for me. I found it very disjointed and confusing. I figured out the twist—if you can call it that—pretty early on, but that didn’t make the confusion any less chaotic. I also wish I’d known when the girls were at the school, as that might have made it slightly less confusing.

Hannah Capin lives in Virginia. I Am Margaret Moore, is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Lies My Memory Told Me, by Sacha Wunsch

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   Lies My Memory Told Me
Author:   Sacha Wunsch
Genre:   YA
Rating:  3.0

Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. Nova doesn’t mind—mostly. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift. 

But Kade says Nova doesn’t know the costs of this technology that’s taken the world by storm. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and is strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling that there’s something she’s forgotten…

This was just a meh read for me. Nova never felt like a real person to me at all. She just let things happen to her, and then was astonished. The other characters, especially Kade, felt like mere shadows of people, and there was just so much that felt unfinished. Even the ending was…lackluster.

Sacha Wunsch is a bestselling author. Lies My Memory Told Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review:  Little Thieves, by Margaret Owen

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Little Thieves
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself. 

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Confession: I almost stopped reading this about 15 times in the first 20%. It just started out so slow, and Vanja just wasn’t a very likable person at all. Fortunately, she started learning and changing after that, so she became more tolerable. After that, I enjoyed this story immensely.

The setting was vividly wrought, and the culture was fascinating to me, with the mythology woven seamlessly in, adding depth and nuance to the story. In the end, this ended up being a fantastic read filled with magic, danger, and romance.

Margaret Owen grew up in Portland, Oregon. Little Thieves is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Keeper of Night, by Kylie Lee Baker

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Keeper of Night
Author:   Kylie Lee Baker
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

 When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The premise of this was excellent, and the writing was solid, too. The characters, however, didn’t really work for me. Ren herself was distant and cold—not human, I get it, but almost impossible to relate to—and I didn’t really care for her. Her brother just came across as weak 99.5% of the time. And Hiro, well, obviously he had secrets. Why on earth was Ren so surprised to find that out? The culture and mythology were rich and detailed, and I enjoyed that very much, but the characters just detracted so much for me.

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Luminous, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   Luminous
Author:   Mara Rutherford
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever. 

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

 To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

I really loved Rutherford’s previous duology, but this just didn’t quite measure up for me. So many layers of lies and misinformation that I was never quite sure of the truth about core concepts from the world itself. I liked Liora herself, but the other main characters were inconsistent at best. Some bits felt clunky and uneven, and there was a bit of deus ex machina thrown in for good measure.

Mara Rutherford is from California. Luminous is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Forestborn, by Elayne Audrey Becker

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

TitleForestborn
AuthorElayne Audrey Becker
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE. 

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble. 

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return. 

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.

It took me a little bit to ground myself in this world, but I enjoyed the read a lot. I enjoyed how Rora grew from being shy and unsure of herself to confident and strong. The setting was fascinating to me, and while I don’t usually enjoy politics, in this case they were and integral—and well-done—part of the story. This is a solid fantasy read.

Elayne Audrey Becker was born and raised in Georgia. Forestborn is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  This Is Why We Lie, by Gabriella Lepore

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   This Is Why We Lie

Author:   Gabriella Lepore

Genre:   YA

Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.

When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.

Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.

As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.

As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.

This was a quick, enjoyable read—and I didn’t figure out who the killer was on my own. I liked Jenna a lot, and it was interesting watching her perspectives change over the course of the book. I liked Adam as a viewpoint character, too, with his experiences—so different from Jenna’s own—that shape his views and loyalty, almost to his own detriment. This was an engaging read without a big time commitment.

Gabriella Lepore is from South Wales. This is Why We Lie is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)