Tag: young adult fiction

Book Review:  This Vicious Grace, by Emily Thiede

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   This Vicious Grace   
Author: Emily Thiede
Genre: YA, fantasy  
Rating:  5 out of 5

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This was such a fantastic read! Alessa’s snark is so much fun—and it only gets better when Dante shows up. I really loved their interactions and banter. The world and culture were quite unique to me, and, while it isn’t really a culture I’d want to live in—or visit—the world-building was vividly realized and fascinating to read. I highly recommend this, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Emily Thiede lives in Virginia. This Vicious Grace is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleBreaking Time  
Author:    Sasha Alsberg
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

This was a decent read. Nothing too unique, but nothing completely cookie cutter, either. I enjoyed Klara’s personality and I liked Callum, but sometimes his dialogue sounded like he was from the 1500s—appropriate—and sometimes it sounded like he was the boy next door—not appropriate at all and threw me out of the story. A quick read, but one I never really felt like the stakes were very high in—despite the supposed consequences of the plot.

Sasha Alsberg lives in Massachusetts. Breaking Time is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   The Limitless Sky, by Christina Kilbourne

Image belongs to Dundurn Press.

TitleThe Limitless Sky
Author: Christina Kilbourne
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Trapped in a life she didn’t choose, Rook struggles to find meaning in her appointed role as an apprentice Keeper of ArHK. Even though her mam soothes her with legends of the Outside and her da assures her there are many interesting facts to discover in the Archives, Rook sees only endless years of tracking useless information. Then one day Rook discovers historic footage of the Chosen Ones arriving in ArHK, and she begins to realize her mam’s legends are more than bedtime stories. That’s when Rook begins her perilous and heartbreaking search for the limitless sky.

Gage is also trapped. Living on the frontier line with his family, his is a life of endless moving and constant danger. As he works with the other Scouts, Gage searches for the Ship of Knowledge to help his society regain the wonders of the long distant past, when machines transported people across the land, illnesses could be cured, and human structures rose high into the sky.

Will Rook and Gage escape the traps and perils that await them in order to save each other’s worlds? If they don’t, it could very well be the end of humanity.

The setting and culture in this story were fascinating to me. It was a little unsettling to read about national monuments as archeological artifacts, so that was an interesting aspect. I actually enjoyed Gage’s POV a bit more than Rook’s, because her culture and mindset just felt so foreign to me, but the author did a good job fleshing it out and making it come to life. I thought the ending was a little abrupt and kind of left the reader hanging, but I’d still recommend this.

Christina Kilbourne is from Canada. The Limitless Sky is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Veil, by Dylan Farrow

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Veil
Author:   Dylan Farrow
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal—a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth—in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.

Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry — one fraught with perils of its own.

In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?

I did not read Hush, but that didn’t really prove to be a problem. I enjoyed the characters, but the last third of the books seemed a bit erratic and far-fetched. Interesting world and setting, it just didn’t totally work for me because it felt jagged, not like a coherent whole.

Dylan Farrow grew up in New York City and Connecticut. Veil is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  This May End Badly, by Samantha Markum

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   This May End Badly
Author:   Samantha Markum
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.

To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.

As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.

This book was just good, plain fun!  Sure, Doe did some pretty crappy things—and I never really understood her animosity towards Three—but I enjoyed this book from the very first page. Doe’s group of friends was great, and I liked that the guys were actually good guys, too, even if the girls couldn’t see that at first. Doe grows a lot in this story, and while sometimes that change was painful, I enjoyed the story very much. Especially the interactions between Doe and Wells. Her “stranger danger” made me laugh a lot.

Samantha Markum lives in St. Louis. This May End Badly is her debut novel.

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

 Book Review:  Sense and Second-Degree Murder, by Tirzah Price

Image belongs to HarperCollins.)

Title Sense and Second-Degree Murder
Author Tirzah Price
Genre:   YA, historical, mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

When eighteen-year-old aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood discovers her beloved father slumped over the desk of his office study, she knows his death means dire straits for the Dashwood women. To make matters worse, an outdated will entails his estate—including Norland & Company, the private investigation firm where her younger sister Marianne worked as her father’s partner and protégé—to their half-brother and his haughty wife, who waste no time in forcing the Dashwoods out of their home and into a cramped apartment on London’s Barton Street. 

But before they go, the Dashwood sisters make a startling discovery that points to foul play, and the killer might be family.

 Obviously, the girls must investigate. It could be dangerous; it could ruin their reputations; and most importantly, it won’t bring back their father. But if the Dashwood sisters can combine their talents and bring their father’s murderer to justice, it may bring them all some comfort—and it might even lead to love.

This was a fun read. I forgot how much Marianne annoyed me—in this and the original—but she really got on my nerves for the first 3/4ths of the book. The supporting characters were very well-done, and I loved the combination of the original storyline and the ladies having their own interests and ambitions. This is definitely a good weekend read.

Tirzah Price Grew up in Michigan. Sense and Second-Degree Murder is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  A Forgery of Roses, by Jessica S. Olson

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   A Forgery of Roses
Author:   Jessica S. Olson
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

 But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

 Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

 Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

I enjoyed this! Myra was a great character, and her relationship with her sister was just wonderful, and made the book really shine. This book is fairly dark from the first page, but there are spots of brightness. August is another of them. The author portrayed his debilitating anxiety so well, and I was never sure if he would conquer it, or it would conquer him. His family, meanwhile, was absolutely horrible. A lovely read!

Jessica S. Olson lives in Texas. A Forgery of Roses is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   A Magic Steeped in Poison, by Judy I. Lin

Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title:    A Magic Steeped in Poison
Author:    Judy I. Lin
Genre:    Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu. 

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

 But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

I really enjoyed this read! The culture and world were fascinating, and I loved all the sensory details that brought it to vivid life. The characters were believable, and I really loved Ning and the friendships she formed—and the intrigues she landed in. I can’t wait to read the second book in the duology!

Judy I. Lin grew up in Canada. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review:  A Far Wilder Magic, by Allison Saft

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   A Far Wilder Magic
Author:   Allison Saft
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

 Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

 Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

To me, this culture was an odd mix of things from our current world and things that were just slightly skewed from that all jumbled together. It didn’t have an effect on my enjoyment of the story, just stating something that caught my eye (more than once). I liked the story well enough, but Margaret was a little too hateful at times—and constantly I’m-an-outsider-and-care-for-no-one-else—and Weston was a bit of a selfish brat, but they eventually worked well together. Weston’s family was fantastic. Margaret’s mom, not so much. This is a solid read, but I didn’t find it to be stellar.

Allison Saft lives on the West Coast. A Far Wilder Magic is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Daughter
Author:   Kate McLaughlin
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

 When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

 Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

I can’t imagine living your whole life not knowing who your father is, and suddenly finding out he’s an infamous serial killer, and your whole life is kind of a lie. Scarlet had moments of extreme selfishness and childish behavior, but for the most part, she was doing her best to be a good person. The way Lake tried to manipulate her and everyone else was creepy in the extreme, but she was smart enough to realize she was being manipulated.

It seems like every teenager in this book—so, most of the characters—drank, did drugs, and had sex indiscriminately. While I’m sure that’s true for some teenagers, it’s not for every teenager, so the generalization bothered me. And…the way people treated Scarlet and her mother was horrific. This story may be fiction, but that sort of behavior isn’t, and that just bothers me in general. All in all, I enjoyed this read.

Kate McLaughlin lives in Connecticut. Daughter is her newest novel.

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