Showing posts with label ARC Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ARC Review. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ARC Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

34050917Title: The Girl in the Tower
Series: The Winternight Trilogy #2
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Historical
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; December 5, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege...


Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop...

I've been looking forward to The Girl in the Tower since January, and luckily the wait wasn't too long. I was primarily excited for it because of how much I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale. That book had a semi-open ending, and I wanted to know where Arden would take the story since there were so many possibilities. And indeed, The Girl in the Tower picks up shortly after the end of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya made her choice, and she intended to stick to it.

By no means was I disappointed by The Girl in the Tower, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous book. I still liked the story, but the first couple of chapters didn’t immediately draw me in the same way The Bear and the Nightingale was able to do. However, once the point of view shifted to Vasya, the story took on a familiar fairytale-like tone, which I was an absolute fan of. It quickly became apparent that this was the dark, icy, and magical sequel I was hoping for.

One of the things I like about Arden’s writing is how atmospheric it is. I particularly enjoyed the historical aspects of the book because of how detailed and real the characters and setting seemed to fit with the time period. She perfectly captured the landscape, weather, and dangers of the setting and society. The folklore is something to be noted too. There are a lot of old tales incorporated into Vasya’s story, which tied in with the magic. It was one of the things I enjoyed so much about The Bear and the Nightingale, and I was glad to see that it carried over into the second book.

That brings me to the characters. While Vasya’s story was the focus, I liked that the secondary characters had personality. They were present in the story, not just there as background noise. Then, there was Vasya. I liked her strength and determination. She learned a lot through her mistakes, and that made her character arch all the more interesting. Morozko—I don’t have much to say about the frost demon, because that would be a spoiler. What I will say is that he's one of my favorite characters in this series, and I appreciated the scenes he was in but wish he would have been more present in the story.

So, while the ending was a little abrupt, The Girl in the Tower was still a solid addition to the series. And if you enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale, then this is a must read. Now begins the wait for book three.
Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Del Rey) via Netgalley for this review.
About the author...

Born in Texas, Katherine attended Middlebury College, where she studied French and Russian literature. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, and is fluent in both French and Russian. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she spent time guiding horse trips while writing The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont...

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Monday, November 20, 2017

ARC Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

34189556Title: The Wife Between Us
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Source/Format: Bookish First (St. Martin's Press); Bound ARC
More Details: Thriller; Suspense; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press; January 9, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love...

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement. You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves. You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships. Assume nothing...
I don’t typically read thrillers, but The Wife Between Us seemed too good to pass on. And let me tell you, this book surprised me in a good way. It was a thriller from start to finish, and I ended up loving it.

The back of the ARC states that “you will make assumptions,” and that’s true. I had several conflicting theories about how it all went down. I was right about some of it, but others aspects I was wrong about. Untangling the mass of lies rooted in the relationships between the characters, is part of what made The Wife Between Us such a great book. There was a lot of intentional misdirection—due in part to the narrative style, a combination of third and first person. There was always a foreboding sense that something has already happened. As well as the fact that something would happen, based off the context. So, in that way, the authors succeeded at maintaining tension throughout the entire story.

My favorite part of this book was Vanessa. She was an unreliable narrator, but her bitterness, hurt, and anger were as loud and clear as her fear. She was haunted by the events of her past—from the time she was in college all the way to the end of her marriage with Richard. In many ways, this book wasn’t only a mystery and thriller. It was also a thorough exploration of her character.

Overall, The Wife Between Us was a fantastic thriller that kept me guessing right up to the second to last page. It’s officially one of the best books I’ve read so far this year, and I look forward to seeing what Hendricks and Pekkanen write next.
 Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Bookish First & St. Martin's Press for this review.
About Greer Hendricks...

Greer Hendricks spent over two decades as an editor. Her writing has been published in The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. The Wife Between Us is her first novel.

About Sarah Pekkanen...

Internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen's newest book is THE PERFECT NEIGHBORS. She is also the co-author of the upcoming THE WIFE BETWEEN US (out in January 2018). Her prior novels are: THINGS YOU WON'T SAY, CATCHING AIR, THE BEST OF US, THE OPPOSITE OF ME, SKIPPING A BEAT, and THESE GIRLS....

Friday, November 17, 2017

ARC Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

33815781Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Source/Format: Bookish First (Berkley); ARC
More Details: Fiction; Contemporary; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley January 30, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel...
Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist. On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend. After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other. They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...
It’s been some time since I picked up a contemporary romance novel. I had the chance to read a preview of The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory and couldn’t resist entering the raffle. After all, this book involves a couple of my favorite romance tropes: accidental meetings, and fake wedding dates. There were a couple of things I was a little on the fence about, but overall, The Wedding Date was a nice story with a cute main couple and a great cast of supporting characters.

I was already excited to read the full book just based off of the preview, and now I can say for certain that I liked this book a lot. It can feel a little formulaic at times, but the diverse and career-minded characters more than make up for that—particularly Alexa and Drew. Parts of the book focused on their respective professions and goals. It added a lot to their characterization. I thought it was a nice touch.

What I was a little conflicted about was certain aspects of the relationship. While I liked Drew and Alexa together, the start of their relationship happened quite quickly. At times, it felt more like lust. However, as the book progressed, they did talk, and the early chemistry really came through and developed into something more.

The Wedding Date is one of the best contemporary romance books I’ve read so far this year, and I look forward to reading Guillory’s next book.
Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Bookish First and Berkely for this review.
About the author...

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ARC Review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay

Death in the Stacks (Library Lover's Mystery, #8)Title: Death in the Stacks
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Mystery; Cozy-Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; November 14, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the latest Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Timesbestselling author of Better Late Than Never, the library's big fund-raiser leaves director Lindsey Norris booked for trouble . . .

Lindsey Norris and her staff are gearing up for the Briar Creek Library's annual Dinner in the Stacks fund-raiser. The night of dinner and dancing is not only a booklover's dream--it's the library's biggest moneymaker of the year. But instead of raising funds, the new library board president is busy raising a stink and making the staff miserable. Although Olive Boyle acts like a storybook villain, Lindsey is determined to work with her and make the event a success. But when Olive publicly threatens the library's newest hire, Paula, Lindsey cracks like an old book spine and throws Olive out of the library. The night of the fund-raiser, Lindsey dreads another altercation with Olive--but instead finds Paula crouched over Olive's dead body. Paula may have secrets, but Lindsey and the rest of the crafternooners know she's not the one who took Olive out of circulation. As the plot thickens, Lindsey must catch the real killer before the book closes on Paula's future . . .
Last year, I got the chance to read the previous book in the Library Lover’s Mystery series, Better Late Than Never. I adored that book and was excited to read the latest release in the series, Death in the Stacks. It was a quick read and fairly typical for a cozy mystery—amateur sleuth, small town setting. That being said, I honestly enjoyed Death in the Stacks because, at the end of the day, it was still an interesting mystery. And, it gets a couple of bonus points for being set in a library with librarians as main characters.

The gist of the story is that Lindsey Norris is entangled in another mystery, this time involving Olive Boyle—the troublemaking and manipulative new president of the library board. Olive had a lot of enemies, and that’s what made the mystery so good—I never knew who the culprit was because so many characters did have a clear motive. Also, another thing worth mentioning is the balance between the mystery and the personal lives of the main characters—such as the continued development of relationships established in previous—which added an extra layer of depth to the story. It also led to some interesting scenes between the mystery and subsequent investigation.

All in all, Death in the Stacks was a good book and I look forward to Jenn McKinlay’s next book.


This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review.

About the author...

Jenn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series and will be debuting a new women's fiction series in June 2017, starting with the title About a Dog. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.


Monday, October 30, 2017

ARC Review: Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Beasts Made of NightTitle: Beasts Made of Night
Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; October 31, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family. When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life...
Beasts Made of Night is another one of the books I was looking forward to. This was a highly entertaining book. It had an interesting system of magic with clear consequences and was set against the gritty and dangerous setting of Kos. I'm not going to lie, I was a total fan of this one. It did move at a slower pace, but some of the best young adult/fantasy novels I've read so far this year, have been like that—i.e. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. In the case of Beasts Made of Night, this was due in part to the character arcs. The characters go through a lot of learning and training, and some parts of the book felt very day-to-day with exception of sin-eating. The ability of the aki was probably my favorite part of Beasts Made of Night, aside from the sin-beasts. Sin is at the heart of the story, and it was an interesting choice to take something—a decision that a person makes or an act that a person commits—and turn it into something that is alive enough to do harm. Not just that, but to make others carry that guilt like it was their own.

Beasts Made of Night is now one of my favorite books of 2017. There’s nothing about a sequel on the Goodreads page yet. I hope there will be, because this book felt more like a beginning with such a promising story and set of characters. Needless to say, I look forward to reading Onyebuchi’s next book.
 This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review. 
About the author...

Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Beasts Made of Night is his debut...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ARC Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Title: Akata Witch
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Speak; July 11, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But just as she's finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?
I’ve been hearing about Akata Witch for a couple of years now and was excited to get a chance to read an eARC of it. On the surface, it appeared to have all the elements I look for in a fantasy. However, I had some reservations about approaching a book that had a substantial amount of hype. That being said, I really enjoyed Akata Witch. There was so much about the story that just clicked for me. So, I’ve seriously had to stop and wonder why I haven’t read any of Nnedi Okrafore’s novels before. Obviously, I’ve been missing out!

The synopsis of this book promises magic, and it fully delivers on that and more. I’d like to just say that I liked this book and you should read it too, but that doesn’t explain why. I’ll start with the story. The story of this book moves at its own pace, and honestly, I didn’t mind because there were a lot of details to take in. There was magic, lots of it actually. That being said, Okrafore put such a fresh and imaginative spin on it that the premise of the story felt entirely new. In that way, I enjoyed the world building a lot and found Okrafore’s version of a magically inclined society interesting and unique. It’s probably one of my favorites thanks to how the characters interacted with each other and the places around them. There were so many cool elements to the story and setting, and I can’t talk about them for fear of accidently spoiling the story. Just know that they were cool.

Before I end this review, I want to mention the characters. Let me just say that they were amazing, especially the main character, Sunny. From the start, I instantly loved how Okrafore portrayed her character. While the core of Akata Witch was arguably Sunny’s journey as she learned how to handle her abilities as a “free agent,” it was also about learning, teamwork, and friendship. The friendship between Sunny and her new friends was one of my favorite things about Akata Witch.

At the end of the day, I’m really looking forward to reading more books by Nnedi Okrafore, especially Akata Warrior. Also, I’ve heard a lot of praise for her Binti series. So I’ll eventually read those books too.

(Actual rating 4.5 out of 5 birdcages)

This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review.
About the author...

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”. Nnedi Okorafor’s books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for Best Novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for Best Novel), Kabu Kabu (A Publisher's Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner). Her latest works include her novel The Book of Phoenix and her novella Binti (a finalist for a Nebula and British Science Fiction Award). Nnedi is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY). Learn more at Nnedi.com...

Friday, December 16, 2016

ARC Review: Iceling by Sasha Stephenson

Iceling (Icelings #1)Title: Iceling
Author: Sasha Stephenson 
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; December 13, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Lorna’s adopted sister, Callie, is part of a mysterious group of non-lingual teens, Icelings, born on a remote Arctic island, who may not be entirely human. Now Callie wants to go home...

Seventeen-year-old Lorna loves her adoptive sister, Callie. But Callie can’t say “I love you” back. In fact, Callie can’t say anything at all. Because Callie is an Iceling—one of hundreds of teens who were discovered sixteen years ago on a remote Arctic island, all of them lacking the ability to speak or understand any known human language. Mysterious and panicked events lead to the two sisters embarking on a journey to the north, and now Lorna starts to see that there’s a lot more to Callie’s origin story than she’d been led to believe. Little does she know what’s in store, and that she’s about to uncover the terrifying secret about who—and what—Callie really is.
Two words: road trip. Buckle up dear readers, because I need to talk about this book.

Originally, Iceling by Sasha Stephenson wasn’t one of my most anticipated books of 2016. If anyone would have asked me about the book back in February, I wouldn’t have had much of an answer. Simply put, I hadn’t heard much about this book. However, I eventually saw the synopsis and I liked all the ideas that it introduced and was immediately excited about Iceling.

Just like with every book I’ve ever read, there were things that I really loved about Iceling, and others that I felt sort of mixed about. By no means was this a bad book. In fact, the twists were really surprising and kept me on my toes, and once the plot hit all those pivotal moments the story turned out to be fantastic.

I’m going to talk about what I didn’t like just to get it out of the way. What I disliked about Iceling was the parts that seemed like they were a little extraneous. There were semi-long stretches where facts that had already been stated seemed to be repeated back in several, differently worded ways. I’ve got nothing against repetition since I think it can be used as emphasis to make a point. In Iceling, it was a little much for me, but not something that made me rage-quit the book.

Now, what I did like outweighed what I didn’t like about the book. The synopsis left me with a lot of questions. However, the biggest draw for me was really the Icelings. The Icelings were interesting and probably my favorite part of the book. I really liked them and the role they played in the story. I also liked how the relationships between the Icelings and their adopted siblings were set up. The plot was, overall, really good. Once the story picked up, I could see what Stephenson was setting up during the initial chapters of the book. And man, the end result was something wholly memorable.

Iceling was a solid start to something that could turn out to be a great series. Suffice it to say, I want to see where this goes, and so I have to sit here and wait until book two comes out.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
 
About the author...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review: The Bridge From Me To You by Lisa Schroeder

The Bridge from Me to YouTitle: The Bridge from Me to You
Author: Lisa Schroeder 
Source/Format: Won (Giveaway), Bound ARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Point; July 29, 2014

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place... 

Lauren is the new girl in town with a dark secret. Colby is the football hero with a dream of something more. In alternating chapters, they come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible--something to truly believe in...
The synopsis doesn’t tell much about the book, but I decided to give it a try anyway. And folks, let me tell you, I’m glad I did. The Bridge From Me To You is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Schroeder, and it was a very cute contemporary novel. The story focused on a high school football player and a girl just trying to find her place in the world. This concept had the possibility of turning into a been-there-done-that kind of thing. However, it was anything but typical, and I liked this book more than I thought I would. At first, I wasn’t too sure about how I would react to the writing, but actually, I really liked it. The development of the characters respective situations, backstories, and relationships didn’t suffer because of the alternating POVs and writing. The combination of prose and poetry was interesting to read, and worked well. I think Schroeder did a good job at the emotional aspect of the book, and I liked the chemistry between Lauren and Colby. The friendships were great too—they seemed realistic, and the connection between the characters was there. Another thing I liked was how this book didn’t gloss over the issues, but instead showed the potential worries and emotional damage that could come from them.

At the end of the day, The Bridge From Me To You was a very good book. I really enjoyed it, and I would consider picking up another novel by Schroeder.

Monday, October 10, 2016

ARC Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishTitle: Cloudwish
Author: Fiona Wood
Source/Format: The NOVL; Paperback ARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Poppy; October 18, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

For Vân Uoc, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn't even know she's alive? Pointless. So Vân Uoc tries to stick to her reality--keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother's PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably--possibly magically--comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Uoc can't help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?
After reading the synopsis for Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, I decided to give it a fair chance. I read it, and it was an okay read. This book certainly had its strengths and weakness—elements that I liked, and others that were just sort of meh. So, yeah, I had some mixed feelings about it.

Cloudwish was about Vân Uoc and how she makes a wish for her crush to notice her. Sounds fine, right? Well, the idea itself wasn’t bad, and there were so many ways that kind of concept could have gone. And, for the most part, the plot was okay. The story wasn’t bad. The writing was fine and the pacing was good, but I did have some problems with it.

One thing I didn’t like was Billy Gardiner’s character. The way he behaved just sort of left a bad taste in my mouth, and at some points I wondered what it was about him that Vân Uoc found so appealing. He was described as being something along the lines of model-worthy handsome, an outstanding athlete, and smart. But he was also kind of a jerk. There was character growth, but in my eyes, it didn’t really redeem him much. There were also some parts that seemed a little stereotypical in terms of expectations and family/home life for Vân Uoc.

What I did like was Vân Uoc’s skepticism about Billy’s sudden attention. There was something refreshing about seeing her resist his advances—especially when they were otherwise without good reason—rather than just give in and accept her sudden unexplained stroke of luck. There wasn’t much of a magical aspect to it, but I did like the wish part. It was simple, nothing flashy about it, but still nice. Plus, Vân Uoc’s friends were interesting, and I especially enjoyed the scenes when they were present.

So, Cloudwish wasn't all bad. I haven’t read anything else by Fiona Wood so there is a possibility that I would consider giving another one of her novels a try, only if it seems like something of interest to me.
This copy of the book was provided by The Novl (Newsletter; Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. Her third book,Cloudwish, will be published in the US in October. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ARC Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1)Title: The Reader
Author: Traci Chee
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Putnam; September 13, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible...
One word folks: more. I want more of this book—this series—this world that Traci Chee has created. I have one reason for that: The Reader was awesome. The synopsis had a lot of promise—a society that was widely illiterate by custom, a mysterious book, a girl out for revenge against those who have wronged her and those she loves. I went into this book with high expectations, and boy does The Reader deliver.

The primary focus of The Reader was Sefia and her journey to get revenge, and unlock the secrets of the book. She had a thirst for information, and strived to understand things that were never taught to her. Part of The Reader focused on her progress and growth as a character. There were other characters that also had narratives just as strong as Sefia’s, and their stories were just as important—I had my favorites and tolerable secondary characters—but for the most part, the characters were one of the strongest aspects of The Reader. There were just so many compelling and layered pieces of the plot that I found myself easily invested in the story!

The story gets started on strong footing. The setting, society, and problems are quick to show their faces—promptly setting up the main conflict. And while the book was long—almost five hundred pages—there was something gripping about the story. I was never bored. There was always something going on with the characters, and their adventures were fun to read about. The story was also pretty balanced with a solid mystery, action, and a hint of romance.

The writing was also good. The prose was descriptive and straight-forward. There were a lot of POVs but it showed different parts of the fictional world, and painted a broader picture of the circumstances, mindsets, and habits of the main characters.  I actually liked reading from so many perspectives because of that. It kept the story going at a good pace and answered questions while raising others—it also gave background to parts of the story.

All-in-all, The Reader was a solid debut. I liked these characters and their story, and the society they were a part of was fascinating. I still have so many questions—I wasn’t ready for the story to be over, but it was—as such, I will definitely continue on with this series.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ARC Review: Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor

Thieving WeaselsTitle: Thieving Weasels
Author: Billy Taylor
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Dial Books; August 23, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Skip O’Rourke is dragged into one last con . . . but he doesn’t know the con’s on him in this funny, page-turning debut YA for fans of Winger and Ocean’s Eleven... 

Cameron Smith attends an elite boarding school and has just been accepted to Princeton University alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Claire. Life for Cameron would be perfect, except that Cameron Smith is actually Skip O’Rourke, and Skip O’Rourke ran away from his grifter family four years ago…along with $100,000 of their “earnings” (because starting a new life is not cheap). But when his uncle Wonderful tracks him down, Skip’s given an ultimatum: come back to the family for one last con, or say good-bye to life as Cameron. “One last con” is easier said than done when Skip’s family is just as merciless (and just as manipulative) as they’ve always been, and everyone around him is lying. Skip may have given up on crime, but there’s one lesson he hasn’t forgotten: always know your mark. And if you don’t know who your mark is . . . it’s probably you...
Let me start out by saying that Thieving Weasels was not a bad book. In fact, it was actually pretty good, I liked it. The story does explore the question of morality since the characters dipped into morally gray areas—they were career criminals after all. Now one thing I do have to note is that this book wasn’t really all that humorous. There were moments that were maybe, possibly a little funny, but there was nothing that made me outright laugh. However, besides that, there were other aspects about Thieving Weasels that I did like.

Thieving Weasels was basically about Cameron Smith, a.k.a Skip O’Rourke. He was running from a life of crime, and he saw the boarding school as an exit from his old life. What I got from the story is that he wasn’t just running from his family, he was trying to find a place that made him feel like an actual person. And yeah, Taylor did show Skip’s history in a way that made his otherwise outlandish decision to take off alone, seem like a plausible thing for someone so desperate for change. That part of the story was handled well, and brought up questions about loyalty and family. In short, I could understand Skip’s feelings on the matter.

The overall plot wasn’t bad, and the story was more entertaining than anything else. The pacing was also good, and it was a light read. One of the biggest draws for me was definitely seeing how Skip would ultimately deal with his family and the situation they put him in—think meddling relatives but about a hundred times worse. That part of the story was pretty good too. Morality was a big theme in this book, and more than once Skip grappled with decisions he had made and happened to be considering at the present point in time. I did like the fact that this was an actual detail, because it made Skip more fleshed-out with faults and habits, and the like.

As far as the secondary characters go, they were just alright. A lot of the development went to Skip’s family—his mother, cousin, and uncle—since they had such prominent roles in the story. I would have liked to have seen more of what his life was like at the boarding school, but Thieving Weasels wasn’t that long of a book. And given where the story began, I didn’t expect to see much of his life outside of his family anyway.

Overall, Thieving Weasels was not a bad read. I went in not knowing what to expect from a story like this, but the book ended up being fun and entertaining.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review, thank you!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

ARC Review: Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

RiverkeepTitle: Riverkeep
Author: Martin Stewart
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking; July 26, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over. Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too. When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed...
As I was reading Riverkeep by Martin Stewart, I had one thought in mind: eh, this is okay. That feeling remained until the end. It had its high and low points, but by farmthe book wasn’t a bad story. And as far as fantasy novels go, Riverkeep was pretty good, a little slow at times, but still alright.

My initial reaction to the beginning was a little mixed. It wasn’t a bad opening, but I struggled to stick with the story and I almost gave up. However, I stuck with it out of sheer curiosity, and the desire to get answers for the questions I had.

Riverkeep was more of a coming-of-age story set against a fantasy backdrop full of perilous places and even more dangerous creatures. And despite the introduction of numerous characters, and the multitude of POVs throughout Riverkeep, the focus was really on Wull—following him as he struggles against change, and discovering where he belongs while dealing with a slowly unfolding personal tragedy.

There was a lot of traveling in Riverkeep since the characters had places to be for important reasons, which made the story drag in some places. However, the dialogue and slowly developing friendships between the characters is part of what got me through those parts. I was also curious to see how the story ended since the beginning set up a relatively strong conflict.

As promised by the synopsis, Wull met a lot of different people from different backgrounds, and under different circumstances. I won’t go into too much about them since it would be kind of spoiler for parts of the story. The things I liked best about Riverkeep were some of the secondary characters. The Mormorach was a key part of Riverkeep. It was a “great sea-dwelling beast” going about its business—albeit oversized and with a destructive tendency that bordered on absurd. It served as one of the antagonists, a source of conflict amongst the many outside factors that eventually concerned Wull.

Another thing I liked was the setting. It was done really well. It was dark, cold because of the time of year, and harsh—especially the river. It gave the story an eerie atmosphere, which was pretty fitting. The overall plot wasn’t bad. I actually liked it, and the ending was pretty good too since it neatly tied up the story.

So, while my initial reaction to Riverkeep was mixed, I am glad that I stuck with it.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review, thank you!

Monday, May 30, 2016

ARC Review: Oleah Chronicles: Justice by Michelle Johnson

Oleah Chronicles: JusticeTitle: Oleah Chronicles: Justice
Author: Michelle Johnson
Source/Format: Author, EARC
More Details: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher/Publication Date: Michelle Johnson, May 15, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

After discovering the truth about her Oleah origins, Angel thought she could still have a normal life, consisting of normal things – like her seventeenth birthday party. But there is no such thing as normal for Angel anymore. She learned that the hard way after Sindrell – the most powerful sorceress in the universe - crashed her party, destroyed the city, and took her best friend, Julie, captive. Determined to defeat Sindrell for good, Angel must risk her life, along with the fate of the entire universe to get Julie back…alive. The only way she can do this successfully, is to embrace her Oleah instincts and learn what it takes to become a true warrior. Problem is, Sindrell has an insurance policy of her own that will put millions of lives in danger - including Zander’s - to ensure her quest for power is brought to fruition. One way or another. In order to protect Zander, and save Julie, Angel has to make a choice... but will it be the right one?
Author Michelle Johnson is back with the next installment of the Oleah Chronicles. Oleah Chronicles Justice is another amazing young adult fantasy/paranormal novel. And unlike some young adult novels, there are edgy moments between Angel and Zander, but the romance never overshadowed the plot. The intense action filled moments are also well done. They are so vividly depicted that I can only imagine this series playing out on the screen.

In this second installment of the Oleah Chronicles, it begins with training day as Angel learns discipline and self-control, before taking on Sindrell, the most powerful sorceress, in an attempt to save her friend, Julie, and all of humanity. Johnson does an amazing job of bringing the reader into the moment with the depiction of the emotional turmoil that Angel experiences and the action sequences throughout the novel. One difference found in Justice is that it immediately takes on a dark tone as it picks up where Truth left off. Angel is the key to peace; yet she has some growing up to do as she struggles with overcoming her guilt while she learns to use her gifts to save her friend Julie. I loved the fact that she maintained her teen persona with her quirky comments and reactions to certain situations as she was being transformed into a kickass warrior. I also liked the fact that she looked to her parents for advice and approval-Let me just say that their relationship was very ordinary in a supernatural setting.

Although this story was a bit gory, the fluid writing, well-developed characters and engaging storyline hooked me from the beginning. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Truth, I would suggest that you pick up a copy and start at the beginning, because Justice begins at the point in which Truth ended—a point that left me longing for Oleah Chronicles: Justice to be released. And now… I ‘m eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Oleah Chronicles and future work by Michelle Johnson! (Actual Rating 4.5)
This copy of the book was provided by the author for this review, thank you!
About the Author...


Throughout my childhood I was always told I had a very creative imagination. I was drawn to stories of mythical creatures and all things that would usually give my peers the heebie geebies. Shows like Tales from the Crypt Keeper and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were among some of my favourites. I developed a strong passion for design and illustration, drawing the ideas that arose in my head and finding great excitement in bringing them to life. This led me to pursue a career in graphic design and marketing so that I could always use my creativity to the fullest. I have always loved reading and the way a compelling story would allow my mind to absorb its detailed imagery. I began to use writing as a tool to bring my creative thoughts to fruition one day, which has brought me to this moment. I'm a romantic at heart and a sucker for stories about true love which is reflected in my writing and helped bring the Oleah Chronicles to life. I hope you enjoy my first book and through it you experience the eccentric vision that began in my mind so long ago.

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