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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ARC Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

33918887Title: Bruja Born
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #2
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Fire; June 5, 1018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead...

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister's newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula's bruja healing powers can't fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula's world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn't the only one who's been brought back...
Labyrinth Lost was one of my favorite reads from last year, and I was more than ready to return to the world of the Brooklyn Brujas. As such, I had high hopes that I would love Bruja Born just as much Labyrinth Lost. I did have one minor issue with it (more on that later). That being said, it was still such a fabulous story full of magic, family, and mayhem.

Lula Mortiz appeared in the last book, but wasn’t on-page much due to the circumstance surrounding the story of Labyrinth Lost. I remember her sister, Alex more, because she was the main character. So, I was excited to see that Lula was getting her own story. What I initially remembered about Lula was that she was a healer who seemed sure of her place in the world as well as confident in her magical capabilities. Bruja Born had a different Lula, and if you’ve read Labyrinth Lost you’ll understand what I mean. At the start of the story, she comes off as bit selfish and self-absorbed. She was readily willing to ignore the pain of others because she felt like they owed her. There was a point where her selfishness and refusal to accept what happened—as well as attempting to ignore what was really going on—kind of irritated me after a while. However, I also got that that pattern of behavior had a place in the story. Lula was supposed to be different and hurt in so many ways. So her willingness to cling to the one thing she perceived as being the most good and stable aspect in her life was believable.

Bruja Born was story about magic, family, and choices. Choices are tricky. Some are right, others are wrong, some are mistakes and you don’t even realize it until later. And the story of Bruja Born illustrates how a split second decision, a moment of desperation, can have unforeseen and lasting consequences. It was also kind of a coming of age type story. Lula had to grow up and understand her mistakes and be held accountable for her actions, as well as learning to let go of the past—no matter how painful—in order to move forward. So, despite my irritation at some of the things that happened, as far as the story overall, Bruja Born was amazing.

It was also nice getting to see some familiar faces from Labyrinth Lost like Rishi, Nova, and others. I also liked the new characters who were introduced, and I have my fingers crossed that they’ll make another appearance in the next book.
I’ll read the next book in the series since the story seems like it’s going to focus on Rose. I’m looking forward to that...


Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for this review.

About the author...

Zoraida Córdova is the author of urban fantasies The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. Zoraida’s most recent release, Labyrinth Lost, won an International Latino Book award, was named a Best Book of 2016 by Paste Magazine and has been optioned by Paramount Studios. Zoraida is also the author of the upcoming Hollow Crown, to be published by Disney Hyperion in 2019.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

ARC Review: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

30238163Title: Ace of Shades
Series: The Shadow Game #1
Author: Amanda Foody
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harlequin Teen; April 10, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets...and secrets hide in every shadow...

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted. Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems. Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city. And she’ll need to play...
Going into Ace of Shades, I was very excited. I’ve read Amanda Foody’s debut book, Daughter of the Burning City, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story. I had high hopes that Ace of Shades would be the same way. I had some mixed feelings about it and didn’t like it as much as Daughter of the Burning City. Still, it was a good story.

The story starts quickly with Enne arriving in New Reynes. The reason is immediately stated, and the story and the main players are introduced and developed from there. New Reynes was definitely the City of Sin. Once again, I think Foody did a good job developing the darker themes of the story such as corruption, crime, and gambling. However, so much of the city was dark, dangerous, and rife with corruption with little to nothing else to break up those themes. It certainly lived up to its name. But, I would have liked to see a little more of the outside world beyond it. It was mentioned, but mainly through flashbacks and exposition from Enne’s limited point of view. But I never got a sense for what those places were actually like. The bulk of the action and mystery was centered in New Reynes and the search for Enne’s missing mother. Luckily, I didn't mind because there was a lot going on with the plot.

So who was good and who was bad? Who could be good or bad in a city nicknamed the City of Sin? There was no easy way to tell when many of the characters were morally ambiguous. That being said, the characters were a highlight for me, or more specifically, I liked the dynamics between them. Levi Glaisyer was far from an infallible character. He made a lot of mistakes and kept a lot of secrets. His past was catching up with him. And I could say the same thing about many of the characters from Ace of Shades, including Enne. At times, Enne was a little naïve, but it fit with the context of her upbringing and subsequent arrival in a new place.

Like I said above, Ace of Shades wasn’t a bad story. I liked it a lot actually. However, the beginning didn’t really draw me in the way Daughter of the Burning City did. It took several chapters before I was able to really get into the story. By far my favorite parts of the book took place in the latter half of the story when the true nature of the city and the game were revealed. There were hints of broader political and social unrest brewing beneath the surface of New Reynes, but they were hints. Of course, the implications point toward where the story could go after the end of Ace of Shades. And I’m interested in seeing where those implications eventually lead and what the consequences will be for Enne, Levi, and the other characters.

So, Ace of Shades was a good story. It was a promising beginning to a new series, and I know I’ll probably read the sequel. I also recommend it for those who enjoyed Foody’s last book, Daughter of the Burning City.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Harlequin Teen via Netgalley for this review.

About the author...

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books. DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is her first novel. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018...

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

ARC Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

36686547Title: The Tea Master and the Detective
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Series: The Universe of Xuya
Source/Format: Subterranean Press via Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Subterranean Press; March 31, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appearance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow's Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow's Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow's Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim's past, The Shadow's Child realizes that the investigation points to Long Chau's own murky past--and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars...
I’m always on the lookout for a good gender-swapped version of Sherlock Holmes, and Aliette de Bodard has achieved that and more with The Tea Master and the Detective. Despite its short length—it’s a novella—De Bodard crafted a compelling book with a fantastic story set in the Xuya Universe with characters that were as mysterious as they were smart. It also had a unique take on space travel that felt fresh and innovative.

I adored this book. It was the perfect combination of science fiction and mystery, with a Sherlock Holmes and Watson-esque relationship between the two main characters, The Shadow’s Child (a mindship) and Long Chau. That’s one thing I love about De Bodard’s writing—she always manages to create such vivid characters. The Shadow’s Child was by far one of my favorite aspects about the book. It was a mindship discharged from the military after a traumatic injury. The character could have gone either way, good or bad. However, the backstory, personality, and how De Bodard portrayed the lingering fears linked to the aforementioned trauma, made for a well-rounded character. The same could be said about Long Chau; although, I much preferred when the two were interacting/investigating.

The Scattered Pearls Belt was an interesting place with excellent world building. There were a number of little details about the society that made it an interesting setting for a mystery to take place. I particularly enjoyed the author’s take on space travel. Specifically, I liked the idea of using something as ordinary and everyday as tea to nullify the effects of traveling into “deep spaces.” And the process behind making these teas—the trial and errors while brewing—were quite fascinating to read about.

So, The Tea Master and the Detective was pretty awesome. I loved everything about it, and I recommend it for readers who have read works by De Bodard before or are looking for a good place to start.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Subterranean Press via Netgalley for this review.
Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she has a day job as a System Engineer. She studied Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, but moonlights as a writer of speculative fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories, which garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. Her space opera books include The Tea Master and the Detective, a murder mystery set on a space station in a Vietnamese Galactic empire, inspired by the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Recent works include the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (Roc/Gollancz, 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz). She lives in Paris with her family, in a flat with more computers than warm bodies, and a set of Lovecraftian tentacled plants intent on taking over the place...

(Photo credit: Lou Abercrombie)

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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....

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, 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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the ForestTitle: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Source/Format: Won, Print ARC
More Details: Young Adult, Paranormal 
Publisher/Publication Date: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, January 13, 2015
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for...

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
I’m no stranger to Holly Black’s books. I enjoyed her Modern Faerie Tale series and liked the work she did with Tony DiTerlizzi on The Spiderwick Chronicles. Next on my list was The Darkest Part of the Forest.

At first, I had some reservations about how the story would work. The book is a standalone and the hype was tremendous at the time of its release. So, I was expecting a complete story with an ending good enough to be considered satisfying. Thankfully, I got what I was expecting. The story was good, and I did enjoy the book.

Black knows how to write faeries well, and does it in a style that’s shows the grittier, darker nature of the fey while playing off common themes—such as the magic and allergy to iron—while twisting them to suite the story. As with Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside before it, The Darkest Part of the Forest seemed to hold true to some of these themes. The setting of Fairfold complemented the atmosphere of mystery and magic that embroiled the character’s lives.

Hazel and Ben, brother and sister, were right in the middle of the mystery surrounding the glass coffin and the boy who slept within. After all, they had grown up in Fairfold, surrounded by magic and faeries their entire lives. Black showed how the environment had begun to affect them in different ways over time—shaping them into the characters that took center focus in the book.

Amidst the trouble brewing in Fairfold, really, The Darkest Part of the Forest was Hazel and Ben’s story—about their past and their present, and how their decisions were interpreted and the unforeseen consequences for their actions.

The ending was good, and the last several chapters consisted of my favorite parts. That is to say, there were plenty of surprises, and I was pretty happy about that. So, I definitely wasn’t disappointed by The Darkest Part of the Forest.
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