Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women by Kevin James Breaux

Title: The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women
Author: Kevin James Breaux
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series: The Blood, Sun and Moon #1

Kindle Edition, 409 Pages
Publication: January 9, 2017 

Source: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a honest review.

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Astrid the White isn't an average princess. She has always stayed by the side of her father, King Kol, and learned warfare and weaponry from the best Vikings in the land. When she awakens in the city of Birka and hears the sounds of war, she rushes proudly into the fray. She is more than capable of taking down any enemy wishing to disturb the peace.

This enemy, however, isn't what she expected. Before Astrid even gets outside the walls, a golden light knocks her out.

She comes to in the snow, in full battle armor. Astrid first suspects that this is a challenge from her father--or even the gods themselves. By acting correctly, she can gain the favor of Odin, the Allfather.

Astrid wants to complete the test, but it becomes more and more difficult as she explores this new part of the world and encounters both monsters and monstrous men. As creatures from the darkest legends reveal themselves, Astrid will discover that her journey isn't about acting correctly or passing Odin's test. It's about pure survival. Before she can even think about finding Birka, she will have to defend herself against the demons of this new world.


I’m not an expert on Norse Mythology or Vikings but I definitely like reading about it and anything related to the two. Breaux has written various types of fantasy from High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and now Historical Fantasy. And I must say I am digging Breaux’s jump into Historical Fantasy. In The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women Breaux introduces readers to Astrid, a warrior princess who is brave as she is impulsive, always running head first into battle and danger. Within the opening chapter Astrid’s home is invaded and somewhere amongst the chaos Astrid ends up far, far away from Birka, her home. With her family missing, her memories wiped and lost, Astrid reluctantly accepts help from Warren, a farmer and ex-soldier. With Warren by her side, Astrid starts to uncover what happened that fateful night, who she really was and that there may be more to life besides pillaging and war.

The book started with a bang. I immediately felt the urgency as Astrid and her sister Yrsa tried to gather the family as intruders encroach on their land. But Astrid is never one to run away from a fight and it is there that things took a turn for the worst. Astrid woke up alone and far from home in a strange land called Gromstad. But then the story dramatically slowed down as Breaux sets up the world and the characters through Astrid’s interaction with the people of Gromstad and multiple flashback scenes. I was a little bit confused in the middle of the book, since there was a lot going on but things weren’t being explained right away. It wasn’t till I got towards the end of the book that everything started to make sense…we find out the truth about Astrid and her family and her true purpose for waking up in the location that she did.

I like how brave and strong Astrid was, no doubt a fierce heroine. But at times It was hard to relate to her. She was raised a certain way and even she herself said her brothers saw her more as a guy than a girl. She’s not used to asking for help or for things she needs…she usually just took whatever she needed. But one thing I could relate to is the strong bond and love she had for her family and how she would do anything for them. I liked that about her. And though the book is mainly focus on Astrid, I still felt that there was something that kept me from truly connecting with her. What? I’m not sure. I can’t exactly pinpoint it. I also didn’t think the secondary characters were as developed as Astrid. I thought the characters could’ve had more background/history to make them more realistic and memorable but I honestly forgot them as soon as they came and went. The only other character that came close to being as interesting as Astrid was probably her sister, Yrsa…but even then she didn’t have much page time.

Overall, The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women is a good start to a brand new series. I enjoyed Breaux’s spin on Norse Mythology and the general concept of the novel. I haven’t read many Norse or Viking novels, so I highly recommend this book for those looking for a fresh and unique read! It was a nice change of scenery in my usual paranormal reads. 




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary by Emma Chastain

Title: Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's 
Diary
Author: Emma Chastain
Genre:Contemporary, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 352 pages
Publication:March 7, 2017 by Simon Pulse

Source: I received a review copy from Saichek Publicity/Simon and Schuster in exchange for a honest review. 

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In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.3 .I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

I'm normally not a fan of Diary Style novels but Confessions of a High School Disaster was billed as a teen Bridget Jones’s Diary, so of course I had to read it! I adored the films (haven’t read the books) so I knew I was going to enjoy Confessions of a High School Disaster and I did! Readers follow Chloe as she chronicles her first year in high school, family life, friends, and boy crushes. Dealing with her Mom's absent and the ups and downs of high school. This book was so much fun and had me laughing-out-loud and grinning like a fool!

If I had to describe this book in one word it would be: Authentic. Chloe’s voice rang true, a real 14 year-old. Many Young Adult novels are obviously written by adults, rarely is a book written by a teen…but we do have writers in their early 20’s. There are many great Young Adult novels don’t get me wrong but never has any author truly captured the voice/life of a teen so well and so accurately. I felt like I was actually reading a real-life fourteen year old Chloe’s diary. Chloe was absolutely hilarious. The things she says are so honest and are exactly what a typical teenager would say. And the things she did were exactly what a teen would do.

I mean, yeah there were some questionable and not nice things that Chloe did. She went to parties that of course involved drinking and she talked about sex a lot but again, that was exactly what high school was like for most teens. We may want to pretend that it was all unicorns and rainbows, but who are we kidding….high school had it spectacular moments and it’s crash and burn moments. She made a lot of mistakes throughout her first year in high school, and there were ugly consequences that followed. And I definitely know of a few Chloes back in my day. The important things is that Chloe made mistakes (which is human) and she learned from them. She’s realistic and I am positive many readers can relate to her at one time or another.

Confessions of a High School Disaster was an enjoyable and charming read. If you’re looking for a fun, happy and light read or need to get out of a reading stump…then this book will get the job done! Confessions of a High School Disaster will have you giggling till your funny bone hurt!


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

Title: Game of Shadows
Author: Erika Lewis
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: N/A (Potential start to a series)

Hardcover, 400 Pages
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Tor Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Ethan Makkai thought that seeing ghosts was the worst of his problems. Between his ethereal gift and life with a single mother hell-bent on watching his every move, he feels imprisoned. When Ethan sees a chance to escape, to leave the house by himself for the first time in his life, he seizes it, unaware that this first taste of freedom will cost him everything.

Ethan is thrown into a strange and eerie world, like nothing he's ever seen. He's assaulted by dive-bombing birds and rescued by a stranger who claims to be his bodyguard. His apartment is trashed, and his mother is kidnapped to a place Ethan never knew existed—a hidden continent called Tara.

Travelling to Tara in search of his mother, Ethan discovers that everything he knows about his life is a lie. His mother is royalty. His father is not dead. His destiny is likely to get him killed.

Confronted by a vicious sorcerer determined to destroy the Makkai family, Ethan must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother and all the people of Tara, including the beautiful girl he’s fallen for.

Game of Shadows was published last week and may have flew under everyone’s radar. It probably would’ve flew under mine as well if it wasn’t brought to my attention for review by the wonderful publicist at Tor. After reading the synopsis, intrigued, I happily agreed to review it. Plus it had an awesome cool cover! I couldn't say no. And boy am I so, so glad I read it. I loved Game of Shadows! It was the perfect adventure novel, with the right balance of action, mystery and humor. I don’t think it’s too early to say this, but Game of Shadows is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

I thought Lewis did an incredible job with the characters and world building. Two important aspects needed in all novels. The world of Tara felt so real and most importantly believable. Tara is divided into six territories. Each territory has their own King, Sorcerer and Book of Spells. I enjoyed seeing the different parts of Tara, learning of each territories; their king, the history, and rules. Each kingdom is very distinctive in their habits and appearance which sets them apart from the others. For example in Gransmore, the Fomorian were like giants well over 7 feet tall and in Kilkerry, there were werewolf men. I’m not too familiar with Irish and Celtic mythology but the background/history of the kingdoms and characters were meticulous, well written and thought out. It clearly shows that Lewis did her homework/research. I loved all of the characters, even the villain Swaney Bean. I found the characters realistic, relatable, likable and most of them charming. I was a little surprised and worried that our main protagonist Ethan, was fourteen years old. I thought Is this story going to be aimed on the lighter and younger side of fantasy or will Ethan be an immature little boy?. Thankfully, the fantasy was just complex enough and Ethan was mature for his age. Ethan was funny, smart, courageous, loyal, and caring. He knew when to go with his head and his heart, which were pretty good indicators of the future king of Landover.

Game of Shadows was an action packed adventure that I didn’t want to end! Seriously, upon finishing the book I rushed onto Goodreads, scouring for any details whether or not this was going to be the beginning of a series…and I was ecstatic to find out it was! The book ended on a crazy cliffhanger where I am dying to find out what happens next. I can’t wait to see what Lewis has in store for Ethan and the gang. I highly, highly recommend Game of Shadows to everyone. It has something for everyone of all ages. Action, check. Adventure, check. Humor, check. A dash of Romance, check. Strong hero and heroine, check. Everything you love about Fantasy…check, check, check. Game of Shadows is a truly hidden gem in a sea of books. Read it now, you won’t regret it! If you like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Wizard of Oz then you'd like this book too. 





Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Title: Frostblood
Author: Elly Blake
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Frostblood Saga # 1

Hardcover, 376 pages
Publication: January 10, 2017 by Little Brown BFYR

Source: I won an ARC through a giveaway.

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Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

I’ve read a few great novels so far this year and among them is Frostblood, the first book in a brand new Young Adult series. I first saw this book in the NOVL newsletter as a giveaway and thought it sounded interesting. Lo and behold, I was one of the lucky subscribers that received this book for review. I suspected Frostblood was going to be good, at least better than most of the YA I’ve read in the past but I didn’t expect to be swept away and so engrossed by the story and characters as much as I did. It was so much more than I expected and kept me reading till the early morning…where I totally looked and felt like a zombie the next day. But it was worth it. I finished it in one and half days! That’s how awesome this book was. It’s very rare nowadays for me to read a book quickly, almost straight through; where I can’t tear myself away from the book until I know what happens next. I think the last book that made me feel that way was Daughter of Smoke and Bones back in 2011! Plus I’m extremely picky when it comes to YA novels. It’s getting harder and harder for a book, fantasy at that, to stand out in a sea of fantasy novels/debuts but Blake’s book definitely caught my attention and it looks to be a start to a fabulous series.

Ruby, our main heroine was one feisty and stubborn chick, which makes sense since she’s a Fireblood; a person that wields and controls fire. Except Ruby never really understood or learned how to control her powers. Ever since Ruby was young, she was taught to hide her gift and never to use it because of how dangerous it was. But after the death of her mother and the destruction of her village; Ruby found herself in the company of two Frostbloods, who controlled water/ice and were willing to teach Ruby to master her powers. Under the condition that she’d help them kill The Frost King. Ruby may have a strong snarky attitude but she was just as caring and passionate when it came to people that mattered. I loved seeing Ruby’s growth throughout the book, because she certainly wasn’t the same girl that was captured by the King’s men.

Another main character is Arcus, the mysterious and secretive Frostblood that broke Ruby out of prison. As you all probably figured out by reading the synopsis, Arcus eventually becomes Ruby’s love interest. Man, oh man…the chemistry and tension between these two were off the chart! I loved the slow burning romance, it gave me goosebumps! My favorite scenes were without-a-doubt of Arcus and Ruby training together. However, the way Ruby acted towards the end is what kept this book from being 5 stars. While she may have been corrupted by Minax, I didn’t like how easily she dismissed her feelings for Arcus or how she can kiss one person one minute and jump to another guy the next. It was very off-putting in my opinion. But thankfully she ended up with the right person in the end!

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a great and engaging YA novel. Although Frostblood may have the usual tropes and was a little predictable at time (Arcus’s identity), I still found myself enjoying it immensely. Blake created a fantastic world and characters, enabling me to immerse myself into the story and escape reality for awhile. All the best books do. I highly recommend Frostblood for those that haven't read it yet, it was the perfect blend of romance and action. Fireblood, the second book in the trilogy comes out this year, how cool is that? We don’t have to wait a year! I am so stoked about it and can’t wait to jump back into the world of Frostbloods and Firebloods!



Monday, February 06, 2017

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Portal Fantasy
Series: Wayward Children # 1

Hardcover, 173 pages
Publication: April 5, 2016 by Tor.com

Source: Purchased

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No Solicitations.No Visitors.No Guests.

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.
 

I never knew there was a specific name for books where the characters traveled to a different world/dimension/realm, which has been dubbed Portal Fantasy. However, it’s not anything new. We’ve seen it in movies and literature alike from Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to Harry Potter and Coraline. There’s an abundance of them. But what sets McGuire's novella apart from the previous novels mention is McGuire deals with the aftermath of the characters’ adventures and travels. Asking the question, what happens next? Readers get an inside look at these characters who were whisked away as children and returned as young adults adjusting to coming home/to reality; trying to normalize their lives when they never felt normalcy except in the worlds they escaped to as kids.

I don’t read novellas often but Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors (If you haven’t checked out her October Daye series yet, you’re seriously missing out!). And anything she writes is a must read for me. I get that novellas are short and you can only do so much in x-amount of pages; you have to have fleshed out characters, some sort of world building/concept and a plot. Despite the rave reviews for Every Heart a Doorway, this novella fell short on all three accounts. The characters weren’t fully developed and except for Jack and Jill; Nancy, our main protagonist and all of the other characters felt one dimensional. The world building was a unique idea but with the book being so short, McGuire could only set the foundation for it and didn’t really explore it further. And lastly, the plot was pretty generic and straightforward. A whodunit mystery. Someone is going around murdering the students and Nancy and her new friends are trying to figure out who the killer is. That’s basically the gist of it.

This book had its interesting moments but overall it didn’t meet my expectations. Although I didn’t enjoy Every Heart a Doorway as much as I wanted, the next book in this novella series (?) is centered around Jack and Jill and their time before they came to West’s Home for Wayward Children. Now that is something I’d read, plus they were the only characters I found intriguing. If you were planning on checking this novella out, I’d suggest borrowing it some way, some how. In my opinion it’s not worth purchasing.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

City of Light by Keri Arthur

Title: City of Light
Author: Keri Arthur
Genre: Sci-Fi Dystopian
Series: An Outcast Novel #1

Mass Market Paperback, 304 Pages

Publication: January 5, 2016 by Signet

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


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When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between this world and the next, they allowed entry to the Others—demons, wraiths, and death spirits who turned the shadows into their hunting grounds. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay....

As a déchet—a breed of humanoid super-soldiers almost eradicated by the war—Tiger has spent her life in hiding. But when she risks her life to save a little girl on the outskirts of Central City, she discovers that the child is one of many abducted in broad daylight by a wraith-like being—an impossibility with dangerous implications for everyone on earth.

Because if the light is no longer enough to protect them, nowhere is safe...
 
This book was amazing and my first book by Keri Arthur. I don’t know why I waited so long. At least now I know why she has such a huge fan base, her world-building and writing is definitely top notch. I remembered being super intrigued when I first heard about Arthur’s new series and I got it when it was released but for some reason I never got around to reading it. So much regrets! City of Light is a Science Fiction Dystopian that takes the overly used supes of vampires, shifters and ghosts and spins it into something completely new and unique…nothing like I’ve ever read before and I loved all of it.

City of Light follows Tiger, a déchet, a human created super soldier with human, vampire and shifter DNA. There are two main types of déchets; assassins and lures and Tiger is the later. A Lures’ main function was to seduce, spy, and gather information from enemies. But since the war over a hundred years ago between humans and shifters destroyed most of humanity, shifters and déchets alike; Tiger believed she was the last of her kind and has kept under the radar, hiding out in an old military bunker with hundreds of ghost déchets. It’s been a quiet and lonely hundred years until one night she came across a child being hunted by vampires. Unable to turn a blind eye, Tiger rescues the girl and her incapacitated guardian and is thrust back into civilization whether she wants to or not.

I haven’t came across many sci-fi novels that incorporated vampires, shifters and ghosts …by themselves let alone all three! As for hybrid characters…you got your usual fares of Vampire/Human, Shifter/Human but never a Humanoid/Vampire/Shifter. I was skeptical at first about it all, it’s never been done before as far as I knew but Arthur pulled it off flawlessly and made it worked ; creating a world and characters that kept me engrossed and more importantly invested in the story. The world building took a little getting used to as there were so many groups involved but it was never difficult to understand. I loved that it was complex but not overwhelming with useless details.

Tiger was an awesome heroine. Despite what history said of déchets, Tiger wasn’t a mindless and unfeeling abomination. She was quite the opposite. Tiger was strong, ruthless (when she needed to be), caring and had a moral compass when others around her had none. She had more feeling (humanness) than the humans that created her and the shifters that despised her kind. I also appreciated the lack of romance in City of Light as it kept Tiger focused on the problem at hand and she wasn’t falling head over heels over a guy (which from what I heard usually happens in Arthur’s novels). However, this didn’t mean there wasn’t anything else going on. There were a few sex scenes and sexual tension going on with Tiger and another character but luckily it didn’t detract from the novel itself…since there were reasons for those graphic scenes.

I loved City of Light and am still beating myself up about reading it so late. Thankfully the sequel, Winter Halo is out so I won’t be making the same mistake twice! City of Light left readers on a big cliffhanger and I can’t wait to see what happens next with Tiger and the children! This may be my first book by Arthur but it certainly will not be my last. I highly recommend Urban Fantasy and Sci-fi readers to check this new series out, you don’t want to miss it!



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

Title: Martians Abroad
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Series: N/A, Standalone

Hardcover, 288 Pages
Publication: January 17, 2017 by Tor Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there's more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.
 


Carrie Vaughn is well known for her ever popular Urban Fantasy Kitty Norville Series, but Vaughn branches off into something different with Martians Aboard, a new standalone Sci-Fi novel for Young Adult (but can be enjoyed by everyone of course). If I am correct, I think this is Vaughn’s first foray into Young Adult, and she did it marvelously. Martians Aboard kind of reminded me of CW’s Star Crossed, minus the whole romance aspect and being a whole lot better. But what we had was a group of teens from across the solar system being sent to earth’s Galileo Academy to promote interplanetary relationships between humans and offworlders...and as you can imagine...high school is no joke. And if a student is able to succeed and pass at Galileo Academy, then they’ll be ready for anything. For the real world. Readers follow twins Polly and Charles, the only martians at school as they try to navigate the unknown territories of earth and high school.

I absolutely loved Polly. Teenagers, or characters in most Young Adult novels come off annoying and angsty, you know, typical teens. However, Polly and her brother, lived somewhat a sheltered life, I mean, living on Mars had a lot of restriction and there’s only so much one can do on a dry, dusty terrain. Polly is definitely not your typical teenager and I think her obliviousness to earth’s social norms made her all the more endearing. There was a lot of “accidents” occurring coincidentally since Polly and the other colonies kids arrived at Galileo Academy (one of the most prestigious school in all of the colonies). Unlike most of Polly’s classmates who only looked out for themselves; Polly always found herself in the middle of those “accidents”, jumping in front of danger to rescue a fellow classmate, because it was the right thing to do. I loved her impulsiveness, bravery, selflessness and dedication to her friends and family. Polly’s group of friends were all just as great and super supportive. My favorites scenes was when everyone worked together, the Earth kids and offworlder kids. And despite their differences of living in different part of the solar system; at the end of the day they’re all the same, a bunch of kids dealing with the same problems, up and downs of high school.

All in all Martians Abroad was a very enjoyable read and everything wrapped up nicely (however, a little too quickly). Too bad this is a standalone. I wish there was more. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Polly, the enigmatic Charles and their buddies. Martians Abroad is a coming of age story and is a character driven novel, so there isn’t a lot of action. But trust me, watching Polly develop relationships with her fellow Galileo classmates was just as interesting and had me finishing the book all in one sitting! I was glued to the pages. I highly recommend everyone checking out this fun, light and charming Sci-Fi YA. It will not disappoint!