Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Hearts we Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Title: The Hearts we Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Gene: Urban Fantasy
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 400 Pages
Publication: August 8, 2017 by Little Brown BFYR

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

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When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

I’ve always found tales of Faustian bargains fascinating. How someone can just throw away their values and beliefs and make a deal with the devil for ambitious reasons; contradicting everything they stand for. It’s a conundrum. I haven’t read many Faustian books, so when I heard about The Hearts we Sold, I knew I had to read it! I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of it through The Novl newsletter (THANK YOU!) and it was way better than I thought. The Hearts we Sold had a lot of heart and though the plot and the writing was light and straightforward; it also explored deep issues and messages that many readers will appreciate. I know I certainly did.

In The Hearts we Sold, the daemons have made themselves known to the world. They have gain notoriety for making deals with humans; a wish in exchange for a body part. Some daemons deal in eyes, mouths, legs, or arms. But In Dee’s case, her daemon required leasing a heart for two years. And in the two years, the recipients are required to do his bidding. Which entail the ‘heartless’ to close voids (portals to a different dimension).

Dee has a pretty crappy life, her parents are alcoholics and are constantly putting her down and treating her like their personal maid. And Dee’s only escape comes in a form of a scholarship to a fancy private school. But when the school decides to cut the scholarship kids and Dee is desperate to stay…she makes a deal with a Daemon for money to pay her school tuition. This choice turns everything up on its head for Dee and giving up her heart and as she goes on missions with the other heartless teenagers; does she truly live.

I really liked Dee and seeing her transformation over the course of the book. It was a drastic change for the better. She took more chances and risks, stood up for herself and made hard choices that pushed her to move forward. All qualities I liked seeing in character development/growth. The romance aspect was very sweet and I liked that it didn’t play a central role in the story and instead it supported it. The ending nearly broke my heart. It was bittersweet and unexpected and took me completely by surprise; my kind of endings.

The Hearts we Sold took an idea and themes we’re all familiar with and made it it’s own and wholly original. At a glance The Hearts we Sold may seem like just another paranormal YA but it was so much more than that…it tackled a lot of important issues and had messages that will stay with me forever. Lloyd-Jones is a writer to watch. I highly recommend The Hearts we Sold. I haven’t been this surprised by a book in a long time and The Hearts we Sold is definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year! I'm so glad I got a chance to read it, otherwise I may have never picked it up myself.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

Title: The Glass Arrow
Author: Kristen Simmons
Genre: Dystopian 
Series: N/A

Trade Paperback, 334 Pages
Publication: February 10, 2015 by Tor Teen

Source: I received a review copy from Saichek Publicity/Tor Books in exchange for a honest review.

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The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.
 
I became a fan of Simmons after reading her standalone novel, Metaltown which also happens to be a Dystopian. And after the successful of Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale I was more than eager to check out Simmons’s earlier novel, The Glass Arrow which also painted a bleak and oppressive society for women. Similar to Atwood’s novel, The Glass Arrows’s world covet child baring women, where they’ve become a highly fetched commodity and are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Girls are breed to continue this never-ending vicious cycle.

The Glass Arrow is narrated and centered around Aya, a free teenager who is later captured, renamed Clover and ended up sharing the same fate as the girls in The Garden (camp/prison). The girls all await their turn to be auction up, some fight against the idea while others embrace it. Aya is definitely the former. And for the majority of the book, Aya is constantly contemplating her plans for escape. This made for a very slow pace novel, which wasn’t something I was used to in Dystopian novel. But don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it and seeing exactly what Aya thought. What I found interesting and refreshing was how normal Aya and the girls were. Also unlike most Dystopian heroines, Aya isn’t trying to incite some rebellion against the Government but she’s only thinking of herself; surviving and getting back to her adopted family. I liked that. I liked that a lot.

While The Glass Arrow wasn’t ground breaking or new, it still had a lot going for it. If you’re looking for something to hold you over till the next season of Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, I suggest checking out Simmons’s The Glass Arrow, which is a frightening realistic possibility of our future.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Roar by Cora Carmack

Title: Roar
Author: Cora Carmack
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Stormheart # 1

Hardcover, 380 Pages
Publication: June 13, 2017 by Tor Teen

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

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In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Roar was one of my highly anticipated reads of 2017 and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. I’ve never read anything by Carmack but I’ve heard great things about her new adult series and was excited to finally check out her novel and what better way then to check out her debut novel, Roar.

2017 seemed to be the year of high fantasy and science fiction but most of the Young Adult novels released started to blend and bleed together. They were too similar to one another that it was difficult to set itself truly apart. Roar didn’t have this problem, as there are very few elemental novels on the market. The concept of the Roar was unique and refreshing. My favorite aspect of the novel was the world building. The Lands of Caelira consisted of different kingdoms, each family of nobility descended from a Stormling (those with the power to weld storms or any element such as rain, fire etc). The book was center around Aurora Pavan, a princess and heir to the Pavan Kingdom. Unlike the other kingdoms’ heirs, Aurora had no stormling abilities and the only way to protect her kingdom was to marry into another stormling family. Upon meeting her betrothed and learning more about him and his plans; Aurora fleed the kingdom and joined a group of storm hunters. She hoped by capturing her own stormhearts, she would have the power to protect her people and be the queen she was destined to be.

I loved how independent Aurora was, like the whole princess that can save herself and didn't need a prince or man. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a prince or man vying for Aurora’s hand. Aurora may not have had any powers but what she lacked, she made up for in brains and skills. Not only was Aurora extremely book smart, can speak five languages, but she can also fight as well and is skilled with swords and bow and arrows. Locke, one of the love interest was your typical alpha male. And at first I thought it was all swoon worthy but as the book progressed Locke just became more dubious. He was very protective and possessive of Aurora to the point where it was creepy and bothersome. Since I’m pretty sure this novel played out over the course of a few days, I thought that was just falling too fast. And although, his behavior got uncomfortable, it didn’t take away from me enjoying the story.

Roar is an excellent start to a new series and I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Aurora ‘Roar’ and the storm hunters…Especially when she can no longer hide her identity! All in all, great world building, characters and writing. I highly recommend it!


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price

Title: The Song of the Orphans
Author: Daniel Price
Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: The Silvers #2

Hardcover, 748 Pages
Publication: July 4, 2017 by Blue Rider Press

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

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After their world collapsed in a sheet of white light, everything and everyone were gone—except for Hannah and Amanda Given. Saved from destruction by three fearsome and powerful beings, the Given sisters found themselves on a strange new Earth where restaurants move through the air like flying saucers and the fabric of time is manipulated by common household appliances. There, they were joined by four other survivors: a sarcastic cartoonist, a shy teenage girl, a brilliant young Australian, and a troubled ex-prodigy. Hunted by enemies they never knew they had, and afflicted with temporal abilities they never wanted, the sisters and their companions began a cross-country journey to find the one man who could save them.

Now, only months after being pursued across the country by government forces and the Gothams—a renegade group with similar powers—the Silvers discover that their purpose on this unfamiliar earth may be to prevent its complete annihilation. With continually shifting alliances and the future in jeopardy, the Silvers realize that their only hope for survival is to locate the other refugees—whether they can be trusted or not.

The Song of the Orphans is the second installment in The Silvers Trilogy following an eclectic group from an alternate earth with super powers. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re destined to save this new earth and the only way to do so is to unite with one another, Silver with Gold, and enemies that become unlikely allies.

This was one hefty book with over 700 pages! However, don’t feel put-off or discouraged by its enormous size because once you start it; you’ll finish the book before you even know it. I haven’t had the chance to read the first book, The Flight of the Silvers, so I was a little bit confused in the beginning. I don’t recommend going into The Song of the Orphans without reading the first book. The world building and characters are very complex and I certainly felt like I was missing a lot of their back story and development. However, Price did do a great job at summarizing some of the events and the characters’ background. Once I got through the first 4-5 chapters I was fully engrossed into the story and characters and had a pretty good idea of how the world worked and of the terminology used.

I really enjoyed The Song of the Orphans, so much so, that I plan on going back and read the first book in the series when I get the chance. The Song of the Orphans is the epitome of a perfect Superheroes versus Villains novel but with so much more substance. Again with The Song of the Orphans clocking out at approximately 750 pages, Price’s storytelling flowed flawlessly ensuring readers never a dull moment and characters you automatically connect with where you can’t help but care to see what happens to them next. I highly recommend everyone to check this series out if you haven’t already. It’s definitely the best Sci-fi novel I’ve read in years!


Monday, July 03, 2017

Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Title: Deadmen Walking
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon 
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Deadman's Cross #1

Hardcover, 384 Pages
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Tor Books

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

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To catch evil, it takes evil.

Enter Devyl Bane an ancient dark warlord returned to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the New World. A man of many secrets, Bane makes a pact with Thorn an immortal charged with securing the worst creations the ancient gods ever released into our world. Those powers have been imprisoned for eons behind enchanted gates . . . gates that are beginning to buckle. At Thorn s behest, Bane takes command of a crew of Deadmen and, together, they are humanity s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms.

But things are never so simple. And one of Bane s biggest problems is the ship they sail upon. For the Sea Witch isn t just a vessel, she s also a woman born of an ancient people he wronged and who in turn wronged him during a centuries long war between their two races a woman who is also sister to their primary target. Now Marcelina, the Sea Witch, must choose. Either she remains loyal to her evil sister and almost extinct race against Bane and his cause, and watches humanity fall, or she puts faith in an enemy who has already betrayed her. Her people over the totality of humanity let s hope Bane can sway her favor.

This is kind of embarrassing to say, but I have never read a book by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Ever. Anyone who reads within the Paranormal/Fantasy Genre has read one of her series, or at least a novel of hers. I’ve heard great things about her Dark-Hunter and Chronicles of Nick Series but never gotten around to reading them. So when I heard about Kenyon’s latest series, Deadmen’s Cross featuring demons and pirates, I all but jumped on the chance to read it. And I am so glad I did. It was packed with endless action, witty dialogue, unique mythology and great world-building and characters.

After reading a couple of reviews, it seem that Deadmen’s Cross is a series within Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Universe, with a couple of characters mentioned and showing up. Deadmen Walking is set in the 1700s and follows Devyl Bane and his crew of the dead. Kenyon heavily incorporates Norse Mythology and probably others that I’ve never heard about which made for a very interesting read. There was definitely a lot of characters, each with their own history and background. I loved learning about everyone, especially Bane’s crew. Being dead for a reason, the crew gave the impression that they were the kind of evil, even hell didn’t want. But as readers come to learn of their haunted past; it turned out to be more melancholic and heartbreaking then I could imagine. The world that Kenyon created is meticulous and multifaceted but she wrote it in a way that I never felt lost or confused. Which is very important and has happened in new series more often then I’d like to admit.

Deadmen Walking is a Paranormal Romance, something I wasn’t aware of upon starting it. If anyone has read my reviews or follows the blog know that I rarely read them. I usually like my stories focused on one pair of leads throughout a series versus a new lead in subsequent books. However, as I said I really liked the cast and am more than likely going to pick up the next book even if it doesn’t feature Devyl and Mara. Overall, I thought Deadmen Walking was an excellent series opener. Kenyon’s old fans will be delighted to see a new series in the Dark-Hunter Universe while new fans will devour this and will be jumping on another series as we wait for the next Deadmen’s Cross novel which hits stores in 2018; featuring Merman Kalder and the Seraphina Cameron. I loved Deadmen Walking and highly recommend it! It certainly deserve the hype it was getting!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Seeker by Veronica Rossi

Title: Seeker
Author: Veronica Rossi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Riders # 2

Hardcover, 352 Pages
Publication: May 16, 2017 by Tor Teen

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

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When Daryn claimed she was seeing visions during her sophomore year of high school, no one believed the truth.

She wasn’t losing her mind; she was gaining the Sight—the ability to see the future. Daryn embraced her role as a Seeker. The work she did was important. She saved lives.

Until Sebastian.

Sebastian was her first—and worst—mistake.

Since the moment she inadvertently sealed him in a dark dimension with Samrael, the last surviving demon of the Kindred, guilt has plagued her. Daryn knows Sebastian is alive and waiting for help. It’s up to her to rescue him. But now that she needs the Sight more than ever to guide her, the visions have stopped.

Daryn must rely on instincts, intelligence, and blind faith to lead the riders who are counting on her in search of Sebastian. As they delve into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems and where Samrael is steadily amassing power, Daryn faces the ultimate test. Will she have to become evil to destroy evil?

The very fate of humankind may rest in the answer.


Seeker is the second installment in the Riders duology, featuring four teenagers as the embodiment of The Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This time around we have a new additional narrator, the one and only enigmatic Seeker Daryn. Seeker picks up a couple months after the events in Riders. Sebastian was kidnapped by Samrael and is stuck in another dimension full of darkness, monsters and fears made real. His only hope of returning home is Daryn, the Seeker that can see visions of the future and open the portal that traps him. The Three Horsemen, Daryn, and Cordero team up for a rescue mission but the mission takes an expected turn when Sebastian plea for Samrael’s safety and return.

I read Riders last year and enjoyed it very much. I was excited when I found out that the sequel and final book was going to be narrated partially by Daryn because readers didn’t get to know her as well in the first book. That changed in Seeker as we got up close and personal seeing through Daryn’s eyes and are able to glimpse what she felt and thought about everything around her. We also learned about her family and why they haven’t been mentioned or around much. While I appreciated getting to know more about Daryn, I was bummed that the rest of the characters took a backseat.The book centered mostly on Daryn and Gideon’s relationship and I felt rescuing Sebastian was seen as a plot device to push the story forward. Even when the other characters had page time, it felt brief and rushed as if the author just wanted to get the scene over with to go back to Daryn and Gideon. I like Daryn and Gideon but their relationship was rocky and awkward since they met each other; which began in the first book and their relationship didn’t quite feel genuine until the end of the second novel. There were a lot of trust issues. I was expecting a story about The Horsemen saving the world but in reality I got a story of two teenagers in love.

Seeker is a good follow-up to Riders and had it moments but overall I felt as though it was missing that spark that made me love the first book. The progress of the story was slower than I liked and there wasn’t that much going on. Daryn, Gideon and team were sitting around for most of the time than fighting the harrowings and when the big scene came at the end it was anticlimactic. With that said, If you’re looking for answers and a wrap up to the events in Riders then Seeker definitely deliver on all those front. But I was hoping for more and had high expectations for Seeker which fell just short of being great.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Wayward Children #2 

Paperback, 176 pages
Publication: June 13, 2017 by Tor.com

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

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Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first...

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and 
choice.


Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second novel/novella in the Wayward Children series and tells the story of Twin Sister Jacqueline and Jillian before they arrived at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. I was so excited when I heard that the sequel was going to feature the sisters, they were by far the most interesting of all the characters. McGuire takes readers on a journey to the past, even further before the twins were born, to how life was in the Wolcott house, to the twins ending up in the Moors under two very different guardians that eventually shaped the young adults we see in Every Heart a Doorway.

Although Jack and Jill are identical twins, they couldn’t be more polar opposite of one another. Jill was seen as the prettier one, the girlier one; while Jack was always second best to her sister.Their parents had these quirks and treated the girls differently, which is why for example, Jack was deathly scared of getting dirty. They constantly fussed if Jack got even a tiny speck of dirt on her clothing. Living in the Wolcott’s house was difficult. But then one day they discovered a magical set of stairs in a clothing trunk. They finally discovered a secret that their parents didn’t know about and couldn’t enforce their rules upon the girls. So they decided to leave, to go on an adventure; just the two of them. The girls stumbled into The Moors, where everything is terrifying, dreary and melancholy. If you seen the old movies that featured Dracula or Frankenstein then you’d seen The Moors. Or at least what the Moors and the inhabitants would look like. It had an antiquated otherworldly feel going on. Upon their arrival, the girls were given the choice of either staying with The Master, a Vampire or Dr. Bleak, a reclusive scientist. Without spoiling the story, the girls each made their choice that will forever change their relationship with one another and shape their personality.

Overall, I enjoyed this standalone, sequel much more than Every Heart A Doorway. The first book felt clunky and didn’t have much substance in terms of plot or direction. However, focusing on just the twins this time around and their journey to their door; I thought we had a clearer story. McGuire is a talent writer and having read her October Daye series I know she’s a master when it comes to world building. The world building in Down Among the Stick and Bones was giving me major Victorian Gothic vibes, which I adore. I absolutely loved learning of Jack and Jill’s past and their upbringing. It gave me a better understanding of the girls I read about in Every Heart a Doorway. If you liked the first book in the series, then you will certainly enjoy Down Among the Sticks and Bones!