Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Title: Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: Fiction, Middle Grade
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 256 Pages
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Starscape

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

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An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library--by starting her own illegal locker library!

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, 
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That's when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate's mom thought the book wasn't appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.


Ban This Book was a wonderful surprise. Then again, when a book is about books, you can’t go wrong with it. And in this case, fourth grader Amy Anne discovered her favorite book of all time got banned from the library which prompts her and her friends to take matters into their own hands by launching the B.B.L.L. (Banned Books Locker Library); to make sure that their first amendment isn’t being restricted and that books are readily available to all those that want to read it.

I don’t read many middle grade books due to the target audience and when I do, they’re normally sci-fi or fantasy. However, like I said when a book is about a book, you just don’t pass it up. And I’m so glad I read it because the characters were realistic and the book had important messages. Which is, no one should tell you what you can and cannot read and to stand up for what you believe in. Both I wholly agree with. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of Amy Anne at the start of the book. She was very timid and never spoke her mind. The first third of the book was riddled with what she wanted to say but never did. And at first it was kind of funny, but after a few pages it just got tiring. Thankfully Amy Anne learned to voice her opinion, and even challenged the school board. And in voicing her opinion and for standing up for what she believed in, she and her fellow classmates were able to overturn the rule on the banned books! The ending was definitely my favorite scene in the entire book, when she pulled out that old library cataloging card!

I really enjoyed Ban This Book. It had me smiling throughout and I even shed a little tear at the end. While this book is targeted for readers age 13 and younger, I think it will appeal to adults and teens as well. I am very much way out of the target group but found myself liking it more than I thought I was going to. Ban This Book should be a reading requirement in class and should be in every single library. You’ll like this one, I guarantee it!



Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Title: The Last Magician 
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Genre: Young Adult
Series: The Last Magician #1

Hardcover, 512 Pages
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Simon Pulse

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

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In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
 


The Last Magician has been on my radar since the cover reveal months ago. After seeing it and reading the synopsis I knew it was going to be one of 2017’s most wanted/anticipated novels. And it certainly was, staying on the NYT Bestseller List for weeks! The Last Magician had a lot going for it involving magic, politics, societal issues, time-traveling, heist/con, well-thought out world building, great characters and so much more. Unlike most YA novels on the market, The Last Magician was pretty hefty in terms of page number and had a complex world-building. I thought Maxwell did an amazing job capturing New York during the 1900’s. The vivid imagery/details clearly showed the amount of time and research that went into the story. I truly felt as if I was there and that the characters were realistic, made whole/fleshed as if they were alive. I love the whole Gangs of New York feel with Magic (Yes, I know the movie is set in the 1800’s)!

At a glance, you’d expect or assume The Last Magician to be some sort of boarding school novel with magical users dealing with adolescent issues. Nope. The Last Magician was more dark, gritty and it had a whole lot of street smarts involved. I loved Maxwell’s take on magicians and the magic system. Maegus, are those born with magical powers and are feared by the common man who put up a magical/aetheral barrier “The Brink” to severely damage/kill those who posses any hint of magic because they believed it to be evil and feral. I liked that the majority of our characters are also approximately eighteen-years-old to late twenties, and back then the times made one grow-up even quicker than they wanted to. Our heroine, Etsa is seventeen but from a young age she was taught to be a weapon, using her training and ability to make her a undetectable and uncatchable thief. I adore Etsa, she’s independent, a quick thinker, resourceful and smart. Dolph’s crew was an eclectic bunch, all Maegus of varying abilities with the common goal of taking down the order, bringing magic back to it’s former glory and to protect those that cannot protect themselves. Each member was distinctly unique and had an interesting back story that I wouldn’t mind exploring more of like; Jianyu and Viola, both related to rival gangs, but find themselves in the employment/gang of Dolph Saunder, an enigmatic character (it’d be awesome to see his rise to power, I see a story or novella in the future!)

While The Last Magician is part time-traveling, the majority of the story is set in the past in the year 1901. Which I didn’t mind, I am quite fond of this century. All in all, The Last Magician lived up to the hype and was way better than what I expected. I love everything about this book. I am so glad this is part of a duology because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters.Despite the book clocking out at over 500 page, it was a quick read that had me from the very first page! The beginning was a bit confusing jumping back and forth from the past and present, but it was a good surprise when all the thread came together. And that ending! I was so engrossed into what was happening that I didn’t even see it coming, talk about a shocker! Loved it! If you haven’t read this new series starter, go out and get it now. I highly recommend it!



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!



Monday, June 12, 2017

SPOTLIGHT: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

Do you love Dystopian? Are you a fan of Hulu's acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? If you said yes to both, then you're going to want to check out Kristen Simmon's The Glass Arrow, a standalone novel in a world where women are scarce and hunted. To learn more about The Glass Arrow, check out a Q &A with Kristen and excerpt below!





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Published: February 10, 2015 by Tor Teen
352 Pages
Once there was a time when men and women lived as equals, when girl babies were valued, and women could belong only to themselves. But that was ten generations ago. Now women are property, to be sold and owned and bred, while a strict census keeps their numbers manageable and under control. The best any girl can hope for is to end up as some man's forever wife, but most are simply sold and resold until they're all used up.
Only in the wilderness, away from the city, can true freedom be found. Aya has spent her whole life in the mountains, looking out for her family and hiding from the world, until the day the Trackers finally catch her.
Stolen from her home, and being groomed for auction, Aya is desperate to escape her fate and return to her family, but her only allies are a loyal wolf she's raised from a pup and a strange mute boy who may be her best hope for freedom . . . if she can truly trust him.




Q & A

Q: Please introduce us to Aya and share some general background on THE GLASS ARROW.

A: Aya has been one of my favorite characters to write. Born into a world where women are endangered, where girls are condemned as breeders and misogyny is the norm, she's learned to adapt and survive by flying under the radar. With her family - a small group of free women - she hides from those who would see her sold into domestic slavery. Aya is tough: she hunts, fishes, defends her family. When she's captured and brought into captivity at the Garden, a training facility for girls, her life is turned upside down. All she can think about is reconnecting to the people she loves, and reclaiming her freedom, but she has to be smart in order to escape, and that may involve trusting a very unlikely ally. 

Q: What inspired you to write THE GLASS ARROW? 
A: A few stories on the news, and some social issues that seem to continue rising, but mostly my own experience. The transition into high school was difficult for me, as it is for many people. Before that time, I remember feeling like I could do anything, be anyone. I was valued because I was creative, and interesting, and smart, but once I stepped foot into high school, things changed. It didn't matter what kind of person I was; all that was important was if I was wearing the right clothes, or had my hair done the right way. If I was pretty. Boys judged us based on a star system - "She's an eight," they'd say, or "Her face is a nine, but the rest of her is a four." And worse, girls began sharing that same judgment, trying to raise these numbers to be cool, and popular. They'd compare themselves against each other, make it a competition. This, as I quickly learned, was what it meant to be a young woman. 
That experience transformed into Aya's existence - her journey from the freedom of the mountains, where she was important for so many reasons, to the Garden, where she is dressed up, and taught to be, above all things, attractive. Where she has to compete against other girls for votes come auction day. On that auction stage, Aya's given a star rating based on her looks, which is what her potential buyers will use to determine their bidding. It bears a direct correlation to my life as a teenager - to the lives of many teenagers. 

When it all comes down to it, I wanted to write a story where worth is determined by so much more than the value other people place on your body.  

Q: A lot has happened in the "real world" since the novel first came out in 2015. Does it feel surreal looking back at the book now?
A: Ah, I wish it did! Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of these issues are still very, scarily relevant, not just for young women, but all people. It seems like every time I see the news there is another incident of someone being measured by their looks rather than their internal worth, of women being degraded and disrespected, and of advantage being taken of someone's body and mind. It frightens me that these issues persist, but I never claim that THE GLASS ARROW was a look into the future. To me, it was always a way of processing the present. 

Q: Congratulations for the surge of attention the book is receiving, thanks to things like the Hulu adaptation of THE HANDMAID'S TALE. What do you want readers to take with them after reading THE GLASS ARROW?
A: Thank you very much! I am delighted by the mention, and honored to be included in the same thought as the great HANDMAID'S TALEIf people do find their way to my book as a response, I hope they take away that they are so much more important than the sometimes superficial and careless values other people assign to them. As Aya says in the book, I hope they know that there are not enough stars in the night sky to measure their worth.

Q: Besides other classics like Margaret Atwood's book, do you have any recommendations for readers wanting to explore more dystopian fiction and speculative fiction works?
A: How about METALTOWN by Kristen Simmons? That's a great dystopian! Or the ARTICLE 5 series, about a world where the Bill of Rights has been replaced by moral law... Ok, ok, I'm sorry. That was shameless. I always recommend LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow, THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin, Marie Lu's Legend series, and of course, THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. Those are all thrilling, and excellent looks both at the present, and the future.

Q: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see your next book?
A: I have two books coming out in 2018, and can't wait to share both of them. PACIFICA will be released March 6, 2018, and is about a world after the polar ice caps have melted, and a pirate girl and the son of the president find themselves in the middle of a building civil war. It's a story largely informed my my great grandmother's internment in World War II. In the fall, I'll have a new series starting. THE PRICE OF ADMISSION, first in the Valhalla Academy books, is about a girl accepted into an elite boarding school for con artists. I hope readers love them both!

Q: Where can readers find you online?
A: I'm always available through social media - Twitter and Instagram at @kris10writes, and Facebook at Author.KristenSimmons. I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and remember, you're worth more than all the stars in the night sky.



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➳EXCERPT

Run. 

My breath is sharp as a dagger, stabbing through my throat. It’s all I hear. WhooshWhoosh. In and out. 

They’re here. The Trackers. They’ve followed Bian from the lowland village where he lives. The fool led them right to us. 

The forest I know as well as the lines on my palms is dense and shrouded from the mid-morning light. I keep to the shadows, skirting around the bright open patches where the sunlight streams to the forest floor. My calloused feet fl y over the damp leaves and gray pebbles, keeping me stealthy as a fox. 

I run a practiced pattern, just like my ma taught me as a child. A zigzag through the brush and trees. I never run in a line; their horses will catch up too quickly on the straightaway, and they’re not all I have to worry about. I know the Tracker hounds have picked up my scent too, but they’re scroungers, weakened by hunger, and not as nimble as me in these woods. I’m banking on their starving stomachs leading them directly to the bait meat in my hunting snares. 

My thoughts jolt to the traps. There are six placed strategically around our camp. I know they’re good because I set them myself, and checked them only this morning. 

In my mind I see a Tracker’s heavy black boots clamber over the loose branches, see him fall ten feet down into a muddy hole. Another might trip the spring of the rabbit cage so its razor-sharp teeth bite down through his leather shoe. 

Trackers are cunning. But not as cunning as me. 

I swing around a stout pine, locking my body in place behind it so that I’m absolutely still. The coarse bark imprints onto the naked skin of my shoulders but I hold my position. That’s when I hear it. The thunder of hoof-beats. A shot pierces the air. Gunfire. Someone yells—a man’s voice, strained, hurting. It’s either one of them or Bian. He’s the only man old enough to make a noise so deep. Tam’s not yet seven, and if he were caught, his cry would be shrill. Childlike. 

Tam. I must find Tam and Nina, the twins. They count on me when they’re scared. Though when I conjure them in my mind—Tam’s black hair and button nose, Nina’s ever-watchful eyes—I am the one who’s scared. 

I’ve prepared them, I tell myself. I’ve prepared them like my ma prepared me. They know the hiding place—the abandoned wolf’s den in the south woods. An image of it breaks through from my memory: the narrow, shale entrance and damp inner chamber, smelling of mold. The rocky floor lined with the brittle bones of squirrels whose souls have long since passed to Mother Hawk. At first it looks to be a trap in itself, but if you squeeze past the tapering stone walls, the rock gives way to soil, and the twisting roots of an old pine create a ladder to climb upward into sunlit freedom. 

This has been our hiding place for my entire life. The twins know this. I’ve drilled them on this plan since my ma died four years ago, when I was eleven. Since they were toddling, crying in that cave for fear of the dark, and I had to carry them the entire way, singing their favorite lullabies, saying, you’re so braveyou’re so brave. Lifting them out myself, because they weren’t yet strong enough to climb. 

I made them practice hiding even when Salma told me not to—that I shouldn’t “frighten them.” Stupid—readiness was how we’d survived two raids from the Trackers in our youth. But though Salma is two years older, she acts like a baby. She hates the mountains, and hates my ma, even in death, for stealing her away here, for giving her freedom. And why she hates that, I’ll never know. 

Salma. I’ve lost sight of my cousin, and Metea, Bian, Tam and Nina’s mother. They’re my only family, the only ones who live with me in hiding. 

Another shot. My hearing sharpens, hones in on the sound, and I alter my course. I have to see if it’s Bian that’s in trouble. In his panic I’m sure he’s run for the wolf’s den. If the twins are there, if Salma and Metea are there, he’ll give them all away. 

I’m running westward now, aware of the heat and the moisture coating my skin. The trees spread, and I enter the clearing where the moss beneath my feet grows plush and soft as fur. Most days I love it here, but today this area is treacherous. There are few places to hide, and at any given moment I am exposed on all sides. 

The hoofbeats have faded behind me, and the stillness makes me leery. Only a fool would think I’d lost them. No, they’re stalling, waiting to box me in. 

I am less than a mile from our camp. For a flash, I debate running back to get a weapon. Any weapon—a bow, a knife, a steel pan. Anything that can be useful to defend myself, but I don’t have time. My usual obsidian blade is now in Tam’s tiny hands. I pray he won’t have to use it. 

The sound of labored breathing, of something wounded, cuts through the trees. I skid to a halt, swinging myself onto a low branch so that I can get a better view of the surrounding area. Just north, thirty paces or so, I make out a figure crumpled over the ground. 

Bian. 

His long, dark hair is matted with mud and leaves. His tunic—the one he trades his T-shirt for when he comes to visit us in the mountains—is twisted around his body and stained with an ink darker than berry juice. From the corner of his chest a spear nearly as tall as me juts out at an angle like a sapling after a windstorm. Weakly, he reaches for it with his opposite hand. Then his arm drops and he grows still. Too still. 

I will not approach him. I cannot. My heart twists for the boy I have called brother all my life. 

Silence. Even the birds are voiceless. Even the stream has stopped. 

I must get closer. If he’s alive, I can help him. 

I climb down, one painstaking step at a time, crouching low to sneak towards him. As I close in, I feel my blood grow slow and thick. 

Bian is dead. 

The spear is planted straight through to the earth. There is a wound in his leg where a bullet has pierced his jeans, and another in his chest. Dark blossoms of red are still seeping out across the sweat-dampened fabric. His mouth and his eyes are wide open in shock. 

Still ten paces away and sheltered on one side by the thick, tri-split leaves of a wormwood bush, I fall to my knees. I don’t understand why they’ve done this—why he’s been shot and speared. Trackers carry guns, and for their grand prize, use nets. They don’t use the antique weapons of the upper class. 

The answer pops into my mind as soon as I ask the question. These Trackers are not bounty hunters out on a slave-catching mission. These Trackers are hired thugs, paid for their services by some rich Magnate businessman looking for hunting fun. A bit of adventure. 

It sickens me but I can picture it: The first shot, to Bian’s leg, was meant to slow him down, to fix the game. He’d stumbled, made an easy target for the men pursuing him. The Magnate managed to spear him in the chest, but the wound had not been fatal. So the Tracker had shot him again. 

Poor Bian. Poor stupid Bian. Who never heeded his mother’s desperate pleas that he cover his tracks when paying us a visit. I hate him for bringing this upon us. I hate him more for dying. 

Enough time has been wasted. There is nothing I can do here. 

Find the twins. Find Salma and Metea, I order myself. But though the grief has dried, my feet are clumsier than before. 

The woods are unnaturally silent. I doubt the Trackers have taken the Magnate home. They would have returned to collect his spear, and besides that, they haven’t gotten what they’ve come for. The real trophy. 

Me. 






ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen Simmons is the author of the ARTICLE 5 series (ARTICLE 5, BREAKING POINT, and THREE), THE GLASS ARROW, METALTOWN, PACIFICA (coming March 2018 from Tor Teen), and THE PRICE OF ADMISSION (coming Fall 2018 from Tor Teen). She has a master’s degree in social work and loves red velvet cupcakes. She lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Connect with Kristen!