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.


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

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


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 

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!

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.



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. 


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. 



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! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Title: Firebrand
Author: A.J. Hartley
Genre: Fiction, Steampunk
Series: Alternative Detective # 2

Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: June 6, 2017 by Tor Teen

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


Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. When government plans for a secret weapon are stolen, their investigation leads right to the doorsteps of the city’s superexclusive social club, Elitus. Ang has a chance to catch the thief, but only if she can pass for a foreign princess. Her best chance to learn the ways of royalty lies in the aloof Dahria Willinghouse and the intense Madame Nahreem, a woman possessing high standards and unusual pets.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees from the north are trickling into the city, but an ambitious politician is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them. She soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

I haven’t read the first book in the Alternative Detective series, but I had no problems following the story in Firebrand. In this follow-up to Steeplejack, we find Anglet, a former Steeplejack working as a private detective/spy for parliament member, Willinghouse. After blueprints for a machine gun gets stolen and a wave of refugees goes missing; Ang is sent into the inner sanctum of the elite society to find out who is behind it all and what she discovers is more alarming than she can ever imagine.

Firebrand takes place in an alternative South Africa and I found everything from the setting to the characters refreshing. I don’t remember ever reading a novel taking place in Africa/Alt-Africa or one featuring such a vast cast of intriguing, complex, and incredible women. Ang, is our main heroine and we are treated to her first-person POV and within the first page I knew I was going to like her and the story. Ang had many admirable qualities, everything you’d want in a heroine. My favorites scenes were of Ang and Madame Nahreem’s training, teaching Ang the proper etiquette of a lady and how to become someone else/neutrality. I also thought the supporting cast was amazing, and one of the characters that rivaled Ang was Willinghouse’s and one of the lady’s society member, Dahria. Dahria was a hoot! She puts on this indifference front, acting as if she’s above Ang (most of the time) but the two are more alike than they cared to admit. And under all that sarcasm (which I found hilarious) she was a little ol’ softie.

Hartley weaved an enthralling story full of multiple threads that converged for a satisfying conclusion. I appreciated and love the way that Hartley incorporated serious issues of race, social class, economic, and politics into the story without it overshadowing the story and characters itself. It was subtle and brought another dimension to the plot. The mystery had me intrigued, the action had me at the edge of my seat, and the wonderful characters had me smiling and laughing throughout the book. I loved Firebrand and can’t wait to see what Hartley has in store for Ang and company next. Firebrand is such an underrated, gem of a novel and definitely doesn’t get the notice it deserved. I highly, highly recommend Firebrand, if you’re looking for a book that has it all, then look no further! It’s here, it’s Firebrand.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Title: Royal Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Royal Bastards # 1

Hardcover, 352 Pages
Publication: May 30, 2017 by Disney-Hyperion

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


Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Royal Bastards was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. What initially caught my attention was the name, kind of an oxymoron right? Plus the synopsis sounded promising as well. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a story about a eclectic motley crew? I personally am a sucker for stories about the underdogs. And Royal Bastards definitely lived up to its promising summary with nonstop action as a stable hand, two bastards, an outcast warrior and a princess band together to save their beloved kingdoms.

This is Shvarts’s debut novel, and as debuts goes; it’s a pretty solid beginning. I liked the idea of the story, a group of misfit/underdogs fighting the bad guys or it this case an entirely powerful kingdom. However, the world building itself is fairly standard, straightforward and has been done before. I found the kingdom, history and magic system too simplistic. Readers are given the basic of everything and not enough detail. The characters also suffered from the same problem, which was not a lot of depth and development. But don’t get me wrong, I adored the characters. They were your typical teenagers who were looking for a good time but ended up being heroes and saving their kingdom accidentally. I’d say everything that happened to them, happened by accidents. They never planned anything and if they did it usually went side ways quickly. I loved their interaction with each other and watching their bond grow over the course of their journey of trying to get the princess to safety. They always had one another back and just the whole comradery was endearing.

If you’re looking for a light fantasy read that’s fun and has loads of action, then Royal Bastards will without a doubt be the book for you. Overall I enjoyed Royal Bastards and thought it had some good parts and other parts that could have used a little more work. I’m positive that the next book in the series will resolve some of the world building and character development issues now that the foundation is set. Would I recommend Royal Bastards? I absolutely think it’s worth checking out and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with Tilla and the gang.