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I Belong

Early Review: Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

July 18th, 2017 Roxanne Posted in Review Comments Off on Early Review: Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

Title: Vanguard

Author: Ann Aguirre

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: Razorland (Book #4)

Publication Date: July 25, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages

ISBN-10: 1250089824 (MacKids)

ISBN-13: 978-1250089823 (MacKids)

Reviewed by: Roxanne

Synopsis:

The Razorland saga continues. Since the war ended, Tegan has dreamed of an epic journey, so when she has the opportunity to sign on as ship’s doctor, she can’t wait. It’s past time to chart her course. Millie Faraday, the kindest girl in the free territories, also yearns to outrun her reputation, and warrior-poet James Morrow would follow Tegan to the ends of the earth.

Their company seems set, but fate brings one more to their number. Tegan will battle incredible odds while aiding Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, who has ventured forth to save his people. Szarok is strange and beautiful, like a flower that blooms only in the dark. She shouldn’t allow him close, as such a relationship is both alien and forbidden. But through stormy seas and strange lands, she will become stronger than she ever knew.

Quick & Dirty: Tegan goes on a strange journey.

Opening Sentence: Morning crept across the floor in buttery streaks, sunlight warming the wood of the cottage Tegan shared with Dr. Wilson.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Dr. Wilson barely gets out the words Rosemere and Catalina before dying from a heart attack most likely. Tegan isn’t sure what kind of mission he is sending her on, but she begins to pack up to travel away from the village. When Millie asks to join her, Tegan doesn’t think twice before accepting. Soon after they head out they end up running into Szarok the Vanguard of his people. Tegan welcomes him to join them and they all head out to Rosemere.

Once at Rosemere, Tegan is again faced with James’s feelings about her, and she attempts to come to terms with exactly what she feels for him. Plus, Millie has latched herself to James and things are going fine until the ship arrives. Tegan decides to join the ship and Millie and James follow suit, to everyone’s surprise Szarok does as well. Mostly because the negotiations for his people living near the human settlements aren’t going as well as he would like.

So he sets out to find land for his people. Along the way Tegan and Szarok will become closer than ever despite the fact that neither people’s is accepting of their relationship. But it will all change one night when Szarok goes overboard and Tegan jumps in after him. Will she be able to save him? Will they survive? Will James finally see what is in front of his face?

I am not sure this really adds anything to the Razorland trilogy story wise, but I am not hating. I enjoyed every minute of it. Although I did ponder near the end, if Ann was going to do a spin off, but I think she wanted to give closure to a few characters from the trilogy. I loved the focus being on Tegan and I really was on board with the romance that developed between Szarok and Tegan. I even found myself wanting to smack James for not seeing some things earlier.

All in all, this was a lovely read and I am quite sad that there will be no more books set in this world. I did miss seeing Deuce kick butt, but it was nice to see the happy ending with her and Fade! My only issue is I didn’t get to see the age thing fixed or addressed. I wanted that answer.

Notable Scene:

The Isle of the Dead was inhospitable but not impossible to survive. That was what Szarok privately called the place where they landed. Sometimes he wasn’t altogether sure they’d survived the swim but if not he’d ended up in a human afterlife instead of releasing his memories. And that could not be true. So he helped Tegan fashion a relatively comfortable nest.

Razorland Series:

1. Enclave

2. Outpost

3. Horde

4. Vanguard

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FTC Advisory: Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Vanguard. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Warlords and Wastrels by Julia Knight

July 17th, 2017 Roxanne Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: Warlords and Wastrels by Julia Knight

Title: Warlords and Wastrels

Author: Julia Knight

Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction

Series: The Duelist Trilogy (Book #3)

Publication Date: December 15, 2015

Format: Paperback, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316375039 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316375030 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Roxanne

Synopsis:

The epic conclusion to the fast-paced new adventure fantasy series, the Duelists trilogy, from one of the most exciting new talents in fantasy. 

Vocho and Kacha may be known for the first swordplay in the city of Reyes, but they’ve found themselves backed into a corner too often for their liking.

Finally reinstated into the Duelist’s Guild for services rendered to the prelate, who has found himself back in charge, Vocho and Kacha are tasked with bringing a prisoner to justice. But this prisoner is none other than Kacha’s old flame Egimont. The prelate wants him alive, and on their side. However the more they discover of Egimont and his dark dealings with the magician, the more Kacha’s loyalties are divided. Soon she must choose a side — the prelate or the king, her brother or her ex-lover.

The fate of Reyes is balanced on a knife-edge…

Quick & Dirty: One last battle! Will Kacha be able to choose or will Vocho’s lies be her undoing?

Opening Sentence: Vocho took a crafty swig from his little bottle, wiped his lips and slid the jollop back into its hiding place in his tunic.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Vocho and Kacha are back in the guild, she is in charge and he is teaching. Although with his wound the dependence on the jollop is starting to get out of control. Meanwhile, Petri has found himself in the company of highwaymen. He is tasked with teaching them, and soon they begin to make more of a name for themselves and become even deadlier than before. Dom is searching for his daughter now that Alicia is dead.

His path leads him to Petri and the highwaymen he is with, but they just capture him and hold him. However, he does find his daughter soon enough. Kacha and Vocho are tasked with bringing an end to the highwaymen and to bring the new addition back to the guild.  So they set out with some of the guardsman and everyone’s path will soon be entertwined. Petri is bitter and angry and Kacha still has gotten over his “death”.

Vocho is additcted to the jollop and slowly begins to develop a relationship of his own. So when Dom, Petri, Vocho and Kacha collide it isn’t what any of them expected. Soon they are all faced with the impossible questions. What is the truth? What will happen to Petri and Kacha? Will Dom escape?

This one wasn’t as fast paced as the others, but I did love that the point of views was back down to Kacha, Vocho and Petri. I enjoyed that quite a bit. Kacha is struggling with Petri’s death, well Vocho told her he was dead and her reaction when she finds out the truth is worth waiting for. I found the conclusion of their relationship a bit unfullfilling, but I am not mad. I really liked how the author tied it all up and ended things.

I admit I felt a little let down by the Clockwork God ending. I thought it might play a bigger part, but I have to admit a little, I liked how the author played that out as well. I almost felt bad for Vocho in this book, but I was glad to see that he finally grew up a bit and actually kind of did the right thing. I thought he had the sweetest ending. I kind of feel like Petri, Dom and Kacha were all kind of left a bit open ended and it leaves me wanting a bit more.

Notable Scene:

He shut his eye, but that didn’t stop him seeing the hot knife, hearing Eneko tell him he was weakness, stop him hoping for Kass, that she’d come. She hadn’t, she never would; she’d look at him and turn away from what he’d become, at how weak he’d been. Eneko was dead, and Petri couldn’t get his revenge on the dead, but Kass… He’d started this all that time ago because he loved her, because she’d shown him things he’d never seen before.

The Duelist Trilogy:

1. Swords and Scoundrels

2. Legends and Liars

3. Warlords and Wastrels

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FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Warlords and Wastrels. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

July 16th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

Title: The Fall of Butterflies

Author: Andrea Portes

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 10, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 386 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062313673 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062313676 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

Willa Parker, 646th and least popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life.

Did she choose this new life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and it’s only the strength of her name that got Willa accepted in the first place.

But Willa has no intentions of fitting in at Pembroke. She’s not staying long, she decides. Not at this school—and not on this planet. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit.

When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel her spinning right out of her grasp.

In Willa’s secret heart, all she’s ever wanted is to belong. But if Remy, the girl who gave her this world, is slip-sliding away, is Willa meant to follow her down?

Andrea Portes’s incandescent, heartfelt novel explores the meaning of friendship, new beginnings, and the precarious joy and devastating pain of finding home in a place—a person—with wings.

Quick & Dirty: A YA contemporary about friendship and self-discovery that I never really connected with.

Opening Sentence: Bet you’d never thought you’d be sitting at the freak table.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

This book chronicles the first semester after Willa Parker switches to an extremely exclusive private school. Up to this point, Willa had lived a regular and somewhat uneventful life with her father in a small-town in Iowa after her famous and wealthy mother ran away from them. Once at the new school, Willa meets and somehow befriends Remy, the girl everyone wants to be friends with. Both girls have their own private struggles and the story is ultimately about how these two broken girls create a life for themselves.

The Fall of Butterflies was told in a stream of thought narration that occassionally broke the fourth wall. I dislike both of these narration methods so that definitely colored my enjoyment of the novel. Willa is an energetic character and her thoughts kept switching topics, creating a story that was difficult to follow and overall disjointed. If you enjoy seeing exactly what goes on in the head of a character, you’ll probably like this narration style. Additionally, since Willa does directly address the reader, I was never quite sure if it was a diary or if we were supposed to be following the story as it unfolded. Both of those create different expectations in the reader and I think the story would have been better if that had been clarified.

There wasn’t much of a typical plot arc to this story, which some readers may enjoy. I was never sure where the story was going, it seemed to meander along and never really commit to a storyline. Important issues, such as Willa’s suicidal ideation at the beginning and Remy’s affair with a certain individual, aren’t given nearly the page space that they deserve. Both are mentioned but never really explored in depth. In general, the novel felt as if it was only skimming the surface of the story the author really wanted to tell.

The characters also never really came alive for me. I really wanted to like Willa but wasn’t able to emotionally connect with her. However, this could have been because my dislike of the narration style imposed a barrier for me. The romance was very blah, particularly because I never really understood the attraction between the two of them. Had the story focused on one subplot, such as Willa’s romance or Remy’s drug habit, I think it would have been better since none of the subplots are fully developed.

This book definitely wasn’t for me but I’m also not generally a fan of contemporary novels. I think that readers who enjoy that genre would probably find this book much more to their tastes than I did.

Notable Scene:

No, no. This story is about the “should.” As in, I “should” be more sophisticated by now, according to my mother. And I “should” be less of a total freak if I want to get anywhere at the Ivy League university I will no doubt be attending. Sending somebody to California to get sophisticated is like sending someone to the Krispy Kreme to lose weight.

Nope, to ensure this all-important sophistication I am headed to The Pembroke School back east. Oh, you’ve never heard of The Pembroke School? That’s because it’s basically a secret and nobody can get in unless their parents are in the Social Register or their great-great-great-great-great-grandparents came over on the Mayflower or their names are Sasha or Malia. Other than that, you’re out of luck. Don’t even think about it. It will just depress you.

So, how does a giant-mouthed, secondhand oddball from the sticks like yours truly get into a place that should obviously reject and scorn me before I even say its name? Well, here’s the good part.

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FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of The Fall of Butterflies. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller

July 15th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review 1 Comment »

Title: Shadow Run

AuthorAdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: Kaitan Chronicles (Book #1)

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 390 Pages

ISBN-10: 0399552537 (Delacorte Press)

ISBN-13: 978-0399552533 (Delacorte Press)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

Quick & Dirty: A wonderful blend of science fiction and fantasy that I didn’t know I needed in my life until now.

Opening SentenceThe first time I heard the captain’s voice was over the ship’s comm: “Hold on, it’s going to be a rough run.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Full disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Firefly, my cousin and I wore out the VHS tapes of Star Wars, and I love science fiction novels. So it may not come as a huge surprise that I absolutely loved Shadow Run. All that being said, I think that Shadow Run appeals to a much broader reader base than most YA science fiction novels. Also, if you liked Illuminae, you’ll probably like this one as well. While Shadow Run does take place in space, in a galaxy different than our own, it is a character-based novel that seamlessly blends fantasy into the classic science fiction aspects.

It’s rare for me to not be able to pick a favorite character in a book. I fell in love with all of the main characters, both individually and as a team. Qole was a wonderful character and I liked how the authors portrayed her struggles as a female captain over a mostly male crew. Her struggle with learning how to control Shadow and its side-effects felt like an origin story out of a fantasy novel but somehow wasn’t out of place here. Nev was so idealistic and adorable, I almost didn’t want to see him have to grow up as the story progressed. By the end of the book, he was added to my list of favorite book boyfriends. Basra was such a wonderful surprise. I won’t say much more because of spoilers but I loved the sneakiness and genius. I commend the authors for writing Basra’s gender-fluidity as only one aspect of the character, rather than having that be Basra’s defining characteristic.

Shadow Run was a fast-paced wild ride that went everywhere from the outermost limits of space to the palace in the capital city. We see the underbelly of sketchy trading ports and the inside of spaceships. It is a mad-cap intergalactic adventure that find its heart in the bonds between the characters. There’s a romance that will make you swoon and moments that will make you gasp. The first half was more science fiction while the second half had much more of a fantasy focus. I loved how the politics and commerce of the galaxies were explored. The world-building was excellent. There were hints throughout the book that made me excited to see where the story goes next.

I flew through Shadow Run and already know that the untitled sequel will be one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. This was a wonderful debut that I would recommend to any fans of YA science fiction and any YA fantasy fans who don’t mind the addition of a spaceship to the story.

Notable Scene:

Qole stepped closer to me, and for a second we were face to face as she stared up at me and yet stared me down. For the first time, I noticed something other than anger in her brown eyes—something dark that flickered at the corners.
Shadow. Literally, Shadow, flickering at the edges of her whites. Great Collapse, I’d heard the stories, but I hadn’t really believed it. This wasn’t Shadow poisoning—this was her affinity, active in her system.

I braced myself. For what, I didn’t know.

Then her eyes narrowed into normal anger, and she turned on her heel and disappeared from the hold.

Kaitan Chronicles:

1. Shadow Run

2. Shadow Call (April 17, 2018)

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FTC Advisory: Delacorte Press/Penguin provided me with a copy of Shadow Run. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule

July 14th, 2017 Tara Posted in Review Comments Off on Review: The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule

Title: The Hidden Twin

Author: Adi Rule

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages

ISBN-10: 1250036321 (St. Martin’s Press)

ISBN-13: 978-1250036322 (St. Martin’s Press)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis:

For eighteen years a girl with no name, a Redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey-identical except for her eyes-has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology has promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.

But when she switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens and gets attacks by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the Redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

In Adi Rule’s new novel, The Hidden Twin, the girl with no name, must choose a name and a path for herself, drawing a line between myth and history to prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home.

Quick & Dirty: This story had an interesting premise that promised magic, political intrigue, and interesting characters but ultimately failed to deliver on all counts.

Opening Sentence: We look like two ordinary girls.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded amazing and, after reading the first few scenes, I thought that I would like it. Then I kept reading and noticed the gaping holes in the world-building, the strange pacing of the plot, and the general air of confusion that permeated the latter half of the book. Additionally, I was never quite able to emotionally connect to the main character.

One of the first scenes involves the main character being attacked by priests in an alleyway. The reader has only just met her and learned the broad brushstrokes of her history (including the fact that she doesn’t have a name, which seemed bizarre to me). During the fight, she unleashes magic and, despite her stated wish to not hurt the men, beats one of them almost to death after he has already surrendered. At this point, she says:

“I am a monster. I’m sorry. I—I wasn’t certain of that until just now, to be honest.” I don’t know why I say it.

To be entirely honest, I was kind of hoping for a Kaz Brekker-esque origin story after this scene, where she embraces the darkness within her unashamedly and learns master to use her power. Up until around the halfway point, I had hopes that the story would take a darker turn and explore that side of no name. Those hopes were utterly disappointed. As it was, she wavers between saying that she’s good and doing monstrous things. There is no attempt to investigate her magic further, which was likely due to the poor world-building, and very little character development. I wasn’t able to relate to the main character at all throughout the book, which likely hindered my ability to fully enjoy the story.

Besides the flaws with the main character (seriously, how does she not even have a name for most of the novel?), the world-building was confusing and barely present. I’m honestly not sure if there was more than one country in the world, what the class system looked like, and what the history of the city was. There seemed to be two types of priests but it’s not made very clear what the distinction is or how it came to be. I think that the world had the potential to be very interesting but I was just left with too many questions overall.

I thought that there was a decent balance between action and quieter scenes until the end. However, none of the scenes really packed that emotionally punch that I like in my fantasy. I was pretty ambivalent about most of what happened in the novel. The end was somewhat of a hot mess, which led to very important things being explained in about two lines. I actually had to go back and read one section over before I understood everything that happened. Some of the events seemed to come from nowhere and I never really was able to see what various character’s motivations were.

While the story did pick up toward the end, it never was good enough to save the book. Additionally, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I do believe that this book has the potential to be good but, unfortunately, that potential was never realized.

Notable Scene:

And for the first time, I feel it—a burning, stabbing surge that shoots from the soles of my feet up through my legs, my guts, my heart, out through my fingers. The hot core of the land, the scalding blood of Caldaras itself rises through my body, joins with my spirit. We are one, it whispers wordlessly. We are everything.

I lash out at the priest, a release, an exhalation.

After only a moment, I tamp the surge of energy back down into my core, into the earth below, terrified of what I might unleash.

But now the priest is on fire.

Well. I’ve never done that before.

FTC Advisory: St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan provided me with a copy of The Hidden Twin. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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