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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

REVIEW: People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

Expected publication: September 4, 2018 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publisher's Summary:

Someone will shoot. And someone will die.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins tackles gun violence and white supremacy in this compelling and complex novel.

People kill people. Guns just make it easier.

A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought by a teenager for needed protection. But which was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?

One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?

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Hopkins again does what she does best--blending her style of prose and verse to tackle tough topics in a harsh world. With the rise of  both gun violence and racial tensions the author endeavors to explore the lives of several interconnected characters:

Rand & Cami - Still teenagers, but married with a young toddler. Rand works himself to death to provide for his family, but a dark secret from his past drives his need for revenge.  Cami loves her family but feels as if she's been cheated out of her youth. She has some dangerous secrets of her own.

Grace - Rand's step sister, deftly opposed to guns since her father was murdered during a drive-by shooting.

Noelle - Grace's sometime best friend and Cami's sister, who sustained a brain injury and other prolonged effects from the same shooting that killed Grace's father.

Daniel - Half Honduran, Daniel is homeless following the death of his father and the deportation of his mother. He has been the victim of a racially motivated beating lead by Tim and Silas. Needing to feel wanted, Daniel is depressed and too emotionally attached to Grace.

Tim - Daniel's half brother and member of a white supremacist group. He hates his brother. 

Silas - obsessed with Grace and disturbed by his mother's new Jewish boyfriend as well as Grace's half Honduran boyfriend, Daniel.  He belongs to a white supremacist group

Ashlyn - one of the only female members of the white supremacist group. She's also from a violent background, currently living with an aunt because her father is in prison for murdering her mother.

Hopkins begins the novel with a horrific accident caused by gun violence and paranoia. It is this act and the subsequent sale of a gun to an unidentified character which drives the remaining narration. Each of the other characters has the means and motive for possessing this gun. As the story concludes, reader's learn just how violence, guns, and hatred impact these character's lives. However, the story's climax is shocking and oh so sad.

The pacing of the novel feels slow at times and the characters are not as magnetic per se as those from Identical, Tricks, or Impulse. However, this is a topic relevant to our society today and needs to be explores so that teen readers and older can have a meaningful discussion about choices and consequences.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, August 10, 2018

REVIEW: 9 from the Nine Worlds by Rick Riordan

Expected publication: October 2, 2018 by Disney Hyperion

I received an ARC in exchange for a review - thanks Netgalley and Disney Hyperion!

Publisher's Summary: 
The Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy may have concluded, but we haven't heard the last of our favorite peeps from the Nine Worlds. Join Hearthstone, Blitzen, Samirah, Alex, Jack, T.J., Mallory, Halfborn, and more on a hilarious and unforgettable journey through Rick Riordan's unique take on Norse mythology. While Magnus is off visiting his cousin, Annabeth, his friends find themselves in some sticky, hairy, and smelly situations as they try to outwit moronic giants, murderous creatures, and meddlesome gods. Can they stave off Ragnarok at least until Magnus gets back?

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Each short story centers upon a specific supporting character from the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. Norse mythology driven, these stories are exactly what readers have come to expect from Riordan--the perfect blend of humor with adventure and myth. There is a common thread throughout that connects the stories: Thor (in all his flatulent, inappropriately dressed glory!)  Standouts for me were Alex and Jack but also Hearthstone. 

A definite must read for any Riordan fan!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 6, 2018

REVIEW: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi


Publication:  August 7, 2018 by St. Martin's Press
(I received an ARC from Netgalley and St. Martin's in exchange for a review)

Publisher's Summary: 
Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes. 


--I'd previously read/reviewed "Death and Night" earlier this year. Chokshi's writing is rich, vibrant and sensuous in its detail and world building. I want to wrap myself up in her descriptions and dive head first into the beautiful, intriguing stories.  I still love this first novella, kicking off the Star-Touched Queen series.  It is a beautiful story--lush, dark yet romantic.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram's new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love. 


--Aasha was one of the stand out characters from A Crown of Wishes. I was delighted that she got her own story. The pacing was great as was Aasha's physical and internal journey to accept her future and who she is because before you can find fulfillment with another, you must first love yourself.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

--This was another lovely story, set several generations in the future with Gauri and Vikram's grandchildren. We do get a lovely tale featuring the peril Gauri must once again endure to save Vikram before their wedding.  This story reminded me a lot of the myth Orpheus and Eurydice.  What sacrifice and challenge would you face for love?  A beautiful tale, both lovely and bittersweet. I might admit to some tears at the end!

Overall, a masterfully written set of novellas!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars















REVIEW: Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (Mask of Shadows #2)

Publisher's Summary:
As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives.

And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can't be ignored.

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Finally reaching the goal of one of the Queen's assassins, Sal is free to pursue vengeance and retribution.  But at what cost? Can Sal withstand the price weighing on her soul?  This was a satisfying conclusion to the duology.

Sal is an intriguing character and Miller has done a nice job exploring a gender fluid protagonist as well as world building. 

There are a fair amount of twists, turns and surprise revelations. A recommended read for those who've enjoyed books by Robin LaFevers and Sarah J. Maas.

I received an ARC in exchange for a review from Netgalley and Sourcefire Books.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Don't Miss Book 1 of the series: Masks of Shadows!

Publisher's Summary:
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.
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Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass  and His Fair Assassin, Mask of Shadows follows gender fluid thief, Sallot Leon on a quest to become Opal, one of the Queen's personal assassins.  Sal must complete feats of cunning and deceit to win the title and use its power toward enacting revenge.

I enjoyed the book and the series as a whole; however, I wish the audiobook had done the story justice.  

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

REVIEW: Smoke & Iron by Rachel Caine

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Books for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Published July 10, 2018

Publisher's Summary: 
The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making...if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

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Smoke and Iron marks the 4th installment to this series.  Jess and his friends/allies are still determined to end the reign of corruption of the Great Library and Archivist. Readers know that book 3 ended in surprises and betrayals. With the group divided, half believe that Jess has betrayed them all. Likewise, Jess, Wolfe and Morgan are imprisoned, an although there are some secrets, many are clever enough to realize the need for such actions and use the imprisonment to aide their cause.

Readers will enjoy this book's same approach to action and adventure through strong writing full of detail and world building. Caine creates a fantastic alternate history with diverse characters as well as compelling and thought provoking themes of power, knowledge, and the access to information and what happens when access is limited by those who control aspects of education, government, religion, and the economy.

One downside was that this series has yet again failed to find its finish.  I found the need to continue to add another 5th book in the future rather unnecessary. Simple pacing and some editing could have allowed this to be the final book.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 18, 2018

REVIEW: Ash & Quill by Rachel Caine

Publisher's Summary:

Words can kill.

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny…

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library.

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Ash and Quill is certainly a book about betrayals. Jess and his group of exiles have fled London and start out imprisoned in Philadelphia. Again, they work together to defy the odds in order to escape.  Finding respite with the Brightwell clan, Jess is in for a betrayal he didn't see coming and will ultimately have to betray those he loves and trusts the most for the greater good.  It is the only chance they'll have to finally be free of the Great Library's oppression.

Another highly imaginative and well written book full of action, suspense and romance. The plot certainly thickens for the fourth installment, Smoke & Iron, expected to be published July 3, 2018. Look at that cover! Oh so pretty! 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

REVIEW: Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

Expected publication: July 17, 2018 by Tor Teen

Publishers Summary:
On a hot summer night, a screech of brakes and shattering glass changes two lives forever.

Liv wakes in the hospital, confused when they call her Morgan. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, yet when the bandages come off, it’s not her face in the mirror anymore. It’s her best friend Morgan’s.

Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life, yet Liv must navigate endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety—and a romance that feels like a betrayal. Torn between the boy she loved as Liv and the boy she’s grown to love as Morgan, Liv still has to survive Morgan’s last request.

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I enjoyed this despite a few shortcomings.  It is a fast-paced, romantic suspense novel that skews more toward New Adult or mature YA with adult reader interest. There is a hint of science fiction but one short coming is a lack of exploration of how/why this occurs. The cause is hinted at a bit, but as a fan of the genre, I expected more.

There is a good love triangle development for Liv as Morgan with great tension and some unexpected revelations.  

One final critique is a lack of narrative follow through as it pertains to some rather big plot details. Those looking for more answers and closure might be disappointed.  Overall, Like Never and Always delivers great suspense and would certainly be a page turning summer read.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars