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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

REVIEW: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

*Thank you to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

A Crown of Wishes is the stunning sequel to 2016's Star Touched Queen.  Gauri, Princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom's enemies and has little hope for her future.

Enter Vikram, the cunning prince of this enemy land. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet emperor, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Merely reaching the Tournament is just the beginning with a slew of challenges including dangerous courtesans, songbirds, feasts and fears that will have to keep Gauri and Vikram's senses sharp if they have a chance to win.

Truthfully, I think I enjoyed this novel more than Chokshi's debut. I found it easier to engage with Gauri and Vikram in their adventure. Readers are in for a treat with the lush, exotic imagery and adventure steeped in Indian mythology and lore. Honestly, I loved everything about the writing and characters. The descriptions held me transfixed to the adventure as did the fantastic romanticism and passion built between protagonists.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @NotRashKnee

Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: Virals #4 and #5 by Kathy and Brendan Riechs

Let's recap...

Tory Brennan and three of her friends who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina were exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus when they rescued a dog caged for medical experimentation. Calling themselves "Virals," they have heightened senses and animal quick reflexes that help them solve crimes but also cause them to keep secrets from those closest to them.

Exposure is book 4. Twin classmates from Bolton Prep are missing, appearing to be kidnapped and held for ransom.  Tory Brennan and her 'pack' of Virals decide that they are the best equipped to solve the case.

However, there are more problems to consider:

 1) Their powers are growing harder to control

2) Chance Claybourne continues to investigate Tory, her friends, and the medical experiment that went awry.

Tory are crew save the day using a mix of their abilities, science and some good old fashioned sleuthing.  This is an action packed mystery/thriller great for fans of the genre, Bones, Maximum Ride or who want a fun read.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Terminal is the final full length novel of the series.

The Virals are back—but they’re not the only pack in town anymore. Tory and the rest of the Morris Island gang track a pack of rogue Virals who call themselves the Trinity. The new pack was infected by a strain of supervirus created by Tory’s nemesis and sometimes-crush, Chance Clayborne, who accidentally infected himself, too.

These red-eyed Virals have openly challenged Tory’s pack for domination of Charleston, bringing on the attention of a shadowy government organization intent on learning the secret to their powers. Surviving it all is going to test the limits of the gang’s abilities and push them to make some tough decisions about their future as Virals.

Great pacing and sense of action and adventure with some twists and turns.  Loved the ending and can't wait to read the follow up novella!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Jasper Dent #2 and #3 by Barry Lyga

Last year I read I Hunt Killers, book 1 of Lyga's Jasper Dent series about a seventeen year old who besides being the son of the world's most notorious serial killer also assists police in solving other serial killer crimes, all while attempting to live a "normal" life.

The series continues with Game.  Billy Dent has escaped prison, which has Jazz and the rest on the world on edge.  Jazz is asked to assist the NYPD with a series of murders by the Hat-Dog killer. What he finds is that this game plays a bigger part in his own twisted relationship with his father as well as revealing some startling truths about his mother.

The final book of the trilogy is Blood of My Blood. Jazz is close to catching his father and ending that chapter of his life.  He is determined to get some answers, put old demons to rest and protect his girlfriend, Connie, and best friend, Howie, from any more trauma and danger.

What I like about these books is that they are dark, edgy and raw.  I wouldn't recommend them to just any reader.  This is certainly a mature read with detailed discussion of some pretty heavy, adult themes (i.e. rape, murder, torture). Anyone wanting a fluffy romance need not apply.

That being said the narrative in compelling and will enthrall readers who want to reach the end of the story and learn all the deep, dark secrets of the Dent family. Jazz is a fascinating character since he struggles with two selves. These aren't my favorites since they creep me out quite a bit but will definitely appeal to the right reader.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

Bracken''s Darkest Minds trilogy is a slightly futuristic dystopian adventure which supposes that a mysterious disease has killed most of America's children.  Ruby wakes up on her tenth birthday knowing that something about her is different. Something which frightens her parents to much that they lock her in the garage and then allow her to be taken to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation" camp along with thousands of other children.

We soon learn that those children do survive the disease develop extraordinary abilities (i.e. manipulating fire, electricity and minds and even super strength). The adults are terrified, eradicating many of the children deemed to much of a threat and isolating the other to live in terror. Ruby lies about her ability to manipulate minds; however, six years later she is given the opportunity to escape and join a rebel group. It is difficult for Ruby to decide who to trust

While on the run and desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. Ruby is forced to make some hard choices that will eventually have significant consequences--namely forcing the boy she loves to forget he ever met her.

I enjoyed this first book.  The story is intriguing as is the character development if at times a bit predictable for the genre.  Great cliffhanger at the end.

Final rating:  4 out of 5 stars

In book 2, Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flash drive in the hands of Liam, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.
Needless to say this book is filled with tension of bittersweet reunions are lies are unraveled and relationships put to the test. I like some of the newly introduced characters (Jude) but felt like much of the narrative dragged in the middle.  The ending is another heartwrecher.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ruby is among the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife (namely tension between Liam and his older brother-in-charge Cole) may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

There is a lot of drama and planning that make up the crux of the narrative.  I found the ending a bit anticlimactic and still unsettling since having adults involved (even those on their "side) might still isolate children with abilities and create more problems rather than an environment of acceptance.  I did think that Ruby's final interaction with Clancy was fitting.

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Overall, I recommend the series for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers with adventure and romance.