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!