Far From You by Tess Sharpe #bookreview #YA #mystery #LGBT

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared. 

I read this for my book club.  For that month’s selection, we had to read books recommended by other members – which is scary for me.  I’m always afraid I’ll wind up with a romance.  This one contains some romance, but it’s not the primary focus.  And I’m okay with that.

My heart went out to Sophie.  No one believes she’s still clean, and her parents force her back into rehab.  All the while, she’s grieving deeply for her nearly lifelong best friend and counting the days until she’s released so she can find the killer.  Her frustration is palpable, and she has few friends to lean on for help.

Most chapters rotate between the present and earlier in Sophie’s life, but it wasn’t difficult to keep up – and I listened to the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, who does a wonderful job).  The shifts allow the gradual reveal of backstory and secrets that bring to light multiple suspects.  I guessed who the culprit was, but there’s another component to the story that came as a suprise.

This isn’t my usual genre, but it’s a gripping read and emotional at times.  If you’re looking for a YA mystery, this is one I recommend.

The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine #bookreview #fairytale #retelling #TuesdayBookBlog

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

The category for my book club this month was to read a re-telling.  I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for two years, so this was a perfect opportunity to bump it to the top.

This is the third book I’ve read in the Ravenspire series.  Each has taken me on exciting adventures, introduced me to both loveable and loathsome characters, and occasionally ripped my heart out.  Redwine is known for killing off some of her more popular characters.  The Traitor Prince is based on an Arabian tale entitled The False Prince.  I’m not familiar with that story, but this one grabbed me from the first page.  I was so angry at the injustice of Javan’s and Sajda’s situations – his at being thrown into prison while someone else takes his place on the throne, and hers at being enslaved from a young age and discriminated against for a reason I won’t reveal (no spoilers).  By the end of the book, I was so anxious for them to have their revenge and set things right.  And speaking of the ending – it was perfect.

Although part of the same series, each of these books can be read as a standalone.  I also have to comment on the stunning maps included in each novel – beautiful!  The Traitor Prince is a story about fighting against inequity even when things look grim, endearing friendships, undying loyalty, and selfless sacrifice.

#BookConline, #AmWriting, and #TenetTrailer

Over the weekend, I spent Saturday and Sunday watching several author panels at BookConline.  I’ve never been to BookCon in NYC (but it ranks right up there with ComicCon in places I’d love to go), so it was a treat to see so many YA authors together.  World-building, fantasy, epic YA, paranormal – I watched all of them and more.  There were plenty of ARC giveaways, but I figured the odds of me winning were slim, and I’ve got enough to keep me busy for quite a while anyway.

The writing has commenced!  I’ve been working on the sequel to Subject A36 – finally.  Right now I’m putting together character arcs and figuring out some plot points.  The number of POVs may be a challenge – everyone wants to talk, but some of them will just have to settle for letting their story be told through the eyes of another character.  Breaking the news won’t be pretty, I’m thinking.

Have you guys seen the trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet?  Inception (one of my favorite movies) was mind-bending and Memento wickedly twisted.  And his Dark Knight series?  You get what I’m saying.  When I first saw the preview for this movie months ago, I had no idea what it was actually about and honestly didn’t care.  It was a Nolan movie.  This new, second trailer goes into more detail and I’m stupid excited to see it in July.  Assuming the theaters are open.  Keeping fingers crossed!

Take care and stay healthy!

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #steampunk

Put your feet up and enjoy a whimsical break with this quick, lighthearted story. There’s some romance, and a lot of silliness. It’s a steampunk/Victorian setting. You might call it a long-short story or a novelette.

This is a tale of an old lost valentine and the shenanigans that ensue when it turns up. Fiona Finch and her brother Steele – along with a helping “wing” from Quellie the duck, work to bring two long ago sweethearts back together. Even though it is a Valentine’s Day story, it does not include sex or passionate romance. It does, however, include a lot of imaginative fun.

I’ve read several books by this author and her creativity never ceases to amaze and delight me.  This tale of a lost valentine from years ago and amusing matchmaking efforts at a masquerade ball is guaranteed to leave you with a smile.  Although a quick read, character development certainly isn’t lacking, and you’ll feel as if you’ve spent time with friends by the end of this whimsical novelette.  And did I mention the pet duck?  An absolute scene-stealer.  If you’re in the mood for a light read with a sweet happily ever after, look no further.

 

 

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve been so excited to get to this last book in the Lifelike trilogy, and it’s looking like it’s eveything I’d hoped it would be.  This YA sci-fi series has taken turns and thrown in surprises I never saw coming.  And Lemon Fresh will steal your heart and every scene she’s in.

Best friends have become enemies. Lovers have become strangers. And deciding whose side you’re on could be the difference between life and death. For Eve and Lemon, discovering the truth about themselves–and each other–was too much for their friendship to take. But with the country on the brink of a new world war–this time between the BioMaas swarm at CityHive and Daedalus’s army at Megopolis, loyalties will be pushed to the brink, unlikely alliances will form and with them, betrayals. But the threat doesn’t stop there, because the lifelikes are determined to access the program that will set every robot free, a task requiring both Eve and Ana, the girl she was created to replace. In the end, violent clashes and heartbreaking choices reveal the true heroes . . . and they may not be who you think they are. 

Take Me With You has low ratings on Goodreads.  From what I could tell, many readers expected this to be a mystery/thriller, but it’s absolutely a sci-fi/thriller, and that’s the category it’s in on Amazon.  For me, it was a gripping, 4-star read that I plowed through in two days.

Eden, Eli, Marwan, and Ilanka barely know each other beyond having a class or two together. But when they are all summoned via messaging app to an empty classroom after school, they find a small cube sitting on a desk. Its sides light up with rules for them:

Do not tell anyone about the device. Never leave the device unattended.
And then, Take me with you . . . or else.

At first they think it’s some kind of prank or a social experiment orchestrated by the school administration. Still, they follow its instructions until the newly-formed group starts to splinter. Nobody has time for these games–their lives are complicated enough. But the device seems increasingly invested in the private details of their lives. And disobeying its rules has scary–even life-threatening–consequences . . .

I didn’t read Wilder Girls by this author, but friends in my book club raved about it.  I’m hoping Burn Our Bodies Down is just as compelling.  The description sure makes me want to know what’s going on in that town.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery—until she decides to return to her mother’s hometown . . . where history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. 

Hunting November (Killing November #2) by Adriana Mather #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Surviving a few weeks at the world’s most lethal boarding school was one thing. But now comes the real test: Can November Adley find her missing father before her enemies find her? Subterfuge is the name of the game in this thrilling sequel to Killing November, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Hang a Witch.

After surviving a crash course in espionage at the mysterious Academy Absconditi, November has only one purpose: finding her missing father. Along with fellow student (and heartthrob) Ash, November follows the clues that her father left, embarking on the deadliest treasure hunt of her life. The first clue is in her hometown, where old friends beckon and unexpected enemies lurk around every corner. The second clue is in Europe, where revelations about her family’s history will plunge her into an international web of deception, lies, and intrigue. The third clue is deep in enemy territory, surrounded by the most skilled assassins and master strategists, and where everyone wants her and her father dead. Can one girl with limited training infiltrate a centuries-old organization that is powerful enough to topple empires? November only knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to save her father . . . or die trying. 

Killing November was one of my best reads last year – high stakes, untrustworthy characters, a school for assassins.  The year waiting for this sequel was a long one.

This book picks up right where the other left off.  November and Ash leave the school in search of her father, who’s left complex clues for her in different locations across the country.  Talk about tense situations – death could literally be waiting for them around every corner, and some of the people they come across would just as soon slit their throats rather than speak to them.

Pacing may leave you breathless, and the action is almost nonstop.  But not everything is serious – some lighter, humorous moments are sprinkled throughout the story along with romantic elements.  Twists and surprises abound, and the big reveal near the end left me gaping.  I absolutely didn’t see it coming.

This series is incredibly addictive with ultra-high stakes, a complex plot, and untrustworthy characters that worm their way into your heart.  I get the feeling this is a duology, but I’d sure love another book.  Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Dinner, #SubjectA36, and #AmWatching

Here in KY, our restaurants opened to limited capacity indoor dining on Friday, and hubby and I had dinner out for the first time in three months!  There were several restrictions in place for everyone’s safety – reservations only, 33% capacity, hand sanitizing stations, disposable menus, and employees wore gloves and masks.  We went to one of our favorite local restaurants and enjoyed an evening of fantastic food (no cooking for me!), a familiar, friendly staff, and an appreciation of a common activity we’d previously taken for granted.  Judging by other parking lots, plenty of folks showed up to support their local eateries.

I had a suprise from my publisher last week – Subject A36 now has an audiobook!  Sarah is also on audio, but I avoid listening to my books.  I can’t imagine anyone will sound like the characters who live in my mind, so I prefer my perceptions untainted, if that makes sense.  But if you’re an avid listener, click HERE for Amazon.

Has anyone watched the new Snowpiercer series?  The original sci-fi/dystopian movie was released in 2013 (you can watch it on Netflix) and was directed by Bong Joon-ho, the Oscar-winning director of Parasite.  Anyhoo, I watched the first episode last week, and I couldn’t look away.  Awesome cast, awesome premise.  If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a brief description.  It’s a must watch for sci-fi fans.

Survivors of Earth’s second Ice Age live out their days on a luxury train that ploughs through snow and ice. The train’s poorest residents, who live in the squalid caboose, plan to improve their lot by taking over the engine room.

Have a great week and stay healthy!