The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

I’ve seen this book on more ‘Best Of 2018’ lists than I can count.  Holly Black is a talented and widely read author, but I’ve never gotten around to any of her books, despite having The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelf for over a year.  With strong reviews, several friend recommendations, and a discounted Amazon day, how could I not read The Cruel Prince?

Admittedly, I haven’t read many books involving the Fae, so much of this world was new to me.  And the world-building is magnificent – dark, intriguing, and politically charged.  The political maneuvering, alliances, and manipulation really captured my attention – some of these characters would fit in well with House of Cards.

And that’s another thing I liked:  none of these characters are entirely ‘good’.  Many of them desire power and position, while others enjoy bullying, threats, and playing with the lives of others.  And I’m okay with that – I love to see shades of gray in characters.  In fact, it’s the primary reason I kept reading.  Twists are aplenty in this book – some of them I saw coming, others I didn’t until right before they happened.

People may throw rocks and garbage at me for saying this, but the first half of the book didn’t win me over.  Not a lot happens, but right around the 50% mark, the pace becomes turbo charged and never lets up.

Overall, I enjoyed The Cruel Prince, and I plan to continue the series with The Wicked King, but when that will be, I have no idea.  I need a month long vacation just to read!

#AmWriting, #EscapeRooms, and #PetSematary

I’m still working on the second draft at a snail-sloth pace (Thanks for the new word, Sarah!), but progress is being made.  So that’s a plus.  Thanks for all the positivity sent my way last week – it certainly helped!  I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but this will be a duology, a new feat for me.  It’s not something I planned, but the characters let me know their story wasn’t finished, and with YA books, it’s generally frowned upon to have a word count much higher than 80K.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this last week, but have you guys ever tried Escape Rooms?  My oldest son and his girlfriend were here a couple of weeks ago, talking about how they did one with friends and how much fun it was.  I knew there were a few facilities where we lived, so the four of us (hubby is included) scheduled a room.  Our mistake was choosing a scenario (Murder Hotel) with an 8 out of 10 difficulty level.  The first ten minutes convinced us we were the stupidest people on the face of the planet – then we started putting clues together.  We had to ask for help a couple of times, and if we’d only had a couple more minutes, we would have escaped.  It was loads of fun, and we plan to give it another try the next time they’re in town.

You guys know I’m a Stephen King fan.  Did you know they’re doing a remake of Pet Sematary?  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good horror movie.  Enjoy the trailer.

The Last 8 (The Last 8 #1) by Laura Pohl #bookreview #YA #scifi

A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave 

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it. 

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

I’m always up for a good alien invasion story.  When you toss in Area 51, a handful of surviving teens, and an adorable canine named Sputnik, it becomes a must read for me.

This book gives the reader just enough time to care about Clover before throwing her in front of the aliens, so the pacing gets off to a good start.  It slows a bit once she reaches Area 51 due to drama between her and the other teens before picking up again.  I felt like there was some character inconsistency on Clover’s part, with comments and actions coming out of the blue based on her prior behavior.  The group of survivors are wonderfully diverse, but some of their voices are similar and I had trouble distinguishing between them.

As a sci-fi geek, the pop culture references to Back to the Future and Independence Day had me doing happy dances.  For me, it’s difficult to read or watch any alien story without thinking about Independence Day, and this novel contains some similar elements.

The Last 8 is strong out of the gate, drops intriguing clues throughout the book, and has interesting twists toward the end, but some plot holes and character inconsistencies slowed the momentum for me.  This book is scheduled for release March 1st, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

WWW Wednesday: 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’m currently reading Inspection by Josh Malerman.  You may know him as the author of Bird Box, a book I read several years ago – or maybe you’ve seen the movie on Netflix, and I read Unbury Carol, a kind of twisted western, last year.  When I saw he had a new release, I had to have it.

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know.

But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

I recently finished To Best the Boys by Mary Weber.  Guys, this was such a good book.  It oozes girl power positivity, and every female interested in STEM should read it.  Science, secret plans, a dangerous maze – and a yummy recipe for Labyrinth Cookies at the end!

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Next, I’ll read The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olsen.  The theme for this month’s book club is YA books made/being made into movies/TV.  This one was in my TBR, and has been optioned by Paramount Pictures, with Leonardo DiCaprio set to co-produce.

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But their solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.’  How could you not want to read this book after a line like that?  I needed to know why July came back.

I had a love/hate relationship with these characters.  At times, I loathed both of them – especially July, as she comes across as extremely self-centered and incredibly selfish.  A couple of moments I warmed to her, after the reason behind some of her actions came to light.  Deep down, both Dino and July have some heavy self-esteem issues, but deal with them in different ways.

The friendship between these two is puzzling.  They appear to care deeply about each other, but make hurtful, biting comments (especially July), and then a couple of paragraphs later, are friends again.  It’s true those you love the most can inflict the deepest wounds.  Towards the end, Dino and July’s conversations are more heartfelt and honest, and a couple hit close to home for me.

It’s hard to classify this story.  It’s made up of laugh-out-loud funny lines and situations, bittersweet conversations, deep character introspection – and I learned far more about how morticians prep bodies than I wanted to.  Things I’ll never be able to forget.  An unusual, darkly amusing portrayal of death, and a sometimes too honest, but deeply loving friendship.  This book is scheduled for release February 19th, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

#AmWriting, Book Events, and #Marvel Movies

I’m still working on my second draft of the new book – which is still untitled.  Right now, the working title is Book 3.  Take note of my eloquence.  With Sarah, I struggled for months to find the right title, and only decided on it five minutes before sending the manuscript to my publisher.  With The Gemini Connection, the title popped in my head almost from day one.  Anyhoo, this second draft seems to be moving at a snail’s pace.  I’m frustrated that, considering the amount of time I’ve been working on this book, from the day the idea popped in my head until now, this is as far as I’ve gotten.  With TGC, I was in a similar situation, although not to this degree, but once I reached a certain point in the writing process, progress moved with the speed of a freight train.  I’m hoping that train shows up pretty soon.  Anyone else in/has been in this situation?

A new book festival is starting up an hour from where I live – Heartland Book Festival, if anyone wants to apply.  Friday will be Children’s Day – it’s always fun seeing swarms of kids with books in their hands, and Saturday will also be a signing day, with panels and presentations.  I’m hoping I get in, but if not, I’ll probably be there as a reader.  My next event is the Lexington Legendary Book Bash, in Lexington, KY in March.  That’s one I always look forward to – not just for the signing, books, and meeting readers and other authors – but my oldest son lives there.  So it’s like a bonus!

So I’m over halfway through the second season of The Punisher on Netflix.  Jon Bernthal (a Walking Dead alum) does a fantastic job as Frank Castle.  Speaking of The Walking Dead – it returned last night!  A lot of changes this second half of the season, and it’s been a long wait since the first half ended.  There haven’t been any movies out lately I’ve been excited about.  However, Captain Marvel releases March 8th, and Avengers:  Endgame is out April 26th – do you really need to ask where I’ll be on those days?

Have a great week!

 

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark #bookreview #YA #thriller

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded.

Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals. 

Although I’m far from a computer genius (it’s a miracle I’ve managed my blog for so long), hacking stories fascinate me.  Nothing is private anymore, and a good hacker can get nearly any information they desire.  And that’s downright scary.

These five friends are fiercely loyal and supportive of each other, and it’s understandable that they want to help Bellamy.  Suspension of disbelief isn’t anything new to me – plenty of stories require it.  But in this case, a phone call to MIT’s admissions office seems like a logical first step before planning a heist of this magnitude – especially considering the numerous laws broken by these teens and the potential consequences of their actions.  Yes, Bellamy’s dad is a total deadbeat for not having any contact with her, but it would have been more believable if all other possibilities had been exhausted.

Some of the interactions and dialogue between this group are amusing, and I especially enjoyed Bellamy’s rational and literal explanations of things.  Even though the dialogue is entertaining at times, there’s a tremendous amount of it among this group that does nothing to advance the plot, and other than Bellamy, I had trouble distinguishing the voices of each character.  Writing from five POVs is admirable and allows the reader more insight into the characters, but I referred back to the chapter header numerous times to see who was speaking.

Looking at other reviews, I’m in the minority on this one.  If you enjoy a good heist story (and who doesn’t?), strong friendship bonds, witty banter, and are able to suspend disbelief, this may be the book for you.  In my case, I was hoping the plot would be heavier on the heist action.  Immoral Code is scheduled for publication February 19th, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.