The Island: Vampires of Merovingi #1 by Sarah M. Cradit #bookreview #vampires #fantasy

1789. Saint-Domingue. Hispaniola. West Indies. 

Etienne de Blanchefort has seen incredible success as a colonial planter in the Northern Province of Saint-Domingue. Though uprooting his family from France a decade past was a gamble, life in the tropical West Indies has been good to him, his wife, and four children. With France embroiled in their great revolution across the Atlantic, he harbors little doubt he made the right decision for his family’s future.

Until, that is, the arrival of his fiend.

Etienne’s practical nature cannot reconcile what he knows to be true of his world with what he cannot ignore about the abominable creature haunting his family and the island.

Nor can he ignore his wife’s terrifying dreams that slowly steal her vitality.

Or Victorine’s burgeoning free spirit and wariness of their way of life.

Or Nanette’s curious, furtive behavior as she hides in trees.

Or Marius’ secret new friendship with one he cannot name.

Or Flosine’s unsettling drawings of a man from a time long before theirs.

Etienne’s fiend will not stay elusive for long. He has a request. A very particular, very important request, one that will change the lives of Etienne, his family, and his descendants forever.

I’ve been a vampire fan since the original Fright Night movie with Chris Sarandon.  After the Twilight novels, vampire books flooded the market for a while, then receded, but I’m glad to see them making a comeback.  Maybe not quite as big of a splash this time, but that’s alright with me.  Since I’ve read all this author’s Crimson and Clover series, I was thrilled to learn she was starting a new series featuring vampires that fit within that same world.

Not having read a ton of historical fiction books, I appreciated the attention to detail and extensive research the author clearly performed for this book.  As always, her imagery is rich with description.  Although the first 25% of the book was a little slow for my taste, the pace moved along much quicker after that.

The Island looks to be the start of a riveting series and I look forward to meeting more of the vampires!

I received a digital ARC of this book from the author.

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Scream Site by Justina Ireland #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA

Sabrina Sebastian’s goal in life is to be an investigative reporter. For her first big story, she researches a popular website called Scream Site, where people post scary videos and compete for the most “screams.” While Sabrina’s friends and her sister, Faith, talk nonstop about the creepy viral videos, Sabrina just hopes that covering this trend will get her the internship she’s wishing for. But as she digs into the truth behind the website, she begins to suspect that these aren’t only aspiring actors and videographers at work. Some clips seem a little too real. And when Faith goes missing, Sabrina must race against time to save her sister from becoming the next video “star.” 

This is categorized as a YA novel on NetGalley, but I have to wonder if that was a mistake, because it reads very much like a middle grade book.  Fourteen-year-old protagonist Sabrina is a likable main character.  She’s very goal-oriented, and her tenacity and love of her family are admirable.  Best friend Evelyn is a hoot, and steals nearly every scene.

The mystery is intriguing, but requires a massive suspension of disbelief from the reader.  The details overlooked by investigating detectives and the reactions from Sabrina’s family members over certain events are just a bit too unbelievable, and the wrap-up comes about quickly and has distinct ‘Scooby-Doo’ overtones.  All of this makes me feel like Scream Site is geared more toward middle grade, or at least the lower end of the YA spectrum.

I felt like this book did an excellent job with warning teens not to trust everything they read on the internet, never giving out personal information to strangers, and the dangers of people misrepresenting themselves online.  You can never be sure who you’re talking to.

I’d recommend this book for middle grade or lower age range YA readers, but doubt it would hold much appeal for the older YA crowd.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

Smoke and Iron (The Great Library #4) by Rachel Caine #bookreview #YA #fantasy @Berkleypub

To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

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.

I felt the last book in this series was somewhat slow, but this book barely dropped below warp speed.  Alternating POVs from the characters, double crosses, triple crosses, intricate, multi-layered plans, and bigger automatons….so much going on.  I couldn’t stop reading, but was so afraid not all of the characters would remain standing at the end – but no spoilers here.

In this book, several scenes demonstrate just how much the characters have grown and matured from Ink and Bone.  While being tested to their limits, they discover inner strengths and qualities needed to survive, and it was very satisfying to see how they’ve developed.

This is a wildly creative YA fantasy series I’ve enjoyed from book one, and will eagerly anticipate the final installment.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Today is release day for Smoke and Iron!

Buy links: AmazonKindleBarnes & NobleNookBooks a MillionIndieboundiBooksKoboGoogle Play

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The Contract: between heaven and earth by John W. Howell and Gwen M. Plano #bookreview #thriller #suspense

The earth is under the threat of a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance, and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits of the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped. 

If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires.

I especially enjoyed the blending of genres in this book – suspense, political intrigue, and romance (but not overdone).  This novel reminded me a bit of the little known movie from years ago, Made in Heaven, when two romantically involved people are sent to Earth from heaven and have a certain amount of time to find each other after being ‘reborn’.  It was nerve-wracking watching how their paths came so close to crossing, until they finally did.  Admittedly, their circumstances were much better than the characters in this book, and their assignment wasn’t nearly as important.

Both Brad and Sarah have endured hardships in their lives, and made it through to the other side because of their strength and determination, qualities they certainly need to survive the threats they’re facing.  They’re instantly likable and well-developed characters.  This action-packed story moves along at a brisk pace, and the trustworthiness of certain characters comes into question, leading to some surprising twists along the way.

If you’re a fan of thrillers and suspense intertwined with a bit of romance, I highly recommend this novel.

I received an ARC of this book from the authors.

Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3) by Rachel Caine #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

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…

I’ve been a fan of this series from book one, and I’m surprised it’s not more popular among readers.  Besides having colorful, gorgeous covers, it boasts a wonderfully inclusive cast of characters.

Character development continues to be a strong point with this series, and I’ve grown to care even more about these characters after this book.  Although not blood-related, with all they’ve been through, they’ve become a family of sorts, and have learned to rely on and trust each other while fighting for survival.  And that’s why the ending of this book may rip your heart out.  That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

With this being the middle novel of the series, I felt it was a bit slow and repetitive in places, and not much happens in the first half.  That being said, I’ve already started the next book, Smoke and Iron, and it certainly makes up for it.

This series offers something for everyone – action, a bit of romance and history, power struggles, both clever and untrustworthy characters, and a heaping load of suspense.

 

 

The Wish Granter (Ravenspire #2) by C.J. Redwine #bookreview #YAbooks #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, Bishe’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul. 

This series is based on re-tellings of fairy tales, but can be read as stand alones.  The The Wish Granter is an adaption of Rumpelstiltskin – which I had to look up, as the original tale is a distant memory.

I fell hard for Ari.  With her undying loyalty, steadfast determination, cunning negotiation skills, and love of pie – I just adore her.  And she always carries snacks in her handbag – a necessity in life.  Sebastian’s backstory is nothing short of heartbreaking, and he maintains his distance with people – but not for long after meeting Ari.

No doubt you’ve heard that death and taxes are the only certainties in life.  There’s another – the death of a beloved character in any of this author’s novels.  I’ve read several of her books now, and it’s a given.  No spoilers here – you’ll just have to read it yourself.

I read this for a book club (the theme for the month was re-tellings) and it was the perfect selection – exciting action, a sweet romance, an instantly lovable princess, and a loathsome villain (if karma ever needed to make a visit, it’s to this guy).  If you enjoy twists on old fairy tales, I highly recommend this series.

 

Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic #1) by Megan Crewe #bookreview #YA #fantasy

In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die… or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages’ Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents’ low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The first in a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless  Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix!

Although the book description is highly intriguing, overall, Ruthless Magic was just an okay read for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with this book – it’s well-written, has interesting world-building, and likable characters, but nothing really stood out.  Note that I’m in the minority on this opinion – the majority of reviews for this novel have been stellar.  Maybe I was expecting more since it uses heavyweight comp titles like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and mentions Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, both authors with outstanding fantasy series under their belts.

I like the idea of the magical community feeling an obligation to reveal themselves to the ‘dulls’ (non-magic folk) and assist with government safety, but I found it surprising that despite this magic being around for quite some time, even those in charge don’t seem to understand it.  The rules regarding the magic are somewhat unclear.

Again, this isn’t a bad book by any means – I’d just hoped for a bit more originality.  If The Hunger Games doused with magic whets your appetite, this is probably a book you’d enjoy.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.