The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans #bookreview #YA #fantasy

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

I’ve had this title in my TBR for longer than I can remember, and when the assignment for my book club was to read a novel set in school, I decided it was time pull this one out of the pile.

I loved Michael right away.  He has a lot on his plate – he’s dealing with the loss of his father, his mom is miserable in a job for which she’s overqualified, money is tight, he’s bullied nearly everyday at school, and he has Tourette’s syndrome.  He also has the ability to shock people – not the minor type of shock you’d receive from an electrical outlet – it’s the fatal kind, and he has to hide it.

Michael and his best friend, Ostin (who is smarter than all the characters put together), have unique voices and bring a big dose of humor to the table – especially Ostin.  Even when put in extreme situations and forced to make impossible choices, Michael keeps his wits about him and is a pretty cool customer.  He has the makings of a natural leader – and from the hints at the end, I’m pretty sure book two heads in that direction.

Although an interesting read with enjoyable characters and a bad guy you love to hate, it’s similar to many other superhero origin stories and doesn’t offer anything new or unique.  But I’m still a sucker for this kind of book, and I’ll probably continue with the series at some point.

Fireborne (The Aurelian Cycle #1) by Rosaria Munda #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that’s full of rivalry, romance… and dragons.

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.

With comp titles like Red Rising and Game of Thrones, how could you not want to read this book?  I didn’t even care about the rest of the description once I saw those comps.  And let me tell you – they’re spot on.

Conflict always makes for an exciting reading experience, and this book is loaded with it.  The tension is nearly palpable.  My emotions were torn in every direction, and I’m not sure how I’ll last until the next book to find out what happens.  Magnificent world-building with brewing war, clashing views, political intrigue, and dragons psychically bonded to their riders.  Right and wrong aren’t clearly outlined in this world – something I always enjoy.

Lee and Annie are fascinating characters with complicated backgrounds, secrets, and a strong bond forged at a young age when they meet at an orphanage.  Their backstories are devastating and, as dragonriders, they shoulder an enormous amount of responsibility and are required to make incredibly hard decisions that hurt not only themselves, but those they care about.

This book doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of its readers, and is easily a crossover to an adult audience.  Harsh, brutal, thrilling, heartwarming, compelling – all are apt descriptions for Fireborne.  Add this to your TBR today.  You won’t regret it.

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

 

 

#BadMoonRising: Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz #horror #paranormal

Today’s author is perfectly suited to write in the horror genre.  He’s ready to break out the Ouija board and head for the graveyard.  Haunted house?  Been there, done that.  Move on to the next supernatural adventure.  His horror novella is waiting in my TBR, and it sounds perfect for a creepy Halloween read.  Welcome Jonathan Pongratz!

Would you rather walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight or spend the night in a haunted, abandoned house?

I’ve stayed in a haunted house before, although it wasn’t abandoned, so let’s go with the graveyard. Give me a Ouija board and I’m ready for some ghostly conversations!

I’ve never been in a graveyard at night, much less a haunted one, so I’d be curious to see if I could rouse some spirits in the spirit of Halloween. The occult has always held a sort of fascination for me.

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? 

Vampire, hands down. Ever since reading Anne Rice in high school I’ve been obsessed. I mean, who would give up the chance to walk the night forever in exchange for a little bit of blood? Not this guy!

Would you rather be locked in a haunted insane asylum or lost in the woods with a killer on the loose?

Being in the woods with a killer would maybe be a bit too real for me, so let’s go with haunted insane asylum. I’ve seen some footage from those ghost hunting shows, and I think whether or not you make contact, just being stuck in a haunted insane asylum would be extremely terrifying in a psychological way. And that’s before the haunting starts. How exhilarating!

 If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in the same setting, where would you choose?

I would love to write a book set in a small town in New England. I’ve been itching to write a werewolf detective mystery of sorts for a couple years now, and I absolutely love the fall in that area. It’s truly mesmerizing, and the perfect backdrop for some supernatural goings on.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Too many to count if I’m being honest. My most promising ones are an urban fantasy series centered around demons hunting humans with supernatural abilities (first book’s revised manuscript complete, just not published), an LGBT horror centered in South America, and the werewolf mystery I mentioned earlier.

And that’s just the beginning! I like to have at least ten years’ worth of work at any given point in time. It definitely keeps things interesting if I want to switch to another project at the drop of a hat.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to my debut novella Reaper: A Horror Novella. I’m currently writing the second act (I divided the plot into three acts like a play) and am hoping to self-publish sometime around the end of the year if possible.

It’s about twice as long as my first novella, and I’m super excited to finish Gregory’s story. Definitely keep your eyes peeled!

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

Purchase Link

Amazon
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Bio

Jonathan Pongratz is a writer and author of captivating horror, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories. When he’s not writing, he’s busy being a bookworm, video game junkie, and karaoke vocalist. A former resident of Dallas, he currently resides in Kansas City with his halloween cat Ajax. By day he works magic in finance, by night he creates dark and mesmerizing worlds.

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The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy #bookreview #YA #fantasy

In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world. 

The fascinating idea of memories being currency, the beautiful cover, and a MC in a perilous situation are what drew me to this book.

While intricate and interesting, the world-building confused me for the most part.  With a lot of moving pieces, sparse details are given about the different realms and types of Gifted.  At the end of the book is a glossary containing descriptions and explanations that would have helped while reading.  I wish it had been at the beginning of the novel instead.

Several twists are revealed at the end of some chapters, and the author did an admirable job at making me read just a little longer in one sitting to see what happened next.  That being said, things seem to fall into place a little too conveniently, which dampened the conflict and intensity for me.  The journey Etta and Reid undertake lasts a good portion of the book, and I assumed this would be the first in a series; however, the pace kicks into overdrive in the last 20% and wraps up the story in a neat bow.

The Memory Thief isn’t a bad read by any means, and several other reviewers have enjoyed it, but the ambiguous world-building and uneven pacing left me scratching my head several times.  Putting the glossary at the beginning of the book would help alleviate much of the confusion.

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

 

 

Slay by Brittney Morris #bookreview #YA #suspense #TuesdayBookBlog

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process? 

I can’t say I’m the target audience for this book, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to dive in and play Slay.

I was immediately intrigued by a high school girl developing such a popular game and keeping it a secret from everyone she knows.  And the game!  A safe place where players don’t have to hide and can enjoy the freedom to be who they truly are.  Such creative imagery – the characters in the game, the dueling cards, the world within Slay – I can see how this would transfer easily to the big screen.

Something else I enjoyed are the relationships between Kiera, her sister, Steph and their parents, and Kiera’s friendship with Cicada – all loving, humorous, and very relatable.  Her relationship with Harper is a tad strained at times, even though they’ve been friends since they were children.  Having read The Hate U Give, there are parallels between Starr and Kiera in the way they felt they could never truly be themselves around their white friends.

When the troll infiltrated the game, I was so ready for him to get what he deserved.  The buildup is tense, infuriating, and completely offensive – and then there’s a twist and the situation is dealt with in just a few pages.  I felt a little cheated, like the payoff wasn’t big enough.

Even if you’re not a gamer, Slayer is an exciting, suspenseful read with some powerful and timely messages.

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

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee #bookreview #YA #LGBT

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

I’ve had this book in my TBR for a while, and when I had to be in the car for an extended period, I took advantage of the audio book.  And I wonder why I waited so long to get to this fabulous novel.

Christian Coulson is an outstanding narrator and a perfect voice for Monty.  Monty himself is a mess – narcissistic, oblivious, and generally a danger to himself and others with his actions, but he does it in such a charming way, you can’t help but go along with him.  And Percy – such a sweet, gentle soul who deserves some sort of award for sticking by Monty for so long.  Their Grand Tour is one dangerous situation after another, mostly due to Monty’s poor decisions, but an exciting, nerve-wracking adventure for the reader.  He has so many quotable lines, I could fill a notebook with them.

This is an easy five stars for me, and I only regret it took me this long to read the novel.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a heavy dose of humor and adventure, and brash, self-destructive MCs with a good heart, here it is.  It’s a wildly entertaining ride.

 

Hood Academy by Shelley Wilson #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Will she follow the pack…or destroy them?

A dead mother. A violent father. A missing brother.

When Mia’s father is murdered, it’s her estranged uncle that comes to the rescue, but what he offers her in return for his help could be worse than the life she is leaving behind.

Taken to Hood Academy, a unique school deep in the forest, she discovers friendships, love, and the courage to stand on her own.

Mia takes the oath that seals her future as a werewolf hunter, but not everyone wants Mia to succeed.

Screams in the night. Secret rooms. Hidden letters. Mia becomes an important piece in a game she doesn’t want to play.

Loyalty, friendships, and family bonds are tested as Mia discovers her true identity, but will the truth set her free, or will it destroy her? 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book featuring werewolves (Twilight maybe?), so I was excited to get into this novel.  And the cover designer did a magnificent job at capturing readers’ attention.

This novel starts out with a heart-pounding sequence when Mia witnesses a werewolf killing her father.  From there, the plot takes off at a fast pace and rarely slows down.  Mia is a strong protagonist, occasionally leaping into action before thinking things through, and she’s suffered the loss of her mother, abuse from her father, and feels abandoned by her brother.  Without giving away spoilers, the author did a fantastic job at introducing conflict to the story, and Mia’s loyalties are pulled in several directions.

The transformation of human to werewolf is described in detail with vivid imagery, including both the immense pain involved and the feeling of power and animal instincts upon completion.  Being a science nerd, Sebastian’s research fascinated me, and this is an angle I haven’t seen explored in other werewolf books.  I also enjoyed the loyal friendship between Mia and Elizabeth and, lacking a female presence in her life since the death of her mother, her relationship with her teacher, Miss Ross.

Something I missed was more interaction between Mia and a character from her past who turns up again.  In the beginning of part two of the book, part one was summarized, giving the impression of two separate books being combined.  As I read an ARC, this is something that may change in the final version.

If you’re a fan of fast-paced urban fantasy with likeable characters and strong friendships, add Hood Academy to your TBR.  It also boasts some pretty cool werewolves!

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