The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2) by Victoria Lee #bookreview #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

First, I’ll warn you this book contains some difficult subjects – sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders among others, and I appreciate that the author lists content warnings and also provides resource information at the end of the book for anyone experiencing these tragic situations.

While the first book in this series engaged me with its political intrigue and magic system, it was just an okay read for me.  But the followup reached out and grabbed me and didn’t let go until the explosive ending.

I spent most of the book being angry with Noam and wanted to throttle him.  He’s oblivious to the danger he’s in and walks a tightrope between life and death every day.  Dara does his best to get get Noam to see reality, but he’s fighting a losing battle.  As for Dara, seeing him without magic was like a stab to my heart, and his struggle to find his place in the world and battle his addictions is tough to read.  Although I found myself holding my breath numerous times over their predicaments and dreaded reading the next paragraph, their character arcs are a thing of beauty.

Lehrer uses his power and position to hide the monstrous things he does and is a compelling villain in every way – you really want karma to have its way with him.  While his political aspirations and manipulations are still an important aspect of the book, this is more of a character-driven novel compared to the first.  A few areas of the story are barely touched on, but overall, the pacing is pretty even and I found it difficult to put down the book.

At its core, The Electric Heir is truly a story about survivors of horrific circumstances, second chances, and finding your happily ever after.

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

Havenfall (Havenfall #1) by Sara Holland #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

I liked the idea of this inn being the neutral zone connecting so many different realms.  And the cover is stunning – and that’s before I even noticed the woman’s head forming the mountain.

Initially, I was skeptical about this book.  The first several pages are descriptions of each realm, their people, and their magic – basically an info dump – and I hoped that wasn’t an indicator of how the rest of the book would play out.  After the first few chapters, I was relieved that wasn’t the case.

Maddie is easy to like and care about.  Havenfall is her safe space where she’s accepted and feels needed, but soon after she arrives for the summer, her world gets turned upside down.  For me, it seemed pretty obvious early in the story who she shouldn’t trust, so it wasn’t a complete shock when everything comes to a head near the end.  Still, I enjoyed seeing Maddie begin to figure things out and learn to trust her instincts.

The supporting characters are helpful and occasionally fun, but none of them really shine or jump off the page.  With the majority of this story taking place at the inn, I’d love to venture into the other realms in the next book and learn more about the magic.

Havenfall may not offer any earth-shattering revelations or breathtaking highs and lows, but it’s an evenly-paced book containing an intriguing mystery in a magical setting and a series I plan to continue.

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

 

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry #YA #supernatural #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

This book deals with some heavy subject matter – a family grieving in various ways after the tragic loss of their sister.

For me, the bonds between the sisters are one of the highlights of the story.  Sure, they have their squabbles, but will also defend each other until the end.  Each has their own distinct personality and way of dealing with grief – some in not the most healthy ways – and I appreciated the different POVs of each sister.

My favorite parts of the story are when Ana’s ghost tries to communicate with her sisters – I always love the addition of anything supernatural – and it’s the primary reason I requested this book.  Without giving away spoilers, one situation involving Ana left me hanging at the end, and I would have liked to know the outcome.  Some parts, while interesting, felt a little disjointed and didn’t really come together for me.

This is a well-written, quick read (I read it on a two hour flight), but a dark, heavy tale of grief and loss with a supernatural twist.

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

 

 

The Disasters by M.K. England #bookreview #scifi #YA

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

I’m a sucker for a diverse group of unlikely heroes, and when they’re thrown into space it’s a nearly irresistible read.

I listened to this audiobook during a long drive, and for the most part, it held my interest.  Nax’s voice is a highlight of the book, and his internal monologues had me laughing several times.  Being in the middle of a bi-love triangle makes for some pretty awkward moments for him.  The rest of the crew is also engaging.  Tossing them into a nearly immediate life or death situation inspires pretty quick bonding, and trust soon follows.

From the tagline, I expected more humorous moments.  For me, Nax joining up with other “washouts” indicates they’re misfits or also have a history of making poor life decisions, but all these characters are highly skilled and close to prodigies.  The focus of the story slants more toward political conspiracies and the group trying to save the day – nothing wrong wrong with that, but the description is a little misleading.

The Disasters has some great characterization and lots of action, but the pace moves a little slow for my taste.  Still, a solid read.

 

Highland Cove by Dylan J. Morgan #bookreview #horror #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder.

The tales of ghostly appearances are said to be more fact than fiction, but no one has ever documented the phenomenon. Codie Jackson aims to change all that. Arriving from London with his small independent film crew, they plan to make a documentary that will forever change their lives.

But when one of the crew disappears, things begin to spiral out of control. A storm closes in to ravage the island, and in the darkness Highland Cove’s true horrors are revealed. Now lost within the institution’s labyrinthine corridors, Codie and his team realize that their nightmare is only just beginning.

After reading several books by this author, I became a confirmed fan.  But then he disappeared for a while.  When I learned he had a new release on the horizon, it took me about tenth of a second to request an ARC.

A group of ghosthunters, including some non-believers, spend two nights in an abandoned sanitorium during a vicious storm.  Where lots of people died.  And it’s on an island.  What could go wrong here?  Most folks, believers or not, would likely pass on the offer.  Luckily for the reader, these characters think it’s an amazing opportunity.  Some of them assume nothing will happen and figure they’ll edit in effects to the film later.  Right.  But then, it wouldn’t be much of a horror story if characters made wise choices.

This author possesses an incredible talent for setting a tone – something he immediately did when the group first set foot on the island.  With such vivid imagery, I felt as if I walked the dilapidated halls of Highland Cove along with these characters.  Chills tingled down my spine when a wheelchair moved of its own accord.  Shadows danced in every corner.  During one scene, I cringed repeatedly – and I’ve been reading horror for decades.  That doesn’t happen to me very often, so kudos to the author.  Trust me when I say parts of this aren’t for the faint of heart.

It’s difficult to mention this without giving away spoilers, but a couple things near the end didn’t come together for me.  I had suspicions, and maybe I missed a crucial piece of information early in the book, but I felt part of the puzzle was missing when all was said and done.  It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this atmospheric tale, but still – some questions niggled at my brain.

I’m thrilled to see another book from this author and hope I don’t have to wait as long for his next one.  If you’re a horror fan, this is a writer you need to get to know.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

The Scout: Dark Crossings by D.L. Cross #bookreview #scifi #aliens

The aliens have landed. The humans are panicking. The scouts have been sent.

J’s mission is clear — find an alien outpost, observe, report back. Simple enough. It’s what he’s trained to do. But he’s always worked with his team, never as a party of one. Now he’s been sent out alone to blindly navigate a dense, dark forest until he finds his target. The dynamics are foreign to him, the stakes never higher. Resources are scarce. Comms are down.

And he’s found the enemy.

J is shocked when everyone’s true allegiances are revealed. And the consequences of betrayal will be deadly.

I’ve always been a fan of alien stories, and The Gate by this author was a five star read for me.  When I learned of this short story set within that world, I was anxious to get my hands on it while waiting for book two of the Astral Conspiracy series.

First, let me say The Scout stands on its own and prior knowledge of The Gate isn’t required; however, this novella is enough of a taste to whet your appetite and make you curious about the alien invasion taking place in that book.  Although a quick read, the author did a fantastic job at making me care about J.  I felt his loneliness and sense of betrayal from both his own people and the aliens.  By the end, I wanted to continue with his story – but maybe that will be an option in the future.  A reader can hope.  Now, I’ll have to return to impatiently awaiting book two of the Astral Conspiracy.

 

The Tomato Quest (Chasing the Romantics #2) by D.G. Driver #bookreview #fairytale #TuesdayBookBlog

Dash and Lillian are in love, but her wealthy father won’t permit them to be married because Dash is not a suitable match. He is nothing but the son of the family’s gardener. To be rid of the young man, Lillian’s father claims that the only way Dash could ever earn Lillian’s hand in marriage is to find his fortune in the time it takes a basket of fresh tomatoes to rot. Naturally, Sir Barrymore isn’t serious about this challenge, but Dash sees it as his only chance to win the hand of the woman he loves. He leaves immediately on a quest to find a way to complete this impossible task. Meanwhile, Lillian is doing her best to make her parents postpone her engagement to someone else in order to give Dash time to return. It is a whirlwind fairy tale adventure full of danger, cunning, magic, true love, and tomatoes.

Although I’ve never been a huge fairy tale fan, I’ve enjoyed the original stories in this series.  The Tomato Quest can be easily read in an hour or so, and I finished it in an afternoon over Christmas.  It’s a sweet tale containing star-crossed lovers who are determined to be together despite the objections of their parents and the expectations of society.  After being handed a near impossible challenge, Dash doesn’t have a clear-cut plan for success.  He encounters one roadblock after another, yet he shoulders on, and you have to admire his tenacity.  In the beginning, I wasn’t completely convinced Lillian was all in, but she proved me wrong.  Her actions in defying her parents gave me some chuckles.

If you’re a fairy tale fan or a fan of sweet romances, I recommend giving this series a try.  I somehow missed this novella when it was first published, and the author was gracious enough to provide me a copy for review.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.