The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) by Kiersten White #bookreview #YA #fantasy

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

I’ve always had a fascination with anything Camelot since seeing the movie Excaliber years ago, so when I saw this retelling of Guinevere, not to mention the beautiful cover, I jumped to request it from NetGalley.

If you’re not familiar with the Arthurian legend, don’t let it stop you from reading this book.  Prior knowledge isn’t required.  I liked the idea of Guinevere being King Arthur’s protector instead of how she’s traditionally portrayed.  The problem is, while not giving away spoilers, the book description is a bit misleading.  She’s also unsure of exactly who or what the threat is to Arthur, so Guinevere spends a good portion of the book trying to suss it out.  And not much happens during that time.

That being said, the last 15-20% of the book moves pretty quickly, while still leaving most of the action for book two.  By the end, the threat is identified, and there are a couple of twists – one of which most readers will figure out early on, and the other I guessed half of.  There’s still an unrevealed mystery involving Guinevere and Merlin, but that’s something for later books, also.  I found King Arthur’s character the most intriguing, having to shoulder the responsibility of a kingdom at such a young age and put everyone else’s needs and interests ahead of his own.

If you’re a Camelot fan, it’s all here along with Guinevere – Excaliber, King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake – but personally, I’d hoped for a queen that didn’t require saving so many times.  Judging by other reviews, I’m in the minority on this one.  Still, the story held my interest.

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

 

Pax Novis (The Pax Archives #1) by Erica Cameron #YA #scifi #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

Cira Antares is deeply loyal to two things: Pax Novis—the cargo ship captained by her mother that transports supplies across war-torn star systems—and her personal mission to save war orphans. But hiding them as stowaways on the ship is illegal, and if any of them were found, not even her mother could protect Cira from the consequences.

She has successfully kept her secret…until supplies start to go missing. Food. Clothing. Tools. All signs point to her stowaways, but they wouldn’t do anything to risk exposing themselves—or her. Especially not Riston, the oldest of the group and someone Cira has grown close to. Someone she might even be falling in love with…

And petty thefts are only the beginning—whole ships are disappearing now.

Not caught in a firefight. Not destroyed by another planet. Vanishing. Without a trace.

And Pax Novis is next.

Ships missing in space?  Stowaways?  Yes, please.  And that cover?  A must read.

With a third gender pronoun set created by the author and incorporated into the story and several LGBTQ characters, the representation is outstanding.  Admittedly, I stumbled over the new terminology (ze, zem, zir) early in the book, but before long, I barely noticed it.

The world-building is captivating.  In the midst of war, I loved the idea of a fleet of ships delivering supplies to those in need.  Characterization is also strong with both main and supporting characters.  Riston and Cira both have enormous compassion for the war orphans and big hearts that sometimes cloud their judgement.  And those stowaway war orphans?  The chosen family they create with Riston and the small amount of security they feel on Pax Novis after enduring such horrific circumstances in their short lives is sweet and moving.  You’ll feel like they’re part of your own family by the end of the book.

Pacing is somewhat sluggish until around the 40% mark, but then it rarely slows.  My heart was racing along with the characters’ during the last 20% or so.  The next book is absolutely going on my TBR.

If you’re looking for a thrilling sci-fi mystery with wonderful representation and scenes guaranteed get your pulse racing, Pax Novis checks all those boxes.

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

*I’m traveling and won’t be able to get to comments until tomorrow afternoon.*

Vengeful (Villians #2) by V.E. Schwab #bookreview #UrbanFantasy #superheroes

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

The time between the release of Vicious, book one in this series, and the followup spans five years – I admit, I forgot some things.  But Vicious was a 5 star read for me, and I couldn’t wait to see what became of Eli and Victor.  I’m just a little late finding out (so many books!).

Victoria Schwab is an auto buy author for me, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her several times at book festivals and signings.  Reading her novels, I know to expect wildly creative world-building, living, breathing characters (to me, anyway), and quotable lines that should be on t-shirts, jewelry, posters, etc. (and have been).  Her Shades of Magic fantasy series will forever be among my favorites.

This series is just as addictive.  I loved spending time with these characters again, as well as some new ones.  Marcella is as compelling a character as Eli and Victor.  She has some wonderful scenes and has no problem holding her own against both of them.

If you’re a fan of superheroes, especially X-Men, and morally ambiguous characters, you can’t go wrong with this series.  I’m only sorry it took me this long to get to Vengeful.

 

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…

Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.

But when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.

Gang wars, revenge, and volatile leaders?  As a Sons of Anarchy fan, I couldn’t wait to read this (even though the gangs aren’t MCs).

First, let me say that it took enormous effort on my part to put down my Kindle while reading this – I was riveted.  Valerie losing her younger brother is a tragic story, and her warring emotions are well-portrayed.  Important topics such as depression, cutting, and talk of suicide are also addressed.  While much of this book is very dark, having a supportive circle of family and friends is emphasized.  The origin of the gangs is explained well, and the Stags fight against gentrification is understandable.  I found myself rooting for them – just maybe not for all the methods used in their fight.

While I felt I knew Valerie and Micah pretty well, when it came to Jax, there were still several blank spaces by the end of the book.  Valerie’s feelings for him seemed to be based on nothing more than his looks and the information he possessed that she wanted.  He’s an interesting character, and I craved more details.  The Westons and their influence were also a gray area for me, and more explanation of their involvement would have helped.

Taking the subject matter into account, don’t expect a unicorns and rainbow-type of ending, but many things are resolved.  With a compelling tale involving themes of family, revenge, betrayal, and grief, this is a fantastic debut novel, and I’ll be looking for future books by this author.

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

 

 

Hope by Terry Tyler #bookreview #dystopian #thriller

‘We haven’t elected a Prime Minister, we’ve elected a lifestyle’.

As the fourth decade of the 21st century looms, new PM Guy Morrissey and his fitness guru wife Mona (hashtag MoMo) are hailed as the motivational couple to get the UK #FitForWork, with Mona promising to ‘change the BMI of the nation’.

Lita Stone is an influential blogger and social media addict, who watches as Guy and Mona’s policies become increasingly ruthless. Unemployment and homelessness are out of control. The solution? Vast new compounds all over the country, to house those who can no longer afford to keep a roof over their heads.

These are the Hope Villages, financed by US corporation Nutricorp.

Lita and her flatmates Nick and Kendall feel safe in their cosy cyberspace world. Unaware of how swiftly bad luck can snowball, they suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, behind the carefully constructed mirage of Hope.

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller that weaves through the darker side of online life, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Whether or not it will mirror a dystopian future that awaits us, we will have to wait and see. 

This novel is classified as a dystopian thriller, but make no mistake, it’s also a horror story simply because it isn’t outside the realm of possibility something like this could happen in the not too distant future.  And that should scare the crap out of anyone.

The new PM, his wife, and family are perfect examples of how social media can be used to manipulate followers/viewers and distort the truth.  As in real life, much of the population buy into what they’re selling, but others are put off by the hype and determined not to drink the Kool-Aid.  Soon, disturbing ramifications of these new policies and laws come to light, and the number of jobless jumps significantly.  Lita and her friends are employed and feeling secure in a shared comfortable flat, believing homelessness and unemployment can’t happen to them.  Until it does.  And it’s terrifying to see how easily it can happen.

Tyler does an outstanding job at portraying the different reactions of three people in identical circumstances – yet, Lita, Nick, and Kendall’s emotions and actions are entirely believable and valid.  I felt their frustration and outrage at the system and the sense of helplessness and lack of control over their own situations.

This was an easy five star read for me, and days after finishing, I was still thinking about it.  With shades of Big Brother and current events, Hope is guaranteed to leave you feeling unnerved.

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

 

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders–skilled at alchemy–who must compete at The Races–the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged. 

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

With comp titles like Red Rising and The Scorpio Races, combined with a stunning cover and intriguing description, I jumped at the invitation to read and review Ashlords.  Being a fan of Reintgen’s Nyxia Triad series, I anticipated an exciting read, but this?  Completely above and beyond my expectations.

Phoenix horses – what an outstanding concept.  Toss in alchemy, a Hunger Games-ish race, gods, spirits, a brewing war, and you’ve got an addictive read.  I have to admit, the world-building overwhelmed me a bit at first, but I settled in by the second chapter.

And the characters!  Three POVs:  Imelda – a talented alchemist and underdog, Adrian – probably the biggest threat to the Ashlords and the face of the rebellion, and Pippa – the daughter of two champions and favorite to win.  Pippa’s POV is in second person, something I haven’t come across in YA fiction.  You may start out rooting for one, but will likely change your mind more than once before it’s over.  Don’t underestimate any of them.

There’s more than the race going on in this novel.  With war, rebellion, and unrest stirring, the next book in this duology promises to be just as compelling.  From nearly the first page, this action-packed, intense plot races (almost literally) to the finish.  I can’t wait for the next book – bring on the next rebirth!

This book is scheduled for publication January 21, 2020.  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Day Zero (Day Zero Duology #1) by Kelly deVos #bookreview #YA #dystopian #scifi

If you’re going through hell…keep going.

Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.

But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.

In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?

Warning:  Only read this book if you have several uninterrupted hours.  Otherwise, you’ll forget or ignore everything else requiring your attention.

It all starts out normal enough with Jinx and her stepsister picking up her brother after school and stopping for an errand before going home.  Minutes after, life will never be the same for them.  Political unrest (eerily similar to our current political climate), a rigged election, a country torn apart by differing viewpoints, doomsday prep, twists that jump out of nowhere – I flew through this book in two days.  These characters are on the run almost immediately, and there’s rarely any downtime.  Jinx’s father, “Dr. Doomsday”, had prepared her and Charles (the adorable younger brother you just want to hug) so well, I was tempted to write down and laminate his rules for survival and stick it on my fridge.

Jinx and MacKenna’s character arcs are fantastic.  When pushed to unfathomable limits, they discover what they’re capable of and the lengths they’re willing to go to survive.  The relationships between the siblings and step-siblings is done extremely well.  Something I missed was a bit more explanation on the connection between Navarro and Jinx, but maybe it’s something that will be expanded on in the next book.

Day Zero is a thrilling whirlwind of intrigue that grabs hold of you from the first page.  The next book can’t be released soon enough for me.

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

Author Bio: KELLY DEVOS is from Gilbert, Arizona, where she lives with her high school sweetheart husband, amazing teen daughter and superhero dog, Cocoa. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. When not reading or writing, Kelly can typically be found with a mocha in hand, bingeing the latest TV shows and adding to her ever-growing sticker collection. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, named one of the “50 Best Summer Reads of All Time” by Reader’s Digest magazine, is available now from HarperCollins. Kelly’s work has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Salon, Vulture and Bustle.