Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff #bookreview #YA #scifi

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Occasionally, I’ll pick up a book and know within the first several pages that I’m in for a five star read.  Aurora Rising is one of those books.

These characters.  I fell for them hard, and the banter between them is hilarious.  All are so fully-developed and relatable, and with seven different POVs, that’s a tremendous feat to accomplish.  So many POVs may throw off some readers, but each voice is distinctive, and I knew exactly who was speaking.  And such fantastic character diversity (and I don’t mean humans and aliens).

Talk about no-win situations – these authors throw their characters into several, and you’re just sure there’s no way they’ll survive – and then things happen that I won’t give away, but trust me, you’ll be surprised at the originality and creativity.  The last 15% of this book really put me through the wringer – hidden secrets, big emotions, high-stakes danger.  Make sure to carve out a good hour or so when you won’t be disturbed.

Even with all the action, death-defying moments, and a tension-filled heist, Aurora Rising leans heavily on themes of family, friendship, faith, and finding your crew.  It’s an unusual, but charismatic mix of Guardians of the Galaxy, The Breakfast Club, and Six of Crows, and a novel you won’t want to miss.

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

Voyage of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #pirates #TuesdayBookblog

An honorable man is mistaken for his disreputable father. Now he’s pushed into a political scheme to start a war that will spread across multiple kingdoms. James Cuttler’s fiancé is being held captive to ensure he goes through with the plan.

He soon decides his skills are at sea and procures a ship to wage war upon those who disrupted his simple life. He can’t do it alone, so he recruits a band of cutthroats to help him. But first, they need guns and munitions to outfit the ship properly. Deception and trickery will only get them so far. Eventually, they’re going to have to engage the enemy.

James’ goals aren’t necessarily the same as his crew. It’s a delicate balancing act to collect enough loot to keep his crew happy, while guiding them back to rescue the girl.

Voyage of the Lanternfish is filled with adventure, magic, and monsters. Lots of monsters. Hoist the colors and come along for the ride. 

I’ve read several books by C.S. Boyack, and by now, I’ve come to expect wildly inventive world-building, charming characters, and a thrilling adventure.  This book definitely didn’t alter those expectations.

Where can I find me some root monsters?  I’d love to have a bushel of my own.  These guys made me laugh out loud so many times, I lost count.  They’re quite the little scoundrels, and a valuable addition to the crew.  Speaking of the crew, they’re a diverse, boisterous crowd with varied backgrounds, and kind of a family of their own making.  Everyone brings a special skill to the table.  And they’re pirates!  Who doesn’t love a good pirate tale?

If you’re looking for adventure on the high seas, quirky characters, a hint of magic, and a touch of romance, Voyage of the Lanternfish fits the bill quite nicely.

 

King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Or die as legends. 

If you’re a regular at this blog, you know the first book in this series, Ace of Shades, was one of my top reads last year – so I’ve waited what seems like a lifetime (I may be exaggerating just a bit) to find out the fates of these characters.  I was kind of nervous – occasionally second books are ‘fillers’, or a let down after an explosive first novel.  But King of Fools is everything I hoped it would be.

New Reynes is still the City of Sin, and the dangers haven’t lessened.  With a street war on the verge of erupting, and Enne’s and Levi’s faces plastered on wanted posters, they’re constantly on guard, and always about five minutes away from being caught.  The character development continues to be outstanding, and the author puts both Enne and Levi in tense, impossible situations, where any decision they make hurts themselves or someone they care about.  Several new characters are introduced, and really add to the story – especially Tock and Grace.

As much as I love Levi and Enne, Jac is my heart in this book.  His POV is added this time around, and with his tragic past, his loyalty to Levi, and determination to write his own story, Jac’s character arc is incredible.

King of Fools is full of political intrigue, manipulation, backstabbing, and twists, and it left rips in my soul that won’t heal until the last book of the series is in my hands.  It also features a quirky girl gang, and memorable characters that will stay with you long after finishing the book.

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

 

More Glimpses by Hugh W. Roberts #bookreview #shortstories #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Do you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden? Or know the real truth about what lurks inside every mobile phone? Would you steal items from a blind person, or send your neighbours on a time travelling adventure fraught with danger and menace to save the human race from a bug? How about staying in a sleepy village where many murders have taken place or coming to the aid of royalty while out shopping? 

These are just some of the subjects covered in the second collection of short stories and flash fiction from author and writer, Hugh W. Roberts. 

‘More Glimpses’ gives the reader an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of normal, everyday people whose lives are all on a path full of twists, turns and unexpected endings. However, it’s not only about the humans; nothing escapes the extraordinary journeys Hugh has planned for you. If you are a lover of shows such as ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘The Twilight Zone’ then you’re in for another exciting trip in this second collection from Hugh. Come and meet the characters who had no idea their lives were about to be turned upside-down. Enjoy the ride! 

What an eclectic collection of short stories!  There’s something for everyone – horror, comedy, science fiction, mystery, paranormal.  Some are a scant few paragraphs, while others span several pages.  My reactions to these stories ran the gamut – laughter, shock, sadness, surprise.  The author has quite an imagination, and uses human nature and tendencies and our dependence on modern technology in clever ways.

All are a delight to read, but some that stuck with me are The Tunnel – such an unexpected ending, and I laughed out loud; Floral Hall – so sweet and melancholy; The Right Choice – words can have different, and sometimes very literal, meanings; The Hole – karma occasionally delivers in the most divine ways; and Easter Bunny Cake – I’ll never look at carrot cake the same way again.

Whatever your preferred genre, you’ll find it in this compilation of chilling, humorous, and unpredictable tales.

I received a copy of this novel from the author through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon #bookreview #supernatural #mystery

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Timesbestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late . . . 

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home–wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks–she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

I’m really behind on my Jennifer McMahon books.  The last one I read was The Winter People, which was an easy five stars for me.  When I saw The Invited on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

This author is certainly talented at creating a chilling, atmospheric setting.  Forty-four acres of rural land, very few neighbors, and creepy bog?  Oh, and someone died by hanging at the bog?  Perfect.  Throw in a main character who uses building materials from allegedly haunted locations?  Disturbing.  The author also weaves in some spine-tingling visuals – nothing that kept me up at night, but I’m a horror fan, so that’s a difficult task to accomplish.

The characters are likable in the beginning, but once the supernatural events begin, they’re at each other’s throats.  While both Nate and Helen develop individual obsessions, the reader feels the same frustrations with them as the characters do with each other.  Honestly, if I was Nate, I probably would have tossed Helen out on her keester.  They’re also pretty slow to realize things aren’t quite right in their neck of the woods.

Maybe it was because I read an ARC, but several things are mentioned in the book that didn’t happen – events, something a character said, etc.  Like maybe the author meant to go back and add things during revisions, but forgot?

The Invited is a slow burn, supernatural tale that starts off a bit sluggish, but picks up around the 45% mark.  Enough hints are dropped that readers will probably figure out the twists before the ending, but it was an enjoyable read for me.

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

 

 

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan #bookreview #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

I’d seen rave reviews for this book throughout the blogosphere, and that, along with a gorgeous cover and riveting description, had me requesting this book from NetGalley.

Did this book live up to the hype?  Well…mostly.  This is a captivating dark fantasy that weaves the elements of religion, magic, and politics into a thought-provoking storyline.  Many reviews stated the beginning is a slower pace – something I agree with – but the brisk pace and shocking reveals at the end make up for it.  Yes, the pace takes off – but I’d guessed the shocking reveals early in the book, so maybe it’s my fault I was a tad underwhelmed.

The three primary characters exist in the fluctuating areas of gray between good and bad – and that’s my favorite type of character.  Each are wonderfully flawed, possess traits to love and hate, and are ruthless, driven, and distrustful at certain points.  They all believe they’re doing the right thing.  Supporting characters are loyal, well-developed, and occasionally humorous.  Stellar characterization.

Wicked Saints is a brutal, bloody, dark fantasy set in a world rich in history and lore.  It’s very well-written, and if you’re not into YA, give this book a try, because it’s easily a crossover.

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

 

Killing November (Killing November #1) by Adriana Mather #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #thriller

It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim. 

What an awesome premise – a school that trains assassins.  Throw in some murders, and you’ve got a ton of suspects, right?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book.  The cover didn’t do much for me, but the description sounded crazy good.  And it delivered – I wanted to finish this book in one sitting.  November’s life changes vastly almost overnight – and she has no clue what’s going on.  Every student at the school seems to know things about her, but she’s never met any of them, and no one is willing to share their knowledge.  Every student is also a trained killer and strategist, and trusting the wrong person could be a fatal error.  The stakes are high throughout the book, and I found myself holding my breath in some scenes.  I’m pretty sure I suspected almost everyone at some point in the story.  It’s obvious the author did her research in nonverbal communication and  weapons, with some historical tidbits thrown in that add to the authenticity of the story.

Once the secrets are revealed, some are surprising and some predictable, but they sure do make for a tense, exciting read.  With fabulous character development, political intrigue, a complex, thrilling plot, and a main character whose life is in jeopardy on nearly every page, Killing November is addictive, and one of my best reads this year.

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