Atonement in Bloom by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #urbanfantasy

“Atonement in Bloom” continues the urban fantasy from the point where “Atonement, Tennessee” ended. The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined. The local population included supernatural beings of the fae variety. Although only she and a few others knew about that. In a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life. In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed. Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee. Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals. Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast. Fae foolery backfires. A friend is abducted. On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.

Boy, did I miss these characters (especially Lilith, my favorite fictional calico cat) and this quirky little town.  When the author offered me an ARC, I jumped at the chance.

If you’re a regular reader of Geneviene, whether it’s her books or blog, her vast imagination comes as no surprise.  If this is your first encounter, you’re in for a creative treat.  With charismatic characters, both human and magical, glowing pigs, and an engaging mystery, this novel will easily persuade you to curl up in your favorite reading spot and spend a few delightful hours in the town of Atonement.

This is the second book in the series and could be read as a stand alone, but for maximum enjoyment, I’d advise reading Atonement, Tennessee first.  I’d highly recommend this series to fans of magical characters, eccentric towns, creative mysteries, and highly intelligent felines.  I’m still hoping Lilith gets her own book.

I received an ARC from the author.

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Although I’m not usually a big reader of YA contemporary, after reading the blurb for Mammoth, there’s no way I could pass it up.  I’m kind of a dino nerd – given, there aren’t dinosaurs in this book, but it was close enough for me.

Let me say up front – if you have daughters or know girls who are interested in STEM, steer them toward this book.  It strongly encourages girls to display their intelligence front and center, pursue their goals, and be themselves.  After they read it, encourage them to make better choices than Natalie.  She makes one bad decision after another and frustrated me – but she’s such a relatable, personable protagonist that I forgave her.  In her defense, she has good intentions, and also owns up to everything.  Nat’s character arc is incredible, and she’ll charm you from the first page.

Mammoth also contains some standard tropes that are difficult to get away from in YA – a love triangle, a rich, mean girl, and an awesome guy who maybe really isn’t, but all the supporting characters are well-written.

If you’re looking for a fresh, highly enjoyable read that also tackles some very relevant issues, Mammoth easily fills those requirements.

Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the ARC.

The Fox, the Dog, and the King (Cassie Tam Files #2) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #LBGT #thriller

New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …

When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.

Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes. 

I read the first book in this series earlier this year, and immediately became a fan of Cassie Tam.  She’s a confident, successful woman in her PI business, but when it comes to romantic relationships – that’s where she’s challenged.

In this book, Cassie is struggling to find her footing with new girlfriend, Lori, and  balance their relationship with her workload.  She’s still charmingly awkward, and while she may not say exactly the right things, she honestly means well.  With encouragement from Lori, she’s also learning to be friends with her ex-girlfriend.

Upon realizing Cassie’s new case involves dog fighting, as an animal lover, I was a bit leery of how much detail would be given and wondered if I might have to skip some pages.  No worries – the fighting happens ‘off-screen’, and my heart was spared.

While the first book in this series focuses more on the fascinating tech and world-building, I felt like I got to know Cassie better in this new novel, and her snark is still one of my favorite qualities.  Action, mystery, twists, and a touch of romance make The Fox the Dog, and the King another intriguing addition to this light sci-fi series.  I wouldn’t saying reading the books in order is a necessity, but it would help with understanding more about the world-building and Cassie’s backstory.

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

Pride and Fall (Cathedral Lake #3) by Staci Troilo #bookreview #suspense #romance

Fear unchecked cripples. Fear conquered liberates. 

Faith Keller has suffered much in her life–the murder of her sister, the near-destruction and almost-ruin of her family, a traumatic abduction. It’s no wonder she battles the effects of PTSD on a daily basis. The last thing she needs is to be the subject of an intense police investigation for the very crime her father was blamed for years before. Yet, despite her family’s staunchest efforts, she finds herself on the hot seat with a tenacious officer–but one whose attention she actually relishes.

Carter Emerson takes his job seriously. It’s the only tribute he can make to honor his fallen brother, and he’s determined to do the title “police officer” justice. When he sets his sights on Faith Keller, he’s torn. His mentor tells him he’s got it all wrong, but the evidence doesn’t lie. The worst part? He doesn’t want her to be guilty. He just wants her.

A story of healing and personal growth, Pride and Fall ends the Keller Family trilogy with action, deception, and a revelation readers won’t see coming.

This is the third book in the Cathedral Lake series, but it could also be considered a standalone.  Although reading the first two may be helpful, enough backstory is provided in Pride and Fall so that it’s not confusing.

After reading the first two books over the past year or so, it felt like catching up  with old friends again when I picked up this novel.  I’d missed these characters, and was anxious to see where life had taken them.  But we didn’t get to catch up for long, because the action and suspense begin almost immediately.  The other books have focused primarily on other family members, but this story is very much Faith’s.  She’s struggling with PTSD, along with trying to establish her veterinary practice and independence, while also dealing with family relationships fraught with tension.

Faith’s relationship with Carter is also tension-filled, and they have to maneuver around several obstacles before hitting smooth waters.  Carter is a new character to the series, and I enjoyed seeing his sometimes harsh, professional outer layers peel away to reveal a likable, gooey center.  As much as I enjoyed Carter and Faith’s relationship, as an animal lover, I thought the ‘relationship’ between Max and Ruby (their canine companions) was adorable and charming.

It was nice to see these characters find their happily ever after (hopefully) and finish their story.  If you’re a fan of family drama and suspense with a dose of romance, you can’t go wrong with this series.

Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3) by Vic James #bookreview #YA #dystopian

Magically gifted aristocrats rule–and commoners are doomed to serve. But a rebellion threatens the old order. The dystopian trilogy that began with Gilded Cage and Tarnished City concludes.

In a world where the lower classes must endure ten years of forced service to unfairly advantaged, magically powered rulers, a teenage boy dreams of rebellion, his older sister yearns for love and knowledge, and a dangerous young aristocrat seeks to remake the world with his dark gifts. In Bright Ruin, the final book in the trilogy set in modern-day England, our heroes will lead a revolution that will transform–or destroy–the world.

With phenomenal world-building, both loathsome and lovable characters, political intrigue, rebellion, and power struggles, Dark Gifts has been an exceptional and intelligent YA dystopian/fantasy series from beginning to end.

If you’re familiar with the term ‘book hangover’ – that’s an adequate description of how I felt upon completing this novel.  Two days later, I was still going back to re-reading parts and mull them over.  I’m sad to see the series end, but what a satisfying ending it is – no spoilers here.

If I’ve read other series with such incredible character arcs, they don’t immediately come to mind.  Several of these characters will surprise you, and aren’t what they initially seem or eventually become.  As with the previous books, the author certainly doesn’t balk at putting them through trials and tribulations, heartbreak and heartache, and occasionally even death.

I can’t recommend this series enough, and it’s easily a crossover for adults who are skeptical about reading YA.  If you’re a fan of complicated and intricate storylines with remarkable world-building and character development, this series is for you.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Cube (Guardian of the Present #1) by Melissa Faye #bookreview #YA #scifi #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

In the future, time travelers are a reality. In the present, time travelers are a real pain. 

June Moore is a normal teenager by day and a vigilante hero by night. 

She guards our present day from time travelers from the future. Law enforcement can’t keep up with their futuristic abilities. 

But June has an edge. 

Her smarts and strength help her fight off these visitors before they can take advantage of our world. She sends those time travelers back where they belong…whether they like it or not. 

Now it’s the night before her freshman year of college, and June finds herself face-to-face with a traveler. His motives are unclear, and he’s holding a strange cube. 

She has to know what’s inside. 

An extra second of hesitation allows the man to escape. June’s left alone. With the box. And with regrets…She should have sent the guy straight home. 

If June doesn’t capture the time traveler soon he could really mess up the future for everyone. Who knows what kind of trouble he may cause? And if the cube opens…it might cause even more trouble. Something that would hit closer to home. 

To save the future of those close to her, June must hunt the escaped traveler down.

…Before she runs out of time. 

The Cube is Book 1 of Guardian of the Present, an eight book series of novellas that will appeal to fans of tough female leads, Buffy, Veronica Mars, and Looper. 

I’m pretty sure it was the original Planet of the Apes movies that made me a fan of time travel, so every time I see a book on the topic, it’s like a laser beam that draws me in.

I like the idea of June’s story being told in eight novellas – it reminds me of Stephen King’s The Green Mile.  All were quick reads, and each left the reader with a bit of a cliffhanger – the first book in the Guardians of the Present series is no different.  The traveler case June is dealing with wraps up in this novella, but shocking news regarding something from her past turns up at the end.

June is a very likable protagonist, and despite her unusual ‘job’, she’s trying to have a normal college experience – roommates, fraternity parties, and possibly a new love interest.  The clever names she’s given her self-invented weapons made me chuckle, and her understanding of and knack for technology has saved her numerous times in her line of work.  Currently, June’s three roommates aren’t really asking any questions about her mysterious behavior and oddly timed comings and goings, but there’s potential for some conflict in the future, and maybe the possibility of even taking some of them into her confidence.

Something I missed was more information on world-building.  Although it may be included later in the series, I was left wondering how June became a guard at such a young age, and how she met Ridge.  Is there someone over the program?  Are there guards throughout the country?  The world?  June encounters a traveler at Central Park Zoo, obviously a high traffic area, and later even sneaks in after hours, but no mention is made about park goers sighting them, security guards, or cameras.  Is there some gadget that prevents her from being seen?

This well-paced novella can easily be read in one sitting, and Buffy, Looper, and Veronica Mars are excellent comp titles.  I’d like to continue with the series, but hope the author fills in some blanks and gives readers a better grasp of June’s world and backstory.

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

 

 

 

Give the Dark My Love (Give the Dark My Love #1) by Beth Revis #bookreview #YA #fantasy

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Alchemy and necromancy – that’s what initially drew me to this book.  Also the beautiful cover.  A protagonist with all the best intentions finds herself walking the fine line separating light from darkness – it’s an intriguing hook.

Nedra’s transformation from a dedicated student determined to find a cure for the plague to a desperate alchemist who turns to necromancy is fascinating, and done to perfection.  So many times I wanted to yell at her to consider the consequences of her actions – but if she did, I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a story.  It’s difficult to like her character by the end of the book, but an excellent portrayal at what grief can do to a person.

Grey is a sweet love interest – and it’s a case of insta-love, but his character doesn’t add much to the story.  He attempts to be a moral compass for Nedra, but she’s an obstinate girl.

There are a couple of twists toward the end – one I’d figured out, and the other a bit of a surprise.  The beginning is more of a slow burn, explaining world-building and magic, but the pace picks up toward the middle.  I’ll be interested to see where this series goes in the second book.  This book is scheduled for publication September 25th, 2018.

Thanks to Penguin First to Read and the publisher for the ARC.