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.

 

#AmWriting, #BetaReader, #BlackSummer

I tried something new to sell books this past weekend – I had a table at an arts/crafts fair.  I didn’t sell many books (it turned out to be a cold, rainy day), but I met a very friendly 8-year-old boy who stole my heart.  The second he saw my books, he ventured over to check them out.  He’s really too young for YA, but I asked what he liked to read, and he said adventure stories.  He told me he was in third grade, and always hurried to finish his school assignments so he could read his books – said he’d be happy if they’d just let him read all day instead of giving tests.  I wanted to hug him!  Don’t you wish more kids had such a love of reading?

Book 3 (still no title yet) is going well, and I’ve got a beta reader waiting for me to finish it.  I met her in one of my book clubs, and she loves YA.  She’s also not afraid to give her opinion, and has a strong sense of what works and what doesn’t in books, and that’s exactly what I need in a beta reader.

Speaking of Book 3, I’m going to have a contest to name a character.  I saw another author mention this, and thought it sounded like a fantastic and fun idea.  Not only will I use the name, but the winner will also be mentioned in the acknowledgements – and I need to get this put together really soon.  Right now, I’m calling this character ‘X’ – just as creative as ‘Book 3’, don’t you think?  My creativity is astounding.

I haven’t really watched much this past week, except for a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones.  I’m almost finished with season 6.  Black Summer, a new series on Netflix, looks interesting.  All I know is it involves zombies, so you know I’ll be checking it out.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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.

 

Facebook Ads, #AmWriting, and #Supernatural

Has anyone out there tried Facebook ads for your books?  I gave it a shot a couple of times last fall, with no success.  After checking out a link on Staci Troilo’s website that explained the process a little better, I decided to give it another chance.  The ad is for The Gemini Connection, and although it’s far from a landslide, the ranking went up this weekend.  So did the ranking for Sarah, but I’m not sure if the increased sales were a result of the FB ad or a Twitter post from Saturday.  I’ll let the ad run for at least a couple more days and see what happens.  If you know the secret to successful ads, please share!

I’m still plugging away on the third draft of my WIP – which is still titled Book 3.  As I’m reading through it again, occasionally the characters laugh and tell me that’s not something they’d ever say or do, and it needs to be rewritten.  Does this happen to you guys?  It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have voices in your head – especially if you’re a writer.

So, I’m waaaaay behind on Supernatural – and I can hear some of you gasping in shock, dismay, bewilderment, and disapproval.  For some reason, I never watched it when the series first started so many years ago, and I’m determined to change that.  Especially since the last season is coming up.  A few reviewers mentioned that in Sarah, the banter between Cain and Finn reminded them of Sam and Dean, but when I wrote the book, I’d never seen the show.  So far, I’ve gotten through the first six or seven episodes, and I love it, just like I knew I would.  I’ll keep you updated.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee #bookreview #LGBT #fantasy

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

I’ve read some good reviews of this book and seen it on lists of highly anticipated releases.  Considering that and the beautiful cover, I requested it on NetGalley.

The different take on magic in this novel is intriguing.  Magic is a virus, and only a slim percentage of people survive after being infected.  If they are fortunate enough to survive, they become a witching and possess magic with varying powers.  A lot of time and creativity were put into the world-building – it’s complex and politically charged.  The treatment of undocumented aliens is brutal and heart-wrenching, but also timely, and Noam finds himself straddling two different worlds.

Initially, the pacing is on the slow side, and it took me a while to get into this story.  On the flip side of that, the ending is exciting, full of twists, and moves at an astounding pace.  There are conflicting opinions on the world-building in other reviews I’ve read.  Some readers wanted more, some thought it was more of an information dump.  I’m with the group that’s unsure if they understood all the political angles.  I found it a little confusing at times.

The Fever King is filled with political intrigue, characters who possess powers along the lines of X-Men, and a wonderfully diverse cast.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable read, and more for the older YA crowd.

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

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading The Invited by Jennifer McMahon.  One of her previous books, The Winter People, was a five star read for me.  I’m nearly halfway through this one, but feel like I’m still waiting for ‘it’ to happen.  Things are starting to heat up, so we’ll see.

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 recently finished Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan.  I started this one a few weeks back, but then had to stop to read two other books with closer deadlines.  This was a dark, brutal, bloody fantasy that weaved together themes of magic, politics, and religion in a thought-provoking way.  I loved it.

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..

Next, I’ll start King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2) by Amanda Foody.  The first book in this series, Ace of Shades, was one of my top reads last year, and I’m excited to dive back into this creatively imagined world with these characters.

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.

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #scifi

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

Truth – I was skeptical about this book because of the cover, but then I saw the author’s name and read the blurb, which has a kind of Stepford Wives feel.  Friends, I couldn’t put this book down.

The description is maddening enough for women, but trust me – your blood pressure will reach new heights once you read about the way these girls are treated.  At 400 pages, it’s long, but it certainly didn’t feel like it.  I wanted to finish it in one sitting – it’s that compelling, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Some of the interactions between the men and the students will make your skin crawl, but the friendships between the girls are strong, wonderful, and will make you wish for that kind of bond.  Everyone deserves friends like these.

This is a dark, twisty novel, and some scenes are tough to read.  But it’s also empowering when the girls realize their world is skewed very much in the bizarre and unnatural direction, and then decide to regain control.  I’m anxious to see what happens next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.  I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.