Book of Night by Holly Black and Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado #bookreview #horror #fantasy #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black makes her stunning adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus.

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.

This was one of my most anticipated reads this year, so receiving an ARC felt like winning the lottery.

Morally gray characters are among my favorites, and there’s certainly no shortage of them here. Lucipurr the cat (adore the name) may be the only innocent. Charlie’s life hasn’t been an easy one, but a good portion of it can be blamed on her bad choices. She starts out with good intentions, but usually gets sidetracked along the way. To her credit, she owns those decisions and stands by them. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her at first. Some of her actions are maddening, but she’s also clever, street smart, loyal to her sister, and I soon found myself rooting for her. At her core she has a good heart.

This is a dark, gritty world filled with murder, magic, and bloody battles for power. I struggled at times to understand all the rules, but they became clearer along the way. I predicted a couple of the twists, but was surprised over others. Some reviewers have mentioned the slow pace at the beginning, and I agree it took a few chapters for the story to find its stride, but before long it was unputdownable. I’m not sure if this is a planned series, but the ending leaves an opening.

I’d recommend this book to fantasy and horror fans looking for a gratifying blend of the genres. You’ll never look at your shadow – or those of others – in the same way again.

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

Mysterious disappearances.
An urban legend rumored to be responsible.
And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Comp titles of Stranger Things and Get Out immediately piqued my interest, and that fierce cover sealed the deal.

Several teens have gone missing over the past several months, and the disappearances seem to be tied to the Echo Game. It comes with an odd set of rules (flipping a coin to decide which direction to go, never turn back, start in the wee hours of the morning), and upon entering the game, players are transported to a traumatic event that occured in their area. For these characters it was during the 70s when the Bronx was burning and over 80% of housing was lost to fires, much of it caused by slumlords who wanted to collect insurance money.

You’d be crazy to want to play, right? But what if entering the game might be the only way to save your family and friends? For Raquel and Charlize, there’s no choice – they have to play. The actions starts immediately, and the first pages pulled me right into the story. I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, but there’s no way you could have pried the Kindle from my hands. Pride in their community and friendships between the characters are strong points – especially between Raquel and Aaron. Even when the odds weren’t in their favor, they had each other’s backs. But with so much depending on them, the characters surprised me a few times with their careless choices, and intense, dangerous moments are interrupted with sudden relationship talk that I felt interrupted the flow of the story.

Expect vivid imagery inside the game. Some of the gory descriptions might not be for everyone, but I thought they added to the horror of what the characters experience and the obstacles they face to survive.

With heart-stopping scenes (I gasped out loud a couple times!), an alluring, dangerous concept, plenty of life-threatening situations, and relatable characters, horror/thriller fans will want to add this to their TBRs. I’m excited to see what this author does next.

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

The Genesis Wars (The Infinity Courts #2) by Akemi Dawn Bowman and Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

I don’t usually post more than one review, but I’ve read several books that release around the same time and had to double up today.

It’s been ten months since Nami narrowly escaped the Four Courts and Ophelia’s wrath. Ten months since she was betrayed by someone she once considered a friend. Someone she poured her heart out to. And now her family here in the afterlife are gone, captured, and Nami is utterly alone.

On the run, only steps ahead of the AI forces pursuing her, and desperate to free her friends, Nami must take the allies she can find, even if she doesn’t fully trust them. And as she tests the limits of her own power, she must also reckon with the responsibility that entails.

Stakes are high as Nami navigates old enemies, unexpected allies, and an ever-changing landscape filled with dangers and twists at every turn. Along the way, she’ll learn powerful truths about who she can trust and the sacrifices that must be made in order to fight for a better, freer world for all.

While I love the concept of this series, I was on the fence about continuing with it while reading the first book. Until I hit that mind-blowing cliffhanger of an ending. This second book was exactly the same for me.

The Genesis Wars picks up ten months after the ending of The Infinity Courts. Nami is still reeling from Prince Caelan’s betrayal, and the people she considers her family in the afterlife are missing. She’s full of guilt and blames herself. She’s spent this time undergoing intense training in hopes of becoming strong enough to rescue them. The first quarter of this book moved slowly for me. Nami talks a lot about training, her family, and her need to find them – but it’s just talk for quite a while and no action.

Soon the storyline picks up, and several new characters are introduced, all of them wonderful additions and a few excellent allies (especially Kasia and Nix). While the majority of the first book is spent in the court of Victory, most of this book is set in the court of War – which means Prince Caelan’s brother Ettore (who’s quite partial to torture) gets a good amount of page time. He’s a character you love to hate.

The action scenes are tension-filled and easy to visualize, the romance a little angsty, the characters flawed and relatable, and the politics a strategic minefield. A couple of twists are sure to have you picking your jaw off the floor, and the final one ensures I’ll be requesting the next book the second I see it on NetGalley.

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

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive. 

Jamal is a high school student and budding journalist hoping to receive a college scholarship, and he yearns to snag the photos to secure it. He travels to Baltimore for what’s supposed to be a peaceful protest of police brutality after a Black man is murdered. He’s not there long before chaos erupts and the Dome descends over the city, trapping him inside.

The action begins almost immediately when Jamal scrambles to survive and has no choice but to place his trust in strangers. Luckily he finds a couple of valuable allies he can count on who lead him to safety – temporarily at least. After that, be prepared for some cringe-worthy violent scenes and the occasional racial slur.

I really liked the concept of the Dome, and pacing moves right along in this quick read. What I missed was becoming better acquainted with the characters. Other than Jamal, I didn’t feel like I knew them very well. Although Marco plays a prominent role, he remains a mystery for the most part, which might be why I didn’t feel the romantic connection between him and Jamal. Catherine is given less page time, but her backstory is delved into a little more, and I understood her motivations.

Survive The Dome can be a tough read at times since real-life events are interlaced with this dystopian novel, but it’s a powerful story and politically relevant. The ending makes me think a sequel is in store, and it’s something I’d be interested in reading.

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

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens #bookreview #YA #fantasy #LGBTQIA #TuesdayBookBlog

Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

I adored Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, and I’ve been a fan of Arthurian legend since childhood so it was a no-brainer to request this book.

Arek, Matt, and the rest of their quest companions are loveable, quirky, and hilarious, but trust me when I say it’s a miracle they removed the Vile One from the throne. They’re not exactly a strategic bunch, but do share a strong found family bond. After finishing a heavy dark fantasy, this novel was a delight to read, and I snickered and laughed from beginning to end.

After Arek finds himself bound by magic to the throne of Ere in the realm of Chickpea, he learns he must marry (create a soul bond) before his eighteenth birthday – only three months away – or he dies. Figuring he’d rather entwine his soul with someone he knows rather than a stranger, he begins very awkward attempts at wooing his friends. It’s clear to their friends that Arek and Matt, BFFs since childhood, are in love with each other but both are completely oblivious to that fact. Throughout the story they teeter on the edge of revealing their true feelings for each other, but are either misunderstood, petrified, or interrupted every time. It’s both painful and highly amusing to watch.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted, feel-good, comedic read, look no further. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and although it seems to be a standalone, I’d love to see what happens next with these characters. Surely there’s another prophecy in store for them.

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

#BlogTour A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson #bookreview #YA #gothicmystery

Myra Whitlock has a gift. One many would kill for.

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

With the description of a unique magical system, a gothic mystery, and such a gorgeous cover, I couldn’t pass up this novel.

An artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies. It’s something I haven’t come across before, and I liked that Myra didn’t completely understand everything about her power. The reader discovers new aspects along with her throughout the story. It’s a dangerous thing to be a Prodigy since many have gone missing, including Myra’s mother and then her father who went in search of her. Since their disappearances, Myra has struggled to provide food and shelter for herself and her younger sister, who suffers from a debilitating disease and desperately needs medical care. Money and jobs are scarce. When Myra is offered a significant amount of money to create a painting, it’s an offer she can’t refuse – especially since since it’s made by the governor’s wife, who also threatens to expose Myra if she can’t resurrect her dead son with the portrait. For Myra’s magic to work, she has to know exactly what happened to the subject of the painting and what they felt – and it soon becomes clear murder is involved. When the governor’s other son, August, offers his assistance, he and Myra undertake a dangerous journey to discover that truly happened.

I loved the gothic atmosphere of this story and the secrets and mystery surrounding August and his family. The descriptions made it easy to immerse myself in this world, and I felt as if I walked the ominous hallways and darkened streets along with Myra and August. The strong bond between Myra and sister Lucy is another strength of this novel, and the fear of losing her creates incredibly high stakes for Myra and pushes her to go beyond her limits.

I admit I smirked at some over-the-top romantic moments between Myra and August (that’s just me), and I grew exasperated with Myra a couple times when she discovered a clue and then backed off or forgot about it. None of that detracted from my enjoyment of this compelling novel, and I finished it in a couple days. It doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but does leave the door open for a sequel, something I’d snatch up in a second. I’d recommend A Forgery of Roses to readers who enjoy immersive, atmospheric mysteries with strong gothic vibes.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jessica S. Olson claims New Hampshire as her home but has somehow found herself in Texas, where she spends most of her time singing praises to the inventor of the air conditioner. When she’s not hiding from the heat, she’s corralling her four wild—but adorable—children, dreaming up stories about kissing and murder and magic, and eating peanut butter by the spoonful straight from the jar. She earned a bachelor’s in English with minors in editing and French, which essentially means she spent all of her university time reading and eating French pastries. She is the author of Sing Me Forgotten (2021) and A Forgery of Roses (2022).

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.jessicasolson.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicaolson123 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicaolson123/?hl=en 

Facebook: n/a

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19475731.Jessica_S_Olson 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Forgery-Roses-Jessica-S-Olson/dp/1335418660/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a+forgery+of+roses&qid=1623101290&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-forgery-of-roses-jessica-s-olson/1139262918?ean=9781335418661 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Forgery-Roses/Jessica-S-Olson/9781335418661?id=8204964585173&_ga=2.90833818.1403488793.1623101537-16582771.1620496473 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335418661 

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/a-forgery-of-roses/9781335418661 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-forgery-of-roses/id1563211626 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/A_Forgery_of_Roses?id=qZIpEAAAQBAJ&hl=en_US&gl=US 

A FORGERY OF ROSES by Jessica S. Olson

On sale: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 9781335418661 

Inkyard Press

Teen & Young Adult; Fantasy; Romance

$19.99 / $24.99 CAN

384 Pages

Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair #bookreview #shortstories #paranormal #TuesdayBookBlog

A man keeping King Arthur’s dream of Camelot alive.
A Robin Hood battling in a drastically different Sherwood.
A young man facing eternity in the desert.
A genteel southern lady besting a powerful order of genies.
A woman meeting her father decades after his death.

These are but a few of the intriguing tales waiting to be discovered in Things Old and Forgotten. Prepare to be transported to realms of folklore and legend, where magic and wonder linger around every corner, and fantastic possibilities are limited only by imagination.

What a wonderful, eclectic collection of short stories wrapped inside a beautiful cover!

I’ve read several other titles by Mae Clair, and I’ve always been a fan of her brand of paranormal blended with mystery and suspense. To have this many of her stories in one book was like a gift box of dark chocolate with an edible bow (peanut butter would be perfect) on top.

While I was captivated by all fifteen offerings, I had some favorites. As a Robin Hood fan, I especially enjoyed the unique spin on this tale. I’ll read anything involving King Arthur and Camelot, so there was no doubt it would be at the top of my list of favs. Kin-Slayer has a jarring twist I didn’t see coming. Father’s Day is heart-warming and of personal significance to the author. Miss Lily Makes a Wish left me laughing – never underestimate a genteel, southern lady.

Filled with action, ghosts, monsters, genies, and memorable characters, this collection offers tales guaranteed to provide hours of entertaining reading.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart #bookreview #scifi #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel at stake. From the author of The Warehouse.

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.

At once a dazzlingly time-twisting murder mystery and a story about grief, memory, and what it means to—literally—come face-to-face with our ghosts, The Paradox Hotel is another unforgettable speculative thrill ride from acclaimed author Rob Hart. 

A hotel that’s a sort of weigh station where time travelers catch their “flights” to the past – what an amazing concept. Throw in a murder with a corpse that only the investigator can see, a seemingly endless cast of suspects, and a group of trillionaires bidding to take over the hotel – there’s a lot going on in this novel, and I wanted to see how it played out.

MC January Jones is intimidating. She’s a no-nonsense, intelligent, take-no-prisoners kind of gal who doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has little patience for entitled rich hotel guests. Extensively trained in martial arts, she’s not someone you want to tangle with. She’s also “unstuck” – time is fluid and she sees memories from the past playing out as if they’re happening in the present and occurrences in the future that may or may not come to pass. It’s a result of the extensive time traveling she did while working for the Time Enforcement Agency – which makes her an unreliable narrator at times. Still deeply grieving the death of her girlfriend, she’s abrasive to everyone she encounters.

Between the guests and hotel employees, there’s a long list of suspects, and it was difficult for me to keep up with everyone – I flipped back several times to refresh my memory. Despite that, I guessed who was behind everything from nearly the beginning, so I gave myself a pat on the back for that one. In addition to the murder and attacks on guests, someone is messing with the timeline resulting in catastrophic consequences. January has her work cut out for her.

A lot is packed into this novel – themes of deep grief and guilt, wealth inequities, found families, and Buddhist philosophy. Oh – and dinosaurs. This is a mind-bending, complex story you absolutely can’t skim through, but it enthralled this sci-fi fan, and I thought the epilogue was perfect.

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

The Iron Sword (The Iron Fey: Evenfall #2) by Julie Kagawa #bookreview #YA #fantasy #BlogTour

As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…

Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.

Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

Although I haven’t read Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, I fell hard for this spinoff. Reading the original books isn’t required – the author sprinkles backstory throughout that makes it easy for readers to connect the dots.

The first book in this series, The Iron Raven, was told from Puck’s POV, and I was a little disappointed the author didn’t stick with that snarky prankster this time around. In this sequel, the reader spends time in Ash’s head. It’s a frightening place to be at times, but I was glad to get to know him better. He’s fiercely protective of his family and friends and will do anything to stop the evil threatening them and their world. Including unleashing his dark unseelie side he’s kept contained for so long. If he thought the journey to the End of the World to earn his soul was difficult, what he faces now makes that experience pale in comparison.

This author is brilliant at world-building. The foes/monsters Ash and company face are wildly creative and dangerous, and I have to wonder if they came from the author’s own nightmares. Battle scenes are skillfully written, easy to picture, and highly perilous – I felt these characters could meet their death at any time. They walk a tightwire throughout most of the story.

I was happy more of Nyx’s backstory is revealed and enjoyed seeing her relationship with Puck develop. I have a feeling she’ll play a pivotal role moving forward. With a big showdown looming in the next book, I’ll be excited to see how this series ends.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Sacramento, CA, Julie Kagawa moved to Hawaii at the age of nine. There she learned many things; how to bodyboard, that teachers scream when you put centipedes in their desks, and that writing stories in math class is a great way to kill time. Her teachers were glad to see her graduate.

Julie now lives is Louisville, KY with her husband and furkids. She is the international and NYT bestselling author of The Iron Fey series. Visit her at juliekagawa.com.

Social Links:

Author website: http://juliekagawa.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jkagawa 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliekagawaauthor/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100045094913658 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52735443-the-iron-raven 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2995873.Julie_Kagawa

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Sword-Fey-Evenfall/dp/1335418644/ref=sr_1_1?crid=ODO771R8MYH6&keywords=the+iron+sword+julie+kagawa&qid=1639522042&sprefix=the+iron+sword+%2Caps%2C159&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-iron-sword-julie-kagawa/1139262916 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Iron-Sword/Julie-Kagawa/9781335418647?id=8395218972605 

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335418647 

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/the-iron-sword/9781335418647?aid=21512&listref=the-iron-fey-evenfall-julie-kagawa 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/nz/audiobook/the-iron-sword/id1590601934 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Julie_Kagawa_The_Iron_Sword?id=FZIpEAAAQBAJ&hl=en_IN&gl=US 

The Kindred by Alechia Dow #bookreview #YA #fantasy #BlogTour #scifi

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy. 

The words “save a galactic kingdom from revolution” were all I needed to read to request this book from NetGalley. And that cover is stunning.

Kindred mind-pairings are pretty cool. The bond occurs at birth and is usually shared by people from different walks of life and even different planets. Kindred are in each other’s minds constantly – they can see, hear, and sometimes feel everything that happens to the other. Sounds kind of intrusive, right? The bond ensures the “haves” are aware of how the other half lives and the struggles they endure, with the overall goal of making sure every person is seen and heard. Hopefully the inequalities that exist will be righted, but no one seems to be in a hurry to fix those particular problems. With Joy being a commoner from an impoverished planet and Felix being royalty, they were never meant to bond, but for some reason it happened. And their connection is just about the sweetest thing ever.

Although in line for the throne, Felix really just wants to write music and sing. He’s also kind of a party guy who tends to make impulsive decisions that don’t turn out so well. Joy works in a bookstore to help put food on the table and longs to write children’s books, a profession that isn’t possible with her station in life. She’s a voice of reason and stability for Felix, and the only one who really knows him. Despite never meeting in person, they “played” together as children and are each other’s best friend – and maybe more.

“We need to give more than we take, help more than sit idle. It’s time for change.”

This quote is the overall message conveyed by the novel, and it’s a worthy one. Even a creed to live by. It may not have had the galactic setting I’d expected since much of the story takes place on Earth, but with action scenes, a bit of mystery, humor, strong supporting characters, and a little romance, The Kindred kept me flipping pages so fast I finished it in two days.

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

About the Author

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, teacher, and librarian. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her little girl, baking, reading, or traveling.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.alechiadow.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alechiawrites 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alechiadow/ 

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18493747.Alechia_Dow 

Buy Links:

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Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Kindred/Alechia-Dow/9781335418616?id=8395218972605 

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The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman #bookreview #YA #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

Besides this stunning cover, I liked the idea of four estranged siblings having to work together to save their country. That it’s Indian-inspired was just a bonus.

For several reasons, these siblings grew apart, and one was even imprisoned for killing their mother, the former maharani. A couple years later when this story begins, each has formed an opinion of the others and made assumptions about them based on their actions. And each of them is wrong. Vira, Ronak, Riya, and Kaleb are all hiding secrets and have their own reasons, honorable or not, for needing to find the Ivory Key. I always enjoy sibling dynamics in novels and movies. In spite of their differences and suspicions, these four are still protective of each other. Like most siblings, they have their squabbles and hurl cutting remarks, many of which made me laugh. Strained as it may be at times, their family bond remains intact.

Their father was obsessed with finding the Ivory Key, but died before he could locate it. He passed on his knowledge to his children in a journal, but also trained them from an early age to solve riddles and puzzles. The siblings had no idea how valuable that training would become until their journey to find the Ivory Key has an Indiana Jones-esque feel with its booby traps and brain-teasers. All four have to rely on each other’s knowledge and memories to get them closer to their ultimate goal.

Four POVs may put off some readers, but I found the characters to be very distinct and was never confused about who was narrating. Each viewpoint is necessary to get a more accurate picture of the family dynamics and challenges each character faces. I didn’t see the shocking twist at the end coming – I actually had to back up a couple paragraphs – but when it happened it made perfect sense. Now I’m even more anxious for the second book.

If you’re a fan of character-driven fantasy, magical settings, puzzle-filled quests, and combative, humorous family dynamics, this is a book for you.

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

The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The Wicked Deep meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this new standalone YA fantasy set in a snow-cloaked kingdom where witches are burned, and two enchantresses secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover that they might be falling for each other.

It’s Karnawał season in the snow-cloaked Kingdom of Lechija, and from now until midnight when the church bells ring an end to Devil’s Tuesday time will be marked with wintry balls and glittery disguises, cavalcades of nightly torch-lit “kuligi” sleigh-parties.

Unbeknownst to the oblivious merrymakers, two monsters join the fun, descending upon the royal city of Warszów in the guise of two innocent girls. Newfound friends and polar opposites, Zosia and Marynka seem destined to have a friendship that’s stronger even than magic. But that’s put to the test when they realize they both have their sights set on Lechija’s pure-hearted prince. A pure heart contains immeasurable power and Marynka plans to bring the prince’s back to her grandmother in order to prove herself. While Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for her own.

When neither will sacrifice their ambitions for the other, the festivities spiral into a wild contest with both girls vying to keep the hapless prince out of the other’s wicked grasp. But this isn’t some remote forest village, where a hint of stray magic might go unnoticed, Warszów is the icy capital of a kingdom that enjoys watching monsters burn, and if Zosia and Marynka’s innocent disguises continue to slip, their escalating rivalry might cost them not just the love they might have for each other, but both their lives.

The comp titles and cover drew me to this novel. The snow-cloaked kingdom set in Poland also seemed perfect for this time of year.

The description gave me the impression Zosia and Marynka were in some sort of competition for the prince’s heart. Somehow I missed they were literally competing for his heart to take back to their jaga (witch) grandmothers (who are sisters) to eat. The purer the heart, the greater the power it contains. Now that was something I could get on board with.

With a slow start, it took me a while to get into this novel. Pacing soon picked up, and well-written action scenes moved the plot along. Having competed in numerous quests to attain the hearts of princes in the past, Marynka has a losing record against Zosia. Marynka is determined to prove herself to her grandmother and gain her approval. Zosia is tired of being a servant and wants to keep the power for herself and escape the bonds of servitude. Clearly these girls are morally gray characters. Between the two of them, they’ve killed plenty of princes and have no regrets. Normally I’m a fan of this type of character, but I didn’t really care for either of them. Looking at other reviews, I’m in the minority on this, but I liked the relationship dynamic between Prince Jozek and Prince Kajetan better – that’s just a personal preference. Beatka, Marynka’s friend who serves another jaga grandmother (and sister to the other two), also appealed to me more. Marynka is impulsive, which causes her to think before she acts, and Beatka is often the voice of reason, as well as a mediator when Marynka and Zosia argue. The poor girl is long suffering.

The author’s note mentions some of the events are loosely based on late 18th century Polish history. I really enjoyed how Polish culture, including food, clothing, and traditions are woven into the background. Setting most of the plot during Karnawal season lends an atmosphere of festivity and mystery that adds to the story.

This novel will appeal to fans of morally gray, ambitious characters and the enemies to lovers trope, especially readers who enjoy the fantasy genre.

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