Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst #bookreview #YA #fantasy

In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

Humans that turn into dragons?  Heists?  Why wouldn’t you want to read this?  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Sky’s family and friends are the most important things in her life – along with kissing and ice cream.  Her priorities are straight, and her humorous voice makes this such a fun read.  The world-building is amusing – in the wyvern culture, leading your first heist is cause for celebration.  As dragons, stealing and hoarding gold is encouraged, so in Sky’s world, her situation is pretty much a coming-of-age story.

The family dynamics make up a good portion of this story – a family mourning their mother gone missing, an overprotective father, and brothers who clearly care about Sky, but show it in awkward, yet heartfelt ways.  Most of the supporting characters are well-drawn, and Sky’s human friend, Gabriela, is like an adorable puppy you want to hug.

Fire and Heist is more of a fluffy read, but with an Ocean’s Eleven-like heist, a lovable family, and a charming and determined MC, it’s light and enjoyable.  Also, dragons!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

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.

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.

The Devil’s Thief (The Last Magician #2) by Lisa Maxwell #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy #historicalfiction

In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

The first book in this series was easily a 5 star read for me.  At nearly 500 pages, I almost didn’t request it because of the length – but it didn’t feel that long when reading it.  At 700 pages, I didn’t hesitate to request The Devil’s Thief  because of how engrossing the first book was, but this novel felt like a chore at times, and the series still isn’t complete.  With the third book (I’m assuming it will be the last?), the series will be considerably even longer than Stephen King’s uncut version of The Stand.

The dual timeline is compelling, and not at all confusing.  I liked seeing how events in the past influence the present, and the changes in some of the characters over that time period.  I gasped at a couple of surprising twists, and the world-building remains top notch.  Characterization is also strong, and I enjoyed spending time with these characters again.

However – Esta and Harte are disappointing.  The majority of their story focuses on the romantic drama/tension between them, and does nothing to advance the plot.  Viola and Jianyu have the more interesting plot developments by far, and Julian is a nice addition to the lineup.  There’s also a good amount of repetition, but this was an ARC, and final editing may take care of that and lower the word count.

Although this book underwhelmed me and didn’t move as quickly as the first, I’m curious to see where the next book goes, and I want to know the fate of these characters.  The Devil’s Thief is scheduled for publication October 9th, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1) by Tara Sim #bookreview #steampunk #YA #TuesdayBookBlog

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time. 

I think I’m a steampunk fan – I’ve read several steampunk books and enjoyed all of them, and I adored the Victorian London setting in this novel.

The whole premise of clocks controlling time tantalized me, and I connected with Danny almost immediately.  I know clocks and cogs aren’t for everyone, but the fact that Danny could ‘feel’ time and diagnose a clock’s problem fascinated me.  His relationship with Colton was very sweet, although a bit on the ‘insta-love’ side, but I chose to overlook that.

Timekeeper had been in my TBR for a while, and when the theme for one of my book clubs was an LGBT novel, I immediately thought of this one.  A perfect selection, and one I’d recommend.

The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare.

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

This cover is stunning, and initially what drew me to this book, and the title is very clever.  Once I started reading, the world-building enchanted and intrigued me and, along with Ember, I enjoyed learning about the Otherworld, its rules, and the creatures inhabiting it.

With his pumpkin and Headless Horseman  comparison, Jack is my favorite character in this book, but I have to admit, Dev is one of the most charming vampires I’ve come across in a while.  Del, Finney, Frank (you can probably guess what that’s short for) – all are wonderful characters, but it took me a while to warm up to Ember – probably because of my frustration with her actions early in the book.

While the world-building and characterization are strong points, the love square between Ember, Finney, Jack, and Dev grew a bit tiresome and takes up a chunk of the book.  I also had to backtrack numerous times when the POV changed abruptly during paragraphs – which happens a lot.

With the satisfying ending, I don’t see the author doing a sequel, and there’s no need for one.  It’s nice to read a standalone in a genre with so many series.  This is a perfect read to curl up with on a chilly fall evening – even better if it’s closer to Halloween.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

The Island: Vampires of Merovingi #1 by Sarah M. Cradit #bookreview #vampires #fantasy

1789. Saint-Domingue. Hispaniola. West Indies. 

Etienne de Blanchefort has seen incredible success as a colonial planter in the Northern Province of Saint-Domingue. Though uprooting his family from France a decade past was a gamble, life in the tropical West Indies has been good to him, his wife, and four children. With France embroiled in their great revolution across the Atlantic, he harbors little doubt he made the right decision for his family’s future.

Until, that is, the arrival of his fiend.

Etienne’s practical nature cannot reconcile what he knows to be true of his world with what he cannot ignore about the abominable creature haunting his family and the island.

Nor can he ignore his wife’s terrifying dreams that slowly steal her vitality.

Or Victorine’s burgeoning free spirit and wariness of their way of life.

Or Nanette’s curious, furtive behavior as she hides in trees.

Or Marius’ secret new friendship with one he cannot name.

Or Flosine’s unsettling drawings of a man from a time long before theirs.

Etienne’s fiend will not stay elusive for long. He has a request. A very particular, very important request, one that will change the lives of Etienne, his family, and his descendants forever.

I’ve been a vampire fan since the original Fright Night movie with Chris Sarandon.  After the Twilight novels, vampire books flooded the market for a while, then receded, but I’m glad to see them making a comeback.  Maybe not quite as big of a splash this time, but that’s alright with me.  Since I’ve read all this author’s Crimson and Clover series, I was thrilled to learn she was starting a new series featuring vampires that fit within that same world.

Not having read a ton of historical fiction books, I appreciated the attention to detail and extensive research the author clearly performed for this book.  As always, her imagery is rich with description.  Although the first 25% of the book was a little slow for my taste, the pace moved along much quicker after that.

The Island looks to be the start of a riveting series and I look forward to meeting more of the vampires!

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