Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

While this may be a fantasy novel, it deals with very real topics prevalent in today’s society.  And just look at that stunning cover!

Manu has never felt like she belonged anywhere.  She has no friends and very little family.  She’s rarely permitted to leave home, and you’ll empathize with her immediately.  Thrust into a frightening situation and fearing for the lives of her loved ones, Manu discovers she’s stronger than she knew, and you’ll root for her as she begins her journey.  The story parallels Harry Potter in some ways, and as an ardent fan of the books, Nau mentions them often.

Argentenian folklore is entwined with the world-building, which is fabulous and one of the things I enjoyed most.  One of the other positives is the supporting cast.  It’s rather extensive and can seem overwhelming at first, but the focus narrows by the middle of the book.

It’s difficult to give much of a review without revealing spoilers, but I’ll say this is a powerful story with several layers and a series I absolutely plan to continue.  Recommended for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong and struggled to find their path.

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

The Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones #1) by Veronica Roth #bookreview #fantasy #dystopian

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

I’m a fan of Roth’s Divergent series – loved it.  When I saw she’d written an adult book, I was intrigued.  After reading the description, I knew I wanted to read it.

Taking into account the premise of this book – the fantasy aspects, magic, chosen ones, sci-fi elements – I should have loved everything about it.  The descriptive writing flows, and I’ve always enjoyed the author’s style.  I was on board with the different settings, the struggles the characters endured after what they’d been through and how they were still dealing with depression and PTSD.  Some plot twists also came as a surprise.

But I struggled to get through this novel, and I think the biggest obstacles for me were pacing and Sloane being the primary focus.  With pacing, I kept feeling like I was on the verge of something big happening, but then it slowed again.  This happened several times.  I never connected with Sloane, but that connection isn’t always a requirement for me.  Her backstory is tragic, and she’s suffered too many losses, but she exhausted me, if that makes sense.  Mox is probably my favorite character and has an amazing backstory.

While this one wasn’t for me, I’m still glad I read The Chosen Ones and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Roth’s next series.

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

One If by Carol B. Allen #bookreview #YA #fantasy #STEM

ONE DYING PLANET. TWO WORLDS AT WAR.

THREE TEENS FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL.

Parker Kittridge, a quirky science student from New York City, is abducted by a spirit guide and taken to Spyridon, a dying planet on the brink of war. Parker quickly discovers she is not alone. Two other teens have also been kidnapped. They must join forces if they have any chance to return to Earth.

Spyridon, ravaged by climate change, is in deep trouble. Only two kingdoms remain: an avian Upperworld and a piscine Underworld. Parker and her friends are charged with finding solutions for the planet’s survival, as well as their own, or the teens will never escape in time. They must discover how to live and collaborate with the extraterrestrial beings.

The on-going war between the worlds is fierce: murders, deceptions, power struggles, and love triangles make this a high-stakes, futuristic, coming-of-age adventure pitted against a race with time.

Before I get into the review, I’d like to comment on this stunning cover.  The designer did an exceptional job, and it works well with the story.

I’ve always been a fan of books that advocate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), especially for girls, and this author is donating a percentage of sales for this book to organizations that promote the advancement of women in STEM and protect the environment.  And that’s something else I admire about this book – it brings environmental issues to the forefront.

Parker is a science nerd, and I loved her for that.  Besides being highly intelligent and taller than most girls, she’s socially awkward and doesn’t make friends easily.  It’s only after being transported to the bizarre and creatively imagined world of Spyridon that she seems to find her place, and her self-confidence and self-esteem increase as a result.  Her courage in agreeing to help the people of this planet with little to no information about what they need or why she was chosen is questionable, but admirable.

While the three teens are likable (well, maybe not mean girl Henley much of the time), they felt generic, and I would have liked to see more character depth.  I missed understanding why they made certain decisions or took the risk to stay on a strange planet with unfamiliar creatures and help them.  Their voices are also similar, making it hard to distinguish between them.

The end moves pretty quickly with plenty of action and a plot twist, and the cliffhander ending sets up the story perfectly for a sequel.  Partly a coming of age story for Parker, the sequel should give her an opportunity to make a difference in the world of Spyridon.

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

The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves #2) by Roshani Chokshi #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

The first book in this series was at the top of my five star reads last year, which made this sequel one of my most anticipated reads this year.  Soooo worth the wait.  Reviewing sequels without spoilers is difficult, but I’ll do what I can.

Compared to The Gilded Wolves, this followup is darker, stakes are higher, and tense situations abound.  But there’s also the same witty banter and obvious love between these characters who have chosen to be family.  Still reeling from a tragic loss, they’re all scattered in different locations at the beginning of this book.  Once reunited, their hunt takes them to a beautiful location – the author’s world-building is magical, and the imagery is just stunning.  With rotating POVs, each character has their time to shine, and some learn shocking truths about themselves.  But that ending!  This is the second book I’ve read in a week that ripped my guts out.  I’m holding onto one sliver of hope revealed in the epilogue.  The next book can’t come soon enough for me.

With an inclusive, charming cast, historical elements, clever puzzles and riddles, and an intricate, complex plot, this is easily a crossover series I’d highly recommend to fantasy/historical fiction fans.  This book is scheduled for publication September 22, 2020.

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

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin #bookreview #paranormal

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

Several friends recommended this book, and I’d seen reviewers raving about it.  When I won a copy, it seemed like fate meant for me to read it.

As a confirmed fantasy fan, the description intrigued me – a witch hunter unknowingly married to a witch.  I’m not much for strong romantic elements in my reading, and this book contains more than I expected, but I was so enamored with Lou and Reid that I was willing to set those preferences aside.  They’re polar opposites – Lou having no filter and stating whatever is on her mind and Reed more reserved with strong convictions – and I enjoyed watching them get to know each other.  And learning how wrong their preconceived notions were.

The world-building is rich and detailed, and there are quite a few surprises and twists I didn’t see coming.  All the supporting characters are well done, but my favorites are loyal friend Coco and young, determined Ansel.  He has the potential to be a scene stealer.

Witty banter, enemies to lovers, strong heroes and heroines, and lovable supporting characters all made Serpent & Dove well worth the read.  It’s a series I plan on continuing.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger. 

I saw Les Miserables on Broadway years ago, but I honestly don’t remember anything about it.  Musicals aren’t really my thing, but I was outvoted on our show choice that night.  The biggest reason I requested this book was the comparison to Six of Crows.

Knowing little to nothing about Les Mis, I probably missed most of the same character names, plot points, etc., but I don’t think lack of knowledge of that story should hinder anyone reading this novel.  The descriptions of the nine guilds at the beginning were a little overwhelming at first, but they quickly became one of my favorite parts of the story.  Nina’s world is dark, gritty, and dangerous – starvation, sex slavery, and death are common; consequently, she has to learn to adapt and survive at an early age.  Strong, fierce, and clever, she’s an easy character to root for.  Pacing is brisk and tense heists are plenty, but a couple of time jumps may leave you struggling for a few pages to find your footing.

I did question how a nine-year-old Nina in one night transforms into a talented thief who evades highly-trained royal guards.  Maybe some backstory woven in to explain her skills would have helped.  Something I didn’t connect with at all was her strong bond with Ettie and willingness to sacrifice nearly everything for her.  After a several years time jump, Ettie is suddenly there, and the reader is given no history of their relationship.  Initially, Nina is planning to sell Ettie into sex slavery to save her own sister, but then changes her mind.  Nearly everything that happens from that point on is due to their sisterly relationship, and the lack of connection on my part made it difficult to understand Nina’s choices.

Don’t get me wrong – I definitely enjoyed this story.  It’s a wonderful debut with charismatic characters and some suprisingly humorous moments.  Prior knowledge of Les Mis isn’t required, but you may get more from the story if you’re familiar with it.

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

 

Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.

I’m a huge Victoria Schwab fan, and A Discovery of Witches is one of my favorite series (the TV version is also fabulous), so it seems like I was destined to read this book.

With Dayna having an unstable home life and an extremely traumatic experience with her father after being outed as bisexual, I loved how her coven is a found family full of love and support for her.  The older witches in her coven also serve as positive role models for the witchlings in the smaller coven.  Celtic mythology isn’t something I’m familiar with, so I enjoyed learning more about it and how the author weaves it into her story.  Ireland as a setting is always a plus.  With both bisexual and gay characters, representation is also a strong point.

Multiple POVs aren’t a problem for me as long as they serve a purpose; however, one of these disappears by the end of the book, and I was left wondering what happens to this character.  There are a lot of moving parts to this story, and several aren’t addressed at the end.  Something that puzzled me was Dayna forgetting to mention the crucial piece of information she learns regarding the murders – something that could have potentially stopped another one.  Preventing further killings is the primary reason the covens come together, so that was a hard pill to swallow.

Overall, this is an interesting read with some intriguing characters and strong themes of family, but I’d hoped for more questions to be answered by the end.

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

The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2) by Victoria Lee #bookreview #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

First, I’ll warn you this book contains some difficult subjects – sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders among others, and I appreciate that the author lists content warnings and also provides resource information at the end of the book for anyone experiencing these tragic situations.

While the first book in this series engaged me with its political intrigue and magic system, it was just an okay read for me.  But the followup reached out and grabbed me and didn’t let go until the explosive ending.

I spent most of the book being angry with Noam and wanted to throttle him.  He’s oblivious to the danger he’s in and walks a tightrope between life and death every day.  Dara does his best to get get Noam to see reality, but he’s fighting a losing battle.  As for Dara, seeing him without magic was like a stab to my heart, and his struggle to find his place in the world and battle his addictions is tough to read.  Although I found myself holding my breath numerous times over their predicaments and dreaded reading the next paragraph, their character arcs are a thing of beauty.

Lehrer uses his power and position to hide the monstrous things he does and is a compelling villain in every way – you really want karma to have its way with him.  While his political aspirations and manipulations are still an important aspect of the book, this is more of a character-driven novel compared to the first.  A few areas of the story are barely touched on, but overall, the pacing is pretty even and I found it difficult to put down the book.

At its core, The Electric Heir is truly a story about survivors of horrific circumstances, second chances, and finding your happily ever after.

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

Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1) by Kim Smejkal #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself. 

I struggled with this book and even considered DNFing it at one point.  But I’m so glad I didn’t.

With complicated worldbuilding, this isn’t a book you can skim-read.  Trust me – you’ll miss some pretty important plot points and details that come into play later on.  I think part of the reason I struggled was because of Celia.  I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her until around the 40% mark, but that was a personal issue.  The friendship between her and Anya is a thing of beauty and is written so well.  Once they joined the Rabble Mob, I knew I’d finish the book.  The plague doctor is a fascinating character, and his creative dialogue has hidden meanings and is something to ponder.  He’s easily my favorite.

The writing style is unique and paints vivid pictures of the world of the Rabble Mob.  The mob themselves are made up of unusual, delightful, loyal people – once you’re in, you’re family.  I’d also like to mention the outstanding queer representation throughout the novel.

With themes of religion and magic, Ink in the Blood has a dark, heavy atmosphere, and while it may not be everyone’s brand of choice, I’m so glad I stuck with it.  Days after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and the second book is absolutely on my highly anticipated list.

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

 

Calling #NetGalley Reviewers and Bloggers #youngadult #scifi

Subject A36 is available on NetGalley!  If you have an account and would like to read and review it, email me at tpolen6@gmail.com and I’ll send you the widget to download the ebook.

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.