Bone Weaver by Aden Polydoros #bookreview #fantasy #supernatural #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

A haunting fantasy following Toma, adopted daughter of the benevolent undead, making her way across a civil war-torn continent to save her younger sister as she discovers she might possess magical powers herself.

The Kosa empire roils in tension, on the verge of being torn apart by a proletarian revolution between magic-endowed elites and the superstitious lower class, but seventeen-year-old Toma lives blissfully disconnected from the conflict in the empire with her adoptive family of benevolent undead.

When she meets Vanya, a charming commoner branded as a witch by his own neighbors, and the dethroned Tsar Mikhail himself, the unlikely trio bonds over trying to restore Mikhail’s magic and protect the empire from the revolutionary leader, Koschei, whose forces have stolen the castle. Vanya has his magic, and Mikhail has his title, but if Toma can’t dig deep and find her power in time, all of their lives will be at Koschei’s mercy. 

I think I’ve read all of this author’s books, and I can always count on incredible world-building. His previous novel, The City Beautiful, is set in Chicago during the World’s Fair and features a Jewish main character possessed by a dybbuk. The setting of Bone Weaver is very similar to Imperial Russia, and its monsters come from Slavic folklore.

Toma remembers little from her early life, other than her mother’s death after telling her to run. She does know they were running from someone, and it was extremely important that she not lose her mother’s rushnyk (an embroidered tapestry), which seems to have some magical properties. Fortunately, Toma was taken in by a family of upyri (undead, but they’re nice). When her six-year-old upyri sister (her age when she died) is captured by soldiers, Toma travels across a war-ravaged continent to find her. Along the way she teams up with Vanya, who possesses magical powers, and Mikhail, the dethroned tsar whose magic was stolen. It’s an adjustment for Toma as her home is very secluded, and she hasn’t lived among humans for many years.

Vanya is a prankster at times, but he’s also outraged at how commoners are treated. Those who possess magic are branded as witches and killed since magic should only belong to the elite. While trying to regain his throne, Mikhail has the rare opportunity to experience the reality of what’s going on in his country and vows to change things. With very different personalities, Mikhail and Vanya tend to clash at times, and I especially enjoyed their banter.

Soldiers aren’t their only threat. These three encounter dangerous creatures at nearly every turn and have to fight for their lives more than once. Learning about Slavic folklore was both enthralling and horrifying. Once a person is killed in this world, there’s a chance they may return as upyri. To prevent that, they’re dismembered, their body parts scattered, and their mouths filled with dirt and moss. Not all upyri are like Toma’s family – some are prone to feasting on flesh.

This story deals with difficult topics of war and religious and cultural persecution. But it also features strong found family vibes, friendships, and discovering where you belong. This is a quote from the book that struck a chord with me. “And wherever you go from here, always remember – all that you love will return to you.”

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

All of Our Demise (All of Us Villains #2) by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The epic conclusion to Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman’s New York Times bestselling All of Us Villains duology that’s The Hunger Games with magic.

“I feel like I should warn you: this is going to be absolutely brutal.”

For the first time in this ancient, bloodstained story, the tournament is breaking. The boundaries between the city of Ilvernath and the arena have fallen. Reporters swarm the historic battlegrounds. A dead boy now lives again. And a new champion has entered the fray, one who seeks to break the curse for good… no matter how many lives are sacrificed in the process.

As the curse teeters closer and closer to collapse, the surviving champions each face a choice: dismantle the tournament piece by piece, or fight to the death as this story was always intended.

Long-held alliances will be severed. Hearts will break. Lives will end. Because a tale as wicked as this one was never destined for happily ever after.

With every protagonist morally gray and some close to black, All of Us Villains blew me away. This sequel was absolutely one of my most anticipated reads this year.

This is one of those reviews where I can’t reveal too much without giving away spoilers. I’ll start by saying Alistair remains my favorite character, and my heart ached for him. He’s been told his whole life he’s a monster, raised to know he’ll have to kill people, and told bedtime stories about his relatives and the heinous acts they committed. Someone he trusted, and you can count on one hand how many people attained that status in his life, betrayed him in the last book. As you can expect, this isn’t something he’ll let slide. Still, I only wanted good things for him.

If I thought the first book contained shocking twists, it had nothing on this one. Some I had an inkling of, others not a clue. Alliances are formed and expected, which is pretty much the only way to survive the tournament. Then came a hint of a surprise pairing – and I nearly jumped with joy. I was totally on board with this relationship, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the book. But my lips are sealed.

To get readers to cheer for a bunch of villains says something about the talent of these authors. Character development is outstanding and one of the strongest aspects of this duology. Be prepared – not everyone survives, but that’s something to be expected in a tournament based on death. I’m sorry to see this series end, but I count it as one of my favorites in the YA fantasy genre.

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

#BlogTour The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach #fantasy #dragons #magic

I’m so excited to participate in the blog tour for Diana’s new release, and it’s always a pleasure to host her. Make sure to read my review of The Necromancer’s Daughter at the bottom of the post.

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant, and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, he breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she learns to heal death.

Then the day arrives when the widowed king, his own life nearing its end, defies the Red Order’s warning. He summons the necromancer’s daughter, his only heir, and for his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade.

While Barus hides from the Order’s soldiers, Aster leads their masters beyond the wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a land of dragons and barbarian tribes. She seeks her mother’s people, the powerful rulers of Blackrock, uncertain whether she will find sanctuary or face a gallows’ noose.

Unprepared for a world rife with danger, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

A healer with the talent to unravel death, a child reborn, a father lusting for vengeance, and a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

Diana’s Bio:

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dwallacepeach

Purchase Links:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach/dp/B0B9FY6YZJ

IN: https://www.amazon.in/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

My Review:

This isn’t my first rodeo with this author’s books. I know to expect writing that reads like prose, beautiful imagery, and top-notch world-building. My expectations were exceeded.

Diana’s done it again. She’s created wonderfully flawed characters who wormed their way into my heart. I cheered for them, nearly cried (seriously, I was close to needing a tissue), and sincerely hoped Teko found a good woman to make strange or magical babies with (you need to read the book to understand, but I promise you’d wish the same for him). It began with Barus, a disfigured orphan taken in by a healer, and then he held the door open for the rest of them (Aster, Joreh, and Teko especially) as they entered my heart. The father/daughter relationship and incredibly strong bond between Barus and Aster is one of my favorite things about this novel. The author certainly knows how to place her characters between a rock and a hard place, and she forces them to make gut-wrenching decisions. Each had their share of difficulties, but I felt Joreh in particular grappled with his beliefs.

There’s no shortage of deadly battle scenes between warring countries and tribes and a bloody struggle for power after the king is assassinated. And dragons! Somehow I missed in the description that they’d be a part of the story, but as a dragon lover I was thrilled and intrigued by Aster’s unique connection with them and how that factored into her identity.

The Necromancer’s Daughter is an exciting adventure filled with magic, epic battles, strong friendships, warring kingdoms, and a bit of romance. Find yourself a comfy chair to curl up in, make sure you’re not interrupted, and then fully immerse yourself in this world.

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon #bookreview #romcom #YA

New York Times bestselling authors Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon craft a spellbinding novel about discovering the magic of true love on one fateful, magical night in Three Kisses, One Midnight.

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows.

I don’t read a ton of books in this genre, but I’m a fan of Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves series, and her name on the cover immediately caught my attention.

Bring on the pumpkin spice! With much of the story taking place at a Halloween party, it’s full of autumn vibes. I loved the descriptions of the quaint town that goes all out for Halloween and the legend of The Lady of Moon Ridge who helps people follow their heart’s desires.

The main characters are a trio of best friends whose nights may not turn out exactly as expected. Onny is a true believer in magic and has a very specific love potion recipe bequeathed to her by her grandmother. True was recently burned by an unworthy boyfriend and only trusts scientific facts. Ash is an artist who’s loved someone for several years (she’s totally unaware) and takes an unexpected opportunity to create his own luck. The book is divided into three sections, with each character telling their own story. I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite is a tie between Onny’s and Ash’s. Science teacher Mr. Brightside and his husband, Mayor Grimjoy, are perfect supporting characters and add even more humor to the mix.

A black cat who interrupts a long-awaited kiss, zodiac signs, odd potion ingredients, awesome costumes, and the best Halloween decorations I’ve heard of – this is a light-hearted, magical read guaranteed to put you in the autumn mood.

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

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones #bookreview #fantasy #YA #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing… but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

The Drowned Woods—set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters—is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.

Having enjoyed The Bone Houses (a unique take on zombies) by this author, I was excited to see this story is set in the same world.

As one of the few existing water diviners, Mer’s skills are coveted and her life has rarely been her own. After she’s forced to work for a power-hungry prince, he used her abilities to help kill hundreds of people. Since escaping, she’s constantly on the run and is seldom in the same place for more than a couple months. She longs for a home and people to call her own. When her old mentor offers her an opportunity at freedom, Mer jumps at the chance. The catch? It involves a dangerous heist. The two of them round up a team with diverse skills and make a plan. Among this team is Fane, a talented fighter with unusual abilities of his own who’s suffered tremendous losses. His furry companion is Trefor, a corgi and possible spy who stole my heart along with plenty of scenes.

Not all of the team survive the mission, and the plot throws in some unexpected twists along the way. Some of the characters’ actions surprised me, and I love it when that happens. I was determined not to like Mer’s ex-girlfriend and thief-extraordinare Ifanna because of a prior betrayal, but she steps up when it counts and won me over. The ending is absolutely perfect, exactly what I’d hoped, and left me with a big smile on my face.

With a magical well and an ambitious prince bent on toppling kingdoms, The Drowned Woods is very much a dark fairy tale that kept me flipping the pages. I finished it in a day. It’s a quiet, standalone novel that will thrill fantasy fans and corgi lovers alike.

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

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

If you’re wondering if this is Princess Merida from the Disney movie, you’d be correct. I requested this book from NetGalley because Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors – I’d never seen the movie Brave. Knowing I needed the gist of the story before starting the novel, I spent an entertaining couple of hours laughing and snorting my way through the movie. I adored these characters and couldn’t wait to dive into this new story.

I’ve never been one for many fairy tales, but Merida is my kind of princess – mainly because she’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from someone with that title. She can best nearly any opponent in archery, she informed her parents being married off and producing heirs isn’t something she’ll be forced into, and she’s constantly reminded of royal etiquette by her mother, the queen. How can you not love this girl? This story is set several years later when not much has changed – Merida is still adventurous and stubborn, the King Fergus boisterous, the Queen Elinor very royal, and the triplets still mischievous at ten years old.

Merida’s Christmas Eve doesn’t go as expected when she finds herself in the company of two gods – one of creation, Cailleach, and one of destruction, Feradach. The Kingdom of DunBroch has become sluggish and stagnant and is high on Feradach’s list of places to demolish. Naturally, Merida is distraught but, because she’s Merida and very clever, refuses to accept this. Instead, she makes a bargain with Cailleach – if she can get her family to change over the next year, DunBroch will be spared. If she fails, she’ll lose her home and family. Talk about high stakes and pressure.

Don’t expect this to be a cookie cutter Disney story. Bravely is darker and focuses on growth, survival, and reflection, along with epic journeys and and some grisly scenes. Merida learns life is about balance and realizes what’s most important – it’s a kind of coming of age story for her. Not everything is serious – I also laughed out loud several times over the antics of the triplets, Merida’s unfiltered comments, and the lively family dynamics.

After watching Brave, Merida immediately became my favorite Disney princess, and I fell in love with her family. Catching up with them in this novel set several years later was a real treat.

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

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet.

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

A light enemies to lovers story – but with scrumptious food. The description of competing restaurants – and boys – lured me in. And look at that cover!

The chapters alternate POVs between Theo and Gabi, both with very different and distinct personalities. Theo is openly gay, self confident, and a natural athlete. Gabi is closeted, lacks self esteeem, and is far more talented on the dance floor than a soccer field. Theo can’t stand to be near Gabi, and while Gabi admires Theo, he’s also a little intimidated by him. Their parents’ restaurants are long time competitors, which causes further conflict. When a new fusion café moves into town and steals customers, joining forces happens kind of accidentally and everything changes.

In the first several chapters, Theo isn’t very likeable. He carries anger around like a boulder weighing him down and lashes out at his family, Gabi, and anyone else who gets in his way. It soon becomes clear why, and his self realizations and the changes that result from them are admirable. Gabi has spent his life trying to make his parents proud of him and fulfill their expectations, all while hiding his love of dancing and his sexuality. His parents (especially his father) make several derogatory comments about being gay, and he’s terrified of what might happen if he comes out. His character arc is just as uplifting as Theo’s.

Every character in this novel is flawed, some more than others, and it’s an honest portrayal of just how messy humans and their relationships can be. There are also very poignant, honest conversations about difficult topics between some characters that are done so well, and I hope they inspire readers who might be dealing with similar issues in their lives.

Besides the serious moments, this story also contains plenty of humor, delicious descriptions of food, strong friendships, and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. The ending comes about a little quickly and wraps up loose ends in a tidy bow, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

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

Ballad and Dagger ( Outlaw Saints #1) by Daniel José Older #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older’s music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community.

Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse’s island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal’s sinking escaped to New York.

While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo–now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who’s alive, the other not so much)–is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago.

But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo’s life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew.

Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself–a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland. 

I don’t usually post reviews on Wednesdays, but I prefer to post them close to the book release date. May has several new releases of books I’ve gotten from NetGalley, so this will be the norm for the month.

I was first introduced to this author watching a YA book festival zoom panel. After hearing him speak, I immediately wanted to read his books and was thrilled to receive an ARC of his newest release.

Mateo is a piano prodigy and knows exactly what he wants to do with his life – play music. But then he discovers (in a very public way) his destiny is wildly different, and it’s something he can’t escape. Maybe he doesn’t want to when he learns it’s something that could help his people find their original home of San Madrigal. His life is further changed after he witnesses a brutal killing the night of Grand Fete – and he knows the murderer.

In the first pages of the story when Mateo walks the streets of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, NY, I could easily picture his vibrant community – the sights, sounds, smells, and people. It’s a place I’d love to visit and meet their wonderful blend of citizens – pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews (and enjoy all that food). But the community isn’t living in harmony at the moment. Power struggles and politics ensue, and battle lines are drawn.

The supporting cast is everything. From Mateo’s aunts (one alive and the other a spirit), to his teasing best friend Tam, and the loyal twins, they add so much to the story. With urban fantasies, world-building can make or break a story, and this is done to perfection. The history, culture, politics, and magic are all well-explained and easy to follow. Pacing is a little uneven in the beginning, but soon moves at a breakneck speed to the end.

Ballad and Dagger has a little bit of everything – ancient secrets, battles, characters easy to root for, romance, rich culture. It’s a bit of a coming of age story that I enjoyed from the first page and look forward to reading more books by this author.

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

The City of Dusk (The Dark Gods #1) by Tara Sim #bookreview #darkfantasy #LGBTQIA #TuesdayBookBlog

Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

After reading another novel by this author that hooked me from page one, I was thrilled to see this first book in her dark epic fantasy trilogy on NetGalley.

Four realms, each with a god, each with an heir possessing a divine power – and one king without an heir. The world-building is immersive, complex, and well-explained. The cultures, magic system, politics, dynamics between realms – I was never confused. What I missed was a map, which would have been very helpful, but I had an ARC, although it looks like a map will be included in the final copy.

The story is told from several different POVs, but primarily the four heirs who are all well-crafted and distinctive. Taesha is morally gray (my favorite kind of character) and rebellious, but cares deeply for people. Risha is analytical, family-oriented, and agrees to meet a potential husband for an arranged marriage. Nikolas is kind, still grieving the death of his brother, and constantly trying to prove his worth to his father. Angelica is ambitious and powerful, but lacks control. The relationships between these characters is complicated. Sometimes they’re friends or occasionally more, but they’ve been raised to compete against each other, their parents believing one of them will be chosen as a successor to the crown since the king is without an heir.

At over five hundred pages, this is a hefty read, but that’s something to be expected in the fantasy genre, especially the first in a series. There’s plenty of action with vivid fight scenes, but also lots of downtime, and I felt the pacing was a little inconsistent.

Make no mistake – this is a very dark fantasy, and scenes can be graphic and gory. Some characters want what’s best for their people. Others desire power. But that’s part of the reason it’s such a compelling read, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe #bookreview #YA #historicalfiction #fantasy

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all… 

Although this is about magic on an island, the cover gave me Great Gatsby vibes (one of my favs), and I enjoy reading about that time period.

I immediately was captivated by the lush imagery in this book and intrigued by the magic. The beauty of the island and its ocean views filled my mind, and I felt as if I was running along the cliffs with Mae. The spirits who reside there add to the atmosphere – until they begin to die. There’s also a huge buildup of anticipation to the family secret reveal – I imagined all sorts of things and came up with several theories.

After Mae’s father, a servant to the family, passes away when she’s a young girl, Lord Prosper promises to let her remain on the island until she’s grown. Her best friend is Coco, Lord Prosper’s granddaughter, and she dreams of marrying Miles, his grandson. She longs to learn magic, although it’s only taught to the heir – never any outsiders. Why Mae would want to join this family or be anywhere near them is beyond my understanding. There’s not one likeable person among the clan. They’re a manipulative, spoiled bunch, and all I can conclude is since she’s never been off the island and gotten to know other people, she just doesn’t know any better. Ivo has potential, but he doesn’t get a ton of page time, and he repeatedly warns Mae away from magic. Even Mae didn’t impress me very much. She comes across as materialistic, nosy (she’s big on eavesdropping), and dim-witted. Once she figures out the lay of the land and exactly what’s going on, she becomes more tolerable, and by the epilogue I liked her much better.

This is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but it’s been years since I read it so I can’t make any comparisons. Although I had mixed feelings about most of the story, the ending is perfect and exactly what I’d hoped. Overall, Bright Ruined Things is an enjoyable story, but you may struggle to find a worthy character to root for.

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

WWW Wednesday: 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 literally starting Bright Ruined Things today, so I really can’t comment on it. It’s been on my NetGalley shelf for months, but I’m excited to finally get to it. The cover gives me a Great Gatsby feel.

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…

I just finished These Deadly Games last night. If you’re looking for a twisty thriller with a potentially unreliable narrator, this one’s for you. Lots of red herrrings that will keep you guessing.

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?


When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed. 

When I was offered the Light Years From Home NetGalley widget for a blog tour, I jumped at the chance. I’ve read two other books by Mike Chen, and he’s never disappointed. And what a hook with that first paragraph!

Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials.

Evie Shao and her sister, Kass, aren’t on speaking terms. Fifteen years ago on a family camping trip, their father and brother vanished. Their dad turned up days later, dehydrated and confused—and convinced he’d been abducted by aliens. Their brother, Jakob, remained missing. The women dealt with it very differently. Kass, suspecting her college-dropout twin simply ran off, became the rock of the family. Evie traded academics to pursue alien conspiracy theories, always looking for Jakob.

When Evie’s UFO network uncovers a new event, she goes to investigate. And discovers Jakob is back. He’s different—older, stranger, and talking of an intergalactic war—but the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. If the family is going to come together to help Jakob, then Kass and Evie are going to have to fix their issues, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and if their brother is telling the truth, possibly an entire space armada, too.

The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years From Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.