Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp #bookreview #YA #thriller

Before we get into the book review, I just wanted to let you know I’ll be doing a virtual book signing tonight from 5:45 pm to 6pm CST on the Penned Con Fan Page on Facebook HERE  Authors are scheduled every fifteen minutes throughout the day, so if you’re looking for new books or enjoy games and giveaways, drop by.  Hope to see you there!

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

Are you ready to play?

The description for this book immediately grabbed me.  Another book I read by this author was extremely compelling, so requesting this one was a no-brainer.

LGBTQ representation in this novel is magnificent, along with autism and disability representation.  These characters are brought together by a RPG (role playing game) and spend three years together playing the game.  Throughout that time, their relationships with each other have their ups and downs, and with college on the horizon for some, this will be the last time they’re able to play together.  Soon after reaching the cabin, the craziness begins.

One of my favorite things about this novel is the strong friendships between some of the characters and the unconditional support they offer each other – especially since some don’t have the best home life or have experienced traumatic events.  When they find themselves in the middle of some seriously creepy happenings, none of them abandon each other to save themselves.  Five alternating POVs also allows the reader to learn more about each character.

This will be difficult to say without spoilers, but what I struggled with was the reveal of the person behind everything.  It came as a suprise, but just didn’t ring true for me – it seemed unrealistic, and I felt let down after such a suspenseful buildup.  During tense scenes where I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, occasionally heavy internal monologue took over and went on for several paragraphs, which took me out of the story.

Even If We Break is a thriller, but it’s also very much a coming of age story with some beautiful passages containing thought-provoking concepts.  It’s not my favorite novel by this author, but I wouldn’t hesitate to read her future books.

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

#BlogTour Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Return to the City of Sin, where the final game is about to begin…and winning will demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Only days after a corrupt election and brutal street war, one last bloodthirsty game has begun. The players? The twenty-two most powerful, notorious people in New Reynes.

After realizing they have no choice but to play, Enne Scordata and Levi Glaisyer are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But while Levi offers false smiles and an even falser peace to the city’s politicians, Enne must face a world where her true Mizer identity has been revealed…and any misstep could turn deadly.

Meanwhile, a far more dangerous opponent has appeared on the board, one plucked right from the most gruesome legends of New Reynes. As the game takes its final, vicious turn, Levi and Enne must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies.

Because in a game for survival, there are only losers…

And monsters. 

Queen of Volts was one of my most anticipated reads this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I’m just sad my time with these characters is over.

The first two books in the series are told from Levi’s and Enne’s POVs, but this time I was delighted to see Harvey, Lola, and Sophia included.  Initially, I didn’t want to hear anything from Harvey for reasons I can’t discuss (spoilers), but as the story progressed, I couldn’t deny his wonderful character arc and the important part he plays in the plot.

Talk about high stakes – they’re pushed to the max.  In this dangerous new game, your life isn’t just in your own hands, it’s also tied to the survival of other players.  The complexity of the author’s story boards connecting everyone and their interwoven stories had to be quite impressive.  So. Much. Happening.

Although the book is lengthy at over four hundred pages, pacing is perfect, and I tore through the last thirty percent because I couldn’t stand to put it down or wait to see what happened to some of my favorite characters.  As with the other novels in the series, be prepared for surprising revelations, heart-stopping moments of panic and grief, and once again, heartbreak, but the ending is everything I’d hoped for.

Dark, gritty, fantastically imagined, and full of power plays and political maneuvering, The Shadow Game is among my favorite YA fantasy series and one I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a master’s in accountancy from Villanova University and a bachelor of arts in English literature from the College of William and Mary.

Social Links:

Author website: www.amandafoody.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandafoody
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandafoody/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37545599-queen-of-volts

Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young #bookreview #YA #fantasy #pirates

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

Honestly, I was on the fence about requesting this book from NetGalley, but after reading so many fantastic reviews, I decided to give it a try.  Now, I’m raring to get my hands on the second in the duology.

From the first page, your heart goes out to Fable.  She’s literally abandoned on an island full of criminals by her father – it’s a true sink or swim situation.  Over the course of two years, she struggles to survive and learns some hard lessons along the way.  Considering all she experiences, her trust issues are valid.  Without such a strong, independent, charismatic MC, I’m not sure this book would have gotten such stellar reviews, but for me, Fable and her quest make the story.  With much of the setting on the open sea, it receives bonus points.

Stakes are high, and Fable is in near constant danger.  When the crew of the Marigold reluctantly take her in, she discovers they harbor many secrets of their own.  After a rough getting-to-know-you period, trust and relationships form – I’m a sucker for found family stories.  And if anyone ever needed the support of a family, it’s this group.  With the crew, West’s and Willa’s characters are well-developed, but the remaining three aren’t as clear-cut and seem interchangeable.  The author could have more planned for them in the next book – I’m anxious to learn their stories.

If you’re a fan of pirates, high seas adventure, closely-guarded secrets, and feisty main characters, I highly recommend Fable.  Now I need the second book!

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

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.

His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”

But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.

With all the buzz I’d seen about this book on Twitter, I was beyond excited to receive an ARC.

This book isn’t for everyone.  It deals with some dark, heavy topics, and parts of it are absolutely gut-wrenching.  The slurs and vitriol spat out by some of these characters is horrific and repulsive – and yet some people in the world still feel this way.  It’s unfathomable to me.

My heart broke for Connor and his friends and the unimaginable circumstances they were forced into.  Despite their grim situations, this group of queer kids stick together and support each other.  The heartfelt bonds, friendships, and romantic relationships they form are one of the best parts of the novel, and I wanted to just hug every one of them.

With tension-filled moments and layers upon layers of secrets, this novel is difficult to put down.  My only critique would be the time frame.  Everything happens on the island in roughly twenty-four hours, and I found that a little tough to swallow.  Trust me – a lot happens.

Although some parts are tough to read, Surrender Your Sons is full of heart and hope and one I highly recommend.

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

We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu #bookreview #YA #contemporaryfantasy

From debut author Cole Nagamatsu comes an atmospheric contemporary fantasy about three teens coming of age in the wake of a mysterious death.

Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles away from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a strange accident, and in the months since, his friends and family have struggled to make sense of it. But Link’s close friend Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. And what’s more, someone claiming to be Link has been contacting her, warning Noemi to stay out of the forest.

As these secrets become too heavy for Noemi to shoulder on her own, she turns to Jonas, her new housemate, and Amberlyn, Link’s younger sister. All three are trying to find their place—and together, they start to unravel the truth: about themselves, about the world, and about what happened to Link.

Unfolding over a year and told through multiple POVs and a dream journal, We Were Restless Things explores the ways society shapes our reality, how we can learn to love ourselves and others, and the incredible power of our own desires.

The beautiful cover, mention of a drowning on dry land, and the victim contacting his friend from beyond the grave were what drew me to this book.  I’m always intrigued by the supernatural.

It’s not exactly what I expected.  The writing is incredibly lyrical and flows with some beautiful passages and vivid descriptions.  Noemi is quirky, creative, and loyal – all qualities I admire about her – and handles a conversation about asexuality brilliantly.  I’d expected the storyline to lean more heavily on the mystery of Link’s death, the strange texts Noemi receives from someone claiming to be him, and the disappearing lake.  All of that was part of the plot, but another very large portion is made up of the three (four, really) characters in love with Noemi (which seemed a bit excessive) and her feelings about them.  At times, it seemed as if I was reading two different stories.  The POVs primarily rotate between Noemi and Jonah, but the inclusion of Amberlyn’s POV in a few chapters puzzled me since they didn’t add anything to the plot.

Each of these characters experience grief in different ways, and some of their conversations are emotionally heavy and brutally honest.  They’ll make you think.  One character has an especially difficult life that tugs at the heartstrings, and I just wanted to hug him.

With an unusual storyline, poetic writing, and slower pace, there’s much to enjoy about this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to readers looking for an action-packed thriller as it sways more toward contemporary fantasy.

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

 

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

The first book in this series, Scythe, floored me.  Twists and turns I never saw coming, and it was one of my top reads that year.  I bought Thunderhead the day it was released, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it.

With power struggles, devious plans, and the internal thoughts of the Thunderhead, I found it difficult to put this book down.  Rowan and Citra continue to be strong, intelligent protagonists and each encounters many obstacles – in Rowan’s case, pretty painful obstacles.  As with Scythe, just when I thought I had something figured out – wrong again.  And that ending!  With my mouth hanging open and nearly in a state of shock over the last 15-20% of the book, nothing could have torn me away from it.

This is a series I’d recommend to all fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian readers, YA fans or not.  Since The Toll is already out, I’m just glad I don’t have to wait long before diving back into this world again.

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles #bookreview #blogtour #fantasy

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. 

Magical competitions, mysterious disappearances, lies, secrets, and a gorgeous cover – how could you not want to read this?  The strong Phantom of the Opera vibes just made it that much more irresistible.

Such an atmospheric novel – a cold, enigmatic city whose residents hide secrets of its past, long-neglected, decaying buildings within it, and a dark forest at its gates.  Powerful magicians exist in this world where some magic isn’t completely understood.  Let’s just say I’ll never look at mirrors in quite the same way again.

Kallia, Jack, and Demarco are wonderfully flawed and scarred in various ways, and I’m so glad the author gave each of their POVs.  Kallia is a snarky, impulsive character who excels when the odds are against her, all while covering up the fear inside.  Demarco is a tough shell to crack initially, but his backstory is tragic.  Manipulative Jack still remains the biggest mystery, and I’m so anxious to learn more about him in the sequel.  I have to give a shout out to Aaros for his wit and undying loyalty to Kallia.  He’s undoubtedly one of the best supporting characters I’ve come across.

Imagery and creativity of the illusions are outstanding – a screenplay of this book would be a visual feast.  I could have done without some of the romantic drama (I’m in the minority on that aspect, I know), but this ends with a glorious cliffhanger.  The next book can’t come soon enough.

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

The Nemesis (Diabolic #3) by S.J. Kincaid #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

In the heart-pounding conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Diabolic series, the Empire teeters on the edge of destruction as rumors spread that Nemesis is still alive.

Three years ago, Tyrus Domitrian shocked the galaxy by killing the woman he swore to love forever. The woman for whom he upended the Empire. The woman with whom he wanted to build a new and brighter future.

Now, the once-idealistic heir apparent has become the cruel Emperor Tyrus, wielding his authority with an iron fist, capable of destroying planets with a single word, controlling all technology with a simple thought. He has bent the Grandiloquy to their knees, and none has the power to stand against him.

But there is a muttering among the Excess. They say that Nemesis is not truly gone. They whisper of her shadow spotted in distant star systems. They say that Nemesis lives. That she will rise, and rally the people to topple the man who was once her truest love—and is now her fiercest enemy.

I waited almost three long years after finishing the second book in this series, The Empress, which nearly destroyed me.  To say I was thrilled upon receiving an ARC of The Nemesis doesn’t even begin to touch my level of excitement.

I’m a voracious reader, and it’s rare I’m surprised by plot twists, but this series is full of them.  Surprises that ripped my heart out, made me want to throw the book across the room, and even kill the characters at some points.  For me, that’s the sign of a crafty, clever writer, and a big reason why Diabolic will always be one of my favorite YA sci-fi series.

Nemesis’s character arc has been fascinating to watch as she learns to believe she’s more than just a killer created in a lab.  Her strong bond with Anguish, a fellow Diabolic, is one of my favorite aspects of this story.  As much as I love her, Tyrus has always been the draw for me.  No matter your intelligence, he’ll always be ten steps ahead of you and can out-strategize anyone.  He’s delightfully wicked in this final novel and has an abundance of thought-provoking ideas in that head of his.  Both he and Nemesis are pushed to their breaking points, so be prepared for some nail-biting moments.

It takes a few chapters to find its stride, but the author delivers an intricately plotted, thrilling story loaded with political maneuvering – and a perfect ending in my opinion.  This is a series I’ll absolutely go back and read again.

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

 

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2) by Justina Ireland #bookreview #YA #historical

The sequel to Dread Nation is a journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880’s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears – as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by – and that Jane needs her, too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive – even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

I listened to the first book in this series about eighteen months ago, and when my book club requirement was to read a YA historical novel, I decided it was a perfect time to listen to the sequel.  Yes, zombies aren’t really part of history, but the book is categorized as US Civil War Period Historical Fiction – so that works for me.

With Bahni Turpin being such a fantastic narrator of the first book, Dread Nation, I was thrilled she returned for the sequel.  Jane is just as snarky as ever, which I totally enjoy, and she’s still killing shamblers (zombies).  Alternating POVs between Jane and Katherine allow the reader to gain better insight into Katherine’s character this go around, and she nearly steals some scenes.  The unlikely friendship between them is one of the highlights of the story for me.  Separated for a portion of the book, each endures trials and tribulations of their own before reunited to search for their safe haven and Jane’s mother.

At over 500 pages (14.5 hour audiobook), this is a long read, and I struggled with pacing in the middle.  Jane is on a mission, with good reason, but her obsession ventures into repetitive territory.  Once past that, the ending moves along pretty quickly and delivers a satisfying conclusion fitting for these characters.

If you’re a zombie fan, I recommend reading this duology that offers a different take on the genre in a historical setting.

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.