Five Midnights by Ann Davila Cardinal #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

 

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico, but the author provides such vivid, immersive descriptions, I feel like I have.  And the food!  I drooled over several pages.

The author gives a balanced picture of Puerto Rico.  While showing the horrors of drugs and addiction, and impoverished neighborhoods, she also demonstrates the deep love of culture and community, and supportive, loyal families and friends willing to do anything to protect their loved ones.  And can I mention the food again?

One of my favorite things about this book is the relationships.  With little parental support at home, Lupe’s relationship with her aunt and uncle is a positive influence, and portrayed so well.  Javier hasn’t made good choices in his past, and battles his addiction every day with the help of Father Sebastian.  Javier’s relationship with childhood friend Carlos is more of brother than friend, even though Carlos’s music career has made him an international sensation.

Mention urban legends in a book description, and I’ll show up, and El Cuco is the stuff of children’s nightmares.  The opening scene is a perfect way to set up the supernatural suspense.  When Javier makes the connection and realizes he’s living on borrowed time, I couldn’t read fast enough.

As a main character, Lupe is feisty, loyal, and determined – all good things.  But her default mode is set to combative, and I felt it got in the way of the story.  The final showdown is tense and exciting, but because it’s seen through several POVs, it stretches on for pages, when it actually lasts the length of a song.

Five Midnights is a briskly paced, dark, YA supernatural mystery that I enjoyed from the first page, and would recommend to fans of urban legends who enjoy a touch of the paranormal.

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

 

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi #bookreview #YA #fantasy

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This has been in my TBR well over a year, and when I recently had to be in the car for long periods of time, I listened to the audio book.  I was thrilled to discover it was the same fantastic narrator as Dread Nation.

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?  Intricate, creative world-building, richly drawn characters, some twists along the way.  And that cover –  stunning.

A lot of hype surrounds this novel, and it’s absolutely well-deserved for a debut, so maybe my expectations were too high.  I’m not a big fan of romance, and it makes up more of the story than I’d expected.  Pairing off the characters disappointed me – but that’s just my personal preference.  An overwhelming majority disagrees with me on that, and I get it.

The cover of the second book in this series was released not long ago, and it’s just as beautiful as this one.  Although more romance than I’d like, I plan to continue with this YA fantasy series.

DEV1AT3 (Lifelike #2) by Jay Kristoff #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Lemon Fresh has seen better days.

After the climactic battle in Babel, she finds herself separated from Ezekiel and Cricket in the wastelands. Lemon’s abilities to manipulate electricity mark her as a deviate, and deadly corporate operatives are hunting her to use as a weapon in the war between BioMaas Incorporated and Daedelus Technologies. Instead, Lemon finds herself falling in with a group of fellow deviates—a band of teenagers with astonishing abilities, led by an enigmatic figure known as the Major, who may hold the secrets to Lemon’s past.

Meanwhile, Cricket finds himself in possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a head-on collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with his beloved Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world.

I’m pretty sure I squealed in excitement when I received this ARC.  The first book in this series, LIFEL1K3, was mind-blowing, full of twists, and one of my most memorable reads last year.

In the first book, Lemon Fresh stole nearly every scene she was in, so I was thrilled she’s the primary POV for DEV1AT3.  Fiercely loyal, a rollicking sense of humor, and such a kind heart – anyone would be lucky to count her as a friend.  With her enthralling story, I ran through nearly every emotion out there.  By the end of the book, she’s still surrounded by mystery, and I’m excited to see what happens next for her.

Cricket, my favorite logika, has a chance to live what he thought was his dream.  Unfortunately, be careful what you wish for.  Ezekiel finds an unlikely accomplice, learns some hard truths, and fights the good fight – but there are still surprises in store for him.

The world-building, a combination of Mad Max and Pacific Rim, continues to be magnificent, and some new, highly charismatic characters are introduced.  Some readers may be disappointed Eve plays more of a minor role in this novel, but Lemon’s story is too big to be a sub plot, and needs to be told.  When all is said and done, I think everything will weave together in the end.

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

 

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Lena and Campbell aren’t friends.

Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.

When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.

They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

This book deals with topics we unfortunately see all too much of in news nearly every day.  Novels such as this are crucial and timely, and when I saw that author Nic Stone blurbed it, I knew I wanted to read it.

The contrasting characters and their viewpoints really make this novel.  Lena is in a familiar environment, but is very much aware of its dangerous undercurrents, much more so than Campbell, new to the neighborhood, and the epitome of a fish out of water.  With alternating chapters, their voices are distinct, and the narrative is well done.  Their conversations, and occasionally clashing opinions, throughout the evening do a good job at shedding light on the reality of their lives, and shattering stereotypes they hold of each other.

No doubt the girls’ situation is intense and precarious, and this is communicated well.  That being said, I questioned some of their actions.  Lena leads them toward her boyfriend, who is supposed to take them to safety, but he’s in the direction of the rioting.  It’s mentioned early on that Campbell’s house is a twenty minute walk from the stadium, where it all began, so I wondered why they didn’t go there to begin with.  Maybe a map at the front of the book would have been helpful?  Their reasoning wasn’t made clear, especially when Campbell had a phone, and there must have been other friends or people at the stadium who could have given them a ride.  I also thought a peaceful protest in the city at such a late hour was odd.

This is a compelling book with strong characterization, but parts of it seemed random, and I would have liked more information on the characters’ reasoning, and more of an overview of the rioting.  This book is scheduled for publication October 1st, 2019.

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

 

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver’s isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first. 

This book description reminded me of The Maze Runner, a novel I fell head over heels for and kept me guessing, and the cover really grabbed me.

The world-building is creative, detailed, and pulled me in almost immediately.  The Skilled, the Blanks, and the labyrinth housing the monster, Dex, and separating the town folk from the Creator held me spellbound.  The author does a magnificent job explaining Zadie’s world without an info dump.  Zadie is also very likable, and has survived tragic circumstances in her past.  I cringed more than once when reading about her interactions with the Warden.  Landon is the stereotypical hero, and plays the role of rescuer and town hero very well.  But by far, Dex is the most compelling, and multi-layered character.  Honestly, if the author wrote a spin-off focusing on Dex’s backstory, I’d snatch it up immediately.  The story is well-paced, and the obstacles Zadie and Dex face in the labyrinth are dangerous, challenging, and, at times, heart-breaking.

Everything was going smoothly – awesome world-building, life and death circumstances, intense action – until it became very obvious that one character isn’t what the reader is led to believe.  That’s nothing new – it goes along with good storytelling.  But the revelation is meant to be a twist towards the end, and some things just didn’t ring true for me with this character early in the story.  In scanning other reviewer comments, it didn’t seem to come as a shock to them, either.

If you’re looking for an original YA dystopian/fantasy, The Red Labyrinth fits the bill nicely.  Although the ending includes a cliffhanger, it wraps rather suddenly, and I’ll definitely be adding the next book to my TBR.

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

 

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. 

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

I was in the mood for a mystery that really made me think, and Keep This To Yourself checked off that box, and more.

The setting is perfect – a small beach town full of secrets, where everyone knows everybody’s business.  I immediately connected with Mac, and his determination to hold onto strained childhood friendships in the wake of a tragedy.  He’s fiercely loyal to his murdered friend, Connor, and the fluctuating emotions he feels are genuine and portrayed well.  Mac’s budding romance with Quill is quick, but totally sweet, and they share the goal of finding the serial killer.

Tension-filled scenes had me reading late into the night, and I finished over half of this book in one sitting.  At some point, I suspected nearly everyone, and the twist at the end is part of something that occurred to me, but I convinced myself I was wrong.

Keep This To Yourself is a clever YA mystery full of red herrings, an endearing narrator (and he works in a library!), shocking twists, and touch of romance.  I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and I’m looking forward to this author’s next book.

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

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff #bookreview #YA #scifi

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Occasionally, I’ll pick up a book and know within the first several pages that I’m in for a five star read.  Aurora Rising is one of those books.

These characters.  I fell for them hard, and the banter between them is hilarious.  All are so fully-developed and relatable, and with seven different POVs, that’s a tremendous feat to accomplish.  So many POVs may throw off some readers, but each voice is distinctive, and I knew exactly who was speaking.  And such fantastic character diversity (and I don’t mean humans and aliens).

Talk about no-win situations – these authors throw their characters into several, and you’re just sure there’s no way they’ll survive – and then things happen that I won’t give away, but trust me, you’ll be surprised at the originality and creativity.  The last 15% of this book really put me through the wringer – hidden secrets, big emotions, high-stakes danger.  Make sure to carve out a good hour or so when you won’t be disturbed.

Even with all the action, death-defying moments, and a tension-filled heist, Aurora Rising leans heavily on themes of family, friendship, faith, and finding your crew.  It’s an unusual, but charismatic mix of Guardians of the Galaxy, The Breakfast Club, and Six of Crows, and a novel you won’t want to miss.

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