Containment (Sanctuary #2) by Caryn Lix #bookreview #YA #scifi

They may have escaped Sanctuary, but Kenzie and her friends are far from safe.

Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.

When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must turn themselves in to Omnistellar and destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.

What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first. 

I read the first book in this series, Sanctuary, last summer and referred to it as a mixture of Alien and X-Men.  I was thrilled to receive an ARC of book two.

First, I have to comment on the book covers – they’re beautiful, bold, and completely eye-catching.  It’s easy to tell they’re part of the same series.  To say this diverse cast of characters experienced traumatic events in Sanctuary is an understatement.  Because of what happened to them, some are understandably suffering from PTSD – which is something you don’t see addressed very often in YA novels and is handled very well.

This author is brilliant at ending chapters on exciting cliffhangers.  I’d plan to read a couple of chapters before bed, then wind up going through two more because I had to know what happened next.  Character development is also a strength, and it’s easy to see how these characters have evolved from the first book.

Pacing was a bit of an problem for me.  This book sits at around 500 pages, and I felt it could have been tightened in some areas.  Kenzie is dealing with a lot of issues – guilt, relationship woes, death of a parent – and her internal thoughts about this take up a chunk of the first 50% of the book to the extent I felt it overshadowed what was happening in front of her.  I read an ARC, so this may change with the final version.

Containment ends on a cliffhanger (just like most of the chapters!), so I’ll be anxious to read the next book in the series.  If you enjoy high stakes sci-fi that ventures into the horror arena, I’d recommend this series.

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

 

 

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

I don’t remember the story of Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but the cover and description were compelling enough to draw me to this book.

This novel is very atmospheric, and leans toward the Gothic side.  It’s an engrossing blend of mystery, secrets, magic, and gods, with a tinge of horror.  When the ghostly visions began, I was all in, and the imagery is spectacular and chilling.  I could easily picture Highmoor manor perched atop a steep cliff overlooking the churning sea below.

When Annaleigh sets out to prove her sisters’ deaths were no accident, the author provides a long list of suspects, all with motivation, and plenty of red herrings for distraction.  Although the hints were there all along, I was a bit disappointed at a turn the story took, but near the end, along with Annaleigh, the reader isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t.

With a suspenseful mystery, excellent characterization, and a Gothic atmosphere, House of Salt and Sorrows is a perfect book to curl up with on a stormy night.

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

 

The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray #bookreview #YA #historicalfiction #supernatural

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

I’ve had this book in my TBR for quite a while and even started it a couple of times, but then had to drop it for other reading commitments.  When it fit the monthly category for my book club last November, I vowed to finish it.

The hidden secrets and supernatural powers thrilled me, and there are some chilling moments that may cause you to look over your shoulder.  A whirlwind of energy, Evie is the driving force of the story and occasionally charges into situations before considering the consequences of her actions.  She can be a bit annoying at times, but her heart is usually in the right place.  There are numerous other characters, but Jericho is a standout for me.  He begins the story as a bland character taking up space, but the gradual reveal of his backstory is both riveting and heartbreaking.  The characters’ paths intersect over the course of the story – and no doubt they’ll find themselves together again in future novels.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but this is a highly atmospheric novel.  The author did an exquisite job with researching this time period from the language to the clothing styles, and I felt immersed in the 20’s.

At over 500 pages, this is a long read and the pacing wavers, but I definitely plan on continuing with this supernatural series.

 

What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera #bookreview #YA #LGBT

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is? 

The category for one of my book clubs was to choose a book from a genre I don’t usually read.  For me, that’s a YA romance.

I’d read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and adored Simon’s voice, so another Albertalli book was an easy selection for me.  Ben and Arthur are just as charismatic and super nerdy in their own ways.  After their meet cute, they finally locate each other in an amusing way.  I laughed over some of their conversations and first dates – yes, plural – that were awkward and disastrous.  The friendships are done so well, and one of my favorite things about the book, as are the characters’ relationships with their parents.

Yes, it was a bit predictable, but I was so pleased with the ending.  No spoilers here.  What If It’s Us is heartwarming and amusing with characters you’ll fall in love with, and a pleasure to read.

 

 

How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

A plague, called Wicked, is pulsing through the world; and in its wake, it’s dividing the population into thirds:

The WICKED: Already infected by the droves of Singers, the ultraviolet mosquito-like insects who carry the plague, the Wicked roam the world freely. They don’t want for much—only to maim and dismember you. But don’t worry: They always ask politely first.

The TRUE: The True live in contained, isolated communities. They’re the lucky ones; they found safety from the Singers. And while the threat of the Wicked may not be eliminated, for the True, the threat has certainly been contained…

The VEXED: The Vexed are the truly fortunate ones—they survived the sting of the Singers, leaving them immune. But they’re far from safe. The Vexed hold the key to a cure, and there are those who will do anything to get it.

I’m always up for a post-apocalyptic plague story.  I’ve read several, but this novel puts a fresh spin on the typical version.

Some reviews have referred to the Wicked as zombies.  I didn’t see them that way at all.  They’re almost childlike, but retain most of their memories and are able to function and take care of themselves.  It’s unnerving, because it can be difficult to tell they’re Wicked.  They’re lethal and, given the chance, will kill you in spectacular ways.  However, as with children, their attention can usually be diverted – at least for a little while.  Maybe enough time to get to safety.  Maybe not.  Don’t underestimate them.

There’s a clever plot twist toward the end.  It’s something I suspected early on, but that didn’t make it any less ingenious, and it gives the whole story a new perspective.

How We Became Wicked isn’t just a post-apocalyptic story, it’s also about the sacrifices we make to save our loved ones.  And how some people can so easily sacrifice others to save themselves.  The ending leaves me to believe there may be a sequel.  If so, I’ll definitely be looking for it.  This novel is scheduled for release July 23, 2019.

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

 

 

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

A dark, romantic YA suspense novel with an SF edge and plenty of drama, layering the secrets we keep and how appearances can deceive, from the New York Times bestselling author.

In this tiny, terrifying town, the lost are never found. When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to live with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right?

Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind. To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried… 

I’ve never read this author before, but when the book description mentioned a small town with secrets, and suspense with a sci-fi edge, I knew it was time to become acquainted with her work.

This book grabbed me right away.  Araceli feels a presence in the attic, and actually sees the string attached to a light bulb turn on by itself – I was all in.  Mysterious lights in the forest, loads of people missing, a box that transports letters to a recipient decades earlier – it just got better.  A lot goes on in this novel, and that’s something I enjoyed about it.  It’s also an usual blend of contemporary, romance, suspense, and sci-fi, something that should attract readers of several genres.

Traveling with her journalist parents for most of her life, Araceli has experienced things most teens can’t imagine, so it’s understandable that she dives into these mysteries head first.  While I admire her bravery and determination, she also comes across as selfish and headstrong, since she doesn’t always consider the consequences of her actions – especially when they involve the lives of other people.  Then again, these are the actions of a teenager.

I don’t generally read YA contemporary, but with sci-fi, suspense, and time travel tossed into the mix, I plowed through this book in a couple of days.

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

 

 

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

I’ve never watched Project Runway, and it’s been years since I’ve seen Mulan.  It was the stunning cover and enticing description that drew me to this book.

The solid, imaginative world-building, and Chinese-inspired land are a perfect backdrop for this story.  Descriptions of Maia’s creations and her world are done to perfection, and the magic system is original and explained well.

Maia is everything I enjoy in a main character – feisty, competitive, intelligent, stubborn.  She dreams of becoming the emperor’s tailor, a position only men are permitted to fill.  To Maia, that’s a minor setback, and she finds a way to enter the competition pitting her against eleven men who are far more experienced in the craft.  I initially thought Edan would be detrimental in her quest, but he turned out to be my favorite character.  Charming, intuitive, and mischievous, he’s supportive from their first meeting, and has many secrets of his own.

While the first half of the book is all about the competition, the second half is vastly different, with some nail-biting moments.  Along with lots and lots of romance.  That’s not an issue for plenty of readers, but it comes close to monopolizing the last 50% of the book, and is something I didn’t expect from the description.  The relationship between Maia and Edan is well-portrayed, if a bit predictable, and isn’t without its challenges.

Spin the Dawn is a unique YA fantasy inspired by Chinese culture and mythology, and is set in a magical world, but leans heavily on more romance than I prefer – and I know I’m in the minority in that opinion!

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