Below (North, #1) by Alexandria Warwick – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Wolf Publishing

Publication Date: February 04, 2020

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

From the author of The Demon Race comes a YA dark fantasy series inspired by Inuit mythology.

In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.

When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.

With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.

Yuki only plays the games she wins. “

*Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

I am a huge fan of Warwick’s. I am going to try an explain this, her writing makes me feel nostalgia. Below made me feel like watching The Never Ending Story and Labyrinth (It was not in any way based on those, just how it made me feel!). It just felt like my childhood. If that makes any sense.

Apaay has to battle sever weather, wild animals, survive Yuki’s nightmares come to life, survive being a prisoner, and survive Yuki’s punishments. There is a lot Apaay survives. It was very intense at some parts. I loved her never-give-up personality. She fought for those shes loves no matter the cost to herself. And there were high prices for her fight. I actually cried at one point. I NEVER cry reading. It hurt.

One thing I REALLY loved was the healthy and loving friendship she has with Ila! You don’t really see that a lot in books without it turning into a love story or something. I loved them!

Warwick also has an underlying message in her books. In Demon Race, it was forgiveness, and in Below, it was you are enough. Beautiful.

I wish there was a little more explaination of what Yuki and The Face Stealer were and where they came from. It was a bit confusing at times, BUT it left a ton of mystery to be solved for the next book! Which I need and can’t wait for!

What are some mythologies you love?

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The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom, #1) by Danielle L. Jensen – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Context Literary Agency

Publication Date: August 13, 2019

Genre: NA, Fantasy, Romance

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

Amazon

” What if you fell in love with the one person you’d sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore.

Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people? “

First of all, thank you to the publisher and MTMC Tours for the free book to review!

FIVE FREAKING STARS. Okay? I flipping loved this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve obsessed over a book like this. This was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it did not disappoint. I don’t have any dislikes so I’ll just dive right in!

Lara is a perfect, slightly flawed heroine. Yes, those two things can go together. She has been trained since she was 5 years old (for 15 years!) to be an assassin. And the book starts her out with a bang. My gosh. Her skill set is enviable. She wasn’t the best assassin out of all her sisters but she was the most clever and that gets her a long way! Even with Aren! Aren is a swoon worthy love interest. He is passionate, strong, good looking, and his people respect and love him. I shipped him and Lara right off the bat. Their chemistry was off the charts! Jensen matched them perfectly.

Let’s talk about the plot. Now, it’s not a unique plot to have a girl assassin trained for most of her life for a purpose, HOWEVER, who cares because I really like that trope. Plus pair it with a unique world and setting and it becomes fresh. I liked how it wasn’t insta love between the characters. The author did a REALLY good job of them knowing the difference between instant LUST and LOVE. And I actually appreciated their ability to not act on that lust (until it became love). It was unique. And can we talk about the cool bridge?! What a cool concept! It is a different piece to add in the book that I loved. It is a trade route, defense, and a few other things to the people of Aren’s kingdom. And it is the central piece of taking his kingdom down.

Everyone who loves fantasy romance, this is a must read. The writing is beautiful, the characters have growth, the world is lush and one I want to visit, some cool battle scenes, and there is a HEARTBREAKING CLIFF HANGER ending. I want the next book so, so bad.

What was the last book that you were obsessed with?

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The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

Genre: YA, Mystery, Horror

Adventure Rating: 2.5

Amazon

” Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.”

I had a really hard time rating this book. It was a solid 2 star until the huge twist towards the end then I was thinking 3 stars. So we meet in the middle.

Likes: The concept of the book was very cool. A creepy boarding school on a mountain where kids are getting sick and there are ghosts. Everyone has a mysterious back story. I also liked Mavi. She was a fighter. She was smart. And Angel! Man, I felt so bad for him! It actually wasn’t that scary, which I appreciated. It was more like a thriller. And that twisty ending! A lot of people, I noticed, gave it low marks for the ending out of left field. I disagree. I was very surprised and didn’t see it coming BUT looking back there were little like, Easter eggs of hints. I thought that part was well done.

Dislikes: The pacing was VERY slow. I found my mind wandering away from the book way too often. It was very easy to put down. I didn’t like one of the other teachers, she was so rude and mean to Mavi and Mavi just let her be. Really the low rating from me was because it was boring to me.

Final Thoughts: I’m trying not to give anything away, but this will be sure to spark some moral discussions! This was a book pick for one of my book clubs and I can tell you right now there will be a lot to discuss. This book sort of reminded me of the show Black Mirror. Super weird. Super thought provoking. Also, this didn’t read like a YA at all. Even though the two main characters were teens, they didn’t talk like teens. Do with that what you will.

What is the weirdest book you have ever read?

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Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: November 12, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Adult

Adventure Rating: 2 Stars

Amazon

An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.

Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people—and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.

When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.

Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.

Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world—perfect for readers of V. E. Schwab, Kiersten White, and Marlon James.

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

I really went back and forth between weather or not to post this because it is a two star review. BUT I want to be honest about the books I am reading, the only time I won’t post is when I DNF. So, I am going to do this review a bit different than usual.

Likes: I really liked the world building, the cover, and most of the story. I loved reading about the struggling islanders turned slaves and their conquerors, the Fjern. I am all about those powerful uprising stories and couldn’t wait to dig into this, especially because it takes place in a fantasy world where there they have certain krafts (AKA: powers/ abilities). The magic was really cool to read about too. I loved the added mystery/ plot twist that happens midway through the book.

Dislikes: Here’s the kicker… I HATED the MC. And the whole book is from her POV. She is in a position of power but she is a native islander. She thinks she is “helping” her people and she thinks she is a good person because she feels guilt for mistreating her SLAVES. That’s right. In her solo selfish life goal of vengeance against the Fjern for killing her family, she uses her own people to HER agenda. Killing them, betraying them, enslaving them, ordering them to have sex with her. It’s disgusting. She literally is no better than the Fjern. She’s a really awful person. At one point there was an innocent Fjern and she was hated just as much. She didn’t even do anything or think anything horrible (MC can read minds) and yet the MC was like, well you’re Fjern so you’re bad. Stupid. Another thing I disliked was the word ‘hate’ was literally used almost every. Single. Page. I get it. Sigourney hates them they hate her and her people hate her. You can still get your point across without using the same word over and over and over again.

Final Thoughts: I went into this book thinking it was going to be about a young woman who leads her people to an epic uprising. No. Not it. So, while I liked the ending quite a lot, I couldn’t rate it more than 2 stars purely for the word ‘hate’ every page and for the awful MC.

*Amazon link is my affiliate link*

*Sign is from Bookish Signs. Code: Lauren10 I loved the way it matched the book cover!*

Contagion (Contagion, #1) by Erin Bowman

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publication Date: July 24, 2018

Genre: Sci-fi, YA, Horror (using this loosely)

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

Perfect for fans of Madeleine Roux, Jonathan Maberry, and horror films like 28 Days Later and Resident Evil, this pulse-pounding, hair-raising, utterly terrifying novel is the first in a duology from the critically acclaimed author of the Taken trilogy.

After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken. “

I actually almost rated this higher BUT I don’t think this will ever be a reread for me. Another BUT, I freaking loved this book. It is like Alien + 28 Days Later. I want this to be a movie. I would watch the crap out of this. I read to be entertained and I was not disappointed.

Characters: This was told in multiple POV while still having basically two main characters. Thea is very analytical and practical. When they answer the distress signal she is like, um, no. But she has no choice since she is just an intern and has to listen to her bosses. She almost always keeps a clear head without being heartless. Coen is super mysterious. I can’t say much about him without giving spoilers, but he was super interesting to read about! Poor kid did everything he could to survive and save those around him. The secondary characters were all pretty well rounded out. You even feel for them at some points. Except Dylan. I HATED her.

Plot: Scientists who respond to a distress signal from a planet that’s basically blacklisted by the equivalent of the UN, is bound to turn out all right, right? They come across all of the secret base members dead. And yet they still search for what happened. Chaos ensues. People die, people live, the dead live, mysteries are solved, more mysteries happen, crazy escape plans go awry. Read this.

Final Thoughts: My heart was beating so fast at some points! I listened to this on audible and I could not stop listening. I would literally stare at nothing sometimes listening and zoning out within the story. It really sucks you in! I will definitely be reading the next one within the next few months!

*Book sleeve is from Love You More Studios! Use my code to save 10%! Code: Storied10 *

*Amazon link is my affiliate link*

*Usual warning of content: This is something I put on my blog for parents specifically. Just listing the different themes or topics represented in the book.*

CONTENT: Blood, gore, swearing, scary situations, dead people, death, violence, LGBTQ side characters, sacrifice, working hard to achieve your goals.

Shadowscent (Shadowscent, #1) by P. M. Freestone – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: November 05, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

” Across the Aramtesh Empire, scent is everything. Prayers only reach heaven on sacred incense, and perfumes are prized status symbols. 17-year-old Rakel has an uncanny ability with fragrances, but her skills aren’t enough to buy her dying father more time.

Ash bears the tattoos of an imperial bodyguard. When his prince, Nisai, insists on a diplomatic mission to an outer province, Ash is duty-bound to join the caravan. It’s a nightmare protecting Nisai on the road. But it’s even harder for Ash to conceal a secret that could see him exiled or executed.

Rakel and Ash have nothing in common until smoke draws them to a plantation of the Empire’s rarest flower. Nisai’s been poisoned, flames devour the priceless blooms, and the pair have “suspect” clinging to them like a bad stench. Their futures depend on them working together to decipher clues, defy dangers and defeat their own demons in a race to source an antidote . . . before the imperial army hunts them down. “

*Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

I honestly struggled between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I thought 3 because it was kind of easy to put it down. It wasn’t one where I was like, “I need to know what happens or I’ll die!” type of book. BUT when I was reading it, it was really unique and I really enjoyed it so I thought maybe 4 stars. So guess what, it ended up in the middle.

Characters. I really liked the characters. Rakel was a likable mix of wanting to save her family and being really stubborn. She was also kind of goofy which I liked. Ash was our brooding, tortured, love interest with a secret. It was a bit typical BUT I still liked it. They matched well together I think. And it was a slow burn so that was nice too. But then again it didn’t have a lot of tension or fire. It could have just as easily ended up being they were just good friends.

Plot/ World. I actually loved that the plot revolved around scents. This book was a candle makers dream. I loved that the author was so descriptive in what things smelled like. It made the book come more alive because of it. And the fact that your station could be higher because of your finer sense of smell and if you could make scents was so interesting! I also liked Ash’s secret. You could kind of see it coming but it was a bit bigger than I realized it was going to be. And I didn’t see a certain minor plot twist coming. I was looking in another direction, if that makes sense. I really enjoyed the adventure! Ash and Rakel go all up and down their lands looking for ingredients for a cure for the Prince! I liked the different trials they had to face to get each cure. There were also quite a few fantasy creatures in this book that I am all for!! Adventure at it’s finest!

Final Thoughts. Major cliff-hanger ending!! I definitely want to read book two and can’t wait to find out what happens to all of the characters! Also, if you are a cover-buyer, go ahead and add this to your list of must buys!

*Once Upon A Time sign is from Bookish Signs and More! Code: Lauren10 to save! I couldn’t resist putting this in my photo!*

*Amazon link is my affiliate link*

*Usual warning of content: This is something I put on my blog for parents specifically. Just putting the different themes or topics represented in the book.*

CONTENT: Mention of child abuse, abuse of the sick, their religion, drug abuse, mention of a couple characters being LGBTQ, forming strong relationships, sacrificing for what is right, strong mental health representation, death, disease, blood and gore.

Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blink

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Genre: YA, Thriller, Mystery

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.

Lia is the only one still pursuing her father’s killers, two years after attorney Steven Finch’s murder by the Swarm. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, Lia is the last person to mount a crusade on her own.

After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target. “

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

A book is always creepier if it is based (or even loosely based) on true events. Plus, this is perfect for fall, specifically right around Halloween time. It’s scary because of the fact that you could just be walking amidst strangers that all of the sudden converge and beat you to death. Yep. Terrifying.

Characters. I really liked that Lia had a disease (Asthma) as well as some serious panic attacks. The author did a really good job of replicating how the panic attacks feel, and how you are supposed to overcome them. Lia was hell-bent obsessed with catching these teen murderers. I don’t blame her. I didn’t really like the romance in this book though. It seemed a bit too quick. BUT I can see how being involved in something this tragic can quickly bring two people together, especially two teens trying to figure things out.

Plot. Like I said before, this was actually quite creepy! A death mob made up of hormonal messed up teens is super scary. I have a hard time with the whole cops are useless thing. I do believe that a lot of cops are bought off, and not all cops are good. HOWEVER, it did bother me that the possibility wasn’t even entertained that at least one cop would be willing to listen to Lia. Instead she gets the news anchor. Yeah, right. Pretty much all news stations and news anchors are pathological lairs, so… One thing I did like was the fact that the politicians were messed up. I really believe BOTH sides are so screwed up. They are all paid off and make deals they shouldn’t and they also lie all the time. I’m glad the author put that in there. I wanted a bit more on Cullen. He seemed like a deeper character!

Final Thoughts. It really was the perfect Fall read! I would definitely read more of Gabriel’s books! If you are looking for a quick thriller I highly suggest this! I also think this would be a good book club pick because of the different conversations this could spark!

What are some of your favorite thrillers? I hardly ever read them but like them when I do!