The Seventh Sun (The Age of the Seventh Sun, #1) by Lani Forbes – Spoiler Free Review, Tour, & Giveaway

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Buy Links: Blackstone’s Website | Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

“Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.”

*Thank you so much to MTMC Tours for having me on the tour!

Here is my aesthetic I made for the book!

This book surprised me for some reason. I mean, it sounded interesting, and I thought I was going to like it, I just didn’t realize how much! Like, I actually stayed up late reading this and couldn’t put it down! I also figured something out, I really like the whole chosen bride competition thing. I don’t even know what to call that, but I like it.

I normally don’t like insta-love type thing but Forbes actually did it really well. I think Mayana and Prince Ahkin had to fall in love quickly because, you know, the whole death thing. And they were on a bit of a time crunch. It fit and made sense with the book. And they clicked really well and had great chemistry!

I loved the descriptions of the lush landscape that was their home. It sounded so incredibly beautiful mixed with their magic. It was so earthy and I definitely wanted to visit that book world! Forbes has beautiful writing! She’s also quite funny. There were quite a few times where I laughed out loud.

I really clicked with Mayana. She was relatable. She had sincere compassion but that didn’t make her weak. It made her stronger. She still stood up for what she believed in but in a respectful way. I liked that. I felt for her when she had to put up with the other girls (Zorrah) crazy antics, and when she made friends with a couple of the others that were doomed to die. She still tried to find a way to save them all, even thought they wouldn’t have done the same.

Prince Ahkin was a strong male lead. He was a great warrior, smart, and gentle when it came to Mayana or his sister. He and Mayana complimented each other. He thought with his head while she with her heart. He always suspected something was off about their crazy rituals, but it took Mayana to help him see that I think.

The ending! Oh my gosh! Don’t worry, no spoilers, but I was super worried and then it got better and then I was worried again. But hopeful. Man, that’s hard without spoilers!

I can’t wait for the second book!

Lani Forbes is the daughter of a librarian and an ex-drug smuggling surfer, which explains her passionate love of the ocean and books. A California native whose parents live in Mexico, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest where she stubbornly wears flip flops no matter how cold it gets. She teaches middle school math and science and proudly calls herself a nerd and Gryffindor. She is also an award-winning member of Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram 

INTL Tour-Wide Giveaway on Instagram!

Head over to my Instagram account where TWO readers will win:
A hardcover copy of THE SEVENTH SUN!
(And don’t miss out the rest of the tour stops to get more chances to win!!!)

Tour Schedule:

February 17
@thereaderandthechef – Bookstagram + Blog

February 18
@throneofshatteredbooks – Bookstagram

February 19
@reverieandink – Bookstagram

February 20
@paperfury – Bookstagram 

February 21
@storied.adventures – Bookstagram + Blog

February 22
@libraryinthecountry – Bookstagram

February 23
@exquisitepages – Bookstagram + Blog

February 24
@giota_the_reader – Bookstagram

February 25
@myhoneyreads – Bookstagram + Blog

February 26
@the.magicalpages – Bookstagram

Hosted by:

Let’s discuss! Since this one is based on Mayan/ Aztec culture, what is your favorite culture to read about in books?

The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet – Feature & Excerpt

Publisher: Mira

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Buy Links: Oblong Books: Signed, personalized preorders! | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Powell’s | Apple Books | IndieBound

I am so excited to feature and post an excerpt of this gorgeous book! I am drooling over this cover! It sounds absolutely magical and I can’t wait to read it!

“A penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride…

The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to her survival… and possibly her undoing.

As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban – a lord as mighty as he is cruel – has his own plans for her, for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah… The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.

An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.”

Prologue

On the third day of the convocation, two of the Slonimi scouts killed a calf, and the herbalist’s boy wept because he’d watched the calf being born and grown to love it. His
mother stroked his hair and promised he would forget by the time the feast came, the following night. He told her he would never forget. She said, “Just wait.”

He spent all of the next day playing with the children from the other caravan; three days before, they’d all been strangers, but Slonimi children were used to making friends quickly. The group the boy and his mother traveled with had come across the desert to the south, and they found the cool air of the rocky plain a relief from the heat. The others had come from the grassy plains farther west, and were used to milder weather. While the adults traded news and maps and equipment, the children ran wild. Only one boy, from the other caravan, didn’t run or play: a pale boy, with fine features, who followed by habit a few feet behind one of the older women from the other caravan. “Derie’s apprentice,” the other children told him, and shrugged, as if there was nothing more to say. The older woman was the other group’s best Worker, with dark hair going to grizzle and gimlet eyes. Every time she appeared the herbalist suddenly remembered an herb her son needed to help her prepare, or something in their wagon that needed cleaning. The boy was observant, and clever, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that his mother was trying to keep him away from the older woman: she, who had always demanded he face everything head-on, who had no patience for what she called squeamishness and megrims.

After a hard day of play over the rocks and dry, grayish grass, the boy was starving. A cold wind blew down over the rocky plain from the never-melting snow that topped the high peaks of the Barriers to the east; the bonfire was warm. The meat smelled good. The boy had not forgotten the calf but when his mother brought him meat and roasted potatoes and soft pan bread on a plate, he did not think of him. Gerta—the head driver of the boy’s caravan—had spent the last three days with the other head driver, poring over bloodline records to figure out who between their two groups might be well matched for breeding, and as soon as everybody had a plate of food in front of them they announced the results. The adults and older teenagers seemed to find this all fascinating. The herbalist’s boy was nine years old and he didn’t understand the fuss. He knew how it went: the matched pairs would travel together until a child was on the way, and then most likely never see each other again. Sometimes they liked each other, sometimes they didn’t. That, his mother had told him, was what brandy was for.

The Slonimi caravans kept to well-defined territories, and any time two caravans met there was feasting and trading and music and matching, but this was no ordinary meeting, and both sides knew it. After everyone had eaten their fill, a few bottles were passed. Someone had a set of pipes and someone else had a sitar, but after a song or two, nobody wanted any more music. Gerta—who was older than the other driver—stood up. She was tall and strong, with ropy, muscular limbs. “Well,” she said, “let’s see them.”

In the back, the herbalist slid an arm around her son. He squirmed under the attention but bore it.

From opposite sides of the fire, a young man and a young woman were produced. The young man, Tobin, had been traveling with Gerta’s people for years. He was smart but not unkind, but the herbalist’s son thought him aloof. With good reason, maybe; Tobin’s power was so strong that being near him made the hair on the back of the boy’s neck stand up. Unlike all the other Workers—who were always champing at the bit to get a chance to show off—Tobin was secretive about his skills. He shared a wagon with Tash, Gerta’s best Worker, even though the two men didn’t seem particularly friendly with each other. More than once the boy had glimpsed their lantern burning late into the night, long after the main fire was embers.

The young woman had come across the plains with the others. The boy had seen her a few times; she was small, round, and pleasant-enough looking. She didn’t strike the boy as particularly remarkable. But when she came forward, the other caravan’s best Worker—the woman named Derie—came with her. Tash stood up when Tobin did, and when they all stood in front of Gerta, the caravan driver looked from one of them to the other. “Tash and Derie,” she said, “you’re sure?”

“Already decided, and by smarter heads than yours,” the gimlet-eyed woman snapped.

Tash, who wasn’t much of a talker, merely said, “Sure.”

Gerta looked back at the couple. For couple they were; the boy could see the strings tied round each wrist, to show they’d already been matched. “Hard to believe,” she said. “But I know it’s true. I can feel it down my spine. Quite a legacy you two carry; five generations’ worth, ever since mad old Martin bound up the power in the world. Five generations of working and planning and plotting and hoping; that’s the legacy you two carry.” The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “No pressure.”

A faint ripple of mirth ran through the listeners around the fire. “Nothing to joke about, Gerta,” Derie said, lofty and hard, and Gerta nodded.

“I know it. They just seem so damn young, that’s all.” The driver sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s a momentous occasion. We’ve come here to see the two of you off, and we send with you the hopes of all the Slonimi, all the Workers of all of our lines, back to the great John Slonim himself, whose plan this was. His blood runs in both of you. It’s strong and good and when we put it up against what’s left of Martin’s, we’re bound to prevail, and the world will be free.”

“What’ll we do with ourselves then, Gert?” someone called out from the darkness, and this time the laughter was a full burst, loud and relieved.

Gerta smiled. “Teach the rest of humanity how to use the power, that’s what we’ll do. Except you, Fausto. You can clean up after the horses.”

More laughter. Gerta let it run out, and then turned to the girl.

“Maia,” she said, serious once more. “I know Derie’s been drilling this into you since you were knee-high, but once you’re carrying, the clock is ticking. Got to be inside, at the end.”

“I know,” Maia said.

Gerta scanned the crowd. “Caterina? Cat, where are you?”

Next to the boy, the herbalist cleared her throat. “Here, Gerta.”

Gerta found her, nodded, and turned back to Maia. “Our Cat’s the best healer the Slonimi have. Go see her before you set out. If you’ve caught already, she’ll know. If you haven’t, she’ll know how to help.”

“It’s only been three days,” Tobin said, sounding slighted.

“Nothing against you, Tobe,” Gerta said. “Nature does what it will. Sometimes it takes a while.”

“Not this time,” Maia said calmly.

A murmur ran through the crowd. Derie sat up bolt-straight, her lips pressed together. “You think so?” Gerta said, matching Maia’s tone—although nobody was calm, even the boy could feel the sudden excited tension around the bonfire.

“I know so,” Maia said, laying a hand on her stomach. “I can feel her.”

The tension exploded in a mighty cheer. Instantly, Tobin wiped the sulk off his face and replaced it with pride. The boy leaned into his mother and whispered, under the roar, “Isn’t it too soon to tell?”

“For most women, far too soon, by a good ten days. For Maia?” Caterina sounded as if she were talking to herself, as much as to her son. The boy felt her arm tighten around him. “If she says there’s a baby, there’s a baby.”

After that the adults got drunk. Maia and Tobin slipped away early. Caterina knew a scout from the other group, a man named Sadao, and watching the two of them dancing together, the boy decided to make himself scarce. Tash would have an empty bunk, now that Tobin was gone, and he never brought women home. He’d probably share. If not, there would be a bed somewhere. There always was.

In the morning, the boy found Caterina by the fire, only slightly bleary, and brewing a kettle of strong-smelling tea. Her best hangover cure, she told her son. He took out his notebook and asked what was in it. Ginger, she told him, and willowbark, and a few other things; he wrote them all down carefully. Labeled the page. Caterina’s Hangover Cure.

Then he looked up to find the old woman from the bonfire, Derie, listening with shrewd, narrow eyes. Behind her hovered her apprentice, the pale boy, who this morning had a bruised cheek. “Charles, go fetch my satchel,” she said to him, and he scurried away. To Caterina, Derie said, “Your boy’s conscientious.”

“He learns quickly,” Caterina said, and maybe she just hadn’t had enough hangover tea yet, but the boy thought she sounded wary.

“And fair skinned,” Derie said. “Who’s his father?”

“Jasper Arasgain.”

Derie nodded. “Travels with Afia’s caravan, doesn’t he? Solid man.”

Caterina shrugged. The boy had only met his father a few times. He knew Caterina found Jasper boring.

“Healer’s a good trade. Everywhere needs healers.” Derie paused. “A healer could find his way in anywhere, I’d say. And with that skin—”

The boy noticed Gerta nearby, listening. Her own skin was black as obsidian. “Say what you’re thinking, Derie,” the driver said.

“Highfall,” the old woman said, and immediately, Caterina said, “No.”

“It’d be a great honor for him, Cat,” Gerta said. The boy thought he detected a hint of reluctance in Gerta’s voice.

“Has he done his first Work yet?” Derie said.

Caterina’s lips pressed together. “Not yet.”

Charles, the bruised boy, reappeared with Derie’s satchel.

“We’ll soon change that,” the old woman said, taking the satchel without a word and rooting through until she found a small leather case. Inside was a small knife, silver-colored but without the sheen of real silver.

The boy noticed his own heartbeat, hard hollow thuds in his chest. He glanced at his mother. She looked unhappy, her brow furrowed. But she said nothing.

“Come here, boy,” Derie said.

He sneaked another look at his mother, who still said nothing, and went to stand next to the woman. “Give me your arm,” she said, and he did. She held his wrist with a hand that was both soft and hard at the same time. Her eyes were the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.

“It’s polite to ask permission before you do this,” she told him. “Not always possible, but polite. I need to see what’s in you, so if you say no, I’ll probably still cut you, but—do I have your permission?”

Behind Derie, Gerta nodded. The bruised boy watched curiously.

“Yes,” the boy said.

“Good,” Derie said. She made a quick, confident cut in the ball of her thumb, made an identical cut in his small hand, quickly drew their two sigils on her skin in the blood, and pressed the cuts together.

The world unfolded. But unfolded was too neat a word, too tidy. This was like when he’d gone wading in the western sea and been knocked off his feet, snatched underwater, tossed in a maelstrom of sand and sun and green water and foam—but this time it wasn’t merely sand and sun and water and foam that swirled around him, it was everything. All of existence, all that had ever been, all that would ever be. His mother was there, bright and hot as the bonfire the night before—not her face or her voice but the Caterina of her, her very essence rendered into flame and warmth.

But most of what he felt was Derie. Derie, immense and powerful and fierce: Derie, reaching into him, unfolding him as surely as she’d unfolded the world. And this was neat and tidy, methodical, almost cold. She unpacked him like a trunk, explored him like a new village. She sought out his secret corners and dark places. When he felt her approval, he thrilled. When he felt her contempt, he trembled. And everywhere she went she left a trace of herself behind like a scent, like the chalk marks the Slonimi sometimes left for each other. Her sigil was hard-edged, multi-cornered. It was everywhere. There was no part of him where it wasn’t.

Then it was over, and he was kneeling by the campfire, throwing up. Caterina was next to him, making soothing noises as she wrapped a cloth around his hand. He leaned against her, weak and grateful.

“It’s all right, my love,” she whispered in his ear, and the nervousness was gone. Now she sounded proud, and sad, and as if she might be crying. “You did well.”

He closed his eyes and saw, on the inside of his eyelids, the woman’s hard, angular sigil, burning like a horse brand.

“Don’t coddle him,” Derie said, and her voice reached through him, back into the places inside him where she’d left her mark. Caterina’s arm dropped away. He forced himself to open his eyes and stand up. His entire body hurt. Derie was watching him, calculating but—yes—pleased. “Well, boy,” she said. “You’ll never be anyone’s best Worker, but you’re malleable, and you’ve got the right look. There’s enough power in you to be of use, once you’re taught to use it. You want to learn?”

“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.

“Good,” she said. “Then you’re my apprentice now, as much as your mother’s. You’ll still learn herbs from your mother, so we’ll join our wagon to your group. But don’t expect the kisses and cuddles from me you get from her. For me, you’ll work hard and you’ll learn hard and maybe someday you’ll be worthy of the knowledge I’ll pass on to you. Say, Yes, Derie.”

“Yes, Derie,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot to learn,” she said. “Go with Charles. He’ll show you where you sleep.”

He hesitated, looked at his mother, because it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be leaving her. Suddenly, swiftly, Derie kicked hard at his leg. He yelped and jumped out of the way. Behind her he saw Charles—he of the bruised face—wince, unsurprised but not unsympathetic.

“Don’t ever make me ask you anything twice,” she said.

“Yes, Derie,” he said, and ran.

Excerpted from The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet. Copyright © 2020 by Kelly Braffet. Published by MIRA Books.

Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.kellybraffet.com/

Facebook: @kellybraffetfiction

Let’s talk! What is a gorgeous-ly written book that you love?

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace – Book Tour and Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: February 04, 2020

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads | Amazon

“Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder—and more peril—than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

*Thank you so much to Imprint for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and having me on the blog tour!*

Oh dang that was a good read! Very adventurous. Pirates, mermaids/ sirens, magic, adventure, a runaway princess, monster fights, action. Everything I love in a book. It did remind me ever so slightly of Caraval BUT only in the descriptions of things. Not plot. And along the lines of Velaris in description.

Let’s talk characters! Amora was great fun to read from her POV. She was sassy, flawed, and strong. She loves her people and would do anything to save them. She is battling her magic as well as others who want to destroy her kingdom. Loved her. Okay, BASTIAN. I really could not help but picture him as Killian Jones from Once Upon a Time. Minus the hook. But with plenty of secrets. The side characters were also great fun. Vataea and Ferrick hold their own. (Side note: Sorry not sorry, I totally ship them.) Ahem, moving on. Vataea is a beast. I want more of her story! And Ferrick is the cinnamon roll character. So sweet!

This book had GRAND adventure! They sail across the sea to find a way to help Amora save her kingdom. There is an epic beast fight, a daring rescue, and a bit of a cliff hanger that makes me need the next book, like, yesterday. I love seeing the different magics played out. Although there are many different kinds of magic, I couldn’t help but think a tiny bit of Avatar: The Last Airbender type of thing going on. Which I was all about. I need this to be a movie. It would be epic.

I loved the writing. It was so beautifully descriptive. Adalyn Grace and this series are definitely ones to watch out for. I can see this becoming a big hit series.

Some favorite quotes:

“The world doesn’t work with only your eyes, Princess. There’s truth in more than what you can see.”

“Fear is part of life; all that matters is what we do with it.”

Let’s talk! Tell me your favorite pirate/ sea adventure movies, shows, books!

Wardens of Eternity (#1) by Courtney Allison Moulton – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blink

Publication Date: January 21, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Mythology

Goodreads | Amazon

“Ziva Ellison has one memory of her parents, made the day they abandoned her on the streets of New York City when she was three years old. They left her with only a memory and a promise that she had a great and terrible destiny.

Fifteen years later, Ziva discovers that destiny includes powers that she doesn’t understand and can barely control. Her magic attracts vicious, otherworldly monsters, and eventually compatriots to help her fight them. Sayer and Nasira know the secrets Ziva doesn’t; that Ziva is descended from Egyptian royalty and in possession of ancient magic passed down from the time of the gods. They promise to teach Ziva to control her magic and to give her the family she’s always yearned for.

But trouble is brewing in the world around them; darkness is descending on Hitler’s Germany, threatening World War II. As the last heir of a revered Egyptian queen, Ziva is the only one with the power to prevent another costly global conflict. As Ziva navigates her newfound abilities and makes a connection with Anubis and other Egyptian gods, the Nazis are hunting for the ultimate weapon, and Ziva has caught their interest.

From Courtney Allison Moulton, author of the acclaimed Angelfire series, comes Wardens of Eternity, an action-packed page-turner that blends history, mythology, and magic, perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Kiersten White.”

*Thank you so much to Blink for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review and for TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour!*

First of all, I am trying to spice up my blog a bit and try new things with my reviews. So, I put together a mini mood board for Wardens of Eternity! Please let me know if this is something you like or do not generally like!

I loved the Egyptian mythology. It did give me Percy Jackson vibes but for an older audience, I think. I really liked the historical, 1940s, plot. Finding the tombs of Nefertari, and other archaeological finds and learning about them was so interesting! Especially with the added plot point of the second world war.

Ziva has these powers and background that she doesn’t understand. I love that she finds her family in the Medjai people. She has this awesome lineage that makes her Egyptian royalty. How freaking cool! So, she is like, one of the most powerful of her people and retains knowledge like nobody’s business. And Sayer! Oh, sweet Sayer. I love his personality. He can kick some butt and then be the nicest guy ever. And Nasira is so sassy, I love it. I also love the side characters! I would love a book from Anubis’ POV!

I really enjoyed the plot. They are running around on this grand adventure trying to find the body parts of Queen Nefertari, to bring her back to life. All the while dodging WWII and fighting gods who don’t want Nefertari to be reborn. There are some crazy fight scenes! Plus some plot twists that I was like, WHAAAAAT?!

The only thing I didn’t really like is the fact that it was mentioned a lot that Egypt was being victimized. And how horrible they had it. Which, I understand, BUT Egypt (nor any other country) is not perfect. Egypt also enslaved and killed people. They did to other countries what the book was saying was so horrible being done to Egypt… Also when they were saying how the archaeologists were taking their artifacts, which again I completely understand, BUT their own government was letting it happen…

Okay, I really enjoyed this book and the mythology! It was so interesting! I am definitely interested in the next book! Talk about a cliff hanger!

What mythology is your favorite?

Renegades (Renegades, #1) by Marissa Meyer – Spoiler Free Review

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Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: November 07, 2017

Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads |Amazon

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.”

I LOVED this book. This month was my pick for one of my book clubs and I chose this one because I’ve been dying to read it since it came out! Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read her The Lunar Chronicles series, you should. I love the way she retells classic themes! Including super heroes and villains!

Okay, this is going to sound crazy, but if you liked the Amazon show, The Boys, you *might* like this series. This series is just WAY cleaner. I mean, it’s target audience is teens, so, yeah.

Moving on. I loved the two main characters. Their banter and interactions are swoon worthy. Nova has been training her whole life to take down heroes. She has ninja skills as well as the ability to put people to sleep. So cool! I feel for her though. Her back story is really sad. And she was taken in by villains who are filled with some morally gray characters as well as classic manipulative villains. She’s filled with confidence and sass and I love it. It matches Adrian’s sweet disposition. He is a pretty classic hero type. He just wants to genuinely help people. He is a total cinnamon roll. But he has some awesome fighting skills too.

Random thoughts: The action is INTENSE sometimes! I couldn’t tell who was going to die or be hurt or what! I love that Nova and Adrian’s relationship is both enemies to lovers as well as forbidden romance. They don’t know each other’s secret identities which makes for some hilarious moments. I also loved the side characters on their team! Ruby is so freaking cool. She can make crystallized weapons out of her blood. Like, what?!

I love how you actually can’t tell who is all good and who is all bad. Just like in real life, every side has bad guys and good guys. It’s just weeding them out that’s hard!

That plot twist ending killed me though. WHAT?!

Let’s talk! Have you read this series? What other Super Hero books do you love?

*Mini sign is from Bookish Signs. Coupon code: Lauren10

*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, death, death of a parent, grief, Adrian has same sex parents, finding out who is good and bad, loyalty, thinking for yourself, fighting scenes

Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost, #1) by Coco Ma – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Publication Date: October 01, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned.


When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.

To kill it.

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-arc through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

I have been a little back and forth on YA Fantasy lately but THIS one, THIS one is what I love about YA Fantasy!

Characters: Told by multiple POV, I think Asterin’s is actually my favorite. Asterin is the princess with a rare powerful ability. She is sassy, sweet, skillful, and a bit naive but in a cute way. I liked the mix of Quinlan’s personality of shy but also knows what he wants. He has a tortured past that is sure to have everyone feeling for him. He is one of the things that Asterin is naive about for a long time! They have really good chemistry and I can’t wait to see more! I also really enjoyed the other characters. They all held their own stories really well. They were also unique enough in the personalities that I didn’t get bored.

Plot/ World. I’ll make my list of plot points again, because, how can you not love this plot?! Princess with a rare ability, powerful friends, a love interest with a tortured past, a shadow demon that is massacring people, an epic quest, and some surprises along the way. I loved the added plot point of her and her mom’s relationship. It was complicated. It is rare for an author to write about a parent/ child relationship that is in a grey area of both love and a bit of abuse. I find it very interesting! I loved the elemental magic system that Ma writes. It still has a price, but it’s very powerful. I like that she has 10 elements that different people can control with a select few being able to control all of them. She does a really good job of writing her own unique world for us to adventure in!

Writing. This is Coco Ma’s first book and she’s in her young 20’s?! She has a GREAT career ahead of her. Absolutely wonderful writing. It was descriptive without being overly so. I never got lost, nor did I ever get bored!

Final Thoughts. I need the second book like, yesterday. I am super invested in this story. I would definitely recommend this to pretty much everyone I know who like YA Fantasy. I see this being a favorite for sure!

I don’t usually do this BUT if you liked Roar, Air Awakens, or Furyborn, I really think you would love this book!

The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blink

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

” In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world. “

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

I had so much fun reading this! It was a short read (for me) and it read like a light meal. Something that isn’t heavy but you keep coming back to because it’s just good. This might be weird, but I’m going to go ahead and say it’s like Angel Food Cake. Am I crazy?

Characters. Etta was FLAWED y’all. No Mary Sue here! We begin her adventure watching her deal with a huge mistake that cost multiple lives. As she struggles with the choices she has made, we see her grow into someone who accepts those choices and does her best to rectify them. Beautiful character growth. I LOVE adventures with forgiveness in them. It’s not written about often!

Plot. This was pretty unique! Memories are this world’s currency. You buy, sell, or steal memories in order to get skills you didn’t have before, or watch a precious memory that belonged to someone else, or have a memory that is torture. It is really interesting to watch play out. For Etta to have a memory power, it comes at a great cost. They can use these powers for great things or terrible things. Plus, add in a crazed ruler that needs to be over thrown, and you’ve got yourself a mind battle. Then you have a little romance, adventure, and some twists. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Writing. This is Mansy’s first book and I thought it was well done! She doesn’t write deeply or to the point where your heart is moved, BUT she keeps you interested and never lost.

Final Thoughts. It was good! I would really recommend this to maybe younger teenagers. This would have been my bread and butter at thirteen! (Side note, I must be hungry while writing this?)

What are some unique aspects in books you like to read about?

*Book Sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: STORIED10 for 10% off!

Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1) by Mara Rutherford – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie. “

I have things I liked and things I didn’t really like, however the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like (How’s that for a sentence). The things I didn’t like are more plot points than anything else, so I will talk about it there.

Characters. I actually found all of the characters really enjoyable to read about! Nor was headstrong and loves her sister fiercely. I don’t have sisters, but I know I would do anything for my brothers. Nor also has some awesome healing abilities that I so wish were real! She also stood up to what was wrong in her society and what was wrong in the larger kingdom. Talin was also likable. He has some hard core secrets of his own that shapes how he lives his life. Ceren. Oh boy. It’s very clear that something is wrong in his mind. He honestly doesn’t understand that most of the things he does is extremely creepy. Like baking bats in a pie. Gross. He is a pretty messed up prince/ bad guy.

Writing. Loved the writing. Pretty straight forward. I never got lost or anything.

World Building. Rutherford’s world seems really interesting! I would love to get more details on the other kingdoms! The geography makes sense and of course I love the whole little village world in the ocean.

Plot. Here are the things I loved: The water! I am part Polynesian and my love for water knows no bounds. Where Nor and Zadie live is my dream. In a small house, on stilts, in the ocean. And they swim or take their boat to their neighbors house or the market. I also loved the author’s take on healing properties of water. I don’t personally believe water itself can heal you, but I honestly feel better when I am in water. I also liked the plot line of how their village was being threatened by the kingdom that “owns” them. And Nor sets out to fix things.

Didn’t like: There were no plot twists. What you see is what you get. Also, the romance. While I like those two characters together, it was too insta-lovey for my tastes.

Final Thoughts. Again, the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like! My water loving soul loved this take on the ocean! It was a really FUN read. And it looks like there is a sequel so I will definitely be reading that!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, sexual situations, violence, self harm (even if the character does it for “a good reason”), some disturbing situations (one character drinks blood and he siphons blood), death

OTHER CONTENT: Strong sibling bond, strong female POV, dealing with a harsh parent, beauty is not all that matters (and doesn’t have to matter)

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

*Book sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: Storied10 to save!*

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: September 03, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. “

*Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review!*

I really had fun reading this book! And let’s be honest here, that’s really why I read, to have a good time. I was caught up in this story right away. Literally from the first page I was like the Kool-Aid Man going, “OH YEAH”! However, towards the end it kind of lacked it’s shine. Books are usually the other way around for me. It takes me awhile to get into them and then the ending has me wow’d.

Characters: Theodora was actually pretty funny. She was cleverly sarcastic, believable in her actions, and fun to read about. I LOVED her sense of adventure. She was a “damn the consequences” type of gal. She was a dreamer. Huck, was the opposite. Poor guy was dragged along to her wild adventurous ways (even though he kind of liked it). He was also very practical which was a good balance. He was also very charming. They had good chemistry also, and I liked that they had a deep history before the story started. You don’t see that too often.

Plot. Like I said, the plot pulled me in from the get-go. I was all about that Vlad life, you know? And not Bram Stoker’s Vlad but historical Vlad. I find him extremely interesting. I also liked the creative direction the author took for his story! The historical part was actually pretty rich and deep considering it was a shorter book! BUT I feel like more could have been done. It felt almost too magical realism rather than fantasy. The fantasy element only came into play maybe the last 50 pages or so? I felt as though more could have been done with the magic and the surprise element at the end.

Writing. I can understand why so many people are Jenn Bennett fans! She’s actually quite funny! She is clever and a bit mysterious in her writing. I will definitely be reading her other works!

Final Thoughts. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes just a taste of magical horror. Vlad is a very interested historical figure to read about and books like these might help teens to get interested in history. As an adult, if you are looking for a short, fun read, check it out!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, talk of sex, mild swearing, death, gore, blood, the general history of Vlad is extremely violent.

OTHER CONTENT: Family is extremely important, helping those that are in need, strong female lead, following your convictions, towards the end, promoting healthy communication

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Do you like Vlad (pretty sure I’ve said ‘Vlad’ too many times in this review) the Impaler retellings? What are your favorites?

Finale (Caraval, #3) by Stephanie Garber – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

| Amazon

” A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end… “

Oh, buddy was this a ride! I loved it. It was pure magic, a unique tale, and just all around beautiful. Garber seriously uses all five of her senses when she imagines her world and she articulates it perfectly. At any given point I could almost close my eyes and feel like it was real. This book has some of my favorite descriptions ever. From the dresses made of magic butterflies to the color of different emotions. Magic. I will read and buy anything this woman writes.

Characters. I guess this would be spoiler-ish if you haven’t read any of the books. But I really liked Tella’s chapters a little bit better in terms of adventure. But in terms of a good message, I think Scarlett takes the cake. I’m a sucker for true love, love conquers all, love is magic, type of stories. I actually truly believe that even in our world. Julian, Legend, and yes, even Jacks were very swoon worthy to read about. For awhile at least. They all had their faults (Jacks especially, whoops). Julian loves without abandon. I’ve always liked him. Legend fights it. And Jacks… confuses love with lust and obsession.

World. The world builing… I don’t even know how to explain it. This is one of the few worlds where I want this to be real so, SO badly. This world is right up there for me with Narnia and Middle Earth. (Woah, Lauren, slow your roll, do you even know what you are saying?!) Yes, the world, my fine friend, not necessarily the book.

Final Thoughts. The ONLY thing I didn’t really like was that part of the ending felt rushed somehow. It’s hard to explain without spoilers!

I’m just so obsessed with this series!

I want more! And if you’ve read this you know Garber left a certain story line slightly open ended!

Going to be totally honest, I originally wrote out a very long review and realized that it was going to be a TLDR review. I just had a lot to say.

I want to know if you liked it! And if you didn’t, I want to know that too!

Notes: Playing cards are from Owlcrate, Book Sleeve from Love You More Studio Code: StoriedAdventures10 to save some money!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Lots of kissing, sexual talk, sexual situations, violence, death, killing, lying, stealing

OTHER CONTENT: Love is the most powerful force of all, forgiveness, friendship, healthy sibling relationship, sacrifice, healthy relationships, persevering.