Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: One Thing Stolen

One Thing StolenAuthor: Beth Kephart
Series: Standalone
Released: April 14th 2015
Publisher: Chronicle
Length: 272 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she's become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination, and the salvation of love.

I was lucky enough to read two gorgeously written books in close succession, which is rare. The first was Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, and the second is Beth Kephart’s gorgeous new novel. In her new book, Kephart takes us straight to Florence to explore two natural disasters of very different proportions: one that did its best to ruin an entire city, and one that did the same to a very young girl.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Magonia

MagoniaAuthor: Maria D. Headley
Series: Unknown
Released: April 28th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 320 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Magonia

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. 
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Oh, Magonia, you strange, strange book, it’s going to take me months to decipher you.

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley has so many things going for it, I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s a book that simply refuses to be compared or classified; even determining its genre is proving to be impossible. It’s a delightful combination of science fiction, fantasy, and even dystopia, and it easily balances the three, never allowing one to overtake the others.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: Cold Burn of Magic

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1)Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Black Blade, #1
Released: April 28th 2015
Publisher: K-Teen
Length: 368 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

There Be Monsters Here. . .
It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power. 
I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick. 
But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .

Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in a new series by Jennifer Estep, author of Mythos Academy and the Elemental Assassin series. It brings us the exciting story of Lila Merriweather, a young orphaned girl with a very special kind of magic. Lila lives in a city where magic is part of everyday life, but only the privileged have it, rich families organized like the mafia.

Lila starts out as a thief, and a very skilled one at that, but soon she’s blackmailed into making a career change. Charged to protect a young man with special magic of his own, Lila has to turn everything upside down and make peace with the fact that her life expectancy isn’t what it used to be. To make matters worse, she actually likes the boy she has to protect, which makes maintaining emotional distance next to impossible.

I’ve seen someone call this Elemental Assassin lite and I wholeheartedly agree. But it’s only lite because it’s young adult, everything else is pretty much the same. Gin, Gwen and Lila are too similar for comfort, and they share more than a few personality traits, as well as abilities. It needs to be said, however, that Estep recipe works. It’s been tried many times and each time it produced a light, entertaining, albeit mostly forgettable book.

There’s very little romance in this book, which I feel very ambivalent about. On the one hand, it’s very refreshing to have a YA novel that’s focused on the plot and character development and doesn’t try to distract us with romance. In this case, however, there’s very little actual character development to speak of and the book would have benefited from at least some distraction, something to make us want to read the next one just a little bit faster. There is a hint of romantic interest likely to develop in the future, but for me, it just wasn’t enough.

Dark Heart of Magic will be released in October and I’m already excited to continue this journey with Lila and Devon. Even if it ends up being a bit repetitive, Estep’s books are, at the very least, reliably entertaining.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Audiobook Review: Raven Cursed

Raven Cursed (Jane Yellowrock, #4)Author: Faith Hunter
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Series: Jane Yellowrock, #4
Released: January 3rd 2012
Publisher: Audible
Length: 15 hrs and 8 mins
Buy: Audible

The vampires of Asheville, North Carolina, want to establish their own clan, but since they owe loyalty to the Master Vampire of New Orleans they must work out the terms with him. To come up with an equitable solution, he sends an envoy with the best bodyguard blood money can buy: Jane Yellowrock.
But when a group of local campers are attacked by something fanged, Jane goes from escort to investigator. Unless she wants to face a very angry master vampire, she will have to work overtime to find the killer. It's a good thing she's worth every penny.

I’m coming back to this series after a rather long break. Jane Yellowrock books are excellent urban fantasy, but Hunter seems incapable of settling on one romantic interest, which is why I chose to give up after three books, at least for a time. Now, with some emotional distance, I’m able to once again enjoy the worldbuilding and wonderful action without being overly annoyed by Jane’s romantic (non)choices.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Clash of Iron Blog Tour Review

Clash of Iron (Iron Age, #2)Author: Angus Watson
Series: Age of Iron, #2
Released: April 14th 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 560 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Iron Age warriors Dug and Lowa captured Maidun castle and freed its slaves. But now they must defend it.
A Roman invasion is coming from Gaul, but rather than uniting to defend their home, the British tribes go to battle with each other -- and see Maidun as an easy target.
Meanwhile, Lowa's spies infiltrate Gaul, discovering the Romans have recruited British druids. And Maidunite Ragnall finds his loyalties torn when he meets Rome's charismatic general, Julius Caesar.
War is coming. Who will pay its price?

Clash of Iron, the breathlessly awaited sequel to Angus Watson’s Age of Iron is finally here. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book ever since I finished Watson’s debut. When done right, historical fantasy is my favorite genre, and this author definitely knows what he’s doing. In Clash of Iron, he takes us one step further in exploring the British Iron Age, a period that gives him free reign and ample opportunities. Not much is known about that time, which gives Watson a lot of space to take the direction he chooses. We know, however, that Iron Age in Britain ended with Roman invasion, and that threat is at the forefront of our heroes’ minds in this book.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

LGBT Monday: Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass (Shattered Glass, #1)Author: Dani Alexander
Narrator: Joseph Northton
Series: Shattered Glass, #1
Published: April 4th 2014
Publisher: Dani Alexander
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
Buy: Audible

A male prostitute, a mangy cat, a murder, and an obsession that threatens his career, his impending marriage and his life...nothing is going as planned for Austin Glass.
Austin Glass seems to have it all: a loving fiancée, a future with the FBI, and a healthy-sized trust fund. At least on the surface. He also has a grin and a wisecrack for every situation. But the smile he presents to the world hides a painful past he’s buried too deeply to remember, and his quips mask bitterness and insecurity. Austin has himself and most of the whole world fooled - until he meets a redhead in a pair of bunny slippers.
As events unfold in the biggest case of his life, Austin’s carefully planned future unravels, and he finds himself pushed into making quick, life-changing decisions. But can he trust himself or anything he feels, when each event seems to be just a series of volatile reactions?

There are days when I need a serious book, days when I need to read something relaxing, and days when I need to be shaken to my very core. There are books that are appropriate for each of those days, but only one I can think of that’s appropriate for all of them. From a reader’s point of view, Shattered Glass is a dream come true.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: Festive In Death

Festive in Death (In Death, #39)Author: J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #39
Released: March 19th 2015
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 496 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

The kitchen knife jammed into his cold heart pinned a cardboard sign to his well-toned chest. It read: Santa Says You've Been Bad!!! Ho, Ho, Ho!
It's Christmas, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas is in no mood to celebrate. While her charismatic husband Roarke plans a huge, glittering party, Eve has murder on her mind.
The victim - personal trainer Trey Ziegler - was trouble in life and is causing even more problems in death. Vain, unfaithful and vindictive, Trey had cultivated a lot of enemies. Which means Eve has a lot of potential suspects. And when she and Detective Peabody uncover Trey's sinister secret, the case takes a deadly turn.
Christmas may be a festival of light, but Eve and Roarke will be forced once more down a very dark path in their hunt for the truth. 

I’ve been reading these slightly out of order, which I wouldn’t normally do, but J.D. Robb makes it very easy for me to enjoy them regardless of the number on the cover. In Death series is one of the most popular series in the world and with good reason. Just days ago, I sung Nora Roberts’ praises to all of you, and I still stand by my every word.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mini Review: Finding Mr. Brightside

Finding Mr. BrightsideAuthor: Jay Clark
Series: Standalone
Released: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Length: 224 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.
Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins. 

I went into this book with no small amount of trepidation. The book description seems to imply that there’s a lot of angst in this story, and I’m in no mood for it at all. However, I’ve been following Jay Clark on social media for quite a while now and angst doesn’t seem to be his thing, so I decided to give this book a chance after all. I was right about the angst part, at least.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Liar Blog Tour Review

The LiarAuthor: Nora Roberts
Series: Standalone
Published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 501 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

When her husband Richard dies in a freak accident, Shelby Pomeroy is devastated. But his death reveals a horrible truth - Richard was a liar and a cheat. Now Shelby is left with the consequences - huge, terrifying debts and mounting proof that her late husband betrayed her in every conceivable way.
Heart-broken but unbowed, Shelby is determined to fix her problems - if only for the sake of her gorgeous little daughter Callie. Returning home to Tennessee and the family she thought she'd lost for ever, she discovers a new sense of strength and freedom. And hope, too, in the handsome form of carpenter Griffin Lott - a straight-dealing man who couldn't lie to her if he tried.
But not everyone is thrilled to see Shelby Pomeroy back in town. And when a shocking act of violence is traced back to Richard's shady business, it becomes clear that she is not safe from him, even in death. With her life in danger, Shelby must face the lies of the past - or lose everything.

There’s a reason why Nora Roberts is indisputably one of the most popular writers in the world. Her experience is enormous and her self-assuredness is evident on every page. Calling her a skilled storyteller is a bit of an understatement. Roberts is much more than that, she is the queen of genre fiction and as such, she can do no wrong.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around UsAuthor: Nova Ren Suma
Series: Standalone
Relased: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin
Length: 336 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.
We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.
Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other. 

I’ve admired Nova Ren Suma deeply ever since she published her debut, Imaginary Girls. Her books aren’t easy reads and they could never be described as entertaining, but they are, as a rule, thought provoking and brilliantly written. There’s always such quiet beauty to her narratives, an unpretentious quality of her writing, very simplistic in nature but gorgeous beyond compare. Her style is far from being decorative or lush, but she still somehow creates an atmosphere that envelops the reader completely.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Prudence

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)Author: Gail Carriger
Series: The Custard Protocol
Released: March 19th 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 343 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Crumpet and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea.
But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones? 

Fans of Gail Carriger, do you remember that spark of delightful, outrageous humor that was there in Soulless, but seemed to have all but disappeared in later books? It was probably somewhere collecting interest because it’s back in full force in Prudence. This is Carriger’s best work since her debut, it’s fresh, full of adventure and has just enough romance to keep us glued to our reading chairs.

Monday, April 13, 2015

LGBT Monday: Carry the Ocean

Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt, #1)Author: Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Roosevelt, #1
Released: April 7th 2015
Publisher: Samhain
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

Normal is just a setting on the dryer. 
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.

Are we ready for a love story involving one brilliant but autistic boy and one boy with severe depression and clinical anxiety? Just days ago, I would have said an emphatic no because honestly, how would that even work? Right now, as I’m eating my third comfort cupcake and wiping happy tears from my eyes, I know exactly how: it works splendidly, beautifully, poignantly and amazingly. It’s challenging and often ridiculed, yes, but it works. My eternal gratitude to Heidi Cullinan for showing me that I was both blind and – forgive me for using the S word - stupid. We’ve been seeing more and more diversity in YA and NA books, which is absolutely wonderful, but positive representation of mental illness is another marvelous step further, and one not many dare to take.