ARC Review: Ace of Shades

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

 

I have no doubt that most of you have heard of this upcoming magical adventure full of mystery, dark secrets, betrayal, and a hint of romance? This was everything I thought it would be and so much more.

Short recap: Enne travels to the city of New Reynes, aka City of Sin, to find her missing mom with only a very short note to guide her. This note tells her who to contact if she needs help – Levi. Enne was raised to be a proper young woman so traveling to the City of Sin scares her half to death, but her need to find her mom is greater than her fear. What Enne and her new companion, Levi, discover along the way will absolutely change the course of history for everyone within New Reynes.

I went into this with a bit of hesitancy only because I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. Sure, fantasy books are always an adventure but not all are done well. THIS BOOK WAS DONE WELL. It was so well done that I was hooked from the start. There is a lot of history throughout the book so thankfully I was able to follow along with no problems. I loved reading the imaginative history Foody developed for this complex story. The idea of having a magical gift and then a split talent was fascinating. I had to wonder what my talents would be… Would I be a Salta dancer or perhaps something more uncommon, like an acrobat or a blood gazer? So many options! Brilliant! All of this together along with Foody’s ability to create a truly unique world made this setting marvelous. With ever turn of phrase I swear I could picture myself walking down Sweetie Street or into one of the many casinos. The amount of detail  that went into this story blew my mind. I never would have dreamed of using volts as currency, how they were made, or how they can be used against someone. Mind blowing. Those types of details really pulled the story together to make one phenomenal adventure.

Along with the setting, the characters are the other integral part of this story. Enne and Levi were amazing yet wonderfully flawed. As mentioned, Enne was raised to be a proper young lady who knew what was expected of her. She had that at the front of her mind at all times. She knew that being in the City of Sin was unbecoming of a young lady but knew she had a bigger mission and was willing to set all of that aside. Her character arc was something to behold. I loved her progression and how she grew, never backing down from danger. She was strong enough to face everything head on, yet always gave herself some quiet time to either have a good cry or silently reflect. Brilliant. Levi was just as great. If I could claim him as my book boyfriend now, I’d like to do that. (Are you reading that, Amanda? I’d like to claim him!) The secrets that boy carried, oh my! It was as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders daily, but his people never knew because he was good enough to not show it. As Iron Lord he could not ever show signs of weakness. It made me adore him even more. He was strong when he needed to be, and showed just the right amount of kindness. Amazing.

I have touched on the overall topic of the story – Enne travels to the City of Sin to find her missing mother, only to uncover a mound of buried secrets that will change her fate forever – but I did not expect it to be as good as it was. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean that in the best possible way. It pacing, the reveals, the adventure kept me turning pages long past my bed time. I could not get enough of this and desperately need book 2.

I will be singing the praises of Ace of Shades for a long time. If you are looking for a stunning novel full of dangerous secrets, savage magic, and non-stop action, you need this book in your life.  You will fall for the characters, be swept away in the imagery of the setting, and be captivated by magic. I hope you already have this on your TBR or have it pre-ordered. You do not want to miss out on this fantastic read.

 

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ARC Review: Defy the Worlds

Defy the Worlds (Constellation, #2)

 

I thought I was ready for the sequel to Defy the Stars but alas, I was not. This surpassed all of my expectations and made me fall more in love with Noemi and Abel.

This story picks up six months after the end of the first book. Noemi is back on Genesis and Abel is free traveling through space. These two cannot stop thinking about one another no matter how hard they try. While they are trying to move on with their lives, fate has other things in store for them. They will be brought back together to, once again, fight to save the entire universe. They will face death-defying space battles, horrible villains, and sinister plans. What Gray gave us in this story went a step further than what she gave us in the first book. Buckle up, this was a wild ride that you won’t soon forget.

The characters were one of the biggest things that kept me turning the pages long past my bed time. Separately, Abel and Noemi were still very strong characters but together they were pure magic. Abel’s character continued to astound me because he grew so much. His development arc was brilliant to witness. Sure, he was a mech but that never defined who he was. He had a soul and that made him different. He was always doing things to better everyone else and never thinking about himself. He knew that being the captain of a vagabond ship could get his crew in trouble or hurt if it was discovered who and what he was, but he always went out of his way to protect them. He was always, always thinking of others before himself. Noemi was the same way. She wanted to fight to save her planet and was willing to throw herself into the fight first regardless of what the outcome might be. She even risked her position within the Genesis military just so she could get to the bottom of the new plague that was taking over her planet. Rules be damned.

While all of that was amazing to read, I really kept waiting for the moment Abel and Noemi would be together again. That’s the softer side of me talking. I will be the first to tell you that my heart flew when they were finally reunited. I gasped and let out a silent cheer for the both of them! I know this is a killer story (no pun intended) set in space and there is a lot on the line, but I kept wanting those two to just have a chance to be together. They needed each other and were better together. If there is one ship I hold close, it is this one.

I remember in my review of Defy the Stars that I mentioned there were what I felt were underlying themes of religion, acts of war, and the discussion of “can a mech have free will? A soul?” I can say that not as much time was given to the topic of religion or free will, but Gray did have one reoccurring theme that I really liked. There were two questions Noemi asked herself constantly because they were asked to her, “What are you fighting? And what are you fighting for?” If that doesn’t give you pause, I don’t know what will. I only point this out because I felt this kept Noemi somewhat grounded and gave her focus. There was also the brilliant theme of humanity vs machine and the difference. This was constantly debated by numerous characters within the story, all had their own opinion but it was still great to read.

The overall plot of this particular book was mind-blowing and bloody brilliant. I never doubted Gray for a moment. This had none of the second book syndrome or filler vibe. This was well developed, thoroughly vetted, and masterfully executed. I am not going to give anything away here but if you take anything away from my review – besides my undying love for Abel and Noemi – it is this: the ending will leave you screaming. I thought this would only be a duology but, blessed be, there will be a third book! I cannot be left with that cliffhanger. The betrayal and the uncertainty has to be resolved in the next book because it was just too delicious to be left alone. Please, add this to your TBR now if it isn’t already. You need this story in your life.

 

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ARC Review: Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2)

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)

 

Guys… GUYS. THIS. BOOK. I was so afraid it would suffer from the Middle Book Syndrome but NOPE. Shusterman knocked it out of the freaking park.

I’m not going to give a recap because I have every faith you know what happened in this story. Citra is a masterful junior scythe, while Rowan has taken it upon himself to do some house cleaning of his own. New characters are beautifully and seamlessly introduced, and the ever present Thunderhead lets us know that he is always watching.

I was hooked from the opening page. I loved Scythe so, so much that I really was nervous book 2 would be a drag. HARDLY. The characters continued to develop and grow, while new ones were introduced – Greyson. Greyson’s character arc was so well interesting and captivating that I found myself forming a bit of a bond with him as well. The things that boy went through… my goodness. I wasn’t sure about how he would fit into the mix but I should have known better than to ever question Shusterman. Forgive me, Neal! I felt like I formed a bond with Citra and Rowan (I mean, we did go through a lot together in the first book…) so while Greyson was having his chapters, I kept thinking about Citra and Rowan. The same goes for when Greyson was having his chapters, I wondered what Citra and Rowan were up to. That, my lovely readers, is called damn good writing. Yes, there were a lot … and I do mean a lot, of people talked about so it was a little difficult to keep up with everyone, but the main players (and then some!) kept my full attention. Scythe Beyonce, anyone?

If you have laid eyes on the physical book, it looks a little intimidating. It is a large book but let me tell you that the pacing was spot on. This felt like a quick read! I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The twists and turns found within these pages will left me spinning. I know I never predicted everything that was going to happen, nor would I have been able to guess all of that correctly. So many things happened that made me scream, “OH MY GOD”. AND THAT ENDING. HOLY SMOKES. I won’t give it away – you know that – but holy mother of all things bacon. I thought I was ready but I wasn’t! I need the next book now!

I am now joining the massive crowd of readers that proclaim Neal Shusterman is one of their all time favorite authors. This man can write books and these two are damn good. I won’t stop recommending them to everyone. I’m a dystopia junkie and these made my apocalyptic heart happy. Please pick up a copy or at least add to your TBR now. You need this series in your life.

 

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ARC Review: To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom

 

I read this book months ago and have been struggling with the review because it is so damn good. Me writing glowing and positive reviews is tough because I feel I won’t properly express how much I enjoyed what I read. But if it is a negative review, buckle up because you’d be in for a heck of a ride. In this case, it will be nothing but a glowing review because this book was STUNNING.

This is not the little mermaid story you think it is. This is one made for nightmare fuel. Yes, there are mermaids, sirens, princes, quests, and other magical elements, but by no means is this anything Disney will be releasing to theaters anytime in the near future.

The protagonist of this story happens to be Lira, the daughter of the queen of the ocean. Lira was raised in a horrific environment where she is punished if she does not do every cruel thing her mother ordered her to, which happened to be stealing the hearts from people that she lured into the ocean. Lira continued to do everything her mother asked in hopes of becoming the Prince’s Bane, a very prestigious position. These mermaids/sirens are savage, vicious killing machines that have been taught to never trust humans so killing people was never given a second though. Lira found that she had a taste for only the hearts of princes… and she was only allowed to do this on her birthday.  But Lira’s world is forever changed when she disobeys her unforgiving mother, and people never disobey the Queen. Lira was caught stealing a prince’s heart two weeks before she was supposed to and the Queen unleashed a horrid punishment: her fin is torn off and Lira is forced to live as a human.

Enter Elian. Elian is amazing and I want to claim him now for my book boyfriend. You are reading it here! He’s on my list 4EVA. Sorry, what was I saying? *heart eye emoji* Elian is the prince but his heart always belongs to the seas. He is a pirate and a siren hunter. He knows his responsibility is to his kingdom and making his father proud, but he will always be a pirate and always be a siren killer. He and his (amazing) crew set out time and time again to kill every siren they come into contact with, and man are they good at it. I loved, loved, loved this crew. Their banter, their wit, their interactions where what I lived for in this story. I wanted to be a part of this crew just so I could hang out with these awesome people.

I promise these two story lines come together in the best way possible. Remember how I said Lira is forced to live as a human and Elian is a siren hunter? BAM! Instant story that will knock your socks off. But this is not an instalove story – THANK GOODNESS. This is a “Lira wants to kill Elian and tear his heart out while Elian wants to figure out who this girl is” story. There is no swooning, there is no birds singing in the distance while someone starts singing. This is “I’m going to kill you given the chance so sleep with one eye open” kind of story – and it’s brilliant. That’s not to say there isn’t any romance because there is a wee bit and thankfully it is minimal. I won’t go into any more detail than that.

Have I sold you yet? Still not sure? How about I mention how the writing is stunning and full of magic. The pacing is perfect and the ending is enough to make you smile with the brightness of the sun. If that doesn’t get you to want this book, you’re a tough cookie to crack. You need this book and I will continue to push it on everyone. I want to shout from the rooftops how much I loved this book and want more from this author. I need more from this author. I am now a lifetime reader of whatever this author publishes. You need to add this to your TBR, borrow from a friend (if your friends are that cool), or borrow from the library. You need to read this and come back to give me your thoughts. Maybe we’ll gush together but remember – Elian has been claimed by me.

 

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ARC Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)

 

This is one of those books that comes along once in a blue moon. A story so well developed, written, and executed that it makes you want to buy every copy just so you can give them out to everyone you know. This is one of those books that, when you finish, makes you sit back and digest what you just read. Then you play the entire thing over in your head just so you can commit it to long term memory so you can always remember the exact order of events. This is one of those books that makes you wonder where the author has been hiding all of these years and why she hasn’t written anything before.

Forgive the pun but everything about this story was just magical. The tale Adeyemi was able to weave was masterfully done. I could have sworn I was reading a book by a heavily seasoned writer, not her debut. It was a wonderfully complex story about family, history, staying true to oneself, following your destiny, being strong, and so much more. This is going to be another review I struggle to write because this story was just so damn good. The arc was 600 pages and slightly intimidating but once I started I found I couldn’t stop. I had to know what was going to happen.

No doubt you already know the premise of this story – a magical West-African inspired adventure sent in a land called Orisha. A small group of people are born known as Diviners. Everyone knows who they are as they are born with stark-white hair. Back in the day Diviners used to belong to one of twelve tribes of magic, but that all changed the day magic disappeared. The tide starts to turn for the Diviners and they will no longer be treated like lower class people because there is a way for them to get their magic back thanks to the Zelie. She is tasked by the Gods to bring magic back to everyone. Can she do it?

While this was a purely fiction YA fantasy story, it did feel like Adeyemi pulled themes from modern day into her story: racism, prejudice,  injustice, and more. The Diviners were able to live in freedom but were certainly hunted and treated worse than those not born with the mark of the Gods (white hair). Every Diviner that was living had lived through the genocide ordered by the current King, Zel will never forget that as she lost her mother at that time. To read how oppressed the Diviners were and how unfairly they were treated turned my stomach. It also gave me pause to reflect on our current times and how we might think that type of treatment has gone away, it has not.

There are four POVs in this story: Zel, her brother Tzain, Princess Amara, and Amara’s brother, the Crowned Prince Inan. These were wonderfully complex characters that were painfully flawed. They all had their own monstrous demons to battle while trying to figure out how they fit into the world. They developed so well as the story continued and were different people by the time the book ended. I feel honored to have been a part of their journey. I am excited to continue their adventures in book 2 (which I need yesterday).

I really cannot say it enough – there was not a dull moment in this story. It was non-stop adventure. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time simply wanting…. nah, needing to know what happened. I had to know if Zel was able to bring magic back to the Diviners and she recognize her true place in the people. I am always hesitant to read books with this much hype because I often find myself not seeing what everyone else saw. That isn’t true for this one, again, the hype is real and very much deserved. There are so, so many powerful and necessary topics covered in the best way possible. Adeyemi deserves all of the celebration that comes with this story because she earned it. I do not know how I am going to make it until next year to find out what happens but I’ll have to find a way.

If you have read this, let me know your thoughts. Did you enjoy it? Do you recommend it to everyone? I know I certainly do.

 

 

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ARC Review: More Than We Can Tell

More Than We Can Tell

 

**I was sent an ARC by the publisher to read and review. This in no way affected my opinions.**

 

Prepare your feels if you plan on reading the latest powerhouse by Brigid Kemmerer. She tore you up in Letters to the Lost and she will bulldoze your heart in this story. You have been warned, dear readers.

Short recap: Rev and Emma could not be more different if they tried but their lives become forever tied after events bring them together. Rev had a horrific childhood that he is trying to move on from, while Emma is trying to break the stigma of women in gaming. Can these two overcome the odds?

The thing I loved the most about this story was Rev. To me, he was the heart and soul of this story. Emma had her place, I supposed, but she was the reason I neglected to give this story a full 5 stars. I’ll explain. Rev was hands-down brilliant. His story grabbed onto my heart and never let go. From the moment he was introduced I wanted to protect him. He had the most tragic and heart-breaking childhood one could imagine. He was raised by one of the most abusive father’s a person could think of. Poor Rev found a way to escape his Father’s constant preachings, torture, and mental abuse and be place with the most loving couple on the face of the plant. Rev, not his given name, was struggling daily to find a way to cope/deal with what he went through. With that came the taunts and rumors from his fellow classmates. We all remember how mean high school kids can be, right? Rev was picked on more than most because he wore a hoodie to school every single day. Kids can be cruel for no reason. Regardless, Rev was surrounded by the most supporting people one could ask for – the most patient best friend, and two (adoptive) parents that loved him unconditionally. The one thing Rev was missing was someone to talk to, really talk to, about what he went through. Enter Emma. She was in Rev’s school and same grade but they never crossed paths before. They became friends after her dog, Texas, ran into him on one of their nightly walks. The friendship took off from there. Emma had her own set of issues – parents that constantly fought over the smallest thing while she was trying to prove herself in the world of online gaming. Rev and Emma found a way to help each other through their darkest times.

Notice how I sort of stopped praising Emma? Here’s why – in the grand scheme of this story, I did not feel Emma’s story was as meaningful or hard-hitting as Rev’s. That’s just me and I know I will probably be the black sheep. Rev was abused, brain-washed, and tortured, whereas Emma is trying to deal with her parents divorcing and possibly selling the house. BOO-FREAKING-HOO. In my eyes the two topics do not even compare. Emma truly thought her world was ending because her parents were splitting up. Then she lost it again when her mom put the house on the market. Sorry to tell you, Emma, but life does not end because your parents divorce. It is not the end of the world either. I also did not understand why she felt she had to prove something to her parents when it came to totally creating an online game. That’s great and all, but I lost more respect for her when she refused to report cyber bullying to anyone. This creep decided to harass her but she kept refusing help. UH, that is exactly the time when you do ask for help, Emma. It is not the time to set out to prove you can handle it in the “real world” when you are only 17 and still in high school. Put on your big girl panties and ask for help. Nobody would look down on you for that.

I digress. Her character really did irritate me for coming across so childish when there truly were bigger topics at play that – I personally felt – deserved more attention.

Moving on.

The other thing that truly stuck out to me and got me right in the feels was the constant presence of family and support… especially when it came to Rev. That boy was never without someone to catch him if he stumbled. His adoptive parents were over the moon in love with this boy and really did everything possible to help him. No matter what Rev was going through, they had the patience of saints. I wish more stories had parents like this. They were so refreshing to read.

I really am trying so hard not to give too much away with this book. I want everyone to read it, it really was that good. As most other reviews have stated, this is set in the same universe as Letters to the Lost, and some of the same characters make an appearance, but it is not the same story line as that book. This is a standalone so if you haven’t read LTTL, you will still be able to read and follow with no problems.

 

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ARC Review: The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep

 

Have you heard of The Wicked Deep? If you answer no, I’ll admit that before this showed up on my doorstep I didn’t know anything about it. I read the blurb and realized that I needed this story in my life. After reading the book (in roughly 2 days) I realized that people need to be talking about this. This book was so, so, so good. It had a wonderful Hocus Pocus feel that keep me turning the pages.

Short recap: The town of Sparrow is cursed. The curse is one that happens every summer starting on June 1. In 1892, three sisters were accused of being witches and quickly put to death. Consumed with revenge, the sisters returned to Sparrow every summer on the day they died to lure three (or more!) teenage boys to their deaths in the ocean. This summer happens to be different because a stranger, Bo, comes to Sparrow and befriends Penny, a local girl. Together, can these two find a way to break the curse and end the deaths once and for all?

I loved this story. I could not get enough of this book. When I wasn’t reading this story I wanted to be reading it. The protagonist, Penny, felt like a very well rounded character. She was grounded, self-assured, and determined. Who doesn’t love that in a MC? Then comes the love interest – Bo. The moment they met, it almost felt like instalove and I groaned. If you know one thing about me, you know that I cannot stand instalove. I kept reading and stayed with the story regardless. I’m here to tell you now  that there is a reason for that to happen. That sounds vague, I know, but I am trying not to give anything away. Ernshaw does a brilliant job of explaining everything and bringing the story together. Back to the characters… Penny really was very well done. This girl has so much on her plate that you immediately feel for her. She was forced to take care of her mom after their father disappeared. Her mom was a shell of her former self and it broke my heart. On top of that, she and her mom lived on an island a short boat’s ride away from Sparrow and Penny was forced to be the soul person taking care of the island lighthouse. That’s a lot for a 17 year old but Penny didn’t know any other way to live. She wanted to take care of her mother regardless. Bo was an interesting character and I liked reading about him. I don’t know how I can talk more about him without giving the story away so… please know he was a good character. My heart broke for him in the end.

I cannot get over how great the plot and development were. Ernshaw did a fabulous job of bringing everything full circle in a way I never saw coming. It felt like there was so much development with Penny and Bo that I was sad to see the story end. I really wanted more but that was just me being greedy. I knew their story ended, taking a huge chunk of my heart with it.

Make sure to get your hands on this book when it comes out because it is a stellar story. I’m forever grateful to the publisher for sending an ARC and allowing me to read sooner. I am thankful for the opportunity to push this on to every reader I know. This book will not disappoint. Read it and let me know what you think.

 

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