Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen @Scott_Thought

Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen book cover and review
Nyxia Unleashed is an exciting continuation of the story began in Nyxia (click here and read my review of the original if you don't want any spoilers.)

Emmett and the others are now on the planet trying to make nice with the Adamites and do their job -- mining Nyxia -- so they can go home. But all is not as it seems.

There are a lot of surprises. They make some discoveries about Babel's true intentions, which are devastating.  They've been lied to (saw that one coming, did you?) over an over again.

And, the Adamites have secrets of their own which will change everything for these kids. Almost nothing we learned from the first book (about the Adamites or Babel) is true.

While these secrets are startling and game-changing, I didn't feel the tension -- the nonstop fight for survival -- that I did in Nyxia.  Although be prepared, because Reintgen isn't afraid to kill off characters. The plot is clever, the character growth is well done, and I definitely want the third book.  Nyxia Unleashed is more about revelations than ultimate peril. But that is okay.

If you've read Nyxia, I highly recommend you continue with Nyxia Unleashed.  If not, those fans of interplanetary science fiction should begin with Nyxia.

Published by Crown BFYR, July 17, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book cover and review
I have to agree with the many reviews I've seen for The Hate U GiveEveryone should read it.

Starr is with a friend when he gets pulled over by the police. She is in the car as the police officer guns down her friend. The Hate U Give deals with the aftermath of this shooting, the realities of living in certain neighborhoods of the city, and Starr's ability to get over this tragedy while she tries to make sure justice is served.

Yes, The Hate U Give is ripped from the headlines. But it's still an important book because it comes from the perspective of a teen. Thomas does a good job of finding the teen voice--the voice of young black people in this situation.

As an adult (and white), I have difficulty understanding the behavior of people who are confronted by the police.  I'm a rule-follower.  I'm scared of the police.  If a police officer told me not to move, I wouldn't even blink.  But, I understand people (especially young people), no matter what the color of their skin, aren't all like me.  They can easily have a more confrontational attitude.  I think The Hate U Give helped me understand that.

There are nuances to Starr's situation that add to the drama.  She attends a private school that is outside her neighborhood, she's dating a white boy, and her family has more money than many families who live around them. All of this keeps the book interesting and very readable. 

Like I said, I recommend The Hate U Give to everyone, teen or adult.

Published by Balzer + Bray, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
444 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Monday, July 2, 2018

Book Review: Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani book cover and review
I've read a few Trigiani books previously and really enjoyed her writing.  Big Stone Gap is no exception.  She pulls you into these lives so easily.

Ava is our main character. It is 1978, and she lives in Big Stone Gap, a tiny town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She's the pharmacist and also is part of the emergency services.  She is 35 years old and has no interest in getting married. She has lots of friends and keeps busy with many activities.

Her world gets turned upside down when she receives a letter from her mother, who died a month ago. She begins to see her life in a new way and decides to plan a trip to Italy, her mother's home country. In the meantime, she begins to get marriage proposals, and she doesn't handle it very well.

The characters are colorful and full. There are many reasons to root for them all. The reader laments Ava's emotional turmoil, and we just wait, and wait, for her to sort things out and settle down. The ending is satisfying and heartwarming.

I need to read more Trigiani. I'll probably start with Big Cherry Holler, the next book in this series.  I recommend Big Stone Gap, and really any of her books, to those who enjoy warm, fuzzy stories where you really get a sense of place and character. Trigiani is a master storyteller.

Published by Random House, 2000
Copy obtained from the library
306 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

The Darkness Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé book cover and review
It took The Dark Beneath the Ice a while to get going, but once it did, it brought all the chills.

Marianne's life is falling apart.  Her mother and father are splitting up, her mother has been hospitalized, and she must go live with her aunt.  Additionally, Marianne is having weird dreamlike episodes where she feels she's being dragged under the water.  And she's breaking things during lapses of consciousness. These episodes are getting worse and worse.

She makes a new friend, Rhiannon (Ron), whose mother is a psychic.  When she finally convinces Ron's mother to help her get rid of what is after her, she only makes things worse.  Now Marianne feels like everyone she loves or cares about is in danger.  The creature tells her she's stolen something and wants her to give it back, but Marianne has no idea what it wants.

I liked that Marianne has a support system, and she does get counseling.  She's pretty honest with the counselor too. The tension during the second half of the book is palpable at times and genuinely creepy. It just takes too long to get to this part.  The back story and setup is drawn out and a bit too detailed.

However, fans of creepiness will enjoy The Dark Beneath the Ice. I was not surprised by the ending, but that doesn't really matter if you just want to feel the thrills and chills.

Published by Sourcebooks Fire, August 7, 2018
ARC Copy obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
327 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown book cover and review
Iron Gold is the unexpected fourth installment of the Red Rising "Trilogy." I'm so glad Brown decided to continue this series because I really enjoy these characters and this world.

*spoilers if you haven't read the first three books*

So, the revolution ended, right?  But apparently, for the past ten years, war continued to ravage this world.  Darrow is determined to end the war -- no matter what he has to give up.

His story is entwined with a few other points-of-view. There is a thief, Ephraim, who ends up working for someone he never wanted to be associated with.  There is Lyria who lives on Mars.  But Mars is even worse than when Darrow was born there -- even though they are supposed to be free now.  She ends up escaping after losing almost everything. And there is Lysander and Cassius who travel together and end up fighting for their lives like never before.

And Darrow, who is a fugitive from justice, is working to overthrow Venus.  All these people come together in unexpected ways in a devastating battle. That is really only the tip of the iceberg plot-wise, but I don't want to give too much away.  Suffice it to say, Iron Gold is exciting and action-packed as usual.

Something about the writing just draws me into these books.  At 600 pages, I was surprised how fast I finished it. There are a lot of characters, and this is a complex story.  Episodes from the first three books are referred to for context, but we don't get a summary.  There is a list of characters at the beginning of the book that was very helpful to me.

This series is worth the investment. I'm so glad I've been able to enjoy it.  At the end of Iron Gold, we are pretty much left hanging, so I can't wait until the fifth book, Dark Age, is released in February.

Published by Del Ray, January 16, 2018
Copy obtained from the library
601 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: Game of Secrets by Kim Foster

Game of Secrets by Kim Foster book cover and review
Game of Secrets is a magic book, but the historical setting is what really amped up the appeal.

Felicity is doing her best in Victorian London to keep herself and her little brother surviving. It isn't easy.  Her brother must stay hidden since he is Tainted. His special abilities, if found out, will get him caught by the Huntsmen, and he will surely be killed.

As Felicity herself is in danger of being taken by a Huntsman, a mysterious man, Hawksmoor, rescues her and takes her to a special school to be trained to serve Queen Victoria as a spy and assassin. You see, Felicity was unaware that she is also Tainted. Her magic powers are very desired by this organization.

The training is difficult, and it's a competition between these youth to be the next official spy.  In the meantime, Felicity is worried about her brother.  But she can communicate telepathically with him, and he is safe, taken by the same organization and being pampered until he is old enough to attend the school. Felicity doesn't trust Hawksmoor and continues to plot her escape, but soon she becomes a very successful spy and may be in the running to win the competition.

Game of Secrets was an enjoyable mix of a historical setting, spying, and magical abilities. There is plenty of adventures and danger, as the trainees are sent on small missions. The plot moves quickly, and I was surprised more than once. I did tire a bit of Felicity's subterfuge.  She keeps putting herself and others in danger by going rogue during their missions. You would think she would learn after almost being captured by the Huntsmen once (or even twice), but she keeps on risking it.

Game of Secrets is a quick read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a bit of sleuthing in the Victorian Era.

Published by Sky Pony, July 3, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris, book cover and review
Bring Me Back is the second novel I've read by Paris, and I enjoyed this one as much as Behind Closed Doors.

Ten years ago Finn and Layla stopped at a rest stop and when Finn returned from the restroom, Layla had disappeared.  There is more to that story--but you have to read the book to find out. Finn has recently become engaged to Layla's sister, Ellen.

First, someone from the town where Finn and Layla used to live says they spotted Layla. Then, Russian dolls begin to appear in strange places where Finn or Ellen will find them.  Only Finn and Ellen and one other friend know the significance of the Russian doll. Finn begins to get emails from someone claiming to know where Layla is.

All of this turmoil makes Finn wonder just how much he really loves Ellen.  It puts a strain on their relationship.  And as the clues pile up and Finn becomes convinced that Layla is still alive, the couple is driven to the breaking point.

Just who is behind these mysterious events?  Is it Layla?  Or is someone else trying to break Finn and Ellen up, or even worse.

The tension builds nicely throughout the entire story.  The pace is fast--there is always something happening.  I did feel that this second book is a bit formulaic, nevertheless, my heart pounded a bit at times.

Paris has the talent for ramping up suspense, and I can recommend this one easily to those who enjoy that type of story.

Published by St. Martin's, June 19, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: Eden Conquered, by Joelle Charbonneau @jcharbonneau

Eden Conquered by Joelle Charbonneau book cover and review
It doesn't often happen that I enjoy the second book in a series more than the first. but Eden Conquered was more compelling than Dividing Eden.

Dividing Eden just took a long time to get going, but in Eden Conquered, the excitement starts at page one and continues to ramp up until the exciting conclusion.  If you haven't read Dividing Eden, you should probably quit reading this now and go check it out.

For most of the book, we get two perspectives.  One is Carys who has left Eden after faking her death.  She's trying to figure out who she can trust (pretty much no one) and what the almost constant whispering in her head is about.  She is no longer addicted to the drugs her mother provided, so things are much clearer.  She is sure she is being betrayed by people who are really loyal, and she is being betrayed by those she thinks she can trust.  It is a constant struggle as she tries to find answers.

Meanwhile, the other perspective is her brother, Andreus, who is now king of Eden. He has much the same problem as Carys--trying to figure out who he can trust.  And also, it doesn't seem like there are many people he can. The Elders who are serving him are all suspect.  And the wind, which keeps the lights on and keeps the kingdom safe from the zombie-like creatures called Xhelozi, has died. He has a lot to worry about and doesn't have much support.

As Carys finally returns to Eden (I don't think that is too much of a spoiler) the two points-of-view become merged. Will Carys and Andreus be able to work together to save Eden?  Or will Eden be conquered?

You'll want to find all that out for yourself.  If you've read Dividing Eden, you will definitely want to get your hands on Eden Conquered.  If not, start with that one.  It will be worth it, I promise.

Published by HarperTeen, June 5, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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