Anne Bishop: Etched in Bone

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shapeshifters and vampires far more powerful than themselves…

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

I’ve been waiting a year for the fifth and final book in The Others series to come out. And I’ve had the ARC in my collection for months–I had to have been one of the first to be approved for it. My willpower is SO STRONG, guys. Sometimes I don’t know how I manage to wait until the release month to read these. Probably because I just have way too many books in line.

Anyway, the anticipation was strong with this one. I’ve loved the first four, and the last one teased some mega romance. My body was ready.

But maybe my brain wasn’t? Or maybe it’s because I’m halfway through marathoning ASOIAF for trivia next week. THIS FELT LIKE SUCH A CHORE. I couldn’t make it halfway.

Something about Etched in Bone just didn’t measure up to the rest of the series. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it. It also barely focuses on Meg and Simon at all, which is what I was really looking forward to in this last edition.

One thing I noticed, in the slowness, is that Bishop is continually reintroducing characters to us, even though this is the fifth book. Really, if you’ve made it this far, you should know her world by now–how packs operate, why Meg is special, etc. A little bit of that is fine, but it shouldn’t still be happening more than 25% into the book. it makes the story/series seem very choppy and ruins the flow of it.

The plot also focuses around domestic abuse, and there is a LOT of victim blaming. For a series that unpacks mental illness and addiction, I was pretty grossed out by how this topic was being handled. Maybe it resolves itself later–but it wasn’t looking good.

I hated to DNF this, but I hated to finish it more. When a book becomes a chore, it just is not worth it, no matter how much I loved the rest of the series. I’m so disappointed.

NetGalley and Roc provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Dual Review: Thelonious Legend: Sins of the Father + Childish Things

I reviewed Sins of the Father a year ago, when it was first released. I hadn’t developed my Book Dragon system yet, but I gave it a 3 on Goodreads. But it has stuck in my memory, and every time I think about it, I have wanted to go back and reread–I really did love these girls. Because he has written a sequel, Thelonious Legend contacted me and generously sent me both books, and so here is an updated review for Book 1, as well as my write up for Book 2.

Book 1:  Sins of the Father

This was going to be a special year for the Parker sisters. Eve was going to dominate in the classroom and on the basketball court. Gwen was going to make the starting five and go down in history as the greatest prankster ever. Ana was going to do as little as possible. But without warning, all three sisters gain extraordinary abilities that defy science… powers that come with a cost. Now all they want to do is make it through the school year without drawing any undue attention, while racing to find a cure before the side effects of their new abilities kill them. Eve’s temperament, Gwen’s fondness for pranks, and Ana’s predilection for money, however, are challenges they must overcome to achieve their goals. Because if they can’t, they’re dead…

My memory did not deceive me. The Parker Sisters are just as incredible the second time as they were the first. They are smart, strong, and fast–and that doesn’t just refer to their super powers, but the plot itself. I read this over Christmas weekend and kept having to put my Kindle away. I couldn’t wait to get back to the story! It is racially diverse without bringing attention to it. It simply IS diverse.

At the book’s core is a story about three black middle school girls who develop super powers and have to navigate school drama while fighting for their lives. But behind all that is also a backdrop of privilege and culture that teaches us all to look deeper than the mask people wear.

I would definitely recommend this for older middle schoolers (7th grade+) or really anyone who likes YA. There is some violence and darker themes so just be cautious with younger audiences–though I’d never discourage anyone wanting to read this.

 

Book 2:  Childish Things

Mo Powers Mo Problems! It’s a new school year for the Parker Sisters but it’s the same song and dance. Get good grades, avoid being kidnapped or killed before dinner, and don’t forget to take to out the trash. But this year there are a few new players in the game. Players who are as special as the Parker Sisters. Let the games begin.

I know I’m reading a really good book when I stop and it is way too quiet. Was I listening to music? No…the book is just THAT good.

This happened more than once while I was reading Childish Things. The action gets completely turned up in Legend’s second book. The girls are older, wiser, and more powerful. They are training harder, and are more prepared for the bad guys that are, well, badder.

Childish Things is Gwen’s story, where Sins of the Father centered more around Eve. This gives the book a very “middle child syndrome” spin, as we see her take on friends, boys, and life while constantly comparing herself to her older sister.

The social justice spin is more subtle in this second book, but it is there in the margins for those who are paying attention. I am very interested in the almost backward character development of Stacey in particular, and how Legend is using her to show white privilege and the kind of subtle unknowing prejudice we don’t realize we have.

 

Both of these books are fantastic, and ones that’ll be making my top recommendations this year. For sure add this series to your Diverse YA TBRs. I cannot wait to see what Legend does with Ana’s story next–she got quite a bit of development in Childish Things, and she’s my favorite of the three sisters. I said in my original review for Sins of the Father that Thelonious Legend would do “Legendary” things with his writing, and it may have been a pun…but I wasn’t wrong. I LOVE these books, and you will too!

Disclaimer:  The author did provide me with copies of both books for an honest review, after I had reviewed the first last year for a book tour. 

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Magen Cubed: The Crashers

At 9:17 AM, a subway train crashed in East Brighton City. That was when everything changed.

Five survivors emerge from the accident: former detective Kyle Jeong; single mother Norah Aroyan; Afghanistan veteran Adam Harlow; the genius Clara Reyes; and the dying Bridger Levi. These five strangers walk away from the crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers. As their city falls into chaos around them, they find themselves drawn into a story far more dangerous than they ever knew – and it will change their lives forever.

Death, undeath, superpowers, and apocalyptic visions. Welcome to East Brighton City – hope you survive.

When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read, they usually end up on my TBR. When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read that are free today on Amazon…well…they get added to my Kindle IMMEDIATELY DO NOT PASS GO OR COLLECT $200–especially when they out of the LGBTQIA and/or POC community. Please shout at me all of the books.

The Crashers was one of such shouty books, just before my vacation. I actually intended to take my Kindle with me, but already had a couple book books going so didn’t manage to get to it while traveling. It has everything: POC leads, gay leads, bisexual leads, disabled characters, mental illness, several badass women who take no shit, and did I mention they are superheroes?

Also, the author’s bio says she lives in Texas with a little dog named Cecil, so how in the world could I pass that up?

The story itself was just a little slow to start for me, but I think that was just the anticipation because I knew it was going to build up so much. It was a case of being TOO excited to read it. I LOVED almost all of the characters. There were one or two that I didn’t quite mesh with, but Adam? Ohhh Adam. I’m so in love with him. Is there anyone in the world who isn’t in love with Adam?

If you love cop dramas, superheroes–especially dark ones (think DC, not Marvel)–you’re going to love this. The Crashers has so much grit. SO MUCH, you guys. I think there’s still some in my teeth. I need a graphic novel version with blacks and grays and reds. Sin City style.

OOCH I cannot wait until Koreatown. GIMMEE GIMMEE GIMMEE.

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VE Schwab: A Gathering of Shadows

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Can I just say FU VE SCHWAB! HOLY CLIFFHANGER!

It took me a while to get into this second book in her Shades of Magic series. I loved ADSOM, and was really looking forward to AGOS and the continuation of Kell and Lila’s adventures. However, this definitely has second book syndrome–at least at the start. It’s sluggish to begin.

There’s three stories going on, Kell, Lila, and a third that I won’t spoil for you. All are fun and interesting, but until they start to merge it almost feels like they are being held back. When that happens, though, the book feels like one of my favorite movies–A Knight’s Tale–only instead of Heath Ledger being the only one hiding his identity, Shannyn Sossamon (Jocelyn) also joins him in the game. It’s great fun and very adventurous.

I’m not going to rate this as high as I did the first book, but it definitely left me excited for the third installment! And it was nice to read something not so serious after a streak of BIG books lately. It was greatly needed, since I’ve got more of those coming.

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Seanan McGuire: Every Heart a Doorway

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

It’s been awhile since I’ve used this gif for a review, but I need to use it now.

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I’m going to start by acknowledging that this book has an asexual protagonist–and not like “oh, this character doesn’t have sex so we are inferring.” She comes right out and says “I am asexual.” That deserves it’s own applause. So here you go.

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There’s also a transgender character and other queer characters. This is literally a book full of LGBTQA+ representation. ALL THE APPLAUSE.

And that is really the point of the book. This is a marvelous metaphor for those trying to come out of the closet. Their parents keep forcing them back in–sending them away to get help, ushering them away from society, behind closed doors and from the life they truly want to live. There’s a boy who decides he’d rather be “in the light” than face the Nonsense. He can’t live in the darkness so he leaves the school and goes home to be with the normal people again. Everyone else is trying so hard to find their way back to their doorway, to their “real home.”

Because the place where their parents live isn’t actually home, not really. They can’t be themselves there. They want to be in a place where people accept who they are, even places like Nonsense or Logic (those are opposite ends of the compass, of course).

This book ended way too soon for me. I no sooner entered the House for Wayward Children before I was thrust back out again. It’s only 173 pages, and I needed MORE. The world is brilliant, the story is brilliant, the characters are brilliant. I need to be hearing about more people reading this. I’m sure I’ll be throwing at a few people, so look out. It’s coming your way.

Have you found your door yet?

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Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

When I started reading An Ember in the Ashes, I was afraid that it would be just another popular YA fantasy. I haven’t been the greatest fan of the genre–I want to be, and I am, in theory, but I always seem to like the ones that aren’t in the limelight, and I’m underwhelmed by the ones that are. I’m just a rebel that way.

But once I started connecting with the characters, things really picked up and I was not able to put this down. The story shifts between two points of view:  Laia, the Scholar-turned spy/slave, and Elias, the Commandant’s son and next expected Emperor. The two of them are on a destined path that is merging towards each other, but how it will connect is a dark and winding way.

The tone of the book is very cavelike. You can feel the dark walls pressing in on you always. What is going to come around the corner next? Battles wage in the shadows, and there might be hints of fire, but they are quickly tamped out. Everything is a clash of steel and smoke, and you need to hide your secrets always.

I shouldn’t doubt books like I do. I’ve been jaded by too many similar ones, I guess. I’m glad I hung on, though, for this one. An Ember in the Ashes is a beautifully written story full of mystery and enchantment, villainry and shade. And the cast of characters is extremely diverse too! I can’t wait to read the second book!

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Anna Kopp: Rise of the Chosen

In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

My first thought when I started this ARC was “EW, a zombie book! I hate zombie books! They are always the same thing!”

This is nothing like that zombie book. Not even close.

First of all, the zombies–Woken–aren’t running around eating people. They are certainly monsters, and they certainly kill, but no braaaaiiiiins. Secondly, these guys don’t look like maggot ridden grave vomit. Take The Others/White Walkers from Game of Thrones and replace the blue with red, and you have a Woken.

If you take it a step further and add some Captain America Super Serum and keep the human consciousness along with the Woken immortality, you have The Chosen. Basically, Super Zombies who are used to keep the city safe. They run around with swords and sever the heads of the Woken from their hearts–the only way to end them.

I told you this isn’t your normal zombie book.

Did I mention the main character is bisexual? She is–and with the exception of one awkward “he is so hot” moment with one of her work partners–I thought her sexuality was presented really well. It’s normalized in the story. She likes guys, she likes girls, all is well in the world.

Except, ya know…the whole zombie thing.

The plot is laid out in a before and after sort of way, though. I won’t tell you how. It’s interesting to see how everything is set up and then how it plays out. I think Kopp shows all her angles really well. I didn’t think I’d like this at all, but by the end I was pretty enthusiastic. I’m totally on board to read the next installment!

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NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers provided an ARC for my unbiased review. Releases October 4. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Review: The Magicians

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing,The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

I’ve heard so much about The Magicians, and most of it has been summed up in one sentence. “If you love Harry Potter, you will love this one too!”

…ok…well…I kind of see the resemblance, in that there is a magical school that normal people can’t get into, and there ARE three friends that get into trouble…but that’s really where the similarities end.

As far as the school goes, it is college vs junior/senior high. The result is a super fratty feeling, instead of Griffindor vs Slytherin. Everyone is drunk the entire goddamn book. And I do mean the.entire.goddamn.book. Also, sexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsex.

Please don’t tell your middle schooler that if they liked Harry Potter they should read The Magicians. This is not the book for them.

Once they graduate, all semblance to HP disappears and it becomes pretty much CS Lewis fanfiction. Fillory is Narnia and it almost feels like this is set generations after Lucy and her siblings rule.

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I probably won’t continue on with the series. To read it as fanfiction of two of my favorite fantasy sets–completely entertaining–but I have a hard time seeing it as anything other than that.

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I won this book in a Twitter contest.

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GIVEAWAY: Criminal by KB Hoyle

Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary and her miraculous rescue at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order and their goals for humanity are wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed that the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless to the rebel cause, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince the rest of the criminals to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters hunt down and destroy them all. But Pria still knows so little about liberty and self-determination, and her tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend. As she works through figuring out her feelings, she becomes increasingly anxious for Pax, who displays symptoms of a disturbing ailment, even as he withdraws from Pria.

Free Patriots from outside Asylum bring with them a new plan to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine, and Pria is once again at the center of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, just as she’s beginning to figure out who she is. It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make to take down the UWO and save the world, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.

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There are books we like, there are books we love, AND THERE ARE BOOKS WE PUT ON OUR CALENDARS BECAUSE WE LOVE THE FIRST ONE SO MUCH AND HOLY CRAP THERE IS GOING TO BE A SEQUEL AND THE PUBLISHER JUST EMAILED ME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE BOOK TOUR AND OMG I CANNOT BREATHE.

I really cannot figure out WHY Breeder is not more popular. If you want an exciting YA dystopia with diverse characters–and not your normal “strong female lead” either–please let me throw this book at your face. This checks so many boxes. Only one of the leads is white–there are so many different POC in these two books. I wish it had more LGBTQA+ diversity, but it is pointed out that Bishop is asexual.

I absolutely loved the characters in Breeder, and they only get better in CriminalThere is a love triangle, but I don’t hate it in this series. I think it’s crucial to the development of Pria–again, she’s not your average YA lead. She’s got some unique challenges to get through, and developing her romantic side is part of that. There are a few other pairings too, but this isn’t a romance at its core–it’s suspenseful and action packed. There are so many interesting strategies to pick apart and battles to be won.

It’s a second book, so there are some of the typical plot developments that have to happen to build for the third. You can almost taste the tension for what is coming next and there was one thread that I picked up early on that all along I was just thinking yes…Yes…YESSSS. By the end I already knew what the next book was going to be.

KB Hoyle, please don’t make me wait another two years. PLEASE.

>>>>>>>Click Here to Win a copy of Breeder and Criminal!<<<<<<<

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Review: Eragon

One boy. One dragon. A world of adventure.
When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

This one has been on my shelf for a long time. I tried to read it when I first picked it up, but it was back before I was really into fantasy–there’s a reason it took me so long to read Harry Potter–and so I think I read 50 pages and quit. Saphira has been staring angrily at me from the shelf ever since.

Now that I do love fantasy, I figured it was time to finally give this one a second chance.

I honestly don’t know how to rate this. It was an entertaining book to read, but I feel like I’ve read it before. While searching for fan art last night (because, dragons), I saw one post about this being Star Wars fan fiction. I can see the resemblance, but the whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was reading Lord of the Rings/Hobbit all over again. Sure, other stories have elves and dwarves, but this was SO SIMILAR. The quest across nations, the threads of old magic, the war at the dwarves’ mountain. There’s even a ring–though I’m not sure what the symbolism is there quite yet. It’s weirdly similar.

Still, I didn’t hate it, and the story IS unique enough to stand alone. If the rest of the books made their way into my hands, I would probably read them too, but I’m not going to actively seek them out or add them to my TBR. But, if they show up on my library’s feature shelf or something, or hit the $1 shelf at Half-Price, sure.

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