Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ARC Review: The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg

The Tombs
Author: Deborah Schaumberg
Publication: HarperTeen (February 20, 2018)

Description: New York, 1882. A dark, forbidding city, and no place for a girl with unexplainable powers.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Kohl pines for the life she had before her mother was taken. She fears the mysterious men in crow masks who locked her mother in the Tombs asylum for being able to see what others couldn't. Avery denies the signs in herself, focusing instead on her shifts at the ironworks factory and keeping her inventor father out of trouble. Other than secondhand tales of adventure from her best friend, Khan, an ex-slave, and caring for her falcon, Seraphine, Avery spends her days struggling to survive.

Like her mother's, Avery's powers refuse to be contained. When she causes a bizarre explosion at the factory, she has no choice but to run from her lies, straight into the darkest corners of the city. Avery must embrace her abilities and learn to wield their power--or join her mother in the cavernous horrors of the Tombs. And the Tombs has secrets of its own:  strange experiments are being performed on 'patients'...and no one knows why.

Deborah Schaumberg's gripping debut melds history and fantasy, taking readers on a breathless trip across a teeming turn-of-the-century New York, and asks the question: Where can you hide in a city that wants you buried?

My Thoughts: This historical fantasy takes place in an alternate history New York in 1882. Avery Kohl is a young woman working in one of the many factories. She a welder in an iron works. She and her father are hiding from the Crows who took her mother and imprisoned her in the Tombs which is part prison and part mental asylum. Her father works as a clockmaker/inventor which brings in a steampunk element to the story.

Avery is sixteen and starting to have the sort of visions that led to her mother's imprisonment. She's afraid that she is going mad. She's determined to get into the Tombs to see her mother and ask her questions. After she sees the conditions under which her mother exists and attracts the attention of the mad scientist who is experimenting on her, she becomes determined to find a way to free her mother.

Meanwhile, her own paranormal ability explodes and she needs to go to the Gypsies for training in using or hiding her powers. There she finds out that a boy named Indigo that she met years ago has been taken by the Crows too. She recruits her best friend Khan - a young black man who her father rescued during the Civil War - to help her.

This story is packed with history from the problem with race relations, the problem with organizing labor unions, and the role of women. It takes place in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge which is just being built and is a marvel of its age. It takes place in the grimy and gritty factories where children can be beaten by their supervisors. It adds in magic in Avery's power as an aura seer and a mad scientist who is making a formula to make laborers docile and obedient using the blood of seers.

This is filled with action as Avery and her friends try to free her mother and elude the Crows sent by the scientist to capture her. Once captured, the conditions in the Tombs are horrible but Avery manages to make friends and design a plan to escape.

The main plot point which is freeing her mother is accomplished but there are a number of dangling threads left for a sequel. I thought the story began slowly but, once I got the rhythm, it gained momentum and became a fast paced adventure.

Favorite Quote:
If only my mother had kept her visions to herself, the crows might not have taken her. Three years she'd been gone. My eyes burned and I felt the familiar ache inside my chest. My temples pulsed as the pain spread behind my forehead. I had to make this stop. If I go mad, who will take care of my father?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

ARC Review: Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks

Fire and Bone
Author: Rachel A. Marks
Publication: Skyscape (February 20, 2018)

Description: In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap.

Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

As loyalties shift, and as the two men vie for her attention, Sage tries to figure out whom to trust in a realm she doesn’t understand. One thing is for sure: the trap she’s in has bigger claws than she thought. And it’s going to take a lot more than magic for this Celtic demigoddess to make it out alive.

My Thoughts: This urban fantasy is set in current day Los Angeles and gets its paranormal from Celtic mythology. Living among humans are demigods, shades, druids with magical powers, pixies and other magical beings.

Sage is a street kid who just turned eighteen. She entered the child welfare system as a ten-year-old when she was removed from her drug addict mother's care. She had a variety of foster care experiences but none of them were good. She doesn't trust anyone. But she has a secret past and powers that fit her into the magical world.

Sage is a demigoddess, the daughter of Brighid, and her power is fire. She should have been found as a twelve-year-old and introduced to the magical world. Now she just has a month or so to learn all she can and choose which of the powerful Otherworld families she is going to pledge allegiance to. She was found by the Brighid group and given Faelan Ua Cleirigh as a guardian and teacher. Faelan is an outcast from his birth court and is a man with many secrets.

Sage is being courted by all the houses who want this talented demigoddes to belong to their house. Kieran is a prince of House Morrigan and is particularly determined to win Sage for his house. Sage doesn't know anything about the politics of the houses or her magic and keeps getting less than clear answers when she asks questions. It doesn't help that she is being plagued by very realistic dreams that tell the story of a tragic romance 700 years in the past.

This was an entertaining beginning to a series told in alternating chapters by Sage and Kieran. It had, action, danger, and romance. Fans of urban fantasy will enjoy it and be looking forward to more stories in this series.

Favorite Quote:
She snorts, interrupting me. "Nothing will happen to our favored prince for a vague accident, trust me -- I mean, he wasn't technically trying to kill you. Plus, his sister totally has the Cast in her pocket and enough equity with the other Penta that no one would mess with her brother. Maybe if you'd actually died, but ,,, well, you're an all-powerful demi and whatnot. No one is going to feel sorry for you."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ARC Review: Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Pitch Dark
Author: Courtney Alameda
Publication: Feiwel & Friends (February 20, 2018)

Description: From Courtney Alameda, the author of Shutter, this thrilling, sci-fi horror and space adventure will be sure to stay with readers long after the last pages.

Lost to time, Tuck Morgan and his crew have slept in stasis aboard the USS John Muir for centuries. Their ship harbors a chunk of Earth, which unbeknownst to them, is the last hope for the failing human race.

Laura Cruz is a shipraider searching the galaxy for the history that was scattered to the stars. Once her family locates the John Muir and its precious cargo, they are certain human civilization is saved.
When Tuck's and Laura’s worlds collide―literally―the two teens must outwit their enemies, evade brutal monsters that kill with sound, and work together to save the John Muir . . . and the whole human race.

My Thoughts: PITCH DARK was an action-packed science fiction adventure.

Tuck wakes up from stasis to find that almost 400 years have passed since he entered stasis. He also learns that most of the people who traveled on the John Muir with him did not come out of stasis including his mother. He also learns that some of those who came out of stasis mutated into monsters who kill with sound, although the teeth, tentacles, and claws are formidable enough. Tuck and the survivors are stranded in a ship with no way to communicate with anyone outside. The ship is failing and the monsters are multiplying.

Tuck has almost given up hope and is determined not to get close to anyone on the ship since he has lost so many. He also feels that he must be a disappointment to his mother who was the architect of the class of ships Tuck wakes up on.

Laura Cruz is a traveler on the Conquistador, her family's ship. She is an apprentice archaeologist. The ship's mission is to search for ships like the John Muir which might hold the key to humanity's survival. Humanity is is danger of extinction in part because of the way humans misused the Earth but also because Eco-terrorists are pushing humanity toward extinction because they don't think humanity deserves to continue. They hope to find Earth soil with its various enzymes and microbes to save the soil from their colonies which are worn out.

Laura has secretly had a subjugator implanted in her which makes it so that she has to follow the commands of the members of the Smithsons, the rival family that implanted it. One of the family is her former boyfriend. The subjugator also prevents her from telling anyone about it. She is a great computer hacker and decides to see if she can hack into her mother's captain's chair to override the subjugator. While she is busy hacking, another hacker takes over the ship and crashes it into Tuck's ship leaving Laura with the blame. It also leaves Laura separated from her family and forced to travel through the John Muir to reunite with her family.

Laura and Tuck meet up in the dark and most dangerous part of the John Muir because Tuck needs to get to a spot to reboot the computers and get power back to his ship. Together the two face all sorts of the monsters on their journey.

Once the power is back, they have to deal with the problems caused by the Pitch Black terrorists and the Smithsons who wants to bring down the Cruz family. Luckily, Laura has been contacted by a secret presence who can save the day if only she can get to the Bridge which happens to be the area most infested with the mutated monsters. Of course, neither the terrorists or the Smithsons want her to succeed.

I thought the world building was great. The ships were fascinating as was the political situation. The characters were well developed and interesting people. I recommend this one to anyone who likes science fiction.

Favorite Quote:
"I'd be a heroine, and no," I say, with an emphatic shake of my head. "This isn't about me, but about all the people hoping and praying for a miracle back home --"

"And why's it my responsibility to save them?" he asks. "My world's been gone for a helluva long time, Laura. I'm not sure it's worth fighting for a new one."

"Don't you understand?" I say, stepping forward and grabbing him by the shirtfront. His eyes widen. "This isn't about what you want, or what I want. It's about what millions of people need to survive. They don't deserve death just because you and I are afraid of what's out there" -- I gesture toward the panic room door. "The John Muir might be my people's last chance. Our people's last chance."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ARC Review: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Honor Among Thieves
Author: Rachel Caine, Ann Aguirre
Series: Honors (Book 1)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (February 13, 2018)

Description: Meet your new favorite kickass heroine in this daring YA series by New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre, a thrilling yet romantic futuristic adventure perfect for fans of Claudia Gray’s A Thousand Pieces of You.

Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.

Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.

Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

My Thoughts: HONOR AMONG THIEVES kicks off a new epic fantasy trilogy collaboration between Rachel Caine and Anne Aguirre.

Zara Cole's problems with authority and need for freedom made her run away from the hothouse environment of New Detroit to the Lower Eight where crime is rampant and everyone is out for themselves. She doesn't pay much attention to the big news of the day. The alien Leviathans are back to pick out a new crop of Honors to travel with them for a year as crew on their huge living spaceships. Zara is more concerned with finding her next mark and stealing enough to live on for the next few days.

Unfortunately, Zara's new mark is connected to a crime boss who wants what she stole and is willing to kill her to get it. Zora checks herself back into rehab for her antisocial tendencies in order get away but is tracked down. Luckily, she is picked to be one of the next hundred Honors and agrees in order to get off Earth and out of danger.

What Zara doesn't know is that teaming up with the Leviathan Nadim only changes the kind of danger that she will face. She and Beatriz, the second Honor on Nadim, need to be trained and pass tests before their one-year Tour. But Zara is anything but a rule follower and asks lots of questions of Nadim and about their mission.

I really enjoyed the world building in this story with huge sentient beings acting as spaceships. I liked that Zara was smart and suspicious but a good friend if you could gain her loyalty. I loved the relationship that developed between Zara and Nadim. I can't wait to find out what happens next for them in further books.

I highly recommend this series for fans of science fiction.

Favorite Quote:
This was my first spacewalk. the enormity of it, and the lonely smallness of my body, took by breath away. We wee in a bright, busy part of the Milky Way nebula, thick with stars, and it was hard to imagine that Nadim's home was so vast, so cold, so beautiful. So many stars. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

ARC Review: The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton

The Ambrose Deception
Author: Emily Ecton; illustrated by Gilbert Ford
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (February 13, 2018)

Description: Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that's what their middle school teachers think. To everyone's surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago. At first the three contestants work independently, but it doesn't take long before each begins to wonder whether the competition is a sham. It's only by secretly joining forces and using their unique talents that the trio is able to uncover the truth behind the Ambrose Deception--a truth that involves a lot more than just a scholarship.

With a narrative style as varied and intriguing as the mystery itself, this adventure involving clever clues, plenty of perks, and abhorrent adults is pure wish fulfillment.

My Thoughts: THE AMBROSE DECEPTION is a middle grade treasure hunt. Melissa, Wilf, and Bondi are chosen from their middle schools to compete in a contest that will give the winner a $10,000 scholarship. Each is given a cellphone, a debit card, a driver and three riddles to solve.

Melissa lives with her brother and her grandmother. She makes money for lunches and bus fare by doing homework for other students. Otherwise, she is managing to make her way through middle school really under the radar. Bondi is a show-off who has a great sense of smell and a mother who is fixated on kale. Wilf is a slacker who is determined to work through his "to do" list now that he has a driver and debit card and may get to the clues eventually.

The three kids work independently at first. But soon begin to think that it is a scam orchestrated by "Mr. Smith" for some nefarious purpose. It turns out that all the clues they are following are part of the will of billionaire Enoch Ambrose who has recently died. The ones who solve the riddle will inherit his fortune.

I liked the tour of Chicago that this book takes us on. The places mentioned are all real and all sound intriguing. I liked how the kids all worked together once they realized that the scholarship deal was a scam.

This was a fun middle grade mystery/treasure hunt.

Favorite Quote:
"The chose Wilf. Wilf Samson? They didn't even pick a believable kid."


"Honestly, I can think of a hundred kids more qualified than Bondi Johnson."


"She's not one of my Shining Star gifted students, she's not in any of the Racing Rocket athletic programs, shen't not in Mathletes or BandTastic or Chess-perts or the Jazzercise Singers or even the AV club. She's not in anything. She's a complete nobody."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ARC Review: The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari

The Sweetest Kind of Fate
Author: Crystal Cestari
Series: Windy City Magic (Book 2)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (February 13, 2018)

Description: GREAT. I've somehow found myself tangled up with a siren, a mermaid, and a homicidal wicked witch who once tried to strangle me to death. Way to go, Amber!

Amber Sand, legendary matchmaker, couldn't be more surprised when her archnemesis, Ivy, asks for her help. Ivy's sister, Iris, is getting married, and Ivy wants to prove her sister is making a huge mistake. But as Amber looks into Iris's eyes, there doesn't seem to be a problem-Iris has clearly found her match.

It seems happily-ever-after is in the cards, but when Iris seeks out a dangerous, life-altering spell, it's up to Amber and Ivy to set aside their rivalry and save the day.

As Iris puts everything on the line for love, Amber continues to wrestle with her own romantic future. Her boyfriend, Charlie, is still destined for another, and no matter how hard she clings to him, fear over their inevitable breakup shakes her belief system to the core.

Because the Fates are never wrong-right?

My Thoughts: Amber Sand tells this story. She is a Matchmaker meaning when she looks into someone's eyes she sees their perfect match. She comes from a family of witches but her talent isn't considered enough for her to be part of her coven. Her mother is is one of the most powerful good witches in Chicago. Amber's passion is baking. She is getting ready to submit her application the the Culinary Institute if she can just work up the courage.

Amber and Charlie are in a romantic relationship which causes a problem for Amber because, when she looks into Charlie's eyes, she sees him with another girl. The girl she sees in Charlie's eyes is Kim Li who is a new student at their school. Amber and her best friend Amari have befriended Kim but Amber can't help but be jealous of Kim. Amber's fears that Charlie will prefer Kim - his Fated match - make her relationship with Charlie harder because she hasn't told him what she sees.

While wrestling with her romantic dilemma, Amber is approached by her nemesis Ivy because Ivy needs help convincing her sister Iris that she is in the wrong relationship. Amber looks into her eyes and sees that her relationship with Brooke is real but the problem is that Brooke is a mermaid and to be with her Iris will have to undergo a complex spell to change into a mermaid herself. Amber's mother won't agree to perform the spell so Iris turns to evil witch Victoria to do the spell.

Victoria was the villain of the first book in this series and is even more evil in this one. Amber and her friends need to find a way to save Iris from Victoria's evil plans. Along the way Amber learns more about her mother's past and her mother's attitude toward love. I liked Amber who has a very sarcastic voice and viewpoint. I also liked that she finally decides not to blindly go along with Fate.

Fans of paranormal romance with lots of action will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Mounting evidence suggests I may be a masochist. I wouldn't have thought this until recently, with my previous top characters descriptions being "sunny," "winning," and "eager to please" (jk, they'd be "misanthropic," "sarcastic." and "cantankerous"). I guess part of the human experience is to grow and change, though I didn't think it could happen all at once.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 2, 2018

ARC Review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Numair Chronicles (Book 1)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (February 6, 2018)

Description: Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm's most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness--and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the "leftover prince" with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram's heart, Arram realizes that one day--soon--he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair SalmalĂ­n came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom's future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

My Thoughts: TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER tells the story of a young Arram Draper who is a student at the School for Mages at the Imperial University of Carthak. He is the youngest student there. He was born in Tyra in a family of people who work with cloth but his magical abilities gained him acceptance at the School for Mages.

Arram has a bit of a hard time when he is first there because he is so much younger than the other students and so very talented. Once he meets Ozorne, who is an Imperial Prince but not very close to the throne, and Varice who is another young talent things get better. The three form a firm friendship.

Arram's abilities lead him being taught by Masters in the various disciplines and they also lead him to being noticed by the gods - which is a mixed blessing. One such happening is when Enzi the Crocodile God asks him to take custody of a Sunbird from the Divine Realms until he can come up with a gift grand enough to appease Mithos who really hates it when someone steals one of his Sunbirds. Thus, the Sunbird Preet becomes one of Arram's companions.

This story follows Arram through a number of years of his schooling. It also sees him becoming more aware of the world around him and less able to tolerate the idea of the slavery that exists in the Empire and the cruelty of the gladiator games in the Arena. He befriends a gladiator who rescues him when he falls into the Arena and the two keep crossing paths. First when Arram is taken by his teacher to work with victims of the Plague and then when he is taken to the Arena to care for gladiators during one of the Arena games.

Happening outside the school but impacting Arram, is that Ozorne is coming closer and closer to the throne as his fellow heirs die in a variety of accidents. He is also watching Ozorne change from a boy who wants to be a mage with a small household and his friends to a young man who is beginning to cast his eye on the position of Emperor. Arram's vast curiosity about magic and the world also grows and he begins to realize that he doesn't want either of the lives Ozorne imagines him living. Arram wants to leave Carthak to explore and get away from a place with slavery.

This story was well-written and engaging. It provides background for a character who appears in a number of other books by Pierce. It also begins a series which I can't wait to read.

Favorite Quote: 
Arram hated boredom. That was the source of many of his problems. Bored, he might tinker with the spells he was taught -- just tinker, not actually cast the whole thing! Then came visits to the healer, unhappy interviews with instructors, and labor or essays after that. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.