Tag Archives: rating: five-stars

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Wingsnatchers

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Series: Carmer and Grit, Book 1
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers on April 25, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Felix Carmer III, aspiring inventor and tinkerer, sees his work as a magician’s apprentice as worthwhile but only a means to an end. But with his employer’s show not doing so well as of late, he finds himself invested in helping them win the grand prize in a magic competition–which may be more difficult than it seems. When he unexpectedly crosses paths with a faerie–a faerie??–he learns that there is a real magic that goes well beyond the tricks they perform in the show. But he also learns things that make him question some of the scientific advancements that have recently intrigued him as well.

Grit, faerie princess of the Seelie court, has never really felt like she fit in anywhere. Yes, she’s a princess, but she was born with only one wing and many would say she doesn’t act like a princess. But she isn’t going to set aside her sense of adventure or curiosity just because it is what people expect of her. And when faeries from across Skemantis start disappearing, she finds herself on a quest to help find out who is behind it. And that quest brings her to a young magician’s apprentice named Carmer. And while he seems an unlikely ally, he may just be the one person who can help her find out what is going on and put an end to it before more faeries are hurt.

I do not give many five-star ratings, but there was no question for me when I finished this book that it deserves it. I found myself quickly lost in the world of Skemantis, invested in the characters, and drawn to turn each page by wonderful pacing, description, and action. I particularly enjoyed the partnership between Carmer and Grit, both the way it developed and the dynamic between the two of them as the story drove on. For the first book in a series, this is a great start, and I look forward to reading future installments.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy of the book received from the publisher in advance of publication.]

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Series: Untitled Series, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on January 10, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Vasilisa (Vasya) lives with her family in the Russian wilderness, where the winters are hard and long but they work together to make it through. And one of the hallmarks of those winter nights is the gathering of the children around the oven to hear tell of fairy tales and legends from their history. They are stories that are being quickly left behind with the spread of Christianity throughout their lands. But Vasya knows there’s some truth to them. She can see the household spirits–the subject of several of the nightly stories. Vasya also knows that as people stop paying mind to these spirits, they become weak and lose their hold over the families land and the ability to keep them protected from more malevolent beings. And there is a danger lurking just beyond the trees waiting for the right opportunity to leap out from the shadows.

I struggle with where to begin with this story because I want to avoid spoilers as much as I can. I even feel like my synopsis above might be too much if it wasn’t for the fact that most of this information can be gleaned from the publisher’s blurb. But I will say this is an excellent fantasy title, referencing mythology of Russia with a strong emphasis on family dynamics. The characters are well written, especially Vasya who faces a number of challenges and moments of growth throughout the book. And the narration easily brings this world to life on the page.

This is the first book in what the author plans to be a trilogy–I certainly look forward to the next installment.

Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Guyliner

Guyliner by j. leigh bailey

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 17, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Connor is seen as the golden boy, and he’s okay with that as long as it means a ticket out of the small town where he lives. He gets good grades, is athletic, works a part-time job, has a great girlfriend, and gets along with pretty much everyone. And that includes the new kid, Graham. Graham is a self-assured star soccer player who wears eyeliner. Wait, eyeliner? But that’s not the only thing Connor notices about Graham. He’s drawn to him and can’t get him out of his head. And that’s just not acceptable–it doesn’t fit into Connor’s plans. He can’t be with a guy and get where he wants to go, can he? But as the two spend more time together, Connor begins to wonder if he really can deny the truth about how he feels. And even if he can, is what he’d be giving up worth the tradeoff?

I struggle to find the words to describe just how much I enjoyed this book. I cannot help wondering how many young men out there go through exactly what Connor goes through in this book. And Graham, too, to be fair. While we often reflect on the fact that it is “easier” to come out now than it was years ago or that young people seem to be coming out at earlier and earlier ages, we can’t simply dismiss the idea that it can be challenging for many people. And the pressure we all feel to be a certain kind of person or achieve certain things–even when it’s not made explicit–can be overwhelming on its own. To face the reality that being true to yourself means giving up many of the things that we’re taught to expect out of life as children (or to at least realize that they won’t happen quite as we expect) can be scary. And it’s even scarier to have to sort that all out as a young adult.

This is, hands down, one of the best young adult LGBT stories I’ve ever read. And I give it a very strong recommendation for all readers, both young and old.

Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Winterwode

Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Series: The Wode, Book 3
Published by: DSP Publications on October 6, 2015
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Robyn’s band is all back together. His sister, Marion, is back at his side. And he’s recovered the lost love of his youth, Gamelyn. Except Gamelyn isn’t just Gamelyn anymore. Guy of Gisborne, Templar, still resides in there somewhere. It’s an identity that can’t easily be shed. But Robyn is patient, and Gamelyn sometimes seems willing to try.

When a traveling minstrel informs the Shire Wode outlaws that the Queen Mother is essentially being held prisoner by Prince John, their relatively happy reverie is broken. Despite being branded outlaws, they’re too noble to let that stand. Of course, it helps that it’s an opportunity to stick it to the tyrannical prince.

There are a few problems, though. Not only do they need to sneak in and break out the Queen Mother. They will need to take her to Temple Hirst, thrusting Gamelyn/Guy right back into the Templar order. And to complicate matters even more, someone with knowledge of the Wode’s magic is on their trail. And he may just be a force to be reckoned with.

Can they pull off the rescue? And if Gamelyn rejoins his fellow knights, will he fall back into the life of Guy? Will Robyn lose him forever? And what would that mean for the Lady’s prophecy?

I’m such a fan of this series, and I’m so glad there are some additional books coming. It’s such a well-written retelling of the Robin Hood story. This history, the imagery, and the fantasy combine to create such a rich, dynamic world. And I’ve honestly devoured every page since I started the first book in the series.

There are some wonderful twists and turns in this book that certainly serve to keep readers on the edge of their seats. And the tension that exists throughout creates an incredible thread to pull you along. Writing of this caliber is a rare find.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades

Book Info

Title: City of Blades (The Divine Cities, Book 2)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Published: January 26, 2016
Pages: 464
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

The city of Voortyashtan was the home of Voortya, the goddess of war, death, and destruction. It was her followers who, after unleashing as much death as possible, were transformed into the sentinels who terrorized the Saypuri slaves. And they were the first people who were promised an afterlife by a Divinity. Thankfully, with the death of all of the gods and goddesses and the Blink, the Divinities and their miracles are a thing of the past. But the recent discovery of a mysterious ore near Voortyashtan, while not Divine in nature, has some people concerned.

Among those concerned is Prime Minister Shara Komayd. But her political position leaves her with few options to investigate. So she enlists Turyin Mulaghesh, retired general still trying to live off the grid after her victory at the Battle of Bulikov five years earlier, to go into the city and investigate. It’s not something that Mulaghesh would willingly sign up for, but Komayd is persuasive. And before she knows it, Mulaghesh is thrust into the investigation of a mystery that brings up just as many ghosts from her own past as it does ghost of Voortyashtan. And in the process, she learns that sometimes we can be held to promises and oaths we take long after we expect–and what it truly means to be a soldier.

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished City of Stairs back when it was released. The world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created is one where I am willing to spend as much time as he can make possible. The rich history, the dynamic characters, and the political intrigue add so many layers to these epic fantasy stories. And the unexpected twists along the way make them that much more interesting and entertaining.

The character development in this story is also something that I hadn’t really expected. The arc that we see Turyin take from start to finish is something to behold. And it’s rare to see a writer take a character on a journey like this in a way that feels organic and not forced at all. And as someone who puts character development and character-driven stories high up on my list of what’s important in a book, it takes this great story to the next level in my eyes.

Very highly recommended!!

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Before Sundown by Lisa Worrall

Before Sundown

Book Info

Title: Before Sundown
Author: Lisa Worrall
Published: January 4, 2016
Pages: 200
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Review

Samuel Somerfield’s life hasn’t been the greatest. Although he’s the heir to his father’s ranch, there’s a part of him that would give anything to get away. Since Samuel’s mother died, his father has been nothing but cruel to him, making it clear that he’s a disappointment whose only purpose is to do what his father tells him to do. And that involves marrying Eleanor Johnston to bring the two families together. It’s a fate to which Samuel is resigned.

When Eli Watkins takes a job at a new ranch, he doesn’t expect anything extraordinary. He’ll work with the horses–as he’s used to doing–and take on whatever jobs or tasks he’s asked. And he’ll keep his attraction to other men a secret. Which proves harder than he hoped once he meets the boss’s son, Samuel. There’s something about him that makes Eli enjoy getting under his skin, and Eli can’t help wondering if maybe there might just be a spark waiting to fire back at him. But the expectations for Samuel are written in stone by his father, and the man will stop at nothing to make sure his son lives up to them…

Giving a book a five-star rating is a rarity for me, but there was just something about this book that spoke to me in many ways. There’s a raw realness to it, and it’s a story that just keeps delivering at every turn. I found the characters relatable, and the world in which the story takes place is laid out perfectly. In short, it’s easy to get lost in this book and feel like you’re right there with Samuel, Eli, and company. Although the book wraps up nicely, I certainly would be interested in seeing more from these characters and how their lives progress after the events of the story unfold.

[Content warnings: violence, animal cruelty, discussions of sexual assault]

Shirewode by J. Tullos Hennig

Shirewode by J. Tullos HennigTitle: Shirewode (The Wode, Book 2)
Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Published: September 8, 2013
Pages: 390
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher’s Website: link
Rating: ★★★★★

His family gone and his home destroyed, Rob was left for dead and that should have been his fate. Except fate decided it wasn’t his time. So he takes to the Wode, taking up the mantle of the Horned Lord, and doing his best to defend the few of his people left and the surrounding villages from the corrupt government and the church. Thinking Rob was lost, Gamelyn complied with forced exile by his brother and joined the Knights Templar. But now he has returned on a very specific mission, and he won’t let much stand in his way. Even when the two find each other again, their past may not be enough to break down the walls of pain that have built up between them. Except there is one thing that might be able to bring them back together–Marion is alive…

I can’t even begin to express how much I absolutely love this series. Not only do we get a thrilling and well-written take on the Robin Hood legends, but things seem so real, so well-researched, and just amazingly presented. The familiarity of the story, the fantasy elements, and the relationships just make for an incredible combination. The characters are so gritty and real–there are no soft edges here. I found it very difficult to put this one down; each little twist in the story just drew me in even further.

I am extremely excited to know that there is more to the story…

 

Prickly Business by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

25462873Title: Prickly Business (Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 1)
Author: Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade
Published: July 27, 2015
Pages: 256
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★★★

Avery Babineaux is definitely unique. A hedgehog shifter from a wealthy Louisiana family, he’s chosen to live his life away from his family and among the Portland wolf pack. Life is fairly easy for him, though, as he’s able to live off an allowance from his parents and never wants for the nice things he’s used to. In fact, he’s so used to nice things that he cast of Dylan Green, a member of the Portland pack and Avery’s apparently fated mate. Dylan is just a blue collar mechanic, after all. But when Avery gets himself into trouble with some seedier shifters and puts the steady stream of family money in jeopardy, he’s forced to finally fend for himself and, though very reluctant, may actually have to ask others for help. In the process, he stumbles onto the case of a missing pack member and quickly finds himself falling down a hole that he just might not be able to climb out of–unless, just maybe, Dylan will help him out…

Hedgehog shifter?! This had me at that descriptor alone. But I was completely blown away by just how wonderfully executed this story turned out to be. The characters are both endearing and frustrating, the world they live in is vivid and complex, and the plot is one that kept this reader very much on the edge of his seat. I honestly don’t know that I’ve had as much fun reading a book as I had reading this one in quite a long time. I don’t give a book 5 stars very often, but this one sailed past that rating without any hesitation or reservation my part. A very highly recommended title! I can’t wait for the next installment!

Greenwode by J. Tullos Hennig

23571391Title: Greenwode (The Wode, Book 1)
Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Published: January 17, 2013 (Re-released October 28, 2014)
Pages: 370
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Re-released by DSP Publications)
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Review:

I’m going to simply start off by saying this was incredible! This refreshing and unique take on the tale of Robin Hood had me gripped to every single page. I love when an author can take a time-honored tale and truly make it her own, telling it in a way that hearkens enough to the original legend but has enough new layers to tell a new story. The layers that J. Tullos Hennig has added here are indeed many, but they also feel very natural to the story. There’s almost an air of realism to this fantasy and even an element of historical fiction through the portrayal of religion and the quest of zealous Christians to stamp out anything they view as “pagan” or “evil”. It’s also a true coming-of-age tale for both Robyn and Gamelyn (and, of course, Marion, too, though we don’t quite see as much of her here). The only disappointments I have are that I let this sit on my shelf for so long before reading it and the fact that I don’t have the sequel at hand to pick it up and start in on it immediately. Definitely one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in some time and certainly one of the better books I’ve read recently overall. Very highly recommended!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, Book 1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Published: February 24, 2015
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor Books
Author Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Review:

In a world of parallel universes, there is one constant: London. Though every world is very different, they all have a city named London in the same place and it serves as the loose thread that holds them all together. And the thread is loose because there are only a few who can travel between them. Kell is one such Traveler, and has become the ambassador (and an adoptee) of the royalty of Red London to carry correspondence back and forth with Grey London and White London. But on his visits, Kell engages in a hobby of smuggling artifacts back and forth, despite the objections and warnings of his adopted brother. But neither of them know the true extent of the trouble Kell might wade into without even thinking…

I have to start by saying I LOVED THIS. A high fantasy filled with magic, intrigue, royalty, and betrayal? Sign me up over and over again. But more than that, Schwab has created a world that is well-developed and has that ring of truth that is so important when writing speculative fiction of any kind. The complexity of the characters and the relationship dynamics are just as important to the story as the world serving as the backdrop, and there are no disappointments there, either.

I highly, highly recommend this to anyone who has even the slightest interest in fantasy. I think it’s a fair bet you will not be disappointed.