Monday, September 19, 2016

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Publication Date: September 20, 2016

Series: Kingdom on Fire (bk. 1)

Genera(s): Fantasy/Alternate-history

Subjects: sorcerers, magicians, magic, supernatural, abilities

Setting: London, England in Victorian times

POV/Tense: 1st person POV, past tense: Henrietta Howel

Age/Grade Level: Teen

Length: 404 pgs.

HC/PB: Hardcover

List Price: $17.99

Publisher: Random House

Summary/ product description: “I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.”

My Review:  A Shadow Bright and Burning is an alternative-history fantasy set in Victorian London. Henrietta Howel has the ability to light herself on fire. She is a teacher and previous student of an all-girls school. She has a friend who is and Unclean (scarred by an Ancient) named Rook. Over a decade ago the Ancients were summoned and a great war began. The seven Ancients, include R’helm the Skinless Man, Korozoth the Shadow and Fog, On-Tez the Vulture Lady, Nemneris, the Water Spider, Zem the Great Serpent, Molochoron the Pale Destroyer, Callax the Child Eater.

A sorcerer named Cornelius Agrippa comes to the girl school that Henrietta lives at and now teaches at and he believes she might be the prophesized one. He says she’s the first female sorcerer in a long time and that she could be the key to defeating the ancients. He bring her to London to meet the other sorcerer apprentices who are all male. He has to train her by the commendation on Midsummer’s eve, the summer solstice.

The other sorcerers are all males and including the charming and flirty Julian Magnus, the brooding George Blackwood, and Arthur, Clarence, Cellini, Isaac, and Dee. She stays in the room that used to be Agrippa’s daughter Gwendolyn’s room. She’s been dead for the past years. She meets a Hobgoblin doctor named Fenswick. He maid’s named is Lilly. There’s also a magician named Hargrove who recognizes Henrietta somehow. Magicians’ magic is outlawed, but they are allowed to live, unlike the witches who used to be around.

Henrietta’s powers grow with the training, but they aren’t reliable like the other sorceress. They seem to be tied to her emotions. Henrietta may not be what she was told that she was. She feels out of place, but will do anything to be commended by the Queen and help defeat the ancients. With some romance, action and magic, a Shadow Bright and Burning is an exciting tales of dark fantasy.

I recommend this book to fans of Red Queen by Victria Aveyard, the Young Elites by Marie Lu, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Aheirs, and The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows.

Cover Art Review: I love the burning rose image, but it reminds me off the book series False Memory. I like the paper used for the cover too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Series: Standalone

Genera(s): Mystery/Thriller

Subjects: survival, camping, murder

Setting: Southern Ohio

POV/Tense: 1st person, present tense: Sera

Age/Grade Level: Teen

Length: 320 pgs.

HC/PB: Paperback

List Price: $10.99

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Summary/ product description: “Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…”

My Review:  I received an ARC of One Was Lost from Anderson’s Bookshop for a pre-pub event, which I sadly can’t attend because of a night class.

One Was Lost is a standalone thriller set in the Appalachian wilderness of southern Ohio. A group of 6 teens are on a trip with two teachers. A rainstorm causes a flash flood. The bridge that they were supposed to cross the river with is broken. Sera, Lucas, Jude, Emily and Mr. Walker make it across, but Madison, Hayley, and Ms. Brighton get left behind as the river floods.

The group of five sets up camp, hoping the river level will go down the next day. The next morning they wake up to find word written on their arms and Mr. Walker unable to wake up. They figure out that they were drugged, probably by something in their water bottles. Most of their supplied have been destroy or stolen. Sera’s word is Darling, Lucas has Dangerous, Emily has Damaged, and Jude had Deceptive.

This book is full of brutally realistic survival and a freaky mystery. I had my guesses on who did it, but I didn’t expect who it turned out to be. I enjoyed the romance between Sera and Lucas. I thought Sera being a director of school plays made her a unique and interesting protagonist. I liked the fast pace of the story and I just wanted to know what happened next. I never read anything by this author before, but this book made me want to check her other books out.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy mystery thrillers, like anything by Alexandra Sirowy, Kimberly Derting, or Becca Fitzpatrick.

Cover Art Review: My ARC cover is orange. The new cover has a voodoo-doll made of sticks, which are mentioned in the book.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

Series: Standalone

Genera(s): Horror/Mystery/Thriller

Subjects: murder, death, islands, summer

Setting: Gant Island in Washington state

POV/Tense: 1st person POV, present tense: Lana

Age/Grade Level: Teen

Length: 387 pgs.

HC/PB: Hardcover

List Price: $17.99

Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Summary/ product description: “Lana used to know what was real.

That was before when her life was small and quiet.
Her golden step-brother, Ben, was alive, she could only dream about bonfiring with the populars, their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell the truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, and living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten: Love, blood, and murder.”

My Review: The Telling is a standalone murder-mystery thriller set on an island in Washington State, called Gant. Lana’s step-brother was possibly or probably murdered two month ago in June. His ex-girlfriend was suspected in helping a car jacking that led to his dead. Ben had stopped the car for a stranger and was attacked and stabbed and then dragged away. Lana spent about a month after his death moping at home until a note Ben left jolts her out of her grief. She starts hanging out with the popular kids, who she’d never thought would include her in anything.

These kids made fun of her in middle school and some of high school. Now it’s August and soon school starts. These popular kids known around town as the Core (Becca, Carolynn, Rusty, Duncan and Josh) are with Lana and Willa (Lana’s only previous friend) at a spring in the woods hanging out and drinking. They dare each other to jump off a cliff into the lake and when they do they find a body stuck under the water: Ben’s ex-girlfriend, Maggie. And when they report the body they suddenly become suspects. But this murder is only the beginning and Lana and the Core have to find the murderer before they become victims.

Ben, Lana’s stepbrother, has a mysterious past. He arrives with his mother Diane, when he was twelve. Diane became Lana’s father’s new wife. Lana’s mother died when Lana was four. Ben’s been telling Lana fantastical stories of good vs. evil since he came. In these stories, Lana and Ben are always the heroes and Lana’s a brave warrior. These stories are sometimes disturbing a violent. They’re not the sort of thing out of a kid’s imagination. Lana was addicted to those stories. They made her feel strong. She wanted to be brave like that Lana. Ben was obsessed with adventure and getting out of Gant. He wanted to do something important with his life, so he spent some time in Guatemala helping to build wells. Gant is a place full of rich people who have excess and Ben found it disgusting, yet his life was full of riches too. He considered himself a hypocrite, and said he wanted to leave Gant after high school.

I really enjoyed the book. I usually only read sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal stuff, but because this had a ghost-story horror feel to it, I didn’t care. It’s a very atmospheric book. The misty setting of Washington in late summer became a character itself. I recently watched the TV series Dead of Summer and even though that was paranormal and not contemporary, it had the same kind of creepy summer feel. I read The Creeping last year by this author and enjoyed it. 

Also, I really am amazed that I was right about the twist. I had this epiphany when I was maybe a third of the way into the book that if I was the author, I would totally make the killer someone so unsuspected, so I went off on a limb on this idea, was pulled away from it by some possibilities, but inevitably came back to the this conclusion which turned out to be right. I sure it was just foreshadowing or maybe a cliché in classic horror and not actually as clever a twist I thought, or maybe I have a psychic superpower for guessing plot twists, because I right maybe half the time or more. It’s really hard to talk about it because it’s too big of a spoiler, but I saw it coming somehow. I WAS RIGHT!!!!

Cover Art Review: I love the opalline paper this is printed on. The cover itself is creepy and definitely gives you a sense of the story inside.