Destroyed

The Untamed Series #4
By Madeline Dyer

If you haven’t read the Untamed series yet, you’re really missing out. This dystopian set in Africa pitting sci-fi against spirits is one of my all-time favorite series and one which I recommend left and right. So when I got the opportunity to Beta read for the author, I was more than thrilled. Dyer’s epic conclusion to the Untamed series will leave the reader trembling and shaking. What an adrenaline rush, what a roller coaster of a book!

(Spoilers for the first books from here on out)

32828471Summary

LOVE. DEATH. SACRIFICE.
THE LAST NIGHT HAS BEGUN.

Seven Sarr, the most powerful human in the world, is alive—and she’s on the run from her enemy. With the Dream Land gone, the Gods and Goddesses dead, and the Untamed’s number of Seers at a record low, Seven knows her people must attempt to work with the Lost Souls—including the most volatile and dangerous spirits—if they’re to have a chance of beating the Enhanced Ones once and for all.

But when the Enhanced impose a new threat and Corin’s life is at stake, Seven must make her hardest choice: save the man she loves and let her people perish, or allow Corin’s death so the Untamed can survive.

Locked into a tight countdown to her own demise and solitary entrapment within a torturous realm, Seven must make her decision quickly. Her Seer powers are the strongest, and her death will end the War of Humanity once and for all. When the new morning dawns, the world as she knew it will be gone. What—and who—will be left behind is up to Seven.

Will her love shape the future of the world?

Musings

After the jaw-dropping ending to Divided, a lot of questions lingered about the new shape of the world. And it looks grim: the gods are all dead, the dreamland, destroyed, and the survivors of the massive seer battle are few and far between. Seven must lead them all to safety, knowing that the end is near, for better or for worse.

It’s impossible to put down this book. So much happens, and so quickly: Seven must try to rally the remaining Untamed while learning to balance her new incredible power, but it seems to hopeless. You can feel the oppressiveness of a dying world, and the feeling that the end times are really here. Time itself seems to be unraveling. We meet new characters, pockets of Untamed surviving the only way they know how. Seven is faced with tough decision after tough decision, trying to lead her people through the worst possible times.

Seven has grown so much since we first met her, all those books ago, learning her mother had just died at the hands of the Enhanced. She’s stronger now, and incredibly powerful, but at the same time, she’s just as scared and uncertain as any teenager. She struggles with the weight placed upon her but does what she must, showing true bravery – while not always being the wisest. Her relationship with Corin has also grown, though it’s tough to maintain an air of romance when the world is ending.

There are some truly mind-blowing moments. Certain characters reveal secrets I never saw coming, and per usual Rayleigh is up to his mind tricks, but more intense than ever. We never know who to believe –  if even Seven’s own mind can be trusted. An incredible price must be paid to save the Untamed, if only she’s willing to pay it.

And the ending… that ending… I had to read it over three times to be sure I saw what I saw really did just happen. I need more people to read it so I can freak out with them about it!

Destroyed is the epic conclusion to one of the most exceptional dystopian series of the decade. Brilliantly plotted and complex, it is a powerful finale that will break many a reader’s heart.

All I can say is: bring tissues. You’ll need them.  But not for what you think!

Expected publication: November 20th 2018 by Ineja Press

 

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The Mortal Word

The Invisible Library #5
By Genevieve Cogman

Readers of this blog will know how obsessed I am with the Invisible Library series, from the very first book! I have loved following the adventures of Irene and Kai as they work as spies for the greatest library in the universe, which works to control the balance of the multiverse by stealing important books from parallel worlds. Every book just gets better and better, and book five is no exception, topping the series as their best adventure yet!

39169409Summary

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-traveling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos . . . and the Library.

When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Vienna, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, but that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris.

Once they arrive, it seems that the murder victim had uncovered evidence suggesting that he may have found proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are already hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder—but was it a dragon, Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?

Musings

It’s impossible to say exactly what genre this book is. While the series is bookmarked as being historical fiction, The Mortal Word is part murder mystery, political thriller, and paranormal all at once. The balance between the Dragons (who stand for order) and the Fae (for chaos) is coming to a head, and if Irene doesn’t do something fast, the entire world is in danger.

The plot is so complex and intriguing that it never feels predictable. Irene must lead a team of people from each faction to solve the murder of a Dragon delegate, to discover who was trying to sabotage the peace treaty. Remove the word dragon, and you’d think you have a political novel on your hands. Finding the answer isn’t only difficult from the way the murderer covered their tracks, but also because the answer could make or break peace among worlds.

I loved this new installment. I loved the new depth to Irene’s relationship with Kai (total OTP) but also getting to see Vale again, and meet some important players on each side of the conflict. What I love about these books is not only how much I relate to Irene – I feel like she was written just for me – but how much the characters grow from book to book, making them all so realistic and deep.

The Mortal Word also shows how strong Cogman is as an author: a single tipping point with so many consequences it would snowball and put the universe at risk, that’s not an easy thing to write. It involves fully understanding the complexities of the factions she created, and fully drawing us into it at the same time. The way Irene not only has to solve the mystery but simultaneously worry about how every step she takes will influence the balance of power and the result of the treaty – that as masterful.

I just heard there will be possibly 8 books in the series, and I just can’t wait. I need book six right now! The author continues to grow and develop a powerful universe, and I know each book will be even better than the last.

Expected publication: November 27th 2018 by Ace

B-Side

By Jannis Jones
Based on the screenplay by Jannis Jones and Jason Rohan

Every once and a while I like to pick up a book that is outside of my usual genre. While I’m usually an SF or Fantasy fan, it’s always a treat to find a well thought out crime novel, something to get my mind racing and heart pumping. B-side was that book for me: intriguing and wildly engaging, it transported me to California and right into the lives of two fantastic women reeling through tragedy. And it was epic.

51f4ad12bk3lSummary

So many ways to spend your anniversary night. Praying your partner survives a vicious assault by an unknown attacker is not high on the list, but for LAPD detective Mara Bays, this is the reality.

Theories abound – a gay hate crime, a random assault, a revenge attack – but no leads. When her personal connection shuts her out of the investigation, Mara must rely on her colleagues to handle the case. 

Musings

This book was initially written as a screenplay, and the strengths of that medium remain: reading it was like watching a movie. Very dialogue heavy, the complexity of the characters unfolds through their conversations, their mannerisms, their little tics. Through this, you can sort of guess the ending, piece together the clues, but when the ending finally arrives it’s massively surprising.

While the author breaks the rule of showing not telling, because of the screenplay feel, it doesn’t feel obtrusive. In fact, it allows us to ‘see’ what happens all the more vividly. The author also doesn’t over describe her scenes, which allow for the mind to take over. It’s an easy book to read thanks to it following ‘movie’ rules: short, intense, with bright and memorable characters and scenes. It also allows the reader/viewer to see LA through many different perspectives, creating a full picture of the beautiful – and the bad.

But what we’re here for is the story, and while it is simple, it was still unexpected. The author manages to reel you in because you care so much for Casey and Mara from page one: you want to know why this happened, and you are as dedicated as Mara to follow through. Unlike the detective novels I have read in the past, it feels like a police procedural and more… personal. I don’t know if that’s the word for it. But it’s not cold like a mystery, and not chilling like a thriller, it’s dramatic and vibrant and human.

I highly recommend B-Side to anyone who enjoys a good whodunnit, but also to fans of contemporary fiction, as it packs an emotional punch!

Celestial Blog Tour – Exclusive Excerpt

Blog Tour Readcommendations

Starstruck Saga #4
by S.E. Anderson

Welcome to day one of the Celestial Blog Tour! In just one week, book 4 of the Starstruck Saga will hit the shelves, and Sally’s next big adventure will be revealed. And It’s promising to be more exciting (and weird) than ever before! To start off the week, I’ll be sharing with you the entire first chapter of the upcoming book. Be sure to visit the bloggers every day for more cool and exclusive Celestial goodies!

Spoiler warning if you haven’t read the first three books yet.

Blurb41019585

Sally, Zander, and Blayde, accompanied by their new friend Nim, have only one request: no more bizarre distractions on their hunt for Earth.

But before their cells can complete a single jump, the team is shoved off course and crash into a dreary old temple. Worse yet, there seems to be some confusion over Sally’s face, as it looks exactly like that the local deity, Selena, goddess of the moon and omniscient absentee. Sally’s ticking every box on the ancient prophecies checklist. 

Fresh off of her meds and riding the withdrawal, and Sally must choose between embracing the role of Goddess so as to protect the planet from mysterious Sky People, or being thrown in a Volcano. Not the best way to start a tropical vacation. It’s not going to be easy uniting warring factions, dealing with excitable whispering forests, or fighting both literal and figurative demons. Not to mention keeping up the appearance of divinity when all Sally wants is a nap. 

Armed only with some high school improv’ classes and a basic knowledge of foreign pop songs, Sally must save the planet – before everything goes up in flames.

Chapter 1

SALLY WEBBER AND THE TEMPLE OF DEATH

The day I ran out of Prozac, I landed in the Temple of Death, which is the worst possible way to start an adventure. Then again, I wasn’t looking for adventure; I was looking for home and the temple got in the way. Buildings like that crave attention.
It started off as all good adventures do: with a sense of excitement and endless possibilities. Zander and Blayde, two immortals I somehow got to call my friends, Nim the boy we had partially kidnapped and partially rescued from a literal bubble society, ande—all four of us holding hands on the ship we had just saved, ready to be whisked away to another world, with me silently hoping it would be Earth. I was prepared for the interstellar atom shredder that was Zander’s jump, a method of crossing space in the blink of an eye, though your eyes can’t blink when they’re particles on a cosmic wind.
The second my being was opened to the immensity of the universe, I was filled with a sense of meaninglessness. It was so powerful it made me want to shrivel up and out of existence. I felt empty. I felt lost. And yet—through all this—I felt like I was part of something bigger, something I could not yet comprehend.
Nothing compared to the first jump—the feeling of bliss that had come from being dragged through the rips in the universe, becoming one with everything around me—nor the pain of having it taken away again. Every jump since was easier, a smaller taste of those feelings, as I learned not to give myself up so entirely or so easily.
But none of those jumps had a temple in the way. Out of nowhere there was a shove, and just like that I was lying on cold stone, my head spinning.
I had never felt something physical in the space between the stars. I had never experienced anything other than the whole ‘not being me’ part. And how had I run out of breath when I hadn’t stopped breathing?
I groaned and pushed myself up to sit. The world around me was dark, the air smelling heavily of mildew and mold. I clutched my chest, willing the pressure to dissipate, but the tightness grew.
“Arms … fingers … head, toes, shoulders, and shit, everything’s here,” I said as soon as my mouth allowed it. My body trembled from the shock and the pain. I had to calm down. I had to get my body straight.
And there was no answer.
My eyesight took an eternity to return. Fingers of nothingness pressed against my eyelids. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything. Or maybe the room was windowless, lightless, everything-else-less.
I wondered, for a second, if I was still floating in the in-between space of the universe, if this was what death was like. The idea of being dead scared me a whole lot less than the thought of being alone.
I forced myself to my feet, my muscles screaming as if I had just run a marathon. Before I could even take a step, my stomach decided it was time to announce itself and I threw up.
Dang. I thought I had gotten the hang of jumping without retching. It’s never a good way to start the day.
“Hello?” No answer. “Zander? Blayde?” Still nothing. “Nim?”
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I pushed my hair from my clammy face. First things first, I needed light. Then I needed to find my friends—assuming they were nearby.
I shuddered at the thought of where else they could be. Halfway across the galaxy, perhaps, with no way of reaching me.
My trusty iPod was in my pocket, and I pulled it out, turning on the flashlight and scanning my surroundings. The chamber was about the same size as my living room back on Earth, though entirely empty. Every wall was carved stone, and the air inside was stale but damp, with a definite salty smell and a hint of rotting fish. Lichen grew on the walls, adding a nice touch of green to the place. That explained the smell but nothing else.
The ceiling was too high for my light to reach, so either it was way up there or my iPod sucked.
This wasn’t a cave; it was man-made. Or intelligently made. I wasn’t too sure on the nomenclature.
Panic rose in my chest, and I focused on breathing, forcing it back down. An attack right now wouldn’t help in the slightest. My control over my panic attacks was tentative but growing stronger. I was confident I could keep it at bay until I found Blayde and my meds.
“Is there anybody out there?”
I hadn’t expected a response, and I didn’t get one. My voice barely bounced off the walls; the chamber was that tight. I flashed the beam of light across the walls, desperate for a door. The room seemed smaller, closing in on me, suffocating me.
I had to get out. Now.
A new kind of fear filled me. One that threw me back to the look on Zander’s face after I had run him over all those years ago. To the terror of being abandoned in a place he did not know, alone, with no idea where his sister was. This chamber could have been anywhere in the universe for all I knew, and I was alone.
And then my beam landed on something that made every drop of blood in my veins retreat. Because there on the wall, in nice bold, excited letters, were three words I never thought I would see on the wall of a mysterious stone chamber.
Welcome, Sally Webber.
“Sally? Are you in here?”
Zander’s voice shattered my thoughts. Relief coursed through my bones, and I rushed forward. He had been holding my hand when we jumped, leading me through space until the terrifying shove had ripped us apart.
“Zander?” I sputtered, stretching out my hands.
“Sal! Hold on! I’ll get you out.”
The stones before me quivered and then slid away. The door had been hidden in the features of the wall. Now that it was in motion, it was so evident that I could have smacked myself for not seeing it.
And there he was: my immortal friend, complete with gravity-defying hair slick with dust and sweat, his skin tinted blue in the light of my flashlight. I flew at him, desperate for his reassurance.
“Zander,” I said again, giddy with relief. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with mildewy air. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” He touched his hand lightly to my cheek before pulling away again. Three words I hadn’t expected to hear. “I haven’t found Blayde yet, or Nimien.”
“But what happened?” I repeated. “The jump? That . . . push.”
“Let’s find Blayde.”
My heart dropped. Zander rarely avoided a question, not without a witty remark to distract me. He wasn’t even trying to cover up his terror; something had gone terribly wrong.
The outside of the chamber looked the same as the inside: more stone, more lichen, no light. How Zander had navigated his way through without a torch was beyond me. He picked a direction seemingly at random, and I followed him, keeping my little iPod light on. This would kill what was left of my battery, and there probably wasn’t an Apple charger for another thousand light years.
“What is this place?” I didn’t know why I was whispering, but something about the cold halls clenched my vocal cords.
“It feels ancient,” he replied, running his hand along the moss, “like a temple or something.”
“Or a labyrinth. We’re lost like rats in a maze.”
“But rats like solving mazes.”
“They do?”
“Why else do they make humans build them?”
I had no reply to that, or for anything else for that matter. But before I could even sputter out a reply, Zander threw out his arm to stop me.
“Did you hear that?” he whispered. I shook my head; his hearing was better than mine, anyway. “This way.”
A few minutes later, I heard it too: a faint rustling and maybe footsteps. The soft fall of light feet against stone. And then the soft steps weren’t so soft and weren’t so quiet. Blayde appeared out of nowhere, her rainbow hair disheveled in the gloom, my duffel bag slung over her shoulder.
“Zander.”
“Blayde.”
“Heya, Blayde.”
“Sally.”
“Have you seen Nim?” asked Zander, giving no sign of being happy to see her. She shook her head.
“I haven’t even found a way out. What was that, Zander?”
“I thought you might know.”
“I don’t.” Short, direct, to the point. There was a sudden animosity between them or maybe a shared terror. It was hard to imagine something that could scare two immortals.
The three of us set off in silence, hunting for the last member of our party: Nimien, the boy we rescued from a life of indentured servitude to the Alliance, only to drop him in a mysterious maze, a labyrinth of twists and turns that led nowhere. Not a great way to make him trust us.
As we talked, we found a torch on a peg against the wall, and Blayde lit it with her laser pointer, giving us a better touch of light than my phone. I had been the only one of us three to appear in a chamber—Zander and Blayde had found themselves in a corridor, with Zander narrowly avoiding a booby trap; a large log sailed right for him when he appeared.
I whispered about my welcoming sign. They said nothing, but the air around us got colder.
We turned a corner, and there he was. Nimien was slouched against a wall, his back to us, his weight on his shoulder. The first time I jumped, I had fainted, though that was before I woke up and threw up on Zander’s shoes, of course. Jumping was a shock to one’s system, as I could attest to. Maybe Nim was going through the same thing. If being shoved during a jump had felt so awful to me, I couldn’t imagine what it might have done to the kid on his first intergalactic time-space warping experience.
“Nimien!” I shouted, rushing to his side. He slouched forward, collapsing on the stone floor. Before I could reach him, Zander had jumped to his side, his face turning ashen.
“Did he faint?” asked Blayde, but as he fell back in Zander’s arms, we knew the answer. I was afraid to move any closer, but I had to know.
Nimien lay motionless, his Alliance uniform stained in a thick, dark liquid. No noise escaped his mouth, not a whine or groan from those bloody lips. There were hardly any lips left; most of the skin on his face had torn away like it was nothing but cloth.
Not to mention the rest of his body. I never thought skin could tear so easily and thoroughly. His body lay in shreds. What had once been a brilliant young man with a genius mind was now a bloody mess. I turned to Blayde, her face as unchanging as the stone walls of the room.
Blayde crouched beside the two men, saying nothing more. She didn’t look sad. She didn’t look angry. She looked tired.
“What …” I couldn’t finish my sentence. My stomach lurched, and I leaned over as if to retch, but my stomach was empty.
That was when I saw the booby trap on the side of the wall: a gate of spikes that had swung back on its hinges and was dripping in red.
“Is he …”
“He’s still breathing,” said Zander, his ear close to Nim’s mouth, “but I don’t know for how long.”
Tears welled in my eyes. Useless. I was so useless. All I had wanted was to save Nimien from a life of servitude. Was that too much to ask? Was Nim destined to be ripped from his home, saved from the Alliance’s child-hire program, only to be torn to shreds before he had a chance to see the universe?
Jumping was not an exact science, but there had been no faults with it in the few trips I had taken with the siblings. Well, except maybe with the fact that they had gotten me lost in the middle of nowhere in space, with no way to get home, and quite possibly years ahead of my life back on Earth.
Maybe I put a little too much trust in them.
Zander was my friend, though, and as such, I seemed to make excuses for him at every turn. But the truth was, if Nim died, he would take it personally. I had to save Nim. I was the one who had insisted he came with us.
I crouched by Nim’s side, knowing my stomach was empty enough to handle seeing him like this. He wasn’t dead, but he was close to it. His chest was heaving, but he was breathing all the same.
The tattered skin was too far gone, though.
“We have to do something.” I wanted to put my hands on Nim and comfort him, but I was afraid it would cause him more pain.
“We can save him,” said Zander, slowly, not taking his eyes off Nim.
“Absolutely not.” Blayde glared at him. “It’s too dangerous, we still don’t know if—”
“I did this,” Zander snapped. “Me. I convinced you he would be safe, and I jumped us to this… place. I have to save him.”
“But we don’t know the long-term effects.” Blayde reached for his arm. He pulled it away quickly. “Zander, we can’t do this. It isn’t safe.”
“We have to.”
He looked up at me, as if asking for permission. I shuddered. I hadn’t been following their conversation, not as closely as I should have been. My mind zoned out as soon as the possibility of Nim being saved was put on the table.
“Do what you have to, Zander,” I said, “Please. Save Nim. He has to live.”
He nodded slowly, once, twice. His eyes returned to Blayde, and she shook her head.
“He’s in my care,” he said. “It’s my decision.”
“Then he’s your responsibility. Whatever happens, you will be held accountable.”
“Of course.” Zander looked down at Nim, delicately placing the skin where it should be. Nim didn’t react. I don’t think he even knew we were there.
“But … what are you going to do?” I asked, my voice coming out in a faint squeak.
“I’m going to donate some blood.”
What was I even supposed to understand about that? Was it supposed to somehow reassure me? Was he really saying what I thought he was saying? I wanted to call out and tell him no, that it was wrong, that Blayde was right; they didn’t know what it could do to a person.
But this was Nim. He had to live. The universe was screaming it at me from every direction, as if it needed the boy alive at all costs. Though maybe it was the guilt gnawing at my stomach.
“What can I do to help?” I asked.
Blayde rifled through the duffel bag, and to my surprise, she pulled out a tiny first aid kit that definitely wasn’t mine. From inside, she retrieved a bright yellow syringe, handing it to me. I hesitated, my hand hovering over the device, fingers trembling at the knowledge of what was to come.
Zander nodded. With one hand cradled under Nim’s head, he outstretched the other arm, holding it out so I could pull his blood from the bulging vein. I looked down at the syringe, the arm, and my friend Nim dying on the floor.
“Remember, you’re not going to hurt me,” said Zander, his voice low and casual despite how serious the situation was.
“I know.” I stuck the needle into his arm and drew out the warm crimson liquid, trying to keep my trembling hands steady.
He took the syringe from me then, his hand touching mine for an instant, filling them with warmth the same way that door had. He looked up at his sister. “I know you don’t approve, but please. Take his feet. I’ll owe you one.”
She said nothing, but crouched down and clasped Nim’s calves, holding them in a vice-like grip.
“Sally, you hold his head steady,” he said. “Don’t let him move.”
I clutched Nim’s head, my hands clammy against his bald scalp. Tiny hairs were growing there now, prickling my palms.
Zander drove the syringe into Nim’s chest, but it was too late. He was dead. And it was my fault.
The three of us knew it was over, but no one dared say a word. My hands trembled as they clasped Nim’s head. His skin was so pale, even under the torchlight. Nimien had stopped breathing, and by the look of it, he wasn’t going to start again.
“Nim?” I stammered, brushing the sweat from his brow.
I knew he couldn’t answer, but I wanted to hear his voice again. I wanted to hear the excitement he had been bubbling with when we promised to take him away from that ship. The same excitement I’d had when I was invited to see the universe.
But I would never hear it again.
Nimien was dead. Until, out of nowhere, his back arched.

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Excited to see what happens next? Make sure to preorder your copy right here. Every preorder may claim their own gorgeous print of Sally as the goddess Selena, which I will personally mail to you with some other goodies. And don’t forget to check out Mad On Reading tomorrow for the next stop on the blog tour!

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Click here to claim yours!

 

 

Salt for Air

by M.C. Frank

Readers of this blog probably already know how much I adore M.C. Frank’s books. Her No Ordinary Star series is as beautiful as well crafted poetry and addicting to boot. So when she announced Salt For Air, with Greek mythology meeting the Little Mermaid, I shot it right to the top of my TBR and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Summary40119041

Greek mythology meets The Little Mermaid in this delicious fantasy novel about a quiet, nerdy girl who meets a mer prince in her bathroom. Perfect for fans of The Heroes of Olympus and the Lux series.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie dreams of mermen. She writes fanfiction about them and spends time in underwater kingdoms in her imagination, trying to escape the sad reality: she is an orphan. And not only that, but she’s bullied every day at school -she’s a nerd, she hates sports, she loves books and she used to be overweight. What’s not to bully?

One day, the bullies go too far. They try to drown her, but at the last minute an otherworldly creature shows up in the water. He keeps her breathing and tells her to live: “How will you be able to save anyone if you can’t even save yourself?”

She thinks it was a dream, but the emerald-eyed merman boy who rescued her appears in her school the next day. Is he really the exiled prince of an ancient kingdom that’s on the brink of utter destruction? And is he asking her to save him? Or is something far more sinister and deadly lurking in the water that surrounds her little Greek town?

When myth and reality collide, can love save their lives?

Musings

When I first started reading the book, I was a little nervous. Very quickly we see the traditional tropes of insta-love and an awkward bullied kid becoming the center of a fantastical plot. And then the author INSTANTLY turns these tropes right on their heads. Boom. You are now reading an entirely new book: darker, more dangerous, and where the stakes are very, very high.

From that point on, I was sucked in and could not put the book down. Never knowing who could really be trusted, if Ellie was safe or in terrible danger with these otherworldly strangers. If I was her, I probably would have run away screaming. But Ellie is a special kind of protagonist: full of hurt, loss, and constantly bullied, she shapes herself daily. She worries about who she is and what she has become – and this was without the Mer prince.

The supporting characters were fantastic. I adored Lei most, but Maia is a close second. Both are strong warriors who won’t let anything get between them and the people they protect. All together, they’re perfect #squadgoals.

I absolutely loved not only the incredible character growth but even more the outstanding worldbuilding. Frank takes the Greek myths we know and love, and stitches them into her complex narrative in such a way that they shine in a whole new light. Adding that to the author’s own Greek upbringing and love for her home, I want to hop on a plane right now.

“If you die for me, I’ll kill you.” – Salt for Air, M.C. Frank

One thing that makes this release even more phenomenal is knowing how much the author and her book have been through to get so far. An early version was plagiarized, the author bullied, the book put on hold as everything seemed to go south. The author even wrote this heartbreaking piece here on her blog. Salt for Air almost didn’t get published.

The author took all this pain, the bullying, and wove it into the story. Knowing the real-life events that transpired, I could feel this as I read, the anger, the hurt, all so real. But even if I hadn’t heard about the ordeal Frank went through, I would be able to see the raw vulnerability she presents in this book. Her words are personal. They are deep. They come from truth and resonate with power.

It seems Frank has concocted the perfect recipe for a fantastic book: Take the love of home + myths that shaped her + true pain and vulnerability + an amazing plot = an unforgettable novel. This is putting it mildly. I was crying at many points as I read it, my heart broken and mended over and over again.

I really could go on and on about this book. About how Ellie breaks every mold you have for a character like her. How the twist in the middle of the book is so beautiful and gut-wrenching at once. How brilliant Kai’s world is, especially when we find out what the way is really about. There is so much to love about this book, you just need to read it for yourself.

A powerful new book with brutal honesty, fiercely vulnerable writing and a magical, swoon-worthy romance!

Expected publication: October 23rd 2018

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Curie

Curie (Adaline #3)
by Denise Kawaii

In the past few days, I’ve told you about how addicted I’ve become to the Adaline series. Hooked from the first page of book one, it took me all of four days to devour these three books. Curie is the best of the series so far, and boy was I lucky to have an advance copy! Especially after how Biocide ended. If you’re not already into this series, pick it up now. And best buy all three books at once so you’re ready when you hit those cliffhangers!

Summary41590909

When 62 emerges from Adaline, he thinks his troubles are over. But will he be accepted by his rescuers?

The moment Boy 1124562 is rescued from Adaline, he’s thrust into a strange new world. It’s a land of off-grid outlaws, irradiated desert and a new species: Women. As 62 navigates the matriarchal society that’s dying out just beyond Adaline’s borders, he discovers an unsettling truth. The outside world is not the peaceful safe-haven of his dreams. 

There’s a second cloning program, a war-torn town, and a mysterious enemy lurking beyond the horizon. Is it harder to hide within the confines of a mechanized society, or to weather the storms brought by politics, a poisoned environment and Mother Nature? 62 is about to find out.

Musings

Spoilers here on out for the first two books!

At the end of Biocide, 62 and a handful of other abnormals are rescued by Blue and led to the outside world. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, 62 can finally discover the world he had only seen through dreams – but now, he can never go back. Those who leave Adaline can never return, would be shot if ever seen on a patrol. The book picks right up as 62 leaves his old life behind and embraces life on the outside.

Curie answers so many questions we’ve been asking since book one, namely – why? Why does Adaline grow boys? What happened to the outside world? Where are all the women? Why can’t they dream? (I loved the answer to this one. It made so much sense that it turned my suspension of disbelief into pure, grounded contentment. I mean – of course that’s why.)

The outside world isn’t an easy one like Adaline. it involves work, hardship, disagreement. But all the while, 62 is still this eager child we’ve grown to love. He is so thrilled to discover grass – making some pretty silly mistakes in the process. He’s confused by meeting girls or trying to understand how to eat. Discovering snow leads to a hilarious segment which I laughed for ages. Watching him discover what we take for granted had me grinning as I read.

We have new answers, but also new questions. Namely, who are the Yousa? And why are their demands so particular? Through ancient books and new friends, 62 pieces together the world’s past and tries to make sense of his place in it. While dreaming isn’t exactly prohibited, it’s seen as an oddity, like walking around with three arms. It’s not safe to be different, and 62 once again struggles to fit in.

In my mind, Adaline and Biocide could have been a single book. Curie turns the series so on its head that it can be seen as a turning point in Adaline. It’s so different: we can see it as an almost apocalyptic novel, with people struggling to build a culture, to get along, to find out which resources are valued the most. Having a child in such an adult world brought this sharp contrast between innocence and decay.

I need book four RIGHT NOW. The ending left me with so many questions – I shouldn’t have read the preview because there are even more! Whatever am I going to do in the meantime?

Expected publication: September 21st 2018 by Denise Kawaii

Biocide

Biocide (Adaline #2)
by Denise Kawaii

I probably shouldn’t have waited a week to write this review: I have Curie, book #3, swimming in my head as well and I have so much to say! But Biocide is a turning point in the series and I just have to tell you about it. If this review had a subtitle, it would be “why you should be reading the Adaline series and why I won’t shut up about it.” Here we go for book number two, Biocide!

Summary

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Will 62 use his abilities to protect himself, or save his friends? He can’t do both.

1124562 has found a way to blend in. When he gets an upgraded data chip, giving Adaline the statistics it expects, he’s rewarded with more freedom than he’s ever had before.

But 62 soon discovers he’s not the only one enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Hiding in a secret passageway is a Boy with blue eyes, no number, and the keys to a conspiracy that can never be brought to the surface.

When 62’s life is threatened by his keepers, he’s forced to make a fatal decision. Use his abilities to help Adaline purify its ranks, or sacrifice himself to save his new friend. Just when it seems his choice has been made for him, a secret comes to light that makes him question everything he’s ever known.

Musings

While Adaline, the first book, focused on 62’s awakening (ironically, as his revelations come to him in his sleep), Biocide focuses on his disillusionment. 62 is still the adorable, innocent little kid we know and love: he lives to please, is desperate to fit in. His ability to dream might free him of the boredom of his monotonous life, but it also sets him apart in a way that the very regulated system of Adaline is not equipped to deal with. Well, they do have one final way to deal with anomalies like him: biocide. The act of eliminating that which does not conform. Permanently.

62, however, in his pure innocence, can’t imagine something like that in his world. He’s now moved to the physical training portion of his childhood, where they make sure the boys are physically fit and ready to integrate the workforce. But physical exercise will change the readings on his chip, the ones monitored by the machines: the secret patch he and 42 put in place will no longer hold. 62 is in danger again.

But this time, instead of keeping his head down, 62 is learning a new skill: that of saying no. That of talking back. That of thinking for himself. But this, of course, puts not only him, but his friends in danger as well: his teacher, the doctor, and a new, fresh face with bright blue eyes that shouldn’t exist. 62 is beginning to question his existence. Unlike in the first book where he believed fitting in would solve everything, his beginning to ask why he needs to be the same as everyone else.

Many questions are finally addressed, though the answers are cryptic: is there an outside world still out there? Are other people in Adaline capable of dreaming, and if so, where are they all? Is Adaline really all there is out there?

At times I found this book a little slower than the first, but it was still an incredibly fast read. It took me a day to finish it, the same way I have been devouring this entire series. It’s simply brilliant. What is a familiar scifi trope becomes an exploration of what makes us human, and is relatable on so many levels. The author displays incredible skill in crafting her characters, making Blue lovable from the first time we meet him.

I love these boys. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire last chapter, and I really can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to pick Curie up immediately after finishing Biocide! I don’t think I could have waited with a cliffhanger like that!

Wild Hearts: The Coming Night

by Andrew Wichland

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The blurb was exciting, the cover absolutely gorgeous, making it look out of this world, unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Was it going to be an alien story, a human story, or both? Wild Hearts: The Coming Night is a fun, action-packed novel with excitement and friendship to last a lifetime. If you love aliens and teenage heroes, you’re going to love this book!

Summary40740761

Ian Dragan can still remember life before the Wraiths came. Now, the spectral aliens have laid waste to the galaxy, consuming every planet in their path. Next in line is Dragan’s homeworld: Centauries IV.

The remnants of the intergalactic alliance have placed their hope in the latest brainchild of  Shurgal: the Cybersuit, a shifting experimental battlesuit bristling with weaponry. On the front lines of his home, Dragan stands alongside this metal warrior, ready to fight and die. But he did not anticipate Overlord Kizor. A Wraith of terrible power, Kizor turns the Cybersuit upon its allies, and Dragan finds himself leading a handful of survivors off-world, memories of his burning planet fresh in his mind. Things go from bad to worse when the slip gate—their only avenue of escape—sends his ship hurtling into the distant past. 

Now, stranded on a familiar planet known as Earth, Dragan and his warriors wait for revenge. After a long wait to the present Ian can’t contact their or their allies last surviving military fleet when Earth is discovered, or the Wraiths will crash down onto Earth like a Tsunami. But when Shurgal crash-lands, bringing more Cybersuits hurtling to the planet’s surface, five Earth teenagers will stumble upon them and find themselves drawn into the conflict: the Wild Hearts. 

An exciting science fiction adventure about, survival, friendship, and courage.

Musings

I really enjoyed the premise of this novel: the idea that human teenagers can take a strong role in an intergalactic war is one of my favorite tropes out there. I love everything about rag-tag teams learning their skills, bonding together, and saving the universe.

The stand out aspect of this novel is the characters Wichland creates. Blair, a wheelchair-bound orphan struggling with the foster system, is a badass, stubborn fighter and the girl I related to most. Aisha is a blind Muslim girl, and my absolute favorite character: she’s strong, smart, and wicked fast. Before Aisha, Blair, Alec, and Hunter find the Cybersuits, they’re like the characters from the Breakfast club, on their way home from detention; after, they bond and form an incredible team that can take on anything.

I also loved the concept of the Cybersuits. More powerful than an exoskeleton, they now allow Blair to walk and Aisha to see, but can change ‘modes’ based on what DNA they’re given: for example, they can take on the sharp claws and brute strength of a Tiger, if it comes in contact with one. The team must learn to use the suits in order to take on the greatest threat the galaxy has ever seen: the Wraiths. Capable of possessing any living being, they’ve almost decimated the Centauri civilization and are hell-bent on taking over the earth as well. Only the teenagers stand in their way.

A few things irked me in this book, though, and a lot was hard to follow, especially in the beginning. The Centauri might have been sent into the distant past, but the author doesn’t do much with that: all the character growth seemed to have happened in the last quarter century (characters falling in love, loss, etc) so I don’t understand what they were doing with all five thousand years of their hiding on earth. Five thousand years is enough to build a civilization, fall in and out of love with a dozen characters. It’s an insanely long amount of time.

The perspectives switch between Ian (the Centauri leader) and Alec (the leader of the teens), which was a fun way to see the entire action. However, I had a lot of trouble connecting with both POV characters. Ian’s backstory, for example: he marries Terra (in the 1990s) and then she disappears – all within the course of two lines. So when Ian struggles with her loss in the book, we as a reader have a hard time believing it.  He drinks to forget a character we know absolutely nothing about.

The hard time I had connecting with Alec came from how much more interesting the characters around him were. Alec is the leader – but I have a hard time figuring out why. Blair and Aisha have must more backstory and growth than Alec or Hunter, which makes me wish badass Aisha was the leader.

I believe the book could have been fleshed out a whole lot more, answering our questions, developing the human backstory, giving us a reason as a reader to fall in love with these characters: something Wichland does perfectly with Aisha and Blair. I want to know why Terra was the love of Ian’s life to connect with him better.

Even so, I’m excited for the next book. I want to read what happens next! The friendship between the characters was fantastic, the action was fun to read, and the villains despicable. It played out in my head like the Power Rangers! Let’s see what happens next to these Wild Hearts!

Adaline

Adaline (Adaline #1)
by Denise Kawaii

You may have noticed I haven’t written much on this blog lately. Well, with everything going on – new job, a surprise trip to Asia, a book spilling out of me – I’ve also hit a reading slump. Well, that slump came to an end two days ago when I picked up Adaline and couldn’t put it down. I’m hooked on this series and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Summary 33618848.jpg

He may look identical to the hundreds of other Boys that surround him, but there is something different about Boy 1124562. When he closes his eyes in the quiet of his sensor-filled cube his mind doesn’t go blank like the rest of his brothers. Instead, 1124562 dreams.

With the help of a rogue teacher, 1124562 discovers that there is more to Adaline than brushed steel and robotic Nurses. When a Boy suddenly escapes the secure pod, it seems that all of Adaline is on a hunt for anyone with an anomaly. When 1124562 finds himself strapped to a table, the threat of an electric current pressed against his temples to erase his mind, he realizes just how dangerous being different can be.

Musings

Adaline is a society of identical clones, living like bees in a hive. Everyone is numbered according to when they were born. They are birthed, raised, and cared for by machines,  who weed out any ‘anomalies or signs of individuality that would somehow threaten Adaline – which is anything that exists outside their parameters, be it eye color or even the ability to dream.

The plot might sound familiar, as it’s the premise of quite a few scifi series: what happens if the human race was grown and raised in a pristine environment? But there’s something special about Adaline that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that makes it impossible to put down. And while I’m not sure exactly what it was that made this book so addictive, what I do know is that I picked it up while my computer was rebooting and ended up forgetting about my responsibilities entirely for the two hours it took me to read it cover to cover. Yes, it’s that addictive.

Adaline is an incredibly easy read. By that, I don’t mean it’s a simple story, no: it’s just so easy to get sucked into it. It’s a book you can enjoy as a pre-teen as well as an adult, because the fundamental story is something that we all need to read.

Boy 1124562 – 62 to his friends – is a sweetheart and a joy to follow even in his rigid society: him, and the other Boys he befriends, are each so vibrant and loveable. I loved getting to learn about the confines of Adaline through his eyes, and discovering what it is to dream. It’s so interesting to see the power of dreaming in a world as totalitarian as his.

62 is only a nine year old when the story begins. All he wants to be is a Good Boy, like he’s been told for the entirety of his life. Unlike so many books where the character actively rebels against a rigid system, 62 is a child, wanting only to please, terrified when he can’t. When he starts standing out, he’s both excited and terrified. He’s such an innocent and pure child, and like everyone, is afraid of being different – though in his world, he’s not quite sure how dangerous different can be.

So when everyone is born the same, can people still have their own personality? Is everyone identical in every single way? The novel is short, but it covers so much. It explores friendships and mentorships, like the beautiful relationship 62 grows with his teacher, 71, and reminded me how much I owe to the teachers in my life. Or between 62 and 99, two identical children, born so close to each other, struggling with standing out.

All in all, I don’t know why it grabbed me as tightly as it did, but I needed the sequel right away. I flew through Biocide and Curie, and I cannot wait for book 4. What an amazing book! If you liked Logan’s Run, Brave New World, and the Giver, you’re going to love Adaline. Trust me, you’re going to fly through it too.

Note: Reading some reviews of Adaline, people commented on how it needed editing, that the language was too ‘heavy’ and a little stale. Since I’m reading the most recent version, I think the author took all of these comments to heart and fixed all these issues, even going beyond and making it lyrical and fun to read. I didn’t find a single grammatical issue or missing word. 

Star-Touched Stories Blog Tour and author Q&A!

If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen and Crown of Wishes books, then you know why I’m enamored with her writing. Beautiful, lyrical prose and engrossing tales that leave you begging for more: she is a modern master storyteller. So when I heard that she was coming out with a series of short stories, I was ecstatic. And I was blown away.

About the stories

Star Touched Stories_cover image.jpgDeath and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Gauri and Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she will have to battle her insecurities and maybe, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Musings

Each story may be self-contained, but you should read her books in order to fully appreciate them. Death and Night is the prequel for the main characters in The Star-Touched Queen. Poison and Gold is a spin-off at the end of Crown of Wishes, following Aasha. And Rose and Sword is the epilogue of Crown of Wishes, spanning decades in a single story. That last one shattered my heart for all the right reasons, and I feel tears coming on as I think about it again.

I loved the chemistry between Night and Death in the first story. Their courtship was actually really cute, while being worthy of an epic. Seeing how their love blossomed, and how their relationships with their friends affected them even before Star-Touched Queen was a great touch. I think, of the bunch, this is the one story that will fill you with love and hope.

Now that Aasha is living with Guari and Vikram after the events of Crown of Wishes, as they prepare to marry and unite their two kingdoms, she is scared that her powers are out of control. She’s deadly and afraid of her own self. But when she is offered the chance to become their spy mistress, it’s an opportunity to find her place in this human world. I loved her training: it’s my favorite part of fantasy tales, to be honest. Seeing characters faced with seemingly impossible scenarios and then using their skills to get out.

As for the last tales, I won’t spoil a thing. It was the shortest of the lot, but the most passionate. It shows me just how powerful Chokshi’s writing can be, on top of beautiful. I’m in awe!

About the author

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

A Q&A with Roshana Chokshi

Roshani Chokshi CREDIT Aman Sharma.jpg

What was your favorite bed-time story (or tale in general) when you were growing up?

The one that stands out the most that terrified the living daylights out of me was TAILY-PO, an Appalachian horror story that for some reason is told to small children.

Of all the terrifying and bone-chilling characters in your books, which one scares you the most?

Probably the antagonists of A Crown of Wishes because they’re the result of what happens when you cannot let go.

Out of all the characters in your novels, which one did you have the most fun writing about and who do you relate to the most personally? What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

In the world of the Star – Touched Queen, I think the one who I related to the most was also the one that I had the most fun writing: Kamala! There’s just something about the demon horse that resonated a lot with me. I think it’s because she does everything that I would do in a fantasy story, which frantically derails the plot and whine to her friends about how hungry she is all the time.

What inspired you to create this fictional world? Were there anyRomo mythologies that particularly inspired you?

I was really inspired by the childhood stories that my grandmother told me. To me, they were so rich with details and texture that it really shocked me how these worlds and mythologies were never explored in mainstream literature. I was particularly inspired by Greek and Hindu mythology.

Why did you feel it was important to add Star-Touched Stories to this world you’ve created? What do you want readers to gain from the stories? Do you think there are any more stories to tell from the Star-Touched world, and if so, who you most like to write about next?

For me, this collection of stories is my farewell to the world that I created. It was extremely cathartic to write these three stories. I want readers to gain a sense of closure. I want readers to feel as much as I did when I with the stories. Who can say whether or not there are more stories left to tell in this world? 😉

Will you miss writing this world and characters?

Absolutely! They lived in my head for so long that I feel strangely weightless to be without them.

What was your favorite scene to write from Star-Touched Stories, and what was your favorite scene to write from the whole series?

Honestly, my favorite scene that I wrote was the last scene the last story. I think you’ll see why. As for my favorite scene that I wrote from the whole series, I think it would have to be the moment when Maya first enters the Night Bazaar.

Is there a scene or character from one of your stories that you’ve had to cut which you really wish you could share with readers?

There once was a speaking monkey character… But I had to let go of him. Maybe he’ll reappear some other time.

How is writing short stories different than writing a full-length book? How different is it to write YA and MG? How has your writing evolved?

Writing short stories is really different from writing a full-length book because you’re ultimately writing to a punchline in a shorter amount of space. There is less space to explore so the language must be very deliberate. I think my writing has evolved to become a lot more character focused than I once was. I still love gorgeous, decadent prose, but I believe that the best kind of language is that which is emotionally filtered through the feelings of a character.

What is the best advice you would give to inspiring writers?

Read often. I realize that sounds trite, but so many people retread the same path with stories out of comfort or nostalgia. I totally understand this and I’m one of those people who loves to reread my favorite books but I never found a sense of my own writing voice or writing style without reading a wide variety of works.

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