Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

Kaz Brekker is known as Dirtyhands because he’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve his goal. When he’s offered a job that will make him wealthy beyond his dreams, he can’t turn down the chance, especially if in the process he can settle an old vendetta. But the job just might be a suicide mission. His team is made up of other misfits like himself, each bringing a particular strength to the table, but they all have plenty to lose.

Six of Crows is not the kind of book I normally would choose for myself, but based on a friend’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into the story as there is a lot to learn about the world Kaz and his team live in. But once I got to the meat of the story, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

All of the characters were well thought out, and I enjoyed the way the author gave us little peeks into their lives, unveiling a new layer to a character yet leaving the reader yearning for more. I was so attached to each of the characters on the team; I couldn’t stand any one of them being in peril. They each had their own demons to face, adding even more depth to the plot.

I enjoyed this so much I immediately checked out the next book in the series from my library.

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Boundary: The Other Horizons Trilogy (Book 1) by Mary Victoria Johnson

Boundary: The Other Horizons Trilogy (Book 1) by Mary Victoria Johnson

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4 out of 4 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Boundary by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

To an outside observer, Penny and her five friends live a life of luxury. They have everything they need provided for them, they live in a mansion, and they can do almost whatever they want within the boundary of that space. But it’s that boundary that makes Penny question everything around her. Touching the invisible wall surrounding the property will fry someone to a crisp, and Penny and her friends are essentially being held hostage inside it. They’re not exactly being held against their will, at least not until Penny begins questioning how they got there and why they can’t leave.

Penny’s curiosity not only angers their already sinister master, but it also begins a series of trials that pit friend against friend because the winner will get to leave the boundary. Alliances are formed and help is provided from unexpected sources, but not everything is as it seems. As the trials become more and more dangerous, it will be every man for him or herself.

Boundary is book one of the young adult The Other Horizons Trilogy, and although it is a standalone book, it does set the stage for the next book in the series. It is full of action and adventure, mystery, and fantasy, as well as being historical. This made for quite an interesting combination.

Although the story felt slow-moving at first, there was always the feeling that something more was under the surface. I immediately wanted to read on to find out why Penny and her friends were not able to leave the boundary. Even the somewhat mundane parts showing everyday life at the manor kept me involved and turning pages. The author did a good job of including small details that played into the plot in a larger way.

Overall this was a great book that I enjoyed reading, however I was left confused by some issues at the end. I’d be giving away too much of the story to go into detail, so suffice it to say these were not the type of issues that will be resolved in the next book; rather, they were the type that were resolved within this book but either done too quickly or without enough explanation for me. Still, I appreciated the journey and would be likely to read more by this author.

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The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

The Sapphire Legend: Part II by E.L. Tenenbaum

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Sapphire Legend: Part II by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sapere and the surviving villagers of her tribe have been in the Wild for months, and many of them have adjusted to life there. When Sapere and Venatore find the fifth tribe, they have an obligation to warn them of an impending attack by the Pliz. Their sister tribe also has an obligation to offer asylum to the survivors.

But life in the tribe by The Great Waters is vastly different than what Sapere is used to. Her tribe was just beginning to accept her differences—that she was given her family’s gifts, which are only passed down to males—and her place on council. Now she has to prove herself all over again, and she has to do it while her instincts are telling her they are woefully unprepared for an attack by the Pliz.

The Sapphire Legend: Part II is a young adult fantasy about a young woman who has to prove her worth to the rest of her people while discovering her value for herself. Because of the gifts she was born with, Sapere had to fight for her place among her people in part one. Even after all she did to save her tribe, she is once again an outsider who has to gain respect among the new tribe.

The story drew me in immediately, picking up right where part one left off, with Sapere and Venatore discovering the fifth tribe. They needed to develop allies in order to convince the rest of council to journey to the other tribe by The Great Waters, but once they arrived their quest had only begun. While some settled easily into life with the fifth tribe, others, like Sapere, weren’t comfortable with the differences in the way they lived. These differences made it even more difficult for Sapere to be accepted among council.

The author’s description of Sapere’s gifts was exquisitely written, making me feel like I was picking through sounds and feeling the heartbeat of the earth right along with Sapere. I enjoyed watching how she struggled to grow her gifts and teach others, as well as her indecision when she needed to use them with less-than-honorable intentions.

Sapere’s growth was not limited to her own self-worth. Throughout the story, her relationship with her older sister Onyx also grew and changed. Where Sapere once looked up to Onyx, their roles were suddenly reversed and she came to realize she now had Onyx’s admiration. Once Sapere settled her own personal battle with the Pliz’s attack, she was also able to move on and accept Reo’s feelings for her. The romance in this story was secondary to the main character growth but a well-rounded addition.

The entire story contained a general feeling that something was going to go wrong, that something wasn’t right with the new tribe. There was good buildup to the battle, and good timing of Sapere’s recognition of Reo’s love.

I truly enjoyed this book as the conclusion of what began in book one. Ms. Tenenbaum’s talent for drawing a reader in and holding them captive assures great things in her future.

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The Tower (Psionic Pentalogy Book 2) by Adrian Howell

The Tower (Psionic Pentalogy Book 2) by Adrian Howell

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Tower by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

At thirteen, Adrian Howell has already lived a full life as a wild-born telekinetic. He’s happy to be settling down in the heart of the new psionic city of New Haven. He freely joins the Guardians, hoping they’ll be able to help him rescue his sister from the Angels. But life as a Guardian means intense combat training of more than his telekinetic powers.

Terry is Adrian’s combat trainer, and she also becomes a friend—something Adrian doesn’t have many of. But the rigorous training makes Adrian uncomfortable. He has no interest in shooting a gun or being able to kill someone with his hands. Even more uncomfortable are his recurring nightmares, indicating something hiding inside his mind. Adrian will have to unlock his own secrets before someone he cares about gets hurt.

The Tower is book two in the Psionic Pentalogy series, and it starts right where book one left off. It’s a thrilling addition to the series, continuing on Adrian’s journey into the world of psionics as he learns how to use his powers and fights for what he believes in. While the main characters are young, the book deals with some death and killing, as Adrian lives in a world where he doesn’t get to be a regular kid.

Once again, I enjoyed watching Adrian’s struggle to make grown-up decisions when he was still just a kid. The author did a wonderful job of presenting Adrian’s attempt to be a normal thirteen-year-old and handle mature situations at the same time. He had to work through feelings for Terry in a normal young teen way while he was also struggling with his own identity. Adrian didn’t know who he really was, what he was capable of, or what normal was for him. He discovered all of this throughout the story. The addition of dealing with his feelings for Alia, his pseudo-sister, made for a wonderful emotional journey.

The plot was well thought-out, leaving little kernels throughout in a way that really made the reader think about the details. Although I knew who the betrayer was and why they betrayed the Guardians before it was revealed, the author did a good job keeping the suspense going. The story still came to a gripping climax, and it even had more issues to resolve and character growth beyond that.

This book is part of a series and best enjoyed when read in order, but enough background information was provided to be read as a standalone. The story had a satisfying conclusion while still leaving doors open for the next book in the series. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy Book 1) by Adrian Howell

Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy Book 1) by Adrian Howell

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5 out of 5 Stars

At twelve years old, Adrian Howell discovers he has telekinetic powers. He can move things with his mind and blast holes in stuff. But what starts as a fun way to entertain himself and his younger sister turns into a curse when his family is attacked and warring psionic factions want Adrian and his powers for their own.

Not knowing who to trust, Adrian spends time on his own before being found by another wild-born psionic and taken into her family. There he meets Alia, a wild-born healer who can speak directly into people’s minds and who becomes like a little sister to him. Adrian doesn’t give up on finding his real sister though, and he and Alia wind up in a lot more trouble than they bargained for. He’ll need to keep his promise to protect Alia while also finding a way to save them both.

Wild-born is a thrilling young adult paranormal fantasy that had me glued to my seat. Although it is book one in a series, it is a complete story on its own that will compel you to read the next book. I quickly became attached to the main characters and look forward to reading more about their lives.

The story is definitely geared toward the young teen audience, but that doesn’t mean adults won’t appreciate it also. The main character is only twelve at the start of the book, and I enjoyed watching him feel his way through situations he had no experience with. Several times he got himself into trouble by just being the kid that he was, but he realized his mistakes and was able to learn from them like any kid should. The problem was that Adrian’s world was more life-threatening than most kids’, resulting in more dangerous situations.

The various powers exhibited by the characters were interesting, and I loved learning about the psionic world along with Adrian. Watching him piece together the way each power could be used in the situation he was stuck in was fascinating.

The dialogue felt a bit stiff sometimes with repetition of the name of the character being spoken to, but overall this was a minor issue in an otherwise great story.

I read this book along with my middle school-aged child, and we both truly enjoyed it and are looking forward to reading more of the series.

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Enter the Moon (A Warriors of Luna Novel) by Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson

Enter the Moon (A Warriors of Luna Novel) by Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson

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2 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Enter the Moon by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Kama DeKosse has great plans for her life. She’s been training to be an opera singer since the age of seven. While on vacation and shopping for performance gowns, Kama meets Jack Twist and everything in her life gets thrown into a tailspin. Neither Kama nor Jack can deny their attraction to the other, but the obstacles they have to overcome may be too great. Their age difference is a major hurdle, yet it’s not the biggest thing standing in their way.

When Kama finds out her life is not at all what she thought it was, and neither is her boyfriend Jack, she’ll have to take some pretty big leaps of faith in order to survive. Her career in the world of opera hangs in the balance, and a new family of sorts is waiting for her on the other side.

Enter the Moon is a paranormal romance and urban fantasy novel that includes a romance with an age difference and werewolf shifters. The story is told in third person point of view by both main characters, even though it is mostly focused on Kama’s story.

Having both main characters be shifters along with their age difference was an interesting spin on the paranormal aspect of the story. The setting was also good, moving from LA to NYC and then focusing on Central Park. I also enjoyed the way the author used Jack’s “inner wolf” in a way that kept you guessing before you knew the truth. But in my opinion, the execution of what could have been a great plot was lacking.

At several points in the story, important events appeared to be thrown in with no transition. Each of these events felt misplaced, shocking in an unintended way. The entire story also seemed fragmented into different sections. It started with a large focus on Kama and Jack’s developing relationship and Kama acting very mature. When the story moved to NYC, Kama practically turned into a different character with more immature actions. We were also introduced to another character, who later disappeared from the story. The final section was the only one containing werewolves, which wasn’t really enough time to delve into the entire situation. Jack and Kama’s relationship was mostly an afterthought once we reached this point. I wanted to see more focus on the two of them together, or Jack explaining to Kama some of the things he mentioned in narration. Almost in passing, he mentioned Kama being his mate and that he couldn’t date her, but those issues were never really explored.

One big issue for me was the amount of internal dialogue from both characters. I understood this was partly done to show the split between the human and wolf personalities, but it pulled me out of the story because of the frequent shift between third person (narration) and first person (inner dialogue). At times there was almost as much inner dialogue as there was narration, and it didn’t add anything to the story, only told us what we already knew. The inner dialogue also contributed to an overall feel of “telling” instead of “showing,” though arguably this issue wasn’t limited to the inner dialogue. Telling the reader Kama and Jack made small talk over dinner didn’t help me get invested in the relationship.

Probably the most prominent issue for me was the editing—missing words, words out of order, commas in the wrong place, incorrect and missing punctuation, misuse and overuse of semicolons, sentences mashed together or ending abruptly. Dialogue (internal and actual) lacked contractions, making it feel stiff and formal. Internal dialogue was a mix of being in italics or single quotation marks, sometimes both and sometimes neither.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I had a difficult time becoming invested in it and sticking with it. This book just wasn’t for me.

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The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by Cheryl S. Mackey

The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by Cheryl S. Mackey

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4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided an ARC of The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Ivo, Jaeger, Jadeth, and Emaranthe are on their next quest. They have to find a map and locate a lost city. Although the four Immortals are a cohesive unit, others they meet along the way may help or hinder their search. Not everyone is as they seem, and the Immortals will need to decide who is an ally and who is an enemy.

The Immortals: Part Two: Allies & Enemies is a continuation of the young adult fantasy series The Immortals. This book covers enough background information that it could be read as a standalone, but it is best read in order with the series as it picks up right where Part One left off.

Like the first novella in the series, the character descriptions are well thought-out, giving the reader a good picture of just what these Immortals look like, and their powers are described enough that you’ll understand each person’s strength. I loved how the setting was incorporated: cold, dark nights and two suns blazing down during the day. The descriptions take you right into the fictional world of Ein-Aral. Each Immortal needs to use his or her strength to defeat their enemies, and as a unit they need to figure out who they can trust and what information to act on. This story introduces some new characters and provides more background on the main characters. There’s a good amount of action, and there’s also a nice touch of romance added in.

Although I’m not much of a fantasy reader, I did enjoy this story. It comes to a satisfying conclusion even though there will be more to the series. The only drawback was that it could use a little better editing. Overall, it was a good read.

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The Sapphire Legend by E.L. Tenenbaum

The Sapphire Legend: Part 1 by E.L. Tenenbaum

Sapphire Legend Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Sapphire Legend by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sapere knows she’s different from everyone else in her tribe when she realizes she’s inherited her father’s gifts—gifts only a son is supposed to inherit. When her tribe is attacked on her wedding day, her gifts are put to the test as she tries to save as many people as she can. But leading them into the Wild is a dangerous choice. She’ll need to use her talents to find safety while protecting her secret so she’s not ostracized from those who are left.

When Sapere and her people find another group of survivors, they band together to rebuild their lives while trying to decide how to shape their future. Everyone else has a set place in the new order—everyone except Sapere. She’s caught between being a young woman who was recently widowed and being the last member of her family who can sit on the tribe’s council. Yet as a woman, she’s not readily accepted into the council either. And the revelation of her gifts will either solidify her spot as a council member or push her away for good.

The Sapphire Legend is a young adult fantasy about a young woman who has to determine who she really is outside of her tribe’s expectations of her. As the story begins, Sapere is already struggling with learning to use and hide her gifts, including the physical manifestation of those gifts, for fear of being an outcast among her people. She’s also about to embark on a new life as a married woman, following the tradition of her tribe. But when tragedy strikes, she’s thrust in the middle of even more changes in her life.

The story was well written and kept my attention throughout. I enjoyed watching Sapere struggle to find herself while trying to stay within the accepted guidelines of life in the tribe. Her character showed good growth in herself as well as in her friendships. For a while, she didn’t recognize any of the things she’d done as being especially helpful to the tribe or any one person in particular, giving her a quiet strength, but eventually she began to recognize her own strengths and started to take her place as a leader among the people. I also enjoyed the personalities of several of the secondary characters.

Through all this character growth, at times it didn’t seem like the story was going anywhere. The tribe was stuck in a holding pattern, not making any decisions on their fate until near the end of the story. While the story will continue in the next book, I would have liked to see a little more happening in this book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more by this new author.

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Silk Over Razor Blades (Saar’s Legacy Book 1) by Ileandra Young

Silk Over Razor Blades (Saar’s Legacy Book 1) by Ileandra Young

Silk Over Razor Blades Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Silk Over Razor Blades by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

With only weeks to go until her wedding, Lenina Miller has plenty of issues to deal with. But being followed and attacked in the park near her home puts thoughts of her upcoming nuptials out of her mind. Her attacker bites her neck, but Lenina fights back, biting the hand he uses to keep her quiet. The ingestion of his blood causes changes in Lenina—dreams of a man on the battlefield in ancient Egypt that feel real and a thirst for blood she can’t control.

When Lenina’s attacker comes back to finish her off, she finds she’s not only stronger than ever before but she also has a strange link to the grubby man. Her attraction to one of the investigating officers confuses her even more. As her dreams intensify, the pieces begin to fall into place. Lenina has inherited the soul of a man named Saar, and Saar plans to use her body to fulfill his own agenda. Lenina will need to fight hard to control Saar and take down those who oppose Saar’s return.

Silk Over Razor Blades is a fabulous debut novel by Ileandra Young. It is a strangely wonderful mix of urban fantasy, historical, and paranormal. The base of the book is set in present day London, but through Lenina’s dreams we are taken back to 30 BC as the story of Saar unfolds. The addition of vampires—though they call themselves “God-gifted”—adds a distinct twist because they are nothing like what you’ve seen before. This story also isn’t your typical hero/heroine formula. In fact, who is good and evil is difficult to determine.

I was drawn into this book right from the start, and the twists and turns kept me on my toes and intrigued throughout. The story is extremely well written, bringing the reader right into the scene with the characters. I was able to feel the confusion, the pain, and the wounds right along with Lenina. I enjoyed the way we learned only bits of Saar’s life at a time, and the reverse order of his revelations fit perfectly into what Lenina needed to know and understand.

This book was written using British English, so American grammar nerds like myself will have to adjust to the use of single quotation marks, but it is well worth it. There were only minor editing and formatting issues, certainly not enough to detract from the reading experience. The dialogue was very well done with a natural feel to conversations and no confusion over who was speaking.

Silk Over Razor Blades was a truly fantastic debut novel. I look forward to reading more by this author, including book two of the series. There was no cliffhanger ending to book one. It ends with most issues resolved, yet leaves enough plot left to follow these characters into the next book. I highly recommend this book.

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Breathless (Blue Fire Saga Book 1) by Scott Prussing

Breathless (Blue Fire Saga Book 1) by Scott Prussing

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5 out of 5 Stars

Leesa Nyland has never had what most would call a normal life. Her mother hides in the dark and won’t go outside during the daytime, claiming she was bitten by a one-fanged vampire eighteen years ago while she was pregnant with Leesa. Now Leesa is moving to Connecticut for college to be closer to her aunt and uncle, but also to search for her brother Bradley who disappeared without a trace after sending Leesa an email saying not to look for him.

Not long after starting college, Leesa meets two strange but intriguing men: Rave and Stefan. Rave warns Leesa to stay away from Stefan, claiming he’s a vampire. With Leesa’s family history, she doesn’t immediately dismiss the notion. As her attraction to Rave grows, she finds out he’s keeping some secrets of his own.

With the help of her Vampire Science professor, Rave, and even Stefan, Leesa continues to search for her brother. In the process she stumbles onto information that might cure her mother. But with Rave and Stefan being sworn enemies, Leesa will have to make some tough decisions if she wants to save her brother and help her mother.

Breathless is not just another teenage vampire novel; in fact, the vampire in this story is not even the hero. But it is a story about vampires and other paranormal creatures that had me intrigued right from the start. I loved the different spin the author took in this plot. There are two other creatures that feature prominently—grafhym, which are one-fanged vampires with lesser powers, and volkaanes, which are extremely powerful vampire hunters who have fire within them. Rave, the hero of Breathless, is a volkaane, which adds a different twist to the romantic aspect. He can’t touch Leesa until he’s ready to tell her his secret because she’d immediately feel the heat his body gives off. He also has to be extremely careful while kissing her because the fire inside of him is used through a kiss to kill vampires and could easily kill Leesa if he’s not careful.

This story mixes the romance between Rave and Leesa with Leesa’s search for her brother and information on what might have actually happened to her mother eighteen years ago. The plots are all nicely entwined. While Leesa is adjusting to life in college and making new friends, she’s also exploring her relationship with Rave and hunting down clues to her brother’s disappearance. Her professor agrees to help her, and in the mean time he also happens upon some information related to her mother. I loved watching Leesa go from a shy loner to a somewhat more outgoing friend, all while asserting herself and making life or death decisions regarding her family and herself.

I had very few complaints while reading this book, but in all fairness I’ll share them with you. The story was told in third person point of view, which is good for capturing more than the main character’s thoughts. At times, the points of view were mixed together in the same section, making it slightly difficult to follow. Not a huge deal though. There were a few scenes from a random character’s point of view that I thought could have been removed. For example, not showing us how the young vampire escaped and went on his spree would have left more intrigue while the main characters were trying to figure out what happened to the missing girls.

My only other issue was that at times there was too much description. It wasn’t necessary to detail exactly what each character in a scene was wearing or what they did or didn’t eat. But that information was easy enough to skim over.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and wasn’t able to put it down. Breathless is book one in the Blue Fire Saga, and it wraps up nicely, leaving room for the plot of the next book without leaving the reader on a cliffhanger. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

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