Monday, May 20, 2019

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher: Clarion
Published: 5/14/19
320 p.
Source: From author for review

When a shy girl and her dragon-like companion discover their country’s idyllic weather comes at a steep—and secret—cost, they recruit fellow students to defy authority and attempt to spread the truth. 
Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast—a creature of fire and chaos—everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country's weather comes at a devastating cost—a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.
My thoughts:

This was a cute MG book that can be enjoyed by all ages. I think this would also be a great book to read to the smaller kids as there is nothing in it that is too mature. The protagonist, Mina, is a shy girl who finds the strength within to right a wrong she finds within her world. She also does not seek fame but is content to let others shine as be a part of the heroic acts. Her humbleness really makes her even more of a hero and also shows that even the smallest voice can find her (or his) way into making a great impact.

If you need another reason to read or share the book, it is also a fun fantasy with dragons as besties! Would that be a beastie bestie? LOL Seriously the dragons also have great personalities and aren't pets but neither are they the heros of the story. They are a great sidekick who can encourage when needed and are just big scaly lovebugs.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars and really do recommend it to everyone who loves a cute story with a girl who finds her own strength. I also love that it has consequences of convenience and teaches that even if you don't suffer the consequences, you still are responsible for them.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Audiobook Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Published: April 3, 18
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Amy Melissa Bentley
Length: 11 hrs. 23 min.
Source: Hoopla/Library

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets. 
But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.
What could go wrong? 
With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely. 
And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?
My thoughts:

I have to admit that by now I think I will read or listen to anything Jenn Bennett writes. Another good YA romance book and I am smitten with the characters. It also has some excellent (and one not so excellent... but that was intentional) secondary characters. I especially love her adopted grandparents and her mom (oh the way they are all together!). Also, I have to note that the cast was eclectic and that made me love this book even more.

It also has everything you want in a YA. It does have sex in the book, but it is handled well and is geared toward older YA. It also has bad decisions and miscommunication as you often expect in a friends to hate to love romance, but it is handled well. The drama is well placed and makes sense. It enhances the book and gives them reason to know each other again. This is a contemporary romance you should try if you haven't already.

The narrator is now my voice for Bennett's YA. I hope she does more books as the author writes them. I wouldn't hesitate to pick another with her narration.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars. If you shy away from YA contemporary romance, give this one a try. It is as well written as her other works and this author has a solid fan in me.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Audiobook Review: Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Published: 8/15/17
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Amy Melissa Bentley
Length: 9 hrs. 58 min.
Source: Hoopla/Library

Classic movie buff Bailey "Mink" Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by "Alex." Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush. 
Faced with doubts (what if he's a creep in real life-or worse?), Bailey doesn't tell Alex she's moved to his hometown. Or that she's landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she's being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth-a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she's starting to feel for Porter... 
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex . . . Approximately.
My thoughts:

This is a YA romantic comedy and a retelling of "You've Got Mail" which is perfect for these two movie buffs. This one had me completely engaged and invested in this romance. I really enjoyed the characters and how they move from hate to sorta friends to love. This was simply a fun ride and a great audiobook. Amy did a great job narrating the story and even though I did listen at 1.5 speed I enjoyed her voice and expressions.

My only real issue was a hint of a possible "bad guy" that never amounted to much. This was supposed to affect her and give her some slight PTSD but it was pretty much dropped and I found that disappointing. I also though there would be more about her anxiety but it was solved rather abruptly. However, these actually ended up being minor niggles and I didn't want the story to end.

I give this book 4 stars. If you are looking for a good romantic summer read, then this one might be a good fun read while at the beach (can I come too? LOL)


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Magpie's Song by Allison Pang

Series: The IronHeart Chronicles #1
Publisher: Author published
Published: Aug. 8, 18
Source: From author (won book)

In the slums of BrightStone, Moon Children are worth less than the scrap they must collect to survive. It doesn’t matter that these abandoned half-breeds are part-Meridian with their ancestors hailing from the technologically advanced city that floats above the once-thriving, now plague-ridden BrightStone. Instead they are rejected by both their ancestral societies and forced to live on the outskirts of civilization, joining clans simply to survive. Not to mention their role as Tithe, leading the city’s infected citizens deep into the Pits where their disease can be controlled.

Nineteen-year-old Raggy Maggy is no different, despite the mysterious heart-shaped panel that covers her chest. Or at least she wasn’t… Not until her chance discovery of a Meridian-built clockwork dragon—and its murdered owner. When the Inquestors policing the city find Maggy at the scene of the crime, she quickly turns into their prime suspect. Now she’s all anyone can talk about. Even her clan leader turns his back on her, leading her to rely on an exiled doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to keep her hidden. In return, all she has to do is help them find a cure for the plague they believe was not exactly accidental. Yet doing so might mean risking more than just her life. It also might be the only key to uncovering the truth about the parents—and the past—she knows nothing about.

My thoughts:

This is an author who also wrote the Abby Sinclair series (oh if you haven't read it... go do it now! Seriously, we will wait...) so I was very happy when I won my copy. This is quite different than her other series. This one is is YA (older) and a bit steampunk-ish (not too heavy on it) with a mystery to by solved. It also is dark with a dystopian feel. It isn't dystopian since it happens in a much different world than ours, but you know something happened to separate the rich from the rest of the rabble. It also created a plague which cannot be cured and children who are immune to the plague and are marked by their snow white hair. Rejected and feared, the children barely survive in thieving clans and used as caretakers to those infected and doomed to die in the tunnels.

Okay, I don't want to give away any more as it also has a mystery feel to the story and it is always good to slowly have things revealed. The worldbuilding is easy to slip into and you want to know everything and you become more invested as the story reveals bits of this world. The world isn't bright and shiny, but as I have already stated, it is dark, it is dirty, and dangerous. I also wouldn't worry with the YA title as it has murder, betrayal and even casual sex (nothing graphic, but just states it as fact). It also has some incredible gadgets that I hope the author explores more in future books.

My biggest complaint? It isn't long enough. You know where the book was going and it took it's time to get there (which isn't a bad thing here) and when it gets there it ends. It isn't a cliffie but you need the next book to find out what how and more about this world.

I give this book 4 stars. I think anyone wanting a fantasy world which isn't heavy handed but engaging should try this book. Also, don't forget to try her other series. You won't regret either series.


Monday, April 8, 2019

The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

Series: Tales of Renthia #1
368 p.
Published: March 19, 19
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: From author for review

... dazzling, intricate stand-alone fantasy novel set in award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst’s beloved world of Renthia. 
Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.
To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her. 
They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.
My thoughts:

This is a book set in the world of Sarah Beth Durst's trilogy, The Queens of Renthia (goodreads link). I really loved that series and I do suggest that you read it before reading this one. The main reason is that the trilogy establishes the world in an engaging way. This book is a standalone from that world and it follows the sea and the "monsters" that dwell there. This series is also considered fantasy, but it is an accessible one and you shouldn't be afraid to jump in.

You get to know the main character Mayara and her beloved Kelo. Secondary characters are also well rounded out and a favorite sassy character from the previous books also makes an appearance. You have a few twists and even political intrigue which were all solved and some not in the way you would suspect. I also love that you even get a glimpse at some of the more evolved spirit's mind. That actually made me want more of that perspective. Even so, I would say that the glimpse actually works best within the story as a whole.

There is adventure, romance, heartbreak and betrayal within this story. Secrets and intrigue also adorn the pages. The whole series is a well rounded out world that I'm not sure I would want to live, but I do enjoy visiting. I also hope that we get to visit every corner of this world.

If you have not read this author's writing, I highly recommend that you at least try one of her books. She has several out there that are standalones. If you are hungry for a short series, do try the first book in the Queens of Renthia, The Queen of Blood.