Kat's Books

Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England. I'm usually busy taking cat photos at a cat rescue or reading books...

I put my reviews up on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+. I have MS so I'm tired a lot but it's a good excuse to have a lie-down and read! My Litsy handle is kamoorephoto

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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'Dive Smack' by Demetra Brodsky

Dive Smack - Demetra Brodsky

I'm so excited for the release of this book, and I'm thrilled to be on the blog tour because of how amazing the book is. This was an easy 5-star read for me; as soon as I put the book down when I was finished, I was engulfed with strong (all good!) feelings for it; I’ll share more in my review! 

 

Thanks again to the amazing Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour; I’m especially grateful to have been on this one!

 

 

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DEMETRA BRODSKY (she's amazing, by the way)

 

 

 

Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. Dive Smack, her debut novel, is dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection.

 

CONNECT & BUY THE BOOK!

 

***You can find all her links to connect with her *HERE* and EVERY single link to PREORDER and BUY her book (via Amazon, B&N, Target, Powells, iBooks, EVERYWHERE, ie, you have NO excuse). There are some great preorder incentives (yes, I've already got my order in!).

 

There is also an audiobook sample, a book excerpt, and even a Dive Smack Spotify playlist!

 

You can find her on Twitter as demetrabrodsky!

 

 

SO...THE BOOK!

 

DIVE SMACK by Demetra Brodsky

Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: June 19th, 2018; Tor Teen

 

SYNOPSIS:

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

 

 

MY REVIEW: 

 

So it was quite easy to give this twisty and exciting psychological YA thriller a 5-star review. It has been harder to put into words every single thing as to why, because I was so taken by surprise by Demetra’s brilliant debut novel. It seems as though from the moment I laid eyes on the beautiful cover for ‘Dive Smack’ (the flames above a young man plunging into the water), I needed to read it. And then I was immediately lost inside this book from the opening two quotes, particularly this one from Carl Jung,


"Your vision will become clear when you look inside your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."


What a way to start the book!


If you read the synopsis of the book above, you'll know by now that it’s about Theo Mackey, a high school springboard diver who has had both of his parents pass away tragically, and then he starts to question the memories he has of the fire that killed his mom, particularly as new ones surface as he researches a family project for school. Theo luckily has some great friends he can count on, but he lives with his alcoholic grandfather (GP), and he's starting to find his home life and new stressors are affecting his usually perfect diving, something he can’t afford to screw up, being the captain of Team Monarch. And the big school family project is what really starts to mess with Theo’s understanding of the fire, his family, and this makes him question what’s going on in his head. It seems he’s gradually losing his grip. That’s really what leads him to get more help from Dr. Maddox, a family friend and psychiatrist.

*Note: I’m leaving a LOT of story/plot out, so there are no spoilers.


Now that’s a very basic overview of what you are getting yourself into with this, but it goes from being a book about this likable guy on the diving team at a high school (and I now know so much more about springboard diving beyond my watching the Olympics every four years), to being a very clever, psychological thriller with details and twists I never expected. Demetra has employed some very clever writing devices that make this a standout: I love the way she begins each chapter with a diving term that correlates to the part of the story that it contains (note that Dive Smack is pretty painful), which is absolute genius. Her writing is also very fluid, and weaving interludes with the past and other ‘voices’ are done seamlessly. Also, since this is a thriller, the pacing builds up steadily to an eventual crescendo, within an ending where all the tense energy flows throughout the end chapters.

 

 

Theo is such a well-fleshed out character (as are Chip, Iris, Amy, and others), that you really get a feel for who this guy is; Demetra has created so many endearing things about about him, that you can’t help but root for him the whole way through: we know he has two moles on his face, his car is called Bumblebee after the Transformer, he likes classic rock, and of course, he's an orphan. And he likes to use puns.


But the real treat in this book is how it ropes you in (it gets better and better the deeper you dive in: pun intended), how it becomes way more than a book about a few high schoolers; it becomes about a sensitive young man uncovering his past and the deception that is swirling around him. Then the massive and very dark twist at the end takes the reader, and Theo, by surprise, making this precisely what earns this book its top marks. It left me tearful, it made me laugh, AND gasp. I can’t wait to see what comes from Demetra next, especially if it’s another thriller as riveting and original as this one.

 

*And just so you know - Dive Smack: When a diver under or over rotates or twists on a dive, hitting the water with enough force to cause pain or physical injury.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Hardcover copy of DIVE SMACK by Demetra Brodsky & Prize pack of necklace, bracelet, signed bookmark, & signed book plate! US only, ends 6/26.

 

Click *HERE* to enter the giveaway. Good luck!!

 

 

To continue following the tour, this will take you to the DIVE SMACK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE.

 

That was a long one, I hope you read it all! If you go back to the first post on the tour you can read a great interview with Demetra (surprisingly she is NOT a diver, and I was so stoked to find out she also loves Teen Wolf).

 

I hope you add this to your TBR, and buy this book! Happy reading!

x Katherine

 

PS. #TeamMonarch 

 

'Jolie' (who has an underbite) is such a heartfelt and funny book; all the right high-school bookish tropes are there and they're PERFECT

Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It - Kerry Winfrey

I read this book just about at the perfect time; after reading seven dark thrillers, mysteries, and moody fantasies, I needed something to cleanse my literary palette and get me back to 'bookish square zero'.

 

This really was a delightful read, taking me to all the right places that I hoped a book like this would. It revolves around Jolie Peterson, who is sixteen, in high school, and has an underbite, which is medical termed as 'mandibular prognathism' (I didn't even know that, and my dog has the most severe underbite; he was my motivator for requesting an early copy of this book - yes, really). Jolie has spent her entire life NOT wanting the spotlight before of her teeth, but also preparing for surgery to 'fix her face' so that she can end the headaches, chew properly, and stop feeling like she's different from everyone else. She wrestles with the questions of what makes someone beautiful, just like a lot of young people do, whether they have a misaligned jaw or not, and it takes her a long time to realize that many people worry if they're good enough, smart enough, pretty enough.

 

While she prepares for this long-awaited surgery, so many things come up for Jolie, and it may seem like you're reading a book with all the high-school literary tropes crammed into it. But it's DONE SO WELL. She is dreading the surgery and creates a list of things she must do in case she dies under anesthesia, and these naturally include doing things like finally kissing a boy. But she also dares to try out for the school musical, and guess what, she is amazing when she auditions and she gets the lead. She also has the best of friends since kindergarten and one that happens to be a guy, Derek, and she's just now realizing he's hot. This always presents a massive problem.

 

You may think you have read this before but the author, Kerry Winfrey, writes ALL these scenarios and these characters with so much sincerity and originality, that they are not ones that I'd met before. The male high school boys are ones with honest concern for their female counterparts. The female high schoolers are smart, and Winfrey didn't see it necessary to play the 'mean girl' card, or have Jolie really bash herself into the ground to come to her final conclusions about self-esteem and beauty (although she does a lot of natural questioning and normal comparisons). Characters acknowledge their mistakes in ways that make sense, without being preachy, and I love the tone of the writing throughout the novel because of this. I also totally enjoyed the TV obsessions of the family, and the 'Terrible Movie Night' Jolie and Derek share.

 

This is a light and funny book, with some bigger issues like self-esteem, and dealing with grief and changing friendships within it, but it's ultimately about Jolie's chance to shine, to change, to grow. Her voice is charming and heartfelt, and the book left me in such a great place, feeling like I knew all these great people!

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35795890-things-jolie-needs-to-do-before-she-bites-it

Ruth Ware has done it again with this gothic mystery; Agatha Christie would be proud!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

Ruth Ware has done it again! 'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' is even better than her last book, 'The Lying Game', and for me, that's saying quite a bit. I completely fell for Ware's writing and storytelling with that book (bonus points were given for taking me back to my boarding school days in Sussex), and I knew I had found my new favorite mystery author.

 

'The Death of Mrs. Westaway' takes the reader to Sussex again, this time to 'sunny' Brighton, where Hal - Harriet Westaway - has a job as a tarot card reader on the pier, which is what her mother used to do before she was killed suddenly by a car, leaving her alone and scraping by. As the bills are piling up and the dodgy 'bill-collector' keeps popping up, so does a letter saying that she has inherited a large sum of money by a mysterious and very old Mrs. Westaway. Although Hal realizes there is some mistake with the connection to her and her mother, she decides to go to the funeral at the Trespassen House out by Penzance. She wants a chance at just a bit of that money, and to figure out some family secrets that she feels her mum left behind.

 

Now that's a very rough, short synopsis. Since I'm from England, I have the fortune of reading Ruth Ware's books and imagining the English countryside, the Brighton pier, the foggy desolation around the abandoned mansion that is Trespassen House. But what is so glorious about Ware's writing is that she is able to create such atmosphere and mood, that she can conjure up imagery (I'm pretty sure) so effectively that it envelopes the story entirely, without having had to have been over there. In 'Westaway', the mansion and the grounds basically become a character of their own, and the gothic and dark images of Trespassen House are so well-written they come alive.

 

What also makes this novel so successful are the other family members make for a great ensemble, the secrets that swirl around slowly reveal themselves throughout the novel at the perfect pace, and Ware shows the reader what happened in the past without seeming contrived. It all fit so perfectly. And I never saw that ending coming! My biggest complaint was that I read it too quickly because once I picked the book up, I couldn't put it down.

 

It’s no coincidence that the current ‘Mistress Of Mystery’ has been so heavily influenced by Agatha Christie (and Daphne du Maurier) because Ware feels like the Christie of today.

Schwab brings us a fabulous ghost story intended for middle-grade but is one that readers of all ages will love; expertly written, it’s a breath of fresh ghostly air

City of Ghosts - Victoria Schwab

It was a breath of fresh (ghostly) air to read this, even though I’m far from being in the target middle-grade reading group, but 12-year old me read it anyway (and lined up at Yallwest for 45 minutes for an early copy).

 

Cassidy Blake, a self-professed nerdy tween, has parents who have just about the coolest jobs: they are ‘The Inspectres’, a ghost-hunting team, and they have just been given a round-the-world TV gig, that starts in Edinburgh, to hunt down ghosts in haunted cities.
But that’s only part of what makes Cassidy a fascinating main character for Schwab’s new book; Cass once drowned, and because she came back from near-death, she came back with her very own ghostly sidekick and now, best friend, Jacob. Cassidy can see him and other ghosts, and go beyond ‘The Veil’, and she only comes to truly understand what this all means when she gets to Edinburgh.

 

The book is endearing, funny, and clever throughout, and contains enough appropriately-scary scenes and ideas for the age group it’s written for. I would have been clamoring for this book when I was younger. The scary scenes beyond ‘The Veil’ and with the Red Raven are expertly written, and are creepy enough to only leave the reader with a chill but not scare beyond their wits. There are also some other minor characters written, like the young girl Cassidy meets in Edinburgh, Lara, who teaches her a lot about ‘what’ she is actually is, an ‘In-Betweener’ and even the city of Edinburgh feels like a character of its own.

 

Victoria Schwab has crafted a near-perfect book, middle-grade or otherwise, which blends reality with fantasy, and gives the reader characters who are identifiable and likable. I felt like Cassidy was written for a younger version of myself (or is that still me?); I was obsessed so much with ghosts at that age of around 11-12, that it influenced my choice of boarding school, and Cassidy is also walking around with an old camera around her neck, and with her cat Grim by her side (a camera AND a cat?!) . And the glorious part where she tries British fish and chips for the first time; Schwab was after my soul. Our ghostly friend Jacob has emotion sweeping about him and makes the idea of having a spirit for a sidekick (especially if they’ll save your life on a whim), incredibly appealing.

 

The excitement around this book is warranted, and I hope the adventures of Cassidy (and Jacob) continue. This may well be a book written for 12-year old girls, but the actual readers will surely span ages and other reader groups. Just such a special, unique, and thrilling read.

 

Kristoff has brought us a genius novel that’s definitely more sci-fi than YA; brilliant world-building with action throughout

LIFEL1K3 - Jay Kristoff

Two things up front: I think ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a great novel, essentially a sci-fi novel, and I think readers might either just love it or hate it. Not much in between. And I have to say just a few things about it right before/on release day, even though there have been so many reviews and I already know that this wild and crazy book by the behemoth (in more than one way) Jay Kristoff will be a success no matter what.

 

The success of the Illuminae Files (written with Amie Kaufmann), and the books ‘Nevernight‘ and ‘Godsgrave’, immediately meant that ‘LIFEL1K3’, once announced, was on everyone’s TBR lists and getting preordered right out the gate. But I think so many books (especially by big name YA authors) are getting pre-judged based on hype, so I really want to try and write about the book I read; ‘LIFEL1K3’ seems to be one of those books that will have people buying ahead, and I hope the right readers are there for it.

 

The thing that Kristoff does so very well is world-building, and from the time you open the book until long after you finish it, you are thrust into a post-apocalyptic Earth that barely resembles the one we live on today. Kalifornya is now called Dregs and is (surprise) an island after the big Quake, and has split from the the rest of the Grande Ol’ Yousay. There has been War 4.0 and the land is desolate, scrap piles of piles of metal and junk lay waste where gangs try and salvage what they can for weapon parts or for machina building. The environment has now become so blisteringly hot, that it’s dangerous to be out in sun without protective clothing let alone SPF (what’s that now?). Real food is the thing of the past, and now Neo-Meat (trade-marked, I might add), that comes in a can is what humans must subsist on: salty colon, anyone?

 

But this is all small fry when it comes to the entirety of the world that Jay has created; he has created a whole way of speaking for this book, new words (how does he come up with all this stuff?), and envisioned humans living in a future with not only robots, androids, but also a type of more human-droid called (naturally) LIFEL1K3s. They are so real in terms of how similar they are to humans, it’s frightening, but with advanced abilities to heal.

 

This is the crux of the story. The merry band of characters that Kristoff has centered the novel around: Eve, Cricket, Lemon Fresh, Kaiser (a mechanical dog, a blitzhund), meet Ezekiel, a LIFEL1K3, who tells Evie that she is actually Ana, and everything goes crazy from that point onwards. It starts with giant bot fights and that isn’t the craziest part of the book. There is so much action in this book that it’s hard to describe too much, but given that readers will be largely from a YA audience, and that they will be met with a major amount of science fiction, they may be surprised at how it does not slow down; once you are in, you must commit to a sci-fi novel. I really feel like it’s less YA, and intensely post-apocalyptic and science-fiction. There is definitely romance in this book, and a plot line where ‘Lil Evie’ is tryin to come to terms with her identity and her past, but while you can take a breather more easily with the Illuminae Files, thanks to the format, this is far more immersive. Kristoff has done a fantastic job at making the reader feel entirely swept up into this world; just like the characters who are stuck in their fates, the reader must stay entirely absorbed to grasp everything going on.

 

I’d say that ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a book like nothing I’ve read before and it leaves you feeling a little bit chewed up and breathless. And with a major cliffhanger. I will expect that some readers may feel like that wasn’t what they were expecting but if you go along for the ride you will have read some genius.

‘VOX’ is the kind of dystopia that feels unnerving because it feels so familiar; hints of Atwood and Orwell, in this utterly compulsive read

Vox - Christina Dalcher

This was so good that it was one of those books I just could not put down. Being thrown into a dystopian nightmare that doesn’t seem so far-fetched is thoroughly unnerving because it’s feels entirely too familiar. We’ve read and seen a lot of imagined dystopias lately where women are quite brutally subjugated, but reading ‘VOX’ felt more subtle and thus a little more frightening.

 

‘VOX’ centers around Dr. Jean McClellan, a former doctor and professor who studied aphasia (loss of speech), and her family, and we quickly see how the new Government ‘rules’, and the ‘Pure’ Movement have affected her family. ‘Bracelets’ have been placed on all females’ wrists, and they track words spoken each day; the word counter allows them only 100 words in 24 hours and beyond that, they’ll receive electric shocks. Jean’s daughter has got to the point to where she barely speaks at all. Women can’t work anymore, use birth control, read, write, spend their own money; men have the ultimate say in everything. There are also stiff punishments for extramarital and premarital sex, even exiling and humiliating teenagers on public TV.

 

Jean is eventually called up by the very Government that has put all of this in place, for her help and expertise. The President’s brother suddenly has lost his ability to talk after an accident and they need her help, as one of the top experts in the country on aphasia. Her rather meek and quiet husband, who works for the Government, encourages her to do it, and she’s motivated by the deal of having her daughter’s word counter removed.

Does this all seem too convenient? Maybe. There are a few plot points that work out a little too easily. But it’s compulsive reading. As well as being one of those books that doesn’t feel so far away from being our truth, it’s hard not feel like this could happen to your family.
That makes it successful.

 

And the fact that we are drawn in by all the hints of other great dystopian novels written by Margaret Atwood, Naomi Alderman (just recently), or even George Orwell, so be it. There are some great action scenes in here, grand questions about how we should be living our lives, a huge argument that is playing now with the ‘Pure Movement’ concept (getting back to basics, and the religious right), and that is really why feel like Dalcher has hit the nail on the head with this. Great read!


*Thank you Penguin for my First Read! Having an early digital copy has not affected my ability to give an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37796866-vox

One of the most-hyped YA fantasy novels of the year so far is out: does it deliver?

Furyborn - Claire Legrand

One of the most hyped books of 2018, with not one, but two versions of early review copies sent out to reviewers and booksellers months in advance, some with a special promo box, 'Furyborn' has been primed for its release for (I'm hazarding a guess) about 8 months now. Every blogger and reviewer I know has wanted to get their hands on a copy of this book to read and review (and likely have the 'one with the artwork on the cover' in their permanent collection) because it is THE book on everyone's blog, and the 'must-read fantasy series of 2018', according to blurb on the back of the book. The publicity campaign has done a rip-roaringly good job to get everyone on board. So does it live up to the hype? Those are high stakes these days when YA fantasy is the genre to reel everyone in.

 

The premise is grand: two young women, one thousand years apart from each other, hold the immense power that will either save their world or doom it. Each one is either the queen of light and salvation, or the queen of blood and destruction, according to prophecy: which one is the Sun Queen, and who is the Blood Queen?


Rielle Dardenne must endure seven trials to test her magic, which she has been hiding since was a child, and prove herself to be in control of her elemental powers, or she will be executed. Then, some thousand years later, Eliana Ferracora is the counterpart to would-be Queen Rielle. She is a bounty hunter and assassin, known as the ‘Dread of Orline’, and she goes on a mission to find her mother who has been taken along with countless other women, in the violent empire of Ventera. Eliana has had to join a rebel captain, the ‘Wolf’, to get to the heart of the disappearances. And while Rielle knew of her powers for many years, Eliana is just coming to terms with her magic, the power that her body has to heal itself. These two storylines and timelines alternate back and forth throughout the novel, between Rielle and Eliana, and don’t seem to relate to each other; the only thing binding them together throughout is talk of the Sun and Blood Queen .

 

So I’ll be honest: it was really hard for me to connect to ‘Furyborn’, and I dipped in and out of the book for a while and read several complete other books at the same time, which is unusual for me. It’s only at about halfway through the book that I became more invested in the story and the characters (and then only somewhat), and then I reserved my time solely to this book. For a long book (512 pages), having to read half of it to get invested, is close to reading a whole shorter-length YA novel, so that’s a lot of reading to try and see what all the fuss is about. It’s not to say there wasn’t any action happening on those pages; it just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t even put my finger on why I felt like the action wasn't ‘happening’, but I rarely ever skim through words on a page but sometimes I wanted to because the same stuff seemed to keep repeating itself.


I was also getting tired of the back and forth between the two storylines; maybe if the reader got to sit with one of the characters longer, a better connection could be felt. I personally felt like you never are given a true feeling for the actual relationships in this book because you can never stay with them long enough to connect with them.
Both lead characters lack the real spunk or inner beauty that I feel they needed to shine through as deserved heroines, so maybe that was what held me back from truly loving their stories. I didn’t feel like either of them were pulling me through to the finish line.

Despite the world-building and the pretty fascinating underbelly of this novel built on dark angels and visions, which are pretty good openings for some amazing subplots, as well as the thrilling opening to the book ‘An End, and a Beginning’, I don’t feel like ‘Furyborn’ delivered for me.


Legrand is a dynamic author and her lyrical writing skills make much of what you read look like poetry. But I don’t like feeling as though a book is 100 pages longer than it needs to be, just so a book is an ‘epic fantasy novel’. I also wanted more time (but not with extra pages) to get to know these characters so I could connect to them. I hate feeling like I’m writing all of this and it will be an unpopular opinion, but I think this could have been so much better, because this was a ‘big one’, but I’ll be reaching, not for the sequel of this, but for Legrand’s ‘Sawkill Girls’ next.

Two sisters challenge the patriarchy in this brutal princess ‘fairytale’; ‘Grace and Fury’ is as violent as it is beautiful

Grace and Fury - Tracy Banghart

I usually have a ‘thing’ about books with images of people on the cover (is that strange?), so when I first saw ‘Grace and Fury’ with the striking, and beautiful, photo of the two girls, who are the two main characters in the book - Serina (Grace) and Nomi (Fury) - I was a bit flummoxed. I’d heard good things, PLUS the caveat is that we only see half of their faces. I could continue!

 

‘Grace and Fury’ also turned out to not be your usual ‘princess’ tale, even though YA fantasy is inundated with them, and that was my worry going in. Quite quickly, the story of Serina and Nomi was turned upside down. Serina and Nomi live in a world where women basically have no rights, and they have few choices as to what they are going to do with their lives. Serina has spent her short life being groomed to become a ‘Grace’, basically a submissive concubine for the Heir to the throne. Nomi, her sister, smarter and more rebellious, is Serina’s handmaiden, and makes the mistake one day of being caught ‘reading’ while they’re at the royal palace, but Serina takes the fall for this, and is exiled to Mount Ruin as punishment, and Nomi remains as one of the chosen Graces; they’re both suddenly severely out of their element.

 

What Serina finds though, is that the women on Mount Ruin are used for, is basically entertainment for the guards there, fighting to their deaths like gladiators. And Nomi is trapped inside a life she didn’t want, inside the palace, where although she may not have to fight for her food, instead she’s ‘competing’ for a place at the side of the Heir, something she never wanted in the first place. She is in an environment where there are few people around her, and deception by those close to her feels likely in every conversation she has. They are both life sentences that they see no immediate way out of.

 

Both sisters try and hatch plans to escape and get to each other, and they don’t know who to trust, and what’s fascinating about this novel is seeing their individual growth and self-discovery, particularly Serina’s, as they are locked inside their individual new inescapable (and very lonely) hells. The world that is created by author Tracy Banghart is particularly brutal and some of the scenes that are written on the island of Mount Ruin are especially bloody and violent; the fighting that occurs between the women is at-once survivalist but forced by the guards, and the descriptions of it are very detailed. This book certainly isn’t your usual ‘princess in the palace fairytale’.

 

We are left with a grand cliffhanger and I’m fascinated to know what happens next, especially since the ‘supporting’ characters played a big part in creating a lot of intrigue and interesting storylines. ‘Grace and Fury’ surprised me and gave me a new ferocious, if not bloody, wake-up call to the princess fairytale; these two sisters are saying a big fat ‘NO’ to the patriarchy in this one and I hope it has as strong a voice in the sequel.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32605766-grace-and-fury

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'The Venerate Order' by Troy Durant

The Venerate Order - Troy Durant

I'm host on a blog tour for another book, this time it has already had its release date back on Feb 26th of this year, and while this is not the usual sort of book for me to read or review, I accepted it on a whim. Thank you to Rock Star Book Tours for including me on this blog tour. Make sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book after you have read my post and review!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, TROY DURANT

 

 

 

Troy Dukart is the author of the Venerate Saga (The Venerate Order, The Venerate Redemption, sequels to follow). Troy grew up outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities. Troy is recognized by Toastmasters International as an Advanced Communicator Bronze and Advanced Leader Bronze. He's lived in Japan as well as California. He loves to travel. Make sure to stop by his website and sign-up for the newsletter to stay in the know!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | YouTube | Instagram

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Title: THE VENERATE ORDER

Author: Troy Dukart

Pub. Date: February 26, 2018

Publisher: Creativia

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 217

Find it and BUY it: Goodreads, Amazon

 

Synopsis:

Strafe Rocknus has suffered hard losses in his life, but now things are looking up for the college graduate.

He has a sizzling girlfriend, good friends and a bright career ahead of him. But one day, Strafe awakes in a mysterious cavern, discovers an ancient artifact, and unwittingly ignites a war that spans two worlds: his own, and one he never knew existed.

With the abyss of the unknown before him, Strafe enters the swirling darkness. Desperate, he must navigate a new and hostile world on the brink of catastrophe, and learn the truth of who he is, while facing a darkness with the power to destroy everything Strafe has ever cared about.

Soon, he will discover that his greatest strength comes from those he fights for.

 

MY REVIEW:

 

The craziest thing about reviewing a book you know nothing about beforehand is all you are going on is a book cover, the blurb on the back, and you’ve heard absolutely no talk about it. Since I decided to review ‘The Venerate Order’ I went into it just a bit like that: just seeing some bright colorful artwork for a cover, and going from there. It turns out that the insides are very colorful too.

 

From the very beginning, the reader is plunged into the (pretty) near future of 2088 ‘New Santa Barbara’, a part of California that has been broken off from the mainland, due to a large seismic crack. This probably isn’t that far-fetched (every time I read something like this, it seems totally plausible). The main character Strafe has recently graduated with his pilot’s license, and is a budding engineer, and is keen on entering the city contest that seeks to find a way to bridge the gap between the city and the other cities around them, across the canyons created by the seismic shifts.

 

This is where Strafe, with the help of his pal Gain, and his girlfriend Yessa, come to catapult our main character across the divide, and essentially into a whole new world and role for himself. When he discovers an ancient artifact in a cave, Strafe couldn’t possibly realize that this would mean the beginning of an adventure where a secret organization would be on his tail, his girlfriend would be kidnapped, or that he would find himself on another planet.

Going along with the story in this book meant leaving absolutely all my disbelief at the ‘door’/portal. I immediately (and quite obviously) felt in love with Strafe’s large wolf/spirit animal called Brutus, who I found out is named after a dog that author Troy Durant had for 14 years. And right away Strafe is forced into fighting in a bloody battle.

All the characters and the story in general are colorful and fantastical, not just the giant talking dog. The main characters are all Guardians, Protectors of the World, representing the Power of Love, Joy, Elation, Passion, Pride, (it made me think just a little bit of something like Power Rangers, with their different colors) including my favorite Brutus. Strafe is an absolutely likable antagonist, ready for a challenge, and loyal to his friends, but there are some deeper levels to the writing of the book.

Durant shows from his writing how much he has been influenced by his own reading and learning; he has been been influenced heavily by various cultures from around the world (Asian, Middle Eastern, European), and also has said that he researched extensively about Samurai and ninja histories for the character of Zon and weaponry. There is also an obvious appreciation for ancient history and myth, and that was one of my favorite things about reading this.

 

What strikes me too about VO is how visual it is, and so when I think on it, and maybe this is because it’s high fantasy, the cover art, or my production background, I can’t help but see this as some kind of animated film. The fight scenes are particularly vivid and descriptive. I also happen to know that Troy is a ‘Final Fantasy’ gaming fan so I can see how that inspiration led him here! Beyond this book there are several more installments in the ‘Venerate Order’ saga; this one ends with a ‘continued in part 2’, so the wild adventures of Strafe, Taleri, and everyone else don’t stop here!
It’s a really wild ride!

 

 

And here's the GIVEAWAY!!

 

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE VENERATE ORDER, US Only.

 

You can enter through *THIS LINK*!!! GOOD LUCK!

 

 

There are some more blogs on the book tour; the full schedule can be found at this link here: VENERATE ORDER BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE - more reviews, interviews, and more!

 

You can also check out what other book tours are coming up and find lots of other book reviews on the Rock Star Book Tour site!!

Thanks for stopping by again, and checking out one of my reviews! Happy reading!

 

 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38921657-the-venerate-order

Fantasy epic filled with forbidden magic, monsters, and cleverly crafted subplots; one of my favorites of the year so far!

Onyx and Ivory  - Mindee Arnett

Before I fully launch into my review (which I've saved up for release day), I have to first say how totally excited I am that this book is going to finally going out into the world. I got to be on the ‘Street Team’, one of the 'Relay Riders', for 'Onyx and Ivory', which meant I helped get the word out for it on social media. BUT that does not play into my review of the book.

 

Happily though, I fell in love with Mindee Arnett's book. I've not read her other books but I have a feeling she is putting something different out here and pouring something of herself into this one. O&I is an epic fantasy that started off (I believe) as a germ of an idea for Mindee some 6 years ago now, and it became a novel that opens up a world of dark monsters, forbidden magic, and brings us characters that feel complex and vibrant.

The main character of the novel is Kate, otherwise known as ‘Traitor Kate’, named as such for her father’s actions, for trying to assassinate the high king of Rime many years ago. Her father had been master of horse to the king, but he was executed for his crime, one that Kate can’t believe he would have knowingly committed.
Now she hides the gift of wilder magic that allows her to touch the minds of animals that makes her so in tune with horses as her father was, but wilder magic is forbidden and punishable by death. Because of her father’s treachery, she has been relegated to being a Relay rider for Farhold, the imperial courier service, but there are these nasty monsters out there called ‘nightdrakes’ (deadly flightless dragons), that make her job intensely dangerous, and soon these drakes are attacking in the daylight, massacring whole caravans of people.

 

Now, beyond this basic plot of Kate and her forbidden magic, and the drakes, as a reader you are quickly immersed in a world where there is a lot going on. This is a book that is not fast-paced but it is totally absorbing: when I took my time to read it, I felt like I was settling in to fully entrench myself in the world of several sub-plots that weave together and a number of fascinating characters. They are key to enjoying this book.
To name some, there’s Corwin (Kate’s first love, and heir to the throne), Signe (her spunky best friend), Edwin (Corwin’s nasty brother and competition for the crown), and Bonner (long-time friend who knows her magical secret). Kate reunites with her first love Corwin, after saving him from an attack by drakes, and she and her counterparts must embark on a full-on quest to not only understand who tried to kill the king, but also who is controlling the daydrakes. Corwin must also prove he is more worthy to be the heir to the throne than his brother. Something that I particularly think that is important for a novel of this length, is that the characters felt fully realized and fleshed-out, so much so that I could imagine them all throughout the book like companions. While there seem to be a number of subplots going on in the book, Arnett proves she is a skilled writer because I never felt lost. When one part of the story wasn’t being written about, it was fine to just leave it for a while, and continue with another part, and then go back to the other one. I don’t want to say too much about the plot lines of the book because it is jam-packed, but somehow Mindee has threaded them all together, and they’ve culminated in an ending that begs for another epic book. As long as O&I is, I didn’t want the journey and the book to end!

 

There is so much great imagery and vivid world-building woven into the book, such as the different types of magic, the descriptions of clothing, and landscape; on Mindee Arnett’s Website, there is some beautiful artwork and images to represent the Land of Rime, maps that show political regions, all the magic descriptions, and way back to her original conceptual beginnings for the book; it’s all there if you want to see it in detail.

 

I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fantasy they can really dig into, not rush through; there’s action, complex subplots, strong friendships, magic AND monsters(!), depictions of females as positive, independent characters, and there’s also the questioning of judgement of others/hypocrisy with respect to the laws regarding use of magic. There may seem to be, at first glance, the usual tropes of ‘fighting for the throne’, and ‘childhood friend likes girl now she’s grown up’, but I didn’t feel like the book was covering old ground, particularly as I got further and further into it.

‘Onyx and Ivory’ really is an amazing book, and it’s already on my ‘best-of’ list for 2018. I definitely want to be there for the Relay Ride for Book 2!

Solid new mystery from B.A.Paris with nothing too groundbreaking, BUT resounding sense of sorrow and sadness at ending

Bring Me Back: A Novel - B.A. Paris

I love a good mystery and especially ones that are set in England (where I am from), written by British authors, and somehow they keep making their way to me for review; pretty convenient actually. I say keep them coming honestly. I'm a pretty good litmus test for whether the Brit lingo is going to work well here (plus it always wins bonus points from me).

So Bring Me Back, with its beautiful bright yellow cover, along with some standout pink font, is the the third novel from B.A. Paris, and judging from her past successes, this will catch the eye of many mystery fans for many reasons beyond the cover.
It has a very simple premise really: a couple is away on holiday, skiing in Megeve, France, and then are driving back home through France to England. They make a stop for the toilets (at a rest area) at night, and that’s when Layla goes missing, and Finn goes looking for her, and reports her as missing…she is never seen or heard from again, and in some minds, presumed dead. Finn is cleared as a suspect, but it seems that could be from some of the embellishments he told the French police.
The novel is written from Finn's perspective, at least at the beginning; we are given accounts of Before Layla, and Now/After Layla. He is now, at least in theory, years away from what happened at that rest stop, and is about to marry Layla's sister Ellen, but it seems that he is still obsessed with Layla's disappearance, as well as it being obvious he's not wholly in love with Ellen. Finn isn't the most endearing character, since he is not entirely trustworthy and too neurotic to be that type of protagonist. But as the reader, we realize he doesn’t know the full truth about what happened that night at the rest stop.
Suddenly, these tiny (Matryoska) nesting Russian dolls start appearing in Finn's life, popping up in the strangest of places, at the bar of the local pub, on the wall outside their house; these are a sign of something that Ellen and Layla shared as children, and when Finn starts getting cryptic emails from someone, it's all too much. He has too many theories. Is Layla alive?

After about halfway through the book the tone and pace change, and while I felt a few dragging parts (Finn's neurotic brain!), the mystery unfolds evenly, with a great big thunderbolt at the end. My heart really left this book feeling so very sad, for so many reasons; there was a horrific crime of of the past, a number of mistakes of recent past, and then sad stories of the present. Even if you guess towards the end what is happening, I urge that fully read through to the end because that’s where it all comes together in all its sweet sorrow.
Some of the mystery tropes may be familiar (I can't name for spoilers) but this was an engaging, if heart-wrenching at the end, read.

*Note: I received a wonderful surprise early copy of this from St. Martin’s Press. Thank you! This does not affect my views or opinions.

 

Heart-wrenching book about a young Lithuanian girl during WWII; describes a forgotten chapter we should not rush to forget

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

I read this as one of the picks for the Litsy (Team YA) Postal Book Club I am in, and am glad it was chosen, even though I often do not choose historical fiction much these days to read. Especially when I expect it to bring me to tears (or remind me how little I know about how the Soviets and Stalin played their dastardly part in WWII).

Given that this book is several years old now, has won countless awards, and it seems as though everyone else who reads YA has already read it, I barely need to say much about the premise.

Young Lina is deported by the Soviets from Lithuania, along with her brother and mother, but her father gets separated from them to elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The book tells of their long long train ride bringing them to outer Siberia and the horrific trials that her family and other deportees go through. They are emblematic of a past that has been covered up and forgotten among war stories, probably due to so many other horrors (particularly due to Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust).

What Sepetys has written here though, is very relatable account, that I think many younger readers will be drawn to, and have been already; Lina develops a relationship with a teenage boy while deported, has the regular range of emotions you would expect from a teenager, and her love for her family, especially her missing Papa, is fierce.

And while I did not expect the full horrific descriptions I might see in an adult novel on this matter (for example, deaths, burials, etc.), there is enough here to make the reader feel angry, revolted, and incredibly heartbroken at many things that went on.

Since this novel is based on actual people and events (and Sepetys mentions the research and journeys she went on at the end), it is especially thought-provoking and meaningful. There were so very many people affected by the first and second world wars, particularly across Europe, I can hardly imagine how many individual stories like this exist. At least go and read one of them and remember what happened.

Psychological thriller that puts sexual assault and harassment at the center, and keeps you gripped all the way through; an unassuming title but a great twist

The Girl I Used to Be - Mary Torjussen

This is a psychological thriller that is hard to put to down, and despite the unassuming title, this novel goes from being a story about a seemingly innocuous meeting with a prospective client for estate agent Gemma to a full-blown harassment and sexual assault case. Gemma is the breadwinner of her family, with her husband being at home with their three-year old son, and while she is trying hard to deal with the mounting stress of running a company, she’s constantly dealing with the anxiety of an incident in her past. Suddenly she is very much alone in a world where she is being harassed by private messages and letters, and she is finding herself lying and wondering who she is becoming.
It’s so hard to review this without revealing a major amount about the plot but this had me quickly turning the pages because author Mary Torjussen has crafted the perfect thriller whereby she has weaved a story from the character’s past into one in the present day, and while I was reading I felt Gemma’s anxiety - and fear - all the way through. It really was compulsive reading.
I will also personally disclose that the initiating incident that Gemma experiences, the one that she feels she must run from, and the one that is the cause of so much tragedy (revealed in part 2), is something that I personally went through myself. I only wish this sort of thing didn’t actually have to be something that becomes the basis of both adult and YA fiction, but (yes, this is my trigger warning), sexual assault happens, and will continue to be a part of fictional and non-fictional works. As women start to fight back by talking about it, as now it is very much a topic of our time (there’s a line in the book acknowledging that once upon a time, it wasn’t talked about so easily), it has become different when we read about it too.
This is actually the second book released this year that I have read with this similar sexual assault issue.
The book is thoroughly engaging to read and I liked the ‘two parts’ that it was separated into, with the massive twist. I don’t know what I’d change it to, but for some reason I have an issue with the title, although I understand the concept of how we look back at what we ‘used to be’, feeling like we have changed so much, or looking at what we were back then, but I want something else to grab people by. This book is so good and too clever for people to miss.

Debut author surprises with a clever YA thriller, one that I hope doesn’t fly under the radar

Lies You Never Told Me - Jennifer Donaldson

Well, this was a surprise. The whole book was a surprise just like the secrets and lies held within, all the way until the end. 

I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway some time ago and didn’t have the chance to get to it until just now, and I feel like it’s one of those books that’s going to fly under the radar and it shouldn’t.
Debut author Jennifer Donaldson has written a very cleverly crafted young adult mystery/thriller that for a good portion of it, reads like a contemporary novel, and is told through with the voices of two main characters, Gabe and Elyse, who seem to live very separate lives. There are also two other main characters central to the story, Catherine and Sasha. Gabe is a young Hispanic skater boy who tries to break up with a very possessive, but popular, high school girl called Sasha, and she is making it be known that she is not happy about this. He has a six year old sister Vivi, with special needs, who he cares very much for, and is close with his family. Elyse, on the other hand, lives a very different sort of life. She has basically fended for herself for years, even paying the household bills with jobs while she has been in high school; her mother is addicted to opiates and spends most of the time out of it lying on the couch. She has come to rely on nobody but herself, and doesn’t expect anything good of the world. Which is why, when she gets chosen for the lead in Romeo and Juliet, she can’t believe she has got the part over her best friend Brynn, but soon is swept off her feet by the school drama teacher, Mr. Hunter.
I generally try not to guess endings of stories, and I’m not one to skip ahead, so, at least for me, this novel cleverly gives you one wallop over the head when you realize what the big twist is at the end. I can not say one thing more, lest I give anything away, but this is one clever book and had me engaged entirely. There are some big topics involved here too - scary exes with major infatuation problems, and teacher-student relationships, not to mention addiction issues - but the two running storylines are excellently written and don’t rap you over the head with the morality stick (you get to think about those afterwards). I hope this gets picked up by a good lot of people who enjoy thrillers with a side of romance (there’s a lot of ‘sweet’ to go with the ‘salty’), and it’s super smart.
I’d be on the lookout for what Jennifer Donaldson writes next because I believe there are a lot more phenomenal books in her yet.
*Thank you Goodreads and Razorbill for the early copy of this book!

A ghost story set in the Arctic landscape of fictional Gruhuken; the darkness and frigid cold alone are nightmarish enough!

Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

I’m now (finally) done with Dark Matter, my latest read for my #ScreamsByMail #HorrorPostalBookClub on Litsy. When I was actually reading it, it sped by, but I took a MASSIVE break in the middle of it because of animal death (yes, I know it’s par for the course in the Arctic circle but I couldn’t deal with it at the time). It reads as a journal, so it’s fast reading, but honestly being stuck on a polar ice cap in the dark sounds like a horror story to me anyway! I can’t think of anything more lonely or terrifying...
I was distracted for a good part of the book by the dogs’ well-being (the main character Jack luckily had huskies for company), as well as how animals are spoken about. This sort of thing trips me up in novels quite a bit (see above). It pulled me out of the actual story, and away from the ‘ghost story’.
Since we are writing in a journal (funnily enough) for the postal book club, and mailing that around too, I won’t write too much here. I will say though, that the writing by Michelle Paver is remarkable and fits very well with the time period and the character she writes for. I was very struck by this. She also obviously did extensive research into the area she writes about (although Gruhuken is fictional), and this is key to the effectiveness of the atmosphere of the novel. It will also ensure that you never, ever find me going near these parts. And it reminded me how much I hate the snow!

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'In Her Skin' by Kim Savage

In Her Skin - Kim Savage

 

I'm host on a blog tour for another great new book, and this time it's for one you may recognize the title for, but not the cover; it had a bold cover change recently, and it's just in time for release day. I love suspenseful novels like this one so I was all in. Make sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book after you have read my review!

 

Thanks again to my bookish pals at The Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on the tour!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, KIM SAVAGE

 

KIM SAVAGE is the author of three critically acclaimed young adult novels, After the Woods, Beautiful Broken Girls (named by Kirkus as one of the 10 Best YA of 2017), and now In Her Skin (releasing April 17, 2018), all with Farrar, Straus, Giroux/Macmillan. Her novels have been published in Spain, Brazil, and Turkey, and have been optioned for TV. Kim presents at conferences and book festivals nationwide; has been featured on NPR, Herald Radio, and on local cable stations; and she reads from her novels at bookstores across the country. A former reporter with a Master degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, Kim's stories are based in and around Boston. She lives with her family near Boston, not far from the real Middlesex Fells Reservation of After the Woods. Kim and her husband have three children, each of whom beg to appear in her books. They shouldn't.  

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

 

In Her Skin

by Kim Savage

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Release Date: April 17, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

 

Book Synopsis:

A dark, suspenseful young adult novel about crime, identity, and two girls with everything to lose.

 

Fifteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain takes on her biggest heist yet—impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasnt been easy, and she hopes to cash in on a little safety, some security. She finds her opportunity with the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family tied to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.

 

When Jo takes on Vivis identity and stages the girls miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. When hidden crimes come to the surface and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold on to an illusion of safety or escape the danger around her before its too late. In Her Skin is Kim Savage at her most suspenseful yet.

 

MY REVIEW: 

Wow. That will be the first word that comes out of my mouth (and therefore, my fingers)  in response to how this book made me feel.

In the same way that this book left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me a few times, it also left me feeling so desperately sad. I'll get back to that..

 

Jo Chastain, a young homeless teen, who basically wants a family of her own, assumes the identity of a missing girl (who would now be a teenager), in order to live in a wealthy household. Ignoring how hard I think it would be to actually assume the identity of a missing person and start living a new life, it takes a lot of tenacity and desire to want to rid yourself of your past and get yourself into a new situation, and risk being found out.

The home that Jo comes to live in is one where she now not only has the 'parents' she never had, along with the wealth, she also has the daughter of the Lovecrafts, Temple, who becomes like a sister and best friend to her.

 

As Jo (now Vivi) becomes lost inside this new identity of hers, and becomes attached to Temple, she has to remind herself of her truth because she starts to realize things are not quite as 'peachy' in the Lovecraft household as she once thought, and there's definitely an ominous tone. It takes a long while for the suspense to build and it's a slow burn that creeps up on you; the book is broken up into three different parts (of which, the first is the bulk of the book), and at the end of the first part the biggest twist comes.

Suspense in a book like this spells danger for a character like Jo, and the book is turned on its heels and at the same time it made me gasp (it's blatantly obvious I can't give you spoilers), this was very cleverly written.

 

What I felt is so sad about all this, is that we have one young girl wanting a family so badly she is willing to go to these lengths, and within the inner workings of this novel, there's another very sad tale going on for Temple too. This intimate friendship of these two girls starts to look very dysfunctional and you can't help but feel something's not going to end well unless...well, something.

 

Ultimately though, Kim Savage has written a very engrossing novel about a case of stolen identity, yet it's so much more than that; I read this book from beginning to end with hardly putting it down, and I now know I need more of her writing! 

 

 

 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! 

Get your chance to win ONE COPY of 'IN HER SKIN' by entering through the link below! (US Only)

Starts: 4/10 Ends: 4/24

CLICK HERE for a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR! 

You can find the full blog tour schedule at this link: IN HER SKIN BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

BOOK LINKS

And after you have added the book to your Booklikes shelf, and your Goodreads TBR, this is where you can order and BUY YOUR BOOK!! 

 

 

BOOK LINKS

 

 

 

Good luck with the giveaway, and happy reading (as always)!!! ~ K