“Your head can be turned, your heart can be wooed, but your gut never lies.”
(Merry, chapter 4, page 61 of The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait)
The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait is book one in a duology titled the Ateban Cipher. Fourteen year old Gabe, an orphan living in the Oldham Abbey, finds himself the protector of a a special book. It’s thrust upon him by the dying Brother Benedict, who tells him to “take it to Aidan.” Gabe’s perilous journey begins, book in hand, as he flees the only home he’s ever known. With the help of a group of rebel girls, Gabe takes on a quest to find the mysterious “Aidan” and assist the girls in rescuing a wrongfully imprisoned family member.
This book is so much fun! As a kid, I loved books like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the swashbuckling stories of the Three Musketeers. The Book of Secrets has a similar feel, in my opinion. It’s packed with action, adventure, danger, and an intriguing mystery.
I loved the wit and whimsy of the dialogue and the pacing of each scene. As for characters, Gabe is very likable and you’re cheering him on from the start. The girls are amazing and I loved each of them—smart, brave, loyal, and caring. And they save Gabe more than once. You want Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett, and Midge on your side.
There’s a lot happening in The Book of Secrets, but the story flows effortlessly with a comfortable balance of action, exposition, and dialogue. While not set in modern day, author Tait makes it easy to envision the times through her vivid descriptions and dialogue. I’d recommend The Book of Secrets for mid-grade readers through teens, but adults will enjoy this adventure as well.
“I can’t be weak now. I’m a human in a god’s war and I will surely die if I don’t get the hell out of here.”
(Analiese, chapter 39, page 312 of Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake)
I love mythology and some of my favorite books incorporate mythological characters, creatures, and tales so when I read the blurb for Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake, I knew I had to read the book.
The story follows Analiese Jordan, a teen who lost her parents when she was very young. She’s been adopted by her uncle and his family that includes her cousin Dalton who over the years has become more like a brother. When Analiese and Dalton witness a hit-and-run, her life begins to change. The dying old man gives her his bag and asks her to get it to his grandson. How can she refuse? But when he calls her by name and tells her she’s in danger and needs to run, Analiese is confused and a bit scared. Then she finds a list of names in the bag. On the list and crossed out are the names of her parents and recently deceased uncle. The list also has her name on it.
Analiese Rising catapults the reader into a world where ancient gods walk among mortals and the Risers can bring the dead back to life, controlling them, but at a terrible cost. Analiese is a Riser, a descendant of the God of Death. When she learns of her true nature, the stakes become even higher. She places her trust in Marek Conte, the old man’s grandson. Together they’ll meet others like Analiese, form alliances, battle enemies, and ultimately be forced to take a stand in the long-simmering war between the immortals.
I enjoyed Analiese Rising from start to finish. Told in first person, present tense from Analiese’s perspective, author Brenda Drake drew me in and I found myself invested in the character and her story. It was fun being in Analiese’s head, from her introspection regarding the reality of gods and the supernatural to her growing romantic feelings for Marek.
In addition, I liked both the characters of Analiese and Marek because their personalities meshed well yet still offered enough conflict to keep me interested. The overall concept of the gods lost powers and their fight to get them back worked well, but it really was the chase that was my favorite part of the story. The journey from the U.S. to Italy and France takes readers on an epic journey and includes many sites you’ll want to put on your bucket list.
There’s a lot to like about Analiese Rising and I recommend picking up a copy today. It’s a fast-paced adventure that effortlessly blends romance, intrigue, and mythology.
Please head over to author Brenda Drake’s website and check out her books as well. Analiese Rising is a stand-alone but if you’re into series, she has those as well. Also, you can read my review of Drake’s other stand-alone book, Thunderstruck here on my site.
I love a mystery and Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus checked all my boxes for a really good mystery. Author McManus keeps the reader guessing, offering twists and turns throughout the story. There’s plenty of deception, betrayal, secrets, and murder as well as a bit of romance and family drama. It’s got it all.
Two Can Keep a Secret opens with the Corcoran twins, Ellery and Ezra, arriving in Vermont. With their single mom in rehab, they’ve said goodbye to their life in La Puenta, California and hello to starting their senior year of high school in the small town of Echo Ridge. They’ll stay with their grandmother in the same house their mother and her twin once lived together. Unfortunately before they can settle in, the twins encounter a dead body. Yes, we get a body in the first chapter, which as a murder mystery geek, made me very happy.
Ellery Corcoran is a lover of true-crime stories, her interest stemming from a horrific family incident that happened when her mom was a teen—Sarah, her mom’s twin disappeared and her body never found. Several years later, Echo Ridge was hit with a another teenage tragedy when Homecoming Queen Lacey Kilduff is murdered. It’s only been a few years since Lacey’s murder and now it looks like the killer may be back and targeting this year’s Homecoming court, which includes Ellery.
Also important to know, Ellery has an encounter with Malcolm Kelly soon after arriving in Echo Ridge. Malcolm just happens to be the younger brother of Declan Kelly, who was Lacey’s boyfriend at the time of her murder. Malcolm’s mom also has remarried and her new husband is Peter Nilsson, who once dated Ellery and Ezra’s mom. Connections, connections. And there are many in this book, but that’s one of the things I like. McManus knows how to weave a story and plot a mystery.
I don’t do spoilers, but I can reveal there is another murder and Ellery can’t help but become involved in the mystery. The cast of characters are numerous and include the twins and their classmates, the twenty-somethings that are connected to Lacey’s murder (and even related to the Ellery and Ezra’s new friends and classmates), and the parents of Echo Ridge who were teens when the twin’s aunt disappeared. Everyone has something to hide, but who would kill to keep their secrets safe?
Two Can Keep a Secret had many elements I really liked, from strong and likable characters to witty dialogue and fun pop culture references. As a die-hard fan of the classic murder mystery, I particularly love the placement of clues that can help the reader arrive at certain conclusions. And I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my conclusions was wrong, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
Definitely grab a copy of Two Can Keep a Secret for an engaging mystery with plenty of action, cleverness, and red herrings. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on any day—rain, snow, or shine. Karen M. McManus has a winner here. If you haven’t read her first book, One of Us is Lying, I highly recommend that one as well. Both books are stand-alone novels. You can check out my personal review of One of Us is Lying here.
“Your lack of ‘purpose’ is the single best thing about you, because it means you be whatever you want.”
(Marcus to Kira)
Ruins by Dan Wells, chapter 41, page 370
The remaining Partials and humans are on the brink of war as Ruins by Dan Wells opens. Ruins is the third book in the Partial Sequence trilogy. Kira and Samm are still in the middle of it all, except this time they’re separated by miles of toxic wasteland. There’s still no stable cure for RM, the virus killing human babies, or a solution to beating the expiration date that threatens the Partials. Both sides are desperate for survival, but neither is willing to trust each other.
Kira and Samm are determined to save everyone and the fragile world that is experiencing its first real winter since the Break.
The final book of The Partials Sequence sweeps across a world ravaged by an apocalypse and now facing another set of extinction events. However, at the heart of it all are small bands of resistance fighters—both Partials and humans, hell-bent on stopping the end of the world.
There’s a lot I liked about this series and about the last installment of the story. It’s more than just a dystopian saga. The Partials Sequence combines sci-fi with a medical thriller, action-adventure, and drama all tied together in a YA package. And for me, it works.
I’ve found the world-building in the Partials Sequence—all the way through Ruins and its conclusion, to be strong and immersive. His descriptions drew me in, from the colonized “civilization” on Long Island to the barren and crumbling city of Chicago, the toxic midwest plains, and the oasis in Colorado that only exists because of bio-tech. Wells has created a world decimated by humanity. It’s not a place I’d want to live, but the survivors have hope.
Character-wise, everyone has an agenda, even the heroes. I really liked how author Wells manages to bring the different factions together without it feeling contrived or unrealistic. Told primarily from Kira’s perspective, Wells does offer readers insight into the minds and motivations of Samm, Kira’s sisters, and even Heron. I’ll admit in book one, Partials, I wasn’t fond of Marcus. By book two, Fragments, he began to grow on me, and by Ruins, I really liked him. His wit and unwavering determination to do the right thing won me over.
If you’re looking for an action-packed dystopian series filled with twists and turns and just the right balance of thriller and romance, The Partials Sequence by Dan Wells is a good choice. Overall, I think Ruins is my favorite of the main trilogy.
“She took Julian’s hand, and they stepped through.”
(Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare: chapter 33, page 835)
The Blackthorns are back in the third book of The Dark Artifices that’s titled The Queen of Air and Darkness. Cassandra Clare’s epic tale opens solemnly, which is fitting after the ending of Lord of Shadows (book two) ripped my heart out. If you haven’t read Lady Midnight or Lord of Shadows, books one and two respectively, you may want to skip this review as there are spoilers for those books. I won’t reveal spoilers for The Queen of Air and Darkness, though.
The Dark Artifices spans three books (so far?) and is a sequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. It begins in Los Angeles, five years since the concluding events in the Mortal Instruments and the story follows Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family, characters introduced in the Mortal Instruments.
If you missed it, catch up on my thoughts about Lady Midnight (book one) and Lord of Shadows (book two) before reading the rest of this review.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, all 880 pages. Yes, it’s crazy long and there’s a LOT going on, but I have discovered that Emma Carstairs is hands-down my favorite Shadowhunter. Because I love the character of Emma, I’ve flown through this series, even during a few of the draggy parts (of which I feel there were only a few.)
The story picks up after Livvy’s death at the hands of Annabel Blackthorn and Emma’s shattering of the Mortal Sword. The Blackthorn’s, Emma, Cristina, and the Lightwoods are all as shattered as the Mortal Sword, suffering huge losses and caught in the middle of another war with shifting alliances.
At the core of Queen of Air and Darkness is the fight for true love—even if it’s forbidden between two parabatai. Emma and Julian still are struggling with their feelings as their worlds continue to fall apart. There’s also the ongoing fight against bigotry and hatred, on many levels, and it’s woven throughout this series.
While the rest of the Blackthorn family returns to California, the parabatai embark on a mission into Faerie to bring back the Black Volume of the Dead. Their journey is arduous and ultimately, Emma and Julian will find themselves fully entrenched in the parabatai curse and unwilling participants in destruction that can destroy everyone and everything they love.
I enjoyed Emma and Julian’s story, but there are many others throughout this series that kept me turning pages.
Kit and Ty: I love the evolution of the relationship between Kit and Ty. Ty has been one of my favorite Blackthorn’s from the beginning and Kit has evolved into a very likable and interesting character. He fascinates me and by midpoint of this book, I had an idea about his lineage and I can’t wait to see more about him in another series.
Mark, Cristina, and Kieran: I love the three of them together and watching their journey through to the end of the book was fun, although at times frustrating. Definitely, intense in some moments.
Diana Wrayburn: She’s developed into a character I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with and just talk. About everything and anything. I really like her and love the relationship she has with Gynn.
It’s also been a lot of fun to watch young Dru develop and mature. She’s definitely one you can’t ignore and hoping for more of her story in future series.
There also was a nice balance of Mortal Instruments characters interspersed, the tie-ins worked for me. I will say I could have had more Magnus, but then again, who doesn’t want more Magnus?
With any Shadowhunters book, author Cassandra Clare weaves stories for multiple characters across multiple landscapes. Despite the length of the book and many story lines, I never found it difficult to keep track of the different characters. I think this mainly is because each character is distinct with a specific purpose. I particularly liked the way she quick-shifted scenes to give the reader the feeling that certain moments were happen simultaneously.
Overall, I definitely recommend Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare, but highly advise you to read books one and two first. You can find additional information about The Dark Artifices series and Clare’s other books at her website: www.cassandraclare.com.
My Goodreads year-in-review tells me I read 44 books in 2018. This is true and misleading. It only catalogs what I tell it and I don’t tell it everything. If you’d like to see what my Goodreads year-in-review, it’s here.
In actuality, I’ve read 50+, I don’t know the exact number because I don’t keep track of all my rereads. You know the ones. Those comfort books you pick up when your life feels wonky, suffocating, bleak, and so forth. We all have those moments and I often deal by escape into a well-worn, many-times-read book.
But I digress. My 2018 Reading Wrap Up features some of my favorite reads of the year and I’m sharing because maybe as you’re putting together your TBR list for 2019, you might want to consider adding one or two or all.
Overall Favorite Book of 2018
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant
Michael Grant’s young adult book Purple Hearts is book three in the Front Lines series featuring Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. In this alternate history, they are soldier girls of World War II. Author Grant gives readers the chance to see what may have happened if women were allowed to enlist and were drafted to serve on the front lines during World War II. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s raw and wonderful and my overall favorite book of 2018.
Favorite Author Who’s New To Me
I was perusing the young adult shelves of my local library and I saw The Secret Science of Magic displayed cover out. It grabbed me—the cover, the title, and then the blurb. I liked it so much I checked out Life in Outer Space and then The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, which ended up being my favorite of the three Keil books I read. Her characters are likable, quirky, and I totally recommend checking out author Melissa Keil and her books.
Most Anticipated Releases
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant
The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe
Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts
The three books that I’ve listed as my tops were pre-ordered and anxiously awaited, their arrival date circled on my calendar. While I enjoyed The Evolution of Claire, I loved both Purple Hearts and Of Blood and Bone. The latter two are part of series so I already was invested in the story and characters—and neither disappointed.
Favorite Mystery of 2018
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
I love mysteries. My all-time favorite author is Agatha Christie, known as the Queen of Crime and writer of more than 60 mysteries. When I can get my hands on a new mystery, I’m in heaven. This year, I had the pleasure of reading a young adult mystery that I couldn’t put down because it was that good, that immersive. If you haven’t read One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, do it. And then be sure to make a place on your bookshelf for her second book Two Can Keep a Secret which releases January 8, 2019.
Favorite Re-reads of 2018
As I mentioned earlier, I reread—a lot. And I do have many favorites. However, after much consideration, I decided to list four as my Favorite Re-reads of 2018.
Front Lines (Front Lines series book 1) by Michael Grant
Silver Stars (Front Lines series book 2) by Michael Grant
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Until the End by Christopher Pike
2018 was a good year for reading, amazing new stories alongside old favorites. Just yesterday, two new books arrived that will be part of my 2019 Reading List and I’ve two more new releases arriving in the first week of the new year. Yay!
What was your favorite book you read during 2018? Share the title and author below in comments, please as I’m always looking to add new titles to my TBR List.
Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts is book two in the series: Chronicles of The One, which began with the book Year One. If you haven’t read it or my review, please check it out here.
This was a book I waited anxiously to receive and when it arrived, I dived in and quickly became immersed into the harsh yet entrancing world author Nora Roberts has created in this series. Of Blood and Bone picks up 12 years after the birth of Fallon Swift, who is The One. She’s lived her childhood on a peaceful farm with her mother, father, and brothers, mostly sheltered from the ruined world decimated by the Doom and now ravaged by Raiders and vicious Purity Warriors.
Like her mother and birth father, Fallon has gifts and it’s these gifts that make her a target for those who despise an Uncanny—witch, faery, shifter, elf, or other magical being. And as The One, she is destined to be so much more. Fallon will have to leave her family to train and fully come into her essence as The One in order to mobilize and lead an army to battle the dangerous, deadly evil forces that threaten all that is good. She’ll learn to be a healer, student, teacher, and warrior, all before her fifteenth birthday.
Once fully trained and reunited with her family, Fallon and her people return to New Hope. New Hope is the town where her parents lived, loved, and had many friends. It’s also the town where her birth father was murdered by his brother.
Of Blood and Bone tells the epic tale of Fallon Swift’s journey into becoming The One, from her childhood days on the farm to studies with the ancient Mallick and the journey and reconnection with New Hope. In book one, author Roberts gave readers a sense of the magicks and their impact for this story. Book two takes it to another level and it kept me turning pages. I really like Fallon and watching her learning process. She’s intelligent, strong, independent, and yet there’s still just a hint of vulnerability.
It made me happy to see some of my favorite characters from Year One thriving in this book, in particular sweet Fred and the lovable Eddie as well as Arlys, Chuck, Katie, and Flynn. We get to know Katie’s three kids better, all teens now. Duncan and Tonia have developed their gifts and together with Fallon, this trio is formidable. I’m looking forward to seeing how they evolve further in book three.
I really liked Of Blood and Bone and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and dystopian stories. Definitely read Year One first, but then grab Of Blood and Bone and enjoy!
“Her writing was witty and entertaining but carefully neutral in describing camp workings and routines, which would give no enemy significant information if it was intercepted.”
(THE TRAITOR’S RUIN by Erin Beaty, Chapter 28, page 108)
The Traitor’s Ruin by Erin Beaty is the second in a trilogy that begins with The Traitor’s Kiss and will conclude with the The Traitor’s Kingdom releasing in July 2019.
The young adult fantasy continues the story of Sage Fowler, former apprentice to the matchmaker Darnessa, current tutor to the children of the Demoran royal family, and betrothed of Captain Alex Quinn. I like Sage because she’s intelligent, fiercely independent, and kindhearted. This story has her back in the thick of things, this time even more fully entrenched as a spy and definitely with higher stakes.
At the bequest of the Queen, Sage sets off with the newly formed Norsari, an elite group of soldiers led by her Captain Quinn. While Alex is not happy to have Sage along, there’s no denying her skill for languages and critical thinking that may play an important role in the mission. And it does. Unfortunately, when Sage’s student, the young prince Nicholas, is the target of a kidnapping, the two become separated from the Alex and the Nosari during the fighting. Sage and Nicholas find themselves with the Casumi, soldiers from a far-off land who also are at odds with Kimisar.
Like the first book, author Beaty takes the reader through a world filled with political intrigue, a specific social hierarchy, and cultural customs specific to each of the different lands. There’s a lot going on in this book and at times, in particular in the first half, it was a challenge to keep it all straight due to the unique names and language. However, I enjoy a spy story and Sage is a character that keeps me turning pages. In The Traitor’s Ruin we get to see her relationship with Alex evolve and how she handles keeping secrets from him, much in the same manner he kept secrets from her in the first book.
I don’t do spoilers, but I will reveal that both Sage and Alex find themselves in mortal danger and that not all characters from book one survive book two. There are many action-packed fight scenes plus just the right amount of romance and levity in the right spots. Overall, I enjoyed The Traitor’s Ruin by Erin Beaty and look forward to reading book three when it’s released in 2019.
If you want to check out this trilogy and author Erin Beaty, this is her website: www. erinbeaty.com
It’s Cyber Monday 2018 and let’s not forget about the writers and book lovers on your lists! Check out a few holiday gift ideas for writers and book lovers that capture the imagination, offer inspiration, and add another touch of whimsy during a magical season while providing joy throughout the upcoming new year.
NOTE: I receive no compensation for any of these items. I am not connected to any of these artisans, sellers, companies, and so forth. They’re items I personally like and wanted to share as ideas.
Let’s start with a few gems from Storiarts. A couple of years ago, my wonderful husband gave me this pair of Pride and Prejudice writing gloves. I love them! Seriously, love them and wear them throughout the cold months as I work. As a writer, I totally recommend adding these to your gift list for anyone who spends long hours at the keyboard.
Storiarts also has a several other fun items, and I want to point out the book totes. Personally, I love the Matilda one, but there are many choices and you can’t go wrong with a book-themed tote bag for any writer or book lover.
From the Mareshop on Etsy, discover another type of fingerless glove perfect for a fantasy writer, dragon lover, or anyone who might love these colorful, handmade gems. I’m partial to this pink pair, but there are several colors plus two length styles to suit personal tastes.
Moonglow jewelry ads have appeared recently in my social media feeds and I’ll confess, I think they’re beautiful. Here’s the deal, you pick a significant date and the mini moon on your jewelry will feature the phase of moon from that time. Cool, right?
Why not choose a significant date for the author on your list? It could be the release date of their debut novel or the date they officially signed a contract with their agent or publisher. You can choose from pedants to earrings and bracelets, but I’m partial to this particular bangle bracelet.
You can’t go wrong with 200 themed magnetic word tiles: Magnetic Poetry Kit—Moist and Other Awful Words. It’s fun, sassy, and can be mixed-and-matched with other magnetic poetry tile kits.
Next up is Scapple, a program available through Literature & Latte. It’s a way for writers to brainstorm ideas and connect ideas even when things seem at their most scattered. If the writer(s) on your list love Scrivener, there’s a good chance they’ll enjoy Scapple.
How about a waterproof notepad? Never forget a great story idea when in the shower or bath again. Add AquaNotes to your gift list.
There are so many different literary, book-inspired, and writerly-styled mugs and drinkware available, I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m sharing something I hadn’t seen before until today. These are so much fun! And great for English teachers, too! Check out this set of eight plates from Grammar Stuff.
Something for the Home
Whimsical bookends, beautiful bookends, unique bookends! Head over to Etsy for a huge selection of bookends, truly something for every book lover.
And just fun for, why not a Writer’s Block? It’s the perfect paperweight and desk accessory for any writer.
“People could be amazingly blind to what was right in front of their faces.”
(“Villain”, chapter 8, page 84)
A year ago, almost to the day, I posted my review of Monster by Michael Grant, the long-awaited continuation of the GONE series that originally released in June 2008. Ten years later, readers like me are still caught in the FAYZ and soaking up every word of Villain, the latest installation in this gripping series.
Shade Darby was there the day the Perdido Beach dome came down. She witnessed the horror that was Gaia, the monster of the FAYZ as well as the death of her mother. When the alien virus-infected rock crashed into the earth, Shade was there to retrieve a piece. Along with her friends Cruz and Malik, she’s ingested a portion of the rock and now they’re part of the Rockborn and able to morph into something more, beings of incredible power. Unfortunately, Shade and friends aren’t the only ones that are Rockborn, and some of the others are using their morphs for more evil agendas.
Villain brings back previous foes, from Knightmare to Peaks, Vu, and the sadistic Drake Merwin—Whip Hand. Adding to the mix is a new villain, Dillon Poe. When morphed as the Charmer, Dillon is unstoppable. His ability to command anyone to do anything with just his words makes him a dangerous, deadly villain. Add to it his lust for power and our heroes have their hands full.
Also returning for Villain are GONE series fan favorite Dekka and brief but critical appearances by Sam and Astrid. Personally, I love the new dynamic that’s developed between Dekka and Armo as well as Dekka and Shade. Author Grant also gives us a new hero in the form of Francis, a young girl who can walk through any solid object and who also possesses a very special trait that may be key when it comes to the final take-down of the Watchers.
Villain took me on a heart-stopping ride, twisting my insides and pushing all the buttons. There are brutal moments, turns, and Chapter 30 that even brought a tear + a very loud “hell yeah!”
“‘What are we going to do? Cruz repeated. She shrugged. ‘I guess we’re going to try and save the world.’”
The GONE series has never shied away from harsh, gory, terrifying imagery and Michael Grant certainly paints a picture. There are scenes in Villain that may be difficult to read, but it’s well done and a complete page-turner.
It’s no secret I am a long-time fan and faithful reader of Michael Grant and the GONE series ranks in my top all-time favorites. For me, Villain continued to deliver the story, characters, and thrills I’ve come to expect and love from this author and series.
If you’ve not stepped into the FAYZ yet, pick up book one: GONE and dive right in. Read ‘em all and be sure to grab a copy of Villain.