Book Review: Ruins by Dan Wells

“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.

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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.

Book Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

“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.

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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.

Book Review: Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts

Solas don Saol. Light for Life.”

(page 294: Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts)

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.

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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!

You can find Of Blood and Bone at Nora Roberts website as well as her many other books.

Book Review: The Traitor’s Ruin by Erin Beaty

“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.

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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 

Book Review: Villain by Michael Grant

“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.

Villain

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.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

“And why can’t you understand. . . I don’t get what’s so wrong with being happy where you are.”

(Alba, Chapter 8, page 138)

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Melissa Keil brings incredible fun and laughter to the end of the world with The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl. It’s a book that pulled me in from the prologue and kept me engaged until the very sweet end. This is the third book by Keil that I’ve read and I’m hungry for more, along with a piece of apple strudel from Albany’s.

Sarah Jane Albany, known as Alba, calls the small town of Eden Valley home. Alba and her mom live in the residence behind their bakery named Albany’s. She’s a comic-book loving artist and the creator of Cinnamon Girl, her newest character who’s being slightly troublesome, almost as much as the events that quickly begin to unfold in Alba’s once even-paced life.

For Alba, tradition and routine are just fine. Why mess it all up with with changes like leaving Eden Valley and going to college? She loves her corner of the world that includes the bakery, her friends, and especially her best friend Domenic Grady, known simply as Grady.

Pals since the playpen because their mothers are best friends, Alba and Grady haven’t really spent a day apart in their lives. But, with Grady’s plans to go off and study law, Alba is in a bit of funk, especially because she’s really not sure what she wants or where she’ll fit in once her best friend leaves for his own adventure. And then there’s this pesky little issue of the world ending. Literally.

So what happens when the end of high school also coincides with the end of the world?

Alba struggles to make sense of her place in the world and the changes that are about to befall her, Grady, and their group of friends. When an obscure television personality predicts the planet’s demise and names Eden Valley as the only place that will survive, their tiny Australian town quickly becomes the center of global attention, filling with end-of-the-world zealots, personalities, and a particular hunky teen actor who also happens to be a former friend of Alba’s and Grady’s.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the quirky characters, including Alba’s entire gang of friends. Author Keil creates a great cast of supporting characters that developed and contributed perfectly to the main story, while at the same time drawing you in—I’d totally read a book that focused on Tia and Petey. The dialogue is witty yet easy to read and believable. Keil paints a picture with her words, giving readers a clear view of Eden Valley and the chaos that an end-of-the-world prediction would bring to a small town.

The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter were awesome! Loved them as artwork and how they connected seamlessly with the story.

Go grab yourself a copy of The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil. It’s a romance spiced with a quirky-sweet main character plus banter, universal truths, and laugh-out-loud moments.

You can check out Melissa Keil’s other books at her website. Also, my review of her book The Secret Science of Magic is here.

Book Review: “The Lies They Tell” by Gillian French

“Whatever you heard ain’t likely to be the truth. I don’t think anybody left alive knows the truth, except that boy.”

(Marilyn, The Lies They Tell, page 212)

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French offers a dark, twisting mystery amid family drama and the socio-economic divide of Tenney’s Harbor, Maine. This was the first Gillian French novel I’ve read, and it was a page-turner!

I love a good mystery and The Lies They Tell delivered.

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Told from the eighteen-year old Pearl’s perspective, the story opens with an introduction to the Garrison family. They are wealthy and one of the prestigious families at the country club where Pearl works as a waitress. When four of the five Garrison family members die in a horrific fire, we learn that the surviving son Tristan may be a suspect. Unfortunately, Pearl’s father also is suspect as he was the watchman on duty the night of the fire.

The bulk of the story takes place six months after the fire. It’s summer and Tristan and the other summer rich boys are in Tenney’s Harbor. As Pearl waits on Tristan and his friends at the club, she’s drawn into their group. While, she’s not a fan of the affluent summer boys, she has hopes that getting close to them may help her clear her dad’s name. Since the fire, her dad has lost work and buried himself in the bottle. They are barely scraping by.

Author Gillian French provides an immersive experience, creating a rich atmosphere with her settings in this book. It’s very easy to “see” Tenney’s Harbor, the country club, and Pearl’s world.

Personally, I enjoyed following Pearl and her discoveries into the truths behind the closed doors of the Garrison household and the family life that only Tristan knew. There was ample drama, suspense, and the weaving of the lies and betrayal worked. I also really liked the final setting for the ending, just enough creep factor but not too over-the-top.

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French was the perfect book to curl up with on a stormy afternoon and I recommend it to any YA mystery fan.

Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

“I believe she will shortly describe me as

‘that dipshit who’s always smiling at himself.’”

(Joshua, page 3)

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil is smart, funny, and one of my favorite reads of 2018.

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Its blurb via author Melissa Keil’s website:

Sophia is smart. Like, genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius? In life and love, timing is everything.

It was pure chance I stumbled on this book and I’m so happy it happened. While at my local library to pick up a few books for research purposes, I couldn’t help but make a detour into the Young Adult section. Big surprise, right?

The Secret Science of Magic caught my eye from its place on the “new” shelves, just by its title. After reading the jacket blurb, I knew it was coming home with me. Then I opened the book and it began with with a quote from Harry Houdini. I was all in.

How could I not want to know what would happen when a young magician attempts to win the heart of a genius?

This is not your typical high school romance novel. Set in Melbourne, Australia, author Melissa Keil gives readers alternating POV from Sophia and Joshua. Sophia is a genius, particularly skilled in mathematics, while Joshua does well in history class, his overall interest in studying and homework is minimal. His passion is magic. Neither are part of the popular social circles at school.

There were many elements about this book that I loved. Normally, I’m not a fan of first person POV but I really liked it here as it kept me close to the characters. From the first pages, I became invested in Sophia and Joshua. I laughed out loud more than once before finishing chapter one. Keil’s writing style is sharp and witty. She has created characters that you want to know inside and out, and then shows us all their messy truths but in ways that are completely relatable.

I also enjoyed the numerous pop culture references, in particular the Doctor Who tidbits. As a fan of Eleven, I swooned and giggled with the tiny fez hats that “magically” appear on Sophia’s pencils when she opens her pencilcase.

As we all know, the course of teenage romance rarely runs smooth, and in the case of Sophia and Joshua the odds are stacked against them. However, it was a joy to be able to tag along for their journey. The Secret Science of Magic kept me entertained from start to finish and I’m still chuckling over several moments. I highly recommend it.

Melissa Keil is the author of The Secret Science of Magic, Life in Outer Space, and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl.

I already have Life in Outer Space on reserve at my library, so keep an eye out for my thoughts on that one.

Book Review: Echoes by Alice Reeds

“I already hated everything about this plan,

even if it was the only one that made sense.”

Fiona. Chapter Eleven, page 102

I rarely do this, but I’m going to begin this post with the book’s blurb from the author’s website, which you can access here: www.alicereeds.com.

Blurb:

They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most startling discovery: something else is on the island with them. Something that won’t let them leave alive.

Echoes by Alice Reeds had a lot of elements I really liked, including the alternating chapters that went back and forth between two “realities”: the island and Berlin.

Echoes

As a fan of shows like “Lost” I was excited to read a story about two teens stranded on a mysterious island. While there wasn’t a smoke monster, there were ample life-threatening situations for Fiona and Miles. Personally, I preferred their story on the island versus the city-setting of Berlin. I had a few issues with city chapters, and I may have actually yelled at them to just go to the American Embassy. But, I did keep turning pages and although I felt the ending was a bit rushed (lots crammed in), I mostly was satisfied.

Character-wise, I did struggle to connect with Fiona, and at times, Miles seemed cliche, but I ended up liking him. However, overall there was enough action and questions (important with this type of story) to keep me engaged.

Book Review: Until the End by Christopher Pike

Until the End by Christopher Pike is his original trilogy titled Final Friends. Until the End contains the three books: The Party, The Dance, and The Graduation.

The Party and The Dance were both originally released in 1988 and The Graduation came out in 1989. I wish they would have kept the original Final Friends title, because it’s an actual line in the book and I think it ties the trilogy together a bit better.

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When I found Until the End at a bookstore during some travel, I squealed. No lie. Squealed loudly and most likely frightened the couple browsing in the next aisle over. The squeal came from stumbling upon the “Pike” name on the book’s spine. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I bought and devoured every Christopher Pike book available. I was obsessed. When I picked up Until the End and discovered that it was the entire Final Friends trilogy in one, super-thick book—I knew it was coming home with me. It took all I had not to plop down in the aisle and begin reading right there.

The Final Friends trilogy or Until the End is a YA mystery/thriller that’s contemporary. Because it was written in the late 1980’s, the pop culture references reflect that time, ie: mention of the “big TV movie The Day After” and of course, no cell phones plus what now would be considered archaic computer technology. Set in California, the story follows a group of friends and acquaintances attending the same high school. Most of the story is told from the perspective of Jessica Hart and Michael Olson.

Book One: The Party introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the tragedy that will bring them all together and tear many of them apart. Like many good mysteries, The Party ends with a dead body and a lot of questions.

Book Two: The Dance is the aftermath of that tragic party. Author Pike takes readers on a ride exploring the various reactions/coping mechanisms each character employs while also attempting to deal with daily teenage life. There’s ample witty dialogue, teen crushes, and general high school drama woven in as well, but the main thread continues to be the mystery. The Dance concludes with Homecoming and another tragedy.

Book Three: The Graduation picks up on the last day of high school for this band of seniors. They’ve all experienced many ups and down during their last year of high school. Their all-night senior party aboard a cruise ship to Catalina is to be a great celebration, but someone has other plans. Everyone who had been present during the party when a life was lost, will be on that boat. More than one person has an agenda, and everyone is shocked by the revelations.

All three books of the trilogy are fast-paced and offer enough clues that an observant reader can begin to put together a theory or two on the who, what, and why. The characters, although a bit cliche at times, are overall likable and Pike does give them growth, as well as redemption for those in need of it.

Even after 30 years, the Final Friends trilogy by Christopher Pike still delights and entertains me. My inner teenage was transported back in time and that was just plain fun!