Storybound – Book Review

by Emily McKay

Synopsis:
I’ve lived in nine towns in the past six years. I know my mom feels bad about it, but I don’t mind. Who wants friends anyway?

All I’ve ever needed are my books. I’ve lived a thousand lives, had adventures I couldn’t even begin to imagine. To me, the places I discovered between the pages of a book are as real as the world I live in.

When I walk into my favorite bookstore, the last thing I expect is to walk out onto the pages of the kingdom of Mithres…or that the book boyfriend I’ve loved more than life, Kane the Traveler, really exists. And he has no clue the fate that awaits him in book five…

Now that I know the truth, I have a chance to save Kane. But if I change the story, will I ever find my way home?

Review:
Edie (“Cupcake”) is a relatable girl in that she LOVES books and reading more than just about anything. Her favorite series is coming to an end, and with it – her favorite fictional crush, Kane. But when she discovers it’s all real, her life – as well as the characters she’s grown to love – are all in danger.

I got sucked into this story right away. Though when Edie crosses over into her “fictional” world, I had to suspend a lot of disbelief on how this kid would react. It reminded me of Galaxy Quest when the geeky boy was told his favorite TV show was all real, and he just replies “I knew it!” It’s cute just the same. My biggest hang-up was that everyone calls Edie “Cupcake” – because of the shirt she’s wearing. It was funny for a few pages, when I discovered why they were calling her that. But it got old REALLY quick. In fact, I totally forgot her name halfway through the book. I had to go back and look for it. I just find cutesy nicknames condescending and annoying. Maybe it’s just me.

But the story itself was fun and fast-paced. I enjoyed the unique worldbuilding. And several of the minor characters were enjoyable. Kane grows more likable as the story goes on, though he’s a bit rough around the edges when we first meet him. The book ends with some clever twists and a bit of a cliffhanger. Teens who enjoy a little romance mixed in their fantasy stories should check this out.

Catalyst – Book Review

Catalyst by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis:
Zoe named the kitten Pipsqueak, because she was so tiny, and promised to always take care of her. Then the kitten grew. And grew. Now she’s bigger than a horse—and talking as well! Fleeing into the woods to escape the curious eyes of the Internet, Zoe and her best friend, Harrison, must keep the giant cat hidden as they desperately search for a way to return her to normal size. If they don’t succeed, Pipsqueak may never be safe again. But why did she grow so large in the first place? And what if trying to change her back leads to even greater danger?

Review:
This is a very fun standalone fantasy for children – especially animal lovers. Zoe loves animals and brings home injured ones all the time, but her parents let her finally keep this latest tiny kitten. Unfortunately, the kitten grows at an exponential rate and Zoe is afraid she’ll be taken away if anyone other than Harrison finds out.

There is plenty of humor and heart in this unique story. I love the family dynamic. The characters (other than the fantastical animals) are relatable. And the animals were irresistible. And while I knew the direction the story would take, I was still pleasantly surprised with a fun twist at the end. This was an exciting adventure with suspense, mystery, and magic.

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS – Full Excerpt!

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS by Christopher Paolini

Full Excerpt:

Cold fear shot through Kira’s gut.

Together, she and Alan scrambled into their clothes. Kira spared a second of thought for her strange dream—everything felt strange at the moment—and then they hurried out of the cabin and rushed over toward Neghar’s quarters.

As they approached, Kira heard hacking: a deep, wet, ripping sound that made her imagine raw flesh going through a shredder. She shuddered.

Neghar was standing in the middle of the hallway with the others gathered around her, doubled over, hands on her knees, coughing so hard Kira could hear her vocal cords fraying. Fizel was next to her, hand on her back. “Keep breathing,” he said. “We’ll get you to sickbay. Jenan! Alan! Grab her arms, help carry her. Quickly now, qu—”

Neghar heaved, and Kira heard a loud, distinct snap from inside the woman’s narrow chest.

Black blood sprayed from Neghar’s mouth, painting the deck in a wide fan.

Marie-Élise shrieked, and several people retched. The fear from Kira’s dream returned, intensified. This was bad. This was dangerous. “We have to go,” she said, and tugged on Alan’s sleeve. But he wasn’t listening.

“Back!” Fizel shouted. “Everyone back! Someone get the Extenuating Circumstances on the horn. Now!”

“Clear the way!” Mendoza bellowed.

More blood sprayed from Neghar’s mouth, and she dropped to one knee. The whites of her eyes were freakishly wide. Her face was crimson, and her throat worked as if she were choking.

“Alan,” said Kira. Too late; he was moving to help Fizel.

She took a step back. Then another. No one noticed; they were all looking at Neghar, trying to figure out what to do while staying out of the way of the blood flying from her mouth.

Kira felt like screaming at them to leave, to run, to escape.

Read moreTO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS – Full Excerpt!

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS – Part 1 Excerpt!

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS by Christopher Paolini

Part 1 Excerpt:

Cold fear shot through Kira’s gut.

Together, she and Alan scrambled into their clothes. Kira spared a second of thought for her strange dream—everything felt strange at the moment—and then they hurried out of the cabin and rushed over toward Neghar’s quarters.

As they approached, Kira heard hacking: a deep, wet, ripping sound that made her imagine raw flesh going through a shredder. She shuddered.

Neghar was standing in the middle of the hallway with the others gathered around her, doubled over, hands on her knees, coughing so hard Kira could hear her vocal cords fraying. Fizel was next to her, hand on her back. “Keep breathing,” he said. “We’ll get you to sickbay. Jenan! Alan! Grab her arms, help carry her. Quickly now, qu—”

Neghar heaved, and Kira heard a loud, distinct snap from inside the woman’s narrow chest.

Black blood sprayed from Neghar’s mouth, painting the deck in a wide fan.

Marie-Élise shrieked, and several people retched. The fear from Kira’s dream returned, intensified. This was bad. This was dangerous. “We have to go,” she said, and tugged on Alan’s sleeve. But he wasn’t listening.

“Back!” Fizel shouted. “Everyone back! Someone get the Extenuating Circumstances on the horn. Now!”

“Clear the way!” Mendoza bellowed.

More blood sprayed from Neghar’s mouth, and she dropped to one knee. The whites of her eyes were freakishly wide. Her face was crimson, and her throat worked as if she were choking.

“Alan,” said Kira. Too late; he was moving to help Fizel.

She took a step back. Then another. No one noticed; they were all looking at Neghar, trying to figure out what to do while staying out of the way of the blood flying from her mouth.

Kira felt like screaming at them to leave, to run, to escape.

She shook her head and pressed her fists against her mouth, scared blood was going to erupt out of her as well. Her head felt as if it were about to burst, and her skin was crawling with horror: a thousand ants skittering over every centimeter. Her whole body itched with revulsion.

Jenan and Alan tried to lift Neghar back to her feet. She shook her head and gagged. Once. Twice. And then she spat a clot of something onto the deck. It was too dark to be blood. Too liquid to be metal.

*Printed with permission
__________________

About the Book:
Exploring new worlds is all Kira Navarez ever dreamed of doing. But now she has found her nightmare.
On a distant planet ripe for a colony, she has discovered a relic previously unseen by human eyes.
It will transform her entirely and forever.
Humanity will face annihilation.
She is alone. We are not.
There is no going back.

About the Author:
Christopher Paolini was born in Southern California and has lived most of his life in Paradise Valley, Montana. He published his first novel, Eragon, in 2003 at the age of nineteen, and quickly became a publishing phenomenon. His Inheritance Cycle—Eragon and its three sequels—have sold nearly 40 million copies worldwide. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is his first adult novel.

Incendiary – Book Review

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

Synopsis:
Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred — or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit — and the boy she’s grown to love — is taken captive by the notorious Principe Dorado, Renata must return to Andalucia and complete Dez’s top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom — and end the war that has cost her everything.

Review:
The premise sounded interesting, but I had no idea how captivating this story would be. The world is inspired by Inquisition Spain, yet full of magical mental gifts that are hated by all who don’t possess them.

Renata/Ren is a complex character – gifted and strong, but traumatized with little self-worth. She can read the memories of anyone she touches, with the ability to drain them to empty shells. And she becomes a spy in the place she hates the most in order to find a dangerous weapon and enact her revenge.

Incendiary is the first in a planned duology. Full of intrigue, betrayal, suspense, and drama – this was easily one of my favorite novels this year. There are vibrant characters, a complex and unique world, and an exciting plot that makes this a must-read for YA fantasy fans.

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