Selected

After a polarized nation was broken by the threat of civil war, States have now become countries. And in New Maine, things have gotten worse.

Giving my family a better life is everything. And my selection to attend an elite prep school suddenly offers my family a dramatically different life—food on the table, a roof over their heads, and a fighting chance at a future.

Everything is going great until some of my friends begin ghosting me, and then disappear. Soon it becomes clear this “chance of a lifetime” isn’t the Holy Grail I was promised. And the attention from one of Easton’s elite has me questioning why a boy with a golden future wants to risk it by being seen with me.

But when I find out why I’m really at this school, I may have to trust him if I want to live.

Selected, Barb Han
February 3rd, 2020

The worldbuilding really pulled me into Selected, but the struggle of the characters kept me engaged. In the future, the United States are no longer united nor states. They are fifty separate countries. We watch the story unfold in New Maine.

Much like it has always been, high school is made up of labels: Cerebrals, Athletes, Tech Nerds, Legacies, and the Sponsored. And everyone is competing for the best scores to get into college. Victoria, Tori to her friends, is a Sponsored student. She was admitted to Easton because of her special skills in dancing. While she is a student her family will have food and housing, but she has a very strict set of rules to follow otherwise she’ll lose that status and her family won’t be cared for.

She tries hard to stay in line but it’s not long before she realizes students are disappearing. Determined to find out where they’ve gone, Tori enlists the help of her boyfriend Caius, a Legacy. Slipping out at night risks Tori’s sponsorship, and her family’s well being.

I hope there are more books planned because the world left me wanting more (in a good way). This system, these new countries, and the history are all incredibly intriguing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mirage ★★★★★

32768520.jpgOnce in a while, there comes a book where you go into it with almost no expectations, in a genre you only occasionally read, where you go into it with an open mind. And then it consumes your entire life.

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up Mirage–part of it came from the fact that I loved the cover. Part of it because I wanted to explore sci-fi more. And part of it because I was eager for a new diverse voice in the market.

And Mirage blew me away. I was caught immediately, and it wasn’t letting me go. It was brutal, beautiful and unabashedly amazing. I loved Amani, I loved the romance (though I tried not to at first) and I loved the world.

THIS WORLD.

Somaiya Daud has an AMAZING voice and showed us an AMAZING world filled with richness and splendor. I saw everything, could feel the things Amani felt and saw. I couldn’t put this book down to the point where I was late getting off my break at work.

I rooted for Amani from the get-go. I watched wide-eyed at how her relationship with Maram and Idris changed throughout the book. I cried (of course I did) towards the end.

And all I need right now is to a) read it again, b) shove it at all my friend’s faces because WOW and c) that sequel because OMG the ending left me shattered.

I can’t recommend Mirage hard enough. If I could float down from the heavens like some sort of Bookish Angel, heralding the good news of how much I loved this damn book, I could. But alas, a lack of wings. But I’ll shout it from every Tweet and newsletter and in podcast episode!

Ruin of Stars ★★★★☆

9781492647522-300RGBY’all. I’m still a mess whenever I think about Mask of Shadows. And then along came Ruin of Stars? More like RUINED MY HEART!

The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.

Excuse me while I go mop up the shreds of my broken heart and my tears from the floor!

I championed Mask of Shadows from the get-go. I loved me some genderfluid assassin babies. Sal was the heart of my heart, and then I got my grubby little queer hands on Ruin of Stars and I couldn’t have been happier.

And then I read it.

And then I cried.

A lot.

Like, more than usual.

Y’all know I’m a tender heart, I cry at everything.

But especially this.

Okay, okay, serious reviewer mode!

I won’t lie, the first ~20% were slow to start. It felt like a long uphill battle to get anywhere, but once we crested that hill and things started hitting the fan… well, we really got to rolling and it just wouldn’t stop.

Sal faced more brutality, more emotion, more queerness and I loved it.

We were introduced to so many more queer characters and we got to dive deeper into who Sal is and who they were becoming.

Also, 100% more Maud. Every Maud scene was amazing.

And then there was the epilogue….

When we interviewed Linsey on our podcast, she mentioned something about an extended epilogue and honestly… I need it. I need an entire novella of that epilogue because O. M. G.

I’m just going to go run off and cry some more about this book, y’all. Don’t mind me. There’s extra mops downstairs if my tears start to flood things.

Don’t forget, Booknerds! We’re part of the Ruin of Stars blog tour! Check out the excerpt and don’t forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win two copies of Ruin of Stars!

Furyborn ★★★★★

34323570I was PUMPED when I was approved for a review copy of Furyborn late last year. It was one of my top anticipated YA Fantasies of 2018. I loved the concept, the cover was gorgeous (why am I such a shallow reader? I love shiny covers) and I’d been following Clare Legrand for some time on Twitter and loved getting all of her updates about her process. And Furyborn–despite taking me too long to finish–quickly entered my Fave Books of 2018 List.

Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

Don’t mind that it took me a few months to finish this out. It had nothing to do with the book itself; in fact, it stayed on my desk and taunted me the entire time because I wanted to read it, but I had to work on my thesis instead and that took over my life.

Furyborn is so beautifully written that it grabbed me and I had to literally pry myself out of the book. I never wanted to stop reading it. And it was so easy to pick back up when I did go back. The characters were bright and strong, I fell in love with them and I rooted for them all along, I loved the wildly unique magic system and the descriptions.

I may have guessed some of the twists, but not all of them. But half the fun of reading something is guessing a twist and wondering if you’re right or not and that sense of satisfaction of “I called it, hell yeah!” when it comes to fruition.

There was a lot to love in Furyborn–the main characters, the lovely secondary characters, the interwoven plot, the magic, how sex positive it was, and so much more than I can possibly name in this short review. One of my favorite scenes comes towards the end of the book, when one of the main POV characters, Rielle, is discovered canoodling with the crown prince Audric in the gardens, even though Audric is engaged to Ludivine, their childhood friend and a noble girl.

You would think that Lu and Rielle would be at odds, that they would become jealous of each other and they would never talk about what happened, just giving each other passive aggressive looks until something more plot-heavy showed up. But no! The three friends sat down and talked about it. That’s so rarely seen in fiction and shows just how good of a friendship dynamic these three characters have and it fixed that dumb cliche of “You wouldn’t have this problem if you just talked about it!!” and it was all good! (Until the plot attacked…)

Legrand has such a command of writing that every passage was amazing, and when it comes time for me to do the Five Star Quotes for Furyborn, it’s going to be hard to just pick three!

But pick up Furyborn immediately. Right now. Pick up this beautiful, magical book and read it. I’ll wait.

Furyborn
Barnes&Nobles . BooksAMillion

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Ice Wolves ★★★★★

35068585I’ve only ever read one other book by Amie Kaufman, and that was IlluminaeSo when I saw she had a middle grade piece about kids who turned into wolves and dragons well… I needed to get my hands on it! And Elementals: Ice Wolves did not disappoint!

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragonsare sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

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Twelve-year-old scrappy orphan kids who suddenly become animals and have to join the institution they’ve been avoiding all their life? Oh, and one of them transforms into a dragon and is whisked away from her brother? A brother who depended on his sister for years while they lived on the street? Yaaaasssss.

This was such a cute book and a wonderful story about a little boy who turns into a confident kid when his life turns upside down. I couldn’t put Ice Wolves down for a second! It was not just cute, but Kaufman has a way with words. She doesn’t talk down to the kids that would be reading her book; she weaves a masterful story that’s intriguing and unforgettable.

So often, a middle grade piece sacrifices either a complex story or its vocabulary to be made “appropriate” for it’s intended demographic. People often forget that kids are smart and want deeper, complex books with a narrative that doesn’t talk down to them.

Ice Wolves didn’t sacrifice a thing. It showed the hardship of growing up on the streets, how hungry Anders and Rayna go when they’re not able to steal food or the sort of trouble they would face if they were caught pickpocketing. It shows how other kids on the street look out for one another.

And when Anders enters the Academy, he notes how everything there is more than he might have ever had in his life; the overabundance of food, a warm place to sleep at night, an education.

I loved the sense of found family Anders had with his pack, and how he never wavered in his quest to rescue his sister, despite finding out that she didn’t need rescuing after all.

And when I hit the last page, I was incredibly upset. Not because of the story, but because it was over and I knew it’d be at least a year before the second book came out.

So don’t hesitate to pick up Ice Wolves right now. You’ll thank me for it. Also, I won’t be alone in my suffering while I wait for book 2!

Ice Wolves
Amazon Barnes&Noble . BooksAMillion

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