*Review* Fire & Heist – Sarah Beth Durst

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Title: Fire & Heist

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 4, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Summary:

Fans of Cassandra Clare and Julie Kagawa will devour this contemporary fantasy about a teen were-dragon who must steal her first treasure. But a dark discovery during her heist could put her family in incredible danger.

In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

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My Review

“You know how sometimes in life, you can look back on a moment and know that this, this, this was the instant when everything changed? I felt, in that moment, as if I were outside myself, looking in, and knowing that from here on, everything would be different.”

Fire & Heist easily became one of those stories that surprised me. I went into this book not expecting much, but came out with a new found love and appreciation for Sarah Beth Durst. And most of that had to do with the main character and how she was depicted.

Sky Hawkins is the point of view for this story, and quite a lovable and relatable narrator. I’m no longer a teen, haven’t been for a few years, but even I could relate to Sky and the problems she was facing. She’s sixteen and has a lot on her shoulders, and I felt the same way at that age. Granted, her issues are slightly more…intense…but she’s still undeniably relatable. And she is easily one of those characters you love almost immediately. She’s got a spunk and a positive attitude that drove the story forward. It was refreshing to see a main character like Sky.

“It’s not arrogant to know who you are. It’s powerful. And I am powerful.”

I know that some people are going to deem Sky’s voice as immature and childish, when really, her voice is perfect for her age. I’ve never been more surprised by a voice than I have with Sky’s. And I loved that. I loved reading a book where the voice of the main character sounded exactly like her age. It was a nice breath of fresh air.

I also enjoyed the fantasy in Fire & Heist. I mean, were-dragons, fantastical heists, and all this happening in this day and age? Count me in! I’m a huge fantasy genre reader, and in that genre, this book does not disappoint. Fire & Heist does not place a heavy focus on fantasy, but more on what it’s like to be a teen were-dragon and plan your own heist. There are a few chapters that focus heavily on the fantasy part, but I enjoyed how Sarah Beth Durst connected it all in this world. And what I also liked about this book is how the romance is not the main focus of this story, but is placed more on the back burner.

Another aspect I loved about Fire & Heist is how important family is to Sky. She plans this heist to protect her family and find out what happened to her mom. And best of all, she comes to terms that family is not just your bloodline, but also those friends closest to you. Family plays such a big role in this book, and I loved that.

I believe Fire & Heist is a perfect book for teens, especially those looking for a relatable character in the YA Fantasy genre. Readers will easily feel a connection to Sky and her friends and find that not all YA fantasy books need a main character that puts the weight of the world on his/her shoulders. Sky has the help of her friends, and best of all, she doesn’t believe she needs to do everything on her own. So, I hope you all will take a chance on Sky and her wonderful depiction of her world and her heist!

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst is available now!

nikole

 

*Blog Tour + Giveaway* My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life – Rachel Cohn

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life High ResTitle: MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE

Author: Rachel Cohn

Pub. Date: December 18, 2018

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 384

Find it:

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“I’m here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!”

In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World’s future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS-the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.

Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her sixteenth birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahari, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hyper-critical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn’t exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of uber-cool international kids who spend money like it’s air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who’s frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family, and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.


About Rachel:

RachelRachel Cohn is the bestselling, award-winning author of many books. She lives in Los Angeles with two very cool cats named McNulty and Bunk.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram


Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive finished copies of MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE, US only.

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Excerpt

Keep your head down. Stay quiet. In ten minutes, it will be over.

“EZ! EZ! EZ!” The boys at the back of the bus chanted. My  bad  luck  that  the  initials  in  my  name—Elle Zoellner—made  me  too  “EZ”  a  target  for  unoriginal bullies.

A sharp pencil hit my neck and then fell to the floor behind me. I heard Redmond’s voice say, “Damn, I was hoping it would catch inside her spiderweb of frizz hair.” Hah, the joke was on him. My hair was indeed frizzy, but it was so dirty that anything thrown into it would have no scientific option other than to slide down, the result of that one-shower-a-week rule.

Today was my  sixteenth birthday.  While other  girls probably wished for a driver’s license or a new outfit or a later curfew, all I wanted was to be clean. Sucked for me that this year’s birthday fell on a Tuesday. Wednesday was shower day.

Of course Foster Home #3 parents always denied to my social worker that the shower was off-limits to me except on Wednesdays. If I had a phone, I could secretly record them talking about it, but why bother? Then I’d probably be sent to an even worse home. Foster Homes #1 (lice) and #2 (bedbugs) had been bad enough, but #3 (over- lords who were mean, and liars) was the worst. I didn’t want to know what could happen at #4.

The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, Mom always told me. Mom was raised in foster care; she would know. She tried for better for me, and until the car crash two years ago, she’d succeeded. She had a job. We had a nice, small house. There was laughter in our lives. A cat. Then, after the car accident, the Beast moved in and took over. He wasn’t someone I could see or talk to; the Beast was addiction. And thanks to that Beast, my mom was now in prison.

Was Mom keeping track of time? Did she even remem- ber today was my (Not So) Sweet Sixteen? If I had a phone, I knew I’d see a dozen emails/texts/GIFs from Reggie, my best friend from when we were both on the swim team at the Y, wishing me a happy birthday. But he also didn’t have a phone and was stranded at a boys’ home across the county, another foster care victim. Not victim—he’d hate that word. I’m a survivor, Reggie would say. His mother had also been an addict, but she never made it to prison. She died from a fentanyl overdose. Despite my miserable situation, I was still incredibly grateful that my mother was alive. I knew how lucky we were that Mom’s problem took her to jail rather than a graveyard.

“Hey, smell bomb! Turn around when you’re addressed by your superiors.” The latest taunt came from Jacinda Zubrowski, who sat two rows behind me on the bus and two seats behind me in homeroom, and never failed to comment on my smelly, secondhand clothes.

The poor kid sitting next to me—I didn’t even know his name, he was some scrawny freshman who looked about twelve—slid closer to the  window.  Smart  move. No reason he should be brought down with me. Then he scrunched his nose and said, on the down low, “There are showers in the gym locker room, you know.” Little jerk.

I knew. I was hardly going to further expose myself— naked—in a public high school locker room. I’d rather smell bad.

“Anybody hungry for some mixed nuts?” a male voice—one of Redmond’s friends—asked, and the back of the bus group laughed. What a not clever way to speculate about my heritage. My mother was part Irish, German, African American, and Native American, but the shape of my eyes and my cheekbones indicated my biological father was Japanese. I’d never met him, didn’t even know his name. “Mr. Tokyo,” Mom called him. He was probably married like all of Mom’s other boyfriends. Married men were her primary weakness, until she was introduced to painkillers. One of those men had been driving the car when they got hit from behind on the Beltway. He died. Mom suffered severe spine injuries. That’s when the Beast took over. I blamed the dead married man.

An object much larger than a pencil hit the back of my head. I wouldn’t have known exactly what it was, except the next one missed my head, grazed my shoulder, and landed on my lap. A bar of soap.

A new chant erupted in the back of the bus. “Smell bomb! Smell bomb!”

Happy birthday, Elle Zoellner.

Full Excerpt Here!


Tour Schedule:

Week One:

12/3/2018- Novel Novice– Excerpt

12/4/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

12/5/2018- A Court of Coffee and Books– Excerpt

12/6/2018- BookHounds YA– Review

12/7/2018- A Gingerly Review– Review

Week Two:

12/10/2018- Rhythmicbooktrovert– Review

12/11/2018- Do You Dog-ear?– Review

12/12/2018- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

12/13/2018- Daily Waffle– Excerpt

12/14/2018- The Reading Corner for All– Review

Week Three:

12/17/2018- Lisa Loves Literature– Review

12/18/2018- Eli to the nth– Review

12/19/2018- Dani Reviews Things– Review

12/20/2018- The Pages In-Between– Review

12/21/2018- Sincerely Karen Jo Blog– Review

Week Four:

12/24/2018- Falling For YA– Interview

12/25/2018- Smada’s Book Smack– Review

12/26/2018- All the Ups and Downs– Excerpt

12/27/2018- Confessions of a YA Reader– Review

12/28/2018- Wishful Endings– Excerpt

Week Five:

12/31/2018- Under the Book Cover– Excerpt


Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for this blog tour and included A Court of Coffee and Books!

nikole

*ARC Review* Prince of Secrets and Shadows by C. S. Johnson

secretsTitle: Prince of Secrets and Shadows, book two in the Order of the Crystal Daggers trilogy

Author: C. S. Johnson

Publisher: Prodigy Gold Books

Release Date: December 4, 2018

Genres: Young adult, Romance, Historical fiction, Fantasy

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary:

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him, but if I did not find a way to break free of him, I would risk doing even more harm.

Ferdy met my gaze with his. “I promise you this, Ella, that as of now, I will never lie to you again.” He leaned forward and kissed me again, and I stood there, letting him, desperately debating whether I could trust him or not. His promise burned through me, his words scorched into my being. It was so tempting to believe him, more tempting than anything else I had ever faced in all my life.

Freedom was only freedom if I could trust it to be true.

PRAGUE, 1870

After joining the Order of the Crystal Daggers, led by her dauntless grandmother, Lady Penelope, Eleanora Svobodová set out to save her kingdom from oncoming devastation.
And she failed.

Following the attack on Prague Castle, Eleanora is determined to redeem herself. She sets out to win Karl’s trust while distancing herself from Ferdy, whose secrets and lies have done nothing to stop her from falling in love with him. As she struggles to let him go, questions about the mission and her mother’s past cause a rift between Amir and Lady Penelope and add to the growing discord between Eleanora and her brother. 

But when a cunning provocateur arrives in Prague, Eleanora discovers there is an even more deadly game afoot, one that reaches into Amir’s past and threatens Lady Penelope’s future. Now, the members of the Order must work together if they are to uncover the true enemy hiding in Bohemia. 

Can they work together despite their divisions? Or will their division lead to even more destruction?

With spies, secrets, and suspense, Prince of Secrets and Shadows is the second book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a spy adventure series from C. S. Johnson.


My review

Please note: this is the second book in the Order of the Crystal Daggers trilogy and may contain spoilers from the first book. You can check out my review of the first book, Kingdom of Ash and Soot, here


Dozens of authors write fantastic first books in a trilogy. And most struggle with writing an excellent sequel. Sometimes the sequel doesn’t live up to the first book, but it’s still good. And sometimes the sequel is just as good as the first book, if not better. In this case, Prince of Secrets and Shadows exceeds its predecessor, Kingdom of Ash and Soot.

“You are young yet, but even you know there are things worth dying for.”

I knew this book was going to be phenomenal when I started the first chapter. I adore books that start almost right where the previous book left off. It’s a wonderful way to refresh your memory and get a feel for the impact the first book left on the main characters. And just like the first book, C.S. Johnson starts the story off with an important scene, one that involves one of my all-time favorite characters. Johnson sets the boundaries straight in the first chapter and gets the reader ready for what to expect throughout the novel. It’s exciting and a great way to start a sequel.

And then enter the one known as the Prince of Secrets and Shadows. He was a very interesting character and added a lot of grief to the story, in the sense that he did not make it easy for the characters. He’s a double-edged sword and, frankly, not someone I would want to mess with. It’s not that he’s necessarily a dangerous character, but he plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse. And his role in this story thickened the plot in a way I did not see coming.

“I used to think being free meant an escape; I thought it meant I would be able to move away from authority and addiction, to be still against the forces of time and space. But as he held me there, pushed against a wall, I knew freedom was not an escape, but a coming home.”

In Prince of Secrets and Shadows, Ella struggles with deciding what she wants to do with her life. She’s in the Order because she wants to follow in her Mother’s footsteps. But her heart desires something different, something more than the life Ella has chosen. Ella wants freedom and love and not to be controlled like she has been most her life. And throughout this book, she starts to realize that freedom and love can decidedly be the same thing.

“Even if you deny your heart, your heart does not go away. That is why everyone lies, everyone has secrets, and everyone has regrets.”

Ella struggles with many of her relationships, in more ways than one. Her brother distances himself from her, causing an unforeseen rift in their relationship. She connects with one of her trainers in a way she didn’t expect. And her relationship with Lady POW grows stronger in a surprising way.

And then there is Ferdy. Oh, Ferdy. There isn’t a part of me that doesn’t love this character. He’s charming, considerate, and just an all-around great character and love interest for Ella. And though Ella battles with her heart and what she perceives as right, he never once gives up on her. Most of my favorite chapters consisted of Ferdy and the tension between him and Ella.

In the first book, Ella is a strong and courageous character. I’m not saying she isn’t in the second book (she’s quite brave and strong-headed), but she now realizes she has way more at stake than just her freedom. And to protect those she loves, she may have to knowingly play that game of cat and mouse.

If you haven’t ready Kingdom of Ash and Soot, I highly recommend. C.S. Johnson has beautifully woven a story that you will not soon forget. Kingdom of Ash and Soot is available now and Prince of Secrets and Shadows comes out next Tuesday, December 4!

Thank you to the author for sending an advanced e-copy for me to read and write an honest review! All quotes are from the advanced e-copy and may not appear in the final novel.

nikole

 

*ARC Review* Valiant – Merrie Destefano

valiantTitle: Valiant

Author: Merrie Destefano

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: December 4, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

(Also, look at the cover! So pretty!!)

Summary:

The Valiant was supposed to save us. Instead, it triggered the end of the world.

Earth is in shambles. Everyone, even the poorest among us, invested in the Valiant’s space mining mission in the hopes we’d be saved from ourselves. But the second the ship leaves Earth’s atmosphere, our fate is sealed. The alien invasion begins. They pour into cities around the world through time portals, possessing humans, forcing us to kill one another.

And for whatever reason, my brother is their number one target.

Now the fate of the world lies in the hands of me, a seventeen-year-old girl, but with the help of my best friend, Justin―who’s suddenly starting to feel like more―maybe if we save my brother, we can save us all…


My Review

“The earth, the moon, the stars, they all stay the same. But we don’t. We change.”

Valiant is a fast-paced novel with non-stop action scenes and horrifying creatures. The readers follow Sara and her friends on their death-defying journey to keep Sara’s younger brother, Gabe, safe from the Xua. The Xua want him for an unknown reason, so Sara and her friends kick some alien butt to keep him safe. The bond between Sara and Gabe was one of my favorite things about this book. I have an older brother and, though Sara’s brother is younger, I would do the same thing if something like this were to happen. I’d protect him and my family at all costs, and I know he would do the same. So, I really liked their relationship and, of course, the exhilarating action scenes.

“And then, I hear the call of death as this planet pulls me onward, toward ashes and fire and a roaring wind that will never stop blowing. I part my lips, and centuries of death pour out. An entire civilization is dying in this moment.”

Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good action scene. Valiant had a ton of phenomenal action scenes; it was action scene after action scene. The action scenes are what really kept my interest. They are so well described and intricate, that I was looking forward to all the chaos the friend group would get into. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the Xua, the alien species. The Xua are interesting and utterly creepy, considering they have the ability to possess human bodies through the mouth. Once a human is taken over by a Xua, that’s it. You’re done for, and there’s no coming back. That, in itself, is scary, so it definitely makes for some good action scenes, as people try to prevent the Xua from possessing them.

“At this moment, I am anything but valiant. I am weak and pitiful and ashamed and broken and defeated.”

Thought I did like the aspect of this book and the action-packed scenes, I had a hard time connecting with the characters, more so Sara and her friends and not Sara’s relationship with her brother. By the end of the book, I had no care for the characters. The story, yes. But the characters did not leave a lasting effect on me. By the middle of the story, I couldn’t care less if a character died or if something bad happened. And that’s not what I wanted to feel. I wanted to connect with these characters; I wanted to feel their pain and their sorrows. But I couldn’t, and I hate saying that. This may not be the case for everyone that reads Valiant, but it was for me. And even though there were some amazing descriptions, I still could not connect. I would love to see more character development in the second book, which I do plan on reading.

But overall, this was not a bad book. I did enjoy the unique storyline, some of the witty banter, and the fascinating history surrounding the Xua. Even though the characters were not really for me, I do want to continue the story, especially with THAT ending.

Do I recommend? Yes, especially for those readers that love plot-driven and action-packed stories.

Valiant lands in bookstores December 4, 2018.

Thank you to the publishing company for sending an advanced e-copy for me to read and write an honest review! All quotes are from the advanced e-copy and may not appear in the final novel.

♥Nikole