Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrightsBirthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Revisions to the Truth: Book One

Date Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Elevate Fiction

Pages: 402 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm. 

Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.

Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was an extremely solid start to a very promising new fantasy series. Richly detailed, thought-provoking, and highly intriguing, I was very easily pulled into the narrative. Though it took a little while to fully immerse myself in the world and its history—the lore at the heart of every character’s life—once everything was set up, I felt completely absorbed into the words. There was something to find engaging about every moment of the narrative. This is intrinsically a coming of age story, but past that, you begin to see the intricate complexities of not only the characters but the of society they live in.

In this novel, we follow multiple characters’ lives as they weave together into one, captivating picture of the Lost Lands. Primarily, we follow two young men named Whym and Quint. Whym has reached the point of his life where he must begin an apprenticeship, and he is willing to do anything to break away from the poverty of his parents’ lives—even if it means working with a potentially dangerous man who has a past that connects darkly with his own. Quint comes from the most powerful religious family in the Lost Lands, his future laid out solidly before him. But when his long-held faith is ripped from him, he begins a journey to bring the truth to light.

Despite its initial appearance, this is not just a simple tale of two young people coming of age. It is a story about faith and beliefs. About corrupted politics and the inciting of a rebellion. About history and finding out where you fit into that which is being made around you. About discovering the meaning of truth and extracting it from the harshness of deceit. These characters are having their eyes opened to the society they are living in, one where the foundation is deception and the currency is lies.

By Fire

As in most fantasy novels, there are always some aspects that take a little while to fully grasp. Building up the world, introducing the many characters, laying down the backstory and lore, all take a while to set up and for the reader to become involved in. It took me about a third of the novel before I felt I had truly gotten into things, so the beginning was a bit slow. However, this minor sluggishness in the beginning took the place of a short but massive and confusing information dump. The opening chapters are not fast-paced and packed with action, but are a gradual and meticulous composing of an intricate world.

I was a bit confused toward the start as I began piecing the backstory together but, at the same time, there was never a moment were I did not feel very engaged in the plot. The measured construction of each and every element ended up serving the narrative well. By using this method, McNeal allows the reader to take the time needed to become connected to the story and its expansive cast of characters. He also saves them from the confusion that can come with trying to convey too much information to quickly. As a whole, though the pace might feel slow, it establishes a solid foundation for the reader right from page one.

McNeal did a wonderful job building and growing his various, multi-dimensional characters, as well as giving them each a distinctive voice and personality. They were vivid and very easy to like or dislike, as the case may be. Whether hero or villain, each one was memorable and well-developed, which worked favorably with the regularly shifting perspectives of the narrative. I also highly enjoyed the dynamic and relationships between the various characters—they were very interesting to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Whym and Kutan.

Wood Pile

I have to admit, there were a few times where it was difficult to remember who a minor character was and what role they had played in previous chapters of the novel. This was due in part to their short appearances, stemming from the frequent jumps in perspective. Another issue that I had character-wise was that I never quite understood the concept of “the Rat-Man”. I also wish that there had been a bit more of a glimpse at some characters’ storylines, but I am hoping this will be rectified over the course of the rest of this series. All-in-all though, these were very small problems for me, and did not detract much from my overall reading experience.

McNeal’s writing in this novel was absolutely spectacular. The scope of this enchanting world that he has created leaves him endless opportunities to spin an absorbing story in his unique voice. I found him to be a brilliant storyteller; the prose was beautiful. His writing flowed incredibly well, and it was very easy to be carried away by his words. This was a strong debut novel, and I believe that he has shown a great talent and will go far in the future.

Overall, I had quite an enjoyable time delving into this tale. Once I began to feel involved in the characters’ lives, I found myself lost among the pages. This novel held so many of the elements that make me love the fantasy genre. I now feel extremely invested in these characters and their futures, so I am highly anticipating the upcoming installments in the series. If you are a fan of high fantasy or, especially, if you are just discovering the genre, this is a series that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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June 2017 TBR

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Happy June, everyone!

I’m so excited because, once again, I had another amazing reading month! I managed to get through eleven books! As usual, I didn’t quite stick to my TBR entirely…but I tried! So this month, I am also going to create a rather ambitious TBR. I should have a lot of time to read this month and during my travels toward the end of the month, so I’m really hoping to get a lot of reading done. Here are some of the books I would really like to get to during the month of June! 🙂

June TBR

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbones

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishes

There is a belief that with each origami star folded, a falling star is saved. After folding 365 stars while mourning the loss of her mother, Vilvian makes a wish that will change her life forever.
Enter Nox Bright, the handsome and mysterious guy who has been haunting Vilvian’s dreams. She can barely believe it when he walks into her homeroom near the end of the school year. Has she gone crazy or is it possible that wishes really do come true?

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

theevaporationofsofisnow

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.
Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.
For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

thewindfall

A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to “make it” in modern India.
For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.
The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

agatheringofshadows

**Minor spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic**

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

sixofcrows

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

thegunabove

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.
She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrights

To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm.
Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.
Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

hellandhighwater

Mystery turns to mortal danger as one young man s quest to clear his father’s name ensnares him in a net of deceit, conspiracy, and intrigue in 1750s England.
Caleb has spent his life roaming southern England with his Pa, little to their names but his father s signet ring and a puppet theater for popular, raunchy Punch and Judy shows until the day Pa is convicted of a theft he didn’t commit and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America. From prison, Caleb s father sends him to the coast to find an aunt Caleb never knew he had. His aunt welcomes him into her home, but her neighbors see only Caleb s dark skin. Still, Caleb slowly falls into a strange rhythm in his new life . . . until one morning he finds a body washed up on the shore. The face is unrecognizable after its time at sea, but the signet ring is unmistakable: it can only be Caleb s father. Mystery piles on mystery as both church and state deny what Caleb knows. From award-winning British author Tanya Landman comes a heart-stopping story of race, class, family, and corruption so deep it can kill.”

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu

marriageofathousandlies

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.
As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

May Wrap-Up

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

Thin Places by Lesley Choyce – 2/5 stars (Full Review)

Alice by J.M. Sullivan – 4.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson – 3.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Send by Domenico Capilongo – 2.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Leave This Song Behind by Teen Ink – 4/5 stars (Full Review)

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower – 4/5 stars (Full review)

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid – 4/5 stars (Full review)

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan – 4/5 stars

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5/5 stars

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 4/5 stars

What are your reading plans for the month? What were some of your favorite May reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday – May 30th, 2017

toptentuesday

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is your top ten most anticipated books for the second half of 2017. There has already been a huge amount of amazing releases this year, and it seems like that streak is going to continue. There are so many upcoming releases I am looking forward to reading during the second half of this year. So here are a few of the ones that I am most eager to get my hands on! 🙂

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (June 13th, 2017)

downamongthesticksandbones 

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. 
This is the story of what happened first… 
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. 
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. 
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (June 27th, 2017)

thegentlemansguidetoviceandvirtue

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way. 
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry (July 4th, 2017)

lostboys

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody (July 25th, 2017)

daughteroftheburningcity

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. 
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic (August 1st, 2017)

thedyinggame

A masterly locked-room mystery set in a near-future Orwellian state, in which seven people are brought to a remote island to compete in a 48-hour test for a top-secret intelligence position, and one woman must stage her own death. 
The year is 2037, and on the tiny island of Isola, seven people have been selected to participate in a 48-hour competition for a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. One of them is Anna Francis, a workaholic bureaucrat with a nine-year-old daughter she rarely sees and a secret that haunts her.
Anna is not actually a candidate for the position: in fact, she’s the test itself. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then to observe, from her hiding place inside the walls of the house, how the six other candidates react to the news that a murderer is among them: Who will take control? Who will crack under pressure? But then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins….
Combining suspense, unexpected twists, psychological gamesmanship, and a sinister dystopian future, The Dying Game conjures a world in which one woman is forced to ask, “Can I save my life by staging my death?”

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (August 29th, 2017)

allrightsreserved

In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speechrather than say anything at allshe closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (September 1st, 2017)

thegirlwiththeredballoon

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (September 5th, 2017)

theybothdieattheend

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.  
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.  
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…  
Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.

Warcross by Marie Lu (September 12th, 2017)

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. 
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. 
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 
In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin (September 26th, 2017)

invictus

Time flies when you’re plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.
In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.

What upcoming releases are you guys looking forward to during the second half of this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

quinseywolfesglassvaultQuinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Glass Vault Series

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Some see it… Some don’t…

 People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances? 

A book that intertwines horror elements and retellings, with humor and darkness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I tend to frequently gravitate towards retellings or reimaginings of well-known stories that have a bit of a twist into horror and darkness—and this is definitely one of those novels. Just as the museum itself proclaims, this story is not for the faint of heart. We follow characters who are falling into the gruesome and gritty parts of dreadful worlds, based in both reality and fiction. Though, as I said, this book may not be for those on the squeamish side, it takes those who are not “faint of heart” on a macabre adventure through multiple retellings.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Perrie Madeline as she is thrown into a dark realm of nightmares come to life, in her efforts to rescue those she cares about. The town of Deer Park, Texas is being plagued by a string of inexplicable disappearances that leave absolutely no traces of the victims or potential leads to follow. These mysterious occurrences seem to center around a museum that appears overnight—in fact, it appears and disappears at the most random, and sometimes inopportune, moments.

It came out of nowhere, this giant stone structure claiming to be a museum named “Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault”. Though it comes as quite a shock when she first sees it, Perrie doesn’t think much of this strange place until her ex-boyfriend disappears after mentioning it, followed rapidly by her best friend’s disappearance after the first night she should have spent working at the Glass Vault. Soon, Perrie puts two and two together, and journeys with her friend August into the bizarre and twisted world of Quinsey Wolfe in a desperate attempt to save Neven and Maisie.

I thoroughly enjoyed how unique this story turned out to be—it was a fun and highly imaginative experience. Robinson definitely breaks away from many of the commonalities of the genre, creating her own surprising and highly effective twists and turns to what could have been a typical retelling. There is very little predictability in this complex and atmospheric plot that she weaves. This not only pulls her readers in, but keeps them hanging on every moment, over every turn of the page.

There were only a few elements of this novel that were a bit problematic for me. This narrative is sort of split up into two halves—it begins in the natural world and moves into many fantastical alternate realities. Though I enjoyed being in both settings, I felt that the transition between the two was really rough. The way it came across was less fluid and more like being plucked out of the first story and dropped into a completely new one.

Though Perrie and August were equally confused at their new surroundings, they both seemed to handle this sudden change a bit too well at times. It didn’t take them as long as it probably should have to come to terms with the fact that something extraordinary and magical was taking place—though they were pretty freaked out, they also appeared as if they knew and understood almost exactly what was going on in a matter of minutes. One would expect them to have to take far more time to process their situation, and therefore, this made the transition into the fantasy side of the novel seem very rushed.

The characters were a very strong part of this novel—in fact, this is a very character-driven novel overall. Each one was very well-portrayed and likeable, and Robinson did a good job building up their personalities. She took the time to make each character very three-dimensional and distinctive—highly relatable and memorable. Perrie was a fairly strong narrative voice, and I really loved how her relationships with the other main characters, particularly Maisie, were portrayed. I fully connected with, felt for, and rooted for all of them throughout the trials they experienced, and that really drew me further in to the novel as a whole.

Though Candace Robinson’s writing did not flow with me quite as well as I would have liked, I could definitely see a huge amount of talent and strength in her words. She built up the worlds and the atmospheres with ease, and her depictions of the various settings were very vivid and not at all difficult to place oneself in.

One of the only negatives I came across in the writing itself was the tendency to rely on brief and concentrated info dumps, which simultaneously bogged down and rushed the plot. Robinson did a considerable amount of telling rather than showing, which did not serve a story as intense as this one could be well. This is a narrative that needed to feel fast-paced, not rushed, and while it was a mesmerizing story, too much of it dragged on with explanations.

I would have liked to have seen and experienced more of what the characters were going through rather than read paragraphs of them flat-out explaining where they were and what was happening. Because everything about this plot was so unique, I really wish that this novel could have been a bit longer, allowing Robinson time to flesh out each individual setting and its accompanying retelling, as well as Perrie’s and August’s experiences handling the hurdles of each one. In the end, it felt like there was a bit too much information crammed into too short a space and timeframe.

Though I had some mixed feelings on certain aspects of this novel, I overall really enjoyed reading it. With unique and vivid world-building, Robinson creates a very gripping reading experience. Though it is not devoid of some minor issues and the pacing does not quite hit the mark, it is still an intriguing, humorous and, at times, chilling read. If you are a fan of dark retellings or horror stories, I would highly recommend giving Robinson’s book a try. This novel ends on a massive cliffhanger, so I am definitely looking forward to picking up the next installment once it’s released.

3.5 TARDISes

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Top 10 Tuesday – May 16th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is a Mother’s Day related freebie. So my choice for a topic is the top ten books I think that my mother should read! She is always asking me for reading recommendations, so I figured this would be an interesting topic to do. I would also love to see her get back into reading more. So hopefully, my mom will see this! 😀

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Aimless Love by Billy Collins

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Jackaby by William Ritter

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The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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Me: Stories of my Life by Katharine Hepburn

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Review: Alice by J.M. Sullivan

alicewanderlandAlice by J.M. Sullivan

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Wanderland Chronicles

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: Pen Name Publishing

Pages: 360 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: “Always protect your queen.”

Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

“Always protect your Queen.”

I always love a good retelling—if it is a retelling with a dark and gritty twist to it, even better. For me, this novel checks off all the boxes. It is a wonderful reimagining of Alice in Wonderland that has plenty of its own creativity and uniqueness, while devotedly paying homage to the original work in clever ways. It even takes the classic zombie plague idea and turns it on its head as Sullivan puts her own intriguing spin on the idea. With a post-apocalyptic setting, a witty and resilient heroine, and an abundance of gory and riveting fight scenes, this debut novel is a magnificent addition to young adult literature.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Alice Carroll, who is living in a fortified sector with her sister, Dinah, as the world around them succumbs to the Plague that has rapidly broken out. This virus has taken hold of many people, turning them into undead creatures that survivors have dubbed “Momeraths”—rage-filled zombie-like beings that ravage the land and many of the stragglers that remain unprotected in this post-apocalyptic society. The residents of the Sector do not dare venture past the safety of their borders into this frightful landscape.

When Dinah begins to show signs that she has contracted the Momerath Virus, Alice will go to any lengths to find a cure to save her life. After hearing a rumor that an antidote may exist, or at least be in progress, Alice decides to risk everything to venture out into Wanderland—still crawling with Momerath—in order to track down the doctor who purportedly has the one thing that can restore balance to her world. This journey won’t be an easy one, but Alice steps up to the plate, ready to tackle any challenges thrown her way.

I was pulled into this story right from the very start. It takes off at a fast pace and continues to hold on to that until the final page. It is impossible not to get completely wrapped up in this fascinating story, and I found myself tearing through it, dying to see what would happen next. Every single aspect of this novel is beautifully built up—it is easy to fall into the world and let it take form around you. You feel a part of the journey, running right alongside Alice as she navigates all the perils—those both expected and unexpected—of Wanderland.

One of the many reasons that made me fall in love with this novel was that is felt a lot like two of my favorite video games—Alice: Madness Returns and the Fallout series. It was as if these two settings fell together, which resulted in an absolutely incredible reading experience.

On a similar note, this felt very much like a game or a movie due to the wonderful descriptiveness in the narrative. Sullivan is a master at showing rather than telling. Her intricate details assist the reader in visualizing the settings and characters without hindering their own imagination. She achieves that perfect balance that allows each person’s experience with this novel to be a unique one—each mind will add its own little spin on things.

The creation and development of the characters was, by far, one of the strongest points of this novel. I personally adored the way Sullivan showed the key traits of the original works’ characters in their Wanderland counterparts. Alice is an incredibly solid and believable heroine. It was wonderful to see her continually find that strength inside her, and watch her sort of emerge from her shell into a snarky, witty, and strong fighter.

The cast of quirky characters, both villains and heroes alike, were very well-developed and three-dimensional. Though it is hard to choose, I’d have to say that my particular favorites were Chess, Bug, and Dr. Abbott. I thought that she connected them to Carroll’s classic characters in absolutely brilliant ways. It was aspects like this that really left me appreciating how much effort she put into staying true to the original story while making one that was entirely her own.

J.M. Sullivan is a fresh voice in young adult literature, and definitely one who is sure to go very far. Her immense talent for writing shines through in every aspect of the narrative. This novel was a deliciously intense ride through the world of Wanderland, as we follow some well-loved characters on a journey we have never before seen them take. Whether you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland or not, I would very highly recommend giving this novel a read. With twists and surprises around every corner, this is a book that I believe will have every reader finding themselves swept up into Alice’s adventures. I know that I am truly looking forward to reading future installments in this series.

4.5 TARDISes

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

adarkershadeofmagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Shades of Magic

Date Published: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is, by far, one of the most hyped books I have on my shelves, which is something that would normally scare me off. However, this book beyond lived up to the hype. It promised action, thrilling adventures through parallel worlds, and of course, plenty of magic. Victoria Schwab once again proves herself to be one of the most brilliant and talented writers out there. She is resourceful and exceedingly unique in every detail that she writes. Between her beautiful writing, intricate descriptions, and skilled characterization, she has created a vivid and heart-pounding journey through the magic of London.

In this novel, we follow two main characters—a traveler named Kell and a thief named Delilah “Lila” Bard. Kell, hailing from Red London, is an Antari (one of two) who possess potent blood magic that allows him to cross through the doors between each of the three Londons—the regal and magical Red London, the dimmed and magic-less Grey London, and White London, rendered colorless and menacing by its abuse of magic.

Red London lives in harmony with its magic, respecting it as much as it does them. White London sees it as something to be controlled, turning it into something ugly and terrifying. However, this pales in comparison to the magic of Black London, the world that has been locked away, hidden and mute—that is, until a remaining piece of it’s dark past, in the form of a stone, unexpectedly falls into the hands of Kell. The only remnants of a history preferred to be forgotten, it sets off a chain of horrible events as Kell struggles to contain it and return it to its proper place, even if that means sacrificing himself in the process.

Along the way, he obtains an unusual companion, the tough and courageous Lila Bard, who becomes involved after she pickpockets the Black London stone off of Kell when they encounter each other in the streets of Grey London. Always seeking adventure, she forces Kell to take her along on his journey to return the stone and save the three remaining Londons from this all-consuming dark force. What starts for Kell as a reluctant pairing turns into a surprisingly strong partnership as they navigate treacherous obstacles on their quest.

Despite the complexity involved in the unique details of the various Londons, not once in this entire novel is it difficult to understand, nor will it leave the reader feeling lost. Schwab depicts each setting with such care and skill, sweeping her readers into the worlds. Rather than giving an information dump of all the necessary facts, she shows the reader by pulling them straight into the action, conjuring a clear picture through descriptions and tone. Not only is it easy to imagine what every feature of this narrative looks like, she also evokes the specific feelings of each setting in the reader.

One of the aspects of this novel that first caught my attention was how unique it sounded. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and this one was unlike any I have encountered before. This is due in part to the highly unique magic system that is primarily demonstrated through our main character, Kell. The power of blood magic is a unique and intriguing system that I have not come across in any form before. That, combined with the specific language used by the Antari to conjure the power, had me completely hooked. It was—no pun intended—absolutely spellbinding.

This book was absolutely action-packed. The fight scenes were epic, magic-filled battles, featuring struggles involving both the characters that are advantageously powerful and the characters that fight simply using the strength and willpower they have inside them. I was fully caught up in every second, tearing through page after page.

Schwab is known for writing very character driven novels, and this one was no exception. From the very start, I completely fell in love with the characters she created for this story. Kell is an incredibly brave and selfless hero. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect the three worlds and all those in them. Lila is headstrong and sassy; she is a skilled thief that has a certain distinctively human magic about her. Hilarious and strong-willed, she has definitely become one of my favorite female literary heroines.

As always, Schwab makes her characters vivid, realistic, and three-dimensional—loveable for both their strengths and their weaknesses. Kell and Lila together are one of the best pairings I have ever come across in literature. They are two halves of one amazing whole. Even the characters that lingered at the edges of the main plot were as equally three-dimensional as the protagonists.

The writing in this novel was absolutely enchanting. Schwab has a natural talent for weaving a complex storyline into a fluid narrative that easily carries her readers from page to page. The detailed world building and fleshing out of her characters are some of the most breathtaking elements of the story. She builds each world, each setting, right up around the reader, clearly defines the class system of the various Londons, and pulls the reader alongside Kell and Lila in their adventures. It is as if you are standing right in the middle of things, feeling the pull of the magic, which is both bright and foreboding.

At this point, I think the fact that I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel is fairly clear. This is basically the epitome of my literary-loving heart and soul. I would very highly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you love magic, parallel worlds, and magnificent writing. Victoria Schwab has an unbelievable amount of natural talent, and is a superb figure in the current literary world. There is no cliffhanger ending for this novel, but it will still leave you craving further installments.

5.0 TARDISes

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