REVIEW: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician Book One; Young Adult

Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover | Audio

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♦BLURB♦

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A time-traveling historical with romance and the paranormal, The Last Magician is an intricately woven tale of adventure and danger. Set mostly in the early 1900s, Maxwell really set the scene of Old New York, a time of gangs and power seekers, but with the added flare of magic. One could almost see the costumes, feel the cigarette smoke clogging the air, and ache with the impossible struggle for survival in a divided city (a bit reminiscent of Gangs of New York).

With the twist of magic, Maxwell’s story takes readers deep into the struggle of the magic-having and the magic-less; the Mageus versus The Order, those without magic but feeling owed it or in eradicating it (or them) completely. Being tasked with travelling back in time to stop the Magician from stealing the book that could be the answer to saving magic and those with it for the future, her own time, Esta is wholly unprepared for the time she arrives in and all of its landmines. She’s alone, thrust in a time where nothing is remotely the same, and with characters that she has no idea how to read; her fear and lack of knowing how to complete her task without changing anything else in the future was palpable. And even with her affinity, Maxwell allowed her to feel unsure of herself and to struggle with finding who she was among a whole cast of characters (that were equally as diverse and palpable), qualities that likened her to the reader and made her visceral.

The parallel between the dividing of the people in this story mirrors greatly the division of race in the real world. With the Mageus being immigrants to New York, possessing of a quality that frightens those without it, I couldn’t help but see the direct references to our world. I have no idea if this was something the author meant to tie it to, and even if not, there are many interpretations that a reader could make with it. There was such strength, though, in risking that connection or powering into it with full intent, most especially in the easy way she wrote it. The passion Maxwell put into her characters, the issues, and the worldbuilding was beautifully done from start to finish, and it was unlike anything I had read before.

With a big story such as this, both in length and in worldbuilding, I wasn’t surprised to find it slow for some of the first half as it set the scene. Maxwell really rolled up her sleeves and dug in when making this an accurate and well-thought-out book that featured heavily in alchemy and magic. And, to me, it felt like much more than a Young Adult story in that the characters felt well beyond their years, expectant of those down-trodden times, and that it was so very detailed. The twists and turns were vast and quite frequent once the story got going, and I flew through the last half of the book in no time at all. The Last Magician was a unique and grand adventure, one that is just getting started. And I am desperate for the second half of this story.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (2014), Gathering Deep (2015), and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, Feb. 2016). She’s worked as a bookseller, editor, and teacher. She has a PhD in English, and when she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She lives near DC, where she spends her weekends taking all sorts of adventures with her family.

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BOOK REVIEW w/ EXCERPT: Trust by Kylie Scott

Mature YA Romance

Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Paperback | B&NiBooks US | iBooks AU | Kobo

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♦BLURB♦

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love…the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen year old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Sweetly romantic and poignantly captivating, Trust was a timely portrayal of the external and internal struggles for a young woman in modern society. With a tough-as-nails heroine who easily captured inner-strength with a side of vulnerability, Scott penned a beautiful story of growth, love, and self acceptance.

Body issues and the viewpoint of the public aside, what was most enjoyable was that these labels didn’t define the story or the heroine, but were mere stepping stones to cross over in order to meet the next hurdle. Edie became like any other main character, regardless of her struggles, in that she was real and suffered normal setbacks with the uncertainty most would have. Scott beautifully portrayed the effects of the traumatic event Edie suffered, allowing her to find her own way in the aftermath, showing us the deep repercussions of how the mind fights back. Most inspiring of all, though, was the kind of beauty that can come from a horrible situation as she and John suffered.

Sexier than expected, classifying this one as more upper YA/lower NA, the love story in this novel was perfect in every aspect. John and Edie’s connection grew organically with the speed of travelling ivy, allowing the most natural, feral attraction to form. Friendship and comfort and trust fell into so much more.

Learning how to trust one’s own self, those around them, the sense of safety, the fragility of the mind, and the love of another became the powerful messages to take home once the book ended. Scott did an amazing job tackling so many issues without one overpowering the other or feeling as if Edie was lost inside of it. Trust packed an emotional punch that continued to weigh on me long after the last page was turned, and I applaud the unabashed way in which Scott told this story. Don’t let the YA genre of the story fool you; it still had everything this author’s known for plus so much more that I hope to continue to see this author use in her future works.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“You were going to give it up to Duncan Dickerson?” he sneered. “Are you serious?”

I halted, staring at him. This was not good. “How do you know about that?”

“Anders overheard you and Hang talking.”

“Bastard.”

“Well?” he demanded, acting all authoritarian. Idiot.

“To be fair, I didn’t know his last name was Dickerson,” I said. “That’s unfortunate. Though, I wasn’t actually planning on marrying him, so . . .”

“Not funny.”

I shrugged.

“You barely know the guy.”

“Um, yeah. None of your concern. We’re not talking about this.” How mortifying! My face burned bright. People should just gather around and cook s’mores. “I appreciate that we’re friends. You mean a lot to me. But this is going to have to fall under definitely none of your damn business, so go away please.”

“We’re talking about it.” He advanced a step.

“No we are not.” And I retreated.

“You were going to let a complete stranger touch you.” Advance.

Retreat. “People do it all the time. You do it all the time.”

“But you don’t,” he said, taking the final step, backing me up against the side of his car and getting all in my face. “Edie, this is your first time we’re talking about. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, and it’s going to be messy and painful and probably horribly embarrassing and I just want it over and done with.” I tried to meet his eyes but failed, settling for a spot on his right shoulder. “You’re not a girl; you wouldn’t understand. Also, last time I checked, you’re not the gatekeeper of my hymen, John Cole. So back the fuck off.”

He said nothing.

Deep, calming breaths. “Look, someday I’ll meet someone I really like and we’ll have a deep and meaningful relationship and go at it like bunnies. But I don’t want to be the dumb virgin in that scenario.”

He slowly shook his head.

“Also, I do not want to die a virgin.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Hey, you and I both know death can occur at any time.”

“This is crazy.”

“I’m seeing a therapist!” I told his shoulder. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m a little bit messed up these days. It’s hard for me to trust people. That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

He screwed up his face at me. “Wha—”

“I’m just trying to be practical.”

“Well, you’re being ridiculous. None of this makes sense.”

“It does to me.”

Again, he said nothing.

In fact, he said nothing for so long that I finally looked him in the eye. The anger had left him, replaced by an emotion I didn’t recognize. Worst of all, he still smelled like summer. A little sweat and the open night air, everything I loved. Liked. I meant liked.

“What?” I said, finally.

He let loose a breath. “I’ll do it.”

 

♦TRAILER♦

 

TRUST by Kylie Scott (Official Book Trailer) from FILM 14 on Vimeo.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

kylie scott

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Young Adult

Purchase: Kindle | Paperback | B&N | BAM | IndieBound

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♦BLURB♦

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

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.

Peter lies.

 

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Wildly imaginative and wonderfully inventive, Lost Boy twisted the long-standing characters of Pan and Hook from the classic tale to give a new origin story, one of how two friends became the life-long enemies they’re famously known as. With skill and finesse, Henry’s storytelling easily transported me to a wild island where boys never aged, one where they could never leave, and where the true side of the boy that led them all shone through.

Henry brilliantly wove a tale with an underlying of darkness, expertly showing the slow progression of insanity that was Peter Pan and the depravities of the island. With rich detail and vivid characters, there was no fear in showing the unbridled side to boys when left to their own devices and how susceptible they were to attention. It was poignantly bloodied, but incredibly moving and emotional. Every moment of the story carried with it a deeper meaning, crossing reality with make believe and jealousy with love. And Jamie, before he took to his famous moniker, was at the center of it all as Pan’s favorite token from the Other Land, the longest on the island. His character was deeply rooted and clearly written, flickering between his devotion to the Lost Boys and his love for the boy who brought him there. It became impossible to not be wrapped up in him.

Lost Boy was darkly clever, intricate in every way, and so different from any version before it, but brilliant nonetheless. Words cannot express how much I adored this version, how easily it fit into the character we’ve always  known, and how its effect alludes explanation. If you’re looking to be thrilled and charmed and twisted, I can not recommend this tale enough.

“Was this, I wondered, what it felt like to be a grown-up? Did you always feel the weight of things on you, your cares pressing you down like a burden you could never shake? No wonder Peter could fly. He had no worries to weight him to the earth.”

 

♦INTERVIEW♦

I had the pleasure of asking Christina Henry a few questions, check them out below!

Book Reader Chronicles: What inspired you to write this particular re-telling of Captain Hook and Peter Pan?

Christina Henry: I wanted to know why Captain Hook hated Peter Pan so much. It always seemed strange to me that this adult, this pirate, hung around Neverland plotting against a kid when he ought to be off doing pirate-y things. So I wrote this book to answer the question for myself.

BRC: Was there any particular scene or part of the book that gave you trouble when writing it?

CH: I write chronologically and by hand, so I don’t really think of the book in terms of individual scenes but rather as a long spool unfurling.  I don’t have difficulty writing individual scenes but I will admit that editing is not my favorite thing.

BRC: What endeared you to Hook, enough to make you turn the story to put him in a better light?

CH: I have a deep, highly romanticized affection for pirates born of too many readings of TREASURE ISLAND.  I also had a feeling that such intense hatred of Peter Pan could only have come about if they were friends once – only love can become so corrosive when it dies.

BRC: What’s your favorite part about fairytales?

CH: That they can be endlessly interpreted and re-interpreted through a variety of lenses. There’s always another way to tell a story.

BRC: What’s your favorite fairytale of all time and why?

CH: I’ve always been very fond of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and in particular Robin McKinley’s retelling of this story. Her retelling gives layers and lushness to the original.

BRC: Favorite Lost Boy aside from Hook?

CH: In my own book I love Nod and Fog, the wild twins. I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a twin.

BRC: What are you tackling next?

CH: My next book, which will be out in the summer of 2018, is THE MERMAID. It’s the story of P.T. Barnum and the Feejee Mermaid, except in my book the mermaid is real instead of a hoax. It’s also a story of loss and grief, and about feeling alien in a human world. It’s pretty different from anything else I’ve ever written.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

CHRISTINA HENRY  is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.

ALICE was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2015. It was also a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in Horror and one of Barnes & Noble’s Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2015.

She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

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UPCOMING RELEASES: July 4, 2017

All of these books will hit devices on July 4th! You can click the images above to go right to Amazon or scroll down to get all of the blurbs! Make sure to #PreOrder the ones you want!

Fuel for Fire (Black Knights Inc. #10; Interconnected standalone) → Kindle | Mass Market

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes
The first two left blood on his hands.
The third left him wondering…what if? What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It’s just as well that he’s never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives…
*
*

Keeping it Hot (Breakfast in Bed #1) → Kindle | Mass Market
Zoe Hart owns the coffee shop in one of the hottest upscale resorts in Florida, run by her childhood best friend, Dylan Jackson. Even though Dylan is a workaholic, he still finds time to enjoy the beautiful women who pass through his hotel—all of them except Zoe. She has been in love with Dylan for years without him noticing. But with her thirtieth birthday fast approaching, she realizes she can’t keep pining away for a man who doesn’t show the merest sign of romantic interest in her.

When Zoe launches her plan to shed her tomboy image in Dylan’s eyes, she’s thrilled once he starts to notice her in a whole new way. But she’ll have to face the risk that seducing her best friend might come with lasting changes to their longtime friendship…

 

Wicked Kiss (Realm Enforcers #4; Not a standalone) → Kindle
Working as an informant for the DEA, Victoria Monzelle is used to living on the edge. But she’s not a big fan of getting kidnapped. And definitely not by a bunch of bad boy witches with fancy-colored fire to shoot at people. So when Adam Dunne shows up and claims to be a witch enforcer, she’s not going to put her life in his hands based on his word, no matter how smooth and smart and beautifully Irish his words sound. But on the run from a tribunal of witches, she isn’t going to make it far . . .

Before she knows it, Adam’s word is all that stands between her and execution. Sophisticated, just-gotta-ruffle-him Adam has vowed to make her his one eternal mate, wild and unpredictable as she is—to save her from a sentence of certain death. But Tori isn’t interested in being anyone’s pity date. And if they think she’s unpredictable now, they should see what’s coming next . . .

Wicked Ride | Wicked Edge | Wicked Burn

Wired (Buchanan-Renard #13; Standalone) → Kindle | Hardcover
Allison Trent doesn’t look like a hacker. In fact, when she’s not in college working on her degree, she models on the side. But behind her gorgeous face is a brilliant mind for computers and her real love is writing—and hacking—code. Her dream is to write a new security program that could revolutionize the tech industry.

Hotshot FBI agent Liam Scott has a problem: a leak deep within his own department. He needs the skills of a top-notch hacker to work on a highly sensitive project: to secretly break into the FBI servers and find out who the traitor is. But he can’t use one of his own. He finds the perfect candidate in Allison. Only, there’s one problem—she wants nothing to do with his job and turns him down flat.

What Liam doesn’t know is that Allison is hiding secrets that she doesn’t want the FBI to uncover. But Liam will do nearly anything to persuade her to join his team, even break a few rules if that’s what it takes. A temptation that could put his job—and both of their futures—on the line…

His Turn (Turning #3; Not a standalone) → Kindle
I look her body up and down as I circle her.
Mine?
I smile A devious, deviant, I’m gonna make you sorry you ever started playing this game with me smile.
And then I take her hand.
I lead her to the elevator.
We go up to my apartment.
I tie her wrists together with rope.
Raise her arms above her head.
And chain her to the ceiling.
It’s my turn.

Taking Turns | Turning Back

Just the Thing (The Donnigans #2; Possible standalone) → Kindle | Mass Market
A FLING MIGHT BE JUST THE THING…
Gavin Donnigan left the Marine Corps a shell of a man, hounded by guilt for deaths he couldn’t prevent. But teaching a self-defense class at the local gym brings some stability to his life—along with a gorgeous leggy woman who won’t give him the time of day.

Zoe York lost her twin sister to a freak car accident a few months ago. She’s been struggling to bury her grief, but it isn’t until she signs up for a self-defense class with its distractingly hot instructor that she begins to come out of her shell again. With the memory of her sister telling her to live a little, Zoe decides a fling with buns-of-steel Gavin Donnigan might be just the thing.

Soon they’re sparring both in and out of the gym. And for the first time in a long time, each is looking forward to tomorrow.

A Sure Thing

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook (Young Adult) → Kindle | Paperback  (5 stars!)
From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

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.

Peter lies.

The Revenge (Young Adult) → Kindle | Paperback
From the author of Truly, Madly, DeadlyThe Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

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