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A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 1:51pm

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one. Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients' past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out new weapons. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and discover that some old wounds are still full of poison.

I think the first book in this series, A Shadow Bright and Burning was better than A Poison Dark and Drowning. This book had more plot twists and were interesting, but I also feel like there were more dull moments as well. The first book is action packed and didn't have as much dull moments. There is so much character development in this series, especially with the two main characters Henrietta Howel and Lord Blackwood. At the beginning Henrietta is confident and naive. She has a plan to defeat the ancients and thinks everything is going to work out but as the book goes on she becomes uncertain and realizes that it isn't going to be easy an that it's not a war they can finish right away. With Lord Blackwood it's different, he is very reserved, uncertain, and responsible. He won't take new ideas into consideration, an just wants war to be over and done with. Later on in the book he is more open to ideas and is hopeful. He loosens up and celebrates victories instead of hiding away and working. It was a good book, but didn't leave me with a bunch of questions for the next book and I'm not dying to read it again and again. I did feel emerged into the plot though, I had felt scared, angry and uncertain. It wasn't super predictable but however there was parts where I could tell what would happen next. I give this book 3.5/5 star rating.

-Nicole, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

A Poison Dark and Drowning will be published on September 19th.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Saturday, Sep 09, 2017 at 11:37am

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including Maya, her younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Far From the Tree is achingly beautiful, a one-of-a-kind gem that bases around adoption and the thus complex family dynamics that comes with it. I didn’t know I needed this book until I finally read it. The concept may come off as daunting and not very exciting but trust me, Robin Benway is a storytelling wizard. The story is told in three POVs of a brother and two sisters who are separated from birth, each of them is entirely three dimensional and has a problem of their own. But no matter how flawed they may be, I found myself rooting for their happiness nonetheless. There was just something about these characters that pulled at me from the start, I laughed at Maya’s sarcasm, my heart ached for Grace, I felt things when Joaquin starts to open his heart. My emotion was a serious mess because of these fictional angsty dorks. I guess this is my way of telling you that Far From the Tree is very much a character-driven story. Also, I absolutely adored Rafe’s character. He is hilarious (and fabulous, may I add), Rafe is definitely a needed comic relief for how heavy this story is sometimes. What else, the way the author handles multiple POVs is also very well done. The flow is never disrupted and I was heavily invested in what all of the siblings has to say. If you in the mood for a contemporary story that hit you with feelings, this is the one to go. I highly recommend it overall. It’s just so well done and highly entertaining. 4/5 Stars. 

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Far From the Tree will be available October 3.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Friday, Sep 08, 2017 at 9:36pm

This book begins with everything in chaos for Asha, princess of Firgaard, and it's all because of the stories. When she was young, Asha watched her mother die a slow death because she told her daughter the forbidden ancient stories about the beloved god Namsara and his wicked sister Iskari. Now, years after being terribly burnt, Asha must hunt down and kill every dragon left in order to please her father. And then he suddely offers her a chance to end her engagement to the horrible Commendant Jarek, if she kills the oldest dragon. She begins to unearth secrets of her past, her world, and her very existance.

Kristen Ciccarelli creates a vibrant, mysterious world filled with the magic of stories, peopling it with a complex and diverse cast of characters who you constantly want to find out more about. While wearing an intricate plot web, Ciccarelli fills the mind with beautiful descriptions of the land and terrifying, but intriguing dragons. This debut novel is certainly a sucess.

- Sophia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

The Last Namsara will be available October 3.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Thursday, Sep 07, 2017 at 6:32pm

Jemmie Carmichael has grown up surrounded by magic in the town of Hawthorne, New York. In her world, magic users are called "kindled," and Jemmie would count herself among them if only she could cast a spell without falling apart. It doesn't help that she was also recently snubbed by Crowe, enigmatic leader of the Black Devils motorcycle gang and the head of their turf. When the entire kindled community rolls into Hawthorne for an annual festival, a rumor begins spreading that someone is practicing forbidden magic. Then people start to go missing. Jemmie and Crowe will have to put aside their history to find their loved ones, and the only thing that might save them is the very flaw that keeps Jemmie from fully harnessing her magic.

Devils and Thieves has a lot of good things going for it: unique plot, complex relationship, strong-willed characters and perhaps a little confusing-at-first but easy-to-grab magic system. I honestly fell in love with this world from reading the first few chapters alone, the uniqueness of it and the snarky and stubborn Jemmie really pulled at me. However, the book also has the biggest let down: its execution is very clumsy and everything rather rushed. This creates a sense of disconnection for readers like me who like to immerse themselves in the story line. I’d like for things to be longer, like longer time frame between each action scene for example. I especially hated how our heroine just becomes a ‘pro’ at magic overnight because the hot love interest gives her a few words of encouragement. That’s just straight up unrealistic. I wanted my character to realize their true potential and nurture their own growth, thank you very much. (Plus, for a book that promises actual motorcycle gangs, you really won’t get much of that in here either). Devils and Thieves also has some reoccurring tropes, like a poorly executed love triangle and a twist that I saw from miles away (you will too). Overall, I was extremely disappointed with the huge potential that this book has thrown away. There was some aspect worth appreciating but I couldn’t really turn a blind eye to the issues I found. A 2.5 stars read for me. I don’t really recommend it.

- Phuong, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

Devils & Thieves will be available October 3.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up

On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold (from a Two Thumbs Up reviewer)

by McNally Robinson - Tuesday, Sep 05, 2017 at 6:42pm

When Clara leaves New York to visit her father and his family in Paris, she is a little skeptical. A family she hardly knows, a little brother on the autism spectrum to deal with, and possibly worst of all; so much rich unhealthy food. But through it all, Clara ends up being surprised.

On the Spectrum attempts to deal with controversial issues which certainly set it apart from many light young adult romances. It provides an enrapturing look at the pressures of society and self-discovery. Clara, thought not perfect, certainly grows into an interesting character. While her brother, Alastair provides bright new eyes through which to see the city of light. Jennifer Gold brings this all neatly together to create a thought prevoking plotline, and a comforting novel.

- Sophia, a Two Thumbs Up reviewer

On the Spectrum will be available September 12.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Two Thumbs Up
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