*ARC Review* Second Star by J. M. Sullivan

SS_JMSullivanTitle: Second Star (Neverland Transmissions #1)

Author: J. M. Sullivan

Release Date: March 5th, 2019

Publisher: Bleeding Ink Publishing

Page Count: 352 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary:

Wendy Darling worked her entire life to rise through the ranks of the prestigious Londonierre Brigade. Now as a Captain, she has everything she’s always wanted, including a ship and crew of her own. But when the Brigade receives a strange transmission from the legendary James Hooke, lost a hundred years earlier in uncharted space and presumed dead, Wendy is willing to risk it all to rescue her hero. She races to the planet known only as Neverland; her mission to find the long-lost crew and bring them home.

But there is more to Neverland than meets the eye, and more to Hooke than what was written in history books. When Wendy crash lands on the ominous planet, she quickly discovers Neverland’s dark secret; a malevolent being known as The Shadow that’s looking for a host body to escape its eternal prison. To fulfill her mission, Wendy must decide whether to trust the dashing Hooke or the mysterious Fleet mechanic who goes by the name of Pan–and she has to decide quickly…

Before the darkness consumes them all.

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Preorder Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository   |  Indie Bound

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My Review

What I love about this Peter Pan retelling is how unique and captivating the story is. The original characters are there, but in fragments of who they were portrayed as in the Disney movie. And I loved that, because the author took a classic story and weaved it into something old and new. The author kept the characters but gave them new back stories and compelling attributes.

In this reimagining of Peter Pan, Pan is stuck in a place that quickly becomes called Neverland, with a wrecked spaceship and a Captain that’s out for his blood. And then there’s Wendy, a newly-appointed Captain of the ship dubbed Faith & Trust sent to rescue Captain Hooke and his crew from Neverland. She, and everyone else at the Academy, thought Captain Hook and his crew died many years ago, but when Wendy intercepts a transmission call, her and the Academy staff are in for an awakening. She sets out to rescue the crew, only for her ship to crash land on Neverland. Now she will have to work with Peter Pan to find Captain Hooke, find out the truth, and escape Neverland and go back home to London or risk being trapped in Neverland forever.

As the reader, I saw a lot of development in Wendy. The beginning chapters focus on her younger years and how she gets accepted into the Academy. Jump forward several years and she’s nineteen, about to lead a rescue team to Captain Hooke. She is the top of her class, which is one of the many reasons she is picked to rescue Captain Hooke. Wendy is a strong leader/individual and she wants to succeed at the Academy and finishing this mission would be a great start for her. She just never saw the dangers of Neverland coming; but those said dangers help her develop as a person and a Captain and that’s where Wendy really shines.

Peter Pan’s character is everything and he’s just as fun and enchanting as he was in Disney’s version. Him and his crew work to find a way to escape Neverland, while also dodging Captain Hooke and unfamiliar dangers. I enjoyed how much older he acted; he didn’t fully act like a kid and I really enjoyed that. He’s also caring when it comes to his crew and Wendy; he wants to protect them all, even if that means sacrificing his own life. And, of course, his relationship with Tinc is wonderful; I found myself chuckling at some of their interactions and it reminded me about my relationship with my best friend. Granted, Tinc is an advanced mini robot, but her personality and interactions with Pan were so much fun to see.

I really enjoyed the aspect of Peter Pan’s story involving space and a more technologically advanced world. The idea added to the world building and made the world fascinating to read about. I also liked how the romance came later into the story and didn’t overpower the plot and story line of the book. It was great to see the world developed first before introducing Wendy’s potential love interest.

Overall, Second Star is a great Peter Pan retelling and one I would recommend. I’m looking forward to reading the second book and seeing what is in store for the characters.

nikole

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*ARC Review* To Best The Boys by Mary Weber

TBTB_CorrectTitle: To Best The Boys

Author: Mary Weber

Release Date: March 19th, 2019

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books

Page Count: 352 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary:

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

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Preorder Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository   |  Indie Bound

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My Review

The title alone is what first drew me to this book. Any book that sounds like it will have a strong female lead is a must read for me. And To Best the Boys did not disappoint.

The girl power in this book is phenomenal. You have the main character, Rhen, and her best friend/cousin, Seleni. Both have two very different personalities: Rhen is stubborn and speaks her mind and wants to go to school, whereas Seleni wants to be a housewife to the boy she loves. Both have different futures, but both girls are so loyal to one another, and I really enjoyed seeing that. In her village, Rhen is not like most girls. Her cousin’s family is considered an Upper, people will money and high class. Whereas Rhen and her parents are considered Lowers, people working to stay alive and to put food on the table. Seleni doesn’t let her status stop her from seeing Rhen, even though Rhen does manage to get them both into trouble often. But Seleni would do anything for Rhen, even enter the Labyrinth with Rhen to show the boys just what kind of power girls are capable of possessing.

Rhen is an exceptionally strong-minded girl in her village. She has the dream of being something more than what she currently is; she wants to change the world of science and school. She spends most of her time working in her father’s lab trying to find a cure to an unknown, fast-growing disease that is killing her mother. And when she brings this up to her Uncle’s friends—the people who can offer help—they brush the disease off as nothing, as it doesn’t seem to be affecting the Uppers. That answer, the way most Uppers react to the Lowers, is what drives Rhen to enter the Labyrinth. And though she struggles over the aspect of leaving her Mom and Da, she knows that the only way to fix this is to enter the maze and win.

The idea behind the Labyrinth is intriguing and I found myself asking the question: Would I enter the maze disguised as a boy to prove my worth and that the world needs to change? I think I would, even if the aspect of death is involved. That’s exactly what Rhen does; she wants to see the world change and she wants the Uppers, especially the University board, to understand why they need to address the disease spreading in the Lower. I do wish the Labyrinth was a bit more developed, but nevertheless, I enjoyed each part of the maze and seeing how Rhen and her friends navigated each part. The Labyrinth doesn’t just involve mathematical equations but also tests your qualities as a human being. The winner of the maze does not win solely off of knowledge but how they treat other people. The maze involves both knowledge and characteristics and, in this maze, Rhen faces more personal challenges than she thought she would. But Rhen isn’t a quitter, and she refuses to give up, no matter the cost.

Mary Weber weaves fantasy so well with the setting and plot of this book. How the book starts out, I wouldn’t think fantasy elements would arise. But they did and the elements, though not present enough to overwhelm the plot, work so well with the story. The Labyrinth breathes fantasy, with ghouls and creatures and a maze that continuously shrinks in size until you find a way to escape. It was interesting and unlike most mazes I have read in books. Mary Weber truly brought this maze (and this book) to life, and I loved it.

To Best the Boys turned out to be the story I was hoping it to be. The characters were well-developed and the plot continued to thicken until the very end. It was, overall, a book I am thankful I got to read early.

To Best the Boys is a refreshing read in the YA genre. If you love girl power, individuality, fighting for what you believe in, a deadly and heart-pounding maze, and romance, then I highly recommend reading To Best the Boys!

nikole

Question of the Post:

Would you enter the Labyrinth? I’d love to know! Leave your answer below! 🙂

*Saturday Spotlight* Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Bloodleaf_CSTitle: Bloodleaf

Author: Crystal Smith

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Page Count: 384 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Summary:

Perfect for fans of RED QUEEN and UPROOTED, Crystal Smith’s debut novel, BLOODLEAF, is an imaginative retelling of the Grimm Fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that takes a ghostly mystery and sets it inside an epic fantasy world.

Aurelia is the first princess born to the Renalten crown in two hundred years, destined to fulfill a treaty by journeying to marry Valentin, the prince of Achelva – Renalt’s greatest enemy. Rumors of an unwell, cruel prince abound, and the only thing that eclipses Aurelia’s apprehension of her impending marriage is her fear of those who’d kill her to prevent it.

When an assassination attempt forces Aurelia to use forbidden magic to save a stranger, she is driven from Renalt by the witch-hunting Tribunal and a mob out for blood. But before she can claim asylum in the court of her betrothed, her travel party turns on her, forcing her to trade places with her treacherous lady-in-waiting, Lisette.

Now penniless in Achleva and bereft of her identity, Aurelia must decide if she wants to surrender to her new life or fight for her old one, all while navigating the complicated ties binding her to the enigmatic prince, the unquiet ghost of an ancient queen, and a poisonous plant called bloodleaf.

Aurelia is a pawn in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war— and if she can’t extricate herself from it before Lisette marries Valentin in her stead, she may face losses far more devastating than her crown.

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Purchase Links

Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Book Depository     Indie Bound

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Preorder Giveaway

Crystal and her publisher have an awesome preorder giveaway going on, so check it out here!

If you have already preordered, fill out this handy-dandy form hereMake sure to email your preorder proof of purchase to hmhteen@gmail.com.

The first 500 to preorder will get everything pictured below!

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 About the Author

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Crystal Smith is a writer, photographer, and artist who developed an early love of storytelling in a family of voracious readers. She resides in Utah with her high school sweetheart husband and two lively sons. When she isn’t writing or creating, she can be found re-watching Jane Eyre or reading ghost stories with all the lights on. @crysrensmith. (Bio and photo provided from Goodreads)

*Blog Tour + Giveaway* To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

book coverTitle: To Best the Boys

Author: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: March 5th 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

My Review

Synopsis:

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads | Amazon |Barnes & Noble |Book Depository | iTunes

AUTHOR INFORMATION

authorHi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I’m also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. {We can chat about life (in sweatpants over tea, obviously) in my Newsletter.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

TOUR SCHEDULE

Check out all the amazing blogs on this blog tour!

http://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2019/01/tour-schedule-to-best-boys-by-mary-weber.html

GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win 1 of 2 finished copies of TO BEST THE BOYS by Mary Weber (1 INTERNATIONAL winner & 1 US ONLY winner)

Start Date: 25th February 2019

End Date: 11th March 2019

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Thank you, Fantastic Flying Book Club, for having us on this wonderful blog tour!

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Saturday Spotlight: The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

TWKTitle: The Waking Forest

Author: Alyssa Wees

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Page Count: 304 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Summary:

Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

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Purchase Links

Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Book Depository     Indie Bound

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Preorder Giveaway

Alyssa has an awesome preorder giveaway going on, so check it out here!

If you have already preordered, fill out this handy-dandy form here!

Everyone who preorders will be entered to win the grand prize!

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 About the Author

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In between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies, Alyssa grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats. (Bio and photo provided from Goodreads)

*Blog Tour + Q&A + Giveaway* Dark of the West – Joanna Hathaway

book coverBook Title: Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1)

Author: Joanna Hathaway

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: February 5th 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:

He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Cursein Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

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BOOK LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32949202-dark-of-the-west

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2EkaLsY

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dark-of-the-west-joanna-hathaway/1127026418?ean=9780765396419#/

Bookdepository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-West-Joanna-Hathaway/9780765396419?ref=grid-view&qid=1544720532762&sr=1-1

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dark-of-the-west/id1279815748?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/dark-of-the-west

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

authorJoanna was born in Montréal and is an avid storyteller who was inspired to write after reading her great-grandfather’s memoirs of the First World War. A lifelong history buff, she now has shelves filled with biographies and historical accounts, and perhaps one too many books about pilots. She can often be found reading, traveling, or riding horses.

Her debut novel, DARK OF THE WEST (Tor Teen, February 5th, 2019), is the first in a WWII-infused fantasy series of forbidden love and deadly revenge.

You can find Joanna on the following sites:

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

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Q&A WITH JOANNA HATHAWAY

Thank you, Joanna, for stopping by on the blog! It was wonderful chatting with you!

  1. Your debut novel, DARK OF THE WEST, comes out next year! Congrats! What inspired you to write this story?

Thank you so much! Honestly, the biggest inspiration for me was history. As a teen, all I read were memoirs and biographies and historical accounts from as many different perspectives as I could get my hands on. I wanted to read the real stories of real people around the world—people who had faced these incredible (and often horrific) events with such courage. It always made me wonder what I would do in the same situation. What choices would I make? But I also wanted to write a book that wasn’t bound to the rules of our own history, so I began building this fantasy world that felt like our own yet was distinctly unique. I wanted to make an exploration of the timeless themes of our history, but see it through the eyes of two youthful and idealistic narrators who still believe in the best. Thus, Dark of the West was born!

  1. What was it like to write two point of views? Was one easier to write than the other?

I originally started with only one POV (Aurelia), but then I did a test scene from the perspective of Athan and discovered he had a whole family demanding to be shared! And once I started weaving his story with Aurelia’s, I realized how well they complemented one another, illuminating the larger story. It worked out perfectly. I don’t think either POV is “easier” than the other, but often when I get tired of writing one, I can just switch to the other and feel immediately rejuvenated — handy for those deadlines!

  1. Are you more of a plotter or did you let the story come to you naturally, without a ton of plotting?

This particular story has been with me since I was in university, so it’s definitely come about more gradually and naturally, left to simmer for years. While I didn’t specifically sit down and create an outline for it, I have had the series in my mind for a long time, so I do plot out each book and each character arc to satisfy the overarching themes and events which I know are coming.

  1. If you had the chance to spend one day with Aurelia and Athan, what would you all do?

I think I’d want to visit Aurelia’s horses and Athan’s airplanes. And if I could ride one and fly another, that would be even better. I think they’d be on board with that!

  1. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Trust your heart and know that no one else can tell the story you wish to tell. It’s a reflection of you, which is quite sacred, and while you should always seek out critique and be unafraid to put in the sweat and work, never belittle the heart of what you’re trying to say. Always fight to get it out into the world. There’s room on the shelves for your unique story.

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TOUR SCHEDULE

See what other amazing blogs joined this wonderful blog tour!

https://fantasticflyingbookclub.blogspot.com/2018/12/tour-schedule-dark-of-west-glass.html

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GIVEAWAY

Prize: Win (1) of (10) physical copies of DARK OF THE WEST by Joanna Hathaway (US Only)

Giveaway Starts: February 5th, 2019

Giveaway Ends: February 18th, 2019

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Thank you, Fantastic Flying Book Club, so much for having A Court of Coffee and Books on the blog tour!

 

*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