Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard

Happy slightly late pub day to Game of Strength and Storm! Thanks to Flux Books via NetGalley for the digital arc, all opinions are my own

This is a very loose labors of Hercules retelling. It sounded interesting despite the fact that I don’t tend to be a fan of mythological retellings and have been breaking up with YA, so maybe don’t take my opinions too seriously

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Game of Strength & Storm
  • Series: The Labors of Gen
  • Author: Rachel Menard
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 06/07/2022
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for me personally. Content wise I would recommend for a pretty clean YA fantasy read

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Victory is the only option.

Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.

To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.

Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.

I seem to be in the minority here as the book has great early ratings, but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough for YA but took me almost three weeks to finish because I honestly was not interested and had trouble with the repetitive inner monologue.

The concept was interesting and there was plenty of action interspersed throughout, but overall as an adult reader I just wasn’t as engaged as I think a teen would be.  I also like the theme of family loyalty which is explored in different ways.

Character wise- I can’t deal with inner monologue that never changes. Pollux said the same thing over and over and so did Castor who had no character growth at all.  It’s hard for me to read multiple points of view when the characters just keep repeating themselves. The main character, Gen, didn’t really change much either except to open her barriers to a proximity romance and gain slightly more awareness of the way the empire works. I liked the magic, abilities, and attitude of the characters, although the most enjoyable part for me was the animals

What do you think it would be like to ride in a whale’s mouth? A monkey with 100 eyes? Flesh eating mares?

Gen’s ability to communicate with different creatures was the high point for sure

Plot wise I wanted a little more from some of the tasks. Overall it was fairly fast paced but I found myself skimming over a lot of repetitive introspection. The final battle’s ending struck me as a bit silly and I thought the book would be a standalone. I can’t see myself reading the sequel.

I like that the content and language was appropriately clean for YA.  There were a few kisses between m/f and briefly w/w but otherwise the content was extremely low. One of my favorite things about the Flux imprint is that they tend to keep things on the tame side!

I would recommend for YA 100% and accordingly went with my three star, aka neutral rating

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for my super early copy of Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon!  This is the first time I’ve been sent a first round survey ARC so that’s super exciting.  Book received for free in exchange for an honest review and early feedback.

I’m not sure about the etiquette for extremely early reviews but I think it’s better to just post it now while I’m still thinking about the book and help to put it on people’s winter radar.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Locust Lane
  • Author: Stephen Amidon
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 01/17/23
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of domestic suspense, mystery

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

For fans of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Stephen Amidon’s Locust Lane is a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town. Can anyone be trusted?

On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.

With a brilliantly woven, intricately crafted plot that gathers momentum on every page, this is superb storytelling told in terse prose—a dynamic read that is both intensely gripping and deeply affecting.

I am constantly impressed with the books coming out of Celadon.  Regardless of the genre they tend to be on the literary side and very well around. It’s a bit difficult to classify this novel but it’s a mystery and it’s suspenseful and there’s a lot of small community he-said-she-said in the process of finding justice for the murder victim.

Locust Lane is told from the alternating viewpoints of I believe five different people in the community. It was a bit difficult to keep the storyline and voices straight at first which is the main reason why I docked a star.  The characters are explored more deeply than I usually find in thrillers, which serves to show how the people from different backgrounds fit into the wealthy and privileged area.

When the girl is found murdered, the detectives immediately zero in on the teen who is a foreigner. We watch the wealthy and powerful members of the community band together to cover up the indiscretions of the other teens while the mother of the victim and a less than credible witness go about trying to expose the actual murderer.

It was interesting to watch the details come out.  Woven throughout the murder mystery are themes of disturbed youth, alcoholism, grief, coping with various upbringings, tough parenting challenges, wealth and power. A big part of it is seeing how different characters handle similar challenges such as the loss of a child or being reliant on someone else’s money.

And of course the mystery itself – this is a compulsive read and I was definitely never bored reading it. I picked the wrong suspect for the crime but that’s nothing new. I would definitely recommend this one for people who like mystery and suspense and exploring different character backgrounds.

Locust Lane is out in January, keep it on your radar!