Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Book Review:

THREE DARK CROWNS is the first in a new dark fantasy series about three queens, only one of which will survive to take the throne. The queens are sisters, and after their sixteenth birthday, they have a year to kill each other. The last one standing wins the crown.

I was intrigued by THREE DARK CROWNS because I love me some dark and twisted fantasy. Sisters killing each other for the throne? Gimme. Each a user of a different type of magic? Gimme. Political factions scheming for power? Gimme.

THREE DARK CROWNS was a good series starter, but just a bit too slow for me. The majority of this first book is set up, introducing the sisters and their people, the different types of magic, and meandering along to the ceremony of Beltane. I think the author did a good job of describing the sisters’ current situations, but I was lost on the worldbuilding as a whole. For the longest time, I thought each sister was on a separate island, and I didn’t understand references to the mainland. Yes, I know there’s a map, but it was hard for me to make out land boundaries.

Because the pacing was slow, the middle of the book was a bit of a slog for me. I would’ve preferred more action and a less token romance. Each sister had her own romance subplot, and I’m not a romance fan, so that was a lot for me. Now, I should say I liked how Arsinoe handled her suitor. That was good. But her buddy Jules? Meh.

But the end of THREE DARK CROWNS redeemed that slow middle for me, and this is a series I’ll continue. With all the set up out of the way, I’m hoping the second book will be a lot darker. For a book about three queens who must murder each other, there was surprisingly little Bad Stuff happening.

Socialize with the author:

Kendare Blake:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #9
Published by Ace on September 20, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Book Review:

Last summer I went on a Kate Daniels binge, reading all the available books in the series in the space of two weeks. I’m a huge urban fantasy fan and have read a lot of different series, but Kate instantly skyrocketed to the top of my list. I’ve been looking forward to MAGIC BINDS for a year, because after reading eight books about Kate and Curran and Post-Shift Atlanta, I needed more!

MAGIC BINDS was more than worth the wait. I’m in a reading slump at the moment — I’ve only read one book this month, which is super rare for me. I usually average fifteen books a month. But MAGIC BINDS pulled me out of that slump. I couldn’t put this book down. The author, Ilona Andrews, has a perfect mix of seriousness and humor, battle scenes and fun diversions, and interesting lore and worldbuilding. I like every single thing about this series, which is another rare thing, because I’m a picky reader.

I know that when I pick up a book starring Kate and Curran, I’m going to get a fantastic story, with lots of action, character development, an intriguing main story and side stories, scary villains, and stuff that comes out of nowhere but fits into the plot. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a major fangirl for this series, and for MAGIC BINDS in particular.

MAGIC BINDS might be my very favorite Kate Daniels book so far. Why? Kate and Curran are about to get married — finally! — but of course her dad won’t sit back and allow her to keep Atlanta. Black volhv Roman takes on the role of wedding planner, Roland is courting Julie and building a mega-gigantic castle, Kate can’t get a moment to herself safe from witch visions, and so on. By the ninth book in a series, sometimes it’s the same old, but that’s not the case here. MAGIC BINDS definitely moves the story along while giving readers what they’ve come to expect.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but when you read the last page, you’ll be just as desperate as I am for the next book!

Socialize with the author:

Ilona Andrews:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Taken by Inbali Iserles

Book Review: The Taken by Inbali IserlesThe Taken by Inbali Iserles
Series: Foxcraft #1
Published by Scholastic on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless -- humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive.

Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless.

Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind -- magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of foxcraft.

Book Review:

The first in a new trilogy based on foxes and their magic, THE TAKEN follows young Isla as she tries to find her family. Instead of following her parents to their den, she disobeys and stays behind to gather berries. When she returns, she gets the biggest shock of her life: her parents and brother are gone, and dangerous foxes are hunting her down.

I’ve always thought foxes were pretty cool animals, so I was curious to see how an author would envision life through their eyes. For the most part, the author does a good job of showing a city and humans through a fox’s perspective: roads are “deathways,” cars are “manglers,” and so on. I could usually figure out what Isla was looking at; for example, seeing a zoo from her vantage was quite sad. It did take a little while to get used to the foxes’ terms for everything; if you’re confused, there’s a helpful glossary at the end of the book. There’s also some cool mythology about foxes.

I liked the concept of “foxcraft,” the magic foxes use to evade humans and capture food. Such skills include slimmering, or invisibility, and karakking, imitating the call of other creatures. Isla doesn’t know very much about foxcraft at the beginning of THE TAKEN, but on the quest to find her family, she meets Siffrin. A fox from the wild, he’s been sent by the Elders to find Isla’s brother, Pirie. He teaches Isla about foxcraft, and though he helps her, she’s not so sure she can trust him. But what is a young fox to do when she has no one else?

I enjoyed THE TAKEN while reading, but was left a bit empty at the end. I wish more had happened during the book; a lot of it was Isla wandering around the city, trying to find her family and hiding from the dangerous foxes. All that wandering helped establish the setting and give an opportunity for Sirrin to explain foxcraft, but I wanted more story advancement.

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Inbali Iserles:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

waiting on wednesday

the wall of storms by ken liuThe Wall of Storms (The Dandelion Dynasty #2) by Ken Liu
Release Date: October 4, 2016

In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

I read book one of The Dandelion Dynasty, THE GRACE OF KINGS last year. It’s one of those books I didn’t like at first but grew on me, and I’m still thinking about it a year later. So when I saw THE WALL OF STORMS was coming out, I instantly added it to my TBR. Happily October isn’t that far away! I recommend this series if you’re in the mood for Asian-inspired epic fantasy.

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Ken Liu:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Libertarians on the Prairie by Christine Woodside

Book Review: Libertarians on the Prairie by Christine WoodsideLibertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books by Christine Woodside
Published by Arcade Publishing on September 6, 2016
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 292
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
This myth-busting book finally reveals the true story behind the beloved children's classics.

Generations of children have fallen in love with the pioneer saga of the Ingalls family, of Pa and Ma, Laura and her sisters, and their loyal dog, Jack. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books have taught millions of Americans about frontier life, giving inspiration to many and in the process becoming icons of our national identity. Yet few realize that this cherished bestselling series wandered far from the actual history of the Ingalls family and from what Laura herself understood to be central truths about pioneer life.

In this groundbreaking narrative of literary detection, Christine Woodside reveals for the first time the full extent of the collaboration between Laura and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Rose hated farming and fled the family homestead as an adolescent, eventually becoming a nationally prominent magazine writer, biographer of Herbert Hoover, and successful novelist, who shared the political values of Ayn Rand and became mentor to Roger Lea MacBride, the second Libertarian presidential candidate. Drawing on original manuscripts and letters, Woodside shows how Rose reshaped her mother's story into a series of heroic tales that rebutted the policies of the New Deal. Their secret collaboration would lead in time to their estrangement. A fascinating look at the relationship between two strong-willed women, Libertarians on the Prairie is also the deconstruction of an American myth.

Book Review:

The first books I remember buying as a kid were the Little House books. I still have them; they’ve been read so many times I had to tape the spines. In the 1990s, I read the books about Laura’s daughter Rose, and kept going to the books about Laura’s mother and grandmother. But Laura’s stories were always my favorite, and I loved Laura’s plucky attitude and pioneer spirit, and the knowledge that the Ingalls family would survive any hardship because they had each other.

Essentially, I’ve been a huge fan of the Little House books and Laura Ingalls Wilder all my life. I even embody some of that pioneer spirit. I’m a farmer. I love the land. I like being self-sufficient. After reading LIBERTARIANS ON THE PRAIRIE, I have to wonder if I absorbed the intended messages of Rose Wilder Lane, the themes she slid into her mother’s books. The author deconstructs the “new” pioneer myth Rose built, shaping her mother’s stories into a vehicle for her political beliefs of freedom, love of nature, self-sufficiency, and so on.

I’m not sure if LIBERTARIANS ON THE PRAIRIE will appeal to all fans of the Little House books. It can be hard to see the layers peeled back on childhood favorites, to learn that Rose carefully edited the books, picking which of Laura’s experiences best fit the ideal she wanted to portray. But I geeked out over learning more about Laura and Rose, their writing process, and their relationship, as well as how their personal beliefs and politics influenced the books.

LIBERTARIANS ON THE PRAIRIE is, in part, a biography of Rose’s adult life. At first I didn’t know why Woodside was including information on Rose’s travels through Albania or her writing career. But it made sense as the book went on, showing how those travels and experiences shaped Rose just as much as her early life on the farm did. I also learned quite a bit about libertarianism; for example, I never knew Rose was one of the founders of the movement.

Overall, I found LIBERTARIANS ON THE PRAIRIE interesting, educational, and eye opening. For the most part it was easy to read, laid out chronologically and written almost in a conversational manner. But I do have one quibble. Sometimes the author referred to a person by their first name, then their last name, or sometimes both names, and I didn’t always know who she meant. Or a person wouldn’t be mentioned for chapters, so when they showed up again, I didn’t remember who they were. I wish the book had a summary of important figures for reference.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuThe Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Series: The Dandelion Dynasty #1
Published by Saga Press on April 7, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 623
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

Book Review:

I have a confession to make: at first, I didn’t like THE GRACE OF KINGS. I almost put it down a couple of times because the book just wasn’t clicking for me. But a couple of chapters in, things changed, and I started to really like the book. By the time I finished, I went back and reread the chapters that I’d mostly skimmed in the beginning because I wanted to see if I’d missed any details.

The reason I didn’t like the THE GRACE OF KINGS at first? I’m a character driven reader. I like to connect to a book’s characters, to have someone to root for or against. But in this book, the country of Dara is the most important character. How its territories and people prosper or suffer based on who’s in charge or how the rebellion is doing.

THE GRACE OF KINGS also has a different feel at first, because of the unique style of storytelling, a style that combines Eastern and Western influences. Once I got used to that as well, I flew through THE GRACE OF KINGS, and was quite disappointed to turn the last page. I need the next book in the Dandelion Dynasty now!

What I liked best about this book is that it explores what happens after you win. Most fantasy books stop when the tyrant is overthrown and the good guys are in power, but THE GRACE OF KINGS goes many steps further than that. Kuni and Mata are opposites in every sense of the word, and the author uses them to show flexible versus inflexible thinking, breaking out of the box versus following traditions, etc. Add in “silkpunk” — a new technology where fantastical devices are developed from organic materials like silk and bamboo — and there are some awesome ideas here.

I do wish the characters — especially female characters — had more development. I also would have liked to see more females in the book, as they were often relegated to the sidelines or used as tragic devices. I understand that fits the time period, but still.

Overall, I liked THE GRACE OF KINGS a lot, and I’d recommend it for epic fantasy fans looking for something a bit different. I also recommend checking out interviews the author’s done, which isn’t something I usually say, but the interviews added even more to the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Ken Liu:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn

Book Review: Eleanor and Hick by Susan QuinnEleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn
Published by Penguin on September 27, 2016
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok—a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women's lives and empowered them to play significant roles in one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

In 1932, as her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life—now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the form of a feisty campaign reporter for the Associated Press: Lorena Hickok. Over the next thirty years, until Eleanor’s death, the two women carried on an extraordinary relationship: They were, at different points, lovers, confidantes, professional advisors, and caring friends.

They couldn't have been more different. Eleanor had been raised in one of the nation’s most powerful political families and was introduced to society as a debutante before marrying her distant cousin, Franklin. Hick, as she was known, had grown up poor in rural South Dakota and worked as a servant girl after she escaped an abusive home, eventually becoming one of the most respected reporters at the AP. Her admiration drew the buttoned-up Eleanor out of her shell, and the two quickly fell in love. For the next thirteen years, Hick had her own room at the White House, next door to the First Lady.

These fiercely compassionate women inspired each other to right the wrongs of the turbulent era in which they lived. During the Depression, Hick reported from the nation’s poorest areas for the WPA, and Eleanor used these reports to lobby her husband for New Deal programs. Hick encouraged Eleanor to turn their frequent letters into her popular and long-lasting syndicated column "My Day," and to befriend the female journalists who became her champions. When Eleanor’s tenure as First Lady ended with FDR's death, Hick pushed her to continue to use her popularity for good—advice Eleanor took by leading the UN’s postwar Human Rights Commission. At every turn, the bond these women shared was grounded in their determination to better their troubled world.

Deeply researched and told with warmth and charm, Eleanor and Hick is at once a tender, moving portrait of love and a surprising new look at some of the most consequential years in American history.

Book Review:

ELEANOR AND HICK: THE LOVE AFFAIR THAT SHAPED A FIRST LADY.

That’s one eye-catching title, isn’t it? It certainly captured my attention. With all the fuss now, with some politicians acting like LGBTQ people aren’t even human, it’s amazing to look back in history and see that Eleanor Roosevelt might have had an intimate relationship with Lorena Hickok. They certainly loved each other emotionally, and their letters suggest there was a physical component to their relationship, but we’ll never know for sure.

ELEANOR AND HICK was an interesting read for me. I read some aloud to my mother, who isn’t a book or history person, and she found it interesting as well. The author doesn’t just focus on Eleanor and Hick. This is more a narrative of Eleanor’s years as First Lady and after, the impact she had and the work she did. Included in that narrative is information on the rise of women in the Democratic party, the presidency and policies of FDR, and the many influential women Eleanor knew. The author did hop around a bit chronologically, which could be confusing.

The real brilliance of this book for me was the information on Hick. Hick’s been somewhat lost to history, which is a tragedy, because she did a lot of good stuff. She was the top female reporter of her day, but her relationship with Eleanor overshadowed the rest of her life. After she quit the AP, she never knew if she got a job because of her skills or because she was Eleanor’s friend.

All the additional narrative in the book helps provide a clear picture of those years, but I would have preferred a tighter focus on Eleanor and Hick’s relationship. In particular, I expected to see more of their letters quoted in the book. I didn’t feel like the author convinced me either way that they had a true “love affair.” However, I could see the “shaping” that Hick had on Eleanor, as Hick encouraged her to write the My Day column, to find purpose after FDR’s death, etc.

Overall, ELEANOR AND HICK read more like a dual biography for me than the exploration of a love affair.

– leeanna

Book Review: First Position by Melissa Brayden

Book Review: First Position by Melissa BraydenFirst Position by Melissa Brayden
Published by Bold Strokes Books on August 16, 2016
Genres: LGBT, Romance
Pages: 249
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Anastasia Mikhelson is the rising star of the New York City Ballet. She’s sacrificed creature comforts, a social life, as well as her own physical well-being for perfection in dance. Even her reputation as The Ice Queen doesn’t faze her. Though Ana’s at the peak of her career, competition from a new and noteworthy dancer puts all she’s worked for in jeopardy.

While Natalie Frederico has shown herself to be a prodigy when it comes to ballet, she much prefers modern dance and living on her own terms. Life is too short for anything else. However, when the opportunity to dance with the New York City Ballet is thrust upon her, it’s not like she could say no. Dealing with the company’s uptight lead is another story, however. When the two are forced to work side-by-side, sparks begin to fly onstage and off.

Book Review:

The first time I read FIRST POSITION, I sped through it so quickly I knew I’d have a hard time writing a good review. It’s rare that a contemporary romance book grabs me so strongly. I originally wanted to read the book because it’s set in the ballet world — I’ve got a thing for ballet books — so getting a ballet book with two great characters and a sweet romance was a real bonus.

Ana is your typical overachieving, dedicated ballet dancer. At the start of the book, she’s finally promoted to principal dancer after years of hard work. Convinced this is her year — as long as she figures out how to bring more emotion to her dancing — Ana’s shocked to have newcomer Natalie share the biggest role of her life. Natalie is everything Ana’s not: the life of the party, a slacker, and almost flippant about her dance talent.

By sharing the lead role in a new ballet, Ana’s supposed to brush up Natalie’s technique, and Natalie’s supposed to help Ana find emotion. They start out as rivals, but that turns to something more as that sharing spreads beyond the job. The romance in FIRST POSITION was a nice slow burn, with plenty of time for Ana and Natalie to get to know each other and spend time together. I really liked how they influenced each other and how each woman grew over the course of the book.

There’s also something really big that happens, and while I won’t spoil it, I liked how the author handled overcoming a disaster. I also liked how it eventually made Ana and Natalie’s relationship even stronger. I liked how Natalie brought Ana out of her shell and made her see there’s more to life than ballet, while Ana helped Natalie realize being serious once in a while was a good thing.

Notice how I’m using “I like” over and over? Yeah. I loved FIRST POSITION. I enjoyed this book enough to read it twice in a month, and I’m greedy enough to wish FIRST POSITION was double its length. This book was the perfect mix of slow romance, character development, fun sexy times, humor, seriousness, ballet, and good writing.

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Melissa Brayden:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin

waiting on wednesday

blood for blood by ryan graudinBlood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudin
Release Date: November 1, 2016

The action-packed, thrilling sequel to Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf.

There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

I’m a big fan of alternate history, especially WWII alternate history, so I was quite excited for WOLF BY WOLF last year. Ever since finishing that great mix of imagined history and action, I’ve been looking forward to BLOOD FOR BLOOD. I’m eager to find out what happens next to Yael, as well as see the impact of the resistance.

Socialize with the author:
Ryan Graudin:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Young Adult
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Book Review:

I was super excited to read WOLF BY WOLF. A young adult, alternate history imagining what might have happened if the Nazis won the war? What would Europe look like if Hitler and Emperor Hirohito controlled much of the world? What if Nazi medical experiments produced a human with supernatural powers? What if one of those humans fought back?

I love alternate history, especially alternate history of the WWII variety. I think author Ryan Graudin did a great job of creating a plausible post-war Third Reich and getting across her vision for a mostly Axis-controlled world. The Axis Tour, a motorcycle race over 20,000 kilometers, from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, is the center of WOLF BY WOLF. A race to show off the best of German and Japanese youth, it’s a fierce competition filled with sabotage and danger. Only open to boys, until Adele Wolfe stole her twin brother’s identity and won last year’s Axis Tour.

Enter Yael. She survived a death camp and medical experimentation to come out stronger, but cursed with the ability to skinshift. She can shift her features to impersonate anyone, which makes her perfect for the Resistance’s plans. This year she’ll enter the Axis Tour as Adele Wolfe, win, and assassinate Adolf Hitler.

All Yael has to do is fool Adele’s brother Felix and another racer she has history with, escape detection, deal with the sabotage attempts of the other competitors, and come out on top. Easy, right?

WOLF BY WOLF has an excellent balance of past and present events. Most of the book focuses on the race, and Yael’s efforts to impersonate Adele in the presence of Felix and Luka. But there are a few sections set in her past, showing the people most important to her, the people she’s lost. Yael isn’t entirely sure of who she is, but she remembers herself by remembering them. I quite liked the author’s writing style — it was perfect for developing Yael’s character and thoughts, as well as the world. Graudin has a unique way of describing things, and I also liked that she included Yael’s inner voice. Yael is a great character: she’s survived hell and found a way to fight back. She’s sure of her mission at first, but as she spends time with the other racers, she begins to question who they are. In the author’s note, Graudin says she wrote about identity — what makes people who they are — and I think she did a good job at exploring that, by showing the other racers through Yael’s eyes.

WOLF BY WOLF captivated me, from the author’s version of a world where Hitler still lives to the deadly Axis Tour. There were times when I wasn’t sure if Yael would be able to complete her mission, or even survive the race without getting her cover blown. I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 because despite lots of action, it dragged a bit in the middle for me and I wanted things to move along. Otherwise, I’m eagerly waiting for the second book, and I’ll be recommending WOLF BY WOLF to anyone looking for a creative, fast-paced, unique YA book.

Socialize with the author:

Ryan Graudin:
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– leeanna