Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 321
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Book Review:

ALL THE RAGE is a book that made me quiver with rage for what Romy endures.

“Because ‘slut’ was just too humanizing, I guess. A slit’s not even a person (p. 38*).”

You know who writes SLIT on Romy’s mom’s car? The son of the sheriff. If that doesn’t make you want to dive into Romy’s story, to see why everyone hates her so much, I don’t know what will. I’m not trying to be sensational — ALL THE RAGE is full of lines I could quote.

ALL THE RAGE is my first Courtney Summers book, but it won’t be my last. It’s hard stuff to read at times, but I loved how the author didn’t pull any punches or censor anything. I’m sure when I reread this, I’ll find more gems hidden in its pages. Like all the little observations she makes about how society has trained women to be polite. Such as when Romy automatically takes a napkin with a number from a guy who creeps her out, “like the obligation to be nice to him is greater than myself (p. 233*).”

I was a bit confused at the start of ALL THE RAGE, because the book flips between NOW and BEFORE, between Romy’s rape and the horribleness she endures after. There’s not a lot of flipping though, and eventually I knew enough to put the pieces together. I think the confusion I felt as a reader echoes some of Romy’s confusion over what happened to her, since she couldn’t remember.

Okay. So I haven’t really talked about the book itself, the plot or characters, but I’m not going to do that. I went into this book with almost no foreknowledge, and I think that’s the best way to read it. I want it to hit you as hard as it hit me, so no spoilers from me.

I think ALL THE RAGE should be required reading for all high school students and well, everyone. Because it talks about rape culture in a way that will make you think. We live in a world where rape is blamed on the victim for what she was wearing or because she asked for it. We live in a world where if rapists are actually convicted, it’s their future that’s ruined because of one little mistake. We live in a world where people are sympathetic for the perpetrator, not for the victim. We live in a world where people in power can cover up a crime or even ignore it. We live in a world where Romy hopes an unborn baby isn’t a girl, because being a girl is hard and dangerous and painful.

And I apologize for the preachiness, but that’s what ALL THE RAGE did to me. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It makes me want to put the book in as many hands as I can. That’s the sign of an excellent read and an impactful book.

*Quotes are from an Advanced Review Copy, and may change by publication.

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Courtney Summers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady Cross

Book Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady CrossSisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady Cross
Series: Sisters of Blood and Spirit #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on March 31, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Wren Noble is dead—she was born that way. Vibrant, unlike other dead things, she craves those rare moments when her twin sister allows her to step inside her body and experience the world of the living.

Lark Noble is alive but often feels she belongs in the muted Shadow Lands—the realm of the dead. Known as the crazy girl who talks to her dead sister, she doesn't exactly fit in with the living, though a recent suicide attempt and time in a psych ward have proved to her she's not ready to join her sister in the afterlife.

Now the guy who saved Lark's life needs her to repay the favor. He and his friends have been marked for death by the malevolent spirit of a vicious and long-dead serial killer, and the twins—who should know better than to mess with the dead—may be their only hope of staying alive.

Book Review:

In SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT, twins Lark and Wren take on a vicious ghost that’s targeted some of the town’s teenagers. Lark and Wren are uniquely capable of fighting ghosts because Wren is dead and Lark can talk to ghosts.

WHAT I LIKED:

–Lark’s personality. She’s abrasive, snarky, and speaks her mind. Understandably so, since most of the school sees her as a freak for talking to her dead sister and trying to commit suicide.

–Nan. It was great to see a supportive parent figure in a YA book. Nan is understanding, accepts Lark and Wren, and doesn’t try to talk Lark out of fighting ghosts. I also liked that Lark fessed up to her grandmother, because she didn’t want to keep secrets.

–The romance between Lark and Ben. Usually I’m indifferent on romance, but I could get behind this one. It was great to have a boy who came out and said he liked Lark without being arrogant about it. I also liked that they crushed on each other a bit and didn’t rush things.

–The concept. The idea behind SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT is what made me want to read the book. Twin sisters, able to communicate and interact even though one is dead? Pretty cool.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

–A lot left unexplained. I see now that SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT is the first in a new series, but I was still left with a lot of questions. What are the Shadow Lands? Why is Wren so powerful? Why does Wren stay with Lark? Why does Bent (the book’s villain) want to form an army? Who is Emily? And so on.

–Too many in the Scooby Gang. Most of the book is taken up with Lark and Wren helping their new friends hunt a ghost, but I couldn’t tell some of those friends apart. There’s Mace, Sarah, Gage, Ben, Kevin, and Roxi. Some have more page time than others, and maybe they’ll have more development in future books, but in this book, some of them are just chess pieces.

–Lark’s suicide attempt. The author mentions this a lot, as well as mentions that the ghosts at the psych ward wanted to recruit Wren. I feel like the reader needed to see this, rather than be told about it again and again.

–The ending is rushed. Lark and the others actually put some preparation and thought into defeating the bad ghost, but it’s over super fast. I expected more there, and hey, what happened to Bent’s razor?

Socialize with the author:

Kady Cross:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot GardnerThe Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up. In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living."I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive. I love how it haunts me still. I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know." —John Marsden, author of Tomorrow, When the War Began

Book Review:

THE DEAD I KNOW is a short book at 200 pages, but the content of those 200 pages packs a pretty big emotional punch. THE DEAD I KNOW is honest about funerals, grief, and the sometimes gruesome things that can happen after one dies, but more than that, it’s a compelling look into the life of a teenage boy. Aaron Rowe hides more than nightmares that make him sleepwalk. His Mam has episodes where she loses her memories, and she’s started getting into dangerous situations, but he doesn’t want anyone to know what’s happening to her.

I liked Aaron quite a bit. He doesn’t like to talk much, doesn’t want to rely on anyone, and tries to do the best he can for Mam. I got the feeling he’s had trouble in school, because for some reason he starts working for John Barton, a funeral director, rather than attending school. Or maybe he graduated, I don’t know — I can’t recall an explanation of how he ended up with John. And what a character John Barton is. I wish there were a hundred more of him in YA: he’s quietly supportive, providing Aaron with a shoulder Aaron doesn’t know he needs. John is never judgmental, even when Aaron ends up in jail after some very odd coincidences.

Something else I liked about THE DEAD I KNOW is that it shows how people react to death. Aaron observes a couple of funerals, and it’s the people left behind that bother him more than the deceased. It’s difficult for him to see their emotions when he tries so hard to hide his. But beyond Aaron, I think it’s helpful for teens to see all the different ways death can affect someone.

Socialize with the author:

Scot Gardner:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen BaoDove Arising by Karen Bao
Series: Dove Chronicles #1
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on February 24, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.

Book Review:

DOVE ARISING is the first book in Karen Bao’s sci-fi/dystopian YA series, the Dove Chronicles. Phaet dreams of being a Bioengineer, to create something new. But when her mother is taken away, first to medical quarantine and then to jail, Phaet gives up her dreams and joins the Militia early. It’s the only way she can earn enough money to support her siblings, pay the bills, and pay her mother’s bail. But Phaet’s only fifteen — three years younger than everyone else and she has to rank first to get the needed money.

I was originally excited about DOVE ARISING because I thought, “Woot, YA sci-fi! A book set on the moon, awesome.” But while the book is set on the moon, the setting doesn’t really make that much impact, and the book focuses much more on its dystopian aspects. I do appreciate that the author described Phaet’s military training, because training can often be glossed over in books like this. But I found it unrealistic that she became a military genius in two months, able to outrun, outthink, and outdo trainees who had three years on her. And while I did like seeing the training described, I think it took over too much of the book. It reminded me of THE HUNGER GAMES or ENDER’S GAME, but without the same … oomph as those books.

DOVE ARISING did entertain me while I was reading, but then when I thought about it after, my opinion started going down. There’s a lot of the usual YA cliches, including the corrupt government, family secrets, and even a love triangle. Romance doesn’t play a huge part in this first book of the trilogy, but I can see how the author’s setting it up and ugh, it’s unnecessary. Plus there’s a character who lies a lot, and Phaet thinks, “Oh, it’s okay that he lied to me. He saved my life, so I’ll trust him.” The book makes her out to be smarter than that, but nope.

And then this bugged me: the characters all have handscreens. Think a cellphone screen implanted on your left hand, one that gives you the statistics of everyone you meet. The Committee supposedly uses the handscreens as a way to Big Brother citizens, but … sitting on your left hand can block them from listening. Really? Something so absurd kept pulling me out of the narrative anytime the characters would sit on or hide their left hand when they didn’t want a conversation to be recorded.

Socialize with the author:

Karen Bao:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

waiting on wednesday

a school for unusual girls by kathleen baldwinA School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House #1) by Kathleen Baldwin
Release Date: May 19, 2015

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts…

A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS sounds like just my kind of book! Girls stepping outside of their expected roles. A boarding school where girls learn espionage and diplomacy. I also like the time period it’s set in — I’ve read a couple of biographies and historical fictions based on Napoleon’s wives, and it’ll be interesting to see another side.

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

helen of sparta tour banner

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HELEN OF SPARTA by Amalia Carosella. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. This is a neat historical fiction book, where Helen gets to tell her story in her own words.

helen of sparta by amalia carosellaInfo:
Title: Helen of Sparta
Author: Amalia Carosella
Release Date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical fiction
Page Count: 416

Summary:

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

Giveaway:

Helen of Sparta

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Amalia Dillin.

You can also connect with Amalia on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter here and here.
Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

Socialize with the author:

Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: A Royal Romance by Jenny Frame

waiting on wednesday

a royal romance by jenny frameA Royal Romance by Jenny Frame
Release Date: May 12, 2015

Georgina, Princess of Wales, has always known her destiny, but she never expected duty to call so soon. When her father dies suddenly, she is called back from her Royal Navy post to assume the crown. While the people acclaim their new Queen, Great Britain’s first openly gay monarch, all George feels is the isolation of her station.

Beatrice Elliot’s staunch anti-monarchist views have always been a point of gentle contention with her working class, royalty-loving parents. When Bea—director of a hospice charity—must spend six months working with Queen Georgina, her charity’s new patron, sparks fly and passion blooms. But is love enough to bridge the gap between Bethnal Green and Buckingham Palace?

If you’ve been to my blog before, you might wonder who stole me and replaced me with someone who likes romance! Normally I’m less than keen on it, but I was browsing NetGalley today and saw A ROYAL ROMANCE. Now this probably has something to do with my love for E’s totally crazy show The Royals, but I gotta check this book out! Coincidentally enough, the other day I was wondering what impact a gay monarch would have. Maybe I’ll get to find out.

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenI Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
Published by Month9Books on March 31, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka 'Quinn' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Book Review:

Set in a future where most humans think robots shouldn’t have rights, and robots think they should, I HEART ROBOT asks what it means to be human. Is being human necessary to create? Can robots think, create, love? If they can, should they be destroyed, or should they be allowed to flourish? Are artificially intelligent robots a threat to humanity, or is humanity a threat to those robots?

Tyri wants to be a musician. But everyone around her, including her mother and boyfriend, think she should do something useful to society, like politics or science. Quinn, a companion android who escaped abusive owners, wants to play music and show that he’s human, not just a robot without feelings. When they’re caught up in the increasingly violent rift between humans and robots, they question their beliefs and their roles.

At first, I thought I HEART ROBOT was going to be a girl/android love story, and while yeah, there’s a bit of that, there’s also a lot more. The author asks the same questions I did at the start of this review, showing a variety of answers from pro and anti robot characters. I really got into I HEART ROBOT, and read it in one sitting. The book isn’t too long, but it’s one that left me thinking. I really hope there’s a sequel, because the ending is open and leaves some questions unresolved. I want to know what happens next to Tyri and Quinn.

I HEART ROBOT YA science fiction, but it’s not packed with technical mumbo jumbo that pulls you out of the book. There’s also some diversity in the book, which I was happy to see. Tyri’s best friend has a girlfriend, and the book is set in Skandia, a post-war combination of Sweden and Norway. I would have liked some more worldbuilding and scene setting, so that I truly felt like I was overseas. Lastly, I liked that Tyri questioned her romantic relationships, speaking up for herself when necessary, but also acting like a teen in love at the same time.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you think androids deserve equal rights?

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne van Rooyen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin by J. Matthew Saunders

Book Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin by J. Matthew SaundersYasamin by J. Matthew Saunders
Series: Daughters of Shadow and Blood #1
Published by Saint George's Press on May 3, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Buda, Ottoman Hungary, 1599: Yasamin, the naïve daughter of an Ottoman bureaucrat, finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage to the son of the powerful governor of Buda. She is unprepared for the gossip and scheming rampant in the palace but realizes she faces more than petty jealousies when someone tries to drown her in the baths on the day before her wedding. An unearthly menace lurks in the palace corridors, and the one person able to protect Yasamin is a soldier named Iskander, who seems to appear whenever she needs him. Charming and confident, he is nothing like her new husband, but trusting either of them could be a deadly mistake.

Berlin, Germany, 1999: Adam Mire, an American professor of history, discovers a worn, marked-up copy of Dracula. The clues within its pages send him on a journey across the stark landscape of Eastern Europe, searching for a medallion that once belonged to Dracula himself. But a killer hounds Adam’s footsteps, and each new clue he uncovers brings him closer to a beguiling, raven-haired woman named Yasamin Ashrafi, who might be the first of Dracula’s legendary Brides.

Adam has an agenda of his own, however, a quest more personal than anyone knows. One misstep, and his haunted past could lead to death from a blade in his back … or from Yasamin’s fatal embrace.

Book Review:

YASAMIN is the first book in a new series, Daughters of Shadow and Blood, about the three women in Dracula’s castle. Are they the brides of Dracula, as many have guessed? Is Yasamin one of them?

I was intrigued by the book’s summary, because: 1) I’m a vampire fan, 2) I enjoy books about Dracula’s brides, and 3) I liked the mix of the past and modern day.

Unfortunately, the book just wasn’t for me. I spent a fair amount of the book confused, as there’s a lot of jumping around in time. Not just between 1999 and 1599, but between weeks and months in 1999. There’s approximately 300 pages and 77 chapters. The chapters are short and choppy; rather than jumping in time and into different characters, I would have liked some more time with Adam and Yasamin.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so I’m not sure if this book can be classified as one, but that’s the impression I got. But I never got any sense of urgency or felt that Adam’s life was truly in danger, even when he was captured by this group or that.

The idea behind the book is interesting, but the way it’s written didn’t work for me. I’m also a character driven reader, so I like characters I can really care about or get invested in their stories. The characters in this book felt like chess pieces to me, moved here and there to keep the plot going.

Let’s talk about it:

Dracula’s brides — yay or nay? Would you be interested in reading about them?

Socialize with the author:

J. Matthew Saunders:
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– leeanna