The Reading Machine [7]: August 10, 2014

reading machine

For my Stacking the Shelves/Sunday Post, which I’m calling The Reading Machine, I list the books I’m hoping to read in the upcoming week as well as a short life/blog update.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here. Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and you can find out all about it here.

The Reading Machine:

I’m still sort of in my reading slump. I read a few okay books last week, but nothing I started this week is catching my interest. I really need to get a couple of review books busted out, and then I think I’m going to reread SHADOW AND BONE and SEIGE AND STORM (both by Leigh Bardugo) so that I can finally read RUIN AND RISING. I’m always scared to finish series I love — does anyone else feel this way? I mean, I haven’t even read CRESS yet! Not that The Lunar Chronicles is over, but you know what I mean.

reading machine august 10I’m about halfway through WHITE HOT KISS, but I gotta admit, I’m not really enjoying it. I’m not into the whole bad boy thing, but I wanted to try a Jennifer L. Armentrout book because I know so many bloggers love her. I’m almost ready to DNF it, but being halfway… I figure I should just finish it. I have a really hard time DNF’ing books.

What are your DNF policies, if you have any?

Also in that picture is FROSTBORN by Lou Anders. I’ve been craving some Nordic-inspired stuff, so I’m hoping it’s good.

And I’m hoping to finally get into RISE OF THE KING. I need to buckle down and do some reading…

RISE OF THE KING by R.A. Salvatore
for review
STORMS OF LAZARUS by Karen Kincy
for review

On the Blog:

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

What Up, Life?

Ugh, here’s the problem with wanting to be more personal on my blog — I usually have nothing to say! Another unexciting week for me. I pulled a lot of weeds and cut a lot of grass. I’m becoming a big supporter of landscaping only with rocks….

I do have a question for ya’ll. Does anyone have hotel/things to do recommendations for Virginia Beach? I’m thinking about taking a trip, and I figured I might as well ask the blogosphere for recs!

– leeanna

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers TordayThe Last Wild by Piers Torday
Series: The Last Wild #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Book Review:

THE LAST WILD is a whimsical tale, the story of a boy discovering his voice. It reminded me a little of THE LITTLE PRINCE,, maybe because of the cover and chapter heading illustrations, and because like that book, THE LAST WILD can be read on different levels. It’s one for both kids and adults.

Twelve-year-old Kester lives in a world where there are no animals. They were killed by the mysterious red-eye virus, all except cockroaches and the like. Kester hasn’t talked for six years, and he’s surprised as anyone when he hears a voice in his room one night. Only … the voice is in his head, and it’s coming from a cockroach.

Thus starts Kester’s journey to rescue the last animals left alive. Kester has a gift: the ability to talk and listen to animals. Carried by pigeons to The Last Wild, he reluctantly agrees to help the last remaining animals find a cure for red-eye. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, friendship, humans, and animals.

THE LAST WILD is a magical book. The different animals accompanying Kester, from the stag to the wolf-cub to the pigeons to the cockroach all had their own personalities and stories. There’s lots of humor, but also lots of sadness. The author brought all of them to life for me. When I turned the last page of the book, I wished I could get my hands on the next one, because I have got to find out what happens next to Kester and everyone. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, because much of the story is wrapped up, but there’s still some problems to face.

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. LeeGates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone #1
Published by Skyscape on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Book Review:

There are two things I really liked about GATES OF THREAD AND STONE: the city of Ninurta and the strong relationship between Kai and Reev.

Ninurta has a dark, gritty, post-apocalyptic feel. It’s populated by humans who have survived a devastating war between magic users and the military. Most people struggle to survive, including Kai and Reev, who live in a freight container stacked in a labyrinth-like maze. They barely make enough credits to buy food, whereas wealthy people, who live in the walled off White Court, have money to blow on fancy clothing, fresh food, and even magically-powered transportation devices. Somewhat standard stuff, but I got a really good sense of the city, and the hardiness one needed to survive in the Labyrinth.

Kai and Reev are siblings by choice. He took her in when she was a child; Kai has no memories of her life before Reev found her. They support each other, and are working their way out of the Labyrinth and into a better area. When Reev goes missing — just another missing person in a string of unsolved disappearances — Kai will stop at nothing to save her big brother. If necessary, she’ll even use the ability Reev has told her never to use: her ability to manipulate the threads of time. I really liked Kai and Reev, because it’s not often you see such a sibling relationship, and one where they aren’t blood relatives. I like the theme of chosen family versus biological family in books, and that comes out to play in GATES OF THREAD AND STONE.

So, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE has a few things going for it. The beginning is a bit slow but good, since it develops the city of Ninurta, and Kai and Reev. But after Reev disappears, the book goes from “oh, this is pretty cool” to just “hmm” for me.

Kai teams up with Avan, her only real friend other than Reev, and they set off into the devastation outside Ninurta to rescue Reev. They have somewhat of a romance, and I did appreciate that Kai would keep reminding herself she should focus on saving her brother rather than flirting with Avan. I could see why Kai liked Avan, but I’m not entirely sure why Avan liked Kai. The romance — I could have taken or left it, especially with the ending.

Oh, the middle and ending. That’s where my ambivalence for GATES OF THREAD AND STONE comes in. The middle is somewhat a waste of time. Rather than learn how to better use her time manipulation ability, Kai’s told not to use it. Instead … she learns to kick and punch. Bah. The ending of the book felt like a rush, with the author dropping revelation after revelation. There were a lot of them in the last few chapters, and I needed to reread the rush of information so I could piece everything together.

Overall, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE was a mixed book for me. I liked some parts and didn’t like others, but I’m pretty sure I would continue this series. I don’t want to spoil everything, but I did like the mythology of the Immortals (read and find out!), and I’m curious to see what will happen next.

Socialize with the author:

Lori M. Lee:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

The Reading Machine [6]: August 3, 2014

reading machine

For my Stacking the Shelves/Sunday Post, which I’m calling The Reading Machine, I list the books I’m hoping to read in the upcoming week as well as a short life/blog update.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here. Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and you can find out all about it here.

The Reading Machine:

I’ve been in somewhat of a reading slump — I read 18 books in July, and was “meh” on a lot of them. I have a couple of reviews I need to write, but it’s hard figuring out what to say for “meh” books, so I’m going to try and keep from ending up with 15 reviews to write .

So I’m just going to try to review a few books this week, one of which I’d like to finish by tomorrow.

RISE OF THE KING by R.A. Salvatore
for review
GATES OF STONE AND THREAD by Lori M. Lee
for review

I plan on combing through Book Outlet’s YA sale — thanks Giselle @ Book Nerd for letting me know about the sale! Maybe I’ll have a big haul next week :D

On the Blog:

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron
Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

What Up, Life?

funkyfrog#11315One of the reasons I’ve been somewhat quiet on the blog is because I made a very, very stupid move and started playing World of Warcraft again. (The other is headaches due to the freaky rainy summer). My battletag is FunkyFrog#11315 if you want to come say hi! I’d love some WoW/blogging buddies to chat with.

Here’s something pretty nerdy: I often read and fish (in WoW) at the same time. Yay for ebooks!

Thanks to Anya @ Starships and Dragonwings, I’ve been pondering a FitBit Flex. I thought about getting one a while ago, but was holding out to see if there were any better activity/smart watches coming out. Nothing has interested me yet, other than a few that are still in development so I’m reconsidering the Flex. I’m actually most interested in the sleep tracking feature of the Flex, so if you have one, what do you think about that? Or any general comments on one?

– leeanna

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James MalloryThe House of the Four Winds by James Mallory, Mercedes Lackey
Series: One Dozen Daughters #1
Published by Tor on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

Book Review:

I was so excited to start THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. THE FIRE ROSE by Mercedes Lackey is one of my “comfort books,” a book I can read over and over, one that I love. So I was hoping to find another favorite in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. Unfortunately, this book won’t be joining my favorites list.

The book got off to a rocky start. I was almost ready to put it down after the first couple of chapters because I got tired of trying to remember all the oddly named countries. There’s Waulosiene, Lochrin, Albion, Cisleithanian, Ifrane, etc. None of them are actually important, but I didn’t know that at first, and I was trying to figure out what real countries the fictional ones were modeled on. There’s a real lack of worldbuilding in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS, which is a pity.

Moving on … after Clarice finds transport to the New World, the book slows down. I had no idea where the book was heading, and I again wanted to put it down. The one good thing about this part is that the authors build a strong friendship between Clarice and Dominick, although Dominick doesn’t know that Clarice is actually a female. He thinks she’s Clarence Swann.

The main villain, Shamal, shows up way too late in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. The conflict/problems she creates are resolved way too easily. I was rather disappointed in how that whole thread wrapped up. “Disappointed” describes my feelings as a whole for the book. It wasn’t the fun, swashbuckling adventure the summary promised me.

The writing was almost bad fanfic quality. There was an abundance of adverbs. Clarice and Dominick were always saying something “carefully” or “lightly” or “charmingly.” And so on. When there’s a lot of that, I can’t help but notice and it pulls me out of the story. I also can tell you what every single character wore, down to the type of buttons on his or her coat. A lot of the action happened off the page, as well. Clarice would say she was going to do something, such as explain a situation to the ship’s doctor, but we’d pick up the narrative after she had already explained it. I got tired of that the fourth or fifth time it happened — I want to see a character’s reaction to bad news, not be told about it after.

As for the romance … well, the best I can say is that Clarice and Dominick developed a good friendship. I don’t really know where the true love came from, and I don’t know about you, but if I found out someone lied to me about their gender? I’d have some issues with that.

Socialize with the author:

Mercedes Lackey:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

James Mallory:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. CameronUnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron
Published by Self-Published on July 10, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
Blair Walton isn't your average curvaceous tattooed children's librarian. She's also one half of bestselling romance author, Scarlet Rose. Along with her BFF Raine, she spends her nights writing books so steamy, she's afraid they would shock her Southern conservative grandmother to death . . . if she knew about them. That's why she and Raine write in secret.

On deadline for their latest book and out of ideas, Raine suggests (demands) that Blair find a guy and "do some research." Declan Bennet has all the qualifications: He's British, looks fabulous in a suit, has glorious blue eyes and gets bonus points for being an amazing single dad to his adorable son, Drake. But what starts out as a research project quickly turns into something much more. And Blair's not the only one with secrets.

unwritten blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for UNWRITTEN by Chelsea M. Cameron. The tour is hosted by Inkslinger PR. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

Book Review:

Romance isn’t typically my genre of choice, but sometimes a book grabs my attention, usually because of the author or summary. The idea behind UNWRITTEN is what pulled me in: Blair is a children’s librarian by day, and an author by night. She and her best friend, Raine, write steamy novels together.

UNWRITTEN starts off with this sentence: “What’s another word for [ladyparts]?” (My edit). You can’t go wrong with a book that starts like that!

As a wannabe author, I couldn’t want to dive into Blair’s secret life. She and Raine are having trouble with their current work in progress. They’re under deadline stress, but are stuck. Convinced they need fresh inspiration, Raine pushes Blair to date the cute, single dad that’s started bringing his son to the library. But what’s supposed to be a simple fling soon turns into something more. But are Blair and Declan ready for that something more?

I read UNWRITTEN as just the right time: I needed book that would cheer me up, make me feel good while I was reading. I blazed through it in a few hours, and wanted my own Declan when I finished. The romance between Blair and Declan is swoon-worthy, and I don’t say that very often. Declan was a great love interest, romantic and considerate, and oh yeah, amazing in bed. I don’t like kids, but his son was adorable, and I laughed when Blair thought about how to turn him into an even better reader.

I also liked the super strong friendship between Blair and Raine. Come to think of it, I’d like my own Raine, too. They often joked that they were platonic life partners, because they were always there for each other, and because they knew each other so well. The banter between them, especially when they were writing or brainstorming, reminded me of myself and a writing buddy. I was also happy that the author put so much of writing into UNWRITTEN — from writer’s block to deadline stress to constantly coming up with new ideas to having characters talk inside your head. Yup.

There’s a lot of humor in UNWRITTEN, as well as tons of pop culture and music references. But it’s not all fun and games, as Blair does have to deal with an unexpected tragedy. I loved seeing Raine and Declan stand by her, offering support and reassuring her that not everyone reacts the same to bad things.

I would have liked to see a bit more of the happily ever after, but overall, I quite enjoyed UNWRITTEN. It’s a stand-a-lone, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a novella about Blair and Declan, or a book for Raine, as I’m sure she has her own story to tell.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Chelsea M. Cameron is a YA/NA New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. Lover of things random and ridiculous, Jane Austen/Charlotte and Emily Bronte Fangirl, red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car and tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman). She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Her New Adult Contemporary Romance titles include My Favorite Mistake, which has been bought by Harlequin along with a sequel, Deeper We Fall and Faster We Burn (April 20, 2013).

Her Young Adult books include Nocturnal, Nightmare and Neither, the first three books in The Noctalis Chronicles. The fourth and final book, Neverend will be out in 2013. Whisper, the first in The Whisper Trilogy is also available, with the second book in the series, Silence and the final book, Listen coming out in 2014.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall

Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray KendallThe Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall
Published by Ravenstone on June 24, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Their families dead from the pandemic SitkaAZ13, known as Pest, 15-year-old cheerleader Clare and 13-year-old chess club member Jem, an unlikely pair, are thrown together and realize that, if either of them wishes to reach adulthood, they must find a cure.A shadowy adult broadcasting on the radio to all orphaned children promises just that — to cure children once they grow into Pest, then to feed them and to care for them.

Or does this adult have something else in mind?

Against a hostile landscape of rotting cities and of a countryside infected by corpses and roamed by voracious diseased survivors, Jem and Clare make their bid for life and, with their group of fellow child-travelers growing, embark on a journey to find the grownup they believe holds the cure. Their only weapon is Clare’s dog, Bear.

But Clare and Jem, as well as their followers, are hampered by the knowledge that everything in this new child-led world had become suspect—the love of diseased adults, alliances, trust, hope. As Clare and Jem learn to stitch wounds, skin deer and survive in the ashes of the old world perhaps it is no surprise that they begin to find that friendship is as redemptive as anything they seek—that friendship has its own kind of healing power. And, at the end of their journey, in the face of the ultimate betrayal, they discover that out of friendship can come love.

Book Review:

Sometimes when I finish a book, I feel … gutted. In a good way. I’m sad that I finished the book. I’m sad that I won’t get to spend any more time with the characters, watching them explore their world and grow in the process. I’m sad that my adventure in reading the book is over. I find it hard to start another book, because I’m still thinking about the book I just finished.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS made me feel that way. This book got to me. That’s hard for a post-apocalyptic/dystopian book to do, because I’ve read a ton in the genres, almost to the point where they’re all the same. To a degree, THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is like a lot of what’s out there: all adults are killed by a mysterious disease leaving the world full of kids. Some kids band together, some go it alone, some live, some die. There’s usually someone smart who takes advantage of the chaos to create their own castle and rule like a king. And so on.

All of that, and darker, is in this book. But what’s different about THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is how it’s written and the characters. Instead of employing the usual first-person point of view that’s common, the author tells the story in third-person. This sort of keeps you from the full emotional impact of the known world ending, but then the little things really pop up and sucker punch you. Like when Clare realizes there probably won’t be any new books written for a very, very long time. The author also sometimes gives hints as to when something really bad is going to happen, which got me. For example, saying that if Clare knew what was going to happen next, she would have enjoyed X moment of happiness. This tactic had me trying to flip ahead so I could find out right away what would happen, which is hard to do when you’re reading an e-book.

The characters and the relationships they form are another great part of this book. I’m always critical of romantic relationships (and they usually don’t work for me), so it’s super refreshing to see friendship be so important. I think one of the themes of THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is the family you choose. Clare nearly loses herself after her parents die from Pest, but when she meets Jem, Mirri, and Sarai, she has a new reason to live. And all of the characters were so distinct, so alive. Not just the main four, but all of them, from the gang of city kids to Ramah and Bird Boy. I could have read a lot more about every one of them.

For the first third or so of the book, I wanted THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS to move faster. It’s somewhat slow at the beginning, setting up Pest, then following Clare’s depression after her parents’ death. But as I got further in, I started to enjoy the slow pace. The book does pick up after Clare meets those who will become her family. The action builds from there, to a showdown with a creepy villain. I rather liked that part, though it’s hard to say why without spoiling everything. Let’s just say the author doesn’t take the usual route, and I enjoyed that.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS breathes fresh light into the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genres, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a new twist on the same old. Oh, I forgot to mention one more good thing — this book is a standalone!

About the author:

Gillian Murray Kendall is a American author and a Professor of English literature at Smith College. A specialist in Shakespeare and English Renaissance drama, and a graduate of Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program, she teaches a course on the post-apocalyptic novel as well as on topics in Renaissance literature. Kendall is the author of articles, short stories and a book of essays.
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Visions by Larkin Rose

Book Review: Visions by Larkin RoseVisions by Larkin Rose
Published by Bold Strokes Books on June 17, 2014
Genres: Adult, Erotica, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Paige Burton meets the love of her sexual life at a masked sex party when she’s too young to realize how special their connection is. After years of searching for similar sexual bliss, she has officially given up. Now she pours out her frustration via her online blog and by dancing away her frustrations in her club.

Billionaire architect Mayson Montgomery made her fortune building eco-friendly offshore wind turbines. She learned quickly that money stood in the way of finding a happy ever after. But she still remembers her masked angel years ago.

When they meet again, Paige doesn’t make the connection between her masked lover from the past and Galveston’s raunchy rich heart throb. Fortunately, Mayson is a little more aware and won’t give up until Paige has fallen head over heels for her.

Will Paige and Mayson grasp the love in front of them or will they let it slip away a second time?

Book Review:

VISIONS started off a bit rocky for me. The two main characters, Paige and Mayson, meet up at a masked sex party and jump into bed with each other within pages. Yes, I do know the summary promised that, but I didn’t expect it at the very start of the book!

But once I got further into VISIONS, the beginning made a lot of sense. Ever since Paige had that mindblowing sex at the masquerade, she’s been searching for more. But her search has been downright disappointing, and so she’s become a connoisseur of sex toys, even writing a review blog. Mayson has put her love life on the backburner, content to provide humanitarian relief for disaster stricken areas. When the two meet again — by coincidence and face to face — neither knows who the other is, and sparks fly. Paige can’t stand Mayson, but once Mayson figures out Paige is the one from the masquerade, she’s determined to win her over.

There’s a lot of steamy sex in VISIONS. It’s in the first chapter, and then throughout the book. There’s the Mayson/Paige friction/chemistry, which was fun to read, and also the Vinden/Paige adventures, wherein a masked mystery woman seduces Paige and gives her incredible orgasms. I hate to say it, but there was a bit too much sex for me in VISIONS. The different sex scenes were fun at first, but they got somewhat repetitive.

I thought VISIONS was pretty good. Perfect for the beach or an afternoon of escapism. Paige and Mayson were both strong women who knew what they wanted and were determined to get it. I did wonder why Paige was so focused on finding someone for great sex and great sex alone.

Socialize with the author:

Larkin Rose:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle Paige

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle PaigeDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Book Review:

I like fairytale retellings a lot; I’ve read dozens and dozens. But DOROTHY MUST DIE is my first retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Well, my first book retelling. I really liked Tinman, Syfy’s redo. So I was hoping for something along that line.

I should have loved DOROTHY MUST DIE. Instead of the colorful, happy, Munchkin-filled, joyous land we remember from the movie, Oz has turned into a desolate wasteland. Glinda uses Munchkins as slave labor, mining magic from Oz so Dorothy can have it. Oh yeah — Dorothy returned to Oz because Kansas just wasn’t good enough after her adventures. Instead of a wholesome farm girl, Dorothy’s a powermad princess, and has remade Oz in her vision. That? All good. I love that sort of stuff.

But I didn’t love DOROTHY MUST DIE. It’s a book with great ideas but poor execution. It’s basically 469 pages of setup for the rest of the series. The title should be “Dorothy Almost Dies” or a “A Primer of Oz History Under Dorothy.” The beginning of the book caught my attention, the middle put me to sleep, and the end left me saying, “that’s it?”

Amy, our sarcastic, unwilling hero is brought to Oz in a tornado. Even in its current condition, Oz is a step up from home, where she lives in a trailer park with her addict mother and is bullied by the popular girls at school. Amy’s an unlikely hero. When she’s rescued by a group of Wicked witches, she doesn’t take their word for it that she’s the only one who can kill Dorothy. Amy’s an okay character. She did some stupid things, which I always dislike, but I thought she also reacted realistically to the situations she got herself in.

My biggest problem with DOROTHY MUST DIE is that not a lot happens. For a book of its length, there should be a lot more going on. As I said, the beginning was good, with lots of action. But once Amy settled in with the witches, the book took a left turn to boring. Normally I really like descriptions of training and turning someone into an assassin/hero/etc., but the author didn’t keep me interested. I kept wanting to skim to more exciting parts, but they didn’t come until the last couple of pages and then the book ends on a cliffhanger.

After training, Amy infiltrates Dorothy’s palace … as a maid. So there’s another boring part, because I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to make reading about cleaning exciting. And Dorothy likes her palace to be really, really clean. I did not enjoy 100+ pages of that.

DOROTHY MUST DIE is the first book in a trilogy. Usually, you want to read the first book, because it’s full of information you need for the next two books. When I finished DOROTHY MUST DIE, I really felt like I could have skipped it and jumped right into book two, if it was available.

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Danielle Paige:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana Haygert

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana HaygertBreaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert
Series: Breaking #1
Published by Self-Published on August 14, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 401
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.

After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.

Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.

But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.

Book Review:

BREAKING THE REINS was quite difficult to read at times, due to the main character being in an abusive relationship. Now, I did like that the author explored being in an abusive relationship, and the possible thoughts/excuses one might make, but I thought she went a little too far with the boyfriend’s behavior. But more about that later.

BREAKING THE REINS is an apt title for this book, as there are three characters who are struggling. Hannah’s stuck in a few ways: she’s inherited her grandmother’s ranch, a property her father and boyfriend want her to sell; she’s in that abusive relationship with boyfriend Eric; and she’s trying to rehabilitate an abused horse. Argus, the abused horse, is scared of people, but unless he makes some progress, he’s likely to be put down. And Leo, a super hot Brazilian polo player, wants to be Hannah’s rescuer, but he’s hiding some big secrets which could come between them.

I mostly liked this book. The horse bits weren’t 100% accurate, which was a disappointment, but I got so into Hannah’s story that I was able to mostly overlook that. I got so into Hannah’s story because for a lot of the book, it was realistic to me. I knew something was off about Eric almost immediately, and it’s never easy for me to read about a character that can’t see it, or tries to rationalize what’s going on. Did I want Hannah to stand up to Eric and leave him, especially once he started hitting her? Hell yes. Did I understand the excuses she made to herself to stay with him? Hell yes.

It’s impossible for me to explain why I thought Eric was a bit too out there without spoiling a majority of the book. So I’ll settle for saying that I think the author tried to make him too horrific, too over the top. Even before Eric was too much, he made my stomach turn, so I really wish she hadn’t gone as far as she did, because some of the things Eric supposedly did were just unbelievable. That affected my thoughts for the book as a whole, taking it down a star for me.

I do think BREAKING THE REINS is a good introduction to Juliana Haygert’s work, and I would read more of her books.

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Juliana Haygert:
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– leeanna