Book Review: The Herald (The Sundering #6) by Ed Greenwood

Book Review: The Herald (The Sundering #6) by Ed GreenwoodThe Herald by Ed Greenwood
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
In the 6th and final book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Forgotten Realms®, further chronicles the exploits of Elminster as he fights for the future of Faerûn.

Chaos grips Faerûn as vainglory, prophecy, and ancient forces comingle in the shadows cast by war. Agents of the Shadovar lurk in the corners of Candlekeep in search of the arcane secrets that will power their war machine toward Myth Drannor. Gods and their Chosen run amok, all in a gambit to seize power. And a threat foretold by an ancient seer stirs.

At the heart of it all, Mystra, the great Goddess of Magic, has withdrawn from the world. Without her protection, Elminster, her greatest champion, fears for the nascent Weave, the fabric of magic Mystra wields to bind Faerûn. Will the Nightseer Shar, mistress of the great and fearsome Shadovar, seize the opportunity to blanket the world with her Shadow Weave?

With the help of Storm Silverhand and his protégé Amarune, Elminster works frantically to strengthen the Weave’s tethers and forestall what seems an inevitable reckoning. But other interests machinate for their own sinister ends.

As the Sundering draws nigh, Elminster and his heroic cohort must see the signs for what they are. The choice of worlds lies in the balance.

Book Review:

THE HERALD is the sixth and final book in The Sundering series. The books are very loosely connected, and follow heroes and Chosen as they navigate the effects of the Sundering upon their lives. I’ve enjoyed most of the books in the series, but unfortunately, THE HERALD just didn’t work for me as well as previous books did.

THE HERALD assumes familiarity with Ed Greenwood’s other novels in the Realms. This is the first time I’ve read one of his books, so I didn’t know who most of the characters were. Yes, I know there’s a lot of books about Elminster, and I’d heard of him. But I didn’t know many of the others that pop up in this book, including Mirt, Manshoon, and the Srinshee. I wish more background had been provided on all the characters, because I had to resort to Googling the ones I named and others to find out who they were and why they were important.

The writing was somewhat difficult to get through. There was a lot of point of view switching — first Elminster, then Amarune, then a random Shade, then Elminster again, etc. I wish the narration had been more consistent, sticking with the same character whenever possible. The switches were also difficult to keep track of because the author constantly referred to characters without calling them by name. For example, Elminster was El, then the Old Mage, then the wizard, etc. Add in nicknames, and it was hard to remember who was who.

Lastly, I feel like things just didn’t come together. The Shadovar were trying to destroy the Weave at Shar’s direction, Elminster was trying to save it, but then there was a lich and other stuff … I’m just not sure all of what happened, to be honest. I had to force myself to keep reading, and I did because I wanted to know how the series would end, but it was a hard read. I wish there had been more about the Sundering, and an ending that didn’t leave me scratching my head wondering what the outcome was.

– leeanna

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’Kane

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’KaneEssence by Lisa Ann O’Kane
Series: Essence #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on June 3, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

Book Review:

Here’s the thing with ESSENCE: the summary gives away most of the story. Because when Autumn runs away from the Centrists, she doesn’t realize she’s in another cult until the end of the book. However, thanks to the summary, and basic common sense on the part of the reader, it’s easy to see the Community is no better (and maybe even worse) than what Autumn left behind.

Autumn grew up in the Centrist movement, which believes that feeling emotions drains your Essence. As it’s impossible to know how much Essence each person is born with, Centrists live by the mantra “Neutrality is the key to longevity.” Doing anything to expend Essence, from being happy to sad, to even sweating, drains your Essence. Once you run out, you die.

But after her baby brother choked to death, Autumn started to question what she was brought up to believe. After a chance meeting with Outsiders, she runs away and joins a new Community, one that’s determined to show Essence drain is bull. It’s her chance to know for sure if her brother died because his Essence ran out, or because he choked.

Establishing all of that — the beginning of the book — that was interesting. The Centrist movement and their thoughts on Essence and not feeling emotions is what originally drew me to the book. I wish I’d learned more about it; there were a couple of hints as to how the Centrists came about, but not as much worldbuilding as I would have liked. But then, I’m a reader who likes a lot of worldbuilding.

Once Autumn joined the Community in Yosemite, the book took a downturn for me. ESSENCE basically becomes an adrenaline ride, as people in the Community are encouraged to do dangerous things like jumping from cliffs. Anything to raise their heartbeat, to prove Essence loss has nothing to do with life span. Although hesitant at first, Autumn soon jumps in with both feet, falling for both the bad boy of the community and adrenaline highs.

Yosemite itself was a great character in the book, a perfect place for Autumn to explore herself. I thought the author did a good job of describing it. But that was the best part of the book for me. Otherwise… I don’t quite know. I thought ESSENCE was a one book deal, but because nothing big happened until the last couple of pages, I wonder if it’s going to be a series to tie up all the loose ends.

I wanted to know more about the Community, just like I wanted to know more about the Centrists. But instead of learning about her new Community, Autumn dives into a romance with Ryder, the son of the Community’s leader, and starts trying to push her Essence to the fullest by doing dangerous stuff. I didn’t mind that she experimented with sex, drinking, and drugs — teens do that, and I did like that there was a mention for safe sex. It was pretty clear to me that Autumn traded one cult for another, so I spent the rest of the book waiting for her to wake up and smell the piney air. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, because as I said, I think any reader will figure that out pretty quickly.

In the end, I guess I just expected more from this book than was there. ESSENCE felt like set up for a showdown to come in another book.

Socialize with the author:

Lisa Ann O’Kane:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Fiery Edge of Steel (Noon Onyx #2) by Jill Archer

Book Review: Fiery Edge of Steel (Noon Onyx #2) by Jill ArcherFiery Edge of Steel by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #2
Published by Ace on May 28, 2013
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
4 Stars
Lucifer and his army triumphed at Armageddon, leaving humans and demons living in uncertain peace based on sacrifice and strict laws. It is up to those with mixed demon and human blood, the Host, to prevent society from falling into anarchy.

Noon Onyx is the first female Host in memory to wield the destructive waning magic that is used to maintain order among the demons. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious Angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways.

When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, a task which will most likely involve trying and killing the patron demon of that area, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

Book Review:

The second book in the Noon Onyx series, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL picks up Noon’s story just after book one, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. At the start of the book, Noon and her boyfriend Ari are at a Carne Vale: a demon execution. But Noon, still uncomfortable with the thought of killing demons, isn’t thrilled about having to participate. She doesn’t want to kill a demon just because she’s been told he’s guilty. She wants to know he’s guilty for herself.

In this installment in the series, Noon becomes more comfortable and accepting of her waning powers. It’s great to see her continue to evolve as a character. I like how realistic Noon is. Sometimes she won’t do something she knows she should do, because she’s in a bad mood or doesn’t feel like it. But eventually she’ll get over herself and do it. We’ve all had moments like that, right? Those moments tend to lead to more trouble for Noon, but she deals with whatever comes up.

For me, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL read smoother than the first book because there’s not as much information or worldbuilding needed. I think I read about a third of it before I knew it. This book isn’t set at St. Luck’s, because Noon’s client assignment for the semester takes her out into Halja proper. It was a good way to see how others live in Halja, especially “normal” humans who are just trying to eke out a living.

Much of the book is set during a journey down the river Lethe, which did slow down the middle of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL. However, two new characters are introduced in this book: Rafe, Noon’s Angel, and Fara, Ari’s Angel. Maegesters work with Angel partners. It was nice to see an angel other than Peter (I wasn’t a big fan of him in book one), and nice to see how the Angel side of things works. Rafe was like a breath of fresh air amongst the usually stuffy Angels, and I enjoyed his dry witticisms.

Overall, I enjoyed FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, since it shows more of the demon negotiations and trickery Maegesters are expected to deal with.

About the author:

author jill archerJill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Monthly Summary: May 2014

in may…

I read 17 books in May. Yay! I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. A lot were fantasy, and I think I’m on a fantasy kick… which is good because who doesn’t like some fantasy?

Other than reading a fair amount, I participated in Armchair BEA for the third year in a row, and found it a good way to get back into blogging. Next week I’m going to return to doing Stacking the Shelves, since that’s a good way to help me plan my reading for the week.

Aaaand that’s about it.

     

Reviews Posted:
Timeless by Rachel Spangler.
The Sentinel (The Sundering #5) by Troy Denning.
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson.
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell.
Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith.
Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer.

Other Stuff:
Blog Tour: Kissed (The Thorn Chronicles #1) by Kimberly Loth
Armchair BEA 2014: Day 1: Introductions
Armchair BEA 2014: Day 2: Author Interaction
Armchair BEA 2014: Day 3: Expanding Blogging Horizons & Novellas
Armchair BEA 2014: Day 5: Middle Grade/Young Adult/New Adult

– leeanna

Armchair BEA 2014: Wrapup

armchair bea 2014

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Another Armchair BEA has come to an end. Boo. I am still catching up on comments and visiting blogs — I had a migraine in the middle of the week that put me behind. And then a lot of outside work, yay. :| I really wish Armchair BEA was longer than a week, because it’s such a whirlwind of activity, and it’s so easy to run out of time.

I shall reply to everyone’s comments and catch up on other blogs, though. I did meet some new to me bloggers, and I think I’m getting back into the swing of blogging. Too bad I didn’t meet anyone near enough to me to have a coffee/blog updating date! That would have been fun.

My takeaway from this year’s BEA is that I need to just do things! I mentioned in my post on Author Interaction that I haven’t done a lot of it yet because I’m shy about doing so. A ton of people told me to just freaking do it, so I will work on that. I think I also introduced, or maybe gave a different take on New Adult to a couple of you, too.

Oh — if you added me on social media and I haven’t followed you back yet, I will soon! That’s part of my catching up.

My posts:

I hope everyone had fun this year, whether it was your first or third Armchair BEA. And I hope I’ll see some of the new people I’ve met around the book blogosphere!

– leeanna

Armchair BEA 2014: Day 5: Middle Grade/Young Adult/New Adult

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Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Middle Grade:

I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade yet, but I’m starting to read more. It’s fun, and usually doesn’t have a lot of romance (yay!) My favorite, favorite middle grade series would be Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan.

Young Adult:

Young Adult is primarily what I read. Currently there are 200+ young adult book reviews on the blog. I think I like this genre the most because anything goes. It’s more of an identifier than a genre, since you’ve got young adult romance, young adult fantasy, young adult historical fiction, etc. etc. But I like the creativity that comes out of young adult. I mean, where else would you find a dystopian version of The Wizard of Oz, or a Greek/Roman myth inspired version of Beauty and the Beast?

I’m often critical of the content in young adult, particularly the romantic relationships. I’m so tired of the insta-love/insta-lust tropes, and the love triangle tropes. I know people say teens are like that, but you know what? Not all of them are. I certainly wasn’t, so I would like to see books that portray romance in ways other than what’s popular, so kids like me can see themselves too. But that’s a topic for a longer discussion.

New Adult:

I’m mentioning New Adult quickly because I saw on a couple other posts this week that a lot of people don’t understand what it is, or don’t see a need for it. First, I invite you to check out New Adult Alley, one of the best sources for information on authors, publishers, topics, and New Adult books.

New Adult is a newish genre, but it’s one I’m really excited about. When I was in my earlier twenties, I would have loved more transition between young adult and adult novels. Now, I’m generalizing, but adult novels to me usually mean the characters are going through marriage or divorce or something like that. Yes, I know there’s more to it, but I’m mentioning that because New Adult talks about the messy relationships that come between first crushes/loves (Young Adult) and the steps of marriage/divorce/etc.

Right now, New Adult is kind of sticking to extremely troubled main characters who have undeniable attractions to each other. Or it’s thinly veiled erotica. All of which is fine, but I do hope to see New Adult grow. New Adult reads I’d recommend (that go beyond that) are: BUNHEADS by Sophie Flack and FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE by Jennifer Comeaux.

A lot of my own ideas fit into the New Adult age bracket/experiences, so I’m hoping it sticks around for that too!

I’ve done a post in the past for top ten things on my reading list. What would you like to see more of in these genres?

– leeanna

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer RingerDancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer
Published by Viking on February 20, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
A behind-the-curtains look at the rarefied world of classical ballet from a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet.

In her charming and self-effacing voice, Jenifer Ringer covers the highs and lows of what it’s like to make it to the top in the exclusive, competitive ballet world. From the heart-pounding moments waiting in the wings before a performance to appearing on Oprah to discuss weight and body image among dancers, Dancing Through It is moving and revelatory.

Raised in South Carolina, Ringer led a typical kid’s life until she sat in on a friend’s ballet class, an experience that would change her life forever. By the age of twelve she was enrolled at the elite Washington School of Ballet and soon moved to the School of American Ballet. At sixteen she was a professional dancer at the New York City Ballet in Manhattan, home of the legendary George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Ringer takes us inside the dancer’s world, detailing a typical day, performance preparation, and the extraordinary pressures that these athletes face. Ringer shares exhilarating stories of starring in Balanchine productions, working with the famous Peter Martins, and of meeting her husband and falling in love at the New York City Ballet. Ringer also talks candidly of Alistair Macauley’s stinging critique of her weight in his 2010 New York Times review of The Nutcracker that ignited a public dialogue about ballet and weight. She unflinchingly describes her personal struggles with eating disorders and body image, and shares how her faith helped her to heal and triumph over these challenges.

Book Review:

DANCING THROUGH IT is the memoir of Jenifer Ringer, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. I hadn’t heard of her, nor seen her perform, but I’m always on the hunt for books about ballet.

The book did succeed in that aspect for me. There’s tons and tons of information on ballet, dancing, training, a dancer’s daily life, the different ballets and choreographers, the adrenaline rush of performing, and so on. I really enjoyed the glimpse into a working ballerina’s life, from the benefits to the sacrifices. I found all of it absolutely fascinating, and did think that Jenifer Ringer described ballet in a way a non-dancer could understand. She also answered a lot of questions, such as what happens when a dancer falls or forgets choreography.

But what I didn’t like about DANCING THROUGH IT was the heavy emphasis on faith. I’d say the book is split 50/50 between ballet and faith. I’m not a religious person, but I understand other people have their beliefs. However, when Jenifer mentioned God or praised him for what she had in what felt like every paragraph, it got to be too much for me.

Overall, the book is good for information about ballet, but not as interesting as it could be due to the emphasis on religion.

– leeanna

Armchair BEA 2014: Day 3: Expanding Blogging Horizons & Novellas

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Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Expanding Blogging Horizons:

Here’s the funny thing about expanding my blogging horizons. I’m always thinking about it. Ideally, I see my blog as a jumping point for more things, such as launching a writing career, getting back into web design, or even using it to find freelance work or launch a social media empire. (Yes, sometimes I have delusions of having an empire. Emperor Palpatine had the right idea!) Or something as simple as posting more types of things to the blog, although I’m not sure where the line is for too much non-book content.

But I never quite get around to any of it.

Usually I’m too busy with other stuff, but sometimes I just don’t have the motivation. Sometimes I do feel insecure as a blogger and think, “what’s the point?” Yeah, I feel a bit silly for admitting it, but I think we’ve all been there.

Now that I think about it, some of those ideas, such as posting about diy projects or geeky interests or fitness might be the very thing that makes my blog stand out… Hah.

So! How do you keep yourself motivated to expand your blogging horizons? And to actually follow through?


Novellas:

I’ll admit, I’m not really a fan of short stories. If I’m going to read something, I want at least 200 pages so I can really sink into a story, characters, and the world. Preferably more pages. Yes, I am a greedy reader :D

I’m not sure what I think about the newish trend to publish novellas for popular series. I’ve read only one, PHOENIX OVERTURE because I absolutely love the Newsoul series. I know Marissa Meyer has written novellas for The Lunar Chronicles, but I haven’t checked them out yet. And there are tons of others, of course.

I’ve talked before on my blog about wanting to be an author. If you’re new here, I write a lot of fanfic, but I’d like to move beyond that and publish original work. Ironically enough … I think I’d start with novellas. Yeah. I’m crazy, in case you haven’t figured that out.

So, what do you think of novellas? I know some readers love ‘em, some hate ‘em, and some are indifferent.


– leeanna

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay SmithSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Book Review:

On the surface, I should have loved SEKRET. Historical fiction + science fiction? Check. Teenagers with supernatural powers? Check. A real life dystopia? Check. But something about SEKRET just didn’t work for me.

Yulia is able to sense thoughts and memories through touch. It’s a secret ability that’s helped her survive as a fugitive in Communist Russia. But that ability draws the interest of the KGB, and at the start of the book, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the KGB as a psychic spy. If she doesn’t cooperate, her mother and brother will pay the price.

She’s not the only one with special abilities. After the KGB takes her, she lives with a group of other teens who have abilities such as remote viewing and seeing the future. They are supposed to thwart the CIA’s attempts to steal plans for the Soviet Union’s attempt (Veter I) at orbiting the moon.

SEKRET just didn’t hold my interest. At the halfway point, I thought about restarting the book, because I was sure I’d missed something important. I hadn’t, but I felt that way because of how slowly the story progressed. I also spent some of that time confused, as the use of powers didn’t always make sense/was inconsistent. For example, Yulia works through touch, but somehow she’s able to tap into another character’s remote viewing of a room, and read an object she’s not physically touching. Another example: Yulia and Valentin are somehow able to communicate telepathically, without Yulia touching Valentin. But she couldn’t speak telepathically with anyone else.

I did appreciate that the author gave some background on the Cold War and the Soviet Union Yulia lives in. I read another YA book that was set during the Cold War, but it didn’t set the scene at all. So I did like that part of SEKRET. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of Yulia’s life before the KGB took her, but I’ll take what I can get.

The training and missions were interesting, but Yulia and her comrades didn’t spend a lot of time on that. The book just kind of floats around, going from the Veter I thing to the CIA hunting down the psychics to Yulia trying to escape. Yeah, in a house full of mind readers, she tries to plan an escape. *headdesk* SEKRET was very convoluted for me.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Smith:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Armchair BEA 2014: Day 2: Author Interaction

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Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Author Interaction:

I haven’t actually met any authors in real life, because I live in a rural area of the country and no one ever comes here. Author tours rarely hit up Ohio, and if they do, it’s usually in Cincinnati, which is a 12 hour roundtrip drive. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me, because I’m not much of an events person.

I have connected a bit with authors on Twitter, mostly tagging them in links for good reviews, saying I’m reading their books, or asking a quick question.

I’ve always wanted to do more, though. Send an email when a book really affects me, or I want to just say thank you to an author for writing something. But I’ve never done it. Something always holds me back.

What about you?

– leeanna