Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty CopelandLife in Motion by Misty Copeland
Published by Touchstone on March 4, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Picture a ballerina in a tutu and toe shoes. What does she look like?"

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina.

When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider's unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams reality.

Life in Motion is a story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

Book Review:

Before reading LIFE IN MOTION, I had never heard of Misty Copeland. But I’m always on the lookout for ballet books, especially books by dancers, so I dove in eagerly. I finished the book in a day, and found it easy to read and interesting. In other words, I’m now happy I know who Misty Copeland is, because she’s had quite the life, and I’ll follow her career in the future.

Misty didn’t come from the typical ballet background. In fact, she didn’t take a ballet class until she was in middle school. She’d always loved dancing and was the captain of the middle school drill team, but ballet? Nah. By fifteen, Misty was considered a prodigy in the ballet world, and had been offered scholarships by top ballet schools. Around the same time, Misty was in the middle of a legal battle between her mother and ballet teacher; the teacher had encouraged Misty to file for self-emancipation to move forward in her ballet career, but Misty’s mother fought to keep her.

Misty’s story is almost like a fairy tale. Only the third African American to be promoted to soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, she came from a life of poverty and struggle. At one point, she and her siblings lived in a motel. She’s had to overcome racism, both subtle and overt, as well as body changes and injuries. Throughout the book, she has a pretty positive attitude about everything, rarely succumbing to pity. It was rather inspiring to read.

I do feel like this book was written early in Misty’s career, because I’m sure she’ll eventually be promoted to a principal dancer. However, I was never bored during LIFE IN MOTION, and really enjoyed reading Misty’s journey.

Socialize with the author:

Misty Copeland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities #1) by Gail Z. Martin

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities #1) by Gail Z. MartinDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Series: Deadly Curiosities #1
Published by Solaris on June 24, 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Cassidy Kincaide owns Trifles & Folly, an antique/curio store and high-end pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina that is more than what it seems. Dangerous magical and supernatural items sometimes find their way into mortal hands or onto the market, and Cassidy is part of a shadowy Alliance of mortals and mages whose job it is to take those deadly curiosities out of circulation.

Welcome to Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670—acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500 year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it’s time for Cassidy and Sorren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

Book Review:

DEADLY CURIOSITIES is the first in a new urban fantasy series set in Charleston, South Carolina. The book features Cassidy Kincaide, a psychometric who owns an antique shop. Trifles and Folly is the perfect cover for Cassidy, her assistant Teag, and her vampire partner Sorren to get dangerous supernatural objects off the market. Because Cassidy can read emotions and memories from objects, she can tell if something is dangerous or not, and take appropriate action.

When she learns that several objects she thought were safe are now causing trouble at a bed and breakfast, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Soon Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren are up to their eyeballs in objects that are haunted by evil ghosts, an enemy from Sorren’s past, and something even more dangerous than a crazy, half-dead wizard: a demon.

DEADLY CURIOSITIES does a couple of things very well. There are some great ideas in this book, like Cassidy’s psychometric powers which allow her to use magical objects for protection, such as the collar from her favorite dog for a ghostly guardian. Teag has some magic of his own: Weaving, which helps him find tons of information on the normal Internet and the “Darke Web,” the magical version of the information highway. There’s no romance in this book, which I really appreciated — I hate when the paranormal fun takes a backseat to googly eyes and making out. I also really enjoyed the story behind DEADLY CURIOSITIES. It was fun to watch the gang try to solve the mystery. I also liked the history the author created. I mean, you can’t go wrong with pirates and ghosts and tragic history!

But there were a couple of things that didn’t work so well for me. I think the book was just too long. The author’s other books are epic fantasies, clocking in at 600 pages or so. DEADLY CURIOSITIES is 464 pages. I expect urban fantasies to be shorter, for the plot to move faster. I thought the book lagged a bit, with some unnecessary scenes and slow buildup. The writing also contributed to that feeling — the author was great at historical flashbacks of objects, but dialogue and pacing weren’t so on for me.

Overall, DEADLY CURIOSITIES is an intriguing start to a new series. I would definitely read more of Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren’s adventures, and would like to learn more about their world.

Socialize with the author:

Gail Z. Martin:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee ArnettAvalon by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 21, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Book Review:

Over the years, various friends have tried to get me to watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly. However, I’d rather read books than watch TV series. So when I saw AVALON described for fans of Firefly, I thought this would be the book for me.

Unfortunately, I wish I’d skipped reading AVALON and watched Firefly instead.

Jeth leads a crew of teenage starship thieves. Working for one of the biggest crime lords in the galaxy, they steal metatech. Metatech allows other criminals or people who don’t want the attention of the Interstellar Transport Authority to travel across great distances in the blink of an eye. But when they steal a ship with a busted metadrive, Jeth and his crew find themselves in the middle of a very, very big problem.

AVALON just didn’t capture my attention. The beginning and middle were slow. Any time I put the book down, I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up and find out how it ended. I did persevere, though, and thought the ending had way too much going on compared to the rest of the book. Jeth didn’t interest me, either. He works for the crime lord because his uncle gambled away his parents’ ship, Avalon, and he wants to buy her back. Of course, it’s not so easy as that, but I didn’t feel for Jeth and his predicament.

Ultimately, AVALON just wasn’t exciting for me. It was okay, but not the great YA sci-fi book I thought it would be. This is one series I won’t be continuing.

Socialize with the author:

Mindee Arnett:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn Dolamore

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn DolamoreDark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Dark Metropolis #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

dark metropolis blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DARK METROPOLIS by Jaclyn Dolamore. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

DARK METROPOLIS is the first book in a new duology set in an alternate version of Berlin in the late 1920s. Featuring three protagonists, the book digs into the dark underbelly of the city which is kept running by government-sanctioned zombies.

The summary for the book is a little misleading in my opinion, as it gives the impression Thea is the only main character. But her friend, Nan, and Freddy also tell parts of the story. I would have liked to see more character development for all three; DARK METROPOLIS is more plot-driven than character-driven. Characters are usually what I like most about a book, but something in this one hooked me and kept me reading.

Thea’s mother suffers from bound-sickness because she and her husband were magically bonded when they were married. But while he went missing eight years ago and was declared dead in the war, Thea’s mother has always insisted he’s still alive. Being unable to find her husband makes her mentally sick, and though Thea’s tried to take care of her mother, it’s getting harder and harder. One night at work, Thea touches the hand of club goer Freddy and sees a vision of her father sitting up. Is her mother right? Is her father alive?

When her friend and co-worker, Nan, goes missing, Thea asks Freddy for helping finding her. And that’s where things get freaky, because Freddy brought Nan back to life. He’s a necromancer and has brought thousands of people back to life. He was always told those people committed suicide, but when Thea insists Nan never would have killed herself, Freddy starts to investigate.

DARK METROPOLIS is a zombie story I actually liked. I typically don’t read a lot of horror, which is what I’d classify most zombie books as. Yeah, there’s some violence in this one, and some gruesome imagery, but the book is more fantasy/magic/paranormal than horror. The real horror comes from the manipulation of necromancy and the zombies’ living conditions.

I do wish there was more worldbuilding, because we’re given a few hints about the world, but not too many. The setting does feel very 1920s/1930s ish, but with an added element of magic. I did like how the author explored necromancy, and how there were consequences for doing such magic. But I wish more had been mentioned. For example, what was the war about? How did its outcome lead to the government outlawing magic?

Thea’s family relationship was probably my favorite thing about the whole book. I felt the love they all had for each other, and while I’m not going to spoil it, I liked the outcome. The other relationships in the book — Thea and Freddy, Nan and Sigi — could have used more development, just like the characters. The romantic relationships aren’t really a big portion of the book, though, so that didn’t really bug me. I was happy that Sigi kissed Nan at a very important moment, since I saw their potential relationship coming from their first meeting.

DARK METROPOLIS doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which is refreshing. The main story is wrapped up by the end, leaving a few loose ends for the next book, due out in 2015.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jaclyn dolamoreJaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh JohnsonThe Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 25, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Steampunk
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Book Review:

THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY is a fun middle-grade fantasy, full of action, steampunk goodness, and great characters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours, all the while wishing I read more slowly so I could enjoy it for longer. As far as I know, it’s a standalone, but I do hope there’s enough interest to turn it into a series because I adored Piper and Anna, and the world they live in.

Thirteen-year-old Piper is an orphan, making a living as a scrapper and by fixing the finds of others. In her world, meteor showers bring objects from other lands. Scrap towns have sprung up around the meteor fields, but scrapping isn’t really enough to make a living. Piper’s father went to the machine factory in Noveen to try and make a better life for them both, but lost his own in the attempt.

So Piper lives by her brains and mechanical abilities, until the day she rescues a mysterious girl from a meteor shower. Anna has no memory of who she is or where she came from, but does have a dragonfly tattoo — the mark of the Dragonfly — which shows she’s under the protection of the Dragonfly king. But when a dangerous man comes after Anna, she and Piper flee on the 401, a train which travels between both lands.

I loved almost everything about THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, from Piper and Anna to the writing to the story itself. Piper is a great main character, a great role model. I loved that she was talented with machinery, fiercely loyal, and, well, scrappy. At one point she thinks of Anna as only a way to a better future, of the reward she’ll get from the king for rescuing her, but once truths about Anna’s past are revealed, Piper realizes that she values Anna more as a person than a source of money. Anna herself was a fun mystery to untangle.

The writing was nice and smooth, very readable. At times I did think Piper was a little mature for her age, but I could see that maturity coming from losing her father as well as her practical nature. There also was a hint of romance I could have done without, but it didn’t really go beyond crushing and acknowledging feelings, so I didn’t mind it too much.

The story in THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY took a different angle than I expected — based on the beginning of the book, I thought it would be about the meteor showers and the scrap fields, but the book really takes off after Piper and Anna get on the 401. The plot is mainly concerned with the mystery of Anna’s origins as well as getting her to safety. I do wish there had been more about the meteor showers because that really intrigued me, but hopefully that will come up in a sequel. :)

I also want to give a quick mention to Piper’s father. Although he’s dead at the start of the book, the love he had for his daughter, and the support he gave her, was very apparent. I liked that Piper did little things to keep his memory alive, such as keeping the drawings he sent her and wearing his old coat.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. The book sucked me in, much like Anna’s plight sucked Piper into an unexpected, life-changing adventure.

Socialize with the author:

Jaleigh Johnson:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3) by Jill Archer

Book Review: White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3) by Jill ArcherWhite Heart of Justice by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #3
Published by Ace on May 27, 2014
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting...

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

white heart of justice blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE by Jill Archer. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. There’s a pretty neat tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

I’ve also reviewed the first two books in the Noon Onyx series: DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL.

Book Review:

With WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, the Noon Onyx series is now one of my favorite urban/dark fantasy series. The second I finished the book, I wanted to read the next book, because that ending! I’m not going to spoil anything, but if you’re like me, you’re going to want a fourth book, too.

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE starts off with Noon fighting to be St. Luck’s competitor in the annual Laurel Crown Race. The winner gets to pick where they will do their fourth-semester residency, important because that residency usually turns into a permanent job. Noon needs to win the race because she doesn’t want to be stuck torturing or killing rogue demons. Although she’s come a long way since her initial reluctance to accept her waning magic powers, she’s still not thrilled about the idea of torturing or killing on command.

Noon’s assignment for the race is to find the fabled White Heart of Justice, an ensorcelled sword created by Metatron, a famous Angel, for Justica, the Demon Patron for Judgment, Punishment, and Mercy. The only problem? The sword has been missing for centuries, and oh yeah, it’s in Tartarus, which is basically Hell in an ice fortress.

No big deal, right? Not after what Noon and Rafe, her Guardian Angel, have already been through in previous books. But Jill Archer tops herself in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Noon starts the race off half dead, after being hit by a spelled arrow. Her former best friend and Angel, Peter, is out for blood because Noon didn’t want to search with him. Noon’s also still trying to accept that her ex-boyfriend, Ari, hid the fact that he’s a demon. And that’s just the first third of the book.

Noon’s growth as a character has always been one of my favorite things about the series, as well as the author’s worldbuilding. Both are present in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Noon has changed so much from book one, DARK LIGHT OF DAY, but in a believable, realistic way. She accepts her power and uses it in her own way. Noon’s also growing up as an adult, dealing with heartbreak, a potential new relationship, and making better decisions. Yeah, there’s a bit of romance between Noon and Rafe, which I liked! I’m usually not a fan of romance, but I liked how the author did it here, and I ship Noon/Rafe now.

The journey to Tartarus and Tartarus itself … brrr. A freezing cold fortress is my idea of Hell (I hate being cold). I liked the legend built up around it, and the inside of it, boy, that was creepy.

I’m not mentioning half of what’s in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. If you like the series, I think you’ll like the newest book. I certainly did, and am hoping Noon’s story continues. If you haven’t started the series, check it out if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

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.
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– leeanna

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:
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– 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.
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– 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