Book Review: Asunder (Newsoul #2) by Jodi Meadows

Book Review: Asunder (Newsoul #2) by Jodi MeadowsAsunder by Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #2
Published by HarperCollins, Katherine Tegen Books on January 29, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 406
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
DARKSOULS
Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.

SHADOWS
Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

LOVE
Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.

My Review:
To start out, this won’t be much of a review. I loved ASUNDER. No surprise there. INCARNATE, book one of the Newsoul Trilogy, was one of my favorite books of 2012. Right now, I’d do about anything to get my hands on book three. I’ll ferret sit, Jodi, if you let me read the manuscript!

I reread INCARNATE before reading ASUNDER, and I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed on my first read through: the author puts some thought into age differences. Can a relationship work when there are five thousand years between the two people? I was happy to see this, and also happy that the theme continued in ASUNDER. It reminds me of vampire novels — there’s usually at least a hundred years difference between the vampire and girl, yet the girl rarely thinks about that difference. Ana and Sam do think about it, and it brings up some valid questions about if such a relationship can succeed.

I really like Ana and Sam as a couple. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll know that romance isn’t my favorite thing, but Sam is just so damn sweet and protective of Ana. In INCARNATE, I thought the romance came on a little early, but the author further develops their relationship in ASUNDER. I was definitely cheering for them by the end of the book, and they needed cheering. Some sad things happen between them.

I have never been an audiophile. I only listen to music when I’m driving or working out. However, I know music is important for many people, and I finally understood why because of ASUNDER. Music is incredibly important to both Ana and Sam. Music allows Ana to speak in a way that the citizens of Heart can understand, and also lets her leave a lasting legacy. Music is also something they turn to when emotionally distraught.

There are some great questions in ASUNDER, some that I doubt teens usually think about, such as “What happens after I die?” and “What does my life mean?” I know I didn’t, at least not when I was younger. Ana thinks about these questions because she is the only non-reincarnated soul (at the start, anyway). It’s pretty hard to be the only one who hasn’t already lived five thousand years.

The worldbuilding also continues in ASUNDER, with the blend of fantasy and high-tech that I liked from INCARNATE. The sylph are a very interesting creation of Jodi’s, and I liked how she slowly revealed more about them and their background in ASUNDER. Sadly, there are no dragons in this book, and though I missed them (sadface), the sylph and more on Janan made up for their absence.

By the way, ASUNDER doesn’t feel like a middle book. The story moves along rapidly, with lots of big events, and I loved that I had no clue what was going to happen at the end. And the ending left me wanting the last book of the trilogy RIGHT NOW, like I said at the start of this review.

Lastly, ASUNDER is a beautiful book. I HAVE to say how much I love the cover. All too often with YA, the pretty cover doesn’t correlate to the book, but that isn’t the case with the Newsoul Trilogy. Those roses you see around Ana’s eyes? They show up in the book, and they’re an important part of ASUNDER, just like the butterfly motif was in INCARNATE. I can’t wait to see what’s on deck for the last book of the trilogy.

Let’s talk about it:
Sci-fi and fantasy are usually shelved together, in libraries or bookstores, but they’re two very different genres. Do you like when authors blend the two?

Socialize with the author:
Jodi Meadows:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Emergence (Eden’s Root #3) by Rachel E. Fisher

Blog Tour Book Review: Emergence (Eden’s Root #3) by Rachel E. FisherEmergence by Rachel E. Fisher
Series: Eden's Root #3
Published by Self-Published on April 30, 2013
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 246
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
"I promise you, Sean. We're going to stop them."

The pieces on the board are in motion and with both sides gathering strength, each move will be critical. When the Truthers make a play for checkmate, the Seeders are forced to respond. Fi and her companions will face greater challenges and higher stakes than ever before, because this time if they fail, it's for keeps.

Today on the blog tour for EMERGENCE by Rachel E. Fisher, I have a review of the third book in the trilogy, EMERGENCE. The tour is hosted by Prism Book Tours, and you can visit the rest of the stops here. If you missed my review of EDEN’S ROOT or my review of SEEDS OF WAR, make sure to check those out. As part of the theme for the blog tour, which is aptly recpipes, I have a first on my blog: a recipe! Yep. If you know me and know that I’m pretty bad at cooking, don’t laugh! I’ve actually been doing some research into clean eating, so this tour and the ideas behind the trilogy are making me think about it even more.

Lastly, there’s a tour-wide giveaway for copies of the trilogy, so make sure and enter that after my review of EMERGENCE.

My Review:
EMERGENCE is the epic, satisfying conclusion to the Eden’s Root trilogy. If you haven’t read book one, EDEN’S ROOT, or book two, SEEDS OF WAR, you’ll definitely want to pick those up first. This isn’t a series you can read out of order, nor should you. This review contains spoilers for the first two books, but I tried to avoid giving too much away about EMERGENCE.

EMERGENCE picks up right where SEEDS OF WAR left off. Fi, Asher, Sean, and Sara are on their way home from a summer Seeding trip when they discover that Eden, their safe haven, has gone completely quiet. No one knows what happened, so Fi and the others speed up their return trip … only to find the worst. The shock of seeing Eden attacked and empty is enough to send Fi into labor.

Needless to say, EMERGENCE starts off with a bang! I was quite pleased with the amount of action in this book, and due to the setup of the previous one, I knew just where it was going to end: war with the Truthers. We learn a lot more about the Truthers, and even get some passages from the perspective of their leader, Dr. Carter Lawson. He’s a pretty creepy guy, and I liked that we got a view into his head, because it a) gave the reader a more complete picture of both sides of the war, and b) showed what happens when you piss off a megalomaniac genius.

When the battle finally comes between the survivors of Eden and the Truthers, the author doesn’t skimp on the details or action. The last third or so of the book was my favorite, and I was satisfied with how it all went down. There was just the right mix of danger, suspense, and action to keep me flicking the pages to the end. I was hoping for a big fight, and I got one. Once you read EMERGENCE and find out what the Truthers do to Eden, you’ll want a big fight, too.

The other thing I really liked about EMERGENCE was Fi’s character development. Fi has come a very long way from the girl she was in EDEN’S ROOT. Though she’s been kick ass throughout the trilogy, I did have trouble believing adults would listen to a fourteen-year-old. In EMERGENCE, Fi questions that herself, something I appreciated it. But even better was watching her crack, the strain of losing Eden and her family too much to bear after all the other hardships she’s suffered. Fi emerged from the “nothingness” (her term for depression) an even stronger character, and I liked seeing her vulnerable, because that made her even more kick ass and realistic to me.

All in all, the Eden’s Root trilogy is a good one. I think the idea of apocalypse stemming from famine is a unique one, and that the author did a good job in bringing it to life. I recommend having all the books ready when you start the trilogy, because it’s one you’ll want to finish as quickly as possible.

Recipe: Chocolate Protein Mousse:

As I said at the start of this post, I’ve been thinking about trying to eat cleaner. I’m an incredibly picky eater, so I don’t know how well it’s going to work out if I try it, but I’m gathering together recipes to keep on hand for if I do. I also don’t know how much whey protein has been messed with, but I think it’s a staple of most muscle building diets. Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this, although it does look quite easy to make.

edensroot-recipe
image credit

Ingredients:
♥ 1 cup heavy whipping cream
♥ 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
♥ 2 teaspoons splenda sugar substitute
♥ 3 tablespoons unflavored 100% whey protein powder

Directions:
1. Stir dry ingredients together.
2. Add cream and blend on low for 2 minutes, then high for 2 minutes.
3. Refrigerate.

Source: Food.com.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
rachel e. fisher I am a wife and entrepreneur living and working in Florida. I am also a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where I majored in Biology. It was always my assumption that I would end up making research my life. Though it did not work out that way in the end, my passion for Biology remains intact.
I have always loved biology-based science-fiction and the young adult genre. It is in this vein that I offer my work.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Seeds of War (Eden’s Root #2) by Rachel E. Fisher

Blog Tour Book Review: Seeds of War (Eden’s Root #2) by Rachel E. FisherSeeds of War by Rachel E. Fisher
Series: Eden's Root #2
Published by Self-Published on July 13, 2012
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 262
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
The mission of Eden must be fulfilled and Eden’s best Seekers are needed. Forming a new group they dub the Seeders, Fi, Asher, and Sean are joined by a new addition as they set out to bring hope and support to the Topsiders in the form of radios and heirloom seeds. Their experiences Topside prepare them for the threat from marauding gangs they call Lobos, but it is a different, less obvious sort of threat that takes them by surprise. As radio broadcasts begin to reconnect Eden and the Topsiders, the Seeders stumble upon mysterious broadcasts from unknown stations. When two of their own new radio stations go silent within days of each other, Fi and her companions realize that something is terribly wrong. Eden finds itself pitted against a growing and unknown force as their very mission lights the flames of war.

Today on the blog tour for EMERGENCE by Rachel E. Fisher, I have a review of the second book in the trilogy, SEEDS OF WAR. The tour is hosted by Prism Book Tours, and you can visit the rest of the stops here. If you missed yesterday’s review of EDEN’S ROOT, make sure and give it a look. Check back tomorrow for my review of EMERGENCE and a first on my blog, a recipe. Lastly, there’s a tour-wide giveaway for copies of the trilogy, so make sure and enter that after my review.

My Review:
SEEDS OF WAR, the second book in the Eden’s Root trilogy, picks up right after the end of EDEN’S ROOT. After years of trying and hearing only radio silence, Eden finally makes contact with one of the Diaspora settlements. For a quick refresher, the government originally intended Diaspora to be self-sustaining colonies on Mars, but when it became clear the Famine would hit, the most important people in the world were hustled off to safety.

Eden was not one of the government’s projects, but in EDEN’S ROOT, it was the only option for Fi and her Family. Hidden underground, it’s one of the only safe places on Earth, and there scientists undo the work of the past. Yup. Instead of continuing to genetically modify food, which was one of the big causes of the Famine, scientists work with original or “heirloom” seeds to recreate original versions of plants.

The ideas behind this trilogy remain one of my favorite parts of it. The thought that messing too much with nature and the food supply could result in a big, big disaster is a scary one. In SEEDS OF WAR, we learn a bit more about how the Famine was engineered. Yeah, I said engineered. I won’t spoil the details for you, but I could see something like it happening in real life someday, which is also scary.

SEEDS OF WAR is very much a middle book, bridging the gap between the set up and action of EDEN’S ROOT to the foreshadowed war in book three, EMERGENCE. Fi, Asher, Sean, and a new character, Sara, spend much of SEEDS OF WAR trying to reconnect with other survivors. Eden wants to spread the heirloom seeds to people, to give them a means of growing safe food, and the four are elected “Seeders.” They make journeys Topside, seeking out people who lived through the Famine and aftermath. The book also introduces a new element, the Truthers. The Truthers believe the Famine was God’s will, and that Eden’s reconnection mission is evil. The truth behind the Truthers is pretty chilling, and I’m eager to see how that will play out in the last book of the trilogy.

Fi and Asher’s relationship progresses quite a bit in this book, with Asher surprisingly planning their wedding. It’s almost a bit too perfect, but when the world as you knew it is gone, I suppose you take happiness anywhere you can, right? Fi was more human to me in this book, a combination of her being older (17) and also making some mistakes. She also ponders if the Truthers are right in their beliefs instead of deciding right off the bat that they’re wrong.

Sara is also an interesting character, and I would like to see some passages from her point of view. As in EDEN’S ROOT, SEEDS OF WAR is told mainly through Fi’s perspective, sometimes switching to Asher or Sean. Sara was in Eden for the whole of the Famine, and makes her first journey Topside in this book. We got a glimpse of Sara in book one, and it was nice to see her grow quite a bit in book two, and also to see what she thought of the changed world.

I enjoyed reading SEEDS OF WAR. My quibble with the book is that just … not a lot happens, even though there’s a lot going on. There’s less tension, less action, and like I said above, it’s a middle book, laying the groundwork for the big finale. I recommend having EMERGENCE queued up and ready to go for after you finish SEEDS OF WAR. The book’s title is apt, because it literally is sowing the seeds of war, of the conflict between Eden and the Truthers, and I am curious as to how it will all go down.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
rachel e. fisher I am a wife and entrepreneur living and working in Florida. I am also a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where I majored in Biology. It was always my assumption that I would end up making research my life. Though it did not work out that way in the end, my passion for Biology remains intact.
I have always loved biology-based science-fiction and the young adult genre. It is in this vein that I offer my work.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Eden’s Root (Eden’s Root #1) by Rachel E. Fisher

Blog Tour Book Review: Eden’s Root (Eden’s Root #1) by Rachel E. FisherEden's Root by Rachel E. Fisher
Series: Eden's Root #1
Published by Self-Published on December 17, 2011
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 371
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
The year is 2033 and the world hovers on the edge of explosion as unexplained crop deaths lead to severe global food shortages. In the United States, the Sickness is taking lives slowly, creeping its way into every family. Fi Kelly has already faced the Sickness in her own family, toughening her beyond her years. But a shocking confession from her dying father will push her toughness to its absolute limits. Saddled with an impossible secret and the mission of saving her little sister, Fi sets out to transform herself into the warrior that she must become to survive the coming collapse. Along the way, she will discover that evil can be accidental and that love can be intentional.

Today on the blog tour for EMERGENCE by Rachel E. Fisher, I have a review of the first book in the trilogy, EDEN’S ROOT. This is a trilogy that’s been on my radar for a while, so I was excited to join the blog tour, because otherwise it might have languished on my TBR list! The tour is hosted by Prism Book Tours, and you can visit the rest of the stops here. Make sure to check back tomorrow for my review of SEEDS OF WAR and on Tuesday for my review of EMERGENCE. There’s also a tour-wide giveaway after my review.

My Review:
The first in a young adult post-apocalyptic trilogy, EDEN’S ROOT is built around a scary idea: what if the food you ate made you sick? What if all food allergies, auto-immune disorders, and cancers were from eating food that had been genetically modified too much?

Fi is thirteen when her dying father lies a big burden on her shoulders. He wants her to get her mother and younger sister to Eden, a sealed, safe community that will be Earth’s future. A scientist who worked with NASA on plans for colonies on Mars, Fi’s dad knows that something bad is coming, something that will change the whole world. His request and plans give Fi a unique chance to prepare for the end of the known world, which is usually something you don’t see in post-apocalyptic books. I really liked reading how Fi trained, learning everything from how to hunt to self-defense to edible plants.

When the genetically modified plants die, the world is left in the grip of an extreme food shortage. The worst happens: millions, maybe billions die, and many of the survivors turn into animals, destroying what’s left. Except for Fi, that is. She and her Family, a group that includes her mother, sister, and the family’s best friends, make a cross-country trek in search of Eden. Once Fi and her family had been guaranteed a spot there … until her father got Sick, cancer brought on by eating bad food.

The crisis behind the Famine in EDEN’S ROOT is a unique one. I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic books, but most have the big sorts of disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, etc. The thought that messing too much with our food, trying to feed more people with less, and that we’re using too much technology without thinking about it is kind of scary. The author develops this idea pretty well, giving easily understandable scientific explanations.

I liked EDEN’S ROOT quite a bit. Although it’s the first in a trilogy, there’s a LOT that happens, and it’s almost a complete story by itself. The journey takes up most of the book, which is told in third-person point of view, mostly from Fi’s. There are some passages from Sean, Fi’s best friend, and Asher, a journalism student whose story becomes connected with Fi’s.

I mostly liked Fi, who was the best developed character. She takes her father’s dying wish seriously, putting a ton of responsibility on herself. She’s the Leader of her group, and takes charge for seeing them all safely across the country. I did eventually think that Fi was almost too skilled, and it was really hard to see her as a fourteen or fifteen-year-old leading a group of adults. It would have been more believable for me if she had been a bit older in the book.

The romantic relationship between her and Asher also didn’t ring true for me. It was very close to insta-love, despite the dangerous way they meet. There’s also a very big cast of characters in EDEN’S ROOT, and I can’t remember some of the names of the early joiners to the Family, because they were barely mentioned throughout the book. Lastly, coming it at nearly 400 pages, I think the book is a tad too long. While I liked reading about Fi gaining skills (because that’s often glossed over in books), all the journeying through the woods and narrative bogged the story down. It was slow at times, especially in the beginning, so I recommend giving it some time to get going.

But I am curious to see where the author will take her characters and ideas, especially with already covering so much ground in EDEN’S ROOT.

Let’s talk about it:
What’s the scariest end-of-the-world scenario you can think of?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
rachel e. fisher I am a wife and entrepreneur living and working in Florida. I am also a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where I majored in Biology. It was always my assumption that I would end up making research my life. Though it did not work out that way in the end, my passion for Biology remains intact.
I have always loved biology-based science-fiction and the young adult genre. It is in this vein that I offer my work.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Circle of Shadows (Crowther and Westerman #4) by Imogen Robertson

Book Review: Circle of Shadows (Crowther and Westerman #4) by Imogen RobertsonCircle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson
Series: Crowther and Westerman #4
Published by Pamela Dorman Books, Penguin on June 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
A grisly murder among the German aristocracy propels this tale of eighteenth century forensics and historical crime solving.

The forthright Mrs. Harriet Westerman and her reclusive companion, anatomist Gabriel Crowther, tackle their first case outside of England in the fourth installment of Imogen Robertson’s heralded historical suspense series.

As Germany’s elite are celebrating Shrove Tuesday of 1784 with a masked ball, the beautiful Lady Martesen is murdered. Daniel Clode, brother-in-law to Mrs. Westerman, is found near the body. All evidence points to him as the killer. As Daniel awaits execution, Westerman and Crowther arrive and quickly encounter a court full of opulence, intrigue, and deadly secrets—but no one who will talk.

With Anne Perry’s eye for period detail and Tess Gerritsen’s forensics knowledge, Robertson is emerging as a major author of highbrow suspense.

My Review:
CIRCLE OF SHADOWS is a rich meal of a book, full of historical details, unique characters, and an intriguing mystery.

I was initially attracted to the book because of the main character, Harriet Westerman. I was quite curious as to how a woman in the late 1700s could be a detective. But to my surprise, I liked every single character in the book, good and bad, even the minor ones. The author has a real talent for fleshing out characters. I cared about all of them in some way, from Harriet to the daughter of the ballet dancer. I wanted to know more about everyone, too, and I think the author did a good job of integrating interesting and relevant backstories into the plot. Harriet, though, was probably my favorite. I adored her dry humor and quick mind.

And the plot! I admit, I don’t usually read mysteries. They just aren’t my favorite. But I liked CIRCLE OF SHADOWS so much I want to read the rest of the Crowther and Westerman series. The author wove a compelling story, bringing in everything from forensics to lost family members to secret societies to court politics. I think there’s something for everyone here — there are even automatons, which I so did not expect to see. I had no idea how the murder mystery would tie up, and I admit to being quite surprised by the ending. It was a fantastical mystery for sure, but one that I believed because of the way the author wrote it.

I read CIRCLE OF SHADOWS over a few weeks. Usually I speed through books, but the writing style — heavy on detail and scene setting, and almost formal — made me slow down. This was a plus for me, because it was refreshing to spend longer than a day or two reading a book. I do advise taking an hour or so to get into the book when you begin it, so you can get a good footing with the characters and start of the big mystery.

Although CIRCLE OF SHADOWS is book four in a series, you don’t have to have read the other books to understand this one. That was one of the other big pluses for me, because who likes to try and recall details from books they read years ago? Not me! The author does a very nice job of filling you in on what you need to know, if you’re new to Harriet and Crowther and their world. But if you aren’t, you won’t be bogged down by information dumps. There’s a good balance.

I would have liked a dramatis personae to help me keep track of the large cast of characters. I sometimes had to flip back to remember who someone was, but that’s a small quibble.

I’d recommend this book if you like mysteries, because its superbly done. I really liked that the author didn’t “write down,” but expected the reader to solve things right along with Harriet and the rest of the characters. It’s always cool when you remember a detail you initially thought was insignificant, and then later see that it’s a big clue if you paid attention! I’d also recommend CIRCLE OF SHADOWS if you like historical fiction, because although Maulberg wasn’t a real duchy, the author drew inspiration and information from real German states during the appropriate time period.

Socialize with the author:
Imogen Robertson:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura Bickle

Blog Tour Book Review: The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura BickleThe Outside by Laura Bickle
Series: The Hallowed Ones #2
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin on September 3, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
After a plague of vampires was unleashed in the world, Katie was kicked out of the safe haven of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. She enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two friends and a horse by her side.

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can they be trusted, and are they even people at all?

In this sequel to The Hallowed Ones, it's up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to sacrifice in return?

Today I am the stop on the tour for THE OUTSIDE by Laura Bickle. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit the rest of the stops here. I have a very long review for ya’ll because I couldn’t stop talking about this book.

While you’re here, I’d love for you to check out my review of THE HALLOWED ONES and my interview with Laura Bickle.

One last thing: if you haven’t already read THE HALLOWED ONES, the Kindle version is on sale throughout August for $1.99. That’s a steal!

My Review:
I first read THE HALLOWED ONES in February 2013. I was blown away by how much I loved the book. I thought mixing Amish and vampires would be a kooky idea, but to my surprise, Laura Bickle did an amazing job. I had a hard time writing a coherent review for THE HALLOWED ONES, because I fangirled pretty hard over the book.

So to say I couldn’t wait to get my hands on THE OUTSIDE is an understatement. I admit, I was a little nervous to start it, and had my usual worries when I read the sequel to an awesome book. Would it be as good as the first? Would it fulfill all my expectations? I’ll assure you now — I had NOTHING to be worried about. Once I started reading THE OUTSIDE, I literally didn’t stop until I finished it. I carried my e-reader everywhere with me, from eating to brushing my teeth, until I flicked the last page.

THE OUTSIDE picks up where THE HALLOWED ONES left off. Katie, Alex, and Ginger were exiled from the Amish community at the end of the first book, and now they’re on the way to Canada, to find Alex’s family. They also hope to find other survivors. But the journey is hard and lonely, leaving them all wondering just who is left in their changed world. Night is the most dangerous time, when the vampires come out to hunt. And these aren’t sparkly vampires. Nope, these vampires are terrifying creatures of evil who have the ability to glamor (charm) their intended victims and one bite is all it takes before you become one of them.

I’m finding it difficult to say a lot about the plot without giving away too much, so I’ll just mention a couple of things that really stood out for me.

One: Katie. I really, really like Katie. She’s definitely one of my favorite characters this year. She’s got a quiet strength I admire, the total opposite of what you might think an Amish girl to be. Katie doesn’t want to be forced to follow rules, but wants to think about those rules and decide for herself that they are the best to follow. She questions herself and her beliefs, wondering just how much she and her morals are changing in the face of an unknown world. And even though her people have turned against her, and shunned her for trying to reveal the truth about the Darkness (vampires), she still wants to save them. My admiration for her just kept notching up throughout the book, and at the end, let me tell you, she has a scene to rival Buffy.

Two: The relationship between Katie and Alex. Usually relationships are one of my least favorite things in a book, but here, I was just melting with how realistic they both were about it. Loving Alex goes against everything Katie was raised to believe, but they rely on each other for survival, and truly do care about each other. I bookmarked several quotes for Katie’s thoughts on the two, but I’ll stick with this one: “We had been thrown together at the end of the world. I didn’t know if we would have cared for each other if we had met in a more usual way. [...] But just for tonight, I told myself to take it for what it was (p. 152, ARC).”

DUDE! How often are a girl and guy thrown together at the end of the world? All the time in dystopian novels! But how often do they acknowledge their attraction may be partly based on that? Not very often!

Three: Different faiths. Katie is Amish. Alex is an anthropology student. Over the course of THE OUTSIDE, they talk about how almost every faith has its own end of the world story. Alex mostly shares the stories and myths, but Katie just doesn’t sit there and listen to him lecture. She puts those stories against her own beliefs, and thinks about it all.

Four: A new explanation for vampirism. This one is a little harder to talk about without spoiling, but I’ll try. Belief in God, symbols of belief, and holy ground are the most potent weapons Katie and Alex have against the vampires. It’s all any of the survivors have, really. When they encounter a pocket of other survivors, they learn about a mostly scientific explanation for both the vampires and a way to fight them. I honestly don’t think I’ve read anything like it before, so kudos to the author for coming up with something original.

Mini thing: Fenrir and Horace! I’ve now read all (I think) of Laura Bickle’s books, and one of my favorite things about her writing is what a good job she does with animals. They’re always so real and characters in their own right. There was a scene where I was thinking, “NO! Don’t hurt Fenrir! Don’t you do it, evil vampire jerk.”

Okay, so I think it’s obvious that I freaking LOVED this book, and that I could go on all day about it. Again, Laura Bickle did an amazing job. With THE OUTSIDE, she delivered a more than worthy conclusion to the story started in THE HALLOWED ONES, and I can’t think of one thing I’d want done differently. The characters are flesh-and-bone real, and the action scenes are nail-biting and full of tension.

THE OUTSIDE is categorized as a young adult book, but I think it’s one that has crossover appeal. Katie and Alex aren’t your typical young adult characters, and they’re both quite mature. I loved that the author didn’t “write down” to her audience.

Together, THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are on my list of favorites for 2013.

About the author:
laura bickleLaura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams).

Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six mostly-reformed feral cats.
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– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Blog Tour Book Review: Unteachable by Leah RaederUnteachable by Leah Raeder
Published by Velvet Pony Press on July 27, 2013
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, New Adult, Realistic, Romance
Pages: 268
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn’t want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn’t run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don’t know if what we’re doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can’t let him lose his job. And I can’t lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don’t pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can check out the rest of the stops here. Read on for my review and a tour-wide giveaway.

My Review:

“I’ve been pretty honest so far, haven’t I? So I’ll admit: it wasn’t innocent, blind love. His age drew me to him in the first place; now it was being my teacher that gave me a wild, terrified thrill every time we touched, infusing me with adrenaline, making my skin prickle. The danger was an electrode buried in my brain, lighting up my most primal fear and pleasure circuits. There was more to it, of course. Something was unfolding in me that had never opened before. But I wasn’t kidding myself. The forbiddenness was part of it (Chapter 4).”

So, I have to admit — the taboo, forbidden relationship between Maise and her teacher was what initially attracted me to UNTEACHABLE. I always like to see how authors handle a teacher/student relationship, and in what direction they’ll take it. But UNTEACHABLE is so much more than a book about a forbidden relationship.

UNTEACHABLE is the story of Maise’s incredibly turbulent, insane senior year. It’s the rollercoaster ride of her life, an apt comparison considering she first meets Evan on a rollercoaster. UNTEACHABLE is the story of Maise finding herself, of that difficult period between being a young adult and an adult, of knowing you’re more than a kid but still feeling like one when confronted with the unknown.

I couldn’t stop reading. The author’s writing style (quote above a good example) was hands down one of my favorite parts of the book. There are tons of lines I bookmarked to quote, and it was hard to limit myself to a few. Leah Raeder drove a fine balance between using descriptions in a new way and writing purple prose. It was almost alive, and I could imagine Maise writing this way, describing the most incredible, crazy, heartfelt year of her life. If you like the style of the blurb or the quote, chances are you’ll like UNTEACHABLE. Here’s another quote, where main character Maise introduces herself:

“My name’s Maise, by the way. Maise O’Malley. Yeah, I’m Irish as hell. But you probably knew that from the drinking, right? (Chapter 1).”

As main characters go, I really liked Maise. She’s had, in her own words, a fucked up life. Her mother deals drugs, her father’s a deadbeat, and she likes older men. Doing them and leaving them is one of her hobbies. Maise is world-weary and cynical; she knows she’s in a bad situation, and she wants to improve her life. Maise also owns up to her decisions. She doesn’t whine about things, but tries to fix them. Not always in the best ways, of course, but that wouldn’t make for an interesting book if she did everything right.

I also have to say that I’m usually not a fan of books that start off with instant attraction or sex, but the author made it work for me in UNTEACHABLE. From the first words I read, I could understand why Maise would drag a guy she just met to his car. Not because she’s a slut — she’s not — but because that’s how she feels like she’s alive. I think the sex with older guys also makes her feel stronger. A woman using every angle to get what she wants, and hurting them before they hurt her.

UNTEACHABLE is a very adult book. There are lots of steamy scenes between Maise and Evan, and while I thought a lot of the sex scenes were valuable for character development of both of them, I did start skimming after a few. I would have liked maybe a bit less sex. However, I did really like that both Maise and Evan verbalized that the forbidden aspect of their relationship was a big turn on for both of them. Yay for honesty! Plus, it was kinda hot when they flirted about doing it in the classroom. *fans self*

While reading the book, I honestly didn’t know where it was going to go. I was afraid the relationship would end badly, because those types of relationships usually do. Maise and Evan also had a hard time hiding their attraction to each other, and it comes to a point when their chemistry is shown in a surprising although not totally unpredictable way. I’ll give you a hint. Maise’s best friend senior year is Wesley, a fellow film nerd who films everyone, everywhere.

I haven’t really talked about the characters other than Maise, so here are a few of my other favorites. Evan was a nice guy, a looker, sure, but average on the personality scale. He cared about Maise, and that was evident in his actions. I wasn’t entirely sold on the big secret we learn about him, but otherwise, I liked him. It was great to see him considering the impact he had on Maise, and if he would ruin her chance to experience life first-hand.

I also want to mention Wesley’s mom, Siobhan. She’s the type of mom I’d like to see more of in young adult/new adult books; I swear, I almost had a crush on her. Siobhan had a relationship with her professor in college, so she was the perfect person to give Maise advice, but only when Maise wanted it. The interactions between Maise, Wesley, and Siobhan were pretty funny, yet also sad considering Maise never got to experience that with her own mother.

Whew! I feel like I’ve written a book talking about UNTEACHABLE. What can I say? I really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a well-written new adult book that’s one heck of a ride, check it out.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you like books with some kind of “forbidden” aspect to them?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
Leah Raeder writes pretentiously lyrical YA and adult fiction of various genres. Loves zombies, velociraptors, and other world-ending things. Copies her bio from Twitter because she’s lazy.
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– leeanna

Blog Tour: The Howling Heart by April Bostic: Excerpt and Giveaway!

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for THE HOWLING HEART by April Bostic. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books, and you can find the rest of the stops here. Read on for the excerpt I picked from the book and a tour-wide giveaway.

the howling heartInfo:
Title: The Howling Heart
Author: April Bostic
Release Date: August 8, 2013
Publisher: Eternal Press
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 262

Summary:

Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She’s climbing fast when given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father’s death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies and just when she thinks her luck couldn’t get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in the small, remote community of Black River. Soon she’s engulfed in the mystical world of Varulv—wolves descended from 12th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternate future with his pack. Now she must choose between the career she’s always wanted and the love she’s always dreamed.
(summary from goodreads)

Excerpt:

I picked this excerpt from the first chapter. It’s part of a dream Paige is having, and comes right after she remembers running away from her parents’ cabin and spending the afternoon with a mysterious wolf pup.


Since I was an only child, and hadn’t met any other children on the mountain, I had to entertain myself. That afternoon, I decided to play a soccer game with a giant Evergreen tree as the goalie. I kicked my rainbow glittered ball towards the tree, but missed my mark and it rolled a few yards toward the forest. I was about to run after it, but someone grabbed it first. I gasped in astonishment.

I’d never seen a naked boy before, and he wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing. He was taller than I, but looked around my age. He had a suntan and sandy blond hair, longer than my mother preferred. He was in serious need of a bath because his hands and feet were filthy. He held the ball against his stomach as he slowly walked toward me.

This young naked stranger entranced me, and I couldn’t move. He slowly closed the distance between us until I could see every feature of his face. The bright, clear color of his eyes reminded me of green apples. When he cocked his head and grinned, I noticed a brown mole on the upper left corner of his mouth.

I still couldn’t move and struggled to speak. He frowned, and his eyes darted around us.

“Who are you?” I said breathlessly with wide eyes. “Where are your clothes?”

He grinned again and held out my ball. I took it from him and our fingers touched. “Thanks,” I said, smiling nervously.

He took another step forward and reached out his hand. This time I flinched when he made contact with my skin. His hand softly caressed my cheek, and a wide smile broke free on my face. The boy smiled back, and I thought it was beautiful. In that moment, I was happy to see another kid. It didn’t matter anymore that he was naked. We could still play together as long as my parents didn’t see him.

“What’s your name?” I asked quietly.

His expression was calm and his eyes casually scanned my face.

I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t answer my questions. I felt my brow furrow. “Can you talk?”

Finally, his lips parted. I thought he would speak, but he glanced at the cabin and then back at me with a pained expression. He yanked my hand, and I slid across the grass.

Everything happened so fast, I cried out, “Hey! What are you doing?”

He released me and stepped away, but hesitated before he turned around and ran toward the forest.

I reached out for him. “Wait!” Unfortunately, he quickly disappeared among the trees.


Giveaway:

thehowlingheart-giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
April Bostic is a New Jersey-based romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled “A Rose to the Fallen”. Her first short story, “Right Here, Right Now”, released in January 2012 is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled “Eros, My Love”, and a sexy romantic comedy entitled “Love Addiction”. After five years, she will release her second novel “The Howling Heart” in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods.
Website

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Roadkill by Alexandra Allred

Blog Tour Book Review: Roadkill by Alexandra AllredRoadkill by Alexandra Allred
Series: Allie Lindell #1
Published by The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House on August 15, 2013
Genres: Adult, LGBT, Mystery
Pages: 278
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
When dead prostitutes begin to appear along the rural roads of Ohio, Allie Lindell cannot stay away despite the odds—the odds being her badge-toting sister; her partner, who only wants Allie to stay home and out of harm’s way; and two little girls in full potty-training and tantrum-throwing modes. But when an old friend from The Columbus Dispatch calls with an intriguing job opportunity, Allie can’t turn her away, Allie breaks all kinds of promises to track the killer, heat up a cold case, and discover what happened to a fallen police officer. As she navigates the backstreets of Columbus, following pimps, prostitutes, sullen teenagers, and seedy gamblers, the only thing more complicated is remembering all her aliases.

Enlisting the help of her neighbor, and with the annoying voice of Snow White drumming through her head, Allie and her newfound sidekick will have you falling in love with this wonderful cast of modern heroines with day-to-day problems. Gay, straight, sleek and sexy, or rumpled and ragged—no matter how much they bicker, they’re a mighty force when they all come together. Heigh Ho!

Roadkill is the first in a series in which a former journalist and at-home mom discovers she has a knack for investigating murders. While she longs for the crazy deadlines and adult conversations, she also wants to stay home and care for her babies.

With Disney tunes, tantrums, and potty-training woes on her mind, Allie Lindell must learn to juggle the highs and lows of her family and a career she never knew she always wanted. This is the funny, sometimes aggravating, ultimately heartwarming story of a woman trying to give everything to her kids, keep the love of her partner, and not lose herself in the process.

Today I am the stop on the blog tour for ROADKILL by Alexandra Allred. The tour is hosted by the publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, and you can see the rest of the stops here. Read on for my review and a giveaway.

My Review:
“I never set out to become an obituary writer. Who does that? (p. 1)”

Allie Lindell never set out to do a lot of things. She didn’t plan on writing obituaries, but because there were no job ads for traipsing around New Guinea, she got good with obits, and even became emotionally invested in them. Never a romantic, she fell in love almost at first sight. And though she loved working at The Columbus Dispatch, she quit to become a stay at home mother.

But taking care of two babies all day — five hundred screenings of Snow White included — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Allie needs adult conversation, an escape, something beyond staying at home all day and losing part of herself. Yes, Allie loves her daughters, and her wife, but she needs something more.

ROADKILL is a story with a lot packed into it. There’s a couple of mysteries, including a serial killer who refrigerates bodies before dumping them, and a murdered cop who was once accused of molesting his niece. Allie gets tangled up in the investigations because she freelances for her old paper on the side, as part of her quest to not lose herself. But investigating the cases is about more than just that — because of her experience as an obituary writer, Allie wonders about the dead. Why they ended up as victims. What happened in their life.

There’s a theme in the book that I like, stemming from the title, ROADKILL. Allie muses that the unfortunate dead like the serial killer’s prostitutes are only important when they die, and even then, they’re only mentioned because they were murdered by someone making the news.

Aside from all that, there’s more to the book. Allie struggles to find the right balance between investigating and her personal life. She’s in the midst of some big problems with her wife, Rae Ann. They’re the sort of problems every couple goes through — drifting apart after having children, having trouble communicating, etc. I liked that the author didn’t make a big deal out of them being a same-sex couple. They’re a couple, period, same as any husband and wife, or husband and husband.

The author created some truly memorable characters. One of my favorites was Kipper, the canine partner of Allie’s sister, Michelle. I always have a soft spot for well-done animal characters. It was great to see Kipper as a big softie when playing with Allie’s daughters, and then a vicious attack dog when on the job. Allie herself was another favorite, and I think a lot of readers will identify with her struggle in juggling a partner, children, and home life without losing part of herself. Lastly, Jenny was a sweetheart. Allie and Rae Ann’s neighbor, she was always willing to watch the girls when Allie needed to run some “errands.” AKA investigate. I liked Jenny because she was a good example of someone sort of isolated — she has MS, and her family would rather coddle her than allow her to live her life.

I did have some difficulty believing that, when investigating, Allie was able to get so many people to spill their guts to her. She also knowingly put herself in danger — because she didn’t think — which is always a peeve of mine.

Overall, I enjoyed ROADKILL and I am very curious as to what the author has in mind for Allie, Rae Ann, and the rest of the bunch. Because I know Allie is not going to keep the bargain she made with her sister, to keep from “investigating” for a month!

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
roadkill-aallredAlexandra Allred is a former national athlete and adventure writer turned humorist and fictional writer. She’s often been called the next Erma Bombeck with a grudge. Her annual Christmas letters, which have frequently made the news, could make the Grinch weep with joy.

Allred is an avid runner (though not a very good one), frequently testifies in Washington D.C. on environmental issues, is an advocate for Clean Air, and loathes people who illegally park in handicap places.

She currently lives in Texas with her husband, three children, and array of happy animals.
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– leeanna

Blog Tour: Blood Entangled by Amber Belldene: Character Spotlight

Today I am the stop on the blog tour for BLOOD ENTANGLED by Amber Belldene. The tour is hosted by Parajunkee Blog Tours.

I had hoped to have reviews of BLOOD VINE and BLOOD ENTANGLED today, but I’ve had to temporarily cut back on ebooks. So look for those reviews in the future.

blood entangledInfo:
Title: Blood Entangled
Author: Amber Belldene
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Series? Blood Vine #2
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance

Summary:

KOS MARAS’s orderly life is in shambles—he must distribute Blood Vine to a population of ailing vampires, but Hunters block him at every turn. To make matters worse, each night he watches over a temptingly beautiful woman sleeping in his bed. He is convinced love cannot last a vampire-long lifetime and an entanglement will only cause them grief, but he doesn’t have the heart to send her away.

From a long line of blood servants, LENA ISAAKSON is destined to serve a vampire, but a string of humiliating rejections thwarts her pleasure. When Kos shows her kindness, she hopes he will claim her. Instead he proves himself a coward in the face of love and sends her to serve another.

Will the dark seduction of a rakish new vampire finally bring Lena the pleasure she desires or deliver her into the hands of Hunters who want to destroy everything the Maras family has worked for? (summary from goodreads)

Character Spotlight:
Meet Lena Isaakson, the heroine of BLOOD ENTANGLED:

The trouble with destiny is that things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. When my grandmother first explained everything to me–about our heritage as blood servants and what it’s like to serve a vampire, I felt like I was living in my very own fairytale. One day I would wake up to a vampire prince charming.

Only, my Nona died, and I had no idea how to find a vampire, which meant I had a destiny, but no way to achieve it. I went to culinary school, building on all the skills Nona had taught me in her kitchen so that I would be an excellent candidate for the position of cook in a vampire household. And I spent every single night in the kind of bars where I hoped I might meet a vampire. It was exhausting, to say the least.

And then finally, I found him. Andre Maras. He took me home that very night to cook for his human household, and to provide blood, of course. And he was gorgeous and brooding–everything a vampire was supposed to be.

But he didn’t want me. Not the way I wanted to be wanted. He fed from me, and I became hopelessly aroused, and then he sent me away with a friendly pat on the back. It didn’t take long for the treatment to become humiliating and I became desperate, and probably a little reckless.

Thank goodness for Kos, who came to my rescue. He’s so honorable and kind–the opposite of his father. Too bad I realized it all too late. He’ll never want me now, after all the foolish things I’ve done. I’m lucky he’s willing to help me at all. But that’s Kos. Soon he’ll find me another job and I can say farewell to the Kaštel Estate for good, and get on with my destiny.

About the author:
amber belldeneAmber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days.

Amber is an Episcopal Priest and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to her, because the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire. She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco.
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– leeanna