Book Review: Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Book Review: Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson MillerKenobi by John Jackson Miller
Series: Star Wars
Published by LucasBooks on August 27, 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Western
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
The greatest hero in the galaxy faces his toughest challenge yet: He must stop being Obi-Wan-and become Crazy Old Ben. For fans of movie-related novels like Darth Plagueis!

In this original novel set between the events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes to the aid of the residents of Tatooine during his exile. But he struggles with his new mission when he realizes that protecting Luke Skywalker-the last hope of the galaxy-means setting aside his compassion and his Jedi warrior training, for the future of the galaxy lies not with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a mystical desert recluse known only by the name of Crazy Old Ben.

In honor of Star Wars Reads Day II on October 5, 2013, I’m finally posting my review of STAR WARS: KENOBI. I almost did a video review for this one, but went for a written one in the end. I would have forgotten about Star Wars Reads Day if Jenna hadn’t Instagrammed photos of Yoda cookies. So yay to her for reminding me!

My Review:
I want to start this review off by saying that I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time, more than half my life (14+ years). The Expanded Universe is my preference over the movies, because I like to read my adventures, but in the past few years, I haven’t really been excited by most Star Wars books. Some of my all-time favorites are the Thrawn trilogy, the Jedi Academy trilogy, and the X-Wing series. I’ve liked some of the recent offerings (the Darth Bane novels, DECEIVED, DARTH PLAGUEIS), but have skipped or not liked others. So, I’ll admit it: I was apprehensive but tentatively excited about KENOBI. I wanted so much for the book to be good…

And it was! WOOT!

The start of KENOBI is slow, but once I got past the setup chapters, I was hooked. John Jackson Miller has a very smooth, easy to read writing style, and I thought he had an excellent grasp on Obi-Wan. I could see traces of Ewan McGregor, fresh from REVENGE OF THE SITH, but more importantly, I saw Obi-Wan start down the path to becoming the strange old hermit Luke knows.

The author also does an amazing job with his original characters. One of the things I like most about reading EU books is to see the Star Wars universe from the point of “normal” people — not the big name heroes. In KENOBI, my favorite parts were from the perspectives of Annileen Calwell, human, and A’Yark, Tusken Raider. Annileen’s story is one a lot of readers can identify with: mundane job (storekeeper) and raising two rambunctious teenagers while occasionally wondering about her own shelved dreams. As for A’Yark, I liked his story because through it, I got to learn a lot about Tusken culture. Amateur xenobiologist in the making here — I love learning about the different alien cultures of the Star Wars universe.

KENOBI is a lot like a western. Well, I can’t say for sure, because I don’t actually read westerns, but it was a good guys versus natives fight, eking out life in a hostile land, that sort of thing. Although I like that KENOBI is a standalone, I think I’d like another book in the same style (same author too, please!), detailing more of the time Ben spends on Tatooine before the events of A NEW HOPE. I know there’s more story there.

The main story behind KENOBI is the increasingly savage attacks of Tusken Raiders, who raid moisture farms and kill settlers. A group of moisture farmers, led by farmer/entrepreneur Orrin Gault, have formed a protection group to fight the Tuskens. Ben, intending to start his life as a hermit, arrives in the middle of this, and as a newcomer, he’s instantly the talk of the small “town.” Watching a Jedi try to fit into small town life is comical, as you know despite Ben’s best efforts to be no one, he can’t help but get into the middle of everything.

If I liked KENOBI so much (and I did), why didn’t I give it a full 5 stars? Two main reasons. One: the book is titled KENOBI, giving the reader the impression it is a book solely about Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s not. Now, I didn’t mind that once I got into the story, because as I said above, I really liked certain characters, such as Annileen and A’Yark. KENOBI is told from the points of view of four characters: Annileen, A’Yark, Orrin, and finally, Ben. All points of view are crucial in showing how all the story threads connect, and in setting the overall atmosphere of the book. But if you’re hoping for a book all about Obi-Wan, you might be in for a disappointment. Oh, I should also say there’s not really any lightsaber action or a lot of usage of the Force.

Two: I thought the ending of the book was a tad rushed. There’s a lot of setup in the beginning, and then a fair amount of back and forth between all the characters, as well as fights between the farmers and the Tuskens. Then the ending’s just squished in there.

If you’re looking for a laid back, relaxing read, or a good entry to the Expanded Universe, KENOBI might be the book for you. I know I’ll want to reread it a year or two, which is always the mark of a good Star Wars EU book for me.

Review on Amazon.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you like “franchise” books like Star Wars or Star Trek?

Socialize with the author:
John Jackson Miller:
Website
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– leeanna

October 2013 Page Count Contest

Yay, it’s back!

I’m participating in Reading Angel’s page count contest. It’s a good way to push yourself to read more. My goal for October is 10,000 pages. Mighty ambitious, I know, but I need to get back on track.

Title Author Page Count
Dance For Me Helena Newbury 145
The Silver Sea Julia Golding 334
Pretty When They Collide Rhiannon Frater 145
Catch Rider Jennifer H. Lyne 288
Witches of East End Melissa de la Cruz 272
Serpent’s Kiss Melissa de la Cruz 336
Winds of Salem Melissa de la Cruz 330
Garden of Eden Kate Cowan 212
Burning Elana K. Arnold 320
Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd 336
Dark Angel T.J. Bennett 224
Altered Gennifer Albin 400
Realm Walker Kathleen Collins 189
Wonderland David-Matthew Barnes 264
Made of Stars Kelley York 320
     

Running count: 4,105

– leeanna

Book Review: In Harmony (Fenbrook Academy #2) by Helena Newbury

Book Review: In Harmony (Fenbrook Academy #2) by Helena NewburyIn Harmony by Helena Newbury
Series: Fenbrook Academy #2
Published by Foster & Black New Adult on September 21, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 401
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Everyone expects her to succeed...
Karen plays the cello like an angel, and it’s the only thing that makes her truly feel alive. But her father’s dream—for her to join a prestigious orchestra—leaves no time in her life for anything but music...not even love. Trapped on her path, she doesn’t know how to rebel.

Everyone expects him to fail...
Connor plays rock guitar like the devil himself, and his ability has got him all the way from a dead-end life in Belfast to a scholarship at Fenbrook Academy. But beneath his arrogance and charm, he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. He’s spent his time in New York drinking and partying, and the only future he sees is a return to Ireland as soon as he flunks out.

But what no one expects...
When Karen’s duet partner is injured, the bad boy guitarist and the shy, sheltered cellist are forced to team up. Neither likes the idea, but what begins as anger and distrust slowly spirals into love...and lust. If they can face up to their feelings, they might just have a chance together. If Connor will allow Karen to stop his fall, maybe he can show her a life she never thought possible...

Today on the blog tour for IN HARMONY by Helena Newbury, I have a review, an excerpt I picked, and a tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books, and you can visit all the stops here.

My Review:
IN HARMONY, the second book in the Fenbrook Academy series, is one hot and steamy romp through the last months of Karen and Connor’s senior year at the performing arts school. Both are in desperate straits for different reasons, and in fear of not graduating unless they learn to work together.

Right off, let me assure you that you don’t need to have read the first book of the series, DANCE FOR ME, before IN HARMONY. The books are loosely connected, following the same group of friends and focusing on a different couple in each one. I wasn’t lost or confused at all.

Karen, the narrator of IN HARMONY, is a bit of a mouse at first. She’s meek, quiet, and focused on her dream of playing cello with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Since age six, that’s all she’s wanted to do, and every day of her life since then has been spent trying to achieve that goal. Her father, a famous concert pianist, has also helped her, although maybe a little too much. Without any real life experience at 21 — because all of her time has been spent practicing — Karen can’t remember if her dream is really hers, or just something she’s doing because it’s expected of her.

Connor, the bad boy playboy of Fenbrook, is so opposite of Karen in every way. He never shows up for class, never practices, and it’s rumored he’ll be kicked out before graduation. Karen’s not a fan of Connor the way every other girl is — she wants someone safe and responsible. There’s no way Connor would ever make that list, considering he has a different girl on the go every night, starts drinking at 4pm, and oh yeah, he’s a sexy Irishman, and he knows it.

Here’s the list of what Karen’s looking for in a boyfriend: “If I was going to date, they’d need to be reliable, and serious, and…safe. Why did my list of requirements for a guy sound like a Volvo commercial? (Chapter 2)”

So when fate throws Karen and Connor together, she panics. Composing and playing a duet with Connor is the only way she’ll graduate Fenbrook. Literally the only way, because she’s failed every oral presentation in her college career. Karen’s a great performer, but she has a crippling fear of public speaking, or speaking to more than one or two people.

I don’t think there’s a dull moment throughout IN HARMONY. When I saw the length of the book (36 chapters, estimated 401 pages), I admit, I thought it would be too long. But then I started reading, and flew through the book in a matter of hours. IN HARMONY is the story of Karen and Connor’s relationship, full of character growth and steamy, steamy scenes. IN HARMONY‘s an adult book, for sure. The music piece the two work on is the story of their relationship too, and I swore I could hear it while reading. I thought the author did a good job in tying in the musical aspect, and showing how it was a big part of both of the characters’ lives.

There were a couple of times I wanted to hit Karen and/or Connor over the head, usually when they were acting silly or keeping quiet when they shouldn’t have. They both had a lot of growth, and my favorite part was probably near the end, where Karen learned to be angry. It was great to see her stand up for herself and for her friends. Instead of spending too much time in her head, she went out and did things, tackling problem after problem. Connor also grew up, and though I didn’t totally see why he would confide in Karen, it was good that he did, because she cracked his shell as much as he cracked hers.

I have to mention Karen’s friends. Natasha, Clarissa, and Jasmine were just as nicely developed as Karen and Connor. Sometimes I don’t like when a book veers off from the main story and dives into minor plots, but here I didn’t mind at all. I liked them all, and I was concerned about every girl’s problems. I hope Clarissa and Jasmine get their own books, because I’d like to see more of them. Lastly, it was nice to see the girls were relatively open with one another about their sex lives (if not their personal lives).

Sometimes I find New Adult books have a bit too much sex, and that was almost the case with IN HARMONY. I lost track of the times Karen and Connor got it on, and skimmed a few times, but then, it was good to see Karen become confident and open about sex.

If you’re a fan of New Adult, I’d definitely recommend IN HARMONY. I know I’ll be watching to see what else Helena Newbury puts out.

Excerpt:


In the shower, I turned the temperature up to almost scalding and the force up to the “Massage” setting, hoping that it would help unkink my back. I did that a lot, after a hard day playing. I liked to imagine it was a big, blond guy with huge biceps massaging me. In my mind, his name was Sven and we sat in his cabin in Sweden looking out at the pine trees while he worked oil into my back.

It occurred to me that was a lot of detail to get from a shower setting. Maybe I did need a boyfriend.

Connor swam up into my mind and I yelped in shock, turning and catching the spray right in my face. When I’d stopped spluttering and the jet was safely hammering away at my stomach, I carefully allowed myself to go back to the thought.

What was he doing in my brain? I wasn’t interested in Connor — in fact, he was the exact opposite of everything I was interested in. If I was going to date, they’d need to be reliable, and serious, and…safe.

Why did my list of requirements for a guy sound like a Volvo commercial?

–Chapter 2, IN HARMONY


Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
Helena Newbury is a New Adult Romance author with a love of bakingly hot summer days, strawberry gelato, good coffee and interesting people. Unlike the characters in her books, Helena cannot dance, act or play anything (though she is substantially more flexible since she started writing Dance For Me and tried doing dancer’s stretches, so she’s hoping that something will rub off on her from each book).

Helena writes in a very noisy, very busy coffee shop which means she sometimes end up mainlining caffeine to keep her seat. You’ll know when this happens because she’ll still be on Twitter that night at 4am.

She loves meeting and talking with other authors, traveling to new places and discovering new books.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Buy links: Amazon | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | B&N | Kobo | All Romance

– leeanna

Book Review: Her Ladyship’s Curse (Disenchanted & Co. #1) by Lynn Viehl

Book Review: Her Ladyship’s Curse (Disenchanted & Co. #1) by Lynn ViehlHer Ladyship's Curse by Lynn Viehl
Series: Disenchanted & Co. #1
Published by Pocket Star on August 12, 2013
Genres: Adult, Alternate Universe, Romance, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 200
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In a steampunk version of America that lost the Revolutionary War, Charmian (Kit) Kittredge makes her living investigating magic crimes and exposing the frauds behind them. While Kit tries to avoid the nobs of high society, as the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. she follows mysteries wherever they lead.

Lady Diana Walsh calls on Kit to investigate and dispel the curse she believes responsible for carving hateful words into her own flesh as she sleeps. While Kit doesn’t believe in magic herself, she can’t refuse to help a woman subjected nightly to such vicious assaults. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks on Diana are part of a larger, more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.

Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of nefarious deathmage Lucien Dredmore and the unwelcome scrutiny of police Chief Inspector Thomas Doyle. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. Yet as she learns the truth behind her ladyship’s curse, Kit also uncovers a massive conspiracy that promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.

My Review:
I tried logic. “I presume your husband’s first wife died before he married you?” When she nodded, I asked, “How is it that she would even know about you, much less cast a curse on you from the grave?” (p. 6-7)

Charmian Kittredge, aka Kit, doesn’t believe in magic. She’s based her business on that belief, “disenchanting” those who fall for parlor tricks and charismatic mages or tellers. Whenever someone comes to her and says they’re cursed, as Lady Diana Walsh does, Kit knows there’s a logical solution, and she investigates until she finds the truth.

But getting involved in Lady Walsh’s case brings Kit a world of trouble. Before she knows it, she’s almost arrested, attacked by snuffmages, drugged, and oh yeah, pursued by a deathmage.

The world Viehl has created for HER LADYSHIP’S CURSE is an interesting one, and probably one of my favorite parts of the book. It’s an alternate version of San Francisco, but in a world where the Crown still rules. There’s a lot of steampunk devices, from carris (steam-driven carriages) to a tube system that delivers items from building to building, that make life easier. Unfortunately, independence for women isn’t one of Rumsen’s advances, and Kit struggles to run a business and live her life the way she wants in a male-dominated world. And while the worldbuilding was one of the things I liked best about the book, there were a few times when I was confused about how the world had come to be. I think the short length of the book (more on that later) prevented me from learning as much as I would have liked.

I had a love-hate relationship with Kit. She’s pretty bold and brassy, and has to be in order to live as a single woman in Rumsen. There’s even a point where she dresses up like a native in order to get into an area only males can access. But whenever she encounters Lucien Dredmore, deathmage of Toriana, her personality totally changes. Kit HATES Lucien, and rightfully so — he’s not a nice guy. There was a time when he even gagged her and put his hands on her, without her consent, but when they kiss — still without her wanting to — she melts. I know some readers like that kind of thing, the Alpha male getting what he wants. But I’m not one of them, so I had a hard time with the attraction between them.

What I did like about HER LADYSHIP’S CURSE, other than the alternate America, was the mystery of Lady Walsh’s curse, Kit’s past, and Kit’s friends. While reading, I had no clue how the first two would conclude, and at the end of the book, I still don’t know. But it was a nicely twisty ride, with some clues that magic may be real after all. As for Kit’s friends — one’s a brothel owner and the other is the premiere dressmaker in the city. Just like Kit, they have colorful personalities, and I look forward to reading more about them.

I’m not sure why the publisher did this, but I believe HER LADYSHIP’S CURSE is the first half of a book. It’s about two hundred pages, so there’s not a ton of room for worldbuilding or relationship development. We get a whopping of a cliffhanger and then see “Read part 2 to find out what happens next!” If, like me, you’re not a fan of being left hanging, wait until October so you can read both parts of the book.

Socialize with the author:
Lynn Viehl:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa Nader

Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa NaderEscape From Eden by Elisa Nader
Published by Merit Press on August 18, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 271
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ESCAPE FROM EDEN by Elisa Nader. From the second I read the summary for the book, I wanted to read the whole thing. I really liked it, so read on for my review as well as a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here.

My Review:
The summary for ESCAPE FROM EDEN is originally what drew me to the book, and I’m happy to say that the book lives up to that compelling summary. Scratch that — the blurb barely covers the surface. ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a suspenseful, action-filled look into a religious cult. There’s twist after twist, and I was pleasantly surprised by many of those twists.

When a book starts off with poisoned cookies, there’s a lot of ways it can go. I want to keep from spoiling you, so all I’ll say is that the author takes ESCAPE FROM EDEN in some great directions, many of which made my stomach churn or had me saying, “WHAT?” There’s a lot of dark stuff in here, but I’m the type of reader that likes when Very Bad Stuff happens.

I don’t even know where to start talking about ESCAPE FROM EDEN. For me, it was one of those books I didn’t want to put down until I finished, and after I did read the last page, I just sat there for a bit and processed.

Edenton is a cult reminiscent of Jonestown, a religious community in the middle of a jungle. Most of the members have been brainwashed into following the Reverend’s every doctrine. But Mia, ESCAPE FROM EDEN‘s main character, isn’t a docile believer. She’s been in Edenton for six years, and at the beginning of the book, is starting to question spending the rest of her life there. With her quietly rebellious attitude, and desire to escape, it’s easy to root for her. She grows so much over the course of the book, and soon her rebellions grow too, until she’s the hope for the people of Edenton.

Gabriel, a newcomer to Edenton, is an interesting character. Almost as much as Mia. He’s a sort of bad boy, with a past including drugs and partying, and an even darker secret that brought him and his parents to the community. There’s an immediate spark between Gabriel and Mia, but their romance isn’t really the focus (which is my preference). Yeah, there’s some kissing and mutual attraction, but their focus is more on getting out of Edenton. But there IS romance there, for those of you that like it.

It’s hard for me to say what I didn’t like about the book, because to describe anything too deeply would give up a lot of spoilers. One was the ending, which was a bit too sudden after several gritty, difficult (in a good way) chapters. I just wanted … more. I was also left wanting to know more about Edenton and the Reverend. I wanted more details on how he “went bad,” for lack of a better description, and where Thaddeus, his left hand, came from.

Overall, ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a dark and thrilling book, one I am very happy I read. Definitely recommended, especially if you have any sort of interest in “utopian” communities or cults. The author does a good job of exploring the psychology in such places — you’ll be asking yourself why the Flock stays once you find out some of Edenton’s secrets.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
elisa naderHi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.
Website
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Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s | IndieBound

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Hero by Alethea Kontis: Guest Post and Giveaway

Today I have a guest post for you by Alethea Kontis, the author of ENCHANTED and HERO. If you’ve been by my blog at all, you’ll know I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, so I’m excited to be on this tour! The post is about Soteria. The tour is hosted by Prism Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here.

heroInfo:
Title: Hero
Author: Alethea Kontis
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Series? Woodcutter Sisters #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Page Count: 304

Summary:

Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she’s the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, “Did romance have to be part of the adventure?” As in ENCHANTED, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance. (summary from goodreads)

Guest Post:
by author Alethea Kontis

MY AWESOME SISTER
(or: Princess Alethea Has a Lot to Live Up To)

My little sister, Soteria, always asks me who she is in the Woodcutter stories, but it’s hard to say. She and I were so close growing up–if I am every single one of my characters, then she is always my sister in every scene. The dynamics between the sisters–that’s Soteria and me, in just about every possible incarnation. We laughed, we fought, we wrote and directed our own plays, we have a secret language and remember obscure things few other people do. We are never allowed to be on the same team when playing Cranium because of the unfair advantage.

Soteria is an award-nominated jewelry designer whose necklaces and earrings have appeared in Vogue magazine and on the red carpet. She was always destined to be an artist. Just like I was always the writer.

hero-necklaceguestpost

Alethea’s jewelry creations.

 

 

Giveaway:

Fairy Tale Gift Bundle: Signed copies of both Enchantment and Hero by Alethea Kontis plus swag!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
hero-authorNew York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a goddess, a force of nature, and a mess. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, turning garden gnomes into mad scientists, and making sense out of fairy tales.

Alethea is the co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and penned the AlphaOops series of picture books. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, includingThe Wonderland Alphabet and Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome. Her debut YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and was nominated for both the Andre Norton Award and the Audie Award in 2013.

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea now lives in Northern Virginia with her Fairy Godfamily. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Clockwork Heart (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2) by Liesel Schwarz

Book Review: A Clockwork Heart (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2) by Liesel SchwarzA Clockwork Heart by Liesel Schwarz
Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2
Published by Del Rey on August 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
FOR BETTER OR CURSE. That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.

As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally.

In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.

My Review:
Although I wasn’t blown away by the first book in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow, A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS, I decided to give the second book a chance. There were a couple of things I liked, such as the magic system, and I was hoping to find out more about the Light and Shadow in the second book.

Unfortunately, I don’t think A CLOCKWORK HEART was the right book for me.

To start off, I didn’t really care for Elle or Marsh. I am usually a character-driven reader, and will overlook a weak story if I really get behind the characters. I had hoped that with one book behind them, Elle and Marsh would be more consistent, but they aren’t. Throughout the book, Elle vacillates between being a strong, intelligent, and independent woman to one who makes stupid decisions. In the first book, Elle reluctantly became the Oracle after having being tricked into it. Okay, I can understand that six months down the line, she’s still not happy about how it happened, but I can NOT understand why she wouldn’t learn more about her new powers as a way to keep herself and her husband safe. Nope. Elle tells the voices of the past Oracles to leave her alone.

I have to note one scene with Elle’s character inconsistencies. She takes a charter that Marsh doesn’t want her to take, and her old friend from pilot school, Ducky, comes along. She tells him about the marital troubles between her and Marsh, and Ducky says that if Elle was his wife, he’d spank her for being a brat. Then Ducky turns the airship around, and Elle just says, “Okay,” and thinks she’s being silly for disagreeing with Marsh. That is NOT the Elle I remember from A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS, the Elle who fought Marsh every step of the way.

Marsh also frustrated me. I can appreciate that he made a HUGE sacrifice in giving up his warlock powers to have a normal life with Elle, but he seemed like an ultra controlling husband. I know that this book is set in 1904, when women didn’t have the rights that they do now, but … part of what Marsh liked about Elle was her independence.

I actually liked the minor characters more than I liked Elle and Marsh. Loisa, their Nightwalker friend, was my favorite in the book. I think I’d have enjoyed a book from her point of view more than one from Elle’s.

Moving onto the plot … the book read like three or four separate, disjointed stories for me, not one cohesive story. There were several events that happened, such as Elle winning an airship, or being put in jail, that just didn’t make any sense. The argument that separated Elle and Marsh was full of stilted dialogue, and I had to read the passage three times to figure out it was actually a fight! I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it was an overflowing bucket of angst. Too much, and it felt tacked on. I could have done without the last two chapters.

What was good in A CLOCKWORK HEART? The clockwork powered zombies were a very cool invention of the author’s. They were spooky, and their creation process made me shiver.

At first I also liked Clothilde, the villain of the book. She is a lady in white, something I wish had been explored more, because I was never entirely sure what she was, or what her motivation was. Why did she want a man? Just because she was lonely? I don’t know.

I’ve picked out a couple of the bigger things that bothered me in A CLOCKWORK HEART. I could mention a lot more, but I’ll stop there. I think if you liked the first book in the series, you might like the second one. If you didn’t, then I’d skip A CLOCKWORK HEART.

Review on Amazon Vine.

Let’s talk about it:
When a trilogy (like The Chronicles of Light and Shadow) is published at an accelerated rate, are you more likely to read it?

Socialize with the author:
Liesel Schwarz:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) by Liesel Schwarz

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) by Liesel SchwarzA Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
Published by Del Rey on March 5, 2013
Genres: Adult, Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.

Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

My Review:
A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS is the first in a series combining steampunk, alternate history, fantasy, and paranormal genres. I was attracted to it because of the blurb, which mentions the world being divided into light and shadow, technology and supernatural.

It took me a long time to read A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS. I tried a couple of times, and eventually powered my way through it because I had a chance to read the second book, A CLOCKWORK HEART. I had quite a few issues with the book, which kept me from enjoying it.

As I said, one of the reasons I wanted to read the book was because of the interesting world highlighted in the summary. But I swear there’s practically no worldbuilding. So when there were mentions of a war between light and shadow, and even when the “bad guys” kidnapped the main character, I didn’t entirely know why it would be such a bad thing if the shadow won.

Because Elle, the main character, is an airship pilot, fighting for her place in an arena (and world) dominated by males, I expected her to be a spunky, strong character. But she was inconsistent, and dare I say it, boring. I preferred the narration of the green fairy, Adele, who lived off absinthe, to Elle. Elle lives in a world where technology and magic work side-by-side, yet she refuses to believe in the existence of magic. So when the reveal comes that she has a pretty big magical ability, she a) doesn’t believe it and b) doesn’t learn anything about her powers. Then she makes some absurd decisions, which lead her right into danger. Sorry, but I really don’t like it when supposedly intelligent characters do stupid things.

And then the last nail came when Elle met the infuriating Marsh. They were attracted to each other at first glance. And though Elle didn’t like Marsh (and who would, he was a domineering jerk), she couldn’t deny her attraction to him. Their “relationship” moved way too quickly from the bickering, “I hate you stage” to the “I love you” stage, strongly reminding me of a young adult novel. In fact, I thought A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS read a lot like a young adult book, from the underdeveloped characters to the quick romance to the simplistic writing style.

Let’s talk about it:
If you don’t like the first book in a series, will you give the next book a chance?

Socialize with the author:
Liesel Schwarz:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne LindseyDeceived by Julie Anne Lindsey
Published by Merit Press on September 18, 2013
Genres: Mythology, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad's demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went--until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn't her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father's desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

Hey, ya’ll. Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DECEIVED by Julie Anne Lindsey. I’ve wanted to read something of hers since finding her blog a long time ago and learning she was a fellow Ohioan! Read on for my review and a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

My Review:
“One handshake and they were friends for life, to hear Pixie tell it. The world was full of potential friends for her.

Personally, I called them all the opposite until proven otherwise. I’d had my share of treacherous friendships. As a general rule, people weren’t as nice as they should be.” (p. 14)

Elle has that one right! DECEIVED is a book where you’re never quite sure who to trust. A young adult thriller/mystery, the book is a good read.

DECEIVED starts off at the beginning of Elle’s senior year at a boarding school in Ohio. Usually shy, even paranoid, Elle is trying to turn over a new leaf this year, to get away from the nightmare that has haunted her for years. A nightmare she can barely remember, but one that has kept her from getting a good night’s sleep for longer than she can remember. The boarding school is also an opportunity for Elle to stay in one place for a while; she and her father have moved at least once a year since her mother’s death.

But the school year barely kicks off before mysterious things start happening to Elle. Paranoid because of the dream, where she’s always in danger of dying, simple things like finding a pile of cigarette butts outside of her door or hearing a faulty car every morning freak her out. And when Brian, the gorgeous guy she met before school, shows up and enrolls in all of her classes, all bets are off.

Brian is a real hot-cold kind of guy. He virtually ignores Elle at school, but then he does sweet things like cook her dinner and bring her coffee. I was bothered by Elle’s instant attraction to him. It was close to, if not outright, insta-love for me, and that’s never something I like. However, as the book went on, and I learned more of Brian’s secrets, I began rooting for their relationship.

The first half of DECEIVED is pretty slow. The action picks up after the first hundred or so pages, and after that, I read straight on until I finished the book. The beginning is full of developing Elle’s paranoia and fear, as well as the burgeoning relationship between Elle and Brian. Once I reached the end of DECEIVED, some of the odd things in the first half of the book made a lot more sense. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say keep your eyes open as you read, and see what clues you find.

The mystery was my favorite part of DECEIVED. Near the start of the book, we learn about a serial killer, The Reaper, who brutally tortures and kills high school age girls. With almost two dozen victims to his name, he’s been on the run for a long, long time. When she reads about him online, Elle doesn’t think much about it, other than being grateful there’s no way he’d be interested in boring old her. Naturally, their stories tangle together, resulting in the question of who’s deceiving whom, and a great action scene. I can’t say much else than that without ruining the entire book, so go give DECEIVED a chance.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize package #1 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
$10 iTunes gift card
Black satin makeup bag with: black blinged compact/mirror, blue sheen nail polish & 5 pack Frosted lip gloss & balms

Prize package #2 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Silver makeup bag with: silver sparkly compact/mirror, Pixie dust (in honor of my favorite YA roommate) & 4 pack Moshi Monsters flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #3 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
4 pack Nerds flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #4 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Satin Pucker Up makeup bag

Prize package #5 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks

Prize package #6 (INT)
1-eARC PDF of DECEIVED

About the author:
julie anne lindseyJulie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomes five new releases in three genres including her newest title, DECEIVED, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).

Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book.
Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Find her online:
Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey
Soothing her book obsession on GoodReads
Pinning the pretty on Pinterest
Tumbling lamely on Tumblr
Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile
Facebook
DECEIVED’S trailer

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Book Review: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie BerryAll the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Published by Viking on September 26, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

My Review:
I’ve been waffling over my review for ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME for over a month. I had a difficult time figuring out what to say about the book, which is ironic because the main character can’t talk. Judith’s tongue was cut out by her captor before he sent her home.

ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME is written in a unique way which might not be for every reader. I recommend checking out an excerpt if you can. Instead of chapters, the book is a series of connected, short passages. Instead of the usual first or third person point of view, the book is from second person POV, with Judith talking to Lucas, the boy she’s always loved. Example: “How busy you are now. Harvest, and a wedding. A new room on the cabin to please your bride (p. 24).”

The “romance” between Judith and Lucas is, at first, one-sided. I didn’t mind it, because I figured Judith used Lucas as a mental escape and way to survive during her captivity. After she’s back, it makes sense for her to continue using him that way, because even though she’s free, life is far from peachy. ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME picks up about two years after Judith’s return home, and is about her trouble fitting in and picking up the pieces of her life. For example, because she can’t talk anymore, almost everyone in the village thinks she’s stupid or cursed, and they act like she doesn’t exist. And Judith’s mother? Not too thrilled about her ruined daughter.

It’s hard to place the world in this book, because there’s very little worldbuilding. That was a negative point for me, because I’m the type of reader that likes to know as much as possible about a book’s world. I’m guessing it’s set in a Puritan village, sometime in the late 1600s. The war with the homelanders that plays a big role in the book isn’t really explained, and I was confused about who the homelanders were, and why they would want to overrun Roswell Station.

The cover of ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME also gave me the impression it would be a contemporary book, set in 2013 or thereabouts. So between the summary that didn’t mention anything about the time period and the cover, I was surprised when I realized the book was set in the past.

What this review really comes down to — did I like this book? Sort of. At first I thought the unique writing style and the questions behind Judith’s captivity were interesting. Along with Judith’s kidnapping, there’s the mystery of what happened to her friend Lottie. I figured it out before the reveal, and thought the last two sections of the book were too drawn out. The further I got into ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME, I just wanted to get to the end and be done with it.

Review on Amazon.

Let’s talk about it:
If a book cover doesn’t match a book, does it bug you?

Socialize with the author:
Julie Berry:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna