Blog Tour Book Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Blog Tour Book Review: Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonRoyal Street by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #1
Published by Tor on April 10, 2012
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Today I am the stop on the blog tour for The Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit the other stops here. My stop is up a little late because I haven’t had electric since yesterday … I could definitely go for some of the MREs DJ and Alex seem to live on in ROYAL STREET!

Book Review:

The first in a new urban fantasy series, ROYAL STREET features a unique magic system, a delectable bad guy, and a memorable setting.

The book is set mostly post Hurricane Katrina, in a devastated New Orleans. The author eloquently describes the effects of the hurricane upon the city and its citizens, and I felt for them. The setting has one other purpose — the destruction of the city weakens the boundaries between Old and New Orleans, allowing supernatural creatures to more easily walk among the living.

Enter Drusilla Jaco, junior sentinel for New Orleans. She’s a Green Congress wizard, one of those responsible for sending the dead back where they belong. Famous figures like Jean Lafitte and Marie Laveau make appearances, Jean being the sexiest undead pirate I’ve ever read about. In the world the author created, such figures can be summoned from the Beyond, but of course they come back to wreck havoc.

The worldbuilding and magic system were my favorite parts of ROYAL STREET. Different “congresses” of wizards have different abilities. I’ll let DJ explain her speciality:

“Green Congress wizards were the geeks of the magical world, hell on rituals and potions but always last to get picked for wizard dodgeball, so to speak. I’d have to immobilize the vampire, saw off his fangs, and dissolve them in an herbal potion while muttering some obscure incantation. We had no flair (Chapter 2).”

In the author’s world, there are also vampires, fey, elves, shifters, weres, and zombies, but they didn’t make appearances. I hope more about the different factions and races shows up in future books in the series, since I want to see how they all fit in Old Orleans, New Orleans, and the Beyond. New Orleans was the perfect city to set ROYAL STREET, because it’s so rich in history and ghost stories; I felt like the city was a character in itself.

As a main character, DJ did get on my nerves a fair amount. It’s a peeve of mine when characters continually charge into danger, even when A) they know better, and B) everyone around them tells them not to. However, I could respect DJ’s desire to find out the truth about her mentor, and her need to rescue him after he disappeared. I just wish she had been a bit smarter about it.

The pacing of ROYAL STREET was slow at times, with the characters spending lots of time waiting and researching. I think it could have been a bit shorter, which would have tightened the various plotlines, which ranged from a voodoo-inspired serial killer running around New Orleans killing rescue workers to the hunt for Gerry, DJ’s mentor.

Even with the few things I’ve mentioned, ROYAL STREET was a good read. The author hooked me enough for me to want to continue the series. I think DJ will grow in the next book, because, as with all urban fantasy heroines, she discovers tons of secrets about her past throughout the course of ROYAL STREET. I’m also looking forward to seeing Alex again. Introduced at the start as DJ’s new partner and Co-Sentinel, Alex is a walking armory, big on guns and grenades instead of spells. He’s the epitome of the strong yet sensitive love interest, and though I didn’t feel the sparks between them, I could see their relationship change from the beginning to the end of the book.

About the author:

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books, and you can visit the rest of the stops here.

the neptune projectInfo:
Title: The Neptune Project
Author: Polly Holyoke
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Source: Disney/Hyperion for blog tour
Series? Not sure
Genre: Middle-grade, Science Fiction, Adventure
Page Count: 340
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

With her weak eyes and useless lungs that often leave her gasping for air, Nere feels more at home swimming with the dolphins her mother studies than she does hanging out with her classmates. Nere has never understood why she is so much more comfortable and confident in the water than on land until the day she learns the shocking truth—she is one of a group of kids who have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of the “Neptune Project” are supposed to build a better future under the waves, safe from the terrible famines and wars and that rock the surface world.

But there are some big challenges ahead of her: no one ever asked Nere if she wanted to be part of a science experiment; the other Neptune kids aren’t exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the new Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim across hundreds of miles of dangerous ocean, relying on their wits, their loyal dolphins and one another to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids … dead or alive.

Fierce battle and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friend race to safety in this action-packed marine adventure. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
When I read the summary for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, the words “genetically modified” caught my eye. I’m a sucker for main characters that start out as average, only to discover they have some special ability that makes them unique and powerful. I mean, don’t we all wish we had something like that?

Nere, the protagonist of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, calls herself “Freak Girl.” She has weak lungs and eyes that are super sensitive to light. She’s never felt super comfortable on land, preferring to spend her time in the water with the dolphins she and her mother train. It turns out there’s an excellent reason for that — she was genetically modified by her scientist parents to live underwater.

Nere lives in a sort of dystopian world, where global warming is cutting the food supply and creating other environmental changes. We never get details on what happened to the above-water world, but for once, I didn’t mind. The world the author created below the water captured all of my interest. I haven’t run across many books set underwater, but after reading THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, I’m going to be on the lookout for more.

Forced to leave land behind for good, Nere and her friends begin a long journey to her father’s undersea colony. Along the way, they learn they’re not the only kids genetically modified to survive underwater. Nere comes into her own as a character and strong girl, learning to become a leader and to believe that she’s more than just a freak.

I absolutely have to mention the dolphins. Nere always had a close relationship with the dolphins her mother used for research, but once she’s underwater, the relationships grow even more. There’s a whole pod of dolphins that make the journey with Nere and the other Project Neptune kids, and just like the kids, each dolphin had its own personality. The dolphins and Nere communicate telepathically, with some dolphins able to speak English and some communicating in pictures/feelings. The dolphins were some of my favorite characters.

I read THE NEPTUNE PROJECT in one sitting. As I said, I was captivated by the undersea world, which is saying something because I’ve never had that much of an interest in it. But as I read the book, I could see the beauty in it, as well as the adventures to be had in the ocean.

I did have a couple of small issues with THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, but they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. One was that I had a hard time figuring out how old Nere and the other kids were. If Nere’s age was ever mentioned, I forgot it. Which leads into my next quibble: THE NEPTUNE PROJECT straddles the line between middle-grade and young adult. The book is mostly “clean,” with a couple of sweet hints at romance, but nothing too passionate. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but romance isn’t the focus of the book, which is something I liked overall.

Instead, the focus is adventure, and for the characters learning to use their new abilities. There’s plenty of action in the book, and the author wasn’t afraid to put her characters in danger. Although humans are the top of the food chain on land, they aren’t so powerful underwater, even when genetically modified.

THE NEPTUNE PROJECT doesn’t have a big climax at the end, and I was sort of expecting one after all the action scenes and the journey. Instead, the book leaves room for a sequel or two, and I hope there’s one in the pipeline! I really want to find out what happens next to Nere, the other kids, and the dolphins.

THE NEPTUNE PROJECT is a quick-paced, well-written mix of adventure and science fiction, one that I’d recommend to younger and older readers looking for something a little different.

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
authorpollyholyokePolly Holyoke has been imagining stories since she was in fifth grade. When she isn’t writing, Polly loves reading, camping, skiing, scuba diving and hiking in the desert (where she quite stupidly got herself bitten by a rattlesnake). She lives with three rescue dogs, two spoiled cats and a nice husband who is tolerant about the piles of books all over their house. Her debut middlegrade novel, THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, is the story of a young girl leading a group of genetically altered teens fighting to survive in the sea. She is thrilled that this novel will be published by Disney/Hyperion and Puffin Books UK summer, 2013. She thinks the best part about being an author is going to work in her sweatpants and getting paid for daydreaming!
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

the programInfo:
Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? The Program #1
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Page Count: 408
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I’ll admit, I was skeptical but intrigued by THE PROGRAM. I wondered how the author would handle the topic of teen suicide, and how the mysterious Program would fit into everything.

Within a chapter or two of THE PROGRAM, I had fallen into the book. I barely put it down until I finished it because the author drew me so completely into Sloane’s world. And what a scary world! Teen suicide has become an epidemic, with great numbers of kids 13 to 18 committing suicide for no explainable reason. The Program is the answer, a six week inpatient program for troubled youths that claims to cure them … by taking away their memories.

It’s dangerous to show feelings, to cry, or to be upset. Every day, kids take a test asking if they feel overwhelmed, if anyone close to them has committed suicide, etc. It’s a screening test for The Program, and the wrong answers could get you taken away. So can suspicious behavior; Sloane is especially careful because her parents lost one child to suicide already, and don’t want to lose her.

In this mess, Sloane’s rock is her boyfriend, James. Their relationship is already established at the beginning of the book, and once Sloane is in The Program, flashbacks tell how it started. I had so-so feelings for James — he was hot and cold with his emotions, but I could also see why Sloane liked him so much, and why he was so important to her. I also have to say yay to the author for including sex in the book — it’s not gratuitous or graphic, but a way for Sloane and James to connect and feel.

The real creepiness starts when Sloane goes into The Program. I won’t spoil for you how she gets there, but it was a real teeth-gnashing moment for me. The writing in THE PROGRAM flows easily, but the story isn’t so quickly devoured. I think the author’s bringing up some good questions, such as how do you know who you are, and how do you hold onto that when everyone around you is telling you that you’re wrong. That was a mouthful, whew, but I think self-identity is something teens (and older readers) deal with on a daily basis.

I also think the author did a good job of balancing what the reader knows about Sloane versus what Sloane doesn’t know any longer, after the treatment begins. The aim of The Program is to erase the memories that supposedly led to suicide or suicidal triggers, and as the doctors and drugs do their work on Sloane, she forgets her past. I had moments where I was going, “NO, DON’T,” but of course Sloane didn’t know what she was about to do because she’d lost those memories.

Overall, I liked Sloane. She was the strongest part of the book for me. I could identify with her being scared to show her feelings, because if she did let anyone know she was sad or depressed, she would end up in The Program. I don’t really like to show my feelings, so it was nice to have a character that didn’t either, even if it wasn’t her choice.

I didn’t know where THE PROGRAM would end. I always like when I can’t predict what will happen in a book. When I had only a few pages left, I had lots of unanswered questions and the action was just heating up again. I do wish there had been more answers about The Program, but this is the first book in a series, so that’s to be expected.

Socialize with the author:
Suzanne Young:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop – $10 Amazon Giftcard!

The Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Giftcard since everyone loves those! So this is my first giveaway for U.S. and international followers! To enter, hit up the Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Gveaway runs from June 21 to June 30.
*Winner will be contacted by email and have 2 days to respond.

– leeanna


Waiting on Wednesday: Infinite by Jodi Meadows

infinite

Infinite by Jodi Meadows
Release Date: January 28, 2014

DESTRUCTION
The Year of Souls begins with an earthquake—an alarming rumble from deep within the earth—and it’s only the first of greater dangers to come. The Range caldera is preparing to erupt. Ana knows that as Soul Night approaches, everything near Heart will be at risk.

FLIGHT
Ana’s exile is frightening, but it may also be fortuitous, especially if she can convince her friends to flee Heart and Range with her. They’ll go north, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan’s ascension. And with any luck, the newsouls will be safe from harm’s reach.

CHOICE
The oldsouls might have forgotten the choice they made to give themselves limitless lifetimes, but Ana knows the true cost of reincarnation. What she doesn’t know is whether she’ll have the chance to finish this one sweet life with Sam, especially if she returns to Heart to stop Janan once and for all. (summary from goodreads)

This is what I get for getting behind in reading blogs (and boy am I behind). I missed the cover/title/summary reveal for INFINITE! Considering the love I have for the New Soul trilogy, I had to put this up as a book I’m looking forward to. Thank Merlin 2014 is only six months away, because I need to get my hands on this NOW.

I have to admit, I was a bit uncertain of the cover at first, just because it’s different colors than INCARNATE and ASUNDER — green and blue instead of purple and pink, but it’s really grown on me. Now it’s to the “I could look at this all day” stage. Looooove!

Socialize with the author:
Jodi Meadows:
Website
Facebook
Twitter @jodimeadows

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

don't turn aroundInfo:
Title: Don’t Turn Around
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? PERSEF0NE #1
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Page Count: 320
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
DON’T TURN AROUND is a difficult book to describe, let alone review without giving away too many spoilers. It’s an action-packed thriller, with barely a minute to breathe as you’re reading. The title is apt, because everytime Noa turns around, there is someone there trying to recapture or kill her.

The book starts off with one heck of a hook: Noa waking up in a mysterious glass cube inside a warehouse. There’s a scar on her chest, as if she’s just had surgery. Her survival instincts kick in, and Noa flees, escaping what seems like an army of bad guys. An orphan used to fending for herself, Noa is also a gifted hacker, and she puts those skills to use in trying to figure out just what the hell happened to her.

Enter Peter. When Noa needs quick cash to survive for a few days until she can get access to her bank accounts, he hires her to do research into a mysterious company that broke into his house to steal his laptop. Peter is the creator of /ALLIANCE/, a do-good hacking group named after the Alliance from World of Warcraft.

Noa and Peter eventually end up working together, for the organization that kidnapped Noa is the same one that broke into Peter’s house. The action in DON’T TURN AROUND is non-stop, but even though Noa and Peter got into some bad situations, I never truly felt like they were in danger. The author also tried to interject some romance between the two, but I wished she had just left them as wary acquaintances, because the romance fell flat for me. Fortunately there isn’t a lot of it.

Noa is a difficult character to get a grasp on at first. She’s independent, secretive, and doesn’t talk about herself. All for a good reason, and she does grow throughout the book, learning that she can’t rely on just herself. I did like that she wasn’t a character who went to emotional bits every time something bad happened, but stayed calm and thought through a situation or conflict. Peter was the softer one, more in touch with his emotions and indulging in a freak out or two. A guy used to every girl liking him, Noa keeps him on his toes.

I appreciate the touches of geekiness throughout DON’T TURN AROUND, only fitting as both Noa and Peter are hackers. However, as a geek, a few things stood out to me as false or not quite right. But I don’t think the average, non-gamer, non-geek will pick up on them.

Ultimately, though there’s a lot of action, not a lot happens in DON’T TURN AROUND. It’s mostly set-up. There are a lot of loose ends, but that’s because it’s the first in a trilogy. While I didn’t love the book, I did like it quite a bit, and I will be picking up the next book, DON’T LOOK NOW, set to come out August 2013. I want to get answers to all my questions, and find out what happens next to Noa, Peter, and the evil organization they’re fighting against.

Socialize with the author:
Michelle Gagnon:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Book Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversDark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 2, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 385
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

My Review:
GRAVE MERCY, the first book in the His Fair Assassin series, was at the top of my list for 2012. I mean, who can pass up assassin nuns fathered by Death himself? Not me! So DARK TRIUMPH was a book I couldn’t wait to read.

Let me tell you just how much I liked it: I read it two times in one month. My original rating was actually 4 stars, but because I read it twice, and enjoyed it both times, I bumped my rating up to 5 stars.

DARK TRIUMPH is told from Sybella’s viewpoint, although Ismae and Duval from GRAVE MERCY make appearances. Sybella’s story is one I’ve been curious about ever since she showed up at the convent, wild and reluctant to live. It’s a story worth waiting for — Sybella’s past is dark and dangerous, as suits a daughter of Death.

Sent by the convent to spy on d’Albret, the duchess of Brittany’s greatest enemy, Sybella spends every day in danger of losing her life or her sanity. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that d’Albret believes Sybella is his daughter. d’Albret is a cruel, manipulative bastard, and his goal is to rule Brittany. Sybella, knowing the depths of depravity he is capable of, will do anything to keep that from happening.

But being back in her childhood home of torment is almost too much to bear. Sybella has spent the months looking in vain for the marque of Mortain, the signal that she can kill d’Albret. The convent has been silent on the matter, and when they finally send a message, it’s not one Sybella wants to hear. She is to rescue the Beast, one of the duchess’s greatest warriors.

What follows is a long journey with a severely wounded warrior. Inspite of herself, Sybella is inspired by Beast and his determination to fight for the duchess and his country even though he’s half dead from injuries at the hand of d’Albret. I also don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying a romance crops up between these two. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of romances. But in DARK TRIUMPH, the love story was so sweet, so touching, and so needed for Sybella (and Beast) that I was rooting for them all the way.

I also rooted for Sybella as an individual. As DARK TRIUMPH unfolds, you learn she has gone through some incredibly dark stuff in her past, things that have molded her to be one of Death’s Handmaidens. There’s a great scene near the end of the book that answers a lot of Sybella’s questions about herself — is she just a killer, is she better than d’Albret, and so on. While I was reading, I also had those questions and many more. I wasn’t able to guess all the twists and events of Sybella’s past, which is always a plus for me.

As for Beast, I liked what I think the author was trying to convey with his character. All too often in young adult books, the love interests are incredibly handsome, to the point where your jaw would fall off at first sight of them. Beast is the total opposite. To put it bluntly, he’s ugly. But he has, to use a cliché phrase, a heart of gold. He’s just what Sybella needs to heal and learn to value herself.

DARK TRIUMPH is not as political as GRAVE MERCY; it focuses mainly on Sybella and Beast. There’s also not a lot of backstory to catch you up on the events of the first book. I was a little confused at first, trying to remember what had happened before. But as long as you remember the convent and its mission, as well as the duchess’s desire to keep Brittany independent, you should be good to go.

DARK TRIUMPH is a rich, well-written, young adult historical fiction book. The author’s writing kept me engaged; I really felt like I was there, watching every scene play out. Already I’m dying to get my hands on the last in the series, which will be Annith’s story. Although, I will be sorry to leave Sybella and Beast behind.

Socialize with the author:
Robin LaFevers
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 3, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 549
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

My Review:
Right before I started GRAVE MERCY, I had just finished two books that I really enjoyed. So I was hesitant to start another book, fearing that I would be disappointed, as I’ve read a lot of sub par books this year.

However, my fears were quieted with the first paragraph of GRAVE MERCY, and then blown away entirely by the end of the first chapter. I was reading in a coffee shop, and two hours flew by before I realized how sucked in I was!

The unwanted, fourteen-year-old daughter of a turnip farmer, Ismae is sold in marriage to a pig farmer for three silver coins. She thinks it is the opportunity for something more than her abusive father, but her new husband doesn’t want her either. After seeing her back, which bears scars from the poison used in a failed attempt to expel her from her mother’s womb, he beats her and locks her in a root cellar.

Ismae is spirited away from her new husband by hedge priests and herbwitches. They take her to the abbey of St. Mortain, where Ismae learns that she is the daughter of Death Himself. At the convent, she joins other god-sired girls in learning hundreds of ways to kill men. As St. Mortain’s daughters, the sisters carry out his wishes in the mortal realm, dealing death to those who deserve it.

Three years later, Ismae is sent back into the world to be the convent’s agent at the high court of Brittany. Brittany’s future ruler is Anne, a twelve-year-old duchess who has been promised to half a dozen nobles and more in an attempt to protect the duchy from France. The French king wants to claim Brittany as a possession.

At first, Ismae looks for every opportunity she can to carry out her god’s bidding, but to her dismay, she can’t just go around killing people. Even worse, she has to work with Gavriel Duval, who she may or may not be able to trust. Duval claims to be working towards securing Brittany’s future, but Ismae finds it difficult to trust any man.

GRAVE MERCY is so refreshing! It’s set in the fifteenth century, and many of the characters are based on real historical figures. Anne of Brittany really existed, and was stuck in the same situation. It’s not a period I’ve studied, so I don’t know how accurate the book is. According to the author’s website, she uses the time period as a canvas rather than sticking strictly to fact. It works, creating a rich backdrop for Ismae’s story.

Ismae is a kick ass character in her own right; she doesn’t need any magic or paranormal abilities to make her awesome. Yes, she’s a trained assassin, and the daughter of a god, but other than that, her abilities come from hard work and training. She grows so much over the course of the book. I really, really liked her character.

Duval is an interesting character as well. He has his own reasons for wanting to see Anne ordained as duchess, and you learn those reasons as Ismae does. There’s not a lot of information dumping in this novel despite the historical setting; the author gives you just enough to set the scene, adding other details as necessary.

I don’t want to spoil things too much, but I also enjoyed the romance in this story. That’s really unusual for me, since usually I don’t care for it at all, but here it advanced Ismae’s character, and was well done. There is no falling in love at first sight, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

I was vaguely reminded of the Kushiel’s Dart series by Jacqueline Carey. If you’ve read it, you may see some similarities too. There’s a lot of political intrigue and moral questioning, as well as some adult topics (nothing too graphic, unlike Kushiel’s Dart). I think adults as well as older teens would enjoy GRAVE MERCY.

LaFevers’ writing style is immersing and engaging. The world she creates on top of fifteenth century Brittany and the mythology of the old gods — I could have gobbled up a book twice this length.

I’m definitely, definitely looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy. Spring 2013 is so far away. There’s so much more I want to know!

Socialize with the author:
Robin LaFevers
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Crystal Bones by C. Aubrey Hall

crystal bonesInfo:
Title: Crystal Bones
Author: C. Aubrey Hall
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Faelin Chronicles #1
Genre: Middle-grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Page Count: 352
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

The first book in a trilogy that features a twin sister and brother who are half-Fae and half-human. When they discover their younger sister is missing, their home burned, and their parents murdered, they seek revenge on their goblin enermies.. Their father’s last words lead them to Eirian, a powerful sword that will take them to their missing sister, if they can keep it out of the hands of their enemies. (summary from amazon)

My Review:
CRYSTAL BONES is a solid middle-grade fantasy, with plenty of fae, goblins, and other fantasy creatures. The first in the Faelin Chronicles, it sets up Diello and Cynthe’s journey to find out information about their parents’ pasts, to save their sister, and to discover who they are.

I’m calling it middle-grade because Diello and Cynthe turn thirteen at the start of the book, but I thought they often sounded and acted a lot older than their age. However, that could have been due to their half-blood state — they are Faelin, offspring of a Fae and a human. Normal humans are quite racist towards Fae and especially towards Faelin, and that is a part of the plot.

The book is told from Diello’s point of view, and in a twist, he’s more mature than his sister. Cynthe is impulsive and the better athlete. Twins, they are fiercely loyal to each other, and it’s clear they’re going to need each other throughout the series, because a LOT of bad stuff happens in this book. I’m not going to list it all off because then I’d spoil it all, but believe me, there’s a ton of it. I was almost to the point where I was thinking, “What’s going to happen NOW?”

CRYSTAL BONES is one of those books I just liked, which makes it hard to say a lot about it. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I just liked it. There wasn’t anything particularly new about it for me, but then, fantasy is one of my favorite genres so I’ve read a ton of fantasy books. CRYSTAL BONES could be a good introduction to fantasy for younger readers.

My main impression of the book after reading was that it was all set up for the rest of the series. While Diello and Cynthe endure a lot, at the same time, I also felt like there wasn’t much going on. That all the events and hardships would come into play in the next books. That said, I would read the next book, THE CALL OF EIRIAN, because the author intrigued me enough for me to want to continue Diello and Cynthe’s adventures.

Socialize with the author:
*C. Aubrey Hall is a pseudonym for Deborah Chester.
Website

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Otherborn by Anna Silver (and giveaway!)

Today I am one of the stops on the OTHERBORN blog tour. The tour is hosted by Itching for Books and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

otherbornInfo:
Title: Otherborn
Author: Anna Silver
Release Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
Source: Blog tour
Series? Otherborn #1
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Page Count: 290
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

London and her teenage friends live in a reprocessed world.

Confined within Capital City’s concrete walls, London has done the impossible and the illegal. She’s created something New- a song. But her mentor, club owner Pauly, is not impressed. Since the historic Energy Crisis forced everyone behind walls generations ago, the Tycoons have ensured there is truly nothing new allowed under the sun. Pauly warns London to keep her song to herself, if she knows what’s good for her.

What he doesn’t know is that London is keeping an even bigger secret: she dreams. And she’s not alone. London’s band-mates and friends have begun dreaming as well, seeing themselves in “night pictures” as beings from another world. As Otherborn, they must piece together the story of their astral avatars, the Others, in order to save their world from a dreamless, hopeless future.

When Pauly is murdered and an Otherborn goes missing, London realizes someone is hunting them down. Escaping along the Outroads, they brave the deserted Houselands with only their dreams to guide them. Can they find their friend before the assassin finds them? Will being Otherborn save their lives, or destroy them? (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
OTHERBORN is an interesting mix of genres, mainly dystopian and science fiction. Can we say yay for science fiction in a young adult book? I am!

OTHERBORN starts off with world-building, establishing the dystopian part of the book. In London’s world, there is nothing new. No new buildings, homes, fuel, or anything else. Even the air is recycled. Worst of all? There’s nothing new in the creative realm, either. No new songs, books, or poetry. Wait — the worst part for fellow booklovers might be that books have been recycled to be toilet paper. There’s also a caste system, and basically, you stay in the caste you’re born in, unless you know someone high up.

Most people are content with the world. It’s all they know, and though it might not be the best, it’s what they have after the Energy Crisis. But London isn’t content. She’s miserable. She wants to create something New, but when she does, she’s told it’s dangerous. But little does Pauly, the closest thing London has to a father, know that she’s already in danger.

London and her friends call themselves the Otherborn because they have dreams. In their world, people don’t dream, so it’s something that unites the mismatched group. But their dreams are much more than dreams — they are memories of past lives, of better lives before it became such a depressing place of nothingness.

The uniqueness of OTHERBORN sucked me in. I was so happy that such an attention-grabbing synopsis delivered a good book. I did have a lot of questions about the world — how did it end up such a depressing pit, etc. — and not all of them were answered. But OTHERBORN is the first in a series, so maybe those answers will come later. I’m more than intrigued by what’s in the first book to want to continue the series and find out what happens next, which isn’t something that happens much with me these days!

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
Anna Silver is an author and artist living in the greater Houston area with her family, pets, and overactive imagination. Her art has been featured in the Houston gallery Las Manos Magicas. She studied English Writing & Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University. She’s freelanced for private clients and small publications like the Hill Country Current. OTHERBORN is her first published novel. She is represented by Rebecca Podos and Nicole LaBombard of Rees Literary Agency.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna