Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie KagawaThe Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 24, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 485
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness….

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

My Review:

THE IMMORTAL RULES has some of my favorite things: vampires, a dystopian society, and a kick-butt main character. It was one of THE books of 2012, and I’ve actually read the book twice in less than a year, first in June 2012 and now in April 2013. Both times I loved it, and didn’t want it to end.

As a human, Allison Sekemoto struggles to survive in a world where most humans are nothing more than sacks of walking blood. Vampires rule what’s left of America, doling out supplies in exchange for required blood “donations.” Allie, fiercely independent and unwilling to Register with the vampires, ekes out a miserable existence. Unregistered humans don’t officially exist, so they don’t get food tickets or housing. Searching for food and protecting her gang are her only priorities, although she does know how to do one thing most humans don’t: read.

The world Julie Kagawa has created is a harsh one, and I loved it. The world-building is well-done, with enough details to immerse me in the story without overloading me on backstory. At the beginning of THE IMMORTAL RULES, Allie is a prickly character. But she’s that way because of her life, which is a day-to-day struggle. Besides the vampire overlords, Allie faces danger from rival gangs, rabids, and starvation.

When Allie’s offered a second chance at life after being attacked by rabids, you almost wonder why she would even take it. This quote is one of my favorites from the book: “But in reality, when faced with death and the great unknown that came after, my survival instinct snatched wildly at whatever lifeline was offered. I didn’t want to die. Even if it meant becoming something I loathed, my nature was, first and always, to survive (Chapter 4).”

I think all readers can identify with the desire to survive. And once Allie becomes a vampire, the very thing she hates the most, she ironically becomes more human. When she isn’t concerned with survival, her humanity returns, which I thought was an interesting dichotomy.

After being separated from her vampire mentor, Kanin (who is a very interesting character, and I can’t wait to see more of him), Allie encounters a group of humans searching for Eden. Pretending to be a human, Allie travels with the group, inevitably falling for Zeke. Though I’m not usually a fan of romance, I didn’t mind their relationship. It wasn’t quite of the dreaded insta-love variety. Zeke is a pretty good guy, but he hates vampires, which leads to some difficult situations.

THE IMMORTAL RULES is a long book; there’s a lot I’m not mentioning in this review. But I never felt like I was slogging through the pages to finish. The author’s writing is easy to read and flows nicely. I can’t believe I haven’t read her Iron Fey series yet, but it’s definitely moved up the list after reading THE IMMORTAL RULES.

I definitely recommend it if you like vampires or dystopias, because it’s a great combination of both. I reread it in preparation for book two of the series, THE ETERNITY CURE, and I’m glad I did.

Socialize with the author:

Julie Kagawa:
Website
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– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Influential Magic by Deanna Chase

Today I am the stop for the INFLUENTIAL MAGIC blog tour. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can find the rest of the stops here. Check below my review for an interview with the author, Deanna Chase.

influential magicInfo:
Title: Influential Magic
Author: Deanna Chase
Release Date: March 6, 2013
Publisher: Bayou Moon Press
Source: Author for blog tour
Series? Crescent City Fae #1
Genre: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 310
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

It’s tough being a faery in New Orleans, a city fraught with vampires… especially when their very existence drains your life-force.

Willow Rhoswen, owner of The Fated Cupcake and part-time vampire hunter for the Void is having a rough week. Four years after her twin brother’s mysterious death, Willow’s life is threatened and the director saddles her with a new partner—her ex-boyfriend, David. To her horror, he’s turned vamp, which causes her physical pain whenever she touches him… and any other specimen of the undead.

In order to save Willow’s life, David agrees to turn double agent against the most powerful vampire organization in New Orleans. Or so he says. And she’s convinced they know something about her brother’s death. Unsure where David’s loyalties lie, she turns to Talisen, her childhood crush, to help her solve the mystery.

Caught between two gorgeous men and a director who’ll stop at nothing to control Willow’s gifts, she’ll have to follow her instincts and learn who to trust. Otherwise, she risks losing more than just her life. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
INFLUENTIAL MAGIC is a new adult, urban fantasy, a combination I’ve been trying to find for a while. Most new adult books are contemporary, which isn’t my cup of tea. I’m happy to say INFLUENTIAL MAGIC was worth the search!

Right from the start, the worldbuilding begins. Willow, the protagonist, is a faery, complete with wings that let her fly and an extreme sensitivity to metal. For her, spending several hours on a plane is more than just an annoyance: metal sucks away her energy. Which is not a good thing, because minutes after getting off the plane to New Orleans, she’s in a cemetery hunting a vampire. Cemeteries and vampires are two more deadly things to faeries like Willow.

I appreciated that the author didn’t do information dumps about the world, but gave information as it was needed. And what a world! In INFLUENTIAL MAGIC, faeries, vampires, and witches live amongst humans without hiding who they are. Willow runs a mega successful bake shop, selling magically enhanced goodies. I would love to get my hands on a Molten Muse cupcake, which sparks inspiration.

Aside from her bakery, Willow is also an agent for the Void, a government branch for supernatural dealings. So is her best friend and witch, Phoebe, as well as her aunt, Maude. It’s a big tangled deal, one Willow isn’t thrilled about being a part of. But she has a unique ability that is extremely helpful: she can track vampires.

There’s a LOT going on in INFLUENTIAL MAGIC. A lot in a good way. The action is fast, with barely a dull or down moment. There are tons of twists, and I really didn’t know how everything was going to tie together at the end. As someone who can usually figure out a book early on, I always like when a story is unpredictable. But at the same time, I had a small problem with so much action: I had trouble keeping track of the passage of time. Thinking back, it’s almost as if the whole story took place over the course of a very long day.

I also had some trouble with both of the men in Willow’s life. David, her ex-boyfriend, comes back into the picture as a vampire. He ended their relationship with a real jerk move — he sent her a text message. Willow has to deal with the feelings from that while trying to keep ahead of someone who wants to use her abilities. There’s also Talisen, the best friend of Willow’s deceased twin and a fellow fae. Talisen has become a sort of replacement brother for Willow, but she won’t go into boyfriend/girlfriend territory with him because he’s a playboy (play faery?). Though romance isn’t really a big focus, I didn’t know why Willow had dated David in the first place, since their relationship took place prior to the book. So their reconciliation or lack of one wasn’t important to me. And with Talisen, yeah he’s cute and cares for Willow, but I never felt the attraction between them.

Considering the entire book, though, those are two minor complaints. The writing in INFLUENTIAL MAGIC is strong, and the author easily drew me into the world, characters, and story. The main mysteries in this book are tied up at its end, but there are some open storylines leaving plenty of room for a sequel. I’d say the book is a steal at $3.99 for the Kindle version.

Oh goddess! I almost forgot to mention Link, Willow’s shapeshifter protector. If you like good animals characters, you’ll love Link. Sometimes he’s a Shih Tzu and sometimes he’s a wolf. He transforms with Willow’s moods and the situation, although there are some hilarious images of him in Shih Tzu form hanging from a bad dude’s butt by his teeth.


Interview:
1. I read on your blog that you feel the stigma of self-publishing even though you’ve been successful. Why did you decide to self-publish? 

I’ve been writing for about six years now and when I started, self-publishing was known as the kiss of death for writers wanting any type of career. The only way to be taken seriously was to submit to agents and publishers and pray someone, anywhere would like what you write and give you a chance. I did my time on the query merry-go-round with not much success.

Then one day I read an article on Amanda Hocking. Up until that point, I had no idea Kindle Direct Publishing, Pubit (now NOOKpress), or Smashwords even existed. I spent the next forty-eight hours scouring the internet to find out as much as I could about the viability of self-publishing. After my eyes were glazed over and my head was spinning, I got that nervous anticipation feeling in my gut and I knew what I was going to do.

I’d been running the glass business I share with my husband for six years by then. Since I’m used to being my own boss, self-publishing seemed like a no-brainer. I like being in charge of my business and holding my professional fate in my own hands. And I was right. Self-publishing turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I now have a writing career that I’m proud of.

As far as the stigma of self-publishing, I wrote that blog post back in September of last year. I was (and am still) very proud of my accomplishments, but there was a bit of self-doubt about how other writers might see my choices. But attitudes and the market are changing so fast these days, I no longer feel the way I did then. I’m very proud and comfortable with my decisions. I wouldn’t change them and really, I’m no longer bothered by what anyone else may think.

Bead-DeannaChase2. I checked out your glass beads (which are awesome!). How did you get into lampworking, and do you find yourself working on beads when you’re stuck with writing? 

Thank you!

In 1999 my husband and I were at a street fair and we saw a woman selling handmade glass beads and marbles that she made using a technique called lampworking (also known as flameworking). It’s called lampworking because in the past people used to melt glass over oil lamps. My husband (who at the time was a stained glass artist) decided he was going to learn to be a lampworker. He went home, bought a book and all the equipment, and three months later he was selling his work on eBay.

He did that as a hobby for three years. Then in 2003 my husband and I sold our house and moved into an RV to travel the country fulltime while working at campgrounds. It was a grand adventure that we both loved. Along the way, I started lampworking as well and in 2005 we started selling our glass beads and marbles fulltime. In 2007, when we decided we needed more studio space than our RV could handle, we settled into a house in southeast Louisiana. I started writing that year.

As far as lampworking when I get stuck writing, yes it helps. It helps a lot actually. The studio is a great place to work out plot issues.

Duncan-DeannaChase3. Where did the idea for INFLUENTIAL MAGIC come from? 
Hmm, tough question.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even know. I started writing Influential Magic back in early 2011 after I decided Haunted on Bourbon Street, my previous novel, wasn’t going to find a home with a publisher. But then I learned about self-publishing and went full speed ahead on publishing the Bourbon Street novels. I came back to Influential Magic late last year to finish it because that story was always in the back of my mind.

I will tell you that Link, Willow’s shih tzu is inspired my dog Duncan (full name Duncan Donut). He’s positive he’s a wolf and quite pleased he has a starring role in Influential Magic.

4. I’m thrilled there’s finally a new adult novel that *isn’t* contemporary. Did you decide consciously to write new adult, or did Willow just pop into your head? 

As I said earlier, I started writing this back in early 2011. I’m not even sure New Adult existed as a genre back then. So no, I didn’t consciously decide to write New Adult, but I think it does fit squarely in the genre given Willow’s age of twenty-four, the fact that she’s dealing with her childhood crush, and that she’s just now coming into her powers and what they mean for her life path.

5. When reading yourself, do you prefer e-books or physical books? 
Both. And audio books. Audio books are great for when I’m in the studio.

6. Favorite book or series you reread? If you reread.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, of course.
The Hollows series by Kim Harrison.
And let’s not forget the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

7. Any tips for aspiring writers? 
To just write. If you have a story in you, get it out. Then worry about editing and story structure and all that good stuff. It’s wonderful to take workshops, find critique partners, and read books on how to write books. But until you have words down, you don’t have anything to work with. So if you want to write, then write.

Also, write from the heart. Don’t worry too much about what you think people want to read. Write what you want to read. If it means something to you, it’s likely the story will resonate with readers.


Giveaway:
Tour Wide Giveaway:
–One tote bag with a notebook, keychain and signed copy of Influential Magic
–One notebook, keychain and signed copy of Influential Magic
–3 keychains and signed copies of Influential Magic
–5 signed print copies of Influential Magic
–10 ebook copies of Influential Magic

Physical prizes open to US Shipping

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:
Deanna is a native Californian, transplanted to the slower paced lifestyle of southeastern Louisiana.

When she isn’t writing, she is often goofing off with her husband in New Orleans, playing with her two shih tzu dogs, making glass beads, or out hocking her wares at various bead shows across the country.

Website
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– leeanna

May Page Count Contest

I’m participating in Reading Angel’s page count contest. It’s a fun way to push yourself to read more. My goal for May is 8,500 pages.

Title Author Page Count
Amity & Sorrow Peggy Riley 320
The Boleyn King Laura Andersen 368
The Forgotten Ones Laura Howard 177
Victoria Rebels Carolyn Meyer 265
The Last Academy Anne Applegate 320
Alpha Girl Kate Bloomfield 188
The End Games T. Michael Martin 384
Roses Have Thorns Sandra Byrd 336
Deer in Headlights Staci Hart 166
Twisted Summer Lucy V. Morgan 169
Prettiest Doll Gina Willner-Pardo 240
Pulse Patrick Carman 384
Comes the Night Norah Wilson and Heather Doherty 330
Dark Triumph Robin LaFevers 400
Don’t Turn Around Michelle Gagnon 320
The Program Suzanne Young 416
     

Running count: 4,783

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher (and giveaway!)

Today I am one of the stops for THE S-WORD blog tour. The tour is hosted by Shane at Itching For Books. You can check out the rest of the stops here.

the s-wordInfo:
Title: The S-Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books
Source: Edelweiss/Blog Tour
Series? No
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
Page Count: 304
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I almost passed over THE S-WORD. As a rule, I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction. It’s just not my favorite genre. But so far in 2013, I’ve read a couple of great contemporary books, so after reading the summary for THE S-WORD, I decided to give it a try.

I am happy I did. I like when YA books go deep into issues, and THE S-WORD explores quite a few, like bullying. I also like when YA books are realistic, and THE S-WORD is. There’s sex, drinking, and all the stuff teens do that adults don’t like to think they do. I think it’s important that teens have these realistic books, so that they have examples of how life can really be, instead of the sanitized and unrealistic relationships that populate many YA books.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox.

THE S-WORD is a powerful book that explores what the word “slut” really means. As Lizzie herself says, in a diary entry, “Ask a hundred people the meaning of that word and you’ll hear a hundred answers (p. 89, ARC).” The author leaves it to the reader to come up with their own meaning.

At the start of the book, Lizzie is already dead. But, as Angie says, Lizzie didn’t go quietly. A few days after Lizzie’s funeral, “Suicide Slut” shows up on lockers, the words written in Lizzie’s handwriting. Determined to find out who is making fun of her best friend’s suicide, Angie delves into the reasons why Lizzie took her own life. It’s not a pretty look, and Angie’s not always a character I liked. That was a plus for me, because usually, I am a character-driven reader, but the story the author created was compelling enough for me to overlook the fact that Angie was somewhat psychotic at times.

THE S-WORD is also a mystery, with layers of story surrounding the truth about Angie and Lizzie. It was a book I didn’t want to stop reading, because I had to find out what was going to happen next, or what truth would be revealed.

Excerpt:

Miss Popularity is found on the bleachers of the football field, positioned perfectly so the boys below can see all the way up her long, long legs, past the hem of her skirt, and then . . . nothing. her legs cross at the thigh, cutting off the view just when it gets interesting. We girls learn early what to show and what to hide, to walk that tightrope between useless prude and usable slut. p. 7, ARC)

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour wide

About the author:
Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

innocent darknessInfo:
Title: Innocent Darkness
Author: Suzanne Lazear
Release Date: August 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Source: Library
Series? The Aether Chronicles #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 408
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

Wish. Love. Desire. Live.

Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock’s hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer’s eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
INNOCENT DARKNESS is one of the first books I found when I first started book blogging. At the time, it wasn’t yet published, and I couldn’t wait to read it. From the blurb and cover, the book seemed like a great mix of steampunk and faeries.

Fast forward to now. I don’t know why, but sometimes I keep putting off books I REALLY want to read. I did that with INNOCENT DARKNESS, but it worked out, because I don’t have to wait quite as long for book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE, coming out in August 2013.

There are a few steampunk elements in INNOCENT DARKNESS, but there’s a lot more focus on the faerie world and on romance. I didn’t mind that, because I liked the faerie world so much, but readers looking for pure steampunk might be disappointed.

Noli, or Magnolia, is the rebellious main character. She’s a rebel with a worthy cause — she doesn’t want to conform to societal standards for what a lady should be. She wants to go to college and to have a career. One of her favorite things to do is work on the flying automobile her father left her. But her mother insists that Noli make a good marriage, to restore the family name.

After an incident involving that flying car and the police, Noli is sent to a reform boarding school. I liked that the author wasn’t afraid to harm her characters — Findlay is a horrible place. It’s creepy, and I felt so bad for Noli and the other girls with the punishments they endured. There’s one scene that will make any book lover wince. Ouch.

From there, Noli is whisked into the faerie world. Kevighn Silver, the Queen’s Huntsman, is searching for a girl with plenty of “Spark,” which Noli has in abundance. Spark is creativity, joy for life, that sort of thing, and just what Findlay tried to beat out of her. But the Otherworld, while magical and something Noli didn’t believe in until she actually saw it, isn’t a place of rescue. Girls with the Spark have one purpose: to be a sacrifice.

INNOCENT DARKNESS ends with a real shocker, one that made me feel absolutely horrible for Noli. Again, I was pleased that the author wasn’t afraid to mess with her characters, because I wouldn’t have expected any less of faeries, especially in a dark fantasy.

There’s sort of a love triangle in the book, though I hesitate to label it as such because Noli doesn’t return Kevighn’s feelings. She’s in love with V, her best friend since they were kids. V is a cutely nerdy guy, one with a secret past that comes out over the course of the book.

I could tell INNOCENT DARKNESS was a first novel. There were a few phrases that were really overused, such as “loose women and opium” and “hoyden.” There was also one, “dollymop,” which Noli used a lot in reference to herself, but I had no clue what it meant.

I also liked that there’s some steamy content in the book. Authors usually shy away from anything other than kissing scenes in YA, but Noli and V share a few makeout dreams.

While in the moment, I greatly enjoyed INNOCENT DARKNESS. Looking back, I find myself being critical of some parts of it. So I’m going to stop here, before I over-analyze it. I’m looking forward to the next book to see what the author has in mind for Noli and the Otherworld.

Socialize with the author:
Suzanne Lazear:
Website
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– leeanna

Inside the Nest #5: On Writing

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Honestly, my life is pretty boring (and I usually like it that way!), so I would just write the same thing week after week. I spend my time doing one of a few things: reading, at work, attempting to write, or trying to avoid cleaning. The last one’s for my mum — Hi mom! :D

I said in my March summary that while I had learned about the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t going to participate. That resolution lasted all of half a day. I set a goal of 35,000 words, which I thought was reasonable considering I didn’t really start until April 10 or so.

Because I have a spreadsheet fetish (I do!), I made one to keep track of my daily word counts. But I didn’t restrict it to just book writing. I included a column for reviews, because I spend a lot of time writing reviews. So far in April I’ve written (or have started) 13 reviews. I actually should have written a few more, but I’m trying to keep from burnout and not making myself review every book I read, although I’d like to. And I’ve read 16.5 books, plus some fanfic.

The number for “Fun” is an estimate. As much as I’d like to have the exact numbers for that category, it’s easier and faster to guestimate. “Fun” is a category for all my fun writing, like fandom and fanfic. As you can see, that’s my biggest percentage, and always is whenever I keep track of my words per month. Seeing that number usually makes me wish I could just turn my fanfic into fic. That would be nice.

So, I doubt I’m going to meet my goal of 35,000 words for my WIPs. I’m not too upset about that, because I think I’m finally learning how to write crap. Yup, write crap. I self-edit when I write, which is okay for short pieces. Stuff under 2,000 words. I hit a block on WIP 2 last week, and I was despairing, thinking, I’m never going to write anything over 1,000 words! But then, I started typing junk … and I hit almost 2,000 words. And I do mean junk — I’ve got multiple tenses in one sentence, different characters talking in the same paragraph, misspellings, and horrid grammar. But I am okay with that, because when I edit, I can clean it up. But I can’t edit and clean it up if I don’t have anything to work with!

That’s something I’ve been trying to do for a very long time. I tend to rewrite the same sentence or paragraph over and over until it’s just the way I want before moving on. It’s like I have a mental block. Honestly, it drives me nuts. But then a lot of things in my head do. LOL.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t), I have a question for you. If you do something else that takes up a huge chunk of time, such as writing, how do you balance that with blogging? My site visits are down 50% this month, and I have a feeling that’s because I haven’t been posting as much and have been trying to write more. I could sleep less, I guess, but I really like my sleep.

– leeanna

Happy Earth Day: Black Feathers Book Trailer

Happy Earth Day!

I’m not usually a fan of book trailers, but when I saw the one for BLACK FEATHERS by Joseph D’Lacey, I wanted to share it. Today is the perfect day.


BLACK FEATHERS MASTER NEW H264 from HORROD AND HARRIS on Vimeo

While you’re here, you can also check out my review of BLACK FEATHERS as well as the interview I did with Joseph D’Lacey.

– leeanna

Book Review: Wasteland by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan

wastelandInfo:
Title: Wasteland
Author: Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Wasteland Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Post-Apocalyptic
Page Count: 352
Rating: [1/5 stars]

Summary:

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I don’t like to start a review out by being negative, but I just don’t have very many good things to say about WASTELAND. If I hadn’t been reading it to review, I probably would not have finished the book. Well, there is one plus — WASTELAND is a fast read.

WASTELANDis supposed to be a post-apocalyptic thrill ride. And I thought the idea was very cool and appropriately dark: A world where no one over 19 lives. A world where there are hermaphroditic “variants” who pick what sex they want to be. A world where kids scavenge for supplies amongst the wreckage of … something.

Yeah, something. There was almost no world-building in WASTELAND, which is probably my biggest complaint with the book. When an author creates a world where basic survival is a struggle, they need to explain, or at least give some clues as to what happened to create that world. I had a long list of questions by the end of the book; one other reason I kept reading was to see if any of them would be answered. Nope.

Some of my questions:
–What caused the harsh living conditions (extreme heat, no safe water sources, etc.)?
–Why does everyone die at the age of 19? A mysterious plague is mentioned, but there are no other details.
–Who taught Sarah to read? If it was her and Esther’s parents, what happened to them?
–What was the point of making the variants hermaphrodites? Their origin wasn’t explained, so it felt more like a gimmick than anything serious.
–If kids mate at 14-15, have their own kids at a year or two later, and then die at 19, who takes care of the children?

And so on.

Esther, the main character, was so-so. I finished the book a few days ago and honestly don’t remember much about her. She doesn’t fit in with the rest of the denizens of Prin. Instead of doing her assigned job, she prefers to buck the rules and play with her variant friend on the outskirts of town. She’s irresponsible and doesn’t know how to take care of herself, not even how to make the simple flatbread that people live on. I did like that she realized she couldn’t take care of herself.

She grows a little over the course of the book, most notably when Caleb comes to town. Inevitably, a romance springs up between them, one I had an impossible time believing. Days after meeting, they’re ready to mate. I do have to give the authors credit for trying to include some sex in a YA book, since so often that’s glossed over or ignored, but … the descriptions of it were so clinical, without any real passion. The descriptions of kissing were just as bad.

One more thing. WASTELAND is written in third person point of view, but has a serious case of head-jumping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure which character’s perspective I was reading, which didn’t make for an easy flowing book. There was even a scene from a character that didn’t have a name, just “the boy.”

WASTELAND is the first book in a trilogy. One last good point for the book is that it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The story is resolved, and I’m not sure where the authors would take it in two more books. I doubt I will be back to find out, because of how disappointed I was with my read of WASTELAND. There are much better post-apocalyptic thrillers out there.

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: The Uprising by Lisa M. Stasse

the uprisingThe Uprising by Lisa M. Stasse
Release Date: August 6, 2013

Alenna escaped. It was expected that she would die on the wheel, the island where would-be criminals are sent as directed by the UNA—the totalitarian supercountry that was once the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But Alenna and her boyfriend, Liam, made it to safety. Except safety, they will soon learn, is relative.

In order to bring down the UNA, they must first gain control of the wheel. If the mission succeeds, the wheel will become a base of revolution. But between betrayals, a new Monk leading a more organized army of Drones, and the discovery of a previously unknown contingent, Alenna, Liam, and their allies might be in over their heads. One thing Alenna knows for sure: There will be a reckoning. And not everyone she loves will make it out alive. (summary from goodreads)

I am super curious to find out more about the world Lisa M. Stasse created in The Forsaken. Alenna and Liam’s escape from the wheel should allow for more worldbuilding about the dystopian society that was sort of mentioned in book one.

Socialize with the author:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Nefertiti’s Heart by A. W. Exley

Blog Tour Book Review: Nefertiti’s Heart by A. W. ExleyNefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #1
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on February 2, 2013
Genres: Mystery, New Adult, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 280
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

London, 1861. Impoverished noble Cara has a simple mission after the strange death of her father - sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts, an eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests. A killer hunts amongst the nobility, searching for a regal beauty and an ancient Egyptian relic rumored to hold the key to immortality.

Her Majesty’s Enforcers are in pursuit of the murderer and they see a connection between the gruesome deaths and Cara. So does she, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti’s Heart, a fist sized diamond with strange mechanical workings. Adding further complication to her life, notorious crime lord, Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on Cara and the priceless artifact. If only she could figure out his motive.

Self-preservation fuels Cara's search for the gem. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she makes a fatal mistake.

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for NEFERTITI’S HEART by A. W. Exley. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

Book Review:

I have to start this review by saying I had a serious case of cover lust for NEFERTITI’S HEART. It’s simple yet eye-catching, a perfect combination of the steampunk heart with the ankh in the title. The best part? The heart on the cover plays a big part in the book. It makes me a happy reader when the cover and story match.

And whew, what a story! Like the cover, NEFERTITI’S HEART is a blend of steampunk and Egyptian mythology, along with a healthy dash of mystery, romance, and memorable characters. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll know that I like me some kick-butt female characters, and Cara Devon is definitely a kick-butt character. Within the first few pages, she shoots two thugs who come to steal something from her. I think I adored her from this quote: “She [Cara] popped the metal dome and drew her pistol. Her arm was straight and unwavering as she aimed directly at the thug. ‘My friend here, Mr Smith, also wants you to leave (p. 8, ARC).’”

In a world where most noble-born women are simpering, pretty playthings waiting for marriage, Cara is an anomaly. When she was fourteen, Cara’s reputation was sullied, but through no fault of her own. Traded by her own father to cover his gambling debts, she was horribly abused, which left her with a hatred of being touched and a fear of intimacy. Seven years later, after exploring the world and hiding behind a feisty, shoot first and ask questions later personality, Cara’s drawn back into a world she’d rather forget when her father is murdered.

But when Cara starts tracking down her father’s precious artifacts — famous historical objects he loved more than her — she gets tangled up with a murder investigation. The question of who is murdering the daughters of noblemen is one big mystery, and I have to say, I was totally surprised by the culprit. The clues dropped throughout the book, as well as the sections from the killer’s personality, had me thinking it was one person, but I was wrong. I love when that happens! I hate when a book is too predictable.

Cara was my favorite part of NEFERTITI’S HEART. I enjoyed seeing her growth, becoming stronger by confronting the demons of her past. She’s helped along in that process by Nathaniel Trent, the Viscount Lyons. Nathaniel is the ruthless head of London’s underworld, but he’s also the biggest gentleman in the book. I had a little trouble believing the relationship between him and Cara at first, but the author took time to develop it, and didn’t rush them into bed. NEFERTITI’S HEART is an adult book — there are some steamy scenes — but those scenes contribute to Cara’s development. Nathaniel’s character also represents the divide that exists in a society where a rich man can get away with almost anything. Unlike the man who raped Cara and faced no consequences, Nathaniel is a rogue who both attracts and repulses society. He’s like the big, bad, protective wolf. I adored him, and I usually don’t have more than a passing thought for the male romantic lead.

I also have to mention Cara’s grandmother, Nan, and her friend, Nessy. They were only in a few scenes, but they stole those scenes! I have to quote: “‘You’re young, you’re beautiful, and he sounds ridiculously handsome. Enjoy what you have. If you don’t jump him, someone else will.’ Nessy summed the situation up succinctly, to earthy laughter all round (p. 203, ARC).” I can’t imagine the typical, sixty-year-old Victorian woman saying such things. Nan and Nessy were a hoot.

The only thing about NEFERTITI’S HEART that might turn off some readers is the overly descriptive writing. Every setting is detailed, clothing is described down to the color, and so on. Some readers like that level of detail — I do — and some don’t. I thought the writing helped set the tone and established the world in the book. The beginning of the book was a little slow, but when it gets going, it zooms like an airship.

NEFERTITI’S HEART is a quirky, unique book. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something different than the usual romance or adventure, and I know I can’t wait to see what else the author has up her wordsmithing holster.

About the author:

Books and writing have always been an enormous part of my life. I survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, I overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, I write steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. I live in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.

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– leeanna