Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith RussoIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Published by Flatiron Books on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Book Review:

IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is an #OwnVoices book. I am so happy that there’s finally a book about a trans teen by a transwoman author published by a big company. I’m not devaluing the importance of small/indie presses, it’s just those books have less of a chance of finding their way into libraries/hands of teens who need them.

And let’s not forget the #OwnVoices, because that’s a really big thing. Imagine if you were in Amanda’s shoes, and you saw the author went through many of the same things her character did, and came out stronger on the other side? It’s a big deal.

In some ways, I feel IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is just a bit too easy and hopeful, but on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with that. Amanda does have a relatively easy time in the South, even going to church once with extreme conservatives, and having an accepting group of friends, but… it just shows that you can possibly find support anywhere. And not every trans story needs to be full of doom and gloom. Yes, there’s some of that here, but it’s more about Amanda learning to really live her life, to overcome fears and realize she deserves to be loved as she is.

Socialize with the author:

Meredith Russo:
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– leeanna

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Book Review:

THIS SAVAGE SONG is the first in the Monsters of Verity series, a new YA fantasy series from Victoria Schwab. In a destroyed America, monsters rule the dark, and people cling to whatever bits of safety and normality they can find. Well, most people — Kate Harker and August Flynn excluded.

Kate’s father rules half Verity. People pay him for safety, and he keeps the Corsai and Malchai monsters from killing those people. He’s a vicious crime boss, and Kate wants to be exactly like him. She wants to prove to her father that she’s a Harker, worthy of being his heir.

August’s adopted father rules the other half of Verity. His people fight the Corsai and Malchai for safety. But Henry Flynn has a secret weapon: August and his siblings are Sunai. Sunai are monsters too, but different from the Corsai and Malchai. Sunai are avengers.

The worldbuilding is a bit complicated in THIS SAVAGE SONG. I would have liked more about the different types of monsters and how they came into existence. There are mentions of “the Phenomenon,” but I don’t remember an explanation or information about it. I did like the idea of violence breeding violence, and the author doing a little exploring of good versus evil, black and white versus shades of grey. I hope there’s more of that in the rest of the series.

THIS SAVAGE SONG also looks at what it means to be human and what it means to be a monster. Kate wants to be a monster, just like her father. August wants to be a human, but that’s impossible. I quite liked the Sunai, but it would spoil too much to go into why. So I’ll just say I liked what the author did with all three of them.

I was also super happy to find that there’s no romance in THIS SAVAGE SONG! It’s so refreshing to not have an insta-love romance crammed down my throat, distracting me from the other good stuff in the book. I’m so happy the author didn’t go that route here. Yes, Kate and August are thrown together, and must work together to save each other’s lives, but they don’t waste time making googly eyes at each other.

I am eager to see what else Victoria Schwab has in mind for Kate and August, and the other Monsters of Verity. Bring on book two!

Socialize with the author:

Victoria Schwab:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Out On Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler

waiting on wednesday

out on good behavior by dahlia adlerOut On Good Behavior (Radleigh University #3) by Dahlia Adler
Release Date: June 14, 2016

Frankie Bellisario knows she can get anyone she sets her sights on, but just because she can doesn’t mean she should—not when the person she’s eyeing is Samara Kazarian, the daughter of a southern Republican mayor. No matter how badly Frankie wants to test her powers of persuasion, even she recognizes some lines aren’t meant to be crossed.

But when Frankie learns she’s been on Samara’s mind too, the idea of hooking up with her grows too strong to resist. Only Sam’s not looking for a hookup; she wants—needs—the real thing, and she’s afraid she’ll never find it as long as Frankie’s in her head.

Forced to choose between her first relationship and losing the girl who’s been clawing her way under her skin, Frankie opts to try monogamy…under her own condition: 30 days of keeping things on the down low and remaining abstinent. If she fails as hard at girlfriending as she’s afraid she might, she doesn’t want to throw Samara’s life into upheaval for nothing. But when neither the month nor Frankie’s heart go according to plan, she may be the one stuck fighting for the happily ever after she never knew she wanted.

This is what happens when you’re mostly away from the book/Twitter blogopshere — you totally miss books that are coming out soon. I remember Dahlia talking about this book on Twitter a while ago, and I just saw the teasers she’s been posting. Good thing June isn’t too far off! Of course, the upside to losing track of stuff is that time goes faster, so I don’t have a long wait for OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR. I don’t read much contemporary, but Dahlia’s one of the authors I’ll turn to when I want something good.

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

– leeanna

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison WeirKatherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir
Series: Six Tudor Queens #1
Published by Ballantine Books on May 31, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 624
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The lives of Henry VIII's queens make for dramatic stories and Alison Weir will write a series of novels that offer insights into the real lives of the six wives based on extensive research and new theories.

In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon's first husband, who is said to have loved her in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister? Or that Henry VIII, an over-protected child and teenager, was prudish when it came to sex? That Jane Seymour, usually portrayed as Henry's one true love, had the makings of a matriarch? There is much to reveal ...

Alison will write about the wives in the context of their own age and of the court intrigues that surrounded these women and - without exception - wrecked their lives. She will transport readers into a lost and vivid world of splendour and brutality: a world in which love, or the game of it, dominates all.

Book Review:

Alison Weir can be hit or miss for me, but I knew she would do a good job with Katherine of Aragon. And she did. I read the book once, and I’m already into my second read!

KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN is one of the most complete fictional accounts of Katherine’s life that I’ve read. There are three parts, each covering a major period of Katherine’s life in England: The Princess from Spain, The Queen of England, and The True Queen.

I really liked all the little details the author put into the book. Such as Arthur leaving his personal effects to his sister, not his wife. Or Henry being a virgin just like Katherine. Or Katherine enjoying sex. Or Katherine possibly putting the initial doubts in Henry’s head, about the validity of the pope’s dispensation. And so on. Alison Weir made Katherine feel like a flesh and blood person, not just a famous historical figure.

In the Author’s Note, Alison Weir said she wanted to show Katherine in the context of the time which she lived, when women didn’t have the independence they do today. Looking back, it’s hard to see how Katherine rolled over for all of Henry’s misdeeds, and thought Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn were the architects of everything, instead of giving Henry his fair share of the blame. But I can understand it, because Katherine was raised that way, to believe that her husband was her lord, and that her duty as wife and queen was to please him first. It’s hard to read at times, but I think the author accomplished her goal of showing the context of Katherine’s life.

I also liked how much attention the author gave to the religious side of Katherine and Henry’s divorce. I’ve read a lot of books about Katherine, but I can’t recall many going so into the religious implications of Henry’s actions regarding the dispensation and eventual departure from the Catholic church.

Lastly, Anne Boleyn is such a villain in this book that I can’t wait to see how the author will portray her sympathetically in the next book in the series.

I recommend KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN if:
a) you’re a Tudorphile
b) you like historical fiction

Socialize with the author:

Alison Weir:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat HowardRoses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published by Saga Press on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, New Adult, Retelling
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Book Review:

Every so often, I read a book that seems as though it’s been written just for me. Like the author looked into my head and plucked out everything I ever wanted to see in a book. ROSES AND ROT is one of those books. I didn’t want to put the book down once I started it, and read it all in one day. And I already want to read ROSES AND ROT again.

Imogen and Marin are sisters who haven’t always had a perfect relationship. They’ve survived a childhood of abuse, coming out on top with success in their artistic careers. When they’re both accepted to a prestigious arts program, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on their relationship while furthering their artistic futures.

Imogen is a writer, a student of fairy tales who wants to create her own. The nine month residency at Melete is an amazing opportunity to push the boundaries of her writing. Imogen’s written fairy tales are scattered throughout ROSES AND ROT, and I could have read an entire book of her work. They were my kind of fairy tales: dark and scary and true.

Melete is a fantastical place. I wish it existed so that I could go there — yes, even with the big twist! Seriously, it’s a place any writer/painter/singer/etc would dream of going. The author described everything so well that I could imagine it, and while I’m on the subject, I really enjoyed Kat Howard’s writing style. It was descriptive without being too purple, sparse yet flowing, loud but introspective. I could write a love letter to Kat Howard’s writing, I swear. It matched the stories she told.

I’m all over the place in this review, but that happens sometimes when I’m really excited about a book. I wish I could take ROSES AND ROT and put it in everyone’s hands.

ROSES AND ROT is the book for you if:
a) you like fairy tales, especially the dark ones
b) you want to know how “happily ever after” is reached in those dark tales
c) you like stories about complicated sibling relationships
d) you like stories about artists who risk everything to be great

Socialize with the author:

Kat Howard:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 399
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Book Review:

THE CROWN’S GAME has a lot of things I enjoy: a historical setting, magic, a strong and determined female character, and a duel to the death. But I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped due to the lackluster romance and sloooooow pacing.

THE GOOD:

–The author was very good at describing the setting and the magic of the enchanters. I could easily see imperial Russia and picture the fantastical magic Vika and Nikolai created.

THE BAD:

–Maybe this is just me, but when two characters are in a duel to the death, playing the Crown’s Game for for their life and to be the tsar’s Imperial Enchanter, I expect a little more… danger. And I guess there’s a little danger, because they make an attempt on each other’s life. But the attempts stop very quickly, because Nikolai and Vika forget everything at stake when their magic touches each other. Cue insta-love and using the game to woo each other and renovate Saint Petersburg, because that will impress the tsar.

–The romance. I’m usually picky on romance, but this mess of a love triangle nearly had me fleeing for the hills. I need to believe the characters are attracted to each other. The author just can’t tell me they are because they fell in love at first sight. Here’s what Pasha, the heir, has to say about Vika, “If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika (p. 320, ARC).” Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

–The magic has very few rules. Yes, I know this is fantasy, but magic has to have a system. As far as I can tell, the enchanters can do almost anything they can imagine. Vika is more talented with the elements and Nikolai with mechanics, but that’s because of their upbringing.

–The story itself was boring and slow. For me, this was partly because there were so many POVs in the book. For example, I would have preferred to read about Vika creating the island, rather than Nikolai waking up and finding it. Because there were so many POVs, good story bits were often just dropped into the text, rather than getting to see them happen. And then that ending… I won’t spoil it, but there’s no way I’ll read book two.

As you can see, THE CROWN’S GAME didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Socialize with the author:

Evelyn Skye:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung RichmondThe Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Scholastic on July 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Never underestimate a pretty face.

My name is Lucie Blaise.

I am sixteen years old.

I have many aliases, but I am none of the girls you see.

What I am is the newest agent of the CO-7.

And we are here to take down Hitler.

After the Nazis killed my brother on the North African front, I volunteered at the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, to do my part for the war effort. Only instead of a desk job at the OSS, I was tapped to join the Clandestine Operations -- a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls. Six months ago, I was deployed to German-occupied France to gather intelligence and eliminate Nazi targets.

My current mission: Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out all of Western Europe. Then find and dismantle the weapon before Hitler detonates it. But the deeper I infiltrate, the more danger I'm in. Because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance, and trusting the wrong person could cause millions of lives to be lost. Including my own.

Book Review:

At the start of THE DARKEST HOUR, Lucie’s biggest concern is successfully completing a mission and earning her title of “agent” in Covert Ops. But before she knows it, she’s in action up to her eyeballs, debating whether or not to trust a Nazi defector who has deadly knowledge about a new superweapon.

I was originally interested in THE DARKEST HOUR because, female teenage secret agents? I gobble that kind of thing up with a big spoon. I didn’t know what else to expect from the book, because the summary’s sort of vague. I was pleasantly surprised by where the author took Lucie — there were definitely some twists I never saw coming. The action was nonstop.

There was no romance in THE DARKEST HOUR, which I was super happy about. One, ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re trying to take down a Nazi superweapon, and two, not every YA book needs a romance to be complete. I was so happy that Lucie wasn’t swooning over every boy she met, but instead thinking about the best place to stick a knife.

The last third of the book is where things took a downturn for me. I can’t really say why without spoiling everything, but I found Lucie’s recovery, and thus the ending, a bit unbelievable. I wanted to see her process what happened, rather than pick up a few months later and everything’s a-okay. I also saw through the big twist early on, which lessened the dramatic impact of the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Caroline Tung Richmond:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

waiting on wednesday

paper and fire by rachel cainePaper and Fire (The Great Library #2) by Rachel Caine
Release Date: July 5, 2016

In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

Last year I loved INK AND BONE, the first in the Great Library series. I’m super excited to see that PAPER AND FIRE will be coming out soon… this is one world I can’t wait to return to. A world where you can’t own books is a scary place, but I still can’t wait to see what happens next to Jess and Morgan.

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Caine:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda

Book Review: The Safest Lies by Megan MirandaThe Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on May 24, 2016
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Can fear be inherited?

Kelsey was raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with Kelsey growing inside her.

Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile for their own protection, but that plan is shattered when she drives off a cliff and is rescued by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker.

A few days later, she arrives home to face her greatest fear: her mother is missing. She and her mother have drilled for all contingencies—except this one. Luckily, Ryan is as skilled at emergency rescues as Kelsey is at escape and evasion.

To have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face all her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her.

And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.

Book Review:

THE SAFEST LIES asks an interesting question. Can fear be inherited?

Kelsey grew up in a house of locks and fences, with a mother who hasn’t set foot outside in 17 years. Her mother was kidnapped as a teen but escaped… with Kelsey in her belly. Terrified they would be taken again, her mom has kept Kelsey on a short leash. Kelsey lives under rules and routines most teens wouldn’t tolerate for 5 seconds, but it’s a life that’s kept her safe.

Until she sneaks out for the first time in her life and returns to find her mother missing. And then men are trying to break into the house. It’s every nightmare Kelsey’s had, all at once.

THE SAFEST LIES kept me hooked for a while, but once Kelsey and possible love interest Ryan got trapped in her house, I started to lose interest. I didn’t realize the book would go so heavily into thriller territory; I thought it would be more about the effect of fear on genes. The subject comes up a lot, but I don’t feel like the author actually answered the question.

Ryan was a good part of the book. I don’t usually say that about guys in YA, but I liked him. He was nice and supportive and protective, and could realize when he was being a jerk. Ryan did do one big bad thing; I wish Kelsey hadn’t forgiven him so easily. But other than that, thumbs up for Ryan.

Otherwise, I was bored by THE SAFEST LIES. I’m not a huge thriller fan, so that might have contributed. I thought there was too much angst on Kelsey’s part and that the book dragged on for too long. I didn’t feel the danger because the characters were in lukewarm danger for so long that I just didn’t care anymore.

Socialize with the author:

Megan Miranda:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Star Wars: Catalyst

waiting on wednesday

star wars catalyst a rogue one storyStar Wars: Catalyst, a Rogue One story
Release Date: October 4, 2016

The must-have prequel novel to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” the upcoming film, set before the events of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” that reveals the untold story of the rebel effort to steal the plans to the Death Star!

It’s really too early to feature CATALYST, but today is Star Wars Day! So I had to pick Star Wars book, and this is the one I’m most excited about for 2016. The trailer for Rogue One has me super excited for another movie (maybe more than The Force Awakens!). I’m still a diehard Star Wars Expanded Universe fan, but maybe this book will get me more into the new canon. Well, as long as it has some Bothans. Because you know they were involved in the theft of the Death Star I plans.

(Yes, I know I sound like a total nutcase unless you’re a Star Wars fan).

Evidence I’m nuts:
star wars books

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna