Monthly Summary: March 2014


in march…

I know I said this in February, but damn, I can’t believe March is over already! Time is passing much faster than I would like it to. I’m still not being too active online, because real life stuff is taking up a majority of my time/mental capacity. Here’s the real indicator of that: I’ve only read 14 books.

I’m in both a reading and a life slump. Lately when I go to read, I have trouble getting into anything. I have read a few fantastic books this month to help out with that, and I’m also going to read some chunky epic fantasy books so I have something to always be in the middle of. My current pick for that is THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

   

Reviews Posted:

Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally Green
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy
Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. Salvatore
Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Reaver (The Sundering #4) by Richard Lee Byers
The Adversary (The Sundering #3) by Erin M. Evans
Knight Assassin by Rima Jean
The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Other Stuff:

Blog Tour: Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
The Reading Machine [1]
The Reading Machine [2]
The Reading Machine [3]
The Reading Machine [4]
Cover Reveal: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Aaaand that’s about it! The theme of boring as usual continues around here :D

– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #2
Published by Walden Pond Press on April 30, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 477
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming, who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses--Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose--to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.

But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening--even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination--it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.

Book Review:

“You’re never too young to start being a hero. Practice dueling one-handed so you never need to drop your blankie.” — The Hero’s Guide to Being a Hero by Duncan

After devouring the first book in the League of Princes series, THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM, I could not wait to dive into the second. Sometimes middle books disappoint me, because they aren’t as good as the first, or are just a bridge to the third book.

Not so with THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE. I think I might have loved it more than the first book!

There’s a big cast of characters in the book, between the princes, their princesses, the bad guys, and everyone else. Yet every character has a distinct personality, and is well drawn in a sentence or two. I never forgot anyone because each person was unique. I have a special fondness for Mr. Troll, though. Can’t beat a troll who wants to be the good guy in a song, even if the bards always get everything wrong.

This book has the same creativity and humor as the first, lots of adventure, and plenty of character growth. Liam’s somewhat of a jerk, having lost what means most to him: his reputation as a hero. His fiancée, Briar Rose, is pretty insistent on their marriage, even chaining Liam to his chair. She also has a big evil plan to overtake every kingdom, and only that brings Liam out of his stupor. Sort of. He eventually shapes up, with plenty of help from his friends.

I was sad when I finished the book, because I didn’t want it to be over! This series is great. If I had a young person in my life, I think it’s a series I’d enjoy reading with them, as both kids and adults can enjoy it. It’s one of my new favorites, and it’s one I’ll enjoy rereading for years.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

The Reading Machine [4]

reading machine

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to join Stacking the Shelves. It’s hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here.

Basically, everyone shares their book hauls for the week. I always enjoy visiting these posts on other blogs, so it’s finally time to join in the fun. You can visit this week’s hauls here.

But I’m going to do things a little differently. For my Stacking the Shelves, or as I’m calling it, The Reading Machine, I’m going to list the books I have that I’ll be reading in the upcoming week. Well, I’ll hopefully get to these. This is part of my new organization plan :D

I’m also doing a short life update in these posts, and sometimes asking about blogging stuff.

The Reading Machine:

the reading machine march 28

HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Elizabeth Maxwell is a bit of a departure from my usual reading, but I couldn’t resist reading about a character who writes erotica under a pseudonym.

the reading machine march 28

I was surprised and happy to get these in the mail this week! In April and May, I’ll have a few tour stops for Jill Archer’s Noon Onyx series. DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL sound like just my kind of books.

Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards
for review
Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
for review
Timeless by Rachel Spangler
for review
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
for review

I have a lot of the same books up as last week. Jeann at Happy Indulgence nailed it when she said it seems like I’m in a reading slump. I’ve started several of the books above, but am having trouble getting into anything. Stress sucks! :(

What Up, Life?

But I have taken up a new sport: archery! The weather has been awful — what’s up with snow at the end of March? Ugh. I’m hoping it’s above freezing next week so that I can get outside and break some more arrows :D And take some pictures, because I look awesome with my new bow. I need to give it a name. Something better than “Stinger,” which is what I’ve come up with so far LOL.

Otherwise, it’s business as boring business usual here. I really do feel like I’m five hundred years old at times. I’d make a really boring vampire, but then I might be able to whittle down my TBR pile.

– leeanna

Book Review: Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally Green

Book Review: Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally GreenHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Life #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Easy.

Book Review:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Hamlet, William Shakespeare

How do you know if someone is good or bad? Is a white witch good because she’s a white witch, or because she chooses to be good? Is a black witch evil because he’s a black witch, or because he chooses to be evil?

Those are the questions at root of HALF BAD. Born of a white witch and a black witch, Nathan is a Half Code. He won’t have his full powers until seventeen, but if the ruling council of witches has their way, he’ll never receive the three gifts necessary to unlock all of his abilities.

HALF BAD starts off oddly — but in a good way. At first I was like, what the heck am I reading? What’s going on? Second-person narrative (You wake up in a cage, you wait for her to arrive, etc.) is tricky to pull off, and it was confusing at the start of the book. But it was a great way to get me into Nathan’s mind, and to see what he was like. So if you’re lost at first, keep going. HALF BAD is worth it.

I read the first half of the book before I knew it, and I didn’t want to stop reading. And after I finished HALF BAD, I kept thinking about it, and wanting to pick it up again. I cannot wait to see what will happen in book two.

Marcus, Nathan’s father, has killed over 200 witches. Killing is just what black witches do. Almost everyone, except for a few members of his family, is sure that Nathan will turn out just like Marcus. But what makes someone bad or good? Is it in their genes or in the way they’re brought up? It turns out to be a little bit of both for Nathan.

I really enjoyed the experience of reading HALF BAD. It’s a book that’s told slowly, a little too slowly in some places, but I didn’t really mind. I was so caught up in Nathan’s development and journey that I didn’t care there wasn’t always a lot going on. I rather enjoyed Nathan’s time in the cage, and while I’m not sure what that says about me, I do like that the author went there. Nathan goes through a lot, so be prepared for some emotional and physical torment.

I’d recommend HALF BAD if you’re looking for a good witch book, or a book with a realistic male main character. I don’t like a lot of guys in books, but I’m pulling for him.

Socialize with the author:

Sally Green:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 1, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 436
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Book Review:

I love fairy tale retellings, but the majority of them are written from the female perspective. I believe THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is the first I’ve read that’s from a guy’s. Even better — it’s actually the stories of each Prince Charming. The true stories, mind you. They’re nothing like you’ve heard before.

Frederic, Cinderella’s prince, is scared of just about everything, but he’s a snazzy dresser. Gustav, Rapunzel’s prince, is the youngest in a family of seventeen princes. Duncan, Sleeping Beauty’s prince, is a bit of an oddball and sadly has no friends. Liam, Briar Rose’s prince, is actually a hero, but he’s saddled with a real winner for a princess.

I loved this book. It’s hilarious and creative, and I just couldn’t get enough. I think it’s a great book for both younger and older readers; there’s a little something for everyone here. There’s lots of action and adventure, with the princes battling an evil witch; character growth, because the princes want to be known for who they are, not their princesses; sly humor; and illustrations that are picture perfect.

I’m having a difficult time reviewing it, because all that really comes to mind is that THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is just FUN! A seriously good time.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Cover Reveal: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

unteachable by leah raeder

Unteachable by Leah Raeder

An edgy, sexy USA Today bestseller about falling for the one person you can’t have.

Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.

But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.

When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.

That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.

Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.

Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script.

UNTEACHABLE was one of those books that just blew me away when I read it. I’ve been Twitter stalking Leah ever since, and I was so excited when she announced that Atria had bought two of her books, including UNTEACHABLE! While I’ll miss the old rainbow cover, I do think the new one captures the essence of Maise.

Here are lots of buy links for the new, officially published ebook (March 24): Amazon | iTunes | B&N | Google Play | Simon & Schuster

The upcoming paperback (November 11): Amazon | Books A Million | Simon & Schuster

More links! This time for awesome author Leah Raeder:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

The Reading Machine [3]

reading machine

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to join Stacking the Shelves. It’s hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here.

Basically, everyone shares their book hauls for the week. I always enjoy visiting these posts on other blogs, so it’s finally time to join in the fun. You can visit this week’s hauls here.

But I’m going to do things a little differently. For my Stacking the Shelves, or as I’m calling it, The Reading Machine, I’m going to list the books I have that I’ll be reading in the upcoming week. Well, I’ll hopefully get to these. This is part of my new organization plan :D

I’m also doing a short life update in these posts, and sometimes asking about blogging stuff.

The Reading Machine:

reading machine march 23 2014

Up there, I have These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, and Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell.

Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards
for review
Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
for review
Timeless by Rachel Spangler
for review
For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu
for review

I haven’t been spending much time on my laptop, so I’m really behind in reviews. I also haven’t been visiting blogs, or even on Twitter. It’s like, the less I look at stuff, the less I want to. I know that’s just a phase, though, so I’ll be back at it sooner or later.

I did totally surprise myself the other day by taking my laptop out and getting about 600 words written. That’s a lot for me, and it felt good to do some writing again. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, so I’ll often tell myself stories from various WIPs, but the only problem with that is I forget the chapter I “wrote” by the next morning. I wish I had a USB outlet in my head!

Blogging:

woman crush wednesdayI spend way more time than I should on Instagram, mostly looking at pics of adorable Klee Kais, but a weekly meme on there made me start thinking about a new book meme. A while ago I was pondering some sort of “Love Letters” meme, to feature favorite characters, series, authors, whatever — bookish things that you absolutely love. I liked that idea, because while being excited about new and upcoming books is fun, it’s also nice to look back and give older books some love, too.

But then I thought some more, and liked the thought behind Woman Crush Wednesday. I don’t ever have “book boyfriends” and almost always prefer female characters, major to minor. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson or Katniss from The Hunger Games. And then some of my favorite Harry Potter characters are the minor ones: Minerva McGonagall, Amelia Bones, Pansy Parkinson, etc. I could easily make a list that could keep this meme going weekly on my blog for like 5 years :D

Does anything like this already exist? I need to check, but I haven’t gotten to looking yet. And, more importantly, would you be interested in something like this?

– leeanna

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael GibneySous Chef by Michael Gibney
Published by Ballantine Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Memoir, Non Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

Book Review:

SOUS CHEF is a book I devoured. Twice. It’s as tasty as the dishes and food it describes.

An excellent look into the daily routine of a chef, it’s told in a creative style that puts the reader behind the knife. Second-person narrative (You pick up a dish, you make carrot puree) is really difficult to pull off, but I think Michael Gibney did a great job with it in this book. For me, that style made it much easier to learn about a kitchen, being a chef, various techniques, etc., rather than watching a character do it, or being in their head.

The only downside of the second-person narrative is that near the end, when talking about why “you’re” a chef, the book got a tad too philosophical for me, which is one reason why it wasn’t a 5 star read.

I learned a ton reading SOUS CHEF. I’ll admit, I love reality shows like Chopped, Top Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, but I’m not always sure what’s going on when looking inside a professional kitchen. Now I have a much better idea. For example, I now know what “all day” means, the different positions on the line, and the general operating routine of a restaurant from open to close.

SOUS CHEF includes a helpful kitchen floor plan diagram and a comprehensive terminology section at the end. The only confusion I had with the book were the Spanish exchanges between “you” the sous chef and some of the kitchen staff. There’s not any translations for those, and I couldn’t always figure out what was being said.

SOUS CHEF has jumped to the top of my favorite culinary books, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it in the future. It’s a book that’s super readable, has a style that will stick in your head, and is very easy to sink into and enjoy.

– leeanna

Book Review: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. SalvatoreNight of the Hunter by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling saga continues as dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden returns to Gauntlgrym with old friends by his side once again, as they seek to rescue Bruenor’s loyal shield dwarf-turned-vampire. But not only do Drizzt and his allies face a perilous journey through the Underdark and the dangers of the undead that lie within, but they must cross through a colony of drow, who would like nothing better than to see Drizzt Do’Urden dead.

Book Review:

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER sends Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall back to Gauntlgrym to rescue Bruenor’s old companion, Pwent, from the curse of vampirism. Thanks to the Sundering, as well as the intervention of Drizzt’s goddess Mielikki, Bruenor, Catti-brie, Regis, and Wulfgar are back in Drizzt’s life.

It’s not necessary to have read THE COMPANIONS to understand NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. THE COMPANIONS, book one of the Sundering series, tells the stories of Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Regis’s rebirths and journeys back to Drizzt’s side. I do think it’s one of R.A. Salvatore’s better books, though, so I’d recommend it.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER splits between following Drizzt and the others on their journey to Gauntlgrym to showing the machinations of the drow who have taken over Gauntlgrym. Artemis Entreri and Dahlia Sin’felle make an important appearance, so does Lolth. There’s a LOT going on in this book, and by the time I finished, I felt like I’d read a book double its length. There’s a lot to keep track of between the multiple subplots and characters introduced in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

Now, I’m a Forgotten Realms reader who really, really likes the drow. So I gobbled up every passage dealing with Gromph and Quenthel Baenre, and different drow houses including Xorlarrin and Fey-Branche. There’s a ton of drow politics in this book, and that made me a very happy reader. My only quibble with those parts of the book is that I wish the author’s language had been clearer. Sometimes I had to reread paragraphs a couple of times, due to awkward phrasing and long sentences, to figure out what was important.

The story of Drizzt and the others was good too, and exciting to watch them battle through Gauntlgrym. It was really good to see the Companions back in action, albeit each influenced by their new lives. Catti-brie, for example, is a mage, and Regis is much, much braver than ever before. I think this book is the start to a new epic for Drizzt and everyone else in the changing world of the Realms.

Because of all the drow intrigue, as well as the implications for Drizzt’s future, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER has jumped to the top of my favorite R.A. Salvatore books. I also think it’s a good starting point for readers new to the Realms, as you don’t need to know a ton of backstory, and it’s just a good fantasy book.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

The Reading Machine [2]

reading machine

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to join Stacking the Shelves. It’s hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and you can find out all about it here.

Basically, everyone shares their book hauls for the week. I always enjoy visiting these posts on other blogs, so it’s finally time to join in the fun. You can visit this week’s hauls here.

But I’m going to do things a little differently. For my Stacking the Shelves, or as I’m calling it, The Reading Machine, I’m going to list the books I have that I’ll be reading in the upcoming week. Well, I’ll hopefully get to these. This is part of my new organization plan :D

New this week — I’m also going to do a short life recap in these posts.

The Reading Machine:

reading machine march 16

In that picture, I have Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk, For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu, and Half Bad by Sally Green.

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland
for review
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
for review
Timeless by Rachel Spangler
for review
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
for fun

I’m almost finished with Blood and Iron, and when I get to The Shadow Queen, I’ll be doing a re-read. I flew through the book in December, too quickly to be able to write a review. Not that I mind, because I could use some historical fiction to break up all the fantasy I’ve been reading lately. Per the recommendation of Pabkins at My Shelf Confessions, I’m hoping to start The School for Good and Evil for fun. Last week I did read The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and freaking loved it.

What Up, Life?

I haven’t been reading a lot lately. I’m only up to 6 books for March. That’s quite abnormal for me. I’ve got some major life things going on that have kept me from enjoying books, which, well, sucks. I’ll literally stare at a page for ten minutes without absorbing any words. *shakes fist at life*

I have been getting a few writing ideas here and there, which is good, because I’ve barely written in months. Although one of them is a billionaire buys a date at an auction type of thing… which is crazy because that’s not something I read! I’ve also been pinning ideas for a possible fantasy WIP… any guesses where I might be going with that one?

– leeanna