Waiting on Wednesday: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

waiting on wednesday

a school for unusual girls by kathleen baldwinA School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House #1) by Kathleen Baldwin
Release Date: May 19, 2015

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts…

A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS sounds like just my kind of book! Girls stepping outside of their expected roles. A boarding school where girls learn espionage and diplomacy. I also like the time period it’s set in — I’ve read a couple of biographies and historical fictions based on Napoleon’s wives, and it’ll be interesting to see another side.

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

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

helen of sparta tour banner

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HELEN OF SPARTA by Amalia Carosella. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. This is a neat historical fiction book, where Helen gets to tell her story in her own words.

helen of sparta by amalia carosellaInfo:
Title: Helen of Sparta
Author: Amalia Carosella
Release Date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical fiction
Page Count: 416

Summary:

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

Giveaway:

Helen of Sparta

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at www.amaliacarosella.com. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Amalia Dillin.

You can also connect with Amalia on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter here and here.
Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

Socialize with the author:

Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: A Royal Romance by Jenny Frame

waiting on wednesday

a royal romance by jenny frameA Royal Romance by Jenny Frame
Release Date: May 12, 2015

Georgina, Princess of Wales, has always known her destiny, but she never expected duty to call so soon. When her father dies suddenly, she is called back from her Royal Navy post to assume the crown. While the people acclaim their new Queen, Great Britain’s first openly gay monarch, all George feels is the isolation of her station.

Beatrice Elliot’s staunch anti-monarchist views have always been a point of gentle contention with her working class, royalty-loving parents. When Bea—director of a hospice charity—must spend six months working with Queen Georgina, her charity’s new patron, sparks fly and passion blooms. But is love enough to bridge the gap between Bethnal Green and Buckingham Palace?

If you’ve been to my blog before, you might wonder who stole me and replaced me with someone who likes romance! Normally I’m less than keen on it, but I was browsing NetGalley today and saw A ROYAL ROMANCE. Now this probably has something to do with my love for E’s totally crazy show The Royals, but I gotta check this book out! Coincidentally enough, the other day I was wondering what impact a gay monarch would have. Maybe I’ll get to find out.

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

– leeanna

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenI Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
Published by Month9Books on March 31, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka 'Quinn' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Book Review:

Set in a future where most humans think robots shouldn’t have rights, and robots think they should, I HEART ROBOT asks what it means to be human. Is being human necessary to create? Can robots think, create, love? If they can, should they be destroyed, or should they be allowed to flourish? Are artificially intelligent robots a threat to humanity, or is humanity a threat to those robots?

Tyri wants to be a musician. But everyone around her, including her mother and boyfriend, think she should do something useful to society, like politics or science. Quinn, a companion android who escaped abusive owners, wants to play music and show that he’s human, not just a robot without feelings. When they’re caught up in the increasingly violent rift between humans and robots, they question their beliefs and their roles.

At first, I thought I HEART ROBOT was going to be a girl/android love story, and while yeah, there’s a bit of that, there’s also a lot more. The author asks the same questions I did at the start of this review, showing a variety of answers from pro and anti robot characters. I really got into I HEART ROBOT, and read it in one sitting. The book isn’t too long, but it’s one that left me thinking. I really hope there’s a sequel, because the ending is open and leaves some questions unresolved. I want to know what happens next to Tyri and Quinn.

I HEART ROBOT YA science fiction, but it’s not packed with technical mumbo jumbo that pulls you out of the book. There’s also some diversity in the book, which I was happy to see. Tyri’s best friend has a girlfriend, and the book is set in Skandia, a post-war combination of Sweden and Norway. I would have liked some more worldbuilding and scene setting, so that I truly felt like I was overseas. Lastly, I liked that Tyri questioned her romantic relationships, speaking up for herself when necessary, but also acting like a teen in love at the same time.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you think androids deserve equal rights?

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne van Rooyen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin by J. Matthew Saunders

Book Review: Daughters of Shadow and Blood: Yasamin by J. Matthew SaundersYasamin by J. Matthew Saunders
Series: Daughters of Shadow and Blood #1
Published by Saint George's Press on May 3, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Buda, Ottoman Hungary, 1599: Yasamin, the naïve daughter of an Ottoman bureaucrat, finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage to the son of the powerful governor of Buda. She is unprepared for the gossip and scheming rampant in the palace but realizes she faces more than petty jealousies when someone tries to drown her in the baths on the day before her wedding. An unearthly menace lurks in the palace corridors, and the one person able to protect Yasamin is a soldier named Iskander, who seems to appear whenever she needs him. Charming and confident, he is nothing like her new husband, but trusting either of them could be a deadly mistake.

Berlin, Germany, 1999: Adam Mire, an American professor of history, discovers a worn, marked-up copy of Dracula. The clues within its pages send him on a journey across the stark landscape of Eastern Europe, searching for a medallion that once belonged to Dracula himself. But a killer hounds Adam’s footsteps, and each new clue he uncovers brings him closer to a beguiling, raven-haired woman named Yasamin Ashrafi, who might be the first of Dracula’s legendary Brides.

Adam has an agenda of his own, however, a quest more personal than anyone knows. One misstep, and his haunted past could lead to death from a blade in his back … or from Yasamin’s fatal embrace.

Book Review:

YASAMIN is the first book in a new series, Daughters of Shadow and Blood, about the three women in Dracula’s castle. Are they the brides of Dracula, as many have guessed? Is Yasamin one of them?

I was intrigued by the book’s summary, because: 1) I’m a vampire fan, 2) I enjoy books about Dracula’s brides, and 3) I liked the mix of the past and modern day.

Unfortunately, the book just wasn’t for me. I spent a fair amount of the book confused, as there’s a lot of jumping around in time. Not just between 1999 and 1599, but between weeks and months in 1999. There’s approximately 300 pages and 77 chapters. The chapters are short and choppy; rather than jumping in time and into different characters, I would have liked some more time with Adam and Yasamin.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so I’m not sure if this book can be classified as one, but that’s the impression I got. But I never got any sense of urgency or felt that Adam’s life was truly in danger, even when he was captured by this group or that.

The idea behind the book is interesting, but the way it’s written didn’t work for me. I’m also a character driven reader, so I like characters I can really care about or get invested in their stories. The characters in this book felt like chess pieces to me, moved here and there to keep the plot going.

Let’s talk about it:

Dracula’s brides — yay or nay? Would you be interested in reading about them?

Socialize with the author:

J. Matthew Saunders:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

waiting on wednesday

star wars: lords of the sith by paul s. kempStar Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Release Date: April 28, 2015

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

I’ve been a Paul S. Kemp fan for a long time, since his Forgotten Realms days. He wrote one of my favorite characters ever, Erevis Cale. I’ve also liked Kemp’s original sword and sorcery and his Star Wars books. So I was super excited to see he has a new Star Wars book coming out: LORDS OF HTE SITH.

LORDS OF THE SITH has me excited for three reasons: it’s a Paul S. Kemp book, it sounds like there’s going to be a lot of Imperial action, and there’s a lesbian Moff. Diverse characters in Star Wars has been a long time coming… I mean, Admiral Daala had to be pretty bored in the Maw, and I can’t see her getting it on with a random male solider after she was with Tarkin. :D

Socialize with the author:

Paul S. Kemp:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah HelmRavensbrück by Sarah Helm
Published by Doubleday on March 31, 2015
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A groundbreaking, masterful, and absorbing account of the last hidden atrocity of World War II—Ravensbrück—the largest female-only concentration camp, where more than 100,000 women consisting of more than twenty nationalities were imprisoned.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.

Book Review:

I have read a lot of books on World War II and the Holocaust, from history textbooks to historical fiction to survivor memoirs. There’s a lot of literature out there, and for good reason. It’s something we should never forget or allow to happen again. But RAVENSBRÜCK is one of those books that stands out, and for another good reason: it’s about the only concentration camp designed for women.

I spent almost 21 hours reading RAVENSBRÜCK, and consider every one of those hours well spent. I learned an incredible amount while reading. Have you heard of the Polish students — the “rabbits” — that were experimented on at the camp? They smuggled out letters written in urine to tell the world their story because they feared the Nazis would silence them forever to cover up the crimes. When women were beaten for punishment, Heinrich Himmler personally approved each beating. Ravensbrück trained women guards for the rest of the concentration camps. I learned more about satellite camps than I have in any other book. I also learned that many Soviet women were imprisoned again upon release, because Stalin considered them traitors.

I really feel like the author did an incredible job of making a readable history of Ravensbrück. Yes, it is hard reading because of the atrocities, but I so appreciated that the author didn’t gloss over those, but instead told me how the women survived. I was in awe of the women mentioned, at their thirst to live in horrendous conditions. How they rebelled a hundred tiny ways, sometimes escaping punishment and sometimes suffering the ultimate fate for their rebellion. How many of them returned home and never said a word, because nobody wanted to hear about Ravensbrück.

In RAVENSBRÜCK, Sarah Helm combines historical evidence (records, trial transcripts, etc.) and the voices of the survivors to create a biography of the camp, from founding to liberation. If she couldn’t corroborate an account, she told the reader what the survivor said anyway, adding additional evidence for or against, if there was any. Many, many voices are represented, from guards to Soviet prisoners of war to Polish doctors and students to German communists and more.

I do have one small wish: a list of all the women who had a voice in RAVENSBRÜCK, along with their fates, would have been a good addition in my eyes. There were so many interesting women mentioned, and I doubt I could ever track down information about them.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you have any interest in WWII, concentration camps, or even women’s history in general.

YA Connection:

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein is a YA historical fiction book set, in part, at Ravensbrück. So far, it’s the only historical fiction book, YA or otherwise, that I’ve read set in Ravensbrück. After reading Sarah Helm’s history of the camp, I feel that Elizabeth Wein did a respectable and realistic job of describing life there.

– leeanna

Book Review: Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. SalvatoreVengeance of the Iron Dwarf by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms, Legend of Drizzt
Published by Wizards of the Coast on March 3, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling tale of the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden continues immediately on the heels of Rise of the King, with an expanding war and greater danger to the finally-reunited Companions of the Hall.

Bloody war rages across the Forgotten Realms world in the third book of the Companions Codex, the latest series in R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling saga of dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden.

In the evolving world of the Forgotten Realms setting, the Sundering has given way to months of cloud-cloaked darkness, and war rages under that oppressive sky. The orcs have broken a hard-fought treaty that's held, however tentatively, for a hundred years, and the time to settle old scores has devolved into an all-out brawl for control of the ancient realms of the North.

Book Review:

If you pick up VENGEANCE OF THE IRON DWARF, you know what you’re about to read. This is the third book in the Companions Codex and the 27th book in the Legend of Drizzt. Definitely a series for long-time fans. It’s classic R.A. Salvatore, with Drizzt and company fighting lots of battles against the orcs who have declared war on dwarves and humans.

I’m not 100% positive, but I don’t think VENGEANCE OF THE IRON DWARF is the last book in the Companions Codex. When I started, I thought the codex would be a trilogy, but with the amount of unresolved storylines at the end, I’m thinking this will be a quartet. As a result, VENGEANCE OF THE IRON DWARF ends up feeling like its predecessor, RISE OF THE KING: almost all filler with little substance. Honestly, 3 stars is a bit generous for this book, but I had a good idea of what I was getting into.

When I read book one of the Companions Codex, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, I had high hopes for this new series. I’m a reader who adores the drow, and finally here they were, getting some time in the spotlight. Doing drow things, being sneaky and manipulative and political. Unfortunately, over the course of the books, the drow are starting to act like idiots while Drizzt and the Companions are becoming god-like. After the Sundering, I expected more of a change, not for Drizzt and the others to do the same things they’ve always done.

As I said, with these books, you know what you’re going to get. A book with lots of battles, Drizzt slashing with scimitars, Catti-brie throwing fireballs, Bruenor inspiring the dwarves, the orcs being nasty, etc. But then, that’s probably exactly what you want if you’ve stuck with Salvatore and Drizzt this long.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig

Book Review: Atlanta Burns by Chuck WendigAtlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
Series: Atlanta Burns #1 & #2
Published by Skyscape on January 27, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 381
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault.

You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Book Review:

“Not unless you feel like getting into a gunfight with a teenage girl. Hard to avoid the police attention that would cause, I figure. Maybe next time? I’ll bring my shotgun. It’s got a taste for the blood of monstrous men (p. 101-102).”

Atlanta Burns is a girl after my own heart. When her mother’s boyfriend abused her, she shot his nuts off. When she returns home after a stint in the looney bin for that, she somehow becomes the hero of the bullied. Probably because she’s the only one willing to do anything about it, the only one who will take the fight to the bullies. Atlanta’s kinda like that voice inside your head, the one that asks what could happen if you fought back, if you went for violence.

But in typical Atlanta fashion, everything she does lands her in deeper shit. Use bear mace on a group of bullies? Say hello to a dead cat thrown through a window. And that’s the least of it. But I really admired how Atlanta just kept going, kept trying, because she didn’t want the bullies to win.

ATLANTA BURNS is a YA book, but it doesn’t read like one. The author doesn’t rely on the usual YA cliches (love at first sight, love triangles, etc) to get his story across. I am super happy about that, because I’m always on the lookout for something new, something that isn’t full of cliches and tropes and thinking about kissing. There’s some very serious stuff in the book, from sexual abuse to gay bullying to dog fighting. The dog fighting was a bit difficult for me to read, because the author goes into some detail, but watching Atlanta get her revenge … it was worth it.

ATLANTA BURNS is sort of two stories in one. Part one, where Atlanta deals with racists and homophobes, was originally published as a novella. Parts two through five, where Atlanta deals again with those bullies and also a dog fighting ring, was a self-published novel. When I read the book, I didn’t realize that the stories were originally separate but connected. I only found out because after I finished, I wanted to see what Chuck Wendig had to say about his book. Even better, I found out there’s another book in the works, which is great, because I definitely want to read more about Atlanta and her friends.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s almost like reading an action movie, one set in atmospheric Pennsyltucky, while peering into the head of angry, scared, and tough as shotgun shells Atlanta.

Socialize with the author:

Chuck Wendig:
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– leeanna