Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda SalisburyThe Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater's Daughter #1
Published by Scholastic on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it's price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla's fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla's chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen's, some truths should not be told...

Book Review:

THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER is a book I was super excited to read. That cover? Yum. That summary? Double yum.

However, the book falls into the category of “amazing idea with subpar execution.” I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER, and ultimately went with 3 because the author did interest me enough in Twylla’s story and world for me to read the next book in the series when it’s available.

Twylla was once the apprentice of her mother, the Sin Eater of Lormere. She was destined to spend her days eating the sins of the dead at their funerals, a destiny she didn’t want. But all that changed one day when the queen came for her, to announce that Twylla was actually Daunen Embodied, the reborn daughter of the Gods. As Daunen, Twylla’s very skin is poisonous. She kills anyone she touches, save the royal family.

All of that? Good stuff, especially when the book started with Twylla reminiscing on having to kill her only friend at the castle.

But then the queen banishes Twylla to her room, for her “protection,” when one of her guards falls ill. The real reason for this comes out later, but for a lot of the book, I was locked in the same room with Twylla, and as a consequence, was as bored as she was. I wanted more character development for Twylla, who didn’t read as 17 to me. She felt a lot younger as a character, like in the 13-14 range. Thanks to Twylla’s time in her room, the book also gets off to a slow start, and I had to push myself to keep going.

I think my biggest issue with THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER is just that I wanted more of everything. I wanted more character development for everyone, including Twylla, her betrothed the prince, her guard, and the queen. The queen was a fun one for me, because she’s cruel and a bit crazy. I wanted more worldbuilding, other than a history lesson on the countries surrounding Lormere. I wanted to see how the common people felt about Twylla’s role as Danuen. I wanted to see what Twylla felt about all the events at the end of the book, rather than jumping forward to an epilogue.

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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

waiting on wednesday

wolf by wolf by ryan graudinWolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Release Date: October 6, 2015

Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Usually I don’t like to pick books so far from their publication date, but I’m in a mood for historical fiction, especially alternate historical fiction, so here’s WOLF BY WOLF. I really enjoy alternate historical fiction, since I love seeing how other people think history could have gone. In this case, what could have happened if the Allies didn’t win the war. Also, Yael’s quest sounds awesome, and medical experimentation leading to skinshifting? Okay, I’m also curious as to what skinshifting is! I’m guessing something wolfish…

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

Book Review: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay CummingsThe Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings
Series: The Balance Keepers #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 23, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile....

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, The Unwanteds, and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Book Review:

THE FIRES OF CALDERON is the first book in the Balance Keepers series. Middle grade fantasy, the publisher has compared the series to Percy Jackson, but it’s not a comparison I’d agree with. Albert and his friends are nowhere near as interesting or developed as Percy and crew.

It took me a couple of tries to start THE FIRES OF CALDERON, since the first chapter did not grab my attention. I wish I had followed my gut and put the book down, because while I did push through and finish, it wasn’t super original, memorable, or even enjoyable. I didn’t really care for the author’s writing style. Something about it felt oddly formal to me — not the kind of writing that pulls me into a book.

Admittedly, I’m way above the intended age group, but THE FIRES OF CALDERON didn’t have what I like to read in middle grade books. There’s not a lot of great worldbuilding, quirky characters, or immersive storytelling. I can’t count how many times I thought Albert and friends were really Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The plot itself? I can’t remember much of it, other than scoffing at Albert’s suddenly discovered power.

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Lindsay Cummings:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Book Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys DaytonSeeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on February 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.

Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin's new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.

Book Review:

I knew by chapter 7 that SEEKER wasn’t the book for me, because the author did something that’s a big peeve of mine. Rather than showing a very important scene, the author jumped to the aftermath and tried to keep what happened in that scene a secret. Keeping secrets from the reader seemed to be a big theme in SEEKER, which left me very confused for the whole book. In fact, I don’t even know what a Seeker is.

After being disappointed early in the book, I put SEEKER down for about a week. I didn’t think about it once, which was a sign I should have put it on the DNF (did not finish) pile. But I did pick it back up and made myself finish for some unknown reason. Probably because I have a thing about finishing books, but this is one that wasn’t worth the trouble.

SEEKER tries to blend fantasy and science fiction together, but there’s a serious lack of worldbuilding. Remember, I finished the book and have no clue what a Seeker is or does. They’re part of something exceptional, but what that part is, the author didn’t tell me. That’s a big problem, especially since Quin and her fellow Seekers-in-training are lied to, and their purpose is corrupted.

SEEKER feels like a big jumble of scenes, the author telling the reader everything instead of showing. Almost every time something big happened — a fight, a betrayal, whatever — the author would jump forward in time rather than showing me how the characters processed that event. I didn’t feel connected to or care about any character, and since I had no idea what was happening with the story, 99% of the time I was thinking, “WTF?”

I don’t know. I pushed myself to finish this book, but I can’t remember very much of it, other than how confused and distanced I felt while reading SEEKER. If you’re thinking of reading SEEKER, try out the first few chapters and make a judgement for yourself after that.

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Arwen Elys Dayton:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

waiting on wednesday

black iris by leah raederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Release Date: April 28, 2015

The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

Okay. I am a huge Leah Raeder fangirl. I’ve been looking forward to BLACK IRIS for what seems like fooooooorever. I almost had a heart attack yesterday when Atria approved me for the eARC. I’m frantically trying to finish everything else I have started so I can sit down and consume this. I’m pretty sure BLACK IRIS is going to wreck me.

Leah also did a fantastic interview with Dahlia Adler. She talks about a lot of stuff that’s near and dear to me, including sex in NA, queerness, and F/F in fiction. Read it if you’re interested in any of those topics… and even if you’re not. :D

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha LaiListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Published by HarperCollins on February 17, 2015
Genres: Diversity, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
This remarkable novel from Thanhha Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Book Review:

The summer she turns twelve, Mia’s sent to the last place she wants to go. Instead of spending the summer on the beach with her best friend, she’s stuck in Vietnam with her grandmother. Bà’s on a quest to find news of her husband, Ông, who vanished during THE WAR more than thirty-five years ago. Mia wants nothing to do with hot and smelly Vietnam, a place where the only Internet she can find is dial up and she can’t speak the language. But Mia also wants her grandmother to have peace… as long as Bà hurries up.

I think Mia’s character is a great look at a first-generation kid. Her parents raised her to be American, but also with Vietnamese values. Yes, Mia’s selfish at times for her wish to go back home to her friends, but she also recognizes how important it is that Bà have closure. Over the course of LISTEN, SLOWLY, Mia respects her grandmother and her Vietnamese culture more and more. I really liked that theme of the book — I wish more kids and teens (and even adults!) these days respected their elders.

LISTEN, SLOWLY isn’t an action-packed book; it does unfold somewhat slowly. I do wonder if the recommended age, 8-12, would stick with it. But I don’t think it’s a book restricted to that age — teen and adult readers looking for diversity and a heartwarming story should pick this up. I liked Mia’s sometimes sarcastic observations about her culture, from the language to the food to how people are so polite all the time. I liked how she told her story, and hope it’s one lots of people read. Alongside Mia’s journey to learning about family, I teared up a bit for Bà and Ông.

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Thanhha Lai:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #4
Published by Ace on March 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Book Review:

DEAD HEAT makes me want to howl at the moon.

It’s that good folks — good enough to send me into a frenzied weekend of rereading the entire Alpha & Omega series and then right back into DEAD HEAT again. Yup. I read this book twice in a week and loved it both times. I was like an obsessed werewolf on the hunt. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.

I’ve liked Anna and Charles since CRY WOLF in 2008. Alpha & Omega is one of my very favorite paranormal romance series because it has all the things! Anna and Charles are great characters; they defy genre stereotypes and have a relationship I love (and I’m really picky on romance). The paranormal aspects are there; I enjoy how the author writes werewolves and her fae are super creepy. The stories are always interesting, as are the side characters. Really. I could go on and on about this series.

I think DEAD HEAT might be the best installment yet. It’s the fourth book in the series, and while I think you should read all of them, I also think you could dive right into this book and not be lost. It’s been almost 3 years since I read the third book, FAIR GAME, and I was okay. Events are loosely connected, but as the series goes on, I feel like each book is more independent.

In DEAD HEAT, Anna and Charles go to Arizona to buy a horse for Anna’s birthday. They stay with the local alpha, Hosteen. Hosteen’s son, Joseph, is one of the very few people Charles cares about other than his family. But Joseph is dying, leaving Charles to wonder if it’s worth the pain of being close to someone who will die. It’s a difficult conundrum, considering Anna wants to have children. And then Hosteen’s great-grandchildren are attacked by a deadly fae, sending our main pair on a hunt with the FBI and Cantrip for a missing child.

It sounds like a lot, right? But it’s not. I adore Patricia Briggs’ writing. She’s got this way of sucking me into a book, making me care about every single character, and making me want to be there. When I was reading DEAD HEAT, I wanted to be a werewolf. I wanted to have Anna and Charles’ relationship (and I’m a single-for-life woman). I like how Anna and Charles support each other, but they also know how to let the other stand alone when necessary. Their relationship feels so real to me, and that’s not usually something I say. I felt Patricia Briggs’ love for everything she wrote about, from Arabian horses to Anna and Charles to Hosteen and Joseph.

I just couldn’t get enough of DEAD HEAT. So good. Arrooooo!

leeannadotme dead heat

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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard JacobsonPaper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Published by Candlewick Press on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Book Review:

I was drawn to PAPER THINGS because Ari and her brother Gage are homeless. I hadn’t yet seen this topic covered in a middle-grade book, and I was curious as to how the author would handle it. I admit, I don’t have any experience or real knowledge of homelessness, but I think the author did an incredible job of showing it in a way kid and adult readers can empathize with Ari.

Only eleven, Ari has already been through a lot. Her father died in Afghanistan; she never knew him. Her mother died a few years ago. Since then, she and her brother have stayed with her mother’s best friend, Janna. But Gage and Janna don’t get along, so when Gage decides to leave, Ari goes with him, because their mother wanted them to stay together.

But Gage didn’t tell Ari he didn’t really have an apartment for them. They spend the next several weeks staying with friends, in a shelter, even in a storage unit and a car. Ari’s smart, but being homeless starts to affect her studies, her friendships, and even her chances at getting into a middle school for gifted students. I liked that the author showed how things can snowball: Ari doesn’t have enough time at the library because she and Gage have to worry about where they’re spending the night. She leaves research books at one friend’s house, across town. Her teachers aren’t happy when she tries to do homework for one class in another. And so on. When Gage gets a reliable job, he still can’t get an apartment because of government red tape or needing a rental history. Etc.

I read PAPER THINGS in one sitting, and the book definitely got to me. I was rooting for Ari and Gage. I felt for Ari, who was torn between her brother and her love for him, and the security she had with Janna. I thought Ari was relatable, and while she was sometimes really mature for an eleven-year-old, she was smart and had also deal with a lot in life, so it wasn’t unrealistic. PAPER THINGS is written simply enough so that kids can understand it, but also with enough depth so that adults can enjoy it and get just as much out of it.

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Jennifer Richard Jacobson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von SchönwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Published by Penguin Classics on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales--the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen--becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost--until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manuscripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive.

Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

Book Review:

In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth tried to collect folk tales and legends of his native Bavaria. In 2009, scholar Erika Eichenseer rediscovered a treasure trove of 500 of Schönwerth’s tales. THE TURNIP PRINCESS contains over 70 of those tales. There’s also a foreward by Eichenseer, as well as an introduction and commentary by translator Maria Tatar.

The book is organized into six sections:
*Tales of Magic and Romance
*Enchanted Animals
*Otherworldly Creatures
*Legends
*Tall Tales and Anecdotes
*Legends

I appreciated how the tales were grouped. I felt like I was journeying through time reading them, as in the latter stories, there’s some religious influence. But as a result of the grouping, some of the tales did feel repetitive. The stories range from 1-3 pages, so I’d recommend reading a handful here and there, rather than reading the book in one go. I’d also recommend reading the commentary for each tale after you finish it (I didn’t know there was commentary until the end), since I think it adds to the tales.

As for the tales themselves, I enjoyed them. They’re earthy, unsanitized, unvarnished. In “Ashfeathers,” which is similar to Cinderella, stepsisters cut off a toe and heel. It’s mentioned and the tale moves on. In many tales, evil queens trick their sons, sending away their grandchildren. In the end, they’re burnt at the stake without fanfare. In several, guys were the ones in trouble, and needed rescuing by women. In “Follow Me, Jodel!” the not-so-bright Jodel is helped by a beautiful woman cursed to be a frog.

Overall, I liked reading the fairy tales in THE TURNIP PRINCESS. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy fairy tales, and want to see some new tales. I quite like the fact that not every girl was a damsel in distress. Many were strong and capable of saving themselves and their men.

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

waiting on wednesday

dead heat by patricia briggsDead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4) by Patricia Briggs
Release Date: March 4, 2015

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

If you like paranormal romance and you haven’t read Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega series, read it now!. Seriously. I like it more than her Mercy Thompson series, which might be blasphemous, but damn, do I love Charles and Anna. And if you’ve been around here a while, you’ll know romance isn’t usually my thing. I enjoy how realistic their relationship is, and how the author doesn’t take the easy “oh, we’re werewolves and now we looooove each other” way.

In fact, I just reread the entire Alpha & Omega series, because of DEAD HEAT. My review of the book will be coming closer to release date, but for now, I wanted to get more people excited about this series. Because I think this book is the best yet in the series.

I reviewed CRY WOLF in 2009. 2009! I can’t believe it. I wish there were more Charles and Anna books, but each one is fantastic and really, I mean it when I say DEAD HEAD is the best one yet.

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna