Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle MeadThe Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.

Book Review:

For some reason, I thought THE GLITTERING COURT was a book about faeries and their courts. I don’t know why — maybe the title gave me that impression? Anyway, that misconception aside, I’m not sure why THE GLITTERING COURT is classified as fantasy. There’s no magic, extraordinary creatures, special powers. Nothing.

Basically, THE GLITTERING COURT is THE JEWEL + THE SELECTION set in a pseudo-Frontier America. A young countess escapes an arranged marriage by taking her servant’s identity and place in the Glittering Court. The Court takes impoverished girls who want a better life and shines them into jewels to be sold into marriage in Adoria, a land low on women and high on money. In Adoria, the girls are displayed and advertised by the value of their scores on subjects like dancing and polite conversation.

If you like books full of glitz and glamour and descriptions of dresses and rooms, THE GLITTERING COURT might be the book for you. But I like my fantasy with substance and worldbuilding and magic, so I was quite disappointed.

Even if I ignore that the book is classified as fantasy (and this might be the fault of the publisher, not the author), there’s still a lack of worldbuilding and some wild leaps that just made my head hurt. For example, Adelaide runs away from an arranged marriage by going into the Glittering Court… to be sold as a bride. Instead of being smart and trying to get high scores, she downplays her abilities to be in the middle of the pack, where she’s unlikely to get her choice of husband.

I was bored and/or frustrated by the majority of THE GLITTERING COURT, and I almost put it down several times. I kept reading in the hope it would get better, only to be annoyed by “hey, let’s reveal secrets at the end, but keep them from the reader until book two!” or “hey, let’s save the characters from their own stupid with a miracle!” The author brings up topics that could have been interesting, like religious heresy, but doesn’t dive into any of them. Everything stays on the surface in a very bland way, even attempted rape, without any consequences or the characters doing any emotional processing.

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Richelle Mead:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak

Book Review: Black City Saint by Richard A. KnaakBlack City Saint by Richard A Knaak
Series: Black City Saint #1
Published by Pyr on March 1, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 390
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.

Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.

Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.

The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.

Book Review:

I’m a fan of Richard A. Knaak’s books in the World of Warcraft realm, so I was eager to try out some of his original work. BLACK CITY SAINT sounded quite intriguing, with its mashup of noir, fae, dragons, and 1920s Chicago.

Unfortunately, I was bored by 97% of the book. Every time I picked it up to read, I kept putting it back down and looking at Instagram or Twitter or any other diversion I could find. Part of the reason was the stilted, overly formal writing style, which I think the author used in an attempt to make the book feel more 1920s-ish. But I also know that Knaak can overwrite, so that was part of it as well. I hate when I have to reread sentences 2 or 3 times to figure out what they mean.

My second problem with BLACK CITY SAINT? Nick spends the first half of the book going all over Chicago for no real reason at all. The first few chapters were cool, because they introduced Nick, the dragon, and the author’s version of fae, but then nothing happens. Nick goes here, he goes there, he keeps secrets, he goes here, he goes there, he keeps more secrets.

Third, the author tried so hard to make Nick’s enemy the typical tricky fae lord that I was confused by all the double-crossing, lying, trickery, and secrets. Nick was continually surprised by the villain, which I found hard to believe considering they’d fought before, and he had more than a thousand years of experience. And because he kept getting tricked by Oberon, I found it even more hard to believe that he would eventually triumph.

Fourth, why was Claryce even in BLACK CITY SAINT? All she wanted to do was follow Nick into danger and Nick wanted her to stay behind and be safe. She never listened and he loved her even more for it? Claryce played practically no role in the book, other than a prop to be moved around until the very end. I thought it was lazy the author relied on her past incarnations to develop hints of a relationship between them, instead of just developing it in the here and now.

All of that said, I did like the dragon in BLACK CITY SAINT. Knaak is good with dragons.

Overall, I think BLACK CITY SAINT tried to combine too many things and genres, and tried too hard to be clever. There were some cool ideas, but the execution was off for me.

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Richard A. Knaak:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Book Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie JordanReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.

Book Review:

REIGN OF SHADOWS is the first in a new YA series by Sophie Jordan. It’s set in a world of darkness where an eclipse has reigned for 17 years. The rightful princess of the land lives in a tower hidden in the forest, waiting for daylight to come back to reclaim her kingdom.

I liked the idea behind REIGN OF SHADOWS — the world of darkness and the hidden princess. Unfortunately, the author didn’t deliver on anything, from worldbuilding to an actual story. Why’s the world dark? Because of an eclipse. That’s the entirety of the explanation. Where do the dwellers come from? Underground. How can a blind girl run through a forest like she’s Usain Bolt, without tripping or falling?

Yeah. Luna is blind, which could have been very cool, but the author turned her into Superwoman with no basis. I understand that one’s other senses do amp up, but Luna’s abilities are unbelievably superhuman.

Then there’s Fowler, the bad-boy love interest who is incredibly broken. He’s lost too much in life to care about anyone. But Luna’s love fixes him in a matter of days. Every single one of their kisses is good enough to cause a volcano to erupt.

Lastly, what the heck happened in REIGN OF SHADOWS? The book read more like a prequel to a series than a real first installment. I just finished the book, and I’m trying to remember what happened… not much.

I’ve read one of the author’s other books — UNINVITED — and had many of the same issues with that book. So, I’m thinking Sophie Jordan just isn’t an author for me. She has cool ideas, but the execution is off and there are just too many cliche tropes in her books for me to enjoy them.

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Sophie Jordan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

Book Review: Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison PatakiSisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki
Published by The Dial Press on March 8, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
For readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin comes a sweeping and powerful novel by New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki. Sisi tells the little-known story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, the Princess Diana of her time, in an enthralling work of historical fiction that is also a gripping page-turner.

Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth—fondly known as Sisi—captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling persona lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne but with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage, Sisi grows restless. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest. There she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from the Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of her fragile seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.

Through love affairs and loss, dedication and defiance, Sisi struggles against conflicting desires: to keep her family together, or to flee amid the collapse of her suffocating marriage and the gathering tumult of the First World War. In an age of crumbling monarchies, Sisi fights to assert her right to the throne beside her husband, to win the love of her people and the world, and to save an empire. But in the end, can she save herself?

Featuring larger-than-life historic figures such as Bavaria’s “Mad King Ludwig” and the tragic Crown Prince Rudolf, and set against many of Europe’s grandest sites—from Germany’s storied Neuschwanstein Castle to England’s lush shires—Sisi brings to life an extraordinary woman and the romantic, volatile era over which she presided.

Book Review:

I didn’t know that SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN is actually a follow-up to THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS. I learned that only after I went to Goodreads and searched for the author. The summary for SISI gives no clue that it’s a sequel, which is an unfortunate omission.

Because if I’d read THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS first, I might have enjoyed SISI more. SISI starts in 1868, with the empress reflecting how much more she enjoys life in Hungary than Vienna. I thought it was an odd place to start her story, as I wanted to know just how she influenced the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, since she didn’t seem to care much about government. I realize now that the events of her early years were covered in THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS.

But even if I had read the first book about Sisi’s life, I might not have liked SISI anymore. I wasn’t a fan of the author’s writing style or her uninspiring attempts to bring Sisi to life. I thought the Wikipedia entry was more exciting and educational. I like my historical fiction to educate me, or at least stimulate an interest in a new-to-me figure or time period. If I went off Pataki’s Sisi, I’d think she was a vapid, selfish, irresponsible woman who preferred to fantasize about horses and unavailable men. And yes, Sisi might have been all of that to some extent, but bring something new to her story? Or why not delve into her psyche, really dig into her mental state rather than staying on the surface? At least tell her story in an interesting way, instead of stringing me along for some 460 boring pages of riding and etiquette and stiff, flat characters.

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Allison Pataki:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena ShowalterFirstlife by Gena Showalter
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
ONE CHOICE.
TWO REALMS.
NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

Book Review:

Oh, FIRSTLIFE. I wanted to like you, but I should have put you down after the first few chapters instead of forcing myself to finish you. You have such a pretty cover and a good-sounding idea, but we just weren’t meant to be.

I just finished FIRSTLIFE about twenty minutes ago, and this is one of those books where all I can think is, “WTF did I just read and why did I waste my time?” Originally, I thought the idea of your first life on Earth being a sort of dress rehearsal for life after death was cool. So were the two different realms, Troika and Myriad, each with their different view of that Secondlife. And the beginning of FIRSTLIFE? With Ten in the asylum, being tortured into picking a side? That was good.

But then the 400+ pages of the book turned into one thing: Ten’s inability to pick a side. There was just one small problem: I had NO clue as to why Ten wouldn’t pick Troika or Myriad. The author never offered a compelling reason as to why she would endure over a year of daily torture to stay Undecided. Then when Ten escaped, she continued to waffle in the midst of multiple attempts on her life, and oh yeah, two super hot boys trying to get her to pick their respective side. Why? Because Ten is a special snowflake.

By page 100, I was extremely bored and annoyed with FIRSTLIFE. At first, I liked Ten’s prickly “I won’t submit” personality. But when she kept putting herself into danger over and over, as well as constantly getting into fights and never having injuries impede her, I had enough. Based on all the torture and losing fights, Ten should have died early on, not whined for 400+ pages. I forced myself to keep going, hoping FIRSTLIFE would get better, but here’s something telling: when I had only 20 pages left, I almost didn’t bother finishing because I had completely checked out. I just didn’t care any longer.

Part of that is because the author’s worldbuilding is super complex yet confusing. I appreciate her trying to do a different spin on Good vs. Evil, but I’m just so confused! Where are the realms physically located? In what year does FIRSTLIFE take place? Why in the world does anyone think torturing undecided teens into picking a side would have any effect? Do the sides control humans on earth? Why must all the spirits be super gorgeous, with special golden eyes and sexy accents and glittery diamond lifeblood? Why are Troika and Myriad at war, anyway? And so on to the hundredth power.

I’m not even going to get into the romance, other than to say it’s an obvious one-sided love triangle, with the alpha bad boy who falls instantly for Ten because she’s special, not like any of the hundreds of girls he’s recruited. And of course, Ten thinks she’s the only girl who can fix him because he opened his big bad boy heart to her.

I’d rather have spent hours in the purgatory of Many Ends than plodding through FIRSTLIFE.

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Gena Showalter:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowThe Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Published by Margaret K McElderry Books on September 22, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

Book Review:

From the summary, THE SCORPION RULES sounds like the kind of book I’d love. The children of the world’s leaders are held hostage by the AI who took over the United Nations. If a country starts a war, that country’s hostage is killed. It’s a reasonably effective way of keeping the peace and keep everyone from destroying what’s left of the world.

Great premise. But as happens all too often in YA, the execution of THE SCORPION RULES is poor. I can’t remember the last time I read a book that was more boring. The only reason I finished this excruciatingly slow book? I was too lazy to get off my behind and pick a new book. That’s not a good reason, folks.

What happens in the book? A lot of taking care of goats and gardening chores. A lot of students double talking in code, because they don’t want to risk being overheard. A lot more taking care of goats and farm chores. A lot of history lessons. A lot of Greta… , I can’t really remember what Greta did, and that’s my point. THE SCORPION RULES was so slow, so boring, and so full of unimportant stuff that I glossed over 99% of it while reading, which is something I rarely do.

For example, the other hostages told Greta that she had the power at the school, that she was the one they followed. But WHY? I have no idea. If I was a kid at the Precepture school, there’s no way I’d have followed Greta or wanted anything to do with her. I was way more interested in Xie, Greta’s roommate and best friend. Xie actually had a personality.

I know I haven’t talked about what happens in THE SCORPION RULES, but honestly, I just didn’t care. The author didn’t make me care about the story or the world or the characters. When Greta finally figured out that the new hostage, Elián, was being tortured, I thought, “Good! At last something’s happening to someone.” But I wasn’t sympathetic towards him or Greta. The book was overwhelmingly dull.

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Erin Bow:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie RyanDaughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on May 26, 2015
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 375
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.


In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

Book Review:

The summary for DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE makes it sound like the kind of book I’d love. Frances is one of the few survivors of the destruction of the Persephone; more importantly, she’s the only survivor who’s willing to face the truth of what happened. The two other survivors, a Senator and his son, claim a rogue wave destroyed the ship, but Frances knows everyone on board was murdered at gunpoint. After rescue, she takes on the identity of Libby O’Martin, a girl she met on the ship. Frances is determined to get revenge for the murders of her parents and the life she lost.

Fast forward four years. Frances has seamlessly become Libby, and now she’s out to destroy the Senator and his son for covering up the truth about the Persephone. The only snag in her plan? The Senator’s son – Grey – is her first love. They also met on the ship, and somehow fell in love in a few days. When she sees him again, Frances is torn between her revenge and loving Grey.

I found DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE skewed too far in the unbelievable romance direction for me to enjoy the book at all. I wanted to put the book aside by page 8, after I read, “It didn’t matter that I’d known him barely a week, it had been long enough to fall for him with an intensity I’d never experienced before (p. 8).” Okay, I get that they’re both fourteen at the time, and swept away by each other, but when Frances encounters him years later? When she’s putting her revenge plans underway? She’s pretty much in love with him all over again, and the Frances part of her that’s hiding inside the Libby disguise wants to throw all caution to the wind and be loved again. To top that off, I’m not sure why Frances liked Grey at first — maybe because he was the first boy that showed her attention? I don’t know. You can’t just tell me that they fell in love in a few days and it’s a “relationship” that overcomes her desire to get revenge for the murder of her parents and hundreds of other people.

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE requires a lot of suspension of disbelief: that Libby and Frances looked enough alike for Frances to assume Libby’s identity; that Frances and Grey fell in love at first sight; that Frances can carry out such a complicated revenge plot without any real experience; etc., etc. I also found the author’s writing style to be somewhat stilted, with lots of telling that didn’t add to the suspense for me. The pace was super slow, and I skimmed a lot of the book because I just wasn’t interested in what was going on. The only reason I kept reading? I wanted to find out why everyone on the Persephone was murdered. But even that wasn’t too interesting. I wish I’d gone with my instincts and put DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE down after the first few chapters.

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Carrie Ryan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen BaldwinA School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Published by Tor Teen on May 19, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
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...

Book Review:

I was super excited for A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. At Stranje House, unmarriageable girls are supposedly reformed. But in reality, their unusual qualities and abilities are further developed. Sent to Stranje House after she sets her father’s stables on fire while trying to create invisible ink, Georgiana wants to escape … until she meets Sebastian Wyatt and learns that Miss Stranje wants her to create that ink.

The summary strongly hints at romance, but I didn’t think it would take over the whole book. The “relationship” that springs up between Georgiana and Sebastian caused me to dislike A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. Georgiana’s supposed to be smart, but she falls in love with Sebastian after about two seconds of looking at him. Or that’s what it felt like. I think they spent less than a week together, but they were falling in love by the middle of the book. I can’t stand that type of undeveloped relationship, and it influenced how I felt about the book.

Aside from the insta-love romance, I didn’t get Georgiana. Again, she’s supposed to be smart, but where does this come from? Why is she the only one who can develop the ultra-important invisible ink spies need in the war effort? Where do her special skills come from? We’re not told of her successes, just her failures: setting the stables on fire, jumping out a window and hurting her arm, etc. And when Georgiana works on that ink, she nearly kills Sebastian and then makes another mistake because they’re swooning over each other. And Stranje House itself? It sounds like an interesting place, but Georgiana doesn’t partake in very many lessons because she’s busy with Sebastian.

Ultimately, A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS just wasn’t what I expected it to be. Instead of a history-filled, girl-powered jaunt through 1814, it’s an unrealistic romance with a tiny dash of adventure.

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Kathleen Baldwin:
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– 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