Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle Paige

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy #1) by Danielle PaigeDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Book Review:

I like fairytale retellings a lot; I’ve read dozens and dozens. But DOROTHY MUST DIE is my first retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Well, my first book retelling. I really liked Tinman, Syfy’s redo. So I was hoping for something along that line.

I should have loved DOROTHY MUST DIE. Instead of the colorful, happy, Munchkin-filled, joyous land we remember from the movie, Oz has turned into a desolate wasteland. Glinda uses Munchkins as slave labor, mining magic from Oz so Dorothy can have it. Oh yeah — Dorothy returned to Oz because Kansas just wasn’t good enough after her adventures. Instead of a wholesome farm girl, Dorothy’s a powermad princess, and has remade Oz in her vision. That? All good. I love that sort of stuff.

But I didn’t love DOROTHY MUST DIE. It’s a book with great ideas but poor execution. It’s basically 469 pages of setup for the rest of the series. The title should be “Dorothy Almost Dies” or a “A Primer of Oz History Under Dorothy.” The beginning of the book caught my attention, the middle put me to sleep, and the end left me saying, “that’s it?”

Amy, our sarcastic, unwilling hero is brought to Oz in a tornado. Even in its current condition, Oz is a step up from home, where she lives in a trailer park with her addict mother and is bullied by the popular girls at school. Amy’s an unlikely hero. When she’s rescued by a group of Wicked witches, she doesn’t take their word for it that she’s the only one who can kill Dorothy. Amy’s an okay character. She did some stupid things, which I always dislike, but I thought she also reacted realistically to the situations she got herself in.

My biggest problem with DOROTHY MUST DIE is that not a lot happens. For a book of its length, there should be a lot more going on. As I said, the beginning was good, with lots of action. But once Amy settled in with the witches, the book took a left turn to boring. Normally I really like descriptions of training and turning someone into an assassin/hero/etc., but the author didn’t keep me interested. I kept wanting to skim to more exciting parts, but they didn’t come until the last couple of pages and then the book ends on a cliffhanger.

After training, Amy infiltrates Dorothy’s palace … as a maid. So there’s another boring part, because I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to make reading about cleaning exciting. And Dorothy likes her palace to be really, really clean. I did not enjoy 100+ pages of that.

DOROTHY MUST DIE is the first book in a trilogy. Usually, you want to read the first book, because it’s full of information you need for the next two books. When I finished DOROTHY MUST DIE, I really felt like I could have skipped it and jumped right into book two, if it was available.

Socialize with the author:

Danielle Paige:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Book Review: Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1) by Kelley ArmstrongSea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 8, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Book Review:

I finished SEA OF SHADOWS a few days ago, but I barely remember it. I would have written my review right after finishing, but I was really underwhelmed by the book and didn’t know what to say. Unfortunately, I still don’t know what to say, which is indicative to me that the book was, well, blah.

SEA OF SHADOWS is basically set up for the rest of the series. Almost an entire book of exposition. While I was reading, I kept wondering when something big or exciting or important was going to happen. Now, don’t get me wrong — there are battles, there’s some danger, a village even gets slaughtered. But it was all …. disjointed and slow. When I finally finished the book, I almost felt cheated because I expected more from such a best selling author.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed by this book. It’s just not on that scope. The romance is also the farthest thing possible from “heart-stopping,” although I did appreciate Moria’s attitude towards boys. She didn’t care for romance, but also didn’t see anything wrong with having some fun and experimenting if the time was right.

The world in SEA OF SHADOWS is some combination of post-apocalyptic setting, historical fiction, and fantasy, but I needed a lot more worldbuilding. The characters were also flat and 2-dimensional. Moria and Ashyn have alternating chapters, but their voices were very similar, with Moria being the headstrong, kickass warrior and Ashyn the nicer, romantic thinker. And don’t get me started on the love interests. I wanted to slap everyone and ask them WTF they were doing, falling “in love” days after almost everyone they know has been killed. Let’s try being friends first, and concentrate on the big picture, okay?

All that said, would I continue this series? Maybe. I am curious about what will happen next, and to see what the author has in mind with the world. That’s why I gave SEA OF SHADOWS 2 stars instead of 1 star.

Socialize with the author:

Kelley Armstrong:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett

Book Review: Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee ArnettAvalon by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 21, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Book Review:

Over the years, various friends have tried to get me to watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly. However, I’d rather read books than watch TV series. So when I saw AVALON described for fans of Firefly, I thought this would be the book for me.

Unfortunately, I wish I’d skipped reading AVALON and watched Firefly instead.

Jeth leads a crew of teenage starship thieves. Working for one of the biggest crime lords in the galaxy, they steal metatech. Metatech allows other criminals or people who don’t want the attention of the Interstellar Transport Authority to travel across great distances in the blink of an eye. But when they steal a ship with a busted metadrive, Jeth and his crew find themselves in the middle of a very, very big problem.

AVALON just didn’t capture my attention. The beginning and middle were slow. Any time I put the book down, I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up and find out how it ended. I did persevere, though, and thought the ending had way too much going on compared to the rest of the book. Jeth didn’t interest me, either. He works for the crime lord because his uncle gambled away his parents’ ship, Avalon, and he wants to buy her back. Of course, it’s not so easy as that, but I didn’t feel for Jeth and his predicament.

Ultimately, AVALON just wasn’t exciting for me. It was okay, but not the great YA sci-fi book I thought it would be. This is one series I won’t be continuing.

Socialize with the author:

Mindee Arnett:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’Kane

Book Review: Essence (Essence #1) by Lisa Ann O’KaneEssence by Lisa Ann O’Kane
Series: Essence #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on June 3, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

Book Review:

Here’s the thing with ESSENCE: the summary gives away most of the story. Because when Autumn runs away from the Centrists, she doesn’t realize she’s in another cult until the end of the book. However, thanks to the summary, and basic common sense on the part of the reader, it’s easy to see the Community is no better (and maybe even worse) than what Autumn left behind.

Autumn grew up in the Centrist movement, which believes that feeling emotions drains your Essence. As it’s impossible to know how much Essence each person is born with, Centrists live by the mantra “Neutrality is the key to longevity.” Doing anything to expend Essence, from being happy to sad, to even sweating, drains your Essence. Once you run out, you die.

But after her baby brother choked to death, Autumn started to question what she was brought up to believe. After a chance meeting with Outsiders, she runs away and joins a new Community, one that’s determined to show Essence drain is bull. It’s her chance to know for sure if her brother died because his Essence ran out, or because he choked.

Establishing all of that — the beginning of the book — that was interesting. The Centrist movement and their thoughts on Essence and not feeling emotions is what originally drew me to the book. I wish I’d learned more about it; there were a couple of hints as to how the Centrists came about, but not as much worldbuilding as I would have liked. But then, I’m a reader who likes a lot of worldbuilding.

Once Autumn joined the Community in Yosemite, the book took a downturn for me. ESSENCE basically becomes an adrenaline ride, as people in the Community are encouraged to do dangerous things like jumping from cliffs. Anything to raise their heartbeat, to prove Essence loss has nothing to do with life span. Although hesitant at first, Autumn soon jumps in with both feet, falling for both the bad boy of the community and adrenaline highs.

Yosemite itself was a great character in the book, a perfect place for Autumn to explore herself. I thought the author did a good job of describing it. But that was the best part of the book for me. Otherwise… I don’t quite know. I thought ESSENCE was a one book deal, but because nothing big happened until the last couple of pages, I wonder if it’s going to be a series to tie up all the loose ends.

I wanted to know more about the Community, just like I wanted to know more about the Centrists. But instead of learning about her new Community, Autumn dives into a romance with Ryder, the son of the Community’s leader, and starts trying to push her Essence to the fullest by doing dangerous stuff. I didn’t mind that she experimented with sex, drinking, and drugs — teens do that, and I did like that there was a mention for safe sex. It was pretty clear to me that Autumn traded one cult for another, so I spent the rest of the book waiting for her to wake up and smell the piney air. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, because as I said, I think any reader will figure that out pretty quickly.

In the end, I guess I just expected more from this book than was there. ESSENCE felt like set up for a showdown to come in another book.

Socialize with the author:

Lisa Ann O’Kane:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay SmithSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Book Review:

On the surface, I should have loved SEKRET. Historical fiction + science fiction? Check. Teenagers with supernatural powers? Check. A real life dystopia? Check. But something about SEKRET just didn’t work for me.

Yulia is able to sense thoughts and memories through touch. It’s a secret ability that’s helped her survive as a fugitive in Communist Russia. But that ability draws the interest of the KGB, and at the start of the book, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the KGB as a psychic spy. If she doesn’t cooperate, her mother and brother will pay the price.

She’s not the only one with special abilities. After the KGB takes her, she lives with a group of other teens who have abilities such as remote viewing and seeing the future. They are supposed to thwart the CIA’s attempts to steal plans for the Soviet Union’s attempt (Veter I) at orbiting the moon.

SEKRET just didn’t hold my interest. At the halfway point, I thought about restarting the book, because I was sure I’d missed something important. I hadn’t, but I felt that way because of how slowly the story progressed. I also spent some of that time confused, as the use of powers didn’t always make sense/was inconsistent. For example, Yulia works through touch, but somehow she’s able to tap into another character’s remote viewing of a room, and read an object she’s not physically touching. Another example: Yulia and Valentin are somehow able to communicate telepathically, without Yulia touching Valentin. But she couldn’t speak telepathically with anyone else.

I did appreciate that the author gave some background on the Cold War and the Soviet Union Yulia lives in. I read another YA book that was set during the Cold War, but it didn’t set the scene at all. So I did like that part of SEKRET. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of Yulia’s life before the KGB took her, but I’ll take what I can get.

The training and missions were interesting, but Yulia and her comrades didn’t spend a lot of time on that. The book just kind of floats around, going from the Veter I thing to the CIA hunting down the psychics to Yulia trying to escape. Yeah, in a house full of mind readers, she tries to plan an escape. *headdesk* SEKRET was very convoluted for me.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Smith:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima Jean

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima JeanKnight Assassin by Rima Jean
Published by Entangled Teen on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 242
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
2 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Zayn has special powers she cannot control—powers that others fear and covet. Powers that cause the Templar Knights to burn Zayn’s mother at the stake for witchcraft. When a mysterious stranger tempts Zayn to become the first female member of the heretical Assassins, the chance to seek her revenge lures her in. She trains to harness her supernatural strength and agility, and then enters the King of Jerusalem's court in disguise with the assignment to assassinate Guy de Molay, her mother’s condemner. But once there, she discovers Earic Goodwin, the childhood friend who still holds her heart, among the knights—and his ocean-blue eyes don’t miss a thing. Will vengeance be worth the life of the one love she has left?

Book Review:

Featuring a female assassin with magical powers, KNIGHT ASSASSIN has a lot of elements that I normally like. But for some reason, I wasn’t able to get into the book. It just didn’t click for me.

Zayn has mysterious powers she can’t control, powers that make her faster and stronger than others. She and her mother are not welcome in their village, and keep to themselves. When she rejects the marriage proposal of an important man in the village, her mother is burned at the stake, accused of being a witch. Zayn herself is raped by Guy de Molay, son of the lord of the land.

Emotionally and physically abused, and without her beloved mother, Zayn doesn’t know what to do. She just wants to die. But before she can do anything, she’s rescued by Junaid, an Assassin of a heretical Islamic sect. Because of her rumored abilities, Zayn is given the opportunity to train as an Assassin. Thirsting for revenge against Guy, she goes for it, becoming the first female Assassin.

Although both Christianity and Islam play a role in the book, the author doesn’t shove religion down anyone’s throats. In fact, Zayn is not religious at all. Take the Dome of the Rock — both religions find it important, and fought over it. Zayn can’t understand why anyone would kill over a rubble-filled spot. In a time (~1180) where people were extremely religious, it was refreshing to see a main character who wasn’t. Zayn really only joins the Nizari Isma’ili so she can gain the skills she’ll need to kill Guy.

The romance wasn’t a big portion of the book, which I liked. Zayn has no use for men after her rape, and she didn’t really care for them before, either. She wanted to be independent, not shackled to any man in marriage. But she runs into Earic Goodwin, a Saxon Knight Templar, while trying to accomplish her assassination of Guy. She vaguely knew Earic when they were children, and almost the minute she sees him again, she starts thinking she loves him. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between them. I wish they had stayed friends, and let the romance come along in the next book.

At 242 pages, KNIGHT ASSASSIN isn’t too long, but it read like a longer book for me. I think this was because of flashbacks, which the author would use whenever an important event from the past came up, such as Zayn and Earic’s first meeting.

I did like that the book was set in Syria and Jerusalem. It’s good to have a fantasy/historical romance that isn’t set in medieval England. However, I didn’t get a good sense of the world, other than the types of food they ate. I also wanted to know more about Zayn’s powers. I’m still confused on what they actually are. I’m guessing that will be explained more in the next book.

Overall, KNIGHT ASSASSIN was missing something for me. It was okay, but flawed.

Socialize with the author:

Rima Jean:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy

Book Review: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy PurdyThe Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy
Published by Kensington on February 25, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own. . .

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne—while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne. . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances—and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one—and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning. . .

Book Review:

I was drawn to THE BOLEYN BRIDE because while I have read many Tudor books, both fiction and non-fiction, I haven’t read anything about Elizabeth Boleyn, mother to Mary, George, and Anne. So I went into this book hoping to learn about her, as well as gain an understand of who Elizabeth was.

Purdy’s version of Elizabeth is not a sympathetic one. Elizabeth could aptly be described as a mean girl — she’s gorgeous, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the land, and thinks everyone is beneath her. She expects her father will make her a good marriage, to someone with power, money, and looks. So imagine her shock when she’s married off to a merchant and expected to be his broodmare. She flies into a rage, breaking her maid’s nose.

Elizabeth never gets over her anger at being married to Thomas Boleyn. Granted, Purdy’s view of him is not so nice either, and so I did feel sympathy for Elizabeth being forced to marry him and be used for nothing more than bearing his children. I also didn’t mind that Elizabeth wasn’t a nice woman — she had numerous affairs and barely cared about her children until they were older and “interesting.” It was refreshing to see an outspoken woman who did what she wanted, using her position and husband’s absences to please herself.

My big problem with THE BOLEYN BRIDE was the author’s style. I felt like I was a spectator, as Elizabeth recounted events as if she were writing a memoir. Also, when sentences are twenty plus words long, my eyes tend to glaze over. A few longer sentences are fine, but there were so many of them in this book. I ended up feeling that the book was double the length it actually was. Lastly … whenever Elizabeth described her long-time lover, Remi Jouet, she called him “doughy,” like newly baked bread. Um, that doesn’t equate as sexy in my head.

THE BOLEYN BRIDE didn’t work for me because of the author’s writing style, and because after finishing, I don’t feel like I really know Elizabeth at all. Once Anne comes into the picture, and Henry starts chasing after her, the book switches to their story, with a little input from Elizabeth on how she felt about her daughter marrying the king and then Anne’s downfall. Basically, a standard Tudor historical fiction book.

Socialize with the author:

Brandy Purdy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Book Review: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth KiemDancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem
Published by Soho Teen on August 13, 2013
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union's prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.

Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother's “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they'd left behind.

Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother's disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can't—trust.

Book Review:

DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY is a book I was excited about. There aren’t many YA books that have non-American main characters, so to have a book about a Russian girl, and a ballerina at that — well, it seemed like a winning combo for me.

The book starts out with Marina in the Soviet Union, at a ballet class. Her mother, a famous dancer herself, is about to leave on a cultural trip to the United States. But when Marina returns home, she learns that her mother is missing … and has been taken by the regime. Her mother knew secrets about an incident the Soviet government wants to keep quiet, secrets she learned from visions. With their own lives in danger, Marina and her father flee to America. But once there, Marina has her own vision of her father’s death.

Unfortunately, DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY was a book that fell flat for me. I had a hard time getting into it, and I actually set it down for about two weeks and wasn’t compelled to finish it. And when I did, I was just like, “Oh, that’s it. Hmm.”

I think DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY didn’t work for me because I spent a lot of the book feeling confused. I never quite understood the visions Marina and her mother had, nor the whole spy bit that took up the middle to end of the book. Supposedly, once in America, Marina’s father has some secrets he’s still hiding, and he’s convinced Marina’s new dancer partner is from the KGB and is after them. I don’t know. A lot of the spy/intrigue stuff went over my head, because I didn’t understand what was going on.

I don’t know a lot about the Cold War, or the atmosphere Marina and her family would have dealt with. I wish the author had gone into more detail on the Soviet Union, which might have helped me understand the paranoia Marina’s father had, his fear that the KGB would try to get them even in NYC.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Kiem:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

Book Review: Secret Lies by Amy DunneSecret Lies by Amy Dunne
Published by Bold Strokes Books on December 16, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.

Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened?

Book Review:

I’m really torn on SECRET LIES. On one hand, I liked the relationship between the two main characters, and also liked that their love gave them both the strength to face their demons. But on the other hand, I didn’t believe how quickly that relationship developed, with Jenny bringing Nicola into her house after knowing her for a day, and then “I love you” being said within two weeks.

I did like how the author handled Jenny’s character. Jenny hurts herself so she can feel the pain she can’t express, but has already realized she’s in an unhealthy cycle. At the start of the book, Jenny is in counseling, and I liked that she was proactive and wanted to help herself. I also felt for Nicola, who has endured years and years of vicious abuse at the hands of her step-father. It was nice to see that neither one of them judged the other for their problems, but tried to help and be supportive.

I was also happy to see sex scenes in this book. One of my big peeves with young adult books is they often focus just on kissing and unresolved sexual tension which is unrealistic, so it was awesome to see two girls experimenting and going beyond kissing.

But … the speed of their relationship. Yeah, I know teens can move quickly with relationships, but it was just so awkwardly done between these two that I couldn’t buy how they met and were attracted to each other. Nicola runs into Jenny in the street, Jenny invites Nicola to her house to fix a scraped palm, and after spending the whole day together watching movies, Nicola ends up staying at Jenny’s house for the next few weeks.

Overall, I didn’t feel like SECRET LIES was a YA book. Jenny and Nicola are in their teens, but they talk and sometimes act much older. If the story had been about two girls in their twenties, and spent some more time getting to know each other, it would have felt more authentic to me.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Dunne:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Relic (Books of Eva #1) by Heather Terrell

Book Review: Relic (Books of Eva #1) by Heather TerrellRelic by Heather Terrell
Series: Books of Eva #1
Published by Soho Teen on October 29, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
The truth will test you...

For fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games: high fantasy and dystopia meet in this high-stakes tale of a civilization built on lies and the girl who single-handedly brings it down.

When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years.

Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.

But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.

Book Review:

Okay, so RELIC is billed as a cross between THE HUNGER GAMES and GAME OF THRONES. It’s not. It’s nowhere near either one.

I struggled a lot with this book. Here’s an example of one reason why: “The Gods told our Founders that we needed a Triad of strong leaders, ones who could teach the New North people the dangers of our past, worshipping the false god Apple. Leaders who could show the people we must live in accordance with the Lex, which dictates mankind live as we did in the Golden Ages, that idyllic time before the false neon of modern advancements set mankind on a path to wickedness and lawlessness (p. 16).”

WHEW, right? I was constantly rereading passages, trying to figure out Eva’s world. The first few chapters gave me a headache because I was trying to keep everything straight. Once I quit attempting that, the book did get more bearable, but I never really got into it.

Another reason I struggled with RELIC is the unbelievability and flatness of main character Eva. Eva is, well, she’s boring. As the first Maiden to Test in 150 years, you would think she’d be a dynamo, and have some compelling reason to break the Maiden mold. Nope. She’s just doing it so her brother’s dream doesn’t die like he did. Now, I can understand that motivation, but once Eva started the Test and had NO TROUBLE at all, I just didn’t believe it. She had three months of training. The other Testors, including her brother, studied their whole lives. So I didn’t buy her being the fastest dog sledder, or that she could kill a gigantic ox, or that she built a picture perfect igloo, all on her own.

To top it all off, RELIC just seemed like setup for the rest of the series. Yeah, stuff happened, but not a lot. Only near the end did the book really get going, and then it was over. Would I read the second book? Most likely not, because I just wasn’t impressed by RELIC.

I only kept reading RELIC because I did want to find out what the author had in mind with Apple as a false god. There’s a lot of brand/name dropping, from Apple to Coke to MasterCard, all of them being seen as evils that led to the Earth being flooded. Unfortunately, I was never sure if the author was being serious or going for an attempt at satire at how we live life now.

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Heather Terrell:
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– leeanna