Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 12, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 396
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Book Review:

THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is a book I was really excited to read. A young adult book inspired by A Thousand and One Nights? A young adult book set in the Middle East? Check and check. I couldn’t wait to read this one.

But THE WRATH AND THE DAWN left me disappointed. There are some good things in this book, but the majority of it had me wondering why I kept turning the pages. Midway through, I checked the average rating, which is currently 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. Oh well, I’m in the minority on not liking THE WRATH AND THE DAWN.

What I did like:

–The setting. THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is set in historical Khorasan. The author includes lots of details on clothing styles, food, flowers, and buildings, to help the reader imagine a place that might be foreign. But at the same time, I would have liked more worldbuilding, so I had a better idea of the time period and the country itself. For example, the main character’s handmaiden is Greek… how? There’s an element of magic… how?

–Shahrzad. She’s a strong main character, a girl who volunteers to be the Caliph’s bride in the hopes of avenging her best friend’s murder. Shahrzad puts herself into danger with a somewhat flimsy plan, but also ensured the safety of her family before marrying Khalid. I liked how she was observant and not afraid to speak up for herself.

What I didn’t like:

–The writing. In some ways, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN felt incredibly overwritten to me, yet lacking in certain details or emotional connection. The author describes Shahrzad’s intricate outfits every day, but when Shahrzad and Khalid have sex the first night they’re married? The encounter is described in a sentence, and never do we find out what Shahrzad thinks of it. Surely there would be some emotional impact on having sex with someone she considers a monster? That incident isn’t a huge thing, but it’s indicative of how I felt emotionally about this book. I just didn’t connect with it.

Perhaps the author’s style just isn’t for me. There are quite a few odd turns of phrase and metaphors, and I often had to stop and think about what she was trying to say. Having to do so drew me out of the book, and by the middle of THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, I wasn’t too interested anymore.

–The relationship between Shahrzad and Khalid. For a relationship that goes from enemies to lovers, it happens really fast. It’s not insta-love, but I personally needed more development of their relationship to believe it. I don’t know what Khalid saw in Shahrzad the first night, why he spared her life when he had killed every other bride. I’m also not entirely sure why Shahrzad started to fall for Khalid, wanting to kiss him while she wanted to kill him.

We know Khalid is a monster. Shahrzad knows he’s a monster. She starts the book off wanting to kill him. But then her feelings change because other people tell her Khalid isn’t the monster she thinks he is. He had a bad childhood. She’s conflicted, determined to get revenge for her friend even as she’s falling for Khalid. I don’t get it, but then, I’m usually quite picky with romance.

–Lastly, for a book that reimagines A Thousand and One Nights, I expected more stories! I really wanted to see Shahrzad telling Khalid more Arabian folk tales. I think there are two nights of storytelling described. I assume Shahrzad kept telling stories, but why not share more with the reader?

Overall, I was disappointed with THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. It’s the first in a trilogy, and based on my feelings for this book, I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series or not.

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Renee Ahdieh:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Book Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa GreyThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Published by Delacorte Press on April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Book Review:

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is the first in a YA urban fantasy series. I was intrigued by the publisher’s comparison to Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE, which is one of my favorite YA fantasy series. However, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT didn’t remind me of SHADOW AND BONE at all, other than both books having a firebird.

I liked the first half of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. Echo’s a fun character, full of snark and longing to belong to an alien world. When she was a kid, she ran away from an abusive home. The Ala found her in the New York Public Library and took her to the Nest. The Ala is the Seer of the Avicen, a race of feathered beings. Their mortal enemies are the Drakharin — dragon people — and they’ve been in a war that’s gone on for centuries under humanity’s nose.

But somewhere around the middle, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT lost its shine for me. The book slowed down. I got bored, and even when things picked up again, I didn’t really care. I’m writing this review a few days after finishing, and I already can’t remember a lot of the book. I had really high hopes for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, but it was just okay.

WHAT I LIKED:

–Whenever the characters hopped to a new place, the author described that place really well. Her writing is atmospheric, and I felt like I was in New York or Paris or Strasbourg. There were also lots of yummy food details.

–The friendship that developed between Echo, Ivy, Caius, Dorian, and Jasper. I also liked the romantic relationship between Dorian and Jasper — yay for diversity, and a romance that didn’t feel like insta-love.

–The idea of the Avicen and Drakharin. Bird people and dragon people? Very cool. The glimpses I got of their worlds were fascinating, leaving me wanting a lot more.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

–The author told me the Avicen and Drakharin are at war. But why have they fought each other for so long? The author didn’t show me they hated each other, just told me again and again. So I didn’t feel invested in Echo’s quest for the firebird.

–Echo’s romantic entanglements. There’s somewhat of a love triangle here, complete with a leg of insta-love. I did appreciate that Echo usually realized when she was on a hormone high, because I’ve very rarely seen that. But I didn’t see the attraction between Echo and Caius, and their moments felt forced for me.

–Everything else. I don’t know how to describe it, and I’ve been trying for days. But THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT just… fell flat. Usually I can write a review very quickly, but I’ve been struggling with this one for a few days, which is a sign. This book just wasn’t memorable or outstanding for me.

Overall, I was left wanting so much more from THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. I expected more fantasy, more about the Avicen and the Drakharin, more basis for Echo and Caius, more of everything.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Eden West by Pete Hautman

Book Review: Eden West by Pete HautmanEden West by Pete Hautman
Published by Candlewick Press on April 14, 2015
Genres: Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Book Review:

I’ve read quite a few young adult and adult books, fiction and nonfiction, about life in religious cults, so EDEN WEST wasn’t anything new for me. Before I started the book, I thought it would be a fresh take on the subject, especially as it’s written from the perspective of a boy, seventeen-year-old Jacob.

But EDEN WEST was just an average book. There’s a lot of focus on themes and symbols, such as the wolf slaughtering the sheep. There’s a lot of the “cult mainstays,” such as polygamy for the powerful men, teenage wives, living off the land, seeing the outside world as evil, the End Days are coming and only the Grace will be saved, etc.

In the book, Jacob encounters two outsiders who start him on the process of questioning his faith and himself. Lynna lives on the land next to Nodd, and Tobias is brought to Nodd with his mother and sister to be a convert. Jacob has lived in Nodd since he was five, so his reactions to knowledge of the outside world and questioning his beliefs are understandably childlike at times. But I was frustrated when, time and time again, Jacob would resolve to work harder, be more faithful, to ignore temptations.

Now, I understand that’s typical behavior in these types of situations. But it ties into my biggest peeve with EDEN WEST: not a lot happens.The book doesn’t really dig into any of the issues it brings up. Jacob thinks about his life a lot, and by the end of the book, it seems like he may leave Nodd. But will he?

SPOILER.

SPOILER.

And that’s where the book ends. I’m the type of reader that likes a firm conclusion, so the vague openness of EDEN WEST‘s ending left me disappointed that I bothered to finish the book.

If you haven’t read other cult books before, you might enjoy EDEN WEST. But if you have, I’m not sure you’ll find anything new or extraordinary here. I didn’t.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Book Review: Dove Arising by Karen BaoDove Arising by Karen Bao
Series: Dove Chronicles #1
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on February 24, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.

Book Review:

DOVE ARISING is the first book in Karen Bao’s sci-fi/dystopian YA series, the Dove Chronicles. Phaet dreams of being a Bioengineer, to create something new. But when her mother is taken away, first to medical quarantine and then to jail, Phaet gives up her dreams and joins the Militia early. It’s the only way she can earn enough money to support her siblings, pay the bills, and pay her mother’s bail. But Phaet’s only fifteen — three years younger than everyone else and she has to rank first to get the needed money.

I was originally excited about DOVE ARISING because I thought, “Woot, YA sci-fi! A book set on the moon, awesome.” But while the book is set on the moon, the setting doesn’t really make that much impact, and the book focuses much more on its dystopian aspects. I do appreciate that the author described Phaet’s military training, because training can often be glossed over in books like this. But I found it unrealistic that she became a military genius in two months, able to outrun, outthink, and outdo trainees who had three years on her. And while I did like seeing the training described, I think it took over too much of the book. It reminded me of THE HUNGER GAMES or ENDER’S GAME, but without the same … oomph as those books.

DOVE ARISING did entertain me while I was reading, but then when I thought about it after, my opinion started going down. There’s a lot of the usual YA cliches, including the corrupt government, family secrets, and even a love triangle. Romance doesn’t play a huge part in this first book of the trilogy, but I can see how the author’s setting it up and ugh, it’s unnecessary. Plus there’s a character who lies a lot, and Phaet thinks, “Oh, it’s okay that he lied to me. He saved my life, so I’ll trust him.” The book makes her out to be smarter than that, but nope.

And then this bugged me: the characters all have handscreens. Think a cellphone screen implanted on your left hand, one that gives you the statistics of everyone you meet. The Committee supposedly uses the handscreens as a way to Big Brother citizens, but … sitting on your left hand can block them from listening. Really? Something so absurd kept pulling me out of the narrative anytime the characters would sit on or hide their left hand when they didn’t want a conversation to be recorded.

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Karen Bao:
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– leeanna

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about it:

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

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J. Matthew Saunders:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan ChanceThe Web by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #2
Published by Skyscape on January 20, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
In Victorian New York, seventeen-year-old Grace Knox is tangled in the web of an ancient prophecy.

The Fianna, legendary Irish warriors, have been magically called from their undying sleep to aid Ireland in its rebellion against Britain. But the Fianna have awakened in New York alongside their bitter enemies, the Fomori. A prophecy demands that a Druid priestess—a veleda—must choose between these two sides. Grace is this veleda.

But being the veleda means she must sacrifice her power—and her life—to her choice. On one side are her fiancé, Patrick Devlin, and the Fomori. On the other are the Fianna—and the warrior Diarmid Ua Duibhne, with whom Grace shares an undeniable connection. Patrick has promised to find a way to save her life. In three months, at the ancient ritual, Diarmid must wield the knife that kills her.

Grace doesn’t know whom to trust. As dark forces converge on the city, she struggles to discover the truth about her power. Can she change her own destiny? Can she escape the shadows of the past and reach for a future she could never have imagined?

Book Review:

THE WEB is the second book in Megan Chance’s Fianna Trilogy. The series is a cross between historical fiction and fantasy, set in Victorian era New York where heroes of Irish lore have come back to life.

The first book, THE SHADOWS, was just okay for me. My favorite part was the Celtic mythology/fantasy. My biggest complaint with THE SHADOWS was that not a lot happened, and unfortunately, that’s the same complaint I have with THE WEB.

THE WEB suffers from Second Book Syndrome: the plot barely advances, Graces mopes and angsts over being attracted to Derry, and … that’s it, I think. I finished the book about an hour ago, and I can’t think of much to say about it.

Supposedly a Druid priestess, Grace is stuck between the Fianna and the Fomori, heroes and villains of Irish folklore. Between gang boy Derry and her fiancé Patrick. Yup, there’s a love triangle here, but THE WEB focuses mainly on the Grace and Derry leg. I didn’t buy it, especially since they started talking about how much they loved each other in this book. But then I tend to be very critical of romance in YA.

And that’s about it, really. For the length of the book (~380 pages), more should have happened. I wanted more plot and less romance. After the cliffhanger in THE SHADOWS, I just expected more from THE WEB.

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Megan Chance:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters #3) by Alethea Kontis

Book Review: Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters #3) by Alethea KontisDearest by Alethea Kontis
Series: Woodcutter Sisters #3
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on February 3, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday's palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he's her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday's unique magic somehow break the spell?

Book Review:

The cover of DEAREST labels the book a companion to Alethea Kontis’s other Woodcutter Sisters books, ENCHANTED and HERO. To me, calling DEAREST a “companion” implied that I didn’t need to read the other books, but I didn’t find that to be true. I spent the first 50 or so pages of the book quite confused, trying to figure out the multitude of characters and whether a scene was a dream or real.

I was confused for a lot of DEAREST. There’s the assumption that you’ve read the other two books, because most of the characters had no introduction. I couldn’t keep most of Friday’s sisters straight, and really, most of her sisters didn’t even need to be mentioned, because they played no role in the story. Maybe I would have appreciated those mentions more if I’d read ENCHANTED and HERO, but regardless of if you’ve read all the books in a series or not, there needs to be some introduction or background when they appear on the page.

As for the story itself … disjointed describes it for me. Friday was somewhat bland: everyone loves her and she loves everyone. There’s nothing she can’t do and everyone wants to help her in every way they can. DEAREST kicks off with a mysterious ocean sundering Arilland; I was more interested in that ocean than Friday, but the flood seemed to only serve the purpose of bringing everyone in the country together in the same spot. I just expected more from such a big event. I also expected more explanations for a lot of other things in the book, such as Friday and Tristan’s instant connection. But the author uses magic as a catch-all — this happened because it’s magic! — which left me feeling like DEAREST was missing some needed elements.

DEAREST is likely a good book for readers who have enjoyed the author’s other Woodcutter Sisters books, but if you haven’t read those yet, I’d skip this.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios

Book Review: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather DemetriosExquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Book Review:

I came very close to not finishing EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. More than once, actually. The first half of the book took me days to read, which is unusual for me. EXQUISITE CAPTIVE just didn’t draw me in or make me want to keep reading.

While reading, I felt like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE was the second book in a trilogy, and I would have preferred it to be a second book. So much interesting stuff — Nalia’s capture, the jinni war — take place in flashbacks or conversations, and if the series had started there, I think I would have been a lot more interested and not as lost trying to make sense of all the jinni stuff.

The best part of EXQUISITE CAPTIVE? The jinni. Really, that’s the only reason I kept reading. I liked the glimpses the author gave of the jinni homeworld, jinni customs, jinni magic, etc. I just wish that information hadn’t come in flashbacks awkwardly inserted into the current story.

Otherwise … meh. I really wanted to like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. The idea is so cool, but the execution just wasn’t there for me.

Take Nalia, for instance. The main character. She’s a jinni enslaved to a horrible man, but okay. Whatever, Nalia. I didn’t feel sorry for her. The author didn’t make me feel sorry for her. Malek, Nalia’s master, was more interesting to me than Nalia. I did appreciate that the author tried to do something darker with their relationship — in my opinion, there are hints of Stockholm Syndrome — but then Nalia meets Raif. And then they fall in love, leading to a weird love tangle. There’s a lack of action, too. So much of the book felt like it was Nalia whining about her situation rather than trying to do something about it.

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Heather Demetrios:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James LucenoTarkin by James Luceno
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on November 4, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly ... and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation ... or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy ... and its enemies’ extinction.

Book Review:

I’ve long been a reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In fact, most of my favorite characters and storylines come from the books, not the movies. But Tarkin is one that caught my interest in the movie, and I’ve been waiting a long time for his story.

But TARKIN just wasn’t the book I hoped it would be.

First I should say that James Luceno’s writing style doesn’t always work for me, and this is one of those books where it really didn’t work. I slogged through this book, constantly distracted by descriptions of every single person encountered, down to their hair color, facial features, and attire. Once you take away all the descriptions and random tangents, there’s not a lot of story left. And the story that is there … well, I can’t imagine Tarkin being outfoxed in the way he was, and by a group that didn’t have a strong motive. I’m also not sure I buy his “training” on Eriadu.

TARKIN contains passages from characters other than Tarkin, including Emperor Palpatine and the ship thieves, but … everyone sounds the same when they open their mouths. I just can’t see Darth Vader speaking like this: “Then there was some purpose to turning a blind eye to illegality, and to fostering dishonesty of a particular sort. But times have changed, and it is incumbent on you to change with them (Chapter 7).”

I was hoping for a book about Tarkin, but though TARKIN contains some flashbacks to his youth, the book is mostly about him and Darth Vader taking a trip around the galaxy to find Tarkin’s ship. There are a few examples of Tarkin’s ruthlessness, which I did like, but otherwise … I didn’t believe in Luceno’s version of him. It just didn’t work for me. Hunting animals and living primally doesn’t turn one into a military strategist — why not show more of Tarkin’s time at the academy? Why not show some important events, instead of telling me about them? That’s another big gripe I have with the author’s writing: he tells almost everything, instead of showing me what’s going on. And I’m not going into the tons of classes of ships I’d never heard of before, and dialogue like the line I quoted from Darth Vader.

Ultimately, TARKIN was a disappointing story about such an iconic character. When I finished the book, I thought, “That’s it? Really?” The main plot was, well, weak, and there were unresolved side plots, including the Emperor feeling dark currents in the Force? The ending of the book felt rushed. Instead of spending so much time detailing everything, maybe more attention should have been giving to developing sub plots and connecting everything together.

I think from now on I’ll stay away from Star Wars books written by Luceno, and possibly the new reboot of the EU, since I haven’t liked what’s come out of it so far.

– leeanna

Book Review: Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou Anders

Book Review: Frostborn (Thrones & Bones #1) by Lou AndersFrostborn by Lou Anders
Series: Thrones & Bones #1
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants.

Book Review:

The summary for FROSTBORN sounded super intriguing. Norse-inspired middle grade fantasy? A main character that loves board games? Another main character that’s stuck in-between the human and giant worlds?

But FROSTBORN failed to grab my interest, and I had to keep making myself pick it up. There was a lack of action for the first third or so of the book, and something about the dialogue just didn’t work for me. There were a lot of jokes and attempts at humor, but they felt almost … too modern? I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but it seemed like the author wrote how he thought kids interact instead of how they actually do.

FROSTBORN has very nice chapter heading illustrations, which added to the text. Usually I don’t pay much attention to illustrations, but I liked these. I also liked that Thianna and Karn aren’t pigeon-holed into stereotypical gender expectations. Thianna’s half frost giant, half human, but prefers her frost giant side. She tends towards action first and thinks later. Karn loves the Thrones and Bones board game, and uses strategy learned from the game in as many situations as he can. There’s a joke in the book about Karn opening a tavern to cook rabbit on a stick, while Thianna will be the door giant. So this isn’t a “girl book” or a “boy book,” which is always nice to see.

There are some pluses to FROSTBORN, which even includes the rules for Thrones and Bones so readers can try to play the game. But the book just didn’t keep my interest — I wasn’t eager to keep reading. Younger readers might get into it more, and I can see it being a good introduction to fantasy, but … I think I just expected more from Lou Anders.

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– leeanna