Book Review: In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

Book Review: In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnisIn a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Not a Drop to Drink #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 23, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Book Review:

I was blown away by the bleak world and strong characters in Mindy McGinnis’s NOT A DROP TO DRINK so I was intrigued to see a companion book set in the same world. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST picks up about ten years after NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and while it’s not necessary to have read the first book, I’d encourage it. Otherwise you’re missing out on a great book.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is different for two reasons: it’s from Lucy’s perspective and it shows the wider world outside of the pond. Lucy is much more naive than Lynn, more inclined to see the good in others and situations, more trusting and vulnerable. Lynn was my spirit animal in NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and I couldn’t help but wish this book was also from her point-of-view, since I liked her view of the world so much.

Lucy just kind of grated on my nerves, since she grew up in a disaster-ridden world, knew life was dangerous, but wanted to see the best in things anyway. I’m not that type of person, so I had a hard time seeing her make mistakes due to being too trusting or not thinking before acting. I guess I thought no-nonsense Lynn would have rubbed off more, although Lynn did talk about not wanting Lucy to be like her.

The road trip aspect of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST showed off the effects of the Shortage on more of the world. I did find that interesting, since I’m always curious to see how authors will develop a post-apocalyptic world. But the road trip just didn’t grab my attention like Lynn’s fight for survival by the pond did. It was almost … tame in comparison, although Lucy and Lynn do get in a few dangerous situations.

The ending of the book threw me, too. I’m not going to spoil it, but all I can say is what??

Overall, while I didn’t like IN A HANDFUL OF DUST as much as I liked NOT A DROP TO DRINK, I’m still happy I read it, because I did like knowing what happened to Lucy and Lynn after the events of the first book.

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Mindy McGinnis:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan ChanceThe Shadows by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #1
Published by Skyscape on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Grace Knox has grown up hearing the folktales of her Irish ancestors, especially about the warriors who fought for control of Ireland. In 19th-century New York City, however, these legends are far from Grace's mind. She's much more concerned with how to protect her family from debt collectors, and whether her childhood friend Patrick Devlin will propose. Patrick is a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of young Irish American men intent on fighting for the independence of their homeland, whatever the cost. Patrick and the Brotherhood use ancient magic to summon mythical warriors to join their fight to protect Ireland. One of them, Diarmid, finds himself drawn to Grace, and she to him. When Diarmid discovers that, in their desperation, the Brotherhood has also summoned a rival group of ancient warriors, he warns Patrick that there will be bloodshed. Grace is caught in the middle of two men she loves, and discovers she alone holds the power to save Ireland?but at a dangerous price.

Book Review:

THE SHADOWS is the first book in a YA historical fiction/fantasy trilogy, mixing Victorian era New York with Celtic mythology. I was curious about the book because of the Celtic connection; I haven’t read a lot of it before, and I’m always interested in learning more and seeing new interpretations.

Overall, THE SHADOWS is an okay book. The Celtic mythology/fantasy aspect was my favorite part. There are a lot of YA cliches, including a love triangle, love at first sight, the well-off boy wanting to rescue the impoverished heroine, a heroine possessing unknown magical powers, etc.

Once you wade through all that, not that much happens. THE SHADOWS feels like setup for the rest of the trilogy, information dumping everything now so action can come later. The book does read quickly, but it’s long at 400 pages — too long for the little that happens within. And to top things off, the book ends on a cliffhanger. A really big cliffhanger.

THE SHADOWS is told from the perspectives of each important character: Grace, Patrick, and Derry. Grace’s chapters are first person point-of-view and the boys are third; Patrick and Derry sounded identical to me. Grace is the impoverished heroine, trying to do what’s right to save her family. Patrick is the rich young friend who has always loved her and wants to marry her. He also wants to see an independent Ireland. Derry is actually Diarmid Ua Duibhne, one of the Fianna. The Fianna are heroes of myth, reawoken to save Ireland.

As I said above, the Celtic mythology/fantasy was my favorite part. I did some quick searching and I don’t think the author deviated a lot from the original sources. But it was new to me, so I enjoyed it.

I was disappointed that THE SHADOWS ends on such a big cliffhanger. After so much buildup there’s a really quick battle scene and then wham! Cliffhanger. I wish more had actually happened in book one, rather than so much setup.

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Megan Chance:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Review: Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 383
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Book Review:

RED QUEEN is a book with a lot of hype behind it. Does it deserve the hype?

First, the book has a gorgeous cover — simple yet eye-catching. I mean, wouldn’t a crown dripping blood catch your attention? And then there’s the summary. I’m a sucker for these types of books where the downtrodden group is ruled by people with special powers. Mare, a Red, ends up working in the palace of the Silver king … and discovers she has powers just like the Silvers who rule her world. All good stuff for me.

But then I started reading RED QUEEN. And like most books that have a lot of hype behind them, RED QUEEN disappointed me. It feels like a mashup of other popular books, with a meandering story, way too many love interests (3!), and an all over the place main character. I did rate the book 3 stars, because the author got my attention for a while and I will probably read the next book to see what happens. But I wasn’t blown away by RED QUEEN like I’d hoped to be, so 3 stars was generous.

I finished the book about a week ago, and I’ve been stumped on what to say about it. It’s just … okay. RED QUEEN tries to be super ambitious but doesn’t deliver on all it wants to do. There’s a lack of worldbuilding, and if you think too hard about what IS explained, you’ll say, “Just HOW does that make sense?” The author tries to show that you can’t trust anyone in the Silver world, but I saw the big betrayal coming way, way ahead of time. So I spent most of the book being frustrated that Mare couldn’t open her eyes a bit more and think about the new world she was dropped into.

I’m really picky with romance, and none of the love interests worked out for me in RED QUEEN. It was totally implausible to me that two Silvers, princes no less, would be interested in Mare. Any time there was a hint of romance, I just wanted to skip to the next scene.

Lastly, Mare. She seemed smart enough at the beginning of the book, explaining that she saw through First Fridays as a way for the Silvers to keep Reds in their place. But then after that, she made one silly decision after another. Yeah, I get that she was tossed into a dangerous life, one she didn’t want, but that doesn’t mean everything suddenly revolves around you. She had constant reminders that her life was now dangerous, but everything magically worked out, every single time.

So what did I like about RED QUEEN? The last few chapters. Those are good, probably the best part of the whole book. They’re what led to me wanting to see what happens next to Mare.

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Victoria Aveyard:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan Shepherd

Book Review: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan ShepherdA Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #3
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 27, 2015
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

Book Review:

A COLD LEGACY is the last book in the Madman’s Daughter trilogy. Like its predecessors, it’s inspired by a classic work of literature: FRANKENSTEIN. The way Megan Shepherd uses classics for inspirations and twists them to her own purpose remains one of my favorite things about this series.

There’s not a lot of recap of what happened in the previous books, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and HER DARK CURIOSITY, which left me a bit lost at first. I tend to like when an author reminds me of past events, so that I can get my bearings. At the start of A COLD LEGACY, Juliet and the gang are on the run, trying to reach Ballentyne, a safe haven in the Scottish moors, before they’re apprehended for murder.

Ballentyne and its owner, Elizabeth von Stein, were my favorite things about A COLD LEGACY. The castle provides an excellent setting for the conclusion of Juliet’s story. With hidden passages, mysterious servants, and a laboratory for forbidden science, it’s the perfect gothic setting. I liked Elizabeth a lot because I saw her as an older, more responsible version of Juliet. It was good for Juliet to have a female role model that was interested in science and didn’t let anyone change her. Plus, Elizabeth was just cool. Think of the FRANKENSTEIN connection and you’ll see why.

Otherwise, the rest of A COLD LEGACY is okay. It’s a decent ending to the series, but it didn’t have the oomph I expected. I found the villain of this book somewhat silly and not quite believable. In past books, I disliked the love triangle of Juliet, Edward, and Montgomery, and while it isn’t present here, I wish the author would have brought up that attraction between Juliet and Edward rather than ignoring it. Juliet and Montgomery are engaged in this last book and on their way to being married, but it got on my nerves how they were constantly hiding Big Important Things from each other.

I really, really liked THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. HER DARK CURIOSITY had middle book syndrome, but I had high hopes A COLD LEGACY would be amazing. But it was just okay, not the epic conclusion I expected. The more I think about it, the more I could find to critique. So I’ll just stop there and be satisfied that it was a good end to a creative series.

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Megan Sheperd:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve SilverRush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 11, 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 361
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Book Review:

The idea behind RUSH is one I really like: teenagers pulled into a game to fight aliens. The book had me at “game” and “aliens.” I enjoyed that part of RUSH, and looked forward to every time Miki was pulled so I could learn more about the game and the aliens.

But RUSH also has two big reeding peeves of mine: a jerkish love interest and withholding information from the main character. So that factored into my enjoyment of the book. I didn’t love RUSH, I didn’t hate RUSH. It was okay. But that’s not really a bad thing, since RUSH did pique my interest enough for me to pick up book two, PUSH.

When Miki tries to save a deaf girl from being hit by a car, she’s the one that’s hit. Instead of dying, she wakes up in the game. Within minutes, she’s given a weapon and told not to let her life monitor turn red. Then she and the others are off to fight aliens. Not the green kind, but nasty ones who eat brains like chocolate and want to destroy Earth. The game is deadly, but it’s the first time Miki’s felt alive since her mother’s death.

Desperate for answers, Miki turns to her team’s leader, Jackson. But Jackson insists it’s every man for himself, and there is no team. He also has an incredibly infuriating habit of not answering Miki’s questions. I really, really dislike this tactic, especially when I don’t know anything and I spend my time being confused. For the majority of the book, Miki was confused too, which led to a lot of inner monologuing and questioning, which bogged down the action.

Then we get to the other problem I had with RUSH. Despite Jackson’s every man for himself attitude, he likes Miki for some reason. He even saves her life. And even though Jackson tries to push her away, even telling her he’s not a good guy and doesn’t have good intentions, Miki falls for him. She could be a minute from fighting, but she’ll notice some appealing feature of Jackson’s. I guess the author was trying to go for a love-hate relationship, but Jackson just came off as a jerk and I didn’t buy Miki’s interest in him. Now I’m quite critical of relationships, especially in YA, so you might vary.

The time in the game? Fantastic. My favorite parts of RUSH for sure. The author wrote some great action scenes, and had some really cool/creepy ideas on aliens. I like the idea of alien fighting being framed in a game, a way to get the players motivated and moving.

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Eve Silver:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia SullivanShadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Published by Ravenstone on October 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her...

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Book Review:

The first chapter of SHADOWBOXER hooked my interest because I tend to like cocky, tough protagonists, and Jade is exactly that. A talented martial arts fighter, Jade has a tendency to get into fights when she shouldn’t, such as when she defends the gym’s cat from a movie star. Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to get her out of the star’s sights, as well as to see how well she can fight as a pro.

The parts of SHADOWBOXER set in Thailand were some of my favorites. I can’t recall reading a YA book set there before, and I liked that the author included some Thai phrases/ways of thinking, such as “mai pen rai” and “jai yen.” I actually felt like I was in Thailand, watching Jade train and fight. I know absolutely nothing about MMA and Muay Thai fighting, but the author described the fights very well, so I could easily “see” them.

But Jade’s story is not the only one in SHADOWBOXER. The first time Mya showed up, I had no clue what the heck was going on. Why did the book switch from Jade’s first person point of view to Mya’s third person? And who was this ten year old girl?

Mya has a very special ability: she can travel into the immortal forest. It’s an ability her guardian uses for evil, and when Mya learns he has nefarious plans for her, she flees there. Eventually, Mya and Jade do connect, but not for a while, and I ultimately felt like there were two separate stories inside of SHADOWBOXER. I did like the elements of Thai mythology Mya’s journeys into the Himmapan showcased, but the supernatural elements didn’t 100% mesh for me with Jade’s problems, and vice versa.

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– leeanna

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe ShineI Become Shadow by Joe Shine
Published by Soho Teen on June 10, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen and chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: the fearless and unstoppable guardian of a future leader. Everything she held dear—her family, her home, her former life—is gone forever.

Ren survives four years of training, torture, and misery, in large part thanks to Junie, a fellow F.A.T.E. abductee who started out as lost and confused as she did. She wouldn’t admit it was possible to find love in a prison beyond imagining, but what she feels for Junie may just be the closest thing to it.

At eighteen they part ways when Ren receives her assignment: find and protect college science student Gareth Young, or die trying. Life following a college nerd is uneventful, until an attack on Gareth forces Ren to track down the only person she can trust. When she and Junie discover that the F.A.T.E. itself might be behind the attacks, even certain knowledge of the future may not be enough to save their kidnappers from the killing machines they created.

Book Review:

You know how most fourteen-year-olds stress about high school? Ren doesn’t have to worry about that for long, because she’s abducted by F.A.T.E., a secret organization that protects the world’s future important people. Instead of worrying about boys, popularity, grades, etc., Ren’s worried about making it through training alive. Most kids taken by F.A.T.E. don’t make it, which is no shock, considering the classes include weapons training with live rounds, beating the stuffing out of each other, and a nightly injection that kills all the nerves in your body.

I BECOME SHADOW starts off slowly and with some backpedaling, because Ren fills the reader in on her normal life before being taken. If you’re confused at the start, keep going and things will eventually make sense. Ren has a unique voice, one I think readers will either like or dislike. She’s sarcastic, mouthy, no-nonsense, and cocky, but sometimes she’s also “woe is me.” Most of the time I liked her narration, but once in a while it did feel like the author was trying too hard.

After Ren starts training and then once she gets her assignment, the book is full of action. I thought the author did a good job writing the action scenes; sometimes I skim them because they’re boring or hard to picture. That wasn’t the case here.

I BECOME SHADOW was almost a really good book for me. There are some great ideas, including F.A.T.E. and its mission. When Ren graduates training, she’s linked to the person she’ll spend the rest of her life protecting. The process makes it almost painful for her to be away from him, and if he’s in danger? Forget about it. She’s supposed to stay in the shadows, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying she breaks the rules.

Then we get into the parts of the book that didn’t work out so well for me. Ren starts to have feelings for Gareth, the kid she protects, but are they real or a byproduct of the link? At the same time, she’s pining for Junie, a guy she went through training with. I believed in Ren and Junie’s friendship, but not their romantic feelings for each other. I really wish the author would have kept it as a friendship rather than try to add romance. Because apparently all YA books need romance. Not.

The end of I BECOME SHADOW also felt rushed. A lot of the book is spent on training time, and then some with Ren on the job protecting Gareth. Then the big climax, and boom, the book’s over. When I finished I BECOME SHADOW, I had quite a few questions about F.A.T.E. and Shadows and other things. I’m guessing there will be a sequel or two to flesh things out? I don’t know for sure.

Overall, I BECOME SHADOW is strong in the action and sarcastic heroine departments, but lacking in the romance and storytelling.

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Joe Shine:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Rise of the King (Companions Codex #2) by R.A. SalvatoreRise of the King by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on September 30, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the second book of the Companions Codex, the latest series in the New York Times best-selling saga of dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden, R.A. Salvatore picks up with the fan-favorite storyline of dwarf king Bruenor Battlehammer and his bloody feud with the orc kingdom of Many Arrows.

Book Review:

RISE OF THE KING is the second book in the Companions Codex, which features the reincarnated Bruenor, Regis, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar rejoining Drizzt Do’Urden. It is also the 26th book in the Legend of Drizzt saga.

RISE OF THE KING picks up right after NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. There’s not a lot of recap from the first book, so I was a bit lost at first since I couldn’t remember a lot of what happened. Essentially, the drow are bringing about war in the Silver Marches, using the orcs of Many Arrows to do their dirty work.

THE GOOD:

–R.A. Salvatore writes some great action scenes, and there are lots of them in this book, both small and large scale. The gang fights groups of orcs and goblins, and they also help the besieged town of Nesmé.

–The book doesn’t just follow the Companions, which helps show the impact of war on the entire area. There are scenes from others, including Afafrenfere, Jarlaxle, Kimmuriel, and “common” people. I was personally hoping for more from the drow, especially Quenthel Baenre, but she wasn’t very present in this book.

THE BAD:

–The first third or so of RISE OF THE KING is a real slog to get through. I typically read about 400-450 words per minute, and I was down to 200 for the beginning of this book. What I’m trying to point out here is the writing is so … obfuscated. I can’t remember how many times I had to reread sentences and paragraphs to figure out what the author was trying to say. Sometimes it felt like I was reading fanfic. After battles started, the writing became clearer, as if Salvatore found his stride (or maybe I just got used to it).

–Yes, there are a lot of battles in RISE OF THE KING, but overall, the book mostly moves characters around, putting them into place for a showdown in the final book. When I finally finished reading, I wasn’t left with the impression that a whole lot had happened.

Overall, RISE OF THE KING is very much a middle book, functioning as more evidence for “all orcs are evil” and furthering the war in Luruar. I’ve skipped a lot of the middle books in the Legend of Drizzt saga, but I get the feeling this book is going back on a lot of what happened. Oh well. Even though I wasn’t blown away by RISE OF THE KING, I’m still looking forward to seeing how everything ends.

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R.A. Salvatore:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

Book Review: The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. WhiteThe Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White
Series: The Thickety #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Hand in hand, the witch's children walked down the empty road.

When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr's Realm. But mostly it's called the Thickety.

The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.

And that is just the beginning of the story.

The Thickety: A Path Begins is the start of a thrilling and spellbinding tale about a girl, the Thickety, and the power of magic.

Book Review:

THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is intended as a middle grade book: ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up. I know my younger self could have handled this book — there’s a lot of horror and some graphic imagery — but it might not be suitable for all younger readers. If in doubt, read the Prologue as that should give a hint as to some of the content of the book.

After her mother is killed on suspicions of witchcraft, Kara, her brother, and her father are the village’s outcasts. Everyone talks about Kara behind her back. The ruler’s daughter, Grace, makes it her special mission to torment Kara while making it look like Kara is the one bullying her. Kara’s father lives in a depressed stupor, unable to take care of his children the way a father should. Kara’s brother, Taff, is sickly. It’s up to Kara to support the family, and that’s a lot for a twelve-year-old to deal with.

That’s where I had trouble with THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS. I can suspend disbelief about all sorts of things, but I had a really hard time believing Kara was only twelve. Yes, everything she went through made her old for her years, but still. She read like sixteen or seventeen to me, not twelve. In fact, I forgot how old she was until the author reminded me, and I sat there for a moment, kinda stunned.

The things I liked most about THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS are the magic system and the author’s writing style. I thought using grimoires to power a witch’s magic was neat, and it fit into the world. The author’s writing style sucked me into the story, keeping me reading until I finished the book. At almost 500 pages, I do think THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS is a bit too long, but it does read quickly. I also liked the chapter heading illustrations; I normally don’t notice artwork, but I did here. They helped me get into Kara’s world.

The ending of THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS, oh that ending! It’s one that will make you want the sequel now. There’s a twist didn’t see it coming, which I always like. However, I do wish that Kara had actually spent more time in the Thickety. Based on the title of the book, and the way the villagers avoid the Thickety, I assumed that it would play a bigger role. The glimpses of the Thickety made me want more. Kara’s village is interesting too, a sort of utopia that’s determined to prove witchcraft is wrong. Again, something I wished there had been more of.

Overall, THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS was okay for me. I think it might be a bit dark for the intended age group, but I’m not the best person to judge that. It’s a good start to a series, enough to make me want more, but it just wasn’t an amazing book for me.

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J.A. White:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay

Book Review: Shameless by Nina LemayShameless by Nina Lemay
Published by Self-Published on August 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.

I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?

But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.

He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.

The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.

shameless by nina lemay blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SHAMELESS by Nina Lemay. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

The summary for SHAMELESS drew me in. A pessimist stripping to pay her way through college? A girl who gets the shock of her life when a guy she gave a lap dance to shows up as her photography professor? Yum! I like some “forbidden” relationships, and this one has two. I also liked the cover, since I could see Hannah as the girl on the cover. Photography plays a big role in SHAMELESS, so I think the cover style was a great choice.

For the most part, I enjoyed SHAMELESS. I liked Hannah. She always sees the worst in things, expects bad things to happen, and doesn’t glamorize her life as a stripper. It’s just something she’s doing to pay for school, and yeah, she recognizes that’s a huge cliche. Too bad. She likes financial independence. I liked that she wanted to take advantage of men looking at her, and that she was shameless about her job choice.

Hannah’s not in a great place in her life. I would say it’s possible she’s depressed, just going through the motions. Until Emmanuel shows up, in the club and then at school. The two are drawn together, and while Hannah is at first worried Emmanuel will spill her secret, he shows her otherwise when he rescues her from a bad clubbing night. I did think their relationship progressed very quickly. Emmanuel is an incredibly sweet guy, and I could tell he wanted the best for Hannah. I could see why she liked him, but I wasn’t sure why Emmanuel was drawn to Hannah. I mean, Emmanuel offers to do some crazy things so they can date without it causing trouble, but I’m still not sure why. A bit more development for both Hannah and Emmanuel would have really helped me believe in their relationship, but once I got past that, I did enjoy seeing them together.

Some of the things that happened are maybe a tad unbelievable, but I can’t really go into those without spoiling way too much of the book. So, to be incredibly vague, I could sort of believe what happened, but I would have believed it a lot more if Hannah’s tragic past had been … more tragic. She’s hiding a big secret about why she thinks most guys hate women, but when the reveal came, I expected it to be … bigger.

SHAMELESS is set in Canada, Montreal to be exact. I appreciated a book set outside of the U.S., and enjoyed the author’s descriptions for Montreal and especially Quebec City. I do wish an explanation for a couple French Canadian terms had been provided, but a quick trip to Urban Dictionary helped out.

I think what I liked most about SHAMELESS was that Hannah didn’t let anyone change her. You don’t like that she’s a stripper? Fuck you. I absolutely loved her final photography project, and what it shows about others’ attitudes regarding stripping and women. And thanks to the author’s good descriptions, I could actually “see” each photo.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author nina lemayNina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.
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– leeanna