Book Review: Visions by Larkin Rose

Book Review: Visions by Larkin RoseVisions by Larkin Rose
Published by Bold Strokes Books on June 17, 2014
Genres: Adult, Erotica, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Paige Burton meets the love of her sexual life at a masked sex party when she’s too young to realize how special their connection is. After years of searching for similar sexual bliss, she has officially given up. Now she pours out her frustration via her online blog and by dancing away her frustrations in her club.

Billionaire architect Mayson Montgomery made her fortune building eco-friendly offshore wind turbines. She learned quickly that money stood in the way of finding a happy ever after. But she still remembers her masked angel years ago.

When they meet again, Paige doesn’t make the connection between her masked lover from the past and Galveston’s raunchy rich heart throb. Fortunately, Mayson is a little more aware and won’t give up until Paige has fallen head over heels for her.

Will Paige and Mayson grasp the love in front of them or will they let it slip away a second time?

Book Review:

VISIONS started off a bit rocky for me. The two main characters, Paige and Mayson, meet up at a masked sex party and jump into bed with each other within pages. Yes, I do know the summary promised that, but I didn’t expect it at the very start of the book!

But once I got further into VISIONS, the beginning made a lot of sense. Ever since Paige had that mindblowing sex at the masquerade, she’s been searching for more. But her search has been downright disappointing, and so she’s become a connoisseur of sex toys, even writing a review blog. Mayson has put her love life on the backburner, content to provide humanitarian relief for disaster stricken areas. When the two meet again — by coincidence and face to face — neither knows who the other is, and sparks fly. Paige can’t stand Mayson, but once Mayson figures out Paige is the one from the masquerade, she’s determined to win her over.

There’s a lot of steamy sex in VISIONS. It’s in the first chapter, and then throughout the book. There’s the Mayson/Paige friction/chemistry, which was fun to read, and also the Vinden/Paige adventures, wherein a masked mystery woman seduces Paige and gives her incredible orgasms. I hate to say it, but there was a bit too much sex for me in VISIONS. The different sex scenes were fun at first, but they got somewhat repetitive.

I thought VISIONS was pretty good. Perfect for the beach or an afternoon of escapism. Paige and Mayson were both strong women who knew what they wanted and were determined to get it. I did wonder why Paige was so focused on finding someone for great sex and great sex alone.

Socialize with the author:

Larkin Rose:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana Haygert

Book Review: Breaking the Reins (Breaking #1) by Juliana HaygertBreaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert
Series: Breaking #1
Published by Self-Published on August 14, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 401
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.

After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.

Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.

But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.

Book Review:

BREAKING THE REINS was quite difficult to read at times, due to the main character being in an abusive relationship. Now, I did like that the author explored being in an abusive relationship, and the possible thoughts/excuses one might make, but I thought she went a little too far with the boyfriend’s behavior. But more about that later.

BREAKING THE REINS is an apt title for this book, as there are three characters who are struggling. Hannah’s stuck in a few ways: she’s inherited her grandmother’s ranch, a property her father and boyfriend want her to sell; she’s in that abusive relationship with boyfriend Eric; and she’s trying to rehabilitate an abused horse. Argus, the abused horse, is scared of people, but unless he makes some progress, he’s likely to be put down. And Leo, a super hot Brazilian polo player, wants to be Hannah’s rescuer, but he’s hiding some big secrets which could come between them.

I mostly liked this book. The horse bits weren’t 100% accurate, which was a disappointment, but I got so into Hannah’s story that I was able to mostly overlook that. I got so into Hannah’s story because for a lot of the book, it was realistic to me. I knew something was off about Eric almost immediately, and it’s never easy for me to read about a character that can’t see it, or tries to rationalize what’s going on. Did I want Hannah to stand up to Eric and leave him, especially once he started hitting her? Hell yes. Did I understand the excuses she made to herself to stay with him? Hell yes.

It’s impossible for me to explain why I thought Eric was a bit too out there without spoiling a majority of the book. So I’ll settle for saying that I think the author tried to make him too horrific, too over the top. Even before Eric was too much, he made my stomach turn, so I really wish she hadn’t gone as far as she did, because some of the things Eric supposedly did were just unbelievable. That affected my thoughts for the book as a whole, taking it down a star for me.

I do think BREAKING THE REINS is a good introduction to Juliana Haygert’s work, and I would read more of her books.

Socialize with the author:

Juliana Haygert:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika JohansenThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Published by Harper on July 8, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

Book Review:

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is a book with a lot of hype behind it. The film rights have already been sold, and supposedly Emma Watson is “attached to star” (whatever that means). Books with so much hype behind them usually fail for me. THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is an okay fantasy — it’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s somewhere in the middle. A very long middle.

I’ll address the length of this book first: it’s over 400 pages. I swear it’s 200 pages too long. Now, don’t get me wrong — I read a lot of epic fantasy. Books that I could use as bricks. Books that have 800 or 900 pages, and I want another 800 or 900 pages because I love the characters and the world. Not so with THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING. There are a lot of boring bits that I wanted to skim, parts that could have been pared down or left out altogether. There’s an abundance of detail, describing what Kelsea has for dinner or what a building looks like.

Too much detail, and not enough worldbuilding, because I was super confused on how the Tearling and other countries came to be. At first, it seems like a standard European-based medieval fantasy, but then there’s a mention of the Harry Potter series. The Tearling supposedly started as a utopia, but somehow it’s now a medieval world complete with serfdom and slaves. There are vague mentions of “The Crossing,” which I guess is when Americans crossed into the Tearling, but it’s not given enough explanation. And, oh yeah, all the doctors were on the same boat, so when that boat sank, so did all medical knowledge. Riiiiight. The more I think about the world in this book, the more confused I get.

I could say more critical stuff about this book, but … even with the multiple issues I had (beyond length and worldbuilding), I actually did get into THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING. It’s not a memorable book, but the author did rouse my curiosity enough for me to want to see what happens next. I just hope the follow-up makes more sense and isn’t as wordy.

So, in conclusion: an average fantasy.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie KagawaThe Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #3
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 15, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 393
Format: eARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

Book Review:

Over the past few years I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve noticed a pattern: I usually don’t read the last book of a trilogy. I almost wish I hadn’t read THE FOREVER SONG, because it just wasn’t the best end to the series. I feel like I could have stopped with book two, THE ETERNITY CURE, as THE FOREVER SONG was mostly unnecessary. You can predict how the series will end, and the journey to the ending is rather boring at times.

At 393 pages, I swear the book could have been cut in half and told the same story, since so much of it was repetition: tons of travel, tons of rabid attacks, and tons of angst from Allie and Zeke. As with THE ETERNITY CURE, Jackal was the highlight of THE FOREVER SONG for me. I could quote line after line of his dialogue; he’s a perfect combination of dry wit, sarcasm, and unabashed vampireness. Unlike Allie, who is still adjusting to the fact that she’s a vampire and has to drink blood to survive, Jackal would paint a town red. Not in a crazy way like psychotic Sarren, but just because he would enjoy it.

Here’s an example, one of many I bookmarked:

“‘There you go again.’ Jackal sighed from the front. ‘Getting the puppy’s hopes up. More likely, every bloodbag in Eden is screaming and tearing their faces off, but oh, no, no one wants to hear that.’ He waved a hand. ‘So, go ahead, tell him that everything is going to be fine. All the meatsacks are perfectly content on their happy little island, Sarren has given up world destruction to raise kittens, and the magic wish fairy will wave her wand and turn shit into gold.’ (page 235).”

Don’t you just love Jackal? I do!

For the climactic book of a series, I guess I expected more than Allie and Zeke spending most of the book angsting over their vampire lives. The cure was almost stupidly simple, and it seems to me it’s something where the journey is more important than the end product type of things. But I just wish that journey hadn’t included so much traveling and repetition. One of the things that really captured my interest in this series was the bleak, dark, dystopian society Julie Kagawa created. One where vampires were the absolute power, and humans spent all of their time trying to find enough food to eat. I wanted to see more of that, or at least more of Eden, but no. It really felt like 97% of the book was spent on the long, dull road.

In the end, I’m just meh on THE FOREVER SONG. For me, it didn’t live up to the first two books in the series. It’s not a bad conclusion, but it was just missing something for me to feel really good about the end of the series.

Socialize with the author:
Julie Kagawa:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Unwrapped Sky (Caeli-Amur #1) by Rjurik Davidson

Book Review: Unwrapped Sky (Caeli-Amur #1) by Rjurik DavidsonUnwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
Series: Caeli-Amur #1
Published by Tor on April 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 430
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Caeli-Amur: an ancient city perched on white cliffs overlooking the sea; a city ruled by three Houses, fighting internecine wars; a city which harbours ancient technology and hidden mysteries. But things are changing in Caeli-Amur. Ancient minotaurs arrive for the traditional Festival of the Sun. The slightly built New-Men bring their technology from their homeland. Wastelanders stream into the city hideously changed by the chemical streams to the north. Strikes break out in the factory district.

In a hideout beneath the city, a small group of seditionists debate ways to overthrow the Houses. How can they rouse the citizens of the city? Should they begin a campaign of terror? Is there a way to uncover the thaumaturgical knowledge that the Houses guard so jealously? As the Houses scramble to maintain their rule, it becomes clear that things will change forever in Caeli-Amur.

Book Review:

I really thought UNWRAPPED SKY was going to be about minotaurs. Given that there’s a minotaur on the cover, and they’re mentioned in the summary, I figured that was a safe assumption. Unfortunately, they play a small role in what I’d call a philosophical fantasy.

UNWRAPPED SKY took me two attempts to read. The first time I wasn’t expecting such a serious book, so I had trouble getting into it and ended up restarting the book about a month after I first picked it up. The second time I knew what to expect, and had an easier time, although I did end up skimming some of the passages dealing with the different philosophies. The seditionists who wanted to overthrow the House system were a bit too thinky for me at times, but then, I tend to prefer physical action to mental.

The book is told from the perspective of three different characters, each in a different place in society in Caeli-Amur. Kata is a philosopher-assassin, an orphan trained to be useful in the debt of House Technis. Boris, a former tramworker, has risen higher than his fellows in the service of House Technis. Maximilian is a seditionist, devoted to overthrowing the House system. In Caeli-Amur, three Houses control the city, much like a feudal lord controlling his lands.

Honestly, the political aspects of UNWRAPPED SKY didn’t interest me all that much. There’s a lot of buildup and debating about power, human nature — that type of thing. None of the characters in the book are particularly good, but there’s something to sympathize about for each of them. As I said before, I sometimes skimmed when the characters got too cerebral, too into discussing how to change things or why the system worked (depending on the perspective). But something always came along that re-hooked my interest and made me keep reading.

I read fantasy for escapism, to lose myself in new worlds. In that aspect, the book was fascinating. I really enjoyed the world, which had fantasy and steampunk elements, as well as an interesting mythology. The idea of philosopher assassins? Super cool. I also liked the author’s writing style, which was quite descriptive without being purple prose. I felt like I was in Caeli-Amur watching everything unfold.

Although I didn’t love UNWRAPPED SKY, I would continue the series, as I enjoyed the world and am curious about what will come next for everyone. Book two, THE STARS ASKEW, will be published in 2015.

Socialize with the author:

Rjurik Davidson:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities #1) by Gail Z. Martin

Book Review: Deadly Curiosities (Deadly Curiosities #1) by Gail Z. MartinDeadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Series: Deadly Curiosities #1
Published by Solaris on June 24, 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Cassidy Kincaide owns Trifles & Folly, an antique/curio store and high-end pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina that is more than what it seems. Dangerous magical and supernatural items sometimes find their way into mortal hands or onto the market, and Cassidy is part of a shadowy Alliance of mortals and mages whose job it is to take those deadly curiosities out of circulation.

Welcome to Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670—acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500 year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it’s time for Cassidy and Sorren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

Book Review:

DEADLY CURIOSITIES is the first in a new urban fantasy series set in Charleston, South Carolina. The book features Cassidy Kincaide, a psychometric who owns an antique shop. Trifles and Folly is the perfect cover for Cassidy, her assistant Teag, and her vampire partner Sorren to get dangerous supernatural objects off the market. Because Cassidy can read emotions and memories from objects, she can tell if something is dangerous or not, and take appropriate action.

When she learns that several objects she thought were safe are now causing trouble at a bed and breakfast, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Soon Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren are up to their eyeballs in objects that are haunted by evil ghosts, an enemy from Sorren’s past, and something even more dangerous than a crazy, half-dead wizard: a demon.

DEADLY CURIOSITIES does a couple of things very well. There are some great ideas in this book, like Cassidy’s psychometric powers which allow her to use magical objects for protection, such as the collar from her favorite dog for a ghostly guardian. Teag has some magic of his own: Weaving, which helps him find tons of information on the normal Internet and the “Darke Web,” the magical version of the information highway. There’s no romance in this book, which I really appreciated — I hate when the paranormal fun takes a backseat to googly eyes and making out. I also really enjoyed the story behind DEADLY CURIOSITIES. It was fun to watch the gang try to solve the mystery. I also liked the history the author created. I mean, you can’t go wrong with pirates and ghosts and tragic history!

But there were a couple of things that didn’t work so well for me. I think the book was just too long. The author’s other books are epic fantasies, clocking in at 600 pages or so. DEADLY CURIOSITIES is 464 pages. I expect urban fantasies to be shorter, for the plot to move faster. I thought the book lagged a bit, with some unnecessary scenes and slow buildup. The writing also contributed to that feeling — the author was great at historical flashbacks of objects, but dialogue and pacing weren’t so on for me.

Overall, DEADLY CURIOSITIES is an intriguing start to a new series. I would definitely read more of Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren’s adventures, and would like to learn more about their world.

Socialize with the author:

Gail Z. Martin:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn Dolamore

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn DolamoreDark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Dark Metropolis #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

dark metropolis blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DARK METROPOLIS by Jaclyn Dolamore. 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:

DARK METROPOLIS is the first book in a new duology set in an alternate version of Berlin in the late 1920s. Featuring three protagonists, the book digs into the dark underbelly of the city which is kept running by government-sanctioned zombies.

The summary for the book is a little misleading in my opinion, as it gives the impression Thea is the only main character. But her friend, Nan, and Freddy also tell parts of the story. I would have liked to see more character development for all three; DARK METROPOLIS is more plot-driven than character-driven. Characters are usually what I like most about a book, but something in this one hooked me and kept me reading.

Thea’s mother suffers from bound-sickness because she and her husband were magically bonded when they were married. But while he went missing eight years ago and was declared dead in the war, Thea’s mother has always insisted he’s still alive. Being unable to find her husband makes her mentally sick, and though Thea’s tried to take care of her mother, it’s getting harder and harder. One night at work, Thea touches the hand of club goer Freddy and sees a vision of her father sitting up. Is her mother right? Is her father alive?

When her friend and co-worker, Nan, goes missing, Thea asks Freddy for helping finding her. And that’s where things get freaky, because Freddy brought Nan back to life. He’s a necromancer and has brought thousands of people back to life. He was always told those people committed suicide, but when Thea insists Nan never would have killed herself, Freddy starts to investigate.

DARK METROPOLIS is a zombie story I actually liked. I typically don’t read a lot of horror, which is what I’d classify most zombie books as. Yeah, there’s some violence in this one, and some gruesome imagery, but the book is more fantasy/magic/paranormal than horror. The real horror comes from the manipulation of necromancy and the zombies’ living conditions.

I do wish there was more worldbuilding, because we’re given a few hints about the world, but not too many. The setting does feel very 1920s/1930s ish, but with an added element of magic. I did like how the author explored necromancy, and how there were consequences for doing such magic. But I wish more had been mentioned. For example, what was the war about? How did its outcome lead to the government outlawing magic?

Thea’s family relationship was probably my favorite thing about the whole book. I felt the love they all had for each other, and while I’m not going to spoil it, I liked the outcome. The other relationships in the book — Thea and Freddy, Nan and Sigi — could have used more development, just like the characters. The romantic relationships aren’t really a big portion of the book, though, so that didn’t really bug me. I was happy that Sigi kissed Nan at a very important moment, since I saw their potential relationship coming from their first meeting.

DARK METROPOLIS doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which is refreshing. The main story is wrapped up by the end, leaving a few loose ends for the next book, due out in 2015.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jaclyn dolamoreJaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer

Book Review: Dancing Through It by Jenifer RingerDancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer
Published by Viking on February 20, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
A behind-the-curtains look at the rarefied world of classical ballet from a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet.

In her charming and self-effacing voice, Jenifer Ringer covers the highs and lows of what it’s like to make it to the top in the exclusive, competitive ballet world. From the heart-pounding moments waiting in the wings before a performance to appearing on Oprah to discuss weight and body image among dancers, Dancing Through It is moving and revelatory.

Raised in South Carolina, Ringer led a typical kid’s life until she sat in on a friend’s ballet class, an experience that would change her life forever. By the age of twelve she was enrolled at the elite Washington School of Ballet and soon moved to the School of American Ballet. At sixteen she was a professional dancer at the New York City Ballet in Manhattan, home of the legendary George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Ringer takes us inside the dancer’s world, detailing a typical day, performance preparation, and the extraordinary pressures that these athletes face. Ringer shares exhilarating stories of starring in Balanchine productions, working with the famous Peter Martins, and of meeting her husband and falling in love at the New York City Ballet. Ringer also talks candidly of Alistair Macauley’s stinging critique of her weight in his 2010 New York Times review of The Nutcracker that ignited a public dialogue about ballet and weight. She unflinchingly describes her personal struggles with eating disorders and body image, and shares how her faith helped her to heal and triumph over these challenges.

Book Review:

DANCING THROUGH IT is the memoir of Jenifer Ringer, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. I hadn’t heard of her, nor seen her perform, but I’m always on the hunt for books about ballet.

The book did succeed in that aspect for me. There’s tons and tons of information on ballet, dancing, training, a dancer’s daily life, the different ballets and choreographers, the adrenaline rush of performing, and so on. I really enjoyed the glimpse into a working ballerina’s life, from the benefits to the sacrifices. I found all of it absolutely fascinating, and did think that Jenifer Ringer described ballet in a way a non-dancer could understand. She also answered a lot of questions, such as what happens when a dancer falls or forgets choreography.

But what I didn’t like about DANCING THROUGH IT was the heavy emphasis on faith. I’d say the book is split 50/50 between ballet and faith. I’m not a religious person, but I understand other people have their beliefs. However, when Jenifer mentioned God or praised him for what she had in what felt like every paragraph, it got to be too much for me.

Overall, the book is good for information about ballet, but not as interesting as it could be due to the emphasis on religion.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on March 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 355
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Book Review:

“Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married.”

That sentence in the summary for THE WINNER’S CURSE is what caught my attention. Immediately I wanted to know what sort of world Kestrel lived in, that those would be her only choices. And I wanted to know what she would do, because I was sure it wasn’t going to be either one of those things. That wouldn’t have made for a very exciting book.

THE WINNER’S CURSE is a book with a lot of hype behind it. A lot of other readers have LOVED it. For me, it was a so-so book, mainly because I never got behind the romantic relationship. And as that relationship is pretty important to several of the events in the book, I had an okay reading experience. Not a great one, but I probably will continue this trilogy, because I do want to see what will happen next.

Kestrel is a Valorian. Her people have conquered the the Herrani, turning them into slaves in their own land. The Valorians are great warriors, especially Kestrel’s father, who was responsible for the victory over the Herrani. General Trajan expects his daughter to follow in his footsteps by joining the military, and while Kestrel is a brilliant tactician, she can’t fight very well and doesn’t want to kill anyone. But she doesn’t really want to marry, either. She wants to play the piano, but playing music isn’t something the Valorians regard highly.

When a slave goes up for sale, one who supposedly sings, but is defiant on the block, Kestrel impulsively buys him. You know what happens next: forbidden love develops between Kestrel and Arin. At least their relationship wasn’t insta-love, but I just didn’t feel any chemistry between them. They spend time getting to know each other, Kestrel asking Arin to always be honest with her, but … I don’t know. I’m not going to spoil the story, but as I said above, their feelings for each other turn out to be quite important, and because I didn’t feel the relationship, I was meh on a lot of the events.

I also wanted more worldbuilding in the book. In the Author’s Note, the author says she was inspired by the Greco-Roman period after Rome conquered Greece. Little bits of the world are revealed, such as all Valorians wearing weapons, or the wall color in a Herrani room signifying its usage. But I had a lot of unanswered questions, from where Valoria was located in comparison to Herran, to why Kestrel had to have an escort for going out in public.

THE WINNER’S CURSE does unfurl slowly, the story building layer upon layer. I did enjoy that aspect, as well as the writer’s style. Marie Rutkoski has a way of describing things in this book that I found poetic but readable. Here’s an example from Arin’s auction: “The bidding spiraled higher, each voice spurring the next until it seemed that a roped arrow was shooting through the members of the crowd, binding them together, drawing them tight with excitement (p. 14, ARC).”

While THE WINNER’S CURSE didn’t quite hit the mark for me, it wasn’t bad, and if you’re a fan of forbidden relationships, you might enjoy it more than I did.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Rutkoski:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Black Dog (Black Dog #1) by Rachel Neumeier

Book Review: Black Dog (Black Dog #1) by Rachel NeumeierBlack Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Series: Black Dog #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on February 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

Today I have a twofer: a review of BLACK DOG by Rachel Neumeier and an interview with the author. Be sure to check out both posts, because I asked Rachel some questions about the book, including where the idea for BLACK DOG came from!

Book Review:

BLACK DOG is a werewolf book, albeit a very different type of werewolf book from the usual sort. Rachel Neumeier’s black dogs are more like hellhounds, the dog side constantly fighting the human side for control. Black dogs transform at will, whenever they need to fight, prove their dominance, or when emotions get too high. It takes great strength of will to control the black dog shadow. There also are the traditional werewolves that follow the call of the moon, but they aren’t as powerful as black dogs.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Alejandro, a black dog, and his sister, Natividad, a Pure, BLACK DOG is a book that unfolds slowly. Alejandro, Natividad, and her twin, Miguel, are Mexican, and it was great to see some diversity in a YA book. There are some Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the book; most have context translations or are easy to figure out.

The siblings are on the run from a dangerous black dog, Vonhausel, who killed their parents and wants to kill them. Their only hope is the Dimilioc pack, the last remaining civilized group of black dogs. But with only Natividad being worth anything to the pack, Alejandro must prove his control of his black dog, and Miguel, a human, must also show he’s useful. When Vonhausel shows up and tries to wage war, the siblings must help Dimilioc, each in their own way, because the alternative is death. Or something worse than death, in some cases.

Some readers might be bothered by Natividad being fifteen and expected to mate with one of the black dogs. Natividad is Pure, able to wield magic that can calm the ferocity of the black dogs’ shadows. Usually I would have an issue with that sort of alpha behavior, but I thought the Master of the pack handled it very well — he said no one could touch Natividad until she turned sixteen, and she would have her choice. Natividad didn’t have an issue with it, either. So all the possible mates were respectful, and wanted to protect her. There’s not really any romance in BLACK DOG — Natividad’s future relationship is a side topic. I just wanted to mention it.

Like I said above, BLACK DOG is a slow book. It’s over 400 pages, and I do think it could have been shorter and tighter. There were a lot of phrases repeated in dialogue, over and over, such as “I think” or “you know,” and they did pull me out of the narrative. I’m picky about things like that, though.

In the author’s world, black dogs are known to the public, thanks to the disappearance of vampires and their mindclouding magic of anything supernatural. The vampires and their war with the black dogs happened before the book, and so is offstage, but does have some influence on the events of BLACK DOG. I had some questions that I would have liked answered, but they didn’t really affect my understanding of what was going on.

Aside from that, once I got into the book, I did enjoy piecing the story together and learning about the siblings’ pasts, Vonhausel, and Dimilioc. I really liked the pack dynamics, and watching the black dogs control their shadows. It was also interesting to see regular humans interact with the pack. Natividad’s interactions were the best of all, because she wasn’t afraid of any black dog, knowing they wouldn’t hurt her. So it was fun and different to see a fifteen-year-old be taken seriously, her opinion valued, by the much older pack master.

The end of BLACK DOG does neatly tie up the main story line. I’ll admit, when I got to what I thought was the end, I was like, “No! That’s it?!” But it wasn’t! It’s hard to say anything about the ending, because I don’t want to spoil it, but the real ending was good. Very insightful. And there will be a sequel to BLACK DOG, so the other things I wanted to see, such as who Natividad will choose, and what will happen to Dimilioc, will most likely be addressed in that.

About the author:

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.
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– leeanna