Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenI Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
Published by Month9Books on March 31, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka 'Quinn' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Book Review:

Set in a future where most humans think robots shouldn’t have rights, and robots think they should, I HEART ROBOT asks what it means to be human. Is being human necessary to create? Can robots think, create, love? If they can, should they be destroyed, or should they be allowed to flourish? Are artificially intelligent robots a threat to humanity, or is humanity a threat to those robots?

Tyri wants to be a musician. But everyone around her, including her mother and boyfriend, think she should do something useful to society, like politics or science. Quinn, a companion android who escaped abusive owners, wants to play music and show that he’s human, not just a robot without feelings. When they’re caught up in the increasingly violent rift between humans and robots, they question their beliefs and their roles.

At first, I thought I HEART ROBOT was going to be a girl/android love story, and while yeah, there’s a bit of that, there’s also a lot more. The author asks the same questions I did at the start of this review, showing a variety of answers from pro and anti robot characters. I really got into I HEART ROBOT, and read it in one sitting. The book isn’t too long, but it’s one that left me thinking. I really hope there’s a sequel, because the ending is open and leaves some questions unresolved. I want to know what happens next to Tyri and Quinn.

I HEART ROBOT YA science fiction, but it’s not packed with technical mumbo jumbo that pulls you out of the book. There’s also some diversity in the book, which I was happy to see. Tyri’s best friend has a girlfriend, and the book is set in Skandia, a post-war combination of Sweden and Norway. I would have liked some more worldbuilding and scene setting, so that I truly felt like I was overseas. Lastly, I liked that Tyri questioned her romantic relationships, speaking up for herself when necessary, but also acting like a teen in love at the same time.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you think androids deserve equal rights?

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne van Rooyen:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig

Book Review: Atlanta Burns by Chuck WendigAtlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
Series: Atlanta Burns #1 & #2
Published by Skyscape on January 27, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 381
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault.

You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Book Review:

“Not unless you feel like getting into a gunfight with a teenage girl. Hard to avoid the police attention that would cause, I figure. Maybe next time? I’ll bring my shotgun. It’s got a taste for the blood of monstrous men (p. 101-102).”

Atlanta Burns is a girl after my own heart. When her mother’s boyfriend abused her, she shot his nuts off. When she returns home after a stint in the looney bin for that, she somehow becomes the hero of the bullied. Probably because she’s the only one willing to do anything about it, the only one who will take the fight to the bullies. Atlanta’s kinda like that voice inside your head, the one that asks what could happen if you fought back, if you went for violence.

But in typical Atlanta fashion, everything she does lands her in deeper shit. Use bear mace on a group of bullies? Say hello to a dead cat thrown through a window. And that’s the least of it. But I really admired how Atlanta just kept going, kept trying, because she didn’t want the bullies to win.

ATLANTA BURNS is a YA book, but it doesn’t read like one. The author doesn’t rely on the usual YA cliches (love at first sight, love triangles, etc) to get his story across. I am super happy about that, because I’m always on the lookout for something new, something that isn’t full of cliches and tropes and thinking about kissing. There’s some very serious stuff in the book, from sexual abuse to gay bullying to dog fighting. The dog fighting was a bit difficult for me to read, because the author goes into some detail, but watching Atlanta get her revenge … it was worth it.

ATLANTA BURNS is sort of two stories in one. Part one, where Atlanta deals with racists and homophobes, was originally published as a novella. Parts two through five, where Atlanta deals again with those bullies and also a dog fighting ring, was a self-published novel. When I read the book, I didn’t realize that the stories were originally separate but connected. I only found out because after I finished, I wanted to see what Chuck Wendig had to say about his book. Even better, I found out there’s another book in the works, which is great, because I definitely want to read more about Atlanta and her friends.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s almost like reading an action movie, one set in atmospheric Pennsyltucky, while peering into the head of angry, scared, and tough as shotgun shells Atlanta.

Socialize with the author:

Chuck Wendig:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Book Review: Dark Alchemy by Laura BickleDark Alchemy by Laura Bickle
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on March 24, 2105
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 316
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father's disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town's dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up - desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can't scientifically explain - her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town's most powerful interests. Petra's father wasn't the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn't understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

dark alchemy blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle. I’ve been looking forward to this book since last November, so I was excited to get on the tour for it. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

I’m a big Laura Bickle fan, and when I saw she had a new book coming out, I couldn’t wait to read it. DARK ALCHEMY is a fun to read but creepy adventure in a modern day Wild West setting, complete with what I consider the author’s trademarks: a strong woman in the lead and a memorable animal companion.

In DARK ALCHEMY, geologist Petra takes refuge in tiny Temperance, trying to heal from a tragedy in her past. She’s also trying to find her father, who disappeared years ago. But on her first night, a coyote digs up a mysterious golden compass. Then Petra discovers a calcified body in Yellowstone, and things get even weirder.

DARK ALCHEMY is one of those books that’s hard to explain. I never knew what was going to happen next, or how the book would end, and that’s something I enjoy. In particular, I liked how the author went at exploring alchemy in a dark way — yup, this book is well-named. I’m also guessing that the author drew on the Hanged Man tarot card for inspiration, which I found refreshing — something new and spooky rather than a tired supernatural creature.

I liked how Petra was such a strong character. Most of Temperance is ruled by a corrupt landowner, but Petra doesn’t let that stop her from seeking justice where it’s needed. She’s helped by Sig the coyote, who is a cross between a spirit guide and a guard coyote. I adored Sig; Laura Bickle always writes great animal characters. I mean, who wouldn’t laugh at the thought of a coyote in a flea collar? And who wouldn’t love that same coyote when he attacks the bad guys?

DARK ALCHEMY is a standalone (I think), but it does have a bit of an open ending. I’d like a sequel, because I enjoyed my time in Temperance, and I’d like to see more of Petra’s story.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
laura bickleLaura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams).

Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six mostly-reformed feral cats.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha LaiListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Published by HarperCollins on February 17, 2015
Genres: Diversity, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
This remarkable novel from Thanhha Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Book Review:

The summer she turns twelve, Mia’s sent to the last place she wants to go. Instead of spending the summer on the beach with her best friend, she’s stuck in Vietnam with her grandmother. Bà’s on a quest to find news of her husband, Ông, who vanished during THE WAR more than thirty-five years ago. Mia wants nothing to do with hot and smelly Vietnam, a place where the only Internet she can find is dial up and she can’t speak the language. But Mia also wants her grandmother to have peace… as long as Bà hurries up.

I think Mia’s character is a great look at a first-generation kid. Her parents raised her to be American, but also with Vietnamese values. Yes, Mia’s selfish at times for her wish to go back home to her friends, but she also recognizes how important it is that Bà have closure. Over the course of LISTEN, SLOWLY, Mia respects her grandmother and her Vietnamese culture more and more. I really liked that theme of the book — I wish more kids and teens (and even adults!) these days respected their elders.

LISTEN, SLOWLY isn’t an action-packed book; it does unfold somewhat slowly. I do wonder if the recommended age, 8-12, would stick with it. But I don’t think it’s a book restricted to that age — teen and adult readers looking for diversity and a heartwarming story should pick this up. I liked Mia’s sometimes sarcastic observations about her culture, from the language to the food to how people are so polite all the time. I liked how she told her story, and hope it’s one lots of people read. Alongside Mia’s journey to learning about family, I teared up a bit for Bà and Ông.

Socialize with the author:

Thanhha Lai:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von SchönwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Published by Penguin Classics on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales--the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen--becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost--until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manuscripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive.

Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

Book Review:

In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth tried to collect folk tales and legends of his native Bavaria. In 2009, scholar Erika Eichenseer rediscovered a treasure trove of 500 of Schönwerth’s tales. THE TURNIP PRINCESS contains over 70 of those tales. There’s also a foreward by Eichenseer, as well as an introduction and commentary by translator Maria Tatar.

The book is organized into six sections:
*Tales of Magic and Romance
*Enchanted Animals
*Otherworldly Creatures
*Legends
*Tall Tales and Anecdotes
*Legends

I appreciated how the tales were grouped. I felt like I was journeying through time reading them, as in the latter stories, there’s some religious influence. But as a result of the grouping, some of the tales did feel repetitive. The stories range from 1-3 pages, so I’d recommend reading a handful here and there, rather than reading the book in one go. I’d also recommend reading the commentary for each tale after you finish it (I didn’t know there was commentary until the end), since I think it adds to the tales.

As for the tales themselves, I enjoyed them. They’re earthy, unsanitized, unvarnished. In “Ashfeathers,” which is similar to Cinderella, stepsisters cut off a toe and heel. It’s mentioned and the tale moves on. In many tales, evil queens trick their sons, sending away their grandchildren. In the end, they’re burnt at the stake without fanfare. In several, guys were the ones in trouble, and needed rescuing by women. In “Follow Me, Jodel!” the not-so-bright Jodel is helped by a beautiful woman cursed to be a frog.

Overall, I liked reading the fairy tales in THE TURNIP PRINCESS. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy fairy tales, and want to see some new tales. I quite like the fact that not every girl was a damsel in distress. Many were strong and capable of saving themselves and their men.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1) by Viola Carr

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire #1) by Viola CarrThe Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
Series: Electric Empire #1
Published by Harper Voyager on February 10, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Henry.

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.

When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .

Book Review:

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE originally caught my attention because it looked like it had steampunk elements, fantasy, evil curses, magical forensics, and a dark twin. This is one of those books that’s difficult to describe, but in a good way. Happily, the book had all it promised and more — I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Electric Empire series.

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is narrated in turn by Dr. Eliza Jekyll and Lizzie Hyde. Both are the same person, but with very different personalities and abilities. Those last names should sound familiar — remember the classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The author goes off that a bit, but makes it all her own.

Viola Carr wrote Eliza and Lizzie so differently that I never had any trouble telling them apart. Although they share a body, they felt like two distinct characters, and their dual narration/personalities was probably my favorite part of the book. It can bug the heck out of me when an author switches perspective mid-chapter or even mid-scene, but it really worked here. I loved the way one would take over from another. At first, Eliza tries to keep Lizzie subdued with alchemy, and when Lizzie does get out, Eliza’s relieved she can’t remember anything Lizzie does. But over the course of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE, Eliza begins to trust and rely on Lizzie, and vice versa.

Dr. Eliza Jekyll is something of a forensic scientist, using her knowledge, experience, and gadgets to help the police solve crimes. Given the time period of an alternate London, many on the force aren’t willing to work with her, but Eliza trudges onwards in the search for justice. The case in THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE is a gruesome one: a serial killer takes body parts from each victim with surgical precision. Why? The appearance of a Royal Society watchdog hampers the investigation. Does the Society suspect Eliza of using unorthodox science?

The murder mystery was pretty twisty for me. The last quarter of THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE really surprised me, which is always something I enjoy.

I would have liked more worldbuilding, because the glimpses I got to see were fascinating. There’s an underworld of fae creatures, but other than a few scenes, we don’t learn much about them. Sadface. I also wanted to know more about Eliza’s London, where the crown decides what is allowed science and what is witchcraft. Sometimes, THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE felt like setup for the rest of the series, moving characters here and there, giving out this bit of vital information or that. Also, Eliza has a fascination with a killer she put away before the book started; I felt like I was missing some important background on the Todd/Eliza equation.

Aside from a bit of nitpicking, I really enjoyed THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE. It has an alchemical je ne sais quoi to it. Bring on more of the Electric Empire!

Socialize with the author:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm Lovejoy

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm LovejoyHenge by Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay #1
Published by Self-Published on November 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

--

"Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series."--Kirkus Reviews

henge blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HENGE by Realm Lovejoy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

HENGE kicks off a new series featuring Morgan le Fay, set in modern-day Camelot. Morgana le Fay is my favorite in Arthurian legends, so I’m always interested in seeing different takes on her character.

In Realm Lovejoy’s version of Camelot, cellphones and magic exist side-by-side. The ability to use magic isn’t guaranteed, and even if you can manipulate air, water, or fire, chances are you won’t be anything more than a performer. Unless, that is, you are chosen to become one of the upcoming king’s Rounds. The best Round will be selected as the king’s magic advisor, and the rest will be employed by Camelot as Knights or Relic Keepers. Political acumen is just as important as good magic skills.

Morgan’s dream is to become the king’s Maven. She wants magic users to have more rights, not less. And she’ll do anything to pursue that dream, including sneaking out from under her father’s watchful eye, or diving headfirst into the dangers of Camelot.

HENGE is quite interesting. I really liked the world the author created, the intriguing mix of magic and modern technology, old legends and new political tangles. There’s a lot of familiar names, including Merlin, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but they’re not all straight from the old legends — they all have their own personalities. I wanted to learn more about each of them, as well as Morgan’s mother, Morgause.

Morgan herself was the most interesting character for me, since I was curious to see how the author would develop and grow her. Morgan’s a bit impulsive and tends to jump to conclusions, but she also wants to get rid of the injustices magic users face. I believed her reactions to everything that happened, and the last line of HENGE? I’m not going to spoil it, but yeah. I can’t wait to read more about Morgan!

Giveaway:

signed paperback of Henge + swag (US)
4 paperbacks of Henge (US)
6 ebooks (INT)
1 ebook + $20 Gift Card (INT)
Giveaway Ends November 28th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author realm lovejoyRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at www.realmlovejoy.com.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Buy link: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Book Review:

THE JEWEL is a difficult book for me to rate. I loved parts of it and other parts made me want to tear my hair out. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but went with 4 in the end because I was entertained by the story.

To start off, THE JEWEL has a really cool idea. Poor girls used as surrogates for the ultra wealthy? Bought and sold like property, treated like pets, and expected to make designer babies? Usually I don’t like stories that have even a whiff of pregnancy, but I dove head first into this one and enjoyed most of the ride.

THE JEWEL is a fast read. I kept flipping the pages because I wanted to know what would happen next to Violet. I normally read quickly, but I was consumed by this book. I couldn’t get enough of the opulent world of the Jewel, of the powerful and moralless women who rule it. The author painted a vivid picture of life within the Jewel, of the money thrown around carelessly while the poor starve and live in mud-brick houses.

There were some holes in the worldbuilding: we never find out what led to the creation of the Lone City. The city is arranged in five circles, each with an industry — as a farmer, I can’t quite believe in all the food being grown in one specific circle, especially land right next to a circle full of factories. I’m also not sure why only the girls of the Marsh (the poorest circle) are able to access the Auguries, although I imagine that will be explained in future books.

THE JEWEL does start a little slowly, with Violet saying goodbye to her old life, but once she’s bought at auction, the book takes off. I was fascinated by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet’s owner. She’s ruthless, and I liked how she treated Violet. (Yeah, I know that makes me twisted.)

But then we come to the part of THE JEWEL that frustrated me. The insta-love. Violet falls superfast for the companion of the Duchess’s niece. He falls superfast for her. Insta-love is a big peeve of mine, and while Violet and Ash do have music to bond over, I wish they wouldn’t have progressed to the “I love yous” so quickly. I wanted to roll my eyes whenever they were together. Violet/Ash drew me out of the spell of the book because I couldn’t believe in their relationship.

Overall, though, THE JEWEL was a blast to read, and I’m eager for the next book in the series.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Ewing:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi ItärantaMemory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
Published by Harper Voyager on June 10, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Global warming has changed the world's geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria's father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.

But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father's death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship.

Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.

Book Review:

“But I knew that was what the best stories were like: you could believe in them, even if you knew they were just imagination (p. 65).”

For me, the above quote perfectly sums up MEMORY OF WATER. This book feels like it could come true. Sometime in the future, we could live in a world where there’s very little fresh water. In a world where the army controls all sources of water, there’s water rationing, and water crimes result in death.

The progress of MEMORY OF WATER is a lot like water. The book moves along slowly but surely, sometimes circling obstacles, but always coming back to the main story. I will warn you that this book doesn’t have a neat ending or resolution, which is usually something that bugs the heck out of me, because I like concrete endings, but it didn’t bother me here.

I did have some trouble getting into the book when I started it. But once I read a few chapters and got used to Noria’s narration, the author’s writing style, and the world, I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it in one day, and a week later, I’m still thinking about MEMORY OF WATER.

Noria is a tea master, perhaps an odd profession in a world where water is so scarce. But tea masters preserve traditions, and Noria’s family also guards a secret spring, one of the last free springs. The secret spring lets the author explore lots of questions: Can water be controlled by the army? Should free water be kept a secret when families are suffering, even dying because they don’t have enough water? Should one take the easy way out, or stand up for what one believes in?

There’s not a lot of action in MEMORY OF WATER, which is a-okay. The book doesn’t need it. I’m just pointing that out because this book is different (in a good way) from a lot of the popular dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there. MEMORY OF WATER is a book to make you think, a book that laps at the edges of your brain as you read. And the writing is just gorgeous, descriptive and evocative without falling into the usual cliches.

There is one thing about MEMORY OF WATER I didn’t like, which made it a 4 star book instead of a 5 star book. In order to explain what that one thing is, I have to do some plot spoiling, so don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know what happens. I will say it relates to worldbuilding, and while the author paints an excellent portrait of the world now, daily life and politics included, she doesn’t go into too much detail of how it became that way.

Otherwise, an amazing debut. Simple in some ways, but so complex in others. A real thought provoking book, putting the speculative in speculative fiction. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Emmi Itäranta.

 

 

 

Last spoiler warning!

 

 

 

Okay. One of my big peeves is when authors withhold information from the reader. Noria and her best friend discover the truth about how the world changed, but the author does not tell the reader. That information stays a secret between Noria and Sanja, which is a shame, because I really wanted to know what happened. If they hadn’t found out the truth, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, but they did, and so I was irked over that.

Socialize with the author:

Emmi Itäranta:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

– leeanna