Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael GibneySous Chef by Michael Gibney
Published by Ballantine Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Memoir, Non Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

Book Review:

SOUS CHEF is a book I devoured. Twice. It’s as tasty as the dishes and food it describes.

An excellent look into the daily routine of a chef, it’s told in a creative style that puts the reader behind the knife. Second-person narrative (You pick up a dish, you make carrot puree) is really difficult to pull off, but I think Michael Gibney did a great job with it in this book. For me, that style made it much easier to learn about a kitchen, being a chef, various techniques, etc., rather than watching a character do it, or being in their head.

The only downside of the second-person narrative is that near the end, when talking about why “you’re” a chef, the book got a tad too philosophical for me, which is one reason why it wasn’t a 5 star read.

I learned a ton reading SOUS CHEF. I’ll admit, I love reality shows like Chopped, Top Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, but I’m not always sure what’s going on when looking inside a professional kitchen. Now I have a much better idea. For example, I now know what “all day” means, the different positions on the line, and the general operating routine of a restaurant from open to close.

SOUS CHEF includes a helpful kitchen floor plan diagram and a comprehensive terminology section at the end. The only confusion I had with the book were the Spanish exchanges between “you” the sous chef and some of the kitchen staff. There’s not any translations for those, and I couldn’t always figure out what was being said.

SOUS CHEF has jumped to the top of my favorite culinary books, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it in the future. It’s a book that’s super readable, has a style that will stick in your head, and is very easy to sink into and enjoy.

– leeanna

Book Review: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. SalvatoreNight of the Hunter by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling saga continues as dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden returns to Gauntlgrym with old friends by his side once again, as they seek to rescue Bruenor’s loyal shield dwarf-turned-vampire. But not only do Drizzt and his allies face a perilous journey through the Underdark and the dangers of the undead that lie within, but they must cross through a colony of drow, who would like nothing better than to see Drizzt Do’Urden dead.

Book Review:

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER sends Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall back to Gauntlgrym to rescue Bruenor’s old companion, Pwent, from the curse of vampirism. Thanks to the Sundering, as well as the intervention of Drizzt’s goddess Mielikki, Bruenor, Catti-brie, Regis, and Wulfgar are back in Drizzt’s life.

It’s not necessary to have read THE COMPANIONS to understand NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. THE COMPANIONS, book one of the Sundering series, tells the stories of Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Regis’s rebirths and journeys back to Drizzt’s side. I do think it’s one of R.A. Salvatore’s better books, though, so I’d recommend it.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER splits between following Drizzt and the others on their journey to Gauntlgrym to showing the machinations of the drow who have taken over Gauntlgrym. Artemis Entreri and Dahlia Sin’felle make an important appearance, so does Lolth. There’s a LOT going on in this book, and by the time I finished, I felt like I’d read a book double its length. There’s a lot to keep track of between the multiple subplots and characters introduced in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

Now, I’m a Forgotten Realms reader who really, really likes the drow. So I gobbled up every passage dealing with Gromph and Quenthel Baenre, and different drow houses including Xorlarrin and Fey-Branche. There’s a ton of drow politics in this book, and that made me a very happy reader. My only quibble with those parts of the book is that I wish the author’s language had been clearer. Sometimes I had to reread paragraphs a couple of times, due to awkward phrasing and long sentences, to figure out what was important.

The story of Drizzt and the others was good too, and exciting to watch them battle through Gauntlgrym. It was really good to see the Companions back in action, albeit each influenced by their new lives. Catti-brie, for example, is a mage, and Regis is much, much braver than ever before. I think this book is the start to a new epic for Drizzt and everyone else in the changing world of the Realms.

Because of all the drow intrigue, as well as the implications for Drizzt’s future, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER has jumped to the top of my favorite R.A. Salvatore books. I also think it’s a good starting point for readers new to the Realms, as you don’t need to know a ton of backstory, and it’s just a good fantasy book.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Reaver (The Sundering #4) by Richard Lee Byers

Book Review: The Reaver (The Sundering #4) by Richard Lee ByersThe Reaver by Richard Lee Byers
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on February 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
In the 4th book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, Richard Lee Byers introduces Anton Marivaldi—a renowned reaver with an insatiable thirst for bounty and a moral compass that always leads him toward the evil he’s never tried.

Endless, pounding rain afflict the Sea of Fallen Stars and the coastal regions surrounding it. Harvests are failing, travel and trade are disrupted, and civilized forces are giving way to the deluges caused by the storms. In panic and despair, many have turned to the goddess Umberlee, Queen of the Deeps, offering her sacrifices with hope that they will be spared the inevitable reckoning of her perpetual tempest.

Evendur Highcastle, undead pirate captain, risen from the depths to assume the mantle of Umberlee’s Chosen, takes advantage of the people's desperation to strike for both spiritual and temporal power in her name.

Vying with Highcastle for the hearts and minds of the people is Stedd Whitehorn, a little boy and the chosen of a god thought lost to time: Lathander, the Morninglord. In a time of such upheaval, Stedd’s message of renewal and hope runs in stark contrast to the savage ethos of Highcastle and his waveservants.

When Anton captures the boy in order to collect Highcastle’s considerable bounty, the reaver is quickly caught in the riptide caused by the sundering of worlds.

Book Review:

Previous books in The Sundering series have mentioned the Chosen: mortals blessed by the gods. In THE REAVER, we follow Stedd Whitehorn, Chosen of Lathander. Stedd’s a young boy on his own, traveling across the length of Faerun. He’s wanted by the evil sea goddess Umberlee, as well as Szass Tam, the undead ruler of Thay. Almost everyone he meets has ulterior motives, from wanting to sell him to use his powers for their own gain. Chief among those is Anton Marivaldi, a pirate with a lust for gold and no care for good or evil.

I got a kick out of Anton. I typically enjoy characters that aren’t all good, and Anton isn’t. He lies to Stedd, promising to help him reach his destination, all the while planning to sell him. Naturally it’s not that easy, for forces conspire against both of them. Anton loses Stedd, leaving the field open for Red Wizard Umara to sneak in for her own opportunity to take the Chosen boy for her masters. But once Stedd realizes what’s up, he’s not such an easy target, and tries to make both Anton and Umara think about their decisions. They all end up working together, Anton and Umara continually debating the goodness Stedd brings out in them.

THE REAVER is a fast-paced book, full of action scenes and character growth. Sometimes I have trouble imagining sword and/or sorcery fights, but I thought the author did an excellent job of describing blow by blow while keeping the fight scenes exciting. All of the characters experience growth. Stedd learns more about what Lathander has in mind for him while inspiring others to think about their own actions. Anton faces the mistakes that led to piracy, but isn’t always ready to give up his bad ways. Umara reflects on the rule of undead in Thayan society, and wonders if they should remain in power.

In THE REAVER, we also get to see more of the Sundering’s effects on the common people. The weather sucks — the Great Rain has flooded coastal villages and cities, preventing crops from growing. As a result, people are starving, and with the encouragement of Umberlee’s priests, they’ll happily kill each other for a scrap of food. Umberlee is one nasty goddess; I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.

All in all, I enjoyed THE REAVER. It’s fun, action-packed, and a good tale. While Stedd’s story concluded at the end of the book, I hope there’s more in store for Anton and Umara.

Socialize with the author:

Richard Lee Byers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Adversary (The Sundering #3) by Erin M. Evans

Book Review: The Adversary (The Sundering #3) by Erin M. EvansThe Adversary by Erin M. Evans
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on December 3, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In the 3rd book of the multi-author SUNDERING series kicked off by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, the award-winning Erin M. Evans throws her signature character Farideh into a maelstrom of devilish politics and magical intrigue. Captured by Netherese agents and locked away in a prison camp, Farideh quickly discovers her fellow prisoners are not simply enemies of Netheril, but people known as Chosen who possess hidden powers, powers that Netheril is eager to exploit—or destroy. As Farideh’s friends and sister race across the landscape on a desperate rescue mission, Farideh is drawn deeper into the mystery of the Netherese plot alongside two undercover Harper agents. But will her closest ally turn out to be an adversary from her past?

Book Review:

THE ADVERSARY is the third book in The Sundering series, and also the third book about tieflings Farideh and Havilar. If you’re new to The Sundering, you don’t need to have read the previous books. If you haven’t read the Brimstone Angel books which introduce Farideh and Havilar, you should be okay to start their tale with THE ADVERSARY. There’s a fair amount of background information on their previous adventures that should fill you in. I did have some confusion in the first half of the book, but that was because I had read BRIMSTONE ANGELS but not LESSER EVILS — I skipped book two — but eventually everything fell into place for me.

Erin M. Evan writes some amazing characters. Farideh is so real. I emphasized with her struggle to protect her sister, as well as her wish to do the right thing. Poor Farideh — every time she tries to do the right thing, she gets herself in more trouble. But that’s what happens when you make a deal with a devil, as Farideh did. Yes, she’s a somewhat reluctant warlock, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s a warlock. And one with an important heritage, which has other devils after her twin Havilar. I really liked that Farideh has such a strong desire to protect Havilar, instead of say, wanting to protect a lover.

All the other characters are just as developed, with their own stories. I’m just going to mention one other: Mehen. Mehen adopted the girls when they were abandoned as babies, and man, you have got to feel for the poor dragonborn. It’s so obvious he cares for both of his daughters, and I can’t imagine his pain when Farideh and Havilar disappear for seven years. Yeah… the twins get put into stasis by a devil for seven years because Farideh didn’t word her bargain clearly enough. Ouch, right? When the girls come back, they jump right into trouble again, leaving Mehen to try and rescue Farideh before she’s captured as an agent of the Shade.

Camps for the Chosen — mortals blessed by the gods — have been mentioned in previous books in the series. THE ADVERSARY takes us into one of those camps. It’s a chance to see how and why the Chosen are important, and what the gods want with them. Because of the deal she made to protect herself and Havilar, Farideh gets mixed up with a wizard in control of a camp. But when she finds out what the wizard is really doing with the Chosen, she tries to stop it … only to have something even worse happen.

THE ADVERSARY has layers upon layers of plot and intrigue, and sometimes I was like, “What the heck is going on? Who are these people?” But around the halfway point, the book started coming together for me, and I went from “Huh?” to “Wow. I didn’t see that coming.” I did find it to be a little long, but that might have been because of my confusion at the start.

The ending of THE ADVERSARY had me going “Wowza!” I’m eagerly looking forward to FIRE IN THE BLOOD (October 2014) so I can see what will happen next with Farideh and Havilar.

Lastly, I kinda love the cover art for the book. Finally a full-length image of Farideh!

Socialize with the author:

Erin M. Evans:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain by Richard Roberts

Book Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain by Richard RobertsPlease Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Super Villain by Richard Roberts
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on February 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Super Hero, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
4 Stars
Penelope Akk wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents. She's got the ultimate mad science power, filling her life with crazy gadgets even she doesn't understand. She has two super powered best friends. In middle school, the line between good and evil looks clear.

In real life, nothing is that clear. All it takes is one hero's sidekick picking a fight, and Penny and her friends are labeled supervillains. In the process, Penny learns a hard lesson about villainy: She's good at it.

Criminal masterminds, heroes in power armor, bottles of dragon blood, alien war drones, shape shifters and ghosts, no matter what the super powered world throws at her, Penny and her friends come out on top. They have to. If she can keep winning, maybe she can clear her name before her mom and dad find out.

Book Review:

Penny Akk can’t wait for her superpower to show up. With a super genius for a father and a mother who can make villains cry with logic, Penny knows she’s going to be a superhero. She’s just too impatient to wait for her power to come on its own, so she helps it along…

…and ends up becoming a supervillain. Not on purpose — Penny’s always dreamed of being a hero. But once she and her friends Claire and Ray are accidentally labeled supervillains, they decide to go with it. They can always change sides later, when the opportunity comes up, so why shouldn’t they have some fun first?

“Fun” is the perfect word to describe PLEASE DON’T TELL MY PARENTS I’M A SUPER VILLAIN. Reading the book was like taking a romp through my fantasy of being a bad guy and being good at it. I had a really good time reading it, and enjoyed pretty much everything about it.

There’s a lot of good stuff, including:

♥The solid friendship between Penny, Claire, and Ray. Penny follows her friends into trouble, and sometimes they follow her. As the mad scientist, she’s their leader, but she doesn’t hold it over them.

♥The relationship between Penny and her parents. Penny’s dad is a tad absentminded, but what else would you expect from a genius inventor? As retired superheroes, Penny’s parents are fully supportive of Penny getting her power, and they’re present but away just enough for Penny to have plenty of adventures.

♥The creativity/hilarity. I think only a kid supervillain would think of creating a weapon out of candy. And only her sidekick would wear bear pajamas as part of her costume.

♥Penny’s smart. I love a smart girl who’s into science and math, one who likes being a mad scientist. She fesses up when she makes mistakes, but is also a thirteen-year-old who keeps some secrets from her parents. I also liked The Machine, Penny’s first invention. For a mechanical gadget, it sure was cute.

My only complaint with the book is that it is long. By the end of it, I felt as though I had read an entire trilogy instead of just one book. Now, that’s good in a way, because I got lots of detail about Penny’s power, her inventions, the other superheroes/supervillains, and everything did wrap up neatly. But I was wondering when the book would end. The chapters were long, which might have contributed to my feeling of the book being long.

Otherwise, though, it’s FUN! In the laughter of Penny herself: AH HA HA HA HA!

Giveaway:

There’s a Goodreads giveaway: Check it out!

And while you’re at it, make sure you check out the other stops on the publisher’s tour for PLEASE DON’T TELL MY PARENTS I’M A SUPER VILLAIN.

About the author:

author richard robertsRichard Roberts has fit into only one category in his entire life, and that is ‘writer’, but as a writer he’d throw himself out of his own books for being a cliche.

He’s had the classic wandering employment history – degree in entomology, worked in health care, been an administrator and labored for years in the front lines of fast food. He’s had the appropriate really weird jobs, like breeding tarantulas and translating English to English for Japanese television. He wears all black, all the time, is manic-depressive, and has a creepy laugh.

He’s also followed the classic writer’s path, the pink slips, the anthology submissions, the desperate scrounging to learn how an ever-changing system works. He’s been writing from childhood, and had the appropriate horrible relationships that damaged his self-confidence for years. Then out of nowhere Curiosity Quills Press demanded he give them his books, and here he is.

As for what he writes, Richard loves children and the gothic aesthetic. Most everything he writes will involve one or the other, and occasionally both. His fantasy is heavily influenced by folk tales, fairy tales, and mythology, and he likes to make the old new again. In particular, he loves to pull his readers into strange characters with strange lives, and his heroes are rarely heroic.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen OakesQueen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts #1
Published by BookSparks on February 14, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 205
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.

***

A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling.

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Review:

QUEEN OF HEARTS is … well, a fantastical journey into Wonderland. It’s whimsical, dark, and more than a little crazy. But what else would you expect from the future Queen of Hearts?

Dinah is stubborn, feisty, and prone to fits of anger. She knows she’ll be queen of Wonderland one day, and she can’t wait for that day, to kick her father off the throne. Beheadings? She can watch them without batting an eye. But if someone’s cruel to her brother, Charles the Mad Hatter, she’ll get them back.

Some of Dinah’s attitude can be attributed to her difficult relationship with her father. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it. The King of Hearts hates his daughter — his heir. So when he introduces an illegitimate daughter to the court, and tells Dinah to accept Vittiore as her new sister, it’s just one more way of showing his dislike for Dinah.

Whatever. When Dinah’s Queen, she’ll put Vittiore and her father in their places. But will she be Queen?

QUEEN OF HEARTS is a delightfully quirky book. At first the amount of detail on Wonderland is almost overwhelming, but you get used to it quickly. And as a reader who loves to dive into new worlds, I really appreciated all the touches, little and big, that the author put into Wonderland. The snow is pink. Tarts are a favored delicacy. The palace is an architectural wonder, surrounded by an iron wall made of hearts. There’s so much creativity in this book. I will say that if you’re having trouble getting into the book, give it about 30 or 40 pages, and then it really gets going.

At 205 pages, QUEEN OF HEARTS is a short but packed read. Dinah grows quite a bit; by the end, she’s not the same spoiled princess she was in the beginning. I think I liked Dinah so much was because her reactions were real to me. When presented with a new sister and told to love her, Dinah’s like, “I hate her. I’m never talking to her,” and she doesn’t. And though she’s a princess, she’s still nervous (but also kind of confident) when interacting with her crush.

Aside from Dinah, there are lots of other interesting characters, including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, and even the King of Hearts himself. They’re sympathetic and creepy by turn. The ending sped by, and I really want to get my hands on volume two, so I can find out what happens to Dinah and another of my favorite characters, Morte the Hornhoov. I also can’t wait to see Dinah say, “Off with their heads!” and mean it.

I’m not super familiar with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so I probably missed a couple of connections, but there’s plenty here that even the casual reader will recognize from Lewis Carroll’s classic. I love books that are about villains, and I can’t wait to see what else will happen to Dinah to turn her into the Queen of Hearts. Alice isn’t in this book, but I’d rather have Dinah. The villains are always so much more interesting!

Lastly, check out that cover! It’s perfect for this book. There are so many nice touches, from the silhouette of the queen in the title to the heart card to the princess overlooking Wonderland.

Let’s talk about it:

I have a chance to interview the author of QUEEN OF HEARTS. Do you have any questions for her?

Socialize with the author:

Colleen Oakes:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer Comeaux

Book Review: Fighting for the Edge (Edge #3) by Jennifer ComeauxFighting for the Edge by Jennifer Comeaux
Series: Edge #3
Published by Astraea Press on November 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Sports
Pages: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Two friends. Two dreams. One night that changes everything…

Ice dancer Aubrey London scoffs at romance. She’s focused on winning a medal at the upcoming Olympics and uses that as her excuse to avoid serious relationships. But when she and longtime friend Chris Grayden are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, Aubrey finds herself questioning everything she's ever known about love, complicating her life both on and off the ice.

Pairs skater Emily Petrov embraces romance. She and her husband Sergei still act like honeymooners two years after their wedding. As Emily’s coach, Sergei provides constant support while she prepares to challenge for gold at the Olympics. But Sergei’s support might not be enough to help Emily overcome the one challenge she never saw coming.

With the Games only weeks away, Emily and Aubrey are on the verge of realizing their dreams. But one snowy, stormy night sets in motion a series of events that will test them in ways they never imagined, giving them more to fight for than Olympic medals.

Today on the blog tour for FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE by Jennifer Comeaux. The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out all the stops here. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review.

Book Review:

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE is the third and last book in the Edge trilogy. However, it stands alone quite well, and you don’t have to have read the other two for this one to make sense. It follows figure skaters Emily and Aubrey on their journey to the Olympics. There’s plenty of skating and romance, and I’d say it’s the perfect book to read if you’re looking for more figure skating or Olympic action.

Emily plans to retire after the Olympics, and so this is her and her partner Chris’s last chance for a gold medal in pairs figure skating. Guided by her coach and husband, Sergei, they’re ready to conquer the world … until the unexpected happens. I’m not going to say what happens, but I liked how Emily handled the challenge, refusing to give up something she had worked most of her life for. Her relationship with Sergei was portrayed realistically; it was good to see a couple after marriage without them fighting or ready to break up.

Aubrey also plans to retire from ice dancing after the Olympics. For the majority of her career, she’s sworn off romance, not wanting it to get in the way of her dreams. But when she and Chris end up sharing an apartment, she starts to question herself. Chris is such a great guy: sweet, caring, nerdy, athletic… really, the list goes on and on. I laughed when he asked who would win in a showdown: Tweety Bird or Chewbacca. Aubrey’s dislike of romance and relationships is strongly influenced by her parents’ relationship, and I thought she worked through that realistically. Not always in the most logical way, but that’s real.

The book does switch between Emily’s first person perspective and Aubrey’s third person, which is a tad confusing at the start. I liked Aubrey’s voice, and so I would have also liked her sections to be told from her POV, which would have made the switch between the two girls less jarring. I also would have liked more of Aubrey and her partner’s routines described, so I could have gotten a better feel for ice dancing. But those are my only complaints.

FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE was a feel good book for me. I had fun reading it, and was immersed in the characters and their quest for perfection on the ice. Although I haven’t read the rest of the series, I wasn’t lost at all, and now I want to go back and read Emily and Sergei’s story from the beginning. I felt like the author really knew what she was talking about with figure skating, and I really liked that there was so much of it in the book! Sometimes books that are about sports barely mention the sport, so I was happy to see skating actually have a lot of page time in the book.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest is void where prohibited. Entrants must be 13 or else have parent or guardian’s permission to enter. Winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner’s name will be selected. Winning entries will be verified for authenticity.

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

jennifer comeaux authorJennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers! Visit jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com for contact information and to learn more about her books.
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FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE buy links: Amazon | B&N
LIFE ON THE EDGE: Amazon | Goodreads
EDGE OF THE PAST: Amazon | Goodreads

– leeanna

Book Review: Night Owls (Night Owls #1) by Lauren M. Roy

Book Review: Night Owls (Night Owls #1) by Lauren M. RoyNight Owls by Lauren M. Roy
Series: Night Owls #1
Published by Ace on February 25, 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Night Owls book store is the one spot on campus open late enough to help out even the most practiced slacker. The employees’ penchant for fighting the evil creatures of the night is just a perk….

Valerie McTeague’s business model is simple: provide the students of Edgewood College with a late-night study haven and stay as far away from the underworld conflicts of her vampire brethren as possible. She’s lived that life, and the price she paid was far too high to ever want to return.

Elly Garrett hasn’t known any life except that of fighting the supernatural werewolf-like beings known as Creeps or Jackals. But she always had her mentor and foster father by her side—until he gave his life protecting a book that the Creeps desperately want to get their hands on.

When the book gets stashed at Night Owls for safe keeping, those Val holds nearest and dearest are put in mortal peril. Now Val and Elly will have to team up, along with a mismatched crew of humans, vampires, and lesbian succubi, to stop the Jackals from getting their claws on the book and unleashing unnamed horrors….

Book Review:

The idea behind NIGHT OWLS is genius. A vampire running a late-night book store for college students? Sign me up, because those are two things that go together perfectly.

NIGHT OWLS is the first in a new urban fantasy series. And it’s urban fantasy all the way — there are no swoony heroes to fall in love with. Or, in my case, want to slap — which is why I loved that the characters focused on kicking butt, taking names, and doing their thing.

Val, the owner of Night Owls book store, is a vampire who likes the quiet life. Elly is an orphan raised by the member of a secret brotherhood, and she likes nothing more than a good fight and killing Jackals. When their paths collide, Val is drawn back into a life she thought she’d put behind her, and Elly learns that trusting others isn’t such a bad thing.

One of the things I liked most about NIGHT OWLS was the worldbuilding/creature mythology. Roy’s vampires are real vampires: they can’t go out in sunlight, can’t eat or drink human food, and need blood to survive. No sparkling here. Val has a Renfield, Chaz, to do the things she can’t during the day, and to be her servant when the old world vamps show up. The Jackals are sort of like werewolves; they are creepy and disgusting. Add in warlock magic, secret brotherhoods of monster fighters, and two lesbian succubi, and you’ve got quite a combination.

NIGHT OWLS is a solid debut. When one of Val’s employees, innocent human Justin, gets something the Jackals want, Val does everything possible to keep him safe. In the process, there’s lots of action and danger. Characters get hurt. Creepy stuff happens. I wasn’t sure how Val and the others would get out of their predicament, and while I’m not going to spoil the ending, I will say that I am super pleased the author didn’t take any easy or predictable routes.

I did feel a bit disconnected from the book, because for some reason, I was expecting Val to be the only main character. Once I realized that Val and Elly are BOTH main characters, the book gelled for me. Aside from Val and Elly, there are a couple of other characters, but they were all developed enough to feel unique. I particularly enjoyed Sunny and Lia, and I’d sort of like a novella about the two of them.

If, like me, you’re tired of romance overtaking the buttkicking, I’d recommend NIGHT OWLS. I’m eager to see what the author has in store next for these characters.

Socialize with the author:

Lauren M. Roy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Book Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth ClarkFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on October 22, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
4 Stars
From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy's razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

Book Review:

I’m not a fan of verse novels, because I just can’t read poetry or anything resembling it, but I took a chance with FREAKBOY, and wow, am I glad I did. If you’re considering checking this book out, try to read it in one setting. I think it packs the biggest punch that way, because you’re really immersed in the narratives of Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel.

FREAKBOY is mainly Brendan’s story, showing the confusion and pain he feels at being different, and the struggle of trying to hide those feelings. Brendan’s not sure what wanting to be a girl means … he doesn’t want to wear skirts, but he’s envious of Rapunzel and her long, long hair. He likes sex with his girlfriend, so he’s not gay … right?

Brendan’s passages are accompanied by ones from Vanessa, his girlfriend, and Angel, a transgender girl who volunteers at an LGBTQ center for youth. Vanessa’s narrative gave me the chance to see Brendan’s confusion from the other side, as Vanessa really does love him, and is hurt and confused herself when Brendan starts pulling away from her. Angel was my favorite, though. I loved how confident she is in herself, and how positive she is, even though she’s been through some terrible stuff.

I also want to give the author a shoutout for using World of Warcraft as a way for Brendan to be his true self. Video games also provide a way for Brendan and Angel to bond, and to show Brendan that maybe he isn’t a freak.

“Virtual me has long legs,
blue hair,
a killer body.
It’s as close as I can get
to being a girl.

I’m Larissa.
I’m Larissa and
I can kick ass
and I can lose myself
in the anonymous world
of online gaming (p. 206).”

FREAKBOY doesn’t give a lot of concrete answers, which is usually something that bugs me. I’m the type of reader that wants an answer and conclusion to everything, but here, I didn’t mind the open-endedness. It fit the style of the book, and gives readers something to think about. I think it’s an important book, because while the number gay and lesbian YA books is slowly increasing, there are not as many trans books.

Socialize with the author:

Kristin Elizabeth Clark:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. ExleyHatshepsut's Collar by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #2
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on November 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Loving you is easy, it's living with you that's killing me."

An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that's not top of Cara Devon's growing list of problems.

Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate's revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.

Although sorely tempted, Cara can't let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.

Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut's Collar from around the queen's neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

Book Review:

Last year, NEFERTITI’S HEART was a book I enjoyed a lot. It’s a quirky, unique book, blending steampunk and Egyptian mythology along with romance and adventure. When I read it in April 2013, I wasn’t sure if it was the start of a series or a standalone, so I was quite pleased to see HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR come out this year. I couldn’t wait to join Cara and Nate on their next adventure.

And boy, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR is one hell of a ride. The book starts about six weeks after the events of NEFERTITI’S HEART, and doesn’t waste too much time recapping the past. I don’t think you need to have read book one to be able to read this book, but you’ll have a better understanding of Cara and Nate’s relationship if you’ve already read NEFERTITI’S HEART.

That fledgling relationship is put to the test when Nate drops a gigantic bombshell on Cara (really, I wanted to take his head off myself). But before Cara react, Queen Victoria’s troops arrest Nate for high treason. Even though she’s tempted to let Nate rot in the Tower, Cara has to help rescue him, because if he dies, so does she, thanks to the bond they have through the Nefertiti’s Heart artifact. Another Egyptian artifact is influencing the queen, the Hatshepsut’s Collar of the book’s title, driving her towards worldwide conquest.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes Cara and Nate from England to Russia as they try to clear his name. I really enjoyed the glimpses of the author’s version of St. Petersburg, as well as two new characters, Nikolai and Natalie, acquaintances of Nate’s. They, as well as Loki the air pirate, provided amusement and seriousness, as needed. There’s a good dash of humor amongst the more dangerous moments. There’s nothing like laughing just before or even while characters are charging into danger. I mean, where else can you imagine a pirate blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as he attacks the Tower of London in an airship?

Cara spends a lot of the book wondering if she should stay with Nate, as she’s tired of him hiding things from her, including Very Big Secrets that impact her too. Even so, they don’t hold back on the physical side of their relationship; they have a lot of sex. I wish those scenes had been more consistent, because some were more explicit than others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one or two pulled me out of the story. Until I got to the middle half, that is, where the action really picked up. Then there wasn’t as much time for shenanigans between the sheets, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I did like that Cara thought a lot about Nate and their relationship, and just didn’t forgive him off the bat.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes everything I enjoyed in NEFERTITI’S HEART, from the world to the action, to kick butt Cara to scene-stealing Loki, and builds upon it. The book is a fun romp through a steampunked London and St. Petersburg, and the ending promises more such adventures for Cara and Nate. Definitely recommended, especially if you want some romance along with your steampunk and mystery.

Socialize with the author:

A.W. Exley:
Website
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Twitter

– leeanna