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:
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– 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.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine HarbourThorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
Series: Night and Nothing #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 24, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
They call us things with teeth.

These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town's mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack's air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister's journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack's family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack's family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose's untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister's suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Book Review:

Before I start my review of THORN JACK, I should say I wasn’t super familiar with the tale it’s based on, Tam Lin. THORN JACK is a modern retelling, but I don’t think you need to know Tam Lin in order to enjoy this book.

THORN JACK is a lush, detailed, atmospheric dive into the supernatural. It’s a book I want to reread so I can enjoy all the little details and descriptions the author wove into the story. I was sad when I finished THORN JACK, because I knew I’d miss the creepy, dark atmosphere and the dangerous faeries. I am really looking forward to the next two Night and Nothing books so I can spend more time in this world.

When the book starts, Finn is almost … bland. It’s like she’s sleepwalking through life until she meets the mysterious Jack. I admit, I did think of TWILIGHT, but I didn’t get that vibe for long. Finn’s detachedness makes sense, because she’s mourning her older sister. Lily Rose killed herself, but Finn doesn’t know why. Only as she settles into her new town, finds new friends, and learns more about Jack, does Finn start to “wake up.” She also starts to wonder about Lily Rose, and what really happened.

But she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and neither is the reader. There are concerts in the woods and parties in abandoned hotels attended by boys with antlers, ghosts, and mythical creatures. There are a lot of characters in THORN JACK, maybe too many, but I thought they added to the lush feeling of the book. Reiko Fata was one of my favorite characters, but then, I tend to like evil, dark women, and she’s that and more. I enjoyed all the bits of Reiko’s backstory, and honestly, I could have read a book just about her. I also liked Finn’s friends, Christie and Sylvie. They bond very quickly, which I found a bit unrealistic, but I liked how they were there for each other, willing to help Finn even when she was doing something dangerous or stupid.

Reading THORN JACK was mostly an experience for me. Looking back, there are some things I question and criticize, but overall, I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it. I kept wanting to skip ahead to see what would happen next, and I found myself turning the pages way too quickly. This would be a great book to read around Hallowe’en, both because Hallowe’en plays an important role in the story and because of the general feeling of the season.

Formatting wise, I wish the glossary of “Fata Terms” had been at the beginning of the book, because I didn’t even know there was a glossary. The words (look like Gaelic?) aren’t used that often, but it would have been helpful to know what they meant.

Socialize with the author:

Katherine Harbour:
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– leeanna

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 346
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.

Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

Book Review:

In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.

I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.

If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.

At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.

The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.

Socialize with the author:

Paddy Eger:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers TordayThe Last Wild by Piers Torday
Series: The Last Wild #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Book Review:

THE LAST WILD is a whimsical tale, the story of a boy discovering his voice. It reminded me a little of THE LITTLE PRINCE,, maybe because of the cover and chapter heading illustrations, and because like that book, THE LAST WILD can be read on different levels. It’s one for both kids and adults.

Twelve-year-old Kester lives in a world where there are no animals. They were killed by the mysterious red-eye virus, all except cockroaches and the like. Kester hasn’t talked for six years, and he’s surprised as anyone when he hears a voice in his room one night. Only … the voice is in his head, and it’s coming from a cockroach.

Thus starts Kester’s journey to rescue the last animals left alive. Kester has a gift: the ability to talk and listen to animals. Carried by pigeons to The Last Wild, he reluctantly agrees to help the last remaining animals find a cure for red-eye. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, friendship, humans, and animals.

THE LAST WILD is a magical book. The different animals accompanying Kester, from the stag to the wolf-cub to the pigeons to the cockroach all had their own personalities and stories. There’s lots of humor, but also lots of sadness. The author brought all of them to life for me. When I turned the last page of the book, I wished I could get my hands on the next one, because I have got to find out what happens next to Kester and everyone. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, because much of the story is wrapped up, but there’s still some problems to face.

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
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– leeanna

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. CameronUnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron
Published by Self-Published on July 10, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Blair Walton isn't your average curvaceous tattooed children's librarian. She's also one half of bestselling romance author, Scarlet Rose. Along with her BFF Raine, she spends her nights writing books so steamy, she's afraid they would shock her Southern conservative grandmother to death . . . if she knew about them. That's why she and Raine write in secret.

On deadline for their latest book and out of ideas, Raine suggests (demands) that Blair find a guy and "do some research." Declan Bennet has all the qualifications: He's British, looks fabulous in a suit, has glorious blue eyes and gets bonus points for being an amazing single dad to his adorable son, Drake. But what starts out as a research project quickly turns into something much more. And Blair's not the only one with secrets.

unwritten blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for UNWRITTEN by Chelsea M. Cameron. The tour is hosted by Inkslinger PR. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

Book Review:

Romance isn’t typically my genre of choice, but sometimes a book grabs my attention, usually because of the author or summary. The idea behind UNWRITTEN is what pulled me in: Blair is a children’s librarian by day, and an author by night. She and her best friend, Raine, write steamy novels together.

UNWRITTEN starts off with this sentence: “What’s another word for [ladyparts]?” (My edit). You can’t go wrong with a book that starts like that!

As a wannabe author, I couldn’t want to dive into Blair’s secret life. She and Raine are having trouble with their current work in progress. They’re under deadline stress, but are stuck. Convinced they need fresh inspiration, Raine pushes Blair to date the cute, single dad that’s started bringing his son to the library. But what’s supposed to be a simple fling soon turns into something more. But are Blair and Declan ready for that something more?

I read UNWRITTEN as just the right time: I needed book that would cheer me up, make me feel good while I was reading. I blazed through it in a few hours, and wanted my own Declan when I finished. The romance between Blair and Declan is swoon-worthy, and I don’t say that very often. Declan was a great love interest, romantic and considerate, and oh yeah, amazing in bed. I don’t like kids, but his son was adorable, and I laughed when Blair thought about how to turn him into an even better reader.

I also liked the super strong friendship between Blair and Raine. Come to think of it, I’d like my own Raine, too. They often joked that they were platonic life partners, because they were always there for each other, and because they knew each other so well. The banter between them, especially when they were writing or brainstorming, reminded me of myself and a writing buddy. I was also happy that the author put so much of writing into UNWRITTEN — from writer’s block to deadline stress to constantly coming up with new ideas to having characters talk inside your head. Yup.

There’s a lot of humor in UNWRITTEN, as well as tons of pop culture and music references. But it’s not all fun and games, as Blair does have to deal with an unexpected tragedy. I loved seeing Raine and Declan stand by her, offering support and reassuring her that not everyone reacts the same to bad things.

I would have liked to see a bit more of the happily ever after, but overall, I quite enjoyed UNWRITTEN. It’s a stand-a-lone, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a novella about Blair and Declan, or a book for Raine, as I’m sure she has her own story to tell.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Chelsea M. Cameron is a YA/NA New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. Lover of things random and ridiculous, Jane Austen/Charlotte and Emily Bronte Fangirl, red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car and tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman). She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Her New Adult Contemporary Romance titles include My Favorite Mistake, which has been bought by Harlequin along with a sequel, Deeper We Fall and Faster We Burn (April 20, 2013).

Her Young Adult books include Nocturnal, Nightmare and Neither, the first three books in The Noctalis Chronicles. The fourth and final book, Neverend will be out in 2013. Whisper, the first in The Whisper Trilogy is also available, with the second book in the series, Silence and the final book, Listen coming out in 2014.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

Book Review: The Bone Church by Victoria DoughertyThe Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty
Published by Pier's Court Press on April 15, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Thriller
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

bone church blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE BONE CHURCH by Victoria Dougherty. It’s a historical thriller set during the Cold War and WWII.

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

Book Review:

THE BONE CHURCH is my kind of historical fiction. Beautifully written with compelling characters, an intriguing, twisty plotline, and full of historical details. I love it when a book interests me enough in the subject matter to make me want to learn alllllll about what I’m reading. For example — Google “the Bone Church.” I bet the pictures you see will make you want to read this book, especially once I tell you there’s a very important part of the book set in the Bone Church.

THE BONE CHURCH seamlessly melds two timelines together, 1956 and 1943-1944. In both times, Felix and Magdalena are trying to escape Czechoslovakia, from the Germans and then from the Soviets. In 1943, Felix accidentally gets caught up in an attempt to assassinate Josef Goebbels. In 1956, he’s a Jesuit working with a corrupt cardinal to smuggle people out of Soviet controlled countries. In both times, Felix’s goal is to rescue Magdalena.

The whole time I was reading THE BONE CHURCH, I had no idea what was going to happen next. I always enjoy that, because it’s no fun to predict the end before you finish the book. The author continually surprised me with every twist and turn. She also made me feel like I was right there, hiding behind Felix’s shoulder, waiting for the next spat of gunfire. The author didn’t shy away from describing the worst of humanity and living conditions, but in a way that left you with a tiny bit of hope. Aside from feeling like I was in war torn Czechoslovakia, I also felt the paranoia of everyone involved, not knowing who to trust, and of having no choice but to trust, to put your life in someone else’s hands.

The book is gritty and dark, maybe even hard to read at times because Felix and Magdalena face overwhelming odds and incredibly dangerous situations. But along with the spark of hope that runs through the book, Felix has some angelic help. While some of the religious aspects probably went over my head, I thought everything tied together really well. I do wish the ending had more on what Felix and Magdalena face in the future, but looking back, I can’t really imagine a different ending.

About the author:

author victoria doughertyVictoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Buy links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | Book Depository | IndieBound

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– leeanna

Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Book Review: Life in Motion by Misty CopelandLife in Motion by Misty Copeland
Published by Touchstone on March 4, 2014
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Picture a ballerina in a tutu and toe shoes. What does she look like?"

As the only African American soloist dancing with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has made history. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, anxious thirteen-year-old to become a ground-breaking ballerina.

When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider's unique point of view, Misty opens a window into the life of a professional ballerina who lives life center stage: from behind the scenes at her first auditions to her triumphant roles in some of the most iconic ballets. But in this beautifully written memoir, she also delves deeper to reveal the desire and drive that made her dreams reality.

Life in Motion is a story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

Book Review:

Before reading LIFE IN MOTION, I had never heard of Misty Copeland. But I’m always on the lookout for ballet books, especially books by dancers, so I dove in eagerly. I finished the book in a day, and found it easy to read and interesting. In other words, I’m now happy I know who Misty Copeland is, because she’s had quite the life, and I’ll follow her career in the future.

Misty didn’t come from the typical ballet background. In fact, she didn’t take a ballet class until she was in middle school. She’d always loved dancing and was the captain of the middle school drill team, but ballet? Nah. By fifteen, Misty was considered a prodigy in the ballet world, and had been offered scholarships by top ballet schools. Around the same time, Misty was in the middle of a legal battle between her mother and ballet teacher; the teacher had encouraged Misty to file for self-emancipation to move forward in her ballet career, but Misty’s mother fought to keep her.

Misty’s story is almost like a fairy tale. Only the third African American to be promoted to soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, she came from a life of poverty and struggle. At one point, she and her siblings lived in a motel. She’s had to overcome racism, both subtle and overt, as well as body changes and injuries. Throughout the book, she has a pretty positive attitude about everything, rarely succumbing to pity. It was rather inspiring to read.

I do feel like this book was written early in Misty’s career, because I’m sure she’ll eventually be promoted to a principal dancer. However, I was never bored during LIFE IN MOTION, and really enjoyed reading Misty’s journey.

Socialize with the author:

Misty Copeland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh JohnsonThe Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 25, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Steampunk
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Book Review:

THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY is a fun middle-grade fantasy, full of action, steampunk goodness, and great characters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours, all the while wishing I read more slowly so I could enjoy it for longer. As far as I know, it’s a standalone, but I do hope there’s enough interest to turn it into a series because I adored Piper and Anna, and the world they live in.

Thirteen-year-old Piper is an orphan, making a living as a scrapper and by fixing the finds of others. In her world, meteor showers bring objects from other lands. Scrap towns have sprung up around the meteor fields, but scrapping isn’t really enough to make a living. Piper’s father went to the machine factory in Noveen to try and make a better life for them both, but lost his own in the attempt.

So Piper lives by her brains and mechanical abilities, until the day she rescues a mysterious girl from a meteor shower. Anna has no memory of who she is or where she came from, but does have a dragonfly tattoo — the mark of the Dragonfly — which shows she’s under the protection of the Dragonfly king. But when a dangerous man comes after Anna, she and Piper flee on the 401, a train which travels between both lands.

I loved almost everything about THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, from Piper and Anna to the writing to the story itself. Piper is a great main character, a great role model. I loved that she was talented with machinery, fiercely loyal, and, well, scrappy. At one point she thinks of Anna as only a way to a better future, of the reward she’ll get from the king for rescuing her, but once truths about Anna’s past are revealed, Piper realizes that she values Anna more as a person than a source of money. Anna herself was a fun mystery to untangle.

The writing was nice and smooth, very readable. At times I did think Piper was a little mature for her age, but I could see that maturity coming from losing her father as well as her practical nature. There also was a hint of romance I could have done without, but it didn’t really go beyond crushing and acknowledging feelings, so I didn’t mind it too much.

The story in THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY took a different angle than I expected — based on the beginning of the book, I thought it would be about the meteor showers and the scrap fields, but the book really takes off after Piper and Anna get on the 401. The plot is mainly concerned with the mystery of Anna’s origins as well as getting her to safety. I do wish there had been more about the meteor showers because that really intrigued me, but hopefully that will come up in a sequel. :)

I also want to give a quick mention to Piper’s father. Although he’s dead at the start of the book, the love he had for his daughter, and the support he gave her, was very apparent. I liked that Piper did little things to keep his memory alive, such as keeping the drawings he sent her and wearing his old coat.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. The book sucked me in, much like Anna’s plight sucked Piper into an unexpected, life-changing adventure.

Socialize with the author:

Jaleigh Johnson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Fiery Edge of Steel (Noon Onyx #2) by Jill Archer

Book Review: Fiery Edge of Steel (Noon Onyx #2) by Jill ArcherFiery Edge of Steel by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #2
Published by Ace on May 28, 2013
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
4 Stars
Lucifer and his army triumphed at Armageddon, leaving humans and demons living in uncertain peace based on sacrifice and strict laws. It is up to those with mixed demon and human blood, the Host, to prevent society from falling into anarchy.

Noon Onyx is the first female Host in memory to wield the destructive waning magic that is used to maintain order among the demons. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious Angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways.

When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, a task which will most likely involve trying and killing the patron demon of that area, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

Book Review:

The second book in the Noon Onyx series, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL picks up Noon’s story just after book one, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. At the start of the book, Noon and her boyfriend Ari are at a Carne Vale: a demon execution. But Noon, still uncomfortable with the thought of killing demons, isn’t thrilled about having to participate. She doesn’t want to kill a demon just because she’s been told he’s guilty. She wants to know he’s guilty for herself.

In this installment in the series, Noon becomes more comfortable and accepting of her waning powers. It’s great to see her continue to evolve as a character. I like how realistic Noon is. Sometimes she won’t do something she knows she should do, because she’s in a bad mood or doesn’t feel like it. But eventually she’ll get over herself and do it. We’ve all had moments like that, right? Those moments tend to lead to more trouble for Noon, but she deals with whatever comes up.

For me, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL read smoother than the first book because there’s not as much information or worldbuilding needed. I think I read about a third of it before I knew it. This book isn’t set at St. Luck’s, because Noon’s client assignment for the semester takes her out into Halja proper. It was a good way to see how others live in Halja, especially “normal” humans who are just trying to eke out a living.

Much of the book is set during a journey down the river Lethe, which did slow down the middle of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL. However, two new characters are introduced in this book: Rafe, Noon’s Angel, and Fara, Ari’s Angel. Maegesters work with Angel partners. It was nice to see an angel other than Peter (I wasn’t a big fan of him in book one), and nice to see how the Angel side of things works. Rafe was like a breath of fresh air amongst the usually stuffy Angels, and I enjoyed his dry witticisms.

Overall, I enjoyed FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, since it shows more of the demon negotiations and trickery Maegesters are expected to deal with.

About the author:

author jill archerJill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
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– leeanna