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

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. CarlesonThe Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on February 11, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

Book Review:

I started reading THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER while I was waiting on an appointment. I got so into the book that I barely noticed I ended up waiting for over two hours. I was almost disappointed to go to the appointment, because by that point, I would rather have kept reading!

Laila doesn’t know what’s true or false anymore. There, in an unknown third world country, she was raised as royalty. Her father was the king, and her younger brother the prince. Here, she lives in a tiny apartment outside of Washington D.C. with her mother and brother, rescued by the U.S. government after her father was killed in a coup. THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is her story of discovering what really happened there, how it affects what happens here, and what her future is.

On one hand, the book is an easy read, full of American experiences from prom to making out in cars to Starbucks trips. But don’t let that fool you, because Laila’s story is much deeper than that. Yes, she has more freedom than she’s ever had, and is getting to do things she never would have done there, but is the cost of that freedom worth the truth? Is it worth learning that your father was actually a dictator, and that dissenters were tortured under his rule?

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is a book that made me think, and Laila’s story will stay with me for a while. I think the book does a really good job exploring the power of one person, and how decisions big and small can influence events. My only criticism, and the reason I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars, is that I almost missed the big twist. I understand why it was written the way it was, but I wish more time had been paid to the big event, considering some of the detail that went into less important passages. At the end, I was a bit confused and wanted to know exactly what happened, and what might happen in the future.

Socialize with the author:

J.C. Carleson:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
Published by Touchstone on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
In this witty, sexy tale, an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets.At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.

Book Review:

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Maxwell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1) by Jill Archer

Book Review: Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1) by Jill ArcherDark Light of Day by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #1
Published by Ace on September 25, 2012
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
4 Stars
Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, and the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, the daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret: She was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of, and some would consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or to attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

dark light of day book blitz

Today as part of the blitz (hosted by Bewitching Book Tours) for DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL by Jill Archer, I have a review of the first book, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, and check back here in the next few days, because I’ll have reviews of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL and WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE.

Book Review:

The first in the Noon Onyx series, DARK LIGHT OF DAY is a paranormal/urban fantasy set at in a demon law school. Yup, you read that right. Noon is studying to be a Maegester, a demon peacekeeper/lawyer/executioner when necessary. Armageddon is over. The demons won, they rule Halja, and they love rules.

Women of the Host are Mederi healers, men are Maegester destroyers. But something went wrong with Noon and her twin brother, Night. She’s kept her waning magic a secret her entire life, but when her mother sends an application to St. Lucifer’s, the best demon law school, Noon can’t keep her secret any longer. Maegesters can feel each other’s magical signatures, and if she doesn’t admit what she is, she’ll die for not telling the truth. Demons don’t like waste.

Noon is an interesting character. She doesn’t want to destroy anything or work with demons, but because she has waning magic, she doesn’t have a choice about her future. Emotionally, she’s all over the place: sometimes strong, sometimes insecure. There were a few times I wanted to shake her, but overall, I found her realistic for a twenty-one year old. It was great to see her grow over the course of the book.

The beginning of DARK LIGHT OF DAY does dump a lot of information, but after I got past that, I didn’t put the book down until I finished it. I thought the setting was super creative — the world hasn’t ended with Armageddon. People pay taxes, work, go to school, and oh yeah, offer tribute to the appropriate demon. I also liked St. Lucifer’s; I tend to like books set at schools, so I liked the descriptions of Noon’s classes and student life.

The only part of the book that I didn’t like were the romantic interests, Peter and Ari. Peter is Noon’s best friend, an Angel who has promised to help her find a way to get rid of her waning magic. Ari is a fellow Maegester and student at St. Lucifer’s. Both like Noon for different reasons, and she likes them, but isn’t sure where her future lies. I thought they were both jerks in their own way, and didn’t see any chemistry between them and Noon.

Other than Peter and Ari, I really enjoyed DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Noon next, and what other demons she’ll have to deal with.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

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.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

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.

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– leeanna