Book Review: The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

Book Review: The Dungeoneers by John David AndersonThe Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
Series: Dungeoneers #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on June 23, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Dungeoneers is an action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking middle grade fantasy-adventure from the author of the acclaimed Sidekicked and Minion, John David Anderson.

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.

Book Review:

THE DUNGEONEERS has a healthy helping of Dungeons and Dragons, a dash of Harry Potter, and a heaping spoonful of humor and fun. I ate this book up like candy — it was much better than the endless stew served at Thwodin’s Legion.

Colm Canderly has eight sisters who love to torment him (but they love him, too). But that’s not the worst of his problems. He’s from a poor family, and no matter how much cobbling work his father does, there’s never enough to go around. So one day, he decides to lift the purses of wealthy men … just to help the family, of course … but discovers he has a real talent for thievery. Naturally, his honest father isn’t happy, and insists Colm give the money back.

Enter Finn. A member of Thwodin’s Legion, a premiere dungeoning guild, Finn recognizes Colm’s talent, and offers him the opportunity of a lifetime. What twelve-year-old boy wouldn’t jump at the chance to make lots of gold, fight orcs, and get his name out there? At the guild hall, Colm is teamed up with his party, consisting of Lena the Barbarian (who faints at the sight of her own blood), Quinn the Mage (who stutters when he’s nervous, casting unpredictable spells), and Serene the Druid (who’s scared of animals with lots of teeth). They must learn to work together, balancing each others’ strengths and weaknesses, to survive in orc-infested, trap-laden dungeons.

THE DUNGEONEERS was a treat to read. A funny, well-written, fantastical middle grade book great for kids and adults. I do think it’s a tad long, as there are some chapters without a lot of action or story forwarding. But the characters are all developed — all unique, with their own personalities that expand beyond their party roles. I enjoyed watching their friendship grow, and watching them train together. I appreciated that the author put time into showing how a rogue might practice his skills.

THE DUNGEONEERS is the perfect book for when you can’t find someone to play D&D with, or when you want to escape into a dungeon and come out with storybook gold without dodging boring orc traps!

Socialize with the author:

John David Anderson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. ExleyMoseh's Staff by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #4
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on May 18, 2015
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 295
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
All things must come to an end…

London is in the frozen grip of an unnatural winter and Queen Victoria wants answers. Cara and Nate know who – the Curator. The queen's artifact hunters just don't know what is responsible. Cara is on the trail of an ancient and powerful artifact capable of freezing a city and stirring demons. First she must confront her past and her father's history. Only in learning why her father became a disciple of the Curator can she hope to learn what the old noble seeks and why he is so fascinated by her.

Then tragedy strikes and the bond forged by Nefertiti's Heart is severed. Nate without Cara succumbs to his darkness and he lashes out at those he holds responsible for her loss. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Inspector Fraser waits for his opportunity to pull down the man known as the villainous viscount.

With London entombed in ice and all hope lost, could this be the end…

moseh's staff blog tour

Publisher Curiosity Quills is having a month long review tour to celebrate their May releases. You can check out all the stops. I’m reviewing MOSEH’S STAFF, the last book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. I’ve reviewed all the books in the series: NEFERTITI’S HEART, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR, and NERO’S FIDDLE.

Book Review:

MOSEH’S STAFF is the fourth book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described the series as quirky and unique. A good blend of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, mythology, and steampunk. These descriptions hold true with MOSEH’S STAFF, which is sadly the last book in the series. I’m sad to see the end of Cara and Nate, but I do like how the author finished everything.

As Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Nate and Cara must figure out what artifact is causing endless winter and misery in London. It’s April, but the Thames is frozen. London is the only area affected, and Victoria’s not very happy about it. Cara and Nate have a good idea of who is behind events — the Curator — but how to stop him is a different question. How do you stop a man who bleeds water instead of blood?

The hunt becomes even more personal when the Curator reveals his intentions to take Cara as his own, severing the bond of Nefertiti’s Heart that connects her and Nate. I love Cara and Nate together, but it was great to see Nate on his own as well. The author showed more of Nate’s darker side, the no holds barred man he was before Cara’s presence in his life. Nate’s the guy I’d want on my side if someone took me, because he stops at nothing to rescue Cara.

There’s a lot of revelations in MOSEH’S STAFF, tying up loose ends from previous books in the series, such as explaining why Cara and Nate fit so perfectly together, or bringing back the dragon from HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR. Many of Cara and Nate’s friends show up in MOSEH’S STAFF (minus Loki, sadface), rallying around Nate to help find Cara. And Cara, kick butt woman that she is, isn’t content to sit back and be rescued. She confronts her own demons in MOSEH’S STAFF while trying to figure out which artifact powers the Curator.

All in all, MOSEH’S STAFF is a satisfying conclusion to the Artifact Hunters series, full of what I loved about the previous books: Cara and Nate, twists on mythology, humor in dark moments, and lots of action.

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life.

She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
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Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos

Book Review: Material Girls by Elaine DimopoulosMaterial Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion. Are you in or are you out?

Book Review:

MATERIAL GIRLS is one of those books that worms itself into your brain, until you start to think, “Hmm, this really could happen.”

In this future world, teens rule. Creative and talented thirteen year olds are Tapped by big businesses, and they spend the next few years creating things, from dresses to video games, for other teens to buy. Trendiness is incredibly important; there are even trendchecker guns that scan an item to see if it’s still in or if it’s out.

Marla is one of those Tapped teens; she’s a judge at Torro-LeBlanc, one of the top five fashion houses. She gets to decide what’s in or out. Ivy, a popstar, helps sell each new trend, since everything she wears is photographed and promoted.

At the start of MATERIAL GIRLS, Marla’s at the peak of her career, but she’s quickly demoted to the very bottom after she disagrees with the people in power. Ivy must maintain her Wilde girl image with nightly clubbing, public makeout sessions with her boyfriend, and even disorderly-conduct arrests arranged by her PR people.

MATERIAL GIRLS is told from both of their perspectives, showing two sides of the system. And it’s quite an interesting system, hinting at how teens with disposable income drive the world. People who don’t get Tapped go onto hold normal jobs and get more schooling, but they’re looked down upon by their creative peers.

I do think the author needed to do a bit more explaining of all these concepts, since I was a lost at the beginning of the book, and even into the middle. Eventually some of them were explained and I pieced the rest together. It’s just my preference to have a solid explanation, especially in such a fascinating world.

The beginning of MATERIAL GIRLS is a little slow, leading into Marla and Ivy questioning their roles in the system. Once they meet, things really get going. They start a new trend, “eco-chic,” which eventually leads to a revolution. Aside from that, the author also uses eco-chic to critique the fashion industry, bringing up the amount of clothing thrown out each year — up to seventy pounds per person. I liked how the author incorporated such information, slyly poking at commercialism and trends and that sort of thing. It really made me think.

MATERIAL GIRLS is a standalone, which is always refreshing in young adult fiction. The book wraps everything up neatly, but leaves the reader with plenty to think about regarding fashion, commercialism, and fame.

Socialize with the author:

Elaine Dimopoulos:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole GibsenLife Unaware Published by Entangled Teen on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Regan Flay has been talking about you.

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother's "plan" for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she's ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.

The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend's hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan's going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn't really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she's barely holding it together under her mom's pressure. But the consequences of Regan's fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched...

Especially Regan Flay.

Book Review:

In my opinion, LIFE UNAWARE is one of Entangled Teen’s best books to date.

When Regan Flay’s nasty texts, emails, and IMs are plastered all over the school, the popular girl plummets to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Regan even faces some of the bullying she’s dished out, insulted and ignored by her friends. At first, Regan tries to face the crisis like her congresswoman mother would, but does she really want to do that? Does she want to act like her mother, who has a suffocating plan for Regan’s success? Or does she want to be herself?

LIFE UNAWARE is a perfect title for this book. Until she’s on the other side, Regan isn’t aware of how her mean comments and actions impact others. And even though she has an anxiety disorder and an overbearing mother, Regan acknowledges there’s no excuse for being a bully. In her own words, “I was just… being an asshole (p. 86).” With the help of Nolan, her former best friend’s brother and fellow outcast, Regan starts to turn her mind around and realize high school is hard enough — she doesn’t need to add to the horribleness.

I do think Regan’s turnaround was a little fast — it happened in about a week. But I really like the message in LIFE UNAWARE, that instead of bullying each other, we should stand up for each other. Say nice things instead of nasty insults. The way Regan realizes this is quite surprising. I won’t spoil it, but I like that whole aspect of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Cole Gibsen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne JohnsonRiver Road by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #2
Published by Tor on November 13, 2012
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 334
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Book Review:

The second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, RIVER ROAD picks up a couple of years after ROYAL STREET. This is an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans with all manners of preternatural creatures from the historical undead to nymphs to mermen and beyond. This is a series that gets better with each book; I recently read number four, PIRATE’S ALLEY, and reading that sent me back into a reread of the whole series.

Drusilla “DJ” Jaco is the Sentinel of New Orleans, and it’s her job to take care of any magical crises. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, the borders that kept preternaturals out of the city have fallen, and rather than put them back up, the wizards are keeping an eye on the situation and seeing what happens. Naturally, plenty happens in RIVER ROAD. DJ has to juggle territorial mers, murdered wizards, and a sudden increase of activity in her personal life.

I enjoyed the author’s take on mermen. They’re not the sexy fish you’d expect them to be — no, Suzanne Johnson’s given them her own spin. I had a good laugh at the “Mer Twin” license plates for Rene and Robert. I really liked Rene’s character: he’s a tough guy, and even though mers traditionally hate wizards, he’s willing to work with DJ to keep his clan from getting sick. And all the time DJ spends with the mers shows off Plaquemines Parish, which is just outside of New Orleans.

The murder mystery aspect of RIVER ROAD was interesting to me; you’ll probably never look at the culprit in the same way again. DJ’s efforts in solving the murders and cleaning up the poisoned water showcases the unique magic system in this series. DJ is a Green Congress wizard, meaning she uses potions and rituals and charms, along with plenty of research.

DJ’s dance card is a bit full in this installment, but romance isn’t the main focus of the series. So I didn’t mind DJ’s dates and diversions with the men in her life, and even better — those relationships often tied into the plot of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne Johnson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Book Review:

Let me say this first: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is one cute book. It gave me warm fuzzies, and very few books do that. I mean, I wanted to find my own Blue and have an email friendship that turns romantic, and I’m not romantic in the slightest.

But at the same time, I don’t want to discount this book by calling it cute, because it’s important, thoughtful, and well-written.

Simon has a secret email friendship with Blue. They go to the same school, but they don’t know each other’s real identity. The distance and safety of email allows Simon and Blue to talk about all sorts of things, from family troubles to being gay and coming out in the South. But when Martin finds Simon’s emails, he blackmails Simon into setting him up with the popular Abby. Simon’s stuck: if he doesn’t help, Martin will post the emails to the school’s Tumblr. What upsets Simon the most is that he might lose Blue’s friendship, since Blue’s so secretive.

I blew through this book in a couple of hours, and I know it’s one I’ll reread at least a few times. Simon is a great character. He has a good relationship with his parents (who are supportive), good friendships with boys and girls (it can be hard to find boy/girl friendships in YA), and he’s realistic. He feels like a real teenage boy. He’s just trying to figure out where he fits in a world that’s constantly changing while juggling a totally adorable and hot relationship with his secret email (boy)friend.

In his own words: “As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever (Chapter 18).”

The relationship between Simon and Blue was my favorite part of the book. There’s actually development, and I loved hearing from both sides thanks to the email format. I very rarely swoon over relationships in books, but I definitely did in this one.

I feel like I should say more, but really, all I want to do is flail about and say, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA now!

Socialize with the author:

Becky Albertalli:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne JohnsonPirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Published by Tor on April 21, 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.

pirate's alley blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for PIRATE’S ALLEY by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. I’ve reviewed two other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series: #1: ROYAL STREET and #3: ELYSIAN FIELDS. After my review of PIRATE’S ALLEY, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

You know how some urban fantasy series start to drag? Well, Sentinels of New Orleans is NOT one of those series. PIRATE’S ALLEY is the fourth book in the series, and I think the author is getting better and better with each installment. Last year, I would have said book three, ELYSIAN FIELDS, was my favorite, but now I think it’s PIRATE’S ALLEY.

PIRATE’S ALLEY picks up a couple of weeks after ELYSIAN FIELDS. There’s enough recap that I wasn’t totally lost, given it’s been a while since I was last in DJ’s world. But I would have preferred a little more, since PIRATE’S ALLEY is much more politically oriented than previous books, and it took me a bit to remember who was who, and why this or that alliance was important.

When I started this series, it irked me when DJ was too rash or continually charged into danger. I love character growth, and boy has DJ grown. In PIRATE’S ALLEY, she shows off that growth: she thinks a lot more than she used to before jumping into a potentially dangerous situation. She thinks about her romantic relationship with Alex, her bonding with Rand, her friendship with Jean Lafitte, and her friendship with Eugenie. All of these different relationships get page time, and they’re all important in their own way.

That’s good, because I think PIRATE’S ALLEY is setting the scene for some serious preternatural action. There’s a lot of political maneuvering in this book as the Interspecies Council tries to find its footing, which isn’t easy, considering practically every prete group is trying to stab another in the back. DJ needs to think first rather than act first, because it’s time for her to consider who deserves her loyalty. But don’t worry, she’s still the same snarky, devoted, talented DJ that she’s always been. And she still charges into danger sometimes.

Usually I can take or leave romance, but I so appreciated that DJ really thinks about her relationship with Alex, and realizes that they needed to talk, not just solve their problems with sex. Even if they didn’t get the chance because of one crisis after another, they still tried to talk. I also appreciated that DJ doesn’t forget about the normal humans just because she’s a wizard, and up to her knees in elves, fae, and the historical undead. Plus she talks with Jean Lafitte about their friendship and what it means. Jean Lafitte is in a lot of this book, which had me happy since he’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

If you’ve liked the other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, I’m pretty sure you’ll like PIRATE’S ALLEY. If you haven’t started this series yet, definitely check it out if you like cool magic systems and different takes on the usual supernatural creatures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author suzanne johnsonSuzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

Book Review: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. KempLords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on April 28, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

Book Review:

Paul S. Kemp is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw he had another Star Wars book in the works, I couldn’t wait to read it. LORDS OF THE SITH is the best Star Wars book I’ve read in at least a year. If you like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine being the badasses they are, you’ve got to check this out.

Eight years after the Clone Wars, most of the galaxy is used to Imperial rule. But on Ryloth, Cham Syndulla leads the Free Ryloth movement. He’s a freedom fighter, determined to free his planet from Imperial tyranny. When he gets word that Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are coming to Ryloth to punish the planet’s Moff, he sees it as the chance of a lifetime. It’s the best opportunity they’ll ever have to free Ryloth and its citizens. But will Vader and Palpatine fall to Free Ryloth’s well-laid plans? Or are they playing an even deeper game?

Paul S. Kemp is such a skillful writer at creating tension and plot twists, that, for a while, I thought the Twi’leks would succeed. Do they? Maybe. There’s a good level of action in LORDS OF THE SITH. Events keep building and building until you think there’s nothing else that can happen, but then WHAM! There’s more. There are also some great action scenes, lots of lightsaber fun and Force-assisted fighting.

I also liked that the author brought up Vader’s past. I can’t recall seeing this very often, if at all, in other books. It was nice to see Vader remember life as Anakin. To see what he feels about his past, and to see how it now influences him. There’s also some … I’ll call it dark side bonding, between Vader and Palpatine, a look into their roles as Master and Apprentice, and how the roles impact their behavior and actions.

The Free Ryloth movement was interesting, as well. While I generally prefer Imperials and Sith, I do like seeing the other side. Imperial control of the planet has pushed Cham to better Ryloth and its people. But for Isval, it’s a quest for vengeance, with the side benefit of helping her people. It was fun reading to watch the Twi’leks maneuver and confuse the Imperials.

Lastly, LORDS OF THE SITH made news when it was announced the book would have a lesbian character. I’m a big fan of diversity and am always looking for it, so that only made me more excited. I think it was a long time coming — in a universe as big as Star Wars, it stands to reason that not all characters are heterosexual. But I’m mentioning this in my review to say that it’s not like the Moff is having sex on every page, or making a big deal out of her sexuality. It’s just part of who she is, which is how it should be. End soapbox.

Overall, LORDS OF THE SITH is a fantastic Star Wars book. It’s restored my faith in the series after a couple of subpar volumes.

Let’s talk about it:

Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire?

Socialize with the author:

Paul S. Kemp:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot GardnerThe Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep and haunted by dreams he can’t explain and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him—his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up. In this dark and witty psychological drama about survival, Aaron finds that making peace with the dead may be easier than coming to terms with the living."I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive. I love how it haunts me still. I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know." —John Marsden, author of Tomorrow, When the War Began

Book Review:

THE DEAD I KNOW is a short book at 200 pages, but the content of those 200 pages packs a pretty big emotional punch. THE DEAD I KNOW is honest about funerals, grief, and the sometimes gruesome things that can happen after one dies, but more than that, it’s a compelling look into the life of a teenage boy. Aaron Rowe hides more than nightmares that make him sleepwalk. His Mam has episodes where she loses her memories, and she’s started getting into dangerous situations, but he doesn’t want anyone to know what’s happening to her.

I liked Aaron quite a bit. He doesn’t like to talk much, doesn’t want to rely on anyone, and tries to do the best he can for Mam. I got the feeling he’s had trouble in school, because for some reason he starts working for John Barton, a funeral director, rather than attending school. Or maybe he graduated, I don’t know — I can’t recall an explanation of how he ended up with John. And what a character John Barton is. I wish there were a hundred more of him in YA: he’s quietly supportive, providing Aaron with a shoulder Aaron doesn’t know he needs. John is never judgmental, even when Aaron ends up in jail after some very odd coincidences.

Something else I liked about THE DEAD I KNOW is that it shows how people react to death. Aaron observes a couple of funerals, and it’s the people left behind that bother him more than the deceased. It’s difficult for him to see their emotions when he tries so hard to hide his. But beyond Aaron, I think it’s helpful for teens to see all the different ways death can affect someone.

Socialize with the author:

Scot Gardner:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

Socialize with the author:

Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna