Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Series: Of Fire and Stars #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on November 22, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Book Review:

Every so often I read a book I love so much that it’s hard for me to review because I love it so much. OF FIRE AND STARS is one of those books.

I’ve been looking forward to OF FIRE AND STARS since February 2016, if not longer. I try not to develop too many expectations for a book, but: princesses! magic! horses! fantasy! princess loving princess!

Princess Dennaleia is sent to Mynaria as a bride for its prince, to cement the treaty between her country and his. She’s been preparing for this her entire life, but lessons haven’t included how to hide her Affinity for fire, which could get her killed because Mynaria doesn’t like magic. Princess Amaranthine, or Mare as she prefers to be known, is the prince’s thorny sister, who bucks against authority and expectations at every possible chance. She’d rather be training horses than at a royal dinner.

When Dennaleia needs to learn how to ride — horses are woven through Mynaria’s culture, even in court ceremonies — Mare’s assigned to teach her. Which results in an enemies-to-friends-and-then-more relationship. Denna’s in awe of Mare and wants Mare to like her. Mare’s not so impressed by Denna, but over time, she can’t help but change her mind.

OF FIRE AND STARS reminded me a bit of a Tamora Pierce book, or at least the nostalgia I have for those books. I liked the prickly banter between Denna and Mare, the slow melting of Mare’s dislike as she learned more about Denna, and that ending. Oh man, that ending. Let’s just say I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Also, I know I’ll be rereading OF OF FIRE AND STARS when I need a pick-me up or when I’m in a reading slump.

Okay, I give up. I’m meandering all over the place in this review, because all I really want to say is: I ♥♥♥ OF FIRE AND STARS. This is the princess loving princess, with magic and horses, fantasy book I’ve always wanted. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking “Is this real? Am I really reading this book I’ve wanted forever?” And yes, yes I was.

Socialize with the author:

Audrey Coulthurst:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Book Review: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van DraanenThe Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a brilliantly fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.

Book Review:

I’m always intrigued by books about kids who write stories. I started writing when I was a kid, so I usually feel a bit of kinship with the characters. I want to know why they write, what sort of stories they create.

In THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, Lincoln’s notebooks of stories are the only sentimental thing he took with him when he and his mom escaped her abusive boyfriend. In their new home, Lincoln continues to write as a way to escape having to spend his afternoons at the nursing home where his mom works, as well as being in a new school.

I loved Lincoln’s voice. I often felt like he was sitting next to me, telling me every new adventure. I really felt for Lincoln and his mom; they have such a great bond. How many times do characters have neglectful or absent parents? So often it’s a trope. It was great to see how close Lincoln and his mom are, and also to see Lincoln realize just how hard his mom works to give him a better life. I’d say that’s a thing kids don’t often recognize — I know I didn’t — so hopefully seeing Lincoln get it will help other kids see it too.

I also liked Lincoln’s observations about the nursing home, Brookside. Sure, he’s not always respectful of the residents — he calls them “crazies” or “oldies” — but I didn’t mind that. I was around Lincoln’s age (11) when I first went to a nursing home to visit a relative, and let me tell you, it’s hard. I still remember it, and I went at 30 and feeling the same way. So, I hope Lincoln’s observations and moments of “ohhh, these are people too” help kids see it isn’t that scary.

I very much enjoyed THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, and was sad to see the book end. Don’t worry — the book ends in a good spot and in a good way. But I was a little sad to say goodbye to Lincoln!

Book Trailer:

About the author:

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ, and became a Warner Brothers feature film with Rob Reiner directing. Her novel The Running Dream was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.

Van Draanen is also the author of two short chapter-book series. The Gecko & Sticky books, are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers, and the Shredderman books—featuring a boy who deals with a bully—received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit” and became a Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie.

Van Draanen was a classroom teacher for fifteen years. She and her husband reside in California and have two sons.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffGemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 659
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Book Review:

I don’t usually write short reviews, but I’m sitting here in the dark ready to cry because of GEMINA.

And I don’t cry, but GEMINA has me so full of emotion I could burst for two reasons:

1) This book is █████ fantastic. I said ILLUMINAE was out of this world, but GEMINA is out of the solar system. I really just want to faceroll my keyboard, because I don’t have the words for the depth of the reading experience in GEMINA. It’s just so, so, SO GOOD. (I very rarely flail over books, so it’s rare for me to be so emotional.)

2) I have to wait until 2017 for the next volume in The Illuminae Files. With how much I love this series, that’s cruel and unusual punishment.

I really planned to write more about GEMINA, but I ended up sticking with this short mess because, hey, it really illustrates my feelings about the book.

Instagram <3:

Socialize with the authors:

Amie Kaufman:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Jay Kristoff:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: A Song of War: A Novel of Troy

Book Review: A Song of War: A Novel of TroyA Song of War by Christian Cameron, Kate Quinn, Russell Whitfield, SJA Turney, Stephanie Thornton, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on October 18, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 483
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

a song of war: a novel of troy

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A SONG OF WAR by Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The blog tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

When I heard about A SONG OF WAR, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This is my third “novel-in-parts” by the wonderful H Team, and once again, they knocked it out of the park. And considering I’ve never been much interested in the Trojan War, that’s a real feat.

Short stories usually aren’t my thing, but a book like this is the exception. There are seven authors in A SONG OF WAR, each writing about important characters and events. Each of those authors has what I’d consider a speciality in historical fiction, which allows them to really dive into their chosen characters. Such as Stephanie Thornton, who does well with history’s forgotten women — she wrote about Cassandra, the mad seer who was fated to foresee the fall of Troy but have no one believe her prophecies. Or Russell Whitfield, who is great with men and warfare — he made Agamemnon a sympathetic character.

The book spans the entire Trojan War, skipping the boring middle siege to focus on the important beginning and end. After reading A SONG OF WAR, I understood the Trojan War better than I ever had before, thanks to the wide variety of viewpoints. Sure, there are different authors and they have their own styles, but I never felt knocked out of the narrative because the book is quite seamless. I could tell the authors worked together and had done plenty of research. I also found the Notes at the end fascinating, because I enjoy learning the authors’ motivations and why they made the choices they did.

I highly recommend A SONG OF WAR if you have any interest in the fall of Troy, and even if you don’t, it’s a great read for historical fiction fans.

Giveaway:

A Song of War

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.


LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.


KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.


VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”


STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.


SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.


RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #9
Published by Ace on September 20, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Book Review:

Last summer I went on a Kate Daniels binge, reading all the available books in the series in the space of two weeks. I’m a huge urban fantasy fan and have read a lot of different series, but Kate instantly skyrocketed to the top of my list. I’ve been looking forward to MAGIC BINDS for a year, because after reading eight books about Kate and Curran and Post-Shift Atlanta, I needed more!

MAGIC BINDS was more than worth the wait. I’m in a reading slump at the moment — I’ve only read one book this month, which is super rare for me. I usually average fifteen books a month. But MAGIC BINDS pulled me out of that slump. I couldn’t put this book down. The author, Ilona Andrews, has a perfect mix of seriousness and humor, battle scenes and fun diversions, and interesting lore and worldbuilding. I like every single thing about this series, which is another rare thing, because I’m a picky reader.

I know that when I pick up a book starring Kate and Curran, I’m going to get a fantastic story, with lots of action, character development, an intriguing main story and side stories, scary villains, and stuff that comes out of nowhere but fits into the plot. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a major fangirl for this series, and for MAGIC BINDS in particular.

MAGIC BINDS might be my very favorite Kate Daniels book so far. Why? Kate and Curran are about to get married — finally! — but of course her dad won’t sit back and allow her to keep Atlanta. Black volhv Roman takes on the role of wedding planner, Roland is courting Julie and building a mega-gigantic castle, Kate can’t get a moment to herself safe from witch visions, and so on. By the ninth book in a series, sometimes it’s the same old, but that’s not the case here. MAGIC BINDS definitely moves the story along while giving readers what they’ve come to expect.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but when you read the last page, you’ll be just as desperate as I am for the next book!

Socialize with the author:

Ilona Andrews:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: First Position by Melissa Brayden

Book Review: First Position by Melissa BraydenFirst Position by Melissa Brayden
Published by Bold Strokes Books on August 16, 2016
Genres: LGBT, Romance
Pages: 249
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Anastasia Mikhelson is the rising star of the New York City Ballet. She’s sacrificed creature comforts, a social life, as well as her own physical well-being for perfection in dance. Even her reputation as The Ice Queen doesn’t faze her. Though Ana’s at the peak of her career, competition from a new and noteworthy dancer puts all she’s worked for in jeopardy.

While Natalie Frederico has shown herself to be a prodigy when it comes to ballet, she much prefers modern dance and living on her own terms. Life is too short for anything else. However, when the opportunity to dance with the New York City Ballet is thrust upon her, it’s not like she could say no. Dealing with the company’s uptight lead is another story, however. When the two are forced to work side-by-side, sparks begin to fly onstage and off.

Book Review:

The first time I read FIRST POSITION, I sped through it so quickly I knew I’d have a hard time writing a good review. It’s rare that a contemporary romance book grabs me so strongly. I originally wanted to read the book because it’s set in the ballet world — I’ve got a thing for ballet books — so getting a ballet book with two great characters and a sweet romance was a real bonus.

Ana is your typical overachieving, dedicated ballet dancer. At the start of the book, she’s finally promoted to principal dancer after years of hard work. Convinced this is her year — as long as she figures out how to bring more emotion to her dancing — Ana’s shocked to have newcomer Natalie share the biggest role of her life. Natalie is everything Ana’s not: the life of the party, a slacker, and almost flippant about her dance talent.

By sharing the lead role in a new ballet, Ana’s supposed to brush up Natalie’s technique, and Natalie’s supposed to help Ana find emotion. They start out as rivals, but that turns to something more as that sharing spreads beyond the job. The romance in FIRST POSITION was a nice slow burn, with plenty of time for Ana and Natalie to get to know each other and spend time together. I really liked how they influenced each other and how each woman grew over the course of the book.

There’s also something really big that happens, and while I won’t spoil it, I liked how the author handled overcoming a disaster. I also liked how it eventually made Ana and Natalie’s relationship even stronger. I liked how Natalie brought Ana out of her shell and made her see there’s more to life than ballet, while Ana helped Natalie realize being serious once in a while was a good thing.

Notice how I’m using “I like” over and over? Yeah. I loved FIRST POSITION. I enjoyed this book enough to read it twice in a month, and I’m greedy enough to wish FIRST POSITION was double its length. This book was the perfect mix of slow romance, character development, fun sexy times, humor, seriousness, ballet, and good writing.

Socialize with the author:

Melissa Brayden:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Book Review:

Ready for the shortest review ever?

ILLUMINAE is █████ out of this world.

That about covers it, but here’s a longer version:

ILLUMINAE is the sort of book I’ve wanted to read for a long time.

First, the format: It’s composed entirely of interviews, emails, IM convos, recovered video footage, conversations with Artificial Intelligence, and other neat stuff like ship schematics and casualty lists. I geek out over that type of stuff, because it makes me feel like I’m the book’s world. I know the non-traditional format might be off-putting for some readers, but the authors did an amazing job. That kind of format can go wrong, but here, it was perfect. The emails and IMs and other content really worked to develop the characters. I knew Kady and Ezra within pages, and everyone else, too. Rarely do I tear up when bad stuff happens, especially to minor characters, but here I did, because I knew these guys and I was rooting for them.

Second, the story: After the Kerenza colony is attacked by BeiTech, Kady and Ezra and the other thousands of survivors are in a deadly race for their lives. They have to outrun the Lincoln, a ship bent on their destruction so there aren’t any living witnesses of the atrocities at Kerenza. But they also have to survive the fleet’s AI, which has gone… a little crazy. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new plague no one has seen before.

Third: the experience: reading ILLUMINAE really is an experience. Don’t let the length put you off. Yes, it’s over 600 pages, but it goes by quickly. I was actually trying to drag it out because I loved the experience of reading this book. There’s dark humor, references to classic sci-fi, great characters, moral dilemmas to puzzle over, and tons more. The formatting is well done too, which really adds to the experience. For example, I’ve never read a battle scene the way it’s shown in ILLUMINAE, and now I can’t imagine how I’ll go back to normal blocks of text. This is great YA sci-fi, folks.

ILLUMINAE is a book with a lot of hype behind it. Very rarely do hyped up books meet my expectations, but this one did. ILLUMINAE vaporized the hype monster. I need the rest of this series so badly that waiting is going to be painful… has anyone invented a jump gate generator yet?

Instagram <3:

Socialize with the authors:

Amie Kaufman:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Jay Kristoff:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle ClaytonShiny Broken Pieces by Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra
Series: Tiny Pretty Things #2
Published by HarperTeen on July 12, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

Book Review:

I loved TINY PRETTY THINGS last year. I read it twice before I reviewed it. I gushed about it. I couldn’t wait for the sequel.

SHINY BROKEN PIECES is just as good as TINY PRETTY THINGS. As with the first book, I read it twice and loved it each time. I read it twice because I sped through too quickly the first time to be able to write a coherent review.

First, I love me a good ballet book. You know how sometimes there’s no actual dancing in a ballet book? That’s so not the case here. Yep, there’s plenty of drama in SHINY BROKEN PIECES, but there’s also sooooo much dancing. The ballet this time is Swan Lake, and I greatly enjoyed watching everyone practice and perform.

Second, the characters. Bette, Gigi, and June are back. After last year’s accident, Bette’s been suspended from the school, because everyone suspects she pushed Gigi. But Bette isn’t going to sit in the shadows and give up quietly. I liked the mystery aspect of SHINY BROKEN PIECES, where Bette is trying to clear her name. The authors had me thinking this person or that did it; the big reveal had me going :O.

But back to the characters. Everyone is dealing with a lot. Gigi’s trying to recover from the accident, but is also drifting into mean girl territory. June is battling her eating disorder while figuring out what she wants in the future. The characters have grown and changed from the first book, and there’s something to like/dislike about each of them.

Really, the short version of what I’m trying to say is: I love Bette, Gigi, and June. They’re cutthroat, dedicated, driven, and not above a little backstabbing when necessary. I also love that Gigi and June both address the lack of diversity in the ballet world.

Third, everything else. Yeah, this isn’t turning out to be a good review, but I just love this series something fierce, and that’s rare for me. I swear, Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton could write a cereal box and I’d be enthralled. I sincerely hope there’s another book in the Tiny Pretty Things series — while SHINY BROKEN PIECES does tie up a lot of the storylines, I’m greedy and want more!

Socialize with the authors:
Sona Charaipotra:
Website
Twitter

Dhonielle Clayton:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon SkovronHope and Red by Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms #1
Published by Orbit on June 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

Book Review:

HOPE AND RED is the first in the Empire of Storms trilogy. The book follows Hope, a girl trained as a monk assassin to get vengeance for her slain village and Red, an orphaned thief with a gift for smooth talking his way in and out of trouble.

Sounds like your run of the mill fantasy, right? Wrong.

HOPE AND RED is dark and gritty fantasy, two underdogs taking on the corrupt empire. It’s also funny, with characters like Sadie the Goat and lots of the underprivileged making fun of the rich and their lacey ways. And it’s serious, such as when female characters challenge and beat male expectations. Add in plenty of action, scary magic, and there’s a lot to like.

The author has a real gift for making memorable characters. Hope and Red are the standouts naturally, and I liked both for different reasons. But even characters who only showed up for a page stayed with me. Such as Hope’s father, who wore his daughter’s gift of a necklace and didn’t care that the other fishermen mocked him. Or Captain Carmichael, whose life eventually showed Hope vengeance wasn’t the only answer.

While we don’t get to see the entire empire in HOPE AND RED, we do get a good introduction to how life is for the poor. From Hope’s village being destroyed for a biomancer experiment to Red’s mother dying from toxic paints, life sucks a lot if you’re poor. Crime bosses and their gangs control what the imperials don’t.

I was sucked into the hard world of HOPE AND RED from page one, and I couldn’t get enough. Also, the author created some slang, which fit perfectly into the world. Most words are easy to figure out, but there’s a funny glossary at the end, written by one of the laceys.

I made myself read HOPE AND RED in several sessions, so I could enjoy the book for longer. But I really wanted to read the whole thing at once, because I enjoyed it that much. I definitely can’t wait for book two, BANE AND SHADOW, because I know it’s going to be even more epic.

Socialize with the author:

Jon Skovron:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. SullivanAge of Myth by Michael J Sullivan
Series: The Legends of the First Empire #1
Published by Del Rey on June 28, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The first novel in an epic new fantasy series for readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch.

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership. Now, Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series, and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

Book Review:

I’ve wanted to read something of Michael J. Sullivan’s forever, since I’ve heard good things about his Riyria books. But I never got to any of them, so when I saw he had a new series coming out, it seemed like the perfect time to finally check out his work. And by the gods, am I glad I read AGE OF MYTH, because now I want to binge read all of his books.

First, I appreciated the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book. I’m always wary of starting new epic fantasy series because there’s that chance they won’t be finished. No worry of that here — all five books in The Legends of the First Empire are already written. That gives me such peace of mind knowing I’ll get the entire story, and too, I like knowing the author stuck to his ideas for how everything would go, and was even able to work in lots of foreshadowing.

Second, I like the squad of unlikely heroes. Born in a harsh land, Raithe has only ever known fighting and becomes the mythical God Killer. But all he really wants is to quit fighting and find a quiet place to settle down. Widow Persephone must give up leadership of the clan she’s helped lead for 20 years when her husband is killed. But when the new chieftain shows himself unworthy of protecting their clan, she kicks aside generations of tradition. And so on.

Third, AGE OF MYTH is epic fantasy without requiring 800+ pages per volume to be epic. There are big consequences to little events, battles where the underdog is overwhelmed and against the wall, and big powerful bad guys who see humans as rats. Classic fantasy stuff in some ways, but Sullivan puts his own spin on it all. And that ending? Oh man oh man! It’s going to be a long wait until summer 2017.

Socialize with the author:

Michael J. Sullivan:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna