Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie KagawaThe Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #3
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 15, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 393
Format: eARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions - her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost - the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

Book Review:

Over the past few years I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve noticed a pattern: I usually don’t read the last book of a trilogy. I almost wish I hadn’t read THE FOREVER SONG, because it just wasn’t the best end to the series. I feel like I could have stopped with book two, THE ETERNITY CURE, as THE FOREVER SONG was mostly unnecessary. You can predict how the series will end, and the journey to the ending is rather boring at times.

At 393 pages, I swear the book could have been cut in half and told the same story, since so much of it was repetition: tons of travel, tons of rabid attacks, and tons of angst from Allie and Zeke. As with THE ETERNITY CURE, Jackal was the highlight of THE FOREVER SONG for me. I could quote line after line of his dialogue; he’s a perfect combination of dry wit, sarcasm, and unabashed vampireness. Unlike Allie, who is still adjusting to the fact that she’s a vampire and has to drink blood to survive, Jackal would paint a town red. Not in a crazy way like psychotic Sarren, but just because he would enjoy it.

Here’s an example, one of many I bookmarked:

“‘There you go again.’ Jackal sighed from the front. ‘Getting the puppy’s hopes up. More likely, every bloodbag in Eden is screaming and tearing their faces off, but oh, no, no one wants to hear that.’ He waved a hand. ‘So, go ahead, tell him that everything is going to be fine. All the meatsacks are perfectly content on their happy little island, Sarren has given up world destruction to raise kittens, and the magic wish fairy will wave her wand and turn shit into gold.’ (page 235).”

Don’t you just love Jackal? I do!

For the climactic book of a series, I guess I expected more than Allie and Zeke spending most of the book angsting over their vampire lives. The cure was almost stupidly simple, and it seems to me it’s something where the journey is more important than the end product type of things. But I just wish that journey hadn’t included so much traveling and repetition. One of the things that really captured my interest in this series was the bleak, dark, dystopian society Julie Kagawa created. One where vampires were the absolute power, and humans spent all of their time trying to find enough food to eat. I wanted to see more of that, or at least more of Eden, but no. It really felt like 97% of the book was spent on the long, dull road.

In the end, I’m just meh on THE FOREVER SONG. For me, it didn’t live up to the first two books in the series. It’s not a bad conclusion, but it was just missing something for me to feel really good about the end of the series.

Socialize with the author:
Julie Kagawa:
Website
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– leeanna

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Lauren M. Roy:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura Bickle

Blog Tour Book Review: The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura BickleThe Outside by Laura Bickle
Series: The Hallowed Ones #2
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin on September 3, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
After a plague of vampires was unleashed in the world, Katie was kicked out of the safe haven of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. She enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two friends and a horse by her side.

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can they be trusted, and are they even people at all?

In this sequel to The Hallowed Ones, it's up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to sacrifice in return?

Today I am the stop on the tour for THE OUTSIDE by Laura Bickle. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit the rest of the stops here. I have a very long review for ya’ll because I couldn’t stop talking about this book.

While you’re here, I’d love for you to check out my review of THE HALLOWED ONES and my interview with Laura Bickle.

One last thing: if you haven’t already read THE HALLOWED ONES, the Kindle version is on sale throughout August for $1.99. That’s a steal!

My Review:
I first read THE HALLOWED ONES in February 2013. I was blown away by how much I loved the book. I thought mixing Amish and vampires would be a kooky idea, but to my surprise, Laura Bickle did an amazing job. I had a hard time writing a coherent review for THE HALLOWED ONES, because I fangirled pretty hard over the book.

So to say I couldn’t wait to get my hands on THE OUTSIDE is an understatement. I admit, I was a little nervous to start it, and had my usual worries when I read the sequel to an awesome book. Would it be as good as the first? Would it fulfill all my expectations? I’ll assure you now — I had NOTHING to be worried about. Once I started reading THE OUTSIDE, I literally didn’t stop until I finished it. I carried my e-reader everywhere with me, from eating to brushing my teeth, until I flicked the last page.

THE OUTSIDE picks up where THE HALLOWED ONES left off. Katie, Alex, and Ginger were exiled from the Amish community at the end of the first book, and now they’re on the way to Canada, to find Alex’s family. They also hope to find other survivors. But the journey is hard and lonely, leaving them all wondering just who is left in their changed world. Night is the most dangerous time, when the vampires come out to hunt. And these aren’t sparkly vampires. Nope, these vampires are terrifying creatures of evil who have the ability to glamor (charm) their intended victims and one bite is all it takes before you become one of them.

I’m finding it difficult to say a lot about the plot without giving away too much, so I’ll just mention a couple of things that really stood out for me.

One: Katie. I really, really like Katie. She’s definitely one of my favorite characters this year. She’s got a quiet strength I admire, the total opposite of what you might think an Amish girl to be. Katie doesn’t want to be forced to follow rules, but wants to think about those rules and decide for herself that they are the best to follow. She questions herself and her beliefs, wondering just how much she and her morals are changing in the face of an unknown world. And even though her people have turned against her, and shunned her for trying to reveal the truth about the Darkness (vampires), she still wants to save them. My admiration for her just kept notching up throughout the book, and at the end, let me tell you, she has a scene to rival Buffy.

Two: The relationship between Katie and Alex. Usually relationships are one of my least favorite things in a book, but here, I was just melting with how realistic they both were about it. Loving Alex goes against everything Katie was raised to believe, but they rely on each other for survival, and truly do care about each other. I bookmarked several quotes for Katie’s thoughts on the two, but I’ll stick with this one: “We had been thrown together at the end of the world. I didn’t know if we would have cared for each other if we had met in a more usual way. [...] But just for tonight, I told myself to take it for what it was (p. 152, ARC).”

DUDE! How often are a girl and guy thrown together at the end of the world? All the time in dystopian novels! But how often do they acknowledge their attraction may be partly based on that? Not very often!

Three: Different faiths. Katie is Amish. Alex is an anthropology student. Over the course of THE OUTSIDE, they talk about how almost every faith has its own end of the world story. Alex mostly shares the stories and myths, but Katie just doesn’t sit there and listen to him lecture. She puts those stories against her own beliefs, and thinks about it all.

Four: A new explanation for vampirism. This one is a little harder to talk about without spoiling, but I’ll try. Belief in God, symbols of belief, and holy ground are the most potent weapons Katie and Alex have against the vampires. It’s all any of the survivors have, really. When they encounter a pocket of other survivors, they learn about a mostly scientific explanation for both the vampires and a way to fight them. I honestly don’t think I’ve read anything like it before, so kudos to the author for coming up with something original.

Mini thing: Fenrir and Horace! I’ve now read all (I think) of Laura Bickle’s books, and one of my favorite things about her writing is what a good job she does with animals. They’re always so real and characters in their own right. There was a scene where I was thinking, “NO! Don’t hurt Fenrir! Don’t you do it, evil vampire jerk.”

Okay, so I think it’s obvious that I freaking LOVED this book, and that I could go on all day about it. Again, Laura Bickle did an amazing job. With THE OUTSIDE, she delivered a more than worthy conclusion to the story started in THE HALLOWED ONES, and I can’t think of one thing I’d want done differently. The characters are flesh-and-bone real, and the action scenes are nail-biting and full of tension.

THE OUTSIDE is categorized as a young adult book, but I think it’s one that has crossover appeal. Katie and Alex aren’t your typical young adult characters, and they’re both quite mature. I loved that the author didn’t “write down” to her audience.

Together, THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are on my list of favorites for 2013.

About the author:
laura bickleLaura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams).

Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six mostly-reformed feral cats.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney

blood orangesInfo:
Title: Blood Oranges
Author: Kathleen Tierney
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Roc Trade
Source: Library
Series? Siobhan Quinn #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Horror
Page Count: 253
Rating: [2/5 stars]

Summary:

My name’s Quinn.

If you buy into my reputation, I’m the most notorious demon hunter in New England. But rumors of my badassery have been slightly exaggerated. Instead of having kung-fu skills and a closet full of medieval weapons, I’m an ex-junkie with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time. Or the right place at the wrong time. Or…whatever.

Wanted for crimes against inhumanity I (mostly) didn’t commit, I was nearly a midnight snack for a werewolf until I was “saved” by a vampire calling itself the Bride of Quiet. Already cursed by a werewolf bite, the vamp took a pint out of me too.

So now…now, well, you wouldn’t think it could get worse, but you’d be dead wrong. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I think BLOOD ORANGES is one of those books you either love or dislike. I’m in the “meh” camp. There were a couple of things I liked about the book, but overall, it left me with a “what did I just read” feeling.

So, what did I like? Quinn is the epitome of unreliable narrator. You never know for sure if what she’s telling you is the truth. There are more than a few instances where Quinn tells you a long story full of violence and gore … and then says she lied. The first time I thought it was pretty cool. But when it kept happening, the technique soured for me (so I guess it’s more something I liked and disliked).

The author didn’t make her paranormal beings the gorgeous, glamorous types they usually are. (Dare I say most urban fantasy/paranormal beings have something sparkly about them?) Tierney’s vampires are ugly — downright hideous — and cruel. Her werewolves have a tendency to puke up their wolf meals, so when they turn back to human form, they’re surrounded by a pile of bone and clothing studded vomit. Yum. So that was nice, because that was different.

Third good thing: there’s no romance. YAY for Quinn not falling for some sex-on-a-stick vampire or werewolf bad boy.

But now we get to the bad stuff. There’s not much of a plot. Quinn gets turned into a half-vampire, half-werewolf hybrid by one of the meanest vampires around. Intended as a weapon, she gets entangled in everyone else’s fights, trying to find her way to the truth. The book whimpers to a close, even though there’s a big explosion, as well as lots of backstabbing and trust issues. Like I said at the start of this review, when I finished BLOOD ORANGES, I was highly disappointed, and left wondering, “what the heck *was* this book?”

I also got tired of Quinn. After a point, I just wanted to skim past every story from her past. If you can believe her (and I’m not sure I can), she ran away from home at twelve or thirteen, was a child prostitute, got on drugs, watched a ghoul kill her lover/friend, and oh, somehow became a monster hunter. It got ridiculous.

I think the author was trying to take all the urban fantasy tropes and turn them on their heads. But it just didn’t work for me. I like dark books, but BLOOD ORANGES left me rolling my eyes rather than feeling horrified.

I have one last gripe. Kathleen Tierney is the penname for Caitlin R. Kiernan. Yet in the author’s bio, it says this is her first novel. I get using different names for different genres, but don’t say it’s a first book when it’s not.

Let’s talk about it:
What do you think about writers using pseudonyms? Do you prefer if they openly admit, “hey this writer is also me,” or get annoyed if they try to keep it a secret?

Socialize with the author:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

This review of THE HALLOWED ONES is part of today’s two post feature on Laura Bickle. Check out my interview with Laura.

the hallowed onesInfo:
Title: The Hallowed Ones
Author: Laura Bickle
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
Series? The Hallowed Ones #1
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Dystopian
Page Count: 311
Rating: [5/5 stars]

Summary:

If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenag-ers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there…and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a de-cree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

My Review:
Amish + vampires = freaking amazing book!

THE HALLOWED ONES has one of the craziest combinations ever. At first, I didn’t think such a combination would work, but to my pleasant surprise, I loved this book. I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what would happen next, and next, and next … and now I can’t wait the sequel, THE OUTSIDE.

THE HALLOWED ONES could have been a really boring book. A book about an Amish girl? Usually that’s firmly the realm of Christian Fiction, not a genre I read. But the author made Katie relatable to regular teens. On the verge of Rumspringa, Katie can’t wait to experience the “outside world.” She already knows she likes Coke and comic books, and one of the first things she wants to do is see a movie. Also, unlike the other members of her community, Katie has trouble accepting the word of the Elders at face value.

I really appreciated that the author put in plenty of details about Amish life and culture. Without that information, the story would have felt inauthentic. The setting of an Amish community for a book about the end of the world is such a great idea. Without television or the Internet, Katie has few sources of information. It’s creepy, in a good, scary, and thrilling way.

There’s even an unlikely romance in this book. Romance isn’t always my favorite thing, but I liked Alex, and the opportunity his character gave for Katie to think about her religion and beliefs.

I could go on and on about THE HALLOWED ONES, but really, the best thing I can say is give it a read. I’ve recommended it quite a few people, who give me the “Really? Amish and vampires? Are you kidding?” look, and I just repeat that there’s so much good stuff in the book. It’s one of those books where I just want to flail about instead of saying anything useful, so I’ll end with this: In THE HALLOWED ONES, Laura Bickle created an amazing story, a great cast of characters, and some terrifying vampires. I cannot wait to read the sequel!

About the author:
Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science. When she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library, she can be found reaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs.

She has written several contemporary fantasy novels for adults, and THE HALLOWED ONES is her first young adult novel. Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie KagawaThe Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #2
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 30, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 446
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

My Review:

After reading THE IMMORTAL RULES twice in less than a year, and loving the experience each time, I couldn’t wait to get my paws on THE ETERNITY CURE. I couldn’t wait to find out what was next in Allie’s story, and also to find out more about the vampire world Julie Kagawa created.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t blown away by THE ETERNITY CURE. Though it is a worthy sequel, for me, it had middle book syndrome. The first 150 – 200 pages took me a long time to read, because there just wasn’t a lot going on. After that, the book did pick up, with lots of action and some interesting developments. I did predict several of the plot twists, but I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to spoil anyone. All I can say is: REALLY Salazar?

The best part of the first half or so is Jackal, Allie’s blood-brother. Allie spends a lot of the book bemoaning her vampiric nature. At first I thought she had accepted that she’s a vampire and humans are now lower on the food chain, but no, she thinks about it. A lot. I can understand some soul searching, especially after she spent her first lifetime in misery because she didn’t want to become a slave to the vampires. But there comes a point when too much angst is too much.

That’s why I liked Jackal. Compared to Allie, he’s a breath of fresh air. He’s a vampire through and through, and has no apologies or hesitation about killing or hurting humans to get what he needs. I got sick of Allie judging him for being a vampire. Message to Allie: vampires EAT people. Vampires NEED blood to survive.

The main story in THE ETERNITY CURE is the search for Kanin. The sire of Allie and Jackal, Kanin was kidnapped by the extremely psychotic vampire Sarren. Mix together every crazy serial killer and you’ll get an idea of Sarren’s personality. While searching, Allie and Jackal sort of bond, and I had more than a few laughs at Jackal’s dark, sarcastic sense of humor. In THE IMMORTAL RULES, Allie was my favorite character, but Jackal stole the show for me in book two.

At almost 450 pages, THE ETERNITY CURE is quite long for a young adult book. Length doesn’t bother me, and I like sinking my teeth (fangs?) into a long book, but I think it could have been slimmed down and lost some of the slow, slow beginning. There were also quite a few instances of being reminded of the same thing over and over again, which could have been cut down. For example, I lost count of how many times Allie told the reader she would be cold, if only winter weather still bothered her.

But when Allie and Jackal return to New Covington in pursuit of Kanin and information on the Red Lung virus, the book does pick up. The last half is why I’m giving it a good rating, and why I want to find out what will happen in the third book of the series.

Zeke makes a return, too. I wasn’t convinced of their relationship in THE IMMORTAL RULES, and I wasn’t here, either. I just wanted … more. I had a hard time believing Zeke would go against a lifetime of indoctrination to hate vampires by falling in love with Allie.

The ending of THE ETERNITY CURE was great. In the last half, there’s tons of action, double-crossing, and violence. Although I was underwhelmed by the first half and by several other things, the ending of the book redeemed the series for me.

Socialize with the author:

Julie Kagawa:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie KagawaThe Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Series: Blood of Eden #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 24, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 485
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness….

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

My Review:

THE IMMORTAL RULES has some of my favorite things: vampires, a dystopian society, and a kick-butt main character. It was one of THE books of 2012, and I’ve actually read the book twice in less than a year, first in June 2012 and now in April 2013. Both times I loved it, and didn’t want it to end.

As a human, Allison Sekemoto struggles to survive in a world where most humans are nothing more than sacks of walking blood. Vampires rule what’s left of America, doling out supplies in exchange for required blood “donations.” Allie, fiercely independent and unwilling to Register with the vampires, ekes out a miserable existence. Unregistered humans don’t officially exist, so they don’t get food tickets or housing. Searching for food and protecting her gang are her only priorities, although she does know how to do one thing most humans don’t: read.

The world Julie Kagawa has created is a harsh one, and I loved it. The world-building is well-done, with enough details to immerse me in the story without overloading me on backstory. At the beginning of THE IMMORTAL RULES, Allie is a prickly character. But she’s that way because of her life, which is a day-to-day struggle. Besides the vampire overlords, Allie faces danger from rival gangs, rabids, and starvation.

When Allie’s offered a second chance at life after being attacked by rabids, you almost wonder why she would even take it. This quote is one of my favorites from the book: “But in reality, when faced with death and the great unknown that came after, my survival instinct snatched wildly at whatever lifeline was offered. I didn’t want to die. Even if it meant becoming something I loathed, my nature was, first and always, to survive (Chapter 4).”

I think all readers can identify with the desire to survive. And once Allie becomes a vampire, the very thing she hates the most, she ironically becomes more human. When she isn’t concerned with survival, her humanity returns, which I thought was an interesting dichotomy.

After being separated from her vampire mentor, Kanin (who is a very interesting character, and I can’t wait to see more of him), Allie encounters a group of humans searching for Eden. Pretending to be a human, Allie travels with the group, inevitably falling for Zeke. Though I’m not usually a fan of romance, I didn’t mind their relationship. It wasn’t quite of the dreaded insta-love variety. Zeke is a pretty good guy, but he hates vampires, which leads to some difficult situations.

THE IMMORTAL RULES is a long book; there’s a lot I’m not mentioning in this review. But I never felt like I was slogging through the pages to finish. The author’s writing is easy to read and flows nicely. I can’t believe I haven’t read her Iron Fey series yet, but it’s definitely moved up the list after reading THE IMMORTAL RULES.

I definitely recommend it if you like vampires or dystopias, because it’s a great combination of both. I reread it in preparation for book two of the series, THE ETERNITY CURE, and I’m glad I did.

Socialize with the author:

Julie Kagawa:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Influential Magic by Deanna Chase

Today I am the stop for the INFLUENTIAL MAGIC blog tour. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can find the rest of the stops here. Check below my review for an interview with the author, Deanna Chase.

influential magicInfo:
Title: Influential Magic
Author: Deanna Chase
Release Date: March 6, 2013
Publisher: Bayou Moon Press
Source: Author for blog tour
Series? Crescent City Fae #1
Genre: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 310
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

It’s tough being a faery in New Orleans, a city fraught with vampires… especially when their very existence drains your life-force.

Willow Rhoswen, owner of The Fated Cupcake and part-time vampire hunter for the Void is having a rough week. Four years after her twin brother’s mysterious death, Willow’s life is threatened and the director saddles her with a new partner—her ex-boyfriend, David. To her horror, he’s turned vamp, which causes her physical pain whenever she touches him… and any other specimen of the undead.

In order to save Willow’s life, David agrees to turn double agent against the most powerful vampire organization in New Orleans. Or so he says. And she’s convinced they know something about her brother’s death. Unsure where David’s loyalties lie, she turns to Talisen, her childhood crush, to help her solve the mystery.

Caught between two gorgeous men and a director who’ll stop at nothing to control Willow’s gifts, she’ll have to follow her instincts and learn who to trust. Otherwise, she risks losing more than just her life. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
INFLUENTIAL MAGIC is a new adult, urban fantasy, a combination I’ve been trying to find for a while. Most new adult books are contemporary, which isn’t my cup of tea. I’m happy to say INFLUENTIAL MAGIC was worth the search!

Right from the start, the worldbuilding begins. Willow, the protagonist, is a faery, complete with wings that let her fly and an extreme sensitivity to metal. For her, spending several hours on a plane is more than just an annoyance: metal sucks away her energy. Which is not a good thing, because minutes after getting off the plane to New Orleans, she’s in a cemetery hunting a vampire. Cemeteries and vampires are two more deadly things to faeries like Willow.

I appreciated that the author didn’t do information dumps about the world, but gave information as it was needed. And what a world! In INFLUENTIAL MAGIC, faeries, vampires, and witches live amongst humans without hiding who they are. Willow runs a mega successful bake shop, selling magically enhanced goodies. I would love to get my hands on a Molten Muse cupcake, which sparks inspiration.

Aside from her bakery, Willow is also an agent for the Void, a government branch for supernatural dealings. So is her best friend and witch, Phoebe, as well as her aunt, Maude. It’s a big tangled deal, one Willow isn’t thrilled about being a part of. But she has a unique ability that is extremely helpful: she can track vampires.

There’s a LOT going on in INFLUENTIAL MAGIC. A lot in a good way. The action is fast, with barely a dull or down moment. There are tons of twists, and I really didn’t know how everything was going to tie together at the end. As someone who can usually figure out a book early on, I always like when a story is unpredictable. But at the same time, I had a small problem with so much action: I had trouble keeping track of the passage of time. Thinking back, it’s almost as if the whole story took place over the course of a very long day.

I also had some trouble with both of the men in Willow’s life. David, her ex-boyfriend, comes back into the picture as a vampire. He ended their relationship with a real jerk move — he sent her a text message. Willow has to deal with the feelings from that while trying to keep ahead of someone who wants to use her abilities. There’s also Talisen, the best friend of Willow’s deceased twin and a fellow fae. Talisen has become a sort of replacement brother for Willow, but she won’t go into boyfriend/girlfriend territory with him because he’s a playboy (play faery?). Though romance isn’t really a big focus, I didn’t know why Willow had dated David in the first place, since their relationship took place prior to the book. So their reconciliation or lack of one wasn’t important to me. And with Talisen, yeah he’s cute and cares for Willow, but I never felt the attraction between them.

Considering the entire book, though, those are two minor complaints. The writing in INFLUENTIAL MAGIC is strong, and the author easily drew me into the world, characters, and story. The main mysteries in this book are tied up at its end, but there are some open storylines leaving plenty of room for a sequel. I’d say the book is a steal at $3.99 for the Kindle version.

Oh goddess! I almost forgot to mention Link, Willow’s shapeshifter protector. If you like good animals characters, you’ll love Link. Sometimes he’s a Shih Tzu and sometimes he’s a wolf. He transforms with Willow’s moods and the situation, although there are some hilarious images of him in Shih Tzu form hanging from a bad dude’s butt by his teeth.


Interview:
1. I read on your blog that you feel the stigma of self-publishing even though you’ve been successful. Why did you decide to self-publish? 

I’ve been writing for about six years now and when I started, self-publishing was known as the kiss of death for writers wanting any type of career. The only way to be taken seriously was to submit to agents and publishers and pray someone, anywhere would like what you write and give you a chance. I did my time on the query merry-go-round with not much success.

Then one day I read an article on Amanda Hocking. Up until that point, I had no idea Kindle Direct Publishing, Pubit (now NOOKpress), or Smashwords even existed. I spent the next forty-eight hours scouring the internet to find out as much as I could about the viability of self-publishing. After my eyes were glazed over and my head was spinning, I got that nervous anticipation feeling in my gut and I knew what I was going to do.

I’d been running the glass business I share with my husband for six years by then. Since I’m used to being my own boss, self-publishing seemed like a no-brainer. I like being in charge of my business and holding my professional fate in my own hands. And I was right. Self-publishing turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I now have a writing career that I’m proud of.

As far as the stigma of self-publishing, I wrote that blog post back in September of last year. I was (and am still) very proud of my accomplishments, but there was a bit of self-doubt about how other writers might see my choices. But attitudes and the market are changing so fast these days, I no longer feel the way I did then. I’m very proud and comfortable with my decisions. I wouldn’t change them and really, I’m no longer bothered by what anyone else may think.

Bead-DeannaChase2. I checked out your glass beads (which are awesome!). How did you get into lampworking, and do you find yourself working on beads when you’re stuck with writing? 

Thank you!

In 1999 my husband and I were at a street fair and we saw a woman selling handmade glass beads and marbles that she made using a technique called lampworking (also known as flameworking). It’s called lampworking because in the past people used to melt glass over oil lamps. My husband (who at the time was a stained glass artist) decided he was going to learn to be a lampworker. He went home, bought a book and all the equipment, and three months later he was selling his work on eBay.

He did that as a hobby for three years. Then in 2003 my husband and I sold our house and moved into an RV to travel the country fulltime while working at campgrounds. It was a grand adventure that we both loved. Along the way, I started lampworking as well and in 2005 we started selling our glass beads and marbles fulltime. In 2007, when we decided we needed more studio space than our RV could handle, we settled into a house in southeast Louisiana. I started writing that year.

As far as lampworking when I get stuck writing, yes it helps. It helps a lot actually. The studio is a great place to work out plot issues.

Duncan-DeannaChase3. Where did the idea for INFLUENTIAL MAGIC come from? 
Hmm, tough question.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even know. I started writing Influential Magic back in early 2011 after I decided Haunted on Bourbon Street, my previous novel, wasn’t going to find a home with a publisher. But then I learned about self-publishing and went full speed ahead on publishing the Bourbon Street novels. I came back to Influential Magic late last year to finish it because that story was always in the back of my mind.

I will tell you that Link, Willow’s shih tzu is inspired my dog Duncan (full name Duncan Donut). He’s positive he’s a wolf and quite pleased he has a starring role in Influential Magic.

4. I’m thrilled there’s finally a new adult novel that *isn’t* contemporary. Did you decide consciously to write new adult, or did Willow just pop into your head? 

As I said earlier, I started writing this back in early 2011. I’m not even sure New Adult existed as a genre back then. So no, I didn’t consciously decide to write New Adult, but I think it does fit squarely in the genre given Willow’s age of twenty-four, the fact that she’s dealing with her childhood crush, and that she’s just now coming into her powers and what they mean for her life path.

5. When reading yourself, do you prefer e-books or physical books? 
Both. And audio books. Audio books are great for when I’m in the studio.

6. Favorite book or series you reread? If you reread.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, of course.
The Hollows series by Kim Harrison.
And let’s not forget the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

7. Any tips for aspiring writers? 
To just write. If you have a story in you, get it out. Then worry about editing and story structure and all that good stuff. It’s wonderful to take workshops, find critique partners, and read books on how to write books. But until you have words down, you don’t have anything to work with. So if you want to write, then write.

Also, write from the heart. Don’t worry too much about what you think people want to read. Write what you want to read. If it means something to you, it’s likely the story will resonate with readers.


Giveaway:
Tour Wide Giveaway:
–One tote bag with a notebook, keychain and signed copy of Influential Magic
–One notebook, keychain and signed copy of Influential Magic
–3 keychains and signed copies of Influential Magic
–5 signed print copies of Influential Magic
–10 ebook copies of Influential Magic

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About the author:
Deanna is a native Californian, transplanted to the slower paced lifestyle of southeastern Louisiana.

When she isn’t writing, she is often goofing off with her husband in New Orleans, playing with her two shih tzu dogs, making glass beads, or out hocking her wares at various bead shows across the country.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Fang Girl by Helen Keeble

fang girlInfo:
Title: Fang Girl
Author: Helen Keeble
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library
Series? No
Genre: YA, Humor, Paranormal
Page Count: 342
Rating: [2/5 stars]

Summary:

Things That Are Destroying Jane Greene’s Undead Social Life Before It Can Even Begin:

1) A twelve-year-old brother who’s convinced she’s a zombie.
2) Parents who are begging her to turn them into vampires.
3) The pet goldfish she accidentally turns instead.
4) Weird superpowers that let her rip the heads off of every other vampire she meets.(Sounds cool, but it doesn’t win you many friends.)
5) A psychotic vampire creator who’s using her to carry out a plan for world domination.

And finally:
6) A seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake her or make out with her. Not sure which.

Being an undead, eternally pasty fifteen-year-old isn’t quite the sexy, brooding, angst-fest Jane always imagined…. (summary from goodreads)

My Thoughts:
I wanted to like FANG GIRL. It’s supposed to be a parody and mishmash of vampire books and trends, but an overly complicated story bogs down the humor. Although the book is a fast read, I kept having to flip back to try and figure out what was going on.

Some of the pluses:
♥ Jane’s family is actually in the book and plays an important role. A nice change from the trend of neglectful/absent parents that’s common in YA.
♥ Jane’s mom makes a vampire goldfish, which was good for a few laughs.
♥ The author gave her vampires OCD traits. Need to get a vampire off your butt in a fight? Throw a handful of paper clips at them. The vampire won’t fight until they’ve picked up every single paper clip. The OCDness gets worse the older the vampire is.

Some of the minuses:
– Lily. I never figured out what was up with her, and I wanted to. As Jane’s sire, she was one of the most interesting characters to me.
– Ebon. This boy lied so many times that I have no idea what the truth is.
– The story was just too fast, with too much packed into it. A few days after finishing FANG GIRL, I vaguely remember it.

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Helen Keeble:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Incarnation by Emma Cornwall

incarnationInfo:
Title: Incarnation
Author: Emma Cornwall
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Gallery Books via Edelweiss
Series? No
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Alternate History, Steampunk, Adult
Page Count: 352
Rating:

Summary:

In the steampunk world of Victorian London, a beautiful vampire seeks out the author of Dracula–to set the record straight . . . If one is to believe Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale, Lucy Weston is Dracula’s most wanton creation, a sexual creature of the night who preys on innocent boys. But the real-life Lucy is nothing like her fictional counterpart—and she demands to know why the Victorian author deliberately lied. With Stoker’s reluctant help, she’s determined to track down the very fiend who transformed her—from the sensual underworld where humans vie to become vampires, to a hidden cell beneath a temple to madness, and finally into the glittering Crystal Palace where death reigns supreme.

Haunted by fragmentary memories of her lost life and love, Lucy must battle her thirst for blood as she struggles to stop a catastrophic war that will doom vampires and humans alike. Ultimately, she must make a choice that illuminates for her—and for us—what it means to be human. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
What if Dracula, Bram Stoker’s famous book, was a gigantic cover up? What if vampires, werewolves, and other fantastical beasts roamed the world? What if the British monarchy knew about it, and was in on it?

Incarnation is wildly inventive, and a great read. It took me a while to get to it, and now that I’ve finished it, I wish I would have read it sooner. It’s not your typical vampire book, so even if you’re sick of those, I’d still encourage you to give it a try. It’s also not young adult, though the cover gives the impression it might be. I’d recommend Incarnation for readers of any age, teen and up. It’s a mix of alternate history, steampunk, paranormal, urban fantasy, and even some romance — there should be something for everyone.

I really liked Lucy Weston, the main character. Does the name sound familiar? It should, although in Dracula, she was known as Lucy Westenra. Lucy is spunky, sensitive, and real. There’s even a hint of Lucy Westenra’s sensuality in her, yet they are two very different characters. I loved that Lucy wanted to do more with her life than marry and have children, especially in a time when that’s all women were supposed to do. Lucy grew over the course of the book, and I really hope her story isn’t finished yet. I would be excited to read a sequel to Incarnation.

Incarnation has a pretty cool twist on vampires. I don’t think I’ve read anything combining Arthurian legends and vampires before! Lady Blanche was an interesting villain, and I would have liked to know more about her. Actually — I wanted to know more about every character, even Cornwall’s Queen Victoria. Each character is richly imagined, and distinct. I have to give special mention to Mordred, who managed to steal most of the scenes he was in, as well as Marco, who was sort of Lucy’s love interest. Happily for me, the romance doesn’t overpower what is a brilliant story.

The writing in Incarnation is very atmospheric. If I had a complaint, it’s that I wish the book moved along a bit faster. The rich descriptions and scene settings slowed the pace down, but I tend to like that sort of thing, so I wasn’t too bothered. It’s just not the kind of writing you can gobble up in one night.

All in all, Incarnation is a great book, and I hope there’s a sequel in the future.

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– leeanna