Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. ExleyNero's Fiddle by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #3
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on October 9, 2014
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 254
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
One... death by spontaneous human combustion is a rare act of God

Two... is surely a freakish coincidence

Three... well, that’s starting to look deliberate.

Cara has a new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunter, she’s adapting to married life and living in a country manor that more closely resembles a mausoleum.

In London, Inspector Fraser investigates a series of strange deaths by divine fire - except he doesn't believe in coincidences. Despite himself, he enlists Cara's help to identify what artifact could cause such a hideous death while his desire to bring her husband to justice burns unabated.

Someone's intent on making sure a decades old secret stays hidden and Cara must figure out who is responsible before this case consumes her family and rocks the entire realm to its foundations.

nero's fiddle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for NERO’S FIDDLE by A.W. Exley. This is the third book in her Artifact Hunters series, a series I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m excited to be on the tour. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

NERO’S FIDDLE is the third book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described this series as quirky and unique, and that holds true with the newest installment. These books are a great blend of steampunk, action, romance, historical fiction, and mythology.

If you’re new to this series, I’d recommend you go back and start with book one, NEFERTITI’S HEART. Otherwise, you won’t know who the characters are and what they’ve gone through. NERO’S FIDDLE doesn’t give much recap of previous events. Since it’s been a while since I read the other books, I was a bit lost at the start, but after a couple of chapters I was good.

In their new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Cara and Nate must track down an object suspected for several fiery deaths. NERO’S FIDDLE has a bit less action than previous books in the series, but there’s a lot of mystery and character development. I had absolutely no idea how this book would wrap up, and I always enjoy when an author can keep me guessing.

When I reviewed NEFERTITI’S HEART, I made note of Cara’s grandmother, Nan, and Nan’s friend, Nessy. They were freaking hilarious and stole every scene they were in, and in NERO’S FIDDLE, they play a big role. I was happy to learn more about them, as well as Cara’s grandfather. Gideon is only in flashbacks, but dang. What a guy!

I read NERO’S FIDDLE from start to finish, enjoyed every page, and now I’m looking forward to MOSEH’S STAFF, the fourth and last book in the Artifact Hunters series.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

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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– leeanna

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #2
Published by Walden Pond Press on April 30, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 477
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming, who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses--Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose--to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.

But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening--even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination--it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.

Book Review:

“You’re never too young to start being a hero. Practice dueling one-handed so you never need to drop your blankie.” — The Hero’s Guide to Being a Hero by Duncan

After devouring the first book in the League of Princes series, THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM, I could not wait to dive into the second. Sometimes middle books disappoint me, because they aren’t as good as the first, or are just a bridge to the third book.

Not so with THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE. I think I might have loved it more than the first book!

There’s a big cast of characters in the book, between the princes, their princesses, the bad guys, and everyone else. Yet every character has a distinct personality, and is well drawn in a sentence or two. I never forgot anyone because each person was unique. I have a special fondness for Mr. Troll, though. Can’t beat a troll who wants to be the good guy in a song, even if the bards always get everything wrong.

This book has the same creativity and humor as the first, lots of adventure, and plenty of character growth. Liam’s somewhat of a jerk, having lost what means most to him: his reputation as a hero. His fiancée, Briar Rose, is pretty insistent on their marriage, even chaining Liam to his chair. She also has a big evil plan to overtake every kingdom, and only that brings Liam out of his stupor. Sort of. He eventually shapes up, with plenty of help from his friends.

I was sad when I finished the book, because I didn’t want it to be over! This series is great. If I had a young person in my life, I think it’s a series I’d enjoy reading with them, as both kids and adults can enjoy it. It’s one of my new favorites, and it’s one I’ll enjoy rereading for years.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 1, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 436
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Book Review:

I love fairy tale retellings, but the majority of them are written from the female perspective. I believe THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is the first I’ve read that’s from a guy’s. Even better — it’s actually the stories of each Prince Charming. The true stories, mind you. They’re nothing like you’ve heard before.

Frederic, Cinderella’s prince, is scared of just about everything, but he’s a snazzy dresser. Gustav, Rapunzel’s prince, is the youngest in a family of seventeen princes. Duncan, Sleeping Beauty’s prince, is a bit of an oddball and sadly has no friends. Liam, Briar Rose’s prince, is actually a hero, but he’s saddled with a real winner for a princess.

I loved this book. It’s hilarious and creative, and I just couldn’t get enough. I think it’s a great book for both younger and older readers; there’s a little something for everyone here. There’s lots of action and adventure, with the princes battling an evil witch; character growth, because the princes want to be known for who they are, not their princesses; sly humor; and illustrations that are picture perfect.

I’m having a difficult time reviewing it, because all that really comes to mind is that THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is just FUN! A seriously good time.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-HollandBracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Series: Viking Sagas #1
Published by Quercus Books on March 11, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Book Review:

From the summary, BRACELET OF BONES sounds awesome. After being left behind by her father, fourteen-year-old Solveig travels from Norway to Miklagard (Constantinople) by herself. For a girl who has never gone to the local market by herself, the prospect of such a journey is overwhelming, but Solveig loves her father and wants to be with him.

The author takes something that should be super exciting — Solveig’s journey — and makes it super boring. BRACELET OF BONES is for grades 5 and up, but I can’t see younger readers sticking with this book because there’s just not a lot happening! My younger self might have finished it, but that’s only because I’ve always had a thing about finishing books.

This book is the start of a series, which wasn’t something I realized until I finished it and saw the preview for book two. So BRACELET OF BONES is the story of Solveig’s journey from Norway to Miklagard, and only that journey. It’s somewhat repetitive, and I just feel like nothing happened. Solveig took a boat ride. Solveig took another boat ride. Solveig took a third boat ride.

I think some of my apathy for the book was due to the writing style and Solveig herself. The writing is pretty simple, which is okay because it’s a middle grade book and aimed towards younger readers. But I lost count of the “Solveig thought this” or “Solveig thought that” type of sentences, or the times she exclaimed or whispered or cried … she never just said anything. Call me overly picky, but that sort of writing pulls me out of a story. And Solveig … I never connected with her. I felt like I was watching the events of the book rather than being with her on her journey.

I wanted to like BRACELET OF BONES. I mean, Vikings? A Viking girl going on a grand adventure? That should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

Socialize with the author:

Kevin Crossley-Holland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. ExleyHatshepsut's Collar by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #2
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on November 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Loving you is easy, it's living with you that's killing me."

An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that's not top of Cara Devon's growing list of problems.

Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate's revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.

Although sorely tempted, Cara can't let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.

Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut's Collar from around the queen's neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

Book Review:

Last year, NEFERTITI’S HEART was a book I enjoyed a lot. It’s a quirky, unique book, blending steampunk and Egyptian mythology along with romance and adventure. When I read it in April 2013, I wasn’t sure if it was the start of a series or a standalone, so I was quite pleased to see HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR come out this year. I couldn’t wait to join Cara and Nate on their next adventure.

And boy, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR is one hell of a ride. The book starts about six weeks after the events of NEFERTITI’S HEART, and doesn’t waste too much time recapping the past. I don’t think you need to have read book one to be able to read this book, but you’ll have a better understanding of Cara and Nate’s relationship if you’ve already read NEFERTITI’S HEART.

That fledgling relationship is put to the test when Nate drops a gigantic bombshell on Cara (really, I wanted to take his head off myself). But before Cara react, Queen Victoria’s troops arrest Nate for high treason. Even though she’s tempted to let Nate rot in the Tower, Cara has to help rescue him, because if he dies, so does she, thanks to the bond they have through the Nefertiti’s Heart artifact. Another Egyptian artifact is influencing the queen, the Hatshepsut’s Collar of the book’s title, driving her towards worldwide conquest.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes Cara and Nate from England to Russia as they try to clear his name. I really enjoyed the glimpses of the author’s version of St. Petersburg, as well as two new characters, Nikolai and Natalie, acquaintances of Nate’s. They, as well as Loki the air pirate, provided amusement and seriousness, as needed. There’s a good dash of humor amongst the more dangerous moments. There’s nothing like laughing just before or even while characters are charging into danger. I mean, where else can you imagine a pirate blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as he attacks the Tower of London in an airship?

Cara spends a lot of the book wondering if she should stay with Nate, as she’s tired of him hiding things from her, including Very Big Secrets that impact her too. Even so, they don’t hold back on the physical side of their relationship; they have a lot of sex. I wish those scenes had been more consistent, because some were more explicit than others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one or two pulled me out of the story. Until I got to the middle half, that is, where the action really picked up. Then there wasn’t as much time for shenanigans between the sheets, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I did like that Cara thought a lot about Nate and their relationship, and just didn’t forgive him off the bat.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes everything I enjoyed in NEFERTITI’S HEART, from the world to the action, to kick butt Cara to scene-stealing Loki, and builds upon it. The book is a fun romp through a steampunked London and St. Petersburg, and the ending promises more such adventures for Cara and Nate. Definitely recommended, especially if you want some romance along with your steampunk and mystery.

Socialize with the author:

A.W. Exley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Chasing the Star Garden (Airship Racing Chronicles #1) by Melanie Karsak

Book Review: Chasing the Star Garden (Airship Racing Chronicles #1) by Melanie KarsakChasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Airship Racing Chronicles #1
Published by Clockpunk Press on December 4, 2013
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 325
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

Today on the tour for CHASING THE STAR GARDEN by Melanie Karsak, I have a review. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit the whole schedule here. After my review, there is a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

“In true Lily fashion, I didn’t know I was in trouble until I was already in the middle of it.” (p. 110)

I could liken CHASING THE STAR GARDEN to the absinthe Lily drinks: it’s almost like chasing the green fairy as a fantastical tale unfolds. I had no idea what to expect from the author’s steampunk, airship-filled world, and that’s always something I like, when an author can keep me guessing.

Lily Stargazer races airships, dallies with Lord Byron, smokes opium like it’s going out of style, and all around does whatever she pleases. She captured me from the start of the book, especially when she and Byron got down and dirty after she loses a race. I’ll admit, the first few chapters of CHASING THE STAR GARDEN had me wondering just what I was reading, but once I got further into the book, I can’t imagine having met Lily any other way. She’s a mess of a character, deeply wounded by her past. So it made perfect sense she’d drown her airship race loss in an opium den, and then in Lord Byron.

But as the story in CHASING THE STAR GARDEN ramps up, Lily gradually takes charge of herself. She’s always closed herself off to love due to childhood abuse, preferring casual hook-ups to real relationships. So it’s almost laughable when it turns out she’s the only one who can rescue a famous statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Of course, along the way, Lily starts to open herself up to the possibility of having love in her life. I didn’t totally buy the eventual relationship between Lily and Sal, but I was happy for her to find love.

What I liked the most about CHASING THE STAR GARDEN was the complex adventure/mystery. Lily, Sal, and Celeste (a courtesan/priestess of Venus) set off on a journey guided by the stars and ancient myths to find the Aphrodite of Knidos. Celeste wants to keep the statute from falling into the hands of treasure hunters. Their only clues are a kaleidoscope and the stars.

I couldn’t get a full handle on the world, but what was there was quite interesting. There were lots of airship races, both of the racing sort and the run for your life sort. I would have like more information on the world itself, but that’s just because I want to know how airship racing became a sport!

All in all, I enjoyed the wild ride that is CHASING THE STAR GARDEN, and I’m eager to see what else the author has in store for Lily.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

melanie karsak author of chasing the star gardenMelanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there was an abysmal lack of entertainment, so she turned to reading and hiking. Apparently, rambling around the woods with a head full of fantasy worlds and characters will inspire you to become an author. Be warned. Melanie wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, the author now resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Melanie is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Nothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-Clough

Book Review: Nothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-CloughNothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin on May 7, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
All dead. No one survived. All dead.

This morbid chant haunts seventeen-year-old Blue as she trudges through the countryside with just the clothes on her back, heading to her childhood home on the ocean. Something absolutely awful has happened, she knows it, but she doesn’t know what. She can’t even remember her name, so she calls herself Blue. This gripping survival story—peppered with flashbacks to bittersweet times with her boyfriend, Jake—strips life down to its bare bones. Blue learns, with the help of a seemingly magical stray dog and kind people along the road, that the important thing is to live.

My Review:
NOTHING BUT BLUE is an odd book to describe. Most of the story is about a girl, Blue, walking across the country to an unknown location for an unknown reason. Blue can’t remember much of her past, so both she and the reader are clueless as to who she is.

I just did not connect with this book or its characters. For me, it was one of those ones where I wondered why I was reading it, because the story didn’t hold my interest. NOTHING BUT BLUE is a pretty short book (224 pages in hardcover), but the first half was so slow and uneventful I wanted to put it down.

I can usually suspend my disbelief when reading, but this time, I just could not understand why a girl who could barely remember anything would walk across the country. At first I thought some sort of disaster had changed the entire world, but within a few flashbacks, it was quickly apparent what had actually happened. A disaster, yes, but one that only impacted Blue and her family. There are a lot of clues, so it was frustrating as a reader to see Blue not figure out the truth sooner.

The only character who did interest me was Shadow the dog. He’s supposedly magical, but I had unanswered questions. Was Shadow really supposed to be magical? Or was he some device for Blue, another link in the message that material things don’t matter and real connections between people (and animals) do?

I get what the author was trying to do, or I think I do. The journey across the country is Blue’s way of finding her self, her true self not defined by anyone else’s opinions. The execution was just off for me, and so I’ll end by saying NOTHING BUT BLUE wasn’t the book for me.

Socialize with the author:
Lisa Jahn-Clough:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Poison by Bridget Zinn

Book Review: Poison by Bridget ZinnPoison by Bridget Zinn
Published by Disney Hyperion on March 12, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
3 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

My Review:
POISON is a cute young adult fantasy with a likeable cast of characters. Refreshingly, it’s a standalone rather than the start to a trilogy or series. Full of twists, it’s not a dark or serious book, but the main character still wrestles with a big dilemma.

Before the book started, Kyra tried to kill her best friend, Arianna. Arianna, coincidentally, is the princess of the Kingdom of Mohr. The assassination attempt failed, and ever since then, Kyra’s been on the run. At the open of POISON, she’s trying to break into her old home to steal a deadly potion she created. Kyra is a potioneer, and in the world Zinn created, potions are used for just about everything, from disguises to opening locks.

The first few chapters of POISON were some of the weakest. The author took some time finding her stride, and the result is a lot of choppy sentences and telling instead of showing. But the book evened out, and I got pulled into the story. So if the first few chapters throw you off, give it a few more.

The characters were my favorite part of the book. Other than Kyra, who is pretty kick butt, skilled with potions and martial arts, there’s Fred. Fred is a traveller who rescues Kyra from quite the embarrassing situation. I liked Fred because he’s funny, light-hearted, and all around a good guy. And I can’t forget Rosie the pig. Yup, there’s an adorable pig in POISON, and I want to go out and get a pet pig now. Rosie is a tracker pig, and Kyra uses her to find the princess so she can go for assassination attempt two. Lastly, there’s Langley, Fred’s dog, who has a real eye for Rosie. The relationship between the two animals, and their personalities, stole several scenes for me, all without them saying a word.

The magic system in POISON is different from what you usually see in fantasy novels. There’s no wand waving or incantations. Instead, potionmaking is comparable to science, with potioneers like Kyra creating precise mixtures. There are also witches in the world, but they aren’t good characters. In fact, one almost EATS Kyra and Fred.

POISON had some good and bad things. On the good, we have the great characters and lots of twists. I didn’t see some of them coming, which I always like as a reader. But on the bad, I didn’t feel the romance between Kyra and Fred. They read more like friends, or almost brother and sister. And after finishing POISON, I just wasn’t blown away by it. It’s a good book, but not overly memorable.

I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a light fantasy. If you adored Rosie, like me, and want another fantasy book with a pig, the only other one I can think of is THE PIG, THE PRINCE, AND THE UNICORN by Karen A. Brush. But it’s out of print and difficult to find.

Let’s talk about it:
Who is your favorite animal character in a book?

Socialize with the author:
Bridget Zinn:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The End Games by T. Michael Martin

Book Review: The End Games by T. Michael MartinThe End Games by T. Michael Martin
Published by HarperCollins on May 7, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 369
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
It happened on Halloween.

The world ended.

And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.

And the brothers will never be the same.

My Review:
I’m kind of torn on THE END GAMES. I’m having a difficult time figuring out just what I want to say about it. It was one of those books I just liked — I didn’t love or hate it. I enjoyed it while reading, but afterwards, it was forgettable. But even though THE END GAMES didn’t stand out for me after finishing, I would still recommend the book for a few reasons.

The first reason is Michael, the main character. He talks and acts like a real guy. If you’ve read young adult books, you’ll know that male protagonists are hard to find. Michael is a video game nerd, much more comfortable playing a FPS (first person shooter) than interacting with other people. He’s also super protective of his younger brother, Patrick, and the close relationship between them was great to see. In a world that has changed, Michael does everything he can to protect Patrick, and to get them both to the Safe Zone.

The second reason is that the video game twist is refreshing. As somewhat of a gamer geek myself, I loved how the author sprinkled game references and lingo throughout the book. A lot of times when writers try to sound like teens, they fail, but in this case, the author nailed it. I was nodding right along every time Michael called someone a “newb,” or tried to emulate a sniper in a video game to get through a tough situation. That said, the writing style may take some time to get used to. Don’t give up.

For the first quarter or so of the book, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. Michael and Patrick are on the run from the Bellows, aka zombies. They score points for killing Bellows, finding supplies, and progressing towards the Safe Zone. They’ve been on their own for twenty days, surviving in a zombie-infested world.

But once Michael and Patrick find other survivors, THE END GAMES started to go downhill for me. I think it was due to the pacing. Even though Michael and Patrick were on the run for their lives, I actually never felt like either of them would die or that they were in danger. So the constant action wore on me. The book slowed to a crawl by the middle, and I kept wanting to flip ahead to see if anything was going to happen. The premise of the book changed; it became less about the game, and more about other things, which I’m not going to spoil for you.

THE END GAMES is a standalone novel, which is awesome considering how many young adult books are part of a series. However, because I was disappointed with the ending — I thought it was too open and I wanted more of a conclusion — this is a time when I wanted another book.

Readers that have already consumed a lot of zombie books might be bored by THE END GAMES, but maybe not. The video game twist does keep it new, and as the book progresses, it becomes less about the zombies and more about Michael and Patrick.

For me, THE END GAMES was almost over 9000, but not quite.

Let’s talk about it:
What’s your opinion on zombies?

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T. Michael Martin:
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– leeanna