Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim ButcherThe Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Published by Roc on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Pages: 630
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
2 Stars
Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Book Review:

THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS is my first Jim Butcher book. I own many of his Dresden Files and Codex Alera books, but somehow just haven’t gotten to them. But when I read a sampler from the publisher which contained the first chapter of this one, I knew I had to read it right away. Gwendolyn Lancaster captured my attention, and I had to know what kind of world she lived in.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn a ton about that world, which saddened me. It seemed like a fascinating place, but there wasn’t much substance to it. There wasn’t a lot of worldbuilding; for the longest time, I didn’t realize Habble Morning was a place. I sorely needed an explanation of how the spire was set up. I assume later books will explain why humans live in the spires, but please, tell me what their world is like now.

The characters blended together as well. THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS didn’t feel like an adult fantasy book, but some mix between YA and adult. Which is fine, but give me characters with personalities! Rowl had the most personality, and he was a cat. On the talking cats — they were okay at first, but I’m not sure why they’re in the book. Another later-in-the-series explanation? They felt very kiddie to me. However, I’m not a cat person, so I might be biased there. But Gwen, Benedict, Bridget, and the others felt more like stereotypes than developed characters. Miss Manners Gwen, Benedict the super warrior, Bridget who talks to cats, etc.

My favorite part of THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS were the airship battles. They were the highlight of the book for me. I could clearly picture them in my mind. I could tell the author had thought those out. I really liked the image of the Predator singing as she went into battle; it was a neat touch, one I would have liked more of in the book.

I struggled a bit to get through THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS, because for long portions of the book, there just wasn’t much going on. I longed for more worldbuilding and memorable characters. However, after saying all of that, I think I would give this series another chance. I’m curious enough to want to see what happens next in the story, and maybe get answers to some of my questions about worldbuilding.

Socialize with the author:

Jim Butcher:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester

Book Review: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver & H.C. ChesterThe Shrunken Head by HC Chester, Lauren Oliver
Series: The Curiosity House #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boy

Book Review:

Middle grade is a hit or miss age range for me, and THE SHRUNKEN HEAD was mostly a miss. Not to say I didn’t like it — I enjoyed the book while reading — but it’s not a series I’d continue. The book is average, nothing new or special, but one that would satisfy readers who liked similar books.

Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max live at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. They’re freaks with special abilities; Sam is the strongest boy in the world, Pippa can read pockets, etc. Some are more okay with their special abilities than others, and one of the best things about the book is how positively being different is portrayed inside the museum.

When the museum’s newest exhibit, an Amazonian shrunken head, is stolen, the four band together to try and save Mr. Dumfrey and their home. Death seems to follow the shrunken head, but is it really a curse or just coincidence?

As I said above, I enjoyed THE SHRUNKEN HEAD while I read the book, but it’s one I won’t remember tomorrow. It’s the start to a series, but I probably wouldn’t continue the series because I just wasn’t that interested. The characters are likely enough, and the dime museum was a good setting . There are a few atmospheric illustrations. But I’m not sure who the book is aimed at. It was a tad long, and I wish it would have firmly established the time period, rather than alluding to it. I’m not sure 3-7 grade knows when Spanish flu hit or the stock market crashed. But the writing and mystery seem too simple for an older age range, so I’m not sure.

Socialize with the author:

Lauren Oliver:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick NessThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Published by HarperTeen on October 6, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

Book Review:

Most of the YA books I’ve read in the past few months have blended together, either just okay or blah, books with a good premise but bad execution, or books that have unrealistic romances (for me) or whatever. I had THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE sitting on my shelf to review, and boy, do I regret not reading it sooner instead of trudging through the sea of blah.

In THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, there’s some kind of supernatural invasion or trouble going on, but instead of following the Chosen Ones, aka the indie kids, the book is about Mikey and his friends. They’re ordinary. They just want to make it through senior year before something blows up the school. Again.

Each chapter starts off with a short bit about what the indie kids are up to, and those short bits read a lot like the average YA supernatural/paranormal romance. And then it’s back to Mikey and his friends, who are trying to sort out their comparatively mundane (but no less important) problems. Mikey’s dealing with OCD, anxiety, and having a crush on Henna. Mikey’s sister, Mel, is a recovering anorexic, whose past is thrust back in the spotlight now that their mom is running for the US Congress. Mikey and Mel are each other’s rock, and they’re both there for younger sister Meredith, because mom’s busy with politics and dad’s an absent alcoholic.

I connected with every character in THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE. For the first time in a while, I eagerly flipped each page, because I had to know what happened next. Usually I’m not a big fan of contemporary — I need something extra to spice things up — but here, everything was just so real. The book felt authentic to me in a way many YA books don’t. I appreciated the author’s honesty and realism on various subjects: talking about sex, having sex, friends choosing to be family and being there for one another, that hardness you feel when you’re almost an adult but your parents still make decisions for you, anxiety about leaving behind everything you know, etc.

Plus, there are some great talks between Mikey and his psychiatrist, such as taking medication isn’t a failure, and that mental illness isn’t anyone’s fault, and it’s as real as any other medical problem.

Socialize with the author:

Patrick Ness:
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– leeanna

Book Review: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

Book Review: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah BobetAn Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Published by Clarion Books on October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm.

When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.

Book Review:

You know how most books end when the good guys defeat the bad guys? But what happens when the war is over? What happens when family doesn’t come back? How do you go back to normal? What does normal even mean?

AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES tries to answer some of those questions. Hallie and her older sister Marthe stubbornly work their family farm, hoping Marthe’s husband will come back from the war. But instead of Thomas, a strange veteran shows up, looking to work for room and board for the winter. Heron’s help is sorely needed on the farm — 50 acres is too much for Hallie to handle herself — but the war might have followed him.

I quite liked the idea of AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES. Very rarely do YA books look at the aftermath of the big fight, so I was excited to see a book that promised to do just that.

But the book didn’t deliver for me. Because the war is over already, and because the men who fought don’t want to talk about it, I was super confused about its events and the Twisted Things. I liked the idea of the Twisted Things — they’re creepy and dangerous — but I felt like I was missing half the necessary information to understand them, the war, and the Wicked God. When the big revelation came, I didn’t understand it at all.

I felt like that for a lot of the book, actually — that I was missing vital information. Like I was plopped into the second book of a series. Hallie and her sister have a strained relationship, one that Hallie gets in the way of fixing with her own stubbornness. I could understand that stubbornness, and Hallie’s pride, but I didn’t know where it came from. Why didn’t Hallie ever open her mouth and ask the questions she had for Marthe, instead of brooding and being snippy when they did talk? The sibling troubles took up too much of AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES for me; I wish some of that page time had been spent explaining other things since it was just the same scene between them over and over.

Now, one thing I did like in the book was the burgeoning relationship between Hallie and Tyler. They’ve known each other all their lives, and I thought their stumbling steps towards a romantic relationship were quite realistic. It’s rare that I like romance, especially in YA, but I liked this one because it didn’t overshadow the rest of the book, was well done, and realistic. There’s no insta-love, love triangle, or any of that nonsense.

I wanted to like AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES way more than I did. When I finally finished the book, which seemed to take forever because of the slow pacing, I was disappointed. I felt like I had to read between the lines to make sense of everything, and I don’t enjoy that kind of reading experience.

Socialize with the author:

Leah Bobet:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle MeadSoundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

Book Review:

While I haven’t read any of Richelle Mead’s other books, I know a lot of readers love her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I was excited to read SOUNDLESS because of the book’s premise: a fantasy with Chinese influences, featuring an entire village of deaf characters. Fei and her people have been trapped on top of a mountain for generations. Avalanches blocked them in and keep them from farmland. So to survive, they mine precious metals which are sent down the mountain by zipline. In return, the line keeper sends them food.

It’s a system that’s worked for generations, but now miners are beginning to lose their sight. Unable to send enough metal down the zipline, they are punished with restricted rations. Fei, who has a more privileged life than many as an artist’s apprentice, is terrified because her sister’s going blind. Fei joins Li Wei, her childhood friend, on an impossible quest to get down the mountain to bring awareness to her village’s plight. The quest is made possible because Fei has miraculously regained her hearing.

I really wanted to like SOUNDLESS. So many fantasy books are set in Medieval European-like countries that I’m always excited to see a book use other influences. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the author really developed the Asian setting and culture of SOUNDLESS. There are a few hints like foods and dress styles, but if there wasn’t an Asian girl on the cover, you could’ve plopped the book into any other generic fantasy setting. There are mentions of pixius (a mythological Chinese creature) in the book, but they needed more page time and development for me to feel them, rather than swooping in at the end.

I also didn’t like that Fei needed hearing to basically save the day. Because she can hear rocks falling, she and Li Wei are able to get down the mountain safely. Because she can hear soldiers and horses, she and Li Wei are able to escape pursuit. At first Fei’s not super happy about being able to hear, because it’s confusing and annoying to her, but as it saves her behind more and more, she admits the usefulness of it. By having Fei regain her hearing, I feel like the author was erasing a big part of Fei. That said, I do think Mead did a good job of showing how someone who has been deaf would think about suddenly having hearing — there were some good passages showing Fei’s feelings and thoughts.

In the end, SOUNDLESS was just okay. It’s a standalone, which also disappoints me a bit. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly at the end. Even though I’ve mostly pointed out negatives in this review, I would have liked to see more of Fei and her village, of what happens after the big climax. SOUNDLESS was just a bit too straightforward — a standard fantasy without anything super memorable. I think there are some great ideas here, but the execution was too simplistic.

Socialize with the author:

Richelle Mead:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle

Book Review: Mercury Retrograde by Laura BickleMercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on October 27, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Something venomous has come to Temperance …

It's been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance's resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.

Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don't want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters' own murderous skills.

Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.

With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.

mercury retrograde by laura bickle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for MERCURY RETROGRADE by Laura Bickle. As I quite enjoyed the first book in the Dark Alchemy series, DARK ALCHEMY, I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review MERCURY RETROGRADE. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

As a fan of Laura Bickle, I was excited to see that she was continuing her Dark Alchemy series. Earlier in the year, I read DARK ALCHEMY and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if it was a standalone or not. So I was quite happy to see MERCURY RETROGRADE pop up on my radar.

MERCURY RETROGRADE picks up two months after DARK ALCHEMY. Although I recommend reading the first book, I think you could read MERCURY RETROGRADE as a standalone and be okay. The author explains events that happened in the previous book as necessary. But you’ll definitely have a better appreciation of everything if you read book one.

In MERCURY RETROGRADE, Petra and her sidekick coyote Sig face off against a gigantic snake that’s turned Yellowstone into its personal hunting ground. But with giant snake videos going viral, they aren’t the only ones in the park — there are plenty of tourists, monster hunters, and even the government. Also on the search for the snake are Gabe and the Hanged Men, who need the snake’s blood to save their tree. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a cult of motorcycle-riding women who worship snakes … and they want to feed everyone to the giant snake.

I never know quite what I’m going to get with a Laura Bickle book, which is one of my favorite parts of reading her work. She twists things in ways I don’t expect, and always puts her own spin on traditional fantasy creatures. I was pretty creeped out by the giant snake, but I also sympathized with it by the end of the book. I also enjoy her dark humor and sarcasm, sprinkled at appropriate points. And lastly, she’s ace at writing great animal characters. I was overjoyed to see more of Sig!

I enjoyed MERCURY RETROGRADE even more than DARK ALCHEMY, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Petra, Sig, and Gabe.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

laura bickleLaura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae CarsonWalk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 22, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Book Review:

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is the first in Rae Carson’s new Gold Seer trilogy, a YA series set during the California Gold Rush. While the main character can sense gold, which gives the book a touch of fantasy, this first installment is mostly historical fiction as Lee travels from Georgia to California in a wagon train.

I don’t know about you, but I liked playing The Oregon Trail game as a kid, and this book really did feel like the game come to life. But with a great cast of characters, especially Lee. I really liked Leah. She’s devoted to her family, helping them work their claim and use her special ability to make things a little easier. But when her parents are murdered, and her only living relative turns out to be a slimy man who wants her gold divining ability for himself, Lee takes her life into her own hands. Disguising herself as a boy, she manages to survive plenty of dangerous situations before even setting foot on the trail. When she makes mistakes, she learns from them. And though she’s afraid Hiram might find her, she relentlessly keeps going in an effort to have independence and use her ability for herself.

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER spends a lot of time on the trail to California. I really got the feel of how difficult and dangerous such a journey was, and all the various hardships one could face. I think the author did a fantastic job of setting the scene, making me feel like I was on the trail. Rae Carson also showed the attitudes of that day, such as racism towards Native Americans and African Americans, and contrasted them with modern views. I also liked how Lee thinks about family, if it’s possible to pick your own. I like the idea of having a new family based on shared experiences and bonding, and not being forced into staying with bad blood.

I did expect a bit more fantasy in WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER, mainly because of Lee’s gold sensing ability. Lee doesn’t question her talent or wonder where it comes from. I wanted to know more about it, but I suppose that’s coming in the next books. There are also a couple of hard-to-believe events, such as Lee finding two people from home in the space of weeks in Independence. Looking back, the pacing of WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is also a bit slow, with so much time spent on the trail and Lee’s difficult journey. I’m guessing the purpose of the book is to forge Lee into an even stronger woman, one ready to face off with her uncle.

Overall, I’d recommend WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER if you’re looking for a great YA historical with just a touch of fantasy. I really can’t wait to see what’s next for Lee and the others.

Socialize with the author:

Rae Carson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory by Barbara Ann Wright

Book Review: Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory by Barbara Ann WrightThrall: Beyond Gold and Glory by Barbara Ann Wright
Published by Bold Strokes Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Like heroes from an ancient tale, Aesa and Maeve plan to raid foreign shores, claiming gold and glory for their homeland. Young and in love, neither considers what will happen if one is chosen to be a warrior and the other is left behind.

On a mist-shrouded island, Aesa meets Ell, a woman enslaved by an insidious curse. Maeve walks the path of dark magic and finds Laret, a woman well acquainted with pain. Together, they must break the magic surrounding Ell, an act that will force them to choose between their dreams, their homes, and the women they love.

Book Review:

THRALL: BEYOND GOLD AND GLORY is a standalone LGBT fantasy set in a Viking-esque world. I was drawn to this book for two reasons: strong female characters and Vikings. I mean, lesbian warriors and witches? Gimme!

In some aspects, THRALL is a fantastic book. In Aesa and Maeve’s country, there’s no judgment for liking who you like. A woman who likes women? Great. A guy who likes guys? Great. Do you want a polyamorous relationship? That’s great, too. Are you the partner of a warrior away on a raid? If there’s an agreement, there’s nothing wrong with you seeking a bed partner.

I don’t want to make it sound like THRALL is all about sex, because it isn’t. Those things are mostly mentioned in passing, which is both good and bad. Good because it’s just a part of Aesa and Maeve’s society, and there’s no need to comment. It’s just how life is. Bad because I’m a greedy reader, and I would’ve liked to see more of all the different relationships in the author’s Viking world.

Aside from Aesa and Maeve, who are both strong women who want to do what’s right, there’s another great character in THRALL. Laret is the first transgender woman I’ve read in fantasy, and she stole the book for me. I think she was good representation, and also because her magic was the most interesting to me. Laret’s a blood witch, but instead of cursing people, she breaks the curses of other blood witches.

THRALL also has an interesting take on fae, and I enjoyed puzzling out that mystery. But otherwise, the book lacked a bit for me. Maybe because THRALL is a standalone — I really wanted to learn more about the author’s version of Vikings, to see more of their magic system and culture beyond raiding. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think I just wanted more overall. More magic, more worldbuilding, more character and relationship development, more action.

I think if THRALL were the first in a series, I’d be more lenient, because that “more” would come in other books. But then again, a standalone is always nice… I don’t know. I just went in with high expectations, and while I really liked some parts, other parts didn’t live up to those expectations.

Socialize with the author:

Barbara Ann Wright:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne

Book Review: The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma TrevayneThe Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on July 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Grave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

Book Review:

The cover for THE ACCIDENTAL AFTERLIFE OF THOMAS MARSDEN is what first drew my attention to the book. It’s got the right touch of spooky whimsy that made me curious about Thomas without being too scary for the intended age.

Thomas is a grave robber, but it’s never scared him until the night he finds a boy who could be his identical twin in a grave. A note in the boy’s hand identifies him as Thistle; there are also theater tickets for a spiritualist’s performance. The note and tickets send Thomas on a meandering journey to discover the truth about who he is, and then on a quest to save a group of faeries in London.

What I liked most about THE ACCIDENTAL AFTERLIFE OF THOMAS MARSDEN was the author’s unique take on changelings. I won’t spoil it for you, but I haven’t seen changelings done that way before, and I’ve read a fair amount of faery books. I also liked the idea that faeries could talk to the dead.

Otherwise, I thought the book was a bit slow-paced and confusing at times for middle grade. There were a few times I wondered why this or that was included, and the ending left me a tad disappointed. However, I did like that THE ACCIDENTAL AFTERLIFE OF THOMAS MARSDEN is a standalone, and I also think readers will like Thomas. He’s an ordinary, relatable boy. Once he learns the truth about himself, he doesn’t change much, but he’s determined to do whatever necessary to help the faeries.

Socialize with the author:

Emma Trevayne:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Alice by Christina Henry

Book Review: Alice by Christina HenryAlice by Christina Henry
Published by Ace on August 4, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Retelling
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Book Review:

I’ll admit that I’ve never read ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but I know the basic story. And I’m always up for a retelling of a classic, especially a dark, inventive retelling. ALICE is definitely dark and inventive, full of horror with a shot of weird and “WTF did I just read?”

I had to read this book in bits, because at times the world was just so overwhelmingly bleak for women. In the Old City, girls are often commodities, taken or sold, raped or killed. The many mentions of rape and abuse got to me, and I do wish there had been a bit less of women being victimized in the book.

Otherwise… I think the best way to describe ALICE is to say it’s a mindfuck. A mindfuck in the very best way possible, mind you. I was never sure what would happen next, and often felt like I was tumbling down the rabbit hole. ALICE picks up ten years after the tea party (and other events). Alice has spent those ten years in an asylum, because when she came back from the Old City, she was ruined and babbled about the Rabbit. But she couldn’t remember what happened to her, so eventually her parents locked her away. For years, her only contact has been Hatcher, an axe murder in the cell next to hers; they talk through a mouse hole. When the two escape from the asylum, the story really begins, because the fire that sets them free also frees the Jabberwock.

There’s just enough of the familiar (Cheshire, the Rabbit, Caterpillar, etc.) but the author puts her own inventive spin on everything. I think Christina Henry did a fantastic job in establishing the gritty, yet fantastical world and the characters within. Because Alice and Hatcher can’t remember most of their lives before the asylum, they discover important things along with the reader, which I enjoyed. The writing also fits the book perfectly: it’s sparse yet descriptive, and there are some great lines on power and death. I also liked Alice’s growth throughout the book; she grows from a girl who wants the safety of the hospital to a quietly confident woman.

At first I rated ALICE three stars, but as I worked on my review and thought more about the book, I upped my rating to four stars. ALICE is a book that crept into my mind, much like the Jabberwock crept into Hatcher’s, and made me really think about it.

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– leeanna