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: Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally Green

Book Review: Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally GreenHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Life #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Easy.

Book Review:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Hamlet, William Shakespeare

How do you know if someone is good or bad? Is a white witch good because she’s a white witch, or because she chooses to be good? Is a black witch evil because he’s a black witch, or because he chooses to be evil?

Those are the questions at root of HALF BAD. Born of a white witch and a black witch, Nathan is a Half Code. He won’t have his full powers until seventeen, but if the ruling council of witches has their way, he’ll never receive the three gifts necessary to unlock all of his abilities.

HALF BAD starts off oddly — but in a good way. At first I was like, what the heck am I reading? What’s going on? Second-person narrative (You wake up in a cage, you wait for her to arrive, etc.) is tricky to pull off, and it was confusing at the start of the book. But it was a great way to get me into Nathan’s mind, and to see what he was like. So if you’re lost at first, keep going. HALF BAD is worth it.

I read the first half of the book before I knew it, and I didn’t want to stop reading. And after I finished HALF BAD, I kept thinking about it, and wanting to pick it up again. I cannot wait to see what will happen in book two.

Marcus, Nathan’s father, has killed over 200 witches. Killing is just what black witches do. Almost everyone, except for a few members of his family, is sure that Nathan will turn out just like Marcus. But what makes someone bad or good? Is it in their genes or in the way they’re brought up? It turns out to be a little bit of both for Nathan.

I really enjoyed the experience of reading HALF BAD. It’s a book that’s told slowly, a little too slowly in some places, but I didn’t really mind. I was so caught up in Nathan’s development and journey that I didn’t care there wasn’t always a lot going on. I rather enjoyed Nathan’s time in the cage, and while I’m not sure what that says about me, I do like that the author went there. Nathan goes through a lot, so be prepared for some emotional and physical torment.

I’d recommend HALF BAD if you’re looking for a good witch book, or a book with a realistic male main character. I don’t like a lot of guys in books, but I’m pulling for him.

Socialize with the author:

Sally Green:
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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: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. Salvatore

Book Review: Night of the Hunter (Companions Codex #1) by R.A. SalvatoreNight of the Hunter by R.A. Salvatore
Series: Companions Codex, Forgotten Realms
Published by Wizards of the Coast on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
R.A. Salvatore’s New York Times best-selling saga continues as dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden returns to Gauntlgrym with old friends by his side once again, as they seek to rescue Bruenor’s loyal shield dwarf-turned-vampire. But not only do Drizzt and his allies face a perilous journey through the Underdark and the dangers of the undead that lie within, but they must cross through a colony of drow, who would like nothing better than to see Drizzt Do’Urden dead.

Book Review:

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER sends Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall back to Gauntlgrym to rescue Bruenor’s old companion, Pwent, from the curse of vampirism. Thanks to the Sundering, as well as the intervention of Drizzt’s goddess Mielikki, Bruenor, Catti-brie, Regis, and Wulfgar are back in Drizzt’s life.

It’s not necessary to have read THE COMPANIONS to understand NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. THE COMPANIONS, book one of the Sundering series, tells the stories of Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Regis’s rebirths and journeys back to Drizzt’s side. I do think it’s one of R.A. Salvatore’s better books, though, so I’d recommend it.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER splits between following Drizzt and the others on their journey to Gauntlgrym to showing the machinations of the drow who have taken over Gauntlgrym. Artemis Entreri and Dahlia Sin’felle make an important appearance, so does Lolth. There’s a LOT going on in this book, and by the time I finished, I felt like I’d read a book double its length. There’s a lot to keep track of between the multiple subplots and characters introduced in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

Now, I’m a Forgotten Realms reader who really, really likes the drow. So I gobbled up every passage dealing with Gromph and Quenthel Baenre, and different drow houses including Xorlarrin and Fey-Branche. There’s a ton of drow politics in this book, and that made me a very happy reader. My only quibble with those parts of the book is that I wish the author’s language had been clearer. Sometimes I had to reread paragraphs a couple of times, due to awkward phrasing and long sentences, to figure out what was important.

The story of Drizzt and the others was good too, and exciting to watch them battle through Gauntlgrym. It was really good to see the Companions back in action, albeit each influenced by their new lives. Catti-brie, for example, is a mage, and Regis is much, much braver than ever before. I think this book is the start to a new epic for Drizzt and everyone else in the changing world of the Realms.

Because of all the drow intrigue, as well as the implications for Drizzt’s future, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER has jumped to the top of my favorite R.A. Salvatore books. I also think it’s a good starting point for readers new to the Realms, as you don’t need to know a ton of backstory, and it’s just a good fantasy book.

Socialize with the author:

R.A. Salvatore:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Reaver (The Sundering #4) by Richard Lee Byers

Book Review: The Reaver (The Sundering #4) by Richard Lee ByersThe Reaver by Richard Lee Byers
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on February 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
In the 4th book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, Richard Lee Byers introduces Anton Marivaldi—a renowned reaver with an insatiable thirst for bounty and a moral compass that always leads him toward the evil he’s never tried.

Endless, pounding rain afflict the Sea of Fallen Stars and the coastal regions surrounding it. Harvests are failing, travel and trade are disrupted, and civilized forces are giving way to the deluges caused by the storms. In panic and despair, many have turned to the goddess Umberlee, Queen of the Deeps, offering her sacrifices with hope that they will be spared the inevitable reckoning of her perpetual tempest.

Evendur Highcastle, undead pirate captain, risen from the depths to assume the mantle of Umberlee’s Chosen, takes advantage of the people's desperation to strike for both spiritual and temporal power in her name.

Vying with Highcastle for the hearts and minds of the people is Stedd Whitehorn, a little boy and the chosen of a god thought lost to time: Lathander, the Morninglord. In a time of such upheaval, Stedd’s message of renewal and hope runs in stark contrast to the savage ethos of Highcastle and his waveservants.

When Anton captures the boy in order to collect Highcastle’s considerable bounty, the reaver is quickly caught in the riptide caused by the sundering of worlds.

Book Review:

Previous books in The Sundering series have mentioned the Chosen: mortals blessed by the gods. In THE REAVER, we follow Stedd Whitehorn, Chosen of Lathander. Stedd’s a young boy on his own, traveling across the length of Faerun. He’s wanted by the evil sea goddess Umberlee, as well as Szass Tam, the undead ruler of Thay. Almost everyone he meets has ulterior motives, from wanting to sell him to use his powers for their own gain. Chief among those is Anton Marivaldi, a pirate with a lust for gold and no care for good or evil.

I got a kick out of Anton. I typically enjoy characters that aren’t all good, and Anton isn’t. He lies to Stedd, promising to help him reach his destination, all the while planning to sell him. Naturally it’s not that easy, for forces conspire against both of them. Anton loses Stedd, leaving the field open for Red Wizard Umara to sneak in for her own opportunity to take the Chosen boy for her masters. But once Stedd realizes what’s up, he’s not such an easy target, and tries to make both Anton and Umara think about their decisions. They all end up working together, Anton and Umara continually debating the goodness Stedd brings out in them.

THE REAVER is a fast-paced book, full of action scenes and character growth. Sometimes I have trouble imagining sword and/or sorcery fights, but I thought the author did an excellent job of describing blow by blow while keeping the fight scenes exciting. All of the characters experience growth. Stedd learns more about what Lathander has in mind for him while inspiring others to think about their own actions. Anton faces the mistakes that led to piracy, but isn’t always ready to give up his bad ways. Umara reflects on the rule of undead in Thayan society, and wonders if they should remain in power.

In THE REAVER, we also get to see more of the Sundering’s effects on the common people. The weather sucks — the Great Rain has flooded coastal villages and cities, preventing crops from growing. As a result, people are starving, and with the encouragement of Umberlee’s priests, they’ll happily kill each other for a scrap of food. Umberlee is one nasty goddess; I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.

All in all, I enjoyed THE REAVER. It’s fun, action-packed, and a good tale. While Stedd’s story concluded at the end of the book, I hope there’s more in store for Anton and Umara.

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Richard Lee Byers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Adversary (The Sundering #3) by Erin M. Evans

Book Review: The Adversary (The Sundering #3) by Erin M. EvansThe Adversary by Erin M. Evans
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on December 3, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In the 3rd book of the multi-author SUNDERING series kicked off by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, the award-winning Erin M. Evans throws her signature character Farideh into a maelstrom of devilish politics and magical intrigue. Captured by Netherese agents and locked away in a prison camp, Farideh quickly discovers her fellow prisoners are not simply enemies of Netheril, but people known as Chosen who possess hidden powers, powers that Netheril is eager to exploit—or destroy. As Farideh’s friends and sister race across the landscape on a desperate rescue mission, Farideh is drawn deeper into the mystery of the Netherese plot alongside two undercover Harper agents. But will her closest ally turn out to be an adversary from her past?

Book Review:

THE ADVERSARY is the third book in The Sundering series, and also the third book about tieflings Farideh and Havilar. If you’re new to The Sundering, you don’t need to have read the previous books. If you haven’t read the Brimstone Angel books which introduce Farideh and Havilar, you should be okay to start their tale with THE ADVERSARY. There’s a fair amount of background information on their previous adventures that should fill you in. I did have some confusion in the first half of the book, but that was because I had read BRIMSTONE ANGELS but not LESSER EVILS — I skipped book two — but eventually everything fell into place for me.

Erin M. Evan writes some amazing characters. Farideh is so real. I emphasized with her struggle to protect her sister, as well as her wish to do the right thing. Poor Farideh — every time she tries to do the right thing, she gets herself in more trouble. But that’s what happens when you make a deal with a devil, as Farideh did. Yes, she’s a somewhat reluctant warlock, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s a warlock. And one with an important heritage, which has other devils after her twin Havilar. I really liked that Farideh has such a strong desire to protect Havilar, instead of say, wanting to protect a lover.

All the other characters are just as developed, with their own stories. I’m just going to mention one other: Mehen. Mehen adopted the girls when they were abandoned as babies, and man, you have got to feel for the poor dragonborn. It’s so obvious he cares for both of his daughters, and I can’t imagine his pain when Farideh and Havilar disappear for seven years. Yeah… the twins get put into stasis by a devil for seven years because Farideh didn’t word her bargain clearly enough. Ouch, right? When the girls come back, they jump right into trouble again, leaving Mehen to try and rescue Farideh before she’s captured as an agent of the Shade.

Camps for the Chosen — mortals blessed by the gods — have been mentioned in previous books in the series. THE ADVERSARY takes us into one of those camps. It’s a chance to see how and why the Chosen are important, and what the gods want with them. Because of the deal she made to protect herself and Havilar, Farideh gets mixed up with a wizard in control of a camp. But when she finds out what the wizard is really doing with the Chosen, she tries to stop it … only to have something even worse happen.

THE ADVERSARY has layers upon layers of plot and intrigue, and sometimes I was like, “What the heck is going on? Who are these people?” But around the halfway point, the book started coming together for me, and I went from “Huh?” to “Wow. I didn’t see that coming.” I did find it to be a little long, but that might have been because of my confusion at the start.

The ending of THE ADVERSARY had me going “Wowza!” I’m eagerly looking forward to FIRE IN THE BLOOD (October 2014) so I can see what will happen next with Farideh and Havilar.

Lastly, I kinda love the cover art for the book. Finally a full-length image of Farideh!

Socialize with the author:

Erin M. Evans:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima Jean

Book Review: Knight Assassin by Rima JeanKnight Assassin by Rima Jean
Published by Entangled Teen on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 242
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
2 Stars
Seventeen-year-old Zayn has special powers she cannot control—powers that others fear and covet. Powers that cause the Templar Knights to burn Zayn’s mother at the stake for witchcraft. When a mysterious stranger tempts Zayn to become the first female member of the heretical Assassins, the chance to seek her revenge lures her in. She trains to harness her supernatural strength and agility, and then enters the King of Jerusalem's court in disguise with the assignment to assassinate Guy de Molay, her mother’s condemner. But once there, she discovers Earic Goodwin, the childhood friend who still holds her heart, among the knights—and his ocean-blue eyes don’t miss a thing. Will vengeance be worth the life of the one love she has left?

Book Review:

Featuring a female assassin with magical powers, KNIGHT ASSASSIN has a lot of elements that I normally like. But for some reason, I wasn’t able to get into the book. It just didn’t click for me.

Zayn has mysterious powers she can’t control, powers that make her faster and stronger than others. She and her mother are not welcome in their village, and keep to themselves. When she rejects the marriage proposal of an important man in the village, her mother is burned at the stake, accused of being a witch. Zayn herself is raped by Guy de Molay, son of the lord of the land.

Emotionally and physically abused, and without her beloved mother, Zayn doesn’t know what to do. She just wants to die. But before she can do anything, she’s rescued by Junaid, an Assassin of a heretical Islamic sect. Because of her rumored abilities, Zayn is given the opportunity to train as an Assassin. Thirsting for revenge against Guy, she goes for it, becoming the first female Assassin.

Although both Christianity and Islam play a role in the book, the author doesn’t shove religion down anyone’s throats. In fact, Zayn is not religious at all. Take the Dome of the Rock — both religions find it important, and fought over it. Zayn can’t understand why anyone would kill over a rubble-filled spot. In a time (~1180) where people were extremely religious, it was refreshing to see a main character who wasn’t. Zayn really only joins the Nizari Isma’ili so she can gain the skills she’ll need to kill Guy.

The romance wasn’t a big portion of the book, which I liked. Zayn has no use for men after her rape, and she didn’t really care for them before, either. She wanted to be independent, not shackled to any man in marriage. But she runs into Earic Goodwin, a Saxon Knight Templar, while trying to accomplish her assassination of Guy. She vaguely knew Earic when they were children, and almost the minute she sees him again, she starts thinking she loves him. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between them. I wish they had stayed friends, and let the romance come along in the next book.

At 242 pages, KNIGHT ASSASSIN isn’t too long, but it read like a longer book for me. I think this was because of flashbacks, which the author would use whenever an important event from the past came up, such as Zayn and Earic’s first meeting.

I did like that the book was set in Syria and Jerusalem. It’s good to have a fantasy/historical romance that isn’t set in medieval England. However, I didn’t get a good sense of the world, other than the types of food they ate. I also wanted to know more about Zayn’s powers. I’m still confused on what they actually are. I’m guessing that will be explained more in the next book.

Overall, KNIGHT ASSASSIN was missing something for me. It was okay, but flawed.

Socialize with the author:

Rima Jean:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen

Book Review: Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. JensenStolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 436
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy...

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

stolen songbird tour banner

The second I finished reading STOLEN SONGBIRD, I emailed Strange Chemistry and begged them to let me be on the tour for the book. I might have jumped around when they said yes. :D So today I’m super happy to share my review of the book, and an interview with author Danielle L. Jensen.

I wrote a super long review, so there’s a cookie for you if you make it through!

Book Review:

STOLEN SONGBIRD had me at trolls. Yes, there are TROLLS in this book. I’ve been waiting forever for a troll book, and STOLEN SONGBIRD was more than worth the wait. This is a book I savored, and I didn’t want to turn the last page because I didn’t want it to end!

Based on my years of World of Warcraft and other fantasy games/books/art/etc., I sort of expected the trolls to look like this:

troll for stolen songbird book review

But Danielle L. Jensen’s trolls look a bit more like this:

troll for stolen songbird book review

The trolls of the court, anyway. They’re inbred, creepy, and powerful beyond belief. The magic of the royal family keeps the city and its inhabitants from being crushed to death. Cursed by a witch five hundred years ago, Trollus is a city buried and forgotten beneath the world.

Cécile is a gifted singer, about to start her career when she is kidnapped and taken to Trollus. Before she knows it, she’s bonded to the troll prince Tristan; their bonding is supposed to undo the curse keeping the trolls caged away from the rest of the world. Plunged into a life she doesn’t want, Cécile doesn’t spend a lot of time crying. She doesn’t give up her hope of escape, but she bides her time, learning what she can of the trolls and their lives.

That’s how she becomes invested in the plight of the half-bloods. In Trollus, if you aren’t a full-blooded troll, you’re less than nothing. Half-bloods are property, bought and sold as slaves to the powerful, or sent to short lives in the mines.

And let’s not forget Cécile’s new husband, Tristan. Their relationship gets off to a rather rocky start, as neither want to be married, and trolls hate humans. There’s lot of fighting, but because they are bonded, they can sense each other’s feelings, and Cécile is surprised by a lot of what she senses from Tristan. For example, when their bonding fails to end the curse, Tristan is actually relieved, instead of upset.

Their relationship is one I really liked. I’m critical on relationships in YA books, because all too often they are based on insta-lust. Not so with these two. Tristan is horrible to Cécile in public, keeping up his cover of hating humans, but in private, he does nice things for her, like making a flashlight so she can see in Trollus. Over time, they develop real feelings for each other, aided by their bond.

The majority of STOLEN SONGBIRD is from Cécile’s POV, although there are a couple of chapters from Tristan’s perspective. I really loved both of their characters. Cécile and Tristan are complex, well-developed, and real. They both make mistakes, but learn from those mistakes. They both grow over the book, especially Cécile, as she learns more about Trollus and its politics. The few chapters from Tristan’s POV expanded his character and motivations; I liked his voice just as much as Cécile’s.

Aside from Cécile and Tristan, the other characters in the book are also awesome. Everyone, from villains to servants, has their own motivation and desire for wanting Cécile to fail or succeed at breaking the curse. The villains in STOLEN SONGBIRD are delightfully evil, and will stop at nothing to keep Tristan’s plans from succeeding. I love when villains have no apologies for being bad guys. I also want to mention Victor and Victoria, twin trolls who become Cécile’s friends. They constantly compete with each other to see who is the best, in everything from fishing to spear throwing. They provided some much needed humor, and also showed Cécile that not all trolls are bad.

The worldbuilding in STOLEN SONGBIRD is also super interesting. Trollus seems somewhat inspired by the French court, as the royalty and nobles reminded me of the decadence of Marie-Antoinette’s reign. So did their attitudes of being better than everyone, especially half-bloods. The politics of Trollus are extremely complex — nothing is what it seems at first glance, and that was great for me. It’s never fun when it’s easy to predict how a book will play out within the first couple of chapters. STOLEN SONGBIRD continually surprised me. I had NO idea what was going to happen, and that ending! Oh stones and sky, that ending. It’s going to be a long wait for the next book in the trilogy, because I have absolutely got to know what happens next to Cécile and Tristan and everyone else.

It’s really hard to pick what I liked most about the book, since I loved practically every single part of it! STOLEN SONGBIRD is one of those rare books where I was happy with every element as it was. Usually I critique something, or want something done differently… but I can’t think of anything I’d want changed in this book. So I’m going to take the easy route and say I liked EVERYTHING.

STOLEN SONGBIRD is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a wonderful mix of smooth writing, nasty and nice trolls, complicated politics, intrigue, and even some well-done romance. It’s categorized as young adult, but I think it’d be a good crossover book for adults looking for a new fantasy series.

About the author:

author danielle l. jensenDanielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain by Richard Roberts

Book Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain by Richard RobertsPlease Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Super Villain by Richard Roberts
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on February 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Super Hero, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
4 Stars
Penelope Akk wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents. She's got the ultimate mad science power, filling her life with crazy gadgets even she doesn't understand. She has two super powered best friends. In middle school, the line between good and evil looks clear.

In real life, nothing is that clear. All it takes is one hero's sidekick picking a fight, and Penny and her friends are labeled supervillains. In the process, Penny learns a hard lesson about villainy: She's good at it.

Criminal masterminds, heroes in power armor, bottles of dragon blood, alien war drones, shape shifters and ghosts, no matter what the super powered world throws at her, Penny and her friends come out on top. They have to. If she can keep winning, maybe she can clear her name before her mom and dad find out.

Book Review:

Penny Akk can’t wait for her superpower to show up. With a super genius for a father and a mother who can make villains cry with logic, Penny knows she’s going to be a superhero. She’s just too impatient to wait for her power to come on its own, so she helps it along…

…and ends up becoming a supervillain. Not on purpose — Penny’s always dreamed of being a hero. But once she and her friends Claire and Ray are accidentally labeled supervillains, they decide to go with it. They can always change sides later, when the opportunity comes up, so why shouldn’t they have some fun first?

“Fun” is the perfect word to describe PLEASE DON’T TELL MY PARENTS I’M A SUPER VILLAIN. Reading the book was like taking a romp through my fantasy of being a bad guy and being good at it. I had a really good time reading it, and enjoyed pretty much everything about it.

There’s a lot of good stuff, including:

♥The solid friendship between Penny, Claire, and Ray. Penny follows her friends into trouble, and sometimes they follow her. As the mad scientist, she’s their leader, but she doesn’t hold it over them.

♥The relationship between Penny and her parents. Penny’s dad is a tad absentminded, but what else would you expect from a genius inventor? As retired superheroes, Penny’s parents are fully supportive of Penny getting her power, and they’re present but away just enough for Penny to have plenty of adventures.

♥The creativity/hilarity. I think only a kid supervillain would think of creating a weapon out of candy. And only her sidekick would wear bear pajamas as part of her costume.

♥Penny’s smart. I love a smart girl who’s into science and math, one who likes being a mad scientist. She fesses up when she makes mistakes, but is also a thirteen-year-old who keeps some secrets from her parents. I also liked The Machine, Penny’s first invention. For a mechanical gadget, it sure was cute.

My only complaint with the book is that it is long. By the end of it, I felt as though I had read an entire trilogy instead of just one book. Now, that’s good in a way, because I got lots of detail about Penny’s power, her inventions, the other superheroes/supervillains, and everything did wrap up neatly. But I was wondering when the book would end. The chapters were long, which might have contributed to my feeling of the book being long.

Otherwise, though, it’s FUN! In the laughter of Penny herself: AH HA HA HA HA!

Giveaway:

There’s a Goodreads giveaway: Check it out!

And while you’re at it, make sure you check out the other stops on the publisher’s tour for PLEASE DON’T TELL MY PARENTS I’M A SUPER VILLAIN.

About the author:

author richard robertsRichard Roberts has fit into only one category in his entire life, and that is ‘writer’, but as a writer he’d throw himself out of his own books for being a cliche.

He’s had the classic wandering employment history – degree in entomology, worked in health care, been an administrator and labored for years in the front lines of fast food. He’s had the appropriate really weird jobs, like breeding tarantulas and translating English to English for Japanese television. He wears all black, all the time, is manic-depressive, and has a creepy laugh.

He’s also followed the classic writer’s path, the pink slips, the anthology submissions, the desperate scrounging to learn how an ever-changing system works. He’s been writing from childhood, and had the appropriate horrible relationships that damaged his self-confidence for years. Then out of nowhere Curiosity Quills Press demanded he give them his books, and here he is.

As for what he writes, Richard loves children and the gothic aesthetic. Most everything he writes will involve one or the other, and occasionally both. His fantasy is heavily influenced by folk tales, fairy tales, and mythology, and he likes to make the old new again. In particular, he loves to pull his readers into strange characters with strange lives, and his heroes are rarely heroic.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Black Dog (Black Dog #1) by Rachel Neumeier

Book Review: Black Dog (Black Dog #1) by Rachel NeumeierBlack Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Series: Black Dog #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on February 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

Today I have a twofer: a review of BLACK DOG by Rachel Neumeier and an interview with the author. Be sure to check out both posts, because I asked Rachel some questions about the book, including where the idea for BLACK DOG came from!

Book Review:

BLACK DOG is a werewolf book, albeit a very different type of werewolf book from the usual sort. Rachel Neumeier’s black dogs are more like hellhounds, the dog side constantly fighting the human side for control. Black dogs transform at will, whenever they need to fight, prove their dominance, or when emotions get too high. It takes great strength of will to control the black dog shadow. There also are the traditional werewolves that follow the call of the moon, but they aren’t as powerful as black dogs.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Alejandro, a black dog, and his sister, Natividad, a Pure, BLACK DOG is a book that unfolds slowly. Alejandro, Natividad, and her twin, Miguel, are Mexican, and it was great to see some diversity in a YA book. There are some Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the book; most have context translations or are easy to figure out.

The siblings are on the run from a dangerous black dog, Vonhausel, who killed their parents and wants to kill them. Their only hope is the Dimilioc pack, the last remaining civilized group of black dogs. But with only Natividad being worth anything to the pack, Alejandro must prove his control of his black dog, and Miguel, a human, must also show he’s useful. When Vonhausel shows up and tries to wage war, the siblings must help Dimilioc, each in their own way, because the alternative is death. Or something worse than death, in some cases.

Some readers might be bothered by Natividad being fifteen and expected to mate with one of the black dogs. Natividad is Pure, able to wield magic that can calm the ferocity of the black dogs’ shadows. Usually I would have an issue with that sort of alpha behavior, but I thought the Master of the pack handled it very well — he said no one could touch Natividad until she turned sixteen, and she would have her choice. Natividad didn’t have an issue with it, either. So all the possible mates were respectful, and wanted to protect her. There’s not really any romance in BLACK DOG — Natividad’s future relationship is a side topic. I just wanted to mention it.

Like I said above, BLACK DOG is a slow book. It’s over 400 pages, and I do think it could have been shorter and tighter. There were a lot of phrases repeated in dialogue, over and over, such as “I think” or “you know,” and they did pull me out of the narrative. I’m picky about things like that, though.

In the author’s world, black dogs are known to the public, thanks to the disappearance of vampires and their mindclouding magic of anything supernatural. The vampires and their war with the black dogs happened before the book, and so is offstage, but does have some influence on the events of BLACK DOG. I had some questions that I would have liked answered, but they didn’t really affect my understanding of what was going on.

Aside from that, once I got into the book, I did enjoy piecing the story together and learning about the siblings’ pasts, Vonhausel, and Dimilioc. I really liked the pack dynamics, and watching the black dogs control their shadows. It was also interesting to see regular humans interact with the pack. Natividad’s interactions were the best of all, because she wasn’t afraid of any black dog, knowing they wouldn’t hurt her. So it was fun and different to see a fifteen-year-old be taken seriously, her opinion valued, by the much older pack master.

The end of BLACK DOG does neatly tie up the main story line. I’ll admit, when I got to what I thought was the end, I was like, “No! That’s it?!” But it wasn’t! It’s hard to say anything about the ending, because I don’t want to spoil it, but the real ending was good. Very insightful. And there will be a sequel to BLACK DOG, so the other things I wanted to see, such as who Natividad will choose, and what will happen to Dimilioc, will most likely be addressed in that.

About the author:

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.
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– leeanna