Book Review: After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum

Book Review: After the End (After the End #1) by Amy PlumAfter the End by Amy Plum
Series: After the End #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 6, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Book Review:

At first, AFTER THE END was a great book for me. At the start, Juneau lives in Alaska, presumably one of the few people left alive after the third world war. She and her clan live close to the land, and believe in the Yara, a current that connects all beings. Juneau is being groomed to be the clan’s next Sage, the one who will read the Yara for news of bad weather, good hunting, and brigands.

But on a routine hunting trip, Juneau sees planes. Planes mean danger, so she rushes home … only to find her entire clan gone. They’ve been taken. Juneau rushes off to rescue them, and rushes right into the modern world. Everything she’s been told, everything she believes, is a lie. There was no WWIII. The world didn’t end.

All of this? Pretty cool. The beginning of the book took me a couple of tries, because I didn’t totally understand the Yara concept, but after that, I was hooked. It was fun to see Juneau try to make sense of the modern world. As odd as it is for her, she also has to deal with the armed guys who are after her, so there’s a lot to figure out at once.

AFTER THE END alternates chapters between Juneau and Miles. On the surface, Miles is a stereotypical rich American teenager. But in an effort to prove himself to his dad, he takes off to Seattle to try and find the girl his dad is looking for — Juneau.

When Juneau and Mike meet up, that’s where AFTER THE END started to lose its shine for me. Basically, they take a long road trip. There’s a lot of self-doubt, learning about the modern world, driving, a cool raven named Poe, lots of driving, crushing on each other, more driving, and then some romance. The last three quarters of the book I had to push myself to keep reading. There were a few exciting parts, but mostly it was a long road trip. Or that’s my impression, anyway. And then after all the road tripping, the book ends on a cliffhanger. I wasn’t pleased.

The beginning of AFTER THE END was different a good, a new twist on the popular post-apocalypse setting. If the whole book had been like that, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But after Juneau and Mike meet up, it felt way more contemporary, with more focus on romance.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Plum:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour

Book Review: Thorn Jack (Night and Nothing #1) by Katherine HarbourThorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
Series: Night and Nothing #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 24, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
They call us things with teeth.

These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town's mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack's air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister's journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack's family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack's family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose's untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister's suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

Book Review:

Before I start my review of THORN JACK, I should say I wasn’t super familiar with the tale it’s based on, Tam Lin. THORN JACK is a modern retelling, but I don’t think you need to know Tam Lin in order to enjoy this book.

THORN JACK is a lush, detailed, atmospheric dive into the supernatural. It’s a book I want to reread so I can enjoy all the little details and descriptions the author wove into the story. I was sad when I finished THORN JACK, because I knew I’d miss the creepy, dark atmosphere and the dangerous faeries. I am really looking forward to the next two Night and Nothing books so I can spend more time in this world.

When the book starts, Finn is almost … bland. It’s like she’s sleepwalking through life until she meets the mysterious Jack. I admit, I did think of TWILIGHT, but I didn’t get that vibe for long. Finn’s detachedness makes sense, because she’s mourning her older sister. Lily Rose killed herself, but Finn doesn’t know why. Only as she settles into her new town, finds new friends, and learns more about Jack, does Finn start to “wake up.” She also starts to wonder about Lily Rose, and what really happened.

But she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and neither is the reader. There are concerts in the woods and parties in abandoned hotels attended by boys with antlers, ghosts, and mythical creatures. There are a lot of characters in THORN JACK, maybe too many, but I thought they added to the lush feeling of the book. Reiko Fata was one of my favorite characters, but then, I tend to like evil, dark women, and she’s that and more. I enjoyed all the bits of Reiko’s backstory, and honestly, I could have read a book just about her. I also liked Finn’s friends, Christie and Sylvie. They bond very quickly, which I found a bit unrealistic, but I liked how they were there for each other, willing to help Finn even when she was doing something dangerous or stupid.

Reading THORN JACK was mostly an experience for me. Looking back, there are some things I question and criticize, but overall, I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it. I kept wanting to skip ahead to see what would happen next, and I found myself turning the pages way too quickly. This would be a great book to read around Hallowe’en, both because Hallowe’en plays an important role in the story and because of the general feeling of the season.

Formatting wise, I wish the glossary of “Fata Terms” had been at the beginning of the book, because I didn’t even know there was a glossary. The words (look like Gaelic?) aren’t used that often, but it would have been helpful to know what they meant.

Socialize with the author:

Katherine Harbour:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis Hall

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis HallIron & Velvet by Alexis Hall
Series: Kate Kane #1
Published by Riptide Publishing on December 16, 2013
Genres: Adult, LGBT, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Book Review:

I’m not really sure what took me so long to get into IRON & VELVET, but boy, do I regret waiting to read it. IRON & VELVET is one of those books I couldn’t stop reading — I felt as if it was written just for me. I adored everything about it, and there is one upside to not reading it when it was released — I don’t have to wait for book two, SHADOWS & DREAMS.

Kate Kane, paranormal investigator extraordinaire, doesn’t work for vampires. But with business being non-existent, and the Prince of Cups, one of the most powerful vampires in England, asking for her, she doesn’t have much choice but to take the case. Before long, she’s up to her eyeballs in vampires, werewolves, witches, tentacle monsters, and more. The whole gamut and then some. Kate herself has some supernatural blood; her mother is the Queen of the Wild Hunt, but that’s mostly an inconvenience.

I really liked the world the author created, as well as his twists on the different supernatural creatures, from vampires to demons to werewolves. Most of the creatures are true to legend, but upgraded for modern times. I also liked that three of the most powerful characters: Julian, vampire Prince of Cups, Tara, the alpha werewolf, and Nimue, queen of mages, are female.

Oh, yeah. IRON & VELVET is full of gay women, including Kate, Julian, and Nimue. This is an f/f paranormal book, possibly the f/f paranormal book I’ve been craving. There’s some pretty damn hot sex, and I couldn’t help but laugh every time Kate had to remind herself not to sleep with the client, or to keep her eyes on someone’s face when she was talking to them.

The author’s writing style pulled me into the book. If you like any combination of sarcasm, dry humor, and dark humor, you’ll probably enjoy Kate’s narration. “Here lies Kate Kane. Eaten by big bad werewolves. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed (Chapter 3).” Kate’s an alcoholic, has trust issues, is attracted to almost anything female that moves, but she does sincerely care about the victims. Kate usually tries to do the right thing, fucks up here and there, but keeps trying until things are right (or as right as they’re going to be). Yeah, in case you can’t tell, I kind of loved Kate.

Everything about IRON & VELVET kept me flicking the pages, from the murder mystery to Kate’s voice to Julian’s sexiness to well, everything!

Socialize with the author:

Alexis Hall:
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– leeanna

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

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

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

Monster.

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

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

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

Don’t you just love Jackal? I do!

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

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

Socialize with the author:
Julie Kagawa:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn Dolamore

Book Review: Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis #1) by Jaclyn DolamoreDark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore
Series: Dark Metropolis #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

dark metropolis blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DARK METROPOLIS by Jaclyn Dolamore. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

DARK METROPOLIS is the first book in a new duology set in an alternate version of Berlin in the late 1920s. Featuring three protagonists, the book digs into the dark underbelly of the city which is kept running by government-sanctioned zombies.

The summary for the book is a little misleading in my opinion, as it gives the impression Thea is the only main character. But her friend, Nan, and Freddy also tell parts of the story. I would have liked to see more character development for all three; DARK METROPOLIS is more plot-driven than character-driven. Characters are usually what I like most about a book, but something in this one hooked me and kept me reading.

Thea’s mother suffers from bound-sickness because she and her husband were magically bonded when they were married. But while he went missing eight years ago and was declared dead in the war, Thea’s mother has always insisted he’s still alive. Being unable to find her husband makes her mentally sick, and though Thea’s tried to take care of her mother, it’s getting harder and harder. One night at work, Thea touches the hand of club goer Freddy and sees a vision of her father sitting up. Is her mother right? Is her father alive?

When her friend and co-worker, Nan, goes missing, Thea asks Freddy for helping finding her. And that’s where things get freaky, because Freddy brought Nan back to life. He’s a necromancer and has brought thousands of people back to life. He was always told those people committed suicide, but when Thea insists Nan never would have killed herself, Freddy starts to investigate.

DARK METROPOLIS is a zombie story I actually liked. I typically don’t read a lot of horror, which is what I’d classify most zombie books as. Yeah, there’s some violence in this one, and some gruesome imagery, but the book is more fantasy/magic/paranormal than horror. The real horror comes from the manipulation of necromancy and the zombies’ living conditions.

I do wish there was more worldbuilding, because we’re given a few hints about the world, but not too many. The setting does feel very 1920s/1930s ish, but with an added element of magic. I did like how the author explored necromancy, and how there were consequences for doing such magic. But I wish more had been mentioned. For example, what was the war about? How did its outcome lead to the government outlawing magic?

Thea’s family relationship was probably my favorite thing about the whole book. I felt the love they all had for each other, and while I’m not going to spoil it, I liked the outcome. The other relationships in the book — Thea and Freddy, Nan and Sigi — could have used more development, just like the characters. The romantic relationships aren’t really a big portion of the book, though, so that didn’t really bug me. I was happy that Sigi kissed Nan at a very important moment, since I saw their potential relationship coming from their first meeting.

DARK METROPOLIS doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which is refreshing. The main story is wrapped up by the end, leaving a few loose ends for the next book, due out in 2015.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jaclyn dolamoreJaclyn Dolamore was homeschooled in a hippie sort of way and spent her childhood reading as many books as her skinny nerd-body could lug from the library and playing elaborate pretend games with her sister Kate. She skipped college and spent eight years drudging through retail jobs, developing her thrifty cooking skills and pursuing a lifelong writing dream. She has a passion for history, thrift stores, vintage dresses, David Bowie, drawing, and organic food. She lives with her partner and plot-sounding-board, Dade, and two black tabbies who have ruined her carpeting.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay Smith

Book Review: Sekret (Sekret #1) by Lindsay SmithSekret by Lindsay Smith
Series: Sekret #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Book Review:

On the surface, I should have loved SEKRET. Historical fiction + science fiction? Check. Teenagers with supernatural powers? Check. A real life dystopia? Check. But something about SEKRET just didn’t work for me.

Yulia is able to sense thoughts and memories through touch. It’s a secret ability that’s helped her survive as a fugitive in Communist Russia. But that ability draws the interest of the KGB, and at the start of the book, she’s kidnapped and forced to work for the KGB as a psychic spy. If she doesn’t cooperate, her mother and brother will pay the price.

She’s not the only one with special abilities. After the KGB takes her, she lives with a group of other teens who have abilities such as remote viewing and seeing the future. They are supposed to thwart the CIA’s attempts to steal plans for the Soviet Union’s attempt (Veter I) at orbiting the moon.

SEKRET just didn’t hold my interest. At the halfway point, I thought about restarting the book, because I was sure I’d missed something important. I hadn’t, but I felt that way because of how slowly the story progressed. I also spent some of that time confused, as the use of powers didn’t always make sense/was inconsistent. For example, Yulia works through touch, but somehow she’s able to tap into another character’s remote viewing of a room, and read an object she’s not physically touching. Another example: Yulia and Valentin are somehow able to communicate telepathically, without Yulia touching Valentin. But she couldn’t speak telepathically with anyone else.

I did appreciate that the author gave some background on the Cold War and the Soviet Union Yulia lives in. I read another YA book that was set during the Cold War, but it didn’t set the scene at all. So I did like that part of SEKRET. I do wish I’d gotten to see more of Yulia’s life before the KGB took her, but I’ll take what I can get.

The training and missions were interesting, but Yulia and her comrades didn’t spend a lot of time on that. The book just kind of floats around, going from the Veter I thing to the CIA hunting down the psychics to Yulia trying to escape. Yeah, in a house full of mind readers, she tries to plan an escape. *headdesk* SEKRET was very convoluted for me.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Smith:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
Published by Touchstone on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
In this witty, sexy tale, an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets.At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.

Book Review:

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Maxwell:
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– 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

Book Review: Salt (Salt #1) by Danielle Ellison

Book Review: Salt (Salt #1) by Danielle EllisonSalt by Danielle Ellison
Series: Salt #1
Published by Entangled Teen on January 7, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 266
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
2 Stars
Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own.

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her.

Book Review:

I’m always on the lookout for witch books, and I thought the summary for SALT sounded interesting. A witch that had her power stolen by a demon? And she has to rely on her family members to draw power so her secret doesn’t get out?

Unfortunately, SALT‘s premise didn’t lead to an awesome book for me. I put it down a few times and almost gave up reading it, because I just couldn’t get into it. I wish I could pinpoint exactly why I didn’t like it; I think it was the combination of slow pacing, so-so characters, and nothing feeling original. The whole book was slow for me. I kept wanting SOMETHING to happen, and whenever something did, I never felt like Penelope or any of the other characters were in danger. The action scenes just didn’t have any zing, even the one that kicked off the book. And even though she kept her lack of powers secret, I never doubted Penelope would succeed at her goal. Everything always just worked out for her, almost too easily.

Penelope also had a habit of doing stupid things even though she knew better, like forgetting salt, which is used to fight demons. Or she left her cellphone in the car while running in the dark at night. Really? Sorry, but it’s a peeve of mine when smart girls do stupid things.

I did like Penelope and Carter’s relationship, because even though he had secrets of his own and wasn’t always forthcoming with information, he was a great guy. It was obvious he cared about Penelope. So that was nice to see, instead of Penelope falling for a bad boy witch.

Ultimately, SALT just wasn’t the book for me. In the end, I wanted MORE from it: more action, more character development, more unique worldbuilding, etc. If you’re in the mood for something fluffy, it might be perfect for you.

Socialize with the author:

Danielle Ellison:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Pretty When They Collide (Pretty When She Dies #0.5) by Rhiannon Frater

Book Review: Pretty When They Collide (Pretty When She Dies #0.5) by Rhiannon FraterPretty When They Collide by Rhiannon Frater
Series: Pretty When She Does #0.5
Published by Self-Published on March 13, 2013
Genres: Horror, LGBT, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 145
Format: eBook
Source: Own
Goodreads
4 Stars
An exciting new novella set in the world of Pretty When She Dies...

Cassandra is a dhamphir-the offspring of a vampire and mortal woman-and a thief of occult relics.

Aimee is a full-blood witch that is bound to a powerful vampire who traffics in the slavery of supernatural beings.

Both are powerful, lonely, and trapped in the dangerous world of the vampires.

When Cassandra steals a relic from Aimee’s vampire master, he targets her as his next acquisition. What he doesn’t realize is that a chance encounter between Cassandra and Aimee ignited a spark between them that they cannot deny.

To survive, the women must find a way to band together and fight against the ruthless evil that conspires to enslave them forever.

Book Review:

PRETTY WHEN THEY COLLIDE is a novella in the Pretty When She Kills universe, focusing on Cassandra and Aimee. I sped through it, and hope their story continues!

Having not read any of the main books in the series, I was a little worried I’d be lost or confused. I wasn’t, so I’d say PRETTY WHEN THEY COLLIDE would be a good introduction to the universe. There’s enough background to get your bearings, but not so much that the book is full of info dumps.

Cassandra is a dhampir, half-human and half-vampire, and Aimee is a full-blood witch. Cassandra is a kick ass thief, and Aimee is bound to a nasty vampire. Once they meet, sparks fly — literally. Aimee’s magic responds to Cassandra, which is something that’s never happened before. Before long, Aimee wonders if Cassandra is her way to be free of her vampire master, and Cassandra can’t resist helping out a damsel in distress.

The relationship between Cassandra and Aimee is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to read this book. I can think of very few f/f (lesbian) relationships in urban fantasy/paranormal romance. They’re rarer than were-unicorns. I was cheering for them to get together, and although I knew it would happen, I still enjoyed reading the progress of their relationship. I was sad when the novella ended and I had to say goodbye to them.

Aside from the relationship between Cassandra and Aimee, I want to mention the horror aspect of this novella. It’s not disgusting, full of gore and guts, but psychological, stomach-twisting horror. Frank, Aimee’s vampire master, is a real … douchebag. Yeah, I can’t believe I’m using that word in a review, but he is. Let’s add in creepy and sadistic, and you have a worthy villain for Cassandra.

Socialize with the author:

Rhiannon Frater:
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– leeanna