Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Goodreads
2 Stars
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Book Review:

Villains are usually my favorite characters in books. Call me twisted, but I love bad women/guys, characters who do anything to get their way, characters who have questionable morals and/or goals. So I should have loved THE YOUNG ELITES, because it’s supposed to be a villain’s story.

Adelina is tired of being hurt, of being used. A survivor of the mysterious blood fever, she lost an eye. One would think that would be enough, but her father has hurt and hated her for years, trying to find some value in having a malfetto for a daughter. When Adelina finds out her father is going to sell her, she escapes … and murders him in the process.

On the day of her execution, a fire already set at her feet, Adelina is rescued by the Young Elites. They are a group of malfettos with magic powers, and they want Adelina because she’s one of them. But the rescue isn’t quite what it seems, because the Young Elites want to use Adelina, as does Teren, leader of the Inquisition that nearly killed her.

All of that? Pretty promising, I’d say. But there was just something missing in THE YOUNG ELITES, something that’s very difficult for me to put my finger on. I should have flown through this book, but it took me days to finish. That’s abnormal for me, because I usually read a book a day. THE YOUNG ELITES just didn’t hold my interest. I feel like I trudged through it, and there were several points where I just wanted to put it aside. I didn’t, but only because I’d heard the ending was worth it. The ending was okay, the best part of the book for me, other than the epilogue.

Why didn’t THE YOUNG ELITES hold my interest? To start, there’s a real lack of worldbuilding for a fantasy book. The world feels a lot like Renaissance Italy, and there are lots of descriptions of buildings and pretty masks and clothing, but not of the important stuff. Where did the blood fever come from? How does magic work for the Young Elites? Adelina describes using her powers, but I didn’t quite get the idea behind the threads, or many of the powers of the other Elites. Etc.

I also never connected to Adelina. I don’t necessarily have to like a main character to like a book, but there has to be something about a character to grab me if the story doesn’t. I should have loved that Adelina is making steps towards being the bad guy, but she didn’t feel very developed to me. I read in the Acknowledgments that she was originally a side character, and then the author rewrote the book around her.

There’s more bad I could go on about, but I’ll stop there and just say I was underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I expected more — I really liked Marie Lu’s first book, LEGEND, which read almost like playing a video game. If I made the same comparison, THE YOUNG ELITES read like being stuck on the loading screen.

So why 2 stars instead of 1? Because there is some cool stuff in THE YOUNG ELITES. Parts of the book are quite dark, which I usually like, and I liked that the author tried to go there. I could see promise, but there was a lack of execution/focus. I probably would pick up the next Young Elites book, but I’m crossing my fingers that it’s better.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Lu:
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– leeanna

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe ShineI Become Shadow by Joe Shine
Published by Soho Teen on June 10, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen and chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: the fearless and unstoppable guardian of a future leader. Everything she held dear—her family, her home, her former life—is gone forever.

Ren survives four years of training, torture, and misery, in large part thanks to Junie, a fellow F.A.T.E. abductee who started out as lost and confused as she did. She wouldn’t admit it was possible to find love in a prison beyond imagining, but what she feels for Junie may just be the closest thing to it.

At eighteen they part ways when Ren receives her assignment: find and protect college science student Gareth Young, or die trying. Life following a college nerd is uneventful, until an attack on Gareth forces Ren to track down the only person she can trust. When she and Junie discover that the F.A.T.E. itself might be behind the attacks, even certain knowledge of the future may not be enough to save their kidnappers from the killing machines they created.

Book Review:

You know how most fourteen-year-olds stress about high school? Ren doesn’t have to worry about that for long, because she’s abducted by F.A.T.E., a secret organization that protects the world’s future important people. Instead of worrying about boys, popularity, grades, etc., Ren’s worried about making it through training alive. Most kids taken by F.A.T.E. don’t make it, which is no shock, considering the classes include weapons training with live rounds, beating the stuffing out of each other, and a nightly injection that kills all the nerves in your body.

I BECOME SHADOW starts off slowly and with some backpedaling, because Ren fills the reader in on her normal life before being taken. If you’re confused at the start, keep going and things will eventually make sense. Ren has a unique voice, one I think readers will either like or dislike. She’s sarcastic, mouthy, no-nonsense, and cocky, but sometimes she’s also “woe is me.” Most of the time I liked her narration, but once in a while it did feel like the author was trying too hard.

After Ren starts training and then once she gets her assignment, the book is full of action. I thought the author did a good job writing the action scenes; sometimes I skim them because they’re boring or hard to picture. That wasn’t the case here.

I BECOME SHADOW was almost a really good book for me. There are some great ideas, including F.A.T.E. and its mission. When Ren graduates training, she’s linked to the person she’ll spend the rest of her life protecting. The process makes it almost painful for her to be away from him, and if he’s in danger? Forget about it. She’s supposed to stay in the shadows, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying she breaks the rules.

Then we get into the parts of the book that didn’t work out so well for me. Ren starts to have feelings for Gareth, the kid she protects, but are they real or a byproduct of the link? At the same time, she’s pining for Junie, a guy she went through training with. I believed in Ren and Junie’s friendship, but not their romantic feelings for each other. I really wish the author would have kept it as a friendship rather than try to add romance. Because apparently all YA books need romance. Not.

The end of I BECOME SHADOW also felt rushed. A lot of the book is spent on training time, and then some with Ren on the job protecting Gareth. Then the big climax, and boom, the book’s over. When I finished I BECOME SHADOW, I had quite a few questions about F.A.T.E. and Shadows and other things. I’m guessing there will be a sequel or two to flesh things out? I don’t know for sure.

Overall, I BECOME SHADOW is strong in the action and sarcastic heroine departments, but lacking in the romance and storytelling.

Socialize with the author:

Joe Shine:
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay

Book Review: Shameless by Nina LemayShameless by Nina Lemay
Published by Self-Published on August 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.

I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?

But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.

He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.

The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.

shameless by nina lemay blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SHAMELESS by Nina Lemay. 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:

The summary for SHAMELESS drew me in. A pessimist stripping to pay her way through college? A girl who gets the shock of her life when a guy she gave a lap dance to shows up as her photography professor? Yum! I like some “forbidden” relationships, and this one has two. I also liked the cover, since I could see Hannah as the girl on the cover. Photography plays a big role in SHAMELESS, so I think the cover style was a great choice.

For the most part, I enjoyed SHAMELESS. I liked Hannah. She always sees the worst in things, expects bad things to happen, and doesn’t glamorize her life as a stripper. It’s just something she’s doing to pay for school, and yeah, she recognizes that’s a huge cliche. Too bad. She likes financial independence. I liked that she wanted to take advantage of men looking at her, and that she was shameless about her job choice.

Hannah’s not in a great place in her life. I would say it’s possible she’s depressed, just going through the motions. Until Emmanuel shows up, in the club and then at school. The two are drawn together, and while Hannah is at first worried Emmanuel will spill her secret, he shows her otherwise when he rescues her from a bad clubbing night. I did think their relationship progressed very quickly. Emmanuel is an incredibly sweet guy, and I could tell he wanted the best for Hannah. I could see why she liked him, but I wasn’t sure why Emmanuel was drawn to Hannah. I mean, Emmanuel offers to do some crazy things so they can date without it causing trouble, but I’m still not sure why. A bit more development for both Hannah and Emmanuel would have really helped me believe in their relationship, but once I got past that, I did enjoy seeing them together.

Some of the things that happened are maybe a tad unbelievable, but I can’t really go into those without spoiling way too much of the book. So, to be incredibly vague, I could sort of believe what happened, but I would have believed it a lot more if Hannah’s tragic past had been … more tragic. She’s hiding a big secret about why she thinks most guys hate women, but when the reveal came, I expected it to be … bigger.

SHAMELESS is set in Canada, Montreal to be exact. I appreciated a book set outside of the U.S., and enjoyed the author’s descriptions for Montreal and especially Quebec City. I do wish an explanation for a couple French Canadian terms had been provided, but a quick trip to Urban Dictionary helped out.

I think what I liked most about SHAMELESS was that Hannah didn’t let anyone change her. You don’t like that she’s a stripper? Fuck you. I absolutely loved her final photography project, and what it shows about others’ attitudes regarding stripping and women. And thanks to the author’s good descriptions, I could actually “see” each photo.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author nina lemayNina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.
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– leeanna

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: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey Stewart

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey StewartAdagio by Delancey Stewart
Series: The Company #1
Published by Self-Published on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 205
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
The world of professional ballet is built on illusion. The illusion of perfection. The illusion of effortless beauty. The illusion of eternal love.

But backstage, few members of the Union Ballet Company suffer from such illusions.

Anna Glaser has dreamed of nothing but dancing professionally her entire life. And when she’s finally offered a position with Union, she takes it, giving little more than a passing thought to what she might have to give up in exchange. But Sebastian Kaplan, the director who gave her the chance, won’t forget so easily.

When Anna meets Cain, who has been dubbed by the local media as Union’s most eligible bachelor, she realizes that making a deal with the devil might mean that Heaven — in the form of a gorgeous dark-haired man — is forever out of her reach.

Dancers at Union know that something that glitters and shines under the stage lights can still be vicious and evil when the lights go down.

Adagio is the first episode in the series The Company – an engaging drama-filled ride through the darker parts of the ballet and the lives of those who live to dance.

*This book contains explicit content and is suitable for readers over 17

adagio blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for ADAGIO by Delancey Stewart. If you’ve been around here for a while, you might know I like ballet books, so I was excited to check this one out.

The tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide givewaway.

Book Review:

ADAGIO dives into the dark aspects of ballet within the opening pages. At her audition to dance with the Union Ballet Company, the director offers her a private audition to show she really belongs. Sebastian wants to know how far she’ll go to dance, if she will do anything necessary. Anna jumps at the chance to make her dreams come true, but later wonders if she did the wrong thing, and what Sebastian will want in return.

Anna lives to dance. The order and devotion required to succeed keep away the nightmares and problems in her past. But when she joins Union, Sebastian’s manipulations, company politics, and a possible romance with a fellow dancer shake up everything. Suddenly, dance isn’t the refuge it’s always been. Sebastian pushes Anna almost to her breaking point, but not everyone is content to watch him be a controlling bastard.

There’s a lot going on in ADAGIO, more than just Anna’s dealings with Sebastian and her romance with Cain. I think some of the side stories were unnecessary, and took focus away from really developing Anna and Cain, and their relationship. For example, Anna was taken advantage of in the past, which has made her uncomfortable around men. The first time she tries to be with Cain, she can’t go through with it. Once he learns why, Cain is super understanding, is willing to wait, and wants to help Anna get over her past. But it doesn’t take very long for Anna to practically jump Cain, which I found a tad unrealistic. Otherwise, I thought the relationship between the two was really sweet, and I liked the little things Cain did, like buy groceries and make sure she got home safe every night.

At 205 pages, ADAGIO is a quick read. I like books set in the ballet world, so this was good for me. I read it in one sitting, because I wanted to know what would happen with controlling Sebastian, to see if Anna would succumb or triumph. I also wanted to “see” the ballet the company works towards putting on, a steampunk version of Coppélia. I think there’s a good balance of dance life and real life in ADAGIO, and it’s a good start to a series.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

delancey stewartDelancey Stewart writes contemporary romance.

Stewart has lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns. She’s been a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer and a direct sales representative for a French wine importer. But she has always been a writer first.

A military spouse and the mother of two small boys, her current job titles include pirate captain, monster hunter, Lego assembler and story reader. She tackles all these efforts at her current home outside Washington D.C.
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Buy: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: Storms of Lazarus (Shadows of Asphodel #2) by Karen Kincy

Book Review: Storms of Lazarus (Shadows of Asphodel #2) by Karen KincyStorms of Lazarus by Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #2
Published by Self-Published on July 13, 2014
Genres: Alternate Universe, Dieselpunk, New Adult, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sometimes escape is impossible. Sometimes love isn't enough.

1913. Christmas Eve. Ardis hardly expects a quiet holiday with Wendel, between fleeing Constantinople and hiding from an ancient society of assassins. And they owe a debt to a certain archmage.

In Königsberg, Prussia, they work with Konstantin on the next evolution of Project Lazarus. Wendel once called Königsberg home, the city now besieged by the Russians and their clockwork engines of war. This may be Wendel’s last chance to save his family and find redemption, but he's tormented by nightmares and tempted by laudanum. Ardis fears her love isn’t enough to save Wendel. Her hands are full piloting the automatons, and she's terrified to tell him a secret of her own. Will they—and their love—survive the storms of war?

storms of lazarus blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for STORMS OF LAZARUS by Karen Kincy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can check out the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

Last year I read SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL, the first book in Karen Kincy’s dieselpunk/steampunk series of the same name. I enjoyed the combination of necromancy, airships, automatons, magic, and other good stuff. I hoped there would be a second book, so I was excited to see STORMS OF LAZARUS pop up. I liked this book even better than the first, which is a rarity for me.

STORMS OF LAZARUS starts off right after the end of SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL. There isn’t much recap of what happened in book one, which is my only complaint about this book. I read the first in December 2013, so I couldn’t remember a lot of what happened. More of a refresher would have been helpful, but otherwise, STORMS OF LAZARUS was quite enjoyable.

In the first couple of chapters, Ardis and Wendel are arrested, meet a vampire, acquire a pet raven, reunite with Konstantin, and survive an airship crash. And oh yeah — World War I is about to start. Ardis, Wendel, and Konstantin travel to Prussia in an attempt to stave off invasion, but you know nothing goes to plan. As with the first book in the series, the author shows off her creativity, bringing in a clockwork dragon and wasps, and making an interesting connection between necromancers and vampires. The backdrop of war also makes for a lot of adventure, and the book is almost non-stop action. There’s even more automaton battles, which made me a happy reader.

In the first book, I didn’t quite support the relationship between Ardis and Wendel, but here I was rooting for them. Ardis really supports Wendel in Prussia, where he has to face the family that disinherited him because of his necromantic abilities. Wendel is his usual sarcastic but noble self, and has some great lines. I’d quote some of my favorites, but that would spoil things.

Basically, if you liked SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL, then I think you’ll really enjoy STORMS OF LAZARUS. It has everything the first book had, but more. It’s like a double helping of dieselpunk/steampunk goodness. I sincerely hope there’s a third book in the works, because I need more of Ardis and Wendel’s story.

Giveaway:

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*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author of shadows of asphodel: karen kincyKaren Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

Book Review: Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. LeeGates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone #1
Published by Skyscape on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 335
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Book Review:

There are two things I really liked about GATES OF THREAD AND STONE: the city of Ninurta and the strong relationship between Kai and Reev.

Ninurta has a dark, gritty, post-apocalyptic feel. It’s populated by humans who have survived a devastating war between magic users and the military. Most people struggle to survive, including Kai and Reev, who live in a freight container stacked in a labyrinth-like maze. They barely make enough credits to buy food, whereas wealthy people, who live in the walled off White Court, have money to blow on fancy clothing, fresh food, and even magically-powered transportation devices. Somewhat standard stuff, but I got a really good sense of the city, and the hardiness one needed to survive in the Labyrinth.

Kai and Reev are siblings by choice. He took her in when she was a child; Kai has no memories of her life before Reev found her. They support each other, and are working their way out of the Labyrinth and into a better area. When Reev goes missing — just another missing person in a string of unsolved disappearances — Kai will stop at nothing to save her big brother. If necessary, she’ll even use the ability Reev has told her never to use: her ability to manipulate the threads of time. I really liked Kai and Reev, because it’s not often you see such a sibling relationship, and one where they aren’t blood relatives. I like the theme of chosen family versus biological family in books, and that comes out to play in GATES OF THREAD AND STONE.

So, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE has a few things going for it. The beginning is a bit slow but good, since it develops the city of Ninurta, and Kai and Reev. But after Reev disappears, the book goes from “oh, this is pretty cool” to just “hmm” for me.

Kai teams up with Avan, her only real friend other than Reev, and they set off into the devastation outside Ninurta to rescue Reev. They have somewhat of a romance, and I did appreciate that Kai would keep reminding herself she should focus on saving her brother rather than flirting with Avan. I could see why Kai liked Avan, but I’m not entirely sure why Avan liked Kai. The romance — I could have taken or left it, especially with the ending.

Oh, the middle and ending. That’s where my ambivalence for GATES OF THREAD AND STONE comes in. The middle is somewhat a waste of time. Rather than learn how to better use her time manipulation ability, Kai’s told not to use it. Instead … she learns to kick and punch. Bah. The ending of the book felt like a rush, with the author dropping revelation after revelation. There were a lot of them in the last few chapters, and I needed to reread the rush of information so I could piece everything together.

Overall, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE was a mixed book for me. I liked some parts and didn’t like others, but I’m pretty sure I would continue this series. I don’t want to spoil everything, but I did like the mythology of the Immortals (read and find out!), and I’m curious to see what will happen next.

Socialize with the author:

Lori M. Lee:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Book Review: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey & James MalloryThe House of the Four Winds by James Mallory, Mercedes Lackey
Series: One Dozen Daughters #1
Published by Tor on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

Book Review:

I was so excited to start THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. THE FIRE ROSE by Mercedes Lackey is one of my “comfort books,” a book I can read over and over, one that I love. So I was hoping to find another favorite in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. Unfortunately, this book won’t be joining my favorites list.

The book got off to a rocky start. I was almost ready to put it down after the first couple of chapters because I got tired of trying to remember all the oddly named countries. There’s Waulosiene, Lochrin, Albion, Cisleithanian, Ifrane, etc. None of them are actually important, but I didn’t know that at first, and I was trying to figure out what real countries the fictional ones were modeled on. There’s a real lack of worldbuilding in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS, which is a pity.

Moving on … after Clarice finds transport to the New World, the book slows down. I had no idea where the book was heading, and I again wanted to put it down. The one good thing about this part is that the authors build a strong friendship between Clarice and Dominick, although Dominick doesn’t know that Clarice is actually a female. He thinks she’s Clarence Swann.

The main villain, Shamal, shows up way too late in THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS. The conflict/problems she creates are resolved way too easily. I was rather disappointed in how that whole thread wrapped up. “Disappointed” describes my feelings as a whole for the book. It wasn’t the fun, swashbuckling adventure the summary promised me.

The writing was almost bad fanfic quality. There was an abundance of adverbs. Clarice and Dominick were always saying something “carefully” or “lightly” or “charmingly.” And so on. When there’s a lot of that, I can’t help but notice and it pulls me out of the story. I also can tell you what every single character wore, down to the type of buttons on his or her coat. A lot of the action happened off the page, as well. Clarice would say she was going to do something, such as explain a situation to the ship’s doctor, but we’d pick up the narrative after she had already explained it. I got tired of that the fourth or fifth time it happened — I want to see a character’s reaction to bad news, not be told about it after.

As for the romance … well, the best I can say is that Clarice and Dominick developed a good friendship. I don’t really know where the true love came from, and I don’t know about you, but if I found out someone lied to me about their gender? I’d have some issues with that.

Socialize with the author:

Mercedes Lackey:
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James Mallory:
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– leeanna