Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

Book Review: Life Unaware by Cole GibsenLife Unaware Published by Entangled Teen on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Regan Flay has been talking about you.

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother's "plan" for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she's ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.

The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend's hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan's going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn't really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she's barely holding it together under her mom's pressure. But the consequences of Regan's fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched...

Especially Regan Flay.

Book Review:

In my opinion, LIFE UNAWARE is one of Entangled Teen’s best books to date.

When Regan Flay’s nasty texts, emails, and IMs are plastered all over the school, the popular girl plummets to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Regan even faces some of the bullying she’s dished out, insulted and ignored by her friends. At first, Regan tries to face the crisis like her congresswoman mother would, but does she really want to do that? Does she want to act like her mother, who has a suffocating plan for Regan’s success? Or does she want to be herself?

LIFE UNAWARE is a perfect title for this book. Until she’s on the other side, Regan isn’t aware of how her mean comments and actions impact others. And even though she has an anxiety disorder and an overbearing mother, Regan acknowledges there’s no excuse for being a bully. In her own words, “I was just… being an asshole (p. 86).” With the help of Nolan, her former best friend’s brother and fellow outcast, Regan starts to turn her mind around and realize high school is hard enough — she doesn’t need to add to the horribleness.

I do think Regan’s turnaround was a little fast — it happened in about a week. But I really like the message in LIFE UNAWARE, that instead of bullying each other, we should stand up for each other. Say nice things instead of nasty insults. The way Regan realizes this is quite surprising. I won’t spoil it, but I like that whole aspect of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Cole Gibsen:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 12, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 396
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Book Review:

THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is a book I was really excited to read. A young adult book inspired by A Thousand and One Nights? A young adult book set in the Middle East? Check and check. I couldn’t wait to read this one.

But THE WRATH AND THE DAWN left me disappointed. There are some good things in this book, but the majority of it had me wondering why I kept turning the pages. Midway through, I checked the average rating, which is currently 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. Oh well, I’m in the minority on not liking THE WRATH AND THE DAWN.

What I did like:

–The setting. THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is set in historical Khorasan. The author includes lots of details on clothing styles, food, flowers, and buildings, to help the reader imagine a place that might be foreign. But at the same time, I would have liked more worldbuilding, so I had a better idea of the time period and the country itself. For example, the main character’s handmaiden is Greek… how? There’s an element of magic… how?

–Shahrzad. She’s a strong main character, a girl who volunteers to be the Caliph’s bride in the hopes of avenging her best friend’s murder. Shahrzad puts herself into danger with a somewhat flimsy plan, but also ensured the safety of her family before marrying Khalid. I liked how she was observant and not afraid to speak up for herself.

What I didn’t like:

–The writing. In some ways, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN felt incredibly overwritten to me, yet lacking in certain details or emotional connection. The author describes Shahrzad’s intricate outfits every day, but when Shahrzad and Khalid have sex the first night they’re married? The encounter is described in a sentence, and never do we find out what Shahrzad thinks of it. Surely there would be some emotional impact on having sex with someone she considers a monster? That incident isn’t a huge thing, but it’s indicative of how I felt emotionally about this book. I just didn’t connect with it.

Perhaps the author’s style just isn’t for me. There are quite a few odd turns of phrase and metaphors, and I often had to stop and think about what she was trying to say. Having to do so drew me out of the book, and by the middle of THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, I wasn’t too interested anymore.

–The relationship between Shahrzad and Khalid. For a relationship that goes from enemies to lovers, it happens really fast. It’s not insta-love, but I personally needed more development of their relationship to believe it. I don’t know what Khalid saw in Shahrzad the first night, why he spared her life when he had killed every other bride. I’m also not entirely sure why Shahrzad started to fall for Khalid, wanting to kiss him while she wanted to kill him.

We know Khalid is a monster. Shahrzad knows he’s a monster. She starts the book off wanting to kill him. But then her feelings change because other people tell her Khalid isn’t the monster she thinks he is. He had a bad childhood. She’s conflicted, determined to get revenge for her friend even as she’s falling for Khalid. I don’t get it, but then, I’m usually quite picky with romance.

–Lastly, for a book that reimagines A Thousand and One Nights, I expected more stories! I really wanted to see Shahrzad telling Khalid more Arabian folk tales. I think there are two nights of storytelling described. I assume Shahrzad kept telling stories, but why not share more with the reader?

Overall, I was disappointed with THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. It’s the first in a trilogy, and based on my feelings for this book, I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series or not.

Socialize with the author:

Renee Ahdieh:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne JohnsonRiver Road by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #2
Published by Tor on November 13, 2012
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 334
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Book Review:

The second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, RIVER ROAD picks up a couple of years after ROYAL STREET. This is an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans with all manners of preternatural creatures from the historical undead to nymphs to mermen and beyond. This is a series that gets better with each book; I recently read number four, PIRATE’S ALLEY, and reading that sent me back into a reread of the whole series.

Drusilla “DJ” Jaco is the Sentinel of New Orleans, and it’s her job to take care of any magical crises. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, the borders that kept preternaturals out of the city have fallen, and rather than put them back up, the wizards are keeping an eye on the situation and seeing what happens. Naturally, plenty happens in RIVER ROAD. DJ has to juggle territorial mers, murdered wizards, and a sudden increase of activity in her personal life.

I enjoyed the author’s take on mermen. They’re not the sexy fish you’d expect them to be — no, Suzanne Johnson’s given them her own spin. I had a good laugh at the “Mer Twin” license plates for Rene and Robert. I really liked Rene’s character: he’s a tough guy, and even though mers traditionally hate wizards, he’s willing to work with DJ to keep his clan from getting sick. And all the time DJ spends with the mers shows off Plaquemines Parish, which is just outside of New Orleans.

The murder mystery aspect of RIVER ROAD was interesting to me; you’ll probably never look at the culprit in the same way again. DJ’s efforts in solving the murders and cleaning up the poisoned water showcases the unique magic system in this series. DJ is a Green Congress wizard, meaning she uses potions and rituals and charms, along with plenty of research.

DJ’s dance card is a bit full in this installment, but romance isn’t the main focus of the series. So I didn’t mind DJ’s dates and diversions with the men in her life, and even better — those relationships often tied into the plot of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne Johnson:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on May 5, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Book Review:

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES is the first book in a new fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. A New Adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a world where faeries are the real power, the book follows prickly Feyre, who is stolen from her home after she kills a faerie disguised as a wolf. Now, instead of struggling to provide for her family, Feyre will spend the rest of her days in Prythian, the faerie lands. But are things what they seem in magical Prythian? Are the faeries as bad as Feyre has always been told?

This is my first Sarah J. Maas book. I’ve heard good things about her other series, but A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES hooked me because of that cover (perfect!) and that it’s New Adult. Basically, if you don’t know what New Adult means — it’s the next step after Young Adult. Older protagonists, more romance than just kissing, and more serious situations. I will say that this book doesn’t veer too deeply into NA territory. There are a few sexual scenes, but I personally wouldn’t call them explicit. Your opinion may vary of course, but compared to other NA, this book is somewhat tame and mostly reads like a YA book.

Okay, that aside, I mostly liked A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. I liked Feyre. For years, she had the responsibility of keeping her father and sisters alive. It’s a thankless job, since they mourn the life of privilege they lost and don’t care that Feyre has given up her dreams to take care of them. So, in a way, when Feyre’s taken to Prythian, it’s an escape for her. I liked watching Feyre rediscover herself and having the chance to do things she enjoys, such as painting. I also liked how she gradually realized that maybe not everything she’d been told about faeries was true.

I liked the author’s vision of faerie courts and lands. I tend to like darker fae, and Maas definitely has some of those. The last quarter or so of A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES was my favorite part for that reason, since it’s where we get to see a lot of fae and their trickery.

I thought the book was paced too slowly. Yes, I know A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES is fantasy, but there were portions of the book where it seemed like nothing happened other than Feyre and Tamlin staring at each other. 75% of the book is slow, leaving the last 25% and the final climax feeling too rushed for all those pages. By the time I finished the book, I could’ve sworn it was 600 pages, not ~430.

Some of that slow 75% was used for the development of Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship. While I’m happy it wasn’t insta-lust or part of a love triangle, I didn’t really feel the love. However, I did like that once Feyre committed, she committed big time.

Overall, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES was an okay book for me. I had a couple of issues with it, but this is a series I will continue. The author interested me enough in her version of fae history/courts/politics that I want to know what happens next with Feyre and Tamlin.

Socialize with the author:

Sarah J. Maas:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Book Review:

Let me say this first: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is one cute book. It gave me warm fuzzies, and very few books do that. I mean, I wanted to find my own Blue and have an email friendship that turns romantic, and I’m not romantic in the slightest.

But at the same time, I don’t want to discount this book by calling it cute, because it’s important, thoughtful, and well-written.

Simon has a secret email friendship with Blue. They go to the same school, but they don’t know each other’s real identity. The distance and safety of email allows Simon and Blue to talk about all sorts of things, from family troubles to being gay and coming out in the South. But when Martin finds Simon’s emails, he blackmails Simon into setting him up with the popular Abby. Simon’s stuck: if he doesn’t help, Martin will post the emails to the school’s Tumblr. What upsets Simon the most is that he might lose Blue’s friendship, since Blue’s so secretive.

I blew through this book in a couple of hours, and I know it’s one I’ll reread at least a few times. Simon is a great character. He has a good relationship with his parents (who are supportive), good friendships with boys and girls (it can be hard to find boy/girl friendships in YA), and he’s realistic. He feels like a real teenage boy. He’s just trying to figure out where he fits in a world that’s constantly changing while juggling a totally adorable and hot relationship with his secret email (boy)friend.

In his own words: “As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever (Chapter 18).”

The relationship between Simon and Blue was my favorite part of the book. There’s actually development, and I loved hearing from both sides thanks to the email format. I very rarely swoon over relationships in books, but I definitely did in this one.

I feel like I should say more, but really, all I want to do is flail about and say, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA now!

Socialize with the author:

Becky Albertalli:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Book Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa GreyThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Published by Delacorte Press on April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Book Review:

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is the first in a YA urban fantasy series. I was intrigued by the publisher’s comparison to Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE, which is one of my favorite YA fantasy series. However, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT didn’t remind me of SHADOW AND BONE at all, other than both books having a firebird.

I liked the first half of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. Echo’s a fun character, full of snark and longing to belong to an alien world. When she was a kid, she ran away from an abusive home. The Ala found her in the New York Public Library and took her to the Nest. The Ala is the Seer of the Avicen, a race of feathered beings. Their mortal enemies are the Drakharin — dragon people — and they’ve been in a war that’s gone on for centuries under humanity’s nose.

But somewhere around the middle, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT lost its shine for me. The book slowed down. I got bored, and even when things picked up again, I didn’t really care. I’m writing this review a few days after finishing, and I already can’t remember a lot of the book. I had really high hopes for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, but it was just okay.

WHAT I LIKED:

–Whenever the characters hopped to a new place, the author described that place really well. Her writing is atmospheric, and I felt like I was in New York or Paris or Strasbourg. There were also lots of yummy food details.

–The friendship that developed between Echo, Ivy, Caius, Dorian, and Jasper. I also liked the romantic relationship between Dorian and Jasper — yay for diversity, and a romance that didn’t feel like insta-love.

–The idea of the Avicen and Drakharin. Bird people and dragon people? Very cool. The glimpses I got of their worlds were fascinating, leaving me wanting a lot more.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

–The author told me the Avicen and Drakharin are at war. But why have they fought each other for so long? The author didn’t show me they hated each other, just told me again and again. So I didn’t feel invested in Echo’s quest for the firebird.

–Echo’s romantic entanglements. There’s somewhat of a love triangle here, complete with a leg of insta-love. I did appreciate that Echo usually realized when she was on a hormone high, because I’ve very rarely seen that. But I didn’t see the attraction between Echo and Caius, and their moments felt forced for me.

–Everything else. I don’t know how to describe it, and I’ve been trying for days. But THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT just… fell flat. Usually I can write a review very quickly, but I’ve been struggling with this one for a few days, which is a sign. This book just wasn’t memorable or outstanding for me.

Overall, I was left wanting so much more from THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. I expected more fantasy, more about the Avicen and the Drakharin, more basis for Echo and Caius, more of everything.

Socialize with the author:

Melissa Grey:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill on April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW.

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Book Review:

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a book with a great cover, a great summary, and a lot of hype behind it. I was excited for this book, but I think I’m in the minority when I say I wasn’t blown away by it.

But it’s hard to put my finger on exactly why. I also had a hard time picking the rating, when I usually have a gut feeling where a book falls on my rating scale. For me, 3 stars is good or okay.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is set in a very brutal, Roman inspired world. The author doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to hurting her characters, which is something I like. Laia and Elias both suffer a lot. Laia when her brother’s arrested and she goes undercover as a slave to try and rescue him. Elias when his chance at escape vanishes when he’s named as a candidate to be the next Emperor. The book is written from each of their perspectives, in alternating chapters, so you get to see both sides of the world.

You also get to see them both angst over each other, because there’s a plethora of love triangles in this book. Fortunately, romance isn’t the main focus, but I did find all the romantic entanglements a tad unbelievable. Which brings me to one other thing … the author mentions rape a lot. I’m not trying to be judgmental, but I feel like something else could have been used to move the plot along rather than the threat of rape coming up again and again.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is quite long, 460+ pages. It took some time to get going, and if I hadn’t been somewhere without another book in hand, I probably would have put it down. Also, I’m a fast reader, but the book read slow for me, indicating a lack of action and slow pacing. I think a hundred pages could have been cut and the book wouldn’t have lost anything important. Because, when you get down to it, I was left with the impression that not a whole lot happened in AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. Yes, some stuff did happen, but a lot more was left unresolved.

As of right now, the book is a standalone, but it ends with some big series bait.

Overall, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES was just okay for me. I skipped over a lot of the hype, which was a good thing for me, or my rating might have been even lower. As is the case all too often with YA lately, I was left wanting more from the book.

Socialize with the author:

Sabaa Tahir:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne JohnsonPirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Published by Tor on April 21, 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.

pirate's alley blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for PIRATE’S ALLEY by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. I’ve reviewed two other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series: #1: ROYAL STREET and #3: ELYSIAN FIELDS. After my review of PIRATE’S ALLEY, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

You know how some urban fantasy series start to drag? Well, Sentinels of New Orleans is NOT one of those series. PIRATE’S ALLEY is the fourth book in the series, and I think the author is getting better and better with each installment. Last year, I would have said book three, ELYSIAN FIELDS, was my favorite, but now I think it’s PIRATE’S ALLEY.

PIRATE’S ALLEY picks up a couple of weeks after ELYSIAN FIELDS. There’s enough recap that I wasn’t totally lost, given it’s been a while since I was last in DJ’s world. But I would have preferred a little more, since PIRATE’S ALLEY is much more politically oriented than previous books, and it took me a bit to remember who was who, and why this or that alliance was important.

When I started this series, it irked me when DJ was too rash or continually charged into danger. I love character growth, and boy has DJ grown. In PIRATE’S ALLEY, she shows off that growth: she thinks a lot more than she used to before jumping into a potentially dangerous situation. She thinks about her romantic relationship with Alex, her bonding with Rand, her friendship with Jean Lafitte, and her friendship with Eugenie. All of these different relationships get page time, and they’re all important in their own way.

That’s good, because I think PIRATE’S ALLEY is setting the scene for some serious preternatural action. There’s a lot of political maneuvering in this book as the Interspecies Council tries to find its footing, which isn’t easy, considering practically every prete group is trying to stab another in the back. DJ needs to think first rather than act first, because it’s time for her to consider who deserves her loyalty. But don’t worry, she’s still the same snarky, devoted, talented DJ that she’s always been. And she still charges into danger sometimes.

Usually I can take or leave romance, but I so appreciated that DJ really thinks about her relationship with Alex, and realizes that they needed to talk, not just solve their problems with sex. Even if they didn’t get the chance because of one crisis after another, they still tried to talk. I also appreciated that DJ doesn’t forget about the normal humans just because she’s a wizard, and up to her knees in elves, fae, and the historical undead. Plus she talks with Jean Lafitte about their friendship and what it means. Jean Lafitte is in a lot of this book, which had me happy since he’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

If you’ve liked the other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, I’m pretty sure you’ll like PIRATE’S ALLEY. If you haven’t started this series yet, definitely check it out if you like cool magic systems and different takes on the usual supernatural creatures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author suzanne johnsonSuzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Book Review:

black iris leeannadotmeBLACK IRIS is a book I’ve been looking forward to for months, so when I started it, I tried to savor it. I wanted to take in and enjoy every line of Leah Raeder’s gorgeous prose, but I couldn’t tease myself. After two days of reading slow, I gave in and read the rest of the book in one frantic gulp. A week later, I’m still nursing a book hangover. I knew BLACK IRIS would destroy me, and did it ever. I’m talking destruction in the best way possible, of course.

I really just wanted to howl like a wolf for my review, but I figured that wouldn’t be too informative. But that’s how I felt when I turned the last page of BLACK IRIS — like the wolf, a wild, powerful beast, high on the success of getting revenge on my enemies. The author put me so completely inside Laney’s head that I felt like her. It’s a great feeling to have — with as many books as I read, rarely do they impact me so emotionally that I feel each betrayal and revelation like a sucker punch to the gut.

BLACK IRIS is smart, sexy, bold, heart-wrenching, dark, and a hundred other adjectives. At times it pokes a bit of fun at other new adult books, such as the magic formula of broken girl plus bad boy equaling sexual healing. And then there are times when BLACK IRIS dives into the human psyche, giving a look at what might happen if you were unafraid of the consequences of getting revenge on all those who have fucked you over. Oh, and there’s some page-scorching sex, of all varieties. Laney and Blythe? My new favorite couple.

I haven’t talked at all about the plot, but BLACK IRIS is a book best read blind. I don’t want to spoil a second of it. Here’s what I will say: the book flips around in time, building tension and anticipation between last year and this year. Gradually, the reason for Laney’s quest for revenge is shown even as that quest takes off. The time jumping also showed me the differing states of Laney’s relationships with Armin and Blythe as I was being drawn into her web. I was super surprised by the ultimate revelations, which is always something I enjoy.

I like to reread, but BLACK IRIS is a book I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished it, which is a bit fast, even for me. But I want to reread because I know I missed little details and descriptions when I started reading faster because I had to find out what happened. I’ve never used the bookmark feature so much on my e-reader as I did when reading BLACK IRIS.

In a way, BLACK IRIS could feel like a checklist of stuffing things inside books: Laney deals with her sexuality, with bullying and her mother’s suicide, with drug use, with the tightrope of female friendships when she’s attracted to them, with finding herself in a new world, with showing her enemies not to fuck with her. But thanks to Raeder’s skillful writing, you don’t feel like these things are in the book just to be in there. No, they’re all important aspects of Laney and her story.

Laney calls herself an Unsympathetic Protagonist, and BLACK IRIS is an emotional and atmospheric ride inside her head during an unforgettable year. As she says, “Fuck forgiveness.”

Let’s talk about it:

What’s something new you’d like to see in New Adult?

Socialize with the author:

Leah Raeder:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady Cross

Book Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady CrossSisters of Blood and Spirit by Kady Cross
Series: Sisters of Blood and Spirit #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on March 31, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Wren Noble is dead—she was born that way. Vibrant, unlike other dead things, she craves those rare moments when her twin sister allows her to step inside her body and experience the world of the living.

Lark Noble is alive but often feels she belongs in the muted Shadow Lands—the realm of the dead. Known as the crazy girl who talks to her dead sister, she doesn't exactly fit in with the living, though a recent suicide attempt and time in a psych ward have proved to her she's not ready to join her sister in the afterlife.

Now the guy who saved Lark's life needs her to repay the favor. He and his friends have been marked for death by the malevolent spirit of a vicious and long-dead serial killer, and the twins—who should know better than to mess with the dead—may be their only hope of staying alive.

Book Review:

In SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT, twins Lark and Wren take on a vicious ghost that’s targeted some of the town’s teenagers. Lark and Wren are uniquely capable of fighting ghosts because Wren is dead and Lark can talk to ghosts.

WHAT I LIKED:

–Lark’s personality. She’s abrasive, snarky, and speaks her mind. Understandably so, since most of the school sees her as a freak for talking to her dead sister and trying to commit suicide.

–Nan. It was great to see a supportive parent figure in a YA book. Nan is understanding, accepts Lark and Wren, and doesn’t try to talk Lark out of fighting ghosts. I also liked that Lark fessed up to her grandmother, because she didn’t want to keep secrets.

–The romance between Lark and Ben. Usually I’m indifferent on romance, but I could get behind this one. It was great to have a boy who came out and said he liked Lark without being arrogant about it. I also liked that they crushed on each other a bit and didn’t rush things.

–The concept. The idea behind SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT is what made me want to read the book. Twin sisters, able to communicate and interact even though one is dead? Pretty cool.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

–A lot left unexplained. I see now that SISTERS OF BLOOD AND SPIRIT is the first in a new series, but I was still left with a lot of questions. What are the Shadow Lands? Why is Wren so powerful? Why does Wren stay with Lark? Why does Bent (the book’s villain) want to form an army? Who is Emily? And so on.

–Too many in the Scooby Gang. Most of the book is taken up with Lark and Wren helping their new friends hunt a ghost, but I couldn’t tell some of those friends apart. There’s Mace, Sarah, Gage, Ben, Kevin, and Roxi. Some have more page time than others, and maybe they’ll have more development in future books, but in this book, some of them are just chess pieces.

–Lark’s suicide attempt. The author mentions this a lot, as well as mentions that the ghosts at the psych ward wanted to recruit Wren. I feel like the reader needed to see this, rather than be told about it again and again.

–The ending is rushed. Lark and the others actually put some preparation and thought into defeating the bad ghost, but it’s over super fast. I expected more there, and hey, what happened to Bent’s razor?

Socialize with the author:

Kady Cross:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna