Book Review: By Moon’s Light by Rachel E. Bailey

Book Review: By Moon’s Light by Rachel E. BaileyBy Moon's Light by Rachel E Bailey
Series: Dyre #1
Published by Bold Strokes Books on January 19, 2016
Genres: LGBT, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
In a modern world where Packs of werewolves exist side by side with a none-the-wiser humanity, what if one person stood between a lasting peace among the werewolf Packs and all-out civil war? A young female werewolf called Des is bound by a blood oath with the guarding of this person, the aging leader of all the Packs: the Dyre. But when the Dyre is murdered on Des’s watch, she’s sworn to protect the new Dyre, a young woman named Ruby. Des must deal with her emerging feelings for her stubborn new charge while they both try to uncover who’s behind the continuing murders of powerful werewolves. It’s stable employment—nice work, if you can get it…at least until the silver bullets start to fly.

Book Review:

BY MOON’S LIGHT is the first in a series called Dyre, a LGBTQ paranormal romance series about werewolves. I really wanted to like this book, because hey, queer werewolves! is something I’ve wanted for a while, but there were a few faults that kept me from really enjoying it.

The beginning of BY MOON’S LIGHT is a tad confusing. I had to read the first chapters a few times, because there were a lot of new terms — Loup, Hume, Dyre — thrown around without any real explanation. I could figure out that Loup meant werewolf, but I still felt like I had missed something important. While we’re on the topic of wolves, I wish that more had been explained about Des’s wolf, because I got the feeling Des wasn’t like other Loups, but because I didn’t know about other Loups, I don’t know if I’m right or wrong.

I also wish BY MOON’S LIGHT had more action to keep me interested. There were some big scenes, but then also a lot of … nothing. Events that didn’t really seem connected to what was going on. Maybe all those events will be important in the next book, but I wanted to see more page time on important stuff, like Ruby’s first full moon, instead of multiple pages of baby feeding. I guess what I’m trying to say is the author never really hooked me — I didn’t care much about Ruby or Des, or what was going on. I wanted to care and to be interested in them, but I didn’t know enough.

Even though I didn’t like the first book of the Dyre series as much as I wanted to, I would check out the next one. Based on the ending of BY MOON’S LIGHT, I think there will be more action, and hopefully some Ruby/Des without some Alpha wolf blocking.

Socialize with the author:

Rachel E. Bailey:
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– leeanna

Book Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Book Review: What We Left Behind by Robin TalleyWhat We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on October 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn't enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

Book Review:

Robin Talley’s first book, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, was one of my favorites of 2014. When I saw she had a new book, one about a genderqueer protagonist, I couldn’t wait to read it. Books are slowly becoming more diverse, but it’s still rare to find one that explores gender identity. Just like the author’s debut, WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND is a book that touched me deeply, made me think a lot, and is one I want everyone to read.

WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND kind of straddles the line between Young Adult and New Adult. Toni and Gretchen are eighteen, just starting their first year of college. That’s an important time for a lot of people, because it’s the first time you’re on your own, with the chance to explore your interests and start to figure out who you really are. I think the author captured the chaos and freedom of that time quite well, when you’re trying new things, juggling old and new friendships, distant parental expectations, and maybe even an ongoing relationship.

I like just about everything in WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND, but a few things stand out. One is the relationship between Toni and Gretchen. Very rarely do YA books show the meat of a relationship — so much of the time, a book is focused on getting the characters together. In WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND, Toni and Gretchen have been a couple for two years. So they’re sure they can handle the distance between Boston and New York City. For a couple that loves each other as much as they do, a few hundred miles is no big deal. Nevermind the fact that Gretchen didn’t tell Toni she applied to NYU, instead of following Toni to Boston. That’s fine, because they don’t fight. But when you don’t fight, and you don’t really talk about the issues that bother you, how well does a relationship work? And when you’re used to being Toni-and-Gretchen, what happens when you’re just Toni or just Gretchen? Does love change, or does it always stay the same?

I really appreciated that the author delved into Toni and Gretchen’s relationship. Both of their perspectives are given, and while the adorable first meeting/hookup scene is included, there’s so much more than that in the book. There’s actual relationship growing pains, and while at first their relationship is perfect, it becomes less perfect when Toni feels unable to talk to Gretchen about all the new life things. How can Gretchen be the perfect girlfriend when it seems like Toni doesn’t want to see her?

The second standout of WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND is Toni’s gender explorations. At the start of the book, Toni identifies as genderqueer. At Harvard, Toni becomes friends with upperclassman who are all over the gender spectrum, which makes Toni think a lot more about where, exactly, Toni belongs. Is Toni gender nonconforming, gender fluid, non-binary, trans? Something else? Toni’s never felt like a girl, but being surrounded by others who know their gender identity, and also having the freedom for the first time ever to explore options, sends Toni on a quest to try everything from different pronouns to chest binding to more. Toni thinks about this a lot, and talks about with the new friends a lot, which resulted in me getting a good introduction and look into all the different labels out there, and why people would identify with/use different ones. Thanks to Toni, I also started thinking a lot more about pronouns, and how they reinforce gender constantly. Here’s a little example — it’s taking a lot of conscious thought to not use “she” or “he” to refer to Toni in this review. For another ah-ha moment, look at how Toni refers to others and how Gretchen refers to Toni in the first ~50 pages.

With Toni’s mad rush to figure everything out, Toni sometimes comes across, as well, somewhat of a jerk. Toni gets super wrapped up in figuring out the perfect pronouns and labels, and also fitting other people into neat little labeled boxes. Toni is often quite judgmental of other people. At first, that bugged me — I wanted to give Toni a good whack — but then I got it. If I wanted to be sure of myself and not constantly trying to figure out what label fit me, I’d probably act the same exact way.

WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND is a book that spoke to me and made me think. I enjoy books like that, especially books that push outside the boundaries of the conventional boy and girl fall in love the end stories.

Upcoming:

In the near future, I’ll have an interview with Robin on the blog, so be sure to check back!

Interview with Robin Talley.

Socialize with the author:

Robin Talley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie MurphyDumplin' by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer & Bray on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Book Review:

DUMPLIN’ is a book with a lot of hype behind it. I tend to be disappointed by heavily hyped books, and unfortunately, DUMPLIN’ was another one of those disappointments.

Willowdean Dickson, self-proclaimed fat girl, is comfortable in her own skin. She’s not going to diet or try to lose weight to make her mother, a former pageant queen, happy. She’s not one of those girls who looks in the mirror and thinks about how to be better. So you’d think that DUMPLIN’ is about body positivity and accepting who you are and being comfortable with that person.

But I thought Willow was quite judgmental. Example: “Mille is that girl, the one I am ashamed to admit that I’ve spent my entire life looking at and thinking, Things could be worse (p. 5).” Or: “Maybe Priscilla’s life is an even bigger mess than mine and I’ll walk away feeling like I’ve at least got it better than this poor girl (p. 91).”

Willow is supposed to be some sort of rebel by entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. In the summary, the pageant’s described as her attempt to take back her confidence. But for an event that’s such an important part of the book, it really has very little page time, which disappointed me. Willow looks down on the pageant a lot, and after she enters, it’s more of an afterthought than anything else. I wish more of the pageant had been detailed, rather than just getting a few pages at the end.

Because instead of seeing a lot of the pageant or pageant prep, Willow spends way too much time angsting about her boy troubles for me to like DUMPLIN’ very much. Her “relationship” with Bo is a big thing, because when he touches her, Willow’s loses the comfort she’s always had with her body. But I saw absolutely zero chemistry in that relationship — and I’m using that term loosely, because Bo keeps Willow a secret. She spends the school year angsting about their summer spent making out behind a fast food place. I looked through DUMPLIN’ a second time, trying to figure out why Bo liked Willow, and I got nothin. Their relationship seemed like pure wish fulfillment to me: yes, the fat girl can have a cute jock! Add in another sort of relationship that I didn’t like either because Willow used the guy, and I was more than finished with Willow.

I was bored by a lot of DUMPLIN’. Willow just didn’t grab me. She’s like so many other YA characters with the exception of her body. I was much more interested in her deceased Aunt Lucy, who was also overweight. Or Millie, who seemed much more comfortable with her body than Willow. I wish DUMPLIN’ had been written from Millie’s perspective, because she really was comfortable with herself, and because the pageant was actually important to her as a dream, not Willow’s random reasons.

Socialize with the author:

Julie Murphy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Richelle Mead:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Western, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

Book Review:

VENGEANCE ROAD is a book that grabbed me from the second sentence and never let go. I read this book straight through, and I feel like I followed Kate every step of the way on her quest for vengeance.

I’ve never really liked Westerns as a genre (books or movies), but I do like the time period. And even before I started the book, I thought Kate sounded like a great character. A girl who disguises herself as a boy to get justice for her murdered father? Yeah, that’s right up my alley. So I took a chance with VENGEANCE ROAD, and boy am I happy I did. If you’re a little hesitant on the Western part, don’t be. If you like books about vengeance, with murder and shoot outs and a strong, strong main character, don’t pass this book up.

Kate is the real gem in this book. I adored her from the start. When she finds her father hanging from a mesquite tree and their home burned, she doesn’t sit back and cry. Well, she does, but only for a minute, and then she’s off to get revenge, Colt and Winchester in hand. Kate’s Pa raised her to be strong, to fend for herself, and she uses that strength to keep herself together even when she finds out secrets about her family. Kate’s prickly, loyal, and determined. Even when she gets herself in over her head or rushes into danger, she owns up to it. I also liked that Kate grew throughout the book, and by the end, really thought about what vengeance meant and what it was worth.

I just loved Kate’s voice. I mean, I’d think just like her if I was after someone who’d killed my father:

“See you in hell, mister.”

And that’s where I’m going, sure as the sun will rise, ‘cus I feel nothing. No remorse. No guilt. Not even a sliver of doubt. He deserved it, and I’d do it again. I’d do it over and over, and I wonder if something’s wrong with me.” (p. 10)

Kate’s Pa was great, too! We only see him in a few flashbacks and Kate’s memories, but he sounded like a great dad. Even though he kept secrets from her, he taught her how to defend herself and how to be a good person. I could easily see why Kate would want to punish his murderers.

The only thing I had a little trouble with in VENGEANCE ROAD was the thread with Kate’s mother. I can’t say why without spoiling things, but it was a bit over the top for me. But otherwise, I really enjoyed VENGEANCE ROAD, and I hope the author writes another Western YA, because she knocked this one off the trail.

Socialize with the author:

Erin Bowman:
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– leeanna

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Barbara Ann Wright:
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– leeanna

Book Review: After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga

Book Review: After the Red Rain by Barry LygaAfter the Red Rain by Barry Lyga
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on August 4, 2015
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
A postapocalyptic novel with a cinematic twist from New York Times bestseller Barry Lyga, actor Peter Facinelli, and producer Robert DeFranco.

On the ruined planet Earth, where 50 billion people are confined to megacities and resources are scarce, Deedra has been handed a bleak and mundane existence by the Magistrate she works so hard for. But one day she comes across a beautiful boy named Rose struggling to cross the river--a boy with a secretive past and special abilities, who is somehow able to find comfort and life from their dying planet.

But just as the two form a bond, it is quickly torn apart after the Magistrate's son is murdered and Rose becomes the prime suspect. Little do Deedra and Rose know how much their relationship will affect the fate of everyone who lives on the planet.

Book Review:

I haven’t read a Barry Lyga book before, but I’d heard good things about them. AFTER THE RED RAIN has an interesting summary — I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic books — so I gave it a go.

But after finishing, I’m honestly not sure what I read.

AFTER THE RED RAIN asks a lot of questions and introduces some cool ideas, but fails to follow through on answering those questions or developing those ideas. I don’t know if this book is a standalone, but if it is — I’d recommend not reading if you’re the type of reader that likes a complete ending. There’s quite a bit left unresolved at the end, which left me disappointed.

The setting of AFTER THE RED RAIN was my favorite thing about the book. There’s no explanation for how the world ended up in its current state, but the current state is well established. People live in Territories, go to work for their ration, and that’s about it. There’s nothing to hope for, because although I saw Ludo Territory as a miserable place, with dangerous air and rain, food recreated from the DNA of extinct animals and plants, and citizens tracked through their brands, Deedra and the others don’t know any better. They don’t know anything about the past, so they think their world is good, and getting better. That aspect of the book was well done.

But the rest of AFTER THE RED RAIN… I got the impression this is a book written to be a movie. There are some chapter long fight scenes that I could see recreated in an action flick. There’s Deedra the orphan, surviving on her own and doing okay, but then falling in love with the mysterious Rose. There’s a corrupt government magistrate and a mad scientist. There’s a shocking revelation about “the Red Rain.” There’s a scene where Deedra and Rose stare off into the scant sunlight and talk about making a difference.

I wanted more character development for Deedra and Rose. I wanted to know where the heck Rose came from, and what his purpose was. And so on. I wanted answers! I also think AFTER THE RED RAIN was too long, limping along at a slow pace to the vague ending.

– leeanna

Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes LackeyHunter by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Hunter #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 1, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

Book Review:

Have you ever read a book that’s just so over the top that it’s entertaining? HUNTER was that book for me. For the first third my eyes were rolling so much I’m surprised they’re still in my head, because Joy is such a special snowflake. But then I put my disbelief aside and enjoyed a good story.

Hunter Joyeaux Charmand is Superwoman. There’s nothing she can’t do. Really. There’s nothing she can’t do. When she’s summoned from a remote mountain to the main city to be a Hunter in the big time, Joy immediately catapults to the top of the ratings. In a world where Othersiders prey on humans, Hunters are the only people who can turn back the vampires, fairies, drakkens, harpies, and every other type of magical/supernatural creature you can think of. In Apex City, Hunters are celebrities, each with their own TV channel so fans can keep track of everything they do.

Joy’s so extraordinary I had a really hard time believing it. She controls the largest pack of Hounds, and they’re special Hounds, of course. She knows more about the Othersiders than most of the City Hunters do. She can fight or talk her way out of any situation. And oh yeah — she doesn’t want any of the fame that comes with her new position. She just wants to help the normal people.

This is something I never say, but there was too much worldbuilding for me in HUNTER. Every single time Joy encountered something in the City, she had to inform the reader how that same thing was back on the Mountain. Even such mundane things as how bathing worked or how clothing was made. There’s such a thing as information overload, and HUNTER suffers from it. I really didn’t need to know so much about the Mountain, and the deluge of info at the beginning slowed down the book. I also think the author was being a bit too preachy on things like waste and religion.

But once I got past all of that, and set aside my disbelief over Superwoman Joy? I enjoyed HUNTER. I could see it being made into a television series, which makes sense, since Hunters are reality stars. There’s some inventive magic, lots of action, and a fun mashing together of all types of supernatural creatures. I’m really curious as to where the series will head next.

Socialize with the author:

Mercedes Lackey:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen KincyClockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #2.5
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on September 1, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Dieselpunk, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 102
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
1914. Konstantin would love to hide in his laboratory and dissect the clockwork dragon captured from Russia, but the Archmages of Vienna have other plans. He finds himself shipped off to St. Petersburg as the scientific attaché to an ambassador. His orders? Look, but don't touch. Of course, he considers this an impossible request with so much enemy technomancy to explore.

To make matters worse, Konstantin has to work with the dashing zeppelin commander Himmel, a man who should also be untouchable. They can't act on the smoldering attraction between them without risking it all. Faced with an illegal relationship and a devious rival technomancer, Konstantin might not return from this mission in Russia without conquering the forbidden.

A companion novella to the Shadows of Asphodel series, from Konstantin's point of view.

clockwork menagerie blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE by Karen Kincy. CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the Shadows of Asphodel series. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the dieselpunk world of the Shadows of Asphodel series. While the series mainly follows Ardis and Wendel, this novella focuses on Archmage Konstantin and zeppelin captain Himmel. The two are part of a diplomatic mission to Russia, Austria-Hungary’s enemy. Konstantin is just supposed to observe Russia’s technomancy, but he’s distracted by two things: his attraction to Himmel and the illegal use of souls to power clockwork creations.

You don’t necessarily need to have read the main books in the Shadows of Asphodel series to understand CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE, since the novella has different main characters and takes place mostly in Russia, but I’d recommend checking them out for full understanding of Karen Kincy’s universe. Or use CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE as your introduction to the author’s world. Because Konstantin is an archmage, there’s enough explanation about the magic in this series that it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. Konstantin likes to geek out a lot about the magic, which I enjoyed.

For the most part, I enjoyed CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE. It’s about 100 pages, so a good length for a novella. The story doesn’t leave any loose ends, which is always nice. And it’s a story I liked, because Konstantin and Himmel go up against a devious Russian technomancer. Well, Konstantin does. Himmel wants to follow orders, which are to look but not touch. Konstantin manages to get himself into scrape after scrape, but luckily he has Himmel to rescue him. You know how even super smart people can have no common sense? Yeah, Konstantin’s a great example of that. For example, he remembers to pack magical supplies but no food for himself.

The romance in CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is the aspect that didn’t work for me. I was intrigued by a relationship between Konstantin and Himmel, because I could see it, but I wanted more development for me to really believe it. I understand their attraction to each other is forbidden — it’s 1914, in Russia — but still. I think if the novella were a bit longer, there would have been more room to expand on their attraction and relationship.

Giveaway:

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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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Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

Book Review: Undertow by Michael BuckleyUndertow by Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

Book Review:

Just when you think you’ve read everything in YA, along comes something different. Different doesn’t always work, but UNDERTOW worked for me, and I’m eager to read the rest of the series.

Lyric lives in the middle of a war zone, a Coney Island divided by humans and the Alpha. What are the Alpha? A new race of sea people. Thirty thousand of them are camped on the beach, and now some of the kids are about to integrate a school. It’s the 1960s all over again, but with a new species. And it goes about as well as you might expect.

Lyric is in a unique position to sympathize with the Alpha, but really, she just wants to lay low. Avoid attention. Maybe leave town when her family. But when she’s strong-armed into giving Fathom, the Alpha heir, private lessons, she’s thrust into the middle of a clash of the cultures.

I enjoyed UNDERTOW. The Alpha are wicked cool, and I really want to learn more about them. I also liked that Lyric had migraines, because I can’t recall many characters having headaches. It’s a little thing, but it turns out to be more important than you think, and it’s nice to see a character suffer the same sorts of things you do.

I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Lyric and Fathom. Lyric acknowledged to herself that she shouldn’t love him, couldn’t love him, but she did anyway. I’m not quite sure where their attraction and feelings for each other came from, and would have liked more development on their relationship for me to believe it. I also had a hard time imagining the final battle scenes, maybe because they felt a bit rushed after so much focus on the tense school integration.

But otherwise, I thought UNDERTOW was a good start to a new series, and I would check out the next book.

Socialize with the author:

Michael Buckley:
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– leeanna