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:
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– 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:
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– 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:
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– 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:
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– 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.
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– 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:
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– 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:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

Socialize with the author:

Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Book Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenI Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
Published by Month9Books on March 31, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won't belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka 'Quinn' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Book Review:

Set in a future where most humans think robots shouldn’t have rights, and robots think they should, I HEART ROBOT asks what it means to be human. Is being human necessary to create? Can robots think, create, love? If they can, should they be destroyed, or should they be allowed to flourish? Are artificially intelligent robots a threat to humanity, or is humanity a threat to those robots?

Tyri wants to be a musician. But everyone around her, including her mother and boyfriend, think she should do something useful to society, like politics or science. Quinn, a companion android who escaped abusive owners, wants to play music and show that he’s human, not just a robot without feelings. When they’re caught up in the increasingly violent rift between humans and robots, they question their beliefs and their roles.

At first, I thought I HEART ROBOT was going to be a girl/android love story, and while yeah, there’s a bit of that, there’s also a lot more. The author asks the same questions I did at the start of this review, showing a variety of answers from pro and anti robot characters. I really got into I HEART ROBOT, and read it in one sitting. The book isn’t too long, but it’s one that left me thinking. I really hope there’s a sequel, because the ending is open and leaves some questions unresolved. I want to know what happens next to Tyri and Quinn.

I HEART ROBOT YA science fiction, but it’s not packed with technical mumbo jumbo that pulls you out of the book. There’s also some diversity in the book, which I was happy to see. Tyri’s best friend has a girlfriend, and the book is set in Skandia, a post-war combination of Sweden and Norway. I would have liked some more worldbuilding and scene setting, so that I truly felt like I was overseas. Lastly, I liked that Tyri questioned her romantic relationships, speaking up for herself when necessary, but also acting like a teen in love at the same time.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you think androids deserve equal rights?

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne van Rooyen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda SalisburyThe Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater's Daughter #1
Published by Scholastic on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it's price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla's fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla's chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen's, some truths should not be told...

Book Review:

THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER is a book I was super excited to read. That cover? Yum. That summary? Double yum.

However, the book falls into the category of “amazing idea with subpar execution.” I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER, and ultimately went with 3 because the author did interest me enough in Twylla’s story and world for me to read the next book in the series when it’s available.

Twylla was once the apprentice of her mother, the Sin Eater of Lormere. She was destined to spend her days eating the sins of the dead at their funerals, a destiny she didn’t want. But all that changed one day when the queen came for her, to announce that Twylla was actually Daunen Embodied, the reborn daughter of the Gods. As Daunen, Twylla’s very skin is poisonous. She kills anyone she touches, save the royal family.

All of that? Good stuff, especially when the book started with Twylla reminiscing on having to kill her only friend at the castle.

But then the queen banishes Twylla to her room, for her “protection,” when one of her guards falls ill. The real reason for this comes out later, but for a lot of the book, I was locked in the same room with Twylla, and as a consequence, was as bored as she was. I wanted more character development for Twylla, who didn’t read as 17 to me. She felt a lot younger as a character, like in the 13-14 range. Thanks to Twylla’s time in her room, the book also gets off to a slow start, and I had to push myself to keep going.

I think my biggest issue with THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER is just that I wanted more of everything. I wanted more character development for everyone, including Twylla, her betrothed the prince, her guard, and the queen. The queen was a fun one for me, because she’s cruel and a bit crazy. I wanted more worldbuilding, other than a history lesson on the countries surrounding Lormere. I wanted to see how the common people felt about Twylla’s role as Danuen. I wanted to see what Twylla felt about all the events at the end of the book, rather than jumping forward to an epilogue.

Socialize with the author:

Melinda Salisbury:
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– leeanna