Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm Lovejoy

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm LovejoyHenge by Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay #1
Published by Self-Published on November 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

--

"Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series."--Kirkus Reviews

henge blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HENGE by Realm Lovejoy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

HENGE kicks off a new series featuring Morgan le Fay, set in modern-day Camelot. Morgana le Fay is my favorite in Arthurian legends, so I’m always interested in seeing different takes on her character.

In Realm Lovejoy’s version of Camelot, cellphones and magic exist side-by-side. The ability to use magic isn’t guaranteed, and even if you can manipulate air, water, or fire, chances are you won’t be anything more than a performer. Unless, that is, you are chosen to become one of the upcoming king’s Rounds. The best Round will be selected as the king’s magic advisor, and the rest will be employed by Camelot as Knights or Relic Keepers. Political acumen is just as important as good magic skills.

Morgan’s dream is to become the king’s Maven. She wants magic users to have more rights, not less. And she’ll do anything to pursue that dream, including sneaking out from under her father’s watchful eye, or diving headfirst into the dangers of Camelot.

HENGE is quite interesting. I really liked the world the author created, the intriguing mix of magic and modern technology, old legends and new political tangles. There’s a lot of familiar names, including Merlin, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but they’re not all straight from the old legends — they all have their own personalities. I wanted to learn more about each of them, as well as Morgan’s mother, Morgause.

Morgan herself was the most interesting character for me, since I was curious to see how the author would develop and grow her. Morgan’s a bit impulsive and tends to jump to conclusions, but she also wants to get rid of the injustices magic users face. I believed her reactions to everything that happened, and the last line of HENGE? I’m not going to spoil it, but yeah. I can’t wait to read more about Morgan!

Giveaway:

signed paperback of Henge + swag (US)
4 paperbacks of Henge (US)
6 ebooks (INT)
1 ebook + $20 Gift Card (INT)
Giveaway Ends November 28th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author realm lovejoyRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at www.realmlovejoy.com.
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Buy link: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve SilverRush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 11, 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 361
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Book Review:

The idea behind RUSH is one I really like: teenagers pulled into a game to fight aliens. The book had me at “game” and “aliens.” I enjoyed that part of RUSH, and looked forward to every time Miki was pulled so I could learn more about the game and the aliens.

But RUSH also has two big reeding peeves of mine: a jerkish love interest and withholding information from the main character. So that factored into my enjoyment of the book. I didn’t love RUSH, I didn’t hate RUSH. It was okay. But that’s not really a bad thing, since RUSH did pique my interest enough for me to pick up book two, PUSH.

When Miki tries to save a deaf girl from being hit by a car, she’s the one that’s hit. Instead of dying, she wakes up in the game. Within minutes, she’s given a weapon and told not to let her life monitor turn red. Then she and the others are off to fight aliens. Not the green kind, but nasty ones who eat brains like chocolate and want to destroy Earth. The game is deadly, but it’s the first time Miki’s felt alive since her mother’s death.

Desperate for answers, Miki turns to her team’s leader, Jackson. But Jackson insists it’s every man for himself, and there is no team. He also has an incredibly infuriating habit of not answering Miki’s questions. I really, really dislike this tactic, especially when I don’t know anything and I spend my time being confused. For the majority of the book, Miki was confused too, which led to a lot of inner monologuing and questioning, which bogged down the action.

Then we get to the other problem I had with RUSH. Despite Jackson’s every man for himself attitude, he likes Miki for some reason. He even saves her life. And even though Jackson tries to push her away, even telling her he’s not a good guy and doesn’t have good intentions, Miki falls for him. She could be a minute from fighting, but she’ll notice some appealing feature of Jackson’s. I guess the author was trying to go for a love-hate relationship, but Jackson just came off as a jerk and I didn’t buy Miki’s interest in him. Now I’m quite critical of relationships, especially in YA, so you might vary.

The time in the game? Fantastic. My favorite parts of RUSH for sure. The author wrote some great action scenes, and had some really cool/creepy ideas on aliens. I like the idea of alien fighting being framed in a game, a way to get the players motivated and moving.

Socialize with the author:

Eve Silver:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Book Review:

THE JEWEL is a difficult book for me to rate. I loved parts of it and other parts made me want to tear my hair out. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but went with 4 in the end because I was entertained by the story.

To start off, THE JEWEL has a really cool idea. Poor girls used as surrogates for the ultra wealthy? Bought and sold like property, treated like pets, and expected to make designer babies? Usually I don’t like stories that have even a whiff of pregnancy, but I dove head first into this one and enjoyed most of the ride.

THE JEWEL is a fast read. I kept flipping the pages because I wanted to know what would happen next to Violet. I normally read quickly, but I was consumed by this book. I couldn’t get enough of the opulent world of the Jewel, of the powerful and moralless women who rule it. The author painted a vivid picture of life within the Jewel, of the money thrown around carelessly while the poor starve and live in mud-brick houses.

There were some holes in the worldbuilding: we never find out what led to the creation of the Lone City. The city is arranged in five circles, each with an industry — as a farmer, I can’t quite believe in all the food being grown in one specific circle, especially land right next to a circle full of factories. I’m also not sure why only the girls of the Marsh (the poorest circle) are able to access the Auguries, although I imagine that will be explained in future books.

THE JEWEL does start a little slowly, with Violet saying goodbye to her old life, but once she’s bought at auction, the book takes off. I was fascinated by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet’s owner. She’s ruthless, and I liked how she treated Violet. (Yeah, I know that makes me twisted.)

But then we come to the part of THE JEWEL that frustrated me. The insta-love. Violet falls superfast for the companion of the Duchess’s niece. He falls superfast for her. Insta-love is a big peeve of mine, and while Violet and Ash do have music to bond over, I wish they wouldn’t have progressed to the “I love yous” so quickly. I wanted to roll my eyes whenever they were together. Violet/Ash drew me out of the spell of the book because I couldn’t believe in their relationship.

Overall, though, THE JEWEL was a blast to read, and I’m eager for the next book in the series.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Ewing:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia SullivanShadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Published by Ravenstone on October 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her...

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Book Review:

The first chapter of SHADOWBOXER hooked my interest because I tend to like cocky, tough protagonists, and Jade is exactly that. A talented martial arts fighter, Jade has a tendency to get into fights when she shouldn’t, such as when she defends the gym’s cat from a movie star. Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to get her out of the star’s sights, as well as to see how well she can fight as a pro.

The parts of SHADOWBOXER set in Thailand were some of my favorites. I can’t recall reading a YA book set there before, and I liked that the author included some Thai phrases/ways of thinking, such as “mai pen rai” and “jai yen.” I actually felt like I was in Thailand, watching Jade train and fight. I know absolutely nothing about MMA and Muay Thai fighting, but the author described the fights very well, so I could easily “see” them.

But Jade’s story is not the only one in SHADOWBOXER. The first time Mya showed up, I had no clue what the heck was going on. Why did the book switch from Jade’s first person point of view to Mya’s third person? And who was this ten year old girl?

Mya has a very special ability: she can travel into the immortal forest. It’s an ability her guardian uses for evil, and when Mya learns he has nefarious plans for her, she flees there. Eventually, Mya and Jade do connect, but not for a while, and I ultimately felt like there were two separate stories inside of SHADOWBOXER. I did like the elements of Thai mythology Mya’s journeys into the Himmapan showcased, but the supernatural elements didn’t 100% mesh for me with Jade’s problems, and vice versa.

Socialize with the author:

Tricia Sullivan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

Socialize with the author:

Ava Dellaira:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Marie Lu:
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– leeanna

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Joe Shine:
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– leeanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Amy Plum:
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– leeanna

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Katherine Harbour:
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– leeanna

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

Book Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger
Published by Tendril Press on March 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 346
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

After a couple of mishaps, Marta settles into life in a boarding house located near the ballet company. Her landlady, Mrs. B., is friendly, reduces her rent when Marta's offers to bake for the boarder and later allows her to use the basement as a practice studio. The two male boarders are supportive; Carol, a fellow boarder, ignores her.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley,her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Madame Cosper, the artistic director, is a demanding woman. Marta begins their association poorly when she makes a disastrous choice. Expecting expulsion, Marta receives a second chance in the form of dancing the unpopular character roles during the fall and winter performances.Marta determines to dance every role with confidence in hopes of proving to Madame that she's up for every challenge.

Steve, a young college man and a reporter, spots Marta when he's assigned to write an article about ballet for the local paper. He's attracted to her and begins his pursuit.Over the months ahead, he becomes her tour guide of the area and attempts to convince Marta to be his girl. But her steadfast focus is ballet and some of her adventures with him lead to problems withMadame Cosper.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley andSteve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

Book Review:

In 84 RIBBONS, Marta’s dream of becoming a professional ballerina comes true. But realizing her dream comes with a number of challenges, from living on her own to struggling with weight and injuries. The book, set in the late 1950s, follows Marta’s journey, and manages to be both nostalgic and relatable.

I generally like books set in the ballet world, so 84 RIBBONS was a good book for me. But it’s more than just a ballet book. Yes, Marta’s dream is to dance professionally and she does, but this book is also a coming of age story. Issues that were ignored at the time, such as depression and eating disorders, are worked into the book. Marta deals with a lot in her first year of independence, and I think a lot of readers will find something to relate to even if they have no interest in ballet.

If you do have an interest in ballet, then I think you’d really enjoy 84 RIBBONS. It’s a realistic look into the struggle of making it dancing professionally, including the pain, blood, sweat, and tears required, as well as the devotion to perfection. Marta doesn’t have an easy ride at the Intermountain Ballet Company, but she’s determined to prove herself and succeed.

At first I didn’t realize the book was set in the 1950s, but as I read more, I liked the time period. A few of Marta’s problems come from not having the type of communication we do today, and it was a nice throwback to remember how people used to have to do things. Life’s a lot different when you don’t have a smartphone to find out information or get you out of an emergency.

The 1950s time period also allowed for a slow-burn romance between Marta and Steve, a journalism major. Steve tried to kiss Marta their first time out, and she pushed him away because it wasn’t a date in her mind, and because she wasn’t ready for that. I liked how Marta stood up for herself with Steve, because let me tell you, that boy pushes a bit, and she doesn’t give in when she doesn’t want to. Their relationship is far from perfect, but I found it way more believable than a lot of the relationships in YA fiction.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but boy did it leave me wanting more of Marta’s story.

Socialize with the author:

Paddy Eger:
Website
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– leeanna