Book Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

Book Review: Riders by Veronica RossiRiders by Veronica Rossi
Series: Riders #1
Published by Tor Teen on February 16, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Book Review:

I really enjoyed Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky trilogy, so I was excited to check out the start to her new series, Riders. If you’ve read her first series, don’t expect RIDERS to be anything like it. They are 100% different, which was both good and bad for me.

RIDERS takes a new spin on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Here, the horsemen are four teenage boys, all of whom wake up with strange cuffs on their wrists after dying. But their attempts to return to normal life don’t work. Gideon, our narrator, realizes he can make others feel anger. Days after his death and awakening, he’s off on a roadtrip with Daryn, a mysterious young woman who insists she knows what’s going on, but can’t tell him anything yet. Oh, and can they drive around the U.S. and pick up the other horsemen? Because they have to be together to save the world.

Most of RIDERS is told in Gideon’s flashbacks. At the start of the book, he’s being interrogated by unknown parties after some unknown big stuff went down. I was very meh on the first 70% or so of the book. There didn’t seem to be much of a plot. It was somewhat boring, having Gideon recount the past few weeks, his painful attraction to Daryn, and so on. I wasn’t a fan of the blunt, disjointed writing style, although I did really like Gideon’s voice. He read and felt like a real guy, not wish fulfillment.

The last 30% of the book is where I liked RIDERS a whole lot more. I was tempted to put it down before I reached that point, but here is one time where continuing was actually a good thing. Finally there was action (and a lot of it). I liked seeing the guys and their horses interact, the guys bond, and also learning more about the Kindred and the big secret.

For me, RIDERS was just okay. I was hoping for more, given how much I enjoyed Under the Never Sky. I liked the end of RIDERS, but I shouldn’t have been meh on so much of the book to get to that end.

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Veronica Rossi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie EshbaughIvory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Series: Ivory and Bone #1
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Book Review:

IVORY AND BONE originally caught my eye because, historical fiction set way, way, way in the past? With mammoths and saber cats and the Ice Age? Gimme. I’m always on the lookout for historical fiction set in different eras than the popular ones.

Author Julie Eshbaugh did a good job of making me feel like I had gone way, way, back in time. She described the camps, clothing, food, kayaks, setting, etc. The prehistoric setting of IVORY AND BONE was probably my favorite part of the book.

The biggest problem I had with IVORY AND BONE is the way it’s written. The author took a risk by having Kol narrate to Mya. On one hand, it makes sense, since there was such a big tradition of storytelling back then. But at the same time, Kol’s telling distanced me from the story and from the characters while slowing the pacing to a crawl.

I was bored for the majority of IVORY AND BONE, because I just didn’t care about anyone or what was happening. Halfway through the book, I was still waiting for something big to happen, something to keep my attention. I only kept reading because the author didn’t stick to traditional gender roles — a leader of one clan is a woman, other women hunt with the men, and so on. Historically improbable I’m sure, but I liked it.

Overall, I liked the idea of IVORY AND BONE, but the risk of Kol narrating the story to Mya (you speak, you disappear, you are rude) just didn’t work for me. The writing style kept me too distanced from everything, and I thought Kol sounded like a whiny girl for a lot of the book, making lover boy eyes at Mya. Maybe some of that is the Pride and Prejudice allusions, but I’m not a fan of that classic, so I can’t say for sure. IVORY AND BONE is the first in a trilogy, but I can’t imagine where the series will go from here.

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Julie Eshbaugh:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen OakesQueen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Review:

QUEEN OF HEARTS is … well, a fantastical journey into Wonderland. It’s whimsical, dark, and more than a little crazy. But what else would you expect from the future Queen of Hearts?

Dinah is stubborn, feisty, and prone to fits of anger. She knows she’ll be queen of Wonderland one day, and she can’t wait for that day, to kick her father off the throne. Beheadings? She can watch them without batting an eye. But if someone’s cruel to her brother, Charles the Mad Hatter, she’ll get them back.

Some of Dinah’s attitude can be attributed to her difficult relationship with her father. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it. The King of Hearts hates his daughter — his heir. So when he introduces an illegitimate daughter to the court, and tells Dinah to accept Vittiore as her new sister, it’s just one more way of showing his dislike for Dinah.

Whatever. When Dinah’s Queen, she’ll put Vittiore and her father in their places. But will she be Queen?

QUEEN OF HEARTS is a delightfully quirky book. At first the amount of detail on Wonderland is almost overwhelming, but you get used to it quickly. And as a reader who loves to dive into new worlds, I really appreciated all the touches, little and big, that the author put into Wonderland. The snow is pink. Tarts are a favored delicacy. The palace is an architectural wonder, surrounded by an iron wall made of hearts. There’s so much creativity in this book. I will say that if you’re having trouble getting into the book, give it about 30 or 40 pages, and then it really gets going. I do wish a bit more had happened in the book though, as it’s mostly an introduction to Wonderland and Dinah.

Dinah grows quite a bit during the book; by the end, she’s not the same spoiled princess she was in the beginning. I think I liked Dinah so much was because her reactions were real to me. When presented with a new sister and told to love her, Dinah’s like, “I hate her. I’m never talking to her,” and she doesn’t. And though she’s a princess, she’s still nervous (but also kind of confident) when interacting with her crush.

Aside from Dinah, there are lots of other interesting characters, including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, and even the King of Hearts himself. They’re sympathetic and creepy by turn. The ending sped by, and I really want to get my hands on volume two, so I can find out what happens to Dinah and another of my favorite characters, Morte the Hornhoov. I also can’t wait to see Dinah say, “Off with their heads!” and mean it.

I’m not super familiar with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so I probably missed a couple of connections, but there’s plenty here that even the casual reader will recognize from Lewis Carroll’s classic. I love books that are about villains, and I can’t wait to see what else will happen to Dinah to turn her into the Queen of Hearts. Alice isn’t in this book, but I’d rather have Dinah. The villains are always so much more interesting!

Note: I read the original version of QUEEN OF HEARTS published by SparkPress in 2014. I compared the HarperTeen version to that one, and aside from some editing, I didn’t see any changes. I do like the new cover, so thumbs up, HarperTeen!

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Colleen Oakes:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Book Review:

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written book. The author has a lush, dreamy, descriptive writing style that goes hand-in-hand with her story. The whole time I was reading, I was swept into the different places Maya visits: Bharata, the Night Bazaar, and Akaran.

The book is a bit Beauty and the Beast, a bit Hades and Persephone, with Indian mythology. Maya grows up under the shadow of a deadly horoscope, which forecasts that she’ll bring death wherever she goes. When her father uses her marriage ceremony as a way to try to stop endless war, Maya doesn’t expect that he’ll tell her to kill herself. At the last second, she’s rescued by Amar, Raja of Akaran. Akaran is an empty land, but the palace is full of wonders and secrets.

While reading the book, I was caught up in it. In Maya’s time in Akaran and then her journey afterwards, her struggle to learn the truth about herself. But after I finished THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, I was left feeling a bit… empty. I feel like the author focused too much on making every sentence beautiful and descriptive at the cost of describing the various Indian mythological creatures, developing Maya and Amar’s romance, and just telling me more of the story, instead of showing everything.

I needed more from THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. I needed the author to tell me more about the various creatures Maya sees and interacts with. Kamala the pishacha, aka demon horse who wants to eat everyone? Kamala was awesome. One of the best parts of the book, hands down. I understand not every creature can be given that same development, but I would have liked to know a little more about various creatures that were mentioned. What’s a pey? What’s a raksha? And so on. There might be a glossary in the finished copy of the book; I read an early review copy. But still, I wanted more detail in the text. Most readers likely won’t be familiar with Indian mythology, and who wants to be pulled out of a story to Google something? And so on, with other elements.

Overall, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN showed promise, and it was good while I was reading. But when I finished, I was left wanting more substance and explanation.

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Roshani Chokshi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on April 12, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

Book Review:

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is a hard book to categorize. It’s labeled Young Adult, but I feel it’s slanted more to an older audience. I love historical fiction and always have, but my teenage self wouldn’t have gotten far past the religious aspects of the book. I guess I should have expected a focus on religion, as Dolssa’s a runaway heretic, but somehow my mind just didn’t make the connection.

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is set mainly in 1241, in Provensa, just after the Crusades. A dangerous time to be alive if you went against the Church in any tiny way. Dolssa is a young woman accused of speaking heresy by preaching in her own home because non clerics don’t speak of God, especially not women. But Dolssa sees nothing wrong with spreading the word of her beloved — Jesus — and so she refuses to repent. When she’s sentenced to burn at the stake, she escapes, only to be hunted down by a very determined friar. Dolssa is rescued by Botille, one of a trio of sisters who run a tavern in Bajas. But sheltering Dolssa leads to danger for Botille and her family.

Some of the religious tension of the time is evident in the narrative, and the author provides a lengthy explanation at the end of the book. But I wish that material at the end had been at the beginning of the book, or better explained in the story itself. I might have enjoyed THE PASSION OF DOLSSA more had I known what I know now about the religious history of Provensa. There’s also a glossary of the Old Provencal words.

Here’s the thing. I’m not really sure of the intended audience for THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. As I said above, my younger self would have put this book down as soon as it got too deep into religion, heresy, and churchmen using their faith to kill innocents. It’s just not something I’m interested in. I’m know there are teens who want to read about religion, but the book doesn’t really feel like a YA book. It’s more… literary YA, if that makes any sense. It’s somewhat open-ended (especially the ending), and it’s a book you’re supposed to think about and draw your own conclusions.

I’m sure this book will be up for awards, and I did like some things, such as the strong female friendships, strong family relationships, and the strong characters of the sisters. But overall, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience. I didn’t get invested in the story or the characters or their dilemmas. This wasn’t a book I wanted to keep reading. I’m starting to think Julie Berry just isn’t an author for me, as I wasn’t a huge fan of her other YA, ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME.

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Julie Berry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon ThomasKingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss. Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale.

But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Book Review:

KINGDOM OF ASHES is the second book in the A Wicked Thing duology. It picks up right after the end of A WICKED THING, with Aurora on the run from the mad king. In case you missed the first book, this series wonders what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up.

I wasn’t entirely sold on A WICKED THING last year; my rating was 3 stars, which is an average book for me. But I was intrigued enough to want to see what else the author had in store for Aurora.

It took me a while to figure out my rating for KINGDOM OF ASHES. I was bored for a lot of the pages, just like with the first book. There’s almost no recap of previous events, and I couldn’t remember a lot of what had happened. So I was confused and ehhhh for some of the book.I needed a reminder of why Aurora was running away from her country.

However, I really liked the ideas the author tried to explore, such as the expectations placed upon Aurora by the people of her country. How she’s supposed to save them from their unhappy lives simply because she woke up. But if she tries to take power into her hands, they’ll eventually hate her, like her country turned on their first female leader/founder.

But… KINGDOM OF ASHES just didn’t keep my interest for the majority of the story. For me, the dragons didn’t seem to fit. They kind of came out of nowhere; I was much more interested in Aurora and Celestine’s connection. I didn’t need the dragons, and I’m a reader who usually loves magical beasts. Give me more Aurora and Celestine!

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Rhiannon Thomas:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle MeadThe Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.

Book Review:

For some reason, I thought THE GLITTERING COURT was a book about faeries and their courts. I don’t know why — maybe the title gave me that impression? Anyway, that misconception aside, I’m not sure why THE GLITTERING COURT is classified as fantasy. There’s no magic, extraordinary creatures, special powers. Nothing.

Basically, THE GLITTERING COURT is THE JEWEL + THE SELECTION set in a pseudo-Frontier America. A young countess escapes an arranged marriage by taking her servant’s identity and place in the Glittering Court. The Court takes impoverished girls who want a better life and shines them into jewels to be sold into marriage in Adoria, a land low on women and high on money. In Adoria, the girls are displayed and advertised by the value of their scores on subjects like dancing and polite conversation.

If you like books full of glitz and glamour and descriptions of dresses and rooms, THE GLITTERING COURT might be the book for you. But I like my fantasy with substance and worldbuilding and magic, so I was quite disappointed.

Even if I ignore that the book is classified as fantasy (and this might be the fault of the publisher, not the author), there’s still a lack of worldbuilding and some wild leaps that just made my head hurt. For example, Adelaide runs away from an arranged marriage by going into the Glittering Court… to be sold as a bride. Instead of being smart and trying to get high scores, she downplays her abilities to be in the middle of the pack, where she’s unlikely to get her choice of husband.

I was bored and/or frustrated by the majority of THE GLITTERING COURT, and I almost put it down several times. I kept reading in the hope it would get better, only to be annoyed by “hey, let’s reveal secrets at the end, but keep them from the reader until book two!” or “hey, let’s save the characters from their own stupid with a miracle!” The author brings up topics that could have been interesting, like religious heresy, but doesn’t dive into any of them. Everything stays on the surface in a very bland way, even attempted rape, without any consequences or the characters doing any emotional processing.

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Richelle Mead:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Book Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie JordanReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.

Book Review:

REIGN OF SHADOWS is the first in a new YA series by Sophie Jordan. It’s set in a world of darkness where an eclipse has reigned for 17 years. The rightful princess of the land lives in a tower hidden in the forest, waiting for daylight to come back to reclaim her kingdom.

I liked the idea behind REIGN OF SHADOWS — the world of darkness and the hidden princess. Unfortunately, the author didn’t deliver on anything, from worldbuilding to an actual story. Why’s the world dark? Because of an eclipse. That’s the entirety of the explanation. Where do the dwellers come from? Underground. How can a blind girl run through a forest like she’s Usain Bolt, without tripping or falling?

Yeah. Luna is blind, which could have been very cool, but the author turned her into Superwoman with no basis. I understand that one’s other senses do amp up, but Luna’s abilities are unbelievably superhuman.

Then there’s Fowler, the bad-boy love interest who is incredibly broken. He’s lost too much in life to care about anyone. But Luna’s love fixes him in a matter of days. Every single one of their kisses is good enough to cause a volcano to erupt.

Lastly, what the heck happened in REIGN OF SHADOWS? The book read more like a prequel to a series than a real first installment. I just finished the book, and I’m trying to remember what happened… not much.

I’ve read one of the author’s other books — UNINVITED — and had many of the same issues with that book. So, I’m thinking Sophie Jordan just isn’t an author for me. She has cool ideas, but the execution is off and there are just too many cliche tropes in her books for me to enjoy them.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn HamiltonRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Book Review:

I was looking forward to REBEL OF THE SANDS — I love me a heroine that can shoot and a setting other than Medieval European fantasy– but the book fell flat for me. I’m a black sheep on this one; from reading other reviews, I can see that most people are loving it.

Amani’s a smart-mouthed girl desperate to escape her small town. She’s always had dreams of life in the big city, but now she has to get out before her uncle forces her into marriage. The only problem? She has no money, and when she tries to win money in a shooting competition, she and a foreigner end up setting the place on fire. Naturally, foreign boy Jin is handsome and full of secrets, with “the sort of smile that would turn over whole empires to the enemy (p. 132).”*

REBEL OF THE SANDS didn’t have anything special to keep my attention. The first few pages were good, and then the book meandered around. I wasn’t sure exactly what the plot was — Amani and Jin spent a lot of time traveling, getting in each other’s way and then dealing with obstacles that kept getting in the way. The middle of the book dragged. The end was better, and at least there wasn’t a cliffhanger, but I’m not sure this is a series I’d continue.

There were some interesting fantasy bits, but they were at the end of the book, and by then I was kind of over it. I was very meh on the romance and the action. I think the author needs to choreograph her action scenes better in the future — they were hard to imagine and some were unrealistic and/or too short.

For me, REBEL OF THE SANDS = smart-mouthed heroine + boy full of secrets + generic desert setting + no real plot until the end of the book.

*Quote from uncorrected review copy

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Alwyn Hamilton:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Book Review: Firstlife by Gena ShowalterFirstlife by Gena Showalter
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
ONE CHOICE.
TWO REALMS.
NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

Book Review:

Oh, FIRSTLIFE. I wanted to like you, but I should have put you down after the first few chapters instead of forcing myself to finish you. You have such a pretty cover and a good-sounding idea, but we just weren’t meant to be.

I just finished FIRSTLIFE about twenty minutes ago, and this is one of those books where all I can think is, “WTF did I just read and why did I waste my time?” Originally, I thought the idea of your first life on Earth being a sort of dress rehearsal for life after death was cool. So were the two different realms, Troika and Myriad, each with their different view of that Secondlife. And the beginning of FIRSTLIFE? With Ten in the asylum, being tortured into picking a side? That was good.

But then the 400+ pages of the book turned into one thing: Ten’s inability to pick a side. There was just one small problem: I had NO clue as to why Ten wouldn’t pick Troika or Myriad. The author never offered a compelling reason as to why she would endure over a year of daily torture to stay Undecided. Then when Ten escaped, she continued to waffle in the midst of multiple attempts on her life, and oh yeah, two super hot boys trying to get her to pick their respective side. Why? Because Ten is a special snowflake.

By page 100, I was extremely bored and annoyed with FIRSTLIFE. At first, I liked Ten’s prickly “I won’t submit” personality. But when she kept putting herself into danger over and over, as well as constantly getting into fights and never having injuries impede her, I had enough. Based on all the torture and losing fights, Ten should have died early on, not whined for 400+ pages. I forced myself to keep going, hoping FIRSTLIFE would get better, but here’s something telling: when I had only 20 pages left, I almost didn’t bother finishing because I had completely checked out. I just didn’t care any longer.

Part of that is because the author’s worldbuilding is super complex yet confusing. I appreciate her trying to do a different spin on Good vs. Evil, but I’m just so confused! Where are the realms physically located? In what year does FIRSTLIFE take place? Why in the world does anyone think torturing undecided teens into picking a side would have any effect? Do the sides control humans on earth? Why must all the spirits be super gorgeous, with special golden eyes and sexy accents and glittery diamond lifeblood? Why are Troika and Myriad at war, anyway? And so on to the hundredth power.

I’m not even going to get into the romance, other than to say it’s an obvious one-sided love triangle, with the alpha bad boy who falls instantly for Ten because she’s special, not like any of the hundreds of girls he’s recruited. And of course, Ten thinks she’s the only girl who can fix him because he opened his big bad boy heart to her.

I’d rather have spent hours in the purgatory of Many Ends than plodding through FIRSTLIFE.

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Gena Showalter:
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– leeanna