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: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

Book Review: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. KempLords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on April 28, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

Book Review:

Paul S. Kemp is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw he had another Star Wars book in the works, I couldn’t wait to read it. LORDS OF THE SITH is the best Star Wars book I’ve read in at least a year. If you like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine being the badasses they are, you’ve got to check this out.

Eight years after the Clone Wars, most of the galaxy is used to Imperial rule. But on Ryloth, Cham Syndulla leads the Free Ryloth movement. He’s a freedom fighter, determined to free his planet from Imperial tyranny. When he gets word that Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are coming to Ryloth to punish the planet’s Moff, he sees it as the chance of a lifetime. It’s the best opportunity they’ll ever have to free Ryloth and its citizens. But will Vader and Palpatine fall to Free Ryloth’s well-laid plans? Or are they playing an even deeper game?

Paul S. Kemp is such a skillful writer at creating tension and plot twists, that, for a while, I thought the Twi’leks would succeed. Do they? Maybe. There’s a good level of action in LORDS OF THE SITH. Events keep building and building until you think there’s nothing else that can happen, but then WHAM! There’s more. There are also some great action scenes, lots of lightsaber fun and Force-assisted fighting.

I also liked that the author brought up Vader’s past. I can’t recall seeing this very often, if at all, in other books. It was nice to see Vader remember life as Anakin. To see what he feels about his past, and to see how it now influences him. There’s also some … I’ll call it dark side bonding, between Vader and Palpatine, a look into their roles as Master and Apprentice, and how the roles impact their behavior and actions.

The Free Ryloth movement was interesting, as well. While I generally prefer Imperials and Sith, I do like seeing the other side. Imperial control of the planet has pushed Cham to better Ryloth and its people. But for Isval, it’s a quest for vengeance, with the side benefit of helping her people. It was fun reading to watch the Twi’leks maneuver and confuse the Imperials.

Lastly, LORDS OF THE SITH made news when it was announced the book would have a lesbian character. I’m a big fan of diversity and am always looking for it, so that only made me more excited. I think it was a long time coming — in a universe as big as Star Wars, it stands to reason that not all characters are heterosexual. But I’m mentioning this in my review to say that it’s not like the Moff is having sex on every page, or making a big deal out of her sexuality. It’s just part of who she is, which is how it should be. End soapbox.

Overall, LORDS OF THE SITH is a fantastic Star Wars book. It’s restored my faith in the series after a couple of subpar volumes.

Let’s talk about it:

Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire?

Socialize with the author:

Paul S. Kemp:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon ThomasA Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 337
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

Book Review:

Have you ever wondered what happened after the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty? Did they live Happily Ever After?

A WICKED THING is the first in a new YA fantasy series that explores life after The Kiss. When Aurora is awakened by Prince Rodric’s kiss, she’s thrust 102 years into the future. Her family is dead, the kingdom she knew is full of strife, and she’s expected to marry Rodric even though she barely knows him.

I really like the idea behind A WICKED THING. I think the book is a realistic exploration of what happens after Aurora wakes up. Aurora spends the first bit of the book confused and disoriented, unsure of what to do. She’s somewhat passive, which would usually bug me, but it made sense here. I like to think I’d be all kick butt, but I’d probably act exactly as Aurora did in this situation. I mean, what would you do if you were woken up by a strange prince, and then his family basically threatened you and made you marry him?

But somewhere along the way, A WICKED THING became boring. I feel like the book was missing something, even though there’s a lot in it. There’s cute rebel Tristan, shy and friendly Rodric, the enigmatic Finnegan, the wicked witch Celestine, etc. There’s a lot of storylines and a lot of possible love interests, but they don’t really go anywhere. The majority of the book is Aurora debating between running and marrying Rodric. I didn’t feel too connected to Aurora, likely because of the third-person point-of-view.

When I finished A WICKED THING, I was left wanting more. I wanted more to happen by the end of the book, and I wanted an idea of where the series is heading. The beginning of A WICKED THING was better than the last half, but I probably would continue the series because I like the idea of it.

Let’s talk about it:

What do you think happened after Aurora woke up?

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Rhiannon Thomas:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Eden West by Pete Hautman

Book Review: Eden West by Pete HautmanEden West by Pete Hautman
Published by Candlewick Press on April 14, 2015
Genres: Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Book Review:

I’ve read quite a few young adult and adult books, fiction and nonfiction, about life in religious cults, so EDEN WEST wasn’t anything new for me. Before I started the book, I thought it would be a fresh take on the subject, especially as it’s written from the perspective of a boy, seventeen-year-old Jacob.

But EDEN WEST was just an average book. There’s a lot of focus on themes and symbols, such as the wolf slaughtering the sheep. There’s a lot of the “cult mainstays,” such as polygamy for the powerful men, teenage wives, living off the land, seeing the outside world as evil, the End Days are coming and only the Grace will be saved, etc.

In the book, Jacob encounters two outsiders who start him on the process of questioning his faith and himself. Lynna lives on the land next to Nodd, and Tobias is brought to Nodd with his mother and sister to be a convert. Jacob has lived in Nodd since he was five, so his reactions to knowledge of the outside world and questioning his beliefs are understandably childlike at times. But I was frustrated when, time and time again, Jacob would resolve to work harder, be more faithful, to ignore temptations.

Now, I understand that’s typical behavior in these types of situations. But it ties into my biggest peeve with EDEN WEST: not a lot happens.The book doesn’t really dig into any of the issues it brings up. Jacob thinks about his life a lot, and by the end of the book, it seems like he may leave Nodd. But will he?

SPOILER.

SPOILER.

And that’s where the book ends. I’m the type of reader that likes a firm conclusion, so the vague openness of EDEN WEST‘s ending left me disappointed that I bothered to finish the book.

If you haven’t read other cult books before, you might enjoy EDEN WEST. But if you have, I’m not sure you’ll find anything new or extraordinary here. I didn’t.

Socialize with the author:

Pete Hautman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 321
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Book Review:

ALL THE RAGE is a book that made me quiver with rage for what Romy endures.

“Because ‘slut’ was just too humanizing, I guess. A slit’s not even a person (p. 38*).”

You know who writes SLIT on Romy’s mom’s car? The son of the sheriff. If that doesn’t make you want to dive into Romy’s story, to see why everyone hates her so much, I don’t know what will. I’m not trying to be sensational — ALL THE RAGE is full of lines I could quote.

ALL THE RAGE is my first Courtney Summers book, but it won’t be my last. It’s hard stuff to read at times, but I loved how the author didn’t pull any punches or censor anything. I’m sure when I reread this, I’ll find more gems hidden in its pages. Like all the little observations she makes about how society has trained women to be polite. Such as when Romy automatically takes a napkin with a number from a guy who creeps her out, “like the obligation to be nice to him is greater than myself (p. 233*).”

I was a bit confused at the start of ALL THE RAGE, because the book flips between NOW and BEFORE, between Romy’s rape and the horribleness she endures after. There’s not a lot of flipping though, and eventually I knew enough to put the pieces together. I think the confusion I felt as a reader echoes some of Romy’s confusion over what happened to her, since she couldn’t remember.

Okay. So I haven’t really talked about the book itself, the plot or characters, but I’m not going to do that. I went into this book with almost no foreknowledge, and I think that’s the best way to read it. I want it to hit you as hard as it hit me, so no spoilers from me.

I think ALL THE RAGE should be required reading for all high school students and well, everyone. Because it talks about rape culture in a way that will make you think. We live in a world where rape is blamed on the victim for what she was wearing or because she asked for it. We live in a world where if rapists are actually convicted, it’s their future that’s ruined because of one little mistake. We live in a world where people are sympathetic for the perpetrator, not for the victim. We live in a world where people in power can cover up a crime or even ignore it. We live in a world where Romy hopes an unborn baby isn’t a girl, because being a girl is hard and dangerous and painful.

And I apologize for the preachiness, but that’s what ALL THE RAGE did to me. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It makes me want to put the book in as many hands as I can. That’s the sign of an excellent read and an impactful book.

*Quotes are from an Advanced Review Copy, and may change by publication.

Socialize with the author:

Courtney Summers:
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– leeanna