Bird’s Eye View: A Review of Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

26114337Title: Steeplejack (Alternative Detective #1)
Author: A.J. Hartley
Genre: Mystery / Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: June 14th, 2016
Hardcover: 336 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, makes a living repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside one another. The white Feldish command the nation’s higher echelons of society; the native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there’s Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated there generations ago and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm’s edges.

When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice, Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon’s theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit’s murder—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers Ang a job investigating the death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city’s mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon’s theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah’s haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos.

“The first daughter, it was said, was a blessing. The second, a trial. The third, a curse. As a third daughter myself, I felt the full weight of that last piece of wisdom….”

It was the cover for SteepleJack that first grabbed my attention when perusing upcoming releases online. Industrial, enticing in its brown and gold colors, the name in stark white—yet smudged at its roots—the cover conveyed a vaguely Steampunk feel, which compelled me to click through, seeking out more information. Its blurb promised mystery, a practical heroine and diverse cast, with a heavy dose of political intrigue, all set against an exotic city of gaslights and towering spires. Of course, it went on the preorder list; it hit too many of my preferences to not.

I do want to say that SteepleJack is not a Steampunk-genre story, nor is it a fantasy story. It could, perhaps, be placed in the historical fiction stacks, as it does borrow heavily from the histories of British Colonial Africa and India, mixing together the two into its own unique. However, that isn’t what this book is.

SteepleJack is a mystery. A classically-told YA mystery couched in smog, soot, and gaslight, and I loved every page of it.

Continue reading “Bird’s Eye View: A Review of Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley”

Happy Accident: An Advance Review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.inddTitle: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary / Romance
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Hardcover: 344 Pages
Source: Barnes & Noble B-Fest

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

“Human beings are not reasonable creatures. Instead of being ruled by logic, we are ruled by emotions. The world would be a happier place if the opposite were true. For example, based on a single phone call, I have begun to hope for a miracle.

I don’t even believe in God.”

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher as prize for winning the trivia blast at B-Fest. The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone.

The Sun is Also a Star was not on my radar for 2016. I had heard of it, but it didn’t catch my eye. Sure, the synopsis is adorable and the cover is gorgeous, but I would not have purchased this book for myself. I’m not really one for contemporary young adult novels; it’s hard for me to relate to the life of a high school student. I mean, my ten year reunion is next month. I’ve aged out.

It actually took some serious convincing to get me to go to B-Fest at all. I expected that a 27-year-old blogger would stand out like a sore thumb. But I ignored the voice in the back of my head and went anyway. I am so glad I did. If I hadn’t, I am sure that I would never have read this remarkable book.

Continue reading “Happy Accident: An Advance Review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon”

Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

29962851Title: Empire of Dust (Blood of Gods and Royals #2)
Author: Eleanor Herman
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 432 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust.

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands — but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome — and deadly — captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of ancient history with epic fantasy in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

“We are not Persians, Alexander, too cowed by the whip of the Great King to utter a word or think a single thought he might disapprove of. You would grow to despise your own people if they were like that. When you possess power over those whose lives, whose minds, you do not value, all you will have… is an empire of dust.”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did not write a review of Legacy of Kings. It was such a letdown that I could not articulate my exact feelings on the book. Looking back, it was shock. I was baffled at how disappointed I was. Was it possible for a book about a legendary conqueror to be so very boring? While waiting for Empire of Dust, I convinced myself the first book was just the intro. I couldn’t pass any judgement until I had read the sequel. So, when I saw it pop up on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist. It had to be better, right? Actually, yes. It is better. Sadly, it was not better by much.

Continue reading “Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman”

For the Love of Venda: A Review of The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

21569527Title: The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: July 7thth, 2015
Kindle Edition: 480 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape . . . and even less of being together.

Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komisar that she has a magical gift, and the Komisar’s interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.

Meanwhile, the foundations of Lia’s deeply-held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: there’s Rafe, who lied to her, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people . . . and her own destiny.

“I beg your forgiveness, Your Eminence. I would not truly feed your face to the hogs. It might make them sick.” 

The following review contains spoilers for The Kiss of Deception. If you haven’t read the first book in The Remnant Chronicles, it might be best to revisit this review when you have.

It is rare that I like a book better the second time around. Usually, I spend the reread nitpicking things that I glossed over the first time. That wasn’t the case with The Heart of Betrayal. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did gloss over things the first time through. I was still reeling from the Kaden/Rafe switch-a-roo, which left me focused on the romance and not the world building or the character development that goes on outside of the romance.

Continue reading “For the Love of Venda: A Review of The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson”

Who’s Who: A Review of The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

16429619Title: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Kindle Edition: 492 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

“If one can’t be trusted in love, one can’t be trusted in anything. Some things can’t be forgiven.” 

I didn’t know what to expect the first time I picked up The Kiss of Deception. I hadn’t read the synopsis or any of the reviews. All I knew about the book was it was supposedly fantasy and Goodreads had recommended It. I dove in headfirst.

Continue reading “Who’s Who: A Review of The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson”

Romance and Retellings: A Review of The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

22428707Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Wendy Higgins
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Kindle Edition: 416 Pages

“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”

She could only stare back, frozen.

When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.

“Now she found herself staring unabashedly from her window at Paxton Seabolt, wishing she had a seaman’s scope so she could peer closer.”

I took an entire page of notes on The Great Hunt. That’s what I do, you see. After I finish a book, I write down all of my praise and complaints in a battered spiral notebook next to my computer. It’s so I don’t forget to mention that one thing that ticked me off, or the quote that made me giddy.  An entire page of notes should make for a pretty interesting review, right? Sadly, no. I am sitting here staring at that page and all I can think is, “Wow… this book was dull.”

Continue reading “Romance and Retellings: A Review of The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins”

Destiny and Development: A Review of The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster

sacrificeTitle: The Reluctant Sacrifice
Author: Kerr-Ann Dempster
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: August 17th, 2015
Kindle Edition: 263 Pages
Source: Author
Centuries ago, sibling rivalry tore Aramith apart. As punishment, the losers were stripped of their immortal birthright and banished to Earth. There, they wasted away from old age and diseases. However, there is hope…

If a Shaw child, born on the 12th day of the 12th month offers her soul in a public sacrifice, then the exiles will be forgiven and welcomed home to Aramith.

Aubrey Shaw is that child, but dying for the exiles is not on her to-do list. Using her gift as a Jumper, Aubrey leaps between bodies to escape relentless shape-shifting hunters. Only, shedding her skin is not enough. Not when Joshua, her best-friend-turned-hunter, is hell-bent on dragging her to the altar.

Will Aubrey’s love for Joshua change his mind?

Or, will she have to trust the scarred stranger who shows up out of the blue cloaked in lies and secrets? Doing so means giving up on Joshua. But betting on Joshua’s love could do more than break her heart.

It could kill her.

“I want to pour myself into you and watch you fill up with pleasure, until the need for air and food forces us apart. But that is not all I want. When I look at you, I see sunsets and laughter. I see a freaking lifetime of flesh memories that’ll make me forget the days before we met.”

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

I only meant to read a chapter or two before I fell asleep. It was 4:30 in the morning, after all, I should’ve been asleep. After every chapter, I told myself “Just one more”. Then 8:30 rolled around and there were no more chapters. I had consumed the entire novel in four hours. There was no avoiding it. The Reluctant Sacrifice sucked me and refused to let go.

Continue reading “Destiny and Development: A Review of The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster”

Hybrid Genre Hype: A Review of Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

24397041Title: Hunter (Hunter #1)
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Genre: Fantasy / Dystopian / Sci-Fi
Publisher: Disney – Hyperion
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Kindle Edition: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

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

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

“I see you, Hunter.” There it was, the traditional opening of a battle. But not a duel. Good, that meant I could cheat, and I intended to. 

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this book. Having never read anything by Mercedes Lackey, I went to Goodreads to scope things out. I was disappointed by what I found. Most of the top reviewers didn’t even get a quarter of the way through this novel before they gave up. While that made me nervous, I found the synopsis intriguing enough to give it a shot. I am glad I did.

Continue reading “Hybrid Genre Hype: A Review of Hunter by Mercedes Lackey”

Courts and Critiques: A Review of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

courtoffivesTitle: Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1)
Author: Kate Elliott
Genre: Fantasy / Dystopian
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Kindle Edition: 448 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

On the Fives court, everyone is equal.
And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

“There will come a moment in your life where you find yourself confronted with two choices, and both are bad ones. For me it was to stay in a place where I was choked and had nothing to look forward to and no way to prove my talents, or to leave everyone I knew and loved behind forever for a chance that might not work out. That is how the gods test us, by laying before us what seems to be a choice and yet is no choice at all. When we come to that fork in our path down which no road is clean, all we can control is what dignity and honor we take our inevitable step.”

How was the plot?

I think this book suffers from being the first in a series as well as the author’s YA debut. Elliott started out telling the story of a girl stuck between two worlds. Jessamy, the daughter of a Patron war hero and his Efean paramour, struggles with issues of race, sex and class as she tries to find her place. That story could have been compelling. Unfortunately, the author included too much and the story lost its direction. Between the addition of political intrigue and an awkward romance, I found myself overwhelmed. I felt pulled in several directions, all while trying to get a grasp on a complex world that went largely unexplained until the end of the book.

Continue reading “Courts and Critiques: A Review of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott”

Defeating the Drought: A Review of Air Awakens by Elise Kova

reviairTitle: Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1)
Author: Elise Kova
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: August 27th, 2015
Kindle Edition: 377 Pages
Source: Author

A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond…

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

“I want a place you hardly dare to even whisper. I want the bravery to not only read, but to do. I want a man, not a library boy. A man who is tall and witty and knows more about the world than you would ever dare dream.”

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

I was in a huge reading slump when I picked up Air Awakens. I expected that I would get about five chapters into it and lose interest. After all, that is exactly what happened with the five books I picked up before it. I tried everything from Alternate History to Paranormal. Nothing stuck. It’s not that the books were bad. I just couldn’t get into them. I was absolutely sure that Air Awakens was going to be the next book on my ever growing DNF list.

Continue reading “Defeating the Drought: A Review of Air Awakens by Elise Kova”