Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#Review - Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: Kanin Chronicles # 3
Format: E-Galley, 432 pages
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Cast out by her kingdom and far from home, she's the Kanin people's only hope.

Bryn Aven - unjustly charged with murder and treason - is on the run. The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have taken over her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him?

As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light… and now the entire troll world is on the brink of war. Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holmes and the Trylle kingdom? One thing is certain: an epic battle is underway—and when it’s complete, nothing will ever be the same…

Crystal Kingdom is the final installment in the Kanin Chronicles, and things are about to really heat up, and become more intense for protagonist, Bryn Aven. Having been declared a traitor and murderer by her own leaders, Bryn is on the run. She needs time to uncover the final piece of the mystery as to who is ultimately behind everything that has been happening to her, her friends, and her allies in Skojare. If you are looking for a time line update, Crystal Kingdom picks up exactly where Ice Kissed left off with Bryn being asked to make a choice to work with someone she has hated for years, Konstantin Black.

Had it not been for chapter 26's glaring editing and grammatical butchery that turned words into entirely different words that made no sense, this book would have been a full a whole lot better. As it is, I did enjoy this book more than the previous books. I enjoyed watching Bryn discover new allies in the Omte, and negotiating with Queen Wendy of the Trylle for help defeating the Kanin enemies. I enjoyed that Bryn does have friends like Ember and Tilda, and allies like Ridley that she can rely on, and yes, that does include a rather interesting relationship with Konstantin who has been given a raw deal from the very beginning.

I loved how things were tied up nicely without dragging things on, and on, and on. I loved how Bryn really stands up and takes down those who are a threat to her home. Sure she gets hurt a whole lot, again. But she also dishes out what she takes. I loved Bryn and Konstantin together as friends, allies, and yeah, I wouldn't have been displeased with a bit of romance had it taken place. I'm sad that the author kind of showed her cards in who ends up dying in the end. Perhaps there could have been a better way to play that out, especially since this poor character never truly got a chance at the happiness she found. 

Now that this series has been tied up, I wonder if Hocking will explore the Skojare further or maybe the Omte? I mean she went from the Trylle to the Kanin, right? Please don't pick up this book before reading Frostfire and Ice Kissed first. Otherwise, you will be missing a huge part of the background. You will miss why Bryn is so straight forward in what she wants out of life. I truly felt sorry for Bryn over the course of this trilogy. She was a lowly tracker, one of the lowest caste of the Kanin, but still wanted to serve her King.

She was treated badly for being blonde haired and blue eyes, and a half breed. She was put into a situation with her own boss of having to walk away from her career, or find love, finally. She has a friend who finds love, and stands up for her Kingdom, rather than running away. In the end, my favorite characters have to be Ember, and Konstantin. After reading this book, you will find out why.

**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Monday, August 3, 2015

#Review - Public Enemies by Ann Aguirre (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: Immortal Game # 2
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Feiwell & Friends
Source: Author
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

In Book 2 of the Immortal Game trilogy, Edie must learn the rules of the game . . . and then play better than anyone else.

Through a Faustian bargain, Edie Kramer has been pulled into the dangerous world of the Immortal Game, where belief makes your nightmares real. Hungry for sport, fears-made-flesh are always raising the stakes. To them, human lives are less than nothing, just pieces on a board.

Because of her boyfriend Kian's sacrifice, she's operating under the mysterious Harbinger's aegis, but his patronage could prove as fatal as the opposition. Raw from deepest loss, she's terrified over the deal Kian made for her. Though her very public enemies keep sending foot soldiers--mercenary monsters committed to her destruction--she's not the one playing under a doom clock. Kian has six months...unless Edie can save him. And this is a game she can't bear to lose.

Public Enemies is the second installment in the Immortal Game series by author Ann Aguirre. Edie Kramer has had her entire life turned upside down since this series started. She's gone from the taunted and bullied at school, to a player in a game between Immortals who treat humans like game pieces. She's lost her mother, her boyfriend Kian has only months to live, Edie is now under the protection of the Harbinger thanks to Kian's deal, and her father has pretty much checked out on reality. What is a girl to do when her boyfriend gives up his life so that you can live? 

If you are Edie, you grow a backbone, you do whatever you can to fight back against those in charge of the game, and you find a way to defeat your enemies before they can take you down. Surprisingly, I actually preferred this book to Mortal Danger because Edie is a whole different character. She's one who takes the fight to the enemy and doesn't sit back waiting to see what happens next. She's made some unusual alliances, including a temporary one with Buzzkill the clown, and has some interesting moments with the Harbinger, who more than stole the show this time out. 

I found myself more engaged with the story, and really liking Edie a whole lot more. especially in the last third of this story. I liked that besides Kian by her side, she also has Ryu, Vi, Jen, Davina, and yes, even Allison Vega the so called psychic vampire who impressed me by going into battle with Edie. I loved it when it was revealed who she really is. Never saw that coming! I liked that Edie found herself a mentor in Raoul, who stole an artifact from Wedderburn and has been hiding ever since. I liked that Edie pushed herself to learn how to fight and protect herself so that she doesn't have to rely on everyone else to keep her safe. 

Edie though does have a weakness. That is finding a loophole to save Kian. But, what happens when the loophole is right in front of her face? I guess I could guess at what was coming, but it takes a whole lot of guts for Aguirre to move the story forward the way she did. I liked that Aguirre gave Edie a whole new weapon that can defeat an Immortal. With said weapon, Edie has come close to evening things out with her enemies. Edie also has a secretive society wooing her to join their cause of ending the Immortal Game.

Final Thoughts:

Edie was kicking ass and taking names and killing off villains like they were Florida Palmetto bugs. Then, all of a sudden, the story took an abrupt U-Turn and tossed me for a loop. I am still lying on the ground stunned and in agony from that ending. What was a 4 star review, became a toss up. Damn, I hate when that happens! I do think there needs to be more of a summary of what happened in Mortal Danger. Waiting a full year for the sequel, kind of takes the sails out of my yacht. I do think the last third of the book was well done, and full of bloodshed, action, and intense moments where you don't know who is going to live, or survive, or what happens next. I kind of like the mystery of not knowing how Edie will overcome her challenges and survive. But, while I liked the ending, it kind of threw me for a loop. 

**I received this book for free from (Publisher) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Sunday, August 2, 2015

#Review - Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu (Young Adult, Realistic Contemporary)

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press 
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

17-year old Rachel Walker belongs to a family that is 100 percent dedicated to God, their church, while also being devoted to adhering to what their fathers and preachers tell them to do. Rachel and the women of the church truly believe that obeying males is their God given fate, and therefore, they have no time for boyfriends, or going to school in the real world, or questioning anything men tell them to do. They must keep themselves clean from sin, or risk re-education camp, or worse.

Rachel is supposed to be preparing herself to be an obedient wife and have children of her own. Even though she has limited access to the internet, she can access it since she is responsible for preparing bills, and schedules for the family's landscaping business. Rachel is also responsible for cleaning the house, picking up after her siblings, teaching them math and other subjects, while also being responsible for ensuring everyone gets fed. It also include regular attendance at church, bible school, and nightly prayers by her father.

When Rachel hears about Lauren Sullivan, a girl who walked away from the church and her family rather than being brain washed, she can't help but to dig deeper into why Rachel left, and what she is doing with her life now that she is free. Mathieu puts the question to readers. Is it wrong to want to know more about Lauren, the outside world, and what is actually happening around her? Is it a sin to want to do things her own way, and step away from the family unit? 

Rachel, in my opinion, did the correct thing when she decides to explore and find out what is out there. Nobody should be forced to do anything against their will, no matter what the church, or pastor, or overbearing father says otherwise. It's hard for me to be critical of religions without exploring my own lapses over the years. I have never fully understood Mormonism, and have had friends who belong to the Southern Baptist church. Perhaps because my family was Catholic, we were never forced to go to church, or follow the laws the misogynistic male society who rather have women scrubbing floors, and bending over backwards for them, rather than having a mind and goals of their own.

I truly do believe that Jennifer Mathieu hits on an important topic. The topic of young girls stuck in an environment where they are treated as though they are only good for making babies, and staying home to take of the husband and home. I would dare say that those who despise religion entirely, will not enjoy this story. I dare say that they will most likely stand up and shout that they have been saying this for years now about the dangers of organized religion. I dare say that people SHOULD read this book, and have a bit of concern, and pray for the children who are stuck in this environment. Pray that their fathers aren't abusing them, or fathering children with more than one person. 

I have one last thing to say about religion. Religion can be outright dangerous, see Jim Jones and the Ghana massacre of the 70's as an example of religion gone devastatingly badly. See the rape of young men by priests as another. However, religion has always been a way for people to have faith in themselves and a calling to do better for themselves and others. It makes people feel better, and yes, it has helped cure sickness. I prayed while my father suffered with cancer. I prayed when he died that there is, in fact, an afterlife so I can see him again. One should NOT make religion a focal point of their ranting and ravings and anger just because they don't believe in God, or Jesus.   

In the end, Devoted is an emotional read about one girls journey to courage and a desire to do what is best for herself. It is a story that finds Rachel bravery walking away from everything that she's been taught, her family, and discovering the real world and what it has to offer if you are willing to work hard. I especially loved the ending. While most teenagers are eager to get out of school, Rachel can't wait to sign up and learn the things she's been lacking. This is why I adore Rachel.

Jennifer Mathieu is also the author of The Truth About Alice which I actually loved.

**I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Saturday, August 1, 2015

#Steampunk Saturday - Review - Storms of Lazarus by Karen Kincy (Adult)

Series: Shadows of Asphodel # 2
Format: E-Galley, 274 pages
Release Date: July 29, 2015
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Source: Publisher 
Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk

Sometimes escape is impossible. Sometimes love isn’t enough. 

1913. Christmas Eve. Ardis hardly expects a quiet holiday with Wendel, between fleeing Constantinople and hiding from an ancient society of assassins. And they owe a debt to a certain archmage. 

In Königsberg, Prussia, they work with Konstantin on the next evolution of Project Lazarus. Wendel once called Königsberg home, the city now besieged by the Russians and their clockwork engines of war. This may be Wendel’s last chance to save his family and find redemption, but he’s tormented by nightmares and tempted by laudanum. 

Ardis fears her love isn’t enough to save Wendel. Her hands are full piloting the automatons, and she’s terrified to tell him a secret of her own. Will they—and their love—survive the storms of war?

Storms of Lazarus is the second installment in the Shadows of Asphodel series by author Karen Kincy. Things have moved ahead a bit since I read Shadows of Asphodel, the first book in the series. Ardis and Wendel are each dealing with the aftermath of what happened in Constantinople, and Wendel is having difficulty sleeping without nightmares. Fleeing across Europe, Ardis and Wendel reunites with Archmage Konstantin, who really needs Wendel's help in reviving Project Lazarus. But, that my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg, and you are warned to zip up your life jackets, because things are going to get bumpy!

You have to give Kincy a whole lot of credit. She doesn't let you languish in boredom, or wallow in self-pity because you want more romance, or more action, or more crazy clockwork creatures that are just mind blowing. Ardis and Wendel are arrested in Bulgaria thanks to a vampire; Wendel picks up a raven familiar he names Krampus on Christmas Day; a clockwork wasp attacks Ardis, and a clockwork dragon manages to bring down the Zeppelin that the gang, including Konstantin, is traveling in. Of course, let's not forget that the start of World War I is just over the horizon as the Russians are gearing up to invade Prussia, Wendel's former home. That means that Wendel has to face his ghosts when he returns home to Königsberg, Prussia to face his family who turned him out and disavowed him.

Storms of Lazarus is filled with sex scenes between Ardis and Wendel. There is even a glimpse of Ardis's future revealed, or spoiled as it were, before things are confirmed later in the book. I think Ardis is an entirely different character than she was in the first book. She's kind of careless in leaving her sword behind, and then letting the Archmages know of its existence. After a bit of a showdown with a clockwork dragon and clockwork wasps, our gang ends up meeting up with an American Zeppelin led by Nikola Tesla. This is why I like this series. I like that Kincy uses realistic historical figures to tell her story.

Tesla is the man. I sincerely mean that. Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. He was a man before his time, and in this book, his suggestions are key to Konstantin's fleet of automatons. The Town of Königsberg, Prussia really did exist. You can no longer find it on the map thanks to Communist Russia renaming it Kaliningrad. But, it's nice to see an author using early 20th century historical settings to tell her story with.

I had a hard time focusing on the story whenever Konstantin was around. He's all fidgety, and shy, and bashful around every man who he comes across, including a newly introduced Zeppelin Captain Himmel. Yes, that does include Wendel as well. Wendel kind of frustrates me at times. He claims he loves Ardis, yet he seems to have more and more people coming out of the woodwork tempting him back to his old ways.

If you are looking for diversity, you found it in this story. You have a half-Chinese, half-American heroine in Ardis. You have Wendel who could actually be bi-sexual with all the fuss and muss he's experienced with several men, and women. Of course, there's Konstantin who is definitely gay in a world where it's not tolerated all that much. This was a strange story with a strange ending. Not sure what is going to happen next. 

Will there be another book? Or, are we to presume that Ardis and Wendel's journey ends with them flying off to America? I emailed the publisher and author and requested an answer to my question. My contact says, yes, there will be another installment next year! There will also be a novella featuring Konstantin coming out in September. There are a whole lot of questions remaining. Will Ardis be happy with her situation? Will she be able to get rid of her fugitive label and reunite with her mother she hasn't seen in 3 years? What will happen to Wendel now that the Order knows that he is still alive? What is it about Ardis's sword that is so magical? 

*~I received this book for free from (Publisher) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.~*

Friday, July 31, 2015

*Stacking the Shelves & The Weekly Wrap-up* Week Ending 08/01/2015

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course eBooks!

Tally HO! Off to August, we go!
Thanks for stopping by!  
The Week in Reviews:

Steampunk Saturday - Storms of Lazarus by Karen Kincy

Scheduled for Next Week:

Sunday - Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu (YA, Contemporary)
Monday - Public Enemies by Ann Aguirre (YA, Fantasy)
Tuesday - Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking (YA, Fantasy)
Wednesday - The Society by Lilith Saintcrow (Urban Fantasy)
Thursday - Alice by Christina Henry (Fantasy)
Friday - Devil's Pocket by John Dixon (YA, Thriller)
Steampunk Saturday - TBD

Received via Publisher:

Received via Edelweiss & NetGalley:

Borrowed from Library:

#Review - The Veil by Chloe Neill (Urban Fantasy)

Series: Devil's Isle # 1
Format: E-Galley, 336 pages
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: NAL Trade
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil's Isle.

Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.

Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.

But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn.

The Veil is the first installment in the Devil's Isle series by Chicagoland Vampires author Chloe Neil. Seven years ago, The Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil's Isle. Now, it appears that someone wants to revisit the bloody war by opening up the Veil. Can they be stopped, or will yet another war cause indescribable horrors?

Setting: New Orleans 

Key Characters:

24-year old Claire Connolly is a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. She lives life day to day knowing that if she is ever caught using Magic, she will be sent to Devil's Isle for the rest of her life. Claire has never been trained in the use of her magic. But, when she saves a girl from being eaten by Wraiths, she inadvertently exposes herself to Containment. This brings Liam Quinn to her doorstep, and a strange alliance that will help her understand her abilities before its way too late to turn back. Claire owns & operates the family business, while keeping necessary items on stock necessary for survival. Claire isn't a Mary Sue character. She actually fought and killed in the war in order to save her home. While her overall abilities suddenly blossom almost overnight, there's more to that than meets the eye test.  

Liam Quinn is a bounty hunter tracking and capturing Wraiths and bringing them to Devil's Isle. He knows the truth behind what the Wraiths really are, and is on a mission to find the person responsible for killing his sister. Liam lives in the confines of Devil's Isle. After running into Claire, it becomes very clear that the Wraiths are more than they appear. They are intelligent, they hunt in packs, and in once instance, are able to give Liam and Claire a key piece of the puzzle. While there is a lack of romance in this installment, I wouldn't doubt there will be one in the next installment.

Secondary characters:

Moses - unknown supernatural; loves collecting technology; Liam's friend and one he turns to for information nobody else has access to in the Zone.

Antoine Lafayette Gunnar Landreau - Claire's best gay friend; works for Devil's Isle Commandant's office/Containment. Containment enforces magic containment in and around New Orleans. Doesn't know about Claire's magic until things get bad.

Tadji Dupree - Claire's best gal pal; Has no clue about Claire, and hates magic. Mother and Aunt deeply involved in Voodoo which she has avoided. Tadji gets a eye opening awakening in this installment. Should be interesting to see what happens next to her.


Pretty interesting start to the series. I found myself comparing this story to the Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson. Same location. Same idea with the Veil opening up and allowing Paranormals into our world. I would encourage you, dear readers, not to compare Clare with Merit, or Liam with Ethan. It's not even in the ball park. A friend also mentioned Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series if you are looking for yet another series with similair ideas.

I think that after reading Neill's Chicagoland vampires for so many years, this world is a breath of much needed air. I like the differences between the Consulars, and the Court of Dawn. I liked that there were a plethora of different paranormal characters like angels mixed and fighting with Sensitives and Humans. I like that this story takes place in New Orleans. Have been saying this for years, but New Orleans has a rich, dark history that needs to be explored further.  

**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Thursday, July 30, 2015

#Review - Frozen by Erin Bowman (Young Adult/Dystopia)

Series: Taken # 2
Format: Hardcover, 359 pages
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

The Heists were only the beginning.

Gray Weathersby escaped from the primitive town of Claysoot expecting to find answers, but what he discovered shook him to the core: A ruthless dictator with absolute power. An army of young soldiers blinded by lies. And a growing rebellion determined to fight back.

Now Gray has joined a team of rebels on a harsh, icy journey in search of allies who can help them set things right. But in a world built on lies, Gray must constantly question whether any ally—or enemy—is truly what they seem

Frozen is the second installment in the Taken trilogy by author Erin Bowman. 18-year old Gray Weathersby's journey has only begun. After escaping from the Franconian Order, he joined with a group of rebels at Crevice Valley. Now, the rebels, which includes Bree, Emma, Sammy, Owen, Xavier, Bo, September and Clipper, have decided to head west on a treacherous journey. They have decided that their best course of action against the Franconian Order is to join up with Frank's opposition, AmWest, and the Ex-Pats, and find the survivors of Test Group A.

Bowman's world was created by massive Continental Quakes, a Second Civil War between the East and West, Coasts falling into the ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico cutting a path through the middle of the country. Add in a lethal virus that left survivors living in a doomed city, a controlling leader in Dmitri Frank who is building an army of forgeries to fight against the West, and you have a rock'em sock-em action packed story.

For me, this was a hard review to write. Why? The whole love triangle shenanigans took up too much time while the unawareness that Frank's forgeries could be anyone at any time, hung in the background. This is a story where even though new alliances may be formed, the alliances have a long way to go before they can even match Frank's manipulations and army of forgeries. There is still plenty of room for shocking betrayals, gut wrenching and devastating losses, and Gray trying to come to terms with being a leader of a rag-tag bunch of rebels. 

Gray is also a bit of a blarking jerk, to be honest. He has feelings for both Bree and Emma but is hung up by indecision. I can see Emma since they were close from the time they were kids. There is something about Emma that makes me think she's the girl next door that you can't touch because of her parents dislike for you. Bree is a clever girl who can be just as badass as anyone else, but she's also a bit coo coo for cocoa puffs. I don't blame Bree's actions or the fact that she's being asked to be patient. She's sick and tired of being led around, only to find out that Gray is hung up on his past. But, for Gray not to make a final decision about which one he should be, is just blarking lame.

Fair warning: There is a shocking twist and a cliffhanger ending just waiting for you to get to the end of this story. I dare you not to scream or throw your book when you are finished reading this book.

Key Characters: Gray, Blaine, and Owen Weathersby. Gray - protagonist, Blaine, twin brother, Owen, Rebel Captain and Father. 

Dimitri Octavius Frank: Fascist dictator of AmEast and the Franconian Order. Responsible for Project Laicos.

Ryder Phoenix: Rebel Leader from Claysoot.

Clayton "Clipper" Jones - 12 year old gifted technology geek.

Brianna Nox - 17-year old from Saltwater, now a rebel seeking to take down Frank.

Emma Link - Medic from Claysoot who followed Gray over the Wall. Status currently unknown.

Previous book in Series: