Review: Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows by various authors

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Title: A Flight of Shadows
Genre: fantasy, short stories
Series: N/A
Pages: 138
Published: October 2012
Source: purchased
Rating: 3/5

For the past seven years, we at have prided ourselves on being a premiere source of “A Song of Ice and Fire” analysis, information, and speculation. There has been nearly a metric ton of essays, forum posts, and encyclopedia entries logged at the site to date, all designed to give the hardest of the core fan the most rewarding experience possible while reading George R.R. Martin's seminal novels.

And now we’re taking all those years of mastery and applying them to an ebook.

“Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows” takes five of the site's most prolific authors - including its two founders - and draws out their best, most in-depth work yet. Unlike other “Ice and Fire” compendiums, the focus of these essays is on the narrative, character, and thematic elements of the story itself, as opposed to the literary aspects surrounding the books.

Even better, the TOTH editors are joined by some of their good friends, who just so happen to be leading voices in the “Game of Thrones” community: A Podcast of Ice and Fire co-hosts Amin Javadi and Mimi Hoshut, founder Phil Bicking, and “A Feast of Ice and Fire” co-author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, along with noted fantasy editor and author Douglas Cohen.

Altogether, the book’s eight authors (and two special guests) cover a wide gamut of subjects and perspectives, from the most obvious to the most subtle, challenging readers to look at the novels they love so much in entirely new - and more enriching - ways.

Reviewed by Danielle.  

A Flight of Sorrows collects eight essays based on George R.R. Martin's ASoIaF series, written by the superfans at Tower of the Hand. TotH is my favorite ASoIaF fanpage, and I've thoroughly exhausted their archives, so I was very excited to see new theories with information up through A Dance With Dragons. Unfortunately, while most of the actual essays were well thought out and introduced some new discussion topics, the overall book felt stretched and more interested in selling me podcasts and cookbooks than whether Dany is the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

I will say Under The Bleeding Star was one of the best fan essays I’ve read. It took a much discussed topic, prophecy, and really examined it from a new perspective. I would say that chapter alone made the book worth reading. Likewise, Daggers In The Dark was well researched and added new depths to the ADWD Jon Snow debate. These two essays started the book off on a very high note and I was eager to continue on.

Unfortunately, I really didn’t like Every Case is Different, Every Case is Alike and You Win or You Sit on the Bench and I had to skip The Telltale Knight as I haven’t finished the Dunk and Egg tales yet. That really dragged my enjoyment down, especially when I was then confronted with the afterword written about the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook, (which I own and is phenomenal, but is not thought provoking theories,) and the appendices on the Tower of the Hand website and the Podcast of Ice and Fire.

Overall, there just wasn’t enough content to pull a whole book out of. Two excellent essays, three good essays, two poor essays, and one I can’t grade are padded out with a lot of filler. I just don’t think it’s necessary to have an intro, foreword, afterword, and two appendices in a single, slim volume. For the die hard fan of ASoIaF, there are things to like here while waiting for The Winds of Winter, but I recommend ghostlovesinger's After the Feast series on Tower of the Hand first. There’s more quality and it’s free.

Review: Maybe We'll Have You Back by Fred Stoller

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Title: Maybe We'll Have You Back
Author: Fred Stoller
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Series: N/A
Pages: 280
Published: April 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Fred Stoller has played the annoying schnook in just about every sitcom you've seen on TV--Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Scrubs, Hannah Montana, My Name Is Earl--and was even a staff writer for Seinfeld, but he's never found a solid gig. When it comes to Hollywood, it's a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride, except in his case he's always the snarky waiter, the mopey cousin, or Man #2.

This hilarious and bittersweet rags-to-rags story of the hardest-working guy in showbiz follows Fred, who started his career as a stand-up comic, from set to set as he tries to find a permanent home for his oddball character. With candor, Fred shares stories of his great adventures pounding the Hollywood pavement, including a humiliating encounter with Billy Crystal, a disastrous one-night stand with Kathy Griffin, and plenty of awkward run-ins at craft service tables. And he always shares his ups and downs with his skeptical yet loving mother waiting by the phone in Brooklyn.

Everyone can relate to searching for a dream job or their next big break, and will root for Fred as he weaves his way through the cutthroat world of Tinseltown.

Reviewed by Danielle.

I almost never pick up biographies, but my husband loves comedians’. I saw this one on edelweiss and read the summary to see if it was something I might want to recommend to him. The preview chapter was super readable and really funny. In a depressing, "50-years-old and never made it", kind of way. So I took down the name and moved on.

A week later, I kept coming back to the thought of Matt LeBlanc at the height of his fame telling a guest star, “Man, I’ve seen you everywhere,” or the fact that dressing like a loser has earned Stoller $33.00 in wardrobe fees as costumers just look at him off the street and go, “perfect”. That’s funny stuff. So I requested the ARC for myself, despite it being outside my usual genre. And you know what? Despite ruining my childhood with the knowledge that Harry Anderson is an asshole, I really loved it.

Stoller relives his early home life with an overbearing Jewish mother and a functionally-mute father, breaking into the stand-up business, (“You’re so depressed, how are you going to make people laugh?”,) moving to LA, acting, switching to writing, switching back to acting. voice-over work, and on to his webseries and own movie. Each time in his life is told fondly, (OK, maybe not Seinfeld,) with jokes and a lot of name dropping. He comes off as happy as he can about where his life is and how his career has gone, which makes me happy, though I hope he does get that permanent spot on a sitcom soon. I’m rooting for him.

It does get a bit self-deprecating with the, “I never found a home!” theme, (dude, I hate to tell you this but 200 episodes of Handy Manny is so a home and more of one than some sitcom stars get, ) and towards the end it does start to devolve into a list of sitcoms with an anecdote or two for each. Still, Stoller is charming and those anecdotes are pretty funny, which kept the story from lapsing into a total pity-party. Though if anyone deserves to throw one, it may be the guy who didn’t get the part of a “Fred Stoller” type in an ad.

Book Tour Review: Seduction by M.J. Rose

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Title: Seduction
Author: M.J. Rose
Genre: historical fiction, time slip
Series: The Reincarnationist #5
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Published: March 2013
Source: HFVBT for review
Rating: 3/5

From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

The fifth book in Rose's long-running Reincarnationist series, readers will once again find themselves caught in up the life of main character Jac L'Etoile, her elusive and mysteriously knowledgeable mentor Malachai, and now the notorious novelist Victor Hugo. The familiar themes of rebirth and reincarnation are visited once again, as Jac continues her struggle to come to grips with the realities and fantasies of her complicated life. The previous book, The book of Lost Fragrances, and the only other entry in the series I've read, took place mostly in Paris -- here in Seduction, Jac and an old-friend find themselves searching for answers on the evocative isle of Jersey.

It's never easy jumping into any series midway through, but Seduction functions moderately well as a standalone novel. Knowing the events and plot of the book's immediate predecessor was helpful in regards to figuring out relationships between characters, as well as adding some insight into Jac's personality and history, but is by no means necessary to enjoy Seduction itself. Sensory language, suspense, and creativity are the strong points of the novel, and with a pace that lags at times, it is those that kept me involved and curious to see the end. If you want the full impact of Rose's writing and plotting, it is best to start at the beginning, I would imagine. However, despite my lack of prior knowledge, Seduction is an easy, entertaining and slightly supernatural read that satisfies a reader's need for something new and inventive.

Reincarnation, grief, Druids, belief, past lives and memories are all key plot points to the story featured in Seduction. Some aspects are covered more completely - I could have done with more info about Malachi's search for "memory tools" - and others are purposefully left open-ended for reader interpretation. Additionally, some of the characters suffer from lack of definition - especially the secondary cast. Primary focus is given to Jac and Victor, to the detriment of the others involved. Malachi and Ash especially were hard to get a fixed point on. One is purposefully mysterious from Jac's viewpoint, the other is hard to understand from a reader's perspective. Both could have used more time, attention and development to create a more fully-fleshed character.

There are several timelines at work in the novel - Victor Hugo in the 1850's, Jac and Theo in the present day, and a really rather late in the game addition (around page 200 in a 360 page book!) of a family during 56 BCE. The most jarring part between switching between the stories were the different tenses. Both Jac and Owain's story were rendered in the third person, but Hugo's used first. I'm never a fan of tense switching between narrators, and it just doesn't work for me as a reader. That said, Hugo's plot and story were the most interesting and compelling. I've read and had issues connecting with Jac before in The Book of Lost Fragrances, so I wasn't surprised that, once again, she was a hard sell. I was very surprised at how evocative and atmospheric Victor Hugo was in Seduction. Of all the characters featured, his very gothic narration felt the most plausible, and his character the most dimensional.

With a strong sense of atmosphere, and evocative sensory language, M.J. Rose easily pulls her audience into the various lives depicted in her fifth novel of the Reincarnationist series. Some areas could use a little polish, or better pacing, but this novel of gothic suspense and reincarnation is sure to please fans of the series. Seduction may not be the best place to start exploring the life of the L'Etoile family, but it is a worthy addition to the series. A conclusion to the events of this book is quite final, but Rose leaves open plenty of options to continue Jac's story in another novel, should she choose to do so.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, March 25
Review at Luxury Reading

Tuesday, March 26
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 27
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Thursday, March 28
Interview at A Bookish Libraria

Friday, March 29
Review & Guest Post at vvb32Reads
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, April 1
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Guest Post at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, April 2
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 3
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Thursday, April 4
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Friday, April 5
Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Monday, April 8
Review at Girls Just Reading

Tuesday, April 9
Review & Guest Post at Kinx’s Book Nook

Wednesday, April 10
Review at Booklover Book Reviews

Thursday, April 11
Review at Psychotic Book Reviews
Guest Post at Literary Marie

Friday, April 12
Review at West Metro Mommy

Monday, April 15
Review at Layered Pages

Tuesday, April 16
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, April 17
Review at Reflections of a Book Addict

Thursday, April 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Reflections of a Book Addict

Friday, April 19
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, April 22
Review at Impressions in Ink
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, April 23
Review at Review From Here
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, April 24
Guest Post at The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 25
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, April 26
Review at Girl Lost in a Book

Monday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at As I Turn the Pages

Tuesday, April 30
Interview at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 1
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, May 2
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, May 3
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Tuesday, May 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 8
Review at Buried Under Books
Review at Diary of an Eccentric

Thursday, May 9
Review at Amused by Books
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Interview at Buried Under Books

Friday, May 10
Review at Savvy Verse & Wit

Tuesday, May 14
Review at Words and Peace
Review at Kimba the Caffeinated Reviewer
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, May 15
Review at Stiletto Storytime

Thursday, May 16
Review at From Left to Write
Guest Post at Stiletto Storytime

Friday, May 17
Review at A Novel Review

Monday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, May 21
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Guest Post at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, May 22
Review at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi
Guest Post at Confessions of a Book Hoarder

Thursday, May 23
Review at Man of La Book
Guest Post at Bags, Books and Bon Jovi

Friday, May 24
Review at The Calico Critic

Monday, May 27
Review at Paperback Princess

Tuesday, May 28
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Guest Post at Blood Mother Blog

Wednesday, May 29
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Guest Post at To Read or Not to Read

Thursday, May 30
Review at Book Nerds
Guest Post at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, June 3
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, June 4
Review at Tribute Books Mama
Guest Post at My Shelf Confessions

Wednesday, June 5
Review at Bippity Boppity Book

Thursday, June 6
Guest Post at Book Nerds

Friday, June 7
Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, June 10
Review at Jenny Loves to Read

Tuesday, June 11
Review & Interview at Pure Textuality

Wednesday, June 12
Review at From the TBR Pile

Thursday, June 13
Review & Guest Post at Books by the Willow Tree

Friday, June 14
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, June 17
Review at Mari Reads

Tuesday, June 18
Guest Post at Mari Reads

Wednesday, June 19
Review at Daisy’s Book Journal

Thursday, June 20
Guest Post at Daisy’s Book Journal

Friday, June 21
Review at Judith Starkston Blog
Review at Just One More Chapter

Monday, June 24
Review at The True Book Addict

Tuesday, June 25
Guest Post at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, June 26
Interview at Judith Starkston Blog

Friday, June 28
Review & Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse

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New Bookish Arrivals!

Sunday, April 21, 2013
I received a generous state tax return, which turned around to use to buy and pre-order 19 books. The first wave aka "the only only ones already published" have showed up.

I've already read three of these - Graffiti Moon, Ultraviolet, India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy - but I needed physical copies to hold/love/complete a series.

Ultraviolet/Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson - I loved the first, could not get an ARC of the second for the life of me, so I scooped up both when they were on sale.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - lots of hype, lots of great reviews from trusted sources.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley - read and loved to bits in 2011, finally bought myself a copy. Lovely, funny, real, this is one of the best of Aussie YA.

India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr -  I was sent an e-ARC from a publisher, but I own paperback editions of the first two. So, clearly, I needed to complete the series.

I had a long weekend with family,p and no trip is complete without checking out the local bookstores. So, this happened:

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett - a high fantasy I've had my eye on for a while - only $5!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - another I've beren very eager to read for over a year. I read this in the car on the way home (instead of the books I was supposed to read) and I cried. And loved it.

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson - You had me at "Bluebeard". I'm not really sure what to expect with this one - some of my friends have loved, hated or been indifferent. All I know is I am excited to see how it goes.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan - another highly anticipated fantasy debut. The amazing Ewa read it, and had some interesting thoughts on it.

Poison by Bridget Zinn - This just looked too cute and fun to pass up. It may not be the most original idea, but it looks like loads of fun.

Review: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Title: Dirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 290 (ARC)
Published: expected July 16 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

From the author of the “real page-turner” (Seventeen) Such a Rush comes an unforgettable new drama that follows friends-turned-lovers as they navigate the passions, heartbreaks, and intrigue of country music fame.

Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.

Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…

In my and the book's defense, I thought I was getting Dirty Little Secrets - a very closely-titled YA novel about mental issues and hoarding. Instead, Echols's later-released Dirty Little Secret is about music, and boys, and bitterness. I have friends who love Echols' novels, and friends who aren't fans. I might have to join the latter group, based on my experience with this book. I can clearly see why people would and will like Dirty Little Secret, but I can't join them in that enthusiasm. I also think this novel might fall under the heading of the "New Adult" label as Bailey's age and vocabulary fit more in that area than in a truly YA novel.

Bailey is pretty unlikeable character, and speaking stereotypically, that's fine. I can do unlikeable characters, even schadenfreude-ly enjoy them  -  if they're interesting, or justified in being so difficult (see: all of Courtney Summers's books). Unfortunately for Bailey, her 'tude and the reasons behind it didn't ring true for me. First of all: I don't buy that anyone's parents could be so blatantly biased towards one child at the expense of the other. Their actions, and Bailey's reactions, had me disconnecting from this novel early on. I also didn't think Bailey was as much of a badass as she clearly thought. Sorry hon, hair dye and a few piercings =/= toughness. Her arrogance, and her presentation made Bailey a hard sell for me from the first page. I grew less and less interested in her and the plot as the pages went on.

Once the reason for Bailey's familiar exodus was revealed.. I rolled my eyes. That was my big reaction to the big event and subsequent drama.Seriously - what an overreaction - for everyone involved. Like I said before, the interactions between Bailey, her sister and her parents didn't come off as authentic. The separation serves as a way to have Bailey on her own without using Missing Parent Syndrome, but it feels too cheap and easy. She's 18 -- she could have easily moved out early, or been preparing for college, etc. The ridiculous "tension" and reasons for it just didn't work.

I must admit that the music aspect of the novel is fairly strong. It's obvious that the author loves music, and the one thing that was authentic for Bailey's characterization was how she felt about bluegrass, and playing her fiddle. Her summer job playing with various cover bands showcases Bailey's talent in different areas, but it mainly serves as a meet-cute for her love interest, try-hard badboy/heartbreaker Sam. Sam, ooohh Sam. Another character I was supposed to be interested by, but was completely bored whenever he was around. Too pushy, too wannabe, and too cliche for me, Sam added nothing to Dirty Little Secret. The ups and downs of their relationship just felt calculated, following an obvious trajectory to a predictable outcome.

This isn't a bad book. It's just not as good as it could've been. The characters need more dimension, the plot more originality, the themes more nuance. It all just feels so rehashed or shortchanged. I've read variations of this book so many times before. The one thing that works, that stands out, is the bluegrass music, but that never held as much focus as it should have. I obviously didn't care for it, hence the two stars, but what doesn't work for me might fit perfectly for others. If you're a fan of Echols' previous work, I'm sure this will be a hit. If you're a newbie or on the fence, this might not end up being the book for you.

Book Tour Review: The Forever Knight by Jon Marco

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Title: The Forever Knight
Author: John Marco
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Bronze Knight #4
Pages: 282 (ARC edition)
Published: April 2nd 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3.25/5

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?

The Forever Knight is the fourth and latest fantasy volume in John Marco's long-running fantasy series centered around Lukien, the eponymous Forever/Bronze Knight. I have unfortunately not had a chance to read the first three, and jumping into a series at the fourth stop isn't the easiest or best way to get a handle on the world, characters or plot. However, The Forever Knight is somewhat able to work as a standalone novel for new readers, if those readers are at a slight disadvantage. Some terms and creatures used in the novel are the hardest to understand, but the rest of the novel flows easily and reads well.

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, a man imbued with talent for swords, longevity, and making some bad decisions. Like many male protagonists in epic fantasy, Lukien has a past that haunts him and a life that isn't exactly what he had imagined or wanted. I'm not privy to the character's development from the earlier novels, but Marco does an admirable job of making this hard-bitten and warlike man compelling and believable here in the fourth. For all his flaws or maybe because of them, Lukien is an interesting and well-rounded character. His complexity, and his tangled history, make for a character that is much more than he seems. Throughout the novel, different sides of the Bronze Knight emerge and help to portray the title character as more than just muscle-with-magic.

The world Marco has created has the benefit of four novels to create a solid and strong foundation. Their are well-defined lines of antagonism, between characters, between countries, and they come into play pretty seamlessly here in the fourth novel. There's political intrigue, subtle magic, monster hunts and plenty of battles and fights to keep the pace moving at a nice clip. The Forever Knight is an entertaining and fast read, and the worldbuilding laid out during the novel enhances the overall experience. I do wish that there had been a map provided to help me envision where Lukien's various treks and fights take place, but it's a small issue.

John Marco is an author that is clearly talented at writing authentic fight and battle scenes. Amidst a well-drawn world with well-defined characters, the violent intechanges are the most invigorating. Lukien is an interesting protagonist at all times, but in the midst of fighting to save his life, or for revenge, he is at his best. I also loved the inclusion of Cricket, a mysterious young woman with no memory of her past, as a female squire for Lukien. There are far more men depicted in the novel, but the few that are involved play important parts in the overall plot.

The Forever Knight is a dark epic fantasy novel - there's a lot of death, necromancy, cannibalism, and even rape - so the lighter moments are few and far between. Despite the bleak tone and outlook of the novel, I can see why John Marco's series has endured this long. All I can wonder is how it took me so long to find out about him and this creative series. Fans of other dark fantasy - George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker - may find another ongoing series to love and inhale with The Bronze Knight books.

Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

Sunday, April 14, 2013
Title: Reboot
Author: Amy Tintera
Genre: young adult, dystopia, science fiction, zombies, post-apocalyptic
Series: Reboot #1
Pages: 352
Published: expected May 7 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Two solid post-apocalyptic dystopias in one week? And they are both debuts? When has that EVER happened? This must be my lucky week. The short story is that Reboot is fun. Three-hundred pages of fun and pure entertainment. Three hundred plus pages of intelligent zombies (hey, if you rise from the dead, due to a disease or anything else, you're a zombie in my book. Anyway.). Three hundred pages of a strong, smart, flawed female protagonist. Three hundred pages that read like a third of that. The first in a series, Reboot is one of the few books that is worth a sequel or two.

Another book that is heavy on the action, and the romance, and lighter on the worldbuilding, I didn't mind that there were some gray areas in Reboot's foundation. There are some details supplied about what led the end of the modern world and the rise of Reboot-slave labor after, but they don't constitute an all-encompassing background for the world shown. Minor subplots about Reboot experimentation by the evil controlling corporation and a brewing, underground rebellion appear early on in the narrative, and eventually emerge as major players in Wren's storyline. The facts laid down support Wren 178's plot and story, but they could be more complete. It's a minor complaint because really, at it's core Reboot is all about the action and the attraction between Wren and Callum aka Twenty-two.

The returned, formerly dead soldiers are a stronger, better, faster, far less emotional type of being, and the differences between the Reboots and their human controllers make for a lot of the tension in the novel. As one of the later returns (the surname is used to show how many minutes it took a person to reanimate), Wren 178's life as a Reboot is all she really knows or remembers. Her hatred for "the humans" is evident and serves to illustrate the firmly-drawn sides in the silent battle between oppressor and the oppressed. More tension is added to the story when Wren attempts to train a mere 22 - a Reboot returned so early that he's more human that anyone she has known in her newer life. The tension between the two is clearly of a romantic variety, but happily for the book and for me, it works. 

The romance is going to be tricky with Reboot's audience. I could tell that immediately once the love interest was introduced into the story. Unfortunately, it does fall prey to some of YA's expected love tropes, but overall, I thought it was evenly handled by a new author. It helps that Callum comes across as a real person instead of a cardboard cutout. It also helps that Wren remains a badass despite her growing more human feelings. The action of the book gets more of my attention and praise, but for a YA novel about two polar opposites, I thought Tintera wrote a credible, authentic relationship that even had a few believable and non-laughable sweet moments. I especially found the matter-of-fact and mature approach to sex to be very refreshing. Some won't like the message about sex in a YA novel, but I thought it was handled perfectly.

Reboot: come for the army of living dead teenage soldiers, stay for the fun and the action. Amy Tintera manages to pack a lot of entertainment into her first novel and first-of-series. Reboot actually left off on a perfect note - there was enough plot resolution to feel satisfied while still leaving room enough to anticipate the forthcoming sequel. I will be counting down the days to see how Tintera handles her sophomore effort, but I have faith that it will kick just as much ass and be just as engrossing and awesome as her impressively fun first. If you're in need of a few hours' diversion, or a kick ass heroine, or a romance that won't cause a sweetness overload, this is most definitely your book.

New Purchases/ARCs!

Thursday, April 11, 2013
I've had some fun arrivals these last few weeks, both ARCs and giveaway wins, so I'll start with those.

From Bloomsbury Walker Kids:

Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter

"Me" is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who's been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. "Him" is Todd, Evelyn's secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex - until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant - and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?

I hadn't thought to read this - teen pregnancy in YA usually ends up as an Issue or Message book, and I have little patience for those - but BW was kind enough to send me an ARC.

From Walden Pond Media:

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

I love this cover, and the illustrations inside are just as lovely. I was lucky enough to catch a promo WPM was running for free copies.

Won from LibraryThing:

Ex-Heroes by Peter Cline (Ex-Heroes #1)

The first in a spectacularly genre-mashing adventure series that pits a small group of courageous, flawed, terrified superheroes against hordes of undead.

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Now, a year later, the heroes struggle to overcome their differences and recover from their own scars as they protect the thousands of survivors huddled in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount.

But the hungry ex-humans are not the only threat the survivors face. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power.

My first-ever Early Reviewers win! I'm not quite sure how this is going to work out for me, but hey, I'll try it! A mix of zombies and superheroes, I'm at least very interested.

The Rose Throne (which I keep reading/writing as The Rose Thorn) by Mette Ivie Harrison

Richly-imagined fantasy romance from the author of Princess and the Hound, a tale of two princesses--one with magic, one with none--who dare seek love in a world where real choice can never be theirs. For fans of Megan Whalen Turner, Catherine Fisher, and Cassandra Clare. 
Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she's impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father's court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power--or the magic--to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

I don't exactly have the best history with this author's books, but I was lucky enough for LibraryThing to select me for this ARC.

Won in Twitter Giveaway from the author:

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (The Memory Chronicles #1)

In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

I'm pretty stoked for this! I had an e-ARC that expired before I had the time to read it, so I can't wait to dive in. 

Sent for participation in blog tours:

Seduction by M.J. Rose (The Reincarnationist #5) (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

I had no idea this was part of a series when I joined the book tour. However, I read the fourth novel, The Book of Lost Fragrances, without knowing that and enjoyed it as a standalone.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker (TLC Book Tours)

A marvelous and absorbing debut novel, an enchanting combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.

An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.

Surrounding them is a colorful cast of supporting characters who inhabit the immigrant communities in lower Manhattan at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century: the café owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary Ice Cream Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish immigrants; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the mysterious Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing nature-until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

First of all, I love this cover. It's even more beautiful in person, let me tell you.

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd (Ladies in Waiting #3) (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

From the acclaimed author of To Die For comes a stirring novel told that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court. Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between an unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.

Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

I've really enjoyed both previous novels in this Tudor historical fiction series. I have high hopes for this one, too!

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz (Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) (TLC Book Tours - already reviewed here)


Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

A fun, entertaining read; one that left me eagerly anticipating the sequel.

The Forever Knight by John Marco (A Novel of the Bronze Knight #4)(TLC Book Tours)

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?

I'm going into this one pretty much blind. I've yet to read the first three, but I couldn't resist the offer to be in the blog tour!

Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle (Thornleigh #5) (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest rival. Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign…

Compelling and inventive, Blood Between Queens artfully blends history’s most intriguing figures with unforgettable characters, bringing to dazzling life the fascinating Tudor era.

Another I'm joining mid-series, but I can't resist a Tudor historical fiction. 

Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a newly married artist faces an impossible choice between her passion and her promises

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

One of my most trusted blogger-friends, Audra over at Unabridged Chick, loved this so when I got an offer to read and review it, I said yes immediately. 

Purchased books:

River of Stars (Under Heaven #2) by Guy Gavriel Kay

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

I'm working my way through Under Heaven and am pretty eager for this. Also, this is another cover I am absolutely in love with. Gorgeous. 

Barnes and Noble had a 50% their top 100 NookBooks over the weekend, so I bought a few books I've had my eye on for a while.

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) by Veronica Rossi

It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.

I had an okay time with the first book in this series. I didn't love it the way some of my friends did (though I do love me some Roar), but I was entertained enough to want to pursue the series.  

Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

I’m pushing aside
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

I've yet to get to the first in the series, but I couldn't resist the sequel on such a sale.

Rainshadow Road, Dream Lake, and Crystal Cove (Friday Harbor #2, #3, and #4) by Lisa Kleypas

The Friday Harbour series of women's fiction novels is set in San Juan Island just off the Washington State Coast - romantic and varied, with rocky shores, sandy beaches, rich woodlands and pasture land - and the prosperous Friday Harbour area. The series is centered around the Nolan family.

I've read a lot of happy reviews about this, and though the series is outside what I normally read, I thought "why not?" and grabbed the three on sale. The first sadly wasn't part of the deal, but I'll get it later if I need it for plot reasons.

Kingdom of Gods (The Inheritance Trilogy #3) by N.K. Jemisin

The incredible conclusion to the Inheritance Trilogy, from one of fantasy's most acclaimed stars.

For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameri's ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war.

Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties. She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves. Yet her duty as Arameri heir is to uphold the family's interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for.

As long-suppressed rage and terrible new magics consume the world, the Maelstrom -- which even gods fear -- is summoned forth. Shahar and Sieh: mortal and god, lovers and enemies. Can they stand together against the chaos that threatens?

I love N.K. Jemisin. Creative, thoughtful fantasy with minority protagonists? Sign me the heck up. The first two were great, fast reads - I have faith she will end the trilogy in a solid way. 

Well, those are my most recent additions. I'm pretty excited for all of them - I hope to have reviews for each within the month!
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