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Firstborn: A Novel
Firstborn: A Novel
by Lorie Ann Grover
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.36
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Firstborn, May 15, 2014
This review is from: Firstborn: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I don’t know quite what to say about FIRSTBORN. It’s a book I wanted to like a whole lot more than I did. It’s a relatively short book (~300 pages), but it took me weeks to get through it because I never felt like picking it up to finish it.

For clarity in this review, I’ve decided to refer to Tiadone as female. That’s how she “felt” to me in the book, even though the other characters did refer to Tiadone as a male.

A firstborn female, Tiadone’s father declared her a male to save her life. In her conquered land, all firstborn females are put to death. She’s the only firstborn female, and now that her initiation is approaching, all eyes in the village are on her to see if her father made the right decision. All R’tan boys serve with their rapions (bonded birds) on the Perimeter of the country as lookouts for invaders, desert cats, and sandstorms. No declared male has done so before, and as puberty hits, Tiadone must deal with the dangers of patrol as well as unexplained feelings for her best friend Ratho.

Tiadone’s story should have been really interesting for me -- I’m always on the lookout for books questioning gender and male/female roles. Add in a conquered culture, and I should have been fascinated. But the book … it was, well, dull. The bulk of the book is about Tiadone’s year of service, and while she does spend a lot of time thinking about what gender she actually is, that thinking was buried beneath pages and pages of slow time in the desert. The one bright point for me was Mirko, Tiadone’s rapion.

I think the biggest reason I had so much trouble getting into FIRSTBORN is the amount of stuff left unexplained. Why do the rapions bond with the R’tan? Who are the Madronians and how did they conquer the R’tan? Why do they allow the R’tans to declare firstborn females male, if they believe firstborn females are worthless? Why do rapion eggs take so long to hatch (~12-13 years, I’m guessing), and why do the rapion spend only a year with their humans? And that’s just a start -- I haven’t even mentioned the religions of the R’tans and Madronians, neither of which I understood.

FIRSTBORN just didn’t explain enough about Tiadone’s world for me to understand a lot of what went on. Instead of clunky chapter after clunky chapter about desert patrol, I wish the author would have delved into Tiadone’s character, as well as fleshing out the oppressing Madronians, to really examine gender, and what it means to be male or female.

by Sophie Jordan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.86
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2.0 out of 5 stars Uninvited (Uninvited #1), May 1, 2014
This review is from: Uninvited (Hardcover)
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Davy has everything: she’s popular, she has the best boy in school as her boyfriend, she’s smart, and she’s a musical prodigy who’s already been accepted to Juilliard. Life couldn’t be better… but when she tests positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS), aka “the kill gene,” she loses everything. She goes from a posh private academy to attending school in a cage. None of her friends want anything to do with her, and the other HTS carriers can’t wait to prey on her.

I read UNINVITED in one sitting. Today, trying to review it, I’m left trying to figure out just what the heck I read. It wasn’t a “I HAVE to finish this book,” but it was easy to read, which is why I finished it in two hours. I have a few problems with the book. One: Where is it going?? I had no idea where UNINVITED was headed, and once finishing the book, I thought it seemed like setup for the rest of the series.

Which brings me to problem two: the setup isn’t very good. There’s no real explanation for *what* Homicidal Tendency Syndrome is, other than calling it the kill gene. How was it discovered? Why did the U.S. government start allowing cities to set up internment camps and to isolate teen carriers? I had a lot of unanswered questions about the basic premise, and that kept me from getting into the book.

UNINVITED does try to explore a timeless question -- are killers born or created? -- but gets caught up in Davy’s “why me” whining, lackluster romances, and a lot of government sanctioned abuse. The premise is interesting, but the execution was off for me.

The Sentinel: The Sundering, Book V
The Sentinel: The Sundering, Book V
by Troy Denning
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.17
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Sentinel (The Sundering #5), May 1, 2014
I’ve enjoyed the first four books of The Sundering series: THE COMPANIONS (R.A. Salvatore), THE GODBORN (Paul S. Kemp), THE ADVERSARY (Erin M. Evans), and THE REAVER (Richard Lee Byers). But number five, THE SENTINEL, just didn’t have the same shine for me as the previous books.

Kleef, a topsword in the Marsember Watch in Cormyr, rescues Joelle and Malik from the Shadovar. Joelle and Malik are Chosen, on a mission to save Toril from Shar by using the Eye of Gruumsh. Along with Arietta, a noble of Cormyr, they fight across Faern, on the run from the Shadovar and legions of orcs. Along the way, attempts to trust each other are stalled by back stabbing, and no one is sure of anyone’s true intentions.

I’m having a hard time reviewing THE SENTINEL because it’s hard to say much about it. It seemed like I was reading a D&D game put into book format rather than a book about the Sundering. I didn’t come to care about any of the characters, the action scenes were snooze fests, and the story as a whole? I’m not sure what I read, to be honest. The ending left me confused, and I wish I’d given up on this book when it took me four tries to start it.

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

by Rachel Spangler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, April 30, 2014
This review is from: Timeless (Paperback)
TIMELESS is a book that blew me away. From the summary, I thought it was going to be sweet and fluffy, with a romance between a teacher and her former student. Yeah, there is some fluff, and that romance is there, but TIMELESS is so much more than that. The author took me on a heartfelt ride about facing your past, confronting bullies, overcoming fears, and growing into the person you want to be.

Stevie hates conflict; she's always avoided it. She’s never liked standing out in a crowd, so when her agent tries to get her to return to her high school for an award, her first answer is no. But he persists, and before Stevie knows it, she’s back in the Midwest, a place where she’s never felt comfortable. But before she can accept her award and jet back to New York City, she’s given the oddest opportunity to revisit her high school years.

There is a romance in TIMELESS, but it’s not the main part of the story. Yeah, it’s important, and I liked the slow burn between Stevie and Jody, and I would like to see more of them in the future. My favorite part of TIMELESS was Stevie: her voice, her character, and the way she used her second chance in the past to grow.

Who hasn’t thought about how life would be different if they’d done X instead of Y in high school? TIMELESS explores that, as well as a variety of issues from bullying to homophobia. I think adults and teens would enjoy this book, and I’d recommend it to everyone. When I finished TIMELESS, I felt so hopeful and so inspired. Not many books give me that feeling, and it’s one of my favorite books for the year.

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

by Mindee Arnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.86
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2.0 out of 5 stars Avalon (Avalon #1), April 29, 2014
This review is from: Avalon (Hardcover)
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Over the years, various friends have tried to get me to watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly. However, I’d rather read books than watch TV series. So when I saw AVALON described for fans of Firefly, I thought this would be the book for me.

Unfortunately, I wish I’d skipped reading AVALON and watched Firefly instead.

Jeth leads a crew of teenage starship thieves. Working for one of the biggest crime lords in the galaxy, they steal metatech. Metatech allows other criminals or people who don’t want the attention of the Interstellar Transport Authority to travel across great distances in the blink of an eye. But when they steal a ship with a busted metadrive, Jeth and his crew find themselves in the middle of a very, very big problem.

AVALON just didn’t capture my attention. The beginning and middle were slow. Any time I put the book down, I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up and find out how it ended. I did persevere, though, and thought the ending had way too much going on compared to the rest of the book. Jeth didn’t interest me, either. He works for the crime lord because his uncle gambled away his parents’ ship, Avalon, and he wants to buy her back. Of course, it’s not so easy as that, but I didn’t feel for Jeth and his predicament.

Ultimately, AVALON just wasn’t exciting for me. It was okay, but not the great YA sci-fi book I thought it would be. This is one series I won’t be continuing.

The Shadow Queen: A Novel
The Shadow Queen: A Novel
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $11.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shadow Queen, April 29, 2014
I could write an extremely long review on why I loved THE SHADOW QUEEN. But no one wants to read a novel about a novel, so here’s what’s really important: I *connected* with this book. I read it twice, because the first time I flew through it so quickly I couldn’t write a review other than “read this!” The second time, I enjoyed the book even more. It’s one I’m sure to read another couple of times in the future.

I had never heard of Claudette des Œillets before reading THE SHADOW QUEEN, and from what I gather, she doesn’t have the greatest historical reputation. Claudette is known for being involved with the Affair of the Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV. Claudette is also known for being the companion of Athénas de Montespan, the “Shadow Queen” of the king, aka the real power behind the throne.

However, Sandra Gulland presents a different side of Claudette. It’s a side that worked very well for me, because I empathized so with Claudette. Claudette’s father dies when she’s young, and he puts the responsibility for her high-strung mother and handicapped brother on her shoulders. The majority of the rest of her life is spent making sure they’re provided for, whether she has to clean chamber pots or find a wet nurse for Athénas’s offspring by the king. Whatever it takes to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

France in the middle to late 1600s was a pretty miserable place for poor people, so I understood why Claudette was so entranced whenever she had a chance meeting with Athénas. The encounters start when both girls are children, and even then, Claudette’s easily able to see the difference between their lives. She’s living in a cave, begging to perform for the king while Athénas and her pony are dripping in ribbons and silver. So I could see why Claudette would give up one life she loved (theatre) for Athénas and the court.

THE SHADOW QUEEN had just the right amount of historical detail to for me to perfectly imagine Claudette’s world, from the theatre to court. I’ve never had an interest in French plays or the history of them, but now I do, thanks to reading this book. Claudette’s parents are both actors, and so the beginning “acts” of the book take place in the theatre world. It was pretty cool to find out how plays were staged back then. Also, when Claudette moves to court, to be Athénas’ maid and companion, it was easy to draw allusions between both false worlds.

In between my readings of THE SHADOW QUEEN, I read its companion novel, MISTRESS OF THE SUN. That book is about Louis XIV’s other mistress, Louise de la Vallière. For a complete reading experience, I recommend reading both (the order doesn’t matter in my opinion). I did prefer THE SHADOW QUEEN, mostly because of Claudette.

The only criticism I have for this book is I think “THE SHADOW QUEEN” is a misleading title. The book is about Claudette’s entire life, not just her time at court with Athénas. At first I thought the book would be all about the real shadow queen, but it’s not. So if you’re expecting a book entirely about Athénas, this is not it. But Claudette’s story is just as good.

I don’t know, guys. I just had a love affair with this book. Both times I read it, I couldn’t put it down. The smooth writing, the historical detail, the interesting story — everything together submerged me so completely into Claudette’s world. My eyes hated me, because I’d just keep flipping page after page.

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

Dark Light of Day (A Noon Onyx Novel)
Dark Light of Day (A Noon Onyx Novel)
by Jill Archer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.15
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1), April 29, 2014
The first in the Noon Onyx series, DARK LIGHT OF DAY is a paranormal/urban fantasy set at in a demon law school. Yup, you read that right. Noon is studying to be a Maegester, a demon peacekeeper/lawyer/executioner when necessary. Armageddon is over. The demons won, they rule Halja, and they love rules.

Women of the Host are Mederi healers, men are Maegester destroyers. But something went wrong with Noon and her twin brother, Night. She’s kept her waning magic a secret her entire life, but when her mother sends an application to St. Lucifer’s, the best demon law school, Noon can’t keep her secret any longer. Maegesters can feel each other’s magical signatures, and if she doesn’t admit what she is, she’ll die for not telling the truth. Demons don’t like waste.

Noon is an interesting character. She doesn’t want to destroy anything or work with demons, but because she has waning magic, she doesn’t have a choice about her future. Emotionally, she’s all over the place: sometimes strong, sometimes insecure. There were a few times I wanted to shake her, but overall, I found her realistic for a twenty-one year old. It was great to see her grow over the course of the book.

The beginning of DARK LIGHT OF DAY does dump a lot of information, but after I got past that, I didn’t put the book down until I finished it. I thought the setting was super creative — the world hasn’t ended with Armageddon. People pay taxes, work, go to school, and oh yeah, offer tribute to the appropriate demon. I also liked St. Lucifer’s; I tend to like books set at schools, so I liked the descriptions of Noon’s classes and student life.

The only part of the book that I didn’t like were the romantic interests, Peter and Ari. Peter is Noon’s best friend, an Angel who has promised to help her find a way to get rid of her waning magic. Ari is a fellow Maegester and student at St. Lucifer’s. Both like Noon for different reasons, and she likes them, but isn’t sure where her future lies. I thought they were both jerks in their own way, and didn’t see any chemistry between them and Noon.

Other than Peter and Ari, I really enjoyed DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Noon next, and what other demons she’ll have to deal with.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2014 1:24 AM PDT

Happily Ever After: A Novel
Happily Ever After: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $9.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happily Ever After, April 29, 2014
HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

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

The Tyrant's Daughter
The Tyrant's Daughter
by J.C. Carleson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.66
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Tyrant's Daughter, April 25, 2014
This review is from: The Tyrant's Daughter (Hardcover)
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I started reading THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER while I was waiting on an appointment. I got so into the book that I barely noticed I ended up waiting for over two hours. I was almost disappointed to go to the appointment, because by that point, I would rather have kept reading!

Laila doesn’t know what’s true or false anymore. There, in an unknown third world country, she was raised as royalty. Her father was the king, and her younger brother the prince. Here, she lives in a tiny apartment outside of Washington D.C. with her mother and brother, rescued by the U.S. government after her father was killed in a coup. THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is her story of discovering what really happened there, how it affects what happens here, and what her future is.

On one hand, the book is an easy read, full of American experiences from prom to making out in cars to Starbucks trips. But don’t let that fool you, because Laila’s story is much deeper than that. Yes, she has more freedom than she’s ever had, and is getting to do things she never would have done there, but is the cost of that freedom worth the truth? Is it worth learning that your father was actually a dictator, and that dissenters were tortured under his rule?

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is a book that made me think, and Laila’s story will stay with me for a while. I think the book does a really good job exploring the power of one person, and how decisions big and small can influence events. My only criticism, and the reason I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars, is that I almost missed the big twist. I understand why it was written the way it was, but I wish more time had been paid to the big event, considering some of the detail that went into less important passages. At the end, I was a bit confused and wanted to know exactly what happened, and what might happen in the future.

Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great
Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great
by Eva Stachniak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.57
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Empress of the Night (Catherine #2), April 25, 2014
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I wasn’t the biggest fan of THE WINTER PALACE, Eva Stachniak’s first book about Catherine the Great. I didn’t connect with the narrator, Varvara Nikolayevna, and thought the book was more about Empress Elizabeth than Catherine. Still, I decided to try EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT because it’s from Catherine’s point of view.

However, EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT just wasn’t the book for me. That was partly due to the style and partly due to the focus on Catherine’s lovers. When I read historical fiction, I like structure, details, dates -- this book doesn’t have that.

The book is a jumble of Catherine’s memories, remembered in the last two days before her death. The way it’s told IS creative, but at the same time, I was often confused and felt like I was just flipping pages to get to the end. I never connected with Catherine, and after the first part which covered her ascension to empress, I just didn’t care about what was going on.

I didn’t care because so much of the book was about Catherine’s lovers. Because of who she is and what she did, I guess I expected more emphasis on her accomplishments, not tiptoeing around the string of men in her life. I suppose the title should have clued me in, so that’s my mistake, but I also think the summary is misleading.

I wanted to like EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT, I did, but it just didn’t work for me.

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