Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Of Last Resort by Megan Derr

Of Last Resort

by Megan Derr

In a kingdom ravaged by the beasts and terrors of an ancient war, the only hope against them is the army of mixed-blood beings known as the King's Legion: dragoons, shadowmarch, sorcerers, titans … and the Princes of the Blood, nigh-invincible warriors of fearsome magic and strength, their only weakness a need for pure human blood.

When his brother runs away, Raffé agrees to undergo the Blooding, but he is a pale imitation of his strong, capable brother. No one expects him to survive and become a Prince, merely to die to save the rest of his family and preserve honor.

But runaways and weaklings are the least of the kingdom’s concerns when an ancient evil returns with new tricks, and their only hope lies with knowledge long lost and a fierce bond forged in darkness …
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
When I first started this book I was expecting something with the same impact of Derr's Lost Gods series, which happens to be one of my favorites in the genre.  I'm afraid to say I was a little disappointed, though.  While the story started out very well, I soon lost a lot of my interest in it.  The secondary characters never flesh out and remain flat for most of the story.  Even the main character, RaffĂ©, is unapproachable because he lacks emotional depth.  It's a shame because Derr has created such an interesting fantasy world and I would have liked to have experienced it more through the eyes of the characters.  I just didn't feel any emotion from any of them.
The plot itself is good, if a bit confusing at first.  There was a of of worldbuilding and description which made me feel bogged down at times.  That being said, the creatures and the different classes of characters were really cool. 
There were also some spelling errors which will hopefully be fixed in the final version.
I will still give the next book in the series a shot because I love the author's imaginative creatures and the world she has created.  And because I am a big fan of Megan Derr.  This one just missed the mark for me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Unhinge the Universe

Unhinge The Universe

by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A. Witt

Give me one fixed point and a long enough lever, and I'll unhinge the universe. — Archimedes

December 1944 – The Battle of the Bulge

SS Lieutenant Hagen Friedrichs is the sole survivor of a party sent to retrieve his brother—and the highly sensitive information he’s carrying—from behind enemy lines. But his daring rescue attempt fails, and Hagen becomes the prisoner.

Allied command has ordered Captain John Nicholls to extract critical intelligence from their new Nazi POW. His secrets could turn the tide of the war, but are they real? John is determined to find out . . . and to shatter the prisoner who killed his lover during the attack on their tiny base. The deeper he digs, though, the more he realizes that the soldier under the SS uniform is just like him: a scared, exhausted young man who’s lost loved ones and just wants to go home.

As captor and captive form an unexpected bond, the lines quickly blur between enemy, friend, and lover. And as horrifying rumors spread from the front lines and American soldiers turn their sights on the SS for vengeance, John may be Hagen’s only hope for survival.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

There are certain things that I've come to expect from any book written by Aleksandr Voinov:
Historical settings with incredible attention to detail, characters that are unique and complex each in their own way, and the emotional impact of a battering ram.  This book was no exception.   I haven't read much by L.A. Witt, so that's probably why I can't 'hear' her voice as well as Aleksandr's.  They worked so well together that the story is as seamless as if it were written by one person.

The setting is France during the last year of World War II.  From what I've heard, Aleksandr is a WWII nut and it definitely shows.  I was drawn in immediately because of the attention to detail and the way the setting was described so vividly.  Everything from the uniforms, the weapons, the was written so perfectly that I could easily imagine being there.

What really made the book a five star read was the tension between characters who are so different on the outside but are really quite similar at the heart of things.  Their interactions are filled with a mixture of hatred, confusion, compassion, and longing.  John's interrogations and Hagen's reactions put so much psychological tension in the mix that I just couldn't put the book down.  I loved every bit of the story because it never let me stop feeling.  I was a big emotional mess until the end and I wanted to reread it as soon as I was done.  I could go on all day just trying to explain how much Unhinge the Universe made me feel.

I'm so happy that I was able to read this one.  Bravo, Mr. Voinov and Mrs. Witt.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pretenders by Lisi Harrison


by Lisi Harrison

 My picture is on page eighteen of Noble High's Phoenix yearbook. I am one of the Phoenix Five. You nominated me. You thought I was one of the most outstanding students in our freshman class. You were wrong.

Still, I accepted my award. I acted special. But I couldn't help wondering what it was like to be that way for real. So I broke into Ms. Silver's safe in the faculty lounge and stole all five of our journals. I'm not exposing them out of jealousy or anger. I'm doing this because I am tired of the lies. The bar is too high, and cheating is the only way to reach it. Instagrams are filtered, Facebook profiles are embellished, photos are shopped, Manti T'eo's girlfriend was a anything real anymore?

I found the answer in our journals. These are 100 percent real and 100 percent unedited. The proof is in the pages:

We're all pretenders.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

I am usually pretty hard on young adult books, even books with very high ratings.  Throne of Glass, I'm looking at you.  So I find it a little funny that I liked this as much as I did.  Sure, the characters are all extremely immature except for Jagger, the emancipated boy with parents on death row who talks about eating dog biscuits to gain enough weight.  That was a joke...right?  Anyway, they are all obsessed with becoming popular or getting their crush to like them.  It is high school, after all.  And these kids are freshmen and prone to doing very stupid things.  These kids are extremely gifted so they do stupid things in big ways.  I did have a hard time believing that anyone could be as naive as Lilly, though.  That girl has some issues.

The book was about these kids trying to discover who they really are amid bullies, betrayals, and secret crushes.  All the while small misunderstandings and lies build until their whole made-up world crashes down around them.
It was pretty good and each kid had their own distinct voice that really let me think that I was reading their journal entries.  I liked it all until the ending.  That wasn't a cliff-hanger.  That was a non-ending.  It was like walking toward a cliff edge and falling it a pit ten feet away.  I would have liked at least some closure.

Overall, I give it 3/5 stars

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Gravedigger's Brawl by Abigail Roux

The Gravedigger's Brawl

by Abigail Roux

Dr. Wyatt Case is never happier than when he’s walking the halls of his history museum. Playing wingman for his best friend at Gravedigger’s Tavern throws him way out of his comfort zone, but not as much as the eccentric man behind the bar, Ash Lucroix.

Ash is everything Wyatt doesn’t understand: exuberant, quirky, and elbow deep in a Gaslight lifestyle that weaves history into everyday life. He coordinates his suspenders with his tongue rings. Within hours, Wyatt and Ash are hooked.

But strange things are afoot at Gravedigger’s, and after a knock to the head, Ash starts seeing things that can’t be explained by old appliances or faulty wiring. Soon everyone at Gravedigger’s is wondering if they’re seeing ghosts, or just going crazy. The answer to that question could end more than just Wyatt and Ash’s fragile relationship—it might also end their lives.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

Everything about this book was right up my alley.  There was history, ghosts, creepy buildings, hot men in steampunk-ish outfits, and a good amount of humor.  The plot took a back seat to the characters, but even so the plot was well-developed and interesting.  There was a lot of information gathering and uncovering mysteries.  I loved every bit of it.
 Ash was a very interesting character.  He dresses like someone who just walked out of the Victorian times (except for the tongue ring) and tends bar with the flair of a circus performer.  On top of that, he's sweet and has a mischievous nature.  He was my favorite of all the characters, though they all were well-written.
The thing I loved most about the book was that it had so much atmosphere.  Throughout the entire book I felt as though I could imagine the streets and the tavern vividly.  The creepy museum, the Victorian inspired tavern, the streets in autumn...everything described in such amazing detail.  
I will definitely be looking for more from this author. 

Charming by Elliott James


by Elliott James

 John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

I received a copy of Charming from the publisher through Netgalley. 

I ended up liking this book quite a bit. John Charming is a fun character whose narration reminds me a bit of Harry Dresden when Harry is having a good day.  John is sarcastic, witty, and he has a playfulness that I really like in a character.  His narration was what I enjoyed most about the book.  He is also a pretty kick-ass character because of his Knight training and because he has an inner beastie just waiting to get out. If it walks, talks, and smells like a werewolf...
The side characters were all fleshed out and had their own personalities and eccentricities.  Molly was my favorite.  She is a priest who uses Christmas music to relax and horror movies to conquer her fear of vampires.
The worldbuilding was interesting and I could tell that there was a lot of thought put into it.  The only thing I didn't love was that sometimes the author would add some history about a creature or how to kill it right in the middle of an action scene.  There were a few scenes in particular that irritated me because of this.  Still, it wasn't enough to make me too frustrated and the great things about the book outweighed this one bad one.   
I will definitely read the next book when it comes out.