Category Archives: Reviews

Blog Tour & Giveaway: THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN by Louise Caiola

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Welcome to my stop on the tour for The Making of Nebraska Brown by Louise Caiola. You can read my review below, and at the end of the post, there are two chances for you to win something! Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $25 e-book gift card to the e-retailer of your choice, and leave a comment on this blog post to win an e-copy of the book! Big thanks to the publisher, Immortal Ink Publishing, for supplying these prizes, and also for providing a review copy.

Nebraska Brown 3D

The Making of Nebraska Brown by Louise Caiola
Publisher: Immortal Ink Publishing
Release date: February 2014
Source: e-book from publisher
Pages: 318

About the story:

The last thing eighteen-year-old Ann Leigh remembers is running from her boyfriend in a thick Nebraska cornfield. This morning she’s staring down a cool Italian sunrise, an entire continent from the life she once knew. The events of the eighteen months in between have inexplicably gone missing from her memory.

All at once she’s living with Tommy, an attractive, young foreigner asking for her continued love. Though he’s vaguely familiar, she recalls a boy named Shane in America who she reluctantly agreed to marry. Juggling a new world while her old one is still M.I.A is difficult enough without the terrifying movie scenes spinning a dizzy loop in her mind: glimpses of a devastating house fire, a romance gone wrong, an unplanned pregnancy, and a fractured family – each claiming to be part of who she once was – a girl and a past somehow discarded.

Ann Leigh must collect the pieces of herself to become whole again, but she doesn’t know who to trust especially when Tommy’s lies become too obvious to ignore. And above all, her heart aches to discover what became of the child she may or may not have given birth to.

The Making of Nebraska Brown tells the story of one girl’s coming apart from the inside and the great lengths she’ll go to reclaim herself and find her way home.

three and a half

The nitty-gritty: An engaging main character, a journey of self-discovery and a slow-brewing mystery.

Last thing I remember, Shane Kirkland had his left hand on my right boob, and I could feel the nub—the missing chunk of his pinky finger that got chewed off in the gristmill. So I ran, mostly because the idea of marrying him and his sad punk of a finger sent a shiver straight through to my bones.

I have to admit, when I read the blurb for this book, I could have sworn it had a time travel/paranormal feel to it. Or perhaps that’s what I wanted to see. In fact, The Making of Nebraska Brown is a contemporary story. I rarely read contemporary, and when I do, it’s mostly because it’s an author I love and I will read anything they write. And so as I was reading, I kept expecting to run into paranormal elements. When that didn’t happen, I decided to just go with it and enjoy it for what it was, a moving story about a girl who has lost her memory and the consequences she faces.

And I am glad I read this book, even though it isn’t my normal genre. Caiola has a way of evoking emotions from her readers without getting sappy. There is a huge mystery to this story—one that I will not share with you—that slowly builds until the final emotional reveal. You must go through the process of reading and experiencing all the clues for the full impact, which simply proves that Caiola knows how to tell a story. And even though there were things about the book that didn’t work for me, I did appreciate her overall storytelling skills, pacing and character development, certainly enough to recommend this book to lovers of contemporary fiction.

The good stuff.

Caiola’s pacing is excellent. She sets up her story by immediately telling us about the mystery that is Ann Leigh/Ana Lisa. By jumping back and forth between the two time frames—2002 and 2004—in alternating chapters, we slowly begin to realize that Ana Lisa, who lives in Campania, Italy with her Italian boyfriend Tommy, is troubled by a past she can’t remember. Flashes of that past keep coming forward, especially when she falls asleep and dreams about people and places that have nothing to do with Italy. As the clues to her “other” life start to stack up, she realizes that some very important things happened, and in order to move forward, she needs to figure out exactly what those things are.

But the story doesn’t completely take place in Italy. The chapters that take place in 2002 describe a girl named Ann Leigh who lives in Nebraska and and is getting ready to marry her boyfriend Shane. The real mystery is why can’t Ana Lisa remember anything about this other person? What exactly happened to her, and why is she living in Italy? Pieces of her memory are missing, and unfortunately they are important pieces. Caiola handles all of this with assured skill, drawing the mystery out until nearly the last page of the book. At 90% on my Kindle, I made a notation that said “What is going on???” Not being able to guess the mystery is always a good sign that the writer knows what she’s doing.

The emotions.

There were lots of poignant moments in the story, times where I had to catch my breath because I was overwhelmed with emotion. Many of these involved Ann’s sister Sissy and their relationship. Both of them have secrets, and both are terrified of their parents finding out. This creates a special bond between them that I really loved. One very emotional part near the end I can’t discuss, because it would be a major spoiler to a big plot point. But let’s just say I definitely had tears in my eyes at that point.

The story had a Wizard of Oz vibe to it because the main theme is that Ana is trying to find a family that she knows exists but that she can’t remember. Ana often tells Tommy that she just wants to “go home,” much like Dorothy trying to find her way out of Oz.

Some things that didn’t work for me.

As well-paced as the story was, however, I mostly had a hard time with Caiola’s prose. Her writing tends to be flowery and overblown, and while this style might work well for contemporary inspirational stories, it was too over-the-top for me. Phrases like

Tommy wore a heaving, swollen happiness with abandon, so much so he nearly burst open, bliss running out all over the place.

or

The wind was wrestled by the sun, held down by ghostly sun arms, and subsequently defeated.

made me roll my eyes or scratch my head in puzzlement. Likewise, some of her sentences were awkward and could have benefited from more editing, like “No boy to crane his neck over his ankles for me.” What?

I also had an issue with the way Ana was “handled” by Tommy (and I can’t say much more than that without giving some things away). Whenever female characters (or male, for that matter) are made to come across as frail because of a handicap—in this case, memory loss—and the significant other in their lives treats them as little more than problems to be dealt with, well, that doesn’t sit well with me. Ann/Ana has two men in her life and I couldn’t stand either one of them for that reason.

But aside from my personal issues, many readers will love this engrossing mystery and journey of self-discovery. Caiola certainly knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and I officially declare that mine have been duly tugged.

Find the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBookstore

About the author:

Louise CaiolaAs a young girl who spent her allowance on Nancy Drew mysteries, Louise realized that one day, she might have a story of her own to tell. Maybe even more than one story. After years focused on raising her children she eventually reconnected with her passion for creative writing. She soon began to craft a large collection of short stories which were published in the inspirational online magazine, Faithhopeandfiction.com. Shortly thereafter, she authored her first novel, Wishless, a contemporary YA, released in 2011.

Find Louise: Author website | Twitter | Goodreads

And now for the giveaway! You have two chances to win: First, leave a comment on this post, and one commenter will be randomly selected to win an e-book of The Making of Nebraska Brown (contest ends April 30th).

And you can enter the Rafflecopter contest and enter to win a $25 e-book gift card to the e-retailer of your choice. Simply click the Rafflecopter button below:

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Filed under 3 1/2 stars, Blog Tours, Giveaways, Reviews

Coincidence & Synchronicity: SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick – Review

She Is Not Invisible 3D

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release date: April 22 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 224

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A completely original story with a brave and plucky main character, filled with fascinating information about the nature of coincidence, and lots of heart and emotion to tie it all together.

I held Benjamin until he stopped sobbing, and I told myself I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. I told myself that again and again.

I had Benjamin with me, and Stan. We’d find Dad. We had to.

“I’m scared, Laureth,” Benjamin said. “I’m scared. I want Mum. Aren’t you scared?”

And then, that was it, I was crying, too.

Because, yes, I was. I am scared, almost all the time. But I never tell anyone. I can’t afford to. I have to go on pretending I’m this confident person, because if I don’t, if I’m quiet, I become invisible.

This was my first Marcus Sedgwick book. I’ve been trying to get to Midwinterblood for, well, forever, and it wasn’t until I received She Is Not Invisible from NetGalley that I finally put Sedgwick on my reading schedule. The book wasn’t quite what I expected in some ways, but in others I was thoroughly delighted. Laureth is indeed a wonderful character. She’s blind, for one thing, but because she was born that way, she’s never had sight and never feels as if she’s missing anything. This fact allows her to have an upbeat attitude, which gets her through some very tricky situations in this story. I thought the book was a near perfect balance of mystery, family drama, adventure tale, and educational piece about coincidences. I say “near perfect” because I was a little disappointed in the final reveal of the mystery (why Laureth’s Dad was missing), and some of the action scenes at the end felt out-of-place to me. But overall I enjoyed this book so much, and now that I have seen Sedgwick in action writing contemporary, I can’t wait to experience his horror stories.

The story.

Sixteen-year-old Laureth is worried. Her father, a once-famous writer named Jack Peak who is away from home on a business trip, has not returned any of her phone calls. And when she reads an odd and threatening email to her father from a man who claims to have found one of his private notebooks—in New York City, no less—Laureth decides to take action. She drags her brother along on a madcap adventure from their home in England to America, to meet the man with the notebook and hopefully locate their father. But finding him isn’t as easy as she thought it would be, and Laureth is going to need all her wits to figure out the clues that keep leading her closer and closer to the truth.

Yes, Laureth is blind.

One would assume Sedgwick isn’t blind himself—although I guess one should never assume—but “seeing” the world through Laureth’s first person narrative was a completely immersive experience. Since she’s blind, she pays particular attention to sounds and smells, and those things tell her almost everything she needs to know about the world around her. Sedgwick made the city streets of New York come alive, and never once did he describe how something looked (unless it was Benjamin doing the talking). At times as I was reading, I could almost imagine being blind myself, so clearly did he explain how Laureth can estimate distances by listening to the way sound bounces off the objects around her. Laureth tries so hard to blend in and appear as if she can see, and I loved the poignant moments when the strangers she interacts with discover she’s blind, and react poorly to her blindness.

But Benjamin is her eyes.

And Benjamin, be still my heart! I loved that boy. Benjamin is only seven, but he trustingly goes along with Laureth’s scheme to steal her mum’s credit card and fly to another country without any parental supervision or permission. I loved his stuffed raven Stan, his constant companion and security blanket. The way Laureth and Benjamin interacted was refreshingly upbeat, and even though Laureth isn’t completely honest about the reason for their trip, you can tell Benjamin loves his sister and will do (almost) anything for her.

I learned some fascinating facts about some famous coincidences.

One of my favorite parts of the story was when Laureth gets the notebook back and Benjamin starts reading it to her. In its pages they discover that their father has become obsessed with coincidence and synchronicity, and he gives some true life examples of coincidences in history, in particular one famous example that involves Edgar Allen Poe and Richard Parker. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments when I remembered that the name “Richard Parker” was the name of the tiger in Yan Martel’s Life of Pi, and that Martel had also cunningly used the eerie story of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket in his book. (Click on that link above, it’s worth the read!) There’s almost nothing I love better than when an author can take a riveting fact like that and seamlessly make it part of his story. And look for the number 354 in She Is Not Invisible. It pops up again and again…

But, then the story went off-track a bit.

Unfortunately, the book took a downturn for me near the end, when Laureth and Benjamin get mixed up in Jack Peak’s disappearance.  It felt as if Sedgwick was trying to throw in a dangerous element to add more action to the plot, but to me it came across as cartoonish and over-the-top.  But there are so many other little details about this story that I loved: the ongoing reference to Jack’s “funny books,” the “Benjamin effect” (OMG! I wish I could tell you what that is, but you need to read the book and find out for yourself), and a very sweet ending that ties up all the dangling emotional threads. Mostly I loved Laureth’s voice and her fierce love for her family, a love that sets her on an extraordinary path.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ from the final version of the book.

You can find She Is Not Invisible here:

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Filed under 4 stars, Reviews

High School is Not For Wimps: HIGH & DRY by Sarah Skilton – Review

High  Dry 3D

High & Dry by Sarah Skilton
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: April 15 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 272

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A tantalizing mystery, an unreliable narrator, high school hijinks, and one of the worst fictional high schools I’ve ever run across.

When you find yourself tied up in the chem lab supply closet, surrounded by jars of formaldehyde, about to be maimed by a microscope-wielding thug, it’s a pretty good indication that something in your life has gone wrong.

High & Dry was not at all what I expected. I knew from reading Sarah’s first book Bruised that I would most likely love it, but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the story synopsis before I started reading. This is always the best approach that I’ve found to reading if you don’t want to have your expectations squashed. In any event, I was surprised and delighted by this book and the sarcastic narrator whose life is more or less falling apart. High & Dry is a comedy of errors, as one unfortunate event escalates to another. Skilton’s dialog is some of the best I’ve ever read. Not only does she really understand the way teens talk, but her dialog is snappy and natural. The most surprising thing about this book, however, was the way the author depicts high school. Now, I understand that this is a fictitious school, set in a fictitious town, but I hope places like this don’t really exist. More about that later, because I have lots to say on the subject.

It’s Charlie Dixon’s senior year of high school, and his future is set. He’s planning on attending the local college where his father works, so he’s not scrambling around stressing out about college applications like his friends are. But Charlie’s life is less than perfect at the moment. His girlfriend Ellie has broken up with him, for no reason that he can see, and it’s ruining his life. He can’t concentrate on school and he’s been drinking more than usual.

One evening he decides to crash a party to talk to Ellie about their break-up, but after drinking way too much, a girl named Bridget insists on driving him home. The next morning Charlie finds out he’s been framed for the near-overdose (LSD) of a girl who was at the party. Now he has to prove that someone else dropped the girl off at the hospital (someone who “borrowed” his car). Not only that, but Bridget has blackmailed Charlie into helping her find a lost flash drive. With a large cast of characters who are also looking for the flash drive, it’s all Charlie can do to locate it first, try to get Ellie back, and graduate from high school before his life implodes.

High & Dry was a fast-paced caper with so many twists and turns it made me giddy. Skilton really knows how to pace her story, and just when you think you know what’s happening, she turns the tables on the reader and takes things in another direction. This book could also be called “The Journey of a Flash Drive,” because much of the plot concerns various characters trying to find the flash drive first—obviously there is something very important on it.

Charlie is a difficult character to love—at first. But I quickly grew to appreciate his snide remarks and sarcastic approach to looking at the world. His entire world is shaped by the fact that Ellie has broken up with him, and he’s suffering terribly because of it. He drinks all time—clearly he’s an alcoholic—mostly to dull the pain of being rejected. But he puts on a stoic face at school. He’s a star on his soccer team, or at least he’s developed a reputation for being aggressive and sometimes violent on the field. And because of soccer, he’s a well-respected senior. But Charlie has a vulnerable side, and it turns out he’s also got scruples. When he catches an old friend breaking the law, he manages to step up and do the right thing.

One of my favorite side-plots involves Charlie’s friend Ryder. Charlie and Ryder have drifted apart over the years, but they are forever bound by a poignant moment during a baseball game when they were younger. I loved the emotional impact their relationship had on the story, and how Charlie is unable to see Ryder as anyone other than the boy who helped him that day on the field.

I also loved Charlie’s grandfather, who is unfortunately the person who has taught Charlie how to drink (by giving him a flask for his birthday and offering to fill it up for him whenever Charlie visits), but who is also one of the few people in Charlie’s life that understands him and accepts him as he is.

But as much as I loved this book, I was completely thrown off guard by Skilton’s portrayal of Palm Valley High. I’m sure there must be schools like this somewhere, but I fervently hope my own kids will never have the terrible experiences that these kids have. The school’s social structure seems to be built on a bullying system, where freshmen who don’t belong to one of the groups on campus are fair play for upper classmen attacks. (And when I say “attacks,” I mean they beat the shit out of the freshmen.) Groups like the “songbirds” (choir kids), “poms” (cheerleaders), “beckhams” (soccer players) or “chekhovs” (lit freaks who study Chekhov) are safe havens, but if you don’t have a group, watch out. Worst of all, the adults at this school seem to be either oblivious to what’s going on right under their noses, or they simply don’t care. Comparing this to my own kids’ school district, where something as innocent as shoving another student in the hallway can get you kicked out of school, you can see why I find this educational environment hard to wrap my head around. And don’t even get me started on why none of the teachers seem to notice that Charlie shows up at school drunk.

But as much as I hate the thought of bullying, I couldn’t help but love the story and the characters anyway. There is a tinge of noir to High & Dry—mostly in the way Charlie narrates—like these favorite lines of mine:

“I glanced down to where her curves seemed to be inviting my hands on a date.”

and

“She looked like a sad girl in search of a tragedy. I could steer her toward mine, but it would cost her a finder’s fee.”

Skilton’s California desert setting plays nicely with Charlie’s feeling of always being thirsty—both literally and figuratively, and when the play-on-words of the title hit me, all I could think was, BEST TITLE EVER! We eventually find out exactly how Maria, the girl at the party who winds up in the hospital, was dosed, and I have to say I learned more about LSD than I ever wanted to know! High & Dry ends on a reflective note rather than an action-packed ending, but I thought it was perfect. If you love quirky, multi-layered stories, High & Dry will surprise you too—in a good way.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Find High & Dry here:

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Filed under 4 1/2 stars, Reviews

Beware the Monsters: MAZE by J.M. McDermott – Review

Maze 3D

Maze by J.M. McDermott
Genre: Adult science fiction/fantasy
Publisher: Apex Publications
Release date: January 2014
Source: Finished paperback from publisher
Pages: 205

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A mind-bending journey through a terrifying landscape, a violent survival story, filled with monsters both hideous and wonderful.

There are deer here, and they’re very tasty. They all have horns along their heads and backs. White roses sprout from their tails. It’s hard to tell where the plant-like thorns end and the bone-like horns begin. They taste a little sour, but if you pour their own uncooked thorn sap upon them, they taste sweet and sticky.

There are oranges that are very tasty, too. They scream when you bite them.

Reading Maze was a little like being stuck on an out-of-control merry-go-round after dropping acid (or at least that’s what I imagine it to be like!). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading, and some of the reviews on Goodreads made me wonder if I would enjoy this story. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I thoroughly enjoyed it. Erm, maybe “pleasant” isn’t the correct adjective to use to describe my reaction to Maze, since most of the things that occur are decidedly not pleasant at all. McDermott fills the walls of his maze with disturbing and horrifying creatures, creatures that will eat you if you don’t eat them first. As I read, I was reminded of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the famous Dutch painter:

The story is written in a very spare style, and despite all the horrors the characters face, it was strangely devoid of emotion. For many readers this will be an immediate turn-off, as most of us love to experience the highs and lows and have “all the feels” that go with an emotion-packed story. But oddly, this lack of emotional storytelling didn’t bother me. It just worked somehow, and even though the characters relate their various experiences in the maze in deadpan prose (see above for an example), when I finished the book I had to take some time to process everything that had happened. This is the first book I’ve read by McDermott and it definitely won’t be the last.

So, the story is a bit on the convoluted side, but let me lay it out for you. Certain people, in different time periods and places, find themselves in the maze. They might go to sleep and inexplicably wake up there, or as in the case of one little boy, end up in the maze after falling off a bike. The maze is hard to describe, because it seems to act as a hub that connects different dimensions, a hub where the lost wind up. This fairly short novel is broken down into six or seven sections, and each one is the story of one of the characters, told in first person almost as if they are recounting the events for posterity. Some of the characters overlap and make an appearance in more than one section, but you see what they’re going through from someone else’s point of view. As far as a story arc goes, it’s there if you read carefully, but it’s only at the very end that I felt as if things were coming full circle. Each character’s section is a tale unto itself, and can almost be read as a short story.

Most of the action takes place in the maze, but one character’s life in the “normal” world is much more detailed than the others. Joseph lives in a post-apocalyptic city before he comes to the maze, and I felt his story was one of the strangest. He “births” a Djinni out of his side and she becomes a tiny woman that he calls Jenny Ghost. Jenny is the one who drags him into the maze, and his journey there was truly one of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever read. (It involves maggots. Enough said.)

One of my favorite characters was a girl named Julie, who is born in the maze, and so she knows no other life. Her story is very familiar: she marries a man but then has an affair with another man. When their tryst is discovered, they are cast out of their tribe to survive in the maze on their own.

The most unusual parts of Maze were the endless descriptions of monsters and other odd creatures that live there. Trolls, gargoyles, cavemen, and animals that exist only in the pages of this book—like the rose deer, an animal that grows in the ground, looks like a deer, and has roses growing from its antlers—are only some of the strange things you’ll encounter. I loved the gargoyles, stone creatures who can only move when no one is looking at them. A sense of creepy dread hung over me the entire time I was reading Maze, and it lingered long after I had finished.

I must warn any squeamish readers out there that this book has lots of gore in it. At its most basic level, this is a survival story, and the people who come to the maze are always hungry, always thirsty, and always trying to find something to eat or drink, even if it means cooking the leather of a troll and chewing on it. In the maze, it’s kill or be killed, and so there is quite a bit of killing! People here learn to place the bodies of their dead on top of the walls, so that they will draw scavengers which can be killed for food.

I’m not sure I would ever read this book again, but I do applaud McDermott’s skillful writing and his brave sense of imagination, which I rarely see in fiction these days. I have to say that Apex did it again: they have published an unusual book that is impossible to categorize. And that’s why small presses like Apex are so important. Anyone can follow a formula and write a trendy story, but not everyone can write outside the lines like McDermott has in Maze. For the brave souls among you, I hope you will give this one a shot.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

You can find Maze here:

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Filed under 4 stars, Reviews

Magic & Trolls: STOLEN SONGBIRD by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird 3D

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: April 1 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Pages: 436

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A perfectly paced and thoroughly engaging fantasy, two main characters who may just be my all-time favorites, and a magical underground world that I want to visit someday.

There was only one way to lure Tristan into my company, and that was to sing. As often as I could, I would go out into the glass gardens and do battle with the thunder of the waterfall, my voice echoing through the cavernous hall of Trollus, knowing that no matter where Tristan was in the city or what he was doing, he would come to listen.

After reading many glowing reviews of Stolen Songbird, I was so excited to dive in and see for myself what all the hype was about. And I was not disappointed! Jensen’s debut is skillfully written and beautifully imagined, and the fact that it’s only the beginning of a trilogy is good news for fantasy lovers. For me, everything came together to make this a fantastic read: the stunning world-building, the likeable but flawed characters, the romance, and the suspenseful plot. The magic elements at times reminded me of the magic in the Harry Potter books, so fanciful and original that I felt the same sense of wonder while reading Stolen Songbird that I did when I first read Harry Potter. (However, please understand that I am not comparing this story to Harry Potter at all—I simply mean that I had some of the same feels.) And then there is Tristan, who captured my heart with his sarcastic humor, steadfast loyalty, and growing love for Cécile.

Cécile is a singer who is about to leave home for the first time to move to the city where she can study music with her long absent mother. But on the eve of her departure, she is kidnapped and taken to a secret underground world called Trollus, where trolls live and rule. They aren’t happy about it, however, because centuries ago, a witch cursed the trolls and imprisoned them under a mountain, where they are stuck until the curse can be broken.

Enter Cécile, who has been captured with just that in mind. The trolls believe she is destined to set them free, and so they force her to marry a troll prince named Tristan, hoping their bonding union will break the curse, thus allowing the trolls to leave their underground prison. But—well, you know how it goes. Things don’t quite go the way the trolls expect them to, and before you know it, Cécile is knee-deep in troll politics and palace intrigue, and even though she would do anything to get out of Trollus, she’s beginning to make friends there. Before too long, she will be forced to make some tough decisions—stay and help her new friends, or go back home to the life she’s comfortable with. Nothing in Trollus is easy for Cécile, especially when her growing feelings for Prince Tristan start to complicate things.

I absolutely fell in love with the world building in Stolen Songbird. Jensen has created one of the best underground worlds I’ve ever read about. When I think of trolls living in tunnels and caves under the earth, I think of dark and dank spaces, shadows and low ceilings. But the world of Trollus is magnificent and magical. Yes, it’s dark, but the trolls have their own brand of magic that allows them to light up spaces whenever they need to. They also each have their own magical ball of greenish glowing light that hovers over their shoulders and lights their way wherever they go. When Cécile arrives in Trollus, she is devastated by the lack of light, but she eventually gets her own glowing artifact that acts as a personal flashlight.

One of my favorite parts was when Cécile goes down into the mines—yes, there are mines below the underground city! Trolls mine gold and use it to trade for various things above ground, and in Jensen’s world it’s the half-breed trolls who are forced into this dangerous job. I also loved the glass gardens, where Cécile goes to sing and be alone. Because nothing green can grow in Trollus, the trolls created a magical garden made of glass roses and hedges (hence the rose on the cover of the book).

Both Tristan and Cécile are wonderfully drawn characters, full of complicated personality traits, who grow and change throughout the story. I loved Cécile’s determination and grit, and her fierce loyalty to the downtrodden half-breeds who are little more than slaves. Even though she knows she will never be able to escape Trollus on her own, she tries anyway. She’s the kind of girl who isn’t content to sit around and do nothing, while those around her are suffering.

Tristan, well, I simply adored him! In the beginning, the reader isn’t really sure whether he’s good or bad. He puts on a show for his father, the king (a truly evil character that I hated!), but when he’s alone with Cécile, his actions become tender. Even though he has married Cécile against his will, he swears to protect her no matter what. And Tristan’s sense of humor is what really drew me to him. He is snarky and sarcastic, and you can tell he’s much smarter than everyone around him (except for Cécile, of course.)

I only have one small complaint with the book, but it’s most likely personal and other readers may not have an issue with it. I felt the book went on a little too long, and after one scene that felt to me like the natural ending, I was surprised when the story kept going. It almost reminded me of The Hobbit and its multiple endings that seem to go on forever. But it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment, and when the book did end, I could look back and understand what Jensen had done.

Stolen Songbird was such a joy to read, an exciting story full of action, fully developed characters, and yes, even romance. Jensen fills her world with wonder upon wonder, and by the end of the book I wanted to live in Trollus myself. The ending was a crushing blow (in a good way!), and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to find out what happens. This book is for people who love great stories, no matter what your preferred genre is, and I highly recommend it.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

You can find Stolen Songbird here:

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“The rules are simple…” PANIC by Lauren Oliver – Review

Panic 3D

Panic by Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young adult thriller
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Release date: March 4 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 416

three stars

The nitty-gritty: An odd mix of an exciting thriller and a sobering “issue” story, an intriguing page-turner of a plot, which ultimately made me feel too old for this book.

He grabbed the handle and pulled, but nothing happened. Tried again. Nothing. For a second, he thought maybe he was still asleep—in one of his nightmares, where he tried and tried to run but couldn’t, or swung at some assailant’s face and didn’t even make a mark. On his third try, the handle popped off in his hand. And for the first time in the whole game, he felt it: panic, building in his chest, crawling into his throat.

Panic was an odd book for me. It started out with a very firm four stars, but somewhere along the way it fell off the tracks and turned into a puzzling pile of pieces that just didn’t mesh well. There is no doubt that Oliver has the necessary skills to write in whatever genre she wants, and I loved the way she sets the tone of the story with her spare descriptions that immediately make you feel like you’re right there with the characters. I definitely felt a sense of panic during certain parts of the story, and Oliver came up with some very creative and fear-inducing challenges for her Panic players. But often the danger was undercut by the author playing safe and offering everyone an easy way out. After a couple of these “easy fixes,” I began to doubt that the characters were ever really in any danger at all. Teenagers will love this book, which makes me think that, once again, I am just too old for young adult fiction!

In case you don’t know what the book’s about, here’s a quick recap. In the small economically challenged town of Carp, the graduating seniors have come up with a game to ease the boredom of their lives. Any senior can enter the game of Panic, as long as they have the money to throw into the pot, and a heap of bravery to go with it. The game consists of a number of challenges that get harder and harder, and players are eliminated as the game progresses. Only one person can win the pot, the last player standing, so to speak, and that person gets all the money.

This summer the pot is a huge $67,000, and Heather, Dodge and Nat are all anxious to win it. Each one knows that kind of money could change their lives forever. But when things get really dangerous, will the cops get involved and threaten to shut Panic down before someone can win? The chapters alternate between Heather and her friend Dodge and give us two completely different glimpses into the mechanics of the game.

Let’s talk about the challenges. No, I’m not going to tell you what they are, because that would definitely spoil the book for you. Half the fun is gasping each time the players face a new one. But I will tell you the first one, which isn’t really a spoiler. In order to join the game, each contestant must jump off a cliff into a lake. Now as far as stunts go, this one is fairly tame. Believe me when I tell you they get riskier and riskier. Unfortunately, instead of being swept up in the danger and suspense of what they were attempting to do, my reaction was to curse the characters for being stupid enough to participate in Panic.

One of the unexpected parts of this story was an emotional subplot about Heather’s unhappy home life. When a woman named Anne gives her a job on her farm, tending to her animals and doing chores around the house, Heather’s life becomes suddenly more hopeful. But things at home aren’t any easier with her alcoholic and neglectful mother. One day, her mother goes too far and locks Heather’s younger sister Lily out of the house while she “entertains” a man inside. When Heather realizes what has happened, she steals her mother’s car and runs away with Lily. I did love the way the author shows how hard life can be in a small town where jobs are hard to come by and many people are just looking for a way out.

I guess the most puzzling thing about Panic is that although it’s realistic contemporary fiction, many plot points just didn’t make sense to me. First of all, the game is *supposed* to be a secret from all the adults in town. How this is possible is anyone’s guess. And even though the cops show up and break up the fun during one challenge, the kids keep right on playing. The judges of Panic are teens, who send text messages letting the players know when the next challenge is and also leave cryptic clues about the nature of the stunts (which Heather and her friends always seem to figure out—obviously they are smarter than I am, because my reaction to these clues was “whaaat?”)

Although I did like Heather and her desire to change her life for the better, some of the other characters didn’t work that well for me. Dodge is only in the game for revenge, and although I understood the reasons why he’s so angry, his plan to get back at the boy who injured his sister in a previous game of Panic just seemed ridiculous. Heather’s bestie Nat is also playing Panic, but I honestly couldn’t stand her. She clearly didn’t belong anywhere near the game, and she spent the entire book whining about one thing or another.

And Heather calls her sister Lily, “Billy.” I still don’t understand why she did that.

Panic clearly wasn’t my ideal story, but for some readers it will be. If you’re willing to suspend—and I mean really suspend—your disbelief and just go with the emotional wave of teen angst and outrageous choices that these characters make, you’ll probably have a blast reading this book. Buried under the crazy stunts is a message of hope: that once you admit to yourself that you’re scared, only then will you learn how to be brave.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

You can find Panic here:

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Sweet Insect Love: THE OPHELIA PROPHECY by Sharon Lynn Fisher

The Ophelia Prophecy 3D

The Ophelia Prophecy by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Genre: Adult Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: April 1 2014
Source: ARC from publisher
Pages: 336

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: An imaginative future, a sizzling romance, and a complex plot full of constantly shifting alliances.

A buzzing cry ripped through the air just above her, and something grazed the top of her head. She yelped and Pax fired a shot. Glancing up, she saw a dark insect the size of a man dropping toward her—gleaming black torso like armor and eyes like gold pearls, oblong and soulless. Huge mandibles clicked with menace as a pair of too-human arms extended from the wasp’s midsection, grasping her shoulders and dragging her off her feet.

Last year I inhaled Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet, an exciting science fiction romance with a unique concept, and so I was very excited to dive into The Ophelia Prophecy, another stand-alone novel. Once again, Fisher has written a hard-to-put-down adventure story that seamlessly combines romance with everything I love about science fiction. And her romances tend to be on the, um, unusual side. In Ghost Planet, the romance is between a human and a ghost (sort of—it’s hard to explain). And now in The Ophelia Prophecy, Fisher throws together a human and a creature that has a combination of human and insect DNA. If you’re envisioning bulging eyeballs, wings, and stingers, well, you would be partially correct. Most of the insectoid characters in this novel are more human than insect, but that simply made them easier to relate to, and ultimately easier to imagine them having sex with a human. For you male readers out there who might shy away at the mere mention of the word “romance,” not to worry. There is plenty of political intrigue, attacks by giant mutant wasps, and a healthy dose of betrayals and lies. In other words, something for everyone.

In The Ophelia Prophecy, humans have been all but wiped out. There are only a handful left in a colony called Sanctuary, after a new species called the Manti, a cross between humans and insects, decided to get back at the humans who created them. The Manti developed and let loose a virus that was deadly to humans, and now they are, more or less, in charge. Asha is a pure human living in Sanctuary with her parents, working as an archivist to try to preserve the past. Her father has taught her to stay within the walls of Sanctuary, or the Manti who patrol the skies around the perimeter might capture her and take her away to the Manti city of Granada.

But one day, Asha awakens just outside Sanctuary, with no memory of how she got there. Even worse, a Manti male named Pax is lying beside her, equally confused. Pax immediately kidnaps Asha and takes her on his ship, certain that she is a spy of some sort. Confused and scared, Asha struggles to remember what she was doing outside of Sanctuary, while trying to convince Pax that she is telling the truth. The two grow closer, but they are both in for some surprises when Asha’s memory returns.

One of the things I loved most about this book was that I was never really sure what the characters were going to do. I thought Asha was one kind of person, but then she would surprise me and make a decision that I didn’t see coming. I mentioned before that the characters form alliances with each other, and then they pull the rug out from under you by switching sides. Humans and Manti are enemies, but the Manti allow the humans that have survived the Bio Holocaust to live safely in Sanctuary, as long as they don’t try to leave. So they are basically prisoners, although Asha certainly doesn’t see herself as such, at least in the beginning of the story. But after she is taken away from her home, she begins to understand that her parents have been lying to her about many things, and I loved the way she became a stronger person because of that.

I really liked Pax as well. In typical romance fashion, Pax has an unquenchable desire for Asha as soon as he meets her—he literally wants to mate with her (I’m assuming that’s his insect side at work!). But luckily he holds back and the two get to know each other before they finally allow their libidos to take over. Pax’s sister Iris, who helps pilot the ship, is not fond of Asha at all, and I liked the way her character tried to keep them apart during their journey to Granada.

One of my other favorite characters was Banshee, Pax’s ship—yes, I said ship. Banshee is the AI persona who interfaces with Pax and Iris, and she eventually becomes a trusted friend to Asha. I loved the way the author described the interior walls of the ship as being flexible and even warm, almost as if Banshee were human.

Probably the most interesting part of the book was the world building itself. I love the idea that the world has gone to hell because of DNA experimentation. And I loved the rebel factions that are trying to hide from both the Manti and the humans. Fisher adds plenty of twists and turns to her story, and yes, there is an “Ophelia Prophecy” that is eventually explained. The author keeps the suspense going up until the very end, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen until literally the last few pages. The Ophelia Prophecy was exciting, sexy, and kept me guessing. I don’t know if there’s a sequel planned, but I sure wouldn’t mind diving back into this fascinating world.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Be sure to check back here on April 6th, because I’ll be on the blog tour for The Ophelia Prophecy!

You can find The Ophelia Prophecy here:

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Ridiculously Absurd: THE WEIRDNESS by Jeremy Bushnell – Review

The Weirdness 3D

The Weirdness: A Novel by Jeremy Bushnell
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Melville House
Release Date: March 4 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 288

four stars

The nitty-gritty: An unexpectedly hilarious story about making a deal with the Devil, full of quirky characters and situations.

He’d return to having sex in the back seat of cars except neither he nor Denver own a car. He has considered, on more than one occasion, signing up for a Zipcar account just to have a place to furtively fuck, but he never gets far enough in this plan to actually propose it out loud. Something about imagining that hundreds of other people around the city had also come up with this idea, and that he might end up fucking Denver in some car that somebody else had just used as their own roving fuckatorium…he envisions clenching buttocks, or a woman’s greasy footprint stamped on the window, and queasily dumps the whole idea.

The Weirdness was indeed weird—in the best possible way. I enjoyed this book immensely and I can’t wait to read more by this very talented debut author. What makes this novel stand out is the voice of the main character Billy, a shy wannabe writer whose lack of self-confidence leads him down the wrong path. The novel is written in third person present tense, a style I usually can’t stand (I prefer past tense), but it works here, and I can’t imagine this written any other way. Bushnell sets up his story by explaining just what a loser poor Billy really is. He lives with a roommate and his bedroom is a loft, hence the quote above where he ruminates on how he can possibly have a private moment with his girlfriend. He works in a sandwich shop while trying to bang out a novel and jump-start his career as a famous writer, and that isn’t going very well either. The author infuses his story with lots of sly observations about the life of an unpublished writer, which, one might think, come from real-life experience. All these elements are mixed together with the actual plot, which is that Billy is about to make a deal with the Devil. And boy, things just don’t go the way you expect them to.

When the story begins, Billy is living in Brooklyn, agonizing over his (non)writing career and trying to figure out why his girlfriend Denver hasn’t called in a while. One morning, he wakes up in his apartment and discovers a strange man sitting in his living room. The man tells Billy his name is Lucifer Morningstar, and he has a task for Billy. If Billy agrees to help him recover a dangerous item that was stolen from Hell and is now being held somewhere in Manhattan, Lucifer promises to get Billy’s book published. What follows is a delightfully twisted tale, as Billy discovers the supernatural underbelly of New York, tries to plan an uninterrupted evening of sex with Denver, and attempts to save the world, all while wondering whether or not the Devil will take him to Hell when all this is over.

The Weirdness is ridiculously funny and well written, and Bushnell’s punchy writing style kept this story humming along. It’s not a long book, and it flew by even faster because I was so engaged in the story. I think it was the quirky elements that I loved the most, which made it feel fresh and contemporary, like Lucifer’s penchant for really good coffee (Starbucks plays a part in the story), and a character named the Ghoul who is constantly on his smart phone, usually on Twitter.  One of my favorite elements was an outrageous contraption called the God Detector, a machine that will supposedly light up if God were to ever make an appearance.

The plot does take a hard left turn near the end, which threw me off a little. Usually I love it when stories are unpredictable, but this particular element was one of those “WTF?” moments that took quirkiness to a new level. Let’s just say this book is called The Weirdness for a reason—there is a lot of weirdness between the pages.

I loved most of the characters, and the relationships between the characters in particular. Billy’s best friend Anil is really his only true friend, and they have some wonderful moments together. I also enjoyed Billy’s relationship with his “girlfriend” Denver—and I put that in quotes because throughout most of the book, Billy isn’t really sure where they stand. At one point he tries to plan the perfect evening with Denver, an evening that includes a bottle of wine and (hopefully) the apartment to themselves so they can have uninterrupted sex. Like most of Billy’s plans, this one never materializes. I felt sorry for poor Billy, but I have to say in the end I was happy to see him develop some backbone, after all the crazy experiences he goes through.

And I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s up with the lucky cat on the cover, am I right? Trust me, that cat is pretty important to the story. (But you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out why!)

Full of musings on what it’s like to want to be a writer in New York City and how far one might go to achieve one’s dreams of fame, The Weirdness hits all the right notes. When Billy asks the question “Since there’s a Devil, does that mean there’s also a God?” we’re right there with him, pondering the question as well. If you’re ready for a laugh-out-loud story, full of crazy action and yes, weirdness, get yourself a copy of this book right away.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

You can find The Weirdness here:

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Zaniness & Adventure in Space! UNDER NAMELESS STARS by Christian Schoon

Under Nameless stars 3D

Under Nameless Stars (Zenn Scarlett #2) by Christian Schoon
Genre: Young adult science fiction
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: April 1 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 368

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: An exciting and worthy follow-up to Zenn Scarlett, with an assortment of loveable new characters, and lots of scientific facts that make this a believable story.

“Zenn Scarlett, can you hear me speaking?” It was Jule’s voice. She was coming back, falling down, or rising up, from wherever she had gone, returning to herself to land with a shudder in her own body. How small it now seemed, this body of moist, heated flesh and brittle bone, what a tiny, fragile thing to carry one through the merciless universe and all its worlds.

**Mild spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Zenn Scarlett!

Zenn Scarlett truly is one of my favorite young adult characters. I was so happy to get back into her story and find out what happened after she ended up on an orbital ferry in the atmosphere above Mars at the end of Zenn Scarlett (you can read my review here). Zenn has many fine qualities: she’s brave, smart, and kind, but she’s also an awkward teenager who has spent most of her life without the normal socialization most kids are used to. Therefore, when a boy comes into the picture, she really doesn’t know what to do with him. Schoon once again proves how inventive he is by adding a plethora of alien critters to his story, lovingly described and fantastically imagined. Add in a hefty amount of adventure and you have a winning combination.

Zenn and her friend Liam have left Mars and stowed away on a ship in order to find Zenn’s father, who has been kidnapped by a Skirni, one of the many “Ascents,” or alien sentients that populate Schoon’s world. When the story opens, they are trapped in a crate with a vicious sandhog boar, and things only get stranger from this point on. When they arrive at the space liner called the Helen of Troy, Zenn is unprepared for what awaits her. Along with a rag-tag band of new friends, Zenn must find her father, avoid the Skirni, and try to figure out the mystery behind the strange disappearances of the Indra fleet before time runs out. And use her exovet skills to save some alien animals while she’s at it!

I thought Under Nameless Stars was a perfect blend of action and adventure, character development, and humor. I was happy to see that Schoon doesn’t take the usual romantic path with this book. At the end of Zenn Scarlett, Zenn and her “towner” pal Liam seem like they might become an item, but the two are separated soon after they arrive on the Helen of Troy, and Zenn is forced to figure stuff out on her own until they meet up again. Luckily she has some awesome new friends to help her, including a dashing young soldier, and my favorite, a dolphin named Jules who wears a “walksuit” and walks around on land. I adored Jules, who quickly burrowed himself into my heart and didn’t let go. Jules says the funniest things at the most inappropriate times, especially when he and Zenn find themselves in dangerous situations. He’s also a reader of paperback novels (although where he gets them in this future society is anyone’s guess), and frequently compares his present situation to those in stories:

“A secret and hidden passage,” Jules said to Zenn. “This is an element of paper-novel mysteries! Although generally there is a moving bookcase activated by a handle on the fireplace.”

Zenn ScarlettHis walksuit was one of the craziest inventions I’ve ever seen, and although it seems ridiculous—a dolphin walking around on mechanical legs—somehow it worked.

We also meet an old man named Charlie who has been hiding from the bad guys for years and helps them out of a scrape or two. Charlie has an unfortunate relationship with an artificial intelligence on the ship, and his scenes were so funny.

Once again, Schoon often takes time out from the action to describe his alien animals. I know some readers might not appreciate these detailed descriptions, as they do tend to slow things down, but I was constantly amazed at his imagination. I want to see pictures of these creatures! Because Zenn is an “exovet” in training, a veterinarian who cares for alien lifeforms, and the story is told from her perspective, these details make sense. There are several passages of dialog where the author gets some of the world-building out of the way by having Zenn explain things to another character. These scenes didn’t quite work for me, because I could clearly see the mechanics of what Schoon was trying to do. But in the long run, this device was overshadowed by the engaging story and quirky characters.

The world-building parts that did work were the endlessly fascinating descriptions of the Indra, mysterious creatures who are responsible for interstellar travel. I’m still not certain I fully understand how it all works, but I don’t care. Schoon seems to have really researched the science and physics behind his ideas, and he gives us plausible explanations about the mechanics of space travel. Tied to these ideas is the philosophical notion of whether or not we  really want to find out who else is out there in the universe.

Zenn’s story wraps up neatly at the end, because I suppose technically, this is the end. I am wondering, however, what will happen next. A well-written story does that: it keeps going, even after the final page.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Check back here on March 17th for my stop on the Under Nameless Stars blog tour! I’ll have an interview with Christian and there’s a fun giveaway as well!

Find Under Nameless Stars:

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Two Journeys, One Future: THE BOOK OF THE CROWMAN by Joseph D’Lacey

Book of the Crowman 3D

The Book of the Crowman (Black Dawn #2) by Joseph D’Lacey
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release date: February 25 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 468

                                                                 four stars

The nitty-gritty: Violent but compelling, heartbreaking yet hopeful, the harrowing journey of two characters finally comes to an end.

There had once been industrial parks and truck stops on both sides of the road. Over the years people had dumped rubbish alongside the verges and the black refuse sacks were caught forever in the barbed grip of the hedgerows. Shredded by thorns, the ribbons of black plastic fluttered and shivered in the constant wind. They made a sound like prayer flags, though what the words of the prayer might be, Gordon couldn’t imagine. The bags would still be caught there, dancing to the touch of the wind in a thousand years, whether the people of this land survived or not.

The Book of the Crowman is the second book of D’Lacey’s duology, The Black Dawn. Last year I read and really enjoyed Black Feathers (you can read my review here), and I was looking forward to finding out the fates of the characters. Crowman is constructed in much the same way as Black Feathers, with two main characters alternating chapters, as the reader sees what’s happening through their very different points of view. Gordon is still on his quest for the elusive Crowman, a bird-like man who may possibly be able to save the world from destruction. Megan’s story runs parallel to Gordon’s, but she exists in a different place and time. The tension from the last book mostly came from the knowledge that their two paths would eventually cross, and in this final book, that does happen, but not in quite the way I expected. D’Lacey once again brings so much skill to his story: gorgeous prose, Gordon’s dangerous and exciting survival story, and the drawn-out mystery of who the Crowman really is.

Gordon’s story takes place in a sort of dystopian future London, where a group called the Ward are trying to take control of the population and eradicate the peaceful Green Men who want to live in harmony with the land. Gordon is on the run from the Ward, who want to stop him from uniting the people against them. Gordon has been told that he must find the Crowman, a possibly mythic creature who is the key to a future free from the Ward’s control.

Megan is studying with Mr. Keeper and learning to walk “the black feathered path.” She has been chosen by the Crowman to be the chronicler of Gordon’s life. By going into the “weave,” she can cross time and space and observe Gordon and write about his adventures.

Both narratives move inexorably toward a final showdown between the Green Men and the Ward, but it’s uncertain up until the end who will emerge the victor.

Just as I did in Black Feathers, I preferred Gordon’s story over Megan’s. Most of the action takes place while Gordon is trying to stay one step ahead of the Ward, and I loved the sense of desperation as Gordon and his friends are forced to run for their lives. Along the way, he meets a girl named Denise and her precocious daughter Flora, and for a while, they team up to try to stay alive. I adored Flora, a girl who is more than meets the eye and who has an interesting connection to Megan. Gordon is a very complex character, and even though I didn’t like all his decisions, I loved his sense of duty and justice. He’s driven by his love for his family, who have been taken by the Ward (and may even be dead), and he feels a need to follow through with his mother’s request to search for the Crowman.

Interspersed throughout the story are letters written by Gordon’s little sister Jude, who is in fact still alive but has been captured and is being treated horribly. These passages were so heartbreaking, especially since Jude is never sure whether or not Gordon is actually getting her letters. I thought this was an excellent way for the author to refer back to the events that happened in Black Feathers.

Megan’s story, however, was much more slow and dreamy, and seemed completely removed from what was happening to Gordon. Megan is on an emotional journey, rather than one of action, so her chapters had a completely different feel to them. I did love her relationship with Mr. Keeper, especially when she discovers one of his secrets.

What shocked me the most in this book was some over-the-top violence that I wasn’t expecting. Gordon had a dual personality that just didn’t seem to fit his character. On one hand he’s trying to defeat the enemy and bring peace back to the land. But then he turns on his enemies and gruesomely eviscerates them, and does so with a smile on his face. D’Lacey clinically describes each thrust of the sword, exactly how long a man’s intestines are and how they look draped at his feet. Now don’t get me wrong: I love horror and I rarely shy away from the gory bits. But for me, graphic violence works best when tempered with humor. I happen to like some comedy along with my beheadings! The Book of the Crowman has very little humor, and so for me the violence was sometimes gratuitous.

Black FeathersThe other thing that didn’t quite work was the heavy-handed religious allegory. I don’t want to spoil things by explaining it, but as the story goes along, it becomes clear that Gordon is a messiah figure, and his actions become almost predictable by the end.

Although D’Lacey clearly has some messages to impart to the reader—that technology might be destroying us and that humans are not taking care of the land as we should be—they mostly take a backseat to an exciting adventure tale. If you enjoy a well-told story that makes you ponder the possible fate of the human race, The Book of the Crowman is a must read.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Next week I have an interview with Joseph, so make sure to check back soon!

You can find The Book of the Crowman here:

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Filed under 4 stars, Reviews