Tempestuous (Wondrous Strange trilogy #3)

Tempestuous brings back the heavy Shakespearean correlation with Kelley working on a performance of The Tempest. Unlike Darklight where the inclusion felt forced, The Tempest fit perfectly with Tempestuous and I feel it was a clever choice on Livingston’s part to tie the plays into the books the way she did. I actually hadn’t read/seen The Tempest before reading this volume but had to check it out afterwards. Again, if you haven’t read the first two volumes, this review can’t help but be slightly spoilery.

Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston

Blurb: “I don’t love Sonny Flannery.”

That’s the lie Kelley Winslow told to protect the boy she loves from a power he doesn’t know he possesses. Devastated, Sonny retreats—to a haven for Lost Fae that’s hidden deep underneath New York City.

But Kelley’s not about to let things end in heartbreak. To get Sonny back, she’s got to find out who’s after his magick—and how to use her own. She’s got to uncover who’s recruiting Janus Guards to murderously hunt innocent Faerie. She’s got to help rebuild the shattered theater company she called family. And she’s got to do it all without getting dangerously distracted by the Fennrys Wolf, whose legendary heart of stone seems to melt whenever he’s around Kelley.

If I thought Darklight started slowly, it was nothing compared to the depressing vibe that begins Tempestuous. But really, a lot is happening right from the beginning. Livingston just does such a good job expressing the melancholy, heartbrokenness of the characters that you become wrapped in it.

One of my favorite things about this book was that the characters actually think the exact same things you are thinking as you read. Kelley’s lie to Sonny is confronted by several characters. And you can understand her reasons, even if you don’t agree with them, just like you can understand the arguments against her choices. Finding a book that remembers the reader isn’t stupid and even goes out of its way to acknowledge our thoughts and questions? What a breath of fresh air!

This is the first volume where the prologue didn’t bother me in the least. It fits and doesn’t alert us to anything we don’t already know. Several Fae are introduced or fleshed out that were previously side characters. Kelley has a Mary Sue moment but promptly messes it up thereby saving herself from a stereotypical end. The action is much more drawn out in this volume. Unlike the last 2 volumes, the action runs the length of the book (after the slow start) though, of course, building toward the ending. I found myself thinking this series would make an excellent movie due to the pace.

The story wraps up nicely. Everything explained, not necessarily tied up with a bow but no dangling threads or unanswered questions. And while I feel Kelley and Sonny’s story is done, there is plenty of room for a spin-off series featuring Fenn. (The first of which was actually released just a few months ago!!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Darklight (Wondrous Strange trilogy #2)

Darklight picks up a few weeks/months after the events of Wondrous Strange. It’s difficult to say much about Darklight without giving away some of the reveals in Wondrous Strange so consider yourself warned!

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Blurb: Faerie can’t lie . . . or can they?

Much has changed since autumn, when Kelley Winslow learned she was a Faerie princess, fell in love with changeling guard Sonny Flannery, and saved the mortal realm from the ravages of the Wild Hunt. Now Kelley is stuck in New York City, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and missing Sonny more with every stage kiss, while Sonny has been forced back to the Otherworld and into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the remaining Hunters and Queen Mabh herself.

When a terrifying encounter sends Kelley tumbling into the Otherworld, her reunion with Sonny is joyful but destined to be cut short. An ancient, hidden magick is stirring, and a dangerous new enemy is willing to risk everything to claim that power. Caught in a web of Faerie deception and shifting allegiances, Kelley and Sonny must tread carefully, for each next step could topple a kingdom . . . or tear them apart.

I felt like this book took just a bit for the pace to pick up. The characters were continuing with their lives and adjusting to the changes and things just plodded along for a little while. But once things picked up (about 1/3 through?), they really got going. I read somewhere that this series was originally slated to be 2 volumes and I think you can feel it a little bit in the slow pace here. But I don’t feel like anything unnecessary was really added, either. Everything had a point and went into the story’s development so the additional pages weren’t a waste.

Again, I felt like the prologue in this volume gave away plot. Well, not so much gave away as tipped the reader off to the next big reveal. I spent my reading hyper-aware of any hint or reference that tied back to the prologue. So events that would have surprised me lost that element since I was already on the lookout. But at the same time, those revelations would probably have seemed to come out of left field if it weren’t for the prologue…

Kelley stars in another play – Romeo and Juliet – but this time the correlation with the plot wasn’t nearly as obvious to me and felt a bit forced. But I still enjoyed the inclusion of the play and how the play tended to relate to Kelley’s life. Kelley was a bit more of a teenager in this book but I still felt her actions and attitude fit and weren’t obnoxious. The revelations kept coming in this volume. Some predictable, some not, and many tying back to the first volume neatly. The humor wasn’t as obvious but still present occasionally.

There was the introduction of the obligatory love rival – only not so much. And that’s what kept the book from heading into overdone territory. Fennrys Wolf is an interesting and somewhat mysterious character, briefly introduced in the first volume and explored a bit more in this book. But rather than a love rival, his character helps flesh out this world a bit more since up until now it’s been mostly Kelley and Sonny’s perspective. We never see things from his point of view but his presence causes ripples that prevent the focus being nothing but Kelley/Sonny sappy romance.

I’d like to insert here that my love of Kelley’s co-actor Gentleman Jack knows no bounds. I’d really enjoy a book where he played a much larger role than he gets here. Oh – and the last third of this book is as tense and action packed as the climax of Wondrous Strange. Unlike the first volume, this book ends on a cliffhanger and you will do yourself a favor if you have the third and final volume ready at hand.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wondrous Strange (#1 of trilogy)

When I finished the Wondrous Strange trilogy by first-time author Lesley Livingston, I had to share my opinion immediately. There is such a mass of YA fantasy on the market these days – a genre I love and so I should be in reader’s heaven – but sadly, many of these books are sub-par and disappointing. So many begin with an interesting premise but lack substance or any real plot – there’s so much potential that quickly draws me into the story but no follow-through leaving me deflated and disillusioned. Wondrous Strange, however, deserves any and all positive attention it garners.

I’ll admit, the reason I ended up picking up Wondrous Strange was the cover. But the blurb sounded interesting so I decided to give it a try (without checking out any reviews ahead of time – something I rarely do anymore). Let’s just say that I wasn’t even halfway through the first book when I ran out and bought the rest, I was that interested and confident in the story. So now I’ve got a mismatched set of one softback and two hardbacks which drives me crazy but waiting wasn’t an option. ;P

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Blurb:  Since the dawn of time, the Faerie have taken. . . .

Seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow always thought faeries were just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery. He’s a changeling—a mortal taken as an infant and raised among Faerie—and within short order he’s turned Kelley’s heart inside out and her life upside down.

For Kelley’s beloved Central Park isn’t just a park—it’s a gateway between her ordinary city and the Faerie’s dangerous, bewitching Otherworld. Now Kelley’s eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her, but to the heritage that awaits her . . . a destiny both wondrous and strange.

The blurb does a good job of presenting an intriguing novel without giving too much away so I’m not going to ruin it by spoiling anything. Lesley Livingston creates a blend of reality mixed with a hidden Faerie world largely based in Shakespeare. Kelley is acting in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the play is cleverly brought to life and interwoven with the plot of the book. (Who’d have guessed Shakespeare’s plays were accounts of actual events?) 😉

Things I really liked about the book: The humor is good. There were definitely spots that actually made me laugh – most memorably would be Sonny’s first encounter with Kelley. And pretty much everything involving the kelpie – you’ll know what I mean. The book kept me guessing – some things were obvious – some things appeared obvious but then a twist would come along and I wouldn’t know anymore. Kelley and Sonny are both strong individuals but not obnoxious. They definitely have their “teenage” moments but they don’t behave idiotically. I also really appreciated that Kelley had to work hard to accomplish things – she had her shining moments and her failures. It saved her from becoming a Mary Sue. The romance is a little insta-love but tolerable.

The epilogue was a little cheesy but still good. This book had a completed feel even though there were still some unresolved things from the story; it felt very wrapped up and the ending was satisfying. Also – a warning. Don’t read the excerpt inside the cover unless you want to be slightly spoiled – it immediately spills some pretty big beans. So does the prologue, though not as badly. Wondrous Strange is a good example of a book that really didn’t need the prologue to draw in the reader. And since it’s a scene from the climax, you spend the rest of the book knowing it’s going to happen while the characters strive to prevent it. It killed the reading experience just a bit as I like to be along for the ride, guessing outcomes. So if you aren’t too strict about your reading, I suggest skipping the prologue. You won’t lose anything and will retain more of the intrigue.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Need

Carrie-Jones-Need

Pain shoots through my head.

Fireworks. Explosions. All inside my brain.

The white world goes dark and I know what’s about to happen.

Zara White suspects there’s a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She memorizes phobias and chants them when she’s nervous. And, okay, she hasn’t exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But moving to a shivery Maine town to stay with her grandmother is supposed to be the perfect fix–so her mom says.

Except, this new plan of getting way to help Zara stay sane? Yeah, not working. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara’s imagination. He’s still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There’s something not right–not human–in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs are pointing to Zara.

Need by Carrie Jones is a tough book to review – while reading it I was totally engrossed and fascinated. It has a creepy vibe that makes you want to close the curtains and stay out of dark rooms. I liked the main character’s habit of quoting phobias – it was a clever quirk. I finished the book very curious to read the next one. But then, as I mulled over the story for a few hours, I found myself very disappointed.

The book is written in first person as always seems to be the case lately. However, instead of the usual first-person past-tense, it is written in present-tense… This is odd and very jarring at times. “I walk here. I do this. I trip. My aunt laughs.” The descriptions are barely there.  Which really works during the creepy, in-the-dark scenes but most of the time leaves you guessing. Part way through the first chapter, I actually flipped back to the beginning looking for the description of the main character, thinking I had missed it. I hadn’t. There’s a scene where the main character is startled by a car and jumps into a ditch – then she’s apparently all scraped up and bleeding – which was a much more extreme tumble than I’d imagined. There’s also more than one instant where the editing suffered – who was where would get confused or a character would be in two physical forms at the same time. Seriously – an eagle lands on the outstretched, gloved arm of … a werewolf in wolf form? Oops!

The main character is a little too obsessed with her world causes – I got very tired of the preaching. And I had originally picked up this book because some reviews described her as “Bella with guts” – um, no – try Bella without brains. Or more brainless. Your pick. 😉 She was always either freaking out or running headlong into danger with nary a thought.

That being said, those are minor issues. My biggest problem with “Need” ended up being the “need” behind the title.

Spoilers Follow!! Do not read unless you want the beans spilled!!! The pixie King must mate or else lose magical control of pixie kingdom? Until he can mate with his specific chosen one, he has to drain the blood from teenage boys?! Okayyy… And why is Zara’s mom ‘the one’? Why not pick a pixie who wants to be queen instead of a human who wants nothing to do with it? The correlation between the “need” and the proposed solution just didn’t make sense. Neither did the band-aid. And I never understood why the main character (and certain others) were supposed to be important in the first place. The bits of the sequels that I have read only confirm that the niggly doubts from the first book are fanned and flamed in the sequels. I’d recommend Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston instead…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Bloodthirsty

Over a year ago, I saw Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney at Sam’s Club and thought that it looked too cute. I loved the way it was poking fun at the current vampire obsession. And in researching it, I discovered a couple of blogs that were hosting giveaways. Well, I won a copy from vampires.com! And I pretty much inhaled the book as soon as it arrived in the mail. Sadly, my reviewing leaves something to be desired as I never got around to it. That is, until I did a reread, refusing to allow myself my recently won Dee henderson ARC until I finally posted a review!

First, a quick recap:

bloodthirsty

Some vampires are good. Some are evil. Some are faking it to get girls.

The back cover:
“Attention, all girls reading this: We get it. The message is coming through loud and clear: You think vampires are hot. Your little sister thinks vampires are hot. Your mom thinks vampires are hot. Every single female on the face of the planet thinks vampires are hot. Girls love vampires, and I love girls. Unfortunately, girls don’t seem to love me.
So I’m making a change. For all the guys reading this, say a little prayer to the high school dating gods for me. Here’s hoping girls think fake vampires are hot, too.”

And the inside flap:
Awkward and allergic to the sun, sixteen-year-old Finbar Frame never gets the girl. But when he notices that all the female students at his school are obsessed with a vampire romance novel called Bloodthirsty, Finbar decides to boldly go where no sane guy has gone before-he becomes a vampire, minus the whole blood sucking part.
With his brooding nature and weirdly pale skin, it’s surprisingly easy for Finbar to pretend to be paranormal. But, when he meets the one girl who just might like him for who he really is, he discovers that his life as a pseudo-vampire is more complicated than he expected.
This hilarious debut novel is for anyone who believes that sometimes even nice guys-without sharp teeth or sparkly skin– can get the girl.

And the verdict? I liked it! I really enjoyed the tone of the blurbage on the back of the book and the ironic, laid-back feel that was whitty and fun. The book itself ended up being very different from expected – but in an even better way. The story is told in the first-person (which I normally hate but for once was used to perfection here), by Finbar. He has a very snarky tone that is just hilarious. The story begins in the midst of his “vampire” days but he quickly rewinds and explains everything about himself and how he gradually found himself in such a position. Finbar is instantly likable as a teenager who feels like the odd one out – at home, at school. (Who hasn’t been there, right?) But he is able to laugh at himself and the situations he finds himself in, some of which are cringe-worthy but end up being so funny, too.

His fraternal twin is the quintessential jock, his mother a devout Catholic clean-freak, and his father an ex-hockey player, current-electronic salesman. Finbar finds himself in the unique position of being able to reinvent himself when his family moves from Indiana to New York. Pale skin courtesy of a sun allergy, combined with his social awkwardness (hence misread aloofness) leads to a mistaken identity as a vampire. And when Fin realizes he can use this to his advantage, he sets about perfecting his vampire attitude and in the process becomes a confident, caring young man. The premise is utterly ridiculous but written in such a way that it is fairly believable and so funny.

There’s a bit of language in the book. Most of it comes from the school bullies, and it’s probably fairly tame compared to what many teens say in real life, but some of the name-calling was extreme to me. I felt like the author (who is a woman) tried a little too hard sometimes to stress that Fin was, most definitely, a teenage boy. I could have done with a bit less emphasis on boobs, hot librarians, etc. There is some bullying and Finbar learns to stand up for himself (and others) but there’s very little consequence to the bullies. Teenage drinking (and drug use) is also taken as a matter of course, though it is never glorified and a twist at the end reveals the flip-side to placing too much stock in peer pressure and popularity.  Any lessons are implied rather than clearly explained with no exposition to what is right or wrong. And sadly, all the adults are fairly clueless – to everything. While a good story, I don’t think I’d recommend it to middle-grade readers.

Read an excerpt!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Map Quilt (Buried Treasure #2)

I’ve decided to clean up my livejournal blog and move all things bookish over here! And what better way to start than a review I wrote a few weeks ago and forgot to share outside of Goodreads and Amazon! 😉 So here’s my first review to this blog!

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Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common? Hart and Judy Wingate, who met in The Gold Standard, are back to solve the mystery of The Map Quilt. Hart’s new battery design could forever change the farm implement industry. But after the death of Hart’s most confrontational colleague in a fire that destroys Hart’s workshop, the battery is missing.

Throw in a guest speaker invited to Judy’s elementary classroom who insists she owns the land under Hart’s chief competitor’s corporate headquarters, and a police chief who’s making eyes at Hart’s widowed mother, it’s no wonder Hart is under a ton of pressure to make sure his adventurous pregnant wife stays safe while trying to preserve his company and his reputation.

In The Map Quilt by Lisa J. Lickell, Hart and Judy Wingate find themselves in the middle of a mystery when a colleague dies in a fire and their revolutionary product goes missing. At the same time, Judy befriends a woman on a quest to recover her land, lost when her ancestors fled slavery persecution. As the Wingate’s work to find the lost product, they discover the two mysteries are more closely connected than they ever suspected.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I have not read the first in the series and, although the story occasionally referred back to the first, it never made me feel lost or that I was missing something. That being said, I had a hard time realizing they were in their late twenties – perhaps because it wasn’t mentioned until the 4th chapter. And also because Hart’s name just felt older to me. I can’t help but wonder if it would have been easier if I had read the first book when they had their romance.

The subject of the underground railroad and map quilts was fascinating and I felt like I learned a lot about that time period. The mystery itself was tense and exciting, I was definitely hooked and needed to know what had happened. About halfway through the book, things had gotten so suspenseful that I gave up even pretending I was going to bed before I finished. 😉

I should mention, though, that this isn’t a mystery like a Nancy Drew or some such where the characters are actively poking around and investigating. They do that a little but a lot of the mystery is revealed through the course of events rather than detective work.

It’s definitely a Christian book and those overly sensitive to such things might dislike the Christian overtures. But as a Christian accustomed to the heavy-handed preaching common in many books, I felt Lisa Lickell handled the topic extremely well. The characters faith was naturally incorporated into their lives without making it feel forced or overdone – very realistically portrayed rather than preached.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. I’m definitely going to have to read the first in the series so I can see how Hart and Judy get together now that I have come to enjoy their characters so much.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.