Review + Giveaway: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queen of hearts

 

Queen of Hearts (#1 The Crown) by Colleen Oakes

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling

Publisher: Sparkpress

Pages: 205

Published: February 14th, 2014

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest

Not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.
***
A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling.

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Both WICKED and THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS transformed the evil villains into sympathetic and misunderstood characters.  Colleen Oakes succeeds in doing the same for THE QUEEN OF HEARTS.  It seems that the root of Dinah’s attitude problems stem from the fact that she wasn’t hugged enough as a child.  Truth-be-told, her father makes the future queen of hearts look docile and sane.  This is possibly the darkest version of Wonderland that I’ve read.

Most of the familiar characters return for this series, although in much different roles than they traditionally occupy.  There’s some romance, yet it’s not center stage.  I do like that Dinah’s love for this person seems genuine.  I’m still on the fence about whether his feelings for her are the same.

Our main character, Dinah, is a spoiled princess who abuses her powers to get what she wants.  However, her situation is so precarious that I can’t help but feel sympathetic for her.  The only way she knows how to get people to respond to her is to force her will upon them.  She’s a complex character, whose faults are so plentiful that it’s amazing that she can manage to smile when she does.

What’s truly remarkable is that the author manages to imply quite a bit about the other characters and the world without Dinah picking up on the clues.  Dinah is so self absorbed in her own world that she doesn’t see it crashing down around her until it hits her (literally).

The story and characters deserve five stars.  I just wish that the writing was as magical.  Personally, I think Wonderland needs purple prose to make it feel complete.  I never got the sense of how extraordinary the layout of the land or the characters were because description was either lacking or plainly written.  In most fantasylands, I don’t think it’s necessary to flaunt details and quirks, but Wonderland holds a special place in my heart and I like the weirdness of the place.  I do plan on continuing the series, since my love for well-written villains trumps everything.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

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Day 4 — The Books of 2014 You Won’t Miss

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 {Day 4} THE BOOKS OF 2014 YOU WON’T MISS.


unhinged

Unhinged by A. E. Howard

Releases January 7th, 2014

Why:  I’ve been twitter stalking this author since I read Splintered.  It was so amazing that my attempts at reviewing this book have been tossed and trashed.  I can’t put into words how much I loved Splintered — seriously, I’ve tried.  I’ve pre-ordered this book and it will show up at my house on Tuesday!  YAY!

Blurb:  Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

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thetreatment

The Treatment by Suzanne Young

Releases April 29th, 2014

Why:  I’ve been to two signings and one author event involving this author.  I love her writing.  The only reason I haven’t pre-ordered this book is because I want to attend the release day party and purchasing the book will be my ticket in.  She’s my absolute favorite local author.  :D

Blurb:  Can Sloane and James survive the lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end? Find out in this sequel to The Program, which Publishers Weekly called “chilling and suspenseful.”

How do you stop an epidemic?

Sloane and James are on the run after barely surviving the suicide epidemic and The Program. But they’re not out of danger. Huge pieces of their memories are still missing, and although Sloane and James have found their way back to each other, The Program isn’t ready to let them go.

Escaping with a group of troubled rebels, Sloane and James will have to figure out who they can trust, and how to take down The Program. But for as far as they’ve come, there’s still a lot Sloane and James can’t remember. The key to unlocking their past lies with the Treatment—a pill that can bring back forgotten memories, but at a high cost. And there’s only one dose.

Ultimately when the stakes are at their highest, can Sloane and James survive the many lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end?

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Have you read Splintered or The Program? What books releasing in 2014 are must reads for you?

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Book Review: Jaran by Kate Elliott (4 stars)

kate elliott jaran

Jaran by Kate Elliott

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Open Road

Pages: 494

Re-Published: July 30th, 2013 (Originally published in 2002)

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble  |  OpenRoad

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Tumblr

The first book of Kate Elliott’s epic Novels of the Jaran, set in an alien-controlled galaxy where a young woman seeks to find her own life and love, but is tied to her brother’s revolutionary fate

In the future, Earth is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them at one time and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system—yet there is reason to believe they murdered his and Tess’s parents.

Struggling to find her place in the world and still mending a broken heart, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs while also attempting to get to the bottom of a smuggling scheme she encountered on her journey there. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya—who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own—Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.

Jaran is the first volume of the Novels of the Jaran, which continues with An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.

JARAN brings into existence a planet as real as our own.  The culture on Rhui is unlike any I have ever known and it’s dizzying to imagine how much work it must have taken to create a culture so vastly different from our own yet so fleshed out and alive.

Even the minor characters have developed personalities and backstories, which I suppose might be why this book is so long.  Still, I never felt like any scene dragged or that any of the descriptions or character interactions were overly explained.  It truly felt like I was transported into this alien planet and learned the culture organically, like Tess.

It’s refreshing that Tess maintains a brotherly connection to Yuri throughout the novel and they never cross into a romantic relationship.  Even though Tess is ‘adopted’ into Yuri’s family, the bond and playful banter between them feels like they’re actual sister and brother.  Tess’s relationship with Ilya is a firecracker one.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one develop so slowly, yet so compellingly.

A couple complaints:  In the first couple chapters, Tess leaves her husband and travels to Rhui without her brother’s knowledge.  Tess’s motivations for arriving on the planet don’t ever seem to be made clear.  Also, I don’t think that the situation with her husband (ex?) is ever elaborated on.  He seems to be there for setting up Tess’s background and not much else.  Perhaps future books in the series will clear this up.  Although the book is nearly 500 pages, I felt like the scenes from Charles and Marcus’s POV are rushed.  I wish that there was more of a background set up for both of those characters as well as given some clarity as to what being the Duke entailed.

JURAN is a fantastic blend of epic fantasy and science fiction adventure.

B rating plus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Cover Reveal: Awakening by Christy Dorrity

Awakening: Book One of The Geis by Christy Dorrity

Publication date: September 24th 2013

Genre: YA Fantasy

AwakeningFrontCoverSmall copy

Cover designed by Mythic Studios

Cover reveal organized by Xpresso Book Tours

My thoughts:

I love everything about this cover.  The font choice, the simplicity of the colors, and those deadly claws.  I love how evil our cover lady looks.  A perfect Ice Queen.

book description

. . .because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.

A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery’s family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a clairvoyant for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn’t think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She just moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has an amazing best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital, and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.

When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled, janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities.

After Aunt Avril comes to the valley in pursuit of the supernatural killer that she has been chasing her entire career, people in the valley begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened. When an ancient curse, known as a geis, awakens powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy.

A thrilling first novel, Awakening is a gripping contemporary fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.

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about author

Christycolorfull (1)Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Website  |  Goodreads  |   Twitter

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Book Review: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines (1 star)

exheroes

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Publisher: Permuted Press

Published: February 25th, 2010

Pages: 274

Genre: Horror, Superheroes

Links: Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Blog

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need. For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes.

When EX-HEROES mixed super-heroes and zombies, I didn’t realize how dumb un-scary zombies would be if there is no threat of dying.  Besides the fact that three of the main characters are immuned to zombie bites, zombies are incredibly slow and dumb, they’re developing a vaccine to cure everyone of zombie bites so eventually everyone will be immune.  Yay.  Zombies are only cool when there’s a high likeliness of the entire world’s population ending up as zombies.  Zombies are not cool when some guy in flashy underwear man-handle zombies like zerglings.

This has to be one of the most difficult reviews I’ve written, because I have almost nothing to say about the book.  Why?  Because the scenes are repetitive and the set-up for character introduction are redundant.

How EX-HEROES unfolds:

Introduce character

Lengthy background

Scene involve the character killing zombies

Introduce next character

Lengthy background

Scene involving the character killing zombies

Repeat 6 more times

Introduce plot for next book

BAM!  The end

One thing is for sure.  I’ve never read a zombie novel quite like this one.  I would say that at least 80% of the novel was outright zombie killing (zombies are known as ex-es).  It’s awful that I had not a single ounce of empathy for any of the characters throughout the story.  I was shocked by how often little kids were killed, mutilated  and/or zombified.   It didn’t add to the story and it felt like a ploy to get the reader’s heartstrings moving.

The plot doesn’t kick in until the final couple of chapters.  If the next book picks up where this one stops, then it stands a good chance of being a decent read.  But, EX-HEROES is not a standalone book.  It’s an introduction to a series.  There’s a huge character cast and it really kills the pacing of the book (along with several thousands zombies).  If you are committed to reading the second book, then you might not mind this.  If you’d rather a book that can survive on its own, then feed this one to your pet zombie.

 

F rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)

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