From Johann to Tannenbaum by Ashlyn Forge, Toys & Soldiers Series

If you’ve been here or around my Facebook for a while, you know of my love for Liam, one of the main characters from In Liam’s Wake: The Makeshift Soldier by Ashlyn Forge. I was sort of quietly stalking a NaNoWriMo group when a wild and incredibly funny Ashlyn appeared. I read a bit about her book and was waiting for the release to 1-click it. For full disclosure purposes, I have to say we have since become friends and I am also helping her with her book promo.

Well, it took me a while to get to the second book in the series she released (fourth in the series), From Johann to Tannenbaum. Work and other such things prevented me, and I was getting really frustrated. I stayed at around 20% for ages. A cold right at the end of the year changed that, and were it not for the cold medication which knocked me out a few times, I wouldn’t have put it down. I am so thrilled to have started my reading year with finally reaching the end of this book. Well, I kind of cringed for the last 10%, I really did not want it to end.

This is a hard book to explain. It messed up my brain and my heart in so many ways, I wanted to punch something. Luckily, I was weak enough not to. No, I did not want to punch Ashlyn, although she told me I might. I did consider sending her messages in the lines of “How could you do this to me?” or “Woman, have some mercy on me, I beg you!” or “OMFG, really? This is awesome!” Luckily for her, I did not get close to the computer until now.

johann coverSo, the blurb? There it is:

Johann Andreas IV is a rich loser who has a raw deal in life. He is handsome, yet with a poor self-image, clever, but still uneducated, and despite being the heir apparent in his grandfather’s will, he’s about to be thrown out with nothing.

In the underground colony of his birth, two things matter the most to its denizens: a name, which will guarantee his wealth and status, and a designated branding tattoo, the only thing allowing Colony-Dwellers to live safely underground. Johann has one year to secure both.

He’s up to the challenge but one thing stands in his way; his mother has plans of her own…and they don’t include him.

I fell in love with Liam from the start and I loved him no matter what happened. Johann was an entirely different story. I did love him for the most part, but I so wanted to punch him at times, shake him, tell him he’s acting like a total douche, an insecure wreck, etc. I had moments when I thought he was dropped as a baby, like a lot, and others when I thought he was brilliant. He could be extremely perceptive, or completely miss the point.

Tanner or Tan or Tannenbaum, his E mate, was also a roller coaster ride. Although I did feel more for him than Johann at times. He starts out damaged. Just as Johann, his qualities over time are conflicting, and you’ll go nuts trying to figure out how you feel about him.

Other couples in the book, Gara and Midget, Kobal and Rene, they are just as hard to understand. At times you feel like they should just break up already and move on, then you figure out they shouldn’t. Characters from the first book in the series also make an appearance, Met and Red, Harris, and of course, my beloved Liam.

Ashlyn Forge has a knack for plot twists that are so out of this world, they make your head spin. And most of them happen towards the end of the book. I remember reading other reviews saying her books broke the reader’s mind, in a good way. I did feel my brain had been broken. I was also so thrilled I had managed to guess something! I never guess anything in her books… I did a happy dance. That was of course until I realized I only guessed it half way and that it was minor compared to what else was in store for me.

Johann’s mother was a very interesting character for me. If you want someone to hate, the archetype of an unfit mother. Yet, much like Johann, I kept looking for reasons, some sparks of motherly love. And while I did understand some of the reasoning behind it, I could follow her twisted logic, it just still made no sense.

The Colony is as complicated and fantastic as it was in the first book, yet again, so relatable. It’s like being thrown out in a twisted, dystopian future, and instinctively feeling at home. Because underneath the different technology, clothes, and paranormal abilities, it’s just like your world. Same pressures, same fears, same imperfect people that sometimes do wonderful, incredible things.

I strongly suggest you read this book if you like sci-fi / dystopian books or mm romances. This might not be a book highlighting your typical love stories, but they are love stories that will stay with you for a long time.

If you’re a blogger and you’d like to review From Johann to Tannanbaum, I remind you that it will go on tour, so sign up now!

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A pleasure to meet you! I’m Alina Popescu, an author, traveler, and hopeless coffee addict. I write urban fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and sometimes even contemporary stories. A significant number of my books are LGBTQ fiction and romance.

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