Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen


Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Book One of The Malediction Trilogy
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Bought from Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads):

For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy...

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

What I Liked:

I think this is my favorite Pili-pushed recommendation so far. For those of you who don't know, Pili (from In Love with Handmade) and I trade recommendations, and once a month, we read/review a recommended book. To read all of my Pili-pushed reviews, see the "Pili-Pushed" tag at the bottom of this post!

Cécile is kidnapped out of nowhere, by someone she wants thought a friend. The "friend" takes her to the secret home of trolls, which Cécile didn't even know existed. There, the trolls are planning her marriage to the crown prince, Tristan, so that Cécile will break a curse placed on the trolls. Cécile is married against her will - but as time goes on, Cécile falls for the prince, and makes friends with other trolls. Soon, she's caught up in the politics and deception. How can she leave when the half-bloods (half-human, half-troll) are suffering under the rule of the full-blooded trolls? How can she turn her back on her husband's secret cause? How can she not try and give so many people hope?

The beginning was a bit busy, in my opinion. The focus is Cécile's voice, her singing, and Cécile trying to fill her mother's shoes. Cécile has just completed a performance, and is really happy. And then a former friend kidnaps her and takes her to a mountain and trades her for her weight in gold. The trolls need a red-haired daughter of the sun to help break the curse. So, Cécile is now married to Tristan, and it's like hate at first sight.

To be honest, I am a HUGE fan of the hate-then-love-at-first-sight thing. It's one of my favorite romance tropes. Cécile hates Tristan because she hates the entire situation - she doesn't want to be forced to marry anyone! Tristan hates Cécile because (according to Cécile) she's human; really, that's not why he despises her. He doesn't like being bonded with anyone, and Cécile is human (i.e., very breakable). If she gets hurt, he feels it. They can feel each other's feelings. It's not Cécile's fault that she seems to feel a lot... which is annoying to Tristan.


Soooo... I loved the romance. Very slow-burn. very hate-to-love, very passionate. In the beginning, Cécile and Tristan really do not like each other. Then, they slowly understand each other better, and only pretend to antagonize each other so that people think they are not getting along. Then it comes to the point where they really care about each other, but there's that facade in the way...

I liked Cécile. She's very rash and impulsive and lives in the moment, making stupid, quick decisions that have heavy costs. However, I LIKE her. She's fiery and determined, strong-willed and protective of herself. She's a strong person and a strong character, and while I can't say I agreed with everything she did, I liked her nonetheless.

I really liked Tristan. We get Cécile AND Tristan's first-person point-of-view, though not necessarily alternating. Tristan is not who he appears to be, throughout the book. But in my opinion, he is a selfless and sweet guy, who has a lot of adult burdens that have a lot of adult consequence. Princely burdens with princely consequences. I liked his rationale better than Cécile's, when it came to making decisions. 

At first, I was apprehensive about the story - kidnapping, forced marriage, no thank you?! But the story starts to get really interesting (it was already interesting, but more in a positive way) quickly, and I especially loved watching Tristan and Cécile step around each other. Jensen weaves a complex and intricate story, pulling all the strings together at the end. The world-building is very good; this novel is fantasy, involving trolls and magic and witches and curses. I loved the uniqueness of this story, the characters, the romance.

The end... the end is the only reason why this one isn't getting five stars. I'll get to that in the next section.  Rest assured, I will definitely be reading Hidden Huntress.

What I Did Not Like:

I'm actually kind of irritated with the ending, to be honest. It's cliffhanger-esque, and it's brutal, and I wasn't very happy with it. It felt a bit cliche, and I had a feeling it was coming. That doesn't mean I have to like it (and I didn't). But that's okay...

Would I Recommend It:

Despite the ending, I would totally recommend this one! Especially to fantasy lovers. This book has been so highly recommended to me, by many, many bloggers. Many bloggers participated in the Top Ten of 2014 event during the last week of 2014, and many bloggers featured this book - multiple times during that week! I know see why.

Rating:

4 stars. More like 4.5 stars. I really, really enjoyed this book - it was so fun and engrossing to read! It didn't feel like nearly five hundred pages, to be honest!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cover Reveal Puzzle Piece: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Are you ready to see the cover of Katie McGarry's upcoming novel, Nowhere But Here?!



Throughout the day, many blogs will be revealing different pieces to the cover. My piece of the cover is one of the last to be revealed.



You'll be able to find the full cover HERE, when all of the pieces have been revealed, at 7 pm EST.



Ready to see the 4 pm EST piece? Here we go!




Teehee! Remember, it's just one of many pieces!


About the Book:

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
Book One of the Thunder Road series
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Publication Date: May 26, 2015

Official Summary:

An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible. 

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both. 

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down. 

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home. 



About the Author:


Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine's 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.



Blog Tour Favorite Quotes: All That Burns by Ryan Graudin


Welcome to the All That Burns blog tour! I am a huge fan of Ryan Graudin and her books, and I am very happy to support this author. I hope you all enjoy this post, and read this series!

My reviews of Graudin's books:




All That Burns by Ryan Graudin
Book Two of the All That Glows series
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: February 10, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this thrilling sequel to All That Glows, the worlds of magic and mortal are colliding as London celebrates its new king, marking an era of unity between the Faery realm and the human one. Emrys, the Faery guard to the British royal family, sacrificed her powers to be with King Richard, choosing love over immortality. But now, as Emrys struggles to navigate her place between the Faery queen’s court and London’s lavish galas, danger looms beyond the Thames.When a prisoner with dark, strange magic breaks out of Queen Titania’s labyrinthine prison, endangering Emrys's king and sparking an uprising, Emrys must make the hardest decision of all.

Will she reclaim her magic to save Richard’s life and lose him forever? Or stay powerless as the kingdom goes down in flames?

Favorite Quotes:

All secrets sound the same in the dark.

***

"I couldn't do any of this without you, you know. This world, my life... it's winter right now." Richard's hands are steady and warm, but his words tremble. "You're the only star I see."

***

"There is no map like the heart."

***

When I lost my magic Richard was my north. Without him I'm a compass that's lost its magnet. Drifting through questions without direction.

***

Sunrises. Sunsets. Beginnings and ends. Who knew they could be so much alike?


(All quotes taken from the eARC, and are not final.)




Ryan Graudin is doing a preorder special through her local indie Blue Bicycle Books. You can pre-order a signed copy of All That Burns and get a free ALL THAT BURNS tea (a ginger plum flavored black tea). Don’t miss this special offer! Click here to pre-order a signed copy of All That Burns.



About the Author:


My name is Ryan and I've been writing ever since I grabbed one of my dad's old tax ledgers and created this masterpiece: see image.

My writing has since improved, though my obsession with wolves has remained relatively the same (I even own a wolf-hybrid pup.) My childhood was a happy, sunny thing. I grew up on a steady diet of fairytales, salt-marshes, music and brothers who would re-enact Redwall battles with me in the back yard. I went to an artsy sort of high-school that allowed cello recitals in the hallways and impromptu poetry slams in the cafeteria. It was there I decided that writing was what I wanted to do more than anything.

I'm officially a grownup now (I suppose one must admit that once they turn 26). My diet still includes fairytales, salt-marshes and art, but there are a few new loves thrown in. A big one is travel. Pieces of my heart are scattered like breadcrumbs all over the globe--I've bartered them off for writing inspiration, so I suppose it's a fair trade.

When I'm not cramming my earthly belongings into a backpack and waiting in airport security lines, I'm doing one of the following: Writing YA novels, Photographing weddings with my husband, Making our little white cottage more homey, Playing with my wolf pup, Trying out Korean récipes, Haunting local coffee shops with my friends.

Swoon Thursday (#105): The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace!


Before she could question propriety or decorum, Johanna did what felt right. Rising up on her toes, she brushed her lips over Rafi's.

It was a simple kiss, the merest contact. She pulled back, face flaming, heart skipping, but Rafi didn't let go. Kissing her once, twice. Nervously, the hungrily.

If the men watching murmured, she didn't notice. If Pira, lurking in the shadows growled her distaste, Johanna didn't care. His arms were around her waist; her fingers were in his hair.

- eARC, 96%


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#109): Burn by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Burn by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine
Book Two of the Scan series
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: May 12, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

At the cliffhanger ending of Scan, Tate loses the very thing he was fighting to protect, what his father had called the key to human survival. Tate doesn't have much time to worry about it because he needs to get away, to ensure he and Christina are safe. His father left him one last thing that can do just that—a safehouse, which turns out to be a clue to what's really threatening the planet. As Tate follows the clues his father left behind, he starts to uncover the truth, realizing he's up against an enemy he's only beginning to understand.




I loved Scan! I must know how it all ends!

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd


Welcome to the release day blitz for A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd! I'm a day late on posting this (forgive me, Megan, Rockstar Book Tours, and HarperCollins!), but I figured, late was better than never. Join me in celebrating the (post) release of this conclusion novel!

Read my reviews of this series:




A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd
Book Three of The Madman's Daughter series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Official Summary:

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity. 



About the Author:


I've been many things, like a professional exchange student, park ranger in Montana, and LOST enthusiast, but what I am now is a writer.

I think it’s fair to say I was born into it. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, raised behind the counter of my parents’ independent bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard. Ah, so many free books. But I never thought being a writer could be a real career. After college I thought I’d end up as a foreign service officer somewhere dashing and exotic, like Canada. I studied French, Spanish, German, and Russian and still speak a few of those. Then I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Senegal, where I learned a few more languages I’ll never speak again and lived in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. You can probably imagine how that experience went, but if you’re curious, here are the dirty details

It wasn't until a chance aquaintance read something I wrote and said, "have you ever considered being a writer?" that something clicked and I realized it was possible. My husband encouraged me, and I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with writing and children's literature in particular. I started out writing articles, which have appeared in Faces, Appleseeds, and Calliope magazines, and stories for younger children. I soon realized I wasn’t sweet enough to write fiction for that age and found myself writing young adult literature instead, which doesn’t require nearly as many tender moments and includes a lot more cursing.

When I'm not writing, I can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. I love to hear from readers, so please drop me a line!

I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr


The Excerpt:


Montgomery stopped the horses outside a tavern. He came to the carriage door, opening it just a crack to keep the rain from drenching us. “I’m going to ask directions. We can’t be far now.”

We watched him saunter over the muddy street as though he didn’t even feel the bite of freezing rain. A face appeared in the tavern window. The door opened and he spoke to a woman in a wool dress for a few moments, then stomped back through the mud. “This village is called Quick,” he told us. “The manor’s only five miles from here.”

“Did you hear that?” Lucy murmured to Edward, still stroking his hair. “We’re almost there. Just hold on. Everything will be all right once we arrive.”

Montgomery’s eyes shifted to me. Neither of us wanted to remind Lucy that the prospect of Edward’s fever breaking—and the Beast’s reappearance—was almost more frightening than the fever itself. Delirious, he was less of a threat.

“Let’s go then,” I whispered to Montgomery. “And quickly.”

He closed the door and in another moment we were moving again, passing through the rest of Quick. Then all too soon the village was nothing but fading lights. The storm grew and the road became rougher, and all the while Edward’s eyes rolled back and forth beneath shuttered lids.

Thunder struck close by, and Lucy shrieked. Montgomery whipped the horses harder, pulling us along the uneven road impossibly fast, trying to outrun the storm. I twisted in the seat to look out the back window at the pelting rain. A stone fence ran alongside us.

“We must be getting close,” I said.

“Not soon enough,” Lucy breathed. “We’re going to crash if he keeps driving like this!”

The road widened, straightening, letting us travel even faster. Lightning struck close by, blinding me. The horses bolted. Lucy screamed and covered her eyes, but I couldn't tear mine away. The lightning had struck an enormous oak tree, twisted from centuries of wind. The oak took flame, blazing despite the rain. A smoking gash ran down the trunk—the lightning’s death mark. I watched until the rain put out most of the flames, but it still smoldered, billowing hot ash into the night.

The horses pawed the earth, and I grabbed the window to steady myself. At this wild speed, just hitting a single rock at the wrong angle would send the carriage shattering to the ground. It was madness to go so fast. Couldn't Montgomery calm the horses?

Just when I feared the carriage would careen out of control, it stopped short, throwing me against the opposite wall. I tangled in Lucy’s limbs as the chains around Edward’s body clinked. Balthazar grunted, jerking awake at last. We scrambled in the bottom of the carriage until the door flew open.

Montgomery stood in the pelting rain. I feared he’d say we’d broken another strut or the horses had gone lame or we’d have to spend the night in the harsh storm.

But then I saw the lights behind him, and the night took shape into a turreted stone manor with bright lamps blazing and gargoyles on the roof vomiting rain into a stone courtyard.

Montgomery’s eyes met mine beneath the low brim of his hat.

“We've arrived,” he said.


The Giveaway:

1 winner will receive a signed copy of A COLD LEGACY and swag! US Only.
Ends on February 6th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace


The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
Book One of the Keepers' Chronicles
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren't the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

What I Liked:

I KNEW I WOULD LIKE THIS ONE! Granted, it's fantasy, it has all the makings of an "Alyssa" book, and many bloggers I trust really enjoyed this book. It's a pretty unique book, as far as fantasy goes, and I'm really intrigued! 

Johanna and her family have been exiled from the Performers camp, since her father fell to his death during a performance. Johanna becomes employed under Lord Rafael, future Duke of Santiago. They meet by chance; Johanna is hunting to feed her family, and Rafi thinks she is poaching (which is illegal). He accosts her, thinking that she is a poacher and a male. But she is neither, and Rafi is indebted to her (kind of, as punishment for harming her). So she performs (sings and tells stories) for the guests. Meanwhile, the Keepers are real, and they are looking for the lost princess. This was spurred on by the death of the guardian of a pendant of which the princess is the heir. Johanna has no idea about anything related to the dukedom, the Keepers, the magic that shouldn't exist, the lost princess, but she is involved more than she thinks she is.

Johanna is a very likable protagonist - she is selfless and kind, fierce and loyal. She takes care of her two younger brothers, and her older brother, and her drunk mother. She was caught by Lord Rafael because she was trying to provide for her three growing brothers, her mother, and herself. Johanna is a very capable huntress, as well as sister, and Performer. She captives those she meets, those for whom she sings or tells stories. 

This book is written in third person, and we are not limited to Johanna's narrative. Rafi is a significant character whose perspective is shared, as well as several of the Keepers looking for the lost princess. Jacare is a Keeper who leads the other three Keepers. His half-sister, Pira, is a prickly Commander and soldier with an affinity for Earth. Leao is a Mage, strong in all five elements. Tex is an ancient Keeper, with plenty of wisdom and advice.

Keepers have and wield magic, and most characters have an affinity for one of the four elements. Pira, for example, is extremely strong with Earth. Leao can control all of the elements (which is why he is a mage). Jacare and Tex are strong Keepers as well. These four Keepers spend this book trying to uncover the death of Johanna's father (though they do not know of Johanna, or that the man they are looking for is her father).

Having so many different third-person narratives was really helpful, for me. I liked reading from different characters' perspectives. It was easier for me to understand and connect with them. For example, I probably would not have liked Jacare at all, if I didn't get to understand his motives and thinking. Same with Leao.

I enjoyed the plot with the Keepers, but I really, really liked the plot with Johanna, and Rafi. Their interactions were much more interesting, and I loved seeing them fight. Literally and figuratively. They do not like each other at first, yet they're constantly saving each other. If there wasn't a romance budding between them, I'd be furious, because there is a lot of tension between them, and it has to go somewhere, in my opinion...

So, the romance. It's very, very slow and subtle in this book. I say "slow" but it's not a bad thing. I loved the slow-burn progression of the romance. The two characters don't just bump heads and fall in love. They start off hating each other and keep getting on each other's nerves and even in the end, they're aggravating each other, but it's wonderful and passionate... yes. I love these types of relationships. Fire turned passionate.

There is another romance in this story, between two different characters. Take a guess - it's two Keepers. Pira and Leao definitely do NOT start off liking each other. If anything, Pira has some serious contempt for Leao, and Leao is a bit intimidated by Pira. But their relationship is so sweet (and jealousy-filled, on Pira's side, because Leao is very good-looking and attracts a lot of girls).

I know I haven't said too much about the story, but I'm doing that on purpose, and keeping the plot a bit vague. The synopsis does a pretty good job of summarizing the book, but there's nothing like reading the book yourself! And it's a bit complicated to explain (as with most fantasy novels). But seriously! I would recommend you read this one yourself! The ending isn't tragic or cliffhanger-y or crazy. Definitely a great first novel!

What I Did Not Like:

I know I said this one was pretty unique - and it is, with the Performers thing - but the lost princess thing is so cliche. I mean, I know, it's high fantasy, and they all start to sound the same, but the whole "lost royal" thing is a bit overdone. There are plenty of fabulously unique elements in this book, like the Performers, the forgotten Keepers, the sexy duke (hehe), but the lost princess trope is definitely not unique.

Would I Recommend It:

I really enjoyed this book! Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I read so much of it, and I love it, and I love this one. I would highly recommend this one to fantasy lovers - although I will say, if you're looking for a super heavy romance, you won't find that in this book (not that I thought that was a bad thing - I was a HUGE fan of the romance). Just a note!

Rating:

4 stars. I'll definitely be reading the second book! It's too long a wait until then. More fantasy please! More Rafi and Johanna...


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!