Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blog Tour: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones


Welcome to the blog tour for Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones! This debut novel is just as beautiful as its cover. Learn more about it (publishing in just one week)!



Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.



About the Author:


S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.



The Pronunciation Guide:


(Click to enlarge!)


The Excerpt:

Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.

Her grand mother had told her to beware the wolves that prowled in the wood, but the little girl knew the little boy was not dangerous, even if he was the king of the goblins. 

Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the little boy asked, and the little girl did not wonder at how he knew her name.

Oh, she replied, but I am too young to marry. 


Then I will wait, the little boy said. I will wait as long as you remember.

And the little girl laughed as she danced with the Goblin King, the little boy who was always just a little older, a little out of reach.


As the seasons turned and the years passed, the little girl grew older but the Goblin King remained the same. She washed the dishes, cleaned the floors, brushed her sister’s hair, yet still ran to the forest to meet her old friend in the grove. Their games were different now, truth and forfeit and challenges and dares.

Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the little boy asked, and the little girl did not yet understand his question was not part of a game.

Oh, she replied, but you have not yet won my hand. 

Then I will win, the little boy said. I will win until you surrender

And the little girl laughed as she played against the Goblin King, losing every hand and every round.


Winter turned to spring, spring to summer, summer into autumn, autumn back into winter, but each turning of the year grew harder and harder as the little girl grew up while the Goblin King remained the same. She washed the dishes, cleaned the floors, brushed her sister’s hair, soothed her brother’s fears, hid her father’s purse, counted the coins, and no longer went into the woods to see her old friend.

Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the Goblin King asked.

But the little girl did not reply.


Blog Tour and Giveaway: Highland Vixen by Mary Wine

Hi friends! Today is my day for the blog tour for Highland Vixen, a book that I really enjoyed. Check out this second novel in the awesome Highland Weddings series.

But first, the author has a message for readers!


Hummm….the truth is, I am nerd enough to think history is fun. All the little facts and laws from centuries ago have always fascinated me. My parents were always listening to me expound on some little bit of wonderment…aka…historical fact.

Working these little facts into my work is something I try to do because I believe it’s important to write a book, set in the time it is dated. It was a different time and I think that adds spice to the unfolding romance. Life wasn’t fair then and it isn’t now. There is nothing I love more than to set out to see a couple overcome the odds and live happily ever after.

At least I love it when it’s finished! When I’m in that bottom of the ninth inner point, it’s hair pulling time as I try and work things out. Yes, I know I’m the author and should know these things but honestly, these characters have minds of their own!

I hope you all enjoy Highland Vixen. 2017 hold three titles from my Highland Brides and yes, I make you wait for that moment when it all comes together but they are all brides after all.

Cheers!

Mary Wine



About the Book:


Highland Vixen by Mary Wine
Book Two of the Highland Weddings series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fierce Highland war chief seeks comely lass for fun, frolic, and marriage

Marcus MacPherson is every inch the fearsome Highlander. He's used to men averting their eyes and women cowering before him. He thinks he'll eventually settle down with a nice, obedient bride. Instead, he gets Helen Grant... Stubborn as the day is long, fearless and dedicated to raising as much hell as possible, Helen is definitely going to challenge Marcus. And challenge him some more. And then some.

It's anyone's guess who'll win this battle of the heart...



Check out the series:

    

(Click on the covers for more information!)


About the Author:

Acclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of Scottish Highland romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in Yorba Linda, California with her husband and two sons. 



The Excerpt:

She was not afraid of him.

At least, Helen had told herself so a hundred times over, and had even made certain to tell Marcus MacPherson the same when he was glowering down at her.

Yet, the truth was, she was running from him, and that bit of truth left her cheeks warm from temper. She snorted, finally pleased with some part of her circumstances. Standing in the rain, looking out over a deserted moor, she needed any way to warm herself, even being disgruntled. Her fingers were frozen, and beggars couldn’t be choosers, after all.

“Having second thoughts, Helen?”

Helen turned to look at Brenda Grant. “No, simply enjoying a view that does no’ include MacPherson Castle.”

“Ye were there a long time.” Brenda spoke softly, her tone hinting that she wasn’t convinced by Helen’s answer. “Long enough to consider it home.”
Helen shook her head. “It is no’ me home—that’s why I left with ye.” She felt something tugging at her heart but was determined to resist naming it. She’d made the choice to leave, so there would be no dwelling on anything left behind.

One of the Grant retainers burst out laughing. He was sitting with his comrades farther up the hillside from them in front of a fire. The men had built a crude shelter for the women before withdrawing to what was likely thought to be a respectable distance to preserve their good names. In the middle of the wilderness, it seemed ridiculous.

Brenda let out a sigh. “No’ that I am one to offer advice on men. Me own circumstances are a mess, to be sure.”

She patted the length of wool next to her. “Sit down, Helen, I am nae yer mistress. Share the shelter with me.”

“I’ve no quarrel with me circumstances,” Helen responded. “I am grateful.”

Brenda’s face contorted with disgust. “Oh aye, we are both reduced to being grateful for having to run like a pair of rabbits from the places that should have been our homes. Men have no kindness in them.”

Helen settled down next to Brenda.

“Do ye think they know we’re gone?” Brenda asked.

“I hope no’. The longer they think we’re in the chamber with Ailis, the better.”

Brenda looked toward her. “Ye think Marcus will come after ye?”

“Nay, he has too much pride. The man is War Chief of the MacPhersons,” Helen answered. “I worry they will come after ye, because returning ye to Grant land would gain them good favor.”

Brenda was the niece of the current laird of the Grants, and she was a rare beauty. Laird Grant had arranged a second marriage for her, and she’d run before being forced to the altar.

“That is all we are to men in the end. A tool to be utilized,” Brenda said. “Ailis is fortunate to have Bhaic’s love.”

She is,” Helen agreed as the rain increased and they both drew their feet up.
Brenda’s words were haunting. Helen heard them well into the dark hours of the night, likely because the fairies and other night creatures enjoyed tormenting her by reminding her of her lot. Her simple life had shattered the moment she met Marcus MacPherson. He’d plucked her from her happy home as easily as he might a flower.

But she would not be broken, would not wither. No, she was going to find a way to regain control of her fate. So she’d left MacPherson Castle dressed as Brenda’s serving woman. For sure, many would tell her it was reckless to venture out with so few men, but her alternative was to remain inside the castle and wait for Marcus to force a marriage on her.

She shifted in her sleep, the memory rising in full color. Marcus had lined up his men and offered her as a bride to them. To settle her into her life, he’d said. Well, she’d have none of it. Nor was she going to think about the way the man had decided to fight over her before one and all, as though he’d offered her even a single kind word that might have made her inclined to accept him. Damn him. He was her captor. She wouldn’t be forgetting that.

Ever.


The Giveaway:

USA only, I believe! (So sorry, international friends.)

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey


Welcome to the paperback publication day of Too Wild to Tame! You'll recall that I read this book and Too Hot to Handle last year. I love Tessa Bailey's books and I'm excited to promote her Romancing the Clarksons series. Check it out below! 


About the Book:


Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey
Book Two of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publisher: Forever Romance
Publication Date: January 31, 2017

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes you just can't resist playing with fire . . . 

By day, Aaron Clarkson suits up, shakes hands, and acts the perfect gentleman. But at night, behind bedroom doors, the tie comes off and the real Aaron comes out to play. Mixing business with pleasure got him fired, so Aaron knows that if he wants to work for the country's most powerful senator, he'll have to keep his eye on the prize. That's easier said than done when he meets the senator's daughter, who's wild, gorgeous, and 100 percent trouble.

Grace Pendleton is the black sheep of her conservative family. Yet while Aaron's presence reminds her of a past she'd rather forget, something in his eyes keeps drawing her in. Maybe it's the way his voice turns her molten. Or maybe it's because deep down inside, the ultra-smooth, polished Aaron Clarkson might be more than even Grace can handle . . . 



Check out the series:

  
  

(Click on the covers for more information!)


About the Author:


Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans, and laptop, and drove cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend, and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.



Follow Forever Romance:



The Excerpt:

His progress toward the door halted when Grace shot to her feet, arms stiff at her sides, those green eyes like glowing jade moons. “I…that isn’t what I was asking for. I just meant, let me help you, in general. I—I didn’t think…”

Aaron’s neck heated. “If you don’t like the idea, we can change it—”

She jumped. She actually jumped straight up in the air, hands flying to her cheeks. “I love it. Oh, please don’t change anything. I was just so surprised.”

He inclined his head, mentally cursing the way his heart decided to make its presence known at such an inconvenient time, walloping his rib cage with thick booms, courtesy of Grace’s pleasure. How juvenile. “I’m kind of surprised myself,” he admitted, then wished he’d kept his mouth shut.

At least until Grace floated toward him. All shining eyes and rosy excitement, she spurred a lust storm in his stomach. “It’s so much better when you say what you’re thinking, Aaron.”

“You mentioned that.”

And of course, it made him want to say more. Say whatever it would take to get her legs wrapped around his hips. To rock between her thighs until her wetness drenched the fly of his pants. “Get away from me, Grace,” he rasped. “It would be just like me to take advantage of you after having to tell that story.”

Silence deepened around them. “How can you say that after you just found a way for me to rebuild the camp?” It seemed as if her entire body lifted and fell on a harsh sob. “Last night, you asked me if I still saw some good in you…and I didn’t answer. How could I not have answered you?” She shook her gorgeous head. “I didn’t mean to—”

Aaron shot forward, capturing her unspoken words with his own mouth. Guilt. There had been even more guilt in her eyes. Aaron’s response was pure denial. Not because of me. Not over me. But as soon as their lips joined, his mind wiped clean of anything but Grace’s one-of-a-kind taste. She was juicy, sweet, refreshing, intoxicating madness. He let it pull him down into its depths—her depths—gathering up her taste greedily so he could live with the effect as long as possible, even though surely a man couldn’t withstand this type of arousal for an extended length of time. He’d want to fuck her again as soon as he came. It was a certainty his body was all too eager to confirm. Yet protectiveness held him in a state of limbo. Wanting—needing—to mate with her delicious body while determined to protect her from himself.

Couldn’t she sense the past meaningless encounters he wore like gloves, cheapening everything he touched? Couldn’t she sense his inability to be meaningful to her? Grace should have someone with substance, not someone who couldn’t even garner the love of his own family. Someone who considered the ramifications of his actions and how they would serve as betrayal. This is how you repay me?

The voice from his not-so-distant past had Aaron tearing his mouth away with a guttural growl, clasping Grace by the shoulders. Too hard. Ease up. “Get away.”

“If you really want that, let me go,” she whispered.

God, he couldn’t do it. Not with her face tipped back, lips swollen and shined up, those eyelids halfway fallen. He’d never in his life had trouble resisting sex. It was always a logical decision based on his needs. This? There was nothing cut and dried about it. His attraction to Grace was messy and wild and untapped. Made his chest expand with the effort to contain the expanding of something unfamiliar. Crazy and blinding. His dick needed a good, rough handling from one woman only. Grace. And she wasn’t pushing him away. Seemed like she wanted the job, too, her tits sliding up and down his abs with every breath. Give her one more chance. Show her what she’s in for with a bastard like you. With a muttered epithet, Aaron raked his hand up the back of Grace’s thigh, sliding it down the back of her tights, and settling his middle finger in the valley of her ass. “Get away from me,” he managed, wedging his straying digit a little more securely, earning him a closed-lipped noise.

“No,” she gasped after a few seconds.

Aaron’s tether broke. Recapturing Grace’s mouth with an obscene amount of tongue, he backed them toward the bed, satisfaction rippling in his middle when she went down beneath him, her legs falling open in welcome. He draped his body over Grace’s slighter one, eager grunts leaving his mouth as he positioned himself over her pussy and bore down with his erection. Their groans were pain-filled, reaching every corner of the cabin, breaking off when Aaron got back to kissing that addictive mouth, yanking the oversized sweater up, up to her belly, so he could rock against her sex with only his pants and her tights as obstructions.

Aaron.”

“You were warned,” he reminded her with a strangled shout, delivered into the space above her head. “Three times, Grace. That’s three times more than I’d give anyone else.” He slid up and back in the cradle of her legs, groaning over the rasping friction her tights delivered to his stiff, fuck-hungry dick. “Make it four times. I gave you an out back at the house. You should have taken it.”

When Grace should have been trembling or alarmed by the cut steel in his voice, she only stretched out beneath him like a cat, opening up for him. Almost preening beneath his rough ministrations. “Maybe I should have. But we’re here now, so stop trying to scare me.” Her fingertips moved down Aaron’s chest to the seat of his pants, where she smoothed her palm over the curve of his cock, which started him panting like a marathon runner. “You don’t really want to scare me, do you, Aaron?”

Christ, her soft words, the sight of her, were choking him up. Her hair was a haphazard display framing her face, those crooked front teeth somehow making him twice as eager to seal their mouths together again. He was a hunter who’d discovered a sprite dancing in the woods and dragged her home, intending to use her body for vigorous relief, but got forgiveness in return. “No, I don’t. I don’t want to scare you.”

“I know,” she breathed, unfastening his belt buckle. “I just know.”


The Giveaway:

Courtesy of the publisher! USA only, I believe. Good luck!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins


The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins
Book Two of the Eurona duology
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):

In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom.  

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.

The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.

Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.

Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.

What I Liked:

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW*** 

(Well, there will by The Great Hunt spoilers. But not The Great Pursuit spoilers.)

One year ago, I read and loved The Great Hunt, with exception of the ending. I hated that Aerity is now forced to marry Lord Leif Alvi, because he (and not Paxton) killed the wild beast. But now, there are more beasts coming for Lochlanach, created by Rozaria Rocato, a powerful Lashed. Aerity and her parents must comply with her demands - burn the list of Lashed names - or face death every night. Meanwhile, Paxton has fled and stumbles upon Rozaria's army. He joins her in order to infiltrate her ranks and gain her trust. Though far apart, Aerity and Paxton are fighting to save Lochlanach from Rozaria - and another unseen dark force, Prince Vito.

This novel is told in the third-person perspectives of many characters. Paxton, Aerity, Vixie, Wyneth, even Tiern have exclusive (third-person) POVs at some point during the book. Since the entire book is written in third-person, this wasn't confusing at all and I actually really enjoyed this method of narration. It was interesting because many of the characters were apart and doing their own (important) thing elsewhere, so it was crucial to know what they were doing and how it affected the story overall. 

Aerity is at the castle, trying to stave off riots and chaos and inevitable war. She is being forced to marry a young lord who is rather promiscuous and really doesn't care to marry her - though he has feelings for her cousin, Wyneth. Paxton, hunter and Aerity's love, has fled, and she doesn't know if he is safe or not. Aerity is on her own at many times during this book, which is critical to her character development. She thinks she isn't ready to be Queen, but she becomes ready.

Paxton has the harder path, in my opinion. He is Lashed and he must run for his life. He knows of the danger of Rozaria Rocato, but stumbling on her and her army provides a unique opportunity: gather information about her plan for Lochlanach, and hopefully get that information back to the royals before it's too late. Paxton has a difficult role to play, especially when Rozaria decides that she likes him... that was a weird plot. Nothing happens there, and Paxton is very disgusted by her in general. But he has the hardest journey and the most difficult tasks, of any of the characters in this book. For all the significance of Aerity being princess and soon to be Queen, it's Paxton that does all of the work and in the end, "saves the day".

Nevertheless, I adored both of them. Both of them stick to their duty and they think of their kingdom and home and loved ones first, and themselves second. I hate but understand why Aerity still went through with her engagement to Lief. It was hard because most of this book has Paxton and Aerity separated - but not always. It's interesting to see how Higgins throws the pair together at random times throughout the story. Also, note that I said "engagement" to Lief... and not marriage.

So, I didn't mind the romance, despite the separation of Paxton and Aerity, and Aerity being very engaged to Lief, and Paxton having to play Rozaria's lackey. When Paxton and Aerity come together, there is no illusion as to their feelings for each other. I love how the romance ends up working out, for these two. Not in a convenient way, necessarily, but perfectly.

There are many romantic subplots! Vixie and Tiern have a flame between them, but my person favorite pairing is Wyneth and Harrison. I have a feeling about Harrison, but remember, the start of The Great Hunt is Wyneth's love dying (who is also Harrison's cousin, so...). It's cute, watching them get closer, though they've been friends for their entire lives.

Shout-out to Furball, the most adorable beastly creature. I wouldn't mind having one of him! He sounds like an overgrown puppy that is also quite fierce when someone messes with his humans.

I would also like to say that this novel felt so timely, especially given the recent USA elections and happenings of January 2017. In this series, the Lashed are hated because they can wield magic (some can). Some Lashed are evil and want to hurt "normal" humans, and because of that, there is a list of Lashed names, and the Lashed are constantly treated abominably. In this book, the Lashed are driven out of their own country. Sound familiar? I like that, even though this is a fantasy, made-up world, and Higgins wrote the book long before everything that is happening now (January 2017), the conflicts and issues felt modern and current. 

This book wraps up really nicely - every loose end is taken care of. The romance ends so well, the conflict with Rocato and Vito end, well, in a bloody way, but fairly well, and the situation with the Lashed is handled in a realistic manner.

What I Did Not Like:

Obviously I'm going to complain about the romance. The whole forced engagement thing is one of my least favorite tropes (right behind love triangles). I wouldn't ever call the romance in this book a love triangle type of romance, because Aerity has no interest in Lief, and vice versa. But the engagement is annoying, especially since Aerity is honorable and refuses not to do her duty. I'm also not really amused with Leif in general? He clearly has no boundaries when it comes to lovers and because he's charming, everyone seems to be fine with that. And the stupid plot of having Rozaria be attracted to Paxton? Obnoxious and unnecessary. While it's clear that Paxton wants nothing to do with her and really just wants to get information from her, the fact that he has to interact with her at all, let alone flirt with her, is annoying. 

Poor Paxton! He gets the short end of the stick every time. I kind of hate how he does pretty much all of the work to bring the bad guys down, and yet, it felt like everyone has glorifying Aerity all of the time. I get it, she's the future queen, feminism, girl power, blah blah blah. But why write a book with a (supposed) strong female character that has to severely depend on men (specifically, Paxton) to bring her kingdom to safety? Don't get me wrong, I loved that Paxton was so determined to help and that he did all that he did, and that he was the hero. But I wouldn't raise up Aerity as this strong female character if that's the case. Aerity does a loooooooot of waiting and vacillating and issuing orders, and when it comes down to it, Paxton saves the day. While I think Aerity grows a lot - from being a simpering princess who waits for all of the men to do the work to a stronger-willed princess who still waits for all of the men to do the work but sort of bosses them around - I wish either she was a more dominant, strong female character, or less so (and the focus was more on Paxton). I wouldn't have minded either way. I like strong alpha types (and Paxton certainly is that). 

Also, I'm kind of irritated with how Higgins handled Leif's cheating on Aerity with Aerity's maid. Sure, they're not married yet, but they're engaged. And you know how Aerity reacted? She basically dismissed him sleeping with her servant, in a "boys will be boys" kind of way. Because apparently, where he is from (Ascommania), men are very promiscuous and aren't really the types to have just one partner. So that makes it okay for him to cheat on her? It makes it okay for her to flippantly dismiss the acts, because "boys will be boys"? You're kidding me, right? Regardless of the fact that clearly Aerity and Leif have no feelings for each other... both are resolute on marrying each other (Aerity, for duty, Leif, for duty and rank it seems). I get that Aerity has no feelings for him, but that doesn't make it okay for her fiance to blatantly sleep with someone else - especially her personal maid, of all people!

Basically Leif is a pig and the author makes this seem okay by letting Aerity wave it off with a "boys will be boys" attitude. Which, no, it isn't okay. 

This book is definitely more boring than The Great Hunt. I wouldn't say this book is totally boring but it drags on... and on... and on... like some of you might be thinking as you read this review. It took me nearly twice as long to read this book as it would a book of that length. The first thirty percent of the book was dreadfully boring! I started skimming a little, and then a little more action started to happen after the halfway mark. Even Aerity and Paxton's short reunion in the first half of the book wasn't enough to perk me up.

Would I Recommend It:

I actually don't know if I'd recommend this series. It's an interesting and unique series, and I like the idea behind the story and its inspiration. I just don't like how not-straightforward the romance is (despite there being no love triangle or squares or anything - Aerity and Paxton keep their lips to themselves and each other), and how frustrating the romance was. I'm also a little put-out by how slimy Leif is (to the average reader, he's probably viewed as "charming", and a "lady's man"). I wanted Aerity to be much more strong and decisive, OR for her to be less so and then the focus to be more on Paxton. They share the story equally so I wouldn't have minded that. But instead we have a princess learning how to be queen but who cannot even secure her kingdom by herself. 

Basically what I'm saying it - this series has its flaws. For me, anyway. It's pretty good overall and I don't regret reading the books, but I think I was hoping for this conclusion novel to be a lot stronger (and more romantic) than it was. It's probably not a bad series to binge-read but I can see myself forgetting about the series fairly quickly - it's not a new favorite and it isn't going to stick. Remember, I loved The Great Hunt!

Rating:

3.5 stars. I'm so torn as to whether to round up or down. Ultimately I think I'm going to round down, and what it tipping me downward is the fact that I was pretty bored as I was reading. That being said, boredom might not be an issue for other readers. I had other problems with this book - including the romance, the sexism, the fake show of a strong female character, how the male protagonist suffered entirely too much and more than was "fair" - but the boredom is what pushes the rating down, for me. I think I'll still read future Higgins books but I think I should stick to her standalone novels, with undiluted romances.


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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza


Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Book One of the Empress of a Thousand Skies series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

What I Liked:

I don't think this book was terrible, but it was great for me. I can see myself reading the second book next year, since it's the conclusion to this series. Duologies are awesome. But I wasn't all that impressed by this book. For all the hype I've seen from certain bloggers and the publisher itself, this book isn't actually that special. 

This book is told from the POVs of Rhee, and Aly. Rhee is Crown Princess, set to become Empress on her upcoming sixteenth birthday. She is on her way to the planet where she'll swear her oaths when she is attacked and nearly killed. A mysterious boy named Dahlen rescues her, and she escapes the ship with him. But everyone thinks that she is dead, and the Regent has assumed power and has declared war on other planets. Her death has been blamed on the star of a DroneVision show, Alyosha. Aly is Wraetan, which is why the princess's murder is pinned on him. With a hefty bounty on his head, he is forced to flee. He meets a strange girl on the way to freedom, and he learns things about the technology everyone uses that shakes him to the core. Rhee is fighting for her throne, and Aly is fighting for his freedom. There is only one path to both of those goals, and no matter the  choices, it involves war. 

I love science fiction, especially YA science fiction. This type of science fiction reminded me a little of Star Wars. There are ships and space travel and species of creatures other than humans. There is a man trying to claim power as Emperor who is similar to the Emperor of Star Wars. There are droids, good and bad - the good one, Pavel, is awesome.

Rhee starts the story as a girl trained in secret to take the throne as Empress. She is desperate to get revenge on her family (parents and older sister), who were murdered years ago. The man who had them murdered has the power, but not for long, with her claiming the throne. She is blind and naive, in the beginning. As the story goes on, she becomes smarter, less blind, and more cognizant of the fact that ascending the throne and having her revenge wasn't going to be easy, with or without the attempts on her life.

While I didn't dislike Rhee, I liked Aly much more. He is a Wraetan refugee who joined the galaxy's military at a fairly young age, and gained fame as part of a duo that is featured on a show on DroneVision. His buddy Vincent turns out to be someone with a lot of secrets - not just the golden boy of the show. Aly is a smart guy, and he is a creative mechanic who seems to be able to build anything out of a few parts. I liked Aly's change of attitude - he goes from being comfortable in his current life and wanting no part of wars and revolutions, to accepting his fugitive fate and trying to stay alive. He does what he can to clear his name, but even that isn't enough.

Points to the author for including a cast of diverse characters. I believe Rhee is supposed to be Filipino-inspired, in features? Tanned skin and black hair - though I'm not sure for certain. Aly has black skin. You don't often see a black protagonist in YA science fiction (I'm talking primary characters). 

There are two very important secondary characters that I liked a lot. Dahlen is the boy who rescues Rhee and tries to get her to where his order resides. His order (sort of like a religious order) is extremely important in the story, though this is revealed very late in the story. Dahlen has a lot to fight for, and a lot of secrets. The other important character is Kara, a girl that Aly encounters and they end up saving each other's lives. Kara is as street-smart as Aly, and the pair become inseparable. 

This book is written in dual POV, and I think this really worked for the story. I do take issue with a small part of the synopsis (which I'll discuss below). But I liked how the storylines were completely separate, working towards different goals that end up aligning as the story goes on. I can't say I was totally immersed in the story, but I did like how it was told.

The ending didn't really shock me? As soon as a certain plot point and then another thing was introduced, I knew. There is one more book to follow, so it'll be interesting to see how certain things play out. I'll probably read the second book, if only to see how the story wraps up.

What I Did Not Like:

This book was a little on the boring side. Sure, I can forgive most slow-starting fiction novels, especially science fiction ones. I don;'t necessarily mind slow stars, as long as the rest of the novel picks up. But with this book, I never felt like the story picked up. I mean, the climax arrived and it definitely felt like the climax of the story, but the entire story really went at a slow pace. I think the story might have benefited more if both book one and book two (which has not been published yet) were combined to make one large standalone. 

On that note? This book was rather short? I flew it very quickly, despite being bored almost out of my mind. It's less than 350 pages which, to me, is short.

I think Aly's POV was what kept me reading? I liked him a lot, and his droid Pavel. Pavel reminded me of C3PO in Star Wars. Rhee's POV... meh. She gets caught, she escapes, she gets caught, she escapes, rinse and repeat.

Let's talk about that line of the synopsis that pissed me off a little. It says: 

"With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy."

Let's revisit the define of "together", shall we? In proximity, in contact, in union. It can also mean simultaneously, very loosely. The synopsis makes us believe that Rhee and Aly will literally be together, occupying the same space. This is never the case. They only "interact" one time, and it's a scene in which they make eye contact, and then Aly leaves the scene. Neither really recognize the other (well, Rhee might have recognized Aly, but Aly couldn't make recognized Rhee given her effective disguise). So... they weren't "thrown together". And they're not even technically confronting the same "ruthless evil". Rhee is facing off with a tyrant, and Aly has been exposed to a terrible evil that Rhee learns about in the last pages. Their goals align, but they're not really facing the same thing. I know that might not make a lot of sense, but I don't want to spoil too much. 

Anyway, do you see my point about that line of the synopsis? It's misleading and annoying, because I kept waiting for Rhee and Aly to physically meet and then work together. If that line hadn't been in the synopsis, I wouldn't have cared. Instead, Rhee spent the majority of the novel following Dahlen, and Aly spent about half the novel with his buddy Vincent, and the other half with Kara.

Romance - there is romance on Aly's side (you can probably guess), but not on Rhee's side. I don't care either way. Rhee and Aly isn't going to be a thing, purely based on the fact that they haven't even met yet. I do hope we get to see Rhee spend time with her childhood friend whom she had to leave when she boarded the ship to be sworn in as Empress. That would be a cute romance! Anyway I'm not bothered by the lack of romance, but just not that there isn't really any. And definitely do not expect Aly and Rhee to get together or anything (in the romantic sense, or otherwise).

The plot with the technology - so the technology is kind of big deal in this galaxy. There are these things called cubes that you have attached and implanted (but it's external, so you can touch it). You can store memories and parts of yourself self (from your mind) in the cube, so you can always have that information. Everyone is always "online", and when they come "offline", they feel discomfort and sickness. There is a big plot twist about the cubes. My complaint is that I literally do not understand how the cubes work, or what they even look like. The author did a very poor job of explaining the cubes and their appearance. Notice how I gave a vague description of the cubes? It's because I didn't get a good feel for them. In theory, the technology sounds interesting (though painful in terms of installation), but I wanted to know more about how they work and what they look like. Especially since they become a big deal, towards the end of the book. 

My final complaint - what is up with that title? Literally no one becomes Empress, in this story. I don't think it's fair to name a book "Empress of a Thousand Skies" when there is no Empress in this particular book. Maybe name book two "Empress of a Thousand Skies"? We'll probably have an Empress by then. But in this book, Rhee is Crown Princess, and then she is nothing (she has to go into hiding after the attempt on her life). The title is neat and catchy and flowery, but doesn't really make sense in the context of this book. 

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh, not really. It's not a bad book! But it's also nothing new, nothing intriguing, nothing life-changing. It's not a bad book, but it's not nearly as OMG-THIS-IS-SO-GOOD as a few bloggers I've seen made it out to be. Conversely though, there have been some bloggers on Goodreads that absolutely did not enjoy this book. So I know I'm not alone! If you're a fan of YA science fiction, like me, this one might be a little disappointing. I can point you in the direction of much better space-related science fiction novels, futuristic science fiction novels, and other science fiction novels in YA in general.

Rating:

3 stars. I didn't really hate the book or feel negatively toward it, so I'm not going to give it 2 stars. There were parts of the book that I liked overall (Aly, Pavel, the dual POV), but for the most part, the novel is nothing special or particularly entertaining. Not a waste of my time, but noth a book I feel strongly about (either way). I think I will read the sequel though, because it should be more interesting and exciting than this book.


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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (#214)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, January 22nd to Saturday, January 28th?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:



Welp, I already got a copy from Penguin (my review is posted!). I don't know why they sent me another. I'll see if I can hunt down a collector!



Unsolicited and new to me! Thank you, HMH. I may actually give this one a chance.



New to me, unsolicited, and probably not my thing. Any MG readers out there? (Thank you, S&S!)


Friends! The spring semester is starting on Monday, so I'll be back to posting random book hauls and being sparse on social media. Best of luck to all fellow students!