Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes

Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes
Book One of the Secrets at Thorncliff Manor series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London's elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart's desire...

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff's conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him? 

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she's hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher's kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

What I Liked:

Contrary to the title, this book is not all that you think it might be. I thought there would be a lot of lust and passion and fire and sex and shenanigans in this book, and there was a dose of each... but it wasn't wild and overwhelming, like I half-expected. This is good! I found this to be a great thing! So if you were like me, and was wary of this book because of the title ("Sinful Desires", oooo), don't be turned off! And if you were hoping for example what the title promised - trust me, the author still delivered!

Lady Sarah made a terrible mistake several years ago, and her father and stepmother have not let her forget it. They bring her and her stepsisters to Thorncliff Manor, where Mr. Denison will court Sarah, thus avoiding scandal and an unwed daughter. The problem is, Sarah doesn't want to marry Mr. Denison - for one, he's older than her father. But Sarah knows what she did years ago was wrong, and that she must do as her parents ask, in order to secure a stable match and have a decent future. Christopher, Lord Spencer, is heir to the viscountcy, and has no intentions of marrying anytime soon. But he meets Sarah and is intrigued by her bold, sarcastic, feisty nature. But she's promised to another - will Christopher and Sarah act on their feelings?

I really liked this book. It reminded me of It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long, and I wasn't bothered by the similarities. The protagonist went through something that she thought would work out, but didn't, leaving her with a mess, an almost-ruined reputation, and a bleak future. The protagonist does not want to grow attached to anyone, because she knows it's her duty to set things right. For Sarah, that is doing as her father and stepmother say, and marry the awful and disgusting Mr. Denison.

I like Sarah. I think it's noble of her to follow through with the courtship, despite the fact that she didn't want to do so. Of course, this is historical fiction, and it's not like she had many choices. But Sarah has every intention of doing what her parents says, because she knows the blame rests on her shoulders. Still, Sarah is very outspoken, and often says too much. But I like this about her.

Christopher does too - when they first meet, Sarah insults him intentionally and unintentionally, which is quite the feat. He's an heir, a viscount, a rich lord. He doesn't want to marry, because of his broken heart from years ago. Sarah captures his interest and cracks the stone wall around his heart. But he knows something is wrong with her situation with Mr. Denison, so he thinks to keep his distance from her... but he finds he cannot do that.

I love Christopher and Sarah together. Believe it or not, they don't even kiss until about three quarters of the way into the book. That is a looooong time, for a romance novel, especially historical romance. But this is actually a really great thing, because the slow burn romance is impeccably written. Christopher and Sarah are friends first, because they know they must be proper around each other, especially since Sarah is already in a courtship with Mr. Denison when she meets Lord Spencer (Christopher). But sparks are constantly flying between them, and it's so fun to watch them fall for each other and keep denying it - all without the physical aspect of a romance novel. But once they kiss, it's pretty much all over. Lots of physical scenes after that!

The story centers around Sarah's struggle with Mr. Denison and his courtship, her controlling, cold parents, her desire to disobey her parents, and her desire for Christopher. Sarah wants to do right by her parents, but she needs to do is forgive herself and move on. Christopher needs to forget about his long-gone lady and move on too. Together, the two of them help each other. In the end, Christopher and Sarah make a lovely couple. 

The setting is quite notable; Thorncliff Manor is huge, beautiful manor, owned by an eccentric old lady who loves to do and say as she pleases. She's like an older version of Sarah. There is plenty of mystery and intrigue surrounding this manor, and plenty of budding relationships. This series has so much potential - there are sooooo many eligible ladies and gentlemen that Barnes could write about next!

What I Did Not Like:

While I liked the lack of physical scenes in the first three quarters of the book, I wouldn't have minded more ;)

Would I Recommend It:

I definitely recommend this one, especially if you're not a fan of explicit romance novels - because this one has only a few physical scenes, which is quite atypical of a historical romance novel. I loved the book, the romance, the chemistry, the story, the characters... this is probably going to be a year-end favorite. Much love!


4 stars. This new series by Sophie Barnes is very promising! I can't wait to see which characters she chooses to write about next. Richard, perhaps? That's Christopher's younger brother. Or maybe one of Christopher's sisters, with Chadwick. Gah! The possibilities!

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):





Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

What I Liked:

This book has a lot of hype surrounding it, and usually, hype turns me off. A lot of reviewers have read this book and LOVED it. There has been plenty of interest in this book for months. I featured it months ago, in December, as a "Waiting on Wednesday" pick, and it was pretty popular then. I was honestly terrified that I would be utterly disappointed by this book, because of the hype. Fantasy is my favorite genre, but the hype is a big turn-off for me. Thank goodness that wasn't the case with this book. 

Laia's brother Darin was taken by Masks of the Empire, and thrown into jail for allegedly working with the Resistance (which he wasn't). Laia finds the Resistance, convinces them to find a way to help Darin, but that means she'll have to work as a slave for the Commandant of the Blackcliff military academy. Elias is a student there, the finest of the rest. And he wants to desert, just after graduation. But the Trials are this year, and he, his best friend (and only female in the academy), and two of his archenemies are chosen to participate. Whoever wins becomes the new Emperor. Laia has to pretend to be an obedient slave girl while risking her life to get information to the Resistance. Elias has to pretend to want to win the Trials, while trying to stay alive at all. Both will need each other more than they realize, if only to stay alive, but also to change the ways of the Empire.

The world-building and setting of this book are the first things I want to comment on - woah. You have to read this book to really experience it, but the world-building is so intense. I honestly can't think of a better way to describe. Well-written, rich, powerful, intense. The entire book is intense, and you feel like you have to hold your breath the entire time, but in the best of ways. Tahir masterfully created the world of this book. I've never read anything quite like it - there were some qualities similar to Pierce Brown's debut series, with the brutality. This book has plenty of adult crossover appeal. I've seen the Rome-like comparison made when referring to the world - that is a very accurate comparison! Even the names are Roman-ish.

The story is so intense. I'm going to keep using that world. I've never read anything that FELT quite like this book did. Rather, I've never felt as tightly wound as I did while reading this book. It was almost difficult to read, because I kept holding my breath, waiting for the Commandant to chop off some of Laia's fingers, or disfigure her face, or for Elias to get caught in his original plans to desert, or him getting caught by just being himself - not cruel and heartless enough.

I really liked Elias. He hates the academy, and what he has become. He hates watching one Yearlings die for stupid reasons, for trying to desert. He wants to be free, to live his life, and not to be a pawn and a weapon to anyone. Elias is very smart, very strong, very talented. He pretends well, but many can sense that he does not want his place at Blackcliff. Nevertheless, he is a fierce warrior. We get to see Elias's first person point-of-view every other chapter, between Laia's.

I liked Laia a lot. She isn't a warrior, a hardened soldier, a seasoned spy. She's a girl whose brother was taken from her - her only family. She's desperate and selfless enough to subject herself to the mercy of the Commandant, and she pays for it over and over. Laia is smart, and learns quickly. She is full of life and feeling, and isn't broken at Blackcliff. We get to see her first person point-of-view, alternating with Elias's.

Both character undergo immense character development. Both characters have to come to terms with terrible actions, with the past, present, and future. Elias faces awful tasks for the Trials, sometimes being for to kill his comrades. Laia lives in fear of being tortured by the Commandant, and of her brother being executed. She dare not make friends at Blackcliff, lest the Commandant use them against her. Laia makes incredibly difficult decisions throughout the story, and becomes more sure of those decisions by the end of the book. The same goes for Elias.

The romance is weird. There is romance, but I can see the makings of a love triangle. Yup, don't be fooled by the alternating points-of-view. That doesn't automatically mean there's your pair. I don't like the idea of a love triangle in this amazing book, but the thing is, the book was SO GOOD, and the romance was so secondary... it's hard to hone in on only the potential love triangle. Also, notice how I'm saying "potential". I don't know. But it still bothered me (see below). In any case, I'll be shipping Elias and Laia from now until kingdom come. They didn't fall in love and have a deep relationship and blah blah blah cliches, but they definitely have an attraction, and care for each other, and I'd like to see this relationship grow. 

The story is awesome and terrible and powerful all at once. I say "terrible" as in how-dare-you-play-with-my-emotions-Sabaa-ahhhhhhh-omg. This is one of those books that constantly has the potential to break your first, from the beginning. One of the protagonists dies? One of the protagonists is imprisoned? One of the protagonists is in trouble? Sure, these are all possibilities. Which makes this book so intense. Again, intense. And amazing!

The ending is... fair, ish. There isn't a cliffhanger, and I suppose you could end this book in such a manner, and have no sequels... but this book would be even better if readers knew that at least one sequel would follow. We don't know this. So, the ending is good, but I would like it more if I knew there was more to come. If this book ends like that and there is nothing to follow, well, then this ending isn't the best (in my opinion). How can so much about the Empire be left to readers' imaginations? No no no. The author resolved nothing, in terms of the Empire and the Resistance. And the romance - I'd prefer it more solid. There has to be at least one more book.

What I Did Not Like:

Like I said above, there are the makings of a potential love triangle. Which pisses me off. Why ruin a perfectly amazing fantasy novel - totally creative and original - with a love triangle? Of course, not everyone sees a love triangle as "ruining" a book, but that's my personal opinion. I don't particularly like this love triangle either. Notice how I don't mention a third character. I don't care for him. It's not that I don't like him... well, I don't like him as a love interest. So. Cliche.

Also, in general, the whole training and academy and bloodthirsty leader of the academy thing is getting a bit worn out. A lot of fantasy novels are featuring some sort of game or contest in which contestants are seriously tested, and have to do terrible, impossible tasks that are meant to break them. And then at the end of the book, the game is in an uproar because of the resistance. I'm not even spoiling anything. This is a common plot skeleton I've been noticing over the past year, in YA fantasy novels. Grrr. It's a great plot arc, but it's getting to be a bit overused, in my opinion.

So while I found the world-building and setting utterly original and intense, there still were plenty of cliches in this book. Let's not forget that pesky old love triangle.

Would I Recommend It:

YES. I don't care what faults I found in this book. It's so so so good and I totally recommend it to fantasy and non-fantasy fans alike. You'll want to read it in one sitting, like I did (there's no way you'll be able to rip yourself away, anyway). It will hit you hard and make you want more!


4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars, because of the potential love triangle, cliches, and the open-ish ending. I wish we could know now if there will be another book! It matters to my rating! Also, there needs to be a second book in general, rating or not. I need my questions answered!

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott
Book One of the Four Arts series
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

What I Liked:

HOLY WOW THIS BOOK WAS SO GREAT! I had a strong inkling that I would LOVE it, but I didn't expect to love it this much. I'm itching to reread it already, and I literally just put it down. I don't even know how I'm going to put together a coherent review that will do this book justice. I read this one cover to cover, straight through, no breaks. I could not rip myself away from this book. I reached the end and... kept looking for more! I find that, out of the several hundreds of books I read a year, I don't give many five stars. This one deserved the hard-earned five stars - and then some! 

This isn't my first adult fantasy novel read, but it certainly won't be my last. When I first received this novel a month ago, there were just about no reviews or ratings for this book, so it was really nice to read this with no expectations from outside sources - just my own! I've seen a few others reviews in the past couple of days, and all have been positive (which is awesome)!

A note - this book is an adult fiction novel. Like, super adult. It's not a romance novel, so don't go thinking it's erotica. But there are a few very explicit scenes in this book. I don't want any of my blog young readers to think this is an adult fantasy fiction novel, like The Queen of the Tearling. There is explicit sex in this book. There are details. You are warned. Young and mature readers alike. 

Lady Sophia Kendall is thirty-second in line to the throne of Anglion, which is perfectly fine by her. She is just days away from turning twenty one, in which any magical abilities that she has will begin to manifest. If she has any. If she does, then she will be bound to the goddess, and will marry an important lord. If she doesn't have any magic, then she will be married to a lesser lord. Either way, she has little choice in her future. But when the palace is attacked while she and a lieutenant are away retrieving goods for the princess (Sophia's relative and friend), Sophia misses her birthday ritual. She turns twenty-one and is unbound. Through unforeseen circumstances, she and the lieutenant, Cameron, are linked, but Sophia is in much danger, as an unbound royal witch. With the princess taking over her newly deceased father's position on the throne, Sophia will have to watch her back for dangers and threats from anywhere and everyone at the tension-filled court.

Fantasy is my favorite genre - specifically medieval/epic fantasy. Specifically, medieval epic fantasy (if there is a such thing). This book involves kings/queens/lords (which is why I'm calling it "medieval"), but there is magic and witches and mages and a goddess and rituals, so it's also epic fantasy. Basically, this novel is the stuff of my dreams. Which is why I had a good feeling that I would love it. And I did!

From the start, I liked Sophia. It's obvious that she isn't the biggest fan of court life. Her family is not royal or rich, and she does not have nearly as much privilege as the princess does. Sophia is thirty-second in line to the throne, and she isn't a royal witch yet, so she isn't of terrible importance. Sophia is always questioning things; she wants to know why royal witches only command earth magic - why not water magic (which Anglion people are forbidden to speak of, by the enemy, Illyvia, practice), or blood magic. Sophia is obedient and serves Eloisa (the princess and later, queen-to-be and then queen). Yet, she has a slightly rebellious streak to her. 

Sophia and Cameron are not friends, in the beginning of the novel. Cameron is one of Eloisa's personal bodyguards. He is twenty-seven, a third son with a courtesy title, and has a fierce loyalty and allegiance to the Red Guard, and to the princess/queen. Cameron is escorting Sophia to a shop to pick up things for Eloisa when the palace is attacked, and Cameron takes Sophia far away from the palace (he's protecting the closest member of the royal family). But then Sophia turns twenty-one, and comes into immense power. Cameron and Sophia are unintentionally linked, and these circumstances lead to other circumstances. Soon, they have stick together, in order to figure things out. There are people after Sophia, now that she is a royal witch, and a quite powerful one, at that.

I love the story. It's very interesting, very engaging, and not at all boring. A lot of times, I find adult fiction novels (that AREN'T romance novels) incredibly dull and boring. Good luck to you adults who ENJOY reading those books, that are very monotonous and dry. This book was not like that at all. I read this book extremely easily and enjoyed it as I was reading. It isn't particularly long, either, and it wasn't confusing or detailed-laden (not overwhelming with the names, places, world-building, etc.). Speaking of world-building...

I love the fantasy world that Scott has created. Her world-building is very well-crafted. Fantasy is difficult, because you have to build a world, setting, environment, etc. from the ground up. I love fantasy, and one reason why is because of this seemingly unreal, created world that authors construct. Scott does an excellent job of building this world, setting the scene, and keeping readers in the story, without overwhelming or confusing readers with details or world-building.

Plus, the magic and witches aspects of this book were really cool. I'm not always a fan of books that feature witches, but I liked that aspect of this book a lot. I also think it's pretty great that while the female witches have limited power (at least, in Anglion), the men also have limited power (as is evident by the warrior's limited powers). Magic is extremely important in this book. Sophia is even more powerful than Eloisa (which is dangerous), especially since she is unbound to the goddess. Scary powerful!

I LOVED the romance in this book. This isn't a romance novel, but there is romance in the story. The romance isn't the most important part of the story, although Cameron and Sophia's relationship is very important (you have to read this one to know why). I love what Scott did with their relationship, and the romance. I was so convinced that the romance would take a certain turn at the end of this novel, but it didn't! I love what Scott did! There was nothing terribly upsetting about the romance. Cameron and Sophia slowly begin to trust and care for each other, though their relationship started off with a bang and a flare.

Keep in mind that this IS an adult novel, and the characters are NOT teenagers. They are pawns in the court, at the mercy of whoever has the throne (it was the king, but by the end of the novel, it is Eloisa, his daughter). Courts tend to have lots of scandals, arranged marriages, consorts, etc. I was scared that the romance in this book would be terribly screwed up, because this IS a political fantasy world. But the romance doesn't have a ton of drama - at least, not enough for me to want to stop reading. I LOVED the romance. But as I said, it's an ADULT novel, we're talking about a political fantasy world, and this book is not dealing with children or teenagers.

The climax and ending of the story had me reading as fast as I could, and looking for more, when the ending came. I had a feeling that a particular part of the ending (not related to the romance) would take Cameron and Sophia to where they are, and I was right. I'm VERY excited to read the next book, and see what will happen. Squee!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't quite think of anything that I didn't like at the moment. I feel like everything in this novel just kind of fit together. Things happened for a reason. Even if there were things that I initially did not like, I could understand why those things happened or what the purpose of them was. If you know what I mean.

Would I Recommend It:

YES! To adult fantasy readers especially. If you're not comfortable with explicit adult-y scenes and themes, then perhaps this is not a novel for you. The fantasy and politics are strong in this one as well, but don't be discouraged, because neither will bog you down or overwhelm you. In my opinion. Maybe I'm too used to fantasy to notice anymore. But remember, this is an ADULT book. For ADULT reasons. 


5 stars. So well-deserved. I am so glad I had the chance to read this novel - I'm grateful to the publisher! I hope the next book will be just as amazing as this one - or more so!

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Stacking the Shelves (#118)

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, March 22nd to Saturday, March 28th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

Thank you, Penguin! I already have this one (see Monday's upcoming review), so I'll be giving this one away!

Thank you, Bloomsbury!

*cries* This is the third book in a series I've not read! But it's so pretty! I love random surprises (thank you, Penguin!) but I wish I'd read the others :(

Thank you so much, HMH! I liked Bowman's debut trilogy, so yay for new book :)


THANK YOU, PENGUIN RANDOM!! I'm still in shock O_O

Thank you so much, Heather! Fabulous (and super nice) lady!

Thank you, Jessica! I completely forgot to post this one Twitter, because when I was doing this mass opening, this package got buried and I never actually opened it until I was cleaning up and realized there was one more O_O Anyway. I can't wait to read it!

From NetGalley:

New series by this author! I really liked Gentlemen Prefer Mischief, so I'm excited for more by this author! :D

From Amazon:

Free! I love Tessa Dare's books.

This one was $0.99! I love Tessa Bailey's Brazen books.

This one was also free! I enjoy office romances, for some reason hehe.

LOL. Lots of romance novels. I'm totally okay with that, as long as I stop buying so many ;) 

In other news... on Friday, after two weeks of near-starvation and malnutrition (you may have seen me say this on Twitter) - I had my first solid-food meal! And it was lovely! My jaw hurt a bit after that, because chewing still isn't back to normal, but I am soooooo happy to be back to eating. Swallowing everything (or just not eating) was not fun.

Anyway! How was your week? :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: World After by Susan Ee

World After by Susan Ee
Book Two of the Penryn & the End of Days series
Publisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: November 19, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what's left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

What I Liked:

Okay, errr... this one was good, but not great - at least, for me. I honestly felt disappointed, after reading this one. Maybe my expectations were entirely too high, after reading Angelfall. I really liked Angelfall, but I felt like this one wasn't as powerful as its predecessor, holistically. In some ways, World After was even more shocking than Angelfall. But in other ways, it was more lacking in certain elements than Angelfall.

This is my March Pili-Pushed recommendation. I reviewed Angelfall in March as well, but it was supposed to be my February Pili-Pushed recommendation. Hehe.

The first line of this book is literally "Everyone thinks I'm dead." Raffe, Penryn's mother, Penryn's sister, the Resistance... everyone thinks Penryn is dead, as she is taken by the Resistance with her mother and sister, away from the destroyed aerie. Penryn is alive, and she works with the Resistance to learn more about the angels and their plans for humans. Startling discoveries are made, and Penryn, her mother, and another woman are captured by the angels and taken into a lab. While Penryn attempts to find a way out of the lab, she wonders where Raffe is. She's on her own, Raffe's on his own, but the world needs saving...

I think, overall, I liked this book. It starts off very slowly, and I was a bit confused at the beginning. The book begins right where Angelfall left off, in which Penryn and her family are in a truck with the Resistance. I was confused as to why everyone was shocked when she just say up, but I guess it makes sense, everyone thought she was dead. It just seemed weird, because for some reason, I thought her family knew she was just paralyzed. Anyway, never mind.

There is a lot of creepy, scary stuff in this book. Mutilation is the tip of the iceberg. Uriel, Layla, and Beliel are up to some crazy stuff, cooking up horrible creatures and destroying humans. It's awful to see humans reduced to such primitive and animalistic beings, with base natures and drives of hunger and safety. This is so well-written by the author, even if it is terrifying.

Penryn is a lovely character to follow. She is just as courageous and fearless as she was in Angelfall. Raffe is not basically not present in the entire book, but it's obvious from both Angelfall and World After that Penryn can either hold her own, and do the smart thing and hide. Because Raffe isn't around in this book, there's a lot less humor and banter like there was in Angelfall. I missed it but while I was reading, I was constantly looking out for Raffe's return.

Raffe does make an appearance in this book... however short it was, it was nice to see him exist in this sequel. I thought the author would have the entire book go by, and then reintroduce him in book three. Raffe is part of about 10% of this novel, which isn't a lot, but he's solidly in that 10%.

Nothing moves forward or backward, in terms of the romance. I'll say no more. 

Surprisingly, the end of this book really isn't a cliffhanger. Authors LOVE to end sequel novels (the second book of a trilogy, especially) with a good old NASTY cliffhanger (one of the protagonists was imprisoned, one of the protagonists is mortally wounded, etc.). This book ends fairly. Thank goodness. So I suppose the wait for End of Days wouldn't have been agonizing as it could have been!

What I Did Not Like:

Problems. There were quite a few. I found this book to be extremely predictable. I'm not satisfied with the lack of explanations of things - I let it slide in Angelfall, thinking that things would be more fully explained in this book. Not so. Furthermore, there is little dialogue in this book, because Penryn hardly interacts with people. Little dialogue made this book slightly slower and sluggish, more so than I would have liked.

I could see "plot twists" from a mile away. I like to think I'm a pretty astute reader, but there's an astute reader, and then there's straight-up obvious plot. You can totally tell when one thing is going to happen. For example, OF COURSE Penryn and her mother get caught by the angels when they go exploring. They had spotted other humans running, and what do they do? Hide in the shadows, see what's happening, and then you know it's going to happen... they get caught with the other humans, by the angels! There are so many instances of this, where the author introduces something (like, the angels have a lab and are doing mysterious things), and then the author "fixes" the lack of knowledge of the something by plopping Penryn directly into the thick of things. Or when Raffe first enters this story. OF COURSE he's there in the new aerie. Predictable. 

I don't like how things aren't explained. Why did Penryn not die? Why does her mother see things, hear things, talk to the devil, whatever? Why is Paige special? Why is Penryn special? Why is Penryn, a human, able to take on angels? I don't understand how and why any of this is possible, and the author offers no explanations. I didn't think too much of it in book one, because there's plenty of time to explain yourself, but by book two, key plot arcs should be explained. In my opinion. And then in book three, things will be wrapped up and put together and the final showdown can occur, with the protagonist finally knowing and understanding everything about the supernatural world. This isn't what's happening, in this series.

It seems like without Raffe, there is no dialogue in this book. There's dialogue, don't get me wrong; but it's significantly less dialogue, which is tiresome and a bit boring. This book started slowly and didn't really pick up until about halfway through. Then the pages started flying, and bam, I was finished. But the first half was slow. This is definitely attributed by the lack of dialogue.

Let's not forget the fact that, ahem, Raffe is NOT IN THIS BOOK. He's barely in the book is what I mean. But he might as well have not been in the book. He makes a bit of progress with getting his wings back. We understand why his sword doesn't want him at the moment. In the short time that he IS in this book, parts to his story are addressed. 

The romance, however, is not addressed. It's clear that each of them have feelings towards the other. It's also clear that neither of them are going to act on those feelings. There is no physical interactions in this book, between Raffe and Penryn, and honestly, there are no sentimental and emotional interactions either, in my opinion. Boooo.

Would I Recommend It:

I still liked this book, despite feeling disappointed. I wasn't as impressed as basically the entire book world, but I'd still recommend this book. It wasn't as good as Angelfall, but the series in general is really good, definitely enjoyable. I hope End of Days does a better job of cleaning up things, especially since it's the conclusion to this series!


3 stars. Probably on the low end of 3 stars. Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad I read this book. But I think either I wanted too much from this book, or this book really just didn't deliver. It's probably a combination of the two. Either way, I'm looking forward to reading End of Days.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blog Tour Excerpt and Giveaway: It Started With A Scandal by Julie Anne Long

Welcome to the blog tour for It Started With A Scandal! As many of you have seen, I really loved this book! My review is HERE. Read the second part of chapter one (see below for blogs sharing part one), and enter to win a gift card!

It Started With A Scandal by Julie Anne Long
Book Ten of the Pennyroyal Green series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: March 31, 2015

Official Summary:

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword and a stone-cold conviction: he’ll restore his family’s fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. Shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.

The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe’s barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author JULIE ANNE LONG originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up (and she has the guitars and fringed clothing stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it), but writing was always her first love. Since hanging up her guitar for the computer keyboard, her books frequently top reader and critic polls and have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Rita, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and The Quills, and reviewers have been known to use words like “dazzling,” “brilliant,” and “impossible to put down” when describing them. Julie lives in Northern California.

Visit Julie at http://www.julieannelong.com, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJulieAnneLong, or twitter.com/JulieAnneLong

The Excerpt:

It took all of Elise's fortitude to resist craning her head after the fleeing Mrs. Winthrop.

“Please sit down, Mrs. Fountain.”

She went still. His native French still haunted his consonants and turned the vowels into veritable caresses. She could almost see the elegant, endless spill of a fountain when he said her name. 

“Mrs. Fountain. Has Mrs. Winthrop brought to me an applicant who does not speak English?”

The tone was silk over steel, exquisitely polite. And yet she could easily imagine him ordering the beheading of whoever had brought him such a stupid and mute candidate in the very same tone. 

“Forgive me, Lord Lavay. I do know how to sit.”

She tried a little half smile. She knew she possessed a portion of charm, though it was a trifle rusty from disuse, given that she'd locked it away after it had gotten her into trouble. 

“If you would be so kind as to demonstrate your ability to do so.”
He gestured to a chair upholstered in chocolate-colored velvet. She might as well have been a chair herself for all the charm he exerted. She felt positively neutered. Which was perhaps all for the best. 

She sat gingerly, and what she hoped was gracefully, on the very edge of it, the better to bolt if necessary, and folded her hands.   
Oh God...the chair was so soft.  It cradled her bum almost lasciviously. It's tall, spreading fan of a back beckoned like a lover's arms.  And her life had seemed so narrow and spiky for so long, in every direction she turned, the comfort surprised her by nearly doing her in.
She slid a tentative inch backward as Lord Lavay lowered himself into the chair opposite her, slowly. 

He's in Sussex recovering from an attack, she'd been told. 

She began to think it was an attack of apoplexy.
She could see their two faces reflected in the polished wood of the table. His clean-hewn as wood itself. Hers small and white, looking a little too insignificant.

“Splendid. We have established you do indeed know how to sit. A very good thing, as I do not tolerate liars.” He smiled again faintly here, which she supposed was meant to soften that little thrown-down gauntlet of a statement. 
She offered a tight little smile of her own. Demonstrating my ability to smile. 
“What do you believe are your qualifications, Mrs. Fountain?”
What an interesting way to put it. As if he alone would judge whether she possessed any qualifications at all. 
  “I have been trained—” She was shocked to hear her voice emerge as a reedy croak, probably due to the thin atmosphere his lofty presence created.  She cleared her throat. “I have been trained in the managing of a fine residence, including adhering to budgets to deciding upon household purchases to preparing pastries and remedies and simples, to hiring and discharging—”
She blinked. “I'm sor...?”

“The residence,” he articulated slowly. “Where was this, as you say, fine residence?”

She'd been with the man for fewer than five minutes and she wanted to kick him. 


“For whom did you manage this residence?”
She hesitated. Her heart ratcheted in speed. 
“The home belongs to my parents. I was raised and educated there.”

She did not say she was no longer welcome in it. 
If he wanted the whole story, he was going to need to drag it from her one question at a time. 

His gaze was so intense it was as though he held the tips of two lit cheroots to her skin.
Perhaps he already knew, despite what Mrs. Winthrop had said. Sometimes it felt as though the entire world knew. 

But surely she wasn't as important as all that? 

And surely there were enough Redmonds and Everseas about to keep the scandal mill fed?

Her heart was thudding so hard it felt like someone was throwing angry kicks at her breastbone. 

She surrendered and slid those last few inches into the chair's embrace.  Lavay's shoulders were vast beneath that sleek, flawlessly tailored coat. She wondered if any woman had ever taken comfort there. Or perhaps the sole point of his existence was to make women feel awed and insignificant.

“And why do you now seek employment as a housekeeper for a fine residence?” 

She hesitated. At least she now knew a good use for that word she loathed. 

“My circumstances have since changed.”

His brows flicked upward in apparent surprise. 

Since she was now convinced this would be the last time she ever saw him, she was emboldened to stare back, which wasn't easy to do, because he somehow managed to be both exhilarating and terrifying. His eyes were an unusual color, russet and gold, a bit like brandy shot through with sunlight.  She wondered if they brightened when he laughed. 

If he laughed.

Faint mauve shadows curved beneath his eyes; his skin seemed stretched with fatigue. What appeared to be a  new scar, faintly pink and narrow as a knife tip, scored his cheekbone for about two inches. How that must have hurt, she thought. Though didn't really mar his looks. It was more like an underscore: This man is beautiful and dangerous.

She suspected she now understood what “attack” meant now. Something like sympathy surged through her. There was, of course, always the possibility he'd been attacked by the last housekeeper for being insufferable.
In the silence a log tumbled from its perch and the fire gave a vehement pop.

“Circumstances,” he said ironically at last, “have an unfortunate tendency to do that.”   

His mouth dented at the corner. If this was a smile, it hadn't reached his eyes. Irony seemed his native language.

She was stunned. 

She feared she stared at him dumbly in the silence that followed.

Which was so taut that when he gave his fingers a single drum on the table, she almost jumped.  

“The current staff is lazy and recalcitrant and I because I have had sent to me a few possessions I value, such as silver and porcelain, thievery is a concern. But then good servants are always difficult to come by, even for such a one as me. I have high expectations and low hopes of seeing them met. What qualifies you to command loyalty and efficiency from a staff, and makes you think you will be able to meet my expectations?”

The unspoken words being, “where others have departed sobbing.”
And 'Such a one,' was it?  Surely the world could not withstand another such man. 

She drew in a long breath.

“I've taught classrooms full of unruly children possessed of a variety of natures, and I know how to make them listen and learn and like it. I understand the concerns and politics of household staff and am prepared to address and manage them. I have experienced a number of, shall we say, economic conditions, and can adjust to any of them. I am scrupulously organized. All in all, I have a very good brain. And I am afraid of nothing.”

Except you. 

She'd just told a brazen lie to the man who claimed he would not tolerate them.

She suspected he looked at men just this way before he decided whether or not to run them through: It was sort of a mildly interested, fixed expression. She was not a woman to him; she was a problem to address, a code to decipher, a decision to coolly make. At one time her vanity may have been wounded. 

Now nothing else mattered apart from what Lord Lavay did next. 

“You may have the position on a trial basis for a fortnight, Mrs. Fountain.”  He said it almost idly. “You will start immediately.”

She froze. 

And then an almost violent relief sent heat rushing into her face and blurred her vision. For a merciful second an infinitely safer, softer version of him swam before her eyes. 

He drew one of those crumpled-then-smoothed sheets of foolscap toward him and perused it. As if he'd already forgotten her.

She freed her hands from their demure knot and absently swiped her damp palms along her skirt before folding them again.  

She was proud that her voice was clear and steady. 

“Thank you. You shall not regret your decision, Lord Lavay.”  
“I seldom have cause to regret my decisions.” He said it coolly, almost absently, eyes on the correspondence, not on her.  Indulging a serf just this once. “You may leave now, Miss Fountain.” 

As she departed she surreptitiously dragged her hand across the top of the chair  as if it were an exotic pet. A thank-you for the comfort.

To read the rest of Chapter One, check out these blogs:

Pretty Sassy Cool: EXCERPT PART 1
Wild Wordy Women: EXCERPT PART 1

Book Flame: EXCERPT PART 1
Booklovers for Life: EXCERPT PART 1

Supernatural Snark: EXCERPT PART 1
Paulette’s Papers: EXCERPT PART 1

The Lusty Literate: EXCERPT PART 3
Romancing the Readers: EXCERPT PART 3

Snarky Mama: EXCERPT PART 3
Curling up with a Good Book: EXCERPT PART 3 

The Jeep Diva: EXCERPT PART 3

To Read or Not to Read: EXCERPT PART 3

I Heart Romance: EXCERPT PART 3

The Giveaway:

Win a $25 gift card to an ebook retailer of your choice! Due to geographic reasons, this is USA only (my apologies, international lovelies)!