Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Book One of the Effigies series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Rating: 2 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.

When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.

But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.

Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.

Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.

Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?

What I Liked:

I didn't totally dislike this book, but I had several issues with it. These reviews are among the most difficult to write. On the one hand, clearly I didn't love the book. On the other hand, I didn't hate it. Am I trying to convince people to read the book? Or deter them? It's a tough call!

In this first book in a new series, Maia is an Effigy, and the whole world is about to find out. Effigies have the ability to fight phantoms, using one of the elements (fire, water, earth, air). Effigy abilities appear in a random person, and there are only four Effigies at a time, so the abilities pop up when one of the Effigies dies. Natalya, the Fire Effigy, is dead, and now Maia will take her place. But there is something sinister happening. For one, everyone thinks Natalya killed herself. But did she? And then there is Saul, who can control phantoms, and will stop at nothing to get to Maia, killing hundreds of innocent people in the process. Maia is taken to the other three Effigies, who must help her learn about being an Effigy quickly. But will it be too late for Maia?

I got a serious Ghostbusters vibe at first - and I'm talking about the new Ghostbusters movie, with Melissa McCarthy. Effigies destroy phantoms, and the phantoms can be any manner of creature, in a phantom apparition. They destroy them with their element - for example, Maia is the fire Effigy, Belle is the water Effigy, Chae Rin is the earth Effigy, and Lake is the air Effigy.

The book was interesting enough to hold my attention for the entire story, though it dragged throughout. It wasn't a long book, but it took me longer than usual, to finish. But I did finish the story, and it's not like the story was totally boring overall. I have to give the author points for creativity of story, even world-building. The setting changes often, from the U.S. to Argentina to England to France. Which was cool!

I also have to mention that this should be considered a "diverse" book! It made me extremely pleased to see a character with Caribbean roots. Because, obviously!

There is a tiny bit of romance, but it's basically not there. Maia has a crush on a boy, and the boy has a crush on Maia, but that's it. I guess we'll see more of a development in this department in future books. 

I'd continue with this series. I wasn't completely disinterested or bored, though my review as a whole might make you otherwise.

What I Did Not Like:

Ahhh, where to start. Let's start with the characters. Every single character was flat, one-dimensional, boring, and had no development throughout the story. Maybe it was just me, not connecting with anyone? But it felt like everyone's personalities and mindsets are the same from start to finish. I didn't think Maia got braver or fiercer or smarter or anything "more", as the story went on. As an Effigy, even a new one, she has a huge responsibility. I was hoping to see her moping self transform into something better... I guess that's not happening, in this book.

But all of the other characters were just as flat. The other three Effigies are critical to this story, and I'd say that Lake is the only one that I saw some little bit of change. But even her, meh. None of the characters had any depth to them, and/or I could connect with any of them.

Also worth mentioning - each of the girls was unique, but they were such stereotypes. Belle, the cold one (the b***h). Chae Rin, the rebellious crazy one. Lake, the dramatic one (pop star). And Maia, the quiet one. Stereotype, stereotype, stereotype, stereotype...

Even the romance was flat. Rhys is a Sect agent, and he protects Maia over and over. I liked Rhys, but he was so one-dimensional and perpetually perfect. You can see that he is holding something back, but every time he wants to tell Maia the thing, he gets interrupted. That was incredibly frustrating! And a bad move, on the author's part. That question goes unanswered, which it really should not have, in this book.

And then there was Maia's dialogue and inner monologue. I don't know if that's just the author's writing style, but Maia's thoughts and speech made me cringe at times. She seemed so juvenile. Yes, she's sixteen, but she seemed like an adolescent, especially given some of her speech.

I'm still confused as to how Effigies are chosen. Randomly by nature? Immediately after one Effigy dies, the abilities jump into another person? And why was Saul "special"? I do not understand that part of the story at all. I'm not understanding the big reveal around Saul, as well. I'm not understanding the source of the phantoms, why they exist, etc. The author really just did not explain anything in this book. I'm not sure if she was waiting to reveal more information in future books?

And then there was the fact that this books dragged a lot, throughout the book. It was boring sometimes, but I think it was the pacing too. Theoretically the idea of this book really appealed to me, and I kept waiting for it to "wow" me, so I kept reading. I was never wow-ed. 

Would I Recommend It:

Ehhh. If you were already interested in this book, then it's probably still worth pursuing. If you had a passing interest or not interest at all, then don't bother. If this series gets better, then it may be worth binge-reading. This wasn't the most impressive fantasy novel.


2.5 stars -> rounded down to 2 stars. Part of the reason why I'm rounding down is because, while there were redeeming qualities, there just weren't enough of them. I could see myself reading more from this series. But probably because I need closure. Hopefully it's three books or less!

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
Book Three of the Blackthorn & Grim series
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...

What I Liked:

This book... this book was everything I'd hoped for, and then some. I don't know how Marillier does it! She stunned me with Dreamer's Pool, ensnared me with Tower of Thorns... and now Den of Wolves has captured my heart. Honestly this series has been so amazing. I don't read a ton of adult fantasy fiction (a lot of adult romance, yes), but I think it's safe to declare this series my favorite adult fantasy fiction series. I am utterly amazed!

In this final novel, Blackthorn and Grim are separated almost immediately. Blackthorn has new responsibilities at Winterfalls, keeping a young girl occupied and taking care of her. Cara, the young girl has been sent to court by her father, to learn social etiquette and comportment. But Blackthorn quickly sees that Cara does not belong in court, and should be back at her forested home in Wolf Glen. Meanwhile, Cara's father employs Grim to rebuild a heartwood house that was once nearly completed, in Wolf Glen. Something is very strange about the two occurrences (Cara being sent to Winterfalls, and Grim being called to Wolf Glen to build the house, with a deranged master builder). Blackthorn and Grim are forced apart, but they will need each other to understand what is happening.

Each of the books in this series is so unique and captivating in its own way. The series is a continuous series (not a companion series), yet it almost seems like you could read each one individually (though I don't recommend it). This story introduces many new characters that weren't present previously in the series, as well as many of the characters in the other two books were not in this book. 

I love how subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) feminist this story is - and Blackthorn is. Blackthorn is blunt and loyal and so strong and capable, but she's also vulnerable and very human. But she is every inch the warrior that Grim sees in her, that she begins to see in herself. Blackthorn becomes selfless on her own, regardless of her agreement with Conmael.

I loved Grim's narrations as well as Blackthorn's. Grim has a distinct manner of thinking, a distinct voice. He's rough on the edges, and a rather large guy, but he is kind and pensive and he sees right through everyone. He's loyal and generous to a fault. He and Blackthorn are such a good pair because they complement each other really well. They have a strong bond, which is friendship, mostly.

There is a third and fourth narration, but those two are in third-person (whereas Blackthorn's and Grim's are in first-person). Cara has quite a story to tell, as does the wild man that is the master builder of the heartwood house (Bardan). Bardan's narratives were often confusing, but it becomes apparent as to why. Cara's narratives are not confusing but those of a frustrated fifteen-year-old.

I love how it seemed like this story was going in two different directions (Blackthorn's, and Grim's), but the two plots converge and intertwine rather neatly. Bardan is not a random master builder, and Wolf Glen is not a random holding with no secrets. It was so clever and mind-blowing and intriguing, what secrets this holding had hidden away, and Cara's father too.

I love the way the author weaves the story together, and her writing as well. Her world-building is so meticulously crafted, and her years of experience in writing novels really shows. This series is quite the masterpiece, in my opinion. There is magic in this story, and fey, and a twisted tale that dictates a lot of the history of certain characters of the story. Which was intriguing! And sad, too.

It's safe to say that there really is no "romance" in the book. Blackthorn and Grim have a deep friendship, but we can all see that it runs deeper than that. But nothing on the romance end happens... until the very end. Which I liked, because the story didn't need romance, but I liked that it was a bit of an afterthought.

You can probably tell how much I enjoyed this book! Dreamer's Pool remains my favorite, but this book definitely comes next. I loved all three books so it's hard to have a favorite. I am sad that the series is over, but I loved how it ended!

What I Did Not Like:

The only thing I think I'd take issue with is that this one took a little more to get into, versus the other two books. I had a bit of trouble with the first hundred pages or so. Maybe it was just me though! (I was a little tired, when starting the book.)

Would I Recommend It:

If you like adult fantasy fiction, then this is definitely a series to try! It was such a lovely and adventurous and spellbinding series. This conclusion really does not disappoint; there was magic, fey, spells, lore, secrets, and nonstop guessing as to what would happen next. This book (and series) was highly enjoyable, and definitely the kind that you want to savor!


4.5 stars. I'm rounding down to 4 stars. This series is so, so good. I think I may need to binge-read some of Marillier's other books! I'm glad my first experience with her books was so positive. She is quite the talented writer, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (#201)

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, October 23rd to Saturday, October 30th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

EDITED! Here is my mail from this week --

AHHHH! Thank you, GCP! I love this so much. You can never have too many!

Both unsolicited - thank you, Tor! I'm really digging the cover of The Gates of Hell. :D

Thank you, Abrams! This is so cool. :)

Swoon Reads package, including an ARC of Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

Thank you, Swoon Reads! Huge congratulations to them on their anniversary, and for expanding their genres!

Bookplates and bookmarks

Thank you, HarperTeen and Wendy! I won the ARC from the Twitter sweeps Wendy hosted last week, and she sent swag with it. I am dying to read this book!

Various swag

Thank you, Pam! This was all from two trades that we did. I love all of it!

OMG! So much awesome in one box! Thank you so so much - I can't wait to dig in!

Thank you, Katharine! In case you were curious, I liked this book a lot. =)

From NetGalley:


Both of these were widget invites! I can't wait to dig into both. Thank you, Berkley and Entangled!

This week was brutal! My sincerest apologies to everyone who left comments that I missed - I'm in the process of going through all of them and returning them now. I appreciate your patience! =)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: While the Duke Was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan

While the Duke Was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan
Book One of the Rogue Files series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes the man of your dreams . . .

Shop girl Poppy Fairchurch knows it’s pointless fantasizing about the Duke of Autenberry. Still, dreams can’t hurt anyone . . . unlike the carriage Poppy spies bearing down upon the unsuspecting duke. After she pulls him to safety, the duke lapses into a coma and Poppy is mistaken for his fiancée. But one person isn’t fooled: his arrogant and much too handsome half-brother, Struan Mackenzie. Soon Poppy isn’t sure what she wants more . . . the fantasy of her duke or the reality of one smoldering Scot who challenges her at every turn.

. . . is not who you think.

An illegitimate second son, Struan may have built an empire and established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Britain, but he knows he will always be an outsider among the ton. Just like he knows the infuriating Poppy is a liar. There’s no way the haughty Duke of Autenberry would deign to wed a working class girl. It doesn’t matter how charming she is. Or tempting. Or how much Struan wants her for himself.

What I Liked:

I actually wasn't sure that I would enjoy this book, since the premise was all about a girl who is infatuated with one man from afar, but really falls in love with another.  BUT, this book surprised me! The romance was so fun and steamy and shippy. Jordan's historical romance novels have been good and not-so-good, for me, but this one was great.

Poppy Fairchurch is a shopgirl, working in a florist's shop. One of the shop's best customers is the Duke of Autenberry, who comes every week to buy flowers for a different woman (doubtless his various paramours). The first time Poppy sees him, she is totally infatuated. She builds a fantasy in her head that they fall in love, and get married... despite the fact that neither has said more than five words to each other. One day, she sees the Duke punch another man, and a fight ensues. She runs to stop the fight, and the Duke gets hurt to the point of a coma. When she accompanies him and the stranger (who turns out to be the Duke's half-brother), Poppy is beside herself. She mutters something along the lines of "we're to be married someday, remember?"... and the housekeeper hears her muttering, and mistakes Poppy as the Duke's fiancee (the Duke has no fiancee though). Soon everyone is convinced that Poppy is Autenberry's fiance (the dowager duchess, the Duke's siblings, even Struan Mackenzie, the Duke's half-brother from the fight). But Poppy finds herself drawn to the half-brother, and not the Duke. As the Duke lies in a coma, Poppy plays along with her lie, and she and Struan get closer. But what will happen when the Duke awakes?

Like I said, this book's premise didn't really appeal to me, so I wasn't sure I'd like this book. Even if Poppy is simply pretending to be the fiancee... she is infatuated with Autenberry. But as the story progresses, we can clearly see that she adores the idea of Autenberry - the idea she has in her head. Who he really is, that's a completely different story.

So, Poppy is a romantic and a dreamer. She follows her heart and not always her head, though she is clever. She feels awful about the lie, and would have come clean within the day, but Autenberry's friend Lord Tucker asked her to continue the lie, since Autenberry's family was so happy about him finally settling down (Autenberry is a rake of epic proportions). Poppy is kind and selfless, giving up a lot of her life to take care of and raise her beautiful and vivacious fifteen-year-old sister.

Struan Mackenzie is the bastard son of the late Duke of Autenberry, just a year younger than the current Duke. He's from Scotland (hence the name), and he has never had anything to do with his father's family. His father threw Struan's mother out, and the current Duke never wanted to be reminded of his father's indiscretions. So Struan has no relationship with his half-brother, or half-sisters, or the dowager duchess. And after Struan's mother died young... Struan has no one. And he wants nothing from Autenberry. Struan is extremely wealthy and successful. He came to England looking for a bride, and he definitely found what he was looking for.

I adored Struan! He had an incredibly difficult childhood, but he made himself into something much more. He's big and rough and a little possessive, and he likes getting what he wants. Jordan writes this type of alpha really well. 

You'll recall Struan being in Jordan's Debutante Files series - he courted Aurelia in All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue! I like this crossover between the series. 

The Duke of Autenberry was in a coma for the entire book, and anyway, there was no real romance between Poppy and him. The romance is entirely between Struan and Poppy, and it's steamy and sweet. At first everything is purely physical, but you can see that the two are drawn to each other. They have verrrry hot chemistry, and the tension boils throughout the book. But I liked seeing them fall for each other too. It wasn't easy, because Struan believed her to be his brother's fiancee, and Poppy knew that she wasn't but had to keep up the pretense. So in a way, it was wrong of them to fool around, but the engagement was never real. Still, questionable morals much, Struan?

One thing that I especially loved was the ending, for several reasons. Yes, we get a nice happily-ever-after. But I love that Struan leaves after Poppy pushes him away (and the Duke too - after he wakes up), and POPPY is the one to chase Struan down. Often in adult romance novels, you'll see that the woman pushes the man away, the man leaves, and then the man comes back begging and pleading. To me, I'd like to see the woman fight for what she wants more often... especially if she's the one messing up (in this case, Poppy kept saying no and pushing Struan away). So, good for Poppy! I'm glad she created her own ending.

Overall, I enjoyed this book! I look forward to reading more from this series. I'm sure Jordan will write a book for Autenberry, redeeming him in some way. And we'll see Tucker's story too (I hope). I would love to read about Bryony (Poppy's younger sister) too!

What I Did Not Like:

One could say that the entire idea behind this book is silly... Poppy's ridiculous dream about marrying the Duke, and getting overheard muttering that. BUT. I liked how absurd it was, though at first the idea really bothered me.

Another thing - so Jordan specifically writes that Struan has rough, slightly more adventurous tastes than English noblemen... I was totally hoping to see this wild side, when Struan would get it on with Poppy. Sadly nothing they did together was "wild" or "rough". Still steamy, but nothing different. 

I felt a little weird about typing this dislike. Hopefully that made sense though!

Would I Recommend It:

This was probably one of the more fun and steamy historical romance novels I've read recently, and I would definitely recommend it. It's not bogged down by angst and drama and hardships, though it's not cute and fluffy either. This book is full of fiery passion!


4 stars. I'm glad I wasn't deterred - I almost didn't read this one. I hope the next book, The Scandal of It All, will be just as good!

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Swoon Thursday (#196): Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

- 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 Flashfall by Jenny Moyer!

I turn toward Dram, and he reaches for me. He kisses me, and my breath catches, like I've got a faulty Oxinator. He smiles, and I feel it against my mouth. I don't need breath - not for this. I throw my arms around his neck, and he makes a sound, a hum and a sigh mixed together. I lose myself to his touch, his taste. I'm floating, outside myself, like Serum 129, only I'm aware of every sensation, anchored to this moment by Dram's touch.

He pulls back, and I catch my breath. "I've been waiting a long time for this," he whispers.

- ARC, pages 184-185

I adored this book! And good news - there will be a sequel (which I didn't know upon reviewing the book)! I'm excited. :D

Excerpt Reveal: My Rogue, My Ruin by Amalie Howard & Angie Morgan

Friends! Entangled Select has a new historical romance novel publishing in November. Amalie Howard and Angie Morgan (a.k.a. Page Morgan) are two awesome YA authors turned adult romance authors, and this is their debut co-written HR novel. Check out the excerpt below!

About the Book:

My Rogue, My Ruin by Amalie Howard & Angie Morgan
Book One of the Lords of Essex series
Publisher: Entangled Select
Publication Date: November 21, 2016

Official Summary:

The Marquess of Hawksfield’s lineage is impeccable and his title coveted, but Archer Croft is as far from his indulgent peers as he can get. His loathing for the beau monde has driven him to don a secret identity and risk everything in order to steal their riches and distribute them to the less fortunate. 

Lady Briannon Findlay embraces her encounter with the Masked Marauder, a gentleman thief waylaying carriages from London to Essex. The marauder has stirred Brynn’s craving for adventure, and she discovers an attraction deeper than the charming thief’s mask. 

Brynn is a revelation, matching Archer in intelligence, wit, and passion. Stubborn and sensuous in equal measure, she astonishes him at every turn, but when someone sinister impersonates Archer’s secret personality, and a murder is committed, Archer begins to think he doesn’t stand a fighting chance without her.

About the Authors:

AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 25 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts. 

She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national silver IPPY medalist. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, THE LORDS OF ESSEX. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.

Angie is the author of several critically acclaimed young adult and middle grade books written under two other names (Page Morgan and Angie Frazier), and is now thrilled to be taking a much-anticipated leap into the world of adult romance. My Rogue, My Ruin is the first of three books in her new Lords of Essex series, co-written with good friend and fellow author, Amalie Howard. Angie lives in New Hampshire with her husband, their three daughters, and a menagerie of pets.

The Excerpt:

 “Why are you out here at this ungodly hour?” he asked.

“I could ask you the same thing,” she replied. “As well as why you are trespassing on private property.”

Archer smiled at her tone and leaned against a nearby tree, easing the weight of his injured ankle for the moment. There it was—the brief glimpse of the woman he’d met in Dinsmore’s carriage, not the quiet mouse he’d waltzed with. “Ah, but I believe this tree, right here,”—he slapped the trunk with a rakish grin—“marks the dividing line between my estate and yours. So technically, I’m on my property and you are on yours.”

Her eyes narrowed at his teasing before plucking up the tweed cap from where it lay on the ground and tugging it back into place upon her head. She then picked up the spent pistol and tucked it into the narrow, single holster gun belt looped around her waist. “No matter. It’s hardly any of your concern why I am out on my own land. Go on your way, and I’ll be on mine.”

His jaw dropped as she wound her fist into the horse’s bridle, loosely slung around its neck, and pulled herself deftly up onto the horse’s back. She sat astride in a way that made his pulse shorten. “Where is your saddle?” he managed. 

She eyed him imperiously. “I don’t like them, not that it’s any of your business.”

“It isn’t safe,” he ground out, surprised by his sudden irritation. 

“I’ve been riding without a saddle since I was a child,” she shot back. “I’m safer without one than I am with one.”

“As you were before you got thrown into the river?” Archer couldn’t resist taunting. 

Her jaw jutted forward, a mutinous look in her eyes. She pressed her lips together, likely to stop herself from uttering something completely inappropriate. Perhaps one of the colorful words she’d been using while attempting to climb out of the gulch.

“And what if you were attacked by the masked bandit—again?” he continued. “Or haven’t you had enough danger for the time being?” 

“I can protect myself,” she said.

“What with?” he asked before he thought of the clean hole in the boar’s forehead. 

Briannon sighed dramatically. “Why, with my knitting needles, of course.”

Struck again by her lightning-quick wit, the short bark of laughter left his lips before he could contain it. “Pray, where was your pistol the other night when you were robbed?”

“In my knitting reticule, of course, where all ladies’ pistols are kept,” came her tart response. “I assure you, if I had my pistol, the outcome of that robbery would have been quite different.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (#200): Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

"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:

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Book One of the Flame in the Mist series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

New Ahdieh book! I half-wish it were a standalone but honestly I do not care. I love Ahdieh's writing and storytelling! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sweet Talk with the Sweet Sixteens: October 25th

Welcome to Week Forty-Three of Sweet Talk with the Sweet Sixteens! To see more details about Sweet Talk as well as previous posts, see the introduction post. Thanks to Charlene (Bookish Whimsy), for designing the banner and button for Sweet Talk.

There are NO Sweet Sixteens books publishing on October 25th! So today, since there are no Sweet Sixteens publications, I'm going to spotlight some October 25th releases that are not debuts!

Non-Sweet-Sixteens Books Publishing Last Week:


(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads!)

The Giveaway:

- Resurrecting Sunshine swag
- A Tail of Camelot necklaces
- Motley Education swag
- Finished copy of Fear the Drowning Deep
- Finished copy of The Haunted House Project
- ARC of The Weight of Zero
- Finished copy of From the Grave
- Finished copy of Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Earl by Katharine Ashe

The Earl by Katharine Ashe
Book Two of the Devil's Duke series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Rating; 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

How does a lady of wit and courage bring an arrogant lord to his knees? 
Entice him to Scotland, strip him of titles and riches, and make him prove what sort of man he truly is.


Handsome, wealthy, and sublimely confident, Colin Gray, the new Earl of Egremoor, has vowed to unmask the rabble-rousing pamphleteer, Lady Justice, the thorn in England’s paw. And he’ll stop at nothing.


Smart, big-hearted, and passionately dedicated to her work, Lady Justice longs to teach her nemesis a lesson in humility. But her sister is missing, and a perilous journey with her archrival into unknown territory just might turn fierce enemies into lovers.

What I Liked:

This book, for me, was better than The Rogue. I had an easier time reading and digesting this one. When I read The Rogue, I was disappointed, and I didn't love the book. I have not read any of the Falcon Club books. This novel, focusing on Colin Gray and Emily Vale, was heartbreaking and uplifting, infuriating and undeniably romantic.

Colin Gray is the new Earl of Egremoor, after the recent passing of his father. He was the secretary of the Falcon Club, which has been disbanded. When his nemesis, Lady Justice, calls for his help, he is curious, and does not refuse. Emily Vale's sister is missing in Scotland, and she will do anything to find Amarantha. Even if that means calling on Peregrine, the secretary of the Falcon Club. But Emily realizes who Peregrine really is, and decides that she has no need for his help. But Peregrine - Colin - is determined to help Lady Justice (he doesn't know her true identity). By chance, Colin and Emily meet in an inn in Scotland, looking for the same person (though Colin does not know this). They have been avoiding each other for years, but this journey is inevitable, and completely necessary.

The first thing I want to point out is that the synopsis is not quite accurate. Emily does not lure Colin to Scotland, and he is not stripped of titles and riches. Not exactly, anyway. In Scotland, he and Emily have to flee hastily (there are highwaymen pretending to be them), and they do not have any of their belongings with them. So it's not exactly as the synopsis says - it's not like Emily strips Colin of anything. And Colin isn't actually stripped of anything. If that makes sense.

Anyway! I had a much better time reading this one, compared to The Rogue. Emily has hated (or tried to hate) Colin for about eighteen years, since she was eight and he thirteen. The reason is ridiculous, and the whole grudge she has is ridiculous, but I can sort of see why she would harden her heart against him, at age eight. Sort of. I remember being eight.

I loved Colin, infinitely more than Emily. This surprises exactly no one, because with The Rogue, I loved Saint and haaaaaated Constance. In this case, I like Emily, but I adore Colin. I was almost bawling, while reading the prologue. Colin has been hurt and broken in a number of different non-physical ways, since he was a child, and my heart hurt for this fictional character. In the story, he is somewhat emotionless and empty and hard, but utterly selfless and duty-driven. Also, he has a nibbleable jaw. I got a good visual in my head - and I must say, the cover model does him justice.

But back to the man. Gah! He's a swoony hero for sure. I think he deserved more and better, but I liked seeing him work through the past, suffer a bit (I know!), and then get rewarded for everything (in a sense). He's so honorable and so selfless. I could look past his occasional silly remark about this or that, because he's a very true male protagonist in this time period.

Emily... is equally complex but not as likable (to me). She's an independent eldest daughter, and in this time period, that is a bit odd. She writes political pamphlets under Lady Justice, and no one, save a few servants, know who she is. Emily is a bit snobby when it comes to Colin, and she's been holding a stupid grudge for eighteen years. Sometimes I questioned her judgment and her sanity, other times I was rooting for her and her brazen opinions.

Together, the two are fire and ice. There was just the right amount of push and pull between them. It wasn't just Colin chasing after Emily, or Colin constantly apologizing to Emily, or moping or begging, etc. No, Emily did her fair share of apologizing and realizing that she was being stupid and understanding that she hurt him, that he hurt, that he isn't invincible or perfect.

I got punched in the feels soooo many times during this book. The interactions and dialogue between these two characters were so well-written, and sometimes, my heart hurt for them. They hash out a lot about the past, and their anger at the other, and sometimes I wanted to just force them together and have them work things out. I do like how they worked through things as the story progressed, and not all at the end, or something concentrated like that.

So I did like the romance - it was hot and cold and sweet too. The chemistry between these two was there, and constant, smoldering in the background. Ashe's romance novels are never a smoke show, but I like how intimate they can get.

So, overall, I enjoyed this book. I'm quite happy about this, because I remember feeling incredibly sad and a bit mad at myself for not loving The Rogue. With that book, I felt like I needed to love it (perhaps my expectations were too high). With this book, I expected to dislike it (after reading various earlier reviews), but I ended up liking it.

What I Did Not Like:

While I didn't dislike Emily like I disliked Constance, I still didn't completely love Emily. She hurts Colin a lot, past and present, and some of it is unforgivable to me. Of course, I try and tell myself to put myself in her shoes... but some of it, she does all on her own. Some of her decisions are incredibly stupid, for someone so smart.

This book features a huge pet peeve of mine! You know when a heroine messes up and should be the one to apologize first and/or make a big grand gesture or something? Well, in this book, both of them mess up, and both of them send indirect grand gestures... but it's Colin to beg. I thought it should have been Emily. The man left the choice up to her, and then walked away. To me, that means that SHE should be making the choice... i.e., going to him. Not the other way around. Do you see why this is a pet peeve of mine? There is no logic to this! I'm glad Colin was the "bigger man" in this situation. But Lady Justice is this high-minded feminist - shouldn't she be the one to going after what she wants, like she does with the Domestic Felicity Act?

Last complaint - the ending is ambiguous, as to Colin and Emily's relationship. They're together... but to what degree. Honestly, I cannot believe that Emily would go through all of the growth and realizations about marriage and how much she loves Colin... and then not marry him? It's like the author wants to punish Colin (he has wanted to marry her for forever). Of course, the ending is ambiguous... so I suppose we'll see, in book three.

Would I Recommend It:

I'm split on this. On the one hand, I love how smart and feminist Ashe's historical romances are. The heroines are strong and bold, and the heroes are dashing and charming. On the other hand, this particular series by Ashe is definitely not for everyone. I like logic and rationale and fact - and sometimes, the ladies in this series forget about all of those things (which is sad because Constance and Emily are both very smart ladies). Heck, I'm going to need book three to tip the scales, for me. So, yes and no, I do and don't recommend this book. It's not your typical wonderful and sweet historical romance novel - yes, it has those aspects, but they take a far backseat compared to the significant feminist presence (for better or for worse).


3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. Not a new Ashe favorite of mine, but still good, and worthy of 4 stars. I'm a tough critic but I also like to be fair and honest. I'm still a little shaky and wary when it comes to this series, but I am looking forward to read The Duke

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