Monday, January 6, 2020

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett {review}


The Lady Rogue
by Jenn Bennett
♦publisher: Simon Pulse 
♦release date: September 3rd, 2019
♦hardcover, 372 pages 
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone (currently)
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review


Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck returns from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.
  


{Review}


This was SO FUN.  The adventure is nearly non-stop, virtually starting from the get-go as we find Theo already in hot water at a Turkish market on the very first page! I haven't read this author before but I do love the writing style in this book, the plot was tightly woven and I absolutely adored the bouncy dialogue that  captured the 30s era setting perfectly.

Being the daughter of a well-known archeologist definitely gave this a very Indiana Jones feel to it as well, which I really enjoyed. And with the historical twist of Vlad the Impaler's legacy at the heart of this story, Theo and Huck's quest takes a dark turn. The story unfolds as the two race to track down Theo's father, Richard whose short journal entries interject the story with little hints that propel the plot. From Turkey to Hungary to her mother's homeland in Romania, each clue drives them closer to the truth...and further into danger as the quest becomes about much more than finding her missing father. Theo and Huck were such fun characters, their banter was spot on and funny, but also showed a hurt in both of them that you know they would have to come to terms with eventually. It was a love story with history---my favorite kind. ♥ I'm not sure you could pack many more characters into one story and have nearly all of them be so intriguing in their own way. And what a conclusion---quite surprising and darkly satisfying. Really, really enjoyed this one!





•ABOUT THE AUTHOR•
 
Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult books, including: ALEX, APPROXIMATELY; STARRY EYES; SERIOUS MOONLIGHT; and THE LADY ROGUE. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.
 

WEBSITE  •  TWITTER  •   INSTAGRAM
Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw {review}

Winterwood
by Shea Ernshaw
publisher: Simon Pulse
release date: November 5th, 2019
hardcover, 336 pages
intended audience: Young adult
stand-alone
source: received ARC for review at author event
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.

{Review}

What can I even say about this? The writing was absolutely gorgeous. Though after Ernshaw's debut, The Wicked Deep quickly and easily became one of my favorites last year I was not the least bit surprised.  In her second standalone YA novel, Shea Ernshaw once again brings all the spookiness and atmospheric writing that I love.  In Winterwood, we are introduced to the legacy of the Walker women of Fir Haven and the dark magic hiding in the surrounding woods. Nora Walker is floundering, feeling uncertain about not having really found a magic in herself to connect her to the long line of women in her family. Her mother has left her alone in more ways than one---always trying to distance herself from their family's legacy. When a winter storm leaves the Fir Haven residence snowed in, Nora finds Oliver Huntsman in the woods and the mystery begins.

This story is such an interesting balance of  being steeped in ancient magical atmosphere and modern social ways.  Nora, being mostly raised by her grandmother, feels so out of a different time, but she can certainly handle herself in tough interactions with the boys from the reform camp across the lake. Her solitude does put her in a vulnerable position when it comes to the possibility of making friends or even falling in love. I adored every moment in the woods---the weird ways of the magic there were just so strange and lovely. The mystery unfold beautifully, and although there was one major twist that readers will likely see coming a mile away, watching it all unravel was so enjoyable.  

If you haven't experienced Ernshaw's unique and haunting storytelling yet, I highly recommend both of these for your winter TBRs. Both are so enchanting.



•ABOUT THE AUTHOR•



Shea Ernshaw is an Oregon native and YA author. She often writes late, late, late into the night, enjoys dark woods, scary stories and moonlight on lakes. She drinks loads of tea and believes sunrises are where unicorns hide. She lives with her two cats, a dog, a husband, and a stack of books beside her bed she still needs to read. Her debut THE WICKED DEEP will be published by Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse in 2018. She currently calls Boston home, where she manages an independent bookstore, drinks too much Diet Coke, and pets every dog she meets. 
WEBSITE  •  TWITTER  •   INSTAGRAM
Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

Friday, November 22, 2019

Review: Light at the Bottom of the Earth by London Shah

The Light at the Bottom of the World 
by London Shah
♦publisher: Disney Press
♦release date: October 29th, 2019
♦hardcover, 320 pages 
♦ intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Light at the Bottom of the World, book 1
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review
♦reviewer: Amy
Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean's surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father's been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he's innocent, and all she's interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she's picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she'll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.

{Review}
Wild and unforgiving like the sea, The Light at the Bottom of the World is one of this year's most exciting reads. A story of fascinating survival, overcoming impossible odds, and proving that the survival nature of humankind will always rise above. London Shah creates a timeless world all of her own, with unsurmountable beauty and realism encapsulating the highest level of intrigue and adventure. Shah's beautiful imagery of a world encapsulated by the sea, where whales can be seen swimming by a living room window and the fear of predators takes on a whole new meaning, is one to behold.

While readers might feel the urge to race through this spectacular read, they will still take time to notice all the subtle Old World touches. With vintage 1950's notable fashion, an Elvis announcer, and just enough Oscar Wilde quotes to give literary dreamers all the right ingredients to fall in love.


A fast, intense read from the very first page this story doesn't leave a moment's pause for readers to surface and catch their breath. London Shah's writing is like the mighty ocean. She gives and takes as she pleases while showing readers that you can't drown perseverance, determination, or the desire to do what's right at any cost. Breaking barriers and stereotypes, Shah delivers a world that is vastly different than ours but still operates under similarly projected fears and prejudices. Written with surreal description and deep emotion, London Shah highlights the need for desire, acceptance, adaptation in any circumstance, and most of all hope.



You can find more of Amy's reviews, giveaways and a body painting of this book cover on her incredible Instagram page!

{About The Author}


London Shah is a British-born Muslim of Pashtun ethnicity. She has lived in Britain's capital city for most of her life via England's beautiful North. When she's not busy re-imagining the past, plotting an alternate present or dreaming up a surreal future, then she's most likely drinking copious amounts of tea, eating all the sweets and cakes, strolling through Richmond Park or along the Thames, getting lost on an evening in the city's older, darker alleyways—preferably just after it's rained—listening to punk rock, or losing herself in a fab SFF book or film. If she could have only one super power, it would be to breathe underwater. THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is her debut novel. 


Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Gravemaidens Blog Tour: Interview with Kelly Coon!

Welcome, Readers!! So excited today to be part of the blog tour for

GRAVEMAIDENS


Have you plunged into this gorgeous fantasy yet?? Well now's the perfect time!! Full of danger, deathly ritual, sisterhood, and romance, this is a world you can easily get lost in.
Today I'm so pleased to have a fun interview with author Kelly Coon for you all!

Interview with Kelly Coon, author of Gravemaidens


•Describe Gravemaidens in 5 words:
 Fierce females, friendship, perseverance, and hope! =)

•Who was your favorite Gravemaidens character to write---and who gave you the most trouble?  
Iltani was absolutely my favorite to write. I wrote whatever popped into my head, whether it was sarcastic, mean, challenging, or witty. In real life, I have to bite my tongue a lot, but Iltani never has to. Haha! Sometimes, it’s fun to let loose, behave badly, and say exactly what you want to say, consequences or not.

It was tough for me to write Nanaea. She’s a little bit difficult to root for at first, because she’s so interested in the glamor and honor of being a Sacred Maiden, but once you get to know her (and pay attention to the clues), you’ll see why she really wants the honor and it might not be what you think. =)

• Where is your favorite writing spot? Coffee shop?  Kitchen table? In the park surrounded by people?  
I write the best in my home office with all my notes and stuff around me. But, I can write anywhere. I’ve written in the car on a road trip—not driving, of course—in planes, at coffee shops, in restaurants, in the car while my sons are at different sports practices, and even on the treadmill, sweating onto my phone. haha

•What kind of books did you read as a teen? 
I read anything I could get my hands on, but I read a TON of murder mysteries. My mom and grandpa, both of whom kind of inspired by love of reading, used to be into James Patterson, John Sanford, Jonathan Kellerman, and John D. McDonald. (That is a heck of a lot of Johns). I read every murder mystery in the library I could, and when I finished, my mom and grandpa and I would discuss.

In middle school, I read Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the occasional romance novel I’d sneak in when my mom wasn’t paying attention. 😉

• Is there anyone special, a teacher or mentor, who inspired you on your path to becoming a writer?   
I had two teachers specifically who believed that I would be published, and I held onto their belief with both of my hands.
In high school, I wrote a piece for a teacher named Dawn Wheeler to try to get on the yearbook staff. She pulled me out of another teacher’s class and was laughing so hard in the hallway I thought she was going to choke. She said, “You wrote a political satire. And it’s good!” She told me I’d made the yearbook staff with flying colors and that she was keeping that sheet of paper in case I ever became published. She made me feel like maybe I could be successful at this little hobby of mine.
In college, a professor named Dr. Jacob Blumner read one of my essays and kept me after class. He looked at me really thoughtfully and said, “You know, you’re gonna be published one day. I can already tell. Probably before you’re thirty.” Then he told me to stick with it because I had a gift. I didn’t get published before thirty—he was off by four years—but his belief in me really pulled me through some tough times. 

Thank you so much, Kelly! 

{About The Author}


YA author Kelly Coon is an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, ACT test prep book author, and a wicked karaoke singer in training. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she's living near Tampa with her three sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich.
Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow
♦publisher: Redhook Books
♦release date: September 10th, 2019
♦hardcover, 384 pages
♦intended audience: Adult
♦stand alone, historical fantasy
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review
In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a Door. You know the kind of door–they lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, to Atlantis, to all the places never found on a map.

Years later, January has forgotten her brief glimpse of Elsewhere. Her life is quiet and lonely but safe on her guardian’s estate, until one day she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds in its pages, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. A book that might lead her back to the half-remembered door of her childhood.

But, as January gets answers to questions she never imagined, shadows creep closer. There are truths about the world that should never be revealed.
 



{REVIEW}

With any cover as breathtakingly lovely the one bestowed upon Ten Thousand Doors of January, I tend to romanticize that the story within will be just as breathtakingly lovely. It builds up in my mind until I realize what I'm doing,  talk myself back down, preparing to be let down, telling myself that few books could get so lucky as to have it all, inside and out. But with Ten Thousand Doors of January, there was no let-down in sight! It was, in fact, a gorgeous book, inside and out!

The first thing you realize straight away from nearly page one is that the writing is absolutely gorgeous, the imagery is stunning, and the prose are (quite literally in some parts) a veritable love letter to language and the written word. It's the imaginative portal fantasy it promises to be, but has so many more complex layers to it, its almost easy to forget that it's a fantasy at all while untangling the threads of January and Ade's tales and how they collide. It's a story rich with history, racial tensions, power-hungry secret societies, and a brave girl trying to find her place in the world after discovering she's been trusting the wrong people her entire life. It's literally told as a book within a book, and there are so many fascinating characters woven into the story, my favorites being two courageous women, Jane (January's friend) and Adelaide (a bold adventurous woman in a book that January will find even more connection with that she could ever imagine).  We really only get a full look at a few of the worlds behind the elusive doors, though even the smallest glimpses were fascinating. The few we do get a good look at are awe-inspiring---worlds crafted with endless creativity and detail.

I truly enjoyed January's story. While it wasn't always quick paced, the unraveling of her story and how it's so gracefully woven into Ade's and Julian''s, Jane's and Sam's and Mr. Locke's, all with her loving and faithful Bad (a big lovable dog by the name of Sinbad) by her side, it was still constantly enchanting and I relished every moment.


{About The Author}

Alix E. Harrow is a part-time history adjunct and full-time reader, with stories published in Shimmer and Strange Horizons. In her spare time she writes, gardens, herds pets, and works on her gloriously dilapidated house. She lives in Berea, Kentucky with her husband and son. 



Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Kingdom by Jess Rotherberg {blog tour review}


Today I'm helping to kick off the tour for 
THE KINGDOM
by Jess Rothenberg!!


UK cover
US cover

{My Review}

Short review:    I. Loved. This. Book.

A little longer review:  The Kingdom is not to be missed.  No matter if you "don't usually like sci fi. Or you "don't normally go for dystopia". This latter one is me, actually. The Kingdom takes science fiction a little deeper in taking an imaginative look at what it means to be human. Told in a fast-paced unique format that includes, interviews, trial transcipts, security footage, and more, this mind-blowing novel is Westworld meets a crazy exaggerated DisneyWorld. 

Ana and her "sisters" are hybrid A.I. theme park princesses, called Fantasists, created to help visitors to the park fill their everywhere fantasy adventure. The story captured my attention from the very beginning by making one thing clear---Ana has been accused of murder. And as the story unfolds, it poses the questions, not only did she do it? But as an A.I., can she be held responsible if she did? In any given situation, she is programmed to react a certain way---does that make her ultimately innocent? All of this spins off in a wild tale as Ana seems to grow a consciousness that isn't in her programming, meets and is baffled by her growing fascination with Owen, a park maintenance worker, and starts to feel unrest among her sisters and in her own role as a fantacist. 

They are led to believe that they world has gotten so bad outside their gates that people flock to the park to escape their misery. Even most animal life has gone extinct so the park scientists have recreated them for the visitor's experience. The line starts to blur when other aspects of the park prove not to be all she thought they were and Ana's trust in the people closest to her starts to unravel. It smartly touches on potent subjects such as human rights, humane treatment of animals, artificial creation of life, self-harm, and most of all, the objectification of women, whether they be A.I. or not. 

Completely compelling, thought provoking, beautifully diverse, and just all-around wonderfully done. The ending manages to be just as completely jaw-dropping as it is hopeful. This is definitely one that I'll be adding to my shelf of favorites and recommending every chance I get. 


{Book details}
♦published by Henry Holt & Company
♦release date: May 28th, 2019
♦hardcover, 352 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone


{About The Author}

JESS ROTHENBERG is a writer and freelance editor who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. A former editor of books for young readers, including the #1 International Bestselling Vampire Academy series, Jess lives in New York City with her husband, son, and cat-who-thinks-he’s-a-dog, Charlie. Her debut novel for teens, The Catastrophic History of You & Me, has been translated into more than a dozen languages. 




Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 


Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Lovely War by Julie Berry {audiobook review}



The Lovely War
by Julie Berry
♦publisher: Viking Books for Your Readers
♦release date: March 5th, 2019
♦hardcover, 480 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone
A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It's 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She's a shy and talented pianist; he's a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it's immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who's played Carnegie Hall, he's a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that's before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who's already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers' fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

{My thoughts}

What an outstanding reading experience! The story is lovely, to begin with, but with an excellent full cast narration on the audiobook, complete with musical interludes, this was something special.

The tale told in The Lovely War is so compelling---the goddess Aprhodite relays the love story of two couples to prove a point to her husband and her lover, Hephaestus and Aries. It's the tale of Hazel and James, and of Colette and Aubrey---four young people caught up in the Great War. It's a glaring look at the ugliness of war, the effect it can have on family and love and growing up, and a heartbreaking look at the how African American soldiers were treated, even by their own countrymen. The romance was sweet, made all the more charming by Aphrodite's telling of how she had a hand in nudging them all in the right direction and her own sheer delight at watching it all unfold.

Despite the serious subject matter and the moments it has it's readers bawling their eyes out ...The Lovely War was such a beautiful tale of bravery and kindness, music and passion, friendship and most of all, love.


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{About The Author}

Julie Berry is the author of the 2017 Printz Honor and Los Angeles Times Book Prize shortlisted novel The Passion of Dolssa, the Carnegie and Edgar shortlisted All the Truth That’s in Me, and many other acclaimed middle grade novels and picture books. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College. She lives in Southern California with her family.



Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon