Friday, July 31, 2015

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin {review + giveaway}

A School for Unusual Girls 
by Kathleen Baldwin
♦publisher : Tor Teen
♦release date: May 19th, 2015
♦hardcover, 352 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Stranje House, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts...

Review:  A School for Unusual Girls was very different than what I expected, but I really enjoyed it! I went in expecting more of the finishing school-setting and a story more concentrated on the girls themselves and the things that made them "unusual" (I also expected more "powers", and while there was a little of that going on, the girls' cleverness were more of the non-magical variety!)  What I found instead was a equal parts historic,  romance, and a life-or-death mission to save King and country!

This book did something books rarely do for me---gave me a story I liked despite the fact that I was constantly irritated by the main character. Georgiana's self-esteem is a mess, and practically every word out of her mouth is self-depreciating, whether its about her looks, her intelligence, her value, or her ability to be loved.  It was understandable, coming from the harsh and hateful family that she did, a mother and father that didn't value her at all for her smarts, but constantly put her down because she wasn't properly behaved, pretty enough, or marriagable. But I would have like to see her snap out of the broodiness a little when surrounded by girls like her and people who valued her cleverness, instead of using these new friends to find new ways to put herself down.   She was also frustratingly clueless to any signs of flirtatious teasing by Sebastian, who was so playful and fun about his attraction to her.  She does eventually grow out of it, but it happens at nearly the end.

With the story so concentrated on Georgie's mission, we don't get to know the other girls quite as much, but what we did see of them I really loved, Sera's serene manner, Jane's kindness and frankness, Maya's comforting demeanor, and Tess's fiery passion and bravery.  Emma Stranje herself was a complicated and tough-love motherly type, and I would love to hear more of her back story! Sebastian was adorable, teasing and fun, but also deadly serious when it came to his duties.  

Though there were a few slow moments in the middle, the beginning had me fully intrigued, and the last half was explosively exciting and intense.  Spies, espionage, and skillful deception,  tense moments where time is running out, and a mission that could mean the fall of France and hundreds of lost lives.  There are deadly mishaps, daring rescues, and many romantic moments that are incredibly swoon-worthy.

I'll definitely be picking up future books in this series! The next book surrounds Tess and the equally hot-headed Lord Ravencross, so I can't wait!!
Find Kathleen Baldwin online: Website  • Twitter  •  Pinterest

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

I'm giving away one finished copy of 
The School for Unusual Girls!
•US mailing address only please
•Ends  8/14/15
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Old Books, New Looks {14}

Time again for another round of Old Books, New Looks, where I feature the covers of books that have already been released and their redesigned paperback counterpart! :) Sometimes I like the new better, sometimes I like the old. Here's a few that I've come across lately:

  The OLDIES  vs.  The NEWBIES 
Definitely an improvement. The first one has such a cheesy early 90s vibe.

Hm. Undecided. I like them both. Though I lean toward the original.

It's quite a change--though neither one screams out READ ME to me.

I think I actually prefer the illustrated cover.  The Rainbow Rowell-illustrated cover trend has definitely taken YA by storm. :) In a good way.

I really like both of these, but I think I like the original just a bit more. Makes me think of Breakfast Club. :)

A perfect example of how font treatments can make such a huge difference. Original wins it for me. Can't imagine why they bothered to change it!

The first was simple and interesting, but I always thought it looked a little blah. While I don't love the new one either, their makeup definitely makes me think MERMAIDS!

Loved the original---simple design and gorgeous font. I think the new one has grown on me since I first saw it, it's pretty, but I still love the impact and originality of the first. 

What do you think of these cover changes?  Which do you prefer..oldies or newbies?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Waiting on...

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.
by Janet B. Taylor

hitting shelves March 1st,  2016
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
“Seventy-two hours, then we have to be back at the clearing. Sunrise on the third day.”

Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t help her fit in with her adoptive dad’s perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she’s never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she’s lost for good. Along the way, she’ll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope’s undoing.

My thoughts: Okay--so mysterious family stuff, a summer in Scotland, and a secret society of time travelers??? UM I need this Right. Now.

What are you excited for this week?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {134}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Booky Goodness:
The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath by Ishbelle Bee
I fully admit to needing this for the cover. :) But the story sounds incredibly charming as well.

For Review:
Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
Aaaagh, so excited for this one!
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
Equally excited for this one!! Katie Alender never disappoints :)
Outrage by John Sandford & Michelle Cook 
Looks interesting, though not sure it's something I'd enjoy. 

From #booksfortrade:
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen
Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli
Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
The Gracekeepers by Kristy Logan
 So, guys, I've been having way too much fun participating in the book trading hashtag on twitter! It's very fast paced and you do have to keep your wits about you when deciding who to trade with. But mostly it's fun, and I love getting books I'm either done with or not interested in into the hands of readers who will love them! 

Huge thanks to Harlequin, Scholastic, and Knopf for the review books, and to Gabi & Mia for trading with me! :D

The Weekly Nutshell 
 {Wednesday} Waiting on: The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
{Friday} Review + Giveaway: Beastly Bones by William Ritter

 Not much to say this week, but it was definitely a better week than last and the week before that. Busy but better.  :)  Still reading so incredibly slow.  I'm about halfway through School for Unusual Girls---was loving it but its slowing a bit in the middle for me. So we'll see where it's going. Next up is either Damage Done or This Monstrous Thing.  If I read Monstrous Thing, it will be four historical period books in a row LOL, but I'm so excited for that one, so that's likely what I'll reach for.  I just love them, I guess! :D

What's everyone reading this week?  Loving it, feeling meh, or ready to DNF? Do tell! :D

Friday, July 24, 2015

Beastly Bones by William Ritter {early arc review + giveaway}

Beastly Bones
by William Ritter
♦publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
♦release date:  September 22nd, 2015
♦hardcover, 304 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Jackaby, book 2
  review of book 1
♦source: trade show
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Review:  *Sigh* please let there be at least a dozen more Jackaby adventures before we see the end. This is just the kind of series I adore---wonderful characters, great fun plots, and each book has its own story arc that stands on it's own.  In this second story, William Ritter has given us another wild and entertaining mystery to unfold alongside Jackaby and his assistant, Abigail.  With curious creatures, grim killings, and one bafflingly hideous knit hat, this series brings on another tale of fast-paced, laugh out loud fun.

This time around we get to delve deeper into Abigails love for archeology. A strange creature has been unearthed at a local farm and Abigail and Jackaby have been called in to investigate a few strange deaths that have happened nearby.  A  slew of fun new characters come into play including two notoriously rivaling archeolgists, a riotously smart-mouthed and headstrong reporter, the kindly farmer grieving his late wife, and a big loveable country trapper with a fascination for bizarre creatures (this one, I couldn’t help but picture as Hagrid from HP!).  A few familiar faces from book one make appearances, including Jenny, the ghost who lives with them, and Charlie, a police officer who was banished to the countryside after his true “lineage” was revealed in the first adventure.   Abigail was incredibly fond of him the first time around and their closeness and attraction grows ever sweeter and stronger, in their very proper Victorian ways—for the most part. :) The bumbling way they sort of dance around their feelings is just adorable.

The mystery is full of clever twists and keeps you guessing at what could possibly be behind the strange deaths and missing artifacts--and how the two might be connected. The big climactic scene is so full of fantasy, peril, and bittersweet turns, it broke my heart one second and had me cheering the next.  There is also a brilliant bit of build-up to the plot of the next book. Looks like we'll be finding out more about Jenny. Though she is just a small part in Beastly Bones, she breaks out with some seriously strange behavior, so I absolutely can't wait to find out what is happening to her!
Find William Ritter online:  Website  •  Twitter 

Purchase Jackaby:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  • Amazon

I want to get this into another reader's hands!! Enter below to win a copy :)
•US addresses only
 (watch for an international giveaway closer to the pub date!) 
•Ends 8/7/15 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting on...

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for. 
by Sharon Biggs Waller

hitting shelves February 2nd, 2016
from Viking Juvenile
Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls' father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China.

Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors' prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie's father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family--and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China.

But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?

My thoughts:
I never did get around to reading Waller's Mad Wicked Folly, but I heard great things about it! And this one---another historical setting, a sister story, sea voyages, and exotic China. This sounds amazing.  

What are you excited for this week?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {133}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

De Lovelies:
 For Review:
The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett
LOL Dragged myself out of bed at 6am to request this one. A rep at Harper was clearing out her Fall arcs on twitter! That's dedication, right? Or am I just crazy?

The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant
She was a sweetheart and threw in this one, too! :D I had it already so I'll pass it on to someone soon!

No Such Person by Caroline B. Cooney
I haven't read this author, but she seems like she has a ton of books out! Anyone recommend? Might be a bit too contemp for my taste.

The Edge of Forever by Melissa E. Hurst
The Wanderers by Kate Ormond
A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel 
All of these came from the new contact I made at ALA for Skyhorse Publishing. I've been dying for The Wanderers and The Edge of Forever, and she recommended Stinkville--it looks so good!  

Thanks so incredibly much to Harper Collins, Delacorte Press, and Skyhorse Publishing for these!!

The Weekly Nutshell 

 {Tuesday} Waiting on: A Drop of Night by Stephen Bachman
{Friday} ALA San Francisco Recap: The Good, The Bad, and, well...

Finished Beastly Bones this week, and let's just say this second book about Jackaby and Abigail only strengthen Ritter's spot on my list of new favorites. :)  SO fun again.  Just started School for Unusual Girls today and loving so far.  Main character is such a firecracker so far.  I have high hopes for this one and it's going to take something special to keep me happy after my last two reads left me with double-book-hangover! Let's hope this is it!
On a personal note, my week...has turned out much like last week. And an especially bad blow to my heart came just today. But I'm hanging in there. And, hey, it's my wedding anniversary this Friday! ♥ Hubs is my rock, my cheer up partner, my happy place. So this week is already destined to be better.

Happy reading, everyone. ;D

Friday, July 17, 2015

ALA San Francisco 2015 - The Good, The Bad, and, well...

Two weeks ago was ALA time again! This year I was super excited to have it taking place so close to my hometown, just an hour down the road. No plane ride needed, yay! :D (Can you tell I don't like flying much?)

The city was crazy as always, traffic, traffic, construction, and more traffic.  With Pride running right alongside the conference and the morning's Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage, the city itself just seemed alive with a positive, festive hum. It was actually way less crazy and crowded in the city than I expected it to be---I think I was inside the conference when most of the parade stuff was going on.

ALA itself was run a bit different this year.  I'm not sure what the goal of some of the changes was, but as an exhibit-only badge holder, I couldn't help but feel a bit snubbed. First off, ALA always distributes an Aisle by Aisle guide to the exhibits. Publishers put fun coupons and ads in these that you can tear out to get a special giveaway, usually a featured book or bookbag. This year, exhibit-only folks weren't allowed to have these.  This was also the first year exhibit-only peeps were kept out of opening night. Now I can kind of see what they are trying to do with that--letting the first night be exclusively for librarians and library staff (it is a librarian conference, after all!) but there has to be a better way to do to that.  I saw tons of actual library staffers that were exhibit-only get turned away at the door. (Just a note: I did get in---in the rush of the doors opening, they couldn't have checked every badge, and I didn't realize until I was already in that they were stopping people with yellow exhibit badges. Felt so bad for those that did get turned away at the door, though!)

The Moscone center where it all took place is just massive.  There was so much to see. And sooo much walking. One thing that I thought was odd (and this is my last gripe, I swear lol) was that for the first time, the publishers were split between the two huge halls.  Normally, there is a sort of "publishers alley" where all the publisher are in one 5-6 aisle area.  Having them split just made it exhausting and confusing! So much walking back and forth and having to perfectly coordinate to get to each signing. The two halls looked nearly identical, so I swear I kept forgetting which one I was in! My poor brain and feet--both just exhausted at the end of the day!

One of the things that I love about ALA is not only do I get to feed my need for seeing all the lovely new books coming out and hear about publisher faves for the upcoming season, but I get to be the library girl that I am outside of the blog. Being local, it was also cool to go to a library conference and finally see some of my own library's staffers in attendance! I was especially excited to be able to check out and sample the new library catalog system my library is shifting to next year. That change is going to be a bit scary so it was neat to get to play around with the demo! I'm also the mending wiz at my branch so of course I had to check out the latest book-beautifying supplies!

SO enough of my rambling---on to authors and books!
There were some awesome signings again this year!  I feel bad that I didn't take more pics but I did get a few. 

Amy Lukavics signing Daughters Unto Devils:
 Had to show Amy from two angles--her tattoos are awesome! :D Van Gogh on one side, a raven and stars on the other!!

Erin Bow signing
The Scorpion Rules

Anna-Marie McLemore signing
 The Weight of Feathers

Nova Ren Suma signing
The Walls Around Us

Virginia Boeker signing
The Witch Hunter


William Ritter signing
Jackaby & Beastly Bones

Some of my favorites not pictured were Marissa Meyer (I already had Fairest so I just had her sign my bag--see below), Kelley Armstrong (I think I might have been a little too star-struck to remember to get a pic lol,) Dan Santat, and April Tucholke (she is so adorable, she was drawing little slasher stick figures in each book and her and I just giggled the whole time because the guy in front of me didn't get it--also, see sob story below *sniffle* ).  

Below is a fun little thing I started doing this time--got the idea from another attendee who happened to have this same bag! Only my faves got to sign the bag! So far there is Kelley Armstrong, David Levithan, Marissa Meyer, and William Ritter! :D

And finally, there's the books.  I tried to be good and only grab what I really really wanted, but it still ended up being alot. *sigh* ♥-♥
The whole last pile is signed.  There were some really cool titles that I hadn't even heard of before ALA and I am so excited for now, like The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch and Six-Gun Snow White! The new discoveries is what makes ALA so great!

And then there was this lovely thing!  Just a sampler, but it's absolutely gorgeous and makes me so crazy excited for the finished book in October!! The illustrations are so incredible.

So, yea, on Saturday night during dinner, this happened:
Stupid thieves broke into my car and grabbed my friend's backpack and a couple of bags of books.  *SOB*  Funny thing is, we weren't in a bad neighborhood, and a pretty populated one at that, so it still just flabbergasts me that this happened.  Not so funny thing is--I lost some good books---including that adorable signed-by-giggling-April Tucholke copy of Slasher Girls and Monster Boys and my covented copy of The Doldrums.  And I'm sure those jerk thieves were just thrilled when they realized they'd stolen books. Grrr. :( So precious to readers like us, but I seriously doubt they saw any value in them at all.  So so sad.  And, yea...sad about my car, too.  But BOOKS. 

So that's it guys! Another ALA annual gone by! Despite all the weirdness (Oh did I mention the all-gender bathrooms?), and the few negative changes, and my poor car, it was a blast again and so fun to see and meet so many blog friends, publishers, library friends, and authors!  Hope I can make it again next summer to ALA Orlando (in 90 degree-90% humidity- summer...honestly who picks these locations??) and Harry Potter World!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Waiting on...

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for. 
by Stefan Backmann

hitting shelves March 15th, 2016
from Greenwillow Books
Five gifted teenagers are selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace was sealed after the aristocrats fled there. No one has set foot in it for over two centuries.

Now, in the present day, the teenagers enter with cutting-edge technology, state-of-the-art security, scientists and chaperones. And then a brutal accident occurs. No way out. Caught in the dark.

They will have to fight to survive. But are they really alone in the depths?

My thoughts:
While this sounds like an amazing thriller/mystery already--I still hope there is something seriously spooky going on in this story!!  I love stories surrounding the French Revolution, so that alone puts it on my must-read list.  Plus, the gorgeous cover doesn't hurt either. :)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {132}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

The lovelies this week: 
From trades:
Firewalker by Josephine Angelini
GAH so excited for this one. Thanks SO SO much, Britt! 

For review:
The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong
The Revenge Playbook by Allen
Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil
Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
Another really interesting mix this week! Especially excited to check out Kelley Armstrong's newest!

Thanks to Orca Books, Library Early Reviewers,  and Harper for these! 

The Weekly Nutshell
{Tuesday} Waiting on: The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
{Friday} Review + Giveaway: The Game of Love and Death 

 This week I dove headlong into the second Jackaby book, Beastly Bones, even though I have a few others that I need to read for upcoming deadlines---but I had to. I loved the first so much and I knew after finishing the absolutely beautiful Game of Love and Death, it's the only thing that would cure my book hangover! :) 
On a personal note, it was just a bad week all around---work and life just took it all out of me and I'm ready to move onto next week. :) But with it all, I am reading soooo bloody slow and not much energy to blog. Hopefully that changes soon. Surely I can do better than 3 posts a week.  Eek.

Oh, one last note.  For some strange reason, I haven't been able to comment on any Wordpress blogs! :( I haven't figured it out yet, if there even is a fix for it, but I'm so sad because there are so many lovely blogs that I love to visit that now I can't leave comments for. Hopefully I will come across a fix soon.  Anyone have any ideas on how to remedy this?? Or why it might be happening? Help!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough {review + giveaway}

The Game of Love and Death
by Martha Brockenbrough
♦publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
♦release date: April 28th, 2015
♦hardcover, 329 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: trade show/conference
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

Review: What captures you first in The Game of Love and Death is the atmosphere. We see two figures on a dark stormy night, putting their mark on the lives of two small infants—the players of a game that will span their lifetimes. The two figures are Love and Death, and this is a game they’ve played again and again through eternity. Death is confident, cocky even, but Love is ever hopeful that this time he will be the victor. It quite a story setup, and could happen in any timeframe, but there is something about Brockenbrough’s beautiful unique writing that just breathes life into this era. It’s not just the mention of obvious historical moments from the late 30s that places the story there, or even the clothes or the music or the poverty (though all of these details are intricately woven in).  The way it’s written just makes you feel the world surrounding these characters--- the laid back pressure-release of listening to an alluring song in a nightclub, the intensity of an attraction forbidden by the racial issues of that time, the desperation of grasping at a dream that seems completely impossible because of your color or situation. 

Each character is so well thought out and interesting.  Love is patient and hopeful and all-encompassing, but also loves his player and desperate to see him win.  Death, though she seems wholly sinister, starts to let slip other sides of herself and you realize there is something of both beauty and horror of the way she takes souls.  And through the span of the game, you start to see the complexity of their relationship.   I loved that their players mirror a bit of themselves, but also the world they each live in—Henry with his insistence to see connection in everything, an unfailing kindness and a rather naïve hopefulness about him.  Flora desperation to escape into the sky and her no-nonsense look at the world make her strong but weak at the same time, as she fights to keep control of her life and her emotions. 

The fluid way this story unfolds is as bewitching and sultry as what I imagine Flora’s night club performances would have been. It encompassed issues of race, privilege, sacrifice, and love in all its complicated forms.  I was so wrapped up in these characters that I didn’t want it to end, but when it did, it took my breath away. I don’t cry often at books, but with this touching and beautiful end, there was no escaping it.  

Read this book.

Find Martha Brockenbrough online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Tumblr

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

This is definitely one that I'll be buying myself a lovely finished copy I'm passing along my signed (not personalized) ARC! 
•US mailing address only (sorry!)
•Must be 13 or older
•Ends 7/24/15
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Waiting on...

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.
by Wendy Higgins

hitting shelves March 8th, 2016
from HarperTeen
Kill the beast. Win the girl.

A strange beast stirs fear in the kingdom of Lochlanach, terrorizing towns with its brutality and hunger. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity understands her duty to the kingdom though it pains her to imagine marrying a stranger. It would be foolish to set her sights on any particular man in the great hunt, but when a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention, there’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not keen on marriage. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast and protecting his family—yet Princess Aerity continues to challenge his notions with her unpredictability and charm. But as past secrets collide with present desires, dire choices threaten everything Paxton holds dear.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale, “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, outlawed magic, and a princess willing to risk all to save her people.

My thoughts:
One of my favorite authors + high fantasy + stunning cover?? No brainer, right? Right. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {131}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

These lovelies were what arrive the past two weeks! 
 From #booksfortrade:
Reawakened by Colleen Houck
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (arc)

Received for review: 
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine (finished copy)
Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel
Paperweight by Meg Haston
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
Calvin by Martine Leavitt
Damage Done by Amanda Panich
Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

P.S.  I Still Love You by Jenny Han 

So I got a really interesting mix this week! Lots that I'm excited for, some unsolicited surprises, and some really fun trades! As you can see, I traded for a copy of Ink and Bone and then ended up receiving a finished copy from the publisher, so keep an eye out---I'll likely be holding a giveaway with my review! My lovely Amy gave me the bound manuscript of P.S. I Still Love You. I love this format, guys--the bound manuscripts are always so cute and compact! And OH Dreamstrider. So excited to get this one for review!

Many thanks to Macmillan, Abrams, Harper Collins, and Random House. And thanks to Jacklin & Britt for the awesome trades! :)

The Weekly Nutshell:  
{Tuesday} Waiting on: A Study in Charlotte
{Wednesday} What's New: July YA Releases & Giveaway
{Friday} Review: Alive by Chandler Baker

 Not much to report here, guys! I have barely been reading at all this week.  Not in a funk or anything, just been busy with life. Bestie still visiting ♥ and we also hold a big 4th of July party at my house (since we live in the only city in the area where street fireworks are legal LOL)  so there was lots of cleaning and planning for that. Still reeling from ALA weekend and all the good and bad that happened---more on that later, going to try to get a recap done this week. :)
 Hope everyone has a great week and reads lots of amazing books! :D