Monday, February 27, 2017

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser ARC Review + Giveaway!

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Pub. Date: June 6th, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Caroline Oresteia has always been destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.

So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport a dangerous cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.

But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she never could have imagined.

This immersive fantasy debut set along the waterways of a magical world will entrance fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard. Sarah Tolcser weaves an epic story of danger and destiny with enchanting world-building and captivating characters.

A swashbuckling tale for lovers of The Girl from Everywhere, this book has everything you could possibly want. With pirates, sword fights, and even river and sea gods, this plot-driven book is utterly brimming with adventure and mystery. I really identified with the main character, Caroline's, feeling of not belonging, as well as with her struggle to find her place in the world. Her story is truly compelling, and I adore her individuality and need for independence.

I'm a huge fan of romance and tend to prefer books with more of it. However, I loved this book, despite the fact that the romance was on the back-burner—so that says a lot! I was utterly immersed in Caroline's journey, the amazing mythological details of the story, and all of the fantastic characters! Overall, Song of the Current is a wonderfully fun and fast-paced read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

1) The magical aspects of The Song of the Current were my favorite part of the story. From water gods, to immortal beings, to shadowmen—these are not your typical mythological or magical creatures that you'd typically see in young adult fantasies, and it was truly refreshing. They were so whimsical and mysterious! I hope we get more of these characters in the future—especially Nereus, because he's so hilarious.

2) The world-building was incredibly thought out and so vivid. I was amazed at the imagery and the atmospheric feelings that the writing evoked in me—I could hear the river water flowing, I could smell the salt in the air. I also enjoyed the descriptions of all the different ships and the personalities that went along with their crews. It's clear that Sarah Tolcser's not playing around—she has a vast knowledge and deep understanding of all things nautical, and she clearly did her research!

3) As I said before, I identified strongly with Caroline's character. She doesn't quite fit amongst her people, and she's looking for her place in the world. Her snark was delightfully humorous, and I love that she never took "no" for an answer and that she was actually trained and skilled at what she does. Also (and this is random), I couldn't help but picture Merida from Brave as Caroline, haha.

4) Song of the Current showcased a lot of unconventional families, and I always find that fascinating. Caroline's parents are unmarried, living separately, but seem to love each other. Markos, the main guy, has basically no relationship with his parents but he still loves them, and there were more backstories like this in the book. It made the story and characters feel more fleshed out and realistic.

 1) At times, I felt a disconnect in the romantic aspects of the book. I'm the first person to ship a couple, even with there is next to no romantic inclinations between them, but in this case, some of the romantic moments felt a bit forced.

2) The ending kind of threw me. It's open-ended, so I'm not sure where the story could be going since everything else seemed to be wrapped up.
Just my luck, to be chosen by a god who was a bloody show-off.
"Marriage. I'm going to be a captain and a privateer. I'm going to be the terror of the seas. Whoever marries you will have to wear pretty dresses and go to parties and learn the names of a hundred boring politicians."

"Oh, pretty dresses. That sounds like torture."
"You realize I'm a lot stronger than you." His voice was steady. "And trained in hand-to-hand fighting. I can break your arm before you know what's happening. If I choose to."

"You realize that this is a knife," I said right back, my heart racing at his threat. "I can gut you before you break my arm. If I choose to."

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty ARC Review + Giveaway!

Publisher: Imprint/Macmillian
Pub. Date: May 9th, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls' military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Looking at the cover of The Traitor's Kiss, you're given a false sense of security. You're probably thinking this is a nice and innocent book. I mean, look at the pretty roses! Well, let me tell you . . . it's actually guilty of conspiracy, several counts of murder, and not to mention, my pain and suffering—in a good way! 

In the first half of the story, you're made to believe that this is mostly an adorable, slow-burn romance. THEN, the second half hits, and all of a sudden, there is utter chaos, murder, and angst.

Let me tell you—I was not prepared.

That being said, this book is truly charming and incredibly well-developed. Every single plot element and each character has multiple layers and overlapping details—all of which seamlessly come together and contribute to the story. This book was masterfully planned to the point where I had to read it slowly, just to be sure that I didn't miss any of Erin Beaty's crumbs and intricacies as the story unfolded. 

Overall, I immensely enjoyed this book, and I'm so excited to see how this trilogy will develop and unfold in the future. 

1) I adore the slow-burn romance between Alex and Sage. They start out as unlikely friends, hit some speed bumps and hurdles, and then slowly—their romance develops. Their relationship gradually unfurls as the story goes on and for me, it's truly the heart and soul of the book—despite all of the other intriguing things going on.

2) I looove Darnessa! She's like a cross between the matchmaker in Mulan and Galina from The Crown's Game. She's fierce, kind, knowledgeable and elegant, and the way her presence is constantly "hovering" throughout the story (even when she isn't necessarily in the scene) was fantastic. It's truly brilliant, because Darnessa is introduced in this "nothing gets past me" manner, and you absolutely feel that as you're reading.

3) It is no secret that I have a thing for soldiers, and Erin Beaty brought us a very dashing one in the form of Alex.

He is the Captain of the Royal Guard—loved and respected by his men, the female (and probably some of the male) characters, and most importantly, by me. I liked his brooding and serious nature, and especially how deeply he cares for his loved ones. Thankfully, this book is the first in a trilogy, so I'm indescribably excited to get more of Alex in the next two installments!

4) The plot of this story is executed phenomenally. There are so many layers to it, so many intricate details woven throughout—some that you might think are insignificant, but then they pop up later and I was like . . .

I had to pace myself while reading, just to catch all the little tidbits that proved to be significant later, and it was an experience!

1) The first half dragged a bit, but that's mainly because I'm impatient. In retrospect, it's clear that it was setting the groundwork for the intense part of the plot.

2) At times, I found the code names to be confusing. For example at one point, the main guy Alex, is known by a different name, which is actually the name of another character in the book, and at the same time, Alex, also has an undercover code name. My poor little brain had trouble keeping up with who's who from time to time.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage Blog Tour: Q&A + Giveaway

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR/Macmillan
Pub. Date: February 21st, 2017
Remember the places you touched me.

The parts of Mira Cillo that Ben touched are etched on his soul.

Palm. Hair. Chest. Cheek. Lips. Throat. Heart.

It was the last one that broke her. After her death, Mira sends Ben on a quest for notes she left in the seven places where they touched—notes that explain why she and her sister, Francesca, drowned themselves in the quarry. How Ben interprets those notes has everything to do with the way he was touched by a bad coach years before. But the truth behind the girls’ suicides is far more complicated, involving a dangerous infatuation, a deadly miracle, and a crushing lie.

Kim Savage is the author of the critically acclaimed After the Woods. A former reporter who received her Master’s degree with honors in Journalism from Northeastern University, Kim lives north of Boston near the real Middlesex Fells Reservation of After the Woods, and she grew up near a quarry town a lot like the Bismuth of Beautiful Broken Girls, in stores Feb. 21. Kim’s third novel with FSG, In Her Skin (2018), is based in Boston’s Back Bay, where she has never lived.

Kim and her husband have three children, each of whom beg to appear in her books. They shouldn’t.
Connect with Kim: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook 
What inspired you to write Beautiful Broken Girls?

I'd long wanted to write a story about the male gaze and how it affects everything. As I started to write, though, a gaze became a touch, and it wasn’t limited to males. Moreover, it set off a kind of Butterfly Effect. Mira and Francesca’s jump off the ledge was precipitated by a series of touches: a coach and his athlete; a girl and her forbidden lover; a girl and her cousin; and a girl and her god.

Do you have any habits or rituals you do while writing?

Depends on how it’s going. If it’s going well, I bang excessively at the keyboard and whisper. If it’s not, I leave my seat and wander around, bothering my kids, dog: any nearby victim.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors regarding overcoming writer's block?

I’d say read Steven Pressfield’s theories on resistance. I’m not sure Writer’s Block is really a thing or just the world making noise and us listening.

Wow, that sounded cranky!

If you had to write under a nom de plume, what name would you pick and why?

Kim Haas. It’s my unmarried name. I changed Haas to my middle name when I got married. When I became a reporter, I found I liked the Savage byline. I was sick of everyone mispronouncing Haas; Savage was easy and memorable. This last year has made me think about going back to using my given name. Not coincidentally, maybe, In Her Skin, which will release in 2018, is about the danger of forgetting who you are.

Has the publication and/or writing process changed at all from your first book to the second one?

My books are all with Janine O’Malley at FSG, who is consistently amazing to work with. My writing process has changed in that I’m faster at getting the bones down. That’s super important to me, because revision is where the real work starts. The fun, too!

What kind of research did you have to do while writing Beautiful Broken Girls? Furthermore, what's the weirdest thing you've ever had to Google for a book?

So much! I’m looking at my search history in the “Beautiful Broken Girls” folder right now. Topics include: Bodies Recovered From Water, Gory Catholic Saint Stories, and How Stuff Works: Rock Climbing Equipment.

I also spent a lot of time in rock quarries in New Hampshire and Vermont. By the third one, my kids were on their phones.
Do you find it easier or harder to write from the perspective of your own, or a different gender?

I identify as female, but I don't find it harder to write from a male perspective. I write the character my story requires and get inside that person’s head. If I’m having trouble with a character’s perspective, I’ve probably written the wrong character for the story.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your teenage self about writing?

Start earlier and don't get distracted by the voices that say traditional publishing is impossible to crack. You've wanted to do this—and only this—since you could read and write. Eyes on the prize, Monkey Child.

Can you tell us anything about what you're working on now? What's next for you?

In Her Skin (FSG/2018) is a psychological thriller set in Boston’s Back Bay. It’s the story of Jolene Chastain, a con artist who assumes the identity of a dead girl, Vivienne Weir, and moves in with a wealthy developer, his wife, and daughter. In Her Skin is about identity, obsession, what it means to have a family, and what it means to be a con. Jo is totally unique and my favorite character to date. I can’t wait for readers to meet her.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

 My TBR list is always growing and I thought it would be fun to share my anticipation for those books with all of you. This is not my own original meme; it belongs to Breaking the Spine. It specifically spotlights upcoming releases. As it implies in the title, I'll be posting this meme on Wednesdays. Please feel free to comment and let me know what books you guys are waiting on as well!

Publisher: HarperTeen 
Pub. Date: September 19th 2017
Pre-Order it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

I really loved the first book—Three Dark Crowns—so I NEED to know what happens in the sequel!

Also, the covers in this series are ON POINT! Just look at that beauty, it's so perfect! It also kind of reminds me of Game of Thrones.

What about you guys? Have you heard of this one? Is it on your TBR? Let me know!

Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and the late, great Michael Jackson, I mean, come on, he gave us Thriller.

She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi.
Connect with KendareWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Monday, February 20, 2017

Guest Post: Feminism in YA by The Valiant Author, Lesley Livingston!

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Random House
Pub Date: February 14th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.
Lesley Livingston is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto. 
Connect with Lesley: Website | Blog | TwitterFacebook | Pinterest

When I set out to write Fallon’s story in THE VALIANT, I knew that her initial princess status could conceivably cast her as a possible “damsel in distress” in the minds of some potential readers. Mostly because books featuring ancient Celtic warrior societies are a little on the rare side it seems. But Fallon’s truth couldn’t be farther from that assumption and I was so excited about the prospect of writing a character who is born into a society where women are considered equal to men even on the field of battle. Historically, the Celts—much like the Vikings—didn’t bat an eye at their women taking up arms or ruling tribes or owning property. One doesn’t need to look any farther than the example of Boudicca, the Iceni queen who gathered an enormous army in opposition to the conquering Roman Legions, for proof of that. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I realized that it wasn’t just the Cantii—Fallon’s tribe—which operated within the parameters of what can be viewed as early examples of feminism.

Even Roman women had a good degree more autonomy than is generally thought. While they didn’t vote or hold office, Roman women were frequently very active behind the scenes politically. They were free to divorce their spouses and remarry at will, own property and businesses. They kept their names in marriage and inherited equally to their male siblings. This is not to say that these women didn’t face enormous obstacles because of their gender—they did—but the pervasive idea that women of the period stayed hidden and powerless, in need of saving or idolizing, is I think misguided. As a general rule, a Roman woman probably wouldn’t have consider picking up a weapon and entering into the gladiatorial arena of her own free will, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Something to keep in mind as more and more tantalizing bits of evidence come to light—or are re-examined—regarding the existence of female gladiators.

Writing this story also gave me the opportunity to bring together not just a cast driven by female agency, but a cast of women and girls from diverse nations and cultures. The girls at the Ludus Achillea hail from all the corners of the world that the Roman Republic spanned. Having them come together to interact in a setting like a training academy where they develop friendships, rivalries and ultimately a powerful sisterhood, was an exciting exploration for me.

When I wrote THE VALIANT, I was inundated with powerful examples of historical female figures who defined the feminism of the age, Cleopatra chief among them. I also drew inspiration from the legends of the Amazons. And it was their mythic, magnificent Queen Penthisilea who was reputed to have said “Not in strength are we inferior to men; the same our eyes, our limbs the same; one common light we see, one air we breathe; nor different is the food we eat. What then denied to us hath heaven on man bestowed?”

Brittany: Thank you so much for this lovely and insightful guest post, Lesley! And guys, if you haven't already, definitely check out The Valiant—it's a fantastic book!

Week One
2/13 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Gladiator Makeup
2/14 – Two Chicks on Books – Author Interview
2/15 – Alexa Loves Books – Weapon Spotlight: Bow & Arrow
2/16 – Novel Novice – Review
2/17 – Arctic Books – Review + Book Look

Week Two
2/20 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Author Guest Post (YOU ARE HERE!)
2/21 – What Sarah Read – Review + Mood Board
2/22 – Mundie Moms – Weapon Spotlight: Shield
2/23 – ButterMyBooks – Author Interview
2/24 – Fiction Fare – Weapon Spotlight: Dimachaerus

Week Three
2/27 – Oh the Book Feels – Author Interview
2/28 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Weapon Spotlight: Gladius
3/1 – No More Grumpy Bookseller – Review
3/2 – The YA Book Traveler – Weapon Spotlight: Trident & Net
3/3 – My Friends Are Fiction – Author Guest Post

Week Four
3/6 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Weapon Spotlight: Spear
3/7 – A Page with a View – Like/Try/Why
3/8 – The Young Folks – Author Guest Post
3/9 – Icey Books – Quote Candy + Review
3/10 – Book Addict’s Guide – Bookish Scents

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (ARV: $17.99 each). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 13, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 15, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi ARC Review

Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Macmillan
Pub. Date: March 28th, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

A Crown of Wishes has everything that I loved about The Star-Touched Queen, plus so much more. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I love this book even more than I loved The Star-Touched Queen—which I didn't even think was possible.

Gauri is a powerhouse leading lady, and Vikram utterly oozes with charm. I'm definitely adding these two to my list of top OTPs because together, they were magic. The writing in this phenomenal book—both the dialogue and the prose—are truly dazzling; I simply could not get enough of it. I clung onto every moment, phrase, and word—wanting nothing more than to continue being fully immersed in this indescribably fantastic world that Roshani has created.

With not a single dull moment in sight, the wondrous beauty and sparkling humor in A Crown of Wishes left me absolutely breathless.  Roshani's natural wit and snark shined through, and I adored every second of it. From the inside and out, this book is just utter perfection. I'm incredibly impressed with how much Roshani has grown as a writer since her bestselling The Star-Touched Queen, and I will be waiting with bated breath to see what she has in store for us in the future. 

1) Not only is Roshani's writing beautiful and witty—it's inspiring. It's the kind of writing that breathes life into my bookish heart and makes me want to work away at my own WIP. Both her words and her brilliance make me want to strive to be better, write better, and even to read more. A Crown of Wishes made me smile and laugh so much that I had to force myself to read slower (which was pretty difficult, trust me!) because I didn't want it to end; I wanted to savor every bit of this masterpiece.

2) Oh my gosh, the ship in this book, you guys! I can't even. I don't have the adequate words to describe the emotions and feels I got from these two. From the moment they met, my heart sang. I loved everything—their insane cuteness, their magnetic chemistry, their banter . . . Oh, I could go on and on (and on!) about their wonderful banter. And also, they actually compliment each other! They're equals in their relationship, and they spectacularly balance out each other's faults and virtues. Honestly, these two are relationship goals.

3) I love Gauri. She is a fighter, a badass, and just a well-rounded character overall. She loves fiercely and puts strength behind her convictions. But she isn't perfect. It's not easy for her to love, and she bares many emotional scars that have made her very guarded. The perfect balance of this made her a wonderfully real and relatable character.

4) Vikram. Oh, Vikram. How much I adore this man . . . He reminds me so much of my beloved Nikolai Lantsov from The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. He's even called the Fox Prince! His humor and charm are very similar, but he's also vulnerable in a way that I found extremely attractive. Basically, if you're a Nikolai fan, you will love Vikram.

5) The setting in this book is full to the brim with majesty and wonder. Best of all, Roshani is so good at world-building and at describing everything that it's very easy to imagine. The world just flies off the pages, and it's truly a feast for the senses.

1) *Spoiler Alert* Gauri is forced to make a sacrifice at the end of the book that I'm not sure I'm happy about haha.

"Do we not look wildly in love?"

"Not particularly."

"What's her favorite color?" asked a council member.

"The color of my eyes," said Vikram quickly.

"Yes," said Gauri woodenly. "They are so very . . . brown." 
"You're welcome, by the way, for dragging you back here. I had a couple of offers to sell you and almost considered it."

"Intriguing. For how much?"

"A bag of gold, the ability to make thunderstorms go to sleep. Something else. Five goats?"

"Just five goats?" I'm worth at least ten. Plus a cow."