Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: The Bird and the Sword

Amy Harmon
New Adult/Fantasy
352 pages
Available Now
Source: Bought

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

The Bird and the Sword is immensely satisfying from beginning to end, giving us a heroine robbed of words on a beautifully-told journey to find them again amidst the backdrop of a sweeping fantasy epic.

Lark is a Teller, gifted with words that create a call to action when spoken, bringing to life inanimate objects, controlling animals, and healing when needed. After her mother's dying rhyme rips away her ability to speak, she's assumed to be deaf and dumb in addition to being mute, but we're treated to her innermost thoughts and feelings and therefore know she's as smart and strong as they come. She quickly finds herself a pawn in a game of politics, taken from her father and held as insurance to make sure he provides promised assistance to the young king in his war against the monstrous Volgar (vulture-like birdmen). She could have easily spent her days wallowing in self-pity for the position in which she finds herself – in a strange place and forced to be a weapon in the service of her king – but instead she does as she is asked with a quiet pride and a lick of defiance, one that brings a smile to our faces every time she wields it. 

Her romance with King Tiras is of the slow burn variety, one with a start rooted in antagonism as she resents being made into the tip of a spear and hurled at the Vulgar with little care for anything other than her usefulness. Her feelings for Tiras seemingly develop quicker than his for her (though it takes her plenty of time to begin to see him in a romantic light), and she keeps those feelings close to her vest because she knows he's unlikely to return her affection. She is a means to an end for him, an ace up his sleeve in the war against an impossible enemy, and she protects her heart as best she can by defying him in the most perfect of ways when he proves to be too presumptuous.

Their story has my highest recommendation for all those who love apparent underdogs with unparalleled strength, love interests who challenge at every turn, and grand romances that share the spotlight with well-executed paranormal and political wars.

Rating: 5/5

Find Amy:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Movie Tie-In Giveaway!

To help celebrate the release of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (which hits theaters on Friday!), I have a fantastic giveaway to share with you today. And a little sneak peek at a few stills from the movie. Win.

I have to admit that I have yet to read this book (I'm saying that about WAY too many books lately), but I couldn't be more excited for this movie and have little doubt I'll rush to read the book just as soon as I'm out of the theater. I actually prefer to see the movie first, that way I don't spend my time fixating on what was changed or left out, and can enjoy it for what it is. Then I go and obsess over the book ;-)

For those of you who aren't familiar with the book or movie, check out the description, movie stills and trailer below, and be sure enter to win a Miss Peregrine's prize pack!

From visionary director Tim Burton, and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable motion picture experience. When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson

Directed By: Tim Burton

Rated PG-13
 (click to enlarge)

Seek the Peculiar. Get tickets to see Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in theaters Friday!

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Thanks to a partnership with 20th Century Fox, I have an epic prize pack to give away today! One lucky winner will receive a $25 Visa gift card to see the film as well as a movie tie-in version of the book. Giveaway is open to US addresses only. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Early Review: The Cruelty

The Cruelty #1
Scott Bergstrom
Young Adult/Thriller
384 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available February 7th, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

The Cruelty is not the average young adult thriller, one where the protagonist strikes out on their own and is able to access information, bypass security, and thwart criminal masterminds with seeming ease. Though Gwen does strike out on her own in search of her father, her path is hardly an easy one marked by the luck of fiction as pieces fall together to help her along, instead her journey is darker and more brutal, each leg taking a piece of the girl she was before and crushing it under the boot of the girl she is becoming.

Gwen is a young woman who feels very real in the beginning, someone whom we could pass in our everyday lives and strike up an easy conversation with as opposed to a teenage super spy to whom we can hardly relate, something that makes her story feel more personal even as she falls deeper and deeper into a criminal underworld rabbit hole. Because she possess no special skills when we meet her–no exceptional fighting prowess, hacking specialty, etc.–it's easy to project ourselves onto her, rooting for her to take matters into her own hands when her own government and her father's colleagues fail her. She has to become a badass the hard way, learning to fight and hide in plain sight but making innumerable missteps along the way, as someone with only a crash course in spy training and a determined spirit would do.

Gwen's search for her father is intense and detailed, with Mr. Bergstrom showing no interest in keeping us on the surface and instead plunging us under along with Gwen as she fights for the smallest of clues about her father's whereabouts. The Cruelty is gritty and complex and clearly just the beginning for Gwen, and I for one look forward to seeing just what she's capable of in the next installment.

Rating: 4/5

Find Scott:

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, September 23, 2016

This Adventure Ends Blog Tour: This Adventure Creates

Happy Friday Everyone!

It's been a tour kind of week this week, and I'm wrapping things up today with a very special tour for This Adventure Ends, the upcoming YA release from Emma Mills. A tour that involves Crayola markers and a teeny tiny canvas.

As part of the tour, a handful of us were asked to pick a verb to pair with "this adventure" and then create an artistic masterpiece (or not, as the case would be with me) that represents the theme we've chosen. Since I spend my days designing book covers, I went with "This Adventure Creates" as it so perfectly fits the job I love so very much.

As it turns out however, washable markers and canvas are not my medium, and my "masterpiece" turned out a little bit wonky. You see, I can't draw anything without sketching it out in pencil first, and when I went to color everything in, I quickly discovered that washable markers and pencil lines are not the best of friends. I had to stick with darker colors to try and hide the pencil otherwise I got a muddy mess, but oh well, I had fun with it anyway!

Behold the glory that is my "This Adventure Creates"!

Apparently my wand of creativity spews a bunch of upside down commas, who knew? O.o I hope you guys got a kick out of my piece and add This Adventure Ends to your must-have lists!

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Releases October 4th from Henry Holt & Co.

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Frazzled Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

I'm crazy excited today to be a part of the promotional tour for Frazzled, the Middle Grade debut from Booki Vivat. Booki is an amazing artist, and her doodles have been blowing me away on Twitter for years, so I knew I needed this book in my hands the minute I learned of its existence. Booki was so nice as to answer a few questions for me about creative inspiration, fictional best friends, and of course her protagonist Abbie Wu, so I hope you guys all enjoy the interview!

If you could introduce yourself to readers in doodle-form only, what doodle might best sum you up as an author?

I think this pretty much sums me up—after all, my book is called Frazzled.

What’s one aspect of Abbie’s character that you absolutely share with her? One that’s nothing like you at all?

Honestly, I can’t think of anything significantly different between Abbie and I! So much of Abbie’s character is based on who I was when I was a kid and who I am now. I guess, getting down to the details, Abbie is a middle child, but growing up, I was technically the oldest!

I think anyone who has seen my doodles or knows me in real life gets the sense that Abbie and I are very similar. Beyond our shared resentment towards piƱata birthday parties and insatiable love of pastries, Abbie and I can both be a little… dramatic. In fact, the inspiration for Frazzled came from an especially dramatic doodle I had drawn in a moment of crisis. It said, “I live my life in a constant state of impending doom.”
Spoiler alert: Abbie feels the same. 

Inspiration can strike at the oddest and most inconvenient times. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever felt the need to make a few quick doodles or jot down ideas to save them for later? The strangest medium you’ve ever used when paper wasn’t available?

The strangest place I’ve ever felt the need to doodle was this one time I went out dancing with a group of (relative) strangers. It was such a strange scene and there were so many hilariously awkward and interesting interactions happening around me. I got caught up observing the social dynamics within the space and I had this itching need to document it somehow. That night, I went home and drew a series of doodles about the culture of “going out.”

I usually just stick to pen and paper which isn’t unusual at all, though where I get that paper can range anywhere from receipts to candy wrappers to toilet paper. Contrary to what “toilet paper” implies, I have never doodled on the toilet. 

If Abbie were to write a story about you, what title might she give it?

She would probably title it something verbose and cheeky like, (Still) Frazzled: The Constant Confusion and Unavoidable Uncertainty of Adulthood. Something like that. 

Every once in a while I come across a character whom I know would be my best friend (obviously) if they were real. What one other fictional character might Abbie find a best friend in?

Abbie is the kind of kid who could probably spend all her time in her own head and drive herself crazy, so she really needs friends who can coax her out of that. I think someone like Harriet M. Welsch from Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy would make a fantastic best friend. They might have a rocky start to their friendship and it might take a while for them to warm up to each other. Harriet is a bit purposefully mischievous, whereas Abbie is more accidentally rebellious. But ultimately, Harriet’s sense of curiosity and unapologetic honesty is exactly what Abbie needs in a friend.

Thank you so much Booki!

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Meet Abbie Wu! She’s about to start middle school and she’s totally in crisis.

Abbie Wu is in crisis—and not just because she’s stuck in a family that doesn’t quite get her or because the lunch ladies at school are totally corrupt or because everyone seems to have a “Thing” except her. Abbie Wu is in crisis always.

Heavily illustrated and embarrassingly honest, Frazzled dives right into the mind of this hilariously neurotic middle school girl as she tries to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and how to survive the everyday disasters of growing up. With Abbie’s flair for the dramatic and natural tendency to freak out, middle school has never seemed so nerve-racking!

Packed with hilarious black-and-white illustrations and doodles throughout, Frazzled takes readers through Abbie Wu’s hysterical middle school adventures.

Amazon | B&N 

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Booki Vivat has been doodling somewhat seriously since 2011 and not-so-seriously since childhood. She grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California, San Diego. She currently works in publishing and lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @thebookiv and on Instagram @bookibookibooki.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Metaltown Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

Today I have the very special honor of welcoming an author I get to call friend to the blog to celebrate the release of her newest YA book, Metaltown. I couldn't be more excited for this book or for Kristen as she is one of the most adorable people you'll ever meet, and I hope you guys all have this book on your lists! Since the world of Metaltown and its factories is a brutal one where the days are long and so very hard, I asked Kristen to help us put on protagonist Ty's shoes for a few minutes and walk her mile. 

Be sure and check out the bottom of the post for a complete list of the participating blogs so you can follow along, as well as all the details on a fantastic giveaway!


1. Don’t be a baby. You think your life’s tough? Try waking up before dawn every morning to get a bowl of mash at St. Mary’s, or working a double in a hot factory just to not get paid. First rule of factory life? Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. You want a free ride you can go cross the beltway to Bakerstown.

2. Find someone who’s got your back. You look out for them, they look out for you. It’s that simple.

3. Don’t eat anything that hasn’t been tested. What are you, crazy? The stuff they sell on the streets in the factory district is flat out deadly. If you want the corn flu, by all means, give it a shot. Otherwise, stick to stuff you know is clean.

4. Don’t fight someone smaller than you. Don’t steal from your own people. I share my food with you, tomorrow you share yours with me. Those are street rules, got it?

5. Colin’s mine. Keep your hands off.
Noted, Ty. ;-)

Thanks so much Kristen!

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Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope.

Amazon | B&N 

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Kristen Simmons is the author of the ARTICLE 5 series, THE GLASS ARROW, and the upcoming METALTOWN (Tor Teen). She loves her family, Jazzercise, and chocolate cupcakes. She currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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