Friday, August 26, 2016

The Reader Campaign + Giveaway

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today I'm part of a promotional campaign for The Reader, the first book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series by Traci Chee. In this world society as a whole is illiterate and there are no books to be had – GASP!–, so as part of the campaign I've been asked to list for you a few of the books that I just couldn't survive or imagine life without.

As I'm sure is the case for so many of you, that list is a long one, but I've managed to narrow it down to three. If you don't count the fact that some are series, which I don't. Series = one book using Jenny Logic.

I am a huge fan of antihero characters, and Jericho Barrons might just be the antihero to end all antiheroes (to me anyway). He's absolutely infuriating, a complete a-hole, and a sadist, but damn if he's not attractive as all get out too. I've never loved, hated, and then loved a character again as much as I did Barrons throughout this series, and even just mentioning his name brings a smile to my face. Though this series went off the rails a bit for me after Iced and Mac in general could be trying at times, the first five books will forever have a special place in my heart. A place that likes to be tortured by enigmatic bastards named Barrons ;-)

Like Twilight, this series tends to have a pretty polarizing effect - readers either love it or loathe it. This was one of the first series I read when I started really getting back into reading after a long, long break during which I only read class-required books, and it truly made me see how much fun reading could be. It's not going to find its way onto the classics shelf anytime soon, but it's a series that changed my life as it, along with Twilight, was the catalyst for me starting this blog.

I remember the exact moment Throne of Glass hit my radar: BEA 2013. I added it to my "if I have time" list knowing very little about the author or series, and when the Moms and I showed up to stand in line about an hour ahead of time – we thought we'd be first – we found ourselves a solid hundred plus people back. We actually ended up being the last three people who were allowed to get our books signed as Sarah's signing hour was up, and seeing that reaction had me absurdly excited to dive in as soon as I got home.

To say I was underwhelmed by this book would be putting it politely. I had expected magic. A captivating world. A heroine made of wit and badassery. What I found instead was a young woman who did a lot of talking about how epic an assassin she was, but did very little to back it up. It wasn't until Bloomsbury published all five prequels in a single installment (which I devoured) that I truly fell in love with this series, and it's been a source of joy and tears for me ever since.

So there you have it, the books that have made a huge impact on me in one way or another, and those select few that find themselves with spines nearly worn through from re-reading:)

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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

You can read the first two chapters HERE!

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Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut. 

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In partnership with Penguin Random House, I have a fantastic giveaway to share with you today! One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Reader as well as a snazzy branded "I Am The Reader" tote bag. Win. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only, and all prizing is provided by Penguin Random House.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: Been Here All Along

Sandy Hall
Contemporary Young Adult
224 pages
Swoon Reads
Available August 30th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

Been Here All Along is a lightning-quick read, the adorkable-ness of both Gideon and Kyle making this story easy to fly through with a smile on our faces.

Gideon and Kyle have been neighbors and best friends since they were little, but as so many of us can relate, there's a moment between them where everything shifts, and suddenly this person they've known all their lives becomes something else entirely. Told in alternate point of views (as well as the point of views of Gideon's brother and Kyle's girlfriend), we get to see both Gideon and Kyle charmingly flail when their relationship heads into uncharted waters, though thankfully the one major misstep between them is righted easily toward the end with minimal angst.

Though Gideon and Kyle, with their love of Lord of the Rings and their penchant for writing notes in Elvish, couldn't be cuter, we stay largely on the surface of both the romance as well as larger issues like coming out and learning disabilities. Gideon has an epiphany relatively early on in which he realizes he's gay, and in the blink of an eye (and after a few lists to help him organize his thoughts) he's accepted it, blurted it out to his friends while drunk for the first time, and announced it to his family who are all so thrilled they throw him a coming out party of sorts. That's not to say there aren't a huge number of families who are unflinchingly supportive in such situations, but those looking for perhaps a more nuanced or layered story of sexual identity and coming out won't find it here.

Additionally, the viewpoints of Ezra (Gideon's brother) and Ruby (Kyle's girlfriend) seem largely unnecessary, with Ruby being unlikable for nearly the entire book until the last few chapters where she realizes she's been vindictive and tries to right all her wrongs. Those issues aside though, this is a story easily devoured in one sitting and is the perfect fluff read for those who love a good best friends to lovers romance.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Sandy:

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Scythe

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Neal Shusterman
Young Adult/Dystopian
Releases November 22nd from Simon & Schuster

From Goodreads:

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

First, I really, really don't want to live in this world. I would one hundred percent be randomly killed for population control purposes, I know it. Second, while pitting two young people against one another in an epic battle to the death is not a new plotline, it's one that never fails to grab my attention and hold it. I can't help but want to know what happens (sidenote: I'll definitely be reading the end first)! The synopsis doesn't give us very much information about either Citra or Rowan, so I have no idea if I'll be rooting for one over the other or both:)   

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cathy Reviews: Serenity's Plain Secrets

My mother in law, and lately my co-blogger, Cathy is back today with her latest review!

Karen Ann Hopkins
Available Now

Lamb to the Slaughter (Book 1)
From Goodreads:

Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about the intertwining lives of three unlikely people in an Indiana Amish Community and the devastating results when a rebellious teenage girl is found shot to death in a corn field during the harvest. Serenity Adams is the newly elected young sheriff in the country town of Blood Rock and besides dealing with the threatening behavior of her predecessor, she now has a dead Amish girl on her plate. At first glance, the case seems obvious. The poor girl was probably accidently shot during hunting season, but when the elders of the Amish community and even the girl’s parents react with uncaring subdued behavior, Serenity becomes suspicious. As she delves deeper into the secretive community that she grew up beside, she discovers a gruesome crime from the past that may very well be related to the Amish girl’s shooting. Serenity enlists the help of the handsome bad-boy building contractor, Daniel Bachman, who left the Amish when he was nineteen and has his own dark reasons to help the spunky sheriff solve the crime that the family and friends who shunned him are trying desperately to cover up. Serenity’s persistence leads her to a stunning discovery that not only threatens to destroy her blossoming romance with Daniel, but may even take her life in the end.

The Serenity's Plain Secrets series first came to my attention because Jenny designed all their beautiful covers. Jenny did an amazing job setting the scene for each book. You can look at the covers and know exactly where these mysteries occur and with just the right amount sinister eeriness to draw you in. So the series was on my shelf and were so pretty that I didn't want to crack the spines, but you know how I love a good mystery. So I very carefully began turning to the first page of book one and before I knew it, I had finished three! I thought I would give you a mini review of the first three books so that you, too, can add them to your shelves.

Lamb to the Slaughter is the first in the series. We meet newly appointed sheriff Serenity Adams. She has returned to her hometown and her new territory which includes the nearby Amish community. She is a strong female character, which I love in a mystery. What also adds to the mystery is just the general mystic of the Amish culture. In this book we follow the story from several points of view, including that of the murdered Amish girl, Naomi. This really adds depth to the story. Serenity is a very by-the-book person and truly has a difficult time with the secretiveness of the Amish men. So, in an effort to understand and infiltrate the Amish she needs help. Meet Daniel - he used to be Amish but has left. He also becomes the love interest. Poor Serenity has to face a lot of frustration in this book, but for us it just adds to the suspense.

Whispers from the Dead is book two. Serenity's reputation at solving crimes, especially in the Amish community, finds her invited to another community having problems with arson. Then a body is found in one of the burned out barns. The intrigue in this story is intermingled with past crimes that had taken place in the town. She runs into that town's sheriff and definitely meets with not only resistance but outright animosity. The secretive nature of all the men in this book elevates the mystery and suspense. Daniel helps again with solving this case and putting himself closer to Serenity.

Secrets in the Grave is book three and it brings Serenity and Daniel back to the community Daniel grew up in. A new healer moves to the Amish community and a young pregnant woman bleeds to death. Checking into his past, it's found that this is not the first woman to die, even his wife had died. Is he a healer or a killer?  Even though Daniel has been shunned, his help with the case brings him closer to the community and his family.

All three books were pages turners. I think that the Amish overtones of secrecy add to the mystery and suspense. I like a little romance that is equally frustrating thrown in for good measure. I am so glad that Jenny did these covers so that they were put on my radar.


Find Karen:

Friday, August 19, 2016

The 5 Series Topping My Must-Read List

Happy Friday Everyone!

I've found that quite a bit recently I seem to be leaving comments along the lines of "I need to read this series!" on my favorite blogs, so I thought it would be fun to list for you the top 5 series that have had me leaving such a comment of late.

With the exception of Jessica Shirvington's Embrace series, YA angel novels have been largely misses for me. I can't pinpoint why exactly, they just don't seem to draw me in the same way other epic paranormal or fantasy titles do. I've heard nothing but outstanding things about this series though, particularly about one intriguingly sexy guy named Rafa. I must meet him.

This is probably the one series on this list that I've said I need to read most often, and dammit, this year I'm going to do it! I said it last year about The Others series by Anne Bishop, and with the help of Nick, I devoured it earlier in the year and loved every minute. I feel like this doesn't have quite as much romance as I might want, but I think Darrow and his journey will more than make up for it!

I've actually read this first book, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn't LOVE it the way I expected to given the hype, so I've delayed reading the rest of the series out of fear I'll be disappointed. And thus the black sheep of the Charley Davidson fandom. Boo. This might be a series that just gets better as it goes though (I'm looking at you Kate Daniels), so I'm thinking I need to give it another shot!

Ilona Andrews. The creators of Kate and Curran. WHAT AM I WAITING FOR? *runs off to Amazon*

Okay, so this isn't quite a series yet as there's only one book out, but the second is well in the works and due to release early next year, so it counts. I've been seeing this around a lot lately with all sorts of delicious talk about the chemistry between Cat and Griffin, and I know it's going to be a read that's right up my sexual tension alley.

Have a great weekend you guys!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: If I Only Had a Duke

The Disgraceful Dukes #2
Lenora Bell
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available August 30th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl, or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.

The duke ruined her plans and he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage—he uses dalliances and public spectacle to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart...and he’s losing it to Thea.

Lenora Bell wowed with her historical debut How the Duke Was Won, and has followed it up with an utterly delightful sequel.

Thea is the woman her half-sister Charlene was hired to impersonate in the first book, making a brief appearance toward the end before stepping into the limelight in this second installment. While she ticks every single box Society requires for young ladies of the Ton, she has absolutely no interest in being an accessory who toddles behind her husband when he makes public appearances. Instead, she desires a quieter life in Ireland, studying female painters relegated to obscurity due to their gender rather than their talent, but though she longs for quiet, she's not afraid to reveal a wicked sense of humor and a backbone of steel to ensure she gets it. She refuses to take no for an answer (in a shows-gumption rather than irritating kind of way), and proves herself to be a rescuer of dukes every bit as much as the Duke is a rescuer of damsels in distress.

Dalton is of course the perfect counterpoint to Thea, a touch more severe where she shows a bit of whimsy and an ability to adapt to various situations with a smile on her face, but he knows how to turn on the charm and send a girl's thoughts spiraling straight into the gutter. He's on a mission to avenge his younger brother's murder at the age of five, and though he has neither the time nor the inclination for a female companion on his quest for vengeance, he can't help but be amused by Thea's approach to life. Around the three quarter mark he is guilty of the classic "you're too good for me so I'm going to push you away" move, but Thea holds her own and the drama shifts from inside the relationship to outside quickly enough that we're swept up in the dangers a wayward journey holds before we can work up any frustration.

Overall, If I Only Had a Duke is every bit as enjoyable as its predecessor, and Ms. Bell is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me in this genre.

Rating: 4/5

Find Lenora:

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.