**Notice** Due to transfering back from a godaddy hosted wordpress blog back to blogger, reviews published before june 2017 don`t all have a pretty layout with book cover and infos. Our apologies.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

Book Stats:  
Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Ebook: 586 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release date: September 24th 2010

Series:  Seven Realms #2

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Tynga

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden's Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn't mean that danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own.

I picked up The Exiled Queen the moment I finished reading The Demon King. I HAD to know what was happening next and I was not disappointed. Both Raisa and Hans left the 'safety' of the Fells and are now deep in Arden territory at a school called Oden's Fort. Raisa attends Wein House, the military school, undercover and I swear she will blow your mind. Hans is attending Mystwerk along side Dancer to learn all things magic, and more. Speaking of magic, the point of view still alternates between the two and neither of them has any idea the other is there! This, along with many familiar and new supporting characters sets the table for another epic adventure. 

I find it really hard to tell you about this book without giving anything away. The world is still as rich as it was in the first book and we built upon that lore. We learn a lot more about this history and we learn new facts that plants a seed of doubt on what we thought were facts. 

Raisa learns a lot in Wein House and becomes more confidant in her physical abilities and she has a better idea of her objectives for when she will be Queen. She always wanted her Queendom to be a better place, but now she is owning tools that will allow her to do it. Staying away from home for the greater good is weighting her down though and she feels very lonely until she stumble upon Hans very late in the novel and then everything changes. 

Hans Alister faces different challenges. He knows his old turf and now finds himself in enemy territory, with no bearing, and no idea what the rules are. He needs to find his way among all these blueblood wizards or he might not survive to tell the tale. He finds very unlikely allies on his quest, most of whom he doesn't trust and that's just as well. I loved following his struggles and witnessing his determination to succeed. 

Romance finally enters the premises at the end on this novel and the romantic in me couldn't be happier. I was anxiously awaiting this moment and this young love was so sweet despite the dire situation the young lovers were in. It really set the table for the future to come and as you might guess, I picked up the third book as soon as I set the second one down :)

The Seven Realms series is an awesome high fantasy series and I know it's been released a few years ago, but if you haven't read it yet, you should definitely pick it up! Happy reading!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stacking The Shelves {259}

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
I hope everyone is having a wonderful week! 
Three weeks ago we welcomed a little fur baby to the family so I thought I would show you a picture :) His name is Marcus and he is a seal point cornish rex. We love very much!

Now book wise,
I added to my virtual shelves quite a few books:

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
and Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis (which is currently free)

I've already read all the books by Cinda (reviews to come) and I'm in love! So if you have any suggestions of a similar feel series, please leave a comment!

Please link your STS post in the linky below ^^

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 506 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release date: October 6th 2009

Series:  Seven Realms #1  

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Tynga

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari. Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can't sell. For as long as Han can remember, he's worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off. The thrilling debut in a new high fantasy trilogy, from New York Times bestselling author, Cinda Williams Chima (The Dragon Heir).


I am in love with this series like I haven't been in a long time. I say series because even though this is my review of the first book, after reading it I had to rush and read all four of this series, and than the first two of the spin-off series. I. Am. In. Love. And I will try not to confuse each book in my head as I write each reviews (the other ones will come in the coming weeks).

This high fantasy novel takes place in a world where rules have an extremely important place. A thousand years before, a wicked sorcerer tried to possess the first of the new queens, Hanalae, and when she fought back, the world was almost ripped apart by magic. The clans (think Native American) stepped in to mend the damage and set new rules to prevent it from happening again. And here we are, 30 or so generations later with a line of Queens called Gray Wolwes ruling over the QUEENDOM, yes you read right, along side Wizards who would love to have control back, The Clans, who will do everything to stop it from happening and the Valefolks (the commoner). Each of theses groups are richly portrayed, multi-dimensional, and have their own agendas.

To lead us through this amazing world we have Raisa, Princess Heir and Hans, former Street lord. The narration alternates between the two, allowing the readers to really grasp the reality of each of them. Raisa wants to be a good Queen for her people, she strives for her Queendom to be fair for everyone, for every class to get along and she is extremely stubborn. Hans on the other hand comes from nothing. He fights everyday to put food in his mother and sister's mouths after his father died in the war. He is weary of everyone and everything but he is very hard-working and will do anything to achieve his goals.

Along with those two amazing main characters are great support characters. Byrne, Raisa's childhood friend and bodyguard and Fire Dancer, Hans' best friend were absolutely great, to name only those two.

I don't want to give anything plot wise but I will say that to lore is extremely rich and Cinda Williams Chima offered an impressive historical background to her story. Sometimes fantasy novels can seem lengthy at times mostly because of travel times and what not but I never felt that way reading this novel. Every moment is colorful and gripping, everything happens for a reason and the action kept me glued to the pages.

I've read some complaints about a love triangle when I browsed reviews before, and really, those people are totally off. Yes there are two boys and a girl, but there never was an actual triangle. So if you've heard that, please don't let it keep you away from a great fantasy.

Another thing I thought I would mention, even though the characters are between 15 and 17 years old in this novel, it never felt that way. As you know, I'm a grown woman with kids and I just can't stand childish and whiny behavior from younger characters and thank the lord, it wasn't the case here. They always felt strong, determined and driven and I loved every moment.

I will conclude by urging to get your hands on this novel. It was released in 2009 so I am late to this party, I know. But the first spin-off novels were released in 2016 and April 2017 so I would strongly suggest you read the original series before you pick up the spin-off. Your experience will be that much more amazing!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [258]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

——————

Happy weekend everyone! I've been MIA for the past few weeks but I'm back from BookExpo America (BEA) and BookCon with a large stack of books. I had the chance to go to New York last week and I really enjoyed my experience.

Felicia, the Geeky Blogger, was nice enough to let me room with her during the week. She was there mostly for the Audies, the award ceremonies celebrating the best audio books of the year and their narrators. As a proficient audiobook reviewer, Felicia won the award of audiobook blogger of the year. Congrats Felicia! Also, thank you Felicia of letting me tag along to all the social events that allowed me to meet wonderful narrators working the the audiobook business. I had a blast!

Felicia and I sightseeing near Time Square.

I spent Thursday and Friday at Book Expo where I met many different authors and publishers, and picked up multiple ARCs. It felt better organized compared to last year in Chicago, however BookCon was way too crowed for me. Because Book Expo is limited to those in the industry, such as writers, publishers, reviewers, educators, librarians, etc, access was limited. However, BookCon is opened to the public so the main floor was way too crowded and the panel rooms were so small, I was only able to get into two out of the five panels I wanted to attend. They were very strict with the amount of people they could fit into the rooms and I feel they should have anticipated for bigger rooms considering the amount of people in attendance. Overall, I loved the experience, and I would definitely go again some day, however, not next year. 

Entrance to main floor of Book Expo and BookCon.
While in New York, I also decided to see a Broadway play which has both american and canadian roots. Come From Away has been nominated for seven Tony Awards and it really deserves to win. It was an amazing musical which is based on the true story of thousands of stranded plane passengers during the 9/11 attacks. In the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, many transatlantic planes were diverted to their small airport and it tells the story of how the town people gathered their resources to help close to 7000 unfortunate travellers. Very touching, and very well choreographed, the actors and songs were wonderful. Highly recommended.

Come From Away playbill.

Come From Away set.

Now, on to the real reason why you're here today. Here's what stacking my shelves this week:

Day 1 at Book Expo.

Purchased Day 1 at Book Expo.
Day 2 at Book Expo.

For Review

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Year One by Nora Roberts

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

The Ultimatum by Karen Robards

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

27 Hours by Tristina Wright

For Love of the Duke by Christi Caldwell

Living with the Living Dead by Greg Garrett

The Tiger’s Daughter y K. Arsenault Rivera

Warcross by Marie Lu

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Jady City by Fonda Lee



Purchased

Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Mayim Bialik 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Getting my book signed by Mayim Bialik.

Getting my booked signed by Margaret Atwood.

 Two authors I absolutely wanted to meet (however briefly) were Mayim Bialik and Margaret Atwood, and I was so happy I got the chance to meet both! Even though BookCon was overcrowed, it definitely attacked to some big names. I had the chance to attend Margaret Atwood's panel and it was brilliant hearing her talk about The Handmaid's Tale and the TV show based on her book. She is a very intelligent lady, and oddly enough, very funny.

So now you turn! Let me know what's new on your shelves!


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [257]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————

Hello Summer!
It's June, and post-Memorial Day in the U.S. which means that summer has unofficially started, at least in the northern hemisphere. School is either out or the end is in sight, and it's supposed to be warm and sunny. I live in Atlanta now, and one of the great things about living here is that while we definitely have all four season, winter generally just deals us a glancing blow. On that other hand, summers can get pretty beastly.

Which makes the height of summer the perfect time to curl up with a good book in an air conditioned house and a glass of iced tea. Come to think of it, there are no bad times to curl up with a good book, not even when the cat is sitting on it.

While my full shelf-stack is, as always, over at Reading Reality, here are a couple of teasers from this week's stack.



Cover Fire by Jess Anastasi
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare



And speaking of teasers, the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop also just started, so hop on over to Reading Reality for a chance to enter.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 470 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release date: July 7th, 2015

Series:  The Remnant Chronicles #2

Source: 

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.

I really enjoyed the transformations of our three main characters in this second story as we have unraveled who is who, assassin vs. prince, and seen how that plays into their relationships and political allegiances. Now with the Komizar in the picture, this places a third suitor for Lia's affection (or simply her political status) in play, since he decides to marry her and thereby make her a traitor to Morrighan in one fell swoop.

While Lia shows she is really in love with Rafe, she has a complicated relationship with Kaden. His betrayal of her still stings, but she sees his love of her clash with his loyalty to Venda and the Komizar, even if the latter is stronger. As the Komizar's cruelty and manipulations come to light, Kaden becomes more conflicted, especially when Lia lies to him, pretending to be more in love with him than she is though she does manage to get him to open up about his past, his parents, and his abuse, which he has never spoken about to anyone.

Rafe, too, is playing a dangerous game since he masquerades as an emissary from the Prince of Dalbreck and spins a number of lies as a desperate ploy to buy his small elite team of soldiers more time to help him and Lia escape. Meanwhile, he and Lia are also hiding their secret relationship from everyone and might at any moment be discovered for lovers not spurned enemies.

In this second book, Lia really has the opportunity to confront and explore more of her gift as well as her relationship with the true history of Venda and the Remnant, partially revealed to her by the vagabond leader Dihara. Though Venda has always been considered full of barbarians by those in other kingdoms (possibly due to their history of bloodshed and war), Lia is faced with the reality of her prejudices when she meets other Vendans like Aster and her clan who welcome Lia in light of an ancient prophecy. In meeting Aster, Eben, Calantha...the unnamed enemy has a face and is real and quite not the enemy she pictured. Instead, Lia embraces some Vendan culture and recognizes that the prophecy has tied her to the real Venda in some way, not the same cruel one ruled by the Komizar and that killed her brother and wars with her country.

With Venda being a patriarchal and violent society, both Kaden and the Komizar discount Lia's capacity for resourcefulness and brilliance, seemingly much like her own family did. As we find out, our heroine is strong, fierce, and determined to make her own choices about her future, even if everyone tries to take it away from her.

I also listened to this book on audiobook as a refresher (I'm finally getting to read book 3!), and that was very good too, even if the brief breaks to Gaudrel and the Song of Venda histories were irritating. Still one of my top favorite fantasy series! While this was a middle book, it did not disappoint! It was just as well-written and fantastic as the first. This series is very character-driven with enough satisfying world-building to keep you hooked to the end and dying for the adventure to continue.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [256]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
Welcome to my very first co-hosting of Stacking the Shelves! And for those of you in the U.S., happy 3-day weekend!
 
My name is Marlene and I'm a biblioholic. I'm always reading, and never caught up with everything I want to read. You probably know how that goes. I've been participating in Stacking the Shelves for years, and when Tynga started recruiting for new team members, I offered to help a bit with Stacking the Shelves. I post my entire stack every Saturday, including today of course, at Reading Reality. But when I'm over here at Team Tynga, I'll just post a little teaser to whet your appetite.
Because I also suffer from abibliophobia (that's the fear of running out of things to read) my stacks are frequently a bit unwieldy. Meaning occasionally huge. (All virtual, I read ebooks)
Just a word about the co-hosting before I give you that teaser. The link-up will be here at Team Tynga, as always. The exact same link-up will also appear at Reading Reality. No matter which site you are on when you add your link, it will appear in both places.
This should be grand!
And speaking of grand things, I picked up a couple of rather grand books that I am grandly looking forward to reading in the next few weeks...

Hemi by Anna Hackett
Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
If you want to check out my full list, head on over to Reading Reality. And if you want to show off the new additions to your shelves, add your post to the link-up so we can all ooh and aah over the covers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 342 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: April 26th, 2016

Series:  The Star-Touched Queen #1

Source: 

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
I had been wanting to read this for a while, especially as it is more diverse YA fantasy. Plus what a gorgeous cover!

I was able to listen to part of this on audiobook which was super helpful as it really brought to life the accents and the pronunciations of the Indian names which I found really beautiful and fun to memorize. For example, "Bharata" is quickened and sounds more like "Bahrta" and "Mayavati" is more like "My-ah-vath-ee". The narrators were wonderful and really brought the story to life. However, I found this book to have a lot of description and that detracted from the story. There was much use of imagery and while that was beautiful, it was almost overkill. It had so much description that it was hard to picture so many details or to allow the reader to have their own idea of the picture, especially since I was only listening to the audiobook.

Also, I kept getting sucked out of the story by how fated Amar and Maya's love was supposed to be. First, you look at him like he's saved her, awesome...but then...he seems to be more than he is and he's hiding a lot of secrets. Yet, they are supposed to be so deeply in love like epic stories of Paris and Helena of Troy. Having never been much of one to believe in love at first sight even in normal YA, this takes everything to an entire next level as Maya and Amar's love is supposed to span time (if you've watched the tv show Legends of Tomorrow, this reminds me of Kendra and Carter).  However, since Maya is virtually told nothing and mentally spinning in circles (or literally, since she is completely lost in Akaran a lot), this results in some frustration for the reader. So much of the time the reader only knows what Maya knows and since Maya is trying to figure things out...I felt as if I did too! That was super irritating.

My favorite part came when Maya met Kamala, the demon horse, towards 3/4 of the way through the book. Kamala was the first character to have a real voice and personality. With Kamala and the unpredictability of Maya being out of Akaran, the plot picked up and, while things were still confusing, at least it was interesting rather than being trope or sickeningly sweet unbelievable romance. There will still be teen readers who will like this, absolutely, and those readers who like Cassandra Clare's books might be drawn to try this novel.

The next novel Crown of Wishes focuses on Maya's little sister Gauri, who Maya was forced to leave behind in her escape from Bharata. I'm not sure I will be reading that one, honestly. Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stacking The Shelves [255]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

——————
New logo, new beginning!
We have been struggling to keep STS up due to real life obligation and Marlene from Reading Reality stepped up and offered to co-host STS with us. This mean the inlinkz tool will be shared between both of us, and the weeks we have nothing to show you unfortunately, you will view a sneak peek of her stash! Either way, you will be able to include your link here (or there!) every week.
Please welcome her warmly :)

Personally, I've added a few books to my shelves this week and here they are!
The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams China (ebook)
Demonica Underworld Bundle by Larissa Ione (ebook)
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews  (print)
What did you add to your shelves?

[inlinkz_linkup id=716829]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 482 pages
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release date: December 14th, 2015

Series:  Lady Helen #1

Source: 

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman’s eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter! 

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

I loved Alison Goodman's Eon Eona series, so I was anticipating picking up this book/series!
When you typically think of Regency romances you think of young ladies being presented into society, trying to find a good marriage, perhaps attempting to navigate social hierarchy and intrigue...usually a Jane Austen-type atmosphere that is very chaste and free of impropriety. (And I <3 austen="" jane="" p="">
This is not your typical Regency romance. Not even for teens.

Instead it takes the typical Regency romance surface and exposes a dark, dangerous underbelly full of scandal, demons, deceivers, and graphic horrors--case in point, it describes the rape of a woman by a demon and how this is what gains the demons nourishment and allows them to continue their demonic line through the woman's children. The almost virginal contrast of the Regency era and this vivid violence made this a very hard book to read, not because it wasn't really good, but because of the expectation on our heroine Helen to be both innocent and demure and then having her turn around killing demons and witnessing sexual violence. It has a lot of shock value, both to Helen and the reader. In fact, the age range for this book is supposedly 8th and up; I would have trouble as a librarian recommending this to a middle schooler...

This book also moves slower than most YA, but is still engaging, especially once Helen starts finding out secrets about herself and her family (i.e. The Dark Days Club). I really enjoyed how thoughtful Ms. Goodman was with the level of detail in describing the demons and their history, their relationship to those who, because of bloodline, are in the Dark Days Club. She also pays particular attention to historical details that rings authentic. I really hope there's more of Queen Charlotte and other big-wigs in society in the next book.

My favorite part about the book was our heroine Helen who, despite being confined by the typical Regency society/rules and having an overbearing uncle who naturally thinks women beneath his level of thinking and reasoning, an aunt who tries to moderate the uncle but still tars Helen with her sister's supposed misdeeds, and a brother who is useless at protecting her and fairly self-concerned if not a bad guy. She really doesn't have a voice among the people she should, and this is likely indicative of the time period, especially most women in society. Others reviewers have pointed this out as Helen not putting up a defense for her actions, which is sort of true, but also conventional rules don't give her one.

In case you're interested, here are a few online articles about the subject that will shed light on why, I believe, Helen does act according to society, at least until she has no choice through Mr. Carlston. For historical context (Beau Brummel), check out this post by Carolyn McDowell, "THE REGENCY IN ENGLAND – MISTRESSES, CONSORTS & CLEVER WOMEN". To read more about women and marriage in the Georgian era, read the brief excerpt by author Charlotte Betts "Women and Marriage in the Georgian and Regency Period". For more about young ladies and the importance of etiquette in the era, Maria Grace guest posts on author Kim Rendfeld's blog on "The High Stakes of Etiquette for Young Ladies in the Regency."

It isn't until close to the end of the book that Helen gets to stand out a bit and make some decisions for herself, even if they come at a hefty cost. I almost forgot the romance! What exactly is going on with her and Carlston? What will she decide in regards to the Duke of Selburn, who by all accounts is an impeccable match? I'm not sure yet...I'll have to read book 2!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [254]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

——————
It's May and hopefully there's some beautiful weather and blooming flowers for you all!
I have acquired a few books from my library since my last STS...

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
Always & Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Share your shelves' new additions!

[inlinkz_linkup id=714064]

Friday, May 05, 2017

Author Interview: Gabrielle Harbowy Discusses Her New Novel Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith + GIVEAWAY

Today we have a very special Q&A post with the author of Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith, Gabrielle Harbowy plus a giveaway of her new novel!

pathfinder tales gears of faith by gabrielle harbowySynopsis: 

"Pathfinder is the world's bestselling tabletop role-playing game―now adapted as a series of novels.

Keren is a sworn knight of Iomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite―a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone.

Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that’s the whole point―with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who’ll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes."

Buy online at Amazon or Book Depository.

--

1) Kara: Obviously, you love Pathfinder and this really shows in your level of detail in descriptions and imagination in the book. What is your perfect character and how does he/she differ from Keren and Zae?

Gabrielle: My perfect character is one I’ve never played before!

In writing this novel and, essentially, having to play all the characters and understand the mechanics of a lot of different classes and options, I’ve definitely learned to step outside my comfort zone. I love playing healers and support classes, and that’s what I’ve always gravitated toward in tabletop RPGs, but now I want to dig into all the options and try everything at least twice.

I don’t roleplay Keren or Zae at the table, mostly because I don’t want to have to keep novel continuity separate from in-game continuity. “Remember the time we-- oh, right. That didn’t actually happen.” It would make things twice as complicated for me if they diverged! My current Pathfinder characters are a haunted Oracle whose belongings get shifted around by the spirits of everyone she’s killed; a very impatient Tian human fighter (of the “I respect your desire to negotiate, but can’t we just kill all the things?” variety); and a Tengu (ravenfolk) mage.

2) Kara: What advice would you give readers and gamers new to Pathfinder and Pathfinder Tales?

Gabrielle: Pathfinder is a collaborative game and Pathfinder players are very helpful people, so don’t be concerned about knowing every rule before you show up at the table. You can use a premade character to get a feel for things without getting bogged down by multiple books’ worth of rules, or to try different classes to you find one you enjoy. It’s totally acceptable to say “Okay, how do I roll for that?” or “Where do I find that on my character sheet?” or “Here’s what I want my character to do. Can I do that? What’s the best way to go about it?” and everyone will chime in to help you do your best. Pathfinder works best when the party is a team that strategizes together, so new blood is always welcome because it brings new possibilities to the table.

For readers new to Pathfinder Tales, my advice is basically the same. The novels might require you to piece some things together from context, but the novels (or series of novels within the Pathfinder Tales line) are engineered to stand alone. They’re enhanced by knowledge of the game lore, because you’ll recognize things and appreciate references, but specific knowledge of the game isn’t necessary to enjoy the novels. They’re set all over the known Pathfinder world, and they’re all meant to be accessible starting points. 

3) Kara: There's quite a bit of in-depth mechanical description in Gears of Faith, and the Clockwork Cathedral is amazing! How did you come up with that and the descriptions for the clockwork devices? 

Gabrielle: One of the exciting things about writing tie-in fiction is that you can take something that fascinates you, that’s just a concept or a couple of sentences in a reference book, and really flesh it out and make it your own. I find the Clockwork Cathedral fascinating, and I had a lot of fun translating its bare bones into a living, functioning building. The shape of the Cathedral was already in the canon, as were the giant gears that swing down at varying times to block off the hallways, and the fact that there are no amenities inside. I got to think realistically about what that would mean, what it would feel like and look like, and describe that through the wonder and incredulity of someone new to it all. I particularly enjoyed exploring the contrast between Zae’s first impressions, being overwhelmed by the eccentricity of the place, and the total nonchalance of her fellow students for whom it’s become commonplace.

Sometimes the ideas drive themselves. Without giving away too much, I’ll say that, for example, when a character says something, “be careful not to get stuck inside the gears,” it becomes kind of necessary and obvious that, at some point, someone’s going to be in danger of getting stuck inside the gears!

For the mechanical devices, I did a lot of research. I looked at spells in the game and thought about which of them were practical to house inside of objects and then activate, and how to make the object and its activation method appropriate to the device.

The failed devices were the easier ones to come up with than the working ones, because that just meant taking things to their logical extremes. I wasn’t bound by practicality. Like, take the Bleed spell. That spell means that someone who’s dying and has been stabilized, becomes unstable and resumes bleeding out. Well, you don’t need to go to the effort of magic to craft an object that can do that, when you could just use a sword!

Some of the more whimsical devices didn’t make it into the book, just because I had to strike a balance between creating fun objects and remembering that the characters were under a bit of a time crunch to solve the central mystery...but I’m holding on to the blueprints of those objects for future use.

4) Kara: I loved the diversity in this book! Zae was my favorite character because she's unique, smart, and quirky, and yet I admired Keren's inner drive. Their relationship seems like a good partnership. What did you most want to convey to your readers through the diversity of characters and relationships? 

Gabrielle: Thank you! What I really wanted most was to normalize the diversity. Here’s a couple who’ve been together a while and aren’t in the new romance phase of a relationship, and they’ve obviously made it work. It’s not a coming out story, because coming out isn’t the only story. And there’s no way to dismiss it with “well, it won’t last.” It’s lasted. It doesn’t matter that they’re both female, or that they’re not both human, or whatever. They’re people having genuine emotions and genuine quirks and flaws. All of the things that might get them looked at askance in our real world just aren’t a big deal.

I have a transgendered main supporting character, and again it’s not a big deal. There are also a few non-binary characters sprinkled in conspicuously (one “extra” in the Clockwork Cathedral is a male gnome in eyeliner and a skirt), and no one cares, singles them out, or places different expectations on them. 

In our world, people are still marginalized for these things. And because they’re not what our society sees as its default, it’s rare for people who identify in diverse ways to be able to find themselves depicted in fiction. My intent was that diverse readers would find that perspective refreshing, and readers who hadn’t come across much of that sort of thing might find their horizons widened, and their stereotypes and assumptions challenged. It’s not the big reveal or the punch line or the plot twist. It’s just people being honest with themselves about who they are and/or who they love.

5) Kara: What was your favorite part about bringing the game to life?

Gabrielle: I love Pathfinder’s take on gnomes, which was why I wanted to feature one in the first place. In Pathfinder, gnomes crave novelty and don’t have many hangups about how they get it. They’re long-lived fae-based creatures so they have an outsider perspective on humanity. I had a great time diving into the gnomish mindset. I’ve come to love Zae’s skewed perspective on the mostly human world around her. She gives me an opportunity to take things to their literal extreme, to question things people don’t question, to think about the names of things, and to approach a fascinating world with the kind of wide-eyed wonder that we all eventually lose when we live in a place and see it every day.

In “Inheritance,” the pre-Gears of Faith short story (linked below), Zae explains: “...it's not just [naïve] curiosity. It's informed curiosity. I know how big and complicated and dangerous the world is. What fascinates me is all that variety—how the world can be so full of parts that are so complex and weird and beautiful, and interconnected. I'm not fascinated by birds in flight because I think flight is mystical and impossible, I'm fascinated because I understand how it works, and how it works is fascinating. That's the kind of wonder I see in the world.”

6) Kara: What's next for Keren and Zae? Will we find out how they met?

Gabrielle: Maybe! They’ve hinted at it, but the whole story might come to light in a future tale. In the meantime, you can check out my short story “Inheritance” (free on Paizo’s website) and see how they acquired Appleslayer, Zae’s brave steed. As for what’s next, I think Keren and Zae are going to stay in Absalom a while, but both of them are at the mercy of their callings. Who knows where they might end up!

7) Kara: What's next for you? Will you be writing more books with Paizo?

Gabrielle: My next project is a contemporary (not fantasy / science fiction) young adult novel called Hearts Are Jerks, which is about a teenage girl and her adventures navigating polyamory. I’m in revisions on this now, and I hope to be sending it around to agents this summer. It’s also an attempt to normalize the diverse, and give voice to people who don’t get to see themselves and their relationships represented in fiction in positive ways. After that, I’ll be writing the sequel to Of the Essence, which is an urban fantasy novel I wrote in Ed Greenwood’s “Hellmaw” shared-world setting. Would I like to write more Keren and Zae? Definitely. And I’m looking forward to seeing what stories inspire me in Paizo’s forthcoming Starfinder setting, as well.

Thank you, Gabrielle, for answering my questions about Gears of Faith! I will definitely be looking out for your YA novel! Also, many thanks to TOR for sending us the book to feature and for offering a giveaway!

To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post answering the following question:

What is your favorite fantasy RPG? (can be tabletop or video game!)

The giveaway ends May 12, 2017. Please check back to see if you're the winner!

Please note: Giveaway is only eligible to readers from US or Canada.



--

Gabrielle Harbowy got her start in the publishing industry as a Pricing Analyst at Scholastic. Since leaving the corporate side of publishing in 2006, she has edited for publishers including Pyr, Lambda Literary, and Circlet Press, and spent a decade as the managing editor at Dragon Moon Press. She copyedits professionally and is a submissions editor at the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine. With Ed Greenwood, she co-edited the award-nominated When the Hero Comes Home anthology series; their latest anthology endeavor is Women in Practical Armor, from Evil Girlfriend Media. Her short fiction can be found in several anthologies, including Carbide Tipped Pens from Tor, and her first novel, Hellmaw: Of the Essence, is available from The Ed Greenwood Group. She also has a Pathfinder Tales novel, Gears of Faith, from Paizo. For more information, visit her online at @gabrielle_h or gabrielleharbowy.com.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Shadow's Seduction by Kresley Cole


Shadow's Seduction by Kresley Cole

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Paperback : 248 pages
Publisher: Valkyrie Press
Release date: February 27th, 2017
Series: The Dacians #2 & Immortals After Dark #17

Source: 

Reviewed by: 

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

In this scorching Immortals After Dark/Dacian novel, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole brings together a wicked vampire prince used to getting everything he desires and a demon warrior who always felt like an outcast.

A NIGHT OF DEBAUCHERY . . .
Prince Mirceo Daciano and his new friend, Caspion the Tracker, comb the streets of Dacia, drunkenly seeking out pleasures of the flesh. In what should have been a typical night, they coax a bevy of nymphs to bed. To impress their females, the demon and the vampire kiss on a dare.

CHANGES THEM FOREVER . . .
Once they finally break away from their soul-searing kiss, they find themselves alone--and shaken. Had they imagined their explosive chemistry? Obstacles--ranging from a death sentence to exile in a war-torn dimension--threaten to destroy their lives . . . and the vulnerable promise in that one kiss.

HOW LONG CAN THEY RESIST THE FIRE THAT BLAZES BETWEEN THEM?
Even if Mirceo accepts Caspion as his fated mate, the seductive vampire still must convince the stubborn demon that their bond is forever. And any royal Dacian union must receive the blessing of King Lothaire, an unpredictable and savage killer. . . .
Mirceo is the youngest male royal in the Dacia family and has always counted on his charms to get him whatever he wanted and when he meets Caspion, a self-destructive depressed demon, he finally finds a run for his money. They are suchs opposite and despite that, they become great friends. And yet, Mirceo wants more. Will he succeed?

Shadow's Seduction sit somewhere between a short story and a full length novel and I wish it were actually a full novel. I understand though, with the book being m&m, that Kresley Cole decided to make it a short non-mandatory story within the overall Immortals After Dark story arc. Not everyone is willing to read male to male romance and I have to admit it was a first for me. I've never been incline to pick up such book before but since I love this series so much I decided to give it a shot. Did I enjoy it? yes. Will I pick up more books from this genre? Probably not, unless it's part of a series I already love.

The reason why I wish it were a full length novel is because I felt things were rushed at time. The shory started VERY abruptly with Caspion and Mirceo being at the same brothel and all of a sudden, totally randomly, Mirceo is entranced by Caspion and decided he wanted to have him (Mirceo is bi, but Caspion is straight). It really felt completely out of blue because of the lack on context, and background story. You literally jump right into that scene and it's how everything starts. You then fast forward to how they eventually became good friends but you don't witness it, and I honestly wish we did. Eventually it gets better and we live events right by their sides, and Cole is usually really good at getting you engrossed in a story and I think the shortness of this novella is what limited Cole in developing those events.

I really loved their stories though with how eccentric Mirceo is, how volatile his actions are but how dedicated he is to Caspion and how determined he is to prove him he can be the man he needs. Whereas Caspion is living in total denial of his growing feelings for Mirceo. He does not what to be gay (or bi) and exiles himself for hundreds or years hoping it'll go away. He grows hard, stubborn and hateful and at some point Mirceo's good mood rubs on him and everything changes. Their life-altering courtship was really great and I wish we got to see more of them when they finally committed to each other.

Reading this novella I thought the next book would be about Bettina because of events taking place and I was really surprise to see the story is about two completely different characters. Hopefully we will find out what happens to her (or maybe we already did in a past novel and I forgot??).

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this story and I would recommend it. If you are homophobic then this might not be the book for you. There are graphic scenes of sex between two male in this novel.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 532 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: January 3rd, 2017

Series: Passenger #2

Source: 

Reviewed by: 

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.
I loved this epic conclusion to the Passenger duology! It was definitely easier to get into than the first simply because it is driven by action and there's not as much set-up needed. Just for fun, you might like Alex Bracken's Pinterest board on the series, which has some fantastic images of an astrolabe and other beautiful imagery. If you haven't read it, there might be a few spoilers below...

In the last post, I promised to talk about Etta and Nicholas's romance, which develops throughout Passenger. Here in Wayfarer, Etta and Nicholas's romance is somewhat tempered by time/space but is no less a part of this novel. In the first, they fell in love, but here they have to overcome odds to even see each other again since Etta's timeline was destroyed and Nicholas believes Etta dead. It makes things more meaningful because they are carrying on without knowing what has become of the other in the hopes that there is some sort of future for them after everything is said and done. For Nicholas, Etta is the first person to recognize him for himself and not for his skin, his status, or his potential. Etta finds Nicholas to be a person she can depend on and who has a good and kind heart but is also self-sacrificing and brave. Their romance is sweet and new for both of them, and for time-travelers, seems to be a first step multi-racial couples!

Because this novel follows two separate storylines of Etta and Nicholas/Sophia, we see how much their first journey has made them change their priorities a bit and show drastic character development from the beginning of the series. Before, Nicholas wanted only his freedom and his own ship but otherwise had accepted his lot in life. Now, because Etta has come into his life and he's seen his grandfather's thirst for power, he recognizes that he is not his skin color/race nor his past and has a real future with Etta and her ideals. Nicholas has grown to realize he has a choice and his own power. Sophia, alternately, has developed from blindly accepting what her grandfather tells her to making her own choices, discovering love, and distinguishing between family who is genuine and family who manipulates. She also has to do all of this with a significant handicap and that makes her more in tune with reality than her former version of the truth. Lastly, Etta, of course, has transformed the most, seeing as she knew nothing about her mom or dad or anything about the past or her time gene. However, we see how she has matured from simply reacting with anger/frustration to understanding and acceptance of her circumstances and determining to make the best possible choices. She now knows of sacrifice and consequences, something she didn't really grasp when it related to her mother. They've all become strong hero/heroines, no matter the outcome of their quest.

In Wayfarer, there is a larger element of mystery and secrets as the story of the Ancient One is told and how he is still searching for the last astrolabe and pursuing Rose Linden for years. When Nicholas and Sophia are traveling in search of Rose/Etta, they come across the trail of this Ancient One and its minions, finding themselves stalked by monsters, but making a key ally of Li Min, a traveling mercenary. The looming threat of the Ancient One is what changes the entire story as it wants to destroy all of their timelines except its own.

One of the truly spectacular things about this book is the time traveling and the possibilities. Bracken has some fantastic writing and setting description here. It is quite exciting to visit any point in history just from a time passage and prompts thoughts of when/where one might choose to link to other favorite periods. In this book, we visit San Francisco before the earthquake, Petrograd and Czar Nicholas II, Carthage before it was destroyed by Rome, the Vatican City during the Middle Ages and more. I found these glimpses fascinating! It takes your imagination one step farther because you're picturing the characters navigating these relics of history and experiencing that period of life then jumping to a new one.

The last thing I want to point out is how Wayfarer continues those themes of diversity and challenging the social norms of the period because we meet Julian, who confronts his own idea of racism/sexism, being male and white and the only member who is inconspicuous, and comparing his ease of traveling versus all the others, who have to take precautions to not draw attention, break laws, or embroil themselves in a dispute or timeline change.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Stacking The Shelves (253)

Stacking the Shelves


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!


——————


 Happy weekend everyone!


I haven't been around in a while, because of well, work and life. The craziness has been winding down so hopefully I'll get the chance to read these soon enough.



Purchased


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich


I stopped by a Barnes & Noble in Naples, FL where I was visiting last month and I simply had to get a signed copy of Turbo Twenty-Three. I was lucky enough to snag the last signed copy in the store! Since Janet Evanovich lives in Naples, I took the chance that she might have stopped by and left a few signed copies, and I lucked out.


What did you add to your shelves lately?



[inlinkz_linkup id=710969]

Friday, April 21, 2017

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 648 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release date: September 1st, 2015

Series:  Throne of Glass #4

Source: 

Reviewed by: 

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

Celaena Sardothien aka Aelin Galathynius has been through a lot, especially for someone so young, but her troubles are far from being over. She met and bonded with her precious Rowan during her oversea quest, but now she's back to Ardalan, on her own and needs to learn to fight without her magic powers once more. Her mission is quite simply, retrieve her cousin Aedion from the execution block, free magic, kill the King and free (or kill if it comes to this) Dorian. Easy peasy!

I loved this series and it's been a very long time since I've read the previous books, and I must say, my lack of memory was my worst enemy when reading this book. All through the novel Maas refers to past events or previous characters and while it 'rings a bell' she didn't provide enough information to really remind me what she was referring too. It was very frustrating to KNOW I should remember something, but not have a clue. Keltain and Elide were to two most frustrating characters for me for that reason, because I had no idea who they were! After searching online I found that Keltain was rich self-serving b*tch from book one (and dear lord did she change!) and Elide was the daughter of a maid who helped protect Aelin as a child. Maas did not provide enough details in Queen of Shadows for me to remember them while reading. Did you have the same problem? It might just be me...

I have really mixed feelings about the installment. I read it pretty fast because it's full of suspense and fairly action-packed, keeping a fast pace despite this book being so long (almost 600 pages!) but some parts of the plot seemed impossible. The whole book Aelin sets out on her own doing god-knows-what and later on surprises us with a certain plot twist and we are suppose to believe she plotted the whole things days / weeks before. It made things interesting, but didn't seem plausible.

On the other hand, we got to know Lysandra really well and she was truly a star for me. I learned to hate her in the previous novels but it turns out it was all an act and she is beyond awesome! I really enjoyed her company and her witty lines. We was a happy surprise! As was Nesryn, a rebel solider with wicked bow skills and she's Chaol's second-in-command.

I wasn't a fan of Manon (a witch) at all, and her chapter bored me at first, but she grew on me has she finally showed a bit of balls toward the end of the book and I am really curious about her future role in the final battle. She is currently fighting on the side of evil, but shows signs of redemption. Who knows where it will lead her!

Overall, I'm still in love with the series and plan to read the fifth installment (Empire of Storms) very soon. The events of Queen of Shadows are game changers and I'm really anxious to know what comes next. If you haven't tried this series, I would recommend starting with the novellas (Would can find them bound in a single book titled The Assassin's Blade or purchase 'em individually for e-readers) has the events taking place in those are crucial.

Happy reading!