**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.

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


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


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.