Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

14th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 400
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
2.5 Stars

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Of Fire and Stars was one of my most anticipated books of the year; it sounded amazing and looked amazing! I was overjoyed to get a copy at BEA. And even though the world-building and characters were fairly cliché, I was enjoying the first half; it reminded me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I liked Mare the most and liked how her relationship with Denna was developing. I was even intrigued with the mystery and political subplot even if the Directorate was totally useless. I couldn’t stop reading.

*Slight spoilers ahead*

Unfortunately it fell apart for me in the last 120 pages. All of a sudden, the pace went at breakneck speed because the story had so much to cram into the end. I’m certain this will be a book with a sneaky sequel. The search for the spy and the dagger was basically dropped; I was left wanting so much more in general. I wanted to know MORE about Affinities, MORE about the different cultures, and I wanted a more natural progression of Mare and Denna’s feelings.

It was so abrupt, from stolen glances and blushing faces to declarations of love and “can’t live without you.” I could feel their emotions in the first half; once they admitted their feelings, it was a lot of telling. I was disappointed to find that Denna was awfully selfish while Mare was somewhat immature. No one else had much personality to speak of.

At the end, I just wanted to finish the book. It didn’t have enough depth for me and had some terrible dialogue in the last 30 pages. I was sincerely happy to see two princesses in love, but I wanted to feel their love and I wanted their story to be more compelling in its other aspects. (Side note: the German cover is so gorgeous I’m tempted to buy it despite everything.)

This is difficult for me because I want this book to do well. Diversity in fiction is important and I’d really really love more f/f fantasy and more LGBTQ fantasy in general, especially from #ownvoices authors. Maybe Of Fire and Stars will work for some readers, but it was mostly wasted potential for me.

Have you read Of Fire and Stars yet? What did you think?

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

7th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Timekeeper by Tara SimTimekeeper by Tara Sim
Series: Timekeeper #1
Published by Sky Pony Press
Pub Date: November 8th 2016
Pages: 368
Format: ARC | Source: Borrowed
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Let’s start off with a disclaimer: Tara’s agent is one of my very good friends and she was nice enough to lend me an ARC for review, but that in no way affected the honesty of my review or my enjoyment of the book. In some ways, it added a lot of pressure!! Luckily, I needn’t have worried- I loved everything about this book and was pulled in from the very first page.

 

The writing is superb and I love the alternate London with its steampunk elements. It wasn’t too different, just different enough. I loved the historical details.  And I love the mythology behind the clocks and clock spirits! The short interludes with mythology were wonderful and it showed another layer of Sims’ writing and imagination.

Most of all, I loved the characters, especially Danny. They felt so alive and richly drawn. Poor Danny, with the weight of the world crushing his shoulders. His home life is a bit of a shambles, but he loves his apprenticeship, even if most people dislike how fast he’s climbed the ranks- he can’t help that he’s so talented and unique. The fact that he could repair time was such a great addition. He’s stubborn and determined, and has a bit of a Potter streak to him when it comes to solving mysteries and sticking his nose where it might not belong. But he’s endearing and I love his friendship with Cassie. And Colton is quite the cinnamon roll! He’s such a bittersweet character, this spirit pulsing with energy and warmth who loves his clock tower but who wants to experience life (and love) outside his tower.

 

And the rooooomance!! Ahh! Colton and Danny’s relationship was so great, very Casper in some ways, and very sweet despite the myriad of obstacles (with lots of kissing!).  In fact, Danny kisses and flirts more than I expected in this book, and it is excellent. There aren’t any triangles but sometimes you kiss the wrong person before you get to kiss the right one, especially when said person is a spirit. I liked that Danny’s sexuality was part of his story but not the crux of his story.

 

The action really ramps up in the second half and it’s all very exciting and tragic. I couldn’t imagine how the book was so long and part of a series, but now I already want more! The pacing was excellent and it felt magical and charming. There’s so much to this world and these characters. I’ve only read The Archived but I can see fans of Victoria Schwab loving this, along with fans of historical fiction mixed with a bit of fantasy, adventure, friendship, and swoony lovely ships :D

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

10th Oct 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan MorrisonDisenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
Series: Tyme #2
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Pub Date: October 11th 2016
Pages: 416
Format: ARC | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Retelling
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Ella Coach has one wish: revolution. Her mother died working in a sweatshop, and Ella wants every laborer in the Blue Kingdom to receive fairer treatment. But to make that happen, she'll need some high-level support . . .

Prince Dash Charming has one wish: evolution. The Charming Curse forced generations of Charming men to lie, cheat, and break hearts -- but with the witch Envearia's death, the curse has ended. Now Dash wants to be a better person, but he doesn't know where to start . . .

Serge can grant any wish -- and has: As an executive fairy godfather, he's catered to the wildest whims of spoiled teenagers from the richest, most entitled families in Blue. But now a new name has come up on his list, someone nobody's ever heard of . . . Ella Coach.

I loved this book SO much for many different reasons! And I’m going to try something new and format my review in bullet points to really drive home my thoughts on Disenchanted.

-This book has all of the adventure, humor, and heart of Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel but still manages to feel completely different, which I think is incredible; the land of Tyme is so huge that each land truly feels like a different kingdom! They have their own cultures, histories, and landscapes, and it’s exciting to get to experience various parts of Tyme. Plus there are two maps!

-There are three POVs (Ella, Dash, Serge) that alternate in various lengths instead of chapters, and it was satisfying to see them begin to interweave while also getting the full scope of the story.

-I loved Ella! She was an amazing, well-realized main character: passionate, brilliant, and while she sometimes spoke too quickly or out of anger, her heart was always in the right place.

-I loved what Megan Morrison did with Ella’s family- it’s not the typical evil stepmother and stepsisters. Ella’s dad is alive and remarried, and she has a stepbrother and stepsister. It’s also more a case of growing pains and misunderstandings rather than them being “evil”. I really loved watching the evolution of their relationships.

-I loved Prince Dash! He was handsome but awkward, and his relationship with Ella (and his kingdom) really grows and flourishes. He takes the time to listen to her, even if he doesn’t agree. Plus there are well earned swoons ;) I loved Dash’s mother too. And the fairy godfathers Serge and Jasper, who I TOTALLY SHIP (and yes, it’s a legit ship!). Also, the head godmother Jules reminded me of the fairy godmother from Shrek 2. What a piece of work.

-I loved everything about the Blue Kingdom: the boarding school, the castle, the Glass Slipper, and the focus on the workshops and business class. It was unexpected and very dark and Dickensian at times, including one particularly harrowing sequence. I really appreciate that Megan Morrison never talks down to her readers. These are mature (but not inappropriate) books and deal with tough subjects much like the Harry Potter books did- through a fantasy lens.

Disenchanted does a wonderful job of capturing a diverse group of characters within its pages, everything from race to culture to class. There are hints of an LGBT relationship too. The world feels multicultural and racially diverse, and the differences in custom and culture between each kingdom is illustrated nicely. Even the groups of fairies vary with regard to their own customs.

-At the crux of Disenchanted, however, is the issue of class and ethical dilemmas. Would you rather buy quality goods for cheap if the workers are treated abysmally or pay more for better goods if you know that the workers are treated fairly? This is what Ella is fighting for, for very personal reasons.

-The book made me emotional at different points- I laughed, I gasped, I almost cried- but last 60 pages are particularly fantastic. I love a good courtroom scene!

-Most of all, I loved all the small details. This world feels lived in, with a rich history that I’m dying to know more about. It’s timeless but modern and I love all the allusions and details from the first book and from fairy tales. I can’t wait to see what else is in store in the land of Tyme!

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

5th Oct 2016 Ashley @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Ashley

Review: The Lie Tree by Frances HardingeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Published by Amulet Books
Pub Date: April 19th 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3 Stars

To earn a secret so profound, I would need to tell momentous lies, and make as many people as possible believe them…

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.

Faith Sunderly and her family have just moved to the remote island of Vane. They fled their former home in Kent when Faiths reverend father made a discovery at a dig site that was not received well. Faith is a 14 year old well-mannered young lady on the outside. On the inside Faith is far more interested in science than housework and she has a ton of scientific questions she is dying to find the answers too.

When her father is found dead on the island, Faith knows it was no accident and she is determined to find his killer. Though Faith has a few ideas of who would hurt her father, she has no proof. Faith begins to run out of time proving the murder. In a desperate fit, she begins to rummage through her father’s belongings and discovers his biggest secret of all, a tree. Of course this is not an ordinary old tree, this is the sole reason Faiths father was murdered. This tree has the ability to reveal a truth to you, but in exchange you must tell it a lie. Once you tell it a lie, and the lie takes hold in the community, the tree produces a red fruit. Eat the fruit and it will send you into an opiate dream-like state where the truth is finally revealed. The tree must remain in very dark conditions though and to properly care for it, Faith has to sneak out in the middle of the night and somehow avoid leading her father’s killer directly to the tree.

I ran across this book at BEA this year and immediately fell in love with the cover and the premise. I admit I did have a little trouble getting into the book, it starting out a bit slow for me. I was immediately annoyed with Faiths father and his nonchalance toward her; Harding portrays the sexism of the time in almost every chapter. It’s completely accurate but frustrating none-the-less! I love Faith and her hunger for knowledge; her fierce persistence made her a woman to be feared in her time.  I did feel like the ending was somewhat abrupt, maybe I just wanted more. I do think this could easily be made into a series, I’d love to know more about what happened to Faith!

Ashley @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

29th Sep 2016 Ashley @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Ashley

Review: Nevernight by Jay KristoffNevernight by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #1
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Pub Date: August 9th 2016
Pages: 429
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4 Stars

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Nevernight is a book that will take you on the craziest ride of your life. When I first saw the cover for this book I knew I was going to read it before I even knew what it was about. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC from NetGalley and it prompted me to pre-order both the US and the UK versions; I NEVER preorder anything. With that being said, I’d like to start this review with a cautionary note. Nevernight is a book that lives in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore, not Young Adult. I’ve seen a lot of talk on Twitter/Goodreads and several reviews confusing this idea, please don’t. If Nevernight was a movie it would be rated R for violence, grisly images, language, some nudity and sexuality. Anyhow…on to the good stuff!

“Be advised now that the pages in your hand speak of a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music. Who did to happy ever afters what a saw blade does to skin.”

Mia Corvere came from a wealthy family but after her father is publicly hung for being a traitor and her mother jailed, she begins to live a much different life. While on the run from the very men who killed her father, Mia runs into some trouble and is nearly beaten to death in an alley.  This is how she meets her mentor Mercuiro, he saves Mia and takes her under his wing. It doesn’t take long for him to learn how badly Mia wants vengeance against the men who ruined her family so he begins training her to be an apprentice in the Red Church. This is a church of a different kind, it teaches and trains assassins. Once you’re accepted to the Red Church there are only two ways out, you either die or graduate and be initiated as a Blade.

“Never Flinch, Never Fear and Never Ever Forget” 

There are 28 acolytes fighting for the coveted title of Blade. Of those 28 only 4 can become anointed. Which means everyone will do whatever they have to do to be one of those 4 left standing. The Red Church is unique and has a Harry Potteresque feel to it. Long winding passageways, ghosts and monsters hiding in the shadows and a history that goes back centuries, a potion ‘s professor. But that is where the similarities end. Nevernight is a revenge story and Mia will stop at nothing to avenge her family even if means she doesn’t become a blade.

I loved this book for many reasons. Mia Corvere is a cold-hearted killer on the outside. She has been through some serious shit and her determination is a force to be reckoned with. While she is perceived as heartless, she really isn’t. She ends up being the only acolyte who really cares about her peers and despite her need for revenge. Oh! and she has a familiar, a cat named Mister Kindly who appears shortly after her father’s death.

Even though I stand by my 4 star rating on Goodreads, there were a few things I was less enthusiastic about. The beginning of this book was hard to get into, it seemed a bit slow and I wasn’t impressed with the first few chapters. There are footnotes in this book. Yep, you heard me, footnotes. Since I read the eARC the footnotes were impossible to keep up with, I had to scroll back and forth and by the time I got to the end of the chapter, I wasn’t sure what the footnotes were talking about. To be honest, I stopped reading them. It didn’t seem like they mattered a whole lot to the actual story so I just opted out. Overall though, I am glad I read Nevernight and I will be continuing with the series.

 

Ashley @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

22nd Sep 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: September 20th 2016
Pages: 416
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4 Stars

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Three Dark Crowns is dark, strange, meandering, brutal, and fascinating. It’s a great book for fall for those very reasons! I really loved this fantasy world but it’s hard to get completely attached to anyone because the 3rd person present tense is peculiar and makes you feel distant. That being said, I found myself rooting for each queen at different points and I was genuinely shocked and dismayed at various points as well.

I definitely had favorite characters, and the details are fantastic: about the island, about the cities, about the abilities of the queens. It’s one of those books that burrows under your skin and stays with you afterwards. It’s not loud or flashy but it’s inventive and original. I loved how different the triplets Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe were from each other; I also liked the compare and contrast between their upbringing and companions. Nature vs. nurture and all that.

I felt a little meh in the middle; I was going to rate it 3 stars for a while because I thought this was a standalone for some reason. No wonder the pacing felt off to me! It was interesting the entire time but I kept waiting for the story to ramp up. And the ending was fantastic but unexpected for that reason. It was harder to appreciate a slow burn story when my mind didn’t know to expect a sequel. However, I couldn’t get enough once the pace started rolling again towards the end.

It’s a captivating book. Even now, I keep thinking about the story, the characters, the terribly interesting history of Fennbirn Island and their Queens. The world building is so rich! And there is a map! Ellis and I keep discussing our theories for the sequel; there’s so much at play, so much to be answered for, and I can’t wait to see where the story will go.

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

20th Sep 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Blog Tours, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pub Date: November 8th 2016
Pages: 464
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless was marvelous, enchanting, and oh so heartbreaking. I’ve been looking forward to this book for years and I’m so glad it lived up to my expectations! Marissa Meyers’ Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite YA series and I was interested to see what a new story would look like from her. Heartless feels very different from her previous series but I loved it just as much.

It’s difficult to reimagine a beloved, well-known story but Heartless is done so well. It’s a slow build with a few pacing issues but I was entranced by the writing and the characters from the beginning. The world building is detailed and full of whimsy with clever allusions to Alice in Wonderland. You truly feel that this is a story taking place in the original Wonderland, but it also feels fresh.

Heartless would be nothing without a worthy main character and Catherine is magnificent. I couldn’t imagine how she could possibly become the Queen of Hearts that we all know; Catherine was full of love and ambition, and had such lofty dreams for her bakery, but you could see the hints of passion and temper simmering underneath. And oh how I loved all of the lemon tarts and spiced pumpkin cakes and other scrumptious treats! It made me want to bake everything.

All of the characters were deliciously complex, just like her recipes, although I didn’t care much for her parents or the King of Hearts. I loved the tea party scene with the Mad Hatter, I loved learning about the lands of Chess and Hearts and their history, and I loved Catherine’s relationship with Jest. It could have felt rushed but I like how it played out and it fit the whimsy of the story. Plus Jest was mysterious, fun, and quite romantic. The story and mystery comes to a head (pun intended) in this explosive crescendo that makes your heart break, even for characters you don’t like. It’s marvelous and awful.

If you love retellings in general, Alice in Wonderland in particular, or tragic romances and baked goods, Heartless needs to be on your reading list. It’s worth the preorder! And it’s the rare standalone that I wish would have a companion novel or two. It’s magical.

gwtw-separate-line

Can you believe there’s only 49 days left until the release of Heartless?!

It’s true!! And Fierce Reads is currently holding a sweepstakes so be sure to visit their site to enter!

Enter the win-a-Tea-Party #Sweepstakes! #HeartlessCountdown http://www.thelunarchronicles.com/heartless/#Sweepstakes

 

About Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. She’s a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, any occasion that requires a costume), and has been in love with fairy tales since she was a child. She may or may not be a cyborg.

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood + Giveaway!

8th Aug 2016 Lety @ Gone with the Words 2016, Giveaways, Reviews, Reviews by Lety

Review: Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood + Giveaway!Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood
Series: Steps of Power #1, The Kings #1
Published by Silver Helm
Pub Date: October 1st 2015
Pages: 383
Format: eBook | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

The first book in JJ Sherwood's Steps of Power epic fantasy series. The Kings, Book I: Kings or Pawns is a political intrigue that spirals into an action and adventure series as the final events unfold.

8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.

As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.

This was such an incredible story and start to this high fantasy series. This story had multiple narrators, each telling their story from their own perspective and sometimes taking you into a different part of the map (which is included in the book btw). The tale was gripping, emotional and sucked you into every character’s trials and tribulations. Each character was introduced to you in a way that didn’t have your head spinning like other epic fantasy novels I have read. The pacing of the story was just right, and the world building was one of my favorite parts of this first book. There were some clear good/bad guys from the start that you loved/hated and some plot twists towards the end that I didn’t foresee.

J.J. Sherwood has a great way of describing surroundings and characters that is rich but not overbearing. The images easily manifested in my mind so vividly. All the while I kept thinking what a great movie this would make! J.J. also has an interactive world map on her Steps of Power website that is pretty awesome, and character content coming soon ( I can’t wait! :D).

General Jikum and King Hariem were likeable characters from the start and are our main storytellers in the beginning. The city of Elvorium, which King Hairem has inherited, is being corrupted by those that sit on the council, each an appointed representative of a different elven race. The king soon finds that he holds no real power and the council holds the real control (those jerks!). Meanwhile, their city is at war with Saebellus, a relentless and extremely powerful warlord (with a scary, huge dragon/beast thing). And though General Jikum is a worthy opponent and has been successful in recent battles, there seems to be no end to the fighting and death toll. King Hariem schemes to try and take power back from the council but there is also an assassin loose who has been targeting the Council of Elves, and his efforts seem to only backfire. This story is full of back-stabbing, treachery, heartbreak and mysteries that have yet to unravel themselves. What is that thing in the ice?! Who is this Sellemar character really?! I MUST KNOW!

I enjoyed this book immensely and plan on continuing to read this series. If you are a fan of high fantasy novels go pick this one up immediately!

Giveaway

(This giveaway is run by the author. We are not responsible for choosing or notifying winners, or for the prizes you’re to receive.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Lety @ Gone with the Words

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Blog Tour: Reliquary by Sarah Fine | Excerpt + Giveaway!

20th Jul 2016 Jess @ Gone with the Words 2016, Blog Tours, Giveaways

Blog Tour: Reliquary by Sarah Fine | Excerpt + Giveaway!

Blog Tour: Reliquary by Sarah Fine | Excerpt + Giveaway!Reliquary by Sarah Fine
Series: Reliquary #1
Published by 47North
Pub Date: June 14th 2016
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback | Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Buy the book! | Goodreads

Mattie Carver’s engagement party should have marked the start of her own personal fairy tale. But when her fiancé, Ben, is violently abducted the next morning, her desperate quest to find him rips her away from small-town life and reveals a shattering truth: magic is real—and Ben is hooked. It’s not the stuff of storybooks. It’s wildly addictive, capable of producing everything from hellish anguish to sensual ecstasy almost beyond human endurance.

Determined to find out who took Ben and why, Mattie immerses herself in a shadowy underworld and comes face-to-face with the darkly alluring Asa Ward, a rogue magic dealer, infamous hustler…and her missing fiancé’s estranged brother. Asa has the power to sense magic, and he realizes Mattie is a reliquary, someone with the rare ability to carry magic within her own body, undetected. Asa agrees to help find Ben on one condition: Mattie must use her uncommon talent to assist his smuggling operations. Now, from magic-laced Vegas casinos to the netherworld clubs of Bangkok, Mattie is on a rescue mission. With Asa by her side, she’ll face not only the supernatural forces arrayed against her but the all-too-human temptation that she fears she can’t resist.

I’m so excited to be today’s stop on the Reliquary tour! I have an awesome excerpt to share with you guys, along with a chance for you to win 1 of 3 copies up for grabs! You can also buy it now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble!

Exceprt

RELIQUARY, Chapter one, part one excerpt:

The night before everything fell apart was the best of my life—the last purely happy, uncomplicated hours I would ever have. Looking back, I’m amazed by how lies can soothe the soul, quell every fear, blind you to reality in the most pleasant of ways. Not forever, of course. And only if you really want to buy into the illusion. But back then, I did. Even as the truth sharpened its knives and hunted me down, I refused to see it.

            I was too worried about whether I’d made enough deviled eggs.

 

“We really could have had this catered,” Mom said, stopping to rub my back as I balanced each egg half on the platter and then sprinkled them all with paprika.

I blew a lock of curly hair off my forehead. Outside I could hear laughter and the faint caress of Lake Michigan against the shore. “How many people are out there?” I asked, ignoring her comment. “Should I do another dozen?” It’s my engagement party and I want to feed people, I had said. Just appetizers and beer. I’ll be done with plenty of time to spare.

            Ugh. My mother was right. Again.

Her soft hands closed over my wrists. “We’ll have plenty. But Mattie, you need to be on the deck with Ben, not stuck in the kitchen. Your guests want to congratulate you—that’s the whole point of the party! Let me finish this up.” She held up my hands and glanced at my fingernails, short but coated with a bright-orange polish that set off my mustard-yellow dress and strawberry blond hair. “You’ll ruin these if you keep this up.” Smiling, she grabbed a dishrag and wiped a smear of mayonnaise off my ring finger, and the diamond that now lived there sparkled in the light. “Look—you’ve already done all the prep on the perperoncini wraps and the bruschetta. I’ve got this covered. Go.”

I glanced out to where my fiancé (fiancé!) was standing, a bottle of beer in one hand, flashing that smile that could melt glaciers. His hair ruffled in the breeze off the lake, the sun glinting off golden strands. I bit my lip and stared. Seriously—how had I gotten so lucky? “You sure, Mom? I feel terrible leaving you with all this work.”

She chuckled and shook her head. “Honey, that’s my job.”

My mind skipped through memories of all the times she’d rescued me from my own ambitious schemes. Like when I’d taken on decorations for the senior prom (DIY string chandeliers are harder than they look, damn you, Internet!), or the time I’d decided that I totally had time to make three hundred cupcakes for my sorority’s homecoming party despite the fact that I had to cheer in the actual homecoming game. “I guess I’m the queen of biting off more than I can chew.” I sighed. “Sorry.”

She pulled me into a hug, brushing my unruly hair off my face. “It’s just one of your many charming qualities.” She inclined her head toward Ben, and when I turned, he was watching the two of us, his honey-brown eyes full of affection and invitation. “And clearly Ben thinks so, too.”

“Remind him of that after he takes a look at the supply closet at the clinic, okay?” I nodded as he beckoned me to come outside. “I might have tried to install a new shelving system while he was fishing with Dad yesterday.” Ben had told me that it was my practice, too, even though he was the vet and I was just the lab tech and assistant. I’d wanted to show him I could pull me weight. And I could…but unfortunately, the new shelving system could not.

I explained the catastrophe that had once been Ben’s tidy closet. Mom just said, “We can get Dad over there to take a look at it tomorrow morning. He gets a kick out of fixing other people’s messes.” One of the reasons my dad was the most popular real estate agent in Sheboygan was that he actually seemed to enjoy patching holes and installing crown molding, and it certainly helped with sales.

“You guys are the best parents. I don’t deserve you.”

Mom handed me the egg platter. “Pay me back by making sure Grandpa’s having a decent time, okay?”

“You got it.” I grinned. “I’m a ray of sunshine. I even dressed the part.” I kissed her cheek and scooted through the open sliding door to the deck, where I set the platter on a table already crowded with food.

A warm hand closed over my arm. “Finally,” Ben said, his voice full of gentle teasing.

I leaned my head back and let him kiss me, savoring the taste of taste of beer on his lips. “Mm. I think I read somewhere that anticipation is a fine aphrodisiac.”

He laughed, and it accentuated the adorable dimple in his right cheek. “Is that what this is? I thought maybe you were avoiding me because of the supply closet.”

“You weren’t scheduled to go in until tomorrow!”

His arm slid around my waist, and he pulled me against his muscular body. “I had to go pick up some eyedrops for Barley.” His aging golden retriever was falling apart at the seams, but Ben was determined to give him a good life for as long as possible. “And it’s okay, really. It’ll be easy to fix.”

I buried my face against his shoulder. “You are amazing.”
He tipped my chin up. “And I’m marrying an amazing woman. Come on. Your friend Chelsea’s just gotten here, and I know you haven’t see her in a while. Also, a couple of your aunts and uncles have already asked me when you’ll appear. We need to greet your guests.”

Your guests.

I laced my fingers with Ben’s and looked out over my parents’ sprawling backyard, crowded with my extended family and everyone from my mother’s book club to my preschool gymnastics coach. Chelsea, my best friend from college, lifted her glass and grinned from her spot at the makeshift bar next to the pool.

“They’re not all mine,” I said quietly. Feeling lame, I waved toward Franz, one of a handful of Ben’s patients (or, rather, the family members of Ben’s patients) I had invited to beef up his part of the guest list.

Ben laughed as Franz waved back enthusiastically, looking a little lost and desperate as he stood among a group of my parents’ church friends. “I’m really flattered he decided to come,” Ben said. “He’s much more comfortable surrounded by books and wine.” A professor of anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, Franz had invited us over to his home a time or two, where I spent the evening playing with his dachshund, Lemmie, and Ben and Franz huddled in his library discussing lofty topics they claimed were too boring for me to sit through.

“I’m glad he came, too.” I bit my lip. “But he’s not your family. We could have invited Asa, you know.”

Ben’s grip turned to iron. “You can’t be serious.”

“Come on, Ben. He’s your brother.”

“Listen, even if we could find him, and even if he were sober enough to show up, trust me—you don’t want my brother here.” His jaw clenched over the tremble in his voice. “And I don’t, either. He’s a criminal. A lowlife. He’s—”

“Ben, he’s the only family you’ve got left.” My heart ached for him. His mother had taken off when Ben was only a toddler, and he and Asa had been raised by their father, who died a few years back. “Weddings bring people together!”

“But with some people, that’s more of a curse than a blessing.”

“You don’t think he’d be happy for you?”

“Mattie, the last time we saw each other, he threatened to kill me.”

What?” My eyes went wide. “You never mentioned that before!”

He bowed his head and shrugged. “It was a long time ago, and I don’t like to talk about it. But Asa’s just…he’s messed up. He’s got rage inside of him. And he’s always been jealous of me. Do you think it would help if he got a good look at all of this?”

I leaned my head on his shoulder. “I just wish you two could find your way back to each other. Family is important.”

“I’m building a new family, Mattie. And there’s no one I’d rather do it with.” He shoved his left hand in his pocket, and I knew his fingers were running over his lucky agate. Just one of the odd, endearing habits that had made me fall deeper in love with him. I watched his face as he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. And when he opened them, he smiled down at me. His hand rose from his pocket to stroke my cheek. “You are so beautiful,” he murmured.

I shivered with sudden pleasure. His touch was like a drug to me, and I was the happiest of addicts. As his fingertips trailed down my throat, my entire body tingled, and my hands balled in the fabric of his shirt, barely keeping me from sliding my palms up under it to feel his bare skin. “Do you think anyone would notice if we disappeared for a few minutes?”

My old bedroom was a few steps away, and I was already envisioning myself on the bed. His grip on my hips would be bruising and delicious. My body was already slick and soft and hot. I felt like I was one deft touch away from having an orgasm, right there on the deck. Ben’s hand spread across my back, steadying me, and he glanced down at my flushed cheeks with an appreciative grin. “What were you saying about anticipation?”

“Screw it. Or, wait, screw me. That would be even better.”

“If someone doesn’t bring me a damn plate of food, I’m going to starve!” said a gravelly voice to my left.

Ben released me instantly and clasped his hands behind his back, like a little boy caught stealing. My reaction wasn’t much better—I slapped my hands over my warm cheeks and turned toward the source of the complaint. “Grandpa! I-I was just coming to find you.”

Grandpa looked up at me from his wheelchair. Dad had parked him in the corner of the deck so that he could look out over the lawn. His wide-brimmed straw hat shaded his watery, red-rimmed eyes, and his gnarled hands were clawed over the armrests. “Yes, that much was obvious.”

Great. Grandpa had probably heard every word of my scheme to sneak in a quickie with my boyfriend (fiancé!). I blushed from my forehead to my toes. Could I just control myself for once in my life? “What would you like, Grandpa? Summer roll? Deviled eggs?”

“Surprise me.”

Grabbing a plate and a napkin, I listened to Ben doing his best to make nice—and to Grandpa having none of it. I scooped up a few appetizers from each platter and turned just in time to see Ben reaching out to shake Grandpa’s hand. When my grandfather didn’t let go of the armrests, Ben saved face by giving Grandpa’s hand a friendly pat.

Grandpa jerked away like he’d been burned, first glaring at the back of his liver-spotted hand and then up at Ben. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snapped.

Ben blinked down at his fingers, the shock on his face similar to my own. “I’m…sorry?”

“You should be,” Grandpa growled. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to, boy.”

“Try the eggs!” I said, rushing forward with the plate and nearly tripping in my strappy sandals. Stepping between my gaping fiancé and the tight-lipped old man who for some inexplicable reason had chosen the occasion of my engagement party to lose his mind, I put the plate in Grandpa’s lap because hey, snacks can fix nearly anything. (Despite everything that’s happened, I still believe that.)

“Mattie, I think I’m going to…um…I’m going to go make sure Franz is having a good time,” Ben said.

I threw him and apologetic look over my shoulder. “I’ll be there in a few.”

Grandpa didn’t touch the food. His hands were shaking as I knelt next to him, my sunny skirt fanning around me. “Grandpa,” I said gently. “Are you okay?”

“Don’t take that tone with me,” he said, though his voice had lost its edge. “My hospice nurse uses the same damn voice when I dare to express an opinion about anything other than whether I would or would not care for raisins in my oatmeal.” His tremulous fingers clutched at mine, and he sighed. “Never get old, Mattie.”

“I won’t.” My chest squeezed with regret. Just a few weeks ago, the doctors had announced he only had months to live. He looked okay—apart from the rattling couch that kept him up nights and fatigue and pain meds that made him groggy during too many of his waking hours—but lung cancer was taking him down. After the doctors’ verdict, my parents had shipped him all the way to Wisconsin from his home in Arizona so they could take care of him until the end. They’d said it was the best thing for him, and to my surprise he hadn’t objected. But he didn’t seem happy about it—especially because everyone was tiptoeing around him like he was going to keel over any second. I tried to take a different approach. “Hey. In exchange for not using the you’re-a-crazy-old-man voice, I want to know what just happened with Ben.”

He grunted. “It was nothing.”

“Nothing? You refused to shake my fiancé’s hand! I mean, if you overheard us just now, that was as much my fault as—”

“Mattie, how much do you know about him, really?”

“We’ve been together for three years!”

“That doesn’t mean you know his secrets.”

I frowned. “How about you tell me what you’re getting at?”

Grandpa rubbed at his chest as he looked over at the lawn, where Ben was mingling like a pro. “Ask him.”

Frustration began to creep in. Seriously, he had to pick this night to get all protective of my virtue? They’d spoken for two minutes. What could have gone that wrong that fast? “Grandpa, what did he say to you that has you this upset?”

“Find out everything you can about him. You owe it to yourself.” He turned back to me, his chin trembling. “You and I haven’t spoken much since your grandma died.”

I looked away, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I should have written more.” Or called. Or visited.

“Come have lunch with me tomorrow?”
“I have to work.”

“Tuesday, then.”

“Okay.” I’d have to arrange with Jan, our practice manager, to cover the waiting room during what was usually her lunch break, but that wasn’t anything a box of Girl Scout cookies couldn’t fix.

“Mattie?” Ben called from the lawn. “The girl cousins are here.” His tone said, Help.

My aunt Rena’s four teenage daughters were a handful. I stood up and smoothed my skirt. “I’d better get down there before they stick one of their iPhones in Dad’s speaker dock and turn this into a rave.”

Grandpa squinted at me. “Are you speaking English?”

“Never mind.” I rubbed his shoulder. “Enjoy those eggs.”

I floated over to Ben, the incident already behind me. This was my engagement party, and I was marrying the love of my life. Nothing—and especially not my cranky old grandpa—was going to ruin it.

Re-printed with permission from 47North, copyright © 2016 by Sarah Fine

 

Giveaway

3 Finished Copies of RELIQUARY (US Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

7/17: Polished Page-Turners – Spotlight
7/18: The Eater of Books – Excerpt
7/19: Behind Closed Covers – Spotlight
7/20: Gone with the Words – Excerpt
7/21: Reading is Better with Cupcakes – Excerpt
7/22: Supernatural Snark – Q&A
7/23: Quite the Novel Idea – Spotlight
7/24: The Book Cellar – Review
7/25: Fiction Fare – Q&A
7/26: No BS Book Reviews – Q&A
7/26: Emily Reads Everything – Review
7/27: Stuck in Books – Excerpt
7/27: Reads All the Books – Review
7/28: Ex Libris – Review
7/28: BCS Reviews – Review
7/29: kimberlyfaye reads – Review
7/29: Wandering Bark Books – Review
7/30: Lost in Lit – Review
7/30: Bookish Lifetsyle – Review
7/31: Don’t Fold the Page – Review
7/31: Miranda’s Book Blog – Review

 

About Sarah Fine

Sarah Fine is a clinical psychologist and the author of the Servants of Fate and Guards of the Shadowlands series. She was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast.

Jess @ Gone with the Words

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Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

27th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press
Pub Date: June 28th 2016
Pages: 496
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Retelling, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. 

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

And I Darken was incredible. I thought this was amazing alternate history because it felt SO real. Kiersten White took details of real countries, people, religions, and politics and twisted them just so. And the characters! Oh my god. From the opening pages, you are painted a very stark picture of brutal Lada and her scared little brother Radu. They ensnared me immediately. But as with any good story there are layers and twists in every relationship. It’s all so complicated in the best way, sometimes loving and sometimes toxic. 

The story is definitely slower paced but not boring; this is a long haul kind of story and we’re setting the scene. The political machinations, the attention paid to religion, and the moral grayness of characters, the sometimes Machiavellian attitudes, really do bring A Game of Thrones to mind. Every action has a reaction. I also loved the diversity in every aspect, from culture (Turkish/Wallachian/Ottoman/etc) to religion (I learned a lot about Islam!) to sexuality (an unexpected but very welcome surprise). Everything was woven into the story seamlessly. I can’t say enough about the writing, I thought it was wonderful. White really knows how to weave a complicated web.

There are also some excellent kisses, a few ships, and some complicated romances, though not in the ways you might expect (no spoilers here!). It was also interesting to watch how Lada and Radu’s characters shifted over time, learning to soften and strengthen in turn.

The book faltered slightly in the middle just because it is a looong book and it can’t keep up the pacing the whole time. And it some ways I expected plots that happened later in Lada/Vlad’s life. But where the story leaves you is perfect and I can’t wait to follow Lada, Radu, and Mehmed to see how their lives intertwine; loyalty (to family, to yourself, to your country) are big themes throughout. If you love historical fiction, and a lot of political cleverness mixed with action, violence, and romance in a non-Western setting, you should read And I Darken.

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

24th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Bitsy Words: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon ThomasA Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #1
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: February 24th 2015
Pages: 337
Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3.5 Stars

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

I enjoyed A Wicked Thing a lot! It was the perfect fairy tale feel that I’m always looking for and I loved the twist, thinking about what would happen to Sleeping Beauty when she woke up. It was well done and felt believable. I really liked the setting at the castle, and the snippets of history, as well as watching Aurora come to terms with her predicament. I loved Aurora as a character but I didn’t feel very connected to anyone else. Rodric is sweet but bland, the king is cliche, and I’m verrrry interested in Finnegan but he was almost too smooth. Banter is always a plus, though. I also wish more happened but it did get exciting in the second half. I can’t wait to read the sequel! Overall, I loved the detailed setting, Aurora’s love of books, and the language; I just wanted more connection to the characters (aside from Aurora, who I thought was fleshed out nicely). If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, it’s worth a shot!

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

23rd May 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: June 7th 2016
Pages: 512
Format: ARC | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

This book was so unexpectedly delightful!!! My Lady Jane KNOWS that it’s twisting history and winks at that, which allowed me to get swept up in the story and the characters without constantly comparing it to actual historical events. Comical, fantastical, romantical really is the best way to describe it, like the blurb says. It was refreshing to know that you had no idea how the story would end and that a happily ever after of some sort might be possible.

I loved the three POV characters, and Jane’s obsession with books in particular! She’s a true book nerd like the rest of us. Edward, Gifford, and Jane were easy to tell apart while reading (I still don’t know which author wrote which POV though!!!), but the chapters are nicely labeled for you just in case.

 

Their stories twist and dovetail in ways I didn’t expect, and even though it’s a meaty book, the pacing is great. You really feel for Edward, and Jane and Gifford have the BEST bantery romance. It feels very Austen-y.

  

All three have strong character traits and personalities, and I also liked getting glimpses of other historical figures such as Edward’s half sisters Elizabeth and Mary.

 

I also loved how the fantasy element was woven into the story! Instead of religious factions, you have magic: shape shifters (Edians) vs non-shifters. Some people can shift into an animal form, while others can’t; furthermore, some can control their shifting, while it only happens to others in moments of emotional distress. It lent an air of absurdity and humor to a serious topic (prejudice), while still staying in the framework of the religious wars that swept across 16th century England.

 

My Lady Jane is very funny, very charming, and has some really excellent romances and action scenes, along with narrator asides (I loved the dry humor). It’s silly in a clever way. I had so much fun reading it! There were also quite a few wink wink pop culture references, including my favorite: “Frying pans, who knew?” :D It really is a book in the spirit of The Princess Bride. And it’s a Tudor book without being a Tudor book. I highly recommend it for fans of history and comedy and smiling while you read :)

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: The Siren by Kiera Cass

13th Apr 2016 Rubi @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Rubi

Review: The Siren by Kiera CassThe Siren by Kiera Cass
Published by HarperTeen
Pub Date: January 26th 2016
Pages: 327
Format: Hardcover | Source: Gifted
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3.5 Stars

Love is a risk worth taking.

Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. 

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to.

Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.

First of all, YAY for finally finding a book that ended my book slump!! I had started quite a few books since the beginning of February, but I hadn’t found one that interested me enough to read all the way through. That is, until The Siren! This was the first book ever written by Kiera Cass, author of The Selection series.

This is a story about 19 year old Kahlen, who is in a shipwreck and is meant to drown. In the process, she begs to survive and the Ocean decides to spare her under one condition: she must live out a sentence of 100 years serving as a siren. As a siren, Kahlen is expected to sing when told to do so by the Ocean which will cause people to become mesmerized and drown.

I’ve always been really intrigued by mermaids so I instantly knew I would really enjoy the fantasy aspect of this story. Sirens are a darker spin on your typical mermaid. According to Wikipedia: In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. I was really excited to see how this would all play out!

When I first read the plot summary, my initial thought was that our main character would be living in total isolation and have zero contact with others. I was very pleasantly surprised that Kahlen is actually part of a group of 3-4 sirens who live and “work” together. Although we did get a back story for each one of the girls, I still didn’t really connect with any. The characters were all pretty one dimensional, but I still really enjoyed watching the bond they shared and how loyal they were to each other. In The Siren, the Ocean plays a character as well and although that might weird out a few, I really did dig it! I’ve always thought of the ocean as breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s vastness scares me. This story forced me to see the ocean as lonely and that took away some of the fear!

As you guys know, I love me some traveling and this book gave me lots of that! My favorite place was the little town of Port Clyde, Maine. I’ve been dying to visit Maine for ages and this book set a perfect scene of what I’m looking forward to!

My biggest problem with this book was the love interest, Akinli. I liked him as a character, but I didn’t swoon over their insta-love. I was also very thrown off by how accepting his family was of Kahlen even though she’d arrive under the weirdest of circumstances. It seemed very unlikely that a real family would react as welcoming as they did. I wish those scenes would have been written better as opposed to just fitting together because that’s what made the story flow.

Overall, this was a great fantasy story that has peaked my interest even more on mythical creatures and I’m looking forward to more stories like it. Please let me know if you have any recommendations in the comments below!

 

 

Rubi @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

7th Apr 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah FineThe Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
Series: The Impostor Queen #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pub Date: January 5th 2016
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover | Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

I thought The Impostor Queen was such a fantastic fantasy, it’s everything I always look for! The world-building details are doled out in just the right way.  I loved learning about the Valtia, the Kupari, and life in the temple. And I loved Elli from the start. She goes on a huge journey, physically and emotionally, throughout the book and I thought she was wonderful—strong, inquisitive, compassionate, and ready to learn. It’s also worth noting that she is bisexual, which is all too rare in YA and YA fantasy especially. I really loved how naturally it was presented as part of her character, and I loved Mim and Oskar both as love interests and as individuals.

 

Even the smallest secondary character had defining traits and a part to play. I loved Freya, Raimo, Sig, so many of the cave dwellers, and I absolutely hated the priests. There are quite a few surprises in the latter half and I really enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded. There is a lot of action and politics mixed in with the magic and romance. I also loved the magic system and how it was used in the book. It took an unoriginal idea (ice magic and fire magic, dual opposites), and made it feel fresh and original in how it manifested itself. There were some heartbreaking moments and scenes that were hard to read but overall I would recommend this without question to fantasy fans.

 

About Sarah Fine

Sarah Fine is a clinical psychologist and the author of the Servants of Fate and Guards of the Shadowlands series. She was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast.

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

14th Mar 2016 Ashley @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Ashley

Review: Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Published by Disney Hyperion
Pub Date: January 5th 2016
Pages: 486
Format: ARC | Source: Author
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4 Stars

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever 

(Originally posted by Ashley on Must Love Books)

Let me start by saying I waited for this book for what seemed like forever! It was on my list of books to grab at BEA last year, and when I didn’t get it I was pretty sad. Then I heard Alexandra Bracken was going to be at Y’ALL Fest (which is a mere 8 hr drive) I knew I had to go in hopes of getting this ARC…and I GOT ONE! I only had to stand in line for four hours but it was totally worth it!

Ashley Passenger

I have to admit, the beginning moved more slowly than I usually like in a book. Etta is lives in current day New York as is preparing for a big concert, as she plays her piece, she is drawn to a noise only she can hear. When she investigates the noise, she is suddenly transported back in time. She finds herself onboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 1776, she’s in strange clothing and dripping wet with no recollection of how she got there.

It is on the ship she meets Nicholas, a teen about her age but from a completely different time. When it comes to Nicholas though, I kept going back and forth: I like him, I hate him…nope I like him, he means well…uh no he doesn’t…back and forth. I’ve decided I like him. (I think).

While on the ship, Etta learns she comes from a magical family that can time travel. Can you imagine? How cool would that be!? She also learns that she’s been kidnapped by a man called Cyrus (who I think of as The Grandfather) an old man who is the head of the family, the leader if you will.

Now that Etta knows who she is and what she has to do, the adventure really begins! Together her and Nicholas must find the only remaining astrolabe, the magical object used to create new portals, if Etta doesn’t find the astrolabe and return it to Cyrus someone Etta loves will die.

I’m telling you…this is the good stuff! Etta travels from Bhutan 1910, New York in 1776, 1940’s London, 1685 Angkor, Paris 1880 and Damascus in 1599. Each place she visits she gets closer and closer to the astrolabe and each place she visits she encounters people who want the astrolabe for themselves.

Now this book is well over 400 pages so it’s not a quick read, and the beginning is slow to get started but don’t discount Passenger just yet. Once you get started and the time traveling really begins, you won’t want to put it down!

 

About Alexandra Bracken

Alexandra Bracken is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved east to study history and English at the College of William&Mary in Virginia. Alex now lives in New York City, where you can find her hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that’s perpetually overflowing with books.

Ashley @ Gone with the Words

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