Friday, July 31, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Release Date - October 7, 2014
Publisher Website - Penguin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 355 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**borrowed from a friend for review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
Morally grey characters have always fascinated me. They are complex, often blurring the lines in ways that spark sympathy and understanding even as their choices repulse the reader. Those characters who hover on the precipice that separates hero from villain are often my favourite. There is a fine line between the two, and Marie Lu examines that potential for darkness in this rich fantasy novel.

Everything from the characters, to the world, to the writing itself, came together to create a chillingly dark look at power and the ability it has seduce. It plays with the idea of what horrible things could happen if those with the blackest of hearts gave into their darker urges, and if they had inexplicable powers in which to cause destruction.

Adelina struggles with the vengefulness that eats away at her. The powers she possesses make it all too easy to enact retribution on those who harm her. The dark is alluring, welcome even, and it would be easy to be lured into it's charms. The other characters have their own struggles. Each of these characters has choices to make and the consequences of those choices will shape them. The question for some is one of doing the wrong thing for what they feel is the right reasons, but as with any situation the right and wrong side depend on who you ask. Each of these characters have faced abuse, discrimination and this ultimately a study in how people let this mould them.

Marie Lu is masterful at creating serious sexual tension. The romance element of the plot is used to compliment the story and adds to the tension already felt throughout the pages. The romance is not safe from the darkness that seeps into every single page of this story. Motivations are hidden, and personal agendas take precedent so what is love and what is perhaps manipulation is not always clear. It's something that, as a reader, I was all too aware of. The instinct to distrust is built into plenty of these characters, and that has repercussions that are still to be felt.

There are some bold choices made during the course of this novel. Choices that will sharply impact the rest of the series. It's left me intrigued, and more than a little excited to continue this journey. Marie Lu is ruthless, and merciless and that makes for an unpredictable, and dangerous story.

Marie Lu has created a addictive, compelling read that blurs the lines between hero and villain. A fast paced, stunning start to what is sure to be a new favourite series for me. It's a delicious set up for what is to come, and the fallout is sure to be just as explosive as the first chapter of the story of the 'Young Elites'.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday ................ The Land Of Ten Thousand Madonnas

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick this week is The Land Of Ten Thousand Madonnas by Kate Hattemer

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Five teens backpack through Europe to fulfill the mysterious dying wish of their friend in this heartwarming novel from the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy.

Jesse lives with his history professor dad in a house covered with postcards of images of the Madonna from all over the world. They’re gotten used to this life: two motherless dudes living among thousands of Madonnas. But Jesse has a heart condition that will ultimately cut his life tragically short. Before he dies, he arranges a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend to take after he passes away. It’s a trip that will forever change the lives of these young teens and one that will help them come to terms with Jesse’s death.

With vivid writing, poignant themes, and abundant doses of humor throughout, Kate Hattemer’s second novel is a satisfying journey about looking for someone else’s answers only to find yourself. 
I love 'road trip' books. I especially love travel to Europe books. Mix this with the potential amazingness of the friendships included and I am utterly sold on this one. The mixture of bittersweet with the death of someone close to them being the catalyst for the novel is also something that I feel will really work. Now to get through the long wait until it's release.

Expected release date - April 19, 2016

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline
Release Date - July 14, 2015
Publisher Website - Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 368 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received for an honest review from publisher/Wunderkind PR**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.
There are some novels that are meant for a specific market. They are tailor made to appeal to a specific type of individual. Armada is one such book. Those who love gaming, alien movies, and anything space related will devour this book with unabashed glee. Those who perhaps are not the target market may still find plenty to enjoy within these action packed pages.

The pop culture references are plentiful and bounce around the novel faster than space lasers. If you're not well versed some of the reference may go over your head, but plenty of them are well known enough to be easily recognizable. The concern that the sheer number of references, and the reliance on them for comparison, will alienate readers is a valid one. I did sometimes feel like I had to Google to familiarize myself with some of the references. Those who are in the know however will delight in Cline's use of savvy references.

The latter half of this novel comes to life in a way that the first half never did for me. There is some fantastic action, and the plot speeds along allowing you to becomes engrossed in the story. The beginning reads a little like an information dump used to set up the novel, and that did create a disjointed pacing for me. The time between Zack disbelieving what he is seeing, and finding out that aliens are real to when he is fighting to save the world also felt off. The shifts happened too rapidly, yet the sections in between these defining events felt long. It felt like there was no build up to ease you from one event to the other.

The secondary characters were less developed in favour of the plot. I didn't feel like any of them became fully developed, interesting characters. None of them would make me beg for a companion novel from their perspective. Zack's best friends, in particular, felt pretty one dimensional. The upside to the characterization is that Zack's voice is very much on point. It reads exactly like you would expect someone like Zack to speak. Ernest Cline obviously cares about not just the sci-fi genre but the tropes within them. This love comes through in how Zack is written. Zack never feels like a caricature even if it could have easily veered that way.

The novel embraces it's own clichés, and even plays with some of the obvious questions the readers would have. The why of the alien invasion, and how certain actions they display seem to defy practical logic. Zack questions the same things creating a connection with the reader. He feels like a reader substitute except more fully developed than your average 'reader stand in' character. The plot smartly answers these questions in a plausible, interesting way, and most importantly it's in a way that feels satisfying. The ending leaves just enough open ended to allow for a sequel while wrapping up all the major plot points.

While I didn't fall as in love with this novel as I expected to,  I still appreciated it for what it is. Ernest Cline captures the love of the classic alien movies, the gamer culture. It's a love letter to not just the genres included, but the people who love them and that is really who this novel is for. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ten of the Most Badass Women in History

Today I have Eleanor Herman stopping by to discuss some of the most badass women in history in honour of her novel Legacy Of Kings. It's my honour to share this awesome post and I cannot wait for everyone to discover Legacy Of Kings. Be sure to follow Eleanor on Twitter while you wait and be in loop for all the excitement that is to come as the countdown gets even closer to it's release

Ten of the Most Badass Women in History

by Eleanor Herman

Revenge was best served hot by these sensuous, scheming woman who stopped at nothing to achieve their ambitions for absolute power or quench their burning thirst for revenge. This list is a spicy stew of warrior queens, greedy concubines and the hellish fury of women scorned.

1. Queen Olympias of Macedon (375-316 BC) : The Greek Cersei Lannister

Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympias, belonged to an orgiastic snake-worshipping cult and sacrificed puppies to Hekate, goddess of necromancy. She reportedly murdered household servants and slave girls who slept with her husband, King Philip of Macedon, and dropped his baby son with another wife on his head, rendering him an idiot for life. But when Philip married a seventh wife, a noble Macedonian woman called Eurydice, Olympias stormed off to her home country of Epirus in a royal snit, taking her son Alexander with her. Marinating in her own venom, she probably concocted the plot to assassinate her husband. After Philip’s murder, she thundered back to Macedon and killed both Eurydice and Eurydice’s baby son, Caranus, to ensure her own son, Alexander, became king.

When Alexander died at the height of his conquests, his younger brother Arrhideus became King Philip III. Olympias killed him and his wife and a hundred of their followers. Cassander, one of the generals angling to control Macedon, captured Olympias and ordered his men to stab her, but they refused to kill the mother of the idolized Alexander. Relatives of her many victims did the job for them, surrounding her and stoning her to death at the age of fifty-nine.

2. Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae (Sixth Century BC) and Her Special Cup

Unable to conquer a nomadic tribe called the Massegetae in what is now Ukraine, Persian King Cyrus the Great (576-530 BC) resorted to trickery, abandoning his camp with a rich supply of wine. The Massegetaen troops—who usually got wasted on fermented mares’ milk—went crazy with the wine and fell into a collective drunken stupor. Cyrus’s army attacked, killing or capturing everyone, including the son of Queen Tomyris, and offered to send him back if she would just give Persia everything she owned, including herself as one of his wives. 

Tomyris told him to give back her son and get out of her country or she would give him more blood than he could drink. Her son, meanwhile, managed to get out of his bonds and kill himself for shame.

After a ferocious battle in which the queen—riding at the head of her army—totally kicked Persian butt, Tomyris found Cyruss' body and hacked off the head. Then, holding the head by the hair, she told it, "I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood, and so I shall,” and jammed it deep into a wineskin filled with human blood. She turned his skull into a goblet from which she drank wine, fermented mares’ milk, or whatever else she damn well pleased.

3. Empress Agrippina of Rome (15-59 AD): a Very Strong Swimmer 

Agrippina’s brother, the crazy emperor Caligula, forced her to sleep with him, and when she plotted against him, he exiled her to an island, decreeing she had to earn her keep by diving deep for sponges. He expected her to starve. But Agrippina was a strong swimmer who could hold her breath forever and actually earned a lot of money sponge diving. After her brother’s murder, she returned to Rome, married a super-rich old guy, and inherited his entire estate a few weeks later when he died after eating something disagreeable. She then married her uncle, Emperor Claudius, whom she poisoned with his favorite dish of mushrooms. 

To keep control over the empire after her son, Emperor Nero, came of age, she slept with him. Nero got so sick of his mother that he arranged for her to travel on a specially designed self-collapsing boat, but all that sponge diving had made her such an awesome swimmer she got to shore. Recuperating in a fisherman’s hut, she sent word to her son to thank the gods—she had survived a terrible accident. In response, Nero sent soldiers with long knives. “Stab me in the womb,” she said, pulling up her robe, “which harbored such a monster.”

4. Boadicca (ca. 26-60 AD): Bring Up the Bodies

When Rome invaded Queen Boadicca’s kingdom in what is now England, whipped the queen and raped her daughters, the warrior woman raised an army of 100,000, which she commanded from her chariot. She burned three Roman cities to the ground—including Londinium—and slaughtered some 80,000 people. Boudicca had the heads of Roman noblewomen impaled on spikes, and had their breasts cut off and sewn to their mouths, "to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behavior" in sacred places, according an ancient Roman historian. They smashed the Roman legions that tried to stop them.

But the Romans regrouped and forced Boudicca to fight them in a ravine where her far superior numbers—100,000 men against Rome’s 10,000—were useless as they couldn’t spread out. Rome won, and though Boudicca escaped she either committed suicide or died soon after of a broken heart. In London, people digging foundations for new buildings have found skulls of Boadicca’s victims as recently as 2013.

5. Empress Wu Zutian (624-705 AD): The Chinese Cersei Lannister 

At fourteen, Wu Zutian became a royal concubine in the harem of thirty-nine-year-old Emperor Taizong. When he died, his entire harem was forced into a convent with shaved heads, but Wu bounced back and seduced the new emperor, Gaozong, giving him three sons. She cut off the hands and feet of his wife, drowned her in a vat of wine, and then killed her. 

Wu married the emperor, who almost immediately ate something that disagreed with him and suffered a massive stroke that left him a vegetable. Wu became regent, efficiently running the world’s largest and richest empire. Her secret police force killed anyone who didn’t like her, which was a lot of people, reportedly including two sons, a niece, a sister, four grandchildren, two stepsons and sixteen of their male heirs, and 3,000 families. 

When her husband the royal kumquat died, she became regent for her youngest son before deposing him and claiming the throne for herself. She gleefully ordered the most chauvinistic scholars to write biographies of great Chinese women, and those that refused she buried alive. After half a century of badass queening it, she decided she had had enough, gave the one son she hadn’t killed the throne, and died in her bed a year later at the age of eighty-one. Probably smiling.

6. Marozia (890-937): The Pornacracy of Rome

At fifteen, the Roman noblewoman Marozia become the lover of forty-four-year-old Pope John X and gave birth to his son. When the papal throne became vacant in 914, she used a combination of wealth, threats, and her own personal allure to secure the election of her new lover, John, as Pope John X. For fourteen years she ran the show, making laws, deciding foreign policy, and collecting taxes. The bishop of Cremona called her a "shameless whore who exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man," and called Rome’s government a “pornocracy.”

When her former lover the pope stopped obeying her orders, she had him arrested and smothered in prison. She chose the next two popes, who were too terrified to balk at her commands, and in 931 she appointed her twenty-one-year-old son with Pope Sergius as the new pontiff, John XI, who did everything Mama said. At her wedding to a third powerful warlord, her son from her first marriage arrested his mother before she even got to eat some wedding cake, while her gallant groom leaped out of a window and escaped. After five years in prison, Marozia died at the age of 47, whether from poison, illness, smothering, or bursting from sheer spite, we do not know.

7. Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) : Crusading Amazon 

In 1148, the pious, dim-witted King Louis VII of France went on Crusade, and his wife Eleanor insisted on coming along so she could dress in battle garb as an ancient Amazon—complete with a silver-plated rocket bra—and gallop across the Hungarian Plains. In the Holy land, she had an affair with her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, and told her husband she was staying with Uncle Raymond and never going back to smelly, muddy France with a sissy husband ruled by filthy priests. Louis would gladly have left her there, but his ministers said it would be really bad PR so he had her dragged by force from her uncle’s palace and tied her kicking and screaming to a horse. 

Back home she finally got her marriage to Louis annulled. At the age of thirty, she married the studly, eighteen-year-old Henry Plantagenet, duke of Normandy, the future Henry II of England, and proceeded to give him eight children.

Theirs was a tempestuous marriage. Full of spit and vinegar, Eleanor reportedly killed Fair Rosamund, Henry’s favorite mistress, and she certainly sided with her sons when they rebelled against their father. Henry captured her as she galloped off dressed like a man, and locked her up in a tower for fifteen years. When her son Richard the Lionheart became king, he not only let her out of the tower but named her regent when he went off on Crusade. At the unheard-of age of eighty, Eleanor was still bouncing around Europe on diplomatic business. She died at age eighty-two.

8. Shajar al Durr, Sultana of Egypt (ca. 1220-1257): The Egyptian Cersei Lannister

Shajar was a beautiful slave girl bought at the market by Sultan Al Salih Sayub of Egypt, who not only freed her but married her. When French Crusaders attacked Egypt and the gravely ill Sultan died in his tent, Shajar concealed his death, had food brought to him and empty plates taken away, forged his signature on royal decrees, and even led the troops into battle herself, though some people may have wondered about that odd smell coming from the king’s tent. Disheartened, the French returned home. 

When her stepson, a drunken serial rapist, arrived in Cairo to become the new sultan, Shajar had him murdered and claimed the throne for herself.  But the caliph in Baghdad, who ran Egypt, made her general Aybak the sultan, saying women were unfit to rule. Shajar quickly convinced the general to divorce his wife and marry her so they could rule jointly.

The womanizing Aybak unwisely decided to marry again. Naturally, Shajar had him murdered in his bath. The dead sultan’s men arrested Shajar and put her in a tower. But the slave women of Aybak’s discarded first wife dragged her out, beat her to death with their wooden shoes, and threw her nude body off the battlements of Cairo. 

9. Queen Isabella of England (1295-1358), Whose Husband Gave Away Her Silver Cups 

When the French princess Isabella realized her husband, the handsome King Edward II of England, was giving away all her silver cups, jewels, and castles to his boyfriend, Piers Gaveston, she teamed up with angry barons, dragged Piers out of his castle, and chopped off his head. The king soon found himself another lover, Hugh Despenser the Younger, once again foolishly giving his boyfriend everybody’s castles and silver cups, including the queen’s. 

Isabella sailed to France, took a warlord lover, and returned to England with an army. They killed the new boyfriend and imprisoned the king, who died mysteriously soon after. Rumor had it that Isabella and her lover had a red hot poker placed inside a sawed-off cow horn and shoved in a place where the sun don’t shine so the royal body had no marks on it and looked like a natural death.

The two of them ran England until her son, Edward III, became worried that his mother’s lover might do something strange to him with a cow horn, too. At seventeen, he and his friends seized power and had Mortimer executed. His mother retired in great state and wore jewel-encrusted silk gowns until right before she died, when she changed into a nun’s habit to fool God. We don’t know if it worked.

10.  Nzinga Mbande, Warrior Queen of the Mbunda People of Central Africa(1583-1663), Who Never Used the Same Chair Twice 

In 1622, the Portuguese governor asked for a peace conference from the Mbundu people of Central Africa after they resisted his attempts at conquest. The wimpy King Mbande sent his accomplished sister, Nzinga, as his representative. The governor had the only chair in the room and offered Nzinga a mat to sit on, like a servant. But she wasn’t about to accept a position of inferiority. Nzinga snapped her fingers and a maidservant got on all fours. Nzinga sat down on her back. At the end of the meeting, Nzinga reportedly slit the servant’s throat, politely explaining to the governor, “I never use the same chair twice.” He caved in to her demands.

Fed up with her nervous wreck of a brother, it is possible Nzinga poisoned him for being an ineffectual twit, or maybe he killed himself for the same reason. She became regent for his young son, whom she reportedly executed for mouthing off. 

As undisputed queen, at first Nzinga played nice with the Portuguese, and converted to Catholicism to placate them. But when they insisted on taking over her entire country, she launched a thirty-year war against them, allying herself with the Dutch, and kicking their butt in a major battle in 1647 in which the sixty-four-year-old queen personally led the troops along with female warriors. She eventually made peace with the Portuguese and devoted herself to rebuilding her country, which today is known as Angola. She never married, though reportedly enjoyed a harem of hot men into her seventies. The brilliant warrior queen died in bed at the age of eighty.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New To My Book Closet

It's that time of the week again. Time to show you what bookish goodies made their way into my home and book closet (to be saved from the evil book eating cat monster named Aria). This is inspired by the various "mailbox" posts out there (eg. In My Mailbox by The Story Siren, and Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews).

I borrowed two books from a fellow bloggers this week and I cannot wait to read them!

Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren (goodreads)
Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren (goodreads)

A huge thank you to Katie for lending me these. I've heard they are super sexy!

What books made their way into your mailbox this week?

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


Covers for Queen Song (goodreads) and Steel Scars (goodreads) by Victoria Aveyard

These stunning covers are for two novellas that will expand on side characters within the series. I am really excited as both of these characters intrigued me and are some that I am eager to learn more about. Both of these come out before Glass Sword (Queen Song releases September 1st, and Steel Scars follows on January 6th) so they'll be a much needed fix of this amazing world until it's release.


Paper Towns movie

This movie was incredibly fun and was hilarious. Way more funny than I anticipated. There is also an A+++ cameo in it that will delight a lot of fans.  I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would and if you're  fan of the book I'd bet you'll enjoy this adaptation.



This will be my first time taking part and I am so excited to do so. It sounds like such a fun way to get involved with the community and I cannot wait to see who I get paired with. I've already gone out and got some cute stationary to write letters on.

What are you obsessed with this week?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
Release Date - July 21, 2015
Publisher Website - Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 304 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .
This has been called 'Gillian Flynn for the YA set'. It's a comparison that immediately lets you know what you're in for - a dark, twisted read that keeps you guessing. While Amanda Panitch certainly delivers a novel with unexpected twists she also offers up a engaging character study in Julia/Lucy and a deep look at the bonds that tie siblings together.

The choice of narrator is perfect for this type of novel. The subtle weaving and revealing of the plot through the narrators memories, and flashbacks worked incredibly well for this thriller like read. It's a strong choice, and that pays off in more ways than one by the end. There is a sense of foreboding that never quite abates as you turn the pages, however I think this may be a result of how the story feels entirely familiar. It's one we've read before. We've seen this done, even if Amanda puts who own twist on it. It's taught us to be on guard and that means less of spark when the match is lit. You'll be expecting it, but there is something thrilling about that to. It's the journey in this case, rather than the destination (even if the destination does have a few surprises in store).

The slower pacing of this novel works for the story being told. It allows the author to control the information and how quickly the reader gets it. You're fed just enough to get you hooked, and keep you baited. You're given enough to theorize even while the author is relishing the moment you'll have the rug pulled out from under you.

The sibling dynamic is centre stage in this plot. All of it revolves around their relationship, and the events leading up those crucial 22 minutes that changed everything. The truth behind what happened is much more complex than it seems at first glance. It's messy, dark, and exactly what is promised in the synopsis. Those 22 minutes and what happened during them is kept tantalizingly just out of reach until the exact moment it needs to be revealed, and is one of the more smartly woven together elements of the plot.

My only minor issue was that the ending feels much more vibrant, and explosive compared to the rest of the novel. While the story is paced out well, the last few chapters have a different feel than the rest of the novel. It's more gripping, and taunt. You can tell that these are the scenes Amanda Panitch was itching to write. You can see the characters burst through the writing in these pivotal moments in a way that is missing from the rest of the story.

A rollercoaster ride that picks up speed towards the end, and delivers one twist and turn after another. You may figure out the ending, but I promise the full impact of the twist will not be lost either way. A promising début from an author I hope to see much more from. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday ........... This Monstrous Thing

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick this week is This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay… 
A Frankenstein retelling that mixes in clockwork? YES! YES! YES! I am really excited to read this one as I love Gothic horror (as evident by my Penny Dreadful obsession) and I think this is going to be absolutely amazing.

Expected release date - September 22, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What Happens In London/Paris by Jen McConnel

What Happens In London by Jen McConnel
Release Date - June 16, 2015
Publisher Website - Bloomsbury Spark
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 99 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

What Happens In Paris by Jen McConnel
Release Date - June 16, 2015
Publisher Website - Bloomsbury Spark
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 250 pages
My Rating - 2/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

**Spoilers for What Happens In Paris**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis for What Happens in London
Four countries.
Three girls.
Three loves.
One adventure abroad they'll never forget.

Sarah landed in London, just hoping to leave her home behind and escape her family. But she didn't plan on falling headfirst into Carson's arms.

Get ready for a summer of self-discovery and romance in the first of the New Adult novella series, Adventures Abroad!
Here is the Goodreads synopsis for What Happens in Paris
Four countries.
Three girls.
Three loves.
One adventure abroad they'll never forget.

Camie can't figure out what she wants, from college or life…until she meets Hunter. But will the magic of a romantic night in Paris last till the morning?

Fall in love with the second novella in the New Adult series, Adventures Abroad!
The travel enthusiast in me immediately purchased these books when I heard about them. This novels were pretty much tailor made to be 'me' books with their promise of European adventure and romance. Sadly, the novella format, and a few storyline issues made connecting to them much harder than I anticipated.

My wanderlust wanted to experience the destinations in the book. I wanted to fall just as in love with the settings as I did the stories. I wanted the setting to become a character in the story. There are certainly hints at this, and some of the places mentioned did make me want to travel. I never quite felt immersed into the setting, and I think that is due to the problem that is the overlaying issue with the book - there wasn't enough space within these pages for the story to be told to it's fullest.

The story in What Happens In London starts out promising. It is actually my preferred out of the two I am reviewing today. It's a mix of travel, book stores, meet cutes, and romance that was enjoyable to read. The romance portion feels rushed, but could have worked if given the opportunity to build the connection between the characters. Many of the story issues I had were mainly down to the format chosen. I think the story was done a disservice by using novellas to tell it, as there are some complex issues within these pages that I would have loved to have seen explored. The potential is the thing that haunts these pages the most as it's definitely there.

I wanted to fall in love with what Happens In Paris so badly. Paris is such a beautiful city, and it's such a fantastic place for a YA/NA set romance. Sadly, I didn't end up loving this one any where near much as I had hoped.

**SPOILER ALERT** There is an element of dubious consent going on in the romance part of the story line that left a bad feeling in it's wake. Camie gets drunk while on a romantic date with Hunter, so drunk that she doesn't remember having sex with him when she wakes up the next morning. She obviously doesn't recall agreeing to have sex, and that is where the sinking feeling in my stomach kicked in. Camie was in no shape to give consent, and that element is barely addressed. In fact, Hunter seems unhappy with her that she is unable to remember. There isn't a deeper conversation about how Camie might be feeling, or the implications of this type of hook up. I, personally, felt that there were other ways to get the desired outcome (Camie rushing to leave Paris due to her embarrassment) instead of this disappointing turn of events that happened. It's an importantly, timely topic, and I felt this failed to leave the lasting impression it should have. **SPOILER ALERT**

Other than this the novella was fun with some promising banter between the two characters (and a swoon worthy meet cute). The limited time spent with didn't allow for any character connection, and the story felt scrunched together to fit the pages provided.

Lastly, those looking for the more sexy side of New Adult novels will not find that here. It's relatively tame in the sex side of things, and more heavy in the romance department when compared to most New Adults. It's not unwelcome, just different and those expecting it will leave disappointed if that is what primarily draws them to this type of book.

These novels are light, mostly fun, but not quite as developed as they could be. Jen McConnel does her best with the limited format of novellas, but everything just feels rushed, and undeveloped. There is potential here in both the writing and the story lines themselves that the space a full paged novel could have brought out. The novella format didn't work for me in this case, despite my travel wanderlust.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boeker

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boeker
Release Date - June 2, 2015
Publisher Website - Little Brown/Hachette
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 368 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.
The cover, synopsis, and details known about The Witch Hunter might lead you to expect a darker, more sinister read. I certainly was expecting that when picking up my copy of the book. Virginia Boeker instead delivers up action sequences that are fast paced, and engaging. A romance that is tentative and kind. A plot that is filled with intrigue and reveals and overall while not quite what I envisioned was enjoyable nonetheless.

This is a novel that requires patience. It rewards those who let the story unravel at the pace in which it needs to by providing the answers you need. The pacing is more methodical, and measured allowing the characters and the reader time to breathe and take in the information being presented. It's a change from most novels of this genre, but a welcome one. There is plenty of action, romance, secrets and betrayals to keep your interest, but the answers are revealed in a particular order for a reason that becomes clear at the end. Those seeking instant gratification may find themselves itching to sneak ahead, but the pay off is all the greater when it happens.

The world building in this novel has received it's fair share of praise around the book community. I did enjoy the blending of historical with a more contemporary twist. The magic that exists within these pages was given it's own spin by Virginia Boeker and it's spellbinding. Being allowed a glimpse at both sides of the story (that of the witch hunters and the witches) allowed you to understand the characters more, and adds a little more depth the world that has been created for these characters.

Elizabeth Grey is someone who has pretty much been brainwashed. She's been raised since a young age to believe that magic caused a horrific plague that killed innocent people. She's been groomed, trained and taught to distrust magic and those who wield it. As she interacts with those who use magic she has to work though years of conditioning and hatred. It's natural that she would struggle to accept this new truth. Moments can not erase years of hatred being implanted in her. It's enough that she is willing to question and start the journey down the path of making amends. It's also natural that she'll stumble during the journey. I found her imperfections, and mistakes made her seem all the more human.

The other characters are where Virginia Boeker's character development shines. In particular Fifer, who completely steals the thunder from any other character. She's unapologetic, head strong, loyal, and surprising. Her character surprised me the most out of all of them because she was taken to unexpected, but welcome, places. My wish for subsequent novels is more time spent with the characters in general now that the world has been fully established.

The why behind Elizabeth being accused of being a witch was the only real misstep for me in the novel. Without giving away spoilers, Elizabeth is put into a position that requires her to seek the aid of some items that are associated with witches. The reason she needs them is one that I feel was brushed away too hastily. It wasn't given the proper weight I feel it required. I am hoping that future novels will rectify this as it feels like a glaring omission as it would surely weigh heavily on her going forward.

This novel boasts an imaginative plot and clever world building. After turning the last page I was beyond hooked and desperate for the sequel. Elizabeth Grey's journey is one I am excited to continue as I hope the author to continues to have her grow and change. Fans of fantasy like novels with a historical setting will certainly be interested in picking this one up.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New To My Book Closet

It's that time of the week again. Time to show you what bookish goodies made their way into my home and book closet (to be saved from the evil book eating cat monster named Aria). This is inspired by the various "mailbox" posts out there (eg. In My Mailbox by The Story Siren, and Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews).

I have a few books to share with you this week!

First up is a book that I've heard A LOT about. It was one that went quickly at BEA and is a totally new author for me as I haven't read any of his previous books.

Armada by Ernest Cline (goodreads)

I also received one e-book for review this week. One that has me extremely curious as I am not quite sure what genre it is. From the synopsis it could be a dark contemporary but it could also have a paranormal twist.

Romancing The Dark In The City Of Light by Ann Jacobus (goodreads)

A huge thank you to Raincoast Books, Penguin Random House, and Wunderkind PR for the review copies this week. Excited to read both of them.

What books made their way into your mailbox this week?

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski 

This was just announced this week on the Publisher Weekly website and it sounds ABSOLUTELY amazing.  Books about European travel (complete with sexy European boys) are my weakness. There is pretty much no quicker way to bait me into needing to read a novel. This one sounds like such a 'me' book.

Here is the blurb in the Publishers Weekly announcement
in which 19-year-old Sydney decides at the last minute to have the summer she's longed for: traveling through Europe with her best friend. But while they dodge (and chase) boys, drama, and their own personal demons, Sydney falls head over heels for a guy she can't have.
Love the slightly older than most YA characters (so perhaps some more sexytimes) and that I am not sure where in Europe they'll be travelling. Hoping it'll remain a surprise until I actually read the book. There is no Goodreads link yet, but keep an eye out to add this one to your to be read list.

Hearts Made Of Black by Stephanie Garber (goodreads)

I've mentioned this one before but some more details were released and it has only increased my desire to devour this novel immediately.
The first in a series about two sisters bound by love and a father they fear, who escape their tiny, secluded island for the wondrous performance of Caraval, where the audience plays along in a deadly game of determining what's real and what's fantasy, and where only one sister might be brave enough to take the chance to forever escape their dark pasts.
Pitched as Night Circus meets Sleep No More. 
Pretty much everything about that blurb has me dying to read this. I love that it is focused on sisters, and the mention of Night Circus has me very intrigued. I'll be keeping an eye out for more details of this one while the long wait until Fall 2016 begins.


Suicide Squad Trailer 

Two words ... Harley. Quinn.

Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn has me VERY intrigued after seeing this trailer. I am also less apprehensive about this movie now. The trailer is actually pretty decent, and the last few moments with Jared Leto's Joker are terrifying. It's pretty clear that this is going to be the Harley/Joker show and with good reason - both actors seem to have delivered stand out performances (if the trailer is anything to go on).

The Affair Season 2 Promo

 I really enjoyed season one of The Affair. In particular it's use of the dual narration. I loved that her version of events was different than his version in sometimes subtle and sometimes glaring ways. The second season seems to promise lots more drama to come!

They also released the promo poster which promises four sides to the story (so that means Cole and Helen's version of events will become part of the narration, too)

No official air date has been announced yet (that I can find), but it'll be sometime in the fall! Really looking forward to seeing what twists and turns await in the second season.

What are you obsessed with this week?

Friday, July 17, 2015

All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder

All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Release Date - July 28, 2015
Publisher Website - Scholastic
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 272 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own. 
The notion of knowing the world is going to end has always fascinated me as a premise for a book. The idea of how you would spend your last hours is ripe with tantalizing possibilities for authors, and it seems a genre that is vastly under represented. We  have plenty of dystopian novels about the aftermath of a cataclysmic event, but not many that examine the moments before. I have yet to be fully impressed by a novel with this setting, but Lisa Schroder's offering is the closest I've come to enjoying a novel in this particular genre.

The novel attempts to showcase both the kindness and harm that humanity would be capable of during such an event. While the focus is clearly on the idea of paying it forward and showing kindness to others, there is a light brush stroke of the darker impulses that people could act upon during a traumatic time. Perhaps I am jaded, but I would expect crime, panic, and mob mentality to be a little more prevalent than presented within these pages. The notion of committing suicide rather than simply running out the clock was something that was handled with care and finesse. The novel, for me, just didn't have the panicked, desperate feel that I would expect as those last few hours ticked away. In particular the desperation of those separated from their loved ones, and what they might be willing to do in order to get to them. Ultimately, I think it may have been the particular character focus that hindered this particular aspect of the story.

The writing, while well paced and sharp, was done in a style that prevented character connection. It's a third person style that never really quite let me into the heads of the characters. A novel like this should be all guts, emotion, and fears and I just felt that I never really connected with the characters enough to care about their fate. I was fascinated by their journey but in an arms length way. Their regrets, hopes and fears were there, but they just didn't leap off the page to become something that I personally could feel too. There is however plenty of character development to be found, and they are well rounded characters, which is all due to the writing. It's just a lack of any connection that left me, personally, feeling distant.

Perhaps the biggest stand out element of the novel is the idea of being thankful. Thankful for the time you do have, and the people in your life. Enjoying the little things, unplugging from the technology that is such a force in our lives and having a real face to face interaction. The little things we take for granted would be the first things you regret not appreciating while you had the chance and that is beautifully woven through every single part of this story.

The ending fell a little flat for me, simply due to the lack of answers. I didn't feel the ending was wrapped up as fully or nicely as it could have, or should have, been. This is a story that focuses on the characters and their lives rather than the asteroid, but the particular omissions at the end, for such a looming presence in the story, felt glaring.

A gentle, thought provoking look at the potential end of the world, and the ways in which interactions can spiral and twist our stories in unexpected ways. While I did not quite connect to the story the way I wanted to, it's still a hopeful novel with a beautiful reminder wrapped in its pages. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday ................. After You

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick this week is After You by Jojo Moyes

**spoilers for Me Before You**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Coming September 29th: After You, the sequel to the beloved New York Times million-copy bestseller, Me Before You


Dear Reader,

I wasn't going to write a sequel to Me Before You. But for years, readers kept asking and I kept wondering what Lou did with her life. In the end the idea came, as they sometimes do, at 5:30 in the morning, leaving me sitting bolt upright in my bed and scrambling for my pen.

It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them—especially Lou—again. And I'm hoping that those who love Will will find plenty to enjoy.
There is not  really a synopsis for this novel because the plot is so shrouded in secrecy. After the heartbreaking events of Me Before You I am both excited to return to Lou's story, and hesitant. I am curious to see what direction Jojo Moyes takes this, and have faith that if anyone can pull off writing a novel like this, it's her.

Expected release date - September 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Black Iris by Leah Raeder
Release Date - April 28, 2015
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 368 pages
My Rating - 4.5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.
I adored Unteachable when it was released last year. I was beyond excited to read whatever Leah Raeder wrote next. What she delivered with Black Iris is a story that is unapologetically dark and twisted. Leah Raeder is making a name for herself in the New Adult genre with her lyrical writing, with her unflinching storytelling, and bold plot execution. A novel that embraces all it's darkest impulses and is all the more alluring for it.

This is a hard novel to review because so much of this story depends on not being spoiled. You need to go and experience the story as it unravels. You need to take the journey with the characters. You need to allow Leah Raeder to bring out all the emotional reactions in you with her writing. The way the story is woven and unravels is part of what makes it so compelling and to not experience the way it's intended would drastically change the experience of reading the novel.

The characters are blunt and razor sharp. There is no sugar coating, and no pretenses. One of the first things Laney tells you about herself jumped out at me as such a defining aspect of not just her, but all the characters in the novel.
“I am not the heroine of this story. And I'm not trying to be cute. It's the truth. I'm diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes. I'm completely dysfunctional and that's the way I like it, so don't expect a character arc where I finally find Redemption, Growth, and Change, or learn How to Forgive Myself and Others.” 
It's true that she's not the hero of this story, but neither is she the villain. She's both and neither at the same time. All of the characters are equally flawed, and human. They all make ill advised choices. What sets them apart is the amount of guilt (or lack thereof) that they carry around for their choices and actions. Laney is a character who allows herself to embrace every emotion be it lust, anger, vengeance, and everything in between. She (and a lot of the other characters) choose to act on what feels right, even if what feels right is oh so wrong.

A twisted, messed up book would not be complete without an equally dark romance. This is a twisted love triangle at it's most destructive. The jealousy, lust, and betrayal between them ignite and consume everything in their path. It devours. If these characters are broken, the way they love is even more so. It's sexy, and unstable, and reckless. These three characters circle each other like predator and prey in equal measure and it's hypnotic. There is a quote that sums up the romance in this novel eloquently 'I never wanted to be saved. I wanted someone to follow me down into the darkness'. It captures both Laney's mindset and the darker nature of lust that prevails throughout these pages as they each following willingly into their darker impulses.

Leah Raeder weaves a dark, seductive tale, one with characters whose hearts are as dark as story that haunts these pages. Fans of morally skewed characters will particularly like this unique New Adult read. I'll continue to devour whatever she writes, as long as she continues to push the boundaries of New Adult novels and explore different genres in process.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New To My Book Closet

It's that time of the week again. Time to show you what bookish goodies made their way into my home and book closet (to be saved from the evil book eating cat monster named Aria). This is inspired by the various "mailbox" posts out there (eg. In My Mailbox by The Story Siren, and Stacking the Shelves by Tynga's Reviews).

I received one egalley to review this week. It's one I've been super curious about and was excited to get a chance to read and review it.

Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts (goodreads)

A huge thank you to Macmillan for this one!

What books made their way into your mailbox this week?

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


Cover of Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard (goodreads)

So Kneel Or Bleed is my new favourite. Such an AMAZING tagline. The mixture of red and silver blood is also a delightful touch. I love that the covers in the series are similar so that my collection matches. They first and second books are going to look amazing together on bookshelves.

Dumplin' pre-order campaign (goodreads)

I have it on good authority that Dumplin' is amazing. It's one you're going to want to read. 100%. So maybe take advantage of this amazing pre-order campaign since you'll be getting a copy anyway.

If you live in the USA (or have a USA address you can use) simply follow the instructions found on Julie Murphy's Tumblr after pre-ordering your copy of Dumplin' and she'll send you one of these shiny, adorable pins!

Photo from Julie Murphy's Tumblr

Cute right? The above photo is found on Julie's Tumblr to advertise the pre-order campaign kick off!

Blood and Salt pre-order campaign (goodreads)

If romance and horror are more your thing.... check out this amazing chance to see how a novel changes from draft to final in this pre-order being offered by Kim Liggett.

This requires a purchase from a particular store (McNally Jackson) but the 50 page look at the publishing process is more than a little tempting.

Cover for Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake (goodreads)

I love this colour scheme. I also like the current trend of not showing people's faces on covers. This one has a dreamy, almost romantic quality to it, but there is more than a hint of darkness here too. It's an eye catching cover for what I've heard is a fantastic read.


Peaky Blinders

I pretty much adore Cillian Murphy and think he's a phenomenal actor.Peaky Blinders has a very Boardwalk Empire like feel to it, and I am already hooked after 2 episodes.

What are you obsessed with this week?

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