Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryBristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.


ReviewKingdom of Ash and Briars is a book that I randomly came across at BEA 16, but I am very excited that I did! I've read and enjoyed fairy tale re-tellings in the past, but they aren't something that I seek out time and again. What I truly loved about this one is that it's based around more than one fairy tale, mixing the stories of Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Sleeping Beauty. It also says it takes from Austen's Emma, but as I haven't read that book, I didn't notice the comparisons. Regardless, it was great reading through the book and seeing where the various fairy tales came into play, creating a completely new and enjoyable book! 

The story of Kingdom of Ash and Briars follows an orphan girl named Bristal who discovers she is one of the long lost elicromancers, immortal beings with great power. There used to be many more, but now there are only two currently in existence, known as Tamarice and Brack. Bristal joins them to train and learn how to use her power, but it's not long before danger is looming over them.

It's hard to talk about this book because I feel like even the smallest details could be seen as a spoiler, and I do think you should go in knowing as little as possible. I will say that I loved Bristal. She's a smart young woman, willing to sacrifice her happiness for the good of others. I appreciated her bravery and willingness to fight. She's definitely a heroine to root for throughout the book. This book is a stand-alone, which is great. It could have been stretched out, but I feel like it works much better as one single book, with all things reaching their conclusion in the end. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Connection Error by Annabeth Albert


Connection Error by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryIt's typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he's (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can't handle another distraction. But he also can't ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man's a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He's got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn't mean he's above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it's even begun?


ReviewAnother fantastic read by Annabeth Albert. This is the third book in the #gaymers series. You don't necessarily have to read them in order, but I would so you know more about the gaming company that crosses all three books, as well as the other couples who were previously featured and show up in Connection Error.

The first two #gaymers books were more about traveling in a car or RV with someone, but this one was a bit less traveling. The future couple, Josiah and Ryan, meet on a plane and then spend one night together when they have to make a delay in another city. From there, it's a mix of long-distance "getting to know you" with some meetings in between. It worked well though! I like that it had a nice mix of long distance and in person, so it wasn't completely falling in love through a video screen. Though I do understand how people get close on the computer. For a guy like Ryan, talking about himself is often easier to do when he's writing it out and not having to say it face to face, though he learns to be more emotionally open as the book goes on.

Ryan is a bit older than Josiah, though I don't think the exact ages are every mentioned. He's a NAVY Seal but is now in therapy after losing his legs. He wants to get back into the Navy, even if that just means being a teacher. As for Josiah, he works at a gaming company, that is featured in the two previous books too! He's great at his job, but he does have some trouble being the leader at work. The two are able to learn a lot from each other though, and I loved that. It showed that they were equal in the burgeoning relationship.

I don't know if this is the last #gaymers novel or not, but I'd love to see more of these characters or story lines! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blog Ahead 2016 + Swapoween Sign Up


I really meant to do a Sunday Post today, with some various announcements, but I didn't have much time this weekend, with family in town. However, I keep meaning to say that I'll be doing Blog Ahead this October, so now is a good a time as any!

This is a blog event hosted by Herding Cats and Burning Soup and the idea is to spend October scheduling as many posts as you can during the month. I think the big goal is to schedule ahead 30 posts, so if you start the month with 2 blog posts scheduled, you'll add 30 and hopefully have 32 posts scheduled by the end of the month. I suppose you can schedule for October (which I will) but you can also try and get things scheduled out for November and December too so you have a bit of a cushion during the upcoming holiday months!

***


Chaotic Goddess Swaps has some great blog swaps throughout the year. I haven't done one in awhile, but I love Halloween so much that I couldn't pass this up!

Sign up for the Swapoween Hop now:

Swap is open to U.S. and Canadian bloggers only!

PACKAGE REQUIREMENTS

  • Halloween related goodies
  • At least 5 Items
  • Value of $20-$40

IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER

  • Sign-Ups Start: Monday, September 19th
  • Sign-Ups End: Monday, September 26th
  • Parnters Assigned by: Wednesday, September 28th
  • Packages Ship on/by: Saturday, October 15th
  • Recap Linky Opens: Wednesday, October 19th

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryGroomed to be the perfect highborn Victorian young lady, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has a decidedly different plan for herself. After the loss of her beloved mother, she is determined to understand the nature of death and its workings. Trading in her embroidery needle for an autopsy scalpel, Audrey secretly apprentices in forensics. She soon gets drawn into the investigation of serial killer Jack the Ripper, but to her horror, the search for clues brings her far closer to her sheltered world than she ever thought possible. 

ReviewStalking Jack the Ripper was one of the books I KNEW I needed to get when I attended BEA 16, so I was really excited to get an ARC as well as meet the fantastic author, Kerri Maniscalco, who signed my copy. But you're here to know what I thought about the actual novel, right? Well, it's amazing. Seriously. I find the Jack the Ripper murders to be fascinating, especially because they were so horrific and yet nobody has officially been named as "Jack." Stalking Jack the Ripper takes a lot from actual history and creates a new fictional story where a young girl fascinated by science and studying under her uncle becomes entangled in the murders, desperate to know the true culprit. 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is an intelligent and fierce character. She loves science and despite being a young woman in Victorian times, she is determined to learn as much as she can so that she may help people in the future, especially since she lost her own mother to illness. It's through her uncle that she meets Thomas, who is an apprentice under him as well. Thomas is a bit insufferable at times, but you can't help but love him right away. He's clearly attracted to Audrey, though he loves to mess with her all the same. He's a big of a young Sherlock, often deducing things about people correctly by simply examining them and putting one and one together. I loved that he didn't care that Audrey was interested in science. He worried about her and wanted to keep her safe, but he also didn't coddle her or keep her away from the gruesome details of the Ripper murders.

Along with Thomas and Audrey's uncle, we get Audrey's father who is lost in grief over losing his wife, and Audrey's brother, who is desperate for Audrey to be happy but also wants to keep her safe. All the characters just made up the world that Maniscalco "created." I put it in quotes because this isn't fantastic. These are real places and these murders did occur, though the author obviously takes artistic liberties, especially when naming the murderer, since they have not actually been solved. I loved the ending, and it was definitely not what I expected, so kudos for that!

I need more now! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BEA '16; all opinions are my own

Official Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...


Review:

I loved Labyrinth Lost, which is a bit surprising as I don't normally seek out fantasy novels. Regardless, this one was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I'm actually glad this one is a sequel because I need more. However, I will say now that Labyrinth Lost is a full novel, so despite a few questions at the end that make you want to read the next book, this is a satisfying read all on its own.

Now, as for the actual story, I liked the world that Cordova created called Los Lagos, where the main character, Alex has to travel to save her family. She is a bruja, which is a witch of sorts, except the power is something that travels through her family. Everyone in her family loves their magic, but Alex has always tried to run away from hers, hiding something awful about it. Her trip to Los Lagos is actually because she tries to banish her power and something backfires, putting her whole family in danger. Los Lagos is a full imagined world, and I loved the various locations and details that Cordova used to help readers visualize.

One of the things that I really loved about the series are the varying characters. Everyone is so interesting and diverse. I LOVED the diversity, whether it was age, ethnicity/race, sexuality. It was all there and done so well! Alex is the main character and she is definitely a layered character that one can easily relate too. She fears and hates her power, but she fiercely loves her family and would do anything for them. Then there is Nova, who Alex doesn't know that well, but he agrees to help her through Los Lagos. Finally, we have Alex's best and only friend, Rishi, who has a much larger part in the book than I first realized. It's easy to see that Alex has a crush on Rishi, though it's not named right away. I loved that it just was though. Nobody, not even Alex, made it into a big deal.

Again, this was great and I eagerly wait for the sequel!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Annotated Copy of All the Feels by Danika Stone - Auction Ends Tonight!


The auction for an awesome ANNOTATED copy of All the Feels by Danika Stone on Leave a Mark Auctions ends tonight at 9 p.m. EST! Definitely think about bidding. This is one seriously awesome annotated book - I wish I could keep it! Oh, and it's open to U.S. and Canadian bids - If you live in another country, you can bid/win but I ask that you help with shipping! I can probably do about half.

A new auction should be up in a day or so; keep an eye out! Lots of great auctions to come. Please follow the blog so you are automatically updated!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan


The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryFourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will... But he's got to kill someone else first.


Review:

I thought I'd switch up my reviewing style a bit and share the likes and dislikes of this book for you all:

LIKES-

1. It takes place in Europe. Now, the main character lives in New Town and they are against the neighboring town, Old Country. Despite this, the book is obviously supposed to be set in Europe and I like books outside the United States.

2. Charlie Law. He's fourteen, almost fifteen, and not quite like a lot of boys in books. He's infatuated with a girl from school, yet he's a good person all around. He knows to do the right thing and he wants to be a teacher when he grows up. He even befriends Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, when a lot of people wouldn't.

3. The fight between New Town and Old Country seemed very realistic, especially in today's time. New Town isn't run by the best people, but they are taught that Old Country is awful, and even people from Old Country agree, like the Duda family. However, Old Country eventually invades New Town and the question is: Is it better now, or was it better then? Can it get better now?

DISLIKES:

1. I suppose my main dislike is how quick the ending seemed to go. There is a lot going on in Charlie's life and there are some serious stakes. However, it just seemed like things were worked out too quickly or too unrealistically, even, with everything that had been shown or stated before.

Overall, this was an interesting YA novel. I appreciated the way the friendship between Pav and Charlie was shown, without too much romance overtaking the plot. There is a lot of realistic overtones to these made-up towns. If the end had played out a bit different, I would definitely have loved this one. Regardless, I'd still recommend.