Sunday, March 31, 2013

image source
Short stories are awesome.  They give us in-depth insight into characters, providing anecdotal proof of why some characters are they way they are.  They entertain by creating a certain mood or focusing on a singular effect...some instance in a previous body of work (or one to follow) that might have been glossed over or ignored completely in a longer novel. 

And so, every Sunday for the foreseeable future, I would like to highlight short stories and novellas set in worlds I've already come to love and learn a little more about some of the secondary characters in my favorite novels.  I'll be underscoring some of my favorite aspects of these short works of fiction, in addition to offering up a mini review of each work.

This week I'm featuring a prequel story:

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Title: The Witch's Betrayal
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Series: The Assassin's Curse, book #0.5
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

An ebook original short story set before The Assassin's Curse.

You’ve read The Assassin’s Curse. You’ve met Naji. Now go back in time and see Naji in his earlier years, as he seeks a target and ends up clashing with Leila, the river witch.

Oh, my poor Naji.  It's no wonder he seems so hard and distant in The Assassin's Curse.  He's suffered, been betrayed by someone close, and he believes he's becoming the monster everyone already sees him as.  I knew there was more to him, but now I think I have a better understanding of his character and therefore a better understanding of his intentions.

All the while Ananna was taunting Naji in The Assassin's Curse, you could see that he was truly hurt and disparaged by some of the comments she made.  It took time for her to see the man beneath the cold, calculating exterior of an assassin.  I could tell he wasn't what he seemed from the moment they met, but getting this peek at who he was before their encounter cemented my earlier impressions of him.

If you were as intrigued by Naji as I was, I definitely recommend picking up this short story.  And if you despised Leila as I did in The Assassin's Curse, you'll definitely enjoy seeing her put in her place in this prequel story.  I'm hoping Ananna will one day learn the history between these two and know that although she may not be stunning like Leila, she is still a far better woman, even if she is a pirate.  :)

Rating:   photo 4-1.png

The Assassin's Curse series

The Witch's Betrayal (The Assassin's Curse, 0.5)The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse, #2)

I just love these covers!!!  :D

Saturday, March 30, 2013

In My Mailbox #75

Saturday, March 30, 2013 with 8 comments

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.

I'm visiting my sis in Austin, so I'll be slow to respond to comments this weekend -- not like that's unusual or anything, ha!  The weather should be great, though, so we plan to get out and do some hiking and exploring.  Should be a ton of fun!  I hope you all got lots of reading goodies this week!  Have a great weekend!   =)

For Review:

I don't think I requested a single thing for review this week, and the books I've recently requested haven't arrived yet.  I'm trying to be better.  :)


Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)This Is What Happy Looks LikeThis is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith - I almost cracked this book open as soon as it arrived yesterday, but I'd already planned to start another that I've been itching to get to, so this cutie will have to wait.  But isn't that cover freakin' adorable?

Graceling by Kristin Cashore - I've already read this one, but I want to finally get around to finishing the series, so I'm doing a refresher of this one with the audio.  I've been told it's intense but good.  We shall see.

So, that's my haul.  I think I did pretty good this week.  How about you?  What did you get this week?

The Week in Review:

Reviews:  Undone, Easy (audio), Clockwork Princess (audio), With All My Soul & The Assassin's Curse (audio)

Current Giveaways:  A is for Audiobook - ends tomorrow!!!

Currently Reading:


I've been itching to start this one for awhile.  I can already tell it's going to be hard to put down.  =)  I'm not very far into the book yet, and I've already been pretty creeped out, resulting in some intense nightmares.  In other words, I'm loving it!  :P

Currently Listening:

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)

Like I said, refreshing my memory with this one so I can move on to Fire.  I own the physical copies of all of them, but as you can see, I still haven't gotten to them yet, so I'm trying out the audio.

The Week Ahead:

The Collector Blog TourReviews of The Witch's Betrayal (SSS), Dead Silence & The Collector:  A Dante Walker Novel

Blog Tours:  Dead Silence on 4/4 & The Collector on 4/5

Dead Silence Blog Tour

The Collector (Dante Walker, #1)
And I'll be attending the signing next Saturday for Victoria Scott's The Collector.  And I might just grab an extra copy to give away here!  =D

I'm also participating in the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop.  My giveaway will go up tomorrow.

Also, I'm one of the Elementals Virgins on the Spirit Blog Tour hosted by The Midnight Garden!  You can read more about it over there, but check back soon for details on the read along I'm co-hosting with Steph from Cuddlebuggery!

Friday, March 29, 2013

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Title: The Assassin's Curse
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Narrator:  Tania Rodrigues
Series: The Assassin's Curse, book #1
Publisher: AudioGO Ltd.
Publication Date: October 11, 2012
Source: purchased, received copy for review via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

I love audiobooks.  I know I say that entirely too much, but if it weren't for the audio being on sale at Audible recently (and currently still $3.49 for members!), it would probably still be months before I made time for this book.  And I would be missing out on an awesome tale of pirates, assassins, curses, and magic. Everything about this book was screaming at me to read it:  the title, the cover, the whole premise.  And now that I've listened to it, I want a physical copy.  My shelves deserve to be graced with this book's presence, and I know this is a book I'll want to read again and again.

However, when I started the audio, I did so with slight trepidation.  The narrator has a British accent and she sounds a bit stuffy.  Pair that with the uneducated vernacular of the pirate (think Saba from Blood Red Road but a little less so, lots of ain'ts and got no's), and I thought the narration was going to drive me batty.  Talk about contradictions!  But as the story unfolded and I got to know Ananna's character, I could see why this narrator was chosen.  Not only does she give a unique voice to the protagonist, but she also makes every other character sound singular.  Considering how wary I was of her accent in the beginning, that is truly a feat.

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via Netgalley prior to its release last fall, but for some reason, I didn't make it a priority.  I don't know where the disconnect was because as I've already mentioned, this book was perfect for me.  There's no romance to speak of, though one is definitely in the works by the end of the story, and I found that immediately refreshing.  In a fantasy, especially one focused on a quest of some sort, I always feel like the romance should take a backseat to everything else in the story.  I'd much prefer it gradually develop and not overpower the more important aspects of the story, namely the search for the cure to the impossible curse in this story.

That's not to say that I don't like where the romance is headed.  Because I do.  Ananna and Naji are very unlikely allies, considering he's the assassin sent to deliver retribution for the jilted fiance.  Their uneasy alliance grows into friendship, though, as they set out to break the curse they unwittingly brought upon themselves, and it's easy to see that this will blossom into something more...eventually.  Remember the banter between Penryn and Raffe and how they barely tolerated each other at the beginning of their journey in Angelfall?  That's probably the best comparison I can make, just with a little less banter.  

The quest in this novel seems never-ending because as soon as they reach their destination, the assassin and the pirate discover that they need to continue their search elsewhere, which means we get to see a lot of scenery in this book.  The world-building in The Assassin's Curse was perfection.  The descriptions were not overly pretty or image heavy, but they were just enough that I felt myself enveloped in the mist or swaying aboard the ship with Ananna and Naji.

And I can't wait to return to this world in The Pirate's Wish, due out this summer.  As much as I enjoyed this book, I don't think I'll be waiting months before picking up its sequel.

Rating:   photo 5-1.png

Covers By Katie
Okay, so I totally stole this idea from Sara at Forever 17 Books, who got the idea from an article on Babble called Judging a Book by Its Cover: A 6-year-old Guesses What Classic Novels Are All About.  I just discovered her lovely segment, and I immediately requested forced my own five-year-old daughter Katie to provide me with some of her own cover art artwork and then asked her what she thought the book was about.

This week, Katie gave me her take on the following book:

"The boy and girl are running away from their house and it was a really cloudy day."

Cover Art

Taken as envisioned by Katiebug

From what I know of this book -- which is actually very little because I haven't read it yet, though it is coming up soon in the review pile -- I think that's a very good guess.  =)

Have you read this book or do you plan to?  What do you think of Katie's guess at the premise?  

Did your little darling create a work of art based on a book this week? If so, be sure to link up with Sara over at Forever 17 Books.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Add to Goodreads
Title: With All My Soul
Author: Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers, 7th & final book in the series
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It's time to kick some hellion butt...

After not really surviving her junior year (does "undead" count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She's going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever.

But then she meets Wrath and understands that she's closer to the edge than she's ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can't save everyone she loves without risking everything she has....

I don't feel quite as gutted with this series' ending as I did with the last one I read, but I'm not going to lie, I did shed some tears.  I didn't discover this series until the fourth book was out and I'd won a copy, but you'd better believe that I rushed out to catch up and then waited not-so-patiently as each subsequent book was released.  And with each new book, I loved this world, the story, and the characters that much more.

Kaylee Cavenaugh and friends have survived a lot.  Okay, maybe survived is the wrong word.  Not everyone has come through this war with the Netherworld unscathed...or even alive.  We've lost some friends along the way, but we've made some new ones, too.  These characters have moved past heartbreak, overcome addiction, and triumphed over evil time and again.  And what's ahead for Kaylee in this final installment leaves her at the edge of a precipice, facing a decision that no one, dead or alive, should ever have to make.
"These beautiful blue eyes show me all the things you'd be willing to do for the people you care about. The things you would give up. The pain you would put yourself through for anyone you love--including me--and I can hardly stand to look into these eyes sometimes, because when I do, I know that you're going to do what needs to be done, even if that might take you away from me. From all of us."
Kaylee has never been opposed to taking risks to protect those she loves.  And she is no less gallant in With All My Soul.  But she is entirely too impulsive in her decisions this time around, leaving others wounded and hurt in the process.  In fact, it almost felt like she was channeling Faythe from Rachel Vincent's Shifters series.  And Faythe annoyed the crap out of me for much of that series, so it's a safe assumption that I found Kaylee infuriatingly frustrating for a big chunk of this book.  But her motivations are pure, and though her intentions weren't always clear, it was obvious she'd considered every angle before acting.

One of my favorite things about this series is the dialogue.  And not just from the swoony Tod, though I am admittedly partial to him.  It's realistic.  It's sarcastic.  It's witty.  It had me laughing and crying and swooning every step of the way, and I'm going to miss the banter between the characters something fierce.  But I am mostly going to miss all the sweet, romantic words from one very hot reaper.
"I want you for all of you. Each individual part and the sum of them all. I want you for everything you are and everything you will ever be. I will never have enough of you, because there's no such thing."
This series is one of the few times I've actually approved of a love triangle.  Because in reality, and especially at the age these characters are depicted at, it is entirely possible to outgrow your first love and find solace in another.  And after everything these characters have been through, it felt right for the romance to take the path it did.  It was refreshing to see the emotional growth of these characters throughout the series, but I was especially elated at the resolution provided in this final Soul Screamers book.  Hurt feelings or not, I think this is the way it was always meant to be.

There were some plot developments here and there that I could have done without or that I thought would have taken an entirely different turn than they did, but overall, I still consider this one of my favorite series.  I mean, first of all, it's the only one I know of focused on wailing banshees.  That in itself is pretty awesome, but when you couple it with intriguing characters, intense interactions with sins personified as villainous hellions, beautiful world-building (centered around my hometown, no less!), and a well-crafted storyline, well, you can't really go wrong, can you?

Rating:   photo 4-1.png

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

This week's WoW selection is...

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Title: Horde
Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland, 3rd & final book in the series
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: October 29, 2013

The epic conclusion to the USA Today bestselling trilogy.

The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they're not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn't run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade's love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn't been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

Why I'm waiting:  First, I love this series about zombies that aren't zombies.  It's equal parts intense and wrought with emotion, and each book has left my heart pounding in my chest.  I love this author's style of writing and I can't wait to see how she writes the ending of this harrowing tale.

What are you waiting on this week?  Feel free to share it in the comments or leave a link so I can stop by!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Add to Goodreads
Title: Clockwork Princess
Author: Cassandra Clare
Narrator:  Daniel Sharman
Series: The Infernal Devices, 3rd & final book
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible


A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

*** This is a completely spoiler free review.  I promise.  I wouldn't do you like that.  =) ***

*Sigh*  This is how you write a series finale.  This is how you put an end to the dreaded love triangle without truly taking the choice away from everyone involved, without tastelessly casting someone aside.  This was the most inherently beautiful yet exquisitely painful ending I've ever read, and I was nearly inconsolable when I finished.  Not because of what happened, though there was cause for uncontrollable blubbering at times, but because it's over.  It's over and I already want to go back and read all three books again...and again...and again.

I almost wish that this were the series Cassie had decided to turn into six books instead of the original three. Okay, that's not true.  Not really.  These characters deserved to have their story told in a reasonable amount of time and without dragging it out just because I couldn't let them go.  But I already miss them so and it's so hard to say goodbye.  The same is true of any series finale, I suppose, but I'm finding it more difficult than usual with this one.  I didn't even expect to like this series when I started Clockwork Angel.  Yet here I am, sobbing over fictional characters that stole my heart and made me feel like no others before them.

I laughed with these characters, cried with them, and fell in love with them as they loved each other.  They each grow into who they were meant to be in this story, even those who seemed insignificant in the beginning.    Everyone made sacrifices and they all had a role to play.  And they played them so well, all the way up to that bittersweet ending.  And then there's everything we learn about Tessa and what she is and where she came from...


I'm not going to discuss the love triangle.  You know what you want to happen or what you expect to happen.  But as I said, it was handled admirably, and I couldn't imagine a more fitting end.  Admittedly, I could have done without the epilogue, though.  Oh, the feels.  I didn't tear up once during the book, not until that epilogue.  I'm going to be honest, though.  I'm not a huge fan of epilogues in general.  They sort of seem like a cop-out, almost like an alternate ending on fast-forward.  Still, this one should make at least a few fans happy.  ;)

And I am happy, despite the intense feeling of loss I'm currently coping with.  I just have to keep reminding myself that I can visit these characters again whenever I want.  Tessa is still the darling of the Institute.  Jem is still the soft-spoken violin-player.  And Will is still incorrigible.  This is how I'd like to remember them always.  But this is how I want to remember Magnus:
“A very magnanimous statement, Gideon,” said Magnus.
“I’m Gabriel.”
Magnus waved a hand. “All Lightwoods look the same to me.”
Bahaha...someday, Magnus, you will be eating your words.

As far as the audiobook goes, I thought I'd miss Ed Westwick reading to me.  But Daniel Sharman far surpassed my expectations for the audio.  As in, why didn't he read the other two books?  You'd assume a  guy reading all of the book, including Tessa's parts, would make it hard to distinguish between speakers and perspectives, but you'd be wrong.  And, oh, my, the accent he lent to Welsh-born Will.  Ed Westwick, who?  :P

I am unbelievably happy, both with the narration and with the story.  When it comes time for a re-read of the series, I'm not even sure which way to go about it.  The audiobooks and story alike were superbly done.  I highly, highly recommend this series.  I'm serious...I wasn't even that interested in the story when I picked up the first book, and now it's one of my favorite series ever.

Rating:   photo 5-1.png

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser(s) comes from the following book(s):

Add to Goodreads
Title: With All My Soul
Author: Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers, 7th & final book in the series
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It's time to kick some hellion butt...

After not really surviving her junior year (does "undead" count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She's going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever.

But then she meets Wrath and understands that she's closer to the edge than she's ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can't save everyone she loves without risking everything she has....

My teaser:

     "He touched me. That was part of the price. And when he touched me, I couldn't think about anything except how furious I was about every time anyone has ever been...wronged. And I think he could see those times. All of them. I think he tasted them in my blood. Or maybe sucked them right out of my head when we kissed."
     "You kissed him?" The horror clear in Emma's wide-eyed expression echoed in her voice as well.
     "Not by choice. It was weird, though, because he didn't taste like wrath. He tasted like peace. Like calm. But he was hungry for wrath, like he devours every drop he ever tastes immediately and is then starving for more."
     Tod scowled. "Feel free to stop telling me what hellions taste like."
     "She kissed someone else." Nash wasn't exactly smiling at his brother, but he didn't look entirely unhappy, either. "Wow. I wonder what that felt like?"
-- p. 169

Okay, I obviously cheated a bit lot this week, but this teaser was too good to pass up.  Some serious stuff is obviously going down when Kaylee is willingly kissing hellions, but there's also the comic relief of the Hudson brothers who are notoriously at each other's throats when it comes to Kaylee.  So, you see?  If I'd taken just a couple of lines from this, out of context it wouldn't have been nearly as good.  You're welcome.  =)

I'm so sad to be saying goodbye to these characters.  I still remember when I first started this series and I pronounced bean sidhes just like it's spelled and didn't even realize I was reading about banshees for the longest time.  *sniff*  Ah, the memories...

What are you teasing this week?  Share it in the comments or leave a link so I can visit!

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