Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Title: The Dragon's Price
Author: Bethany Wiggins
Series: Transference, book #1
Publisher: Crown BFYR
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Source: galley received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Fans of Julie Kagawa’s Talon and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn will devour this action-packed fantasy adventure about a girl who chooses to surrender herself to a deadly dragon rather than marry an enemy prince.

When two warring kingdoms unified against a deadly menace laying waste to both their lands, they had to make a choice: vow to marry their heirs to one another, or forfeit their lives to the dragon.

Centuries later, everyone expects the sheltered princess Sorrowlynn to choose the barbarian prince over the fire-breathing beast—everyone, that is, except Sorrow, who is determined to control her own destiny or die trying.

As she is lowered into the dragon’s chamber, she assumes her life is over until Golmarr, the young prince she just spurned, follows her with the hopes of being her hero and slaying the dragon. But the dragon has a different plan. . . .

If the dragon wins, it will be freed from the spell that has bound it to the cave for centuries. If Sorrow or Golmarr vanquish the dragon, the victor will gain its treasure and escape the cave beneath the mountain. But what exactly is the dragon hiding?

There are no safe havens for Sorrow or Golmarr—not even with each other—and the stakes couldn’t be higher as they risk everything to protect their kingdom.

Dragons. Warring kingdoms. And an arranged marriage that's about to go horribly, horribly wrong. What's not to love? I had some high expectations for this book, obviously, but some reviews had me a little wary, so I tried to temper my excitement. And while this book wasn't perfect, it was a lot of fun to read.

At first, I detested the damsel in distress who has to be taught everything, but that aspect is shifted on its head with a revelation later in the story, and so I can forgive the beginning. Especially amid other truths that come to light. Sorrowlynn's upbringing would have left her vulnerable to life outside of a castle, and so it's safe to assume she wouldn't have any survival knowledge, past who dresses her and brings her breakfast tray in the morning.

Despite Sorrow being a complete ninny in the beginning, I grew to love her character. And I was on board for the sweet romance that develops pretty much from the start. I loved that there was a lot of communication between the two leads. That rather than shy away from their complicated feelings, they discussed them. They embraced them, regardless of what others might think. And despite some cringe-worthy dialogue, the romance felt genuine and not overly saccharine. The romance was the perfect balance: endearing and enduring, just like Sorrow and Golmarr.

But I should mention: I hate bookish comparisons like those in the summary. And I hate when I see something on Twitter that, well...it didn't spoil the book for me, but it made me question how I was reacting to the book. And that's absurd because I was enjoying it up to that point. It's also pretty irrelevant since I don't watch the thing that was mentioned and therefore wouldn't see the similarities anyway. But I'm still upset that I saw it and let it have any bearing on my own enjoyment of the story, if only for a minute. I want to make those comparisons for myself, and if I don't see them for myself, I'm none the wiser.

But I digress. I was completely captivated by this story, sneaking in reading time whenever I could. The writing is really sketchy at times, and the juxtaposition of fantasy and modern speech was hard to bear, but it's the plot that kept me reading. A little more editing and this series could easily become a favorite. As it stands, I kind of love it in spite of its issues, and I'm dying for the next book after that ending.

GIF it to me straight:

About the authors:

Bethany Wiggins is the author of Stung and Shifting. She started writing on a dare and dove headfirst into the world of writerly madness. She lives in the desert with her husband, four quirky kids, and two very fluffy cats. Wiggins has always been an avid reader, but not an avid student. Seriously! She failed ninth grade English because she read novels instead of doing her homework. In high school, she sat alone at lunch and read massive hardback fantasy novels (Tad Williams and Robert Jordan anyone?). It wasn’t until the end of her senior year that the other students realized she was reading fiction. Since then she has penned SHIFTING (2011), STUNG (2013), and CURED (2014).

Find Bethany:

WebsiteGoodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thanks to Little, Brown & Co for sending a copy of Frostblood and for providing a prize pack to give away! Here's more about the book and the promotion:

Title: Frostblood
Author: Elly Blake
Series: Frostblood Saga, book #1
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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The Frost King will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Vivid and compelling, Frostblood is the first in an exhilarating series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies . . . but together create a power that could change everything.

Frostblood: Chapter One

I offered my hand to the fire.

Sparks leaped from the hearth and settled onto my fingers, heat drawn to heat, and glittered like molten gems against my skin. With my free hand, I pulled a bucket of melting snow closer and edged forward on my knees, ready to douse myself if the sparks flared into something much larger.

Which is exactly what I intended.

Winter solstice was six weeks away, but my village, high in the mountains, was already blanketed with a thick layer of snow. Grandmother used to say that the true test of a Fireblood’s gift was in the cold. But she died before she could show me more than the most rudimentary of lessons, and Mother had made me promise never to practice at all.

It was a promise I couldn’t keep. If the king’s soldiers discovered me, wasn’t it better to know how to wield my heat?

I closed my eyes and focused on my heart, willing the gather‑ing warmth to surge upward and out the way Grandmother had taught me. If I did it right, the bright sparks on my hand would burst into tiny flames.

Come on, little wisp, where are you?

After years of being told to tamp down my fire, keep it hidden, make it invisible, I struggled each time I tried to find it. But there it was, a small, churning tendril. I coaxed it forward, a reluctant thread that grew a little, then a little more.

That’s it. I held my breath, afraid to break the spell.

A gust of frigid air whipped my hair across my face. The sparks on my fingers died, and the wisp darted back into my heart.

Mother slammed the door and shoved the quilt back against the crack at the bottom, a deep shiver shaking her ­fine-­boned frame under her cloak. “It’s wicked out there. I’m chilled to the bone.”

Seeing her tremble, I finally scooted to the side, revealing the hearth. “I thought you were delivering a baby.”

“It wasn’t time yet.” Her eyes widened at the tall flames, then narrowed.

I shrugged, my excitement wilting. “It was so cold.”

“Ruby, you were practicing.” The tone of disappointment was familiar. “If even one person sees what you’re doing, just one, they could alert the king’s soldiers. With the summer being so wet, and the grains running out, people will do anything to survive, including taking a reward­—”

“I know. You don’t have to tell me again.”

“Then why are you doing this? It’s bad enough when you’re not trying to use your gift.” She waved her hand at a pile of ­half-­burned rags. Scorch marks still stained the floor.

My cheeks warmed. “I’m sorry I lost my temper the other day. Again. But tonight I could almost control the flame.”

She shook her head in a tense movement that told me there was no use pleading. I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked gently. Finally, her wind­-­chapped fingers reached out slowly to take a lock of my hair, which she always said was lucky to be black and not red like some Firebloods’. My skin might be a little too ­sun-­kissed for a child of the North, but people didn’t look closely in this sleepy village, where no one had powers, frost or fire.

“I understand that your gift is a part of you,” she said softly. “But I lie awake at night worrying. How can we keep your secret if you insist on using your fire, even when you know it can spiral out of control?”

It was the same question she’d asked over and over during the past few months, when I’d decided to start practicing my gift. And I replied with the same answer. “How will I learn to control it if I never use it? And if we’re not safe here, why don’t we go somewhere safe?”

“Not that again. You know we’d never make it to the border, and even if we did, we’d be on the front lines.”

“The coast—”

“Is heavily guarded now.”

“We should have left years ago,” I said bitterly. “We should live in Sudesia with the rest of our people.”

She looked away. “Well, we’re here now, and there’s no sense wishing for what isn’t.” She let out a sigh as she caught sight of the depleted pile of kindling. “Ruby, did you really need to use half our store of firewood?”

I swallowed past the guilt. “I won’t add any more logs to the fire.”

“When it burns down, we’ll freeze.”

“I’ll keep you warm. You can sleep right next to me.” I pat‑ted my mattress, which I’d pulled close to the hearth, just out of range of stray sparks.

Her gaze softened, a smile tugging at her lips. “You’re better than any fire. You never burn me, even if I roll too close.”

“Exactly. A Fireblood daughter can be very useful.”

She gave a bark of laughter and my heart lightened. “I am ­grateful—believe me.” She pulled me into a tight hug, gasping and laughing as she felt the sting of heat coming from me in waves. “It’s like holding a cooked chicken. I think you’d better take a walk to cool off. See if you can find some more kindling to replace the lot you used up.”

I pressed through drifts, the snow hissing as it melted against my shins above my boots. The wind howled from the southwest, yanking the hood from my head and raking through my hair with ­pine-­scented fingers. The air was bitter, but my skin was still hotter than normal after practicing my gift. Mother had said to gather firewood and bring it home, but she also wanted me to calm down. Surely it was better to expel some of this heat out here, where it was safe?

I had done it before, sneaked out late at night into the deso‑late, snow­-­draped woods, my hands thrust into a hastily built fire as I willed myself to control the flames. All I’d managed to do was singe the edges of my cloak.

I gathered a bundle of small sticks, holding them tightly. The forest held its breath, eerily silent but for the rustle of wind in the treetops. Although I knew no one ever came here, I still looked around furtively, my heart beating thickly in my ears. Closing my eyes, I searched for the little wisp of flame I’d found earlier. The sticks grew hot in my hands.

The wind changed direction, barreling in from the north and carrying the dregs of a wet winter storm. I shivered and clutched the sticks tighter, struggling against the cold seeping into my pores and leaching the heat from my body.

Suddenly, the distant sounds of footsteps echoed through the woods.

I dropped the sticks and clambered onto a rock, knocking snow from it in heavy clumps. To the northwest, the path veered down into a gulley, where an overhang protected it from snow.

In a few seconds, I would see whoever approached without being seen myself.

First a hood came into view; then a metal helm flash‑ing between tree trunks washed gray under a steel sky. The blue of the men’s tunics shot startling color into the starkly white scene.

Soldiers, breaking the quiet with their heavy, crackling steps and ringing voices.

Blood rushed to my heart, fear blossoming into heat.

I’d been warned a thousand times about the king’s soldiers, but I’d always told myself we were too high in the mountains, too insignificant to warrant their search for Firebloods. I hoped they were just passing through on their way from the barren North. But our hut was right along the path they were following. They could easily stop to raid our larder or use our hut for the night. We couldn’t risk them getting too near me, feeling the heat of my skin.

I slid off the rock and shot toward home, my shuddering breaths whisper­-­quiet as I scraped past trees and bushes, using undergrowth and my knowledge of the bend of the land as cover.

When I reached our hut, Mother was sitting by the fire, her long braid hanging over the back of the ­woven-­bark chair.

“Soldiers,” I said, rushing to grab her thick cloak, still dry‑ing by the fire, and shoving it at her. “In the woods. If they stop here . . .”

Mother gaped at me for a moment before launching into action. She grabbed a rag and packed up some dry cheese and bread, then stumbled to the scarred wooden table, where healing plants dried in the warmth of the fire. We’d spent hours gather‑ing the precious herbs, and neither of us could bear to leave them. We packed them as quickly as we could, folding them into scraps of fabric tied with frantic fingers.

The herbs were swept from the table by the wind as the door crashed against the wall. Two men emerged from the snowy darkness, their blue vests each emblazoned with a white arrow.

“Where’s the Fireblood?” The soldier’s small eyes moved from Mother to me.

“We’re healers.” Hearing the tremble of fear under Mother’s bravado made my legs weak.

With long strides, one of the men cornered me and grabbed my arms. My throat convulsed at the sharp reek of old sweat and foul breath. His cold hand slid to my neck. I wanted to turn my head and bite his wrist, hit him, rake him with my nails, anything to get his hand off me, but the sword at his side held me still.

“Her skin is burning hot,” he said with a curl of his lip.

“She has a fever,” Mother said, her voice desperate.

I took a deep, shuddering breath. Hide your heat. Push it down. Calm yourself.

“You’ll catch my fever,” I said, trying to keep the tremble out of my voice.

“I can’t catch what’s wrong with you.” He pulled me toward the door, his hand tight on my arm. I struggled wildly, trying to twist out of his grasp and kicked over a bucket of red berries I had gathered before the recent snow. They spilled across the floor like drops of blood, crushed under his boots as he pulled me out into the moonlight.

Pressure grew in my chest. It was as if the fire in the hearth had crawled into my rib cage and wanted out. Grandmother had described the sensation, but I’d never felt it like this. It stung and burned and pressed against my ribs from the inside. It made me want to rip off my skin just to let it free.

The ache grew until I thought it might kill me. I screamed and a swathe of stinging hot air surrounded me, covering my attacker. He let go and fell to the ground, howling in pain.

I scrambled into the hut where Mother struggled with the other soldier as he pulled her toward the door. I grabbed a log from the woodpile and brought it down hard on the back of his head. He pitched to the side and lay still.

I took Mother’s hand, and we stumbled out the door and into the night. The soldier I had burned was still on his hands and knees, pressing snow to his face.

We moved as fast as we could through the thick drifts, away from our hut, away from the place that had always been warmth and safety, a riot of fear and confusion making my mind as numb as my fingers. I had to get Mother away, keep her safe. At a fork in the path, I pulled right, toward the forest, where we could lose ourselves in the pines that grew so thick snow didn’t reach the ground.

“Too cold,” Mother panted, pulling against my hand. “No shelter there. The village.”

We pounded past farms and the shadows of houses until Mother’s steps slowed, and I half pulled, half dragged her through the worst of the drifts, which had poured like frozen waves over the path. As we slogged through the shadows next to the blacksmith’s shop, I saw orange lights bobbing in the village square.

“Torches,” I whispered, pulling back on my mother’s hand. It didn’t seem real. I had come to the village at least once a week for as long as I could remember, not just to buy food and supplies, but to get away from the solitude of our tiny hut, to exchange nods and smiles with people, to smell baking bread and the occasional waft of rosewater from the shopkeepers’ wives and daughters. Although I couldn’t truly call anyone my friend, there were people who always answered when I greeted them, who were glad to take my mother’s cordials for a sick father or sister or child.

Now my cozy world had broken like a glass jar dropped onto stone, spilling familiarity and security, never to be gathered back again. The smells were all wrong, the acrid smoke of torches and the reek of too many hard­-­ridden horses with their unwashed riders.

We wheeled and doubled back, but as we passed a space between buildings, three soldiers wearing the white arrow emerged from the dark like specters, their hands on us before we could move. They pulled us toward the square, where groups of people waited, looking frightened and disheveled, as if they’d been hauled from their beds. I twisted and turned, searching for a way out, but I couldn’t leave Mother. She stood quiet and still beside me.

“Is this the Fireblood girl?” The man was tall, with ­blade-­cut cheekbones and a sandy beard, and he spoke with an air of command. His coat shone with polished buttons.

I scanned the familiar faces of the people from my village. Graham, the miller, and his daughter, Flax. The farmers Tibald, Brecken, and Tom, and their wives, Gert, Lilly, and Melody. They had all come to my mother for treatment when they were sick, but surely they didn’t know what I was. I’d always been so careful, and we’d been nothing but good neighbors.

A boy my age stepped forward. My heart leaped to see that it was Clay, the butcher’s eldest son. At the harvest festival, he had pulled me to the side as the village danced around the fire. His hand had trembled in mine as we shared a kiss in the dark. He’d drawn back after feeling my lips, so hot on his own, but he hadn’t pulled his hand away. After that, we’d stolen looks at each other when I went to his father’s shop.

“She’s the one, Captain,” Clay said, his lips trembling. “She killed my brother.”

My mother gasped and squeezed my hand. My body had gone numb.

A few weeks ago my mother had been summoned by Clay’s father. His infant son wouldn’t nurse. The baby’s skin was cold. Mother tried every salve and curative she knew and finally took me with her to see if my natural heat could warm the child’s skin. But the baby died anyway. I cried for three days afterward.

“You know that’s not true,” I whispered. “I tried to save him.”

“Fireblood!” said Clay’s father. “You brought this on all of us.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Clay? You’re the one who brought the soldiers here?”

Clay’s face twisted, but he didn’t answer. He just turned away.

As if by an unspoken command, the villagers retreated as the soldiers moved closer. In moments, my mother and I were the only ones left, two shivering women ringed by blazing torches. “There’s one way to know for sure,” said the captain, holding his torch in front of him with a glimmer of enjoyment in his cold eyes. “Firebloods don’t burn.”

“Get away, Mother!” I pushed her to the ground.

The torches were almost on us, six or seven coming from all sides, the heat searing my face. The fire from one leaped to the fabric of my dress. Flames ate at my clothes and roared in my ears. My skin was blistering hot, but it didn’t burn.

The captain stepped forward, his hand moving to his sword, and Mother threw herself at him. Her nails slashed down the side of his face, drawing a bead of blood. I tried to pull Mother back, but as I came close, the captain’s booted foot crashed into my chest. I fell to the ground, gasping, the fire on my dress hissing into steam against the snow.

As I struggled to my knees, he lifted his sword, almost lazily. Then he slammed the hilt down onto Mother’s head with a sickening crack.

She crumpled to the ground like a broken doll, her hair spread over the snow, wispy and delicate, as if drawn with a piece of charcoal. Her long, lovely neck curved like a wilted flower stem.

I crawled to her side and took her shoulders, called out to her. My hands fluttered to her chest, her neck, searching for her heart‑beat, strong and steady, like she was. But she lay still.

The world froze.

No. No. No.

The timid little flame in my chest flared to a river of heat, far beyond my control. I didn’t care. What was the use in hiding it now? I breathed in a gasp that stole the air from the sky, the trees, the world. The wind seemed to twist around me, the eye of the tornado.

I exhaled.

The flames that covered my body expanded, erupting with a roar and pinwheeling forward. A chaos of writhing, panicked men blurred in my vision as soldiers fell to the ground, pushing their faces and hands into the snow.

My mother’s still form lay behind me, her hair and limbs in a tumble. I reached out to gather her to me, but hands seized my shoulders. I lashed out with my fists and searched my mind for that well of flame I’d found in my deepest self.

The heat died as they dropped me into a horse trough, my body breaking through a layer of ice into water that stabbed my skin like needles. Rough wooden walls pressed against my sides. I pushed up, my chest bursting with singeing cold, and was shoved back down. I clutched at the edges of the trough, my nails digging into the wood.

Finally, I was pulled up, gagging out water and sucking in great mouthfuls of icy air.

The captain, his head gilded by a flickering orange light, bent down and grasped a fistful of my streaming hair, shoving his face into mine. His face was red, blisters forming on his cheeks.

“You’ll pay for what you did to me and my men. Your whole village will pay.”

Fire already blazed behind him, storefronts and houses belch‑ing out black smoke. Some of the villagers tried to stop the sol‑diers, whose torches touched wooden walls and piles of firewood and carts, while they hooted and shouted as if this were an eve‑ning’s entertainment. Their voices mixed with the wails of those who could only stand by and watch as their livelihoods burned.

Rage mixed with panic, heating my blood and making the water steam.

“A fitting punishment for harboring a Fireblood, don’t you think?” said the captain, his eyes glittering.

So everyone would suffer because of me.

“I’ll kill you for what you’ve done this night,” I managed to whisper.

The flames cast strange shadows on his leering grin. “Tie her to a horse. We’ll take her to Blackcreek Prison.”

“But, Captain,” said a soldier. “Her fire.”

“Then knock her out.”

Pain split the back of my head. The last thing I saw before my world faded to black was the white arrow on the captain’s chest.

The mark of the Frost King.

In case you were wondering, I'm a Frostblood. =)

About the author:

Elly Blake loves fairy tales, old houses, and owls. After earning a degree in English literature, she held a series of seemingly random jobs, including project manager, customs clerk, graphic designer, and reporter for a local business magazine before finally landing on her current job as a library assistant. She lives in Southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids, and a Siberian Husky mix that definitely shows frostblood tendencies.

Find Elly:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest

I've partnered with Little, Brown to bring you this awesome giveaway!

One (1) winner receives:
  • a copy of Frostblood by Elly Blake
  • branded nail polish duo in shades of fire and frost
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Little, Brown & Co.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Title: The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: The Valiant, book #1
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon's family might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant recounts Fallon's gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."

The words "female gladiator" were the only ones I needed to read to know that this was going to be my kind of book. Also, just the fact that it's such an utterly different setting than I've seen in most YA of late made me that much more eager to read it.

The Valiant is full of fierce friendships and bitter rivalries and brutal battle scenes and it was LIFE. Guys always get to have the epic battles in books and movies, while the females usually have to sit on the sidelines and pray for their safe return. So, it was delightful to see the tables turned in this story. And the author described the fighting with such precision and imagery that it felt like I was right in the thick of things, like I was the one holding the weapon, waiting to meet my fellow gladiatrix in battle.

Despite how awesome the fight scenes were, I found the romance to be very...meh. Very take it or leave it, if you will. I wasn't really here for that, though. There was a sweet, new love that died a swift death when Fallon was picked up by slavers, but I found that one more believable than the relationship she develops with the Roman soldier who should, by all accounts, be her sworn enemy. I just felt like this pair never spent enough time together to develop the kind of longing and devotion that they seemed to have toward one another. Not when there were so many more epic things happening around them...and to them.

My only real qualm with this novel, though, was how predictable I found it. And that's probably my own fault, as I read quite a bit more than the average reader and it's made me a lot more observant. Also, I think it's hereditary. My mom can watch the first five or ten minutes of a show and tell you what's going to happen for the rest of the episode...and she's almost always right. You can imagine how much fun it was watching television with her growing up. :P

I can't believe this was my first Lesley Livingston novel! It surely won't be my last. I've had her backlist novels on my TBR forever, but I'm going to make a point to check them all out very soon after reading The Valiant. I've always loved Roman history. I even loved when we were forced to read Julius Caesar in AP English. So, I am here for more of Fallon and her gladiatrix pals. And yes, obviously to find out what Caesar's plans for her are.


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

LESLEY LIVINGSTON is a writer living in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of twelve books to date. Her first novel, WONDROUS STRANGE, was winner of the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year 2010, a White Pine Honour Book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Speculative Fiction, and in 2015 was named one of CBC’s “100 YA Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian”. DARKLIGHT, the second book in this series was a finalist for the Indigo Teen Read Awards. The concluding volume in the trilogy, TEMPESTUOUS, was a finalist for the Monica Hughes Award. These books have sold to more than ten countries to date, and WONDROUS STRANGE has been optioned for film/TV by Shaftesbury Films. Her other trilogies have both won the Copper Cylinder award for Young Adult fiction.

In addition to her books for teen readers, Lesley is also co-author of a Middle Grade series with Jonathan Llyr called THE WIGGINS WEIRD. The first book, HOW TO CURSE IN HIEROGLYPHICS was shortlisted for the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award and was longlisted for the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Young Readers Book of the Year award. It was also chosen as one of the selections for the 2016 First Book Canada All-Star Reading Challenge.

Lesley’s newest novel is a YA historical epic, THE VALIANT, which will be published in February 2017 by Penguin Razorbill (US) and HarperCollins (CAN) and tells the story of a 17-year-old girl’s journey from fierce Celtic princess to female gladiator and the darling of the Roman Empire.

For almost three years, Lesley hosted weekly late-night movie marathons on the nationally broadcast television show, SPACEBAR, as the Waitron-9000, a sparkly holographic waitress with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure B-movie trivia. For almost two decades, she was a principal performer with Tempest Theatre Group, a Toronto-based Shakespearean theatre company.

Find Lesley:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately {2.10.17}

Friday, February 10, 2017 with 2 comments

I'm still tending more toward adult novels these days -- especially as my library tends to take their sweet time uploading new YA audiobook titles -- though I have actually managed to read (and review - gasp!) a few YA copies received for promotional purposes recently. I've just been pickier with those of late. But it's really worked in my favor because the ones I have read have been pretty phenomenal, including Wintersong and Daughter of the Pirate King.

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

Y O U N G   A D U L T

RoseBloodThe Replacement CrushLips Touch: Three TimesBloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)

RoseBlood - Well, that was mildly disappointing. After loving everything I've previously read of Anita's, I fully expected to love this one, too. Especially since it's a Phantom of the Opera retelling. But alas, it was too slow and long and drawn out and I was just boredboredbored. Also, I think that having read her new adult historical romance, I was ready for the need to fan myself when it came to the romance but was left unsatisfied by a couple who were more adorable than steamy when they got together. It was creative and beautifully written but it just never captured my attention the way I'd expected it to. 🌟🌟🌟

The Replacement Crush - I really, really wanted to like this one. The premise sounded so perfect for me. But the main character kind of ruined it for me. She even refers to herself as TSTL (too stupid to live) and writes a note to her blog readers about how she's the idiot girl you're always screaming at "to stop the crazy." Sure, the book had its moments, but those were far and few between. And I kept having to check when this story was written because the text speak and phrasing made it feel OLD. Plus, I didn't like the subtle digs at reviewers who aren't "nice" when they don't like a book. 🌟🌟

Lips Touch Three Times - I've had this book on my shelf for ages and with Laini Taylor's newest book coming out soon, I wanted to get to it sooner rather than later. So, instead of reading the gorgeous signed -- by both the author and her husband/illustrator -- I grabbed the audiobook. And it was divine. I love stories about goblins luring beautiful maidens away with their fruit, so I do wish that story had been longer, but they were all three such lovely tales of woe...and kissing. Lovely, doomed kissing. =) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Bloody Jack - After reading Daughter of the Pirate King, I was in the mood for more high seas adventure. Featuring a cross-dressing girl trying to escape a life on the streets by getting hired on as a ship boy on a royal vessel, Bloody Jack definitely fit the bill. But it was funny, too. I about died when Jacky thought she had contracted some plague and was going to die a horrible death because she didn't know what her monthlies were. Bahaha. Yeah, it starts out young, but by the end of the book she's about 15, so I know future books in the series will likely be less on the middle-grade side. Though, I did enjoy her child-like demeanor and the levity it brought. Oh, and Katherine Kellgren as narrator was perfection. 🌟🌟🌟

R E - R E A D S

The Hating GameCaraval (Caraval, #1)

The Hating Game - This is my third re-read/listen and it won't be my last. Probably not even my last for the first half of this year. Dark times call for happy reading and this book sparks ALL THE HAPPY FEELINGS. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Caraval - I read this WAY early and never reviewed it. And I still don't think I can. The story was just as fabulous and mysterious -- I forgot some things even though this was my second "reading" -- as it was upon my initial reading, though I'm not sure about the choice in narrator. I love Rebecca Soler's narration of The Lunar Chronicles. But her voice just didn't fit what I had in mind for Scarlett. Anyway, even after a second reading, I still want to visit Caraval and uncover all of its secrets. I'm still madly in love with this story and it will undoubtedly go down as one of my top ten reads this year. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2)Act Like It (London Celebrities, #1)Dying for YouAlwaysThe Switch

Marrying Winterborne - I'd been on the holds list for this one at the library for over a month and a half...ever since I finished Cold-Hearted Rake. And it was definitely worth the wait, though I do think I preferred the first book just a bit more. Maybe because this romance just seemed so easy, whereas most in this genre are so fraught with tension (sexual and otherwise) and Helen and Winterborne just came together so easily. I am looking forward to the next book, though I'm starting to wonder if I need to read her other series (plural?) to know the characters and whence they come from? 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Act Like It - Oh, this was fun! I love the fake relationship trope almost as much as I love the hate-to-love trope, and this book features both! The banter is amazing. And the swoons...the swoons! I loved how the relationship progressed, how they hit bumps in the road but it never truly derailed them...that they acted like adults. Most of the time. Oh, and it's set in the West End so I got to use my gawd-awful British accent while reading. Like I said...FUN! =) 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Dying for You - I borrowed this audio anthology from the library because a friend lent me her bind-up of the first four Betsy the Vampire Queen books and I wanted to get a feel for the author's work before starting that massive thing. It's funny. Kinda quirky. I may like the longer series. But I didn't care over much for this series of short stories based in worlds she's previously written in. I liked the amorous ghost. The psychic story kinda left me scratching my head. The witch/witch-hunter story was my least favorite and just bleh. And the werewolf/vampire story I listened to while distracted but I know it wasn't a favorite either. Ugh. I hate when someone foists a book on me like this because then I feel obligated to read it. And that thing is a flippin' doorstop. And unfortunately, my library doesn't have the audio. Waaaahhh. 🌟🌟

Always - This is one of those stories where you're just sitting there, screaming at the characters to effing communicate because that would solve all their problems. That, and the hero not acting like a jealous arse the entire time because his previous betrothed couldn't remain faithful. Also, I knew who the culprit was almost from the start. I hate that. 🌟🌟

The Switch - Yay for gender-bending and cross-dressing and twins switching places! This story was so fun and I honestly don't think I've read anything like it. I preferred Charlie, the twin who was more adept at playing the brother -- and the one who got herself into predicament after predicament. And, sure, it would have been easier -- and more realistic -- had they simply informed Lord Radcliffe of their situation, but it would not have been nearly as hilarious. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Countess (Madison Sisters #1)Austenland (Austenland, #1)A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin (The Debutante Files, #1)All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue (The Debutante Files, #2)

The Countess - Apparently, I'm on a Lynsay Sands kick. I tend to do that with this genre, especially once I find an author I really enjoy. And for once, I started with the first book in a series! Go me! And while I do usually love series that focus on a particular family and all of their romantic dealings, I feel like I already know where this series is going. Who's going to end up with whom, what troubles will plague them, etc. It's fine to allude to it, but it's so clearly obvious from this first book. That said, I'm still here for all the trials and tribulations along the way to the alter because it's all just so amusing. 🌟🌟🌟

Austenland - I've seen this movie a few times and quite adored it. And I've kind of been itching to watch it again but just haven't gotten around to it, so while I was between audiobooks, I thought I'd check this one out. The movie doesn't alter too much from the original book, which is pretty great since the book is kind of adorable. I could seriously identify with Jane's obsession with Pride & Prejudice and all things Mr. Darcy. And the actual romance is kind of perfect for her. But I'm still so happy with how things turn out for Jane that I don't think I need to pick up the companion novel. 🌟🌟🌟

A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin - I've only read one of Sophie Jordan's YA novels before, though I've heard her romance novels are better. And I'm inclined to agree. This story was fun and decadent and forbidden. As all good romance novels ought to be. :) I know some feel squicky about step-sibling romances, but I'm not one of them. There is some icky business in this story that did turn my stomach, though. So, be forewarned. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue - As soon as I finished the first book, I started on this one. As I've stated many times, I love a good hate-to-love romance, and you could see the blossoming of one for this couple in the previous book. Though the hate is all a matter of misunderstanding and circumstance - which I tend to loathe - it all outs, though that only complicates matters. I did hate that it took this rogue soooo long to realize what I knew from the very beginning, which made me like it a little less than the first book. 🌟🌟🌟

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

(More on why I've gone to this format here.)

Until next time! Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Title: Daughter of the Pirate King
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King, book #1
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads
A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

I am always on board for more pirate stories. (Heh.) But all of the books I've read recently that were supposed to be about pirates...weren't. Not really. Not even the one called Lady Pirate. These books all featured pirate ships on the covers and sounded like they'd be a welcome romp on the high seas, but none of them could hold a candle to Daughter of the Pirate King.

First and foremost, I think you should know that I wouldn't consider this YA, except for the age of the main characters and that very middle-grade-looking cover. Oh, and the fact that there's no actual sex, though I've read plenty of adult novels that don't include that either, so that's not actually all that telling. Daughter of the Pirate King is violent and brutal and bloody and clever AF. And it deserves a better cover, in my opinion. I know the publisher gave it an "upgrade", but all that did was add a few more spots of blood and give boobs to the main character. It needs a cover more representative of how badass this book is.

But I digress. This book was everything I'd hoped for in a pirate book. For one, the plot actually occurs at sea, rather than on land. There's thieving and treasure and all manner of fighting. A lot of death, too. Some random. Some unnecessary. And some just outright vengeful. And I don't know what this says about me, but I loved every second of it.

Oh, and the magical aspect is just brilliant. I didn't know it was happening until it was happening, and then I was like, damn, son. I was blind-sided by a few aspects of this novel, and I couldn't be happier. But then Alosa would point something out as she narrated and seemed relatively oblivious as to why she'd noticed in the first place, and then I felt like I had one up on her. Even though she was the master of surprises herself.

And now we come to the part where I discuss the romance, which was just UNGH. I. Love. Banter. And these two pirates are relentless with it. He's cocky and arrogant and I can't help but feel it's all a facade. Alosa is...the same, but not. Her secrets mean she keeps most at arm's length, but little by little, she lets him in. And the teasing, will-they-won't-they just about drove me nuts. I am SO on board for this ship.

I pretty much loved everything about this book. Daughter of the Pirate King was so good. So good. And then it just...ended. I was like, wait, where's the final chapter? It wasn't a cliffhanger. Nothing like that. But I think I still had all that battle lust going on and then it was just over and I just had all these feelings left over. Which means a very torturous wait for the next installment, but at least I know it'll be worth it.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Tricia Levenseller writes historical fantasies for young adult readers. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING, is set to release Feb. 2017 from Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.

Initially from a small town in Oregon, Tricia now lives next to the Rocky Mountains with her bossy dog, Rosy. She received her degree in English Language and editing and is thrilled that she never has to read a textbook again. When she’s not writing or reading, Tricia enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing volleyball, and watching shows while eating extra-buttered popcorn.

Find Tricia:

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