Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales by Susan Berliner


Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales
Author: Susan Berliner
Publisher: SRB Books
Pages: Kindle; 160
Release Date: April 3, 2016
Source: Author
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Genre: Short Stories

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy suspenseful tales with a very paranormal twist.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Welcome to Susan Berliner's world. It's a place where strange things—both good and bad—happen. Meet some of the inhabitants: 

* Doreen. It's time for her wedding—but where is everyone? (Doreen's Wedding)

* Neal. The face he sees in the mirror is no longer his own. (Mirror Image)

* Deb. All she does is recite four Latin words. How bad can that be? (The Rapunzel Effect)

* Ben. Everything he says sounds like gibberish. (Wordless)

* Mary. Her sweet dreams become nightmares—and then the nightmares become real. (Dare to Dream)

* Kayla & Dan, Lisette & Omar. Two vacationing couples—one white and one black—form a bizarrely close relationship. (The Sea Crystal)

* Alicia. She waters office plants for a living. It's a stress-free job, right? (The Plant Whisperer)

* Isabel. The man in a red sports car looks exactly like her long-lost husband. (Nathan's Return)

In this weird world, you'll encounter a variety of genres—from thriller and horror to fairy tale and humor. Enjoy your visit!

One of the best things about short stories is how easy they are to get immersed in. You can start from any part of the book, and there's just as much to enjoy. It does, however, take a particular talent to be able to write really vivid story in such a short amount of pages. There is a limited amount of time to build a setting, characters, and just enough tension for a twist. Susan Berliner easily shows that she has the ability to do just that. Her stories in this book vary in tone and content, but they're all rather solidly written and a ton of fun to read! This is a great way to spend a few hours.

I have to say, although I'm partial to the ones that are a bit on the scarier side, every story in this book has its own distinct brand of whimsy or terror. From chilling mirror images, to fairy tale lives, to a world of dark dreams that comes to life, there is so much to explore in Berliner's world. There was a little taste of each kind of story, which really showcased the author's writing ability. The fact that each story, despite the topic, was just as solidly written was really impressive.

In fact, it was wholly impressive that all of the characters were so well written. Despite the short amount of time I had to get to know each of them, I really did feel like I knew just who they were. It was a lot of fun to try to figure out where the twist in each of these stories would be. Honestly, most of the time I was completely wrong about where I thought they were going. Which, of course, made it that much more fun! It's always fantastic to be a little blindsided, especially when the story ends with a moment that makes your jaw drop a bit.

If you're looking for a short story compilation with a little bit of everything, this is one that you need to add to your reading list.

 


FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: Dark Dreams and Dead Things (Dead Things #2) by Martina McAtee


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Dark Dreams and Dead Things
   *Series: Dead Things #2
Author: Martina McAtee
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Ebook; 540
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Source: YA Bound Book Tours / Author
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Content Screening: Mild Fantasy Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy richly written paranormal series.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
17-year-old November Lonergan spent her whole life feeling like an outsider. She was right. She’s a reaper like her mother; like her two cousins, Kai and Tristin. The supernatural world believes they are part of a prophecy to save them from an evil known as the Grove. Ember just wants to survive high school and fix the fallout from bringing back her friend. 

Old enemies are lurking; waiting for their opportunity to strike but the pack has a new problem. A group of legendary hunters has resurfaced, threatening the reapers and anybody who stands with them. They are making good on their threats too; attacking those closest to the pack.

Their only hope of defeating the Legionaries involves trusting a stranger to perform a dangerous spell to advance Ember and her cousin’s powers. But Ember has a secret; a secret she can’t tell the pack. One that leaves the pack vulnerable.

An attack on pack allies, leaves one member of the group injured and another missing, along with a mysterious girl named Evangeline who may play a bigger part in this than any of them realize. As the Legionaries are closing in, the pack must trust their enemies, enter hostile territories, and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a psychopath. Their entire plan lynches on a dangerous bargain, but rescuing one member of the pack could mean losing another in their place…possibly forever.

So, it should be known that as much as I desperately wanted to read Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, I just didn't have time to tackle it before my spot on this tour. Which means that I read Dark Dreams and Dead Things almost as a standalone. I say almost, because I did go back and read a ton of reviews! I wanted to make sure I had the general gist of the characters, the setting, and anything important I should know. Let me tell you, it's testament to Martina McAtee's writing that I was still able to chug along happily through this book. If anything, I'm actually really excited to go back and start over again.

What impressed me most was the character development here. It's not easy to build the kinds of characters who feel like real people, especially set against a paranormal backdrop. November's personality, despite not knowing her from the first book, really spoke to me. I'm kind of a sucker for the whole concept of being a reaper anyway, but she specifically brought it home for me. I love characters who don't have a definite light side/dark side to them. Real people, with real flaws. That's what I love. Maybe Ember was a little mopey at times, but at least that was realistic.

As for the plot, I can say that I definitely was missing some pertinent information. Such as the fact that there are apparently two characters who share a body. My mistake, of course, for not getting through the first book quick enough. Still, I had a great time romping through what I was given. This is a magical, twisted world where bad things lurk and good has to hold the line. McAtee stole my breath away with the whole world that she's built up around these characters. It's rich, and well done. I can see why so many people are absolutely in love with this series.

Long story short, this is now on my radar to go back and start from the beginning. I was so intrigued at everyone that was happening, and eager to find out exactly where it all stemmed from. McAtee's writing is stellar! I can't wait for more.





FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book Blitz + Giveaway: Lavender in Bloom by Lily Velez


Good morning, darling bookish people!

Are you on the hunt for a swoon-worthy, historical romance? Look no further, Lily Velez has you covered with Lavender in Bloom.

Lavender in Bloom
Lily Velez
Publication date: July 25th 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
It’s the year 1802 in Avignon, France…

Noah Capet has spent most of his young life living simple and unvaried days in the hushed countryside of southern France. Quiet, reserved, and diffident, his preference for existing is to do so in solitude, keeping to himself both in town and on his family’s farm—a predilection that’s altogether disrupted when a newcomer to town by the name of Jeremie Perreault begins an unremitting quest to befriend him.

Jeremie is everything Noah is not. Charismatic and gregarious, he leaves a trail of charmed admirers in his wake wherever he goes. Expressive and idealistic, he talks without end about his deep love for old books and his spirited dream to one day travel the world on a literary pilgrimage.

Over the course of a single summer, the two form an unlikely friendship, but just as quickly as it develops, it soon entirely dissolves as they’re forced to face the truth of what has unexpectedly emerged between them.

Lavender in Bloom is a tender and tragic coming-of-age story about first love and self-discovery, and a poignant reminder that time is fleeting and always takes with it the choices we’re too afraid to make.

“I think of you almost every moment, Noah. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I am utterly tormented by these things I feel for you.”

It was as if lightning had struck Noah. He was paralyzed by the admission, stricken silent, and at his core, an inferno devoured him. Its heat filled his veins, spread from ligament to ligament, muscle to muscle. Jeremie had once read aloud a poem regarding a phoenix making its nest in a person’s bosom. Noah felt the phoenix now, felt her awakening, shifting, extending her wings and beating them powerfully so that he was left breathless, but no more breathless than by what Jeremie did next.

Jeremie came to him at once, erasing the last of the distance between them, and this time, Noah didn’t back away. The thin gap of space between their bodies sweltered. Still, Noah didn’t move. He didn’t move as Jeremie cupped Noah’s elbows, fingers grasping at bone. He didn’t move as Jeremie pulled him nearer. He didn’t even move when their faces were close enough for him to feel Jeremie’s warm breath against his mouth.

“Tell me you feel the same,” Jeremie whispered. It sounded like a prayer. His head was bowed slightly to be at level with Noah’s.

There was a pull in Noah’s stomach, an unfamiliar desire growing heavier. He was close enough now to see the velvet trimming on the collar of Jeremie’s coat, the paisley design of the white ascot at his neck. Jeremie’s lips lingered before his own, daring, eager, ravenous. It would’ve been effortless to give in, to lean his body into Jeremie’s, to be overtaken by the fever consuming him. He wanted to. Of that much he was certain, and it shocked him like nothing else ever had.

Tell me you feel the same, Jeremie had whispered.

And Noah, still fighting a war he hadn’t even known had begun long ago, had thought to, had nearly conceded to it. But then he saw an image of Jeremie’s father, cold and cruel, bringing his own son to ruins, and in the end, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. For Jeremie’s sake, he couldn’t fall.

Firm in his resolve, he drew up his strength and stepped back out of Jeremie’s hold. The moment he did, the phoenix extinguished herself.

Tell me you feel the same.

Noah met his eyes, forcefully, meaningfully. “I don’t.”

Lily Velez has been writing stories since she was six years old. Not much has changed since then. She still prefers the written word and her overactive imagination over the 'real world' (though to be fair, her stories no longer feature talking dinosaurs). A graduate of Rollins College and a Florida native, when she's not reading or writing, she spends most of her days wrangling up her pit bulls Noah and Luna, planning exciting travel adventures, and nursing her addiction to cheese. All this when she isn't participating in the extreme sport known as napping. You can learn more about Lily and her books at www.lilyvelezbooks.com.




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Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Voyage to Magical North
Author: Claire Fayers
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Pages: Hardcover; 320
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
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Content Screening: Magical mischief

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy magical romps, filled with pirates and mischief!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past--if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she's spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship theOnion. Before you can say "pieces of eight," they're up to their necks in the pirates' quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don't even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she's unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.
This book was fantastic! Seriously, I don't know how you could look at the cover of The Voyage to Magical North and not immediately want to add it to your reading list. Look at that cover! It screams danger, adventure, and pirates. What more could you want? Better still, it absolutely delivers on every single one of those promises. Are you looking for a wild and magical adventure, fraught with danger? Claire Fayers has you covered.

Brine and Peter quickly became two of my new favorite characters. Fayers wrote them so richly, that it was hard not to feel like I was right alongside them. These two couldn't be more different, but watching them learn how to navigate together and how to understand one another, was a wonderful experience. There was so much depth to everything that Brine and Peter did. They were flawed, they were young, they were human. Couple that with adventures that threw them straight into the tentacles of sea monsters? Well now, you have my attention.

Truly, this story is chock full of everything a Middle Grade reader could ever want. High seas shenanigans, wonderfully thought out magic, harrowing encounters, and so much hilarious snark that it's hard not to giggle while reading this. I loved that Claire Fayers walked that line between light and dark in The Voyage to Magical North. As good Fantasy books should, this story explores some of the scarier and darker places that one must go to in order to persevere. Those were always my favorite kinds of stories as a kid, and that's still true to this day.

Trust me, this book is a keeper! It's a must read for adventure lovers of all ages. Strap in, sit back, and prepare to go on a journey. Claire Fayers has you covered.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Review: The Killer In Me by Margot Harrison

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Killer In Me
Author: Margot Harrison
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: Hardcover; 368
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
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Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good, tense read with vividly written characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?
Whoa. Seriously, I don't know what else to start this review out with other than that one word. Even though the synopsis promised a wild ride through a killers mind, I don't think I was quite expecting how intense this book was going to be at times. In fact, I'm impressed. I don't know how she did it, but Margot Harrison has managed to write a book that is equal parts wonderful and terrifying. If that doesn't make any sense to you yet, just trust me that you need to pick The Killer In Me up.

Nina's character was a grade A example of an unreliable narrator. What I love about that, especially in this case, was that it adds that extra tension to all of the drama taking place. See, Nina sees the Thief in her dreams. She knows where he goes, what he does, and who he kills. She has all the information, but no proof and no way to stop him. Her humanness, her powerlessness, these were the powerful tools that Harrison used to make Nina a questionable main character. I didn't know whether she was crazy, whether she was right, or whether everything would end up being a dream. I love every single minute of it.

What further impressed me was that Warren was so perfectly settled into this story. While the main focus is definitely on Nina and her night time companion, Warren has his own rich back story. He's that kind of guy that you can't help but fall in love with. Compassionate, intelligent, and with maybe just a little too much bravado for his own good. I loved watching these two together, and further loved the fact that there was no instant relationship between them. They had history. They had issues. What grew between them was full of questions, and trust, and it was perfection.

Oh, were you waiting for me to get to the part about the killer? Well now, you'll have to read this book to find out what's going on with that. There's so much beauty in the way that this whole story plays out. Little hints dropped, little moments that fly by, and so many questions left unanswered until the very end. This is one of the few books I've read lately where I actually approve wholeheartedly of the ending! As I said, consider me impressed. The Killer In Me is a must read.


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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review: Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Smash & Grab
Author: Amy Christine Parker
Publisher: Random House BFYR
Pages: Hardcover; 384
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
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Content Screening: Mild Violence; Intense Action

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love action packed stories with the perfect amount of chemistry.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.

CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .

Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.

Told in alternating points of view, this caper is full of romance and fast-paced fun. Hand to fans of Perfect Chemistry, The Conspiracy of Us, and Heist Society.

Are you looking for a fun read that will fly by? I'd definitely consider picking up a copy of Smash & Grab! Seriously, this book was a ton of fun to read. If you're willing to suspend disbelief for a bit, and just fall into the story head first, you're going to love reading this. Getting caught up in dangerous stunts and crazy heists is a really pleasant way to spend a few hours.

First off, I fell pretty hard for Lexi and Christian. As I said above, you kind of have to suspend disbelief a little bit to be able to fully appreciate their epic stories. Lexi is the rich girl, whose life is on the brink of falling apart. She seeks adrenaline rushes to deal with her anxiety, and does some fairly intense stuff. Base jumping terrifies me, but Lexi makes it sound like a walk in the park. Christian is the boy whose circumstances have kept his family down. His mom works hard to make money, he works hard to get good grades so he can get into college, but both of those things just aren't paying the bills. So he robs banks, to ensure his family's safety and cash flow.

These two were so different, but I could tell right from the start that Parker was working hard to make their chemistry real. In fact, the first time these two actually interacted I saw some sparks! It's wonderful when a story actually cares about making a relationship real, even if in this case the story itself might be a little over the top. The other wonderful part was that the romance aspect of this isn't even overwhelming. The focus is on Lexi, Christian, and the heist they need to pull off. If there's romance along the way, well that's just how it works.

My only real complaint about Smash & Grab was the ending. I had so much fun the entire ride, but that ending just wrapped things up much too succinctly and easily. It was a little too perfect to feel realistic. I mean, obviously the entire book is a bit like that. Christian and his buddies make robbing a bank feel like anyone could do it. Like it's just a small thing you do, and then escape. I was willing to let go of all that though, because I was enjoying the ride. I just wish the ending had a little more tension, after all the build up.

Still, this is a really solid read! As I said, if you're looking for something action packed and full of potential, this is one to add to your TBR.





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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review: Tea Cups and Carnage by Lynn Cahoon


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Tea Cups and Carnage
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #7
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Lyrical Underground
Pages: 194
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Netgalley
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Genre: Mystery/Thriller

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy the series

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
The kettle’s about to boil over . . .

The quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .
Shop owner Kathi Corbin says she came to South Cove to get away from her estranged family. But is she telling the truth? And did a sinister someone from her past follow her to South Cove? When a woman claiming to be Kathi’s sister starts making waves and a dead body is found in a local motel, Jill must step in to clear Kathi’s name—without getting herself in hot water.
Full disclosure: I haven't read any other books in this series, which may be why I didn't enjoy Tea Cups and Carnage very much. South Cove seems like an interesting place to live, small town life mixed with lots of tourism is a recipe for some interesting predicaments. This is supposed to be a standalone book but I felt disconnected from the story and never really invested in the characters.

Jill is the lead character in this book, and while I enjoyed her point of view, there was a lot of mundane details about her life that I felt were unnecessary. I can't remember exactly how many times cooking dinner and letting the dog out were mentioned but it seemed like over 4x which is a lot for a book under 200 pages. 

The writing was solid and it was an easy book to get through, I just realized by the end of the book that I didn't really care who had committed the murder. That, to me, means that I never really got invested in the characters. 

I think the book probably is a great addition to an already established series/set of characters but I didn't enjoy it as a standalone. 







FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: Rising Tides by


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Rising Tides
Author: Katy Haye
Publisher: Plumshine Books
Pages: Paperback; 264
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Source: YA Bound Book Tours
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Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy dystopian novels that have plenty of tension and intrigue.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
The truth won’t stay submerged forever.

City is the last civilised place left on a drowned Earth, a floating town built from metal and plastic from the Time Before. It’s the only home doctor's daughter Libby Marchmont has ever known or wanted – until her father helps the wrong patient and she's forced to flee.

Cosimo came to City for one reason. Then he should have vanished back to his people on the Wastes. But what about his promise to Libby’s father?

Stranded in the middle of the sea, can the two enemies learn to trust each other? And can they survive long enough to uncover the truth: City isn’t the safe haven Libby always believed it to be …

Absolutely stunning. Rising Tides peaked my interest with its premise, but totally blew me away with the execution. Katy Haye has some serious writing chops! Dystopia was getting to be a bogged down genre for me. Too much of the same thing being done over and over, plus a lot of characters that I just couldn't get behind. Haye managed to smash right through that preconception, and I couldn't be happier.

What struck me right away about Rising Tides was how human Liberty was, as a character. She was loving towards her father, skeptical of new people, slightly selfish at times, and yet completely understanding of that fact that she could come off as cold. Liberty was a real person. Someone flawed, who could accept that, and try to make the best decisions for herself at the time. I can't deny that initially her privileged attitude bothered me. That was soon replaced by acceptance and awe though, the further into this journey that she traveled. It's nice to see a character who actually grows and, better yet, uses that knowledge to do something right.

Then there was Cosimo. The reamer boy, the shunned, the initial bane of Liberty's existence. I loved how Haye pushed these two together, but no in an uncomfortable way. There was no insta-love here. No crazy flight into a random relationship. Instead, these two had to learn to get along. They had to understand one another, and make compromises. I loved watching their little relationship grow. Plus, well, Cosimo is pretty dreamy. Reamer boy or not. These two stole my heart with little to no effort.

Oh, and the plot! I could gush for days about the way that the idea of political subterfuge was handled here. People blindly following a leader, simply because he promises to keep them safe. Never questioning whether he has their best interests at heart. Things were so perfectly paced here. Just enough action, interspersed with real human interactions. This book flew by, and I was honestly sad when I'd finished.

Is there more? I hope there's more. I would love to see if Cosimo and Liberty get a happy ever after. They would definitely deserve it.


***

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Blitz: Bottled by Carol Riggs


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! If you've dragged yourself out of bed this Monday morning, and are being productive, I applaud you. As a reward, it's time to share with you another bookish spotlight! This one is quite lovely, if I do say so myself. Bottled by Carol Riggs has a cover that is just too luscious for words. Enjoy!



Bottled
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: July 7th 2016
Clean Reads

At seventeen, Adeelah Naji is transformed into a genie and imprisoned in a bottle. For a thousand years, she fulfills the wishes of greedy masters—building their palaces, lining their pockets with gold, and granting them every earthly pleasure. All that sustains her is the hope of finding Karim, the boy she fell in love with as a human. When at last she finds a note from her beloved, she confirms he has access to the elixir of life and that he still searches for her.

But someone else also hunts her. Faruq—the man who plots to use her powers to murder and seize the life forces of others—is just one step behind her. With the help of a kind master named Nathan, Adeelah continues to search for Karim while trying to evade Faruq. To complicate matters, she begins to experience growing fatigue and pain after conjuring, and finds herself struggling against an undeniable attraction to Nathan.

As Faruq closes in, Adeelah must decide just how much she’ll risk to protect Nathan and be with Karim forever. How much power does she really have to change her future, and what is she willing to sacrifice for an eternity of love? If she makes the wrong choice, the deaths of many will be on her hands.

Buy Links:
AmazonBarnes & Noble

Here’s a quick interview with Carol Riggs, the author of BOTTLED.

1. Your novel in 5 words? Genie looking for lost love.
2. Twitter or Facebook? Twitter
3. Favorite TV show? Fringe…or wait, maybe Dollhouse…or Firefly…
4. Sweet or salty? Salty (hand me my chips!)
5. Favorite superhero? Batman, man
6. Coke or Pepsi? Ugh, neither. I don’t like the bubbles!
7. Favorite movie? Star Wars
8. Song that’s stuck in your head right now? “Honeybee” by Steam Powered Giraffe
9. What are you afraid of? Swimming when my feet can’t touch bottom
10. Favorite movie-to-book adaptation? Harry Potter
11. Favorite book? Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
12. Favorite YA author? Maggie Stiefvater (especially Lament, Ballad)
13. Superpower of choice? Flying, which I do in my dreams to escape danger
14. Most unique hobby? I collect dragons
15. Mountains or the beach? The beach
16. Favorite food? Pizza!
17. Favorite color? Blue-green
18. Drafting or revising? drafting (more creative), but revising is nicely challenging
19. How are you weird/different from others? I don’t own a smart phone!
20. Secret talent: I know shorthand—it’s handy for note-taking at writer conferences

Carol Riggs is an author of fiction for young adults (and adults!) who lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. Her debut novel, The Body Institute, released Sept 2015 from Entangled Teen, exploring body image and identity. Her fantasy YA, Bottled, will release from Clean Reads on July 7, 2016, and her sci-fi YA, Safe Zone, will release from Entangled Teen in October 2016. She enjoys reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with her husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds. You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.
Find her at: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook
   

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Book Review: DEBBI by George Ebey


Media Type: Ebook
Title: DEBBI
    *Series: Helen of Mars 0.5
Author: George Ebey
Publisher: Glass House Press
Pages: Ebook; 60
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Source: Publisher
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Genre: Science Fiction

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for a Sci Fi book with a lot of heart, and a lot of awesome robot battles.

Add it on: Goodreads | BookLikes
A game to end all games. On the line: her family’s future. Will Helen’s creation be enough to win the day? Or will she lose, and take her family down with her?

Helen Hunter’s father hopes to make his fortune by sending a robotic rover, controlled from Earth, to mine the surface of Mars for precious ores.

But there’s a catch. To do it, he’ll have to assume financial responsibility for the rover. And on the harsh and desolate surface of Mars, one false move can mean the difference between untold riches and utter disaster. It’s a risky move that could spell doom for the entire family … and their hopes for the future.

Unless Helen can intervene.

The company behind the mining system—MARSCORP—is holding a junior gaming competition at their annual convention, and this is her chance. Grand prize is a one-year lease on a brand new Mars mining rover. Winning would mean that her father gets his shot at the Martian bonanza without any risk to the family.

But it won’t be easy. Teens from all over the country have come to compete. Some are smart. Others, ruthless. And Helen’s not the only one who needs to win. The mission: use her personally designed robot to fight it out in a high-tech arena that can simulate any environment, real or imagined. Beat the competitors. Bring home the prize.

Luckily for Helen, gaming and robot design are her specialties.

And when she unleashes her newest creation on the competition, a miniature homemade rover she calls DEBBI, the world is going to see just how skilled she really is.

The question is … will it be enough?

Well now, color me interested! I'm a fan of Science Fiction at the best of times, but it takes a lot of talent to weave a really good story into a novella length piece. There's a very short period of time to bring in characters, make them feel richly written, and lay out their fates. George Ebey doesn't even blink an eye with DEBBI. He makes full use of all the time that he has, and it makes for one intriguing read.

This novella comes on strong. I was hooked on the idea of a lone robot, battling against the odds for survival. I actually didn't read the synopsis for this before I started it, so I didn't realize that Helen was even a factor. Once I understood that Helen was actually the mastermind behind everything, I was even more impressed. Now it wasn't just about robot battles, which are cool enough, it was also about the heart and the passion behind the robot battles. Helen's character was easy to fall in love with. Her motivations were true, and I can't deny that I loved her fiery retorts towards the end. I'll follow that girl into whatever happens next.

I was pretty excited to find out that this is a prequel novella, because I definitely need more. If you're a fan of strong female characters, epic robot battles, and tension for days, you need to read this. Trust me, it's well worth your time.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Review: Let Me Fly Free by Mary Fan



Media Type: Ebook
Title: Let Me Fly Free
   * Series: Fated Stars #2
Author: Mary Fan
Publisher: Glass House Press
Pages: Ebook; 60
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Source: Publisher
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Genre: Fantasy

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy novella length Fantasy stories, with wonderfully vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | BookLikes
Fire fears nothing. And Elaia is about to show her world that she doesn’t, either.

Like the rest of her kind, fire nymph Elaia is bound to her homeland, a forest whose borders were closed centuries earlier in a peace agreement between the humans and the enchanted creatures of the Terrestrial Realm.

But her heart is as restless as the flames she casts, and she secretly yearns to defy that order.

When a mysterious threat creeps into the forest, an invisible beast that leaves a trail of death in its wake, Elaia is determined to fight back and protect her people. But first she must learn what the beast is … and the answers lie beyond the borders of her land.

Defeating this evil means she’ll have to go outside the rules, but she’ll do anything to find the answers she seeks—even if leaving her homeland means not only breaking the law, but risking her own life.

Let Me Fly Free is the second novella in the Fated Stars series, but I can assure you that it reads excellently as a standalone. I can also assure you that you'll want to read the first novella as soon as you've finished, so perhaps you'll want to get both at the same time! As a lover of all things Fantasy related, it's always a joy to find a novella that is able to immerse me just as well as most of the tomes that I generally read. Mary Fan's writing did just that.

This story introduces us to Elaia, a fire nymph whose personality more than lives up to the element crackling inside her. See, Elaia is unpredictable. She's passionate, slightly stubborn, and full of the kind of deep curiosity that tends to get characters in trouble. When an unknown beast threatens her home, Elaia's first instinct is to fight back. Which, of course, goes against everything that she's ever been taught. She's supposed to sit back and be taken care of, but what great hero ever accomplished anything by doing that? Honestly, that's what I loved most about this novella. Elaia's bright and impulsive personality sang through the otherwise quiet of her homeland. Where others fled, she remained.

After doing some poking around, I realized that Kiri is the focus of the first novella in this series. Which, as I said before, means that I need to go and seek it out. If Elaia is impulsiveness embodied, Kiri is patience and kindness. Mary Fan did such an excellent job of showing the contrast between these two, and it was really Kiri who reminded Elaia that sometimes it's more important to care for others than to follow your own path. These two seemed to keep one another centered, and I have high hopes that they'll be back!



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire


Media Type: Print Book
Title: After Alice
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Hardcover; 273
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Genre: Retellings / Re-Imaginings

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who have a fondness for Alice and all things Wonderland related.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’s Carroll’s beloved classic.

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herse
lf.
Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

Dear me. I am so conflicted! See, on the one hand Gregory Maguire is one of my all time favorite writers. His ability to spin in his own particular brand of whimsy into classic tales is unrivaled. I've loved every single one of his books that I've set my hands on. Which is why I had such high hopes for this particular story. Alice in Wonderland is an iconic piece of childhood. Everyone knows it in some capacity or another. For me, it was the book I most loved to have read to me before bed. I've read every iteration of it that I could get. Needless to say, I was thrilled to read this.

Now, I find myself finished and rather conflicted about After Alice. I'll start with the good. First off, Maguire does indeed pay homage to his source material. Readers can expect to see cameos from some of their favorite quirky characters, and Ada's interactions with them are just as delightful as her predecessors. Also, the whole feel of the original is still here. The erudite vocabulary, the nonsense that isn't quite nonsense, all of it is there in vivid color. The portions that take place in Wonderland are simply darling. Ada's stubborn ways, pitted against the inhabitants of this wonderful world, were just too much fun.

What brings this book down, in my opinion, is its use of dual points of view. Lydia, Alice's older sister, has her own experiences chronicled in alternating chapters. Which means, of course, that every other chapter is filled with her Lydia's own musings and personality. Lydia isn't easy to like. She is, in fact, rather insufferable. Having her chapters mixed in with Ada's own whimsical ones made this book more difficult to read than I expected. I almost wanted to skip every other chapter, just to get back to Wonderland. If this book had focused solely on Ada's chapters, you would see a much different review being written. That part, I loved.

So, final thoughts? This isn't Maguire's strongest book. While it definitely has a lot in it to love, I feel like long time readers of Maguire's works will probably fall into the same boat that I am in right now. Feeling torn between wanting to love this, and dreaming of what might have been. There is still much of the Maguire magic in this book! If you're a completionist, I'd still give this a spot on your TBR. 



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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