Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Review: To Best The Boys by Mary Weber

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: To Best The Boys
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: Hardcover; 352
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Source: Publisher / FFBC Tours
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy fast paced, female centered and powerful reads!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
Settle in friends, because I'm about to ramble. It always strikes me as funny that it's so much harder for me to write a review of a book that I really loved, rather than one I didn't click with. I don't know how to accurately convey to you my deep love for everything about To Best The Boys, but I promise to do my best! If I go off on a few tangets, or gush a lot more than I plan to, please pardon me. This is a book that will definitely do that to you, and you'll soon see why.

Where to start? First off, Rhen is my new favorite character. She's so smart, so passionate, and so full of the kind of fire that makes me smile hard enough to hurt my face. Watching her and all the of townspeople like her, who fought to make a happy and comfortable space in a world that wanted to ignore them, made me happy. The message here about the division between the upper and lower classes (in this story, quite literal separation) is extremely well done. Just like our real world, the decisions made by the few, disconnected Upper patrons directly affect the many. Rhen is that special person, the one able to flit between these two worlds, and therefore the best voice for the people that she so adores. I couldn't think of a better person for the job.

Lest I gush about Rhen endlessly though, and forget the other characters, I should say that every person Mary Weber creates in this book is utterly perfect. From Lute, who has a huge heart, to Seleni, who is brave and sweet, to Vincent, who is a product of the Upper crust he was raised in. Each character that is touched upon is full of life and has their own personality. Whether I loved or hated them, it felt good to be lost in this new space surrounded by people who I actually enjoyed being with. Weber creates a sense of community here that I haven't felt while reading a story in a long time. It was so pleasant, and one of the biggest reasons that I adored this book.

Oh, and I haven't even touched on the plot yet. It's fairly obvious from the beginning that Rhen will be the one to upset the whole system in her town. What I didn't expect, was how perfect her journey to that point would be. This story is paced excellently, always revealing new things at just the right time to keep it moving. There is intrigue, there are heists, and there is just the right amount of romance to really make a reader like me feel like the balance was spot on. Her time spent in the Labyrinth was my favorite part, but you won't get any spoilers from me. You need to experience this yourself. I never felt bored, and I never felt rushed. In other words, I had a blast reading this!

So, as I'm sure you've already surmised, this book gets a massive five, sparkly stars from me. It's been quite a while since I've read a Fantasy book that made me want to push it at people and scream at them to read it. This book gets that honor. Read this. Buy it, borrow it, love it, and then push it at other people so they can too. It is so good! Come meet Rhen, and join me in gushing over To Best The Boys. You won't regret it.

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, February 25, 2019

Cover Reveal: Hitched by Britni Hill

The FINAL book of the Western Palm series is almost here, and I have the adorable cover to show you today!
Are you ready?

Britni Hill
Western Palm #5
March 18, 2019

Add it: Goodreads

Western Palm University brought them together, making them a family.
Tess and Blake stuck together and headed straight toward their happily ever after. They have everything they need and can’t imagine wanting more. Does that mean they’ve reached the end of their story?
Jason stood up to his father. He made all the right choices for his family. Corinne and their toddler, Arianna, are the bright spots in his days. He thought he put his doubt and self-sabotage behind him. So why does he feel like everything is crashing down on him?
Abby gave in, letting Adam break down her walls. She let him convince her that she needed him. It turned out he was right. And having a stubborn boyfriend isn’t as bad as she thought it would be. They’re going strong, sweetly in love, and happy with their relationship. Is it enough?
Megan is far away from Western Palm attending law school. With Matt back at home and his ring on her finger the distance between them is tough. Does chasing your future have to lead you so far from the ones you love?
Turns out they might have a few more things to learn …
I can't believe this wonderful series is coming to an end and I can't wait to dive into it. Keep an eye out for my review coming soon. 
Britni Hill is a new adult and contemporary romance author. She spends her days as a hair stylist, and her nights with the characters in her head striving to write real, page turning romance. 

​Britni lives in Indiana where she was born and raised. She has a rescue pup she adores and an unhealthy love of binge-watching cheesy, teenage dramas. If she isn’t writing, she’s reading or watching horror flicks.

Find her at:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Spotlight: The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

Good morning lovely bookworms, and happy Friday to boot! If you're even 1/16 as happy as I am that this week has finally come to end, I'm sending you a giant mental hug. Whew. This week was rough. On the bright side, I get to end it with a stellar spotlight, of a book that I'm wholly intrigued over. Want to join me?

The Chef's Secret by Crystal King
Adult fiction, Historical Fiction
Atria/Simon & Schuster
352 pages
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Rated R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.
Forty-three days after he first laid eyes upon the most beautiful girl in the world, Bartolomeo had the good fortune to overhear the maids talking about a girl at the palazzo. Two of the serving maids huddled in the pantry near his post where he was prepping nightingales for the cena. When they mentioned the dress she had worn the night before, Bartolomeo realized the principessa was the object of their admiration.
One of the maids was a thin slip of a girl who served the cardinale’s sister. The other was a young woman who had caught his fancy for a time the summer before, but soon bored Bartolomeo with her empty gossip.
“She’s here from Roma,” the first said, awe in her voice. They talked of the girl’s extraordinarily wealthy family, of her famed dressmaker, and of how long it took to wrangle her curls each morning.
When they said her name, Bartolomeo had to put his knife down for fear of cutting himself. Oh, to know her true name! Happiness filled him like a carafe of fine wine. Her name, he thought, was like the taste of strawberries sprinkled with sugar. It was like the summer sun touching the petal of a freshly bloomed flower. That evening, when he gazed out his little garret window, he wished he could shout her name across the rooftops, but he could never say it aloud. To do so was too dangerous, for her and for him. He would take a thousand lashings for his Stella [Author’s note, this is a pet name that Bartolomeo has for her], but he could not bear to have her come to harm.
The next morning, Stella stopped Bartolomeo in the loggia. The sky was bright and the October air was still gentle and warm. He was readying to leave the palazzo to go to market when she approached. He was so startled to see her there he stopped in his tracks, mouth agape.
The princess was radiant in a red velvet gown, her hair piled high upon her head. Her beauty was staggering, her skin so clear, her cheeks ruddy and fresh. What a sight he must seem in comparison, with his own hair a tussle of wild waves, a grease stain adorning one sleeve. He hadn’t bathed, and he was certain he smelled too much like onions and ham.
She recognized his discomfort and giggled, in a way that immediately eased his fear. She gently touched his arm with one hand, and with the other she pressed a piece of paper into his palm. “What is your name?”
He looked around to see who might be witnessing the exchange, but there were only a couple of gardeners in the vicinity, none of whom paid them any mind. “Bartolomeo,” he said, gathering courage.
She released his hand and shared her own name. Bartolomeo’s heart sang as she repeated the word he had been turning over and over in his mind since the day before. 
“Please tell the cook how much I love his tourtes.”
Bartolomeo nodded his head vigorously.  “I will, madonna, I will.”
She dazzled him with another smile. “I liked the radish flower the best, though.”
She winked and turned away. He stood there, staring at the curve of her departing body, wondering what had just happened. He stared until she rounded the corner of the loggia. He was light-headed and it felt like he was spinning, like a little bird on a spit, fire rising all around it. The piece of paper in his hand was small and warm. He hurried out of the palazzo and down the cobbled street lining the adjoining Rio di San Luca canal.

When he was sure no one could see, he stopped and unfolded the little piece of paper.

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.

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Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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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, February 21, 2019

Graphic Novel Review: Bone Parish, Volume 1 by Cullen Bunn

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Bone Parish, Volume 1
   * Series: Bone Parish
Author: Cullen Bunn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Pages: Paperback; 112
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Graphic novel readers who are looking for something with dark, science fiction elements.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
A necromantic horror series about an upstart crime family trafficking in a new designer drug that’s just hit the market made from the ashes of the dead.

A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, and the demand is rising. While the various criminal factions collide, users begin to experience terrifying visions of the dead coming back to life...through them. Eisner Award-nominated author Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Empty Man) and illustrator Jonas Scharf team up for Bone Parish, a haunting blend of horror and crime that takes an unflinching look at how we connect to—and disconnect from—the world around us.
I'm not going to lie, I picked this up because there was a lot of contention about this graphic novel going around Twitter. Any time that a story has such a polarizing effect on its readers, I need to read it. Plus, I can't deny that the premise of this dark little story intrigued me. It's hard not to be taken in by the idea of a highly potent drug made from the remains of the dead, especially if that designer drug starts to become a currency on its own. I just knew this was going to be a graphic novel I would enjoy, and I was right.

First off, kudos where kudos are due, the artwork in this is absolutely stunning. Dark, gritty, and full of atmosphere, it perfectly matches with the story that unfolds on these pages. As the Winter family fell deeper into the pit that this drug trade was digging for them, I felt like the art kept pace perfectly. Fair warning friends, there are some fairly graphic panels in this book. If you're not a fan of death and dismemberment, you might want to take a pass.

In terms of story, I thought Cullen Bunn did an admirable job of introducing us to this new designer drug and its creators. The storyline was a little jumbled at points, but I still felt like I had a pretty firm hold on the picture at large. I'm kind of an addict for stories like these, where the best laid plans go awry and unforseen consequences abound. Seeing what people do when they're down on the mat is fascinating, and Cullen Bunn definitely doesn't skimp in that department. People are hurt in this book, and some of them even deserve it.

Long story short, I liked this! I'm ready 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, February 19, 2019

Stuck in a rut.

See that beautiful number of books read? That's because I powered through 23 books in the first 45 days of the year. I was in this reading mania, where every book I finished just lead to me picking up the next one, and most of my reading was great!

Alas, I think I may have read myself right into a rut though.

Despite the fact that I have great reads I'm going through right now, and the fact that I've actually had a lot of time to read, I've found myself slowing down a lot. I've been opting instead to watch TV (I'm in love with The Magicians), playing video games (Pokemon!), or I actually picked up my embroidery again. In other words, my brain is telling me that it's time for a break.

So for the next few weeks you can expect that I'll be reviewing some backlogged books I've already read, and messing around with some memes :). I won't stop generating content. It'll just be a nice break for my analytical brain.

How many books have you read so far this year?

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (2/17/19)

Sorry for the radio silence last week, y'all! I was sick on Monday, and then the work week ended up being a lot busier than I expected. It's crazy how my anxiety can go from being 100% manageable, to exhausting, in no time flat. This last week was quite the balancing act, but I did! And I'm proud of myself.

Which is why my reading stalled out a bit, but picked up again yesterday. Here's what it looks like now!

For Romance Bingo I decided to re-read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and it was a great idea! I forgot how sweet this book is, and I definitely giggled and sighed more than a few times. It was the perfect comfort read. I also finished a quick Tor novella. The Litany of Earth is the beginning to a Lovecraftian series, and I'm really excited to continue with the series.

I'm still reading Skyward, despite my best intentions. This book is GREAT! But it's a tome. I've had to renew it twice at the library. Hahaha. I need to learn how to temper down what I borrow so I actually have time to read it. Some day I'll learn.

I finally have my chance to read Elevation through the library, and I'm determined to finish it before it's due back! So this is up next!

That's it for me! What are you reading this week?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Book Review: You Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: You Asked For Perfect
Author: Laura Silverman
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: Paperback; 288
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Source: Publisher / FFBC Tours
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love contemporary stories that really hit home, and books about realistic people.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard - really hard - to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

Where do I even start with this book? How do I even begin to accurately explain to you how much this story struck me right in the heart? As readers, we talk about representation in books all the time. I know that I'm always looking for little pieces of myself in the stories that I read. In this case, Laura Silverman hit the overachiever/stress level through the roof nail directly on the head, and this book didn't just speak to me, it yelled at me. I won't even lie, this will be a super biased review. It's only fair of me to tell you that right off the bat. I loved Ariel, because I understood Ariel. I used to be Ariel. So this book wasn't just another amazing story that I smiled, sighed and sobbed through. This was personal, and I loved every single minute of it.

It's always refreshing to see realistic characters in stories, especially stories about high school. From the moment I met Ariel, and started to really feel the pressure that he was under, I immediately formed a bond with him. Silverman doesn't just explain the type of stress that Ariel subjects himself to. Oh, no. Ariel's feelings, especially his immense need to succeed, are palpable in this book. The chapters where things started to get really heavy, and the supposedly perfect tower that our main character had built for himself began to wobble, I could literally feel the pressure pushing down on my shoulders. This book can, admittedly, be a stressful read at times. If you've ever been in Ariel's shoes, like I have, you might feel slightly uncomfortable in certain chapters. That's the beauty of this story though. It completely immerses you and, before you know it, you're so involved that the pages just fly by.

Now, lest you think that this book is all stressful doom and gloom, I can assure you that there is plenty of levity here too. It's been a long time since I read a sweeter romance than this one, and I have no complaints at all. In fact, you should know that I audibly sighed more than once while reading this. A good sigh, mind you. The contented kind, that happens because what is written on the page is just too perfect and pure for any words to describe. Tears happened during this story too, both sweet ones and sad ones. Much like real life, the events in this story are a nice mix of good and bad. A beautiful balancing act, that never really feels weighted one way or the other. When Amir and Ariel were together, life was good. Things were sweet, and I was a happy reader. When they were apart? Well, you get the picture. Just trust me when I say that you'll be just as invested in their relationship as I was. Oh, and I could gush for ages about all the other relationships that are present in this book. Somehow this book feels too short, and yet manages to fit discussions on familial relationships, and friendships. There's even a look at the way that religion can help a young person really connect to others and themselves.

If I tried to fairly explain to you everything that is wrapped up in You Asked For Perfect, this review would be so long that you wouldn't read it. So, I'll tidy things up and just tell you that it's essential that you read this book. I don't hand out five star reviews lightly. A book has to really strike a chord with me. Laura Silverman's gorgeously written story did exactly that. This should be required reading for students in high school, especially those who are like Ariel and forget about the balance that we all need in life. Read this. Put it in the hands of others. It's absolutely worth your time.

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Start Date: 11th February 2019
End Date: 24th February 2019

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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, February 11, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway: The Council of Nereth by T.J. Amberson

Title: The Council of Nereth
Author: T.J. Amberson
Publication date: December 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Six months have passed since the Council of Nereth was formed. The land is at peace. The people are thriving, secure in the knowledge that Raelin, the evil sorceress who once ruled over them, is no more.Like the other members of the Council of Nereth, Edlyn has returned home to live and work, waiting for the time when the council will meet again. Busy serving the people and restoring the manor of her childhood, Edlyn keeps her deepest wishes hidden away in her heart.On Edlyn’s eighteenth birthday, a messenger from the capitol arrives to her home and delivers devastating news: Maddock has gone missing, and the worst is feared. Edlyn rushes back to the capitol to join the other council members in a desperate search for Maddock. Soon, a ghostly attack confirms the terrifying truth that evil forces are upon Nereth once again. With time running short, Edlyn and her companions must find Maddock and save Nereth before it is too late.
Add it: Goodreads / Amazon
Maddock grabbed his dagger, leapt up, and pulled Edlyn to her feet. Edlyn could see him adjusting his hold on his weapon while he tracked the movement of the wind. He appeared about to pounce, but then his posture stiffened.

"What is it?" Edlyn yelled.

Maddock's eyes narrowed as he continued watching the spinning vapor. "Her. It is her."

Edlyn's heart slammed in her chest as she looked again at the storm. The column of wind at the foot of Harper's bed was taking on a new shape—the shape of a person. The form's features sharpened, and then Raelin stood before them.

Edlyn froze as terror washed over her. In every aspect but for a slight transparency of figure, the beautiful, murderous queen appeared exactly as Edlyn remembered her. The queen wore a ceremonial gown, and a crown sat atop her head. Standing tall, her cold eyes flashed with pride and defiance. Her breathing was measured, although her nostrils flared with wrath.

TJ Amberson hails from the Pacific Northwest. With a love of writing in several genres, TJ strives to provide well-written, age-appropriate, & original novels for tweens, teens, and new adults.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1) by Joanna Hathaway

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Dark of the West
   * Series: Glass Alliance #1
Author: Joanna Hathaway
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: Hardcover; 480
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Source: Publisher / FFBC Tours
Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love sweeping military epics with vivid characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Cursein Joanna Hathaway's Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
I've been excited for Dark of the West since I first saw glimmers of it on the internet. It should come as no surprise to any of you here, since sweeping lands and epic battles tend to be my favorite subject matter. I'm also a sucker for star-crossed lovers of any kind, so the story that was set to take place between Athan and Aurelia seemed like something I'd fall madly in love with. I really couldn't wait to dive straight in. No apologies friends, this is going to be a lengthy review.

Now, in all fairness, the prologue threw me off a little bit and I want to let anyone else know that picks this book up that it's a little misleading. Keep reading, because the rest of the book will pull back and let you take in everything that led up to that little moment in time. I finally understood the intent after I'd read through a few chapters. To see our two characters in a moment when their war torn world had turned them against one another, and then to see the story unfold that got them to that point. To avoid spoilers, I can't say more. I will say, I almost wish that prologue hadn't been there. I very much enjoyed just getting to know our two protagonists, and I kind of wish I would have skipped and it read it at the end.

Oh, and trust me, these two protagonists will steal your heart just as easily as they did mine. I loved the fact that this story is told from a dual POV, and loved it even fiercer for the fact that both Athan and Aurelia get an even amount of the story telling space. Being allowed to see things unfold from both of their perspectives is really what made this book soar. To be able to see events, sometimes cataclysmic, and their effects on the world at large was grand. To be able to see how those events affected not only Athan and Aurelia, but their whole small worlds, was even better. I felt like it gave me a lot of time to love them, to see their personalities unfold, and to really see the cleverness that was hidden in each of their minds. Two young people, trapped under the thumbs of their elders, but with enough passion and intelligence to do loads more if only they had the chance. That, was my favorite part.

Which is why this book started to weigh on me after a while, alas. Although Joanna Hathaway does an excellent job of building this sweeping world, and the war threatening to tear it apart, the battles and coupes are the main focus of this book. I grew tired of listening to political intrigue after a while. Some chapters felt like they could have been wrapped up in many less pages, if only Athan or Aurelia would stop thinking so incessantly and actually act. I know this was all for the benefit of the brewing uprising. I know that this was a way to get the reader really entrenched in the treachery of it all. For quite a long while, I was a happy to follow along. It wore me down though, and soon I just wanted more of Athan and Aurelia. More of their brightness, and their intelligence, and less of their terrible parents and their war.

This story is solid. The premise of this book is beautifully handled, and I loved a lot of what I read. The writing does justice to the vast story that it creates, and Hathaway easily shows her prowess as an author. There was honestly a lot here that made me smile. It just stretched on quite beyond what I was expecting. The ending, especially, was like stumbling down a steep hill with nothing to hold onto. I grasped at every little scene that hinted at the promise that things were coming around to the prologue I mentioned above. Instead, it rolled into an ending that leaves things open for the next book, like I assumed it would. This is the first in a series, and the ending has no qualms with letting you know that.

My deepest wish is that the next book has more action. I need more romance, more familial relationships, more plotting and scheming by our protagonists. Preferably, I'd love to see a little less military precision. I think now that all the cards have been laid out on the table, there's some promise of that and I'm excited once again. I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Win (1) of (10) physical copies of DARK OF THE WEST by Joanna Hathaway (US Only) 
Giveaway Starts: February 5th, 2019 
Giveaway Ends: February 18th, 2019

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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, February 6, 2019

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Rune's Folly by Garen Glazier

Title: Rune’s Folly
Author: Garen Glazier
Publication date: February 5th 2019
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult
By day, Tansy McCoy is a florist making charmed bouquets for the citizens of Junonia, capital of the Kingdom of Terranmar. By night, she’s an assassin and the keeper of the Dangerous Garden where deadly blooms grow. Together with the town tailor, butcher, baker, and metalsmith (just don’t call her a candlestick maker), she is part of the Guild, a secret group of spell-wielding thieves and mercenaries. Their task: consolidate all that remains of the realm’s fading magic under the ruthless King Zeno’s control.
Impetuous loner Tansy chafes under her Guild demands. She longs to quit her town and trade and head for the hills. Unfortunately, King Zeno has other plans. He wants to marry off his daughter to Terranmar’s famously reclusive wizard, Rune Hallows, and he’s willing to have the Guild kidnap him to make it happen. Fail to deliver the wizard and the consequences will be swift and deadly.
Reluctant but determined, Tansy sets out on the long journey to faraway Wentletrap and Rune’s desolate tower by the sea. To get there she must cross a swamp full of sinister surprises, battle a werewolf, and outrace a bloodthirsty band of revenants, while she wrestles with her own magical powers that seem to be expanding in unpredictable ways.
But reaching Rune’s tower is only the beginning. When Tansy learns the real reason behind the king’s contest, she’ll need to decide whether to give in to the growing forces of magic ready to reclaim Terranmar or embrace her newfound powers to save the kingdom.
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The tower was his retreat, the night his refuge.
During the day he was the subject of ridicule. The children stared. The old women whispered, shaking their heads as he passed by. He would curse them under his breath and pull his hood down.
Rune’s days were harsh, soured by the small minds and cruel tongues of the villagers that called Wentletrap home.
But the nights were his.
And most nights, by candlelight, he would shape with knowing fingers a crude little figure, a man, out of the red clay he gathered from the rolling hills just beyond the shore. He would thrust two arched sticks into the clay man’s back, and to these he carefully attached feathers. Albatross, gull, and osprey.
His ancient books kept him company, and they had taught him the right words. Whispering them into the sour-salt air, the wings of his creation would beat once, twice, and then the clay man, his homunculus, would fly. It would soar over the moonlit ocean until the morning came and the cruel sun cracked the clay, wilted the wings, and stole the magic away.
But before the blasted rays of daylight destroyed them, the homunculi would return to Rune’s tower bringing back ingredients from their journeys. Leaves, hair, teeth, sand, among other things. Most common enough, some rarer than rare. Occasionally, if Rune was lucky, clutched in one of the creatures’ tiny fists would be a shell. Always white, but of different sizes, shapes, and textures.
When the shells came back to the tower, Rune’s stern face would soften just a touch, and the barest hint of a smile would play across his lips.
Last night had been one of those delicious evenings.
And so, from his day amongst the rabble, he had recalled the particularly hateful sneer of Old Lady Turnbull, the baker’s wife. He hadn’t forgotten that brat Bilga and the mud she’d kicked across his shoes either.
With his lips nearly pressed against the chest of his little winged man, he’d given it one last set of instructions, breathing mischief into its heart. Then, as the homunculus zipped not east out to the sea but west into the village, Rune had walked down the spiral steps that ran along the curved wall of his tower.
At the bottom he repeated his route, but this time slowly. His fingers bumped along the shells that covered every inch of the wall, the intricate patterns glowing softly at first and then more brightly the further up his keep he went. From floor to floor he climbed until he stood once again on the uppermost story.
To the casual observer it would appear that here, too, the wall was carpeted with shells, but just above the casement of the large window overlooking the dark sea, a space no longer than a finger remained.
He held the shell to the wall and spoke the words he knew so well. When he took his hand away the shell stayed put, glowing so brightly along with the others that Rune could hardly bear to look.
The shells’ light reached its zenith and then dimmed, but an afterimage of the swirls and whorls Rune had so carefully rendered on his tower walls remained, dancing across his vision and filling the rest of his night with reveries of years past and lost love.
Now, as the first tepid rays of sun slid through the perpetual fug that surrounded his tower and the sorry little village nearby, he crossed to the western facing window and opened it wide.
Directly below him the curve of his tower plummeted to a rocky piece of land. As the tide was in, the sharp rocks and weather-beaten keep formed a tiny island half a mile or so from the shore.
High tide was Rune’s favorite time of day. He could rest peacefully knowing that none of Wentletrap’s citizens would disturb him. During low tide the swirling eddies of the black ocean would recede, revealing a greasy spit of land just wide enough for a single footpath. More often than not a shucker or fisherman or some other human flotsam would shuffle out of the godsforsaken village to cross the spit and stand at the bottom of his tower, shouting out in graceless tones for assistance, occasionally, or retribution, more commonly.
He expected Old Lady Turnbull or Bilga’s father would be paying him a visit later, dirty and grey and cursing his existence. Although it might be difficult for Old Lady Turnbull to make the trip herself, what with the swelling and the stink, not to mention the boils, so perhaps it’d be the baker himself. Rune might even give him the antidote if he came bearing a conciliatory basket of scones. Bilga’s father, on the other hand, was on a fool’s errand, for while baked goods might temporarily melt Rune’s cold heart, nothing could move him to offer a cure for the terminally obnoxious teen.
Smiling now, Rune stepped away from his territorial view of Wentletrap and its miserable environs. He was about to descend the stairs for a well-deserved cup of tea and early morning nap when a strange movement caught his attention out the opposite window. Quickly crossing the floor he tore open the casement and leaned out, certain he was seeing things. But no, there it was, flapping its smoking wings erratically as pieces of its legs and torso began to break off and plummet into the sea below.
It was a homunculus he’d sent out a few days prior. It hadn’t returned, which happened occasionally, and he’d given it up for lost. It should have been ashes by now, turned to dust beneath the sun’s merciless rays. Rune’s face hardened with concern.
As he watched, the little creature gave one last flutter of its wings and disintegrated, red dust and feathers blowing out to sea, but not before Rune reached out and caught the bundle the homunculus had been clutching in its tiny hands.
Wrapped with a black ribbon was a nosegay of purple flowers. Examining the sweet-smelling bouquet at a safe distance he saw the dusty spears of lavender, the dark hoods of wolf’s bane, and the round petals of oleander.
“Troubling,” Rune muttered to himself. “Quite troubling.” Then, “I wonder.”
He turned from the window and crossed to the stairs, holding onto the ominous flowers with just his finger and thumb pinched around the ribbon.
Leaving the uppermost floor, Rune circled round the stairs to his library. He quickly bypassed seven of the eight tall, double-sided bookcases that bisected the circular floor at regular intervals. Stopping in front of the last, he crouched down and used his index finger to pry a slim volume covered in red velvet from the bottom shelf.
Carefully he cracked open the cover of A Compendium of Flowers and flipped the pages, coming first to lavender. When Rune saw its traditional meaning his brows furrowed. When he got to the symbolism of oleander he gritted his teeth. And when he turned with dread to the page describing wolf’s bane he snapped the book shut, strode up one flight of the curving stairs to the kitchen and tossed the nosegay into the fire smoldering under a crusty pot of stew or potion. He couldn’t remember which.
As he watched the blooms crackle and blacken, his mind buzzed with the message his homunculus had delivered. Caution, beware. Future misfortune. All in the color purple for royalty.
Had the king discovered his plan? Rune was sure he’d been discreet, but Zeno had eyes everywhere, the suspicious bastard. Then again, the message was rather oblique, and subtlety was definitely not his majesty’s strong suit. As a rule, he skipped warnings altogether and went straight for punishment, harsh and swift.
No, this didn’t seem like the king’s doing. Maybe the color was just a coincidence, but something told him that whoever decided sending a message via flower would be the best means of communication would certainly never ignore their shade in terms of conveying intent or meaning.
Rune went through the names of the king’s various associates in his head, dismissing all of them as either too brutish or too dull to be the origin of the troubling flowers. He was still pondering the odd dispatch when a harsh voice calling his name blew in on the dank ocean breeze filtering down from the still-open window upstairs.
“Rune! You bloody mongrel! Show yourself!”
Ah, Bilga’s father. Was the tide out already?
Rune tossed A Compendium onto the podium that stood near the base of the stairs before vaulting them two at a time. Never one to back down from a colorful exchange, he didn’t want to keep the man waiting.
“What do you want?” Rune bellowed on his way up. “I hope it’s to apologize for afflicting the world with your brutish progeny.”
Mysterious messages would have to wait; verbal abuse heavily peppered with colorful insults was what passed for entertainment around here. Besides, he was almost done with his shells. One more and he could leave everything behind: the tower, Wentletrap, the whole stinking kingdom along with any and all parties dealing in floral threats.

I have always called Seattle home and find the perpetual gloom to be a wonderful writing ally. I like coffee shops, bookstores, dancing in my living room and singing in my car. The opening scene of Up makes me cry. Three Amigos makes me laugh. Fashion magazines, croissants, and long, long baths are my guilty pleasures. They might occur separately or together. I prefer boxing classes to yoga, and I get some of my best ideas when I'm running. I loved school and spent more time than one really should getting a business degree in marketing and a master's in art history. In an ideal world I'd go to bed at 2am and wake up at 10am. I've never been an early bird, and I feel strongly that alarm clocks kill dreams.
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