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I Belong


Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

June 26th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , , ,

Title: Red Sister

Author: Mark Lawrence

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book of the Ancestor (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 469 Pages

ISBN-10: 1101988851 (Ace/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-1101988855 (Ace/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

Quick & Dirty: Incredible world building combined with lively characters make this first book in the Book of the Ancestor series a treat to read.

Opening Sentence: It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Life has not been good to Nona Grey in her brief time on this earth. After being banished from her village and given to a child seller, Nona is sold to a man who trains fighters. While under his “care,” Nona attacks one of the fighters when she finds him hurting her friend, leaving him for dead. She is minutes from the hangman’s noose when her execution is unexpectedly stopped by the arrival of the Abbess of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. She declares that Nona is to become a student at the convent and sweeps her away. At the convent, Nona is to learn to hone her many talents to become a trained killer. Upon her first day, Nona learns of a prophecy about a Chosen One and finds herself at the center of it. Nona will have to learn how to tell friend from foe if she is ever going to learn the truth of the prophecy and make it out of the convent alive.

Let me start off by saying my description of the plot of this book really can’t do it justice. Never have I read a book that has such intricate, yet easy to understand, world building. I’m sure I did a pretty poor job of explaining things, but when reading the book, I never felt lost or confused. While  a glossary of the world is provided at the beginning of the book, I never had to refer to it because Lawrence does a fabulous job of letting the world come alive and teach the readers how it works as they travel further into the book’s pages. I just cannot stress enough how fabulously this is done. It is a bloodthirsty world too. I mean, we’re talking about girls who haven’t even hit puberty learning how to become effective killers. I would often find myself forgetting just how young Nona is until she would do/say something that really just smacked me in the face with the truth that, despite her past, she is still just a kid. Lawrence does a great job of putting the reader in Nona’s shoes and making you feel connected to her.

There was really just one thing that kept this from being a five-star read for me. It starts to become glaringly obvious early on in the story what one of the plot twists is going to be towards the end. Maybe that was intentional, to highlight Nona’s naiveté. I’m not sure. But for me, it zapped away some of my enjoyment because I found myself just waiting for that moment to happen already. There wasn’t really any suspense.

Other than that predictability, this was a fantastic read. I was sucked in from the very first sentence, and by the time I finished, I didn’t want to leave the world Lawrence had created. I’m itching to find out what happens next. I guess while I wait anxiously for book two, I will have to content myself with reading other works by Lawrence. He definitely has a new fan in me!

Notable Scene:

Roads that led nowhere took them to people who had nothing. Giljohn never asked to buy a child. He’d pull up alongside any farm the grew more weeds and rocks than crop, places where calling the harvest “failed” would be over-generous, implying that it had made some sort of effort to succeed. In such places the tenant farmer might pause his plough or lay down his scythe to approach the wagon at his boundary wall.

A man driving a wagonload of children in a cage doesn’t have to state his business. A farmer whose flesh lies sunken around his bones, and whose eyes are the colour of hunger, doesn’t have to explain himself if he walks up to such a man. Hunger lies beneath all of our ugliest transactions.

Book of the Ancestor:

1. Red Sister

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FTC Advisory: Ace/Penguin provided me with a copy of Red Sister. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

June 25th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , , ,

Title: The Guns Above

Author: Robyn Bennis

Genre: Steampunk

Series: Signal Airship (Book #1)

Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0765388766 (Tor/Macmillan)

ISBN-13: 978-0765388766 (Tor/Macmillan)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Quick & Dirty: Highly entertaining and fast paced, this book is a must read for steampunk fans.

Opening Sentence: Josette Dupre woke atop a bleak and stony hill, her head throbbing, her uniform soaked in blood, and the thunder of the cannons still echoing in her ears.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Garnia has been at war for as long as Josette can remember, and she wants to do her part to serve her country. While the military in Garnia is technically integrated, women are only allowed auxiliary ranks, no command positions, and aren’t allowed to actually fight. No one is more surprised than Josette, therefore, when, after her actions in a battle get her noticed by the papers, Josette is given a promotion to lieutenant as well as command of her own airship. She also acquires a spy on board her ship, Bernat, put their by his uncle, who is determined to see Josette fail and wants Bernie to report back to him with any information that could help in that endeavor. Once he actually sees Josette in action though, will Bernie be able to follow through with his uncle’s demands, or will he fight alongside the nation’s first female airship commander?

I don’t think I’m going to be able to adequately express how much I adored this book. It was just fantastic. I want to give it the highest rating I can so badly, but there are a couple negative aspects of the book that need to be mentioned, so I don’t feel quite right giving it a perfect score.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. If you’re someone who enjoys deep character development, you are probably going to be disappointed because the characters honestly aren’t developed that much throughout the story. Of our two main characters, Bernie probably gets the most development, but it’s still pretty shallow. That’s not to say though that you don’t end up feeling connected to them as characters. I definitely did, even if their characters weren’t developed very deeply.

The only other negative aspect of the book is that, in the beginning half, there are quite a few descriptions of the layout of the airship, and it can be kind of dull. The descriptions are broken up nicely with dialogue between characters, but it still can feel tedious as you’re going through it.

Now, on to the good stuff. I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has such well written fight scenes before. It literally felt like I was there with the characters in the battle, feeling every hit, seeing splinters flying, smelling cannon smoke. It was absolutely amazing. And since the latter half of the book is full of battles, I never wanted to put the book down. I was completely mesmerized and wanted to see how everything was going to play out.

Lastly, the book is full of humor, and it’s the kind that doesn’t try too hard to be funny, which makes it truly entertaining. Yes, the sexism can be infuriating at times, but it can also bring a chuckle from time to time because it’s so ridiculous.

All in all, this was a fabulous book. I was entertained from start to finish. Towards the end, I found myself wishing that the book was longer because I didn’t want the journey to end. I will most definitely be waiting anxiously for Book 2!

Notable Scene:

“Honestly, sir, in the course of my life I have become half-convinced that one god is as good as another.”

Bernat sighed at the man’s stupidity. “One god as good as another? Would you say the same about . . .” He searched for an analogy, and found one when he glanced at his feet. “Would you say that one pair of shoes is as good as any other? Of course not.”

The Sotrian nodded, apparently nearing enlightenment. “So . . . your God is like a superior pair of shoes, and their God is an inferior pair?”

“Exactly!” Bernat said.

“And this is why you must kill them? Over their poor taste in footwear?”

“Yes!” Bernat said, and then, “No. Not just because of that. It’s . . . it’s complicated.”

“I’m beginning to appreciate the complexity, sir. I feel quite a fool now, for naively assuming the whole affair was over Quah’s considerable mineral wealth.”

Bernat racked his mind, trying to come up with a way to explain it that was simple enough for this man to understand. “Let’s say you come across a man in the street, wearing a rotten old pair of shoes.”

“Shoes with goat horns and three eyes?”

“Precisely. And you happen to have an extra pair of much better shoes.”

“Which, if I remember my Garnian theology,” the Sotrian said, “would be the personification of the sun, birthed from the mouth of the world, and advised by a pantheon of deified saints?”

“Indeed. Very nice footwear, you see?”

“That is surely beyond question, sir.”

“Well?” Bernat asked.

“Well what, sir?”

“Wouldn’t you give your extra shoes to the man whose own shoes were dilapidated and festering with eyeballs?”

“I might,” the Sotrian said. “But what if he didn’t want to take them? Should I force the matter, even to the point of killing him?”

“Well, it’s hardly our fault, if that’s what it takes to put the man in a decent pair of shoes!”

Signal Airship Series:

1. The Guns Above

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FTC Advisory: Tor provided me with a copy of The Guns Above. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Blood Call by Lilith Saintcrow

June 24th, 2017 @ 12:02 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , ,

Title: Blood Call

Author: Lilith Saintcrow

GenreUrban Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: August 4, 2015

Format: Paperback, 302 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316343609 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316343602 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

A brand new thriller with a supernatural twist from New York Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow.

Anna Caldwell has spent the last few days in a blur. She’s seen her brother’s dead body, witnessed the shooting of innocent civilians, and been shot at herself. Now she has nowhere to turn—and only one person she can possibly call.

Since Anna dumped him, it seems waiting is all Josiah Wolfe has done. Now, she’s calling, and she needs his help—or rather, the “talents” she once ran away from. As a liquidation agent, Josiah knows everything about getting out of tough situations. He’ll get whatever she’s carrying to the proper authorities, then settle down to making sure she doesn’t leave him again.

But the story Anna’s stumbled into is far bigger than even Josiah suspects. Anna wants to survive, Josiah wants Anna back, and the powerful people chasing her want the only thing worth killing for—immortality. An ancient evil has been trapped, a woman is in danger, and the world is going to see just how far a liquidation agent will go…

Quick & Dirty: Slow paced action and unlikeable characters bring down this book that actually has a good premise.

Opening Sentence: Thin winter sunlight spilled through a window, a square of anemic gold on blue carpet.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Three years ago, Anna broke up with her boyfriend, Josiah, upon discovering that he made his living as a “liquidation agent” (aka assassin). Fast forward to the present, and Anna has had the worst four days of her life. Anna’s brother Eric is dead, murdered, and when Anna goes to his editor, George, to discuss why, she’s present to see him also murdered, along with his family. Now, Anna is on the run, in possession of information the murderers will kill to retrieve. There’s only one person she knows can help her: Josiah. As they probe further into the details of the case, Josiah and Anna uncover information that stretches the boundaries between reality and what they always thought was fantasy. Will they be able to make it out of this situation alive, or will their reunion be cut short?

Wow. What can I say about this book? Honestly, the only thing that kept me from giving it the lowest rating was that I felt it could have been an interesting read if it hadn’t been for all of the flaws of the book. Despite the promising premise, it was a majorly disappointing book, and I struggled to get through it. To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t have to review it, I don’t think I would have finished it, even though I very rarely put a book down once I start it.

First off, there’s nothing really likeable about the characters, especially Josiah. The reader is constantly told how much he loves Anna, but we never really see him acting lovingly towards her. Instead, he’s constantly ordering her around, talking down to her, and even yelling at her. He, in fact, does something completely despicable to Anna at around the 10 percent mark of the book, which made me totally want nothing to do with him for the majority of the book. It doesn’t matter that he says later in the chapter that he feels bad for what he did. The fact remains that he did it, and I think actions speak louder than words in this case.

As for Anna, she’s really just boring as a character. I don’t need all of my heroines to be the strong, kickass Kate Daniels type, but I would like them to show at least a little backbone. While I understand that Anna isn’t used to running for her life, it would have been nice to see her try to defend herself instead of constantly expecting others to do it for her. She also comes across as a bit of a pushover. It was just very hard to connect to her.

As for the book as a whole, it just felt like a mess. Often, chapters would start after some big fight had taken place, and I would feel completely lost because I didn’t actually get to “see” the fight. Not being present for a lot of the story’s action made it actually feel like not much was going on, and I just ended up bored.

All in all, this book was a major disappointment. The premise sounded interesting, but the lackluster characters and slow pace really made the book suffer. I haven’t read much else from this author, and I have to say, this book made me not really want to pick up anything else of hers either.

Notable Scene:

“I want to hire you.”

Then, the crowning absurdity. “I have money. Left over from Mom’s inheritance.”

He almost drove off the road. Recovered, hit the freeway on-ramp, and accelerated. “Anna…” He stopped right there. “I want to hire you”? After slapping me, swearing at me, and walking out on me? Three fucking years, and now you want to “hire” me? Jesus Christ in a fucking sidecar. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I want you to kill someone for me.”

It was a damn good thing he didn’t steer off the road again. Wonderful. She’s lost her goddamn mind. And so have I.

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FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Blood Call. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

June 24th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , , ,

Title: Stranded with a Billionaire

Author: Jessica Clare

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Billionaire Boys Club (Book #1)

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Format: Paperback, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 0425269078 (Berkley/Penguin)

ISBN-13: 978-0425269077 (Berkley/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Steph

Synopsis:

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society of six men who are incredibly wealthy—but not always so successful when it comes to love…

With a visit to a recent business acquisition—a private island resort in the Bahamas—billionaire Logan Hawkings has a chance to mend his recently broken heart. But a hurricane, a misplaced passport, and a stalled elevator lead to an encounter with an unusual woman.

Brontë Dawson is down-to-earth, incredibly sensual, and even quotes Plato. She also thinks Logan is simply the hotel’s domineering yet sexy manager. And after several steamy island nights in his arms, Brontë’s ready to give her heart—and her body—to the man in charge. There’s just more to Logan than he’s told her…a billion times more.

Quick & DirtySparks fly when a waitress ends up stranded on an island with a billionaire in this entertaining yet flawed romance.

Opening Sentence: Even though the bar was thumping with loud music and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder, no one approached Logan Hawkings.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Brontë makes her living as a waitress and is excited when a local radio station awards her a weekend vacation to a resort. Logan Hawkings is a jaded billionaire who believes every woman is out for his money. He just so happens to be buying the resort where Brontë is staying. Before Brontë’s vacation can really get started, a hurricane arrives on the island, forcing an evacuation. Through no fault of her own, Brontë ends up stuck in an elevator when the power goes out. Who is in that elevator with her? None other than Logan himself. Brontë assumes he is a manager of the hotel, and given his past history with women, Logan has no desire to relieve her of that assumption, instead choosing to enjoy time with a woman who has no idea how much money he has. While stranded on the island, the two grow close and begin to form a strong connection. But can that connection remain solid once the truth is revealed and reality intervenes?

I will preface this review by saying that I really did enjoy this book; however, a lot of what I say is going to be negative. I think, because I was enjoying the book so much, the faults of the book really stood out all the more, making it hard to ignore them. Even with its faults, the book is fast paced and enjoyable. I really wanted to give this one 4 stars, but with everything that bugged me, I had to bump it down to 3.

Let’s start with our leading man, Logan. His introductory chapter portrays him as arrogant and jaded. There honestly wasn’t much to like. Then, when he’s on the island, he starts to come across as thoughtful and romantic, which made me really start to like him. Imagine my surprise when, upon arriving back at home, he immediately reverts back to his arrogant self. The change felt very jarring, and I had a very hard time warming back up to him.

Now, for the most part, I really liked Brontë. She’s happy with her life and isn’t looking for anyone to rescue her from being “just a waitress.” The one problem I have with her is she’s a bit of a pushover. She’ll be mad at Logan one minute, and then two pages later, she’s hopping into bed with him, ready to forgive him. I just wish she would stand up for herself more throughout the story.

The other aspect of the book that bothered me is that sometimes the narration felt a bit off/unnatural. It’s third person narration, so we get chapters from both Logan and Brontë’s perspectives. Most of the time, everything they think flows very naturally and seems true to life. However, there are sometimes portions of narration that just felt jarring, more like the author was trying to bring a point across without bothering to make it flow well with the story. It would just serve to draw me out of the plot for a moment because it just felt unreal.

Like I said, I know this is basically a negative review, but I want to emphasize that I actually did enjoy the story. I think if I hadn’t felt so connected to the characters, the flaws wouldn’t have bothered me so much. It did feel like Brontë and Logan were real people, and I was always interested to see where the story was going to go from one chapter to another. The side characters were engaging and made me want to read their stories as well. So suffice to say, despite its flaws, the book did its job: it made me want to continue the series and see what happens next.

Notable Scene:

“Brontë,” a low voice murmured in her ear. “Move your hand.”

She sighed, licked her lips, and ignored the voice.

“Brontë,” it said again. “You’ve got a rather . . . personal grip at the moment.”

Still sleepy, she mentally took stock of where she was. Her butt hurt from sitting on the concrete stairs, and a blanket was pooled around her legs, which were stretched out next to a man’s warm leg. One hand was trapped against the man’s side, and the other was resting on a thick handlebar–

She snatched her hand away, mortified. “Oh, my God.” That was not a handlebar.

Billionaire Boys Club Series:

1. Stranded with a Billionaire

2. Beauty and the Billionaire

3. The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed

3.5 His Royal Princess

4. Once Upon a Billionaire

5. Romancing the Billionaire

6. One Night with a Billionaire

6.5 Beauty and the Billionaire: The Wedding

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FTC Advisory: Berkley/Penguin provided me with a copy of Stranded with a Billionaire. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Interview: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

June 23rd, 2017 @ 4:37 am
Posted by Bridget under Interview Tags: , , , ,

I am so excited to share an interview with you that I did with Victoria Scott about her newest release Violet GrenadeThis is a wonderful young adult paranormal story that you don’t want to miss! It recently released from Entangled Teen on May 16th, 2017!

About Victoria:

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving fan mail from across the world. Victoria loves high fashion, big cities, and pink cotton candy. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

You can visit Victoria around the web here: Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

Want to read more from Victoria Scott?

______________________________________________________________________

Dark Faerie Tales: To start things off can you tell us a little bit about Violet Grenade and where you got the inspiration for the story?

Victoria: Violet Grenade is about a teen runaway with a dark past who is seduced by a madam to work in her home for girls in West Texas. While living there, she is bullied to the point of explosion. But what her tormenters, and the madam, don’t know is that the main character, Domino, has a second personality named Wilson. And Wilson wants revenge. So does the boy in the basement. I got the idea for the story from Domino herself. I kept picturing this small girl with blue hair and a deadly secret.

DFT: Domino is a troubled girl who has had a difficult past! With all the things she has endured, which of her qualities has helped her the best to survive? 

Victoria: Definitely Wilson. I’m surprised by just how much readers are digging Wilson. I mean, he’s bad news. But I guess he can be funny, and his intentions to protect Domino are admirable.

DFT: Madam Karina sounds like quite an interesting character! What was your favorite thing about her?

Victoria: I liked how Madam Karina has layers. She isn’t just a villain. I wanted readers to sympathize with her too, even if it was only at certain moments.

DFT: I always love book boys and you always write some of the best ones! They are all different but all swoon worthy! In your opinion what is Cain’s most swoon worth trait?

Victoria: Probably his quiet nature. You just know there is so much going on in that head of his, but he’s so slow to speak. It makes you hang on what he does say. I love big, muscular guys who dominate a space with their size, but not their voice.

DFT: Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Violet Grenade is a standalone so if you can will you tell us what you are working on next?  

Victoria: It is! I’m working on another YA novel that will be similar in feel to Violet Grenade, but different in its own right. That’s about all I can say for now!

______________________________________________________________________

Available May 16, 2017 by Entangled Teen

About this Book:

DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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