Sunday, January 20, 2019

Empty Mansion: The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Authors: Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell Jr.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2018

Review: 

Huguette Clark is infinitely fascinating. Her life is just plain interesting. Her father was W.A Clark a Copper titan in the same league as Carnegie, Morgan, and Vanderbilt; and her mother was a former ward of Clark he married. Well, eventually married. These familial surprises, twists and turns are part of the charm of this journalistic-style biography of Huguette, her family, and what happened to her fortune following her death.

I don't want to spoil too much so I won't go into a lengthy history of Huguette's life but suffice to say that the average reader will know little of this family's history or about Huguette's reclusive life. Bill Dedman also includes relevant historical information from the early days of the 20th century. I liked this aspect of the story because it involves the development of the Pacific Northwest and Montana. I grew up and currently live in this area so I'd been to all or most of the locations mentioned, it was interesting to think of these places the way they would have been 100 years ago, especially Butte. A few years ago my Mom and I were driving from South Dakota to Washington when our car basically gave up on the pass just before Butte, Montana and we ended up staying in the town for a few days. It was fun to learn more about this town and how Clark shaped it. 

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. I really liked the narration, especially the commentary by the co-authors and the recordings of Huguette's voice. She had a very distinctive voice and one of her doctors described her as "cute as pie". I think that is an apt description of the woman I got to know while reading this book. 

Huguette did not live the life of a typical person. She lived life on her own terms, enjoyed what she liked whether that be dolls or Smurfs. She was generous to those in her tight-knit circle and after her death, unsurprisingly everyone argued over her money. This book changed my opinion on Huguette. At the beginning I thought of her as a rich old lady who got taken advantage of and was kept in a hospital, alienated from the world. I'm not so sure of that now. Like I said, Huguette lived life on her own terms and she had the money to do so. That doesn't mean she was taken advantage of. It means she did what she wanted whether that be creating lavish dollhouses or staying in a hospital. I think that is my biggest takeaway from this pseudo-biography. Live the life you want to live. Huguette did, and I think she lived a happy life.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

White Stag by Kara Barbieri Blog Tour


White Stag
Author: Kara Barbieri 
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Synopsis:

White Stag, the first book in a brutally stunning series by Kara Barbieri, involves a young girl who finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place has become her home.

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground,
Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.
Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.


Excerpt

WHITE STAG EXCERPT
1

MASQUERADE

THE FIRST THING I learned as a hunter was how to hide. There was a skill in disappearing in the trees like the wind and merging into the river like stones; masquerading yourself as something you weren’t was what kept you alive in the end. Most humans didn’t think the masquerade was as important as the kill, and most humans ended up paying for it with their lifeblood.

Here, as the only mortal in a hall of monsters, I was very glad that I was not most humans.

I kept my steps silent and my back straight as I passed beneath the white marble pillars. My eyes flickered around me every so often, counting hallways, retracing my steps, so I could escape at a moment’s notice. The Erlking’s palace was treacherous, full of twists and turns, stairways that led into nowhere, and places where the hallways dropped to gaping chasms. According to Soren, there were also hollow spaces in the walls where you could slink around unnoticed to the mundane and the monstrous eye, but you could hear and see all that went on in the open world. The lair of a king, I thought bitterly. I dared not say it out loud in case someone was near. But beside me, Soren sensed my disgust and made a sound deep in his throat. It could’ve been agreement.

Soren examined his king’s palace with the usual contempt; his cold, calculating eyes took in everything and betrayed nothing. His lips turned down in a frown that was almost etched permanently into his face. Sometimes I forgot he was capable of other expressions. He didn’t even smile when he was killing things; as far as goblins went, that was a symptom of chronic depression. He lifted his bored gaze at the gurgling, choking sound coming from his right, and it took all my willpower not to follow his line of sight. When I felt the subtle whoosh of power transfer from one body to the next, my fingers twitched to where I’d slung my bow, only to remember too late that it had been left at the entrance of the keep in accordance with ancient tradition.

A scream echoed off the cavernous passageways as we made our way to the great hall where everyone gathered. It sent chills down my spine with its shrillness before it was abruptly cut off. Somehow, that made me shiver even more. Ancient tradition and custom aside, nothing could stop a goblin from killing you if that was what they desired. My hand reached for my nonexistent bow again, only to be captured by cold, pale fingers.

Soren’s upper lip curled, but his voice was low and steady. “The next time you reach for a weapon that isn’t there might be the last time you have hands to reach with,” he warned. “A move like that will invite conflict.”

I yanked myself away from his grip and suppressed the urge to wipe my hand on my tunic like a child wiping away cooties. “Force of habit.”

Soren shook his head slightly before continuing on, his frown deepening with each step he took.

“Don’t look so excited. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

He raised a fine white eyebrow at me. “I don’t look excited. I’m scowling.”

I bit back a sigh. “It’s sarcasm.”

“I’ve told you before, I don’t understand it,” he said.

“None of goblinkind understands sarcasm,” I said. “In another hundred years I’m going to lose my understanding completely.”

Another hundred years. It hadn’t hit me yet, not until I said it out loud. Another hundred years. It had been a hundred years since my village was slaughtered, a hundred years as a thrall in Soren’s service. Well, ninety-nine years and eight months, anyway, but who’s counting? Despite the century passing by, I still looked the same as I had when I was forcefully brought into this cursed land. Or, at least, mostly; the scars on my chest hadn’t been there a hundred years ago, and the now-hollow spot where my right breast should have been burned. The four months when I’d belonged to another were not something I liked to think about. I still woke up screaming from nightmares about it. My throat went dry and I swallowed. Soren isn’t Lydian.

“You look tense,” Soren said, breaking me out of my thoughts. I’d crossed my arms over my chest. Not good. A movement like that was a sign of weakness. It was obvious to everyone that I was the weakest being here, but showing it would do me no good.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just don’t like this place.”

“Hmm,” Soren said, eyes flickering around the hall. “It does lack a certain touch.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“The entire design of the palace is trite and overdone.”

I blinked. “Okay, then.”

By now we’d entered the great hall where the reception was held. Every hundred years, the goblins were required to visit the Erlking and swear their fealty. Of course, their loyalty only extended to him as long as he was the most powerful—goblins weren’t the type of creature to follow someone weaker than themselves.

The palace, for what it was worth, was much grander than most other parts of the goblin domain. Soren’s manor was all wood, stone, and ice, permanently freezing. Nothing grew—I knew because I had tried multiple times to start a garden—but the roots never took to the Permafrost. Here, it was warm, though not warm enough that I couldn’t feel the aching chill deep in my bones. The walls were made of pure white marble with intricate designs far above what a goblin was capable of creating, and streaked with yellow and red gold like open veins. It was obviously made by humans. Goblinkind were incredible predators and hunters, gifted by the Permafrost itself, but like all creatures, they had their flaws. The inability to create anything that wasn’t used for destruction was one of the main reasons humankind were often stolen from their lands on raids and put to work in the Permafrost.

Soren’s scowl deepened as we passed under a canopy of ice wrought to look like vines and flowers. “I feel like I need to vomit,” he said.

I stopped in my tracks. “Really?” I swore, if I ended up having to clean up Soren’s vomit …

He glanced at me, a playful light in his lilac eyes. “Sarcasm? Did I do it right?”

“No.” I forced myself not to roll my eyes. “Sarcasm would be when you use irony to show your contempt.”

“Irony?” He shook his head, his long white hair falling into his face.

“Saying one thing when you mean the other, dramatically.”

“This is beneath me,” he muttered. Then, even quieter, he said, “This place is in dire need of a redecoration.”

“I’m not even entirely sure what to say to that.” With those words, he flashed me a wicked grin that said little and suggested much. I turned away, actually rolling my eyes this time. For a powerful goblin lord, Soren definitely had the ability to act utterly childish. It could be almost endearing at times. This, however, was not one of those times.

In the hall, the gazes on the back of my neck were sharp as knives. I kept my head straight, trying my hardest not to pay attention to the wolfish faces of the other attendees.

From a distance they could almost be mistaken for human. They varied in size and shape and the color of their skin, hair, and eyes much like humans did. But even so, there was a sharpness to their features, a wildness, that could never be mistaken for human. The figures dressed in hunting leathers, long and lean, would only seek to torment me if I paid them any attention. As the only human in the hall, I was a curiosity. After all, what self-respecting goblin would bring a thrall to an event as important as this? That could very easily get me killed, and I wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. My hand almost twitched again, but I stopped it just in time, heeding Soren’s warning.

We finally crossed the floor to where the Erlking sat. Like Soren’s, the Goblin King’s hair was long. But unlike Soren, whose hair was whiter than the snow, the Erlking’s hair was brown. Not my brown, the color of fallen leaves, underbrush, and dark cherry wood, but murky, muddy brown. It was the color of bog mud that sucks down both humans and animals alike and it somehow managed to make his yellow-toned skin even sallower. He was the strongest of all goblins, and I hated him for it. I also feared him—I was smart enough for that—but the fear was drowned out by the blood rushing in my ears as I locked eyes with Soren’s king.

Soren turned to me. “Stay here.” His eyes turned hard, the glimmer of light leaving them. Whatever softness he had before drained away until what was left was the hard, cold killer he was known to be, and with it went the last shreds of warmth in his voice. “Until I tell you otherwise.” Subtly, he jerked his pointer finger at the ground in a wordless warning.

I bowed my head. “Don’t take too long.”

“I don’t plan to,” he said, more to himself than to me, before approaching the Erlking’s throne. He went to one knee. “My king.”

I eyed Soren from underneath the curtain of my hair. His hands were clenched in fists at his sides. He must’ve sensed something from the Erlking, from the other goblins, something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Cautiously, I directed my gaze to the Goblin King himself, aware that if I looked at him the wrong way, I might be inviting my own death. While the behavior and treatment of thralls varied widely among goblins, I had a feeling submissiveness was required for any human in the Erlking’s path.

This close, the Erlking’s eyes were dark in his shriveled husk of skin and there was a tinge of sickness in the air as he breathed his raspy breaths. His eyes flickered up to meet mine and I bowed my head again. Don’t attract attention.

Soren spat out the vows required of him in the old tongue of his kind, the words gravelly and thick. He paused every so often, like he was waiting for when he would be free to drive his hand through his king’s chest, continuing on with disappointment every time.

The tension around the room grew heavier, pressing down on those gathered. Somehow, like dogs sniffing out blood, they all knew the king was weak. Beautiful she-goblins and terrifying goblin brutes were all standing there waiting until it was legal to kill him.

Beside the weakened king’s throne, a white stag rested on a pile of rushes. Its eyes were closed, its breath slow. Its skin and antlers shone with youth, but the ancient power it leaked pressed heavy against my shoulders. That power was older than anything else in the world—maybe older than the world itself.

Goblins were, before all things, hunters. Born to reap and not to sow. Cursed with pain upon doing any action that did not in some way fit into the power the Permafrost gave them, the goblins fittingly had the submission of the stag as the symbol of their king’s ultimate power. Until it runs.

I didn’t want to think about what happened after that.

Soren continued to say his vows. The guttural language was like ice shards to my ears, and I shuddered. Catching myself about to fidget, I dug my fingers into my thigh. Control yourself, Janneke, I thought. If they can do it, you can.

A soft voice whispered in my ear, “Is that you, Janneka?” His breath tickled the back of my neck, and every muscle in my body immediately locked. Icy dread trickled down my spine, rooting me in place.

Don’t pay attention to him. He’ll go away.

“I know you can hear me, sweetling.”

Yes, I could hear him, and the sound of his voice made me want to vomit. My mouth went dry.

CREDIT: WHITE STAG by KARA BARBIERI Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.


About Kara
Kara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop. Follow Kara on Twitter @PandeanPanic


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Fear University by Meg Collett

Fear University
Author: Meg Collett
Publication Date: November 9, 2015
Goodreads

Review:

I almost didn't pick this book up because of the title. It sounded cheesy and I worried the entire novel would have that tone. To my surprise and delight, this book was anything but cheesy! It was gritty, downright scary at times, and overall dark. It reminded me a bit of the TV shows Supernatural (with the whole hunting monsters thing) and Jessica Jones.

Ollie definitely had that Jessica Jones, self-sufficient, I'm a badass vibe. Ollie can't feel pain which makes her instantly invaluable in the war against the aswangs, a creature from Filipino folklore that can make you feel pain and terror. After being attacked Ollie comes to Fear University and it is there that she finds out about the war between the hunters and aswangs and perhaps the role she can play in it.

My favorite thing about this book was the never-ending action! This book is just a fun read. There is constantly something going on in the plot and there are a lot of threads to unravel in this world and the story. There are also enough side characters that it doesn't feel like the main characters are doing all the work carrying the plot.

I liked the relationship between Luke and Ollie as well. Their chemistry sizzled and I really wanted these two broken characters to make it work! This is a multi-book series though so, of course, we'll have to wait to see if these two can make it through everything the author has in store for them.

Overall, this was a great read! This book is my first introduction to Meg Collett but it definitely won't be the last book I read by this author.

Monday, December 24, 2018

My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn Blog Tour & Giveaway!


MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE
Author: Rachel Cohn
Pub. Date: December 18, 2018 
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 384
"I'm here to take you to live with your father. In Tokyo, Japan! Happy birthday!"
In the Land of the Rising Sun, where high culture meets high kitsch, and fashion and technology are at the forefront of the First World's future, the foreign-born teen elite attend ICS-the International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Their accents are fluid. Their homes are ridiculously posh. Their sports games often involve a (private) plane trip to another country. They miss school because of jet lag and visa issues. When they get in trouble, they seek diplomatic immunity.
Enter foster-kid-out-of-water Elle Zoellner, who, on her sixteenth birthday discovers that her long-lost father, Kenji Takahari, is actually a Japanese hotel mogul and wants her to come live with him. Um, yes, please! Elle jets off first class from Washington D.C. to Tokyo, which seems like a dream come true. Until she meets her enigmatic father, her way-too-fab aunt, and her hyper-critical grandmother, who seems to wish Elle didn't exist. In an effort to please her new family, Elle falls in with the Ex-Brats, a troupe of uber-cool international kids who spend money like it's air. But when she starts to crush on a boy named Ryuu, who's frozen out by the Brats and despised by her new family, her already tenuous living situation just might implode.
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is about learning what it is to be a family, and finding the inner strength to be yourself, even in the most extreme circumstances.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iBooks | TBD

Excerpt
SEPTEMBER
chapter one


 Keep your head down. Stay quiet. In ten minutes, it will be over.

“EZ! EZ! EZ!” The boys at the back of the bus chanted. My bad luck that the initials in my name—Elle Zoellner—made me too “EZ” a target for unoriginal bullies. 

A sharp pencil hit my neck and then fell to the floor behind me. I heard Redmond’s voice say, “Damn, I was hoping it would catch inside her spiderweb of frizz hair.” Hah, the joke was on him. My hair was indeed frizzy, but it was so dirty that anything thrown into it would have no scientific option other than to slide down, the result of that one-shower-a-week rule. 

Today was my sixteenth birthday. While other girls probably wished for a driver’s license or a new outfit or a later curfew, all I wanted was to be clean. Sucked for me that this year’s birthday fell on a Tuesday. Wednesday was shower day.

Of course Foster Home #3 parents always denied to my social worker that the shower was off-limits to me except on Wednesdays. If I had a phone, I could secretly record them talking about it, but why bother? Then I’d probably be sent to an even worse home. Foster Homes #1 (lice) and #2 (bedbugs) had been bad enough, but #3 (over- lords who were mean, and liars) was the worst. I didn’t want to know what could happen at #4. 

The devil you know is better than the one you don’t, Mom always told me. Mom was raised in foster care; she would know. She tried for better for me, and until the car crash two years ago, she’d succeeded. She had a job. We had a nice, small house. There was laughter in our lives. A cat. Then, after the car accident, the Beast moved in and took over. He wasn’t someone I could see or talk to; the Beast was addiction. And thanks to that Beast, my mom was now in prison. 

Was Mom keeping track of time? Did she even remem- ber today was my (Not So) Sweet Sixteen? If I had a phone, I knew I’d see a dozen emails/texts/GIFs from Reggie, my best friend from when we were both on the swim team at the Y, wishing me a happy birthday. But he also didn’t have a phone and was stranded at a boys’ home across the county, another foster care victim. Not victim—he’d hate that word. I’m a survivor, Reggie would say. His mother had also been an addict, but she never made it to prison. She died from a fentanyl overdose. Despite my miserable situation, I was still incredibly grateful that my mother was alive. I knew how lucky we were that Mom’s problem took her to jail rather than a graveyard.

“Hey, smell bomb! Turn around when you’re addressed by your superiors.” The latest taunt came from Jacinda Zubrowski, who sat two rows behind me on the bus and two seats behind me in homeroom, and never failed to comment on my smelly, secondhand clothes. 

The poor kid sitting next to me—I didn’t even know his name, he was some scrawny freshman who looked about twelve—slid closer to the window. Smart move. No reason he should be brought down with me. Then he scrunched his nose and said, on the down low, “There are showers in the gym locker room, you know.” Little jerk. 

I knew. I was hardly going to further expose myself— naked—in a public high school locker room. I’d rather smell bad. 

“Anybody hungry for some mixed nuts?” a male voice—one of Redmond’s friends—asked, and the back of the bus group laughed. What a not clever way to speculate about my heritage. My mother was part Irish, German, African American, and Native American, but the shape 

of my eyes and my cheekbones indicated my biological father was Japanese. I’d never met him, didn’t even know his name. “Mr. Tokyo,” Mom called him. He was probably married like all of Mom’s other boyfriends. Married men were her primary weakness, until she was introduced to painkillers. One of those men had been driving the car when they got hit from behind on the Beltway. He died. Mom suffered severe spine injuries. That’s when the Beast took over. I blamed the dead married man.

An object much larger than a pencil hit the back of my head. I wouldn’t have known exactly what it was, except the next one missed my head, grazed my shoulder, and landed on my lap. A bar of soap.

A new chant erupted in the back of the bus. “Smell bomb! Smell bomb!”

Happy birthday, Elle Zoellner.


 About Rachel
Rachel Cohn is the bestselling, award-winning author of many books. She lives in Los Angeles with two very cool cats named McNulty and Bunk.
Giveaway

3 winners will receive finished copies of MY ALMOST FLAWLESS TOKYO DREAM LIFE, US only.
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Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels Blog Tour & Giveaway!



Deadfall
Author: Stephen Wallenfels
Pub. Date: December 11, 2018 
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 384

Twin brothers Ty and Cory Bic are on the run. When they encounter a dying deer in the middle of a remote mountain road with fresh tire tracks swerving down into a ravine, they know they have to help. But when they reach the wrecked car the vehicle appears empty, with signs that the driver escaped.

Until they hear a sound coming from the trunk.

Ty and Cory are escaping demons of their own. But what they discover in the trunk puts them in the crosshairs of something darker and more sinister than their wildest nightmares.

Told through a gripping, lightning-fast narrative that alternates between present and past, this unputdownable survival thriller unravels the tangled circumstances that led Ty and Cory to the deer in the road and set them on a perilous course through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Excerpt 
I may be wrong here, but my guess is it’s not that she wants my company specifically—she just doesn’t want to be alone. I listen to her breaths, watch the small puffs of vapor rise and fade. She settles into a wheezy but regular rhythm. I lean in for a quick look. Her skin has a pinkish color, which I hope is a good sign. That means she’s warming up. After a few minutes, I’m pretty confident that she’s asleep. With her situation stable I’m tempted to get water now. It’s really what I should do. She would never know that I was gone—other than the fact that we would magically have more
water. I shake that thought away. She asked me to stay and that’s what I will do. Besides, I need to sleep. That need is like a heavy hand on my spirit pushing me down.

Before I collapse I look out both porthole windows—still gray and raining softly. Our tracks are pretty much gone. I make sure the ceiling vent is open and blow out all but one candle, slip the
headlamp over my head in case the candle goes out; then I slide my sleeping bag off hers, zip myself inside, and hope that sleep comes fast and easy.

But sleep does not come fast or easy. I was afraid it would be the terror of the driver’s flashlight coming down the slope, or Ty leaving, or even the gut-emptying sight of blood-tipped bone
through skin, that would haunt me in the almost dark. It’s none of those visions.

As I listen to the sound of her breathing and feel the steady rhythm pull me closer to my own personal oblivion, all I see are those bruises. I hope that whatever violences she endured are
behind her and that this hole in the ground is what I promised it would be: a refuge and not a grave.
About Stephen
Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington state with his wife.  He wrote freelance for the Health and Fitness industry for fifteen years before turning writing novels.  His passions are family, hiking, cooking, reading, movies, climate change, and especially writing.

 Giveaway
3 winners will receive finished copies of DEADFALL, US only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Review:

Review I had high expectations for Shadow of the Fox. I enjoyed Kagawa's Iron Fey series and really loved Blood of Eden (Jackal yassss!). I was excited to discover that Kagawa was going to write a Japanese based story. The problem is this story didn't feel like a Kagawa book. It felt like a mashup of anime tropes mashed together. 

I was explaining the plot of this book to my husband and the first thing he said was that it sounded exactly like Naruto. I told him it read a bit like Inu-Yasha without the annoying mess that is Kagome (and without the amazing Sesshomaru). At certain point it even reminded me of Avatar the Last Airbender. Honestly, that's my main problem with this story. Because it was borrowing from so many anime tropes it's own voice was lost in the shuffle. I wanted to read something original and this wasn't. 

First, we have the half-kitsune, Yumeko, who has grown up in a hidden temple far away from the world. She is naive and previously wasn't allowed to use her powers. When her temple is attacked by Oni (demons) she sets off on a quest to deliver Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to yet another remote temple. 

Next there is Tatsumi, a kage from the Shadow Clan who is completely devoid of emotion and only cares about retrieving the scroll for his clan. That is until he travels with Yumeko and maybe his heart starts to melt a little? I got some serious Ash from Iron Fey vibes from Tatsumi which I actually enjoyed because I was a huge fan of Ash throughout the Iron Fey series. 

Finally, there was a former samurai who was drunk a lot of the time. He lent some comic relief to the story but didn't really do much else. I don't care for this stereotype so I didn't really like his character. Also, I felt that one of his main plot functions was to keep Tatsumi and Yumeko's relationship from progressing too quickly.

I did enjoy the main villain who is the Emperor's concubine. I found her to be completely evil and I like a good villain to root against sometimes. That being said, because she was just evil for the sake of being evil, I struggled with her characters motivations. I hope to see those fleshed out further in future books. 

Despite my qualms with Shadow of the Fox it honestly was a fun ride. It kept my attention from start to finish and while I had personal issues with how the characters felt more like caricatures the plot itself moved at a good pace and I enjoyed the story.

Overall, this was a solid three-star read. I wouldn't expect to be wowed by the first installment in the series but because I'm a Kagawa fan I'm going to read the next book. I hope it does a better job of fleshing out the characters and injecting some originality into the plot. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Paper Girl by Cindy Wilson Release Blitz & Giveaway!

 
Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for
Paper Girl by Cindy R. Wilson
presented by Entangled Teen!
We've got 2 fabulous giveaways available for you at the end of the post!
CONGRATULATIONS, CINDY!
   
 
I haven’t left my house in over a year. My doctor says it’s social anxiety, but I know the only things that are safe are made of paper. My room is paper. My world is paper. Everything outside is fire. All it would take is one spark for me to burst into flames. So I stay inside. Where nothing can touch me.
Then my mom hires a tutor. Jackson. This boy I had a crush on before the world became too terrifying to live in. Jackson’s life is the complete opposite of mine, and I can tell he’s got secrets of his own. But he makes me feel things. Makes me want to try again. Makes me want to be brave. I can almost taste the outside world. But so many things could go wrong, and all it takes is one spark for everything I love to disappear…
 
 
Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She's the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You'll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.
   

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dream Keeper by Amber R. Duell Blog Tour & Giveaway


Dream Keeper
Author: Amber R. Duell
Publisher: The Parliament House
Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Synopsis
The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…
For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora. When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.
When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.
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Excerpt

1. The Sandman

T
he invisible dome that encased the Dream Realm burned blue beneath my gloved hand. My magic ached to be released from its rigid confinement—to return to the spiritual place deep in my chest, where it could fuel dreams once again—but this barrier was the only thing standing between me and the Nightmare Realm. Or, more specifically, from the things lurking there. Grotesque or beautiful, animalistic or humanoid, it didn’t matter. Each and every nightmare held their own special brand of terror waiting to ensnare an unsuspecting Dreamer.
From this close to the wall, I could easily see into the Weaver’s realm. Rolling hills stretched into the distance, and a small stream snaked through the low plains, which were colored in muted greens and blues. The knee-high grass tinkled an eerie, hushed melody as the breeze rippled across it. Hooked barbs, hard as steel and sharp as razors, grew along each blade, invisible to the naked eye. Beyond the hills lay an endless array of landscapes with their own vicious traps.
None of the Weaver’s creatures roamed among the swaying grass tonight—at least none I could see. Still, something felt different. A layer of anxiety prowling beneath the calm.
I ignored it the best I could and continued my nightly security inspection—if not to protect the Dream Keeper, then to protect her world. Although, if I were being honest with myself, it was no longer the Day World I was concerned with saving from legions of deadly nightmares.
It was the Dream Keeper herself—Nora.
Nora, who would be hunted for the dream I’d placed inside her five years ago—the exact contents unknown even to me. She held the end of an invisible leash keeping the nightmares in the Night World, and the Weaver wouldn’t hesitate to regain control of it. Even if that meant helping the creatures slip their collars entirely.
I rolled my shoulders and turned my attention back to the barrier. The worry I carried was ridiculous, a waste of time better spent elsewhere. Nothing more than paranoia. The shields were secure, the Weaver still bound to his realm, and the key to unraveling it all was safely hidden in Nora’s mind.
Even still, my magic knotted inside me. Wrong, wrong, wrong, it seemed to whisper, insistently. Tendrils of it slid down my arms, flowing from my fingertips. The glimmering beach vibrated beneath my feet, and thousands of pieces of sand floated into the air. Two feet. Three feet. Four. Until the air was filled with sparkling flecks. With a deep breath, I flung my arms out wide, fingers splayed to propel a fresh layer of my magic into the existing barrier. It shot outward, clinging to the dome, and strengthened it in a flash of blue.
With the beach undoubtedly safe for Nora, I looked inward. The cords connecting me to each Dreamer that knew the legend of the Sandman spanned out like a million silver harp strings. Some connections glowed bright, their owner already asleep. Others idled, dull and dreamless, while the person on the other end remained awake.
I knew exactly where to find the cord that led to Nora. Even if I hadn’t found it every night since we met, the dream I gave her was made of my magic, and it begged to return home. I tugged off my gloves and reached out as if to touch her cord—as if it were a tangible thing, instead of something spiritual. The silver and navy flecks covering my pale hands shimmered brilliantly.
Unlike Nora’s cord.
“What’s taking you so long?” I whispered to myself. She was never awake this late. We met in the same place on the other side of the realm like clockwork.
Suddenly, a shadow raced toward me in a blur of black and yellow fur, and I froze. Baku was my only ally in the Night World, even if it was by default. “Enemy of my enemy” and what not. But he knew the rules. He wasn’t supposed to be here when I was expecting Nora to arrive. If she ever discovered there were darker things outside of these walls, it would invite trouble.
The chimera dug his tiger paws into the sand, skidding to a halt before me. Baku snorted through the elephant trunk situated between his ivory tusks. Large ears flapped twice on either side of his brindle face, and his cow-like tail snapped back and forth behind him.
I stopped breathing the moment I met the worried gleam in his eyes.
“Something’s going on in the Nightmare Realm.”
It wasn’t a question. Baku spent most of his time on the other side of the barrier which meant he had a front row seat to whatever had happened and there was no reason to challenge his judgment. “Wh—”
The Weaver’s maniacal joy shot through me, snaking around my fear, strangling it, and I staggered back a step. I hadn’t been able to feel the Weaver since the binding. His magic was always traceable, but never his emotions. Dread pooled in my gut. I tried to shove the other sensation out, to pull instead on his location, but his magic registered in every direction. It was like trying to pinpoint the dream cord of an insomniac.
A streak of gold shot across the sky. It splintered its way through the stars, spreading, thinning, and fading. Magic thrummed through my veins, frantic to escape. To rise and protect. To defend. Baku pranced nervously at my side.
“Sandman.” A gentle voice traveled down the cord. “Help me sleep.”
“Nora.” Her name fell from my lips as a single, strangled breath. I clenched the leather gloves in my hands. She hadn’t asked for my help in years. Years. I gaped at the barrier in awe, utterly perplexed. Checking on the Weaver was important, but so was aiding Nora. If one was safe, they both were. I swallowed hard and drew a leather pouch from my belt loop.
“Find the Weaver,” I told Baku. I tugged my gloves on again and snapped the hood of my tunic up over my brown curls. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Baku gave a curt nod and rushed back through the barrier without pause. Even if he had his hands—rather, paws—full, trying to devour a thousand nightmares tonight, Baku would help me find answers.
The cord between Nora and I grew taut as I careened along it to her bedside. Despite my best efforts not to, my breath still hitched when I caught sight of her platinum hair against the dark sheets. I reached a gloved hand out to brush a few strands from her temple but curled my fingers at the last moment. You shouldn’t, I admonished myself. This is off limits.
I didn’t creep around in bedrooms, and I certainly didn’t touch anyone without their knowledge. Not even Nora. Especially not Nora—even if my chest did ache for the smallest hint of physical contact. It was my own fault we never touched, never high-fived or hugged or held hands. It was one of my rules, my lies, to keep distance between us. A lot of good they did. My body still jolted every night at the first glimpse of her and the adrenaline coursed through me long after she woke every morning. I’d spent an eternity watching people dream of love, but I never understood the appeal until Nora. None had come before her and I knew with absolute certainty that none would come after.
“I don’t know why you needed to call me tonight,” I said, keeping my voice low. Though she could neither hear nor see me, I fumbled for the edge of my hood, retreating into its shadow.
“But, my magic will take you to the beach. You’ll be safe there.” Please be safe there. “I’m sorry, Nora. But I’ll see you soon.” Reaching into the ever-present pouch, I pinched a bit of sand between my fingers. “Remember to keep a true heart and a true mind, and that the power of the dream is yours.”
Then, I promptly sprinkled the glimmering flecks over her eyes and whispered, “Sleep.”
My throat seized, and I choked back the awful truth of what she was, of what I made her, and what consequences we might be facing for it now. After escorting Nora’s consciousness to the beach, and once I’d ensured that she was safely inside the barrier, I slipped through the surrounding shield into the perilous terrain of the Nightmare Realm. I flew through the tall grass toward the center of the Nightmare World amid a chorus of harsh metal clinks. The tiny barbs stabbed through my pant legs and pricked against my leather boots. Each cut into my skin was like a slap with a hot poker, but it was a small price to pay for a chance at reaching the Weaver’s Keep in time to stop whatever was happening. The scent of burning wool ravaged my senses. His magic. Strong and undeniable. A sure sign that his binding must have worn thin—too thin, given how little time had passed.
The Day World was still warded against the Weaver’s power and would remain so. That is, as long as he didn’t find Nora. However, just because he couldn’t open the doors without prying the information from the Dream Keeper’s mind, that didn’t mean he couldn’t knock.


About the Author
Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles). She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.

She does her best writing in the middle of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine. Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either love to hate or hate to love.

 When not reading or writing, she enjoys snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the next real-life adventure.



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Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox Blog Tour & Giveaway!


The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Publisher: Harlequin’s Graydon House Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Synopsis:
Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it. Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well. New Oldbury, 1821 In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline. All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

 Goodreads |  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

Excerpt

Hello readers, I’m so excited to share an excerpt with you from my debut novel, THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL (on-sale October 2, 2018). My name is Hester Fox, and hailing from Boston, I’ve always been fascinated with the rich and oftentimes dark history of this period. My novel takes place in a small New England town over 130 years after the infamous Salem Witch trials, and features a Gothic, melancholy atmosphere, restless spirits, and of course, resilient women. I hope you enjoy this excerpt I’ve pulled for you.

~*~

Gingerly, I get up, my legs full of pins and needles from sit­ting on the floor so long. Just like the night of the woman in the garden, I can’t stay in the library knowing that someone might be there. I must go and look for myself.
Even with the sun coming through the windows, illumi­nating the wood floors and catching the light of the crystal lamps, I feel as if I’m making my way through a dark, murky passage. My feet are heavy, as if they know something that my mind does not.
The door to the dining room is closed. It beckons me, yet repels me, exuding a sense of silent occupation. My ears buzz. A singsong chorus of whispers grows as I approach.
Are you ready?
I am here.
You attract them.
Are you ready?
Prepare for what lies ahead.
Prepare.
Prepare.
They mount and mount into a dizzying jumble of sound and I run the rest of the way to the door, my heart in my chest, my eyes squeezed shut. Grasping the knob, I fling open the door. The voices die away.
I knew it would be there. But it doesn’t stop me from gasp­ing as every part of me curls back in on itself in horror. My blood turns to ice.
Seated at the table is a woman, or what used to be a woman. She sits as if she has every right to be there, as if she has always been there. A veil covers her face, but it is gauzy and thread­bare, and I can see the contours of the features beneath. Her dress is old, black as night yet opalescent as the moon through a cobweb. Paralyzed with fear, I watch as it moves about her of its own accord, a soft undulation as if she were underwater. And though I can see her as clear as day, the veiled woman in our dining room, there’s a translucence to her, and the pan­oramic wallpaper is just visible behind her. She is like nothing and no one I have ever seen before, and yet she is familiar, as if I have always known her.
“Come, child.” Her voice comes from everywhere and no­where, and when her words are finished, I have the unnerving feeling that they weren’t spoken aloud at all, but came from within my head.
She beckons me with a knobby finger, more bone than flesh.
I can’t drag my gaze away from her face, the sunken holes where there ought to be eyes, the lipless mouth, all teeth and blackness. The cold pie that I just enjoyed churns in my stom­ach and threatens to come up. She beckons me again, and I imagine those long, terrible fingers closing around my neck and choking the life out of me. I imagine them raking me across the face until ribbons of skin flutter from my skull. I stand my ground, unwilling to deliver myself up to her. She is the stuff of my novels, a grotesque horror that titillates on the page, but sends terror into my heart when in the same room as me.
She gives something like a grunt, and as if able to read my thoughts, says, “One hundred and thirty years of death is not gentle on a body. Come, do not gawk.” I dare not disobey her, so I force my leaden feet to move a few steps closer.
The smell of decay and death fills the room, sickly sweet and putrid at the same time. My stomach clenches at the memo­ries the odor brings back of Emeline in her coffin. My throat is tight, my mouth cotton, but somehow I’m able to gasp out, “W-who are you?”
She makes a noise, something between a snort and a laugh, a scraping, rattling sound, though it’s devoid of humor. “Do you not know your own forebear?”
The blackness of her dress curls around her like a snake, but she sits as motionless as if she were carved of stone. Her still­ness is suffocating, it dares the house to be silent, and punishes the sunlight for filtering in through the window.
Warily, I come to a halt at the edge of the dining room table. I don’t know what she’s talking about. “Forebear?”
“Have you not looked upon me since you were a babe? Do you not recognize in me what flows through you?”
“I…” But then it comes to me. The lace collar, though tat­tered and black as her dress, is unmistakable around her neck. “You’re the woman in the painting. Mother’s ancestor.”
The inclination of her head is small, barely perceptible.

About the Author
Hester Fox has a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has cleaned and cared for collections that range from paintings by old masters to ancient artifacts to early American furniture. She is a keen painter and has a Master's in historical archaeology, as well as a background in medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and their two cats.

Giveaway

Harlequin’s Graydon House Books is offering one lucky Grand Prize winner a fun witch themed prize pack containing a paperback copy of The Witch of Willow Hall, a pumpkin spice scented candle, a Witch’s Brew coffee cup, a witch’s hat, a witch’s wand, and a bottle of black nail polish! Four (4) Runners-up will receive an eCopy of The Witch of Willow Hall. To enter for your chance to win one these great prizes, please fill out the Rafflecopter link below:

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Renegade by Mallory McCartney Blog Tour & Giveaway


Renegade
Author: Mallory McCartney
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Synopsis:
“The time for Kiero’s reign in prosperity is over.”
Six years before the Black Dawn Rebellion, Adair Stratton and Emory Fae are following in their parent’s footsteps and living at The Academy, a home for those who are gifted. The pressure to uphold the future of their parent’s dream falls on them. An outcast and feared by most, Adair longs to break away from the expectations dictating his future. Even if Emory tries to make him see differently. An unexpected group of friends keep him there, but as whispers of unexplained disappearances start reaching from the capital, Adair starts to doubt The Academy is all it seems.
An unexpected visit ignites new tensions as the roguish king from across the Black Sea, Tadeas Maher of the Shattered Isles, and his heir, Marquis Maher sail to Kiero. Notorious for their pirating and wrath- for the first time in years, they demand the Fae’s listen to their proposition for a new treaty, holding the news of Nei’s father’s abrupt death over them. Caught in the middle of politics- Adair and Emory, with the help of their best friends Brokk and Memphis search for the one thing that matters most- finding out the truth.
In this gripping prequel to Black Dawn, their world is tipped upside down as unlikely alliances are made. War ravages through Kiero and is torn apart by acclaimed Kings. Through the throes of betrayal, lies, hidden magic and love, Adair is faced with a life changing decision- to fight or to bow to the darkness within him. 
Other books in the series 

Guest Post by Mallory!
Thank you for having me! My top ten songs I would recommend while reading Renegade are:

  1. Made to Find You- Belle MT
  2. Bloom- The Paper Kites
  3. The Mortal Boy King- The Paper Kites
  4. Sound of Pulling Heaven Down- Blue October
  5. The Yawning Grave- Lord Huron
  6. Stubborn Beast- Bear’s Den
  7. Hollow- Belle MT
  8. In My Body- SYML
  9. Carry You- Novo Amor
  10. When the Night is Over- Lord Huron
What was your Authors journey from story idea to publication?
 Renegade is my little story that could! Originally planned as a novella, once I sunk my teeth into the story, it turned into a full-fledged novel. Before the second book releases, I wanted to explore the back story, to show how Adair became the villain, how the world fell into ruin. How secrets and betrayals set characters destinies spiraling onto their path. It took two years to write but once the drafts were done I started the publishing process with Clean Reads, until it was released this August.
If Renegade became a movie who would you like to play your characters?

I love this question!

Adair Stratton- Cole Sprouse 

Emily: I love this casting! Cole is such a great actor and I love him on Riverdale. 

Memphis Carter –  Nicholas Hamilton
Brokk Foster- Cameron Boyce
Emory Fae- India Eisley

Marquis Maher-  Logan Lerman (with green hair and freckles)

Author the Author
Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.


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