Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

The Enchanted Sonata 
Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork
Publisher: The Wallworkshop
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Goodreads

Review:

This clever little book combines the Nutcracker ballet with another famous story, that of the Pied Piper. At the beginning of this novel, Clara receives a nutcracker and enchanted storybook for Christmas. Clara begins reading the book that night and finds out that the piper has turned all of the children into toys and the prince of the empire, Nikolai into a life-sized Nutcracker. Clara is then transported into this whimsical, holiday world where rats the size of bears are locked into a war with the people of the empire.

Clara and the Nutcracker find each other and team up to defeat the piper, push the rats back into their territory, and get Clara back to her world in time for the holiday piano recital she has been working towards for years. Well, at least that's the plan, and things don't go as planned.

I thought the relationship between Clara and Nutcracker was cute. It was a sweet kind of fairytale romance and went really well with the whimsy and lightness of the story. My only issue was that after Clara learned Nutcracker was, in fact, Nikolai the soon to be emperor she kept calling him Nutcracker. I didn't like that this choice not to use his name. It made it feel like there was a distance between the two characters when there wasn't.

My favorite thing about this book ended up being two middle-aged side characters that Clara accidentally transports to the Nutcrackers world. They decide to stay even when Clara offers to take them back. There were a few side-stories like this one throughout the book that really drove home the holiday magic aspect. And that is exactly what I was looking for when I picked up this book something fun and full of holiday magic.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List

It's been a little while since I last participated in Top 10 Tuesday, but I'm so excited about what is coming up on my to be read list that I HAD to share! 


1 House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
2 Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao
3 Fairy-Strick by Amy Sumida


4 The Wicked and the Divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
5 Lovely War by Julie Berry


6 This Book is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni
7 The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie
8 The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones


9 Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
10 Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Princess Diarist 
Author: Carrie Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Goodreads

Review:

Listening to this audiobook is a little eerie. It is narrated by Carrie Fisher and her daughter Billie Lourd. It was weird, and strangely comforting, to hear Fisher's voice after her passing. Eeriness aside I can't image the story being told any other way.

This memoir offers personal stories, as Carrie Fisher recalled them, about auditioning for Star Wars, the filming of A New Hope, and the press tour the actors went on following the release of the movie. It is also sprinkled with diary entries, more akin to poetry than a true diary, and anecdotes about Fisher's brief affair with Harrison Ford during filming.

The Princess Diarist was a quick listen (5 hours) but it offered a glimpse into the Carrie Fisher's memories of filming and how playing the famous Princess Leia affected her life in both positive and negative ways. But mostly positive.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit
Author: JRR Tolkien
Goodreads


Review:

I'm almost embarrassed, as someone who reads a lot, to admit that I have never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. In my defense, I'm not a big fan of high fantasy so the stories have never appealed to me. That being said my husband and I just finished a movie marathon where we watched all of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies (in that order) so I decided to give the book chance. Which I'm happy I did.

To make the story more enjoyable I decided to listen to the audiobook. I enjoyed the bright narration and the short musical interludes that proceeded each chapter. I think this form made the story feel more like a movie, rather than me drudging through another high fantasy novel I'm only marginally engaged with. 

Now, this is going to sound kind of ridiculous but I'm rating this novel 4-stars because I actually enjoyed the movie series more. This story is pretty short and the details weren't as fleshed out as I expected. Peter Jackson turned this single book into three movies so naturally, he included things that were merely alluded to in the original but were expanded on in the movie in greater detail. He also included things that weren't in the book at all. I can see how this would upset fans who love the story and wanted the movie to stay as true to it as possible. For me, I liked all of the side things Peter Jackson added; the relationship between the girl elf and the dwarf, Legolas, Bard's family, and my personal favorite part of the movie where Smaug is dipped in gold. Those moments were scene sealers for me so to not seem them mirrored in the print was a little disappointing. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable listen. I enjoyed the full cast of characters and the hero's journey that Bilbo embarks on. This is truly a timeless tale and if you're like me and haven't read it yet definitely give the audiobook a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.



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.

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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.