March 23, 2017

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review | First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsFirst Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars, #8
Publisher: William Morrow, August 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.
Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is...I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just...mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Don’t judge this book by it’s cover…or rather, it’s title. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little put off by the nursery rhyme title (even M raised his eyebrows at me when he saw the cover), but First Star is one of SEP’s best.

Why? Her characters.

Like each of her novels, First Star is entirely character-driven. I loved Piper Dove, struggling private investigator with a soft heart but stubborn nature. Cooper Graham, retired star quarterback who is trying to break into the nightclub business, appears to be her exact opposite, but they are essentially two peas in a pod: soft on the inside, hard on the outside. And believe me, that made for some intense tension.

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But Phillips didn’t rely on that tension to carry the novel. It’s the wacky characters, from Piper to her elderly neighbor Berni, to Cooper and Jada, the teenage “assassain” who befriends Piper when she moves in. There’s an element of reality in the wackiness, one that both brings the characters and story alive.

I loved how both Piper and Coop go through separate heroic journeys, yet use each other as support. Piper’s initial friendship with Coop allows her to slowly let down her defenses she’s held up for so long, and Piper’s instinct to protect him lets Coop realize it’s okay to rely on someone else (well, someone who’s not in football pads).

The cameos from other characters in the Chicago Stars series cracked me up, especially Heath‘s role in Piper and Coop’s relationship. It created a kind of closure in the series, and since I think SEP originally intended this to be the final Chicago Stars novel, it fit.

Whether you are kinda into contemporary romance or a major fan (*raises hand*) First Star is simply a must read. From the hilariously relatable characters and original plotlines to the breathtaking romance, SEP’s latest is a must.

5 Stars

Posted March 23, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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March 22, 2017

If We Were Having Coffee | 2017 Update

if we were having coffee

 

Oh, hey there.

I know it’s been a while, and first, I’m so sorry to drop off the face of the (bookish) planet like that! It wasn’t my intention – I actually had my editorial calendar filled out for the first three months of the year. But you know how good intentions go…

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Anyway. A lot happened in the first few months of the year. First:

I GOT MARRIED!

After 10 months of wedding planning – aka debating about colors, cake flavors, and outfits, oh my! – it finally arrived, and it couldn’t have been more beautiful. The weather cooperated (we had our fingers crossed the outside venue would work out!) and everything was perfect.

Also,

I got a new job!

Yep. In February. So in the midst of the wedding planning madness, I made the leap and transferred to a new company because, ya know, one can’t have enough stress. Luckily, my new managers were understanding and found a way for me to be off for the wedding and honeymoon.

So, to put it simply:

I haven’t had nearly enough time to sleep, let alone read. Fortunately, I got to sneak in reads on my lunch break and when waiting for the wedding coordinator (brides and grooms – get a wedding coordinator. I am not kidding. She saved my sanity). Be on the lookout for these book reviews:

  • Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
  • Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
  • Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader
  • Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
  • The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

annnnd a bunch of other books I need to write reviews on from a while ago.

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So stay tuned, stick around, and chime in. I’d love to hear from you.

Posted March 22, 2017 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments
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March 21, 2017

Unputdownable! Top 10 Books I Read in One Sitting

Top Ten Tuesday

In the bookish world, there are good books, and then there are GOOD books. The difference? The GOOD books suck you in, dig their claws in, and force you to hang on for the ride.

While that’s not the most pleasant image in the world, most will agree it’s fairly accurate. Here are the top ten books that grabbed me from page one and just wouldn’t let go.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I read this book in seven hours. From the moment it was dropped on the doorstep to when I turned the final page on Rowling’s work, I didn’t move. This is the only book I know the read time for and one I’ve read again and again.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

Space opera meets Romeo and Juliet? Yes, please. Kaufman and Spooner’s unique take on a standard love story blew me away.

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Perfect for those longing for an Outlander fix, Moning’s first Highlander book is a fabulous mix of sexual tension, beautiful atmospheres, and time-traveling Scottish warriors.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

YA romcoms, meet your match in Rowell’s simply stunning tale of two teenagers, both from uniquely different worlds, who find a genuine meaning of love and friendship in each other. Just thinking about it makes me *sigh.*

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Need a little silly? Janet Evanovich’s introduction to the goofy, trouble-attracting bounty hunter Stephanie Plum hits the spot. Bonus: It’s short enough to read on your next flight.

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

If you haven’t already met Phillips, her Kiss An Angel is an excellent introduction to the queen of relatable romantic comedy, chockful of funny characters, detailed plots, and lots of laughs. This circus-based romance is no different.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Think of Hal fondly, but long for an updated version of the story? Add in some YA romance, unique storytelling, and a thrilling plot, and you’ve got what might be my new favorite author pair. Also included: Gemina

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

An uncertain young girl caught between the forces of time and the family who rules it, Passenger is a must read for any time travel, Outlander, or YA fantasy lover.

The Obsession by Nora Roberts

True crime lovers, unite! Okay, so this book isn’t a true crime, but the investigative look at how the crime affects the criminal’s family is purely fascinating. The atmospheric small town setting and the spunky heroine are just a bonus.

Tailored for Trouble by Mimi Jean Palmfiloff

What happens when a hardworking girl whose business is falling apart has to rely on the one man she swore she’d never depend on? Trouble.

Posted March 21, 2017 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 2 Comments
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January 23, 2017

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Review | Dragonfly in Amber by Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Publisher: Bantam, August 2001
Pages: 743
Format: Paperback
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 With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters—Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander.  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER  For nearly twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones... about a love that transcends the boundaries of time... and about Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.   Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart... in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising... and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

Claire Randall Frasier has lived the past twenty years believing that Jamie was dead. And finally, she has gathered the courage to go back to Scotland for the first time in nearly two decades to discover what happened to him at the Battle of Culloden.

Dragonfly in Amber is, quite simply, an emotional roller coaster ride. Gabaldon’s narrative switches between 1968 Claire, a woman who is trying to make it work after she loses the love of her life and 1740s Claire, trying desperately to stop the fall of Scotland. While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe t

While the same women, these two characters are vastly different. It’s hard to believe that 1740s Claire could be considered naive, considering what happens to her in Outlander, but she embodied it again and again as they worked to stop Charles. Yet naive doesn’t mean stupid. I loved how she stood up for herself and others in a society where women weren’t often allowed or encouraged to do so.

On the other hand, 1968 Claire was charming, engaging, and initially allowed a little of her sorrow to show. All naivete was gone, erased by the loss of her husband, a scar she hid well. It’s this Claire, this dynamic, fascinating character, that was the star of Dragonfly.

She was cool and composed on the outside, an exterior that hid rioting emotions: guilt, wistfulness, joy, and sorrow. It was only once she, Brianna, and Roger started their hunt for Jamie that this calm composure began to crack.

It’s been a while since a book made me feel the way Dragonfly did. From the battle scenes of 1740s Scotland to the drafty graveyards of the 60s’, Gabaldon tugged – no, YANKED – at the heartstrings.

Yet the second Outlander installment did have its faults. There were pages of information, large sections filled with what felt like the most minute details of the French court, the Scottish towns, and everywhere in between, that could have been summarized or possibly skipped entirely. Maybe this is more of personal preference; I wanted the story to get on with it.

In retrospect, that was a minor detail. The beauty of Dragonfly in Amber isn’t in the particulars of the setting or the descriptions of dress. Instead, it lay in Claire, a woman torn between two marriages, two times, and two worlds.

4 Stars

Posted January 23, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 9, 2017

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
Publisher: Harper, November 2016
Pages: 478
Format: Hardcover
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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.
And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.
To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.
So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...
With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

I have extremely mixed feeling about The Fate of the Tearling. One one hand, I loved it. On the other, well, let me explain.

In the first two books of the Tearling trilogy, Kelsea discovers that she is not just an ordinary girl – she’s the queen. As she grows into both herself and her reign, the Tearling faces an impending threat from Mortmesne, the terrifying country ruled by the Red Queen. Together with her second in command, the Mace, and her loyal guards, Kelsea takes the reins as she prepares her peaceful, utopian country for the fight of its life.

Kelsea herself goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the trilogy. She’s always a little rough, a little blunt, but she evolves from an uncertain girl into a strong young woman. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her insecurities; those moments of uncertainties are what reminds us of her humanity in Fate. It’s the moments she’s presented with an obvious choice in Fate that made me fall in love with her character even more.

Yet Johansen makes sure that Kelsea isn’t the end-all of the series. The side plots and more minor characters are powerful enough to carry the divided narrative of Fate, even occasionally making me wish they had more page time. Johansen made it clear that Fate isn’t just Kelsea’s story – it’s the Tearling’s.

I loved that Johansen makes room to tell the Tearling’s history, but as continued, I felt a little confused. Instead of the high fantasy I expected, Fate verged more into an alternate reality. There was talk of Boston, modern medicine, and other things common in today’s society, but unexpected in a world of swords, medieval battles and magic. The alternative timeline threw me, and I couldn’t quite get back on track.

That same disjointedness continued throughout the end of Fate. Instead of the ending I expected (even hoped for), Johansen threw us for a loop and closed out Kelsea’s story in an entirely unexpected way. Personally, I wasn’t a fan: it left me with more questions than answers, and I felt lost without certain plot closures. This unusual ending dropped my review from what could have been four or five stars to three.

What do you think of the ending? Did it fit the storyline? Or were you expecting the more traditional ending?

3 Stars

Posted January 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 7, 2017

Start Your Engines | 2017 Reading Challenges

If we’re going to be honest, I failed MISERABLY during last year’s reading challenges. A combination of burnout, work, and plain, simple stress knocked me down. I tried to do too much on the blog and when I was trying to figure out everything in my personal life, my reading seriously suffered.

But this year, I’m taking it easy. This year, I’m going to fall back in love with reading. Join me?

POPSUGAR 2017 READING CHALLENGE

Created to help readers find more books outside their go-to genres, the PopSugar reading challenges have been on my mind for a long time, but I’ve never caught them at the beginning. Learn more about the 2017 challenge here and join the fun with #popsugarreadingchallenge!

Honestly, I was initially tempted to sign up for the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle, including the advanced section. Luckily, the rational side of my brain spoke up. I plan to read as much as I can of the first section of the list and then go from there.

I plan to pick the books for this challenge month-by-month to make it a little more fun. For January, I’m starting out with:

Carnival of SoulsThe Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)

 

THE 2017 MODERN MRS. DARCY READING CHALLENGE

The 2017 Reading Challenge

 

The ultimate create-your-own reading challenge, the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge has two different book lists to inspire your 2017 reading: reading for growth and reading for fun. Sign up here and follow along with #MMDreading.

Following my goal to find a little more fun both in books and life in 2017, I’m taking the reading for fun challenge. I’m hoping to read 12 books for this challenge, one a month.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge. Get more out of your reading life in 2017 with this choose-your-own-bookish-adventure challenge!

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)The Hook Up (Game On, #1)Big Little LiesThe Time Traveler's WifeOn Writing: A Memoir of the CraftJust Imagine

 

THE 2017 DEBUT AUTHOR CHALLENGE

I fell in love with the Debut Author Challenge last year for one reason: I found so many new authors to love! The Debut Author Challenge introduces readers to new YA or new adult authors from around the globe. Sign up here and follow along with #2017DebAuthC!

 

I am challenging myself to read at least 10 of the 13 debuts I’ve picked out for 2017.

Shimmer and BurnSong of the CurrentToward a Secret SkyDaughter of the Pirate KingTo Catch a KillerWintersongCaraval (Caraval, #1)HeartstoneFrostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

No cover yet:

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE READING CHALLENGE 2017

crr2017icon

Another of my favorite reading challenges, the Contemporary Romance reading challenge is for contemporary romance only – historical, sci-fi, paranormal, and romantic suspense does not count for this challenge. Since this challenge was how I discovered some new favorite contemporary romance authors last year, I can’t wait for this year’s reading! Join the fun here and follow along with #ContRom2017

I challenge myself to read a majority of new-to-me authors in this year’s challenge. I think I will go for the 3rd base level – 11-15 books.

Runaway Groom (I Do, I Don't)Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Strong Signal (Cyberlove, #1)A Better Man (Sunshine Creek Vineyard, #1)Paige in ProgressSeven Day Fiancé (Love and Games, #2)

 

*post layout inspired by the beautiful challenge post over BookMark Lit!

Posted January 7, 2017 by Ellen in the canon talks / 0 Comments
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January 5, 2017

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey LeeUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, March 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.   This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Under a Painted Sky is the tale of two girls, wronged and misjudged by society, hitting the open trail to leave their past behind. It’s a story full of friendship, brimming with buoyancy, and made of morals. I should have loved it.

I didn’t.

Initially, I was hooked. The drama of the hard last words Samantha said to her father, the danger she suddenly finds herself in, and the unlikely ally in Annamae was exactly what I wanted to read. It was engaging, fascinating, and so chockful of potential that I settled in for the long haul.

And then, rather abruptly, the bottom fell out from the story.

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All of that lovely potential disappeared. Samantha and Annamae, so ALIVE in the first pages of Under a Painted Sky deflated like someone let out their air. The narrative felt flat, rehearsed. I had the abject feeling of reading the dialogue instead of seeing the characters play out the scene in my mind.

Yet all this isn’t to say Under a Painted Sky is a bad book. It’s not. The descriptions of the Oregon Trail brought back memories of playing the game on bulky PCs in elementary school. The morals of the power of friendship, perseverance, and destiny are great, especially for the YA reader (this book’s target audience).

But after it failed to live up to the first few heart-pounding, emotionally wrenching pages, I was disappointed when it didn’t continue. I couldn’t get excited about the law, hot on Samantha and Annamae’s heels, or feel their concern when they worried their boyish disguises were slipping. I lost that connection with them and, without it, Under a Painted Sky couldn’t pull me back in.

2 Stars

Posted January 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 3, 2017

Top 9 2017 Debuts

Top 9 2017 Debuts

Can you believe 2017 is already here? It’s hard to believe that only a month ago, we were completing our 2016 book surveys and buying Christmas gifts!

If you’re behind (like me), don’t worry. Add these top 2017 book debuts to your TBR today to make sure you’re on top of the great new books coming out this year!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Pitched as the never-before-told origin story of the sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” told in the vein of Wicked – from the villainess’s point of view

Black Rose by Bree Barton

Bree Barton’s BLACK ROSE trilogy, pitched as Graceling meets Pride and Prejudice, about a girl who, on the eve of her marriage to a prince, discovers she has dark, forbidden magic, magic that her powerful family’s sole purpose was to destroy.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

WintersongBeware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Song of the CurrentCaroline Oresteia has always been destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.

So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport a dangerous cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.

But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she never could have imagined.

This immersive fantasy debut set along the waterways of a magical world will entrance fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard. Sarah Tolcser weaves an epic story of danger and destiny with enchanting world-building and captivating characters.

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White

HeartstoneThey say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

Shimmer and BurnTo save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King, #1)Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a reimagining of the evil queen from Snow White based on Asian folklore and mythology. In order to become Empress of Feng Lu, Xifeng must unleash a jealous god on the world and set free the viciousness of her own soul.

What debuts are on your must read list for this year? Share in the comments below!

Posted January 3, 2017 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 0 Comments
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January 2, 2017

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen, September 2016
Pages: 398
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown. 

In Fennbirn, the island kingdom set apart from the rest of the world, the battle for the crown is a dangerous ritual. Every generation, a three sisters are born, destined to fight each other to the death for the honor of wearing the crown. But this year, with these sisters, things just aren’t going as planned.

The premise of Three Dark Crowns drew me in instantly. Hunger Games meets female Game of Thrones? Yes, please!

While the novel had all the necessary elements to create a YA fantasy battle of the royals, it dropped the ball. Why? The narration. Simply, it took too long for something to happen, and I found myself running out of both patience and sympathy for the three young women thrust into this destiny.

Despite each girl having her own unique brand of magic (nature, poison, and elements), their lives were remarkably similar. Each had friends who thought they were the absolute best, someone who hated them, and some twisted romance. Creating such similar plot lines did each character a major disservice: they quickly became hard to tell apart, and I started to not even try.

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Three Dark Crowns picked up in the last quarter of the book as each magical faction brought the sisters together at Beltane to showcase their talents. With tempers starting to run high, the pace of the narration finally began to turn. I loved the showcase sections, the love affairs brought to light or destroyed, and the way the sisters found unity with each other.

However, I didn’t realize Three Dark Crowns was a series. I had hoped for a stand alone novel and was looking forward to a neat tie-off in the end. Instead, the story concludes with a cliffhanger, one that I’m not entirely sure I want to read on to the finish.

3 Stars

Posted January 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 1, 2017

The 2016 End of Year Survey

There’s something so refreshing about the new year. Maybe not the resolutions – to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I kept one throughout the year – but the chance to start over, afresh, revitalized…[insert adjective here] grabs me every time.

After running myself ragged last year trying to keep up with the blog while balancing work (where I write 80% of the time), planning the wedding (where a simple DIY event became a much more involved ceremony), and my family and friends, I’ve decided to make some changes to how I view things. In short:

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Seriously. I found a gray hair from all the stress of this last year (or I’m putting the blame there at any rate 🙂 ). But there’s more about this coming later this week – I bet you’re here for the survey!

Every year Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner puts together the annual End of Year Book Survey. All graphics and survey questions are hers. Click here to learn more or link up your survey!

And without any more ado…

 

Number Of Books You Read: 122
Number of Re-Reads: 2
Genre You Read The Most From: Romance/Fantasy

 

best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

I have a few:

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

The Widow by Fiona Barton (review soon!)

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Ruthless (Lawless, #1)Series started: Ruthless by Lexi Blake (review soon!)

Sequel: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series ender: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Lisa Kleypas (how did I just discover her?!)

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

I stayed pretty close to my comfort zone (fantasy YA, fairy tale retellings, romance, mystery, and thrillers) this year.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Empire of Storms, hands down.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Easy.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

The mermaid in Esther Dalseno’s Drown.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

  • Drown by Esther Dalseno
  • Salt to Sea by Ruth Sepetys
  • A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (review soon!)

13. Most ThThe Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randelought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?

Anything by Lisa Kleypas (again, how did I miss this?)

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

“I am not worried, Harry, I am with you.” Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Shortest: The One You Want by Gena Showalter

Longest: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. MartinAfter the Woods by Kim  Savage

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

After the Woods by Kim Savage

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I have to pick one?

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Naomi Carson and her brother, Mason in The Obsession. #familygoals

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Book club pBlackhearts by Nicole Castromanick, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Teach Drummond of Castroman’s Blackhearts

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Illuminae and Gemina, hands down.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot, the queen of feel-good chick lit.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

Tie between Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yes, even though I The Widow by Fiona Bartonknew what happened in the end.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Widow by Fiona Barton

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

GEMINA. OH MY GOSH.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann. Here’s why.

 

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. OA Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)ne Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

 

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

The third Illuminae file installment and 6th Throne of Glass!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

To not be afraid to put a book down when it isn’t for me.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

None yet!

Posted January 1, 2017 by Ellen in monthly rewind / 1 Comment
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