Tag: fiction

January 11, 2018

Book Talk | Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Book Talk | Song of the Current by Sarah TolcserSong of the Current by Sarah Tolcser
Series: Song of the Current #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, June 2017
Pages: 373
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Throughout her life, Caro believed she was for the river. Her livelihood, her father’s, her grandfather’s, and generations before have depended on the river and its god. But when the river god still hasn’t spoken to her and her father’s life is in peril, Caro takes the wheel and agrees to deliver a strange cargo with one rule: don’t open it. Soon, her life is full of magic and mayhem, decisions and fate, and the chance to choose between what she thought was her life’s set path or a new, unwritten one.

Loved:
  • Song of the Current is made up of a unique, magical world: magic, gods, and pirates, oh my! Instead of overwhelming the narrative, it creates a soft atmosphere that shapes each scene’s emotions perfectly.
  • Caro’s yearning to hear the river god call her represents her deep desire to fit in with the other wherrymen, to be like her father. The root of that desire is something we can all understand, something that made Caro relatable to every reader.
  • I loved how that desire to fit in is quickly pushed back as the yearning to live, to save her father, overtakes everything else and creates a unique hero that I loved cheering for.
  • Markos has some typical male hero characteristics, but he isn’t by any means a typical male hero. Why? His deep devotion to his mother and little sister creates not only a powerful motive, but an equally powerful character.
  • While I love neatly-tied endings, Song of the Current doesn’t have one, at least in the romance department. With Caro’s constantly evolving character, this couldn’t fit more perfectly.
  • Amazing fight scenes!
Liked:
  • Caro’s unique family dynamic was one of the more underrated elements of the story. While she has a mother and a father, her mother lives apart and holds a stronger position in her parents’ relationship. I’m not saying we should destroy the nuclear family, but it was lovely to see a powerful mother figure.
  • The narrative did a good job of detailing Caro’s struggle between who she wanted to be and who she was turning into, but occasionally lost the thread after some of the major scenes. I had to go back and read a few times to undestand exactly what happened.
Loathed:

Nothing!

Review Snapshot:

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Perfect for:

YA fantasy fans, especially those of Sarah J. Maas and V.E. Schwab.

Posted January 11, 2018 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 3, 2018

Book Talk | An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Book Talk | An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret RogersonAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, September 2017
Pages: 300
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Isabel is a careful woman. Instead of asking for eternal youth or perfect hair spells from her faerie clients, she trades protective spells for her renown portraits. When Rook, the autumn Faerie prince sits for her, Isabel can’t help but fall in love with him. But when his portrait creates unrest in the Autumn court, Rook holds Isabel responsible and takes her to the faerie lands to stand trial. Their journey is soon fruaght with danger, from the Wild Hunt to former friends. In the end, it’s up to Isabel, a mortal with a well-loved trade, to save them all.

Loved:
  • The worldbuilding was stunning. The differences between each court created not only fascinating settings but gorgeous atmosphere and cultures.
  • An Enchantment of Ravenis not set up for a sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I like sequels, but this characteristic makes this book stand out.
  • Margaret Rogerson created the perfect, slightly creepy faerie tale that I want to read again and again. Reminiscent of the Grimm fairy talesAn Enchantment of Ravens had that unique, uncanny quality that makes me want to look over my shoulder at the same time as marvel at her world.
  • The narrative dropped me deep into the story; instead of sitting on my couch on a cloudy weekend day, I was running with Rook and Isabel with the Great Hunt nipping at our heels. I tore through the final, tense scenes, barely aware of what was going on around me.
  • I loved the complexity of not only Isabel and Rook, but the supporting characters. No one was what they appeared, adding an additional layer of intricacy to the protagonists’ motives.
Liked:
  • The faerie hierarchy was fascinating, but I wanted more. The intricate details of who, where, why, when would have made An Enchantment of Ravens more powerful.
  • Same goes for the rules guarding faerie behavior. While interesting, there wasn’t enough context to make some actions make sense.
Loathed:
  • While I understand why Rogerson skimmed over some of Isabel’s initial infatuation with Rook, it left out some key emotions that built up her mindset when he appeared in the night to take her to trial.
Snapshot review:

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Recommended for:

YA fantasy lovers, Grimms’ fairy tale fans, and those looking for a unique take on the typical fairy tale.

 

4 Stars

Posted January 3, 2018 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 2, 2018

6 New-to-Me Authors I Loved in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

2017 was a great year, but to say I hit a reading slump is putting it kindly. Despite my laziness, I found some amazing new-to-me authors in 2017 that should be on your TBR!

Jennifer L. Armentrout

Jennifer L. ArmentroutMeet the author:
# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout Lives in West Virginia. All the rumors you heard about her state aren’t true. Well, mostly. When she’s not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write.

Book I loved: Till Death

 

 

 

 

Lee Child

Lee Child

Meet the author: Lee Child was born October 29th, 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV’s “golden age.” During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.

Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.

Book I loved: Personal

 

Therese Ann Fowler

Meet the author: Therese Anne FowlerTherese Anne Fowler is a contemporary American author. She is best known for Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, published in 2013.

Book I loved: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Interview about Z with NPR: https://www.npr.org/2013/03/23/174736463/z-tells-the-fitzgeralds-story-from-zeldas-point-of-view

 

 

Tana French

Tana FrenchMeet the author:

Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theater, film and voice-over.

Books I loved: Broken HarbourFaithful PlaceThe Tresspassor

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber

Meet the author:

Stephanie Garber grew up in northern California, where she was often compared to Anne Shirley, Jo March, and other fictional characters with wild imaginations and stubborn streaks. When she’s not writing, Stephanie teaches creative writing, and dreams of her next adventure.

Book I loved: Caraval

 

 

 

 

Tricia Levenseller

Tricia Levenseller

Meet the author: Tricia Levenseller writes historical fantasies for young adult readers. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING, released earlier this year from Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.

Initially from a small town in Oregon, Tricia now lives next to the Rocky Mountains with her bossy dog, Rosy. She received her degree in English Language and editing and is thrilled that she never has to read a textbook again. When she’s not writing or reading, Tricia enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing volleyball, and watching shows while eating extra-buttered popcorn.

Book I loved: Daughter of the Pirate King

 

 

Posted January 2, 2018 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 0 Comments
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November 30, 2017

On My Radar | December 2017 Releases

It’s almost a new month and you know what that means: new books! I always love seeing what comes out just before and during the holiday season. This year’s December releases looks to be one of the best yet! Check out the books I’m especially looking forward to this year:

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesThe Truth Beneath the Lies by Amanda Searcy
Publisher: Delacorte Press, December 12th 2017

Fight or Flight.
All Kayla Asher wants to do is run. Run from the government housing complex she calls home. Run from her unstable mother. Run from a desperate job at No Limit Foods. Run to a better, cleaner, safer life. Every day is one day closer to leaving.
All Betsy Hopewell wants to do is survive. Survive the burner phone hidden under her bed. Survive her new rules. Survive a new school with new classmates. Survive being watched. Every minute grants her another moment of life.
But when fate brings Kayla and Betsy together, only one girl will live.

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesYear One (Chronicles of The One, #1) by Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, December 5th 2017

It began on New Year’s Eve.
The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.
Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.
As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.
In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.
The end has come. The beginning comes next.

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, February 6th 2018

Alaska, 1974.Untamed.Unpredictable.And for a family in crisis, the ultimate test of the human spirit.
From the author who brought you the phenomenon of The Nightingale.

 

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesThe Young Queens (Three Dark Crowns, #0.5) by Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen, December 26th 2017

Three black witches, born to a descending queen. One would rise to become queen in her place. Perhaps the strongest of the three. Perhaps the cleverest. Or perhaps it would be the girl born under the best shield of luck.
Katharine, Arsinoe and Mirabella - three young queens born to fulfil their destiny - to fight to the death to win the crown. But before they were poisoner, elemental and naturalist, they were children, sisters and friends . . .

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesCrown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey by Nicola Tallis
Publisher: Pegasus Books, December 12th 2017

"Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.” These were the heartbreaking words of a seventeen-year-old girl, Lady Jane Grey, as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Minutes later her head was struck from her body with a single stroke of a heavy axe. Her death for high treason sent shockwaves through the Tudor world, and served as a gruesome reminder to all who aspired to a crown that the axe could fall at any time.
Jane is known to history as "the Nine Days Queen," but her reign lasted, in fact, for thirteen days. The human and emotional aspects of her story have often been ignored, although she is remembered as one of the Tudor Era’s most tragic victims. While this is doubtlessly true, it is only part of the complex jigsaw of Jane’s story. She was a remarkable individual with a charismatic personality who earned the admiration and affection of many of those who knew her. All were impressed by her wit, passion, intelligence, and determined spirit. Furthermore, the recent trend of trying to highlight her achievements and her religious faith has, in fact, further obscured the real Jane, a young religious radical who saw herself as an advocate of the reformed faith—Protestantism—and ultimately became a martyr for it.
Crown of Blood is an important and significant retelling of an often-misunderstood tale: set at the time of Jane’s downfall and following her journey through to her trial and execution, each chapter moves between the past and the “present,” using a rich abundance of primary source material (some of which has never been published) in order to paint a vivid picture of Jane’s short and turbulent life. This dramatic narrative traces the dangerous plots and web of deadly intrigue in which Jane became involuntarily tangled—and which ultimately led to a shocking and catastrophic conclusion.

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesSo Over You by Kate Meader
Publisher: Pocket Books, December 19th 2017

Three estranged sisters struggle to sustain their late father’s failing hockey franchise in Kate Meader’s sizzling Chicago Rebels series. In this second entry, middle sister Isobel is at a crossroads in her personal and professional lives. But both are about to get a significant boost with the addition of a domineering Russian powerhouse to the Rebels...
Isobel Chase knows hockey. She played NCAA, won silver at the Games, and made it thirty-seven minutes into the new National Women’s Hockey League before an injury sidelined her dreams. Those who can’t, coach, and a position as a skating consultant to her late father’s hockey franchise, the Chicago Rebels, seems like a perfect fit. Until she’s assigned her first job: the man who skated into her heart as a teen and relieved her of her pesky virginity. These days, left-winger Vadim Petrov is known as the Czar of Pleasure, a magnet for puck bunnies and the tabloids alike. But back then... let’s just say his inability to sink the puck left Isobel frustratingly scoreless.
Vadim has a first name that means “ruler,” and it doesn’t stop at his birth certificate. He dominates on the ice, the practice rink, and in the backseat of a limo. But a knee injury has produced a bad year, and bad years in the NHL don’t go unrewarded. His penance? To be traded to a troubled team where his personal coach is Isobel Chase, the woman who drove him wild years ago when they were hormonal teens. But apparently the feeling was not entirely mutual.
That Vadim might have failed to give Isobel the pleasure that was her right is intolerable, and he plans to make it up to her—one bone-melting orgasm at a time. After all, no player can perfect his game without a helluva lot of practice...

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesThe Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson
Publisher: Avon, December 26th 2017

Running in five-inch stilettos is an art form
Leaving your fiancé at the altar on live television is a disaster. Lexie Kowalsky thought she was ready to get married in front of millions of people, but at the last minute she fled the set of television’s hottest reality show, Gettin’ Hitched. Wearing a poofy white dress and a pair of five-inch sparkly shoes, Lexie hopped a float plane for Sandspit, Canada. She figured no one would find her there. But she was wrong.
Sharing her flight was the Seattle Chinooks biggest star, Sean Knox. Lexie wasn’t just a reality-show runaway, she was his pain in the butt coach’s daughter. She was chaos and temptation and definitely off limits, but getting her luscious body out of that wedding gown, he couldn’t resist getting her in his bed for one amazing night.
Then a photo of Sean and Lexi breaks the internet—and suddenly they’re both swept up in a crazy plan to spin the whole story. But you can’t run from love—
 

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesEver the Brave (A Clash of Kingdoms #2) by Erin Summerill
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, December 5th 2017

Ever the Divided. Ever the Feared. Ever the Brave.After saving King Aodren with her newfound Channeler powers, Britta only wants to live a peaceful life in her childhood home. Unfortunately, saving the King has created a tether between them she cannot sever, no matter how much she'd like to, and now he's insisting on making her a noble lady. And there are those who want to use Britta’s power for evil designs. If Britta cannot find a way to harness her new magical ability, her life—as well as her country—may be lost.
The stakes are higher than ever in the sequel to Ever the Hunted, as Britta struggles to protect her kingdom and her heart.

On My Radar | December 2017 ReleasesEnchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini
Publisher: Dutton Books, December 5th 2017

The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, who was infamously “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage—brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly—will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the p;plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics—ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman—falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.

Posted November 30, 2017 by Ellen in on my radar / 0 Comments
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November 28, 2017

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday

Spring and summer are nice, but fall and winter are prime reading seasons for me. A cup of tea (or glass of wine, depending on what kind of day it’s been), a blanket, and a good book equal heaven to me. Here are the top ten books I’m planning to curl up with this winter:

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRObsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRTower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRCome Sundown by Nora Roberts

The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana is a family business, an idyllic spot for vacationers. A little over thirty thousand acres and home to four generations, it’s kept running by Bodine Longbow with the help of a large staff, including new hire Callen Skinner. There was another member of the family once: Bodine’s aunt, Alice, who ran off before Bodine was born. She never returned, and the Longbows don’t talk about her much. The younger ones, who never met her, quietly presume she’s dead. But she isn’t. She is not far away, part of a new family, one she never chose—and her mind has been shattered…

When a bartender leaves the resort late one night, and Bo and Cal discover her battered body in the snow, it’s the first sign that danger lurks in the mountains that surround them. The police suspect Cal, but Bo finds herself trusting him—and turning to him as another woman is murdered and the Longbows are stunned by Alice’s sudden reappearance. The twisted story she has to tell about the past—and the threat that follows in her wake—will test the bonds of this strong family, and thrust Bodine into a darkness she could never have imagined.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRWintersong (Wintersong, #1) by S. Jae-Jones

Beware 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.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRShimmer and Burn (Shimmer and Burn, #1) by Mary Taranta

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.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRBatman: Nightwalker (DC Icons, #2) by Marie Lu

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city's elites are being executed as their mansions' security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family's fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he's forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city's most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce's only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRUnearthed (Unearthed, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

Add to your TBR!

Top 10 Books on My Winter TBRHardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum,

Trouble comes in bunches for Stephanie Plum. First, professional grave robber and semi-professional loon, Simon Diggery, won’t let her take him in until she agrees to care for his boa constrictor, Ethel. Stephanie’s main qualification for babysitting an extremely large snake is that she owns a stun gun—whether that’s for use on the wandering serpent or the petrified neighbors remains to be seen.

Events take a dark turn when headless bodies start appearing across town. At first, it’s just corpses from a funeral home and the morgue that have had the heads removed. But when a homeless man is murdered and dumped behind a church Stephanie knows that she’s the only one with a prayer of catching this killer.
If all that’s not enough, Diesel’s back in town. The 6-foot-tall, blonde-haired hunk is a man who accepts no limits—that includes locked doors, closed windows and underwear. Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli isn’t pleased at this unexpected arrival nor is Ranger, the high-powered security consultant who has his own plans for Stephanie.

As usual Jersey’s favorite bounty hunter is stuck in the middle with more questions than answers. What’s the deal with Grandma Mazur’s latest online paramour? Who is behind the startling epidemic of mutilated corpses? And is the enigmatic Diesel’s sudden appearance a coincidence or the cause of recent deadly events?

Add to your TBR!

What’s on your winter TBR?

Posted November 28, 2017 by Ellen in top ten tuesday / 0 Comments
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November 16, 2017

Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

Review | The Widow by Fiona BartonThe Widow by Fiona Barton
Publisher: NAL, February 16th 2016
Pages: 324
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When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Caught up in the tempest of her husband’s horrific crimes, Jean Taylor plays the dutiful wife. She stays stalwart in the face of harassment, stares, and outright disgust. She remains silent against the onslaught of hatred aimed at her for standing by her husband. But after his death, Jean is free to say anything she wants…and the whole world is waiting to hear.

It’s only fair to call The Widow a book of the unexpected. The most surprising of all was the viciousness of the crimes. Barton’s novel addresses a genuine threat to today’s society: the internet and those who use it to their own nefarious ends. Although it goes without saying, the crimes of pedophilia perpetrated in The Widow were terrifying. Seeing them printed in black and white was heartbreaking.

It is these crimes that caused such a drastic shift in my perception of the characters, especially Jean. In the beginning, she’s almost a victim, portrayed as another damaged soul, collateral to her husband’s sick, twisted mind. But the story unravels, revealing more of Jean and making me wonder how innocent she actually is.

That’s the rub of The Widow. Neither main character is one to cheer for, an unusual problem in today’s popular literature. Instead of the story of the heartbroken, lost wife rebuilding her life after her monstrous husband passes away, Jean’s unreliable narration casts her own character into doubt.

Jean’s unreliable narration is what made me fall in love with this book. It made me question the truth in her mind versus truth in reality. Her outward demeanor didn’t match what was below, and the minor characters surrounding her began to show the complexity of her perspective. It cast doubt on Jean herself, but also her entire story.

While The Widow is not an emotionally easy read, it is, without a doubt, a unique one. Jean’s perspective and character development put a new spin on the typical crime/police procedural novel. Instead of looking at facts, examining clues, the story is told by a somewhat unreliable witness…if that is what you choose to call her.

Posted November 16, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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November 15, 2017

Review | A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Review | A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books, May 2017
Pages: 699
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Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I was terrified to read A Court of Wings and Ruin. Why? Well, it’s relatively simple, or at least it seemed that way at the time. You see, I had fallen in love with these characters and I didn’t know if I wanted to see if anything terrible happened. After everything, they’ve gone through, fought for, dreamed of, I just couldn’t handle it if they lost it all. Which, after reading a majority of Maas’ work, felt like a genuine possibility.

But, to put it bluntly, I loved it.

I loved the complexity of the characters, the depth of their relationships, their motives. I loved the world Maas created, the legends, the lore, and its inhabitants.

Yet the crowning glory of A Court of Wings and Ruin was the grand final battle for Prythian. Built up throughout the narrative (and throughout the series), the courts’ animosity and overall dynamics were key to shaping the future of Feyre’s world. Not to mention downright fascinating. I loved the vastly different personalities and how each event forced them to move forward as a character, to develop. Even the most minor characters went through transformations that were vital to the finale.

Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship won me over long ago, but admittedly it was a hard battleA Court of Wings and Ruin solidified it. Theirs was a partnership of equals, a relationship based on not only love but a deep respect for each other. Rhys helped Feyre find who she was instead of treating her like a china doll and she pulled him out of the trauma he had lived in for so long.

That’s what I love about Maas’ work. Her heroines (because each book has more than one) are powerful, complex, passionate women. They don’t shirk responsibility or feel the need to apologize for who they are. These independent women are Maas’ legacy, one that constantly inspires me.

After finishing A Court of Wings and Ruin, I wat more. I want to read the series, again and again, to find more; the lore, the nuances I might have missed. In the end, I can’t wait to return to Prythian

4 Stars

Posted November 15, 2017 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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November 13, 2017

Review | Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Review | Till Death by Jennifer L. ArmentroutTill Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: William Morrow, February 2017
Pages: 297
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In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .

It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.
First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.
But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.

Sasha Keaton wasn’t supposed to live.

Kidnapped and brutalized by the serial killer known only as the Groom, Sasha took a chance on escape and fled to a neighboring ranch. Clad in the wedding dress she was meant to die in, Sasha managed to thwart the Groom and save herself.

Ten years later, Sasha returns to the family inn in her hometown, hoping the emotional distance of ten years is enough to heal the trauma. But from the moment she arrives, something is wrong.

Till Death‘s Sasha gave voice to victims, to the struggle to heal and go back to normalcy. I admired the strength, understood (most of) her motives, and yet sometimes dearly wished she would pick up on the signs and stop throwing herself into the path of danger.

The real hook of Armentrout’s work lay in the dueling perspectives. While Sasha’s narration took center stage, the criminal’s occasional POV ratcheted up the tension, especially as the crimes increased. It brought the whodunit factor sky-high, creating this insatiable urge to know just who this psychopath was.

Till Death‘s romance came in a very close second. Cole’s feelings for the girl that disappeared on him ten years ago and the devotion he has for the dark-and-twisty heroine that she’s become is astonishing. It’s real, it’s intense, and it’s one of the few constants in Sasha’s life. My only complaint? I wish it were a little more drawn out – it felt like it happened entirely too easily, but then again, not much has been easy for Sasha.

Cole’s dependability and devotion, combined with his career as a local FBI agent, makes him a crucial character in Till Death and one I’m glad is standing by Sasha’s side, especially as the violence escalates.

Hidden inside this unsuspecting cover are a gripping thriller, heart-stopping romance, and powerful survivor story. Till Death is the reason  Jennifer Armentrout is at the top of my wishlist.

4 Stars

Posted November 13, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 13, 2017

The History of Fairy Tales | Beauty and the Beast

the stats

first recorded version: 1740

author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

original title: “La Belle et la Bête”

 

the story

Once upon a time, a young girl lived with her wealthy merchant father and six siblings. The two oldest sisters, wicked at heart, treated book-loving Beauty like a servant instead of their sister. Soon, their father loses his ships in a storm and is forced to move his family away from their lavish lifestyle to a small home. However, years later he discovers one of the presumably-doomed ships from the missing fleet has returned, so he sets off to investigate. Before leaving, he asks each of his children what they would like for a present upon his return. Beauty merely asks for a rose.

On the way home to his children, the merchant gets lost and stumbles across a gorgeous palace. When the door opens, he takes advantage to get out of the storm and spend the night. As he is about to leave, he spots a rose garden and plucks a flower for his youngest daughter. Unfortunately, this decision comes with a price: his death or, on the condition she never knows the bargain, his daughter’s life. The merchant chooses the latter and resumes his journey home.

Beauty, learning of the bargain, heads to the castle to uphold her end of the deal. The Beast greats her as mistress of the manor and, at the conclusion of every evening, asks her to marry him. She politely declines.

Beauty spends her days with the Beast, her nights haunted by a mysterious, handsome prince who demands to know why she consistently denies the Beast’s offer of marriage. Yet she begins to long for home and asks permission to leave the castle for a visit to her family. The Beast agrees, giving her an enchanted ring that she need only turn three times to return, and a magic mirror.

Beauty’s sisters are green with envy when she returns and devise a plan to compromise her life with the Beast. They convince Beauty to stay past her original plan. When Beauty uses the mirror to check on the Beast, she discovers he is lying unconscious, hurting from a broken heart. She returns and, crying, professes her love for him. As her tears fall on him, the curse is broken, and he becomes a man again. They are married and live happily ever after.

the inspiration

While Beauty and the Beast may have been influenced by the popular 2nd-century story of “Cupid and Psyche,” it was also supposedly intended to prepare young girls in 18th century France for an arranged marriage (source). Make of that what you will.

the versions around the world

Without a doubt, this tale is as old as time…and just as varied.

  • The Pig King by Giovanni Francesco, Italy
  • The Scarlet Flower by Sergey Aksakov, Russia (1858)
  • Beauty and the Beast…The Story Retold by Laura E. Richards, England (1886)

did you know?

  • Disney’s Beast is a mashup of many different animals
  • While the story was first recorded in 1740, historians believe it originated some 400 years ago
  • Beauty and the Beast is among the first pieces of literature that reflect the changing social norm surrounding appearance

takeaways

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Image result for beauty and the beast gif

Posted October 13, 2017 by Ellen in history of fairy tales / 0 Comments
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October 9, 2017

Review | Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Review | Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia LevensellerDaughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King, #1
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, February 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

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.

Let’s be honest. The helpless damsel-in-distress story was getting a little worn out. It’s the age of Hermione, of heroines who aren’t waiting for the strong male hero to sweep down and save the day. Not that I’m opposed to strong male heroes. But when the heroine is a fighter, well, that’s my kind of story.

Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King tells the story of Alosa, daughter of the famed pirate king and scrappy pirate captain in her own right. Dispatched to retrieve the map to long-hidden treasure, Alosa, disguised, allows herself to be captured and swept onto the enemy ship.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Alosa. She was blunt to the point of painful, and her callousness towards her rented crew bothered me so I almost returned the book to the library unfinished. But Levenseller slowly revealed the motives, scars, and dreams behind her rough’n’ready heroine, and I was instantly caught in the story. Alosa was determined, reckless, brave to the point of stupid, and unsure about falling in love with the man she was supposed to hate.

I loved how Levenseller nurtured Riden, the first mate of the enemy ship and son of the lost-treasure pirate. It wasn’t quick, visible, or easy (definitely not easy). It was a slow-burning evolution of trust, respect, and attracting. This unexpected combination hit the jackpot and created the compelling narrative that I just can’t get enough of.

When I thought I had Alosa figured out, knew all her secrets, she threw another one at me. The plot twists and turns in the last half of the novel (expected). Some of these I loved, but others felt like just too much. It was overload like Levenseller was trying to cram everything in before the end. If the pacing had settled out more, it wouldn’t have felt so cramped.

Either way, I’ve got Daughter of the Siren Queen on my wishlist, and I can’t wait. Levenseller is quickly becoming one of my top must-by YA authors.

4 Stars

Posted October 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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