Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Release date: January 5, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 432
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
Sarah Fine cemented me as a fan after I read Of Metal and Wishes and Of Dreams and Rust, so when I read the synopsis for The Impostor Queen, needless to say, I got heck of excited. While this one won't unseat Of Metal and Wishes as my favorite book from Sarah, it's definitely a fascinating read that I couldn't put down--and I'll be at the front of the line for its sequel.

The world of The Impostor Queen was probably my favorite part. The magic system Sarah has set up is so fascinating to learn about (people have either ice or fire magic), and the system of a female ruler with the most powerful magic in the kingdom (the ability to control both in equal measures)--magic that transfers to her non-hereditary heir upon her death--is so cool. Of course, the governing system that sounds like such a good setup has its dark side, which Elli comes to know in the course of the story. Just you wait!

Elli is interesting because she's so entrenched and so believes in the system she's a part of. The Valtia is more than her queen, and she's unwilling to believe anything negative of the people she's grown up around. Needless to say, when she doesn't get her magic, it's a jolt, and she has to come to terms with not being the person she was raised to be. At first, she's not the most interesting character. But as she learns to live a new life and she comes to realize that she's going to have to fight for her people, she comes out of her shell and becomes such a fascinating character.

If you like fantasy with compelling magical systems and are willing to invest yourself into a character a little bit before it pays off, The Impostor Queen will be a book for you.

About the author:

Sarah Fine was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast. She’s a clinical child psychologist and the author of the Guards of the Shadowlands series and Of Metal and Wishes. She is also a co-author of Scan and Burn.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stacking the Shelves {144}

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to share the books we've bought, been gifted, or received for review!

Well hey there! Long time, no see, y'all! I have no excuses--except to say I'm lazy? Does that work? I've worked to keep myself from making blogging stressful, and I've certainly done a good job of that, having not posted, like, at all. It definitely keeps stress down! :) Anyway, I've got some fun books to show y'all!

For review:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Firstlife by Gena Showalter
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

The coolest thing was the package Pax came in! I tried to get it set up and take a picture, but you can see how well that worked...

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Siren's Song by Mary Weber
And I Darken by Kiersten White


A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (and it's signed! Whee!)

Books I read this week (or however long it's been since my last post!):
Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little (DNF)
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden
Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I'm currently reading:
Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

So that's been my week! And that's it, in terms of books! It's been several weeks, and I feel like I'm doing pretty well not adding too many books to my shelves. I'm trying so hard. Oy. None would be better... But quitting cold turkey would be too awful. :)

Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blog Tour: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman {Review + Playlist + Giveaway}

Release date: February 9, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 384
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to CuraƧao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.
Pirates! We're all fascinated--so of course I knew reading Blackhearts, an imagining of the origin of one of history's most famed pirates, Blackbeard, was a must. (I actually visited the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum this summer and it was awesome. Not cheesy, like you'd expect, and learned quite a lot! There's even an interactive cannon--and then you can cross the street to the Castillo de San Marcos and see an actual cannon demonstration. So cool, y'all. Anyway...) While there's so little pirating it's almost criminal, Blackhearts is an engaging and creative take on Blackbeard's origin that'll most definitely leave you wanting more.

We're introduced to Anne and Teach, who seem as if they couldn't be more different when they meet, but as they come to know one another, we can see just how alike they are. While Anne is of mixed race and was raised in the odd situation of not quite being recognized as her well-off merchant father's child but also not treated as a servant, she's headstrong and determined, speaking her mind when she shouldn't. But she longs for freedom--to leave behind the imposition of other's wills and to venture off and find the side of her family she's never known. Teach is the well-regarded son of another merchant, but he was raised with the expectation that he could marry into the nobility, securing his father's dream--without any regard for his own. All Teach wants to do is get away from his father, and that dream comes in the form of the open seas. When the two meet, however, priorities change as they realize they've each found their match in the other.

As I said, the pirating was only teased in Blackhearts. It's an obvious threat, but what we're treated to is how Blackbeard came to be. Why he's sailing in the first place. And why his ship is named the Queen Anne's Revenge. And because almost nothing is known about the real pirate, giving him a romantic backstory is quite a treat. While we don't ever see him being a pirate, you can totally understand where he goes from the end of the book. (And fair warning, cliffhanger ending that is likely not to be resolved, as there is no sequel contracted as of now! I didn't mind the ending, since we can go in with a lot more knowledge than your average book.)

If you're at all intrigued by the background of pirates (and who's not, really? You're lying if you say you're not. I don't accept that you might not be!), Blackhearts is going to be enjoyable. Besides seeing Teach become Blackbeard, you get to know Anne, who is everything you could hope for in a character: strong, determined, a dreamer, and a fighter. You'll love Teach. You'll love Anne. You'll love them together.

Nicole was lucky enough to come with her very own best friend...she has a twin sister who can read her mind and finish her sentences for her.

At the age of 13, she went to Europe for the first time and it changed her life. She loves learning about different people, languages and cultures and speaks fluent German. She knows enough Spanish to get herself into trouble and can still read the Cyrillic alphabet from when she studied Russian.

She received her B.A. from Brigham Young University and has lived in Germany, Austria and two different places called Georgia. One is located on the Black Sea. The other is the state of Georgia where she now lives with her handsome husband and two beautiful children who continue to amaze her.

I have to explain a couple of these, rather than give them to y'all without any input. I love putting together playlists for books, because I love finding connections to books I love in music I love. Nine times out of ten, the music I've selected is something I listen to regularly and only saw its relevance to the book while I was looking.

Pirates of the Caribbean music is obvious. What's less obvious is this track, because it's not the squashbuckling theme you've doubtless heard a hundred times. This is the romantic track, the one that makes me feel, the one that suggests the pain and loss of the lives those characters lead. "A Coward No Longer" is here, first, because it's beautiful. (I can admit that.) But it's also raw, and also written to evoke a certain determined feeling. To me, it seems that it takes Anne to make Teach stand up to his father--and almost rightly so, but in that, he's not afraid of him any more. And "Promise" is so perfect lyrically it's crazy: "And promise me this / You'll wait for me only", "Who am I, darling for you? / Who am I? / Could be a burden in time, lonely / Who am I, to you?". A few lines sound like they came straight from Anne's mouth.

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Blackhearts blog tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum {Review}

Release date: April 5, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
What if the person you need the most is someone you’ve never met?  
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
I think it's no secret by now that I love a sweet contemporary romance. While they're not the majority of what I read, there's just something about a book that you can fly through and finish with happy, warm feelings. Yet, some of these books are... forgettable. They leave you happy for a while, sure, but they don't do anything for you in the long run. Tell Me Three Things, however, is not one of those books, because it's filled with nuanced characters and a couple you can't help but root for--even though you're not fully sure who the second half of the couple is!

Jessie feels like a pitch-perfect teenager. Yes, she's a lot of fun to follow, because she's smart and very true to herself, but she's also moody and rather selfish at times--but weren't we all? I love that she was able to continue to see who she was throughout all of the adversity and sought out friendships and acceptance in the kinds of people who saw how great she was. And yet, behaves immaturely when dealing with her new family situation and fails to see her best friend's concerns. It's these failings--and her ability to learn from them--that make Jessie such a winning character.

The core of the book, the mystery of SN, is one of those things that you think you know. Then you think maybe not? Then you're pretty sure. Then you think you're completely wrong. Then you just start to hope. And hope some more. But, honestly, at the end of it, you know that however it ends, it's going to be good, because how Jessie and SN interact is so genuine and sweet.

Y'all. You'll finish Tell Me Three Things with a stupid happy grin. You'll feel for Jessie's pain and celebrate her happy ending with her--and it's certainly an unforgettable happy ending, promise!

Can't wait to try Tell Me Three Things? You should definitely check out the first chapter--it's what sold me!

About the author:

Julie Buxbaum is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. The author of The Opposite of Love, she currently lives in London.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Release date: November 4, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 357
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Cloud Atlas meets Orphan Black in this epic dimension-bending trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray about a girl who must chase her father's killer through multiple dimensions.

Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite's father is murdered, and the killer—her parent's handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul's guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is far more sinister than she expected.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores an amazingly intricate multi-universe where fate is unavoidable, the truth elusive, and love the greatest mystery of all.
I've noticed a theme in books that I knew I wanted to read and got myself a copy of pre-publication or publication week, and then didn't read. For a long time. And that trend is that I end up loving them. A Thousand Pieces of You is just another example! I've been a fan of Claudia Gray for a long time, but I'd say this is my favorite of her books. Sure, that beautiful cover calls your name, but the extraordinary ideas she has and the fascinating journey Marguerite takes are what'll make you come back for the sequel

Though I knew I wanted to read this, and expected to like it, A Thousand Pieces of You was very different from what I thought it would be--in the best way possible. I loved the alternate worlds, and seeing the iterations of different characters throughout. I loved how there were differences amongst them, but the threads of who they were never changed, despite the extreme disparity in their circumstances.

Can I give Paul his own paragraph? Fun story: I actually bought this book as a gift for my best friend for Christmas, knowing it was exactly her kind of thing. Not too long after, she, of course, texted me her feelings--and most of them revolved around Paul. And distress. No spoilers, but he's wonderful and don't let anyone tell you differently. Back to real reviewing...

If I have qualms, there's a certain (oft-discussed, if you've read any reviews) thing that's a little less than palatable, and I wish the book had started with a little more preamble, but, honestly, I've got too much love for this to worry too much. Gimme more, gimme more, please! (In the meantime, I'll just drool at the covers. Because, seriously? Jaw dropping.)

About the author:

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent, a bestselling, New Orleans-based novelist. She is perhaps best known for her four-book Evernight series, which follows a girl named Bianca, who is sent to Evernight Academy, a boarding school for vampires.

Gray has also published Balthazar, a spin-off of the Evernight series about Bianca's vampire friend, and a stand-alone novel entitled Fateful, the tale of a young serving woman aboard the doomed ship Titanic, and a dark stranger who is pursued by werewolves. Gray's short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Immortal, Enthralled, and Vacations from Hell. Before working as a full-time novelist, Gray worked as a lawyer, a disc jockey, a journalist, and a waitress (a terrible one by her reckoning). She enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and listening to music, but says she loves writing best of all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blog Tour: Remembrance by Meg Cabot {Review + Giveaway}

Release date: February 2, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 400
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
The highly anticipated return of Meg’s bestselling Mediator series featuring fan-favorite ghost whisperer, Susannah Simon.

You can take the boy out of the darkness. But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you? If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass. 

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind-including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself-Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past-including one she found nearly impossible to resist-strike first? 
Y'all didn't know me in middle school, but Meg Cabot's Mediator series was practically all my friends and I could talk about for a solid year. We all read them in succession, and to this day, any time anything Meg Cabot comes up, Mediator is a huge part of the conversation. Needless to say, I've been DYING for this book since it was announced. And if you're like me in your love and excitement, Remembrance will absolutely not disappoint.

Completely wonderfully, Suze and Jesse are still their awesome selves. Suze is definitely a highlight, because it's clear how much her character has grown in the time since the original books, and she works so hard to help everyone. But, at the same time, she's completely badass, swearing all the time and tromping around in high-heeled boots, ready to do what it takes--and you can't help but love her. Suze and Jesse aren't without their troubles, even being engaged, but their love for one another never fails. For them, it's a matter of communication and recognizing just what they need to tell one another. But, when you've been through what they've been to be together, how could anything else compare? (So, of course, they're adorable and perfect and will make you insanely jealous.)

While I don't know how much someone who didn't read the original series would appreciate some parts of the book, Meg Cabot does a really good job filling in the holes, at least the ones in my memory. But, in terms of plot, it's as good as can be--heartbreaking and personal. And not only does she make it easy to remember again, but, oh, are there references galore! It's wonderful, and the ending is a Mediator fan's dream come true.

(I might've cried.)

(I definitely cried.)

So. Read it, yes? And if you didn't read the series previously, read those first! You won't be disappointed by Suze and her butt-kicking ways.

About the author:

Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction series, The Princess Diaries. Over 25 million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, FL, with her husband.

One winner will receive a copy of the first Mediator novel, Shadowland (and you'll be addicted!). US only. Must be 13+ to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if I haven't convinced you, you should probably check out the rest of the tour!

February 2 Born Bookish
February 3 Reader Girls
February 4 Paper Cuts
February 5 Pandora’s Books
February 6 Big Girls *Heart* Books
February 7 Defiantly Deviant
February 8 The Best Books Ever
February 9 Book Briefs

February 10 Paper Skies
February 11 Mary Had A Little Book Blog February 12 The Queen of Teen Fiction

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guest Post from Lisa Maxwell, Author of Unhooked

I am so excited to have Lisa Maxwell visiting the blog today, and with a guest post, on her release day for her new novel, Unhooked! I've so enjoyed Lisa's books so far, so I'm dying for Unhooked! I mean, just read about it:

About Unhooked:

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?
You know you're with me now, eh? :D Anyway, on to the goodness you're here for, Lisa's post:

 Hi Rachel!

Thanks so much for having me on Paper Cuts to talk about my writing goals for 2016. 

I’ve just come off a really rough deadline, one that had me working straight through most of Christmas and New Years—all in the middle of getting ready to launch UNHOOKED—so thinking about my goals for the upcoming year has been on my mind. In the last two years I’ve written and edited five books: three that are in print, a Middle Grade that’s on submission, and one that’s sitting on my editor’s desk (that would be the deadline-of-doom book). I also have a full-time teaching job, two kids, and a husband who would like to see me occasionally, so my biggest goal for 2016 is finding some kind of balance.

Since I started writing in 2010, I’ve been kind of pedal-to-the-metal. I’ve been working all out and all the time, because I wanted make a real run at writing to make a living. But while I’m one of the truly lucky who has gotten to see my words turn into book-shaped objects, I think I’m still a looooong way from being able to make a living from my writing. If ever. When I first started writing, I was basically unemployed. I’m not anymore. I have a great job teaching writing and literature, and part of my goal for 2016 is accepting that it’s okay for writing to be the thing I do to fuel me instead of the thing I do to pay the bills. Doing that is hard, though. It means stepping back from the goal I once had and reevaluating. And it also means maybe pulling back a bit on my output and finding more of a balance between the teaching I do (and love), my family, and my books.

For 2016, I’ll be revising the deadline-of-doom book for a 2017 publication date. I love that book—or I will once it stops sucking so much—but I don’t think I ever want to ignore my family that much, for that long, again. I forget which author said it now, but she was absolutely right—books won’t love you back. I’ve got a couple of great kids and an amazingly supportive husband, but I want to make sure that I’m making time for the real people in my life…not just the ones I make up in my head.

Which isn’t to say I want to slow down too much. I pitched deadline-of-doom book as “Gangs of NY with magic.” I did an amazing amount of world building for that book, and I’d love to see it turn into something more than a book. So another one of my goals for 2016 is to write a proposal for my option book with Simon Pulse, which I’m hoping will be deadline-of-doom book’s sequel. 

But whatever happens to those books, my main goal is making sure that my primary relationship in life is no longer with my MacBook Air. I mean, I love it to pieces, but I think 2016 is going to be about making writing one of the things I do and focus on instead of the thing I do.

Thanks so much for having me! I’d love to know what some of your readers’ goals are for 2016—writing related or otherwise. I’ll choose one person who comments to receive an UNHOOKED swag pack.

About the author:

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest, Gathering Deep, and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, 2-2-16). When she's not writing books, she's an English professor at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.

This July, she will be teaching a writing workshop for a week in western Ireland. You can check out more information at
Find Lisa online: Website | Twitter

And all the biggest thanks to Lisa for visiting us today! I hope your launch day is the best! :) And, as Lisa mentioned, she's giving away a swag pack to one of y'all in the comments! So please let us know about your goals--you know I'd love to hear--and make sure I've got a way to get in touch should you win!