Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leaving Everest by Megan Westfield - Review

Twenty-year-old Emily Winslowe has had an adventurous upbringing. Daughter of a Himalayan mountain guide, she has climbed Mount Everest and other peaks most Americans only dream of. But for all her mountaineering prowess, she's lacking some key experiences. Namely, guys. Especially one guy in particular—Luke Norgay, her childhood best friend who she hasn't seen since he left for college in the United States two years ago.

Luke unexpectedly reappears as a guide just in time for the Everest climbing season. He's even more handsome than she remembers, and that something that had been building between them during their last season together is back in front of them, bigger than ever.

The problem is, there's a detail about Emily's past that Luke doesn't know. It's the reason she ended up in the Himalayas in the first place...and the reason she must make it to the summit of Mount Everest this year. It's also the reason she would never consider following him back to Washington after the climbing season ends.

But first, they'll have to survive the mountain.

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I have to preface this by admitting that anything having to do with Mount Everest is a guilty pleasure of mine. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer is one of my favorite books and I've seen every documentary about the mountain. So when I read this description I was so excited to see how it combined something so severe and extreme as Mount Everest and one of my favorite genres, romance!

I loved Leaving Everest. I think that the great thing about this book is that it has the perfect balance of the conflict of climbing this very dangerous mountain with the conflict of doing other less dangerous but just as scary things in your life. Emily is afraid to leave Nepal and Luke is afraid of coming back, and their fears don't have much to do with climbing the highest mountain at all. Rather, their fears and insecurities lie in much more normal problems, such as loss and the pressure to succeed and feeling out of place, which are all just heightened by their situation on the mountain.

Emily is a fantastic narrator, who is struggling to figure out what she wants out of life when all she's known in climbing, and doing so with her dad. Making life and death decisions while on all the deadliest peaks in the world make her decisions concerning things like putting off college seem pretty easy. However, when Luke comes back to visit family after two years in college in Washington state, she realizes just how much she's been missing. Emily and Luke have fantastic chemistry and an ease to them that really establishes their past relationship to each other. The way they support each other, despite their spats, is great. I like that their relationship is built on trust, a trust that's only strengthened by the danger of climbing Everest. The way their relationship, both friendly and romantic, evolves throughout this story is heartwarming and heart wrenching and made me smile like a crazy person on the subway while I was reading.

I also liked that Luke is the child of a former Sherpa that worked with Emily's dad, and his feelings of coming back "Westernized" and climbing as visitor, rather than as someone who had grown up there. Ideas of displacement and growth are really interesting in the book, and I liked that Luke struggles with his identity when he comes back.

While this might not appeal to fans of Into Thin Air, anyone who has a strange fascination (like me) with Everest or K2 who likes romance will love this book. And for anyone who could care less about extreme sports, you will still love this book. At its heart, Leaving Everest is about facing your fears, whether it be leaving for college, telling the boy you've always loved how you feel, or climbing the highest mountain in the world. Funny and riveting and romantic.

I liked this book so much that I downloaded Megan's first book, Lessons on Gravity, which focuses on rock climbing, right after I finished Leaving Everest. I liked it too - 4 cupcakes!
** I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review **
Find out more about Megan and her books here: http://meganwestfield.com

Megan Westfield has dabbled in many hobbies and pastimes over the years, ranging from playing the cello to cake decorating (i.e., icing-eating) to a dozen different outdoor adventure sports. Eventually, she discovered the only way to do it all was though writing—her first and strongest passion. She writes new adult fiction because she loves exploring the powerful and formative years between high school and the quarter-life crisis. As a reader, her favorite books are those with a truly unique, real-world setting, and, of course, a love story.

Megan grew up in Washington state, attended college in Oregon, and lived in Virginia, California, and Rhode Island during her five years as a navy officer. She is now a permanent resident of San Diego where she and her husband count family beach time with their two young kids as an adventure sport. Megan was formerly the editor of a small weekly newspaper in Southern California and is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong.

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Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman - Release Day Review

Release Day: February 27, 2018

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a scene at your sister's wedding and break a relative's nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it's a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl--a subspecies of dragon--who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

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So I haven't read Seraphina but this cover grabbed me when I was browsing titles on Netgalley. It's absolutely GORGEOUS and the story is just as stunning and dark and beautiful. 

I went into this story completely blind to the world and the characters. I loved following Tess on her journey, especially since we get to have a peek into her life as a child and her relationships with her parents and siblings. She is an incredibly complex and emotional character, and the way that Rachel weaves the issues into Tess's everyday life was nuanced and natural. I never felt like I was being hit with all these issues or moments of the past, despite the fact that once you realize what happened in Tess's past reader's can see how it has been a part of the book from the beginning. 

The world is colorful and interesting. I have to admit I was slightly confused by the different people/ species (like dragons and half dragons) and the way they fit, or didn't fit, into the society. By the end I had a good idea but I think that reading the previous two books would have really helped with this in particular. There were also times I thought the plot dragged on a little, and though sometimes it really worked, since Tess is kind of figuring it out as she goes, as I neared the end I found myself trudging along slightly. That being said I thought that the medieval ideas mixed with the old lore of Saints and dragons and magic was unique and enchanting. Seraphina's character was especially fun to experience and helped set up all the complexities of this world. 

If you were a fan of the previous two books, I can't help but think you will love this one as well. From what I could tell, Seraphina and Tess are very, very different women, but have shared traits of strength and resilience and intelligence that any fantasy-loving feminist will love. I also think that if you liked Unrooted, you will like this book, and probably this series (if you haven't read it already. 

Smart and enchanting, Tess of the Road is a magical story of a woman who doesn't know where she's going but pushes forward anyway, taking each and every obstacle in stride and still finding a way to stay true to herself and the things of her past that has shaped her into the woman she is.
** I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Random House! **
Find out more about Rachel's and her books here: https://rachelhartmanbooks.com

Rachel was born in Kentucky, but has lived a variety of places including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She has a BA in Comparative Literature, although she insists it should have been a BS because her undergraduate thesis was called “Paradox and Parody in Don Quixoteand the satires of Lucian.” She eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family, their whippet, and a talking frog and salamander (who fight zombies)(really. There are a lot of zombies in the Pacific Northwest).

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce - Release Day Review

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair SalmalĂ­n came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

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First of all, I have to preface this by saying that The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite series of all time. I was so excited (SO EXCITED) to hear about this series and someone at Random House was nice enough to give me a copy. I may have screamed (I definitely screamed). But I have to say that this book met all my expectations and was not only a fantastic return to Tortall and some beloved (and not so beloved) characters, but also a fantastic book that stands strong on its own merits. 

Daine and Numair are my favorite characters that Tamora Pierce has written and I was so excited to learn more about Numair (Arram's) past and his time before Wild Magic. Tempests and Slaughter is, at its heart, a really great story about growing up when you are aware that you have all the potential in the world but don't take it for granted. Arram is just as awkward (so awkward) and charming as he was in the original series, but this time it is supported by being an adolescent and gifted and lonely and hormonal and all the things that come from being an adolescent. 

Very real, very believable relationships with friends and girls and teachers are all nuanced with the fantastically well-developed magical world. While fans of the series, particularly the Immortals and Song of the Lioness series, will recognize characters and stories and love the added information to characters you already love, new readers will also love the story of a young mage with unimaginable potential and a naive but well-meaning heart of gold in a society that is built to use people such as him for their own gain. Fans of Harry Potter will gravitate towards his friendships with Varice and Orzone and his time in school but will get a taste of this unique, vast world.

I personally think that the writing and storytelling is Tamora Pierce at her best, and that the fact that it has been so long since the last book in Tortall has only strengthened Numair's story. To me it read as story that has been stewing so long that all the flavors - the humor, the complexity, the magic systems, the world - have blended and balanced perfectly. This book was everything I wanted and, honestly, more than I imagined. I was smiling through the whole thing, stayed up far too late finishing it, and was so sad when it was over. I cannot wait (I CAN'T GUYS) for the next installment. 

Bravo Tamora! I'm so happy you are back and killing it!
** I received a copy of this book from the publisher. ** 

Find out more about Tamora Pierce and her books here: http://www.tamora-pierce.net

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones - Review!

Release Day: February 6, 2018

Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

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Shadowsong is the sequel to Wintersong, and picks up shortly after the first book. A little time has passed, Liesl's brother Josef having risen to semi-stardom under the tutelage of his musical master in Vienna. Trying to outrun her small town, suffocating family, and heartbreak concerning the Goblin King, Liesl and her sister Kathe travel to him after the untimely and suspicious death of his master's death. 

I enjoyed reading about the Underground and the wild magic infiltrating more civilized, urban life. The way that Liesl and Kathe function in a different world, with nobility and outside of their contained, rugged inn, is interesting and reveals more about the characters. I also enjoyed Josef and Francois and the relationship they have in the time period and society in which the story takes place. Liesl's conflict between wanting to do what's best for siblings and trying to ignore her own impulses to follow her heart is dark and grinding and pained. This isn't your normal fairytale, in the way that Wintersong wasn't your traditional fairytale. 

There are moments, especially in the beginning, where I felt the plot lagged a little. So much of the struggles are internal, and while I appreciate that aspect of the story (for it is an integral part), I felt that it sometimes caused what is already a fairly slow moving plot stagnate a little. It wasn't until Leisl and Kathe were in Vienna, which doesn't happen until around 100 pages in. I was also annoyed with Josef, for he never really seems to understand everything Liesl has done to try and give him the best life, even at the cost of her own success and happiness. 

Shadowsong is the story of what happens when what you thought you wanted is no longer an option and you do your best with what is left. It's hard but it's also beautiful and shows not only Liesl's but Kathe's and Josef's perseverance as well. While the writing style and the content might not be everyone's cup of tea, those who are looking for a twisty, complex, dark fairytale with a strong female character will like this book. 

** I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review. **
Find out more about the author and her books here: http://sjaejones.com

S. Jae-Jones was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, where she spent summers on the beach and winters on the slope until she was convinced by Sesame Street (and university) to move to New York City. A native Angelena and a New Yorker at heart, she now lives in Dixie, where she is comfortably growing fat on grits and barbecue. When not writing, she can be find rock-climbing, skydiving, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and dragging her dog on ridiculously long hikes. Find her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sjaejones

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm - Review

Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear “You’re Dusty’s sister?” ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan—especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network’s crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty’s maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises—including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan’s family isn’t good enough for her only son. At least there’s Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan’s stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.

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Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. 

Prince in Disguise is a hilarious romance between two really nerdy awkward people. It's also a story about trying to define yourself and the relationship between two sisters. It is so incredibly smart and funny and romantic and I was so in love that I finished it at the table during dessert at Christmas with my family (they all expect this of me, honestly, so it was fine). 

Dylan and Dusty are so different and I liked that they didn't really get along. Plenty of people I know love their sister in the way that Dylan loves Dusty - by being stubborn and annoyed and wanting to be anywhere but near them. And it's for the same reason - it's hard living in the shadow of your sibling, especially if that sibling 1) likes attention and 2) in on TV and 3) is marrying into European nobility. I really liked their relationship and the fact that they were at odds for almost the entire book. Dusty isn't often the villain, but she is an opposing force (and sometimes a very funny one) and I appreciated that. 

Dylan and Jamie are A-DOR-A-BLE. The dialogue was witty and fast and I LOVED the fact that Dylan questioned/was slightly weirded out by all of Jamie's references. It's surprising how often characters just understand the most obscure references, but here it seemed realistic and added to the awkwardness. The friendship developed naturally and reminded me of Stephanie Perkins and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. 

I knew exactly where the plot was going but I was 100% in the whole time. I couldn't wait to see what Dylan and Jamie would do next, how Dusty would deal with her overbearing future mother-in-law, and how everything would turn out in the end. I was fully invested in watching Dylan grow throughout the book, finding her confidence and learning how to assert herself to the world that often overlook her in light of her sister. The way that the romance, and Jamie, are along for the ride but do not drive it, was fantastic and refreshing and I loved it. 

Prince in Disguise is perfect for fans of royal romances, The Prince and Me, Fangirl, and Stephanie Perkins. Dylan's outlook on life is cynical and hilarious and her interactions and comments create a fun, romantic story where at the heart, a young woman is learning to define herself and her place in her family, as well as her future. 
Find out more about Stephanie and her books here: http://www.stephaniekatestrohm.com/index2.html

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It's Not Me, It's You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink; Confederates Don't Wear Couture and the upcoming The Date to Save and Prince in Disguise (Fall 2017). She grew up on the Connecticut coast, where a steady diet of Little House on the Prairie turned her into a history nerd at an early age. After graduating with a joint major in theater and history from Middlebury College, she acted her way around the country, performing in more than 25 states.

Although she was born in New York, she currently lives in Chicago, and doesn't discriminate against any type of pizza. When she's not writing, she loves baking, walking her dog Lorelei, taking dance cardio classes too seriously, and playing board games with her husband.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet - Release Day Review!

Release Date: January 2, 2018

The riveting conclusion to the Kingmaker Chronicles, available January 2018!

Who is Catalia Fisa?

With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin's role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step--reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn't kill her will only make her stronger...we hope.

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Oh my goodness guys. We're here. We made it. To the end of this series and the end of my reviews for them. It was a wild ride but I loved every minute of it. 

Heart of Fire throws you right back into the action, with betrayal and Greek gods and startling revelations about exactly who Cat is (I know, how many more secrets could there be? SURPRISE!). The stakes were raised in the last book, Breath of Fire, but now it's up to Cat, Griffin, and the rest of their friends and family to save the world, utilizing everything they've built thus far. 

The main conflict in this book, other than Cat's crazy, power-hungry mother, is her own doubts and fears of her potential. While this may sound like a common trope, I really enjoyed Cat's journey through this novel, and find the fear in nice balance with her usual recklessness and sarcasm. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that the relationships she's built over the last two books has changed her in the best ways, making her really think about the choices she's making and the consequences. The part she has to play is daunting, but the support she has from those around her is heartwarming, (sometimes) hilarious, and a great development in the series. 

Even with all of the super stressful events happening, this book is full of hilarious moments and characters. I absolutely loved Ares and the other gods and goddesses that come to the forefront. I liked how they slowly reveal the parts they played in Cat's life (and how they bicker like parents about her well-being). The way that Greek mythology is woven in this original and unique world is fantastic (I'm sure I've said that before). I'm always up for a fantasy romance that includes meddling gods, especially ones that have great, if not sometimes infuriating, personalities. 

The plot moved well, though I wished more was revealed about her mother the multiple times they meet rather than kind of pushed together at the end. I also have a feeling (desperately hope) that there may be more spin-off books in the future, as some characters' fates were left a little vague! 

All of the pieces begin to really come together in this conclusion - not only revelations about Cat's past, or her relationship with Griffin, or even her destiny, but also about what it really takes to save her country and how fate doesn't necessarily dictate what she can and can't do with her potential. But as always, it is Cat's character and those of her loved ones that really make this book great. I loved her sarcasm and wit and off-the-charts chemistry with Griffin from the very beginning, but Amanda has added even more to this amazing character, and I am so grateful for this fantastic world she's built. Bravo! 
** I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review **
Find out more about Amanda Bouchet and her books here: http://amandabouchet.com

Visit the website for the Kingmaker Chronicles here: https://kingmakerchronicles.com

Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England where she spent much of her time tromping around in the woods and making up grand adventures in her head. It was inevitable that one day she would start writing them down. Drawing on her Greek heritage for the setting and on her love of all things daring and romantic for the rest, her debut trilogy, The Kingmaker Chronicles, took form. She writes what she loves to read: epic exploits, steamy romance, and characters that make you laugh and cry.

Her first novel, A Promise of Fire, won several Romance Writers of America chapter contests, including the Orange Rose Contest and the paranormal category of the prestigious Golden Pen.

A French master's graduate and former English teacher, Amanda lives in Paris, France. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children who will soon be correcting her French.

You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. For updates and exclusives, sign up for Amanda's newsletter (you can easily unsubscribe at any time).

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Throne by Samantha Whiskey - Review

Disclaimer: This is a scorching hot forbidden romance that involves one bad-boy Prince, an untouched Duchess, and the sparks that are hot enough to ruin them both.

You know what you can have when you’re a Prince?
Anything you want—anyone you want.
Except her.

Charlotte Carlisle is the only woman I’ve ever loved and never touched—because lusting after your brother’s future queen is frowned upon. It never mattered that their betrothal was a political move made by our parents, that they didn’t love each other—she was completely off limits to everything but my constant fantasies. And I’ve spent the last decade pushing her away, desperate to save my sanity.

Now that my brother abdicated the throne for his true love and left me holding the crown, the one woman I’ve always wanted is the same person enlisted to help me choose my future Queen.
Thirty-six gorgeous debutantes are vying for the position, but Charlotte’s it. The only woman I’ll accept, and the only woman who refuses the offer. Constantly.

I’ve got four weeks to marry to solidify my claim to the throne, or my country will descend into chaos. The anti-monarchists are waiting for me to slip, and with over a thousand years of Wyndham tradition running through my veins, I can’t afford to fail.

But to win Charlotte, I’ve got to give her the one thing she’s never had: A choice.

And her decision could burn us all.

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The Throne is a great follow up to The Crown

I loved Jameson and Xander's relationship in the first book but getting inside Jameson's head was a unique and great experience. He is such a different animal than his brother, but the way he takes on his new responsibilities and the desire he has to protect the ones he loves is commendable and heartwarming. 

While I enjoyed the tensions surrounding his need to find a wife, and liked that he was so set on trying to be happy and winning over the woman he loves, I thought that Charlotte's denial and blindness lasted slightly too long. For such an astute, headstrong woman, it seemed slightly unrealistic that she wouldn't see Jameson's plan from a mile away. That being said, their chemistry is off the charts, as is their banter, and I loved seeing where the next page was going to take them.

While the book ends on a sort of cliffhanger, the story arc between Charlotte and Jameson comes to a nice conclusion. I'm assuming there's a Book 3 and I can't wait!
** I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. **

Samantha Whiskey is a wife, mom, lover of her dogs and romance novels. No stranger to hockey, hot alpha males, and a high dose of awkwardness, she tucks herself away to write books her PTA will never know about.

To keep up to date with her latest sexy little reads, join her mailing list! 

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