Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne

Umbertouched 
by Livia Blackburne
Read: July 2017
Published: November 6, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: BETA copy/Netgalley
Category: YA, Fantasy, Political, Wars, Plagues, Healers, Fighters
Series: Rosemarked #2/2

Book Description: The mission was a failure. Even though Zivah and Dineas discovered a secret that could bring down the empire, their information is useless without proof. Now, with their cover blown and their quest abandoned, their only remaining hope is to get home before Ampara brings the full might of its armies against their peoples.

As Shidadi and Dara alike prepare for war, Zivah and Dineas grapple with the toll of their time in the capital. After fighting alongside the Amparans against his own kin, can Dineas convince the Shidadi—and himself—where his loyalties lie? After betraying her healer’s vows in Sehmar City, can Zivah find a way to redeem herself—especially when the Dara ask her to do the unthinkable? And after reluctantly falling in love, what will the two do with their lingering feelings, now that the Dineas from Sehmar City is gone forever? Time is running out for all of them, but especially Zivah whose plague symptoms surface once again. Now, she must decide how she’ll define the life she has left.

Together, healer and warrior must find the courage to save their people, expose the truth, and face the devastating consequences headed their way.

NOTE: Umbertouched is the second book in a series. See my thoughts on RosemarkedI had the immense privilege and pleasure of beta reading this duet. 
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Umbertouched is the sequel to Rosemarked and together these books make a stunning duet. This series is thoughtful, complex and beautifully written, and I am thrilled to see it out in the world in its entirety. 

Some of my favorite aspects of this duet, and, especially, Umbertouched are-

1) The hard won bond between Zivah and Dineas and the sweetness that has grown out of the pain they have both experienced. These two are so incredibly different - a healer and a fighter from opposing cultures. But together they traveled into the heart of the empire and behind enemy lines, sacrificing everything because of a plague that devastated their lives. In this book we see both the fallout and fruit of their shared experiences, and I loved how well these two trust and work together, and the more that has slowly come from that.

2) The complex characters and relationships in this story also stood out to me. I loved all the complexities in Dineas and Zivah's relationship with each other, and also with people on both sides of the line. This book has some great conversations and questions as these two try to navigate political and interpersonal relationships after their trip in the last book - all while trying to win a war. The secondary characters continued to stand out to me, and some of the most compelling scenes were when someone considered an enemy would give Zivah or Dineas insight on themselves. 

3) While Umbertouched has a big over arching plot, a huge empire to face and the truth of the plague to expose, this story shines in its quieter character moments. And all the while Zivah is running out of time as her health continues to be affected by plague symptoms. Don't come expecting a magic cure, but don't forget to hope either. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of an impact this ending had on me. It is powerful and fitting for the strength of these characters, and the internal and external battles they’ve fought and won.

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Series end

Author Livia Blackburn has an incredible giveaway of Umbertouched going on right now. Click HERE for the details!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Early Review: Imprison the Sky by A.C. Gaughen

Imprison the Sky 
by A.C. Gaughen
Read: August 17 - 20, 2018
Published: January 22, 2019 by Bloomsbury YA
Source: BEA 2018 
Category: YA, Fantasy, Elemental Magic, Flying Ships
Series: The Elementae #2

Book Description: Stolen from her family as a child, Aspasia has clawed her way up the ranks of Cyrus's black market empire to captain her own trading vessel--and she risks it all every time she uses her powerful magic to free as many women, children, and Elementae from slavery as she can.

But Cyrus is close to uncovering her secrets--not only that Aspasia is an air Elementa with the ability to sail her ship through the sky, but that she is also searching for her lost family. And if Aspasia can’t find her younger siblings before Cyrus does, she will never be able to break free.

Armed with her loyal crew full of Elementae and a new recruit who controls an intriguing power, Aspasia finds herself in the center of a brewing war that spans every inch of the ocean, and her power alone may not be enough to save her friends, family, and freedom.
 
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NOTE: Imprison the Sky is the second book in a companion series. See my thoughts on Reign the Earth

These books are just so well written. Filled with wonderfully complex characters, emotions and a looming and brutal war that will span nations. I was a little sad at first to miss Shalia, as this is a companion/sequel. But I quickly grew to love this new narrator and how she fits into the overall series. 

Imprison the Sky introduces Aspasia (she and her floating ship were briefly introduced in Reign the Earth), a powerful wind elementae who is the captain of a ship of children. They travel the seas and skies collecting goods for trade for a powerful dealer named Cyrus. On their missions, Asp and her crew do some things that are very good but also morally complex, and I enjoyed the questions this book asks about right and wrong, and what it means for someone when lines get blurred and one cannot come without the other. I loved the found family Asp has created out of her crew and the ways she’s fought to ensure they and their loved ones are cared for and safe. 

While Shalia’s worldview was incredibly narrow at first, Asp has been sailing all over the world for years and in this book we are shown a much broader perspective on what is going on beyond the Trifectate - and how this brewing war with Calix, and what is happening to Elementae, is much bigger than what we saw in the last installment. I enjoyed getting to know the other nations in this world, and begin to see how they will play a role in future books. 

I loved the way this story expands the world, though it does take quite a while to bring this particular tale back around to the one that Shalia began telling. As I’d just read her story before this one, I was antsy at times to get back to what she and others were doing. 
That said, we do get to enjoy the presence of a favorite character from the last book, and I was thrilled when Kairos appears here. I think those who read the first book can guess who is the love interest. It’s a bit of a surprise how he showed up, and I loved watching him and Asp get to know each other and fall for each other. They are well matched, and he knows exactly when to push her and when to back off. Although I never care so much about dwelling on past relationships, and this book was a little too angsty for my taste in a few parts (nothing current is happening with anyone else during the book, though), it was clear to see the differences between Asp’s relationship with this new person and anything she tried in the past. 

Imprison the Sky is brutal and very emotional in places. What these characters are trying to accomplish is not easy or simple and there have been and will be many casualties along the way. They have a long way to go before their ultimate mission is complete and I’m eager for what’s next (I believe 2 more books are planned). I’m also so curious about who will be the next heroine - and love interest - that we will follow. I have an idea of one of them at least. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Medium - another heroine’s Story is complete but this story has a long way to go and a lot more danger to come.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Reign the Earth
by A.C. Gaughen
Read: August 12 - 16, 2018
Published: January 30, 2018 by Bloomsbury
Source: BEA 2018 
Category: YA, Fantasy, Elemental Magic 
Series: The Elementae #1

Book Description: Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

This intense, richly drawn high-fantasy by the author of Scarletwill hold readers spellbound.
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I’ll admit that it took me a long time to start this book because I was so afraid of the content. What I knew ahead of time is that Shalia gets married at the very beginning of this story - to the person who ends up being the book’s villain - and her romance is not with him. This all worried me for several reasons. Watching her marry someone like that was not easy. And the romance was tricky to read for sure. 

But what I didn’t expect was the depth of characters and relationships in this book. Shalia impressed me with her quiet strength and her growing understanding of her own power, both magical and personal. It is hard to watch her journey through this story. This book is depressing and harsh in many ways. And the author did a really great (and difficult to read) job at showing Calix as someone you could almost like at first - maybe he’s not so bad? But slowly he reveals who he really is and the darkness in him. But though it all Shalia never loses her sense of self, and she gathers a support system of family and friends.

Speaking of family, one of the strongest parts of this story are the strength of the bonds of family and home, despite difficult circumstances and even being on the opposite sides of an issue from someone. Shalia loves her family, even as she marries a controversial person from a different country to find peace. And she and several other characters are torn between loyalty to family members and what they believe in or are called on to do in this book. Although many characters make harsh choices in this story, it is very clear those who’s heart is true and those who are just seeking to control and subdue. The difference between working towards peace and submission also stood out to me in this book. 

The romance in this story was difficult for me. The whole setup was hard to read and despite the fact that it’s not a feelings triangle at all, the situation is tricky and (spoiler> the brother thing always freaks me out a bit . However, despite that and the fact that the actual romance is a smaller part of this story than I’d hoped for, I respect Shalia’s choice and I enjoyed seeing things work out for her. 

I’m definitely excited for the next installment and the new characters to follow. 

Love Triangle Factor: This is tricky to categorize. None for feelings, but in action, it can be tough. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Raging Ones by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The Raging Ones 
by Krista and Becca Ritchie
Read: July 31 - August 3, 2018
Published: August 14, 2018 by Wednesday Books
Source: Netgalley - Thank you, Macmillan!
Category: YA, Sci-Fi, Multi-Narrator, 
Series: The Raging Ones #1

Book Description: In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds. 

Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday. 

Until the day she does. 

Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him. 

Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny. 

With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.
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The Raging Ones, is the first in a sc-fi series by twin writing duo, Krista and Becca Ritchie. I’m definitely intrigued by this series and invested enough to continue. But I found this beginning a little clunky at times. The Ritchie sisters excel so well at crafting messy, real casts of characters you can’t help but fall for. But I felt like we only scratched the surface here on Court, Mykal and Franny - and even less of the extended cast that’s introduced. Part of the reason I hate love triangles was at play here too. Although this is NOT a triangle and feelings are very clear and reciprocated in one direction, I did feel a little pulled in 3 directions with three first person narrators. Because of that and all the story material to cover, I didn’t feel like I got to know Court, Mykal and Franny as well as I wanted to, and need to in order to feel truly invested in this series. The romance is clear here and sweet, but I definitely want to see more of it too! 

These authors move these characters a good distance (figuratively) from the start of the book to the end and I wasn’t always invested in all of that. There were also some side plots that, while they created drama and momentum, just didn’t have the emotional impact they were meant to have. This book ends on a huge cliffy, which is clearly the big event these authors were working towards, but getting there did seem cumbersome at times. Sci-fi isn’t always my favorite genre and that might have come into play for me here. But I just wasn’t that invested in the whole StarDust trial plot in the second half. It all felt mostly a device to get the characters to where the were at the end. I also found the whole history of these Saltare planets to be fairly boring and convoluted, although clearly it will be more important later. 

The underlying plot of knowing your death day and how that affects the entire society, and how people are treated - and what happens if you don’t know it - was interesting. And I really like the moments of discussion and deep inner turmoil it causes, especially in Franny. My favorite moments of this book were seeing the connection between these three and their deepening friendship. I’m also interested in some of the added cast that will play a role in the future, and I’m curious where this story is going with the big revelation/cliffhanger at the end. I definitely think this book is worth reading, and I’ll be continuing with the series, but I’m hoping for a tighter plot and even more focus on characters in the future. (Spoiler> Plus a romance for Franny! <end spoiler)

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: High - danger + a big revelation that sets up events for the next book!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Darkest Star
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Read: June 2 - 4, 2018
Published: October 30, 2018 by Tor Teen
Source: BEA 2018 - first book read YAY!
Category: YA, PNR, Aliens, 
Series: ORIGIN 1/3? (Companion to LUX series)

Book Description: When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.
 
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I was a little blown away by how much I enjoyed this book. Maybe I shouldn't have been, but it's been forever since I've read a paranormal romance that I liked as much as The Darkest Star. This book also gave me a fair bit of nostalgia for the Lux world, and it was such a treat to jump back into it a few years later from Evie's perspective - and through her, see the world through new eyes again. I was thrilled too discover the role Luc plays in this story. It was so much fun to be reintroduced to him (older and swoonier!) and see what he and others are doing too. 

Reading the previous Lux series and knowing those characters (especially Luc) heightened my enjoyment of this book, but that is not a requirement to read this new companion series. I was so worried I wouldn't like Evie for Luc, because of some things in his past, but I did so much. These two have great chemistry and are going to be a good match. The Darkest Star has some great swoon and crackling tension, along with friendships - I loved all of Evie's friends - as well as danger with a mystery to solve. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how well this story wraps itself up, while leaving hints of more to come in the next installment. JLA does Paranormal Romance so well and I can't wait for what's next. 

Love Triangle Factor: none
Cliffhanger Scale: low. Definitely set up and hints for what is to come but ends in a "settled for now" place.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Storyteller by Traci Chee
Favorite Quote + Giveaway

Tour organized by Penguin Teen 
See the full schedule below

I am thrilled to see these three gorgeous covers together and to be celebrating the conclusion of the Sea of Ink an Gold trilogy with The Storyteller.

Ahhh! Look at that magnificient symmetry. 


Favorite Quotes

It's impossible to pick just one. But here are a few that are standing out to me right now:



Photo Inspiration:

I've done a photo inspiration for each book in this series and I'm thrilled to share mine for The Storyteller. I've always pictured Sefia outside, a little wild. And all three of my cover photos have been shot in nature. My favorite thing about this one is how the leaves look a bit like fire, consuming this red, red book. 



Below are the shots I previously shared for The Reader and The Speaker. Find these and other photo inspirations on my Instagram @loveisnotatriangle



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About this series conclusion
See my thoughts on The Reader and The Speaker

The Storyteller
By Traci Chee
Published: November 13th 2018 
Published By: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold book 3

Book Description: Sefia is determined to keep Archer out of the Guard's clutches and their plans for war between the Five Kingdoms. The Book, the ancient, infinite codex of the past, present and future, tells of a prophecy that will plunge Kelanna in that bloody war, but it requires a boy--Archer--and Sefia will stop at nothing to ensure his safety. The Guard has already stolen her mother, her father, and her Aunt Nin. Sefia would sooner die than let them take anymore from her--especially the boy she loves.

But escaping the Guard and the Book's prophecy is no easy task. After all, what is written always comes to pass. As Sefia and Archer watch Kelanna start to crumble to the Guard's will, they will have to choose between their love and joining a war that just might tear them apart. Full of magic, suspense, and mystery, Traci Chee brings her Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy to a close in this spellbinding final installment.


Find The Storyteller: Goodreads | Amazon | Indiebound | The Book Depository
Preorder this book and receive an engraved bookmark + a chance to win more. Go HERE for details.

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About the Author

Traci Chee is an all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts. She studied literature and creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Speaker is the second book in the Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy that began with The Reader.

Find Traci Chee: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

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Follow the Tour:

WEEK ONE: Pre-Buzz Campaign – Favorite Quotes
October 22 – YA Series Insider
October 23 – Utopia State of Mind
October 24 – Love Is Not a Triangle
October 25 – @DarkFaeries
October 26 –  As the Book Ends

WEEK TWO: The Reader 
October 29 – Polish & Paperbacks – Inspired by the Books: Nails
October 30 – Bringing Paperback – Review 
October 31 – @love.books.and.coffee – Author Content (2-3 points of what to pay attention to) + Creative Instagram Picture
November 1 – YA and Wine – Listicle: Best YA Books about books
November 2 – Lacy Literacy – Color Palette Moodboard
November 3 – Don’t Go Brekker My Heart – When Did You Find Your Voice 

WEEK THREE: The Speaker 
November 5 – Never Too Many To Read – Which Character Are You
November 6 – Arctic Books – Inspired by the Books: Character Outfit
November 7 – Arisutocrat – Character that helped you find your voice
November 8 – Reading (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Character Playlist
November 9 – Laura’s Bookish Corner – Which Character Are You
November 10 – Rheya-reads – Character that helped you find your voice.

WEEK FOUR: The Storyteller 
November 12 – Adventures in YA Publishing – Monday Round-Up + Author Guest Post: What is your favorite thing about THE STORYTELLER
November 13 – Bette’s Pages – Hidden Messages + Easter Eggs You Noticed
November 14 – Ex Libris – Author Q&A
November 15 – YA Wednesdays – Listicle: 5 Reasons to Read the Series
November 16 – One Way or an Author – Review + Fanart
November 17 – The Eater of Books! – Favorite Moments from the Series

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Enter the GIVEAWAY HERE



Friday, September 21, 2018

Blog Tour: Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll

Unclaimed Baggage 
By Jen Doll 

Read: September 16 - 19, 2018
Published: September 18, 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Galley from Macmillan (Thank you!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Southern Towns, Secrets, Lost Luggage, Friendship

Book Description: Doris—a lone liberal in a conservative small town—has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of "Mr. Popular" whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people's lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future.

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Unclaimed Baggage is an adorable contemporary YA about three teens brought together by a job at a store called Unclaimed Baggage, that resells - you've guessed it - suitcases and bags that were never claimed at airports. 

First, this store sounds amazing to shop at, and even more fun to work at. Liberal-out-of-water-in-Alabama Doris and her two new hires, recently-moved-from-Chicago Nell and football-star-fallen-from-grace Grant, work in the back of the store, opening and sorting through bags in order to determine what should be sold and what should be tossed. All three of them are feeling a little out of place this summer and they start bonding over all the strange things they find. 

That's the second thing I enjoyed about this book: the friendships. Doris, Nell and Grant aren't exactly three people you'd think to put together. Especially the popular football star and the town liberal, but I had so much fun watching them get to know each other. And as they open up about their lives, they form a close bond. I loved both the hilarious moments in this book, and the deeper, more painful ones as they deal with the tough realities of their lives. This book has both an established and a building romance in it. It's so rare to see an ongoing romance and I appreciated that addition. The other is sweet and slow to see develop, but I was way more interested in the friendship between these three and all the ways they stood up for and supported each other. 

This book is light and fun on the surface, but it - and these characters - deal with some tough stuff. Prejudice and race relations, assault, hypocritical members of the church, town secrets, health issues, addiction, mourning over lost loved ones are just a few topics discussed. Like everyone, Doris, Nell and Grant's lives are complex, and I cheered and laughed and wanted to hug and fight for them. I also appreciate the different ways their parents were involved in their lives. My only wish is that not everyone in the church had been seen as negative and hypocritical, though I can certainly agree with the point that you can find bad people there - and wonderful people not. 

I recommend this friendship centered contemporary YA, and now I really want to attend the balloon festival - and shop in that store. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

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About the Author

Jen Doll has written for The Atlantic, The Atlantic Wire, Cosmopolitan, The Hairpin, New York magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Toast, Topic, Vice, The Village Voice, and The Week, among others. She grew up in Alabama and lives in Brooklyn and upstate New York.

Find Jen Doll: Website | Twitter | Goodreads  
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Follow the Tour

BlogDateType of Post
The Bookish Photog9/16/2018Instagram and review
Undeniably {Book} Nerdy9/17/2018Review
The YA Book Traveler9/18/2018Review combined with quirky summer job nightmares
Book Briefs9/18/2018Review
Mary Had A Little Book Blog9/19/2018Quirky summer jobs and Instagram
Miss Print9/20/2018Review
Bookish Beagle9/20/2018Review and summer jobs or my unclaimed baggage item post
Novel Novice9/21/2018"Over packing tips" + review
Love Is Not A Triangle9/21/2018Review

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