Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Winner's Crime Blog Tour
Interview with author Marie Rutkoski + Giveaway

Blog Tour organized by Mac Teen Books 
See the full schedule HERE

The Winner's Crime is book two in The Winner's Curse trilogy. 
As I said in my review, it should be illegal to put this much beauty and heartbreak into one story. But really, you need to stop everything and start reading this series.
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Book description: Following your heart can be a crime

A royal wedding is what most girls dream about. It means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin's freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself? For Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. She's working as a spy in the court. If caught, she'll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can't help searching for a way to change her ruthless world . . . and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret. 

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner's Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Published: March 3, 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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Today, I'm thrilled that author Marie Rutkoski is stopping by for a chat. 
Welcome back to Love is not a triangle, Marie! 

LAUREN: When we met last, we talked about Kestrel and Arin’s identities as were-beasts. According to you, Kestrel would be “a Kestrel of course,” and Arin would be a “lean, sexy, tiger,” the preceding adjectives being an important part of Arin’s animal nature (If he were to have one). What I want to know is what animal forms some of the other characters in the sequel would take, especially, The Emperor, Verex, Tensen and Jess?  

MARIE: The emperor: a mink. They’re nasty. Have you read Tana French’s Broken Harbor? The animal believed to be living in the house is maybe a mink. OR SOMETHING WORSE.

Verex: The very best kind of loyal and loving dog.

Tensen: A friendly yet cunning monkey.

Jess: a cat.

LAUREN: It’s well documented that Kestrel and Arin love games. There are also points in their stories where like it or not, they’ve had to fight for their own or others’ survival. I want to know how you think each would do in the ultimate survival game: the Hunger Games. If Arin and Kestrel were somehow transported to Panem and Reaped into the games, how would they do? Who would last the longest? Do you think either of them could win?

MARIE: The only way to answer this is to pretend that Kestrel and Arin don’t and won’t know each other in these games, because otherwise they’d probably try to ensure the other’s survival.

Kestrel would win. Strategy counts for a lot in the Hunger Games, and she can usually keep her head. Arin would get far, but he’d find the whole situation so intolerable that he’d make a mistake, he’d let his emotions get the best of him, or he would do something both noble and dangerous.

LAUREN: Let’s go crazy for a minute and pretend that that you, I, Kestrel and Arin are hanging out together, and we decide to play a game of “Would You Rather.” This might be hard for those two, because there’s no right or wrong answer in this game. Though maybe they’d argue that there is one.

How would you and they answer the following questions:

A) Would you rather wear the same outfit every day for the rest of your life OR eat the same meal?

MARIE: Outfit
KESTREL: Outfit
ARIN: Meal

B) Would you rather always have to say everything on your mind OR never speak again?

MARIE: Say everything
KESTREL: Never speak again
ARIN: Say everything

C) Would you rather fail or never try?

MARIE: Fail
KESTREL: Fail
ARIN: Fail

D) Would you rather always laugh at sad things OR always cry at funny things?

MARIE: Cry at funny things
KESTREL: Cry at funny things
ARIN: Cry at funny things

(laughing at sad things seems too cruel, and I frequently cry when something is hilarious—they are happy tears. I think Kestrel and Arin would feel like I do)

LAUREN: If Kestrel and Arin went to a job interview and were asked the classic “name one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses” question, how would they answer for themselves? Would that answer change between the beginning and end of The Winner’s Crime?

At the beginning of the book?

KESTREL: Strength - Determination
Weakness - I worry that I will never be the person I want to be.

ARIN: Strength - Survival
Weakness - Sometimes I let loneliness rule my decisions. Also, I want what I can’t have. I wonder whether I do this deliberately to punish myself.

By the end?

KESTREL: I think my strength is actually my weakness.
ARIN: I don’t want to answer your question. I can handle my weakness. I can use my strength.

LAUREN: As you know, some of us have started a support group for those who have finished The Winner's Crime. We’re pretty sure that anyone who finishes the book is automatically going to want to join. Does it fill you with glee to cause us inner pain? Just kidding! But seriously, if you were going to attend one of our hypothetical meetings, what words of advice or comfort would you offer your readers? Anything you can tell us that might ease our pain a little bit? Or are you more of a tough love kind of person?

MARIE: Probably if you got me alone and in person I’d spill lots of secrets, because I’m not a good secret-keeper (as you yourself know). But it’s easy for me to use tough love online, so I’ll just say that you’re going to have to decide whether you trust me or not. How far would I go with these characters?

But I’m really not gleeful about causing unhappiness in readers. When I finished writing Crime I was (really, still am) worried that it’s going to be too dark for some people, and I care about my characters. I don’t want to hurt them. On the other hand, their natures drive their decisions, and their decisions have consequences….sometimes writing a book is like chess. Once you move a piece (or character) into a position based on the kind of movement they can make (the one that fits their nature, like how a knight piece can only move in the shape of an L), only certain scenarios can unfold before you. That is the plot.

Of course, characters aren’t chess pieces. Their movements (their nature) change. One of the exciting things about writing The Winner’s Kiss is seeing how Kestrel and Arin change. They’re not the same people we saw in Curse or Crime. I’ll let you decide whether this worries or comforts you.

That settles it. I'm going to have to get you alone again and ask some more questions…that wasn't meant to be as creepy as it sounded. Or was it?!

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About the Author

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Winner's CurseThe Shadow Society, and the Kronos Chronicles, which includes The Cabinet of Wonders. She is a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in New York City. Find her at marierutkoski.com and @marierutkoski

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GIVEAWAY


Win a finished hardback copy of The Winner's Crime

Giveaway is for US or Canada residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE


Monday, March 2, 2015

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Vision in Silver
by Anne Bishop 
Read: November 5 - 6, 2015
Published: March 3, 2015 by ROC - TOMORROW!
Source: Edelweiss (THANK YOU, PENGUIN!)
Tags: Fantasy, Adult, shifters, blood prophet 

Series: The Others #3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 


The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…
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NOTE: Vision in Silver is the third book in The Others series. See my reviews of Written in Red and Murder of Crows. If you haven't started this series yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

These books are so close to my heart that it's getting harder and harder for me to review them. I read Vision in Silver in two days, then re-read it immediately, and kept going over and over my favorite parts again and again, until I had stretched out my experience with this story as long as I could. I've even avoided writing down my thoughts until the very last minute, because I just wasn't sure I could articulate how I feel about this series. But I'm going to try my best.

From the moment Meg escaped the blood prophet compound and showed up in the Lakeside Courtyard, she has been the center of everything. I love her to pieces. She is not a typical heroine at all, which is one of my favorite aspects of her. She is physically fragile, doesn't have a lot of world experience and is constantly being protected by the terra indigene or Others in the Courtyard.  But I've never ever seen her as weak. Meg has a strong inner core, and isn't afraid to stand up to the Others she works with, including Simon, the leader. I also appreciate that Meg likes her quiet life and isn't running off into danger like many heroines I read about. Her innocence, combined with her very dangerous ability as a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, endlessly fascinates me. 

Although Meg is at the center, I care about so many characters in this series. The number of individuals we're following in this third person rotating perspective has increased, as has our understanding of the human and Other societies that inhabit this world. One of my favorite aspects of this series is how much we've been able to dig into this setting. These novels aren't extremely fast paced or always plot focused, but in each one, I've become more and more immersed in this world.  The angle of the lens through which we're accessing the setting continues to widen, but also, the zoom has increased making the details clearer. In Vision in Silver, I especially felt like I got a sense of the direction and future of this series. 

These books have always been clear about the fact that the Others/terra indigene are not human. That was reiterated again in Vision in Silver, and I'm seeing more and more the importance of this truth. The Others - Wolfgard, Elementals, Vampires, Hawkgard etc. - can take on human shape, but they do not think or act like humans and in their very cores they are different in nature. Simon and Vlad actually have a hilarious conversation in this book about  their confusion about the way humans see romance novels. But it's not just an amusing difference. Most humans are hostile towards Others, and their antagonistic activity escalates in this installment. The Others have to figure out how to respond, and unfortunately, most humans have forgotten the power that the Others possess. 

The romance between Meg and Simon continues to build slowly, which is both excruciating and beautiful to watch unfold. All along it's been told in subtle moments and gestures, and it is clear these two are just as obsessed with each other as I am with them. Remember that Simon is not human, and that affects how he looks at relationships and affection. Meg has also not had any relationship experience, except for what she's seen in images. Then you have the whole inter-species issue. It's no wonder that their romance is not progressing in the same way as other couples. But what is delicious, is that these two are essentially already together, and in this book we see them begin to wake up to that. 

The more I read Vision in Silver, the more I pulled out of this story, and I know that will continue to happen with further readings. I don't know how many books will be in this series, but I'm eagerly awaiting all of the rest of them. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low 

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

The Shadow Cabinet 
by Maureen Johnson
Read: February 22 - 24, 2015
Published: February 10th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile
Source: Library
Tags: Ghosts, London, YA

Series: Shades of London #3 
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository


The thrilling third installment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling series.

Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.
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The Shadow Cabinet is book three in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, and I've been waiting for it ever since The Madness Underneath released two years ago. Book two ended on a humongous cliffhanger that shattered my hopes for this series pretty hard, and I was desperate for Johnson to fix it for me. I will say that overall, I was pleased with how this story developed. For me, it was a much stronger book than The Madness Underneath, which felt very much like a transition story, to get the readers from the Ripper focused plot in The Name of the Star, to the direction the story has taken in book three. 

It is very hard to discuss The Shadow Cabinet without massive spoilers, but I'm going to do my best here. I've clearly marked anything that is a spoiler, and you should also check out my Goodreads review, where I was able to be a little more open, because I could hide more things. Here are my thoughts in five points: 

1) This book was less about solving ghost crimes, and more personal, focused on the aftermath of what happened at the end of book two. The story picks up almost immediately after the last installment, and readers see how the characters are coping (see more on Rory in the next point).  The other half of this story connects to the happenings of therapist Jane, whom Rory met in the last book. We see more of what she's doing, and some of it definitely surprised me. Where the series started off as more of a crime-suspense, featuring ghosts, The Shadow Cabinet took a more of mystical or mythological look at the whole death and dying phenomenon. 

 2) Our Louisiana transplant to London, i.e. heroine Rory, continues to be chatty, though she's more broken in this book, which is very much expected. She's not always the most observant and has some moments of being passive - or conversely doing impulsive things without thinking them through. But I still really like her, and I continue to be charmed by her inner monologues about her family and home. Rory is very much the youngest and the newest to these ghost seeing police. But she is learning, and keeps going forward during some very tough times. Rory also manages to mostly come out all right in the end, despite me wanting to yell at her a few times. 

3) This book wasn't as emotionally wrecking as it could have been, but it's also not as emotionally satisfying as I'd hope it would be. Honestly, this would have been a higher rated read, except for this point. After a 2 year wait, I needed more. This part I'm going to talk about more fully under a spoiler tag. 


4) As for other characters, we are introduced to Sadie and Sid, who are very mysterious and intriguing people who connect to Jane the happenings I noted in the first point. Rory also spends more time with Thorpe, the MI5 overseer of Stephen's group, and I liked his inclusion. He is duty focused and pretty unsympathetic, but I like that we see him as a bit more human and he helps keep Rory on track. Of course Callum and Boo are around, though I wanted more of them. And we meet a new character, Freddie, who I hope is going to be a great addition to the mix. Also, (SPOILER>>>really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Stephen better in this book as well. He is keeping some secrets, and we also get a better sense of his character overall. END SPOILER)

5) The Shadow Cabinet is a much more solid book than 2 was, and I found aspect of the plot surprising and engaging. It's pretty dark in places, though through Rory's voice, I've never felt weighted down by that aspect. She manages a good balance of tones throughout the series. This time, I also didn't feel so much like I was waiting for Rory to mentally catch up to where I was in the story. However, as I mentioned above, after a huge cliffhanger and a long wait, I wanted more emotional satisfaction from this one. This book doesn't end on a real cliffhanger, but it's definitely not the end of the series. Some things are set up for the future. This book definitely widens the overall focus - a lot of the directional transition I sensed in The Madness Underneath, is made clear here. 

Love Triangle Factor: Hmmm. I'm going to go with Mild again, but this one is tough. Check the hidden content above and my thoughts on Goodreads for more info on this point.
Cliffhanger scale: Low/Medium. Set up for a future book. But this plot works itself out, and low immediate danger to characters. 



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

Conspiracy Girl
by Sarah Alderson
Read: February 17 - 18, 2015
Published: February 12, 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Kindle purchase
Tags: Thriller, Older YA 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository


Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings – the Bel Air home invasion that rocked the nation.
There was only one survivor - a sixteen year-old girl.
And though the killers were caught they walked free.

Now eighteen, Nic Preston - the girl who survived - is trying hard to rebuild her life. She’s security conscious to the point of paranoia and her only friend is a French Mastiff bulldog, but she’s making progress. She’s started college in New York and has even begun dating.

But then one night her apartment is broken into and the life Nic’s worked so hard to create is shattered in an instant. 

Finn Carter - hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. He’s the reason her mother’s killers walked free from court. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best and possibly only chance of staying alive is by keeping close to Finn and learning to trust the person she’s sworn to hate.

Fleeing across a snowbound New England, frantically trying to uncover the motive behind the murders, Nic and Finn come to realize the conspiracy is bigger than they could ever have suspected. But the closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, the greater the danger becomes.

To survive she has to stay close to him.
To keep her safe he has to keep his distance.
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Conspiracy Girl is another thrilling read from Sarah Alderson. It begins with an intensely traumatic break-in, features two unlikely characters on the run together and adds a slow building romance to sweeten it all up. 

Two years ago Nic Preston was the only survivor in a brutal home invasion that left her mother and step-sister dead. Then the nightmare continued into a high profile trial that thrust Nic in the center of the spotlight. Although it's been a slow process for Nic, she is doing her best to move on with her life, including moving to New York City to attend college. But Nic's fragile sense of safety is quickly shattered when she discovers an intruder in her house. This should not be possible in her very secure apartment with its state of the art security system. How is this happening again? Is this the same people who attacked her family before? And what are the after now? 

Much to Nic's dismay, this recent trauma puts her directly in the path of Finn Carter, a master hacker and computer wiz whose evidence allowed the suspects in the murder trial walk free 2 years ago. Nic is not pleased to see Finn again, in fact it's pretty safe to say she hates him. But she soon discovers that he might be her best chance of survival. Conspiracy Girl is told in dual narration between Nic and Finn, and it's very helpful to get both of their perspectives throughout the story.

Nic begins this book scared and beaten down by the horrible things that have happened to her in the past, especially as they're all happening again. But there's fire in her as well, and I enjoyed seeing her discover that throughout the course of this story. As much as he comes across as arrogant - because he really is good at what he does and he knows it - Finn has a heart for solving crime and protecting the innocent. I was a little worried that Finn was going to get too wrapped up in being Nic's savior. But I appreciated the glimpses we got of his past that showed why he is the way he is. And the fact that he is very supportive of Nic and thrilled when she shows the strength inside of her. 

As you've probably guessed, there's a slow building hate to love romance between Nic and Finn. I loved watching it play out throughout the course of this story. They spend a lot of time together, and much of the time, it is just the two of them trying desperately to stay alive. For their own survival, they must learn to trust each other and over time that tension builds between them and then it explodes. 

The romance, while a delicious edition, was not the main event in Conspiracy Girl. This book is a mystery and thriller, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout it. I was constantly worried that Nic and Finn would not be able to outrun their pursuers in time, and I was frantically trying to figure out why Nic was still a target. The revelations at the end definitely surprised me. One, I'm still a little confused on the motive, but Sarah Alderson did a great job keeping me turning pages trying to find out what happens next. Finn and Nic face a whole lot of danger together and things keep getting crazier for them. 

Sarah Alderson is fantastic at combining dangerous situations, lots of intensity with swoony romance and hot boys. I have been a fan of Sarah Alderson since her Hunting Lila, and enjoyed Conspiracy Girl a lot. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

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