Friday, May 27, 2016

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Passion of Dolssa
by Julie Berry

Read: April 15 - May 9, 2016
Published: April 12, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Galley from publisher (Thank You, Penguin!)
Category: YA, historical fiction, France, Spain, Middle Ages

Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.

Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.

The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, what we now call Provence, France—a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.

When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.

The Passion of Dolssa is one of those stories with a quiet impact that slowly builds as you read it, until you're eventually and unexpectedly slapped with how amazing it is. I enjoyed the story all along, finding it to be addicting, despite taking a while to read it. But I finished this weeks ago and am still l thinking about the vibrant characters, the fascinating - if terrifying - time period, and the the way the author constructed her story as if she'd found a series of historical documents. 

I love well researched historical fiction and this was exactly that. I felt like I had a real glimpse into thirteenth century provincial France, especially what life was like for women at that time. While the title of this story puts Dolssa as the central character, and she is certainly the catalyst for everything that happens, it is Botille, the peasant matchmaker, running a tavern with her two sisters, who truly stole the book for me. 

I have always loved history, but often it is studied in broad strokes, covering larger themes. However, my favorite aspect of studying the past is delving into the lives of the people who lived it. Combining history + stories, even fictional ones, allows us to connect with the past on a personal level. This book does that well, giving readers a taste of life in southern Provence, including the more dangerous forces at play at this time and place in history. Though I have studied this time period, I knew very little about what was happening in this part of Europe. I had no idea of the Crusades in this part of the world or the Inquisition that happened soon after in the mid 1200s.  

In some ways romance is a central element in this story and in some ways it is not at all. Botille has a more conventional romance that runs through this book, and it is not a central element. But I loved how it complimented this story, and the way her life in general is completely transformed by Dolssa's. Dolssa on the other hand is a Christian mystic, fully in love with and committed to her "beloved" Jesus in this story. It is a very personal, intimate relationship that is both empowering and radical. Because of that, Dolssa attracts a lot of notice - first positive and then very negative, leading to the intersecting of her life with Botille's.

History is often told in the perspective of the men who ruled it, but this book offers a stirring look at women's lives in medieval France. What I love is that these women are all so different - a pious mystic, a matchmaker, a tavern maiden who dabbles in prostitution, a fortune teller, a wealthy landowner, wives and mothers. Those who are content, and those desperate for something. Although these women live in a very different time period than our own, they demanded attention and sought their own paths, and I found many of them to be relatable and inspiring.

Please don't let the length of this book or its seemingly slow start or heavy subject deter you in picking this up. The Passion of Dolssa is a beautifully crafted tale filled with characters and a story that you will not soon forget. Although it takes place in the past, this book has many parallels to today. Don't miss this one!

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

By Jen Malone
Read: January 25 - 27, 2016
Published: May 31, 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss (Thanks, HC)
Category: YA, Contemporary, European travel

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe. A romantic and charming YA debut perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jenny Han.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan begins unraveling, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.


This book was completely charming and delightful! Anytime a story combines travel with romance, I am all in, and Wanderlost does both of those things very well.  

What I Loved -

  • European travel - the author knows her places and I felt like I was on a virtual tour. I don't do big group travel, but I was jealous of these seniors and their trip together. 
  • Sammmmm. I LOVE him.What a great guy he was and a perfect love interest for Aubree.
  • The senior tour passengers were so much fun! I loved the secondary characters. 
  • Aubree's growth was A+++. The way she matures from the start of the book is written so well. This is one of my most favorite aspects of the book. 
  • The story manages to stay virtually angst & drama free - at least not over the top - despite the premise of Aubree lying about who she is. And the way the revelations and fallout unfold fit well with the the characters, their growth and the story. 

What I wish (These were quite small overall) - 

  • I wish the setup wasn't quite so far fetched - Aubree takes her older sister's place as European tour guide to a group of seniors. She also concocts a story to convince her parents she's actually in Maine during the whole time. I can't see any of this working out for real, but it got Aubrey to Europe, which mattered the most to me. 
  • (this is a carry over from the first point) One of the senior citizen breaks her arm and then continues her European tour. This just seemed silly to me, especially because this lady really didn't want to be there in the first place. However, this occurrence does set up one of my favorite aspects of this story, so I could let it slide - along with the very swift way this lady's arm seems to heal. 
  • I wish Aubree's eating habits grew as much as she did - Aubree eats McDonalds at every opportunity despite the amazing local cuisine. This killed me. Really this was the hardest thing about this book for me to deal with. Part of traveling is eating local cuisine! 
  • I REALLY wanted an epilogue. This story has a sold ending, but (spoiler) having a later scene where Sam and Aubree are together at college would have brought it over the edge of awesome for me. (end spoiler)

Wanderlost is a must read for summer! Don't miss this one.

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories Blog Tour

Summer Days and Summer Nights: 
Twelve Love Stories
Read: February 3 - 8, 2016
Published: May 17, 2016 by St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Netgalley (Thank You, Griffin Teen!)
Category: YA, novellas, summer 

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.


This book is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Some stories I loved. Some I did not. Each one was a new flavor and experience. I usually heavily vet anything I read, but with a series of short stories, I didn't feel that pressure. If I disliked the story, it didn't last long and I could move on quickly. But truly, I had so much fun discovering each tale as it came, getting to know the different voices of the authors and their characters, many of which I had never read before. My favorites were by Leigh Bardugo, Brandy Colbert and Jennifer E. Smith. I could have read much more of any of those. 

Thoughts on each story:

1) Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - 5 stars LOVED. The perfect mix of summer heat and magic, friendship, romance and surprise. This was a fantastic way to begin the collection and set a very high note for the rest of it. 

2) The End of Love by Nina LaCour - 3.5 stars Cute romance, though this is one of the stories I remember the least.

3) Last Stand at the Cinegor by Libba Bray - 2 stars The direction of this tale went a little wacky for me. Also, the emotional tone at the end was all wrong after everything that happened. (spoiler) 
It all of a sudden became a makeout session between the narrator and his love interest, and all the people who were possessed by demons and died weren't addressed again. This left a bad taste in my mouth. (end spoiler)

4) Sick Pleasures by Francesca Lia Block - 1 star IMO this story does not belong in this collection. It is a well written autobiographical account, but it is horribly depressing and not at all the tone I was looking for. I could see it working in a memoir/thoughts-on-my-teen-self type collection. Not this one. I don't usually mind the occasional dud in a bunch of short stories, but this one nearly made me stop reading the book all together. Also the use of initials for all the names was distracting, tho I got why it was done when I realized this was a personal story. This is by far my least favorite of the 24 Winter and Summer stories. If you dislike love triangles, this is the one that would be a problem. 

5) In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins - 3 stars This is the continuing Marigold and North's story from the last collection, and I'm sorry to say I didn't love it as much as I hoped I would. This tale begins on a low note, and is mostly reflective from Marigold's POV, although it ends sweetly. I was a little too stressed out reading this than I wanted to be, and I didn't really get all of the angst between these two. I just feel like I missed something here, since so many people loved this continuation? I think I was also residually stressed from the last tale tbh. Thankfully, it ended on a high note, but for me it just didn't live up to the first part of these two's story. 

6) Souvenirs by Tim Federle - 3 stars Although this is a breakup story, the MC's voice was one of my favorites - engaging and endearing, which made it much easier to read than I imagined it would be (I'm not much for ending stories, unless they include a beginning). This wasn't overly emotional, more light, which I appreciated. I especially liked what Matt learned about himself, and that he has a close relationship with his parents.

7) Inertia by Veronica Roth - 4 stars This is another reflective one. But I enjoyed it as a whole. And it has Roth's signature use of brain simulation devices though very different from the fear simulator in Divergent. It was nice to read something well out of that universe.

8) Love is the last resort by Jon Skovron - 4 stars An adorable and amusing romcom, almost a comedy of errors. I think the two side romances were more believable than the central one, just bc they'd been building much longer. But funny and sweet story. I love this sort of light tale in a collection like this. 

9) Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert - 4.5 stars A great balanced story of goodbyes and hellos. Heavy emotions and a sweet, new romance. One of my favorites! I've never read anything by this author before, but this story made me take notice - I love that about a collection like this. 

10) Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare - 2 stars What's up with two stories in this book featuring demons? This tale is about a girl who lives and works in a dark carnival run by her family. It was nice to read a Clare story totally out of the Shadowhunter world, though this still contains fantasy and magic. This story was sort of strange and overall just ok for me. 

11) A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E Smith - 5 stars Loved this one! A sweet romance, surprises, summer camp and just everything I wanted in this collection. I could read a whole book of these two. LOVED. LOVED.

12) The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman - 3.5 stars I didn't enjoy this more because I just did not like Margaret, even with everything going on with her. But I liked the MC. The theme of tiny miracles, and seeing every second of the day as a gift to make the most of, was a great way to close the collection.

Love Triangle Factor: Sick Pleasures is the only one I'd caution love triangle haters to be wary of. The rest are safe. 

Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone series of stories. Will we see Spring and Fall next?


About the Editor

Stephanie Perkins has always worked with books—first as a bookseller, then as a librarian, and now as a novelist. She's the author of the international bestsellers Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, as well as Isla and the Happily Ever After. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories is her first anthology. Stephanie and her husband live in the mountains of North Carolina.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Rose and the Dagger Blog Tour: Q&A with author Renée Ahdieh

Organized by Penguin Teen 
See below for the full schedule 

First, I want to say that I LOVED The Rose and the Dagger! Shazi and Khalid own my heart, but I came to adore so many of the characters. And though this book has its share of heavy moments – I was definitely crying at one point - the story was such a great mix of action/danger, emotional scenes and swoon. I was so so happy when I finished it. I am a huge fan of duets and this one, which begins with The Wrath and the Dawn, is not to be missed!

Ok, enough with the gushing. Onto the interview:

Today I'm thrilled to have The Rose and the Dagger author Renée Ahdieh stopping by today to answer some questions.

Lauren: What identities would Shazi, Khalid, Tariq, Artan, Jalal and Despina have if they suddenly discovered they were were-beasts? I basically want to know everyone, but that’s a lot of characters to ask about. Any other characters animal form you want to share?

Renée Ahdieh: I think Shazi would be a were-lion, Khalid would be a were-tiger, Tariq would be a were-falcon, Artan would be a were-dragon, Jalal would be a were-panther, and Despina would be a were-snake.

Lauren: If you found a magic carpet, where would it take you for a ride

Renée Ahdieh: Everywhere!!! But first I’d probably go to Paris. Then Seoul.

Lauren: Shazi visits several different locations in this book – the desert, the city, the mountains, the sea, though it’s clear which one of those she considers her home. But which do you prefer – The city or the country? The sea or the mountains (or desert)?

Renée Ahdieh: I prefer the city, and my heart feels especially at ease by the sea.

Lauren: What’s one quality that Shazi brings out of Khalid and vice versa? Why do you think they resonate so well with readers? Or if that's too subjective, what has drawn you to writing their story?

Renée Ahdieh: I’d say Shazi brings out Khalid’s belief that he is worthy of being loved. And Khalid brings out Shazi’s will to fight—to persevere at all cost.

Lauren: My blog is called Love is not a triangle, and I tend to talk about the subject of love triangles fairly frequently. I even rate them in my reviews. I also like to ask visiting authors their opinions on them. So love triangles: like them or loathe them? I won’t hold it against you if you say ‘like’ (but thank you for not turning this series into one).

Renée Ahdieh: I like a good love triangle. The key is to do it well. I also prefer it if the love triangle isn’t the central focus of the entire story.

Lauren: After The Rose and the Dagger, I’d love to hear more from so many of the side characters, even in novella form. But I can’t wait for any new stories from you. Will you give us any hints about what you’re working on next?!

Renée Ahdieh: Thank you so much for all your kind words! I wish I could share what I’m currently working on, but I can say it’s going to be the start of a new fantasy series!

About the Book

The Rose and The Dagger
by Renée Ahdieh
Published: April 26, 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons BYR (Penguin)

The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as "a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance."

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
About the Author

I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. My YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, was published on May 12th, 2015. Its sequel, THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER, was published on April 26, 2016. In my spare time, I like to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.

Follow Renée Ahdieh: Goodreads | Website | Twitter
Blog Tour Schedule

4/25 - Guest post
Novel Novice
4/26 - Character playlist - Shahrzad
No BS Book Reviews
4/27 - Gif reactions review 
4/28 - Interview 
4/29 - Review & Giveaway
The Young Folks
5/2 - Dreamcasting #1
Andi's ABCs
5/3 - Would You Rather?
5/4 - Guest post
Tales of the ravenous reader
5/5 - Character Playlist #2
Lost in Literature
5/6 - Review & Giveaway
Two Chicks on Books
5/9 - Top 10 list
Good Choice Reading
5/10 - Dreamcasting #2
Mundie Moms
5/11 - Character playlist #3
Love is not a triangle 
5/12 - Interview 
5/13 - Review & Giveaway

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