Thursday, March 31, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine + Giveaway

#TBT Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

In honor of the paperback of Ink and Bone releasing next week on April 5,
and in anticipation of the sequel Paper and Fire releasing this summer on July 5, 
I am reposting my Ink and Bone review and adding a giveaway!

Ink and Bone 
by Rachel Caine
Read: June 25 - July 5, 2015
Published:  July 7, 2015 by NAL
Source: Netgalley (Thank you Penguin!)

Series: The Great Library #1
Category: YA, fantasy, libraries, alchemy 

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

I love libraries - what reader doesn't? - and I was fascinated by the setup of a story where it is a Library that runs the world instead of governments and politics. Especially, the legendary Great Library of Alexandria, which has survived in Ink and Bone's version of the world, and then proceeded to spread it's influence everywhere. This setting is richly developed and this story engaging. But there is also a darker, frightening aspect to the Library that increased the tension. The stakes are high and narrator Jess learns that the danger to him and his fellow students is very real. 

Jess Brightwell's family are book smugglers, a highly illegal and highly secretive black market trade in a world controlled by a master Library. It has not been easy for Jess to grow up in the business - or as his father's son, though it has put him in contact with rare original copies of books that he has learned to treasure. When Jess's father sends him to train for the Great Library's service - as a spy for the family - Jess is thrilled to escape his family (at least immediately) and get closer to this organization and especially the books. But working for the Library is not what Jess anticipated and he learns that those who control it will do anything to keep a hold of the knowledge and power they've obtained.    

I became quite attached to Jess throughout this story. He goes from a difficult home life to a difficult school life without much of a break, and there was a strong undercurrent of danger that followed him through these pages. But he does grow up, experience love and make some great friends and allies along the way. I enjoyed Jess's companions in this story so much - especially the different relationships between him and Khalia, Thomas, Morgan and Dario. Jess has a twin named Brendan, who plays a minor roll in this story that I'm hoping is going to grow in future books. Brendan and Jess have an interesting dynamic and seeing that explored further is one of the elements I'm most looking forward going forward.  

This story has a romance that is slow and sweet, but also fraught with tension that makes it even stronger. It doesn't begin until partway into the story, but I was very excited when it did - and also whom it was with. I'm very anxious to see more if it, and I think it will play an important part of the next installment. So far there are zero love triangles, and I don't anticipate there being any (crosses fingers)!!

Obscurists and alchemy are a key aspect of how the Library keeps their control. However, I never really grasped alchemy as it is in this book. Or rather, to me it seemed like it was basically magic created through energy and mathematical formulas. Maybe that's the point? But I don't understand why some people are Obscurists and other's aren't. I'm curious to learn more about this part of the Library in the future, and I have a good feeling we will.

I wouldn't consider the end of Ink and Bone to be a traditional cliffhanger, in that no one is in immediate danger and this section of the tale completes itself. However, all of the characters are in danger in the future. Let's just say the terror alert level is High, though no one knows when the threat will strike next. The story also sets up situations for future books, and left a bit anxious. Though I should have expected it, because endings like this are par-for-the-course in series these days. 

In conclusion, I definitely recommend Ink and Bone. Jess's world with the Great Library at the center of it was richly developed and this story engaging and fascinating, but also eerie and frightening. I can't wait to find out what's next for Jess and his friends. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 

Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Medium 



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

Thank you, for this giveaway Penguin! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Early Review: Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Dream On
By Kerstin Gier
Translated from German by Anthea Bell
Read: November 5 - 6, 2015
Published: May 3, 2016 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) 
Source: From Macmillan (THANK YOU!)
Tags: Dreams, Fantasy,YA, London

Series: Silver #2
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository | Indiebound

Things seem to be going well for Liv Silver: she's adjusting to her new home (and her new family) in London; she has a burgeoning romance with Henry Harper, one of the cutest boys in school; and the girl who's been turning her dreams into nightmares, Anabel, is now locked up. But serenity doesn't last for long.

It seems that Liv's troubles are far from over--in fact, suddenly they're piling up. School gossip blogger Secrecy knows all of Liv's most intimate secrets, Henry might be hiding something from her, and at night Liv senses a dark presence following her through the corridors of the dream world. Does someone have a score to settle with Liv?

Romance, adventure, and danger abound in Dream On, the second book in the Silver trilogy.

Note: See my thoughts on the first book in this series, Dream a Little Dream. 

Dream On is the second book in the Silver Trilogy and the follow up to Dream a Little Dream. As with the first in this series, the reason I adore these books so much is because of the main character Liv Silver. I just love her voice. It is personable, chatty and a little bit scattered at times. I find her endlessly amusing and adorable. Even when angst and crazy things are happening, I am unable to get stressed out, while being inside of her head. I'm not at all sure how author Kerstin Gier achieves this feat, but she managed it with the heroine in her Ruby Red trilogy as well. This author also writes great relationships and this one has a host of them. I love Liv and her sister Mia's relationship as well as Liv's friendship with Grayson and her housekeeper Lottie. 

That said, I had a few issues with this book. First it took me quite a while to figure out what the plot of this installment was supposed to be. At least the first third of the story I was wondering where it was going. Thankfully, I was just enjoying Liv so much that it didn't matter too much to me. And lots of things happened in the beginning. I just didn't know where they were going. This is not a slow paced story in any way. Second, while I think the idea of a corridor with dream doors + people's ability to visit (and even manipulate) each other's dreams, is incredibly interesting, and I've enjoyed that set-up of the story so much, I've not been tremendously convinced of the agency of the villains in this installment. (spoiler) [They're basically vindictive mean girls (and boy) on a power trip with the use of dreams. I mean some of the things they've attempted have been really horrible and just over the top! It makes for an exciting story, but some of it is jut so crazy.(end spoiler)

Liv's romance with Henry encounters some bumps in this story, which I was expecting, based on the way this author operates her middle books. He is a boy with a lot of secrets, who doesn't open up very well, and that causes some problems between him and Liv. The good thing is that we do find out more about him and their relationship was working itself out by the end of this installment. Also, they were able to work together despite the drama between them, which was quite refreshing to see. The bad thing is that everything isn't resolved, and I want some more explanation from him about some of his choices. I'm not at all ultimately worried about them, but I am eager for some more talking between them [and LOTS of groveling from Henry]

Overall, Dream On is a fun middle book, with a quirky song title that doesn't take itself too seriously. Much like the MC Liv. But this installment definitely has it's bumps, and I'm not overly convinced at why these "villains" are so out to get Liv and friends. Even so, I'm definitely invested in this series and eager to get to the last book.  

Love Triangle Factor: None (but some annoying behavior from Henry)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss 
by Marie Rutkoski 
Read: January 10 - 23, 2016 & March 7 - 12, 2016
Published: March 29, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Macmillan (THANK YOU!)
Category: YA, fantasy, political intrigue, dual narration
Series: The Winner's Curse #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

See my thoughts on the previous two books in The Winner's Trilogy, The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime The Winner's Kiss is the third book in a series. this post may contain spoilers for the first two installments. 


The short version: 

This book, this series, are going on my all time favorites shelf. What an incredible ending to a story that began when a girl purchased a boy in a slave market. I - and they - had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But from the first page, I was hooked, and I knew it would be something special. Oh how this journey has hurt at times. The whole middle book smashed me into tiny pieces. But this series is also filled with an enormous amount of beauty, and this final installment healed my soul. The language alone is so incredible it makes me ache. And the story of Kestrel and Arin - one of tenuous hope, intense heartbreak, and a love that heals the most broken places - has stolen my heart once and for all. 

Highly, highly recommended. 


The longer, more rambling version:

I have learned to fear finales. After facing some huge disappointments, I always go into series ends with a fair bit of trepidation. Hoping to be blown away, but nervous, because a bad ending will cloud my view of the entire series. Thankfully, I had nothing to fear with this conclusion. From the first sentence of The Winner's Kiss, the language utterly slayed me. I probably highlighted half the book the first time I read it, and then I read it again and highlighted even more. But language alone can't save a story, and this finale also brought me everything I wanted and needed for Kestrel and Arin's last book. 

Let's face it, Kestrel and Arin are the reason I've fallen so hard for this series. I love them fiercely as individuals, but together, they are an unstoppable force. And I am utterly hopeless at seeing the ways in which they've changed and grown since the beginning. 

Even though they grew up on the same peninsula, Kestrel and Arin are from two vastly different nations. When they were both children, Kestrel's people overthrew Arin's. Kestrel purchased Arin as a slave. Arin led a secret revolt to overthrow her country's rule. Then Kestrel brokered a deal to save Arin's people by agreeing to marry the prince. And on and on it went. In the first two books, I felt these power imbalances between them in a visceral way, and I had no idea how they could stand as equals in the same place, going in the same direction.  In The Winner's Kiss, everything has changed for them again, and that equal footing still feels far away at times. But I love that Arin and Kestrel are in the same place, working together for much of this installment. I can't tell you how much I crave that in finales, but especially after everything that transpired in the last two books.

Though they are together in physical space for much of this book, neither Arin nor Kestrel are who they once were. In The Winner's Curse, Arin was very closed off and hard. But in this book his emotions are so much more on the surface and he is not afraid to express them. I fell so much more love with Arin (as if I wasn't already) in this installment, because we get to see further into his mind and heart. But I think I was most surprised by Kestrel's journey. Kestrel comes to a place in this book where she is completely broken and vulnerable, and that was hard to watch happen. But through it all, I love that we never lose sight of the strength within her. This girl is like a phoenix and my love for her is immense. 

Kestrel is a brilliant strategist, but she has never been the strongest physical fighter. Arin has an uncanny aptitude for war, which serves him well in this installment, as he is at war with the Valorians. I love the way this book and the climax, plays to both of their abilities. But even more, I love the way these two see and understand each other better than anyone else. All through this series they push and pull against each other because of that. They do it even unconsciously, but that speaks for how well they know each other. And it's one of the reasons I have read this entire series, desperate for them to fit together, despite the opposing sides on which they were raised. 

Throughout this series, Kestrel and Arin have both faced moments of profound isolation and loss - of friends, of family, of circumstance. Because of that, I love that relationships are such a part of this book for both of them. Of course with each other, but also with others. Some of the relationships that stood out to me in this installment were between Arin and his god, Arin and Roshar, and Sarsine and Kestrel. But this book also features painful relationships, one of the hardest being between Kestrel and her father. All of these different bonds speak so much to these characters, and they especially stood out to me the second time I read this book. 

Some conclusive thoughts: 

I'll admit that I went into The Winner's Kiss with a lot of fear, but author Marie Rutkoski was right when she asked whether we trusted her. She truly delivered in this final installment. I'm even reading this book for the third time - this time on audio - because I adore it so much. The more I read, the greater my 
appreciation for how Rutkoski has crafted her words, her characters, and their story. My love for Arin and Kestrel also has magnified, if that were even possible. Basically, I am even more in awe of this series and fully in love with this finale.

Finally, I want to say thank you: 

I feel extremely grateful to have been able to watch this series and these characters come to life from The Winner's Curse onward. Thank you Macmillan and Fierce Reads for allowing me to read each of the books pre-release, and for including me in the blog tours and for giving me the opportunity to interview the author on various occasions. Thank you Marie, for writing this story for us to enjoy and cry and swoon over, for answering my questions, (for no love triangles), and for being all around gracious and amazing. I know this post is overlong, and possibly overwrought. But even with all these words, I still feel as if I've fallen short of describing how much I love it. I guess, all I can say is

Love Triangle Factor: None 

Cliffhanger Scale: Series end 

Other posts on this series:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Shimmer by Paula Weston

See full schedule HERE

by Paula Weston
Read: June 17 - 18, 2014
Published: March 8, 2016 by Tundra Books
Source: From publisher (THANK YOU!)
Category: Angels, Demons, Memory-loss, YA/NA

Series: The Rephaim #3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&NThe Book Depository | Indiebound

Description: Gaby thought her life couldn’t get more complicated.

She’s almost used to the idea that she’s not the nineteen-year-old backpacker she thought she was. She can just about cope with being one of the Rephaim - a 140-year-old half-angel - whose memories have been stolen. She’s even coming to grips with the fact that Jude, the brother she’s mourned for a year, didn’t die at all.

But now Rafa—sexy, infuriating Rafa—is being held, and hurt, by Gatekeeper demons. And Gaby has to get the bitterly divided Rephaim to work together, or Rafa has no chance at all.

It’s a race against time - and history. And it may already be too late.

Note: Click to find my reviews for Shadows and Hazethe first two books in the Rephaim series. 

Shimmer is the third book in Paula Weston's Rephaim series. If these books are not on your radar yet, it is time to add them, because they are compulsively readable and addicting. This series has also been so much fun to discuss with fellow readers, as information about Gaby's past slowly unfolds throughout each installment. Now is also a perfect time to start reading, because you won't have to wait as long to find out what happens next! 

If you are new to this series, and want more information on what these books are all about and why you should be reading them, start with my thoughts on Shadows. It was too hard for me to talk about Shimmer without giving away some details about the first two installments, and part of the fun of this series is not knowing what is coming, as you try to figure it all out with Gaby. 

If you are already invested in this series, I don't think you're going to to need a lot of convincing to keep reading, but for more information on what to expect in book three, 

Here is my five point breakdown about what is happening in Shimmer

1) Gaby + Jude - I love a strong sibling bond, especially twins, and from the beginning of this series, Gaby and Jude's relationship has been of my favorites. Even when it broke my heart in the first book, I was desperate for more of these two. This installment features a lot of Gaby and Jude time, and I could palpably feel the strong bond between them, as well as their struggle to understand who they were and who they are. Although Jude has fit back into this world much easier, both Gaby and Jude share loss that no one else can fathom - loss of memory, and almost of each other, the loss of a shared past they don't remember, and the difficulty of trying to fit into a society that seems to know more about them than they do. 

2) Gaby + Rafa - From the first scene these two shared in book one, Gaby and Rafa have had so much intensity between them that it smolders off the page, and that tension continues to build in this installment. Soon they will catch on fire…I hope they don't get too burned in the process. I was equal parts cheering and biting my nails at the progress they make in this book. I want so much for them to be together and happy, but I know things will change between them again when Gaby gets her memory back.  

3) Sanctuary + Outcasts - For the first time in ten years, both factions of Rephaim are together in this book, which is a lot of strong personalities - with a lot of shared history and hurt - in one place. Although this book does feature action, including a big rescue mission, this installment focuses a lot on the politics and interpersonal relationships between the characters and the different Rephaim factions. We also get a lot more information about the Angel/Demon mythology, especially pertaining to the Fallen. In some senses this book was a bit quieter than the first two and felt like it was setting up for the big finale that will come in the final installment, Burn

4) Relationships - I've said this before, but it is the relational aspect of this series and not the overarching mythology plot that has made it such a favorite for me. Gaby's ache to figure out who she is - between people's expectations of her past character, her own fake memories and what she knows of herself now - is one of the best parts of this story for me. As is watching her reform relationships with characters she's known before. When she gets her memories back, will she be Gabe or Gaby or a combo of the two? I've not been able to stop considering that question since this series began. 

5) Cliffy - The ending of Shimmer is another cliffhanger. It is much more revelatory and anticipatory than stressful, in that characters aren't literally in the midst of "hanging off a cliff" in danger as they were at the end of Haze. But it made me no less anxious to get to the finale. You will be desperate for the next book when you finish this! 

In sum: Shimmer is another great installment in the Rephaim series. It is a little quieter than the previous two, but continues to focus on relationships, which is my favorite aspect of this series. I love these books so much!

Love Triangle Factor: None!

Cliffhanger Scale: HIGH on anticipation, Low on immediate danger. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blog Tour: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Review + Giveaway

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See below for the full tour schedule 

Rebel of the Sands
By Alwyn Hamilton
Read: November 5 - 6, 2015
Published: March 8, 2016 by Penguin
Source: Galley from publisher (THANK YOU, PENGUIN!)
Tags: Fantasy, desert, magic, Djini, 

Series: 1 of 3 Rebel of the Sands Trilogy

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository Indiebound

The first thought I had when I started Rebel in the Sands was that it felt like a western. The book opens in a seedy bar called Deadshot in a small town on the edge of a desert, where a cross dressing girl-bandit is about to compete in a sharpshooting contest. The story also features a journey through lonely desert towns, a railroad chase, captured horses, prison breaks, secret hideouts and a mysterious (and attractive) stranger. All elements found in your typical western. 

But from even the cover, it's clear that this wild west show is decidedly eastern. Ruled by a powerful sultan, these lands are filled with camels and magical horses that form out of the sand, immortal Djinni and the much more sinister Skinwalkers and ghouls, none of which you want to encounter in the dark. Not to mention that Amani leaves town with a lot more fanfare than she expected, including the sultan's army chasing after her. 

Rebel in the Sands is a really great adventure story, starring a girl with a remarkable talent for shooting and survival, who will do anything to escape her dead end life. After Amani overhears her uncle's plans to add her to his number of wives, she is determined to get out at all cost. What she doesn't expect is to meet a mysterious ally at the Deadshot and then keep running into him. Amani thought she was alone in the world, but she soon realizes that working with Jin will serve them each better. Even though he is a fugitive, and the main reason the sultan's army is even after them. 

Although I had a great time reading this book from start to finish, its many layers are what truly enchanted me. The way the story feels like a western at first, but is actually something else entirely. The way it starts with a simple girl escaping a bad situation, but turns into an epic cross country adventure and slow burn romance. The way I was focused on some revelations and completely missed others. I thought this book was fairly straightforward and that I knew all the reveals to come, but this book surprised me in places. 

And of course, as a romance girl, I loved the growing relationship between Amani and Jin. These two spend most of the book in each other's company, but trust and romance between them is slow to build. From the beginning they have fantastic banter and tension, and once they get on the same page, I love how they they scheme and support each other, even when protecting each other means making out :). Both Amani and Jin have a great understanding of when they should step forward and when they should step back and let the other lead a situation, which stood out to me all the more in a society where women have little to no power. I cannot wait for more of these two in future books. 

Nearly every series installment seems to end with a crazy cliffhanger these days, so it was a great surprise (and relief) that this book doesn't have one. Rebel of the Sands is the first in a trilogy, and the ending anticipates more to come, without leaving the characters in angst or peril. Cliffhanger, or not, I cannot wait to find out where Amani takes us next. 

In sum, I loved this book! Rebel of the Sands is filled with exciting adventure, revelations and romance, all starring a gun-wielding, horse-riding, thieving, blue-eyed bandit-girl and the mysterious fugitive, with whom she teams up. Don't miss this one! 

Love Triangle Factor: None

Cliffhanger Scale: Low - ends in a good spot, with anticipation of what is to come. 


About the Author

Alwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and spent her childhood bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She grew up in a small town there, which might have compelled her to burst randomly into the opening song from Beauty and the Beast were it not for her total tone-deafness. She instead attempted to read and write her way to new places and developed a weakness for fantasy and cross-dressing heroines. She left France for Cambridge University to study History of Art at King’s College, and then to London where she became indentured to an auction house. She has a bad habit of acquiring more hardcovers than is smart for someone who moves house quite so often.
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