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Monday, October 23, 2017

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: The Last Namsara
(Iskari #1)
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.


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4 “Dragons!!!” Stars

This book had a lot of what I look for in fantasy. The world was familiar, but still managed to feel fresh. The main character was likable. The romance had enough heat to make me anticipate every scene between them. And there was enough action to keep me entertained.

Plus, there were dragons.


Who doesn’t like dragons?


I believe the book’s strongest element is the world Kristen Ciccarelli created. I loved how the author integrated the old stories with what was happening with Asha and the people around her. Even the idea that dragons responded to stories told out loud felt fresh and unique. I felt the whole thing came full circle in the end in a beautiful way.

I will say, though, that the slavery element didn’t sit well with me because of Asha’s involvement in it. The way she felt about it was the main thing that kept me from rating this book even higher. I have a really hard time connecting with main characters that are okay with slavery. Sure Asha had been raised to think the slavery of a whole group of people was justifiable, but her relationship with her cousin should’ve given her a different perspective. I honestly believe she should’ve started the book as someone who was at least bothered by the notion of slavery, especially considering how it affected someone she loved.

 She got there eventually, but I’m also not happy with the fact it took her falling in love with a slave to get there. I’ll be fair and say it wasn’t the only element that made her change, but it still felt like it was the biggest one. Had she learned that lesson solely through her own experiences with the slaves (more than the boy she was falling for) or even because of her friendship with her cousin, maybe I would’ve been less annoyed with that aspect. Maybe….

Having said that, Asha still managed to be likable for me. Given the fact that not being anti-slavery usually makes me automatically hate characters (see my opinion on Marie Rutkoski's The Winner’s Curse), I have to say I’m truly surprised.

I think the main reason I was still able to connect with Asha was because of how much she struggled with being herself. Her misguided notion of her wickedness and her guilt over what had happened with the First Dragon made her relatable. I saw in her someone who was willing to sacrifice a lot to earn her people’s forgiveness, even marrying someone who was a lot worse than she could ever be.

The entire plot point involving the dragons also helped. And yeah, the romance and her chemistry with Torwin didn’t hurt, either. I really enjoyed watching the two of them together, especially when the dragons were involved. I don’t think I can go into details here because of spoilers, but every scene featuring Asha, Torwin, Kozu and Shadow were among my favorites.


Now, even though I could see the whole thing coming from a mile away, I still enjoyed Asha’s journey from who she thought she was to who she was always meant to be. There’s no denying the beauty of that message.


I’m truly happy The Last Namsara lived up to my expectations, and even though I thought the story read like a standalone and I can’t envision what a sequel would look like, I’m curious to see what else the author will do with this great world she created.

*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Book Blitz with Giveaway - Haven by Mary Lindsey


Haven
Mary Lindsey
Published by: Entangled Publishing
Publication date: November 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
“We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed.”
Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.
Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.


Author Bio:
Mary Lindsey is a multi award-winning, RITA® nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives on an island in the middle of a river. Seriously, she does. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, two Cairn Terriers, and one husband.
Inexplicably, her favorite animal is the giant anteater and at one point, she had over 200 "pet" Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. The roaches are a long story involving three science-crazed kids and a soft spot for rescue animals. The good news is, the "pet" roaches found a home... somewhere else.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Blitz with Giveaway - Kai by Michelle Abbot

Title: Kai
Author: Michelle Abbot
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My name is Kai Okamoto. I deal drugs. Trade escapism for cold, hard cash.

Born to a British mother and a Japanese father, I grew up poor, hungry, and alone. Hiding from the monsters at our door. The debt collectors. 

I’ve worked hard to escape my past. I’m not that frightened little boy anymore. I’m wealthy, secure, and sure of myself. At least I was, until I met Lily. 

Lily is a good girl. The kind of girl I should stay away from. I should, but I can’t.

I hate lying to her, but if she finds out who I am, what I do. I won’t see her for dust.

A standalone, bad boy romance, set in England.


Michelle Abbott lives in the UK and hates describing herself in 3rd person.

She loves to write new adult romance about heroes who begin as the underdog and are protective of their girl.

She's an avid reader of romance, is addicted to coffee and loves wine and chocolate, so yeah, not the most healthy eating and drinking habits :-) She spends way too much time online when she should be writing. She collects teddy bears and occasionally knits a couple of rows on a sweater she started years ago, which she may eventually finish in time to wear for her funeral :-)


Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Release & Review - Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
(Rise of the Empress #1)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Release DateOctober 10th, 2017
Age Category/ Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Retelling
Publisher: Philomel Books
An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress--and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

3 “East Asian Evil Queen” Stars

I’ve had my eyes on this book for a while, which means I was eager to finally start and ready to love this story. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

I went into this book knowing it was a retelling of The Evil Queen in a East Asian-inspired fantasy world, so I was expecting to have mixed feelings about the main character—wanting to murder her and loving her at the same time. That’s pretty much how I go about villains I love.

The problem is that I never got to fall in love with Xifeng.

Last year I read Heartless by Marissa Meyer, and I absolutely loved how I went from loving Catherine to watching her become the Queen of Hearts. The thing is, I could root for Catherine and I did understand why she turned into the villain we all knew.

I can’t say the same about Xifeng.

First, I felt like I was thrown into the story after it’d already begun. The romance had already started (and that’s normally a big problem for me because I don’t get to fall in love as the characters do… not that I necessarily felt like Xifeng loved Wei, anyway). The darkness inside Xifeng had already developed to a point she seemed sort of comfortable with it, and I never really felt like I watched her as someone with a good heart battling the darkness. She already seemed almost defeated and conformed to the idea that she would become a powerful and evil person at some point. It made it hard to root for her to overcome this destiny, even when I knew she’d get there eventually.

But the whole point of reading about anti-hero/anti-heroine stories for me is exactly that: rooting for something impossible. Getting so involved in the story that I forget the fact that, yeah, no matter how hard the main character fights to stay good, she’ll become evil in the end. Xifeng never felt good to me. She was too vain and selfish, and too willing to manipulate and use everyone around her to get to her goal, which made her too unlikable for me. There was no motivation for me to root for her.

Speaking of motivation, I didn’t even understand why Xifeng wanted to be Empress. Sure, there was that speech about her wanting to be someone and not to be controlled, which, YES, GIRLFRIEND, GO FOR IT. But was being evil the only way she could get there? No. That was clear, since the Queen of the Forest (I’m sure that’s not her title, but that’s how I thought of her) specifically told her there was more than one path and Xifeng didn’t have to believe she was meant for evil. But again, there was never a real struggle.

There was never the true fight between the good and evil inside of Xifeng. She continued to look at other women and call them jealous and afraid of her beauty (the girl hate was pretty obvious in this story). She continued to manipulate and use Wei (I honestly felt like she never really loved him) and the friends she made along the way to further her agenda. And that was just the beginning. It made the rest of the things she did as the book progressed less impactful, because I already didn’t like her from the start, so nothing cruel or evil she did later had a real impact.

Besides, some of Xifeng’s views of the world were truly problematic. The whole “I can’t stand under sunlight without an umbrella because I want to be pale like the Empress and don’t want to look like a lowly farm girl” thing? Oh, man. That was bad. I cringed when I read that part.

Having said all of that, I still liked the world this author created for her debut. The East Asian inspired vibe I got from it was nice and beautiful and different from what’s out there, which is a plus. I loved seeing a diverse fantasy world. The world was also dark, which worked because of the Evil Queen theme.

I also liked the writing. It’s clear the author is talented. I was a little confused at first, because the opening paragraph made it look like this wouldn’t be a close third POV, but it shifted after that and I enjoyed how the author told the story.


Judging from the tons of five-star reviews I’ve seen, my disappointment with Xifeng and her journey isn’t the norm. The majority loved the story, and I can see why. I can see its appeal. It simply didn’t work for me personally, because I need to be able to root for the character even when she’s a clear anti-heroine, and this didn’t happen here. So, my advice is: if the premise interests you, give it a chance. Maybe you’ll love it as much as the majority of readers did.

*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Release Blitz - Sweet Little Lies by Abbi Glines

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Book #2 in the Sweet Series.   

 After facing a truth she never imagined, Beluah has to find a new path.    

Build a life without help and take care of her sister alone.    

Or does she…   

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Sweet Little Lies - author 

Abbi Glines is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, Field Party and Existence series. She never cooks unless baking during the Christmas holiday counts. She believes in ghosts and has a habit of asking people if their house is haunted before she goes in it. She drinks afternoon tea because she wants to be British but alas she was born in Alabama. When asked how many books she has written she has to stop and count on her fingers. When she’s not locked away writing, she is reading, shopping (major shoe and purse addiction), sneaking off to the movies alone, and listening to the drama in her teenagers lives while making mental notes on the good stuff to use later. Don’t judge. You can connect with Abbi online in several different ways. She uses social media to procrastinate.
 
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