Category: characters

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Blog Tour for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan and Author Interview

WickedSaints_BlogTourBanner_AFTER 4.2

Today I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan, which hits stores today! I have a quick interview with the author, then a review of Wicked Saints, which you should definitely go read if you enjoy dark, atmospheric books with complex mythology and magic systems.

Emily A. Duncan
Emily A. Duncan

Author Interview

Q: Tell me a little bit about Wicked Saints.

A:  Tired monastery girl who can talk to the gods! Anxious morally dubious blood mage boy! Exhausted traumatized prince! An assassination plan! A holy war! Eldritch gods! Lots and lots of blood!

Q: Where did your inspiration come for writing Wicked Saints?

A:  Video games and metal music! Specifically, Skyrim in regards to the video games, but it was also fueled by my deep love for metal.

Q:  What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book?

A:  I mean, I’m very vocal about how much I love the Grisha trilogy, but to answer this slightly differently, the book I’ve reread the most is Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

Wicked Saints_Cover FINAL
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Wicked Saints
Author:   Emily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Nadya is a cleric who can commune with all the gods—unheard of—living in a remote monastery. Kalyazin has been at war with Tranavia for a long time, but the war has never touched the monastery. Until it does, in the form of Tranavian soldiers led by Serefin, High Prince and blood mage. As her friends die around her, Nadya escapes into the wilderness.

She meets Malachiasz, a defector with dark secrets that Nadya isn’t sure she can trust. But Nadya’s powers may be the only thing standing in the way of destruction, so she heads to the seat of Tranavian power, desperate to find a way to stop it. Serefin, used to drinking and fighting, has been called home by his father, but Serefin finds the king in the midst of a horrifying scheme to gain immortality and ultimate power.

Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz will have to trust each other if they have any hope of stopping the coming darkness.

Wicked Saints is dark and atmospheric, with a creepy and cold setting reminiscent of Russia. The magic systems are dark and bloody, and there aren’t a lot of happy feelings in this book. I was fascinated from the first page, although I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re depressed at the time. Treachery, hatred, lies, deceit…all run through the pages of this novel like blood, until you can’t see what’s coming next.

Emily A. Duncan is a youth services librarian. Wicked Saints is her new novel, the first in the Something Dark and Holy series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project, by Lenore Appelhans

manix pixie
Image belongs to Lerner Publishing Group.

Title:  The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project
Author:  Lenore Appelhans
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Riley is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy—the trope’s token boy—in trouble for speaking out in his last novel role. He’s sentenced to do therapy in TropeTown with other Manic Pixies who have behaved outside of their roles. Riley isn’t sure therapy is going to help him, until he meets Zelda, another Manic Pixie, and decides maybe it won’t be so bad.

But the Manic Pixies have been causing trouble, and now they might be terminated. All the Manic Pixies will have to work together to save their trope from destruction, and Riley will have to choose between a secure future, and the chance to seize his greatest dreams.

I saw a comment that Riley might be a character from The Fault in Our Stars—although that’s never stated, obviously—but I’ve never read that, so I can’t comment on any similarities (I’m sure it’s a wonderful book, but I don’t read anything I know ahead of time will make me cry). This novel is ironic and lighthearted. It’s an easy read, and there are a few moments of surprising depth—like the lesson about other, now-retired tropes being terminated because of their racist characteristics—but at heart, it’s just a fun read.

Lenore Appelhans’s new book is The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project.

(Galley courtesy of Lerner Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in February (2019)

I read 14 books in February, four less than in January. My top three picks for the month include one book for review, one for pleasure, and one nonfiction.

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Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed this book. It has a sort-of-Viking culture, and a heroine who was raised as a warrior. When she’s betrayed and fails her challenge, she’s banished to live in the deadly wilds until she kills the god her village pays tribute to every year. She’s a strong character, but she’s haunted by fear of failure and betrayal. I enjoyed this so much!

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel. Anne writes the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I love reading all her posts, although I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasts yet. And Book Club is amazing, too. A book about reading? I’m so there!

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. I really love this series, and have read all of them. And loved them. Kaylin is a great character:  flawed but so loyal and brave. Awesome world-building as well.

Book Review: A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner

a soldier and a liar
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:  A Soldier and a Liar
Author:  Caitlin Lochner
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Lai is a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager with abilities that frighten the Etioles without abilities—but with numbers and power on their side. Lai is in prison:  by her own choice and for her own reasons. Going back to the military is not what she had in mind, but when a chance to join a special team of Nytes comes her way, she decides that it might suit her own agenda perfectly, if she keeps the truth of her power to herself.

She joins Jay, an uptight perfectionist haunted by his father’s expectations, Al, whose short temper keeps her own secret hidden, and Erik, a surly amnesiac desperate to find out who he really is. Their team has a chance to stop the rising rebellion between Nytes and Etioles, but will the secrets they’re hiding destroy their team before they can?

This is a dystopian story, but without the dystopian feel. The focus is on the two groups, Nytes and Etioles, and the conflict and rebellion between them. Each of these characters has secrets, big ones, and keeps everyone at a distance to keep their secret safe. This novel is about finding trust—for yourself and those closest to you—even in the face of danger. An enjoyable read not bogged down with romance and flirting (although there is a teensy bit).

Caitlin Lochner lives and teaches in Tokyo. A Soldier and a Liar is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Doing the wrong thing for the right reason in Lillian Clark’s “Immoral Code”

immoral code
Image belongs to Knopf.

 

Title: Immoral Code
Author:  Lillian Clark
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Five friends. An absentee father who’s a billionaire. One nefarious plot.

Nari is a genius digital hacker. Keagan is her sweet boyfriend who would follow her anywhere. Reese is a visual artist who dreams of traveling everywhere. San is headed to Stanford on a diving scholarship and wants to go to the Olympics. And Bellamy is a physics genius who gets into MIT—then finds out the father she’s never seen is a billionaire, destroying her hopes of financial aid.

Nari’s not going to let her best friend’s dreams be destroyed by some jerk who wants nothing to do with her, so she comes up with a plan:  hack into Bellamy’s dad’s computer empire and plant a code that skims enough money off millions of transactions to pay for Bellamy’s first year of college.

What could possibly go wrong?

This group of characters was fascinating. A group of individuals who form a fantastic team with an unbreakable friendship. I did not entirely care for Nari, who was very bossy and demanding (autocratic comes to mind), but I loved the rest—especially Reese and her vibrant hair. The relationships were complex and believable, and Keagan was my favorite character:  he’s the voice of reason, as well as being the lone “ordinary” soul in the group. Definitely a good read.

Lillian Clark grew up in Wyoming and now lives in Idaho. Immoral Code is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/Knop Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

#immoralcode #lillianclark #knopfteen #ireadthereforeiam #books #bookstagram #bookreview #reading #netgalley #netgalleyreads #contemporaryya #ireadya #yalit

Cover Reveal for “Whispers of Shadow and Flame” by L. Penelope

Look at this beautiful cover! I loved the first book in this series, and the follow-up novella that just came out. I can’t wait to read this!

Today we have the cover reveal tour for book 2 in L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles, Whispers of Shadow & Flame. 

The first book in the series, Song of Blood & Stone was named one of TIME Magazine’s top 10 fantasy books of 2018. Check out the cover reveal and giveaway below!

Title: Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger Chronicles, Book 2)
Author: L. Penelope
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: Fantasy

WhispersofShadowandFlame-PB

Book Description:
The cursed will face the gods. They have nothing to lose.

“A master class in fantasy world-building.” – TIME Magazine on Song of Blood & Stone

The Mantle that separates the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall. And life will drastically change for both kingdoms.

Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame in the kingdom of Lagrimar, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the legendary rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.

Darvyn ol-Tahlyro may be the most powerful Earthsinger in generations, but guilt over those he couldn’t save tortures him daily. He isn’t sure he can trust the mysterious young woman who claims to need his help, but when he discovers Kyara can unlock the secrets of his past, he can’t stay away.

Kyara and Darvyn grapple with betrayal, old promises, and older prophecies—all while trying to stop a war. And when a new threat emerges, they must beat the odds to save both kingdoms.

Pre-order the paperback today!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Shadow-Flame-Earthsinger-Penelope/dp/125014809X

BN: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whispers-of-shadow-flame-l-penelope/1130016254?ean=9781250148094

BAM: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Whispers-Shadow-Flame/L-Penelope/9781250148094?id=7469620796685

 

Sundays are for Writing #7

This week wasn’t a good writing week. I did get some writing done twice…but probably only about 500 words total. Stress seems to make writing nearly impossible for me, so I’m floundering. I’ll try to gain some focus next week.

The good news is my characters are talking to me, so yay!

Book Review: The Inbetween Days, by Eva Woods

the inbetween days
Image belongs to Graydon House/Harlequin.

Title:   The Inbetween Days
Author:   Eva Woods
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything:  who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.

Then Rosie starts remembering things:  a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.

The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.

Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Breath of Dust & Dawn by L. Penelope

breath of dust & dawn

Title:   Breath of Dust & Dawn
Author:   L. Penelope
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   5 out of 5

“For Jasminda ul-Sarifor, the war may be over, but her conflict is not. New, overwhelming duties leave her caught between two worlds but belonging to neither. She turns once more to Jack, hoping the bond that got them through the first battle is strong enough to weather a new storm.

For Jack, Jasminda’s struggles hit close to home. To help her find her way, he entrusts her with a tale from his past when, after another war, a young Jack Alliaseen must also adjust to new responsibilities. But his take a lethal turn when prisoners of war start showing up dead on his watch. With the aid of a mysterious young man destined to change his life forever, Jack must save the lives of those under his protection before it’s too late.

As his story unfolds, will Jack’s memories help Jasminda conquer her present trials?”

I loved Song of Blood & Stone, and I was excited to read this sequel/prequel (it makes sense, honestly). I was not disappointed! I enjoyed getting a deeper glimpse into Jack’s past. It showed part of how he grew to be the man he was in the first book, and the obstacles he overcame. Jasminda is struggling to plan a wedding and learn to be a queen—no pressure there—and Jack’s past teaches her a lesson she needs to know—while drawing them closer.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)