Book Reviews, Products I love!!

Book Review: Greythorne by Crystal Smith

Greythorne (Bloodleaf #2) by Crystal Smith

Overall: ***

Romance: **

Reading Rate: ****

Publisher: HMH Books

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Pages: 352

Recommend if you liked: The Remnant Chronicles

After the ending of Bloodleaf I was ready to dive right into Greythorne to find out what happened next with Aurelia and Zan!  I was very surprised to see that Smith took the storyline in a very different direction for this book so I struggled in the beginning with the shock of the character changes.

What I enjoyed:

  • New magic systems elements presented
  • As the story progressed and we learned more about the new characters I found myself getting sucked in again and enjoying the new twists.

What I struggled with:

  • While I enjoyed the overall story line, I struggled with the use of Spectral Travel and Time Travel to explain a large amount of the happenings in the story. I felt the use of these elements really did more to undo to story than to wrap it up.
  • The time travel gaps along with the recurring theme of people dying and coming back caused this book to fall short of its predecessor for me.

I also have to admit that I am sad about the cover change, the originals were some of my favorites.

Synopsis:

Princess Aurelia’s life is turned upside down when the kingdom she thought she saved turns to ruin, a loved one is tragically killed in a shipwreck, and her home country refuses to respect her brother’s legitimate claim to the throne. With no place left to call her own, Aurelia returns to Greythorne Manor—her best friend’s family mansion—only to get swept up in a coup d’état on the night of her brother’s coronation.

With everyone turned against her and enemies closing in on all sides, Aurelia has nothing left to lose in a mad fight to protect the only people she has left—her family. But in her darkest moments when all seems grim, will Aurelia find a spark of hope from a love she thought long lost?

Thank you to NetGalley and HMH Books for the opportunity to read Greythorne in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

I am thrilled to be a part of the Inkyard Press Blog Tour for These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin. Guys this book sounds so so good!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Mean Girls meets Siobhan Vivian’s The List in THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS, an utterly addictive standalone YA debut that follows 16-year-old Ember Williams as she seeks revenge against the Red Court, a secret organization of Heller High’s most elite female students that specializes in granting and requesting favors—and which is responsible for the accident that left her older sister paralyzed.

A thrilling novel about a secret society and the dangers that lie in wait for anyone brave enough to join—perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus, Kara Thomas, and Maureen Johnson.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities known only by their leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Now, she’s determined to hold the organization accountable by taking it down from the inside. But will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog. When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and listening to true crime podcasts. These Vengeful Hearts is her first young adult novel.

 

PRAISE:

“Ember draws readers into the drama of finding the members of the Red Court… Recommend this to fans of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds.” –School Library Journal

“Laurin’s novel tackles the destructive power of high school bullying through characters who are compelling in their complexity.” –Kirkus Reviews

 

EXCERPT

 

chapter one

Of the ways I’d want to start a Monday, finding a car cov­ered in blood was not one of them. The murmurs began just after first period, and fragments of muted conversation led me out to the Heller High parking lot. I was curious to see the spectacle drawing so much attention.

The crush of students flowing out of the school buoyed me along in a tide of bodies. Between gaps in the crowd, I caught glimpses of the word smeared across the car’s wind­shield in blood red relief.

LIAR

Gray clouds hung low, casting the macabre tableau in wa­tery light. The chill that slithered up my spine had nothing to do with the brisk October morning. I skirted a group of girls in front of me, recognizing familiar faces from my ge­ometry class, and found myself staring down at the thick crimson streaks. The letters looked nearly dry, and I couldn’t fight the morbid impulse to touch them. A distinct tackiness remained. Was it corn syrup or actual blood? I didn’t care to investigate further.

There was no proof that the infamous secret organization made up of Heller High’s elite even existed, but this exhibi­tion had all the makings of a Red Court takedown. Whis­pers from the ring of students surrounding the car reached me and I stepped backward, edging away from notice until I was part of the throng gathered to witness the scene. It didn’t seem like anyone was paying attention to plain old jeans-and-a-tee-every-day Ember Williams. Good.

Other words, some so ugly I couldn’t look at them for more than a moment, marred the rest of the car’s windowed sur­faces. My eyes skipped to the girl huddled beside a tree next to the parking lot. Tears stained with mascara ran in inky rivulets down her cheeks. Two of her friends rallied around her, whispering softly.

No amount of consolation was going to wash away the stain from this one. More than a few heads from the crowd were turned in her direction. I didn’t know her name, but I had a feeling she’d be remembered as that girl, the one whose car was vandalized with blood. She’d been marked by the words we’d all seen: liar, cheater, tramp.

Why did the Red Court target her? Who wanted this girl humiliated—to be brought so low in front of the whole school? Or had she been reckless enough to throw in with them and ask for a favor she couldn’t repay? No. The vulner­ability in her expression was too raw to fake. This girl was a pawn in the Red Court’s game. The pull to learn more about the group known for dealing out ruin and favors in equal measure went beyond cursory interest. I needed to know more.

My stomach gave an uncomfortable tug, as if my body was eager to put distance between me and the girl now that I’d seen the damage. A sob shuddered through her, and I tore my gaze away, shifting my feet and noticing a stickiness below my sneakers. A thick coat of red clung to the bottom of my shoes, marking me too. Ugh. I must have stepped in a pool of the blood. I told myself it was fake blood because I couldn’t stomach the alternative. I’d have to go change into my run­ning shoes before next period.

“Everyone back inside,” a teacher called from the main doors. His tone left no room for argument.

The mass of students quickly dissolved, moving back into the school. The whispers rose to chatter as theories were passed around like mono on prom night. I trailed behind a couple holding hands as they maneuvered through the crowd.

“This is the worst one so far,” the girl said.

Her boyfriend scoffed. “Worse than the video of Brett Shultz’s keg stand? No way. He got kicked off the football team for that. Brett had Division I schools scouting him, too.”

A rogue Facebook account cropped up just after the school year began with some incriminating footage of the varsity running back at a party in a stunning display of upper body strength and chugging technique. The video made it all the way to Principal McGovern, who reluctantly had him re­moved from the team, along with the school’s shot at a state title.

“Do you really think she cheated on her boyfriend?” some­one behind me asked.

“Does it matter?” his friend responded.

I shook my head in silent reply. It didn’t matter. That was the power of the Red Court; gossip and innuendo were all it took for a star student to fall from grace after accusations of cheating.

As I passed a small cluster of teachers just inside the doors, I stepped nearer to catch the edges of their hushed exchange.

“—needs to do something.”

“The district’s policy on bullying—”

“I know the policy, but this is beyond ‘bullying.’ It’s the third time since the school year began.”

This may have been the third public display of destruc­tion in the last six weeks, but it was hardly the third time the Red Court had struck. Their takedowns were legendary and highly visible to ensure maximum exposure, but they also excelled in the small things no one would notice unless they were looking for anomalies. My eyes were wide open.

For as long as anyone could remember, there have been ru­mors that the mysterious Red Court was pulling the strings behind the scenes at Heller High School. Its ranks were shrouded in mystery, but its influence was undeniable. Rigged Student Council elections, changed grades, and ruined repu­tations were all in their repertoire.

Half of the school treated them like the Boogeyman, the near mythical thing that was out to get you. It was easier to deny their existence than to acknowledge the specter of their presence. Takedowns like the one outside were as likely to be attributed to the Red Court as they were to be pinned on anonymous wannabes posing as the Red Court to allay sus­picion. It seemed like the other half of the over two thou­sand students at Heller made a sport of trying to guess which members of the prom court were legitimate and which ones owed their wins to the Red Court.

But I knew the truth.

The Red Court was real, and I needed in.

I pushed my way through the crowded halls to get to my locker. All around me a chorus of voices carried the news of the Red Court’s latest victim, the story spreading faster than I could move.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. It was probably my best friend. I ducked into an alcove to check my texts.

Gideon: Did you hear?

Me: I saw, actually

Gideon: And?

Me: It was probably them. Who else would mess around with that much blood?

Gideon: Ew. Was it real blood?

I thought of my shoes again and shuddered.

Me: Who cares? The car looked like the prom scene from Carrie. They got their point across.

Gideon: I saw Mrs. Martin leading the girl into her office.

If something like that ever happened to me, I’d want to be put in the hands of the nicest—and most capable—guid­ance counselor, too.

Me: Yeah, I saw her outside.

Gideon: It’s too bad. She looked wrecked.

We were reaching the point in the conversation at which I was supposed to condemn the monsters who did this. I wasn’t ready to go there with Gideon. Revealing the true depth of my disgust at everything the Red Court stood for was not something I could do over text. Truthfully, my feelings about the Red Court were this gnarled mass inside of me, too big to start talking about at all.

Me: I gotta run. Lit is calling.

Gideon: Ok, see you after.

Before I’d made it halfway across the school, the warning bell rang. I gave up the attempt to change my shoes and turned to book it upstairs so I could suffer through American Lit with a room full of disenchanted sophomores. Oh joy. On an ordi­nary day, class was a chore to get through. On a day like today, with my mind busy dissecting the latest Red Court takedown, it seemed like my school would live up to its nickname after all. Welcome to Hell High.

“Ember?” Mr. Carson called my name like a question.

Crap. I must have missed something. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on Mr. Carson’s analysis of Leaves of Grass, which was a shame. Whitman had some serious 19th century game going on. “I sing the body electric” gave me chills the first time I read it.

“Yes, Mr. Carson?”

He sighed impatiently. Or perhaps disappointedly. “Do you have any thoughts on the final section?”

I glanced at my notes from the night before to read the scribbles aloud, but a mocking voice cut in.

“Whitman’s talking about the physicality of the body and how it is part of the soul or is the soul. Like it’s just as impor­tant as the soul, which at the time was elevated above a per­son’s body in significance.”

I threw a baleful look toward Chase Merriman—insuffer­able know-it-all—and was given a smug half-smile in return. He just loved to one-up me. Mr. Carson turned his gaze to me for more input, but my premeditated discussion points wouldn’t add anything to the dialogue. I gave my Lit teacher as unaffected a shrug as I could manage even though a sharp retort branded with Chase’s name tried to claw its way out of my throat. I pushed it down, not deigning to give Chase the satisfaction of knowing he got under my skin.

Mr. Carson continued droning on, asking for our “thoughts” and “feelings” about the poem. Poor guy didn’t seem to un­derstand his audience. Disengaged was our default setting. It really took some doing to rouse us. Though Whitman’s work was taboo back in the day, most of the students here had prob­ably seen something more risqué in their Instagram feeds over breakfast this morning.

The bell rang and Mr. Carson’s shoulders slumped. Another day of not making a difference. I almost felt bad for him, but this was his chosen career path. He had to know what he was getting into when he signed up to teach freak­ing poetry at a public school.

“Could you hang back a minute, Ember?” Mr. Carson’s words caught me six inches from the door and freedom.

I smiled tightly. The next period was my off-hour, but Gideon would be waiting. Every moment I wasted in the classroom diminished the chances of running out for my caf­feine fix, which were already slim since I had to trek back across the school to change my sneakers first. I would not spend a moment longer than necessary in these shoes.

“What’s up, Carson?” He was one of those teachers who thought using “Mr.” in his title meant he was uncool, so I dropped it whenever I needed extra brownie points. Not that my brownie point bank account was in that much need.

“It’s unlike you to space out during an epic poetry discus­sion. Everything ok?”

Mr. Carson was probably my favorite teacher, and we had a strong rapport, but I couldn’t tell if his use of “epic” was sincere. I hoped for his sake he was being cheeky.

“Just having one of those days, you know?” Vague, Ember, be vague. “I’m sure I’ll be back to contributing the only mean­ingful insight tomorrow,” I added with a rueful smile, which he returned.

“Sounds like a plan. So you know, I’m always here if you need an ear.” He shut his copy of Leaves of Grass with a snap, effectively ending our conversation.

“Thanks!” I bolted out the door as fast as I could without seeming rude.

Running down the steps two at a time, I nearly crashed into Gideon as he waited at the foot of the stairs near the school’s main entry.

“What’s the rush, Em?” His words came out in a whoosh as he caught me.

“I need to stop by my locker before we get coffee. Let’s go!”

“Seriously? There isn’t time for a detour if we’re going to make it back before the hour is up. Let’s just hit the library instead.”

He was right of course, but I was in desperate need of a large Americano. I wanted to argue, but once Gideon made a decision, there was no way he’d change his mind. If only there was someone as bullheaded as him on the debate team with me.

Gideon broke down what he’d heard about the takedown this morning as we walked through the halls. I was too busy sulking to add to the commentary. I spun the combination on my locker, wondering how in the world I could explain the bloody shoes to my mom. The door swung open, and I tossed my bag to the ground. I was already toeing off my sneakers when a flash of red caught my eye.

The Queen of Hearts sat alone on the top shelf of my locker, the coy smile on her face said she knew something I didn’t. If the rumors were to be believed, she did. A Queen of Hearts was the eponymous calling card of the Red Court’s leader, and its presence could only mean one thing: my invi­tation had finally come.

 

Excerpted from These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin, Copyright © 2020 by Katherine Laurin. Published by Inkyard Press.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter: @writerkatherine

Instagram: @kl_writer

Author Website: https://katherinelaurin.com/

 

BUY LINKS:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Indie Bound

 

Book Reviews, Products I love!!

BLOG TOUR: Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody, out now!!

GAME OF THRONES meets THE DIVINERS in this thrilling fantasy — the highly anticipated final book in Amanda Foody’s THE SHADOW GAME series.

Return to the City of Sin, where the perilous final game is about to begin…The players? Twenty-two of the most powerful, most notorious people in New Reynes.
With no choice but to play, Enne and Levi are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But any misstep could turn deadly when a far more dangerous opponent appears on the board — one plucked straight from the city’s most gruesome legends. While Levi hides behind a mask of false promises, Enne is finally forced out from behind hers and as the game takes its final, vicious turn, these two must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies. Because in a game for survival, there are no winners…

There are only monsters.

About the author
Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a master’s in accountancy from Villanova University and a bachelor of arts in English literature from the
College of William and Mary.

Q&A with Amanda Foody

Q: What was the most challenging part to write in Queen of Volts?

A: The primary plot of Queen of Volts is a card game–twenty-two players, selected from among the most powerful people in the City of Sin. And every player has a target. As you can imagine, architecting such a game with twenty-two characters was incredibly complex, and I stressed about it for months over the drafting process. It was a complicated but rewarding endeavor.

 

Q: What was your most favorite part and why?

A: My favorite part was the fake dating arc. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but I absolutely loved the way these characters spun the classic trope. 

 

Q: . The Shadow Games series holds a lot of different POVs. Who was your favourite character to write through, and who was the hardest?

A: Over the course of the series, my favorite, steadfast character was Levi. His POV appears in all three books, and of all six of the various POVs over the course of the series, I see the two of us as the most similar. We are both analytical, and we react to conflict in similar ways. The most difficult character for me to write was Lola. She bit back at me with an anger and a resentment that I initially didn’t know what to do with. 

 

Q: What inspired you to model New Reynes after Atlantic City?

A: I grew up in Philadelphia, spending a good chunk of my summers at the south Jersey shore, a place known for sandy beaches, saltwater taffy, and boardwalks. Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and New York already have such a rich, connected history of organized crime in the early 20th Century. I relished the opportunity to pull elements of that setting into a high fantasy world. 

 

Q: How does it feel to be ending a trilogy, especially one as big and unique as this one?

A: It feels amazing, to be honest. From the beginning, my focus was always on creating a sprawling fantasy series that centered queer characters and teenage girls, and I’m endlessly grateful to my publisher for giving me free reign to accomplish that. Out of the six POVs in The Shadow Game series, three of them are queer, and the ratio also extends to the supporting cast. As a queer author, that means everything to me. 

 

Q: What’s a typical writing day for you?

A: The absolutely best part about being a full-time writer is that I can wake up whenever I feel like it, which is usually a little after 8:30 a.m. I’m the sort of the writer who normally juggles multiple projects at once, so I usually split my day between Book A and Book B, hopefully with some free time for exercise and/or lunch in between. 

 

Q: Where do you like writing and why? Favorite snacks and/or beverages?

A: I usually write in one of two places: on my bed, where it’s very comfy; or on the floor of my living room. I’m not a big snacker, generally, but I love tea. I often brew a quart of it the night before and sip green or oolong iced tea throughout the day.

 

Q: What was your last 5-star read and why?

A: Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald. Emanuela, the main character of this book, is nothing short of a queer icon. In the category of Girls-Who-Do-Not-Apologize-For-Shit, Emanuela has the gold medal. I love her dearly.

 

Q: How would your main character(s) fare with a stay-at-home order?

A: I’m going to stick to Levi and Enne for this one. I think that Enne would ultimately fare well, surrounded by her friends in the Spirits, also quarantined with her. She’d probably plow through her collection of Sadie Knightley novels. Levi would be restless and bored of defeating the other Irons at the same card games over and over again.

 

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the book that is not a spoiler and not on the blurb? Something you’d like to share with us?

A: This book has a heavy emphasis on mental illness. As the third book in a trilogy, these characters have faced a huge amount of dangers and stress leading up to this finale, and it’s not the sort that any of them can simply brush off. They’re scared. They’re grieving. And it was important to me to explore how these traumatic experiences have shaped their various journeys. I don’t write assume that just because a character flees a line of fire that they’ve escaped it unscathed. 

 

Q: What was your inspiration for writing the book?

A: I have always been fascinated with magic systems. As fantasy writers or fantasy writers, we often have such narrow expectations for the way that magic is described, but magic is ultimately magic. It has so much untapped potential. My inspiration for The Shadow Game series was a world where magic was currency. From that, I engineered an entire world shaped by greed. 

 

Q: What came first, the novel or the title?

A: For Queen of Volts, the title. My editor actually suggested it on my very first call with her when she offered to buy Ace of Shades. She had it simmering for three years before Queen of Volts released!

 

Q: Which character/s do you relate to the most?

A: I relate to Levi the most–I often feel that he and I share a similar mixture of ambition and cynicism. I did also put a lot of myself and my manifestos into Enne. I love clothes, make-up, and so much of what our culture deems to be “girly” and therefore less than. But on a purely personal level, Enne and I are very different people. She is sensitive and reactive in a way that I am not. 

 

Q: What do you like most about writing?

A: I love the immersion it offers into a fantasy world. It is so different than the experience of a reader. When I am describing a setting in my books, I am not describing everything I imagine–I am only describing what I deem is necessary. But I still envision every unspent detail in my own mind. In the scene, I am there. I see it all. I hear it. I smell it. That degree of imagination is addictive.

 

Q: What scene, in the book, are you most proud of?

A: That is incredibly hard to choose. There is a scene of Sophia and Harrison in a car that I love dearly. A scene of Levi and Tock. Countless scenes of Levi and Enne. I don’t know how to discuss them without spoilers, but they were all important to me, in their own ways.

 

Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer? 

A: Even though I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, I did not consider myself a writer until I was 17, when I decided unequivocally that I wanted to be an author. Before that point, I had thought being a novelist was unpragmatic and borderline impossible. It took redefining my own image of myself to turn an impossibility into a goal. 

 

Q: What would you like to say to aspiring/beginning writers in the community?

A: If you’re serious about writing, make it your study. Read books about craft. Read books lauded for their craft. I don’t think it’s important to study creative writing or attain any degree in it, but it is important to think of yourself as a student, to devour as much information about the craft as you can find. I personally always err on the side of taking myself too seriously. Otherwise, I might not get anything done. 

Social Links:
Author website: http://www.amandafoody.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandafoody
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandafoody/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37545599-queen-of-volts

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Volts-Shadow-Amanda-Foody/dp/1335145869

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/queen-of-volts-amanda-foody/1133810276

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335145864

Book Reviews, Products I love!!

Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

Fable by Adrienne Young (Book 1 of the Fable Duology) 

Overall: ***.5

Romance:***

Reading Rate: ***

Publisher: Wednesday Books 

Pages: 368

Release Date: 9/1/2020

Recommend if you liked: Pirates of the Caribbean

This was a short and sweet adventure novel on the high seas!

What I liked:

  • I really enjoyed the writing and the characters that Young developed in such a short time.
  • I love ocean travel stories and this one had a great mix of time in port, on islands, and at sea. 
  • Also could this cover get any more beautiful!!! 

What I struggled with:

  • While the story was enjoyable the storyline was very similar to others and it made it easy to predict how the book would progress.
  • I could have done with a bit more romance but this novel is at the young end of the YA scale so I feel like it fit the desired audience. 

The book does end of a cliffhanger so I hope to see some unexpected twists and turns in the sequel!

Synopsis:
As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.