BLOG TOUR: Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey [GIVEAWAY]

25320766Love, Lies, and Spies
by Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 19th, 2016
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

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SYNOPSIS: Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

REVIEW:¬†This book was quite enjoyable and reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel while at the same time using more modern language¬†and is therefore a quicker read. The characters were great. I really enjoyed both Juliana and Mr. Spencer Northam and thought they had a really fun relationship. Carrie and Mr. Reeves were both awesome secondary characters who acted as a great support system for Juliana and other secondary characters were delightfully hateable. Characters weren’t 100% original, but I found myself enjoying them anyway.

There wasn’t too much of a plot throughout the book, which I was okay with, but it did make the overall story¬†feel a little flatter. I was kind of bugged throughout that Juliana was supposed to be portrayed as this strong, intelligent woman, but then she keeps being put in physical danger where Mr. Northam has to save her. I would have just liked a little less “damsel in distress” and a little more “I don’t need a man to save me”.

Overall, I thought this book was a really fun read. The narration is witty and speeds the story along even if it seems like the author is trying a little too hard at times. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen novels and regency era stories.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None


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Version 2ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

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BLOG TOUR: Blackheath by Gabriella Lepore [GIVEAWAY]

BlackheathBlackheath
by Gabriella Lepore
Release Date: December 21st 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

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SYNOPSIS:¬†Seventeen-year-old Maggie Ellmes is dogged by a case of chronic bad luck. She figures that‚Äôs just her lot in life‚ÄĒthat is, until the psychic at Blackheath‚Äôs annual carnival reveals that Maggie‚Äôs problems are caused by more than just ordinary misfortune; she‚Äôs actually been cursed.

Desperate to shake the hex, Maggie has no choice but to seek out the help of Joel Tomlins, a rebellious classmate who’s descended from Blackheath’s most powerful line of witches. After breaking all of his coven’s conventions to help her, Joel discovers that the curse isn’t as bad as Maggie fears. In fact, it’s much, much worse.

REVIEW: The synopsis of this book is a little bit misleading…I thought we’d see more of this “bad luck” that Maggie’s supposed to be suffering from. It really doesn’t play much into it though and doesn’t really have much to do with what’s going on. Let me just start by saying that this book was pretty good. I felt that the premise was solid and the main characters made realistic choices for the most part. The book did a good job of grabbing me right away and making me want to keep reading. The plot became predictable at parts, but not necessarily in a boring way.

That being said, I had some confusion as to where this book was supposed to be set.¬†The author is from the UK and so it made sense that she used British terms like “Maths” and “Jumper”, but then one of the characters is trying out for the soccer team. Literally, the book uses the word soccer. I was under the impression that everyone in the UK used the term football? Seriously, correct me if I’m wrong. So that kind of bothered me.

The secondary characters in this book were really flat and didn’t feel as developed as they could have and should have been. Some of them seemed purposeless. Why is Blonde Lauren called Blonde Lauren? We have no idea. Also, what does it even mean that Evan is the “Chosen One”. It’s never really explained–they just keep calling him that and it never really plays a role in the book. It seems possible that there would be more books after this where it might play a bigger role, but in this book…nothing.

Overall, this book was okay. I thought it started out pretty strong, but then the ending was a little anti-climactic. That being said, I like the way that magic is portrayed and some of the characters are interesting.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. One scene of underage drinking.
Sexual Content: None


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GabABOUT THE AUTHOR:¬†Gabriella Lepore lives on the coast of Wales in the United Kingdom. She¬†began writing at an early age and grew up with a passion for all things¬†supernatural‚ÄĒespecially¬†witches! She currently has six Young Adult books¬†in print: Evanescent, The Blackheath Witches, How I Found You, Secrets¬†In Phoenix, and The Witches of the Glass¬†Castle books 1 & 2.

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BLOG TOUR: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor [GIVEAWAY]

NKNora & Kettle
by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 29th 2016

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SYNOPSIS: What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to‚ÄĒthe internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having ‚Äúone drop of Japanese blood in them‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒthings are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to na√Įve, eighteen-year-old Nora‚ÄĒthe privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

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REVIEW: This book…wow. I’ve never read anything quite like it. First let me start by saying that this book deals a lot with the mistreatment of individuals based on race as well as domestic violence/abusive relationships. If these are things that you have a hard time reading about, I advise you away from this book. That being said, I personally feel like these are really important things to read about and I feel like this book changed some of my perceptions.

The book started off a little slow for me. The reader is placed in the middle of some action so we have to play a little catch-up to really figure out just what is going on. I had a hard time figuring out what the plot might be or where this book was headed. It also seemed like it took forever for our protagonists to finally meet. For whatever reason I felt really anxious the whole time about them finding each other and that kept me from fully enjoying the first half of the book.

I really liked the historical portrait that was painted for us. It’s a very stark picture and it makes me so glad that I live in the time that I do. It’s hard for me to read about kids living on the street or being discriminated against based on race though I know it¬†did (and still does) happen. Taylor did a great job of making the setting come alive and creating a believable backdrop.

Despite the fact that this book is based off of the Peter Pan story, I feel like this book really transcends that idea. Like I said earlier, it deals with really important topics and I am so glad that I read it. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially Post-WWII era), fairy tale retellings, or just likes to read things that make them look at the world a little differently.

Overall Rating:4
Language: Moderate. Some stronger language scattered throughout.
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Holding Court by K.C. Held [ARC]

The women in Juliet’s family all have special “gifts”. Her grandmother can read peoples’ auras while her mother has a talent for knowing when ancient artifacts are made and whether they’re real or fake. Both women have been able to start businesses that capitalize on their abilities but Juliet just wishes hers would go away. She calls it Psychic Tourette Syndrome (PTS for short). Without warning Juliet will blurt out a prediction for the future–someone just has to interpret it first since the things she blurts never make sense. Juliet just wants to¬†land a summer job that doesn’t immediately fire her for “blurting” but when she does, she doesn’t expect to stumble across a dead body.

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For some strange reason I was under the impression that this book was going to have a time travel element? Yeah, I’m not sure why either. I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out to be a mystery because I don’t actually come across very many YA mystery books. At first this book was just pretty “meh” for me (perhaps because I was waiting for the time travel to come in and it never did), but towards the end I started to get into it.

Juliet isn’t my favorite protagonist–frankly she was kind of annoying at times. I was taken aback that she didn’t seem to be trying to hide her ability from other people. She was embarrassed by it, but people seemed to know that she was kind of psychic. In books (and movies) people usually try to hide their special abilities, but it didn’t seem like Juliet or the other women in her family were too concerned about it. The secondary characters were kind of interesting, but mostly flat. I wished that Juliet’s best friend Cami had been a more prominent character, but since she was so background-ish I felt like she was turned into a cardboard cutout best friend. Gran was a fun, quirky character (I liked her Eleanor Roosevelt quotes) but I thought Grayson was pretty vanilla as a love interest.

The plot itself was pretty good. Once I realized it was a mystery things started to make more sense. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who the killer was until it was revealed. It was interesting how Juliet’s blurts played a role in solving the mystery–I almost wished that they had played a bigger role. The only (admittedly minor) plot point that didn’t make sense to me was Angelique’s pregnancy. She’s supposed to be not too noticeably pregnant, but then literally two days after people figure out she is, she goes into labor…uh…what? Sorry, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to hide that you’re nine months pregnant–even under a nun’s habit.

Overall, this book was pretty good. I think it had some weak points, but there were some strong points as well. The last thing that was a little weird was the way some of the chapters were separated. Like usually a chapter starts in a different scene than the last chapter ended, right? Well a few times a chapter would end and then the next chapter would start in the same scene literally five seconds later. It was just kind of unexpected and took me out of the story at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy, but most of it is “off-screen”
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Kingdom-of-Ashes-GalleyCatKingdom of Ashes (A Wicked Thing #2)
by Rhiannon Thomas
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Teen

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OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
A Wicked Thing (see my review for it here)

SYNOPSIS: Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss, Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale. But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king‚Äôs tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan‚ÄĒsomeone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan‚Äôs kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power‚ÄĒsomething so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them‚ÄĒshe begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before‚Ķand uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

REVIEW:¬†Let me start off by saying that this series is a commitment. There isn’t a lot of resolution in each book, but I think the overall series will be able to accomplish that. That being said, the pace of this book is slow. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Aurora is in her head a lot so it sometimes keeps the story and the plot from advancing as quickly as it could (so just be ready for that). At the same time, I feel like we as readers really get to know Aurora well and understand her feelings and motivations. It’s just kind of a trade-off there. Sometimes it can¬†get tiresome with all of the, “Should I kiss Finnegan? But no, I shouldn’t. But I really want to. But I can’t.” Just kiss him already!

Outside of Aurora though, I have a hard time figuring out some of the other characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing (i.e. Finnegan, Orla, Nettle, Tristan, etc). It seems like everyone is really secretive and nobody is telling Aurora the whole story. It’s almost like we’re all still playing catch-up with her from when she was asleep. This was hard for me at times because I typically like to feel like I know more than the protagonist does. In this case, we’re just as uncertain as she is who to trust.

Lastly, even though I feel like I get Aurora, I had a hard time understanding what exactly her end goal was which made it hard for me to care all the way about the plot of the story. Does she want to be queen? What does she want to do with her magic? Does she intend to stick around for a while? We don’t really know the answers to any of these questions.

Overall, I liked this book and I will continue with the series. There were some things that I disliked about it, but they were all personal preferences and I would not consider them fatal flaws in any way. My last bit of criticism is that I wish we had been given a more complete description of the dragons. They become a big part of the story, but I had a hard time picturing them.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None


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RhiannonABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.

I don’t hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.

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A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Aurora has been awoken. Now the sleeping beauty, her true love, and the rest of the kingdom will be able to live happily ever after. Except…Aurora doesn’t love Rodric, the prince who woke her. She knows that she’s nothing special so how is she supposed to live up to everyone’s expectations?

17930904I love a good fairytale retelling so this story¬†is interesting to me since it starts at the end of the fairytale. The prince has arrived and now our story begins. I thought the beginning was solid, but I didn’t know what the plot could be. There wasn’t much conflict beyond Aurora feeling like she couldn’t live up to expectations and whatnot. I was almost sitting here wondering, “Okay, when’s the story going to start?” Even at the end, it didn’t feel like much had happened. Mostly it felt like this book exists to set up the rest of the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not going to capture as many readers right off the bat as it could.

The characters are fine. Again, I don’t feel like we really learn too much about them in this book. Aurora seems nice and I’m glad that there isn’t too heavy of a romance. Overall, I felt like Aurora was a realistic character. She seemed realistically conflicted at times. Other characters…not so much. But I won’t get into that because spoilers.

In the end, this was probably just a three star book, but for some reason I did find myself liking it more than that. The plot doesn’t really drive the pace of this book forward, so I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly fast read. I think the next book will definitely have more action and plot in it and hopefully some more character development as well.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but a lot of it’s “off-screen”
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia has the perfect boyfriend–Bradley. Unfortunately, he decides that the best time to breakup with her is in the parking lot right before Prom. Gia’s friends already thought she was lying about him, so if she shows up to Prom without a date, there’s no way they’ll believe that he was ever real. That’s when she sees him in the parking lot. She makes him a deal–pretend to be her date for the night and she’ll owe him. If he needs a fake date in the future, she’s his girl. What could go wrong?

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Kasie West is back in my good graces. After On the Fence, I was really on the fence about her (pun intended). I really liked this book. I thought the characters were interesting and mostly realistic. Gia’s not very likable at first, but I think that’s the point and she really grew on me as the book progressed and as she develops as a character. I liked Bec A LOT. I tend to like characters like her and I’m not really sure why…maybe because they act as a good contrast to the typical protagonist in these stories. Hayden seemed like a good guy and I was happy to finally see a “good guy” love interest as opposed to the “bad boy” one. The last character I want to talk about is Jules. What even is her problem? That’s really one of the main things that bothered me. I just didn’t understand her motivations for anything. Why is she on Gia so much? I think they tried to explain this in the book, but it was just really never made clear to me.

As far as the plot goes, we all know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable in my opinion. In fact, I think it actually keeps the reader in suspense a little bit. We know what’s going to happen, but not when or how. I still liked seeing the different stages play out. I liked how West uses Gia and Hayden’s families to contrast each other and help with the character development. Overall it was a quick, clean read and I found the resolution really satisfying.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None