Cover Reveal: Inaccurate Realities Time Travel

Back in October, a few friends I met through book blogging launched their new speculative literature magazine featuring young adult short stories!

Their first issue from Inaccurate Realities came out in October and its theme was fear. They've put together such a great little magazine, and I encourage all of you to check it out here!

And today I'm so happy to be a part of the cover reveal for their second issue coming out in January 2014! The theme for January's issue is TIME TRAVEL, which I love as a theme! The full cover will be revealed on December 7th later this week but for now I have the second sneak peek to show you! I've seen the whole cover already and I have to tell you that it is stunning - very well done! I can't wait for you all to see it on Saturday :)

Until then, enjoy!

If you'd like, you can check out the first sliver from the cover on A. A. Omer's blog here.

And make sure to get in touch with Inaccurate Realities if you're interested in getting a copy of one of their issues or if you're interested in writing a short story for an upcoming issue.

Website: http://inaccuraterealities.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18592878-time-travel?from_search=true
Twitter: @InaccurateLit


Review: Poison Dance

Poison Dance: A Novella by Livia Blackburne
Release Date ~ September 12, 2013
E-copy received from author for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. 

Midnight Thief (2014) is a book that has already caught my eye, just by way of its description. (Come on, TELL ME that doesn't sound like the perfect book for me?!) Livia Blackburne contacted me with information about the prequel novella she had released for Midnight Thief, and I jumped right on board.

The feature I find so interesting about this series is that Midnight Thief is categorized as a YA book, but the prequel novella is definitely written for a slightly older audience. Because Poison Dance is the story of a secondary character from Midnight Thief, I can already tell that this is a series that is attempting to build a strong world and cast of characters. Two things I absolutely love to see in fantasy books.

  1. Strong start to a new series:

    Poison Dance provides us with background information about some events leading up to Midnight Thief; importantly, this includes the background story about one character in particular, named James. I'm curious to see how this will enhance or impact my reading of Midnight Thief later on but I'm optimistic that it will give me a greater appreciation of the world Livia is creating in her series.
  2. A grittier fantasy story:

    Since Midnight Thief features an Assassins Guild right in the description, I was anticipating it to be a darker YA book than average. And while Poison Dance doesn't feel like a definitive adult fantasy, it's a bit of a bridge between the two - lines are blurred here. Sexual relationships are a bit more pronounced, and violence has an important role. This is essentially what I would like to see NA become as a category - books that simply feature characters in this twenty-something life stage, but features much more than romance. 

A common problem I have with novellas is that I often feel that they're too short. I'm looking forward to seeing more of James in the next books, but there was so much plot in this novella it felt like it could have been longer than it was. That can leave me aching for more, as a reader.

A prequel novella should make me even more excited to read the book to which the novella is a precursor. That is exactly what Poison Dance accomplished for me, by bumping Midnight Thief even higher on my list of highly anticipated reads in 2014. There's plenty of action and excitement to make this a very quick read, one that certainly highlights the strength Livia has as a writer and the direction we can expect to see Midnight Thief take.

You can also visit Livia's website for more information and read an excerpt from Poison Dance


Review: How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno
Release Date ~ October 1, 2013
Balzer + Bray ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780062216359
ARC received from HarperCollins Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

This is not your traditional love story. Reena and Sawyer's relationship is far from picture perfect. It is messy and real, and we're privy to the very raw emotions Reena experiences as she first connects and then reconnects with Sawyer.

Reena's experiences are going to feel very personal for many readers, I bet. And the story is an honest account of what happened to Reena and how she reacted, as opposed to any sort of moral reflection of the choices made.

  1. Authentic characters:

    These characters are laid out for us, flaws and all. I didn't always like the characters, and I didn't always like what they did. I feel the same way about people in real life. They make bad decisions, and we have to deal with the consequences right along with them.
  2. The significance of free will:

    In fact, I think the whole story is about the bad decisions we make, the people they affect, and how we can all choose to respond to those choices. It's like a domino effect, how each decision has a ripple effect on so many others.
  3. A microcosm of real life:

    I've very rarely read a book that is so honest. I truly believe that not every negative experience is bad through and through (and vice versa with positive experiences). It just isn't that black and white. I loved that How to Love showed us the good parts of Reena's life with her daughter, and the hard parts as well. 

And just like this isn't your traditional love story, I'd say it isn't your traditional ending either. It left me feeling like the ending was a little bit off. Frankly, the relationship between Reena and Sawyer was troubling to me, and I'm not entirely sure whether that was intentional or not.

This ending was the worst part of the book for me, because nothing felt wrapped up. I didn't feel as if decisions had been made, as much as they had just been put off. Maybe it's just that the decisions weren't satisfying to me.


Review: All the Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Release Date ~ September 26, 2013
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780670786152
Hardcover purchased personally

Goodreads Synopsis:
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

You know those books that you just cannot get out of your head? They work their way into your heart and mind and it's impossible to let them go. That's exactly what Julie Berry's newest book, All the Truth That's In Me did to me.

This book is incredibly difficult for me to describe. "Unexpected" is the best word for it. And I hesitate to try and say too much, at risk of ruining the astonishing experience I had reading it for the first time. It may be too early to say this, but this has been my favourite read of 2013 so far!

  1. This reminds me of "The Village" in book form:

    I'm not really too sure exactly why it does; it's hard to pinpoint. The story's really aren't similar, but I think it's the setting that has a similar feel. The setting in All the Truth That's In Me feels timeless, and by that I mean it literally felt like it was outside of the confines of time. I couldn't pinpoint an exact location or era, which only adds to the mystery in my opinion. Also, there's the whole small, tight-knit community with a whole bunch of secrets.
  2. Judith's bravery and resilience:

    I don't think Judith ever sees herself as someone who is extraordinary. But she is. What she views as defiance, I see as bravery and resilience in the face of circumstances which could have broken her down. Judith's reaction to her disappearance and the treatment she receives from those around her are atypical, and I can only admire her for her mental and emotional strength she shows as she endures this. Her concern for others in the wake of such events is truly remarkable.
  3. A sweet, honest love story:

    The relationship between Judith and Lucas is anything but straightforward, yet there's something about it where they're able to retain that childlike simplicity. You can see how they've grown together, and how much of an impact the decisions they make have on each other. It isn't quite your traditional love story, it's full of broken bits and shattered pieces but there's something about it that is still so pure, raw, and real. I can't tell you the last time I was completely invested in the relationship between two fictional characters like this!
There are some aspects to this book that are rather dark. Judith is far from a perfect character, and makes some choices that I found rather questionable. But then again, who hasn't? She's a realistic character, not an ideal one. She makes mistakes, and I think it's most interesting to see how she follows up to those mistakes.

I'm a bit iffy on the second person narrative, but I honestly feel like it worked well in the end. You learn early on in the book the identity of the "you" Judith keeps referring to, and I think the second person narration was important to really bring that character into the spotlight.


Review: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Release Date ~ September 17, 2013
Doubleday Canada ~ Random House of Canada
ISBN13: 9780385679534
Review copy received from RHC for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women's concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.
In this companion volume to the critically acclaimed novel Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein continues to explore themes of friendship and loyalty, right and wrong, and unwavering bravery in the face of indescribable evil.

Historical fiction was the genre that convinced me I loved reading, specifically historical fiction during World War II. Reading Lois Lowry's Number the Stars was a life-changing experience for me. It makes sense that this is still the type of book I hold closely to my heart, and I don't think it's surprising that I loved Code Name Verity so much. Nor is it a surprise that Rose Under Fire made me feel the same way.

I also think it's timely that I'm publishing my review for this book on Remembrance Day. After all, Rose does say that she'll tell the world, doesn't she? Rose Under Fire is so much more than a story, it's a reminder to us all that we can't ever forget. And the reason we can't ever forget is because we have so much to learn from this story, and while Rose's story is fictional the circumstances are not.

  1. Rose's story is timely:

    Every year that passes is another year that we've moved further away from World War II. And every year I wonder if this means that we're one step closer to forgetting. I sincerely hope not. This is why stories like this are so important, because it gives those of us who have never truly experienced war firsthand one method of understanding and empathizing. I believe there is something critical in remembrance.

  2. The value of friendship:

    The one aspect of Rose Under Fire that stood out to me was Rose's experience in Ravensbruck. I thought it would be so full of despair that it would crush me, and I had to set the book aside for a while because of that. And of course it's heartbreaking. But the bonds Rose makes with the women she meets in the concentration camp are so unexpected and shockingly optimistic. I think that really says something about the difference a friend can make in a dark place.
  3. Elizabeth Wein's strength as a writer:

    I struggled through the first half of Code Name Verity. But I finished it (and loved it) and I had an idea of what to expect when I started reading Rose Under Fire. But Rose Under fire is a very different book, because Rose is a very different character with another perspective. Rose's character change is subtle from the beginning of the book to its end, and that can be credited to Elizabeth Wein's talent. The story isn't merely written so much as it is delicately crafted. 
While Rose Under Fire is more of a companion to Code Name Verity than a sequel, but there are a few pieces of the story that I think are best appreciated if you've already read Code Name Verity


Review: Losing It Trilogy

Losing It Trilogy by Cora Carmack
William Morrow ~ HarperCollins
Losing It received from HarperCollins Canada (signed) 
Faking It & Finding It personally purchased

*Note that this review does not include my thoughts on the novellas (Keeping Her & Seeking Her). 

Losing It #1 ~ Released October 15, 2012
Goodreads Description:
Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, Bliss Edwards decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible - a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if that weren't embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She'd left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier

Confession: I had no intention of reading Losing It, and it just so happened that fate stepped in. And by fate, I mean I was gifted a copy from HCC at their Fall Preview Event for bloggers, when they surprised us with a guest appearance from Cora Carmack to sign copies of Losing It for all of us! And after meeting Cora (I should also add here that I've talked to her before through blogging!) I decided I'd give my first New Adult book a whirl.

And you know what? I liked it.

Losing It is my favourite of the series, because I love the sense of humour that Cora writes so well. I can absolutely relate to Bliss and her many awkward moments, and her confusion and fear associated with growing up and taking on more responsibility. This is the kind of NA book I'm happy to read - yes, there's romance and a strong emphasis on it. But the romance isn't overpowering nor does it detract from the rest of the story. There are messy, crazy moments that Bliss has to learn to navigate and it doesn't always work out ideally.

Faking It #2 ~ Released June 4, 2013
Goodreads Description:
Mackenzie “Max” Miller has a problem. Her parents have arrived in town for a surprise visit, and if they see her dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings, they just might disown her. Even worse, they’re expecting to meet a nice, wholesome boyfriend, not a guy named Mace who has a neck tattoo and plays in a band. All her lies are about to come crashing down around her, but then she meets Cade.
Cade moved to Philadelphia to act and to leave his problems behind in Texas. So far though, he’s kept the problems and had very little opportunity to take the stage. When Max approaches him in a coffee shop with a crazy request to pretend to be her boyfriend, he agrees to play the part. But when Cade plays the role a little too well, they’re forced to keep the ruse going. And the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel.

I picked up Faking It immediately after finishing Losing It. There's definitely a similar vibe to Losing It, but I thought that Max and Cade were different enough characters to control their own story and make it work. Max has plenty of sass, so there's still that humorous style of writing, but in a different way from Bliss' awkward moments. This one's more sarcastic than anything.

Faking It is my least favourite of the three books here, likely because it just didn't wow me the way that Losing It did. It just kind of fell in between what I was hoping for, although I thought it was interesting that there were a few more serious issues included in this one for the characters to handle.

Finding It #3 ~ Released October 15, 2013
Goodreads Description:
Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find where you truly belong...
Most girls would kill to spend months traveling around Europe after college graduation with no responsibility, no parents, and no-limit credit cards. Kelsey Summers is no exception. She's having the time of her life . . . or that's what she keeps telling herself.
It's a lonely business trying to find out who you are, especially when you're afraid you won't like what you discover. No amount of drinking or dancing can chase away Kelsey's loneliness, but maybe Jackson Hunt can. After a few chance meetings, he convinces her to take a journey of adventure instead of alcohol. With each new city and experience, Kelsey's mind becomes a little clearer and her heart a little less hers. Jackson helps her unravel her own dreams and desires. But the more she learns about herself, the more Kelsey realizes how little she knows about Jackson.

Now Finding It really stood out to me from the other books in the series. It was less funny and far more serious, mostly for including a number of (what I consider) very serious issues that really had to be worked on by Kelsey and Jackson.

But I really appreciated that. I think this book is the one where we can really see that NA doesn't have to be light and fluffy - it can be a bit darker and still work. I would have liked to have seen the solutions to these issues worked out a little bit more because they felt too heavy for a convenient ending. You also get the bonus of hearing about some fantastic vacation spots that I desperately want to check out now!

Thoughts on the Series:
I'd really love to see NA branch out to include books that don't predominantly feature romance, and I think this is a series that proved to me that it can be done. Romance is absolutely the main aspect of these books, but there was enough depth and reflection on the life of young 20-somethings to convince me to give NA a chance. And yet the books are still fun, enjoyable, and easy to read.


Blog Tour: A Fool's Errand

A Fool's Errand (The Gypsy King #2) by Maureen Fergus
Release Date ~ October 8, 2013
RazOrbill ~ Penguin Canada
ISBN13: 9780670067657
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis: 
More action. More romance. More intrigue. Get ready to dive into the exciting follow-up to The Gypsy King!
In the final moments of The Gypsy King, a truth was revealed to Persephone and Azriel - one that could change everything forever. For her. For him. For them. For the entire kingdom. 
But trapped in a windowless castle chamber with soldiers battering at the door, it seems impossible to believe that they'll even survive. Indeed, they are a heartbeat from death when Azriel boldly bargains with the Regent Mordecai: release them and they will seek out the mythical healing Pool of Genezing. Mordecai agrees but warns that if they do not return with proof that the pool exists, he'll make those dearest to them suffer - and he'll start with King Finnius.
Persephone has never needed Azriel's teasing warmth as much as she needs it now, but she is finding out there is a price to pay for having broken past promises. Together, they set off on a journey that will take them into the farthest corners of the kingdom.Danger will ever lie ahead and behind them; they will battle men and beasts alike. Will Persephone and Azriel survive these perils? And will this quest see their romance grow cold - or will it burn hotter than ever?

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Maureen Fergus' YA debut The Gypsy King earlier this year through Penguin Canada, and it's no surprise to people that know my taste in books that I love a good, fun YA fantasy.

I'm thrilled today to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Maureen's sequel to The Gypsy King, A Fool's Errand. Maureen is also kind enough to be sharing five of her favourite books with us here today!

*Note: This review is spoiler-free for the series! (Although the synopsis is not completely.)

  1. A sequel that starts off with a bang:

    The Gypsy King ended in the midst of a very exciting scene and a bit of a cliffhanger - I loved that A Fool's Errand picked up right where the first book left off! It really made the story feel continuous and flowed nicely, rather than feeling jolted. Sometimes reading the sequel to a book feels like you missed something in between the first book and the second book, because the sequel picks up leaving a lengthy period of time between it and the first book.
  2. A developed fantasy world:

    To me, this is a must-have in a good fantasy book: well-crafted and devoted world-building. I definitely expect this in my fantasy reads, and I think this is where A Fool's Errand really shined. We were introduced to parts of Glyndoria in The Gypsy King, but A Fool's Errand takes Persephone on an adventure to surrounding areas and introduces us to different groups of people.
  3. Riveting storytelling:

    I'm a big of Maureen's writing style. She has this great sense of humour in real life that carries over so well in her writing - I always find that so tricky to get across, but she does it flawlessly. And she weaves it into this amazing story with a very dark underbelly, which makes it an engrossing read.
And the best part is that we still have this great bantering and romance, strong friendships being showcased, and plenty of fight scenes! It's all there still, which is great because those are things I loved about The Gypsy King.

I did find that some parts of the story felt a bit over-done to me. I'm still hoping to get a bit more reason behind the main villain, besides his evil posturing. So there were a few parts of the book that still felt under-developed for the second book of a series. 

This is a series I highly recommend to fans of YA, both those who enjoy fantasy books and those who may not read much fantasy. I think this is better described as an adventure story, rather than pure fantasy. 

And now we get to hear from Maureen Fergus about five of her top favourite books!

My 5 Favourite Books

By Maureen Fergus

1.     Roots (Alex Haley) – this story traces the lives of a slave family from the patriarch, who was kidnapped as boy in Africa, through to his descendants who finally gained their freedom generations later. Harrowing, heartbreaking and inspiring, it left me with a visceral appreciation for what a horror slavery really was.

2.     Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) – I absolutely loved them all but if I had to pick my favourite it would have to be The Deathly Hallows (#7) because the author did such a phenomenal job of bringing the whole story to such a satisfying conclusion.

3.     A Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) – richly layered, thought provoking and immensely readable, this book is about one woman’s struggle to survive in a dystopian society where she is valued only for her ability to reproduce.

4.     The French Executioner’s Sword (C.C. Humphreys) – A lively adventure story with great characters. Set in the time of Henry VIII, this book reminded me that there is always another perspective from which to tell the same fascinating story  

5.     Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) – Also set in the time of Henry VIII, this book is a favourite because I was captivated by her use of language and her unique interpretation of Henry’s advisor Thomas Cromwell


Divergent: The Initiation

Good news: we have less than a month until Allegiant hits the book shelves and we can all finally get our hands on this highly-anticipated ending to the Divergent trilogy!

If you read my review for Insurgent, you'll know that I'm dying to see what happens in Allegiant. Insurgent left me with too many questions and a huge plot twist that left my head SPINNING.

This tells me that Allegiant is going to be a very different book from Divergent and Insurgent. And personally, I think that's why I'm going to love it. Divergent stands out from so many other futuristic, quasi-dystopian books by taking the story in a direction that others haven't gone in.

I want to share with you a few reasons why I think you should give this book series a chance, in light of Allegiant coming out so soon!

  1. Captivating world building:

    This is my favourite thing about Divergent, hands down. Veronica Roth has put together a very interesting world, one that I'm always dying to learn more about.
  2. Faction sorting:

    The first thing I did after I finished reading Divergent? I took a quiz to see which faction I'd be belong to if I lived in Veronica Roth's Chicago. For the record, I'd choose Dauntless (because if I'm brave, then I'm brave enough to do anything. And that includes being selfless, being honest, etc).
  3. Swoon-worthy romance:

    Okay, we've all heard about Tris and Four by now. To me, their relationship is a bit different than others because of how their relationship progresses compared to other fictional couples. The angst is there, but it's just a wee bit different.
  4. Crazy plot twist:

    I love plot twists. I love plot twists that surprise me even more. And the twist in Insurgent is a doozy!
  5. Upcoming movie adaptation:

    We all have our fingers (and toes) crossed that the Divergent movie will be amazing - but for those of you who may not have read the book yet, I always recommend doing that sooner rather than later. Jump on the bandwagon now, so you can wait impatiently with the rest of us.
  6. Action + fight scenes = awesome:

    If you've read some of my other book reviews, you've likely figured out by now that I love some good action sequences. I think they're so much fun and really take a book to a whole new level. The fact that Tris joins Dauntless means we start right off the bat with a number of fight scenes.
  7. Reflections on society:

    Divergent considers some societal attitudes and norms and challenges them by exploring some of these issues within a story. That makes the story easy to relate to, and thoughtful.
  8. Challenges the reader:

    I like a book that challenges me. A good book will make me think and reflect, especially on how I feel about myself and how I process the world around me. The use of factions in Divergent-Chicago readily reflects that, because it makes the reader wonder which faction they'd belong to and what that would mean for them.
  9. Fantastic character development:

    Characters should grow throughout a book or a book series, and Tris shows such natural progression through Divergent and Insurgent that I'm really looking forward to seeing what she's like in Allegiant!
  10. Heart-pounding:

    There is always SOMETHING going on in these books. Whether it's because of the Tris & Four relationship, or the fight scene, or some crazy secret revealed. 


A Spark Unseen Blog Hop, Day 6

Don't forget to stop by and visit some other stops on the blog hop!
The Book Vortex
Book Loving Mom
Last year I read The Dark Unwinding and fell head over heels for it - I even listed it as one of my TOP TEN books of 2012! It was that good. So you can imagine how excited I am for A Spark Unseen! I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog hop for A Spark Unseen, and have some really exciting tidbits to show you and even a giveaway for a paperback copy of The Dark Unwinding (perfect for those of you who haven't gotten around to reading it yet)!

I get to share with you a little bit about one of the locations found in A Spark Unseen. Take a look at this quote first.

Rue Trudon

One of my biggest research projects for A Spark Unseen was determining Katharine’s street address in Paris. I needed a street of connecting townhouses, mini-mansions with shared inner walls that dated to at least the 1790s, before the Reign of Terror, when France guillotined so much of its own population (hidden rooms for fugitive aristocrats, anyone?). It also needed to be an area frequented by foreigners. The gem I came across was Rue Trudon, located in a neighborhood known as “Little England.”

Eugène-Emmanuel Amaury-Duval "Tragedy or, Portrait of Rachel," 1854
At No. 4. lived Mlle. Rachel, the “celebrated tragic actress” (thank you Galignani’s Travel Guide!), a woman of rather notorious repute. But because of her tainted reputation, I got an amazing description of her rooms at No. 4, including the crystal chandelier with bronze cherubs, cream and gilt walls, and an enormous canopied bed, which gave me the height of the ceilings. And because of journal entries describing the auction after her death, I also discovered the interior courtyard, including trees, flowers pots, fountain, and the color of the house stones. Since Katharine had no time for neighbors other than Mrs. Hardcastle, poor Mlle. Rachel didn’t make into A Spark Unseen, I’m afraid. But her floor plan, decorations, and courtyard did!

Another resident was Robert R. Livingston, one of America’s founding fathers, who lived there from 1801-1804 while he was negotiating the Louisiana Purchase. He had his home on Rue Trudon “done up” because of “decay from age.” (Then the buildings were old in 1801! Yes!) And also living on the street was Alexis de Tocqueville,author, historian, an ousted member of the Imperial government and noted Napoleon III critic who favored expanding the navy of France. Could Henri Marchand have known this man?
Alexis de Tocqueville

Aside: Is it just me, or do Mlle. Rachel and Alexis look startlingly alike? But perhaps this is another novel!

Sadly, the little triangle of buildings that was Rue Trudon was completely demolished when the Rue Auber was expanded to create a better throughway in the 1870s. If someone discovered Katharine’s hidden attic during the demolition process, they never said a word.

About A Spark Unseen:
The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron’s blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.
When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.
But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.
Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

Find Sharon Cameron:
Twitter - @CameronSharonE
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: Siege & Storm

Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date ~ June 4, 2013
Henry Holt and Co. ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9780805094602
ARC received from Raincoast Books for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

A sequel is always tricky, especially when it follows after a book you loved. As excited as I was for Siege & Storm, I was a bit anxious as well, after how much I loved Shadow & Bone I wasn't sure how this sequel would compare.

And I think the simplest way to explain my feelings about Siege & Storm was that I couldn't love it as much as Shadow & Bone. I think it's the kind of book I would have loved so much more on its own, had there not been this incredible first book setting the stage. While Siege & Storm is a good book with some great additions to The Grisha trilogy, you can tell that this is the "growing pains" book where the characters have to adjust to a situation none expected nor wanted.

  1. Fantastic new character additions:

    This was the absolute best part of Siege & Storm for me: I know, I know. Everyone and their mother loves Sturmhond. But it's for good reason! Leigh's writing gives him a voice that stands out so much from other characters, with his clever comebacks and dry wit. He definitely helps balance out some of the more depressing issues at hand in the story, because when things get REALLY bad? Sometimes you just need to laugh. Or, if you're Stumhond, smirk.
  2. Emphasis on Alina's internal struggle:

    For a book that has had so much attention on developing the setting and world of the story, I'm amazed by how much detail is given to Alina's internal struggle as she tries to adapt to her new powers and position. It seems to me that this is truly the most important conflict in the book - moreso than anything with any other character, even the Darkling. Alina's battle isn't with some external force, it's with herself. It's such an introspective story, one where it is truly a privilege to be so in tune with Alina's thoughts and feelings because she doesn't share them with anyone else.
  3. An expanded setting:

    When Siege & Storm starts off, we have Alina and Mal on the run in an entirely different country. They end up meeting a number of other characters from other places as well, and we finally get a bit more of a glimpse at the rest of the world. To me, this is what makes a setting believable and come to life - hints that the world is still turning outside of the main characters' location. I really like that, and I think it helps build the plot and help the reader understand exactly what is at stake here.
The biggest problem for me? So very little happens, and what does happen occurs very quickly. The action feels rushed, and the waiting seems to go on forever. It's a slow book, and I mentioned how introspective and sensitive to Alina's conflict with herself the book is. While that is a good thing, it also means other parts of the story suffer as a result of so much time and focus spent on Alina. Much of the time is spent waiting for something to happen, and I understand that part of this is simply because Alina (and company) are acting defensively. After Shadow & Bone featured SO MUCH (so much action, so much romance, so much creepiness) I was hoping for more, and I think my expectations are mostly to blame here.

But we still have an excellent book here. Leigh Bardugo's writing is as exceptional as ever, and I think really showcases her knack for juggling a multitude of character voices and emotions. She is truly a master at tugging at her readers' heartstrings, and never leaves us with predictable characters or story lines. Although the romance is left on the back burner for most of this book, the tension is incredible and I appreciate that it didn't overshadow the rest of the story.


Review: Altered

Altered (Altered #1) by Jennifer Rush
Release Date ~ January 1, 2013
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316197083
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them. 
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Altered clearly fits into the science fiction & thriller category of books, and features plenty of action to keep its readers on their toes. And seeing as it features four guys among its cast of main characters, it's unsurprising that Altered also features some romance mixed in there as well!

  1. Fast-paced action:

    This is ALWAYS a good reason for me to read a book. I love excitement, and while I'm a reader who can appreciate a thoughtful, slow-paced book I also love them amped up and heart-pounding! It picks up early on in the book and never really stops. Plenty of chase & fight scenes, plot twists, and thrilling moments.
  2. Level-headed heroine:

    Anna is, surprisingly, level-headed and reasonable for a girl thrust into an unlikely (and honestly, pretty implausible) situation. Her entire world (as she's known it) is thrown into chaos and she's left unsure about who she can trust and how to uncover the secrets she's just beginning to uncover. People react to situations differently, but I appreciated the fact that Anna was willing and able to take a step back and tried to think things through objectively. Yet she still comes across as young and scared at times, too. That's a really tricky balance to make, but it makes Anna into a very interesting character. 
Altered was a fast-paced, quick read for me and although I enjoyed it, it also left me desiring more from it. I think that has more to do with me as a reader though, because I just feel like I've read similar books that won me over more. In one way or another they stood out, and I was hoping for Altered to bring something totally fresh and exciting to the table and it just felt lacking in that area.

I did like that Altered was just pulsing with adrenaline (for a book) and that the whole story didn't entirely revolve around romance. There are some incredibly strong friendships in here too, and they're so important to Anna and to the story line. But I definitely wanted more from Altered, which I'm hoping will come through in the next books.


Review: Born of Illusion

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) by Teri Brown
Release Date ~ June 11, 2013
Balzer + Bray ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780062187543
ARC received from HarperCollins Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Anna Van Housen helps her medium mother Margeurite do stage shows and seances in 1920s New York. Possibly Houdini's daughter, she can sense feelings and see the future. Frightening visions show her mother in peril. New downstairs neighbor Cole introduces her to a society that studies people with gifts like hers. Sorting truth from illusion yields her destiny.

I had SO much fun reading Born of Illusion, and I loved the little details which make this book stand out from the crowd of newly-released YA. Between a super cool setting, bizarre character dynamics, and a little bit of real-life magic thrown in, this book has a lot going for it. Also, I think the cover is very fitting for the book and really stands out to me because of how well it was designed even if it isn't the most unique book cover I've seen.

  1. An intriguing New York in the 1920's setting:

    This was probably my favourite aspect of the book: I adored this setting. You get jazz era prohibition, and we're just past the turn of the century when all sorts of ideas and things are all shiny and new (which we especially get to see regarding technology). And Teri Brown gives it enough attention, by including (brief) descriptions of clothing, scenes, and even the lifestyle in general.
  2. Contemplative exploration of various relationships:

    Born of Illusion was heavily character-driven to me, best evidenced through the various relationships and character dynamics found in this book. Anna's relationship with her mother was the most intriguing to me, because it isn't your typical mother-daughter relationship but it's also very present in the plot and one of the main motivations for Anna's decision-making. Anna also manages to make a number of new friends, all of whom are vastly different from Anna but it's touching to see how friendships can come about in unexpected ways.
  3. Magic that's more than an illusion:

    I loved that there was this struggle for Anna between pretending that the tricks and illusions she does with her mother are real for their customers, while at the same time hiding her genuine "magical" abilities from those around her. It just made for such an interesting dichotomy between these two types of magic, and made the story more believable for me as a reader.
It took me some time to warm up to most of the secondary characters, because they felt very one-dimensional to me at first. This was definitely the type of book that takes a little bit longer to solidify its development, but once it did I was remarkably impressed with how thoughtful the plot was in Born of Illusion. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Born of Deception, especially after hearing that it includes Rasputin as well! (Update: Teri Brown clarified why this rumour is spreading, and how it isn't true here.)

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