Friday, September 28, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck

By: Colleen Houck
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: Sept. 11, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare.

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

First Thought After Finishing: What if the world really worked this way?

I’ve always loved stories about witches—my favorite book as a child was about a group of chimney witches. The cover of this book as well as the fact that it was about a witch made me excited to read this story.

Jack is a Lantern, sworn into service guarding portals to the Otherworld. No souls should slip through his crossroads—but he wasn’t expecting Ember. She’s a witch who feels a pull to the Otherworld, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get there. When a handsome yet mysterious vampire appears and offers her passage, she jumps at the chance. But Ember discovers that as appealing as the Otherworld may be, it holds just as many dangers. And Jack is not about to let Ember slip away from him again.

The world that Colleen Houck is built is fascinating. She pulls from various myths and legends to build a unique world that parallels our own. The various creatures that populate the Otherworld—as well as the mortal world—make me wonder if such things could really exist. In this book, it seems only normal that witches walk among us, that creatures could have guardians, and that all the creatures one only reads about could truly coexist somewhere. The steampunk elements were also quite interesting, making me think about our own technology in new ways.

This book has a bit of everything—a touch of mystery, a bit of adventure required to save the world, and of course a dash of romance. Ember is a headstrong young witch, rushing into action without thinking through the consequences. As for the male characters involved, they certainly have very different personalities, but each have appealing characteristics. Following their adventures through the Otherworld was mostly an interesting journey, though it did take a bit to get into the world, and I never felt quite as attached to the characters as I wanted to. But the beauty of this story is that it’s a standalone and a quick read, good for the beginning of fall or to get into the mood for Halloween.

Most Memorable Aspect: The unique world that could almost be an alternate reality.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she’s not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
9/3/18 - Captivated Reading - Review
9/4/18 - Jrsbookreview - Review
9/5/18 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
9/6/18 - YA Books Central - Interview
9/7/18 - Zach's YA Reviews - Review

Week Two:
9/10/18 - Such a Novel Idea - Review
9/11/18 - Lisa Loves Literature - Review
9/12/18 - Wishful Endings - Interview
9/13/18 - The Bookish Libra - Review
9/14/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

Week Three:
9/17/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review
9/18/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
9/19/18 - Book-Keeping - Review
9/20/18 - A Dream Within a Dream - Review
9/21/18 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review

Week Four: 9/24/18 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
9/25/18 - Savings in Seconds - Review
9/26/18 - Book Briefs - Review
9/27/18 - Pacific Northwest Bookworm - Review
9/28/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review


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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Sketch: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

By: Jessi Kirby
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

First Thought After Finishing: Jessi Kirby has such a way with words!

I really enjoy self-discovery stories and stories set in nature so that I can experience it vicariously. This story gave me a view of the John Muir trail, something I could never hike, but it made me want to go outside and explore. It should come as no surprise that I loved everything about this story.

Mari has spent most of high school cultivating a perfect Instagram life. She even lost contact with her cousin Bri, who always lived life to the fullest. After what should have been their shared eighteenth birthday, Mari starts to rethink her life. She posts an soul-bearing video on social media before deleting her accounts. When Bri’s hiking backpack shows up, she makes a split-second decision to hike the trail both as an escape and in Bri’s honor. Along the way, she had to push herself out of her comfort zone both physically and emotionally. But will she conquer the journey, or will it conquer her?

"It's just what everyone does, I guess. We walk around carrying invisible weights, and doing our best to look like everything is okay even when it may not be...It's easy to do when you have a screen, and filters, and editing abilities standing between you and real life. But when you actually step out into the world, you don't get those options. Life is right there in front of you, and sometimes the only choice is to be real."

I’ll be honest: At the beginning, I thought Mari would annoy me. But giving up social media like she did is no easy feat. Although the adult part of me couldn’t believe that she was going alone (or without training), once she was out on the trail, I couldn’t help but cheer her on. Mari certainly has her work cut out for her on the trail, but she kept pushing herself forward. There’s something to be said about physically moving past a difficult time in life, and even reading about her hike seemed like a cathartic experience.

"Josh nods. 'Most definitely. Anyway,' he says. 'As long as we're beinng philosophical...I don't think that what we came looking for is as important as what we end up finding out here.'

I look at him, then back out at the creek, and think about what I've found so far. What I'm finding, every day I spend on the trail--strength and gratitude and wonder--all of these big things I didn't start out looking for."

Jessi Kirby has a knack for writing friendships and romances that can only happen away from the real world on trips or under the stars. Mari meets another group of teens who become a kind of trail family, and they not only showed her what life was missing but also helped her along the way. Even though I could tell most of the tests their friendship would face, I loved reading about their adventures together. This is the type of friend group that I would want to go road tripping or hiking with (if I actually went hiking, that is).

"Maybe that's the point--not to have figured out life by the end of it, but to have experienced living in an entirely different way. Fully present, and in ourselves, where we have to sit with our faults and find our strengths. One step at a time."

One of my favorite things about this book was the vivid depictions of the scenery along the trail. Jessi always writes scenes that I wish could be captured in paintings, and this book was no exception. I also really enjoyed the snippets from Bri’s journal and the connections formed between different people. It was a good reminder of the importance of living life to the fullest, because there are no guarantees. This book was a wonderful summer read and a groom way to refocus in quiet moments before a hectic school schedule set in. I highly recommend it to anyone!

Most Memorable Aspect: The breathtaking descriptions of nature.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Spotlight: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

By: Somaiya Daud
Published By: Flatiron Books
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Series: Mirage #1
Pages: 320
Genre: Sci-Fi
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

~ ~ ~ READ AN EXCERPT ~ ~ ~


He is the only one of his family without the daan. They say this makes him ideal; no traditional markings on his face to identify him should he die. No way to trace him back to his family. He is young, not yet fifteen, too young for the daan ceremony. This is what she says to him when she comes to choose him. That he is young and that he is skilled and that he is steady. This, she says, is all that matters. He does not feel young. He feels hungry, the sort of hungry that gnaws at him day and night, until it is so much his companion he does not know how to live without it. He feels hard, because he knows how to take a beating, how to fall just so when a guard hits him with a baton. He feels angry, so angry, the sort of anger that does not need fuel.

He is invisible in a sea of invisible faces.

The crowd is silent, but then the crowds at these events are always silent. They are solemn. Too solemn. The nobles sit on velvet cushions behind gold rope, but those who stand, who look up at the podium waiting for her to appear, they are the poor. The hungry. The weak. They are here because they must be here. The makhzen titter among themselves like jeweled birds, gowns glittering in the sunlight, scabbards flashing as men shift in the uncomfortable summer air. It is a wonder any of them are Andalaan; they all look Vathek now. They have accepted Vathek rule. They would not dress so, not if they truly were Andalaan in their hearts. He thinks of his younger sister as he moves through the crowd. Dead for two summers now, her stomach bloated from hunger. His father, long gone, too weak to support them, to stay.

He has one sister left, and a brother besides, and his mother. All to be taken care of after this. She’d sworn. A husband for Dunya. A cottage away from the city for them all, with access to grain and a garden, and mayhap even livestock. Away from everything they know, but a chance for a new life.

His hands sweat. He has trained for this, he is ready, but he has never taken a life.

The blood never dies, he remembers. The blood never forgets.

This is for a higher purpose — one more important than his life, more important than any life. These things must be done, he thinks. In the name of Andala. In the name of freedom.

He marvels, as she climbs the steps to the dais, that one who looks so much like his kin is capable of causing such terror. He has heard the stories, knows that these things are often twisted through the telling. But his life, the lives of his siblings and neighbors, bear witness to some truth. The occupation is cruel. Its heirs crueler still.

The sun flashes against the silver metal of his blaster. He lifts it, aims, fires. Twice.

Mizaal Galaxy, Ouamalich System Cadiz, a moon of Andala

CHAPTER ONE On a small moon orbiting a large planet, in a small farmhouse in a small village, there was a box, and in this box was a feather.

The box was old, its wood worn of any trace of design or paint. It smelled of saffron and cinnamon, sharp and sweet. Along with the feather there sat an old signet ring, a red bloom preserved in resin, and a strip of green velvet cloth, frayed around the edges.

I crept into my parents’ room often when I was small, always to peek into the box. And its mystique only increased in my eyes when my mother began to hide it from me. The feather fascinated me. A five-year-old had no use for a ring or a flower or fabric. But the feather of a magical, extinct bird? Like all things from the old order, it called to me.

The feather was black, made up of a hundred dark, jewel shades. When I held it up to the light it rippled with blues and greens and reds, like magic reacting to some unseen hand, roiling to the surface. It had belonged to a tesleet bird, my mother said, birds once thought to be messengers of Dihya.

When Dihya wanted to give you a sign He slipped the feather into your hand. When He wanted to command you to a calling, to take action, He sent the bird itself. It was a holy and high calling, and not to be taken lightly. War, pilgrimage, the fate of nations: this was what the tesleet called a person for.

My grandfather had received a tesleet, though my mother never talked about why or even who he was. “A foolhardy man who died grieving all he did not accomplish,” she’d said to me once.

I stared into the old box, my eyes unfocused, my gaze turned inward. The sun would set soon, and I didn’t have time to waste by staring at an old feather. But it called to me as it had when I was a little girl, and my thumb swept over its curve, back and forth, without thinking.

There were no tesleet left on Cadiz or our mother planet, Andala. Like many things from my mother’s childhood, they had left, or been spent, or were extinguished. All we had were relics, traces of what once was and would likely never be again.

I jumped when my mother cleared her throat in the doorway.

“Amani,” was all she said, one eyebrow raised.

It was too late to hide the box, and I could not keep down the surge of guilt for having snooped in my parents’ room just to bring it out again.

But my mother said nothing, only smiled and came forward, hand outstretched.

“Did . . . did your father give you the feather?” I asked at last, and handed the box over.

Her eyes widened a little. For a moment, I thought she wouldn’t answer.

“No,” she said softly, closing the box’s lid. “I found it a little while after the bird had gone. In a moment of weakness in some shrubbery.”

I rarely saw my mother look as she did now, soft and wistful, as if remembering a kinder time. She’d survived two wars: the civil war, and then the Vathek invasion and following occupation. She was hard, with a spine of steel, unbendable, unbindable, and unbreakable.

“What was your moment of weakness?” I asked. I wouldn’t get a response. I never did.

But my mother surprised me and smiled. “I was running from love,” she said. “Your father, to be specific. I saw in my own heart my father’s capacity to lose himself in another person, and it frightened me.” My mouth dropped to her amusement. I knew my parents loved each other; it was obvious to anyone who watched them, despite their differences. But I’d never heard my mother say as much, and to hear her admit it of her own free will—

< “What are you doing here, at any rate? You are meant to be getting ready for tonight.”

I didn’t know how to explain it, so I just shook my head and shrugged.

“I don’t know. I just — I love it. I suppose I wanted to see it again.”

She came forward and tilted my chin up. I was full grown, and my mother still towered over me by a full head. The backs of her fingers brushed over my cheek, tracing the lines where I would receive my daan — sharp geometric tattoos that would mark my first step into adulthood. I hoped they looked as hers did: stark and powerful, letting the whole world know who she was and where she was from in a single glance.

“I know this week has been difficult,” she said at last. “More difficult than most. But it will pass, as they all do.”

I bit my tongue rather than say what I thought. We shouldn’t have to wait for them to pass. They should never be in the first place. We had suffered not only the burning of our fields this week, but the increased presence of the Vath.

But my mother surprised me into silence a second time, and set the box back in my hand.

“I think this should pass to you,” she said, her voice soft again. “Hope is a younger girl’s game, and you find more comfort in it than I do.”

I opened then closed my mouth, wordless with shock.

“Really?” I said at last.

She smiled again. “Really,” she repeated and kissed my forehead. “Perhaps Dihya will send you a second feather, and you shall have your own sign in these trying times.”

My mother left me alone in her room, the box still clasped to my chest. After a moment I moved to hide the box away in my room, lest she come up the stairs and change her mind.

The sun was setting truly now, and I hurried to put it away, and find my things. Khadija would be waiting, and I hated to hear her skewer me for my tardiness. Outside, the village was quiet. Normally, around now, I could hear the quiet singing of field workers as they made their way back to the village, and the ringing of the end of day bell. The march of boots, the cries of sellers hawking their wares in our small village square, dogs and goats crying out; all those sounds were absent.

There were no fields left, not after the fire the Imperial Garda set last week. Rebels — or, more likely, starving thieves — had taken shelter in one of the gate houses. Rather than looking through each one, the Garda had set fire to the fields. We’d heard the rebels screaming from as far away as the village square. Now, with the fields gone, the village was counting down the weeks till winter, and the famine that was sure to follow.

What would I want my own feather, my own sign, for? In the wake of this — of life — I had no need for a sign. I wanted something else, something more tangible and immediate. I wanted the world.

The Vath were not settlers in our nebula — they’d lived on their planet, Vaxor, mostly peacefully and in accordance with galactic laws. But they’d poisoned their own atmosphere, and were forced to relocate to an orbiting moon. A stopgap measure, with an exploding population and a lack of resources. Some said it was inevitable that they chose to expand to other systems.

There were moments when I glimpsed the world as it was before the occupation of the Vath. When my mother or father spoke without thinking, or a village aunt said when I was young, or a man sang an old song I’d never heard before. The bones of our old ways of life were there, barely traceable, and I wanted them back. I wanted all of us to remember what we’d been, how strong we were. And endurance was strength, to be sure, but even a rock wore away to nothing if asked to endure enough rain.

I could want until I was dead and nothing would come to pass. Wanting never solved anything. I tucked the box away with a sigh, found my cloak and shoes, and made my way downstairs.

In the kitchen, I packed away the last of the food we were taking with us. We were celebrating my majority night. I and twelve other girls had finally come of age, and as was our way, the whole village would travel to one of the abandoned kasbahs. There, we would receive our daan and become adults in the eyes of the village, and follow with dinner and dancing to celebrate.


I turned to see Husnain, my brother, standing in the doorway. My parents had three children: Aziz, the eldest of us, more than ten years my senior. Myself, the youngest, and Husnain, fifteen months older than I was. I might have relied on Aziz for wisdom, but Husnain was one half of me, a twin despite the months between us. He had all the foolhardiness and fire of a second son, rarely tempered but for me.

“I brought something for you,” he said when I sat down.

I grinned and held out my hands. “Give it to me.”

“Close your eyes.”

I did so, but kept my hands outstretched. A moment later a wide, thin object was folded into my hands. I peeked before he told me I could open my eyes and nearly dropped the sheaf of papers as if they were on fire. “Amani!”

“Is that—?”

Almost a month ago we’d journeyed to Cadiza Prime, the capital city on our moon, to pick up supplies for the small farm my brothers and father kept on our tiny sliver of land. I’d wandered through the open market, and shoved in the back of a bookstall was an aging sheaf of papers — Massinite poetry. It was too expensive to even consider purchasing it, and besides, most religious poetry was outlawed. It had been used too often as a rallying point for the rebels during the occupation.

Massinia was the prophetess of our religion and though we all loved her, I loved her above all other things in our faith. Just as we had songs in her name, so too had an entire tradition of poetry sprung up venerating her life and accomplishments. I loved such poetry above all else, and hungered for it despite the risk of being caught with it. My hands shook as I reached for the collection.

“You took a huge risk—”

“Never you mind the risk,” he said. “It belongs to you now, and that’s all that matters.”

I was afraid to grin or to touch them. Mine! I could hardly believe it. I’d never owned a collection of poetry before.

“Oh, for Dihya’s sake,” he laughed, and undid the twine around them before setting them in my hands. I would have to transcribe them to holosheets or put them in a database or some such. There was no telling if they’d survive the weather here, or if I would lose them or any number of things that could happen. And I would have to hide them, or risk them being confiscated by the magistrates.

Our souls will return home, we will return, the first poem read. We will set our feet in the rose of the citadel.

I closed my eyes, seeing the imagined citadel, no doubt now turned to dust. I could imagine the pain of the writer, could feel it like a bruise on my heart as my soul looked over its shoulder, leaving something treasured behind. I knew what it was like to trace a quickly fading memory in my mind, to watch it fade with every remembering until it was nothing but a feeling, a well-worn groove you could walk but not recall. The pain on the page was palpable — everyone had a citadel. The city of their birth, turned to rubble, family long gone, buried in an unmarked grave, all of it unreachable except through death.

And this, poetry like this, was all we had to preserve our stories, our music, our history.

“Thank you,” I said at last, and threw my arms around him. “You have no idea—”

“I have some,” he laughed, and kissed my forehead. “You are my favorite person in the the world, Amani. I’m glad to give you this. Dihya, are you crying?”

“No!” But I could feel the lump in my throat, ready to dissolve into tears at any minute. I’d been so afraid, so nervous about tonight. And in the end, it was a night of joy. I would step into adulthood not just with family and friends, but now with a treasure that would comfort me on nights too difficult to comprehend. “Maybe now you’ll write some of your own,” he said, a little softer.

I snorted out a laugh. I was a poor poet, to be sure, and in a world where poetry didn’t pay, I’d had no chance to improve.

“You’re good,” he insisted. “You should write more.”

I flushed, hungry for praise. Husnain was the only person who’d ever read my poetry, but I knew he spoke out of the loyalty born between us and not out of any knowledge of what my skill looked like compared to true poets.

“In another world,” I said, and clutched the poetry to my chest.

Our souls will return home, we will return.

I looked up, and smiled at my brother, the other half of my heart. “But not this one. In this one, these poems are enough.”

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron Books in 8/28/2018.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram


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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Grace and Fury
By: Tracy Banghart
Published By: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Series: Grace and Fury (#1)
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace - someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

First Thought After Finishing: Can I have the next book now please?

From just reading the synopsis, Grace and Fury seemed to have all the makings of a great fantasy book. Sisters, role reversal, royalty, secrets—I was hooked! And I ended up reading this book in one sitting because I needed to know what happened!

Serina has always been the model daughter—a submissive beauty, eager to please the prince and become a Grace. Her sister, Nomi, is just the opposite—opinionated, outspoken, and constantly pushing her limits. But once they arrive at the palace, a chance encounter with the prince ends up with Nomi being chosen as a Grace instead of Serina. And when Serina takes the fall for one of Nomi’s decisions, the sisters’ relationship is threatened forever. Both sisters are suddenly engaged in a world they never prepared for, and one mistake could be fatal. Can they survive and find their way back to each other?

As an only child, I’ve always loved stories about sisters. I loved the fact that Nomi and Serina were fiercely protective of each other, even when they didn’t see eye to eye. That’s the kind of sister or friend anyone would be lucky to have. In addition to the sister bond, I really enjoyed the Italianate setting. Traveling to Italy is on my bucket list, so I enjoyed the vicarious trip, even though it wasn’t truly Italy. Then there was the dual POV. The chapters alternate between Nomi and Serina, weaving two very different tales while maintaining the timeline. I was fascinated with both parts of the story but for different reasons.

Nomi is dealing with the secrets and balancing act that comes from palace life. She is determined to avoid the crown prince, but she finds his younger brother intriguing. Nomi walks a fine line of scheming and pretending, but I love the fact that she remains true to herself even when her fortune changes. Serina, on the other hand, has every reason to wallow in self-pity and misery, but she decides to fight back. Her character development is inspirational, and I can’t wait to see what else she does in the second book!

Although a bit predictable at times, the story definitely has potential. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nomi and Serina continue to grow! If you’re a fantasy fanatic, be sure to add this to your TBR pile!

Most Memorable Aspect: The bond of sisterhood and the dual POVs between Nomi and Serina.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Tracy Banghart grew up in rural Maryland and spent her summers on a remote island in northern Ontario. All of that isolation and lovely scenery gave her the time to read voraciously and the inspiration to write her own stories. Always a bit of a nomad, Tracy now travels the world Army-wife style with her husband, son, cat, and sweet pupper Scrabble. She wrote Grace and Fury while living in Hawaii.

I had the opportunity to ask Tracy a few questions! Learn more about the story and Tracy's writing habits below!

How would you describe Grace and Fury in five words?

Sisterhood. Bloodshed. Betrayal. Rebellion. Kissing.

Grace and Fury has a complex story and world. What was the inspiration for this story? Did you always plan dual POVs?

I love writing stories about girls finding their agency, especially when there are significant obstacles they have to overcome. I loved the idea of getting to see that process play out in different ways through two very different main characters.

It actually started out as a story with just one POV (and no sister!) but Nomi appeared and wouldn’t leave. And I’m so glad. I love that Serina and Nomi have very different perspectives and arcs in the story. Serina has to learn to be strong, and Nomi has to learn to play by the rules.

If choosing between Serina and Nomi, which sister would you be and why?

I think I relate to aspects of them both. Serina is the eldest—she’s responsible, protective of her little sister, and feels the weight of her family’s expectations. As the eldest sibling in my family, I felt a lot of that growing up. But I also wanted to rebel against those expectations and all of the ideas everyone else had for my life. Which is where my Nomi instincts kick in.

The Italian-inspired world made me want to plan a trip to Italy! What would your dream vacation be?

Ha! Probably back to Italy, to be honest. I haven’t been to Europe in a few years, and I would love to go back. Italy is one of my favorite places to visit.

If you could have dinner with any author(s), who would they be?

I recently had dinner with Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Mark Oshiro, and that pretty much blew my mind. They are amazing people and authors! I would love to share a meal with Victoria Schwab, who inspires me daily. And I’d love to have dinner with a struggling author, who hasn’t made it to publication yet. Just so I could say HANG IN THERE. Because this business is tough, and everyone’s journey is different. It can feel so daunting!

What is your writing process like? Do you have any habits or superstitions?

I used to be a pantser but have recently converted to writing outlines, and it’s still a weird feeling to do so much plotting in advance. But I do think it helps me stay on track. I don’t think I have any weird superstitions, but I do get weird about my documents and folders and playlists–I have to have everything organized a certain way, and I can’t start writing a new project unless I’ve got a title. Even if it’s a crappy placeholder title, I need SOMETHING or it doesn’t feel like a real thing.

What message do you hope that readers take away from your book?

Most of all, I hope they have fun reading it. That’s the most important thing! But if they do take anything away, I hope it’s that together, women can accomplish anything. That the pitting of one woman against another, the competition, is often a construct by the patriarchy to divide and conquer us. We get farther supporting each other than we do tearing each other down.

Is there anything you can tell us about the second book?

I wish I could say it’s all happiness and unicorns for my sisters in book 2, but that wouldn’t make for a very exciting sequel. There’s more blood, more heartache, and more badass women warriors fighting back. I’m very proud of it. I hope I do my sisters and the rest of the women of Viridia justice!

Find Tracy Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
7/23/18 - Tea Party Princess - Review
7/24/18 - Paperback Princess - Review
7/25/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Review
7/26/18 - Book Dragon Lair - Review
7/27/18 - Laura's Bookish Corner - Review

Week Two:
7/30/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review
7/31/18 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
8/1/18 - Synopses by Sarge - Review
8/2/18 - Coffee Cocktails and Books - Review
8/3/18 - Kat's Books - Review

Week Three:
8/6/18 - Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Review
8/7/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
8/8/18 - To Be Read - Review
8/9/18 - Brooke Reports - Review
8/10/18 - Cindy's Love of Books - Review

Week Four: 8/13/18 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review
8/14/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
8/15/18 - The Young Folks - Review
8/16/18 - Book-Keeping - Review
8/17/18 - A Gingerly Review - Review


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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

By: Kara Thomas
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

First Thought After Finishing: I've missed reading mystery/thriller stories!

I tend to read a lot of fantasy, but sometimes it's nice to explore other genres. I really enjoyed Kara Thomas's book Little Monsters last year, so I was excited to see what happened in this story. As it turns out, I flew through the pages of this book, eager to unravel the mystery.

Monica can't escape being Jen Rayburn's sister. She has good friends and her high school dance team, but in her small town, she's still the girl whose sister died. And something about Jen's death--and all of her friends' deaths--has never seemed quite right to Monica. When she discovers a possible trail of clues, she knows that she cannot rest until she has uncovered the truth. And if the investigation five years ago was wrong, that means there might just be a killer on the loose.

A good mystery story keeps you turning page after page and always questioning your guesses, and that is just what The Cheerleaders did. Kara Thomas definitely has a knack for mysteries, weaving strong friendship and strained family relationships into the story. From the beginning, the clues leave more questions than answers, and Monica dives right in to solving them. Each time she figures out one piece of the puzzle, she finds something else to challenge the accepted story or casts suspicion back on everyone. Monica's present-day sleuthing is interspersed with flashbacks of Jen's life five years ago, which made for compelling reading, and I found myself trying to guess the real killer's identity right along with Monica. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I was expecting just a bit more from the final reveal, but the ending does fit the book.

Beyond the mystery, there is a lot of character development. Monica has a lot of pressure on her shoulders after Jen's death. She desperately wants her mother's approval but worries that she will never do anything that is good enough. As she is pulled deeper into unraveling the mystery, she also has to confront her role in her family. Additionally, she doesn't work on the case alone. Monica befriends Ginny Cordero, who turns out to be a great friend. She is a quiet realist with a knack for bringing clarity to a situation, and I enjoyed learning more about her throughout the book. Finally, Monica has to sort through her feelings on a romantic situation. I appreciated the fact that romance was alluded to but definitely did not take over the story. Instead, Monica's character development is a great journey for any reader, teenager or teen at heart.

Most Memorable Aspect: The way the mystery has strong subplots and realistic characters.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Kara Thomas is a true crime addict and the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, LITTLE MONSTERS, and THE CHEERLEADERS, all published by Delacorte Press. You can find her on Twitter (@karatwrites), Instagram (@kara__thomas), or at

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
7/23/18 - The Heart of a Book Blogger - Review
7/24/18 - A Dream Within a Dream - Review
7/25/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
7/26/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review
7/27/18 - Books and Ladders - Review

Week Two:
7/30/18 - The Clever Reader - Review
7/31/18 - Diary of an Avid Reader - Review
8/1/18 - Never Too Many to Read - Review
8/2/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Review
8/3/18 - Adventures of a Book Junkie - Review

Week Three:
8/6/18 - Laura's Bookish Corner - Review
8/7/18 - The Phantom Paragrapher - Review
8/8/18 - Mama Reads Blog - Review
8/9/18 - To Be Read - Review
8/10/18 - Savings in Seconds - Review

Week Four: 8/13/18 - The Young Folks - Review
8/14/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview
8/15/18 - Simply Daniel Radcliffe - Review
8/16/18 - Moonlight Rendezvous - Review
8/17/18 - Two Points of Interest - Review


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Monday, June 4, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Aesthetic: Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

By: Anica Mrose Rissin
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA Midwinter
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: When Betts meets Aiden at the candy store where she works, their connection is like a sugar rush to the heart. Betts already knows the two of them are infinite. Inevitable. Destined to become an us.

Betts has only ever kept one secret from her best friend, Jo, but suddenly there’s a long list of things she won’t tell her, things Jo wouldn’t understand. Because Jo doesn’t see how good Aiden is for Betts. She finds him needy. Possessive. Controlling.

She’s wrong. With a love like this, nothing else matters.

With the explosion of Bookstagram, often we really do reduce a picture to a thousand words! With that in mind, here are the six images that I think best represent Always Forever Maybe!

Betts works in a candy store, and it's where she meets Aiden. Several important conversations happen in the candy store. And who doesn't like gummies?

Aiden definitely has the bad-boy vibe down, complete with the motorcycle he built.

Betts and Aiden fall in love quickly. When things are good, they're great, and Betts feels like she and Aiden are the only people in the world.

Their relationship quickly changes. It's far too easy to fall into a trap of confusing emotional abuse with love. This book takes a look at difficult issues.

Tumultuous emotions can make you feel like you're alone. Betts has to take a long, hard look at her relationship and decide what love she is willing to accept.

This book wouldn't be complete without the friendships. Jo, who is Betts' best friend, is definitely the kind of friend any girl would be lucky to have.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Anica Mrose Rissi grew uponan island off the coast of Maine. After college, she moved toNew York City, where she worked as a cheesemonger and book editor. She now writes, fid-dles in the electro-country band Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves, and walks with her dog, Arugula, near their home in Princeton, New Jersey. Anica is the author of several books for younger readers, and her essays have been published by The Writer and the New York Times. Always Forever Maybe isherYA debut.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads


Find all the dates you need to know here!


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Friday, May 25, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Nothing Happened by Molly Booth

By: Molly Booth
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: This modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing takes place at the idyllic Camp Dogberry, where sisters Bee and Hana Leonato have grown up. Their parents own the place, and every summer they look forward to leading little campers in crafts, swimming in the lake, playing games of capture the flag and sproutball, and of course, the legendary counselor parties.

This year, the camp drama isn’t just on the improv stage. Bee and longtime counselor Ben have a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that’s complicated by events that happened—or didn’t happen—last summer. Meanwhile, Hana is falling hard for the kind but insecure Claudia, putting them both in the crosshairs of resident troublemaker John, who spreads a vicious rumor that could tear them apart.

As the counselors juggle their camp responsibilities with simmering drama that comes to a head at the Fourth of July sparkler party, they’ll have to swallow their pride and find the courage to untangle the truth, whether it leads to heartbreak or happily ever after.

First Thought After Finishing: All’s well that ends well!

I love Shakespeare’s plays, including Much Ado About Nothing. I also love my memories from summer camp. So when I saw that they were put together in one book, I was sold. Nothing Happened is a short and sweet retelling of the play and a fun read to kick off summer vacation.

Bee has always belonged at Camp Dogberry. She’s grown up with the camp in her backyard—her parents own it—and is looking forward to one more year of being a counselor. Her younger sister Hana and all of her old friends will be there too—and even one “friend” that she’d prefer not to see again. She’s dreading being reunited with her former camp crush, Ben, who shouldn’t have returned for the year. Still, she has no choice, so she decides to make the most of the year. But once camps start, emotions run high, and not only between Bee and Ben. With counselor parties, long-held secret crushes, and the camp rumor mill, these counselors are in for a roller coaster summer.

From the beginning, this book took me right back to summer camp. I remember the fun and games of “traditional” summer camps and also how we would speculate about our counselors. On the other side, I’ve seen how a week is enough for counselors to go from strangers to an item. But there is something magical about the place and the people you return to year after year, and that magic was felt throughout this book. I loved the scenery of the Maine coast, the descriptions of the forest, and vicariously spending time in nature (because I definitely don’t do that in real life).

Nothing Happened also puts a great spin on the Shakespearean original. It has a cast of diverse characters in terms of races, backgrounds, and orientations. I appreciated that none of this was used as part of the plot but was instead just who these characters were. Bee definitely captured the spitfire personality of her inspiration, but I would have liked to see more biting wit from Ben. The other characters also mirrored the original play, which makes for few surprises but a great retelling.

Finally, I appreciated that this book (in my not-so-teen anymore) honors the spirit of teenagers. There has been some debate recently regarding young adult truly being “young adult,” but I think this book would qualify. And that is actually perfect for a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. The drama, the intensity, and some of the actions we shake our head about later all happen to fit together just right.

Most Memorable Aspect: The camp setting and their activities.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Molly Booth (she/her/hers) writes books about Shakespeare and feelings. She's the author of Young Adult novels SAVING HAMLET (2016) and NOTHING HAPPENED (5.15.2018), both published by Disney Hyperion. In high school, she was a stage manager for three different community theatres, which almost killed her. She graduated from Marlboro College and went onto study more Shakespeare (twist!) at University of Massachusetts Boston. Molly is a freelance writer and editor and has been published on,,, and various other websites. She co-hosts a Bardcentric podcast, Party Bard, and directs a lovely, hilarious, and fierce group of homeschooling teen Shakespearean actors. She also speaks and teaches workshops at schools, colleges, bookstores, book fairs, camps, and libraries. Molly lives in Massachusetts, where she spends a lot of time with family and friends, and the rest attending to her queenly cat and loaf-of-bread-shaped dog.  ​

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
5/14/18 - The Book Girl - Review
5/14/18 - YA Books Central - Interview

5/15/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review
5/15/18 - Wonderstruck - Review

5/16/18 - Pretty Little Library - Review
5/16/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Review

5/17/18 - Books and Ladders - Review
5/17/18 - Sophie Reads YA - Review

5/16/18 - To Be Read - Review
5/16/18 - Bookhounds YA - Guest Post

Week Two:
5/21/18 - Magical Reads - Review
5/21/18 - The Cover Contessa - Interview

5/22/18 - Dani Reviews Things - Review
5/22/18 - Angelic Book Reviews - Review

5/23/18 - Blushing Bibliophiles - Review
5/23/18 - Two Points of Interest - Review

5/24/18 - Bookworm Cafe - Review
5/24/18 - The Book Nut - Review

5/25/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
5/25/18 - BookCrushin - Guest Post


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Monday, May 21, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

By: Jay Kristoff
Published By: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Series: LIFEL1K3
Pages: 416
Genre: Sci-Fiy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

First Thought After Finishing: What an adventure! I need the next book now!

I’m always wary of reading sci-fi and robot books. It’s not necessarily my favorite genre, but every now and then a book comes along that makes me appreciate the genre. LIFEL1K3 was one such book. With an intriguing dystopian world and a new world of robots, this book kept me turning pages until the very end—true cert’, as Eve would say.

Eve is trying to survive in the Scrap, battling logika in the WarDome to get enough credstiks to buy her grandfather’s medicine. She’s won eight fights in a row, thanks to a robot of her own creation, and with her best friends by her side, Eve is certain she can’t lose. But when things go awry in the battlefield, Eve suddenly finds herself penniless and a target. And that’s not all she finds. She stumbles across a boy named Ezekiel, who seems just a bit off, and more trouble than she could have possibly imagined. Suddenly Eve is on the run, desperate for safety and answers. But in the fight for her life, who can she trust?

I have only read one other book by Jay Kristoff (shame on me, I know), so I am glad to add another one to the list! LIFEL1K3 is filled with more than robots; it is filled with secrets and intrigue, tales of friendship and bravery, and yes, a hint of a love story. All of this takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, in which the US has been destroyed with technological wars and most people are merely trying to survive. The dangers from street gangs and poverty are still all too real, and there is little respite from the horrors of the environment.

"Your past doesn't make calls on your future. It doesn't matter who you were. Only who you are."

Enter Eve, a fierce, resilient, and determined heroine, but one who certainly does not operate alone. The side characters really make this story—especially Eve’s spunky and loyal best friend, Lemon Fresh, her logika Cricket (who rather reminded me of Jiminy Cricket), and her blitzhund Kaiser. Eve has to undertake multiple journeys throughout the book—physical, emotional, and mental. As the title of the book implies, life is not always what it seems. Like Eve, I wanted to unravel the mysteries around her and have everything be alright. Ezekiel is another intriguing character. There is obviously more to him than meets the eye, but despite the uncertainty, I couldn’t help but want to love him. His strength and devotion and qualities that anyone could appreciate.

Just as the heroes sometimes have hidden motives, so too do the villains. These motives keep both people and corporations pursuing Eve and her friends. At times it was difficult to know who to trust, but making sense of everything was just one more reason to keep reading!

Most Memorable Aspect: The layers of the story.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Jay Kristoff is a #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. He grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

His LOTUS WAR trilogy was critically acclaimed in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards and won the 2014 Aurealis Award. Jay’s new series, the SciFi thriller THE ILLUMINAE FILES, was co-authored with Amie Kaufman. Book 1, ILLUMINAE, became a New York Times and international bestseller, was named among the Kirkus, Amazon and YALSA Best Books of 2015, became a finalist for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and won the 2016 Aurealis Award and an ABIA Book of the Year award. ILLUMINAE is currently slated to be published in thirty five countries, and film rights have been acquired by Brad Pitt and Plan B Entertainment.

Jay’s new fantasy series, THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, commenced in 2016. The novel was an international bestseller, won the Aurealis award and earned Kristoff his second Gemmell nomination. Part 2, GODSGRAVE, was published in 2017, and won the series its second Aurealis award. A new YA series, LIFEL1K3 has also been acquired by Knopf/Random House Kids, and commences publication in early 2018. A new series with Amie Kaufman, THE ANDROMEDA CYCLE, begins in 2019 with Knopf/Random House Kids. Jay is as surprised about all this as you are. He is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.

Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.

He does not believe in happy endings.

Find Him Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
5/14/18 - Mary Had a Little Blog - Review
5/15/18 - Fiction Fare - Review
5/16/18 - Birdie Bookworm - Review
5/17/18 - Novel Heartbeat - Review
5/18/18 - Bookish in Bed - Review

5/21/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
5/22/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Review
5/23/18 - Emily Reads Everything - Review
5/24/18 - Zach's YA Reviews - Review
5/25/18 - The Bookish Libra - Review

Week Two:
5/28/18 - Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Review
5/29/18 - Diary of an Avid Reader - Review
5/30/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review
5/31/18 - Book-Keeper - Review
6/1/18 - Nerdophiles - Review

6/4/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
6/5/18 - Novel Novice - Review
6/6/18 - The Book Nut - Review
6/7/18 - Book Briefs - Review
6/8/18 - A Gingerly Review - Review


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