Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Sketch: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

By: Leigh Bardugo
Published By: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #2
Pages: 435
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: 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.

First Thought After Finishing: I need more Nikolai!

Lately I have been kicking myself for falling off the face of the YA book earth for a couple of years! I loved (okay, had a love-hate relationship with) Shadow and Bone when it was released. Fortunately, I remembered enough of that book that I was able to pick up Siege and Storm without too much confusion. I am so glad I committed to finishing this series!

Siege and Storm picks up just after Shadow and Bone. Alina is plagued with guilt over how events unfolded when she last faced The Darkling, and for a time she finds herself at the mercy of others. However, with the help of a certain tracker and an interesting privateer (not pirate, he thanks you very much), Alina comes to realize that her strength is far more than what she wants to believe. Despite this, The Darkling is not going to give up without a fight. And in order to restore peace to Ravka, Alina must be willing to embrace a destiny far bigger than anything she ever imagined for herself.

"I tried to turn away, but he reached out and took hold of my chin, forcing me to look at him. He was so close I could feel his breath. 'There are no others like us, Alina,' he whispered. 'And there never will be.'"

Second books in trilogies can occasionally make me wary. Either they can be full of action, competing with or even outdoing the first, or they can fall short of a reader's hopes and seem to stagnate just to prolong the arrival of the third book. But an author as talented as Leigh Bardugo could never fall into that second category. This book did not develop in the way I was expecting, but that is all the better! Alina is given a chance to shine in this book. Although she is still new to her Grisha powers, she comes to use and appreciate them in a way she never did before. She learns from those around her and grows into someone worthy of being a leader and a heroine.

That is not to say that this book is all about character development without some action. Trust me, there is plenty of action--and who doesn't love a good swordfight? Or a good magic battle? Better yet, both at the same time! The fight scenes are balanced with more introspective moments, ones that do challenge the relationship between Alina and Mal. Although I know that Mal was the "first boy," I have to say that he was never my favorite. They may have been childhood friends, but sometimes life changes. I have an idea what direction this may take in the third book, but with this author, you just never know!

Then there is The Darkling. Oh, The Darkling. (Funny story...I put that in my review of Shadow and Bone as well!) Leigh Bardugo shows her skill as a writer when you can love and hate a villain at the same time. He still has his role to play, and he does so in a way as mysterious as ever. In addition to contending with him, Alina becomes embroiled in Ravkan politics. I've always found royal court life fascinating, so I enjoyed this aspect of the novel as well. All in all, there is never a dull moment, and I found myself turning page after page, eager to move deeper into the story and discover what happened next.

Most Memorable Aspect: I did mention Nikolai, yes? He intrigued me from the moment that he walked onto the page. Gotta love him!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's selection is:

By: Sarah Mlynowski
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Preorder the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: I see London, I see France
I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera… wearing only her polka dot underpants.

Why it's Wanted:

I love Sarah Mlynowski's stories. They're smart, fun, quick reads that leave you wanting more. So a story set in Europe with adventure and romance? Sign me up!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (108)

I'm very excited to be one of the many blogs participating in Teaser Tuesdays! TT is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Books and a Beat. To participate:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
(Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"I gasped. 'Imposs--'

'Don't say it,' muttered Mal.

Then chaos erupted."

Taken from pg. 119 of RUIN AND RISING
by Leigh Bardugo

Please share your teasers - post them or link to your blog!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Sketch: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

By: Stephanie Perkins
Published By: Dutton
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2014
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Pages: 339
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

First Thought After Finishing: Stephanie Perkins is a master of contemporary romance!

I read Stephanie Perkins’s first two books a long time ago, and I always wanted to read Isla’s story. I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! From the Paris setting once again to a romance that was both too good to be true and unflinchingly real, I devoured the pages in this book.

Isla has had a crush on Josh since her first year at School of American in Paris. She is convinced that Josh would never look at her. But one night, when she’s home over the summer and a bit loopy from pain meds, she runs into Josh at a café. After their conversation, she hopes that things might finally be different. When they’re back in school in Paris, to her complete astonishment, Isla discovers that Josh really does have feelings for her. Only her life isn’t a perfect fairy tale, and happily ever after will not come so easily. But with help from their family and friends, and a little guidance from their hearts, they might just be able to make it work.

Only Stephanie Perkins could write a novel about a couple who is already together and have it be something that I wanted to read. Isla reminded me so much of myself—quiet, keeping to only one or two close friends, dedicating most of her time to her studies. More than once, I found myself wondering what it would be like if the boy I liked in high school would have suddenly started paying attention to me. Josh is the classic guy you want to love—he has a bad-boy exterior with a teddy-bear interior and an artistic flair. I appreciated that there was a reason for them to be a couple beyond mere attraction.

"Our fingers are in each other's hair, and his breath is in the hollow of my neck, and I wish the world would swallow us here, whole, in this moment.And that's when it hits me that this--this--is falling in love."

Isla and Josh certainly have their share of troubles, which is to be expected for any teen relationship. While Josh turns to his art, Isla turns to her best friend, Kurt. I loved reading about a character with high-functioning autism who wasn’t portrayed quite as extreme as some others have been (think Sheldon). Isla also has her sisters, Genevieve and Hattie. I enjoyed seeing how their family relationship developed as well. This book was full of so many vivid emotions, and that made for an engrossing reading experience. It was bittersweet to reach the ending and realize that not only was it time to say goodbye to Isla and Josh but also to bid final farewells to Anna, St. Clair, Lola, and Cricket. These books made me fall in love with contemporary romance, and I can only hope to find more like them in the future.

Most Memorable Aspect: I loved the descriptive settings, particularly one Spanish city view. Reading books like this one helps satisfy my wanderlust!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Sketch: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

By: Laini Taylor
Published By: Little, Brown, & Company
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Pages: 613
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera's rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited - not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as - from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond - humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

First Thought After Finishing: Only Laini Taylor could have pulled this off!

The benefit of being so far behind in my reading was that I didn’t have the dreaded wait between the second and third books. Imagine, reading sequels when you remember every detail like you just read it—because you did! As sad as I am to see this world draw to a close, I have to say that with what is in the books, Laini Taylor did not disappoint.

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. Once upon a time, they hoped and dreamed of a different world. Once upon a time, the fate of that world fell into their hands. Karou and Akiva thought that they knew what battles lay ahead of them. They thought that bringing the chimaera and the seraphim together could solve the world’s problems. But that was only the beginning…

Writing reviews for the last book in a series is something that I have always found challenging. How does one gush enough (or complain enough) without spoiling anything in the previous books? Even though Dreams of Gods and Monsters has been out on shelves for some time, I imagine that somewhere, someone like me has not yet read the book. And if that is the case, then I must ask you, what are you waiting for?

“Once upon a time…a journey began, that would stitch all the worlds together with light.”

This is a book of epic proportions, but that doesn’t mean that there are no familiar faces. The characters that we have come to know and love are back. Karou, Ziri, Zuzanna, Mik, Akiva, and Liraz all have their part to play. The character transformation throughout the trilogy was fantastic, but in this book, Liraz is finally allowed to shine. I have a soft spot for the “tough” characters who are finally allowed to have their moment, and I loved the story that Liraz was given. There was also Ziri, who went from someone I wanted to hug in comfort to someone I wanted to hug in joy. He might not have been Akiva, but he is certainly the good guy that you cannot help but love. Lucky Ziri, indeed. There were also new faces here, like Eliza. She was interesting from the beginning, and when her story begins to converge, the true brilliance of Laini Taylor’s writing begins to shine through.

“Absence has presence, sometimes, and that was what she felt. Absence like crushed-dead grass where something has been and is no longer. Absence where a thread has been ripped, ragged, from a tapestry, leaving a gap that can never be mended.

That was all she felt.”

I love fantasy books because the worlds amaze me. As a reader, it’s fascinating to see how worlds can overlap or how one small change can create a huge ripple effect beyond imagination. I fell in love with Karou’s world all the way back in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and that never changed. The chimaera and the resurrectionist were highly original when the book debuted, and they remained so. The only thing that I felt like this book lacked was some of the gorgeous prose found in former books. This book had more action (and also more of the character’s thoughts) rather than expansive descriptions creating atmosphere, and I missed that. Still, the author has just released the first book in a new series, and I am eager to dive into that world and all that it has to offer.

Most Memorable Aspect: The world here was beyond expansive. I love how the mythology was connected and the full history was finally revealed—I wish I had imagination like this!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Breaking by Danielle Rollins

By: Danielle Rollins
Published By: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Series: None
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.

Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…

Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.

~ ~ ~ GUEST POST ~ ~ ~

5 Secrets To Immediately Improve Your Writing

I’m twenty-one-years old, and sitting at a table in a café. Two older, more established writers sit at the table with me, casually sipping their coffees and reading my pages. It’s my first real critique group, and I’m so nervous I’m about to wet myself.

Finally, Sharon puts my pages down. “It’s a good chapter, but you use too many adverbs,” she says, with all the confidence of someone who actually took writing classes in college.

I stare back, dumbly. “Oh?”

I’d never heard that rule before. Unlike Sharon, I didn’t go to writing classes in college (it was a timing thing, they were usually in the morning, when I had to work) so I’d missed out on juicy little nuggets of wisdom like adverbs = bad. Over the course of the next hour, Sharon would proceed to spout out a lot of rules I’d never heard before, and I would feel increasingly like a fraud. I’d never gone to creative writing classes. I felt like I was years and years behind.

Now that I’m a fulltime, professional writer, I can tell you that it wasn’t true. I wasn’t years behind just because I missed a few creative writing classes, but there were a few tips and tricks I didn’t learn. It took me a while to figure them all out, but you don’t have to go through that same pain and struggle, because I’m going to write them down here, in a neat and easy-to-read list.

1. Adverbs

Sharon was right about the adverbs. All my uses of words like “adorably” and “scathingly” and “waspishly” weren’t spicing my pages up, like I thought they were. They were watering them down. For an easy way to immediately improve your writing, try doing a document search for “ly.” Highlight those nasty adverbs and try to find ways to cut them out.

2. Just, that, very

While you’re on a search and destroy mission, include the words “just,” “that,” and “very.” Most of the time, cutting these words doesn’t even require you to restructure your sentence. You can just delete and move on.

3. He said/she said

Writers have mixed reactions to dialogue tags. Some writers think the only tags you should ever use are “said” and “asked” while others happily include “whispered” and “screamed” and “shouted,” among others. I’m in the middle on this controversy. I like to sprinkle a few exciting dialogue tags into my writing, but try to keep it to one or two a page.

4. Blocking

If you aren’t one for dialogue tags at all, you can try out something I like to call blocking. It’s when an author doesn’t tell you who said a line of dialogue at all, but uses clever descriptions to imply who’s talking. For instance:

“That’s insane.” Lucy placed her coffee cup on the table too hard, causing a dribble of brown liquid to slop over the edge.

Now you not only know that Lucy said the line of dialogue, but that she’s getting worked up enough to spill her coffee.

5. Say it simply

Most of the time bad writing isn’t exactly bad, it’s just complicated. The writer is trying to do something clever and fun with words, and it comes out confusing. This type of writing makes a reader stop and scratch her head, which completely takes her out of the story.

I was often guilty of this early on in my career, so much so that I came up with a rule for myself—say it simply. Whatever I was trying to say, whatever feeling I was trying to get across, my goal was to write it in the simplest, most straightforward way possible. Then, if I wanted to dress it up later, I could go crazy.

I used this little trick a lot in my book BREAKING, which comes out June 6. BREAKING is sort of like STRANGER THINGS meets THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, and I desperately wanted the first chapter to have an eerie vibe without being outright scary. I knew the mood I was going for when I read it, but I had no idea how to accomplish the task myself. I took my own advice and, instead of trying to come up with something complicated and beautiful, I challenged myself to do the opposite. Write short, clear sentences about what was happening. Focus on small details—leaves beneath feet, wind on the back of the neck—rather than big, overarching themes. The result was a chapter—and book—I’m deeply proud of!

Now I want to hear from you! What are your favorite writing tips? Tell me in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @vegarollins.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I'm currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.

Find Her Online: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
5/29/2017 - The Cover Contessa - Interview
5/29/2017 - A Dream Within A Dream - Review
5/30/2017 - YA Books Central - Guest Post
5/30/2017 - a GREAT read - Review
5/31/2017 - Pandora's Books - Excerpt
5/31/2017 - Sweet Southern Home - Review
6/1/2017 - BookHounds YA - Guest Post
6/1/2017 - Dazzled by Books - Review
6/2/2017 - Tales of the Ravenous Reader - Interview
6/2/2017 - Don't Judge, Read - Review
Week Two:
6/5/2017 - Wandering Bark Books - Guest Post
6/5/2017 - Pretty Deadly Reviews - Review
6/6/2017 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
6/6/2017 - Novel Novice - Review
6/7/2017 - Literary Meanderings - Guest Post
6/7/2017 - YA Book Madness - Review
6/8/2017 - Mama Reads Blog - Excerpt
6/8/2017 - A Gingerly Review - Review

6/9/2017 - Portrait of a Book- Guest Post
6/9/2017 - Storybook Slayers - Review


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