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Friday, March 27, 2015


Blog Tour: Untaken - Excerpt

Title: Untaken
Author: J.E. Anckorn
Link: Goodreads
Publication Date: March 23, 2015 (Re-Release)
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

It turns out that a real alien invasion is nothing like the Sci-fi shows 14-year-old Gracie loves. Not when it’s your own family who are swallowed whole by those big silver ships. Not if it could be you next.

In her search for her family, Gracie meets Brandon, a high school dropout who would never have been caught dead hanging out with a dork like Gracie before the world ended. Gracie isn’t too crazy about Brandon either, but he has one thing she doesn’t: A plan.

Brandon’s uncle has a cabin up in Maine, and If Gracie and Brandon can survive long enough to get there they can hide out until the Space Men pack up their ships and leave.

Until the army guys come to rescue them, says Brandon. Brandon is big into army guys. Gracie has to admit that Brandon’s Awesome Plan probably would have worked out great if wasn’t for Jake.

They found 5-year-old Jake, laying half-dead under the remains of someone’s ranch house. He’s a good kid, even if he won’t-or can’t- talk. But Jake has a secret, and when Gracie finds out what it is, the fragile new life they’ve started to forge looks set to break apart.

When the people you’ve been counting on to put the world back together start hunting you down, alien invaders are the least of your worries.

     Katie and Zach walked up Auburn Street toward me, Katie in a short dress that showed off her long brown legs, and Zach with his shirt tied round his waist and a basketball jammed under one muscular arm.
     There was no time to duck off down a side street. They’d seen me.
     “Hey,” said Katie. “What’s up?”
     Zach gave the ball a couple of hard bounces on the pavement instead of replying. He’d been a scrawny little boy last summer, but now he was taller than me.
     “Nothing much,” I told them. Katie and Zach and I had been to the same elementary school. Katie and I had been friends once—she only lived a few streets away from us—but after Mom had seen Katie hanging out with a bunch of older kids, passing a bottle back and forth down at the park, I’d been banned from speaking to her. She hung out with a different crowd at school now.
     “I haven’t seen you in forever!”
     I didn’t know what to say. I still felt bad at the way I’d avoided her at school, pretended I wasn’t home when she rang the doorbell. She’d given up trying to talk to me a couple of years ago now, but it was still awkward to run into her like this.
     “We’re going over to the playground,” Katie said, finally. “Want to come?”
     “No, I don’t think I can—”
     Katie rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Gracie. I guess your mom won’t let you?”
     “It’s not that….” I said.
     “What then? We used to hang out down there all the time.” She laughed. “Remember our secret clubhouse?”
     It hadn’t been much of a clubhouse. Just a bare patch of pine-needley ground between a bunch of spruces that grew around the basketball court, but I remembered.
     “Well, suit yourself.” Katie brushed her long blonde hair back out of her face.
     My hair was long and blonde too, but instead of being sleek and shiny, it was a tangled mess no matter how much I brushed it. When we were six, we’d given each other haircuts. Katie’s mom had found us halfway through the makeover, and taken us to the salon to fix the mess.
     “Don’t you girls look pretty?” she’d said afterwards as we admired our matching bobs in the salon mirror. “Like twins.” I couldn’t wait to get home to show mom my new haircut, but she’d gone crazy. She’d called Katie’s mom and yelled at her until she hung up the phone, even though I’d told her it had been my idea. That had been the beginning of the end with Katie and me, although I was too young to know it then. It pissed me off that mom was always saying I should make friends when she’d stopped me hanging out with the best friend I’d ever had. It was so unfair.
     “Sure, I’ll hang out for a while,” I found myself saying.

Author Bio

J. E. Anckorn has been an artist and writer ever since she began to surreptitiously doodle on school supplies instead of learning about practical things, like osmosis and mathematics.

After barely surviving a freak mathematical osmosis disaster, she set out to travel the world, living in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong before returning to her native Britain- just in time to marry an American and leave for the U.S.A. She still failed to learn anything about osmosis, but did manage to cultivate an accent that is unintelligible to almost everyone. (It happened through a mysterious net movement of information from the outside environment into her brain. If only there was a word for that!)

This led to her development of a new language, based almost entirely on polite yet uncomprehending nods. In between these adventures, she has worked as a toy designer, copywriter, and freelance illustrator. She lives in Boston, with a small grumpy dog, and a large, slightly less grumpy husband.

Author Links:
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

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Review: Soul Taken by Katlyn Duncan (Has Potential...)

Soul Taken by Katlyn Duncan

The Life After #1
Katlyn Duncan
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Carina UK
Reviewer: Sophia

After-life just got a lot more complicated.

Maggie is a Soul Collector. It’s her job to transport souls from the Living Realm to the After – but during a mission to New England to find a stolen soul, she ends up stuck in a teen mean girl’s body. Trapped, Maggie’s soul is catapulted into Ally’s life – and the human world she hasn’t experienced for one hundred years.

But, as a descendant of the most powerful beings in the After, Maggie must rescue Ally before the girl’s soul dies... To survive, Maggie must uncover devastating secrets – because with one soul taken by a terrifying enemy, Maggie’s could be next!
Updated copy provided by Barclay Publicity for review – thanks!

The first book in the Life After trilogy is apparently one of those books where the results – or the sequels, per say – could be either good or bad...

The concept is fantastic – I particularly loved the idea of the dead collecting souls and guiding them to the After after death (note: that was not a mistake – After is a place). While the general concept does sound a little similar to Ephemeral, there's really not enough to deem it a complete carbon copy. Duncan gives the idea with her own twist in having Maggie being stuck in a mean girl's body while looking for a True Soul and having time running against her as the others search for Ally's missing soul.

The world building is as equally fantastic as the concept – it's obvious that Duncan is quite thorough, complete, and detailed with developing the After as the author introduces us to Maggie's life from early on in the book, from the different roles to how they all worked to even the possibility of reincarnation.

Duncan's writing, however, did feel a little awkward at times throughout the process of reading Soul Taken. Some sentences didn't seem to flow along together seamlessly, and made the reading a little bumpy. Apparently the inner editor in me questioned a few things.

The formatting is also a little odd. Though it's similar to the problem I had while reading Fire and Shadow (that was a horrendous ride), I don't really have as much as a problem as there's an eenie weenie break between paragraphs and not looking as though words were bumping words (or so close to it, you couldn't even tell there's a break). Not to stress anything, but I honestly didn't notice the little break when I eFlipped to the very first page. Massive panic was involved for a few seconds.

But much kudos to Katlyn Duncan on her characters – they were highly intriguing. Maggie's visions of her past is perhaps one of the things that kept me reading the story and turning the pages without noticing that Maggie spent most of her time in Ally's body doing a little stressing out over the amount of time getting shorter each day the Guards couldn't find Ally's soul. A few of the characters were also highly unpredictable until the end – a character well played, Katlyn Duncan. Well played. I definitely didn't see that coming (a rarity, so I'm doing a happy dance). ^_^

The ending... what can I say about the ending without giving spoilers away? Simply put, a character's exit was quite... pitiful. I say pitiful because three seconds after I literally praised the author (mentally) on a job well done, one of those characters makes a flail-worthy exit (along with the villains). The victory seemed a little too easy and I'm half afraid to pick up the other two books in the trilogy because the very end of the entire trilogy may be similar to the one in Ever After (a happy one). Not that I actually mind a happy ending for all of the characters, but I do love it when the villain(s) makes a jaw-dropping exit that makes you question what just happened.

Soul Taken was a highly enjoyable read, a book that is perfectly paced with intricate and surprising characters thrown into complex situations even after death.

3.5 Owls

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

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Blog Tour: The Lightbound Saga - Excerpt + Giveaway

Tour Schedule
Title: Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy (The Lightbound Saga #1)
Author: S.G. Basu
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Publication Date: January 18, 2014

The chance of living the life of a regular thirteen year old was never hers, Maia knows that much. Her dead mother is an alleged turncoat; her people are practically slaves to the Xifarians-a race of ruthless, space travelers; her planet is near extinction. Maia keeps hoping, however. Of evading the Xifarians and of someday atoning for the sins of her mother. Maia has learnt to be careful, she is cautious. Until the day she gives in to the charms of a gypsy boy and the allure of flying his glider. And then, all Maia’s plans fall apart.

Spotted by Xifarian scouts, Maia is recruited into a dubious peace initiative. She had never considered visiting the galaxy roving planet-spaceship of Xif; she had never imagined meeting or befriending a Jjord – the reclusive people from the under-ocean colonies. But all that is about to happen, and Maia’s life is about to change forever . . .

Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy is a daring space adventure and a coming-of-age story. It is a riveting tale in which the young hero’s journey of self-discovery parallels the timeless search for friendship, knowledge, and truth.

Title: Maia and the Secrets of Zagran
Author: S.G. Basu
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Publication Date: December 15, 2014

Thirteen-year-old Maia thinks she has seen it all.

She has survived an assassination attempt, she has been threatened by a chancellor, and she has faced off with saboteurs trying to bring down a nation. She lets nothing get to her anymore-not the ominous nightmares she has been having lately, not the fear of being targeted for another soul extraction, not even the memories of her dead mother’s terrifying communique.

More than ever, Maia wants the Initiative to resume. She longs to visit Zagran-the undersea capital of the Jjord. She wants to ride the underwater transport lines, learn about the Jjordic energy farms and most of all-she wants to goof off with her friends. But, around the charming city of Zagran, evil is gathering. Maia and her friends do not know it yet, this is just the beginning of a terrifying end.

     Carefully, she opened the small lid, slipped her hand cautiously inside, and reached for the crystal. A flash of light followed by a searing pain that shot through her arm stunned Maia for a moment. Blinking rapidly, she focused her eyes and screamed. The L’miere crystal had vanished. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the moss where the crystal had lain just moments ago. Maia pulled out her hand and shook the pod, hoping that she had maybe . . . somehow . . . just maybe . . . pushed it into a crevice or something. But the pod remained empty; only the lava rock sat on its mossy bed, in blissful ignorance.
     Ren would know.
     She ran out of the room, up the staircase toward the Snoso, and smack dab into the middle of a portly frame. Maia would have gone flying and crashed into the wall had it not been for the hands that gripped her firmly by the shoulders.
     “Well, well, well. If it isn’t my old friend Maia,” the voice of Principal Pomewege bellowed. “And what is the rush, child?”
     Maia started to murmur an apology. She must have not made much sense, because the principal interrupted her midway.
     “Is something wrong?” His eyes shone with concern.
     Everything is wrong.
     “Nothing, sir,” she lied.
     “Well, you seem to be in a hurry, so I won’t keep you.” Pomewege smiled. “But if there is anything I can help you with, just let me know.”
     He turned away, and Maia took a few steps before she rushed back toward the principal. “Principal Pomewege, I think . . . I . . . I destroyed something,” she stammered.

Author Bio

S. G. Basu is a telecommunications engineer by profession, but she likes to call herself a dreamer. Imagination, fueled by a voracious appetite for books, has been her steady friend since childhood. She discovered her passion for writing quite by chance and there has been no stopping her since then.

Author Links:
Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Blog


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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Cover Reveal: Fifth Avenue Fidos by Holly Schindler

Cover Reveal
Title: Fifth Avenue Fidos
Author: Holly Schindler
Links: Amazon | Kobo | Goodreads

When a mutt from Queens meets a purebred New Yorker, it takes man’s—and woman’s—best friend to convince them what they feel is more than puppy love.

Mable Barker, a hilarious, good-natured sweetheart who is always the pal but never the girlfriend, endures nine horrendous months of bouncing between lackluster New York City jobs (and suffering unrequited love) in her unsuccessful attempt to find her one true talent. So when she meets Innis, the ill-tempered Upper East Side Pekingese, she assumes her dog-walking days are numbered, too; soon, she’ll be heading back to Queens brokenhearted, tail tucked between her legs. But Innis belongs to the adorable yet painfully shy young veterinarian, Jason Mead, a man whose awkward ways around women have him dreaming not of finding love for himself but of playing canine matchmaker—breeding Westminster champions.

When Mable and Jason meet, romance is officially unleashed: they find an instant connection and shared goal, as it appears that Mable could very well have what it takes to be a professional handler, soon to be seen holding Innis under a banner labeled, “Best in Show.” As Jason and Mable get closer to putting a new twist on the term “dog lovers,” outside forces—Mable’s overprotective brothers, a successful wedding planner with her eye on Jason, even the theft of purebred pups from Jason’s Fifth Avenue apartment building—all threaten to come between them. Will Mable and Jason simply let their burgeoning love roll over and play dead? Or will they rally to make sure Innis emerges as the leader of the pack?

Brimming with humor and endearing characters, Holly Schindler’s Fifth Avenue Fidos offers a sweet romance and modern-day fairy tale in which dogs, not dragons, rule the land…a story about the loves that help us realize our dreams.

Author Bio

Holly Schindler is the author of four traditionally published books; her work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist’s Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal’s What’s Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week. Fifth Avenue Fidos is her first independently published book. She is owned by a Pekingese named Jake and can be found working on her next book in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found at
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

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Review: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender (Murderous Queen)

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Katie Alender
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reviewer: Sophia

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

I only picked up Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer for two reasons: 1) Marie Antoinette is a serial killer. I had to see it. 2) I'm in need of a book that's less of a romance. Oh, and I need a break from all of the books out there that do before I blow a gasket. Really, it's for everyone's benefit.

This book is a fantastic break for me – it's not a fluffy book set in Paris with a Paris romance (though there is a sort-of Paris romance I'm totally peachy with), despite the fact Alender starts things off with a gruesome murder involving a head being chopped off by a ghost.

No, I did not actually enjoy reading a person getting her head chopped off by a flying broken mirror shard caused by a ghost. I might be a ninja and secretly evil, but I don't actually enjoy those kinds of things.

France's history in the late 18th century is quite intriguing – from helping the US with the American Revolution against the British and then entering their own Revolution against the monarchy a little over a decade later. Alender's book is full of rich details involving French history and culture circulating the Revolution (despite the fact some facts were liberated by Alender to fit the overall plot of the story) as Colette tours France with her classmates, questions her roots and her friendship with Hannah, and tries to figure out why she's seeing a Marie Antoinette lookalike everywhere.

The amount of French the author uses throughout the book isn't overwhelming – it's enough to keep the intrigue, but not enough where it'll be overly confusing and categorizing the book as a piece of French literature. Then again, it's probably helpful when 1) the main character isn't entirely proficient at French, and 2) the romance languages are so similar, I pretty much understand the basis of the conversations with my sliver understanding of Spanish and Italian.

On the overall basis of the book being well written, I had mixed feelings for Colette for awhile – she's both likable and not likable at the same time. She's not likable because she just seems to have a very snobby attitude of sorts, tries too hard to fit in with the rich and wealthy at her private school, and spends her time being a doormat in the beginning of the book for fear of facing Hannah's wrath. As the book goes on and everyone makes Colette questions her friendship with Hannah, Colette slowly becomes likable – someone who isn't snobby after all, and her ending with Hannah is quite fantastic. Of course, it does become a little obvious there's some sort of gap between their friendship (and growing) since Colette secretly rebels at times without Hannah's knowledge.

All in all, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a book about deception, loyalty, and how even the dead can come back for revenge to complete unfinished business before they can finally rest in peace.

4 Owls

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Friday, March 13, 2015

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Blog Tour: Losing the Ice - Interview + Giveaway

Tour Schedule

Title: Losing the Ice (Ice #2)
Author: Jennifer Comeaux
Link: Amazon | Goodreads
Publication Date: February 23, 2015

Courtney and Josh are in love and excited to finally compete as skating partners. When they take the ice for their first competition, they want to show everyone, especially Josh's family, they are the perfect pair.

But ice is slippery, and one misstep puts all their dreams in jeopardy. Now they must show each other both their love and their partnership are strong enough to survive.

Interview with Author Jennifer Comeaux
  1. Happy Friday the 13th! Any particular superstitions (preferably in relation to skating) that you would love to put your characters through one day just to see their reactions?
    Fun question! There are a lot of skaters who are superstitious. Some have lucky charms that they make their coaches place next to the boards while they skate. I could have one of my characters’ coaches lose their lucky charm. The ensuing freakout could be fun to watch. :)
  2. Without giving any spoilers, tell us what Courtney and Josh are going to be up to in the sequel to Crossing the Ice. Any trials or obstacles they might be facing that could be mind blowing or life changing?
    They are competing together as a pair for the first time, and all I can say is they face an unexpected challenge that frustrates them both on and off the ice. I can’t give away any more, so you’ll have to read to find out!
  3. Music is a probably a big part in your writing process, especially when choosing the right song for the right scene. How did you go about choosing them? (Yep, it includes the songs Josh plays for Courtney, the songs they choose for their programs, etc.)
    I’m always listening to music, so I love incorporating it into my books. Sometimes the songs that end up in the books are songs that just happen to be playing on my mp3 player while I’m thinking about the story. I’ll hear them and realize how perfectly they fit the mood of the story (that happened with Muse’s songs in Crossing the Ice). For the skating programs, I always choose pieces I’d love to perform to if I was a skater. It’s my chance to make up my dream programs!
  4. Were there any songs that you would have liked to put in Losing the Ice but it just didn't seem to fit in?
    I wanted to have Courtney and Josh skate to “A Bad Dream” by Keane for an exhibition program, but I couldn’t find a way to work in that scene. I’ve been dying for someone to skate to that song!
  5. Will Aubrey, Chris, or any of the other characters (aside from Emily and Sergei) who played a major role in the Edge series be making an appearance later on in the Ice series?
    It’s funny you ask that because I was just thinking the other day about how I could sneak Aubrey and Chris into the final book of the Ice series. They should both be finished with school by the time Taking the Ice takes place, so I’ve thought about making Chris a trainer at the rink in Cape Cod. I also have an idea for giving Aubrey a role, but I can’t spoil it ;)
  6. During the zombie apocalypse, if any of your characters came to life, which two would you team up with to exorcise the zombies and why?
    I would team up with Chris and Courtney. Chris would keep us laughing while we fought the zombies, and Courtney doesn’t take crap from anyone, so I know she’d be blasting those zombies any way she can!
  7. Aside from Ice Skating, is there another particular Olympic sport or two that you would like to write about in the future when you complete the Ice series?
    I have another skating book planned after the Ice series (Liza’s story!), but if I ever move on to another sport, tennis or swimming would probably be my first two choices. I actually had an idea for a tennis romance years ago when I used to follow the sport more closely, and I’ve always loved watching swimming during the Olympics.
  8. How did you get into writing contemporary romance? Is there another particular genre or two that you would one day like to try your hand in?
    I like reading and writing stories about situations and characters to whom I can relate, so contemporary has always felt the most natural to me. I enjoy using real-world places and issues, so I don’t think I’ll ever try my hand at paranormal or fantasy.
  9. If you could rewrite the ending of any book, which would it be, and how would you rewrite it differently compared to the original author? And please, no Allegiant. ;)
    Gone Girl, definitely. If you haven’t read it yet, hide your eyes from the rest of this answer! View Spoiler »
  10. Any books being published in 2015 that you're looking forward to?
    I’m really looking forward to The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West (I LOVED On the Fence), and also The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord.

Author Bio

Jennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a die-hard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating.

One of her favorite pastimes is traveling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers!

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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Blog Tour: Garden - Excerpt

Title: Garden
Author: Jane Yates
Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords
Publisher: Autumn Orchard Books

Inspired by the classic novel The Secret Garden, Jane Yates introduces us to a steampunk world of bio-domes, robots and mysteries. Eleven-year-old Aberdeen is so used to being by herself that all she has to fill her thoughts are stories of mighty dragons and grand castles. But Aberdeen’s world is soon thrown into disarray however; her parents murdered.

Having no choice, Aberdeen is sent to live with her uncle back on Earth where her fascination into her new surroundings begin to take hold. It isn’t long before Aberdeen befriends three other children – Maisy, Peter and Lenard.

Oh, and there’s Frank too, Peter’s robot dog, who completes this special circle of friendship.

Garden is a journey of self-discovery, of trials and friendship. With adventure boundless, Jane Yates follows up her acclaimed Paradox Child trilogy with a new tale for young fans of steampunk and science fiction.

     Deep in space, Aberdeen sat on a balcony overlooking a grand party her mother hosted. Everyone wore their finest clothes. The music was loud; a type of remixed jazz. Aberdeen searched her mother out among the crowd of guests. Upon spotting her, she gazed at her mother’s attire; a long silk dress, the colour of shock blue. This was matched by elaborate feathers and sparkling jewels that hung in her blue hair. Her mother’s hair swung down her back, which highlighted her large dragon tattoo. Aberdeen eyed the lead in her mother’s hand and followed it to the golden robot dog sat beside her. It was tall and thin, and even from where Aberdeen sat, she could see the cogs moving inside it as if it had a tiny heart beating.
     Aberdeen’s mother laughed gaily. She had the full attention of a young officer with braided hair, who was smartly dressed in his green and gold uniform. As he chuckled along, his head dropped back and a cool thin line of rose-smelling cigarette smoke slid from the corner of his mouth.
     Aberdeen continued to watch the party from above. As usual, there was no sign of her father; probably in the engine room of the ship, she guessed. She browsed at all the fresh fruit and flowers in the tall bowls and glasses decorating the table. She knew that they had been picked up the last time the ship had docked at one of the satellite stations. She had learnt that the fragrant, exotic flowers had been grown in large artificial garden domes and she longed to see one.
     She looked down in awe at the musicians. A large man sat at a glass piano, his fingers elegantly flitting from key to key. Aberdeen could see his fat belly though through the transparent top of the piano; it wobbled tastelessly as he played, a huge contrast to his regal demeanour. Aberdeen also noticed a tall, skinny man, strumming a black shinny double base and three female trumpeters who all wore brown and white stripy suits.
     Draped from the metallic ceiling were candle-shaped lights, and in between them dancers gambolled on trapeze ropes. They wore porcelain masks and flamboyantly displayed peacock feathers, midnight blue and jade green, in their hair. They matched the rhythm of the quintet perfectly, Aberdeen thought.
     The floor was polished to a high shine and Aberdeen could see the refection of the sociable people in it. In the corner of the room was an old gentleman who caught Aberdeen’s interest. Upon his head was a black top hat and he rested a glass monocle on his eye, which magnified his golden brown iris so even Aberdeen could see. His long twisting moustache made Aberdeen giggle.
     There were no children however, and Aberdeen wondered what the workers’ children were up to. She suddenly felt quite alone.
     Aberdeen picked up some of the plastic cocktail sticks that had been dropped on the floor; planting them along the edge of the balcony and playfully imagining them growing into amazing flowers. She soon tired of the game and thought about going downstairs to join the party, but knew that her mother would not be pleased; her mother felt that children should be seen but not heard and, where possible, not seen at all. Her mother had not wanted children. Aberdeen knew she hadn’t been planned and her mother, a socialite, did not have time for her, nor did she wish for her daughter to mix with the other children on the ship, as these were the workers’ children. The elite children had been shipped off to boarding school, but Aberdeen had not settled in well there and caused fights with the other children. She was returned to her parents in disgrace.
     Aberdeen had wanted to play with the ship workers’ children, but her mother, on one of her brief and rare visits to see her daughter, told her horrid stories about them. “They have revolting lice in their hair,” she had said, and “Do you want them to jump at you and bite you?”
     So instead Aberdeen spent all her time in the company of her robot nanny; her Guardian. Her Guardian was programed to do whatevershe wanted, as long as it did not disturb the child’s parents. It was efficient but uncaring, which had led partly to Aberdeen becoming the same way. The Guardian was responsible for her education too and arranged her meals and even dressed her. It was also programmed to tell stories. The wondrous tales and adventures of frightful dragons and grand castles were her favourite and she would spend her time imagining dragons flying around her room acting out her own brave endeavours.
     Early the next morning, Aberdeen awoke thinking she had heard screams and cries for help. Frightened, she locked her door and snuggled tightly underneath her covers. The thick duvet muffled the cries from outside, and before long, she had drifted back to sleep.
     When she awoke some hours later, having convinced herself that the commotion from the night before had been a terrible nightmare, she opened her door and sat on her bed waiting for her Guardian. Minutes later, it still hadn’t appeared.
     Aberdeen browsed her room to pass more time; it was only fair she allowed her Guardian a little extra before she left the room. Her room was plain compared with the lavish party setting of downstairs, although she knew she could have it decorated any way she desired. She chose to not have a lot. What she liked doing the most was playing with her robot snake. Aberdeen was content with her few intimate toys rather than having extravagant playthings she had no need of. She had books, but she preferred to be read to. The furniture was clinical white, undecorated and simplistic in design. Everything served a purpose and there wasn’t even a carpet on the floor, just white lino. There were pictures on the wall, but none that she had chosen, as if put there by someone who had no knowledge of her at all.
     She suddenly remembered the soft toys she once had, which consisted mostly of dragons, but they had been stored away when she had been sent off to school. Her mother, still angry at Aberdeen’s quick return, as if she was but a nuisance, had not retrieved them yet. She much preferred her robot snake anyway.
     Aberdeen felt herself becoming increasingly frustrated; why wasn’t her Guardian coming to dress her? She wasn’t used to waiting. When the rage become too much, Aberdeen jumped and stamped her feet screaming for the Guardian to come. When it still hadn’t arrived, she sulked down the hallway until she came to the balcony. All the food and glasses were still left set out, but there wasn’t anyone around. Aberdeen descended the staircase and quickly snatched some of the food. On her way back to her room, she grabbed an opened bottle of wine.
     As she crossed the polished floor however, she froze and looked at her sad reflection. Her plain looks gave way to a sour jawline, giving the impression that she rarely smiled. In truth, Aberdeen realised that she hardly did. Her shapeless chestnut hair appeared dull. She looked as far away from the fashionable figure of her mother. Her words rung in her mind.
     Spoilt, bad tempered little child!
     Aberdeen promptly scooted back to her room. Perhaps her Guardian had arrived.
     Aberdeen was furious to find it hadn’t. She slid her food underneath her bed and squeezed under herself, thinking mean thoughts. She ate some of the food and sipped the wine, which made her sleepy. Eventually, not realising how long had passed, and getting rather bored, she played with her small robot snake. She built high obstacles out of plastic bricks for it to slither around. She tried to imagine that the snake was a dragon from one of her stories and that the bricks were castles. When she had drained the wine however, Aberdeen soon found herself slipping into a slumber.
     But when she awoke, her angry temperament hadn’t left her. Where was her Guardian?
     Just then, outside her bedroom door she heard two muffled grown-up voices.
     “It’s a shame; she was beautiful, taken in the prime of her life,” the first voice said.
     “She was a mother too,” the second voice replied.  “I hear she had a child, a girl, although nobody ever really saw her.”
     Aberdeen got out from under her bed and opened the door. She frowned at two officers who were stood in the hallway wearing gas masks.
     “Oh, look, Barnabas, there’s a child here, alone in a place like this!” one of them said, pointing and grabbing another mask from his bag which was slung over his shoulder.
     “Who is she?” the second [officer] asked.
     “I’m Aberdeen Gale,” Aberdeen introduced herself, pulling herself up as tall as she could and staring at them both.
     “Oh, this must be the girl no one ever saw. Poor thing, she must have been forgotten,” the first officer said, holding out the mask for her to put on. Aberdeen glared at the mask; it was a strange shape, light brown in colour with two round windows for eyes. She spotted a dull copper filter hanging from it. The gas mask itself could have been really old if it not for the fact that there was a green triangular light flashing on it.
     “I don’t like it!” Aberdeen shouted, folding her arms across her body and scowling at the men.
     “Oh, the poor thing, she’s frightened,” Barnabas said, a hint of patronisation in his voice.
     “I’m not poor at all,” Aberdeen snapped. “My father is in charge of the ship. I need you to take me to him at once as my robot has not come for me.”
     Barnabas knelt down next to Aberdeen. “You poor child,” he said softly. “Everyone is dead. There was a distress signal, which we picked up.” He helped her to put on the gas mask.
     Aberdeen could not believe what she was hearing. She tugged at the gas mask, rearranging its strange structure. It felt heavy on her face and it made her want to itch her skin. Barnabas offered her a smile. He looked to his colleague for support, who continued to talk as if Aberdeen was invisible.
     “Maybe the girl survived as she leads a solitary existence? Well, that will have to change now.”
     Barnabas continued to smile at her.
     “You must come with us, my girl,” the other officer instructed, holding his hand out to Aberdeen. “We need to take you off this ship and back to a halfway station for quarantine. Juno is probably the nearest one.”
     “Your robot is not coming,” Barnabas told her as if he had sensed her thoughts. “All the worker robot signals were shut down when the distress signal was issued.”
     Aberdeen glared at him, “I don’t believe you!”
     “It’s true,” Barnabas said. “It’s part of the fail safe protocol. When the distress signal is sent it allows for every eventuality, even robot attack, so it shuts them down.”
     Aberdeen stood still, her mind racing, she did not know what to do.
     “It was some sort of virus,” Barnabas continued. “We are not sure of all the facts as yet, but from what we can piece together it looks as if one of the crew members released a fast acting, deadly virus as a grudge. We suspect a chemist.”
     Aberdeen must have looked blankly at him, as he continued. “We were on our way to arrest him anyway. He had been developing new Class A drugs and had become paranoid.”
     Aberdeen took a step backwards unsure to believe them or not. She wasn’t quite sure what ‘Class A’ drugs were, but she definitely didn’t like the sound of them.
     The other officer said, “Look, we haven’t got time for this. We need to get you off this ship; it’s going to be decommissioned.”
     Aberdeen ran back into her room and scooped up her snake and placed it in her pocket, then followed the two officers along the corridor and away from the only home she had ever known.

Author Bio

Jane lives in the historic city of Oxford, England with her two spaniels. She works at the Pitt Rivers museum there too and is amazed and inspired by its wondrous array of objects. Being a museum of anthropology and world archaeology, Jane often finds herself influenced by its exhibitions. And indeed it has helped Jane write a trilogy for children – the Paradox Child series.

Jane is not only a mother, artist and storyteller, but dyslexic too, which only highlights her success even more. Jane refuses to allow the disorder to halt her dreams and continues to enjoy her favourite hobbies. Jane is a lover of steampunk, adventure and children’s stories, which often play a huge role in her own books.

Author Links:
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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Review: Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo (More Scared?)

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Grisha #2
Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Reviewer: Sophia

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.

I have completely mixed feelings about Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy. So mixed, I was scared of reading Siege and Storm, despite the fact the librarian pretty much promised the entire series gets better by the book. (Rundus' opinion does not count because he's a fanboy.)

The second book in the Grisha Trilogy is certainly better than Shadow and Bone – whereas Alina Starkov (aka Sun Summoner) was overly mopey for a good part of the first book (to the point where I started calling her Mopey), Alina is less mopey this time around. A fantastic turnaround, because I don't think I can handle Starkov being mopey for two books. Instead, our fabulous Sun Summoner "Saint" is a little more... overconfident. Spunky (but that's what I've always like about Alina). And definitely in control of the situation, even if it's not in her favor and there are unpleasant rumors about her floating among the Grisha and everyone else.

But even though Alina is in control of the situation for the most part, there's somehow not a love triangle, but a love square surrounding Saint Sun Summoner.

Boy #1 (Mal): My least favorite corner, Mal wasn't a terrible character back in Shadow and Bone – I actually liked Mal a little. I particularly liked his interactions and dialogue with Alina. In the sequel though... he turns into Adrian Ivashkov 1.0 (HOPEFULLY 1.0).

Boy #2 (Darkling): I shipped Alina and the Darkling back in book one... until the end. The Darkling doesn't grace us readers in Siege and Storm as much as he does in Shadow and Bone, but he's really just that one desperate dude with the way he constantly tells Alina that there's no else like them and that they "belong together."

Boy #3 (Nikolai): My third least favorite corner (aka my favorite corner), despite the fact Nikolai is probably going to end up as one of my favorite characters in the entire trilogy after I read Ruin and Rising. Nikolai's two things: arrogant and adorable. Arrogant because seeing as he's royalty, he'll obviously have a big head of sorts (but not too big). Adorable because of his conversations and dialogue with Alina – I pretty much ship them... even if Nikolai probably likes her for political purposes.

The world building, as it was in the first, is spectacular – Imperial Russia spectacularized into fantasy. The concept is phenomenal and a fantastic pitch – even though I have mixed feelings about the entire series altogether, the Grisha Trilogy definitely deserves the hype and praise.

The trilogy so far is essentially Alina running, getting caught, and running again (with attacks and whatnot in between) – if that's the case for the first and second book, I'm definitely scared of reading the last book now. It could go extremely ugly – down the rabbit hole – or extremely well – mind = blown.

3.5 Owls

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Friday, March 6, 2015

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DNF ARC Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas (Sophia is Cheesed)

A Wicking Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

A Wicking Thing #1
Rhiannon Thomas
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reviewer: Sophia

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.
Advanced Review Copy provided by HarperCollins originally for the tour via Edelweiss – thanks!

My all-time favorite Disney movie (in VCR) – along with Pocahontas and Mulan, to which there are literally zilch retellings to my knowledge – while growing up was Sleeping Beauty. I even reenacted it... for fun and on my own (expected of a four or five year old).

And perhaps it is also one of the most difficult tales to be retold. There's a princess who has a curse placed on her that she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel before her sixteenth birthday and die – not entirely too much to take a spin on, is there?

No pun intended.

Much as I give props to Rhiannon Thomas for taking Sleeping Beauty on another path, A Wicked Thing is certainly not a book I would enjoy even for the pleasure of reading. In fact, truth be told in maybe a harsh way, A Wicked Thing was funny. And while funny typically means a good thing, I honestly had a field day reading the first three chapters in between chess matches and poking fun at the book (aka making sassy comments that will make no appearance whatsoever in this review aside from a big basket of mozzarella sticks).

A Wicked Thing is almost a sequel to the original Sleeping Beauty. Some time has passed, and then the prince kisses Aurora – all that jazz is pretty much the same aside from maybe happily ever after, to which I won't bother finding out. Perhaps there is a happily ever after by the end of the book – I'm still not going to go and find out because I'm too focused on making it to at least the top 10 in the class now that I'm extremely close to it.

But let's start with the prince kisses Aurora. She wakes up and screams. It probably makes sense to scream when you wake up to a random stranger hovering above your face and actually kissed you. Honestly, a pretty fantastic opening scene – and I'm serious – aside from the part where the "boy" (we don't know he's a prince YET) says, "I did it. I actually did it."

Then I get a sled and start laughing gleefully (read: found it absolutely amusing) while sliding down a hill (read: continuing the book just see how it all plays out because I haven't found reasons to throw this aside yet and then I do).

Prince Rodric, the "boy," is pathetic. The royal family, in my opinion, is a little pathetic and cheesy. Are they actually pathetic? Perhaps not when you really get to know them and perhaps they're marvelous rulers and the people love them oh-so-dearly, but from the little bit of the book that I read and met the royal family, I find myself disappointed. Particularly disappointed in Rodric the princeling because he will obviously make a huge appearance throughout the rest of the book and I've got to at least like the main characters to enjoy the book.

The dear prince blushes at almost every single sentence he speaks to Aurora. I'm pretty sure the amount of blushes will be the equal amount of election commercials soon (Vote for me! Vote for me!).
He stopped and blushed again.
Princeling probably stutters as well, and is most likely a descendant of Romeo.
“I mean, you always look beautiful. But you look especially beautiful tonight. Is what I mean.”
The king is overly cheery, and while there seems to be a probable reason (my son woke up a slumbering princess!), "overly cheery" really means "exuberantly happy-go-lucky."
“Please send out the heralds. A little extra pomp and circumstance, if you please. It is hardly a normal day.”
No... definitely not a normal day. That much I'll agreee with. But isn't celebrating as soon as Aurora wakes up a little overboard? The chick just woke up from a hundred plus years of slumber and everything literally comes crashing down over on her head upside down! I'm not sure Aurora appreciated that – she was quite confuzzled when she woke up (whoa... what's going on here?!) and even protested a little (not that anyone heard her).

Betsy the maid babbles in excitement and is worse than the king.
“I was so honored, Princess, when they asked me to assist you. I never expected it! But then, I never expected you’d be standing here, if you don’t mind me saying. Not that I didn’t think Rodric could be your true love, because of course he’s wonderful, but it always seemed too much like a dream to ever happen while I was here. Things will be amazing, now, you’ll see. Everyone loves you already. How could they not?”
Reasonable babbling of excitement, seeing as she's a humble servant.

But she and everyone else aside from Aurora is also a little naïve with the assumption that everything is going to be fantastic and happily ever after Aurora and Rodric marry, simply based a fairy tale.

Aurora, however, might have been a character that I would actually like had I continued the book. But by that point in the novel, when Rodric and Aurora are first dining together, I was quite cheesed (it was the constant blushing and cheeriness). While I normally feel guilty for throwing a book aside really early, I don't think I feel too guilty in A Wicked Thing's case.

1 Owl

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Monday, March 2, 2015

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Review: Grandmaster by David Klass (Keep Calm and Play Chess)

Grandmaster by David Klass

David Klass
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Sophia

Freshman Daniel Pratzer gets a chance to prove himself when the chess team invites him and his father to a weekend-long parent-child tournament. Daniel, thinking that his father is a novice, can’t understand why his teammates want so badly for them to participate. Then he finds out the truth: as a teen, his father was one of the most promising young players in America, but the pressures of the game pushed him too far, and he had to give up chess to save his own life and sanity. Now, thirty years later, Mr. Pratzer returns to the game to face down an old competitor and the same dark demons that lurk in the corners of a mind stretched by the demands of the game. Daniel was looking for acceptance—but the secrets he uncovers about his father will force him to make some surprising moves himself, in Grandmaster by David Klass.

Being one of the little gems hidden in the teen shelves at the library, Grandmaster is apparently one of the few books about chess that's fiction and not a how to book or a book about the best moves to smack your opponents down in chess.

It is also a book that I have completely mixed feelings about – a book that I completely relate to as a chess player (I AM a girl, thank you very much), Grandmaster deals with the darker side of chess at the higher level competition in a thriller-like fashion. As the book goes from start to end and the tournament gets closer to the final round, you can literally tell from Klass' writing that the tension among the competitors are growing along with the excitement at the possibility of seeing two rival grandmasters from several decades facing off each other in the final round.

Grandmaster did have a few imperfections, much as Klass' writing was engrossing and highly interesting – there were quite a few clichés and stereotypes, and the majority of the characters were so annoying, I had some tendency to not finish the book simply because of the characters.

Everyone makes this particular tournament a whoppingly huge deal and we have players from all walks of life, particularly the extremely snobby ones from the rich and wealthy. Of all the rounds Klass talks about, almost all of the players faced someone snobby – every once in a blue moon there would be a player who was at the very least friendly.

Most of the characters are extremely competitive and have a temper of sorts – Dr. Chisolm and Mr. Kinney throw insults at Grandmaster Pratzer, and Brad and Eric (the stereotypes of playboy and lazy bum superstar) make fun of Daniel. Mr. Kinney in particularly is the most competitive of all and probably the next Christian Grey with the way he orders people around – don't get me started on that.

And each time the characters lose, all of them (aside from Daniel) are literally on the verge of losing control. From stomping out, turning angrily red, huffing and puffing – Klass might even be sending a subtle message about having good sportsmanship.

As the tournament and the book draws to a close, the book does get better – the characters finally get their act together and make some changes (though they don't change so much that it becomes unrealistic). The ending is a happily ever after, a nice comparison to the high stakes and pressures of a chess tournament that Klass reveals throughout.
If you're up against a strong player get him off the book and make him think for himself.
4 Owls

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