Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Series That Got Better

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Series That Got Better


5. The Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter
I think I mentioned this in a previous T5W post, but this series is one that took a while to get going. The writing is really dense in the first few books and Jane is judgemental and self-righteous. But afte nine books and a spin-off series, this is one of my favorite worlds. It's so worth it to slog through the beginning.


4. The Last True Vampire series by Kate Baxter
This might be an unpopular opinion since I know a lot of people really loved the first book. Rose Red and I both had mixed feelings about it. We loved the world but hated the over the top alphahole behavior. But I think I'm hooked now. Book four adds werewolves into the mix and the supernatural politics are more prominent.


3. The Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab
The first book in this trilogy was amazing but it did a lot of worldbuilding for the whole series. That worldbuilding, while wonderful, slowed the pace down for most of that book. Books two and three are where this series hit its stride because they could focus on events and characters instead of the world and magic system. That being said, our Rose Red still gave each book five stars. 


2. The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews
I realize it's strange to say this series improves when we gave book one a five star review, but it does. There's a lot of weirdness between Nevada and Rogan at first, but when they finally get together in book two it's so much better.


1. The Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan
I didn't hate the Firelight, the first book in the series, but I was expecting Steampunk elements that it didn't really deliver. And we don't actually find out what Archer is until a later book, which makes his story so much better.

What are your favorite series that just got better as they went?



Blogoversary Giveaway #3

Can you believe it? We're turning six this month! And we're celebrating with six awesome giveaways!

Today we're giving away the August Whimsify "Fantasy Kingdoms" Box!
This box will feature a YA Fantasy about smuggling magic, sisterhood, and warring kingdoms. It includes items from Meraki Candles and Literary Apothecary Shop and is perfect for fans of ADSOM, ACOTAR, LOTR, and GoT.

If you'd like to see what was included in past boxes, check out my unboxing posts.

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Have you entered our other Blogoversary giveaways?
YA Contemp Book Bundle
Estep Prize Pack

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blogoversary Giveaway #2

Can you believe it? We're turning six this month! And we're celebrating with six awesome giveaways!

Today's prize includes the complete Black Blade series and swag from Jennifer Estep.
(U.S. Only)

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Did you miss yesterday's blogoversary giveaway?
YA Contemp Bundle

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blogoversary Giveaway #1

Can you believe it? We're turning six this month! And we're celebrating with six awesome giveaways!

Today's bundle features 5 YA contemps and thrillers and a selection of bookish bath products because we know you want to read in the tub.
(U.S. Only)

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer (ARC)
Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr (ARC)
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (hardcover)
100 Hours by Rachel Vincent (ARC)
The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins (ARC)
Frostblood bath bomb by Geeky Clean
Some Rest for the Wraith bath salts from Tea Soap Books
Divergent bath bomb by Fizzy Fairy Apothecary
Lip balm from Geeky Clean

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Watched That? Now Read This! Volume 1: Supernatural

I'm sure I'm not the only one who goes on a Netflix binge to fight book burnout. But what if your favorite shows could help you pick your next read? That's the idea behind this new feature which was actually inspired by a recent post on our Instagram.

Supernatural Poster

I came late to the Supernatural fandom and binged the first seven seasons on Netflix. (I know I'm not the only one who's done it.) Even if you're not watching the show anymore, you've gotta admit those early seasons were something special. But if you don't want to start over from the beginning with Sam and Dean, I have some suggestions for recapturing that feeling.

Are you a Dean girl?
Read the Rain Chaser series by Sierra Dean.
Tallulah Correntine blasts classic rock in her classic car and eats like a teenaged boy. And the gods are constantly interfering in her life.
Check out my review of book one, Thunder Road.

Love Hunters whose lives get taken over by angels?
Read the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh.
Elena Devereaux starts out the series as a rogue vampire hunter, but her life changes once she gets involved with the Archangel Raphael.
Read Rose Red's review of book one, Angels' Blood.

Rooting for the demons?
Read the Hellhound Chronicles by Caitlin Kitteridge.
Ava is a hellhound employed by a reaper to retrieve souls for a demon. She travels across the country staying in seedy motels with her partner Leo. They also cross paths with some fallen angels. Sound familiar?

Is there a book or series that reminds you of Supernatural?
Share your recs in the comments!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Roar by Cora Carmack

(Stormheart #1)
Cora Carmack
Release: June 13, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Roar was one of my most anticipated books of the year so I was really excited when my hold came in at the library. And the things I thought I would like about it did not disappoint. I love the storm magic, though it went in a direction I did not expect. I liked the fact that the author explained the history of the magic and the evolution of people's beliefs. And I was shipping Roar and Locke almost right from the beginning.

But I had some major issues with the story. First of all there's no real villain. Aurora believes she was betrayed by the prince but she doesn't really have enough evidence to support that claim. And because we see his point of view as well, we know he's trying to do the right thing in a bad situation. And there's the Stormlord, who isn't introduced until more than halfway through the book. He's certainly a villain to some people, but not in Aurora's story.

Then again, maybe Aurora is really the villain. When she runs away with the storm hunters, everything goes wrong for her friends, her mother, and her people. But she's not aware of any of that. The fact that she didn't anticipate or care about any of the problems she caused, especially when you consider that it all goes back to her assumptions about the prince, makes her much harder to like.

I think in the end, the problem is that the book tries to do too much. I would have been happy to focus on Aurora discovering her magic and developing her relationship with Locke in book one and dealing with the events in Pavan in book two. If Aurora's friend Nova's point of view had been saved for later (so that the readers discovered what went wrong at the same time as Aurora did) I think that would have been more effective. Including some of that here not only makes Aurora less likable, it means that Roar doesn't stand alone well.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Not Set in the Western World

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate. 

This week's topic is:
Books Not Set in (or based on) the Western World

5. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
I'm pretty sure this book will be on everyone's list this week, but deservedly so. It's set in a magical version of feudal Japan and inspired in part by Mulan.
Read Gretl's review.

4. Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
The Gunpowder Chronicles is a Steampunk series set in China. How cool is that? It has all the dirigibles and clockwork gadgets you expect but sets them against a completely different background.
Read Rose Red's review.

3. Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica
Pirates, science, magic, a strong heroine, and political intrigue all tied into a murder mystery on the high seas. This world also mixes influences from several different cultures.
Rose Red raves about it in this Best of 2014 post.

2. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Flame in the Mist reminded me a lot of this book. They both feature girls dressed as boys and a strong sense of place, though it's a completely different place. Rebel starts out like an American Western but once we leave the town of Dustwalk, the world has a more Arabian Nights feel. I absolutely loved this book!

1.The Kraken King by Meljean Brook
I might be cheating a little bit with this one since part of it is set in Australia, but the history of the West in this series is influenced by Genghis Khan. And the characters travel to Asia so I say it counts. Plus this book is EPIC and you really should read it.
Read Gretl's post on the Iron Seas series.
Honorable Mention
 I'm pretty sure Rose Red has a Robin McKinley rec for every occasion, but this is one of her all-time faves. It's set in the desert nation of Damar where you'll find a fascinating magic system and some magnificent horses.
Read her review.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Children's Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Favorite Children's Books

My daughter is starting kindergarten next month and is just starting to read books on her own, usually with a little bit of help. If you ask her what her favorite book is she'll probably tell you the last one she read. She'll almost certainly give a different answer every time you ask. So this list is kind of a combination of her favorites and mine.

5. I Love to Sing by Anne Matheson
This book is fun to read together because it has kid parody versions of well-known songs (which kids have probably never heard of) like "Got school from 9 to 5." So I get to sing the songs, since I know the tunes and she can read the rest of the book.

4. Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson
A little girl can't sleep because her room is full of monsters so she gets a book that shows her how to build elaborate monster traps. Then she discovers a really cute way to scare them off completely by accident. This one's a little like Monsters Inc but with a clever heroine.

3. There's a Mouse About the House by Richard Fowler
Before you read the book, you make a paper mouse that you pass through slots in the pages. It looks like the mouse is running all over the house as you lift flaps and discover his hiding spots.

2. Zombelina by Kristyn Crow
This book stars a zombie ballerina with stage fright and a very supportive family of monsters. There's also a Christmas one where she dances the Nutcracker.

1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
A curious kid conducts experiments all over the house. She also writes formulae on the wall which makes me cringe every time, but I'll let it slide because the book promotes girls in STEM.

What's your favorite children's book?
(Or your children's favorite book?)

Friday, July 7, 2017

June Whimsify Unboxing and Book Review

I'm trying something new with my unboxing post this month - including a review of the book. Let me know what you think of it. I'm hoping that it will get me to actually read the books in the boxes and not just take pictures of them.

You can find my June Owlcrate unboxing on our Instagram. 

The Whimsify box includes a candle every month which is awesome. This month for the first time it also includes a signed book plate. Here's what's in the June Magic and Misfits box:

"I Believe in Unicorns" candle from Nerd Wicks. This purple glittery candle is exclusive for the box and is supposed to smell like cotton candy. I would have called it jelly beans or gummy bears because it's fruity as well as sweet, and because the top layer is translucent.

Six of Crows magnetic bookmark from Jane's Tiny Things. There were six different ones - mine is Nina. Jane's Tiny Things puts a quote on the back of all of their bookmarks which makes them a little different from all the others I've seen. This one says, "She was the Queen of Mourning, and in its depths she would never drown."

Dragon scale bobby pins from Lexi's Doll House. These are the cutest things ever so I'm hiding them from my kid.

Mischief Managed coaster from Wayward Apple Gifts. This might be my favorite thing in the box. Pro tip: it can also be a mouse pad!

Notecard from Catherine's Cards CC. It features a quote from Roald Dahl: "Those who do not believe in magic will never find it."

"This is a magic wand' pencil by The Carbon Crusader. That could be either playful or really profound.

And the book that inspired the theme is Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts. 

25752041Royal Bastards
Andrew Shvarts
Release: May 30, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Ever wonder what The Breakfast Club would be like as a YA Fantasy? Me either, but I'm glad that someone did. Royal Bastards is a fun, fast-paced road trip story featuring five teens, a princess, a stable hand, a nerd, a barbarian, and Tilla the narrator - she's kind of hard to describe in a single word.

This book has been on my radar since last December when I was researching my 2017 Most Anticipated list so I was happy to see it included in the box. The comparisons to Six of Crows and Harry Potter inspired by the other items only made me more excited to read it.

I was shipping Tilla and Zell right from the beginning, which is kind of unusual for me. There's still the obligatory YA love triangle, but it was well done. And there's a twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

This book is so much fun! Though it's also heartbreaking at times, it's ultimately hopeful. And I'm hoping that there's going to be a sequel. I feel like it would take two books to tell Tilla's story.

Recommended for fans of: The Clockwork Dagger, Frostblood


As always, I paid for this subscription box and am not sponsored by the company.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fuel For Fire by Julie Ann Walker: Release Day Review and Giveaway

30166742Fuel For Fire
(Black Knights Inc #10)
Julie Ann Walker
Release: July 4, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
A brooding covert operative and a spunky CIA agent discover a burning passion in the next installment of Julie Ann Walker's red-hot BKI series

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes
The first two left blood on his hands. 
The third left him wondering...what if? What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It's just as well that he's never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives...

The banter in this book! I love it so much! Not just from Dagan and Chelsea, but from Christian and Emily as well. They were my favorite part of the last book too. Even though I think this is the first time Walker's featured the same supporting couple in two consecutive books, I'm not complaining. I also liked finally getting to know Ace a bit.

But I should probably talk about the main characters. I clearly remember first meeting Dagan in an early book in the series. We weren't entirely sure he was going to be a good guy at the time. He's come a long way since then, but those events still weigh on him. He may not be sure if he's a good guy even now.

Chelsea's appeared in a few previous books, but this is the first time we've really gotten inside her head. She's a geek who references Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in her internal monologue. She's also mixed race and curvy, which Dagan notices but he talks about how much he admires her mind. (I know, can we clone him?) And did I mention the banter?

I loved the twist in the mystery plot. I often see those coming, but definitely not this time. There are still some elements of the case unsolved, which I hope will get picked up in Christian and Emily's book, though. I think this is the first time Walker has carried a villain over from one book to the next, which might be why I felt like the ending was kind of sudden. I might have liked to see an epilogue.

Still I think Fuel For Fire is one of my favorite books in the series. I read it practically in one sitting. And now I'm waiting not-so-patiently for Hot Pursuit, which is coming in October.


My reviews of other books in this series:
Wild Ride

Want to know more? 
We've got an excerpt from Fuel For Fire and link to a great preorder offer here.

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