Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Title: Bloodlines
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Series: Bloodlines #1

Hardcover, 421 pages
Publication: August 23, 2011 by Razorbill

Source: Personal library.

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Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway.

But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty - a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning...
I've had Bloodlines on my bookshelf since the first week it was out, I think it’s been 3 years, and after all that time I've finally read it! Bloodlines is a spin-off from the Vampire Academy series following Alchemist Sydney Sage as she guards royal Moroi Princess Jill, sister to Queen Lissa Dragomir. Many of the Moroi are trying to disseat Lissa and since she’s heavily guarded their only other option is to go after Jill. To keep Jill safe and create a new law to protect Lissa’s legitimacy as Queen, Sydney and Jill go undercover as high school students in Palm Springs; because Palm Springs is the last place anyone would expect to see vampires. Or so you’d think.

The Vampire Academy Series is one of my all-time favorite YA series, so I was a little hesitant to start this spin-off series. I thought there is no way this series can live up the VA standards and how interesting can the alchemists be? But I was wrong! I enjoyed this book way more than I expected. Sydney was a great heroine, and while she is no Rose, I found her likable and funny. She is sincere yet oblivious to the world, society as a whole thanks to her strict upbringing. It was refreshing to see her gradually open her mind beyond what she was taught to believe and interact with other people, morois, and dhampirs which was out of her comfort zone. It was really nice to jump back into the VA world and see familiar characters from the VA series like Rose and Dimitri, who both made a brief appearance at the start of the book; and Adrian and Eddie who are permanent characters in the Bloodlines series. Man, I missed Adrian sense of humor! His banter with Sydney had me laughing so much throughout the book. It will be interesting to see how everyone’s relationship changes in the future books.

Overall Bloodlines was great! Once I started and re-familiarized myself with the world/characters reading through this book was an effortless breeze. For the majority of the book, the group is at Amberwood prep school but myths of Vampire Hunters, Stroigoi sightings, and power inducing tattoos turns what should be an easy babysitting job dangerous. Who knew the Alchemist world can be so interesting! I’m so glad I finally started this series, and will be reading the next book, The Golden Lily shortly. A must read for all VA fans and YA book lovers.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Armageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Title: Armageddon Rules
Author: J.C. Nelson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Grimm Agency #2

Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Publication: February 24, 2015 by Ace

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.

When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.

With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…
Armageddon Rules picks up a couple of years after the events of Free Agent. Marissa is no longer an agent as she was promoted to partner; but that doesn’t mean work at the agency is any mellower. Assassins are showing up every day, there’s a flesh-eating poodle infestation and oh yeah, Marissa accidently signed a demon contract promising to bring down the apocalypse. It’s just another day in Marissa Locke’s life.

Two things you can always expect from this series is that things will never be boring and it’s unpredictable. Readers literally will not know what to expect because like the world-building and characters, everything about the book/plot is unconventional, in a good way of course. In the latest installment, readers will learn more about Fairy Godfather’s past, the Black Queen, and the most interesting thing of all; why wishes are never granted anymore. While the usual gang is present, there’s a whole new group of villains, from nasty demons, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Princesses-Queens Serial Killer Rip Van Winkle, to the devil himself who happens to go by Nick!

You know how kids are when they had too much sugar and are so hyper that they’re practically bouncing off the walls…yeah this series is like that! Armageddon Rules is another crazy, hilarious, fun installment in the Grimm Agency series! I really enjoyed it, and can’t wait till the third book, Wish Bound, which comes out later this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Blog Tour: All Mascara is Not Created Equal by Jessica Landmon Q&A + Excerpt

Welcome to my stop on the All Mascara is not Created Equal Blog Tour! 

Q&A with Jessica Landmon, founder of Women Get Real and author of All Mascara is Not Created Equal

Q: Can you give us a brief summary of your book, All Mascara is Not Created Equal?
J: All Mascara is Not Created Equal is intended to present lighthearted, witty, and spiritually sound advice to young women and girls in “tweet-like” form to help them live a life God would approve of.

Q: Where did you get the idea to write this book?
J: I actually started writing the book specifically for my tween daughter and intended to give it her as she entered middle school. Those years can be tough. As a parent, I’m very concerned about the message culture is marketing to our youth. It contradicts the way God has called us to live.

Q: How did you come up with the playful title?

J: Anyone who knows me, knows that I love mascara. I had tried several brands over the years and finally discovered a fantastic mascara that I just loved. It was full of minerals and actually nourished your lashes. Plus, it created a very full lash. I would always joke with daughter, saying that if you remember anything I tell you remember that ‘All Mascara Is Not Created Equal.’

Q: How long did it take you to write the book? Do you have any stories you can share of how you gathered specific quotes or advice? 

J: You could say the book took most of my life to write, as my experiences growing up and parenting are what shaped it. But, in actuality, it only took about a year to record them and fine-tune them. Most of them wrote themselves. I would be having a conversation with my kids, and all of a sudden I would give some advice. If I liked it, I would later record it. In fact, as I was compiling the tips, my kids would remind me of the things I had told them through the years.

Some of the tips are just reflections of the advice my mother and father passed on to me. Of course, they needed a little tweaking. I didn’t have to deal with the pressures of social media and cell phones when I was growing up.

Q: Did you have any challenges when writing this book? If so, what were they?
J: The only challenge I really faced was stopping. At some point, I had to say, this is enough. I will most certainly continue to give my daughter (and son) advice as they continue to mature, but there definitely needed to be a stopping point for the book.

Q: We would love to know more about the woman behind the book. How would you describe yourself?
J: Practical. Organized. Planner. These are some words that my close circle of friends and family would use to describe me. And I can’t argue with that. But, when the Holy Spirit asks me to do something, all that goes out the door. Jesus’ love for me is the most important thing in my life. My goal is that everyone would experience this type of love, which is why I am so quick to abandon my plans and do what God wants me to do.

On a fun note, I am married to my high school sweetheart. I was only 16 when we started dating. He was a football player and I was a cheerleader. You don’t get any cuter than that! God has blessed us with two beautiful children who are my absolute joy.

Also, I just love Yorkies, which is why you see them all throughout the book. One day, when the timing is right, I will add one to our family.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from All Mascara is Not Created Equal?
J: I hope women learn that pop culture shouldn’t define the kind of women we become. I hope that they see that life is hard, but Jesus will be your comforter and strength. I hope that every woman sees her beauty, even before she puts on her mascara. Our inner beauty is so much more important than anything on the outside.

Q: Can you tell us more about the ministry behind the book, Women Get Real?
J: Women Get Real Ministries is all about “getting real” with other women. All too often, women put on the fa├žade that everything is just perfect. But, in reality, they are silently suffering with issues like fear, anxiety, depression, body image, and faith. We break the rules about what is and is not acceptable to talk about, to try and reach the hearts of women providing them with hope and healing.

Q: Where can we find you online and purchase the book?
J: Books are available through my website, www.womengetreal.org and on Amazon. It is also being sold at many boutique stores in Connecticut.



--EXCERPT--



Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media are sending mixed messages about the way we, as women, are to live our lives. Catch phrases like “YOLO” and “swag” are distorting the ideals that we should strive for. Women have more to contribute to society than being sexy, and we certainly shouldn’t attach our worth to how many likes we get on a selfie.

As a mother to a tween daughter and a teenage son, I have learned a few things about life along the way. This book is full of valuable tips or bits of wisdom that I have learned, or heard from my parents, while growing up.

Some of them are quite spiritual and have helped me through some difficult times. Some of them are practical and certainly would have helped me to avoid some major overreactions to the silliest of things. Some are just plain amusing. They stem from those eureka moments where I was like “That is so true!” Like, who knew that the thread count of sheets really does make a difference?

This is not just another book where a mother and her daughter walk hand-in-hand in the garden as the mom passes along life lessons. This book is more of a woman-to-woman guidebook for life.

Now about mascara...how many of you look at celebrities and are like, there is no way their lashes can be that full! You’ve tried to layer coat after coat with your mascara and wonder why your lashes still look like, well, your lashes. You think, am I applying this wrong? Maybe I need a special brush? No.

All mascara is NOT created equal! This was news to me. I don’t care how much your current mascara costs, it still might not be good. There ARE mascaras that are superior to others. You just need to find the right one.

So, as you read through the pages of this book, grab a cup of tea, and let these tips sink in. Don’t get distracted by what society is trying to tell you to become; walk in the plan God has for you. You are God’s beautiful creation, and He has a wonderful plan for your life.


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

Title: The Eterna Files
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication: February 10, 2015 by Tor 

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Buy|Amazon|Book Depo|


London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna. Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.
When President Lincoln gets assassinated his late wife, Mary Todd, in her grief seeks answers in the realm of the preternatural in hopes of preventing what happened to her husband from ever happening again to future presidents. Mary Todd believed that 8 year-old spiritualist Clara Templeton and her guardian Senator Bishop are the answers to her prayers. She tasks them with finding the antidote to immortality and thus is born the Eterna Compound. However, Lincoln’s widow isn’t the only one looking for the elixir. Fast-forward about 17 years and another group in London, Omega, headed by Detective Spire and Researcher Everhart is doing the exact same. What the Americans and Europeans don’t know is that there’s a mysterious third party looking to derail both groups as everyone races to find Eterna and the elixir of life.

I thought Hieber did an amazing showcasing the plot alternating back and forth between the American and European perspective, especially with the large cast. Readers really get the feeling that they’re transported back to the 1800’s, with Hieber lush descriptions from the scenery down to minuscule detail of the characters’ clothing. It was interesting to see how each group went about their search, and techniques in accomplishing the same goals. While the American team comprised of spiritualists, an occultist and clairvoyant; the European team consisted of a detective, researcher and a couple of circus performers. The eclectic casts certainly shines with their personalities in an otherwise dreary and grim atmosphere of the time, and let’s not forget the abundances of ghosts surrounding them. But in my opinion the characters were the best part of the book, even when character development was lacking. Due to the myriad amount of characters vying for page time and multiple POVs, we didn’t get a lot of background information like other books that have 4-5 main characters.

Overall The Eterna Files was an enjoyable read, and has the potential to be an amazing series (I’m guessing there’s going to be subsequent books with how it ended). The pacing of the book is a bit slow as the author is setting the stage and foundation of her world, but it eventually picked up towards the end of the book with a shocking ending that will have readers begging for a sequel. I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Blog Tour: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the Seraphina Blog Tour! 
 Be sure to check out the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy of your very own!


Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Seraphina #1

Hardcover, 499 pages
Publication: July 10, 2012 by Random House BFYR

Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review and blog tour.


Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
I vaguely remember hearing about Hartman’s Seraphina when it was first published in 2012, but with the torrent of books always releasing I forgot all about it. All I knew about the book was that it was about dragons and that it was a YA Fantasy novel. I don’t recall ever reading a book with dragons as the main creatures and I don’t read many YA fantasy novels. So when I was approached to read Seraphina, I thought why not give this book a chance? It sounded pretty good. I went in without much expectations but wow was I surprised! Seraphina turned out to be an amazing book and I was so glad I read it!

Many Young Adult novels these days are mediocre, then we have the few that are pretty good but it is rare to find books that blow you away or surprise you; and Seraphina did both! Hartman’s world-building was complex, meticulous, and well- developed. The world was so fully realized that I can literally picture Gorredd in my mind like it was a real, existing place with fantastical dragons flying in the sky! But Hartman didn’t stop there. Hartman's inhabited the world of Gorredd with realistic and likeable characters. Each and every single characters were unique from their appearance, background to their personalities. I love all of the characters, and can find no fault in anyone…even the villain of the story! I also liked that all of the women (including Seraphina and Princess Glisselda) were strong, independent and weren’t afraid to voice their opinions. While I have seen many strong heroines in the dystopian genre…it is rare to see this for majority of the female characters throughout a book….I usually find some problem in heroines of other books, but none was found here for these characters.

The pacing of the book was great. The author sprinkled details of the world and background information throughout the book so that readers can piece the clues together, so don’t worry about being overwhelm with too much information. I loved that the plot and characters were the main focus, with the romance taking the backseat. It is there but it didn’t dominate the story like usual YA books.

Ienjoyed this book immensely, and I can’t wait to read the sequel, Shadow Scale, when it comes out next week (March 10th)! This is a wonderful start to a series that will appeal to adults and teens alike. If you’re looking for something fresh, unique and well-written, look no further…Seraphina may be a YA Fantasy novel but it is above many books of its genre and is well worth the read. It’s more than a story about Dragons and Humans. It’s about a girl learning herself worth, acceptance, love and friendship; about prejudice, loss, political intrigue, forbidden love, and family. Read it, you won’t be disappointed, I promise!






Random House has generously offered to give one lucky reader a copy of SERAPHINA! To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter below!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Hartman lives and writes in Vancouver, BC.
Her first YA fantasy novel, Seraphina, was published by Random House on July 10th, 2012. Here are some things that are already being said about Seraphina by some fabulous authors:

“A book worth hoarding, as glittering and silver-bright as dragon scales, with a heroine who insists on carving herself a place in your mind.” — Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire series.

“Seraphina is strong, complex, talented — she makes mistakes and struggles to trust, with good reason, and she fights to survive in a world that would tear her apart. I love this book!” — Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author.

“Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about dragons, it turns out there is, and plenty! Rachel Hartman’s rich invention never fails to impress — and to convince. It’s smart and funny and original, and has characters I will follow to the ends of the earth.” — Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author.

To connect with Rachel:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads