"The Paper Magician" Crafts Romantic Fantasy Gold

20727654Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

My Thoughts

This book is one that pulls you into its story. The premise unfolding as the characters and plot feed an ever expanding story line; in much the same way that the sun, rain, and soil work together to nurture a new rose.

While Ceony makes no bones about her reluctance to become a student of paper magic, she does show herself to be a greatful and apt pupil.

Much to the delight of readers there is a marked absence of the dreaded instas in this read.

There is no:
Insta attraction
Insta like
Insta hate

Characters are given the time to feel each other out. In some cases, more literally than others.

The author writes her characters from a very emotional and profound place. A technique which imbues her story with a maturity that comes as a very unexpected and welcome surprise.

The fact that Ceony's journey of discovery takes her to such a personal place for someone else, is a plot twist that is truly amazing.
When your life journey puts you on a path that not only allows you to change the path of another, but to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the person in question...wow!

The world building!
Miss Holmberg is very cognoscente of her action/setting ratio when writing this book. She remains very aware that she is striving to be able to concentrate on keeping the flow of action at a steady pace throughout this tale. As such, she keeps the scope of her world very small so that she is able to make it very detailed without disrupting the before mentioned flow of action.

The villain here is also very detailed. But just as with the protagonists in the story, we as readers have to discover her layers and their importance to the story as a whole as we read.

In short, nothing about this wonderfully magical read can be taken a face value.
This is a mature look at the nature of magic, life, love, good, and evil. A reminder that there can be strength and beauty in the most mundane things; when said things are called to a higher purpose. A reminder that there is no magic truer or more enduring than that of love.

"Blackbird" Is A Story That Doesn't Quite Have What It Needs To Fly

Blackbird (Blackbird, #1) Title:  Blackbird
Author:  Anna Carey
Format:  ERC
Length:  256 pages
Publisher:  Harper TEEN
Rating:  2.5 Stars
This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

My Thoughts
Anna Carey's Blackbird is a book that it is best to read with an open mind.  I say this because you will need all the free mental faculties you can spare to try to figure out what is going on at any given point during this read.

Making matters more complicated, is the fact that the story is written in second person.  This style of writing has a tendency to male one feel as if they are being told a story...rather than experiencing the goings on with the character.  Therefore, there is no chance for reader and in this case (a very otherwise sympathetic and harried teen amnesiac) to establish that all important "I love you sooo much" bond that keeps the pages turning.

Taking us yet further into 'wtf land' is the seeming never ending list of insurmountable obstacles that our already uberly challenged heroine must face.

1.  She has no idea who she is.
2.  Someone wants her dead
3. She has no idea why they want her dead.
4.  She is being framed
5.  She falls in love.
6.  Her love interest isn't on the right side of the law himself.

I could go on!!!!!
Needless to say that there is just way too much going on, too fast, and in to short of a time frame.

But wait...
There are some bright spots that manage to make their way through the fog of this read.
The savior/love interest for our heroine (Sunny).
He is the saving grace of this read.  He is relatable, flawed, real, and written in third person.

The writing.
Though second person is not a style of writing that sits well on the palate of most readers.  The story is NOT badly written.
Though I really respect what author Carey is trying to do here; it is very clear that what this book was intended to be and what it is...are two ships that shall forever pass in the night.  

Novel Publicity Book Tours Presents: Cephrael's Hand

Title:  Cephrael's Hand
Author:  Melissa McPhail
Format:  Print
Length:  628 pages
Publisher:  Outskirts Press

"All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross: In Alorin three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him.

In the kingdom of Dannym the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord.

In the Nadori desert tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them. Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows.

Excerpt From Cephrael's Hand

Ean hugged the shadows as he tried to find his way back to le Comte’s estates. He feared they’d hurt his head worse than he thought, for the twisting alleys of the city disoriented him now. He was sure he’d passed the last street corner already once, and he had the uneasy feeling that he was walking in circles.
Trying to break the cycle, he turned into a long and shadowed alley, spotting a streetlamp at the other end. Abruptly a form reared out of the shadows. Ean reached for his sword—
The prince halted with his hand around the hilt. “Fynn?”
“Balls of Belloth!” Fynnlar crossed the distance in a rush and grabbed him by both shoulders, giving him a shake. “What are you doing out here, you wool-brained fool?”
“I might ask the same of you, cousin.” Pushing a hand to his throbbing head, Ean closed his eyes. He’d seen so much death since the last moon…so many lives lost, and for what? He couldn’t fathom the events that spun violently around him, only knowing they somehow had him caught in the whirlwind.
“Ean, are you unwell?”
“Hit my head pretty hard,” the prince murmured, lifting tired eyes to refocus on his cousin. “I’ll be all right.”
“Come on. We’d best keep moving.”
The prince shook off the numbness edging his thoughts and followed his cousin. Fog was rising from the river as they headed back toward le Comte’s villa, fat fingers sliding through the streets to leach the color from the night. They reached a corner, and Fynn paused and looked warily around.
“Fynn, what are we waiting fo—”
But the words stuck on Ean’s tongue, for he heard it then: a strange whispering, the whisk of silk across the rough edge of glass. The sound had prickly tentacles that pierced into the soft flesh of Ean’s inner ear and twisted there, making him cringe.
Something flew out of the shadows and Ean swung his head after it, straining to make out what he’d seen. “What in Tiern’aval was that?”
Grimly, Fynn held his sword before him. “A Wildling—a Whisper Lord.”
The whispering continued, tormenting, growing soundlessly louder until it shrieked inside Ean’s skull, shattering any hope of focus.
The Wildling shot out of the shadows again, and Ean forced his eyes to follow, to find him in the shadows where he hid.
He saw him lurking against the wall, smiling around big white teeth. His leathery skin was pitch black , and his eyes were golden like the desert sands. The man locked gazes with him, and—
Suddenly they were nose to nose. Ean felt the heat of his breath in the same moment that the fiery sting of steel pierced his flesh.
Shade and darkness!
“Ean, he cut you!”
“I’m all right.” But Ean grimaced as he gingerly probed the wound. “Shadow take the abominable creature.” Fynn gave him a long look. “Be ready,” and he rushed to meet the Wildling.
The fight turned instantly vicious. Whisper Lord fought with long, stiletto daggers that speared like claws out of his gloves. His hands crisscrossed with amazing speed, never failing to find their mark on Fynn’s person, while his body twisted and spun. Fynn’s thrusts in turn only seemed to meet with the slashed silk of his garments. So fast did the Whisper Lord dart and cavort that Ean at first felt helpless to join in, for he could barely see the Wildling move until after it had happened, as if the sight had to bounce off the back of his eyes…as if he could only see the man’s reflection.
Then Ean found his focus and rushed to help Fynn.
The Whisper Lord marked him before he even got his blade around, a long swipe at the joining of neck and shoulder that burned bitterly. Ean realized that trying to use his sword alone would get him killed, so he pulled his dagger and dove in again. The Whisper Lord dodged like a jumping spider and managed in the same maneuver to slash a deep cut across Ean’s thigh, his daggers flashing first with the silver of steel and then dark with blood. Ean snarled a curse and staggered into the wall, teeth clenched against the pain, for the wound was angry and deep.
Abruptly Fynn threw himself backwards, himself narrowly avoiding a deadly thrust to his gut. Those spine-like blades sliced a chunk of flesh out of his side instead. The royal cousin clenched his teeth and held one hand to his midriff, using the other to pull himself out of reach.
Ean dove at the creature with renewed determination, his battered head forgotten in his haste to keep the man away from Fynn. He wore a malicious grin as they battled, and his golden gaze was flecked and sparkling against his face of leathery pitch. As Ean’s strength failed, the Wildling grinned even broader and began to chant in a voice like sand, “Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal! Tur or’de rorum d’rundalin dalal!” Over and over while he pressed Ean on the retreat; gleefully, like a madman.
And then he made a sudden thrust, and Ean jumped to avoid the slashing daggers that barely missed his throat. He came down unevenly on his bad leg, and his knee buckled. Stumbling, he hissed a curse and the man bore down on him. A swipe of his hand, and three spiny daggers cut deeply across Ean’s back with their sharp fire. The Wildling’s other hand darted for his throat again, but the prince veered and twisted so the blades caught his chin and cheek instead. Ean rolled and thrust upward, but the Wildling merely laughed and arched out of his way; the weapon met only the whisper of silk.
Ean lay panting. His dagger seemed lost along with his will, and desperation could no longer drive him on.
The Whisper Lord advanced slowly wearing a grim smile. With the shrieking noise still accosting his skull and the loss of blood and nausea in his stomach, Ean felt only numb acceptance. Shaking, he lowered his head—
A tall form pushed past him, knocking Ean aside as it rushed to engage the Whisper Lord, driving the Wildling back and away, taking the battle out of Ean’s hands.
Ean fell onto his back, gasping as the last of his strength bled out of him, and lay watching his rescuer take offensive control.
The woman’s brown half-cloak floated behind her as she advanced with long, fast strides, forcing the Whisper Lord on the retreat beneath two short swords wielded in a flashing figure-eight.
The Wildling smiled no longer. Every thrust and swipe of his daggers was blocked by the woman’s whirling black blades. She matched him stride for stride, spinning when he spun, darting as he did, dodging as he lunged. They performed a ferocious, twisting dance of death where both knew the steps intimately and took them with ease.
As Ean watched, the Wildling slashed his daggered gloves in a motion that should’ve gutted the woman, but she flipped out of his reach, thrusting long as she landed. Her sword met with the flesh of his side, drawing a hiss as he jumped back. He glared malevolently at her and pressed one palm to his side.
“Merdanti,” he snarled, his golden eyes hot as they assessed her black blades.
Arching brows with a predatory smile, she twirled her blades and lunged for him again, and once more the dance began, the meeting of their deadly weapons a rhythmic beating that seemed in time with Ean’s still-racing heart.
And then—
Ean thought he must’ve dreamed it, his tortured mind inventing an impression for what clearly defied explanation. The woman and the Wildling seemed to shift and slow, their cloaks floating as if suspended on the wind. Then the woman launched out of her turn so quickly that Ean lost sight of her, only to spot her again as she stood squarely before her opponent, blades crossed. With naught but a grimace of effort, she chopped her short swords crosswise through the Wildling’s neck, removing his head completely. His body toppled to the stones at her feet, paying respects to her skill.
Silence hung in the street, a palpable blanket sewn of incredulity fringed with pain.
The woman lowered her dripping blades and leveled tawny eyes on the prince…

Melissa McPhail 

Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Connect with Melissa on her website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads.


HFVBT Presents: Music For My Soul

Please join Lauren Linwood on her Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for Music for My Soul, from October 6-24.
02_Music For My Soul
Publication Date: May 15, 2013
Soul Mate Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback
# of Pages: 282
Genre: Historical Romance
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As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.
Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.
But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.
Buy the Book
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Praise for Music For My Soul

“Told with humor, heartache, loveable characters and plenty of adventure, this is a story that grabs your attention from the first page and holds you captive until the very end. Much like real life, MUSIC FOR MY SOUL is a mixture of ups and downs along with a few surprises thrown in just to keep you on your toes.” -Romance Junkies, Reviewer Chrissy Dionne

“This story takes a wonderful turn into the seldom explored topic of the life of traveling mummers and musicians. Placing the heroine between the line of aristocracy and commonality is also a stroke of creative genius that makes for a delightful breath of fresh reading air! The characters are created and developed with a fine touch, making the story both believable and enjoyable.” -InD’tale Magazine, Reviewer Ruth Lynn Ritter

“This is a marvelous and intricate story of desperation, escape, finding love…also of forgiveness,mystery, danger, and righting old wrongs! The tale is incredibly well told with some humor as well as a building romance. The characters are loveable, some you can hate, and some are comic…a little bit of everything! Lauren Linwood is a wonderful writer with a fantastic imagination. I hope this is only the beginning of many wonderful tales. Believe me, it’s hard to put this one down. I found myself awake until the wee hours of the morning because I just had to know what was going to happen!” -The Reading Café, Reviewer Georgianna S.

My Thoughts
Music For My Soul is one of those rare surprises of a tale that serves to remind readers why they are 'lovers of the story'.  
This is after all, a book that tells a story.  A story full of detail, life, nuance, character, color, fire, and a visceral quality which allows the reader to immerse his or herself fully in its experience.

While it is true that Madeleine Bouchard has been handed a rough hand by life, she shows herself early on to be crafted of the stuff of true heroines.
Bound and determined to live her life free and unfettered by abuse, convention, mores, or even the self imposed limitations of her own fear.

Even when young Madeleine's escape from her sadistically abusive husband puts her into the path of the rakishly handsome Lord Montayne, a fate that would have had lesser damsels swooning and picking nursery colors; our girl runs for the hills, determined to live her life...her way...for better or worse.
Madeleine breaks the mold yet again by not falling back on the 'tried and true' method of relying on her looks to get by.
She is a woman of great talent, a composer, an artist, and of all things...a female troubadour!

Of course the blend of intelligence, loyalty, caring, tenacity, and a general love for life is a balm to the lonely soul and desolate heart of Lord Montayne.  She also plays a pivotal  role in the lives of Garrett's young daughter, and the son of her best friend.

The pacing of this book is fast enough to be a one sitting read, but detailed enough to read like a much longer novel.  There is a great cheekiness to the banter and cat and mouse that goes on between Madeleine and her leading man.
The moments of lightheartedness are a wonderful counter balance to the reads more dramatic fare.

If you are looking for more than just a story.  If you are looking to be transported out of the here and now, and into a past that you will take with you into forever...heed the romantic melody of Music For My Soul.

Reviewer's Note:
It is not often that I find myself compelled to offer a personal recommendation of a title.  In fact, I try my best to remain objective in my reviews.  Music For My Soul is a title for which I must make an exception.  This is a novel that I found impossible to put down.  I can say with confidence, that this book would be a much welcomed addition to any reader's book pile. 


About the Author

03_Lauren LinwoodLauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grow into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.
Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.
For more information please visit Lauren’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Music for My Soul Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 6
Interview at Mythical Books
Tuesday, October 7
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Book Nerd
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Thursday, October 9
Spotlight at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, October 10
Review at Tea and Inspiration
Tuesday, October 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Thursday, October 16
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, October 17
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Saturday, October 18
Review at A Cup of Tea & A Big Book
Thursday, October 23
Review at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Friday, October 24
Review at Devilishly Delicious Book Blog
Guest Post at Historical Romantic Lovers
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Will "Bald New World" Have You Running For Cover?

Bald New WorldTitle:  Bald New World
Author:  Peter Tieryas Liu
Format:  ERC
Length:  215 pages
Publisher:  Perfect Edge Books
Rating:  3.5 Stars

Selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Science Fiction Books of Summer 2014 and listed on Buzzfeed's 15 Highly Anticipated Books of 2014, Bald New World asks the question:
What if everyone in the world lost their hair? 

Nick Guan and his friend Larry Chao are a pair of eccentric filmmakers who choose to explore the existential angst of their balding world through cinema. Larry is heir to one of the most lucrative wig companies in the world. Nick is a man who’s trying to make sense of the tatters of his American dream. Taking place throughout China and America, the pair set off on a series of misadventures involving North Korean spies, veterans of an African War, and digital cricket fighters. Their journey leads them to discover some of the darkest secrets behind wig-making and hair in a hairless world.
"After my heart gives out and I'm on the operating table for emergency surgery, I will have told my physicians and surgeons to replace my heart with Peter Tieryas Liu's Bald New World, or any of his books really, because that's what I think of when I think of Liu's writing--heart. Similar to the work of Philip K. Dick, this parodic dystopia is steeped in futuristic technology that further bridges the gap between man and machine. Still, whether watching the latest episode of the immensely popular reality show Jesus the General or sparring against an opponent in the blood-sport known as cricket fighting, the humanity of our narrator shines through. Although we humans are capable of doing and creating sad, funny, glorious, devious things, we also persevere and adapt, survive. I wonder what Huxley would think of this, but he's dead. You're not, so read this book, feel alive."
-Jason Jordan, author of Pestilence, editor of decomP

"The boldly imaginative Bald New World follows Nicholas Guan, a military type tasked to digitally touch up scenes of carnage, in his misadventures from Korea to a futuristic California and in his frenzied dash from Gamble Town to China . The novel tells of beautifully flawed characters, the blurring distinction between reality and virtual environments, the comical yet chilling wave of religious fanaticism, and a world battling a strange malady called the Great Baldification, an ingenious symbol of human vanity. Peter Tieryas Liu’s Bald New World is vivid, exhilarating, and wildly entertaining." –Kristine Ong Muslim, author of We Bury the Landscape and Grim Series

"Bald New World is a hypnotic, surreal, and insightful novel, blending Blade Runner and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to create a dark, funny, and captivating story. One of the best books I've read this year."—Richard Thomas, Staring Into the Abyss. -Goodreads

My Thoughts
Bald New World ushers readers into a world gone unexpectedly and irreversibly bald.  Where big business trumps Big Brother and the 'cult of personality' has become the newest religion.
Peter Tieryas Liu builds the perfect world in this novel.  One so full of both opposing and complementary sights, sounds, personas, and experiences that one doesn't read about this world, but is instead engulfed by it.

For the most part the visceral experience provided by the author's 'bright lights, big city' approach to world building is a very good thing.
Except that is when it causes one to lose the who's what's and wherefore's of main characters Nick and Larry.
And what is to be said for two intrepid filmmakers left to their own devices with very deep pockets and no idea what they are on about.
Well, there is where the problem lies.
Though the adventures and scrapes in which they find themselves are entertaining, they cause the story's plotline to wander and even chase its own tail at times.
There is also a rather tragic lack of relatablity between Nick, Larry, and the audience.  They come off as very nice young men, but there is nothing about them that would make one fight to read that extra line if the decision to do so was based on their merits alone.

Bald New World is a brave new voice in the dystopic genre.  Loaded with snark, cheek, and social satire, this is definitely a read to watch.

"The Walled City" Breakes New Ground In YA Historical Fiction

The Walled City Title:  The Walled City
Author:  Ryan Graudin
Format:  ERC
Length:  432 pages
Publisher:  Little Brown & Co.  BFYR
Rating 5 Stars
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.  -Goodreads

 My Thoughts
The Walled City, is a very challenging read, due to the level of violence and the blatant nature of human degradation portrayed within its pages.
Telling the story of three unrelated souls who find their lives intertwined when their individual quests for freedom and justice cause their paths to cross for the good of what turns out to be a universal boon.

The book's direction is not quite clear to the reader at first.  Glimpses of each of the three central players lives merely hinting at the state of their existences and the saga that is set to unfold.
The heart-wrenching opening side story of Sing, a young prostitute so hungry for  a taste of freedom that she doomed herself to a slow heroine addicted death for just a few moments outside her brothel; while not directly related to the central plot as we later come to know it, does provide a poignant touchstone as her plight is referenced later in the read.

The job of time keeper for this story is left to the 18-day calendar kept by Dai, a young man on a mission to right the wrongs of his past and clear his name and honor.
For most of the story Dai, and his place in the seedy world of Hak Nam is frustratingly enigmatic.
Dai is always just a little too clean, a little too far away, a little wrong.
When he meets a fleet footed street urchin named Jin Lin, and they strike a deal to run drugs for the notorious Brotherhood of the Dragon,
Dai has no idea that  the young boy with the fast feet, and the ever present cat has a few secrets of his own.
Jin Lin is on a quest for blood.  Not to spill it, but to find it.  She braves the streets and gangs of The Walled City to find her sister, Mei Yee.

Mei Yee's story remains unto itself for a great deal of the read because she is confined to the brothel;  whereas the other two players in this story are free to roam the streets, both individually and as a unit.
Being confined does little to negate Mei Yee's pivotal role in the story however.  In fact, her close proximity to the major villains in the tale, makes her heroic actions in the book's later chapters all the more important.

This is not a dystopic read.  Given the fact that The Walled City is patterned after a similar place that bordered Hong Kong; the genre of Historical Fiction is a much better fit.
Authoress Ryan Graudin speaks in a dark and distinctly powerful voice again the evils of human trafficking in this very timely and thought provoking story.

This is a book that I as a reviewer highly recommend to older teens and adults alike, and an experience in which, I am honored to have taken part.

Will You Consider "The Merciless" A Blessing or A Curse?

The MercilessBrooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?  -Goodreads

 My Thoughts
Danielle Vegas' The Merciless is a perfect example of what happens when the book hype machine that we know and often love is allowed to run unchecked.
The best statement that can be made about this book in the way of a warning would be:  In spite of what you may or may not have heard, try to go into this book with an open mind and no expectations.
This story reads like a truncated mash up of Mean Girls and The Heathers with a good dose of southern fried 'misuse of religion for well meaning, but very unscrupulous ends.'
Main character Sophia Flores, is new to the town of Friendly MS.  Looking for new friends she finds herself with two options.  Riley, the bible toten' alcoholic. (But its OK because its Communion wine.). Or Brooklyn, who may or may not have sacrificed a cat on school grounds.
In the fastest case of insta-friending on the planet.  Sophia finds herself an inductee into the cult of Riley...and the games begin.
That is when readers discover that there is a long standing history between Riley and Brooklyn, the creep factor is dialed way up, and people find themselves party to attempted exorcisms gone wrong.
True to the girlie horror movie reference from previous paragraphs, there is lots of blood, gore, death, and general mayhem.  What is sorely lacking in this read however, is a three dimensionality that serves to make the characters of the story real to the reader.
At 200+ pages, The Merciless proves to be just the right size for a one sitting read.  This is a fun, dark, read that is just right for the colder, gloomier nights of October.

HFVBT Presents: Color Song + Giveaway

Please join author Victoria Strauss as she tours with HF Virtual Book Tours for her YA Historical novel, Color Song, from September 16-October 10.
02_Color Song
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Skyscape (Amazon Children’s Publishing)
Formats: eBook, Paperback, Hardcover
Genre: YA Historical
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By the author of the acclaimed Passion Blue, a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2012 and “a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion,” comes a fascinating companion novel.
Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed – or cursed – with a spirit’s gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors she creates in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilità. It’s here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness, and rekindled her passion to become a painter – an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilità bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession – the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue – Giulia realizes she’s in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color for themselves. Faced with the prospect of lifelong imprisonment in the convent, forever barred from painting as a punishment for keeping Humilita’s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist’s apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilità’s precious blue. And Venice, with its graceful gondolas and twisting canals, its gilded palazzi and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?
This compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to follow your true passion?

Praise for the Novels of Victoria Strauss

“Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices. A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.” – Kirkus Reviews on PASSION BLUE (Starred Review, a Best Teen Book of 2012)

“Compelling…absorbing…An intriguing historical novel inspired by accounts of women artists in the Italian Renaissance.” – Booklist on PASSION BLUE
“Mysterious dreams, suspense-filled legends, the terror that unfolds as the dig ensues, and the fine characterizations weave together beautifully to make this adventure fantasy a winner.” – Booklist on GUARDIAN OF THE HILLS (Starred Review)

“A rich story about human nature, this fantasy is a thought-provoking page-turner. The characters are deeply etched, and the plot turns are credible yet arresting…A thoroughly enjoyable read.” – Kliatt on THE ARM OF THE STONE

“The plot is complex yet convincing, and the abundant, well-chosen details of the settings–as well as the carefully developed characters–make this high fantasy a superior and original novel.” – Publishers Weekly on THE GARDEN OF THE STONE (Starred Review)

Buy the Book

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My Thoughts
Color Song, the second installment in the Passion Blue series, follows its young protagonist Giulia, through the changes and life decisions brought about by the death of her artistic mentor Maestra Humilità.  
Though the death of said mentor is quite the emotional blow for our young heroine; it also serves as a gateway to the freedom that she has desired from the start.
Faced with the choice between a sheltered life as prescribed by her order or the chance to live a life of her own choosing in society, Giulia is determined to do what she must in order to be free.  Even if the cost of said freedom is that she must live her life as a boy.

Color Song is a wonderful emotionally entrancing continuation of the adventure that was started in Passion Blue.  Written in a highly descriptive but easy to follow style, this story easily transports its reader away from the cares of modern day living and right into 15th century Venice.

This second novel provides readers with a story that is so much more expansive than the one found in its predecessor.  A major reason for this being that living life as a male during the day and time in which our protagonist finds herself, presents her/him with a greater number of choices.  But is the story goes on to demonstrate, it also presents her with a great many more dilemmas.

In addition to the personal struggle that Giulia faces in her new life, there is also the triumph of being able to use her gift for hearing color.  This turn in the story makes for truly rapturous moments for the reader.  To revel with her in the experience of color in such a complete way is simply wonderful.

Color Song is the  beautifully rendered tale of young woman unafraid to do what she must to create the destiny to which she aspires.

Reviewers Note:  Color Song is the follow up to Passion Blue, but can be enjoyed alone, as back story from Passion Blue is provided. 

About the Author

03_Victoria StraussVictoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the STONE duology (THE ARM OF THE STONE and THE GARDEN OF THE STONE), and a historical novel for teens, PASSION BLUE. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards

An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), she’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about literary fraud. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website, Facebook page, and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
For more information please visit Victoria’s Strauss’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.

Color Song Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, September 16
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Book Blast at The True Book Addict
Tuesday, September 17
Review at Oh the Books
Book Blast at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, September 18
Review at Casual Readers
Review at Leeanna.com (Passion Blue)
Thursday, September 19
Review at Leeanna.com
Monday, September 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Feature at Oh the Books
Tuesday, September 23
Book Blast at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, September 24
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective
Interview at Bibliophilia, Please
Book Blast at Reading Lark
Thursday, September 25
Book Blast at A Book Geek
Friday, September 26
Review at Reading Room Book Reviews
Book Blast at Just One More Chapter
Monday, September 29
Review at Tribute Books Mama
Interview at Math, Science & Social Studies…Oh My!
Tuesday, September 30
Review at Book Babe
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection
Wednesday, October 1
Review & Interview at Bookish
Book Blast at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, October 2
Review at Brooke Blogs
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, October 3
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Book Blast at The Lit Bitch
Saturday, October 4
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing
Monday, October 6
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, October 7
Review at A Leisure Moment
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, October 10
Review at A Bookish Affair


To enter to win any of the following prizes please complete the form below:
2 Grand Prizes Winners: One Kindle Paperwhite with custom Color Song cover with Color Song and Passion Blue ebooks pre-loaded, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks), and signed paperback editions of Strauss’s Stone duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) (US only)
2 winners: Signed hardcovers of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)
5 winners: Signed paperbacks of Color Song and Passion Blue, plus swag (postcards, bookmarks) (US and Canada)
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on October 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on October 11th and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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HFVBT Presents: Bitter Greens

02_Bitter GreensPlease join Kate Forsyth on her Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for the US release of Bitter Greens, from September 15 – October 17.
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover; 496p
ISBN-10: 1250047536
Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings
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The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love
French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…
After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.
Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.
Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Praise for Bitter Greens

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is an enthralling concoction of history and magic, an absorbing, richly detailed, and heart-wrenching reimagining of a timeless fairytale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

“See how three vividly drawn women cope with injustice, loneliness, fear, longing. See how they survive—or perpetrate—treachery. Surrender yourself to a master storyteller, to delicious detail and spunky heroines. Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement.” —Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

“A magical blend of myth and history, truth and legend, Bitter Greens is one of those rare books that keeps you reading long after the lights have gone out, that carries you effortlessly to another place and time, that makes you weep and laugh and wish you could flip forward to make sure it all ends happily ever after—but for the fact that if you did so, you might miss a line, and no line of this book should be missed.” —Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Ashford Affair

“Kate Forsyth wields her pen with all the grace and finesse of a master swordsman. In Bitter Greens she conjures a lyrical fairytale that is by turns breathtaking, inspiring, poetic, and heartbreakingly lovely. Set like a jewel within the events of history, it is pure, peerless enchantment.”—New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“Bitter Greens is pure enchantment–gripping and lyrical. From the high convent walls where a 17th century noblewoman is exiled, to a hidden tower which imprisons an innocent girl with very long hair, to the bitter deeds of a beautiful witch who cannot grow old–Kate Forsyth weaves an engrossing, gorgeously written tale of three women in search of love and freedom. A truly original writer, Forsyth has crafted an often terrifying but ultimately redemptive dark fairy tale of the heart.”—Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of Claude & Camille

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.”—C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable.”—Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author of Flame of Sevenwaters and Heart’s Blood


Buy the Book

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

 My Thoughts
Bitter Greens is a lush and sweeping saga of sorts.  You will note here that I am very careful not to refer to it as a story or a tale.  That would be far from the case here.
Bitter Greens could better be described as the interweaving of three tales, a meeting of the fanciful and the historical, and a fine example of panoramic storytelling.

Nods of appreciation must be given to the stories of  Margherita and Selena.  This is truly where the greatest appeal of the novel lies.  The heart breaking rendering of Rapunzel found here, is simply marvelous.  Not only are readers allowed to know the trials and tribulations of the heroine of this tale, but we are also allowed a rare peek at the motivations of its villain. 
The one weak spot in this great read came in the form of narrator Charlotte Rose.  Though her character does provide a great deal of history within the read, her story lacked thew sparkle and verve found in the other two.  She seems to set the stage as it were, for the grander players in the drama; rather than to carry off a drama all her own.
It must also be said that this is quite a long novel, spanning a great many years in French history.  As such there is a tendency toward meandering in the plot.  There are also a great many time jumps, making this a read that is best read in long and uninterrupted stretches of time.
Bitter Greens is a fanciful book for the serious reader.  It is a book that will surprise, delight, and provoke.  A true classic in the making.  



About the Author

Kate Forsyth 1Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.
Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.
Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.
Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


Bitter Greens Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, September 16
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Review & Giveaway at Bookish
Wednesday, September 17
Review & Giveaway at Literary, etc
Review & Giveaway at Book Drunkard
Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Friday, September 19
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Review & Giveaway at Icey Books
Monday, September 22
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at A Dream Within a Dream
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, September 23
Review at Book Dilettante
Review & Giveaway at Build a Bookshelf
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at SurLaLune
Wednesday, September 24
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Review, Interview, and Giveaway at Ink Gypsy
Review, Interview, and Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Thursday, September 25
Review & Giveaway at No BS Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Friday, September 26
Review at The Gilmore Guide to Books
Review at Must Read Faster
Monday, September 29
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Bookworm Blues
Tuesday, September 30
Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Review & Excerpt at Books-n-Kisses
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 1
Review at One Book at a Time
Review at Book-alicious Mama
Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Thursday, October 2
Interview at Layered Pages
Review & Giveaway at Oh Magic Hour
Friday, October 3
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Review & Giveaway at Gone Pecan
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Sunday, October 5
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Monday, October 6
Review at Book Babe
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Interview, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Harlequin Junkie
Tuesday, October 7
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review & Giveaway at The Pretty Good Gatsby
Wednesday, October 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Review & Giveaway at My Friends Are Fiction
Thursday, October 9
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, October 10
Review at Mel’s Shelves
Review & Giveaway at No More Grumpy Bookseller
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, October 13
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Layers of Thought
Tuesday, October 14
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, October 15
Review at Crossroad Review
Review at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews
Thursday, October 16
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, October 17
Review at Mary Gramlich
Review at She Reads Novels
Monday, October 20
Interview & Giveaway at The Reading Frenzy
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The Promise Of A Great New Dystopian Series Shines Brightly In "The Jewel"

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1)Title:  The Jewel
(The Lone City #1)
Author:  Amy Ewing
Format:  ERC
Length:  358 pages
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Rating:  5 Stars

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. -Goodreads

My Thoughts
The Jewel by Amy Ewing is a story that while sharing several elements of its makeup with dystopians that have come before, manages to convey its message in a way that is uniquely its own.
Though a world has been created for this book that is specific to its needs; this is clearly a character driven plot.  The background information concerning such elements as then caste system, the arrangement of the provinces, and the tenuous struggle for power among the peers of the ruling class of the Jewel, does more to help readers to understand the rules of the society and the main protagonist's place within it, than to insinuate itself into the makeup of the plot.

Violet Lasting is a superb heroine.  She is allowed to start the book as an intelligent, but unassuming character.  Thereby keeping the reader on the lookout for moments of brilliance.  The full range of her gifts and talents and their importance to the furtherance of her mistress' goals is allowed to become apparent over time.  A fact that serves to both keep the plot interesting, and further endear the reader to Violet.

This is also a case where Violet is faced with many dilemmas.
She has the plight of her friend Raven to be concerned about.  Her forbidden romance with the royal consort Ash Lockwood.  The dangers of her impending pregnancy.  The weight of her knowledge of various nefarious activities on the part of her mistress, Duchess of the House of Lake, as well as a very secret 'surprise' operation that Violet stumbles into with a certain very astute 'lady in waiting'.

The Jewel is a highly readable first in its series.  Authoress Ewing is able to achieve a wonderful balance between laying the framework for the series as a whole, and providing her audience with a first offering that entices one onward to books that follow.