Wednesday, December 30, 2015

{ENDURE Blog Tour+Giveaway} A List of Kick-A$$ Girls Who Disguised Themselves as Guys!

Follow the Blog Tour for guest posts, reviews, and more!


Tour Schedule:

Week One:
12/28/2015- Fiction FareReview
12/29/2015- Dark Faerie TalesInterview
12/30/2015- A Backwards Story- Feature Post (You're Here!)
12/31/2015- Magical Urban Fantasy ReadsGuest Post
1/1/2016- The Book CellarReview
                                                                               
Week Two:
1/4/2016- Supernatural SnarkInterview
1/5/2016- Novel Novice - Guest Post
1/6/2016- Page Turners BlogReview
1/7/2016- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
1/8/2016- Mundie MomsReview

The first book in the series, DEFY, 
is on sale for

$1.99

as an ebook! 
What a great deal!!!

Today, I'm lucky enough to be on tour with RockStar Book Tours and Sara B. Larson for the second year in a row! I've re-posted my review of DEFY and IGNITE from the last tour here, so check it out if you're new to the series!

If you're like me and you love books with heroines who disguise themselves as boys and still manage to kick some serious butt, you'll love today's post. I've compiled a list of some great books you'll want to read next!

Also, BECAUSE I love you guys...and this topic...I'll tell you a SECRET. In the new year, I'm going to be working on a story where--you guessed it!!--a girl disguises herself as a guy. This topic has been very near and dear to my heart as I've begun prepping and world-building, and I hope everything goes well so I can tell you more in the not-so-distant future!

Also in the not-so-distant future, look forward to my review of ENDURE!!!


B O O K   T R A I L E R:



When I first heard about DEFY by Sara B. Larson, I wanted to read it. Why? It was about a girl who disguised herself as a boy. I have a soft spot for books with this element, likely because I was obsessed with Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet when I was younger and it imprinted on my heart and helped define my taste when it came to fantasy.


 DEFY is about a girl named Alexa forced to pretend she's a boy named Alex. I'm going to review both books today, but it's so hard to talk about IGNITE without spoilers, so I'm going to focus more on the first book, DEFY. When her parents are killed during a war, her twin brother Marcel chops off her hair to disguise her gender. It's either join the army as a male or enter the breeding houses to produce as many future male soldiers as possible. Alex and Marcel rise through the ranks fast, and are soon personal bodyguards to Prince Damian. After Marcel is murdered in an attempt on the prince's life, Alex suddenly risks having her carefully concealed secret exposed. Who can she trust in this high stakes game brought on by war?

Here are some more great gals forced to disguise themselves as guys in order to survive and excel in life!

1) ALANNA TREBOND from the Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce


Alanna and her twin brother Thom always wanted opposite things in life. When their father sends Thom off to be a knight and Alanna to the convent, the two decide to change places. Thom has always wanted to learn magic, which he can at the convent, and Alanna has always wanted adventure. She doesn't expect the road to becoming a knight be as hard as it is, however, and must work twice as hard as the boys if she wants to succeed. It's hard to sum up this series in so few words, but Alanna is a heroine that has remained with me for years and will continue to do so for years to come. Her story is a must for all fantasy fans!



2) IOLANTHE SEABOURNE from The Elementals Trilogy by Sherry Thomas


This is one of my favorite modern series where a girl disguises herself as a guy. I initially got THE BURNING SKY as an ARC at BEA a couple of years ago, and I believe Sherry Thomas was compared to Tamora Pierce, which intrigued me. Add in elemental magic and I'm sold! Iolanthe Seabourne is a powerful mage seen only once a century, and when her powers make themselves known, the Bane decides to capture and kill her for his own nefarious reasons. The only way to save her is to hide her at an all-boys boarding school in the non-magical realm! The series concluded this past fall, and I'm already excited to re-read it!



3) EONA from EON by Alison Goodman




Eona is one of those characters who doesn't always have the best motives, but grows on you until you're fully in her camp and invested in her plight. She wants to be a Dragoneye in a world where females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic, and the price for doing so--as well as the price for being discovered--is higher than she can afford to pay. This duology is drenched in East Asian history and folklore. Girls are restricted from many things in life. There are DRAGONS. The fantasy and mythology in this series are beautiful, especially if you like court politics mixed in with magic!



4) LEAH WESTFALL from WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson


I've been desperate to read WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER for a LONG time, and was so excited that it finally came out this past fall! Leah Westfall doesn't fit into the typical fantasy mode we're used to hen it comes to this trope, but the twist still works well. The book takes place during the Gold Rush and follows Leah on her journey West. She's alone in a dangerous world and forced to masquerade as a boy named in order to survive--especially if she wants to hide from her murderous uncle!

My Review + Design Vlog



5) CATHERINE HUNTER from TAKE BACK THE SKIES by Lucy Saxon



I first found out about this one at ALA Midwinter last year. At first, I overlooked the book, because it was sci-fi, which isn't really my genre. I was with Kat, who does love sci-fi. When I read the summary and found out it was about a girl who disguised herself as a boy who stows away on a skyship in order to escape her constrictive life, I knew I had to read this book. I still haven't had a chance to do so because I have to be in the right mood for sci-fi (Shame, I know!!!), but it's still a book I really want to read!




6) Winter Ihernglass from THE THOUSAND NAMES by Django Wexler


This has been on my TBR for a couple of years now, and after posting about it today, I'm chomping at the bit to read it anew, so hopefully I'll get to it soon! One of the central characters in The Shadow Campaigns, an ongoing epic fantasy series is Winter Ihernglass, who pretended to be a man in order to enlist with the Vordanai Colonials. According to the summary, "when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds." I want to know more!!



7) DERYN SHARP from the Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld


Scott Westerfeld has written several best-selling series for teens, and he's experimented with and explored genres in innovative ways. LEVIATHAN is set on the brink of World War I and full of steampunk inventions. It centers around two main characters, a prince on the run (!!!!) and a commoner girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to enlist as an airman. The series is unlike anything you've read before! If you buy it, may I recommend the gorgeously rendered hardcover edition, since the paperbacks lost a lot of beauty?



8) "WILL SCARLET" from SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen


I love retellings, especially ones with unexpected twists! When I heard that there was going to be a gender-bent Robin Hood, I was so in! And the fact that it was a TRILOGY, and not just one book??? Yes, please!!! Scarlet is keeping a dangerous secret known to only a few people--and here is where we have a twist in this sub-genre. Robin Hood and his merry band of men DO know Scar's secret...but are helping her keep it, and for good reason!!!



9) SAVILLE from VALIANT by Sarah McGuire


Once Upon a Time, Sarah McGuire won a giveaway on A Backwards Story. She asked me if she still qualified for the prize because she was going to be published with Egmont. I found out that she'd written a fairy tale and wanted it IMMEDIATELY. Last year for Fairy Tale Fortnight, Sarah did a really cool guest post where she talked about how she twisted the story of The Brave Little Tailor so that it was about a GIRL. I wanted it even more!!! Earlier this year, VALIANT debuted into the world, and now you too can read about the girl who outwitted everyone and achieved greatness!

My Fairy Tale Fortnight Interview with Sarah McGuire



10) PRINCESS AURORA from PRINCESS OF THORNS by Stacey Jay


Nothing gets my attention like all my favorite tropes together in one book. Fairy tale? Check! Girl disguised as a boy? Check! Princes and Princesses? Check, check, check! This is Sleeping Beauty like you've never seen it before--and that's not the only fairy tale at play, either! Princess Aurora, daughter of THE Sleeping Beauty, disguises herself as her brother Jor in her quest to save him from the evil Ogre Queen holding him hostage, even though it may mean her death if her identity is discovered. Loved loved loved this book,and  I would sincerely love to see more fairy tales and fantasies from Stacey Jay in the future!



    
HONORABLE MENTIONS
(Go beyond books! Here are some great on-screen heroines in disguise! ...and yes, they DO have book counterparts, so they double qualify, right? ^.~)

1) MULAN from Disney's Mulan


I know this movie is far from the original story and has gotten flack for it, but I really love it. This is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, and probably another reason I like girls-disguised-as-boys so much. Mulan is an incredibly brave heroine. Even though she's a girl and not a fighter, when her ailing father is conscripted, she takes his place to save him. She isn't trying to be brave or a hero. She's trying to save her father. Along the way, she manages to help defend her entire kingdom despite the fact that she's a girl. This Disney movie is really underrated, but I know a lot of people who love it, so...!


2) ÉPONINE THÉNARDIER from LES MISÉRABLES by Victor Hugo


This is a book, true, but I know the musical much better. Éponine was always my favorite character in Les Mis. Her story is absolutely heart-breaking (especially so in the stage version), and I always wish her path would go a different way. Éponine doesn't spend the majority of the novel--or musical--in disguise as the other girls on this list do, but it is because she decides to disguise herself and go to war that her fate is sealed. I couldn't do a list without mentioning her! 


3) SATURDAY WOODCUTTER from HERO by Alethea Kontis


Okay, okay, this one is only a book...but it gets an honorable mention because there is only one person in the entire book who believes that Saturday Woodcutter is a boy--and only because she's blind! If Saturday doesn't pretend to be her brother Jack, she'll die. But she'll die even after she performs the evil witch's three tasks, so she can't win. A fun twist comes in the fact that Saturday's love interest Peregrine is cursed to masquerade as a female, so there's a double gender-bender! Saturday may not have set out to disguise herself as a guy like all the other gals on this list, but she's a survivor, and while she may have broken the world at the beginning of her adventure, she wants nothing more than to save it and return home. She's a true Hero!

My Reveiw


4) MIZUKI ASHIYA from the Hana Kimi Series by Hisaya Nakajo



Back when I was big on manga and Asian dramas, Hana Kimi was one of my absolute favorites! I watched every version of it and read the entire series. Granted, Mizuki isn't disguising herself to go to war, but she IS at an all-boys boarding school. She decides to attend after finding out her high jumper idol Izumi Sano attends the school, and the series is all about the antics she and her friends/classmates get up to. She's brave--and crazy--to travel across the world to Japan as a boy (She lives in the USA with her parents) in order to meet her sports hero!

5) HARUHI FUJIOKA from the Ouran High School Host Club Series by Hisaya Nakajo


Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at Ouran Academy in Tokyo. One day, she breaks an expensive antique vase and can't afford to replace it. To pay off her debt, she must disguise herself as a boy and work at the school's exclusive Ouran Host Club. This isn't my favorite series out there because it can be a little silly and out there (Plus, my ship never sets sail, so boo-hoo), but it's light and fun, and that's what it's meant to be! Haruhi may not be donning a sword or saving the world, but she's making the best of her circumstances and trying to better herself through education, even if it means pretending to be someone she's not!



Which gals in disguise are your favorites?

~*~


O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  DEFY
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: Purchased
SUMMARY:

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Title:  IGNITE
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late? 

Title:  ENDURE
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: For Review

Find it:

SUMMARY:

The remarkable third novel in Sara B. Larson's bestselling Defy series!

At last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the enemy. Even worse, Alexa remains at the mercy of the evil Dansiian Rafe, who controls her mind and can force Alexa to kill or harm Damian at any moment. Despite this, Alexa is determined to rescue Rylan, which soon leads her far from Damian and deep into enemy territory.

When she arrives, what awaits her is deadlier than anything she could have ever imagined: an army of black sorcerers, and a horrifying plot to destroy the world as Alexa knows it. Will she be able to gather the strength to free herself, protect the love of her life, and save the land? Will there ever be true peace?

Acclaimed author Sara B. Larson has woven a stunning, romantic, and evocative finale to the Defy Trilogy, that is sure to leave readers breathless until the very last page.


Author Sara B. Larson
Sara B. Larson is the author of the acclaimed YA fantasy DEFY, and the sequels IGNITE and ENDURE. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day (while mourning the demise of naptime) and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.



****Giveaway*****

Enter to win...
1 Finished Copy of ENDURE. 
US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

{ENDURE Blog Tour+Giveaway} Reviewing DEFY and IGNITE by Sara B. Larson

Follow the Blog Tour for guest posts, reviews, and more!


Tour Schedule:

Week One:
12/28/2015- Fiction FareReview
12/29/2015- Dark Faerie TalesInterview
12/30/2015- A Backwards Story- Feature Post (You're Here!)
12/31/2015- Magical Urban Fantasy ReadsGuest Post
1/1/2016- The Book CellarReview
                                                                               
Week Two:
1/4/2016- Supernatural SnarkInterview
1/5/2016- Novel Novice - Guest Post
1/6/2016- Page Turners BlogReview
1/7/2016- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
1/8/2016- Mundie MomsReview

The first book in the series, DEFY, 
is on sale for

$1.99

as an ebook! 
What a great deal!!!


B O O K   T R A I L E R:




O P E N I N G   L I N E:

***This opening is from DEFY, the first book in the series!***

    THE CRACKLE AND HISS OF the flames devouring our house couldn't block out the screaming and wailing of those who were still alive. My friends, the children, and babies. Orphans. Most of the men were dead. For how few of us there were, scattered around what used to be our village, the noise was almost deafening. I stood in the damp mud in front of our home, pressing my hands to my ears, trying to shut out the sounds. My jaw was clenched, but I couldn't stop the tears from welling up and slipping down my cheeks.

(pg. 5, US e-book edition)

*This review was first posted on A Backwards Story on January 5, 2015.

One thing I love about blog tours is the way they give me an excuse to read books I've been coveting, since I read more review books than I do my own purchased copies. I pre-ordered DEFY by Sara B. Larson a year ago and never had time to read it. But oh, how I wanted to! A girl disguised as a guy, one who can fight better than anyone else?  And kingdom politics?  SIGN ME UP. Now that the second book in the trilogy, IGNITE, is newly out, it's time to play catch up!

(Note: At this point, the final book in the series, ENDURE, is out next week! I just haven't had a chance to finish reading it. I'm looking forward to doing so in the new year!!!)

I'm going to review both books today, but it's so hard to talk about IGNITE without spoilers, so I'm going to focus more on the first book, DEFY.

Alex is hiding a deep, dark secret: Her true name is Alexa and she is female. When her parents are killed during a war, her twin brother Marcel chops off her hair to disguise her gender. It's either join the army as a male or enter the breeding houses to produce as many future male soldiers as possible. Alex and Marcel rise through the ranks fast, and are soon personal bodyguards to Prince Damian. After Marcel is murdered in an attempt on the prince's life, Alex suddenly risks having her carefully concealed secret exposed. Who can she trust in this high stakes game brought on by war?

DEFY is perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna books. Being a girl doesn't hinder Alexa's abilities to fight. She trains long and hard to be good, and was trained all her life by her powerful father. Unlike in THE CADET OF TILDOR by Alex Lidell, where the main character isn't as strong as the boys and must keep up in other ways, in DEFY, she is the strongest of them all. It isn't arbitrary, either, but makes sense in context and is believable in the same way that, through context,  we understand Katsa's
strengths in Kristin Cashore's GRACELING. I really enjoyed the story elements that evolved through world-building  and was eager to know the backstory of all the aspects being introduced.

There's also a lot of romance in the series, which, at times, creates drama and leads to the action taking a back seat. There's a really big love triangle that develops between Alexa, Prince Damian, and fellow bodyguard Rylan, after her identify is revealed. Love triangles often make me groan. They often aren't developed well and are lopsided, and lead to too much drama (And you know how I hate all the drama). This triangle had the drama, but it's also more fleshed-out. Not only is it hard for Alex to choose between the two, it will be hard for readers as well. Both Damian and Rylan are developed characters. They're both great guys with their own pros and cons. These days, I fear love triangles. Too many authors of decent love triangles have made the final decision easier by killing off the "spare." I don't want that to happen next year when the final book comes out, so it makes me nervous! Larson doesn't shy away from character deaths,  and IGNITE's ending leaves the possibility of something bad on the horizon looming in its conclusion.

(If I can make one more comparison to other books in existence, Damian's character development reminds me a lot of Prince Dorian's in THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas. Neither Alexa nor Celaena quite know whether or not they can trust the Crown Prince: Is it all a ruse, or is the prince as close-minded as his father, the king with the bloodthirsty eyes and iron fist?)

I really like the diversity in the world of DEFY, though I'm ambivalent at the way we're introduced to such things through Alex's oogling of the males around her despite being disguised as a male. The diversity becomes more seamless later, and I really enjoyed its existence. I also liked seeing Alex battle her wants vs. her reality. She's been forced to hide during her formative years, and she doesn't know how to act after her secret is exposed. She goes through a lot of discovery in IGNITE, though this, at times, also creates a lot of drama. Her heart is in the right place, but she can be impulsive and doesn't always make the right choices, which creates extra hardships for herself and the people around her.

There wasn't a huge cliffhanger in DEFY, but more of a build-up. Many elements fell into place, there was a conclusion to the crisis at hand, etc. IGNITE rebuilds and introduces new elements and higher stakes. There's more of a drop at the end that makes readers want the next book now, but there are also a lot of decisions made and finalized; everything ends on a more decisive note, even as so much hangs in limbo. I'm looking forward to seeing how the finale shakes out!

~*~
C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 ( kissing; innuendo )
Language: PG ( innuendo )
Violence: PG15 ( fighting; murder; death )
Other:  ( mentions of rape and a "breeding house" )
~*~

C O V E R   D E S I G N:


So, so pretty in person! 

Here is a picture from author Sara B. Larson's blog of her holding a finished copy, though:

©Sara B. Larson
And here's a close-up:

It is shiny and shimmery. AND PURPLE!!! The bow really pops because the gold is embossed and rises right off the book:




So, so pretty. I would want to pick this book up blind and find out more!




O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  DEFY
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: Purchased
SUMMARY:

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Title:  IGNITE
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?


Author Sara B. Larson
Sara B. Larson is the author of the acclaimed YA fantasy DEFY, and the sequels IGNITE and ENDURE. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day (while mourning the demise of naptime) and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.



****Giveaway*****

Enter to win...
1 Finished Copy of ENDURE. 
US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway