Thursday, July 28, 2016

{Review} AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  VLAD DRACUL'S HEAVY BROW descended like a storm when the doctor informed him that his wife had given birth to a girl.

(pg. 1, US ARC edition)

“That is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.” 


What if Vlad the Impaler...was a female named Lada? Vlad the Impaler was real, and inspired stories such as Dracula. Kiersten White is creating a historical, gender-flipped world in AND I DARKEN, the first in the trilogy. Vlad the Impaler was brutal, and this series promises to be as well. It is not a hero's series, or about overcoming wrong. Instead, White explores the ideas that bring people into making horrible decisions. What brings them to that point? What makes certain atrocities okay in their eyes? In comparison to what the rest of the series is bound to contain, Ironically, despite its darkness, you could say that AND I DARKEN is softer, lighter. It revolves around childhood, around first love, around dealing with parental betrayal and experiencing death for the first time. The novel has its brutal moments, but I am certain that they are nothing in comparison to what is to come. The end of the first novel marks a turning point. Lada is not yet worthy of the name Lada the Impaler. What will bring her to her blood-thirsty moments? It's coming, oh, it's coming...

Lada Dragwlya was born in the wrong body. Her father detested her the moment he first laid eyes upon her, for she wasn't a male. She's not even pretty, so it's harder to make a good match for her...not that Lada wants to ever be married. She wants to control her own destiny, and would rather rip out the tongue of her husband and be both husband and wife than ever be subjected to his whims. Lada has a fierce, wild personality very seldom seen in girls, one that her father appreciates. He often wishes she were born male so she could be someone he could be proud of....and Lada wants nothing more than to please her father and gain his love, so she becomes the way she thinks he wishes her to be. They're both disappointed when Radu is born. He's male, but he's weak. He cries a lot and doesn't stand up for himself. He's also beautiful, and able to beguile others with his face alone. 

When their father runs into political danger, he must pass Lada and Radu off to the Ottoman Empire to be held as political prisoners so that he'll keep his promises to the Empire. The siblings finish growing up alongside Mehmed, third in line for the throne, but destined to become Mehmed the Conquerer. Radu feels at home in the Ottoman Empire, while Lada longs to return home to Wallachia. Both find themselves falling for Mehmed, both knowing it can never work out the way they want, for Radu is himself male and still coming to terms with his emotions and wishes, while Lada wants no husband, especially not one destined to be her country's enemy. 

White plays with so many sibling themes that aren't often explored in YA. Both siblings have reason to be jealous of one another in very different ways. Radu has grown up envying Lada, while she has frequently looked down upon him, but she is also jealous of him in her own way. Both siblings seek to protect one another, Radu through pretty words and grand plans, and Lada through being physically stronger, a bodyguard, in a way. The siblings resent one another, yet they also love each other. Lada even tells Radu, "Everyone dies sometime. And I will not let Mircea kill you. If anyone is going to kill you, it will be me. Understand?" (Page 59, ARC edition) Love and hate, so closely intertwined. Their experiences with Mehmed just add to the mess, and twist everything up into a convoluted knot that won't be untangled anytime soon.

While AND I DARKEN has been compared to fantasy novels such as Game of Thrones, it's not a fantasy, so don't go into the series expecting it to be one. It is historical, but also breaks away from history due to the gender-swap. Lada breaks the mold in every possible way, and isn't afraid to be herself. She doesn't want to be female, but slowly learns how to use her gender to her advantage, while still wishing she were male so she could be taken more seriously. She has a strong sense of self and knows what she does--and doesn't--want in life. It is easy to see how someone with such strong ideals and wishes could someday become a force to be reckoned with. As she moves out of childhood and grows up, the remaining two books in the series will follow her down a darker, bloodier path. It will be interesting to see how she continues to interact with Mehmed and Radu as the three grow up and embrace their very different destinies, especially since their lives and emotions have been so firmly mixed together up until now.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15 ( kissing; heavy making out and innuendo that more has happened; innuendo that one character visits a brothel and has sired children. )
Language: PG13 (Sexual innuendo/quips; and violent language )
Violence: PG13+ ( A couple of scenes where punishment involves impaling on stakes; bullying; battle violence )
Other:  --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

So pretty!!!!!

The title is embossed--and shiny, too! And that sphere!!!

When you take off the book's jacket and peek beneath:

The interior is silver!!!

Every chapter has both flowers and spheres as well:

It's both pretty and violent, just like this book. It represents a loss of innocence, the threat of violence, as that sphere impales that flower, and the interior reminds you of that duality. Great designwork!!!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press / Random House
Received: For Review

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

{Review} THE HEART OF BETRAYAL by Mary E. Pearson

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    I had thought that was all it would take.
    A knife in the gut.
    A firm twist for good measure.
    But as Venda swallowed me up, as the misshapen walls and hundreds of curious faces closed in, as I heard the clatter of chains and the bridge lowering behind me, cutting me off from the rest of the world, I knew my steps had to be certain.
    It was going to take many acts, not just one, every step renegotiated. Lies would have to be told. Confidences gained. Ugly lines crossed. All of it patiently woven together, and patience wasn't my strong suit.

“When you think you’re at the end of your rope, give it three more days. And then another three. Sometimes you’ll find the rope is longer than you thought.” 


WAIT, STOP!!!! Did you read the first book in The Remnants Chronicles, THE KISS OF DECEPTION, yet? IF YOUR ANSWER IS NO, read this review instead!

If you read about THE HEART OF BETRAYAL before you actually read the first book, you'll severely spoil the story for yourself....and it's such a good series that you don't want to do that!!!!

And EVERYONE should check out this fun interview with Mary E. Pearson!

OKAY, NOW WE'RE ENTERING THE BOOK 2 SPOILER ZONE. With, you know, as few actual SPOILERS as possible. But spoiling Book One? Oh yeah, it's on!!!!

THE KISS OF DECEPTION was one of my favorite novels of 2014, and THE HEART OF BETRAYAL was one of my favorite novels of 2015--and had one of my favorite kissing scenes of the year! I love The Remnant Chronicles so much, and am so sad that it's ending this year. When I went to grab and re-post my review, I was shocked to see that I'd never reviewed it the first time around. How that happened, I don't know. (My guess would be that I got greedy and read the ARC super early, then couldn't remember enough to cobble a good review together. But I just re-read it, so I'll rectify that injustice now!)

While THE KISS OF DECEPTION started off slow and focused on mystery--Who was the prince and who was the assassin?--THE HEART OF BETRAYAL drops readers straight into action--and there is action throughout the book. Deception is still running high, but this time, it's a fight for survival. Lia must convince the court and Venda's  Komizar that she feels nothing for Rafe, who foolishly followed her to her death. And Rafe must convince the Komizar of his importance if he wishes to survive in order to orchestrate an escape. Kaden, on the other hand, is toeing the line of the Komizar's good graces. He wants to protect Lia, but he also wants to serve his country. The web of lies that these characters tell themselves--and others--is getting tighter, and the outcome is becoming deadlier.

One thing I really love about The Remnant Chronicles is the breath of tradition that Mary E. Pearson brings so vividly to life. From the intricacy of wedding kavahs to the way Venda honors the bones of fallen animals before meals and creates words with intricate meanings such as Paviamma. I love the way these moments flesh out a culture and make everything seem more genuine, pulling me even further into the story.

There really isn't much I can say about this book without giving so much away about the characters and their motivations. I've read this twice now, and it has taken my breath away both times and made me so incredibly eager for THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS. If you love fantasy that keeps you guessing or that builds upon itself, I highly recommend adding The Remnant Chronicles to your TBR!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 ( kissing; innuendo. Lia is held captive and forced to live in Kaden's bedroom, but nothing happens and he only implies it does when people ask )
Language: PG ( some innuendo about wedding nights, etc. )
Violence: PG13+ ( Non-graphic, but depictions of the ways traitors are tortured and killed,as well as deaths during an uprising. )
Other:  --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

These covers are so pretty!!! I really like the series/title treatment. It adds a little "special" to these covers.

 I also like the way the only color is the dress, and everything else is bleak and drab. It makes so much sense for this book! And that setting that she's looking at...!!!! 

I really enjoy this cover!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Mary E. Pearson
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt // Macmillan
Received: Originally For Review,
but I just re-read my own purchased copy
& am reviewing that version!

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Celebrating my birthday with THIS special book!!!

Hey guys!

Soooooooo today is my birthday!

*Throws confetti*

Since we're all bookworms here, I have a confession:

Every year, I try to make sure I'm not reading anything leading up to my birthday so that I don't have to worry about finishing that book, etc. On my birthday, I pick a special book to read. It can be something I'm dying to read or re-read or an author I love that had a new book out that I was savoring...anything, really. The rule is that there are....NO RULES!!!!

Do you do that, too? I want to know I'm not the only bookworm who chooses something special to read on a birthday JUST BECAUSE! ^.~

This year, I've chosen to read this shiny advance copy I just received of WINTERSONG by S. Jae-Jones, even though it won't come out until 2017. A shiny birthday indulgence!!!!

Sorry, my e-reader is black and white. Plus, the book's cover isn't embedded in the e-ARC, so I grabbed my iPod just so you could see the cover. Mmmm, and coffee. Books and coffee, what could be better!?

I've been wanting to read this since I heard about it because OMG, a Labyrinth retelling!!!!!! I just can't. I can't!!!

And then that beautiful cover came out and the hype started and I wanted it even MORE.

I started reading this morning and am about sixty pages in...and ooooh, it's getting good! *rubs hands together*

Friday, July 22, 2016

{Review Redux} THE KISS OF DECEPTION by Mary E. Pearson

Don't forget to also check out this fun interview I did with Mary E. Pearson!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    TODAY WAS THE DAY A THOUSAND dreams would die and a single dream would be born.
    The wind knew. It was the first of June, but cold gusts bit at the hilltop citadelle as fiercely as deepest winter, shaking the windows with curses and winding through drafty halls with warning whispers. There was no escaping what was to come.
    For good or bad, the hours were closing in. I closed my eyes against the thought, knowing that soon the day would cleave in two, forever creating the before and after of my life, and it would happen in one swift act that I could no more alter than the color of my eyes.
    I pushed away from the window, fogged with my own breath, and left the endless hills of Morrighan to their own worries. It was time for me to meet my day.
This review was first featured on A Backwards Story on June 30, 2014.
With the third book coming out next month, I want to introduce new readers to this fantastic series!

“For good or bad, the hours were closing in. I closed my eyes against the thought, knowing that soon the day would cleave in two, forever creating the before and after of my life, and it would happen in one swift act that I could no more alter then the color of my eyes.” 


THE KISS OF DECEPTION is already one of my favorite fantasy novels of the year (2014...and even now, upon re-reading in 2016, I still love this series very, very much!). The world-building is spot-on and the book is incredibly hard to put down once you sink into it. Let's put it this way: Remember how I went through a three-week book slump in March? I read nine books before I got out of it. NINE. THE KISS OF DECEPTION put me into a slump.  (Or maybe it would have happened regardless... But let's blame Mary E. Pearson anyway, mmkay?)

It's very, very hard to discuss this book without spoilers. It's better for you to go into it as blind as possible. But basically,  there is a princess named Lia, a First Daughter, who is betrothed to a prince she's never met. She doesn't want to marry him, even though it would bring their kingdoms together and make both less vulnerable.  She runs away, but the jilted prince goes after her. So does an assassin determined to prevent the two kingdoms from merging. Lia meets both on her travels, but thinks the two men are nothing more than a traveling tradesman and fisherman. She has no clue what danger she's in... or even who she's falling in love with...

I love the double-blind element that Pearson creates. We as readers know what Lia knows. There's so much mystery, intrigue, and, yes, deception at stake.  I was a fan of the world-building from the very beginning, when Lia has her wedding kavah painted onto her back. I wanted to know so much about Lia and her world. I was a big fan of the way the assassin and the prince challenged my brain, too. I already have theories about certain things,  and after that ending...! Well. 2015 can't come soon enough!

I know my lack of explanation and summary make this book sound like less than the amazing story it is.  Do yourself a favor and buy it won't regret it!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( kissing )
Language: --PG
Violence: PG13+ ( Lia is attacked by a bounty hunter; she is also captured later on. There is also a scene with non-graphic battle description. )
Other:  --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I really love it!

I love the starburst effect around the title creating a unified series image that will be easily identifiable.

The background is great to look at, too. Figures on the horizon, birds in the air,  a stormy sky...

I would pick this up blind at the bookstore to see what it was about! 
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Mary E. Pearson
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt // Macmillan
Received: For Review

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.