Friday, September 30, 2016

What I'm loving about THE QUEEN OF BLOOD by Sarah Beth Durst...and enter to win a copy!!!

Blog Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

Week 2:

I ADORE Sarah Beth Durst. Her novel ICE was the second book that I EVER reviewed on my blog back in February 2010.. It was one of the first YA novels I'd read since "outgrowing" YA. The novel's fairy tale roots helped bring me back to the genre and return my love of reading fairy tale retellings. I've had the pleasure of meeting the author a few times at events in New York City and she is always so nice and kind and amazing. When I heard that she was coming out with not just a new book, but a series---a SERIES!!!--and that it was to be adult fantasy, I was so incredibly excited. I've been anticipating THE QUEEN OF BLOOD *so* much and can't believe that it's finally out! Plus, the book is so pretty in person! Just look:

I was really excited to get onto the tour for THE QUEEN OF BLOOD and put together a review to share with all of you. However, a review isn't quite what you're getting today, and I'm sorry for that. I didn't have access to a review copy until two weeks ago, and in the past two weeks, I've been managing a week-long event and reading four other books for required blog tour stops. I also stopped to read a book for an author signing--and didn't even get to finish that. I didn't have a chance to start reading THE QUEEN OF BLOOD until two days ago--and last night I passed out after dinner and didn't read anything at all. I'm only 148 pages in and don't feel I can fairly review the book yet as I have more than half of it still to read.

So instead, today I'd like to talk about everything I love SO FAR about this book and give you a fuller review next week. Does that work? ^_^

First off, the setting!!!! You guys, this book is set in a world unlike any I've seen before. PEOPLE LIVE IN TREES. It was a little confusing at first--are the people in the world the size of fairies? Because that would make sense. When it is mentioned that the Queen is six foot tall, I disregarded that notion. (I'm also REALLY glad that information was in the book, because I was REALLY wondering about this!!!) I'm still not sure that I can envision a world made out of trees, but I'm going with it. These are just monster trees with massive trunks. The best villages are made when trees circle together and are side-by-side so that dwellings can spread even more. In this world, trees are carved into and people live inside of them. When there is a terrible attack, houses fall from branches, etc. In my head, I'm still envisioning them small just because I can't grasp the size mechanics, but I think it is so fascinating. I can't wait to explore more and see how this world is put together.

I also love the use of spirits. I love books with elemental magic, where people can control the elements. In this world, it isn't the people who control the magic, but the spirits. Water spirits, earth spirits, etc. And the spirits can be creepy, like a water spider, or beautiful, like a fire fox. Females who have an affinity for controlling various spirits may get jobs in villages as hedgewitches. Females blessed with the ability for all six affinities may find themselves training to be a potential Queen. In this world, the Queenship is inherited not through blood, but through affinity. Students train to be the best at controlling the spirits so that they may protect the world from malevolent beings. If a student shows particular control, she may be chosen by a Champion to be a candidate, and if she passes those trials, she becomes an heir. When the Queen inevitably falls, the most competent Heir is chosen as her replacement.

THE QUEEN OF THE BLOOD centers around Daleina, a girl whose village was destroyed by malevolent elemental spirits. Her family was one of the only ones to survive, thanks to the fact that Daleina's affinity for spirits manifested and she was able to make them leave her family alone. They were found by a champion named Ven, who assessed Daleina's powers and determined that she'd never amount to anything more powerful than a hedgewitch. Now, nine years later, Ven is a disgraced Champion whose Heir has fallen, and he must choose a new candidate. Daleina is studying at the Academy, but she's barely competent and doesn't have the ease for working with elementals that other girls do. Yet she knows why she's there and why she wants to be Queen. She remembers the horrors she faced as a child and wants to protect other villages from the same fate. When her path reconverges with Ven and he chooses her to train as his candidate and a potential heir to the throne...well, that's where I right now in the story. But you probably wouldn't have gotten much more summary from me than that anyway! ^.~

Look for a fuller review of this series launcher next week, and for now, just now that I am vastly enjoying the book already!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Received: For Review
Purchase Links:

Amazon | B&N  

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

About the Author

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of ten fantasy novels for adults, teens, and kids, including Conjured, Vessel, and Ice. Her latest book for kids, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, came out in November 2015 from HMH/Clarion Books, and her next book for adults, The Queen of Blood, comes out in September 2016 from Harper Voyager.
She won the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat.

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1 winner will receive a copy of THE QUEEN OF BLOOD 
and a woodland fairy tiara

You must be at least 13 years old to enter or have a parent's permission!

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{Review/Giveaway} NEMESIS by Anna Banks

Tour Schedule:

September 28:

September 29:

Wishful Endings - Review

BookHounds YA - Review
Ink of Blood - Review

September 30:

FLYLēF - Review

A Backwards Story - Review + Favorite Quotes

Library of a Book Witch - Review + Playlist

October 1:

BookCrushin - Review + Favorite Quotes

Confessions of a Readaholic - Review + Dream Cast

October 2:

Literary Meanderings - Guest Post

October 3:

Chapter by Chapter - Guest Post

The Book Cellar - Review

October 4:

Fierce Reads - Celebrating the release of Nemesis

Two Chicks on Books - Interview

Kindle and Me - Review + Playlist

Curling Up With A Good Book - Review + Favorite Quotes

The Eater of Books! - Favorite Quotes from Nemesis

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    IF I WERE NOT SUCH A coward, I would hurl myself from Nuna's back and plummet to the Underneath below. i would fall with purpose, headfirst on the rockiest part of the land. From this height, it would be painless. It would be swift./It would prevent war.

(Page 1, US sampler edition)

“Wise, brave Sepora. You were brave enough to flee from tyranny in Serubel and brave enough to jump from the Half Bridge and brave enough to withstand the pitiable advances of a foolish boy king. I have faith that you will find the wisdom to this conundrum you have unfurling inside you.” 


I really liked Anna Banks' debut Syrena Legacy trilogy (mermaids!!!), and when I heard that she was branching in a new direction with a duology full of political intrigue and warring kingdoms, and enemies in love, I was like, gimme, gimme. Thankfully, NEMESIS doesn't disappoint, and I'm so excited to pick up the concluding book ALLY next year because the way things ENDED!!!

Princess Sepora has fled her kingdom and let go of her princess title. If she stays, she will help her father obliterate the four remaining kingdoms surrounding them. She is a Forger, with the ability to produce the rare and highly sought-after Spectorium that has made her kingdom rich. Her Forging abilities are what allow her father to seek more control. Sepora decides to fake her death and flee to a life where she is in control of her own future. However, her escape doesn't go as planned. She's captured in the enemy nation Theoria and winds up working in the Falcon King's household. The King, Tarik, is mourning the loss of his father to a quiet, deadly plague, and struggling to step into his new role and lead his kingdom. Research has shown him that only Spectorium can cure the plague, but for some reason, the King of Serubel has stopped trading it. His daughter has committed suicide, so Tarik can't even ask for her hand in marriage to start trade going again. When Sepora and Tarik cross paths, they will change one another's lives forever...

I really liked all of the interesting twists and lore thrown into NEMESIS. Syrena Legacy fans, rejoice! While there aren't mer-folk swimming around in NEMESIS, there's a really interesting underwater race called the Parani that may prove to be Theoria's saviour. There are also great Serpen creatures reminiscent of dragons, and they have various abilities, including Sight. Sepora mourns the loss of her Serpen Nuna, when she is forced to flee, and has to help Tarik train a captured Serpen in order to prevent it from returning to Serubel and her father's control. Once in Theoria, Sepora encounters Lingots, truthtellers who can expose her lies if she isn't careful. And of course, Spectorium!!! Sepora's ability to produce this precious silvery substance can change the world. It can destroy a kingdom. It can save a nation. It can do so much, and she must be very careful not to reveal her gift to the wrong people. Her father already tried to take over the world with it. She knows the Falcon King needs Spectorium to cure a plague, and though she finds herself falling for Tarik, she can't bring herself to reveal her secrets.  Lingots, Forgers...what other types of people with abilities exist in this world?? I just really liked the unique features in NEMESIS that set it apart from other books.

I also appreciated the way the romance was more of a slow-burn and not full of insta-love. Plus, there are still so many obstacles to overcome!! I really can't wait to see if Sepora and Tarik can bypass these hurdles in ALLY and follow them on the rest of their journey. Both are flawed, imperfect characters, but that makes them feel so much more real to me. I also liked the asides where Sepora compares Tarik to her father and finds her father lacking. Tarik is also really good with small children, and these scenes just endear him even more to me. We get to see a lot of both characters through split POV chapters. Interestingly, Sepora's chapters are in first-person and Tarik's are in third-person. While this makes telling them apart easier, it's also a little weird (for me) to constantly go back and forth between the two formats!

Another thing I enjoyed was the world-building.I liked the way Theoria and its Pharaoh managed to feel so very Egyptian! There's also a gorgeous scene where Tarik takes Sepora to overlook the beauty of Anyar. The elements used to describe the city are absolutely gorgeous. Some scenes from books resonate in my memory and I come back to them again and again (Like that starry lake in A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas? So beautiful!!!) This scene will be another to add to my collection of beauty worth returning to.

If you're a fantasy fan, NEMESIS is a worthy new contender in the category and well worth picking up when it debuts next week!  

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG  ( Kissing. There's some sensual phrasing, such as "want," but there's nothing graphic in the scene itself )
Language: --
Violence:  G ( Sepora is brought the bloody eyes of a Serpen in order to "see" what it has seen. )
Other:  PG13 ( Tarik's father had a harem, and it is commented on that he never visits them. Sepora is sold into slavery and bought to be a "bed warmer" and winds up in Tarik's harem, but manages to change her circumstances without incident. There is also talk of being a mistress/concubine, and how Sepora doesn't want that for her future. It is also mentioned in passing that Sepora's father has beat her bloody in the past. )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

At first, I wasn't sure what I thought of this cover. 

Also, when I read it at work on my lunch break, I got a few comments about the cover and what people (wrongly) I thought it was about based on that. 

But this cover actually makes a LOT of sense in context when you've read. There are REASONS her skin is gleaming silver like that. 

I also think the background is really interesting. I have a feeling there will be a lot of fun effects on the hardcover edition of this book and can't wait to see it!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Anna Banks
Release Date: Oct. 4, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends // Macmillan
Received: Borrowed
Purchase Links:

Amazon | B&N  
Pre-Order*:  BookDepository
  *Pre-orders will receive an exclusive NEMESIS print and a NEMESIS bath bomb.

The princess didn't expect to fall in love--with her nemesis.  

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.  

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.  

Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

About the Author

NYT Bestselling YA author of The Syrena Legacy series: OF POSEIDON (2012), OF TRITON (2013), OF NEPTUNE (2014).
Repped by rockstar Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency.
I live with my husband and daughter in the Florida Panhandle. I have a southern accent compared to New Yorkers, and I enjoy food cooked with real fat. I can’t walk in high heels, but I’m very good at holding still in them. If you put chocolate in front of me, you must not have wanted it in the first place.
Favorite Books:
Shatter Me, Cinder, Linger, Shiver, Forever, Pushing the Limits, Unravel Me,Shadow and Bone, Enclave, Divergent, Candor, Graceling, Fire, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Host, Most of James Patterson, and Janet Evanovich makes me laugh through my nose in an unfeminine sort of way.

You could win...

A finished copy of NEMESIS!

You must be at least 13 years old to enter or have a parent's permission!

Enter now!

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Journey Across the USA Through Modern-Day YA Literature, and WIN a Copy of LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS by Rae Carson!

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

Week 2:

I adore, adore, ADORE Rae Carson. I've reviewed pretty much everything she's ever done:
(Okay, I somehow missed ONE novella. I'll have to fix that!),

LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS has been one of my most anticipated novels of 2016, and when I heard about a blog tour to promote the book during release week, I was pretty much like, "I will do anything!! I will even put together an awesome modern day Oregon Trail map!"

...Because I am insane.

(And apparently like time-consuming tasks. ^.~)

It's harder than it sounds, too!!

For one, I had to go back and re-read WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER (not a hardship!!!) and list out every. single. place. that Leah mentions as she heads West to California to escape her murderous uncle and claim her own place in the world.

Then, I looked at the super-duper handy map included in the front of the book.

THEN I decided that, rather than grab pictures of random places along the way and how they look NOW versus THEN, like I originally thought to do, I'd be even more creative...and find YA novels that encompass each of these places!!!

Because of the way territories have changed and divided into States, this is by no means perfect.

But take a look at the books you'd pass through if you duplicated Leah's journey West!!!

Not the best job at throwing a map together, but it works, right? ^^;;;

Dahlonega, Georgia

Leah Westfall was born and raised here. We meet her in WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson (LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS is the sequel to this book!). Leah is forced to disguise herself as a boy and flee to California after she discovers that her uncle has murdered her parents and wants to use her ability to sense gold to make a fortune out West.

But that's also a give-me answer, right?

Here's another book that takes place in Georgia:

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins!

This is such a FUN series. I didn't think I'd enjoy it nearly as much as I have because paranormal isn't really my thing, but when it came out, I DEVOURED the first book and was so glad I didn't have to wait to read the second book!

When Sophie's magical abilities manifest and harm the people around her, she's sent to Hex Hall, a boarding school for paranormal beings hidden away in Georgia!

The other big Georgia book I think about is PEACHES by Jodi Lynn Anderson, because seriously, who DOESN'T think about delicious Georgia peaches when they think about Georgia!? ^.~

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Okay, so this isn't actually a teen novel. A lot of teens read Neil Gaiman, though, so I feel comfortable recommending AMERICAN GODS for this category.

Plus, it's going to be a TV series soon, so everyone will be picking this one up!!!

While AMERICAN GODS takes place across the USA, the big, epic showdown takes place very close to Chattanooga, so I couldn't resist choosing this book for this category!

Cairo, Illinois

Next, Leah takes a steamer from Chattanooga headed toward Missouri. She mentions arriving in Cairo, where the Mississippi River and the Ohio River merge at the confluence.

THE RIVER BETWEEN US by Richard Peck has won a TON of awards--and was even a prestigious National Book Award Finalist!!! It's a staple in a lot of schools and studied by many students.

Ironically, THE RIVER BETWEEN US takes place about twelve years AFTER the events of WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER!

THE RIVER BETWEEN US takes place on the blood-soaked battlefield of Cairo during the Civil War....not a fun place to be, and definitely a harrowing read!

Independence, Mississippi

From Cairo, Leah makes her way to Independence, Mississippi. Independence is where she's supposed to meet up with her friend Jefferson, who ran away from home to make his own fortune just ahead of her.

I can't think of any books that take place in Independence, but I can think of a couple other books showcasing Mississippi Pride that I'll showcase instead!

Since we're on a roll with historical fiction, I'd be remiss not to mention MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan. This is technically an adult book, but it won the Alex Award when it debuted (An award for adult novels with crossover YA appeal), AND it takes place in the 1940s--three years BEFORE Leah's journey begins! The book shows the ugly underbelly of racism, and features a fight for land also shown a little in WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER. This can be a hard book to read because our history is so horrible, but it's also a great read.

Want something a little more modern?

How about MAGNOLIA by Kristi Cook?

This one is a romance, about two families who have lived side-by-side ever since the Civil War. They'd love to finally "merge" their families into one and have their hopes pinned on Jemma and Ryder, who are the same age. The only problem? Neither teen wants to date the other just because their parents want this relationship to happen....especially because they can't STAND one another.........

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

DEFINITELY not a YA novel, but a lot of teens have probably watched the R-rated movie anyway, so....

Did you know that the runaway best selling psychological thriller GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn takes place in North Carthage, Missouri?

The setting doesn't play a huge role in the novel that way it does in some of these other books, but,'s what I've got! Let me know if you know of any other good books set in Missouri!

Big Blue River, Kansas

Okay, okay, I am going to play up the stereotype, because, REALLY, what is the FIRST book you think about when you hear "Kansas?" If you don't say THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum, then you're not a book--or movie--nerd!!! ^.~

Platte River Valley (Nebraska)

Nebraska wasn't a territory, let alone a state, when Leah passed through. The area was a somber one, full of graves from people who never made it West.

Looking forward in time, I had to choose one of this decade's most popular contemporary YA novels, ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell to feature! The book is set in Omaha, which is where Rowell herself lives. You can really feel the flavor of the town in this novel!

Fort Laramie (Wyoming)

and also

South Pass Rocky Mountains (Wyoming)

Wyoming also didn't exist when Leah passed through, but Fort Laramie certainly did! It was one of the biggest trading posts of its time, too.

A book I absolutely ADORE is set in Wyoming, UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand! It's actually a reverse journey to Leah's--
Leah is heading to California, and Clara's family is moving from California to Wyoming.

UNEARTHLY was a book I didn't think I'd enjoy, but wound up loving SO much!

Fort Hall (Idaho)

Idaho was--yep!!--another non-existent territory/state during Leah's journey West.

I can't think of many books set in Idaho, so I'm going to go with a not-as-well-known title, DEADLINE by Chris Crutcher, which is set in Trout, Idaho.

I first had to read Crutcher in class (STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BURNS), and the title really turned me on to this author! I went on to read several other novels by him. I love how he incorporates sports into his novels--especially swimming!

I feel that with the trend toward "serious/sad" novels in YA contemporary, DEADLINE would do so well right now if it was re-issued!

Humboldt Sink (Nevada)

Nevada ALSO wasn't yet a territory/state in 1849!

Crossing the Humboldt Sink was absolutely the most treacherous part of Leah's journey West.  They began crossing on Monday evening and arrived on the other side Friday morning. The perilous trek destroyed so much and tore the group apart, but FINALLY the end is in sight as they pass into California Territory!

The second book I ever read by Ellen Hopkins was BURNED. It is about a girl from a very religious Mormon household. When she steps out of line, her family ships her off to Nevada to spend time with her aunt. Pattyn winds up finding herself in Nevada and discovering that there is SO much more to life than she ever dreamed possible! She's finally found a place where she belongs, but her overbearing father threatens to destroy not just her own happiness, but her sister's as well...

Sierra Nevada, California 


Sutter's Fort, California

FINALLY!!!! Leah's long journey across the country is at an end and she is at her destination. Blood, sweat, and tears have brought her here, but she's ready to embrace her future.

While WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is very much about the journey and getting TO California, the rest of the series will be about what Leah does once she's THERE. Usually, the journey comes so much later in the series and bogs it down, but it IS the story from the get-go here!

And, whoo, California....SO MANY books take place in California. SO MANY!!!!

Plus, the California we think of today is so glitzy and elegant and DIFFERENT...even though it's one small piece of the State our minds are thinking of!

I didn't want to do anything too modern, and I didn't want to do anything else from the Gold Rush Era, either.

I decided to go with a nice in-between and feature the beloved juvenile award-winning novel ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

It takes place during the Great Depression, and is about a girl forced to flee Mexico with her mother and make her way to California. Their new situation isn't great, as they go from being wealthy landownes to poor immigrants being worked to the bone.

An inspirational book about overcoming hardships, and also a great diverse option!

What books would you have chosen to track Leah's journey across the country!?

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow // HarperTeen

After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram. 

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom. 

The second epic historical fantasy in the Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson, the acclaimed author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.



About Rae Carson:

I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I now live in Arizona with my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.


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