Monday, March 16, 2015

Review + Giveaway: Before He Was a Secret by Becky Wicks [Blog Tour]

Book Description:

Before He Was A Secret by Becky Wicks
(Starstruck #3 - can be read as a stand-alone)
Publication date: Feb 24 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance

Another standalone Starstruck romance from the HarperCollins author who brought you Amazon #1 bestseller Before He Was Famous and Before He Was Gone

“What if we can’t choose
Every battle we win and lose
What if we decided years before, to live this life, to fight these wars
And all the dreams we ever thought were ours
Were written in the stars”

Waiting tables isn't exactly what singer/songwriter Stephanie has in mind for her move to Nashville, but memories of the past and a case of writer’s block mean inspiration isn’t coming easy. When brooding pianist Conor Judge opens his mouth in a smoky bar he proves music can heal, and even help you re-write your story, but a history of his own means the one thing he starts to want most is always just out of reach. Stephanie.

Enter Travis Flynn - an upcoming star who won’t take no for an answer, and a record label intent on helping Stephanie shine, without Conor. As fame comes knocking as hard as the ghosts of their pasts, it soon becomes clear that no matter how hard you might fall in love, having the perfect songs doesn’t always mean perfect harmony.

Reviewer's Copy: e-ARC

Source: Xpresso Reads Tours+ Becky Wicks(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Becky Wicks is my favorite indie author. So when I found out that she was writing the third book of the Starstruck series, I knew I had just had to get it and read it. I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed. Becky's writing is superflouous, the kind that made you sit back comfortably and you see that your hours were gone. Becky writes the kind of books that trap you into their storyworlds and refused to let you go unless you were done with the story.

Stephanie was the kind of heroine that made you believe in the goodness of mankind. She was determined and talented, pouring her heart out into her music and her songs. I loved reading about her adventure in Nashville, how she sought out the music. What I liked most about reading about Stephanie was reading the lyrics that she writes. The lyrics came out to me as poetic, lovestruck and raw.

Conor was the knight in shining armor. He was gentle, thoughtful and talented. I think Stephanie fell for him the moment he sang his heart out at stage, with Stephanie in the audience. Conor and Stephanie's interaction was what I would like to consider magical and fated. They complimented each other with their music, passion and strength. I loved reading about them falling in love with one another, no matter how they tried to stop themselves from falling. It was the kind of love that was effortless.

There was magic in reading about music: your mind imagines the beat, the rhythm of the song, without you thinking too hard about it. This was what I liked in Before He Was Famous, with Noah's songs, and I'm happy to experience it again in Before He Was a Secret. The lyrics reached out to my heart, they felt so raw and filled with memories and emotions, that I couldn't help but love the songs. This was something that I look for in contemporary novels.

The plot was filled with twists and turns, some were predictable why some were not, but in the end I enjoyed every page of it. Chloe and Noah's appearance in the book made me excited, it was good to see the couples interact. Becky Wicks unleashed a measured darkness onto Conor and Stephanie's story, as expected. Becky molded the character's personality with trials and challenges, peeling back the surface to let the readers see the true Conor and Stephanie underneath it all.

Before He Was a Secret is a heartfelt and breathtakingly beautiful contemporary romance. I highly recommend this to readers who liked the first book, since Before He Was Famous and Before He Was a Secret are more alike, music-wise. If you are a contemporary romance reader, new adult reader, this would work out for you.

Rating:



5 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!

About the Author:

Becky Wicks lives in Bali and scribbles books, and she’s mostly powered by coffee. Her first book in the Starstruck Series, Before He Was Famous recently reached #1 in Amazon’s Coming of Age and New Adult & College categories, and her three travel books, published by HarperCollins are online to make feet nice and itchy. Mostly though, she loves to write love stories. She blogs most days at beckywicks.com and always welcomes distractions on Twitter @bex_wicks. Especially if you have photos of cats.

Website | Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads


Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)

-Five copies of Before He Was A Secret, plus a character named after them in Becky's next book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Saturday, March 07, 2015

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman + Giveaway

Book Description:

Hardcover, 499 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

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

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Reviewer's Copy: Hardcover

Source: Random House Books for Young Readers(Thank you!!)

My Thoughts:

I was blown away in epic proportions by the extremely detailed world building, formed by the foundations of the colorful history of Goredd, Samsam, Ninys and Tanamoot; the geography, philosophy, culture and languages. I was mostly impressed with the expansive history - from politics, to the military records, to the cast of Saints, and quotes from philosophers. Every additional detail made Seraphina more and more alive and believable.

Seraphina was unlike any other heroine I've encountered. She was flawed, hiding in fear, brilliant and incredibly talented. She felt that she didn't truly belong - being half human and half dragon, in a place and time wherein dragons and humans were still uncomfortable and even antagonistic towards each other. The tension could be cut with a pair of scissors. Having been given a draconic education, she could easily understand human-dragon affairs, whether it was political or social. She was also the assistant of the music composer, enabling her to do what she loved best - music.

Prince Lucian Kiggs was an extremely observant, perceptive, down to earth and kind. He has a golden heart that could be easily opened. I enjoyed reading about Kiggs, especially with the way he interacted with Phna. I found another outcast to love in him. He was a bastard prince, and though he has a position in the court, he has never truly been accepted by everyone. There would always be that distinction, that barrier between him and his happiness.

Orma was one of the minor characters that I liked best. Although he was emotionally "uninvolved," as an average saarantras would be, he had his human moments. He was slowly being "humanized" through the years of staying in Goredd, and because of his fatherly connection to Phina. Orma was my second favorite character. He was emotionally conflicted, torn between staying true to his dragon self and forcing all emotion and emotional memories out of his system, and succumbing to his weakness, embracing and riding out wave after wave of emotions that lap against his heart.

The plot was highly political and adventurous, woven with threads of social politics, struggle between races, religion and belief, music, simmering romance and knotted with twists and turns. I liked how the focus was on the struggle between dragons and humans alike, highlighting the pros and cons of being a member of each race. There was romance but it was not the typical all-consuming kind. It was slowly growing between the all the action, biding its time. I was lost in Seraphina's daily life - her struggles, her tasks, her passion and her loneliness. Dragons took human forms called saarantras, in order to blend in with the Goreddis. They were either "belled" or anonymous. Hartman brought to life a fresh take on dragons, that was both daring and intriguing. I got close to understanding them and their ways, rationalizing and thinking about the reasons behind their actions.

Seraphina is an epic adrenaline-pumped high fantasy that would keep readers thoroughly entertained and thoroughly lost in its story world. In these pages lies the most detailed and most well-developed story world I have ever encountered. Seraphina is unparalleled with its attention to detail, mythology and storytelling. I highly recommend this to high fantasy readers, readers who are looking for dragon-related literature and literature reminiscent of the middle ages.

Rating:

5 Cupids= Eternal book love. 
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!



Giveaway Alert! Win a finished copy of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. For US + CA residents only, as per publisher's request.

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Character Profiles: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle is one of my most anticipated reads for 2015. I'm happy to be a part of this blog tour and spread the word about it. It seems to me that not that many people know about this novel, so, I'd like to tell you about it. First of all, let's start with the mafia-esque blurb:


Book Description:

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 24th 2015 by Chicken House

Blood Will Spill, Hearts Will Break: With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

For Sophie, it feels like another slow, hot summer in Cedar Hill, waitressing at her family’s diner and hanging out with her best friend Millie. But then someone moves into the long-abandoned mansion up the block--a family of five Italian brothers, each one hotter than the last. Unable to resist caramel-eyed Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling for him -- and willfully ignoring the warning signs. Why are Nic's knuckles cut and bruised? Why does he carry an engraved switchblade? And why does his arrogant and infuriating older brother, Luca, refuse to let her see him? As the boys' dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. Suddenly, she's torn between two warring dynasties: the one she’s related to and the one she's now in love with. She'll have to choose between loyalty and passione. When she does, blood will spill, hearts will break. Because in this twisted underworld, dishonor can be the difference between life and death.

Character Profiles:

Let's get to know some of the characters in Vendetta, Sophie and the five Italian brothers.








Check out what other people think of Vendetta:
Blackplume: Review & Character Interview with Luca
Library Mistress: Guest Post - On Creating Five Brooding Characters
Amia Book Lover: Review
The Escapist: Review





Monday, March 02, 2015

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Book Description:

Hardcover, 339 pages
Published August 14th 2014 by Dutton

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: National Book Store and Penguin Teen(Thank you!!)

My Thoughts:

This is actually my first Stephanie Perkins book. I decided to go against the bookish rule: reading books in order; and started reading Stephanie Perkins' last book (to be followed by Lola and Anna). I was consumed. The story itself has a life of its own, going beyond movie-quality presentation. I felt like I was transported into Paris and DC, witnessing the events myself.

Isla was a sweet, thoughtful and stable heroine. She always played safe, keeping her grades up and following rules. But there was also a part of her that dared to break the rules, to live in the moment, the here and the now, and to make the most of it. I loved reading and getting to know Isla like a real friend. She hadn't figured out her future yet: where she will go to college, what she would study and what she would become in the future. Although the novel is mainly a contemporary romance, I enjoyed how the author tackled Isla's journey to finding herself and her place in the world.

Josh was a different story. He was one of the most intriguing characters I've ever encountered. Josh was charming, talented and incredibly smooth with his moves and plans. He had so much confidence and oozing charm, despite keeping it under wraps sometimes. I found nothing to dislike with Josh Wasserstein.

Isla and Josh together made the most perfect love story of all time. It was an individualistic journey, in such a way that focus was given to both characters as individuals who grow, are in search of themselves and are planning out or discovering their future. The sparks shooting of off them and between them were just too strong and persistent. It was a magnetic gravity existing to pull them together. The way that their relationship developed was heartwrenchingly slow and sweet. But when it hit the climax, it sped up into a whirlwind of kisses, discoveries, secrets, breaking the rules and savoring-every-moment goodness.


Isla and the Happily Ever After was a heartfelt, unputdownable and unforgettable contemporary romance. This is the kind of story that would make you want to hug your pillow and cry, smile stupidly at gaze at the sky, and simply, get out of your house and look for the kind of love that Isla and Josh have. I highly recommend this to fans of Just One Day and Just One Year by Gayle Forman. Contemporary romance readers will devour this companion novel.




Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Book Description:

Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 5th 2015 by Scholastic Press

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?


Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Dianne + Pinoy Book Tours (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

The Sin Eater's Daughter came out as a surprise to me. I didn't expect to love the book as much I did - but I am glad that I did, though. It has been a while since I read a book so unpredictable and so highly political, as this one.

Twylla, also known as Daunen Embodied, was an intriguing heroine. She was gifted and blessed by the gods, feared by mortals and a part of the court. Her journey from being the sin eater's daughter to the well-dressed betrothed of the Prince, was a roller coaster of emotions and changes. She had a public life and a private life. When facing the court, she was Daunen Embodied, a blessing to the kingdom. She was reserved, quiet and a follower of the rules, but deep inside she was a victim  - she lost her family, unable to keep in touch with them; she lost her free will. The only thing she had was her gift and curse of poison - to survive it and to kill others with it, and her loyal guard.

Lief was Tregellian – a foreigner. Tasked to be Twylla’s new guard, he was clumsy and often tripped over the boundaries of being formal and being too familiar. He was most intriguing. He was friendly, thoughtful and even sweet. He had natural charisma. He took away my doubts and my suspicions, as well as Twylla’s, with his little gestures and kind words. As Twylla and Lief spent more time together, they were drawn and pulled into each other’s life. They fell in love. Salibsury knew how to drag out the growing attraction between the two, to the point that it was almost painful to read. The emotional and sexual attraction was practically palpable and physical - you could cut it with a knife.

The story world of The Sin Eater’s Daughter was quite elaborate, backed up with mythological and religious background. But the elaboration and attention to detail extended only up to the borders of Lormere, beyond this point the geography and the idea of other kingdoms were quite blurry. I commend Salisbury for having Lormere’s air charged with a specific vibe that made The Sin Eater’s Daughter atmospheric for me.

The evil queen traipsed around her court, with elegance and violence. The Court obeyed the queen’s wishes and rarely questioned her. This was a good reflection of the dark side of politics. The people in power get what they want, at the expense of other people, and though the people are against this, they keep quiet, in fear of being punished or killed. Twylla was one of the queen’s favorite pawns. As Daunen Embodied, she rendered the Court cautious and fearful.

The plot was unpredictable, growing into explosions of surprises and shockers that I never saw coming. I loved how I kept on sitting at the edge of my seat, guessing and worrying. In the latter part of the book, Salisbury unleashed a set of twists and turns. I was utterly devastated and amazed at the same time.

The Sin Eater's Daughter kept me up at night with its intrigue, charm and simmering romance. It was quite atmospheric and unpredictable. Though there were still unanswered questions in my mind at the end, I still enjoyed the story. I recommend this to readers of high fantasy. This would also appeal to readers of historical - medieval - and romance.

Rating:

4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

Book Description:

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 27th 2015 by Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.


Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Warning: For readers, who have not finished The Madman’s Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity, now is the time to turn back. There would be spoilers for people who haven’t read the first two books. You have been warned.

A Cold Legacy manifested the genius of Shepherd’s writing: the lurking darkness, the electric atmosphere of the setting, whether it was on a tropical island, high society London or the Scottish moors, and most importantly, the brilliance and madness of her characters. Though I have never set foot on Scotland, I felt like I just spent a three-week vacation there, and jumped back in time, in the process.

Juliet was mad, brilliant and fierce. As she struggled and moved forward through the problems that she encountered, being threatened, followed and attacked, she became stronger and steadier. Juliet retaliated, in bursts of blood and darkness. For a long time, she thought that Dr. Moreau’s blood and craziness ran in her veins. Watching from the sidelines of Juliet’s life was unsettling, thrilling and heart-pounding. There was never a dull moment. Her way of thinking, coupled with her heritage, was deadly. With Juliet, there were always surprises and shockers.

The love triangle that was so palpable in Her Dark Curiosity was long gone. Juliet was now engaged to Montgomery. However Edward’s presence was like a cloud blocking out the sun. The possibility of the emergence of the Beast was just too dangerous to ignore. Juliet felt a connection to the Beast, since they were both “dark” creatures, and had gone through her father’s hands. They had a deeper level of understanding, empathy and similarities, that Juliet would never be able to share with Montgomery.

The physical, psychological and emotional situation that Edward was in broke my heart into a million tiny pieces. I am always drawn to dark, vulnerable characters, especially the ones that were suffering emotionally. I was sad for Edward and wished that I, myself, could give him a chance to live a normal life. Out of all the characters, aside from Juliet, Edward was the one I felt emotionally invested in. Though A Cold Legacy did not have the "spark" that made me love The Madman's Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity, I still enjoyed it. The ending was not what I expected it to be but nevertheless I found it satisfying and just to end the trilogy.

One of the things I liked about A Cold Legacy was that the minor characters were given a chance to shine. Lucy Radcliffe, Juliet’s socialite best friend, was seen in a different light. Underneath the surface was a bold Lucy who braved the Scottish moors, left her comfortable and luxurious life behind, for love. One of the characters close to my heart, Balthazar, was finally “humanized” while highlighting his origin. Although he was made in a laboratory, he had a pure heart and conscience. The way that his mind worked, as well as his personality, was thoroughly explained.

A Cold Legacy is an atmospheric, chilling, and unpredictable retelling of Frankenstein. Readers are in for a treat with the twists, revelations and surprises. I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy retellings, "old world science fiction," and historical stories.


Rating:


4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!

Interested in the series? The reviews of the previous books can be found here:
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd



Friday, February 06, 2015

Review: Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Book Description:

Hardcover, 304 pages
January 27th 2015 by Poppy

While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Dianne + Pinoy Book Tours(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by Love, Lucy because it was set in Italy, one of the places I want to visit. I find the setting so romantic and genuine: the reader was transported to the picturesque landscape, breathing in the air of culture. I was not disappointed with Love, Lucy. It was as beautiful, and even more, as I expected it to be.

Lucy was an easy character to understand and adore. She was sweet and nice, considering the people around her and being cautious about her actions. But at the same time she was passionate about acting, about living in the moment and about love. Jesse was the American street musician. He was incredibly talented, expressive and intriguing. When Lucy fell in love with him, I had to admit that I fell in love with him, too. He wasn't the typical love interest. He was young, wild and free, living his life the way he wants to. He is not afraid to both think and be out-of-the-box. Jesse and Lucy's relationship could be likened to summer. It started with a spark and as the days passed, their connection to one another became brighter and hotter, until finally, it simmered down. 

What I liked about Love, Lucy was that it also highlighted Lucy's growth. From vacation flirtation, she went to university. I rarely get to read about college-based novels, so this was a welcome delight. Lucy went through what most freshman students go through. She was becoming more mature, making her own decisions, taking risks that are worth taking, and pushing through with what she really wants in life. 

Another thing that I liked about Love, Lucy was the theater. Lucy was an actress, so she had to go through auditions, rehearsals, the usual drama involved in theater. I really enjoyed reading about this, as it was one of my childhood dreams to act on stage. 

The writing was superfluous, as expected from April Lindner. She wrote in such a way that made me live in the moment, all senses included. To be honest, I was looking forward to a plot similar to Just One Day by Gayle Forman: girl meets boy during vacation and falls in love with him. It was the same in that aspect, but Love, Lucy was less intense - Lucy did not look for the one that got away. There were twists and turns, heart wrenching moments and all-the-feels simmering and slipping into the reader. 

Love, Lucy is a beautifully-written, atmospheric and all-the-feels-inducing contemporary romance. I highly recommend this to readers who enjoyed Just One Day by Gayle Forman and readers who like novels set in Italy, contemporary romance and coming-of-age stories. 

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love. I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!