Friday, October 17, 2014

Follow Friday #49


This is a meme hosted every Friday by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, where book bloggers answer a question each week and check out how others answered it. It's a cool way for bloggers and viewers to connect and learn more about each other!





This week's question:
Share the song you can’t stop listening to.via Journey Through Fiction


Skinny Lister is one of the best live bands I've ever seen (and I've been to over 500 shows in my day). They're amazing and talented and super sweet to everyone they meet. If you want to have the time of your life, go to one of their shows. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A BREATH OF FROST by Alyxandra Harvey

Rating: A-
Synopsis:
In 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their family lineage of witchcraft when a binding spell is broken, allowing their individual magical powers to manifest. Now, beyond the manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, an alluring underworld available only to those with power is revealed to the cousins. By claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the underworld. 

Now ghouls, hellhounds—and most terrifying of all, the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters—are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers. And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies. 

Can the cousins seal the gates before another witch is killed…or even worse, before their new gifts are stripped away?


My thoughts on the book:
A Breath of Frost is a cute and fun read. I love all of Harvey's novels, and this one isn't an exception. She has a terrific talent for painting a clear picture of a historic time period, making the reader feel as if he or she is living in that time period with the characters, but her books never come across as stuffy. The characters are relatable and complex, and the plot is detailed and intricate. This is the start of a great new series. 

This story is told in a Jane Austen-esque free indirect discourse point-of-view that alternates between characters. For the most part, the alternations occur chapter-by-chapter, and each chapter focused on a different character, but at times, the narrator would slip into another character's mind and let you know what he or she is thinking. I really enjoy Austen's work because of the narrative style, and Harvey also did well working with this unique point-of-view. Many authors can't make it work for them, but it definitely works in this novel. 

The main characters of the book are Emma, Gretchen, Penelope, Cormac, and Moira, with the focus mostly on Emma and Cormac. I really love each character, and they all have their own personalities. Emma is probably my favorite (though it's hard to pick just one), mainly because she creatively swears whenever she gets mad. A high bred lady during the Regency period shouldn't swear, and I adore how she throws out the rigid societal guidelines and does what she needs to do. Gretchen is a bit of a tom boy, and I hope I get to read more about her in the next novel. She seems like she'll be a fun character to get to know more. Penelope seems like a very sweet character. I assume the third book will be about her. She's is very different from the other two girls, much softer. She also doesn't subscribe to the rigid societal expectations, though. Cormac is a very brave, yet flawed character, and I absolutely loved getting to know him. He is a terrific leading male figure, and even though Emma isn't always aware of what he's doing, he always has her best interests at heart. Moira is a homeless orphan, and she also is a strong and interesting character. She is tough, but she has heart, too. I'm looking forward to learning more about her in the subsequent novels. 

The plot is intricate, and there is a lot going on. The big reveal surprised me, and that doesn't happen often. Harvey has created a complex world, but she explains everything in a clear and concise manner. There are no annoying info dumps. We learn about the world right alongside Emma, Gretchen, and Penelope. The pacing of the story is spot on, and even though the book is a bit on the long side (around 500 pages), I was never bored. I enjoyed every single page of this novel. The ending ties things up nicely while leaving room for the sequel. Thankfully there's no cliffhanger. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a paranormal twist. This is a unique novel, and the murder mystery plot will keep you on your toes. 

Buy A Breath of Frost today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway + Susan Dennard Interview!

Hey everyone! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I'm really excited to be hosting a giveaway to celebrate my favorite spooky day! Since this is a Halloween giveaway, and I can't think of many creatures that are creepier than zombies, my giveaway is going to be the winner's choice of a book from Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly trilogy and the e-novella, A Dawn Most Wicked. If the winner lives in the US/CAN, I'll also send you a signed bookplate to go in your book. Unfortunately I can't afford the postage to do that for my international friends.

Your Choice:

Synopsis:
There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Synopsis:
Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners and Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series, this spellbinding sequel to Something Strange and Deadly delivers a mix of supernatural forces and intense romance, set against the enchanting backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris.

With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and sees haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there's a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there's a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.


Synopsis:
In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

and

Synopsis:
Daniel Sheridan is an engineer’s apprentice on a haunted Mississippi steamer known as the Sadie Queen. His best friend–the apprentice pilot, Cassidy Cochran–also happens to be the girl he’s pining for … and the captain’s daughter. But when it looks like the Sadie Queen might get taken off the river, Daniel and Cassidy have to do whatever they can to stop the ghosts that plague the ship.

Fortunately, there happens to be a Creole gentleman on board by the name of Joseph Boyer–and he just might be able to help them...



My Interview with Susan Dennard:
Amber: How did you come up with the idea to mix zombies with steampunk? That's kind of different.
Susan: Should I talk into the mic? I knew I wanted to do Steampunk because I thought it was really cool, like the visual aesthetics. It turns out that writing Steampunk is a lot harder than making it visually cool because in a book you have to explain why you have all the spinning gears and all the cool stuff. So I quickly realized that it was going to be more Steampunk-light. It was a matter of finding a good time period. Most people do Victorian England, I wanted to do something that was American, just because I like it. I ended up finding the Centennial Exhibition, so that's why I decided to go with 1876. Through the course of researching the Exhibition, I just had this idea of, like, first of all what scares me the most is zombies. They scare me more than any other paranormal creature. Then this image of zombies crawling through the Centennial Exhibition, because the Exhibition was the Disney World of 1876. They basically made a miniature town of cool things to see. I just thought how disturbing and terrifying would that be? I guess my brain is not normal, but how disturbing and scary would that be? I thought if I was scared, then I could make the readers scared, too. So a story was born!
Amber: Do you outline your stories or do you free-write?
Susan: I'm a little bit of both. I do something called headlights outlining, which is where I sort of know my ending, so I'm kind of aiming toward it, but I only know, as far as specifics go, as far as my headlights can see. I know the next scene or two pretty specifically, then I kind of look ahead a little bit more. I'm aiming for a certain location, but I might not get there. The ending might change. I kind of let the story guide me to where it wants to go, but I really, really also let the characters guide me where they want to go because I find that if I try to force a plot to the characters, then it feels forced.
Amber: What kind of research did you do for the Strange and Deadly trilogy? The characters go to a lot of different places... did you visit them all?
Susan: Philadelphia was surprisingly the hardest for me to get to because I was living in Germany. I actually didn't get to Philadelphia until I was almost done with the book, and that was mostly to verify that I all of my facts right. For book two, Paris, my husband is Parisian, so that works out. His parents actually now live near Marseilles, so that made it easy to visit there. I also got to visit Egypt, but I did not go to Cairo of the pyramids. I was going to have the Spirit Hunters go to Luxor, which is where I got to visit, but story-wise that didn't make any sense, so I got the feel of Egypt without actually going where they went. 
Amber: Did you read historical documents to get down how they talked?
Susan: Yeah, I read a lot of primary documents, like diaries or guide books written at the time. I also did a lot of reading of novels written at the time. Henry James had a lot of books published in and around 1876 and did a lot of traveling in France, so I read a lot of his books. Mark Twain, when I was doing A Dawn Most Wicked novella, which is set on the Mississippi River, I read a lot of Mark Twain because he was at work on the Mississippi on a steamer. I got a feel for that kind of stuff by reading novels and memoirs of the time.
Amber: What can you tell us about your new series? 
Susan: It's fantasy. They've been pitching it as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, if you know those books. There's definitely magic. The first book, Truthwitch, follows a truth witch who can always tell truth from lie and her best friend, who is something called a thread witch, who can see the bonds that connect people. Unbeknownst to those girls, they are the chosen pair that is going to heal magic on their continent, but right now they're just trying to stay alive.
Amber: Yeah, that's important. With that one, is it going to be two points-of-view, between the two of them?
Susan: It's lots of points-of-view. There are four points-of-view in the first book. And there's also a sexy pirate! You have to have the sexy pirate's point-of-view, and the assassin monk I mentioned. You also need his point-of-view. So there are four points-of-view in the first book. I'm also doing some side novellas with other points-of-view with secondary, but important characters. It's a huge book.
Amber: Do you ever get stuck while writing, and if so, how do you get past the block?
Susan: I have a lot of links on that because this is something that I've spent a lot of time considering. I do get stuck a lot because I don't really outline and because I find that outlines don't work for me, I definitely get stuck. When I'm stuck, I tend to do two things. Either I write down a list of what I call my cookies, which are the things that I want to write in a scene because if I can figure out what makes me passionate about the story overall, I can figure out what would make me want to write the next scene. I know I got stuck in Truthwitch, and I didn't know what should come next. I needed to write a party scene, but I had no desire to write the party. Then I was like, "wait, if I put a sexy pirate in the party, then suddenly I do want to write this scene. Okay, that wasn't what I was thinking, but all right, let's figure this out." So, insert sexy pirate and the scene just fell out. Other times it's not that easy, it's a matter of not knowing that something was broken before. So what I'll do is go through and map out what I call my dominoes, which are sort of the emotional beats of each scene, leading up to the scene I'm in, and make sure that they're falling in a way that feels right. Is the character doing what the character really would do, or do I have her doing something wonky in a different scene. Often times that will lead me to the right spot. My last tip for when you're stuck is to figure out where all of your characters are and what they're doing. It's easy to get so focused on your point-of-view character that you lose track of what everyone else is doing at the same time. I'm really bad about that. So if you sit down, and you figure out where every single character is, fill in secondary characters' love interests, whatever, you might realize that whatever they're doing in the background will dictate what comes in your next scene, and that will help you unstick yourself. 
Amber: Do you consciously create strong female characters, or do you just write people who you would like?
Susan: There's always a different definition for a "strong" character, and Eleanor definitely comes into her strength. She's not a fighter or anything and she learns a lot from the people around her. The biggest thing she learns is to make her own choices. I don't know, I guess I always read books with strong female characters. That dictated what I wanted to read and wanted to write. I also read a lot of books where the women are just flat, or all of the characters are, and that is not what I want to write or want to read. I guess it just comes naturally. I don't want to read or write about flimsy people.

I'd just like to thank Susan again for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions. 

The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here to enter more giveaways!

Monday, October 13, 2014

GENERATION 18 by Keri Arthur

Rating: B
Synopsis:
A serial killer strikes every twelve hours. A vampire takes lives at random. At first glance, these tragic incidents seem unrelated. But Special Investigations Unit agents Sam Ryan and Gabriel Stern trace them both back to a military base known as Hopeworth. Is the murder spree part of a cover-up? And are the vampire killings less by chance and more methodical?
 
The investigation takes an eerie, personal turn when Sam discovers a connection between herself and the victims—and a clue to her own mysterious origins. With the violence escalating and the danger drawing closer to home, the stakes are raised and the mission changes from seeking justice to ensuring Sam and Gabriel’s own survival. And the one person who seems to hold all the answers—about Hopeworth, about Sam’s past—is a mystery man she isn’t sure she can trust. They share a psychic link through her dreams, and he once saved her life, but he may just be the greatest enemy humankind has ever known.


My thoughts on the book:
Generation 18, the follow-up to Spook Squad, is full of suspense. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more. As the secrets of Sam's past unraveled, I became more and more engrossed in finding out exactly what she is. Arthur did an excellent job of further describing the world she's created, and I could easily picture the settings and situations that the characters found themselves in. Speaking of characters, they all evolved as the novel progressed, and I really enjoyed learning more about Stephan and the rest of Gabriel's family. Sam and Gabriel's relationship irritated me a bit, but not half as much as it irritated them, I'm sure. The plot was fast-paced, and I never got bored. This was an excellent sequel.

Sam really started to take charge of her life in this book, and I admired her for it. She began the process of becoming an extremely active and dynamic character. She was a bit passive in the first novel, being more a victim of her circumstances than a proactive participant in her own life. I liked that she wanted more out of life and decided to try and build the life she felt she deserved. Gabriel's stubbornness annoyed the living crap out of me. He was really dense about things quite often, but it was obvious that he had a good heart... I still wanted to smack him, though. I hope he comes around in the next book. Stephan was a bit harsher than I expected. He's a cold and calculating character, and I'm not sure how I feel about him yet. I'm also interested in learning more about Joshua and what his role was in Sam's life. 

The plot was complex and mysterious. I enjoyed every page of this book because Arthur kept me on my toes. The introduction of Hopeworth and the shady government plots and secret weapons was a welcome change. Many Urban Fantasy novels follow the exact same formula and never delve too deeply into political workings, but this series definitely looks at how corrupt the government can be. I also liked that the author added a bit of a sci-fi twist to the paranormal by bringing up gene splicing and genetic coding. I can't wait to see where Arthur goes with that idea. The ending tied things up nicely, but left room for the sequel. There wasn't a cliffhanger, though, thankfully. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to fans of Keri Arthur's other novels and to people who are looking for an Urban Fantasy novel that's a bit different. These books are chockfull of action, mystery, and adventure. They're light on romance, like a lot of UF, but they more than make up for it with the intricate plot and vivid world-building. Give this series a try. You won't be sorry.

Order Generation 18

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WITCHRISE by Victoria Lamb

Rating: B-
Synopsis:
Only one witch can rise above the coming storm ...

When Tudor witch Meg Lytton receives an unexpected legacy - her mother's magical wand, ring and spellbook - she has no idea her future happiness is in danger. For the witchfinder Marcus Dent is back in her dreams, and he will use any weapon to gain her newfound powers for himself.

Now Meg must discover the secret of Invictus, her mother's magical ring. Summoned back to Hatfield, she knows a battle is coming. But Meg is no longer alone in her struggle against Dent. Surrounded by her friends, she faces her greatest challenge head-on: losing Alejandro, her beloved. For it seems the Spanish novice has been keeping secrets from them all.

Powers clash and hearts break in the spellbinding third book of The Tudor Witch Trilogy.


My thoughts on the book:
While Witchrise is a captivating and satisfying conclusion to the Tudor Witch Trilogy, it didn't quite live up to the previous two books, in my opinion. I did enjoy this novel immensely, and I feel that each character got an ending that suited them, but some bits at the end just fell into place too easily. Also, I don't feel that any of the characters grew quite enough, though I am happy that there were no personality changes to make the plot work or anything of that nature. Lamb's writing was exquisite as always, and her world-building was wonderfully done. For the most part, this book was an excellent ending to the series. 

Meg has always been a strong character, and she still held fast to her beliefs in this novel. However instead of coming across as strong, she sometimes came across as overly stubborn and bratty. There were a few times when I just wanted to tell her that sharing means caring. For the most part, she was still likable, though. Elizabeth never was my favorite character, and she didn't really blow me away this time, either. Lamb did a terrific job at creating a character that'd be similar to how Elizabeth would act, though. It's clear that the author did her research before starting this series. Alejandro was a good love interest throughout the entire trilogy, and I really enjoyed his interactions with Meg. Richard never proved as a believable opposing love interest to me. I just couldn't buy him being a threat to Alejandro. Marcus Dent definitely won the most annoying villain award in this book, but villains aren't supposed to be pleasant, so it worked. 

The pacing was a bit slow-moving at times, especially the first part at Meg's dad's house, but aside from Part 1, I was captivated for most of the novel. The world-building was extremely well done, and I got a clear understanding of the world that Lamb created. The setting descriptions were perfect. I felt like I was in Tudor England, both in the countryside and in London. The author really got the nastiness of medieval cities down in her descriptions, and I was glad that she didn't romanticize the past like many writers do. Some parts of the plot were just too convenient and felt forced, but mostly things flowed well. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who loves historic paranormal novels and/or the Tudors. This trilogy is an interesting take on life during that time period. 

Order Witchrise

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

WICKED PATH by Eliza Tilton Release Blitz!!

Wicked Path CoverCuriosity Quills is excited to announce the release of young-adult, epic-fantasy Wicked Path, by Eliza Tilton, which is book two in the Daath Chronicles. The amazing cover was designed by Michelle Johnson at Blue Sky Design.

About Wicked Path:

In Wicked Path: Book Two of the Daath Chronicles brother and sister are forced to opposite sides of Tarrtainya on a fast-paced adventure where the wildlife isn’t the only thing trying to kill them.

Three months have passed since Avikar defeated the Reptilian Prince, and he still can’t remember his battle with Lucino. On the hunt for answers, he returns to the scene of the fight and discovers a strange connection between his family’s dagger and the mysterious kingdom of Daath, and it seems only his distant father can reveal the truth behind it all.

Before Avikar can travel back home, Lucy assaults him in the market and forces him to flee to Nod Mountains—a place few dare to enter, and even less return from. With Raven and her childhood friend by his side, they must survive the treacherous journey through the pass with a vengeful Lucy hunting them. If they don’t, they’ll never see home again.

Jeslyn’s new life in Luna Harbor is the perfect remedy for her confused and broken heart. But when a group of mercenaries kidnap her beloved Grandfather, interrupting her daily routine as his jewelry apprentice, she's forced to join forces with the one person from her past she tried to forget.

And his assistance comes with a price.

Find Wicked Path Online:

Goodreads | Amazon US | amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

--

Eliza Tilton - Author PicAbout The Author:

Eliza graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing.

Her YA stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a hot romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull.

Find Eliza Tilton Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, October 6, 2014

SACRIFICE by Brigid Kemmerer

Rating: B+
Synopsis:
Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He's the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he's all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She's got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael's defiance, his family's 'bad luck'. Before he knows it, Michael's enemies have turned into the Merricks' enemies, and they're armed for war.

They're not interested in surrender. But Michael isn't the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?


My thoughts on the book:
This is probably my favorite book in the series, but it is also the most difficult to read. Kemmerer pulls out all the stops this time around, and she is super hard on Michael the whole way through. However, he grows for it, and the Merrick boys get an uncertain, but not depressing, ending. My one complaint is how Kensington put the novellas at the back of the book, leading me to believe that the novel was longer. Therefore, I didn't have an emotional connection to many of the situations because I thought they'd somehow rectify themselves in the end, not knowing that the end was like 3 pages away. Other than that, this book is fantastic, and I'd recommend this series to anyone who is looking for something real and gritty with a unique paranormal twist. 

Michael really blew me away in this novel. I felt so bad for him at times and other times I wanted to pummel him because he was so stubborn. His family and friends and frenemies put him in his place, though, and some of the characters who reappeared in this installment really surprised me. I enjoyed getting to know more about Tyler, and I was shocked that I didn't just flat out hate him (I always hate bullies). I figured if Michael could forgive him, then so could I, though. Also, Irish, a new character, was really interesting. I really enjoyed learning about him. I had his secret figured out pretty early on, but how it manifested still surprised me. I also liked watching Hannah's relationship with her father evolve. 

The plot was tough and gritty and full of action and suspense. Poor Michael could not catch a break. Kemmerer didn't pull any punches, and she showed her bravery as an author with many of the choices she made. As I previously stated, I felt a bit robbed of emotional responses to certain occurrences because my e-book said I was at 62%, so I thought things had time to work themselves out, but that is no fault of the author's. Also, Kemmerer dealt with the fact that racism and sexual harassment exist in the workforce, and more often that not, nothing can be done to stop it. The writing was spectacular, and the world-building and scene descriptions made me feel like I was there with Michael through all of this horror. The pacing was spot on, and this was an extremely quick read. The ending was uncertain, but it fit. I felt that the last scene kind of put a close to this part of the Merrick boys' lives. Things were still up in the air, but they'd all grown so much that it was time for the next parts of their lives to start. I was satisfied with the how things ended, though I was sad about one of the events. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and series. Kemmerer addressed some really important issues in this series, and I must commend her for creating books to deal with harsh realities such as bullying and racism She wasn't afraid to create a book to tell the story of Nick, a gay character (Breathe), which I commend her for. It was a beautiful story. She also didn't back down and made Adam, Nick's boyfriend, a big part of this book, which I loved. She dealt with teen pregnancy in Michael's girlfriend, Hannah, and racism by looking at the harassment that Irish encountered. Every story in this series is extremely important and speaks to larger problems that occur in today's society. Kemmerer is arguably one of the most important YA authors to grace the scene, and I can't wait to see what she writes about next. 

Order Sacrifice today!