Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Dark Debt

Chicagoland Vampires #11
Chloe Neill
Urban Fantasy
368 pages
NAL Trade
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A vampire never gets old. But neither do his enemies. When a figure from Ethan's dark past makes a splashy debut in Chicago, Merit and her Master don't know whether he's friend or foe. But they'll have to figure out soon, because trouble is brewing in the Windy City.

At an exclusive society soiree attended by the upper echelons of the human and supernatural worlds, Merit and Ethan barely stop the assassination of a guest. When the target turns out to be a shady businessman with a criminal edge, Merit suspects a human vendetta. But the assassins have fangs....

The connections to Chicago's Houses go deeper than Merit knows, and even one wrong move could be her last....

Dark Debt, the latest in the enormously entertaining Chicagoland Vampires series, sees Merit and Ethan further settling in to a stage in their relationship fans of the series likely never thought possible after the first couple installments, the two of them butting heads to such a degree it was impressive neither ended up concussed. While the build up of their romance was delicious in its tension, there’s something infinitely satisfying about the two of them as an established pair, and their utter togetherness is on full display in this newest installment.

Established couples can sometimes be tricky in terms of reader interest, the end of the chase often signifying the end of the aforementioned will they/won’t they tension, leaving us bereft of what attracted us to them in the first place. Ms. Neill proves, however, that couples secure in their feelings for one another can continue to be every bit as interesting–and even preferable for those of us who could do with a little less drama in romantic relationships–as the couples still trying to tentatively figure one another out. There’s a certain amount of comfort in the knowledge that while whatever Merit and Ethan face externally might be a powerful threat to their general happiness and well-being, it won’t be a threat to their relationship as a whole.

Dark Debt sees that exact situation come to fruition as a figure from Ethan’s past threatens to see history repeat itself in a way that will prove disastrous to all of Chicago, and Ethan in particular. Though his Maker finds a chink or two in Merit and Ethan’s romantic armor, the two of them remain steadfast in the certainty and safety they have in one another, bringing a smile to our faces as we delight in how far the two of them have come.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this series has always been the fact that despite Ethan being a Master vampire and far more powerful than the much younger Merit, she is the one defending and protecting him, throwing herself in harm’s way to prove that badassery isn’t something reserved only for the centuries-old. Ethan, for his part, does quite a bit of protecting of his own, but he always lets Merit fight the battles she needs to fight rather than seeking to stow her safely on the sidelines. The two of them together get stronger with each installment, and it here’s hoping we get to glory in their banter and their battles for many more books to come.

Rating: 4/5

Find Chloe:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Storyspinner Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

I couldn't be more excited to welcome author Becky Wallace to the blog today as part of the promotional tour for her new young adult fantasy release, The Storyspinner. I absolutely adored this book (my review will go up next week), it gave me a touch of romance, a sliver of magic, and a whole slew of characters who made me fall madly in love with them. I jumped at the chance to ask Becky a few questions about this world and those who inhabit it, so I hope you guys enjoy the interview. Don't forget to check the bottom of the post for a giveaway and the full list of participating blogs!

If you lived in this world and had no choice but to join a Performer’s troupe, what set of skills or hidden talent would you be able to put on display?

Ha! Great question! I would totally be a dancer. I trained for fifteen years as a competitive ballroom dancer. I can’t listen to samba music without busting out in bachacadas. My family totally loves the impromptu dance parties.

There’s always a lot of political maneuvering surrounding a seat of power. If you could transport yourself to any royal court in history to witness firsthand the machinations of those in a bid for power, which court do you think would be most fascinating?

As a Wallace, I have to don my tartan and defer to my Scottish heritage. It would be amazing, and slightly tragic, to have been a part of the uprising against King Edward I. I know Braveheart romanticizes the story, but there had to have been insiders, traitors, and spies, keeping tabs on both Wallace and the English usurper.

If Johanna was given the opportunity to interview you as part of the promotion for The Storyspinner, what’s one question you would be scared or uncomfortable answering about her story if she asked?

Without any spoilers, Johanna suffers a significant loss in the story—just thinking about it makes me cringe! If she asked me why this particular character had to die, I think I’d want to crawl in a hole and never come out again. I’m sorry, Johanna! I don’t blame you for hating me!

One of the highlights of any fantasy novel for me is the world itself. What is your favorite part of building a completely new world? Is there any one aspect of Johanna’s world that surprised you as you were creating it?

Building a world—stop for a second and think about that phrase—is amazing. It can be anything your imagination can conjure. But the truly great worlds are governed by reason.  If the sky is green, there has to be an explanation. If there are giant flesh-eating lizards, you have to create a habitat where those things can logically exist. A reader can only be pushed so far before the fantastical becomes the unbelievable. I like creating the rules my world is governed by, and then forcing myself to stick to them. 

The one aspect of Santarem, the country in which THE STORYSPINNER is set, that surprised me the most were all the nasty creatures. I am not a lover of toothy reptiles of any variety and yet I created a world full of them!! The next book I write is going to be completely nasty creature free. *shakes head* Not really.

If you were to give Johanna a short excerpt from book two with a sneak peek of what’s in store for her as this series progress, how might you describe the look on her face after she's done reading?

If she ever got over hating me for all the awful things I did to her in book 1, I hope she’d forgive me a little bit after she read book 2. Johanna faces incredible odds, but at least in book 2 she doesn’t have to surmount them alone.  ;)

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Becky!

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


In second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything except princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much).

Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she’s been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own real-life Prince Charming. They have four munchkins and live in happy little town near Houston, Texas.

Where you can find Becky:

• • • • • • • • • • • •


 Up for grabs today are 5 personalized copies of The Storyspinner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway open to US/Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
2/23/2015- IceyBooksInterview  
2/24/2015- I Heart YA FictionReview  
2/25/2015- Effortlessly ReadingGuest Post  
2/26/2015- Fiction FareReview  
2/27/2015- BookishInterview    
3/2/2015- Mundie MomsReview
3/3/2015- Owl Always Be ReadingReview
3/4/2015- Supernatural SnarkInterview
3/5/2015- Once Upon A TwilightReview
3/6/2015- Two Chicks on BooksGuest Post

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Interview: Jessica Khoury + Kalahari

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Jessica Khoury to the blog to answer a few questions about Kalahari, the latest release in her Corpus Files series. Books like this where the characters are forced into a survival situation always fascinate me, particularly because I'm a solid 93% sure I wouldn't be alive for long under the same circumstances, so I like to live vicariously through those who fare better than I would. I hope you all enjoy the interview!

I’m not sure I’d be great in any type of survival situation (understatement), but I think a desert environment would be particularly brutal. What type of environment do you think would present the most challenges for you personally? 

I'd probably struggle most in the Arctic. I love snow, but I am such a baby about the cold! Plus, being from the South, I'd have no idea how to deal with it. I'd pretty much be useless. And dead. Very dead.

*Jenny nods along knowingly* Ditto.

If you were part of Sarah’s group stranded in the Kalahari, aside from a virus-carrying silver lion, what type of predator would you most fear having to face? 

Gotta go with Indiana Jones on this one and say–snakes! Even though most of the snakes were hibernating while I was in Botswana doing research for the book, I was still on the lookout for them 24/7. Some of the world's deadliest snakes live in the Kalahari! And you don't even see them until it's too late! Yikes!

What’s one thing about survival training writing Kalahari taught you that you didn’t know before it? 

There is so much! But maybe the most important thing is Don't panic. When you panic, you make stupid decisions, and stupid decisions get you killed. Taking a few moments to breathe and settle your thoughts and emotions before moving forward can be the difference between life and death.

If Sarah could reach out and pluck one character from any piece of YA fiction to be a part of her group, who might she think would best increase their chances of survival? 

What a great question! Probably Bennet from Tamara Ireland Stone's Time Between Us, because he could just teleport everyone to safety! Teleportation would be immensely handy–maybe Corpus should work on that more, instead of manufacturing deadly viruses that could wipe out humanity. Silly Corpus.

If instead of a full synopsis you could only print three words on the back of the book to entice readers to pick it up, what three words would you choose? 

"Safari from hell." Haha!

Thanks so much for stopping by Jessica!

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…

But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Jessica Khoury wrote her first book at age 4, a fan fic sequel to Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur, which she scribbled on notebook paper, stapled together, and placed on the bookshelf of her preschool classroom. Since that day, she's dreamed of being an author.

When not writing, Jess enjoys spending time with family, playing video games, and traveling the world in search of stories and inspiration.

Jess currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina. She is the author of Origin, Vitro, and forthcoming Kalahari.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mini Reviews: Fair Game + Dead Heat

Alpha and Omega #3
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
293 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...

Fair Game highlights everything there is to love about mated werewolf pair Anna and Charles, their growth both individually and as a couple evident as the story unfolds, with the two of them finding once again that while strong apart, they’re nearly invincible together. Anna has come so far from the abused young woman Charles saved from the brutal whims of her former pack, now able to stand strong in the face of the alpha of all alphas in Charles’s father when all those around her are forced to their knees by his power. She’s lost nearly all her fear of dominant male wolves, beautifully confident in her own ability to make sure she never finds herself in the role of victim again.

Charles, for his part, is as magnificently protective as ever, the rules Anna gives those meeting him for the first time bringing a smile to our faces because we know just how necessary they are. While he’s quite stubborn in this latest installment, seeking to protect Anna from the things that haunt him day to day instead of letting her be a true mate in every way, he’s someone willing to admit when he’s wrong, and by the end we can feel additional layers of unbreakable steel threaded through their bond when he does so. Despite the dark grittiness of this world, Anna and Charles are what could be described as a comfort couple, two people we know are going to stand strong together against everything they face without letting petty drama and angst make a mockery of everything they’ve built.

Rating: 4/5

Alpha and Omega #4
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
336 pages
Available March 3rd
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire. 

Dead Heat continues the evolution of Anna and Charles as a couple and this supernatural world as a whole now that werewolves have been outed to the general public. The two of them, as always, are a delight together, his quiet intensity and unexpected sense of humor a beautiful match for the genuine warmth and light that shines from Anna as the shadows of her past slowly but steadily fade away. The way his very presence intimidates all those around him allows Anna to be the more social of the pair of them, her place as his mate as soothing and comforting to him as it is empowering for her, and there's nothing better for a reader than watching a beloved couple get stronger with every chapter of their story.

While the first couple installments were more a bit more relationship-focused, Anna's well-earned skittishness and the nightmares of her past things neither quickly nor easily overcome, Fair Game and Dead Heat both step up the supernatural mystery aspect of this series, dragging one terrifying case after another into the limelight. Though Anna and Charles's romance is the kind that would have us doing anything in our power to find our way into this world so that we might find a werewolf mate of our very own, Ms. Briggs masterfully portrays the dark with the light, showing us unflinchingly what a real monster looks like. The wait in between installments in this series is almost always painfully long, but we know without a doubt Anna and Charles (and Mercy and Adam!) will never disappoint, leaving us utterly satisfied just as they have every time before.

Rating: 4/5

Find Patricia:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Big Love Letter Event: Melissa Landers

Welcome to week four of The Big Love Letter Event! For those of you who missed the introductory post several weeks ago, this event will run every Friday through March 13th and will consist of love letters written by some truly amazing authors. Danny from Bewitched Bookworms and I will each be hosting different letters every week (hop over there today for a little something special from Paula Stokes!), so be sure and check out both blogs for a bigger and better celebration of all things swoon-worthy. We'll also be hosting a fantastic giveaway, so don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details, as well as links to all the previous love letters in case you didn't get to them!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Melissa Landers back to the blog to share with us a letter from Aelyx (he's a love letter first-timer!) to Cara, the–quite literally–starcrossed couple from her Alienated series. I have a bit of an Ohio theme going on with the event this year, with Kristen, Mindee, Melissa, Emery, and Sara all either currently living in or from Ohio, so I've been lucky enough to fangirl at all of them in person. Melissa was forced to endure my gushing during an interview last year, and thankfully I didn't scare her enough to make her want to run and hide when I approached her about participating. *pats self on back* If you haven't had the chance to read Alienated or Invaded yet, I hope you add them to your lists after reading Aelyx's letter!

Dearest Elire,

You might not believe this—or maybe you will—but I’ve never written a love letter before. Until now, there was no reason to. My heart has only ever belonged to you, and we both know that a pen and paper can’t compete with Silent Speech. But as much as I’d like to look into your eyes and show you how I feel, I can’t do that with multiple galaxies stretched between us. So for now, I suppose a note will have to do.

Gods alive, Cara, I miss you.

I miss the freckles on your cheeks, and the ones sprinkled across the bridge of your nose. I miss the way your eyes crinkle at the edges when you smile at me. I miss the scent of citrus in your hair and the sound of my name on your lips. I swear your presence is like a second sun, and without you, the air actually feels colder. (And trust me—winter in Manhattan is already miserable.) So wherever you are on L’eihr, please know that you are cherished.

I promise to mend this alliance as quickly as I can, and soon we’ll stand together on the shores of our colony and watch the stars, just like we did on board the transport. Our time apart is only a hiccup—you told me that once. I hope you still feel that way, and that you think of me every time you gaze at the night sky. You can’t see me, but I’m here. And I’m yours.

Much love,

These letters are brutal! *pounces on Aelyx and gives him a hug* Hopefully he and Cara find their way back to one another soon before I develop an ulcer from the stress of their separation ;-)

 • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Alienated #1

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.


• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Alienated #2

Cara always knew life on planet L’eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L’eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her.

Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L’eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L’eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L’eihr relations. Humans don’t know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx’s people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists’ multiple attempts on Aelyx’s life.

The Way clearly needs humans’ help . . . but with what? And what will they ask for in return?

• • • • • • • • • • •


Susan A. Abt Photography

Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives just outside Cincinnati and writes adult contemporary romance as Macy Beckett.

• • • • • • • • • • •


Danny and I have (what we think) is a pretty fabulous giveaway that will run for the entirety of this event with 5 winners in total when all is said and done:

  • Winners 1-4: Each will get a book of your choice from one of the participating authors. (Open internationally as long as Book Depository ships to you! )
  • Winner 5  : Hardcover copy of LAILAH by Nikki Kelley plus some awesomely cute swag (international ). Prize is provided by author - thank you so much!

Don't forget to check back both here and at Bewitched Bookworms every Friday in February for more letters and a whole lot more love from these fantastic authors:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Salt & Stone

Fire & Flood #2
Victoria Scott
Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Adventure
320 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
What would you do to save someone you love?

In Fire & Flood, Tella Holloway faced a dangerous trek through the jungle and across the desert, all to remain a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed for a chance at obtaining the Cure for her brother. She can't quit--she has to win the race, save Cody, and then fight to make sure the race stops before it can claim any more lives. In the next legs of the race, across the ocean and over mountains, Tella will face frostbite, sharks, avalanche, and twisted new rules in the race.

But what if the danger is deeper than that? How do you know who to trust when everyone's keeping secrets? What do you do when the person you'd relied on most suddenly isn't there for support? How do you weigh one life against another?

The race is coming to an end, and Tella is running out of time, resources, and strength. At the start of the race there were one hundred twenty-two Contenders. As Tella and her remaining friends start the final part of the race, just forty-one are left--and only one can win.

Salt & Stone is an action-packed follow up to last year's Fire & Flood, reintroducing us to the world and characters as they take a breather before beginning the third leg of the Brimstone Bleed, and then plunging us into the most perilous survival situations the contenders have faced yet. Ms. Scott does a fantastic job of seamlessly threading reminders as to the events of Fire & Flood–particularly the all-important “why” of the Brimstone Bleed itself–through this second installment, ensuring we’re up to speed without slowing things down with a full recap.

While the focus remains predominantly on the physical and mental challenges of the Bleed on the contenders, Salt & Stone also sees a significant shift in the relationship between Tella and Guy. For much of the first half the two are at odds, an offhand comment made by Guy causing Tella to question the way she’s run her race thus far and her ability to see it all the way through. The hot and cold nature of their interactions is frustrating at times, but just as we reach the point where one more change in mood from either of them is going to tip us over the edge, Tella decides to finally step up and use her words, cluing Guy in as to why things between them have changed. While Tella’s honesty doesn’t mend all their fences, it certainly removes a weight from our shoulders, freeing us from the tension of words unspoken.

The concluding chapters of Salt & Stone are one punch to the gut after another, and any animal lovers like myself should be aware that a number of scenes are brutal to witness, ratcheting up our hatred of those running the Brimstone Bleed to an entirely new level. We’re left on the final page as emotionally beaten and bruised as the contenders are, but Ms. Scott is considerate enough to leave us with a quiet moment that makes a smile break out even as we blink away tears.

Rating: 4/5

Find Victoria:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.