Tuesday, April 26, 2016

E-ARC: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: April 26, 2016 (today!)
Source of my copy: publisher
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology.
The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

As soon as I heard of The Star-Touched Queen I knew it was my kind of book and I was right. I absolutely LOVED it.

Right from the start I fell in love with the writing. It's beautiful and dreamy and poetic yet it's still very readable. I was admittedly worried about that going into The Star-Touched Queen because usually when a book's writing is described as "poetic" I immediately think "purple prose." But I had nothing to worry about. I found the writing to be very readable, and I was finding all of these beautiful quotes and highlighting like crazy on my Kindle. I know not everyone will gel with the writing, but I say give it a chance because it's very special--read the first couple of chapters to get a feel for it before deciding whether it's for you or not.

The Star-Touched Queen is based on the Persephone and Hades myth, mixed with Beauty and the Beast elements. Set in an Indian royal court, complete with harems and the conniving wives of the Raja, Princess Mayavati was shunned and feared by everyone because of her cursed horoscope that promised death. But, she's fine with people staying away from her because she got to do what she wanted. She spends her days giving her cowering tutors the slip and instead reading the books she wanted to read. She had the run of her father's court and found a way to secretly listen in on her father's meeting with his councilors. And most importantly, since her horoscope promised a cursed marriage, no one wanted to marry Maya and she's not forced to enter into a political marriage like her half-sisters. She thought she'd escape that fate until her father announced that she must choose a husband and sacrifice her life to save her country from war. But, on the night of her wedding, a mysterious suitor named Amar, whisked her off to his castle and Maya found herself in a different kind of adventure.

I loved Maya's character right away. She's an outsider at her father's court and had this stand-offish shell--but who wouldn't living with the vicious, conniving wives in the harem? I felt protective of her right from the beginning, because beneath her shell was a vulnerability and I just felt for her. I also love Amar--he's mysterious and sexy and he kept his distance but I fell for him along with Maya. I also enjoyed the relationship that grew between them. They're both complex, perfectly flawed characters, and I wanted to spend more time with them. I really, really wish this is not a standalone novel. I know the author is writing a companion novel so I can't wait for that!

I love this book to bits, but the reason why I didn't give it a full five stars is because of the romance. I admit that the main draw for me initially was that I was hoping to read another epic romance like Shazi and Khalid's in The Wrath and the Dawn. Ever since reading Wrath, I've been searching for another read-alike that will make me swoon and fall in love and The Star-Touched Queen didn't quite live up to my romantic expectations. I do love The Star-Touched Queen as it's own story, of course, and the romance between Maya and Amar was lovely in its own way. Just don't go expecting Wrath romance epic-ness like I did.

I recommend The Star-Touched Queen to everybody. Even though the romance didn't live up to my expectations, it's still an amazing [debut] novel and such a beautiful story. I can't wait for more from Ms. Chokshi. She's an author to watch.

Monday, April 25, 2016

E-book: 162 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Release Date: May 9, 2016 (reissued)
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Rose Hill #2
First introduced in Julie Garwood's magnificent New York Times bestseller For the Roses, the Clayborne brothers of Blue Belle, Montana, have been embraced by millions more through this trio of #1 bestselling novels. Now collected in one volume for the first time, these stories tell of three spirited brothers -- once a mismatched gang of street urchins -- who learn that love flourishes in the most unexpected places....

One Pink Rose
Headstrong Travis takes a journey that opens his eyes to the splendor of his beloved West -- and his heart to Bostonian Emily Finnegan.

When I was contacted to read and give my thoughts about The Clayborne Brides I jumped at the chance. I first discovered romance novels when I was 14 years old and my favorite to read were historical romances--Johanna Lindsey, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Catherine Coulter, and of course Julie Garwood were my go-to faves. 

I read For the Roses back then (the novel before the Clayborne Brides novellas), but I didn't get to read Travis, Douglas, and Adam's stories (I think because my public library didn't have them). I am so happy I got to remedy that because reading One Pink Rose, One White Rose, and One Red Rose was a treat. The stories brought me back to those long ago days when I'd rush through my homework so I could get back to my historical romance novel hidden under my pillow. And since these are set in Montana in the late 19th century they suited my perfectly--I love Western historical romances.

I'm going to share my thoughts about each novella and if they interest you read on because Pocket Books is rereleasing each novella in e-book format starting in May and the next two months thereafter (scroll below my review for more info about the rereleases).

A Bit of Background
If you didn't know, the Claybornes are not biological siblings. Con man Travis, pickpocket Douglas, runaway slave Adam, and gunslinger Cole met as young boys in New York City. They protected each other from older gangs, but became a family when they found a baby girl (Mary Rose) abandoned in an alley and decided to take care of her together. They headed west, and settled in Montana Territory. Many years later they were joined by Adam's biological mom Mama Rose, but she's a mother figure for all the men. After Mary Rose got married (her book is called For the Roses--correct me if I'm wrong, but I vaguely remember there being a Hallmark made for TV movie based on the novel with a young Jennifer Garner playing the role of Mary Rose), and Mama Rose turned her matchmaking attentions on the men starting with Travis.

One Pink Rose
One Pink Rose is Travis and Emily's story. Emily was jilted at the altar after ex-fiancé ran off with her sister. Humiliated and angry, she rashly agreed to move to Montana and marry a man she exchanged letters with but never met named Clifford O'Toole. But, O'Toole lived in the backwoods of town and she needed an escort to get there. Enter Travis Clayborne. Travis thought Emily was out of her mind agreeing to marry a man she doesn't love, let alone never met. But, he decided to help her anyway as a favor to his Mama Rose (the brothers' adopted mother) and they bickered their way through the wilderness all the while falling for each other.

This one was my least favorite of the three novellas. It was a fun read overall and I liked it, but I just didn't enjoy it as much as I did the other two novellas. Emily came off as overly silly and childish in her stubbornness and impulsiveness. Some of the things she said and the way she acted, she sometimes came off like a silly 13-year-old. I mean, I was never annoyed by her and she kind of endeared herself to me halfway through the story because she had that sweet innocence about her, but at the same time she wasn't going to survive long in the wilderness of Montana with the way she was acting and her attitude towards certain things. She redeemed herself though in the end because she came through for Travis.

As for Travis, he wasn't my favorite brother, but I liked him okay. Before he met Emily, in the beginning of the novella, there was this long scene with all four Clayborne brothers and their brother-in-law Harrison and they were having this long, manic conversation about four different things at once and whoa--Harrison who commented on how the brothers like to include irrelevant facts as a way to confuse him so he doesn't question their motives. It was done to set the story arc of a mysterious law man named Daniel Ryan, who will play a part in each novella, and that whole scene set the tone for the brothers' relationship, which was nice to start with and see--some of my favorite scenes in the novellas are the ones with the brothers together. I liked how Travis called out Emily on some of her silliness. Travis and Emily were well-matched, and I enjoyed their story overall.

Get ready for wedding season Clayborne style!

Pocket Star E-books will be releasing Julie Garwood's three stories of the Clayborne brothers a la carte as separate e-books. One Pink Rose will be out on May 9th and will cost $1.99. It will be followed by One White Rose on June 13th ($2.99) and One Red Rose on July 11th ($2.99).

Monday, April 11, 2016

ARC: 264 pages
Publisher: Putnam
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Rebel Belle #3
From the New York Times bestselling author of Hex Hall comes the sparkling finale in the beloved Rebel Belle series.

Just as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark's battle-ready Paladin, protector, and
girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenaged girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that
Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from. Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town, which means her life is on the line yet again.

Now, it’s a desperate race for Harper to find and rescue David before she backslides from superhero to your garden-variety type-A belle.

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins brings the fun once again in the finale of this pitch-perfect romantic paranormal comedy series.

After the cliffhanger ending in Miss Mayhem, I was so happy to have Lady Renegades on hand. Immediately after finishing Miss Mayhem jumped right into it and overall Lady Renegades was a fun ride and a good conclusion to the series.

Lady Renegades opened with a prologue in David's perspective. He's somewhere in Mississippi now, he's suffering from terrible headaches and nightmares, and his powers were unstable. Two months have passed since David left town, and Harper was spending her summer vacation before their senior year as a lifeguard with Bee. With David gone, she finally had that normalcy she's wanted since all the craziness started in Rebel Belle, but she's bored and worried about David even though she's trying to push thoughts of him from her mind. 

One night after work Harper was attacked by an unknown girl who said David sent her to kill Harper. The girl had Paladin powers and Harper realized that David must have turned this girl into a Paladin.  But, during the fight Harper's Paladin powers suddenly stopped working and if it wasn't for Bee, she would've been killed.

So, yeah, all that happened by the second chapter. Lady Renegades was kind of a roller coaster read for the most part. There were some twists that I didn't quite expect and some that I was able to predict, but I was immersed in the action and all the craziness going on. There were some parts that dragged, like Paladin girls who kept coming after Harper got kind of annoying. Of course, we get Harper's trademark Southern belle sass, which I loved. There were some new characters introduced here, but an old character made a reappearance.

One of my favorite thing about the book was all of the girl power with Harper, Bee, and Blythe. Yes, Blythe from Rebel Belle is back and she played a major role in this book. She was the only one who knew to help David, so Harper and Bee had no choice but to work with her. I really like Blythe here, which was a complete turnaround from Rebel Belle where I disliked her because she messed things up for Harper and David. I really enjoyed the friendship that formed between Harper, Bee, and Blythe and how they were on this road trip together to find David. Road trip books are the BEST and it was really fun here.

And unlike the first two books in the series, the book switches to David's POV (in third person) several times, which was good because if it didn't he would hardly be in the story at all. But, the poor guy was just off and this meant that we didn't get much of Harper-and-David moments. This was a real bummer because they're my favorite couple in the series and we didn't nearly get enough scenes with just the two of them in Miss Mayhem. I was hoping we'd get that in this book, but alas. Heck, I'll even take them bickering with each other.

Overall, Lady Renegades was a fun read and the ending was... well, it would've been nice if we got a little bit more (maybe a one year later epilogue?), but it was fairly satisfying. I enjoyed the entire series overall--it was entertaining, action-packed, with the kind of snarky, sassy character I love in Harper and even in Blythe. I loved that it was set in the South--it was really fun reading some of the characters' dialogue aloud in a [very awful] Southern accent. Actually, having read this series and Ms. Hawkins's previous paranormal series Hex Hall, I find that I enjoyed this series a lot more. This series was less clunkier and more polished in terms of plot development in the overall story arc of the entire series, and we still got the author's signature humor and wit that I loved so much in the Hex Hall series.

Now that all the books in the Rebel Belle series are out, I suggest you get your hands on the entire series so you can marathon them. Each book reads really quickly and you can breeze through the entire series in a couple of days. If you enjoy light YA fantasy with lots of humor, light romance, and kick-ass girl power, I highly recommend the Rebel Belle series. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

ARC: 339 pages
Publisher: Forever Romance
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Cedar Ridge #3
After an overseas mission goes wrong, Army Special Forces officer Jacob Kincaid knows where he must go to make things right: back home to the tiny town of Cedar Ridge, Colorado. All he needs to scrub away his painful past is fresh mountain air, a lakeside cabin, and quiet solitude. But what he discovers is a gorgeous woman living on a boat at his dock.

Sophie Marren has nowhere else to go. She’s broke, intermittently seasick, and fighting a serious attraction to the brooding, dishy, I’m-too-sexy-for-myself guy who’s now claiming her dock. Something about Jacob’s dark intensity makes her want to tease—and tempt—him beyond measure. Neither one wants to give any ground . . . until they realize the only true home they have is with each other.

After reading Second Chance Summer (book 1) and My Kind of Wonderful (book 2) I was very curious about Jacob Kincaid, the missing Kincaid sibling and twin brother to Hudson (the hero in MKoW). We finally get to meet him in Nobody But You.

Jacob Kincaid is back in Cedar Ridge, but he didn't quite know how to face his half-siblings and especially his twin brother Hudson who he had a huge fight with before leaving town nine years ago. Sophie Marren is recently divorced and living in a boat that used to belong to her ex-husband. She was miserable, seasick, and broke. The last thing she needed was some hot, sexy alpha telling her that she couldn't park moor her boat on his dock. 

There was insta-attraction between Jacob and Sophie, but neither were looking for a relationship. They decided that while Jacob was in town, they do a friends-with-benefits kind of thing. But Jacob found in Sophie someone light, funny, and saw the glass half-full--his opposite in a way because he's currently in a dark place. Sophie, who her family always saw as flighty, found in Jacob someone who believed in her and saw her strength and how hard she worked. I loved how well-matched Jacob and Sophie were and how they really complimented each other. They definitely had chemistry. One of my favorite scenes was when they were drinking scotch and playing three truths and a lie, and I wish we had a little more of those kind of playful yet intimate scenes early on because I felt that most of their scenes before the 60% mark felt a little too hurried, with Sophie often running off to one of her temp jobs or driving her boat elsewhere, with Jacob wondering where she moored her boat for the night. 

Like in the first two Cedar Ridge novels, my favorite scenes involved the Kincaid clan, and we got to see the siblings in action here, bickering, giving each other a hard time, and loving and supporting each other. I love all of the scenes between them, especially all of the siblings were in the same room. I also loved Hudson and Jacob's scenes with their mom Carrie, who had dementia and thinks her fully grown sons were still young boys. Of course, there was tension between Jacob and Hudson--what Jacob did was not something easily forgiven and forgotten and after reading Hudson's book I saw where he was coming from. But, I felt sorry for Jacob, who felt like an outsider in his own family. 

Jacob and Sophie had some issues to work out that added conflict to the plot but ultimately in terms of character and plot, Nobody But You was very predictable, but that's absolutely fine with me. I wanted an uncomplicated contemporary romance that is well-written, that I can read over the weekend, and that will leave me happy and satisfied and Jill Shalvis did not disappoint. Nobody But You was a comfort read--it had everything I love in a contemporary romance: a small town setting, a likable heroine, an alpha hero, family shenanigans, funny one-liners, and just the right amount smexyness. Sometimes you need that kind of easy, light, fun read, and that is exactly what I got with Nobody But You.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

My Intimidating TBR Pile Book Tag

Monday, March 28, 2016 with
Hello everyone,
As my spring break is winding to a close, I find myself looking at all the books I was planning to read this week, but didn't get a chance to pick up. Therefore, The Intimidating TBR Book Tag (created by Lindsey Rey) is best at highlighting some of the books I still need to read.

What book have you been unable to finish?
I started All the Light We Cannot See last year around the time it was released. I bought the e-book and the audiobook because I wanted to simultaneously following along with the words with the audio--my favorite way of audiobooking. I got to about a thirdy, but I stopped because I went on a trip, then another trip (where I actually met the author and got a physical copy signed), and I never picked it back up either on audio or my hardcover copy.

The story was intriguing, but it's historical fiction, which is a genre I hardly reach for. There just seem to always be other, more interesting books to read. It doesn't help that All the Light We Cannot See is not the kind of book you rush through and can read quickly.

What book have you yet to read because...

...you just haven't had the time?
I picked up an early copy of Illuminae last year at the ALA conference in San Francisco and I'm dying to read it, because it promised to be a different kind of reading experience. But I just can't find the time. Urgh!

...it's a sequel?
I read Keeper of the Lost Cities last year and I loved it (gave it 5 out of 5 stars!). I don't know why I haven't picked up its sequel Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile yet.

...it's brand new?
Rebel of the Sands is my newest [physical] addition to my bookshelf--it came about a week ago with my Uppercase subscription. I'm really digging books with a Middle Eastern flair, so I'm hoping to pick this one up soon. Also, how gorgeous is that cover?! I'm in love.

...you read a book by the same author and didn't enjoy it?
I read The Scorpio Races about four years ago, and while I recognized it as a beautiful, well-written novel, I personally found it to be slow and boring and it took me almost two weeks to read. From reading reviews about Stiefvater's novels, beautifully-written-but-slow-paced seem to be her style. I prefer my YA reads to be fast-paced and written in a readable prose that will take me a couple of days to read. This is why I haven't picked up The Raven Boys yet, despite owning all the books in the series.

...you're just not in the mood for it?
I was going to pick up Miss Mayhem during spring break, but I wasn't in the mood for it. It is on top of my TBR pile though, since I am part of the Lady Renegades blog tour in April because, you know, I have to read Miss Mayhem before I can pick up Lady Renegades.

...it's humongous?
I LOVED The Final Empire, but all the books in this entire series are CHUNKSTERS. I really want to read The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, but I need a few days without work and without any review books getting in the way so I can solely dedicate my time to them.

...because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?
The cover and the fact that I was in my ice dancing obsession thanks to the 2014 Winter Olympics--I was shipping Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hard. I wanted to read about a skating couple and The Boy Next Door seemed to fit the bill. I started reading the first chapter and I couldn't really get into it, and them I read a bunch of lukewarm reviews so my interest in it waned.

What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?
I follow A LOT of Booktubers who loves this series, and it sounds like something I am going to love too. I've been collecting the all books in the series in anticipation that I will love it, but I have really high expectations for it thanks to all the glowing reviews I watched. I'm intimidated because I have to read four big books to catch up with everyone, but also I am nervous it won't live up to my expectations, I won't like them as much, and I bought these books just for them to gather dust on my bookshelf.

Who do you tag?
Everyone! But especially if you also have an intimidating TBR pile.

What are your answers to some of these questions? Do you have similar books as I do on my TBR pile? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Happy reading,

Friday, March 25, 2016

ARC: 320 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Keepers' Chronicles #2
Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.

As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans… Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.

And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?

With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.

The Skylighter was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2016 and I was lucky enough to receive an early copy back in December. I meant to read it sooner, but my job, life, and an unfortunate book slump all kept me from picking it up as soon as I got it in my hands. I finally started reading it a few days ago and I am so glad I had my spring break week to just read it slowly and savor it. It was so wonderful being back in Santarem with Johanna, Rafi, Pira, Leao, Dom and the others I've grown to love in The Storyspinner. The Skylighter was an excellent follow-up and conclusion to The Keepers' Chronicles duology and I give it 

The Skylighter picked up right where The Storyspinner ended. After the big fight at the end of The Storyspinner, our two main groups of characters, the Keepers (magical) and the humans (non-magical) fractured and in The Skylighter we had three main plot lines that all came together in the end for the big, explosive battle.

First, we have Johanna and Rafi who were trying to get to Donovan's Wall in order to save it. They eventually meet up with Jacare. I loved Johanna and Rafi and I was shipping them hard in The Storyspinner and they were great here as well. They admitted their feelings for each other in the previous book, but there was tension here partly thanks to Jacare--not in the romantic sense, no worries, but to do with each of their responsibilities to their people. This made me dislike Jacare a bit, but he came through for them in the end. Oh you guys, my heart broke for Jacare--not going to say why, but it was so bittersweet.

Then, there's Pira who was captured by Vibora, who worked for the crazy, essensia-stealing Sapo. Sapo wanted to enslave all the humans and Keepers to take over Santarem. Leao eventually catches up to her to dire consequences. I was also shipping Pira and Leao in The Storyspinner. I felt so sorry for Pira with all the torture she went through under Vibora's control, but she's such a badass anyway. Leao was still his sweet self, and I wish we got more scenes with just him and Pira. But their story line was open enough that hopefully they will get their own book or novella in a spin-off series--there's a lot the author can do with these two in a spin-off.

And, finally, there was Dom who stayed in Santiago. With his older brother Rafi gone, Dom had to step up and take huge responsibilities he's unprepared for as the younger son and come up with a plan to defend Santiago against an attack from treacherous dukes who had their own agenda of taking over the entire Santarem. But, a spy for the other side kept leaking all of Dom's plans. He had to work together with Mirabelle, a daughter of one of the dukes and someone he's not 100% sure he can trust despite her assurances that she's on his side. 

Dom's was actually my favorite story line. The other two were very interesting, but I couldn't wait to get back to Dom and what's going on in Santiago. I loved seeing Dom grow from a carefree second son to a leader. I also love his growing relationship with Mirabelle, who was hands-down the most interesting character in The Storylighter. She was smart, sly and clever, and, like Dom, I didn't fully trust her because while she tells Dom things, she doesn't reveal everything. I love her so much that I was shipping her with Dom, even though he had a sweet thing going on with Brynn, one of the maids who was also his childhood friend. Dom and Mirabelle didn't really like each other but she's his best bet in uncovering who the spy was. And like Pira and Leao, Dom and Mirabelle's story was left open in a way that begged for their own book so that we can explore their relationship a little bit more and tie a few loose ends with the conflict among the duchys of Santarem.

The Skylighter was everything I wanted in a sequel. It was exciting and fast-paced, with all of my favorite characters back in action, and set in a well-crafted world where magic exist. Now, the magic system isn't as intricate as in other fantasy novels, but it works and I do wish we got to explore more of it. The romantic tension between some of the characters was excellently done, but the romance didn't take over the story. The Skylighter was such a fun adventure and all three story lines were fully fleshed out and gripping in their own way, and even though Dom's was my favorite, I was never sad to leave one and jump into another. There were some twists, but they didn't really come as a surprise to me (except for the one that had to do with Brynn) but that didn't really take away my enjoyment of the story. The author did such an amazing job making sure the reader never lose sight of the characters' goals despite the multiple story lines and a large cast of characters. The Storyspinner and The Skylighter are must-reads for YA fantasy fans. I absolutely LOVED this duology.

And, okay, so while Rafi and Johanna's story came to a satisfying conclusion, I think the author left things open enough for Pira and Leao and Dom and Mirabelle. I am not ready to leave Santarem yet, so here's hoping there will be more books in the near future.

Bonus: The Skylighter includes a map of Santarem, which was really helpful in following all of the characters' adventures.