Furyborn by Claire Legrand

2018 really is the year of great books. Every book I pick up seems to be my new favorite, and Furyborn is no exception.

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Title: Furyborn (The Emporium Trilogy #1) {512 pages}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Summary:

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

Review:

I think I’ve said this before, but there was a time last year where I was burned out on the same old YA fantasy story. I wanted something new, something fresh, something exciting. I didn’t it know it then, but what I wanted was this story.

Rielle and Eliana are badass. There is no other word for them. Rielle, a close friend of the royal family of Celdaria, must stand by while the love of her life Audric marries their best friend Ludivine. But that doesn’t stop Rielle from saving Audric’s life, and in the process, outing herself as one of the two possible queens of a prophecy. Rielle has to pass a series of tests to prove that she is the Sun Queen, the good queen, and not the Blood Queen, the one that will bring death and destruction. As she goes forward in these tests, she is aided by her friends and a voice which only she can hear, a voice of a creature named Corien, a creature that could be her downfall.

Eliana is a trained assassin who works for her kingdom, all so she can keep her family clothed and fed. She must shut down her heart in order to fulfill her duties, and that makes Eliana, in simple terms, one tough cookie. When her mother is kidnapped – one among many – Eliana sets out to get her back, making a pact with the dangerous Wolf, an elusive figure with his own seedy reputation. Eliana and her younger brother Remy must quickly figure out who to trust and who to fight if they ever want to see their mother again.

I’m going to be honest: the link between the two women is pretty immediately known, although the rest of their backstories is not. I think I figured out who they were within the first couple of chapters, but that didn’t stop me from devouring this book. It’s not about who Eliana is, or her connection to anyone, but the journey these two young women must go on before they can understand themselves. There might also be some sexiness during their journey, and that’s just something that they’re going to have to deal with.

And, oh, boy, do these women deal with it.

Since we’re talking about sexiness for a moment: the honesty in the book is refreshing. Rielle and Eliana have lovers, and the sex scenes are kind of explicit, and as weird as it sounds, it was nice to read. I’ve never been one for the fading out sex scenes, or the ones where it ends with a coy smile and a wink. We know what’s going to happen next, and if the scene gives us more insight in the relationship between the two characters, then go for it. Audric and Rielle are hot, and by the end, I knew I needed more than just a chaste kiss or two between them. Eliana believes she has no heart, but that doesn’t stop her from falling into bed with her hot assassin friend Harkan. She’s honest with what they are about, and neither of them are expecting more.

It’s fresh and new and that’s terribly sad to think about.

These women are fighting for their lives against crazed men who have nothing better to do with their lives than put women through trials and tribulations. Rielle has a legitimate excuse to kill every man around her, and Eliana doesn’t wait for the excuse. I mean, sign me up, right? These two are amazing, and it only makes sense that there’s going to be a hundred books about both of them. Oh? No? Well, I guess I’ll have to live with three.

You have exactly one week to pre-order this and then wait at your mailbox for it to come. Seriously, that’s how good this book is. You honestly won’t even care that you missed school/work/graduation/your own wedding for this book.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

The weather has gotten ridiculously warm, and I guess this is the part where I make a cute joke about things heating up outside and in my reading realm. But really, warm weather sucks and The Favorite Sister decidedly does not.

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Title: The Favorite Sister {384 pages}

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Summary:

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.

And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.

Review:

To say that I didn’t like any of the Goal Diggers wouldn’t be enough. None of them were good people, none of them had any redeemable qualities, and all of them made for good TV.

Because of their lack of likeable personalities, I want to concentrate on the questions this novel raises, mainly about feminism, the morality of lying, and reality television.

The purpose of the show Goal Diggers is to give young businesswomen a platform to establish themselves and their businesses. Ideally, the women work together, support each other, and boost each other up in something like a feminist Shark Tank. Stephanie is the only one to question how feminist Goal Diggers really is, because the show also thrives on putting these women in dramatic situations. They cannot boost each other up in these conditions, Stephanie believes. But this is exactly when we should be supporting each other the most. Brett and Jen are in the same industry – health – and they are at each other’s throats. I understand competition {TRUST ME} but in this world, in this climate, shouldn’t we women be helping each other out? Now, if there are women out there supporting people or an agenda that goes against women {side-eyeing the US Government right now}, then maybe we should band together and figure out what to do.

In a perfect world, right?

Speaking of perfect worlds, let’s jump into lying and morals. Spoiler alert: everyone lies in this book. Some are little white lies, while others could destroy the Goal Digger world. But every character believes she is lying for the god of someone – or something – else. All these lies to is create more problems and drama both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. But it’s not the drama that caught me. It was the ease and normalcy with which they all lied. Our society has become one where we all encounter a lie – or many – on a daily basis. These women lied for many reasons: fame, family, love. But their lies came so easily and frequently that when one finally started telling the truth, she was branded the crazy bitch.

It hit a little too close to home to be funny.

That’s the perfect segue into reality television. Look, I am not immune to the charms of reality TV. I love Cops. But while all that show does is make me want to catch some bad guys, shows that we actually think of when someone says reality TV can be a bit more harmful. Brett, Jen, Lauren, and Stephanie admitted that they became hideous people because they were determined to stay on Goal Diggers. They knew what the audience wanted and they gave it to them. I don’t know when everyone decided that they wanted to be famous, but those people are terrifying. But what happens after you finally get that reality show? What happens when everything of yours is suddenly laid out for the entire world to see?

You better have a great puppet master like the Goal Diggers do.

All of this is to say: I liked this book. Any book that gets me going like this is either really good or really terrible. Thankfully, with The Favorite Sister, it’s the former. This is definitely going to be one of those books that makes you think long and hard after reading the last word, but it’s going to be worth it, I promise. Stick with the horrible people and the situations they put themselves in. You might even discover a few things about yourself along the way.

Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly deVos

Happy May, my lovely book nerds! Are we sick yet of Justin Timberlake telling us it’s going to be May? Maybe I should have ended that question after Timberlake. But today is not about Timberlakes or overused memes! Today is about fat girls and skinny girls and what happens when those girls are the same girl.

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Title: Fat Girl on a Plane {304 pages}

Genre: Young Adult

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

FAT.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat too fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.

SKINNY.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?

Review:

Fat Girl on a Plane is one of those stories that lives hidden deep down in my heart. Every time I get on a plane, every time I’m sure the belt won’t buckle, every time I cross my legs as tightly as I can so I don’t bother the person next to me, this story gallops through my veins like a thousand wild horses. Now, I’m not as big as Cookie, so I don’t understand the daily harassment she goes through, but I get the gist of it. Mostly because, like Cookie, the worst of the worst comes from myself.

But Cookies “turns her life around,” as the saying in celeb magazines goes. She loses weight – the “right way” – and believes that everything is going to be okay. So it comes as a complete surprise to her that skinny people have just as many problems as fat people {shock, I know}. Not only does her best friend not drop his obnoxious and cruel girlfriend, but Cookie is still being ignored by her supermodel mother and stabbed in the back by those people who promised to help her. Cookies has to grow up a little and realize that she can still have everything she wants, even if she’s not a size six. At the risk of sounding like a Disney movie, Cookie could have achieved her dreams all along.

This book felt a little like a Disney movie, except, well, with some sexy scenes involving Cookie and the extremely handsome designer Gareth Miller. Cookie lives in rags most of her life. Well, no, cut that. She lives in Cookie Vonn originals, clothing she has made because, as all of us plus-size girls know, clothing out there for us sometimes really sucks. But Cookie perseveres and does things her own way, and even then she gets shunted aside for skinny, rich Kennes Butterfield. Kennes takes the high school by storm and tries to get Cookie under her thumb.

You can guess how Cookie takes that.

Now skinny, Cookie lives out her dreams and fantasies, believing that now that she can comfortably fit into a plane seat, her entire life will be sunshine and rainbows. But life still sucks sometimes, no matter what size you are. You can either let it consume you, or you can fight back and make your mark.

You can guess what Cookie chooses.

The story is sweet, the message even sweeter, and the ending the sweetest. Cookie is ferocious and strong, and she makes mistakes all over the place, making her even more real. The icing on the cake is Piper, Cookie’s best friend that she met at fat camp. Piper is the president and CEO of “giving no fucks,” and she is truly a sight to behold. I didn’t enjoy Piper’s boyfriend story, but I got why the loser was there. Still, if I could have thrown Brian and Kennes into rushing waters, I would have. In a heartbeat. Does that make me a bad person? No, because they were both terrible people and I’d be doing this world a favor.

Oh, let’s toss Gareth and Tommy in there, too, because Cookie doesn’t need them in her life, either.

This story is all too relevant right now. And this is only one example of the kind of this kind of discrimination. I don’t know when it happened that people started to classify fat people as different. It’s disgusting and wrong, and not only that, but it’s mean. Fat Girl on a Plane reminded me how mean people can be to those who are different from them, and I cried steadily throughout the fat parts of Cookie’s story. So, if you take anything from this, please let it be this: read this book, challenge you way of thinking, and remember to always be kind. That is definitely something that this world could use a little more of.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

Okay, people, listen up! Today I’ve got a doozy for you, so we’re just going to jump right into the dark, choppy waters.

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Title: Social Creature {320 pgs}

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Summary:

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

Review:

What did I just read?

Louise. Oh, little Louise. All she wants is to make it in New York. She wants to leave her old life behind and be someone new, someone who doesn’t have a past, someone who could really belong in this city of new beginnings. Someone like glitzy, beautiful Lavinia, the kind of socialite who would give 2001 Paris Hilton a run for her money. Glamorous operas, secret parties, Lavinia is that girl, the girl that runs around New York like she owns everything – and everyone – in it.

After “interviewing” to become Lavinia’s little sister’s tutor, Louise and Lavinia become quick friends. Lavinia introduces Louise to her quirky, elite group of friends, including Rex, the one-time love of her life, who she swears she doesn’t care about anymore; Mimi, Lavinia’s copycat who has her own sad past with the golden girl; Hal, the overbearing jerk who is only tolerated because his father is a Great Writer; and Athena Maidenhead, a woman-about-town who I couldn’t stop picturing as Mag Wildwood. They’re all stuck in their own little world, and their only common factor is Lavinia. And now Louise.

Louise makes her own spot in the group – mainly by being the kind of girl that everyone wants – and that’s where the troubles begin. Rex falls for her, Hal brings her close, and even Mimi starts to look at Louise as more than just a usurper. Lavinia might not be used to sharing the spotlight, especially not when it comes to Rex, and instead of calmly talking about her insecurities with her friend, Lavinia and Louise come to blows.

This is where Louise’s life gets interesting.

I’m going to be honest here: I was rooting for Louise. It doesn’t seem like a big deal right now, because Louise is portrayed as a scrappy little nobody. But once you read the book…maybe you’ll think a little differently about me. And that’s okay. Louise does terrible things, and so I have no idea why I skipped to the end to make sure that no one caught her. She destroys so many lives, even up to the very end, and yet. And yet. This book is a testament to Tara Isabella Burton’s ability to write compelling and dynamic characters. Everyone elicited such a strong response from me. There was no one who felt unnecessary or who I wished hadn’t been there. Everyone had a purpose, and, in truth, they were all kind of terrible people. Some more so than others.

I know Social Creature doesn’t come out for another month, but I finished it in two days and knew I had to share this wonderful story with anyone who would listen. The next step? Convincing everyone to preorder it. That means you awesome people.

So? GO PREORDER THIS BOOK!

From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking {giveaway!}

Tuesdays are the best, aren’t they? They’re not Mondays, and they’re new book days! And what a new book I have for you today {even though, yes, it doesn’t come out until next week, but that’s okay. This is just to get you excited!}.

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Title: From the Earth to the Shadows {336 pgs}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Summary:

The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies–and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she’s never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it’s too late?

Review:

Oh boy. I sped through this one. Like the first book in this duology, From the Earth to the Shadows has everything: romance, mythology, pissed off immortals. Malin and her friends are back, this time with a little bit of help from this guy you may have heard of, Odin. With the all-Father in their corner, there’s no way that they could lose…right? This rag-tag group of barely young adults race to destroy the forces of evil that are trying to take over the world, forces that are determined to make a world full of immortals. Malin might also be in a race to save the boy she cares about, Asher, even though she’s not entirely sure he wishes to be saved.

If you like exciting, edge of your seat action and mythology sprinkled through your never-ceasing attacks, then this is the book for you. Did I just include everyone in that description? I should have, because this book is for everyone.

Also, in case you missed it earlier, this is a duology, which is fine, really, it’s fine. Except it’s not. I need more Malin in my life. I need more Quinn and Oona and Atlas and everyone else in this book, even the bad guy jerks that have been banished to the end of time. Malin is so relateable, even if I can’t imagine a life as a Valkyrie. Still, she goes through the normal stuff, too: falling in love, losing friends and family, trying to live a normal life. You understand her on a basic level, even when she’s fighting chupacabra’s in the jungle.

Need more convincing? Take an excerpt from the first chapter of the book and then try to tell me that you don’t need this book in your life:

 

ONE

The air that fogged around me was thick enough that I could taste it—earthy and wet, with a trace of salt. It stuck to my skin, which was already slick with sweat, and that only seemed to attract more insects. They buzzed around me, leaving burning little bites in my flesh. I wanted to swat them off, but I couldn’t. I had to stay perfectly still, or the Kalanoro would spot me too soon.

The oversaturation of green in the jungles of Panama had been a strange adjustment from the smog and bright lights of the city. Out here, it was an endless emerald sea: the plants and trees, the rivers, were all varying shades of green—even the sky was blotted out by a thick canopy of leaves.

This wasn’t where I wanted to be, crouched motionless in the mud with a giant millipede crawling over my foot. Not when Asher was still gone, held captive in Kurnugia by the underworld goddess Ereshkigal and her mad centaur boyfriend, Gugalanna. Not when the fate of the world felt heavy on my shoulders, with Ereshkigal attempting an uprising that would unleash the underworld on earth.

It had only been three days since I’d gone to the Gates of Kurnugia, along with Oona, Quinn, Asher, and Atlas to aid me. I’d wanted to avenge my mother—and I had killed the draugr that had killed her—but all of that may have set off a chain of events that would bring about the end of days.

And I had lost the guy I … well, not loved. Not yet. But I cared about him. All I wanted to do was rescue him. But I couldn’t. There was too much at stake. I couldn’t let my heart get the best of me. I had to hold it together, and follow my orders.

After Gugalanna had pulled Asher down into the underworld where I could not follow, the rest of us had gone to Caana City in Belize. It was the safest city near the Gates of Kurnugia, and Oona needed medical intervention to survive. She was on the mend now, and that’s why I had left her behind, with Quinn and Atlas.

I didn’t want to risk losing them the way I had Asher, and I was on a special assignment, coming directly from the Valkyries’ highest authority—Odin.

Odin had found me outside of the hospital where Oona was being treated. I had never met him before, and, like most of the Vanir gods, he changed his appearance to suit his needs, so I hadn’t recognized him.

He towered over me in his tailored suit, with his left eyelid withered shut. He had a deep rumble of a voice, with a softly lilting accent, and a grim expression. His large raven, Muninn, had been watching over me, but when I tried to press him for a reason why, he had told me that there wasn’t time to explain.

“I need you to go deep into the heart of the jungle, where no man dares to live,” Odin explained, as we had stood in the eerily silent parking lot in Caana City. “You must retrieve something for me.”

“Why can’t you retrieve it yourself?” I asked bluntly. I wasn’t being rude, but the reality was that Odin was a powerful god, and I was just a young mortal Valkyrie-in-training. He had far more knowledge and power than I could ever hope to have.

“I’m not allowed to meddle in the affairs of humans or any of the other earthly beings,” Odin clarified.

“But…” I trailed off, gathering the courage to ask, “What is this you’re doing now, then? Isn’t directing me to get something for you the same as meddling?”

A sly smile played on his lips, and he replied, “There are a few loopholes, and I think it’s best if I take advantage of one now. If you want to save your friend, and everyone else that matters to you, you need to act quickly.”

“What is it that you need me to get?” I asked, since I didn’t seem to have a choice.

“The Valhallan cloak,” he explained. “It was stolen centuries ago by a trickster god—I honestly can’t remember which one anymore—and he hid it with the Kalanoro of Panama.”

“The Kalanoro?” I groaned reflexively. Having dealt with them before, I already knew how horrible they were.

If piranhas lived on land, they would behave a lot like the Kalanoro. They were small primate-like creatures, standing no more than two feet tall, and they vaguely resembled the aye-aye lemur. The biggest differences were that the Kalanoro were tailless, since they lived mostly on the ground, and they had razor-sharp claws on their elongated fingers and a mouth of jagged teeth they used to tear apart the flesh of their prey.

“What is the Valhallan cloak, and how will I find it?” I asked Odin.

“You’ll know when you see it. It’s an oversized cloak, but the fabric looks like the heavens. The rumors are that the Kalanoro were attracted to the magic of the cloak, though they didn’t understand it, so they took it back to their cave,” Odin elaborated. “They apparently have been guarding it like a treasure.”

“So I have to go into the treacherous jungle, find the man-eating Kalanoro, and steal their favorite possession?” I asked dryly. “No problem.”

Which was how I ended up in the jungle, alone, in the heart of Kalanoro country—at least, that’s what the nearest locals had purported. In front of me, on the other side of a very shallow but rapidly moving stream, was the mouth of a cave. The cave I hoped was the home of the Kalanoro, but I was waiting to see one for official confirmation.

Sweat slid down my temples, and a large dragonfly flew overhead. The trees around me were a cacophony of sounds—monkeys and frogs and birds and insects of all kinds, talking to one another, warning of danger, and shouting out mating calls.

Back in the city, beings and creatures of all kinds lived among each other, but there were rules. The jungle was not bound by any laws. I was not welcome, and I was not safe here.

I heard the crunch of a branch—too loud and too close to be another insect. I turned my head slowly toward the sound, and I saw movement in the bushes right beside me. Tall dark quills, poking out above the leaves, and I tried to remember if the Kalanoro had any quill-like fur.

I didn’t have to wonder for very long because a head poked out of the bushes, appearing to grin at me through a mouthful of jagged fangs and a face like an alien hyena. The leathery green skin, mottled with darker speckles, blended in perfectly with the surroundings, with a mohawk-like row of sharp quills running down its back.

It wasn’t a Kalanoro—it was something much worse. I found myself face-to-face with a Chupacabra.

TWO

The Chupacabra—much like dolphins, dogs, and quokkas—had the uncanny ability to appear to be smiling. Unlike those contemporaries, there was nothing adorable or friendly about this Chupacabra’s smile. It was all serrated teeth, with bits of rotten meat stuck between them, and a black tongue lolling around his mouth.

“You don’t want do this,” I told the beast softly, even though he probably didn’t understand English.

I kept my gaze locked on the Chupacabra, but my hand was at my hip, slowly unsheathing my sword Sigrún. The name came from my ancestors, as had the blade itself. It had been passed down from Valkyrie to daughter for centuries.

Sigrún was a thick blade made of dark purple crystal, so dark it appeared black, but it would glow bright brilliant purple when I was working. It was short and angled, like it had been broken off in battle. Maybe it had—the full history of my blade was unknown to me.

But the handle was a black utilitarian replacement. It had been my mother’s gift to me on my eighteenth birthday. Her final gift to me, well over a year ago.

The Chupacabra stared at me with oversized teardrop-shaped eyes and took a step closer to me, letting out a soft rumble of a growl.

Valkyries weren’t supposed to kill anyone or anything they were not specifically ordered to kill. The one exception was self-defense. Since I was on an unsanctioned mission into territory I had no business being in, this would all get very messy if I had to kill a Chupacabra.

But the hard truth was that I was beyond worrying about my career as a Valkyrie. I would do whatever I needed to do.

When the Chupacabra lunged at me, I drew my sword without hesitation. Since this wasn’t an official “job,” my blade didn’t glow purple, but it sliced through the leathery hide as easily as I knew it would.

I didn’t want to kill the creature if I didn’t have to—after all, he was merely going about his life in the jungle. So my first blow was only a warning that left him with a painful but shallow cut across his shoulder.

He let out an enraged howl, causing birds to take flight and all sorts of smaller animals to go rushing deeper into the underbrush. From the corner of my eye, I spotted several Kalanoro darting across the stream back toward their cave. They had been watching me.

The Chupacabra had stepped back from me, but by the determined grin on his face I didn’t think he was ready to give up yet. He circled around me, and I turned with him, stepping carefully to keep from slipping in the mud.

“This is stupid,” I said, reasoning with the animal. “We should both go our separate ways, and you can go back to eating … well, I think you mostly eat the Kalanoro and birds.”

Apparently growing tired of my attempts at talking, the Chupacabra snarled and jumped at me again. I dodged out of the way, but he kicked off of the tree behind and instantly dove at me. I didn’t move quick enough this time, and he knocked me to the ground.

Fortunately, I fell on my back, with one of his feet pinning me and his claws digging into my shoulder. I put one hand around his long, slender throat, barely managing to hold him back as he gnashed his teeth.

With one of my arms pinned, he was too strong for me, and I wouldn’t be able to throw him off. As his thick saliva dripped down onto me, I knew there was only one thing I could do if I wanted to survive.

I drove my sword up through his breastbone, using all my might. He howled in pain, but only for a second, before falling silent and slumping forward onto me. I crawled out from underneath him, now covered in mud and his thick green blood, along with my own fresh red blood springing from the wounds on my bare arms and shoulder.

In the mouth of the cave across from me, two dozen or so beady little green eyes glowed. The Kalanoro were crouched down, watching me. So much for the element of surprise.

My hair had come free from the braid I’d been wearing, and it stuck to my forehead. I reached up to brush it back, and the Kalanoro let out a squawk of surprise, and one darted off into the woods.

That’s when I realized the Kalanoro were afraid of me. I glanced over at the Chupacabra—the Kalanoro’s number-one predator, and I had left it dead and bleeding into the stream. They were right to fear me.

I tested my new hypothesis and stepped closer to the mouth of the cave, and the Kalanoro screeched and scattered. Most of them ran into the woods, but a few went deeper into the cave. My fight with the Chupacabra had left them far more skittish than I had anticipated, and I doubted that I would need my sword for them, so I sheathed Sigrún.

I unhooked my asp baton from my hip and pulled my flashlight out from my gear bag. I took a deep breath and walked toward the cave, hoping that this wasn’t a trap where they would all pounce and devour me the second I stepped inside.

As I walked into the cave, I heard them chittering and scurrying, but it reminded me more of a rat infestation than man-eating primates. Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I shone the flashlight around the narrow cavern. The beam of light flashed on a few pairs of eyes, but they quickly disappeared into the darkness.

The entrance of the cave stood well over eight feet, but as I walked, the ceiling height dropped considerably. Very soon I had to crouch down to venture farther.

The ground was slick with Kalanoro droppings and bat guano, and it smelled like a musty cellar that doubled as a litter box. Tiny bones of partially digested meals crunched underneath the heavy soles of my boots.

My flashlight glinted on something, and I crouched down to inspect it. It was an old pocket watch, the face broken and the gears rusted, but it had once definitely belonged to a human. Near the watch was another trinket—an old walkie-talkie.

That’s when I realized it was a trail of treasures, piling up more as I went deeper into the cave. Old car parts, a titanium hip replacement, and even what appeared to be a wedding band. The Kalanoro apparently loved hoarding shiny things.

On the ground a few feet ahead of me, I spotted something particularly sparkly. It looked like stars, shimmering and glowing from a puddle on the floor. By now I had to crawl on my knees, since the ceiling was so low.

As I reached for those stars, a Kalanoro leapt out from the darkness. Its rows of teeth dug painfully into my right arm, and I beat it back with my asp baton. It took three hits before it finally let go and ran off screaming.

I grabbed at the stars, picking up a satiny fabric. The way it glimmered, it looked exactly like the night sky, and I now understood what Odin meant by looking “like the heavens.” This had to be the Valhallan cloak. I hurriedly shoved it into my gear bag. The Kalanoro couldn’t be happy about me stealing their treasure, so I had to get out fast.

I raced out of the cave and gulped down the fresh air. Around me, the trees had changed their tune, from the normal song of the jungle to something far more shrill and angry. I could hear the Kalanoro growling and screeching at each other, sounding like high-pitched howler monkeys. They were enraged, and they were chasing after me.

It was a ten-kilometer hike downhill, through thick forests, to the nearest village. There I would be able to clean up and catch the hyperbus back to Caana City. Back to meet Odin. The Kalanoro were now alerting the entire jungle to my presence, and even as I hurried ahead, deftly moving through the trees, I could hear them following me.

I ran down the hill, skittering through the mud and branches, swatting back giant bugs and the occasional surprised snake. My legs ached and my lungs burned but I pressed on, running as fast as I could. I had to make it to the town before dark, because I doubted the Kalanoro would let me out alive.

Copyright © 2018 by Amanda Hocking in From the Earth to the Shadows and reprinted with permission from Wednesday Books.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

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Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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IndieBound

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Social Links:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

 

Preorder this book. Shake down your local bookstore clerk. Wait patiently for it outside of your library on April 24. Basically do whatever you can to make sure that you read this book. You won’t regret it. But you will want more, and that’s where you can head over to Amanda Hocking’s social media to find more of her titles {spoiler alert: they’re all good. Just so so good.}.

If that’s not enough for you, head over to my Twitter where I’ll be running a giveaway where you could win a finished copy of From the Earth to the Shadows!

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Note to future self: never move. Ever. It really digs into your reading time. Good news: I had a few books lined up before I moved, and I manged to finish them all. Bad news: I’m just getting around to putting up reviews.

But after I read Sometimes I Lie, I knew I had to write something about it.

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Title: Sometimes I Lie {258 pgs}

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Summary:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Review:

This book messed with my head bit. Okay, a lot. I read the first couple of chapters, completely confident that I could figure out the mystery before I was even halfway through, and while I’m proud to say that I was sort of right {I mean…kind of, a little…}, the rest of it came as a shock. I even tried to write my own little summary, like I do, and I couldn’t, because I realized how much I’d have to give away just to explain certain things.

This is told from different times: at Amber’s time in the hospital, the time before her accident, and glimpses from her childhood told through diary entries. In each chapter, we learn a little more about Amber and the life she leads. We learn that her husband has practically moved out of the house into the cottage outside where he can write. We learn about her job as a radio co-presenter and the boss that makes her life a living hell, until Amber decides to fight back. We learn about the kind of childhood she had, about the friends she made, about the decisions that haunt her. The threads seem different at first, but then they weave together to tell the kind of story that makes you question absolutely everything that you read.

Seriously. I had to read it twice, and I’m thinking about diving into it a third time.

Alice Feeney gives Amber the kind of voice that makes me simultaneously want to trust her and also to slap her because I know she’s lying through her teeth. But Amber is so believable while she’s laid up in the hospital. Who am I to question the story of a woman in a coma? But somewhere in the middle of the book, I got it. Amber might tell lies, but to her, their truths. Compared to others, she’s lived a charmed life. Her parents loved her, her husband Paul is a good man, and she has an adorable niece and nephew that adore her. But the bad things in her life are really bad. Like an old boyfriend who suddenly shows back up in her life, an old boyfriend who really should have been laid to rest years ago. Like a perfect sister who is wiling to do anything to maintain her perfect lifestyle. Like a few dark secrets of her own, secrets that could eat up her insides and take down those she cares about most.

This is a pretty quick read, and thank goodness for that, because you’re going to want to read it again and again. There are always new hints that you pick up, new threads that seem like nothing the first time around. Alice Feeney is impressive – her writing, her voice, her innocent way of wrecking you for life – and she’s going to be on my list of authors that I’m always going to pick up.

Quick sidenote: Now that I’m back, I’m back for good. I’m going to post at least once a week, if not twice. I have a ton of books on my NetGalley shelf, and I’ve walked into a couple of surprises when I visit Barnes and Noble. {My new job is within walking distance…which means I go there pretty much everyday. Someone save my wallet.} I’m getting back into the routine, so bear with me here, okay?

Thank you. You’re all the best.

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Happy Monday, right? Right?? If not, I’m here to make it better with The Beauty That Remains.

 

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Title: The Beauty That Remains {352 pgs.}

Genre: YA

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Summary:

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Review:

First, that cover. That. Cover. It’s so ridiculously beautiful and perfect for this story.  Since I was lucky enough to receive my ARC from NetGalley, I haven’t yet held this gorgeousness in my hands, so I’m imagining that it’s going to make me gasp.

Second, this is one of those intricately delicate stories with many characters that are all somehow connected. I honestly had to make a chart to keep everyone straight, and by the end of the novel, my notebook page was a mess of lines and descriptions, but I loved seeing how everyone was related. Yes, it is all through music, but it’s also through tragedy and what remains after that.

Autumn and Tavia were best friends until the end, the kind of friends where one could say opposites definitely attract. Autumn seemed content being in Tavia’s shadow, because Tavia seemed to make sure that Autumn never stayed there for long. But after Tavia dies unexpectedly, Autumn has to deal with the guilt that weighs her down, the guilt that takes over her life and derails a budding relationship with Dante, Tavia’s brother.

Shay lost her best friend and her twin sister, Sasha. Shay had to watch her sister deteroriate and know that there was nothing she could do about it. After her sister’s death, Shay picks up her life and tries to move on…but she doesn’t try very hard. She’s stuck in a life that she doesn’t understand, and she doesn’t seem to want to understand it.

Logan is still dealing with the loss of his ex-boyfriend Bram, and it’s affecting the way he writes music and also with the way he deals with his guilt. Bram was a vlogger, so Logan can watch him any time he wants, even though he knows it’s not helping. When Yara, the girl that Bram left Logan for, steps into Logan’s life, Logan is the last person to believe that he could become friends with his ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.

Like I said, there’s a lot of characters. There’s even more that I didn’t name in this review, but they’re just as important. They all bring their own flavor to Autumn, Shay, and Logan’s stories. They make everything more real, creating a 3D world within the pages. Not only are these characters there for the three narrators, but they also have their own problems and trials that they’re going through, because a tragedy is like a ripple in a pond: no one in the water is left unaffected.

The Beauty That Remains is exactly as the title promises: there is beauty in living life after tragedy. The three narrators travel their own paths to find this out, and it’s interesting to watch them slowly meander their way toward each other. They are hurt, they are angry, and they don’t know how to deal with these feelings that pound in their chest day after day. But they know that they want to feel something else, that they need to because life cannot be like this.

You’re going to cry. You’re going to cry A LOT. I was beginning to blubber in the first chapter, so take that for what it’s worth. But you’re also going to laugh. You’re going to smile. A LOT A LOT. Ashley Woodfolk wrote a beautifully sweet story about young people going through the kind of tragedy that many of us go through in our lives, but the way they deal with their respective tragedies is brave and wonderful. I can’t imagine being as strong as these characters at my age, let alone at sixteen or seventeen.

The Beauty That Remains is perfect. Just literally perfect. Be like me and grab it before work, even though you’re not supposed to buy any more books because you’re moving and you don’t have any bookshelves set up and you’ll have nowhere to put new books.

It’s never stopped me before.

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Wow, it’s been quiet from this part of the internet, right? Sorry about that. Starting a new job {!!!!} and finding a new home {not so !!!!}, my life has been…messy. It hasn’t been fun. But I’ve managed to make it through a couple of books, so the posts here shouldn’t dry up again. Better planning and working on weekends wouldn’t be too bad, either.

So I decided that today might be a good day to review a book about a character who might have a messier life than me. Also, it’s a retelling of Persuasion, and Jane Austen always makes me feel better.

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Title: By The Book {384 pgs.}

Genre: General Fiction

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Persuasion had always been that one Jane Austen book that I could never remember liking. When I went through her books, I would always shake my head at Persuasion, but I never knew why. When I found out about this book, I reread Persuasion and realized that I love it. But now there was a problem: I loved the original so much, and that meant that I probably wouldn’t like any imitators.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that I adored By the Book.

Poor Anne. She had to go to college with her heart in the right place, and that means she decided to get an English degree rather than something that might be worth something some day {oh, how I have heard this before}. But now, she scored a professor position at small Southern California school that might be better situated in a lovely hamlet in England {seriously, I went to college where this fictional college is supposed to be, and…let’s just say that we didn’t have the same experience}. Anne is determined not to let anything distract her from getting the tenured position of her dreams…not even Adam Martinez, the college’s new president and her former soon-to-be betrothed.

But that’s not all that she has on her plate. Anne has to deal with her overbearing sister who thinks that Anne is wasting her time on her dream. Then there’s her father, on the brink of death and still ornery over everything. Anne thinks that maybe Richard Chasen, New York Times bestselling author and the writer-in-residence at her college, will take her mind off of the stress of her daily life.

If you’ve ever read any Jane Austen, then you know that maybe putting your trust in a handsome, charming newcomer is not the best idea.

I feel like I’ve been reading some pretty heavy books, where everyone is plunging into a dark and terrible situation, even if they don’t know it. So this was a welcome reprieve! Anne is sweet, smart, determined, and sometimes horribly naïve, so she makes the perfect Austen heroine. You cheer for her at the same moment you’re yelling at her to see through certain people’s very thin lies. But even more Austen than Anne is her best friend, fellow professor Larry. He gives his advice freely, trying to direct Anne’s life the best he can, but he, like many of the Lady Russell’s and Bennet sisters, is not one to offer advice. Larry is in his own dangerous relationship with a married movie star.

Anne is in so much trouble.

By the Book is one of those quick, wonderful reads that you’ll want to curl up with on a rainy day. Preferably with a cup of tea. And, if the people around you are as cool as the people around me, trying your hand at a British accent. Even though this is set in California, but that doesn’t matter. Just don’t try the accent outside of the house. No matter how good you think it is…it’s not. Really.

But definitely give this book a try, because Julia Sonneborn has taken Persuasion and updated it into a lovely story that will have you laughing, cringing, and begging for Anne to just get something good in her life. She has so many setbacks in her year of chasing what she wants, and by the end of the book, you want to give her whatever you can. Maybe you’ll see a little of yourself in Anne, because she is completely relatable. If so, I’ll leave you with this: read this book, chase your dreams, and beware the handsome, charming newcomer that will undoubtedly come into your life.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. To say that this book has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2018 would be an understatement. To say that I’m SO EXCITED to review this book today would be a VAST UNDERSTATEMENT. But here it is, my gushing ranting to add to everyone else’s gushing ranting.

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Title: The Belles (The Belles #1) {448 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Review:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, the only kind of human that is born full of color and the only kind of human that can give the people Orléans the kind of beauty only money can buy. Not content only being a Belle, Camellia wants to be the favorite of the queen and the impetuous Princess Sophia. After a false start, Camellia is sent to the palace in order to fulfill the whims of the rich, and those darker wishes of the princess. Inside the palace isn’t all beauty and happiness, and Camellia comes to find that the Belles might not be who she thought they were. Camellia must dodge persistent suitors {oh, dear Auguste}, dangerous rumors, and secrets that could destroy all she knows, all in order to do her job. Risking her own life, as well as the lives of her sisters, she takes on the daunting task of helping the queen bring back to life the oldest princess, a woman in a deep sleep and with no cure in sight.

First off, let’s scream over that cover some more. My GOD, I couldn’t keep my eyes off that cover when I first received the book in the mail. It’s even more gorgeous that the pictures I’ve seen all over the internet. It’s soft and pastel and the model is absolutely stunning {I don’t know who she is, and that might be better for both me and her} and it wraps you in warm thoughts before you dive into the dark world that waits for you inside the pages. You’ll want to frame it, trust me.

Second, the writing. Oh my god, the writing. It was luxurious and sumptuous, like slipping on a silk robe after taking a bath in rose petals. It made me simultaneously so jealous and so motivated, and I wanted to write a book while reading. There was so much world building, and by the end of the book, I got why Dhonielle Clayton took all that time to lay out the land. There’s also a handy-dandy map of Orléans, and I did refer back to it a time or two or four hundred. Dhonielle Clayton also made me really hungry with all of the food-related descriptions of the Belles and the people and the way the Belles create their beauty. Everything and everyone was “brown sugar” or “honey peach” or “marshmallow crème.” They were the perfect descriptions, but reading The Belles also made me want to eat s’mores wrapped in sugar and honey and dunked in milk, and really, I was here for it.

Third, the plot. Honestly, I thought that the plot would be about a young girl in a palace, giving people the beauty they wanted, and then everyone learning a very valuable lesson about beauty not being everything. I’m an idiot {and terribly clichéd, it seems}. I mean, yes, the whole book is telling the reader that beauty comes at a price and that being happy with who you are is a wonderful thing, but it also shows the dark side to wanting a certain kind of beauty. We see it everyday: how far people will go to be “perfect,” to attain the kind of beauty that they see in movies and makeup ads and magazine pages. But we are not born without color, we are not cursed by gods. The people of Orléans need beauty, or so they think, and if they don’t get exactly what they want, then someone has to suffer.

Princess Sophia is a prime example of this. Her older sister had always been the “naturally” beautiful one, but now it’s Sophia’s time to shine. She wants something new, something amazing, and she’ll do anything to get the kind of look that will make people talk for years. Sophia might also be a little unhinged. Just a smidge. But she’ll be the next queen, unless her sister makes a miraculous recovery, and so she can be as unhinged as she wants.

I want to stand on my roof and scream about this book. The Belles is one of the most talked about books of 2018, and there is definitely a reason for that. It’s wonderfully different and new and bright and shiny, and I can’t wait until I can read it again. It’s one of those books where I NEED to know what happens next {I read it in a weekend because I refused to go anywhere until it was done}, and it’s killing me inside.

If you haven’t already pre-ordered The Belles, what are you still doing here? Go pre-order it now! You do not want to miss out on this one.

You Will Be Mine by Natasha Preston

You know those days when life just springs {HUGE} things on you? Yeah, that was my day yesterday, but I still managed to get some reading done {and that’s an exciting post in the near future!} and not lose my head completely, so I call it a win. That’s why I figured You Will Be Mine would be the perfect book to showcase someone having a really, really, REALLY bad time.

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Title: You Will Be Mine {304 pgs.}

Genre: YA Thriller

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WATCH YOUR BACK
I’M COMING FOR YOU

Lylah and her friends can’t wait to spend a night out together. Partying is the perfect way to let loose from the stress of life and school, and Lylah hopes that hitting the dance floor with Chace, her best friend, will bring them closer together. She’s been crushing on him since they met. If only he thought of her the same way…

The girls are touching up their makeup and the guys are sliding on their coats when the doorbell rings. No one is there. An envelope sits on the doormat. It’s an anonymous note addressed to their friend Sonny. A secret admirer? Maybe. They all laugh it off.

Except Sonny never comes home. And a new note arrives:

YOUR TURN

Review

College students Lylah, Sienna, Charlotte, Sonny, Isaac, and Chace only want to break loose and have a fun night at the beginning of the Valentine’s season {oh yes, that’s a thing around here}. Before leaving their house, Sonny, the lothario, receives a sinister note, and they toss it over their shoulders, because trying to figure out which scorned girl wrote it would take them all night.

But when Sonny doesn’t come home the next day, Lylah worries. And the notes don’t stop once they find do finally find Sonny. Having lost her parents only a few years earlier, Lylah is the most adamant in wanting to find the anonymous note leaver and move on her with her life. But life isn’t as simple as that, and a killer is on the loose, hunting Lylah and her friends in a twisted game of cat and mouse.

Lylah really only wanted to worry about her massive crush on Chace and the fact that her overbearing brother Riley is pressuring her to come home for the anniversary of her parents’ death. She wants to be a normal college student, not someone having to constantly look over her shoulder for someone with a large knife.

I’ve read a couple of other books by Natasha Preston, and it’s clear that she really likes to keep her readers on their toes. Her books remind me a lot of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, with a scrappy heroine and her friends trying to evade a crazed killer whose motive is strange, at best. In You Will Be Mine, the entire group of friends points to former roommate Jake, a boy who left school a few months after being rejected by Lylah. That apparently equates to becoming a vindictive serial killer in their minds {how Lylah doesn’t have a huge head after all this, I don’t know}. It’s honestly a little troubling how quickly Lylah’s friends fall into the cobbled together idea that the killer is Jake. Then his family comes to clear his name – even though Jake is missing and has been a little weird the last few months – and things get even more muddied.

You Will Be Mine is a fun thriller that keeps you hurtling toward the end to figure out who the killer really is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without faults. Some parts feel rushed, and Lylah is kind of a big worrier. Obviously, she should be, but she does a lot of yelling and crying and freaking out. It’s not helpful, Lylah, let me tell you. Her friends are trying not to freak out that people are dying around them, that they have police tailing their every move, that their entire school is talking about them, and Lylah running around playing detective is not what they need. I spent most of the book sighing and asking her why she is determined to make this harder for the detectives.

But then I guess it wouldn’t be a very interesting story if the main character sat on her bed patiently and waited for the detectives to solve the case, would it?

If you’re looking for a quick YA thriller and are also a fan of R.L. Stine and Cyn Balog, I’d pick You Will Be Mine. Valentine’s is coming up, and if you’re not into that holiday {really, though, we’re not all Kirsten Cohen}, this is definitely the book that you want to grab.