Sunday, March 29, 2020

Book Review: "She's With Me" by Jessica Cunsolo

She's With Me by Ava Violet
Title: She's With Me
Author: Jessica Cunsolo
Series: "With Me" #1
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Page Length: 328 pages
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Rating: 5 // 5 stars

I've been following this book since the first chapter was posted on Wattpad many years ago. I was 14 or 15 and I was obsessed. Even after I started reading more traditionally published books, I would still come back to Wattpad to read this as new chapters released. 

When I found out a few months ago that this was finally being (rightfully) published in actual book form I was so excited! I'd always wanted a physical copy of this book on my shelves because this story has such an impact on me when I was younger. Sadly, I wasn't able to pick up a copy on release day but I recently was able to buy one and let's just say it arrived today and I just finished reading it. 

The first feeling I got while reading this book was nostalgia. Like I said, I'd been following this book and series for years. I read it multiple times when I was younger. Revisiting this story and these characters in a newly edited and published form was so fun for me, so reminiscent of my past reading habits. 

This book is by no means perfect. There are cliche moments, cringey moments, and some predictable plot lines. However, for every cliche or predictable moment, there was another one that made this book stand out apart from others. And, despite any cliche moments, I love it so much anyway. 

It's fun. It's addictive. It's full of friendship, romance, real-world issues, high school drama, and so much more. It's got depth and characters that I absolutely love. I'm so torn on waiting for the revised second book to come out or just head straight to Wattpad to read the first draft of the second book. 

I could ramble for a long time about how much I love this book. Part of why I love it so much is because of the nostalgic feelings I have surrounding it, but the other part of why I love it is because it's fun and addicting and a welcome distraction from the current state of the world.



Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

BLOG TOUR: "Ember Queen" by Laura Sebastian + GIVEAWAY


Hello all! Today I have an exciting blog tour post for you all. We're discussing Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian, the third and final book in the Ash Princess trilogy! There's a bunch of fun stuff such as my review, an excerpt, and a specially curated playlist from me. Do be warned, though, because there are going to be spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy but if you are brave enough, there is a special giveaway at the end! 



SYNOPSIS

*Spoilers for books 1 and 2*

The thrilling conclusion to the series that began with the instant New York Times bestseller “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Ember Queen is an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.

Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.

The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.

by Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers
Release Date: February 4th 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy



MY REVIEW

I was lucky to read an advanced copy of the first book back when it came out in 2018. I binge-read it in a few sittings and was absolutely excited to continue on with the trilogy. Now, I can finally say that I've finished it after some long-awaited anticipation.

This final book was explosive. The battles and fights, magic, and complex characters really made this trilogy for me. I quite enjoyed getting to follow along with Theo's story from book 1 until this final installment. She's an exciting character to read from and her journey from when we first got to see her has been one full of ups and downs and so much growth.

One thing that I really enjoy about this trilogy is the morally gray characters and situations. No one can really be considered all good or all evil and no situation could ever be explicitly cut and dry and that, for me, made it very realistic to me. I'm a big lover of complex plots where characters have to make tough decisions and this was definitely one of those instances.

I'm really grateful that I got the chance to binge this trilogy for this blog tour. It allowed me to see how plot points from all three books tied together in this final one. There were a few things that I wish could have been wrapped up better but overall I'm quite satisfied with how this trilogy ended. 

4.25 // 5 stars
Book 1 Review
Book 2 Review



PLAYLIST
1. Ashes - Celine Dion
2. Castle - Halsey
3. The Antidote - St. Vincent
4. Let You Down - NF
5. Save Myself- Ed Sheeran



MEET LAURA SEBASTIAN

Laura Sebastian was born and raised in South Florida (the Redlands and Key Largo) and has always loved telling stories–many apologies to her little brother who often got in trouble because of them. No copies of her first book, a Cinderella retelling about angels circa 2nd grade, remain. Thankfully.

After getting her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, she moved to New York City thinking that she would stay for a couple of years before going somewhere better suited for a small-town, sun-loving girl. Five years later, she’s still here and madly in love with it.

When Laura isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, baking cookies or cupcakes, buying more clothes than her overstuffed closet can fit, or forcing her lazy dog Neville to take a walk.

Her debut ASH PRINCESS, the start of a YA fantasy trilogy, will be out April 24th, 2018 from Delacorte (Random House).

WEBSITE     |     GOODREADS     |     TWITTER     |     INSTAGRAM



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GIVEAWAY

Prize: One (1) copy of Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian
US only
March 16 - March 30, 2020
Direct Giveaway Entry Link

a Rafflecopter giveaway


EXCERPT

Reckoning

The sun is blinding when I step out of the mouth of the cave on weak legs. I lift a heavy, aching arm to shield my eyes, but the effort of even that small gesture makes the world around me spin. My knees buckle and the ground comes up to meet me, hard and sharp with rocks. It hurts, but oh, it feels so good to lie down, to have fresh air in my lungs, to have light, even if it is too much all at once.

My throat is so dry, it hurts to even breathe. There is caked blood on my fingers, on my arms, in my hair. Distantly I realize that it’s mine, but I can’t say where it came from. My memories are a desert--I remember stepping into the cave, remember hearing my friends’ voices begging me to come back. And then . . . nothing. 

“Theo,” a voice calls, familiar but so far away. A thousand footsteps beat against the ground, each one making my head throb. I flinch away from the sound, curling tighter into myself. 

Hands touch my skin--my wrists, the pulse point behind my ear. They are so cold, they raise goose bumps on my skin. 

“Is she . . . ,” a voice says. Blaise. I try to say his name, but nothing comes out. 

“She’s alive, but her pulse is faint and her skin is hot,” another voice says. Heron. “We have to get her inside.” 

Arms scoop me up and carry me--Heron’s, I think. Again, I try to speak, but I can’t make so much as a sound. 

“Art, your cloak,” Heron says, his chest rumbling against my cheek with each word. “Cover her head with it. Her eyes are oversensitive.” 

“Yes, I remember,” Art says. Fabric rustles and her cloak falls over my eyes, wrapping my world in darkness once more. 

I let myself fall into it now. My friends have me, and so I am safe.

The next time I open my eyes, I’m on a cot inside a tent, the bright sun filtered through thick white cotton so that it is bearable. The pounding in my head is still there, but it’s dull and faraway now. My throat is no longer dry and raw, and if I focus, I have a hazy memory of Artemisia pouring water into my open mouth. The pillow beneath my head is still damp from where she missed. 

Now, though, I’m alone. 

I force myself to sit up even though it intensifies the pain echoing through my every nerve. The Kalovaxians will return sooner or later, and who knows how long Cress will keep Søren alive? There is so much to be done and not nearly enough time to do it.

Placing my bare feet on the dirt floor, I push myself to stand. As I do, the tent flap pulls open and Heron steps inside, ducking his tall frame in order to fit through the small opening. When he sees me awake and standing, he falters, blinking a few times to ensure he isn’t imagining me. 

“Theo,” he says slowly, testing out the sound of my name. 

“How long has it been?” I ask him quietly. “Since I entered the mine?” 

Heron surveys me for a moment. “Two weeks,” he says. 

The words knock me backward, and I sit down on the cot again. “Two weeks,” I echo. “It felt like hours, maybe days.” 

Heron doesn’t look surprised by that. Why would he? He’s gone through the same thing. 

“Do you remember sleeping?” he asks me. “Eating? Drinking? You must have, at some point, or you would be in much worse shape.” 

I shake my head, trying to grasp what I do remember, but very little of it solidifies enough for me to hold on to. Scraps of details, ghosts that could not have been real, fire flooding my veins. But nothing more than that. 

“You should have left me,” I tell him. “Two weeks . . . Cress’s army could be back any day now, and Søren--” 

“Is alive, according to reports,” Heron interrupts. “And the Kalovaxians have received no orders to return here.”

I stare at him. “How can you possibly know that?” I ask. 

He lifts a shoulder in a lopsided shrug. “Spies,” he says, as if the answer should be obvious. 

“We don’t have spies,” I say slowly. 

“We didn’t have spies. But we got word that the new Theyn was at his country home, two days’ ride from here. We were able to turn several of his slaves before they returned to the capital. We just received our first missive. The Theyn hasn’t ordered troops back yet. Besides, the vast majority of the army has left. It’s only Blaise, Artemisia, Erik, Dragonsbane, and me, plus a group of those still recovering from the battle. But even they’ll be going to safety with Dragonsbane in a day or two.” 

I barely hear him, still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of spies. All I can think of is Elpis, of what happened the last time I made a spy of someone. 

“I didn’t approve the use of spies,” I tell him. 

“You’d walked into the mine the day before the plan was hatched,” Heron says, his voice level. “You weren’t around to approve much of anything, and there was no time to wait for you to come back. If you came back at all.” 

A retort dies in my throat, and I swallow it. “If they die--” 

“It will have been a necessary risk,” Heron says. “They knew as much when they volunteered. Besides, the Kaiserin is not as paranoid as the Kaiser, from what we’ve heard. She thinks you’re dead, she thinks we aren’t a threat, she has Søren. She thinks she’s won, and so she’s getting sloppy.” 

The Kaiserin. Will there ever come a day when I hear that title and think first of Cress and not Kaiserin Anke? 

“You said the army had left,” I say. “Where to?” 

Heron lets out a long exhale. “You missed quite a lot of squabbling while you were gone--I almost envy you. The Vecturian chief sent his daughter Maile to assist us, along with his troops. With Søren gone, she and Erik have the most battle experience, but they don’t agree on anything. Erik wants to march straight to the capital to take the city and rescue Søren.” 

“That’s foolish,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s exactly what they’ll expect, and even if it weren’t, we don’t have the numbers for that kind of siege.” 

“That’s exactly what Maile said,” Heron says, shaking his head. “She said we should continue to the Earth Mine.” 

“But we can’t do that without marching past the most populous cities, without even the cover of forests or mountains,” I say. “It’ll be impossible to avoid detection, and then Cress will have an army waiting to greet us at the Earth Mine.” 

“Which is exactly what Erik said,” Heron says. “See, you’re all caught up.” 

“So who won?” I ask. 

“No one,” Heron says. “It was decided that we should send the troops to the cities along the Savria River. None of them is heavily populated, but we’ll be able to contain the Kalovaxians, free their slaves, add to our numbers, and collect weapons and food as well. And most importantly, our troops aren’t just waiting here like sitting ducks.” 

“Like we are, you mean,” I say, rubbing my temples. The headache blossoming has nothing to do with the mine this time. “And now I’m here to break the tie, I suppose.” 

“Later,” he says. “Once you can actually walk on your own.”

“I’m fine,” I tell him, more forcefully than necessary. 

Heron watches me warily. He opens his mouth, but closes it again quickly, shaking his head. 

“If there’s something you want to ask me about the mines, I don’t remember anything,” I tell him. “The last thing I remember is going in--after that, it’s a blur.” 

“You will remember, in time,” he says. “For better or worse. But I know I never want to speak of my experience. I assumed you would feel the same way.” 

I swallow, pushing the thought aside. A problem for another day--and I have too many problems before me as it is. “But something is on your mind,” I say to Heron. “What is it?” 

He weighs the question in his mind for an instant. “Did it work?” he asks. 

For a second, I don’t know what he means, but I suddenly remember--the reason I went into the mines in the first place, the weak power I had over fire before, the side effect from Cress’s poison. I went into the mine to claim my power, in hopes that I will have enough to stand against Cress when the time comes. 

Did it work? There is only one way to find out.

I hold my left palm up and summon fire. Even before I uncurl my fingers, I feel heat thrumming beneath them, stronger than I’ve ever felt it before. It comes easily when I summon it, like it’s a part of me, always lurking just below the surface. It burns brighter, feels hotter, but it’s more than that. To show him, I toss it into the air, hold it there, suspended but still alive, still bright. Heron’s eyes grow wide, but he says nothing as I lift my hand and flex it. The ball of fire mimics me, becoming a hand of its own. When I move my fingers, it matches each movement. I make a fist, and it does that as well. 

“Theo,” he says, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I saw the extent of Ampelio’s power when he trained me. He couldn’t do that.” 

I swallow and take hold of the flame again, smothering it in my grip and turning it to ash in my hand. 

“If you don’t mind, Heron,” I say, my gaze fixed on the dark pigment that smears over my skin just as the ash crown had, “is Mina still here? She’s--” 

“The healer,” he supplies, nodding. “Yes, she’s still here. She’s been helping with the wounded. I’ll find her.” 

When he’s gone, I dust ash from my hands and let it settle into the dirt floor.

By the time Mina enters the tent, I’ve gotten used to standing again, though my body still doesn’t feel entirely like mine. Every move--every breath--feels like a labor, and every muscle aches. Mina must notice, because she takes one look at me and gives a knowing smile.

“It’s normal,” she says. “When I came out of the mine, the priestesses said that the gods had broken me and remade me anew. It seemed to sum up how I felt.” 

I nod, easing myself back to sit on my cot once more. “How long does it last?” I ask her. 

She shrugs. “My pain lasted a couple of days, but it varies.” She pauses, looking me over. “What you did was incredibly foolish. Going into the mine when you already possessed a measure of power--when you were already a vessel half-full--you were asking for mine madness. You realize that, don’t you?” 

I look at the ground. It’s been some time since I’ve been chastised like this, by someone concerned about my well-being. I rack my mind for the last person; it very well may have been my mother. I suppose Hoa did as well, in her wordless way. 

“I understood the risks,” I tell her. 

“You’re the Queen of Astrea,” she continues, as if I haven’t spoken. “What would we have done without you?” 

“You would have persisted,” I say, louder this time. “I am one person. We lost far more in the war, far more in the siege itself, including my mother. We have always persisted. I wouldn’t have made a difference.” 

Mina fixes me with a level look. “It was still foolish,” she insists. “But I suppose it was also brave.” 

I shrug again. “Whatever it might have been, it worked,” I say. 

I show her the same thing I showed Heron, how I can not just summon fire but turn it into an extension of my own self. Mina watches me all the while with her lips pursed, not saying a word until I’ve finished and am scattering the ash to the ground once more. 

“And you slept,” she says, more to herself than me. 

“Quite heavily, as I understand it,” I say dryly. 

She steps toward me. “May I feel your forehead?” she asks. 

I nod, and she presses the back of her hand to my brow. “You aren’t warm,” she says before reaching out to touch the single tendril of white in my auburn hair. 

“It was there before,” I tell her. “After the poison.” 

She nods. “I remember. Not like the Kaiserin’s hair, is it? But I suppose you have Artemisia to thank for that--if she hadn’t used her own gift on you so quickly to negate the poison, it would have affected you far more. If it hadn’t killed you on the spot, the mine certainly would have.” 

“You didn’t see Cress--the Kaiserin--yourself,” I say, changing the subject. “But you must have heard stories of her power by now.” 

Mina considers this. “I’ve heard stories,” she says carefully. “Though I find stories are often exaggerated.” 

I remember Cress killing the Kaiser with just her scalding hands around his throat, the way she trailed ash over the desk with her fingertips. She radiated power in a way that I have never seen equaled. I’m not sure how anyone could exaggerate what I saw with my own eyes. 

“It’s as if . . . she doesn’t even have to call on her gift. She killed the Kaiser in a few seconds with just her hands,” I say. 

“And you still don’t feel strong enough to stand against her,” Mina guesses. 

“I don’t think anyone is,” I admit. “Did you ever hear of Guardians killing with that little effort?” 

She shakes her head. “I didn’t hear anything about Guardians killing at all,” she says. “It wasn’t their way. If a person’s crimes ever warranted execution, it was carried out by more mundane means. Guardians never did the deed with the gifts given to them by the gods. It would have been its own kind of sacrilege, a perversion of something holy.”

I think about Blaise going out into the battlefield, knowing he could have died but determined to kill as many Kalovaxians as possible before he did. Was that a perversion of his gift? Or are the standards different now, in times of war?

“The children I saw before, the ones you were testing,” I say, remembering the boy and girl with the same unstable power as Blaise. “How are they?” 

“Laius and Griselda,” she supplies. “They are as well as can be expected, I suppose. Frightened and traumatized by the horrific experiments the Kalovaxians did on them, but they’re strong in more ways than one.” She pauses for a second. “Your hypothetical friend has been helpful. They like him, standoffish though he might be. It truly is something, to discover you aren’t as alone in the world as you thought.”

Excerpted from Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian. Copyright © 2020 by Laura Sebastian. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.




Follow along with the rest of the tour and giveaways here!




Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

BLOG TOUR: "The Raven and the Dove" by Kaitlyn Davis + GIVEAWAY


Hello all! I'm thrilled to be working with Fantastic Flying Book Club yet again to bring you all another blog tour! This tour is for The Raven and the Dove, a new release from Kaitlyn Davis. This is, yet again, an exciting post full of bookish fun including information about the book and author, my review, a specially curated playlist, an excerpt from the book, and an international giveaway! Let's just dive in shall we? 



SYNOPSIS

Four fates collide in this avian-inspired, epic fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo!

A princess longing to be free...

On the dawn of her courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus knows she should be focused on winning her perfect mate, yet her thoughts wander to the open sky waiting at the edge of her floating kingdom. One final adventure calls. Upon fleeing the palace, the last thing she expects to find is a raven prince locked in a death match with a dragon.

A bastard aching to belong...

Reviled son of a dead king, Rafe would do anything for his beloved half-brother, Prince Lysander Taetanus, including posing as him in the upcoming courtship trials. When a dragon interrupts their secret exchange, he orders his studious sibling to run. After suffering a fatal blow, Rafe is saved by a beautiful dove who possesses forbidden magic, just like him.

Fate brought them together, now destiny will tear them apart...

Unknown to the world above, on the foggy sea ten thousand feet below, a young king fights a forgotten war. He believes Lyana is the queen prophesied to save the world, and with the help of his favored spy, hidden deep in the highest ranks of the dove royal house, he will stop at nothing to have her.

Three shocking betrayals. Two star-crossed lovers. One unforgettable journey. If you like fierce heroines, brooding heroes, forbidden romance, and action-packed magical adventures with twists you'll never see coming, don't miss The Raven and the Dove!

by Kaitlyn Davis
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Release Date: March 9th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings



MY REVIEW

I was really excited when I heard about this book. An epic-fantasy, royalty, love, and perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas aka my queen? Sign me up! I really enjoyed reading through this. It was a bit longer than I expected, but that was totally okay because I was so excited to be able to spend time with these characters and world. 

Let’s start with the characters, then. We follow four main character POVs that alternate throughout the story. Usually multiple-POV situations are hit or miss for me, but I quite enjoyed them in this book. We have Lyana, Cassi, Rafe, and Xander. I loved how close the different characters were with each other—Lyana and Cassi were such good friends and I love a good brother dynamic in books. 

Each of these characters were quite unique and I loved getting to learn about them. Cassi was quite morally-grey even if she tries having good intentions, Lyana acts from her heart, I would die for Rafe and his brooding exterior, and Xander is just so wonderful.

I also loved the world. I quite enjoy fantasy but a lot of it I’ve read lately has been medieval-inspired so it was quite fun to read an avian-inspired story. Not only that, but the magic in this world was fun to read about because of the different type of setting and I really loved the difference in Houses and what made them each unique. 

The plot was quite entertaining. I love some good political intrigue and there was plenty of politics at play in this story. Additionally, I love a good forbidden romance—they always make my heart swoon. The plot was enjoyable and I spent a lot of my time reading just loving my time in this world. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m excited to see what happens in the second one. I think a lot of people will enjoy it and it is one that will captivate readers. 

4.5 stars



PLAYLIST
1. Better Love - Hozier
2. I Want to Break Free - Queen
3. Hey Brother - Avicii
4. Wings - Little Mix
5. Give Me Love - Ed Sheeran
6. Adiemus - Enya
7. Weightless - Natasha Bedingfield



MEET KAITLYN DAVIS

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publisher's Weekly has said, "Davis writes with confidence and poise," while USA Today has recommended her work as "must-read romance."

To learn more about her contemporary romance novels, visit her Goodreads author page for Kay Marie here: https://www.goodreads.com/Kay_Marie

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she's not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her--about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general--you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

Sign up for Kaitlyn's newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of her new releases and more! http://bit.ly/AuthorNewsletter

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INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

Prize: $15 Amazon Gift Card
March 10, 2020 - March 24, 2020
If the Rafflecopter widget doesn't show up, enter the giveaway here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


EXCERPT

“Game?” she asked. Her hands had stopped moving. They rested warmly in the hollow groove between his wings, palms half against his feathers and half against his back.

Rafe stole another glance over his shoulder. She was too entranced to see anything but the visions dancing through her head, the visions he’d spun. An almost childlike wonder was alive in her innocent, yearning gaze, igniting a spark in his own chest that he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Not since his parents had died. Not since he’d grown up too soon.

“We like to think of Taetanos as the god of fate, not of death,” Rafe said softly. The glaze in the girl's eyes disappeared as she looked into his. “We call life a game, because we each have our own wants, our own desires—but he sees everything, he knows everything, and he leads us down our destined path. We fight back sometimes, we make moves, and so does he. On and on it goes until, in the end, he wins, like he always does. But still, we keep playing. What other choice do we have?”

Again, her fingers brushed his feathers, but she didn’t look away.

He couldn’t, even if he’d wanted to.

“What do you think this is?” She paused to swallow. “His move or yours?”

His, he silently answered. Definitely his.

Because Rafe ached to fly, to soar, to get out of the darkness and back to his brother, back to the role he was comfortable playing, back to the sidelines. But there was a weight in his chest keeping him there, keeping him still, keeping him so lost in the fire reflected in her eyes that he couldn’t find his way out even if he tried. 

For a moment, he thought he could hear his god laughing.

Then he realized it wasn’t laughter, but the soft whistle of a bird call—a signal he recognized. His move. His life. His brother calling him back.

Xander?

Rafe tensed.

His head whipped to the side, pulled by the noise growing louder, coming not from his imagination but from the other side of the darkness. He opened his mouth to call out in response, when a hand covered his lips and an arm slid around his throat, stronger and more ferocious than he’d expected. Rafe froze as the icy edge of a blade pressed into his skin, instantly recognizing the kiss of steel.

“Be silent,” the girl ordered. “Don’t say a word.”  



Follow along with the rest of the tour and giveaways here!




Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



You can follow my bookstagram here for more bookish content!

To get more awesome posts like this post, click the follow button to the right!

I am a "BookishTextDesign" Influencer! Use my code LAUREN10 for a discount off your bookmark purchases! Check out the shop here

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Sunday, March 8, 2020

Book Review: "Lady Smoke" by Laura Sebastian

Lady Smoke (Ash Princess Trilogy, #2)
Title: Lady Smoke
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: "Ash Princess" #2
Genre: YA Fantasy
Page Length: 512 pages
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Rating: 4.25 // 5 stars

*I was sent a free copy from the publisher through TheFFBC in exchange for an honest review*

So I was lucky enough to read an e-ARC of Ash Princess back before it released. I enjoyed it but wasn't too sure if I was going to continue on with the series when the second book came out because I had pretty much forgotten everything from the first book. Because of that, this trilogy sat on the back-burner for me. I knew I was interested in reading all the books but I also knew I would have to reread before the next ones came out and so I didn't know when I would finally get around to finishing it. Well, the chance came when I saw that TheFFBC was hosting a blog tour for the book and sending copies of the first two books to people who hadn't read the trilogy yet.

I cannot express how glad I am that I took the chance to sign up for that blog tour. After I was picked for the tour, I reread Ash Princess and found that, while I enjoyed it the first time around, I enjoyed it even more this second read-through. I was very excited to continue on with the series. 

I immediately went into reading Lady Smoke. I read a few chapters here or there in between homework but, last night, I ended up sitting down and reading the remaining 400 pages in one go. I may have stayed up too late and I may have been extremely tired this morning, but it was all worth it.

This book was a wonderful journey of political intrigue, character growth, and action. I don't even really know where to start because I just enjoyed it so much. All I know for sure is that I'm diving straight into Ember Queen as soon as I can!

So this book takes off right where Ash Princess ends. I'm not going to describe the exact situation because of spoilers, but there's no huge time jump or missing plot between the first and second books. I really like it when books do that, especially when it's high stakes, because then I feel like I'm drawn into the story immediately rather than having to reacclimatize. 

We are thrust right into the tension that the first book built up so nicely. From the beginning, this book was very high-stakes. The characters are still reeling from the events of book one and there's even more to worry about with all the scheming and plotting going on in the beginning. I feel like there wasn't a lot of high-intensity action scenes, but what made up for it was all the court politics and character interactions. 

I do have to say, my favorite part of this book was indeed the characters. I've always really enjoyed books that are character-driven and, while plenty goes on outside of the characters, I just loved this cast of characters and watching them all interact and try to scheme together. 

I do have to say, our main character, Theodosia, is by far my favorite of all the characters. This is definitely because we get to see her inner thoughts and struggles throughout the book. She isn't perfect, as nobody is, but she genuinely wants what's best for her country but she also is in a tough spot personally. Just reading about her various inner struggles made me connect so much more to her. I loved the other characters as well. They each have their own relationship with Theodosia and I really enjoyed getting to see all of their interactions with her and each other. I definitely have a big emotional connection to all of these characters heading into the next book. 

That being said, the plot was really great. We cover so much in this book and so much happened. What I liked about this book, though, is that while we have our main plot line, there's other tiny plot lines that weave into the larger story. It was refreshing because it's nice not to have to focus on the same exact thing for an entire book but still get to spend time with the characters.

I did not see the ending coming. I will admit to yelling when I read the final few chapters. While the ending was not a huge cliffhanger, I am definitely yearning to jump into the next book immediately. The way that everything has been set up makes me think that there's so many different ways that the story goes. Though, I did accidentally read the last line of the final book when I was checking how many pages it was, so I do know the overall endgame just not how we get there. 

I do have to say, though, that looking back it does seem like it could have been shortened a bit as there were times where I thought particular scenes were dragging or didn't contribute much to the overall story. Still, I did read most of it in one sitting, so obviously those scenes weren't too often. 

I'm not sure how articulate this review is but overall I really enjoyed this installment. It elevated this trilogy to a whole new level in my eyes and I cannot wait to read the third and final book to see how everything ends. 



Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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Sunday, March 1, 2020

February 2020 Wrap-Up + Haul


Hello everyone! Today I'm here with my February Wrap-Up and I'm actually very happy with how this month went in terms of reading! I only read 2 books in January, but after this month, I'm almost back on track with my Goodreads challenge. Plus, I got through a bunch of amazing books! I read a total of 12 books this month so let's go ahead and dive on in!



BOOKS READ
1. 
Title: Our Nig
Author: Harriet E. Wilson
Rating: n/a -- read for class
Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black
This was a very interesting read and quite emotional at times. It follows the story of Frado, a free black child in the North. However, while she's technically free, she is stuck in an indentured servitude which is pretty much the same thing as being a slave. While the story itself was interesting and easy to read, it also provided a look into what the North was like at that time since, at least in my schooling, we're taught that the North was a happy wonderland for black people in that time period, when it really wasn't the case. 

2. 
Title: Secrets From the Grave
Author: B.L. Brunnemer
Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars
Review
-reread-
Secrets From the Grave (The Veil Diaries Book 6)
Rereading this was fun, but I also realized that compared to the first few books in the series I didn't feel as connected to the characters. Still, it was fun to revisit and I'm glad I reread and found details I'd forgotten or missed from the first time around. 

3.
Title: When the Dead Have it Easy
Author: B.L. Brunnemer
Rating: 4.5 //5 stars
Review
-reread-
When The Dead Have It Easy by B.L. Brunnemer
This was another reread on my approach to reading the newest release in this series. I did enjoy it, though as with the first time, not much happened in this book outside of the relationship. I'm still glad to have read this book, but I will admit that there were times where I was bored which usually doesn't happen in this series.

4.
Title: When the Dead Come Home
Author: B.L. Brunnemer
Rating: 5 // 5 stars
Review
When the Dead Come Home (The Veil Diaries Book 8)

5.
Title: The Shadows Between Us
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars
Blog Tour Review
The Shadows Between Us

6.
Title: All the Stars and Teeth
Author: Adalyn Grace
Rating: 4 // 5 stars
Blog Tour Review
All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1)

7.
Title: The Backstagers, Vol 1: Rebels Without Applause
Author: James Tynion IV
Illustrators: Rian Sygh & Walter Baiamonte
Rating: 3.5 // 5 stars
The Backstagers, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV
All three of these graphic novels were really cute and fun. As someone who dabbled in theater (but didn't do a lot of it actively), it was fun to get to see theater getting combined with magic and whatnot. Plus, these characters were super cute and I really enjoyed the art style!

8.
Title: The Backstagers, Vol 2: The Show Must Go On
Author: James Tynion IV
Illustrators: Ryan Sygh & Walter Baiamonte
Rating: 3.5 // 5 stars
The Backstagers, Vol. 2 by James Tynion IV

9.
Title: The Backstagers, Vol 3: Encore
Author: James Tynion IV
Illustrators: Ryan Sygh & Walter Baiamonte
Rating: 3.5 // 5 stars
The Backstagers, Vol. 3 by James Tynion IV

10.
Title: The Sky Weaver
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Rating: 4 // 5 stars
Review
The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli

11.
Title: Writing Fiction
Author: Janet Burroway
Rating: na/a--read for class
Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway
It's the same as every other generic writing fiction book. That's not a bad thing, because it does its job and lays out the basics of writing, but there was nothing in this that I felt catapulted it into a must-have guide.

12.
Title: David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World
Author: David Walker
Rating: n/a rating--read for class
David Walker's Appeal by David  Walker
I had to read this for school and it was definitely interesting. It's not a fiction story, it's a very real appeal to people about the state of things during slavery. It wasn't nice or easy to read, but it opened my eyes a lot more to things that went on because of slavery that I'd actually never learned about before. 



BOOK HAUL

Guys...my haul was so small this month that I could include it in my wrap-up again! Additionally, I didn't buy either of these! The first of these I was sent by a publisher for review (coming in March) and the second I won in a giveaway. This is actually a pretty big deal to me because it's the first month since June 2015 where I haven't bought a single physical book. It's been over four and a half years of me consistently buying books and, as I'm trying to cut back on buying them, I'm actually really proud that I managed not to buy any in February. Of course, with March being the month of Crescent City, I will be buying some soon but I'm still overall very happy with this because it showed me I can stick to a book-buying ban.

The Winter DukeThe first book that I got was an ARC of The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett which was sent to me by Novl. This one actually releases at the beginning of March so there isn't too long of a wait for it! I will be taking this will me to London on spring break and I can't wait to read it!


Lobizona (Wolves of No World, #1)
The second book I got this month was an ARC of Lobizona by Romina Garber (also known as Romina Russell). I've read one of Romina's other books and enjoyed it quite a bit so I was excited when I won the Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of her newest upcoming release! I believe this releases in May but it is available for preorder.



BLOG POSTS

January 2020 Wrap-Up
BLOG TOUR: "All the Stars and Teeth" by Adalyn Grace + Giveaway
Valentine's Day Book Tag
Book Review: "When the Dead Come Home" by B.L. Brunnemer
BLOG TOUR: "The Shadows Between Us" by Tricia Levenseller + Giveaway
Book Review: "The Sky Weaver" by Kristen Ciccarelli
Books I HAVE to Read in 2020



Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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