book rec

BLOG TOUR: Star-Touched Stories, Roshani Chokshi (August 7, 2018)

When you look up “beautiful writing” in the dictionary (just go with it…), there’s just a picture of Roshani Chokshi. I have read all of Roshani’s books and there’s something about her writing voice that lends itself so well to the fantasy genre. The way she introduces the world is always just perfectly lyrical and descriptive and flowy and I could wax-poetic all day.

But don’t just take my word for it—keep reading for a brief synopsis and exclusive excerpt from STAR-TOUCHED STORIES.


The 411: STAR-TOUCHED STORIES is a collection of three short stories set in the universe of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN and A CROWN OF WISHES.

Death and Night: He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold: Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Gauri and Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she will have to battle her insecurities and maybe, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword: There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?


ExCLUSIVE EXcerpt

Night’s dance thrummed with purpose. Her grace sharpened into a lathe, and with it she sculpted the promise of tomorrow from nothing but shadows. She was potential incarnate. When she shaped shadows to every sleep-creased fold in the earth, she was balancing time, wiping slates clean, allowing any beginning to take shape. When she frosted night over the world, dawn whispered the lyrics of every tomorrow: here is a thing not yet started, here is a thing of magic. My own halfhearted attempts of invention paled before her. She was the beginning of all ideas.

And before her, I was humbled.

Her laughter was still ringing in my ears when I arrived back to the palace. Gupta was meditating upside down and cracked open an eye when he saw me.

“Oh no,” he said, paling. “Not a single insult? My sherwani jacket is practically around my head.”

“I can see that.”

My hounds ran up to me, snuffling my palms with bemused expressions. I scratched their ears absentmindedly.

“What did she do to you?”

She had laughed at me. And made me laugh at myself. And she had been freely honest. People always threw their honesty and last secrets at me, as if by expelling them in a dying breath, they could shorten their time in the less savory parts of my kingdom. But she had given her honesty without expectation. And her honesty was a gift.


About the author

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.


Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for including me on the blog tour and for my galley.

August 2018 TBR

Presenting my August TBR stacks! Please ignore that horrible glare (Mother Nature did not want to cooperate with me as I was rushing to shoot this picture). In regards to physical books, these are the ones I’m attempting to get thru this month. I’ve been horrible at planning for release dates so I have a bunch of August and September releases here I need to read. And it’s also #ARCAugust so this is perfect timing. PS look at all that historical fiction AND a nonfiction?! I’m growing up.

This starting list has got…

1 graphic novel
2 advanced finished copies
3 backlist books
8 physical ARCs

Full titles and official Goodreads synopses are below—happy August reading, book lovers!

Bloom by Kevin Panetta (illus. Savanna Ganucheau)

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything. (Graphic novel, ARC)


The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives–at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains–he discovers a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.  But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue, until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever. (Adult historical fiction, ARC)


Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

I was lucky enough to win a copy thru Bookish First! If you haven’t heard of this awesome program, you are given an excerpt of a future release and you write a first impression. You are then put into a pool with everyone else who submitted a first impression and a few lucky readers get copies to read and review.

New York, 1924. Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall. But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson. (Adult historical fiction, finished copy)


Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes

Yes, I know that I’m horribly late at starting this series. But I’ve found it highly entertaining and I’m completely invested in Magnus and Cleo being happy.

As two lethal elemental gods set out to destroy Mytica, sworn enemies must become allies in the final fight to save the kingdoms. (YA fantasy, backlist)


Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within. Finally, the time has come. (Adult science fiction, backlist)


The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

This book is so far out of my usual orbit, but I got the opportunity to hear the editor talk about it at BEA and completely sold it.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner. Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita. (Adult true crime/nonfiction, ARC)


A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide. (YA fantasy, ARC)


Rule by Ellen Goodlett

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos. Three girls with three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown. (YA fantasy, ARC)


Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll

Doris—a lone liberal in a conservative small town—has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of “Mr. Popular” whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people’s lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future. (YA contemporary, ARC)


The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

In a world without color, eleven-year-old Ishmael lives a monotonous existence, herding sheep and helping his widowed mother with their meager farm after the premature death of his father. Early one morning, a ray of light pierces a pane of glass in the barn, fragmenting Ishmael’s black and white world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Ishmael embarks on a search to understand just what it is that he sees, a search that leads him to the Hall of Hue, one of seven creative workshops at the Commons. (MG fantasy, ARC)


Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

If you’ve followed this blog for a bit, you already know that I love everything about this musical and seeing it on broadway was the highlight of my summer last year. I got to meet the creators of the show at BEA and get my ARC signed and it will be treasured forever.

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend. Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore—even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be? (YA contemporary, ARC)


From Here to You by Jamie McGuire

The moment Trex walks into the inn, Darby knows he’s dangerous. There’s no way she wants to get involved with another man who seems to be keeping way too many secrets. As charming and devastatingly gorgeous as Trex is, he clearly isn’t telling her everything. But as wildfires rage on the mountain and Darby’s ex-fiancé shows he isn’t so willing to let her go, both she and Trex are soon to find out that what you don’t know absolutely can hurt you. (Adult romance, ARC)


Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots? (Adult contemporary, finished copy)


The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

I am shamefully behind on my Rick Riordan books aka I’ve only read The Lightning Thief. *runs and hides*

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. (MG fantasy, backlist)

REVIEW: The War Outside, Monica Hesse (September 25, 2018)

One of my bookish goals for 2018 was to read more historical fiction—a genre I typically do not pick up. And while 12 of my 272 books read have been historical fiction, I’ve generally been in a state of meh about them. When I read the premise for THE WAR OUTSIDE, I was about 75 percent sure I would enjoy it. I did not think it would knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending.

Let’s just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it’d be my most-read genre.


The 411: Welcome to Crystal City, Texas, where supposed “enemies” of the U.S. government are kept in an isolated commune. This particular internment camp houses both German and Japanese families—the only one of its kind. And our two protagonists come from both sides:

For 17-year-old Haruko, arrival in Crystal City is the chance to reunite her mother and sister with her father, who was placed there after being accused suspicious activity at work. German-American Margot and her family originally settled in Iowa (holla!) but were sent to Texas after her father attends a meeting for the American Nazi party, seemingly under completely innocent motives. These two would have no reason to interact, let alone get along. Despite the immense odds and the war outside, Margot and Haruko form an inseparable bond that changes the course of their lives.


The setting is World War II, but this story felt entirely too real. You can’t help but make connections with today’s current political climate. I apologize if this feels too partisan, but there a few things that really stuck out to me:

(Note, these quotations come from an uncorrected proof and may be changed for publication.)

In regards to immigration, this quote in particular broke my heart:

“We decided we would come here and we would learn how many original colonies there were, and who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And for what? So they could decide we would never be American enough for them, and put us in here?”

After the 2016 election, John Oliver begged on his show, Last Week Tonight, to keep reminding ourselves that “this is not normal.” Because for those of us who are not currently or have the potential to be affected by this administration, it would be very easy to stop caring. If you haven’t watched that episode, it’s brilliant and I highly recommend, and this quote from Ken, Haruko’s brother, made me think of his words immediately,

“I don’t want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don’t care if you have a new friend, or if there’s a school newspaper, of if there are books in the library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there’s a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you’re a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave they wouldn’t let you.”

Now let’s get to the friendship between Haruko and Margot: it’s beautiful. Their friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer lets a bond speak for itself without definition. My personal interpretation is that their relationship had romantic undertones in the small (and big) ways they defended each other, talked about the other, and in those rare little confessions of how they were feeling.

I wish I could speak about the ending because it also made my poor little heart burst. It didn’t so much as make my jaw drop, but restore some of my faith in the human race. I’m very picky with my five star ratings and just can’t do it for this one but it’s so dang close. Literally like a 4.95.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰.95
RECOMMENDED READING: The Bear & the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


Thank you to The Novl/LBYR for my galley, which I received as part of the Novl Book Squad in exchange for an honest review. THE WAR OUTSIDE is available September 25, 2018.

BLOG TOUR: The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager (July 3, 2018)

the last time i lied blog tour | fantastic flying book club

“Everything is a game, Em. Whether you know it or not. Which means that sometimes a lie is more than just a lie. Sometimes it’s the only way to win.”

Riley Sager is becoming one of my favorite thriller novelists. Last year, I absolutely devoured his debut thriller, FINAL GIRLS, and when I saw he was coming out with a new novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it—which makes me even more excited to be included on the blog tour for THE LAST TIME I LIED. Folks, I loved FINAL GIRLS, but I thiiiiiink I might have loved this even more.

Read on for a spoiler-free review AND a giveaway below.


“Two truths and lie, ladies. I’ll start.” 

The 411:  At 13, Emma Davis is sent to Camp Nightingale aka Camp Rich Bitch for the summer. She’s assigned to the Dogwood cabin and is taken in by her cabin-mates, Natalie, Allison, and most importantly, Queen Bee Vivian Hawthorne. Vivian’s favorite game is “two truths and lie” and over the course of the summer, the girls use it to gang up and humiliate each other. The games end, however, when the other three girls go missing one night. As the last person to see the girls, Emma accuses the camp director’s son, Theo, as the culprit.

Fast-forward 15 years and Emma is a hot up-and-comer on the NYC art scene, where she creates lush paintings of forests, (and unknowingly to everyone else) hides three girls in flowy, white dresses. At an art show, Emma is approached by Franny Harris-White, the former director of Camp Nightingale, with the news that she is reopening the camp and wants Emma to return as staff.

Emma returns to Camp Nightingale in the hopes of finally uncovering what happened to her friends, and to face the Harris-White family, who she tore apart with her accusation.


Ok, friends. There were so many swerves in this book that my motion sickness-prone ass was metaphorically spinning by the end. And let me clarify, these were all the good kind of swerves. Here’s the mandatory disclaimer that I am horrible at figuring out twists in books—so it’s no surprise that the ending threw me for a hell of a loop. But it’s an ending that makes sense and is completely satisfying.

Now, the Unreliable Female Narrator is a super common plot line these days and while I do enjoy this trope, I am seriously tired of the is-she-or-isn’t-she-going-“insane” trope. And honestly, I was a little worried that’s where this book was heading at first. Mental illness is involved, but is maaaaaybe mentioned 10 sentences at most. It’s also not often where I enjoy books without some kind of romantic aspect. I don’t need a relaysh to root for, but it definitely helps me feel more invested.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰1/2
RECOMMENDED READING: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier, Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Also, this book is a July pick for Book for the Month club! If you have a subscription, you should definitely add this to your box and if you don’t—you can grab one here.


BUY LINKS
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | IndieBound | iBooks 


GIVEAWAY

If you’re still here, I’m going to assume you’re here for the freebie (I’m not cocky enough to assume you’ve kept scrolling for my incomparable wit). Dutton is being amazing and offering up 20 hardcovers of THE LAST TIME I LIED for all the blogs on the tour. To get your own copy of the summer’s hottest thriller, here’s what you need to do:

US/Canada only. Winners can only be chosen once per tour (so if you win on another blog, you’ll be disqualified).


Thank you so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on the tour and to Dutton for my galley. Check out all the other stops on the blog tour here.

Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag

I’m doing this popular tag via blog because no one and I mean no one wants to watch me on YouTube. So really, I’m saving you from having to gouge out your eyes. You’re welcome. 🙂

Thank you the original creators:
IsThatChami: https://www.youtube.com/user/ReadLikeWildfire
ElyJayne: https://www.youtube.com/user/MidnightBluex

— THE QUESTIONS —

Best book you’ve read so far in 2018:
Picture Us in the Light, Kelly Loy Gilbert


Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2018:
Wildcard, Marie Lu (review in the works!)


New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang

I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this book and I can’t wait to dive in.


Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
Queen of Air and Darkness, Cassandra Clare

The ending to LORD OF SHADOWS nearly killed me and I love this trilogy so much. Please don’t kill my Julian, Cassie.


Biggest disappointment:
Our Kind of Cruelty, Araminta Hall


Biggest surprise:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah


Favorite new author (Debut or new to you):
Helen Hoang (The Kiss Quotient)


Newest fictional crush:
Thomas Cresswell, Stalking Jack the Ripper Series by Kerri Maniscalco

  <— I mean…*heart eyes* (credit: Phantom Rin)


Newest favorite character:
Helene Aquilla, An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

I admit that I highly disliked her in the first book because she was an obstacle to my Elias-Laia ship, but now I love her for being a bad-ass Bloodshrike, loving her family so much, and I’m really happy she’s taken on a larger role in these books. Also note to Sabaa, please don’t kill her.


Book that made you cry:
All Your Perfects, Colleen Hoover (REVIEW IN THE WORKS!)


Book that made you happy:
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, Ashley Herring Blake


Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received):
The Way You Make Me Feel, Maurene Goo

Look at the beautiful pinkness AND the beautiful Asian girl on the cover?!


What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The Darkest Minds series, Alexandra Bracken

(or at least before the movie comes out)


Favorite Book Community Member:
Book Riot staff + contributors

I’m cheating a little (and I’m a little biased), but this group of people is fantastic. I love working with all you and thank you for keeping me sane on Slack all day.

REVIEW: Jar of Hearts, Jennifer Hillier (June 12, 2018)

Ok. Okokokokokokokokok this book is brilliant. And if you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that’s not a word I use often.

JAR OF HEARTS by Jennifer Hillier is twisty and dark and sick and So. Freaking. Good.


Georgina aka Geo has been haunted ever since her high school best friend, Angela, vanished without a trace. And she’s about to drop a bomb on her former friends and sleepy little town: Geo helped her then-boyfriend, Calvin James, dispose of Angela’s body after he seemingly killed her. This admission connects Angela to a series of three other murders Calvin is convicted of performing.

We meet Geo again as she is released from jail and attempts to return to regular life. She reconnects with Kaiser Brody, the third point of the Geo-Angela-Kaiser friendship triangle, who is now a cop. But once Calvin escapes prison and more grisly murders start happening, all eyes are on Geo and her connection to Calvin.


JAR OF HEARTS is one of the best serial killer/crime thrillers I’ve read. Each chapter leaves justthe right amount of cliffhanger that you feel the need to continue. The writing is also intensely graphic in terms of description of unsavory things, but I’m weird and desensitized and ate it right up. And no, the jar of hearts is not a literal jar of hearts. But don’t be fooled, this book is brutal. Beautiful, but brutal.  If you are the least bit squeamish, I wouldn’t pick up this book.  See below for more content warnings.

I know this is me saying this, but the twist truly comes out of left-field—and it works. It all works. The ending is so satisfying and I closed this book incredibly happy. I am not surprised at all that it’s already been optioned for film. The story is going to translate incredibly well and I guarantee it’ll have Gone Girl / Girl on the Train-hype.

Now excuse me as I go reserve all of Ms. Hillier’s books at the library.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰1/2
I ALSO SUGGEST:
 Final Girls by Riley Sager
**CONTENT WARNING: gratuitous descriptions of murder/crime scenes (including children), rape/attempted rape, domestic violence


Thank you Minotaur Books for my galley! Jar of Hearts is available June 12.