The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak | ARC Review


THE QUEEN UNDERNEATH
BY STACEY FILAK

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publication Date: May 8th 2018

Synopsis:
The Above and the Under have a tenuous truce that is shattered after the death of both their respective rulers. Gemma, the new queen of Under, must throw history aside and team up with Tollan, the heir to the Above throne, in order to take down a power that seeks to rule them all.

Their group of rebels is comprised of an assassin, a sex worker, and a palace servant from Above, and we follow their unique perspectives as they are forced to question previously held beliefs. But even with war looming, romance still grows. Challenging gender roles and the expectation that every prince must have a princess, Tollan discovers love with Elam—a young man, a sex worker, and one of Gemma’s closest friends.

Goodreads | Amazon

 *I would like to thank Page Street for the chance to read and review this book in return for my honest opinion!*

I am not sure where to start with this review because I wanted to like the book so much. I was super excited when I got sent this book for review and its said to be a spin on Sleeping Beauty. I have to say I was caught off guard while reading because it is marketed as a YA, but I would say it is a little mature to be considered YA. I believe the world building fell short, I was so intrigued by the world concept and loved that the underneath was filled with assassins, thieves and prostitutes and that the above was complete opposite. I needed more. There was so much that could have been done and Filak set the stage for a world that had so much potential. The book was just too short and didn’t achieve what I felt like it could have. I felt like there could have been a ton more character development as well. I really think Filak could have made a whole series off of this concept. That being said I thought their were some great characters and really enjoyed Gemma. There were some references to Sleeping Beauty, but I am not sure I would have marketed it as a spin off. The biggest thing I had an issue with was how often the word “prick/prickling” was used. I have a huge problem with repetition of words, but I also just thought it was excessive.

I know this seems like a bash, but I did enjoy the book and was immediately pulled in within the first chapter and wanted to know what was going to happen the whole time. There were some steamy parts and times I was on the edge of my seat with the twists and turns. I really appreciated that the chapters were headed with the area in the world in which that chapter was taking place, it helped to place myself and develop the world in my head. The Queen Underneath, had some kickass characters and a strong lead female which is always nice to see! I loved the rough edges she had, but also a soft side that was super caring.

Overall I enjoy the story but the main take away is I needed more and wanted more from Filak.

 

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Phoenix Fire by SD Grimm | ARC Review

PHOENIX FIRE BY SD GRIMM

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Publication Date: March 5th 2018

Synopsis: 
After spending her life in foster care, Ava has finally found home. But all it takes is a chance encounter with hot nerd Wyatt Wilcox for it to unravel.

Now, things are starting to change. First, the flashes of memories slowly creeping in. Memories of other lives, lives that Wyatt is somehow in. Then, the healing. Any cut? Gone.

But when Cade and Nick show up, claiming to be her brothers, things get even weirder. They tell her she’s a Phoenix, sent to protect the world from monsters—monsters she never knew existed. It’s a little hard to accept. Especially when they tell her she has to end the life of a Phoenix turned rogue, or Cade will die.

With Wyatt’s increasingly suspicious behavior, Ava’s determined to figure out what he’s hiding. Unless she can discover Wyatt’s secret in time and complete her Phoenix training, she’ll lose the life, love, and family she never thought she could have.

Goodreads | Amazon

 *I would like to thank Entangled Teen for the chance to read and review this book in return for my honest opinion!*

I am not even sure where to start with this review. Let me start by saying PHOENIX !!!! This is the first book I have ever read that focused on the phoenix and I thought S.D Grimm did a good job developing a story off of the phoenix and creating this whole world and backstory for the Phoenix and their purpose in our world. Now let me also say that the phoenix was not the only mythical creature that made an appearance.

I don’t want to say much about the phoenix incorporation or backstory because you learn more throughout the whole story alongside the characters, but the whole idea of rebirth and past lives has always intrigued me. Grimm was able to slowly reveal the story and have the characters put in together piece by piece with such great detail and thought. The story was complex and had a lot of moving pieces for awhile that I was pulled even deeper in trying to figure out what had happened, what was happening and what was going to be the result.

I am not usually a huge fan of multiple POV but thought it worked so well for how this story was being told and in putting together all the pieces. Each of the characters had their strengths and weaknesses. There were quite a few times I found myself screaming at Ava and the choices she made. All the different interactions and relationships really added to the story.

Overall I enjoyed this story and the way it was written. It had me on the edge of my seat at times and had me yelling at characters at other times. I loved the fact that it revolved around the idea of this Phoenix community and would love to see more books incorporate the idea of phoenix. The world building and background development were well though out and I didn’t feel like I had a lot of questions that went unanswered which is always a plus. Grimm balanced the characters and multiple POVs so well and really drove the story forward at a nice pace. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys paranormal reads or wants to experience an interesting novel containing phoenix!

By A Charm And A Curse By Jaime Questell | Author Interview

BY A CHARM AND A CURSE BY JAIME QUESTELL

Synopsis:

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

Release Date: February 6th 2018  Amazon| Barnes & Noble 

INTERVIEW WITH JAIME

– Top 5 Things readers need to know about the book
1. This is my first novel published, but my third novel written.
2. I have four fabulous critique partners and this novel wouldn’t exist without them
3. This novel also wouldn’t exist without support from my family (seriously, it takes a village)
4. Leslie and Lars are kind of based on Leslie Knope (if Leslie were jaded after having lived for decades and decades) and Ron Swanson
5. Yes, Mrs. Potter totally go her name when I was stumped for a surname and happened to glance up and see my Harry Potter novels on my bookshelf
– Who/What was your inspiration for becoming a writer? How long have you been writing?
This will probably sound cheesy as all get out, but my best friend, Jeylan. She was writing a novel and when I told her that I was, too, she basically withheld her novel until I showed her mine. It sounds so cruel when I write it out, but if I hadn’t traded manuscripts with her, there’s a good chance CHARM would never have made it to this point. 
– Which of your characters would you say you are most like?
I like to think I’m like Leslie, willing to make tough choices and something of a caretaker. But probably I’m also (at least a little bit) Whiskey, who lives life like she doesn’t owe anything to anyone.
– What (if anything) was your inspiration behind By A Charm And A Curse?
I first had an image of a girl falling from a great height while listening to Coin-Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls, and I wrote a short story (what’s now chapter three, essentially) in one day while listening to that song on repeat. But as it grew into a novel, I was inspired by fairy tales and I wanted to try to invoke some of the same feelings a person has when they read those kinds of stories. 
– If your book was to be turned into a movie who would you cast as your leads?
Taron Egerton for Ben and Kara Hayward for Emma. 🙂
 
– Did you have to research anything for your book?
I did! First I looked up vintage photos of circuses and carnivals, because I wanted LeGrand’s to feel like it had been around for ages. I also wanted inspiration for acts there would be in the carnival. Marcel is a knife thrower because of some of the fantastic pictures I found, and once I found a photo of a small girl (four or five) standing bareback on a horse, I knew I needed equestrians. There were a few things that didn’t make it; I really wanted to feature fire eaters more than what’s currently in there. And I also looked up circus jargon so I could pepper those in to make everything more grounded in reality. 
– In 5 words how would you describe By A Charm And A Curse?
Cursed kisses and real-life magic.
– Which Hogwarts house would your main character be in?
Emma is a Slytherin, with a little bit of Gryffindor mixed in, but Ben is ALL Hufflepuff. 
– What’s on your playlist? Does the music go with your book?
Music is super important to me when I write. Whenever I wrote Emma, I listened to this band called Kitten, their song Johnny, Johnny, Johnny in particular. And for Ben, it was The Rubens and their song Elvis. When I needed to capture the feel of the carnival in general, I’d go back to Coin-Operated Boy or Rasputina’s cover of Rock and Roll.

– There were a lot of awesome performers in Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic, what would be your act if you were part of the carnival?
Um, so I’d really, really, really want to be a performer in a sparkly costume, but I know I’m uncoordinated and I’m better off slinging fried foods. 😀

Meet the Author: 

Website: jaimequestell.com
Twitter : @JaimeQuestell
Instagram: @JaimeQuestell
Goodreads

 

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel | Author Interview


BLACK BIRD OF THE GALLOWS BY MEG KASSEL

Synopsis:

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

INTERVIEW WITH MEG

Top 5 Things readers need to know about the book

  1. It’s a standalone novel with a companion coming out next fall.
  2. It’s a paranormal romance with a hot harbinger of death.
  3. The antagonist is a deeply misunderstood guy.
  4. The antagonist is also a deeply scary guy.
  5. The cover is beautiful and I had nothing to do with the design of it.

 Who/What was your inspiration for becoming a writer? How long have you been writing?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but it seemed so unattainable for so long. I always wrote, but it wasn’t until I finished a whole novel, one rainy Maine summer, that I realized if I could do it. And if I could write one book, I could write another. And so I did. It took me seven years from that first (truly horrible) novel to holding a finished book in my hands. Seven or eight complete manuscripts didn’t make it to publication. Lots of fragments of ideas never even made it to the planning stage.

Did your story end up differently then what you had originally imagined?
Of course! Initially, the house next door was haunted and the harbingers of death cleared out the ghost. I had this whole idea of a ghost story weaving in with the plot and by the end of the first draft it was completely cut. There was enough going on without a subplot about ghosts that didn’t do anything but slow everything down. I don’t hesitate to cut what isn’t gelling.

Which of your characters would you say you are most like?
I’m mostly like Reece. We both dislike keeping secrets, love hockey and are fiercely loyal to those we love. Also, we are both not always the best judge of character.

If your book was to be turned into a movie who would you cast as your leads?
I have no idea. Honestly. A decade-younger Scott Eastwood would be the closest fit to Reece, I guess? And for Angie, I can’t even. She’s a colorful mix of personality and characteristics, but in my mind, her face is different to me every time I’ve revised her.

Did you have to research anything for your book?
I researched the lore of crows with human culture—why they are associated with doom and evil in western societies. I also read as much as I could about the myths of harbingers of death, although there isn’t much concrete stuff on them. They aren’t an established creature, like bigfoot, or anything. I also did extensive research on the nature of a certain geological event, but if I get more specific than that, it will give too much away.

What is the one book you recommend to everyone?
EVERYONE? That’s a tall order. Don’t laugh: A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh. For real. These short stories are funny, sophisticated and expert examples of character development. Ignore Disney and go with the real deal. The writing is superb.

In 5 words how would you describe Black Bird of the Gallows ?

Creepy love story with bees.

 If your characters were in the hunger games who’d win?
Rafette would win, that jerk. It helps to be able to turn yourself into bees and turn everyone else mad.

Which Hogwarts house would your main character be in?
Angie is solid Gryffindor.

 What’s on your playlist?

Milosh: Couldn’t Sleep

Unclubbed2 (feat. Zoe Durant): Need To Feel Loved

London Grammar: Hey Now

SOHN: Bloodflows

The Presets: Promises (Nils Frahm Rework)

First Aid Kit: My Silver Lining

Does the music go with your book?
Eh, not all the lyrics, but the vibe does. These are just some of the songs that I listened to while writing and revising the book.

Meet the Author: 

Website: megkassel.com
Twitter : @megkassel
Goodreads
Amazon

 

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel | Excerpt Reveal

I’m seriously questioning the wisdom of coming here. Who is this boy? Who are these people? I may not want these answers. Whatever illusion I had been weaving about this being a normal family can’t be true. This is a family, yes, but one putting on an elaborate show to appear to be something they are not. “Everyday life can’t be so bad,” I say lightly, eager to change the subject before I start luring myself down a hole. “You have a beautiful home, a nice family. You’re popular at school. Kiera Shaw certainly likes you.”

He turns his gaze to me, slowly. “Kiera Shaw? You think I like her?”

“I don’t know what you like.” I don’t blink. I don’t look away. “I know only what I’ve seen.”

Reece leans close, gently entering my personal space. Close enough to put me on edge, but not close enough to intimidate. His voice is silk on gravel. His narrowed eyes glitter down at me. “And what, exactly, have you seen, Angie?”

Shivers race up my skin. I want to defuse this so badly, but I feel like this is a challenge I can’t lose. “I’ve seen and heard things that don’t make sense. Things I can’t understand.” I shift my gaze to my crow sitting on a branch above my head. It watches me with an intensity that would scare me if I wasn’t accustomed to it. “Tell me about the crows.”

He shakes his head. “Sorry. Either you know about them, or you don’t.”

My jaw tightens, even as I step toward him. I can feel his body heat. His clean, guy scent fills my senses with a unique magnetism that draws me close. Closer still. “I will find out.”

His gaze sweeps my face, lingering on my lips. “I hope not.” His breath warms my temple, sending a shiver under my skin. “There are worse things out there than a few watchful birds.”

“Like what?” I’m breathless, damn him. My words are barely audible.

His lashes fan low over his eyes. The narrow space between us crackles with tension. “Oh Angie, you don’t want to know.”

Look for Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel 9/5!

Book Blogger Shout-Out | Sam @ Spines in a Line

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So if you have been around on my blog you will know of my new feature: Book Blogger Shout-Out! The purpose of this is to showcase some awesome book bloggers! This month I reached out and asked Sam @ Spines in a Line  if she would be so kind to participate and be featured for my Book Blogger Shout-out! Her blog is awesome and she has a ton of different features. She has anything from reviews to some great author interviews. So make sure you go over to Sam’s blog and say hi!

Hello everyone and thank you to Ashley for having me on her blog! I’m Sam and I’ve been book blogging for a little over a year now over at Spines in a Line. I’ve always loved reading and since I began tracking my books on Goodreads (almost obsessively), it was only a matter of time before I started my own blog. I’m heading to grad school in the fall for a Master’s in library science and I’m really excited about finding all new ways to engage with books! Thanks for reading!

My Fave Female Characters of 2017

I signed up for a reading challenge this year where you pledge to read books by female authors, with different levels like Super Girl and Wonder Woman based on the number of books you read. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do but so far more than 50% of my read shelf has been written by women (and I’ve hit that Wonder Woman goal)!

So in honour of this challenge, and surpassing my expectations, I’m sharing some of my favourite female characters from my reads this year, from books written by women of course!

1) Puck from Puck by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

The title character, Puck, is very like her play counterpart – spunky and troublesome and just generally creating chaos in her wake. In this incarnation though, she’s a teenager so she brings a lot of that teenage sass and is just a delight in this story (that’s only slightly sarcastic :P)!

 

2) Anne from Persuasion by Jane Austen

I was in a Jane Austen book club this year so I read a lot of Austen’s book for the first time and I’ve gotta say, Anne has been my favourite heroine thus far. Though she seems quiet and timid, she really shines as a strong, independent woman. Despite the persuasiveness of her family and friends, Anne knows her own mind and I like that she gets the chance to make her own way.

 

3) Melody from Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

This is probably my favourite series right now and a lot of that is down to this MC! She’s hilarious and super awkward (which probably makes her more funny)! She’s also a huge clutz and that’s just super relatable so it’s always fun following her story.

 

4) Cara from Or Best Offer by Beck Medina

Another awkward character, it’s hard not to love Cara! She’s got grand ideas of love and a stubbornness about her that’s actually really endearing, as she’s determined to stick with it no matter how hard the troubles may be.

 

I’m looking forward to adding more to this list before the year is out! Who are some of your fave female characters from this year?

 

Blog: https://spinesinaline.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/spinesinaline

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spinesinaline/

Goodreads: Sam

I would love to hear thoughts on this feature or if you are interested in being featured. If you have any questions or comments for Sam  make sure to leave them here or head over to her blog! Look out for the next book blogger!

Top 5 Wednesday | Books Set In Non Western World

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey (YouTube, Goodreads) and if you would like to join, here is the link for the Goodreads group with all the information.

This week’s topic is Books Set In Non Western World 

♦ Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)

♦ Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys (Lithuania/Siberia)

♦ The Martian by Andy Weir (Mars)

♦ Cinder by Marissa Meyer (New Beijing)

 

What are some of your favorite YA books set in the non western world? 

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Book Review

OPEN ROAD SUMMER BY EMERY LORD 

Genre: YA Contemporary

“You are the only person who can build emotional barriers, but you’re also the only person who can topple them. Other people can’t knock down the walls you’ve built, no matter how much they love you. You have to tear them down yourself because there’s something worth seeing on the other side.”
Emery Lord, Open Road Summer

Synopsis:
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

Goodreads | Amazon 

I am never drawn to contemporary books, but it is a thing to do in the summer and I am happy I picked this one up. It is based on two friends during the summer time and gave me exactly what I needed. This is a fun summer road trip following Dee’s music tour as Dee and Reagan work though situations in their lives while enjoying the time together.

I could not put this book down, it was a fast read and so much fun. I loved the friendship between the two girls and how much they were there for each other. They each had such different personalities and different ghost they were dealing with in their past. I really found a connection to Reagan and some of the things she was going through. She had developed so much throughout the story and it was really nice to see. Of course there is a love interest and at times it took away a little from the two girls,  but it added a deeper layer to the book as well.

The music aspect was so intriguing and nice to read about. I sometimes think that music isn’t used enough in books. Or is a focus in many books. I like that it showed some real realities that accompany the entertainment world and made Dee an actual human with flaws and a past.

Overall I thought this was a great and fun read. It is perfect for the summer time and included so many fun summertime things. The relationships were really well done and it showed all sides of those relationships, the good, bad and the ugly. I also really appreciated that there was a guardian figure present because in so many YA novels these kids run around all on their own. The characters were complex and the storyline was sometimes a little deeper than just a fluffy contemporary, but it was such a fast gripping read.

You might also like:

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Fight Like A Girl Tag | YA Edition

No one tagged me, but I saw this and thought it would be fun to do! I am also all about strong females! If you do this leave me a link to your post in the comments.

THE RULES

  • Thank the person who tagged you.
  • Mention the creator Krysti at YA and Wine
  • Match at least one YA girl with each of the themes below.
  • Tag as many people as you like!
WARRIOR GIRLS

Alanna from Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. She pretends to be her brother and goes off to get trained as a page. She eventually makes it to a knight!

GIRLS WHO FIGHT WITH THEIR MIND

Denna from Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. She is brilliant and is able to use her brain to her advantage.

GIRLS WHO FIGHT WITH THEIR HEART

Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. I think she is a very atypical heroine, but has so much compassion and heart.

GIRLS WHO ARE TRAINED FIGHTERS

Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead. Rose will always be one of my favorite female heroines and she has some awesome fighting moves.

STRONG GIRLS OF COLOR

Rue from the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. She gave her life for Katniss and became a symbol.

GIRLS WHO FIGHT TO SURVIVE

Rose from Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell. Rose does everything she could in order to survive because others gave their life so she could.

GIRLS WHO ARE WEAPONS MASTERS

Katniss from the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I mean the way she uses that bow would make me run.

GIRLS WHO DON’T CONFORM TO GENDER ROLES

This one is a little hard. I do not think I have read enough books to have an answer for this.

GIRLS WITH KICK-BUTT MAGICAL POWERS

Vin from Misborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The whole magic system in this trilogy is so awesome and Vin does some great things with her powers.

STRONG GIRLS IN CONTEMPORARY NOVELS

Reagan from Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I love her! She stands up for herself and takes care of herself even though she has been through some stuff.

SERIOUSLY FIERCE GIRLS

Kate Harker from This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. Kate is such a kick ass female. She is also super sassy which I love.

Who are some of your favorite strong females?

Top 5 Wednesday | Books Without Romance

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey (YouTube, Goodreads) and if you would like to join, here is the link for the Goodreads group with all the information.

This week’s topic is Books Without Romance 

I am always in search of good YA without a main focus being the romance. It is a really hard thing to find, but there are quite a few good ones that have little to no romance.

♣ This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab 
♣ Odd & True by Cat Winters

♣ The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

♣ Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys 

♣ Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas 

 

What are some of your favorite YA books with little to no romance ?