Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year is another of those rare books that has left me speechless. This is what I knew about this book going in…

“Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.”

I was immediately lured into this world that was at once so bizarre and so familiar in theme. It has all the feels of The Handmaid’s Tale (a dystopian patriarchal society). The Hunger Games (sending away teens who may, or may not, return) and Lord of the Flies (the psychology of people existing under duress and away from the confines of society).

Tierney has just been sent to a remote location for her grace year, and survival against the elements isn’t the only thing she’ll have to endure. Almost immediately the power structure among the thirty-three girls is established and the cruelty of some of them becomes evident, with simmering grudges boiling over into vengeance. Danger also lurks outside the compound as poachers are waiting for the opportunity to kill the grace girls in order to sell their body parts to people looking to capture some of their magic.

From the start to the end my heart was pounding and my mind reeling at every turn of the storyline. Kim Liggett has done an amazing job of building this shocking world and weaving tension and hope amid world that seems so bleak. The Grace Year is available October 8, 2019 and I highly recommend it.  

*I received a copy of The Grace Year from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: The Hollow Queen by Sherry D. Ficklin

Sherry Ficklin continues to thrust us directly into the turbulent machinations of the life in the Romanov Court.

The Hollow Queen is the latest novel in the Stolen Empire series and it does not disappoint. We were introduced to Elizabeth in the novella Winter Queen (link to Winter Queen review) and now, we join Elizabeth as she travels deep into the perilous world of Russian royalty.

With her fiancé and mother both dead, Elizabeth—daughter of Peter the Great—is returned to court in St. Petersburg where she’s been stripped of her title, lands and jewels—all of which now belong to her nephew, Peter the second. Elizabeth understands the peril she faces, her mother has just been assassinated, there is no Romanov heir after her nephew, and there are many—including Prince Menshikov—who would prefer to use the crown of Russia toward their own benefit.

Elizabeth vows to support the reign of Peter, and thereby the Romanov line. But although he’s entitled to the throne by blood, it’s Elizabeth who truly understands how to rule. As her affections for the new Tzar grow, so does the danger to them both. Will Elizabeth be able to overcome the threats from both within and without her country? And will she continuously have to sacrifice her own desires and happiness for the sake of her family’s rule?

Once again the story is steeped so deep in political intrigue, danger and desire that I just couldn’t set the book aside. This is truly one of my favorite series to get lost in and can’t wait for more.

The Hollow Queen is available September 28, 2019 preorder now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

**I received a complimentary copy of The Hollow Queen from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Dual Book Review: Keeper by Kim Chance & Seeker by Kim Chance

Keeper (Keeper #1) by Kim Chance

Lainey is a typical teenage girl, she’s trying to find her place in high school…oh, and she just found out her mother is a Keeper. Not only was her mother a Keeper—a witch the ability to open and use the grimoire—but Lainey finds out she’s a Keeper as well.

But the grimoire has gone missing along with the most powerful spell known. Of all the people who are looking for it, the Master is the one person who is the most dangerous. If the Master were to find the grimoire he’d be able to absorb all the magic in the world for his own use.

Along with her feisty superhero-loving friend Lainey has to try and find the grimoire while navigating the dangers of the magic world and people who may not be who they pretend to be.

Keeper is an exciting, fun adventure with an explosive ending that left me ready to immediately open book 2!

Seeker (Keeper #2) by Kim Chance

In the wake of the explosive finale in Keeper, Lainey and Maggie have been spirited out of the Master’s reach by a group of paranormal renegades. Lainey is dealing with the loss of her uncle, Ty’s betrayal, and the ever-present threat that the Master will find her as well as the pressure of having to conceal where the grimoire really is.

Seeker is a solid follow up to Keeper. The pacing remains solid, the characters and storyline develop at a satisfying pace. There was a bit of a lull until the mid-point, but it picked up again and I was left just as satisfied with this book as I was with the first.

Maggie and Ty are so well-developed here, I couldn’t help but be more focused on their progression than Lianey’s, though hers was just as intriguing.

Kim Chance has done a great job of building this world that exists right in the midst of our own and oh, how I want this secret world to be real!

*I received a copy of Seeker from NetGalley and Flux in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: All Boy by Mia Kerick

Callie is attending Beaufort Hills Academy in an effort to put a humiliating high school experience behind her. But, as much as she wants to be her own person, she can’t get past her desire to fit in.

Jayden is also looking for a new start at Beaufort Hills Academy, one that involves living—for the first time—as a boy. With his strict religious upbringing, Jayden has never had the freedom to live the life he feels is true to his inner self.

Callie and Jayden are drawn to each other, and soon discover that keeping secrets isn’t so easy. But love is love–right?

All Boy is an achingly raw story about two teenagers who are looking for the freedom to live their lives, and to be accepted for who they are in a world that isn’t always receptive to the unique spirit of individuals. Mia Kerick has done a flawless job in presenting the pain and isolation of these two characters. The emotions are palpable, the writing is smooth and the story completely compelling.

**I received a copy of All Boy in exchange for an honest review.

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Author Interview: Emily Shore

Name: Emily Shore
Author of: The Uncaged Series (The Aviary, The Garden, The Temple, The Temple Twins, The Aquarium) and The Ruby Trilogy (Ruby in the Rough, Ruby in the Ruins).

Excerpt from the Uncaged series:

My cage used to be the hotels where I grew up. There, I knew what to do and how to act. Now, I would choose to spend an eternity inside those walls, just being Serenity instead of a caged bird. At least in the hotel, I always had one constant. Sky. Who will I become here? Girls have adopted their feathers, seemingly as easy as zipping up a jacket. But I wear my lightning on my sleeve, and I always will. After Dove departs, I thumb my silver tattoo. Like flames and frost, it taunts my skin. Somehow, I must keep the Aviary from conquering me.


From: Rochester, NY

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? Honestly, I can’t. I was an extremely early budding author and began writing stories from the time I knew how to string sentences together. But my earliest memories were writing fairy tales from classic books I was raised on like Chronicles of Narnia, Arabian Nights, Hans Christian Anderson and of course…Disney.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? From a young age, it was always acting or writing. Dolphin therapy, for a time but I couldn’t hack the science. And since I never got into any high school or community college plays but still loved to write with straight A-s…

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author? You mean other than fictional characters who doubled as my friends in a lonely childhood? No. I faced a lot of challenges and pressure to NOT write. As I was pursuing my creative writing degree, my fiancé now husband, was my only encourager.

Do you exclusively write young adult? Which genres do you prefer to write? I have exclusively written YA but in the fall, I would love to tackle my first NA novel and turn one of my old YA longer works into a NA short series. Someday, I will write a children’s book but not quite there.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? Let’s see…mommy of two little girls + international adoption + home buying/selling + anti trafficking presentations + babysitting a single moms kids during the week + promoting my recently published Uncaged Series = I cant wait till the fall (school for both my girls!)

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? Pre-children=1-4 months. Post-children=3-6 months with three self line edits.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book? Depends on the book. With my Uncaged Series, I spent upwards of ten years researching as I wrote and I still learn more about trafficking every day. I love my paranormal books because I don’t research too much. But when I do…vampire species and wolf behavior and everything undead oh my!

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? Not really. I’m pretty much one of those stereotypical authors with her cats and her headphones clicking away on my laptop while wearing pajamas and drinking tea…and occasionally some vodka!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list? I’ve loved traveling in the past pre-children and it was a thrill to take in as much as I could so I could use it for world building and location fodder. Germany is in my paranormal series releasing this fall! #1 on my bucket list is Paris.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? Every book is different! For one, it was a dream. For another, it was literally one photo. For The Uncaged Series, it happened when I went to Germany and overheard a conversation in an underground pub about the Red Light District. More inspiration came from Taken starting Liam Nelson – not the norm for sex trafficking – but I’ve written about that whole journey in a couple blog posts on my site.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? YA any genre, but I am selective regarding the books in whichever particular genre. What are your favorites? A Clean Teen Publishing Classic: Lauren Nicolle Taylor. I love every single book she’s written and it’s very difficult for me to choose a favorite. Laini Taylor is the Queen of Paranormal fantasy and I could read all of her books on repeat. Yes, I’m aware they share similar names. Coincidence? You decide.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? Little hints in my books parallel to modern day issues that someone with more awareness might recognize. But that’s why I also have discussion questions. More humor hints and a prominent theme will be in my paranormal series this fall.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Absolutely! Yes, I’ve also tried very hard to model some of my characters opposite of people in my life and real life, too.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. My over-appreciated list is longer. Ballad by Maggie Stievfater. Dark urban fantasy. The MC makes me laugh every time. A Northern Light, ya historical, is another

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. The Thousandth Floor. It’s cheesy, its soap opera-y, it’s easy reading, colorful cast of characters, and high tech I drool over.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Once or twice. My husband googles me more.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? You think me a damsel in distress? No, I am the DRAGON and I will swallow you whole!

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? Characterization. Perhaps this is me speaking from a place of having written 25 books in ten years. Hopefully, in another ten years, I’ll have more to offer with growth.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? For potential self publishing or small press authors: #1. You might not like to hear this, but work full time at a good paying job for awhile, accumulate a Publishing fund, and hire a professional, accredited editor. They are worth their weight in gold. Listen to them. Don’t listen to your professor. They know craft. Not necessarily publishing. #2 I don’t have to tell you not to give up. If you’re a real writer, you won’t.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? Depends. Are they Big Five or small press or self published? If they’re Big Five: fangirling followed by begging them to read my book, small press: twinsies!, self published: successful? Loudly congratulating you outside and silently jealous inside, especially if you are a mom but self published when your kids were in grade school or older.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I’m a social media and word of mouth praiser and excellent reviewer. For the authors I love, I can’t sing their praises enough!

Where can people find more about you?
• Website: Www.emilybethshore.com
• Facebook: Facebook.com/authoremilyshore
• Twitter: @emilybethshore
• Instagram: @emilybshore

The Uncaged Series:

The Aviary

“Gentlemen, we have a special treat for you today. Feast your eyes on this pure-blooded beauty!”

Sixteen-year-old Serenity has spent her entire life in hiding to protect her from this exact moment. In a world where beauty is bought and sold on the streets like a corporate commodity, Serenity’s natural assets are more like liabilities. Despite her parents’ best efforts, she’s been taken―ripped from her home and the only life she’s ever known―to find herself on sale to the highest bidder. And that bidder? Enigmatic and dangerous, Luc is the director of The Aviary―an elite museum where girls are displayed as living art by day…and cater to the lascivious whims of the highest bidder by night. In this elaborate and competitive world, girls go by names like Raven and Nightingale, and will stop at nothing to become top Bird.

Luc comes to idolize Serenity’s purity and aims to turn her into his grandest exhibit of all time―The Swan. In no time, she becomes one of the most coveted exhibits in Aviary history. When she discovers Luc holds the key to finding her parents, she must learn to play The Swan to perfection…to win his heart and earn his trust. But she doesn’t anticipate falling for him in the process. Now she faces an impossible choice: escape The Aviary and lose her only chance at finding her parents―or become Luc’s Swan for good and lose her identity forever.

The Garden

Serenity is willing to do anything to find her sister, the twin Force has raised in the Temple since birth. But when Sky refuses to help, Serenity has no choice but to go to Luc—whose plan is to use Serenity as bait. Together, they embark to Force’s island vacation spot—the Garden, an exotic Museum that displays girls as Flowers. When their plan takes a turn for the worse, Jade, the Garden Director, captures Luc and Serenity. With both their lives in the balance, Serenity has no choice but to bow to Jade, who may be even more ruthless and determined than Luc. Serenity will become the Skeleton Flower.

The Ruby Series:

Ruby in the Rough

For four years, Ruby has escaped the gangs and sweepers hunting her. Until now…
For the past four years, Ruby has lived in what was once a sprawling city of business and commerce. Now, it is the Ghetto; its main commerce exists in the form of females. Whether breeders, laborers, gang girls, or sex slaves, the Ghetto features any and every service with the Hotel as its central area of business. Thanks to her roof-topping skills and street smarts, which have made her impossible to catch, Ruby has made the Ghetto’s most-wanted list. Fortunately, she has one ally: a young man named Ink, the one man determined not to sell her. Unlike Ruby, Ink has no desire to leave the Ghetto, but she owes him a life debt and is trapped as much by her honor as by the soldiers patrolling the only exits out of the city.
Whether scavenging for food or holing up in an abandoned clock tower, Ruby and Ink remain unlikely partners until their home in an abandoned train yard is discovered. While Ink escapes, Ruby is captured by the roughest gang in the Ghetto. All too soon, Ruby learns she is bound for the Hotel where she will be used up piece by piece until there is nothing left. Unless she can escape and get the target off her back once and for all.

Ruby in the Ruins

“Ruby!” I hear my father calling out to me, and I try to contain my giggles, keep them hiding behind the thick bush that is my hiding spot. My giggles poke through the leaves but not enough for him to hear.

Or so I thought.

“Aww, you found me!” I protest, puckering my lower lip into a pout when my father sweeps away some of the branches. “I was really trying to be quiet.”

“You did very well,” my father assures me and scoops me into his arms.

“I’m nine years old now. I’m getting better at hiding,” I tell him proudly while winding my arms around his neck.

“That you are.” He beams and swings me around before setting me on the ground.

“So how did you find me?” I follow him back to the barn, eager to see the new goat kid that was born yesterday. Playing hide-and-seek was the only thing that could keep me distracted until Daddy was ready to let me in.

Daddy rubs my head, playing with some of my hair. “This right here.” He tugs on a cluster. “Could see your red hair through the brush. If you ever need to really hide, you’ll have to make sure you cover it up.”

“Or I could just cut it like Mal’s.”

Sighing, my father squats down next to me, his big palm cupping the side of my face, strong blue eyes insistent as an oncoming wave. “Never cut your hair, Ruby. Don’t ever change anything. Don’t let this world dictate how you look or even how you survive. Just survive. On your terms.”

And it has been on my terms all these years. Until now.

Ink

The worst of it isn’t the jump from the train.

The worst is the landing.

It’s the second time I’ve been tossed from a moving vehicle in less than twenty-four hours. Except this time, it was voluntary. As soon as I heard the gunshots and saw Ruby fall off the back of the train through the window, it didn’t take me long to follow.

Only now I’m regretting it because I won’t be any help to Ruby if I’m dead.

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Book Review: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, Book 1) by Emily Duncan

For a century Tranavia and Kalyazia have been at war.

Hidden in a mountain-top monastery, Nadya—a Kalyazi cleric with the ability to communicate with the gods, all the gods—has been living and training. When the Travanian forces breach the walls of the monastery, she is forced to flee into the snow covered lands that have—until now—kept invaders at bay. After fleeing, Nadya encounters a small band of rebels with plans to infiltrate the Travanian palace and kill the king in an effort to end the war. One of the rebels is Malachiasz, an escaped Travanian Vulture with a treasonous plan and a dark secret of his own.  

Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia and a blood mage, has accomplished a victory that no other military leader has, he’s conquered the mountain monastery that hides the Kalyazi cleric. Even though she’s just barely slipped from his grasp, he can feel that her power is far greater than anyone had guessed. And now, with her so close to capture, he’s been called back to Tranavia by his father—for a betrothal ceremony. But Serefin will find that his betrothal isn’t the only danger that lies in waiting.  

Wicked Saints is a dark and tantalizing fantasy that balances politics, magic and religion. Everything about the setting and characters seems to exist in the gray area between good and evil. The descriptions are vivid and the monstrous creatures are so well-described that they are easily visualized and horrific to imagine.  Although I wasn’t as compelled by the romance as I’d hoped, and felt some of the secondary characters could have been better represented, I still found Wicked Saints to be an enjoyable read and look forward to the sequel.  

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Book Review: The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire #4) by Sherry Ficklin

I’m a fan of historical fiction and I LOVE the Stolen Empire series—I can’t get enough of it. I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be another book in the series, and again when I receive a copy of Sherry Ficklin’s latest novella in the series.

The Winter Queen is a prequel to the Stolen Empire series and focuses on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and future Empress of Russia. This novella is a quick read, and thrusts us right into the upheaval of the Russian elite. We get to meet the Princess Elizabeth and her sister Petra, witness the death of the heir presumptive to the Romanov line, and then the death of Peter the Great.

With their mother in Russia, trying to maintain a hold on Russia and others trying to secure the power for themselves, Elizabeth and Petra are suddenly in a very tenuous position. They are sent to the “safety” of arranged marriages, but Elizabeth was born a Romanov, and the throne is only just out of her grasp…for now.

I can’t wait for the next installment of what’s sure to continue to be an exciting series full of political maneuvering and intrigue.

*I received a copy of The Winter Queen in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

     One of the stories from history that has always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family, particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic thrown into the mix.

   The strongest part of the novel, in my opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters or action outside of that.

   There were some historical inaccuracies (perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing out for a stronger storyline.  The inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a bit distracting.

   Another thing that could have used more details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and underwhelming.

   All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.

*I received a copy of Romanov from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.

Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as unique and varied in skill as well as personality.

This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.

I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has developed it beautifully.

*I received a copy of Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Demons Lie (A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft and Demon Hunting, #1) by Sherry D. Ficklin

Demons Lie by Sherry D. Ficklin

Aria Dupree is a bad-ass demon hunter whose senior year could be her greatest challenge yet.
Aria is traveling the world, closing gateways to the demon realm while on the hunt for the demon who killed her mother. In Red Prairie, TX she has two goals: end the demon she senses there and graduate high school. Both prove a challenge as high school is…well, high school, and the demon is a bit different than the ones she’s used to. But, Aria can’t let surprising alliances and cute boys distract her from getting revenge for her mother’s death.
Demons Lie (A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft and Demon Hunting) is a witty, fast-paced action. It’s easy to relate to the main character–or, I imagine I could relate if I were a demon hunter with a bone to pick. Aria is clever and sassy, I love the banter between the characters. Can’t wait to read the next in the series.

I received an ARC of Demons Lie in exchange for an honest review

Get Demons Lie (A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft and Demon Hunting #1) from Amazon 

 

Sherry D. Ficklin Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
Sherry also writes contemporary romance under the pen name SJ Noble. You can find her at her official website, or stalk her on her Facebook page

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