Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Think of all the darkest vengefests you’ve enjoyed in literature and film and you have the experience that is Foul is Fair, the latest novel by Hannah Capin.

MacBeth, Heathers, Mean Girls, Kill Bill, and AHS: Coven have all been used to describe elements and the tone of this new book, and they are all appropriately used.

Jade and her friends have fabled teen lives, they’re the “it” girls and the world is at their feet—until a group of boys from a wealthy prep school make the mistake of assaulting Jade. Now, Jade has sworn to get vengeance, and nobody will stand in her way.

Foul is Fair is a dark, unflinching journey into manipulation and vengeance. Capin’s writing is raw and intense, drawing you along and daring you to turn away while taunting you to turn another page. This is one of those books that is both horrifying and fantastic at the same time, and destined to create quite a buzz.

*I received a copy of Foul is Fair from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley 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: Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Kammani is a healer, a skill she learned from her father who was banished into a life of poverty after failing to save the son of a ruler. Now the ruler is dying and, according to tradition, the three most beautiful girls have been chosen for the ultimate honor of accompanying him in the tomb—and the afterlife. One of the girls is Kammani’s sister.

Now Kammani will be challenged at every turn as she desperately tries to challenge tradition and her own skills to save her sister.

Gravemaidens is a dark, intense, pulse-pounding story. The supporting characters are well-developed, the setting is vibrant and rich. There were a few plot developments that I found to be a bit convenient, but it didn’t really distract me from the pace and enjoyment of the story. I’m looking forward to the next book!

*I received a copy of Gravemaidens from NetGalley and Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review

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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: White Stag (Permafrost #1) by Kara Barbieri

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Jenneke is a human who’s been living amongst the goblins in the Permafrost since they raided her village a hundred years ago. When a fight between two powerful goblins leads to the death of the Erlking, a hunt ensues: the goblin who fells the escaped white stag (the embodiment of the goblin king’s power) will become the next Erlking.

Jenneke accompanies her master Soren on the hunt. Though he is one of the most powerful of goblins, Soren has treated Jenneke as more of a friend than subservient. But Soren’s biggest rival is his uncle Lydian, an appallingly brutal sort who has inflicted tortures on Jenneke that continue to haunt her. Jenneke is torn between her hate for the goblins for the destruction they caused her family and the kindness she feels toward Soren, who has done nothing other than protect her. To make matters worse, Jenneke discovers she may be transitioning into one of the monsters she hates most—a goblin. But can she accept becoming that which she hates most, and must she give up her last shred of humanity to do so?

White Stag (Permafrost #1) is an epic, fantastical journey ensues, ripe with battles and creatures. But the one thing I found was that, while the concept is rich, the world-building was not. I wanted more details, more to anchor me into the world and make me feel as if I was right there alongside the characters. Some of the dialogue also felt a bit stilted and lacked a natural rhythm.

Kara Barbieri has a brilliant concept, but sadly I was hoping to love this book more than I actually did.

 

*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) courtesy of Wednesday Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Author Spotlight: Happy LaShelle

Name:   Happy LaShelle 

Author of:   According to Audrey (Clean Teen Publishing)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

Well, like a lot of writers I stapled and taped my own books together when I was a kid. My mom saved a bunch of them and they’re kind of precious to me. One of my favorites is The Donkey Advensher wherein a girl takes her donkey on a ride through the forest and finds a rabbit, a frog, and a silver dollar (ha!). But my first serious project as an aspiring author was a little historical chapter book about a young girl enamored with the London stage in the early 20th century.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to becoming a published author?

Yes, and I’m so grateful forever to her! I happened to start following author Susan Dennard on Twitter back when she had just received her first book deal on her first series. She had tweeted about how to write a query letter, and when I followed her advice I started getting requests for my manuscript. I emailed her to say thank you, and it began a lovely friendship/mentorship for me. She would check in every few months to see how things were going for me and offer advice. She’s an incredibly generous person who gives back to the writing community in every way. She now has a whole following of writers who learn from her posts and newsletters.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

Honestly that’s a great question I wish I knew the answer to. According to Audrey took me years of writing, rewriting and revision, but there was a big learning curve there, so now that I’m diving into writing the sequel I’m hoping for the best. I think every book is different. If I’m guessing I would say 6-9 months to write it and 3-4 months of revision, so… 9 months to a year, maybe.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I like to have a general outline in my head of the plot, but it’s amazing how it takes on a life of its own and starts twisting and turning, and then (sometimes) serendipitously comes together in ways I could never have planned. I have a YA historical project that I’ve only written a bit of, but I’ve done weeks of research on the details of the time period. A historical calls for that, though. For my contemporaries I’ll just stop sometimes in the middle of writing and look up questions that arise.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (The things you’d never want anyone to know?)

I don’t think so? I was at a writing conference once and for fun you were supposed to share if you had, say, a lucky pen or a superstitious quirk in your writing routine. And I was thinking… no… not me. And then later I realized – yes! – I totally do have a favorite pen that I use for everything. Something about it feels happy and magical to me, and it makes my writing look pretty. It’s this special light blue color and I used to be able to order it in bulk. Now I have to buy a pack of 10 colors just to get one of my special pens! I do love the act of actually writing my drafts with a pen, though. I find my ideas and thoughts flow more fluidly than they do when I’m typing.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage-or any interesting research-for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

Last summer we visited Great Britain and I was bombarded with so many fun ideas for my next book. History is my passion so I love to travel and learn and soak in the stories of the past. My great-grandparents on my mom’s side came from Scotland and my dad’s grandparents emigrated from England so I feel this close connection to the culture. Let’s just say that it’s not a coincidence that the sequel to According to Audrey is set in England and France.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I enjoy reading most categories and genres but… no surprise here… historical fiction is at the top of my list.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

No secrets really, but in According to Audrey I did include some symbolism for myself that I didn’t think anyone would necessarily pick up on. For example, on the opening page Dove is sketching a tethered sailboat in the harbor, then in the last pages she admires a painting of a sailboat bobbing freely on the open sea. Also some foreshadowing – like in Chapter 4, Leo tells Dove that if she gets too close to the fire the flames could burn her. Little things like that.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

 I cast a St. Bernard in Pottermore and I really love my patronus! It’s described as warm, bright, playful, thoughtful, positive, adventurous, sensitive, and offering a ray of light in a dark world. I’d like to think that innately my best self is these things.

Is there one thing you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Yes, I wish I were way better at deep POV. I’m making progress but I feel like I’m always relearning how to delve deeper into the point of view of the character in order to better immerse the reader into the story experience. I’ve leaned a lot from Susan Dennard’s written teachings on this subject, actually.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Keep going. The process can take a long time, but let your passion propel you forward. Let the rejections (and there will be many) make your work better, and don’t take no for an answer. Do something for your writing everyday – for me, reading about writing and the writing life is hugely inspiring. One of my favorite writing mentor books is Page After Page by Heather Sellers. Her funny, straightforward style is charming, and her wisdom is so encouraging to everyone on the author path.

In what ways do you pay it forward to help other aspiring writers?

I read and critique works-in-progress for fellow writers trying to get published. I also chime in on writing blogs and websites where people post their work for review. I think it’s so important for us all to support each other. If we’re further along on the path, it’s our duty and honor to turn around and offer a hand up to the person right behind us.

Want to know more about Happy?

Visit her at her website

Visit and like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/happylashelle/

Follow her on Twitter

Check out the pics on Happy’s Instagram

See what Happy is reading—and writing—on Goodreads

 

According to Audrey

What would Audrey do?

Cautious and introverted, seventeen-year-old Dove spends most of her free time pursuing her one true passion: painting. The twinkling lights of Balboa Island, the ferryboat to the peninsula, the fire pits on Big Corona Beach…these have long been the subjects of her canvases as she daydreams about finding an Audrey Hepburn-film kind of romance.

A hotshot jock is exactly not the type of guy she’s been looking for—but when Leo Donovan drops his cool act to show his vulnerable side, Dove begins to question everything. But first she’ll have to navigate her way through claim-staking mean girls and disapproving parents—and still keep her focus on attending the art school of her dreams.

Being in love turns out to be more complex than the average silver-screen classic. Can Dove follow her heart (and Audrey’s cues) to create her own perfect Hollywood ending?

Fans of Audrey Hepburn and the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s will love this fun coming of age story.

Get According to Audrey from Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

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Blog Tour: I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

 

Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, authors of Sanctuary Bay and the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong, are back with a story that features their signature plot twists and uneasy ever-changing alliances. I DO NOT TRUST YOU (Wednesday Books; September 11, 2018) is a thrilling journey at every turn that asks – what would you do to save the
ones you love?
Memphis “M” Engel is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she’s awesome.
Ashwin “Ash” Sood is a little too posh for M’s tastes, a little too good looking, and has way too many secrets. He desperately wants the ancient map M inherited from her archeologist father, believing it will lead him to a relic with the power to destroy the world. M obviously can’t trust
him.
Equally desperate to find the relic for reasons of her own, M forms an uneasy partnership with Ash. From the catacombs of Paris, to a sacred forest in Norway, to the ruins of a submerged temple in Egypt, together they crisscross the globe in their search. But through it all, M can never be sure: Is she
traveling with a friend or enemy?

In their latest collaboration, Burns and Metz prove once again the magic that happens when two talented mystery authors work together. Going on M’s journey will have readers’ hearts race with every page. With its dangerous secrets and dark mythology, I DO NOT TRUST YOU is irresistible to any fan of YA thrillers.

Excerpt from I Do Not Trust You:

“You should’ve seen Miss Memphis here get into it with Nick last period,” Brianna said, squeezing in between M and Inez at their usual spot in the cafeteria. “She shut him down with her crazy ancient cultures voodoo.”

“He’s an ass. He’s lucky he’s hot,” their friend Ayana commented, waving her spork in Nick’s direction.

M shrugged. “I wouldn’t try to debate him in Physics. I just know more about Rome than he does.”

“What about AP Chem? Would you debate him in that?” Inez asked in a fake-serious voice. “Would you debate him in German class?”

“She’d debate him in German, in German,” Brianna joked. “And if he tried to fight back, she’d switch to Greek.”

M threw a French fry at her. “I can’t help it. I grew up speaking different languages.”

“And learning about pharaohs. And becoming well versed in the history of the Etruscan people,” Ayana said, putting on a fake accent that was probably supposed to be British. “Oh, and setting broken bones in the bush.”

“That only happened once,” M muttered. Her friends laughed.

“Anyway, it was epic. Thanks,” Brianna said. “I can’t stand fighting with people, and Nick always goes after me.”

“He knows you hate it,” M pointed out. “That’s why he does it.”

“An ass, like I said.” Ayana shrugged.

“You think he’s coming to the party tonight?” Brianna asked.

“Probably. Everyone else is,” Inez replied. “Even Memphis.” M made a face. “Anything to get out of the house. Bob and Liza would expect me to play board games with them otherwise.” Her friends exchanged a glance. M winced. “No offense.”

“Oh, were you offending someone?” Nick piped up from behind her. “Good girl.”

Immediately Bri looked down, while Ayana rolled her eyes. Inez just smirked, glancing back and forth between M and Nick.

“I was not offending anyone. I only meant I don’t like parties,” M said. She didn’t bother to turn toward him. It didn’t matter; he inserted himself onto the bench next to her anyway. A little tingle ran up her spine as the scent of his co- logne hit her nostrils, spicy and warm.

“Mmm, they’re boring. Everyone talking about the prom or the senior trip or whatever. I’m over it,” Nick said.

Me too, thought M, wishing she didn’t agree with him. She loved her friends, but even they were all about high school. M just didn’t care. High school was nothing more than what she had to get through before she could leave. After the crash, after the shock of Bob and Liza becoming her guardians, she’d asked if she could go off to college early, either Boston University or the University of Sheffield in England. Both had the kind of archeology program she wanted and would’ve let her in with no questions. They knew her father. They knew high school was a waste of time for someone like her.

But her guardians said no. They said she needed stabil- ity and normalcy after losing her dad. Never mind that traveling the world and taking care of herself was normal for her. While she and Dad technically lived in Boston, she’d never spent more than a few months there during the school year. They traveled. Half the year spent on digs. She missed it.

“What’s with this thing, anyway? Is it to fight off bad guys?” Nick teased, finding an excuse to touch her. He reached for M’s collapsible bo staff, tucked in the inside pocket of her jacket like always. But before he touched it, be- fore his flirty smile registered in her mind, M had already grabbed his hand, twisted it back to the breaking point, and used the pain to push him off the cafeteria bench and onto the floor. With her other hand, she whipped out the stick and shoved it up against his throat.

M froze. Hes just hitting on you. Her friends were aghast, and everyone nearby watched, openmouthed. Nick’s eyes were wide with panic.

“Sorry.” M stood up, leaving Nick on the floor. “I’m really sorry.”

“Freak,” he muttered, climbing to his feet. He glanced around, noticing the barely concealed laughter from onlook- ers. “Jeez, I just wanted a fry,” he joked, as if he hadn’t been humiliated, then hurried out of the cafeteria.

“What. The. Hell?” Inez asked. “He was flirting with you and you beat him up!”

“I know.” M groaned, shoving her staff back into her pocket. “I didn’t mean to. It was just reflex.”

Her friends were silent. She’d freaked them out. Should she explain the years of self-defense and martial arts training? That she and Dad ended up in some rough places? Her friends lived in a city, they understood danger. Sort of. In a nice, upscale Boston kind of way.

M sighed. There was no point in trying to explain. No- body understood her life.

“You kinda push all the guys away,” Brianna pointed out quietly. “Maybe not like that, but still . . .”

“I don’t do romance,” M replied. She was done with love, period. She’d loved her parents, and they were both gone. Love hurt too much. It was better to steer clear of it.

They all ate in silence for a minute.

“I mean, he is an ass,” Ayana said finally. And everybody laughed.

M: You up?

MIKE: It’s a 12 hr time difference. Of course I’m up.

M: Like you never sleep in on weekends.

MIKE: Fine, your text woke me.

M: I don’t think that glyph is a lotus. It’s bending the wrong way.

MIKE: It has to be a lotus. If it’s not, the whole phrase is wrong.

M: The rest of the phrase never sat well with Nefertum anyway.

MIKE: Your dad said it was a lotus.

 

About the Authors
LAURA J. BURNS and MELINDA METZ have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including Sanctuary
Bay, Crave, and Sacrifice, as well as the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong. They have also written for
the TV shows ROSWELL, 1-800-MISSING, and THE DEAD ZONE. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North
Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.

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Book Review: Butterfly Blood by Rebecca Carpenter

“Nature demands payment. And nature demands balance.”

With the events of Butterfly Bones barely behind her, Bethany Keatley has just begun to settle into her new life when mother nature rears her ugly head again.

Cured of her bone disease and still reeling from her father’s last act, Bethany is now living with her aunt Denise in Florida and trying to adjust to a “normal” life. But the secrets from her past are threatening to rise up and destroy her chance for a new life.

First Bethany discovers a dark truth about her father. And then her miraculous cure, provided by the butterfly DNA that now courses through her veins, may actually prove fatal. But is the danger in the cure, or in the doctors who seem far too invested in studying her further?

In a parallel story line, Jeremiah is also dealing with the events of that last night at the Keatley house. He is not only grieving Bethany, but with losing everything he knows about himself. And there’s also that dark monster in the corner of his mind that’s demanding to be set free.

Butterfly Blood (book 2 in the Metamorphosis series) is an intense, action and emotion packed follow up to a truly unique novel and I couldn’t out it down.

 

*I received a copy of Butterfly Blood from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Butterfly Blood (Metamorphosis, Book 2) 

HER BLOOD. HER LOVE. HER FREEDOM.

“How many of my sins will have to be paid for in blood?”

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Keatley finally has the healthy body and looks she’s always desired. But the price she’s had to pay has left her traumatized.

The only thing making her battle on is the memory of that kiss with Jeremiah.

Now miles from him and living in Florida with an aunt she’s never met, shocking revelations about her parents are too much to bear. After collapsing from exhaustion and shock, Bethany wakes in a hospital bed awaiting test results—results that might lead to the discovery of her unusual butterfly blood.

But that’s the least of Bethany’s concerns when the doctor informs her she’s infected with a parasite and without immediate treatment she’ll die.

Too young to refuse and too weak to fight back, Bethany’s life once again hangs in the balance. Yet her scientific knowledge and suspicious nature lead her to unravel a horrifying web of lies.

Will nature intervene again, demanding another payment?

In this stunning sequel to the award-winning BUTTERFLY BONES, Rebecca Carpenter raises the stakes and offers up an intense and heartbreaking ride that will leave you shocked to the core.

Get Butterfly Blood from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

About Rebecca Carpenter

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and has been blessed with five amazing grandchildren. She owns and directs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. She also works as a part time freelance copy editor and interns as an assistant to the editor for a small press, helping others attain their writing dreams.

 

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