Review: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore.

Published: January 28, 2014.
Published by: Point (Scholastic).
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Scholastic Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. 

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

My Review:

I personally find it very hard to go wrong with books by Katherine Longshore and she has once again proven to me why. Manor of Secrets is significantly different from her other books, yet she still brings both historical circumstances facing young women and the strong emotions they carry with them to life with ease. I found this to be a great look at two young women growing up very differently who come to discover they really have many things in common. Also, while the title may seem like it doesn't quite fit at first, the manor truly does hold many secrets that slowly start to be revealed and watching these unfold undeniably kept the pages turning.

The descriptions of the two young ladies in the synopsis are very accurate: Charlotte has grown up wealthy but ultimately unsatisfied, feeling stifled and unhappy by the path she is expected to follow and Janie is indeed fiery, hardworking, and clever, but dreadfully worried about change disrupting the life she has always known and been content with. While both girls have moments that I just wanted to take them by the shoulders and shake them, I found that to be just one of the many things that makes them realistic characters. Neither of them are perfect but they both feel very genuine - in their actions, desires, fears - and for me, that beats perfect every day.

The secondary characters were quite an interesting bunch. Some I found wonderfully endearing, like Andrew, Charlotte's likely future fiancé, who is more than he seems at first; Harry, a fellow staff member and Janie's best friend; Janie's mother, Mrs. Seward, who has a strong head on her shoulders but still always has a kind word; and Beatrice, Charlotte's aunt, who left the manor under questionable circumstances years ago and has only just returned, much to the chagrin of her sister, Charlotte's mother. Each of these characters really added something to the story and most left me smiling more often than not. On the other hand, there were some secondary characters, some of the other staff in particular, that truly brought out some rage in me, which I actually appreciated for two reasons. First, I find emotion is key to a reading experience and if I'm raging at the right characters, I find it a good indication that the author really achieved something with them. Second, while there were times I wanted more backstory about their reactions against Janie, I still felt like there was a lot that was realistic about the potential for jealousy, anger, and animosity in a situation like theirs. I think Longshore struck a great balance with her characters and that helped me really enjoy watching their situations unfold.

One of the things I found most interesting about the novel is the "world," if you will, that Longshore has created. This is absolutely a realistic historical fiction novel, so it isn't that she has made up some other universe; she has made the manor itself feel like it is a world of its own, so much so that when things come in that don't belong to the world the lady of the house has crafted (people, ideas, etc.), they have really significant effects on much of what goes on in the manor. I was also impressed by how the way the "downstairs" is presented. It really brings home the conditions the staff of these kinds of manors lived in, both in their work and in their lives. It shows very well how bound they were to their jobs and the rules of the house at all times. This, along with the personal journeys both girls go through serve as a reminder to me that there's no way I could live like either of them. There are so many restrictions and so many nasty people, so much jealousy and uncertainty. I really felt a lot of sympathy for both Charlotte and Janie because it's hard to imagine living like that and dealing with those situations all the time.

Longshore excels at bringing history and its characters to life in her work and Manor of Secrets is no exception. I will say that I didn't connect with this story the same way that I have with her other works, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. With emotion, historical accuracy, and a great look at both the contrast and the bringing together of upstairs and downstairs, Manor of Secrets is not only a wonderful historical fiction novel, but also a compelling look at two girls trying to navigate their hopes for themselves and their place in the world.


Waiting on Wednesday #53: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne.

Expected Publication: July 8, 2014.
by: Disney-Hyperion.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. 
But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

Why I'm excited:
Fantasy! Assassins! Revenge! This sounds crazy exciting and intense. I really want to read some fantastic fantasies this year because I felt really lacking last year, so I am definitely looking forward to this one and hoping it delivers!

What are you waiting on this week?


Waiting on Wednesday #52: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Expected Publication: May 13, 2014.
by: Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Why I'm excited:
People have been absolutely freaking out about this for a while now and I am SO. DARN. CURIOUS! I must know what has everyone going so nuts! This one is good proof that word of mouth can definitely get people picking up a book because I NEED it!

What are you waiting on this week?


Sophomore Spotlight: Mindee Arnett

Today I'm excited to have Mindee Arnett for Sophomore Spotlight, here to chat with me about her sophomore release, Avalon, out tomorrow!

To be published: January 21, 2014
by Balzer + Bray.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Sounds pretty epic, right? Please welcome Mindee to give a little more insight into the book!

J: Describe your sophomore novel, AVALON, in 5 words or less.
M: Teenage spaceship thieves.

J: Right to the point... and I love what the point is! That really sounds so cool. What drew you to go in a very different direction from THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, a contemporary fantasy, for AVALON, a space sci-fi thriller?
M: A lot of what drew me was the idea that it was different. I find it a lot easier to work on things in parallel when there’s an easy distinction between the two. Mostly, however, I wrote Avalon because—as any debut author will tell you—there’s a huge amount of waiting involved for your first book to come out. Writing a story during that downtime just made the most sense to me.

J: What was your favourite part about working with space as a setting? What was the most difficult?
M: My favorite was having a very broad outer setting (the vast expanse of space) but with a very small, closed-in inner setting (the constricted insides of a spaceship). The vast majority of Avalon takes place a board various spaceships, and I loved that feeling of having nowhere to go. The most difficult part was definitely the science. It’s not like magic, where I can kind of set the rules or break them as I chose. In a sci-fi I have to adhere to the rules, or at the very least, conventions of the genre, such as faster-than-lightspeed travel, gravity drives, etc.

J: Interesting! I've never really thought about space as a setting that way but you're right; on one hand it's so open and free, but on the other you're still stuck inside your spaceship. How did the journey for AVALON differ from that for your debut?
M: In some ways it was very similar, especially the business side of it. I signed my contracts, waited a long time for my edit letter, got to fangirl over cover comps, and so on. From an editorial sense, the journey was very different. No two editors are alike. I adore both of my editors equally, but they vary in how they give feedback. I had a blast with Avalon. Everything has been pure joy.

J: If you could introduce one of your characters from AVALON to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
M: Oh, what a fun question! I think it would be fun to have Flynn, Avalon’s mechanic, meet Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I imagine the conversation—particularly in any time of crisis—would be pretty funny.

J: The zombie apocalypse is coming and you have to choose one character from AVALON to help you survive it. Who would you choose and why?
M: I would choose Sierra, which is a character we meet a little while into the book. She is both brainy and good with a gun. So lots of headshots wouldn’t be a problem, and she could probably devise a way to cure the darn things.

J: I like her already! She sounds fantastic. In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved recently or are looking forward to?
M: I really enjoyed Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. It’s a fantastic story and the second book was masterfully written. It was surprising and complicated, and I can’t wait for the conclusion.

J: Can you share anything about your next project?
M: Right now I’m working on edits for the sequel to Avalon. After that it’ll be the third book in the Nightmare series. I do have two other projects in the pre-writing stage, a YA high fantasy and another YA paranormal.

J: Ooh, lots on the go. Exciting! Thank you very much, Mindee!
M: Thanks for a great interview!

Mindee has kindly offered up two swag packs for Avalon to help celebrate her sophomore release. One is open to residents of the US/Canada and one internationally.

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open Internationally.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winners will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winners have 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ Neither Mindee nor I are responsible for lost or damaged packages.
No cheating! I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Waiting on Wednesday #51: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Expected Publication: April 22, 2014
by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Goodreads Blurb:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters…

Why I'm excited: This sounds adorable and awkward and full of self-discovery and I'm so excited to see where it goes. It just sounds so different from anything else out there, which I always love to find.

What are you waiting on this week?


Blog Tour Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

I'm very excited today to be part of the Razorbill Canada blog tour for A Mad, Wicked Folly!

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.

Page Count: 448.
Published: January 23, 2014.
Published by: Viking Juvenile (Penguin).
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Penguin Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

My Review:

If there is one word that can describe A Mad, Wicked Folly as a reading experience for me, that word would be delightful. Sharon Biggs Waller masterfully weaves clearly well-researched historical fact into a truly enjoyable story featuring a strong heroine you can't help but root for and an adorable and charming love interest. I truly think there is something in this novel for everyone to enjoy. For me, though, that something was the entire darn story.

Vicky makes an impression right from the start of the novel by posing nude for an art class she isn't even supposed to be attending (and one in which she is the only female student). This isn't the wrong kind of impression, though, because Vicky does it for all the art. When the model doesn't show and one of the other artists calls her out on being the only student who hasn't yet posed, Vicky does it to prove that she is just as much an artist and has just as much respect for the art form as every male student in that room. This kind of behaviour proves to be common for Vicky throughout the rest of the story as she stands up against all kinds of people, including her own parents and future father-in-law, simply because she believes that she deserves the same opportunities and respect as men do. With the hindsight provided by living today, we know that she was unquestionably correct, but at the time it took some incredibly brave, headstrong, even stubborn women to do what Vicky does and those are qualities that she shows again and again. She never fails to be compelling and you have to respect a girl that fights so hard to achieve her dream.

The supporting cast in A Mad, Wicked Folly are interesting and enjoyable characters as well. Will, the charming policeman, is incredibly lovable and just becomes more and more endearing a character as the book goes on. Vicky's brother, Freddy, was a great inclusion to the story because he supports Vicky in so much but is often clearly unsure of just how to handle her, which was a great relationship to see develop. Her parents were realistic, albeit incredibly frustrating for a modern reader, but their interactions with Vicky felt truly honest for the time. It was also so nice that they weren't flat; there is more to both of them than it seems at first and they all, including Vicky, have some things to learn about one another. Her fiancĂ©, Edmund, certainly elicited some strong emotions from me, despite not seeming to possess any of his own. Sophie, brought in as a lady's maid type who proves to be more of a friend than Vicky could ever have imagined. And the band of suffragettes Vicky gets to know are inspiring and captivating to read about, especially Lucy, the "troublemaking" front-line fighter for women's rights who slowly brings Vicky into her world. The characters are a varied bunch and kept things interesting all the way along.

Vicky's slow integration into the suffragette movement was also not only a great element to the story but also one I think played out very well. Vicky shows all the qualities of a good suffragette (well, except for being incredibly accustomed to her high standard of living, but you can't blame her for that), yet she isn't drawn to the movement as a participant right away, instead coming to them through her art. This initial exposure and the way a supporter was then made of her felt very honest to Vicky's character but was also extremely satisfying because as a reader I could see how clearly her personal goals lined up with the suffragettes'. Not to mention that some of those scenes were the most interesting to read, both from a historical and a plot perspective.

The historical detail in this novel was not only so clearly present and well-respected but also seamlessly woven into the storyline so that it never felt like reading a history lesson. Not only the history of the suffragette movement, which I was absolutely delighted to learn more about as Vicky did, but also the art history. Waller's pure passion for art shines through constantly over the course of the story and not only makes it exciting to read about the art described but also makes Vicky's own passion feel that much more real and authentic. You can absolutely tell that Waller has put her heart into every bit of this novel and that alone makes it enchanting.

All in all, this was just a wonderful read. It's not all the time that I make a blanket recommendation with a book, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone that didn't appreciate at least some aspects of this novel. The romance was delightful, the history is strong, and the characters ring true. Each individual element comes together to create a lovable novel that I have not been able to stop talking about since I started it. To say I absolutely adored it would be entirely accurate and I don't think I'm alone in that. This one is, without a doubt, worth the read.


Sophomore Spotlight: Jessica Khoury

I'm very excited today to have my very first Sophomore Spotlight guest of 2014, Jessica Khoury! She's here to share a bit about her sophomore novel, Vitro, and how things have changed since her debut, Origin, came out.

To be published January 14, 2014
by Razorbill.

Goodreads Synopsis:
On Skin Island, even the laws of creation can be broken.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives--and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus's dangerous research.

Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed. But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

Please welcome Jessica to the blog!

Jessica R: Describe your sophomore novel, VITRO, in 5 words or less.
Jessica Khoury: Adrenaline rush of a book.

JR: Hello! Great way to starts us off! What drew you to writing another book set in the same world as ORIGIN?
JK: While Pia's story felt finished to me, the world of Corpus still felt rich with stories. In Origin, it is hinted that the corporation has more projects all over the world, so it was a natural leap to expand into one of those other projects.

JR: That's such an interesting connection to have between the novels. It's very cool to be able to explore the other ways this driving force in ORIGIN is affecting the world. Which of the characters from VITRO (besides Sophie) are you most excited for readers to meet?
JK: My favorite character in Vitro is Jim (I really loved writing from a male perspective and grew really fond of his character!) But the character that was the most fun to write was Nicholas, one of the Vitros Sophie meets on Skin Island. With Nicholas, I had to explore psychological levels of thought that were entirely new to me--and a bit terrifying! But I won't say more, because I don't want to give away one of the twists.

JR: Ooh, intriguing! I'm looking forward to meeting Nicholas now, for sure. Did you change anything about your writing process for this novel after having written your debut?
JK: Some things did change. Having an editor at my side gave me the chance to test ideas before writing them, and I felt more confident in my story knowing that there was a professional to say from the beginning that it was worth writing.

JR: What is the best part of already having a book out in the world?
JK: It gives me a sense of peace and direction, knowing that I'm doing what I'm meant to do with my life and that this is where I belong--sitting all day in front of a computer, making up stories! It's really given me a sense of fulfillment that makes every day worth it.

JR: That's wonderful! What a great benefit to have come from it. Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, can you share one song you listened to a lot while working on VITRO?
JK: One song I listened to almost constantly while writing Vitro was "Lux Aeterna." In fact, it was so instrumental to me in the writing that I named one of the main characters after it!

JR: Can you share a favourite quote from VITRO?
JK: One of my favorite parts is early on, when Jim and Sophie are flying to Skin Island. Sophie describes the sight of the sky when they rise above the clouds in Jim's little plane. I love this passage because every time I flew somewhere for a signing or on book tour, I would try to describe the sky as a kind of writing exercise, and ended up using some of those exercises in the book:

The clouds spread below and around them like some silent white city, with coiling spires and rivers and bulbous stacks, all made of the same pinkish white cloud. It was a dreamscape, a world that continually shifted and flowed, sparkling in the sun like ice cream. She felt the urge to open the window, reach out, and scoop the clouds into her hands as if they were foam in a bubble bath. It was dazzling and terrifying, and the more she stared the more impossible it seemed. The clouds seemed spun of silk the color of apricots, piled and folded and flung across the sky by an unseen hand.

JR: In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved recently or are looking forward to?
JK: There are many great sophomore novels coming out this year! Jessica Brody's sci-fi sequel UNFORGOTTEN, Anita Howard's UNHINGED, and Victoria Schwab's THE UNBOUND are all ones to look forward to.

JR: Can you share anything about your next project?
JK: Not quite yet--but soon! Soon. =)
JR: Well I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more once you can share! Thank you, Jessica, for taking the time for the interview!  

I want to know, have you read Origin or Vitro yet? What did you think?


2014 Debut Author Challenge

The final challenge I'm going to work towards this year is one I took part in last year as well: the Debut Author Challenge.

Hosted by The Story Siren this year, the Debut Author Challenge covers YA, MG, and NA and the only objective is to read at least twelve 2014 debuts ("debuts" as in first published in the US in 2014). I really love finding debut authors so this one is a lot of fun and leads to some great reads.

Some of the debuts I'm hoping to read this year for the challenge:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman.
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.
Nil by Lynne Matson.
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu.

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen.

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier.
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May (Technically a debut since it first comes out in the US in '14).
Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither.
Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer.

Conversion by Katherine Howe.
Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. (Counts for all 3 of my challenges this year! Awesome!)
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.
Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis.
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis.
Anomaly by Caroline Tung Richmond.

Also, I've already read this one but recommend it as a great choice for anyone else working on this challenge:
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman.

Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz.

Clearly I need more MG debuts. Any suggestions?


2014 Historic Fiction Challenge

Given my love for historical fiction, it should come as no surprise that one of this year's reading challenges I'm very excited to join is the Historic Fiction Challenge.

Hosted by Marie of Ramblings of a Daydreamer, the Historic Fiction Reading Challenge focuses on, surprise, historical fiction! All the rules and whatnot are on the sign-up page, but basically we just have to read and review historical novels. The level I'm going to try for is Traveling back in time with 13-20 books, though it'd be great to get to 21 and reach Living in the past!

Here are some of the books I'm hoping to read for the challenge. I don't expect to get through all of them because I have a biiiig list, but they're here for guidance and I hope to get through as many as possible.

2014 Releases:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman.
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.

Going Over by Beth Kephart.
Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore.
The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer.

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd.
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier.
Born of Deception by Teri Brown.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert.
The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland.

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters.
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.
Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter.
Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan.

Older Releases:

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats.
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

Dusk by Eve Edwards.
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson.
The Extra by Kathryn Laskey.

Every Day After by Laura Golden.
Spring Awakening by T.J. Brown.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Hild by Nicola Griffith.
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.
City of Women by David R. Gillham.

So. Lots there, obviously. I really doubt I'll get through all of them, but it's worth a shot and nice to have a list to go from. Am I missing anything obvious that I must read?


2014 LGBT Challenge

I love taking part in reading challenges because they help give me goals to work towards and it's always fun and satisfying meeting them. This is the first of three challenges I'm going to try to take part in this year.

The 2014 LGBT Challenge, hosted by Fighting Dreamer, is one that I'm not only really excited to join but also very confident that I can complete. All the guidelines and FAQs and whatnot are over at the sign-up page, but the gist of it is that you have to read and review at least 3 books with LGBT content this year. There are also going to be some discussion posts going up in conjunction with this challenge, which I'm excited to take on.

Here are some of the books that qualify that I hope to read this year:
2014 releases:
Shadowplay by Laura Lam (Pantomime #2).
Far From You by Tess Sharpe.
The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis.

Older releases:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth.
Proxy by Alex London.
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters.

Am I missing any big ones? I read a few LGBT novels last year, like More Than This by Patrick Ness, Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, to name a few, but I'm sure I'm still missing some great ones. Let me know, and maybe join the challenge yourself!


Waiting on Wednesday #50: House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple.

Expected Publication: April 15, 2014
by: Harper Teen.

Goodreads Blurb:
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

Why I'm excited:
This sounds so mysterious! The blurb just makes me very curious about everything that's going on, so I must read and find out. Plus the typographic cover is very cool.

What are you waiting on this week?


2014 Pre-Order Giveaway - Blind Date With a Book

I wanted to start 2014 off with some fun, and what's more fun than a book giveaway?

But I didn't just want to do a basic book giveaway, I wanted to make it a little extra exciting. So this is a Blind Date With a Book type giveaway, inspired by The YA Bookcase.

The YA books I've chosen to offer up cover a few different genres so hopefully there will be something that catches your eye. They are all 2014 releases and so will be pre-ordered for the winners.

There will be two winners. Everyone who enters will provide their top two "date" choices in the Rafflecopter and the winners will be informed which two books they picked and get to choose one of these two as their prize. If the book is not up for pre-order when the contest ends (Fall releases likely won't be), I'll purchase the pre-order when it becomes available.

Each of these books is either a standalone or first in a series so that you don't end up with one from your favourite series that you've already pre-ordered or the final book in a series you never started.

The wonderful authors of the books up for grabs have given you two clues to go on in picking your blind dates: the genre and a few words that describe the books, right from the mouths (well, fingers) of the people who wrote them.

Your potential blind dates:

#1: 20th Century Historical Romance:
Star-crossed, daring, independent, impossible love, high-wire adventure, pink.

#2: Contemporary Romantic Comedy:
Lighthearted, funny, sporty, swoony, thoughtful.

#3: Fantasy:
Decadent, dangerous, empowering, romantic.

#4: Sci-Fi Fairytale Retelling:
Adventurous, tech-y, interplanetary, romantic.

#5: Historical Fiction:
Hypnotizing, gothic, mind-altering, theatrical, romantic.

#6: Futuristic Thriller:
Intense, dark, mysterious, twisted, bloody.

#7: Realistic Fiction/Contemporary:
Gossip, small town, bad reputation, slut-shaming, secrets.

#8: Romantic Historical Thriller:
Mysterious, romantic, illusory, twisty.

#9: High Fantasy:
Intense, fast-paced, ancient magic, spunky MC, epic battles.

#10: Gothic, (Sort-of) Retelling.
Haunting, wistful, macabre, romantic.

Those sound pretty amazing, right? Lots of exciting choices... good luck picking between them all!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open Internationally, provided The Book Depository ships free to your country (check here).
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ I am not responsible for lost or damaged packages from TBD.
No cheating! I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.


Most Anticipated Books of 2014: Adult

Since one of my bookish resolutions this year is to read more adult books and I ran this "Most Anticipated" post series for basically every type of YA novel, I figured I'd give the adult books I'm interested in a shout-out as well. This is actually a bigger list than I thought I'd manage, so I'm excited to see what that means for my resolution and my reading this year! Here are the 2014 releases that have caught my eye so far.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.
Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb. (Technically published December 31st but I'm counting it).
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert.
The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.
The Fever by Megan Abbott.
The Blonde by Anna Godbersen.

The currently coverless:
Rooms by Lauren Oliver.

Here's where I could use some suggestions. I don't know about any other than Rooms publishing after the summer, so if you know any that sound great, please let me know!


Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy by Sara B. Larson.

Defy #1.
Page Count: 336.
Published: January 7, 2014.
Published by: Scholastic Press.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Scholastic Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

My Review:

I have to start by admitting that Defy was not what I was hoping it would be. It's entirely possible that was my fault; that I formed the wrong kind of expectations and was then disappointed when it didn't meet them, but I was left feeling a little let down nonetheless. I feel that it was not the action-packed high fantasy I was promised, but that's not to say it doesn't have merits elsewhere.

One of the merits I found in the book is the world that Larson created. While I didn't think it was developed to the full extent that it could have been, I enjoyed what was there. I felt the jungle atmosphere really well and was so glad to see that explored. It's not all the time that a high fantasy is set in a jungle environment so the originality there was a lot of fun. I also really appreciated how the world Alexa lives in affected her. Some unsavoury elements of her kingdom have a direct impact on who she is and why she fights. This in particular I thought was a great way to tie the setting, the character, and the plot all together.

I must say that one of the things I found myself most disappointed by was how prominent the romance was. While I certainly have nothing against romance, I expected this to be an intense fantasy story that just included a romance element. Instead it read more like a romance in a fantasy world. Alexa's feelings about the boys quickly begin to dominate all her thoughts and that is really what lost me. Honestly, even the love triangle isn't as "thrilling" as promised because despite Alexa's occasional confusion, it isn't hard to deduce who she truly believes to have feelings for. The other boy almost feels like a distraction and like he is always simply meant to be something other than a love interest to her. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn't what I wanted from the story.

This overwhelming romance aspect of course left a little to be desired for me in terms of plot. I do think the plot was well thought out and I appreciated that it wasn't totally straightforward. The little detours and surprises were welcome and refreshing. It helped to keep it fresh and interesting. However, because the romance took up so much time and so many pages, while I enjoyed the plot, I was left wanting more. It just didn't live up to the epic fantasy adventure I was expecting.

Alexa herself I found to be a bit of a mixed bag. I very much enjoyed her early on. However, despite a strong start depicting an intelligent, careful, kick-butt fighter, she soon devolves into just a confused, distracted girl. It isn't even the heart-breaking surprise that Larson weaves in that takes her down - that actually strengthens her resolve and determination as she grieves, which I thought was an excellent decision for her growth. No, instead she simply seems to lose what I thought was so admirable about her as the love triangle comes into play. I don't admire her nearly as much when she's sitting being angsty over her love life. There's a lot more that she should be focused on so I thought that it was a disappointing direction for her character to take.

I find it interesting that this is going to have a sequel because I think the ending wrapped up the story quite well. I can't say I know where it's going to go from here, but surely Larson has something up her sleeve. While I wasn't overly impressed by Defy, there were elements I enjoyed and so I still may give the sequel a shot depending on where it looks like she'll take the story. All in all, if you're searching for a powerful high fantasy with an adventure-like plot, this probably shouldn't be your first choice. If, though, you want a romance in another world with some magic woven in, I think you'll enjoy this one a lot.


Bookish Resolutions for the New Year

Happy New Year! 

2013 was quite the year for me. I had some really exciting adventures (like my first trip to NYC!), made some wonderful new friends, and did a lot more with this blog than I ever expected. But that doesn't mean I don't want to do even better in 2014! So, to help me get on track, here are my bookish resolutions for 2014:

1. Get better at commenting.

When school and life get crazy, I get really bad at integrating myself in the bookish community through commenting on other blogs. It's terrible of me and it's something I feel bad about a lot because I know how much bloggers love comments. So this year, despite how nuts I see my life getting, I'm going to make a solid effort to get better.

2. Read more adult novels.

Don't get me wrong, I love my YA and I'm so happy with the stories it is full of. I'm still going to be reading tons of it this year and in years to come. I just want to expand my horizons a bit more and since there is some adult fiction coming that sounds really exciting, I'm going to make a solid effort to read and review some of it. I'm personally really curious about The Queen of the Tearling, The Invention of Wings, Red Rising, and The Swan Gondola in particular but definitely let me know if there are any that you think I may love (historical fiction especially).

3. Search more seriously and actively for an internship in the book world (with a publisher, literary agency, author, etc). 

Since I really hope to work in publishing when I graduate, I want to start building my experience bank sooner rather than later. I was casually browsing in 2013 to see if anything popped up that I should apply for, but this year I want to get more serious about looking and applying and hopefully I'll be able to find somewhere that I can be a great help and learn a lot.

4. Do a blog redesign.

While this is definitely not something I'm capable of doing on my own, I'm hoping I'll be able to find someone wonderful who is willing to help me create a new, updated look for my little blog this year. It's just time for a change.

5. Expand Sophomore Spotlight.

I started an original feature, Sophomore Spotlight, last year in May and I've absolutely loved doing it. It's always fun to interview authors and to get to help spread the word about a sophomore novel that may not be getting all the attention it deserves is great, too. I have a big list of authors I hope to contact for 2014 and am definitely welcoming suggestions and voluteers because I want to be able to have at least a spotlight a month up!

6. Organize my posts and reviews.

This one is more of a tedious job that needs to get done rather than an actual goal, but I'm sticking it on here to help hold me accountable. I want to update my review archive, start actually tagging my posts, and go through and cross-post the reviews I've missed to GR, Amazon and the like. Housekeeping more than anything, but stuff I get lazy about!

7. Not feel guilty about taking a break.

I'm going to the UK with my boyfriend this coming spring to spend two weeks in England and one in Scotland. I don't want to have to worry about blogging while I'm there; I want to enjoy everything the UK has to offer. So I need to get into a mindset that will allow me to step back and not worry for those three weeks. I just have to remind myself that my blog will be here when I get back.

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I very well may add more in later on as I come up with more. I want to know, though, do you have any bookish resolutions this year? What are they?
Good luck and Happy New Year!

Waiting on Wednesday #49: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Burn Out by Kristi Helvig.

Expected Publication: April 8, 2014
by: Egmont USA.

Goodreads Blurb:
A futuristic blend of Beth Revis's Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans's Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure. 

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in. 

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must figure out who she can trust in order to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

Why I'm excited:
Futuristic. Science Fiction. Survival. Earth as a wasteland. Underground shelter. Have I said enough awesome key words yet to get you on board?

What are you waiting on this week?