Quick Hits: Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss + The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson


Wolf Bride | Lust in the Tudor Court 1 | Elizabeth Moss
Erotic Historical Romance | Sourcebooks Casablanca | May 5, 2015

Bloggy Friends’ Review: Nocturnal Book Reviews | Book Swoon

I was so excited to read WOLF BRIDE because I love the Tudor Court and anything that has to do with Henry VIII. It was also an added incentive that Lust in the Tudor Court was erotic historical romance and I sure could use a big dose of sexy in my life. 

Sadly, WOLF BRIDE wasn’t what I hoped for. I wasn’t regaled with descriptions of court life, the wardrobe, the silly protocols as the heroine, Eloise Tyrell, was so close to King Henry and Queen Anne. Instead I had pages and pages of sex, angst, more sex, zero courtship, and convoluted conflicts! I almost DNF’d this one but I was on the 88% mark and thought I might as well finish it since I made it that far. But boy was it a laborious 12%. Lord Wolf was a jackass and emotionally handicappped, and he was not sexy (to me at least) at all. In fact, I never understood his motivations and decision making process which further annoyed me. As for Eloise, the girl needs some personality (or a brain) and sass. She obeyed Wolf well but it’s hard to appreciate that when she’s been obedience throughout the novel. Nope, WOLF BRIDE isn’t for me.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest | Medieval Fairy Tale Romance 1 | Emily Dickerson
Fairy Tale Retelling | Thomas Nelson | May 12, 2015 
at 47%
THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST by Emily Dickerson is a mash-up of Swan Lake and Robin Hood. I love the premise of this YA novel, after all, Robin of Locksley and the accursed Odette are two of my favorite fictional characters.
I can’t help but feel insecure about not finishing THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST because a lot of people loved it! Almost half way through the novel I felt it was sorely missing something. For example, at this point, I feel we should’ve seen Odette in full Huntress mode. Instead all I got were her arrows left in the forest as clue for Jorgen, the forester and Odette’s love interest. It’s so bland and though we know that Odette and Jorgen are at odds, there’s barely any tension between the two. 
But please don’t take my word for it. A lot of people in Goodreads LOVED THE HUNTRESS OF THORNBECK FOREST so it might be one of those it’s not you, it’e me kind of thing, you know? Give it a go, you might end up liking this title more than I did.

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Shelley Liked It: Endgame by C.J. Daugherty

Series: Night School 5
Format: E-Book | 315 pages
Release Date: June 4, 2015
Publisher: Bookouture
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Broken. Scattered. But not defeated.

The spy is gone but the cost has been high – the rebels at Cimmeria Academy have lost their leader and Carter West is missing. Nathaniel can taste victory. But Allie and the other survivors aren’t done yet. First they have to get Carter back. Then they plan to make Nathaniel pay.

One way or another – the game must end.

Endgame is the thrilling fifth and final book in the internationally bestselling Night School series.

ENDGAME is the fifth and final book in the Night School series. The story picks up right where Resistance left off. The opening chapter, in fact, is one big chase scene with non- stop action, and hold your breath suspense. The rest of the book is tension filled with Nathaniel once again hanging over every single thing that the Cimmeria students and teachers do, while Allie is trying to find a way to get Carter West back, and defeat Nathaniel once and for-all.
Allie has grown up rather quickly from the first novel forward. She went from being a trouble maker and angry girl who was thrown out of her parents house after getting into major trouble, to being sent to Cimmeria where she entered a entirely different world of beautiful and rich students. She’s made friends with a core group who have been fighting by her side from almost the beginning. Carter, Sylvain, Rachel, Nicole, Zoe, Isabelle, Raj, Dom, Eloise, and Katie.  
Allie has watched friends die unnecessarily, and faced a megalomaniac in Nathaniel who twisted Allie’s brother Christopher to joining him, while desiring Allie for himself to expand his powers and influence. She’s become someone who knows how to fight after joining the secretive society known as Night School. She’s a rebel leader against the normal and usual, and not shocking at all, pretty powerful in her own right thanks to her grandmother. 
However, always a however, she missed something pretty important that was right in front of her face. How can you truly call yourself a friend and miss THAT happening? Especially since EVERYONE else knew about it except you! Perhaps with everything that’s been thrust onto Allie’s lap since she arrived at Cimmeria, it took a toll on her. Perhaps it was because she was Nathaniel’s target almost from the very beginning, and perhaps, because her friends were too busy to fill Allie in on OTHER things happening around her.
Didn’t figure Sylvain into my thoughts of what was going to happen in ENDGAME, which is my mistake. Glad he was at there for the important moments in the story, and not missing in action. Perhaps I am a bit rough when it comes to him, and Allie’s choices. I did start out hating him for many reasons, one being he was extremely possessive and grabby hands. But, one thing you can’t fault him for is that he is someone you can count on when danger lurks around every corner. 
I was kind of surprised by the ending. Not at all what I was expecting and hoping for which is always nice. I do believe there was an alternative ending possible, but let’s walk away knowing that the right couples are together, and that makes me happy. Let’s walk away knowing that Allie did whatever she could do to survive until the very last page of the very last book along with most of her closest friends, teachers, and advisers by her side. Let’s walk away knowing that Allie truly believes in what she’s done, and let’s hope that Allie finds a way to forgive her parents for what they’ve done to her and her brother.
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Shelley Loved It: Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen

Series: Scarlet 3
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Released: May 19, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Format: E-book | 348 pages
Genre: YA | Historical Retelling

Only the greatest loves can survive great danger. .

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine needs Scarlet’s help to free him. For a lifelong thief, this newfound allegiance to the crown-her family-is a strange feeling.

Scarlet knows that helping Eleanor will put her and those she loves back in Prince John’s sights. Desperate not to risk anyone’s life but her own, Scarlet formulates a plan to help save the king on her own.

But fate-and her heart-won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long. Even if Scarlet and Rob can together stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England, will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

“If you embrace who you are, you might find a great many tools at your disposal.”

LION HEART is the final installment in the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughen. Scarlet has been held captive by the vile Prince John since the end of Lady Thief. John would love nothing more than to see her dead and forgotten about. He moves her around a lot, hoping to keep anyone with prying eyes from finding his prized possession while not letting his mother know the horrific things he’s done to Scarlet, or his attempted coup while his brother Richard was captured on his way back from fighting the Crusades.
After escaping John’s clutches with assistance from her new Knight David, and a reunion with Allan a Dale, Scarlet is forced to choose the path she thinks is correct for her and Robin’s future. By returning home to Rob, she paints the perfect target on his head and those she’s come to think of as family. She’s lost so much to John already, that it’s almost easy to run away. If she does run away and hide, Robin becomes less of a threat with everyone thinking that she’s dead. But, now that she’s been pardoned, and given Nottinghamshire by King Richard, can she really turn her back on Rob and John’s machinations? Scarlet eventually finds her way back to Nottinghamshire where things aren’t exactly calm, and nearly everyone lost hope that she was actually alive. 
If you’ve read the Scarlet Trilogy from the start, you know that Scarlet has gone through the most of any character in the series. She’s been put into highly emotional situations where she’s been challenged both mentally and physically. She’s gone from being Wil Scarlet, thief, to Lady Marion of Nottinghamshire, the thorn in Prince John’s side, the love of Robin’s life, and the protector of the innocent. Scarlet has more than proven herself over and over again, and she is just as capable as Robin in leading the Merry Men into keeping Prince John in check. 
The most curious storyline in LION HEART happens between Scarlet, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor is the real life historical figure who was Queen of France, and participated in the Second Crusade. Later, when Richard was captured, she personally negotiated his ransom by going to Germany. Scarlet and Eleanor form a pretty interesting relationship, one that puts them both on the other side of John’s determination to take over Richards’s crown. Eleanor really becomes a strong ally to Scarlet, and even stands up for Scarlet and Robin as they plan to marry in Richard’s absence.
Scarlet Trilogy yet another series where the author, A.C. Gaughen, takes a historical figure and asks What if questions. What if Scarlet, aka Maid Marian, aka Marian Fitzwalter really was the figure behind the legendary Robin Hood aka Robin of Locksley? What if Marian really was such an inspirational figure that men adored her, and feared her, including Prince John Lackland? I’d like to believe that Marian was an actual person. I’d like to believe that people will look at this series not just as a love affair between Robin and Marian, but in the way that Marian rises to the top after everything she’s been put through. She is the true LION HEART of this story. 
**I received this book for free from (Bloomsbury USA Children’s) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
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Steampunk Sundays: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Series: Standalone (?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Steampunk

What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

Venen, a rabid disease that only affects women, is ravaging Arthursian (basically London). The death toll is high and rising by the minute. Desperate to find a cure, the King came to Dr. Gouden, Jonathan’s father, to find a cure. But the King did not just bring with him a request for help, he also brough Venen to Jonathan’s family and now his sister, Hannah, and his mother has contracted the disease. Desperate to save them, Jonathan came to the last perso he should be seeking aid from. Lady Florel is an enemy of the empire and the only one who holds the anti-toxin to Venen. The price might be too high for Jonathan but he will do anything in his power to save his family and the realm.
Oi vey! Reviewing ILLUSIONARIUM by Heather Dixon’s, I feel, is causing me to splice. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM is a very imaginative and scientific novel. It deals with parallel universes, the power of thought, and how our dreams are possible if only one is determined enough to fulfill it.
Unfortunately, how HDixon imagined the novel didn’t exactly turn out that way. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM books at least. The world and magic involved is so complex, building it alone should’ve taken up most of ILLUSIONARIUM. The story was so lean that the universe she created and its limitations weren’t defined. Remember, the premise is, an illusionist is able to create and build a world, or multiple worlds, given the right conditions. That said, she didn’t provide sufficient mythology to explain what an illusionist is and the extent of their powers. Is it an inherent capability? Can someone train to become one? I have my theories based on the narrative but I can’t tell you for sure because HDixon didn’t quite definte it.
In addition, ILLUSIONARIUM felt more like sci-fi/fantasy than Steampunk fantasy as some of the early critic reviews imply. The novel is fast paced and an easy read, but due to the lack of crucial details, the events went from 0-100 in a blink. Jonathan is an illusionist and became the best one there is in a hot minute. I’m good with “gifts” and prophesies and all that, but I expect the hero to work for his title somehow. I mean, Hercules has his 9 labors, what were Jonathan’s feats before he became great?
On the surface, I enjoyed ILLUSIONARIUM. I got into the chase, the fight scenes, the confrontations, even the scientific notations fascinated me when those things bores me in general. However, ILLUSIONARIUM had me wanting to read the deleted scenes because the novel lacked depth, the characters felt one dimensional, and the resolution felt so simple compared to the complicated plot and conflict. There were moments where I seriously though “so this must be what doing acid feels like,” because of the absence of fine details.
That said, if ILLUSIONARIUM were MG-YA, then I think I could give it a pass and ignore its flaws and take it at face value. MG fantasy in general are more action-centric than character development. And as this seems to be a standalone, the lack of character growth might be understandable so it can give way to the development of the plot. But as that’s not the case with ILLUSIONARIUM promising a lot of things: YA-Steampunk, intricate premise, spectacular plot devices, etc.; the novel just scratched the surface IMHO. I’m not completely disappointed by this, ILLUSIONARIUM has some good things going for it and I am NOT discouraging you from reading it either. Just don’t overthink things and I think you’ll find yourself enjoying the novel much more than I did.
Bloggy Friend’s Review: The Social Potato

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Shelley Liked It: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

Series: The Orphan Queen 1
Format: Hardcover | 400 pages
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Borrowed Library
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

THE ORPHAN QUEEN begins a brand new two book series by the author of the Newsoul trilogy. THE ORPHAN QUEEN is the story about 17-year old Princess Wilhelmina Korte, and her struggles to retake her kingdom. Ten years ago, Wilhelmina’s kingdom of Aecor, was torn apart in what the survivors and winners are calling the One Night War. Wilhelmina and other highborn children were rounded up and taken to an orphanage in Skyvale, where they escaped and became a group known as the Ospreys. 
Wilhelmina, her best friend Melanie, and Patrick Lien form the core of the group. They’re scrappy. They can fight. They steal in order to survive, and they have planned out the ultimate revenge against King Terrell of the Indigo Kingdom who was responsible for killing all of the lords and ladies of Aecor, including Wil’s mother and father. This revenge starts with Wilhelmina and Melanie taking the identities of Liadian high born ladies, and infiltrating the Indigo King’s castle looking for key information.
THE ORPHAN QUEEN is set against the backdrop of a world where magic isn’t allowed, and a no magic alliance is in place. The use of magic can get you killed. It is not a new vibe that Meadows offers, but it is interesting when you realize that they weren’t messing around, and that YES there was a reason for abandoning magic since it created something called the wraith. The wraith created strange monsters, and creatures called the Glowmen who have overrun entire countries.
I saw the betrayal coming a mile wide. It was apparent from the moment the character was introduced that they were up to no good. Then, when Meadows does a flashback to the One Night War and who was really responsible, you get a better grasp of what is really happening, and why. It’s hard to trust characters intentions when you know they don’t have the same reasoning as the heroine of the story. It’s what makes this a good story, and one that isn’t groundbreaking. Didn’t make Wilhelmina’s supposed best friend look good either, but then again, the story isn’t about her, is it?
Wilhelmina’s adversary and romantic entanglement is Tobiah, the crown prince of the Indigo Kingdom, and the person who carries a dangerous secret. Being the masked vigilante called The Black Knife who appears whenever Wil or her Osprey’s are around, Tobiah carefully leads a double life, while fighting against crime, those who wield magic, and those affected by the wraith. He also is the reason Wilhelmina finds herself without a country to rule. On one hand, Tobiah is the sheltered prince who wasn’t allowed to attend normal schools. On the other hand, his freedom as the Black Knife brings him face to face with the girl who saved his life the night of the One Night War.
I’ve been hearing all about the cliffhanger ending to THE ORPHAN QUEEN since before the book was released. Thankfully for me and anyone else who actually liked this story, Meadows says that this is part one of a two part duology. So, no, I won’t bitch or complain about the ending. For now. Still, it’s a long wait until the sequel, The Mirror King, comes out in 2016. In the meantime, Meadows announced that she will also be releasing FOUR separate novellas; The Hidden Prince (June 2, 2015), The Glowing KnightThe Burning Hand, and The Black Knife
Hopefully, Meadows will answer questions about Wilhelmina’s powers, and how she did what she did at the end of this book. I do hope the rest of the Osprey’s, who made choices of their own between following Wilhelmina, or Patrick, find a way to survive. I do believe that James would be the perfect partner for Wil. I really liked him. He was a bit more straight forward than Tobiah, who really left Wilhelmina in a tough spot with THAT ending! I know I’ve said that I resent 3-way love triangles. I think I’ve overstated that stance over the past year. However, if Wil and James were to find a connection, it would be better than yet another twisted triangle.
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Book 101: A Fox’s Love by Brandon Varnell

A Fox’s Love
American Kitsune 1
Brandon Varnell
February 28, 2014
The story of a boy, a fox, and a whole lot of ecchi…

Kevin Swift has the worst luck with women. It’s not that he’s unattractive or even unpopular. He just can’t talk to them. He blames it on all those Shōnen love comedies he enjoys watching. Fortunately, or unfortunately―depending on who’s asking―Kevin’s love life is about to start looking up.
After saving a fox’s life Kevin discovers that he actually rescued a Kitsune, a shape-shifter capable of transforming into a beautiful girl who appears to have popped right out of the pages to a Shōnen manga. Her name is Lilian, and she apparently wants to mate with him.
Between dealing with an overly amorous vixen’s zealous attempts at getting into his pants, his inability to talk to girls and school, Kevin is going to have his hands full.
I don’t read manga but I watch the ocassional anime with my son. I thought BVarnell has a cool concept going on here so I thought I’d share it with you all!
Transcribing Anime and Manga into the Written Word
By Brandon Varnell

How many of you know what anime is? How many of you have heard of manga? To those of you who know what I’m talking about, awesome, you’ve just met a fellow fan. To those of you who don’t know: anime is the abbreviated word for animation, however, a lot of people in the world consider anime to be a word exclusively used to define Japanese animations. On the other end, manga is basically the Japanese equivalent to American comics.

You must be wondering why in the heck I’m talking about this. Don’t worry, all will be made clear soon.

As a young boy, I watched my first anime when I was… I wanna say 9 years old. It was Pokemon which, back in the day, was what all of us cool kids (I.E. nerds) watched. Actually, I still think it’s an awesome show and I’m 26 now. I guess I just never grew up. Either way, after watching my first episode of Pikachu, that lovable yellow rodent, shocking the main protagonist Ash Ketchum with its electric powers, I was hooked. It was only a matter of time before I expanded my repertoire to include many other anime, and it wasn’t long after picking up my love for anime that I discovered manga. Having spent over a decade nerding out, I have gained a large collection of anime and manga that I’ve watched/read.

What’s this? You want me to get to the point? Well, I guess I could do that, though I do so love rambling.

Having discovered my love for writing several years ago whilst in college, and having absolutely zero talent for drawing or animating, it is no wonder that a lot of what I write has become a parody of anime and manga. A good portion of my stories have been inspired by the many stories I’ve seen through these two mediums; tales of ancient spirits and powerful gods, of giant fighting robots and aliens that shoot beams of Ki from their hands, of high school romances and off the wall comedy. Japanese storytelling vastly differs from traditional American storytelling. Everything, from the tropes used to the way stories unfold is so different from what Americans, and most other nations, are used to. As writer, that is what initially drew me into writing stories based on Japanese tropes instead of American ones. I wanted to do something unique.

Writing stories inspired by anime and manga means writing something different. You’re not just telling a story filled with unusual tropes. You’re telling a story using a different culture entirely. Beyond that, writing a story inspired by my many hours spent watching and reading stuff like Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Death Note, Code Geass and hundreds of other tales that you won’t find in American culture brings a smile to my face and, hopefully, it will bring a smile to the faces of others as well.

Book 2

Brandon Varnell first got into writing when he was in college. Before that, he wanted to be a video game designer—until he realized that he couldn’t make a video game to save his life—and before that, he wanted to be a rock star—until he realized that sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll stopped being a thing in the 80s. His life has been filled with ups and downs and various moments of ADHD driven high-jinks. It wasn’t until he discovered his love for writing that his mind gained the focus necessary to commit himself to something as a (hopefully) possible career choice.

When not sitting in front of his computer typing, he can usually be found watching anime or reading a variety of books, manga, and Japanese light novels. His favorite book series are The Dresden Files, Spice and Wolf, A Certain Magical Index, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Legend of Drizzt, Sword Art Online, Highschool DxD, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Ballad of a Shinigami. He also enjoys taking long walks on the beach, watching the sun set and… you’re not even reading to this anymore, are you?

Follow Brandon
Facebook | @BrandonBVarnell | Goodreads

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Shelley Loved It: Skandal by Lindsay Smith

Series: Sekret 2
Format: Paperback | 336 pages
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA / Historical

The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

My mind is mine alone.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia’s allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal.

3.5 cauldrons

SKANDAL is the conclusion to the Sekret duology. The story takes place 3 months after 17-year old Yulia Andreevna Chernina and her boyfriend Valentin escaped from the USSR where they were used as tools by the KGB in hunting down traitors and spies. After requesting asylum in the US, there is a whole new world for Yulia to learn about. Especially the English language and culture so that she can fit in. Thankfully, Air Force Sergeant Winnie Davis is her teacher in all things American. 

My past cannot hurt me now. My future cannot stop me now. All I have is now.

Yulia has difficult time understanding her purpose, except when she is recruited to join the CIA’s PsyOps Team where she works alongside her father Andrei, and Valya. Yulia is focused on several things that are important to her. Finding her mother Antonina who may or may not be working with General Rostov, and reuniting with her brother Zhenya. Lastly, stopping General Rostov who has also taken his game to a whole new level and is trying to push the US into war. This is a story where you really have no clue if someone is loyal, or a mole for the Soviets. It is a world where one wrong step by either the US or USSR, can lead to severe implications for the entire world.
I liked that Yulia has taken charge of her own fate but still struggles to understand her powerful abilities. She no longer chooses to let anyone in her head without her permission. Her mind is her own, but she still faces struggles dealing with powerful psychics called scrubbers sent by Rostov to cause mayhem. She struggles with the language barrier, and that is something that is authentic, and not faked for entertainment purposes. Her relationship with her father is just brutal, while her love for Valya is pretty unwavering, as is her desire to help rid him of past unwanted memories that continue to haunt him.   
You really can tell that Lindsay Smith did her due diligence when it came to researching the setting of this story. I love that there is a deep historical aspect to this series including showing how Winnie struggles as a black female during a time when the Civil Rights movement was trying to overcome political stalling. The use of psychics to fight a war against your enemy, is pretty damn scary. But, when you think about everything that’s come out into the open since then about what took place during the Cold War, it isn’t even close to being the worst things this country, or Russia has done. 

You can skip this next part, if you so choose. This is part of MY lifetime memories and experiences

SKANDAL takes place in 1964. I was 2 years old at the time. Yes, I am that old! We had just survived the Cuban Missile Crisis the previous October (1963), and our President, John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963). Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. The film satirizes Cold War politics, playing upon American anxieties and changing attitudes towards nuclear warfare. 
Martin Luther King Jr was standing up for Civil Rights, which later passed under President Johnson & a Republican Congress as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thanks to North Vietnam attacking one of our ships, U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War ratcheted up and didn’t end until 1973. Before you ask why you should care, there is an old adage of history repeating itself. You also have to understand that the War on Poverty that began more than 50 years ago, still hasn’t succeeded in what it was intended to do. Help the black community get out of poverty, and have a chance that white’s have had since the US freed the Slaves.
In the end, SKANDAL was a bit on the foreshadowing side and not action packed as I would have preferred it. I would have liked to see more resolution between Yulia and Sergei who is almost as scary as Rostov. I would have preferred a bit different outcome with Yulia’s mom. In a way, it was almost expected. In another way, it broke my heart. Still, due to the historical aspects, and the realism of the characters and settings, I’m giving the story a A-/B+.
Other books in Series:
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Shelley Loved It: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Science Fiction

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Set 800 years into the future in a place known as the Sunken City, ROOK is a young adult dystopian novel that blends together a mix of the Dark Ages, without any of the technology that we enjoy today; with the French Revolution under Maximilien Robespierre and his ideas of banning religion, using the working class in an attempt to bring down the aristocracy, and putting people to the death by way of the Razor (Guillotine) who disagree with his revolution.

ROOK is Cameron’s own flattering re-imaging of The Scarlet Pimpernel where a mysterious character rescues those who are scheduled to face the Guillotine. 18 year old Sophia Bellamy is the person behind the “Le Corbeau Rouge” or Red Rook mask. She is daring and courageous in her mission of rescuing the wrongly accused of being traitors under Premier Allemande. She also leaves a red-tipped rook feather behind in order to let Allemande know she doesn’t agree with HIS or Albert LeBlanc’s revolution.
Sophia is by far one of the most entertaining characters that I’ve read about in recent memory. She’s a strong character who doesn’t desire her father’s help in guiding her life or her attempts to do good for those who are suffering under Allemande’s rule. Sophia isn’t a foolish character, nor does she run around every 30 seconds whining about how hard her life is. Sophia lives in the Commonwealth, which is basically England. The citizens are Luddite’s who truly believe that technology destroyed the world during the Great Death. 
History repeats itself in ROOK with 18th century fashions, hairstyles, makeup, and the idea of sending off your daughters to marry wealthy men in order to save your property from being taken away. When you think about Allemende’s attempt at class warfare, and killing those that don’t agree with him or his politics, well, we see the same ideas raising their ugly heads today, haven’t we? 
The romance was actually entertaining, which, yes, surprised me since I was prepared for an all-out twisted love triangle which infests the Young Adult genre. Sophia meets her match in Parisian Rene Hasard who she ends up betrothed to in an attempt to save her family’s land, her father’s life, and stopping the Commonwealth from taking the property away. Like Sophia, Rene has a few secrets of his own, and his family is definitely one of the most entertaining that you will read about, especially Emile and Maman. The romance isn’t love at first sight. It is painful at times, and grinds up pages before Sophia and Rene find common ground. But, in the end, it works like a charm. 
I’ll say this about ROOK, it has so many different twists and turns and surprises that you will need to take notes to remember what happened and to whom. ROOK is an entertaining story, with a not so original idea of using a polar shift to destroy mankind and the resulting refusal of future generations to fall back on the technology they blame for the world’s destruction. Although polar shifts are extremely rare occurrences, they have happened. Pole’s reverse themselves about every 200,000 to 300,000 years. Add to the mix subsequent holes in the ozone and the resulting fall of technology, and here’s hoping that we don’t have a polar shift any time in OUR lifetimes!
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Shelley Loved It: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Series: The Girl at Midnight 1 
Format: E-Book | 368 pages 
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA | Urban Fantasy

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was one of the most anticipated reads that I had scheduled for the month of April. Set in a real world setting that takes place around the globe and under New York City, Grey tells her story via multiple characters. But, it is with 17-year old runaway thief/pickpocket and very human Echo, that Grey really excels. Echo’s very being puts her in direct odds with every other character that makes an appearance in this book. But, she’s not one to stand on the sidelines while everyone has all the fun.

“To know the truth, you must first want the truth.”

At a young age, Echo was taken in by a race of supernaturals called the Avicen after running away from home. The Avicen (Avian) are a race of people with feathers for hair and magical abilities that live under the streets of New York City. Now, some of you are already saying, HEY, that sounds like Daughter of Smoke and Bone! But, let’s move past that for a moment. Especially since there are no angel’s or devils in THIS story, and even though Echo was raised by them, she knew who her parents were. 
For centuries, the Avicens under Ala and Drakharin (Dragons) under Casius, have been searching for the mythical Firebird which is said to be able to bring peace between the supernatural enemies. Peace is what both Ala and Casius wants and desires, but not everyone is on the same wavelength. It is with that in mind that Ala sends Echo on a mind blowing journey that is filled with adventure, romance, betrayal, and an awakening of sorts for Echo.
Echo is a character that loves to use bravado (sarcasm & humor) when she gets into tight places. Echo has doesn’t have any of her own magic, but she can travel the in-between to get where she’s going. She loves reading, and can quote from almost any book that she’s read. She hoards her stolen goodies, and has a best friend in Ivy, an Avicen who is also a healer. She does have a “boyfriend” in Rowan, but perhaps her match really belongs with someone else ::wink wink:: Echo is more than determined to prove her worth to the Avicens who have been her only true family. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT‘s other main characters are Caius, Ala, Ivy, Jasper, and Dorian. Put them together and you have an unlikely team willing to put away their differences in order to find a common cause. Caius’s own sister Tanith stands in his way of finding the Firebird, while Ala’a nemesis Altair, stands in hers. Jasper is a peacock, of sorts, who is in the same business as Echo. Dorian has been by Caius’s side as his guard since being saved. Ivy, Echo’s best friend, really goes through a lot in this story, and I feel kind of like she’s the 5th wheel at this point. Hopefully, that will change.
I do believe this is the first time I am saying that multiple character storylines actually work. I don’t remember at any point, saying that I had no clue who the author was talking about. The breaks were clear, and almost always, Grey hinted at who she was writing about. Apparently, Multiple POV’s can be done efficiently. 
I suck at keeping my promises of not comparing books. But, since the synopsis makes such a glaring and triumphant comparison between this book, City of Bones, & Shadow and Bone, let’s go there for a moment. Because the Avicens are a race of supernaturals with feathers for hair, readers will fall back to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t quite see where Shadow and Bone comes in, and I do encourage you to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT on your own, and see if this comparison is worth its merits. I supposed seeing as the Avicen use magic to hid themselves from humans, there goes the City of Bones likeness. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is a book that I would recommend to other readers. I am understandably weary of sequels, but in this case, I am definitely eager to see where Grey takes Echo and her crew from here. I won’t speak all that much on the romance angle. It kind of is what it is, and you can take it from there how you feel about it after reading the book.
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A Shot of YA: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone + Print Giveaway

Series: Stand-alone(?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Genre: MYA-Contemporary Romance

What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It’s kinda hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn’t anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.
So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. [Trevor]

Oh my heart! Juliana Stone, why do you always give it such a firm but gentle squeeze?? You guys! SOME KIND OF NORMAL is my first Summer-ish read and it. Was. Wonderful! In case you didn’t notice the 5-cauldron rating. And if you haven’t tried Juliana Stone’s contemporary romances (there’s a couple of FREEBIES on Amazon), I suggest you do! Her stories are always relatable, realistic, and heartfelt, you’ll come back for more to get the feels! 
So I don’t know if SOME KIND OF NORMAL is part of a series or what. A sequel was mentioned in the end of Boys Like You, and Trevor was first introduced there… That said, this novel can be read as stand-alone, although I suggest you still read both… for the feels! Anyway, Trevor had it rough. He just came out of a coma after getting into an drunk driving accident and now things are sorta, kinda, normal with a few kinks that requires a lot of adjustment, positivity, and resilience from our young leading man. 
Trevor Lewis’ struggle was very believable to me. I appreciated that he wasn’t angry all the time, he didn’t dwell on the things he used to have, things he used to and can’t do anymore because of the after effects of his accident. I find it normal for him to be frustrated at times, but almost losing his life gave him some perspective, and helped him understand the difference between concern and control. Trevor’s a good guy overall, I expected him to pull the “victim” card but instead he surprised me by still maintaining a good vibes attitude. Suffice to say that Trevor wasn’t in a dark place that he failed to spot Everly’s need for friendship and empathy.
Everly (I love her name!) Jenkins was the pastor’s daughter and everyone put her in this “perfect box”. What people don’t know is her “perfect” family is going through a rough patch. For once, I love a young adult heroine who didn’t make every stupid thing about her! Anyway, Everly’s issue is about her parents’ crumbling marriage and I was astounded with how matured she handled the situation. I think it’s expected that Everly had her moments. After all, she’s only 17 and is forced to share the burden of her parent’s issues. But on those tense confrontational moments, Everly was very mature and even wise for her years. And amidst all of her personal problems, Everly still found it in her to extend the same empathy Trevor gave her in the beginning. And fixing each other is exactly what they did. 
I had a personal connection with SOME KIND OF NORMAL, this story hit so close to home, it set me in a melancholic/contemplatative mood after reading it. These kids are dealt sour lemons and I love how they turned it into a sweet and tangy lemonade. There was just one part that I felt was unneccessary, I don’t think the dirty laundry here should’ve been aired in that manner. But for the sake of dramatic tension, I’ll give it a pass. Fans of Katie McGarry will totally get into this series, it’s not as angsty as Pushing The Limits, but just as hard hitting. I just love this (series) so much I hope there’s another on the way!

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