Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review + Giveaway: Four Nights with the Duke

Desperate Duchesses #8
Eloisa James
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia's audacious proposal, but there's one thing he won't give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil's bargain...he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can't afford to lose.

Four Nights with the Duke is a captivating and emotional read, giving us an antagonistic relationship that keeps us questioning whether or not these two will ever find their way to happily ever after despite knowing it's exactly where they're headed. Many antagonistic relationships are full of witty banter; sly insults delivered with a smirk and a little sexual innuendo to let some of the attraction slip through the pretense of dislike. The relationship between Mia and Vander is not characterized by the more playful type of antagonism however, instead what exists between the two of them for much of the book is years of pain, anger, and more than a little humiliation on Mia’s part. As a result, our hearts ache for her from prologue to concluding chapters, wanting nothing more for her than to find the happiness she deserves.

From the moment Mia stands up from her hiding spot at age fifteen and confronts the group of boys, including Vander, who are mocking a poem she wrote professing her love for him, we can’t help but be madly in love with her. While the fact that she blackmails Vander into marrying her (with a very serious accusation should the information she has get out) isn’t something we can really condone, her reasons for doing so are extraordinarily selfless, and she pays far more than the penance due in the early days of her marriage. Vander’s insults are not of the witty or flirty variety, rather they're words honed to sharp points and aimed with unerring precision, inflicting as much lasting damage as possible and leaving us feeling nothing but protective of the young woman who’s trying to do what’s best for her family.

Vander therefore takes much longer to warm to than Mia, our anger at him for not defending her and her poem fairly mild given he was a mere fifteen at the time as well, but his righteous anger at her in the present for not only the blackmail but also the somewhat sordid history between their families keeps a fair amount of distance between us. He also has the rather frustrating habit of communicating almost solely in intimate terms, seeking physical closeness with Mia whenever his mouth gets him in trouble and staying notably silent in lieu of explaining himself. What keeps this habit from being downright irritating is Mia’s reaction to this repetitive process, letting him know time and again that his method of communicating leaves a lot to be desired on an emotional level.

In the end though, Vander shows a great deal of growth and maturity, using his words to comfort and woo rather than hurt, but he also helps Mia to see what's being said when he says nothing at all. Overall, Four Nights with a Duke is beautifully emotional, leaving us feeling raw and on edge much of the time before soothing us with a tender moment between the two of them or a laugh thanks to Vander’s charming lush of an uncle. Lovers of historical romance will not want to miss out on this one.

Rating: 4.5/5

Order Four Nights with the Duke:

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A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at

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Thanks to Tasty Book Tours and the fabulous people at Avon, I have a very special giveaway to accompany my review today! Up for grabs is the complete Desperate Duchesses series (books 1-7), so be sure an enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada only.

Be sure and check out the full list of participating blogs as well for more reviews, excerpts and special content!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday Flourish (+ Giveaway!): Rachel's Deception

Happy Only-Two-More-Days-Until-Friday Everyone!

Happy Wednesday didn't really sound like a great greeting, so I went with the above. Possible fail. Anyway, today I'm really excited to reveal the cover of Rachel's Deception, the fourth book in the Temptation series by Karen Ann Hopkins. This latest installment is a spinoff featuring Noah's little sister, so it can be read as a standalone for any of you who haven't read Noah and Rose's story in its entirety.

Designing this cover with Karen was a bit of a different process than the previous covers we've done together because we wanted to make sure Rachel's Deception fit with the first three books published by Harlequin Teen. At the same time though, we needed to differentiate it from the others since Rachel is stepping into the spotlight, so we kept with an outdoor rural setting to highlight the Amish lifestyle but chose to make Rachel a focal point on her own. Before we get to the cover, here's a quick look at the previous titles:

To celebrate the reveal Karen is offering up a fantastic giveaway, so be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details, and don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway to win a full Karen Ann Hopkins prize pack!

And now, Rachel's Deception:

Growing up Amish is difficult…but leaving it behind is even harder.

Noah was Amish...Rose wasn't. Being together should have been impossible. But somehow they found a way to make it work. They are finally a family, but their happily-ever-after is still a long off. Will Rose and her friends be able to force real change?

Karen Ann Hopkins returns with a gripping new book in the YA Temptation series. The powerful family saga continues with Rachel's Deception, as events spiral out of control in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview. And Rachel Miller has her own secrets to hide. Noah’s younger sister has been living a double life. That is, until Justin Cameron, Rose's little brother, catches her in the act. Rachel is not the obedient Amish girl that her sister was, and her rebelliousness takes her to a very dangerous world. A world that only her true friends can help her escape from.

As Rachel questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment, Rose discovers what it really means to be shunned. And an evil shadow looms on the horizon, threatening not only Rose, but everyone she holds dear.

The blog tour for Rachel’s Deception runs from May 18th - June 5th, if you are interested in reviewing the book and want to join the blog tour then please visit Karen’s tour page and sign up!


Temptation (Book 1)

Belonging (Book 2)
Forever (Book 3)
Audiobook lovers, be sure and pre-order Temptation (you can check out a sample here) which will be available on Audible April 21st!

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A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.

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Karen is generously offering up a $25 gift card (Amazon or B&N) as well as a copy of TEMPTATION (book 1) to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giveaway: Karen Ann Hopkins!/HOME

I've had the pleasure of working with author Karen Ann Hopkins over the past year on a number of her covers, so I'm thrilled today to bring you guys a very special giveaway. Tomorrow will see the reveal of the fourth book in her hugely popular Temptation series (fear not those of you who haven't read the first three, this fourth installment is a spinoff and can be read as a standalone!), so as a sort of pre-celebration Karen is generously offering up signed copies of Lamb to the Slaughter, Whispers from the Dead and Embers to two lucky winners.

And for all you audiobook lovers out there, the first three books in the Temptation series will be on sale at Audible on April 21st, so be sure and pre-order! I'll have a sample of the audiobook to share with you tomorrow along with the reveal of Rachel's Deception.

For now though, enter to win two fantastic adult murder mysteries as well as the first of Karen's YA paranormal series!


Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about the intertwining lives of three unlikely people in an Indiana Amish Community and the devastating results when a rebellious teenage girl is found shot to death in a corn field during the harvest.

Serenity Adams is the newly elected young sheriff in the country town of Blood Rock and besides dealing with the threatening behavior of her predecessor, she now has a dead Amish girl on her plate.  At first glance, the case seems obvious.  The poor girl was probably accidently shot during hunting season, but when the elders of the Amish community and even the girl’s parents react with uncaring subdued behavior, Serenity becomes suspicious.  As she delves deeper into the secretive community that she grew up beside, she discovers a gruesome crime from the past that may very well be related to the Amish girl’s shooting.

Serenity enlists the help of the handsome bad-boy building contractor, Daniel Bachman, who left the Amish when he was nineteen and has his own dark reasons to help the spunky sheriff solve the crime that the family and friends who shunned him are trying desperately to cover up.  Serenity’s persistence leads her to a stunning discovery that not only threatens to destroy her blossoming romance with Daniel, but may even take her life in the end.


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 Some Amish communities aren't so cozy.
Whispers From The Dead is the powerful and thrilling sequel to Lamb to the Slaughter, in the Amish mystery series, Serenity’s Plain Secrets.

Sheriff Serenity Adams and Daniel Bachman are once again partnered up in a criminal investigation, when they travel to a northern Amish settlement that has been riddled by arsons for the past two decades. Serenity quickly discovers that there is much more going on than just barns being set on fire in the touristy community, and that the new group of Amish has their own secrets to hide. She begins to unravel an extensive criminal underworld that threatens to destroy everything that the simple people of Poplar Springs hold dear and once again puts her own life in jeopardy.

And even though Serenity tries desperately to avoid it, things begin heating up between her and Daniel, making her wonder if true love and happiness are really within her grasp.

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There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them. And she may be the only hope mankind has as the rapture approaches and evil rises.

Embers is an epic paranormal adventure about an eighteen year old girl who discovers that she's immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt's boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember's exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she finds out that she's a Watcher, a descendant of angels. While Ember learns about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two young men who live in a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicitly drawn to one of the men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it is cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war—one that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil—and the grayness in between. Ember is up to the challenge, until she realizes that she isn’t only fighting for the lives of the locals and the souls of her new friends. She also might be one of the few champions who will make a stand for all of mankind as the rapture approaches and the end of days begin.

Embers is a dark and gritty YA novel that’s the first book in the series, The Wings of War.

Goodreads AmazonB&N

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To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Dream a Little Dream

The Silver Trilogy #1
Kerstin Gier
Paranormal Young Adult
Henry Holt
336 pages
Available April 14th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals.

The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery. . . .

Dream a Little Dream is a bit darker than its cover suggests, the whimsy and vibrancy of the depicted dream sequence but a small moment in this tale compared to the prominent shadow of a possible demonic threat. (It should be noted that I wrote this review a while back with the original cover in mind, though it does still apply somewhat.) While the story itself has serious themes, Ms. Gier's sense of humor is present and accounted for, bringing a smile to our faces as we attempt to sort out just what Liv has gotten herself into with the young men at her new school. There's an ease to Ms. Gier's writing style that causes the pages to turn in rapid succession, drawing us in and holding our attention throughout until we find ourselves staring at the inside back cover far sooner than expected.

Liv is someone with whom it's easy to settle in, quick with a sarcastic quip and first (along with younger sister Mia) to roll her eyes at some of the sheer ridiculousness perpetrated by those at Frognal Academy for Boys and Girls. She's not one to swoon over the quartet of physical perfection that is Arthur, Jasper, Henry and Grayson, instead she calls them out on their insincere flirting, corrects them when they get her name wrong and mentally pokes fun at them when they allow the reactions of the other girls to stroke their egos. She does require the suspension of disbelief in one particular area though, diving headfirst into the dream/demon happenings with shockingly little thought as to the potential repercussions of meddling in supernatural affairs. Granted, she doesn't believe in the supernatural and therefore assumes her participation in the boys' rituals is harmless, but regardless of whether or not demons do in fact exist, we can't help but wish she might give her involvement the gravity it deserves.

Her lack of sound decision making with regard to the paranormal aspect aside, Liv is a thoroughly enjoyable young woman with a hilarious relationship with younger sister Mia. Mia is a highlight despite her relatively minor role, the sweetness of her young face always belied by the things that come out of her mouth, and we can do nothing but smile every time she appears on page. Overall, Dream a Little Dream is a fun start to this series, and while it's a little light on answers to our many questions regarding the dream world and the possible demon responsible for it, it's easy to free ourselves from those tangles and simply enjoy a well-told story.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kerstin

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blog Tour: The Last of the Sandwalkers

A number of you are probably looking at the repeated word "beetles" on this blog tour banner and scratching your heads (possibly because you feel like there might be beetles on you now that I've brought it up), but I really love participating in tours that are a little different, and the group at First Second Books (and Macmillan in general) never disappoint!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Jay Hosler to the blog to share with us some facts about the Carrion-Burying Beetle Family, along with a custom illustration. While you may suffer a slight loss of appetite after reading about this particular family of insects, you'll at least have newfound knowledge to pass along at your next social gathering! Nerd win. Be sure and check out Jay's newest release, The Last of the Sandwalkers for more fascinating tidbits about the insect world!

Character Name:  The Carrion-Burying Beetle family
Species:  Nicrophorus sp
Length:  25-35 mm
Color: Black with organge markings on the elytra
Habitat:  all over the place
Superpower: masters of food preparation

Most of us are familiar with the numerous, gigantic families of honey bees, wasp and ants. They usually contain a massive queen pumping out babies that are cared for by thousands (sometimes millions) of siblings. These are industrial-sized, assembly line families. By comparison, there aren’t too many social beetles and those that are social run more of a Mom-and-Pop operation.

Burying beetles start their family by looking for something dead. They have antennae that are tuned into the odors associated with rotting corpses. After a male of female has located a dead mouse or bird, they will wait for a member of the opposite sex to show up. Once united, the couple may have to fend off other couples that also want the yummy dead thing.

In some cases, the carcass needs to be moved to a suitable location for burial. To do this, the beetles will crawl under the corpse, lay on their backs, lift with their legs and shift the body. Imagine getting under your car, lifting with you hands and legs and moving the car down the road a couple inches at a time. Impressive. You can watch them at work in the National Geographic video.

Eventually the winning couple will bury the carcass and remove any skin, hair and feathers. Then, the beetles will treat the dead critter with digestive enzymes, anti-microbial and anti-fungal secretions from their mouths and butts. As the carcass is turning into a pasty, grey goo, the female lays eggs around the chamber and waits for the larvae to hatch and crawl over to the food. The parents look over the larva as they develop and prepare for metamorphosis. At this point, the larvae burrow into the surrounding chamber walls and begin the pupation period. With their parenting work done, the adult burying beetles will leave the burial chamber in search of a new carcass.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, our beetle explorers meet a family of burying beetle and make a surprising discovering in their food.

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(releases April 7th)

Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization—a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. One such scientist is Lucy, who leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Beetles are not the only living creatures in the world.

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Photo: Lisa Hosler

Jay Hosler is a biology professor at Juniata College, and a cartoonist. He enjoys telling stories about science and the natural world, and his first graphic novel (Clan Apis) won a Xeric Award and was selected for YALSA's 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. His latest book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, was a 2011 Junior Library Guild selection, a nominee for YALSA's 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and has been included in the Texas Library Association's Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and his two little nerdlings.

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Don't forget to check out the rest of the participating blogs for additional beetle info as well as original artwork from Jay!

Tuesday, March 24
Seven Impossible Things

Wednesday, March 25
Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 26
The Brain Lair

Friday, March 27
Supernatural Snark

Monday, March 30
The Book Rat

Tuesday, March 31
Miss Print

Wednesday, April 1
Mr. Schu Reads

Thursday, April 2
Geek Dad

 Friday, April 3

Monday, April 6
Librarian’s Quest

Tuesday, April 7
SLJ Scope Notes

Wednesday, April 8
Alice Marvels

Thursday, April 9
The Roarbots

Friday, April 10
Sharp Read

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Sisters of Blood and Spirit

Sisters of Blood and Spirit #1
Kady Cross
Paranormal Young Adult
288 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available March 31st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Wren Noble is dead—she was born that way. Vibrant, unlike other dead things, she craves those rare moments when her twin sister allows her to step inside her body and experience the world of the living.

Lark Noble is alive but often feels she belongs in the muted Shadow Lands—the realm of the dead. Known as the crazy girl who talks to her dead sister, she doesn't exactly fit in with the living, though a recent suicide attempt and time in a psych ward have proved to her she's not ready to join her sister in the afterlife.

Now the guy who saved Lark's life needs her to repay the favor. He and his friends have been marked for death by the malevolent spirit of a vicious and long-dead serial killer, and the twins—who should know better than to mess with the dead—may be their only hope of staying alive.

Sisters of Blood and Spirit is entertaining from beginning to end, making us instantly protective of Lark as she returns to school after a stint in a mental institution thanks to a split second desire to join the twin sister no one else can see. Her classmates pounce immediately, poking at her sore spot with relish, but just as soon as our hackles rise at their mockery her sister Wren intervenes in all her ghostly glory. From that moment on we can’t help but root for the pair of them, hoping they find their way to happiness despite the enormous odds stacked against them.

We spend our time split between the first person perspectives of both Lark and Wren, privy to the pros and cons of each of their lives as they prepare for a showdown with a spectacularly monstrous spirit. Lark can be quite abrupt at times, her blunt honesty and single-minded concern for Wren requiring a little getting used to both for us as readers as well as the group of classmates who approach her for help. It’s easy to look past her very to-the-point nature though given what we know of how’s she been treated by friends, family and strangers up until now, and we can do nothing but hope this new group is sincere in their desire for not only her help but also her friendship.

While there are a number of aspects of this story that are left unaddressed by the time we reach the last page, particularly the mystery surrounding Lark and Wren’s unusual bond, they’re the type of questions that give the story legs to stand on moving forward into the next book. The storyline regarding the haunting of Lark’s group of friends and the truly horrifying ghost responsible is wrapped up nicely (if a touch easily) by the time we reach the last page, ensuring we feel as though we’ve read a complete story instead of merely part of one. 

Overall, Sisters of Blood and Spirit is pure fun in a might-need-to-sleep-with-light-on-tonight kind of way, the relationship between Lark and Wren beautifully intriguing, and the promise of deepening friendships and romance in future books enough to have us counting the days until the sequel is in our hands.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kady:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.