Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Court of Fives

COURT OF FIVES
Court of Fives #1
Kate Elliott
Young Adult/Fantasy
448 pages
Little, Brown BFYR
Available August 18th
Source: ARC from NOVL Newsletter

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.


MY THOUGHTS
Court of Fives is one of those stories that needs to be read in small doses, not because it's lacking in elements that hold our interest, but rather because the world and some of the people in it are so appalling we can't bear to be in their presence for long periods of time. Ms. Elliott gives us a society in which women are the lowest of the low, daughters often killed or sent away because they're not everything a son would be, and adult women bricked up alive in tombs with the body of their lord or prince to keep him company in the afterlife. It's a brutal world, one that makes our blood boil at the injustice of the class system, but Ms. Elliott doesn't leave us alone to fume in our anger, providing us with a young heroine who plays the game of life and death so very well.

Jessamy has dreamed of competing in the Fives–a sporting even of sorts in which contestants run an obstacle course and can eventually move up the ranks to achieve fame and fortune–for years, and it's easy to root for her to achieve this one goal when everything else in her life is falling apart. She's strong-willed, smart and unafraid to make her feelings known despite the fact that her voice is viewed as worthless by this society at large, and she proves to be a highlight in an otherwise dark and heavy world.

While Jessamy is a strong character, and one whom by the end has us itching to see how she's going to handle the latest blow she's been dealt, the structure of the story itself seems to fall apart as Jessamy's journey continues. We're led to believe thanks to the first half that after a horrific separation from her family, we're going to follow her as she trains in an official stable for the Fives, but just as she becomes a cog in a political machine she wants no part of, we leave the stable and embark on a completely different and drawn-out adventure. It almost feels as though an entirely separate novella in which Jessamy sets out to bring her family back together exists in the middle of this tale, and we're returned to the world of the Fives with only a few chapters remaining. The details of her training and the complexity of the politics surrounding the Fives are discussed only in short random bursts, depriving of us of the in-depth look at what we previously assumed would be the most dominant aspect of the story.

Additionally, the romance between Jes and well-out-of-her-social-league Lord Kalliarkos is lacking in the same substance as the Fives, their relationship one of hesitant friendship (which is great) before things like holding hands and kissing are casually thrown in without much build-up or aftermath. We remain purely on the surface despite the potential for something painfully spectacular to exist between them, leaving us without some of the obsessive anticipation we'd hoped to feel after the turn of the last page. Ms. Elliott does delight with her villainous character however, a man so righteously loathesome we can feel our lips curl involuntarily whenever he appears on page, and we can't help but long for the moment when Jessamy puts him in his place.

Overall Court of Fives is a bit of a rocky start to this series, but a strong heroine and a political world hateful enough to have us taking short breaks as we read make the sequel something to look forward to.
 

Rating: 3.5/5


Find Kate:


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, June 26, 2015

Friday Flourish: Black Heart, Red Ruby

Happy Friday Everyone!

I'm super excited today to share another of my recent cover designs, this one for author Teresa Yea who I had the privilege of working with on Love in a Time of Monsters. Teresa never fails to come to me with a project that makes me positively giddy at the thought of working on it, and given how madly in love I was with the way Monsters came together I couldn't wait to team up with her again on her newest release, Black Heart, Red Ruby.

Black Heart, Red Ruby is contemporary gothic horror, so we originally discussed a design that would be dark in nature–lots of blacks and reds combining to create a bold, heavy look–with the heroine as a focal point. After submitting the first round of idea boards, Teresa and I ended up back at the drawing board, realizing the direction in which we'd been heading just wasn't suiting the story the way we'd hoped.

We came to the conclusion that we needed to simplify, keeping the design very graphic, type-driven, and full of grit and texture. You guys already know how obsessed I am with typography, so I couldn't be happier with how the final design turned out. I hope you all love it and decide to add it to your reading lists!

BLACK HEART, RED RUBY
(releases June 30th)


Ava Nolan grew up in the shadow of her father's obsession with macabre artifacts. An elixir brewed from witches’ blood. A cabinet of mummified cats. And Arabella's Curse, the missing prize in his collection: a ruby with the power to resurrect the dead. With a father who resents her existence, a dead-end job, and her expulsion from school to live down, Ava sets out to recover the ruby and reclaim her self-respect. Luckily for Ava, local legend says the ruby is buried in a crumbling mansion by the sea, not far from her new home.

But life as an amateur relic hunter is not without its share of emergency room visits. Or cutthroat competitors. And nearly plummeting to her death doesn’t terrify Ava half as much as her uncle, a gentleman grave robber with a vendetta against her father and sinister plans for the ruby.

Entangled in a web of family treachery, Ava finds solace with a lonely boy who fills her nights with stolen kisses and her head with ruby lore. But there's something strange about Ben Wolcott. He's a bit too cunning, a bit too preoccupied with keeping Ava out of his basement, and much too interested in Arabella's Curse.
Find Black Heart, Red Ruby:


Find Teresa:


You can find more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio!   

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Call On Me

CALL ON ME
Loving on the Edge #8
Roni Lauren
Adult Contemporary Romance
448 pages
Berkley Romance
Available July 7th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.

Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.

But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.


MY THOUGHTS
Call On Me is a sexy-as-sin opposites attract romance, the drummer for a rock band sweeping the mom of an autistic daughter off her feet as readers are left panting and swooning in equal measure. We can't help but smile and shake our heads as both Pike and Oakley attempt to set one-time only rules for themselves, knowing their good intentions are going to be obliterated by a tidal wave of lust and love. Sometimes a romance between two people who think their relationship can be nothing more than a fling can be frustrating, the couple denying everything they're feeling as they stubbornly cling to how they think things are supposed to be. Luckily for us Oakley and Pike are much more honest with themselves, and while they put up a token struggle here and there, they opt to be open in their communication every step of the way.

Oakley is a mom by day and a phone sex operator by night, numbing herself to all things sexual as she works a second job to help support her daughter. She's as upfront as they come, telling Pike where she stands from the beginning and continuing to do so as their relationship shifts and changes, never allowing a miscommunication or misunderstanding to derail what quickly becomes a very important part of her life. Pike has the ego expected of a rockstar, but all his self-congratulatory statements are laced with humor, meant to elicit and eye roll and snappy comeback from Oakley rather than be taken seriously. Their banter is playful and so very well done, beautifully deepening their relationship on an emotional level as things progress on the physical one, causing the chapters to fly by until we find ourselves on the last page before we're ready to let these two go.

One quibble is with regard to a secondary storyline involving the father of Oakley's child, his reappearance toward the end feeling more like something added for the sake of a small bit of drama rather than a necessary event to further the romance, but that's a very minor complaint in an otherwise fantastic installment. Ms. Loren writes gorgeously genuine characters whose bedroom activities are hot enough that we feel the heat waft from the pages as we read, leaving us utterly satisfied while at the same time craving more.

Rating: 4/5

Find Roni:


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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Guest Post: Katherine Harbour + The Night And Nothing Series


I'm so pleased today to welcome author Katherine Harbour back to the blog to talk a little bit more about her Night and Nothing series. I'm a huge fan of all things fairytale or mythology related, so I was thrilled when Katherine was more than willing to tackle that topic and give us all a few goosebumps by discussing things with teeth. Take it away Katherine!

There’s something almost supernatural about teeth. Teeth remain after we die. Teeth are alive although they appear lifeless. Teeth in mammals contributed to the success of human evolution. (In Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, teeth are used to resurrect an entire race of beings.) Children’s teeth, lost naturally, were once given to Norse warriors as amulets and believed to bring good fortune in battle. In some cultures, children’s teeth were destroyed or hidden as a preventative against their being used for malevolent purposes.

For most children, losing a tooth is an unpleasant experience—a piece of them is falling off, there’s blood. But it’s a rite of passage, a first step toward adolescence. In J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Peter is described as “a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices of trees, but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all of his first teeth. When he saw she was a grown-up, he gnashed the little pearls at her.” On the other hand, the title character in Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy is a disturbing presence who ushers the protagonist into adulthood.

And what does the Tooth Fairy do with all of those teeth she collects? The Tooth Fairy goes rogue in Gregory Maguire’s children’s book What-the-Dickens. In Zenoscope’s graphic novel series Grimm Fairy Tales, the tooth fairy is a sexy dentist by day and a bloodthirsty monster at night. The sinister aspect of this childhood icon, established in the twentieth century, has been the source of horror films such as Darkness Falls, in which the tooth fairy becomes a vengeful entity, and The Haunting of Helena, where she’s portrayed as a terrifying spirit with a bloody history. In Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy movies, the tooth fairies are as vicious as swarming piranhas.

Teeth become terrifying when in the mouths of monsters, alluring (to some) between the lips of (attractive) vampires. In my dark fantasy novels Thorn Jack and Briar Queen, the supernatural Fatas use human teeth as currency, as weapons, but, to the protean Fatas, who can sometimes shift into monstrous shapes and who are really the formless children of nothing and night, we are the things with teeth.

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by Katherine! And I just want to add that the movie Darkness Falls traumatized me. It said it was rated PG-13 and I was all "I'm an adult, I've got this, how bad could it be?" and then I nearly died of terror. Just saying ;-)

• • • • • • • • • • • 

THORN JACK


Finn Sullivan has lost her older sister to suicide. Fleeing the memories left in San Francisco, she and her father move to an upstate New York town filled with socialities, hippies, movie and Theatre folk, where every corner holds possibilities and mysteries. As she settles in and begins college at the local university, HallowHeart, she discovers her sisters journal, filled with ominous musings on otherworldly beings.  She also meets the devastatingly handsome Jack Fata—and the rest of the enigmatic Fata family. 

As Finn’s fascination with Jack and his family deepens—and theirs for her does the same—she learns that they and the rest of the town denizens are far more than they seem, both for good and evil. Her sister’s journal suddenly seems much more menacing and realistic than she could ever have imagined.

Soon Finn learns that attention from the Fatas brings dangerous consequences. To free herself and save her friends and her love, Finn must confront the Fatas and unravel the secrets surrounding her sister’s death.

• • • • • • • • • • • 

BRIAR QUEEN


Serafina Sullivan and her father left San Francisco to escape the painful memory of her older sister Lily Rose's suicide. But soon after she arrived in bohemian Fair Hollow, New York, Finn discovered a terrifying secret connected to Lily Rose. The placid surface of this picture-perfect town concealed an eerie supernatural world--and at its center, the wealthy, beautiful, and terrifying Fata family.

Though the striking and mysterious Jack Fata tried to push Finn away to protect her, their attraction was too powerful to resist. To save him, Finn--a girl named for the angels and a brave Irish prince--banished a cabal of malevolent enemies to shadows, freeing him from their diabolical grip.

Now, the rhythm of life in Fair Hollow is beginning to feel a little closer to ordinary. But Finn knows better than to be lulled by this comfortable sense of normalcy. It's just the calm before the storm. For soon, a chance encounter outside the magical Brambleberry Books will lead her down a rabbit hole, into a fairy world of secrets and legacies . . . straight towards the shocking truth about her sister's death.

Lush and gorgeously written, featuring star-crossed lovers and the collision of the magical and the mundane, Briar Queen will appeal to the fans of Cassandra Clare's bestselling Mortal Instruments series and Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely.

• • • • • • • • • • •

KATHERINE HARBOUR


Born in upstate New York, Katherine Harbour is now a bookseller in Sarasota, Florida living with a tempestuous black cat named Pooka and too many books. She has been writing since she was 15 and has had several short stories published. THORN JACK is her first novel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Billionaire's Fantasy: Meet Jaiven Rodriguez + A Giveaway!


Today I have the pleasure of introducing you guys to Jaiven Rodriguez, the oh-so gorgeous hero of Kate Hewitt's newest romance, The Billionaire's Fantasy. (Seriously, look at those abs! He looks like he's got six rock-hard dinner rolls hiding out under his skin, whereas my midsection is more on par with a large angel food cake. Awesome ;-). Anyway, baked-goods midsections aside, I'm super excited to share a couple Jaiven tidbits with you, and be sure and stop by Bewitched Bookworms for a few extra Jaiven-related details. Before I get to Jaiven and all his sexiness though, a little bit about The Forbidden Series:

The Forbidden Series is a trilogy of sexier reads with serialized release dates and a different author for each title. Each week a new part of these seductive reads will be released so be sure and follow along for some flirty fun!

For Logan Black, Jaiven Rodriguez and Zair al Ruyi, New York is spread out before them like the Garden of Eden…and no one knows the sweet taste of forbidden fruit better than America’s most ruthless billionaires! Jaded, cynical, with a darkness that threatens to consume them whole, they think they’ve seen it all. But temptation has something new in store for each of them…

MEET JAIVEN RODRIGUEZ


What he looks for in a girl: 

Secretly he wants someone who values him. On the surface he looks for a woman who only wants a good time.

His one weakness: 

He secretly doesn’t think he’s good enough for anyone.

That's all you get ladies (well, that and a few more details in Danny's post), but he's clearly a man of mystery. To know more, you'll just have to read ;-)

• • • • • • • • • • •

THE BILLIONAIRE'S FANTASY


When Louise Jensen spent one wicked night with the devastatingly handsome Jaiven Rodriguez, she thought it would be enough. But now Jaiven has had a taste of his greatest fantasy, he wants more! Louise is about to be taken on a sensual journey by this billionaire bad boy.

Get the Book:
Part 1 – Free! Amazon | B&N:
Pre-order the whole book here: Amazon | B&N



Get the different parts:
Purchase Part 2:  Amazon | B&N
Purchase Part 3: Amazon | B&N
Purchase Part 4: Amazon B&N

Release dates:

June 14: Part 1 is available for FREE!
June 16: Part 2 is available for sale
June 18: Part 3 is available for sale
June 21: Part 4 is available for sale
June 24: The complete book is available for sale

• • • • • • • • • • •

KATE HEWITT


Kate Hewitt has worked a variety of different jobs, from drama teacher to editorial assistant to church youth worker, but writing romance is the best one yet, and she has written over 25 books for Harlequin. She also writes short stories and serials for women’s magazines, and all her stories celebrate the healing and redemptive power of love. Kate lives in a tiny village with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever.


• • • • • • • • • • •

GIVEAWAY

The amazing team at Harlequin is offering up a $100 gift card (Amazon, B&N or iTunes) to one lucky winner! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out all the stops for the entire Forbidden series!

The Billionaire’s Intern:

The Billionaire’s Fantasy:

The Billionaire’s Innocent:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Twisted

TWISTED
LOST #2
Cynthia Eden
Romantic Suspense
384 pages
Avon
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
n the second seductive LOST novel from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden, an obsessed Last Option Search Team agent goes looking for trouble--and finds her in the Big Easy.

Dean Bannon comes to New Orleans for one reason only: to track down a missing sixteen-year-old girl. That's before he meets the drop-dead gorgeous con artist who makes him want to lose his legendary control.

With her past, Emma Castille doesn't claim to be psychic. She just notices things other people don't. Like the fear in a runaway's eyes--or the pain in an ex-FBI agent's heart. Her chemistry with Dean is blistering, but Emma follows her passion... not someone else's orders.

Then a madman breaks into Emma's home and leaves a twisted message: You're next. Now Dean refuses to let her out of his sight until he pries every last secret from her full, sexy lips. And suddenly Emma's aching to give him everything he wants.


MY THOUGHTS
Twisted walks us through the bustling streets of New Orleans with another member of the LOST team, and introduces us to a new killer who sees blood and pain as moves in a sadistic game of chess. Ms. Eden changes the suspense element a bit from book one, giving us the killer’s identity fairly early on so that our attention shifts from the who to the how and when he’ll be caught before shifting things on us once again. What results is a night spent reading instead of sleeping, making our guesses as to how things are going to unfold and then flipping the pages as fast as possible to see if we’re right.

Given this series is romantic suspense, the relationship between LOST agent Dean and next-on-the-killer’s-list Emma is as prominent as the hunt for the man himself. Things start out just a touch rocky with Dean, his habit of continually reminding Emma of his Incredible Hulk-like tendency to be dangerous when he loses control something that has us wondering if we’ll ever be able to take him as seriously as he takes himself. His fear of letting his control slip might have given us appropriate pause should we have been privy to a few quick flashbacks to times when he’s been as dangerous physically or emotionally as he claims, but aside from one instance that was clearly self-defense, there’s nothing about Dean that warrants his early game of hot and cold with Emma.

Before too long however, Dean gives up on warning Emma off and finally starts taking what Emma is more than willing to give, allowing us to settle into their romance in a way we feared we might not be able to in the first third of the book. As always, Dean’s LOST team all play minor roles as well, giving us peeks into their personalities that are just long enough to build our anticipation for their inevitable stories, but never so long as to have us wishing we could return to our lead couple. Overall, Twisted starts out a little weak on the romantic front, but the killer’s sick games keep us fully invested until the romance catches up strength-wise, and we’re left nothing short of satisfied as we look forward to Sarah and Jax’s book.

Rating: 3.5/5


Find Cynthia:


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.