Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5) by Patricia Briggs - Review

Release Day: March 6, 2018

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witch born…

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The Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series are some of my favorite paranormal romance/adventure/mysteries...it checks all the boxes, really. I was so happy to be approved on Netgalley for Burn Bright and I devoured it in one day (I went to bed very late). 

I really like the Alpha and Omega series because of the vastly different voice compared to the Mercy Thompson series. Don't get me wrong, I love Mercy, but the calmness and the narrative of this series is a nice break. That being said, this book is jam packed with action and mystery and killer plants. No really. Everything becomes potentially killer in this book and you can't trust anyone since there is a traitor in the pack and skinwalkers and all sorts of dangers. I think that the lore in this series is fantastic, and I love the touches of Native American legend that is tied in with the touches of Welsh lore with Bran and werewolves and witches. Patricia Briggs is a queen when it comes to having well developed worlds, even within the one we know. 

As always, Charles and Anna are adorable and wonderful. I like that the conflict in the book had nothing to do with their relationship - in fact, it's their respect and trust that usually seems to get them out of tough situations. I really appreciate a female main character whose strength is her kindness and quietness, for lack of a better term. I really enjoy seeing Anna and how her personality works within a story with so many strong characters. They are both much more calculation and internal than the other characters in the series, and it's always fun to see how they will solve the problems that arise in each book. 

Personally, I kind of miss the days when the plot could be a little more focused because there were less moving parts. There is now so much moving around in multiple series that I long for the book that was just a tad more...simple, I suppose. I understand the need to keep the story forward with so many books, but I kind of miss watching the development of Charles and Anna's relationship and their own characters. While the plot is a magical romp forward, sometimes I found Charles and Anna's interactions a little stagnant. 

In Burn Bright, the werewolves are thrown into the fire when it comes to other fantastical creatures that had previously existed semi-peacefully alongside the pack. Now everything is in chaos all across the supernatural world and as usual, it seems to always gravitate towards Charles, Anna, and Bran and Company. Fans of the Mercy Thompson series might miss some of the snark but fans of Charles and Anna will find this latest installment a wonderful fit and will be left excited about what's to come.
** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **
Read more about Patricia Briggs here: http://www.patriciabriggs.com/Patty/about.shtml

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leaving Everest by Megan Westfield - Review

Twenty-year-old Emily Winslowe has had an adventurous upbringing. Daughter of a Himalayan mountain guide, she has climbed Mount Everest and other peaks most Americans only dream of. But for all her mountaineering prowess, she's lacking some key experiences. Namely, guys. Especially one guy in particular—Luke Norgay, her childhood best friend who she hasn't seen since he left for college in the United States two years ago.

Luke unexpectedly reappears as a guide just in time for the Everest climbing season. He's even more handsome than she remembers, and that something that had been building between them during their last season together is back in front of them, bigger than ever.

The problem is, there's a detail about Emily's past that Luke doesn't know. It's the reason she ended up in the Himalayas in the first place...and the reason she must make it to the summit of Mount Everest this year. It's also the reason she would never consider following him back to Washington after the climbing season ends.

But first, they'll have to survive the mountain.

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I have to preface this by admitting that anything having to do with Mount Everest is a guilty pleasure of mine. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer is one of my favorite books and I've seen every documentary about the mountain. So when I read this description I was so excited to see how it combined something so severe and extreme as Mount Everest and one of my favorite genres, romance!

I loved Leaving Everest. I think that the great thing about this book is that it has the perfect balance of the conflict of climbing this very dangerous mountain with the conflict of doing other less dangerous but just as scary things in your life. Emily is afraid to leave Nepal and Luke is afraid of coming back, and their fears don't have much to do with climbing the highest mountain at all. Rather, their fears and insecurities lie in much more normal problems, such as loss and the pressure to succeed and feeling out of place, which are all just heightened by their situation on the mountain.

Emily is a fantastic narrator, who is struggling to figure out what she wants out of life when all she's known in climbing, and doing so with her dad. Making life and death decisions while on all the deadliest peaks in the world make her decisions concerning things like putting off college seem pretty easy. However, when Luke comes back to visit family after two years in college in Washington state, she realizes just how much she's been missing. Emily and Luke have fantastic chemistry and an ease to them that really establishes their past relationship to each other. The way they support each other, despite their spats, is great. I like that their relationship is built on trust, a trust that's only strengthened by the danger of climbing Everest. The way their relationship, both friendly and romantic, evolves throughout this story is heartwarming and heart wrenching and made me smile like a crazy person on the subway while I was reading.

I also liked that Luke is the child of a former Sherpa that worked with Emily's dad, and his feelings of coming back "Westernized" and climbing as visitor, rather than as someone who had grown up there. Ideas of displacement and growth are really interesting in the book, and I liked that Luke struggles with his identity when he comes back.

While this might not appeal to fans of Into Thin Air, anyone who has a strange fascination (like me) with Everest or K2 who likes romance will love this book. And for anyone who could care less about extreme sports, you will still love this book. At its heart, Leaving Everest is about facing your fears, whether it be leaving for college, telling the boy you've always loved how you feel, or climbing the highest mountain in the world. Funny and riveting and romantic.

I liked this book so much that I downloaded Megan's first book, Lessons on Gravity, which focuses on rock climbing, right after I finished Leaving Everest. I liked it too - 4 cupcakes!
** I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review **
Find out more about Megan and her books here: http://meganwestfield.com

Megan Westfield has dabbled in many hobbies and pastimes over the years, ranging from playing the cello to cake decorating (i.e., icing-eating) to a dozen different outdoor adventure sports. Eventually, she discovered the only way to do it all was though writing—her first and strongest passion. She writes new adult fiction because she loves exploring the powerful and formative years between high school and the quarter-life crisis. As a reader, her favorite books are those with a truly unique, real-world setting, and, of course, a love story.

Megan grew up in Washington state, attended college in Oregon, and lived in Virginia, California, and Rhode Island during her five years as a navy officer. She is now a permanent resident of San Diego where she and her husband count family beach time with their two young kids as an adventure sport. Megan was formerly the editor of a small weekly newspaper in Southern California and is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong.

Happy Reading!


Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman - Release Day Review

Release Day: February 27, 2018

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a scene at your sister's wedding and break a relative's nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it's a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl--a subspecies of dragon--who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

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So I haven't read Seraphina but this cover grabbed me when I was browsing titles on Netgalley. It's absolutely GORGEOUS and the story is just as stunning and dark and beautiful. 

I went into this story completely blind to the world and the characters. I loved following Tess on her journey, especially since we get to have a peek into her life as a child and her relationships with her parents and siblings. She is an incredibly complex and emotional character, and the way that Rachel weaves the issues into Tess's everyday life was nuanced and natural. I never felt like I was being hit with all these issues or moments of the past, despite the fact that once you realize what happened in Tess's past reader's can see how it has been a part of the book from the beginning. 

The world is colorful and interesting. I have to admit I was slightly confused by the different people/ species (like dragons and half dragons) and the way they fit, or didn't fit, into the society. By the end I had a good idea but I think that reading the previous two books would have really helped with this in particular. There were also times I thought the plot dragged on a little, and though sometimes it really worked, since Tess is kind of figuring it out as she goes, as I neared the end I found myself trudging along slightly. That being said I thought that the medieval ideas mixed with the old lore of Saints and dragons and magic was unique and enchanting. Seraphina's character was especially fun to experience and helped set up all the complexities of this world. 

If you were a fan of the previous two books, I can't help but think you will love this one as well. From what I could tell, Seraphina and Tess are very, very different women, but have shared traits of strength and resilience and intelligence that any fantasy-loving feminist will love. I also think that if you liked Unrooted, you will like this book, and probably this series (if you haven't read it already. 

Smart and enchanting, Tess of the Road is a magical story of a woman who doesn't know where she's going but pushes forward anyway, taking each and every obstacle in stride and still finding a way to stay true to herself and the things of her past that has shaped her into the woman she is.
** I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Random House! **
Find out more about Rachel's and her books here: https://rachelhartmanbooks.com

Rachel was born in Kentucky, but has lived a variety of places including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She has a BA in Comparative Literature, although she insists it should have been a BS because her undergraduate thesis was called “Paradox and Parody in Don Quixoteand the satires of Lucian.” She eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family, their whippet, and a talking frog and salamander (who fight zombies)(really. There are a lot of zombies in the Pacific Northwest).

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce - Release Day Review

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair SalmalĂ­n came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

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First of all, I have to preface this by saying that The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite series of all time. I was so excited (SO EXCITED) to hear about this series and someone at Random House was nice enough to give me a copy. I may have screamed (I definitely screamed). But I have to say that this book met all my expectations and was not only a fantastic return to Tortall and some beloved (and not so beloved) characters, but also a fantastic book that stands strong on its own merits. 

Daine and Numair are my favorite characters that Tamora Pierce has written and I was so excited to learn more about Numair (Arram's) past and his time before Wild Magic. Tempests and Slaughter is, at its heart, a really great story about growing up when you are aware that you have all the potential in the world but don't take it for granted. Arram is just as awkward (so awkward) and charming as he was in the original series, but this time it is supported by being an adolescent and gifted and lonely and hormonal and all the things that come from being an adolescent. 

Very real, very believable relationships with friends and girls and teachers are all nuanced with the fantastically well-developed magical world. While fans of the series, particularly the Immortals and Song of the Lioness series, will recognize characters and stories and love the added information to characters you already love, new readers will also love the story of a young mage with unimaginable potential and a naive but well-meaning heart of gold in a society that is built to use people such as him for their own gain. Fans of Harry Potter will gravitate towards his friendships with Varice and Orzone and his time in school but will get a taste of this unique, vast world.

I personally think that the writing and storytelling is Tamora Pierce at her best, and that the fact that it has been so long since the last book in Tortall has only strengthened Numair's story. To me it read as story that has been stewing so long that all the flavors - the humor, the complexity, the magic systems, the world - have blended and balanced perfectly. This book was everything I wanted and, honestly, more than I imagined. I was smiling through the whole thing, stayed up far too late finishing it, and was so sad when it was over. I cannot wait (I CAN'T GUYS) for the next installment. 

Bravo Tamora! I'm so happy you are back and killing it!
** I received a copy of this book from the publisher. ** 

Find out more about Tamora Pierce and her books here: http://www.tamora-pierce.net

Happy Reading!