ARC Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge


Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Necromancy, Romeo & Juliet Retelling
My Rating: 4/5
Source: ARC via publisher

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads Summary

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched. The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .

My Review

THE DEPTH OF MY EXCITEMENT KNOWS NO BOUNDS!!

I was so super duper excited to crack this book open. When I got it at Comic Con, it took every ounce of strength in me to not flail and freak out in front of the publishers because I was so over the moon! This book was probably in my top three most anticipated reads for the year. I read Rosamund’s other two books when they were released and was so bewitched with her writing, I knew I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Bright Smoke, Cold Fire.

AND IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT!

From the very first pages, I was hooked. I adored the fact that the love story of Romeo and Juliet was already well underway so we didn’t have to sit through them falling fickily in love with each other and the language of their romance is exquisite. EXQUISITE. Even the very first snippet to kick the book off – oh my gosh, the way Juliet speaks to him at the point of death of sin and love is soul-shattering to me.

Plus, the twists Rosamund places on the romance were refreshing! It was just as sorrowful and haunting a story of the original play, but there was no knowing where the relationship might end because from the get-go it takes a new path.

TO NECROMANCY!


I mean, right?? It’s awesome on so many levels, particularly with the dangerous creatures that Runajo and Juliet must face. CREEPY GOOD TIMES. I was so unnerved reading those chapters and I really hope we see more of those ugly, terrifying things in subsequent books because they made the hair on my arms stand up.

And finally, I loved the depth of all the characters present. Runajo and Juliet and then, Paris and Romeo, are each such good foil pairings of each other. They bring a very critical discourse to light on what duty, honor, and loyalty means and it was lovely to see the banter back and forth open their minds and change the course of the narrative. They are endlessly loyal characters and they have so much courage and unfailing love for what they believe it, be it a person or an idea, and I was entranced by each of them!

This book was crazy good for me and I just ate it up every second. I know this review is probably a bit all over the place, but from the unique duel perspectives of two side characters, to the intense pain and emotion felt by the lovers, the action, the pacing, the dangers of death and sacrifice – everything was astounding! I wished that the ending had been a little more climactic as I wasn’t super surprised by where both sets of characters ended up, but I can’t wait to see what happens in the stellar sequel that has been set up!

GO READ THIS BOOK AND ALL OF ROSAMUND’S OTHER BOOKS IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY.

My Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish every week, challenging readers to generate top ten lists about anything and everything bookish. Check it out!

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SO MANY GOOD BOOKS TO READ THIS FALL! Including finally starting in on the Throne of Glass series. I need to make this happen at long last…

  1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
    2. Gemina by Jay Kristoff & Amy Kauffman
    3. Replica by Lauren Oliver
    4. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
    5. Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
    6. Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh
    7. Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot
    8. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
    9. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
    10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

That’s my list! I’ve got my work cut out for me! If you have a list, drop a link for me in the comments so I can check it out. 🙂

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Sunday Street Team Interview + Giveaway: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess!

Sunday Street Team

I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve hosted a SST post on my blog, so I’m so happy to be back at it and with a book that I particularly enjoyed reading! If you’re new to SST and want more info about it and how to join, check out our hostess with the mostest, Nori, for all the DETAILS!


This month, we’re featuring A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess, a story about a young woman in Victorian England fighting for an equal spot among the boys to become the next great Sorcerer! I recently read this book and thought it was absolutely killer, so I’m stoked to be sharing an interview with Jessica today as well a fantastic giveaway. Read on, friends, to discover the magic of Henrietta’s world!

Goodreads Summary

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Author Interview

Welcome to the blog, Jessica! For those of you following along at home, my questions are bolded while Jessica’s responses appear normal. Let’s go!

A Shadow Bright and Burning is getting such amazing buzz already! How are you feeling as your novel becomes one of fall’s most anticipated new releases?

Thank you! I really hope people like it. These days, I alternate between insane excitement and pure existential dread. I hear that once the book comes out it’s just simple excitement, so I’m really looking forward to that.

It sounds like Henrietta is going to stand as the lone woman in what seems to be a man’s world. Will she face challenges because of that?

Definitely. I wanted to walk a fine line on this. On the one hand, the Victorian era had issues with women’s rights, their social mobility, etc., and I wanted to be true to that. On the other hand, I didn’t want to create a situation where every single person is a misogynistic bully. That becomes heavy-handed and not really true to life. I wanted Henrietta to have to deal with a kind of sexism that is pervasive, but not blunt and obvious. So some of the people really don’t like her because she’s a girl, some have reservations about her being a girl but mostly just hope she can help, and some don’t care at all. Henrietta has to face obstacles because of sexism, yes, but since there’s a war on and she is (presumably) the Chosen One, she also gets a bit more leeway with what she can and can’t do.

I love that Henrietta can burst into flames! Will we see other forms of elemental magic in the series?

Definitely! The sorcerers’ system of magic is all element based, so you’ll see earth, wind, and water powers as well.

I can never not ask this question, so I hope you’re a Harry Potter fan. Where would your characters be sorted at Hogwarts?

I have been hoping for this question, you have no idea. Okay. The four main characters:

Henrietta is a Ravenclaw with strong Gryffindor tendencies. She’s a Ravenclaw because, given the choice, she’d rather be nestled in a library gaining knowledge than fighting battles and yelling at people—though she can yell and fight quite well when she has to. It’s just a preference, but yes, she’s a Ravenclaw.

Blackwood is a Slytherin. Full stop. Though his secondary house would be distant Ravenclaw.

Rook and Magnus ended up switching. I originally thought Magnus was the Gryffindor and Rook the Hufflepuff, but swapped them. Rook shows a lot of courage in the face of his illness, the changes happening to him, and he’s always ready to soldier on in the face of certain doom. Magnus, even though he’s the best warrior in the house, is effortlessly cheerful, loves creature comforts, and is loyal to the bone. Plus, he’d probably look great in yellow.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Stretched out on a very comfortable sofa with cushions and a cup of coffee on the table. I cannot sit at desks. I don’t know how people do it. I like to have the computer on my lap; it makes me feel connected to the story in a weird way.

Cats or dogs? No pressure. 😉

Dogs, all the way. I really do like cats, but dogs have a piece of my soul. I am the person who, if I see a puppy walking down the street, will fall to my knees and start speaking gibberish with tears in my eyes while my friend pretends not to know me.

Do you NaNoWriMo?

I tried once, but I just couldn’t do it. NaNo requires a certain amount of pantsing, and I need to have a decent story structure and series of character arcs outlined in my head before I start. Anyone who NaNos is a braver person than I am.

Thank you for joining us on SST in this interview, Jessica!

My pleasure. Thank you for having me!

About the Author

JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.

That’s it for us this time, folks! Be sure to check out the amazing giveaway going on below and drop Jessica some comment love to tell her how excited you are for her new book!!

 

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Stacking the Shelves [37]

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Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews – be sure to check them out!

STS

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Borrowed
The Way to Game the Walk of Shame ARC by Jenn Nguyen – #booksfortrade (thanks, Em!)
Crazy Love by Francis Chan – Purchased

That’s my latest haul. Pretty simple overall! Drop me a comment with a link to your STS this week so I can check it out!

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ARC Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess


Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy, Sorcery, Romance
My Rating: 4/5
Source: ARC Copy via Publisher

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads Summary

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

My Review

Let me start off with what will inevitably be the elephant in the room if you pick up this book: it’s not just a love triangle, it’s a love square.

I’m pretty neutral when it comes to love triangles, but in this case, I had this horrible feeling it was going to drive me nuts for Henrietta’s love life. Thankfully, it didn’t! There are three main love interests and I think if you’re upfront about each of them, you can see clearly who Henrietta will ultimately wind up with, though the book doesn’t give a definitive choice by the end.

But don’t let the open ending distract you because I think Henrietta’s eventual choice that I’m betting on is obvious and stellar and the chemistry – oh my gosh, it’s intensely good! They have a good pull between them that challenges one another to think and open their minds especially about social topics like gender roles and equality in relationships. I think if given the chance, these two could have a shot at a very deep, intimate relationship that is so much more than physical attraction and I can’t wait to see it happen! They have so much potential and my brain was roaring at me the entire time I read, “NEW SHIP NEW SHIP ALL ABOARD!!”

And yes, I’m being purposefully vague not naming the suitor in question so as not to spoil the book.

Now, there are two other major elements of this book that I was really feeling. The first is that the writing flows. This is one of those books that is incredibly easy to sink in to. Though the story is fantasy, there isn’t a lot of technobabble jargon to bog the story down and Henrietta thinks fairly concisely. So it’s a super easy read to get behind. It only took me a couple of hours to get through the book, a little faster than normal.

Additionally, the plot is simple, yet still exciting. I like books that have a riveting antagonist or problem, but don’t drum up the suspense to the point that you’re dying through every page. This book was excellently paced and given the backdrop of Victorian London, I felt like I was watching some weird semi-steampunk form of the ghost busters come to life!

My hopes for Book 2 are that Henrietta doesn’t allow the love square to fester and that she doesn’t make some naive choices where Rook is concerned. Their relationship is beyond endearing and steadfast, but it’s obvious to me where it’s heading and that could royally screw Henrietta over if she hangs on for too long.

If you like historical anything and want an easy fantasy series about magic and mayhem to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend A Shadow Bright and Burning. It’s enchanting writing and Henrietta’s strong social critiques as she falls in love and fights off the baddies will charm the socks off ya!

My Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday: Sophomore Shiners

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish every week, challenging readers to generate top ten lists about anything and everything bookish. Check it out!

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This week’s topic: All About Audio freebie —  aka top ten audiobooks you should listen to, 10 books I want to listen to on audio,10 bands you should check out, 10 podcasts you should be listening to, 10 of my all time favorite albums, 10 songs I love, really whatever you can come up with.

It has been AGES since I did any regular blogging thanks entirely to the massive book hangover that A Court of Mist and Fury left in its wake and rightfully so. But now I’ve gotten most of the fanfic reading/writing out of my system, I am back and ready to go!

I generally can’t stand audiobooks, so for this week I’m going to cover five of my favorite sophomore albums. I have this theory that the strongest and/or best album of any musical artist is their second, so that’s where this comes from.

The Young and the Hopeless by Good Charlotte

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance

From Under the Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy


Oops!… I Did it Again
by Britney Spears


In Love and Death
by The Used

Probably seems random having Brit Brit thrown onto this list, but she’s too awesome not to include. If you have a TTT this week, please feel free to share it with me! I’d love to check it out. 🙂

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ARC Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Romance
My Rating: 3/5
Source: eARC via Edelweiss

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads Summary

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

My Review

I’m sad by how let down I am by this book because I really thought it was going to blow my mind. I have two main issues with this book: the three main characters – the sisters – and the world building.

With the sisters, they just had ZERO agency. And I suppose that’s fine. It definitely made me feel a lot of strong emotions relating to them as I read how deplorable their situations are. But it’s honestly a wonder that the three of them don’t just all commit mass suicide at some point because they are truly that miserable. Instead they fight and they fight with… nothing? Their powers are weak and even Mirabella who does have considerable power lets it fall by the wayside save for one moment of desperation and even then it’s sort of for nothing.

The world building bothered me because for the longest time the terms of the three queens fighting for power are not clear and there are a lot of little details that just don’t add up, in particular about magic others can use. I did not understand the deal with Joseph and Mirabella; their whole deal comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than to be cruel and enable a plot twist that could have come about a thousand other ways. And to be honest, I’m still not really sure why it’s even such a huge deal which sister becomes queen. They never really explain what’s at stake for each principality to have their queen win be it trade or money or otherwise. They do mention council seats, but why are those so important? What does the council actually control?

The positives: I LOVED the side characters! Pietyr, Jules, Camden, Billy, Elizabeth, Natalia – all of them are fabulous! They’re the real winners of this book because they had all the power and agency to make the story happen. I love that they communicated where the sisters don’t and that they fight so fiercely to protect who they love. Read this book for them! Or read it because the premise is really horrendous and reading people willingly poison themselves is oddly addicting.

I wasn’t super sure about this book, but ending it as it did and knowing there are subsequent books coming makes me want to keep reading. I just have a feeling that by the time a year has passed for Book 2 to actually be out I will have forgotten enough to not care anymore. Alas.

My Rating: 3/5

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Sunday Street Team Guest Post + Giveaway: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow!

Sunday Street Team

Welcome to my first Sunday Street Team post for the month of August! If you’ve forgotten what SST is or want more information on how to join, please visit our hostess, Miss Nori’s, post –> HERE.

This month, we’re featuring Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow! Kathleen has offered me some fabulous writing tips to share and is generously hosting a GIVEAWAY for her novel. Check it out!

Goodreads Summary

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

Guest Post

Before we get to Kathleen’s guest post, we’d like to take a second at Sunday Street Team to acknowledge the seriousness of Girl in Pieces‘ subject matter and offer resources to anyone who may be experiencing difficulties similar to Charlotte’s. Please don’t ever be afraid to reach out!

If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, please consider contacting:

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
To Write Love on Her Arms: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/
National Runaway Hotline: 1-800-621-4000

And now, on to the guest post!

Top Ten Writing and Reading Tips

  1. Why are you reading this? You should be writing!
  2. It’s good that you are reading this because someday you will be a published author and you can learn from my mistakes (JK).
  3. Turn off your television, iPad, iPhone, iWhatever, and get down to work. You can’t get published if you don’t have something to submit and you don’t have something to submit if you don’t have any pages and you don’t have any pages if you don’t sit down in that chair and turn everything off and start writing.
  4. First Drafts are just that, “first.” They are necessarily messy, mostly awful, generally cause you a lot of pain and angst, but they also contain little glimmers of the story you really want to tell, so give yourself a page count (250? Sounds good) and just write like a demon. And then, baby, THEN, you’ve got something to work with.
  5. You can do this. You can. Someone needs to read the story you are working on.
  6. Find a beta reader.
  7. Read widely. Other genres can influence your work in wonderful ways. Learn from writers—study their style.
  8. Read as often as you can. On the bus, on the train, in bed, on the couch, standing up on the subway. Reading just makes you feel human, doesn’t it?
  9. Find writing friends! It’s so great to meet people who like writing and reading as much as you do! And they are out there! Find them on Twitter, check the board at your local co-op, ask around at your school.
  10. Why are you still reading this! Go write something beautiful, necessary, scary, gory, funny, witty, fantastic, strange, weird, lovely,–whatever it is, just do it, because your voice matters.

About the Author

Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She writes for the radio show The Writer’s Almanac and can probably provide you with some interesting anecdotes about historical literary figures if you asked nicely. You can find out more about Kathleen by following her on Twitter: @kathglasgow, Instagram, @misskathleenglasgow (where she posts about sunsets, depression, spirit circles, and books) or her website: kathleenglasgowbooks.com.

I’m super excited about Kathleen’s writing tips! I hope that you enjoyed reading them through them and that if you’re a writer, you now stop reading this post and GO GET SOME WRITING DONE! Or you can check out Kathleen’s giveaway first. That would also be acceptable. GOOD LUCK!

 

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San Diego Comic Con 2016 Recap #3: Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, and Books!

My last Comic Con recap is here! Are you all sick of it yet?? Too bad if you are because here we go again and today is all about two more fabulous authors and Hank Green!

Marissa Meyer

So I actually met Marissa on Saturday, Day 2, and it was sort of this hilarious twist of luck that brought me to her. I knew she was signing, but I thought that based on my panel schedule, I wouldn’t make it to see her. So I didn’t bring her books to the con. How stupid of me! And then I ended up with some canceled plans and was looking at the schedule when I saw that her signing started in 20 minutes… and they were giving away 100 copies of Heartless arcs for attendees.


I ran down and got in line so fast, it’s not even funny. But the line was ridiculously long and the Fierce Reads workers let me in unsure if I could stay. They disappeared and Comic Con workers showed up to make sure we had tickets, lest they boot us out of line and clear the walkway of traffic. The last several of us didn’t have tickets, so we thought for sure we were goners.

But then the Fierce Reads gals came back with tickets and she looks at me and hands me a ticket and says, “You’re number 100 in line. You get the last one.”

AHHHHHHHHHHHH *SQUEE*

I died. It was incredible. The line was actually lovely. I talked to a Fierce Reads publicist about her job and what it was like to work in publishing and she was happy to share info. And Marissa herself was a peach! Sure enough when I showed up, there was one ARC left on the table and I got it. So excited! Marissa seemed so happy and I felt like I could have hugged her for being so patient with all of us. Her smile is radiant! Thank you, Marissa, for staying so long to sign for us all!

Leigh Bardugo

Leigh is another one that I sort of just lucked into. I’ve only read one of her books and didn’t pay much attention to her signing, but I turned up at the right time and was able to snag a new Grisha book from the store one booth over and she signed it! And besides being super sweet and having a great sense of self-deprecating humor, her hair is ON POINT! She has that beautiful grey-purple hair going on right now and she totally rocks it. So much thanks to Leigh for being so swell! And giving me a signed Six of Crows poster too. 🙂

Hank Green

I actually ran into Hank Green in the exhibition hall and he was nice enough to snap a pic with me. I’ve now met both vlogbrothers, AGH!

Hank Green

But I also got to attend his panel and he’s delightful! The entire panel was just him taking audience questions about anything and everything, which I wish more panels would do because it felt so personal and relateable. And Hank has not only a great sense of humor and comedic timing, but also a really wonderful way with words. He explained things expertly and was kind as can be with every person. So thank you, Hank, for a wonderful hour well spent!

Welp, that was Comic Con! I hope you enjoyed my recaps if you did actually read them. I had a blast attending since I so rarely get to go to bookish cons and I really hope I’m able to attend again. It was definitely one of the funnest weekends I’ve had in a long, long time!

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