Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Incense and Peppermint by Cathrina Constantine


INCENSE AND PEPPERMINT
by Cathrina Constantine
YA Historical
226 pages







Peace demonstrations, sit-ins, and burning the U.S. flag following the escalation of the Vietnam War are leading to a catalyst known to the world as the Sixties. A musical revolution, hippies, marijuana, and drugs are carrying the generations—young and old—into a new decade. All the while sixteen-year-old Mary Monroe is caught between being an innocent good girl and an autumn of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

When her brother offers a solution to her dilemma in the form of a little pill, Mary ignores the rumba in her brain and takes a walk on the wild side. Plunged into popularity and a life she’s only imagined, she meets Michael Covington, the hot newcomer, and she’s instantly drawn in by his less than flawless exterior and bad boy sex appeal. Caught up in the danger and excitement as they drift from party to party, into underground fight clubs, and through a series of drug and alcohol fueled adventures. Mary follows her new crush into a world where young girls are never truly safe from predators lurking in the shadows and where young men are hiding from the harsh reality of war.

Feeling buzzed and as if her life is spinning out of control, Mary is assaulted by an unknown man at a party, and she’s left questioning if the enigmatic Michael is truly her hero or if he is the face behind the terrible attack. With every piece of information Mary learns about Michael, her doubts grow deeper, but with every minute she spends in his presence, so does her love.

With the war and her fear threatening to separate Mary and Michael forever, only the death of a friend, a crushing confession, and her own sensibilities can carry her over the threshold between adolescence and adulthood.



MY TIDBITS

This tale lures into the free-spirit  during the late 1960's, glancing over the war and protests, while hitting much closer to home as it sinks in.

Mary, the good-girl and nerd of her family, is about to sixteen but is drawn into her brother's world thanks to his constant persistence and a little pill. Pulled into the circle of popularity, parties, beer and drugs, the freedom spirals out of her control. Finding herself in a bad situation, she's rescued by the hottest guy at school, but that introduces a whole new level of chaos.

This is the first piece of fiction I've read about this era, and although I wasn't sure what to expect, I was immediately drawn in and enjoyed the ride. Mary Monroe is in an awkward place like many girls of that age are. Her desire to have fun and get away from family troubles (and her family has their share) is understandable. That she doesn't make the best decisions is believable and totally understandable. She has a lot to learn and tries her best to balance her conscious with her desire to have fun—not an easy task.

The book hits hard on the partying end, letting Mary sink into the free life of that time with all of its joy and pain. While telling of Mary's experience through this period, this book also shows glimpses into the other characters' lives and lets them grab hold with their own tales. In some ways, it's a coming of age and the story of how Mary finds herself.

There is romance, and while it does carry a bit of instant love, there's enough build up and uncertainties to make it sit. The hero is all a hero should be but not without his own demons, and fits the setting nicely.

Summed up, it's a nice dive into this time period and opens up some questions not only from that time, but ones that also relate to today. It's an intriguing read, and the characters stay long after that last page is read.

I received a complimentary copy and was so engaged in these pages that I wanted to leave my honest thoughts.

You can find her at her website here


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy Book Birthday, Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge!


DEADLY SWEET
The Spellwork Syndicate, Book One
by Lola Dodge
Ink Monster, LLC
YA Fantasy
265 pages





Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spellbooks in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter.

Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl.

The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target.

If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée.

Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?
 



MY TIDBITS

Mix delicious cakes and frosting with spell-binding magic and adventure, add a pinch of intrigue and this is a treat readers won't want to miss.

Anise carries the perfect name—she wants nothing more than to be a baker with her own shop. Too bad, she's a witch and is shunned by anyone who notices. Colleges won't accept her, bakers don't want her. . .the only place she finds a job is decorating sheet cakes. When her silly magic gets the best of her, and she's about to end up in jail, a long silent aunt comes to her rescue. Anise escapes to an all witch area and finds her dream job as an apprentice in the town's most successful cake shop. But things aren't all sweets and dreamy spells as death knocks on her door and someone wants to kill her.

This author is slowly becoming one of my favorites as she adds yet another terrific tale to her list. Unlike the last one I read from her, a compelling science fiction series, this dive into flour and whisks has an entirely new flare. . .and sits. It's a delight to be submerged into a baking world and experience Anise's enthusiasm for cakes. (Who can blame her?) Her disappointments and mistakes make her human, while her excitement and determination make her easy to root for. She does make sometimes bad, gut decisions which aren't always thought out, but then, this is a YA novel.

Although there is action and scenes full of tension when Anise's life really is on the line, it's balanced out with a playful spirit of fun. There's never a boring moment and Anise has to fight for every success, big or small. Her group of friends is a little odd, and it's fitting to the scene. The witches are strange to Anise and presented that way to the reader. Trust isn't instant, but friendship is true and blue. It's just a matter of figuring out whose intentions are good and whose are not, which is not an easy task.

There's a special spice with Anise's bodyguard, and the relationship is refreshingly different. Lots of secrets still need to be exposed in this area as well as many others. In other words, book two promises to be just as intriguing.


Cover Reveal: Touch by Camille Picott





TOUCH
by Camille Picott
Sulan, Episode 4
YA Cyberpunk, Dystopian


COMING. . .
FEBRAURY 1st, 2018!!!






From a young age, Gun has trained in the way of Anderson Arms. He learns to manipulate, steal, blackmail, and kill—whatever it takes to accomplish the mission set by his father. But Gun despises the work he does and the wreckage it leaves behind.
His newest assignment is to befriend a Virtual High student and infiltrate Global Arms. His target is Sulan Hom, the daughter of a renowned Global scientist. Gun approaches the mission with detached coldness, the same method he uses for every assignment.
But it isn’t long before he finds a budding friendship with Sulan. The more time he spends with her, the more he begins to care for her. Soon, Gun avows that Sulan will not become one more mission casualty.
The more he delves into Global Arms, the more Gun realizes the true danger that awaits Sulan. Determined to keep her safe, Gun works behind the scenes to protect her. Will it be enough to keep Sulan safe? And will he ever be able to win her trust after deceiving her?
Only 99¢ during pre-order!

Previous books in the series:

Sign up for Author Camille Picott’s Newsletter and get a free copy of Sulan, Episode 1: The League!

And here she is. . .
 
Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings. 




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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz


THE CROOKED CASTLE
Carmer and Grit 2
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
Algonquin Young Readers
Middle Grade Fantasy
369 pages
ages 9 and up


COMING. . . 
APRIL 10th, 2018!!!


Magician’s apprentice Carmer and one-winged faerie princess Grit investigate a mysteriously magical flying circus in the follow-up to “a fun and frolicking middle grade adventure full of enough fantasy, humor and heart to make giddy even the most finicky reader.” (BookPage)

Shortly after saving the faeries of Skemantis, magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III and his faerie companion, Grit, head out to see the world. They soon come across a mysteriously magical flying circus. As they get to know the outlandish world of Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show, it becomes clear there’s something not quite normal about this circus or its inventor—and that recent airship disasters plaguing nearby Driftside City may have a sinister explanation.

Fans of the Wildwood trilogy and Lockwood & Co. series will love the thrills and chills of The Crooked Castle as it takes readers up in the air with a flying circus, under the sea to the evil Unseelie kingdom, through a terrifying magical snowstorm, and on a chase with the menacing Wild Hunt.



MY TIDBITS


I did not read the first book in this series, which didn't prove a problem. But I'll definitely be going back and reading it (and highly recommend starting off with book one) simply because this is such an amazing story!

When a balloon and it's rider crash into the roof, Carmer (a tinkerer) and his best friend Grit (a fairy princess) discover a glider in the wreck with an invitation to a flying circus. The two quickly discover this isn't an ordinary flying circus and fear that there might be some evil plans behind the mysterious magic connected to it.

This is sold as a read for the middle grade audience, and although fitting to the age group, it's a book which will thrill even older readers. The author does a fantastic job at bringing this magical world with steampunk elements to life. It is rich and detailed and a sheer fantasy delight. By no means does it ever talk down to readers, bur rather pulls them up into an intricate world.

Carmer and Grit make a delightful combination. While Carmer is a young inventor who keeps his head pretty much on the ground and focused, Grit follows the heart and dreams. She's a fairy princess, but by no means glittery and full of pink puffiness. She's sweet but like her name, full of grit. Simply the fact that Carmer helped her replace a lost wing through his mechanics and then the fairies  added their own magic, demonstrates the closed connection and harmony these two have. The friendship isn't perfect but golden.

Dull is not a word to describe this tale. There are wonders, action, magic, evil plans, dangerous situations and adventure the entire way through. Every page shines with imagination and lures deeper into the fantastical world.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mommy's Saturday with The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

I picked this one up thinking it'd be a possible upper YA read, since at least half of the story does focus on girls in their mid-teens. However, the material is very mature and not appropriate for younger readers. So, it's Mommy Saturday!


THE ROANOKE GIRLS
by Amy Engel
Penguin Random House
Suspense/Thriller/Coming of Age/Women's Fiction
279 pages

Content not suitable for audiences under sixteen.



A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls.

Beautiful.
Rich.
Mysterious.
Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl.

But you won't when you know the truth.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.

But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...



 MY TIDBITS

The author does a fantastic job at bringing these characters and their lives to life, making them dig deep into the reader's heart and remain long after the book's been closed.

A mid-twenties Lane is called home to Kansas when her cousin suddenly goes missing—a home she spent only one summer at and hasn't returned to for about ten years. Upon returning, she's frustrated at the seemingly lack of interest at her cousin's disappearance and decides to search for her herself. While trying to uncover any hints at what might have happened, Lane finds herself revisiting not only her past, but the terrible secrets generations of Roanoke girls have been harboring. Not an easy task since all have wound up dead.

This is a well-woven novel which digs into the heart and pulls at the gut as horrible secrets and situations unfold. The chapters dance between Lane's present, her past and even several other points of view, but this constant switch is never confusing. Rather, the scenes come to light exactly there where necessary and add a lovely richness to the tale. The aches and pains of this family are offered with all of their raw emotions, making it impossible not to get caught up emotionally in the pages.

The writing is very well done. Every scene sits and each conversation flows across naturally. Life in the odd Roanoke household comes across with vivid reality, each character adding their part and claiming their spot in the tale. It's an engaging read and easy to get lost in as the secrets come to light. Pretty much.

While the layers are thick and the secrets dark, the tension isn't nearly as high as I thought it might be, which in itself is by no means a negative to this book. Instead, of a constant feel of impending danger, this plot rolls through a family's terrible mistakes, sins and crimes. It was clear from the very first chapter what direction the entire thing would take—sexual/psychological abuse. And it wasn't a complete surprise to discover what had happened to the girls or even who was at fault and why. The constant and clear mention of the explicit behavior wore thin quickly. Unfortunately, this type of openness is not only something I usually steer away from, but, in this case, it also made the ending a bit too easy to predict. 

All in all, this is a well done story which digs into characters and makes them unforgettable. It falls more into a Women's Fiction story than suspense (or so I found) and hits themes which have been done before. Still, fans of dark family secrets and women facing their pasts are sure to enjoy this one.

I received a copy from Blogging for Books.




And here she is. . .


AMY ENGEL is the author of the young adult series The Book of Ivy. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. This is her first novel for adults.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: Voices for All: The Legend of ZoaBrio by Scott Vincent


VOICES FOR ALL
The Legend of ZoaBrio
by Scott Vincent
Venzi Productions
Middle Grade Fantasy
288 pages
ages 9 and up



12-year-old Stacey discovers the secret to communicating with animals. Animals rejoice, thinking she is their long awaited savior who can return them to ZoaBrio (pronounced Zo-ah-BREE-oh), a land where animals and humans once lived as equals. But not everyone loves a savior. A clan of cats has kept the secret hidden from humans for generations, ensuring that cats and dogs remain humans' favorite companions. They are determined to destroy Stacey and keep her discovery a secret. Stacey must find and overthrow them before they silence her forever.

Voices for All is an adventure comedy about friendship, freedom and equality, no matter what your species. Join Stacey, her friend Alex, a wise-cracking gorilla, and a cast of animals yearning to be free as they fight for a world where animals are not as voiceless as we once thought.



MY TIDBITS

This is a wonderful adventure full of fantasy and humor, which is sure to grab young readers until the very end.

The class field trip to the zoo isn't exactly what Stacey expected—all animals are staring at her! When several animals escape their cages and later end up in Stacey's backyard looking for her, she's not sure what to think. Luckily, Louis, the gorilla, can speak and informs her that because she wears a special amulet around her neck, she is the animals' long awaited ticket to ZoaBrio, a land where animals and humans not only live in harmony but even speak to each other. Not does Stacey have trouble wrapping her head around this, but Louis and her other new friends insist she should be able to ziff (a type of thought conversation). When two dogs attempt to steal her necklace, she soon discovers that not only does she have to figure out this entire ZoaBrio thing, but an evil cockroach is determined to stop her.

This is such a fun story! Stacey is as normal a girl as could be and is extremely easy to relate to. Her reactions and decisions are understandable and very appropriate for her age, especially considering the strange situation. She's brave, pretty level-headed and doesn't dive into situations without thought. Her hesitation and doubt makes her easy to like and cheer for the whole way through.

The author does a lovely job at bringing the animals to life. Although I started this book with a Dr. Doolittle expectation, I couldn't have been more wrong. These animals, especially the gorilla, are packed full of personality and fun. The sense of humor dances along with the fast-paced adventure and makes sure that the tension, even when high, maintains a light side as well. It's simply a joy to follow these animals as they try to help Stacey find ZoaBrio and deal with the evil NOZE. There's friendship, there's imagination, there's action and the humor never falls short. 

Summed up, this is a fun read packed with animal imagination and an adventure young readers are sure to enjoy.

And here is he. . .


Scott Vincent is a debut author who loves animals and likes to imagine what they are thinking. He grew up surrounded by a menagerie of different species, and he worked as a zoo volunteer one summer during middle school. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife, daughter, and son.

Author website:  www.scottvincentfiction.com.   Follow Scott on Twitter with @ScottVincent65





Logo Reveal: Touch Saga by Airicka Phoenix



TOUCH SAGA
by Airicka Phoenix
YA Urban Fantasy





I assumed I was human.
I assumed wrong.
I dream of death and warm blood on my hands. I dream of the day I burn the world to the ground. I dream of the day I will finally die.
Running is something my mother taught me to do very well. I never knew why until the night I cause an earthquake and meet Isaiah. My shadow. My protector. My other half. I need him. I need his blood. He is the only one who can keep me hidden from the man who created me. The man who created the monster.
The world is depending on me not to fall in love. But what happens when the temptation becomes too great and falling is my only option? Can I live knowing I will destroy the world because his touch is the only thing keeping me alive?
And how can I trust someone as lost as I am?
Touch Passion. Touch Power. Touch Smoke!













Finding her past was supposed to end the nightmare. Only it was just the beginning.
Entrusting the fate of the world, not to mention her and Isaiah’s life to a father she’s never met is a big leap of faith on Fallon’s part. But it’s a necessary risk. Ashton is the key to protecting Isaiah and keeping her out of Garrison’s clutches. He is also the only one who can tell her what she is, except what she learns is that she is from a world that is far more dangerous than anyone could possibly imagine.
As her powers grow out of control, Fallon must pick between her mortality and a legacy that does not include Isaiah. She must summon the courage to face a destiny that will test the boundaries of everything she has ever known. But most of all, she must protect Isaiah from the monster within herself and trust the man whose toxic blood runs through her veins.
Danger builds as power clashes between two evils, both seeking her to tip the scales to eternal darkness and suffering.
Can humanity rise to face an ancient calling to which Fallon is powerless to stop? Can she protect those she cares about, or will their blood forever stain her hands?
Touch Vengeance. Touch Malice. Touch Fire.










Life from fire.
Hope from ashes.
I thought I could escape him. I thought I was safe.
I should have known better.
For the first time in my life, I am alone to face my fate. The world I had once known is gone and I am responsible. I am the bringer of death. Everything I touch becomes ashes and I can’t stop. He won’t let me.
Touch Chaos. Touch Destruction. Touch Embers!








Before Fallon was created to destroy. Before love became the ultimate weapon of destruction. There was Amalie and the horror that started a revolution that tore the fabric of humanity, of everything standing in the balance between power, hope and survival.
Amalie has one wish, one gnawing desire — she wants to die.
She wants to leave this world behind with its pain and darkness. She wants to finally breathe. But Amalie is a prisoner, a disease, not fit for life. She is unwanted, unnatural. She is defective, something useless and broken. Her own mother hadn’t wanted her. Her father hated her. The world shunned her and the only person she had ever loved, truly and with all her heart and soul, couldn’t stand the sight of her, couldn’t stand the thought of ever being with her. She repulsed him. Her insanity disgusted him. He’d forgotten her. He’d left her behind, deserted and abandoned her to a madman hell bent on crushing her, stealing her soul and shattering her will.
But what if she’s finally given hope? A reason to live? Can Amalie finally accept the hand offering so much for so little in return? Can she love again when she has nothing left to give?
Can she finally be free?

****************************************************************
WARNING: Due to sensitive matters portrayed throughout the novel, Touching Eternity (Touch Series, book 1.5) is rated 18+ (Adult).











Airicka Phoenix is a multi-genre author of novels starring strong female leads and sexy alpha heroes. She started her journey after never finding the type of books she wanted to read. Her love of tortured souls and forbidden romance carried her into writing her own hard-earned happiness. Currently, she lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her babies and can be found hard at work on her next project. For more about Airicka, visit her at AirickaPhoenix.com FOLLOW AIRICKA’S NEWSLETTER for updates, new releases, sneak peeks, and more.(no spamming. Promise)

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Buy Links: 
Touch Saga: (YA Paranormal Fantasy)
»Touching Eternity (Prequel):
Barnes & Noble → http://bit.ly/2hn1llN
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Book Depository → http://bit.ly/2hcX7fW
»Touching Embers (Book 3):
Goodreads → http://bit.ly/2gJ7On5