*ARC Review* Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark ShoresTitle: Dark Shores

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Page Count: 368 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

Summary:

High seas adventure, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in Dark Shores, the first novel in a new YA fantasy series.

In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.

A PIRATE WITH A WILL OF IRON

Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.

A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET

Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.

A DANGEROUS QUEST

When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.

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An advanced e-copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! What a ride this book was! Dark Shores promises a high seas adventure and it definitely delivers. I love any book that has pirates and dangerous adventures, and this book does not disappoint. I started reading this book with not many high expectations, and Dark Shores proved me wrong; it proved to be a story worth reading and loving.

The idea behind this story is wonderfully unique. Members of the East cannot communicate with members of the West. But a politician wants that to change; he wants to conquer and destroy. And in doing so, he blackmails two unlikely people to find the secret way across the dark shores. The many twists and turns Dark Shores has will keep you entertained and wondering just what is in store for the characters on their journey.

Marcus is a skilled soldier who never anticipated being blackmailed into working for a dangerous politician. It goes against everything he has been taught. He also never thought he’d have to work with a pirate. Teriana comes from a fierce line of Maarin people, and like the people aboard her mother’s ship, she harbors a secret that protects the other half of the world from the cruel Celendor people. She never expected the secret to come out. But it does, and it has dire consequences for her and her shipmates. In order to save her shipmates, she will have to work with Marcus and others to bring the dangerous politician what he wants.

I really enjoyed Jensen’s world building of Dark Shores. There are so many moving parts, and she brings them all together nicely. The characters fit well with the world and develop as new pieces of the world are uncovered. The mythology aspect of this book is fascinating and fit so well with the world Jensen has created. Learning about the gods and the magic gave the book a lighter feel and provided a wonderful backstory for the world. What I also enjoyed reading about were the different cultures between the Maarin and Celendor people. Maarin people are diplomatic like the Celendor people, but they don’t deceive and kill to get what they want. It was nice to see two cultures depicted so differently.

All in all, Dark Shores provided a beautiful storyline with well-developed and well-liked characters. I’m always looking for books with those aspects (and any book that reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean) and outstanding world building, and Dark Shores delivers all of that. If you’re looking for a story with adventure, political intrigue, high seas, meddling gods, enemies to lover’s trope, and more, then Dark Shores is a book that is right up your alley.

nikole

 

*Arc Review* Maybe This Time- Kasie West

41473823One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.

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My Review:

“I didn’t even care; he tasted like heaven and I felt like I was floating on air.”

Usually, with any Kasie West book, it’s an instant love for me. But this took me quite some time to get into and I felt as if I walked into the middle of a conversation. This was sort of cute, just not my favorite of hers.

At times I felt that there wasn’t much of a plot. There was no lead-way to what was happening, you just jump straight in head first. The banter between the two lead characters wasn’t as funny as her others. I felt the pure hatred flow between the pages because it burned like a roaring fire. I wasn’t actually sure if Andrew and Sophie were going to get to that inevitable point like in almost every other contemporary novel. It happened but it felt fake.

I did love seeing the working side of being a caterer and florist. It was interesting reading about all the things they go through to make everything perfect for your special day. I also really enjoyed the growing of Sophie’s family. She was really easy to judge a situation before she knew all the facts but in the end, it brought her family closer together.

Maybe This Time wasn’t my favorite but I didn’t hate it. We all know what to expect from contemporary novels but this one didn’t have that heart-eyed overflowing cuteness like all her others.

 

stacy

*First Line Friday- 3/29/19* His Hideous Heart- Dahlia Adler

39127647Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).

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“The night that the stables burned, the air turned cold and still as in the dead of winter.”

stacy

*Arc Review* The Rumor- Lesley Kara

43894584When a single mother hears a rumor outside her son’s school, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another. . . . And now there’s no going back.

Rumor has it that a notorious killer, a woman who has been released from prison years after her brutal crime, is living under a new identity in Joanna’s seaside town. So who is the supposedly reformed murderer now living in their neighborhood? Suspicion falls on everyone.

As Joanna becomes obsessed with the case, her curiosity will expose her son and his father to a heartless psychopath who has killed—and may kill again. And she will learn how dangerous one rumor can become . . . and just how far she must go to protect those she loves from harm. She is going to regret the day she ever said a word. . . .

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My Review:

“All the others did what I said. I think they were a little bit scared of me. I’d had a good role model, you see. I knew how scary people acted. I knew the sorts of things they said. The way they looked at you and turned your insides to liquid. I was acting out the only thing I knew. What happened at home. What I’d seen. What I’d heard.”

This is going to be the best thriller of the year. Nothing has shocked me as much as this. When you think you have it all figured out, something comes along and makes you second guess everything. I will admit, I rolled my eyes and sighed because I was a hundred percent sure that I figured it out. And I was wrong, I was close but so very wrong. You’ll keep guessing right up until the end and that last sentence will blow your mind.

A notorious killer has been released from prison and may be living in a small town under a new identity. Joanna hears all the rumors and even gossips like all the other Moms to fit in. This killer is living in her town and everyone is a suspect.

Joanna is living with her son, Alfie in the town she grew up in to be closer to her Mother. When she goes to a book club and mentions the rumor of the unknown identity of the killer, things in her life take a weird turn. Someone starts to torment her. They post cryptic tweets on Twitter and even photoshop a picture of her son. She becomes uneasy and her mind starts to be controlled by these thoughts of who would be doing something like this to her and her family.

Joanna will do anything to protect the people she loves. But she may soon regret the day she shared a rumor…..

The Rumor is the debut thriller that everyone will be talking about. This book will be the reason why we all have trust issues. But this was so riveting and disturbing that you won’t be able to put it down. Just think twice before you spread that rumor, you never know who’s life you’ll ruin just by one little lie. That rumor could even cost you something precious in your life.

stacy

*First Line Friday* 3/22/19 Finale- Stephanie Garber

40381392Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…all games must come to an end.

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything. . .

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The Beginning

“The first time Legend appeared in Tella’s dreams, he looked as if he’d just stepped out of one of the stories people told about him.”

stacy

*Arc Review* Lie With Me- Philippe Besson

40539136The award-winning, bestselling French novel by Philippe Besson about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress/writer Molly Ringwald. 

We drive at high speed along back roads, through woods, vineyards, and oat fields. The bike smells like gasoline and makes a lot of noise, and sometimes I’m frightened when the wheels slip on the gravel on the dirt road, but the only thing that matters is that I’m holding on to him, that I’m holding on to him outside.

Just outside a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe chances upon a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a gorgeous boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Without ever acknowledging they know each other in the halls, they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.

Dazzlingly rendered in English by Ringwald in her first-ever translation, Besson’s powerfully moving coming-of-age story captures the eroticism and tenderness of first love—and the heartbreaking passage of time.

My Review:

“This feeling of love, it transports me, it makes me happy. But it also consumes me and makes me miserable, the way all impossible loves are miserable.”

Lie With Me was that gut-wrenching read that makes you have trouble catching your breath. This was such a beautiful and harrowing story of young desire in the 1980s. You’ll have trouble keeping the tears from falling.

Even days after I finished this, my mind kept going back to this and it broke my heart all over again. I had to up my rating because of that. I can’t get this beautiful story out of there.

Philippe is talking to an interviewer at a hotel when he spots someone. A someone that resembles someone from his past. As he calls out his name and goes after him, he wishes with all his heart that this someone is Thomas. As fate would have it, it’s not but it’s someone else that will help him fill in the blanks of the past.

As the past comes spilling out of Philippe, what transpires is something so deep and wonderful that we don’t want it to end. In his younger years, he strikes up a secret romance with Thomas as love blooms between these two boys. After all this time, Philippe remembers everything and hopes that Thomas does as well. Things start to come together and what was once young love turns into fond memories that no one will ever forget or want to.

Lie With Me was one of the most gorgeous reads that I have ever read. There was something about this that touched my soul and I’ll never forget it. Besson paints a tender and beautiful tale of first loves and desire. It’s a really quick read that you will devour in one sitting because of its pure perfection.

If you get a chance to read this, do it. I dare you to tell me that this didn’t make you weep!!

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stacy

*ARC Review* Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Bloodleaf_CSTitle: Bloodleaf

Author: Crystal Smith

Release Date: March 12th, 2019

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Page Count: 384 pages

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary:

Perfect for fans of RED QUEEN and UPROOTED, Crystal Smith’s debut novel, BLOODLEAF, is an imaginative retelling of the Grimm Fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that takes a ghostly mystery and sets it inside an epic fantasy world.

Aurelia is the first princess born to the Renalten crown in two hundred years, destined to fulfill a treaty by journeying to marry Valentin, the prince of Achelva – Renalt’s greatest enemy. Rumors of an unwell, cruel prince abound, and the only thing that eclipses Aurelia’s apprehension of her impending marriage is her fear of those who’d kill her to prevent it.

When an assassination attempt forces Aurelia to use forbidden magic to save a stranger, she is driven from Renalt by the witch-hunting Tribunal and a mob out for blood. But before she can claim asylum in the court of her betrothed, her travel party turns on her, forcing her to trade places with her treacherous lady-in-waiting, Lisette.

Now penniless in Achleva and bereft of her identity, Aurelia must decide if she wants to surrender to her new life or fight for her old one, all while navigating the complicated ties binding her to the enigmatic prince, the unquiet ghost of an ancient queen, and a poisonous plant called bloodleaf.

Aurelia is a pawn in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war— and if she can’t extricate herself from it before Lisette marries Valentin in her stead, she may face losses far more devastating than her crown.

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Preorder Links

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |   Indie Bound

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My Review

Thank you to the author for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read a ton of Young Adult fantasy. More than 90% of the books I own/read are in the fantasy genre. Which comes to mean that I see a lot of the same elements over and over again in fantasy books. It’s not a bad thing, not at all, but it’s also refreshing when I read a fantasy book with unique elements. Bloodleaf is one of those books. Bloodleaf has many unique fantasy elements that I absolutely loved.

This dark and luscious tale will have you hooked from the first page. Smith’s writing blew me away. It was breathtakingly beautiful and nevertheless bewitching. I was captivated by the words that flew off the pages and made the world feel so real.The world Smith has built is phenomenal and deadly and all the while enchanting. It’s a fantasy world I could easily picture myself living in. The world is illustrated in such beautiful prose. And just to be clear, this isn’t a fantasy world where happy endings come naturally. It’s a dark world filled with daunting dangers and betrayal. But the way Smith describes the world is what makes me love it so much; the descriptions are not too much or too little and they make it feel like the world is alive, which is always a plus for me in fantasy novels.

What I also loved about Bloodleaf was the magic system. The magic system in Bloodleaf is incredible. To enter the second kingdom, Renalt, you must have a stamped invitation with the king’s blood to enter, or else you risk the possibility of death. This experience that Aurelia has to go through is so well-captured that I felt like I was right there seeing her cross into the kingdom. Actually, that’s what it was like for the whole book. The story, the characters, the hardships, all felt real and that is something I look for in books. I want the worlds to feel real to me and this world and the characters did not disappoint.

Princess Aurelia is a wonderfully flawed, yet strong character. She doesn’t want to do the blood magic oath, where her and three people she loves bound themselves to her with blood, where in order for Aurelia to die, her three protectors will have to die first. She would rather die than risk the lives of those she loves. But then the blood oath is completed and Aurelia goes on a daunting journey, using the name of one of her maids, to escape the Tribunal after she uses her forbidden magic to save someone. She fights for her old life, for her destiny, and for her kingdom. She learns so much throughout her journey, and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her in the second book.

And then there is Zan. Zan is a character I was easily swooning over. He’s intriguing yet mysterious and though he hides many secrets from Aurelia, he becomes someone she can’t live without. He’s charming even when he’s trying not to be. He overall fights for a good cause and wants to see the world change. And he sees Aurelia as being that person, with her magic and her will to change the outcome of her life.

Overall, Bloodleaf has easily become one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels. I loved the world, the character development (even the sad moments), and the uniqueness Smith brings to the fantasy genre. I’m one of the readers that is patiently (well, really, impatiently) waiting for the second book. If you are looking for a fantasy read that is gripping and intriguing with multiple fantasy elements, then Bloodleaf is a great book to read!

nikole