Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Release Spotlight: Murder, Magic, and What We Wore (Kelly Jones) | A Poison Dark and Drowning (Jessica Cluess)


Today I spotlight an enchanting standalone, and a solid sequel!

The first is Murder, Magic, and What We Wore, a delightful alternate Regency mystery standalone by Kelly Jones. I thoroughly enjoyed the fun and fashionable read with its engaging story, endearing characters, and enchanting magic, and highly recommend it for fans of Gail Carriger and the Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal.

The second is the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series by Jessica Cluess: A Poison Dark and Drowning. I found it a solid and entertaining sequel with enchanting magic, vivid description, and dark twists (you can check out my 4 Scribble review here), and I look forward to the final book in the series with a little dread but great interest. Recommend for alternate historical horror fantasy lovers looking for a chilling and thrilling read.

If you haven't yet checked out these titles, see below for more info and order links!


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Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
Title: Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
Author: Kelly Jones
Publisher: Knopf BYR
Release Date: 9/19/17

The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?


Add to Goodreads

PURCHASE:
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository


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A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)
Title: A Poison Dark and Drowning
Series: Kingdom on Fire #2
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 9/19/17

The magicians want her to lead.
The sorcerers want her to lie.
The demons want her blood.
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.


Add to Goodreads

PURCHASE:
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository

My Review


Check out the first book in the series!

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)
Book 1: A Shadow Bright & Burning

Friday, September 15, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (9/15/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
You Don't Know My Name (The Black Angel Chronicles #1)No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando (ARC)
Decided to catch up on some early 2017 releases in case I want to request the sequels, and as this one has always looked awesome it was top of the pile. Just started it this morning so still on the Prologue, but so far so thrilling!

No Plot? No Problem! Revised by Chris Baty (PBK)
I'll be helping teens at my library with Nano this year so I'm brushing up on the basics! The original of this book was a lot of fun when I read it for my first Nano and I'm hoping it helps me recall what it's like to be a young writer again.


>> JUST FINISHED <<
Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (ARC)
3 Stars. An entertaining teen sci-fi thriller with an engrossing competition and relatable, diverse characters but extremely confusing description and WAY too many characters to keep straight. Review to come.


>> DNF <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Warcross (Warcross, #1)The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

Warcross by Marie Lu (ARC)
DNF at Chapter 3. I really wanted to love this one, and given the video game setup and Japanese elements I really should have. But the illogically ruled first chapter frustrated me, the wallowing and introspective second chapter was dull and heavy with description, and when the end of the second finally promised the world of Warcross but the third chapter began with even more reminiscence instead, I just couldn't force myself to read any more. Perhaps I'll try it again some day - I did love Legend back when it released - but as I also recently tried and failed with The Young Elites as well, I doubt it.


The Young Elites by Marie Lu (ARC)
DNF at Page 45. I was warned a while ago that this may be too dark a read for me, but while it does have dark and somewhat disturbing elements, I found it rather dull and unengaging. The story claims an interesting premise with interesting magic, but Adelina's magic was extremely confusing as described in action, and I found Adelina and her desperate situation uninteresting. I loved Legend back when it released, but as I just DNFd Warcross as well it appears I've grown out of Marie Lu's style.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King, #1)
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (ARC)
Next on the early 2017 release pile. I've heard great things, so while pirates aren't typically my read I'll give it a try.


So what are you reading this week?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Blog Tour Review: A Poison Dark & Drowning (Jessica Cluess) + Giveaway


Welcome to the first stop on the blog tour for A Poison Dark and Drowning, the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series by Jessica Cluess from Random House! I found the first book, A Shadow Bright and Burning, an engrossing and enchanting read (you can peruse my full review here), so I am excited to start off the tour for the second book! Check out my review of A Poison Dark and Drowning below, and enter to win a shiny finished copy at the end!


A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)
Title: A Poison Dark and Drowning
Series: Kingdom on Fire, Book 2
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Historical Horror Fantasy
Told: First Person (Henrietta), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (scary situations, some gore, magical battles, some sensuality)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Summary:

The magicians want her to lead.
The sorcerers want her to lie.
The demons want her blood.
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn't need a prophecy to know that she's in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook's system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients' past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.


*          *          *

Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Random House!


In a Sentence:  A solid and entertaining sequel with enchanting magic, vivid description, and dark twists.

Series Note: This is the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series. I re-read the first book, A Shadow Bright and Burning, right before reading this sequel. You can check out my review of the first book here.

After quite enjoying A Shadow Bright & Burning last year, I was eager to get my hands on the sequel and continue Henrietta's endeavors to control her powers and defeat the horrific Ancients that terrorize her alternate historical England. A Poison Dark & Drowning opens some two months after the end of the first book, with Henrietta settling into her secondary Sorcerer training and required duties. Determined to learn more about the otherworldly Ancients, her investigations soon lead her to a mysterious and magical house in search of weapons that could possibly turn the tide of the war. But as Henrietta and her companions struggle to wield the unnatural tools, information about the Ancients' origins as well as Henrietta's past and connection to them is uncovered, revealing dark and painful truths that may destroy them all.

This was a solid middle book with vivid description and a good pace. The first few chapters were a little quiet as we delved more into the Sorcerers' world, but things quickly picked up as the team began to reassemble and travel and soon there was plenty of action and tension and mystery to engross me. As with the first book a lot of the twists were generally predictable, but a few did take me by surprise, especially one complete shock near the climax whose fallout I enjoyed right to the end. The action finished a little too early for me leaving the last few chapters a bit sedate, but they wove a disquieting hopefulness for the final book that has me looking forward to the series end with a little dread but great interest. While I still hold to a few small unresolved predictions, given the surprising dark turns of the first two books I'm excited to say I really don't know what to expect with the third.

Henrietta continued to be the powerful but floundering girl of the first book, inexperienced and unsure how to proceed but desperate to do something to save those she cared about. Her fumbled failures - and even successes - tended to mire everyone deeper into trouble and tragedy, but for the most part her heart was in the right place and her fierce loyalty to Rook was commendable. The unfortunate first-book love triangle grew into an uncomfortable second-book square as a new and possessive prospect threw his hat into Henrietta's ring. Due to an unsettling personality turn, and my still firmly held predictions about him, I didn't like his addition even more than Marcus, so all his romantic overtures were rather hard for me to read. I also didn't like Henrietta's reaction to his advances (or to Marcus's before) as every time a boy shows her a hint of affection our strong heroine goes weak in the knees and questions her feelings for the one she really loves. I guess it could be considered realistic given her childhood insecurities and the mountain of pressure she's under, but I felt sorry for Rook being in love with an unassured girl like Henrietta. Still, despite serious spoilers, I will continue to root for Henrook (Rooketta?) to the series end.

Conclusion: A solid second book with good tension, interesting magic, and a few surprising plot twists, even if other twists were predictable and I had problems with the romance. Not much is currently predictable about the final book, so I will be going into it with definite excitement!

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles




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.



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Friday, September 8, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (9/8/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (ARC)
The author is coming to my local indie this month so I gave it a try and was surprised by now engrossed I quickly found myself. There are WAY too many characters to keep straight and the competition is nothing new, but the forefront characters are interesting and memorable and the story and mystery are engaging. Currently 70% through.


>> JUST FINISHED <<
A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)Murder, Magic, and What We Wore

A Poison Dark & Drowning by Jessica Cluess (ARC)
4 Stars. A solid and magical second book with good tension and a few surprisingly dark plot twists, even if most of the other twists were highly predictable. I did have some minor problems with the somewhat unbalanced Henrietta and the romance, but otherwise it was an entertaining read and I really look forward to the final book next year. Review to come this Monday.

Murder, Magic, & What We Wore by Kelly Jones (ARC)
4.5 Stars. 2nd read for the review and still a delightfully fun and fashionable alternate Regency mystery with marvelous magic and intriguing espionage for fans of Gail Carriger and the Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal! Review to come later this month.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Warcross (Warcross, #1)
Warcross by Marie Lu (ARC)
Had to set this aside for a bit after the illogically ruled first chapter infuriated me, but I'll try to continue/finish it before I see the author later this month.


So what are you reading this week?

Friday, August 25, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (8/25/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)
A Poison Dark & Drowning by Jessica Cluess (ARC)
About 80% through and plan to finish this weekend! While all of the character twists are coming as no surprise, as with the first book there was a major plot twist I did not see coming and I enjoyed the shock and horror that followed it. I'm pretty sure I know the cliffhanger this will end on, but we'll see...


>> JUST FINISHED <<
Dreamin' Sun, Vol. 2
Dreamin' Sun vol. 2 by Ichigo Takano (PBK)
2.5 Stars. After re-reading the first volume (I'd completely forgotten what even the premise was about), I found this volume not quite as good as the first as it seems the series is developing into a story entirely about one-sided, unrequited love, which by the end of this volume I found a bit disheartening. I guess I'll give volume three a try, but the humor better pick up or I'll lose interest completely.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Warcross (Warcross, #1)
Warcross by Marie Lu (ARC)
Just discovered the author will be vising my local indie next month so I've moved this to the top of my TBR!


So what are you reading this week?

Friday, August 18, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (8/18/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)
A Poison Dark & Drowning by Jessica Cluess (ARC)
About 40% in. While not quite as good as the first book (which is apparently the general sentiment), so far it's still proved an engaging and even more enchanting read with the addition of more Magician's warped dazzle and Henrietta's hybrid powers. This book delves deeper into the mystery of the Ancients as the young Sorcerers scramble to find a way to defeat them, and travels to some interesting places in search of answers (typically only to find more questions). Definitely think re-reading the first book right before was the way to go - not surprisingly I'd forgotten more than I'd thought, and having that knowledge fresh makes the second book read so much smoother. 


>> JUST FINISHED <<
A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)
A Shadow Bright & Burning by Jessica Cluess (ARC)
4 Stars. 2nd read; an engrossing and enchanting (and not as frustrating as the first read) alternate historical horror fantasy with vivid characters and engaging prose. You can check out my first read review here.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland (ARC)
I have a contemporary itch so I think I'm going to scratch it with this! Looks like serious fun (aka fun with a light serious streak), which is generally how I like my contemporaries.


So what are you reading this week?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: The Crown's Game (Evelyn Skye)

The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)
Title: The Crown's Game
Series: The Crown's Game duology, Book 1
Author: Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (HarperCollins)
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Fantasy
Told: Third Person Omniscient, Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (some violence and minor sensuality)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Summary:

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


*          *          *

In a Sentence: An amazing alternate historical fantasy with a rich world, solid writing, vivid characters, awesome magic, and an engrossing story (despite an unfortunate love triangle).

Confession: I didn't expect to like this book. More often than not I dislike much-loved bestsellers with very few exceptions, and while Crown Game's magic, setting and concept sounded intriguing, the summary spoke too much of the romance - a negative trait for me. But while the romance did end up proving the weakness I'd expected, it did not play as large a part as I'd feared, leaving the rest of the book to completely dazzle me.

Contrary to the summary, there were three main characters. The two enchanters, who were very interesting and unconventional contrasts to each other, almost swapping gender roles as Vika was a strong, powerful, wild female to Nikolai's crafty, scholarly dandy male. But then there was also Pasha: heir to the throne and third in their unfortunate love triangle, he was an adventurous and inquisitive boy who would rather be free but is forced to do his duty for his country. Together they, along with the rest of the cast, made an engaging group to follow as the omniscient point of view focused not only on the main characters but over half a dozen others. Despite so many points of view though, for the most part I had little difficulty keeping everyone straight - the characters were all very unique and different from each other, including their names, so it was pretty easy to tell them apart despite the chapters being unmarked and occasionally following more than one person.

The setting was just the right balance of foreign and familiar woven through with secret enchantments. The Russian culture and history were never heavy or confusing, with just enough to be fascinating and exotic. The description was perfectly done, not too much and not too little; very vivid and easy to picture. The pacing was slower in the beginning so the reader could enjoy discovering the world and characters, became a bit choppy in the middle to move the game along, then slowed again at the end to savor the struggle as new twists came to light and the game concluded. The end itself was a bit abrupt for me, but simply because I wanted more and there wasn't any.

From the description I expected an actual fight-to-the-death duel, but it turned out to be more of a tournament, each taking turns to one-up the other in magical feats (although they did occasionally try to eliminate the other while they were at it). Despite less violence it made for a very engaging cat-and-cat interaction, especially as the story started offering just the magical feats and little of the preparation, so the reader became more spectator than confidante. This was occasionally a little disappointing but ultimately rather dazzling as the surprise and imagination of the magic blew me away. As the characters grew closer and the end of the game nearer things became more tense as loyalties severed and evolved, and with the revelation of a few twists I did not see coming the result was an exciting and uncertain one. Needless to say upon turning the last page and discovering no more I wished I'd had the sequel on hand for immediate consumption.

The romance was the book's only real weakness for me. The main characters' relationships formed a relatively complicated diagram involving several contradicting arrows and a definite love triangle (or possibly even love square). It wasn't hard to follow though, and while my very first actual "ship" didn't quite sail (*sigh*) I'm not averse to how things concluded and will be interested to see how it all ends up in the final book.

Conclusion: A solidly enjoyable, enchanting and engrossing read with vivid characters, dazzling magic, and a fantastic worldI did have some small issues with the love triangle and omniscient point of view, but by the end I was leaning more towards 5 than 4 Scribbles, especially after the climatic twists I did not see coming. Can't wait to lay eyes on the sequel!

For Fans Of: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke


Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles