Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books, February 24, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source/Format: Won, UK Paperback Edition

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'. But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped...

My Thoughts:

Going into this book I was already familiar with V.E. Schwab’s work. I’ve read Vicious and two of her young adult novels. So it should come as no surprise that I absolutely loved A Darker Shade of Magic. It was a fantasy novel that I enjoyed.

From the very first pages the overall concept is presented well. I loved the multiple depictions of London across varying worlds that had minor similarities yet were vastly different from one another. Each world was given a respective color, and I have to say that they fit with the descriptions of each place. The setting was vivid and I could imagine what the places looked like, and it tied in nicely with the world building, which was done beautifully. The parallel worlds seemed to be places of their own, but it all worked together and served as an interesting backdrop to the plot.

The story follows Kell, a traveler from Red London, as he gets mixed up with magic he shouldn’t have. I liked Kell’s character, and I could understand his conflicting emotions concerning his situation. Some of his actions weren’t smart, in fact they were downright reckless, but it was all part of the story and I liked seeing how things played out. Kell’s path crosses with Delilah Bard and I have to say that I truly enjoyed Delilah’s character. Her interactions with Kell were priceless and I liked how the two managed to work together despite…differences.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the magic. I liked how it was thoroughly explained, the system set up in a way that it seemed to be a part of the world, rather than conflicting with it. The way it was written made it seem natural. The plot was equally nice and overall I just enjoyed the story. I believe that this is the first in a trilogy, so I look forward to seeing what happens next with Delilah, Kell, and the various London settings in A Darker Shade of Magic.

5/5

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Blog Tour, Excerpt, Review & Giveaway: When It's Right (Montana Men, #2) by Jennifer Ryan




Title: When It's Right (Montana Men, #2)
Author: Jennifer Ryan
Publisher/Publication Date: Avon Books; March 31, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format/Source: E-ARC/E-Book, Publisher/Edelweiss & Purchased

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When It’s Right (Montana Men #2) synopsis

Gillian ‘s turbulent life has never been easy, but nothing prepared her for the moment of violence that sends her and her little brother running from San Francisco to her grandfather’s ranch in Montana. A man she’s never met. She learned long ago not to trust anyone, but she’ll do anything to keep her brother safe and give him the happy childhood she never had. When she meets Blake Bowden, a strong, silent, gorgeous cowboy who teaches her about the ranch and rescued horses-animals who have been through hell and back, just as she has-Gillian begins to feel at ease for the first time in memory. In fact, she even starts to feel happy. But in her world happiness has always been fleeting, and she’s not sure she can believe in it or the man who has quickly found his way into her heart. 

Blake has everything he’s ever wanted: a partnership on a ranch that allows him to spend his day in the saddle training racehorses. His life is good, steady, uncomplicated…until the most beautiful, haunted looking woman arrives at Three Peaks Ranch. If he wants to keep his ideal life, his partner’s granddaughter is entirely off limits, but Gillian awakens a protective instinct in Blake that he can’t ignore…and ignites a passion he shouldn’t feel. But as Gillian heals and finds her way back into the world, Blake knows that he’s found the one thing that he never knew he was missing. And when danger comes close, he will do anything he must to keep Gillian safe…even if it means risking his life’s dream.

WHEN IT’S RIGHT, Ch1 Excerpt 

Chapter One

San Francisco, California

“Help me!”

Home late from her shift washing dishes at the Jade Palace, Gillian pounded up the two flights of stairs as fast as her legs allowed. She hit the landing and turned right, racing down the hallway past her apartment’s open door to Mrs. Wicks's unit at the end of the hall. She’d heard the screams from outside. Not the first time she’d answered that call, but so help her God, if her father touched one hair on Justin’s head, she’d kill him.

“I’m calling the police,” the babysitter, Mrs. Wicks, threatened loud enough for her voice to carry down the hall.

“Damnit, woman, he’s my blood,” her father bellowed.

Gillian rushed into the apartment, spotted Justin holding his arm, tears shimmering in his eyes, but otherwise appearing unharmed. She looked her father up and down assessing the situation in a glance and the odds on talking him down from whatever ludicrous idea had taken root in his shadowed mind. Dressed in the same clothes he’d left in four days ago, his hair an oily mass hanging lank to his shoulders, he reeked of whiskey, cigarette and pot smoke, and acrid body odor. The wild look in his bloodshot eyes told her he hadn’t slept in a good long while. Riding a meth high, he’d probably binged for days. Soon, he’d lose all sense of reality and need more of the drug that wouldn’t give him the high he needed, since he’d overloaded his system. He’d crash, his body shutting down and putting him into a deep sleep for a day, or two, or three before he woke up miserable, needing more of what put him in this psychotic state in the first place.

Frustrated and angry, but resigned to this same worn-out routine, she shored up her resolve to get through this night, like she’d done too many times in the past, trapped raising a child with little money and even fewer choices. None of them good.

Her father paced, his movements jerky. He scratched at his arm, his legs, the back of his neck with his grime filled nails. He slapped at his thigh, then bit at the tips of his fingers. A hint to how far he’d fallen down the rabbit hole. Not good.

“Dad, come on. Let’s go home. I’ll make you something to eat,” she coaxed, keeping her voice calm.

A powder keg of roiling rage, you never knew what would set him off.

Justin cowered in the corner of the couch, his eyes wide and watchful. He didn’t move, afraid of drawing her father’s attention. Even at six, he knew the rules of this twisted game.

Mrs. Wicks moved into the kitchen, leaving Jessie to handle getting her father out of there and back to their place. She’d done it before. Usually, he’d come looking for her. She’d been held up at work, and he’d found little Justin alone. She never left Justin with him if she could help it, especially over the last year when her father spent more time strung-out and paranoid on meth than comfortably numb with booze and pot, like he’d been every day of her life.

The last two weeks had been hell. Her patience had worn thin days ago. If she could hold on, get him out of Mrs. Wicks’s apartment and into theirs, she could take Justin and crash somewhere else for a few days until her father came down and leveled off.

Then, joy, they could start this whole thing over again.

I wish Justin and I were anywhere else.

Inside, the pressure built. How good it would feel to open her mouth and unleash a string of curses, insults, and blame for what her father put her and Justin through day in and day out. She hated him for spending his life drowning in a bottle and doing drugs, his life going up in smoke. Her life went up with it. Justin’s too. She wanted it to end. One way or another, just end.

Her father swatted at some imaginary bird, or butterfly, or dragon for all she knew. Only he saw the tormenting hallucinations. If he was this far gone, he was even more volatile and dangerous than usual.

“Dad, come on. I’ll make you a burger and get you a beer.”

“We have to go.” His words came out rushed. He swatted at the air again, this time spinning around to the right before he stopped and turned the other way again, tracking his imaginary flying devils, waving his arms over his head to swat them away.

She shook her head, frustrated and tired of dealing with him. This. Everything. She wanted to run away, but where would she go? It was all she could do now to keep a roof over Justin’s head and food in his belly with the diminishing help her father supplied. Out on the streets, or in a shelter, they’d be vulnerable to even more horrors. What kind of life would that be for Justin? Better than this one? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, she needed to find a way to give Justin better than she’d had growing up with a volatile drunk, who could barely keep a bartending job and supplemented his income selling drugs to support his own habits.

“We have to go. We have to go. We have to go,” her father chanted, getting agitated, hitting the side of his head with one hand and scratching at the imaginary bugs crawling under his skin on his leg with the other.

Fed up, she stepped toward him to grab his arm and lead him back to their place. He jumped out of her reach and laughed. The sound held no humor, but a touch of hysteria in the odd shriek. Her father pointed at her, shaking his head side to side. “No. No. No. No. No.” Again, his ominous giggle sent a chill up her spine.

Her father grabbed Justin’s arm and yanked him off the couch. She stood her ground in front of him. No way he left here with Justin.

“Let him go. He needs to finish his homework.” She made up the excuse, hoping he’d release Justin, and she could get him out of there.

“He’s mine. He’ll keep them away. He’s got the light that turns them away.”

Paranoid, delusional asshole.

She sighed, knowing just where this was going and not liking it one bit. Soon, her father would spiral into a psychotic delusion no one could talk him out of.

Please, just pass out already.

Not that lucky, she tensed and waited to see what came next. Her father pulled Justin in front of him, held him by both arms and turned him this way and that, a shield against an enemy only he could see.

“Ow!” Justin cried out when her father’s fingers dug into his thin arms.

“Keep them back.” Her father tugged on Justin again. Hurt and scared, Justin planted his feet and pulled away, trying to get free. Her father held tighter, spun him around to face him, and when her father hurt Justin and he fell to the floor, tears spilling from his eyes, Jessie's couldn't take the ache in her heart and her anger exploded.

“Keep them back.” Her father shook Justin again.

Jessie lost it. “I warned you, if you ever touched him...” She lunged for her father, striking him in the arm, breaking his hold on Justin. She shoved her father two steps back and Justin ran for Mrs. Wicks in the kitchen, who rattled off the building address to the police on the phone. Not the first time someone called the cops on her father, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. No way they got here in time to stop him. Whatever happened next, she’d sure as hell make sure he never got anywhere near Justin again.

Her father came after her in a drug-hazed rage that gave him strength and sent him into a mindless attack. All other thoughts disappeared behind the fury filling his mind. Her father only knew how to hurt. She’d been through this too many times to count and braced for the impact when his fist came at her straight into her eye. Pain exploded in her head. She shoved him in the chest, but he came back with a slap to her jaw that stung something fierce. She kicked him in the shin and shoved him again. He fell back two steps, his hand coming up from behind his back. Momentarily stunned, she didn’t move, but stared down the gun's black barrel in disbelief that he’d actually pulled a weapon on her. She didn’t know where he’d gotten it, only that this added a whole other level to what had seemed like just another rotten night in her life.

Her father held the gun steady, even when he swatted the imaginary devils pestering him. His eyes narrowed on her and in that moment she joined him in the madness she saw swirling in his gaze.

You or me?

One of them wasn't leaving that room alive.

Justin needs me.

You.

She rushed him, grabbed the gun, spun her back into his chest, the gun in both their hands pointed to the window. He tried to wrench it free, punching her in the ribs with his free hand. She jerked on the gun again and again and scratched his hand to get him to release it until he finally let go and the gun thumped onto the floor and skittered across the scarred hardwood. He shoved her from behind. She stumbled forward, scooped the gun off the floor, and turned to face him.

Never turn your back on a psycho.

He leaned forward and charged her like a wounded beast, murder in his eyes and a guttural yell that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

She swung the gun up and fired. Once. Twice.

Mrs. Wicks screamed.

Blood bloomed on his chest. Still he kept coming. His hands fisted in her T-shirt. He lifted her off her feet and shoved her backward into the window. Her back and head hit the glass with a crack a split second before it shattered. Glass tore and bit into her skin, but she didn’t feel the pain past the one thought in her head. It’s done.

Justin screamed, “Gillian, no!”

I'm sorry.

She flew through the window.

Her father’s dark form stood in the opening, highlighted by the lights behind him. He literally dropped to the floor out of her sight.

Be safe, Justin. Be happy.

Her body slammed into the roof of a car with a sickening thud. Everything went black.

Review

Jennifer Ryan is back again with another story that is sure to draw you in with the intense dramatic scenes in the beginning. When It’s Right addresses familial issues associated with substance abuse and Gillian’s struggles as she learned to trust those around her. Ryan presented both characters that were likeable and those that you love to hate. I loved the fact that Gillian was resilient and continued to press on while having Justin’s best interest as her top priority. And as was true with At Wolf Ranch, I liked the fact that the romantic elements were nicely woven into the story.

Rating 3/5 The book was enjoyable and I would consider 
recommending it to others.

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher/Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I also purchased a copy.

Teaser

“I’m not going to kiss you.”

Bud would kill him. Yes, think about that. A slow and painful death, not her full, soft lips. Damnit.

“Oh, you are going to kiss me.” She walked right up to him and stood on tiptoe with her body pressed to his. His hands remained at his sides, wrapped around the edge of the desk. She ran her hands up his arms to his shoulders. “Kiss me, Blake. I want you to.”

The devil inside him leaped. He cupped her face in his hands and stared down into her beautiful hazel eyes. Be gentle. Give her that much. “I’ve wanted to do this since the moment I saw you.” His lips touched hers, soft, tender. Just that one light meeting of lips and mingling of breath and she wanted more. More than she’d ever wanted for herself. For the first time in her life, she wanted to love this man and be loved by him. She had a thousand dreams run through her mind, and all of them were filled with Blake.

About the Author

Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted Series and The McBrides Series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.

Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.    

Connect with the Author

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Giveaway


Monday, March 16, 2015

Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Risk by Skye Jordan





Author: Skye Jordan
Release Date: March 16, 2015
Category: Hot Contemporary Romance

Book Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Skye Jordan, Xtreme Heroes is a brand new series starring super-hot extreme athletes and their adventures.

The Risk, Book 1:

Former Olympian turned physical therapist to the elite Julia Bailey knows all about pushing the limits. But when a sexual harassment suit costs her a dream job—not to mention her reputation—she takes on the biggest risk of her life. Rehabilitating the X Games’ most notorious bad boy might be just what she needs to secure the funds for her own treatment center. Problem is, the only kind of recovery her new client is interested in is under-the-covers freestyle—gear optional. 

Daredevil snowboarder Noah Hunt is a rock star—on and off the slopes. A recent accident might have him down, but he’s far from out. He doesn’t care what the sexy therapist with the sweet curves says. He’s got sponsors to impress and trophies to collect, and taking things slow and steady just ain’t his style. A little dirty talk and a sizzling night later, Julia learns just how fast and hard he likes to play. Too bad for him, his heart goes all in, and one wrong move could cost him more than just his career. 

 Buy Links


~~~

Excerpt from The Risk by Skye Jordan

He hobbled to the double doors, then followed the hallway of heated slate to the kitchen, where the mystery noises had originated. And, yep, there was definitely another female standing behind the open refrigerator door—the slim, pretty bare feet and fire-engine-red toenails confirmed it.

But the ménage idea slid further out of the picture when he focused on the trashcan sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor.
           
What the hell? He rubbed his face, trying to force himself more awake, then pressed a hand against the nearest wall, drew a breath, and said, “Hello?”

“Oh, you’re awake.” Her voice was as pretty as her feet. Already an improvement over the woman on his couch. Maybe his standards hadn’t fallen all that far after all. But her voice was also extremely clear and perky, which was highly annoying under the circumstances. “Sorry, I was trying to be quiet, but it’s getting late, and there’s a lot to do.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He rubbed his eyes again and focused on the counters, which were covered with crap from the cupboards. Another flash of annoyance singed his skin. “Who are you? And what the hell are you doing?”

She peeked her head around the fridge. “It’s me, Julia— Oh. Wow. Nice look.” Her gaze took a quick scan of his body before she disappeared behind the fridge door again. “You’re taller than I expected. Aren’t most snowboarders smallish? Bet you have to compensate for a higher-than-average center of gravity. You’ll have to explain all that to me. But go ahead and get dressed first. I’ve got my work cut out for me here anyway.” She paused only a second before muttering, “Talk about toxic…”

Noah’s mind was spinning into one hellacious knot. He’d barely caught more than a glimpse of dark hair and a slim face, one he didn’t recognize any more than that of the woman in his theater.

Thud, thud, thud. Yogurt cups flew into the trashcan.

“Expired,” she muttered. “It’s a miracle you haven’t gotten E. coli from all the crap in here.” 

“What the hell are you doing?” Christ, he didn’t want to deal with this now—but there was a stranger in his house, tearing apart his kitchen, and another barely dressed in his theater. And Noah didn’t know what the hell was happening.

He limped into the kitchen and leaned against the counter opposite the refrigerator. With his hands braced on the granite, he took all pressure off his bad foot. But it was too late. The damn thing throbbed as if it were inhabited by an alien. Looked a lot like something off an alien too, puffy and discolored.

This was seriously screwed. His body was a complete pile of shit. It had been almost four goddamned months since the accident, and he was done with this injury. He’d worked his ass off to heal, had made real strides. Now this?

He pried his gaze from his foot and focused on strange woman number two. She was dressed in a blue-and-purple sport tank top and black, shin-length workout pants that hugged a sleekly curved backside. His gaze traveled over her tight ass, up to her sculpted shoulders, and paused on her dark ponytail. Noah immediately reassessed the ménage theory. This was a sporty chick, the kind Noah never chose to share his bed—or sofa, in this situation. He got enough of the athletic type on the slopes. The woman in his theater, he understood bringing home. This one was—no..

He thought back to the night before. Maybe she was a new member of the US Snowboarding team he didn’t know. Maybe she was some crazy-ass fangirl or groupie who’d tagged along last night.

This Julia chick pulled Styrofoam cartons filled with leftovers from various restaurants and tossed them into the trash—most of which contained steak, lobster, or shrimp.

“Whoa,” he said. “That’s all still good—”

“You’re going to have to stop eating out.” She cut him off, her voice matter-of-fact but resolute. “Almost all restaurants cook with lousy oils. You’re getting way too many trans-fatty Omega 6s. We’ll have to beef up your Omega 3s. You’ll see a difference in a week from that change alone.”

“What in the hell…?” he murmured, his mind beginning to open to the idea that she was a nut job on the loose. “How did you get into my house?”

“Your garage door is open. I just came through there.” She pulled out the vegetable drawer and made a low, ugly sound in her throat, then proceeded to pull out plastic bags filled with produce and drop them in the trash as if they might contaminate her. “I figured you were still sleeping since you were out last night when Drake and I talked to you.”

“Drake?” That was the key to this problem—Noah’s meddling agent. “I should have known. Are you his new girlfriend or something?”

She cut Noah a glare. “As if.”

Her attitude annoyed him. This was his house, dammit. “Answer me, or I’m calling the police.”

She turned to face him with two jars of jam, one in each hand, and her front view was as impressive as her backside. Full, high breasts filling the Lycra fabric of her workout tank, a flat belly showing between the hem of her top and the low waistband of her pants, and smooth thighs filling the black tights.

She was pretty too. A few years younger than him, she had a pixie-sweet face with smooth skin, high cheekbones and wide eyes. The kind of face that didn’t need makeup to look great. Maybe there was something to the athletic type after all.

“I was sitting in Drake’s office when you were on speaker with him last night,” she said, “so don’t try to pretend you don’t know anything about me.”

He put a palm to one eye and rubbed at the pain throbbing there. “Yeah, well…last night is still a little blurry.” He dropped his hand with frustrating scenarios popping to mind. “Shit, please tell me Drake didn’t send you to teach me yoga or something equally stupid.”

With heavy lids and an expression of disgust, she tossed both jars of perfectly good jam into the trash. “Yoga my ass.”

“What the…?” He fished the jam out of the trash and set it on the counter next to all the other food she’d pulled from his cabinets. “Would you knock that shit off? Look, I don’t know what Drake said, but—”

“Are you still drunk?”

“No,” he said, then closed his eyes, searching for patience. “I just don’t remember the conversation.”

“Un-freaking-believable.” She let the fridge door close, turned, and yanked open a cabinet, then grabbed his Lucky Charms in one hand, his Cocoa Puffs in the other.

“Uh-uh,” he said. “No way.”

“Noah, baby…” The female voice coming from the opposite direction stopped him from grabbing his treasured boxes of cereal. He’d completely forgotten about the fling chick.

He turned as she walked into the kitchen in exactly what she’d been wearing on the sofa, nothing but bra and panties.

Fuuuuuuuck. He certainly wasn’t a prude, but he wasn’t interested in flaunting his poor judgment either.

But there she was, standing in his kitchen, blurry eyed, big tits, curvy ass, long legs, bottle-blonde hair, and heavy makeup. She might look smeared and smudged now, but he was sure she’d looked damn flashy last night. At least that was what his morning-after brain was telling him. Now, though, there was no denying she looked about as good as Noah felt. Which reminded him he couldn’t look much better.

He dropped his head and rubbed his eyes on a heavy exhale of defeat.

What a clusterfuck.

About the Author

Skye Jordan is a pseudonym for New York Times bestselling romantic suspense author Joan Swan. Skye’s novels are about enjoying that little wild streak we don’t let out often enough. About those fantasies we rarely get the opportunity to indulge. About stretching limits, checking out the dark side, and maybe even acting a little naughty. They’re about escape and fun and pleasure and romance.

And, yes, even love, because while wicked-great sex is good, happily ever after with wicked-great sex is even better.

Skye (aka Joan) lives on the central coast of California in the heart of wine country with her husband and two daughters. As often as possible, she retreats to a hotel with critique partners for a power-writing week where much drinking, laughing, and yes, even working, ensues. When she’s not writing, Skye goes to breakfast with her hubby, attends her daughters’ barrel races, and spends a lot of time with her own horse, Riddle…while her two dogs, Paxton and Indie, tag along. She also loves to read, knit, craft, row, ride, and dabble in photography.

~~~
 Giveaway Information

Tour-wide giveaways include:
  • (34) $10.00 gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice)
  • (20) Digital books (winner’s choice from Renegades series)
  • Grand Prize of a Kindle HD

To enter, be sure to comment on the blog post about what you thought of the excerpt (need to document it in the Rafflecopter, though to be entered – when you sign in you will see where). Additional entry opportunities available via the Rafflecopter widget below!


Blog Tour Stops

There are five excerpts on this tour – one for each day of the week so be sure to visit the other blogs to read a different excerpt from the book. The excerpts are not connected, so you can read them at any time. Some of the blogs will also be featuring reviews, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015 (Excerpt 1)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 (Excerpt 2)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 (Excerpt 3)

Thursday, March 19, 2015 (Excerpt 4)

Friday, March 20, 2015 (Excerpt 5)


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