Review: WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

Full disclosure: I am an ardent Claire Legrand fangirl. I adore her middle grade books and shove them into my TTT lists whenever I can. I converse with her often online and have even met her in person. She’s wonderfully kind and funny, and I was so looking forward to her first foray into YA. Mechanical dragons! A Nutcracker retelling! Girls with knives! I was ready to love this book. It was a Shae book. I could feel it in my BONES.

Unfortunately, my bones are liar mcliarpants. I honestly can’t remember the last time I mourned over a negative review like this. I’ve avoided even thinking about this book for over a month just so I wouldn’t have to write this review. And now I just want to rip the band-aid off and be done with it, so buckle up. Continue Reading →

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Cover Love #77

CoverLove1

 

The signs are everywhere, Jory’s stepfather, Caleb, says. Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in an aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them, Jory’s life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don’t trust anyone outside the family, have your work boots at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

School is Jory’s only escape from Caleb’s tight grasp. With the help of new friends, he begins to explore a world beyond his family’s farm. Then Caleb notifies the family that the time has come for final preparations: digging in their backyard canyon at night. Every night.

As the hole gets deeper, so does Jory’s doubt about whether Caleb’s prophecy is true. When the real reason for their digging becomes clear, Jory must choose between living his own life or following behind Caleb, shutting his eyes to the bright world he’s just begun to see.

I have no idea what’s going on in this cover, but it’s awfully pretty. I’m a sucker for a night sky full of stars. Also, what’s the glow? Fire? Encroaching devastation? The little house is so mysterious, and I want to know what the items inside represent. The shovel makes sense, but the red bike? The blue bird? No idea!

What do you think of this cover?

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Book Tag: The TBR Tag

I’ve been tagged by Brittany at The Book Addict’s Guide for The TBR Tag! Yay!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Depends how you define TBR, to be honest. Usually, TBR means my to-read list for me, and for that I use Goodreads. Any time I see a book that interests me, I stick it on my TBR (and very rarely prune the list down.) I also keep track of my DNFs, my need-to-reads (own them, need to read them even if I may not WANT to), and DNFs I might want to retry someday.

When it comes to books I can actually get my hands on, I keep my unread books separate from my read books, and I keep track of my ARCs in Evernote by release date.

Is your TBR mostly print or ebook?

Print. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of eARCs, but my physical shelf is overflowing with things I need to enjoy. Honestly, the only time I’ll buy an e-copy of a finished book is if it’s 1) super cheap, 2) something I’ve already read, and 3) one of my absolute favorites.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I’ve actually talked about this before. ARCs get top priority and I read those based on release date, then I fit in my finished physical copies as I have time and based on my mood.

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest?

Oh gosh. I’ve had books on my shelf foreeeeeeeever. Like, I’ve owned Jurassic Park for forever and a day.

A book that you recently added to your TBR?

My latest addition to my physical shelf is an ARC of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. My latest addition to my Goodreads to-read shelf is The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman.

A book on your TBR strictly because it has a beautiful cover?

I do my best to avoid adding books solely because of pretty covers (see: the size of my TBR) but I can’t help staring at Deception’s Princess every time I see it. She looks like Merida!

A book on your TBR that you NEVER plan on actually reading?

I don’t think I’ll ever actually read Num8ers by Rachel Ward. I mean, I own a physical copy (from a giveaway) and it’s on my Goodreads list, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

SO MANY OPTIONS!! I mean, there are books by Leigh Bardugo, Rae Carson, Robin LaFevers, Rachel Hartman, and SO MANY OTHERS lurking on my list and my heart can’t handle it.

A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read except you?

Ermmmm… I actually haven’t read past book 3 of the Harry Potter series yet. I’m going to, don’t get me wrong, but I just haven’t made time yet.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

See above. *covers face in shame*

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

I really want to read The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. The ARC is waiting on my ereader, but it’s too far from the pub date. On my physical shelf, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay has been making eyes at me.

The number of books on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

1348 “to-read” books and 124 “need-to-read” books. -_-

I’m going to do like Brittany did and say that anyone reading this post can consider themselves tagged, but I’ll also specifically tag Gillian, Summer, and The Bookish Broads (Gaby and Lisa).

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Review: SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Oh, SNA, how ever am I going to give you a rating? You’re such a prickly mix of good elements and not-so-good elements, pieces that kept me hanging on every word and pieces that made me roll my eyes, fantastic moments and scoff-inducing scenes. WHAT AM I TO DO WITH YOU?! I’ll admit, I had a great time mocking parts of you, and yet I’m looking forward to your sequel.

Continue Reading →

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#RBWL Fall 2014 Recap

RBWL copy

Whoosh! Hallelujah, praise the Lord, it’s over. #RBWL was this past Friday. To tell the truth, I was dragging my feet over this round of the Wishlist. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to let it suck up my day, I didn’t want to promote it… I think a big part of the problem was I was concerned that people were getting tired of the hashtag. I didn’t want to bore anyone or bother their timelines, but after several people asked me specifically when #RBWL was coming back, well…

And you know what? I can’t speak for you all, but I had a blast. Old faces and new faces joined in and seemed to enjoy themselves, and several people said they were gleaning NaNo inspiration, which is just what I wanted.

Here are just a few of some of my favorite tweets (not including my own):

In case any of you were wondering, yes, the #RBWL Archives are still a thing, even though they haven’t been updated for ages. That’s part of my “Need to do someday” list. Sigh.

Also, I’ve decided that #RBWL will be scaled down to an annual event rather than a semi-annual event. I’m worried that people will just regurgitate old wishes if we keep to the October/April format, and #RBWL seems more useful just before NaNoWriMo anyways.

So thank you all for turning out on Friday, thank you for celebrating books and the wonderful stories and characters inside them, and thank you for continuing to strive for something more. See you all next year!

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Rewind & Review (68)

Rewind & Review

 

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Sparse week post-wise this week, but that’s okay. This Friday was #RBWL and I had to gird my loins for that.

Stuff I Received

  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (from Macmillan)

Thanks, Macmillan! I’m super-excited for this one!

Stuff I Bought

  • Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
  • Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

What I Read

  • Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock audiobook – So good. SO. GOOD. I love DJ and the Schwenks and Bryan and Beaner and ugggh. I’m so sad this series is over. Please, Murdock, more?
  • H2O by Virginia Bergin – FANTASTIC. Was wary going in but oh my word, I couldn’t put it down. Review to come.
  • Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios – Haven’t decided how I feel about this one. Review to come.

Event of the Week

There were actually two big events this week—one happy and one really, really not.

The happy event was #RBWL on Friday, which was fantastic and fun and refreshing. I didn’t do much pre-hype at all, so I wasn’t sure what the turnout would be like, but I loved the number of people who jumped in with new ideas. Also, several people said they gleaned some NaNo inspiration, which is doubly exciting!

The really, really unhappy event was Kathleen Hale’s article in The Guardian [this link is a Do Not Link, so it won't give traffic to The Guardian] where she essentially brags shamelessly about how she engaged with, obsessed over, and stalked a blogger over a negative review, culminating where she visited the blogger at home and at work. I spent the majority of Saturday in complete and utter RAGE. You can still find all my tweets in my timeline, but basically there is zero excuse for what Hale did, and I sincerely hopes Harper drops her like a bad penny. (Because if she had a “normal” job and reacted to someone like this, do you really think she’d still be employed?)

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Cover Love #76

CoverLove1

Sam and Lizzie are freezing and hungry on the streets of Victorian London. When Sam asks a wealthy man for some coins, he is rudely turned away. Months of struggle suddenly find their focus, and Sam resolves to kill the man. Huddling in a graveyard for warmth, Sam and Lizzie are horrified to see the earth around one of the tombs begin to shift, shortly followed by the wraithlike figure of a ghostly man. He warns Sam about the future which awaits such a bitter heart, and so begins Sam’s journey led by terrifying spirits through the past, present and future, after which Sam must decide whether to take the man, Scrooge’s, life or not.

A perfectly layered, tense and supremely satisfying twist on one of Dickens’ most popular books, cleverly reinvented to entice a younger readership.

I can’t. I CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN’T. I know I order you all to look at the pretty cover every week, but FOR REAL. LOOK AT IT. It’s so beautifully Burton-y. I don’t even think I can break everything down, because it’s all so wonderful TOGETHER. Look at the skeleton figures! Look at the spooky graveyard! Look at the chains! Look at the bright London lights! Look at the full moon! Look at the beautiful colors and the frost around the edges!

A Christmas Carol, the Dickens story this book is retelling, is practically in my blood. Y’all don’t even know. The combination of the description and the cover is too much for me to handle. I need to prostrate myself before my Bloomsbury people now.

What do you think of this cover?

 

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Sarah Beth Durst Talks Inspiration For CHASING POWER

Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive… or survive.

The idea for my new YA novel CHASING POWER came from one of those questions that you ask your friends late at night after you’ve finished dissecting everyone’s personal lives, speculating on the future of various relationships, and musing over the awesomeness of avocados.  Namely: “If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?”

My standard answer for years has been telekinesis.

(This is, of course, assuming that I can’t choose the power to end world hunger, cure all diseases, or other world-improving ability.)

So that’s where I began this novel: a girl with telekinesis.  But I didn’t want her too powerful, because then she could just rely on magic to solve her problems.  I wanted my girl to be clever. So I made it that Kayla can only lift very, very light things with her mind.

One idea is not a novel, though.  Novels need a whole lot more.

I’m convinced that novels aren’t born from a lightning strike Idea-with-a-capital-I, but are instead grown from lots of little sparks that stick together to create a blaze.  Here are a couple of the sparks that went into creating CHASING POWER:

1. Telekinesis — I’ve loved this power ever since I first read THE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES by Willo Davis Roberts and watching the movie Escape to Witch Mountain.

2. My mom — She has a Ph.D. in Mayan archaeology, and this inspired me to turn toward Guatemala for several key plot points.

3. My mom, again — She and I are close, and I know that inspired Kayla’s close relationship with her mother, even though character-wise Kayla and Moonbeam are nothing like my mom and me.

4. The year I spent living in Santa Barbara — Kayla lives in Santa Barbara, and all the State Street scenes are sprinkled with images from my memory.

5. Whatever National Geographic issue had pictures of old catacombs in Europe filled with displays of skills — There’s this one scene where… well, you’ll see

6. Another National Geographic issue that had an article on the People of the Clouds in Peru — See, hoarding magazines can be useful!

I could probably pick another half dozen things that filtered into my mind and came out into the novel, and there are probably at least a half dozen more that I’m not even aware of.

Whenever anyone asks, “Where do your ideas come from?” or “What’s your inspiration?” I always feel so cheesy answering, “Everywhere and everything.”  But I think that is actually the truest answer.

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nine fantasy novels for children, teens, and adults, including Conjured, Vessel, and Ice. Her most recent YA novel, Chasing Power, came out in October 2014 from Bloomsbury, and her next middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, is scheduled for release in fall 2015 from HMH/Clarion Books. Sarah was awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times.

Sarah was born in Northboro, Massachusetts, a small town that later became the setting for her debut novel. At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories. She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and two children.

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