Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another Wowzer YA from Sarah J. Maas: HEIR OF FIRE

Click on the title below to find
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Bloomsbury Children's):
Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak—but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life—and her future—forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?
Why you should read it: Wow. Just wow.
And … wow.
I loved the first two books of this Cinderella-as-an-assassin epic fantasy (read the recs for Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight), but Heir of Fire// kept my pulse pounding through every one of its 562-plus pages.
Following dangerous revelations concerning Prince Dorian and Celaena, Chaol is having a difficult time finding a foothold — especially since Celaena has been sent away and he and Dorian, the friend who was once closer than a brother, are barely speaking. Meanwhile, in a faraway land, Celaena is broken and hopeless after being revealed for what she really is to the man she loves — only to see his disgust. Finally summoned to meet the dangerous Fae queen who might enable her to fulfill a promise given to a dying friend, Celaena is tasked with learning to control her powers by training with a powerful and harsh Fae warrior, Rowan.
Introducing of some seriously B.A. witches (can I say B.A without offending anyone? Hmmmm... I guess we'll find out...), a vicious wyvern or two you might end up wanting to hug, and mysterious beings so dark they make the evil creatures of the last two books look like tame little fluff monsters — oooh! And don't forget my latest book boyfriend Rowan: that harsh, silver-haired and tattooed warrior of Fae awesomeness! — this book cranks up the scale of the world, its inhabitants, and its lead character's emotional growth.
Don't let the length of the book scare you off from experiencing the violent, nasty, intriguing, beautiful, heartbreaking, romantic and exciting story therein. This story will consume your imagination and leave you drooling for more. Heir of Fire is epic fantasy gold.
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

RATING: 5.5 STARS -- so good!
CONTENT: EDGIEST (YA bordering on NA due to protagonist age) -- due to language, graphic violence, alcohol use, references to sex

Friday, September 26, 2014

Serena Recommends Inspy Romantic Fantasy: STORM SIREN by Mary Weber

Click the title below to find
Storm Siren by Mary Weber at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Thomas Nelson):
In a world at war, a slave girl's lethal curse could become one kingdom's weapon of salvation. If the curse — and the girl — can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, 17-year-old Nym isn't merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth - meaning, she shouldn't even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she's being prepared to fight ... not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn't want to be the weapon they've all been waiting for?
Why you should read it: One of my favorite things about this novel is how the pace unfolds just like a storm. Whether that was the author's plan, given her lead character's fantastic abilities, or a crazy random happenstance, I don't know; but from the moment the reader meets Nymia on the auction block, a deep, threatening charge, held off only by Nym's grief, shame, and fear, begins to build. As the story progresses, you can almost sense the dark clouds growing, building the tension toward the ultimate storm. And when that thunderhead finally breaks? Look out! There is no escape. You are utterly drenched in the action, drama, emotion — and a few moments of calm-within-the-storm beauty and truth — before the lightning cracks again and blows the sky apart.
The last one-fourth of the novel will keep you white-knuckled, and raggedly emotional — yes, I cried! — as evil and betrayal, romance and regret, sacrifice and surprise take you right up to the final scene that will no doubt leave you, as it did me, gasping from that hanging cliff for the sequel that cannot come too soon. Don't miss this one!
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
CONTENT: Edgier due to fantasy violence, incl that against children
STORY: 5 STARS

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Highly Recommended Tear-Jerker THIEF OF GLORY by Sigmund Brouwer

Click title below to find
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher WaterBrook Press):
A boy coming of age in a time of war … the love that inspires him to survive.
For 10-year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows — his frail, troubled mother.
Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah's boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.
When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God's light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.
Why you should read it: If you are looking for an easy read that won't uncomfortably stretch your heart, you probably should just skip this one. There is nothing easy about the life Jeremiah leads or the love to which he has committed himself. His love for Laura is both childlike and fierce, but like coal on its way to becoming a diamond, life exerts increments of pressure upon Jeremiah, chiseling away at his childhood to reveal the depth of his loyalty and his uncommon brand of resilience; but also like a diamond, those facets are carved within an otherwise abject beauty that might be mistaken for something less worthy when viewed with the incorrect lens.
Sigmund Brouwer's Thief of Glory is so much more than a romantic coming-of-age tale in a time of war. This novel is a violently heartrending literary romance that clasps a fist around your soul and squeezes you dry. I highly recommend reading this book with a box of tissues nearby and following it with a good cry — but I do recommend it. Highly.
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

STORY: 5 STARS
CONTENT: Edgier for Christian fiction due to war violence, bullying, and vivid descriptions scenes of concentration camp life and death

Friday, September 19, 2014

Giveaway!!! Serena Celebrates INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY with a riddle, some gift cards, and more!

Avast! 
It's a holiday, of sorts! 
Raise the anchor and loose the sails for my favorite day of the year!

That's right, me hearties. It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day 

In honor of this most auspicious event, there are several goings-ons of which you should be aware:

Click on the title below to find
The Seahorse Legacy by Serena Chase at Amazon

1. The Seahorse Legacy is on sale for just 99cents! (click the title for a link!) 

Tell your friends! Sale ends Sunday evening.




2. *GIVEAWAY*

I've a bit o' treasure to parcel out to me pirate crew 
(and if you are reading this post, that could be you!) 
To enter to win your share of this vast collection of shiny baubles*--er, also known as a $10 Amazon gift card, 3 ebooks by moi, 2 seahorse charm necklaces, & 5 autographed book posters--answer this incredibly barmy riddle in the comments below:


My coils are artistry, my strength comes in cords
I'll help hoist up yer sails and I'll play tugs of wars.
What am I?

(p.s.  you can also enter via the Rafflecopter form, which is easier, especially if you don't have the patience for riddles.) ;) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*Due to the volume of prizes to be given, this giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. 11 prizes total, 1 prize per winner. Thanks for understanding!
Read up, me hearties, yo ho! 

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_11567569_pirate-girl-with-scroll-vector-illustration.html'>saranai / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Serena Recommends ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE & CUPCAKES by Betsy St. Amant

Click on the title below to find
All's Fair in Love & Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Zondervan):
Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.
Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie's bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.
But when Lucas Brannen, Kat's best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary ... and a job at a famous bakery in New York.
As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself — her — is suddenly in danger of slipping away.
The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat's senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams ... or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.
Why you should read it: In many contemporary romances and romantic comedies there is a sense of one character chasing the other toward romance, but Betsy St. Amant differentiates this sweet story from many of its shelf-mates by showing the love, loyalty, hope and fear both Kat and Lucas feel about the possibility of adding romance to the comfortable flavor of their longtime friendship.
Kat and Lucas are both afraid of rejection and neither can imagine a future without the other, but they are hindered by knowing that if a romance is tried and fails, they can never go back to the way things were before. Using a passage from Song of Solomon as an anchoring theme, St. Amant pours sweet hints of romance into the friendship with long looks, an acceptable (and endearing) bit of co-dependence, gentle comfort, several near-kisses and a couple of accidental — but all-encompassing! — kisses, too.
In Lucas and Kat, Betsy St. Amant has created two very human, likable and empathetic characters, taking what could have been a cutesy, reality-TV rom-com and giving it the depth and heart needed to make readers reserve a spot for this sweet story on their keeper shelf. A tender romance frosted with fun, All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is quite pleasing to the romance lover's palate.
(originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
STORY: 4 stars
CONTENT: barely Edgy(ish) but only for a heated, tempting kiss or two. This story is sweet without hurting your teeth--and I enjoyed it immensely!

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