Friday, November 28, 2014

Early Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: NetGalley
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.
Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.
Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

Not exactly a re-telling, since this story is about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, but it still lives in the land of fairytales.
I thought it was kind of dry and crunchy, but a decent read. 
I really liked the lack of insta-love, but the relationship between Niklass and Aurora had a bit too much I-Love-You-But-Won't-Be-With-You-For-Stupid-Reasons at the end, for me to feel it was a total success.

Sleeping Beauty (whom Aurora is named after) didn't have quite the Disney ending in this story. Her husband was not only a cheater, but his actions left her and her children vulnerable to the evil Troll Queen. They were imprisoned while he was out scurrying around looking for a little action on the side, and Aurora's mother was forced to impart her fairy blessing on Aurora, in order to save both of the children.
Unfortunately, to give Aurora a fairy Gift, she had to kill herself, and then use her last breath to impart the blessing. She did her best to ensure that her daughter wouldn't suffer the same fate as she did, and blessed her with warrior strength, mercy, and a heart no man would abuse.
Sounds alright, no?
Well, (like most fairy Gifts) this one went a little dark. Instead of protecting Aurora from cheaters like her father, it made it so any man she kissed turned into a husk that only wanted to please her.
So. Unless the poor kid wants to date a zombie, her love life was a no-go.

Enter Niklass, who has also been cursed. His father wanted to make sure none of his sons ever tried to take the throne from him, so he had a witch put the whammy on them.
So, on their 18th birthday, they all turn into swans.
Sounds like another fairytale...
I thought it was cool that there were references to other fairytales twisted around the story.

Psst. I don't consider this next piece of information a spoiler, because it doesn't have anything to do with the plot. It's just mentioned in passing.
But if you're a stickler for things, then skip the next paragraph.

There's a witch who stole a girl from her parents, and then locked her in a tower. But the interesting thing Jay did was turn the tale of Rapunzel on it's ear.
See, the girl's parents were neglectful and abusive, so she was actually rescuing her. And she locked her in a tower, because she got addicted to a drug, and that was the only way she could think of to dry her out. Cool, huh? 
There's also girl in a red hood who travels with a wolf, and possibly a few others I missed.

But back to Niklass the soon-to-be Bird Prince.
He's on a mission to marry a princess, and he's got his sights set on Aurora. 
Not that he's ever met her...
He needs to get married in order to break his curse, and the girl he marries has to be in line to inherit more than him. That way, it takes him out of the running to take his father's throne, and by default, he'll be immune to the curse.

Meanwhile, Aurora's younger brother, Jor, has been captured by the Troll Queen. So, Aurora has set out, dressed as a boy, in the hopes of raising an army to save him. Niklass ends up rescuing her from a camp full of bad guys, thinking that he's rescuing Jor. He hopes to convince 'Jor' to lead him to his sister, 'Aurora', so that he can convince her to marry him.
On the other hand, 'Ror' (as she likes to be called) decides to see if she can get Niklass to help her find and army in exchange for an introduction to...well, herself
She tries to convince Niklass, once they're on the road, that the princess will never marry him, though.

Along the way, they become friends, but with each of them harboring their secret curses, it doesn't look like there's any way for them to get a Happily Ever After.

All in all, it's good for a fairytale-like story.
It's not really fast-paced, and it didn't make me want to gush, but it was pretty good overall.
The ending was a bit over the top, but I walked away from it satisfied.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Release Day Review: Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson (Illustrator)

Release Date: November 25, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: DC
Author Links: Goodreads | Website

A new original graphic novel in DC's popular "Earth One" series, TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE follows in the tradition of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and BATMAN: EARTH ONE, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers.
The Teen Titans never felt like normal kids... but they had no idea how right they were. Their seemingly idyllic Oregon upbringing hides a secret -- one that will bring killers, shamans, and extraterrestrials down on their heads, and force them into an alliance that could shake the planet to its foundations!
Superstars Jeff Lemire (ANIMAL MAN, GREEN ARROW) and Terry Dodson (WONDER WOMAN) reinvent DC's youngest heroes, with an all-new mythos in an all-new world!

Pretty cool retelling of the Teen Titans' origin story.
These Earth One books have been hit-or-miss for me, so I went into this hopeful, but not salivating. Earth One titles (in case you aren't familiar with them) are basically What If  stories, that re-imagine the beginnings of some of DC's most iconic characters. They don't fit into the continuity of the regular DC universe, so the authors can kind of do whatever they want, without it causing ripple effects. 

First off, for all the fans out there who have been screaming bloody murder over Starfire's over-sexualization in some of other titles?
You can officially put down your torches and pitchforks. The majority of this book, you only see her eyes (sort of), and when you finally do see her, she's wrapped up in cloth from the neck down.
Like a mummy!

Ok. In this story, most of the (eventual) Teen Titans (Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy, and Jericho) meet in high school.
Two exceptions.
Starfire, whose alien DNA has been used for experiments, and is currently in stasis at a lab.
And Raven, who's not the daughter of a demon in this one, but a Native American with somewhat undefined powers.
The other four kids are seemingly normal teenagers until they all start hearing Starfire's voice n their heads, asking for help. The voice triggers the different latent powers in each of them to go into some sort of  hyper-drive.
Except Jericho.
He seemingly remains a normal kid.

The plot reminded me of  Kelley Armstrong's young adult trilogy, Darkness Rising. In that one, a group of teenagers lived in a isolated town, blissfully unaware that the company their parents work for had been injecting them with stuff that eventually gives them supernatural powers. 
An experimental town, so to speak.
Now, I'm not suggesting that Jeff Lemire ripped-off a young adult series. I doubt he's ever even heard of it. But if you know the plot of those books, then you'll understand the comparison.
The kids in Earth One are also 'experiments', and are unaware of the part their parents played in their new abilities. Now they've gotta go on the run, search for answers, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The Terry Dodson's art fits with the feel of the book. It's got a cartoony vibe to it, without being weirdly exaggerated. Good stuff.
And this is really just sort of silly, but I'm wondering if anyone else thought the dark haired chick on the cover was Amanda Waller? Maybe because I'd been looking at a tiny cover on my computer, but I was actually surprised to realize that it was Raven.

Overall, I liked this one, and I'm interested in seeing where they go with this story.

Monday, November 24, 2014

[Coffee Shop Talks] Our Favorite Publishers!

Tor is one of my favorite publishers because of all the wonderful fantasy novels they release. I also love following their site because the content is always interesting. I've read plenty of great short stories there. Here are some of my favorite Tor authors..

Ann Aguirre | Jenna Black | Deborah Coates | Sharon Lynn Fisher | Suzanne Johnson | Joseph Nassise

Many of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy series are published by Orbit. Paradox, Parasitology, and The First Law are some of the best. Also, they have the nicest publicists =) Some great Orbit authors are...

Rachel Bach | Gail Carriger | Kristen Painter | Joe Abercrombie | Kate Locke | Mira Grant

I'm always finding wonderful new authors through Berkley/NAL. My three new favorites this year are Daniel Price, Juliet Marillier, and S.J. Harper.

Do you have any favorite publishing houses? 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Early Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte press
Source: NetGalley
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.
"There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor.
Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.
All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?
Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.

First off, how fabulous is that cover?!
Stunning! Beautiful, haunting, gorgeous. etc..
I seriously wish I had a hardback edition of this book, because I'd display the shit out of it.

I really enjoyed the writing, the pace, and the whodunnit murder-mystery aspect of it. 
I picked it up yesterday afternoon, and I finished it before bedtime.
It's not a short book, so that says something right there. So, even with all of the flaws, I couldn't bring myself to 1 star this book for that reason alone.

Sadly, there were issues.
Issues that simply cannot be overlooked and swept under the rug, regardless of how quickly I devoured it.

The magic.
This was downright hokey.
Her hands crack open, and water comes out? WTF?! 
As a plain mystery, this would have been a much better story, but whatever this 'elemental power' thing was, just kind of ruined it. It was campy, ill-explained, and ultimately mostly unnecessary.

The romance...
And I'm being totally serious when I say this.
It was such a calf-eyed insta-love, that I thought it was a red herring to throw us off the trail. I assumed that there was no way for this to be an actual romance worth taking seriously. The end would clear it out of the way, she would find someone else (or not), and I didn't need to worry that this bullshit was for real.
Ridiculous doesn't even begin to explain how awful it was. I just can't...

The ending.
Did no one care enough to step up and tell the author that this was a wad of unbelievable nonsense? 
I have a hard time believing that anyone out there would be able to cheerfully swallow that down as a remotely reasonable explanation.
I'm wrong. Of course I'm wrong, because I see several 4 and 5 star reviews for this, so, yeah.
Some folks bought it.
And I don't want to spoil anything for someone who wants to read this one with my ranting. However, if you definitely don't ever want to read this, then you can click this link for SPOILERS

In the end, I'd say the writing was good, but the unbelievability of some of the plot elements really took its toll on me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Early Review: Light My Fire (Dragon Kin #7) by G.A. Aiken

Release Date: November 25, 2014
Publisher: Zebra
Source: NetGalley
Author Links: Website | Goodreads
The trouble with humans is that they're far too sensitive. Forget you put a woman in the local jail for a few months--and she takes it so personally! And yet she is the one trying to assassinate the queen. And now I'm trapped with Elina Shestakova of the Black Bear Riders of the Midnight…gods! That endless name!
But what am I to do? I am Celyn the Charming with direct orders from my queen to protect this unforgiving female.
Even more shocking, this unforgiving female is completely unimpressed by me. How is that even possible? But I know what I want and, for the moment, I want her. And I'm sure that she, like all females, will learn to adore me. How could she not when I am just so damn charming?

Love them!
Violent characters, funny dialogue, and silly situations...what's not to like?
But first, you've gotta forget that you read that blurb. It's a somewhat accurate description of a teeny tiny bit of the book. Celyn and Elina are the romantic lead in this one, but there is so much more going on between the pages!
And all of our favorite characters from the past books are back!
I think I'm already going a little crazy with the exclamation points. Maybe? Just a bit?

ATTENTION! This is a Big Deal:
You've really gotta read these in order.
This may seem like PNR about some hot dragon shape-shifters, but these aren't just self-contained lurve stories that happen to be set in the same world.
There's stuff! Important battles, plots, and stuff that you've got to already know about. Or, at least, you'll wish you knew about.
There's more than just raunchy sex with a lizard between these pages, ladies!
Evil witches, poisonous princesses, and children who plot to kill their parents...
And then there's also the bad guys!
If you've had the pleasure of reading any of these books, then you know that the heroes and heroines are all kind of  morally iffy. This book is no exception.
In fact, there's a scene that involves Elina's evil mother, an axe, and the Mad Queen Annwyl that I simply can't get out of my mind.
*winces...crosses legs*
But there's a lot of humor to go with all blood, gore, and sex.
I had forgotten how funny these books were, until I found myself giggle-snorting through the majority of this one.
I don't want to spoil anything for fans of the series, but it looks like there are some BIG changes on the horizon, and quite a few of them involve those crazy Abominations.
*flails wildly*
As I mentioned, everyone shows up in this one...including the children!
*deep breath*
Obviously, this isn't going to be something that everyone is going to love, but if you like PNR that doesn't take it'self too seriously, then this is a series you might like. And if you like mean, self-centered, obnoxious, violent, characters, as well?
Then you need to check these out. Now.

Light My Fire was another hilarious installment in Aiken's Dragon Kin world, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Seriously! Go get it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest Blog with Author Jeffe Kennedy (The Tears of the Rose)!

Three sisters. Motherless daughters of the high king. The eldest is the warrior-woman heir;the middle child is shy and full of witchy intuition;and the youngest, Princess Amelia, she is as beautiful as the sun and just as generous.
Ami met her Prince Charming and went away to his castle on the stormy sea-cliffs—and that should have been her happily ever after. Instead, her husband lies dead and a war rages. Her middle sister has been taken into a demon land, turned into a stranger. The priests and her father are revealing secrets and telling lies. And a power is rising in Ami, too, a power she hardly recognizes, to wield her beauty as a weapon, and her charm as a tool to deceive…
Amelia has never had to be anything but good and sweet and kind and lovely. But the chess game for the Twelve Kingdoms has swept her up in it, and she must make a gambit of her own. Can the prettiest princess become a pawn—or a queen?

Praise for The Twelve Kingdoms

“Well-written and swooningly romantic.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Will captivate you from beginning to end with a richly detailed fantasy world.” —RT Book Reviews

Paperback | 336 pages | Kensington | Release Date: November 25, 2014

ISBN-10: 075829445X | ISBN-13: 978-0758294456 | ASIN: B00KFP7YCW

The other day, having lunch with a friend, I told her about an idea I’m noodling for a new fantasy romance/romantic fantasy series. “It will have a matriarchal society,” I said and she kind of rolled her eyes at me. “All your books do,” she replied.

Which surprised me because that’s patently not true.  

In fact, the world of THE TWELVE KINGDOMS is pretty strongly patriarchal, though the degree of that varies from kingdom to kingdom. Still, there’s a High King who figures prominently and in THE TEARS OF THE ROSE, the patriarchy of Glorianna’s church and High Priest play a strong role. 

When I said as much she said that she meant because of the three goddesses. 

She has a point there. I didn’t deliberately set up the trio of goddesses – Glorianna, Moranu and Danu – to establish a female power structure. I did, however, have this sense that my three princesses, the daughters of the High King, had divine influences on their journeys. None of them are particularly heroic by nature, but circumstances force them into stepping up for their people and for each other. Each of the princesses finds strength from the guidance of her patron goddess, who also exemplifies her own personal strengths. 

I also didn’t set out to write a heroine-centric series so much as that’s what’s interesting to me. I’m a woman and I see the world through that lens. I want to ride along on another woman’s adventure and find out how she overcomes her flaws and shortcomings to become a better, stronger person. 

In THE TEARS OF THE ROSE, my youngest, most beautiful princess starts out almost fatally flawed. She’s hard to like in the beginning and has a long way to go. It means a great deal to me that readers say, though they wanted to slap her at first, by the end they loved and cheered her on. 

Now that’s a strong woman. 

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.  

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and a fifth, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, will release starting in July.  

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website:, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Foreword Literary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guest Post with Author Gwen Jones - Julia Child's Classic French Omelet!

The first time Rex and Charlotte lunch together he orders an omelet, a dish most Americans think of as breakfast. But in France, their rise-and-shine meal typically consists of much sweeter fare, coffee or hot chocolate with grilled bread or hard toasts, dipped in the hot drink or spread with butter, jam, or Nutella. Croissants, chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat), or other pastries also figures prominently on the breakfast table. The more substantial foods are saved for the later meals, and an omelet, paired with a small salad, would make a Parisian light lunch. In Julia Child’s recipe for a French Omelet below, she uses a method for unmolding the eggs from the pan that may seem complicated, but it produces a nicely folded omelet ideal for filling. 

French Omelet 
Makes 1 serving 

2 extra-large or 3 large or medium eggs 

Large pinch salt 
Several grinds black pepper 

1 teaspoon cold water (optional) 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra to garnish 

Several sprigs parsley, to garnish 

Combine the eggs, seasonings: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper and water, if using, until just blended. Set aside. 

Cook the omelet: Place a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the butter and tilt the pan in all directions to coat the bottom and sides. When the butter foam has almost subsided but just before it browns, pour in the eggs. 

Shake the pan briefly to spread the eggs over the bottom of the pan, then let the pan sit for several seconds undisturbed while the eggs coagulate on the bottom. If adding any fillings, such as sautéed vegetables, do so now. 

Start jerking the pan toward you, throwing the eggs against the far edge. Keep jerking roughly, gradually lifting the pan up by the handle and tilting the far edge of the pan over the heat as the omelet begins to roll over on itself. Use a rubber spatula to push any stray egg back into the mass. Then bang on the handle close to the pan with a fist and the omelet will start curling at its far edge. 

Unmold the omelet: Maneuver the omelet to one side of the pan. Fold the third of the omelet farthest from you over on itself. Lift the pan and hold a serving plate next to it. Tilt the pan toward the plate, allowing the omelet to slide onto it and fold over on itself into thirds. 

Presentation: Spear a lump of butter with a fork and rapidly brush it over the top of the omelet. Garnish with parsley. 

Source: Adapted recipe from Julia Child's "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" (Knopf, 2009). 

When Rex Renaud, the COO of Mercier Shipping, is arrested for a crime he didn't commit, he knows he'll need a miracle to clear his name … and sassy lawyer Charlotte Andreko is the perfect woman for the job. Charlotte has built her career defending pro bono clients against womanizers like Rex Renaud, and she'd much rather let him sweat it out in a jail cell than defend him in court. Yet Rex swears he's been set up, and when he offers her a shocking sum of money in exchange for her legal counsel, the financial security is too tempting to resist. The court dubs Rex a serious flight risk—how many people have their own jet?—and he's released on one condition: Charlotte's his new jailer, and he's stuck with her until his arraignment. But when a bomb threat sends Rex and Charlotte on the run, neither is prepared for the explosive chemistry and red-hot passion that flare between them as they hunt for the truth about his arrest. - See more at: 

Gwen Jones is a mentor and instructor in Western Connecticut State University’s Master in Creative and Professional Writing program, and an Assistant Professor of English at Mercer County College, in West Windsor, NJ. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, The Kelsey Review, and The Connecticut River Review, and she is the author of the HarperCollins Avon FRENCH KISS series, Wanted: Wife, Kiss Me, Captain, and The Laws of Seduction. A writer of women’s fiction and romance, she lives with her husband, Frank, near Trenton, New Jersey. 

Visit my website – Gwen Jones Writes
Like me on Facebook - gwenjoneswrites
Follow me on Twitter – @gwenjones25
Buy my books!  - See all titles

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