Friday, 19 October 2018

Excerpt Reveal: Shadow and Ice - Gena Showalter


The Queen of Paranormal Romance, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Gena Showalter, stuns with SHADOW AND ICE, the first title in her scorching new paranormal romance series Gods of War Series. Check out the sneak peek below and pre-order your copy of SHADOW AND ICE today!


Gena Showalter, the New York Times bestselling author who brought you the Lords of the Underworld, introduces a scorching new paranormal romance series… Gods of War.

Knox of Iviland has spent his life competing in the All Wars, where vicious warriors with supernatural powers fight to the death to claim new realms. One winner takes everything—and all losers die. Enslaved as a child for his ability to control shadows, the most ruthless champion in history will stop at nothing to kill his king. But first he must win the battle for Earth. When a fearsome weapon imprisons every combatant in ice, centuries pass without progress…until she walks in.

Vale London craves a fun arctic getaway with her foster sister before settling down to open a bakery. Street-tough but vulnerable, she is unprepared to find ancient gods escaping a frozen cave—merciless beings who target her when she inadvertently enters their war.

Though Vale is now his enemy, Knox is consumed with lust and a fierce need to protect her. But only one combatant can prove victorious, and he will have to choose: live for freedom, or die for love.




“I love this world…this is Gena Showalter at her best!”—J.R. Ward, #1 New York Times bestselling author


“The Gods of War series is my new obsession.”—Christine Feehan, #1 New York Times bestselling author


Excerpt:

Wearier by the second, Shiloh scrubbed a hand down his face. “This is my first All War. I knew it would be tough, but I am my home’s strongest competitor, and I believed I could do…anything. I was wrong.”

“You sound as if you’re eager to die. Good news. I’m happy to help.”

“I’m sure you are, but I don’t want to die. I don’t want to kill, either.”

“Ah, I see. You’d rather make your people suffer.”

Shiloh glowered.

For the “privilege” of participating in an All War, a realm’s sovereign had to give the High Council thou­sands of children. The exact number depended on a combatant’s order of elimination. The faster you were eliminated, the more your realm had to pay. But in order to forfeit a war entirely, sovereigns had to hand over even more children.

From infancy to the age of eighteen, boy or girl, chil­dren were chattel, commodities raised to be Enforcers.

Only the winning realm was exempt.

“My people already suffer,” Shiloh said. “Our realm is overcrowded.”

Iviland was overcrowded as well, more and more im­mortals born or created every day. New realms were desperately needed.

In the beginning, whenever a new one was discov­ered, multiple armies invaded at once. Battles raged, the trespassers hoping to seize control. Violence spread far and wide, ultimately destroying everything, leaving the lands uninhabitable.

Under the guise of saving future domains, ruling factions created the High Council and All War—an on­going battle between a single representative from each otherworld, the new realm acting as the arena.

In the past few months, the people of Terra had begun fighting back and setting traps. Not a first, but definitely a problem on days like today. The citizens weren’t bound by assembly rules. But then, they had no supernatural abilities and were no match for immortals.

Knox had seen no sign of a human army today. Maybe they’d fled in fear? To them, combatants were gods.

Knox, they’d nicknamed Loki, the “evil trickster.” A moniker he bore with pride.

“When I killed a woman I respected, a part of my soul died,” Shiloh said, pulling him from his thoughts. “Why can’t the realms reach terms without bloodshed?”

“Greed.” Why else?

Movement at the side of a mountain. Knox slid his gaze across the ice—at last. Zion. A man of six and a half feet, like Knox, with dark hair, wide shoulders and a body honed on the most savage battlefields with no hint of softness. Also like Knox.

But unlike Knox, he refused to use the weapons he won. Reasons unknown. The choice angered Knox, even though it aided his cause. Such a waste.

He tightened his grip on his most prized possessions—the daggers he’d taken from his first victim. The blades were serrated, hooked at the tip, and had brass knuckle hilts. With a single blow, he could slice, dice and pul­verize.

Zion reached the check-in point and spread his arms, all Here I am, come and get me. Embedded in his arms were jewels, each one set in specific patterns, as bold as the man himself. On his hands, a pair of spiked metal gloves able to punch through anything.

I want. I take.

Locked on tonight’s target.

Anticipation resurged and redoubled, burning inside Knox, and growing hotter by the second. Zion was a warrior he would gladly slay.

“Come.” Knox jumped from his perch, falling down, down, landing a few yards away from the check-in point. Though the impact jarred him, he walked forward without a hitch in his step, boots crunching in the snow.

Shiloh jumped, as well, and hurried to catch up.

As they passed the invisible wall that sealed them inside the clearing, Knox experienced a familiar and abhorrent vibration from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. His ability to control shadows had just been neutralized.

“So nice of you to join us,” Bane said, his tone as smug and condescending as ever.

Like most Adwaewethians, he had pale hair, golden eyes—and a beast trapped within. When the creature took control of his body, his appearance changed. He became a monster, hideous beyond compare, strong beyond compare, and developed an appetite for blood. No one and nothing was safe.

About Gena Showalter:

Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the spellbinding Lords of the Underworld and Angels of the Dark series, two young adult series--Everlife and the White Rabbit Chronicles--and the highly addictive Original Heartbreakers series. In addition to being a National Reader's Choice and two time RITA nominee, her romance novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan (Red Hot Read) and Seventeen magazine, she's appeared on Nightline and been mentioned in Orange is the New Black--if you ask her about it, she'll talk for hours…hours! Her books have been translated in multiple languages.

She’s hard at work on her next novel, a tale featuring an alpha male with a dark side and the strong woman who brings him to his knees. You can learn more about Gena, her menagerie of rescue dogs, and all her upcoming books at genashowalter.com or Facebook.com/genashowalterfans

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Thursday, 18 October 2018

Spotlight & Updated Review: Tangleweed and Brine - Deirdre Sullivan

New Paperback Edition
with extra story included
Paperback edition of bestselling book from 2017, with a bonus story in this edition

A collection of thirteen dark, feminist retellings of traditional fairytales from one of Ireland's leading writers for young people.

In the tradition of Angela Carter, stories such as Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin are given a witchy makeover, not for the faint-hearted.

Intricately illustrated with black and white line drawings, in the style of Aubrey Beardsley, by a new Irish illustrator Karen Vaughan.

Visit Deirdre Sullivan's website for more information

Review:
***** I've already posted most of this review before but I wanted to update it to include the additional short story only available in the new paperback edition of the book *****

Tangleweed and Brine is a collection of thirteen feminist fairytale retellings (fourteen in the new paperback edition) written by Deirdre Sullivan and beautifully illustrated by Karen Vaughan. Even as an ebook it's a gorgeous book but I really think I'm going to have to invest in a hardback copy for my library.

These stories aren't always easy to read, just like traditional fairytales they're dark and sometimes disturbing, they definitely don't have the Disney happy endings we've grown so used to these days! In fact you'll probably find some of these stories are now even darker than the original versions but they're very reflective of the way women were treated at the time the originals were written and they feel very true because of that. These stories don't all have happy endings for the female characters but some of the girls manage to find their own path and take revenge on the people who wronged them which I loved.

In case you're interested here's a list of the stories included (and the original tale they're based on):
1. Slippershod (Cinderella)
2. The Woodcutter's Bride (Little Red Riding Hood)
3. Come Live Here and be Loved (Rapunzel)
4. You Shall Not Suffer... (Hansel and Gretel)
5. Meet the Nameless Thing and call it Friend (Rumplestiltskin)
6. Sister Fair (Fair, Brown and Trembling)
7. Ash Pale (Snow White)
8. Consume or be Consumed (A Little Mermaid)
9. Doing Well (The Frog Prince)
10. The Tender Weight (Bluebeard)
11. Riverbed (Donkeyskin)
12. The Little Gift (The Goose Girl)
13. Beauty and the Board (Beauty and the Beast)
14. Waking Beauty (Sleeping Beauty) - this new story is in the paperback edition only!

It's hard to pick a favourite story but I think it would probably have to be either Riverbed for sheer creep factor and the brilliant ending or The Little Gift which adds a lesbian romance to the tale of The Goose Girl.

Just one of the gorgeous illustrations you'll find in this book,
this one is from The Little Gift.

The new story in the paperback edition is called Waking Beauty and is based on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. It was surprising to see that this story was from a male POV (I believe all the others are from the women's POV) but that made so much sense once the story gets going. An interesting look at some men's sense of entitlement when it comes to what women owe them and particularly relevant today when we're talking more and more about Me Too and rape culture. I think that was possibly my new favourite story in the collection!

Source: Received from Little Island Books in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Hardback Cover
Hardback / Kindle / New Paperback with extra story included:

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Review: Temeraire - Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik’s stunning series of novels follow the global adventures of Captain William Laurence and his fighting dragon Temeraire as they are thrown together to fight for Britain during the turbulent time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson's navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society's esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores.

After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence's men must take the beast in hand and join the aviators' cause, thus relinquishing all hope of a normal life.

But when the newly-hatched dragon ignores the young midshipman Laurence chose as its keeper and decides to imprint itself on the horrified captain instead, Laurence's world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire...

Temeraire Series:
Vici (Short Story)
Temeraire (Published as His Majesty's Dragon in the US)
Feast or Famine (Short Story)
Throne of Jade
Black Powder War
Empire of Ivory
Victory of Eagles
Tongues of Serpents
Crucible of Gold
Blood of Tyrants
League of Dragons
Golden Age and Other Stories (Short Story Collection)

Visit Naomi Novik's website for more information

Review:
Temeraire (published with the title His Majesty's Dragon in the US) is the first book in Naomi Novik's alternate history series set during the Napoleonic Wars but with the addition of dragons and an Aerial Corps to the fighting forces.

Laurence was a Navy Captain who expected to come home a hero after capturing a French ship containing a rare dragon egg, after all the eggs are precious and hard to come by and the Aerial Corps are always trying to get more of them, but things got slightly problematic when they realised that the dragon would hatch before they could get it safely back to dry land. You see, dragons create a special bond with someone from the moment they are born and once that bond has been made it is very hard to break it. Nobody on Laurence's ship wanted to take on that bond and be forced to leave the Navy to instead join the less well thought of Aerial Corps. Laurence would never have chosen to bond himself to newly hatched dragon Temeraire but thats exactly the situation he finds himself in and now his life will never be the same again.

I enjoyed this book so much, the pace is actually pretty slow in places but that's because this is all about setting up the world, introducing the main players and watching Laurence and Temeraire bond and train together. There are some great battles at sea both at the beginning and end of the book and I loved the aerial fights between the dragons too. What I loved most was Temeraire and the other dragons though, the fact that they can talk was wonderful and the conversations between Temeraire and Laurence always left me smiling. Laurence may not have chosen his new life but he accepts his responsibility towards Temeraire and does everything he can to keep his dragon happy and healthy. I loved the way that older, bigger dragons are basically like airships that have whole crews on board when they go into battle. I enjoyed the dragon hierarchy and the competition between the humans too.

This is nothing like Uprooted or Spinning Silver but I can already tell I'm going to love this series so I can't wait to start reading the next one.

Source: Purchased

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Review: Vici - Naomi Novik

This story can be read for free on the Fantasy Magazine website

Also published in The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Jack Dann.

“Well, Antonius,” the magistrate said, “you are without question a licentious and disreputable young man. You have disgraced a noble patrician name and sullied your character in the lowest of pursuits, and we have received testimony that you are not only a drunkard and a gambler—but an outright murderer as well.”

With an opening like that, the old vulture was sending him to the block for sure. Antony shrugged, philosophically; he’d known it was unlikely his family could have scraped together enough of a bribe to get him let go. Claudius’s family was a damn sight richer than his; and in any case he could hardly imagine his stepfather going to the trouble.


Temeraire Series:
Vici (Short Story)
Temeraire (Published as His Majesty's Dragon in the US)
Feast or Famine (Short Story)
Throne of Jade
Black Powder War
Empire of Ivory
Victory of Eagles
Tongues of Serpents
Crucible of Gold
Blood of Tyrants
League of Dragons
Golden Age and Other Stories (Short Story Collection)

Visit Naomi Novik's website for more information

Review:
Vici is a free short story in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series that can be read for free on the Fantasy Magazine website. Set in Ancient Rome this is long before events in the first book and there is no crossover of characters so this works well as a standalone or introduction to the series.

Antonius is the son of a noble but even a wealthy family will only get you so far when you've built up the amount of dept that he has. The magistrate has given him two options to clear his debt to society, the first is execution and the second is to singlehandedly slay a large dragon that has been terrorising local villages. Everyone knows he's very unlikely to survive a dragon but on the very narrow chance he does manage to kill it the magistrate will consider his debt repaid and he will be able to go back to his normal life keeping any treasure the dragon had collected.

I'm not going to give away anymore so you'll have to read the story for yourself to find out what happens next. I loved the dragon Vici and her partnership with Antonius, the dragons in this series are always fun to read about and she adds a lot of humour to the story with her strange way of looking at things. I also enjoyed seeing a few familiar historical figures mentioned.

Source: Read for free on the Fantasy Magazine website

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Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Review: In the Vanishers' Palace - Aliette de Bodard

From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land...

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village's debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets...

Visit Aliette de Bodard's website for more information

Review:
In the Vanishers' Palace is the third Beauty and the Beast retelling I've read recently (I can't help it, it's my favourite fairytale so I can never resist retellings!) and I think it was the most unique of the three. Aliette de Bodard has created a really interesting world based on Vietnamese mythology which I just wanted to spend more time exploring. I could happily read book after book set in this world learning more about the Vanishers who devastated the earth before disappearing and leaving humanity behind trying to pick up the pieces.

This is an f/f retelling where the beast is actually a shapeshifting dragon, with a full asian cast and plenty of diversity which is another huge plus for me. I loved that there were a couple of gender neutral characters and nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at same sex relationships, that was all just a normal and accepted part of the world just like it should be.

Yên's mother is a healer and Yên has always been her apprentice and a scholar but their family is very low in the hierarchy of their village and the Elders have very little use for Yên so when they need to give a sacrifice to the dragon Yên is the one who is chosen to be sent away. Yên knows she's been given a death sentence, everyone knows the dragon is a murderer, but she knows she'll never be accepted in another village and it's too dangerous to be wandering around unprotected so she has no choice, especially when the Elders threaten her mother if she doesn't go along with them.

Vu Côn may be a dragon but she is nothing like what Yên is expecting, instead she finds that Vu Côn is a compassionate healer who would do anything to protect her children. Yên is given the task of teaching the twins, Liên and Thông, and quickly starts to settle into life in the palace. What she doesn't realise is that Vu Côn is keeping a major secret, one that Yên will find very difficult to forgive.

I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed the world Aliette de Bodard has created and I can't say enough how much I want to spend more time exploring it. I did feel that the romance between Yên and Vu Côn felt a little rushed to me and unfortunately the sex scene was more of a turn off than a turn on thanks to the way Vu Côn's human form was described. Every time Yên mentions touching Vu Côn she uses words like cold and slimy, even when the dragon is in human form and to be honest I was a bit creeped out when she started changing back into her dragon form while they were in the middle of having sex. I just don't think snouts and slimy tails have any place in the bedroom!

This was the first story I've read by Aliette de Bodard and even though there were parts of it that didn't work quite so well for me I'm definitely interested in trying more of her books, she has a really lovely writing style and her world building was very creative so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she can come up with.

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

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Monday, 15 October 2018

Review: Beautiful Beast - Kyla D. Knight

Original Cover (isn't it gorgeous!)
Dark, sexy...beautiful.

Axis shouldn’t leave his castle. He’s a wolf shifter, and his wolf form…has some problems. But he hates the confinement. Hell, he hates everything about his life.

Until he grabs an excuse to get away from his comfortable prison and meets Layna.

She’s bold. She’s beautiful. And she’s in trouble.

But Axis can’t stay away from his castle for long, so what else is there to do but bring her to his home to keep her safe? Well, safer. Sort of...

The second Layna sets foot in Axis’s remote, eerie castle, she knows she’s stepped into a place of secrets—and they aren’t pretty ones. Axis may be the sexiest man she’s ever seen, but what is he hiding? Why is he so difficult and moody?

And what the hell is making that sound?

Reader advisory: strong language and explicit sexual content. Not intended for readers under 18.

Visit Kyla D. Knight's website for more information

Review:
I've read quite a few Beauty and the Beast retellings recently - it's always been my favourite fairytale and I can never resist a book that even hints at being a retelling! - but I think this was probably my favourite out of all of them. The thing that first drew me to this book was the stunning original cover so I have to say I'm a little bit disappointed it's been rebranded to something so generic (I probably wouldn't have even looked at the blurb of this book if I'd seen the new cover on Amazon) but I guess they do always say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.

Anyway, more important than the cover is the story and Beautiful Beast was an enjoyable read. Layna has broken ties with a drug cartel and now she finds herself in trouble thanks to the revenge she tried to take. Axis is a wolf shifter who has trouble controlling his wolf form and who buys drugs from the cartel to help control himself. He rescues Layna and offers her a way out of the city by taking her with him back to his countryside castle retreat but he's keeping a lot of secrets from her about his wolf side and the emotional trauma he is dealing with from an abusive childhood.

I think what I liked most about this story was that Layna was a strong character who knew what she wanted and was prepared to fight to get it. She's not a damsel in distress and she's capable of looking after herself. Axis is the more vulnerable of the two emotionally even though he's physically stronger and that made them feel like quite an even match. I do love a brooding, damaged hero so Axis was a hit on that front and I enjoyed the way Layna brought out a different side to him and the way she was willing to take the reigns in the bedroom to help bring him out of his shell. Sex and love was never used as a cure for his emotional problems either which I think was important.

Gareth and Tristan were great side characters who added a bit of humour to a story that was quite dark in places. Axis had suffered a lot of abuse as a child and that could be quite hard to read about so it needed a bit of humour to tone things down and I think Kyla D. Knight did a good job getting the balance right. This was her debut novel and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for what she publishes next, if it's anything like this one I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Updated Cover
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Sunday, 14 October 2018

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge - Lisa Jensen

Filled with magic and fierce emotion, Lisa Jensen's multilayered novel will make you question all you think you know about beauty, beastliness, and happily ever after.

They say Château Beaumont is cursed. But servant-girl Lucie can’t believe such foolishness about handsome Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, Chevalier de Beaumont, master of the estate. But when the chevalier's cruelty is revealed, Lucie vows to see him suffer. A wisewoman grants her wish, with a spell that transforms Jean-Loup into monstrous-looking Beast, reflecting the monster he is inside. But Beast is nothing like the chevalier. Jean-Loup would never patiently tend his roses; Jean-Loup would never attempt poetry; Jean-Loup would never express remorse for the wrong done to Lucie. Gradually, Lucie realizes that Beast is an entirely different creature from the handsome chevalier, with a heart more human than Jean-Loup’s ever was. Lucie dares to hope that noble Beast has permanently replaced the cruel Jean-Loup — until an innocent beauty arrives at Beast’s château with the power to break the spell.

Visit Lisa Jensen's website for more information

Review:
***Trigger warning: This story contains a rape scene and attempted suicide***

I love fairytale retellings and Beauty and the Beast is a particular favourite of mine so I was really excited for this book. Especially when I realised that Lisa Jensen was going to turn things around by making the beast the hero rather than the prince. I was really curious to see how that would work and had very high hopes for this story but unfortunately it didn't quite live up to expectations.

I think the first thing people need to know if they're thinking about reading this is that there is a fairly descriptive rape scene within the first few chapters, told from the point of view of the girl being raped so you're inside her head and feeling everything that happens right alongside her. I really wasn't expecting that (although perhaps that's my fault for not checking any reviews before I started reading) and I came pretty close to quitting the book on the spot. How was I ever supposed to think of Jean-Loup or the Beast as a hero after seeing him rape the narrator? I know the prince was a nasty piece of work in the original story and that this is all about redemption BUT there are things I don't think you can come back from and that made it very hard to continue the story.

I am glad I persevered though because I liked some of the things the author did with this story, I really liked the fact that Jean-Loup was portrayed as evil and stayed that way even after the beast had been "saved" and turned back into a human. Lisa Jensen didn't, in fact, try to redeem his character in any way shape or form and it was the Beast who was the hero from beginning to end. It was fairly easy to think of them as two separate people because Beast has no memories of his life as Jean-Loup and he acts totally different too. That was good because it meant I could like him but at the same time it was bad because you don't get the redemption arc that you do in the original story. Beast doesn't redeem himself because he doesn't remember the things he did wrong in the past and Jean-Loup remains evil until the end so I just didn't get the same kind of satisfaction from the story as I expected.

I thought it was interesting to tell the story from the point of view of maid Lucie rather than that of Beast or Rose (the Belle character) but I found it really hard to watch her fall for the man who raped her, even though she was falling for the Beast side not the human (I'm not even going to get into the magical explanation for why they are two completely different people because it didn't make a huge amount of sense to me!). I also found her story much more interesting when she was in her human form, once she was turned into a candlestick via magic there were sections where she spent literally days sat in a cupboard or on a windowsill just listening to what was happening around her which didn't make for a particularly interesting story.

I think for me the big sticking point was the rape though and I would probably have enjoyed the rest of the story a lot more if that hadn't happened. Jean-Loup could still have been a terrible person without having to go so far as raping Lucie and then I would have found it much easier to get on board with the later romantic feelings developing between Lucie and Beast. I think my rating would probably have been higher if that was the case.

Obviously this is my personal opinion so you may enjoy this more than I did but I definitely think this story should come with a trigger warning because it's never nice to be blindsided with an unexpected rape scene closely followed by a suicide attempt.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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