Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell 2014! YA Favorites of the Year



Another year is on it's way out the door! Wow, I can't believe how fast this one went by.  And while I feel like so many awesome reads got past me unread this year, I read so many great ones, discovered some new favorite authors, fell in love over and over again with so many amazing stories.  

So here, in no particular order, are a baker's dozen (because I can't bear to cut in any shorter!) of my very very absolute favorites of the year. I also included a little excerpt from my review. (These are books I read this year, not necessarily books that published this year) :)


While her new way of seeing things scares her beyond words, Olivia also becomes an even stronger woman because of it.  I loved the part she played in the suffrage movement, I loved the twisting and unpredictable, not-so-much love story, but attraction and fascination that Henrie and Olivia had toward each other.  And I love that at the end, she is standing strong, following no one’s influence but her own. (read full review)



 I quickly found myself immersed in the haunting atmosphere and eerie occurrences of The Fall. Griffin’s writing is full of beautiful descriptions and hypnotic prose, and from the first chapter, it successfully makes the reader’s blood run cold with her absolutely phobia-triggering description of being buried alive.  The story builds in intensity in a way that feels like the tightening of a screw, with each brief chapter flipping back and forth in time and giving us another small glimpse at the whole picture. (read full review)




There is madness, elemental witches, long-buried secrets, and the walking dead.  The Glass Casket sparkles with magic and wonder while still delivering a gut-churning dose of horror and gore.   With all manner of vivid imagery, from mountains and thick forest,  the shadows lurking in the washroom, and the body lying with its throat torn out---the author's carefully chosen words play it all out on the page in a way that pulls the reader in and holds them captive in this eerie, dangerous world.(read full review)






With Infinite, Jodi Meadows' epic Newsoul trilogy comes to an end...and also earns it's spot on my shelf of absolute favorite series. It's a rare thing that I can proclaim that a series kept the same level of excellence through it's entire run, maybe even getting better and better with each new installment.  This series did exactly that. (read full review)



I do hope this will be the start of a series of adventures, because this one was pure fun and danger and excitement.  Abigail and Jackaby have a great and humorous rapport between them (and completely non-romantic, I might add!), as she gets swept along in his madcap manner of solving supernatural crimes but also holds her own in being clever and observant in ways that he tends to miss.(read full review)




Oh, Mary Pearson.  You clever author.  Kiss of Deception fully and completely captured me from beginning to end.  I found myself mesmerized by the extraordinary writing, engaged in this gutsy heroine who fled a world she felt entrapped in, and blindsided by a plot that somehow completely pulled the rug from under my feet. (read full review)




As much as I loved Cynthia Hand’s debut paranormal series, and as much as I am not a contemporary fiction reader, I think that this is my favorite book of her so far. So beautifully done but in a way that feels like a snapshot out of the life or a normal teen.  It’s incredibly touching story that sends us reeling through a girl’s journey of grief, guilt, and trying to move on.(full review to come)


I adored the first book in this series, and this installment had no problem living up to it.  The story is outstanding all the way through.  The writing exudes the feel of a classic fairy tale adventure. Brilliant plotting makes it so that every twist and turn is a complete surprise.  Both sisters, and now Andrei, are all incredibly dimensional characters with a full gamut of reasons and purposes and emotions that drive them and bring them to life. (read full review)




This story takes mythology, assassins, tiaras, southern manners, head-butting, cotillions, and romance and mashes it up into one big fun, action-packed, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartfelt read. I can’t recommend it, or any other of Rachel Hawkins’ books, enough! (read full review)



This Shattered World takes place in the stark, swampy world of Avon, where Captain Jubilee “Lee” Chase and colonist Flynn Cormac find themselves at the turning point of a rebellion.  He kidnaps her, convinced that her high position in the military can answer questions he has about a “disappearing” base in the east. As their two opposing worlds coming crashing down around them, they find themselves thrown together working toward the same truth.(read full review)





Trial by Fire is a fantastic start to this series, with one exhilarating scene after the next throwing the story along at an incredibly fast pace.  There are moments of danger and fear and romance… and one scene that had me laughing harder than I have in a long time at a book.  Multiple interesting characters, a well-orchestrated battle between magic and science, and the possibility of endless worlds to come will have me counting down to the next book in this imaginative fantasy.(read full review)





There is really nothing I can pinpoint aside from just good storytelling that made me absolutely love this story. I loved both main characters for their strengths, weaknesses, and loyalties; there are twists and surprises and horrors; there are moments of hopelessness that you just know will have to be overcome or you’ll be devastated for Luke and Rosa.  And, of course, there is the love story: conflicted and forbidden and born out of kindness in the last place that either of them expected to find it. (read full review)


And last but not least, I read this whole series in one shot this year, so I'm counting this as one choice! LOL
 
If you love action, adventure, magic,  steampunk, and can stomach a bit of gore that comes along with the rising dead, this series will thrill you from start to finish. (read full reviews)

Update: Ok, I have to add one more! I didn't exactly forget about this one, but I initially left it out because I thought I'd read it in 2013. But then I realized I read it in January 2014! So here it is, a 14th pick for 2014, but honestly probably my favorite of them all:
For me, there is nothing out there that quite compares to this phenomenal series.  With this third installment, Cress, The Lunar Chronicles only strengthens its spot at the top of my list of favorites. I might even go so far as to say that with Cress, this series has outdone itself. While all three books have received 5 well-earned cupcakes from me, and while each one had me laughing and worried, excited, and hopeful, Cress is the first one to make me break down in actual tears.  Though I come close often, I don’t actually cry very easily at books…and for that I love this one all the more. (read full review)



What a great year in YA books!! What were some of your favorites?


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

First Impression Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connelly

First Impression Reviews is a new feature here at Stories & Sweeties where I give my first thoughts at 50-100 pages into a book. For a details about this feature, go here!


where I'm at: page 61

First impressions: The story opens on Kymera's first day of waking up after being "reanimated".  Her father has brought her back to life after loosing her and her mother to an evil wizard.  The story reads a little like a diary, as she explores her new body (with added tail and raven wings!) and her new purpose, and I felt an immediate connection there because we're learning about what's going on right along with her, feeling her fears and triumphs and confusions as she trains for this greater purpose that her father has planned for her.   The story is told in such a trusting and innocent voice, and oh, I can feel already as she begins her mission to save the girls of Bryre that something is terribly amiss.  I can't help the feeling that her father is not telling her everything and that his purpose may be darker than what he lets on. But we'll have to see!! This one grabbed me right away and has me so curious!  I am definitely enjoying it so far!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.  
by Tim Floreen

 hitting shelves Fall of 2015 
from Simon & Schuster
In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.

Charlotte's attacks have everyone on high alert—everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.

But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he's Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.

As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive ... and what makes life worth living.

My thoughts: This sounds like great sci-fi, an thrilling plot and interesting main characters,...and the really cool cover doesn't hurt either. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love, Lucy by April Lindner {review}


Love, Lucy
by April Lindner
♦publisher: Little Brown BYR
♦release date: January 27th, 2014
♦hardcover, 304 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone
♦source: from publisher for honest review
While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

Review: Love, Lucy is a sweet little romantic story. We follow along with Lucy on a enchanting jaunt through scenic Italy and her exciting first taste of a college experience. To get this trip, she sacrificed her greatest love---acting on the stage---to follow in her father's college alma mater, but while there she finds love and someone who awakens passion in her in more ways than one.

While I didn't always love Lucy herself, it made her character's eventual growth all the more satisfying. She was sometimes childish and irrationally jealous, but hey, what coming-of-age/first love story would be completely realistic without those moments?  I couldn't help but be completely brokenhearted for her with the awful father she had to put up with. He was cruel and stubborn, and completely squashed her confidence, forcing her to give up her dreams with bribery and eventually very heartless words. As his daughter, and a bit of a people-pleaser in general, Lucy finds herself under his thumb.

The romance is fun and sweet, starting out as a "vacation flirtation" and growing into something more. Lucy is swept along in the romance of Italy and Rome with a guy who is a bit of a free spirit, traveling and performing on the street and getting Lucy to remember just how much she loves performing, too. When the vacation ends, their connection doesn't---but the uncertainties and the ups and downs that came with her trying to get over something that still firmly had her by the heart, rang absolutely true.

The writing often feels very straight-forward, but April Lindner never fails to keep me enthralled in the story. Lucy goes through a great journey to find what she really wants in love and in life and the strength to fight for it, both against her own draw-backs and others that try to hold her back. Mentions of characters from past books are a fun little treat and had me wanting to pick up Jane, one of my favorites from this author (actually, one of my favorites in YA fiction!). 

Find April Lindner online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Love, Lucy: Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Introducing First Impression Reviews!

First Impression Reviews is a new feature here at Stories & Sweeties. As a reader and reviewer, how many times do you get asked,"So how are you liking it so far?"  We all know first impressions are important and this is no less true when it comes to books! The first 50-100 pages  can make or break a book for me, either have me salivating for more or ready to drop it and move on. So I’ll be chatting about my first thoughts on the opening, the characters, and the story so far. How it hooked me ..or didn’t.  Plus I think it’s fun to see how an opinion of a book can change between the excitement of starting out the story and the journey to the end.  Each one will, of course, get a full review when I’m done, but who doesn’t love discussing a book when they’re in the thick of it? :)


Here’s how they’ll be rated:
 For when I'm loving the book so far:

For when I'm enjoying it, but maybe not fully invested yet:
 
 Nope. Not working for me. Getting ready to DNF:

In the comments I’d love for you to jump in and discuss!! Tell me what you’re in the middle of and how you’re liking it.  Tell me what you think of what I’m reading.  And especially if you’ve already read a book that I’m ready to bail on, I’d love to get your opinion---vote DNF or Keep going!!  (In those cases, I’ll even provide a little votey widget!)

 Check out my first First Impression Review for Princess of Thorns from yesterday's blog tour stop!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Princess of Thorns: First Impressions Review & Giveaway! {blog tour}

Today I'm participating in the blog tour for Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay! I was so excited to read this one after absolutely loving Of Beast and Beauty (my review) last year---so amazing! Thanks to the wonderful folks at Random House, I'm giving away two copies of Princess of Thorns, so be sure to enter below!

Today I'm doing a First Impression review of Princess of Thorns, a new feature I'm starting here at Stories & Sweeties! Check back tomorrow for a formal introduction to this feature, but for today, here's my first thoughts on Princess of Thorns!


Where I'm at: 100 pages in

First Impressions: Princess of Thorns has me dazzled already!  After a short prologue and first chapter that firmly establishes it as a mash-up twisted fairy tale of both Sleeping Beauty and The Wild Swans, the story jumps straight into full action with a daring rescue and escape scene! Told in alternating points of view, we meet Aurora, daughter of the Sleeping Beauty, who must face the Ogre Queen to rescue her brother, and Nicklaas, who must outwit his father's curse or be turned into a swan when he reaches the age of 18.
I'm once again swept away by Stacey Jay's grasp of writing high fantasy. The world is clearly building up all around the characters as they begin their journey so that the reader is completely immersed in journey and can feel what's at stake.  Both characters' personalities come through right away and it's fun to watch them get under each others skin as the story goes along.  Wonderful so far! Can't wait to see where this is headed!
What I'm feeling at this point:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Jay is a recovering workaholic (or at least working hard at recovering) with three pen names, two small children, and a passion for playing pretend for a living. She’s been a full time mom-writer since 2005 and can't think of anything she'd rather be doing. Her former careers include theatre performer, professional dancer, poorly paid C-movie actress, bartender, waiter, math tutor (for real) and yoga instructor.

Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook



*GIVEAWAY!!*
Enter to win one of 2 gorgeous finished copies of 
Princess of Thorns!
•US mailing address only please
•Must be 13 or older
•Ends January 1st, 2015
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.  
by Rachel Caine

 hitting shelves July 7, 2015 
from NAL
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

My thoughts: Oh this sounds amazing. Anything that has the words alchemy and library in one sentence has my full attention. And the cover...gorgeous.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black {review}


The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black
♦publisher: Little Brown BYR
♦release date: January 13, 2015
♦hardcover, 336 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand alone
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?


Review:  Confession...I haven't read a Holly Black book since reading the Spiderwick Chronicles with my kids. But I looooved them. And I was so excited to see Black return her stories to fairyland with The Darkest Part of the Forest.  But I have to say that while the writing was very lyrical and beautiful, the story and characters (for the most part) didn't really draw me in. 

The writing, like I said, is worth another mention---there were literally some turns of phrase that I just had to reread in absolute awe at the gorgeousness. Black knows how to bring fairyland alive for her readers with beautifully visualized creatures and a creepy atmospheric mood that makes you feel like the characters can be swept away by the fae at any moment, never to be seen again. The town of Fairfold is full of oddities defined by their knowledge of the nearby Fae. They struck a deal long ago that the people of Fairfold were safe but the tourist are basically fair game for the fae to snatch away or torment.  

The story was good, but just felt a little muddled to me, both emotionally and plotwise.  It had a slow start and took a long time to get to a place where I was invested. Its a bad sign when the beginning starts out introducing a fair amount of characters at a party and the one character that turns you off the most turns out to be the protagonist. Hazel did kind of grow on me by the end; she is definitely lost and utterly flawed, and I did love the connection between her and her brother Ben. Ben was sweet, but I couldn't help but find him a bit broody, bordering on sulky.  Their backstory is good and gave you a perspective on their bond---they had horrible flaky parents who left them unattended and hungry while they partied the night away when they were very young. Because of that, they are both kind of a mess when it comes to trust and relationships.  They consider themselves kind of wild and they think of the boy in the coffin as their prince.  

The one character I really loved was Jack. He is a changeling but he's grown up among the humans.  He has such a genuine honesty to him and he's so torn between the two worlds, never really feeling comfortable in either.  Both worlds turn on him and he still finds a way to stand by his family and friends.  

The actual love stories were just okay for me, but there are some definite pulse-racing  scenes! Steamy kisses on rooftops and treetops and rolling around in the woods! ;)

All in all, not everything I'd hoped for in my return to Holly Black's books, but it was another intriguing visit to the land of Faerie!  

Find Holly Black online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Buy the book: Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {111}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just that...my week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Here's what's new on my shelf this week:
This looks so good! Another "couldn't resist" moment at my library :D
I'm eager to see if I like this one better than the first book, which I liked but had some issues with. :)
Deep Blue & Rogue Wave nail polishes
best.swag.EVER.  Why don't more books come with custom nail polishes??


The Weekly Nutshell  

 I hope everyone is having a great December. We just got a bit soggied with rain, but I loved it. We were lucky though, some areas around us got some pretty bad flooding. Again this week, not much going on around here, just shopping and decorating and getting ready for the holiday!
On the reading front, I finished Love, Lucy so look for a review of that this week. Started Princess of Thorns for an upcoming tour stop and giveaway and I'm loving it so far! I'm hoping to read either Waistcoats & Weaponry or Storm Siren when I'm done--depending on what I'm in the mood for! 

Happy reading, all!

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner {review + giveaway}


This Shattered World
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
♦publisher: Disney-Hyperion
♦release date: December 23rd, 2014
♦hardcover, 390 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Starbound, book 2
  review of book 1, These Broken Stars
♦source: ALA Las Vegas
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Review: It astounds me just how different the feel of this book was from These Broken Stars while still being just as gripping of a story. Far from the eerie and mysterious planet where Tarver and Lilac fought for their survival, This Shattered World takes place in the stark, swampy world of Avon, where Captain Jubilee “Lee” Chase and colonist Flynn Cormac find themselves at the turning point of a rebellion.  He kidnaps her, convinced that her high position in the military can answer questions he has about a “disappearing” base in the east. As their two opposing worlds coming crashing down around them, they find themselves thrown together working toward the same truth.

Lee is known for being icey and hard-hearted by her squadron, a serious soldier through and through, and it’s interesting to see how she struggles with this reputation herself---constantly at odds with her own emotions about living up to it, or not living up to it. Flynn is also in much the same situation; he is basically alone in thinking it may be possible to talk his people and the military down from war, but he's determined to do so. He is also the younger brother of a well-known rebel, so the pressure is there to live up to what she began.  Each of them surprises the other in unexpected ways, and in the end they’re drawn together in a deliciously slow-building attraction. This whole story rides on a wave of high emotions all the way through, one heart-stopping and sometimes violent event happening after the next. 

There is also a sickness known as the Fury taking over the minds of the people---with very little warning it switches on a violent rage and usually ends in bloodshed.  This is where much of the story’s violence really comes in and I admit it’s what made me it just a tiny bit less appealing to me than These Broken Stars.

Still it was outstanding, the plot twists and tie-ins with the first book are exhilarating, and those hoping to get a little glimpse of Tarver and Lilac from These Broken Stars will definitely not be disappointed!  The fantastic writing and world-building in these books makes it a definite that not only will I be reading any other books in this series, but also seeking out other books by the individual authors!
Find Amie Kaufman online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook
Find Meagan Spooner online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase This Shattered World: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

*GIVEAWAY!*
I ended up with an extra copy of this, so who wants it??? Enter below! :)
 •US mailing addresses only please
•must be 13 or older
•Ends 12/26/14
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.  
by Shanna Swendson

hitting shelves June 14, 2015 
from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

My thoughts: Everyone once in a while I need a good steampunk fix :) This looks like it will do nicely.  Especially with the promise of secrets, charming rebel inventors, and a little magic thrown into the mix. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Opal Crown by Jenny Lundquist {review}


The Opal Crown
by Jenny Lundquist
♦publisher: Running Press Kids
♦release date: October 28th, 2014
♦paperback, 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: The Opal Mask, book 2
                 review of book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
In the year since she was betrothed to the crown prince of Kyrenica, no one has suspected that the Masked Princess has been a decoy. That Elara, the secret twin sister, has been pretending to be Princess Wilha all along. The royal family has kept Elara’s identity hidden from the world, and for the girls, swapping lives has not been easy. Galandra is quickly declining, and the sisters continue to be a pawn in the Guardian’s ever-changing endgames.
But the stakes rise when Elara and Wilha’s younger brother, Andrei, takes the Galandrian throne after their father's death, and he reveals the girls' deception to Kyrenica’s royal family. Viewed as traitors, Elara and Wilha realize they are now fighting for their lives—and for their country. However, with only one crown and one throne to overthrow, Elara and Wilha must decide who will become queen. Or rather, the next savior for their people.

 Review:  In The Opal Crown, a conclusive sequel to Princess in the Opal Mask, sisters Wilha and Elara face many challenges and dangers and hard decisions that come with the crown…and from running away from it.  The two of them have successfully switched lives with no one being the wiser. Then their worst fear comes true: their father dies and his last words were to tell their brother of Elara’s existence.  Prince Andrew becomes a cruel king, selfishly disregarding the needs of his people and constantly in fear that one of the sisters will come to take his throne. Fueled by the manipulations and misleading words of the royal guardians, especially the creepy Lord Murcendor, all three siblings have to use their strongest wits to figure out who to trust and exactly where they belong.  

I adored the first book in this series, and this installment had no problem living up to it.  The story is outstanding all the way through.  The writing exudes the feel of a classic fairy tale adventure. Brilliant plotting makes it so that every twist and turn is a complete surprise.  Both sisters, and now Andrei, are all incredibly dimensional characters with a full gamut of reasons and purposes and emotions that drive them and bring them to life.  

 There is a romance and heartbreak that I loved and rooted for to work out despite all the problems and other loyalties and, well, lies. But the main focus stays on the plight of the sisters which felt perfectly right for this story.  I loved all the tension between Elara and Wilha, both strong willed but with very different ideas about what might be best for their kingdom and for themselves. 

It was every bit as full of excitement, adventure, danger, and emotion as its predecessor; a perfect conclusion to this series.  I can’t wait to see what this author does next!
Find Jenny Lundquist online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase the book:    Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {110}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just that...my week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Here's my haul for the past couple of weeks since I did one of these posts!
 For Review:
Mystery, dark family secrets...interesting!
Oooh high fantasy, dragons, looks good!!
already had a copy of this from when I met the author earlier this year! Keep an eye out for a giveaway! 
Eeeeeeep!!  Hope this is as good as Of Beast & Beauty!!
Any huge fans of this series out there? I'd like to pass this one on to someone who really really wants it! Shoot me an email if that's you! :)

Library Find:
The hazards of working at the library---good looking books come through and I just can't resist bringing them home. I hope I can make time for this one!! :D


The Weekly Nutshell  
 {Monday} What's New December YA Releases & Giveaway 
{Tuesday} Waiting on Wednesday: The Wrath & The Dawn 
{Saturday} Cover Story

Well I hope everyone's December is starting off well!! Mine is rolling right along, but honestly nothing new or noteworthy going on.  Work, read, sleep, work, read, sleep.  Oh, in case anyone was wondering, with NaNoWriMo being over---I thought I did pretty well! LOL Ok, so I didn't "win", far from it actually. But I did start something fun, got a lot of writing done (for having tons of life things that just can't be shoved aside, darn those kids lol) I did get in 16,500 words. And I, of course, plan to keep chipping away at my fun little story.  And then another story idea kind of popped into my head, so I'll likely be chipping away at both! :) Oh for those of you still craving a little guided writing time, but much less pressure: Cat Hellison (author of Beastkeeper) is doing this fun thing on her blog called Not Your NaNo. Check it out!
 Still, I missed my dedicated hours of reading during NaNo so I'm very glad to be back to it.  This past week I finished This Shattered World (SO different from These Broken Stars, but still really, really good) and practically tore through The Last Time We Say Goodbye (I haven't decided yet---review this early or wait until publication month?..hmmm). I will say that Cynthia Hand made me even more solidly a fan.  Now reading Love, Lucy---starting out good so far!!

It's been lovely and rainy here lately! Time to bust out the hot chocolate and marshmallows!
Have a great week, everyone!
 

Cover Story

Here's some of the really awesome covers that we have to look forward to in 2015!




by Catherine Linka
St. Martin's Griffin, June 23rd, 2015










by Kaitlin Ward
EgmontUSA, 2015









by Elizabeth Fixmer
Albert Whitman & Co., March 1st, 2015









by Paula Morris
Scholastic Point, May 26th, 2015











by Erika Johansen
HarperCollins, June 9th, 2015









The Trouble with Destiny
by Lauren Morrill
Delacorte, 2015









by Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books, April 14th, 2015











Paperweight
by Meg Haston
HarperTeen, July 7th, 2015






I love all of these! Those jacket designers are really doing amazing and creative things! Especially loving A Girl Undone (love the dimension), Down from the Mountain (because I'm a font girl), and The Trouble with Destiny (so cute and creative!).  See any new favorites here?