Review: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

review

3/5 Stars

***Potential triggers for human trafficking, abuse, animal cruelty, violence, death

It pains me to write this review because I was so looking forward to this book-it was at the top of my highly anticipated list for 2017. I mean, The Phantom of the Opera??? As a theater kid, this is my personal form of euphoria. Unfortunately, my feelings on this rendering are mixed. 

PROS:

  • Thorn’s story is almost as tragic and heartbreaking as the Phantom’s and yet so full of beauty. No matter the darkness and fear he experienced as a child captured by traffickers and tormented beyond measure, his heart is pure and OMG is he swoonworthy. Some of the stuff he says to Rune, I mean, my heart swelled with joy. He’s like a part-time poet and the way he plays that violin. He’s the definition of dreamy. That dark hair and those coppery eyes, and that jaw. Smokin’ hot. I loved the way his past evolved and changed him and his starry-eyed devotion to the Phantom. Plus the way he looks at Rune…it’s like she’s his world at first sight. Now, let me warn, this does read like instalove on Thorn’s part, but there are reasons so hold out. 
  • This twist on the Phantom is super weird and complex. It can be hard to wrap your head around and accept, but there are enough history and allusions to the original Leroux story. The Phantoms’s story is somehow even more depressing and horrific than in the original. When you read about the love he felt for Christine, the hope he held for a happy ending, it will crush you and hit you right in the feels.
  • There’s a ton of seriously disturbing elements to this story-from creepy, crawly animals that don’t belong in nature, to taxidermy, to cryogenics. It’s a mix and match of sci-fi meets paranormal. And when you find out the truth about Rune’s heritage and how she relates to the Phantom…well, whether or not you’re a fan is up to you, but for me, I was torn. It felt like the author didn’t stay entirely true to the mythology (and that’s all I can say without spoilers). 
  • One of my favorite characters was the cat, Diable. He’s not particularly cute, but he has so much attitude in his mannerisms and he’s so clever. A sassy cat, what’s not to love?

CONS:

  • This book is at least a hundred pages too long. Let me explain. There were so many parts that seemed unnecessary, dragged, and pulled down the whole sense of foreboding that should have wrapped around the reader. The pacing was in line with a Gothic novel, but because it is set in contemporary time, it didn’t fit well with the story, despite the setting. There were whole sections of sprawling description that could have been trimmed, but went on for pages. While these sections certainly painted a picture, the length didn’t really build the emotions, but distracted from them with painstaking details. Scenes that would have benefited from being shortened by heightening the anxiety and fear got lost in a sort of step-by-step, piece-by-piece map of the setting. It became more about setting the scene than the story/scene itself. 
  • There’s so much going on that it became overwhelming. After you get used to the shock factor and adjust to the bizarre twist on the traditional Phantom story, the shifts in POV, the flashbacks to the past, and the absolutely strange quirks of every character (which was a bit much to begin with) don’t fall into place but feel strung together and random. There’s not a feeling of cohesion and planning, it hits like chaos and stays that way. Told in a more measured way, these pieces are all elements that explain the characters and their personalities. I guess what I’m saying is that I would have liked more build up. 
  • So much time was placed on carefully crafting the back stories for the Phantom and Thorn, even for Jipetto and Audrey, so that you know their hearts, their motivations, how they became who they are. And yet, despite the tragedy of her past with her father and the terrible situations she had with her grandmother, and even the history of the family name, Rune’s character felt undeveloped in comparison. While there are tidbits, like her joy of gardening, her knitting, her personality was kind of bland for such a strong story arc. Honestly, she was much better, much more interesting when she was interacting with other characters than by herself. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Cryptic reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

Release Date: January 10, 2016
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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
 
At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.
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author
 

A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.

When she’s not writing, A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

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1 winner will receive a signed ROSEBLOOD poster and a Mask. US Only.
 
Ends on January 17th at Midnight EST!

 

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Spooky reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Lost Girl by Chanda Hahn

synWendy doesn’t remember anything about Neverland—or the experiments done on her there as a child. Seven years later, all she wants is a normal life, but shape-shifting shadows plague her dreams and turn her life into a waking nightmare. When the shadows attack at a football game and a boy disappears right in front of her, she realizes these wraith-like shadows are real. They’re not just haunting—they’re hunting.

A mysterious boy named Peter, his foul-mouthed sidekick, and a band of misfit boys intervene before Wendy faces a similar fate. But can they trust Wendy enough to take her to Neverwood Academy and reveal all of their hidden secrets when she’s hiding a secret of her own, or will the dreaded Red Skulls find her and drag her back to Neverland?

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COME JOIN THE RELEASE EVENT!
We’ll be celebrating the release of Lost Girl by Chanda Hahn
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Lots of fun, games & prizes!!!

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Be sure and check out Ben Hale’s new book…
Now infamous for his exploits, Jack Myst is a master thief. 
 
As a member of the Thieves Guild he has fought assassins, reavers, and even a devil—but now he faces his greatest challenge yet, the rank of guildmaster. Ascending to the office after defeating Skorn at Margauth, he launches a daring plan, one to steal what cannot be stolen.
 
A god.
 
But Skorn has retrieved the fragments of an ancient artifact, and has begun construction on the Necrolith, the beacon of ending. He issues a king’s bounty on Jack’s head, turning governments and guilds against him. Hounded by soldiers and hunted by assassins, it will require all of Jack’s skill to triumph over Skorn.
 
He couldn’t be more excited.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FULL MASTER THIEF SERIES OR TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE AWESOME BOOKS BY BEN HALE!
 
 authorchanda
Chanda Hahn is a New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of the Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series. She uses her experience as a children’s pastor, children’s librarian and bookseller to write compelling and popular fiction for teens. She was born in Seattle, WA, grew up in Nebraska and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their twin children.
An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series
               
The Iron Butterfly Series
      
Underland

 

Magical reading, 
Jordan

Blog Tour & Excerpt: The Lost Codex by Heather Lyons

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Allies, once inseparable, splinter until they break apart.

An insidiousness carves its way through Wonderland, challenging the land’s very existence.

Battle lines will be drawn as pages, long languishing in darkness, are finally illuminated.

Swords will clash, blood will be spilled, and lives will be lost.

For what is written can still be erased.

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“You mentioned the need to take a symbolic object within the dream,” I say as I hover over his work, “one I must destroy. Yet, you have given no instruction on what that object must be.”

He nudges his half-moon glasses up his bulbous nose, barely sparing a glance toward me. “I did.”

Which means I must figure it out myself. I do not bother asking how one even brings an object into their dream, as I can already guess his answer.

What, then, would sufficiently constitute symbolic for a series of dreams I cannot remember? In place of images, all I possess are deep-seated emotions that refuse to relinquish their hold on me. Including a maddening sense of love . . . love for a nameless man whose face I cannot conjure.

Why can I not recall his face?

Perhaps a blank mask will do? Destroy the mask, terminate a passion for an imaginary person for whom I have assigned preposterous feelings for.

Epic reading, 

Jordan

 

Release Day Blitz: The Lost Codex by Heather Lyons

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synAllies, once inseparable, splinter until they break apart.

An insidiousness carves its way through Wonderland, challenging the land’s very existence.

Battle lines will be drawn as pages, long languishing in darkness, are finally illuminated.

Swords will clash, blood will be spilled, and lives will be lost.

For what is written can still be erased.

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PURCHASE PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES

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heather_front_headshotWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | Newsletter

Heather Lyons is known for writing epic, heartfelt love stories often with a fantastical twist. From Young Adult to New Adult to Adult novels—one commonality in all her books is the touching, and sometimes heart-wrenching, romance. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher.She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

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Pub. Date: November 1, 2016

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, paperback, eBook

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The action-packed, thrilling sequel to Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf.

There would be blood.

Blood for blood.

Blood to pay.

An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

bfb-preorderauthor4fa9e-ryanWebsite | Twitter |Tumblr | Goodreads | Pinterest | Blog

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of All That Glows and The Walled City. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at http://www.ryangraudin.com.

Review of Wolf by Wolf 

***FIVE STARS***

From the first page, Wolf by Wolf is an addictive, compelling, whirlwind of a story. The history nerd in me reached Nirvana. Wolf by Wolf is one of the best books I’ve read, and those of you who follow know that I read hundreds a year. From the sweeping historical rewrite to the adrenaline rush of the motorcycle race that spans continents, Wolf by Wolf has something for everyone and will leave you with an unshakeable book hangover. 

PROS:

  • The opening page. There’s beauty in simplicity. Ryan Graudin jam packs so much into short, compiled sentences that each word hits like a sucker punch. I fell in reader and writer love with that first paragraph and immediately knew that this book would be one of the greats. 
  • Yael is as fierce, brave, and calculated as the wolves she has inked on her body. The trauma and pain she has suffered seems insurmountable but we learn that through memory and determination that we can overcome even the most horrific of pasts. Yael’s time in the camp, the incredible losses she’s went through, everything is ingrained into her very soul and marked on her body, she’ll never forget and it’s through these reminders that she finds the courage and strength to rebel and take on a task more risky than any other. Yael doesn’t let any setbacks break her down, she’s come so far and has been broken but never beaten. She is a lesson in inner strength and perseverance. 
  • The historical rewrite is ingenious, mainly because it could have been. So many elements of the story are bold and brutal, historically on target and put you right in the mad frenzy that was Hitler’s reign. The policing, the camps, the politics, and the terrifying roots of Hitler Youth become a stark reality that is much more real than what you read in history books. One of the sentiments that stayed with me from this story is the coldness of historical memory, the need to reduce people down to numbers so much that we forget the individual. Through Yael, you see every person, every memory, present and memorialized in her tattoos. 
  • Each character, no matter how small, leaves an impression and has their own unique background. The stories of the wolves added levels to Yael’s character, you see how she was built through her union with others and how their experiences changed her life. 
  • THE moment. The critical seconds when Yael meets Hitler face to face. My heart stopped. The anticipation built into an overwhelming and all-consuming beast of anxiety. The emotion is astounding and poignant, every memory, every ounce of pain culminates in a few short seconds.
  • Motorcycles, nefarious tactics, and honor all reign supreme during the Axis Tour. It’s not simply a race but a legacy of political propaganda and competition. The race is full of perilous terrain, vindictive components, and deadly situations. Though it’s stressful and in some part horrifying, there are scenes on the road that are light and playful, it’s a nice balance. 

CONS:

  • The twist was sort of predictable for me but the sheer rush of the scene itself more than made up for it. Even when you know what’s coming, the actual occurrence is more fierce and tense than you could ever imagine.

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Enter for your chance to win a finished copy of WOLF BY WOLF, US Only. (5) winners!

Ends on November 15th at Midnight EST!

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Intense reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

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There never was a story that was happy through and through.

When writer Arthur Ransome leaves his home in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, it is with little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously romantically entangled with revolutionary leader Trotsky’s personal secretary. Both sides seek to use Arthur for their own purposes…and, as he struggles to find autonomy, both sides grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from the conflict with his beloved. But when he attempts to extract himself and Evgenia from the complicated politics and politicians that he fears will lead them both to their deaths, the decisions he faces are the most dangerous and difficult of his life.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

For the life of me, I’m always puzzled how Marcus Sedgwick’s books are classified as YA. I’ve only read two or three, but every single time I’m more perplexed. But I digress…I had an extremely hard time rating this book; this is probably the most difficult time I’ve had putting a star average on a book for a variety of reasons. For those of you who don’t know (I’ve shared some information about myself and if you’ve read the bio on here this will come as no surprise) I’m technically what would be considered a Russian historian/analyst/policy expert. Yes, insane right? If I see anything even remotely related to Russia, the Balkans, the Baltic region, or historical interactions/culture, I latch on.

When I began this book, I was immediately transported back to the time of Bolsheviks and fairy tales (if you haven’t read Russian or Slavic fairy tales, seriously get on it and I’ll have a review coming for you in November on a Russian YA retelling). The story begins in that ultra precise and whimsical way most Russian tales do, in the vein of Tolstoy. The prospects are bleak, the chance of a happy ever after slim, but there’s an air of magic and anticipation that will capture your attention, if not your heart. 

The introduction to the story is fantastic. The smoky, enchanting mood of a fairy tale told by the comfort of a warm fire, and at the bedside of a loved one is there in full force. The tale of the grandfather and two children in a cabin the woods, the bear on the prowl, the metaphors and analogies. It’s beautiful, dark, twisted, everything you could ever want in a fairy tale. 

And then the shift happens. The structure is interesting. Facilitating a historical retelling through folk framing was intriguing and definitely livened up the atmosphere, but then a hyper realistic but super boring journalist protagonist comes in. Arthur Ransome may be based on a historical figure and in the mix of truly astounding and world-changing historical events, but that certainly doesn’t make him interesting. For the life of me, I couldn’t invest in him. I was bored out of my mind with his narrative. Despite the dangers of his interactions with the Bolshevik leaders, working as a spy, traveling through Russia in this time of peril, the anxiety, the fear, the TRAUMA of the Cheka (чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия) was absent. There were a few scenes that seemed on the border of becoming the dark and sadistic reality that was Russia at the time, but then they disappeared. It’s possible that some imagery was tamed for the YA audience but it’s just not real. 

The romance was secondary and while Arthur placed a huge importance on this romance, it was hardly romantic. 

The portrayals of Lenin and Trotsky were lively and gripping, but lacked the forboding that normally accompanied interactions. The paranoia and terror were high at this point and meeting with Bolshevik heads was not something taken lightly and this just read so nonchalant. I tried to step away from my academic background for this review and to solely critique as a YA reader, hopefully that worked. 

RASPUTIN. YES. This was perfect. The legendary man was grotesque, creepy, and made so much larger than life than he actually was. These scenes are AMAZING. 

I was also disappointed by the Romanov slaughter. 

I absolutely adore this cover. It’s breathtaking and mysterious and gloomy. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan