ARC Review & Giveaway: Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke


 
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Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege. 
 
Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people. 
 
When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.
 
Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips–Triton.
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review
I’ve always been a fan of Stacey Rourke’s retellings. They’re usually far more dark and sinister, closer to Grimm than Disney and I adore that kind of twisted carnage. This is a YA retelling of how Ursula, like from The Little Mermaid, came into existence. It explores what it takes to make an innocent and caring person turn dark, how much betrayal and anguish a person (mermaid) can take before they crack, and whether love can truly heal all wounds.
Here’s what I loved: 
  • Princess Vanessa is a victim and it is so not her fault. All she has ever done is try to be a perfect daughter to the point of stifling who she is. She’s young, idealistic, and so hopeful. She has a pure and beautiful heart, she truly cares, she’s funny, her sarcasm is on point. She’s pretty awesome. And then she gets better. She is forced to make choices that transform her from the inside out. She must embrace her magic and she does not always make the best decisions, in fact, sometimes they’re downright cruel and propelled by anger. BUT that’s what makes her more real; she’s flawed and hurt and sometimes broken but never, ever defeated and there’s power in that.
  • The world building is amazing. Each ruler of the Seven Seas is unique and they all have tons of personality. There are whole cultures and ideals in tiny details that fit so well together. You can totally picture little under water countries. 
  • Vanessa’s relationship with Triton. She adores him. Even though he’s like a little free-spirited hippie who would rather frolic around than be responsible, how could you not love those golden curls? Their relationship is a complex one. But it’s adorable. And then crash and burn. You’ll think about how the children you met in the very beginning of the book transformed into these two strangers. It’s heartbreaking.
  • Plot twists. There are a ton and they’re truly shocking. You don’t expect them. But when they’re revealed you’ll definitely think, ahhhh, it all makes sense now. 
  • I love love love Vanessa and Alastor. Epitome of slow burn. The way he cares for her. It’s so sweet, omg. 
Here’s what I disliked: 
  • The structure. I don’t know if it’s because of my ARC or if this is in the finalized version, but the blending of past with present, the sort of omnipotent voice that runs through in Italics and then the time jumps. There are big gaps in time that range from 2 months to several years. Which is fine, but when coupled with the italics it’s a little confusing and took me time to readjust. Initially the whole prologue was iffy. You assume who it’s about and what’s going on from prior knowledge but it reads as a stream of consciousness merging of random thoughts that kind of feel out of place sometimes. The organization-style choice- wasn’t my favorite. 
  • Some plot points ended abruptly. There’s this whole build up on animosity between Vanessa and another character and then boom, over. I guess, I just wished there was more…hands on retribution. 
giveaway
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author
RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013 
Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She currently hard at work on the Unfortunate Soul Chronicles, and additional literary projects. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

 

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Pleasant reading, 
Jordan

ARC Review: The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty & Carina Rozenfeld

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‘Remember: Demons lie’

Locked away inside the fortified walls of Oxford’s St Wilfred’s College, surrounded by alchemists sworn to protect them, Taylor and Sacha are safe from the Darkness. For now.

But time is short. In seven days Sacha will turn 18, and the ancient curse that once made him invincible will kill him, unleashing unimaginable demonic horror upon the world.

There is one way to stop it.

Taylor and Sacha must go to where the curse was first cast – the medieval French city of Carcassonne – and face the demons.

The journey will be dangerous. And monsters are waiting for them.

But as Darkness descends on Oxford, their choice is stark. They must face everything that scares them, or lose everything they love.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Bookouture

I was apprehensive getting into The Secret City because while I loved the premise of book 1 (The Secret Fire), I was disappointed in the execution. The Secret City was much better The Secret Fire and I kind of wish there was another installment in this series because I can’t wait to see what happens with these characters next.

The Secret City is full of action, danger, romance, and learning to embrace your fears to become more than you ever thought you could be. 

I loved, loved, loved Louisa and Allistair’s story. They have grown so much, you can’t help but fall hard for their friendship. Louisa’s past is a dark and tragic one, full of hurt and pain and heartache. Louisa has given up on love because she’s terrified she doesn’t know how because she has never been loved. It will break your heart that such a fierce, heroic, and whip-smart girl could feel so emotionally broken. Seeing her vulnerability, her bravado, the way she yearns for happiness and will sacrifice everything to save the world, she is just epic. Plus, that banter between Louisa and Allistair is playful, flirty, and full of admiration. It flows so well. 

The bad guys are seriously creepy and sinister. There are several adrenaline-fueled moments that you won’t be certain of the outcome. Those weird zombie-esque creatures are disgusting and yet, you can’t help but pity them. There’s a great balance showing that not all darkness is true darkness. 

Taylor still struggles. I liked that she stayed true to her personality. Yes, her power grows, yes, she’s destined, but she’s not perfect, she has to work hard for her skills and she makes mistakes. So relatable. 

I wish there was more of Sacha. Despite the story divided into various POVs, it felt dominated by Taylor for some reason. Not that her voice was stronger, somehow it was more demanding. Sacha’s story is complex. Hundreds of years of hatred and curses have made him into who he is and finally, finally, you see what a wonderful person he is. Be on guard for the swoon. 

I’ve waited not-so-patiently for some romance in this series and FINALLY. FIN-AL-LY. But so spaced out. Drove me nuts. MORE, needed much, much more. While I appreciated that it wasn’t romance-driven, I would have liked a little more development there on both counts. 

The ending was abrupt. 

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

Happy reading, 

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Blood and Salt-Kim Liggett

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Release Date: September 22, 2015

synRomeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

review4.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Penguin FirstToRead

Reading Blood and Salt is very much like getting lost in a massive corn maze in the dead of night with a sinister presence stalking after you. The more I read, the deeper I went into the chaos and terror. Shock after shock, twists turn into insane revelations. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe, this story is epic. Throughout the entire read I couldn’t figure out how story elements so far removed fit so well together-Native Americans, Conquistadors, alchemy, a curse, and flesh-eating corn? Somehow it all works and it’s MAGICAL. 

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You want to be scared senseless
  • You adore unconventional horror
  • You’re a sucker for star-crossed lovers
  • You’re looking for a unique story 
  • Seriously…just read it

PROS:

  • I can’t remember the last time I was so disturbed by a book-maybe Girl from the Well. There’s a new level of creepy that takes on a life of its own as the story progresses. From the haunting visions, the grotesque ghosts, the monstrous crows, and several unexplained phenomenons, there’s an overwhelming feeling of being watched, a foreboding that sticks with you even as clues are uncovered. Nail-biting, looking over your shoulder, sleeping with the light on…be prepared to be scared.
  • There’s an eclectic mix of history, folklore, and magic that is woven so well together it’s hard to imagine that they don’t exist that way in history books. The merging of Native American beliefs with alchemy and a Conquistador curse is not something I ever would have expected but it creates a dark tale that almost reads like truth. 
  • As if corn mazes aren’t horrifying enough, add in missing people, blood trails and unnatural behaviors, it becomes the perfect setting for a gruesome horror story. Coupled with this is the cult-like city. It’s intricate, protected by the corn, it’s made of a small history that evolved into worship. The people are solid in their faith that immortality is around the corner, their devotion only adds to the horror. 
  • Characters, for the most part, leave a lasting impression. Apart from the main characters, Ash’s mother is an even more intense version of Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven.
  • Plot twist central.
  • Relationships are crucial to this tale and extremely powerful. The love between Ash and her brother is heartwarming and potent. Though they’re incredibly different, they get each other. You can feel their connection. Dane and Ash are light sexual tension that builds into something on the verge of lust. One moment it’s playful and sensual, the next it’s explosive. 
  • THAT ENDING. Just cut out my heart and STOMP ALL OVER IT.

CONS:

  • Early on in the story, so much is summarized about the curse and Katia that it feels like being hit with a sledgehammer, totally overwhelmed with information.
  • Some components felt rushed and unfinished. Sections in Quivira, particularly the scenes with the scars, the leader, and what happens to him were short and cut off abruptly. A longer, more developed look into Quivira and the complex relationships there would have not only added to the horror but laid a stronger foundation for the next book.

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

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Jordan

Review: Cruel Beauty-Rosamund Hodge

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cooltext1889161239 copyGraceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

cooltext1889171582 copy3.5/5 Stars

Cruel Beauty is a tantalizing play on a beloved fairytale and classic mythology. Dark and edgy, Cruel Beauty is more in line with Grimm than Disney and way more twisted. 

PROS:

  • Combining fairytale with mythology, paganism, and alchemy, Cruel Beauty is complex and unique. 
  • Nyx is a feisty, honest heroine. She speaks in sharp barbs and insults, she is eccentric and bold, she reacts quickly and makes some crazy decisions but is smart. Nyx analyzes her enemy and plots meticulously, trying to stay a step ahead. Intelligent and well versed in both myth and alchemy, Nyx has the tools to take on the devil but resentment and anger burrow into her heart. Nyx is hurt, lost, and emotionally volatile. For years she’s known her fate, her dreams were ripped from her as a child, and she can’t help but hate her lack of freedom. It’s only too easy to sympathize with Nyx, however, sometimes her comments seem a little mean and unfair. 
  • Ignifex is a paradox. He’s demonic, tricky, vicious, and sarcastic at some points and others he’s sweet, playful, and a total charmer. There’s much more to him than meets the eye. Beneath his beastly role, he is just as trapped as Nyx. Be still my heart, I seriously fell for this devilish man.
  • The Children of Typhon are TERRIFYING. Made of nightmares and sinister intentions, they stare back from the shadows, eating at your soul. Vile, vicious creatures, they taunt and play with their food. Some aspects of this story are so dark they’ll haunt you for days.
  • The relationship between Nyx and her family is a complicated one. Nyx and her sister, though the moments are brief are poignant and heartbreaking. Nyx’s emotions reign in all their bitter glory. Nyx wishes she didn’t feel as she did and her internal conflict is especially moving. 

CONS:

  • If you don’t know quite a bit about mythology, the stories associated with the pantheon, and folk traditions, many allusions that are critical to the plot might be confusing. There’s not much explanation and a glossary would have really aided in keeping track of the tiny pieces that author weaved together to form the story arc. 
  • The ending is a chaotic, wavering burst of stories layered one on top of the other. Many things were left unexplained and left me feeling very puzzled. Without being spoilery, it’s difficult to convey exactly what I’m referring to.
  • The love triangle fell apart abruptly. One moment it’s going strong and the next, slap in the face jump from one to the other. I needed some time to adjust that just wasn’t there. 

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

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Happy reading, 

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