Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Minor Characters

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Favorite Minor Characters 
Minor characters are less than a sidekick or a side character (but not in our hearts!) Everyone will have a different definition of what makes a minor vs a side character but just as an example, I'd consider Ron and Hermione side characters, while Lavender Brown, Oliver Wood, and Dean Thomas are minor characters.


5. Bellatrix Lestrange and Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Sometimes the bad guys are so much fun! I didn't want to make an entire list of Harry Potter characters, but I also love Dobby and Kreature.


4. Bob the Skull from The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher 
Bob is kind of like a genie in a lamp, but instead of granting wishes he stores obscure magical knowledge and instead of a genie he's a pervert.

3. Annabelle Shaw from the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill
The Chicagoland Vampires books have a ton of A+ side/minor characters but Annabelle, the friendly neighborhood necromancer, easily became a favorite when she appeared on the page in Midnight Marked. I would love it if she got her own novella or book some day!

2. Oberon from The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
I have a lot of favorite talking animal companions but Oberon is hands down my favorite! He is hilarious and I love his relationship with Atticus! I can't help but grin every time he makes an appearance in the books.

1. Jupe Butler from the Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett
My all-time favorite teenaged half-demon film buff! I'm still hoping Jenn Bennett will write a YA spin off starring Jupe one day.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bookish Product Review: Bookmarks from Nerdygrl Designs

So I've been shopping for bookish products to add to our upcoming blogoversary giveaway and I just couldn't resist these magnetic bookmarks from Nerdygrl Designs. Aren't those unicorns just the cutest thing ever? Her name is Princess Sparkles!
I like that the style of these bookmarks is more realistic than some of the others I've seen. The faces have more detail, for example. They're a little bit larger than some other bookmarks too. And I think the paper is a good weight so I'm not worried about it tearing or wrinkling.
Left to right: Jem from Mortal Instruments by Happy Hello, Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Nerdygrl, Iko from Wires and Nerve by Kaelis Paperie.

The Nerdygrl bookmarks are the same on front on back, rather than showing the characters' backs on one side like some others do. In some cases, like with creatures, I like the backs but most of the time I don't think it matters so that's not a criticism so much as an observation.
Every month Melisa includes a different freebie in each order. I ordered at the end of April so I got this cute chocolate Easter bunny.
My order arrived faster than I expected so I was quite happy with the service. I'll definitely order from Nerdygrl Designs again. I have to get the rest of those unicorns!

Other Bookish Product Reviews
Wax melts from Novelly Yours

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Five Reasons to Read Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Today I'm going to try something different than my standard review. I'm going to try out a list-style review format where I give you the reasons why I think you should pick this book up. I'm going to keep my reasoning spoiler free so you can read on without any fear. :)

Borrowed Souls
(Soul Charmer #1)
Chelsea Mueller
Release: May 2, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.

Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.

To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.

With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.

Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.

Five Reasons To Pick Up This Book:

1. Callie Delagado-
One of my favorite things about urban fantasy is the variety of heroines you see across the genre. You have badass warriors, powerful magic wielders, and then you have the Callies who are determined average women who do all they can. I had a hard time connecting to Callie at first but I soon came to love her. She's incredibly loyal. Her family is her weakness and she'll do anything to take care of them. I loved that she's imperfect. She knows she is and she doesn't make excuses for her weaknesses. I'm intrigued to see what happens to her as the series progresses.

2. The Family Dynamics- Callie's motto is that you put family first and from the first page you can tell that her family is the most important thing to her. She has spent most of her 22 years of life taking care of her mother and brother who are both manipulative and have used the past to keep Callie their slave. I found the lengths Callie would go to for her family to be intriguing. She's forced into one bad situation after another because of her brother but she never abandons them. I haven't read many books with these kind of family dynamics and I found it kind of awful but refreshing? I have mixed feelings about this obviously.

3. The Worldbuilding- It wouldn't be one of my reviews if I didn't mention worldbuilding, would it? The world in this book is so fascinating! Religion is king and everyone does everything in their power to keep their souls uncompromised. But people still want to do all the fun, sinful stuff. The solution? Borrow a soul so yours stays pristine. Of course things are more complicated than that as we find out. I really loved the world and I can't wait to see it expand in the next books.

4. The Secondary Characters- I'm not going to say much about this point but the secondary characters are awesome in this book. It's a diverse cast and they all have their own motivations and agendas that are slowly revealed throughout the book. Each character isn't purely good or evil and I loved that they were so multi-faceted. I hope we see more of a few of them as the series continues.

5. The Romance- I loved the romance that Mueller wrote. Seriously, the romance is A+ quality romance. It's not slow slow burn but it moves more slowly than some. Derek is an enforcer for the Soul Charmer but under his gruff exterior is a kind and protective sweetheart. I LOVED HIM! I look forward to seeing their relationship grow.

I enjoyed the heck out of Borrowed Souls and can't wait for the next one in the series! Hopefully, I convinced you to go pick this book up. I promise you won't be disappointed if you do.

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

  4 / 5 Stars

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guest Post: Kristi Charish's Top 5 Video Games and a Giveaway

We're so excited to have Kristi Charish, author of The Adventures of Owl series, back on the blog! In her latest, Owl and the Electric Samurai, Owl has to save the designers of her favorite game from bounty hunters. Kristi's here to tell us about her gaming inspiration.

Image result for video game gif

Top 5 Video Games That Inspired World Quest 

For any of Owl fans out there, you are aware of Owl’s fascination and love of the online RPG World Quest. Some of you also know that World Quest comes from my very own adoration of RPGs. Below is my must play list – and where my World inspiration comes from. 

1. Never Winter Nights/Balder’s Gate: An oldie but a goody, these two computer video game series were both based off of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games. Heavy on adventure with a campaign style narrative - this was some of my very first exposure to narrative in video games, and some of them were outright complex. Balder’s Gate was also one of the places I got the idea for Captain from, courtesy of Minsk, the giant ranger warrior with a Russian accent and Boo, his hamster familiar. These were also some of the first role playing video games that seriously attempted romance lines, though it wasn’t until the next games on the list that romance in games really hit its stride.

2. Dragon Age: I remember when this game came out. It was 2009, and I’d just finished another run of a Never Winter Nights 2 expansion when my boyfriend came home with a game called Dragon Age. Now, I wasn’t a console girl – I liked my games on the computer, even so I decided to give it a try…My boyfriend never got to play the game. I ended up clocking in more than a hundred hours over two full play throughs. Dragon Age is often referred to as the spiritual successor of Balder’s Gate and Never Winter Nights. I’d actually call it the rebellious love child of the two – the game play takes the best from both and adds some incredible narrative. I’d even go so far as to say that the story elements in Dragon Age were revolutionary with regard to narration in game. For the first time we were seeing complex romances and award winning fantasy level quests. Dragon Age is not your 90’s videogame. It’s award-winning fantasy all on its own, with an interactive twist. Not a videogame fan? Bioware took care of that. They made the game so that the barrier to entry is "never picked up a controller" level.

3. Mass Effect: This isn’t just a video game. It is one of the best pieces of Science Fiction produced in the last twenty years. Unsurprisingly this is the sci-fi sister to Dragon Age, made by the same studio and many of the same staff writers (FYI, if you haven’t read Patrick Weekes’ Prophecy Con series you should. He is one of the Bioware writers who have worked on both series. I highly recommend him if you enjoy the Owl series). Like Dragon Age, Mass Effect is chock full of adventure and humour. There is also romance, intrigue, and tons of space western antics. Buckle in and giddy up!

4. Uncharted: When the sequel to Uncharted came out, there was a Dear Playstation Commercial where a gamer asks Playstation what to do about his girlfriend mistaking Uncharted 2 for a movie...48 hours in. It wasn’t misogynistic, it could have been a roommate or a boyfriend. I was that roommate - making popcorn while someone else played, making them pause when the cut scenes came so I didn’t miss anything. The Uncharted series plays like an epic Indiana Jones movie (without The Crystal Skull). It is textbook adventure gaming – scratch that - Naughty Dog wrote the textbook on writing an adventure game.

5. The Witcher: Another epic fantasy series, this one from Poland and based off the bestselling Polish series by Andrzej Sapkowski. I didn’t start playing this until the third installment, and was I ever missing out. This is a mix of all the Slavic fairy tales I grew up with. Something bad happens in the story and you want to reload and start the scene over? You learn fast that there is no happy ending or right choice. Everything has a consequence. Compelling storytelling and an authentic introduction to Eastern European myths makes this a must watch/play.

Kristi Charish's latest, Owl and the Electric Samurai, is out now.
Watch for my review on the blog next week.

26385258Owl and the Electric Samurai
(The Adventures of Owl #3)
Kristi Charish
Release: May 8, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
The third exciting novel starring the unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. From the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish (Owl and the Japanese Circus) and for fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and fantasy lovers everywhere.

The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural under wraps. They’re also responsible for ruining the promising archaeology career of Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl.

Needless to say, Owl’s still a little sore about that.

Just to keep Owl’s life lively, the IAA has opened a bounty on the two designers of World Quest, the online RPG that is much, much more than it seems. Owl needs to locate the notorious gaming duo before the other mercenaries do. But finding the gamers won’t be easy since every clue points to them hiding out in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La. Not to mention that the last time Owl and the game designers spoke, their conversation didn’t exactly end on the best note…

Meanwhile, undercurrents of supernatural politics are running amok in Tokyo, dragging Owl and her friends into a deadly game of wits with an opponent who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The cost of losing? All-out civil war between two powerful supernatural factions. All in all, just another great day on the job.

Kristi Charish is giving away one of her books of your choice, Owl and the Japanese Circus, Owl and the City of Angels, Owl and the Electric Samurai, or The Voodoo Killings. You can also choose your format, a signed paperback, ebook or audio.
(U.S./Canada only)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Summer Reads

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Summer Reads
The weather is heating up (for half of the world), so what books remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads?


5. Rereads
I find a do a lot of rereading over the summer, but we've talked about our favorite rereads a lot in previous posts so I don't want to repeat myself too much. A few of our faves are Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels, Guild Hunter, and the Night Huntress series.


4. Black Knights Inc. series by Julie Ann Walker
 This romantic suspense series has great action scenes, hot former military men posing as mechanics who are actually top secret operatives, and sassy heroines with hilarious internal monologues. It also takes readers all around the world, though it's primarily set in Chicago, which is one of my favorite cities. Walker's releasing 3 books in the series between April and September so this summer's a perfect time to binge.


3. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle is all about a group of teens searching for a Welsh king in the middle of nowhere Virginia. There's psychics, ghosts, and other weird paranormal things. It sounds a bit weird but it's a perfect summer read! And all the books are out so you can binge read them all at once!


2. The Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance
Chance's books are like reading an action movie. They have vampires, battle mages, time travel. And they're set in Vegas Baby! Perfect summer entertainment!


1. Psy-Changeling Series by Nalini Singh
There's something about summer that screams "binge read long UF/PNR series" to me and no series makes a better binge (re)read than the Psy-Changeling series. The series is not just swoony moments but has a bit of action and suspense all set in an awesome futuristic sci-fi world. If you have never read it, now would be an awesome time to start before the next book comes out next month. There are also tons of shorter works in this series if you want to try it out or need a quick fix.

What are your favorite summer reads?


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Release Day Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

23308087Flame in the Mist
(Flame in the Mist #1)
Renee Ahdieh
Release: May 16, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via First to Read
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known. 

As I write this, I'm nursing a major book hangover. It took me a while to get into Flame in the Mist, as is often the case with multi-POV stories, but once I did it was hard to put down. It reminds me of Rebel of the Sands, which was one of my favorite books last year. Both books feature characters pretending to be someone else, including girls dressed as boys, and a strong sense of place.

Mariko is an inventor and has always felt out of place in her traditional noble family. She's very much aware of how different her life would be if she were a boy, in part because she has a twin brother. Kenshin is a renowned samurai, while Mariko is being traded to the royal family for political capitol. When she pretends to be a boy in order to infiltrate the Black Clan, she's finally able to find her strength and assert her independence. I appreciate that Ahdieh includes another female who shows her that there is power in being a woman as well.

I love the way the magic is subtly introduced in this world. There are shapeshifters, alchemists, and sorcerers, but their magic is not the only thing that defines them. Even at the end of the book, we still don't know all the details about the magical characters' origins and their powers. I'm thinking they will be a bigger part of book two. And I'm so happy there will be a second book because Holy Cliffhanger, Batman!

I also want to mention that Flame in the Mist is not a Mulan retelling. It does take some inspiration from Mulan, but there's so much more to the story. I think to call it a retelling, which I've seen a lot of people do, is really selling it short. It is the story of a girl who finds herself by being someone else, but it's also one of court politics, family loyalties, and a Robin Hood-like group of Lost Boys.  And it's an enemies to lovers romance, my personal fave. I'm glad that I took the time to get to know these characters. Now I can't wait for book two!

Recommended for fans of: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton


Friday, May 12, 2017

Blog Tour: The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker Excerpt, Review and Giveaway

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for The Wishing Heart, a new YA fantasy from author J.C. Welker. Here's an excerpt to introduce you to the main characters, Anjeline and Rebel, a djinn and the thief who steals her vessel. And don't miss the awesome giveaway at the end of the post!


Whatever natural tendency toward hope Anjeline once possessed had manifested itself into something harder on her face. Her eyes were far away, like she had thoughts on bigger things than just freedom. “This isn’t like your books,” she said as though Rebel were naive. “They’re stories that know nothing about life. People are thornier than what those things tell you. Good doesn’t always win. Light doesn’t always burn away the darkness.” 
Rebel pressed her lips into a hard line. “Maybe it’s you who knows nothing about people. Darkness exists because light casts a shadow. That’s life...painful and beautiful all at the same time.” Books might have not told her everything about magic, but they taught her how to see it in all things. 
Anjeline’s lips twitched. “Painful but beautiful. Sounds more like human love.” 
“Now that, I wouldn’t know,” she said sarcastically, but she meant it. She took a cold breath, feeling for her pendant resting on her chest. There was a black void in her heart, where the love of a parent, the love of anyone, had never occupied. 
Golden eyes met hers, Anjeline contemplating her with that look. “You’ve always been without kin?” Rebel nodded, turning aside from the fascinated gaze roaming over her. “So, you’ve never been loved?” 
The question wasn’t just about family. Rebel shrunk from those words, unable to stop from gravitating toward the ones living in the back of her mind. Believing herself, maybe, to not be worthy of it, or anything good. That black void had yawned so wide she used to think gathering stolen treasures could fill it. She used to put rocks under her pillow, wishing for them to turn into diamonds. But she was a book no one wanted to open. A riddle no one dared to answer. A lost girl no one desired to find. 
Her heart was tired of not being useful to anyone— especially herself. 
She was tired of being a captive to her own flesh. With a shake of her head, she didn’t reply. But as Anjeline gazed at her with that look, as though something tied them together, her chest hummed with...what, exactly? She tried willing it away but it spread deeper. She rubbed at her bruises, as if calming the ones within. Her numb hands shook, and she rummaged in the satchel for her pills. Anjeline persisted to stare, unbothered by the cold. Lucky her. “Stop staring at me,” she said. 
Anjeline clicked her tongue. “You could just ask me.” 
“For what?”
“For warmth.”
Rebel glanced up in both sheepishness and stubbornness. Taking that for an invitation, Anjeline moved closer. “I’m fine...” 
“I can hear your teeth rattling.”
Anjeline put a finger against Rebel’s lips. “Shh. If you’re frozen, neither of us will get our wish.” The light in her palm danced, and she placed a hand atop Rebel’s. 
The air throbbed between them. It crackled and purred, and Rebel startled as her blood hummed at the touch. Wisps of sultry light danced across her arms, snaking around her legs and torso in a shroud of warmth.

32171947The Wishing Heart
J.C. Welker
Release: May 1, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel's been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.

But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni's vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.

Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.

But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline's freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel's heart... 
This blurb had me expecting something like Jennifer Estep's Black Blade series, which I love. The reality is more like a cross between those books and The Forbidden Wish. The story often reminded me of Aladdin, and not just because it features a jinni. But it also incorporates witches, werewolves and fae in an elaborate underground magical world.

I like the idea of transplanting the traditional jinni myth into contemporary London, as well as the almost Alice in Wonderland way that meeting Anjeline opened up a whole new world to Rebel. And I enjoyed the chemistry between the two girls.

What I didn't love was the writing style. The third person narration is often flowery, employing unnecessarily redundant metaphors. and dated, sounding like it belongs in a historical. Then Rebel uses a word like "bling" and it feels jarringly anachronistic even though the story is set it modern times. I'm sure that there are some people who will love it, but I kept wanting to get a red pen out and edit.

I think fans of YA fantasies like Six of Crows will enjoy The Wishing Heart, but I wanted a more urban fantasy feel.


About the Author

J.C. WELKER is a YA Fantasy author who’s been, among other things, a fashion designer, a graphic designer, a filmmaker and a kickboxer (seriously).

She’s best known for writing and producing the documentary short films focusing on homeless Iraq vets and LGBTQ+ issues in the military, which was selected by the North Texas Film Festival and featured on CURRENT TV. Her recent novel placed first in the paranormal category of the 2016 YARWA Rosemary Awards, and she continues to work towards giving a voice to stories that are needed, while facing magic and monsters along the way.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter @jcwelker

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