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Monday, April 27, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

The Secrets We Keep
by Trisha Leaver
To be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
on April 28, 2015

Source: ARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world. When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

My take: I really love twin books and books about impersonators and books about twins who impersonate one another. I've loved this trope since the original The Parent Trap and all those cheesy soaps I was watching instead of doing my homework, in which everyone seemed to have an evil twin.

So let's just say I've seen this plot a few times before. Perhaps as a result of all those twin switch books I've read, I've developed my preferences. While I liked The Secrets We Keep, I can't say I loved it. In my opinion, twin switch plots work better if they choose a lane: comic or creepy. This book was sort of ... neither. As the synopsis suggests, Maddy dies and Ella feels responsible for her death and, in a sort of strange twist, decides to pretend to be the dead sister out of guilt. Which also prevents her from facing her guilt. And that should make her feel even more guilty...

I think this book was trying to do too many things. It had to be a switching places book and a grief book and a guilty secrets book and a romance and then there was also a mystery thrown in -- not about Maddy's death, which I think could have improved the story, but about some shady stuff that Maddy had been up to before she died.  For me, this prevented this book from being as suspenseful and/or emotional and/or romantic as it could have been. On the plus side, this story avoided messy love geometry, as can happen in these kind of life swapping stories.

If you love impersonator books, definitely give The Secrets We Keep a try, and you can also check out my review on Goodreads, which includes a list of twin/impersonation books I've read.

Be sure to stop by on Friday, because I'm giving away an ARC of this book!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Freebie Friday: In a World Just Right

Happy Friday!

Congratulations to Justine -- hope you enjoy Ember in the Ashes!

As promised, I'm giving away an ARC of a book I reviewed on Monday, In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks:

Sorry that this is US only, but if you enter Hot Off the Presses, you can win any book of your choice, open internationally!

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crimson Bound Blog Tour Featuring Flash Fiction by Rosamund Hodge

Welcome to my stop on the Crimson Bound Blog Tour, hosted by The Midnight Garden.

If you missed my review of Crimson Bound -- spoiler: I loved it! -- you can read it here.

Synopsis: When Rachelle was fifteen she was good -- apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night? Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.

Crimson Bound will be available in stores and online on May 5, 2015 in hardback, as well as on audiobook. Add it to your GoodReads shelf here!

I am extremely excited to present an original piece of flash fiction written by Rosamund Hodge. There will be a total of three original stories as part of the tour, so please check out the other tour stops below for more flash fiction, plus guest posts, and interview and more!

Three Girls Who Met a Forestborn: The Sister
by Rosamund Hodge

In the world of Crimson Bound, there is a legend that once upon a time, there was no sun and no moon. The whole world was covered in the magical Great Forest, and humans were ruled by the heartless forestborn--until the twins Tyr and Zisa defeated the Devourer, the dark god of the forestborn, and stole the sun and moon from out of his stomach.

The legend is true.  And this is a story that Tyr and Zisa might have heard as children, when there was no light in the world but starlight, and no hope at all.

In the darkest shadows of the forest stands a house. It is carved of wood most skillfully; from every post and lintel leap a profusion of leaves, flowers, wolves, birds, and little writhing men. And mouths. And teeth.

The walls are caulked with blood. The roof is thatched with bones.

Very few mortals have ever seen it. But two children of our tribe did once; and this is the way it happened.

Many years ago, there was a little girl and a little boy. Their mother was dead--the forestborn had hunted her for sport--and their father loved them more than his own breath. And that was a very great problem, for he was leader of their tribe. It was his part, when the forestborn came, to speak with them and offer them whatever they wished.

But when the forestborn wished to take his children and hunt them as well--

He promised the forestborn that he would lead them to the place where the hunt would start. But he took them in the other direction, and told them that they must run from him and never return.

The girl and the boy ran, and then they walked, and then they limped, but they never stopped. Until at last they came to a place in the Forest where the trees wove together so thickly that not a single star shone through.

Before them lay the house. It was just as terrible as I have told you, but light gleamed in the windows, and they were starving. So they went in.

Sitting before the fireplace was a slender lady as white as bone, with dark hair so long it pooled about her feet. This was Old Mother Hunger, the first and most terrible of all the forestborn, who had danced before the Devourer and made him want her as a child.

She smiled at them--her mouth was very red, except for her white, white teeth--and said,  "What do you want, little children?"

They knew she was a forestborn, but they were so desperate, they hardly cared. "Please," said the boy, "we are dying for want of food."

"Please," said the girl. "We will serve you in return."

"Oh," said Old Mother Hunger, "I shall make you a feast."

She spread her table full of food, and the children devoured it. But when they had eaten their fill, they grew sleepy. The next moment, they were waking, and they were in cages.

"I have decided," said Old Mother Hunger, "that I shall give you both a chance. Whoever agrees to kill the other first shall be my child and live forever."

"Never," said the boy.

"I would rather die," said the girl.

And so they both said for a long time as they sat in their cages. Old Mother Hunger gave them water to drink, but not a crumb of food.

"Please," said the girl at last, "let me work for food. I will do anything but kill him."

Old Mother Hunger looked in her eyes and said, "Very well."

So the girl scrubbed floors and washed dishes and did every loathsome task that Old Mother Hunger could devise. Her brother grew fat in his cage, for he never had to lift a finger, and somehow his meals were always larger; while the girl grew gaunt with hunger and weariness, for she could barely stop working long enough to sleep. But every time that Old Mother Hunger gave them their meals, they wove their fingers together through the bars of the cage and whispered that they loved each other.

At last Old Mother Hunger said to the girl, "I have lost a needle. Will you find it for me?"

"Of course," said the girl.

Old Mother Hunger took her to a room where not only every wall but all the ceiling and floor was covered in cupboard doors.

"I dropped it through one of these doors," she said, and left the girl to search.

The girl opened the closest door. All she saw was darkness, utter darkness.

More than darkness.

You have heard of the Devourer, the god of the forestborn. Some say he looks like a great black wolf. Some say he looks like a starving man, with flowers on his head and ribs poking through his skin.

I have never seen him myself, but I tell you this: as the girl opened door after door and saw yawning darkness after yawning dark, she came to understand that this darkness was the Devourer. It was his eyes. His mouth. His face.

And he looked at her.

He looked.

She wept and sobbed as she opened door after door. She forgot why she was opening them. She opened them still. And she came to know what we all know, however we try not to say it: this world is made of hunger. The Devourer is hunger himself, and we are little different, because we all want to live.

The girl no longer wept. When Old Mother Hunger returned, she sat straight and proud as she said, "Mother, I found it not. But if you wish, I will be your needle."

So Old Mother Hunger smiled, and put the mark of the forestborn upon her, and gave her a knife.

Her brother wept when she came to him. He did not weep for long. His blood was bright, bright red.

His sister wept, but not for long. She was lovely, as she changed into a forestborn.

And this, my children, was the birth of the forestborn lady who comes to our tribe and chooses the tribute. She told us this tale, and she commanded us to tell it to every child we raise. Because you must learn, my dear little children, how foolish it is to disobey your master. For the forestborn serve the Devourer, and he lives at the bottom of your heart. However much you love, however fierce your courage, in the end you will obey him. 

This is the way of the world. And we shall never know anything else.

About the author: Rosamund Hodge loves mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. She writes YA fantasy that draws on two of those things. In her wild youth, she studied Medieval English at Oxford; she now lives in Seattle and writes wildly.

Visit Rosamund Hodge on the web: 

Follow her on Twitter: @rosamundhodge

Follow the Crimson Bound Tour: April 20-May 1, 2015 

Monday, 4/20              The Midnight Garden         Fairy Tale Inspiration: Little Red Riding Hood & The Girl with No Hands
Tuesday, 4/21                Mundie Moms                    Cosmetics for Badasses
Wednesday, 4/22        Two Chicks on Books        Audiobook Clip + Interview
Thursday, 4/23            YA Romantics                    Flash Fiction #1
Friday, 4/24                 Cuddlebuggery                  The Obligatory Strong Heroine Post
Monday, 4/27              YA Midnight Reads            Writing a Bad Girl/Good Boy Romance
Tuesday, 4/28             Alice Marvels                      Flash Fiction #2   
Wednesday, 4/29        The Daily Prophecy            Interview
Thursday, 4/30            The Social Potato               Death Before Dishonor
Friday, 5/1                   The Starry-Eyed Revue      Flash Fiction #3

Enter to win! Thanks to Harper Teen, we're giving away two prizes! The first prize is a bundle of Rosamund Hodge books, including hardback copies of CRIMSON BOUND and CRUEL BEAUTY, and the second prize is a giveaway for the fantastic audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden. Let us know in the comments which of the two you'd prefer, or if you're open to either one.

Open to U.S. and Canadian residents, see entry form for complete details.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Crimson Bound
by Rosamund Hodge
To be published on May 5, 2015
by Blazer + Bray

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat. Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
My take: I really loved Rosamund Hodge's first book, Cruel Beauty, and am happy to say that I liked Crimson Bound even more. This book was dark and compelling, full of unexpected twists and turns and complex characters. This book runs the emotional gamut -- love, loss, betrayal, and redemption.

The book starts with a scene that's sort of Little Red Riding Hood meets ... vampires. But not exactly. That's what I love about Rosamund Hodge's books -- they're so imaginative and original. As I read Crimson Bound, I kept thinking about one of my favorite YA authors -- Holly Black. Both these authors write stories that are creepy and beautiful and full of moral ambiguity.

The romance in this one is ... complicated. I really wouldn't call it a triangle, but I definitely can't say it's a simple girl-meets-boy-and-finds-true-love story either. And I'd argue that Rachelle's romantic life is so much more complex and interesting than the typical fairy tale heroine who finds true love with her prince and lives happily ever after. I don't want to say more, but I was fine with all of it and thought it added a lot more depth.I hadn't heard of the story of The Girl Without Hands -- and here I thought I'd read almost every fairy tale out there! - but I really liked the way it was incorporated into the story.

All in all, I was incredibly impressed by Crimson Bound and highly recommend it to fans of dark fairy tales!  Be sure to stop by tomorrow, because as part of the book's blog tour, I'm going to be featuring an original flash fiction piece by Rosamund Hodge. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing April 21-27

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

Join the April giveaway and link-up! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release in April or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Things We Know by Heart Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke The Remedy Death Code
Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby (Harper)
Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman (Balzer + Bray)
The Remedy (The Program 0.5) by Suzanne Young (Simon Pulse)
The Death Code (Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings (Greenwillow)

Challenger Deep Invisible Monsters Endangered
Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman (Harper)
Invisible Monsters (Talker 25 #2) by Joshua McCune (Greenwillow)
Endangered by Lamar Giles (Harper)

Every Last Promise Becoming Jinn Finding Paris
Every Last Promise by Kristin Holbrook (Harper)
Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein (Feiwel and Friends)
Finding Paris by Joy Treble (Balzer + Bray)

The Trials Wrong About the Guy Sophomore Year is Greek to Me
The Trials (Paper Doll Project #3) by Stacey Kade (Disney-Hyperion)
Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik (Harper)
Sophomore is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin (Putnam)

Still Waters 99 Days City Love
Still Waters by Ash Parons (Philomel)
99 Days by Katie Cotogno (Balzer + Bray)
City Love by Susane Colasanti (Katherine Tegen)

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks

In a World Just Right
by Jen Brooks
To be published on April 28, 2015
by Simon & Schuster

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes Jonathan Aubrey wishes he could just disappear. And as luck—or fate—would have it, he can. Ever since coming out of a coma as a kid, he has been able to create alternate worlds. Worlds where he is a superhero, or a ladies’ man, or simply a better version of himself. That’s the world he’s been escaping to most since sophomore year, a world where he has everything he doesn’t have in real life: friends, a place of honor on the track team, passing grades, and most importantly, Kylie Simms as his girlfriend. But when Jonathan confuses his worlds senior year and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, everything unravels. The real Kylie actually notices Jonathan…and begins obsessing over him. The fantasy version of Kylie struggles to love Jonathan as she was created to do, and the consequences are disastrous. As his worlds collide, Jonathan must confront the truth of his power and figure out where he actually belongs—before he loses both Kylies forever. 

My take: I will admit to being a little wary of parallel universe books. For me, they fall into a "nonlinear narrative" category that also includes time travel books and books with timelines that jump forward and back. When stories like this force me to repeatedly figure out where and when I am, I often feel pulled out of the narrative.

I'm happy to say I didn't have that problem with In a World Just Right. I was never confused about which world I was in, and that let me settle into the story.  Jonathan is such a sympathetic character. After a terrible tragedy, he has the power to create alternate worlds -- and he does. He spends much of his time in a  parallel world in which he's completely different: a good student, a talented athlete, and the boyfriend of the girl of his dreams, Kylie Simms.

But one day, Jonathan slips. He forgets which world he's in and tries to kiss Kylie, who in the real world barely seems to know he exists. After that, things start to crumble a little. The Kylie he created, the one who loves him, starts to seem less real, and he begins to wonder if he might be able to connect with the real Kylie. That is, if his messing with space and time doesn't just mess up everything for good.

Books like this are often heavy on science-based explanations, but I liked the fact that this book doesn't spend much time trying to explain how the two worlds came to be. To me, In a World Just Right was more of a grief book and a romance, with an interesting dose of philosophy.  The writing was good. The romance reminded me a little of the Pygmalion and Galatea story. The ending, while a little too neat for me -- I'm weird! -- will please most readers just fine.

If you're looking for something a little different to try, definitely check this book out. I'll be giving away an ARC on Freebie Friday this week, so if you're interested, be sure to stop by!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Freebie Friday: Ember in the Ashes

Happy Friday!

Today I'm giving away a hardcover of:

Due to the high cost of shipping books outside the US, this will be US only, but if you win Hot Off the Presses -- which is open internationally -- I'll happily order you a copy!

Full disclosure: this otherwise like-new hardcover does have a very slight dark spot on the reverse side of the dust jacket -- it can only be seen if you take the dust jacket off. But if you're dying to read this, it's otherwise in perfect condition.

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