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Friday, December 19, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Falling Kingdoms Prize Pack!

Yesterday, I interviewed YA author Morgan Rhodes about her Falling Kingdoms series. If you missed that, you can read it here -- check out what she has to say about love and death in her books. Spoiler: she doesn't promise not to kill anyone. In the books, that is...

Starting today, you can enter to win this fabulous Back to Mytica, Wish You Were Here prize pack, which includes a t-shirt, postcards and copies of the three released books in the series, courtesy of Penguin Young Readers.

Here's a little bit more about the most recent installment, Gathering Darkness, which released last week:

The seeds of revolution have been sown…but in Mytica the lust for power reigns supreme.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.

THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?
Here's where you can find author Morgan Rhodes and this series on the internet:

Follow Morgan Rhodes on TwitterTumblr, and Instagram
Find the Falling Kingdoms series on Facebook

Enter below. Open to US addresses only.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interview with Morgan Rhodes, author of the Falling Kingdoms Series.

If you love YA fantasy, you're probably a fan of Morgan Rhodes. Her Falling Kingdoms books are multi-character, multi-kingdom, multi-cliffhanger pageturners. Today, Morgan's stopping by the blog to answer a few of my burning questions about the series. Then stop by tomorrow for a chance to win a fabulous Falling Kingdoms prize package, courtesy of Penguin Young Readers.

First, here's a little bit about the series:

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed…and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even love.

In AURANOS, privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

In LIMEROS, the king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying family secret about her birth that will change everything.

In PAELSIA, rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if four, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.
And here is a link to an excerpt of Gathering Darkness.

Photo by Shanon Fujioka
Morgan Rhodes is the New York Times bestselling author of the FALLING KINGDOMS series. As a child, she always wanted to be a princess—the kind that knows how to wield a sharp sword to help save both kingdoms and princes from fire-breathing dragons and dark wizards. Instead, she became a writer, which is just as good and much less dangerous. Along with writing, Morgan enjoys photography, travel, and reality TV, and is an extremely picky yet voracious reader of all kinds of books.

Follow Morgan Rhodes on TwitterTumblr, and Instagram
Find the Falling Kingdoms series on Facebook

JEN: Gathering Darkness, which came out on December 9, is the third installment in your six book YA high fantasy series. I’ve always wondered how writers keep track of that much story. Do you have a war room in your house filled with charts and graphs and post-its?

MORGAN: Ha! If I had enough room here for a war room I’d definitely install one. But you’re right, it is tricky to keep loads of information organized to prevent inconsistencies. I do have a “Falling Kingdoms Bible” document, which has sections like Character Descriptions, Mythology, Settings, and I have a full glossary of every name that’s been used in the books. Still, I find myself paging through the previous books as I’m doing my revisions to make sure there are as few errors as authorly possible!

JEN: I’ve read the first book, Falling Kingdoms, and just started the second, Rebel Spring, so I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but have the following observations from the reviews I have read. Feel free to comment on any or all. First observation: I can see on Goodreads that readers of this series seem to have wildly differing opinions on their favorite characters/villains/couples and seem to change their minds from book to book.

MORGAN: I’m glad to hear this. It means I’m writing characters capable of change (either for the better or for the worse). To keep a character interesting, there needs to be some sort of growth…and I’m so happy that readers are connecting with them!

JEN: That's a great point, and very important for a multi-book series like this. Okay, moving on to
my Second Observation: You’ve taken the stereotypical YA love triangle and blown it into a multi-sided three-dimensional shape. So many possible ships…

MORGAN: Some ships will sail and some will sink. I don’t know much about how it’s all going to end, but I do know who I see together romantically…or how do readers put it? OTP? One True Pairing? 

JEN: I suspect things are going to get even more interesting, then. Which leads nicely into my Third Observation: sheesh -- characters are dying left and right. Was this new for you as an author? I know you’ve also written adult urban fantasy, so maybe you have prior experience as a (fictional) murderer….

MORGAN: I had to think about this question for a while… I have written many books under my other pen name, in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and YA… and characters have definitely died. I think I just haven’t been quite as bloodthirsty in the past as I have been in Falling Kingdoms. I like to keep readers on their toes! ;)

JEN: One more question just for fun: your bio says you’re a fan of reality TV. What reality show would you most like to appear on, and what reality show are you most likely to get secretly nominated for by your family or friends? 

MORGAN: Yes, I watch far too much reality TV, mostly since I’m on my laptop so much that reality doesn’t really need you to follow along as closely as a plotted show. I’m more a fan of the competitions shows than, say, the Real Housewives or Kardashians. I think I could do well on Big Brother (lots of sleep and sitting around chatting and eating). Not so well on Survivor (insects + hunger, not a good mix). My friends and family might secretly nominate me for What Not to Wear, but luckily it’s not on anymore.

JEN: Ha - if you're that bloodthirsty on the page, I think you could handle Survivor! Thanks so much for stopping by! I look forward to seeing what happens next in this series -- and it's almost as much fun to read other readers' reactions to what transpires...

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for a chance to win this Back to Mytica, Wish You Were Here prize pack... includes a t-shirt, postcards and a set of the three released books in the series!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best Books of 2014 Part Two: Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal

Welcome to the second installment of my Best Books of 2014 posts. If you missed my first post, on my favorite YA Contemporaries of 2014, you can read it here.

Today, I'm looking at non-contemporaries -- fantasy, sci-fi and paranormal. I'm a pickier reader in this department, so I'll tell you what makes a book in this category for me. I look for just the right amount of worldbuilding (not too little, not too much) and I want it integrated into the story. For me to stick with books like these, I need a compelling plot and characters I can care about.

Click on the cover to get to the book's Goodreads page and on the title to get to my review

Winner's Curse Princess of Thorns Heir of Fire Blue Lily, Lily Blue
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Farrar Straus Giroux, March 2014)
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay (Delacorte, December 2014)
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury, September 2014)**
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, October 2014)

Kiss of Deception Cruel Beauty Trial by Fire
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, July 2014)
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Balzer + Bray, January 2014)
Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini (Feiwel and Friends, September 2014)

**If you remember my review of Heir of Fire, you might be surprised that I included this one. Even though I was a little sad that this series has moved from light fantasy to high fantasy, I also thought Heir of Fire featured some of the most amazing plotting and writing I've read in YA this year and a huge emotional punch at the end. I couldn't not include it on a "best of" list!

Quick test: Which book is for you?

Do you love retellings? Try Cruel Beauty (Beauty and the Beast) or Princess of Thorns (fairy tale mashup including Sleeping Beauty)
Are you fascinated by alternate universes and/or paranormal puzzles? Try Trial by Fire or Blue, Lily Lily Blue
Want books with twists that keep you guessing? Try The Kiss of Deception,  Heir of Fire, or Trial by Fire
Want to feel ALL the feels? Definitely Heir of Fire or Princess of Thorns. Blue Lily was a little less feely for me than the other books, but that next book is going to be a sobfest, I think
Do you prefer OTL (One True Love) over triangles? Princess of Thorns is the only one of these that I think is completely free of any triangle-y type situations.
What's that? Swoony book boys? Princess of Thorns (give Niklass a chance, he has great character growth) Kiss of Deception (though slightly trianglish). Blue Lily, Lily Blue has multiple boys to swoon over....

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Best Books of 2014 Part One: Contemporaries

Hot off the Presses is on hiatus -- there are so few books coming out in the next three weeks that I'm going to combine them all in a post on December 30.

But hello and welcome to my first Best Books of 2014 post. I always have a hard time choosing "bests" of anything and I can never limit it to ten, so every year I make my book lists by genre. All the books on my list are YA books that were published in 2014.

This post will cover Best Contemporaries of 2014. Tomorrow I'll feature fantasy, sci-fi and paranormal titles.

What I look for:

Contemporaries are often my favorite books. To me, a good contemporary needs well-drawn characters and evokes real emotion. If the story tackles a important, complicated issue, all the better. I also like books that reflect all the wonderful diversity of our world -- books set outside the US or about characters I don't always read about are a plus to me. Finally, I like books that surprise me in some way.

Click on the cover to get to Goodreads -- click on the title to get to my review!

Everything Leads to You We Were Liars Open Road Summer
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (Dutton, May 2014)
We Were Liars by e. lockhart (Delacorte, May 2014)
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (Bloomsbury, April 2014)

Wildlife Something Real I'll Give You the Su
Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Poppy, September 2014)
Something Real by Heather Demetrios (Henry Holt, February 2014)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial, September 2014)

Here are a few quick Book Match questions to see which of these you might enjoy:

Looking for SWBs (swoony book boys)? Try Open Road Summer or Something Real
Love books about female friendships? Wildlife or Open Road Summer
Do you love books about families or siblings? I'll Give You the Sun or Something Real or We Were Liars
Looking for books with diverse characters? Everything Leads To You
Looking for something different and unexpected? We Were Liars or I'll Give You the Sun

Have you read any of these? Let me know if you agree or disagree. Then go read the second post!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Extra! Extra! Great YA Giveaways :)

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekend post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's new on the blog.

This weekend I'm linking to Stacking the Shelves @ Tynga's Reviews and/or to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 


You can check out the week's new YA releases and enter Hot Off the Presses by linking up your reviews of December YA books or commenting on linked reviews. Open internationally!

You can enter to win one of my Favorite Books of 2014! Also open internationally!

And you can find out what Lauren of Love is Not a Triangle and I thought of The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. If you haven't started this series, you can enter to win a copy of The Bone Season and get started reading. US only.


These either came in the mail or from a friend who attended a book event. Thanks, Sabrina and thanks, Penguin :)

What are you up to this holiday season? Shopping, traveling, reading? I'm trying to do all of it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon: a Discussion Review with Lauren @ Love is not a Triangle + Giveaway

Welcome to my (joint) review of The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. If you haven't yet read the first book, scroll down and enter our giveaway for a hardcover of the The Bone Season plus an excerpt of the Mime Order! 

Lauren of Love Is Not a Triangle and I read The Mime Order at the same time, texted as we read, and then turned our (somewhat incoherent) texts--

--into a book discussion. The first half of the chat is on Lauren's blog, and the other half is below. If you enjoy this format, check out our half-and-half review of Half Bad. 

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)
by Samantha Shannon
To be published by Bloomsbury
on January 27, 2015

Source: Thanks so much to Bloomsbury for approving me on Netgalley!

Synopsis from Goodreads: Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London. As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on. 
This is book two of a series. See my review of The Bone Season here.

Warning: Some spoilers for the Bone Season below. We have tried to mark and hide any thing that someone might consider a spoiler for Mime Order. But both of us felt that this book didn't have a lot of huge plot twists. Just one big surprise, and that will NOT be spoiled here...

Now below is Part II:

The Scrimmage 

Jen: The Scrimmage (combat in a ring for the right to rule the Syndicate) is a major event that we're waiting for the entire book. Was this dramatic showdown worth the waiting? For me, it took a long time to get there. However, the contest was finally a chance to see characters using their paranormal abilities, and that was a lot of fun.

Lauren: After being teased about what Paige and everyone else could do for the whole book, it was exciting to finally see them all in action! I was surprised about how some of the events played out, even if I expected the ultimate outcome. Overall I really enjoyed this section, but I agree it was a long wait to get there.

The romance

Lauren: What did you think about the romance? (minor spoiler) I thought Warden would remain missing for most of the book. (end spoiler.) In a seven-book series, you don't want the romance to peak too soon.

Jen : I agree, but my interest in the story definitely picked up during those romantic scenes. Even if this installment didn’t have a lot of conflict throughout, there was definitely some romantic tension.

Lauren: Yes. Thank goodness! The romantic parts were some of my favorites. They succeeded in adding tension while avoiding unnecessary relationship drama or making the focus on romance. Plus: Swoon!

Jen: Yes – for me, the romance is one of the very best parts of this series. While it falls into a classic trope -- forbidden love -- I also am finding it truly touching.

Lauren: This surprised me so much, but I agree with your assessment of the romance. I hope it can continue to increase in tension, while retaining the balanced with the rest of the plot that this book manages. Warden is such a great counter to Paige, and challenges her quite a bit in this book, including being one of the first people to say that she needed to change her relationship with Jaxon. I definitely want to see Paige grow up, but I like the way he pushes her.

Also, for those of you love triangle dislikers, there are zero other love interest prospects, and my hopes are increasing that there won't be.

Jen: Though I’m not always opposed to triangles, I think the whole forbidden love aspect gives this relationship plenty of angst. No triangles, please!

The Rag and Bone man

Jen: We have a new villain in this installment and wow, was he creepy! As you pointed out in a text to me, he wears a mask, so it's definitely possible that he could be a character we already know in disguise. He's also the head of the Rag Dolls. I can’t decide if they are silly or scary, like an evil Raggedy Ann.

Lauren: Much was made of this person and his group, and it’s for sure suspicious that we never see his face. I’m assuming that’s going to come up again, and that he’s a character we’ve seen or heard of before. The Rag Dolls title was a little silly, but they sure did some scary things. I wouldn’t want to encounter them in a dark alley!

Missing Persons  Warning: Spoilers in the section below for the Bone Season!

Jen: There are a fair number of characters who are unaccounted for, so let’s run them down. At the beginning of the book, Julian is missing and presumed dead. Paige's cousin is also supposed to be dead, but we keep hearing about. The first book also makes a big thing about two people who escaped the last bone season.

Lauren: We also have at least one other character that pops up at the beginning of this book and then disappears for the duration, though this person is mentioned again later. I think all of these people will be back. The two escapees definitely mean something. Some of these hints seem a little too obvious, though. Not the outcome, but the fact that they're hints.

Jen:  Way too many hints!  I'm a fast reader, so if I notice something being repeated, it's not very subtle.

Lauren: And Paige talks about her cousin Finn all the time! I can't figure out his importance. I keep thinking he's going to pop up, even though he's supposed to be dead.

Jen: He was also mentioned several times in the first book so I don't think he's dead either.

Lauren: Seriously, he is brought up ALL THE TIME: (a quote from The Mime Order at 40%) "It made me think of my cousin Finn and his fiancée Kay." If he's not coming back, there's no point to mentioning him over and over. If he is, there's still no need to because no way could we forget him after the last book.

Jen: Completely agree. He's going to have something to do with ... something. I wish we'd been given a few more new clues in this installment -- not the same ones over and over!

Lauren: Two books of the same clues is too much. Something needs to happen with this situation.

Final Thoughts:

Lauren: As we discussed in part one, we both had some issues with this story in general: a lot of elements were brought up over and over again – Finn, Paige’s relationship with Jax, the Senshields - but there wasn’t much change or forward momentum until the end.

Jen: Exactly! The feeling of being in a holding pattern was what threw the pace of this installment off for me.

Lauren: Despite my problems with this one, I thought the end was exciting, and I’m eager to read the next installment. Enough change happens in the last quarter of the book that I’m committed to seeing how the series progresses into book three.

Jen: I love the overall story world and the romance in this series. On the other hand, the slow pacing given the length of this book was pretty tough for me. I hope the action ramps up in the next installment!

Lauren: The romance has been one of my favorite elements in the first two books. I’m hopeful that we’re going to see a lot of growth from Paige going forward. I keep forgetting she’s only nineteen. She’s faced a lot in her life and is definitely in the middle of everything. Plus, I must discover the purpose of all of these Finn references.

Jen: Ha– if nothing else, I must keep reading to find out why we keep hearing about Finn. I’m really not sure where this series is going, and that’s something that always makes me nervous when I’m committing to such a long story arc.

Lauren: True. I can’t even think about the fact that this is only two of seven. But that also means the next one could completely surprise us in an incredible way. Since we have another long wait for Bone Season three, it’s a good thing we now have this handy discussion to help us remember everything that happened in the second book!

Enter below to win a hardcover of The Bone Season and an excerpt of The Mime Order! US only. (But if you live outside the US, you can enter to win one of my favorite books of 2014 here.) US residents can enter too :)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop! INT

Can you believe it's December? But that means it's also time to discuss some of our favorite books of 2014.  This is not my complete list -- I'll be running that later this month -- but I am offering my winner a chance to choose from some of my very favorite reads of the year!

Click on the covers to be taken to the book's Goodreads page! Click on the title to read my review!

Winner's Curse Blue Lily, Lily Blue Trial by Fire Far From You
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Kiss of Deception We Were Liars Lies We Tell Ourselves Wildlife
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
We Were Liars by e. lockhart
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
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