Review: Silent Symmetry (The Embodied Trilogy #1) by J.B. Dutton

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Title: Silent Symmetry
Author: J.B. Dutton
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1484067468
Source: Author
Genre: YA Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Series: The Embodied Trilogy
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound. Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to seek out the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Book Review:

Kari and her mother move to New York City for a new prestigious position, after leaving her small Wisconsin town and memories of her father’s accident there behind. For a teenaged protagonist, Kari was easy to relate to and care for: her sad past and her eagerness to find the new life, opportunities and possible love interests for her mother were endearing. As with many things, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and that also relates to the wonderful opportunities: scholarship to a prestigious high school, the beautiful people and the ease with which they seem to incorporate a major metropolis into their lives without great distress.

As Kari starts to feel seeds of unease, the questions start to arrive in a fast and furious manner: although the answers are far less apparent. Just what is the ToT and just how much influence it has on this world, and on the live of the people who work for them is a slow-developing reveal, mixed in this smoothly paced story that demands you read on.

I will be the first to admit that Kari is often far more mature in her approach, speech, thinking and behavior than one would expect, or want to see in a high school teen. However, when you take into account her life experience and her only child status, it did fit her well, even as it may be problematic for some readers. Aside from that and my wishing that there was more of an explanation and solidity built to give more substance to the characters of the Embodied, I did enjoy this read. I think that many YA fans would appreciate this story, and be ready to read the second book in the trilogy when it comes available.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

After graduating from film school in London, I emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where I still live with my two young children and their even younger goldfish. I spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter and translator. In parallel to my corporate work, I’ve written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. I also write Young Adult and Children’s fiction under the name J.B. Dutton.

Website § @johnbdutton

Dancing With Paris by Juliette Sobanet ~ Review and Giveaway

dancing-with-paris-bannerToday I have a lovely romance with time-travel and suspense elements from author  Juliette Sobanet.  Additionally, the publisher has graciously offered 3 lucky winners the opportunity for their own eBook copy of the book in kindle format, open to international entrants!  The drawing information is below… be sure to enter!

Juliette Sobanet Title:  Dancing with Paris
Author: Juliette Sobanet
Format:  Paperback, eBook, MP3 CD and AudioBook
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Pages:  324
ISBN:  978-1477805916
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Romance, Time-Travel, Suspense, Historical
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Audible

About the Book: 

In Paris, a past life promises a second chance at love.

Straitlaced marriage therapist Claudia Davis had a plan—and it definitely did not involve getting pregnant from a one-night stand or falling for a gorgeous French actor. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more complicated. But when Claudia takes a tumble in her grandmother’s San Diego dance studio, she awakens in 1950s Paris in the body of Ruby Kerrigan, the glamorous star of a risqué cabaret—and the number-one suspect in the gruesome murder of a fellow dancer. As past lives go, it’s a doozy…especially when an encounter with a handsome and mysterious French doctor ignites a fire in Claudia’s sinfully beautiful new body.

But time, for all its twists and turns, is not on her side: Claudia has just five days to unmask the true killer, clear Ruby’s name, and return to the twenty-first century. To do so, she must make an impossible choice, one that will change the course of both of her lives forever.

-Amount of sex/violence: This book is a romance novel with time travel and murder mystery elements. There are two sex scenes and a few light murder scenes in the novel. There is a great deal of description of 1950s Paris as well.

Book Review:

In an interesting twist on my usual time-travel / romance trope, we are introduced to Claudia in 2012 San Diego. She is mildly dissatisfied with her life at the moment, pregnant by one man while desperately in love with another: who truly does seem to be the one for her. Very quickly, we are removed to 1950’s Paris, where Claudia awakens to find herself in the body of Ruby, a Parisian cabaret headliner who also happens to be Claudia’s grandmother’s best friend. Confused yet? I was at first – for we don’t have a great deal of time to know Claudia and gain a solid sense of her situation and character before we are whisked off to Paris and need to make sense of the situation that Claudia is currently embroiled in.

Not content to make this a simple parallel lives story: Ruby/Claudia is the primary suspect in a murder that she did not commit, and she must find the real killer and save Ruby from her current fate before she can return to her own life in San Diego. As if that wasn’t enough stress: with new situations, a new view of her grandmother and the Paris to rediscover in its past form, she has only five days in which to solve the mystery and set lives on a new path.

A complex and highly ambitious plotting arc and storyline for any author, but Juliette Sobanet is certainly up to the task. While there were moments of confusion, it gave me the feel of being Claudia/Ruby and the pacing, characterization and narration all aided in my getting up to speed, much as Claudia/Ruby needed to do. Then, since I mistakenly thought I had the mystery and murder pieces sorted out, the quick twists and turns proved to me that I was wrong, yet the answer was there, just awaiting discovery.

The city of Paris is just gorgeous and so very present in the story: from the descriptions and feel to the sense of ‘difference’, it fed every memory I have of the city at that time from photos that my grandmother had tucked into a scrapbook from when my aunt first moved there in mid-1950. Sobanet’s prose is lush and well-suited to the city and the story. The interwoven romance from present to past, while bringing a sense of Claudia’s current love to the character of Antoine, with their similar behaviors and concerns and their obvious affection for her was a smooth transition that gave more insight into Claudia and her modern life, while maintaining a true feel to the past.

While it will seem from this review that the story was hard to follow, or overly complex – I truly apologize. It was an exceedingly smooth read that never let up on the entertainment, and kept me involved and engaged with each page. Although I do wish that there was more sense of Claudia in the present and a sense of a solid conclusion for her story, it left me satisfied and smiling. I now want to read the author’s other titles, and have put them on my list.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

Giveaway:  

As I mentioned before, the publisher has graciously offered 3 eBook copies of the title for lucky winners.  Drawing will end at 23:59 on 14 August -winners will be notified via email.  Enter via this Rafflecopter.

About the Author: 

Juliette Sobanet earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in France, living and studying in both Lyon and Paris. She worked as a French professor before turning a new page in her career, penning romantic women’s fiction with a French twist. She is the author of Sleeping with Paris, Kissed in ParisMidnight Train to Paris, Dancing with Paris, and the upcoming Honeymoon in Paris. Today she lives with her husband and two cats in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing and dreaming about her next trip to France.

Website § Facebook  § @JulietteSobanet

Release Day! The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker with Giveaway!

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Today I have a treat for you all ~ its release day for Emily Croy Barker’s novel The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. In addition, the publisher has graciously offered the option for a giveaway of one paper copy of the book  – limited to US mailing addresses only – no PO Boxes.  This drawing will end at midnight (EST) on 12 August – use this Rafflecopter to enter.

Title: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
Format: Hardcover and eBook
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Pages: 576
ISBN: 978-0670023660
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: High Fantasy / Literary
Stars:  4
Purchase Now: Amazon § Barnes&Noble § IndieBound

About the Book:

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

Book Review:

Think back to the first book that transported you on a journey to elsewhere: not a rapid movement, but a gentle realization that the world in the book is all around you. For me that was Through the Looking Glass. I found much of the same wonder and enjoyment in this book: a subtle return to those moments when reading where all outside influences cease to exist, and hours pass before they return.

Emily Croy Barker uses a smooth and beautifully descriptive writing style, to craft this story that incorporates references to classics, poetry and poets and the age-old battle of dark versus light. It is not a quick read at over five hundred pages, but a thoroughly charming one.

Nora is a grad student, stuck on her thesis and recently single. She hates her life at the moment, her self-esteems is shot, and she wants nothing more than to escape: from the sympathetic looks, the abominable men, her own feelings of failure and those few extra pounds that never seem to go away. And escape she does: an early morning wander in the woods leads to an old cemetery with a poem that attracts her. Lacking paper to write it down, she memorizes it, speaks it aloud and moments later, her world changes.

From here we are brought into a world of the impossible and improbable: where healing is by magic, clothes and people are always beautiful, the sun always shines and the most important event on the calendar is the day’s entertainment. Using time-periods that are iconic in their shapes, feel and essence to readers, Barker manages to use that sense to define fashion, style and furnishings with a nod to those eras: the 20’s, the 60’s, Elizabethan and Georgian and Victorian. There were moments early on when Nora’s complacency with the scene changes and situation made her difficult to understand, while some piece of the reader knows that she is under a spell, a bit of reinforcement of Ilissa’s power and influence on her memory and questioning earlier would have made it easier to understand her apparent passivity.

Aruendiel, however, was far more solid in his consistency and behavior, preferring the term ‘magician’ to ‘wizard’, although their capabilities are similar: in this world wizards tend to use their skills on a whim, to suit their current fancy. And Nora had been spelled, several times over, which presented a severe risk to her own mental health and safety. Nora shows her tendency to gravitate toward more ‘alpha’ and knowing personalities in her growing feelings for him: even as he must teach her to survive a return to Ilissa and eventually back to her own world.

This book is a wander to the end, throughout the story we are really given few clues to time passing, much like Nora’s inability to solidly define how long she had been away from her own world and life. These allows and insists that the reader simply drink in the moments and descriptions, and enjoy the slow unfurling of the plot: use their instincts as each new character is introduced to determine if they are friend or foe, and see if Nora really is able to find her way home. Not as action packed as some high fantasy stories I have read, there is forward progress with each chapter as we learn more, see more and watch Nora navigate this new and different world that is full of the impossible.

If you want a directly forward moving story, loaded with action and dramatic spell-offs: this is not the book for you. However, if you want a gentle moving story that is filled with beauty and description, a unique look at magic and its use, and a main character that has issues that many can relate to in their own lives: this is the book for you.

I received an eBook from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

Emily Croy Barker spent almost twenty years as a journalist, after starting out as an editorial assistant at Viking. Barker had great fun turning her writing skills to fiction to produce her first novel. A graduate of Harvard University, she is currently the executive editor at The American Lawyer magazine, where she oversees international coverage. She lives in New Jersey.

Website § @emilycroybarker

 

 

Author’s are Rockstars Hop – Introducing Amanda Sun

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Have you seen it? Those of us who read get as fan-girly as every groupie you have ever seen for our favorite authors.  When I saw the opportunity to get Amanda Sun here on my blog – I lept at the chance.  Her debut novel Ink just blew me away when I read it for inclusion in my Children’s reads week.  This YA novel uses imagery and mythology from Japan, incorporates the language and culture, and presents a story that gives a slice of life for an ex-pat teenaged girl.  I loved her research and incorporation of all of the elements that gave the story a unique perspective, and her ability to imagine and then reproduce her characters, making them feel current and modern, and allow them to make their own mistakes made it one of my favorite YA reads of the year.  And you can read my review after this lovely interview with Amanda Sun.  PLUS – don’t forget to enter the giveaway here on my blog for your own eBook copy (US and Canadian readers only) of Ink, Book 1 in the Paper Gods series, sponsored by the publisher.  Enter via this Rafflecopter – drawing will end on 9 August, with a winner announced on 10 August – notified via email.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour HERE, and be sure to give love to the ladies who created this idea at Fiktshun, Two Chicks on Books,  and Magical Urban Fantasy Reads.

And now – I bring you  Amanda Sun

Thank you for being a willing participant in this process, I appreciate the time!
Let’s just get down to it:

Why a YA story? What difficulties did writing with a younger audience in mind bring?

I actually find writing for adults far more difficult. *laugh* I find adult characters can come across as tired or jaded, having dealt with too many “real life” woes. Teen characters have this energy to them; you can’t tell them they can’t do it. They know they can take on those evil fairy kings or moving drawings. You can’t stop them. There’s so much potential there, in their school life, their relationships, and their creative life—they’ll accept those paranormal powers and find a way to use them to succeed. That’s what I love about teen protags. I think YA fiction pushes the boundaries of what can be written, and it’s such an exciting genre to be in. 

The only difficulties that come up are things like getting the parents and responsibilities out of the way so that the teens can go and save the world. Curfews, homework, and other drama tend to get in the way, so it’s a tricky balance to have those aspects of their life included without taking over the story.

The cover of this book is striking and beautiful – did the same artist do the illustrations in the book as well?

Thank you so much! I really love all the detail the design team put into INK. The cover is watercolor paper, which speaks to Tomo’s work as an artist, and there are also illustrations and flip animations in the page corners. All the art relates back to the plot, and since INK is written from Katie’s POV, the art gives Tomo a chance to communicate directly to the reader through his artwork. 

The cover artist is Petra Dufkova, and the interior illustrator is Ross Siu. I think both styles really work well together to capture the style of Japanese ink wash paintings, and Tomo’s own personal sketching style. There are interviews with both artists in the back pages of INK, so you can find out more about them which is great. 

There’s also an enhanced ebook version of INK available for iOS devices, in which the illustrations and cover come to life through animation. It’s a really great touch to a book about drawings coming alive, and I think it really adds to the experience of The Paper Gods series. 

Your bio states that you speak several languages – which ones?

I love languages and I’ve studied quite a few, either on my own or by taking courses. I speak French and Japanese the most fluently. Then I understand Latin, Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic, Ojibwe/Anishinaabemowin (First Nations language), Spanish, and a bit of Welsh. I hope to learn more Welsh and Korean next!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given about writing?

Every word you write is getting you where you need to be. Don’t lose hope or be discouraged—it’s all leading somewhere. Just don’t stop writing. Keep going, and finish your stories. You’ll wander the forest forever if you don’t write your way back out. Sometimes writing is crawling a word at a time, and you’re covered in dirt and leaves and thorns, and you’re thirsty and tired. Sometimes writing hurts. It’s okay. That’s normal. Don’t be discouraged if your plot derails—sometimes it’s more exciting that way. Keep going, and your words won’t let you down.

What are your 3 must have items if you were to be stranded somewhere with only those items?
A stack of good books, my phone, and a giant pitcher of iced tea lemonade. Wait…you guys are coming back for me, right?…Right?

Slippers or socks? I actually prefer bare feet, especially in the summer. ^_^

Dogs or Cats? Birds! I have two, one with an awesome vocabulary that he uses in context. I love dogs too, but I’m allergic to cats.

Poutine or chips with vinegar? That’s a tough call. Being Canadian, I love both. ^_^ I think chips with malt vinegar wins out, but it’s a close call.

Anything else that you would like to share?

INK has an ebook novella prequel called SHADOW, which is currently free for download. It follows the events leading up to INK from both Katie and Tomo’s POVs. If you’re interested, please check my website AmandaSunBooks.com for info on how to download the novella. It can also be read on Wattpad for a limited time. Hope you enjoy it!

Thank you for taking the time to be my rockstar !

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! I think readers are rockstars too! 😀

Find and follow Amanda Sun by visiting her Website  §  @Amanda_Sun 

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Read on to see my review – and a larger copy of this gorgeous cover Continue reading

Morning’s Journey : The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles #2 by Kim Headlee

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Title: Morning’s Journey
Author: Kim Headlee
Format:  eBook
Publisher: Lucky Bat Books
Pages: 447
ISBN: 978-1939051271
Source: Author
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Series: The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles # 2
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes & Noble § Smashwords

About the Book:

Picking up where the first in the series left off, Headlee returns to her reworking of the Arthurian legend with her uniquely crafted cast of characters.  Gyanhumara and Artyr are married and soon to be separated: the struggle to unite Britain is ongoing.

Gyan and Artyr are learning to cooperate: being raised as a leader Gyan is unwilling to cede to Artyr’s primacy without a battle. Fortunately, Artyr is coming to realize that much of what Gyan fights for makes an odd sort of sense: and her planning and battle sense is second to none.

Still Urien is looking to cause trouble: like a child who lost his favored toy to a sandbox bully his ability to work a slight into a grievous concern and hold a grudge are legendary.  Still wholly without redeeming features, his upcoming marriage to Artyr’s half-sister is less reason for rejoicing as the two have designs on the pendragonship.

With a threat from other kings in the region, potential mutiny from Urien and the constant need to juggle the competing desires, including their own: this installment is action-packed for both Artyr and Gyan.

Again the writing is lovely, and the insertions of moments of the newly developing Christianity combined with legends and gods of old, manx and gaelic phrasing and characters that have a familiarity from the old legends all combine to make a page turning story that gives a new life to old stories.  Mixing in the familiar with the reworked and redefined characters is a tricky and risky prospect, but works to perfection in this book.

You cannot, however, pick up this book without reading the first: you will be hopelessly lost in the plot: and you will have missed the great character of Gyan: her input and prior information is integral to the flow of this installment.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Book Review:

Read my review of the first in this series: Dawnflight here 

About the Author: 

Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, and assorted wildlife. People & creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins — the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-20th century — seem to be sticking around for a while yet.

Kim is a Seattle native (when she used to live in the Metro DC area, she loved telling people she was from “the other Washington”) and a direct descendent of 20th century Russian nobility. Her grandmother was a childhood friend of the doomed Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the romantic yet tragic story of how Lydia escaped Communist Russia with the aid of her American husband will most certainly one day fuel one of Kim’s novels. Another novel in the queue will involve her husband’s ancestor, the 7th-century proto-Viking king of the Swedish colony in Russia.

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