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Monday, January 19, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW + Novel Nails #22: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: October 14 2014
Publishing House:  Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062286925
Source of Copy: eARC/Purchased from FullyBooked


Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for an opportunity to steal back Winter's magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter's defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterian's general, Sir. Training to be a warrior - and desperately in love with her best friend and future king, Mather - she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she's scaling towers and fighting enemy soldiers just as she's always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn't go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics - and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Run, survive, repeat - that's all Meira's ever really known. Training to be a warrior to reclaim the lost Winter locket and help rescue her people and reclaim Winter to its former glory. When word reaches her of the locket's location she jumps at the chance to do something for her people. But a mission gone awry leads to a different destiny - something she could never have imagined. 

Snow Like Ashes came as a surprise. I started this book late last year, reached a couple of chapters in and quit it. I was in the midst of a crazy book slump (also known as the quarterlife crisis) and couldn't bring myself to read anything. Thankfully I managed to score an actual copy of the book and hooray! So. Good.

Meira is a strong character. Fierce and strong-willed. Which was probably why being stuck in camp drove her stir crazy. But I found her actions to be a little selfish sometimes - wanting to go on missions just so didn't go crazy in camp? She wasn't even any good with hand to hand combat. But I get it, I understood her need to prove herself to Sir and Mather but she could be a little rash. 

As for Mather, well, despite the summary claiming that Meira was desperately in love with him I just couldn't see it. I mean they could be really good friends but that's the extent of their relationship. The pretty boy I wanted to see Meira with though was Theron. Yes guys, there is a love triangle but I'm not complaining because in my eyes Mather doesn't stand a chance. Theron is the Cordellian prince and he fits Meira. He's stable and calm and he sees her eye to eye and their chemistry was just...mmmmmm. Yes please. Can I also add that he has a wonderful physique and wields weapons masterfully? Oh, Theron. 

Raasch does a good job with the world building, it gets a little confusing at first since there were eight kingdoms to keep track of but you get the hang of things soon enough and it's an enjoyable ride from there on out. The magic is a little difficult to understand, initially, but as the story progressed, I got a feel for how things worked. 

The ending was done beautifully, enough to give readers satisfaction but with room for more. Can more be scenes of Theron with his shirt off? 


"Novel Nails" is a feature of the blog that showcases nail art inspired by books and their covers. Nail art will be created by either Michelle or Nicole and will be featured alongside their reviews.

Just a quick announcement! I have finally caved and created a blog dedicated solely to my nail art. You'll find more pictures for the nail art set over there plus a list of all the book manicures I've ever done. Some don't get published on this blog. 

Hope you like this! Link to the nail blog below.

More pics plus details HERE.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW + Novel Nails #21: Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Format Acquired: Paperback
Publication Date: July 8 2014
Publishing House:  Harper
ISBN: 9780062328090
Source of Copy: Gifted by Sab


Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past...or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nation who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remains of the Queen's Guard - loyal soldiers who protect the throne - have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the kingdom into turmoil - and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch".

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals and treacherous battles, Kelsea journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend...or destroy her.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


I was hesitant to pick this book up mainly because of the reviews it got over on goodreads. People had a love or hate relationship with this book and it got me scared. So I need to take a moment and thank Sab for gifting me this book because I love it.  If you can get over the world building, which I will get into later, it's an interesting book and it helps that the men who make up Kelsea's guard are a bunch of hunks. 

On her nineteenth birthday, the men who comprise the Queen's Guard whisk Kelsea away from her quiet life in the forest and thrust her into the role of Queen - into politics and lies and deceit. Her first actions as monarch, though brave, incite the anger of the Red Queen and puts her kingdom into peril. Danger is around every corner and the fight for the survival of her people and her kingdom has just begun. Dodging attacks on her life and fearful magic, Kelsea has to find a way to secure the future of her kingdom and be the queen they need her to be.

One reason to love this book is Kelsea. She's an incredibly strong, good character (righter of wrongs, our Kelsea) but also very much relatable. In the book, people have a tendency to comment on her looks - she's plain-looking - and I wanted to give them a good slap because plain or beautiful, it was obvious that Kelsea had the guts and the resolve to maneuver through all the nasties that her uncle, who ruled while she was away, had done to her kingdom. She's intelligent and witty and that's what counts, because how is beauty supposed to rule a kingdom? 

Another point for this book is the lack of romance and abundance of possible romantic interests. Okay so maybe 'interests' isn't right, but when the men who make up the Queen's Guard are all incredibly fine specimens of the opposite sex, I couldn't resist. It also helps that they're pretty well nuanced and interesting characters. Lazarus, for example, whom Kelsea's makes captain of her guard. He's a fierce warrior and acts as a sort-of-but-not-quite father figure for Kelsea. Then there's the Fetch who is equally mysterious and fierce. He's got a vested interest in seeing Kelsea rule the Kingdom right for reasons unknown. It makes me a little suspicious. 

As for the world building it was, admittedly, a little strange. It's like a dystopia combined with historical fiction with magic for added flavor. They referenced J.K. Rowling's books! A little weird but truthfully, I found that I didn't mind at all but i can totally understand why people have a bone to pick with the worl building. I just hope that we get a little more backstory in the next book. It would be good to finally understand what actually happened that Kelsea's forefathers felt the need to establish a new world. 

I also enjoyed Johansen's writing. Loved how she plotted out the story, the twists and turns and secrets that just so happen to be everywhere. Don't people know it's not smart to keep secrets from the Queen? How is she expected to rule a kingdom and save it from its enemies when all the cards aren't on the table? 

This book is definitely heavier than other YA books, is it even YA? I would recommend it to older teens though since there is a lot of nasty that happens in this book. Lots of rape and violence and yeah. But I loved it and I seriously cannot wait for the next book. 


"Novel Nails" is a feature of the blog that showcases nail art inspired by books and their covers. Nail art will be created by either Michelle or Nicole and will be featured alongside their reviews.

Yaaaaas! Queen of the Tearling nails! This set just about drove me crazy. It was tough trying to draw on the castle. 

Nail polish used:
China Glaze Liquid Leather

The book.

Nails with the book. 

Drew the castle on the middle finger.

The thumb, I just added on a layer of glitter.

Closer look. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW: No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

Title: No Place to Fall
Author: Jaye Robin Brown
Format Acquired: eARC/Hardcover
Publication Date: December 9 2014
Publishing House:  Harper Teen
ISBN: 9780062270993
Source of Copy: Edelweiss/Purchased from Fully Booked


Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, takes care of her baby nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend, Devon's house.

But when Amber learns about an audition at a prestigious arts school, she decides that her dream - to sing on bigger stages - could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon's older brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out. The more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes...and Amber starts to wonders if she's such a good girl after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family's world - and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between "good" and "bad" there's a whole world of possibilities.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Nothing screams good girl like singing church solos, babysitting your nephew and staying out of trouble. At least that's what Amber's definition of good is supposed to be. Good girl Amber also has a dream to sing on bigger stages and become a superstar. When auditions for an art school are dangled in front of her face she grabs at this chance to a new life. But in the span of a few bad decisions, Amber's whole world comes crashing down and she's torn between the good, the bad and everything in between.

I am not a fan of Amber. She's the supposed good girl - singing in church, hanging with friends, doesn't get into any trouble. But then from the get-go she was portrayed as sort of a party girl. She hangs out with hikers in the hopes of getting hot and heavy with one - because no regrets and they're out of town, who's going to spill her secrets right - smoking weed, doing drugs. She came off as a hypocrite and that didn't endear her much to me. The secondary characters weren't any better. 

I did not like the plot. It was confusing and messy and I didn't really feel like the story was going anywhere. Amber also makes a lot of stupid decisions that puts people she cares about into trouble. It's incredibly annoying. I wasn't a fan of all the cheating too. It happened again and again and again which made it incredibly hard to finish the book because it was just so...stupid! Add to that the endless stream of pointless drama and I had to resist banging my head up against a wall. 

Time and time again we hear about how Amber is such an amazing singer and she is always put on the spot. You know, I got it. She's a great singer. So? Doesn't mean I'll like her any more what with the incredibly asinine choices she's made and, because I'm petty, the overalls she always sports. Her signature, psh. Sure.

All in all, No Place to Fall just wasn't for me. The plot is incredibly slow and nothing really happens throughout the whole book. The whole incident that would supposedly change her family's life was rather anticlimactic and boring. The cheating was a definite downer and Amber is a huge hypocrite. 



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Her Dark Curiousity by Megan Shepherd

Title: Her Dark Curiosity
Author: Megan Shepherd
Format Acquired: ARC
Publication Date: January 28 2014
Publishing House: Balzer + Bray  
ISBN: 9780062296641
Source of Copy:  HarperCollins


Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island - and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau's horrific lefacy - though someone, or something, hasn't forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father's creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she find herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer - Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Note that this is a sequel and a review for the previous book, The Madman's Daughter right can be found HERE

Juliet's back in London trying to make sense of things and make a new life for herself. Figuring out medicine to stay her illness is just one of her problems. There is talk of new murders around town and the killer leaving behind a calling card - three slashes on the victims eerily similar to what happened on her father's island. She's afraid that one of her father's monsters followed her back to London and she has no choice but to help put an end to it before another hapless innocent dies.

Poor Juliet, she has a new life - better than her last but things start going wrong when the murders start. If you're guessing it's Edward than give yourself a pat on the back. Juliet is torn between keeping him safe and finding a cure for his condition and ultimately destroying the creature that shares the same body as her beloved Edward. She makes a lot of stupid decisions which were born out of a mix of desperation and loneliness. But I suppose that's what I like about her. I mean we all make stupid decisions, why can't she? She never pretended to be perfect.

The Beast's obsession with Juliet is reason for the murders he commits - no one hurts the love of his life and the Beast will allow nothing to come in between them. I understand also her connection to Edward and why she's so adamant to save him and find a cure for him. She's desperate for a cure because if she cannot cure Edward, if he is not worthy of saving, then how about herself? 

I truly like Shepherd's writing. The story is dark, desperate and action packed filled with twists and turns and weird science that, if you think about it hard enough, doesn't quite mesh. So don't think too hard on it. Just go with it. 

Her Dark Curiosity is a step up from the first book. I liked this better. Probably because Juliet is toeing the line of her morality and seeing just how like her father she can be. I can only wonder what's going to happen in the next book.