Monthly Giveaway and Review: Of Beast and Beauty

It's a new month, so time for another giveaway. I'm going to do it a little different this month, in that I am posting a review and giveaway together. One winner will receive a hardback (read once) copy of Of Beast and Beauty. This giveaway will run through the rest of July, so plenty of opportunities to enter.
Of Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay
YA SciFi
July 23rd 2013 by Delacorte Press

Goodreads summary:
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love

What I thought:
I love the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. I went through a stage a couple of years ago where I read every retelling based on it that I could get my hands on. When I saw that Stacey Jay had written a book based off of the fairy tale I was very excited. One thing I will say, at this point, is that she did a fabulous job in taking the concept and storyline and really making her own original story. She uses beauty, beast, and the roses in very creative ways and this was probably one of the things that stuck out to me the most about this book. It is definitely unique.

I wish that Isra would have been stronger sooner. I understand how she was basically hidden away and was also blind, but when she takes over for her father I wanted her to step more fully into her role. I also thought she was definitely more trusting than she should have been. My bigger dislike was the sexual content. There isn't any actual sex in this book, but there are several references to it and one specific part where there is some making out that crossed a line for me. It isn't necessarily descriptive per se, but I didn't think it needed to be included and not something I would let my nieces or daughter read.

I really liked the setting - this new world that the smooth people came to and the way the inhabitants evolved to survive the climate. It was interesting to follow the story and how the current civilization and state of the world came to be. I liked that the author didn't make parts of the society or characters one dimensional or think all the same. Each group has at least one individual who does not blindly follow everyone else. The roses are a surprising part of the story. They are quite manipulative and vindictive, but can seem serene and sweet. That was quite an interesting twist to me.

I liked the characters. Isra yearns for the wind outside the dome, for her family, to understand others, and specifically Gem after she meets him. She has been raised only to sacrifice herself for her people and that is what she believes she will do and do willingly when the time will come. She is compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful. Gem is also compassionate even though he is a warrior. He lies to Isra, but struggles with doing so. He is quite stubborn, but also fearless and smart. I also liked Bo. He is selfish, arrogant, and manipulating, but he still cares for Isra and even when he feels he has been betrayed he still seeks to protect her. He has an important role in this story and he plays it well. I think he would have eventually made a good king.

Overall, this was worth the read. If there would have been just a little less sexual content, it would have been a book I would keep for my shelves and to share. Having said that, I still really enjoyed reading it.

Content: Some innuendo, making out, and violence.

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Have you read this? Are you planning to? What do you think?

Please note that you must be at least 13 years old. This giveaway is open to US continental residents only. Sorry international followers. I will continue to have giveaways as I can for you too. Please ensure that you correctly enter your email (and check your junk mail folder if I'm not on your contact list) so that I have a way to contact you. You can read my giveaway policy on my policies page. Enter via the Rafflecopter below.

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Blog Tour: Dragonwitch

When I signed up for this tour, I didn't realize that this was the fifth book in its series. I just looked at the cover, which I really like, and read the synopsis and knew that I wanted to read it. When I decided I would like to read the other books in the series as well, I went and checked my Kindle and found that I actually had the first three books already and just needed to pick up the fourth one. I thought the first book was a great start to this series. I will be posting reviews for the other books sometime soon, but today is all about this one:

(Tales of Goldstone Wood #5)
Christian Fantasy
July 2013 by Bethany House Publishers
A New Tale Is Added to this Christy Award-Winning Fantasy Saga!

Who Will Dare to Face the Dragonwitch?

Submissive to her father's will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves--Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.

But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta's tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.

And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice...and for the one person who can wield it.

My Review
This started pretty slow for me. I liked the story all right, but it wasn't extremely engaging. Some of this had to do with main characters who weren't portrayed as being very strong and seemed to be at the whim of others. I also didn't know if I liked Leta and Alistair together or Leta with someone else. Then there are a couple of different points of view and different story lines, so you have to keep all of those straight. However, I could feel the story building and all the pieces being moved in their proper places as the story progressed.

Then a little over a third of the way through the story picked up for me. This is where "The Cat" shows up and several things occur that spur the story on. The banter between the characters becomes rather enjoyable and is fairly humorous in parts as well. The characters begin to understand a little more what is going on, what role they will each play, and change into stronger characters as they face what is ahead of them.

I really liked the fantasy world that Stengl created, probably due to the fact that there is a good balance of good and evil. The fairies aren't all vindictive, evil, and dark. I also like the way Goldstone Wood is portrayed throughout the series and in Dragonwitch as well. It is a little bit of a mystery and is alive in its own way.

The ending was somewhat surprising. I didn't realize all the different characters that would be involved and how things would work out. Everyone doesn't make it out unscathed. It was a bittersweet, but good ending regardless.

If you enjoy reading Christian Fantasy or Fantasy in general, then I think you would enjoy this.

Content: Clean
Source: Copy from tour host, which did not affect my review in any way.

Here are three short excerpts that I really liked:

     …The cat addressed this last to Mouse, who nodded. The Cat turned to Alistair again. “Caught up now, are we?”
     Alistair stared. “Why does my shoulder hurt?”
     “You were stabbed by Corgar, warlord of Vartera’s horde. You’re lucky you didn’t lose your head.”
     “What’s a Corgar?”
     “A goblin.”
     “As in slavering jaws, gaping eyes, stone hides?”
     “The same.”
     “They don’t exist.”
     “Neither do talking cats.”

     Mouse looked from the cat to Alistair, then, eyes huge with desperation, said, “Please, what are you telling him?”
     “Nothing,” the cat said, tucking his tail closer to his paws. “What did you think I was telling him?”
     “You won’t . . .” She glanced at the young lord again. “You won’t tell him my secret, will you?”
     “What secret?”
     “That I’m . . . that I’m not what I seem.”
     The cat’s ears went back. He turned to Alistair. This time when he spoke, Alistair understood him but the girl did not. “You do realize, don’t you, that she’s a girl?” he said.
     “Of course I do.” Alistair glared. “Do I look stupid?”
     “Would you like me to answer that?”
     “What did he say?” Mouse demanded. “What did you tell him?”
     The cat shrugged and allowed her to understand his words. “I made certain your secret is as safe as it ever was.”

     “What?” Alistair said. “Why are we rescuing him? What about my mother? What about all the other folk of Gaheris?”
     The cat gave him a flat-eared glare. “Sometimes I believe I spend my whole life giving explanations to humans. . .”


About the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, STARFLOWER and DRAGONWITCH. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

You can find Anne here:

Tour Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 8/13/13

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Book Blitz: All In

All In
Release Date: 05/28/13

Summary from Goodreads:

On the picturesque island of Martha's Vineyard, there are two kinds of residents. Locals and Stays.

Local boy, Lane McCarthy, plans on spending his summer working at the country club to save money for college in the fall, while summer stay, Ashley Whitmore, and her elite group of friends are only there to play.

As the summer heat goes up on the island, so does the ante, when both Lane and Ashley must decide what they’re willing to wager in order to follow their dreams… and their hearts.

With stakes as high as the surf, and hopes as high as the midday sun, will they risk everything and go all in?

Available from:
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About the Author
Marta Brown grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was a teenager when Doc Martens, Pearl Jam and flannel were the norm and Dylan loved Kelly forever. (Beverly Hills 90210 shout out)
She still lives just outside Seattle, now with her husband and cat, and loves the rain.
When she's not writing about cute boys, first kisses, and the magic and wonder of being seventeen, she's watching The CW. And she sleeps in. Late. 

Author Links:
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1 signed copy of All In (open US only) and 10 e-books copies of All In (open internationally)
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Review: All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done
(Birthright #1)
by Gabrielle Zevin
YA Dystopian
May 8th 2012 by Square Fish (first published September 6th 2011)

Goodreads summary:
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

What I thought:
I have wanted to read this for some time. I saw it on Amazon as a bargain book for a fabulous price and decided to get a copy. It reminded me a little of the Curse Workers series by Holly Black and the Torn Trilogy by Erica O'Rourke, except without magic and not as much action.

The setting is quite interesting. It has kind of that mafia/gangster kind of feel to the story. It is a future USA where coffee, alcohol and other things are completely legal, but chocolate is not and is traded on the black market. There aren't really new things and water and other essentials are running out. I don't necessarily understand why things are as they are, but it's a different type of society than I've read before. Anya's family runs a chocolate business, or her dad used to before he was killed. Anya doesn't want anything to do with it and is trying to keep her family safe after losing both of her parents.

I really liked Anya. She is mature (for the most part), street smart, loyal, and protective. She does have some anger issues and that is probably the only thing that I didn't like about her. She has a great best friend, family, and decent love interest. Win kind of reminded me of a big puppy dog. He was very lovable, gentle, kind, persistent, and loyal. I liked how up front he was about things with Anya and he made me smile.

Anya's whole life is basically an uphill battle. She carries a stigma from her heritage and her criminal father. It's so crazy to me that you could be a criminal for trading and selling chocolate. It reminded me a little of the prohibition time. I thought the author did a great job in building up the plot and letting the characters work through things. I also enjoyed her writing style.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I liked the characters and the plot and will read the other books in the series. I'm quite curious about what will happen and the role that the Chinese friend will play in the future, as I'm sure he will have one.

Content: Some mild violence, innuendo, and making out.
Source: Own
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What do you think? Have you read this or are planning too?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase of any type using these links, I receive a small kickback.

Weekly Update #24

Welcome to my Weekly Update where I post my blog's schedule for the week. Here is what to expect this week:

Today: The Summer of Love Giveaway Hop ends tonight. There are a couple of hours left  to enter to win a choice of seven books.

Wednesday: I will be a stop on the blog tour for Dragonwitch. I've started reading this series and am loving it so far, so look for reviews of all five of the books in this series.

Friday: I will be spotlighting another favorite for Friday Favorites. Did you see last week's post about There You'll Find Me? It's a Christian YA that is well worth reading and purchasing for your shelves. It's one of my favorites!

Saturday: I'm planning on posting for Stacking the Shelves/Peek Into My Postbox again. Come back and see what I've added to my shelves and Kindle. I will also be a stop on the blog tour for Emma: A Latter-day Tale. I love everything Jane Austen, so I'm looking forward to sharing this book with you!

Have you entered my Monthly Giveaway for July yet? There are three days left to enter to win a (once read) hardcover of Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.

I should have some new posts towards the end of the week for bargain and ebook deals, so look for those. You may want to take a look at the HarperTeen eBook Deals before they expire for this month.

I'm planning on posting some reviews as well. Look for reviews for Mind Games, All These Things I've Done, and Of Beast and Beauty. I also will be posting for one book blitz and possibly one other bookish thing as well. :)

I don't know if you caught it or not, but we took the kids and went camping this weekend along with two of my husband's brothers and their families. We had a fabulous time, although definitely not uneventful (got poured on at one point and my son banged his head on a rock at another - but is okay). We made some good memories and will be going more often now that our youngest is a little older. I thought I'd share one picture from my trip of a beautiful meadow with some gorgeous pines and a stormy sky. It was so gorgeous and cool where we went.

We all wished we could have stayed longer, although I definitely was missing my bed. :)

I hope you all have a great week!

Blog Tour: Prep School Confidential

Prep School Confidential
(Prep School Confidential #1)
by Kara Taylor
YA Contemporary Suspense
July 30th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin

 In this breathtaking debut that reads like Gossip Girl crossed with Twin Peaks, a Queen Bee at a blue-blooded New England prep school stumbles into a murder mystery.

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side—that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne could care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read—even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder.

My Review
When I signed up for this tour, I thought this would be a light contemporary with some suspense. When I read the first chapter I was afraid it was going to be a book I wasn't going to finish because of the direction it seemed to be going (language, innuendo, a spoiled rich girl...). I was pleased and surprised that things change when Anne moves to the Wheatley School. The book turned out to not be so light either.

What makes this a little bit of a heavier read is that the characters aren't exactly what they seem. I didn't like Anne at first from my first impression of her. It's when she moves to Wheatley and you really see inside her head, that my perception changed. She is actually very smart, can be quite sweet, isn't a bully and stands up for herself and others. I also liked the two guys she is attracted to, although I wasn't sure if she could trust them at first. I wasn't really sure of anyone through the first half of the book until I figured out who the murderer was. Then I just had to wait for Anne to figure it out, which she didn't until towards the end. Even though I knew who the villain was, the ending still surprised me. I also liked that the romance wasn't the focal point. Of course it played a large role, but Anne was more focused on figuring out what was going on and who killed her roommate.

The head and teachers of the school really annoyed me. I rather dislike it when individuals try to cover something up because it would look bad for their reputations and, in this case, their school. I was glad that Anne was trying to figure things out, although I wish she would have told her dad what was going on and what she had found instead of thinking she could handle everything on her own. Thank goodness she has a few friends, one of which made quite a big difference. There were a couple of intense moments, especially at the story's conclusion.

By the end I was completely invested in the story and the characters, who were each interesting with their own stories and roles. I couldn't put this down because I needed to find out what was going to happen. There also was another mystery that I know Anne will delve into that I'm assuming will be the focal point of the next book. She is going to be messing with some pretty powerful figures and I'm really curious to find out what will happen.

If you enjoy reading YA Contemporary Suspense, then I would definitely recommend this!

Content: Some language, violence, innuendo, and brief making out.
Source: Copy from tour host, which did not affect my review in any way.

About the Author

Kara Taylor has a BA in English/Secondary Education from Stony Brook University. She loves New Girl, sushi, and puppets that say rude things. It’s her dream to own a bakery someday.

Kara was inspired to start writing in part by her grandmother giving her Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and in part by her father’s bizarre antics, such as blow-drying his car. Her father looked like Borat in the 80′s.

Kara lives on Long Island with a Chihuahua named Izzy and a kitten named Felix. Her favorite authors are Gillian Flynn, Maureen Johnson, and Nelson Demille. She writes full-time, both on the PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL series and on an untitled television pilot for Warner Brothers Studios.

There are two giveaways. One is for some swag, that I'm giving away, and the other is for a finished copy of the book that is tour-wide. Both giveaways are for US entrants only and end July 29th.
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Friday Favorites #13: There You'll Find Me

Friday Favorites is a weekly meme hosted here, that spotlights a favorite author, book, series, publisher, cover, blog, etc. Basically whatever bookish thing that you love, recommend, and want to tell others about. Just pick one and link up to my post each Friday to share. You can use the graphic I used above, the other one here, or your own.

It's going to be a short and sweet Friday Favorites today (going out of town early Friday morning). I've decided to spotlight an older favorite of mine. You can see my brief review on Goodreads.

There You'll Find Me
by Jenny B. Jones
YA Christian Contemporary
October 4th 2011 by Thomas Nelson Publishers

Goodreads summary:
Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She's witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will's travel journal. It's the place he felt closest to God, and she's hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She's the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she's been looking for has been with her all along?

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Why it is a favorite:
I need to redo my review for this one, but in the meantime you should know why this is one of my favorites.

This is in the Christian genre, but it wasn't preachy or didn't feel like there was really an underlying motive for the book. Sure, she goes to church and she's asking God why her brother was taken, but I think that relates to a lot of readers. So, I definitely would recommend this to Christian and non-Christian readers.

The author just has a really great personality, which comes out in her writing. The characters felt real to me for who they are. They aren't perfect, but have their own issues and some pretty serious ones that they are working through. I really felt for and were routing for them the whole time. I loved the banter back and forth between them and the sweet moments that both of them have as well.

I loved the setting, the older houses, the scenic views, the language.  Overall, the characters, plot, and writing were all just fantastic. Obviously I loved it! :) It's one I have re-read several times and plan on reading again in the future.

About the Author
(from her website)

I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series, A Charmed Life series, and my first contemporary romance, Just Between You and Me. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.
My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Some facts that are true include:

A. I got my camera confiscated by big boys with guns at the American Embassy in Europe this past summer. O la la!
B. I once worked in a seed mill office and cleaned out mice on a regular basis. Ew.
C. I’m a former drama teacher.
D. I didn’t pass my drivers test the first time. Or the second…
E. I attract stray animals like a magnet.
F. I used to assemble and test paint ball guns for a local factory.

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

  • watching E!
  • updating my status on Facebook
  • catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
  • writing my name in the dust on my furniture

  • You can find Jenny here: 

Have your read this? Do you have a favorite to share this week?
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