Monday, May 2, 2016

The Surprising Legacy of a Serial Killer | Review of The Progeny



About the Book

New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brings a modern twist to an ancient mystery surrounding the most notorious female serial killer of all time. A fast-paced thriller for fans of Ted Dekker’s The Books of Mortals, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and BBC America’s hit series Orphan Black.

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. A story about the search for self filled with centuries-old intrigues against the backdrop of atrocity and hope.

Releases May 24, 2016!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Um, wow!! The Progeny is an engrossing read with a touch of history and a whole lotta twists and turns.

This book prompted me to do a quick search of Elizabeth Bathory online, and talk about super creepy and tragic stories surrounding her life and legacy. The Progeny tosses around the idea of whether or not the accusations are completely true, but if they are...the implications are incredibly disturbing.

Fast forward to the fictional world of Emily Jacobs, a girl who chose to have her memory erased—and now she doesn't know why. If only the past she purposely forgot didn't catch up to her in the form of two men with questionable motives.

And now she's on the run from a threat she can't remember.

Thus begins an interesting, fast-paced, often surprising ride. I loved how a character would seem one way and then turn out to be another...and then turn out to be something else entirely. It's a lot of fun to read a story that keeps you guessing all the way through.

Unfortunately, as this is the first in a series, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and a lot left unresolved. Warning: This is definitely not a stand-alone. And I'm left with uncertainty as to how I feel about all the revelations and the dilemmas yet to be solved.

But there are some great lines and questions raised, and fans of dark, suspenseful (but not over-the-top disturbing), YA-style fiction should find this a fascinating start to the Descendants of the House of Bathory series.

*With thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sweet Romance-Focused Fantasy | Review of Sun and Moon + Excerpt and Giveaway!



About the Book

There is nothing in life that eighteen-year-old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.

Purchase a Copy:


My Rating

Spring

My Review

I love the way Desiree Williams writes romance! The heroes and heroines in her fantasy novels (at least the ones I've experienced so far) always have these deep, tender, fun, and loyal connections. There seems to be a theme of arranged/appointed matches (of a sort) in these stories, and it's intriguing to watch the characters decide how they're going to react to their potential partner and whether they're willing to open up to the possibility of true love.

I believe the beginning of Sun and Moon was my favorite part of the story: the anticipation of Zara and Jaedon's first meeting, the mystery of how Zara's terrible situation as a slave would get resolved, the clash of two very different worlds when Jaedon sets out to bring home his soul mate, and the suspense reminiscent of the Exodus in the Bible.

Jaedon's protectiveness and patience are definitely swoon-worthy. And Zara's devotion to her friends and her desire for freedom are admirable and make her character likable, even if she has a lot of walls around her heart.

The thread of suspense stretches throughout the story, although I felt a little less excited by the developments and build-up toward the end than I did by the epic tension at the beginning. But this is a sweet and solid tale, and those who enjoy innocent, romance-focused fantasy with some relational drama should find Sun and Moon a delightful read.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


About the Author

Desiree Williams is a dreamer by day and chocoholic by night. She lives in the beautiful state of Kentucky with her husband and daughter, where she juggles life as a wannabe supermom. Desiree is a lover of food and avoider of dirty dishes. She delights in making people laugh and strives to bring hope and love with her wherever she goes. You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.



Excerpt

See if this intriguing snippet doesn't make you eager to read more!

* * * 

The king’s design for her enslavement was to do more than entertain. He wanted everyone to covet his possessions, to be envious of all that he owned. And what better way to promote jealousy and strife than for the people to lust after it. 

Zara lifted the swords, the chill of the metal hilts seeping through the leather of her gloves, cooling the heat from the mark. The blades clanked across the tiles as she dragged the tips outward. 

A man entered the arena from a hall on the left side, opposite the one she’d come from. A mask of gold covered his face and head, leaving only his eyes visible. She didn’t have to look hard to know those green eyes belonged to Dareh. He always found a way to be her sparring partner during these types of festivities. At least he got to be more clothed than she was. A crimson vest covered his chest and torso while leather breeches protected his legs. 

Dareh stepped into position, facing her. His knees bent and he held his swords tucked at his side, pointing away from her. 

Zara sighed. Maybe they could end this quickly, and she could be done with this horrible evening. She shifted into her own battle stance, crouching with one foot behind her and hating how the holes in her trousers splayed over her legs. Pointing one sword at Dareh, she arched the other high over her head. 

They waited for the music to begin again to signal the start of their mock battle. Except this time, something very different broke the silence. 

“Raise that sword against her, and I will remove your head.”

Giveaway!

Enter to win a signed paperback copy of Sun and Moon and a $15 Amazon gift card! The winner of the giveaway will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter and announced on Facebook and Twitter the morning of May 2, 2016 at around 9am EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 18, 2016

One of My Favorites by Melanie Dickerson! | Review of The Beautiful Pretender



About the Book

After inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise?

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea.

Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences.

Releases May 17, 2016!

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

If Melanie Dickerson has a new book releasing, I know I want to get my hands on it! While some of her stories shine more than others, I know I'm always in for a sweet treat, complete with romance and adventure. I'm quite happy to report that The Beautiful Pretender is one of my favorites of hers!

(I'd probably have to re-read them all to determine which one I love best. Hey, that's not a bad idea! ;) From first impressions, The Fairest Beauty, A Spy's Devotion, and The Beautiful Pretender stood out to me.)

The fairy-tale elements in this story weren't quite as distinct as they are in many of her other books. In fact, while I might just be out of the loop, I couldn't quite pinpoint a particular fairy-tale tie-in. And I was perfectly okay with that, because this story and its characters felt more original and definitely held my attention.

(After looking at the author's website, the two fairy tales connected to this story are "The Princess and the Pea" and "Beauty and the Beast." Makes sense! But still, I appreciate the originality of this mash-up.)

I liked that the heroine is brave and bold, and that the hero, gruff and wounded as he is, reveals a tender side. The way these two connect and watch out for each other as the story unfolds is very endearing.

Interestingly, the big plot point that one might expect to be the climax happened sooner than I expected, which left more time for character growth and added danger. No complaints on that score, here!

The Beautiful Pretender is a wonderful addition to Dickerson's collection and an all-around great read for fans of sweet historical romance. The story comes with a great reminder that sometimes we have to stop hiding and take some risks in order to experience the best of life.

*With thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Other Melanie Dickerson Books I've Reviewed...
The Healer's Apprentice | The Merchant's Daughter | The Fairest Beauty | The Princess Spy | The Golden Braid | The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest {Prequel to The Beautiful Pretender} | A Spy's Devotion {Regency}

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sweet Humor and Tangy Depth | Review of I'll Be Yours

About the Book

She’s the coach’s brilliant daughter, clueless about love. He’s the dethroned football star, ready to teach Romance 101. When dark secrets and sparks collide, there’s no playbook for what happens next. 

The day Andrew Levin arrives at Washington High, Harper O’Malley knows he’ll make the perfect starter boyfriend. The school’s newest band geek is totally in Harper’s league, yet completely out of this late-bloomer’s reach. Between fitting in with a new family, scoring the first chair in band, and rescuing dogs for the local animal shelter, Harper’s never had the opportunity to hone her dating skills. But even though Harper’s love life is far from perfect, she’s got the perfect plan.

Harper knows she’s insane to agree to tutor Ridley Estes, a notorious heartbreaker and the star of her high school’s football team—but in exchange, he’s offered to school her in the game of love. Just when she sees promise with her crush, a football scandal rocks her family, her town, and Ridley’s entire future. Harper suddenly has everything to lose—her family, friends, and even her heart. When the dust of the scandal settles, nothing will be the same. Including the girl who asked the most popular jock to teach her about love.

Award-winning author Jenny B. Jones returns to YA with a sweet, funny novel about first love and the power of letting go.



My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

Jenny B. Jones is a star in the game of balancing humor and depth in young adult fiction! She transitions smoothly between a variety of emotions: elation, anger, surprise, uncertainty, fear, and hope.

Harper makes for a great heroine. She's a smart, "nerdy," compassionate, fun-loving girl with some understandable trust issues. And while 16 seems a little young to be panicking over the lack of a boyfriend (spoken just like a 20-something, I know!), it's easy to relate to her and root for her.

And Ridley, well...he's a *very* swoon-worthy YA guy! It was wonderful to get more insight into his kind, confident, somewhat cocky character as the story progresses.

All the elements are there for an enjoyable contemporary YA story: a bookish girl, a hunky football player, and boyfriend drama. But this book steps up the game with some complex characterization among the secondary characters (Harper's parents, Ridley's family, and the people Harper meets/works with through the animal shelter). I love that the relationships are messy but the interactions and growth are ultimately inspiring.

I would compare I'll Be Yours to Nestle's Wonder Ball. There's a thin chocolate-yummy shell that makes for some obviously sweet reading pleasure. But it doesn't take long to get through the shell and discover hidden, tangy surprises within - harder to chew on but sweet in their own way.

The ending feels a little quick on the jump between conflict and resolution in some aspects, but the results are indisputably satisfying. An enjoyable offering!

*With thanks to Relz Author Support Services and the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Northanger Abbey Read-Along: Conclusion


Welcome to Week 5 of the Northanger Abbey read-along - our last week! You can check out previous read-along posts HERE.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 25-31. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts below! Otherwise, feel free to check in later, after you've had a chance to read the final chapter. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

P.S. If you're a blogger, you're more than welcome to put together your own post using the button above and linking back to the Northanger Abbey read-along tag, if you'd prefer to participate in the discussion that way. 

~ ~ ~

Northanger Abbey Chapters 25-31

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"Her father, mother, Sarah, George, and Harriet, all assembled at the door, to welcome her with affectionate eagerness, was a sight to awaken the best feelings of Catherine's heart; and in the embrace of each, as she stepped from the carriage, she found herself soothed beyond anything that she had believed possible."

General Impressions

Can you believe we've reached the end?? We've watched Catherine recover from her mortification. We've experienced her joy in visiting Henry's home and parish. We've witnessed the true horror of this Gothic parody - that of being unkindly banished from Northanger Abbey for no reason other than a lack of wealth in General Tilney's eyes.

We've also absorbed the ever-welcoming love of family and accepted the apologies and affection of the dashing Henry Tilney. We've seen the sad (?) ending of Isabella and James's relationship, as well as Eleanor's happy ever after. And we've pondered the true message behind such an intriguing tale. ;) (Or, at least, we're about to!)

Since this is my second time through the book, and since I've seen the 2007 movie on numerous occasions, I can't really speak to my surprise on any of these final revelations. But it's been fun to reunite with these characters and to read your impressions of them!

I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons I love Henry Tilney so much is because I saw the movie first - and there's just something about actually seeing his smile and hearing his tone as he teases Catherine that makes his humor that much more delightful. :) (And, I mean, we're talking about JJ Feild!)

Some of his remarks in the book do come across as perhaps a bit too mocking or patronizing... But I love that he has a genuine affection for Catherine and a proven loyalty to her. He desires to see her taken care of, both emotionally and physically. And he has a soft spot for his sister and reading!

Speaking of Eleanor, her character stood out to me a lot in this reading. She's such a genuinely kind person, and she provides a beautiful example of friendship and family love in the wake of Isabella's betrayal. I'm happy for Eleanor, that she finds someone equally charming to settle down with!

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in a separate blog post!

1. How would you respond to General Tilney's rudeness if you were: Catherine? Eleanor? Catherine's parents?

2. How do you feel about Henry Tilney by the end of the story? What do you think of his home in Woodston, his response to his father's actions toward Catherine, and his initial reasons for pursuing her?

3. The final line of the book states, "I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience." What is your verdict? Do you believe the story recommends parental tyranny or a child's disobedience? What do you believe is the book's real message?

Twitter Watch-Along!

Purchase the DVD: Amazon | Target | Walmart

What's a watch-along, you ask? Basically, we'll meet up on Twitter and begin watching Northanger Abbey (2007) at the same time, proceeding to tweet our observations, favorite quotes, and reactions. It's the next best thing to actually getting all your blogging friends together in front of the TV in your living room!

Here are the details:
  • Who: You, me, and whoever wants to join in! 
  • What: A watch-along of Northanger Abbey (2007), with commentary to be live-tweeted during the viewing 
  • When: Tonight at 5:30 p.m. PST / 8:30 p.m. EST! 
  • Where: Twitter (#NAWatchAlong; I tweet with the handle @SeasonsHumility) 
  • Why: Just one name: JJ Feild. You will fall in love with Henry Tilney all over again! 

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition of Emma by Jane Austen is...

Carissa Miller!

Congratulations, Carissa! Be on the lookout for my email. :)

Final Note

It's been such a blast re-reading this book and discussing it with you all! I've enjoyed your thoughtful comments and blog posts, and I sincerely appreciate you joining me on this journey. I hope you've enjoyed the experience, too!

I'm hoping to discuss more Jane Austen books with you in the future. :) I currently have Emma, Mansfield Park, and Pride and Prejudice on my TBR shelf!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Northanger Abbey Read-Along: Week 4


Welcome to Week 4 of the Northanger Abbey read-along! You can learn more about our read-along plans in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 18-24. If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts below! Otherwise, feel free to check in later, after you've had a chance to read today's chapter. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

P.S. If you're a blogger, you're more than welcome to put together your own post using the button above and linking back to the Northanger Abbey read-along tag, if you'd prefer to participate in the discussion that way. 

~ ~ ~

Northanger Abbey Chapters 18-24

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week's reading.

Favorite Quote

"No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment."
~ Mr. Tilney

General Impressions

So much - and yet so little - happens in these chapters!

This section begins with the Isabella situation. Catherine witnesses the attentions Captain Tilney (Henry's brother) gives to Isabella...and the way Isabella doesn't exactly refuse them. More like responds to them. Flirtatiously.

Which doesn't really set right with Catherine, thinking of her own dear brother and how his feelings would be crushed. :\ Isabella's true colors are finally coming to light for our heroine, who tends to think the best of everyone but can't quite dismiss this incident.

Catherine tries to get Henry to talk to his brother, but Henry declares that Frederick knows what he's doing and has to make his own choices - as does Isabella.

So Catherine eventually accepts this and embraces the happy (?) distraction of her visit to Northanger Abbey.

One of the best scenes in this section, in my opinion, is Henry and Catherine's conversation in the curricle on the way to the abbey. First of all, it sounds like Henry is a much better driver than Thorpe. (Are we surprised? Um, no.) Second, Henry is quite the storyteller! He takes his teasing to a whole new level with the imagined proceedings of Catherine's visit at Northanger. The best-best part is when he has to stop because he's too amused by Catherine's reactions. ;) Can't you just picture the smiles and chuckles? And Catherine's return smiles and blushes?

Eventually, they arrive at Northanger Abbey, which is not quite all Catherine expected. There is some mystery...or is there? There are some horrid secrets...aren't there? And where on earth is all the dark, ancient, terrible beauty of Catherine's beloved Gothic novels?

Alas, General Tilney likes to have modern furnishings in his house. (Silly man!) ;)

There are some close calls and lots of descriptions of the location...and we end with the culmination of Catherine's carried-away fancies: the disappointment and disbelief of dear Henry.

The aftermath of this fallout will launch our final section of reading...

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, or all three of these questions in the comments section or in a separate blog post!

1. If you were Captain Tilney's sibling, would you say something to him about his behavior toward Isabella? Or if you were Isabella's friend, would you try to warn or correct her? What do you think of Henry's reaction to Catherine's concern about the situation?

2. After reading all about Northanger Abbey, what are your thoughts of the place? Is it anything like you were expecting? Would you ever want to visit or live there if you could?

3. How do you feel about Catherine's thoughts and behavior in this section? Was it all harmless intrigue, or do you thinks it's possible to be too caught up in daydreams and fictional worlds?

Twitter Watch-Along!

Purchase the DVD: Amazon | Target | Walmart

What's a watch-along, you ask? Basically, we'll meet up on Twitter and begin watching Northanger Abbey (2007) at the same time, proceeding to tweet our observations, favorite quotes, and reactions. It's the next best thing to actually getting all your blogging friends together in front of the TV in your living room!

Here are the details:
  • Who: You, me, and whoever wants to join in! 
  • What: A watch-along of Northanger Abbey (2007), with commentary to be live-tweeted during the viewing 
  • When: Thursday, March 31st at 5:30 p.m. PST / 8:30 p.m. EST 
  • Where: Twitter (#NAWatchAlong; I tweet with the handle @SeasonsHumility) 
  • Why: Just one name: JJ Feild. You will fall in love with Henry Tilney all over again! 
*Note: I hope this time works all right for everyone! Because I work until 5:00, I can't really start much sooner, and I know we wouldn't want to start any later, or we'd be keeping the East-Coasters up all night! But if the details change, I'll be sure to let you all know. 

Giveaway!

Want a chance to win the 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition of Emma by Jane Austen? You can log your entries using the Rafflecopter form below. (Giveaway open to US residents only.) The winner will be announced on March 31st. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Join us next Thursday for the final discussion! 
We'll be chatting about chapters 25-31.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Chat with Your Favorite Authors During This Easter Fiesta!



Are you on Facebook? Then gather up your burning questions for writers, actors, and other artists you admire, because my dear friend Miranda is hosting a fabulous chat celebration! Be in the know and discover all the details below. ;) And be sure to pull out your planner so you can note the conversations you want to join!

* * *

About the Fiesta:

TBAP’s (To Be a Person) Easter Fiesta is a social media event where the professionals of the literary and entertainment industries give back to the audience that has supported them over time, by chatting with the audience through TBAP’s social media on a set date/time. For 2016, it’s TBAP’s Facebook page! The professionals are drawn from the following categories: authors, actors, alliances. music artists.

Meet Your Host:

Miranda A. Uyeh is the author of To Die Once: Child of Grace #1, a book/entertainment blogger, and a Mogul Global Ambassador. She’s passionate about all these and even found herself to be shortlisted as one of the Inspy Awards’ Judges in 2014. You can connect with Miranda on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest, or visit her corner of the web, TBAP!

Meet the Featured Guests:
When You Can Chat with the Guests:
  • March 17th, 2:00-3:00pm Pacific Time – Julie Lessman, Cheryl McKay, Rene Gutteridge
  • Today! March 18th, 2:00-3:00pm PT – DiAnn Mills, Michelle Griep
  • March 19th, 3:00-4:00pm PT – Rich Swingle, Kirk Fernwood
  • March 20th, 2:00-3:00pm PT – K. Victoria Chase, Brenda Anderson
  • March 21st, 2:00-3:00pm PT – Heather Manning, Melica Niccole
  • March 22nd, 2:00-3:00pm PT – Bill Ewing, Doc Benson
  • March 24th, 5:00-6:00pm PT – Rebekah Cooke, Katie Pavao
  • March 25th, 2:00-3:00pm PT – Jody Thomae, Juli Tapken
  • March 26th, 2:00-3:00pm PT – Francine Locke, Bronwyn Angley, Apolonia Davalos
  • March 27th, 7:00-8:00pm PT – Irene Santiago, Sharon Wilharm
How to Share the Fiesta with Your Friends:

Tweet at @Rini_MAU and use the hashtag #TBAPFiesta, or update your Facebook status by using the hashtag #TBAPFiesta and tagging your post with Miranda Afa Uyeh or Miranda’s To Be A Person. You can also post directly on TBAP’s Facebook page.

P.S. For some lovely inspirational messages from some of the guests (just for you!), check out TBAP’s official YouTube channel!

Don't miss this opportunity to talk with talented individuals who have made a name for themselves in the book and entertainment industries! All the chats will be happening on the TBAP Facebook page.