Off the Shelf: RoseBlood Review & GIVEAWAY

When I was around seven years old, my parents took me to see a touring production of Phantom of the Opera. It might not be something you would expect a seven year old to enjoy, but I was captivated by it. I still remember the thrill of seeing the Phantom appear inside Christine’s mirror and the heart-stopping moment when the chandeleir crashes to the stage. My mother and I listened to the soundtrack (on cassette, no less, until the cd came out) any time we were in the car, and I can recall trying to mimic Christine on the high notes (unsuccessfully).

When I told my mother that I was reviewing a retelling of Phantom of the Opera, she was immediately taken aback. “Oh no, there’s nothing that can beat the original.” And I agree. There’s nothing better than the original story. BUT A.G. Howard doesn’t try to retell the original story. She plays off the characters and what might have happened if Erik’s story had continued. There’s no doubt that A.G. Howard has thoroughly researched the story and the lines that blur between fact and fiction of its history, and in turn she crafts a mysterious tale of love, obsession, and fate that answers the question – what would happen if the Phantom’s story continued into the modern day?

rosebloodRoseBlood by A.G. Howard
RELEASE DATE: January 10th, 2017

Summary (via Goodreads)
In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known

Things I Liked:

I adored A. G. Howard’s Splintered series, an Alice in Wonderland retelling. She always has a unique perspective, and she writes in such a way that she makes the story her own. The beautiful, gothic settings that she builds in RoseBlood are totally immersive and almost as haunting as the characters themselves.

Rune and Thorn are both tortured souls that find each other in a most unique twist of fate. There are so many complexities behind their characters that will draw you in, and I found myself really enjoying the romantic elements in their story. The story was a bit slow to start, but once these two characters found each other, I couldn’t put the book down. Their story will seduce you, and it’s entrancing to watch as all of the layers finally come together.

There are fantasy/paranormal elements to this story that I can’t reveal to you, but I have to say that these are the factors that I believe really set this story apart. At first, I was a little unsure that I would enjoy the story going this route, but I can honestly say it brought in an entirely new perspective on the history of the Phantom.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Like I said, the story is a bit slow to start. I found myself more than a little confused at what exactly would happen to Rune when she would sing and about what secrets she was trying to hide from. It takes some time before you start to see the bigger picture, but I think the slow unveiling helps to build the story. I would have liked a little faster pacing at the beginning, but I also get that Rune had to get established at her new school and we had other characters we needed to meet to make this story work.

Overall, there wasn’t much that I disliked about this book. I still have some reservations about the ending, particularly with what becomes of Erik and his relationship with Thorn. Things are almost too neat and tidy in that regard; however, when it comes to the ending for Thorn and Rune, neat and tidy is exactly what I was wanting and it was delivered. The Phantom, while I would consider him a main character in the story, isn’t seen very much, and I found myself wishing for more of that. There’s a lot of his history, but I’d have liked a little bigger glimpse at the modern Phantom.

Overall Rating:

4/5 I adore the original story of the Phantom of the Opera, but this book is really stunning in its own regard. The history is so entwined in this story that it truly feels like an extension of the original. You can feel feel the music coming from within the pages, and the spellbinding romance will seduce you till the final page. A. G. Howard can truly WRITE – and I highly recommend that you check out not only RoseBlood, but her other books as well!

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS
RoseBlood Prize Pack Includes
– one hardback copy of RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
– RoseBlood bookplate SIGNED by A.G. Howard
– RoseBlood bookmark
– Phantom of the Opera necklace
CLICK HERE TO ENTER – RoseBlood Giveaway
No purchase necessary, but the contest is only open to US residents (no P.O. box addresses, please!). You can enter once per day until 12AM on 1/11. Good luck!
Wordpress won’t allow java widgets, so you’ll have to click the link to get to the giveaway, but once you do, you can earn entries by (1) just showing up – easy entry once per day! (2) leaving a comment on this blog post (3) Subscribing to this blog! (4) Following @amongtheauthors on Twitter (5) Tweeting about the giveaway.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER – RoseBlood Giveaway

Off the Shelf: A Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I never really had a favorite Disney princess growing up. If you ask now, I suppose I like Jasmine the most, but I just wasn’t big on princesses like most little girls. The stories that always stood out to me were ones where extraordinary things happened to ordinary people. I suppose you could say that the same is still true today.

I adore most everything Alice in Wonderland. I collect Alice coffee mugs, Alice figurines and stuffed animals, different editions of Alice, etc. I even have an Alice – Our Lady of Perpetual Wonder prayer candle made by my lovely and talented author friend Tominda Adkins, purchased by one of my best friends as an epic surprise gift for my birthday. I’m considering that design for a tattoo one day. I think it’s safe to say, I’m an Alice fan.

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Anyone who knows me, or even just anyone who reads my reviews, also happen to know that I’m a major fan of retellings. That’s why, when I heard that there would be a new Alice retelling that told the story of the Queen of Hearts, and it would be written by Marissa Meyer, I knew we’d be in for a treat. I know I can trust Marissa Meyer for a quality retelling, one that will deviate from the original and create its own rich plot. The Lunar Chronicles series is a prime example of her talents. Plus, Meyer isn’t retelling Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she’s merely borrowing this strange world and its even stranger characters and making it all her own. She takes us back to a time before Alice, before the Queen wore her crown, and gives us a look at what can truly turn a heart evil.

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RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2016
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (via Goodreads)

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Things I Liked:

One of the most satisfying moments for me was a thought I had near the end of the book. I reached a certain heart-wrenching scene, and all I could think is, “Man, this is really starting to remind me of Wicked.” I mean that in the best way possible. I picked up Wicked sometime around high school and was utterly mesmerized. I remember thinking it was something so unique and wondering why there weren’t more stories that delved into the pasts of famous characters, particularly the villains. They weren’t always bad, were they? Something had to make them that way. Heartless and Wicked both show readers the depths that love and loss can affect a person’s heart, how someone innocent can easily become someone wicked, evil, or mad.

There are plenty of characters and references from the original that will delight fans, but you could also pick this book up without ever having heard of Alice or her adventures in Wonderland. Meyer presents every character in a new way. For instance, the Mad Hatter is one of my favorite characters in the original. In Heartless, he’s known as Hatta, and yes, he still makes hats, but hats with special characteristics. He’s also a character that I’m torn about my feelings for, mainly because I never knew if I could trust him or not. I thoroughly enjoyed that though, getting to see the Mad Hatter/Hatta through a new light. You’ll still get to meet sly Chesh, the bumbling King of Hearts, the nervous White Rabbit, and more, but Meyer has created a unique spin on classic characters.

Jest was the best part of this story for me. I liked Cath well enough, especially as the story went on and you see all of the expectations put on her a) for being a woman and b) for being the daughter of a Marquess. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend, a dream which repeatedly gets dashed due to the sexist society she’s a part of, and you really start to feel her anxiety about her obligations to her family. Enter Jest – clever, handsome, and fun – another character that you’re not sure if you can trust, but you really don’t care because of how much you (and Cath) enjoy his presence. The part he plays in this story is beautiful, tragic, and so captivating that he’ll be on your mind long after you close the cover. Trust me, I still haven’t stopped thinking about Jest and his fellow Rook, Raven.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Cath has a really interesting ability to dream things into reality. When we very first meet Cath, she’s baking lemon tarts made with lemons from a tree which sprouted in her bedroom while she was dreaming. Incredible, right? You’d think this would be more of a major plot point, but it isn’t. Other than Cath wondering if perhaps she dreamed Jest into existence, this special talent doesn’t get much of a mention. I feel like the story could have either done completely without it or it should have played a bigger role.

Overall Rating:
4.5/5   It’s a little slow to start, but once Jest is introduced, you’ll be looking forward to him in each scene almost as much as Cath does. I think the allusions to Wicked and to Poe’s The Raven bring this tale from Wonderland to a new level. That being said, this story is going to break your heart. It will leave your emotions shattered, and at the end, you’re just going to want to curl up into a ball and curse Marissa Meyer for doing this to you. But you NEED to read this story, and part of you will feel thankful that you did – while the other part of you is bawling your eyes out in the BEST. WAY. POSSIBLE.

“I cannot tell you how I look forward to a lifetime at your side, and all the impossible things I’ll have you believing in.”

Add Heartless to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
Order Heartless via Amazon
Order Heartless via Barnes & Noble

Waiting on Wednesday #6

You might be expecting that for this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I would choose The Raven King. I did just finish reading all of the Raven Cycle books, and the final one is being released next week, but NO! That would be too easy. You already know how much I’m looking forward to that one, so let me tell you instead about another book being released very soon that I’m excited about.

Everland

By Wendy Spinale

Publication Date: May 10th, 2016

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Synopsis (via Goodreads)

Forget the story of Peter Pan you know. Because in Everland, the only way to grow up is to survive.

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders — the German Army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a mysterious boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

Why I’m Waiting

When I first found this book, it had the same release date as Raven King. At first I was bummed that it has been pushed back to May 10th, but then I realized that gives me plenty of time to devour the last Raven Cycle book, come to terms with however it ends, and move on to something pretty, shiny, and new – in this case, Everland.

Not too long ago, I tossed around the idea of writing my own fairy tale retelling. I love retellings with every fiber of my being, but the first one I ever did (my very first NaNoWriMo project) was a big pile of slop with nothing even remotely usable. I really wanted to try again, focusing on one specific tale rather than trying to incorporate so many, and I wanted to make it dark. Really dark. I’d performed in our high school play of Peter Pan (I was Tiger Lily, Wendy’s understudy, a pirate, the Stage Manager, makeup artist, and really any part they could throw me into – we didn’t have much of a theatre group at the time). So doing a retelling of Peter Pan was one of my first thoughts. I hadn’t really found anything in the YA genre that had done that before. Unfortunately, the idea never came to fruition, BUT luckily, Wendy Spinale has filled that gap with her debut YA novel – Everland. I’m sure it will be everything that I’m hoping for in a Peter Pan retelling.

Also, you should definitely check out Wendy Spinale’s site, especially more about her personally. She was an actress for Disneyland, and yes, her real name is actually Wendy – it’s not just a pen name since her book deals with Peter Pan.

I think Everland will have all of the dark, dystopian elements that I love, but there’s one more reason that I’m really looking forward to it: Spinale has set the story in an entirely steampunk world. I hadn’t really considered a steampunk approach to a fairy tale before, but now that the thought is in my head, I’m dying to see how she approaches it. Imaginative ideas like this in the YA genre make me truly want to never grow up!

Add Everland to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
Pre-order Everland via Amazon
Pre-order Everland via Barnes & Noble

Off the Shelf – A Review of The Sleeper & the Spindle

My first book of 2015 was This is Not a Test  by Courtney Summers, and I vividly remember finishing the book and immediately tossing it across the room in frustration. Just in case I forgot, Timehop decided to remind me.

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I can’t say what in particular made me dislike the book, but I do know that I was disappointed that my new year of new reads kicked off with a dud. I was determined not to let that happen again this year.

At the start of January, I began reading Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott, December’s book from OwlCrate. I made it through the first 60-80 pages, and I’ve had to temporarily set the book aside. The story is somewhat slow and just hasn’t captured me yet, so I began to worry that I would have a repeat of last year. I’m sure Da Vinci’s Tiger is probably wonderful, and I just haven’t given it enough of a shot yet, but I’m not taking any chances. So, I returned it to the nightstand, and I went in search of a guaranteed good read.

I normally stick to reading and reviewing mostly Young Adult books, but occasionally, I may choose one of certain relevance or that Young Adult readers may enjoy – such as this time. It may just be personal bias, but I believe Neil Gaiman transcends most all age groups and genres. So, while The Sleeper and the Spindle may look like an ordinary picture book, just one look inside can tell you that it is much, much more.

sleeper“Learning how to be strong, to feel her own emotions and not another’s, had been hard; but once you learned the trick of it, you did not forget.”

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