To Love a Scandalous Duke by Lianna De la Rosa

Title: To Love a Scandalous Duke
Author: Liana De la Rosa
Publication: September 25th 2017 by Entangled Publishing, LLC
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Driven into exile years earlier, due to family scandal, Declan Sinclair is called home, devastated to discover his brother has been murdered and he’s the new Duke of Darington. When clues point to the man he blames for both his exile and his brother’s death, Declan resolves to ruin the culprit. If only the daughter of the man’s business partner, lovely Lady Alethea Swinton, didn’t tempt his resolve.

Lady Alethea Swinton has cultivated her pristine reputation in the hopes of winning her father’s praise. When her childhood friend returns, Alethea finds she’s willing to court scandal and defy her father to help the handsome Declan uncover the truth behind his brother’s death. Until she realizes Declan’s redemption will mean her family’s ruin.
I love regency romance and whenever I’m feeling in a slump it’s one of the first things I pick up to clear my head. I always look for one that has a strong female lead and I felt To Love a Scandalous Duke fit that perfectly.

I loved Alethea. She is kind, witty and resourceful. She hasn’t seen Declan since they were children and his family was upturned by scandal that her family was an instrumental part in. Despite this, she doesn’t even think twice about wanting to help him and despite her father’s stern warnings, is not afraid to be around him. She has a big heart and loves that to teach children and offer charity. She feels confined by the fact that she is a woman and expected to fill a role. Avoiding marriage due to the fact that she wants someone who is willing to let her be more than a pretty decoration. She also has a twin, Finlay, and it’s fun to see her exchanges with him as well. You can tell that he cares and appreciates her for who she is.

I also loved Declan! He’s someone who was sent away due to the family scandal but managed to make a name for himself anyway. Away from the dukedom. I love that he is confident in himself and who he has. He also has a deep love of his family, it didn’t matter if they are near or far, dead or alive. He doesn’t care what people think of him.

Declan and Alethea together are a perfect matching. I love their witty exchanges and banter. Declan also seems to cherish Alethea’s fiery spirit.

This was the perfect blend of romance and mystery. I really enjoyed the story and it was a pick me up I definitely needed. I would love to read another novel featuring Alethea’s best friend.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Published: September 26th 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
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Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

I loved An Enchantment of Ravens. It’s been a long time that I’ve been waiting for a Fey series that sucked me in the way Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey did and this was definitely that novel. It is one of those times where I’m both sad and grateful for it to be a standalone. Although I could go for some novellas on the courts.

I loved Isobel as the main character. She is such a clever girl that lives her life with both eyes open. Wide. Especially in a world where one could easily be sucked into the magic of the Fair Ones and what they offer. She is a painter and a master of her craft. I love the way she takes such pride in her work and how much of it is a part of her that she is not willing to give up.

Rook and Gadfly. I loved both of these Fair Folk for different reasons. I loved the way Rook is strong, yet curious. He comes across almost a little more human than most of the other Fair folk and I feel like this is important in the role he plays. I loved him but I can’t necessarily explain why. Plus I just love his interactions with Isobel and maybe that is really what gives him that slight more human quality. At the same time, as much as Gadfly is a Fair One there is also something very different and special about him. He reminds me of the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, always has something up his sleeve.

Fair Ones, Fey, fairies are portrayed in all different ways in different stories. I really like the way they are done in this story. As much as they may play tricks on humans, they are also fascinated with them. It shows a different side of living forever. They see the humans possess things that they are unable to and leads them to a childlike curiosity. So much so that they tried to emulate them in their banquets and balls even though they are not quite sure what they are doing. There is also something very wrong in the land of the Fey and I like the way it’s shown.

I love the romance and that it builds gradually and doesn’t feel like it just floods in. It ensnared my heart. They have a way of playing off each other that fits perfectly.

I enjoyed the story and Margaret Rogerson writing so much. If you have any inclination towards Fey stories, I would say definitely pick this one up.

Speak Easy Speak Love by McKelle George

Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author: McKelle George
Published: September 19, 2017 by Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstand-ings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Noth-ing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Be-atrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

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So McKelle George is awesome for not doing just 1 of the Guest Post topics I had, but for doing 4 and rocking them. So I couldn't not include them all.

Character Spotlight

Okay, I know the obvious answer would be to do Beatrice or Benedick here, but I’m actually going to do one of my secret favorite characters: John. In the play, Don John is an archetype that Shakespeare later uses more fully in Othello. A villain whose nastiness stems from an unpleasant need to see everyone else suffer. In Much Ado, Don John tells his henchmen, “I am a plain-dealing villain,” and, “If I had my mouth, I would bite.” In my book, I wanted to explore John’s motivations. Why he is the way he is. Don John also has one of my most favorite lines in the play: “Let me be that I am, and seek not to alter me.”
His redeeming feature is that he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. He may not be charming or well-liked, but also he could give a damn if he is. He’s at the root of a lot of the novel’s conflict, but he also has a lot of depth—tenderness for Mag-gie, and loyalty to Prince. Plus, with John I got to explore the rise of organized crime and bootlegging in NYC, which is truly a fascinating piece of history.

10 Things You Don't Know about McKelle George

• I’m fluent in Hungarian
• I attended college on an art scholarship
• I once skinny dipped in the English Channel
• I learned to read with Hooked on Phonics (really)
• I have a big white German Shepherd named Kenai
• In high school, I used to sneak into abandoned buildings to watch horror movies with my friends
• I finished writing my first novel when I was 21, as a spinoff of a RP forum I’d cre-ated for me and my online friends
• As a kid, I was a book thief. I stole from libraries and people’s houses. I have since repented, but at the time it was really important to me to own books and my family didn’t have enough money to buy me any.
• My first fictional crush was Vegeta on Dragonball Z

Favorite Shakespeare Retellings
West Side Story (retelling of Romeo and Juliet); A Thousand Acres by Jane Smi-ley (King Lear retelling); As I Descended by Robin Talley (retelling of Macbeth); Exit Pursued by Bear by E.K. Johnston (retelling of Winter’s Tale)

Top Shakespeare Plays

1. Much Ado About Nothing (obviously)
2. The Tempest
3. The Taming of the Shrew
4. The Merchant of Venice
5. Titus Andronicus
6. Henry the IV, Part I
7. Twelfth Night
8. Macbeth
9. King Lear
10. Midsummer’s Night Dream

How many was I supposed to do, ha ha?

McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and reference librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poet-ry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.

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Warcross by Marie Lu

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Published: September 12th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
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For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I remember when Marie Lu mentioned she was writing a Sci-Fi my ears perked and my excitement overflowed. Sci-Fi has been one of my favorite genre’s since I was a kid and it’s so great to see it all over the place now. Of course I'm also a gamer so I loved that aspect of it as well. I love love having a kick-butt hacker heroine.

I really liked Emika. She’s kind of like a Robin Hood. She does not have a clean record but she is also not malicious. She doesn’t do things without thought and does what she does feels is right. I also love that she is a hacker. Yay girl hackers and that rainbow hair is awesome! I like that she manages to stay grounded even with the things that are happening around her. She might be alone but I think her father’s memory keeps her centered.

There are a lot of different characters. I liked them all but I didn’t find myself particularly attached to any besides Emika. I feel like we get to know Hideo the most and even he still has his mysteries. I liked him but at the same time you could tell he’s deeply troubled. I’ve always liked the smart guys.

I loved the world of Warcross it’s always interesting to get involved in the world of virtual reality. It is limitless in the way that you can do almost anything with it. It’s a whole world to bend and manipulate to reflect the stories needs. I loved the way Marie Lu created not only the game of Warcross but the under belly of the internet. We all know there are dark corners since the internet is something that is difficult to control. I liked that we had a little of the actual games but it also wasn’t boring. When we were involved in game action it is because it has importance to the story. I also really like that fine line she creates between who villians are. She shows that gray area that exist.

I wasn’t surprised at all by the Zero unveiling. Earlier when a piece of information was revealed and it wasn’t even something elaborated on. I’m like yep there it is. It didn’t matter though because there is still so much mystery surrounding the whole thing. So many questions I still need to have answered.

I loved Warcross and felt the writing was top notch. It really drew you into the story and it was easy to get invested in Emika and her story. As a Sci-Fi lover and gamer it made my heart happy.  I feel like if your not hardcore Sci-Fi reader you can definitely still get into this story. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment.

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Title: Even the Darkest Stars (Even the Darkest Stars #1)
Author: Heather Fawcett
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Set in a fictional Himalayan kingdom, this is the story of a girl enlisted by a legendary explorer to help him climb the kingdom’s deadliest mountain – only to discover that his true mission may threaten her whole world.

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer every known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

Even the Darkest Stars takes a challenge like climbing Mount Everest and combines it with magic and mystery. I really enjoyed the story and loved the difference of the characters.

I really liked Kamzin because she is not a perfect person. She has always had to live in others shadows, forced into training for something she isn’t even good at. She is in a way resentful that she isn’t allowed to do what she dreams of doing and feels like she needs to prove herself. When her sister is chosen for the great explorer River Shara’s expedition to the hardly charted Raksha Mountain. Kamzin is angry and is determined to change his mind. She can at times seems selfish and self-centered. Arrogant in her belief of her own ability at times. Kamzin though is also caring and bright. Her love of Tem is one of her shining qualities.

River is a mystery. He seems to be there one minute and a ghost the next. You can never truly grasp him and I feel like Kamzin feels the same way. Yet he challenges her and that attracts her to him. She is stifled her village where River gives her the world. Just even in simple ways. It was interesting to see him develop in the influence of Kamzin.

Tem is her loyal friend. Not quite brother/sister not quite lovers. They live in between. This journey also allows Tem to really shine. He’s so thoughtful and caring. He is also smart and observant. He looks beyond where Kamzin can’t always see. She focuses on the now without consequences. Tem sees the whole picture.

The other three characters that embark on the journey with them are interesting but I didn’t feel myself invested in them. Not to say other people won’t. I just didn’t.

Of course there is also Lusha. I think we spend our most time with her as a ghost of Kamzin’s memories. Although Lusha is present, I think most our perspective comes from Kamzin.

I loved the journey our travelers embark upon. With all it’s twist and turns, mysteries and horrors. I also really liked the ending, even though I felt it left me a little broken and bruised. I can not wait to read the next book. It was one of those mixes of those cliff-hangers not cliffhanger. It might have wrapped up things with this adventure but it leaves you wondering what will come next and how will Kamzin handle it.

I continue to ponder this book. Even though it’s been a week since I’ve read it. I really liked how it has me continuing thinking about the ending and the possibilities. I’m so excited for the next book.

I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, where I enjoy wandering around in the wilder-ness and only occasionally getting lost. I’ve also spent extended periods of time in Italy, where I learned very little Italian but ate quite a lot of pizza, and Ireland, where I searched half-successfully for puffins and selkies.

Before becoming a writer I worked, among other things, as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre company (which I could write several novels about). I have a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before I realized it involved more than reading books, drinking ex-cessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.

I’m represented by the amazing Brianne Johnson at Writers House. EVEN THE DARKEST STARS, my first novel, was purchased by HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray at auction in a six-figure, two-book deal.

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