Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: Vassa In The Night

 Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 

Goodreads Description: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

My Review: In an alternate Brooklyn, the nights are stretching longer and no one is sure why. The clocks stay the same, but each minute drags on, until even the non-magical residents of the city begin to grow restless. Vassa tries to make it through the long nights living with her step-mother and step-sisters with her best friend, Erg, a wooden doll her mother gave her on her deathbed that walks and talks back and eats everything she can get her hands on. After a fight with her sisters, Vassa takes off on a self-destructive mission to BY's, the magical convenience store that dances on chicken legs and whose employees gleefully behead shoplifters. After Erg saves her from being framed for shoplifting, Vassa is forced to work for Babs Yagg, the witch in charge of BY's, for three long nights. Vassa's nights in BY's quickly become about more than just surviving, and she begins to believe she was sent there for a reason: to put an end to Babs once and for all.

Wow. What a book, kids. VASSA IN THE NIGHT is everything you've heard it is. It's weird, it's wacky, it's all over the place, and it's beautiful. The book is based off a Russian folk tale, and like all good folktales, this whole story is a metaphor, which can sometimes be frustrating for people looking for a more typical A to B story. There are a lot of weird things in the book that most readers are able to accept-- a wooden doll that eats, stores on chicken legs, disembodied hands, witches-- but once the story veers off into trying to explain big weirdness, I can see how some readers get lost, such as with Babs' reality bending bedroom or freeing a piece of captured night weirdly personified. It's not necessarily to everyone's taste, but I felt like all this weirdness tied together by the end. As I said, this story itself is a metaphor for growing up, grief, and finding your place in the world. We really see that through Erg and her final role in the story. At its core, the story is about Vassa getting over the loss of her mom, fully grieving for her, and accepting her home with her step-sisters.

The characters themselves were all really well done. Erg was so likable and fun, Vassa was brave and headstrong, even Babs is just a lonely old woman locked away in a psychopath. The hands-- even the freakin' hands had personalities distinct from one another, which was pretty impressive considering how limited they were in communication. The only thing that tripped me up was a bit of inconsistent characterization for Vassa in regards to her voice. At the beginning of the book, we see Vassa charging off into BY's to buy light bulbs, a self-destructive move fueled by her anger at her sister, which is rooted in deeper insecurities she has about not feeling welcome in her own home. It's totally believable as a teenager move-- impulsive, self-destructive, emotional. My issue came later, when Vassa is working the cash and several of her classmates enter BY's to go 'shopping,' taunting the disembodied hands trying to frame them for shoplifting with sewn up pockets. Vassa is highly judgmental in this scene, thinking that what they're doing is reckless and stupid. She does admit that her own actions were reckless and stupid as well, and that she's probably being a hypocrite, but it doesn't stop her from being angry. This emotional response and the way she thinks about the shoppers... doesn't jive with me. It's incredibly hypocritical for one, and most teenagers aren't complete hypocrites when they have the maturity that Vassa has, and for two it feels more like the judgmental thinking of an adult rather than a kid. She dissects their actions with a depth that she shied away from during reflection on her own situation. If she was just being a hypocrite, there would be no issue, but this sudden contempt doesn't make much sense within the rest of the story, and the scene sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

As for plot, tension? Both flow smoothly. The beginning especially is really well set up, and we begin with a movie-like zoom in effect where we slowly narrow in on the scene until we reach Vassa. From there, we get an excellent sense of setting and plot, and after Vassa has settled into her job of working at the store, the real weirdness begins. Vassa undergoes three night's worth of trials, slowly collecting allies that help her attempt to overthrow Babs. The writing all throughout was incredible, and often times I felt like I was reading one long poem. I know some readers complain about purple prose, and if you're one of them then you're better off avoiding this book. This book is a love letter to writing, and doesn't shy away from flowery prose or metaphor stacked upon metaphor. The book is called dark, and while I don't exactly agree with that label, it is definitely gory at times, with people being decapitated and their heads put on stakes, and several characters being chopped into literal pieces. So if you can get squeamish, keep in mind there is violence, even if it is minor.

TL;DR: All in all, 4/5 stars. A weird and lyrical story of a girl finding her place in the wake of her mother's death, coloured with beautiful Russian folklore.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cover Reveal: DARK EMBRACE

Hey all, I'm excited today, in partnership with Rockstar Book Tours, to bring you the cover reveal for Elle Boon's DARK EMBRACE, a paranormal romance that releases on February 8. Check out the gorgeous new cover as well as an excerpt from the book, then enter to win an Amazon gift card for $10. Covers, sneak peaks, and free treats. Talk about a win, win, win. 

On to the reveal! 

Title: DARK EMBRACE (The Dark Legacy Series, #1)
Author: Elle Boon
Pub. Date: February 8, 2018
Publisher: Elle Boon
Formats: eBook
Pages: ?
Find it:  Goodreads, iBooks, B&N, Kobo  

A DARK LEGACY where only the strong survive and those who are Goddess touched can complete the warriors who fight to protect the world from the creatures that go bump in the night.


Jennaveve, the Fey chosen by the Goddess to be the queen of her people for the past few millennium, is tired and wishes for a break, but hadn’t counted on being reduced to almost mortal thanks to a dark stranger. They say you should be careful what you wish for. The last time she’d taken a break, her Fey had left their realm, resulting in shifters on Earth known as the Mystic and Iron Wolves and even more she was still searching for.

Damien and Lucas Cordell knew they’d share a Hearts Love when the time came. As the twin sons of the Vampire King who’d mated a shifter, they were the first of their kind. When they’d thought their mate was finally within their reach and was a shifter like their mother only to realize she wasn’t theirs, they’d almost lost their lives to the alpha of the Iron Wolves, Kellen Styles. Instead, the error led them to the being that was…the Fey Queen Jennaveve. Only she was even more elusive than the wind.

Time and patience was something Damien and Lucas had in spades, until the female they’d already laid claim to, even if she hadn’t accepted them yet, was taken by an enemy. Saving Jenna became their one and only focus. As time and realms slip between them, their fear for her had them forgetting about patience and made claiming Jenna as their Hearts Love, hoping she accepted their Dark Embrace.

Will the Cordell Twins be able to rescue Jenna from the evil who has taken her? Will Jenna get her powers back? Who is the dark presence and how will they defeat a being who is strong enough to bring the Fey Queen down to her knees?

Lyric’s Accidental Mate, Iron Wolves Book 1 is a crossover series with the first book being FREE

Exclusive Excerpt!

They both turned as one toward the door as a commotion swirled into the room.

“What have you done?” Raina asked.

Lucas looked at the tall man who followed behind their sister, waiting to see what Creed, the son of Satan, had to say. Hellboy himself would be a good one to have on their side. “Shit, how’d you get in?” he asked as realization dawned.

Damien flashed to his sister. “Where did you come from?” He held her by the arms, giving her a little shake.

A deep rumble came from Creed. “Boy, I suggest you unhand my Eros, or I’ll remove your arms from your body.”

Lucas came to stand next to his brother. “Our Hearts Love is missing along with our father. We’ve been locked into this fucking castle and you two just strolled in like it’s nothing. We just want to know if you can get us out.” The last was yelled at a decibel that bordered on a roar, but Lucas was at the zero fucks giving point.

“You got two seconds before I start dismembering your brother. Tell him to get his fingers, palms, and any other body part off my Raina if he wants to keep them.” Creed’s voice had become the deep tone of his demon side.

“Damien, you might want to take a step back before we have to rumble with our brother-in-law in front of baby sis here. Raina, please answer the damn question while our brother is letting you go. Now, Damien, release her.” He put as much order behind the last part, hoping to reach his twin, but he’d never seen his twin’s eyes turn such a dark obsidian like their father’s.

Raina wrapped her arms around their brother, stilling Creed from going killer beast. “Damien, calm down. We popped in like we always do. I felt mama’s distress and told Creed I needed to visit. He of course insisted he come with. When we got here I couldn’t find her, so I followed you two morons’ scents. There’s another, not quite the same, but familiar smell here too.” Her voice shook, the slight tremor more an indication of her rising worry. She released Damien and went to the same corner. “It’s like dad but toned down.”

“Can you track him?” Damien asked.

“No,” Creed growled.

“He took Jennaveve and our father went after him, alone. He’s our…brother,” Damien said in a barely there whisper.

Raina spun to face them, her hand going to her throat. “What?”

Creed flashed to her side. “She will not be your sniffing dog.”

“Our father has another son. Goddess, its messed up to even say that. He’s the one who hurt Jenna. He nearly killed her the last time he had his hands on her. Somehow that…bastard traced her back here and took her out from under our noses. Now, our father is tracking them alone while we stand here arguing. We can’t breach these walls, but you two can. You can sense him, Raina. Please.” Lucas held his hand out, holding the pillow with Jenna’s scent still on it.

“That’s why mother is hurting.” She moved forward, a tear slipping down her cheek. “Creed, I can’t stand here and do nothing when my family is falling apart.”

“Damn it, I knew this family stuff was going to be a pain in my ass.” Creed jerked the fabric out of Lucas’s hand. “It’s the Fey Queen. I can scent her as well. We go together, all of us on one condition.”

Lucas and Damian nodded, waiting.

“I’m in charge and Raina is not to be harmed.”

“Hellboy, you can call all the shots as long as we find our Love.” There was nothing he wouldn’t 
agree to in order to find Jenna.

“I’m so going to regret this.” Creed dropped his chin to his chest.

Raina turned to face Creed.

Damien pointed at the two. “No making out with our sister in front of us. Save it for the bedroom. Let’s go people, times a wasting.” He changed into all black clothing, and although his words were teasing, the hardness behind the tone was anything but.

“Can I eat them?” Creed asked.

Raina shook her head. “You promised to be nice to my family.”

“Can I let Liv eat them?”

Their sister snorted. “No, you told her she couldn’t do that either. Come on, boys. Let’s get this party started.”

Lucas focused on Jenna’s sweet smile and promised himself they’d have her tucked between them soon. When he opened his eyes, his brother was staring with that same single minded intent on his face. “We’ll get her back and make sure she can’t escape without one of us always knowing where she’s at.”

Raina snorted. “You two will learn, a woman like Jenna won’t take to being caged or coddled.”

He met Creed’s dark stare. “How’s that working for you, Hellboy?”

Creed lifted his middle finger. “You still wanting a way out of here, or we gonna sling insults back and forth? Believe me, your little nickname is nothing compared to the things I’ve been through and trust me, boy, I’ve definitely had much bigger beings say much nastier things than that to me.”

Instant regret punched him in the gut. “Damn it, I’m sorry man. You’re right. Hellboy isn’t meant to be a…bad thing. Shit! I like you and I think you’re great for our sister.”

His sister’s mate tilted his head and nodded. “Good enough. Let’s go. One big circle like…well, one big happy family.”

Damien groaned. “Son of a bitch, not you, too.”

Their sister clapped like she was proud to be part of the crazy, wrapping one arm around Creed and held the other out. He moved forward, slipping his hand in hers, waiting for Damien to grab onto his other one.

Once they formed a circle, Creed’s lips formed a straight line. “Here we go boys and my girl.”

Darkness came quickly. The opulent bedroom replaced by a forest that had gone eerily quiet. Creed moved next to Raina, waving his hand around her, changing the sexy dress she’d had on into all black, making her resemble a character from the movie Underworld. He didn’t have time to question the man as they all seemed to notice the unnatural quietness.

“Anyone know exactly where we are?” Damien’s voice echoed around them.

Creed closed his eyes, then opened them quickly. “We’re still on Earth. Something is unnatural here, but it’s not demon born.”

Dark Embrace

1. You don’t know by Katelynn Turner
2. Sorry by Halsey
3. The Feeling by Justin Bieber and Halsey
4. I’m Gonna Show You Crazy by Bebe Rexa
5. Sway by Danielle Bradberry
6. Tennessee Whiskey by Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapelton
7. Tell Me You Love Me by Demi Levato
8. Faking by Calvin Harris Kehlani and Lil Yachty
9. Praying by Kesha
10. Bad at Love by Halsey
11. Dusk till Dawn by Zayn
12. Issues by Julia Michaels
13. Heavy by Linkn Park
14. At my Best by Machine Gun Kelly ft. Haily Steinfield
15. Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara
16. Glorious by Mackelmore and Skylar Grey
17. Perfect by Ed Sheeran
18. I Like Me Better by Lauv
19. Filthy by Justin Timberlake
20. There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendez

About Elle: 

Elle Boon lives in Middle-Merica as she likes to say…with her husband, two kids, and a black lab who is more like a small pony. She’d never planned to be a writer, but when life threw her a curve, she swerved with it, since she’s athletically challenged. She’s known for saying “Bless Your Heart” and dropping lots of F-bombs, but she loves where this new journey has taken her.

She writes what she loves to read, and that is romance, whether it’s erotic, Navy SEALs, or paranormal, as long as there is a happily ever after. Her biggest hope is that after readers have read one of her stories, they fall in love with her characters as much as she did. She loves creating new worlds, and has more stories just waiting to be written. Elle believes in happily ever afters, and can guarantee you will always get one with her stories.

Connect with Elle online, she loves to hear from you:
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of DARK LOVERS & a $10 Gift Card to the book retailer of their choice, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reviews in Review 2017

It's that time of year again! New Years is probably one of my favorite holidays, and not because of the partying that comes with it (I'm the lightest lightweight you'll meet, trust me). I love all the resolutions, the self-reflection, and looking back on accomplishments and celebrating them, or on failures and learning from them. It's like a holiday all about growth, rebirth and second chances, and who wouldn't love that?

Every year I like to do my Reviews in Review where I reflect on all the books I've read, see if feelings have changed on any of them, as well as pick the stand out books of the year. 2017 wasn't the greatest reading year for me. I managed to read 15 out of my goal of 25. My goal has been to read 25 books a year for the last few years, and though I haven't quite made it there yet, I still believe I can do it. I did better this year than my first year with this goal, where I only managed 14 books, but worse than last year when I got 19 under my belt. I think all us creatives have suffered under the first year of Trump in office, so I'm hoping next year I'll finally be able to meet my goal of 25. I've got high hopes for 2018, though that may just be the optimism of the season taking hold. Either way, I'm stoked to see what the new year has in store. For now, let's look back at the stand outs of last year.

Outstanding in the Field 
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

My first contact with this book was the Publisher's Marketplace deal announcement. Right from that little paragraph I knew there was something magical in this manuscript. When teaser releases became available, it only made me want this book more. This is the first book that I've ever watched go from deal announcement, to teaser marketing, to release day where I greedily grabbed the second last copy on the shelf. The book didn't disappoint, either. The question, I wondered, was would it stand up to the test of time? The answer was obvious, and with a slam dunk yes, this is one of the books I still think about often. I think about how many Starrs are out there right now, living eerily similar lives, and trying to find their voice in this world. And every day I'm grateful for the industry reps that championed this book, plucked Thomas out of the slush pile, and gave all those Starrs the representation they so deserved. It is the perfect example of writers using our craft to fight back and say something about the state of our world. For all these reasons and more, I can't help but name this one the real stand out of this year. 

Problematic AF 
I Am J by Cris Beam 

So, this book. If you want to be offended, then feel free to pick this one up. The main character was horribly mean throughout the whole book, even to people who openly cared about him. There was homophobia, biphobia, sexism, J degrades a sexual assault victim, and on, and on. I was enraged for my entire read through, and if anything that rage has only solidified over time. The biphobic comment especially still gets me really angry, as there was no need for it. It was just a hurtful comment the author wanted to throw in which added nothing to the story whatsoever, unless its purpose was to reinforce how awful J was, then it succeeded wonderfully. For the whole book, it was like the author hid their MC behind the transgender tag to get away with them being utterly despicable. Unfortunately, the writing style was just as bad, leaving this to be a particularly painful read to get through. A shame, since I'd had this one on my shelf for years and really connected with the premise. This book perfectly shows that writing is all in the execution. 

Best Romance 
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Hands down, the prize for best romance, het or LGBTQ2S, goes to Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. I heard good things about the book and was longing for a good lesbian love story, and wasn't disappointed when I dove straight in. This book is a romance with a rich period setting steeped in segregation issues. I can still perfectly picture that back room where the girls did their schoolwork, where romantic tensions ran high among race debates. The tensions of the time set a high-stakes backdrop for the characters, who overcome prejudice to let love win. The tensions were so beautifully balanced in this book, and the romance had that edge-of-your-seat quality that made the book difficult to put down. The romantic tension blew all the books with straight couples right out of the water. Just thinking of this book warms my heart.  

Biggest Disappointment  
How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky

I was looking forward to this book as I'm a huge fan of Watsky's rap and spoken word career. He is a very talented poet and so getting a more in-depth look at his life was definitely appealing to me. And in some ways, the book was great. Each essay individually was beautiful and well-written, but they seemed lost when grouped all together. The book on a whole lacked that thematic connection that showed how to really ruin everything, which was disappointing as I feel the book could have been so much better with a thematic through line that helped loop each essay into a bigger picture. 

CSTAB Award - Can't Stop Talking About (this) Book 
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

There are those books you read that just turn you into a chatterbox. You can't help talking about the book to everyone you meet, and for me, the book for that this year was More Happy Than Not. I was blabbing about it to everyone-- my roommates, friends, coworkers, even people at the gym. It's a premise that's captivating in its controversy, with an emotional plot that makes you extremely invested in the characters' lives. The book made me cry, it made me laugh, and it left me feeling a little bit empty and searching for answers from the world-- in a way that only a good book can. Adam Silvera is not afraid to rip your heart out and gift it back to you, which is probably what makes it so easy to talk about. Misery does love company, after all. 

Honorary Mention: The Resonator 
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

This book came to me at just the right time. The writing itself was easy and pleasant to get through, but it also opened my eyes to a lot of new ideals while piecing together things I had already learned and believed. Especially when our world is in a state of disunity and turmoil, this book helped me to realize how I'm going to resist and help my communities grow to a better place. At the end of the day, humans are social creatures, and when we commit to supporting one another and doing our part for the group, we can create amazing societies. This book really resonated with me and I'm often thinking about a certain part of the book where the author talks about the Siege of Sarajevo, how people banded together to survive, huddled together in basements while bombs flew through the city. One quote from the book that I loved was something a survivor of the siege, Nidzara Ahmetasevic, said about the experience: "We didn't believe in heroes. We were punk rockers. Our biggest hero was David Bowie."