Friday, September 11, 2020

2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour: These Vengeful Hearts Exerpt

Hiya, Booknerds! I was lucky enough to be selected for the Blog Tour of These Vengeful Hearts. As such, I will give you some details about the thrilling book as well as its lovely author. 

And you also get a BOOKISH BONUS: 

*A delightful morsel of an excerpt can be found below*


ABOUT THE BOOK:

PublisherInkyard Press
Release DateSeptember 8, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Thrillers & Suspense 
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley ARC

The Story:

Mean Girls meets Siobhan Vivian’s The List in THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS, an utterly addictive standalone YA debut that follows 16-year-old Ember Williams as she seeks revenge against the Red Court, a secret organization of Heller High’s most elite female students that specializes in granting and requesting favors—and which is responsible for the accident that left her older sister paralyzed.
A thrilling novel about a secret society and the dangers that lie in wait for anyone brave enough to join—perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus, Kara Thomas, and Maureen Johnson.
Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities known only by their leader: the Queen of Hearts.
Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Now, she’s determined to hold the organization accountable by taking it down from the inside. But will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

BUY LINKS:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Apple Books
Indie Bound
Bookshop.org 
Books-a-Million
Kobo


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

images.gr-assets.com/authors/1558905775p8/18582...
Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog. When she's not writing, Katherine enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and listening to true crime podcasts. These Vengeful Hearts is her first young adult novel.

***Check out Katherine Laurin's website for more information about her and These Vengeful Heartshttps://katherinelaurin.com/

Twitter: @writerkatherine
Instagram: @kl_writer


PRAISE FOR THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS:

“Ember draws readers into the drama of finding the members of the Red Court… Recommend this to fans of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds.” –School Library Journal

“Laurin’s novel tackles the destructive power of high school bullying through characters who are compelling in their complexity.” –Kirkus Reviews


EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Of the ways I’d want to start a Monday, finding a car covered in blood was not one of them. The
murmurs began just after first period, and fragments of muted conversation led me out to the
Heller High parking lot. I was curious to see the spectacle drawing so much attention.

The crush of students flowing out of the school buoyed me along in a tide of bodies.
Between gaps in the crowd, I caught glimpses of the word smeared across the car’s windshield in blood red relief.

LIAR

Gray clouds hung low, casting the macabre tableau in watery light. The chill that slithered
up my spine had nothing to do with the brisk October morning. I skirted a group of girls in front of me, recognizing familiar faces from my geometry class, and found myself staring down at the thick crimson streaks. The letters looked nearly dry, and I couldn’t fight the morbid impulse to touch
them. A distinct tackiness remained. Was it corn syrup or actual blood? I didn’t care to investigate further.

There was no proof that the infamous secret organization made up of Heller High’s elite even existed, but this exhibition had all the makings of a Red Court takedown. Whispers from the ring of students surrounding the car reached me and I stepped backward, edging away from notice until I was part of the throng gathered to witness the scene. It didn’t seem like anyone was paying attention to plain old jeans-and-a-tee-every-day Ember Williams. Good.

Other words, some so ugly I couldn’t look at them for more than a moment, marred the rest of the car’s windowed surfaces. My eyes skipped to the girl huddled beside a tree next to the parking lot. Tears stained with mascara ran in inky rivulets down her cheeks. Two of her friends rallied around her, whispering softly.

No amount of consolation was going to wash away the stain from this one. More than a few heads from the crowd were turned in her direction. I didn’t know her name, but I had a feeling she’d be remembered as that girl, the one whose car was vandalized with blood. She’d been marked by the words we’d all seen: liar, cheater, tramp.

Why did the Red Court target her? Who wanted this girl humiliated—to be brought so low in front of the whole school? Or had she been reckless enough to throw in with them and ask for a favor she couldn’t repay? No. The vulnerability in her expression was too raw to fake. This girl was a pawn in the Red Court’s game. The pull to learn more about the group known for dealing out ruin and favors in equal measure went beyond cursory interest. I needed to know more.

My stomach gave an uncomfortable tug, as if my body was eager to put distance between me and the girl now that I’d seen the damage. A sob shuddered through her, and I tore my gaze away, shifting my feet and noticing a stickiness below my sneakers. A thick coat of red clung to the bottom of my shoes, marking me too. Ugh. I must have stepped in a pool of the blood. I told myself it was fake blood because I couldn’t stomach the alternative. I’d have to go change into my running shoes before next period.

“Everyone back inside,” a teacher called from the main doors. His tone left no room for argument.

The mass of students quickly dissolved, moving back into the school. The whispers rose to chatter as theories were passed around like mono on prom night. I trailed behind a couple holding hands as they maneuvered through the crowd.

“This is the worst one so far,” the girl said.

Her boyfriend scoffed. “Worse than the video of Brett Shultz’s keg stand? No way. He got kicked off the football team for that. Brett had Division I schools scouting him, too.”

A rogue Facebook account cropped up just after the school year began with some incriminating footage of the varsity running back at a party in a stunning display of upper body strength and chugging technique. The video made it all the way to Principal McGovern, who reluctantly had him removed from the team, along with the school’s shot at a state title.

“Do you really think she cheated on her boyfriend?” someone behind me asked.

“Does it matter?” his friend responded.

I shook my head in silent reply. It didn’t matter. That was the power of the Red Court; gossip and innuendo were all it took for a star student to fall from grace after accusations of cheating. As I passed a small cluster of teachers just inside the doors, I stepped nearer to catch the edges of their hushed exchange.

“—needs to do something.”

“The district’s policy on bullying—”

“I know the policy, but this is beyond ‘bullying.’ It’s the third time since the school year
began.”

This may have been the third public display of destruction in the last six weeks, but it was hardly the third time the Red Court had struck. Their takedowns were legendary and highly visible to ensure maximum exposure, but they also excelled in the small things no one would notice unless they were looking for anomalies. My eyes were wide open.

For as long as anyone could remember, there have been rumors that the mysterious Red Court was pulling the strings behind the scenes at Heller High School. Its ranks were shrouded in mystery, but its influence was undeniable. Rigged Student Council elections, changed grades, and ruined reputations were all in their repertoire.

Half of the school treated them like the Boogeyman, the near mythical thing that was out to get you. It was easier to deny their existence than to acknowledge the specter of their presence. Takedowns like the one outside were as likely to be attributed to the Red Court as they were to be pinned on anonymous wannabes posing as the Red Court to allay suspicion. It seemed like the other half of the over two thousand students at Heller made a sport of trying to guess which members of the prom court were legitimate and which ones owed their wins to the Red Court.

But I knew the truth.

The Red Court was real, and I needed in.

I pushed my way through the crowded halls to get to my locker. All around me a chorus of voices carried the news of the Red Court’s latest victim, the story spreading faster than I could move.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. It was probably my best friend. I ducked into an alcove to check my texts.

Gideon: Did you hear?

Me: I saw, actually

Gideon: And?

Me: It was probably them. Who else would mess around with that much blood?

Gideon: Ew. Was it real blood?

I thought of my shoes again and shuddered.

Me: Who cares? The car looked like the prom scene from Carrie. They got their point across.

Gideon: I saw Mrs. Martin leading the girl into her office.

If something like that ever happened to me, I’d want to be put in the hands of the nicest—and most capable—guidance counselor, too.

Me: Yeah, I saw her outside.

Gideon: It’s too bad. She looked wrecked.

We were reaching the point in the conversation at which I was supposed to condemn the monsters who did this. I wasn’t ready to go there with Gideon. Revealing the true depth of my disgust at everything the Red Court stood for was not something I could do over text. Truthfully, my feelings about the Red Court were this gnarled mass inside of me, too big to start talking about at all.

Me: I gotta run. Lit is calling.

Gideon: Ok, see you after.

Before I’d made it halfway across the school, the warning bell rang. I gave up the attempt to change my shoes and turned to book it upstairs so I could suffer through American Lit with a room full of disenchanted sophomores. Oh joy. On an ordinary day, class was a chore to get through. On a day like today, with my mind busy dissecting the latest Red Court takedown, it seemed like my school would live up to its nickname after all. Welcome to Hell High.

“Ember?” Mr. Carson called my name like a question.

Crap. I must have missed something. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on Mr. Carson’s analysis of Leaves of Grass, which was a shame. Whitman had some serious 19th century game going on. “I sing the body electric” gave me chills the first time I read it.

“Yes, Mr. Carson?”

He sighed impatiently. Or perhaps disappointedly. “Do you have any thoughts on the final section?”

I glanced at my notes from the night before to read the scribbles aloud, but a mocking voice cut in.

“Whitman’s talking about the physicality of the body and how it is part of the soul or is the soul. Like it’s just as important as the soul, which at the time was elevated above a person’s body insignificance.”

I threw a baleful look toward Chase Merriman—insufferable know-it-all—and was given a smug half-smile in return. He just loved to one-up me. Mr. Carson turned his gaze to me for more input, but my premeditated discussion points wouldn’t add anything to the dialogue. I gave my Lit teacher as unaffected a shrug as I could manage even though a sharp retort branded with Chase’s name tried to claw its way out of my throat. I pushed it down, not deigning to give Chase the satisfaction of knowing he got under my skin.

Mr. Carson continued droning on, asking for our “thoughts” and “feelings” about the poem. Poor guy didn’t seem to understand his audience. Disengaged was our default setting. It really took some doing to rouse us. Though Whitman’s work was taboo back in the day, most of the students here had probably seen something more risqué in their Instagram feeds over breakfast this morning.

The bell rang and Mr. Carson’s shoulders slumped. Another day of not making a difference. I almost felt bad for him, but this was his chosen career path. He had to know what he was getting into when he signed up to teach freaking poetry at a public school.

“Could you hang back a minute, Ember?” Mr. Carson’s words caught me six inches from the door and freedom.

I smiled tightly. The next period was my off-hour, but Gideon would be waiting. Every moment I wasted in the classroom diminished the chances of running out for my caffeine fix, which were already slim since I had to trek back across the school to change my sneakers first. I would not spend a moment longer than necessary in these shoes

“What’s up, Carson?” He was one of those teachers who thought using “Mr.” in his title meant he was uncool, so I dropped it whenever I needed extra brownie points. Not that my brownie point bank account was in that much need.

“It’s unlike you to space out during an epic poetry discussion. Everything ok?”

Mr. Carson was probably my favorite teacher, and we had a strong rapport, but I couldn’t tell if his use of “epic” was sincere. I hoped for his sake he was being cheeky.

“Just having one of those days, you know?” Vague, Ember, be vague. “I’m sure I’ll be back to contributing the only meaningful insight tomorrow,” I added with a rueful smile, which he returned.

“Sounds like a plan. So you know, I’m always here if you need an ear.” He shut his copy of Leaves of Grass with a snap, effectively ending our conversation.

“Thanks!” I bolted out the door as fast as I could without seeming rude.

Running down the steps two at a time, I nearly crashed into Gideon as he waited at the foot of the stairs near the school’s main entry.

“What’s the rush, Em?” His words came out in a whoosh as he caught me.

“I need to stop by my locker before we get coffee. Let’s go!”

“Seriously? There isn’t time for a detour if we’re going to make it back before the hour is up. Let’s just hit the library instead.”

He was right of course, but I was in desperate need of a large Americano. I wanted to argue, but once Gideon made a decision, there was no way he’d change his mind. If only there was someone as bullheaded as him on the debate team with me.

Gideon broke down what he’d heard about the takedown this morning as we walked through the halls. I was too busy sulking to add to the commentary. I spun the combination on my locker, wondering how in the world I could explain the bloody shoes to my mom. The door swung open, and I tossed my bag to the ground. I was already toeing off my sneakers when a flash of red caught my eye.

The Queen of Hearts sat alone on the top shelf of my locker, the coy smile on her face said she knew something I didn’t. If the rumors were to be believed, she did. A Queen of Hearts was the eponymous calling card of the Red Court’s leader, and its presence could only mean one thing: my invitation had finally come.

Excerpted from These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin, Copyright © 2020 by Katherine Laurin. Published by Inkyard Press.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


The Inheritance Games by [Jennifer Lynn Barnes]
*Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Publisher
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release DateSeptember 1, 2020
Pages: 322
Source: Audiobook

The Story:

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why -- or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch -- and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
BUY LINKS: The Lit. Bar    |    Amazon


RATING


ONE-WORD REVIEW: INTRIGUING

TAG LINE:


She came from nothing. They have everything. Let the games begin.

OPENING LINE:

When I was a kid, my mom constantly invented games. 

REVIEW:

I don't own many audiobooks nor listen to them but I had a credit on Audible, saw THE INHERITANCE GAMES, and went for it. 
To be honest, I didn't love THE INHERITANCE GAMES but the premise was intriguing and kept my interest

A billion-dollar fortune to die for.

The pacing of 
THE INHERITANCE GAMES was perfect for the unfolding of the plot. In the same vein of a Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out. There was suspense, tension, with a touch of action and romance. There were 
puzzles, clues, riddles, secret passageways, and hidden compartments. And so many questions! Why Avery? What will she do with the multi-billion-dollar fortune? Will her weak-willed older sister betray her? 

As for the protagonist, I had a lot of issues with the Avery Grambs. Avery and her sister were both people-pleasers, and have no gumption. And I did not expect that of Avery. Before she met the Hawthornes, she was brilliant, independent, and kind. After she arrived at Hawthorne Estate, Avery had no gumption — and constantly sought the approval of the entitled. They were always being mean and using her but she was constantly apologizing to them, accommodating them. Hawthornes and allowed them to bully her. Why does Avery care about what the Hawthorne's think of her so much, even after she finds out her would-be murderer is likely one of them? Get a goddamn grip! Furthermore, there was no character arc -- not one that I noticed anyway.

"I’m done Jamison with you with whatever this is."

When I tell you I heard that line and threw a fit! Like, girl, as if he cares about you, about anything but solving the riddle and keeping his family fortune. Jamison is a Hawthorne and I don't like him or any of the Hawthorne brothers --except maybe the baby Hawthorne, Xander. 

More on the romance front, I didn't enjoy it. The romance felt completely one-sided on Avery's part. Yes, the tension was there but I just wasn't sold -- not to mention, she was obsessed with two of the Hawthorne brothers just as soon as she set foot on the estate. On that note, THE INHERITANCE GAMES had a love triangle, and I thoroughly dislike them unless there is a HIGHLY unique circumstance. That was not the case in THE INHERITANCE GAMES.

All in all, while THE INHERITANCE GAMES isn't perfect, I still enjoyed it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed young adult novels. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science, including graduate degrees from Cambridge University, where she was a Fulbright Scholar, and Yale University, where she received her Ph.D. in 2012. Jen wrote her first published novel when she was nineteen-years-old and sold her first five books while still in college.

In additional to writing YA novels, Jen has also written original pilot scripts for television networks like USA and MTV, and she is one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of fandom and the cognitive science of fiction and the imagination more broadly. Jen is an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she holds a dual appointment in Psychology and Professional Writing.


***Check out Jennifer Lynn Barnes' website for more information about her and 
THE INHERITANCE GAMESHERE

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller


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*Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Publisher
Feiwel and Friends
Release DateFebruary 25, 2020

Pages: 326
Source: Audiobook

THE STORY:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?
BUY LINKS: The Lit. Bar    |    Amazon


RATING


ONE-WORD REVIEW: SEDUCTIVE

TAG LINE:


After all, love is an excellent motivator to kill.

OPENING LINE:

“They’ve never found the body of the first and only boy who broke my heart. And they never will.” 


REVIEW

I don't own many audiobooks nor listen to them but I had a credit on Audible, saw THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US. Going on a long road trip to Virginia Beach, I went for it and bought the audiobook. And I'm SO glad I did. 
I am obsessed with THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US. I loved the premise was intriguing and kept my interest. I loved everything about this book.
A billion-dollar fortune to die for.
The pacing of THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US was quick and perfect for the unfolding of the plot. It kept me strung happily along.

Alessandra is the overlooked second daughter of a bankrupt Baron (I believe her father is a Baron or someone of such title). Since murdering the only man she ever loved, she's spent the last few years honing her skills at seduction and getting what she wants from her prey of men. Desperate to escape her older sister's shadows, to make her own way to power and riches, she sets her sights on the untouchable Shadow King. And she has a plan. Seduce him, marry him, kill him. Then take his kingdom for her own.

“I know when I’ve been beaten, and I have barely even started.”

On the romance front, I wish there were more of it. Then tension and chemistry between Alessandra and the Shadow King were potent there wasn't much of it-- there were chunks of time where the Shadow King was just a footnote in the story, even though THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US is a villain's love story. Generally speaking, villain ships aren't my thing, but this story was so intriguing and well-executed, I really enjoyed it. The banter between Alessandra and the Shadow King was witty and fun, their interactions --both romantic and nonromantic-- so different than those in the usual YA love stories but in a refreshing, interesting way.

All in all, THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US was amazing and I recommend it to anyone willing to read it. In fact, I encourage them to.


CHARACTERS

ALESSANDRA: Alessandra is nothing like the sweet, biddable damsels in distress we've read in other fairy tales. She is a seductress with a devious mind. A villain. A thoroughly fleshed out villain to love. 

”I would not allow myself to die in the grave I’d dug.”

KALLIAS a.k.a. THE SHADOW KING: Just as Alessandra isn't a damsel in distress, Kallias is no prince -- er, King-- charming. His deviousness and cunning nearly match that of Alessandra.

“You are beautiful,” he continues. “But not so beautiful as to tempt me.”



IF YOU LIKED THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US, I’D RECOMMEND:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tricia Levenseller is the author of the Daughter of the Pirate King duology, Warrior of the Wild, The Shadows Between Us, and forthcoming Blade of Secrets. She writes young adult high fantasies with heavy romantic subplots.

Initially from a small town in Oregon, Tricia now lives next to the Rocky Mountains with her bossy dog, Rosy. She received her degree in English Language and editing, and she is thrilled that she never has to read a textbook again. When she’s not writing or reading, Tricia enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing volleyball, playing Overwatch with her siblings, and watching shows while eating extra-buttered popcorn.

***Check out Tricia Levenseller's website for more information about her and THE SHADOWS BETWEEN USHERE

Happy Reading!


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