Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW - THE BELLES BY DHONIELLE CLAYTON

Title: The Belles
Series: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz, Orion Publishing Group
Release Date: 8th February 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.



PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
My thoughts approaching reading this book are that I'm not and never was a "girly-girl book reader" so not sure how I will like this one. Though the blurb makes me think though things may at first look good on the surface that other darker things are at work.

The cover made me think of The Selection Series by Kiera Cass and The Lone City Series by Amy Ewing. The Belles cover certainly caught my interest and held it long enough for me to want to know more about the female on it. It would make me pick it up from a book store shelf to read the blurb.

The genres that I have seen listed for this book are Sci-Fi and Fantasy which fit well but personally I would also add dystopian, and mythology to the list of genres. The part I would describe as dystopian is the alternate "different" world The Belles and the normal citizens live in. The part of the book I would classify as Mythology is all centered around the history of the Gods and Goddesses that created The Belles. 

At the beginning of the book I became a little impatient as it was very detailed and descriptive about the God of the Sky and the Goddess of Beauty and I was impatient to learn more about the Belles and their gifts straight away. Though I describe the beginning of the book that it slow but very descriptive start it soon pulls you in as you learn more about each individual Belle. Having said all that you soon realise the early descriptive part is definitely needed and when certain things happen in the book you do remember it and refer back to it. I ended up enjoying the whole backstory, mythology of the Goddess and the God of the Sky etc etc. and appreciating it the further I got into the book. To tell you a little, (though it is told in much more detail and better than I can explain) the Goddess of Beauty ends up truly upsetting the God of the Sky and he curses the normal people making them ugly. However the Goddess of Beauty sends the Belles to help the people. I loved the section n the book where Belles are described as "Roses growing out of a dark ravaged soil"

Belles have a special gift, they can use something called their arcana to create different images for the normal citizens. They can give the citizens that pay for their services any colour skin, hair, eye colour if choice as well as body shape etc. However different ruling Queens have passed laws with the help of the Beauty Minister putting limits on certain things such as waist size. 

This year there are just six new Belles, Edelweiss, Padma, Hana, Ambrosia, Valeria and Camellia. They all have their individual flowers to represent them twined in and around the carriages they are to be presented to the royal and the "common" citizens watching the parade. The Belles have been trained by Madam Du Barry, her family ancestors have held the same position for many years and she intends this to be a handed down position for many more years! The book then begins with the Beauté Carnaval, the festival that happens just once every three years. Though we discover further into the book that this festival was a more regular occurrence and usually had many more Belles taking part. There are the usual multitude of vendors selling sweet in honor of the Belles such as small mountains of shaved ice topped with strawberries the colour of the Belles lips, intricate teacakes shaped like the different Belles signature flowers, sweet puffs molded like the Belles hair buns and colourful strings of sugar pinwheeled around sticks to mirror our traditional waist sashes and dresses. There are Imperial guards that are in charge of pushing the crowds of people back so that the procession has space to pass through. The Belles are individually presented to the Royals, they are given a subject/person to make beautiful. The Belle that impresses the Royals the most will work at the Palace whilst the other Belles get to work in the different tea houses. Being the Queens favourite is all these young Belles have dreamed of. Camellia is convinced it will be her as her mother was a Queens favourite before she had her. To be honest you could say she does our perform the others but maybe the Queen has other requirements that perhaps Camellia doesn't suit. Who will be the Queen favourite and why?
I won't reveal who is the favourite as the "winner" should be revealed at the correct time in the book!

Quite naturally as Camellia is both one of main characters in this book and was also one that I loved the most. You do end up really rooting for her as she face many tests within the book that need to be overcome. When she is asked to use her arcana to do something that is forbidden her first reaction is to obey the rules. However when the person asking the favour is someone very important and her decision could affect the whole kingdom how long can she say no. . . The other Belle I instinctively adored was Edelweiss or Edel as her Belle sisters call her. Edel is rebellious and doesn't really care who knows it! I honestly wasn't sure of Ambrosia, she initially seemed to be caring but when she assumed she would win and her behaviour during the ceremony made me wary of her. 

The character I enjoyed not liking was Princess Sophia, she is a brilliant brat! It's awful how power and the possibility of being the next Queen can go to someone's head. So sad and a shame that an outwardly beautiful person can be so ugly inside. Princess Sophia shows more care and affection to her teacup animals. You really see an evil side to Princess Sophia. Those in favour with Sophia have to agree with her all the time, as if they fall out with Sophia she can be a very dangerous enemy. 

There is certainly a lot going on in this book such as the mystery of who is crying at night. Also why is the true heir to the crown Princess Charlotte in a deep coma like sleep? Then there are Princess Sophia's suitors. One in particular goes out of his way to befriend the Queens favourite Belle. What could he possibly want from a Belle?

The writing style and plot style reminded me of a couple of other series I have read some of. The society reminded me a little of Gennifer Albin's Crewel series (though I have read very little of the series.) The other book series the society and the upper class society attitudes towards the Belles was The Lone City Series by Amy Ewing. So if you have read and loved either of these books you need to read this book! Even if you haven't read those series this book seriously is a must read book!

I really loved some of the phrases within the book, such as "Beauty Is In The Blood" and the way the phrase "May You Always Find Beauty" is used in the book. In fact "May You Always Find Beauty" made me think about the Hunger Games and the whole "May the odds be in your favour"

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were Wow! Absolutely amazing read. I highly recommend reading this one. Please tell me it's book one and there's lots more to come in this series?

My final thoughts on the book are that it was a fantastic read that kept me hooked really wanting to learn more all the way through. This book is a great start to a possibly brilliant series. I can't wait for the next book!! I would be reading it right now if I could.


Monday, 12 February 2018

REVIEW - WOLF HOLLOW - WOLF HOLLOW SERIES BY NIKKI JEFFORD

Title: Wolf Hollow
Series: Wolf Hollow Shifters
Author: Nikki Jefford
Genre: Mystery, Thrillers, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: 23rd October 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
A REBELLIOUS OUTCAST

Cocky. Coy. Wolf shifter. Tabor is the hollow’s only half-breed, scorned and forbidden to use his powers. Constantly overlooked despite his strengths, Tabor believes Sasha is as shortsighted as the rest of the pack until she proves there’s more to her than a blindly obedient lapdog to the council.

A DUTIFUL PUREBLOOD

Spirited, stubborn, and deeply loyal, Sasha feels the pressure from her pack to claim another pureblood, yet no one is brazen enough to defy the elders and toy with her . . . no one besides a sexy, hotheaded half-breed.

AN ATTRACTION THAT THREATENS THE FUTURE OF THE PACK

Bewildered by the deceptively proud and surprisingly sensual Sasha, Tabor would risk everything to claim her. Despite her vanishing bloodline, Sasha can’t resist the charismatic half-breed even as predators threaten their pack and the elders pressure her to breed with a pureblood.

In a fantastical post-apocalyptic world, where only the strongest survive, sometimes trusting the heart is the bravest act of all.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
Nikki Jefford is an author that I have heard of but I hadn't read any of her books and when I saw Wolf Hollow was described as both shifter and post apocalyptic I was intrigued how the genres would mix together. 

The cover is set in a forest, which we later discover is wolf hollow. There is a wolf in the background who is looking towards the male in the foreground. I did wonder how post apocalyptic the book would be as it seems to be showing a very healthy looking green forest so was looking forward to finding out more. The title & author name font stand out well along with the series title at the very bottom of the cover. There is a tagline/recommendation from author Karen Lynch, though I haven't read anything by Karen so it didn't really sway me either way. I think the cover should catch your eye when on a bookstore shelf enough to make me want to pick it up and read the blurb.

The genres I have found listed for this book are mystery, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, & post apocalyptic. I agree with most of the genres listed but feel I should point out that though the world has been devastated by an apocalyptic event, in this case a disease there isn't a great deal more post apocalyptic issues within the book. I wouldn't really label it dystopian either, I would say it falls more into the shape-shifter category. Maybe more post apocalyptic elements will work there way in later in the series. In this book the humans are the ones more affected by the post apocalyptic component in the book. 

A disease brought devastation to the world twenty eight years before, meaning there are many empty houses and buildings to be scavenged for useful items for the remaining human survivors and the different shifter survivors. There are two types of shifters in this recovering world, pure-blood shifters who are born and brought up in the wild, and the more urban shifters who are considered half-breeds. The humans that survived the disease have been hardened and are cruel to shifters if they manage to catch them. Making shifter fight shifter and forcing male shifters to mate and create shifter pups for the humans to use for security or to make money from fighting each other.

The Wolf Hollow pack live in the forest and are suffering with reduced numbers. The pack were attacked by a group of vulhena's years ago and their pack numbers have never gotten back to what they were. The Wolf Hollow Pack have a council which is made up of the three surviving elders, Jager, Garrick and Palmer. Also on the council are Garrick's son Raider and the only remaining pure-blood she-wolf Sasha. There's a lot of pressure being put on Sasha to claim a pure-blood wolf and procreate to continue her family's bloodline. However the only pure-blood male Wolfrik disappeared not long after the Vullhena attack that killed their parents saying he would not be told what to do and no one would tell him who to mate with too. Sasha was devastated, and has remained so for three long years. Sasha has continued with life in Wolf Hollow providing security to those that live in the den with their pups and preventing vulhena's attacking. It's during such an attack that Tabor a half breed shifter/wizard finishes off killing a vulhena Sasha had begun fighting. It's then that Sasha truly looks at Tabor thinking perhaps she will never find a pure-blood to mate with and that maybe it's time she look around at the other males available in Wolf Hollow as potential partners. Sasha feels she wants to settle down, but she is a strong willed woman who doesn't appreciate being told who she should or shouldn't choose as a mate. There are quite a lot of pack rules, policies and traditions at play within Wolf Hollow. When the elders reveal they have finally persuaded Hector a pure-blooded male from the Glenn Meadows pack to visit during a moon ceremony Sasha is somewhat annoyed. It becomes more and more apparent that the elders plan to quite literally present Sasha to Hector during the dance in the hope they will claim each other. Sasha has other idea's and removes a necklace she has been given to wear so that Hector will recognise her. Sasha has no intention on mating with Hector now she has her eyes set firmly on someone else. Tabor also is feeling a strange sudden attraction to Sasha ans when the opportunity arises to replace one of the ceremonial dancers and dance with Sasha during the mating ritual he takes it. Just when you think all is well and Sasha and Tabor may have a chance at happiness, Wolfrik returns to Wolf Hollow. Tabor is tricked by one of the cunning elders who wishes to rid the pack of the half shifter/wizard along with another male wolf called Zachary. 

There's such a lot going on in this book with the shifter relationships, the mating and claiming of shifter partners, the pure-blood vs half-breed shifter politics, the vulhena. mad wolf and human problems along with unscrupulous elders and the need to change and modernise the pack to ensure it's future.

I of course loved the kick butt female lead character of Sasha who is as tough as any of the males who provide the security patrols to keep men, mad dog and vulhena situation under control. She is a loyal friend to Wolfrik even though he abandoned her years before she is still there to offer her help and support as a friend. Sasha is also in agreement that the pack needs more democracy and more people on the elder council. Sasha is also prepared to put her life on the line to rescue Tabor when he is being held by humans. You also see a softer side to Sasha when she visits the trees of the ancestors where her parents are buried. I'd have to say she is my favourite character in the book. Though I also like den mother Heidi who isn't scared to stick up for half breed friends when needed, nor unafraid to either put her thoughts for changes within the pack across, or back others such as Sasha that suggest them. Heidi being a den mother also means she has two cute pups, Amy and Eric, who I hope we get more of in the next book too.

Of the male characters I liked Aden, who was Sasha's patrolling partner at the beginning of the book, who seems to accept what the elders have instructed him that as the packs only large tough werewolf he will be expected to not claim a partner or mate as he will always be needed for patrols and security. I hope to see Aden meet a suitable partner later in the series! Tabor is also a favourite, the way he has always been regarded and treat as an outcast. It's no wonder he is quick to believe the lies of Garrick about whats best for the pack. He is a true asset to the pack even if they don't all realise that. I loved the fact when he is given the option of a different life elsewhere he follows his heart.
The main character I loved to hate was Garrick, the elder, father to Raider. In fact Garrick is so bad even his own son, Raider does not speak up on his fathers behalf. I think the new council members will see to it that he doesn't step out of line again. The other character that gets his comeuppance is Zachary. Though I felt a little sorry for him as he was kind of blackmailed into helping Garrick in his attempt to rid the pack of Tabor. Zachary's sentence is one of the harshest that can be handed out to a male shifter. Judging by his apparent immediate infatuation with Tabor's relative arriving near the end of the book I'm thinking maybe he will redeem himself in some way in the coming book series.

I read this book in just two reading sessions, I really didn't want to put it down, it quickly became addictive reading. I will be checking out other books by Nikki Jefford as soon as I get the chance and the Wolf Hollow Series is firmly on my WTR list. This is an 18+ read due to the content, descriptions and certain acts described in the book. It is a little steamy in places but all such scenes etc are within a great plot. I could seriously go on and on about this book, it is crammed with plot and action. There are so many ways this series could take, I am sooo looking forward to reading more.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were . . . When can I read the next one? and What else has Nikki Jefford wrote that I could read whilst I'm waiting for book two in the Wolf Hollow Series?

Book Two in the Wolf Hollow Series, Mating Games is out tomorrow! 
(13th February!).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

REVIEW & INTERVIEW - BY A CHARM AND A CURSE BY JAIME QUESTRELL

Title: By A Charm And A Curse
Author: Jaime Questell
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Teens & YA
Publisher: Entangled Teen, Entangled Publishing LLC.
Release Date: 6th February 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice. 

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I have read a few Circus/Carnival themed books this year so when I saw this one I felt I had to read it!

I think the cover will definitely stand out on a book store shelf with the bright pink title and author name. I love the darkness of the background of the cover, suggesting darkness possibly to represent when the Carnival is at it's busiest as well as the darkness symbolising the curse the Carnival carries around with it. There is also a Ferris wheel on the cover which plays a very big part within the book. I love the byline of "A kiss is never just a kiss" and that certainly fits the book well. Would the cover make me want to pick this one up from a bookstore shelf? Yes I know it really would!

The genres I have seen listed for this book are Sci-fi, Fantasy and Teens & YA. I suppose the curse could be classed as the Sci-Fi part but I would call that more of a Magic genre. I totally agree with the fantasy label both because of charm and curse and the fact most people at sometime in their life have dreamt about joining the circus/carnival. Though I am most certainly not a "teen" I loved reading this book but can imagine this book being very popular with the Teen and YA group of readers. I would also say the book is kind of contemporary as its set in the modern day too. 

I found the book enchanting from the very beginning and immediately fell in love with the characters of Benjamin and Emmaline, the two main characters of the book. I became a little obsessed and was really looking forward to my "reading time" with this book and became quite irritated if I was interrupted during my reading! 
This review is going to be so very hard to write without giving away too much, so apologies in advance if it seems a little vague in places.
The book centres on the travelling Carnival and it's history, everything is not as it seems as there is as the title says "A Charm and A Curse". Obviously the charm is the good part. It means that no one working within the carnival ever gets ill or has an accident, they also don't age. So I guess much like the Carnival performers and roustabouts most people would think this is a great gift. But there's always a catch. The catch or rather the curse of the carnival is that someone must work in the fortune teller booth, and they have no feelings of warmth, their body doesn't feel like their own anymore, it is broken and twitchy and jerky. This person cannot leave the carnival as they literally seize up and cannot move or function without being in the close vicinity of the Carnival. There is a way to pass on the curse to another and that is what happens to the main female character of Emmaline.
When the book begins Emma or Em as her close friends call her has returned with her brothers to her live with her father whilst her mum goes away to do a research project. Em is naturally quite resentful of being uprooted from everything familiar and having to go back to living with her dad. However when she meets back up with former friend Jules they decide to take a look at the Carnival that is in town for only two more days. The girls get separated and that's when Em makes the mistake of flirting with the boy in the fortune teller booth. I won't say how Em ends up dying, to be brought back to carry the curse but this section of the book is the part where the Ferris wheel is very relevant. 

I won't reveal exactly how but Em ends up being the new person in the fortune teller booth. 
The other performers and Carnival workers attempt to rally round Em to make her feel welcome and part of their travelling community but of course having been tricked by Sidney she is reluctant to trust anyone. Then her new reality sinks in, she simply has to go through it and she makes friends with some of the performers. I think it's so sweet that a first real "friend" after becoming the girl in the box is one of Mrs Potters dogs. It is Duncan and Gin help Em choose a costume to wear in her box. Naturally Em initially resists even thinking about passing on the curse and thinks she could never do what has happened to her to another human being. As time goes on though and the days and Carnival destinations slide past she comes to the conclusion if she wants to have any true feeling back in her body and to reclaim her own heartbeat she will have to pass the curse on. Then she also wonders what life would be like, if she could ever return to a normal life, could she ever return to her family that she misses so much and continue her life as it should have been. 

There's one particular scene I loved and found really amusing, and it's when Sidney and Em are on the Ferris wheel. They exchange names with each other and Em comments that she thinks Sidney is a name for an old person. When Sidney replies to Em he reference her name being for an older person like Auntie Em from the Wizard of Oz! 

Sadly things start to go wrong in the Carnival whilst Em is the girl in the box. Accidents begin to occur, small ones at first such as a cut hand, then there's a fall, a broken car. The Carnival performers and roustabouts are very superstitious and try to blame Em as they say she isn't carrying the duties of the curse out for enough time, or she isn't putting in enough effort. Ben sticks up for Em, as do Lars and Leslie but soon it becomes very apparent things are not as they should be.

There are so many great characters in this book from Leslie the Ringmaster, Mrs Potter who has a dog act, the Connelly family who are performers on horseback. There's also Pia and Duncan who have a fortune teller tent, and Marcel with his knife throwing act. All the Carnival performers and workers get along well together except for the Moretti's and their acrobatic act. It is the youngest Moretti brother Lorenzo that tries to coerce a new roustabout to place his hand into a fire to prove that the charm of the carnival with save him from burning himself, luckily Ben hears them and stops Mikey, the new worker from trying out the charm. 

I love the four different relationships within the book, such as the roller-coaster ride that is Audrey and Sidney. Though it would be so easy to cast Sidney as the bad guy you have to take account for how long he has been the "Boy in the Box" before he tricks Em and makes her the "Girl in the Box". I think both Sidney and Audrey are quite misunderstood characters, they don't easily show their good sides preferring to appear brusque and in charge in Audrey's case.
Then there's the cute relationship between the brave horseback performer Gin and the knife thrower Marcel. It seems Marcel has been watching Gin from afar, and its the thought of leaving her behind if he goes off with Benjamin to try life outside the Carnival that gives him the final push to reveal his feelings for her. I loved Gin and her younger sister Whiskey, they both instantly accept Em and try their best to welcome her and help her get ready to begin her time as the "Girl in the Box". 
I also think, though it isn't really firmly confirmed within the book that there is a kind of a little more than just friends thing going on between Lars, the Ferris wheel worker and Leslie the Ringmaster of the Carnival.
Of course there is an instant attraction between Em and Ben, though Ben's mum Audrey is really set against her son spending anytime or even looking at the new Girl in the Box. Audrey had what you could call history with the box and doesn't want to imagine something that in her opinion was a betrayal happening to her son. The fact his mum isn't impressed with Em doesn't stop Ben becoming more and more attracted to her. 

I totally loved reading this book and was fascinated by the charm and the curse. I always loved the Circus (as we would call it in the UK) as a child and I honestly think everyone imagines themselves performing in the circus! The performers make everything look so glamorous and magical. As a visitor you don't see the hours of practice they have to put in. You also don't think of the work it takes to take down, transport and put back up a travelling Carnival such as the one featured in this book. If you love mysterious, magical stories set in the modern day then I highly recommend reading this book. It really does pull you in slowly then hold on to you tightly to the very last word!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were, Wow, what a brilliant read. I totally fell in love with the Carnival, it's performers and roustabouts. The left me wanting more! I want to know what happened after this book to the characters and the carnival too. Also I would love a prequel that goes into more detail about the curse and the family that set it all in motion. This book reminded me a little of Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda Foody.


INTERVIEW
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.

AUTHOR LINKS
Author Website
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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Is By a Charm and a Curse the beginning of a series? (If yes how many books do you plan the series to have?) 
CHARM is a standalone novel, though I've had several people tell me they'd like to read more about some of the side characters. I haven't ruled that out, though I don't have anything planned at the moment. 
(I'd love more! I loved the characters and the world setting.. After reading I definitely had questions as to what was going to happen next.)

How long did it take you to write By a Charm and a Curse? 
CHARM was my NaNoWriMo project for 2012. It started out as a short story, and my critique partners insisted that I expand on it. I wrote the first draft in about two months. It went crazy fast. 

What genre would you personally put By a Charm and a Curse in? Is this a genre you will be writing more of? 
I like to think of CHARM as a contemporary fantasy, where the story is grounded in the real world but magic has slipped in through the cracks. I love this sort of world, because it's the closest to ours. My current project is definitely set in this kind of universe. 

Who/What/How did you get your ideas for By a Charm and a Curse? Who/What is your inspiration? 
CHARM was inspired by the Dresden Dolls song Coin-Operated Boy, which is about loving a fake boy who wouldn't complicate things. The plinky piano and the sharp drumming immediately made me think of circus music, and Amanda Palmer's hiccup-y interlude where she repeats the lyrics as though she's a broken record made me think of a toy stuck in a loop, kind of like the person in the box in my novel. I was listening and just couldn't stop writing. I put the song on repeat and wrote about five thousand words in a few hours, which is a record for me. 

Did you have to any sort of specific research for By a Charm and a Curse? If so what/how did you do it? 
The research for CHARM was super fun. I looked up circus terminology and old photos from circuses and carnivals at the turn of the century. Even though CHARM is set in present day, I wanted the carnival to have that timeless feel. I have a Pinterest board (https://www.pinterest.com/jaime_q/by-a-charm-and-a-curse/) where I collected everything. Basically, it had to meet two requirements to make the board: be creepy, be pretty. 

If you had to choose to be a character from By a Charm and a Curse, which would you be and why? 
This is such a hard one! Part of me wants to say Gin, because who doesn't want to be the person who has a witty remark for everything, never mind the fact that she can perform stunts on a horse. But in the end, I think I'd have to go with Leslie, because she's so fierce and competent and caring. 

How did you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for By a Charm and a Curse? Who designed the Cover of your book? Do you have a lot of input into the process?
The title took a while, but I was lucky enough that my agent and editor AND publisher all loved it. That doesn't always happen. As for the cover, it was designed by Anna Croswell, and I think she nailed it. I didn't have any input, but if I had, I would have said the Ferris wheel would need to be front and center, which she did. I absolutely LOVE my cover. 


Is there anything in By a Charm and a Curse you would change now if you could and what would it be? 
I really like CHARM as it is, but if I had the time, I'd love to write a little backstory on the family of fortune tellers. I think they have a really rich history that I was only able to hint at in the novel.
(There could be a prequel to CHARM which tells the story of the family of fortune tellers? I'd love it! ~Jeanz) 

GIVEAWAY!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

REVIEW - BABY I'M HOWLING FOR YOU - ALPHAVILLE SERIES BY CHRISTINE WARREN

Title: Baby I'm Howling For You
Series: Alphaville
Author: Christine Warren
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Shapeshifters
Publisher: St Martins Press
Release Date: 30th January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
WELCOME TO ALPHAVILLE, where the she-wolves and alpha-males play. . .for keeps.

Renny Landry is a wolf on the run. Pursued by a shapeshifting stalker and his slobbering pack of killer coyotes, she is forced to flee her job as a librarian to find sanctuary in the wooded hills of Alpha, Washington. A well-secluded safe space for troubled shifters, Alpha is Renny’s last hope. But the first person she meets there is a gorgeous alpha male with fiery eyes, fierce tattoos, and one ferocious appetite—for her…

Mick Fischer thought he left his past behind when he moved to Alpha. But fate has a way of biting him in the tail when a female wolf shows up on his property. Wounded, desperate—and disarmingly hot—Renny brings out the snarling, protective alpha beast in Mick like no other woman he’s known. Can these two haunted, hunted wolves manage to mate for life…even as the deadliest past demons howl at their heels?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I only discovered this series when I was asked if I'd be interested in being part of the Blog Tour by Justine at St Martins Press. ./After reading Something To Howl About, I knew I wanted to read much more of this series! I was hoping to meet more of the Alphaville residents, maybe even learn more about the characters of Jonas, his family and the newcomer, Dr Annie Cryer that I had already met in Something To Howl About. 

The cover has a woman walking along a road, surrounded with forest that is covered in snow. After reading the blurb I automatically guess this lonely female figure is Renny. At the top section of the cover is a wolf shifter with piercing blue eyes, maybe Mick? The shifter on the cover would attract my attention to at least pick up the book to read the blurb, so I'd say it does its job well.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are Paranormal, Fantasy and Shapeshifter which all fit well. The label of shapeshifter fits as there are not only werewolves in this book, there are bears, lions, lionesses, cougars and coyotes. I love a good shapeshifter book though admittedly I usually stick to werewolves so the other shapeshifters were a new element for my that I found I did enjoy.

The book begins with Renny on the run from a group of coyotes, she is heading to the once place that may offer her help and refuge, Alphaville. Alphaville is a place that is populated by various different shifters. So Renny doesn't feel so guilty if the coyotes follow her there, as it is a place where there are no fragile humans. Renny has been on the run for quite a while now. She just seems to settle and then Geoffrey locates her again and sends his coyote bullies to find her again and the she has to pack p and leave as she doesn't want to endanger humans. Renny's car runs out of fuel so she quickly abandons her car and clothes and shifts to her small red werewolf form and runs as fast as she can knowing she is well out numbered should the coyotes get her cornered somewhere. Renny does end up fighting and being injured but she doesn't give up as she knows what fate awaits her if the coyotes catch her and take her back to their Alpha Geoffrey. Geoffrey made it clear to Renny that he wants her and though she tried to let him down gently at first, then ended up being more forthright and flatly saying no! Geoffrey gets what he wants and he is obsessed with getting her irregardless of her feelings, or rather lack of  loving feelings towards him! Renny is fully aware she is running for her life! She desperately needs to get inside somewhere or find people as this will discourage the coyotes from attacking her. Blindly running, with the coyotes hot on her heels she ends up almost on the doorstep of Alpha werewolf shifter Mick.
Mick has lived at Alphaville, or rather the outskirts of Alphaville for sometime now alone. he doesn't interact with a lot of people preferring to keep himself to himself. Mick lost his mate Beth and has been alone ever since. When he see's Renny in her red wolf form she reminds him of Beth so much he automatically protects her from the coyotes and telephones for help to come and sort out her wounds. Its not long until Mick realises his inner wolf has decided that Renny is theirs!! and though Mick can be stubborn, his wolf is determined and it's not long until Mick joins his wolf in wanting to claim Renny. 
Now Renny isn't alone and has made a few friends she relaxes a little hoping her being around other shifters will put off Geoffrey and his coyote crew. Sadly for her it doesn't, in fact the coyotes seem to think its acceptable to attack Renny in broad day light in the middle of Alphaville. Naturally Mick takes it upon himself to protect Renny and enlists the help of Aplhaville's Police and Mayor and a few other shifters willing to fight and get rid of the coyotes, including Geoffrey once and for all. 
I don't want to reveal any more of the plot as it needs to be revealed as you read the book for yourself. I enjoyed the writing style and pace of the book. It has plenty of great characters with the promise of more in future books too. 

I really liked most of the characters in the book. I loved the way both Renny and Mick could feel their mate bond but were both very wary of discussing it with each other. I enjoyed how though they both felt and instant bond, they developed their relationship a little slower and didn't always see eye to eye. Renny may be a small werewolf and Mick a large werewolf Alpha that is much bigger than her but she still stands, digs her heels in and readily argues for her own way and her own indeoendence.

I also really liked the brother/sister banter between Zeke and Molly. A quirky character in the book is Marjory Caples, the current librarian who is desperate to retire and very eager to train her replacement. I love the way she speaks to Mick as though he is a naughty boy and she is his school teacher. It's really funny to read how the tough, grumpy Alpha, turns meek, mild, well mannered host when Marjory visits him to speak with Renny.

I also think the character of Geoffrey is also really well written and I thoroughly enjoyed hating him and his coyote henchmen too.  

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that I loved the main characters of Mick & Renny as well as some of the others such as, Zeke & Molly. There's plenty of action right up to the end of the book. I didn't want to put it down! I am seriously looking forward to reading more of this series.

I really loved this book, as well as the prequel novella Something To Howl About too. The pace of the book was perfect, I really did not want to put this book down once I began reading it. If you love shifters, then I think you'll really enjoy this book. It does have a couple of explicit steamy scenes but they are well within the context of the plot of the book. I definitely want to read more of this series as well as check out Christine Warren's The Other Series as well as some of her other series too.

Friday, 2 February 2018

REVIEW - SOMETHING TO HOWL ABOUT - ALPHAVILLE SERIES BY CHRISTINE WARREN

Title: Something To Howl About
Series: Alphaville
Author: Christine Warren
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Shape-Shifter
Publisher: Swerve, St. Martins Press
Release Date: 2nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Dr. Annie Cryer has been called many things: Genius. Child prodigy. Scientific wonder.
Wolf Shifter.

Banished from her pack years ago, Annie’s lone wolf wandering has brought her to Alpha, Washington, home to all shifters who don't quite fit in in the "normal" shifter word. Now Annie has the chance to go back home...if only she can make good on a favor her alpha owes the mayor of “Alphaville.” But it's not much of a favor when you're helping the hottest shifter in town...

Grizzly shifter Jonas Browning has a clan in trouble. They haven't had a child born in over a hundred years...and their clan faces going completely extinct. Genetic scientist Anne Cryer has been sent to help save them. But what Jonas doesn't count on is being irresistibly drawn to the small wolf shifter, and his bear isn't about to let her go...



PURCHASE LINK

REVIEW
As I was asked if I was interested in being part of the blog tour for this series I decided to read this novella to get an idea of whether I would like to read more of the Alphaville series which is a spin off from her The Others Series. I love a good shifter book with some romance, maybe a little steam as long just long as it isn't just pure erotica with no plot I'm glad I decided to read this novella as it has a little steam but well within the context of the plot.

The cover features the eyes and head of a bear at the very top of the cover, and there's lots of green which suggests outdoors and forest and trees. There is also the figure of a woman walking down a path. Upon reading the blurb I assume the female figure is Dr Annie Cryer. The title of the book is in quite a bold font and positioned across the mid section of the book. Then in a smaller font the series title of Alphaville is featured. There is also the small S for the St Martins publisher imprint called Swerve in the top right corner. I find the cover attractive and the fact there is a bear on the cover kind of hints towards a bear shifter story. Though I usually read werewolf shifter books I am looking forward to reading this one.

The genres I have found listed for this book are Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance and shape-shifters which I the book fits all those genres well.

This novella gives the reader a quick, preview look at Alphaville, or "Alpha" for short, which is the setting for this novella and I guess will be a main location or backdrop for this potentially brilliant series. "Alpha" is a place that is well known to all shifters as a place where the damaged go. Some think of it as an open air asylum for shifters who cannot shift, those who have trouble controlling their shift process as well as those with anger issues or shifters recovering from trauma or grave bodily injuries. The others that flock to Alpha are those without a pack, those who are outcasts for some reason or another such as being shunned by their packs for something they have done that their pack considers a crime.

Dr Annie Cryer has been cast out and banished from her own pack by it's Alpha Graham Winters, for something she did. Annie has been travelling around ever since she had to leave her own pack. Annie knew of Alpha but it seems it had never crossed her mind to try settling there herself. Annie's intention had been to keep wandering from place to place, which as she has a good reputations within her medical field has meant she has never really been stuck for work. Though we
 don't find out what it is in this novella, it's just hinted at being something that was dangerous for not only herself but also for her best friend Sam too. So when Graham telephones Annie and asks her for a favour that she cannot refuse, because if she accepts there is a chance she may be allowed to come home to her Silver-back Clan in Manhattan. The favour Graham asks Annie for is to go see an old friend of his John Jaeger and help with a medical problem he is trying to help with. 

The character I loved was Vonnie Milner. I found the way Vonnie Milner, the receptionist in the town hall greets to Annie is really funny. Vonnie is quite open about Alphaville cheerily welcoming Annie to the home of freeks, losers and the emotionally challenged! With a greeting like that it's no wonder Annie feels a little nervous about meeting the Mayor. Vonnie directs Annie up to the Mayor's office. I hope we see more of Vonnie in the rest of the series.

The Mayor, John Jaeger is a mountain lion, and with him in the room is his friend Jonas, who desperately needs to both find out why his clan are not reproducing, and come up with some way of improving the fertility of his clan. Annie isn't the only one nervous about the meeting as Jonas is reluctant to trust a relative outsider with the knowledge his clan may quite well be in danger of dying out if they cannot solve the mystery of lack of reproduction. John Jaeger, the Mayor tries to put his mind at rest saying that he has done research and checked out Annie, that she is well respected within her medical profession. When Annie enters the room she immediately senses someone else in the room other than the Mayor. Then when she sets eyes on Jonas she feels strongly attracted to him, but after a misunderstanding when they are alone in the lab/office space John has arranged for Annie. She is determined to keep Jonas and interaction with him to a minimum and strictly on a professional only level. However, there's more misunderstandings to happen, and both Jonas and Annie are quite stubborn. . . a match made in heaven? 

I am looking forward to reading more in this series, I want to find out what awful thing Annie did to be banished, I want to know more about her best friend Sam and her family
I'm glad I decided to read this novella as it has a little steamy action but it was all well within the context of the plot. I'd say this novella serves well as both a teaser and a taster of what is to come within the series. I should probably add I haven't read The Others Series by Christine Warren, in fact this novella is the first time I have read anything written by this author.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading this novella were that this novella was a great introduction to a possibly brilliant series. I'm looking forward to reading more, probably starting with Baby I'm Howling For You which is the first novel in the Alphaville series.






Thursday, 1 February 2018

BLOG TOUR - ALPHAVILLE SERIES BY CHRISTINE WARREN

WELCOME TO ALPHAVILLE, where the she-wolves and alpha-males play. . .for keeps, in a brand-new paranormal romance series from New York Times bestselling author Christine Warren.

Title: Something To Howl About
Series: Alphaville
Author: Christine Warren
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Shape-shifter
Publisher: Swerve, St Martins Press
Release Date: 2nd January 2018

BLURB from St Martins Press
Dr. Annie Cryer has been called many things: Genius. Child prodigy. Scientific wonder.

Wolf Shifter.

Banished from her pack years ago, Annie’s lone wolf wandering has brought her to Alpha, Washington, home to all shifters who don't quite fit in in the "normal" shifter word. Now Annie has the chance to go back home...if only she can make good on a favor her alpha owes the mayor of “Alphaville.” But it's not much of a favor when you're helping the hottest shifter in town...

Grizzly shifter Jonas Browning has a clan in trouble. They haven't had a child born in over a hundred years...and their clan faces going completely extinct. Genetic scientist Anne Cryer has been sent to help save them. But what Jonas doesn't count on is being irresistibly drawn to the small wolf shifter, and his bear isn't about to let her go…



Title: Baby, I'm Howling For You
Series: Alphaville
Author: Christine Warren
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Shape-shifter
Publisher: Swerve, St Martins Press
Release Date: 30th January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
WELCOME TO ALPHAVILLE, where the she-wolves and alpha-males play. . .for keeps.

Renny Landry is a wolf on the run. Pursued by a shapeshifting stalker and his slobbering pack of killer coyotes, she is forced to flee her job as a librarian to find sanctuary in the wooded hills of Alpha, Washington. A well-secluded safe space for troubled shifters, Alpha is Renny’s last hope. But the first person she meets there is a gorgeous alpha male with fiery eyes, fierce tattoos, and one ferocious appetite—for her…

Mick Fischer thought he left his past behind when he moved to Alpha. But fate has a way of biting him in the tail when a female wolf shows up on his property. Wounded, desperate—and disarmingly hot—Renny brings out the snarling, protective alpha beast in Mick like no other woman he’s known. Can these two haunted, hunted wolves manage to mate for life…even as the deadliest past demons howl at their heels?


PURCHASE LINKS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CHRISTINE WARREN is the bestselling author of The Others series, including Wolf at the Door, Big Bad Wolf, Born to Be Wild, Prince Charming Doesn’t Live Here, and Black Magic Woman. Born and raised in coastal New England, she now lives as a transplant in the Pacific Northwest. (She completely bypassed those states in the middle due to her phobia of being landlocked). When not writing, she enjoys horseback riding, playing with her pets, identifying dogs from photos of their underbellies, and most of all reading things someone else had to agonize over.
Social Links
Twitter - @ChristineWarren
Facebook- @ChristineWarren