Monday, 23 February 2015

The Accidental Empress Blog Tour - Excerpt & Giveaway

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Here it is! My blog tour stop of The Accidental Empress. Make sure to check out more this book on GoodReads, enjoy the excerpt and go enter the awesome giveaway.
 
 
Buy:


New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Intrigued by Sisi’s guileless charm and energetic spirit, not to mention her unrivaled beauty, Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Plucked from obscurity and thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi has no idea what struggles and dangers—and temptations—await her. Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, compelling characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into the bedrooms and staterooms of one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Habsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

 

 

Book Excerpt:

 

Prologue

Budapest, Hungary

June 8, 1867

 

“Empress, we are ready for you.”

 

She turns, a small nod and a flourish of her hand. “Time to assume the role.” She slips her narrow arms through the sleeves. The silken fabric, expertly stitched and tailored, molds around her curves. My, but she has never quite grown accustomed to how heavy these things are. Heavier, it seems, than her own tired frame.

 

All around her nervous footmen and chattering attendants fuss, bickering like frantic bees in the hive that encircles their all-important leader.

 

“Fluff her skirt!”

 

“Mind the trim!”

 

“Time to go!”

 

“Can’t be time already, can it?”

 

“Ready, Empress Elisabeth?” The imperial hairdresser stands before her, the ancient crown poised between two fingers, its diamonds catching a glint of candlelight. As delicate as the wisps of a spider web. And yet, durable enough to have survived the centuries, to have persisted longer than the royal heads on which it has rested. Heads now embalmed, hairs now gray and fallen out.

 

“Ready.” She nods, lowering her chin so that the diadem can be nestled into her chestnut curls—curls that have been named the most valuable crown jewels in all of the Habsburg collection. The curls, they say, that won her the emperor’s heart.

 

The crown in place, she glides forward and glances at herself in the full-length mirror. She does make an arresting vision; even she has to admit it.

 

The gown is of white and silver brocade, laced with rows of diamonds and stitched to hug her narrow figure. The long cape of white satin drapes effortlessly over her shoulders before tumbling to the ground. But it’s her face that they always want to see, more so than any imperial stitching or ancient tiara. They’ve all heard of her slanting, honey-colored eyes. Her smoothly sculpted cheekbones. Her lips, the lips that the emperor once declared as “fresh as strawberries.” The emperor. Her heart lurches forward. God, but she is tired. Will she have the energy to survive this day?

 

A knock, and her heart trips once more. She glances up, her eyes darting to the heavy oaken door. Which one of them will it be on the other side? Will it be the emperor? Or will it be . . . him? Her cheeks grow warm at the thought, and she chides herself. Even after everything she has been through, she still reddens like a girl of sixteen at the thought of him, the mention of his name. Her own husband doesn’t pull such a scarlet blush to her cheeks.

 

The door lumbers open, groaning like a sluggish guard woken from his midnight watch after too much ale. In an instant, she sees him, and he sees her. He takes her in. She can tell from his face that she has succeeded in beating the breath from his gut; he wears the look of a stunned animal.

 

“Sisi” is all he manages to say. “Sisi.” He throws his arms up, wide, as if to pull her into him. But he checks himself, takes note of the servants bustling about.

 

“Your Majesty.” He clears his throat. “Are you ready?”

 

She inhales, considering the question. Is she ready? No. She never really was ready, she supposes. That was the problem, wasn’t it? But she lifts her chin, throwing her shoulders back.

 

“I am,” she answers, one quick nod. She glides forward. The dress drags—its splendor too heavy for her exhausted body. But she sighs and continues across the room.

 

She can already hear them on the other side of the walls. Not so much the individual cheers and cries, but a dull, persistent throb. Constant. Like the crush of the sea waves on the earth: unyielding, unceasing.

 

He offers his arm and she slides her own through it, her soft flesh pressing into his heavily starched uniform. The doors open wider now. She blinks, longing to pull a gloved hand upward. To shield herself, to hide her face from all of those direct, inquisitive eyes. . . . Eyes that will study her and take her in, as if she is theirs for consuming. But she checks her impulse. Stands a bit taller.

 

And then she hears it. “Sisi!”

 

A breath inward. A moment to fortify herself as she turns to him. “It is time.” And it was. At last, it was time.

 

***

 

Also from Allison Pataki:


The Traitors Wife COVER PHOTO


Read more about The Traitor's Wife on GoodReads.

 

Buy:

 Amazon | B&N | Indiebound


About Allison Pataki:


Allisons finals Website Headshot

Allison Pataki is the author of the New York Times bestselling historical novel, The Traitor's Wife. She graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years writing for TV and online news outlets. The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write her second novel, The Accidental Empress, by her family’s deep roots in the former Habsburg empire of Austria-Hungary. Allison is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization, ReConnect Hungary. Allison is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and FoxNews.com, as well as a member of The Historical Novel Society. Allison lives in Chicago with her husband. To learn more and connect with Allison visit www.AllisonPataki.com or on Twitter.


Website | Goodreads |  Twitter | Facebook



Giveaway:

Thanks to Allison Pataki and Simon & Schuster, one lucky winner will receive a $120 gift card to the ebook retailer of their choice (Amazon/B&N/iTunes)! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open internationally.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule:





Check out more at the Tour Page below:


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Monday, 16 February 2015

Review: Crimson Moon by J. A. Saare

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Title: Crimson Moon

Author: J.A. Saare

Series: Crimson Trilogy #1

Publisher: Createspace

Publication date: May 1st 2012

Format: Paperback | 276 pages

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Goodreads

 

 

 Trueblood vampires: those set apart from commons by right of blood. Graced with extraordinary abilities such a telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, they are the most powerful and feared among their kind. The secret lies within a legacy evolving from the truest form of magic, and their living bloodlines are the key.


An average morning is what Emma Johnson anticipates when she visits Joe's Cafe for a steaming cup of coffee. Her life is routine, each day as uneventful as the one before, until she's saved from a mob of bloodthirsty creatures and informed she is the daughter of a powerful vampire - a vampire who wants her delivered safely to his home.


Despite the unexpected and surreal turn of events, she can't deny what she's seen with her own eyes. Things do go bump in the night, and soon she's wishing for the life she left behind. She also can't prevent the physical reaction she has to her rescuer Caleb, who isn't entirely human.


When she is forced to choose between the man she knows and the man who's sent for her, she has to make a life changing decision - vampire or wolf?


 

My thoughts:


What an annoying turn of events that turned out to be.


I'm pretty sure most of you would have heard a lot from bloggers over the dreaded love triangle. I mean it's just so out there now that just mentioning it is like nooo, begone foul demon! But this just took my hatred of love triangles to a whole new level.


More than half of the book featured Emma and Caleb, and all was great, more than a little cheesy but it was going good and it had just started to get interesting. But then along came this other guy, who had hardly ever been mentioned throughout the story so far, and thinks it's okay to have a little go and bring Emma over to the wicked dark side. And without being too spoilery, it turns out that this whole love triangle thing wasn't even a love triangle but just a cheesy romance pretending to be a love triangle. Why play with my emotions like that? And by emotions, I don't mean, oh no, team Caleb all the way! I mean ARGH LOVE TRIANGLES SUCK!!!!!


Phew…good to get that off my chest. I've been holding it in since finishing the book.


Aside from that disaster, I thought this book was a little weird with the timings of events. A lot of the beginning was all Emma being brought into the world of supernaturals and learning that she's not exactly normal. Most of the read is all Caleb, Caleb, Caleb and then suddenly a whole new side is brought into play and Emma's kind of shipped off to learn more. It just sat a little uneasily with me. The side of the plot that focuses on her previously unknown father doesn't come into play until a long way into the story, and I would have thought that it would be more of a priority.


Sorry to go back to it, but I thought that was also to do with the romance of the story. The reader just had to know how important Caleb was to Emma - in terms of the physical book, more than half is with Caleb and the rest is with the others so in relation to the story, more is stuffed into the first half right? Then why, if it's so apparent to everybody, including Emma, that Caleb is so important, why bring someone else into it? To prove her self worth and loyalty? Ugh. Not well done. Not at all.


This just took up so much space in my mind that I finished the book seething, but it had it's moments or I wouldn't have finished.


I really liked Caleb. I thought Emma was a weak character but Caleb was really sweet and tough guy without being over the top about it. I liked how he would get guilty over things that ultimately weren't his fault and he knew it. I also, really liked the characters surrounding his life, especially his family, they were just generally well rounded and sweet people. I really wish they were featured a lot more.


All in all this read was ruined for me, if you couldn't already tell, by the romance side of it. I definitely won't be carrying on the series which is a shame, but I have so much I want to read and the thought of being that frustrated again is a major turn off.


My rating: 4/10


 J.A. Saare:

Goodreads | Website | Twitter


Crimson Trilogy:


  1. Crimson Moon
  2. Crimson Sunrise
  3. Crimson Sunset

Review: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

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Title: The Accidental Empress

Author: Alison Pataki

Series: N/A

Publisher: Howard Books

Publication date: February 2015

Format: Kindle | Netgalley | 512 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction 

Goodreads



The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. 

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

 

 

My thoughts:


Well this certainly made a change from the usual books I'm accustomed to reading. I liked the look of this one a lot, so even though historical fiction isn't one of my favourite genres, I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.


What stood out to me was the writing. I knew from the first sentence i would like the book. There's just something about the writing that couldn't fail to draw you right into the story. It's so descriptive and paints a perfect picture in your mind of the lovely settings, the court's attire and more importantly, it gave such a clear image of the characters - which character's I would come to hate and which I would grow to love.


Speaking of characters, there's one who plays a huge part in this read and I don't think I've ever hated a character as much as I did Sophie, Franz's mother. I feel like I hated her a little too much though, to the point that every time her name came up in the book, I would want to stop reading for a bit. She's just nasty. Seriously, she does some disgusting things to Sisi. I felt so bad for her.


I did feel that the timings involved in the read were a little strange. It's made evident that a lot of time passes when it does, but I didn't believe the character's development at times. Sisi is a young girl at the beginning of the book and by the end she's a young woman - the transitions were a little confusing at times.

 

Another problem I had with the book was the length. Maybe not so much the length but the fact that I kept getting bored. Especially in the middle of the read, things seemed to be a little bit repetitive to me. I have to say, I'm used to books with a huge amount of action in them, so the fact that I finished this is definitely testament to the writing.

 

Overall I enjoyed this read. It's definitely a good way to get into historical fiction with the great writing and interesting plot, not the mention a character you'll love to hate.

 

My rating: 7/10

 

Allison Pataki:

Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

 

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Title: Betrayals

Author: Lili St. Crow

Series: Strange Angels #2

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication date: Nov 17th 2009

Format: Paperback | 304 pages

Genre: YA | Paranormal


Poor Dru. Her parents are long gone. Her best friend Graves has been bitten by a werwulf. And she just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn't entirely human. Now Dru's strange and handsome savior, Cristophe, has her hidden away at a secret Schola for djamphir and wulfen teens. Trouble is, she's the only girl in the place. The really bad news? Dru's killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead.


With all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide…



My thoughts:


Betrayals pretty much starts off where Strange Angels left off, with Dru and Graves being sent on their way to a Schola to learn more about their abilities and the world of nosferatu, djamphir and wulfen. This time though, both Graves and Dru know that there's a traitor to the cause around somewhere in the Schola and have to go about trying to find out just who that is.


If you've read the first book in this series, you'll know that Graves came across as a bit dependent on Dru seeing as he's thrown into the supernatural world just for trying to help Dru out. Of course, in the first book of the series it was fully expected since Graves was fully dropped into the deep end with no warning whatsoever, however, Graves completely changes in this book. I expected it somewhat, just because it would be tiresome if he stayed the young, naive high school student all the way through the series, but he really came into his own in this one - he was a completely new character. I loved it to a certain extent - he had a lot more self confidence, power and attitude which I really enjoyed. But he also was incredibly different to the Graves from the first book. It may as well not be the same character. So I've kind of finished this read being so-so about Graves' new personality.


I thought exactly the same about Dru just going the opposite way. Dru was the tough heroine type in the first book of the series but this one was a different story. She spent too much time crying for my liking and not enough time figuring things out. I did take her with a pinch of salt seeing as she's lost everyone and she's supposed to be safe at last in the Schola, giving her a bit of leeway to let go of her tough girl facade. But, same as Graves, it went a bit too far - so much I could almost say she's a completely different character too.


This book is definitely nonstop action though. Straight from the start there's a lot going on and it stays that way throughout the whole book. Not just Dru running for her life, but her dealing with some of the usual high school problems on a supernatural scale. I loved the drama that took place with Graves and his friends. I really want to see if that's taken any further or explained a little since it left Dru feeling doubtful about who she could trust.


Overall I liked this read, even though I had a few problems with it. I certainly want to carry on in the series which says a lot in itself.


My rating: 6/10


Lili St. Crow:

Goodreads | Twitter | Website


Strange Angels:

  1. Strange Angels
  2. Betrayals
  3. Jealousy
  4. Defiance
  5. Reckoning

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Review: Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover

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Title: Unclean Spirits

Author: M. L. N Hanover

Series: The Black Sun's Daughter #1

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: 05 Jan 2012

Format: Paperback | 400 pages

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Goodreads




When college student Jayné Heller's uncle is murdered, she goes to Denver to settle his estate and mourn the loss of the only member of her family who has always been on her side.


She discovers that her uncle has left her quite a legacy: a string of property across the world, several very full bank accounts - and an extremely unconventional business. It turns out Uncle Eric has been secretly fighting to rid the world of supernatural 'riders' - demons, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of other nasty parasites - since before Jayné was born.


Now it's up to Jayné to avenge her uncle's death and continue his work - if she can survive her first week on the job.



My thoughts:


After receiving a huge fortune from her uncle Eric after he died, Jayné finds more than she bargained for when she heads over to deal with Eric's estate. Jayné's uncle lived in a world filled with spirits of werewolves, vampires and all the things that go bump in the night. These spirits, known as 'riders', wait for the right moment to take over and infect a human body to do with what it wills. Jayné has to decide between carrying on her uncle's legacy or packing up and taking the money.


I liked this read. There were some really great characters that I enjoyed reading about and getting to know. Especially Ex - to be fair, he wasn't featured as much as the others throughout the book, but he was one of the more mysterious characters and I just can't help but want to know more about him. He had moments that gave a little insight to his intentions or motives in the next few books I think, at least I hope so, and they were such sweet awww moments. I love Ex. Jayné was also a great character but she has a lot of growing to do over the rest of the series. I took Jayné with a pinch of salt just because it's usually the case in the first book of a series that the heroine doesn't reach her potential as a character and I really saw that here. She starts to realise what she's got herself into by the end of the book but at the beginning she was a whole different person. 


Aubrey on the other hand, I didn't get on with so much. It's not that I didn't like his character, I just found him a bit lacking in the personality department. He didn't really do anything for me or stand out enough that I cared about what happened to him. So far, unless it changes over the next books of course, I wouldn't care if he was pushed aside in the story and just disappeared. He didn't make a huge difference to the book in my opinion. 


As for the plot of the book, I thought it took a while to get going action wise but once it did I was completely captivated. I did think, at times, that some of the action scenes, especially towards the end, were too simplistic for what was supposed to happen. I don't want to give anything away but if someone's so powerful he shouldn't be too easy to get rid of. Aside from that, I liked the originality to the idea of 'riders' and I enjoyed reading another book where werewolves and the like are genuinely the bad guys no questions asked. There aren't too many of those nowadays. 


Overall I enjoyed this book and I will be sure to pick up the next in the series when I can, if only to get some more of Ex. I really do hope what I want to happen does in fact happen!


My rating: 7/10



M.L.N Hanover:

Goodreads | Website 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

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Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Author: Carrie Ryan

Series: The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: 01 Mar 2010

Format: Paperback | 336 pages

Genre: YA | Horror | Zombies

Goodreads


In Mary's world there are simple truths.

The sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.


And you must mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from  the Forest of Hands and Teeth.


But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her.


And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands of Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?



My thoughts:


The Forest of Hands and Teeth follows Mary as she dreams a way to escape living like cattle in a fenced in village to avoid being eaten alive by the 'Unconsecrated'. Mary is one of the only residents who dares to dream about whether or not there's a life outside the fences and if it could possibly be any worse than the way she's living trapped on the inside.


I might as well come out with it straight off and say I really didn't get on with this read. Actually, I regret finishing it. The biggest problem I had was the characters. All of them. I hated every single one. I thought Mary was a brat that couldn't focus on anything but herself and that the rest of the characters were completely spineless. It made it so hard to carry on reading even just a couple of chapters in, there wasn't much action in the beginning which didn't help, but my hate for the characters was always at the forefront of my mind which made the read a chore. 


The one aspect of this book that kept me going was the action. When it got going, this read has tons of suspense. It really was its saving grace - after the halfway point of the read I actually couldn't put it down just to find out what direction the author was going to take things.


Aside from that, everything seemed to frustrate me. Not just the characters, but the plot seemed incredibly all over the place and the love interest completely over dramatic and unrealistic. I thought there were a lot of loose ends that weren't cleared up, especially from the beginning of the book, I carried on thinking eventually it would be brought back up and explained but it never was. 


Overall I wouldn't recommend this book. There wasn't enough action or suspense that could make up for all of the characters I didn't like and all of the inconsistencies in the plot. 


My rating: 3/10



Carrie Ryan:

Goodreads | Website | Twitter


The Forest of Hands and Teeth:


  1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  2. The Dead-Tossed Waves
  3. The Dark and Hollow Places

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Review: Shadow Wave by Robert Muchamore

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Title: Shadow Wave

Author: Robert Muchamore

Series: Cherub #12

Publisher: Hodder

Publication date: August 26th 2010

Format: Hardback | 352 pages

Genre: YA

Goodreads




After a tsunami causes massive devastation to a tropical island, its governor sends in the bulldozers to knock down villages, replacing them with luxury hotels.


Guarding the governor's family isn't james Adams' idea of the perfect mission - and then retired agent Kyle Blueman comes up with an unofficial and highly dangerous plan of his own.


James must choose between loyalty to Cherub, and loyalty to his oldest friend. 


My thoughts:


Shadow Wave is the last book in the Cherub series *sob*. It follows James' last mission as a Cherub agent as he finally ends his part in the operation to infiltrate the Brigands M.C. Satisfied that his Cherub career ended on a high note, James isn't too happy with the thought of babysitting a couple of spoilt rich children of a Malaysian government official. 


Honestly, I'm a little upset right now. I started this series in the middle of high school and to think that it's over now is really depressing. This was the last time I've read one of the Cherub books for the first time - rereading them won't be the same. Booknerds understand this problem so at least I'm not alone! I still can't believe I waited until I'm almost 21 to actually finish the series.


I really love how much James has grown up throughout the series. This book wasn't so much about the Cherub missions and all the action they entail, it was focused on how far all of the characters have come. They've all grown up! All my complaints about James being a right idiot with some of his decisions have just flew out the window with this read. He's matured to a huge extent with his talk of future plans and his attitude towards people in general. It makes me sad.


This read was perfect for what it was supposed to be. A lot of people would be disappointed with how different or even how much more dreary this book is compared to the rest of the books in the Cherub series. I liked it for what it was. It was a final goodbye to all of the characters I've grown to love and know so well. While it had enough action in it to satisfy me, I needed the full on tying up of loose ends to satisfy the ending of a whole series, not just the one book and that was provided.


Overall I loved this whole series. I would strongly recommend it to anybody who's a fan of YA books in general.


My rating: 10/10 


Robert Muchamore:

 

Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

 

Cherub:

 

  1. The Recruit
  2. Class A
  3. Maximum Security
  4. The Killing
  5. Divine Madness
  6. Man vs. Beast
  7. The Fall
  8. Mad Dogs
  9. The Sleepwalker
  10. Dark Sun
  11. The General
  12. Brigands M.C
  13. Shadow Wave