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.

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:



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.



 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, 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 or on Twitter.

Website | Goodreads |  Twitter | Facebook


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.

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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


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




 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


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 


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



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