Hello and Welcome!

Red House Books is going through a bit of a update!

I've always had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted this space to be but I've been detoured from my path by...lots and lost of other people's opinions and ways of doing things...

I'm committed to this little chunk of the interweb but I've also branched out into other places so! Now it's time to think of Red House Books as more of a hub of all things me! And Me is a hell of a lot of book love!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thirteen Reasons Why 10th Anniversary Release Day Blitz and GIVEAWAY

Hey guys!

Just popping in today to share with you some release day awesomeness plus a giveaway :)

It's hard for me to believe that this gem is already 10 years old!
Have you read it? I did ages ago but a lot of the details have faded - time for a reread I would say!

Be sure to check out the new content in the special edition and don't forget to scroll down for the giveaway!

Synopsis:

You can't stop the future.
You can't rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

New Content Info:
  • The #1 New York Times bestseller and modern classic that's been changing lives for a decade gets a gorgeous revamped cover and never-before-seen additional content, including
  • An introduction from its award-winning author, Jay Asher
  • The until-now-secret alternate ending for Hannah and Clay that almost was
  • Early notes and ideas of how the story came to be
  • Deleted scenes
  • And more!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) hardcover copies of the 10th Anniversary Edition of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (ARV: $18.99).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on December 27, 2016 and 12:00 AM on December 28, 2016. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about January 2, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery
Publication: October 4th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Acquisition: read a free eARC via NetGalley

Synopsis:
Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…
(from Goodreads)
4 / 5 Stars

Finally! A YA thriller that actually thrilled! A mystery with actual unsolved problems that were difficult to explain! Why am I shocked?! What's with all the "!"?

Well, I'll tell you why!!

...sorry...

YA thrillers don't always pack the punch they promise. I've been burned in the past.

But not this time!!

Ok, maybe I'm being a little over dramatic but seriously, I love thrillers and SERIOUSLY, YA books need to quit it with the, horror / thriller / mystery / suspense stated genre if the book contains virtually 0% of these things.

One Was Lost was pretty spot on for me - exactly what I'm looking for in YA thrillers. The characters weren't all likable, because you're not suppose to love or hate the obvious people because - there is always a twist! The setting was scary - for this city girl at least. Don't get me wrong, I love the outdoors and I did move to the middle of a freaken forest but still. Straying from the path? Not knowing what the hell is over that ridge or around that bend in the river? No thank you.

The mystery part was a little shaky for me. I honestly didn't know who the 'bad' guy was until the reveal and then...I couldn't really make it all fit the way I wanted it to.

For me, One Was Lost was more about the journey then the destination. Even though Sera's story has an ending, when I think back on it, I still see her and her friends wondering around the woods. Alone. Afraid. With terrifying things happening. Confused. Without hope.

In other words, Once Was Lost has staying power.

The spot on thriller aspect was 5 stars no problem. But the ending...didn't really work for me and what actually brought this down to a 4 star read for me was the romance. I didn't see it as necessary and it was messy and didn't add to the plot in my opinion. Not every YA needs a romance!

Still, would 100% recommend to fans of YA thrillers.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book Review: Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger

Genre: YA Contemporary (Sci-fi)
Publication: June 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Acquisition: received in a trade

Synopsis:
Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was a little different. Her clothes and hair don’t suit her anymore. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There’s no more sadness in her life; she’s bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because until very recently, she was an entirely different person—a person who’s still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
(from Goodreads)
3 / 5 Stars

A strange read for me. I didn't completely love it but I couldn't put it down.

For me I felt like I was missing the point. I know books are stories, and stories don't need a point but I felt like Change Places with Me did...

At it's heart Change Places with Me is a contemporary - Rose is a young girl struggling through her life. She's unsure and she's confused but she's also focused.

On the fringe it's a futuristic, somewhat sci-fi based story. There's strange technology and hidden players that don't fit into neat contemporary boxes.

But...what is it really about? Am I too shallow a reader? Am I suppose to see layered and deeper meanings in what Rose is going through?

I don't know.

I do know that I flew through this book, searching for something and while the journey was fun, I didn't find what I didn't know I was looking for :)

I would recommend Change Places with Me to contemporary fans. The sci-fi is light and in my opinion, not really a factor in the heart of the story.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! NEW RELEASES December 2016

With the year winding to a close there are only a handful of new 2016 books hitting shelves this month!

Today I've gathered all of December's releases for 1 mega Happy Birthday post!

A big Happy Birthday to all these lovelies!

December 6
Black Moon (Zodiac #3) by Romina Russell | Razorbill | GOODREADS

Spindle (A Thousand Nights #2) by E. K. Johnston | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS

Rebellion (The 100 #4) by Kass Morgan | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Mind Games (Lock & Mori #2) by Heather W. Petty | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

December 13

Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5) by Morgan Rhodes | Razorbill | GOODREADS

Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS

Icelingby Sasha Stephenson | Razorbill | GOODREADS

December 27
Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row #3) by Ally Carter | Scholastic Press | GOODREADS

Rules of the Game (Endgame #3) by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton | HarperCollins | GOODREADS

Thirteen Reasons Why 10th Anniversary Edition by Jay Asher | Razorbill | GOODREADS

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill | HMH Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee | Katherine Tegen Books | GOODREADS

Any birthday book buying planned this month?
What new releases are you most excited for?


Monday, December 5, 2016

November 2016 Wrap Up: The Forgotten Month Edition -- oooOOOooo!

November was spoooky! Because it's like it never existed because I can't even tell you what I got done cause oooOOOOoooo -- spoooooky!

Or.

I'm just lame.

I kinda forgot it was December.

Which is weird because I've also been ranting all week "OMG IT'S DECEMBER AND I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO BEFORE CHRISTMAS!"

Selective memory?

Ga!

In any case, along with being lame I'm also very tired, busy, and lazy (but you love me cause I'm also awesome).

So!

Here is a (lame) list of books that I did stuff with this month!

Huzzah!

THE REVIEWS
Dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster | REVIEW 5 / 5 Stars
Sweet by Emmy Laybourne | REVIEW 4 / 5 Stars

NOVEMBER READS
The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid
The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

This part is new this month!
I'm wholly embracing my addiction to Instagram and really trying to up my Booksagram posts!
Here is what I put out there last month (I'm @WilowRaven if you want to give a follow - I'll most likely follow you back!)









Hope everyone had a great
November
Happy Reading!



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy 10th Anniversary to VAMPIRE ACADEMY + Giveaway

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead is 10 years old! Can you believe it?!

I read it so very long ago but I can still remember the details -- that's the mark of a great story right there. Oh! There was this one part...close to the end...with the girl and the guy and the stuff and the things -- love love love it!

With all the love I had for Vampire Academy I have no idea why I never continued on with the series. AND I have no idea where my old copy is. BUT this last part is actually a good thing BECAUSE!

TA DA!

Richelle Mead celebrates 10 years of Vampire Academy with an exclusive, never-before-seen collection of stories that sheds new light on the world and its players:

  • The Turn and the Flame takes a deeper look into the dark stain on the Ozera dynasty...
  • Hello My Name is Rose Hathaway tracks the shenanigans that ensue when Rose and Dimitri become unlikely teammates in a high-stakes scavenger hunt...
  • The Meeting gives us a glimpse of Rose Hathaway through Dimitri's eyes...
  • From the Journal of Vasilisa Dragomir unearths the princess's private thoughts from a transformative period of her life...

St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school--it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's--the very place where they're most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi--the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires--make Lissa one of them forever.

Look at this 10th Anniversary edition!

Do you love the cover? I love the cover! (honestly, the originally cover didn't really do anything for me) And those extras! Yes please. I cannot wait to get my hands on this beauty! I'm thinking I can sneak a re-read in next month ;)

To celebrate, the lovely folks at Penguin are giving away 5 copies of the 10th Anniversary edition!

If you haven't read the Vampire Academy series, now is a great time to start.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) paperback copies of Vampire Academy 10th Anniversary Edition by Richelle Mead (ARV = $11.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 9:00 AM Eastern Time on November 29, 2016 and 11:59 PM Eastern Time on December 5, 2016. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about December 12, 2016. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! NEW RELEASES November 22, 2016

A big Happy Birthday to these lovelies today!


Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst and Jordan Saia | Balzer + Bray | GOODREADS

Gap Life by John Coy | Feiwel & Friends | GOODREADS

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly | Kathy Dawson Books | GOODREADS

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley | Simon Pulse | GOODREADS


And my Pick of the Day is....

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I've loved pretty much everything by Neal I have ever read and I can't see why Scythe would be the exception!

I love the way he tells stories. There is always so much going on but everything fits together so well.

Any birthday book buying planned into your day?
What new releases are you most excited for?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: Dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster

Genre: YA Sci-fi Thriller
Publication: September 2016 by Sky Pony Press
Acquisition: received an ARC at ALAAC 2016

Synopsis:
“There’s something in that sound. Something bad. Something dangerous.”

Fifteen-year-old Ani Lee is a skilled hacker researching a strange .wav file that she’s downloaded when it behaves as no file ever should.

Joe Dyson is a seventeen-year-old American transplant recruited into a secret teen division of the British intelligence service who’s looking into the disappearance of a friend caught up in an underground music scene that might be more than it appears.

When Ani and Joe’s investigations intertwine, they discover that the .wav file and the music are linked—someone’s embedding the file into tracks to create a mind-controlled teen army.

But who’s behind it? And why? And how do you stop a sound?

An exhilarating sci-fi techno-thriller that blends music, mind control, and conspiracy perfect for fans of Little Brother, Brain Jack, and Proxy.
(from Goodreads)
5 / 5 Stars

I. Love. This. Book.

I've been a huge fan of Lancaster's from pretty much the first page of his first book, Human .4. His second book, a follow up to Human .4, was also fantastic so Dotwav was already sitting pretty high up on that pedestal.

As it should be!

Again, because:
I. Love. This. Book.

It's just a great story - lots of layers and great characters and fabulous sci-fi. It's the fabulous sci-fi that really does it for me. YA sci-fi can be tricky. I've been burned before but not so with Dotwav. So many things are going on and while it's a little over the top, realism wise, it all makes total sense in the big picture.

It's got a Mission Impossible type feel - only cooler and with young people. It also reminded me of that so horrible you have to love it movie, Hackers - without Jolie's huge lips getting in the way of everything.

Oh! And there's a twist...ish...towards the end - I didn't see it coming at least - and it was freaken cool.

If YA sci-fi is your thing you should for sure check out Dotwav (and Lancaster's other books!). I would also recommend this book to reluctant teen readers (boys and girls) as it's just a fun story that flows well and keeps you engaged page after page. Also, there is little to no romance and the main protag is male, which is always refreshing to me since most YA book I read have female MCs.

Mike has become one of my always read authors and I can't wait to read whatever it is he has planned next!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Quick Review: Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

Standalone (+ short story prequel)

Publication: June 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Acquisition:

Goodreads

4 / 5 Stars


All of my assumptions about Sweet were 100% wrong.

The things I thought I would love, fell flat and the things I thought would be cringe worthy were actually pretty fantastic.

Sweet is a bit weird. It's a little fluffy but it's also pretty horrific and it's very relateable and it's totally implausible. It's like one of those House of Mirrors attractions at a sketchy road side carnival. You're apprehensive about entering, startled and feel silly while you're inside and terrified when you realize you can't find your way out.

OMG and the ending! It was perfect!

I was like, yadda yadda, closing bits, loose ends, got it got it...wait, what the hell just happened!

Sometimes I love being wrong ;)

Next time you're browsing your local bookstore and you see this one - scoop it up, bring it home and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! NEW RELEASES November 15, 2016

A big Happy Birthday to these lovelies today!
Welcome into the world!


My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier | Soho Teen | GOODREADS

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS

Flashfallby Jenny Moyer | Henry Holt and Co. | GOODREADS

The Girl in the Picture by Alexandra Monir | Delacorte Press/Random House | GOODREADS

The Nerdy and the Dirty by B.T. Gottfred | Henry Holt and Co. | GOODREADS


And my Pick of the Day is...

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

It feels like everyone has been loving this one!

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy but if it's as good as I think it's going to be I'm pretty sure a finished copy is in my future :)


Any birthday book buying planned into you day?
What new releases are you most excited for?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Happy BELATED Book Birthday! NEW RELEASES November 8, 2016

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I had this post almost done on Tuesday...and just couldn't get it finished. Today's the first day I've even thought about blogging.
Lots to think about and lots to process.
Not sure about a lot of things but one thing is very clear to me. I'm still doing what I love and I'm still working on being the best I can be. Might sound lame but it's all I've got right now.

And one thing I do love are books and the book community. This is my happy place and I'll continue to share it with you for as long as I can.

I might be able to put my thoughts into (better) words later but for now, it's back to our irregularly scheduled program.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A big Happy Birthday to these lovelies today from Tuesday!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Feiwel & Friends | GOODREADS

Timekeeper by Tara Sim | Sky Pony Press | GOODREADS

All in Pieces by Suzanne Young | Simon Pulse | GOODREADS

Die for You by Amy Fellner Dominy | Delacorte | GOODREADS

Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys | Delacorte Press | GOODREADS


Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark | Farrar, Straus and Giroux | GOODREADS

Heartfire (Winterkill #3) by Kate A. Boorman | Amulet Books | GOODREADS

And my pick of the day is...

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I'm pretty sure I'll be getting a finished copy in an upcoming subscription box but I couldn't help myself and went out to buy the Target exclusive copy this week.

The above is my Instagram pic (I absolutely LOVE staging book pics for IG)

Give a follow if you like! I'm @WilowRaven

I finished my current read today so I might just have to start on this one now!

Anyone else not able to help themselves this week (retail therapy?).
Any book birthday buying?
As always, I would love to hear what new releases you're excited for.
Happy Reading everyone!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! NEW RELEASES November 1, 2016

A big Happy Birthday to these lovelies today!

Welcome into the world!

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Delacorte Press | GOODREADS

Bad Blood (The Naturals #4) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS

A Million Worlds with You (Firebird #3) by Claudia Gray | HarperTeen | GOODREADS

Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudin | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS


The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen | St. Martin's Griffin | GOODREADS

You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche | Razorbill | GOODREADS


The Romantics by Leah Konen | Amulet Books | GOODREADS

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon | Disney-Hyperion | GOODREADS

Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog | Sourcebooks Fire | GOODREADS


And my Pick of the Day is...

The Diabolicby S. J. Kincaid

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of The Diabolic at ALA this year and I honestly hadn't heard of it before.

Since then, so many people have been telling me how fabulous it is.

While I had very good intentions of reading S.J.'s first book Insignia I never actually got around to doing it.
I won't be making the same mistake with The Diabolic!


Any birthday book buying planned into you day?
What new releases are you most excited for?




Monday, October 31, 2016

October 2016 Wrap Up: The Woo hoo for Fall Edition

Summer is over!
Summer is over!

It's Fall!
It's Fall!

The leaves turned and they fell and they are crunchy and underfoot all the time and it's cold and I need socks on ALL the time and it's cider season and pumpkin spice everything season and I love love love it all!

Hey, anyone wanna guess what my favorite season is ;)

October brought so many changes. The weather finally finally turned and I don't have to think about sweating anymore! The leaves in NH are so freaken beautiful - even if they are everywhere - I love each and every one.

And guys, I'm not gonna lie. Pumpkin Spice coffee? OMG I LOVE IT!

With so much FALLNESS happening around me, I kinda got wrapped up in all and didn't really spend any quality time here at Red House Books (insert sad music here).

But, you know what I'm gonna say!

It's totally ok!

Let's see what I did manage to get done, shall we?

Oh - and no pics or links this month cause I gots no time for that tonight ;)

THE REVIEWS
Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl | 5/5 Stars
Black Widow Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl | 5/5 Stars

OCTOBER READS
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Black Widow Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl
The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
The Continent by Keira Drake
Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blog Tour: Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer Q&A and GIVEAWAY

Guys! I am so happy about my stop on this tour!

I am a huge fan of Eoin's -- like huge huge fan!

I'm so excited to share his answers to my questions with you. My list of really hope to meet one day authors is kinda short, but Eoin is on it and the fact that he took the time to answer my (lame) questions? 
So much fangirling over here!

And the book? Cannot wait to read it!

So! Keep reading for lots of info bits and pieces, and don't forget to enter the contest at the end :)

Thanks guys for visiting and a BIG THANK YOU to Eoin for his contribution!!

ABOUT THE GAUNTLET:
Tony Stark is known throughout the world as many things: billionaire, inventor, Avenger. But mainly for being the Invincible Iron Man.

Just when Tony is about to add his pizzazz to an international eco-summit in Ireland, someone close to him forces him to question his role in making the world a more dangerous place with his high-tech weaponry. But Stark doesn't have much time to reflect before an old enemy presents him with an even greater challenge: the assassination of all the eco-ministers, and Iron Man himself. Just how invincible Iron Man is when he is stripped of everything remains to be seen in this breathless adventure by the bestselling author of Artemis Fowl.

Amazon | B&N

ABOUT EOIN COLFER:

Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen) was born in Wexford on the South-East coast of Ireland in 1965, where he and his four brothers were brought up by his father and mother, who were both educators.

He received his degree from Dublin University and began teaching primary school in Wexford. He has lived and worked all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. After the publication of the Artemis Fowl novels, Eoin retired from teaching and now writes full time. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Q&A

1. Describe Iron Man: The Gauntlet in 10 words or less.
Tony Stark gets no love in Ireland only aggravation.

2. I've always seen Tony Stark as a very complicated character. Was it hard getting inside his head?
Tony’s character has three sides. He is a media extrovert, a super secretive scientist and a damaged soul. That’s a pretty difficult mixture of personality traits so I had to go through his passages several times before they rang true for me.

3. Who is your favorite Marvel character?
I do love War Machine. He is a straight ahead kind of guy. He sees a job to do and he does it, with a few quips along the way.

4. Iron Man has a long and detailed history. What research went into writing The Gauntlet?
I spent my youth researching Iron Man. I have been reading the comics for thirty years. They should give me a Marvel doctorate.

5. I love the chapter titles in The Gauntlet! What comes first when you write, the titles or the chapter?
Sometimes I will think of a funny chapter title and actually rewrite a chapter just to fit it in, but mostly I do the writing first. I will admit I get a kick out of a funny heading for years afterwards.

6. What book(s) do you think Tony Stark has on his night stand?
I think Tony is a secret softy and probably has Gone With the Wind on his night stand. Or maybe Eat, Pray, Love.

GIVEAWAY:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Stops:
Week 1:
10/17: Mundie Kids - Review
10/18: Take Me Away to a Great Read - Mood Board
10/19: Reading Is Better With Cupcakes - Review
10/20: Swoony Boys Podcast - Character Interview
10/21: Bookish Escapes - Review

Week 2:
10/24: YA Booknerd - Review
10/25: Red House Books - Q&A
10/26: Big Books and Grande Lattes - Review
10/27: The Irish Banana Review - Top 10
10/28: Seeing Double in Neverland - Review


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: Black Widow Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl

Book #2 of the Black Widow series
Genre: YA Marvel Universe
Publication: October 2016 by Marvel Press
Acquisition: received an ARC at ALA 2016

Synopsis:
BLACK WIDOW: RED VENGEANCE is the action-packed sequel tothe instant New York Times best-seller, BLACK WIDOW: FOREVER RED, penned by #1New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. This time, Stohl takesreaders inside the minds of Marvel's most cunning and dangerous spies-BlackWidow and Red Widow-delving deeper into their powers and will reveal more thanever before about the infamous assassin and her fledgling hero-in-training.
(from Goodreads)
5 / 5 Stars

Loved.

Honestly, I didn't think I would enjoy this series as much as I am. I mean, I love the Marvel Universe and I loved the Avengers movies but there is only so much, witty banter, explosions and total mass destruction I can take before I get a little glassy eyed.

Or so I thought.

Ok, so the books have a little less explosions (thank you!) and the banter is mostly all Tony Stark's but wow this story is intense - and the details that went into Natasha's back story? Fantastic.

As with my love for book 1, my book 2 loves stems from a place of fandom love. I grew up with Superman and Batman but I never connected to the DC world the way I've connected to Marvel. S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of my all time favorite shows and Agent Coulson? Clark Gregg for life! Natasha aka The Black Widow has always been a bit of a mystery to me, having never read her comics. I can't help but picture Scarlett Johansson as I read Red Vengeance (and Robert Downey Jr, and Clark Gregg) and I really think my reading experience was enhanced because I had these visuals helping to paint the story in my mind.

Ok, fandom fangirling aside, Black Widow Red Vengeance was an excellent book. I loved the writing, I loved the story and I loved that so much of a universe I already love was incorporated so well into Natasha's new stories. Ava still got to me a bit but I'm warming up to her.

I really thought this was a duology but the way this one ended - I can't imagine the story not continuing. Not so much a cliff hanger as a shear drop - like, boom! Yeah, it was intense (also loved that part ;)

If Marvel is your thing, if S.H.I.E.L.D. is your bae then this series is for you. And, if mystery, intrigue, superheros and kick ass female characters is your thing, this series is also for you :)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Book #1 of the Black Widow series
Genre: YA Marvel Universe
Publication: October 2015 by Marvel Press
Acquisition: received as a gift

Synopsis:
Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
(from Goodreads)
5 / 5 Stars

So, I went into this one with pretty high expectations. I love Marvel and I love love love S.H.I.E.L.D. -- Agent Coulson for life!

And...

I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, it was better then I was expecting.

Black Widow, aka Agent Romanoff, aka Natasha Romanova was a bit of a unknown for me. All I really knew about her came from the Avengers movies and she didn't get a lot of screen time. However, she is one of those characters you just knew had to come with a pretty hefty back story. In Forever Red the backstory is the story - front and center in all it's horrific glory.

And I ate. It. Up.

Black Widow for life! (j/k Phil)

Lots of details, lots of awesome little bits and pieces of S.H.I.E.L.D. and some well known (to me) characters and some new ones and action and adventure and mystery and really really good storytelling.

So yeah, I loved it.

I wasn't actually too sure of Ava at first. I thought maybe she was a throw away type of character - because this series is being written for young adults and the Black Widow isn't a kid, an actual teenager was needed to make the story work for the YA audience.

That isn't what this is at all though. Ava and Natasha are connected in ways I didn't see coming AT ALL and it made for a hell of a story.

Highly recommend for fans of Marvel, Black Widow, and kick ass female characters :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and focuses on books we are super excited about!

Today's Pick

Now I Rise (The Conquerors Saga #2)
by Kiersten White

June 27th 2017 by Delacorte Press
GOODREADS

Why I'm Excited
Ok, so there is a long wait for this one BUT the cover just revealed and I couldn't help but share it. I had mixed feelings about And I Darken but I feel pretty invested in Lada's story and after reading the summary of Now I Rise, I'm in!

What are you waiting on today?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! October 11, 2016 Edition

A big Happy Birthday to these lovelies today!

Welcome into the world!


The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) by Marie Lu | G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Black Widow: Red Vengeance (Black Widow #2) by Margaret Stohl | Marvel Press | GOODREADS

Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King | Button Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh | Sky Pony Press | GOODREADS

Beast by Brie Spangler | Knopf Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS


Iron Cast by Destiny Soria | Amulet Books | GOODREADS

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati | Delacorte Press | GOODREADS

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel | Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky | Scholastic Press | GOODREADS

The Row by J.R. Johansson | Farrar, Straus and Giroux | GOODREADS


Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen | Delacorte Press | GOODREADS

Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly | HMH Books for Young Readers | GOODREADS

Be Good Be Real Be Crazy by Chelsey Philpot | HarperTeen | GOODREADS


And my Pick of the Day is....

Black Widow: Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl

After loving book 1 (Black Widow: Forever Red) I couldn't wait to get started on book 2! I'm a huge fan of the Marvel Universe and there is just so much awesomeness in this series!

Be on the look out for my reviews of both books next week!






Any birthday book buying planned into your day?
What new releases are you most excited for?

Monday, October 10, 2016

September Wrap Up Post: Yeah

Hey guys!

Happy October!

I love October!

Fall in New England is kinda fantastic. I highly recommend it! But don't be one of those leave peepers giving me road rage - m'kay? ;)

If you read my wrap up last month you might remember it was a bit...different.


via GIPHY

Not to worry -- I'm feeling much better now!

Because it's -- OCTOBER! Woo hoo!

Oh, and I actually managed to read in September! AND looking back through things, and previous thoughts notwithstanding, I actually did read in August. Let's take a look, shall we?


READ IN AUGUST and SEPTEMBER

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Bluescreen by Dan Wells
Dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster
Burning by Danielle Rollins

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and
Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

...and....it took me 9 days to realize I didn't post this....

I. Am. Awesome.

Happy Reading Everyone!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's not just about the books...

So, if you follow this blog you might remember that I took a yearish long break a while ago. Nothing major happened to force me to stop blogging I just kind of...got bogged down by it all - you know?

In any case, I missed it and last year I started up again and I'm loving it (again).

But...

I told myself I would take it easy, make it simple - -which, for some reason translated into review only posts.

Ok - so tour stop and book blitz posts also but really, the only content I have been 100% generating myself have been reviews.

And for a while now I've been of the mind set of 'well, there is nothing wrong with that, I mean this is a book REVIEW blog - of course it should contain reviews of books'

And I wasn't wrong...but I also wasn't right.

I guess the simplest way to state it is - I'm boring myself.

With 98% of the content being reviews...I don't feel like I'm actually sharing that much.

IRL I'm a total introvert. Very private and very shy. I don't like talking about myself and when I have to I do a terrible job and I think this has lead me to sort of hide in the shadows a bit - on my own blog!

What does all of this mean?

I'm going to try something different. I'm going to take that simple, easy, no stress, no nonsense attitude I have about reviewing and a apply it to...well...everything else about this blog that isn't reviews.

Hopefully this means more content -- content that I want to write and hopefully content that you want to read. Nothing too structured at the moment but I might need to work on that ;)

Anyway! I'm excited to take this (mostly mental) step in my blogging life.

Wish me luck?

Happy Reading everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication: February 2016 by Point
Acquisition: received from another blogger

Synopsis:
Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.

We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets.

We were not planning on what happened next.

We swear.

From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make—or break—the people we call “celebrities.”
(from Goodreads)
2 / 5 Stars

This review's going to be a be short and a bit not so sweet.

I don't like this book because of:

The way fandoms and fangirls are represented.
The hypersexual behavior.
The fat shaming.
Being ugly is used as a justification for violence.

I get it, it's a comedy and it's somewhat slapstick and it's not suppose to be realistic (that last one is an assumption).

It's also bad.

Lots of folks love it but not me.

Read only if you're a sucker for punishment or you want to know "What up with all that hate you're throwing around Emily?!" but don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Quick Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Book #1 of the Every Heart a Doorway series

Publication: April 2016 by Tor.com
Acquisition: received an ARC at ALAMW 2016

Goodreads

5 / 5 Stars

Very strange - not YA - very short - not for everyone.

Loved the idea of this all.
So many stories out there about kids falling into realms hidden to most folks.
Not many stories about what happens to the ones that return to the real world.
Totally answers the "Ok, what now?" question I've often found myself asking.

Loved the characters and how they fit and don't fit together. Loved the order and organization given to it all.

Kinda short and honestly, in hardcover, that price is a little harsh. Ebook this baby!

Or spend your money however you want - who am I to say ;)

Either way - highly recommend.

Oooo - and there will be more? Wishlisting those 2 lovelies now!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova SPOTLIGHT + GIVEAWAY

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova released this week and I've got A TON of goodies to share with you today - including a TRAILER, EXCERPT, COLORING PAGE and a GIVEAWAY!

Zoradia's first book, The Vicious Deep is one of my favorites and I was so excited when I heard about Labyrinth Lost. I started it this week and I am loving it so far!

Lots of awesomeness below and don't forget to read all the way through for your chance to win your very own copy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Goodreads | Book Website | Book Tumblr | Buy Link

LABYRINTH LOST COLORING PAGE -- seriously check this out because it is awesome!

About the Author:
Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at zoraidacordova.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | YouTube


BOOK TRAILER

EXCERPT
1
Follow our voices, sister.
Tell us the secret of your death.

—-Resurrection Canto,
Book of Cantos

     The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.
     Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”
     But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane--wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.
     When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.
     A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown--ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.
     The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred--year--old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once--lovely face.
     Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.
     So I opened the basement door.
     Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.
     A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.
     “Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.
     Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.
     I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.
     They were dancing.
     Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.
     And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.
     Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.
     Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.
     The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.
     She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.
     Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”
     There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.
     My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.
     “Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”
     I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.
     I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.
     “One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.
     Then she went back down the street--lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”

GIVEAWAY
Runs September 6 - 19th (US Canada only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Book #1 in The Conquerors Saga series
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publication: June 2016 by Delacorte Press
Acquisition: read a free eARC via NetGalley

Synopsis:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
(from Goodreads)
4 / 5 Stars

And I Darken is a loooong story and I'm not just talking about page length. It's basically Lada's entire life - from birth to...late teens, early 20s...ish? There are time jumps - days, weeks, years but all in all it's pretty much Lada's complete story.

Some folks I think were put off by this, cause...yeah...it's really, really dense - at times feeling more like a history book then a fiction story.

I, however, really liked it. Maybe not all the time and maybe, a few times, I felt bogged down by the depth of it all and more then once I couldn't remember where the characters were or had been or why they were there or needed to go somewhere else...

Also, I think I was expecting more horror? The whole premise is, what if Vlad the Impaler was a girl - not the Dracula we all know. And maybe I've got that premise wrong but it's what I went into the book thinking and it wasn't the case. In fact, now, I can't find this description anywhere...so...maybe I made it up? No, I must have read it somewhere.

Anyway!

In any case, I was expecting something much more horror filled and messy. Not overly historic and messy. Vlad is Lada's father and now, knowing that And I Darken isn't a standalone (like I thought it was) I can see how maybe Lada gets more impaler like in subsequent books?

I really don't know.

What I do know is, I dove into And I Darken thinking one thing, enjoyed myself while mucking around in it all and was happy to have read it in the end.

And yes, if there is another book, I will be reading it. The history is dense but so are the characters, in a spectacular way. Lada has a long way to go, her brother Radu is such an interesting person and I can't wait to see where he ends up and Mehmed - yeah, maybe I could have done without him but he adds so much to the story and I'm very curious to see where he stands in book 2.

Summing it up!

YA historical fiction with lots of details, and fabulous characters!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Anti Wrap Up Post -- THIS ONE IS FOR THE PARENTS!

August was blargy blarg blarg blargtastic.

No idea how it's September already.

No idea how that extra week of August snuck in.

What's so horrible about an extra week you ask?

Well, you see, where I live, in the lovely state of New Hampshire, school children don't go back to school the day after labor day - which is how things worked for me my ENTIRE LIFE.
No, school children in New Hampshire go back to school on some random day at the end of August - the 28th, or maybe the 30th or this year, this year, how about the 25th!

So you see, not only am I dealing with the stress of a new school for my daughter (sucky school district closed her old one), I also had to deal with a full 7 (SEVEN!) days of school before my favorite of all Mondays -- A MONDAY OFF FROM WORK. I live for 3 day weekends and come school time, I rely on that wonder of wonders, 3 days in the beginning of September to GET MY SHIT TOGETHER.

I mean, anyone can fake it for a few days - kids got shoes, lunch and backpack? It's all good! No worries - push that gigantic pile of forms to the side! You have a 3 day weekend coming up! New bus schedule you say? No worries for those first few days - just drive the kid. Leave all that HARD THINKING for your 3 DAY WEEKEND.

Except...I didn't get my 3 day weekend when I needed it. I had to be an ACTUAL ADULT and it SUCKED donkey balls.

So the kid - the wonderful, amazing kid of mine had to deal with not only a new school but a BAT SHIT CRAZY mother who mentally couldn't get said SHIT together until today...my Monday of Mondays. My 3 day weekend in all it's glory.

But you're not here for the cray cray, you're here for the books.

HA!

HA! I say! August ATE ME ALIVE! Did I even LOOK AT A BOOK all month? No idea. My brain still hasn't caught up.

You know...let's save that Wrap Up Post for later.

Today, I dedicate this post to all ALL THE MOTHERS and ALL THE FATHERS and ALL THE CARETAKERS of ALL THE CHILDREN.
September (and FREAKEN AUGUST) can BRING IT cause we got this covered.

WE DID IT!

We're still here and our kids are as fabulous as always and WE ARE ROCK STARS!

And...the books will always forgive.

More to come soon...
;)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Release Blitz + Giveaway for Fish Wielder by J R R R Hardison

Hey guys!

I've got another little something extra for you today! Fish Wielder by J R R R Hardison released this week and if it hasn't hit your radar yet, consider this post your first *ping* -- keep reading for info, an excerpt and a GIVEAWAY.

Happy Reading everyone!

Fish Wielder is kind of like Lord of the Rings, set in Narnia, if it was written by the guys who made Monty Python and the Holy Grail while they were listening to the music of They Might Be Giants.

In ancient times, the Dark Lord Mauron cooked the most powerful magic chocolate dessert ever made, the Pudding of Power. One thousand and two years later, the evil leader of the Bad Religion, the Heartless One, is trying to recover the lost pudding in order to enslave the peoples of Grome. Only the depressed barbarian warrior Thoral Might Fist and his best friend, Brad the talking Koi fish, have a chance to save the world of Grome from destruction, but that's going to take a ridiculous amount of magic and mayhem. Thus begins the epically silly epic fantasy of epic proportions, Fish Wielder—book one of the Fish Wielder Trilogy.


Author J R R R Hardison :
Jim has worked as a writer, screen writer, animator and director in entertainment and commercials since graduating from Columbia College of Chicago in 1988. He is the author of The Helm, which YALSA praised as one of 2010’s best graphic novels for young readers, and has directed animated commercial and entertainment projects, including spots for M&M's, AT&T, and Kellogg's. He co-founded Character LLC in 2000 and has given story advice to many of the world's largest brands, such as Target, Verizon, Samsung, McDonalds and Walmart, and has even appeared on NBC's "The Apprentice" as an expert adviser on brand characters. Jim lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, two kids and two dogs. Fish Wielder is his first novel.

CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT

© 2016 Jim Hardison
Chapter 1
It was the anniversary of something bad.
Thoral Mighty Fist, perhaps the toughest, most mysterious and manly fighter in all the mystical world of Grome, sat in the Inn of the Gruesomely Gashed Gnome in a dark corner,
weeping into his tankard of warm ale. He hated ale, especially when it was warm, although he’d been swilling the stuff since before breakfast. Now it was well after dinner, and all he’d eaten the entire day was a piece of dry toast and a couple of olives as black as his mood. He raised his mug for another bitter sip and the jeweled hilt of the magic broadsword, Blurmflard, poked him in the side like a reminder of past mistakes. It was awkward to sit at a table with a broadsword at your belt, but the mighty barbarian had kept Blurmflard with him at all times ever since the blade was lent to him by his wizard mentor, Yiz. He even slept with it.
As Thoral sat brooding and trying to adjust his position to more comfortably accommodate the blade, a twelve-inch-long orange koi fish walked into the bar on his tail fins. Standing in the entryway, the koi peered around the crowded, dim interior until his bulging eyes fell on Thoral. The fish frowned.
At six feet, Thoral was a head taller than most other human inhabitants of the world of Grome and was so powerfully built that he barely fit at the heavy wooden table at which he sat. He was dressed pirate-style, with a black leather vest buttoned over his otherwise bare chest, tight, plum-colored breeches and knee-high, iron-toed boots. A wide crimson belt bore the magic sword as well as an assortment of leather and velvet pouches. A less attractive or more effeminate man would never have been able to pull off such an outfit, but for Thoral it was no
problem. He had chiseled features and a head of thick, golden hair that curled to his massive shoulders. The few strands of gray made him even more handsome–in a seasoned and mature
way, of course. His glorious hair notwithstanding, his most striking feature was his piercing gaze. So intense, so smoldering was his stare, that those on the receiving end often felt the need
to look away for fear that they would catch fire. There was no word in Gromish for the vibrant purple color of his eyes, but they were violet.
The koi contemplated the warrior. Given his charisma, strength and fighting abilities, Thoral could easily have conquered his own kingdom. But Thoral didn’t seem to care about that
kind of thing. He mostly liked to drink and fight and brood and wander around in forests looking at trees. As the fish watched, the mighty warrior burped. The hot gas seemed to sear his manly nostrils so that he blinked as his striking violet eyes watered.
Thoral looked up from his drink and squinted around the bar to see if anyone had noticed his tears and if there was anyone worth fighting. He failed to detect the fish, who was hidden behind the legs of a passing barmaid. The other patrons were humans, except a few half-elves and a handful of drunken gnomes. He could take them all on single-handedly, but he knew from experience that he’d feel even worse after beating them. Especially the gnomes. It was better to do nothing, to sit and drink and wish things were different.
Thoral closed his eyes and hunched forward to lay his tawny-maned head on the table. The rough-hewn planks, though, smelled as if they had been wiped with a mildew-y rag, so he
sat back up. He fumbled in one of his many belt pouches for the last of his dried herbs, crushed them between his long, calloused fingers and inhaled their fading minty fragrance. It wasn’t quite strong enough to clear the lingering scent of the mildew.
As Thoral sniffled at his mint leaves, the fish sighed. Shaking his head, he stalked across the sticky floor on his tail fins. The barbarian noticed him with a wince.
“This is the end, Bradfast,” Thoral grumbled at the fish in his outlandish accent, his rough voice heavy with melancholy. Thoral tended to transpose the sounds of v and w and to pronounce th at the beginning of words as z because he was foreign.
“Here we go again,” Brad commented dryly, leaping up onto the bench and then the table. He picked his way across the tabletop and stopped before the warrior. “This isn’t the end,
Thoral. It’s just the beginning…or maybe the middle or something. The point is, it’s not over. It’s never over until you give up—or you’re dead.”
“I dost wonder about death,” the barbarian said, as if to himself. He also used outdated words like dost because he spoke High Gromish even though most everybody else spoke the low version. This was also because he was foreign. “Would it truly bring an end? Or just a transition to another world?”
“You’ve had too much to drink, Thoral,” the fish cautioned. “You always get morose when you drink. It’s time we get moving. Maybe go on another adventure or something.”
“I am tired of adventures,” the warrior sighed. “I wish only to go home.” He burped again, and the fish staggered back, blinking.
“Come on, pal. Let’s get out of here,” Brad suggested, fanning himself with a fin. “We’ll fight a monster or go on a quest or steal the jeweled eye from an idol or something. It’ll be fun.”
“My heart is too…” Thoral trailed off. “What is that word that means when something has substantial weight?”
“Heavy,” the fish supplied. Thoral always had trouble remembering that one.
“Heavy. Yes. My heart is too heavy for adventure,” Thoral complained.
“Well, maybe if we pick something really hard, you’ll get killed,” the fish offered.
“A hero’s death?” Thoral asked, perking up just a bit.
“Yeah, sure. A hero’s death.”
“And then I couldst be done with this world,” Thoral murmured.
“Exactly,” Brad affirmed.
“Then let us go,” Thoral said, “this very instant.” He slammed his drink down on the table so hard that some of the ale sloshed out of the tankard, splashing at the fish. The koi danced back, just missing a soaking.
“Up to bed first and we’ll hit the road in the morning,” Brad countered, stepping around the puddle of spilled drink.
“No, we will leave now.” There was a dangerous edge to the warrior’s tone that drew the attention of everyone in the room even though he had not raised his voice. The bar went silent.
“Look, Thoral,” the koi answered, “it’s getting late. I’m tired. You’re drunk. We could both use some sleep. Let’s not make a rash decision that might lead to all kinds of unexpected
complications.”
Every eye turned to see the barbarian’s reaction. “We will leave now,” Thoral insisted. The warrior and the fish stared at each other.
“Be reasonable,” Brad tried again. “Just give me one good reason why we shouldn’t wait
until morning.”
“We will leave now,” the barbarian declared, “because I am Thoral Mighty Fist!”
Everyone gasped. Brad sagged, defeated. Once Thoral noted that he was Thoral, there was no point in arguing further. Everyone knew it. That’s just how it was.
With that, Thoral drained his pewter tankard and crushed it one-handed. He got unsteadily to his feet, massive muscles rippling under sun-bronzed, battle-scarred skin, and
transferred Brad from the tabletop into a belt pouch. Then he tossed a gold coin to the hideously disfigured gnomish innkeeper to pay for the mug he’d ruined even though it couldn’t have been worth more than a few coppers. The gnome had been engrossed in restocking a spice rack over the bar, so the coin struck him in the head and then clattered to the floor. He stepped on it with his clubfoot before it rolled away and then pinched it between his stubby, ring-clad fingers.
“Many thanks, Fist Wielder,” the innkeeper croaked, his one eye glittering from his gashed face as the warrior strode past him. “Where are you headed now? Not to the Godforsaken
Swamp, I hope. You should steer clear of that place for a while. There is nothing there but death.”
“I am eager for it,” the barbarian whispered as he strode past the gnome, who frowned and wrung his tiny hands.
Thoral staggered from the bar into the dark, filthy street. Although it was well past sundown, the city was still bustling with all kinds of criminals and cutthroats and that sort of
riffraff. They all cleared out of the big barbarian’s way. Three figures, cloaked and hooded in the black robes of the Bad Religion, watched from the shadows as Thoral went to the tavern’s
hitching post to untie his massive tiger-striped steed, Warlordhorse. He fumbled with the knot, his fingers clumsy from the ale. He shook his head and tried again.
“Let us attack now,” the leader of the Dark Brothers whispered. “We will take him unawares.”
“Uh…are you sure?” one of his subordinates asked, his voice quavering. “Have you heard the stories about him?”
“We have our orders,” the leader countered tersely. “Besides, he is inebriated, there are three of us, and we have the ultimate advantage…” He trailed off, sliding a dagger from a fold of his robe. The curved blade was slick with oily, black poison. He leered at his minions for a moment, and they reluctantly drew their own poison-coated daggers. The three of them started toward the barbarian while he was distracted.
Thoral was still having no luck with Warlordhorse’s tether, and grew frustrated. He put his face close to the rope, trying to get a better look in the dim light of the moon, and made
another attempt. The Dark Brothers crept closer, raising their poisoned blades in unison. Just one scratch and Thoral would be paralyzed before he even felt the wound. Agonizing death would follow within hours, but not before they had had time to drag the warrior before the master of their order to find out how much Thoral knew of their plans.
The Dark Brothers closed in on the unsuspecting champion, swift and silent as death itself.


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