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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #2)
Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!
In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancĂ©, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.
So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.
Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

I am a huge, huge fan of Venom. Everybody knows that, because I literally Never. Shut. Up. About it. Which is fine by some of you. It probably annoys others of you, but you love me anyway. It was a fantastic, wonderful book, and in my humble opinion Belladonna was even better in more ways than one. The writing has improved immensely, and I found the plot much more entertaining. The characters are also more mature and developed and overall it was a wonderful sequel that did not seem to suffer obviously from Second Book Syndrome.

I don't make a secret of the fact that I thought Cass was really, REALLY immature in the first book. I liked her, but part of me couldn't get past her naivety. Her behavior was also really anachronistic. To be fair, it still is, but if it wasn't we wouldn't have a story, so, you know. I get why it's necessary. Anyway, I really felt that Cass matured in this book. She's stronger, and a lot less whiny, and though she's still impulsive she's also grown up a lot and better knows how to control her feelings as well. She does take one action in particular that I didn't like at all, but sometimes that's just how it is!

I love Luca because he's sweet and protective but he also has secrets of his own. He has definitely made mistakes, and I don't like that he hid the truth before, but he's somewhat more forthcoming in this book, and yet he still has that brooding aura I adore. He's also a lot more than I realized in the first book, and his character depth really increases. He's no longer just the old fiancé, but he has a personality in his own right.
At lease one person will come after me for this, but while I did love Falco at one point, I'm kind of over him now. I don't like his behavior in this book at all, and I just think that there is absolutely no excuse for it. He does some things that I find absolutely despicable. I want to keep this particular review spoiler-free, so I won't put any of those actions here, but they were awful enough to permanently turn me off of him. I suppose there is a slight chance he could redeem himself, but it's highly unlikely.

I liked the plot of Belladonna better than that of Venom, actually. I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie, so I loved the rush and more thriller-like feel of this book as opposed to the first one. Where Venom moved a bit slowly for my taste, this book moved quickly enough that my heart definitely pounded from anticipation more than once.

I didn't like the way some of the transitions were. I like when books move quickly, but I don't like when they gloss over things that I think should be included, like some moments that felt awkwardly short or cut out entirely. To be fair, I didn't come across a lot of these, but they existed. But this is really the only fault here, so I wanted to get it out of the way.

One thing I love a lot about this book was Cass's independence. Not just that, but the way she really exemplified and used that independence. There are other people around her who are important to her, and yet while she works with them and needs them on occasion she also isn't afraid to do some things herself. She really pulls herself together in this book and learns that she has to do what needs to be done, and that really is what moves the story along.

There was also a relatively realistic feel to it. It felt more like it could have actually happened in comparison to the first book, and I like that in historical fiction. I liked the details, too, that really helped to develop the story.

There was also a (relatively, arguably major) death that I wasn't expecting and left me feeling a bit disoriented. But I think it was a very good place for a character death, because it's super annoying when there's supposed to be a danger in a book and nobody on the "good side" dies. I'm not kidding. It's like the thing I hate the most.

There's a lot of distinguishing between different types of love in this book. Cass loves Falco, but he's gone, and so she's starting to open her heart up to Luca. I like the way she flashes back and remembers, but I appreciate even more than that the way she's not completely hung up. Without being too spoilery, I like the way Cass really matures in her romantic life and makes a choice that I truly believe is right for her, regardless of my personal feelings. The romance in this book is among my favorite, and maybe one of the best executions of a love triangle I have ever seen.

Also, that one scene where Luca is in prison. Hot. Easily my favorite scene in the entire book. Make of that what you will.

Fiona is one of my favorite writers for many reasons, but the greatest of these is her ability to completely transfer me into a completely different time and place. I am able to feel like I am tromping around Europe with Cass, getting into tough messes and running from the people who always seem to be one step ahead. The world-building is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the touches of Italian the book has. It gives it a little extra something special.

This might actually be one of my favorite endings ever, and it almost makes me wish the series was a duo logy, because I would be really happy with that as an ending. At the same time, I want more, so I guess I'm happy it's not actually the ending. But still, I am torn between my desires. Well, what I want doesn't really matter because there will be a book three anyway regardless of whether or not I would rather have one. But I digress. I especially appreciate the ending's emphasis on new beginnings, because that's a really important thing to me. I also like the way the storyline of book two wrapped up nicely while leaving enough material for book three.

And now for the age-old question: would I recommend this? Absolutely. Venom has my highest recommendation too, but even if you didn't want to read that, read it just so that you can read Belladonna. You might think I'm joking but I'm actually totally serious. It's that good. So good, in fact, that I'm almost hesitant to read Starling (book three) because I'm terrified it will mess up my perfect ending. (Actually, if it does, I will be annoyed for more reasons than one, because I hate it hate it hate it when characters are "sure" of a decision and then change it. I realize this can happen in real life but it still ticks me off.)

*****FINAL RATING: 4.65 STARS*****

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello, and welcome to my first Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by the lovely Jill at Breaking the Spine) since my hiatus! Today I have a book I'm anticipating very highly to advocate, so without further ado, let's go!

This Wicked Game
Michelle Zink
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: November 14, 2013

Claire Kincaid’s family has been in business for over fifty years.
The voodoo business.
Part of the International Guild of High Priests and Priestesses, a secret society that have practiced voodoo for generations, the Kincaid’s run an underground supply house for authentic voodoo supplies. Claire plays along, filling orders for powders, oils and other bizarre ingredients in the family store, but she has a secret.
She doesn’t believe.
Struggling to reconcile her modern sensibilities with a completely unscientific craft based on suspicion, Claire can’t wait to escape New Orleans – and voodoo – when she goes to college, a desire that creates almost constant conflict in her secret affair with Xander Toussaint, son of the Guild’s powerful founding family.
But when a mysterious customer places an order for a deadly ingredient, Claire begins to realize that there’s more to voodoo – and the families that make up the Guild – than meets the eye.
Including her own.
As she bands together with the other firstborns of the Guild, she comes face to face with a deadly enemy – and the disbelief that may very well kill her.

So, why am I waiting?

First off, I adore Michelle Zink. I've literally read everything she's ever published, and loved everything. She's an enormously talented writer who can use different styles and voices, and her characters truly come to life for me.

I also love voodoo, and it's a subject that isn't written about nearly enough to satisfy me. It needs to be in more books, but since it isn't, I must get my hands on every book that it is.

Plus, there's romance! And knowing Michelle, I bet it gets steamy at some points. It better. But even if it doesn't  I'm sure I'll love it.

I'm so looking forward to reading this book, and I hope that you are too!


What are you waiting on this Wednesday?
Link me up! :)
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hey everybody! It's Annabelle here. Have you guys missed me? I've missed you all a lot. Well, I promised I'd get back into blogging soon, and I think the AUTHOR ARE ROCKSTARS tour is the perfect way for me to get back on schedule. I've missed all of this so much, and I'm so happy to be back in business! I hope you will all stay with me and support me for my second bout of blogging, fangirling, and sharing random facts about my life that 99% of you probably don't care about but are nice enough to tolerate anyway.

So, as promised, here's today's post. I'm featuring author Elsie Chapman, who in addition to being the author of one of my favorite books, DUALED, is someone I am lucky enough to number in my close friends. (I'm super looking forward to DIVIDED. I want to read it, like, now.) I love the world she created, the entire vast setting, and the spectacular writing, and I love even more the concept of strikers. Basically, I love everything. She's not only a fabulous writer and creator of fabulous characters (including the badass West and sexy, protective Chord) but she's always there with advice and encouragement. I'm not kidding. She's helped me through more than one hard place and that, to me, is only one of the reasons why she is so awesome. Also, she has introduced me to OOR, which is like one of my favorite things ever now. I'm so not even kidding. (And have you SEEN her tumblr? Everything she posts is perfect, I swear.) I could probably make an entire list, but by the end of it you'd all probably be like oh my god why did Annabelle have to start blogging again she never shuts up.

But anyway! Elsie wrote a guest post to put here today, and so I am going to put that here! Hopefully y'all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed coming up with the topic, and reading it myself.

"Could you tell us about the process you work through to create your characters?" ~Annabelle

I like to work from the outside in, from what I think of as “fact” questions to “feel” questions. At first glance, “fact” questions won’t seem to be much more than surface questions, just yes-and-nos and fill-in-the-blanks. And they can be. But you also take them as far you want, and in the end, even the most straightforward of questions can be shown to have an affect on a character’s personality. That’s how “fact” questions will often create “feel” questions, which then help shape a character.
How old are my characters? What do they look like? Do they go to school, work, etc? Someone’s age is just a number, yes. But it also affects voice—a middle grader won’t sound like a teenager. If someone’s spent their entire childhood traveling the world, their perspective of what’s normal is likely to be different than the person who's never left his or her hometown. How someone looks can skew someone’s personality—how they think, their self-esteem. If they can’t go to school because they have to work, what happened to make that so? Is the character resentful of this? Relieved?
Do my characters have families? I think family dynamics are huge for shaping a character, for better or worse. How do they interact with their parents or siblings? Is that interaction related to some kind of history? A dark, secretive history will affect a character very differently than an open, acknowledged one. And if they don’t have families, how did it end up that way? What could have happened to my characters that they are left alone, and how would this affect their outlook on the future?
Not everything that has ever happened to a character will make it into a book, of course. But authors gets to know their characters by asking such questions, and characters are what drive a book in terms of setting, voice, growth arc, etc. The more invested authors are in their characters, the more fleshed out they’ll be, and readers will want to get to know them, too.
Thank you so much Mindy, Rachel, and Jaime! And thank you so much, Annabelle, for being my host on the 20th!

No what are you talking about? Elsie, thank YOU! It is an HONOR to have you on my blog. I fangirled about it for at least a full 24 hours. Consecutively. Probably more overall.

So now, here is the info and lovely stuff about the first of the two books in this dynamic dystopian duology. (I love alliteration.)

Dualed (Dualed, #1)
Elsie Chapman
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
In the city of Kersh, everyone must eliminate their genetic Alternate twin, raised by another family, before their twentieth birthday. West Grayer, 15, has trained as a fighter, and has one month to hunt and kill her Alt. A tragic misstep shakes her confidence. Guilty, grieving, she feels unworthy, runs from her Alt and from love - both can destroy her.

I grew up in Prince George, BC, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English Literature. I currently live in Vancouver with my husband and two kids, where I write to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time).
I’m repped by The Chudney Agency, and my debut novel, DUALED, will be published by Random House in February, 2013. A sequel, DIVIDED, will be published May 27th, 2014.
Find me on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
I’m also a contributing member of Friday the Thirteeners and The Lucky 13s group author blogs.

And hey! Since you're still here, why not go read my five-rose review of DUALED? If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend you give it a shot! I really bet you'll like it. So come now. Just do it.

So, that's pretty much it for today! I hope you enjoyed today's post, and I hope you'll check back tomorrow and often for more posts from me! I love you guys! Happy Tuesday!


Saturday, August 3, 2013
Have you all missed me? I've missed you guys tons! I've seen some of you on twitter lately but I miss seeing you on my blog. Of course, that has been my fault.

As you probably know, I haven't been blogging lately since I was before unable to get enough computer access lately. However, now that I have my brand-new and gorgeous laptop, I can finally resume! I am very excited about this and I see some fabulous new things in the near future for all of us.

I'm hosting an Authors are Rockstars tour stop on the 20th, so you should check back for that! Weekly features will also resume and I'll be holding some sort of giveaway to celebrate my being-backness. I can't wait to start blogging and posting reviews! I think I've missed it more than I realized, and I'm looking forward to joining the community again.

Also! I have at some point surpassed 500000 pageviews! I'm sorry that I missed it before, but I'm not sorry that it happened! This is very exciting news for me and I hope that you all will stay with me until some day in the future I can reach 1000000.

I know I have been horrible about this lately, so thank you for sticking with me.

And while we are on the topic of thanks, I have a story! Do not be misled by the word story. It is rather a boring story, and it also isn't much of a story. So. Anyway, the other day I received this lovely box of six gorgeous, gorgeous books from Amazon. First I was excited, and then I realized I haven't ordered any books lately. So I checked the packing form and the box, but there was no gift message or name to indicate who it was from. I LOVE everything, and it's wonderful and generous, but I really wish I had someone I could thank! So, if you are the wonderful, darling person who sent me this mystery box, please let me know so I can thank you!

On to more interesting topics. I plan to resume daily blogging within one-two weeks, once I've a had a chance to catch up on some things. So, I look forward to seeing all of your faces here again! Much love as always.

(ALSO: I apologize for my header being down. I plan to get that back up ASAP, but please bear with me until I do.)


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Welcome to my young adult reading blog! Sparkles and Lightning has young adult book reviews with the occasional children's or adult's book review sprinkled in. It will also be totally and completely fun :) Have a look around, have some laughs, and most of all, have a perfectly sparkly, electric time!

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