As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 25, 2014

***Giveaway*** The ASCENDANCE TRILOGY by Jennifer A. Nielsen!

About the ASCENDANCE TRILOGY: In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. (Amazon)

Review by Amy Finnegan – Writer, Reader, Bookshop Talk Host

Just over a year ago, two of our readers submitted reviews for THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and I was very intrigued. They pretty much said the same thing—the book rocked their world. I’ll give you some short quotes:

(From Debz)
Sage was pretty awesome. He was so clever, and rather attractive as well. I could read scene after scene of Sage’s inner monologue, and be satisfied.

(From Pica)
There is no way I can possibly praise the book enough. It begins excitingly, and only gets better from there. Nielsen gives just enough information to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, and it is so much fun to unravel the many mysteries entwined and surrounding each other.

How could I help but want to read THE FALSE PRINCE, right? Well, my friends, I didn’t just read it, I devoured it. And I was so instantly in love that it was nearly painful to wait even just a couple more months from that point for the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy, THE RUNAWAY KING. And this book, this book also blew me away, but even more so. There was more, more, more of what I loved in the first book. An even stronger plot, a heightened romance (I’m a sucker for that, you know), more action done to perfection (seriously, read it and you’ll agree), and more of a hero so enjoyable, I truly wish he was an actual friend because he definitely feels like one (but I’ll admit that I’d probably stalk him and make him say clever things to me all day. And I might embarrass myself due to a little crush as well).

So, knowing that this was a three-book series, I was dyyyying to get my hands on THE SHADOW THRONE. Let’s just say that once the advanced reading copies were available, and I wasn’t able to get one in a more straight forward way, I resorted to taking advantage of an editor friend—a horrible thing to do, but I was desperate—who then contacted Jennifer A. Nielsen’s editor . . . and alas, my manipulative, lying, cheating, stealing, and wicked ways finally paid off (I wasn’t really that diabolical, but this version of the story more accurately explains how eager I was to read it).

And it was AWESOME!! It whipped me around in ways I couldn’t have imagined . . . emotionally, physically, intellectually. And the series ended in an exceptionally satisfying way (except that I still want more! So in that way, I guess I’m not satisfied at all).

I read a heck of a lot, but the honest truth is, I can name on just one hand how many series I’ve felt have gotten better with each book. Most often, I love the first book, then the second usually feels like filler, and the third doesn’t live up to the expectations the first sets up. And it’s sometimes worse than even that if there’s more than three books in a series.

But truly the Ascendance Trilogy gets better with every single book, and THE SHADOW THRONE nails it!

So to share the love, and celebrate the launch day of THE SHADOW THRONE, Bookshop Talk is giving away a set of the entire Ascendance Trilogy! All hardcovers. For real!

What do you need to do to win? Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway below, and be sure to check back here on March 4th when we announce the winner! Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

February 19, 2014

WICKED KISS by Michelle Rowen, 2013

I used to be ordinary Samantha Day, but that's changed. Now, after one dark kiss from a dangerous boy, I can steal someone's soul…or their life. If I give in to the constant hunger inside me, I hurt anyone I kiss. If I don't…I hurt myself. Bishop is the one whose kiss I crave most, but if I kiss him, I'll kill him. Then there's another boy, one I can't hurt. One whose kiss seems to miraculously quell my hunger. They're both part of a team of angels and demons that's joined forces in my city to fight a mysterious rising darkness, an evil that threatens everyone I know and love. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Ems - who cannot read enough books

I came upon this series quite by accident on the YA Book Exchange. The first book looked interesting, so I traded for it. Not long after I got it, I found the sequel, WICKED KISS, on NetGalley. I decided I'd better start reading the first book so I could get to this one.

Yeah, best intentions and all that jazz...

It took me forever to get to the series, but once I did, I flew through the books. I quite enjoyed them and had fun in the unique world that Michelle Rowen created.

I haven't had a ton of luck with angel books, because they all read EXACTLY THE SAME. This series had enough of a unique twist to it that I didn't feel the same boredom. I wouldn't put it in the same league as Hallowed (Cynthia Hand), but for me, it was head and shoulders above some of the others I've read. 

Of all the characters in the book, I think I liked Kraven the best. He's a bad boy for sure, but he's so honest about it. I didn't ever feel like he was pretending, when I did get that feeling from some of the others. He had his moments of 'nice guy-ness' too, which I liked. He wasn't completely one-dimensional like some of the others.

I liked Bishop as well. Being an angel with a soul and having that soul wreak havoc on him was a new concept for me. I thought he was well-done, even if I did want to beat him with a stick sometimes. He was frustrating at times, but most of the time, I liked him. He tried really hard to be strong for the team, and I can totally respect that.

I didn't really love Samantha though. That's kind of a big deal, considering that she's the main character. She was kind of annoying and whiny to me, even if I can admit that she had her reasons. I mean, her soul was stolen, so that's kind of a big deal. But still. I think she had bigger things to worry about than whether or not Bishop was going to kiss her again. Maybe let's focus on the bigger picture. She wasn't ALWAYS like that though, which is why I didn't totally dislike her.

Plot-wise, I really enjoyed this series. The idea of the angels being trapped in this one city until their mission was fulfilled was kind of cool. I also liked the way the angels and demons had to work together for the greater good. I thought they did their jobs well, and the interaction created enough tension to keep the books fascinating.

Overall, quite enjoyable, and books that I'm glad to now have in my personal library.

Market:  YA Fiction
Language:  Moderate
Sensuality:  Moderate
Violence:  Moderately heavy of the paranormal sort
Mature Themes:  manipulation, fallen angels

February 13, 2014


On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly soon-to-be stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family's trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever? (Amazon)

Reviewed by Brooke-Wife, Mother, Reader

What a fun read.  I was nervous at first.  I get anxiety when characters are thrust into situations that they can't succeed in, like a dream where you show up at school to take a test that you haven't studied for.  Luckily, although Cat is thrust into a world she doesn't know a lot about, she at least has the ability to communicate and was put in the right clothes.  It helped with my anxiety that she wasn't completely a fish out of water.

I enjoyed the romance and the friendships that were developed.  These were fun characters that I wanted to get to know.  I also found the realizations that Cat comes to do be worthwhile for all.  We all need to open up and allow others in to be able to truly be happy.  That is part of living this life, developing relationships.

And, Rachel Harris gave us a cliff hanger.  Thus, I will eagerly await the sequel to MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY.

Both my 12 year old and 15 year old daughters read this and enjoyed it too.

Market: Teen/Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild, Kissing, Flirting
Violence: None
Mature Themes: Arranged Marriages, Accepting Step Parents

February 9, 2014

THE HEROINE'S BOOKSHELF by Erin Blakemore, 2011

A testament to inspirational women throughout literature, Erin Blakemore’s exploration of classic heroines and their equally admirable authors shows today’s women how to best tap into their inner strengths and live life with intelligence, grace, vitality and aplomb. This collection of unforgettable characters is an impassioned look at literature’s most compelling heroines, both on the page and off. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Literature is full of memorable heroines who have achieved the great and overcome the terrible.  Author Erin Blakemore guides readers through some of her favorite characters and the authors who created them.

Erin Blakemore has written an insightful, exquisite book for
book-lovers of all ages. Reading her essays, which explain how heroines of classic literature exemplify characteristics including Fight (Scarlett O'Hara) and Compassion (Scout Finch), is much like discussing a book with a favorite friend or relative. They are personal essays, yet show how each work reviewed is universally relatable. Just as interesting is the biographical approach to Blakemore's criticism: the book shows how each author's life influenced that of her heroine. The biographies are brief, but fascinating--snippets that you wouldn't necessarily learn in a high school English class.

One of my favorite parts of HEROINE'S BOOKSHELF is how it reminds its readers why we love to read. It's more than simple escapism: we latch on to these amazing characters and allow them to guide us toward meaning in our own lives.

Market: Adult nonfiction, literary criticism/analysis.  The book would be appropriate for readers of any age.
Violence: None
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Adult Themes: Coming of age/growing up, identity, life lessons

February 4, 2014

GODMOTHER by Carolyn Turgeon, 2009

Lil is an old woman who spends her days shelving rare books in a tiny Manhattan bookstore and lonely nights at home in her apartment. But Lil has an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings–the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming. But on that fateful night, something went terribly and beautifully wrong. Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans. But then one day she meets Veronica and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Lil is an elderly bookstore employee with a secret identity: she was once fairy godmother to Cinderella.  Although she was responsible for uniting Cinderella with her Prince Charming, Lil committed an unforgivable sin: Lil fell in love with the prince herself.  For years, Lil has lived among humans as punishment for this action.  When she meets Veronica, Lil wonders if she can help the young woman find
true love.  Will this act make up for Lil's prior indiscretion and let her return to the fairy world? I've always loved fairy tales, and I've loved their retellings and reimaginings for almost as long.  The stories are so rich and familiar, yet they hold the possibility to ask "What if?"  Carolyn Turgeon's novel, GODMOTHER, examines the question, "What if Cinderella's fairy godmother fell in love with Prince Charming?"

From this question unfolds a fascinating and creative narrative with an unlikely heroine.  Lil, Cinderella's fairy godmother, now an elderly woman, has an instantly strong and sympathetic voice.  For instance, she regretfully revisits her past mistakes:  "I never should have seen the prince up close, never even come within eyeshot of him, really.  My instructions had been specific, startlingly simple: Help
Cinderella get to the ball.  It didn't matter why, or that she was to go to the ball to fall in love with the prince as the fairy elders had decreed [. . .] This, here and now, was all wrong."

Turgeon's interpretation of "Cinderella," as the previous passage suggests, takes a darker tone that only intensifies as the book goes on.  Bittersweet memories saturate each page, and Lil's introspective details enrich the narrative while squarely situating Lil in a very real, harsh world.  In other words, Turgeon's novel is much closer to Grimm than Disney.  But the possibility for Lil's redemption keeps the reader going.  In the book, Lil's attempts to find a match for Veronica, a young friend she meets one day at a bookstore, feel more like high-stakes magic than a romantic meet-cute.  And as complications ensue, including the uncontrollable growth of Lil's wings, the tension thickens.  Turgeon also reveals Lil's past in flashbacks, a tantalizing device to make the readers yearn for the big picture of the fairy tale we thought we knew.

Aside from the gripping plot, Godmother boasts an extremely readable narrative style and detailed settings and characters.  I particularly loved the cozy bookstore setting and the Veronica character, a young woman who loves anything vintage or Old Hollywood.  She felt like she could be a friend of mine, and she added lighter moments to Lil's deep regret over the past and fear for the future.

Godmother's ending defied my expectations in a major twist.  I don't want to give any hints, but, based on my readings of other reviews, the twist is controversial.  I love a good shock, especially when it's not outside the realm of possibility, so I enjoyed the ending immensely.  It made me want to re-read the entire novel to search for clues I may have missed--or simply to enjoy Turgeon's gorgeous writing and likable characters once more.

Market: Adult fiction
Violence: No violent scenes, although a past crime is implied
Language: None that I recall; there may be 1-2 mild uses
Sensuality: Mild recollections of fairy tale love
Adult Themes: Loss/grief, regret, love