Sunday, March 31, 2019

Review - Empress of all Seasons by Emiko Jean

Title: Empress of all Seasons
Author: Emiko Jean
Pages: 389
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: 8th November 2018

Blurb from Goodreads:

In a deadly tournament to become empress, any may enter but only one will survive, 
and one competitor doesn't just plan to win, she's going to steal the Emperor's fortune. . . 

In each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules 
are simple. Survive the palace's enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, 
Summer and Fall, and you can marry the prince. All are eligible to compete - all except 
yokai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to 
enslave and destroy. 
Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it 
would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yokai with the ability to 
transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles 
to keep her true identity hidden, Mari's fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has 
no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yokai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices 
of Mari, Taro and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku.

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 
Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley*

Every generation the empress of Honoku is chosen through a competition - to win 
the prince, the girls must survive the four enchanted seasonal rooms in the palace.
The competition is open to all except the supernatural creatures called the yokai, 
who are enslaved by the emperor.
Mira has trained for years to become the next empress, but she has a secret that 
could ruin her chance of marrying the prince - Mira is a yokai with the ability to 
turn into a terrible monster.

The blurb of Empress of all Seasons really intrigued me.  
Mira and Taro were interesting characters, but I wasn't that fond of Akira or the 
Weapons Master (who I found particularly annoying).
The setting was interesting and I liked the idea of seasonal rooms and the yokai, 
especially the Animal Wives.
I wasn't a big fan of the romance - it seemed a bit rushed to me but I can see why the 
two of them would be so drawn to each other.
Up until two thirds of the way through this was a 3.5 star read, but then everything 
fell apart - there was some odd wording and some conversations that were a bit jarring.
The plot was good overall, but the competition didn't last as long as I thought it would. 
There were a couple of times where I thought that things that happened were convenient. 
For example, I was really surprised that the emperor didn't have all the girls tested to check 
that they weren't yokai seeing as he was so anti-yokai. 
I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more. I feel like it didn't quite live up to its potential.

Overall this was an enjoyable read.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Book Blitz + Giveaway - Aries 181 by Tiana Warner

Aries 181 by Tiana Warner
Publication date: March 25th 2019
Genres: Adult, LGBTQ+, Science Fiction

A crime spree to steal aerospace technology. An intern with the brains to stop it.

When Jess uncovers evidence that her boss is stealing technology to build his company, her coveted internship at Aries turns from dream job to catastrophe. Worse, her boss cons another young woman into becoming his accomplice, and the duo’s chemically enhanced skills and weapons help them become the most infamous supercriminals to sweep the tech world. Before they pilfer every aerospace lab in North America, Jess must use her ingenuity to stop them—risking her career, her relationships, and maybe even her life.


The Aries Research Lab

A dead engineer was an inconvenient way to start the week.
From the passenger’s seat of his Bentley, Tony used his phone to post a new job opening.
“Get her car out of the parking lot. Torch it so it looks like tragedy struck on her way in.”
“Yes, sir,” said Reah, weaving through traffic as she took him to the Aries office.
Accidents were uncommon in the research lab. The work involved too much time behind a computer for that. But when the occasional ‘whoops’ did happen, it was an annoyance. Covering them up was a pain. Finding a willing and qualified replacement was worse.
“Warehouse,” said Scott when Tony entered the lab to check the damage. “She was modifying the propellant.”
Tony stifled a curse. Of course it was the propellant—the substance too stubborn to realize its own potential.
“Show me.”
He and Scott crossed the lab with its white lights reflecting off white tiles, white walls, white tables, and white lab coats. The five other engineers kept working, unease leaking from their pores like sweat. With only seven of Tony’s two hundred employees cleared for the lab, the hole left by their dead colleague was more of a chasm.
Tony was unruffled. Their non-disclosure agreements were thorough enough for a situation like this.
“What’s the damage?”
“She, uh—she was completely burnt, Doctor Ries.”
That much was obvious. Scott’s fluorescent-pale skin and lab coat were smudged, leaving a goggle-shaped clear spot around his eyes. Holes split the toes of his shoes, revealing socks with hamburgers printed on them.
“Was anything else destroyed?”
An empire of technology filled the warehouse. These were his top achievements, past and future. No accident, no matter how messy, could quash the pride he felt every time he entered it.
He flung open the double doors. The stench of burnt metal and hair tickled his gag reflex.
“Minor damage to the surrounding area,” said Scott, dabbing his sweaty brow with a singed sleeve. “No property was ruined.”
It took a moment to blink the warehouse into focus. Dim, cold, and vast, the place could have passed for a storage facility. Walkways snaked between mounds of technology.
An early prototype of the Aries satellites—what the world came to know as the Aries 180 fleet—stole Tony’s attention as he entered. The size of a bald eagle and mounted on a podium, it was the one now-useless technology he refused to incinerate. He caressed it as they passed.
Yet, despite all that filled the floor, the place was a cold vacuum, a void. Like the invisible substance called dark matter, every space in the warehouse represented an irksome gap in knowledge. Empty corners, walkways, every molecule of dead air held promise. As creator of the Aries universe, Tony intended to use any means necessary to fill those gaps.
Tony’s watch vibrated. He looked at it to find a text.
Reah: Need your clearance to get her purse. Locker 4.
He replied, 5 mins, and quickened his step.
The temperature rose as he and Scott drew deeper into the warehouse. A drone whirred overhead, taking photos at intervals. More drones hovered beneath the three-story ceiling, LED lights marking their presence. He would have to review the surveillance images later to see what happened. He might enjoy popcorn with it.
They stopped at the explosion site. The concrete floor rippled, like it had melted and hardened again. Every adjacent surface was dented and singed. Five dry chemical fire extinguishers lay nearby. Most intriguingly, a black, body-shaped imprint traced the floor like a shadow, a dusting of ash in its center.
Tony scattered the ash with his toe. “Looks like this place was pretty lit.”
Scott cast him a sideways glance.
The culprit was the twelve-foot vat towering beside the scene of the accident. Smoke wisped from the top, Tony’s hopes and plans disappearing with it into the black ceiling. The heat wrapped around him like a wool blanket.
“So the propellant isn’t going well,” said Tony, like a challenge.
“It just reacted badly,” said Scott. “I’m confident we’ll get it in time.”
“Hm.” Don’t placate me, Scotty. What churned inside that vat represented tens of millions of dollars.
Sure, every aerospace company had rocket propellant, but no one had this. This was his next opportunity for international success—his next Aries 180 fleet, so to speak. If only the damn stuff would stop failing him. The setback choked his sense of control like a vice around his throat.
His father had told him there was no point in going into business unless you were going to be the best. Rather, the advice had been something like, “You wanna run a business, you gotta do whatever it takes to get on top. Might as well quit and be a shit-scraper if you’re gonna be a pussy about it.”
Tony held that wisdom close. Using methods no one else was brave enough to try, he was on his way to upgrading Aries from a humble Canadian startup to the world’s most cutting-edge aerospace company.
His watch vibrated.
Steve: Korean Space Agency wants you to join the call.
Korea would have to wait. He was already late for an appointment with the bank.
“What are you going to do to fix it?” he said to Scott.
“We’re, uh, looking into it.”
“I hired all of you because you’re the smartest engineers in the world. You’re telling me you don’t know?”
Scott hesitated. Tony hated hesitation.
“There are other engineers who might know more about high-energy liquid tetrapropellant, Doctor Ries.”
“I’ve scoured universities. I’ve head-hunted in the Silicon Valley. They’re too—” Tony waved a hand. “They’re not ready for the scope of the job.”
Scott didn’t need to know how many applicants failed the psychological evaluation. A PhD and a 150 IQ meant squat when the candidate couldn’t pass a basic obedience experiment.
Tony’s watch buzzed again. He ignored it.
If he wanted this propellant, he would have to get his engineers something to work from. Sometimes, they needed a push. Call it inspiration, or pieces of the aerospace puzzle.
This was a gap in the matter that made up his universe. It needed to be filled.
“Give me a week. I’ll get you the data.”
Global Nanosats was making headway in liquid propulsion. They could be of use.
He pulled out his phone to check his calendar. An email notification appeared, reminding him of a development meeting in twenty minutes. He swiped it away.
Stress tickled the base of his brain. He would have to make time to get that data between his other appointments, or cancel a few. This was more important.
He’d known for a while that he was overexerting himself. His universe was expanding faster than he could manage. If he wasn’t careful there would be a stellar collision. He couldn’t keep filling these voids alone.
He needed someone to help him get this information—someone smart, fearless, and malleable. He needed a personal assistant.

Author Bio

Tiana Warner is the best selling author of the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy. Her books have been acclaimed by Writer's Digest, Foreword Reviews, and the Dante Rossetti Awards. She holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia. Tiana enjoys riding her horse, Bailey, and is an active supporter of animal welfare.

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Wildest Dreams Unboxing - Can You Keep a Secret? (March Box)

Wildest Dreams is a YA subscription book box run by the lovely Zoe who blogs at No Safer Place.

Each box included a YA book, a tea, a bath product, and usually a bookmark and something extra.

This month the theme was 
Can You Keep a Secret?
Here's what was inside . . .

A bag of lip sweets.
A print of Prince Rhen from A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. 
This is designed by Lia from @lostinink_.
 Tea from Rosie Tea Lea which is inspired by Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. 
This tastes like vanilla and lavender.

 Room spray inspired by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and smells like woodlands, dewdrops and enchanted magic. It was created by Lacuna Candle Co.

The book is The Burning by Laura Bates.

A new addition to the box are two pencils - a blue one with 'Wildest Dreams March 2019' and pencil with the theme on.
I thought these were a nice touch.

Overall this isn't my favourite box that I've received, but I like the room spray and the pencils.

What do you think of this month's box?