Waiting on Wednesday: Lady Renegades (Rebel Belle #3) by Rachel Hawkins

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating. This week I’m choosing Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins which is the third book in the Rebel Belle series. As with the first cover in the series, as soon as I saw the newest cover I fell in love with it (the second one wasn’t my favorite). The pastel purple is so soft and feminine and I love how it matches the bows on the elegant elbow length opera glove. It wouldn’t be part of the series if it didn’t have an edge so there’s also a fancy sword displayed. In case you haven’t read the series, I reviewed the first book here and mostly what you need to know is that the main character, Harper Price has a sense of humor that is very similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. I don’t think anything else needs to be said!

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Just as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark’s battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.  

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenaged girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town, which means her life is on the line yet again. 

Now, it’s a desperate race for Harper to find and rescue David before she backslides from superhero to your garden-variety type-A belle. 

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins brings the fun once again in the finale of this pitch-perfect romantic paranormal comedy series. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood #1)

The first book I completed from my horror-filled TBR pile for October is Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and it was the perfect ghost story to really get me into the spirit of Halloween.  It’s the first book in a duology (the second being Girl of Nightmares).  I loved it so much that I’m really looking forward to diving into more of the horror I have planned for this month!  The story follows Cas, a ghost hunter following in his dead father’s footsteps, who moves to a little Canadian town to hunt his latest tip about a very hostile ghost named Anna.  Cas lives with his mom who’s a witch, their black cat Tybalt and his most prized possession is his athame which he uses to slay ghosts.

As someone who is scared by just about everything, I was expecting nightmares and to feel unbearably spooked while reading but I was so interested in Cas and Anna’s stories that I was too enthralled to feel scared (except for one time when I had to mentally prepare myself to go upstairs alone).  The book has a very Supernatural feel to it and I couldn’t help picturing Sam and Dean’s car in the first chapter.  Cas is not your average teenage boy (being a ghost hunter and all) and though he’s never been open to getting attached to people he falls into developing some friendships in this new town.  Anna, the ghost he’s hunting, has an exceptional story.  She’s often thought of by Cas as a goddess of death.  She haunts the halls of a small Victorian house and she wears a long white dress that’s soaked in blood and because the fabric is oversaturated, the sound of blood dripping onto the floor is audible when anyone is in her presence.  She’s different than any other ghost he’s dealt with thus far.

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Kendare Blake’s writing gives way to imagery that is creepy and descriptive and it really romanticizes all of the elements of the story.  It made everything feel spooky but with an underlying beauty.  As I was reading, I kept going back to past paragraphs just so I could spend more time imagining the scenes and really seeing the setting.  I became so invested in finding out about Anna’s past.  The characters – main and supporting – are delightful and the plot just hooked me from the beginning.  I also really enjoyed the pacing of the novel because it felt like something was always happening.  There were never any lulls in action or story and it interwove the two elements beautifully.

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for a scary book to get your mind into the Halloween season but you don’t want to sacrifice plot (seriously, some horror YA novels are just terrible), you should definitely consider reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.  It’s a gorgeously written ghost story and the imagery will transport you to Cas and Anna’s worlds.  You won’t be able to put it down because Anna’s story is so engaging and it’ll keep you up way past your bedtime!
Rating 5
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

BookTube: Favorite Harry Potter Illustrated Edition Artwork

Today I wanted to share a video about my favorite illustrations in the newly released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone illustrated edition.  In case you haven’t heard me raving about it in past videos, Scholastic is releasing a new and fully illustrated Harry Potter book each year, allowing us all to relive our childhoods.  Since many people already own the series, I thought it would be fun to share some of the best artwork in the book to help people decide whether they need to buy the series again (spoiler alert, you do).

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Kristin

5 Fandom Friday: Things I Love About Halloween

The last two weeks have been crazy busy for me so I almost felt too tired to prepare my 5 Fandom Friday post for this week… until I remembered that it involved Halloween.  Since I don’t really have any specific traditions I figured I would shake up the topic and talk about the 5 things I love most about the holiday.  What are you most looking forward to this year? Any costume ideas yet? Once Andrew and I have our own place I am committing to a yearly over the top Halloween BASH.

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1) CANDY! – This is clearly the best part of Halloween, no contest! Last year, we did a 5 Fandom Friday post about our favorite Halloween candy and my previous ranking still stands.  I hope my day is full of Take5’s, Reese’s Pumpkins and Cadbury Screme Eggs.

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2) SCARY MOVIES! – All of the Halloween plans Andrew and I were invited to this year ended up being in other states and since we’re saving for a wedding / commuting 5 days a week, the idea of traveling just wasn’t appealing to us so we’re going to spend the day relaxing together and marathoning Halloween movies and eating candy.  I’m also planning on baking a pie.

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3) COSTUMES! – I love seeing what people come up with for Halloween costumes.  There are always some really creative ideas circulating the internet and I love perusing through photos when I have the time.  I also love seeing what kids are dressed up as when they come around the neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Last year, we had a TON of Elsa’s so I’m curious what “the” costume is this year. Kids dressed as comic book characters get extra candy.

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4) PUMPKINS! – In addition to pumpkin flavored treats, I also love seeing everyone’s homes adorned with my favorite seasonal food.  We went pumpkin picking and painted our own pumpkins last weekend (mine is Harry Potter and Andrew’s brother Joe painted a flawless Bob from Bob’s Burgers) and Andrew even carved a classic Jack-o-Lantern for the porch.  

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5) IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS! – As much as I love Halloween, which holds second place for best holiday of every year, the day has nothing on Christmas!  Once November hits, even the grumpiest people seem more open to putting up with my overly enthusiastic Christmas cheer so I look forward to that every year.

Outfit of the Day: Forever Red

This past Tuesday, Margaret Stohl’s newest YA book, Forever Red, debuted in stores and it’s a pretty special one because it’s all about the origin of Black Widow.  If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you can purchase one here :-) The publisher sent me a finished copy of the book along with some special props including a Black Widow wig, a S.H.I.E.L.D. comic, and a dagger.  I knew I had to throw together a little casual cosplay with what I was sent and I had a blast channeling Natasha.  I love the cover and I can’t wait to read my copy! Margaret Stohl is going on a book tour for Forever Red and you can find out if she’ll be in a town near you by viewing her schedule.  Here’s a synopsis of the book followed by my outfit / casual cosplay photos!

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. . . .

Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.

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Faux leather jacket: Forever 21 (similar) | Leggings: Black Milk | Boots: Sam Edelman

Book, Wig, Comic: c/o Disney Hyperion

Photos by Andrew Gallagher

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Kristin

BookTube: My Horrific October TBR + Life Updates!

Hi everyone! I’m finally back to filming more BookTube videos after a little August / September hiatus when I was mostly posting a much lower number of pre-filmed videos.  I go into a little bit of detail about why I wasn’t able to film and just general life updates.  Then, what I’m sure you’re all there for, my horror filled October TBR! I’m so excited to read everything on my list and I even have some backup books in case I read through it all! I absolutely love Halloween and getting into the spirit of things with spooky books!  I’d love to know what you’re reading, especially if you have any horror books in your TBR pile!

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Kristin

Waiting on Wednesday: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating.  This week I’m choosing The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh.  I really really loved the first book in this duology which is The Wrath and the Dawn (you can read my full review here) and since the cover has just been released for the second installment I thought it would be the perfect choice for this Waiting on Wednesday post.  My bookclub buddies Melissa, Cassie and I had some conflicting opinions on the cover (Melissa and I LOVE it while Cassie dislikes the periwinkle) and from the reactions I’ve been reading online people either seem to love it or hate it and there’s really no in between.  What are your thoughts on the cover?  Are you looking forward to reading the conclusion of Shazi’s story as much as I am?

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The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as “a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance.”

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Art Gallery: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Halloween is in the air so it felt right to devote this next art gallery installment to The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Part of my undying love for this Tim Burton animated film is that it allows us to get the best of both worlds, Halloween and Christmas.  Christmas is my favorite holiday ever and Halloween is a close second so this story appeals to me on many levels.  I love how Jack has an existential crisis and feels the need to search for more in his life.  I re-watched this movie just last weekend after a day full of pumpkin picking and it was the perfect autumn pick me up.  I could listen to the soundtrack on repeat for a really long time without ever getting sick of it.

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Kristin

Tea & Games Chat: Luigi’s Mansion

One of my goals for the Fall season was to beat Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for Nintendo 3DS and I’m so happy to say that I was able to check it off my to do list!  I started playing it last year but I suppose I got distracted by other books and tv shows so I let it fall to the wayside.  I really want to beat all of the games I have (there’s no reason I should be buying them without actually playing them) so I feel like this was a great start!

Overall, I enjoyed playing the game although if you ask Andrew LINK who saw / heard me playing, he might say otherwise.  I get really competitive when I play games and to be honest, my personal enjoyment comes more from winning than it does from learning about the story of the game.  I’m not sure if anyone else is the same way?  There were many times during Luigi’s Mansion that I was tempted to throw my pearlized pink 3DS across the room and cross my arms and sulk.  I’m kind of a child about games.  I thought it would be fun to recap the 5 most frustrating moments I faced while playing.

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In Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Mario is nowhere to be found so it’s up to Luigi to recover pieces of the shattered Dark Moon to give to Professor E. Gadd so he can help get the ghosts in Evershade Valley under control.  As Luigi explores the mansions, he uses his Poltergust 5000 (which looks like a jetpack but operates like a vacuum) to capture hostile ghosts who are inerfering with his mission and trying to escape to wreak havoc on the rest of the world.  Luigi is also equipped with a Darklight Device which allows him to uncover invisible objects and extract objects from paintings.  There are 5 haunted mansions Luigi has to explore and he recovers a piece of the Dark Moon after defeating each mansion’s boss.  Luckily, there are golden bones hidden throughout each level which really come in handy if Luigi loses all of his health.  It allows him to continue playing from the point he’s at instead of starting the mission over at the beginning.  There’s also a map on the bottom screen which shows the player which rooms they need to go into and which doors are unlocked.

Ghosts do tend to pop out of anywhere and everywhere so it’s fitting that Luigi is the playable character because he looks as terrified as I felt for the entire game. My favorite ghost is the Polterpup who often interferes by burying things Luigi needs or running away with them but you can tell that it’s not malicious and he just wants to play!  In order to beat ghosts, Luigi has to first power up his flashbulb to stun the ghost in question and then use his Poltergust to suck them up until they’re out of health.  There’s even a power bar that allows you to charge up and once the bar is full, you can hit A and the ghost will go out with a big zap.  Throughout the latter half of the game, you’ll rescue Toad assistants for the Professor and they’re one of the biggest nuciances of the game because while they’re not always visibly terrified, they’ll just stop moving if they’re scared and you’ll have to go back and carry them against their will in order to clear the level.

5 Most Frustrating Moments

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1) Three Sisters Ghosts – I hate these ghosts. They circle around you in a garden cemetary holding mirrors which cause your flashulb to be ineffective.  You have to wait until they get bored of looking at themselves and turn their mirror away before you can start your attack.  It’s so hard to make a dent in any of their health because as soon as your Poltergust 5000 latches on to one, another sister will come after you. I had to play this challenge multiple times before advancing.

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2) The Never Ending Staircase – Prior to challenging the boss in the Tree Topping mansion, Luigi is trapped in a seemingly never ending room of staircases and it took me a total of 50 minutes just to get to the top.  It’s not hard by any means, it’s just incredibly time consuming.  Luigi is given a never ending series of three staircases and if he chooses the wrong one, the staircase folds so the stairs are flat and he is sent back to the beginning of the room.  If he picks the correct one, he can advance on to the second set of staircases and so on.  The torches of the staircases you’ve cleared will remain lit so if you make a mistake further on, you’ll know which staircase to run through, which again, is not difficult, it just takes a really long time to re-run up every single staircase multiple times.

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3) The Clock Tower Boss – This is a really cool concept for a boss but also really frustrating! Luigi is basically standing on a clock and when the clock strikes one, one enemy comes out.  Once the first enemy is beaten, the clock hands move to two and two enemies appear.  Each little battle gets incrementally more challenging and later on, the clock hands are enflamed so if you run into them you’ll lose health.  You only have a certain timeframe to beat each plague of enemies and if you go over the alotted time, the attacks will begin again from 1:00.  You are able to use your Poltergust to manipulate time which comes in handy but you also have to be careful not to blow it in the wrong direction.

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4) The Ice Boss – Apparently I’m really bad at aiming my with my 3DS screen, (the same way that I struggle with Wii-motes, le sigh) so I had to play this level numerous times as well.  Luigi is given control over a bomb thrower which he must aim at an ice monster type thing directly below him as he’s billowing toward it.  The ice over the monsters face is covered in segments of ice and it rotates continuously.  As you shatter more pieces of ice, the target moves further away making it increasinly more difficult to predict a direct hit.  If you take too much time, the ice reforms.  If the ice reforms twice, the bomb thrower will overheat and you’ll have to start the mission over.

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5) Paranormal Chaos at the Trecherous Mansion – This battle is aptly named because it is literal all caps CHAOS.  There are multiple ghosts haunting every single room in the mansion you have to be sure to keep an eye on your map because once a room starts flashing yellow, the danger is increasing.  If the room turns to red, the mission ends and you’ll need to start over.  The level is also different every single time you play it so you’re not necessarily following any kind of pattern.  You just have to clear the highest risk areas first.  All of the ghosts in each room are super-powered so their health meters are almost off the charts.  It’s helpful if you can grab more than one ghost at a time otherwise you’ll be interrupted by one attacking you while you’re trying to handle a different one.  Once all the rooms are cleared and you’re like HOORAY I DID THIS! You go back up to the rooftop, only to find a giant portal spewing more ghosts than you’ve battled in the whole game combined.  It’s no bueno.  Good luck and God speed.

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So despite how traumatizing it has been to relive some of those experiences, I feel accomplished for beating the game.  I’ve always liked Luigi more than Mario so that’s part of the reason that it initially appealed to me.  I also suggest checking it out in October because GHOSTS!

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Kristin

5 Fandom Friday: Favorite Fictional Teachers

Back to school season is in full swing and this weeks topic is created by Beyond the Aisle!  As soon as Heather suggested it, I knew we had to include it on the list.  My mind immediately jumped to three teachers but I had more trouble than I was expecting to while picking the last two and then of course once I thought of them, a whole lot more teachers came into my head.

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Professor Lupin – I’ve professed my love of Lupin time and time again on this blog (most recently in ~The Ultimate Harry Potter Tag~) so he was a no-brainer for my list.  He’s a kind hearted human with a condition he never asked for and it kills me that he only got to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts for one year.

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Mrs. Frizzle – Mr.s Frizzle’s epic field trips are by far the most educational (though sometimes dangerous) real life experience she could bestow upon any children she’s employed to prepare for the future.  I have always adored her style (she’s basically my icon) and her accessories are on point.  Just look at those planet earrings!  She drives a magic school bus people, I rest my case.

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Giles – Giles Giles Giles<3 Buffy’s Watcher and Sunnydale’s resident librarian.  Giles is my favorite character on Buffy because I love his brutal honesty which he conveys in an irresistible accent, his collection of tweed jackets and his determination to guide Buffy and the rest of her Scooby gang through the wild world of demon hunting in the Hellmouth. Also he’s really old fashioned and would never convert to a Kindle.

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Mr. Feeny – Mr. Feeny is the coolest teacher around.  He’s always there for Corey, Topanga and Sean (even on his off hours when he’s in his night gown) and I loved that he followed them around during all of their schooling.  He was like this consistent voice of reason that really added an anchor to Boy Meets World.

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Yoda – The ultimate teacher because ~The Force~

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Kristin

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