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    Review: The Testing

    The Testing

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    THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau was released in the U.S. on June 4, 2013 in hardcover, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in all formats at AMAZON and in hardcover and eBook formats at BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, the print edition is 352 pages.

    THE TESTING is the first book in a new series by author Joelle Charbonneau of the same name. The second book in the series, INDEPENDENT STUDY, is slated for release on January 7, 2014 and a short prequel story, THE TESTING GUIDE, was released on May 1, 2013.

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    Description…

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

    The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

    Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

    But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

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    Joelle Charbonneau’s THE TESTING is an imaginative, clever and edge-of-your-seat exciting first book in a new series set in a dystopian future where the best and the brightest of its youth are tested for their potential to lead. It is a story that takes a well-worn idea and makes it feel new and one that brings nail-biting suspense to the page.

    Filled with deadly challenges that not everyone is meant to survive, characters whose motivations can’t be trusted and surprise after surprise that will keep the pages turning, this book is a fantastic addition to the genre.

    When graduation day comes and goes and Cia Vale is not chosen as a candidate for the Testing, when no one from Five Lakes is, she’s not sure what to do with the rest of her life. All her efforts, all her studying, was pointless if she wouldn’t at least get a chance to attend the University and continue her education.

    So when the Tosu City official arrives the next day and tells her that she and three of her classmates have been chosen, she is ecstatic. Even if her happiness is bittersweet because it means she might never get to see her family again.

    But when her father reveals that there might be something more to the Testing, something sinister, and that no one should be trusted, her happiness quickly turns to unease. And if there are at most twenty candidates that will pass the tests and move on to University, then she will need to stay sharp, think smart, heed her father’s advice to trust no one and hope that it will be enough.

    Because if the Testing is more than what it seems, then she doesn’t want to find out what will happen to those that fail.

    Author Joelle Charbonneau created a fascinating and chilling world where every move is watched, every action monitored and every decision must be questioned. She introduced a broad array of characters who keep the story interesting and who will keep readers guessing as to their trustworthiness. She takes readers on a thrilling adventure with her characters through a hostile landscape both inside the Testing facility and in the world outside its doors.

    And she leaves them with a shocking conclusion that will make them anxious for the next installment in the series.

    THE TESTING is an absolutely riveting read. With a series of tests that make this story nerve-wracking for both readers and characters alike, a strong, intelligent, kind and caring heroine who readers will want to see succeed, and the promise of secrets that will be uncovered in a future book in the series, this first installment is a must.

    Reviewer gives this book…

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    On a personal note…

    Oh. My. Gosh. I love, love, loved THE TESTING. I so did not expect to love it. Even though everyone I knew who read it loved it, I totally thought I wouldn’t be one of those readers.

    I thought that I would like this book. The description was intriguing. But I’ve read so many stories that involved characters being put through some kind of test, characters whose lives would depend on them beating the other characters. And I was so sure that this story would come up short.

    But it did not. At all. This story grabbed me. Immediately. I connected instantly with Cia. I loved the world the author created. I couldn’t wait to see what the tests were. And I couldn’t wait to see who passed those tests.

    It never ceases to amaze me how stories based upon similar concepts or built with familiar frameworks can be so very different from one another. Where some stories give a feeling of deja vu, others feel unique. Where some feel tired, others are fresh and exciting. And where some don’t even approach the bar set by those that came before it, others meet it or surpass it. THE TESTING is part of the latter group.

    Not for one second was I bored. Not for a moment did I feel like I was reading something that had already been done a thousand times before. The author transported me into her world with her story and characters and it felt completely new.

    From the moment I picked this book up I did not want to put it down. I could not wait to find out what happened, if Cia made the cut, if Tomas did. I couldn’t wait to learn who could be trusted and who couldn’t.

    I would never have imagined that a story with such a generic title and with a cover that would not have caught my eye on the shelf could be so entertaining. I could not have imagined how much it killed me to reach the story’s end and not have the next book in the series to read.

    Of course that ending ensured that I would be left in a state of sheer torment. And that peek into the sequel did not help. At all.

    This story was a super fast and easy read. It kept me engaged from word one. And while I did have a question that pestered me for a large portion of the book about the purpose of the testing, an answer was given not one page after I was so sure it would never be answered.

    I’m still so curious about how those in power chose the winners, whether they were just a tiny bit sadistic or if there was real legitimacy to their decisions. But as there was a foundation laid for this in this first book in the series, I have a feeling there will be more about it in the next book, INDEPENDENT STUDY.

    I love that the main character, Cia, was clever. I love that she took the time to think about her actions. I love that she didn’t just blindly rely upon Tomas. And I love that she managed to prove herself worthy even though she had a huge advantage over the other competitors due to the information she received from her father.

    I have placed a huge question mark over one of the characters in this story – no I will not say who. But I am hoping that I’ll have an answer about them one way or another in the next book. And I was wary about every single one of them except for Cia and Michal. Though I have a few questions about him, too.

    To say I’m dying to read the next book in this series would be a huge understatement. THE TESTING was all sorts of awesome and I just know the next book will be too. I was more than surprised by this book. I was delighted, enchanted, riveted. And I am madly in love with it.

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    Favorite passage…

    I really wanted to include one of the more romantic passages or one that involved one of the tests. But as both would be quite spoiler-y, I thought I’d include this one which reveals a little bit about Michal and a bit more about the testing process.

    “Here.” Michal hands me the bag marked with my symbol. “Make sure you don’t let it out of your sight.” He says this in a low, quiet voice. His gaze locks with mine. There is no smile or amusement in his eyes. He is serious. I am to keep my few possessions with me no matter what.

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    Book Trailer…

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    Dark Triumph Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

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    I am so excited to be today’s stop on the DARK TRIUMPH Blog Tour and to have an awesome guest post on Bluebeard by author Robin LaFevers to share. As a huge fan of GRAVE MERCY, its characters and the world, I am so unbelievably thrilled that the author has stopped by to talk just a little bit about Bluebeard’s history and just how it ties in with DARK TRIUMPH.

    The story of Bluebeard was one that I discovered at a very early age and found to be absolutely terrifying. Hopefully the elements of that tale that are in DARK TRIUMPH aren’t quite as chilling… though I do tend to like my stories on the dark side these days.

    So, even though I might be too leery of diving into one of those suggested books on Bluebeard, I absolutely love the fact that Robin LaFevers offered recommendations for these books at the end of her post.

    Anyway…

    In addition to this amazing guest post by the author, there are two giveaways included as part of the tour – one exclusive to my stop and another that’s a shared giveaway across all the stops. So be sure to visit all the stops on the tour for more chances to win.

    But before all that, here’s some information about the very recently released DARK TRIUMPH, the author, Robin LaFevers, and the first book in the series, GRAVE MERCY.

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    Dark Triumph

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    Description…

    Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

    But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

    This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.

    GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY

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    About Robin LaFevers…

    Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.

    Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.

    While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.

    In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. You can learn more about those books at www.rllafevers.com.

    WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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    Grave Mercy

    About Grave Mercy…

    Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

    Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

    Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

    GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY

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    Guest Post
    Bluebeard

    As I was researching the history and folklore of Brittany, I discovered that the two historical seeds of one of the most fascinating fairy tales of my childhood—Bluebeard—had their roots in ancient Breton history and I suppose it was inevitable that echoes of that tale would seep into Dark Triumph.

    The tale of Bluebeard and his poor victimized wives was my earliest exposure to the horror genre. I was young when I first read it, and drawn to its darkness, the depths and shadows involved at whose meaning I could only guess at. But that depth and subtext haunted me. It smacked of the foulest of set ups, and my budding morality was offended that the heroine should bring such punishment down upon herself for the rather simple sin of curiosity, while the husband’s much greater sins of multiple murders was passed off as just desserts. And the utter horror of that bloody room!

    I often found myself wondering about the first wife. What had her grievous transgression been that cost her her life? I also wondered why this poor heroine must pay for her crimes in such a horrible way.

    It galled me that female curiosity should have been considered a sin. Bluebeard was inherently disturbing to me with his aggressive, bristling blue-black beard and the fleshy lips that were so often portrayed in the accompanying illustrations. I felt there was a warning there, although I was too young to grasp it. It was not until I grew older that I began to recognize the darker sexual themes that permeate the tale.

    The earliest seed for the Bluebeard tales can be found in Conomor the Cursed, who had been told that he would be slain by his own son. Consequently, whenever one of his wives became pregnant, he killed her. What I especially loved about this version was that not only did the ghost of the former wives warn the heroine of this tale, but they aided her with gifts she could use to try and escape.

    The second possible historical basis for Bluebeard occurred only fifty or so years prior to the events in Dark Triumph. Gilles de Reitz had been the Marshal of France and a nobleman who fought alongside Joan d’Arc in the Hundred Years War. But once the war was over and he returned to his holding, he is rumored to have been at the root of over a hundred gruesome child murders, and was tried and hung for those crimes.

    So while I did not set out to write a Bluebeard retelling, I suppose it was inevitable that echoes of that earlier, dark, disturbing tale found their way into Dark Triumph. A forbidden tower. A ring of keys. The ghosts of former wives, all found their way into my story and I found I liked the faint resonance it gave the book.

    While the Bluebeard tale that most of us are familiar with is Perrault’s Bluebeard, there are other versions as well such as Fitcher’s Bird by Brothers Grimm and Silver Nose by Italo Cavino. For those interested in learning more about Bluebeard tales, I highly recommend Secrets Beyond the Door by Maria Tatar. A great online resource is Terri Windling’s Bluebeard and the Bloody Chamber. (http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/forblue.html)

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    Giveaways…

    There are two awesome giveaways being offered on this tour!

    Giveaway 1…

    The first giveaway, for my stop only, is for a copy of GRAVE MERCY (paperback) and a copy of DARK TRIUMPH (hardcover) – US/Canada – to ONE winner. Prize will be sent directly from the publisher.

    Enter in the Rafflecopter below…

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Giveaway 2…

    The second giveaway is one that is shared across all the stops on tour for a Prize Pack consisting of two necklaces and a bottle of Poison Nail Polish. That giveaway is US only and will be sent directly from the author.

    Enter in the Rafflecopter below…

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

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    Tour Schedule…

    Be sure to visit all the stops on the tour to read the awesome interviews, guest posts and reviews and for more chances to win!

    April 3 – Tales of a Ravenous Reader – Interview

    April 4 – Books Over Boys – Interview

    April 5 – Fiktshun – Guest Post

    April 6 – Rebecca’s Book Blog – Excerpt

    April 7 – A Backwards Story – Excerpt

    April 8 – Making the Grade Reviews – Guest Post

    April 9 – Burgandy Ice – Interview

    April 10 – Two Chicks on Books – Guest Post

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    Book Watch: Dark Triumph

    Dark TriumphDARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers will be released in the U.S. on April 2, 2013 in hardcover and eBook formats.

    It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

    Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, the print edition is 400 pages.

    DARK TRIUMPH is the second book in author Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series. The third book in the series, MORTAL HEART, is slated for release in 2014.

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    There are so many seriously amazing books releasing the week of April 2nd that I’m just dying to read. But the book I’m looking forward to more than any other is DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers.

    Because I cannot wait to continue this series from Sybella’s perspective. Because I cannot wait to get a peek at what’s been going on with Ismae and Gavriel. Because I cannot wait to be taken back to this author’s version of the past. And because I cannot wait to read a story that promises to be every bit as epic as its predecessor.

    The description calls DARK TRIUMPH a “heart-pounding sequel.” And if it’s even half as exciting as GRAVE MERCY, then the description will be telling the truth. It also mentions “betrayal, treachery, and danger,” which are all qualities that will definitely make this story as edge-of-your-seat exciting as book one.

    As someone who was wary of Sybella throughout much of GRAVE MERCY, I am anxious to read her story and learn more about why she became one of Death’s assassins. And if the imprisoned “ally” is who I think it just might be, I will be even more thrilled to follow her on her journey.

    DARK TRIUMPH is quite a bit shorter than GRAVE MERCY, so I’m curious to see if I’ll become as deeply submerged in fifteenth century Brittany as I was with the first book in the series. But if the writing is as amazing, the characters as intriguing and enchanting and the story as captivating, then I can’t imagine not being transported back in time and not falling in love with this sequel.

    And with a main character with a dark past, an even darker profession and the hope of something more than vengeance for herelf, I cannot imagine not putting DARK TRIUMPH in the spotlight this week, even with some other awesome books releasing the week of April 2nd.

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    placesWATCHThe author on TWITTER

    The author on FACEBOOK

    The author’s WEBSITE

    The author’s BLOG

    The author on GOODREADS

    The series on FACEBOOK

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    Goodreads description:

    Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

    But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

    This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.

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    Here are some other awesome books releasing the week of April 2nd:

    VENGEANCE BOUND by Justina Ireland

    NAMELESS (Tales of Beauty & Madness #1) by Lili St. Crow

    THE RISING (Darkness Rising #3) by Kelley Armstrong

    RISE (Eve #3) by Anna Carey

    WHITE LINES by Jennifer Banash

    IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters

    LIGHT (Gone #6) by Michael Grant

    STUNG by Bethany Wiggins

    THE SWEETEST DARK (The Sweetest Dark #1) by Shana Abe

    FEARLESS (Mirrorworld #2) by Cornelia Funke

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