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    Review: WINNER TAKE ALL by Laurie Devore

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    Title: WINNER TAKE ALL
    Author: Laurie Devore
    Release date: January 30, 2018
    Publisher: Imprint
    Pages: 336
    Formats: Hardcover, eBook

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    Descripton…

    For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.
    For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.
    They both have everything to lose.

    Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.

    Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?

    Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.

    AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | iTUNES | INDIEBOUND | MACMILLAN | GOODREADS

    NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.


    The Review

    There is a lot to love about Laurie Devore’s WINNER TAKE ALL. It is an exciting, emotional roller coaster of a read. It sheds light on a number of issues – the disparity between the rich and those less fortunate and between women and men, boys and girls. It shows how striving to be the best is not always a good thing, and can cause one to lose sight of who they are and what’s really important. It has a strong, if flawed, heroine. And it has romance, and humor, and drama, and heartbreak.

    Nell Becker wants to be the best. And she would be if Jackson Hart weren’t standing in her way. With his looks, his charm, his money, and his gender, everything comes easy to him. Which only makes Nell want to beat him all the more.

    But in order to win she will have to do whatever it takes. Even if it means playing dirty and becoming someone she never thought she could be. And she will have to decide whether her reputation, her friendships, her health and her heart are worth destroying if that’s what it means to defeat her nemesis.

    Author Laurie Devore packed a lot into her novel of rivalry gone awry. It wasn’t just a fiery but toxic romance. It wasn’t simply a story of secrets, lies, betrayal. There was much food for thought about economic and gender inequality, hypocrisy, infidelity, alcoholism, obsession, competition.

    And while many of these issues were woven seamlessly into the story, there were a few instances where they felt inorganic or heavy-handed and it became more about the issue than the characters or the story itself.

    The most interesting, intriguing, maddening, fascinating part of the story was the author’s choice of heroine. Nell is not the most likable of characters – to put it mildly – and isn’t the most obvious choice to be a paragon. At times her behavior is downright appalling. She’s driven, ultra competitive, judgmental, selfish, stubborn, reckless and arrogant. But she is strong – her mistakes and failures do not make her pitiable or turn her into a victim. She goes after what she wants – even if a bit too ruthlessly. She’s a fighter. And she does, eventually, learn from her mistakes – which, for some, might be too late for her to earn her redemption.

    Whether you champion Nell or despise her, WINNER TAKE ALL is a compelling, thoroughly entertaining, and emotionally-charged read that sparks and sizzles and will keep readers riveted.

    The Rating

    A note about the cover: I have some major cover love for WINNER TAKE ALL – and not just because I did notice exactly which match is raised.


    About Laurie Devore

    Laurie Devore was born and raised in small town South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. She now lives and works in Chicago, where she misses the charms and contradictions of the south every day. In her spare time, she reluctantly runs marathons, watches too much TV, and works a “y’all” into every conversation. She is the author of How to Break a Boy.

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    Midnight Tales Tour:

    Happy release day to Leigh Bardugo’s THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic!!! While my Kindle eCopy has downloaded, this beautiful book is one I plan on picking up in print and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    To help celebrate its release, as part of the Midnight Tales Tour, I’ve chosen to share just why I love fairy tales and folklore. (I’d tried my hand at writing a short fairy tale but it was not something fit to post, especially as it was more akin to the grimmest of Grimm’s fairy tales.)

    Why I Love Fairy Tales and Folklore

    Ever since I was a little girl I loved fairy tales. The darker and more fantastical the better. Which is why I’d read The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales multiple times before I even reached an age that involved double digits. And which is why I’m so excited to read Leigh Bardugo’s THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS.

    As a child – and still today – I loved being transported into faraway imaginary lands, where problems got solved in just a few pages, and justice was (almost) always served. I loved the idea of kingdoms and princes and princesses and magic. I loved the strangeness of the beings, the impossibility of the situations, and the wonder each short story brought.

    Today I still love the escape these stories provide. But I love the hidden complexities that many have, that I didn’t realize when I was young. I love the stories behind the tales that speak to the time they were written, the audience they were written for, and the true purpose many of the stories held.

    The Grishaverse offers all sorts of magical powers, and many faraway imaginary lands to explore. And this storybook collection promises incredible illustrations to enhance the reading experience. While I haven’t yet read any of the six stories this book contains, I imagine they will be every bit as enchanting as the full length novels, but will offer that lovely and quick resolution of a fairy tale.

    I also imagine this will be every bit as darkly captivating as my favorite stories by the Grimm brothers. So if I were to have opted to create a list of my top ten fairy/folk tales after reading THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS, I can bet there would be at least one of the Midnight Tales on my list.


    About THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS

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    Title: THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
    Author: Leigh Bardugo
    Release date: September 26, 2017
    Publisher: Imprint
    Pages: 288
    Formats: Hardcover, paperback, audio, eBook

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    Description…

    Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

    Inspired by myth, fairy taleand folklore, #1 New York Timesbestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

    Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

    This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

    AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | iTUNES | INDIEBOUND | FIERCE READS | MACMILLAN | GOODREADS


    About Leigh Bardugo

    Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times–bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over one million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including Some of the Best from Tor.com and The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

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    About Sara Kipin

    Illustrator Sara Kipin is best known for her fantasy works portraying strong, self-empowered, feminine characters. Her style is inspired by early animation and romantic paintings. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and currently lives in Burbank, California.

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    THE TRAITOR’S KISS Blog Tour: ‘Favorite & Most Challenge Scenes’ Guest Post by Erin Beaty

    I am thrilled to be today’s stop on THE TRAITOR’S KISS Blog Tour. Erin Beaty’s book made it to the top of my TBR pile the moment I saw its amazing cover. And when I started reading it, I instantly fell in love.

    THE TRAITOR’S KISS releases on May 9th, so there’s plenty of time to pre-order a copy from your favorite online bookseller and receive it on release day. But until then, if you’d like to know more about the book and get a sneak peek at a deleted scene, be sure to follow the tour – each stop will be sharing a secret message and all will be revealed at the end of the tour. (You can find this stop’s secret message at the bottom of this post.)

    For my stop today, Erin Beaty shares her favorite and most challenging scenes to write – and why. So if you’d like to know what scenes the author “agonized over” and “edited” quite a bit, check out the guest post below.

    And if you’d like to know more about the book and author, their details follow, along with places to find them online.

    The tour schedule will be updated with direct links to each of the stops as they happen, so just click the links to check out the posts and gather the secret messages.


    About THE TRAITOR’S KISS

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    Title & Series: THE TRAITOR’S KISS (Traitor’s Trilogy #1)
    Author: Erin Beaty
    Release date: May 9, 2017
    Publisher: Imprint
    Pages: 352
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

    Read an EXCERPT

    Description…

    An obstinate girl who will not be married.
    A soldier desperate to prove himself.
    A kingdom on the brink of war.

    With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a proper lady—which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for a suitable marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls—and on the soldiers escorting them.

    As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust—and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

    With secret identities and a tempestuous romance, Erin Beaty’s The Traitor’s Kiss is full of intrigue, espionage, and lies.

    AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | iTUNESINDIEBOUND | MACMILLANGOODREADS


    The Guest Post

    Favorite & Most Challenging Scenes to Write (and Why)

    by Erin Beaty

    Aside from the first chapter of the book, which was rewritten probably twenty times but ended up almost exactly as it was first drafted, I think it’s fair to say I agonized over and edited the romantic scenes more than any other. It was almost like giving readers a window into my most intimate thoughts.

    Scratch that. It IS a window into my deepest emotions. Talk about vulnerable.

    I’d read enough cheesy kissing scenes to develop a fear of making readers cringe. Every time I passed those chapters to beta readers, I begged them to be brutally honest. I got some good advice, but not nearly as much as I wanted (the best feedback came from my mom, which was somewhat disturbing). The self-consciousness dialed up to 11 when my husband read those parts. I mean, I’m basically imagining getting it on with some random guy. Would he think it was based on him? Would he think it wasn’t based on him?

    This is not the kind of angst one expects to feel after more than fifteen years of marriage.

    For better or for worse, however, they’re done. Now I await the greater judgment of readers at large.

    But there’s one scene in the book that has a special place in my heart, because it was a huge turning point in the development of the story and my development as a writer. I used to think it was a bit odd when authors complained that their characters did things they didn’t expect. After all, these are the people we writers create specifically to do the things we want them to do.

    Enter Chapter 5.

    (Actually, in the final book I think it’s Chapter 4. Edits, yo.)

    Anyway, I went into this conversation between Sage and the matchmaker, thinking our tragic main character would be rebuffed and tossed out, but then somehow she would solve a problem for the matchmaker and the woman would very reluctantly hire her. Basically Sage would trade one “evil stepmother” for another, but at least she’d get out of the house.

    So they danced around each other in conversation for a bit, the matchmaker pushing Sage’s buttons just as she had the last time they’d met. Both Sage and I began to realize that she was – to put it nicely – a brat, and she didn’t really have it in her to lose her temper again like I needed her to. She was at her lowest low, with no real hope of fixing the mess she’d made. I just couldn’t get a rise out of her.

    And the matchmaker laughed.

    Not cackled like a witch. She chuckled like an all-knowing grandmother. It isn’t always pleasant when we see ourselves clearly, is it?

    She then proceeded to tell Sage that she had pretty much staged the entire confrontation of the day before, setting her up to fail – which I had sort of planned – but there was none of the bitterness and meanness I’d expected. And then she said she’d wanted to hire Sage as an apprentice from the beginning.

    Wait, what are you doing, lady? You’re not supposed to want this!

    Then she dropped a bomb that rocked Sage (and me) to the core. No spoilers, but you’ll know it when you see it.

    Suddenly, I loved this woman. She was shrewd and clever and kind. She wasn’t a caricature; she had depth, and that depth opened a whole new realm of possibilities. The story became richer, as did all the other characters who appeared along the way.

    Now I kind of enjoy letting my characters surprise me and take scenes in their own direction. They really are their own people.

    Don’t tell them I said that, though. Can’t have them getting too many wild ideas.


    About Erin Beaty

    Erin Beaty was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which means she can’t drive a tractor, but she won’t eat veggies that come from a can. She graduated from the US Naval Academy with a degree in rocket science and somehow always ended up writing her study group’s lab reports. After serving in the fleet as a weapons officer and a leadership instructor, she resigned to pursue her side hobby of populating the Church of Rome. It still amazes her when other people want to hear the stories that come out of her head.

    She and her husband have five children, two cats, and a vegetable garden and live wherever the navy tells them to go.

    Erin Beaty is represented by Valerie Noble. Her young adult fantasy adventure, THE TRAITOR’S KISS, the first in a trilogy called The Traitor’s Circle, will be released May 9th, 2017

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    The Tour Schedule

    The Secret Message

    “Age 16? Possibly youngest in group”

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