Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Wrap Up and April TBR

Read in Febuary: Retellings

Wow! I had another really fantastic reading month. I didn't think I could follow February but I did, which is fantastic. Once again I was blown away by some highly anticipated reads. Most of the books I read too were good 4 star reads, although there were a few disappointments, I read a total of 16 books this month which is amazing. There was 13 new books this month and 2 rereads.

As far as challenges go, I'm doing well. YAY! I'm still ahead for my Goodreads goal of reading 150 books this year, which is super exciting. I'm also ahead of my goal for the Debut Author Challenge of reading 25 debuts by reading 2 debuts this month for a total of 9 for the year. I'm also ahead for the Netgalley/Edelweiss Challenge having once again read 5 books for that challenge reaching a total of 13 towards my goal of 36, that secondary goal of 50 may be possible if I keep this up. And I'm also on track for the TBR Pile Challenge by reading two books for that this month (two other backlist books but I didn't own them) getting a total of 6 towards my goal of 25 for the year. And finally, the Audiobook Challenge. I listened to 3 audiobooks this month including rereads, giving me a total of 10 for the year which is on track for my goal of 30 or more. I am killing these challenges so far which is a great way to start the year.

The Books
1.) In Real Life by Jessica Love Rating: 7 out of 10 [My Review]
2.) Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
3.) The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winter 
Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
4.) Charmed by Jen Calonita Rating: 7.5 out of 10 [My Review]
5.) Stars Above by Marissa Meyer Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
6.) The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
7.) Briar Rose by Jane Yolen Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
8.) The Skylighter by Becky Wallace Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
9.) Exit. Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston 
Rating: 10 out of 10 [My Review]
10.) Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
11.) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton 
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
12.) Gotham Academy vol. 2 by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, 
and Karl Kerschl Rating: 9 out of 10
13.) Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]

14-15.) The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkowski [Reread Review]

Other Posts

To Be Read in April: ARC April

My March theme month is a kind of none-theme theme. The lovely ladies over at Read Sleep Repeat are hosting a great feature called ARC April which encourages us bloggers to get to those review books we have been avoiding and are starting to grow out of control. My Netgalley percentage is getting low and I want to make sure I read as many physical ARCs as I can to clean some space before BEA. So I'm taking part in ARC April this year. I loved ARC August so this shouldn't be any different. My goal is to read 8 ARCs this month. I have some new releases and rereads I also want to read but I think 8 is totally doable. To sign up and join in the fun, check out this post.

1.) Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan - Add to Goodreads
This is a modern retelling of A Tale of Two Cities with magic so I'm on board. I was supposed to read it last month but I bumped it for the rest of the Scarlet trilogy.

2.) The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkowski - Add to Goodreads
Not an ARC but I have to finish this series so I am reading it this month. I got my copy in the mail a few days ago and I'm starting it today.

3.) Elantris by Brandon Sanderson - Add to Goodreads
Also not an ARC but part of my Rock My TBR and Audiobook Challenge. Plus I started it a few weeks ago so I'm really just finishing it this month.

4.) A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry - Add to Goodreads
I'm pretty excited about this book. It's Magical Realism set in the Carribbean and it sounds really interesting. I have a copy from Netgalley, Thanks Algonquin!

5.) The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas - Add to Goodreads
I've been so excited about this book since I learned about it. It's a YA Thriller set in the part of Pennsylvania where I live. Obviously I need to read it so I requested a copy from Netgalley. Thanks Random House!

6.) The Haters by Jesse Andrews - Add to Goodreads
I have not read this author, despite wanting to read Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl so I'm excited to read this one and see what I think about his writing. Thanks Abrams!

7.) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi Add to Goodreads
This is one of my most anticipated debuts of the year and so I was absolutely ecstatic to get an ARC in the mail. It sounds like such a creative YA fantasy and I can't wait to read it. Thanks St. Martins!

8.) The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater - Add to Goodreads
*hyperventilates* The final book in The Raven Cycle is finally coming out. *hyperventilates* I can't wait. *hyperventilates* I'm not ready. *hyperventilates*


The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue
The final book in this series is coming out at the end of the month so I need to reread the series and fall even more in love before Maggie rips my heart out. Best worst idea.

Potential Reads

I'm still trying not to plan out too many reads and keep some backup books in case I have holes in the schedule. But this time I thought I would do something a little different. I have a few physical ARCs that I am trying to decide between so I thought I would have you all help me. SO of the books mentioned below, leave me a comment with which book you think I should read. I'll read them in order of which books get the most votes. I'm also planning on running a poll on Twitter to help.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley - Add to Goodreads
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin - Add to Goodreads
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly - Add to Goodreads
Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix - Add to Goodreads
Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper - Add to Goodreads

There you have it. All the books I plan to read in April and a few potential reads. Leave a comment with which physical ARC you think I should read. What are you reading this month? Are there any of the same books on your list? Have you read any of these? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thorwback Thursday: Ink and Bone Review and Giveaway

Hey everyone, guess what. The paperback for Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine is coming out three months earlier than anticipated. Exciting stuff, right. I mean this was one of my favorite books of 2015 and the sequel is one I absolutely cannot wait for in 2016.

So when Penguin asked me to help spread the word about the paperback release by reposting my review as a Throwback Thursday, I of course said "ABSOLUTELY!" I love this book so much and any opportunity to gush about it is okay by me. I mean I know I already suggested a few of you read and you did and liked it so maybe I can get a few more. And if you read this review and think, I totally need to read that book well you are in luck my friend because the nice folks at Penguin are providing me with a copy to giveaway so check out the Rafflecopter below. Unfortunately this is a US and Canada only giveaway. I'm sorry international friends.

But first, onto the review...

Title: Ink and Bone
Series: The Great Library #1
Author: Rachel Caine
Published: July 7, 2015 by NAL (Penguin Group)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.… 

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. 

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service. 

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Penguin First reads in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

This book right here, is everything I wanted it to be an more. It seriously delivered. Ink and Bone is an engaging read perfect for fans of historical mysteries who are ready for a wild ride full of magic and mystery.

I was completely engrossed in the world that Rachel Caine was able to create here. It is one of the most multi-faceted worlds I have come across in a long time. For one thing she was able to create a unique and interesting boarding school that is full of magic. I'm a sucker for books set in a boarding school and the Library definitely satisfied that for me. It was like Hogwarts in the best possible way. The characters arrive in this school where they have their lives upending learning about different kinds of magic and putting it into practice. And this magic was also really cool. It was one part steampunk, one part alchemy. And while I loved reading about the characters learning, it was when they went out into the larger world that things got really good. I'm used to think that I didn't like revisionist history but it has to be done really well. Ink and Bone was a bit like The Bone Season in that it is set in the future but because of something that happened (or in the case of this book, didn't happen) things are very different. This book walked that perfect line between feeling like historical fiction and feeling like speculative fiction. It almost felt like a dystopian world in some ways. You see, this is a world at war, a world where the average person is stifled by a ruling entity that will do anything to stay in power. And it's the library! I'm sure it's hard as a bookish person to see the beloved library play the role of antagonist but boy were they terrible! Seeing the characters torn between those two worlds added so much conflict and drama.

And this fantastic world was made all the more engaging by Rachel Caine's writing style. Ink and Bone was also atmospheric and engaging. Her writing takes you into another world that you can immerse yourself in. Each chapter is started with a bit of extra information that added a level of dramatic irony and made the book more well-rounded. Dramatic irony is another thing for me that can be hit or miss. It can get frustrating very quickly if it comes off as the characters being obtuse. I don't like knowing things the characters don't. But in the case of Ink and Bone, it added to the mystery. And boy was this book was full of mystery. There were so many twists and dramatic reveals I never knew what was coming next. And things were perfectly timed and plotted. It felt like each reveal served to expand the story and drew you to an exciting climax that had me on the edge of my seat. When it was all over I was desperately hoping for the next book.

And the mystery of Ink and Bone also extended to the characters of the book. Like all good boarding schools, this one is populated by a diverse cast of characters. They're the brightest and most promising students worldwide taken to become a part of the prestigious library. And the conflict outside the library is mirrored by the students in the library. Each student was interesting and well-rounded. There were those you love and those you hate. But each of them had great character development throughout the book. In particular I really like the main character Jess. He seems like the kind of person who never really fits in completely but is still always able to assimilate. That in particular made him easy to like and root for because you want him to find where he belongs but appreciate that independent streak in him. But I think my favorite character was the teacher, Wolfe. He reminded me so much of Snape and if you know me you know that's a good thing. He is unnecessarily hard on his students but in the end comes to respect them and protect them. But the best part about Wolfe is his secrets. As the book unfolds we slowly learn more about his past and yet I still want to learn more. He's so complex and enigmatic. All the characters are enigmatic and fantastic!

My only criticism is that the pacing was a little problematic. It had a bit of a slow start as the world was being developed and we were connecting with the characters. I expect that in new fantasy books. But then when things did pick up, it was an action-packed story that may have been a little too thrilling. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say but it just didn't have the flow that I like to see when it comes to the pacing of fantasy novels. It moved too quickly through the ending of the book and I felt like I was missing some important things because it just moved from moment to moment with me even being able to catch my breath. The pacing just felt a little unbalanced. I would have liked it a little more if the action was evenly balanced throughout the book.

But when everything was all said and done I really loved this book and cannot wait to find out what happens next. Even just writing this review is getting me amped up about this book, that never happens. But now that I can step away from it, I can say that I absolutely loved it. It is the kind of book that is familiar, reminding me of great things about books I love, while still being unique and different. It was incredibly engaging and I would absolutely recommend it.

I give Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine 9.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! You need to read this book. Fans of fantasy and dystopia will find a unique and fascinating world with great characters and thrilling action. It felt familiar and creative at the same time and is an amazing first book in a new series I am excited to see develop.

Have you read Ink and Bone? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Did I convince you? Enter the giveaway and tell me why you are excited to read it. Or if you have already read it, why are you excited for the sequel.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Title: Rebel of the Sands
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Written by: Alwyn Hamilton
Published: March 8, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. 

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. 

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew. 

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

In addition to having a written review for this book, it is also the review for this month on Please Feed My Bookworm Thoughts, a podcast with me and Britt from Please Feed the Bookworm. SO if you would rather listen to the review scroll down for the embedded audio or head over to Soundcloud or iTunes to listen to our joint review.

This was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2016. It's a total me book. I mean it's a YA fantasy with a Western-style world in a Middle Eastern setting with a magical system based on mythology and a tough female protagonist. And I was so glad this book lived up to my expectations.

For one thing, I absolutely love the world of this book. There are times where authors put a lot of different things together and it makes for a messy setting but her it worked so well. The high fantasy Western in a Middle Eastern dessert setting all worked together to make something so compelling. I heard on a podcast where the author disgusted how the two parts of the world were in conflict with one another and that really added so much drama to the world. I also really liked the way that the magic slowly creeped its way in as the book developed. And the magic was so interesting too. It was my favorite kind of magical system where each character has their own specific magic that was kind of like a super power. All of this combined to make a fantastic world that I loved.

The characters too were complex and interesting. The main character of Amani is the kind of protagonist I love. She's tough, smart, and subverts gender norms. I loved seeing her develop throughout the book. Then there was the male lead, Jin, a mysterious foreigner who was full of secrets. He was interesting enough but I think for he kind of blended in with some of the other characters. While their romance didn't totally blow me away, I loved seeing them work together as a team and learning more about Jin and his past. But there was also all kinds of great secondary character that added a lot of interesting drama and relationships to the book. And while I liked getting to know the characters throughout the book there were a lot of them and it often got hard to keep them straight. Other than Amani and the villains who were incredibly diabolical, I didn't really connect with a lot of the other characters who just kind of blend to together in my head.

But I think what struck me most about this book was the plot development. This is definitely an action-packed book. There is so much adventure and narrow escapes. Hamilton's writing was so engrossing and compelling and was honestly really well-plotted. It's a book that slowly builds to a thrilling conclusion that was so satisfying because little things from the beginning of the book had a big impact on the ending. I am usually good at solving twists and every times something was revealed in this one it caught me totally off guard. And it's not that there weren't clues, I just didn't pick up on them. But this book was just so full of amazing mystery. I can't wait to see where it all leads in the rest of the series.

My only criticism is with the pacing. It was very up and down. There would be some huge bit of action and then forty pages of travel monologues before very little would happen. And then sometimes a chapter would end with a bang and then pick up days later with out any discussion of the timeline. It was jarring at times. And it honestly made me drag my feet when it came to finishing the book. I reached a point where I had to put it down and read something else but I'm so glad that I went back to it because the last pages were so fantastic.

On the whole this is an incredible debut and a thrilling read that I absolutely loved. I love it when books exceed expectations and that's what this book did. It had a fantastic setting, a great main character, and a thrilling plot full of action and mystery.

I give Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is a great debut and a fantastic start to a YA fantasy series that I am really excited to continue. I would absolutely recommend this book, especially to fans of fantasy or anyone looking for an action-packed read.

And for more of my thoughts on this book, thoughts from Britt, and some spoilery details check out our most recent podcast.

And speaking of podcasts, I have some great news! You can now listen to Please Feed My Bookworm Thoughts on iTunes so check us out there and subscribe for all the podcasts as soon as they come out.

Have you read Rebel of the Sands? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Five Star Reads of 2016

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today's prompt is our most recent 5-star reads. If you follow my blog you know that I typically go with a 10 star review structure. I've had a few 10-star reviews this year but no where near 10. But Goodreads being what it is, I use 5-star ratings there. So these are all of my 5-star ratings of 2016 in chronological order. I'm not including rereads or novellas because otherwise this whole list

1.) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
(Goodreads / My Review)
I was a fan of Dennard's first series and I loved this one even more. It's such a fantastic YA fantasy with an interesting and complex world. I went through a lot of embarrassing things at BEA to get a copy of this book and I'm glad that I did.

2.) Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
(Goodreads / My Review)
Alex's dystopian series is one of my favorites in the genre and this time travel book was so fantastic. It had a good balance between historical and science fiction. The ending was out of control and I cannot wait for the next book in this series.

3.) Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
(Goodreads / My Review)
The next book in the Mistborn series is just as fantastic as all the rest of them. I love the way this series is building and I'm loving it more and more with each book. Plus after reading this one I became even more motivated to read the rest of the Cosmere.

4.) Calamity by Brandon Sanderson 
(Goodreads / My Review)
Not quite perfection but all Sanderson books are probably going to be five star reads for me. I love this series and I thought the conclusion of it was incredibly interesting but I do still have some questions. Good thing that there will be a spinoff.

5.) The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock 
(Goodreads / My Review)
This book definitely blew me away. It's probably my favorite debut so far this year and I have read around a dozen of them. This is a really fantastic and emotional historical fiction novel with great characters.

6.) A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab 
(Goodreads / My Review)
I love this series. The first in it was my favorite read of 2015 so obviously this was another great book. While this book isn't as good as the first one in the series it reminded me how much I love the characters and this world.

7.) Stars Above by Marissa Meyer 
(Goodreads / My Review)
I'm not usually a big fan of short stories but this is a great collection of prequels about characters that I adore and a great sequel to a series I'm not ready to say goodbye to. And the audiobook was phenomenal just like all the audio in The Lunar Chronicles series.

8.) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
 (Goodreads / My Review)
I was really looking forward to this book and I'm so glad it lived up to my expectations. I mean how coulf a Western in a Middle Eastern setting not be great. Sometimes complex world-building makes for a messy book. Here it added to the plot, and it was a great plot too.

9.) The Skylighter by Becky Wallace
(Goodreads / My Review)
This is such a brilliant duology and this book was such a fantastic conclusion. I loved the first book so much and I was so happy that the debut exceeded my expectations. The entire second half had me on the edge of my seat and gave me all the feels.

10.) Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
(Goodreads / My Review)
I'm not a huge fan of contemporary so when one is a five star read it's such an amazing surprise. This book did just that. I didn't know entirely what I was getting into and I found a fantastic contemporary that balanced serious and funny.

And those are my five stars reads of 2016. What books were five star reads for you? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

*** This is the second book in a series. If you haven't read Scarley (MY REVIEW) then proceed with caution. There are no spoilers for this book but there may be some for that one. ***

Title: Lady Thief
Series: Scarlet #2
Written by: A.C. Gaughen
Published: February 11, 2014 by Bloomsbury
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. 

But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves. 

With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet’s tale will have readers talking once again.

I had Scarlet, the first book in this series, on my Kindle for awhile and after taking the time to read it this month as one of my retellings I decided I didn't want to stop there, so this I'm going to marathon the rest of the series. Lady Thief is a really great follow up to an interesting retelling with compelling characters that reads like historical fiction.

One thing that I really enjoy about this book, and this series, is the characters. I'm growing so attached to them. In the first book I was really impressed with the way that the author played around with the traditional characters of the Robin Hood story and here she did it again. But even if they weren't based on the originals they weren't based on the original characters they would still be incredibly complex and likable. I adore Scarlet and Rob so much. They are fantastic heroes and it is easy to get behind their struggle. Scarlet is tough and kind but so vulnerable in this book. You learn a lot more about her and her history which was fantastic too. I've been loving everything we learn about Scarlet. Rob too is a great hero. I mean who doesn't love Robin Hood? But what I like about Rob is that he too is not infallible which made him all the more interesting. And I am also getting really attached to their romance. You guys know me, I'm not a big fan of romance. Usually when I see people talking about kissing scenes I almost forget that there were any in the book but here I remember the kissing scenes and I very much liked them.

There are also a lot of really interesting secondary characters in this book. We don't really get to spend as much time with the members of Robin Hood's band of Merry Men but they are all still around and interesting. Gisbourne however was a big part of this book and is officially taking on the role as the vindictive and unlikable Sheriff of Nottingham. He's definitely a great villain and one you love to hate.  But here the most interesting characters are new ones, which are the actual historical figures of the period. Prince John and his wife Isabelle were a big part of the book as was Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was great seeing the fictional characters interact with the historical ones.

But this book definitely felt more historical and less of a retelling. I usually like when my retellings play up the history of the period and I enjoyed that so much with the first book.  On top of the historical figures there was a lot more reference to historical events of the period like the Crusades. Not to mention the fact that Gaughen does a good job of developing the setting by portraying some of the more brutal treatment of the time, especially for women. It felt like a really well-researched piece of historical fiction immersing the reader in what life was like in Medieval England. There are a lot of great themes about treatment of women, the poor, and anyone who are viewed as less than the nobles. It was a great setting and one of the things that I love about this series.

The historical setting and retelling made for an interesting and dramatic book. This series is definitely full of action and mystery. I was incredibly surprised by some of the twists in the first book and while these ones were not necessarily as shocking but it was still a book full of mystery and great twists. It also has the kind of action that you would expect in a book about Robin Hood or historical fiction set during Medieval times. There are lots of fight scenes, tournaments full of jousts and archery contests, and even some battles that had me on the edge of my seat. The plot of this book is really built to something interesting and I'm enjoying where it is going. And with the way this book ended I'm glad I have a copy of Lionheart so that I can finish the series!

On the whole Lady Thief was a good follow up to a series that I'm really enjoying. It's an interesting retelling that reads like historical fiction and I am growing so attached to these characters and their romance. I can't wait to see what happens next to them.

I give Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. Obviously if you liked the first book in this series you should keep going. You will not be disappointed by this next book. And if you are a fan of historical fiction, Robin Hood, or retellings than pick this series up.

Have you read Lady Thief? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tsar's Guard Parade: Ludmila's Pumpkin Caramel Bars

Hi Everyone, Happy Easter for my Christian friends! I'm so excited to be a part of the Tsar's Guard Parade, a blogger event to spread the word about The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye, a debut coming out on May 17th. I have been following The Crown's Game for over a year because it's a total "me book." High fantasy set in Tsarist Russia? Obviously I need it. So I of course joined The Tsar's Guard when I first heard about it. I've been so excited about learning about the book in the course of the last few months and I have been following the character profiles on Evelyn's website. So when I was thinking about what to do for the Tsar's Guard Parade I thought of Ludmila, who owns a bakery shaped like a pumpkin and loved eating caramel right out of the pan. I love to bake so I made a recipe inspired by Ludmila. May I present...

Ludmila's Punpkin Caramel Bars:

 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
aluminum foil

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, oats, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl.

Melt 3/4 cup butter, let it cool, and pour into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until a soft dough forms. It should be just slightly crumbly. If the dough feels wet and heavy, add a little more flour.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil. Press 3/4 of the dough into the dish. Reserve the remaining 1/4 to use for topping. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top is barely golden brown.

Combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, white sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ginger and cloves and mix until blended completely.

When the crust is done, pour the filling mixture over the crust and continue to bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle the reserved dough over the filling. Bake for another 20 minutes. Let the bars cool.

For the caramel sauce, melt 4 tablespoons butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup cream together in a small saucepan. Set the temperature on medium heat and stir constantly until the caramel is smooth and barely bubbling. Pour over the bars.

Cut and serve!

It's a long process to bake them but it isn't a very hard recipe. They look absolutely delicious. I haven't been able to try them yet though, they're dessert for after dinner tonight. I know my family probably thinks I'm crazy making a pumpkin dessert at Easter but I think once they taste them they will appreciate it. I mean pumpkin is delicious year round. I think Ludmila would agree.

About the Book:

Author: Evelyn Skye
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Pages: 416
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

About Evelyn:

Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn't writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN'S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an ARC of THE CROWN’S GAME.  International.

Find the complete Tsar’s Guard Parade Schedule at Evelyn Skye’s website!

Thanks for having me on The Tsar's Guard Parade. I had such fun working on this recipe and I hope if you like pumpkin and baking that you give it a try. And of course I hope you will all join me in reading The Crown's Game when it comes out in May. HAPPY READING!!