Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wednesday Flourish: Embers Cover Reveal + Giveaway

Hey Everyone!

Those of you who follow this blog with any frequency might note something a little off about the title of today's post, as usually the word "flourish" accompanies a Friday post wherein I share one of my recent cover designs. Today though, I'm part of a larger cover reveal for Embers, the first book in a new paranormal YA series from Karen Ann Hopkins, so I switched things up a touch and am doing my flourish post on a Wednesday.

I was lucky enough to "meet" Karen when Danny and I worked on the Kismet tours for her YA Temptation series from HarlequinTEEN, and the timing was one of those perfect twists of fate because Karen just happened to be getting ready to self publish an adult Amish murder mystery and was in need of a designer. I was thrilled to have the chance to work with her again on the cover for the first book in this new YA series, and am so in love with the final product.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway!



There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them. And she may be the only hope mankind has as the rapture approaches and evil rises.

Embers is an epic paranormal adventure about an eighteen year old girl who discovers that she's immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt's boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember's exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she finds out that she's a Watcher, a descendant of angels. While Ember learns about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two young men who live in a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicitly drawn to one of the men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it is cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war—one that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil—and the grayness in between. Ember is up to the challenge, until she realizes that she isn’t only fighting for the lives of the locals and the souls of her new friends. She also might be one of the few champions who will make a stand for all of mankind as the rapture approaches and the end of days begin.

Embers is a dark and gritty YA novel that’s the first book in the series, The Wings of War.

Intrigued by Embers? Then be sure and sign up to be a part of the blog tour running from October 20th to November 7th!

• • • • • • • • • • •

EXCERPT

“How can this be? My hands were closer to the flame than yours, yet mine are all right, and yours are ruined.” I was confused and weak, yet I was still trying to think rationally. 
“I need to get you to a hospital.”
“My dear child, I know this is going to be difficult for you to accept. You have been conditioned your entire life to not believe the things I’m about to tell you, but the truth is in front of you. You can’t deny it now.” Aunt Ila paused and wrinkled her nose as if she was in pain, but she continued to talk.
“The fire can’t harm you, because it’s inside of you. It’s part of your essence, your soul. Of course you know that humans are made up of water, bones, tissue and organs. And you have all those things in your body, but the fire is in there too, just hiding. But it is in there just the same.” She poked her bloody finger into my belly. “That’s why you weren’t injured during that horrible accident. All the others had to try to explain it away somehow, but you knew the truth in your heart all along. You just couldn’t face it or didn’t know how to. You were in the fire and the only thing it did was make you stronger. You are what you are and you can’t deny it.”
Her voice was soft, yet it boomed in my head.
In a shaky voice I asked her, “What am I?”
“A Watcher, my dear—you are a Watcher.” 

 • • • • • • • • • • •

KAREN ANN HOPKINS


A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.


• • • • • • • • • • • 

GIVEAWAY

Karen is generously offering up a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Shifting Shadows

SHIFTING SHADOWS
Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
Patricia Briggs
Urban Fantasy
450 pages
Ace Hardcover
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger…

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends…

Includes the new stories…
“Silver”
“Roses in Winter”
“Redemption”
“Hollow”

…and reader favorites
“Fairy Gifts”
“Gray”
“Alpha and Omega”
“Seeing Eye”
“The Star of David”
“In Red, with Pearls”


MY THOUGHTS
In many cases, anthologies or collections of short stories end up being the perfect way to get a feel for the writing style of either a single author or many different contributors, allowing readers the chance to see if they might find a new favorite in the mix. Shifting Shadows is not that type of collection however, the ten stories splashed across the pages more for dedicated fans of the Mercy Thompson universe rather than series newcomers; little peeks at the beloved secondary characters who never fail to enrich Mercy's world and bring a smile to our faces. For those who stare mournfully at a calendar bemoaning the slow speed at which time seems to travel in between installments though, Shifting Shadows is a true and utter treat.

Personal Favorites:
This collection gives us glimpses of both prominent secondary characters whom we've met repeatedly as well as lesser known characters, but for me personally, the strongest stories were those with familiar friends at the forefront.

ALPHA AND OMEGA

This tale is perhaps the one exception to the aforementioned not-for-newcomers label, the first meeting of Charles and Anna (protagonists of their own Mercy spin-off series) beautiful in the raw emotion that immediately smacks us in the face upon meeting Anna. After being Changed against her will, she endured the unfathomable for three long years, but though her experiences clearly left scars not visible to the naked eye, she refuses to let her fire be starved by those who have her at their mercy. Charles, for his part, is the kind of protective we can't help but swoon over, rising up in Anna's defense while still granting her the freedom to save herself.

Their story continues in a series by the same name and is definitely one that should not be missed.

ROSES IN WINTER
"Roses in Winter" is a sweet story depicting the friendship between a very young wolf struggling to control the animal inside her and a very old wolf who sometimes finds himself fighting the same battle, and while their unlikely affection warms our hearts, their tale is also a painful reminder of how brutal this world of werewolves can be. The safety of the many is often preserved through the sacrifice of those few who are emotionally or physically unequipped to handle life as a wolf, and nowhere is that concept more gut-wrenchingly apparent than with Asil and Kara.

REDEMPTION
"Redemption" grants us a little time with Ben, one of the far less agreeable members of Adam and Mercy's pack, but someone who has been there for Mercy unfailingly and unflinchingly in her darkest moments. Because we know him to be as a true a friend to her as they come, we look upon his complete disregard for the art of tact as charming rather than offensive, smiling uncontrollably as he lets anyone and everyone know just what he thinks of them. We also get a brief-but-sickening look at what landed him on Adam's doorstep in the beginning of Mercy's series, and that taste of his darkness only makes us want to hold him tighter even though we know he would recoil in horror if he knew the direction of our thoughts.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Find Patricia:

 
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rare Ratings and Recommended Reads

Happy Friday All!

I had an unusual day today wherein I didn't have any reviews or interviews scheduled, so I thought I would put together a post that featured some of my recent favorite reads. In four years and over 550 reviews on this blog, I've only given a 5 star rating to 30 books. Apparently, I'm a bit stingy with my praise ;-) Lately though I've come across a number of books that have joined the ranks in my rarest of rating categories, and sometimes my short 3-4 paragraph reviews just don't allow me to say all the things I want to say, so below are a few gushing words about three books that simply blew me away.

THE WINTER KING
(Available now from Avon)


After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea's king by taking one of the man's beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride. But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter's battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother's death, rages on.

Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father's palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig's icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.

As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin's wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter's passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test.

The Winter King is one of those books I bought strictly for me, a book meant just for fun in between review reads that I never intended to feature on the blog, but I fell so much in love with Wynter and Khamsin that it became impossible for me not to fangirl about it just a little.

I am someone who absolutely adores characters that are largely underestimated; men and women who are beaten down, isolated, or social pariahs in their given worlds, and from the moment I bore witness to the treatment Khamsin endures at the hands of her father I knew she was a woman I would want to spend time with again and again. Despite being an outcast in her own home, Khamsin is full of fight and fire, going toe to toe with Wynter from beginning to end without once being cowed by the force of his personality or power.

Wynter is driven by pain and vengeance, fair in his dealings with Summerlea but also firm and unyielding in the terms of their surrender. He's the type of man whose presence can be felt before he even enters a room–literal and figurative cold clinging to him and making people suck in a breath as he walks by, but that only serves to make his gradual thaw thanks to Khamsin all the more enjoyable.

For lovers of sweeping fantasy worlds and lead couples who are strong individually but even stronger together, The Winter King should not be missed.


RITES OF PASSAGE
(releases September 9th from HarperTeen)


Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

It's the rare book that can enrage me to such a degree that I have to get up and walk away from it just to give myself a breather. Rites of Passage is the first book I've had to set aside for the sake of my emotional health in years, and that means it's something truly special indeed. I'm not typically someone who hates villainous characters, instead I tend to love them because they hold me in some kind of sickeningly fascinating thrall that ensures I'm caught up in the story, but I hated some of the individuals in this book with the fire of a thousand suns.

The people surrounding Sam, especially the ones who should have been in her corner cheering her on every step of the way, are cruel, cowardly and so infuriating my fingers are actually trying to curl into fists as I'm typing this. Through it all though, Sam is extraordinary, and her story is one I will never be able to forget. Pre-order this book immediately.

*My full review and an interview with Joy will go up next week, so be sure and check back then!


SNOW LIKE ASHES
(releases October 14th from Balzer + Bray)


Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Confession time. I have a few bookish pet peeves as I think we all do. One is when characters swallow insults and hurtful words or actions from those closest to them without a word of protest. Who absorb the blows and then easily forgive when no adequate apology has been given or olive branch extended. Perhaps I'm a more vengeful person than most, but I like my characters to have some backbone and stand up for themselves when the situation calls for it (though I do acknowledge that there are times when inaction is better than action and silence a mightier weapon than words).

Meira is my dream heroine. She's madly in love with her best friend and wants nothing more than to please the man who's raised her after her parents died when Winter fell, but though she loves and respects them both, she doesn't allow them to run roughshod over her. When they hurt her deeply, she lets them know it, but she does so with maturity and inarguable logic rather than emotional words honed to sharp points and carelessly aimed. She's also a fighter to her core, someone who refuses to stay down even when the illusion of safety found at rock bottom is a nearly overwhelming temptation.

I can't say enough good things about this book (and I'll say more when my review goes up in October), so I hope you add it to your lists!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Jewel

THE JEWEL
The Lone City #1
Amy Ewing
Young Adult/Dystopian
358 pages
HarperTeen
Available September 2nd
Source: BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.


MY THOUGHTS
The Jewel, like the overall design of its cover, has some notable similarities to a number of well-known dystopian tales, familiar elements stealing much of our focus in the early chapters since we can’t help but draw comparisons. Before we can get ourselves too tangled up trying to figure out which plot threads or world-building elements we’ve seen where though, our attention is beautifully redirected, and we find ourselves riveted as Ms. Ewing takes those familiar pieces and reworks them to create something that stands on its own.

Perhaps the key element in shifting our focus from what we’ve seen before to what’s in front us currently is Violet herself, Ms. Ewing isolating her socially to such a degree that our time with her feels uniquely intimate, we as readers sharing in her fear of the future in a way those who are with her physically simply can’t. Her isolation comes after she’s auctioned off, waking up in her new home with a mistress so brilliantly hateful that our allegiance to Violet–already strong–soars off the charts. Though she has a friend in Annabelle, her mute lady-in-waiting, that friendship is shallow at best simply due to the fact that they both exist under the Duchess’s thumb. True friendship is based on loyalty and trust, two things that neither Violet nor Annabelle can give to one another no matter how much they wish to, so we become the only ones capable of supporting Violet fully.

Even though our extreme distaste for the Duchess would have had us rooting for any heroine forced to endure her changing moods and the rewards and punishments that accompany them, Violet proves herself more than worthy of our unwavering affection. Through her stark terror of the unknown she stands tall and strong, fighting well-chosen battles with the Duchess to show she is not going to lose herself in the title of surrogate, but also knowing when to let the Duchess win a round or two as well. We fear for her with every chapter, the Duchess utterly unpredictable in her day to day treatment of Violet, and so we spend our time wondering if the next chapter will be the one to show us that what we’ve already seen of this world isn’t yet the worst of it.

While both Violet and the Duchess inspire a great deal of love and hate respectively, the romance between Violet and Ash leaves us a bit wanting. Part of the problem is Ash comes into the picture late in the story, past the halfway mark, so we simply don’t have the same time to get to know him as we do Violet. By that point we’ve also come to value the aforementioned intimacy established by Violet’s loneliness, and Ash’s presence adds a new distance to our relationship given the speed with which their feelings develop. Granted the seriousness of their circumstances make the swiftness of their romance a touch more believable, but there just isn’t enough page time between them to achieve the emotional depth always hoped for with a romantic relationship.

Overall, there are some true highlights to The Jewel, namely in protagonist Violet and the villainous female royalty who believe social status is the only determining factor of human worth, but the romance and the initial similarities to other books of the same genre keep this first installment from a higher rating. We’re left rather abruptly at an enormous turning point as well, so those who dislike being kicked out of the story right when the action picks up should be aware upfront of the type of ending they can expect.

Rating: 3.5/5


Find Amy:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cover Reveal: Covering Kendall

Today I'm really excited to share with you the cover for Covering Kendall by Julie Brannagh, a contemporary romance releasing from Avon on October 21st. I'm a huge fan of sports-themed romances, I think mostly because I'm lacking even a single athletic bone in my body, so I look forward to meeting Drew and Kendall!!



Kendall Tracy, General Manager of the San Francisco Miners, is not one for rash decisions or one-night stands. But when she finds herself alone in a hotel room with a heart-stoppingly gorgeous man-who looks oddly familiar-Kendall throws her own rules out the window…and they blow right back into her face. Drew McCoy should look familiar, he’s a star player for her team’s archrival the Seattle Sharks. Which would basically make Drew and Kendall the Romeo and Juliet of professional football…well, without all the dying. Not that it’s an issue. They agree to pretend their encounter never happened. Nothing good can come from it anyway, right? Drew’s not so sure. Kendall may be all wrong, but he can’t stop thinking about her and he finds that some risks are worth taking. Because the stakes are always highest when you’re playing for keeps.

I like this cover well enough, it's perfectly cute, but I do have to wonder why there's nothing football related anywhere on it. Oh well, I still want to read it ;)

Waiting on Wednesday: Dreamfire

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!


Kit Alloway
Paranormal Young Adult
Releases February 24th, 2015 from St. Martin's Griffin

From Amazon:

Unlike most 17-year-olds, Joshlyn Weaver has a sacred duty. She's the celebrated daughter of the dream walkers, a secret society whose members enter the Dream universe we all share and battle nightmares. If they fail, the emotional turmoil in the Dream could boil over and release nightmares into the World.

Despite Josh's reputation as a dream walking prodigy, she's haunted by her mistakes. A lapse in judgment and the death of someone she loved have shaken her confidence. Now she's been assigned an apprentice, a boy whose steady gaze sees right through her, and she's almost as afraid of getting close to him as she is of getting him killed.

But when strangers with impossible powers begin appearing in the Dream, it isn't just Will that Josh has to protect–it's the whole World.

I've only read one other series that deals with dream walking (I think. I've read a lot of books so it's possible I've read more than one about this particular ability and just don't remember. Awesome.) and I absolutely loved both books so I'm hoping I'll have the same luck with Dreamfire. Maybe dream walkers are going to prove themselves to be young adult fail-safes for me. I have high hopes.

I just really like the sound of this one, I'm a sucker for characters who are emotionally or physically damaged in some way, and Josh, with weight of loved one's death on her shoulders, fits that bill pretty perfectly. Plus, romance. I'm easy to please, what can I say ;-)