Friday, October 21, 2016

Giveaway: Black Widow: Red Vengeance

Happy Friday Everyone!

As a little celebration for another week being over (who's ready for a vacation?), I have a fun giveaway to share with you all! Last year Margaret Stohl dipped into the Marvel Universe with Black Widow: Forever Red and has recently released the second book in this series, Black Widow: Red Vengeance. I happen to be a huge fan of all things Marvel, so while I haven't had the chance to read these yet, I'm thoroughly looking forward diving in to both of them!

Before we get to the giveaway, here's a little bit about book two:
Emotions are dangerous, which is why the graduates of Moscow’s famed spy school the Red Room are taught to keep their enemies close and their loved ones at a distance. Black Widow and Red Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff and Ava Orlova, forgot that lesson once, and they won’t forget it again.

But the Widows have inherited something else from their shared Moscow past: a relentless need for vengeance—Ivan Somodorov is dead, but his network of terror remains.

While the Widows search South America in order to extinguish a smuggling operation with ties to their old nemesis, their own Red Room not only attempts to assassinate them both but also hacks their secure S.H.I.E.L.D. network. As a result, Ava and Natasha find themselves thrust into a trying mission of international intrigue that takes them throughout the world and back to New York City, where their friends Dante and Sana become unlikely targets as well.

Once again, nothing is as it seems, no one can be trusted, and no one is safe—not unless the Widows can stop a conspiracy involving stolen nuclear warheads, mind-altering chemical weapons, and ultimately, betrayal by old friends and enemies alike.

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Margaret Stohl is the #1 New York Times best-selling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures novels (also a major motion picture) and the author of the instant New York Times best seller Black Widow: Forever Red, as well as a contributor to multiple Marvel comics. Previously, Margaret was a veteran of the video game industry, working as a writer and designer before co-founding 7 Studios with Lewis Peterson.

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One lucky winner will receive copies of Black Widow: Forever Red and Black Widow: Red Vengeance, plus a branded tote bag and pin! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Interview: Jessica Shirvington & Disruption

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Jessica Shirvington back to the blog to answer a few questions about the first book in her newest duology, Disruption. I fell madly in love with Jessica's storytelling with her Violet Eden Series, and that love continued with One Past Midnight, so I can't wait to get sucked into Disruption:) If you've yet to read any of Jessica's books, they have my highest recommendation and I hope you leave here immediately and add them to your shelves!
Dystopian and Science Fiction novels often depict a rather terrifying future, altogether too believable even in their fiction. What Dystopian, Sci-Fi or Post-Apocalyptic world from any piece of fiction is the most nightmare-inducing for you?

Yes, they are all fairly terrifying. Oddly enough, I don’t mind the ones that take us back to the basics – where we have to rebuild and start again. There is a part of me that sometimes thinks that is the way things will probably go. The dystopian worlds which really frighten me are the ones run by technology. It worries me to think that we hand over so much trust to technology that is basically without morals, foresight, need, emotion or hope. That is really scary.

If Maggie could escape from her world and jump into any other YA novel, which would top her list?

Good question. I’m not sure there is any other dystopian story she would particularly like. However, there are a few worlds that I think she would survive well in. If I had to pick, maybe Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi. It would certainly be interesting to see her in that world.

If Maggie could send a warning back to us about what the evolution of the smartphone and the effect it’s had on her world, what would she most like to say?

No matter how smart the technology is, you can’t map out and decide what and who people are going to become based on statistics and history. Every person is unique and deserves their chance to try and fail-or-succeed. Technology gives us too much of the wrong kind of information. 

Aside from the smartphone, what’s one other piece of modern technology you can easily see evolving in a disturbing kind of way?

Food and the way we eat it. If we don’t start looking after the environment we won’t be able to have the same kind of fresh produce and animal life that we are used to. Our food will become a technology based resource – it will be heavily processed and bolstered by more and more supplements on the side. Already an apple tastes different to when I was a kid. I worry that if we don’t take steps to look after the climate issue, my children’s children will have a very different understanding of food.

How would the Maggie at the beginning of Disruption describe Quentin Mercer, heir to the M-Corp empire? The Maggie at the end?

In the beginning, Maggie would describe Quentin as entitled and predictable. She would also describe him as nothing more than a stepping stone. In the end…well, I think she would describe him as someone she values greatly, and as the person who is her greatest weakness (amongst other things ;)
Thanks so much for stopping by Jessica!

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The heart-stopping first chapter in bestselling author Jessica Shirvington's Disruption series.

What if a microchip could identify your perfect match?

What if it could be used against you and the ones you love?

Eight years ago, Mercer Corporation's M-Bands became mandatory. An evolution of the smartphone, the bracelets promised an easier life. Instead, they have come to control it.

Two years ago, Maggie Stevens watched helplessly as one of the people she loved most was taken from her, shattering her world as she knew it. Now, Maggie is ready. And Quentin Mercer - heir to the M-Corp empire - has become key to Maggie's plan.

But as the pieces of her dangerous design fall into place, could Quentin's involvement destroy everything she's fought for?

In a world full of broken promises, the ones Maggie must keep could be the most heartbreaking.

Find Jessica:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Breaks The Dawn

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!

Sara B. Larson
Young Adult/Fantasy
Releases May 2017 from Scholastic

From Goodreads:

On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Evelayn of Eadrolan, the Light Kingdom, can finally access the full range of her magical powers. The light looks brighter, the air is sharper, and the energy she can draw when fighting feels almost limitless.

But while her mother, the queen, remains busy at the war front, in the Dark Kingdom of Dorjhalon, the corrupt king is plotting. King Bain wants control of both kingdoms, and his plan will fling Evelayn onto the throne much sooner than she expected.

In order to defeat Bain and his sons, Evelayn will quickly have to come into her ability to shapeshift, and rely on the alluring Lord Tanvir. But not everyone is what they seem, and the balance between the Light and Dark comes at a steep price.

I really enjoyed Sara's Defy series, so this one can't release soon enough for me. The heroine of the Defy series was as strong as they come, and it sounds like Evelayn with her magic and her ability to shapeshift is going to be badass in her own right, something that always makes me happy. I'm wondering if she's a swan shifter based on that crown, and if she is, that's not a shifter I've read about before so consider me intrigued. It's possible the swan is more symbolic than literal though, and while now I can't stop hoping for a swan shifter, I'm still counting the days until this book makes its way into my grabby hands!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cathy Reviews: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

My mother in law Cathy is back today to share her latest review from the Shadowhunter world!

Young Adult/Paranormal/Fantasy
672 pages
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available November 15th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Simon Lewis as he trains to become a Shadowhunter is now available in print for the first time with ten brand-new comic illustrations!

Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. The events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. At least Simon’s trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. Written by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, these moving and hilarious short stories are perfect for the fan who just can’t get enough of the Shadowhunters.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is a collaborative effort by Cassandra Clare and several other authors. At first glance, it looks like a book of not-so-short stories. This is a big book, 600 plus pages, but I was nicely surprised that the stories were not disjointed but instead told a continuous story of Simon Lewis's time at the Academy learning to be a Shadowhunter. Simon's story is the thread that holds all the stories together.

For the Mortal Instrument series fan, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. Each story gives us a look at characters from all the different series. It gives some historical background on how some of our favorite characters evolved in this world. And you get visits from some of the most beloved characters, such as Jace, Clary, Jem, and Magnus.

For those who have not read any of the series, never fear, this might be a good introduction. We get to follow Simon's growth as part of this Shadowhunter world and all his insecurities. Ms. Clare gives us enough background information so that we are not floundering. When we meet these old friends, they might stir up enough interest in the Mortal Instrument series that they will all be added to your stack of books to read.

Don't be daunted by the size of this book because it is broken up into many smaller stories and moves quickly. We not only feel Simon's angst and pain while he is learning his trade, we are introduced to several new friends that we become very attached to and want to learn their fate as well. The book is very well rounded even though it is a divided into many parts. Unlike many short story books, these stories need to be read in order to keep a continuous flow in the plotline.

Find Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy:

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, or in this case Cathy's, honest opinion.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Countdown to Heartless: Review

Marissa Meyer
Young Adult/Retelling
464 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available November 8th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless returns us once again to the depths of Ms. Meyer's imagination, granting us access to a world of whimsy and darkness where we're able to view well-known characters through a looking glass all her own.

Catherine wants nothing more than to be covered in sugar and flour all day every day, creating recipes and baking to her heart's content alongside her lady's maid and closest friend, Mary Ann. Given she's the daughter of a marquess however, the path her life takes simply cannot be one of her own choosing, especially when the King of Hearts sets his sights on her. It's so very easy to sympathize with Catherine in the beginning–her dream one that's so simple yet so impossible at the same time– and once we're subjected to the giggly effervescence of the king, we can do nothing but wince along with her every time he opens his mouth and his tittering laugh escapes.

Cath's romance with Jest is full of tension both romantic and forbidden, and though we want to encourage her to follow her heart in this case, a knot of dread deep in our chests pulls tighter every time they're together, wondering when and how it's all going to come crashing down around them given who Cath is destined to become. Though Cath's descent into darkness is at times painful and we find ourselves futiley hoping for an ending we know can never come to pass, it's also a journey that holds us spellbound as Ms. Meyer leads us on a merry dance of wonder and madness. And when the moment comes that we reach the final page and are left with an infamous line ringing in our ears, we simply can't help the Cheshire-like grin that splits our cheeks.

Overall, Heartless is as enormously imaginative as all Ms. Meyer's previous books, and I cannot wait to see what retelling she takes on next.

Rating: 4.5/5

There are only 25 days left until Heartless! Pre-Order your copy:

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One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.

When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).

When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.

Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER is my first novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around too.

I now live with my husband and our three cats (Calexandria Josephine, Stormus Enormous, and Blackland Rockwell III), who go in and out, in and out, about eight hundred times a day. My favorite non-bookish things include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, re-watching episodes of Firefly, and playing all manners of dress-up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Flourish: Halloween Frost

Hey Everyone!

It's been a little while since I've done a flourish post, and today I have a project to share that makes me shake my head in wondrous disbelief every time I look at it. I started this blog nearly 7 years ago, and just before I did so I discovered a little series by a new-to-me author thanks to a blogger recommendation. That "little" series was the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep, one I fell immediately in love with and that has held me captivated through sixteen books and seven years. After finishing the first book Jennifer became an auto-buy author for me, and I devoured everything she wrote as soon as it released, including her YA urban fantasy Mythos Academy series.

Why am I telling you all this in a flourish post you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I had the completely surreal experience of being asked recently to design the cover for Halloween Frost, a Mythos Academy short story. *falls down dead* After I picked my jaw up off the floor and pulled myself together into some semblance of professionalism, I jumped on the project and Jennifer and I began working.

I always start my projects with idea boards – a multi-page PDF that groups together existing covers as well as stock imagery/illustrations and font suggestions into various design concepts – so that I can get a better feel for what my clients are looking for before I move forward with comps. It's basically an outline stage for the design work, and prevents me from going in one direction while my clients are picturing another.

After submitting the initial boards, Jennifer and I both knew we wanted to move forward with an illustrated cover (YES!) that created an entirely new brand for the Mythos books. Given this short story is Halloween-themed, we started by focusing on that element, working pumpkins, bats, spiderwebs and a black panther-type creature called a Nemean Prowler in and around the title.

While the first comps were cute, the general consensus was that they were almost too cute, and read younger than we wanted them to. We thought it was likely the classic Halloween elements that were giving us the more middle grade feel, so we abandoned that concept entirely and decided to focus on just the town and the prowler.

Jennifer was taken with the first of the revised comps, but there was a concern that emphasizing the paranormal creature might be tricky from a series perspective as the creatures in future books venture into lesser known mythological beasts, and thus might make them harder to find in stock illustrations. (I'm not an illustrator, so I always start with a stock illustration as a base, and the build from there to create something new.) We ended up keeping a few of the main design elements from that comp, but eliminated the prowler and played up the town's clock tower instead, while also making a few adjustments to the overall color scheme.

While we both liked the new color scheme and the changes to the clock tower, the cover just didn't have the same impact and sense of danger as it did with the prowler, so we retraced our steps and went back to the prowler design, taking the new color scheme, font, and clock tower changes with us. The final cover is one I'm infinitely proud of and so honored to have worked on, and I hope you guys love it as much as Jennifer and I do!

HALLOWEEN FROST (Mythos Academy #1.5)
(available now!)

It’s Halloween at Mythos Academy, and Gwen Frost and her friends are ready to have a little fun. But when a mythological monster shows up, the night turns out to be more trick than treat.
Halloween Frost takes place in between the events of Touch of Frost, book #1, and Kiss of Frost, book #2, in the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series. The short story is about 6,500 words.
Halloween Frost was originally published in Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology, in 2011.

Find Jennifer: