Monday, May 30, 2011

Review + Giveaway: Shade and Shift

Jeri Smith-Ready
Paranormal Young Adult
309 pages/367 pages
Simon Pulse
Available Now
Received courtesy of Big Honcho Media for review

No one really knows why the Shift occurred, just that suddenly children born after a certain date were able to see and speak to ghosts, and those born before were not. For Aura, seeing ghosts has always been a part of her life, but when her boyfriend Logan dies, it becomes a way for her to hold on to what she's lost.

When exchange student Zachary shows up at school around the time of Logan's death, Aura's entire world changes yet again. Working together on an assignment researching possibilities for the cause of the Shift, Aura and Zachary discover shocking information about their pasts, their families, and their involvement with the Shift itself.

Though Aura is grateful she hasn't yet lost Logan forever, his continued presence is tortuous as she struggles to come to terms with her residual feelings for him as well as her new attraction to Zachary. But important people are starting to take notice of Zachary and Aura's connection and their link to the Shift, putting more than just their hearts in jeopardy as they seek answers.

Despite its paranormal element, the world of Shade and Shift is one that's easily believable, the existence of ghosts explained in such a matter-of-fact way we have no choice but to accept the parameters set for us and get immersed in a tale of love and loss, pain and joy, and life and death. Because we know Logan's passing is inevitable from the beginning, the weight of this knowledge draws us into this story almost instantaneously as we mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for his demise, and attempt to steel our spines in order to be a vicarious support system for Aura when the time comes. Our preparations don't spare us the pain of his loss as we'd hoped though, and we read on with heavy hearts to see what awaits us now that Aura's relationship has changed so dramatically. Ms. Smith-Ready does a lovely job of interrupting our pain with the distraction of a new possible love interest and the mystery surrounding Aura's connection to him, ensuring we never get lost in the churning tide of misery but always have a lifeline to pull us out of the despairing blackness.

Logan is a fascinating character–a young man who seems rather selfish in his pursuit of music to the exclusion of all else (including Aura) during life, and then who, after death, glories in being a ghost despite the pain his presence causes those around him. Because of this, as well as the fact that we are introduced to him a point in his and Aura's relationship where she's beginning to have doubts and reservations about her place in his life, our connection to him is troubled. Though his death is agonizing, it's fairly easy to shift our focus and affection to Zachary as we don't have the benefit of years of memories that Aura has from their shared childhood. Then, just when we think Aura should move on and let Logan go, he either voices a sentiment or makes a gesture that sucker punches us in the gut, the ethereal violet tendrils that comprise his ghostly form suddenly becoming tangible emotional links instead of whispering through our fingers as we grasp for connection. This surprising rush of feeling makes us realize we're not quite ready for Logan to pass on, and we begin to see more clearly why Aura has been waffling with her reactions to both Logan and Zachary.

Shift is a bit heavier on the angst than Shade, Aura's continued confusion over her affections for both boys becoming more prominent, and just as she seems to have a decision made, new information pops up with regard to the Shift to the keep the drama going. When a third romantic player enters the picture, we do begin to question the state of things, but luckily for us his presence is short-lived and the angst is toned down in favor of some very interesting revelations about both Aura and Zachary's pasts. We're given just a few more hints as to what makes these two so special, and our tumultuous emotions are given a brief and welcome reprieve while our minds churn over the possibilities this new information has provided. When the Logan gut-clenching moment does come back at the end to blissfully torture us, we find ourselves ready for the onslaught and finish the last few pages greatly looking forward to the future.

Shade and Shift are very quick reads that deny us any other option than to be involved with characters and story, working us into a frenzy of teen drama and then shifting our attention to an intriguing enigma surrounding our two main protagonists. The combination of romance and suspense is beautifully executed, and Ms. Smith-Ready seems to know just when the Logan/Zachary competition is about to become too much and then relents, allowing us to breathe again and immerse ourselves in the story in a different way. The final installment in this trilogy cannot release soon enough, and I will be at the bookstore the moment it's available.

Overall Series Rating: 4/5


Thanks to the wonderful people at Simon Pulse and Big Honcho Media, I have one copy of both Shade and Shift to give away to one lucky winner today! To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This contest is open to US residents only and will run through midnight EST on June 11th after which time a winner will be chosen by and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!

If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure and check out the series trailer!

Review: Starcrossed

STARCROSSED (Starcrossed #1)
Josephine Angelini
Paranormal Young Adult
487 pages
Harper Teen
Available tomorrow (May 31st)
Received for review via Kismet Book Touring

Helen Hamilton has lived on the island of Nantucket with her father for as long as she can remember. Though she seems to have a somewhat unnatural ability to run at great speeds, she's never given much thought to her fairly mundane life.

Mundane flies right out the window when she lays eyes on Lucas Delos, one member of the large new family that's moved to the island. Before she knows it, her entire past, present and future change with his arrival, as he brings with him the explanation for some of her oddities.

With his shocking revelations, Lucas also brings danger. Unbeknownst to her, Helen is part of an ancient feud between the Greek gods and mortals–a vital piece of the war in fact. As she learns more and more about her gifts and her family history, Helen finds herself undeniably attracted to Lucas though he makes every effort to keep her at a distance. He knows the Fates can be so very cruel, and what they have in store for Lucas and Helen will certainly shred hearts and destroy lives.

Gripping, haunting, and completely addicting, Starcrossed is one of those books where we try to set it aside after reading only a couple chapters in an attempt to keep us from finishing too quickly, but ultimately such actions are in vain as the lure of forbidden love proves to be more than we can resist. Even though we know from the title the road we'll be walking with Helen and Lucas will be neither smooth nor easy, we still can't help but be surprised at the clench in our guts and the pebbling of our skin as the strength of our emotional investment manifests itself physically. Ms. Angelini does a stunning job of building a relationship of beauty and tragedy, startling us with the intensity of Lucas and Helen's initial unexpected reaction to one another, and then slowly easing both us and our protagonists into a connection we know has the potential to wound all of us deeply. By the time we remember to put up our walls and keep our distance for the sake of our own fragile emotions, we find ourselves buried heart-deep in Lucas and Helen's story without even the slimmest chance of remaining indifferent.

In the beginning pages, Ms. Angelini starts laying the groundwork for a story that seems very familiar–setting us up carefully for the moment where Helen will inevitably meet one of the new boys causing a stir among all the girls at school, and we brace ourselves for that undefinable, instant passion. Soon that moment comes, the wind blowing unnaturally strong as the sea of students parts to reveal the stunning Lucas Delos to Helen's waiting gaze, and then...intense, inexplicable hatred. Just that quickly we experience a paradigm shift and everything we were prepared for is swept away in the tide of Helen's fury, leaving us unsure and off-kilter but vibrating with excitement at being so deliciously deceived. Without our conscious control, we start flipping the pages faster and faster in order to see what new direction the next unexpected current will toss us in.

Settling in after our preconceived notions as to where this story was headed have been shredded, we quickly come to see just how wide the chasm separating Lucas's beating heart from Helen's really is. Theirs is not a love that must overcome a mere prejudice, class difference, or emotional trauma, but rather one that, if continued, will result in epic repercussions and the perpetuation a cycle of feuding so destructive history tells of it in myths and legends meant as cautionary tales to us mere mortals. The Greek mythology element is beautifully integrated and is instrumental in creating a believable set of problems for Helen and Lucas, but into the familiar tales of well known events and individuals are infused brand new elements, creating an intimate investment on our part as the ancient chaos of god and goddess interference in human lives threatens a repeat performance.

The only minor complaint with this must-read story is the at times confusing nature of the stipulations to the Truce between the gods and the four Houses. There are so many details to keep track of in order to understand the effect the past has on the present as well as the different actions that will result in the dissolution of a crucial but fragile accord. Despite these questions, our involvement with characters and story remains passionate, hearts aching for people forced into an existence not of their making as they attempt to cope with the profound weight a bloody past has placed on each of them. While events are left unresolved, we are spared a jaw-dropping cliffhanger and given some semblance of a conclusion though we do read the last line with a sense of dread, knowing when we reach that final word we'll be left with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company during the wait for the next installment.

Rating: 4.5/5

Be sure and stop by later in the week for my interview with Lucas and a very special giveaway!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review + Giveaway: Tommy Nightmare

(Jenny Pox #2)

J.L. Bryan
Paranormal Young Adult
Available Now
Received from author for review

Warning: Contains mild spoilers from
Jenny Pox

Tommy, like Jenny, has a touch that repels those around him. With the briefest contact, Tommy instills fear–so much fear that when he's not in control of it he literally scares people to death.

Escaping from a miserable foster home at a young age, Tommy grows up and begins to understand his power and how he can control and manipulate those he touches. After seeing a television interview with Ashleigh Goodling, Jenny's nemesis, Tommy makes for the small town where Jenny recently unleashed her power in all it's gruesome glory.

While Tommy searches for Ashleigh, feeling drawn to her for reasons he doesn't understand, Jenny struggles with the aftermath of her actions and her growing insecurities with Seth as he prepares to head off to college. She's also beginning to remember some of her past incarnations, making some startling discoveries as to just how she, Seth, Ashleigh, and Tommy, as well as two new individuals are all connected.

Tommy Nightmare returns us to a world that causes anxiety and dread to curl up and make themselves at home in our guts, any brief moment of happiness overshadowed by a tangible sense of unease as we know Mr. Bryan has no qualms with putting his characters through physical and emotional turmoil. We plunge forward, blowing through pages held tightly with knuckles gone white from strain, fearing what's in store next might just be worse for Jenny than what she's already experienced, and we emerge from the story with worry lines etched into our faces where there were none before as evidence of our involvement with the story. Tommy Nightmare is not an emotionally easy read, instead it's one where we know things will only get worse before they get better, but Mr. Bryan gives us a flicker of light just when the darkness starts to consume us, and we cling to its tiny brilliance as we hope for Jenny to find the happiness she so deserves.

The reappearance of Ashleigh–a character so detestable we will our hatred of her to be strong enough to singe every appearance of her name from the pages so we don't have to see it any longer–causes us to groan in disgust while begrudgingly admitting to an appreciation of a character who can inspire such an intense reaction. Every word out of her mouth and every action she takes ratchets our apprehension up a notch, knowing her every move is calculated and planned in order to inflict the most pain on the object of her wrath. She's hauntingly villainous, her ability to inspire love with a touch warped beyond all recognition as she uses it to enslave and manipulate, and we read every page hoping someone will share our immunity to her grotesque charm.

Despite being the title character, Tommy's role in this story is surprisingly small, his opening scene enough to raise our hackles and bring forth our protective instincts, but his actions after those first few pages skew our perception of him so we are left in an emotional limbo as to whether or not he's deserving of our affection. We want desperately to believe in him since he's Ashleigh's opposite and therefore capable of resisting her touch, but his easy compliance to her every suggestion without that coercion keeps us wary and defensive. In addition to Tommy, we are introduced to several new characters, each with a unique ability that piques our curiosity and makes us want to read faster in order to find out how they fit into the magnificent puzzle Mr. Bryan has so painstakingly developed.

Tommy Nightmare is highly recommended for older young adult audiences as the sexual content, though not hugely prominent, is a bit more detailed in nature, and the suffocating darkness at times threatens to overwhelm. Luckily for us however, this story, though often a heavy burden to bear when Jenny is mistreated and betrayed again and again, ends by bringing a hesitant smile to our lips as Ashleigh's plans for Jenny are temporarily interrupted by the appearance of a new character. Though we know inevitably the smile will fade as quickly as it came when we get our hands on the next book, it's enough to mildly relax the muscles we've held rigid in reaction to the emotional maelstrom into which these characters thrust us.

Rating: 4/5


Mr. Bryan has generously offered up a signed paperback copy of JENNY POX to one lucky commenter! Please note this is a copy of the first book in the series, not the second which is reviewed above (you can read my review of JENNY POX here). To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight EST on Friday, June 3rd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Character Interview: Eli from Hereafter

Today I'm joined by Eli from Tara Hudson's upcoming young adult release HEREAFTER. Eli's a pretty fascinating guy (and also so very modest ;-), so be sure and mark June 7th on your calendars so you can "meet" him for yourselves. Thanks so much for stopping by and answering my questions Eli!

What would you say was your greatest fear when you were living? Now that you’ re in the afterlife?

That no one would remember me. But that's obviously not a problem anymore, is it? And I'm not afraid now. Why on earth would you even ask me that?

If you and Amelia were to swap roles, what would she have to do to convince you to join her as her assistant?

She wouldn't have to. Everything about this afterlife is appealing. I'd be crazy not to want the job.

Let’ s say you could go back in time to the moment you made the choice to assist your mentor in collecting souls while retaining your knowledge of all the events that have occurred since then, would you still make the same decision?

Of course. I don't regret anything. Ever.

As a ghost, you are unfortunately forever stuck in the clothing you were wearing at the time of your death. If the same were true of music and you were only able to listen to the song that was last playing when you were alive, what song would that be? Is there a particular song you wish it could have been instead?

I was around in the late sixties - that's an impossible question, since most songs were almost as amazing as my music. But if my death song was stuck on repeat, I'd probably kill myself again. No offense to Don McLean, but there's only so much "American Pie" one man can take. If I could redo it, I'd choose Led Zeppelin's "Street Corner Girl."

If you could change one aspect of the life you lived now that you’ve had a great deal of time to think about every moment of it, what would you change if anything?

I'd have learned to play guitar. With a lead singer that looks like me and can play guitar, my band would have made it big a lot earlier.

What is your favorite paranormal ability being a ghost has granted you?

The ability to open and close the netherworld at my command. But the control over the wraith army isn't too bad, either.

Do you ever question your decision to wait to make yourself known to Amelia given her attachment to Joshua? Do you think your job of persuading her to join you might have been easier if she had met you first?

Like I said, I don't regret anything I do. But yeah, maybe that was a slight misstep. I guess I didn't realize how much taste in guys she lacked.

What was the first thought to run through your head when you saw Amelia prior to her death and believed she was fated to help you?

When I saw her eyes - those beautiful, luminous green eyes - I couldn't think about much of anything else.

If you could have controlled what was inscribed on your headstone by your bandmates, what would you rather it have said?

"The New King of Rock n' Roll." Screw Elvis.

If there were one person from your life you could haunt, who would you most enjoy messing with?

My bandmates. I never told Amelia, but three of them went on to join a famous group. Some of them are still playing today. The jackasses.

For more information on Tara, Eli, and HEREAFTER, you can find them here:


HEREAFTER (from Goodreads)

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Me + Traveling

I just wanted to do a quick post to let you all know my posts and comments will be a little erratic this week as I'm off to brave the madness that is Book Expo America. For some reason beyond my comprehension, I booked a flight at 6:00 am. Whuh. Now, for those of you who are morning people, this is not a big deal. For me, it's pretty much the worst idea imaginable. I'm not a morning person. Not even a little. Those who encounter me in the morning most often never heal from the scars of the experience.

My mom and my mother-in-law are accompanying me on this little adventure and here's how I picture tomorrow morning's conversation with my mother (who is a morning person) going:

MOM: Good morning Jenny! We're going to NYC today!

ME: ....

MOM: This is going to be a blast. I've got my coffee, I'm all packed, I just can't wait to get there.

ME: ....

MOM: Have you got everything?

ME: Red circles plus blue circles = pizza.

MOM: Okay. I'm going to interpret that as a "yes".

ME: Carrots.

MOM: I'm just going to stop talking to you until we get there.

ME: Panties.

MOM: Right.

So, you see, coherence is not my strong suit when awakened at an unnatural hour. I apologize to all airport officials in advance who will have the unfortunate experience of crossing my befuddled path. I'm hugely excited to be going though and I do have some very fun posts planned while I'm away. I'll be back at the end of the week and posts will return to normal. Hope to see a lot of you there!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cover Critique: Short and Sweet

Let me preface this post by saying that my critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

Happy Friday everyone! Work has been kicking my butt this week so I didn't have as much time as I'd hoped to scour the internet for the best of the worst covers to share with you all, but I wanted to do something to celebrate the weekend so I have a couple mini critiques for you. Sorry for the shortness, but I hope they at least make you giggle!

Ah, yes. We women are a crafty bunch aren't we? You just never know what we're going to do next. We often like to dye our hair blond on top and black underneath, dress in our finest lingerie-type dresses to emphasize our enormous (and also lumpy) breasts and curvy hips, and then run around in the night stabbing people with knives. We're just so silly like that.

I'm not sure if I take offense to this title or not, it seems to be implying that we're all saucy, murdering minxes and I'm pretty sure I don't fit in that category. I can't think of many women who do really. And she doesn't seem upset about her bloody knife in the least now does she? She's just hanging out in her clingy satin gown, thinking about stuff. Maybe she wants to run from the suit behind her, maybe she doesn't. Maybe she needs to go stab some more people, maybe she doesn't. So many options my friends! And we women are clearly unpredictable as this title so beautifully informs us, so who knows what's going on in our crazy little female minds. *Sigh*

Well, this is awkward isn't it? I feel like I've just walked in and interrupted...something I'm not sure I want to know anything about. I would just like to pose one small question. Why is she going to breastfeed a full grown man? This is just such a strange pose the way she's starting to pull her top down and has her hand wrapped around the back of his head to guide him to her soon-to-be-bared chest. It's just got a kind of mother/child vibe to it doesn't it? Maybe it's because he's lower to the ground than she is and his head is almost in her lap as she cradles him, but there's just something off about it for me.

I'm not the only one who finds this more creepy than sexy right? He seems just a touch too interested in her boobs, I can sense a fetish developing here. I feel like a voyeur staring at the two of them on their log/tree in the middle of their flowery field and I want to turn and walk away from this scene as fast as possible before that shirt gets any lower and any sort of lip action starts. Ew.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Class Collision

Annette Mackey
Young Adult
283 pages
Outskirts Press
Available Now
Received from author for review

David has always been privileged and wealthy, he doesn't know anything different. He's used to having servants wait on him, a doting mother to shower him in praise, and an older brother to stay hidden in the shadows while he's in the limelight. With his extravagant lifestyle has grown an attitude to match, and David often takes pleasure in tearing down those around him for no other reason than to cause them pain.

That all changes when he and his brother Alex are kidnapped, held for ransom, and brutally beaten. In a failed escape attempt, David is left behind, distracting his captors so his brother can run to safety. Presumed dead by his family, David is forced to deal with the reality of the Great Depression, and for the next several years until he's sixteen, he struggles day to day just to survive.

In the course of his search for a new job David meets Linda, the daughter of his new employer. Though she's beautiful, she has an attitude similar to the one he had when he was younger–indifferent to the thoughts and feelings of those around her and seemingly only interested in selfish pursuits. Like David however, there's more to Linda than her prickly demeanor, and in each other they find something for which they didn't know they had been searching. The cruel reality of the time in which they live begins to puncture the small bubble of happiness they're forming with one another however, and they realize they must make a decision that will irrevocably change the course of their future.

Don't let your first visual impression of Class Collision deter you from picking it up. Though outwardly this book appears a bit bland and uninteresting–its cover ultimately reminiscent of a collegiate textbook–what awaits us in between the pages is far more intriguing and engrossing than first glance might suggest. This is a powerful and compelling read, one that illustrates for us the many types of abuse, our eyes forced brutally open as we bear witness to characters who both dispense and endure punishment with either a sharp tongue or a closed fist. Class Collision is a beautifully executed character study, showing us just how truly complex human nature is by putting both the protagonists and the secondary characters in difficult situations that leave us feeling a little like scientists on the other side of the glass, studiously watching enthralled as their reactions to their circumstances shock, anger, please, and confuse us simultaneously.

Both David and Linda are individuals who incite warring emotions in us, at times infuriating us to a degree where we're not sure we'll ever connect to them personally, and then slowly revealing new facets of their personalities that allow us to better understand their thoughts and actions as they begin to earn our respect. Many times in young adult fiction, characters meet another person who makes them want to change, but their progression into this new state of being is seemingly instant as they shed the old persona with ease and pull the new one on with no lingering remnants of the previous personality left in tact. Primarily with David, but certainly with Linda as well, the mental and emotional progression is believably gradual–the old habits and bothersome flaws never fade completely but instead rear up now and again even as they both attempt to remedy past mistakes, making the two of them individuals whom we see honestly and clearly without being blinded by the beauty of their fictional perfection.

Along with two perfectly imperfect main characters, we are also given a monstrous villain, for lack of a better term, in Linda's father Gordon. While venom spews from his mouth regarding his "rights" as a father and vicarious pain radiates from the places his fists make contact, an intense loathing begins to stir in our guts and travels to our lips to curl them in disgust as our only form of protest against his actions. For those who love to read stories where the characters inspire intense emotional reactions and exist in shades of gray that make it impossible to reduce them to a one-word label other than to say they are not-so-simply human, then this is the perfect read. We are left with the wide open expanse of possibility laid out before David and Linda, and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing where their drive and determination takes them next.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Jennifer Estep and Tangled Threads

I'm super excited today to welcome Jennifer Estep back to the blog, she's one of my very favorite authors and is an absolute blast to talk to online! She writes the utterly fantastic Elemental Assassin series, so if you're a fan of incredibly strong heroines, hilarious secondary characters, and oh-so enjoyable love interests, then be sure and add her books to your list. Tangled Threads is book four in the series and is available now (you can read my review HERE), with the next installment Spider's Revenge releasing September 27th. Two words: Auto. Buy.

I love how all the titles for the series allude to Gin’s assassin name of The Spider, do you typically have a title in mind before you start writing or do you come up with ideas as the story progresses? Is there one title in particular you think is most fitting?

Sometimes, I have a title in mind, and sometimes, I don’t. It just depends on how creative I’m feeling when I turn in the final draft. LOL. Really, though, coming up with the titles is a joint effort between me, my agent, and my editor. When it’s time to come up with the title for the next book, we send e-mails back and forth and brainstorm. So far, we’ve been able to keep the Spider theme going with some pretty cool titles.

I really like the titles for the fourth and the fifth books in the series – Tangled Threads and Spider’s Revenge. Spider’s Revenge is especially appropriate because that’s the book I think readers have been waiting for because it features a big smackdown between Gin and her nemesis, Mab Monroe. Plus, I think revenge is a great word to use in any title because it tells you exactly what the book is about.

If you were going to go out and fight crime as Gin does, which one of your characters would you want as a partner?

I’d say Finn, just because he would be entertaining to have around. He’d crack joke after joke no matter how long a stakeout was and drink coffee the whole time. LOL.

Other than Gin, who is your favorite butt-kicking leading literary heroine? What do you like most about her?

Well, she doesn’t really kick butt, but I’ve always loved Beauty in the various Beauty and the Beast fairy tales. I think it takes a really strong, caring person to go into that sort of situation and make something good out of it. I like that Beauty was able to see the good and gentleness in the Beast’s heart despite his outward appearance. It’s a lesson I think we can all learn from.

I’m guilty of letting an interesting or beautiful cover lure me into buying a book, what attracts you most about a book when you’re out shopping?

Oh, I’m the exact same way! I try to keep up-to-date on my favorite authors and when their next books are coming out, but when I’m just browsing in the bookstore, interesting covers definitely catch my eye. But really, it’s the back cover blurb that makes me decide whether or not to buy a book. If the story sounds interesting or like something that I would enjoy as a reader, I’ll pick it up. If it doesn’t … then it probably won’t be coming home with me.

Did you approach writing your upcoming young adult release, Touch of Frost, any differently than you do the Elemental Assassin series?

Not really. I think that both my young adults series, the Mythos Academy books, and my Elemental Assassin series have a lot of the same elements in common – a strong, sassy heroine, lots of magic, fight scenes, vicious bad guys, and a healthy dose of romance.

I do tone down the sex, violence, and language in my Mythos Academy books, but that’s about the only real difference. Well, that, and the fact that my heroine Gwen’s love interest is probably quite a bit dreamier than Owen is in the Elemental Assassin books. LOL.

Though Gin isn’t afraid to take a life and often works outside of the law, she does follow her own set of rules and her own moral code. What is the one trait of hers you most admire?

I really admire Gin’s toughness and how she never, ever gives up no matter how bad a situation is or how impossible the odds are that are stacked against her. I wish that I was half as tough mentally as Gin was. LOL.

While Gin is still healing after Donovan’s abrupt departure, she is slowly opening up to Owen (yay Owen!). What would you (or she) say attracts her most to him?

I’d say the thing that Gin likes most about Owen is that he accepts her for who and what she is – a semi-retired assassin who goes around helping people the only way that she knows how. Owen has had to do some of the same dark, bloody, violent things that Gin has over the years to keep his younger sister safe, so I think Owen gets Gin in a way that Donovan just never could. That’s what Gin likes about Owen, and that’s what I think readers like about him too. The majority of e-mails and comments that I get are definitely Team Owen, which I think is a good thing.

Finn is I think an overall reader favorite with his shameless womanizing ways; if he had to describe the woman who might win his undivided and possibly permanent attention, what might he say about her?

Well, not to give too much away, but Finn is going to meet that particular woman in Tangled Threads and Spider’s Revenge. I would say that he would describe her as gorgeous, tough, smart, and stubborn as hell – just like he is. LOL. I think readers will enjoy Finn having to put a little effort into seducing a woman he could really care about.

If your characters could ask one question about you, the world you created for them, or why events have unfolded they way they have, what do you think they would most want to know?

That’s a great question! I think Gin would probably look at me with her cold eyes and demand to know why I put her through so much pain, suffering, and misery. Why me? she’d probably ask. I’d tell her because I love writing about an assassin with a heart of gold. I don’t know how well my answer would satisfy Gin, though. I might end up on the wrong end of one of her silverstone knives. LOL.

As for the other characters, I imagine Finn would butt in and ask me why he wasn’t richer or why I didn’t give him more cool cars and other toys to play with.

We’ve seen what the four main Elements (ice, stone, fire, and air) can do when wielded by both good and evil, and we’ve even seen a few offshoots of those, such as electricity, in action. Do we have some additional Elemental affinities to look forward to in future books that we’ve yet to see?

I’m always thinking about new bad guys and the powers that they can have and use against Gin. I’d love to do something with an elemental with water powers or an elemental who can use acid. I actually have an idea in mind for a deliciously evil bad guy who can use all four elements in book six, but we’ll see how he develops.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jennifer! I hope everyone gets a chance to read this series, I cannot recommend Gin and company enough.

For those of you who are avid young adult readers and perhaps aren't as interested in adult urban fantasy, Jennifer is releasing the first book in a new paranormal YA series, Touch of Frost, on July 26th. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at it and it's a brilliant start to the series, one that has me not-so patiently waiting for book two, Kiss of Frost, which releases later in the year.

For more information on Jennifer and all her books, you can find her here:



Jennifer is offering up a copy of Tangled Threads to one lucky winner! To enter, please just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight EST Sunday, May 22nd after which time a winner will be chosen by and announced on the blog. Thanks so much Jennifer and good luck everyone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Tighter

Adele Griffin
Paranormal Young Adult
208 Pages
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available Now
Received for review via Teen Book Scene


A series of unfortunate events have caused Jamie's life to begin spiraling out of control. The combination of a broken heart and a physical injury have led to an addiction to prescription drugs, and in an effort to get Jamie interested in life again, her mother gets her a job as an au pair on the tiny island of Little Bly.

Though it's not ideal, Jamie enjoys spending time with Isa, at least until she begins to hear rumors that she bears a striking resemblance to Isa's former au pair Jessie. Turns out Jessie and her boyfriend Peter died in a plane crash the summer before, and Jamie realizes they haven't quite yet left Little Bly or Skylark house.

Jamie can sense Peter's presence and he's not the least bit restful. He enjoys disrupting and defiling the house, and Jamie decides to dig into his and Jessie's pasts to help figure out why the events of the previous summer happened the way they did, but in doing so opens herself up for ghostly scrutiny in return.

Tighter is one of those stories that creeps along, events unfolding with a deliberate slowness that causes our bodies to wind up and coil like a spring, just waiting for the moment when we'll be startled into sudden movement. For the duration of this tale we are deliciously tense–though our tenseness is strictly anticipatory rather than derived from a great deal of action or intensity–and we absorb every tiny detail about Jamie and Skylark in search of information that might ease our sense of foreboding. While Jamie's story is slow moving, it is never boring; instead we are kept on high alert as separate incidents and situations begin to fit together and paint a larger picture we are positively desperate to see in its entirety by the end.

Though many aspects of the story cause our exhalations to come in rapid succession and our muscles to ache from the strain of clenching them, there are a few small aspects that are a touch disappointing after all is revealed. For much of the book our attention is drawn to the physical similarities between previous au pair Jessie and current au pair Jamie, leading us to believe there is some significance in this detail or some link between the two young women that is perhaps contributory to Jamie's ability to see the spirits of both Jessie and Peter. However, when all is said and done we find their eerily similar appearance is mere coincidence and is unrelated to the greater picture. We spend so much time hearing about their looks and learning about Jessie as Jamie conducts her informal investigation that we're sure we must be in store for some shocking revelation only to have our sought-after connection between the two women fade to nothingness with the turn of the last few pages.

Tighter does end with a twist that causes us to mentally replay the entire story in an attempt to catch the moments that ought to have tipped us off as to the ending, but once our initial awe passes we realize this particular twist is something we've seen before. All the accumulated tension and anticipation of some disturbing ghostly encounter slowly drains from us rather than exploding outward with the force of our discovery, taking with it the last of our strength and leaving us feeling just a bit unsatisfied. Tighter is certainly a quick and entertaining read, we just can't help but want a more disquieting and memorable conclusion to a tale that's kept us taut with awareness and apprehension the entire time.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Kiss of Snow

KISS OF SNOW (Psy-Changeling #10)
Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance
415 pages
Berkley Sensation/Penguin
Available May 31st
Received from publisher for review

This review contains NO spoilers.

Sienna Lauren and her family defected from the PsyNet and came seeking sanctuary with the SnowDancer wolves fully expecting they would be killed. They all hoped the wolves' love of children might save Sienna's younger brother and cousin and would only end up destroying the three eldest Laurens. Thoroughly shocking them all, alpha Hawke spared all five of them and brought them into the changeling way of life, and her impossible attraction began.

Sienna's relationship with Hawke has always been difficult, both stubborn personalities clashing on a regular basis, but now that she's reached an age where a relationship with him is plausible, she finds her dreams of being with him as impossible as ever. While her feelings for him are no secret, he refuses to see the woman she has become, seeking instead to keep distance between them even though it hurts them both to do so.

While Hawke struggles with his decision to romantically pursue Sienna, an enemy of the changelings is getting closer and closer, threatening to repeat a bloody history Hawke has no desire to live through again. To his dismay however, his greatest weapon against them might just be the woman who is becoming vital to his existence.

Kiss of Snow is a story that both sates and feeds our hunger for two characters who hold pieces of our hearts already despite being only secondary characters up until this tale. Every interaction between them mollifies a desire to see them together so powerful it has become a ravaging need reached its breaking point after nine long books, but those same moments of quiet communication also throw kindling on the blazing fire of attraction we want to see fulfilled with a shocking intensity. Hawke and Sienna's story has been one of haunting incompleteness and unresolved tension, and while we have watched those around them find peace and happiness, we've been tormented by the emotional vacuum into which they've swept their feelings–wondering when, if ever, the truth of what they have tried desperately to squelch will see the light of day. Finally though, finally, our voracious appetite is whetted and the electric storm that has been brewing between them is unleashed in all its stunning fury, emotions and bodies stripped bare as two people with infinite physical and psychic power engage in a complex dance of courtship; one comprised of innocence and flirtation but also of unrelenting need and searing passion.

Sienna is a young woman whose strength of feeling for Hawke holds us captivated given her unfathomable history with the Psy council and her strict adherence to the Silence protocol prior to her arrival in the SnowDancer den, her defiant nature creating an instant camaraderie with us as she continually challenges a man few dare to push. While she behaves very much as a teenage girl whose love goes unrequited might behave in the beginning, she quickly matures, refusing to allow Hawke to afford her less substance as a result of her young age. Where their relationship has previously been adversarial, lust and affection masked by wickedly sharp tongues and deliberate antagonistic provocations, Sienna now chooses not to don her emotional armor, approaching Hawke with an admirable openness and denying him the option to fall back on his position as alpha to push her away. When he tries to retreat in a misguided attempt to protect her feelings, she follows unerringly, and when he spouts convenient excuses that reduce their relationship to less that what it could be, she beautifully argues her counterpoints and forces him to admit to the lies he's told himself so convincingly.

Hawke, for all the immensity of his alpha personality, treats Sienna with exquisite care, almost reverent in his respect of her innocence as a young woman denied the gift of emotion and physical contact under Silence. He gently introduces her to the joys found in simple touch with a slowness that is both deliciously frustrating and sinfully tortuous–each heated moment leaving our skin pulled tight over bodies suddenly too big, muscles held rigid in anticipation as we bite our lips in decadent agony with each newly discovered sensation. His use of the endearment "baby" is one that incites a powerful reaction in us, the word at times rumbling from his mouth infused with such a blatant dominance and possessiveness our own eyes skitter away from the pages as though that ice blue gaze can see us clearly, holding us in the thrall of his power as if we belonged in the Pack hierarchy ourselves. At other times those same four letters are spoken with a warmth and tenderness of which we wouldn't have thought such an imposing man capable, and we luxuriate in the drugging heat of it as Sienna does, sighing in contentment as an alpha wolf both claims what is his but also allows himself to be claimed in return.

Kiss of Snow is a gift to fans of the Psy-Changeling series, the development of Hawke and Sienna's relationship written in magnificent detail and their progression from adversaries to lovers so euphorically satisfying we can't imagine how we've made it this long without their story in all its glorious completeness. Ms. Singh has written the ultimate romantic pairing–characters both immeasurably powerful yet extraordinarily vulnerable who challenge, test, and ultimately accept the other, coming together with such combustible force they will forever be burned into our hearts and memories. We read each page with with a grin that simply cannot be contained as a dominant wolf teaches a Psy stripped of any semblance of a childhood how to play, and a woman teaches a man to embrace both the fears and joys that accompany a true and unbreakable bond.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Scholastic Charity Auction + Giveaway Winners

Today I just wanted to do a quick post mentioning a very cool charity event Scholastic just launched at the beginning of May and it will run the entire month:

Twelve top children’s book illustrators created original artwork for Scholastic’s month-long online charity auction (which just opened for bids) to benefit Reading Is Fundamental and Reach Out and Read, two amazing literacy organizations that have lost all federal funding, making it even more difficult for them to help the kids who need it the most.

If you click on the above link it will take you straight to the auction and you can see all the beautiful artwork and place a bid. Below are just a couple of the artists and the pieces they've submitted for auction.

Mary GrandPré, illustrator of the Harry Potter series, with the original artwork she contributed to the month-long online charity auction to support literacy, New York, Thursday, May 5, 2011. GrandPre and 11 other renowned children's illustrators participated in the launch of the auction at Scholastic's New York City headquarters. (Stuart Ramson/InsiderImages for Scholastic)

Norman Bridwell with his original work which features his much beloved character Clifford the Big Red Dog, New York, Thursday, May 5, 2011. The artwork is available through the online charity auction to benefit literacy organizations until June 5 at (Stuart Ramson/InsiderImages for Scholastic)

Barbara McClintock with her original work which features a variety of fairy tale characters from her various picture books, including "The Gingerbread Man", New York, Thursday, May 5, 2011. The artwork is available through the online charity auction to benefit literacy organizations until June 5 at (Stuart Ramson/InsiderImages for Scholastic)


And now I have the winners of my most recent giveaways, a huge thank you to everyone entered, I had such fantastic responses to all three posts! Congratulations to those who won, you have all been emailed.




Winner of ABANDON and the bracelet:

Winner of 2nd copy of ABANDON:


Briana @ The Book Pixie

Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview: Nalini Singh

Today I can't even explain to you how excited I am to welcome Nalini Singh to the blog, she is the author of two of my very favorite paranormal romance series and her upcoming Psy-Changeling release KISS OF SNOW is unbelievably good (my review will be up on Monday). Some of you may remember a few months back I announced that I was nursing a spectacular crush on Hawke and slightly-obsessively book stalking him by reading the books in the series in which I knew he would be featured first before returning to read them in order. When the fabulous people at Penguin sent me an ARC, I may have permanently traumatized my FedEx man with a display of what I call dancing, but others would most likely call flailing or seizing. Super. The point is however, that I'm thrilled to have Nalini on today, and be sure and mark your calendars for the release of KISS OF SNOW on May 31st!

I have to say, KISS OF SNOW has my favorite cover out of all the published Psy-Changeling books (*strokes cover lovingly*), is there one cover that really stands out most to you?

I don’t think I could pick just one. Most recently, I love the colors in the PLAY OF PASSION and BONDS OF JUSTICE covers, while KISS OF SNOW is simply delicious. *grin*

Scent is vital to the changelings–providing them with a great deal of information about any given individual–and the way you describe each person’s scent often gives us a little extra insight into their character. How do you think Hawke might describe you in terms of scent?

What a fun question. Hmm, I think threads of chocolate might feature in the description, along with hints of ink and paper!

Hawke and Sienna are reader favorites and the tension between them has been slowly building throughout the series; has it been difficult for you to wait to tell their story?

Yes and no. It was hard waiting to share their story, but I never stopped myself from writing scenes for their book as those scenes came to me. Also, it was important to me that the timing be right for their book, not only because of Sienna’s age (though that is a major factor), but also because of Hawke’s and Sienna’s emotional journey to this point.

Both the Psy-Changeling series and the Guild Hunter series feature very dominant, very alpha men, yet their strong personalities are never off-putting or irritating. How difficult is it to achieve a balance between the dominance and vulnerability that makes these men so appealing?

My guiding principle is to ask: If he does this, is he still a hero? It’s such a simple thing to ask, but it gets to the heart of the matter.

What’s also critical is that while these men might be dominant and occasionally arrogant, they love with the same intensity that makes them so alpha. And when they fall, they fall hard. The heroine means everything to him – who can resist loving that kind of a hero?

Another thing to note is that my heroines have their own internal strength, which is more than a match for the dominance of the heroes – they can push back and force these alpha men to let down their walls, helping to create that balance between dominance and vulnerability.

We get to see a new side to Hawke and Sienna’s relationship when he opts to use the endearment “baby” when referring to her. What made you decide Hawke would be a pet name kind of guy, and why “baby” in particular?

He might be alpha, but he is still a wolf, still a changeling. Affection is natural for him, so the fact he used an endearment wasn’t something that surprised me. As for “baby” – it’s what Hawke wanted to use, and you know that wolf likes to get his own way.

If Hawke were to describe Sienna with a single word the moment he saw her upon her defection from the PsyNet, what would that word be? If he had to describe her now?

I think now and then, he would always call her strong. But now that he knows all the facets of her personality, he’s likely to use words like compelling and intriguing, too,…as well as one other that I’ll tell you after KISS OF SNOW releases.

If you were a SnowDancer enemy and encountered Sienna and Hawke on the battlefield, who would you fear most?

I think it would depend on whether I was Psy, Changeling or human – i.e. what knowledge I had of their abilities. Hawke is unquestionably dangerous, and to those that don’t know her, Sienna appears young and easier to defeat. However, in reality, she is a force to be reckoned with.

The truth is, any enemy should fear both – when it comes to the safety of the pack, they function as a lethal unit.

Now that Hawke finally has a woman that means something to him, will we get to see moments in future books where Lucas gets to reciprocate on some of the teasing he’s endured as a result of his mating to Sascha?

We shall see. ;-)

(I knew this question wouldn't work, but it was worth a try right? :-)

Would you say there is a specific point at which time Hawke’s frustration and irritation at Sienna’s open defiance and antics shifted into physical attraction, or would you say it was more of a gradual process?

It was very much a gradual process. However, it wasn’t until she was over eighteen that Hawke even allowed himself to consider the idea.

Of all the Psy-Changeling books, is there one specific couple’s story you found most difficult to tell, or felt the most pressure to get right?

Each story is unique and each has its own challenges. However, I think it’s safe to say that I felt extra pressure when it came to Hawke and Sienna – readers have been waiting so long for their book.

But, in terms of the actual writing process, I had to leave all that behind and simply focus on the story – because the fact is, attempting to please everyone would have been an impossible task. I had to trust in my instincts and write the story from the heart – and hope that readers would come along with me for the ride.

If you had a choice between having a set of wings as the angels and archangels in the Guild Hunter series do or having the ability to shift into animal form as with the changelings, which would you choose?

Oh, why do you ask such tough questions?! How can I possibly choose? I hereby use my (newly created) veto power as the writer, and state that I choose both!

Of all your male characters, who would you least mind getting completely possessive over you? Why him?

So many wonderful heroes…but they have heroines, either now, or in the future. These heroines live in my head, too, and there’s no way I want to make any of them mad by putting a claim on her mate.

But I have to say – no matter their race or species, my heroes are all men I adore.

Thanks so much for stopping by Nalini! If you haven't had the chance to pick up a book by Nalini yet, add one to your list the next time you go book shopping, she writes breathtaking characters and smoking romances that will have you scrambling to buy every book in the series after reading just one. For more information on her and her books, you can find her here:


KISS OF SNOW (from Goodreads)

Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.

Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would've been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.

Then Sienna changes the rules and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other's secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight…

A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna's darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home…and the alpha who is its heartbeat…

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: City of Fallen Angels

(The Mortal Instruments #4)
Cassandra Clare
Paranormal Young Adult
424 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available Now

Still recovering from the events surrounding Valentine's demise, Jace and Clary are very much looking forward to exploring their new relationship now that they are finally allowed to feel the way they do. But of course, relationships are never easy, and as Shadowhunters known to have been in Valentine's Circle start showing up dead, Jace begins to put inexplicable distance between them.

Jace and Clary aren't the only ones having relationship difficulties though as Simon finds himself dating two young women simultaneously. He's also dealing with the repercussions of his Mark, and it seems there are a lot of individual parties with a keen interest in him despite his status not being common knowledge.

Jace, Clary, and Simon all quickly get drawn into the mystery of the murdered Shadowhunters, and the more they discover, the more it becomes clear that all of their actions, but Clary's in particular, in the fight against Valentine have created a ripple effect of greater proportion than they could have ever imagined.

City of Fallen Angels is a book we fans of The Mortal Instruments series tear into with barely restrained glee, practically salivating in anticipation of a three book encore to a series we thought had seen the descent of the final curtain. In the back of our minds lurks a slight trepidation though–a minor worry the late decision to continue the series might result in events and character interactions feeling forced in the wake of our apparent happy ending in City of Glass. Not so surprising however, is the fact that we needn't worry at all. Ms. Clare picks up shortly after the events of book three left off, and we find ourselves once again swept up in a world of creativity and compelling characters who continue to endear themselves to us even when we thought we couldn't possibly love and respect them any more.

Jace, resident bad boy and connoisseur of the sarcastic retort, is a bit darker in this story than he has been previously, and this new intensity ratchets up his appeal even further. It's obvious to us at the beginning of this tale that the indelible emotional stain Valentine's words and actions left on Jace have been kept on the surface thanks to a relationship with Clary that has transformed from a source of torture and pain to one of happiness and pleasure. It doesn't take long, however, before that stain begins to seep into the skin, infecting Jace's incandescence with grim whispers that speak to him of his most intimate vulnerabilities. The light he usually radiates with his infectious charm and sharp wit begins to dim, exposing us to new layers of Jace, and though we do miss that spark we are also grateful for the opportunity to understand him on a far deeper level.

Clary, unsure of how to deal with the fact that her love for Jace is no longer a living nightmare, also struggles with the distance he creates when he withdraws into himself to answer the questioning darkness. Her inability to confront Jace about the changes in his demeanor is a bit frustrating throughout until finally, at the very end, she adamantly refuses to continue being someone through whom he filters his self-recrimination–his every action and verbal exchange with her something he uses as evidence of his unworthiness–and she forces him to acknowledge her feelings, thereby denying him the right to a say in how much she cares for him. Their relationship is so very fragile in this story, the cords that bind them together undeniably strong, but they are also frayed at the edges as a result of past events. We as readers sit in the comfort of our homes helplessly reading as the strands between them both wind together and then unwind again, wishing with every fiber of our being that we could reach through the pages and hold those delicate strings to prevent them from fraying another centimeter.

While the previous three books have been primarily Jace and Clary-centric, it is nice to have Simon's role in this story augmented given the enormity of the Mark of Cain and its bearing on his life. The Simon storyline is fraught with possibility, and his increasing prominence raises so many interesting questions for the future with regard to his immortality versus his friends' mortality. Clary and Jace's story is beautifully interwoven with Simon's, and we are given a rich and exciting tale where the characters all share possession of our hearts, and Ms. Clare has us standing at attention as we wait raptly for her to reveal everything about a world we love so much.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview: Holly Schindler

I'm thrilled to welcome Holly Schindler to Supernatural Snark today, she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her newest young adult release, Playing Hurt, which is available now!

Instant attraction is a pretty prominent theme in young adult literature at the moment; what would it take, either physically or personality-wise, for someone to grab your immediate romantic attention?

Humor’s big with me. If I’m laughing, you’re an instant hit.

You are a big fan of taking notes and scribbling in margins; can you share with us one of the notes scribbled during the writing of PLAYING HURT?

I initially drafted PLAYING HURT in about ’04 or ’05. And in ’09, I re-read the manuscript…At the time, Chelsea was a girl who went on vacation and fell in love with one of the resort guides in a way she’d NEVER fallen for her boyfriend back home (and she learned, during that vacation, the true difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone). But I knew something was missing. As I re-read, I remember circling things like fishing, hiking…And I remember writing at the top of one of the pages, “Chelsea=ATHLETE.” A few pages later, I wrote, “Chelsea WAS athlete.”

At that point, the sports subplot was born!

If you could excel at any one sport as Chelsea does at basketball, what sport would you choose to show off your mad skills?

I think I’d probably be better off with an individual sport, rather than a team sport…I’d really like to play golf, I think…

If Clint were asked to describe his favorite moment in PLAYING HURT, what might he say?

I think he’d initially think of the waterfall scene…But then I also think he’d remember the first time he saw Chelsea, the first time he kissed Chelsea, and I think he’d remember buying those hockey skates…

Both PLAYING HURT and A BLUE SO DARK have beautiful, well-designed covers. If you could pick one book cover (other than yours) that you wish your name was on for purely aesthetic reasons, which book would it be and why?

Man, this is tough. There are just so many great covers out there. At this point, I love anything that sticks out, that’s different—so one cover I actually like is Lauren Oliver’s DELIRIUM. Just blue, with the title on it. That cover also shows the power of Lauren Oliver’s name, just two books into the game, which is really impressive. That publisher doesn’t need fancy cover art—just the Oliver name. That’s really incredible, when you think about it…

Favorite moment: writing the first sentence of a book or the last?

I FAR prefer revision to drafting. (Revision is really when a book stops feeling like a bunch of typed pages and begins to feel like a cohesive NOVEL.) There is an excitement with the first sentence—and also a slight twinge of fear, as you wonder how you’re going to pull the whole thing off. AND, there’s an enormous feeling of success, but also a slight twinge of sadness, associated with the last sentence.

Say you’re having a bad day—what’s the one book you can pull off the shelf to read and instantly feel better?

I rarely re-read books…BUT one book I just love and have often pulled off the shelf to look at again is THE PAPER BAG PRINCES…It’s a picture book I discovered in my children’s lit course in college…And it introduces young girls to the idea that sometimes, the happy ending DOESN’T involve a prince.

I know for me personally, reading books for school was always more of a chore than an enjoyable activity, and I had absolutely no interest in what happened other than remembering key facts for test purposes. I think if I were to read them again outside of a classroom context, I would have a very different reaction to them. Is there one book in particular you can remember not caring for in school but really enjoy now?

I’m an old lit major, so I actually did enjoy reading for school. I do remember that when I was in high school, there were certain works—the poetry of Emily Dickinson, or THE SCARLET LETTER, for example—that I was a little ho-hum about…But by the time I go t to college, and re-read them, I absolutely fell in love with them!

…These days, I spend so much time reading new releases, it would actually be a bit like a vacation to read a classic…a little Jane Austen, maybe…

Thanks so much for stopping by Holly! For more information on Holly and her books you can find her here:

YA Outside the Lines (a blog Holly writes along with some other fabulous young adult authors, be sure and check it out!)


Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Collision Course

Zoë Archer
Sci Fi Romance
e-book novella
Carina Press
Available Now
Received from author for review

Not only is Mara Skiren a smuggler being blackmailed into a rescue mission for the prestigious 8th wing, a group of gifted pilots, she's also being given a partner. A partner in the form of gorgeous, confident Commander Kell Frayne.

As if the mission weren't dangerous enough–roaming unfriendly skies and worlds in search of a missing pilot and aircraft–she finds herself increasingly distracted by the new male addition to her small but resilient ship.

Mara doesn't do relationships. One night stands, yes. Committed relationships, no. But there's something about Kell that's making its way under her carefully maintained armor, and she's not sure she even wants to put up much of a fight to keep him at a distance. However, despite the fact that she's falling for him, the likelihood that he'll want a smuggler in his perfect 8th Wing life seems entirely too much to hope for.

Collision Course wastes little time introducing us to a world of space travel and fantastical environments, thrusting us right into the action and the tangible romantic tension between our two protagonists. Ms. Archer does a beautiful job of crafting a story lighter on the science fiction element, one that gives us just enough detail to jump start our imaginations into creating images of people and places without burdening us with so much information that we begin to lose interest. This world and its characters are perfect for those readers who are curious about Sci Fi but perhaps hesitant to give it a try. The flush-inducing sparks crackling between Kell and Mara instantly catch our full attention and hold it throughout, anchoring us in familiar emotion while we travel at unbelievable speeds, meet and hear about unusual creatures, and wander streets in worlds we can hardly fathom.

Kell and Mara are characters who feel fully developed and complex despite the short amount of page time we get to spend with them, brief flashes of their histories giving us just enough understanding to help us relate to the people they've become. Both are incredibly strong and independent, their difficult pasts making it clear to us why they've chosen the separate paths along which they tread, but in them we see enough similarities to be content with watching as their respective bumpy, winding roads begin to smooth and curve in a new direction where a blissful merge of flesh, emotion, and future awaits. Ms. Archer has created two dominant, strong-willed personalities who find themselves unexpectedly vulnerable in the hands of another person, and we as readers just flip the pages smiling as defenses are dropped and trust is given.

Overall, Collision Course is a very quick, easy, and entertaining read with strong leading characters and an intriguing intergalactic storyline. The romance flares bright and hot, the combustible pair of Kell and Mara heating the pages (or e-reader in this case) beneath our fingers, but also fully satisfying our need for an emotional connection to make the physical attraction all the more powerful. Ms. Archer has me positively hooked on this series and I'm counting the days until Chain Reaction is released in November.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Huntress

Malinda Lo
Paranormal Young Adult
384 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Being a sage, Taisin is able to see visions of the future. In one such vision she sees a young woman named Kaede departing in a boat across an ice cold sea and feels a searing sense of loss in watching her go. When she informs her mentors of what she's seen, they cast the oracle stones and determine that Taisin and Kaede, along with the King's son, must be the ones to venture to the realm of the Fairy Queen in answer to her summons.

En route, Taisin and Kaede begin to see how just how much their world is changing. The sun no longer shines. The crops no longer grow. And strange creatures, neither fully human nor fay, are emerging from the woods dividing the human territory from that belonging to the Fairy Queen.

While making their treacherous journey to hopefully restore their lands to their former glory with the help of the fay, Taisin begins to struggle with the feelings for Kaede she experienced in her vision. A sage takes a vow of chastity and must forgo a life of love in order to fulfill her purpose, but Kaede is coming to mean more to Taisin than anyone ever has before. When the Queen reveals to them the way to re-establish the balance in their world, both young women are sure they won't survive. And if they do, Taisin will have to choose between the life she's always wanted, and the new life she's not sure she can let go.

Dark and beautifully told, Huntress takes us on a journey of magic and fantasy, but woven through those elements is a cool grimness that makes us question if the end destination and outcome is truly worth the pain and loss lining the weaving road to get there. While we are certainly involved with our small band of travelers as they embark on a mission to save their world from its slow descent into death, this is not necessarily a story that will stand out in our memory once its covers are closed. We enjoy our time with sages, humans, and fay, exploring the different relationships between the characters, but our connection is tenuous–definitely present and noticeable yet it doesn't pulse with emotion and feeling. Huntress is a story easily devoured in a short amount of time as a result of the skillful combination of love and loss, duty and need, and mortality and immortality, however, it doesn't haunt us the way certain other stories do.

The relationship between Taisin and Kaede is one of the stronger aspects of this tale, their quiet affection for one another evolving into something more profound at a tantalizingly slow pace, making us hyperaware of each girl's every movement as they dance a circle around one another. The only minor drawback is with Taisin's precognitive abilities, her vision of Kaede and the emotions attached to it occurring prior to their meeting, and so we are left wondering if that attraction we're so wishing would solidify into a relationship is a result of true feelings or merely a resignation to her gift and the acceptance that she's supposed to feel that way. Despite that very small issue (which may not even be problematic for some), Kaede and Taisin enter into a sweet romance where the tension between them is potent and powerful, causing our lips to curl into a smile at their continued hesitancy and uncertainty even though their connection to one another seems so obvious to us.

The mission Taisin, Kaede, and company undertake is long and riddled with enough difficulties to keep us anxiously flipping the pages to see what next lies in wait for them, but for all the buildup the conflict seems to get resolved fairly quickly. For three hundred pages we push forward with these characters in search of the Fairy Queen and the promise of her answers, and in the last sixty or so pages the villain is tracked down, defeated, and we are then sent on another very quick side expedition which is also wrapped up with equal ease and swiftness. The suspense and apprehension doesn't seem to be evenly distributed in this tale, all the anxiety as to who will survive the task assigned to them happening during our epic travels to the realm of the Fairy Queen, and then that beautiful uneasiness rapidly subsides just at the story's climax.

Overall, Huntress is well-written and engaging despite the somewhat lopsided nature of the journey versus the resolution, keeping us intrigued while reading but also not fully consuming us mentally or emotionally.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In My Mailbox #27

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week! I haven't done this meme in little while, so the below is what I've received/bought over the past two weeks.


Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (from SS Galley Grab)
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury (from SS Galley Grab)
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
Tighter by Adele Griffin

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (LOVED this one)

WON from Alison Can Read:
Hex: A Witch and Angel Tale by Ramona Wray

A huge thank you to Macmillan, Big Honcho Media, Scholastic, Teen Book Scene, Alison of Alison Can Read and Ramona Wray for sending me books these past two weeks!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cover Critique: Ellora's Cave Finale

Alright friends, it's the last week of my Ellora's Cave cover extravaganza and I've got some covers that are sure to burn themselves into your memory forever and ever. Be prepared. Before we start though I just want to say a quick thank you to Kelli Collins, Editor-in-Chief of Ellora's Cave Publishing, who was nice enough to leave a comment on last week's post expressing her amusement with regard to my little critiques, and I thoroughly appreciate her taking my humor in the spirit in which it's intended. Hope you all enjoy the finale!


The mind, it boggles. What is going on with this figure placement? She's decapitated him with her pleather-covered elbow and he seems to be downright pissed about it given the way he's clenching those fists. I'm all for the headless torso action on a cover–those naked, rippling chests are so very pretty to look at–but this takes it to a whole new level. A more disturbing level. I have stared and stared at this cover in an attempt to find some reason as to why this is happening, and I can honestly say I've come up with a big fat goose egg. So, of course, I had to look up the blurb on Goodreads to see if it could shed some light:

Oberon learns he will be teaching a new program that allows humans to be educated on alien culture by the aliens themselves. What he doesn't expect is Anjessica and the lusty power struggle they enter. His arousal for the human student drives him crazy, her passion pushing him to the edge of control. Anjessica is on a mission to save the most important person in her life and failure is not an option. Being educated by an alien on every sensual level is a distraction she doesn't need. But her passion for him puts everything she's trying to save on the line. If Anjessica isn't careful, her erotic connection with Oberon could cause her to lose everything.

Wow. That was no help at all was it? Nowhere in there does it mention that a monstrous, red-catsuit-wearing Anjessica will knock poor Oberon's head off with her mutant elbow. Odd. After reading this I'm actually fairly intrigued, I would definitely like to know how he is going to please her "on every sensual level" when he doesn't have a head. Well, doesn't have a head on his neck anyway, but I guess he could show her all kinds of things with his other one couldn't he? Except he appears to be a miniature alien given that she's supposed to be human, so I can't imagine the head he's left with will be all that satisfying if it's proportionate to what we see here. A shame, really.


I find myself completely befuddled by the limb proportions on this cover. Inflamed seems to be an apt title given her inexplicable and gargantuan left arm. Upon first seeing this cover I thought surely it was someone else's arm off cover shoving a finger in her mouth (ew), but I'm pretty sure it's hers. Then, in direct contrast to her left arm, her right arm is absurdly small and shrunken. Poor girl. If she was lost at sea with nothing but her arms as paddles, she'd just spin herself in continuous circles wouldn't she? Tragic.

I'm thinking it's a good thing she seems to be in possession of two naked cowboys, as her go-go-Gadget arm is much too enormous to embrace a single individual (did I just date myself with an Inspector Gadget reference? Yes? Damn). Maybe that's part of her appeal? She has magic overgrown fingers all the better to tease her lawless cowboys with? Absolutely spectacular.


Words fail me. This cover will haunt me for the rest of my days. Why is she winking at me like that? And why is she cocking that eyebrow at me while giving me the stare down with an unnatural blue eye? *shudders* Honestly, the more I look at her the more afraid I become. She's obviously got something sneaky going on in that noggin of hers, and she and the teddy bear are clearly in cahoots. She looks like she wants me to know that she knows that I know nothing. Mission accomplished. I know nothing but that this cover disturbs me on a multitude of levels.

Can we just look at her left arm for a minute? What is going on with people's left arms on these covers? They're just wrong. Wrong, I say! Hers is the manliest arm I've ever seen on a woman. The unfortunate shading makes it look like she's sprouted thick, dark hair, and she's got such bulbous fingers that my mind is having trouble reconciling the feminine black lace lingerie with her masculine appendages. I may never be the same after this.

Fourth: THE JOCK

Okay. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will in fact never be the same. I'm traumatized beyond any hope of recovery. My eyeballs have been branded with this image and I will never escape it however much I try. Because this has happened to me, I had to share it with all of you. You. Are. Welcome.

What, I ask you, is going on with his right pectoral? I've never seen one so grossly swollen in all my life. It's like a balloon ready to pop, and that nipple is aimed right at me as though it's targeting me for the explosion. Cue gag reflex.

I'm going to tell you a brief, but related, story to momentarily distract us all from the soul-scarring image above. My husband loves PlayStation. Loves it. One of his favorite games is Tiger Woods golf. For those of you who don't know, when you set up your player in this game, you can go through a ridiculous number of physical characteristics when building them–anything from hair color to skin blemishes to waist and breast size. My husband, being the champion husband that he is, thought it would be hilarious to make a caricature of me. He gave me the most absurd features, including a pair of boobs so enormous I would have toppled over if they were real. They were extra pointy and extended so far out from my body I couldn't possibly have swung a club without smacking them and sending them flying up into my face. Awesome.

This cover reminds me of that caricature in Tiger Woods golf. It's clearly a digital rendering, and I just have no idea how to handle it. I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or claw at my eyes in an attempt to erase it from memory. I fear nothing will help.

Have a great weekend everyone!