Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interview: S.R. Johannes + Untraceable

Today I have author S.R. Johannes joining me on the blog to answer a few questions about her young adult novel Untraceable. Untraceable released yesterday and is now available for purchase, so be sure and check the bottom of the post for the links!

What are the 5 things Grace would say are must-haves for surviving in the wilderness? Is there anything you personally would add to that list?

Grace would take only the essentials. A flint and steel to start a fire, a tarp to keep dry, a purifier water, food (moon pies), and a really sharp knife.

I would take books and my computer :-) And Grace would be so annoyed with me!

Mo, our resident hottie in Untraceable, has a delicious accent. What accent do you find the most alluring?

My husband is from the UK so everytime I write for Mo – I hear my husband’s voice in my head. Pretty much everything Mo says, my husband has said at one point or another. Sometimes, my friends make me put him on speakerphone so they can all swoon when he speaks (that is so high school right?). So his accent is my favorite. :-)

My fav phrases he says:
Hello blossom (yes my hubby says that :-)
On your bike (go away)
Bloody hell (Geez!)
Oh my giddy aunt (holy crap)
Taking the mickey (just kidding)
That’s Poppycock (that's a lie)

Grace is clearly an outdoorsy girl; would you consider yourself to be one as well? I have to say I most thoroughly am not as I may or may not run screaming like a little girl from any and all insects.

Not to the extent she is, but I do love nature and animals. Being outside grounds me, it recenters me. When I get frustrated, I go in my back yard and sit in the swing and just listen to the world around me. Now that is not wilderness like Grace.

I used to camp all the time when I was growing up but got away from it as soon as I started working. My husband loves the wilderness and when we had kids we naturally started doing things like hiking and fishing so nature has grown on me again. Though I’m not stoked about spiders or snakes, nor do I like to be isolated in the deep dark woods.

Is there one single trait Graces possesses that you wish you did?

Survival. She rarely panics if lost or scared. She keeps her wits about her. I freak out if something goes wrong. I am not great in a crisis. If the world was destroyed, Grace would be able to take care of herself. She could get her own food, know what plants to eat, and easily survive. I would perish within one day.

If I can pick another I would say that I love how Grace appreciates the simple things. Unlike teens today, she doesn’t need computers or TV or cell phones. She is happy in nature enjoying life. Enjoying the moments that kids forget to enjoy. So in a sense, even though Grace can be very impulsive and even annoyingly reckless, she is much more grounded than I am at times.

What has been the most exciting moment for you to date with the writing of and promotional work for Untraceable?

When I found out Untraceable was accepted by Kirkus and getting a review. That made me feel more credible as an author.

You come from a marketing background; how has that affected the way you’ve been promoting your own book?

I’m not going to lie - it helps me in many ways.
1) I love marketing. Not as much as writing but I think its fun so I have fun doing it
2) I know what needs to be done and can do it myself.
3) I am not afraid of it nor am I afraid of contacting people and pitching them.

I will say it has been slightly awkward because I am usually marketing FOR other people. I am not used to promoting myself and it feels odd. But I’m trying to do it in a genuine way so hopefully that comes across.

What’s the one piece of marketing advice you find yourself giving to fellow authors most often?

Yes, you need an online presence/platform. Yes you need a web site.

I’m surprised when I still get that question in this day and age.

Name one 2012 release you’re most looking forward to getting your hands on.

You mean besides my Grace book 2 Uncontrollable – coming in summer :-)??

I would say: Body Finder 3 (The Last Echo) by Kimberly Derting and Fracture by Megan Miranda

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Shelli! More information on her and her books can be found here:



16 year old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.

When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.

One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.

Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Character Interview + Giveaway: Logan Quinn and Kiss of Frost

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming oh-so attractively arrogant Logan Quinn to the blog to answer a few questions for me. Logan is a Spartan who attends Mythos Academy with Gwen Frost, the heroine of Jennifer Estep's fantastic paranormal young adult series. Today just happens to be release day for Kiss of Frost which is book two in the series, and I think most of you might know by now that I'm a bit of a hardcore Jennifer fangirl, so I really can't say enough good things about this book (you can read my review HERE). Welcome to Supernatural Snark Logan!

What aspect of weapons training and fighting would you say Gwen is best at? What does she struggle most with?

I would say the Gypsy girl is good at improvising. Just when you think you’ve finally defeated her, she manages to do something to completely surprise you and get back into the battle. Also, she always keeps fighting no matter what. I admire that about her.

The Gypsy girl has definitely struggled with just learning how to fight and how to move from one position to the next. She hasn’t been training her whole life like the other kids at Mythos have, and you can almost see her thinking about what comes next and how she needs to move to attack or defend herself.

But she’s made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and I’m really proud of her.

We’ve only got a few brief flashes of your painful past these first two books. Do you ever see yourself fully opening up to Gwen or anyone else in the near future, or is that part of you going to remain a mystery for a while longer?

Um, well, you see … *falls silent* I don’t know. I don’t like to talk about my past—to anyone.

If you had to pick a regular profession—something that didn’t involve honing your Spartan skills or defending the world against Loki and his Reapers–what might you be most interested in doing?

I’d want to be a police officer, a fireman, a bodyguard, or maybe even a doctor. Something where I could help and protect other people.

What is your greatest fear or your happiest memory?

One of my favorite memories is the day that I first ran into the Gypsy girl out on the main quad at the academy. Or rather, when she ran into me. I had seen her around campus, but I’d never talked to her until then. I liked how smart and sassy she was. It made me want to know more about her, and I’m glad she ran into me that day.

You and Gwen have a deliciously tense and somewhat rocky relationship that’s a little bit addicting for us as readers. Is there any one moment with her you would change? Something you would say or not say if given the chance to do it over again?

I wish I had said something different when she first asked me out. I was really harsh to her, and I didn’t mean to be. It’s just that there are things I don’t want the Gypsy girl to know about me—things I don’t want anyone to know about me. But thanks to her psychometry magic, she could easily find out all my secrets with just a touch of her fingers—whether I want her to or not …

Who's in love with Logan? This girl. For more information on Jennifer and both the Mythos Academy series and her urban fantasy Elemental Assassin series, you can find her here:



Jennifer is generously offering up a copy of Kiss of Frost to one lucky winner today! To enter, please just leave a comment and include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight EST on Friday, December 2nd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!


Logan Quinn was try­ing to kill me. My Spar­tan class­mate relent­lessly pur­sued me, swing­ing his sword at me over and over again, the shin­ing sil­ver blade inch­ing closer to my throat every time. A smile tugged up his lips, and his ice-blue eyes prac­ti­cally glowed with the thrill of battle...

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Bunheads

Sophie Flack
Contemporary Young Adult
304 Pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

For the young dancers of the Manhattan Ballet Company every day is a chance to be seen. A chance to stand out. A chance to prove to everyone they're worthy of the coveted solo part that will make them a name rather than a graceful but faceless background ornament. Hannah Ward has never dreamed of anything other than that moment of being center stage, and has been working tirelessly since she was young to get there.

Each season with the company seems to get more difficult though, the amount of work she's putting in not necessarily reflected in the parts she's getting onstage. Meeting college student and local musician Jacob only complicates matters, causing her to question the dreams she's had since she was little as he opens her eyes to other opportunities.

Unable to give up on being a star dancer despite the lure of pursuing a different career path, Hannah pushes herself to work harder. Surely with more training, more sweat, more tears, and more blisters she'll finally prove to herself and to those in charge of her future that she's just...more. But Hannah's doubts won't fade away so easily, and soon she finds herself facing a choice she never imagined she'd ever have to make.

Despite being a contemporary young adult novel rather than a paranormal or dsytopian, Bunheads still transports us to a completely different world, one where fierce competitors replace the vampires, werewolves and faeries, and bustling theater wings surrounding a glittering stage become the center of our story. While this tale is decidedly vampire-free, demons run rampant in all their intangible and abstract glory, the dancers of the Manhattan Ballet company struggling daily with weight and confidence issues as their minds force their bodies further than they’re often capable of going. There may be no supernatural creatures hiding out in the night, but there is a threatening darkness just the same, snapping our eyes wide open as we read in a bit of shock as to the degree these young women are pushed and push themselves, their lives on the line for the barest chance of finding themselves the sole occupant of the spotlight directed at center stage.

The life of a corps ballet dancer is depicted with a sort of terrifying beauty, the dedication each young woman possesses admirable, and their movements–were we able to see them–no doubt art in it’s purest form, however, the pace of the overall story is a bit slow as we follow Hannah through several seasons. Dance terms and names of movements abound, sometimes tripping us up as we can only guess as to what the corresponding dance movement for such a name might look like. This would have been a fairly easy flaw to overlook had our connection to Hannah been strong and visceral, but unfortunately Hannah remains distinctly out of our reach, a stunning dancer we see only in vague shapes and shadows as our complete understanding of her remains elusive.

We want to know Hannah and her fellow corps dancers, but their behavior often hits us like a slap in the face, forcing us back a few steps just as we were about to take one forward. An insult is as likely to fall from any of their lips as a compliment, appearing friends one moment until one of them turns their back and then the barrage of competitive jealousies spews forth as they commiserate over the latest casting decisions. Their attitudes cause us to question whether or not it’s actually possible to be both friend and competitor, and whether genuine happiness can be felt when the promotion of a friend means one's own dreams are that much closer to slipping through one's fingers. Despite those questions, the girls’ tendency to exercise their sharp tongues as often as they point their toes makes them difficult to fully stand behind, keeping us at a distance when it’s clear every one of them could use all the support they could get.

Overall, Ms. Flack has written a simultaneously disturbing and fascinating story, the final art form stunning but the road to that seemingly unattainable beauty paved with more than just blood, sweat, and tears, as hopes, dreams, and entire lives exist right along beside them. Those who do not necessarily crave a strong character/reader bond will most likely not be bothered by the detachment from Hannah and crew, but for those who read just to feel as though their an intrinsic part of that character’s world, Bunheads will be a more average read.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In My Mailbox #39

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!

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (Thank you HarperTeen)
Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer (Thank you HarperTeen)
What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman (Thank you Scholastic)
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (Thank you Bloomsbury and NetGalley)
Watched by Sharde Richardson (Thank you Sharde)
Bad Blood by Kristen Painter (Thank you Hachette and Kristen)
Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig (Thank you HarperTeen and NetGalley)
Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Thank you Lauren)
Within the Flames by Marjorie M. Liu (Thank you HarperCollins)

Also, hardcore slacker that I am, it took me a long time to pick a winner for the Paranormals trilogy giveaway, but I finally did and she has been emailed. Thanks to everyone who entered and I apologize profusely for the delay in announcing this one!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cover Critique: A Black Friday Treat

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.

Warning: This week's critique is more adult in nature

In honor of Black Friday and the unofficial start to the holiday season, I thought it was only fitting to share this gem with you to help get that holiday spirit flowing. Always thinking of others, that's me. Now, when you first look at this cover you may think to yourself "Self, in comparison to some of the other things Jenny's come up with, this really isn't so bad." And you'd be right. Aside from the fact that he's lime green and has a strange vein situation happening on that right shoulder, there's nothing overly absurd about this cover. But wait for it. Would I ever share something with you that wasn't completely hilarious? No. So prepare yourselves, because the ridiculousness really comes into play with the synopsis. Enjoy:

For years, Trisha has searched for the perfect man. One who is taller than her and who would dominate her in the bedroom as well as sharing his heart with her. Hood is clan leader of his planet's military. His father, king of Zion, is a very dominant man, so it’s no wonder Hood does his father's bidding and helps St. Nick deliver Christmas presents to Earth. However, when Hood's mother poses as a sales clerk and convinces Trisha to buy a huge green dildo, Christmas takes on a whole new meaning. Trisha finds her lover, Hood gets his mate, and Christmas night turns into one full of erotic screams and sexy demands. Who would've thought a giant green dildo could bring Trisha the man of her dreams?

*falls down dead*

*still dead*

*can't breathe through the tears*

Okay. I've recovered ever-so slightly. Have you? Of course you haven't because that synopsis is almost too amazing to comprehend. I bet I've stunned you all into a kind of a I-can't-believe-that's-what-it-actually-says silence. Believe my friends, believe. The green dildo is real. My mind can't even wrap itself around what was said enough to come up with a coherent critique, so I'd like to just dissect a few elements of that blurb. Here we go.

1. Hood's father is a dominant man. Got it. How exactly does dominance relate to his military-leader son delivering Christmas presents to the little teacup humans of Earth? You have no idea? Me either. Moving on.

2. Hood's mother (wife of a dominant man people!) just decides to up and come to Earth to work in an adult toy store? What are her qualifications? I feel like we are to assume that Hood's kinky mom knew Trisha was going to be shopping for a dildo for Christmas (as you do) so she insinuated herself into this store at just the right time. Super. Does anyone else find it extraordinarily creepy that Trisha's soon-to-be lover's mother helped pick her out a giant green dildo? I have to say my mother-in-law has been giving me stockings full of goodies for going on ten years now and there has been nary a sex-related gift in any of them. Clearly, I got the short end of the mother-in-law stick. Shame.

Cathy, if you're reading this, please work on that okay? Let's ratchet up the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law awkwardness a few notches and create some drama shall we? If there are no weird and inappropriate gifts waiting for me in a month's time I'm going to be wildly disappointed. Make it happen.

3. I'm a bit baffled as to how the magic green dildo leads Trisha to Hood. There's no mention in there about them meeting at all, it just says she gets the green wang substitute and then *POOF* Hood has his mate. Whuh? Is it like a genie-in-a-bottle situation? She rubs the green penis and Hood appears in all his strange present-delivering glory? What a bizarre way for two people to meet. Imagine relaying this information to friends and family over a champagne toast at your wedding:

"It's a funny story really. You'll laugh. I was lonely and shopping for a way to lend myself a hand in the romance department, and wouldn't you know it, but I happened to meet Hood's mother in the sex shop! What are the odds right? *deep sigh* Anyway, she knew all about dildos and helped me pick out a HUGE green one that she thought would work just perfect for me and Well, things get a little hazy after that to be honest, I must have been in a fog of lust using my new gift and can't quite remember a few details! *high pitched giggle* The important thing is at some point in there Hood showed up and declared me his mate. The End. Cheers!"

4. Last, but certainly not least, why is the guy on the cover green? The synopsis very clearly states that only the dildo is green, there is no mention of Hood (and seriously, Hood is his name?) being green at all. I guess I prefer this verdant fellow to an image of a giant dildo because that could quite possibly damage all my delicate sensibilities (*snort*) and then I wouldn't be able to do future critiques justice as I would be forced to rip my eyes from their sockets to escape such a sight. So, let's all take a moment and be thankful for our leg-less, hand-less, and apparently seasick gentlemen for saving us from a far worse fate. Hood, we thank you.

Happy Friday Everyone!

*An enormous thank you to Amanda from On a Book Bender for finding this masterpiece and sending it my way!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mini Reviews: Anathema + Queenie's Brigade

ANATHEMA (Cloud Prophet Trilogy #1)
Megg Jensen
206 pages
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Forget prophecy. Make your own destiny.

Sheltered from the outside world with no hope for escape, slave girl Reychel dreads her fifteenth birthday - when her master’s symbol is burned on the back of her bald scalp. Her best friend disappears the night before, leaving her to face the branding ceremony alone. She soon discovers nothing is as it seems when people desperate for freedom beg for Reychel's help.

Can Reychel learn to believe in herself?

Anathema is an incredibly quick read, having an almost fairy-tale quality to it as we watch a slave girl with no idea who she is learn destiny has a unique plan for her. The short page length is both a benefit and a detriment to this tale, drawing us into the story instantly but also denying us some of the rich character development we find ourselves hoping for, Reychel being someone we root for superficially instead of with our full hearts and minds. Her relationship with love interest Mark forms rapidly after only a couple brief interactions just as her friendship with fellow slave Ivy deteriorates with equal quickness, and our time with each of the two of these secondary characters is so short we feel a bit detached from the changes taking place, existing as spectators to the action rather than engaged participants.

Additionally, allegiances shift with shocking speed to create a bit of confusion as to who is to be trusted and who isn’t, and though some of the befuddlement in this epic character chess match seems intentional, we are still left at the end a bit bewildered at how fast everything has happened. Overall, however, Ms. Jensen has written an intriguing first installment with a likable heroine who piques our interest as well as a world positively ripe with possibilities moving forward. Hopefully future installments will provide us with a way to sort through all the constantly-changing relationships so we can have a single focus to latch onto and hold tight.

Rating: 3.5/5

Heather Massey
Adult SciFi Romance
Red Sage Publishing
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Captain Michael Drake desperately needs an army to save Earth after a crushing defeat by alien invaders. When his damaged starship docks at a remote prison colony, he discovers Earth’s last best hope—an army to replace the one he lost.

But, Queenie, the feral goddess ruling the prison, has other plans for the rugged star ship captain. After imprisoning Drake and seizing his ship, she prepares to lead her blood-thirsty band to freedom before the invaders track them down.

Despite her intentions, Queenie secretly falls for the sexy, hotshot captain. Drake makes it plain he wants to win back Earth with her by his side. But is following her heart worth betraying her people?

Queenie’s Brigade thrusts us forward in time to a world of space travel and science fiction, Earth faltering under the onslaught of a more advanced conquering empire as her remaining line of defense is reduced to a single ship. Despite the fact that this is a novella, Ms. Massey manages to make each word count, the Relentless and her crew as well as Queenie’s prison environment easy to picture given the information we’re provided, and the heavy threat of a seemingly unwinnable war is clearly felt.

Though the world and the faceless villains are well-executed, our hero and heroine themselves leave a little to be desired. This is a sci-fi adventure with underlying romantic themes, however, the romance itself is something we can't wrap our minds around quite as well as we can the situation we’ve been dropped into. Queenie is supposed to be a mix of toughness and vulnerability, but somehow neither trait is fully believable on her, and Drake’s fairly instantaneous attraction to her is a bit puzzling. He can’t help but notice some of her finer features while he’s being held prisoner, but such observations come to him at inappropriate times (like when she’s torturing one of his crew members), so it’s extremely hard for us to see through his eyes when what we’re seeing with our own elicits remarkably less positive emotions.

Ms. Massey does do a very nice job drawing the romance out so it’s not a case of two enemy strangers falling into bed and declaring love mere hours later, but even with the added time we’re granted with them, the story itself seems as though it would have held up perfectly well, if not better, if that element were removed entirely or explored more thoroughly in a later installment. There’s clearly a great deal of potential for more at the conclusion of this tale, and though the relationship didn’t quite appeal, it’s still a world I wouldn’t mind revisiting in the future.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Post + Giveaway: Debra Anastasia and Poughkeepsie

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Debra Anastasia back to the blog to share with us a fun interview with one of the characters from her novel Poughkeepsie which releases today (yay!) from Omnific Publishing. Take it away Debra and Mouse!

Jenny kindly allowed me to guest post today on her amazing blog I took the opportunity to interviewing one of the characters from my story new story, Poughkeepsie. I invited Mouse, the bodyguard from the story, to my place. Here’s what happened:

I answer the door in my pajamas. The huge man on the other side nods and but doesn’t comment about my bizarre attire.

“Mouse, thanks for dropping by.” I hold the door all the way open.

He steps in and bends to pet my blind, old spitz mix. Her cloudy eyes put some people off, but Mouse treats her like the sweet dog that she is.

“Can I get your jacket?” I motion to his crisply tailored suit jacket.

“No, thank you though.” His voice is high and squeaky.

I’m expecting this but its high octave still strikes me as slightly humorous considering his brawn. I remind myself of his manners with my pajamas and old dog and stifle my smile. He shuts his eyes, obviously waiting for the effect his voice must surely bring when he meets new people. I feel instantly guilty.

“Well, then, shall we get started? Please have a seat.” I wave a hand in the direction of the couch.

He sits and pulls a grey bag into his lap. Out of what must be excessive habit, he digs in the bag and retrieves knitting needles attached to an elaborate, colorful scarf. He picks up where he apparently left off and soon my apartment is filled with the gentle clacking of his craft. I want to mention that I like knitting too, but he’s obviously much more skilled than I am, so I keep the information to myself.

“Nice apartment.” He takes in the surroundings carefully, noting the exits. As he twists his jacket falls open to reveal a holster and a gun, reminding me of his lifestyle.

“The insurance company put us up here. In the interim.” I brush my hand over the plush, blue couch. “It’s all rented.”

“That’s right. Your house? So, it’s a total loss then?” Mouse listens with his whole body.

I smile a bit, he has paid attention to the tiny details in our email conversations concerning the damage my house sustained during the hurricane. “Yeah, they’re going to rebuild it though. So that’s nice.”

“How’re the kids taking it?” He barley glances at his hands as they continue creating the elaborate pattern on the scarf.

“Good. Well, my boy is fine with it. My girl’s having difficulty.” I shake my head, amazed that we’re talking about my life and not the other way around.

He stops his knitting and opens his grey bag. He pulls out a hand knit mouse and passes it to me. “Here, I made this a few days ago not knowing who it was for. Now I know. Give it to her.”

It was delicate and cute and very sweet. I say as much. He shrugs and gets back to his knitting. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that this man made a little toy so close to a gun.

“And how’re you doing?” Mouse shifts in his seat and the whole couch groans.

“I’m grateful we’re all safe. I’m having a hard time moving past the awe that we’re all okay. Considering.” I glance at the picture of the kids I brought from the house and hung on the wall here.

He raises an eyebrow. “Maybe you’re not meant to.”

I get it now, why Beckett --the criminal in my story-- would keep this man as a bodyguard. Mouse notices the little things, but also he’s very comforting.

“So speaking of thankful, can you tell me what make you feel happy?” I get up and turn on the teakettle.

The gentle clacking of his knitting takes a rhythm. I wonder if he didn’t hear me or if he’s ignoring me. My old dog is curled up at Mouse’s feet.

“I guess I’m like you. As long as the people in my life are safe, nothing else matters.”

He nods when I ask if he’d like some tea. He stops knitting to take the hot cup from my hands with thanks.

“So. Tell me about Beckett.” I take my first sip.

“What’s there to say? He’s my boss.” Mouse takes a much bigger gulp of the steaming liquid.

“A slightly unconventional boss considering what he does to earn money.” I set my cup down, feeling awkward --like I’m prying. If it’s evil in Poughkeepsie, Beckett has a hand in it somewhere.

There’s a long pause. “Who he is and what he does are two very different things.” Mouse sets his cup down and levels a stare at me. “I’d die for him.”

I nod. “I know you would. He’s very lucky to have you in his life.”
Mouse resumes his knitting.

“Tell me about Beckett’s foster brothers. I know they’re a big part of his life. They all have matching tattoos.” I’m pressing my luck; Mouse protects Beckett and his family fiercely. “I wrote them, it’s okay.” I touch his forearm.

I watch as the decision is made to trust me. “Well, Cole wants to be a priest someday. He’s living at the church and tries his best to be a good man. He’s had a horrible childhood. We’re all proud of him for how far he’s come.”

“So he’s going to study religion?” I’m leading with this question, because I know there’s a speed bump for Cole. A female speed bump.

Mouse bites his lip. “I think whatever he’s learned at the church will shape the life he leads.”

I let the topic of Cole drop so I can take up the last, most controversial brother.

“And Blake? I know he’s sort of…transient.” I close one eye, trying to be politically correct.

Mouse sighs. “Blake’s homeless, by choice mind you. We’ve offered him places to stay. He refuses. He has a very strict standard that he’ll not see compromised. If he hasn’t earned it, he doesn’t want it.”

Blake’s situation is obviously a touchy subject. I tell Mouse what I already know. “He likes to be at the train station with a piece of cardboard, playing it like a piano. Blake’s sweet and kind. He never asks for money. How does he fit into the brotherhood?”

Mouse finishes his knitting while he thinks. He binds the last row and snips the yarn with a scissor. I wait as he threads the end into the scarf. It lies in his lap, fall colors blending with one another. It’s stunning.

“When Beckett, Cole, and Blake were children, they found themselves in the same foster home. They became a family there, swearing to be brothers forever, no matter what. Each had demons to battle. Beckett fights his with his fists. Cole fights his with prayer. But Blake? He’s fighting his in his mind. I think he has it the worst.”

Mouse sighs again; obviously guarding the brothers is a difficult job. He smiles finally as he leans over and wraps the scarf gently around my neck. “For you. It’s not rented.”

I reach up and touch the scarf. It’s the softest yarn. His kindness makes me tear up a little. I want to ask him more questions, but he stands, ready to leave.
I get up and hug him. I’ve put him through a lot, in my head, in my book. I wish his story were easier to tell, that I could give him everything he wants.

I whisper, “I love you, Mouse.”

He pats my back. “I know.”

After he shows himself out I stand for a while, thinking about the brothers, remembering Mouse.

I hope you liked the small peek at one of my favorite characters. I’d like to thank Jenny again for this opportunity. I’d like to ask you guys the same question I asked Mouse, What makes you happy? Jenny and I have two eCopies of Poughkeepsie as giveaways for people that leave comments below with a valid email address. Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks so much for spending part of your release day with me Debra and Mouse! For more information on Debra and her books, you can find her here:

Watch the trailer


As Debra mentioned above, she is generously offering up 2 eCopies of Poughkeepsie for me to give away on the blog today! To enter, please just answer her question about what makes you happy in the comments and leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Since these are eCopies, this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL and will run through midnight EST on Sunday, November 27th after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!


He counts her smiles every day and night at the train station. And morning and evening, the beautiful commuter acknowledges him—just like she does everyone else on the platform. But Blake Hartt is not like the others . . . he’s homeless. Memories of a broken childhood have robbed him of peace and twisted delusions into his soul. He stays secluded from the sun, sure the world would run from him in the harsh light of day.

Each day, Livia McHugh smiles politely and acknowledges her fellow commuters as she waits for the train to the city. She dismisses this kindness as nothing special, just like her. She’s the same as a million other girls—certainly no one to be cherished. But special or not, she smiles every day, never imagining that someone would rely on the simple gesture as if it were air to breathe.

When the moment comes that Livia must do more than smile, without hesitation she steps into the fray to defend the homeless man. And she's surprised to discover an inexplicable connection with her new friend. After danger subsides, their smiles become conversation. Their words usher in a friendship, which awakens something in each of them. But it’s not long before their bond must prove its strength. Entanglements from the past challenge both their love and their lives.

Blake’s heart beats for Livia’s, even if her hands have to keep its rhythm. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never fails. Love never fails, right?

In an interwoven tale of unlikely loves and relationships forged by fire, Debra Anastasia takes readers into the darkest corners of human existence, only to show them the radiant power of pure adoration and true sacrifice. Complicated families and confused souls find their way to light in this novel, which manages to be racy, profane, funny, and reverent all at once.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Kiss of Frost

(Mythos Academy #2)

Jennifer Estep
Paranormal Young Adult
368 pages
Available November 29th
Received from author for review

It's been an exciting couple of months at Mythos Academy for Gwen Frost, what with having mythological creatures and psychotic Reapers after her, becoming Nike's Champion, and developing a crush on the beautiful and unattainable Logan Quinn. For the little gypsy girl with the gift of psychometry, life is never dull.

Just when Gwen thinks having to watch Logan repeatedly make out with his current girlfriend right in front of her when she has made it crystal clear to him how she feels about him is the worst thing that can happen, the murder attempts begin. Now her bruised heart is the least of her worries, her involvement in the death of a classmate making her a possible target for the deceased's Reaper family, and they seem dedicated to seeing her demise come to pass.

Escaping the dangers of the academy and keeping the new threats on her life to herself, Gwen attends the school ski strip in the hopes that meeting up with kids from other schools similar in nature to Mythos will take her mind off both Logan and those who are after her. But a change in location doesn't lessen the threat, and she finds more physical and emotional danger on the snowy slopes than she did on campus grounds.

As we've come to expect from Ms. Estep, Kiss of Frost gives us a fully-developed mystery that relates to the book before it but can be easily understood on its own, unraveling things in a way that keeps us rapidly flipping the pages and concluding without a dreaded cliffhanger. We get nice character growth and maturity as well as the introduction of a few new characters to keep things fresh, while also gleaning some additional knowledge with regard to the broader story arc of Loki and his Reapers of Chaos. All these elements are mixed with a romance both heartwarming and heartbreaking, causing an assault on our emotions as we smile and laugh while simultaneously rubbing our chests to assuage the vicarious pain we can't help but feel.

Gwen progresses beautifully in this second installment, her previous melancholy over having to attend Mythos abating a bit as she settles in, only flaring up on occasion when she's overwhelmed by the strength, speed, and beauty of her peers. Those momentary flashes are understandable and remind us that she's in transition from outsider to intrinsic member of the Mythos student body, making her all the more real for her insecurities as they pop up unbidden. She exhibits a great deal of strength both physically and emotionally, making us proud as she takes charge of her circumstances in a way she didn't in book one. Where previously she found herself a floundering damsel in distress in need of Logan's heroics, she now expands her knowledge of her psychometry to do the saving herself. And when Logan admits to an attraction to her despite his relationship with someone else, she doesn't allow the confession to soften her so that she's content with the crumbs from his table, instead calling him on his behavior while letting him know his whispered sentiments in dark corners simply aren't good enough.

Logan–ever the bad boy we wish we could muster up a solid animosity for but simply can't–both tortures and appeases us again this time around. His blatant displays of affection with girlfriend Savannah claw at our hearts as we experience firsthand the pain those actions cause Gwen, but then he's there with words both Gwen and we long to hear spoken with an indisputable sincerity, a salve to our very fresh and very open emotional wounds. His indecision would be frustrating if it weren't so effective in drawing us into the story, and Gwen's mature handling of it prevents the drama from ever crossing the line into something that would have us scoffing in disdain at the triteness of it all. We get a tiny glimpse into the secret that haunts him, giving us just enough to help us understand him better while keeping so much of him still a delectable mystery.

Overall, Kiss of Frost improves upon its predecessor, strengthening our attachment to the characters and continually piquing our curiosity as to the impending war. While the villain is a bit more easily identifiable in this story, Ms. Estep never fails to impress us with her ability to create layers, allowing us to pat ourselves on the back for our astuteness on one page only to flip to the next and suck in a breathe as we are shocked and pained by what's revealed. Though this book leaves us with a complete story, the release of Dark Frost cannot come soon enough, our time with Gwen and Logan always ending too quickly.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Made of Awesome: Darker Still Signing + YA Novel Discovery Competition

This past Monday I attended a book signing for Leanna Renee Hieber's Darker Still, the first book in her new young adult series. Thanks to some Twitter chat, I found out she was coming to Dayton, Ohio–only about an hour from me–so I grabbed my camera and my book-loving mother-in-law and we were off on a mini road trip!

In addition to the signing and a Q+A session, Leanna also read several scenes from the book itself and I have to say, she absolutely blew me away. It was more a performance than a simple reading, as she read with unabashed enthusiasm and had every single person at the event completely rapt. She gestured wildly, made faces, affected a British accent when Denbury spoke, and just generally made the event an absolute blast.

Over the course of the evening, the weather in Dayton got progressively worse, so since my mother-in-law and I weren't in a hurry to drive back to Columbus in the torrential rain, Leanna suggested we meet downstairs in the yogurt shop that was part of the store and chat while we waited the storm out. She was incredibly sweet to take additional time after the signing to sit with the two of us plus fellow blogger Colette from A Buckeye Girl Reads, and I cannot thank her enough for making me feel like a friend instead of just a fan or a blogger.

Below are a few pictures I snapped from the event:

Me and Leanna

In addition to attending the book signing, this week I also learned of a very cool competition for aspiring young adult authors and wanted to share all the details for anyone who might be interested!


Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Gotham Writers’ Workshop, is hosting its second Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with one of New York’s leading YA literary agents!

If you’ve written a novel for young adults—or have an idea for one that you would like to write—we invite you to enter our contest. Simply submit an enticing title along with the first 250 words from the opening of your original YA novel:


The Grand Prize Winner
will have the opportunity to submit an entire manuscript to YA literary agent Regina Brooks and receive a free, 10-week writing course, courtesy of Gotham Writers' Workshop, plus a collection of gourmet teas from

The Top Five Entrants
(including the Grand Prize winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one pitch session with Regina Brooks, one of New York’s premier literary agents for young adult books. They will also receive commentary on their submissions by editors at Scholastic, Disney, Harlequin Teen, Random House, Viking, Roaring Brook Press, Sourcebooks, and Kimani Tru and receive a one-year subscription to The Writer magazine.

The First 50 Entrants
will receive a copy of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.

(contest ends November 30th, 2011)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cover Critique: An Underarm Seduction

This week I had trouble choosing just one cover to highlight because there were too many great ones waiting in the wings, calling to me with their siren's song of utter ridiculousness. My indecisiveness didn't last long though when I stumbled upon this masterpiece of WTF-ery, and so I share it with you in the hope you feel as much horrified love for it as I do.

Well, I'd like to start by extending a most sincere and heartfelt thank you to Rio here for so sweetly sharing his hairy armpit with us today, it's what I most love to see on my Friday mornings. This is usually how my plan for a Friday goes:

Wake up.

Brush teeth.

Change from nighttime sweatpants to daytime sweatpants like the super attractive and fashionable work-from-home professional that I am.

Head downstairs.

Find necessary stash of monstrous hairy armpit pictures and stare longingly at them. I find I often have to limit myself to only a minute or two of ogling time, it's best to really pace myself so that all the glorious armpit-ness lasts that much longer and I don't have go without. Male armpit deprivation would be tragic and possibly fatal.

Alas, luckily for all of us, Rio seems to have enough pit action to last us all for a long, long time. Set. For. Life. I guess I just don't quite understand the cropping on this picture. Why have they hacked his face in half, cut him off at his hairless groin, and chopped his chest in two to leave us with only his prominently displayed underarm and his enormous right pectoral (complete with nipple this time, so that's at least a bonus)? Are oversized pecs and hairy underarms aphrodisiacs I'm completely unaware of? Clearly, knowledgeable sexual vixen I am not.

I have a short anecdote to share with all of you while I let the general strangeness of this cover wash over you. When I first met my husband's brother, he thought the best way for me to really get to know him was to take my head, shove it in his (fortunately clothed) armpit, and rub it around a bit, calling the whole disgusting situation a "pit stop". Ungh. My brother-in-law was very, very wrong about this being an adequate way of introducing himself even though he and my husband thought it was hilarious. I was traumatized. TRAUMATIZED! So now, when looking at this cover, I can't help but wonder if his method of seduction somehow involves a pit stop. If so, I'm guessing the "Tales of the Shareem" are extraordinarily short stories because Rio is just setting himself up for epic failure with this tactic.

Do special pheromones waft from his pit? Is that why he's sharing it with us so proudly? Do we catch a whiff and then find ourselves suddenly nose to massive underarm, high on Rio hair stench? I may have just thrown up in my mouth a little bit. This is the story of he of the venus-fly-trap-underarm, luring women in with his special pit-tastic scent before pouncing on them and then distracting them further with his colossal moob so they are at his complete romantic mercy. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall at the publisher when that pitch is made.

Just because I know you are all dying to know what synopsis could possibly accompany such a piece of artwork, I'll leave you in suspense no longer:

Rio. A Level Three Shareem complete with black leather, handcuffs and a whip.

Genetically programmed to provide every woman's wildest fantasy, Rio is the ultimate Dom. His bad-boy smile and Shareem-blue eyes can make the most frigid woman fall to her knees and beg him to be gentle.

But not too gentle.

Nella, Princess of Ariel, has never heard of Shareem. She sees Rio only as the man who rescues her from assassination and who hides her until she can get back to her family. A friend.

But Rio can't fight his programming, and before long he's taking the sexy princess aside to give her some very interesting lessons in trust . . . never dreaming she's giving him lessons in love.

I see no leather on that cover. No handcuffs. No whip. All I see is an armpit. Perhaps a "genetically programmed" armpit, but an armpit nonetheless. Oh Nella, you are in for the surprise of a lifetime my dear, prepare to get a lesson in the art of the pit-stop.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude Giveaway!

Welcome to the Gratitude Giveaways Blog Hop!

This giveaway hop is hosted by All Consuming Books and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, so check out either of their sites for details on the hop itself!

One winner will be selected and they will have their choice of one of the above titles. The books shown and listed are either some of my favorites or ones that I'm greatly looking forward to when they release. There are books from all my favorite genres: Paranormal Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance, so hopefully there's a little something for everyone!

Since this is a blog hop and you'll all likely be entering numerous giveaways, I'm going to keep things really simple. No complicated extra entries, just follow the blog and fill out the form with your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. If for some reason the form doesn't work, feel free to email me at with GRATITUDE GIVEAWAY in the subject line and I'll make sure you're entered. This giveaway will run through midnight (EST) on Sunday, November 27th after which time a winner will be chosen, emailed, and announced on the blog.

This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY as long as The Book Depository delivers to your country. You can check the list of countries here.

Book prizes:
Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter
Drink Deep by Chloe Neill
The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

There are over 300 blogs participating in this event, so be sure to check out the other giveaways! All participating blogs are listed below, good luck everyone!

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Stephanie Perkins
Contemporary Young Adult
338 pages
Available Now
Source: Bought

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit–more sparkly, more fun, more wild–the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket–a gifted inventor–steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Cute, quirky, and ripe with romantic tension, Lola and the Boy Next Door shows us yet again how capable Ms. Perkins is at writing relationships that have us pinging back and forth on the emotional spectrum, laughing one minute and then finding our hearts plummeting vicariously the next. While reading we can’t help but surreptitiously glance out our windows in slightly obsessive fashion, hoping that by some fortuitous circumstance a beautifully perfect-for-us boy has spontaneously relocated next door and he’s just now waiting for us to look up again to begin our dopey grin-inspiring romance. Like Anna and St. Clair before them, Lola and Cricket are characters we get a 360 degree picture of despite the flatness of the pages on which they exist, and we revel in their laughter and their drama as we treasure their story for days and weeks after reading.

Lola is funky and unique, living her life in costumes that allow her to express her exuberance and personality while also helping to hide some of the pain and embarrassment caused by her birth mother’s unfortunate life choices. She’s not quite as adorably endearing as Anna, perhaps due to the fact that in this tale it is she who is juggling the progression of one relationship with the desire to explore a completely different one, and so her inner conflict often leads her to some poor decisions that hurt those around her. While her flaws are of course realistic and certainly forgivable, our desire to see her with Cricket is just so strong that every time she defaults to Max our heart gives an extra little throb of pain.

Cricket is sweet and charming in an understated way, his charisma not quite radiating from the pages as St. Clair’s did, but his more quiet desire to remedy the misunderstandings of his shared past with Lola is equally appealing. It’s both painful and amusing to watch the two of them communicate using everything but the words they most need to say as well as hear in return from the other, a feeling we can all relate to at some point or another in our own lives. The crackling tension resulting from all that’s left unaddressed is seductively tortuous, wrapping around us tightly until our muscles object to the rigidity of our posture, yet we can’t bring ourselves to let up for a moment until we reach the end of Lola and Cricket’s story.

Though overall a touch less delectable than Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door does beautifully give us something Anna didn’t—the incorporation of Lola and Cricket’s families. Lola’s dads are hugely involved in her life and are a pleasure to read about, their family conflicts providing believable drama and causing our view of everyone as a whole to rotate those last few degrees and bring us full circle. Ms. Perkins has a gift for writing wistfully romantic stories that still manage to be grounded in reality, sating our need for sweetness while keeping us from going into sugar shock with the perfect amount of angst and emotional turmoil. The wait for her next book will no doubt test the limits of our patience, but we can take comfort in knowing our time spent counting the days will be well worth it.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: The Rift Walker

THE RIFT WALKER (Vampire Empire #2)
Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Urban Fantasy
400 pages
Prometheus Books
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Warning: Contains spoilers from The Greyfriar

After being forced to separate from Gareth, the vampire she loves who also masquerades as vampire hunter the Greyfriar, princess Adele of Equatoria is struggling with returning to the life of an heir. Forced into a relationship she doesn't want with senator Clark in order to form an alliance with the Americans, she's truly dreading each day that brings her closer to her wedding.

When plans for her big day go awry, Adele finds herself reunited and on the run with Gareth, fighting to stay hidden from both human and vampire enemies. The political situation in Equatoria becomes increasingly intense with the battle-loving Clark vying for control and her father the emperor reluctantly agreeing to his plans, so while she cares for a weakened Gareth she's also sets out to find a way to make her father understand what's at stake.

As if politics weren't enough for her and Gareth to deal with, they also find danger in the form of Adele's ever-growing powers–what lives inside her having the potential to destroy all vampires in her path should she lose control of it–and no vampire is closer to her than the one she loves.

After introducing us to a world of astounding technological advancement and creativity combined with the nightmarish yet innovative portrayal of creatures of the night in The Greyfriar, we find in this installment an increased focus on the truly labyrinthine world of politics. Navigating the twists and turns of Equatoria’s political maze is fascinating, and we read with our noses pressed to the pages as the desire for power blinds some to the cruelty of their actions, while those who have little desire to assume what is theirs by birth rise to the occasion. The Griffiths do a brilliant job of building their characters, writing in degrees of villainy and heroism so that nothing and no one is ever easily definable or clear cut, but rather everything exists somewhere on the incredibly long spectrum between black and white. The words “human” and “monster” hold little meaning in this tale, with humanity proving it can be every bit as brutal as the vampire race, and certain vampires proving the numbness of their long lives has not reduced them to beings enslaved by only the basest of urges.

Adele shows remarkable growth both physically and mentally from book one, refusing to fully cow to the demands her status as heir places on her and rising up in defense of the man, the people, and the country she loves. While Greyfriar repeatedly came to her rescue in rather brave and daring fashion previously, it is Adele who is protector and defender in this tale, caring for Greyfriar as he struggles with the heat of the southern regions while she contemplates how to make her father and senator Clark see reason with regard to the impending vampire war. Though her thoughts and opinions sometimes get lost in the churning sea of testosterone surrounding her, she remains steadfast and persistent in what she believes, and we can’t help but be excited about where this attitude will lead her moving forward.

This story is by no means a romance, but the relationship between Adele and Gareth is one that never fails to bring a smile to our faces, the tension and distrust prevalent in The Greyfriar melting away and leaving behind a comforting camaraderie consisting of genuine affection and witty banter. Though their situation is often dire and the reasons why they can’t be together increase in number and significance, they still find time to tease or share a gentle touch that reminds us of all the reasons they should fight for what they’ve found in one another. Things for them are never easy, but both are confident in their feelings and in their purpose, making them a couple we will to succeed with all the strength we possess.

Though the number of characters and stories running parallel to one another in conjunction with some epic political maneuvering can be just a touch tedious at times, the richness of this world never fails to enthrall. The separate plotlines, though numerous, do come together beautifully–cogs in a bigger machine we can’t wait to see revealed in all its glory in the final installment. This series is an absolute joy to read, and something we long to experience again and again during the wait for book three.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Always A Witch

(Once a Witch #2)
Carolyn MacCullough
Paranormal Young Adult
288 pages
Available Now
Received via NetGalley for review

Warning: Synopsis contains spoilers from Once A Witch

Tamsin Greene has spent her entire life thinking she's the only one in her family without a Talent; a young woman with no gift in a family full of powerful individuals. As she learned recently, she was wrong. She's got a Talent, and it's one that makes her one of the strongest witches in her family.

Tamsin's newly discovered Talent makes her the ideal candidate to Travel back in time to alter past events that will save her family in the present. A long-running feud between the Knight family and the Greene family is jeopardizing the safety of everyone Tamsin loves, and so she finds herself infiltrating the Knight household years in the past to hopefully change the future.

Tamsin learns more about the Knight family than she ever wished to while playing her role, witnessing firsthand the cruelty with which some people use their gifts and knowing she'll be on the receiving end of their wrath should they learn who she really is. She's determined to save her family though, but what she soon comes to realize is that while she might do anything to help them, it may cost her everything in the process.

Always a Witch is an extremely well-executed sequel, delving us deeper into Tamsin’s world and the ever-shifting history of the war between her family and the Knights while augmenting the magical and emotional elements beyond what we experienced in book one. For those of us who read Once A Witch months before finally making our way to the sequel, Ms. MacCullough does a beautiful job of working details from the previous book into the narrative flow without it being blatantly obvious we’re being given a summary of a book we’ve already read, highlighting the most important parts for us so that our enjoyment of this second installment is at its highest. We are immediately tossed into the middle of magic, time travel, murder, and sacrifice, side by side with a young woman who is so much more than her Talent would define her as.

Tamsin is someone we instantaneously connected with in the first book, her outcast status amidst those who should have accepted her unconditionally making us defensive and protective of her as we all struggled to find footing when her world was turned upside down. Now, as perhaps the most powerful witch in her family, we find Tamsin to be much the same girl, her newfound Talent not robbing her of any of the traits we loved so much initially. She’s fiercely loyal to her family despite her lingering hurt over their deliberate withholding of information that would have changed her entire life had she known about it earlier, Traveling alone to the past to single-handedly save the Greene family past, present, and future. She stays cool and collected in the face of the horrors her family’s enemy proves capable of, always thinking, always planning, and always protecting friend and foe alike.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series is the lack of an all-consuming romance. Tamsin’s relationship with Gabriel is solid, the drama stemming not from conflicted feelings or the addition of a new romantic player, but rather from some rather extraordinary tests that prove how deep their loyalty to one another runs. Their connection is very much secondary to challenges Tamsin faces as a maid in the Knight household, allowing us a respite from teenage angst as our focus remains unwavering on how Tamsin is going to wield the pen that will rewrite the history of her family. A beautifully unexpected twist awaits us at the end, one that answers some of the whys of her family’s behavior from the beginning but leaves us taken aback nonetheless, and we walk away from this read infinitely proud of a young woman we’ve learned never to underestimate in the two books we’ve spent with her.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: Alexander Death

(The Paranormals #3)

JL Bryan
Paranormal Young Adult
Available Now
Received from author for review

Warning: synopsis and review contains spoilers from previous two books

After witnessing Seth cheating on her firsthand, Jenny allows herself to be whisked away by Alexander, a man whose ability to control the dead is a complement to her own dangerous gift to spread disease, deciding time away from her mortal life as Jenny Morton is exactly what she needs to remember the immortal she once was and could be still.

As Jenny disappears with Alexander, Seth shakes of the effects of Ashleigh's latest manipulation and mounts an all-out search to find her, dealing with the repercussions of the CDC's continued investigation of the deaths of hundreds of Fallen Oaks residents at Jenny's hand while he waits for any word on her whereabouts.

When Seth finally locates Jenny at Alexander's side, he finds the girl he fell in love with may be not only beyond his reach physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, and even memories of all their past lifetimes together may not be enough to bring her back to him.

The moment a very young Jenny Morton released her pox on a rattlesnake she hoped to turn into a playmate but instead watched in horror as it died a gruesome death she made herself a permanent fixture in our minds and hearts, the pain and vulnerability resulting from her curse so tangible we almost didn’t want to continue her story knowing things for her would inevitably get far worse before she was granted happiness. The road through the trilogy has been a dark and twisted one, Mr. Bryan’s ability to inflict shallow emotional wounds that make us feel just enough of Jenny’s hurt without overwhelming us to the point we can no longer bear to read creating a reading experience we won’t soon forget. This final installment is as difficult to read as its predecessors, Jenny’s story reaching perhaps its lowest point yet as past and present collide to bring the truth of the six paranormals’ existence fully into the light.

Alexander Death manages to be both the most enjoyable and least enjoyable of the three books, Jenny’s downward spiral into someone we don’t recognize as a result of an intimate betrayal and insidious manipulation unbelievably painful to witness, but at the same time our faith that Mr. Bryan will not lead us into the darkness without providing a flame to guide us back out is at its highest, and we just have to call on our patience as we read, continually scanning the blackness for that first flicker of orange to appear. Still distraught by the events at the conclusion of Tommy Nightmare, it’s easy for us to understand Jenny’s willingness to shed the sweet human innocence of this most current reincarnation and embrace the power memories of her past life help her to harness, but her change takes its toll on us as readers and we long for the moments when her need for Seth was strong and pure and something to truly envy before it was so monstrously corrupted.

Added to the despair over Jenny’s new persona is the pain of Seth’s unwavering devotion to her now that he’s been freed of Ashleigh’s disgusting influence. Though we can’t help but still want to see a grand show of groveling for his past behavior, our love for Seth returns to its previous fervor as we watch him endlessly search for what has slipped through his fingers. Seth therefore continues to ascend as Jenny so tragically descends, and we spend much of the story wondering how and if they might ever meet in the middle again, or whether their feet have carried them too far in opposite directions to find their way back. We know each of them has an unbelievable strength of will however, allowing us hope that all will be well eventually despite the staggering evidence that continues to suggest otherwise.

As with the previous two books, Alexander Death has some bothersome drug use and some more detailed sex scenes, so it's recommended more for older readers. Overall though, Mr. Bryan has written a brilliant series that challenges us emotionally and proves to us that he has little fear of knocking his characters down before slowly building them back up. For those who like dark and gritty tales with characters who scratch, tear, and claw at you until they work themselves under your skin permanently, this series is for you.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Back: Cover Critique Friday

Hey Everyone!

Well, it's that time again. You've all been very patient with me since I had to do away with the cover critiques temporarily to get caught up on reviews and book tours, but the wait is over! To celebrate this joyous occasion, I bring you copious amounts of body hair. You. Are. Welcome. Please curb the urge to genuflect as such gestures only serve to embarrass me ;-)

Let's get to the good stuff shall we?


Words. They escape me. Not only does the title just bring a huge giddy smile to my face, but his chest and torso hair (is torso hair what we'd call it? Belly hair? Ab hair?) pretty much solidifies this book's placement on my list of favorite cover designs ever created. I would like to just focus on the hair itself for a minute before we move on to anything else as it's practically a character unto itself the way it's spreading across every inch of available skin on his pecs and stomach in strange, flat bursts. Does he iron it to get it to lay that flat? Comb it? It's obviously been groomed in some way. Perhaps he has a ritual wherein he brushes it for 100 strokes before he starts his day. Sexiness, thou art a well-coiffed wonder. Are you all forming a line to rent out his services this very minute? Well, you can all get behind me, that furry mass is mine to pet first.

Now, I'm no expert on body hair (shocking, I know), but normally when I've seen men with the sheer volume of hair on their chests that this studly fellow possesses, it doesn't just reach the top of their pecs and the sides of their abs and the come to an abrupt halt. No, it climbs their necks, crosses their shoulders and lovingly wraps around their biceps like a fuzzy vine, always searching as though it has a mind of its own for new places to cover in coarse tufts. Somehow this gentleman has escaped such a fate, his monstrous biceps perhaps threatening the hair with waxing or plucking if it even considers sprouting up on such bulbous masterpieces. His neck and sides are clean and clear as well, though his head seems to have taken on with those long tresses what his arms scared away, so it all evens out apparently. Super.

Just looking at this cover is making me itch, I feel like at any moment his matted hair is going to leap from its rentable home and suction itself to me like the egg-dwelling creatures in Alien vs. Predator. Like possibly my own hair is going to get some ideas after seeing this silky specimen of manhood and decide to grow at such speeds from now on that I too will have to resort to ironing it to get the thickness to cooperate. Deep breaths Jenny, deep breaths, the hair is not stalking you. *does a double take to make sure the fur hasn't moved*

Can we talk about his hands for a minute? The one holding the rose looks freakishly small and disproportionate in comparison to his bulging left arm, but it could be because we can only see 4 fingers and all the flesh up there by his armpit is blending with where his thumb should be. Normally I would let this slide, after all it's greatly overshadowed by the fuzziness of Studly Studlerson, however, when taken in conjunction with his seemingly gargantuan left hand it bears mentioning. I want to say he's just hooking his thumb into a pair of black pants, but if you look between the "A" and "S" in Rent-A-Stud there seem to be some flesh tones there which wouldn't make sense if he were wearing pants unless that area was also part of his hand. If that were the case though, his hand would be more enormous than my poor little brain can even fathom, so is he holding a towel off to one side and we're seeing some upper groin? WHAT IS HAPPENING RENT-A STUD?!

Also, just as a parting thought, I ask you this: where is his right nipple? Shouldn't it be visible? Has the hair swallowed it whole, leaving him a uni-nip? I leave you to ponder that for the rest of the day my friends. Enjoy:)

A special thank you to Felicia of The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog for sending me not one, but two sets of Ellora's Cave playing cards with a different cover like the above on each one. Best. Gift. Ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: The Faerie Ring

Kiki Hamilton
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
Tor Teen
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Tiki's just trying to survive on the streets of London and take care of her family of outcasts while she's at it. When one of her pickpocket outings leads her to Buckingham palace and the discovery of a beautiful red and gold ring, she thinks maybe her luck is changing.

Rieker, a young man on the streets like Tiki who takes it upon himself to keep an eye on her, informs her that the ring is far more than a beautiful trinket. It's the one thing keeping the fey from waging war on the unsuspecting human population, and more than just Prince Leopold and the Queen herself are looking for it.

Tiki is bound and determined to glean some monetary compensation for the ring to help her family despite the power and importance she now knows it holds, and as she enters into a dark game with both the royal family and the fey, the truth about her own existence is revealed.

This review is going to be a little different. Prior to starting The Faerie Ring I was in a bit of a reading and reviewing funk. I’m sure fellow bloggers (and even avid readers in general) have had similar experiences, where you look over at a stack of review books you know you definitely want to read but yet for some reason you just can't seem to muster the same sense of anticipation and eagerness with which you've cracked spines in the past. That was my current mindset at the time I began this book, and I feel my overall temporary indifference to review books in general perhaps unjustly influenced my opinion of the story itself.

When I went to start this review, the first word that popped into my head was “nice”. Nice is one of those vague one-word descriptions that is decidedly unhelpful in a review or critique context as it fails to convey any emotional information and gives anyone reading your review nothing specific to help them determine whether or not you liked the book. Nice. Neither good nor bad, but rather pleasant in a way that didn't bring goosebumps to my skin, tears to my eyes, or any new and desirable scars to my heart. For me, Tiki, Rieker and the rest of the street ruffians were an interesting enough bunch, but at no time did I feel that compulsion to ignore everything else in my reality and lose myself in the story until I reached the last page and became instantly depressed that I’d reached the end.

Similarly, the plot had elements that normally appeal to me—mystery, a touch of romance, and a world where the supernatural hovers within a brush of my fingertips–but perhaps due to the aforementioned funk, the combination of admittedly desirable factors never truly caught my attention and held it. I think this story will appeal to a variety of readers as some of the prominent plot devices in YA literature like insta-love, love triangles, and cliffhangers are thankfully and blessedly absent, giving readers the opportunity to enjoy this book without repeatedly finding themselves on tired and familiar ground.

As a result of my shortage of enthusiasm before even picking The Faerie Ring up and my subsequent lackluster reaction to it, I don’t feel as though giving it a rating is altogether fair to Ms. Hamilton's story. I've read many a glowing review for this one from bloggers who I know share my taste in books, so I think now that my reviewer's brain is back in the game (I read this one a couple months back) I'll be picking The Faerie Ring up again just before the sequel comes out sometime next year and read them one after the other, and I look forward to seeing if and how my perception of it changes.