Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Gilt

Katherine Longshore
Young Adult/Historical
406 pages
Viking Juvenile
Available now
Borrowed from Karen at For What It's Worth

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all.

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Gilt is not one of those novels where the pages practically turn themselves, our intense desire to reach the end physically expressed through the rapid devouring of chapters; instead we carry a burden from the very beginning, our preexisting knowledge of Catherine Howard’s fate slowing our progression to an almost crawl as we dread the flip of the page for how much closer it brings us to her brutal demise. Because the pace is a bit slow—Kitty’s arrival in the queen’s court not even taking place until almost a third of the way through—it takes our interest and curiosity a bit longer to be piqued, our attention waxing and waning repeatedly as sumptuous details of fabric, jewelry, and other various descriptions weigh us down before the intrigue, betrayal, and sinister nature of the Tudor Court grabs our focus back and holds it unwavering.

Kitty is a beautifully depicted character, loyal to a fault to those who don’t always deserve such unwavering devotion, and someone who grows from a timid girl scared to share her opinion to a surprisingly strong young woman who finds her voice even though it often falls of deaf ears. Her confusion and hesitancy when she’s thrust into life at court settles heavily in our guts as soon as she sets foot there, our instincts crying out at us to shield her from Cat’s manipulations as we know they are only going to grow more devious and have far more dire consequences the more time she spends in the queen’s employ. Though it takes her a while, Kitty finally learns to stand her ground, years of daily lessons on how to recognize the cruel twist of lips hidden behind beatific smiles and how to see ugliness hidden beneath the shine of wealth and privilege ensuring she cuts her strings for good, free of the puppeteers with whom she’s spent her entire life.

Cat is both terrible and benevolent, her selfishness unparalleled and often appalling, but there are rare moments when her love for Kitty seems to be genuine, giving us a brief glimpse at the toll life as queen takes on her. Those moments are few and far between however, and we spend a great deal of time wanting to scream at the top of our lungs, hoping our voices will breach the fictional barrier and make her see that the bed she’s making for herself will soon be stained with the blood of those whose lives she so callously plays with day in and day out. She thinks only of herself up until the very moment she presents her neck for the executioner’s axe, and we can do nothing but shake our heads in dismay that she didn’t open her eyes and learn from the mistakes made by the women married to Henry before her, instead allowing her youthful sense of invincibility to obscure what history was so clearly trying to show her.

Overall, Gilt is a fascinating read for no other reason than the glimpse of Tudor history it gives us, though we easily close the back cover thankful to be in our reality with our heads blissfully attached to our bodies. Those who adore historical fiction for the atmosphere and the minute, intimate details of day-to-day life will revel in the pictures Ms. Longshore beautifully paints, though those readers who have a more superficial appreciation for it may at times begin to feel the full length of the 400 pages and wish Cat’s rise and fall as Queen Catherine might have been depicted at a quicker pace.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Rift

(Nightshade Prequel #1)
Andrea Cremer
Paranormal Young Adult
431 Pages
Available Now
Received at BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!

Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.

Rift sprints from the gate as though the evil contained in its pages is nipping at its heels, immediately enveloping us in its dark and richly atmospheric world and continuing to coat us in layer after layer of complexity until we are so thoroughly ensconced in the life of the Guard that we dread the next page because it brings us one step closer to reaching the end. The time period is integral to the success of the story, the absolute control Ember’s father feels he has over her life instantaneously raising our hackles as we want nothing more than to speak out against the injustice of being treated as a commodity rather than a person. Additionally, the constant threat of zealotry from the townspeople surrounding Tearmunn as well as the Church itself–where whispers of witchcraft or an allegiance with the devil are enough to sentence any member of the Guard to a fiery fate–hangs heavy over our heads to ensure we’re fully invested in the health and welfare of Ember’s new Guard family.

Ember is an admirable heroine, choosing to embrace the path the circumstances of her birth dictated for her and throwing herself into it with a fervor that brings a smile to our faces. She's a young woman who fights what’s considered a female’s “role” in this time period, wanting to pick up arms alongside the men rather than be married and safely tucked away with a swollen belly, and she is determined to prove her mettle to the predominantly male Guard. There are times when her young age is readily apparent, mostly when she’s frustrated and takes to stomping her foot as a physical expression of that disgruntlement, but for the most part she’s someone we can easily support in her every endeavor–whether it be physical or romantic in nature.

Ember’s relationship with Barrow, her mentor in the Guard, is the kind of relationship that keeps us up late reading, following a mantra of “just one more chapter” to see if the tension thrumming between them will finally snap before we drag ourselves off to bed. They go from strangers to training partners to friends to something more at a pace designed to tease, their every interaction heavy with things left unsaid, and their every gesture garnering our intense scrutiny to see if we can decipher some meaning beyond the superficial. While there is a third player to the romance in this tale, Ember’s preference for Barrow is made clear to both us as readers as well as the other young man attempting to win her affection, therefore sparing us the formation of an actual triangle.

Readers, like me, who haven’t read the Nightshade trilogy in its entirety will have no problem settling into Ember’s world, and while we may miss some of the smaller details and hints as to what’s to come due to our ignorance, our overall enjoyment is not lessened as a result. We’re left on the last page at what’s clearly a beginning, the darkness that’s been set loose finally reaching the doorstep of Tearmunn and forcing the Guard into action, and the time until Rise is released cannot pass fast enough.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Unbreakable

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

Elizabeth Norris
Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Balzer + Bray
Releases April 23rd, 2013

From Goodreads:

Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.

And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?

The first book in this series, Unraveling, was one of those books I picked up without really knowing all that much about it, and as a result, not really expecting all that much from it. Let me just say there's nothing better than cracking a spine and discovering unexpected book brilliance, and that is exactly what happened for me with Unraveling. It just blew me away. I put it down when I finished and immediately ran to my computer (no joke, I frightened my dogs with my mad dash through the house) to make sure there was going to be a sequel. Now I'm just a few short months (okay, 5 long months, but in my head I have to tell myself release day is almost here so I don't go crazy) away from holding it in my hands. I. Cannot. Wait.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mini Reviews: Bleeding Hearts + Red Dawn

Book One of the Demimonde
Ash Krafton
Adult Paranormal Romance
370 pages
Pink Narcissus Press
Available Now
Received from author for review

*Please note I only categorize this as adult paranormal romance due to the age of the protagonists, there are no sex scenes at all in this book.

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sophie Galen is an advice columnist who is saving the world - one damned person at a time. 

 Shy and sensitive Sophie has all but given up on love until she meets Marek, a mysterious stranger who seduces her with his striking good looks and his take-charge attitude. Yet the darkness she senses within him may be more than she is prepared to handle when Marek draws her into a world of vampires, werewolves, and treachery. Forced to leave behind the comfortable routines and certainties of her past, Sophie makes unbearable sacrifices and uncovers hidden truths about herself and the world around her.

Bleeding Hearts is a story that starts out a bit rocky, a connection to protagonists Sophie and Marek extremely slow in forming due to a series of very heavy conversations between them that ultimately tell us very little about who they are as individuals. For the first several hundred pages, both remain but sketches, quick strokes on a page giving us a general outline of them as people, but those sketches never become fully detailed portraits, missing the light and shadow that would bring their features into stark relief. Their relationship seems to develop almost entirely off page, with only a couple brief meetings happening before things seem to fade to black, and when we’re brought back into the story, we find them in a solid relationship complete with the word “love” in place.

Their entire courtship seems to happen in the blink of an eye, preventing us from having an emotional investment in their romance, so when the conflict leaps from the pages to grab our attention with its darkness, it takes us more time than we might like to shake off our previous indifference. Luckily though, it’s nearly impossible to maintain any type of distance in the final chapters, and the link we’ve been searching for to Sophie and Marek finally–and brutally–snaps into place, leading us away from the loneliness of character intangibility and into the warm, though painful, embrace of emotional connection.

Rating: 3.5/5

Crossroads Academy #2
J.J. Bonds
Paranormal Young Adult
282 pages
Available now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Katia’s done running. She’s fought fiercely to protect her identity, her secrets, and those she loves most. And while it hasn’t been easy, she’s finally making peace with the past. Katia’s even looking forward to the start of a new school year at Crossroads Academy.

Too bad things at Crossroads are going to be a little different this fall. There are new rules, new students, and new relationships. Katia quickly discovers that navigating the halls of Crossroads is as complicated as ever.

When a friend’s life is at stake, Katia will be forced to choose between the safety of Crossroads and an enemy more dangerous than any she’s ever faced. Will Katia have the courage to risk it all -including her life- for a friend?

Much like its predecessor, Red Dawn proves to be a story that focuses primarily on plot rather than character development, though unlike Crossroads, it doesn’t quite hook us as easily, stringing us along for a number of chapters before finally letting us in as to where the tale is heading. The first third of the book simply details the day to day life of Katia’s return to Crossroads Academy, hinting at the events of book one without giving us a full recap, and while were grateful we don’t have a multi-chapter reiteration of events past, we can’t help but feel a little in limbo – a touch fuzzy with our recollection of previous happenings, and completely unclear as to what the future holds in this second installment.

Once the main conflict is introduced, things pick up and Katia shows a darker side of herself as she and boyfriend Nik embark on a crusade to help a sick friend, allowing us to finally settle in comfortably as Katia’s purpose is made known. Ms. Bonds writes an engaging story with characters who are likable even though they don’t necessarily tug at our heart strings or haunt our memories with their many pains and passions, but Red Dawn is a second book in the truest sense, merely giving us a peek at events that will clearly be set in motion in the third installment while denying us any concrete information. Overall, this is a quick read with a great deal of potential moving forward, but it may frustrate readers who typically struggle with middle books that provide a great deal of build up and very little resolution.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Undeadly

UNDEADLY (The Reaper Diaries #1)
Michele Vail
Paranormal Young Adult
272 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available Now
Received via NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she's shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another...except, there's something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly's got an undeadly knack for finding trouble....

Undeadly captivates instantly with a world in which zombies are a normal part of society – families paying to have their loved ones reanimated even though they are shells of their former selves – and continues to hold our interest as the zombies are fascinatingly linked to Egyptian mythology and reapers. There’s a great deal of promise in this story, an intriguing array of elements singing a siren’s song that draws us forward from one page to the next, wanting to experience what’s being beautifully offered, however, all the disparate elements never truly mix to create one cohesive storyline, instead all the pieces move around separately to leave us a touch disoriented.

Molly is a young woman who, like the story of which she’s an intrinsic part, has a great deal of potential to be the type of underdog we as readers can’t help but want to see succeed given the seemingly insurmountable odds she faces. Though she’s sixteen, her character reads as a very young sixteen, her dialogue and inner monologue full of a lot of “whatevs” and “hellos” with sarcastic emphasis on the last syllable to continuously remind older readers (like me) just how far apart in age we truly are. Aside from her perhaps overly youthful language and mannerisms, we never really get to know the person she is, our desire to peel back all the layers of her we sense are there often thwarted as we skip from one event to the next before we get a glimpse of the depth we’re looking for.

The synopsis for this tale is slightly misleading (at least it was for me), the emphasis on Rath and the promise of an antagonistic relationship between them unfortunately playing an exceedingly minor role as Rath is absent for majority of the book. When he does come into play, the implied dislike between them isn’t as prominent as the pleasant tingles Molly gets in his presence, and his attitude toward her, aside from a few callous remarks while training her, is more often than not warm, complete with a charming nickname he coins for her early on. While the less-than tense nature of their relationship isn’t necessarily a bad thing once expectations are properly adjusted, we again don’t get the opportunity to delve deeper into their relationship, staying firmly on the surface as we're jostled by several different plotlines all vying for our undivided attention.

Overall, Undeadly is a well-written story – if a little all over the map in terms of action – that presents us with a reaper/necromancer mythology that has us wanting to devour the pages to see what we’ll learn next. This first installment ends with a flurry of activity and a mighty cliffhanger, leaving us wishing for a bit more from the story itself and hoping the next book might give us some growth on Molly’s part as well as some additional page time so we might explore the intricacies we know are there just beneath the hard surface we couldn’t quite crack this time out.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to do a quick post today to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it, and let you know the blog will be quiet for the next couple days as I'll be spending time with family. And reading. Probably mostly reading ;-)

There may be a little football watching mixed in there at some point as the hubs is in a fantasy football league with all the men on my side of the family and is currently winning, much to the chagrin of my dad and brother. They are somewhat less than amused. I just laugh at their antics and then return to reading. This is how conversations with the hubs often go when we're both absorbed in our separate entertainments:

Hubs: Dammit! I can't believe I didn't play that running back! Also, this new point system your brother's worked out for our league this year is ridiculous. The guy I have on the bench has 60 points.

Me: Uh huh.


Me: That's a tragedy.

Hubs: It is. I'm going to lose this week.

Me: Mm hm.

Hubs: Are you even listening?

Me: What?

Hubs: Have you heard anything I just said?

Me: Absolutely. I hear and absorb everything you say. You are my world.

Hubs: Right.

Me: Want me to tell you about the book I'm reading?

Hubs: What?

Me: This book, it's made of win. Want me to tell you why?

Hubs: Uh huh.

Me: Really?

Hubs: Mm hm. I'm so pissed I didn't play him. Now I only have my defense left against the four guys your dad's got going tonight and tomorrow.

Me: I would leave you for Jericho Barrons and/or Noah Shaw and/or Kaidan Rowe if they were real. Just saying.

Hubs: What's that?

Me: Sucks you're losing.

Hubs: I know!

Me: I'm going to go back to reading now.

Hubs: Uh huh.

Ah, enlightened conversations, how I love you so:)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Hidden

HIDDEN (Firelight #3)
Sophie Jordan
Paranormal Young Adult
260 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

Loyalties are tested and sacrifices made in the explosive conclusion to Sophie Jordan's Firelight trilogy.

An action-packed conclusion to the Firelight trilogy, Hidden brings Jacinda face to face not only with the Hunters who have been systematically exterminating her kind, but also with all the issues she ran from when she and her family left her Pride originally. Though this last installment flows nicely and easily thrusts us into the middle of death and danger from the first page, some of the tension crackling in the first two books seems absent, problems arising and then easily overcome as Jacinda and company learn a series of uncomfortable and painful truths. There is a both a great deal of pain and passion throughout, but they feel slightly muted – as though we're viewing them through panes of glass – able to see and hear but not reach out and touch.

Jacinda has been a strong heroine throughout, feisty, independent and unwilling to succumb to the expectations of those around her simply because they can only see the Pride as a collective rather than as individuals who make up a whole. In Hidden, Jacinda is as much of a fighter as she's ever been, always protecting those she cares for and making the hard decisions when necessary. Her relationship with Will is one of those elements seemingly free of the aforementioned tension however, the forbidden aspect of their relationship in Firelight a non-issue now that Will has left his family behind, and the acute pain caused by a heart torn in two different directions when Cassian made an epic play for her affection in Vanish is reduced to a mere ache as Jacinda maintains her surety that Will is the right choice for her. While we thoroughly appreciate her decisiveness and the dissolution of the love triangle, her moments with Will seem to lack some of the emotional intensity found in previous books, brief moments of heat flaring before being quickly extinguished by new and often life-threatening intrusions.

The final showdown between the Hunters and the draki is a touch anticlimactic given the magnitude of the hatred on both sides, the battle with Will's family and the repercussions it has on Jacinda's Pride all wrapped up fairly quickly and easily in the final 30 pages. There are several unforeseen twists in those final pages to ensure we're utterly riveted, though a more thorough exploration of one particular revelation might have increased the impact of a few major events, causing our hearts to break instead of merely bruise from the blows. Overall, Hidden is a quick and entertaining read, wrapping up lingering questions as to what the future holds for Jacinda, Will, Tamra, and Cassian, and I can't help but hope a spinoff with Tamra and/or Cassian might be in the works at some point so closing the back cover of Hidden does not mean I've walked out of this world for the final time.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Released From Hell Blog Tour: A Visit From Satan Jack + A Giveaway

I think it's getting a little warm in here. What's causing that temperature spike you ask? Well, it could be that today Satan Jack (he looks like Johnny Depp people!) is making a stop here on Supernatural Snark as he continues his search for paranormal romance author Debra Anastasia, and he isn't above using his many charms to get his way. Let's just say I'm quite tempted to tell him everything he wants to know (sorry Debra, I'm weak!). Don't judge me! Look at what I'm up against...

Jenny. I knew you would open the door. Your gorgeous hound seems friendly. I’ve seen your posts on the romance book covers. They humor me. Speaking of romance, I’m looking for a particular author. I was sifting through her email and found that you two went back and forth of occasion. I need to find her. May I come in? My smoke follows me – I apologize for the inconvenience.

Would you like a glass of rum or wine? I’ve brought you only the best. Let’s sit. Your hair is lovely. It feels like silk. My name? Didn’t I mention it? Jack. Satan Jack. Don’t let that Satan part throw you though. I’ll only bite if you ask me to. Your lips look pretty on that glass. You seem to have an artist’s flare. A song in your heart for creating pretty things?

I’m missing my favorite pretty thing. You see, even though she shouldn’t have, my angel, Emma was willing to be mine. To stay with me. And I wished to be hers. A love story, yes? But Crushed Seraphim ended harshly for us both. And most men would be fired up to catch the evil demon that has her captive, but I know who is really to blame. Debra Anastasia used her imagination against me. I told her my story and this is how she repays me. She lets Emma be trapped by a torture device of my design. And then she takes her sweet time letting the sequel play out. Bittersweet Seraphim is written, but she won’t tell me how it ends.

I see you like the wine. Your eyes are half closed. Just whisper Debra’s location to me, and you can slide off to beautiful dreams. Don’t feel guilty; she was going to Hell anyway. I’ll just bring her down a bit sooner to make sure Emma’s okay.

Let me hold your glass, you seem exhausted. Look at that, even your dog is napping. Such a lazy evening. One whisper Jenny. Just speak to me.

*Jenny stares at Jack adoringly* Ahem. Okay. Well. Thanks so very much for stopping by Jack! It was a, um, pleasure. Be sure and check out Debra's blog for a full list of tour participants so you can follow along as Jack continues his seduction hunt! More information on Debra and her books can be found here:

Debra's Twitter
Jack's Twitter
Amazon Buy Link


Suffering is worst when you’re doing it alone. But Emma’s taking Hell like an angel—even though her languishing began with having her seraph wings torn from her back. Now her worst enemy lords his body and his evil desires over her while she tries desperately to remember the words to her favorite prayer.

As Devil, Jack used to have Hell and its women humming like well-oiled machines. Too bad he’s nowhere near the place now. Stuck on Earth as a human, he must work with a ragtag team of exiled minions and half-breeds to save the angel who’s become all that matters.

Rescuing a seraph is the plan, but breaking into Hell means letting evil things out. Once they collide, minions and angels converge in the battle of the ages: good versus evil. But which side is which? Will Jack destroy the world as he fights to save Emma, his true and timeless love, from a damnation he designed?

An action-packed sequel to Crushed Seraphim, this tale reveals—time and again—what happens when the heart’s deepest desires break free. With a story both sizzling and sensual, emotional and enigmatic, Debra Anastasia invites readers to join a battle with nothing less than love on the line.

Thanks to Omnific Publishing and Debra Anastasia, I have two eCopies of book one, Crushed Seraphim, and book two, Bittersweet Seraphim to give away on the blog today. Two winners will receive both books in the series. YAY! To enter, please just leave a comment for Jack or Debra along with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Because these are eCopies, this giveaway is international, but please be aware when entering that this is an adult paranormal romance, not YA. Giveaway will run through midnight EST on Friday, November 23rd after which time the winners will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: The Ripple Effect

Rhiannon's Law #3
J.A. Saare
Adult Urban Fantasy
240 pages
Mundania Press
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
There is always a price to pay…

Rhiannon Murphy visited the future, witnessed hell on earth and made choices to change things for the greater good. Unfortunately there are consequences for her actions, the penalties for her interference possibly more than she can bear. Determined to sever her debt with a fallen angel, she pushes everything aside, focusing on locating Marigold Vesta’s resting place.

Until death comes knocking at her door.

When Disco’s maker arrives in New York, he resents Rhiannon on a level she can’t begin to comprehend. Yet Marius isn’t her most dangerous adversary, not by a long shot. Marius’s sire -- a half-demon -- is determined to see the necromancer who stunned the vampire world on her knees. If she won’t bend, he’ll do everything in his power to make her break. No price is too high, meaning no one is safe -- including Disco and Paine.

Dealt a blow from which she can never recover, Rhiannon turns to the only person who can help her: the fallen angel who is relying on Rhiannon to save her soul. Bartering with a creature from Heaven is probably just as dangerous as starting a war with a demon from Hell, but with nothing to lose it’s no longer about life or death.

It’s about getting even.

The Ripple Effect is one of those stories that sends a shudder of unease through us from the opening chapter, a sense of foreboding entering through our fingertips where they touch the pages and traveling like liquid lightening through our bloodstream until our entire bodies feel a darkly anticipatory weight settle in. It's with nerves on edge that we continue Rhiannon's story, subtle and not-so subtle hints of bad things to come causing us to shift uncomfortably in our seats, waiting with breath held for the pain we know is waiting for us around a not-too distant bend. Rhiannon's world is brutal and unforgiving, and Ms. Saare never wastes an opportunity to detail just how cutthroat it can be, but we know that while she'll let us ride the razor's edge and bloody ourselves again and again, she'll never let us completely fall off, providing us the comfort of a helping hand just as we start to precariously teeter.

Rhiannon has always been a highlight of this series, her no-nonsense attitude and abundance of sarcasm combining with a violent past and innate vulnerability to give us a stunningly chaotic young woman with a jumble of traits and faults that add up to one exquisitely human whole. In this latest installment, Rhiannon's imperfections are thrust into the spotlight, a past history of looking out only for herself and being the sole bearer of the repercussions of her actions proving to have created in her a fatal flaw given her initiation into a large vampire family. For most of this story she's unable to fully grasp what having a family means, and she continues on her lonely road with eyes straight ahead as she has every day before, all the while failing to expand her line of sight to see how her footsteps affect those on the periphery.

By the time her tunnel vision clears, unstoppable events are set in motion, ones that painfully and heart-wrenchingly school Rhiannon in the ways of the vampire world. Each book in this series has Rhiannon learning a hard lesson in the hardest way possible, her soft spots not just poked, but punched again and again until she's battered and bloody, though never beaten. One of the things we can't help but love most about Rhiannon is her ability to own her mistakes and take the fallback unflinchingly, recognizing the decisions that led her to her current predicament and stepping up to receive the blow physically, emotionally, or in the case of this third installment, both.

Overall, The Ripple Effect is a challenging read in that it tests our boundaries as readers, forcing us to evaluate whether we're strong enough to traverse this world with Rhiannon or if it's simply more than we can bear. The first half suggests the latter, the darkness looming on the horizon like a poisonous snake coiling in our guts ready to strike at any moment, but the second half, after a red haze of pain clears, gives us strength in the form of a Rhiannon with renewed purpose. Her determination to see her mistakes remedied and her debts paid in full fills us with hope that the end of her journey, whenever that may be, will see her with wounds healed and happiness etched in every one of her features.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guest Post: Susannah Noel + Word and Breath

Today I'm very excited to welcome author Susannah Noel to the blog to talk about the romance in her new-adult Wordless Chronicles series. Book one, Word and Breath, is available now and book two, Word and Deed, releases next month, so if you're a fan of paranormal stories that feature a strong romance, be sure and check these books out!

One of the things I like best about writing paranormal fiction is the opportunity to explore relationships—particular romantic relationships—on a whole different level. By writing characters with paranormal or supernatural abilities, I get to portray love and intimacy in ways not available to writers of realistic fiction.

Writing about vampires, for instance, allows you to portray love, sex, and temptation in a very visceral way—a way you couldn’t if you didn’t have vampires in your story. Werewolves let you to graphically portray the primitive, animalistic side of people. And other paranormal creatures—angels, demons, succubae, etc.—each heighten certain aspects of human nature, potentially making the portrayal more powerful. 

In the Wordless Chronicles, my paranormal creature is called a Soul-Breather. Soul-Breathers have the ability to tap into the feelings, memories, and motivations of other people just by touching them. They can also ease or intensify what someone else is feeling. Mikel, the Soul-Breather hero of Word and Breath, explains it this way: “What I do isn’t artificial or unnatural. It’s just human—revved up a bit.”

I’ve really enjoyed using the Soul-Breather to explore how people interact with each other intimately—not just sexually but also emotionally.

To show how this works, I’m including a short excerpt below from my upcoming book, Word and Deed—the second book of the Wordless Chronicles, which will be released next month. This scene shows Mikel using his abilities as a Soul-Breather to develop his relationship with Riana. It’s the kind of thing that we as humans do with each other—he just does it more tangibly because he’s a Soul-Breather.

Riana felt a tingling internal tug—Mikel opening a connection, breathing her in, stroking her grief away.

“Don’t take it,” she said. “I don’t want you to feel my pain as well as yours.”

“I want to. I need to… I need to be close to you.”

She didn’t know she could feel this way—so incredibly connected to another person, as if they were sharing one life. “Can’t you do it in a different way? Something that would make you feel better too?”

Mikel paused. Then he let out a breath and stroked his knuckles over her cheek. She felt a few experimental tugs from inside her.

“You’ll have to open up more,” he murmured. “Can you let me in even deeper?”

She swallowed, strangely nervous but excited at the same time. “Okay.”

When he touched her cheek again, she tried to lower all defenses. She closed her eyes, relaxed, allowed him inside her in a way he’d never been before.

Instead of taking her turbulent feelings and easing them like before, he instead searched until he found her affection for him—the warm, tremulous feelings that grew stronger every day. He found it, seemed to caress it, and then moved it to the front of her mind.

She sighed in pleasure as the feeling radiated between them, warming them both, relieving her of the worst of her distress.

It was temporary. He couldn’t—and she wouldn’t want him to—take her pain away, since it was so bound up with her memories of the man who had died today.

But it was a respite she desperately needed, and she knew Mikel needed it too.

She felt his body relax beside her as he gently stroked her face, deepening the connection—not with the building excitement of the other night but instead with tender intimacy.

She wasn’t aware when he broke the connection because she’d already fallen asleep.

Thanks so much for sharing that excerpt Susannah! More information on Susannah and her books can be found here:

Buy Word and Breath on Amazon


Riana has learned how to stay out of trouble. She spends her days studying written texts in the government’s Office of Readers, and she spends her nights taking care of her sick sister. She always—always—follows the rules. Despite her low profile, she has mysteriously become a target. Someone has kidnapped her sister. Someone else is trying to kill her. And someone has sent a Soul-Breather to beguile her out of her secrets.

Her help comes from the mythic leader of an underground rebel movement. A man who used to be her friend. A man who has silently loved her for years. He disappeared from her life without a word, and now he expects her to trust him again.

Then there’s the Soul-Breather, a man who can taste her spirit with only a touch. He makes her feel things she’s never experienced before, but she doesn’t know if the feelings are real. Hired to deceive and betray her, he offers to help her instead.

Without both men, she can’t rescue her sister. And she can’t discover the world-changing knowledge—buried in her memory—that has made her a target in the first place.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mini Reviews: This Case is Gonna Kill Me, Trucker Ghost Stories + The Book of the Night

It's family week on my blog this week, so today my fabulous mother-in-law Cathy is taking over the reviewing duties with quite the varied assortment of books courtesy of the wonderful team at Tor Books. A huge thank you to both Cathy and my mom for helping me tackle my to-be-read pile!

Phillipa Bornikova
Urban Fantasy
320 pages
Tor Books
Available now
Received from publisher for review

Though Ms. Bornikova's book is set in a time when vampires, werewolves, and elves are the ones in power and humans are subordinates, this story has all the intrigue of a good old fashioned "who dunnit" mystery, and she does a great job weaving a tale full of twists and turns.

Linnet is a human attorney who was raised in a vampire home and now works in a vampire law firm as their newest attorney. As with lots of new hires, she is not immediately accepted because the staff feels as though she received her job as a favor. As a result, her first case – an inheritance dispute over a security company run by werewolves – is one in which she's stuck working with a lesser attorney, Chip, and it's a case that has been dragging on for 17 years.

Linnet is likable immediately. She is strong, gutsy, snarky, and outspoken. She is also an experienced horsewoman, and we get several detailed riding adventures throughout the book. For those who love horses – Jenny – you will love these scenes. Ms. Bornikova knows her stuff and you can tell she loves it, but it's unclear as to whether these scenes are foreshadowing something or just a red herring.

The mystery begins when Chip is murdered and Linnet is almost killed in a werewolf attack. Since they are only working the werewolf case, Linnet begins to play Nancy Drew (her words). The book becomes increasingly entertaining as Linnet stumbles her way through the clues, and we just know there is something special about Linnet even if we can't quite put our finger on what it is. She is attacked several more times by werewolves manages to not only escape, but also kill her attackers. She is always saved by some odd set of circumstances such as pictures falling from walls, buckles on purses, and even a jar of marbles. This is all done cleverly and with lots of humor.

Along the way, Linnet receives help from John, a PI and and very handsome elf. Enter the romance – we see it develop into something more with each attack on Linnet's life. Ms. Bornikova gives us a slow burn on their romance and it leaves us wanting more with this couple.

My only disappointment with the book was that as the mystery was coming to a close, a new element of intrigue involving John's past started to come into play, and I knew there were not enough pages left in the book to finish his story or get all the answers I was looking for. On the plus side, I had come to care about the characters and wanted a resolution so I will be looking forward to the next book. I want to know what happened to John and where their relationship is headed. And knowing Linnet, I am sure she will have another case to solve. This book is well written, smart and clever, it was an engaging and fun read.

Rating: 4.5/5

Edited by Annie Wilder
Anthology of personal paranormal experiences
256 pages
Tor Books
Available now
Received from publisher for review

Trucker Ghost Stories is a collection of short stories about what truckers say they have experienced on those long dark stretches of highway. We hear their spooky tales in their own words, but the book itself is edited by Annie Wilder. I have often wondered about the people who drive the big rigs. We pass them every day on the highway, and no matter what time of day or night it is, these trucks are roaming the roads.

How do they spend all those hours alone, passing the same scenery, usually in the middle of the night? I go crazy on the 2 hour drive to Cleveland!!! 

There are stories of unknown lights following them, strange noises trying to get into the trucks and maybe a Bigfoot or two. My best advice is not to travel the deserted and dark roads out West. You need to BEWARE – there are lots of UFO sightings in this book and most of them are on long expanses of pavement in the desert.

There are some ghost stories that seem to be a variation of the urban legends we have all heard while we were growing up, and one ghost story in particular about an unusual coincidence is sure to raise the hair on your arm. One woman even claims a ghost kissed her.

The mind can play tricks when you are tired an alone in the dark, and this is definitely the case in each story. So do the sightings happening because these truckers are tired or is it something supernatural?

If you know anyone going to camp – these stories would be great to tell around the campfire.

Rating: 3/5

(Libyrinth #3)
Pearl North
Young Adult/Fantasy
Tor Teen
Available now
Received from publisher for review

I have to preface this review by saying that The Book of the Night is the conclusion of a trilogy of which I have not read the first two books.

This book is a sci-fi fantasy and takes place in the future. Ms. North does an excellent job with her descriptions and character development, but it took me several chapters to figure out some of what I missed in the previous two books. The main premise involves finding a pen that rewrites reality. I found the basis of the story fascinating in that it involved books – books, words, and literature are all vital to this world she has built. I have not seen this before and it was very clever. I appreciate the work she had to do, quoting from so many books and fitting each one into the storyline.

This passage from the book I think communicates the flavor of the story perfectly:

"Strings of words, thoughts, intentions, and wishes all wound together to form sinuous vines which in turn formed everything." 

I haven't read a book where words and books play such a key role.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude Giveaways Hop!

Welcome to the Gratitude Giveaways Hop!

This giveaway hop is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer so be sure and check out her site 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 end at 12:01am (EST) on Sunday, November 25th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed.

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

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Everbound by Brodi Ashton
Deity by Jennifer Armentrout
Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison
Iced by Karen Marie Moning
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones
Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter by Jessica Sims

There are over 200 blogs participating in this event, so be sure to check out the other giveaways! All participating blogs are listed below, good luck everyone!

Review: The Peculiar

Today I'm thrilled to welcome my mom Pam back to the blog to wow us all once again with her reviewing prowess. I'm having a blast including both my mom and my mother-in-law Cathy (who will be reviewing tomorrow) in this blogging adventure, and I'm hoping I can get them to contribute with more regularity moving forward. It may take some persuading, but I'm on it ;-) Take it away Mom!

Stefan Bachmann
Middle Grade/Steampunk
384 pages
Greenwillow Books
Available now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings–Peculiars–and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley–Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

A vastly entertaining, fast moving steampunk adventure novel, The Peculiar is packed with suspense, magic, intrigue and murder. In his well-written debut novel, Stefan Bachmann displays his creative literary talents through his command of similes and metaphors, allowing readers of any age to immerse themselves visually and emotionally into a unique fantasy world with unforgettable characters. Bachmann has a remarkable gift for one so young, as he was only sixteen years old when he wrote this inspired book.

The main character, Bartholomew Kettle, labeled a “peculiar” – a changeling that is half-human and half-faery – is loathed by both faery and human societies in a supernatural, clockwork version of Victorian England. Peculiars are to be killed on sight and buried under elderberry bushes as a preventative measure should their ugliness be contagious. Knowing no other existence but fear and hate, Bartholomew and his younger beloved sister, Hettie, suffer from the cruelty and isolation resulting from this tension between classes. Witnessing the kidnapping of several changeling children and learning of the violent death of others, Bartholomew has the opportunity to play an extraordinary role in both changing his life as well as the dark, dangerous world in which he lives.

Amid the seemingly relentless darkness and death, the author treats the reader to moments of brightness by watching Bartholomew grow and mature from an extremely frightened, self possessed child to a determined one, displaying a tenderness of heart in his avid pursuit to protect his mother and sister’s lives at the risk of his own. Through his adventures he also learns to trust and befriend a mortal enemy, a human.

An amazing, highly imaginative book that will keep readers of all ages enthralled. Definitely recommended and his sequel will be eagerly awaited.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mini Reviews: Confessions of an Angry Girl + Adaptation

Louise Rozett
Contemporary Young Adult
272 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…

1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)

Confessions of an Angry Girl is a surprising story, the title and synopsis causing our bodies to brace as we prepare to enter the volatile mind of a grief-stricken fourteen year-old girl, but what we find instead is an extraordinarily relatable young woman lost in a sea of change. While there are times when Rose does lash out in anger, for the most part she’s quiet, absorbing blow after blow until she reaches the point her body and mind can no longer sustain another hit without a verbal or physical defense, and by that time young Rose has embedded herself so deeply under our skin we’ve no other choice but to back her every play even when we know no good will come of it.

Though Rose doesn’t likely see herself as strong, we can’t help but see her as such, admiring the strength it takes for a freshmen in high school to not be swayed by the pressure of those around her, instead choosing the more difficult path of non-conformity despite the loneliness that results from a road less traveled. Rose’s journey through her freshman year is emotional and engaging; a pleasant deviation from what was expected, however, it does end abruptly and with little warning, leaving those of us enjoying it via e-reader wondering if somehow our device caught a chapter-eating virus that robbed us of the story's conclusion. Though this is a series and obviously Rose’s story will continue in the next book, the ending knocks our enjoyment level down a peg or two.

Rating: Overall - 4/5 Ending - 3/5

Malinda Lo
Young Adult/SciFi
400 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

Adaptation is one of those stories that sets the gears in our minds turning before we even open the first page, the possibility of government conspiracies and cover ups causing us to have a handful of theories as to what we think might happen in this tale right off the bat, and as we continue reading we can’t help but analyze every thought and action to see if it fits into one of our imagined scenarios. In this first installment, Ms. Lo keeps the science fiction element of the story fairly subtle, allowing our imaginations to run wild as to what exactly happened to Reese and David in the desert, so it’s likely that even those readers who are not huge on the genre will be able to enjoy the labyrinthine mystery that is the United States government and their many and varied secrets.

While trying to uncover the details of David and Reese’s stint in a top secret facility keeps us utterly riveted to the pages, the romantic relationships (yes, plural) create a minor hitch in an otherwise smooth ride. From the beginning we understand Reese is attracted to David, the tension between them present and formidable even in the midst of their harrowing journey from Phoenix to San Francisco, leading us to believe theirs is a relationship that will be explored throughout the remainder of the story. However, not long after their return to California, Reese quickly enters into a relationship with a young woman to whom she feels a magnetic pull, something that throws us off a bit given Reese at no point previously has had even a passing romantic thought for someone of the same gender. Her physical relationship with Amber progresses shockingly fast as well, with very little examination of any confusing or conflicting feelings one might think would be present for someone who has just made a life-altering discovery about herself.

Despite the few flaws with the love triangle between Reese, David and Amber, Adaptation is an engaging first installment that leaves us itching to jump on the internet and see what fascinating conspiracy theory sites we can stumble upon.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mini Reviews: The Eleventh Plague + Magisterium

Jeff Hirsch
Young Adult/Post-apocalyptic
278 pages
Scholastic Press
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing--and their lives--forever.

The Eleventh Plague introduces us to a reality we can easily see happening, an act of bio-terrorism decimating the human population and leaving behind a new humanity in its infancy – vulnerable, fragile, and susceptible to a variety of predators. Many times with books that feature a world post-devastation, we can’t help but crave all the little details that led us to this place, wanting a full accounting of just how the world we know became the world we currently see depicted in ink before us. In this case however, though Mr. Hirsch does not spend a great deal of time recounting the history of the Collapse, we never really feel that keening desire to know more, instead we’re given just enough that we can easily picture how a world thriving quickly became a world desolate and struggling.

While Stephen’s story is a well-written and intriguing one, our investment never reaches that deepest level where our heart seems to beat in time to the rhythm of our fingers flipping the pages, and sheer desperation to uncover the fate of beloved characters never quite takes hold the way we’d like it to. Stephen’s journey to redefine the words "home" and "family" as they pertain to the world he thought he knew feels very even keel despite the action taking place – our adrenaline failing to spike when events get tense and death is meted out – and we remain safely removed from the fighting, curious as to the outcome without being ravenous with desire for it. Overall, The Eleventh Plague is sure to be a quick and fascinating read for those who like survival stories, but those who crave character intimacy and complexity may be left a touch wanting.

Rating: 3.5/5

Jeff Hirsch
Paranormal Young Adult
310 pages
Scholastic Press
Available Now
Received at BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run – with only one place to go.

Magisterium is a story that demands our attention from the first page and continues to hold it throughout, fascinating us with a world bisected; on one side of a lit border a futuristic world of technology and invention thrives, and on the other a world of magic and myth battles for survival. While comparing and contrasting each side of the divide keeps our minds blissfully occupied, constantly questioning whether we support Glenn’s desire to go home or Kevin’s desire to stay and explore, our young protagonist causes us no shortage of frustration.

Glenn often comes across selfish and sometimes even cruel in her dealings with others, the blinders she strapped on after her mother’s disappearance ten years prior forcing her eyes forward at all times so that her view of the world becomes incredibly narrowed, and she can see nothing of it save how the happenings around her apply to the goals she’s set for herself. Every once in a while she’ll pull a blinder from one eye and peek out, but what she sees often triggers an instantaneous fear response, causing that blinder to snap back into place and be secured even more tightly than it was before, and because she’s once again only looking in one direction, she doesn’t see how much her actions hurt those around her.

As with The Eleventh Plague, Mr. Hirsch’s storytelling is captivating, the rhythm of the story easy to follow and enjoy, however, there’s a great deal of potential for emotional complexity in this story that remains untapped. First, we have a seemingly unrequited love situation between Kevin and Glenn, something that’s tense and painful but could easily have been pushed that much further to have us pressing our hands to our chests just to ensure our hearts don’t topple out onto the floor. There’s also the abandonment issues Glenn faces with her mother’s disappearance, as well as Glenn’s personal growth when her narrow viewpoint finally starts widening, but we remain on the surface of all these issues much to the chagrin of an emotional reader like myself, the physical battle between the Magisterium and the Colloquium taking center stage instead.

Rating: 3.5/5 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales Blog Tour: Review, Interview + Giveaway

Paranormal Young Adult
340 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Dark is an extremely apt description for the short stories in this anthology, the lives of the protagonists in each one often marked by pain and sorrow, their journeys, however short or long, traveled with Death as a constant companion. While there is darkness to be found in every tale, each author threads their needle with a different shade of black, some weaving terror and brutality through their stories while others add beautiful stitches of light to break up the darker threads, ensuring a drastic fluctuation in our emotions from story to story.

Sing a Song of Six-Pence by Sarwat Chadda
Based on the rhyme in which twenty-four blackbirds are baked in a pie, "Sing a Song of Six-Pence" is one of the tales that beautifully combines dark and light, a brief look at a gritty and corrupt fantasy world making us wish we had all the pages leading up to this brief snippet to enjoy, as well as all the pages that might come after. The two leading characters have both experienced profound loss, but by the concluding paragraphs have gained back the pieces of themselves they've been missing, leaving us with peace, though it's a peace tinged with melancholy.

Wee Willie Winkie by Leigh Fallon
One of the shorter stories in the anthology with one of the biggest impacts, Ms. Fallon crafts and extraordinarily eerie tale set in a small town that has a shocking abundance of older people and a relative dearth of younger children. The explanation for this skewed population is one that raises the fine hairs on our arms and includes a parting line that echoes in our memories late at night when we’re all alone.

Boys & Girls Come Out to Play by Angie Frazer
Ms. Frazer does a stunning job of creating a world with substance and detail in only a few short pages, bringing to life a characters who face death as payment to a to a coven of witches; a calling card left to those who are chosen beckoning them to tempt fate as the witches brutally test young men and women to see who has the most potential. Cruelty runs rampant, happiness is a foreign emotion, and love is briefly found and then violently snatched away to leave us with pounding hearts and wet cheeks.

Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil
"Tick Tock" is one of the true horror stories in this anthology, a short nightmare of a tale involving a babysitter, a disturbing clock, and a quartet of unnerving children who speak only the Mother Goose rhyme on which this story was based. Our skin breaks out in tiny pebbles and full body shudder runs through us as we reach the end, needing a few moments to breathe deep and regain our equilibrium before we move on to the next dark interpretation.

A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink
The final short story in the anthology, "A Ribbon of Blue" eases us out of the shadows and both literally and figuratively into the light with a tale of a young girl struggling to take care of a grandmother with rapidly deteriorating health even as she herself battles the everyday challenges of cerebral palsy. We instantly connect with Ruby, hoping that though the multitude of tales that came before it suggest things won’t end well for her, her fate will be positive in nature. While our wish for only good things for Ruby isn’t granted without a steep price, we are left with a warmth in our hearts as we close the back cover, grateful Ms. Zink’s story was last.

 Overall Rating: 4/5

As part of the promotional tour for Two and Twenty Dark Tales, I'm thrilled to welcome author Leah Cypess to the blog to answer a few questions about her fabulous addition to this anthology!

If you had the opportunity to retell and put your spin on another nursery rhyme, fable, or fairytale, which one would you choose?

That’s an easy one, since I’m currently working on a “prequel story” to Twelve Dancing Princess and shopping around a science-fiction retelling of Bluebeard and a fantasy retelling of The Boy Who Drew Cats. I am a big fan of retellings! (I also have a sequel to Rumpelstiltskin being published soon in Sword & Sorceress.) I don’t know which one will be up next, but if it turns out to be a nursery rhyme, I think Jack & Jill has a lot of possibilities.

After reading the Mother Goose rhyme on which “Clockwork” is based, what was the first element of the world you created to pop into your head?

It was obvious to me that the mouse is the central character, and that the mouse is actually a person who been changed into a mouse. So the first element that occurred to me was the question of who turned her into a mouse and why.

Let’s say Amarind was able to turn back time and leave a brief message for either herself or her sister before the events of “Clockwork” take place. What would she say and where would she hide it to ensure only she or her sister found it?
Interesting question! I’m guessing she’d warn herself about the coup, and she’d probably leave the message somewhere pretty typical… like her underwear drawer. It’s not like anyone would be searching for it.

When we first meet Amarind, she’s been transformed into a mouse. If you fell prey to transformation magic, what type of creature would you most hope you were changed into?

NOT a mouse – I hope the story made that clear! Probably a bird with the least possible amount of predators. Or, wait, an extinct animal whose predators are all extinct too! Yes, that sounds pretty safe.

The Witch from “Clockwork” is to interview you as part of a promotional tour for Two and Twenty Dark Tales. What’s the first question she would ask and how would you answer?

Her: Who was it who trapped me and how can I break the trap?

Me: I don’t know yet, silly. That’s fodder for another story…

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Leah! This tour kicked off back in October, so if you're interested in checking out all the amazing reviews, interviews and giveaways that have already taken place, be sure and take a look at the full schedule HERE. The next stop will be tomorrow at Novel Thoughts Blog. More information on Two and Twenty Dark Tales, the tour, and Month9Books can be found here:

Buy Two and Twenty Dark Tales on Amazon


Thanks to the wonderful team at Month9Books and Leah Cypess, I have one ecopy of Leah's MISTWOOD to give away to a lucky winner! Since this is an ebook, the giveaway is INTERNATIONAL, please just leave a comment on the review or interview along with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway will run through midnight on Friday, November 16th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Have a great weekend everyone!