Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Enthralled

Various authors
Paranormal Young Adult
443 Pages
Available Now
Received at BEA

THE STORY (from Amazon)
A journey may take hundreds of miles, or it may cover the distance between duty and desire.

Sixteen of today’s hottest writers of paranormal tales weave stories on a common theme of journeying. Authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Melissa Marr return to the beloved worlds of their bestselling series, while others, like Claudia Gray, Kami Garcia, and Margaret Stohl, create new landscapes and characters. But whether they’re writing about vampires, faeries, angels, or other magical beings, each author explores the strength and resilience of the human heart.

Suspenseful, funny, or romantic, the stories in Enthralled will leave you moved.

Enthralled is a truly beautiful collection of short stories, a veritable buffet of paranormal entities with varying mythologies and gloriously crafted worlds that keeps us flipping the pages with unnatural speed and groaning outwardly upon reaching concluding pages of each individual tale. Some stories are snippets set in the world of an already existing series–granting us quick glimpses through the eyes of a secondary character and gifting us a few extra blissful minutes with some familiar favorites. Other tales are completely new, many of them feeling complex and nuanced despite the short page length, leaving us lingering on the last page wishing and hoping the author might decide to make the short we’ve just read a prequel to a new full-length supernatural series.

Red Run by Kami Garcia
At a depressingly short 20 pages, Red Run gives us a quick, dark ghost story that proves with potentially disastrous consequences how things are not always as they seem. Ms Garcia manages to craft characters who come to life for those brief moments we spend with them, creating a complete story that more than satisfies our need for characters who elicit an emotional response as well as a world we can see clearly in our minds despite not having chapters upon chapters establishing and describing every detail for us.

Bridge by Jeri Smith-Ready
Perhaps my favorite of them all, Bridge is written in verse and returns us to the world of Shade and Shift, allowing us all-too briefly into the mind of Logan after he’s been a ghost for 233 days. While those who aren’t familiar with the series may not find this contribution to the anthology as poignant and moving as those who are familiar every detail of Logan’s history and his time with Aura, Ms. Smith-Ready still does a fantastic job of summarizing events to create a context for Logan’s need to speak with older brother Michael. Logan is his typical self, managing to be incredibly self-centered and frankly a bit of an asshole (his own words), but, as with the novels themselves, there are moments where he becomes serious and genuine, and he plays the strings of our hearts with the same consummate skill he did his guitar in life.

Skin Contact by Kimberly Derting
One of the darkest stories in the anthology, Skin Contact details the tragic past of Rafe, a character we meet in the second installment of her Body Finder series but about whom we know very little. In this tale she provides us an unobstructed view of the event that shaped the man he's become, shining a rather brutal light on someone we’ve seen previously only in shadow, and illuminating the infliction of emotional scars and irreversible damage on a young man we won’t be able to keep from seeing differently from this point onward.

The Third Kind by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Ms. Barnes’s story is one of the ones that exists outside an already created world, giving us something fresh and new and altogether intriguing. Due to the short length, characters and events are introduced quickly and we literally hit the ground running from the very first page, however, at no point do things seem rushed, and somehow Ms. Barnes manages to make us feel as though we know both Jess and Kissy on a far deeper level than we might have believed possible given our initial meeting just pages before. The end of this tale is actually a beginning–though not in a frustrating way–and we can’t help but hope she might add Jess and Kissy to her list of works in progress so that we may continue on in a world with characters who left an impression almost instantaneously.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Author Interview: Jill Hathaway and Slide

As part of the promotional tour through Teen Book Scene, I'm super excited today to welcome author Jill Hathaway to the blog to answer a few questions! Slide just released this week from Balzer + Bray (you can read my review here), and for those of you in the Ohio area, Jill and Kimberly Derting are going to be at Books & Co in Dayton on April 18th as part of the Dark Days tour so I'd love to see you there!

If there was one question you wish an interviewer would ask with regard to you as a writer, your process, or Slide, what would it be?

I wish they’d ask what my favorite writing fuel is, and that is most definitely Oreos and Diet Pepsi! If only they would make calorie free Oreos. :(

Name one book you’ve read over and over again yet still could read again tomorrow as though it was the first time.

The Hunger Games. I need to read it again now that the movie’s coming out.

If Vee were able to slide into your mind on release day, what would she see?

She would see me teaching sophomores about comma splice errors. That probably wouldn’t be very interesting.

Are there any scenes from Slide that didn’t make the final cut but you wish had?

Ha, there was a scene where Vee slid into a guy going to the bathroom, but my editor thought that was too gross.

*Jenny snorts her soda here*

Vee’s got a pretty unique ability with being able to slip into people’s minds and see through their eyes, but I’m not sure it’s one I would want for myself. Is there another character in young adult fiction who has a gift or ability you wouldn’t mind possessing?

I wouldn’t mind having a wish necklace like Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Thank you, Jenny!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Jill! Jill is also humoring me by coming back on the blog for another interview as part of my wrap-up post for the Dayton event, so be sure to check back mid-April for more Slide Q+A! More information on Jill and her books can be found here:


Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Post: Derek Taylor Kent and Scary School

Today Derek the Ghost is taking over Supernatural Snark (seems kind of fitting I think) to talk to us a little bit about the road to publication for his middle grade horror/comedy series. The first book is available now with the second book in the series, Scary School: Monsters on the March, releasing June 26th from HarperCollins. Take it away Derek!


My name is Derek Taylor Kent (AKA Derek the Ghost). I recently received a three-book deal for my YA horror-comedy series Scary School, which came out June 21, 2011 ( How this came to be is a bit of a horror-comedy itself.

March 1994. At the age of 15, I undertake writing an epic illustrated fantasy series. It’s an ill-conceived cross between Dr. Seuss and Lord of the Rings, but I spend six long years trying to get it published. Nothing ever comes of it.

April 2005. Painfully abandoning the illustrated book series and inspired by Harry Potter, I spend a year writing my first novel: Scary School, Book 1: My Homework Ate my Dog. After completing the first draft, I submit it to a few agents and publishers. All rejections.

Confused, I gave the manuscript to readers. I receive notes that suggest a heavy rewrite. Reluctantly, I spend months doing exhaustive rewrites, but I had to admit the book was greatly improved.

Early 2007. I feel the book is ready to submit once again. But I had a relentless day job and my spare time was filled with other projects. My Homework Ate My Dog goes on the backburner.

Another year passes.

July 2008. There’s a brief window of time off from my day job. I decide that it’s time to go full-out toward finding an agent or a publisher. If it doesn’t happen, it will probably be the end of my YA writing aspirations.

The task before me is daunting. I have the Guide to Literary Agents and the Children’s Marketplace books. It would take me a year to reach out to every agent and publisher, and I only have a window of a couple weeks. So, I hire an assistant. His job is to send out packages to every single YA lit agent in America. I spend my time focusing on online querying.

Responses start coming in. I’m getting bites. About one in every ten I sent out is asking to read my manuscript or sample chapters. Most are rejections, but if you have a 10% positive response rate to your query, you know that you probably have something good.

August 2008. Eric Myers from the Joe Spieler Agency requests sample chapters. A week later he requests the complete manuscript. On September 20, 2008, Eric Myers is my agent. He is very enthusiastic and has a great track record.

December 2008. Every publisher my agent has submitted to has passed.

The only glimmer of hope is from a junior editor at HarperCollins who says that she “really likes my writing and the humor of the book, but what I was expecting from a book called Scary School: My Homework Ate My Dog was not what I got. I was hoping for a light, funny book about a Scary School for a young audience.”

She was exactly right. My title was screaming: silly/funny book for 8-year-olds, but I had given her a darker Harry Potter fit for 12-year-olds.

The editor concluded with: “I do feel there is a market for a Scary School book series for a younger audience should he feel inclined to write it.”

There it was. A bite from a publisher. The only problem was my “bite” felt like an orca whale. I’d have to write a whole new book for her, and I’d have to write it fast so she didn’t forget about me or buy another book in the same genre.

I sequester myself and complete the first draft of a new book series, just called Scary School.

The first draft is done by January 2009. I send it to my agent. He’s a little shocked that it’s not a linear story like My Homework Ate my Dog, but we agree to send it to HarperCollins as is.

March 2009. The junior editor writes back: “This is exactly what I was hoping for. I love it! I think we really have something here!”

A few weeks later HarperCollins offers me a three-book deal for Scary School.

I dance around my apartment and weep with joy.

The advance is not enough to quit my day job, but it’s enough to create a website, hire a publicist, and print thousands of Scary School T-shirts.

As I write this, I am exactly one week away from the Scary School release date on June 21, 2011. I had to wait another two years before it was scheduled for release.

It was agony.

Over that time I have self-published what is now called Rudy and the Beast: My Homework Ate My Dog! There’s still an issue with the title, but I won’t surrender it. I also self-published an illustrated book called Simon and the Solar System.

This year, I finished a new YA novel called Principal Mikey about a kid who becomes principal of his school. I think it’s my most well-written novel and is absolutely hilarious.

No bites so far.

Thanks for stopping by Derek! More information on Derek and the Scary School series can be found here:




You think your school's scary?

Get a load of these teachers:

"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"


Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch


The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost

Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Shooting Stars

Allison Rushby
Contemporary Young Adult
272 pages
Walker Children's Books
Available Now
Received via NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

The synopsis for Shooting Stars suggests we’ll get a fairly predictable tale of a young woman who sets out to accomplish one goal but inevitably realizes said goal no longer holds the appeal it did initially, and while it certainly is that, Ms. Rushby does add substance and a few twists that reduce the overall predictability to give us a pleasantly intriguing read. While we aren’t necessarily astounded by creative brilliance or floored by the poetic depth of the characters, we are given a quick and fun plot that’s perfect for those days when we just want a brief disconnect from our lives that doesn’t weigh us down with drama or overwhelm us with emotion, but rather allows us to sink into a story, enjoy ourselves, and then return to our lives with a smile of contentment.

Jo, also known as Paparazzo Jo or Zo Jo for short, is a surprisingly mature sixteen year-old, almost entirely on her own as her paparazzo father spends weeks at a time exploring business ventures overseas. She’s easy to like and easy to respect as guilt settles heavily on her shoulders from the very beginning over the job she’s assigned, and our respect for her only continues to grow as she battles internally with what she knows in her gut and heart is wrong, and externally with a woman who seems to have very little heart at all. She’s always thinking, not in a conniving or scheming way, but more in a remarkably adult way as she tries to absorb all the information she can before she makes a decision we know will profoundly hurt someone else.

Though this is a shorter story coming in under three hundred pages, the romantic element doesn’t feel rushed or forced, progressing at a nice pace that’s cute and believable without any added teenage angst or melodrama. Ned matches Jo in maturity–the circumstances of their lives forcing them to grow up far quicker than their peers—and as a result their conversations feel more meaningful than we expect initially, bringing a smile to our faces as we bask in the genuineness of their interactions despite the monstrous lie wedged snugly between them. The tension created by the large elephant following them room to room in the retreat flutters incessantly in our guts the entire time we read, our sweet romantic haze tempered by our nervousness over the impending showdown when Ned learns the truth of Jo’s presence, giving us just enough of a bite to the story to keep us interested and emotionally involved.

Ms. Ashby tosses a few twists in toward the end, events unfolding in a way we don’t necessarily see coming (at least I didn’t), and delighting us with a bit of a new direction when we had already resigned ourselves to an easily foreseeable conclusion. Cute, quick, and light, Shooting Stars is the perfect palate cleanser before starting or after finishing a richer and heavier story.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, March 26, 2012

Series Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side


Beth Fantaskey
Paranormal Young Adult
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (Book one only - from Goodreads)
The undead can really screw up your senior year . . .

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war — and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

Quick and fun reads, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and Jessica Rules the Dark Side don’t necessarily bring anything new or innovative to the world of vampires, but they do give us characters who are vibrant and funny and who easily draw us into their world even if it is one we’ve experienced before. The first installment starts out a bit lighter in tone, Jessica vehemently rejecting Lucius’s presence in her home and his claims to her as his future bride, but as things progress the lighter humor gives way to more serious emotion, and we suddenly find our hearts in a vampiric vise-like grip we didn’t entirely see coming. Humor does persist throughout both books however, giving us a highly enjoyable combination of levity and heaviness as we watch Jess’s life change in ways she never thought possible.

While both books are entertaining, book one is definitely the stronger of the two, Jess and Lucius’s troubled courtship immensely more satisfying than we thought it might be based on the opening chapters. The beginning pages paint a rather familiar picture for us, a young woman suddenly becoming the object of complete and utter focus by the hot new student at school, but once Lucius moves into the apartment above her parent’s garage and more fully immerses himself in her life, the familiarity begins to wear off, replaced by genuine interest and increased emotional attachment. We watch with hearts a bit in our throats as Jess learns what it’s like to desperately want something she can’t have, feeling for her as she realizes she had the opportunity to reach out and grab him but she didn’t move quite fast enough and now he's danced seemingly out of her reach.

Book two introduces a new character in Lucius’s close friend Raniero, and gives us not only first person narration from Jess but also her best friend Mindy as well. The introduction of this new dual perspective in addition to the continuing presence of correspondence from Lucius and Raniero gives this second installment a different feel, detaching us slightly from Jess as we are now forced to split our attention between not only her and Lucius but Mindy and Raniero as well. Mindy also has a younger voice than Jess, her predilection for using the word “like” and her driving need for Raniero to be someone he doesn’t want to be to please her contrasting with the slightly more mature interactions prominent in the first book. Jess herself isn’t quite the same girl we met in the first book either, moping a bit around the castle and repeatedly telling herself she’s not cut out to be queen instead of focusing that energy on learning the rules and regulations governing her new life. It’s not until over halfway before Jess finally shakes loose of her uncharacteristic melancholy and begins to take charge of her own future instead of allowing it to be dictated for her.

Overall, this is an entertaining series, the first book highly recommended for those who enjoy paranormal young adult fiction that has a well-executed combination of humor and romance. The second book is slightly disappointing given our strong attachment to the first, but it’s still a quick read even though it lacks some of the elements that made its predecessor so strong.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side: 4/5
Jessica Rules the Dark Side: 3/5

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cover Critique: Crotches of Flame

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.

I don't want to boast, but I think I've really outdone myself this week friends. Truly. Sometimes my laugh-out-loud cover-finding skills are so magical that I impress even myself. This is one of those times. I've simply blown myself away with the covers I've stumbled upon, and as I think the title of this post suggests, you're in for a treat. A flaming hot one. Now that I'm done thoroughly patting myself on the back for my internet-scavenging brilliance, I think we can move on to taking a look at the fruits of my labor. Be prepared.


Look at that people. It's glorious. The nakedness and the hair and the flames all combine to create a work of art to rival the masters of the Renaissance in my humble opinion. Nothing sexier than a man with fiery junk I always say. In fact, I say it so often I think I'd like crocheted on some decorative pillows. Or oven mitts maybe. Oven mitts would make more sense right? They're made for handling hot things. Like extra crispy man bits. I personally think Michelangelo should have experimented a touch with flaming crotches, it would have taken his work to a more refined and impressive level. It's not like he wasn't intimately familiar with sculpting that particular area, so what would adding a few flames have hurt? Nothing, that's what.

I have a question though. As the title tells us, our nude friend here with the fluffy mane of gold is the God of Fire, and if that's to be believed, one would think he would have a certain level of control over his abilities. Gods are typically immortal, so in theory he's had an extremely long time to fine-tune his fire-wielding correct? Let's just go with yes. So why, if we're to assume he's a champ when it comes to flame manipulation, would he be pictured here with his goods aflame? That seems like a newbie mistake if you ask me. Premature crotch ignition? A full-blown god should not lose control like this! It's just unbecoming really.

And look at his face! He's giving us the intimidating stare down, like should we dare to mention his little issue with prematurity he will show us just how accurate and, ahem, on time he can be by flambeing us with a single precision strike. You win Peen of Fire, you win. I won't mention this little incident to anyone. Promise.

Random side note: My brain often freezes while trying to think of the right word or words to accurately express what I'm trying to say when writing these critiques. In the case of the above cover, there was one word in particular I couldn't think of for the life of me and it was driving me crazy, so I called to my husband Kevin in the other room and asked for assistance. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Kevin?

Kevin: What?

Me: What's it called when a guy unintentionally gets off before he's supposed to?

Kevin: What?

Me: I think we both know you heard what I just asked. Don't pretend my out-of-nowhere verbal sexual outburst has surprised you.

Kevin: Premature ejaculation?

Me: YES! Premature! Thank you, that's super helpful.

Kevin: Seriously? What the hell are you writing in there?

Me: Don't worry about it.

Kevin: This is going on the blog isn't it.

Me: Sure is. And you were instrumental in making it happen. You should be proud.

Kevin: Never been prouder. This is a real high point in my life.

Me: Sarcasm doesn't become you the way it so clearly does me, please refrain from using it in the future.

Kevin: There are things wrong with you. Seriously.

Ah, marriage. Full of sweet honesty and deep love.


I don't want anyone to think I have something against men by poking fun at our fire god up there and his possible quick-trigger tendencies, so I thought it pertinent I post a woman with fiery nether regions as well. Now no one can say I'm anything other than completely fair.

I have to say in this instance the fire doesn't catch my attention nearly as much as the white nipple curly-cue though. I can't say I've ever seen a titty swirl before, it's entirely new to me. Maybe that just shows you how sheltered I am, but I can't stop staring at it. At first glance I thought maybe it was some piece of futuristic lingerie since it seems to wrap around her back like a bathing suit, but her other breast seems to be swirl-free, and really, how would a top that simply curls around her boob like that stay up? It's a conundrum.

With the bizarre bra idea off the table quickly, my imagination began to take me to some uncomfortable places. Specifically, it immediately jumped to the old Care Bear cartoons. Remember those? The cute fuzzy bears with the little bellies that when pushed gave them special abilities? That's what her nipple spiral made me think of–that maybe if someone pressed it, a phoenix would shoot from her boob and do I'm-not-sure-what because I didn't really get that far in my thought process. I know I just completely perverted a wonderful children's cartoon, but I can't help the way my mind works people! It went that direction without my permission. *hangs head in shame*

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mini Reviews + Giveaway: Masquerade and Friendship on Fire

MASQUERADE (Heven and Hell #1)
Cambria Hebert
Paranormal Young Adult
360 pages
Otherworld Publications
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Before. Everything was so much better Before. I wasn’t haunted by nightmares, my place at school was secure and my face was flawless. Now, I’m a freak and everything has changed. The worst part is that I can’t remember the night I was sentenced to the shadows. The memory has been stolen from me and I just can’t shake the feeling that someone, something is out there -watching.

Just when I think I have my life handled, Sam, with his intimidating golden stare and shiver inducing voice, makes me realize that I don’t know anything. He makes me see that my scars don’t matter. That they never mattered. I can’t help but fall for him, completely unknowing that he knows exactly how I got this way. Not knowing he was involved.


Heven has no idea how closely death stalks her. She has no idea what I have done to keep her alive. I fear the day she learns my secrets, finds out what I really am. But even then I cannot stop, I vow to make things right. Finally her hunter will be hunted, Heaven and Hell, faith and sin will battle, and we will be victorious. But first, Heven must learn to be what she never imagined. I know her strength is there – I feel it. If we are to overcome all odds, she must push past her flaws - her frailties - to become much more.

Brimming with darkness and passion, Masquerade provides us with a intriguing combination of normal and paranormal, providing us the opportunity to closely examine the emotional complexities of a disfigured young woman while also unfolding before our eyes a supernatural mystery featuring blissfully underutilized supernatural entities. Due to the relative newness of these beings, we have an intense desire to know as much about them as possible, but sadly, the mythology is left fairly incomplete in this first installment with only a snippet here and there mentioning their history and how they came to exist alongside human beings. We know little of their traits and abilities other than the bare necessities to understand a certain character’s physical transformations, so we can't help but spend much of our time wishing for a touch less of the sweet lightness of the romance and a bit more of the alluring darkness of the unknown.

While Masquerade is certainly well-written and weaves a complicated and layered tale, heroine Heven is a difficult young woman to really connect with though we certainly sympathize with her circumstances. She suffers from extremely low self-esteem as a result of the brutal scars marring her otherwise stunning face, and while Sam’s affections do build her confidence, she remains throughout a girl who needs a boy in her life and has trouble fully functioning without him. Both she and Sam enter into a mutually co-dependent relationship, constantly needing to be together at every turn in order to feel at peace to the extent that they become the sole focus of each other’s existence, defined by the other person rather than by themselves.

Overall, Ms. Hebert has created the foundation for a potentially fascinating world, and toward the end prepares us for a rather epic journey to begin in the sequel, but I'm hoping we get a little more independence from both Sam and Heven as they set forth on their quest.

Rating: 3/5

Danielle Weiler
Contemporary Young Adult
488 pages
Sid Harta Publishers
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
The first few days of year 12 are disastrous for school captain Daisy Brooks. But Daisy’s life takes a sudden turn when she is dared by Skye, the leader of the Blonde Brigade, to meet the mysterious, drop-dead gorgeous stranger, Nate, from rival school Addison Grammar. Daisy’s instant attraction to him disrupts her world. But what about her best friend Roman? How will he respond to this intruder? Daisy is a vulnerable, yet fiery girl going through the chaotic phase between teenage and adulthood. She is about to discover the complexities of relationships, the etiquette of friendship and, most of all, her development as a woman. Is it too late for Daisy to realise that the choices she makes shapes who she is and who she will become?

Friendship on Fire is a bit of a meandering tale, forcing us to take a long and winding path to reach our final destination rather than a shorter, more direct route, and often losing our attention at times as a result. We can see fairly early on where the story is ultimately heading–a story of friendship and first love and the evolving nature of the two–and while we’re thoroughly excited to dive in and begin our journey with Daisy, that excitement quickly wanes in the face of pages and pages of her day-to-day activities and the general minutiae of her life. It’s almost like we readers are on a merry-go-round–we’re able to spot something of interest between Roman and Daisy quickly, but before we can reach out and grab it for closer study, we’re whipped around in yet another circle and and continue to rotate gradually until we complete the revolution and are granted the opportunity to try and reach out one more time.

After we make our way through the extremely slow buildup of Daisy’s relationship with Nate and find ourselves about halfway through, things start to pick up and the emotions begin to feel far more real than the short temper flare-ups expressed by Daisy up to that point. Suddenly in the final 150 pages there’s a new layer of tension not bogged down by or hidden behind superfluous school events or soccer matches, instead the connection we’ve been waiting for begins to take form and we find ourselves invested in Daisy’s life. Overall, Friendship on Fire is a story that could have easily been told in well under 500 pages, but when Ms. Weiler does finally get down to the emotionally gritty parts of the story, she has a fully captivated audience in us as readers.

Rating: 3/5


Thanks to Ms. Weiler, I have a signed paperback copy of Friendship on Fire up for grabs on the blog today! To enter, please just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight EST on Sunday, March 25th after which time a winner will be chosen and emailed. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Slide

SLIDE (Slide #1)
Jill Hathaway
Paranormal-ish Young Adult
256 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available March 27th
Received through Teen Book Scene for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

Slide is a story that draws us in quickly, making us feel vulnerable on a level rarely experienced while reading and binding us to Vee as we tread precariously through the strangeness of her life. Not only do we have the vulnerability we typically feel as passive observers to fictional action–stuck outside the pages with absolutely no ability to direct or alter what’s unfolding before us–but with Vee’s story that usual vulnerability is compounded by her ability to slide into the minds of others without effecting change while she’s there. Thus, we find ourselves observers of someone who’s an even more intimate observer of others, leaving us helpless not just on a single default level but on a far deeper level as well, and making the reading experience a kind of fascinating exercise in facing our own impotence.

Vee is a young woman whose gift superficially seems like it might be something we’d like to experience, but the more time we spend with her, the more her ability takes on a darker, almost sinister edge, turning us all into unintentional voyeurs invading the privacy of others without their consent. Her sliding also leaves her body starkly exposed, her mind unable to protect its physical form while occupied in the mind of another, and we therefore feel an intense need to protect her despite our deep-seated knowledge that we are unable to do so. Still, Vee’s safety–emotionally and physically–becomes important to us, and we envy the strength she possesses to deal with such unusual circumstances and the horrors she is sometimes subjected to as a result.

Though Vee is a heroine it’s extremely easy to root for and we are rapidly swept away into a world where seeing is not just believing but also experiencing, the overall feeling we are left with upon finishing is one of slight disappointment. Ms. Hathaway has written a gorgeously dark story with characters who have problems and pasts that keep us riveted to the pages, however, we are denied deeper, richer access to them. Reading this story is a bit like being children in a candy store–we want nothing more than to touch and taste everything within reach of our greedy fingers, but the firm hand of our parents restrains us, their authoritative voices reminding us we are to look only while fully indulging in nothing. There’s an intriguing relationship with Rollins of which we only get a brief flash, just as there is a great deal of pain and loss in Vee’s own past that we get a little snippet of when everything comes together at the end, but those tiny tastes, however delightful, make us feel the absence of something weightier all the more keenly.

Overall, Slide is a very quick and entertaining read, one that is done just well enough that we can’t help but want to immerse ourselves a little more thoroughly in the world and its characters, thereby causing the inability to do so to affect us more than it might in another book. Ms. Hathaway is certainly an author going on my “authors to keep track of” list, and I look forward to whatever she releases next.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Post: Augusta Blythe and Ravenstoke

Today I'm extremely pleased to have author Augusta Blythe take over the blog to talk to us a little bit about the characters from her young adult urban fantasy novels Winterborne and Ravenstoke. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Augusta!

On Plundering and Pillaging Other People or, in Simpler Terms, Character Inspiration

A friend recently emailed me after reading my latest book, Ravenstoke–“I can't help but play the who-is-this-character-based-on game." That comment definitely got me thinking about my characters from her perspective. She obviously saw some familiar folks lurking in the shadows of my characters. There was only one character I could think of that was a thinly veiled version of a person in my life. The character of Gran in Winterborne (Ravenstoke’s predecessor) was based on my own grandmother, who died in 2003. (As an aside, some reviews of Winterborne referenced the horrible and verbally abusive Gran and it made me laugh. Although the real Gran was quick with a tongue-lashing, her remarks were more entertaining than abusive.)

Well, Gran doesn’t make it into Ravenstoke so had I sucked the souls of people I know without realizing it? For the most part, Loie and Mia are their own people. There’s a little bit of me sprinkled into both characters. Otherwise, Loie is, in Winterborne anyway, a composite of all those awesome girls in the world with inexplicable self-esteem issues. The ones you want to throttle for not seeing how wonderful they are. New guy Cian was inspired by a blend of Darren Criss (Blaine from Glee), Flynn Rider from Tangled (sorry, but I have a 4-year-old daughter and I watch that movie a lot), and Hugh Grant’s smarmy character in the film version of Bridget’s Jones’s Diary. The character of Pippa (not Middleton) was inspired by a woman I read about in a home and garden magazine. And no, the actual woman did not keep a stockade of weapons in her secret cellar…that I know of. As for Mr. Winterborne, in one of the books I make reference to Orson Welles and that’s a true reflection of the inspiration. I picture him as this room-filling man, in spirit as much as size. His personality sucks all the energy out of the room and he feeds on it. He’s like a black hole. Secondary character Bethany Bright has a bit of Rachel from Glee in her, but without the Broadway aspirations and definitely without Lea Michele’s amazing voice.

That’s about it for plundering, pillaging, and inspiration. All the other characters are their own people. I guess I could ask my friend whom she had in mind, but I think her question is really a reflection of how and why we read in the first place. We like to get lost in a story, sure, but we also like to identify with or relate to one or more of the characters. As a result, we may see ourselves or other people we know in those characters and that’s simply the beauty of books.

Thanks so much for stopping by Augusta! More information on Augusta, Winterborne, and Ravenstoke can be found here:



In Winterborne, Loie and Mia's seventeenth birthdays brought more drama and surprises than they ever expected. Now, in Ravenstoke, they are adjusting to the aftermath and struggling to keep those newfound powers in check. When Andreas is called away to England under mysterious circumstances, a new guy is sent to Salcey Ridge in his place. Cian is smarmy and cocksure and Loie wants nothing more than to unleash a hellhound on him. Unfortunately, Cian isn't the only complication in their lives as the girls must also contend with the reappearance of Mr. Winterborne himself and Loie's most dreaded fear of all - a part in the school musical. Can the girls survive the rest of junior year unscathed?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Goddess Interrupted

(Goddess Test #2)
Aimee Carter
Paranormal Young Adult
304 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available March 27th
Received through NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry's first wife, Persephone.

A bit darker and fraught with more emotional intensity than its predecessor, Goddess Interrupted takes us beneath the surface both literally and figuratively as Kate descends to the Underworld after her absence over the summer and finds the progress she made with Henry before her departure lost behind his reinforced defensive shields. The tenuous thread of hope she mustered after he saved her life in the previous book quickly frays, the stark realization that she’s in a relationship with not only Henry, but also Henry’s long memory of Persephone as well, one that settles over all of us with a tangible weight that only increases in tonnage as she throws herself against his barriers again and again to no avail. We walk alongside Kate one lead foot after the other, wishing as she does for some flicker of love or approval from the ruler of the Underworld to help her navigate the monumental task of guiding the dead while she fights a Titan who can easily replace her immortality with mortality.

Kate is still the same young woman we met in the first book, her tendencies toward self-sacrifice in full swing as the Olympian gods face an ancient foe, but her vulnerabilities with regard to Henry are more apparent than ever. While we completely understand her insecurities when faced with Henry’s obvious love for Persephone and how his seeming lack of affection for her chips away at her confidence, the cyclical nature of her self-pity, then her resolve to embrace what she has instead of mourn what she doesn’t, and finally the deterioration of that resolve in the face of Henry’s detachment gets a bit tedious. Her anger and hurt are more than justified, Henry’s family’s pretty words and assurances that his love for her is real both empty and meaningless when any sign of their truth is hidden behind an impenetrable immortal mask, however her downward spiral into a repeated mantra of “I’ll always be second to Persephone” tries our patience as we flip the pages.

Like Kate, Henry is much the same character we met in The Goddess Test, a rather dark and brooding version of Hades who doesn’t reflect the explosive personality we might expect from the God of the Underworld. His brooding nature isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means, but the lack of any emotional spark from him does make our connection to him rocky at best, and we long for the moment when the force of his personality will break through the block of ice in which Persephone’s betrayal encased him to give us a man we can reach out in touch instead of a god who slips right through our fingers. By the end, he does begin to slowly take form, solidifying ever-so-slightly to give us the barest hint of reality instead of smoke and mirrors, and that's enough to have us thoroughly anticipating the third installment in the hope we’ll see what we’ve up till now only caught the barest glimpses of.

The Greek mythology element was extraordinarily subtle in book one, but luckily for us it’s a bit more prominent in Goddess Interrupted, the immortal nature of Kate’s new family becoming more apparent as secrets are revealed thanks to a Persephone-shaped catalyst, opening our eyes a bit wider to Henry’s pain and giving both Kate and us an idea of just how different from us they truly are. Despite Kate’s continuous self-doubt and Henry’s emotional distance, the story itself is fast-paced and entertaining, though those who fear cliffhangers should brace themselves for a rather spectacular one at the end of this story. It does its job however, leaving us blinking rapidly in stupefaction that we’ve reached the last page and groaning aloud as we realize how long we must now wait for the next installment.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cover Critique: Itty Bitty

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.

I think I found something brilliant for you this week my friends. "Think" being the operative word here. I mean, it's entirely possible I've found something brilliant, but it's also entirely possible I didn't. I'm very complicated, I know. Clearly I need to explain the situation and this week's cover, so please bear with me through the following anecdote.

Yesterday I was perusing the internet in search of covers for today's post and stumbled upon a new publisher I'd yet to discover in all my previous cover WTF-ery expeditions. I can't tell you how excited I get when this happens. There before me was an enormous online catalog of potential eye-gouging and soul-searing imagery, and I couldn't wait to dive in and see what treasures awaited. But I was foiled. FOILED! It's as though the publisher knew I was visiting their site and wanted to prevent me from using one of their covers in my Friday feature. And they were very, very sneaky about it. Little did they know that my determination to find cover monstrosities knows no bounds.

I noticed as I was scanning their titles that the thumbnails were tiny. Obviously. That's the point of a thumbnail right? Right. However, theirs in particular seemed abnormally little, and I like to post rather large images of the covers so everyone can take in all the magnificently horrifying details. I wasn't worried though because underneath the thumbnail it said "click for larger image". Perfect. They've thought of everything! I will click for a larger image like no one has ever clicked before! So I did. And this is what came up:

Seriously. Blogger did not shrink my image, this is honestly their version of "larger". Given the publisher I was visiting seemed to publish romance/erotic novels, I have to say this does not bode well for what we're going to find in between the sheets (both paper and fabric) now does it? No. The poor heroes in these books are tragically stunted from the very get go with tiny, unimpressive, no more than inch-long, um, covers. How unsatisfying for all parties involved.

Now, I would like to play a game. A game where you all tell me what the hell I'm looking at because I have no idea. There's clearly at least one shirtless gentleman on there, but as for the rest, I haven't the first clue. Transparency layers are fun aren't they? I can almost hear the designer laughing as he or she adds image after image to this cover while changing the opacity of each layer until we get this monochromatic mess we can't decipher. Or enlarge apparently. Do I see abs on the right there? I think I do (I have an eye for these things people ;-). I have no idea if said abs belong to the nose and mouth up top though, it's all very confusing and jumbled.

Remember those Magic Eye posters? The ones where you basically had to cross your eyes while looking at them and wait until a 3-D image of dinosaurs or birds or deer or something popped out at you? I feel like this is one of those. Like it's testing me. Like I'm supposed to make something of the chaos and the cover is secretly laughing at me because I'm failing to do so. It's obviously taunting me with its distinct lack of clarity. YOU'LL NOT BEST ME TEENY TINY COVER! I WILL PREVAIL IN THE END!

Who else keeps repeatedly clicking on the above image in the misguided hope that one of the times you click it the cover will actually show up larger? *raises both hands* We can solve this puzzle together everyone, I know we can. Let's all just stare at it, share our theories in the comments, and take the mystery right out of this bad boy, what do you say? It cannot continue to mock us with its ambiguity, I'll not stand for it! I'M COMING FOR YOU A PRIVATE HUNGER, BE INTIMIDATED BY MY USE OF ALL CAPS!

Seriously though everyone. Help me.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: The Darkest Seduction

(Lords of the Underworld #9)
Gena Showalter
Adult Paranormal Romance
504 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Possessed by the demon of Promiscuity, immortal warrior Paris is irresistibly seductive-but his potent allure comes at a terrible price. Every night he must bed someone new, or weaken and die. And the woman he craves above all others is the one woman he'd thought was forever beyond his reach…until now.

Newly possessed by the demon of Wrath, Sienna Blackstone is racked by a ruthless need to punish those around her. Yet in Paris's arms, the vulnerable beauty finds soul-searing passion and incredible peace. Until a blood feud between ancient enemies heats up.

Will the battle against gods, angels and creatures of the night bind them eternally-or tear them apart?

Perhaps the most highly anticipated of the Lords of the Underworld series given the length of time we’ve followed Paris and Sienna’s tragic courtship, The Darkest Seduction doesn’t let us fans of the series down, the moments we’ve spent physically aching for them every time we've received small snippets of their lives in the other Lords’ books more than worth it as we get their full story in gloriously rich detail. We’ve had to watch Paris, previously full of life and charm and always quick with a laugh, lose a little piece of that light and charisma with each book, his guilt over his role in Sienna’s death and subsequent undeath starting out a small dark blot on his heart and spreading with each page read until darkness and vengeance have almost entirely consumed him. As a result, we find ourselves spending long minutes just staring at the image of Paris and Sienna on the cover, desperately wanting to crack the spine but also utterly apprehensive to do so knowing the journey to happiness for them will be long and painful.

Paris, Keeper of Promiscuity, leaps from the pages in the very first book in a deliciously sexy blaze of glory, seeming to revel in the needs of his demon while verbally sparring with his fellow Lords in a way that makes him an instant favorite, taking possession of our hearts as easily as he does all of those he seduces. As the series progresses however, we see small glimpses of the burden he bears as the Lord of Sex, the broken hearts, tears, curses, and pleas for more he leaves in his wake piling one atop the other to create a mountain of self-loathing and shame so great we want nothing more than to reach in and assure him his deeds done to satisfy his demon do not define him as a man. In this, finally his story at last, we experience his every emotion along with him, his desire to find and save Sienna in a way he wasn’t able to previously as well as his fear that Sex’s wants—separate but absolutely linked to his own–will inflict on her wounds deeper and more agonizing than the ones he’s already caused churning our guts as much as they do his.

Sienna is everything we could possibly want for Paris, a woman whose ability to forgive all his real and perceived sins acts as balm to his turbulent soul, granting him absolution and bestowing on him all the love he’s adamantly denied himself. Where she could condemn him for his inability to remain faithful, she offers only understanding, repeatedly putting his health and welfare above any jealousy the idea of his being with someone else brings forth, and proving to him again and again that the fragile trust they’re building is what’s most important to her. While Sienna’s infinite understanding of Paris’s need to sleep with someone else should they be parted for any length of time could have been frustrating–our own inability to overlook repeated infidelity, however necessary, preventing us from being as understanding as she is–Ms. Showalter spares us the torture and torment of cheating in this tale, instead giving us two characters who from the moment they come together on the pages show one another nothing but love and respect.

The Darkest Seduction, in addition to being a stunning fulfillment of a desire a long time coming, is also a crucial book with regard to the Lords’ ongoing battle with the Hunters and the search for Pandora’s Box, giving us a beautiful relationship as well as some incredibly profound developments that will hugely affect all the characters moving forward. Overall, this installment is one not to be missed, a true delight to read and one we can’t wait to flip back to the beginning and start all over again.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview: A.C. Gaughen and Scarlet

I'm extremely excited to welcome young adult debut author A.C. Gaughen to the blog to talk a little bit about her novel Scarlet which just released in February (read my review HERE). Scarlet was one of those books I can't say I was dying to read when I first heard about it, but it proved to be one that surprised me in the best possible way when I began reading it. I absolutely fell in love with Scarlet and Rob and their simultaneously beautiful and painful relationship, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves really complex, perfectly flawed characters.

We meet Scarlet at a point where she’s already a vital member of Rob’s band and has been so for some time, so we don’t know much about how they met. Can you tell us the first thing to run through each of their minds when they laid eyes on one another those couple of years ago?

Scarlet would have thought something along the lines of “Jackpot!” and Rob would have thought, “Interesting”. Scar had a very specific purpose in mind for Rob, and when Rob met Scar she gave him a new purpose, a new thought that there might be more that he could do–with just the right band of misfits.

If you were to join Scarlet, Rob, John, and Much in their efforts to help the less fortunate, what specific set of skills do you think you’d bring to the table to aid them on their missions?

An authorial hand to delete all obstacles! Though I like to imagine that I would be a super keen trainer of animals that could aid us on all our missions. We’d need a falcon and a wolf, at least.

What part of the writing/publishing/marketing process would you say you found most daunting?

The marketing part! It’s totally out of my wheelhouse. It’s totally out of my every house. There’s this really strange concept of your book–your verbal, emotional vomit that swelled up from your soul–becoming a public commodity. And then there’s the equally bizarre idea that then, some piece of you becomes a public commodity. It’s really strange–but it’s also pretty cool to learn a new skill, and marketing is definitely a steep learning curve!

Of all the Robin Hood stories and retellings, which book or film is your personal favorite?

God, I love Christian Slater as Will Scarlet in Prince of Thieves (and I love the title!). I love the hen in the Disney version–and that fox was pretty hot, for a fox. I love everything about Cary Elwes, and I love me some old school Errol Flynn. Jonas Armstrong and Lucy Griffiths are probably my fave Rob/Marian combo, though. And Richard Armitage as Gisbourne is off the charts. Best ever, hands down (from the BBC tv version).

So much of the tension between Scarlet and Rob comes as a result of their inability to voice their feelings to one another, both of them choosing instead to suffer in silence. If Scarlet had five minutes in which to tell Rob everything she’s ever wanted to say knowing that once that five minutes is up he won’t remember anything, what might come out of her mouth first?

She’d tell him everything that’s amazing about him–his heroism, his heart, his incredible ability to continue on in the face of never ending pain and injustice. She’d say that the times when he’s most amazing are when he doubts himself, when he stumbles, when he shows that he feels that pain and feels that injustice–and then continues on anyway, continues to give hope and strength to those around him, including her. She’d tell him that she loves all of those things that make him a hero, but she loves the things that make him a little awful even more. Because when he says terrible things and does terrible things and she loves him anyway, it makes this tiny seed of possibility grow in her that maybe she can be loved despite those terrible things within herself.

And then she’d punch him. Because he can be a huge jerk sometimes, and even if she loves it, she definitely doesn’t have to forgive it.

What would Rob say is his greatest strength? His greatest weakness?

I don’t know if Rob recognizes his greatest strength, which is to believe in people. I think he would probably think it’s his ability to keep on going, to never stop, never give up. But he sees that as a serious flaw, too–like he should just be able to forgive, to forget, to move on, and he can’t. Not ever.

His weakness? He’s afraid of a lot of his emotions. He would say he’s weak because of his anger, his jealousy, his pride. They can definitely get the best of him, and he’s terrified of being so out of control.

Let’s say you’re on a book tour with your four main characters attending signings and conducting question and answer sessions. Who would be the most comfortable in front of a large group of people? Whose answers would most likely get the biggest laugh?

John Little for the win! John would ham it up while Scarlet gets progressively more and more territorial and uncomfortable with the attention. Rob would try and make him give serious answers while Much continually pipes up with something that tries to be funny or interesting but is just trying too hard. And then John would swoop in again, steal the spotlight, and hit on a reporter.

If the Scarlet we meet at the beginning of the book could ask you one question about how her life was going to change in the coming pages, what would it be and how would you answer?

I think she’d say: “Will I do it? Is it over?” Scarlet desperately wants a feeling of relief–whether its being assured the people are safe, or she is forgiven by the sister she lost, or she has Rob’s approval, she just wants the tension she’s been holding onto for so long to break. And none of it will. So I think I’d tell her that she can’t look to the future for validation. She has to look at her efforts every day and know they’re enough, and know she has a new chance every morning. Until she’s satisfied with that, she won’t be satisfied with anything.

Thank you for the interview!!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions A.C.! More information on A.C. and Scarlet can be found here:

Order Scarlet on Amazon


Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Embrace

(The Violet Eden Chapters #1)
Jessica Shirvington
Paranormal Young Adult
367 pages
Sourcebooks Fire
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

Embrace is a maze made up of light and shadow, each step we take alongside our protagonist exposing us to both in equal measure as we twist and turn through a story where it seems as though we're the only ones denied a map to help navigate the labyrinth, and we tread carefully in a world of angels who defy all previous definition. One of the more fascinating elements of the story is the angel mythology itself, giving us beings free for the most part from any ties to organized religion and God who occupy a realm all their own where light and dark don’t necessarily correspond to good and evil, but rather each type muddies the waters and we must open our minds to a new interpretation full of blurred lines and complex lore.

For as interesting as Ms. Shirvington’s history of angels is–our naturally inquisitive minds itching for more of the fresh and new relationships between human, angel and Grigori while reading–protagonist Violet poses a rather unique set of problems for us. Her behavior through ninety percent of the book is confounding and at times downright frustrating, her seemingly illogical anger toward Lincoln for withholding information from her causing us to grit our teeth and groan out loud every time she opens her mouth to berate him. Yes, someone she loves desperately kept secrets that involved her, but his intent was never the slightest bit malicious, and so while we understand her initial pain and hurt, the intensity of her continued reaction to him tests the limits of our patience as she seems to grant extraordinary leeway to a stranger while denying the young man she supposedly loves even the smallest of courtesies.

It’s not until the very final pages that we come to understand Violet’s behavior fully and completely, and while the revelations suck some of the heat out of our ire, we’re given so little time to deal with the person Violet actually is as opposed to the one we’ve seen for the past three hundred pages that we’re left somewhat at a loss as to how to feel about her. We want to believe in her and disregard her words and actions based on our new information, but the end of this first installment finds us before our opinion of her can really change. Thus, we finish this story with a character who is a complete stranger to us despite all the time we’ve spent with her, and we now have to wait for the second installment to reintroduce ourselves to a young woman who will hopefully prove herself more worthy of our affection.

Overall, Embrace is a rather tricky read given our tumultuous relationship with Violet, Lincoln and Phoenix, but ultimately the world is interesting enough and the characters certainly written in a way that guarantees an emotional response whether positive or negative that our desire to pick up the next book is strong upon finishing.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Bourne

BOURNE (River of Time #3.1)
Lisa T. Bergren
Historical Young Adult
Available Now
Received from author for review

THE STORY (from author website)
In this e-novella, River of Time #3.1, the dramatic tale about the Betarrinis and Forellis continues, picking up directly after where Torrent left off… The battle is done at the front, but the battle is only beginning back at Castello Forelli. Marcello fights for his life; Lord Greco fights to find his place; and Lia fights for love.

A read that’s easily devoured in a single sitting, Bourne is a treat for fans of The River of Time series, returning us to the Betarrinis for a brief but emotionally and physically intense visit before leaving us wanting more of everything from the characters and world we’ve come to care about so much. This novella gives a little something new in the form of Lia’s point of view, allowing us into the head of the younger Betarrini sister as she and Luca continue their romantically-tense dance, but with the new we also have the familiar comfort of Gabriella’s perspective as she and Marcello deal with the aftermath of the events of Torrent. As always, Ms. Bergen sublimely depicts both the beauty and the ugliness of life in medieval Italy, sweet flirtations accompanying the brutality of war to leave us utterly exhausted by the end given all the energy we’ve expelled reveling in the happy moments and despairing in the tragic ones.

Gabi and Lia are as enjoyable as ever, both strong-willed women who’ve proven themselves to be skilled fighters, and it’s nothing short of an absolute pleasure to watch as these modern young woman are courted in a time of chivalry and extreme gallantry. Both girls delight in Marcello and Luca's ingrained sense of honor at the same time they rebel against it, wanting to take up arms and defend those they love with every ounce of strength they possess instead of playing demure ladies who simply wait for their loved ones to return from battle. Spending extra time with Lia and Luca is thrilling, the tension between them crackling so strongly we can almost feel the tingles in our fingertips as we touch the pages (or screen as it were), our desire to see their romance unfold all-encompassing now that Marcello and Gabi are married.

Fans of Lord Greco may be slightly disappointed in this novella as Rodolfo is present throughout but definitely relegated to the background when Lia and Luca take center stage, and though we certainly won't complain about the new couple at the forefront, we can’t help but want more time with the man who is an undeniably intriguing mystery–sometimes a friend and sometimes a foe, but always someone who draws our gaze whether or not he is meant to be the object of our unwavering focus. Overall, Ms. Bergren packs a great deal of action as well as a touch of romance in a short number of pages, reminding us of what we love about this world and the characters who inhabit it while also making it glaringly apparent that we’ll not be satisfied until we have happy endings for every single person to whom we’ve been introduced.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Grab Bags And Other Things Made of Win

Happy Weekend Everyone!

I just wanted to do a quick post to share some fun things with you in case you've yet to hear about them. First, HarperTeen has put together a series of EPIC grab bags they will be giving away throughout the month. Each Friday in March, one winner will receive five crushable tales from the Story Crush library, so go HERE to check out all the awesomeness.

As you will see if you decide to enter, you need to "like" Epic Reads on Facebook in order to do so. I am not on Facebook because I work from home and the blog and Twitter are big enough distractions that I cannot possibly sign up and be tempted by yet another one, but my husband has an account. And I happen to know his password. So I logged in, "liked" Epic Reads, entered to win and considered it a job well done really. Then I get a phone call from my husband. It went a bit like this:

Hubs: Did you happen to use my Facebook account today?

Me: Um. What makes you ask that?

Hubs: I keep getting updates from something called Epic Reads.

Me: Huh. I can neither confirm nor deny responsibility for that.

Hubs: I'll take that as confirmation. Why did you "like" them on my behalf?

Me: Well, I'll tell you. They have a grab bag full of amazing books and I'm going to win it.

Hubs: You're going to win it?

Me: Yes.

Hubs: So you've simply entered to win is what you're saying, "liking" them didn't actually win you anything.

Me: If you care to interpret it as such. I'm more inclined to think positively and predict an outcome more in my favor.

Hubs: How many people have entered?

Me: Several.


Hundred. Maybe thousand.

Hubs: So your chances of actually winning are....

Me: Slim. To possibly none. But that's not really the point is it?

Hubs: I thought it kind of was.

Me: No. The point is I went out there on a limb and took a chance. You should encourage and support me in all my endeavors, however large or small dammit.

Hubs: Uh huh. Please stop "liking" things for me. This is my account.

Me: I make no promises.

It was a good talk I feel. I think we got some things worked out ;-) Anyway, the grab bags have some really fabulous books in them, so don't forget to check out the Epic Reads Facebook page each week to enter. And hopefully win. *crosses fingers*

Additionally, I have some very cool Lauren Oliver related items to share with you. First up is a Liesl & Po Classroom sweepstakes, all of the details of which can be found HERE.

And secondly, the fantastic Dark Days tour is continuing this weekend in Los Angeles with Lauren Oliver, Claudia Gray, and Dan Wells all in attendance. Wish I could be in LA right now. For those of you who are like me and are nowhere near sunny California, you can catch the event as it's livestreamed tomorrow (March 11th) HERE courtesy of Tiffany at About To Read.

If you just can't wait that long to hear Lauren Oliver talk about the unbelievable Delirium trilogy, you can check out her stop in Raleigh, North Carolina in a video HERE.

Phew. That was a lot of links. Enjoy all the Epic Reads fun everyone!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Interview + Giveaway: Ayden and the Hex Boys

Today I have a very special interview with a certain Hex Boy who may or may not be completely and utterly in love with me. It happens a lot. I'm very lovable you see. Anyway, I've invited Ayden here for a little chat so we can discuss our love out in the open and share it with the world. Don't be jealous everyone, sure Ayden is mine (and Blake too) but there's a fictional someone out there for all of you as well!

In all seriousness though, I've had an absolute blast on the promotional tour for Demons at Deadnight and I'm beyond thrilled to share some of the witty banter A&E Kirk do so well in this story with all of you. I hope the interview makes you laugh as much as it did me and Happy Friday!

What’s the very first thing that ran through your mind when Aurora fell and managed to land astride you? I would just like to remind you that I am the epitome of a mature individual and my mind absolutely NEVER dips into the gutter, so let’s keep this answer clean ;-)

Ayden: *Grins.* First of all, I’ve seen your tweets, so I’m not buying the innocent act. But I’ll do my best. I noticed her sweaty t-shirt clinging in all the right places and yoga pants that followed every curve of those endless legs. I’m a guy. I felt some heat. And in my case that can be dangerous, which is why I did what I did. To protect her. Although, I’ve been working on my control. So why don’t you and I reenact the scenario and see how I handle it now?

*Don't believe him dear readers! I am a paragon of innocence and virtue. And class. A PARAGON I TELL YOU! Ayden, stop trying to corrupt me with your many charms. I'm immune. And I'll meet you for that reenactment anytime and anyplace ;-)*

If you could trade abilities with one of the other Hex Boys for a day, whom would you most like to switch with and what would you do with the new ability first?

Ayden: Don’t ever tell him this, but I’d switch with Blake. It’d be nice to actually bring life into the world, instead of turning everything ash. I’d recreate the gardens of Versailles. Then we could take a walk and—

Jayden: I don’t know why you’re embarrassed. That cerebral thread has logical merit.

Ayden: *sighs*

Jayden: I’m sure you’re befuddled trying to aggregate my reasons for being here.

Ayden: I gave up years ago trying to understand a brother like you.

Jayden: Blake was inquiring as to your interview venue. This is embarrassing to admit, but as inept as Blake is, he always seems to get the better of me. So I thought it best to leave the premises before I unwittingly unveiled your location.

Ayden: By coming to my location?

Jayden: You don’t give me enough credit. My stealth techniques—

Blake: Suck!

Jayden: *Hangs head* I’m never going to live this down.

Blake: Yes, you’ll never live this down Logic Boy because I so owned you! Jenny, a highly intelligent and gorgeous babe like you finds brains attractive. This is my way of proving that I’m worthy of your love.

Ayden: If you touch her, you’ll never be able to use your hands again.

Blake: What if she touches me?

*Jenny reaches for both Ayden and Blake here. Two hands. Two boys. Perfect mathematical outcome*

Ayden: Keep dreaming.

Can you share with us any funny stories from when you, the boys, and Aurora were kids?

Blake: How about we go somewhere quiet and write our own romance, Jenny.

*Blake! Just how easy do you think I am? Please scroll up to question one and take note of the paragon of innocence exclamation. With that clearly stated for all to read I'd just like to say I'm really digging historical romances at the moment, so maybe we can romance ourselves in that general direction. Also, romance novel heroes almost NEVER wear shirts. Ever. They're perpetually shirtless. Let's start there...*

Jayden: Back then Blake employed the ridiculous notion that girls possessed cooties.

Ayden: I miss those days.

Blake: That’s before I met babes like Jenny.

Ayden: Well, the first time we met Aurora, she beat Jayden over the head with her picture book.

Jayden: I was simply trying to point out its inaccuracy regarding the fanciful personification of animals.

Blake: I’d have hit you too.

Let’s talk romance for a second (you can thank me later for bringing this topic up – kisses are an acceptable form of payment. Just saying.). On a date with a girl, who is most likely to wind up getting slapped? Most likely to land a first date kiss? Most likely to come up with the strangest activity to do on a date?

Blake: Romance? Kisses as payment? Will you keep me?

Ayden: Keep you locked up in her basement so that she can have what she really wants. Me.

Blake: *Snorts* Please.

Jayden: Gentlemen, you digress.

Ayden: Sorry, Jenny. Most likely to get slapped is Jayden.

Jayden: Me?! What about Blake?

Blake: You’re the only one who brings up fallopian tubes.

*Jenny falls out of her chair laughing. Snorting may also be involved*

Ayden: Logan’s shy charm, almost as irresistible as mine, would land the kiss.

Blake: It’d be a waste because he’d faint.

Ayden: And Matthias would come up with the strangest activity.

Blake: Not Jayden?

Jayden: Hey!

Ayden: No way. Can you imagine Matthias with a girl?

Blake: He’d probably sacrifice her on an altar so some god would get rid of Aurora.

Jayden: Or they’d do needlepoint.

Ayden: Exactly. And as for me, I’d be the one most likely to get a second date. And a—

Blake: You’re the one most likely to make me throw up.

If I were to make a pass at you, hypothetically speaking of course, what would you say my chances of successfully landing a date with you would be? I’m asking for strictly professional interview purposes only. Obviously. (If my chances aren’t so good, can we maybe direct this question to the other boys as well? Thanks.)

Ayden: The jet’s fueled. How about dinner in Paris?

Blake: Yuck. Who wants stinky frog legs? Pick me! I’ll give you a ride you won’t forget.

*Who says I'd let you be the one doing the riding? I'll show you how to get ridden...*

Ayden and Jayden: Blake!

Blake: A horseback ride. Jeez, you guys have dirty minds.

*Oops. I went in the gutter too. My bad. I thought that was where we were all headed. No? Just me and Ayden and Jayden then?*

You’re a little smug and a little self-satisfied when it comes to Aurora’s physical reactions to you (and damn if isn’t irritatingly attractive). What is the best line you’ve either used on a girl or heard used on a girl to make a memorable first impression?

Ayden: I don’t like to use lines because they seem dishonest and I like to better spend my time asking questions and getting to know the real person. But I have to admit, after meeting you, falling asleep is useless because the reality of you is far better than any dream.

Blake: Oh, come on, dude. That was so a line! A good one—and I’ll use it— but so a line!

Ayden: Are you saying I’m wrong?

Blake: Of course not. Jenny’s awesome but…*sighs* I hate you.

Ayden: You’re the one who got kicked out of the seduction course.

Blake: I knew everyone called it that!

Okay, I’ll ease up on the romantic stuff for now.

Blake: What? No! Romance is where I shine!

Ayden: Obviously not if she’s changing subject.

If for some reason your abilities with fire were to go on the fritz, what other type of weapon would you feel most comfortable battling demonic forces with?

Ayden: An iron chain whip, fringed with blades. It’s got weight, fluidity and ultimate damage capability.

Blake: Hey, Jenny, if you like whips, I like whips. And I know a guy…

*I have to say I enjoy how this conversation keeps making its way back to the gutter. It wouldn't be a Friday here without some sexual innuendo and inappropriate comments. I'm a little in love with you right now Blake, not gonna lie*

Your parents are fans of expressing their gratitude to others with hugely extravagant gifts. What, big or small, is the best gift you think they’ve ever given you?

Ayden: *Shakes head* Other people get the extravagant stuff. Not us. I’m just happy we’re still all together.

Blake: That’s the ultimate gift, dude. *Blake breathes deep* But those sports cars are sweet.

Jayden: We only received them after they were damaged during overseas transit and destined for the junkyard.

Ayden: *Laughs* One even had to be fished out of the harbor. We worked in Logan’s dad auto shop to pay for parts while he and Logan helped us put the cars back together. It took months.

Jayden: They did give us the game room.

Ayden: True. Although, some might argue they only gave it to us because somebody set our kitchen on fire.

Blake: I told you that was an accident!

Have you ever inadvertently lit something of vital importance on fire?

Ayden: Jayden’s homework.

Jayden: That was on purpose.

Ayden: So you keep saying.

Blake: As long as you don’t light Jenny on fire because she’s vitally important to me.

*Flattery will get you everywhere with me. Let's go back to that question about riding...*

Ayden: Don’t worry. I don’t light her on fire. I just light her fire.

*You sweet talker you! What else can you do with your mouth?*

Jayden: Is that a line? Why are you using it on Blake?

Which would you rather face: a pissed off demon, a pissed off Guardian, or a pissed off Aurora?

Ayden: Demon. I have a lot more experience with them. And much more chance of survival.

*Door bangs open.*

Matthias: What about a pissed off Matthias?

Jayden: *Shrugs* We deal with that every day.

Logan and Tristan: *Push past Matthias* We have to get out of here.

Ayden: My session isn’t over yet.

Matthias: That’s because it’s not a session. It’s an interview. *Lights flicker.* With a civilian.

Ayden: *Looks confused at Jenny* You’re not a shrink?

*Um. Not technically. But if that's what does it for you Ayden, consider me shrinky in every possible way*

Matthias: None of them have been.

Jayden: Of course not. Why would you think that?

Matthias: Because you told us you’d received orders from the Mandatum that our team had to have mandatory interviews with psychologists!

Jayden: I didn’t say that.

All the other Hex Boys: Yes you did!

Jayden: No, I said—

Matthias: Ayden, you’re supposed to translate him! How could you miss this?

Ayden: Since when is that my job?

Matthias: Tristan, take care of Jenny.

Blake: *Hugs Jenny to shield her* Wait! I don’t want her to forget how much she loves me!

Tristan: What if she’s like Aurora? I don’t want to hurt—

Matthias: Are you two kidding me right now?! Logan!

Logan: *Jumps on Blake’s back and gets him in headlock.*

Blake: Get off! *Spins wildly. Yanks on Logan’s tie.* I love her!

Tristan: Logan, ease up. He might pass out!

Logan: *Grunts* That’s the plan.

Jayden: Your manic behavior is unnecessary. Everyone thinks our experiences are fictional.

*All Hex Boys freeze*

Matthias: Explain.

Jayden: These exceptional ladies who we’ve been talking to are highly respected book bloggers. Since I’m chronicling our adventures, I was curious to study the real world’s response to our paranormal one. So I set up these interviews to receive feedback.

Ayden: *Groans* It’s one of his experiments.

Matthias: *Squints* And they think this is all make believe.

Blake: *Panicked* But our love is real!

*BLAKE!!!!! OUR LOVE IS SO REAL! IT'S THE REAL-EST! It cannot be contained. Or doused. It is ever-growing and all-encompassing. In fact, I think my love can grow large enough to include all 6 of you. We'll be a love hexagon! A LOVE HEXAGON BOYS! Think about it. It's never been done. We'll be blazing a trail. A love trail! A trail o'love!*

Jayden: As if we’re literary characters. Logan shy but strong. Tristan concerned and overprotective. Blake larger than life.

Blake: So true.

Jayden: And comic relief

Blake: Hey!

Jayden: Me, the genius.

Blake: And weird.

Jayden: Ayden the smoldering, sexy hottie.

Blake: Oh, sure, give him the good part.

Ayden: Art imitating life.

Tristan: Did he just say “hottie”?

Logan: *Climbing off Blake* It’s literary speak.

Jayden: *To Matthias* And you’re—

Matthias: *Shakes head* The dark, brooding one with the tortured past. Crikey. *Mutters under breath* Wouldn’t mum love that. *Smiles* Books. This is all about books. *Takes Jenny’s hand and bows* Miss Jenny, you just made my day. Thank you. *Turns to Hex Boys* Mates, take all the time you need.

*Whuh. Was it my talk of the love hexagon that won him over? My claims of virtue maybe? Matthias! Don't go! We can start building the hexagon right now!*

*Hex Boys stare as Matthias leaves*

Tristan: What just happened?

Logan: The world just turned upside down.

Jayden: Matthias may need medical attention.

Ayden: *Nods* We’d better follow him.

Blake: I’m getting my group hug! *Tries to gather everyone together*

Ayden: Blake, get your hand off my—

Blake: Whoops! Thought that was—

Ayden: We’re outta here. And Jenny, let me know when you’re up for Paris.

Jayden: She thinks you’re fictitious.

Ayden: Which is why our time together will be…*winks at Jenny*…unreal.

Blake: *Being dragged out the door* Dude, that is so a line! Ignore him, Jenny. I’ll be back when I’m eighteen!

*Jenny dies of all the hotness*


As part of the promotional tour for Demons at Deadnight, A&E Kirk are generously offering up some very cool swag including a Hex Boy Heaven poster, a celtic cross, and a stuffed toy named Bubbles (he'll come to mean something to you when you read!). Also, have you looked at that poster? *drools* To enter, just leave a comment on this post with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL and will run through midnight EST on March 16th after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog.

But wait! I have another giveaway opportunity for you:


To enter to win the Kindle Fire you need to know the secret phrase given out one word at a time by each blog tour host. Put the words together in sequential order and you'll eventually have the secret phrase! Right now you can Tweet and Follow on the AEKIRK Blog Tour Page to get points but starting March 9 (at the end of the tour) you can enter the complete phrase on the AEKIRK Blog Tour Page and earn BIG entry points! Your Kindle Fire will also include your choice of a DEMONS AT DEADNIGHT Skin. Either from the cover, or a Hex Boy group shot or individual "Team" skin of your favorite Hex Hunk!