Friday, January 31, 2014

Uninvited Blog Tour: Character Interview + Giveaway

I'm thrilled today to welcome author Sophie Jordan and protagonist Davy to the blog as part of the promotional tour for the newly released young adult dystopian novel, Uninvited. I absolutely adored this book (read my full review) and simply fell in love with Davy, Sean, and their horrifyingly plausible world, so I was super excited to have the chance to ask Davy a few questions. There's a fantastic giveaway for this tour, so be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details as well as a list of the other participating blogs!


You’ve now experienced what it’s like on the other side of the HTS diagnosis. If you could tell the public something they don’t already know about HTS and those who carry the gene, what would you most like to say?

This gene doesn’t define me … it doesn’t define any of us… but treating us like this? Like criminals before we’ve even done anything wrong? What do you think is going to happen….

Your life changed in a single instant, the HTS gene bringing with it betrayal and pain you never imagined you’d be forced to endure. This is clearly not the life you ever wanted for yourself, but what’s one positive thing, aside from Sean, that’s resulted from your diagnosis?

It burst the bubble in which I was living in and forced me to question prejudices I didn’t even know I had. I’m learning not to judge people on sight … or based on what others say about them. 

If you could trade your HTS gene for the supernatural ability of your choice, which one would you most like to have? Which one do you think Sean would choose?

I’d like the ability to become invisible. Seriously. That would be handy in a world where people judge indiscriminately … or with so little proof or evidence of wrong doing. I could just *poof*. Disappear. Sean … he probably would be exactly who he is. He never runs from anything or feels the need to change who he is.

Your world is a dark one that gets darker every day as people continue to allow fear of the unknown to rule them. If time travel were possible and you were able to jump ahead one hundred years, what do you either hope or fear you would find in that future?

I hope people would come to their senses. That the power and influence of the Wainwright agency would be a thing of the past and everyone wouldn’t be so afraid anymore. That we would be a country where a person’s actions speak alone for his/herself.

Those in power use a tattoo around the neck with a prominent “H” to brand individuals who exhibit more violent tendencies than the rest of their HTS counterparts. If you could get a tattoo of your own in defiance of the “H” tattoo, what would it look like?

LOL … um, it might not be polite to say… but you could probably guess..

• • • • • • • • • • • 

(January 28th, HarperTeen)

The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

 • • • • • • • • • • •


Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she's also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she's not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.


• • • • • • • • • • 


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2/7/2014A Book and a LatteGuest Post

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Uninvited

Uninvited #1
Sophie Jordan
Young Adult/Dystopian
384 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

Uninvited is a story that forces us to ask ourselves difficult questions; questions as to whether or not we would simply believe what we're told or if we'd dare to go against the grain and see things from an angle of our own choosing. Protagonist Davy's world and her government present us with a much darker version of the chicken or the egg question: Are those with the Homicidal Tendency Syndrome gene monsters receiving their due punishment in order to protect society, or through an unjust punishment are monsters being created? Those in power would have everyone believe the former, but as readers seeing things through young Davy's eyes we can't help but consider the latter, knowing full well that any person, no matter their genetic makeup, is capable of violence under the right circumstances. Ms. Jordan does a beautiful job of ensuring we never get too comfortable with our stance however, our confidence that nature has nothing on nurture shaken a number of times as those with the HTS gene prove themselves to be what everyone already believes, but questioning ourselves at every turn is what keeps us riveted throughout, hoping for the best yet fearing the worst.

Davy is that wonderful type of character who undergoes substantial growth mentally and emotionally as the story progresses, starting out content to believe the HTS propaganda and feeling safe with the knowledge she'll never have reason to think otherwise. When her DNA test results reveal her as a carrier though, we have the pleasure of watching as Davy slowly begins to wonder just how accurate a predictor of violence the gene truly is, forced to see the people themselves through the label with which they're burdened. She clings to the idea that she is an aberration initially, a single mistaken diagnosis in a sea of dangerous criminals, but we can hardly blame her for her denial in the beginning, sure that our minds would be singling us out as flaws in the system as well. Luckily, she doesn't drown herself in denial for long, moving forward slowly but surely into a grim acceptance of her new life, and then finally into the much stronger mindset in which she sets out to prove who she is cannot be dictated by a single gene.

The romance between Davy and fellow carrier Sean is beautifully executed, things between them so very fragile in the weeks following Davy's DNA test as she struggles to reconcile everything she's believed with what she now knows to be true. Their relationship is an important part of the story but it's also stunningly subtle, never hijacking the focus and allowing Davy and her progression to remain the highlight throughout. Their moments together are painful and raw, and though we instantly like Sean for the protectiveness that fairly radiates from him, we don't know all that much about him in the end, something that proves to be a positive rather than a negative. Knowing all Sean's secrets would ruin the mystery of who he really is and what he did to earn himself an imprint, but instead what we're left with is endless possibility; the chance for us as readers to fill in the blanks and make Sean what we ourselves most want him to be, and it's in this gray area between being in the dark and fully informed that Sean truly shines.

Overall, Uninvited is a dark and at times deeply moving start to this new series by Ms. Jordan, our minds forced to work overtime as numerous moral and ethical dilemmas are laid out before us in brutal detail, begging us to weigh in and challenging us at every turn. We're left not necessarily with a cliffhanger per se, it's more of an abrupt halt to the action that has us wishing this series could have magically been made into a one thousand-plus page book rather than several multi-hundred page ones. Though it is a bit of a sudden stop, it's also a very logical place for the break between books to be, so we find ourselves content to step away from Davy and Sean even as we greatly anticipate returning to them in the sequel.

Rating: 4/5

Find Sophie:

*Be sure and stop back tomorrow as I'll have the pleasure of welcoming Sophie back to the blog for an interview!

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview and Giveaway: Chanel Cleeton + I See London

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Chanel Cleeton to the blog to answer a few questions about her upcoming Contemporary New Adult novel, I See London. I See London releases on February 3rd from Harlequin, so be sure and mark your calendars, and don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fabulous giveaway!

In I See London, Maggie has the opportunity to leave South Carolina and explore all a city like London has to offer. Before arriving, what three London tourist attractions topped Maggie’s list, and did any of them change once she found herself in the city?

Maggie is an International Relations major and she grew up fascinated by politics and international intrigue. Before she moved to London she tabbed a guidebook full of all the things she wanted to see. The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London were the top three spots on her list.

Once she got to London, though, life got in the way a bit and she found herself…distracted :) But eventually she made her way to all of the major tourist stops. What she discovered, though, was that as much as she loved the iconic London sights, the real magic in London was just the simple pleasure of walking down the street and taking in everything around her, or learning from her new friends from all over the world, discovering new foods and hearing different languages spoken on a daily basis.

If someone had told Maggie before she left that she would find not one, but two guys in London who would tie her in romantic knots, what would her response have been?

Disbelief :) She’s never been confident with guys but that’s about to change. Maggie’s a total hopeless romantic. She’s always dreamt of finding the right guy, but unfortunately for her, the “perfect” guy always looked more like a hero in one of her books rather than any boy she knew in high school. Meeting Hugh and Samir rocks her perfectly ordered life a bit. Which is exactly what she needs!

If you could hop a plane tomorrow and go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what one fictional character would you love to have accompany you?

I would go to London. I miss it so much. The four years I lived there were some of the best years of my life and it still feels like home. I have friends in the city and love going back to my favorite spots and visiting with them, reminiscing over some of our adventures.

If I had to pick a fictional character from my book to travel with, I would go with Maggie’s roommate Fleur because she knows all the cool places to go and would definitely be a fun—and slightly crazy—travel companion. If I were single, no contest, I’d go with Samir :)

What would you say is the most romantic spot in all of London? Would Hugh or Samir agree with you?

I think Hyde Park is the most romantic spot in London. London is such a busy city. It’s loud and there’s always something going on. But Hyde Park feels like a secret tucked away in the middle of the city. You can find quiet and peace there. There’s something about the trees and all that green in the middle of a bustling metropolis—it’s an incredible place.

Samir would definitely agree with me. I just wrote a very important and romantic scene that takes place there in the sequel.

After living in London yourself, is there any one particular Britishism that you picked up and found yourself using on a regular basis?

Ooh that’s a tough one :) I rarely use the word “line” anymore in favor of “queue.” I used to go clubbing with British friends and they always said they weren’t going to “Queue up” to get into a club so I think that one rubbed off on me. Also, instead of saying “college” I tend to say “university” because in England, “college” refers to what we think of as high school in the U.S. There are probably loads more!

Thank you for having me!

• • • • • • • • • • •


Maggie Carpenter is ready for a change— and to leave her ordinary life in South Carolina behind. But when she accepts a scholarship to the International School in London, a university attended by the privileged offspring of diplomats and world leaders, Maggie might get more than she bargained for.

When Maggie meets Hugh, a twentysomething British guy, she finds herself living the life she always wanted. Suddenly she’s riding around the city in a Ferrari, wearing borrowed designer clothes and going to the hottest clubs. The only problem? Another guy, the one she can’t seem to keep her hands off of.

Half French, half Lebanese, and ridiculously wealthy, Samir Khouri has made it clear he doesn’t do relationships. He’s the opposite of everything Maggie thought she wanted…and he’s everything she can’t resist. Torn between her dream guy and the boy haunting her dreams, Maggie has to fight for her own happy ending. In a city like London, you never know where you stand, and everything can change in the blink of an eye.


• • • • • • • • • • • 


Originally a Florida girl, at seventeen Chanel moved to London to attend an international university.  In the four years that followed, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, learned how to dance, travelled through Europe, and made lifelong friendships.  Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever.  But fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise, when an American fighter pilot with smooth dance moves, swept her off her feet. 

Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in South Korea.  An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she is happiest curled up with a book.  She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband.  Harlequin (HQN) will release Chanel’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.

• • • • • • • • • • •


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: Landry Park

Landry Park #1
Bethany Hagen
Young Adult/Dystopian
384 pages
Available February 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty - her family and the estate she loves dearly - and desire.

Landry Park is a story that seamlessly combines the progress of the future with the pageantry of the past, creating a glittering yet horrifying world where societal status is the sole determining factor of human worth. It's so very easy for us as readers to cast judgment on the gentry as a whole, calling them monsters and despicable excuses for human beings for the way they ignore the suffering of the Rootless, but yet we do so from the comfort of our homes, luxuriating in amenities we know so many people in our own world don't have access to or can't afford. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Ms. Hagen's darkly jeweled society is the way it highlights the human ability to rationalize, the gentry so superiorly claiming the life their ancestors have built for them is one better and brighter than it was previously, when in fact the move has been a lateral one rather than an upward one, forward progress made on the broken backs of society's dispensable just as it had been before.

While the moral and ethical questions the battle between the gentry and the Rootless raises as we read are fascinating, where this book falters a bit is with the characters themselves. Madeline is a young woman we want desperately to like, someone who seems to disagree with her father in many of his political views and his treatment of the Rootless, but whenever a moment arises to put her thoughts into action, she does so in the most timid way possible, allowing her father, David and anyone else to run roughshod over her. She's like an infant dragon for majority of the book, coughing and sputtering smoke without ever learning how to breathe fire, always saying she wants to get to the bottom of certain things but giving up quickly and easily when answers don't immediately present themselves. She does finally take a stand at the end, leaving us hoping the Madeline we'll find in the next installment will be in full possession of her teeth, claws and that ever-elusive fire.

The romance leaves a bit to be desired mainly because David proves to be as much of a challenge as Madeline, leaving us constantly wondering what either of them sees in the other. In the beginning, he repeatedly refers to himself as charming, something often confirmed by Madeline when she finds she can't stop thinking about him, but sadly that charm gets lost in translation for us as readers, David coming across simply as condescending and somewhat incapable of picking a single mood and sticking with it. He's seemingly interested in Madeline one minute only to throw her family name and all that it means in her face the next, something that might have created an intriguing antagonistic element to their relationship save for Madeline's aforementioned timidity. Her quiet nature causes her to shrink back when we want nothing more than for her to leap forward and give him a much deserved what-for, finding ourselves a touch frustrated when instead she quickly gets past her confusion over David's less-than attractive moments the very next time she sees him.

Overall, the picture painted by Ms. Hagen is beautifully grotesque, forcing into sharp relief just how easily chaos results from order when gripped tight in an iron fist, and revealing to us in detail just how much blood decorates the walls of the esteemed Landry Park. Though the characters do cause us to stumble at times and the plot itself is more slow and steady than action-packed, we still can't help but be curious about what's to come for Madeline, David and everyone else after the dust of violence finally begins to settle.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Bethany:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Cress

The Lunar Chronicles #3
Marissa Meyer
Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Fairytale Retelling
560 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available February 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Cress is a story we enter into with a great deal of excitement, though as was the case with Scarlet we can’t help but let a little wariness sneak in and mingle with our enthusiasm, wondering if it’s going to be this installment when the addition of yet another new main character proves to be a detriment to the overall story rather than a bonus. While Cress as a stand-alone heroine isn’t quite as strong as either Cinder or Scarlet before her, Ms. Meyer proves yet again what a brilliant storyteller she truly is, seamlessly working Cress into the fabric of her stunningly rich and detailed fantasy world and nestling her in with an already-beloved cast of characters as though she’d been there all along.

Cress, unlike both Cinder and Scarlet, isn’t much of a fighter either mentally or physically, her solitary confinement creating in her an air of extreme innocence and vulnerability that takes a little while to adjust to coming off our experiences with the previous two heroines. While each young woman’s original fairytale had them as damsels in various types of distress, both Scarlet and Cinder defied that label in terms of its common connotation to weakness in their retellings, their independence and fierceness present and accounted for. Cress embraces the damsel in distress label a little more fully, often needing the hilarious and endlessly amusing Captain Thorne to come to her aid. It’s not to say she’s without skills as she’s a truly gifted hacker and plays a significant and vital role in the events of this book, she’s just perhaps quieter and more reserved (understandably given what she’s gone through) than we might have been anticipating.

If this had been Cress’s book alone, one that focused primarily on her and relegated Cinder to a more supporting role, this installment may have come up just a touch short when compared to the first two, but Cress is beautifully bolstered by Ms Meyer’s extraordinary and extensive cast of main and secondary characters. This story is every bit as much Cinder’s as it is Cress’s, and as a result Cress becomes a little something different–a beautiful contrast–to the two young women we’ve already met, rounding out the whole with her differences as opposed to coming off as less-than as she might have on her own. Her relationship with Thorne is a touch weaker as well, but again the strength of Cinder’s relationship with Kai and particularly Scarlet’s with Wolf (despite their limited page time) more than fills in any empty spaces left by the lack of an overly strong emotional connection to the pair of them, and we can only hope that their romance is one that continues to develop in Winter just as the other two romances progressed in this installment.

While there is a myriad of positive aspects and highlights to Cress over which to gush, one of the most arguably striking would have to be the very brief introduction to Winter herself, a young woman who captivates from the moment she appears on page and leaves us profoundly curious after a single interaction with Scarlet. She is a series of riddles, a labyrinthine character full of dark corners and wrong turns who has us practically salivating over the chance to figure her out, but despite the pain of a long wait until she graces us with more of her presence, we are left in awe of Ms. Meyer’s imagination and more in love with her characters than ever before.

Rating: 4/5

Find Marissa

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview: Rosamund Hodge

I'm hugely excited today to welcome young adult author Rosamund Hodge to the blog to answer a few questions about her debut novel, Cruel Beauty. I absolutely adored this book (read my full review), particularly the dark complexity of both Nyx and The Gentle Lord, and I simply can't recommend it enough to those who are looking for a very different take on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. I was so thrilled when Rosamund agreed to stop by the blog (be sure and check back next week as I was lucky enough to ask her editor a few questions as well), so I hope you all enjoy the interview!

The castle the Gentle Lord calls home is a labyrinth of stairs, hallways, and locked rooms that require completely unique keys for entry. If you were a guest in the castle (for an extended stay), what would the key to your room look like?

Funny you should ask. I happen to know the precise answer to that question. My key would look like the silver one in this picture:

(They’re pendants made by Keyper’s Cove on Etsy. Sadly, by the time I tracked down the origin of the picture, those particular keys had sold.)

You’re seated at the Gentle Lord’s very special dinner table waiting for the evening’s meal to magically appear as it does every night. What foods do you most wish will be on the menu?

Crème brûlée. I feel weird about that, since I am a chocolate girl and always will be—just like I will always pick cats over dogs and Luke Skywalker over Han Solo (shut up, he is the best!)—but crème brûlée is my very favorite dessert of all time, and I will even order it when there is flourless chocolate cake on the menu. Because it is custardy vanilla goodness forged in fire, so what’s not to love?

The castle boasts a rather impressive library even though the books are nearly unreadable for a variety of reasons. What’s one book Nyx would love to have on the shelves in order to make herself feel more at home?

Unquestionably she would want Cosmatos & Burnham’s Handbook of Modern Hermetic Techniques, the first Hermetic textbook that she ever studied. Nyx may be bitter and conflicted about her mission, but she is an enormous geek who loves the Hermetic arts—which are her world’s magic-meets-technology—and in another world she would be happily programming computers or soldering electronics.

(The Handbook is actually named after Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a 2,138-page catalogue of all the constellations in the sky, which was compiled by one man: the amateur astronomer Robert Burnham. I am no astronomer myself, but it was a favorite of one of my brothers when we were growing up.)

Nyx is not the first young woman to call herself wife to the Gentle Lord. If she could ask any one of his past wives a question, what would she most like to know?

“How can I avenge you?”

The world of Arcadia is both dark and utterly fascinating. What’s one aspect of our world Nyx and the Gentle Lord might find equally intriguing?

The Internet. Nyx, because of the endless research. The Gentle Lord, because of the endless schadenfreude.

You’re alone in the castle with nothing but your thoughts and a single key. The key is to a door that will either free both you and all of Arcadia from the demons that terrorize the city, or it will free those very demons with no way to imprison them once again. Do you take the risk and use your key?

Probably not, unless the situation in Arcadia was really bad and there was really no hope of turning up an alternate/safer solution. I mean, you’re talking 50/50 odds that every single person alive will be instantly killed or driven horribly, agonizingly insane. It’s hard to justify that kind of risk unless you really have no other options.

I realize that’s a fairly stick-in-the-mud answer. But it’s one thing to risk all for freedom when only your own life is at stake. When you’ve got the fate of millions of people riding on your choices, I really think you have to run the numbers, even if ultimately the numbers aren’t the only thing you pay attention to. And that problem—when everyone alive could be killed or saved by your choices, how do you weight one life against millions?—is a problem Nyx has to face as well.

If someone were using your life as inspiration for a new fairy tale or myth that would be passed from one generation to the next in Arcadia, how would the very first or the very last line read?

“And then she died.”

(Spoiler: it’s how your story is going to end too.)

• • • • • • • • • • •


Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


(photograph by Janelle Bighinatti)

When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry.

He still isn’t sorry. (I checked.) But in 2014 I will publish my first novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, so I guess everything worked out okay.

Some other facts about me:

• I practice Shorinji Kempo, a Japanese martial art based on Shaolin Kung Fu.

• Cruel Beauty is my debut novel, but it is somewhere between the third and sixth that I ever completed, depending on how you count things. (There was the 40,000-word mess I called a novel when I was sixteen, and the 220,000-word mess I briefly pretended was a single novel in 2009.)

• NaNoWriMo changed my life and got me finishing novels again after a long hiatus. But Cruel Beauty is not a NaNoWriMo novel. (The NaNoWriMo project that changed everything was the 220,000-word mess. Someday I may even revise it.)

• I grew up as a homeschooler in Los Angeles, and I spent my childhood marinating in Greek mythology, which is where all the Greek elements in Cruel Beauty come from.

• Then I got a B.A. in English at the University of Dallas, and an M.St. in Medieval English at Oxford. Naturally, I moved to Seattle and got a job with computers.

• I have studied five languages (Spanish, French, Latin, Old Norse, and Japanese), though sadly I am still not able to speak any of them.

• I love some things more than T. S. Eliot’s poetry. But not many things.

• I am represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Avalon

Avalon #1
Mindee Arnett
Young Adult/Science Fiction
432 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is a thrilling deep space adventure, drawing us in on page one and never releasing its hold on us until we unfortunately find ourselves at the final chapter. What can sometimes be trying with first books in a new series is all the setup with very little resolution, the overall series plot arc combining with any number of smaller threads to ensure we reach the end with no shortage of questions, but Ms. Arnett thankfully gives us a full, rich story in Avalon. One very large aspect of this tale is left open to make sure the series has legs to propel it forward, but so many of the little pieces are beautifully and deftly slotted into place both plot-wise and character-wise, leaving us blissfully satisfied with this first installment.

Jeth is nothing short of a joy, delighting us simply by being male when we crack the spine given young male protagonists are still something of a rarity, but our interest in him and affection for him quickly moves far beyond gender as his love for his younger sister and the rest of his team of thieves becomes glaringly apparent. There's absolutely nothing he wouldn't do for any one of them, and as he and his crew travel deeper into uncharted territory we begin to get tiny, fleeting inklings of how that protective streak might cause a world of problems for him down the line, the hairs on the back of our necks standing on end in nervous anticipation. He's not the type to martyr himself though, throwing himself on his proverbial sword at every available opportunity, instead he's a fighter, intent on reaching his goals with his friends and family by his side but yet painfully aware of what the price of achieving those goals could be.

In addition to Jeth, we're treated to a stellar group of secondary characters, his whole team of widely varying personalities causing a smile to flit across our faces and a sense of determination to settle in our guts as we have no other choice but to root for this group as they take on the worst several galaxies' worth of humanity has to offer. The villains of Avalon are every bit as intriguing as Jeth and his crew, albeit in a very different way, with ringleader and crime lord Hammer Dafoe inspiring in us more hate than we might have thought ourselves capable of feeling. His cruelty isn't always on page for us to see, instead Ms. Arnett chooses to build our fear and anger quietly–much the way Hammer himself instills fear in those around him–whispers of his deeds reaching our ears and slithering their way inside before running through our blood like poison until we want nothing more than to see him get his comeuppance.

As mentioned previously, this story concludes with one important aspect of Jeth's world unresolved, but the rest of this first installment is wrapped up nicely, leaving us free of the frustrating desperation cliffhangers often cause. The setting and the space technology, while futuristic and fantastical in nature, are easy enough to picture and follow even if we might not fully understand the ins and outs of all the science, combining with a well-rounded cast of characters full of stunning strengths and flaws to create an impressive beginning to this new series.

Rating: 4/5

Find Mindee:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty

Rosamund Hodge
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available January 28th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Every page of Cruel Beauty lives up to its title, painting gorgeous images in our minds that encourage us to stare blatantly so captivated are we by what we see, but much as the rose that graces its cover, that beauty is not without thorns, and the deeper we journey into this story the more cuts and scratches we bear. The characters in this tale could never be described as likable; likable is far too bland a term for the Gentle Lord, his shadow, and his sacrificial wife. They are quite simply magnetic, drawing us to them with no promise we'll like what we see when we get close, but therein lies part of the appeal: The possibility that what's waiting for us at close range could either win us over completely or drive us away forever. They take the uglier parts of human nature and reflect them back at us unflinchingly, but just when we think they'll stride boldly across the line that will make them irredeemable, they take an enormous step back, casting a smug look over their shoulders in triumph at having led us to believe we'd finally reached the point at which our emotional response to them would become fixed rather than fluctuating.

It's apparent from the very beginning that Nyx is no Belle–no paragon of sweetness and light who charms everyone who crosses her path–instead we get a very angry young woman, caught up in a painful cycle of resentment and remorse as she struggles to make peace with the die her father cast for her. She is not so hateful as to be someone who pushes us away from the first page though, rather she sweeps us up in her beautiful storm of emotions and we don't find our footing again until well after we've closed the back cover. She both gets hurt and inflicts pain, provides comfort and rips it away, and finds love in one breath before betraying it the next, ensuring we dance a bruising jig in trying to keep up with her and the infinitely intriguing house of shadows and secrets she now calls home.

The Gentle Lord and his simultaneously obedient and defiant shadow–separate but inexorably linked entities–are as darkly complex as Nyx herself, daring us one chapter after the next to solve their seemingly unending riddles. They are striking illustrations with captions in an indecipherable language, forcing us at any one point to work with only half the information we need to figure them out completely, eyes open and searching for any clues every action or inaction might provide. Both play Nyx's heart to drastically different tunes, and while the presence of a romantic relationship divided into thirds is often something akin to nails on a chalkboard, in this case it is a dark symphony of discordant notes inexplicably blended together to make haunting and utterly memorable music.

Overall, Cruel Beauty is an unusual and twisted tale, pieces of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale combining with threads of Greek mythology to give us a story where love both saves and destroys in equal measure, leaving us wondering up to the very last page how things will end for our wickedly intriguing characters.

Rating: 4/5

Find Rosamund:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant: Excerpt + Giveaway

Today I'm excited to be part of the promotional tour for Joanna Wiebe's debut young adult novel, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant. I have an excerpt to share with you all today, but it's not just any excerpt. Joanna is a big fan of what is called the Page 99 Test, so today we thought we'd see how her book fares when put to the challenge. Here's a quick explanation of what exactly the Page 99 Test is for those who are unfamiliar with it (you can read more about it on the website):

The Page 99 Test is simple: After reading page 99, would you WANT to turn the page?

There's a fantastic tour-wide giveaway as well, so be sure and check out the bottom of the post for all the details as well as a full list of participating blogs, but first I give you page 99 of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant:

...friends? I’m just supposed to be this pathetic excuse for a teenager. In our stupid house. With our stupid fancy clothes.”

“I love your clothes! You’re lucky.”

“Lucky?” She shakes her head. “Try bought and paid for.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know, paid to lease the island to Villie and look the other way.” She waves her hand in the direction of the magnificent homes on the hillside. “As if getting the finer things in life washes away the need for an actual life.”

“What do you mean, look the other way?”

Pausing, Molly searches my face. Then she slides down, resting her head against me, fakes a yawn, and closes her eyes. “I’m just exaggerating. Blame the Devil’s Apple again. Forget I said anything.”

As if I could forget! I sit up straight, and her head bounces off my shoulder. She’s frowning when she looks up at me.

“Look the other way? Look away from what exactly, Molly?”

But Mr. Watso’s voice sails through the air before she can answer.

“My grandfather first welcomed the people of Cania to this island and signed the pact that would allow them access to this majestic land,” he bellows. “Even as our village shrinks around us, as the young wisely abandon this place, we who remain must never forget the necessity of this pact that spared the lives of so many casualties of war and, when the whales were denied us, saved our people from starvation. That pact remains intact with our enduring silence.”

Whoops and chants rise up around him, stretching across the ring of fire and through the smoke, into the murky darkness that hides me and Molly from sight.

“What’s he talking about?” I ask, talking through my thoughts. Torches begin to sizzle in the water as the festival winds down. “Pilot said that the school’s got a code of secrecy, but I assumed...

• • • • • • • • • • 


After her mother’s death, 16-year-old art prodigy Anne Merchant moves from sunny California to the cold woodlands of Wormwood Island, Maine for what is supposed to be a fresh start. She is the newest student of Cania Christy, an elite boarding school that is as filled with secrets as it is with the world’s most privileged—and competitive—teens.

From the first day of school, Anne finds herself thrust into the Big V competition, an intense race to the top of the class. With enviable talents, she quickly becomes the enemy of every junior seeking the Big V—especially Harper, the presumed frontrunner.

Like every student, she is assigned a guardian, and a unique mission. Anne’s assignment is to “look deeper.” Anne is determined to succeed, and won’t let anything —not even her distractingly beautiful neighbor Ben—get in the way. But the deeper she looks the more questions arise, and the more she is forced to reexamine all of her assumptions—about the school, her classmates and even herself.

As layers of secrecy deepen, Anne leans on the friendship of Molly, a lifelong islander, and Pilot, the only junior not competing for the Big V, to make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world. But when people start disappearing, Anne uncovers a stunning truth that she must face head on—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

• • • • • • • • • • 


By day, Joanna is a copywriter and the co-founder of and, a critique site for published and unpublished writers. As an undergraduate student, Joanna won several academic awards for excellence in creative writing: Canada's James Patrick Folinsbee Prize, which she won twice, as well as the Godfrey Prize.

After graduating, she lived for a year on the remote northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, which is the inspiration for the verdant Wormwood Island of the V Trilogy. She holds a BA in Honors English and an MA in Communications from the University of Alberta and lives with her partner Lance in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is her first novel and the first installment in the V Trilogy.

• • • • • • • • • •


There's a very exciting giveaway as part of the promotional tour, with 15 finished copies of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant up for grabs. Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 6th -Refracted Light Reviews
Tuesday, January 7th –  Dee’s Reads
Wednesday, January 8th – The YA Bookworm Blogger
Thursday, January 9th – Book Swoon
Friday, January 10th – Parajunkee

Monday, January 13th – Curling Up with a Good Book
Tuesday, January 14th - Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, January 15th – Such A Novel Idea
Thursday, January 16th – The Story Siren
Friday, January 17th – Book Whales

Monday, January 20th - Jump Into Books
Tuesday, January 21st – Supernatural Snark 
Wednesday, January 22nd – Donnie Darko Girl 
Thursday, January 23rd – Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy
Friday, January 24th – Literary Me 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Snakeroot

Nightshade Legacy #1
Andrea Cremer
Paranormal Young Adult
336 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Fans asked for it, and now they've got it!

Andrea Cremer is continuing the story she began in in her internationally bestselling trilogy: Nightshade, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose.

Bosque Mar haunts the dreams of both Adne and Logan, trying to escape for the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle in the War of All Against All...

Will he turn Adne to the dark side? Will Logan reclaim his birthright? And will darkness take over our world?

Snakeroot is a story clearly written for lovers of the Nightshade series, providing a look at this world from a slightly different angle as secondary characters rise to the forefront and become the focus. This story does take a little while to really settle into–particularly for those of us who may not have read the entirety of the Nightshade series–our minds trying desperately to piece together the events of the previous books in order to understand the state of things in this first installment, but Ms. Cremer does a nice job of weaving helpful reminders into the fabric of this new story to help any who may be struggling to find purchase.

While the story itself is entertaining enough and many a reader will delight in seeing characters they thought they’d said goodbye to grace the pages with their presence, an emotional connection to neither characters nor events entirely forms. We follow several different characters in Snakeroot, but our time with them is spent directed outward–the roles they’re meant to play in facilitating Bosque Mar’s possible return outlined and the various pieces of the plot shuffled and moved into place–rather than inward (with perhaps the exception of Ren) where we would really be able to feel the pain of their losses in the previous books. This was perhaps a conscious decision given the dramatic events at the conclusion of Bloodrose, but those of us who didn’t experience that book and are picking this world back up anew are left a bit emotionally adrift with no one character really stepping forward to take our heart in their hands.

Despite this being very much an ensemble book with a handful of characters all playing major roles, Adne is arguably the most intrinsic part of this new installment, and she provides a challenge for most of the book. She’s clearly struggling in the aftermath of her brother and father’s deaths, and the addition of horrifying dreams in which Bosque Mar makes his presence known only deepen her misery. Instead of being honest with Connor who is clearly nothing but supportive however, she decides to keep everything to herself and deal with it on her own, a decision that is incredibly frustrating for all the unnecessary drama it causes. She’s given ample opportunity to confide in any of the people who love her, but every single time she pushes them away and, in doing so, only further opens herself up to Bosque Mar’s insidious influence.

Overall Snakeroot, while certain to be enjoyable for those who weren’t ready to leave this world behind in Bloodrose, feels like a preparatory story for what’s to come, a slow-build up culminating in an ending that’s more beginning than anything else. We’re left with what’s sure to be a long and arduous journey on the horizon, but the promise of a return to the very start of things in the highlands of Scotland does ratchet up the desire to see how events in the next installment will unfold.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Andrea:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A New Beginning!/HOME

I wanted to write a bit of a personal post today, sharing with all of you some news about which I'm extraordinarily excited. It's a new year, and while each new year is always something I look forward to for all the potential it holds, 2014 marks the launch of something that has been a long time coming for me. A new business. A new adventure. A new beginning.

My graphic design studio is not new, I started running it from home back in 2005 after spending time in the creative departments of both a magazine publisher and ad agency, but the past nine years have focused primarily on printed paper goods, with special emphasis on wedding invitations and related stationery. While I've loved being a part of the wedding industry, since I started the blog a few years ago I've longed for a change; one that would bring my love of graphic design and books together to create a dream job. For a time it seemed like a somewhat impossible aspiration unless I wanted to relocate to NYC and try for a design position at one of the big publishers, but with the rise of smaller publishing houses and self-publishing the past couple years, my dream is now suddenly within grasp.

It's with great pleasure–and no shortage of nerves–that I announce the shift in Seedlings Design Studio from weddings to book cover and promotional design. The new website is up and running with a full online portfolio as well as a list of services, and I hope if you guys have a few minutes you'll check it out!

Many of you who are frequent visitors to the blog have seen some of my cover work this past year as I've entered several design contests just for fun, and I hope to continue sharing my designs every now and then as I build this business. I've been so fortunate as to start 2014 off with some amazing clients already on board (I'm still reeling from the win for Damsel Distressed, hopefully I'll be able to share the official cover soon!), and I can't wait to see what the rest of the year might bring.

I want to say a huge thank you to the bloggers and readers who are everyday visitors of this blog, and to the authors whose books I've fallen madly in love with over the years, it's all of you who have kept me running Supernatural Snark and who have allowed me to reach out and grab this new opportunity. THANK YOU!

Before I dissolve into tears and get even mushier than I already have, I'm going to leave you with a little teaser look at the new website. I hope you all like it!