Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Well, everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving that is. To the rest of you, Happy Thursday!

The blog is going to be quiet for the next few days as I will be reclining on the couch in my finest pair of sweatpants after consuming an entire vat of mashed potatoes. I live for potatoes. And also baked goods. And stuffing. And food in general really ;-)

I wish everyone a wonderful holiday or a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover

The Rules of Scoundrels #4
Sarah MacLean
Adult Historical Romance
384 pages
Avon Romance
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking-in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered...until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear...including her heart.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, the fourth and final installment in Sarah MacLean’s outstanding Rules of Scoundrels series, is every bit as emotionally engaging as the previous three, delighting us with a well-matched pair both gloriously stubborn and fiercely protective. Despite this being a romance and therefore predictable in that we know a happily ever after awaits the two of them in the final chapters, Ms. MacLean does a heart-wrenchingly beautiful job of instilling doubt along the way, wrapping the two of them up in so many secrets we honestly wonder if they’ll be able to untangle themselves before we reach the end.

Georgiana, aka Chase, the most mysterious of the four owners of The Fallen Angel, is someone who has us wanting to leap up in her defense from page one, her ruin–as London Society calls it–at a young age leaving her vulnerable to those who seek to empower themselves by belittling those around them. The contrast between Georgiana and Chase–the former at the mercy of other’s opinions and the latter holding the fates of those same people in his mythical hand–is absolutely striking, and we throw ourselves fully behind Georgiana’s masquerade in the hopes she’ll bring London to its knees as it once brought her to hers. She’s immensely intelligent and in possession of a sharp wit, reigning over a male-dominated world in the dead of night but yet forced to carefully navigate female cattiness and disdain in the light of day, playing both roles with grace, aplomb and her head held high.

Duncan is every bit her equal in terms of intelligence and a desire to protect those he loves from societal disapproval, wanting nothing more than to free everyone he can from their perceived shackles just as he struggles to free himself. He has as many skeletons in his closet as Georgiana, making their careful dance of courtship a breathtakingly tense affair that has us wanting to scream the truths they both hold tight to their chests at the top of our lungs just to clear the air. It’s at times extraordinarily painful to watch the two of them desperately want to trust that their secrets will find safe harbor in the hands of the other, but their pasts keep both of them understandably silent, aware of dark corners but terrified to shine a light on them.

When we finally reach the point where silence is no longer an option, we have to remind ourselves that happiness awaits if we just keep reading, so nervous are we for the two of them to come completely clean after years of crafting new lives for themselves. The end for Georgiana and Duncan is everything we could have hoped for, Ms. MacLean delivering on every level and wrapping this series up in utterly satisfying fashion. Overall, The Rules of Scoundrels series is one that should not be missed for any romance lover, historical or otherwise, the stories moving, the characters memorable, and the happily ever afters the kind that demand a reread immediately upon finishing.

Rating: 4/5

Buy Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover:


Find Sarah:


• • • • • • • • • • •


My review today is part of the promotional tour organized by Tasty Book Tours, so be sure and check out the full list of participating blogs for more reviews and excerpts! 

Thanks to Avon, one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to the book seller of their choice as well as a print set of the first three books in The Rules of Scoundrels series. This is one of my all time favorite series, so I can't recommend it enough! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: The Perilous Sea

The Elemental Trilogy #2
Sherry Thomas
Young Adult/Fantasy
414 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available Now
Source: BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

The Perilous Sea is a story that both embraces and eschews familiar middle book elements, taking us on an epic journey with Iolanthe and Titus but at the same time leaving us standing on the precipice of something much larger, looking back and wondering what exactly happened to get us to this point. As with The Burning Sky, we start this second installment on slightly rocky footing given there is very little recap of the significant names and events of book one, and we also find our story divided into two separate timelines: One at present with Titus and Iolanthe reuniting at Eton, and one seven weeks into the future where an amnesiac version of both our protagonists await us. As a result, the opening chapters and a fair bit beyond are rather chaotic as we struggle to remember The Burning Sky as well as orient ourselves within the split narrative.

The present-day chapters are the ones that feel most familiar, the setting of the all-boys school beckoning us into the story with all the comforts of a reality we recognize just as it did in the first book, allowing us to pair back up with Titus and Iolanthe as they figure out their next steps toward defeating the Bane. The Sahara Desert chapters however, while providing fun moments full of banter and humor given Titus and Iolanthe don't remember one another, seem to serve very little purpose in terms of the overall story arc. Their time in the desert is entirely spent running from the agents of Atlantis, allowing the magical aspects of this fantasy story their time in the spotlight but ultimately leading us to question whether or not this detour of flight and sand is actually moving the plot forward.

Aside from feeling like a middle book in terms of building us up only to leave us on the last page at the moment we've been waiting for the entire time, The Perilous Sea also sees the dissolution of Titus and Iolanthe as a couple when Titus begins to delve deeper into his mother's prophetic visions. Though we initially can't help but let a sigh of frustration escape at the well-used plot device, Ms. Thomas wins us back over with the strength of her characters, as neither Titus nor Iolanthe are individuals prone to dramatics. They both bear their separate but shared pain stoically, not taking it out on the other person as is so often the case, and thankfully not turning to someone else to comfort them in their time of need. Though things are up in the air in terms of the romance for much of the book, there's no introduction of a new love interest, and our two protagonists remain pillars of support for each other to lean on as well as sounding boards off which to bounce ideas and theories.

Overall, The Perilous Sea meanders a bit, sending us out into the desert for half the book when nearly all the important revelations about the Bane's plans take place in the present-day chapters, leaving us to wish for a slightly different format for this second installment. That being said however, the characterization is as strong as ever and the pieces of the Bane puzzle that finally lock into place in the concluding chapters have us ready to usher 2015 in immediately just so we'll be that much closer to the release of book three.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Sherry:

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, November 24, 2014

Review: Beware The Wild

Natalie C. Parker
Paranormal Young Adult
336 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

Beware the Wild is a story that breathes life into a setting and makes it a character unto itself, the swamp running through Sticks, Louisiana as layered as those individuals who fear to step foot across its threshold. Though we haven’t grown up with Old Lady Clary’s stories as Sterling and her brother have, we still can’t help but be instantly wary of the swamp, wanting to reach out and restrain Sterling every time she moves to cross the fence line and search for her brother. Its menacing presence keeps us on edge throughout, both fearful of what we might find if we travel through it with Sterling, but even more so of what might happen if we turn a blind eye and keep our feet firmly rooted.

Sterling is a young woman who shows a great deal of growth as the story unfolds, beginning this journey so dreading the moment her brother Phin leaves her behind to attend college that there’s no room in her stomach for anything other than fear and nerves, but she ends it knowing she’s strong enough to conquer whatever life throws her way. It takes the extreme circumstances of Phin’s disappearance for her to finally look outward rather than solely inward, seeing for the first time how she’s allowed her relationship with her brother to change in ways she’s not entirely proud of, and the moment the Sterling-centric fog clears, she owns up to her every mistake and works on setting herself and her various friendships to rights.

Woven through Sterling’s supernatural path to repairing rifts both internal and external is a sweet romance with Heath, a longtime friend with whom she had a falling out. Their relationship is delightfully drama-free and secondary to the mysteries and dangers of the swamp, giving us just enough light to keep the encroaching darkness at bay without shifting the entire story’s focus to the two of them. Sterling does have the tendency to wander into the swamp without waiting for Heath, the only other person who actually believes her about Phin, but it’s hard to work up any real frustration given how upfront she is with him about what she learns.

Overall, Beware the Wild is entertaining and atmospheric, showing us just how much strength and power-–good or bad–comes with believing.

Rating: 4/5

Find Natalie:

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: Rebound by Noelle August

I read Boomerang by Noelle August earlier in the year and fell madly in love with it, there was a lightness and humor to it not found all that often in the NA genre, and I simply couldn't stop smiling all the way through. Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you the cover for Rebound, the second book from the writing duo of Veronica Rossi and Lorin Oberweger. I have no doubt Rebound will be every bit as entertaining as Boomerang, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

At Boomerang, one night can change everything…

Adam Blackwood has it all. At twenty-two, he’s fabulously wealthy, Ryan Gosling-hot and at the top of his game in the business world. His life is perfect, until a scandal from his past resurfaces and threatens to knock the tech wunderkind down and throw his company, Boomerang, a hook-up site for millennials, into chaos.

Alison Quick, the twenty-one-year-old daughter of a business tycoon—and the very ex-girlfriend of Boomerang’s former intern, Ethan—has a problem of her own. After nearly flunking out in her senior year of college, she has one chance to redeem herself to her father by proving that she deserves a place in his corporate empire. That means spearheading her father’s plan to sink big money into Adam’s company and launch it into the stratosphere—provided Adam has no skeletons in his closet.

When the two meet, their sizzling chemistry makes it tough to keep things strictly professional. But when Alison discovers Adam’s secret, she knows she should bring it right to her father, who’ll leverage it for his own gain and use it to ruin Adam. The only problem: she’s falling for Adam—hard.

Will earning her father’s approval come at the price of losing her first real love? Or can Adam and Alison leave behind past mistakes and conquer the world—together?

• • • • • • • • • • • 

Question: What do you get when friends pen a story with heart, plenty of laughs, and toe-curling kissing scenes? Answer: Noelle August, the pseudonym for renowned editor and award-winning writer Lorin Oberweger and New York Times bestselling YA author Veronica Rossi, the masterminds behind Boomerang.

Image Map

Friday Flourish: Sword

Happy Friday Everyone!

It's been a little while since I've actually had this feature on a Friday, but the timing for the cover I have to share with you today worked out perfectly and I can't wait to see what you guys think!

I know a couple of you may have seen this one already, it was officially revealed yesterday on The Book Smugglers (*spastic flail*), complete with a short guest post from me talking about the design process and how Sword's cover came to be. Be sure and check it out if you get a chance as not only will you get to "meet" author Amy Bai who is absolutely hilarious and adorable, but you'll also have a chance to win one of 5 copies of Sword thanks to publisher Candlemark & Gleam. Amy is also offering up her own giveaway to celebrate the reveal, so you can pop over to her blog as well for more chances to win. YAY WINNING!

I had the best time working on this cover, and I really hope you guys end up loving it as much as I do!

Young Adult Fantasy
Coming January 27th from Candlemark & Gleam

Sword shall guide the hands of men…

For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.

For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.

Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her- politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world -and her closest friends- fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.

You can find more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: Night Shift

Nalini Singh, Illona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Milla Vane
Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
384 pages
Available November 25th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark...

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at Midnight , as the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews’ novella, Magic Steals , when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.

From Milla Vane—a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn't a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.

It’s seer Makenna Frazier's first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms.

Secrets at Midnight by Nalini Singh
Ms. Singh never disappoints with her paranormal romances, and whether we’re treated to a novella or a full length book, we turn the last page utterly satisfied yet already craving more. Secrets at Midnight takes us back to fiery redhead Mercy’s family, her brother Bastien finally catching his mate’s scent and setting out to woo and win her using all the weapons in his impressive arsenal. Things of course move quickly between them given the short page length, but their romance is a sweet and sexy reminder of why the Psy-Changeling series sits on a shelf of favorites.

Rating: 4/5

Magic Steals by Ilona Andrews
Like Ms. Singh, the writing team of Ilona Andrews has a gift for writing extraordinary secondary characters, and much to our delight and glee Magic Steals thrusts two such characters into the limelight. While this novella boasts a well-plotted mystery, the true highlights are of course Dali and Jim, Dali’s understandable insecurities (given she’s mostly blind with magic that’s hit-or-miss and he’s Alpha of Clan Cat) regarding how fit a romantic partner she is for Jim making us want to reach through the pages and hug her. In our short time with the two of them though, she and Jim work through their various relationship issues, all the while solving a tangled web of a case with their individual senses of humor present and accounted for.

Rating: 4.5/5

Lucky Charms by Lisa Shearin
Lucky Charms is a laugh-out-loud novella that walks us through protagonist Makenna Frazier’s first night at her new job. A new job that includes horny (and naked) leprechauns, strip clubs, and a partnership complicated by both physical attraction and the inadvertent inhalation of an inhibition-lowering drug. Pages fly by as clothes come off (including the clothes of those who make us grateful we can see only words on a page and not the events themselves), and we reach the end ever-so ready for a full novel with Makenna and her partner Ian leading the way.

Rating: 4/5

The Beast of Blackmoor by Milla Vane
The Beast of Blackmoor is a drastic and rather abrupt change in tone from the previous novella, humor and hijinks suddenly followed up by a grittiness that wipes the lingering smile from our faces. The abruptness is in no way the fault of Ms. Vane, but her world is inescapably off-putting to a higher degree than it might have been otherwise given the order of this anthology, the multiple rapes and violence such a departure from the other three that we can’t help but struggle to find purchase. The story itself has an intriguing Beauty and the Beast-type setup with a physically and emotionally strong heroine tasked with bringing a “beast” to heel, it just takes a while longer to really settle in and adjust to the darkness.

Rating: 3/5

Buy Night Shift:

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Defy Trailer Reveal + Giveaway!

I'm thrilled today to be able to share with you the trailer for Defy, a YA fantasy from Sara B. Larson. Defy released earlier in the year (releases in paperback on November 25th!) and absolutely blew me away, easily situating itself among my favorite reads of 2014. The sequel, Ignite, releases on December 30th and I couldn't be more excited to get back to this world and Alexa. If you haven't had a chance to read Defy yet, I can't recommend it enough!

This post isn't all about my fangirling though, so I'll call a halt to my gushing and give you guys a moment to check out the trailer instead. Hope you love it as much as I do!

• • • • • • • • • • •


A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

• • • • • • • • • • •


Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?


• • • • • • • • • • •


Sara's debut YA fantasy novel, DEFY, released in January of 2014 from Scholastic. The sequel will come out in early 2015--stay tuned for announcements about the title, cover, and synopsis! Sara lives in Utah with her husband and three young children. She writes during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. Her  husband claims she should have a degree in "the art of multitasking." On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish or some mint chocolate truffles. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


To celebrate the November 25th release of the paperback edition of Defy and the upcoming release of Ignite, I have three shiny paperback copies of Defy to giveaway to three lucky winners, courtesy of Scholastic. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. *US residents only.

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Don't miss it! You can check out the trailer reveal via these fabulous sites:

Bewitched Bookworms
Good Choice Reading
Mundie Moms
Novel Novice
Reading Teen
Supernatural Snark
Two Chicks on Books

Wild Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway

Today I'm excited to be a stop on the promotional tour for Wild, the last book in Sophie Jordan's Ivy Chronicles series. I had such fun with the first two books, and I simply can't wait to see what trouble Logan is going is going to stir up with Georgia in this final installment. For those of you who have yet to read The Ivy Chronicles, I hope you enjoy a little taste of Wild!

“I gotta go,” I said hurriedly, turning to walk around the Jeep, ready to climb in the backseat, not even caring how obvious I was in trying to put distance between us by unnecessarily circling around the vehicle.

I felt him move behind me before I felt his hands on my arms. “No, you don’t,” he growled. “You don’t get to run away again.”

I squeaked as he hauled me back against his chest. My spine stiffened iron-rod straight against the wall of his broad chest. I felt my eyes go huge in my face. He was touching me. Again. And I was freaking out on the inside. I sucked in a deep breath, determined that my freak-out stayed internal only.

“Let me go. They’re coming.” My heart hammered violently in my chest and I didn’t know if it was because we were about to get busted by my friends or because his body felt so unbelievable against mine. Okay, fine. It was both.

His mouth brushed my ear as he spoke, spiking sensation to every nerve in my body. “Are you embarrassed, Georgia? You don’t want them to see me with you? Don’t want Pepper and Reece to know about us?”

“There is no ‘us.’ ”

“Oh, but there will be. We both know why you came tonight.” His fingers flexed, each digit a burning imprint on my forearms.

“Yeah?” Was that breathy croak my voice? “Why?”

“Because you haven’t been able to forget what it felt like to kiss me, and you want to know if the rest of it will be that good, too.” He bit down on my earlobe and a whimper escaped my lips. “It will be.”

An invisible band squeezed around my chest. I swallowed against my constricting throat. “Arrogant much?”

“It’s okay. I haven’t been able to forget either. I can still remember the way you taste.”

Oh. My. God.

I swallowed a moan and lurched free from him. Swinging around, I faced him and felt my knees go weak at the look in his eyes. Heavy-lidded and deep, his blue eyes looked almost indigo as they stared down at me.

“I know you probably think it’d be some great joke to bang one of your brother’s friends, but I’m not going to be another notch on your bedpost . . . some girl you screw once and forget about the next—”

He moved fast then, closing the space that I had established between us. Oh, yeah. He was a jock with ninja-fast reflexes. I needed to remember that.
• • • • • • • • • • •


A good girl goes fabulously bad in the final book in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s sexy New Adult romance series, in which three Ivy League suite-mates seek higher knowledge of just how far they can go.

Months after her boyfriend dumped her, Georgia can still hear the insults he hurled at her. Boring. Predictable. Tame. Tired of feeling bad, she’s ready to change her image, and go a little wild. What better way to prove her ex wrong than a hot night of sexual adventure at the secret campus kink club?

In the shadowy den of the kink club, she unexpectedly runs into Logan Mulvaney, her friend’s little brother. A player extraordinaire too hot for his own good, he may be younger, but the guy is light years ahead when it comes to sexual experience. Now he’s telling her to go home—“good girls” don’t belong here!

Georgia is tired of having others define her. She’s going to teach Logan a lesson he won’t forget—one white hot, mind-wrecking kiss . . . that leads to another . . . and another . . . and. . . . Realizing she’s way in over her head, Georgia runs.

Only Logan won’t let her go. Everywhere she goes he’s there, making her want every inch of him. Making her forget who she is. Who he is. And just how wrong they are for each other.


• • • • • • • • • • • •


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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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Black Widow

Elemental Assassin #12
Jennifer Estep
Urban Fantasy
400 pages
Pocket Books
Available November 25th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan.

With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bulls-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

One of the reasons the Elemental Assassin series continues to be as successful into the double digit installments as it was in the beginning is Ms. Estep's ability to craft the most cunning, sadistic, and beautifully despicable villains for Gin to face down, each one testing her not only on a physical level, but on a mental and emotional one as well. As a result, we don't simply feel as though we're reading the same story again and again with a different bad guy in play, instead we get to watch as Gin's character grows and matures, helped along by friends but even more so by foes; men and women who have a bloody lesson to both teach and learn.

With Black Widow, we're reminded of a time several months ago for Gin (seven books ago for us readers) when she faced another monster bearing the Monroe moniker, a woman who passed her cruelty and her flair for the dramatic to her daughter. What's most intriguing about Madeline however is not her elemental ability (though her acid magic is the stuff of nightmares to be sure), but rather the way in which she comes after Gin. Before Madeline, the impressive array of villains in this series have, for the most part, come at Gin directly, confident enough in their fighting prowess, strength or elemental gifts to challenge a woman with a reputation as fearsome and merciless as their own. They've come with egos and arrogance on proud display, taking their swings at her with all the physical force they have in their arsenal, and while they've brought Gin to the edge of death, none have managed to tip her over.

Madeline, though in possession of a healthy ego of her own, takes a different tack than all those before her, using smarts over brute strength to unleash a seemingly passive multi-pronged attack on Gin and those closest to her. She's clearly watched as Gin has effectively defeated head-on attack after head-on attack, and thus shoves Gin out of her comfort zone, forcing her to fight a very different type of battle than she's used to. One where the cover of night and the flash of her silverstone knives are rendered useless, and she must instead comb her vast knowledge of strategy to win a game played by rules not of her making.

Overall, Black Widow proves that the strength of the Elemental Assassin series is in no way waning, and Gin herself is only getting stronger and more impressive as she goes. Ms. Estep clearly has a reservoir of perfectly hateful villains ready and waiting to throw down their gauntlet for Gin to pick up, and here's hoping we have at least another twelve books on the way to see them try their very best.

Rating: 4/5

Are you a fan of audiobooks? Then check out a clip of Black Widow from Audible!

Find Jennifer:

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: Stitching Snow

R.C. Lewis
Young Adult/Fairy Tale Retelling
336 pages
Disney Hyperion
Available Now
Source: BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back-but that's assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane's arrival was far from accidental, and she's pulled into the heart of a war she's risked everything to avoid.

Stitching Snow is a beautiful combination of serious and sweet, moments full of lightness and levity alternating with darkness and gravity to keep us riveted to the pages from beginning to end. Ms. Lewis’s version of Snow White is no damsel in distress, instead she's a young women with smarts, technological know-how, and an ability to fight down and dirty when the situation calls for it. In place of dwarfs Essie is surrounded by drones of her own making, each with a distinct personality (especially Dimwit and Cusser – both hilariously aptly named) that adds both poignancy and humor as Essie finds her way back home to reclaim and rebuild.

Essie is a joy of a heroine, the dark past that drove her to Thanda something that defines who’s she’s become but yet she never lets it be all that does so. She resolves to never go down without a fight, even if it’s one she knows she can’t win, and we can’t help but situate ourselves firmly in her corner and refuse to budge. When the truth about Dane is revealed, her anger matches our own, but instead of lashing out and seeking to cause the same harm his deception has caused her, she simply grants herself permission to feel as she does without taking those feelings out on anyone else. She’s understandably wary of Dane for majority of the book, but she doesn’t hold a grudge or allow herself to be so blinded by what he’s done to her that she can’t understand the why’s of his decisions, and thus the broken trust between them creates a stunningly tense foundation for their eventual romance.

The romance itself is exceedingly well done, moving at the perfect pace given trust is not an easy thing to rebuild once it’s been destroyed, and by the time Dane actually makes his first move our anger at him has receded along with Essie’s. Just when the two of them find themselves on more solid footing with one another however, they’re thrust back into the nightmare Essie escaped from all those years ago, facing monsters of the human variety who show us that a poisoned apple from an old hag is nothing compared to what the royal house of Windsong is capable of.

Overall, Ms. Lewis delights with her retelling of Snow White and her seven companions, giving us true villains to hate and flawed heroes to root for, all the while charming us with enough silly banter between Essie and her drones and romance between reluctant royals to keep the darkness from overwhelming. Entertaining every step of the way, Stitching Snow should be on everyone’s must-read list.

Rating: 4/5

Find R.C.

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, November 14, 2014

The Raven Cycle Tarot Tour + Giveaway: The Death Card

Today I have the pleasure of being part of a very special blog tour celebrating The Raven Cycle series, one that showcases the many, many talents of Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie is not only a gifted writer and storyteller, but also an extremely skilled artist as well, and this tour shows her skills off to a spectacular degree. Each stop on the tour features a tarot card drawn by Maggie herself, complete with a reading of that card and its application to the Raven Cycle series by the participating blogger. Before I reveal the Death card, here's a little more about the Tarot Tour:

The tarot is a divination system that uses a deck of cards to gain insight. Most decks are comprised of 78 cards divided into the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, with each card being symbolic of an energy or spiritual truth. The Major Arcana are known as the “trump cards” because they impart messages of greater weight and significance than the Minor Arcana.

The Raven Cycle Tarot Tour features the Major Arcana, with each stop on the tour revealing one of the 22 cards as designed by Maggie Stiefvater, and will use that card to reveal the past, present and future of The Raven Cycle series.

You can find the full schedule (November 1st-22nd) and list of participating blogs below, be sure and check them all out for more tarot cards, readings, and chances to win!

And now, I give you Death:



Unsurprisingly, the Death card is "the most feared and misunderstood of all the cards in the Tarot deck". While that aspect of it is not part of the meaning of the card itself, I think the concept of misperception and misunderstanding plays a critical role in The Raven Boys.

Upon cracking the spine, we are almost immediately made aware of a prophecy featuring Blue and Gansey, one that foretells that she is either destined to fall in love with him or to be the one who kills him. For much of the book then we can't help but wonder about the very nature of prophetic statements, so seemingly telling but also vague and open-ended at the same time, inspiring fear and anxiety due to the sheer number of possible interpretations. Much as Death is misunderstood, telling not of literal impending death at all but rather change and transition, the prophecy concerning Blue and Gansey is feared for all its unknowns.


"Death is symbolic of the ending of a major phase or aspect of your life that may bring about the beginning of something far more valuable and important."

Each of the characters in the Raven Cycle series undergo a number of changes, some minor and others major, as the series continues, trying to come to terms with their various abilities (particularly Ronan and his highly unusual gift of being able to bring pieces of dreams into reality) while also treading lightly as the nature of the friendships within the group continues to transition with Blue in the mix.

"Death is an indication that you need to learn to let go of unhealthy attachments in your life to pave the way to a fuller, more fulfilled life of deeper meaning and significance. Death teaches you to let go of outworn and outgrown ways of life and move forward."

The four boys in particular are likely to have this card laid in front of them should they sit down down to a reading, each of them with a past they're struggling to overcome in the hopes of emerging stronger on the other side. Gansey constantly battles his privileged upbringing and the differences between his life and those of his closest friends, Adam's abusive home life and past affects his every decision and action in the present, Ronan's history has shaped him into someone dark and defiant who dares the world to come at him, and Noah is perhaps in a more constant state of flux than any of the other three.

Quote source


"You may be reluctant to let go of the past or you may not know how to make the change you need. You are still carrying harmful aspects from the past that may interfere with the opportunity you have for a new beginning. You are refusing to accept change and you are resisting any element of change that may arise in your life. As a result, life has stagnated and you are feeling ‘stuck’ in limbo."

The Death card has a lot of intriguing implications for the next book in the series, forcing us to ask ourselves difficult questions about each and every character. Will they be able to overcome the the hardships or horrors of their pasts, freeing themselves from baggage that prevents them from seeing clearly? Will the misunderstanding that goes hand in hand with this card in particular be indicative of how Blue and Gansey move forward? Will they allow themselves to be caged by the words of a prophecy, or will they fight to give what has been foretold a meaning of their own choosing?

Quote source

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Mystery, Romance and the supernatural combine in this series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
Book 1: The Raven Boys

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Book 2: The Dream Thieves

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after....

Book 3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


Entertainment Weekly has called Maggie Stiefvater, “one of the finest YA novelists writing today.” Maggie Stiefvater is a writer, artist, and musician and the New York Times bestselling author of Shiver, hailed by Publishers Weekly in a starred review as, “a lyrical tale,” and by BookPage as, “beautifully written, even poetic at times, and a perfect indulgence for readers of all ages.” There are more than 1.8 million copies of the Shiver trilogy in print. Since publication, rights to thirty-six foreign editions of Shiver have been licensed. Linger, the second book in the Shiver trilogy, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. The Scorpio Races (2011) was named to the following best of the year lists for 2011: Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, The Horn Book and Kirkus Reviews. In addition, The Scorpio Races was named a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association and a New York Times Notable Children’s Book. Time Magazine called, The Raven Boys, Book #1 in Stiefvater’s latest New York Times bestselling series The Raven Cycle, “A flirtier kind of horror-fantasy, aimed at teens clutching tattered Twilight and Sandman paperbacks....Stiefvater’s quirky prose has ample nerdy pleasures.” Stiefvater lives in Virginia with her family.

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Thanks to the amazing team at Scholastic, I have a fantastic giveaway to share with you guys today! One lucky winner will receive a complete set of The Raven Cycle series (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue) AND a limited edition Maggie Stiefvater Major Arcana tarot deck. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Don't forget to check out all the other stops on the tour for more tarot reveals and epic giveaways (you can also follow the This Is Teen Pinterest page for daily tour updates)!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pam Reviews: The Art of Neil Gaiman

I'm super excited today to welcome my mom back to the blog to review a very different type of book than is usually featured here. Yay for stepping out of comfort zones! My mom is an extraordinarily talented illustrator, so when a review request came through for a book featuring the artwork of Neil Gaiman, I jumped on it and asked if she'd like the chance to share her thoughts on it from a fellow artist's perspective. This book is more textbook in nature, so she focused on just one chapter in particular. Welcome back to Supernatural Snark, Mom!

The Visual Story of One of the World's Most Vital Creative Forces
Hayley Campbell
320 pages
Available Now
Source: Received finished copy from publisher for review

THE BOOK (from Amazon)
With unprecedented access to Neil Gaiman’s personal archives, author Hayley Campbell gives an insider’s glimpse into the artistic inspirations and musings of one of the world’s most visionary writers.

Over the last twenty-five years, Neil Gaiman has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own. A master of several genres, including, but not limited to, bestselling novels, children’s books, groundbreaking comics, and graphic novels, it’s no wonder Gaiman has been called a rock star of the literary world. Now, for the first time, Gaiman reveals the inspiration behind his signature artistic motifs, giving author Hayley Campbell a rare, in-depth look at the contents of his personal notebooks and early work, even some of his abandoned projects. The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. The book is the first comprehensive, full-color examination of Gaiman’s work to date, tracing the genesis of his creative life as a starving journalist in the UK to his life as a successful comic book writer and, ultimately, a bestselling novelist.

Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotated material that contextualizes the visual material, this deluxe compendium contains never-before-seen material and promises to be every bit as inspired as Gaiman is himself.

The Art of Neil Gaiman is a remarkably in-depth biography that covers many aspects of his lengthy career, but where it truly comes to life is in the showcasing of all his incredible works to date. One cannot help but marvel at his creative genius, applied across several media such as novels, picture books, comics, radio plays, TV stories, theater, movies and more. The sheer number and diversity of his works is mind-boggling. Throughout all seven chapters, readers will discover an intensely detailed presentation of each of his works, complete with some of his handwritten notes and sketches as well as photographs, anecdotes and commentary from his numerous collaborators. I loved that he not only shares amazing insights into his work, but also into himself, the truest art in The Art of Neil Gaiman.

I was asked to focus on a particular chapter of Gaiman's book, and I chose one that highlighted some of his short stories and poetry, but most interestingly for me, his picture books such as Coraline and Fortunately, The Milk which were my first exposures to Gaiman's work. Gaiman openly reveals his personal perspectives, feelings and memories, giving us a peek into the inspiration behind the creation of each fantasy work so that readers can fully appreciate the scope and depth of his imagination. His picture books reflect his knowledge of children, their nature and essence, and what exactly it is to be a child. This review, encompassing a very small segment of one chapter, doesn't begin to scratch the surface of this phenomenal collection of works, so I encourage you to discover all its wonder for yourselves!

The Art of Neil Gaiman is an impressive and informative book that will surely amaze any reader. I did feel at times that the visual presentation of each full color page was slightly distracting with so many competing elements (including the text hugging the centerfold), but that small drawback did nothing to dim the brilliance of Neil Gaiman and his storytelling genius. This book is outstanding.

Rating: 5/5

Find Neil:

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.