Monday, April 20, 2015

Irish Snark!

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to put up a quick post to let you know this blog will be slow for the next two weeks as I'm headed to IRELAND! *flails* I thought about trying to schedule posts for when I'm gone, but ultimately laziness won out and I always feel bad when I can't return comments, so I decided to give myself a break put up this little vacation message.

We're going to be all over the place in Ireland, but I think what I'm most excited for at the moment is the Game of Thrones tour we're taking in the north. I'm a huge TV/movie buff, so checking out some of the shooting locations has me positively giddy.

We're also going to spend two days in Dublin where I'll be keeping an eye out for Barrons and Ryodan. I'll be sure and report back on any sightings ;-)

Below are a few images of some of the places we're headed, and when I'm back I'll do a full recap with a ton of pictures because I always get carried away in the photograph department. Talk to all of you in a couple weeks!

(Game of Thrones)





Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Flourish: The Forgotten Web

Happy Friday Everyone!

I don't know about all of you, but I'm very ready for the weekend. Also a vacation:) Before I get to enjoy some much-needed time off though, I'm excited to share with all of you another of my recent cover designs!

While I thoroughly enjoyed my ten years as a wedding stationer, the designs after a while became something I could produce by rote simply due to the fact that though the brides' tastes varied, overall the final pieces still needed to look like wedding invitations. What I love so much about cover design work is the utterly unique challenge each and every project presents, and when author Sara C. Snider came to me with a description of The Forgotten Web I may or may not have done an embarrassing happy-designer dance.

There were so many elements to Sara's story we could have chosen to highlight on the cover, but what immediately took form in my head after reading her design memo was a single feather interlaced with spiderwebs, and after only a few changes it became the final cover. While the web makes obvious sense given the title, you'll just have to read to find out the significance of the feather ;-) Hope you like it as much as we do!


Robin's simple life is changed forever when a young Weaver named Fauwen accidentally unravels his existence and traps him in her own strange world. Refusing to accept his disastrous fate, Robin convinces Fauwen to use blood magic to weave his life anew.

But that which is unwoven can never be redone, and a life borne of blood carries a terrible price. Robin returns to a darkened world where shifting memories and tenuous realities threaten to tear apart the fabric of his sanity.

Find Sara & The Forgotten Web:

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult/Fantasy
416 pages
Available May 5th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


Every once in a while when we emerge from a story that's held our undivided attention for so long, blinking blearily at our reality, we find we can focus on nothing other than the desire to return to the first page and start the experience all over again. A Court of Thorns and Roses is very much that type of tale; one that leaves us physically unable to pick up another book for days following the turn of the last page given that doing so would be acknowledging our time with Feyre and Tamlin is temporarily over.

Ms. Maas has the uncanny ability to write characters who are a study in contrasts; a beautiful mess of conflicting attributes that resonate so thoroughly they become unforgettable in a very short amount of time. Feyre is gorgeously strong physically and mentally, providing for her crippled father and two older sisters as they sit comfortably in the tiny cottage they call home and complain about the speed at which Feyre puts food on their table. While confident in her hunting abilities, she's hugely self-conscious with regard to her intelligence, her inability to read and write something that causes her no shortage of shame. What she sees as a flaw though is but one of the many threads that bind us to her emotionally, able to feel her every joy and pain as if it were our own.

Tamlin, though more of a mystery to us given we spend all our time in Feyre's head, is as stunningly layered as she is, comprised of more shades of gray than we would have imagined possible prior to reading. At his core he could be described as good or even heroic, but like Feyre, when challenged and backed into a corner he's capable of making decisions that have brutal consequences for those around him. His relationship with Feyre is deliciously tense, the two of them tiptoeing around one another for much of the first half, trying to figure out how to make the best of a situation that's difficult for all involved. They spare us the drama we might have anticipated given Feyre's essentially kidnapped and forced to live in a world unfamiliar to her, instead proving they are not above apologizing when they make a misstep and constantly choosing to compromise when they could so easily lash out.

While Feyre and Tamlin are highlights, Ms. Maas supports them an extraordinary cast of secondary characters, each with shadows behind their eyes that whisper beseechingly to us as we slip further and further under the spell of this magnificent world, letting us know they have secrets to tell and scars for us to examine more closely. We're left in a very satisfying place, the events of the final hundred pages clearly going to have epic repercussions on this world and its inhabitants, but those repercussions remain firmly on the horizon as we flip the final page. A Court of Thorns and Roses is Ms. Maas at her very finest, giving us a glimpse at an imagination that impresses us more fully with each book we're gifted.

Rating: 5/5

Find Sarah:

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, April 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: These Vicious Masks

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

Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
Paranormal Young Adult
Releases February 2016 from Swoon Reads/Macmillan

From Goodreads:

Evelyn has no interest in marriage and even the dashing Mr. Kent can’t inspire her to give in to society’s expectations. She’d much rather assist her beloved sister Rose in her radical quest to become a doctor. Then she meets Sebastian Braddock. The reclusive gentleman is vexing, annoyingly attractive, and quite possibly mad—and his interest in Rose is galling. So when Rose disappears, Sebastian is immediately suspect.

Yet Sebastian’s strange tales of special powers soon prove to be true, and Evelyn learns that Rose’s kidnappers have much worse in mind for her than simply ruining her reputation. Surrounded by secrets, lies, and unprecedented danger, Evelyn has no choice but to trust Sebastian, yet she can’t help but worry that his secrets are the most dangerous of all…

Well hello there, gorgeous cover! I love absolutely everything about this cover, from the background texture to the type to the bright pop of red in the ribbon, so it of course went on my list as soon as I saw it. And while characters with secrets (I'm looking at you Sebastian) cause me stress, especially in a romantic situation, I still can't help but want to uncover every last one of them like the obsessively curious reader I am. I die a little inside every time I look at the release date, but I'm sure it will be 2016 in no time, right? RIGHT?!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tracy Reviews: At Wolf Ranch

I'm thrilled today to welcome back my sister-in-law Tracy with a review for a fun and sexy Avon western. Cowboys for the win!

Montana Men #1
Jennifer Ryan
Contemporary Romance/Western
384 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads):
After years on the rodeo circuit, Gabe Bowden wants nothing more than land of his own and a woman who will claim his heart for more than one night. When he has the chance to buy the enormous Wolf Ranch spread, he snaps up the incredible deal. Everything is set, until Gabe rescues a woman on the deserted, snowy road leading to the property, and the half-frozen beauty changes everything.

Ella Wolf rushes to her family's abandoned Montana ranch after her twin sister is murdered. She knows she's next . . . unless she can uncover a secret hidden somewhere at Wolf Ranch. The last thing Ella expects is to be rescued by a rugged rancher with his own agenda. A man who almost makes her forget how dangerous love can be.

As an unlikely partnership sparks into something so much more, and a killer closes in, can Ella and Gabe learn to trust one another before it's too late?


Hello Again Supernatural Snark Readers!

Thank you, Jenny, for entrusting me with your blog for a second time - I appreciate the chance to flex my writing muscles!

When I first looked at the cover of this book, my head immediately queued the Big & Rich song "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy".  :-)  I was not exactly sure what to expect from At Wolf Ranch, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this easy read!

Ms. Ryan flings us into action immediately, and rather unexpectedly, into an intense scene. Ella Wolf witnesses her twin sister's murder, and goes on the run to uncover whatever secrets her sister investigated at her family's ranch that caused her life to be taken from her too soon. While Ella is running, the sexy cowboy Gabe Bowden comes to her aid. While some parts of the book are slower moving, the overall pace of At Wolf Ranch was good.

The storyline was full of mystery and intrigue - much more than I expected out of a romance novel - which pleasantly surprised me.  That being said, if you are looking for a book with a lot of steamy erotic sex scenes - this might not be the book to pick up. Ella and Gabe only kiss 1/3 of the way through the book, and the sparse sex scenes that follow are more of the loving and comforting variety.

During the second half of the book, much focus is put on the superficial differences of the 'Rich City Girl' and 'Cowboy', and questioning whether their budding relationship could last long term. What strikes a cord with me (because it reminds me of myself and my husband) is that despite their outward dissimilarities, Ella and Gabe both value family, friendship, commitments, and hard work.  These principles bind them to be more alike than people could ever imagine.  

The characters of Ella and Gabe were both extremely likable, and I appreciated the fact that Ms. Ryan wrote Ella's character not to be a 'damsel in distress', but rather a smart, strong young woman who just needed a sturdy shoulder to lean on during a horrific and terrifying point in her life. Gabe was a perfect gentleman, and the cowboy that every girl dreams about. More than just killer biceps (which make me swoon...) and a pretty face, Gabe is written as intelligent, driven, and caring. Gabe is the whole package of goodness - what is not to like about that! :-)

Overall, At Wolf Ranch is an enjoyable read, with lots of action and emotion. I will definitely check out the Montana Men series to come and welcome the opportunity to meet Gabe Bowden's brothers!

Rating: 3.5 to 4 out of 5

Find Jennifer:

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 Tracy's honest opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

Ann Aguirre
Contemporary Young Adult
328 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

Where so many stories depict the struggle of life, the moments spent stumbling around in the darkness with only the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel, The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things gives us the beautiful moments following the first few hesitant steps that leave the darkness behind. We get a three-hundred page slice of life with Sage and Shane, the two of them putting one foot in front of the other to create as much distance from their difficult pasts as possible, and there's something extraordinarily satisfying in watching as they do everything they can to embrace the good in their lives while they have it. Their story is sweet and touching, largely free of drama and angst but full of feeling nonetheless, and our time with them is spent smiling and hopeful that their respective tunnels are well behind them.

Sage is an inspirational young woman, writing a few kind words on a brightly colored Post-it note and sticking it on the locker of someone who's having a rough day despite the mockery she gets for doing so. Her dedication to such a seemingly small gesture makes us fall a little more in love with her with every note, and when a moment comes that lets her see just how profound an effect her words have had over the years, we can't help but tear up and look for any opportunity to pay the kindness we've seen from her forward in our reality. She wants so badly to prove she's more than the events of her past, and her sheer determination to rise above and keep the shadows at bay makes us want to pick up a stack of pink Post-it notes and beat them back right beside her.

Sage's romance with Shane is characterized by one cute moment after another,
the two of them choosing to share the secrets of their pasts slowly but surely as they make their way toward happiness instead of falling prey to the typical teenage habit of failing to communicate. Some readers may wish for a few more ups and downs between them, a happy couple perhaps not as riveting as one fighting to be together, but there's a certain desirable comfort that radiates from the two of them, blanketing us in their warmth even as their pasts rear their ugly heads one final time. 

Overall, The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things is a story full of light and hope even dappled with darkness as it is, showing us how impressively far-reaching and life-changing the tiniest of kindnesses can be.

Rating: 4/5

Find Ann:

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, April 10, 2015

Still The One Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

I'm absurdly excited today to welcome author Jill Shalvis (*flails*) to the blog as part of the promotional tour for Still the One, the latest in her Animal Magnetism series. I absolutely adore all Jill's romances, but animal lover that I am, this series has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Jill a few questions, so I hope you all enjoy the interview! Don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway.

To help inspire those who have yet to experience the Animal Magnetism series (what are you waiting for?) to pick it up immediately, what are three things about this world and its characters they should definitely know?
1.That there are funny, sassy animals, such as a parrot who swears like a sailor and a 100 pound St. Bernard with a drool and gas problem.  ;-) 
2. Sexy, hot guys … guaranteed.   
3. Funny, sassy animals interacting with aforementioned sexy, hot guys.
If Darcy and AJ were to find out their romance was shared with the world in a piece of fiction, what do you think each of their reactions would be?
Darcy would no doubt be pissy about it. She’s not much for sharing… 
AJ wouldn’t care, he has nothing to hide. :-) 
Darcy is exceedingly good at pairing the right dogs with the right people to create the perfect fit. If she showed up at your door claiming to have a dog that would suit your life to a T, what kind of personality traits would that dog possess? 
Laidback, easy going, calm. And the dog would be able to chase off bears and yet appreciate the fine art of eating cookies. 
Darcy and AJ, due to inclement weather, find themselves having to participate in a series of trust exercises at a company retreat. Had you been there with them, which of the exercises would have been easiest/hardest for you?     
I would have had a hard time directing a blindfolded Alpha Man through that maze.  I have zero sense of direction…
Peanut, a parrot with a delightfully foul mouth, is always a highlight for me. Darcy added a fun new phrase to Peanut’s repertoire in this book, but she can hardly be blamed for all the bird’s choice words. Who would you say is most responsible for Peanut’s impressive vocabulary? 
100% Jade from Animal Attraction.  :-)
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jill!

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Darcy Stone is game for anything—except sexy Navy vet and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who’d rejected her when she’d needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately Darcy can’t refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it—Darcy is irresistible. But he’s already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he’s not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they’d ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What’s the real thing? And where does it go from here?

• • • • • • • • • • •


ill Shalvis is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. She has written more than four dozen romance novels and lives in Nevada with her family.

• • • • • • • • • • •


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: Things We Know by Heart

Jessi Kirby
Contemporary Young Adult
304 pages
Available April 21st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Things We Know by Heart is one of those stories that manages to be both light and heavy at the same time; the sweet, slow buildup of romance between Quinn and Colton bringing a smile to our faces that then quickly dims as the weight of all that's unspoken between them makes itself known. Though the stress of knowing something Colton doesn't is enough to have us popping pieces of chocolate the entire time we're reading, Quinn's journey is full of hope and promise, and watching her take hesitant steps toward living again as Colton does the same is nothing short of immensely satisfying.

Quinn makes an enormous mistake early on, good intentions going awry before spiraling entirely out of her control, and we can't help but want to reach out and hug her as we remember the times in our own lives when control of a given situation slipped right through our fingers. We can hardly blame her for wanting to find Colton, and though we want to scream the truth of their relationship at the top of our lungs just to free the air of its suffocating thickness, it's hard not to be nervous for Quinn whenever an opportunity to come clean reveals itself. Were we in her shoes, we'd likely find as many excuses as she does to keep our lips sealed, a fact that keeps us from getting too frustrated with her for delaying the inevitable.

The main issue keeping this sweet story from a higher rating is the lack of resolution in a couple areas, namely with regard to Quinn and her parents. Quinn's parents are understandably worried about their daughter given the fugue state in which she's existed since Trent's death, and we can only imagine what their reaction would be if they found out Colton was the last of Trent's organ recipients. While Quinn does confide in her sister as well as Colton's, the unspoken truth between her and her parents still weighs heavily on us even after things for the two of them are wrapped up nicely in the end, leaving us wishing we were given a bit more page time in the aftermath of the big reveal. 

Overall though, the romance between Quinn and Colton is perfectly paced, both of them experiencing the wonder and terror that comes with a new beginning they never thought they'd have, and we close the back cover looking forward to whatever Ms. Kirby might write next.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Jessi:

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, April 8, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: First & Then

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

Emma Mills
Contemporary Young Adult
Releases October 13th from Henry Holt (Macmillan)

From Goodreads:

First impressions can be deceiving . . .

Devon has life pretty much figured out: she’s got her best friend Cas, her secret crush (also Cas), and her comfortable routine (mostly spent with Cas). New experiences: not welcome here. But as she enters her senior year, her parents take in her cousin Foster, an undersized weirdo who shows an unexpected talent for football, and star running back Ezra takes Foster under his wing. Devon can't figure out how she feels about Ezra. He's obviously stuck-up, but Foster adores him. Ezra has nothing to say to her, but he keeps seeking her out. And... Devon might actually like him. If only she can admit it to herself.

Funny, fresh, and layered, First and Then proves that change doesn't always tear things apart—sometimes, it brings them together.

First of all, this cover makes me happy. Yes, it's a design made up entirely of either rain or tears, neither of which has overwhelmingly positive connotations, but it's so simple and colorful that I want to blow it up to poster size and hang it on my wall for when I need a little visual pick me up:) Also? I'm getting an antagonistic relationship vibe from the blurb which would have sold me on this one if the cover hadn't already taken care of that. I LOVE romances that start out a bit rocky, and I can't wait to see how Devon's opinion of Ezra changes over time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review + Giveaway: This Heart of Mine

Whiskey Creek #8
Brenda Novak
Contemporary Romance
400 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him—especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next!

Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn't exactly welcoming.

Riley doesn't trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both—if they can forgive the mistakes in their past…

Despite being a later book in the Whiskey Creek series, This Heart of Mine easily stands on its own, a heroine returning home after a seventeen-year prison sentence instantaneously winning us over with the love she has for the son she was robbed of knowing. We meet Phoenix moments before her first meeting with Jacob, and the abject terror she feels in those opening pages wraps us immediately around her little finger as we long to reach in and lend her a little of our strength. Our emotional connection to Phoenix only deepens as her story unfolds, tears springing to our eyes time and again as she struggles to find her place in a town that doesn't want her and isn't afraid to show it.

After serving seventeen years of a fifteen-year sentence thanks to the cruelty of a fellow inmate, it's easy to expect Phoenix to be one of two things: Bitter and full of resentment for those who refused to believe her side of the story, or self-loathing, her time in prison giving her a clarity as to her own faults that she might not have had otherwise. Remarkably however, we find a woman who is inordinately grateful for the chance to finally meet her son, and who wants nothing more than to build a relationship with him if he and his father will allow it. Her fear that one wrong move on her part will result in Riley forbidding her from spending time with Jacob is so thick we can hardly swallow around the lump that forms in our throats, wanting nothing more than for her have this one tiny piece of happiness.

While Phoneix's story would have been heartbreaking even should she have turned out to be bitter or self-loathing, what's especially moving about her is the fact that she genuinely doesn't expect a single kindness from anyone. She doesn't feel as though she deserves their hatred though–that would lead us to wish she would come to terms with the fact that her cruelest detractor is staring back at her in the mirror–she instead knows she's served her punishment but is also keenly aware that she's been found guilty in the court of public opinion, one whose sentencing is far more brutal. Seeing her fight an uphill battle over and over again is extraordinarily painful at times, forcing us to set the book aside as we practice our deep breathing exercises and wish violence on those who feel she hasn't yet paid in full for her supposed crime.

The only minor complaint, and it's one hugely personal in nature, is the fact that we don't get to see those who were so thoroughly convinced of Phoenix's guilt eat more than the tiniest sliver of humble pie in the end. Riley's mother in particular deserved a much larger piece, but it's hard to get too worked up about it in the midst of our relief that Phoenix is finally going to live the life she should have had seventeen years ago. A beautiful and poignant contemporary romance, This Heart of Mine guarantees a late night of reading as it's nearly impossible to put down.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find This Heart is Mine:

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


Thanks to CBB Book Promotions and Mira, there are 5 paperback copies of This Heart of Mine up for grabs on the blog today. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada only.

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Don't forget to check out the full tour schedule for more reviews, spotlights and chances to win!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: All Fall Down

Embassy Row #1
Ally Carter
Contemporary Young Adult
320 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

All Fall Down is pure entertainment, the kind of book perfect for picking up after a long day and letting ourselves settle into as we escape reality for a while. Grace’s story does require the suspension of disbelief and the capacity to go with the flow as she follows possible assassins down dark tunnels with absolutely no backup, but this story is in no way meant to be a serious behavioral examination of the children of prominent politicians. Instead, it's a story full of murder plots and power exchanges–with a bit of humor mixed in–and it ensures we keep the pages turning well into the early hours of the morning.

Grace is someone whose sorrow is a tangible thing, the death of her mother three years prior and the fact that she witnessed it something that haunts her hours both waking and not. She’s not in an overly healthy place when we meet her, reciting a mantra of “I’m fine” to anyone who asks, but what keeps those two words from being frustrating is the fact that Grace herself doesn’t believe them any more than those on the receiving end of it do. She knows she’s struggling, but her fear of being forced back into a hospital and heavily medicated forces her to put on the bravest face she can, and we can’t help but hope her desire to pull it together will eventually make it so.

Even though Grace is weighed down heavily by her mother’s murder and the fact that no one believes what she saw that night, the story itself doesn’t feel overwhelmingly sad, and we move forward quickly and easily with Grace as she tries to extract the truth from both past and present. We’re left with the full reveal of exactly what happened the night of Grace’s mother’s death, but it’s also very clear that things are just beginning and everything we thought we knew after spending a few hundred pages in Grace’s world is going to be called into question moving forward.

Rating: 4/5

Find Ally:

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, April 3, 2015

Blog Tour + Giveaway: None of the Above

Today I have the absolute pleasure of welcoming I.W. Gregorio to the blog as part of the promotional tour for her YA contemporary release, None of the Above. This tour consists of 5 very special stops (please check the bottom of the post for the full schedule!) in which I.W. discusses bringing diversity into YA fiction as a whole while putting a spotlight specifically on a condition known as intersex. Not only will each stop have an amazing guest post and giveaway, but the bloggers will also each be helping to debunk a myth about intersex to by getting facts out there rather than fiction, so I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this tour!


This post can be summarized in three sentences, for the DRTL crowd:
1. Representation matters.

2. You don’t have to write what you know, but you should know what you write.

3. Check your work.
A week ago at the NYC Teen Author Festival, I was super excited to be on a panel moderated by David Levithan on representation in YA. David asked all the right questions: Did we as writers ever feel the responsibility to write from our cultural experiences? When we wrote outside of our experiences, what do you have to do to ensure that your characters are as authentic as possible?

All writers have different processes, so it’s no surprise that the panelists disagreed re: the last question. While some writers approached their work organically, some of us thought actively about our characters’ diversity, and did a lot of vetting of cultures we wrote about. The conversation got pretty lively when one author said, in response to the latter group of people, “Wow, you guys work really hard.”

I took that statement as a compliment.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the We Need Diverse Books campaign, it’s that representation matters. Diverse books change lives by creating empathy and opening people’s eyes. But, when done poorly, they can also perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce ignorance. This why a lot of authors–appropriately, I think–feel a lot of trepidation when they write outside their experience. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t do it. They just need to truly know what they write–and if you haven’t experienced something, you can’t truly know it until you do the work to research it.

Because I was acutely aware that intersex people are invisible to most of the population, I felt an enormous responsibility to do my homework when I wrote None of the Above. I felt this responsibility both from the literary perspective–because I wanted the details of the story to ring true–and from the moral perspective–because if I didn’t try to get things right, it was the worst kind of appropriation and exploitation. I would be further marginalizing a group that’s already shrouded in shame and speculation.

For me, homework entailed more than just research and interviewing–it involved taking that next step to have my work checked after I wrote it, but before the book was printed. I went to the AIS-DSD Support Group conference to meet actual intersex men and women, and I felt it important to get more than one beta reader from the group, because no one person is going to have the same experience. I’m glad I did, because my readers gave me crucial feedback that I incorporated in early stages, and as late in the game as second pass pages.

Even with all the work I put in? I’m sure someone will think I got it wrong, and that is absolutely my greatest fear. But if that happens, I know I can sleep at night, knowing that I did everything in my power to prevent it.  

 photo: Laura Silverman
 I.W. Gregorio at the NYC Teen Author Festival

 photo: Amber Jones
 I.W. Gregorio at the AIS-DSD Support Group Conference

And here is today's myth about intersex, please check out the below blogs to learn the other four:

(click to enlarge)


The Midnight Garden  - Tuesday 3/31
What is Intersex?

YA Romantics - Wednesday 4/1
5 Ways Writing is Way Harder Than Medicine

The Reading Date - Thursday 4/2
5 Inspiring LGBTQI Books That Can, and Will, Change Lives

Supernatural Snark - Friday 4/3
Writing What You Don’t Know

The Irish Banana - Monday 4/6
Interview with Lianne Simon, intersex author

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(releases on April 7th from Balzer + Bray)

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

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I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. 

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To celebrate the release of None of the Above, we're giving away a mystery box for 4 hot upcoming Harper Collins ARCs! They have some awesome books coming out this year, and the winner will receive some great titles. US/Canada only, complete rules are on the entry form. 

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review + Giveaway: Four Nights with the Duke

Desperate Duchesses #8
Eloisa James
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia's audacious proposal, but there's one thing he won't give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil's bargain...he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can't afford to lose.

Four Nights with the Duke is a captivating and emotional read, giving us an antagonistic relationship that keeps us questioning whether or not these two will ever find their way to happily ever after despite knowing it's exactly where they're headed. Many antagonistic relationships are full of witty banter; sly insults delivered with a smirk and a little sexual innuendo to let some of the attraction slip through the pretense of dislike. The relationship between Mia and Vander is not characterized by the more playful type of antagonism however, instead what exists between the two of them for much of the book is years of pain, anger, and more than a little humiliation on Mia’s part. As a result, our hearts ache for her from prologue to concluding chapters, wanting nothing more for her than to find the happiness she deserves.

From the moment Mia stands up from her hiding spot at age fifteen and confronts the group of boys, including Vander, who are mocking a poem she wrote professing her love for him, we can’t help but be madly in love with her. While the fact that she blackmails Vander into marrying her (with a very serious accusation should the information she has get out) isn’t something we can really condone, her reasons for doing so are extraordinarily selfless, and she pays far more than the penance due in the early days of her marriage. Vander’s insults are not of the witty or flirty variety, rather they're words honed to sharp points and aimed with unerring precision, inflicting as much lasting damage as possible and leaving us feeling nothing but protective of the young woman who’s trying to do what’s best for her family.

Vander therefore takes much longer to warm to than Mia, our anger at him for not defending her and her poem fairly mild given he was a mere fifteen at the time as well, but his righteous anger at her in the present for not only the blackmail but also the somewhat sordid history between their families keeps a fair amount of distance between us. He also has the rather frustrating habit of communicating almost solely in intimate terms, seeking physical closeness with Mia whenever his mouth gets him in trouble and staying notably silent in lieu of explaining himself. What keeps this habit from being downright irritating is Mia’s reaction to this repetitive process, letting him know time and again that his method of communicating leaves a lot to be desired on an emotional level.

In the end though, Vander shows a great deal of growth and maturity, using his words to comfort and woo rather than hurt, but he also helps Mia to see what's being said when he says nothing at all. Overall, Four Nights with a Duke is beautifully emotional, leaving us feeling raw and on edge much of the time before soothing us with a tender moment between the two of them or a laugh thanks to Vander’s charming lush of an uncle. Lovers of historical romance will not want to miss out on this one.

Rating: 4.5/5

Order Four Nights with the Duke:

AmazonB&N iTunesKoboGoodreads

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A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at

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Thanks to Tasty Book Tours and the fabulous people at Avon, I have a very special giveaway to accompany my review today! Up for grabs is the complete Desperate Duchesses series (books 1-7), so be sure an enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada only.

Be sure and check out the full list of participating blogs as well for more reviews, excerpts and special content!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday Flourish (+ Giveaway!): Rachel's Deception

Happy Only-Two-More-Days-Until-Friday Everyone!

Happy Wednesday didn't really sound like a great greeting, so I went with the above. Possible fail. Anyway, today I'm really excited to reveal the cover of Rachel's Deception, the fourth book in the Temptation series by Karen Ann Hopkins. This latest installment is a spinoff featuring Noah's little sister, so it can be read as a standalone for any of you who haven't read Noah and Rose's story in its entirety.

Designing this cover with Karen was a bit of a different process than the previous covers we've done together because we wanted to make sure Rachel's Deception fit with the first three books published by Harlequin Teen. At the same time though, we needed to differentiate it from the others since Rachel is stepping into the spotlight, so we kept with an outdoor rural setting to highlight the Amish lifestyle but chose to make Rachel a focal point on her own. Before we get to the cover, here's a quick look at the previous titles:

To celebrate the reveal Karen is offering up a fantastic giveaway, so be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details, and don't forget to enter yesterday's giveaway to win a full Karen Ann Hopkins prize pack!

And now, Rachel's Deception:

Growing up Amish is difficult…but leaving it behind is even harder.

Noah was Amish...Rose wasn't. Being together should have been impossible. But somehow they found a way to make it work. They are finally a family, but their happily-ever-after is still a long off. Will Rose and her friends be able to force real change?

Karen Ann Hopkins returns with a gripping new book in the YA Temptation series. The powerful family saga continues with Rachel's Deception, as events spiral out of control in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview. And Rachel Miller has her own secrets to hide. Noah’s younger sister has been living a double life. That is, until Justin Cameron, Rose's little brother, catches her in the act. Rachel is not the obedient Amish girl that her sister was, and her rebelliousness takes her to a very dangerous world. A world that only her true friends can help her escape from.

As Rachel questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment, Rose discovers what it really means to be shunned. And an evil shadow looms on the horizon, threatening not only Rose, but everyone she holds dear.

The blog tour for Rachel’s Deception runs from May 18th - June 5th, if you are interested in reviewing the book and want to join the blog tour then please visit Karen’s tour page and sign up!


Temptation (Book 1)

Belonging (Book 2)
Forever (Book 3)
Audiobook lovers, be sure and pre-order Temptation (you can check out a sample here) which will be available on Audible April 21st!

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A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.

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Karen is generously offering up a $25 gift card (Amazon or B&N) as well as a copy of TEMPTATION (book 1) to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form.

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