Friday, October 28, 2016

The Very Fondest Of Farewells

Hey Everyone!

This post may seem like it's coming out of the blue, but it's one I've been struggling with for the better part of this year. I kept telling myself (and you) that the small changes like taking Mondays off and the few week-long breaks to focus on work weren't the beginning of the end for this blog, but they were.

For much of this year, the blog, as much as I love it, has felt like a second job. A second set of deadlines to meet. A second set of emails in need of responses. A second set of demands on my time. Even though the deadlines are entirely of my own making, it's gotten to the point now that I simply can't keep up, and my desire to do so has waned. I promised myself as soon as this amazing endeavor stopped being fun, I would let it go, and as much as it brings tears to my eyes to say it, that time is now.

I can honestly say, with absolutely no exaggeration, that this blog has changed my life. What started as a fun way to share my newfound obsession with reading has launched an entirely new career, and I never would have gotten to this place without the blogging community. You guys inspired me to take a chance on something that was incredibly daunting and oh-so scary, but has proved to be the best job I've ever had. You supported me at every turn when I took my first tentative steps into the cover design world, voting when I entered design contests, commenting when I shared my work on the blog, and endlessly encouraging me on social media. Words simply cannot express my gratitude.

While Supernatural Snark has had a profound impact on my professional life, it's also been enormously influential in my personal one as well. I've always been close with my mom (except for a select few teen years, right Mom? ;-)) and my mother-in-law, but this blog has allowed my relationships with them to flourish further. They both jumped onto this crazy ride from the very beginning, and haven't stepped off since. They've given me book recommendations, written reviews, and tackled 6 years of the epic monster that is BookExpo America with a smile on their faces even as we've all wanted to break down and cry at how much our feet hurt. Though I know we'll continue to swap books and share recommendations, I will thoroughly miss sharing this blog with them.

To all of you who've read this blog but haven't commented, thank you. I don't know who you are, but you've made everything I've put into this blog worthwhile.

To my fellow bloggers and friends, a simple thank you will never be enough, but I have to say it anyway. Thank you for being a constant source of support. Thank you for sharing your lives and your loves with me. Thank you for making someone who lives a somewhat hermit-like life feel less alone during the long, quiet hours of the day. Thank you for being you. All your gorgeous diversity has made me a better person.

To all the authors and publishers who gave me the opportunity to celebrate books on a daily basis, I will be forever grateful. You opened my eyes to new characters and new worlds, and pushed me to step outside my comfort zone so that I could discover all the joys I would have been missing without you.

And finally to the Moms, I love you both. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Though this is a goodbye for Supernatural Snark, it's the very beginning for Seedlings Design Studio. I've just launched my new website and have finally, FINALLY, jumped on the social media train and created a Facebook page. *pats self on back* While it will primarily be a place for me to promote my work, I plan on posting the occasional book recommendation as well because it's going to be impossible for me to keep all my thoughts to myself after nearly seven years of sharing them with all of you. I hope you stop by for a visit now and then!



From the very bottom of my heart, thank you for the past seven years:)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cathy Reviews: The Bookshop on the Corner

My mother-in-law Cathy is back today to share her latest review!

Jenny Colgan
Adult Fiction
368 pages
William Morrow
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a charming book, especially for those who have been book lovers since childhood. This book brought back memories of how I loved going to the bookstore. I couldn't wait to see what books awaited me. Though in the story it's a mobile bookstore, it holds the same feel of anticipation for all those book lovers in the small towns of Scotland.

Nina is more than a librarian, she is a true book lover who enjoys pairing just the right book with each person. When her job is eliminated, she decides she is going to start fresh and follow her dreams. She buys an old van that everyone told her was too big for a "little lady" and leaves her home to head for the glens of Scotland. All is not easy for Nina but she perseveres. Some of her failures are treated with humor, but Nina feels things deeply and believes the best of everyone. Because of this, she has some very painful moments. Nina is so passionate about life, but most is based on what she has read in books rather than experienced. There are many great references to other books that makes you want to read them all. But as Nina travels around Scotland and actually becomes involved with her customers, she begins to live her life not just through books.

Ms. Colgan not only has us fall in love with Nina but also the life and culture of Scotland. The descriptions of the scenery and customs draw us in and we are rooting for Nina to embrace and be embraced. There is a romantic interest for Nina that starts on the wrong foot, but like everything else in her life, it takes work. But I think Nina's name for her mobile book store is perfect foreshadowing for this book. She named it Happily Ever After!

Rating: 4/5

Find Jenny:

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, or in this case Cathy's, honest opinion.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Into The Fire

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!

Night Prince #4
Jeaniene Frost
Paranormal Romance
Releases February 2017 from Avon

From Goodreads:

In the wrong hands, love can be a deadly weapon.

For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them…and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

VLAD!!! It will have been two years in between books by the time Into the Fire hits shelves in February, and that has been much, much too long for me to be away from my beloved Vlad. Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series was my first paranormal romance series, so it and its spinoffs will always have a very special place in my heart and on my shelf. While Bones will always come first in terms of book boyfriends, Vlad is a very, very close second, and I can't wait to see how this final installment unfolds!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Life With Pit Bulls

Hey Everyone!

Along with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also Pit Bull Awareness Month, and given dog rescue – and pit bull rescue in particular – is a cause very close to my heart, I wanted to share a post about my girls to bring a little attention to it, even if only in this very small way.

As with any issue, I think educating oneself before formulating any kind of opinion or stance is vitally important, so I'm hoping my girls' story helps shed a little light on the controversial nature of the pit bull breed(s) (I put the "s" there because the pit bull label actually encompasses several different breeds).

Here are just a few of the things my husband and I heard when we told people what kind of dog we were planning to adopt:

"Is that safe?"

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"You know, pit bulls are more likely to turn on their owners than any other breed."

"I have a friend (family member, neighbor, etc.) whose dog was attacked by a pit bull."
(We got several variations of this one, with the teller recounting every horror story they'd ever heard.)

"Aren't they supposed to be mean?"

And so on.

It was heartbreaking to get reactions like those both from friends and family as well as strangers, especially since we hadn't even brought Gracie home yet. It was an eye-opening time for us, and made us both all the more determined to be advocates for the breed(s).

Since bringing Gracie home however, we've encountered no outright hostility, mostly due to the fact that she's an exemplary breed ambassador. It's hard to accuse pit bulls of being vicious killers when a smiling, wiggling mass of dog with a face that's an absurdly lovable combination of Yoda, a gremlin, and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon is waddling toward you. (Though we did have one woman tell us after meeting Gracie that she didn't realize pit bulls could be "tame". Um. What? We didn't adopt a lion cub.)

 Her ears. I die.

What we hear most often now is perhaps the most innocent-sounding of all the comments about pit bulls we've had directed our way, but also the most damaging for the breed(s):

"You know, it's all in how they're raised."

At first glance this seems like a nice sentiment, a compliment directed at me and my husband that suggests Gracie's sweet nature can be attributed to us. Under the surface however, what this comment actually implies is that a pit bull is nothing more than a reflection of its upbringing – a bad dog when raised by bad people and a good one when raised by good people – when I would argue the opposite is really true. Pit bulls are loving and loyal companion dogs often despite their upbringing. It's this reasoning that sees adult pit bulls at the top of the euthanasia list at the shelter, or languishing in rescues for years as they continually get passed over in favor of puppies.

We adopted Gracie at 2 years old and take absolutely NO credit for the amazing dog she is. She came to us chock-full of personality (seriously, she's ridiculous) and sweetness (except when she's being a stubborn a-hole), and we've done nothing but fall madly in love with her.

I'm not so blindly passionate about my girls though that I can't understand why people might be afraid of them. Gracie in particular is built like a brick shithouse, with a head and chest that comprise at least 70% of her body weight, and it's one of the first things people comment on when they meet her. We hear "that's a thick dog" or "she's got a chest on her" all the time, forcing me to tell Gracie to flaunt what God gave her so she doesn't take it personally ;-)

Physically, both Gracie and Mya are intimidating, so when people see them and ask us what kind of dogs they are, I can't really hold it against them when they take a step back or yank their hand away when they hear "pit bull". I get it. I do. But what I want people to understand most is pit bulls are not an inherently dangerous breed. They're not what any of the myths surrounding them say they are. They don't have a special kill/fight gene bred into them. They don't have magical jaws that lock and never let go. They're just dogs. Strong, muscular dogs capable of inflicting damage who are used in cruel ways for just that reason, yes, but they are not the first breed of dog, nor will they be the last, to be used as such.

Mya is a perfect example what I hope people will start to see when they look at a pit bull. Many of you already know a little of Mya's story from what I've shared with you previously, but knowing more of the details I hope will go a long way toward revealing the true nature of the breed(s).

Mya was purchased by a dog fighter as a puppy, and while we can only imagine the horrors she endured the first year of her life under his "care", we do know the specifics of her last day with him and what led to her rescue. When she proved to be an inadequate fighting dog, Mya was used for breeding. She ended up miscarrying her litter of puppies, and for her misfortune was kicked repeatedly in the belly hard enough that her uterus eventually came out and she was left in the yard to bleed to death. A neighbor saw the beating take place and thankfully stepped in, paying the owner a fee for him to hand Mya over and then rushing her to the vet. After her surgery she found her way into a rescue and loving foster home, and that's where we found her a little over a year later.

As a result of everything she went through, Mya is understandably wary of new people. This wariness presents as growling and sometimes escalates to alarm barking when it looks to her as though someone she doesn't know is going to come into her space. Her primary triggers are extended eye contact, objects in people's hands (even treats), and hands reaching toward her face, all of which result in her hunching down to make herself a smaller target and growling.

I'm not sharing Mya's story to shock or horrify (though it is both shocking and horrifying), but to educate. While Mya does have some trouble in larger social situations, she's also a beautiful example of how resilient a pit bull can be. Despite the nightmare that was the first year of her life, she came out the other side happy and wiggly, and wants nothing more than to be near her people. While "trained" to fight, she absolutely adores other dogs, and shows not even the slightest hint of aggression no matter how other dogs behave toward her.

Because those who meet her don't know her history, however, the growling to them says "aggressive" rather than "fearful", and as a result, Mya has the very real ability to confirm the pit bull stereotype for some people. (We are currently working with a behaviorist to help us be what Mya needs us to be to thrive, and she has made a staggering amount of progress in the 5 months we've had her. We have ways to go yet, but we'll get there:))

I wish every single person who hears her growl could know her story. Know that her wariness has absolutely nothing to do with her breed, and everything to do with being abused. People hurt her. People failed her. Yet she is the one who bears the burden of that failure because she sometimes plays into the stigma of a pit bull. Mya's story circles back to the "it's all in how they're raised" comment. She was raised to be vicious. Raised to fight, to attack, to use that mythical jaw to inflict as much damage as possible for sport. But despite all that, my husband and I have a dog who loves to snuggle and give kisses. Who is unbearably gentle in disposition and wants so badly to please us that her body never stops wiggling in our presence. Both she and Gracie are more than their separate upbringings, and my hope for the future is to see an end to breed specific legislation and the idea that the breed(s) as a whole is violent.

I know there are many who would read this post and rant and rave at me about things they've seen, heard or experienced regarding pit bulls, citing dog bite statistics and sensationalized articles about attacks, and I honestly can't refute their claims having not witnessed them personally. The only thing I can say is what I know of pit bulls being involved in rescue and having two of my own, and that is despite the circumstances of how they were raised – Gracie, a neglected stray with 15 minutes to spare before she was put down at the shelter, and Mya, a survivor of nightmare-inducing abuse – they are sweet-natured and loving to the core.

For those of you who might be interested in learning more about pit bulls, there's an outstanding documentary currently on Netflix called The Champions. It's the story of the dogs rescued from NFL star Michael Vick's dog fighting operation, a landmark case marking the first time dogs involved in a fighting ring weren't automatically euthanized. They were given the opportunity to be rehabilitated instead, and it follows 5 or 6 of them that were eventually adopted out into loving homes. It's a very honest documentary and one that's pro-pit bull for sure, but it also doesn't show this case as all rainbows and unicorns where every dog has a happy ending either. There are a number of dogs that were simply too brutalized to be able to fully recover emotionally and mentally, and those dogs will live the rest of their lives in the safety of a sanctuary. It's light on details in terms of the actual abuse while a part of Vick's operation, so all you fellow animal lovers don't have to worry on that front!

This was a very long, very personal post as my dogs are my kids, and I hope it might inspire you to do some research into the breed(s) or into dog rescue in general!

Before I go, a few more pictures of my girls in all their pit bull glory:)

 "Helping" Dad lay sod in the backyard.

Gracie doesn't like to snuggle with us all that much, 
but with Mya she has no concept of personal space.



Friday, October 21, 2016

Giveaway: Black Widow: Red Vengeance

Happy Friday Everyone!

As a little celebration for another week being over (who's ready for a vacation?), I have a fun giveaway to share with you all! Last year Margaret Stohl dipped into the Marvel Universe with Black Widow: Forever Red and has recently released the second book in this series, Black Widow: Red Vengeance. I happen to be a huge fan of all things Marvel, so while I haven't had the chance to read these yet, I'm thoroughly looking forward diving in to both of them!

Before we get to the giveaway, here's a little bit about book two:
Emotions are dangerous, which is why the graduates of Moscow’s famed spy school the Red Room are taught to keep their enemies close and their loved ones at a distance. Black Widow and Red Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff and Ava Orlova, forgot that lesson once, and they won’t forget it again.

But the Widows have inherited something else from their shared Moscow past: a relentless need for vengeance—Ivan Somodorov is dead, but his network of terror remains.

While the Widows search South America in order to extinguish a smuggling operation with ties to their old nemesis, their own Red Room not only attempts to assassinate them both but also hacks their secure S.H.I.E.L.D. network. As a result, Ava and Natasha find themselves thrust into a trying mission of international intrigue that takes them throughout the world and back to New York City, where their friends Dante and Sana become unlikely targets as well.

Once again, nothing is as it seems, no one can be trusted, and no one is safe—not unless the Widows can stop a conspiracy involving stolen nuclear warheads, mind-altering chemical weapons, and ultimately, betrayal by old friends and enemies alike.

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Margaret Stohl is the #1 New York Times best-selling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures novels (also a major motion picture) and the author of the instant New York Times best seller Black Widow: Forever Red, as well as a contributor to multiple Marvel comics. Previously, Margaret was a veteran of the video game industry, working as a writer and designer before co-founding 7 Studios with Lewis Peterson.

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One lucky winner will receive copies of Black Widow: Forever Red and Black Widow: Red Vengeance, plus a branded tote bag and pin! A huge thanks to Marvel Press for providing the prize pack. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Interview: Jessica Shirvington & Disruption

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Jessica Shirvington back to the blog to answer a few questions about the first book in her newest duology, Disruption. I fell madly in love with Jessica's storytelling with her Violet Eden Series, and that love continued with One Past Midnight, so I can't wait to get sucked into Disruption:) If you've yet to read any of Jessica's books, they have my highest recommendation and I hope you leave here immediately and add them to your shelves!
Dystopian and Science Fiction novels often depict a rather terrifying future, altogether too believable even in their fiction. What Dystopian, Sci-Fi or Post-Apocalyptic world from any piece of fiction is the most nightmare-inducing for you?

Yes, they are all fairly terrifying. Oddly enough, I don’t mind the ones that take us back to the basics – where we have to rebuild and start again. There is a part of me that sometimes thinks that is the way things will probably go. The dystopian worlds which really frighten me are the ones run by technology. It worries me to think that we hand over so much trust to technology that is basically without morals, foresight, need, emotion or hope. That is really scary.

If Maggie could escape from her world and jump into any other YA novel, which would top her list?

Good question. I’m not sure there is any other dystopian story she would particularly like. However, there are a few worlds that I think she would survive well in. If I had to pick, maybe Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi. It would certainly be interesting to see her in that world.

If Maggie could send a warning back to us about what the evolution of the smartphone and the effect it’s had on her world, what would she most like to say?

No matter how smart the technology is, you can’t map out and decide what and who people are going to become based on statistics and history. Every person is unique and deserves their chance to try and fail-or-succeed. Technology gives us too much of the wrong kind of information. 

Aside from the smartphone, what’s one other piece of modern technology you can easily see evolving in a disturbing kind of way?

Food and the way we eat it. If we don’t start looking after the environment we won’t be able to have the same kind of fresh produce and animal life that we are used to. Our food will become a technology based resource – it will be heavily processed and bolstered by more and more supplements on the side. Already an apple tastes different to when I was a kid. I worry that if we don’t take steps to look after the climate issue, my children’s children will have a very different understanding of food.

How would the Maggie at the beginning of Disruption describe Quentin Mercer, heir to the M-Corp empire? The Maggie at the end?

In the beginning, Maggie would describe Quentin as entitled and predictable. She would also describe him as nothing more than a stepping stone. In the end…well, I think she would describe him as someone she values greatly, and as the person who is her greatest weakness (amongst other things ;)
Thanks so much for stopping by Jessica!

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The heart-stopping first chapter in bestselling author Jessica Shirvington's Disruption series.

What if a microchip could identify your perfect match?

What if it could be used against you and the ones you love?

Eight years ago, Mercer Corporation's M-Bands became mandatory. An evolution of the smartphone, the bracelets promised an easier life. Instead, they have come to control it.

Two years ago, Maggie Stevens watched helplessly as one of the people she loved most was taken from her, shattering her world as she knew it. Now, Maggie is ready. And Quentin Mercer - heir to the M-Corp empire - has become key to Maggie's plan.

But as the pieces of her dangerous design fall into place, could Quentin's involvement destroy everything she's fought for?

In a world full of broken promises, the ones Maggie must keep could be the most heartbreaking.

Find Jessica:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Breaks The Dawn

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!

Sara B. Larson
Young Adult/Fantasy
Releases May 2017 from Scholastic

From Goodreads:

On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Evelayn of Eadrolan, the Light Kingdom, can finally access the full range of her magical powers. The light looks brighter, the air is sharper, and the energy she can draw when fighting feels almost limitless.

But while her mother, the queen, remains busy at the war front, in the Dark Kingdom of Dorjhalon, the corrupt king is plotting. King Bain wants control of both kingdoms, and his plan will fling Evelayn onto the throne much sooner than she expected.

In order to defeat Bain and his sons, Evelayn will quickly have to come into her ability to shapeshift, and rely on the alluring Lord Tanvir. But not everyone is what they seem, and the balance between the Light and Dark comes at a steep price.

I really enjoyed Sara's Defy series, so this one can't release soon enough for me. The heroine of the Defy series was as strong as they come, and it sounds like Evelayn with her magic and her ability to shapeshift is going to be badass in her own right, something that always makes me happy. I'm wondering if she's a swan shifter based on that crown, and if she is, that's not a shifter I've read about before so consider me intrigued. It's possible the swan is more symbolic than literal though, and while now I can't stop hoping for a swan shifter, I'm still counting the days until this book makes its way into my grabby hands!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cathy Reviews: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

My mother in law Cathy is back today to share her latest review from the Shadowhunter world!

Young Adult/Paranormal/Fantasy
672 pages
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available November 15th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Simon Lewis as he trains to become a Shadowhunter is now available in print for the first time with ten brand-new comic illustrations!

Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. The events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. At least Simon’s trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. Written by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, these moving and hilarious short stories are perfect for the fan who just can’t get enough of the Shadowhunters.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is a collaborative effort by Cassandra Clare and several other authors. At first glance, it looks like a book of not-so-short stories. This is a big book, 600 plus pages, but I was nicely surprised that the stories were not disjointed but instead told a continuous story of Simon Lewis's time at the Academy learning to be a Shadowhunter. Simon's story is the thread that holds all the stories together.

For the Mortal Instrument series fan, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. Each story gives us a look at characters from all the different series. It gives some historical background on how some of our favorite characters evolved in this world. And you get visits from some of the most beloved characters, such as Jace, Clary, Jem, and Magnus.

For those who have not read any of the series, never fear, this might be a good introduction. We get to follow Simon's growth as part of this Shadowhunter world and all his insecurities. Ms. Clare gives us enough background information so that we are not floundering. When we meet these old friends, they might stir up enough interest in the Mortal Instrument series that they will all be added to your stack of books to read.

Don't be daunted by the size of this book because it is broken up into many smaller stories and moves quickly. We not only feel Simon's angst and pain while he is learning his trade, we are introduced to several new friends that we become very attached to and want to learn their fate as well. The book is very well rounded even though it is a divided into many parts. Unlike many short story books, these stories need to be read in order to keep a continuous flow in the plotline.

Find Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy:

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, or in this case Cathy's, honest opinion.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Countdown to Heartless: Review

Marissa Meyer
Young Adult/Retelling
464 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available November 8th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless returns us once again to the depths of Ms. Meyer's imagination, granting us access to a world of whimsy and darkness where we're able to view well-known characters through a looking glass all her own.

Catherine wants nothing more than to be covered in sugar and flour all day every day, creating recipes and baking to her heart's content alongside her lady's maid and closest friend, Mary Ann. Given she's the daughter of a marquess however, the path her life takes simply cannot be one of her own choosing, especially when the King of Hearts sets his sights on her. It's so very easy to sympathize with Catherine in the beginning–her dream one that's so simple yet so impossible at the same time– and once we're subjected to the giggly effervescence of the king, we can do nothing but wince along with her every time he opens his mouth and his tittering laugh escapes.

Cath's romance with Jest is full of tension both romantic and forbidden, and though we want to encourage her to follow her heart in this case, a knot of dread deep in our chests pulls tighter every time they're together, wondering when and how it's all going to come crashing down around them given who Cath is destined to become. Though Cath's descent into darkness is at times painful and we find ourselves futiley hoping for an ending we know can never come to pass, it's also a journey that holds us spellbound as Ms. Meyer leads us on a merry dance of wonder and madness. And when the moment comes that we reach the final page and are left with an infamous line ringing in our ears, we simply can't help the Cheshire-like grin that splits our cheeks.

Overall, Heartless is as enormously imaginative as all Ms. Meyer's previous books, and I cannot wait to see what retelling she takes on next.

Rating: 4.5/5

There are only 25 days left until Heartless! Pre-Order your copy:

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One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.

When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).

When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.

Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER is my first novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around too.

I now live with my husband and our three cats (Calexandria Josephine, Stormus Enormous, and Blackland Rockwell III), who go in and out, in and out, about eight hundred times a day. My favorite non-bookish things include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, re-watching episodes of Firefly, and playing all manners of dress-up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Flourish: Halloween Frost

Hey Everyone!

It's been a little while since I've done a flourish post, and today I have a project to share that makes me shake my head in wondrous disbelief every time I look at it. I started this blog nearly 7 years ago, and just before I did so I discovered a little series by a new-to-me author thanks to a blogger recommendation. That "little" series was the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep, one I fell immediately in love with and that has held me captivated through sixteen books and seven years. After finishing the first book Jennifer became an auto-buy author for me, and I devoured everything she wrote as soon as it released, including her YA urban fantasy Mythos Academy series.

Why am I telling you all this in a flourish post you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I had the completely surreal experience of being asked recently to design the cover for Halloween Frost, a Mythos Academy short story. *falls down dead* After I picked my jaw up off the floor and pulled myself together into some semblance of professionalism, I jumped on the project and Jennifer and I began working.

I always start my projects with idea boards – a multi-page PDF that groups together existing covers as well as stock imagery/illustrations and font suggestions into various design concepts – so that I can get a better feel for what my clients are looking for before I move forward with comps. It's basically an outline stage for the design work, and prevents me from going in one direction while my clients are picturing another.

After submitting the initial boards, Jennifer and I both knew we wanted to move forward with an illustrated cover (YES!) that created an entirely new brand for the Mythos books. Given this short story is Halloween-themed, we started by focusing on that element, working pumpkins, bats, spiderwebs and a black panther-type creature called a Nemean Prowler in and around the title.

While the first comps were cute, the general consensus was that they were almost too cute, and read younger than we wanted them to. We thought it was likely the classic Halloween elements that were giving us the more middle grade feel, so we abandoned that concept entirely and decided to focus on just the town and the prowler.

Jennifer was taken with the first of the revised comps, but there was a concern that emphasizing the paranormal creature might be tricky from a series perspective as the creatures in future books venture into lesser known mythological beasts, and thus might make them harder to find in stock illustrations. (I'm not an illustrator, so I always start with a stock illustration as a base, and the build from there to create something new.) We ended up keeping a few of the main design elements from that comp, but eliminated the prowler and played up the town's clock tower instead, while also making a few adjustments to the overall color scheme.

While we both liked the new color scheme and the changes to the clock tower, the cover just didn't have the same impact and sense of danger as it did with the prowler, so we retraced our steps and went back to the prowler design, taking the new color scheme, font, and clock tower changes with us. The final cover is one I'm infinitely proud of and so honored to have worked on, and I hope you guys love it as much as Jennifer and I do!

HALLOWEEN FROST (Mythos Academy #1.5)
(available now!)

It’s Halloween at Mythos Academy, and Gwen Frost and her friends are ready to have a little fun. But when a mythological monster shows up, the night turns out to be more trick than treat.
Halloween Frost takes place in between the events of Touch of Frost, book #1, and Kiss of Frost, book #2, in the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series. The short story is about 6,500 words.
Halloween Frost was originally published in Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology, in 2011.

Find Jennifer:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: The Lovely Reckless

Kami Garcia
Contemporary Young Adult
384 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

The Lovely Reckless is a fairly straightforward bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold meets good-girl-going-through-a-difficult-time tale, but though the romance between Frankie and Marco sings a familiar tune, their story is still compulsively readable, and we find ourselves turning the last page before it feels as though any time has passed.

Frankie is a young woman reeling from the brutal murder of her boyfriend, flashbacks sweeping her feet out from under her with increasing frequency as she starts at a new school, and we can't help but feel for her as she struggles to once again find her footing. Though she's unsteady emotionally, she doesn't wallow or despair of the poor choices she's made, and while she wants desperately to remember specifics from the night Noah died (as she was a witness), she doesn't berate herself for developing feelings for Marco or engage in a push/pull type of relationship when guilt for moving on kicks in. Instead she lets herself have moments of happiness, and when things go sideways on her, she speaks her mind and spares us as readers unnecessary drama.

The romance with Marco does happen fairly quickly, and though the fact that the best looking guy in school complete with womanizing reputation, ripped body and inked skin falls head over heels for the new girl does require us to suspend disbelief a bit, Ms. Garcia's fluid writing style and storytelling quickly squash our reservations, whispering in our ear to keep reading even when bed and sleep are calling our name. 

Overall, The Lovely Reckless is a super quick read, perfect for those who want to pick up a book and just be entertained, with a sweet romance highlighted by a young woman who doesn't play games and does her best to fight not just for those around her, but for herself as well.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kami:

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, October 7, 2016

Review: Beast

Brie Spangler
Contemporary Young Adult
336 pages
Available October 11th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

Beast is a beautiful contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast, calling into question the standard definitions of both words as we look through the eyes of a young man struggling to find any semblance of comfort in his own skin.

We're treated to Dylan's point of view throughout, his self-deprecating sense of humor making us laugh right out of the gate even as we hurt for him, feeling the sting of casually flung words that strike far deeper than likely intended. He loathes his appearance, wanting desperately to be shorter and smoother so that his days might not be filled with laughter directed at him but rather with him thanks to packaging that better reflects the man he feels he is. He's a sympathetic character from the beginning, and we can't help but feel as overprotective as his adorable (and text-obsessed) mother when those around him tear at his self-confidence with insult-tipped claws.

He meets Jamie in group therapy, and having a gorgeous young woman actually talk to him–rather than look at him in fear and then recount her close encounter with the Beast to her friends later–gives him cause for a genuine smile instead of a forced one. He misses the fact that Jamie is trans when she admits it in group, but thankfully that misunderstanding doesn't continue too long, and we're spared the drawn-out suspense of knowing something Dylan doesn't while his relationship with Jamie unfolds. Though he doesn't handle it well in the moment, he does make a valiant effort to apologize to Jamie, and we get to spend the latter half of the book watching as Dylan gets out of his own way and lets his heart do the thinking.

Overall, Beast is a quick read with a truly lovable male protagonist who gets tripped up by perception and the opinions of others, but manages to get up again and walks away seeing clearer for having done so.

Rating: 4/5

Find Brie:

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: A Promise of Fire

The Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Amanda Bouchet
Fantasy Romance
448 pages
Available Now
Source: Bought

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

A Promise of Fire is a fun start to this series, a romance lighter in tone beautifuly paired with a dire prophecy and impending battle with a villain of seemingly epic proportions.

Cat is a little tricky in the beginning, letting Griffin and his team know frequently and sometimes violently how she feels about being kidnapped, and while her situation is clearly not one that should cause her to jump for joy (and it's easy to appreciate her unwillingness to passively accept her circumstances), her constant insults and well-timed barbs start to get a bit tedious after a while. Just shy of the halfway mark though she starts to change her tune, and the banter between her and Griffin thankfully loses its edge, becoming significantly more genuine while still making us laugh. After her shift in attitude, her sense of humor becomes a highlight rather than a source of frustration, and the bond between her and Griffin–as well as that between her and his men–has us glancing at the clock late at night and saying "just one more hour".

We get a few glimpses of Cat's past, enough to be able to hazard a guess as to who she really is despite not getting confirmation in this first installment, and it's clear that behind the snark and the badassery are shadows and blood, lying in wait make her a victim once again. She shows a great deal of growth over the course of this first book, from hiding at the circus with impenetrable emotional armor in place in the beginning to standing tall and unleashing hell in order to protect those she's come to love by the end. She will undoubtedly continue to grow as her story unfolds, and it should be nothing short of a delight to bear witness to the woman she will become.

The final death-defying moments are a touch anti-climatic given the epic dragon battle midway through and the impressively brutal fight leading up to the last few chapters, leaving us just a tiny bit underwhelmed when our final "battle" is with someone of so little importance to the overall story. That very minor complaint aside though, A Promise of Fire is an outstanding read overall, and January cannot come soon enough to reunite me with Cat, Griffin, and his immensely lovable family.

Rating: 4/5

Find Amanda:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Lovely Reckless Blog Tour: Interview with Cover Designer Natalie C. Sousa

Welcome to my stop on The Lovely Reckless Blog Tour! Author Kami Garcia was so nice as to ask all participating bloggers what type of content they'd most like to feature, and since cover design is such a point of interest for me (and I know so many of you as well), I asked if it would be possible to ask the designer a few questions. To my delight, Natalie C. Sousa, Creative Director at Imprint (Macmillan) and the cover designer for The Lovely Reckless, agreed to an interview and let me pick her brain about her overall process. I hope you guys enjoy!

How does a cover design typically start for you? Do you begin with sketches? Idea boards?

Natalie Sousa: I start by sketching concepts as thumbnails, and take it in stages. Usually I begin just after reading a summary. This puts me in the same mental space a consumer might approach the book from. I sketch some more ideas half way through reading the manuscript, and again once I've processed the ending. There have been times where the ending really changed the way I felt about a story, and I like to capture all of those reactions.

With The Lovely Reckless, did you have a specific concept or concepts going in? And if so, how did those change as you started designing?

Natalie: Erin Stein, the publisher of Imprint started the process with Kami before I was hired. They knew exactly the energy and style they wanted to convey from the very beginning. I love when designs work out to follow someone's original vision. When I started at Imprint this cover was in its sketch stage. From there we were playing with the chemistry between the couple and deciding what, if any, other elements would help to tell more about the book.

What stage of the design process is typically the most challenging for you (deciding on a design direction, image or font selection, first comps, revisions, etc.)?

Natalie: It used to be deciding on a direction, because what I visualize, or an editor envisions, or an author wishes, and a sales team needs for a cover are usually different. Erin and I have developed a close working relationship, and we're always talking about our books. That kind of dialogue helps me have very clear direction.

If you could tweak any one of your already published covers, which would you most like to get your hands on one more time?
Natalie: Recently I got to chat with Brenna Yovanoff and told her how I'd love to go back and place a hand rising from the baby carriage on her book, The Replacements. Although that cover is probably creepy enough as is!

Can you share a couple early versions of The Lovely Reckless and tell us what about them worked or didn’t work?

Natalie: Here is an early sketch from Loui Jover, the artist. We were missing some chemistry in this earlier sketch. Showing the characters full length helped because the body language said a lot more.

This is an early cover comp from Liz Casal, an incredibly talented designer. She had a clever solution to indicating the car by lighting the brick wall with “headlights”. That element was dropped because it didn’t quite work with the final color palette and title design.


Favorite font?

Font you wish you’d never have to see again?

Favorite cover you’ve done?

It does not exist yet.

All-time favorite cover?

A Wrinkle In Time

Cover designer who inspires you?

There are many, but Kristin Smith, an Art Director at Penguin, inspires me with her designs and her friendship! Back in our shared Penguin days we used to make elaborate costumes for Halloween and Coney Island's Mermaid Parade together. Kristin always inspired me to get into the details of a costume. Her book design for Danielle Vega's The Merciless is also one of my all time favorite book designs! I cannot resist a hot pink bible.

Favorite color?

My preference often changes, so I’ll say it’s the rainbow.

Must have when designing (food, music, etc.)?

Definitely music! I like to create playlists inspired by the stories I'm designing for. My favorite so far has been for Marcie Colleen's Super Happy Party Bears. Kami Garcia's next book is already inspiring a playlist; first couple songs on there have been Special by Garbage and Bulletproof by La Roux.

If you weren’t a designer you would be . . .?

Here’s my "card".

Number of projects you’re currently working on?

More than I have fingers and toes.

Next cover of yours you’re most excited to reveal?

Blind Item by Kevin Dickson and Jack Ketsoyan. Kevin and Jack are two Hollywood insiders writing a fictional tale with real-life scandals! It’s a super fun read. I got a really strong reaction to the cover from the Macmillan team and I'm curious to see how the public responds. 

Thank you so much Natalie! 

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia, a contemporary romance full of loss, love and redemption…

Seventeen year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad―an undercover cop. She transfers to public school in the Downs, where fistfights in the halls don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him . . . and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

Your own heart will race with each page turn of this heart-stopping star-crossed love story.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Photo Credit: Vania Stoyanva

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times, USA Today & international bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures novels. Kami’s solo series, The Legion, includes the instant New York Times bestseller UNBREAKABLE, and the sequel UNMARKED. Her forthcoming YA contemporary romance THE LOVELY RECKLESS releases on October 4, 2016, followed by THE X-FILESORIGINS: AGENT OF CHAOS, a novel about a teenage Fox Mulder, in January 2017, both from Imprint (Macmillan).

Kami was a teacher for seventeen years before co-authoring her first novel on a dare from seven of her students. If she isn’t busy watching Supernatural, Kami can teach you how to escape from a pair of handcuffs or bake a Coca-Cola cake. She lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and Oz (named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Visit Kami at and on Twitter and Instagram @kamigarcia.