Monday, March 31, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Moth and Spark

Anne Leonard
368 pages
Viking Adult
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control.

Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen.

Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

Moth and Spark is a rich fantasy story, delighting us with dragons, royalty, magic and romance all intricately linked together to create a truly beautiful fictional tapestry. Though the mere mention of dragons brings a smile to our faces and our main couple Corin and Tam prove themselves to be characters we won't soon forget, this story does take some time to get started, sparse dialogue and long descriptive passages dominating the first quarter of the book as we're introduced to the politics responsible for an impending war. The fact that Corin and Tam don't even officially meet until nearly the 75 page mark is one of the main reasons the pacing in the first section seems to drag a touch, our desire for an emotional connection so strong that it causes us some disappointment when we're met with detailed descriptions instead of the forging of new relationships between the characters. It's not to say that the writing isn't gorgeous because it quite simply is, but we can't help but wish the pages turned with a little more speed.

Once Corin and Tam have their fateful meeting in the palace library things pick up a bit, the joy of seeing them together piquing our interest and the complications of their respective social statuses transfixing us in a way the early chapters of the book didn't. Tam is a woman who's mouth gets away from her on occasion, much to her chagrin and our amusement, her dry wit and sense of humor bringing a smile to our faces as she and Corin begin their courtship. She's not shy about speaking her mind nor is she suddenly demure when she learns who Corin actually is, instead she has to open her mouth entertainingly wide in order to accommodate her foot again and again. Their romance develops quickly—just a matter of days passing before love is declared—but with a war hovering on the horizon it's not difficult to understand how their feelings might carry greater weight in a shorter amount of time. Corin is charming, respectful and never threatened by Tam's sharp mind and tongue, and the two of them are beautifully honest with one another throughout, reassuring us every step of the way that theirs is a relationship that will overcome all that faces them because a united front simply cannot fall.

Despite a fairly slow beginning and some tedious moments here and there in the middle, Moth and Spark ends strongly in a dramatic flurry of flapping wings and ancient magic, the dragons finally taking center stage in all their fantastical glory. We're left with things nicely concluded, no unsanswered questions or jaw-dropping cliffhangers to make us age prematurely, instead a lingering smile dances across our faces as we close the back cover, content and satisfied with the resolution romantically, politically and militarily.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Anne:

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.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Thanks to the fabulous team at Viking, I have a copy of Moth and Spark to give away on the blog today! To enter, please just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (no PO boxes).

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Post of Pretty: HarlequinTEEN Cover Reveals

I just wanted to put a quick post together today highlighting some of the recent covers revealed by HarlequinTEEN because, well, I love book covers and good design, and Harlequin never disappoints! For those of you who don't know, every Thursday on HarlequinTEEN's Facebook page they reveal the cover of one of their upcoming releases. This past Thursday they unveiled the covers for the next three parts in Clara Kensie's paranormal young adult serial novel, Run To You. I so enjoyed the first three installments (First Sight, Second Glance, Third Charm) and can't wait to see how the rest of Tessa and Tristan's story unfolds.

Underneath the Run To You covers are some other new(ish)ly released HarlequinTEEN covers, some of which you may have seen already, but they're just so pretty I couldn't help but include them as well.

Which of the below is your favorite?

Releasing July 7th

With no more secrets keeping them apart, Tessa and Tristan explore Tessa's developing psychic powers and embark upon a desperate search to find her missing brother and sister. But not even Tristan can keep Tessa safe from the hostile classmates at her new school, or from the nightmare that haunts her even while she's awake.

Releasing July 14th

Tessa’s nightmares feel all too real, and the hope of getting her family back together has never seemed so slim. Although a psychic warns her that leaving town may mean her death, Tessa cannot stay when she uncovers a new lead to her brother and sister. Not even if she must go alone and risk losing Tristan forever.

Releasing July 21st 

To save Tessa's brother and sister, she and Tristan must deceive the entire town. But if their plan succeeds, Tessa will have to make an unbearable choice between her siblings and her true love. And when her nightmares become real, she may lose it all—her family, her boyfriend and even her life.

• • • • •  

Releases August 26th

Sometimes, I dream that I'm someone else.

A girl with dark hair who doesn't worry about hunger or thirst or running from flesh-eaters.

In her world, those sorts of things don't exist.

Since the spring of 2036, when the world changed forever, Claudia and a small clan of survivors have roamed the streets of a very altered Nashville: polluted and desolate, except for the ever-present threat of cannibal Hoarders. Together they must undergo punishing tests of endurance and psychological challenge sometimes with devastating consequences all just to live another day.

With food and water in dwindling supply, and with danger lurking around every corner, no one can be trusted. And as her world starts to make less and less sense, Claudia begins to realize something terrifying: she is just a pawn in some sort of game, and all of her actions are being controlled from afar by a mysterious gamer. So when she meets a maddening and fascinating outsider named Declan, who claims to be a game moderator, she must decide whether to join him in exchange for protection and access to the border.

If they play the game right, they are each other's best hope for survival and a life beyond the only world Claudia's ever known: the terrifying live-action game known as The Aftermath.

 • • • • •  
The Aquarathi #2
Releases July 29th

The coronation is over.

But the battle has just begun.

Nerissa Marin has won her crown. But can she keep it? Already, her ties to the human realm are driving a wedge between Nerissa and her people. When word arrives that her part-human prince consort, Lo, has been poisoned, she makes the difficult choice to leave Waterfell and return landside. As the royal courts debate her decision, even more disturbing rumors surface: a plot is rising against her, led by someone she least expects.

On land, Nerissa learns another shocking truth–Lo does not remember who she is. As her choice to try to save him threatens her hold on her crown, changing loyalties and uncertainty test her courage in ways she could never have imagined. Nerissa will have one last chance to prove herself as a queen …and save the undersea kingdom she loves.

 • • • • •  

Releases June 24th

Coe is one of the few remaining teenagers on the island of Tides. Deformed and weak, she is constantly reminded that in a world where dry land dwindles at every high tide, she is not welcome.

The only bright spot in her harsh and difficult life is the strong, capable Tiam—but love has long ago been forgotten by her society. The only priority is survival.

Until the day their King falls ill, leaving no male heir to take his place. Unrest grows, and for reasons Coe cannot comprehend, she is invited into the privileged circle of royal aides. She soon learns that the dying royal is keeping a secret that will change their world forever.

Is there an escape from the horrific nightmare that their island home has become? Coe must race to find the answers and save the people she cares about, before their world and everything they know is lost to the waters.

 • • • • • 

Releases June 24th

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stolen Songbird Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

Today I'm absurdly excited to welcome author Danielle L. Jensen to the blog to celebrate the upcoming release of her young adult fantasy novel, Stolen Songbird. I couldn't have loved this book any more if I tried, it simply blew me away with its rich storytelling and characterization, and I need the next book in my hands like I need chocolate on a bad day. Danielle was nice enough to answer a few questions about Stolen Songbird for me, so I hope you all enjoy the interview, but even more so I hope you add this book to your lists!

If Cecile were starring in a musical production or opera about her time in Trollus, what would the titles of her opening and closing numbers be?

She’d open with My Day Went From Bad To Worse and close with Feeling All The Feels.

You wake up one morning and find yourself in the labyrinth surrounding Trollus. What character from any book, movie or TV show would you most want with you to help you navigate your way through?

Ack! Waking up in a dark enclosed space is one of my worst nightmares! Hmmm, surviving the labyrinth requires intelligence more than anything, so I think I’d want to be there with the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. I’m confident he could find his way out, and if not, meeting my end with Benedict Cumberbatch wouldn’t be the worst way to go. 

We don't know too much about the witch who cursed the trolls by the end of Stolen Songbird, but what we do learn raises some interesting questions. Who is your all-time favorite witch, good or evil, from any piece of fiction?

Right now, my favourite witch is absolutely Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. Have you seen the most recent trailer? The little laugh she does at the end pretty much epitomizes evil. I really enjoy when the bad guy/gal is the protagonist, because I think it’s a mark of great storytelling when you find yourself wanting them to succeed in their diabolical plan. 

Cecile knows Tristan is keeping some big secrets from her, but she holds out hope that in time he'll trust her enough to share them. What's one small thing–a quirk or habit of his–that Tristan would prefer Cecile never know about?

That he can’t sing a note :) Tristan totally has a Type-A personality that drives him to be good at everything he does, but despite his best efforts even his whistling is out of tune. It’s one of the reasons he admires her abilities so much. Not that he’d ever confess to it. 

If you lived in the palace with Cecile and had access to the extensive library, what books would you most wish were on the shelves?

That depends. If I were a human prisoner like Cecile, I’d probably go searching for books that explained the trolls’ mysterious history and origin – a secret book full of answers. But if I were a troll living in the palace, I’d probably be like Tristan and want the shelves to be full of escapist novels, because I’d be endlessly fascinated by what life was like in the outside world.

There is many a story about the trolls that human parents in Cecile’s world use as cautionary tales for their children. If Cecile was able to get a message to her family (without breaking any oath) regarding what the trolls are really like, what would she most want them to know?

That appearances are not always what they seem.

Two of Tristan's closest friends, the twins, are hugely competitive. If they lived in our world, what competitive sport do you think they would most excel at or most like to play?

I think the twins would excel at track and field sports like shotput, javalin, longjump, and hurdles, because they appeal to their strengths. However, Victoria and Vincent are always up for obscure challenges, so I think if you proposed a dance-off, they would not decline. They might even ask you to judge. 

One might describe Stolen Songbird as dark given the lack of natural light in Trollus. What one word might you use to describe book two?

Well, I’m not done writing it yet, but so far it’s an uneasy sort of book. Everyone is very tense, so I think that’s the word I’ll go with. Stolen Songbird is dark, but there are a lot of light-hearted moments. In the sequel, the stakes are higher and the characters are faced with a lot of difficult choices. I’m much crueler to all my characters in the sequel – I don’t think anyone gets by unscathed. Not even the twins…

*Jenny bites off all her nails and heads to the kitchen for chocolate...*

• • • • • • • • • • • 


For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

• • • • • • • • • • • •


Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


Thanks to Danielle, I have a signed copy of Stolen Songbird up for grabs today! To enter, please just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada only.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Stolen Songbird

The Malediction Trilogy #1
Danielle L. Jensen
Young Adult/Fantasy
436 pages
Strange Chemistry
Available April 1st
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Stolen Songbird is everything we could hope for in a fantasy story, a richly complex world enhanced by the beautifully layered characters who inhabit it to ensure we’re captivated from first page to last. The dark and cavernous environment of Trollus is not as sprawling as some fantasy worlds, its more self-contained nature allowing us to wrap our minds around its layout with far more ease than is sometimes the case with fantasy novels. We’re also given enough history as to the how’s of the trolls’ curse so that the legs we’re standing on in this world feel solid beneath us, but the why’s are left a bit more up in the air, piquing our curiosity as our hearts and imaginations are taken on an unforgettable ride.

Cecile is an absolute delight, a fairly ordinary young woman in terms of physical strength who finds herself at the mercy of a group far stronger than she is, but yet she fights tooth and nail for her freedom in a way we can imagine ourselves doing were we taken against our wills. She’s easy to relate to from the onset, and while we admire the way she doesn’t simply roll over and expose her vulnerable belly to the more powerful trolls, where she impresses us most is the way in which she fights, knowing when to push and when to sit back, observe, and sort through information about her captors as it comes to her. She doesn’t give up on escape, but neither does she have tunnel vision with regard to it, letting herself get to know the trolls she’s surrounded by and opening herself up–albeit warily–to Tristan rather than holding her circumstances against him every moment of every day.

The romance is as stunning as the rest of the story, starting out largely antagonistic thanks to the kidnapping and the enormous secrets about where Tristan’s loyalties lie, but thanks to time and a bond that allows them to feel each other’s emotions, the two of them build something warm, beautiful, and so memorable as to guarantee they land themselves on our list of top fictional couples. The fact that they can sense what the other is feeling is a fascinating aspect, the assumption upon hearing such a thing being that it would allow them to fall in love faster, with the bond acting as a window to the other’s heart and soul they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. What we find, however, is that the bond muddies their waters in the most striking way, forcing both them and us to look deeper at every emotion for not only what they’re feeling, but also the root cause of it. The result is a relationship that’s simultaneously strong and fragile, the two of them partners in every sense of the word but yet we feel how tenuous each emotion flowing between them is, understanding that the slightest tug will snap those threads free and leave both of them reeling.

Another aspect that makes the romance one we’re fully invested in is Cecile’s honesty despite the situation she’s found herself in, willing to display her trust in Tristan in order to win his in return. While Tristan is not as forthcoming with his secrets as Cecile is with hers, he’s at least honest about the fact that he’s keeping things from her, allowing her to know his dark corners exist without fully shining light upon them. The two of them together are a joy to read about, and though we might wish for a little bit more information in a couple areas (namely Tristan’s destructive brother Roland), overall this first installment is mesmerizing on a variety of levels. We’re left with hearts bruised but not broken, the strength of Cecile’s will, her ability to adapt to any situation, and her shining love for Tristan all giving us hope that book two will return to us what the end of this first book takes away.

Rating: 4.5/5
Find Danielle:

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, March 26, 2014

Guest Post: A.J. Hartley + Act of Will

I'm pleased today to have author A.J. Hartley stopping by the blog to talk a little bit about his young adult fantasy adventure novel, Act of Will. The fantasy genre as a whole is one that's really been growing on me this past year, so I'm always on the lookout for as many fantasy books as I can get my hot little hands on, and I can't wait to give this one a try. Welcome to Supernatural Snark, A.J.!


I have a thing about lighthouses. I know that sounds weird when you put it baldly like that, but it’s true and I suspect (hope) I’m not alone. I’ll try to explain why in a second, but let me explain WHY I’m talking about lighthouses at all.

There’s one in my book.

That’s pretty much it. It’s not central to the plot or anything, but it features in a key moment. Allow me to set it up for you.

Will Hawthorne is an 18 year old actor in a world that looks a lot like late medieval or Elizabethan England (which is where I’m from: the country, not the time period [cause that would mean I am like 500 years old, which I’m not]). Will is a snarky, no nonsense kind of guy, used to living on his wits and theatrical talents, but he falls foul of the authorities (easy to do in this world) and winds up traveling with a group of high minded adventurers. These guys have been hired to figure out who is terrorizing a region far from anything Will has ever seen. It looks like there may be magic involved but Will thinks that’s absurd because there is, as everyone knows, no such thing as magic…


Will and his new found “friends” (at least one of whom needs the smallest of excuses to kill him right where he stands), have travelled to said far-off land and have been hired to escort a crucial cargo from a minor port to its market-town destination.

So far so good.

Except that their mysterious enemy have a knack for showing up in the middle of nowhere with just enough troops to wipe out their target with minimal loss to themselves, and then vanish into the mist as if they had never been there. Will, who is determined to find rational explanations for everything, insists his colleagues search a nearby ghost town where the enemy horsemen might be hiding out.

This is where they find the lighthouse and where things star to get hairy.

Now, I’ll be honest. When I was writing the book a few years ago, I had not intended to include this episode. I had the cargo idea in place and had imagined a scene on the road involving Will and the others encountering the enemy he comes to know as the Crimson Raiders, but I had not thought anything of the previous moments when the cargo first arrived by ship. This scene came to me when I was visiting a friend in northern California and we went out to a lighthouse. I had also recently visited one on Cape Cod, and one in Wales. I just can’t get enough of them, it seems.

Lighthouses are, for me, images of isolation, of defiance, of hope. Though their modern incarnations are heavily mechanized and computerized, there is something vaguely timeless about the idea of these beacons along the coast, the glimmer of light that keeps sailors alive as they navigate the cold, black water of the sea. I picture the solitary lighthouse keeper trudging those tight spiral staircases up into the storm, tending the lamp, alone and precarious up there on that narrow platform above the treacherous rocks. It’s a lonely life, I think, one driven by routine but also by a persistent idea that if you stop what you are doing, people will die.

Lighthouses are like castles, remnants of major events, witnesses to life-and-death struggles out there in the dark where the waves crash on the stony headland, where people’s very existences depend on that one rotating glimmer in the night. And like castles they are invariably desolate places, especially at night, places of shadow and wind where normal people don’t go. Outside they are haunting and isolate. Inside they are claustrophobic and cut-off from the rest of the world. They reek of atmosphere, of dread and danger…

How can I resist?

So yes, there’s a lighthouse in Act of Will. There wasn’t supposed to be, but there is, and I love it. I rewrote the plot to include it and the result is one of my favorite scenes in the book, but I’ll say no more about that for now. Wouldn’t want to spoil the story :)

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Act of Will is a rollicking fantasy adventure that introduces us to Will Hawthorne, a medieval actor and playwright who flees the authorities only to find himself inextricably bound to a group of high-minded adventurers on a deadly mission. Will travels with them to a distant land where they are charged with the investigation and defeat of a ruthless army of mystical horsemen, who appear out of the mist leaving death and devastation in their wake. In the course of Will’s uneasy alliance with his new protectors, he has to get his pragmatic mind to accept selfless heroism (which he thinks is absurd) and magic (which he doesn’t believe in). Will must eventually decide where his loyalties really lie and how much he is prepared to do--and believe--to stand up for them.

• • • • • • • • • • •


Andrew James Hartley is the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies, specializing in performance theory, theatre history and dramaturgy. His academic books include The Shakespearean Dramaturg (Palgrave 2006), Julius Caesar (Shakespeare in Performance series, Manchester UP 2013), Shakespeare and Political Theatre (Palgrave 2013) and Shakespeare on the University Stage (Cambridge UP 2014). He was the editor of the performance journal Shakespeare Bulletin (Johns Hopkins UP) from 2003-2013 and is an Associate Artist at Georgia Shakespeare where he was resident dramaturg.

He teaches Renaissance theatre history and Shakespeare, blending literary and historical critical practices with a material sense of contemporary theatre. He also works as a dramaturg and occasional director for campus productions of early modern drama.

As A.J. Hartley he is also the bestselling author of a dozen mystery, thriller and fantasy novels for children and adults, including the Darwen Arkwright series for middle grades readers, the first of which won best young adult novel of 2012 by SIBA. With David Hewson he has written adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet.

Dr. Hartley received his undergraduate degree from Manchester University (UK) and his Masters and Ph.D. from Boston University.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Nearly Gone

Elle Cosimano
Young Adult/Mystery
388 pages
Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin)
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.

Nearly Gone is a story that acts as a beautiful reminder of everything we love about reading, sucking us in with a well-executed murder mystery and just a touch of romance; the combination of the two allowing for a couple of late nights as we race against the clock to find out the who and why of it all. The mystery itself is just complicated enough to ensure our minds are working overtime to solve the myriad of literal puzzles the murderer leaves behind for Nearly, but not so convoluted as to create distance between us and the story. We do figure one or two things out with regard to the numbers well before Nearly does, but many times those who are closest to something are the ones who can’t see as clearly, so her inability to make certain connections isn't overly bothersome. The killer and his or her reasons remain intriguingly hidden from us throughout though, a good size suspect pool keeping us on our toes and guessing until the final showdown.

Nearly is a strong heroine–not a horror movie cliche who does the exact opposite of what is smart and logical and therefore unsurprisingly finds herself in a place she shouldn’t be–and we can’t help but be pleased with the way she handles things. When she first discovers the link between the personal ads and the attacks on her fellow students, instead of deciding to solve the case on her own, she runs immediately to the police and tells them everything she knows. It’s only when she’s basically laughed out of the police station and added to the top of the suspect list that she starts trying to decipher the riddles herself, something we really can’t blame her for doing. There are of course a multitude of moments when things begin to escalate that she undoubtedly should have gone to the police yet again, but it’s easy to suspend disbelief a touch because we find ourselves as desperate for answers as Nearly is.

In addition to the mysterious deaths of her classmates, we’re also treated to a slow burning romance between Nearly and new student/undercover agent Reece. Nearly is aware of exactly who and what Reece is from the beginning, removing some of the tension and worry that comes from knowing a hurtful secret our protagonist doesn’t, and it's because she knows of Reece’s involvement with the police that she’s extra wary of him. Though she understandably keeps this knowledge to herself for a while, she’s not the type of character who withholds information from him throughout, eventually opening up to him fully and allowing him to help her rather than causing a series of miscommunications by deliberate omission. She handles the relationship between them perfectly, trusting in moderation as their initial friendship begins to progress into something more, and blissfully holding off on declarations of love until she’s had the time to get to know all facets of him rather than just the ones he wants her to see.

The romance, while present, takes a definitive backseat to the mystery, allowing the connection between the numbers and Nearly’s life the majority of the time in the spotlight. As a result, we flip the pages with increasing speed, frantic to reach the end where all our answers await. When we do reach the final chapters, we find the various threads woven together beautifully, all our lingering questions addressed and our hearts warm with satisfaction on both the romantic and murder mystery fronts. A hugely enjoyable read, Nearly Gone shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 4/5

Find Elle:

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Fire & Flood

Fire & Flood #1
Victoria Scott
Young Adult/Dystopian
304 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Fire & Flood is thrilling and action-packed, the life and death situations accompanied by no shortage of humor to ensure we're pulled into Tella's world mentally and emotionally as she fights for a way to save her brother's life. Tella's sense of humor is a pleasant surprise, something we're not really expecting given the gravity of the premise, but it's an aspect of the story we find ourselves extraordinarily thankful for when it catches us slightly off guard in the moments we need it most. Tella's entrance into the Brimstone Bleed happens quickly, preventing us early on in the story from truly understanding the seriousness of the race itself until death is suddenly bearing down on us in the wilds of the jungle, and from there things for Tella and the rest of the contestants only get darker. As a result, Tella's witty one-liners delivered in the intimacy of her own internal monologues are like a warm hand holding our own, letting us know this situation has not yet gotten the best of her and giving us the strength we need to face down what we know will be increasingly difficult to endure.

Tella is an easily lovable heroine, someone whose aforementioned dry humor is a balm to the deep wounds decorating our hearts as the race continues, and whose unrelenting dedication to her older brother has us in her corner from the very beginning. She has moments where the pressures of the race start to overwhelm her and her mind wanders to the possibility of taking the out offered to contestants at the end of each leg, but all she has do do is repeat her brother's name to herself and she finds her strength renewed. She's not a gifted survivalist in any way, making it very easy for us as readers to put ourselves in her shoes, and she's thankfully not above relying on others to help her find her footing, fully acknowledging she needs help now and then to overcome the challenges the race puts forth.

There is a romantic thread woven through the dangerous fabric of the Brimstone Bleed, but its not a relationship that steals the spotlight from race itself, rather it pops into prominence with perfect timing just when the weight of the challenges start to take their toll, allowing our hearts to feel the rejuvenating warmth of human affection before we're returned to the cold reality of survival. Guy is a little tricky in the early stages of their relationship, oddly averse to Tella for reasons we can't quite comprehend, and while we never learn exactly why he didn't want to partner with her initially, he does slowly warm to her (or more accurately, is slowly worn down by her endearing moments of social awkwardness) and they become a couple we're rooting for to defeat odds that are overwhelmingly stacked against them.

Those more inquisitive readers who prefer a lot of backstory as to how something like the Brimstone Bleed came to be might find themselves a little disappointed throughout, the history of the race something held just outside of our reach for majority of the book. Toward the end however, Ms. Scott does grant us some much needed understanding, and while the reason for the race's creation seems just a touch far-fetched even in a fictional situation, the story and characters more than make up for it. This is lightning-quick and emotional read, tears threatening to spill over in the final chapters as the second leg of the race wraps up, but a determination that mirrors Tella's own thrums through our blood and tempers the sadness as we look forward to the next installment.

Rating: 4/5

Find Victoria:

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, March 21, 2014

Interview: Amie Kaufman + Meagan Spooner

I'm so pleased today to welcome authors Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner to the blog to answer a few questions about their outstanding YA science fiction novel, These Broken Stars. I read These Broken Stars a while back and fell madly in love with it, but due to crazy schedules on both sides, I'm just now getting this interview up and I'm so excited to share it with all of you! If you haven't had the chance to read These Broken Stars yet, I can't recommend it enough.

We don’t get to spend too much time on the Icarus before tragedy strikes, so our glimpse of the grandeur of her is fleeting. If you both were on-board as first-class guests, how would your days likely be spent?

Gosh, what wouldn’t we do? We’d hang out in the salon a little (like Tarver, we’d want to check out the books) and we’d want to explore the huge gardens, and the viewing decks where you can see the colours of hyperspace—imagine the Northern Lights—whirling past the glass dome. And then someone would work out we’re writers, and march us down to third-class where we belong!

Lilac and Tarver get off to a bit of a rocky start, each finding themselves stranded with someone who doesn’t particularly care for them. If in those early days they could have handpicked a companion from a different young adult novel to replace the one they were with, who would each of them have chosen?

Wow, that’s a tough question! Tarver probably would have picked someone tough and capable, maybe June from Marie Lu’s Legend series. When they first crashed, Lilac had no idea what she was in for, so she would’ve likely picked someone who would be better company, rather than someone competent. She would’ve enjoyed palling around with Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games, or Persis Blake from Across a Star-Swept Sea. (Though of course, Persis actually IS competent, she just hides it well!)

You both end up on the escape pod with Lilac and Tarver, crash landing with them on an unknown planet. What’s one quality or skill each of you possesses that would come in handy given your circumstances?

Amie: I don’t think we’d be anyone’s companion of choice, but I do know how to start a fire, so that’s something. If we were truly shipwrecked I’d be much more useful—I’ve been sailing since before I took my first steps.

Meg: I don’t run very fast, so if anything came after us it’d probably eat me before it’d eat any of the others. I imagine they’d find that pretty handy.

After enduring weeks in a survival situation like Lilac and Tarver’s, what is the first comfort food you would seek out upon being rescued?

Amie: Giant hamburger. I’ve done a lot of hiking, and that’s always one of two things I daydream about while I’m away from it all. The other is fresh, crunchy apples.

Meg: Korean-style fried chicken, and lots of chocolate afterward.

What is a favorite line from the book each of you has that was written by the other person?

Amie: There are so, so many things Meg wrote that are just beautiful and lyrical. It’s so hard to choose one! There’s one, though, that conjures up an image I adore:
Tarver lowers himself down again, arm circling my waist. His voice is soft and warm by my hear. “What is this place?”

I have no answer for him, and we watch the false moon in silence. For a dizzying moment I see us as if from above, a tiny lump in the blue-black sea of grass, nearly swallowed by the vastness of the plains.
Meg: Amie’s pretty much hilarious, and that comes through in Tarver’s personality and not-so-hidden sense of snark. I still laugh at some of the things he says, despite having read them over dozens of times by now. One of my favorites happens very early on, when Tarver’s struggling with how difficult it is to drag Lilac through the woods. He asks if she wants to take a break, and here’s her reply:
She considers the question, then nods, reaching up to tuck her hair back where it belongs. “Where will I sit?”

Sit? Why, on this comfortable chaise lounge I’ve carried here for you in my pocket, Your Highness, so glad you asked.

I clamp my mouth shut, struggling not to say it aloud.
Thank you so much Amie and Meg!

• • • • • • • • • • •


It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

Find Amie:
Find Meagan:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Under Nameless Stars Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

I'm thrilled today to be a part of the promotional blog tour for Under Nameless Stars, the second book in the Zenn Scarlett series by Christian Schoon. As this series involves all sorts of fascinating science fiction-related things, like traveling through space and life as an exoveterinarian, I thought I'd ask Christian if his leading lady Zenn had any good tips for those of us who have yet to experience space travel for ourselves.

There's a fabulous competition and giveaway associated with this tour, so be sure and check out the bottom of the post for all the details as well as a link to the full list of participating blogs. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Christian!

Hi and thanks for letting Zenn and I tie up the “Under Nameless Stars Blog-Tour-and-Party-Shuttle Craft” to the mooring-mast high above the Supernatural Snark Nature Park/Bookish Emporium. 

Without further ado: Zenn Scarlett’s Top 5 Rules for Interstellar Travel (when you find yourself with no ticket for said travel. Caution: may contain minor spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.)
• When smuggling oneself aboard a starliner inside a crate-cage that also contains a large sandhog boar, double check to ensure that your sedation field generator is in good repair. A faulty seda-field unit could allow the sandhog to regain consciousness at an inopportune moment. As any certified exoveterinarian will tell you, sandhogs are unpredictable by nature and frequently aggressive. Since these creatures attain mature body lengths of over twelve feet and weights in excess of two thousand pounds, being confined inside a crate with a fully awake animal of this species could result in serious bodily harm or death.

• After successfully smuggling oneself aboard a starliner (whether by cage-crate or other means), take immediate steps to secure a discrete location in which to conceal yourself.  One optimal solution: befriend, or have yourself befriended by, a fellow passenger who actually has a ticket and a cabin for the duration of the voyage. If this fellow traveler happens to have a refreshingly jaunty sense of humor and also be wealthy enough to afford a luxury suite of rooms, all the better.

• In the highly unlikely event you’re invited to visit the Indra chamber of the starliner, inquire whether the ship’s captain has informed the Indra groom of your visit to the pilot room. Indra grooms are notoriously protective of their chambers and are likely to resent any distracting intrusions, especially around the time period when they enter into their trance-like communion with the Indra. (For those unfamiliar: Indra, also known as Stonehorses, are 700-foot-long vacuum-dwelling creatures that have evolved the capacity to “tunnel” through the space-time continuum, propelling starliners across vast distances in mere nano-seconds. Indra grooms direct the Indra in these travels).

• In the starliner dining saloons, pay careful attention to the small placards designating which foods are suitable for consumption by which species of passenger. The placards are color-coded for easy referral. In no instance confuse the green of the “Safe for Humanoids” placard with the somewhat similar blue-green “Safe for Zeta Reticulani” placard. Human travelers making this mistake have been known to spend the remainder of their journey locked in their cabin’s bathrooms emitting bovine-like moo-ing vocalizations.

• Be aware that should your starship fall prey to what is commonly referred to as “The Vanishing Indra-Ship Crisis,” your starliner’s company will deny responsibility for any liability relating to this event. Since the vanishing of these ships has been designated “An Act of the Gods” by the controlling legal authorities of the Local Systems Accord, your surviving relatives will be unable to file a claim for damages resulting from your loss and/or death. However, should you at some future time re-appear, most starliner companies will compensate you with free second-class passage to your home planet from the point of your re-appearance.
• • • • • • • • • • • •


Zenn Scarlett’s novice year of exoveterinarian training on Mars isn’t quite going to plan…

After facing a plot to destroy her school and its menagerie of alien patients, could things get worse? Yes, they could: her absent father has been kidnapped.

Desperate to find him, Zenn stows away aboard the Helen of Troy, a starliner powered by one of the immense, dimension-jumping beasts known as Indra. With her is Liam Tucker, a Martian boy who is either very fond of her, very dangerous to her, or both. On the verge of learning the truth about her father, Zenn’s quest suddenly catapults her and Liam thousands of light years beyond known space, and into the dark heart of a monstrous conspiracy.

Braving a gauntlet of lethal environments and unearthly life forms, Zenn’s courage is tested as never before. With the fate of entire worlds in the balance, she is racing headlong into trouble… again.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


Christian Schoon grew up in Minnesota, and worked his way through college in a succession of rock bands before earning his degree from the U of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Journalism.

Following a stint as an in-house copywriter/scriptwriter at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, he supplied freelance copy for the entertainment industry and scriptwriting for live-action and animated TV.

Currently, he writes from his 150-year-old farmstead in Iowa which he shares with a fluctuating number of horses (generally less than a dozen, but not always), 30 or so cats, a dog, three ferrets and a surprisingly tolerant wife.

The Zenn Scarlett books are his first novels, however he admits to being an unrepentant fan of science fiction and fantasy ever since discovering the tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the fifth grade.

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


Thanks to the amazing team at Strange Chemistry, I have a really fun giveaway to share with you all today. Up for grabs are copies (either ebook or physical) of both Zenn Scarlett and Under Nameless Stars, plus a Name Your Own Star Gift Package! To enter, you must answer the below question in the Rafflecopter form. Each tour stop has a question associated with it, so be sure and check out the full list of participating blogs for more chances to win!

The answers to the questions can be found in the book's blurb and author profile (seen above) as well as the author's blog and an extract from the book. Good luck everyone!

TODAY'S QUESTION (Question 9) :

Liam's shirt is made of

a. Synth-cloth
b. Plastic
c. Hemp-cloth
d. Unbleached cotton

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cover Reveal: Boomerang by Noelle August

I'm super excited today to share with you the cover for Boomerang, the first installment of a new trilogy from William Morrow releasing in July. My excitement for today's post is twofold: One, I love covers in general so it's always fun for me to see a new design in all its glory, and two, Noelle August is the pen name for authors Lorin Oberweger and Veronica Rossi. I happen to be a complete Veronica Rossi fangirl, so I cannot wait to get my hands on Boomerang!


Image Map

Welcome to BOOMERANG, the hottest startup in the coolest city: Los Angeles, CA. Why? Because it’s about no-strings, no-fuss relationships for those on the rebound and those who crave connection without all the baggage of long-term promises. While it’s THE dating site for the millennial gen, their offices are even steamier than the hook-ups the website produces.

But that buzz is fading as Boomerang struggles to grow, the solution? Find two brilliant interns and give them a crack at turning this ship back to shore.

Enter MIA GALLIANO and ETHAN VANCE. These young strangers—Mia an aspiring filmmaker, and Ethan at the end of a collegiate sports career—are both bright and motivated. And for very different reasons, although they’re both hungry and way up for the challenge.

But things go wrong from day one. For one thing, Ethan and Mia aren’t strangers. The night before their stint at Boomerang begins, Ethan and Mia meet at a bar and fall into bed together. Or so they think. They’re both hazy on the details. They just know it’s aaaawkward when they share a post hookup taxi…to the same place.

Will the competition get to them, or do they have a future together?

Review: Half Bad

Half Life #1
Sally Green
Paranormal Young Adult
416 pages
Viking Juvenile
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Half Bad is one of those stories we enter into with a certain set of expectations based on the limited amount of information provided by the synopsis, but, as is sometimes the case, once we crack the spine we find a very different type of novel than we'd anticipated. It’s not the story’s fault we'd prepared ourselves for an entirely different direction than it ended up taking, but it does take us a bit of time to reconcile where we thought we would be headed with where Nathan’s journey actually takes us. A story about witches has visions of magic–light and dark–dancing in our heads, and the mention of a girl in the same sentence as the word “love” has the romantic in us rubbing our hands together in glee, but what we find is a tale largely absent both magic and romance, leaving us just a touch off kilter even as we start to fall hard for young Nathan.

The format of Half Bad plays a large role in our initial disconcertion, starting us off in second person for the first couple chapters as we join Nathan in his cage before switching to first person and taking us back in time to when Nathan was just a boy. We follow Nathan from boyhood to age sixteen where we’re reunited with our timeline from the first few chapters, but just as we’re brought back to Nathan’s time in the cage, we’re once again shifted to second person for a chapter or two before returning to first person and staying there for the remainder of the book. The second person perspective doesn’t seem altogether necessary unless it will serve some greater purpose in the coming installments, so the switch back and forth becomes more jarring than it might have been otherwise if we understood the reason for it.

Though the perspective switch is off-putting, Nathan himself is an extraordinarily interesting young man, someone we’re rooting for from the moment we find ourselves locked in that cage with him. He’s treated abominably from a young age for being half Black Witch and half White, but though he suffers gut-wrenching abuse both emotional and physical, he never truly allows himself to be beaten. His fire burns brightly throughout, flaring up when he’s at his most defensive but staying coolly banked the remainder of the time, showing us he knows how to play the game the White Witches force upon him better than they ever dreamed he would. The true highlight of this story is Nathan’s beautiful relationship with his brother Arran, the bond between them both heartwarming and heartbreaking as they find themselves torn apart by the cruelty of those who, to our knowledge, are more monstrous than those from whom they claim to be protecting the world.

Though Nathan is attracted to a White Witch named Annalise before he finds himself imprisoned, there’s no real romance to be had in this story, something that’s not a true complaint as the addition of such would have detracted from the intense loneliness radiating from Nathan. He’s on his own in every way in this story, fighting battles both internal and external, and his nearly total emotional isolation (with the exception of Arran) creates an intriguing intimacy between he and us as readers. We don’t get to learn much about this world or the witchcraft that dominates it–Nathan’s ability to heal almost the only magical aspect throughout–leaving us hoping for both more history and more magical gifts in the next installment. Overall, Half Bad is a slower read than we might expect going in, Nathan’s story more of a straight line than a jagged one with lots of peaks and valleys, but the potential for future greatness is undoubtedly there and is more than enough to have us eager to pick up book two.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Sally:

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.