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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Ashford Affair

The Ashford Affair
by Lauren Willig

As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . . (Description  from Goodreads.com

This standalone from Willig is just as well done as her Pink Carnation series.  Once again the characters felt real and interesting, the romance was tested and then believable when it finally came together, and the settings were gorgeous and palpable.  

In fact, setting-wise this is officially one of my new favorites of Willig's.  I honestly had not known to this point that many of the British Aristocracy traveled to Africa in the 1920's.  I loved learning about their culture in Kenya and found the juxtaposition between the farming and their glamorous parties so amazing. I personally am a little too chicken to go to Africa (I'm sure I'd be some hyena's snack in no time) but I love stories where other people thrive in a place that I wish I could travel.  

I also really enjoyed the way that Clemmie and Addie's stories ended up intertwining as the story progressed.  Both tales individually were great, but I loved how Willig showed Clemmie's outlook on life and love changing because of her view of her grandmother. I was definitely cheering for both Clemmie and John as their relationship changed as he helped Clemmie learn more about her family's past.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Girl Who Never Was

The Girl Who Never Was 
by Skylar Dorset
The Otherworld, book one

Selkie Stewart thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.
(Description from Goodreads.com

I really liked the start of this new series.  Skylar Dorset managed to take a lot of elements of traditional faerie lore (things like Elemental magic, running water, bells, goblins and ogres) and give her world a very unique spin.  It made reading feel familiar enough to be a breeze, but also kept me riveted as new elements were introduced to Selkie's world.  

I enjoyed the characters a lot, too.  I liked Selkie and felt for her as her world spun out of control.  I felt that Ben was a great love interest and was fascinating in his own right.  My favorite character, though, was Selkie's spunky human friend, Kelsey, who ends up becoming a sidekick because she doesn't care who or what is messing with her bestie, just that Selkie's in trouble.  We ALL need a friend like that! 

I am beyond curious to see where things go in book two.  There are multiple storylines that have to be explored and a certain prophetic statement made by a psychotic mom that needs to be avoided at all costs!! An excellent start to a series I will absolutely be reading til the end. 

Full disclosure: eARC received from Netgalley 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Traitor's Blade - Feature and Excerpt!

Today on the blog, I'm excited to feature a great excerpt from a book that's on my list to review later this summer!  It's a swash-buckling adventure that's getting great reviews, in fact, NPR said, "Traitor's Blade is a swashbuckling romp packed with charisma, camaraderie, quick wit, and even quicker swordplay....In its own way, Traitor's Blade is as grim and dark as the edgiest fantasy series on the shelves. It's also shot through with heroics, hope, and a dazzling aptitude for fun"

Traitor's Blade 
by Sebastien de Castell
Greatcoats, book one

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…
(Description from Goodreads.com

And, here's the excerpt from the opening chapter! 


LORD TREMONDI

Pretend, just for a moment, that you have attained your most deep-seated desire. Not the simple, sensible one you tell your friends about, but the dream that’s so close to your heart that even as a child you hesitated to speak it out loud. Imagine, for example, that you had always yearned to be a Greatcoat, one of the legendary sword-wielding magistrates who travelled from the lowliest village to the biggest city, ensuring that any man or woman, high or low, had recourse to the King’s Laws. A protector to many – maybe even a hero to some. You feel the thick leather coat of office around your shoulders, the deceptively light weight of its internal bone plates that shield you like armour and the dozens of hidden pockets holding your tools and tricks and esoteric pills and potions. You grip the sword at your side, knowing that as a Greatcoat you’ve been taught to fight when needed, given the training to take on any man in single combat.
Now imagine you have attained this dream – in spite of all the
improbabilities laid upon the world by the ill-intentioned actions of Gods and Saints alike. So you have become a Greatcoat – in fact, dream bigger: pretend that you’ve been made First Cantor of the Greatcoats, with your two best friends at your side. Now try to envision where traitor’s blade you are, what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what wrong you are fighting to right—
‘They’re fucking again,’ Brasti said.
I forced my eyes open and took in a bleary view of the inn’s hallway, an overly ornate – if dirty – corridor that reminded you that the world was probably a nice place once but had now gone to rot. Kest, Brasti and I were guarding the hallway from the comfort of decaying chairs taken from the common room downstairs. Opposite us was a large oak door that led to Lord Tremondi’s rented room.
‘Let it go, Brasti,’ I said.
He gave me what was intended to be a withering look, though it wasn’t very effective: Brasti’s a little too handsome for anyone’s good, including his own. Strong cheekbones and a wide mouth clothed in a reddish-blond short beard amplify a smile that gets him out of most of the fights he talks his way into. His mastery of the bow gets him through the rest. But when he tries to stare you down, it just looks like he’s pouting.
‘Let what go, pray tell?’ he said. ‘The fact that you promised me the life of a hero when you tricked me into joining the Greatcoats and instead I find myself impoverished, reviled and forced to take lowly bodyguard work for travelling merchants? Or is it the fact that we’re sitting here listening to our gracious benefactor – and I use the term loosely since he has yet to pay us a measly black copper – but that aside, that we’re listening to him screw some woman for – what? The fifth time since supper? How does that fat slob even keep up? I mean—’
‘Could be herbs,’ Kest interrupted, stretching his muscles out again with the casual grace of a dancer.
‘Herbs?’
Kest nodded.
‘And what would the so-called “greatest swordsman in the world” know about herbs?’
‘An apothecary sold me a concoction a few years ago, supposed to keep your sword-arm strong even when you’re half-dead. I used it fighting off half a dozen assassins who were trying to kill a witness.’
‘And did it work?’ I asked.
Kest shrugged. ‘Couldn’t really tell. There were only six of them, after all, so it wasn’t much of a test. I did have a substantial erection the whole time though.’
A pronounced grunt followed by moaning came from behind
the door.
‘Saints! Can they not just stop and go to sleep?’
As if in response, the groaning grew louder.
‘You know what I find odd?’ Brasti went on.
‘Are you going to stop talking at any point in the near future?’ I asked.
Brasti ignored me. ‘I find it odd that the sound of a nobleman rutting is hardly distinguishable from one being tortured.’
‘Spent a lot of time torturing noblemen, have you?’
‘You know what I mean. It’s all moans and grunts and little squeals, isn’t it? It’s indecent.’
Kest raised an eyebrow. ‘And what does decent rutting sound like?’
Brasti looked up wistfully. ‘More cries of pleasure from the woman, that’s for sure. And more talking. More, “Oh my, Brasti, that’s it, just there! Thou art so stout of heart and of body!”’ He rolled his eyes in disgust. ‘This one sounds like she’s knitting a sweater or cutting meat for dinner.’
‘“Stout of heart and body”? Do women really say that kind of thing in bed?’ Kest asked.
‘Try taking a break from practising alone with your sword all
day and bed a woman and you’ll find out. Come on, Falcio, back me up here.’
‘It’s possible, but it’s been so damned long I’m not sure I can remember.’
‘Yes, of course, Saint Falcio, but surely with your wife—?’
 ‘Leave it,’ I said.
‘I’m not – I mean—’
‘Don’t make me hit you, Brasti,’ Kest said quietly.
We sat there in silence for a minute or two as Kest glared at Brasti on my behalf and the noises from the bedroom continued unabated.
‘I still can’t believe he can keep going like that,’ Brasti started up again. ‘I ask you again, Falcio, what are we doing here? Tremondi hasn’t even paid us yet.’
I held up my hand and wiggled my fingers. ‘Did you see his rings?’
‘Sure,’ Brasti said, ‘very big and gaudy. With a stone shaped like a wheel on top.’
‘That’s a Lord Caravaner’s ring – which you’d know if you’d paid attention to the world around you. It’s what they use to seal their votes when they have their annual concord – one ring, one vote. Not every Lord Caravaner shows up for the concord each year, so they have the option of lending their ring to another to act as their proxy in all the major votes. Now, Brasti, how many Lords Caravaner are there in total?’
‘Nobody knows for sure, it’s—’
‘Twelve,’ Kest said.
‘And how many of his fingers had one of those gaudy rings on
them?’
Brasti stared at his own fingers. ‘I don’t know – four . . . five?’
‘Seven,’ Kest said.
‘Seven,’ I repeated.
‘So that means he could . . . Falcio, what is it exactly that the Concord of Lords Caravaner is going to vote on this year?’
‘Lots of things,’ I said casually. ‘Rates of exchange, dues, trade policies. Oh, and security.’
‘Security?’
‘Since the Dukes killed the King, the roads have fallen into disrepair. The Dukes won’t spend money or men, not even to defend the trade routes, and the Lords Caravaner are losing a fortune on private security for every single trip they take.’
‘And we care about this why?’
I smiled. ‘Because Tremondi’s going to propose that the Greatcoats become the Wardens of the Road, giving us authority, respect, and a decent life in exchange for keeping their precious cargoes out of the hands of the bandits.’
Brasti looked wary. ‘They’d let us reassemble the Greatcoats again? So instead of spending my life being branded a traitor and hounded from every overcrowded city or Gods-forsaken village the length and breadth of the country, I’d get to run around the trade routes beating up bandits – and I’d actually get paid for it?’
I grinned. ‘And from there, we have a much better chance of fulfilling the King’s—’
Brasti waved a hand. ‘Please, Falcio. He’s been dead for five years. If you haven’t found these bloody “King’s Charoites” by now – and still no one knows what they are, by the way—’
‘A charoite is a gemstone,’ Kest said calmly.
‘Whatever. My point is: finding these gemstones with no clue whatsoever as to where they might be is about as likely as Kest here killing the Saint of Swords.’
‘But I will kill the Saint of Swords, Brasti,’ Kest said.
Brasti sighed. ‘You’re hopeless, both of you. Anyway, even if we do find the Charoites, what exactly are we supposed to do with them?’
‘I don’t know,’ I answered, ‘but since the alternative is that the
Dukes hunt down the Greatcoats one by one until we’re all dead, I’d say Tremondi’s offer works for me.’
‘Well then,’ Brasti said, lifting an imaginary glass in the air, ‘good on you, Lord Tremondi. Keep up the good work in there!’
More moaning came from the room as if in response to his toast.
‘You know, I think Brasti may be right,’ Kest said, standing up and reaching for one of the swords at his side.
 ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘At first it sounded like lovemaking, but I am beginning to think I really can’t tell the difference between these noises and those of a man being tortured.’
I rose carefully, but my battered chair creaked loudly as I leaned towards the door, trying to listen. ‘They’ve stopped now, I think,’ I murmured.
Kest’s sword let out only the barest whisper as he pulled it from its scabbard.
Brasti put his ear to the door and shook his head. ‘No, he’s stopped, but she’s still going. He must be asleep. But why would she keep going if—?’
‘Brasti, move away from the door,’ I said, and threw my shoulder into it. The first try failed, but at the second, the lock gave way. At first I couldn’t see anything amiss in the gaudily appointed room, decorated in what the proprietor fondly believed to be the style of a Duke’s bedroom. Clothes and discarded books were strewn across what had once been expensive rugs but now were moth-eaten and likely homes for vermin. The bed had dusty velvet curtains hanging from an oaken frame.
I had just begun to move slowly into the room when a woman stepped out from behind those curtains. Her bare skin was smeared with blood and, though I couldn’t see her features through the diaphanous black mask that covered her face, I knew she was smiling. In her right hand she held a pair of large scissors – the kind butchers use to cut meat. She extended her left hand towards me, fist closed tight, palm to the ceiling. Then she brought it close to her mouth and it looked as if she might blow us a kiss. Instead, she exhaled, and blue powder billowed into the air.
‘Don’t breathe in,’ I shouted to Kest and Brasti – but it was too late; whatever magic was in the powder didn’t require us to inhale to do its work. The world suddenly slowed to a halt and I felt as if I was trapped between the stuttering ticks of an old clock. I knew Brasti was behind me, but I couldn’t turn my head to see him. Kest was just in my sight, in the corner of my right eye, but I could barely make him out as he struggled like a demon to break free.
The woman tilted her head as she looked at me for a moment.
‘Lovely,’ she said softly, and walked casually, even languidly towards us, the scissors in her hand making a rhythmic snip-snip sound. I felt her hand on the side of my face, then she ran her fingers down the length of my greatcoat, pushing at the leather until she could sneak her hand inside. She placed her palm on my chest for a moment, caressing it softly before sliding it down my stomach and below my belt.
Snip-snip.
She stretched up on her toes and leaned her masked face close to my ear, pushing her naked body against mine as if we were about to embrace. Snip-snip went the scissors. ‘The dust is called “aeltheca”,’ she whispered. ‘It’s very, very expensive. I needed only a pinch of it for the Lord Caravaner, but now you’ve made me use my entire supply.’ Her voice was neither angry nor sad, just as if she were merely making a dispassionate observation.
Snip-snip.
‘I’d cut your throats out, my tatter-cloaks, but I’ve some use for you now, and the aeltheca will keep you from remembering anything about me.’
She stepped back and twirled theatrically.
‘Oh, you’ll remember a naked woman in a mask – but my height, my voice, the curves of my body, these will all slip away from you.’
She leaned forward, placed the scissors in my left hand and closed my fingers around them. I struggled to let them go, but my fingers wouldn’t move. I tried as hard as I could to memorise the shape of her body, her height, the features of her face through the mask, anything that would help me know her if I saw her again, but the images faded even as I watched her. I tried turning the words to describe her into rhymes that I might remember, but those too left me instantly. I could stare right at her, but each time I blinked my eyes, the memory was gone. The aeltheca was certainly effective.
I hate magic.
The woman went back to the curtained bed briefly, then returned with a small pool of blood held carefully in the palm of her hand. She went to the wall opposite us, dipped her finger in the blood and wrote a single word upon the wall. The dripping word was ‘Greatcoats’.
She came back to me once more and I felt a kiss on my cheek through the gauzy fabric of her mask.
‘It’s almost sad,’ she said lightly, ‘to see the King’s own Greatcoats, his legendary travelling magistrates, brought so low; to watch you bowing and scraping to a fat Lord Caravaner barely one step up from a common street merchant . . . Tell me, tatter-cloak, when you sleep, do you imagine yourself still riding across the land, sword in hand and a song on your lips as you bring justice to the poor, wretched people trapped under the heels of capricious Dukes?’
I tried to reply, but despite the effort, I could manage barely a tremor to my lower lip.
The woman brought her finger up and smeared blood on the cheek she had kissed a moment ago. ‘Goodbye, my lovely tatter-cloak. In a few minutes, I’ll just be a hazy memory. But don’t worry, I’ll remember you very well indeed.’
She turned and walked casually to the wardrobe and picked up her clothes. Then she opened the window and, without even dressing, slipped out into the early morning air.
We stood there like tree stumps for a minute or so more before Brasti, who had been furthest away from the powder, was able to move his mouth enough to say, ‘Shit.’
Kest came out of it next, and I was last. As soon as I could move, I raced to the window, but of course the woman was long gone.
I went to the bed to examine the blood-soaked body of Lord Tremondi. She had gone after him like a surgeon and had managed to keep him alive for a long time, somehow – perhaps another property of the aeltheca. The passage of her scissors had for ever imprinted a map of atrocity across the surface of his body.
This wasn’t just a murder; it was a message.
‘Falcio, look,’ Kest said, pointing at Tremondi’s hands. Three fingers remained on his right hand; the rest were bloody stumps. The Caravaner rings were gone, and with them, our hopes for the future.
I heard the sounds of men coming up the stairs, the steady thumpthump of their footsteps marking them as city guards.
‘Brasti, bar the door.’
‘It’s not going to hold for long, Falcio. You kind of broke it when we came in.’
‘Just do it.’
Brasti pushed the door back into place and Kest helped him to shove the dresser in front of it before turning to help as I searched for anything that would link to the woman who’d killed Tremondi.
‘Do you think we’ll find her?’ Kest asked me as we looked down at Tremondi’s butchered remains.
‘Not a chance in any of the hells we’re headed for,’ I replied.
Kest put a hand on my shoulder. ‘Through the window?’
I sighed. ‘The window.’
Fists were banging on the door outside. ‘Goodnight, Lord Tremondi,’ I said. ‘You weren’t an especially good employer. You lied a lot, and never paid us when you promised. But I guess that’s all right, since we turned out to be pretty useless bodyguards.’
Kest was already climbing out as the constables were beginning to force the door of our room.
‘Hang on,’ Brasti said. ‘Shouldn’t we – you know . . .’
‘What?’
‘You know, take his money?’
Even Kest looked back and raised an eyebrow at that one.
‘No, we do not take his money,’ I said.
‘Why not? It’s not like he needs it.’
I sighed again. ‘Because we’re not thieves, Brasti, we’re Greatcoats. And that has to mean something.’
He started making his way out of the window. ‘Yeah, it means something: it means people hate us. It means they’re going to blame us for Tremondi’s death. It means we’re going to hang from the noose while the mob throws rotten fruit at our corpses shouting, “Tattercloak, tatter-cloak!” – And – oh yes it means we also don’t have any money. But at least we still have our coats.’
He disappeared out of the window and I climbed out after him. The constables had just broken down the door, and when their leader saw me there with the wooden sill digging into my chest as I eased myself out of the window, there was the hint of a smile on his face. I knew instantly what that smile meant: he had more men waiting for us below, and now he could rain arrows down on us while they held us at bay with pikes.
My name is Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, and this was only the first of a great many bad days to come.

Photo by Pink Monkey Studio

About the Author:
Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way.

Sebastien lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pawn

Pawn 
by Aimee Carter
The Blackcoat Rebellion, book one

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand. (Description from Goodreads.com

This book had me hooked from page one.  Aimee Carter set an immediately intense tone for the whole book, ratcheting up the suspense and basically never letting it drop.  Kitty's potential death was around every corner and I was amazed how fast I flew through this story! 

Kitty was a great character because even though her world was falling apart around her, she stands up for her beliefs.  She has strong morals and is willing to make sacrifices for them.  She's just the right mix of vulnerable and naive to help balance the strength, making her a very believable character.  I really liked seeing her assess what was important to the people around her and then making smart choices about how to trust and interact with them based on those observations. 

I liked the set up for the world, and though some elements felt familiar from other similarly conceptualized dystopians, the plot truly held me captivated.  I'm intrigued and looking forward to continuing the story with CAPTIVE in November!

Full disclosure: eARC from Netgalley 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore 
by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. (Description from Goodreads.com)

This was a great summer mystery.  Perfect for book lovers like me! There's an intriguing book store that literally houses thousands of one of a kind book, there are fabulously quirky characters on every page, and it feels as if you are solving a puzzle as you read Clay's forays into the secret world of the "Broken Spine."  I loved the juxtaposition between traditional paper books and the fabulous technologies of the present and  future. This book is very funny, but it also makes you think about a lot of things as you follow the mystery.  I highly recommend this title to any avid readers out there looking for a quick, fun summer read!  

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blog Tour - How to Date Dead Guys guest post and a giveaway!










Today, I'm happy to be part of Ann Noser's blog tour for HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS. I did the cover reveal for the book back on June 2nd and today I'm super excited to give you all a little guest post from the author herself! 

First, some basic info about the book

College sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts”. But when charming Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn't the only one.

Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a desperate victim determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand…at first. More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.


Now, some info about the author:

My to-do list dictates that I try to cram 48 hours of living into a day instead of the usual 24. I’ve chosen a life filled with animals. I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed. But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day. Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination.

Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task. I work out plot holes during runs. Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches. I find inspiration in everyday things: a beautiful smile, a heartbreaking song, or a newspaper article on a political theory. For example, a long drive in the dark listening to an NPR program on the SMILEY FACE MURDERS theory made me ask so many questions that I wrote HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS to answer them to my satisfaction.

I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head. Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.

Where you can find Ann Noser
Social Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

And, here's my guest post from author, Ann Noser!

THANK U

Do you remember the song "Thank U" by Alanis Morissette? Let me give you a hint—during her infamous music video she strolls naked around New York City. Fortunately for her, she had really long hair at the time. That's right, now you remember. But perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Because this blog isn't about nudity. Everybody will be keeping their clothes on-not sure if you'll be relieved or disappointed to hear that.

If you're not too distracted by the singer's nudity to listen to the beautiful, inspiring lyrics of the song, you might learn something about yourself.

This song encourages appreciation for both the good and the bad. That's not an easy thing to do. Personally, I'd rather hold a grudge.

"Bad times have a scientific value.
These are occasions a good learner would not miss."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Notice Emerson isn't saying "everything bad happens for a reason", because that discounts personal suffering as a necessary evil. I prefer to think of things this way:

"Sad things happen. They do.
But we don't need to live sad forever."
-Mattie Stepanek.

Our past may have stained us, left a residual melancholy. But accepting the past as a learning tool, and shedding any lingering disappointment, is healthier than dwelling on grief forever.

Here is my list (I encourage you to make your own):

1) THANK U for my failures, for they have humbled me and made me human.

2) THANK U for summer vacation (oh man, how I miss that) with absolutely no abilities in any sports activities whatsoever. I could blame it on poor vision, because I couldn't see the ball coming until it knocked me in the head and bowled me over. Or I could blame it on my ability to fall down when there's no bump in the road. But, either way, this lack of summer sports in my life left me much time to focus on reading.

3) THANK U for making me an only, lonely child, whose imaginary playmates lived on the written page. Yes, I had wonderful childhood friends, but they went home at night, deserted me to go on summer vacations, had sports activities to attend, etc. and their absence left me lonely…until I opened a book. Then I escaped the real world for something that, at times, seemed even better.

4) THANK U for my librarian mother. First she read me to sleep every night. Then she encouraged me to read books far above my level. I can't remember at which age I read GONE WITH THE WIND, but I recall needing a dictionary for almost every page. And I loved it. Isn't that fantastic?

5) THANK U…Oh dear, this one is hard. How can one be truly thankful for the miserable way I (and many others like me) were treated by vicious girls in junior high? I am thankful that at least people are talking about this now, admitting out loud that it's a problem. Schools actually have anti-bullying programs. I'm not commenting on how effective they are—that remains to be seen, and I'm sure it varies from school to school, but at least it's addressed as a real, legitimate problem. And for all you bullies out there—work on fixing the heartaches in your own lives, instead of ruining the lives of others. Because I still hold the belief that the bully is also unhappy, and that they take out their sorrow on those they perceive to be weaker than themselves. And perhaps I was an easy target.

At this point, you may be wondering how all this unusual appreciation ties in with my book, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS. Good question.

Writing this book brought me back to college, then back even further. My delving into Emma's character forced me to address my past. I infused her with all the insecurities I suffered at that age, due to an ego still bruised from bullies merged with the stubborn pride of a nerd. I needed to show that bullying affects the victim years after junior high or high school is over. Of equal importance are the prejudices the victim may unconsciously feel and need to overcome to become an unbiased adult.

HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS is Emma's story-not mine. Her life is one I didn't lead, but I had to give her a baseline to start from which I understood in order to determine what choices she would make given the tragedy she experiences.

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour HERE and you can even enter to win a copy of the book...
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Finally...where you can buy HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gold Star Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods and Monsters
by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, book three

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz. Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world. What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.
At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter? (Description from goodreads.com)

Attempting to describe the beauty of Laini Taylor's writing is near impossible.  She is truly an artist and the visions of stories that she shares with us are incredible.  So, every time I review one of her books I feel as if you all must get bored with my gushing...does that mean I'll stop?  NO WAY. It means that I'm just going to keep effusively chatting about her books until I convince every reader I know to read at least one of her books! 

But, let me be more specific about this particular book. It's going to be a little hard, since it's the final in her epic trilogy and I don't want to ruin it for those of you who have yet to finish it... so...what can I say? I thought that Taylor was very clever to introduce a new character who has prophetic dreams to the series.  It allowed readers to explore more of the world building necessary to truly understand the angel/chimera conflict and to contemplate the past, present, and future of Eretz.  

The delicate balance of truthful pessimism in a war torn world and the hope for love in the future can only be done this well by truly talented writers.  The many facets that make up each character allow Taylor to credibly put them through the emotional wringer and then bring them back to the places that we readers want them to find themselves in the end.  In other books when circumstances and relationships can change so dramatically for characters sometimes I just cannot feel the reasoning behind and thus it will feel disingenuous to me, but Taylor never seems to disappoint me this way.  

Lastly, I just have to say that while I was floored with the ending of this book and even at the 600+ page count felt like I was amazed that she managed to wrap things up well... there is such a distinct possibility for a whole new book or series or SOMETHING to come after. I cannot but hope, truly, truly hope that she gives it to us someday!! 

This book is more than worthy of a gold star.  I would almost give it two! 


Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for AudioFile Magazine, Book purchased for my collection

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Anxiously Awaiting...This Shattered World!

This Shattered World 
by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Starbound, book two

Publication date: December 23, 2014

Description:
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
(from goodreads.com)

I loved book one, These Broken Stars, giving it a gold star review on the blog! The writing was beautiful and deep, the characters were great, and I loved the science fiction storyline. I cannot wait to read the sequel.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mini Blogging Confessional... and a mini review of The Offering







So, today I have a different kind of post for you.  A mini blogging confessional.

Sometimes I read books so quickly in such a short period of time that if I do not immediately blog about them I can completely forget what I would have said about them.  For instance, I finished the last book in Kimberly Derting's The Pledge trilogy on April 13th.  I marked a note to myself that I wanted to give it a gold star review.  I remember loving the way the series ended.  Can I remember anything else now that I want to go back and blog about it? No. *facepalm*

I still want to highlight the book anyway and I don't have time to go back and reread it to review it...SOOOO... here's the description:

The Offering
by Kimberly Derting
The Pledge, book three

Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks.

When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom.

But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost. (Description from Goodreads.com

Know that I did LOVE it when I read it. Unfortunately, I just can't tell you why!  I do remember little bits...I still thought that Charlie was a great character and that Sabara and her lover were some creepy-@ss baddies.  I really though that Charlie was smart when she finally manages to escape Sabara's evil plans... and that's about it.  I hope that's enough for you! 

What does this teach me?  The few times this happens, I remind myself to blog about books in a shorter timeframe after I've read them.  I also need to start making some more distinct notes for myself, especially if I want to give a book a gold star review so that I can REMEMBER every little thing I wanted to say.  

And now, I'm off to go make some notes before posting my next review... hangs head in embarrassment.