Friday, October 31, 2014

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE by Maggie Stiefvater

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

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

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

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

My thoughts on the book:
I'm going to be honest, parts of the synopsis are a bit misleading in my opinion. Anyway... I really enjoyed this book. All of the characters are unique and fascinating as usual, even the villains. Stiefvater's writing is captivating, and the plot is intriguing. I'm really getting curious about this Glendower thing. At first, I was more interested in the characters and how they were growing than I was with the plot itself, but this novel really made the mystery of Glendower stand out. I can't wait to read the next book. 

Blue and company evolve organically in this installment of the series. Adam grows a lot and faces a lot of his past. I really admire him for some of the things he does, and he's been my least favorite character in the past. I enjoyed seeing more of  Mr. Gray; he's an interesting guy. Gansey is infuriating at some points, both he and Blue are, and I wanted to smack both of them several times. I want so much for those two to get together, but I have no idea what's going to happen with it. I also enjoyed some of the new characters, such as Jessie. He was unique, and I loved how Stiefvater made his larger-than-life personality so obvious. I'm glad we finally get to meet Malory, and I really enjoyed the Dog, too. 

The plot is complex and had me hooked from the beginning. As I stated, I'm getting really curious about Glendower. I'm also curious to see what happens with the mess that the end of this book left. Stiefvater left quite a few things unanswered, and I really want to know what happened with some events in the novel. I'm not sure if she left them out on purpose to say that they weren't important or if she's prolonging the mystery until the next novel. She also has a cliffhanger ending, which I hate, but it isn't written in a way that really taunts the reader. I appreciate that, at least. The writing is superb, as I've come to expect from Stiefvater. The pacing and world-building are perfect. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who is looking for something intriguing and unique in the paranormal YA genre. You won't be disappointed. 

Order Blue Lily, Lily Blue today!

Something Strange and Deadly Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Kathlyn L. for winning the giveaway!

Kathlyn, I sent you an email to let you know you won. Please email me your address, the book of your choice, and whether you prefer an epub or Kindle version of the novella within the next 48 hours to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Stay tuned for another giveaway starting tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forbidden by Kimberly Griffiths Little Giveaway!

On November 4th, HarperCollins unveils Forbidden, a seductive YA debut from award-winning middle grade author Kimberley Griffiths Little. Forbidden transports readers back in time to the deadly deserts and sweltering heat of Ancient Mesopotamia for a tale of danger, duty, and forbidden love. Jayden is on the brink of womanhood and betrothed to her tribe’s prince, cold-hearted Horeb. But when tragedy strikes, Jayden meets Kadesh, a mysterious visitor from the south who makes Jayden doubt everything she knows. Torn between loyalty to her tribe and the chance to escape her fate, Jayden must make a choice that will change her life forever.
Kimberley is also offering a HUGE preorder giveaway from October 6th to November 4th (release day!) to celebrate. See below for full details on how to enter. TO ENTER:
  • You must preorder Forbidden through an online retailer or your local bookstore, then email a photo of your receipt to
  • Fill out the rafflecopter below
  • US/Canada Only
  • Ends at midnight EST on November 3, 2014
  • Optional entries: share the trailer on your own site or social media, follow Kimberley on twitter, and tweet about the giveaway (can be repeated daily for extra entries!)
  • Winners will be announced and contacted November 4th (release day!)
  • If the winner does not respond with their mailing address within one week, a new winner will be chosen.
(1) GRAND PRIZE WINNER: 1. NEWLY RELEASED Kindle Fire HD6 Tablet with 6" HD Display, Wi-Fi, Front and Rear Cameras, 8 GB -- choose your color! (Black, Magenta, White, Citron, or Cobalt) 2. GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson 3. CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White 4. Satin Belly Dance Skirt 5. Belly Dance 150-Coin Hip Scarf 6. Red Silk Veil (not pictured) 7. Red Middle Eastern Earrings 8. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances) 9. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured) 10. Set of 10 Book Club Cards 11. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
2. Red Middle Eastern Earrings
3. Red Silk Veil (not pictured)
4. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances)
5. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)
6. Set of 10 Book Club Cards
7. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
1. Red Middle Eastern Earrings
2. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)
3. Set of 10 Book Club Cards
4. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About Forbidden: In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.
Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.
With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.
Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.
Follow Kimberley:
About Kimberley: Award-winning author Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico on the banks of the Rio Grande with her husband and their three sons. Her middle-grade novels, When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, have been praised as “fast-paced and dramatic,” with “beautifully realized settings.” Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell. She’s stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria. You can visit her online at
Share your thoughts on the trailer in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch

Rating: D
Game of Thrones meets Graceling in this striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self. Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy is a lightning-fast story of loyalty, love, and controlling one’s destiny.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

My thoughts on the book:
I had fairly high hopes for Snow like Ashes due to the great reviews and the fact that it's high fantasy. I love me a good fantasy novel. However, this book was not good. The world-building was lacking, the characters were obnoxious and two-dimensional, and the writing was bad. The pacing was super slow, and this book should have been at least 100 pages shorter. The author just kept rambling on and on about useless crap instead of explaining what needed to be explained, though. 

Meira was a super annoying character. She whined constantly, and she was extremely immature. She also didn't grow at all, which made the book really boring. Mather had no personality in my opinion. He was an okay character, but he was just really dull. Theron was at least likable, but he was so stubborn. The other secondary characters didn't stand out, and I've already forgotten most of their names. None of the characters had any personality whatsoever. 

The plot was pretty straight forward, and none of the "surprises" actually surprised me. The pacing was torturously slow, but that could have been because I didn't give a crap what happened to Meira. I actually wanted her to die so she'd stop her whining. The love triangle was typical and annoying. The idea itself was a bit interesting, but due to the lack of world-building, it fell flat. A lot could have been done with the four seasons kingdoms and the rhythms kingdoms, but all that potential was wasted. The writing itself was just flat and awful. There were tons of info dumps and certain parts of the setting were overly described, but the rules of the world were never discussed. The ending tied up everything nicely and left room for the sequel, but I wont' be reading it.

Overall, I'd recommend skipping this one. It does not live up to the hype. 


Rating: A
Princess Snow is missing.

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

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

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

My thoughts on the book:
Wow. This novel completely blew my mind. I didn't know what to expect between the synopsis and the mixed reviews, but I absolutely loved this book. Lewis' writing is beautiful. The characters are complex and flawed. The ideas are unique, and I adored the sci-fi/fantasy mix. I flew through this story very quickly and was sad to see it end. Stitching Snow is one of my favorite books of the year. 

Essie is an extremely complex character. She's so closed off in the beginning that reading from her point of view is a bit difficult. She's really hard to relate to because she's so distant and secretive, but as the novel progresses and she changes and grows, she becomes a character that has to be loved. Essie is very strong and tough. The more we learn about her past, the more her harshness makes sense. I really enjoyed watching her grow, and I am very happy with the person she becomes. Dane is also a complex character who has every reason to be angsty. He, too, has a lot of secrets, but he handles everything very well. He isn't creepy and weird like a lot of YA leading males. He cares enough about Essie to do things in her time, and he's very loyal. I really liked him a lot. My favorite characters are the drones, though. I absolutely adore Dimwit! He is so cute. I also love Cusser. The fact that Lewis could make drones characters that I cared about and could relate to speaks volumes about how thoroughly she develops characters. Usually I feel very disconnected from robotic characters, but not this time. Also, the fact that their names reflect their personalities is a nice touch. In addition to the "good guys," the villains are equally complicated. It's hard to hate some of them, especially the King. While I hate the King more than I've hated any book villain in awhile, there are some points in the novel where he almost seems human, which shows that people are complicated creatures.

The plot is tightly woven and complex. There are many messages in this story, and keeping track of all the secrets requires a lot of concentration. I really like books that make me think, though, so I enjoyed that aspect. The world-building is fantastic, and I could clearly picture each planet in the solar system. I also understood the different societies and politics governing the worlds. Lewis' writing is magnificent, and she has some really amazing quotes, such as "Willful blindness is no way to live." Essie also talks about how life was much easier back when she was selfish. Lines like these really spoke to me. The book is fast-paced, and I could not put it down. There is a lot of action, violence, and adventure in this novel. Lewis doesn't pull any punches, and a lot of the story is very dark in nature. The ending is satisfying and makes me think that the book is a standalone novel. 

Overall, I'd recommend Stitching Snow to anyone who is looking for something a little bit different. The character development is amazing, the world-building is fantastic, and the writing is phenomenal. This is one book you don't want to miss. 

Order Stitching Snow today!

Friday, October 24, 2014

WHISPER THE DEAD by Alyxandra Harvey

Rating: C+
Cousins Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope are all dealing with what it means to be a Lovegrove. For Gretchen, it means she often feels like her head is going to explode. As a Whisperer, Gretchen constantly hears the whispers of other witches’ spells. And while this does help her to know when one of her own spells is going wrong, the incessant buzzing and pain the whispers cause makes it difficult to use her gift.

But when something evil begins to menace Mayfair, Gretchen must find a way to master her power. Along with her cousins, a madcap named Moira, and the icy yet irresistible Tobias Lawless, Gretchen faces deadly threats and unimaginable loss in the hopes of preventing the terrible Greymalkin Sisters from rising again.

The second book in The Lovegrove Legacy trilogy, Whisper the Dead will leave readers spellbound.

My thoughts on the book:
Whisper the Dead had the potential to be a fantastic follow-up to A Breath of Frost, but it fell short for me. I ended the book feeling extremely annoyed because it's a long read, and there is a lot of information that I don't feel is necessary, but somehow the story still ended on a cliffhanger. The characters are still interesting, but the story jumped around so much, none of the characters get to evolve any. This book left me feeling like I was running in circles for several days for no good reason. 

Gretchen is supposed to be the main focus of this book, I think, but the points of view switch up so much that it's hard to tell. I really liked the parts I saw with her, and I do love her with Tobias. There are just too many point of view switches to become invested in any one character/couple. I also loved that I got to see more of Penelope, but her parts were so limited due to the switching around that I didn't get to know much more about her. Emma and Cormac have a few important segments in the story, but again, nothing substantial. 

The plot itself is a bit convoluted, but it does make sense. The writing is lovely, as usual for Harvey novels. The switching points of view really made it difficult to follow the plot. I felt like I had ADD or something and couldn't focus on one character for more than a couple of paragraphs. If the POVs had switched each chapter instead of dumping a bunch of POVs into a chapter, I think the story would have flowed better. The pacing is super slow because I couldn't get involved with any storyline/character before it changed. The ending is a cliffhanger, and I had no sense of closure. I was just left feeling really annoyed because this book is over 400 pages long, and over half of that probably could have been cut. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to you if you read A Breath of Frost and fell in love with it. I'm going to wait until the third book comes out before I judge the entire trilogy, but this book isn't half as entertaining and captivating as the first, in my opinion.

Order Whisper the Dead

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Gateway Trilogy by Christina Garner Blitz!

Release Date: 06/2014

Summary from Goodreads:
Ember has always known she doesn’t belong in this world. But when she tries to correct the mistake, she wakes to find herself in a mental institution.

She’s soon drawn to Taren, the mysterious boy with hazel eyes. He’s not what he seems, but what is he?

When chaos erupts, they are forced to flee the institution together, and the secret that Taren has been keeping brings Ember closer to understanding her own. And leads her to… the Gateway.

Buy Links:
Amazon (on sale for $.99)

Release Date: August 2014

Summary from Goodreads:

**Description Contains Book 1 Spoilers** 

Two months have passed since Ember Lyons nearly died killing the powerful Root Demon threatening the Los Angeles Gateway. Physically healed, images of the day still haunt her and she can no longer access the power she once wielded. She can't talk about it with anyone at The Institute--not even her handsome, demon-hunting boyfriend, Taren. Besides there are bigger things to worry about: Gateways around the world are weakening, Keepers' Marks are fading, escaped lesser demons are populating Los Angeles, and it looks like the Root Demon wasn't alone.

When the Institute sends Ember and a team to Europe, she hopes to find answers and security on the journey, but another attempt on her life reminds her she's never really safe.

Then she's thrust together with the mysterious Alexander. Ember can't be sure if this charismatic man is her most formidable enemy or greatest ally. Either way, she needs him, because he's the only one who can bring her to... the Chasm.

Buy Links:
Amazon (on sale for $2.99)

Tether (The Gateway Trilogy Book 3)
Release Date: 09/23/14

Summary from Goodreads:
**Description Contains Book 2 Spoilers**

Ember was only trying to keep a promise when she jumped into the demon world. But instead of saving Cole and his people, she found herself just as trapped as they are. She lives and learns with the Daemon survivors while the demon threat grows every day.

Meanwhile Taren struggles with his guilt for not stopping Ember. He’s desperate to know she’s alive, but there's been no sign of her except in his own vivid dreams.

As they struggle to reconnect, the Gateways around the world weaken, and the demons begin to amass for war. The end is near and Ember must face her fears if she has any hope of saving the world – or herself.

With everything falling apart, her only hope is to find...her Tether.

From Book One:
“Did she hurt you?" Taren asked. "Your head hit the tile pretty hard.” That explained the spinning, and the pain that was starting to seep through the cracks of my shock.
I reached up to touch the back of my head. 
“Ow! Yeah, I guess she got me pretty good. What was that about, anyway?  What's her problem with me?”
Before he could answer, one of the nurses approached. “We'll get you checked out now, dear.”
“I was just going to get her some ice,” Taren said, his hand on the small of my back, steering me away from the nurse.
“Don't be silly,” the nurse said. “She could have a concussion. We need to take her to the E.R.” 
While she went to confer with an orderly, I stifled a laugh. I had been wanting to get out of there. Maybe if my mother knew I was just as likely to lose my life inside the mental hospital as out, she'd spring me that much sooner.
“Wait.” Taren leaned close, his breath in my ear. My pulse went back to racing. “Do you have any…birthmarks?” 
His question was so bizarre that I was heedless of the pain and snapped my head to face him.
His eyes were only inches away, boring into mine. He grabbed my wrist and pushed up the sleeve of my hoodie, searching. I tried to pull away, but his grip was too strong.
“Do you?” he asked again, checking the other arm.
“N-no,” I stammered. 
Intensity didn't usually unnerve me, but at that moment, his definitely did. 
“Taren, enough!” the nurse said, hurrying back to us. “What on earth are you doing?”
She pried his hands from my arm, causing Taren to come back to himself. 
“Nothing, sorry.” He dropped his gaze. “Sorry, I hope you feel better.” 

He turned abruptly and strode away.

Buy Links:

About the Author:
Christina Garner began writing stories at the age of six. Her first–about a young girl who busted up a nefarious ring of furniture thieves–was a huge hit with her mother. At eighteen, her aspirations as an actor had her loading up her Buick and setting off for Hollywood. Since then, she has written and directed 10 short films, including Rewind and Reminder, both of which received acclaim on the festival circuit. In 2006, she began writing screenplays. A year later, she even got paid for one. In May of 2011, her debut novel, Gateway, became an Amazon Bestseller. Chasm, Book 2 in The Gateway Trilogy, did the same.

When she’s not writing novels, Christina spends her time working in the movie business, traveling, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns, and playing with her dog, Griffin.

Author Links:
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Follow Friday #49

This is a meme hosted every Friday by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, where book bloggers answer a question each week and check out how others answered it. It's a cool way for bloggers and viewers to connect and learn more about each other!

This week's question:
Share the song you can’t stop listening to.via Journey Through Fiction

Skinny Lister is one of the best live bands I've ever seen (and I've been to over 500 shows in my day). They're amazing and talented and super sweet to everyone they meet. If you want to have the time of your life, go to one of their shows. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A BREATH OF FROST by Alyxandra Harvey

Rating: A-
In 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their family lineage of witchcraft when a binding spell is broken, allowing their individual magical powers to manifest. Now, beyond the manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, an alluring underworld available only to those with power is revealed to the cousins. By claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the underworld. 

Now ghouls, hellhounds—and most terrifying of all, the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters—are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers. And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies. 

Can the cousins seal the gates before another witch is killed…or even worse, before their new gifts are stripped away?

My thoughts on the book:
A Breath of Frost is a cute and fun read. I love all of Harvey's novels, and this one isn't an exception. She has a terrific talent for painting a clear picture of a historic time period, making the reader feel as if he or she is living in that time period with the characters, but her books never come across as stuffy. The characters are relatable and complex, and the plot is detailed and intricate. This is the start of a great new series. 

This story is told in a Jane Austen-esque free indirect discourse point-of-view that alternates between characters. For the most part, the alternations occur chapter-by-chapter, and each chapter focused on a different character, but at times, the narrator would slip into another character's mind and let you know what he or she is thinking. I really enjoy Austen's work because of the narrative style, and Harvey also did well working with this unique point-of-view. Many authors can't make it work for them, but it definitely works in this novel. 

The main characters of the book are Emma, Gretchen, Penelope, Cormac, and Moira, with the focus mostly on Emma and Cormac. I really love each character, and they all have their own personalities. Emma is probably my favorite (though it's hard to pick just one), mainly because she creatively swears whenever she gets mad. A high bred lady during the Regency period shouldn't swear, and I adore how she throws out the rigid societal guidelines and does what she needs to do. Gretchen is a bit of a tom boy, and I hope I get to read more about her in the next novel. She seems like she'll be a fun character to get to know more. Penelope seems like a very sweet character. I assume the third book will be about her. She's is very different from the other two girls, much softer. She also doesn't subscribe to the rigid societal expectations, though. Cormac is a very brave, yet flawed character, and I absolutely loved getting to know him. He is a terrific leading male figure, and even though Emma isn't always aware of what he's doing, he always has her best interests at heart. Moira is a homeless orphan, and she also is a strong and interesting character. She is tough, but she has heart, too. I'm looking forward to learning more about her in the subsequent novels. 

The plot is intricate, and there is a lot going on. The big reveal surprised me, and that doesn't happen often. Harvey has created a complex world, but she explains everything in a clear and concise manner. There are no annoying info dumps. We learn about the world right alongside Emma, Gretchen, and Penelope. The pacing of the story is spot on, and even though the book is a bit on the long side (around 500 pages), I was never bored. I enjoyed every single page of this novel. The ending ties things up nicely while leaving room for the sequel. Thankfully there's no cliffhanger. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a paranormal twist. This is a unique novel, and the murder mystery plot will keep you on your toes. 

Buy A Breath of Frost today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway + Susan Dennard Interview!

Hey everyone! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so I'm really excited to be hosting a giveaway to celebrate my favorite spooky day! Since this is a Halloween giveaway, and I can't think of many creatures that are creepier than zombies, my giveaway is going to be the winner's choice of a book from Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly trilogy and the e-novella, A Dawn Most Wicked. If the winner lives in the US/CAN, I'll also send you a signed bookplate to go in your book. Unfortunately I can't afford the postage to do that for my international friends.

Your Choice:

There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Perfect for fans of Libba Bray's The Diviners and Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series, this spellbinding sequel to Something Strange and Deadly delivers a mix of supernatural forces and intense romance, set against the enchanting backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris.

With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and sees haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there's a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there's a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

In the conclusion to the trilogy that Publishers Weekly called “a roaring—and addictive—gothic world,” Eleanor Fitt must control her growing power, face her feelings for Daniel, and confront the evil necromancer Marcus...all before it’s too late.

He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.


Daniel Sheridan is an engineer’s apprentice on a haunted Mississippi steamer known as the Sadie Queen. His best friend–the apprentice pilot, Cassidy Cochran–also happens to be the girl he’s pining for … and the captain’s daughter. But when it looks like the Sadie Queen might get taken off the river, Daniel and Cassidy have to do whatever they can to stop the ghosts that plague the ship.

Fortunately, there happens to be a Creole gentleman on board by the name of Joseph Boyer–and he just might be able to help them...

My Interview with Susan Dennard:
Amber: How did you come up with the idea to mix zombies with steampunk? That's kind of different.
Susan: Should I talk into the mic? I knew I wanted to do Steampunk because I thought it was really cool, like the visual aesthetics. It turns out that writing Steampunk is a lot harder than making it visually cool because in a book you have to explain why you have all the spinning gears and all the cool stuff. So I quickly realized that it was going to be more Steampunk-light. It was a matter of finding a good time period. Most people do Victorian England, I wanted to do something that was American, just because I like it. I ended up finding the Centennial Exhibition, so that's why I decided to go with 1876. Through the course of researching the Exhibition, I just had this idea of, like, first of all what scares me the most is zombies. They scare me more than any other paranormal creature. Then this image of zombies crawling through the Centennial Exhibition, because the Exhibition was the Disney World of 1876. They basically made a miniature town of cool things to see. I just thought how disturbing and terrifying would that be? I guess my brain is not normal, but how disturbing and scary would that be? I thought if I was scared, then I could make the readers scared, too. So a story was born!
Amber: Do you outline your stories or do you free-write?
Susan: I'm a little bit of both. I do something called headlights outlining, which is where I sort of know my ending, so I'm kind of aiming toward it, but I only know, as far as specifics go, as far as my headlights can see. I know the next scene or two pretty specifically, then I kind of look ahead a little bit more. I'm aiming for a certain location, but I might not get there. The ending might change. I kind of let the story guide me to where it wants to go, but I really, really also let the characters guide me where they want to go because I find that if I try to force a plot to the characters, then it feels forced.
Amber: What kind of research did you do for the Strange and Deadly trilogy? The characters go to a lot of different places... did you visit them all?
Susan: Philadelphia was surprisingly the hardest for me to get to because I was living in Germany. I actually didn't get to Philadelphia until I was almost done with the book, and that was mostly to verify that I all of my facts right. For book two, Paris, my husband is Parisian, so that works out. His parents actually now live near Marseilles, so that made it easy to visit there. I also got to visit Egypt, but I did not go to Cairo of the pyramids. I was going to have the Spirit Hunters go to Luxor, which is where I got to visit, but story-wise that didn't make any sense, so I got the feel of Egypt without actually going where they went. 
Amber: Did you read historical documents to get down how they talked?
Susan: Yeah, I read a lot of primary documents, like diaries or guide books written at the time. I also did a lot of reading of novels written at the time. Henry James had a lot of books published in and around 1876 and did a lot of traveling in France, so I read a lot of his books. Mark Twain, when I was doing A Dawn Most Wicked novella, which is set on the Mississippi River, I read a lot of Mark Twain because he was at work on the Mississippi on a steamer. I got a feel for that kind of stuff by reading novels and memoirs of the time.
Amber: What can you tell us about your new series? 
Susan: It's fantasy. They've been pitching it as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, if you know those books. There's definitely magic. The first book, Truthwitch, follows a truth witch who can always tell truth from lie and her best friend, who is something called a thread witch, who can see the bonds that connect people. Unbeknownst to those girls, they are the chosen pair that is going to heal magic on their continent, but right now they're just trying to stay alive.
Amber: Yeah, that's important. With that one, is it going to be two points-of-view, between the two of them?
Susan: It's lots of points-of-view. There are four points-of-view in the first book. And there's also a sexy pirate! You have to have the sexy pirate's point-of-view, and the assassin monk I mentioned. You also need his point-of-view. So there are four points-of-view in the first book. I'm also doing some side novellas with other points-of-view with secondary, but important characters. It's a huge book.
Amber: Do you ever get stuck while writing, and if so, how do you get past the block?
Susan: I have a lot of links on that because this is something that I've spent a lot of time considering. I do get stuck a lot because I don't really outline and because I find that outlines don't work for me, I definitely get stuck. When I'm stuck, I tend to do two things. Either I write down a list of what I call my cookies, which are the things that I want to write in a scene because if I can figure out what makes me passionate about the story overall, I can figure out what would make me want to write the next scene. I know I got stuck in Truthwitch, and I didn't know what should come next. I needed to write a party scene, but I had no desire to write the party. Then I was like, "wait, if I put a sexy pirate in the party, then suddenly I do want to write this scene. Okay, that wasn't what I was thinking, but all right, let's figure this out." So, insert sexy pirate and the scene just fell out. Other times it's not that easy, it's a matter of not knowing that something was broken before. So what I'll do is go through and map out what I call my dominoes, which are sort of the emotional beats of each scene, leading up to the scene I'm in, and make sure that they're falling in a way that feels right. Is the character doing what the character really would do, or do I have her doing something wonky in a different scene. Often times that will lead me to the right spot. My last tip for when you're stuck is to figure out where all of your characters are and what they're doing. It's easy to get so focused on your point-of-view character that you lose track of what everyone else is doing at the same time. I'm really bad about that. So if you sit down, and you figure out where every single character is, fill in secondary characters' love interests, whatever, you might realize that whatever they're doing in the background will dictate what comes in your next scene, and that will help you unstick yourself. 
Amber: Do you consciously create strong female characters, or do you just write people who you would like?
Susan: There's always a different definition for a "strong" character, and Eleanor definitely comes into her strength. She's not a fighter or anything and she learns a lot from the people around her. The biggest thing she learns is to make her own choices. I don't know, I guess I always read books with strong female characters. That dictated what I wanted to read and wanted to write. I also read a lot of books where the women are just flat, or all of the characters are, and that is not what I want to write or want to read. I guess it just comes naturally. I don't want to read or write about flimsy people.

I'd just like to thank Susan again for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions. 

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Monday, October 13, 2014

GENERATION 18 by Keri Arthur

Rating: B
A serial killer strikes every twelve hours. A vampire takes lives at random. At first glance, these tragic incidents seem unrelated. But Special Investigations Unit agents Sam Ryan and Gabriel Stern trace them both back to a military base known as Hopeworth. Is the murder spree part of a cover-up? And are the vampire killings less by chance and more methodical?
The investigation takes an eerie, personal turn when Sam discovers a connection between herself and the victims—and a clue to her own mysterious origins. With the violence escalating and the danger drawing closer to home, the stakes are raised and the mission changes from seeking justice to ensuring Sam and Gabriel’s own survival. And the one person who seems to hold all the answers—about Hopeworth, about Sam’s past—is a mystery man she isn’t sure she can trust. They share a psychic link through her dreams, and he once saved her life, but he may just be the greatest enemy humankind has ever known.

My thoughts on the book:
Generation 18, the follow-up to Spook Squad, is full of suspense. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more. As the secrets of Sam's past unraveled, I became more and more engrossed in finding out exactly what she is. Arthur did an excellent job of further describing the world she's created, and I could easily picture the settings and situations that the characters found themselves in. Speaking of characters, they all evolved as the novel progressed, and I really enjoyed learning more about Stephan and the rest of Gabriel's family. Sam and Gabriel's relationship irritated me a bit, but not half as much as it irritated them, I'm sure. The plot was fast-paced, and I never got bored. This was an excellent sequel.

Sam really started to take charge of her life in this book, and I admired her for it. She began the process of becoming an extremely active and dynamic character. She was a bit passive in the first novel, being more a victim of her circumstances than a proactive participant in her own life. I liked that she wanted more out of life and decided to try and build the life she felt she deserved. Gabriel's stubbornness annoyed the living crap out of me. He was really dense about things quite often, but it was obvious that he had a good heart... I still wanted to smack him, though. I hope he comes around in the next book. Stephan was a bit harsher than I expected. He's a cold and calculating character, and I'm not sure how I feel about him yet. I'm also interested in learning more about Joshua and what his role was in Sam's life. 

The plot was complex and mysterious. I enjoyed every page of this book because Arthur kept me on my toes. The introduction of Hopeworth and the shady government plots and secret weapons was a welcome change. Many Urban Fantasy novels follow the exact same formula and never delve too deeply into political workings, but this series definitely looks at how corrupt the government can be. I also liked that the author added a bit of a sci-fi twist to the paranormal by bringing up gene splicing and genetic coding. I can't wait to see where Arthur goes with that idea. The ending tied things up nicely, but left room for the sequel. There wasn't a cliffhanger, though, thankfully. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to fans of Keri Arthur's other novels and to people who are looking for an Urban Fantasy novel that's a bit different. These books are chockfull of action, mystery, and adventure. They're light on romance, like a lot of UF, but they more than make up for it with the intricate plot and vivid world-building. Give this series a try. You won't be sorry.

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