The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted October 11, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository Add to Goodreads
Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

I’ve become quite the Jenn Bennett fangirl this year (starting with Starry Eyes), so I’d been eager to read her oldest YA title, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, to see where it all began. One thing I really love about Jenn is that she comes up with unique story lines that don’t include the typical cookie cutter characters and the typical tropes and themes. She really thinks outside the box, and I appreciate that so much because I’ve been feeling lately that I’m losing interest in YA contemporary romance. It’s all so similar, and the stories have all been told over and over again. This one is different, though, and in a very wonderful way. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Beatrix (Bex) is a medical artist. Basically, her dream is to draw extremely accurate drawings of bodies for medical publications. Interesting, right? Many teens sneak away at night to go to parties or movies, but Bex sneaks away to the hospital to draw cadavers. She’s doing this in the hopes of winning an art scholarship. I love slightly nerdy, unique heroines because they are so accepting and easy to relate to. Bex was so much fun to read about. She’s determined to get what she wants, and pushes back in the face of opposition.

2. Jack is the absolute cutest. He’s immediately interested in Bex, even though she’s not even interested in giving him the time of day. Puking in the bushes after drawing her first cadaver didn’t even chase him away. This is the kind of guy a girl needs. He’s one of San Francisco’s most wanted criminals, and he’s also the mayor’s son. Interesting, right!? He’s a very talented graffiti artist, and when you find out his motivation behind his art you’ll pretty much melt. He admires Bex’s creativity, and they bond over art, family troubles, and the excitement of being rebellious together. They are just way too cute.

3. There’s a lot of heavy themes in this story, that are nicely balanced by the silliness of two teens falling in love. Bex’s dad walked out on his family for another one. Now she and her mom and older brother live in a small place together. Bex’s room is in the dining room and her brother lives in the cement covered basement. They love each other, but have heir problems. Jack’s family has covered up mental illness to protect his dad’s image, and I love the sensitivity and realness of how mental illness is portrayed. Bex and Jack both struggle with life, and have both had to grow up quicker than many other teens. This made their relationship feel deeper to me. They have some of the best banter!

4. The romance is so sweet. In the very beginning neither of them knew much of anything about the other. Jack didn’t even know Bex’s name at first, and got to know her through her online portfolio. Then he stalked her on social media (in a cute, non-creepy way of course), and started strategically bumping into her. Things simmered for a while and built up to something really great. Their feelings felt so real and genuine to me. I love how relentlessly he pursued her.

All in all, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is a swoony little package of happy. I love this bookish couple, the family dynamics, the unique subject matter, and the feelings. I highly recommend this sweet story to anyone who is looking for a little something different from their contemporary YA.

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The Ten Longest Books I’ve Read

Posted October 8, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 41 Comments

This week you get to brag about the longest books you’ve ever read! This can be by page number, by hours and minutes in the audiobook, by days/weeks/months it took you to read it, etc. You choose how you measure “long”. For me, I’m going by page number! I’m not counting textbooks or religious texts in this list. I’m going strictly by the page numbers, and it’ll show up here even if I didn’t like it because I deserve the credit!!

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Cress by Marissa Meyer

What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?

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Top Ten Authors I’d Love to Meet

Posted October 1, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

Welcome to another TTT! This week we get to gush and flail over the authors we’d love to meet! Did any of you have as hard a time narrowing his list down to ten as I did? I’m not even going to explain why I want to meet these authors, because I started to and it just kept coming out, “I LOVE HER!!” So basically, I love all these authors and their books! I want to hug them and get them to sign my copies of all their books!

1. Tracey Garvis-Graves
2. Sarah J. Maas
3. Sarah Morgan
4. Jenna Evans Welch
5. Stephanie Perkins
6. Jenn Bennett
7. Jodi Meadows
8. Tessa Dare
9. Kerri Maniscalco
10. Stephenie Meyer

Have you met any of these authors? Tell me about it!!
Which authors would you love to meet?

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Author Interview with Jessica Brody | The Geography of Lost Things Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Posted October 1, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 4 Comments

Author Interview with Jessica Brody | The Geography of Lost Things Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Jessica Brody’s The Geography of Lost Things! As one of the brand new co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the exciting privilege of organizing this blog tour (creating the tour banner was especially fun!) and am delighted to be hosting Jessica’s welcome interview here on my blog as well!


Author Interview with Jessica Brody

Jana: Hi Jessica! I’m so excited to welcome you to my blog today to kick-start the The Geography of Lost Things blog tour!

Jessica: Thanks for hosting me on the tour! It’s been a blast!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. Your bio says you knew you wanted to be a writer from a very young age. What advice would you like to give younger Jessica about life as an author?

Haha. I think I would tell her that inspiration is not a daily occurrence. So many young writers (myself included!) believe that writing is a magical job where you wake up every day feeling inspired and motivated to write. Not. So. Most of my life as a writer is forcing myself to sit down and write even when I’m not inspired. Inspiration is great when it comes but you can’t always rely on it or you’ll never finish anything. I like to say, “Inspiration gets you started. Discipline gets you finished.” So, heed my advice, 7-year-old Jessica! Your writing life isn’t going to be as easy and carefree as it was when you wrote “The Puppy and the Kitty.”

2. You’ve written books in multiple genres, spanning middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction. Which genre(s) is/are the most fun for you to write?

I always say my favorite genre to write is the genre I’m not currently writing. LOL! It’s a classic case of the grass is always greener. When I’m writing a complicated sci-fi epic with futuristic weapons and life or death battles, all I want to do is write a nice, cozy contemporary romance. When I’m writing a nice, cozy, contemporary romance with all sorts of complicated feelings and emotional stakes, all I want to do is write a fun, middle grade comedy where the characters are too young to feel those complicated teen emotions. And round and round it goes! Every story in every genre has its own set of challenges.

3. Which of your books do you see the most of yourself in?

I find a little of myself in all of my novels. I think my characters and I end up sharing a lot of the same fears, insecurities, and shortcomings. For instance, all of my characters, in some way, experience a life lesson of “acceptance.” Accepting things you can’t change, accepting things you have little control over, accepting that sometimes things happen differently than you expected them to. It’s not a coincidence. I’m dealing with that “life lesson” every single day.

4. What’s been your favorite read so far this year?

OOH! The toughest question of them all! I’ll have to go with The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. It’s been on my TBR list for years and I finally got around to it this summer. It’s just magnificent. Beautiful, poetic, charming, uplifting. The kind of book that makes you want to run around hugging strangers. (Just me? Okay, moving on.)

5. What are you up to when you’re not writing?

Mostly, hanging out with my doggies. I have three dogs at home—a golden retriever, a great pyrenees, and a chihuahua—and they are my life. I try to spend as much time with them as I can because I always feel like I’m neglecting them when I’m neck deep in a manuscript.

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. Describe your book in 5 words or less.

Road trip with an ex.

Yikes!

2. What’s your most prized possession?

Each and every one of my books. I’m so proud of all 17 of them! Yes, they’re all different and some gave me more grief than others but I still love them equally. I’ve heard some authors describe their books as their “babies” and it really is true. With every single one you feel like you birthed something into the world.

3. Do you collect any seemingly insignificant objects?

Coffee mugs! I buy one for every book I write and it becomes my “scared totem” for that book. Which is just like me, to have a sacred totem that is completely functional. Because, hey, I need to drink my coffee out of something!

4. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

That not everything is what it seems. People can surprise you. And rarely do you ever know or understand the full story. In short, don’t be so quick to judge. When you let people in, they can surprise the crap out of you.

5. Do you have any fun road trip experiences of your own that you’d like to share?

Fun? Well, this one might be a little more scary, but it ends well. One summer, my mom and I were driving my car home from college on the east coast, and we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. There was no cell phone reception so we couldn’t call for help. We were completely stranded. Soon, a massive 18-wheeler truck pulled up behind us and a man got out. I could tell my mom was terrified but trying to hold it together for me. The driver asked if we needed help. When we told him we’d run out of gas, he offered to drive us to the nearest gas station to get gas. My mom, being the amazing super woman that she is, said very politely and kindly, “I very much appreciate the offer that but I honestly wouldn’t feel comfortable getting in the car with someone I don’t know.”

The guy could have easily left us stranded. But he didn’t. He smiled and said, “I totally get it. I have sisters and I wouldn’t want them getting into a truck with a strange man either. I’ll go get the gas for you.” He drove off and we were pretty convinced he wasn’t coming back. But then, 30 minutes alter, he pulled up behind us again. This time, he had a gas can full of gas for us. Funny, how I’ve been writing about the “kindness of strangers” for most of my adult life.


The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody
Published by Simon Pulse on October 2, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Contemporary, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

In this romantic road trip story perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, a teen girl discovers the value of ordinary objects while learning to forgive her absent father.

After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?

Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.

He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.

And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.


About Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Since then, Jessica has sold over fifteen novels for teens, tweens, and adults…

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Dark, Tragic, & Spine-Tinglingly Terrific: Halloween Book Recommendations from the God of the Underworld | Author Guest Post

Posted September 29, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Laure Holt, author of Fathoms Above, to the blog to present spooky book recommendations from Hades himself!


“Dark, Tragic, and Spine-Tinglingly Terrific”
Halloween Book Recommendations from the God of the Underworld

Ever wonder what the god of the Underworld does in his spare time? Well, when he’s not stealing souls, entertaining himself with trivial mortal pursuits, or trekking through spooky forests, ghoulish ruins, hidden underwater halls, and haunted trains in an effort to break a curse, he relishes nothing more than sitting quietly with a wicked read like these. (Curled up on a throne that’s as black as his dark little heart in front of a hearth of blazing hellfire, of course.)

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Hades has been around for a long time (like several million years). So, a historical retelling written in haunting prose that centers around creepy character Houdini, the famous escape artist, is right up his alley. Especially when the main character’s love interest has his own brand of dark, sardonic wit. In Hades’s opinion, if this book doesn’t get you in the mood for Halloween, he doesn’t know what will!

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Any book that has the word “dark” in the title makes it onto Hades’s tbr, and this next book in the Three Dark Crowns series is no exception. He is especially intrigued with the fact that Kendare Blake got the idea for this story from observing how all the queens but one in a bee colony are killed. Talk about freaky fabulous! The god of death can’t wait to see which queen comes out on top, though, if truth be told, he’s rooting for Katharine. Using the powers of dead queens and poisoning are, in his opinion, the best way to run a kingdom.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein and Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

From the vampiric hills of Transylvania to the lightning-struck tower of Victor Frankenstein, one look at the spookerific covers of Kierstin White’s latest masterpieces, and Hades was hooked. He is a secret sucker for shiny things (though he likes to blame his collection of bobbles on his raven harbingers). Still, even Persephone had to admit that these books looked pretty good on the shelf next to all of his human skulls and glowing soul jars.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

It should come as no surprise that Hades’s favorite holiday is Halloween. Not only is he death personified (though please don’t expect him to show up on your doorstep in a black hooded cloak carrying a scythe. That look is so nineties.) But when you live in an underground castle in the land of the dead guarded by a small army of mythical nasties, you’ve already won the house decorating contest. At that point, all you can do is embrace the inherent darkness. And Shea Ernshaw’s debut book, with witches, spooky magic, small town legends, and curses, sounds chock full of chills and thrills. Needless to say, Hades is super excited to give this one a try!


Fathoms Between by Laura Holt
Series: Star Crossed #3
Self-published on October 2, 2018
GoodreadsAmazon

It worked.

Cather Stevens thwarted the curse of star-crossed love that has plagued the women in her family for centuries. All it took was a marriage to Peter Ganis, the last living descendant of Pyramus’s bloodline, whose sway over her grows stronger with each passing day. The pieces of Thisbe’s soul are still out there, though. To erase the curse, Cather must travel to Greece’s most mythological places and track each one down with the help of her husband and Hermes, the Book Keeper and Messenger of the gods, who still holds a piece of her heart that neither is willing to give up.

But when an unexpected tragedy befalls Peter, Cather is forced to put her trust in none other than Hades, god of the Underworld and Zeus’s biggest rival. With magical assassins on their tail and danger lurking around every corner, they must work together to reunite the soul pieces before Ares, god of War, who was sent to Earth to stop them, destroys them and dooms Cather, her family, and both the men she loves forever.


About Laura Holt

Laura Holt is from a small Georgia town, where she lives with her daughter. Growing up as the oldest of three sisters, Laura used her imagination to make up stories as a way to escape from the sometimes crazy-making monotony of everyday life. As she got older, her love of stories grew into a love of books, especially fantasy, and eventually, she wrote her own stories down as well. When Laura isn’t busy writing or thinking up a new way to promote the Star Crossed series, she can be found curled up on the couch reading, working out, or spending time with her daughter. A few of their favorite pastimes include watching shows like Merlin on Netflix, shopping, and going treasure hunting. Laura is also active in the children’s ministry at her local church, is addicted to Pinterest, loves anything chocolate (as long as it doesn’t have soy in it), and is always looking for a new way to get her daily adrenaline fix.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book Review

Posted September 27, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | Book ReviewRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Children's Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Simply put, I loved everything about Rebel of the Sands, from the beautiful cover to the amazingly fitting title to the words inside. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. THE COVER. Moving on.

2. The story is this awesome middle eastern, wild west, Aladdin, mystic conglomeration with magic and mythical horses and sand and a sultan and a secret world of magical and powerful beings. It’s just so unique and exciting. It grabbed me from the first page.

3. The world feels both modern and historic. There’s djinni and ghouls and traversing the desert by horse, but there’s also modern technology like gun factories and trains. This hybrid of various world building elements felt very fresh. So often we see fantasies pulling elements from fairytales or other tried and true fantasy novels, but Rebel of the Sands feels very original and authentic.

4. Amani is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart, sassy, and filled with quick wit and the perfect amount of paranoia to make her someone you can really get behind, rather than a dumb damsel in distress. There’s no Bella complex going on here. I really love heroines that start out at rock bottom because they have nothing to lose and make quick decisions that have the power to change their lives. That’s Amani. When we meet her, her life is the epitome of misery. She’s an orphan living with her uncle who might force her to marry him, and she’s scrimping and saving so she can escape before it’s too late. You’d think she’d be submissive and quiet living under these circumstances, but she has this fire and will not be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

5. Jin is so perfect. He’s so mysterious and caring and he gave me the swoons. I loved the chemistry between him and Amani because there’s this intrigue underneath a strongly developing friendship. They look out for each other and have some of the sweetest moments.

6. This book isn’t really romancey, and I liked that a lot. So often the world and the important details sit in the back seat while the romance drives the entire story. There are hints of romance, and those hang out in the trunk. Or the luggage rack. This story is about so much more than a possible romance. However, that’s not to say things won’t get swoonier in the next book.

7. The secondary characters are just as perfect. Alwyn’s debut taught me that if she’s going to write in a detail she’s going to flesh it out. Every thing, person, and event is in this book for an important reason. There’s no filler here.

8. I can’t say anything bad about this book. I loved the writing, the details, the imagery. everything. I can’t wait for book 2!

Basically, you should read this. I mean, you have to at least be a LITTLE curious to see how an author can successfully combine the Wild West and the Middle East right? I highly recommend Rebel of the Sands.

This review was originally posted on May 13, 2016.

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Author Interview With Mila Young | Apollo Is Mine Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 26, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 1 Comment

Author Interview With Mila Young | Apollo Is Mine Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Mila Young’s Apollo Is Mine (book #1 in the Harem of the Gods series), hosted by Rockstar Book Tours! Pardon the late arrival of this post. We had a gmail mishap, and I only just received Mila’s interview today.

I’m excited to have Mila stop by the blog today and participate in this month’s Magic, Myth, & Mischief interview series!


Interview With Mila Young

What makes your book magical, mythical, and/or mischievous?
A reviewer recently described Apollo Is Mine as Shadowhunter meets sexy Greek gods with lots of steam! Elyse, the heroine comes from a long lineage of hunters who have been blessed by Zeus to fight mythical creatures that come to Earth to kill humans. They are the last line of defense, except Elyse is the last of her kind, and even supernatural abilities may not be enough when Hades arrives in town with Death right on his heels.

What magical power do you wish you had?
To control water… imagine all the good I could do on Earth :)

If you were a character in a fairy tale/myth, who would you be?
Ariel from Little Mermaid… I grew up loving this fairy tale and have wanted to be a mermaid for ever!! Haha

If you could live in any fairytale or mythical world, which one would you choose to live in and why?
Harry Potter world… of course :P

Dragons or unicorns?
Unicorns!!

Hans Christian Andersen, Grimms Brothers, or Disney?
Grimms Brothers… I grew up being told these kind of tales, hence my twisted imagination when it comes to tales :)

Which magical/mythical creatures do you love reading about in books?
Werewolves. Don’t know why but I watch everything and anything on them I can get my hands on .

What recipe would you use to create your own gingerbread house?
No idea if it would work, but I would love to make a gingerbread house out of snickerdoodles… drool!

Who are your favorite villains of lore?
Ursula

Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
Villain

Would you rather be locked up in a tower or a dungeon?
Tower

What elements of the (fairy tale/myth/retelling) did you use when incorporating the tale into your own novel?
I have written my own spin on Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid and Rapunzel :) They can be found here.

Which magical/mythical creatures exist in your books?
Oh I definitely have lots… from werewolves, to lion and dragon shifters, to gargoyles and genies, to Greek gods and death casters.


Apollo Is Mine by Mila Young
Series: Harem of The Gods #1
Self-published on September 18, 2018
Add to Goodreads
Amazon

I’m a warrior. Cursed to fight monsters. Sworn to act as Zeus’ sword to protect mankind.

But I’d give it all up for one last kiss with the god who stole my heart…Apollo.

I never wanted to carry my family’s legacy. But blood ties cannot be broken, and I’ll keep the promise I made my father on his dying bed. Legendary monsters hunt in city streets of Chicago, and my job was to take down the worst.

I’ve trained with Heracles.

Been blessed with super human powers.

What I’ve never done is fallen in love—until Apollo crossed my path. But he isn’t the only god to catch my attention. Hades is here too, and with him comes a darkness that leaves behind a trail of human bodies. Heracles and my gut instinct urges me to destroy this creature, but each step brings me closer to the truth…

Darkness cannot win…or the Earth will tumble into chaos and I’ll lose the god I’ve come to love…Apollo is mine.

Apollo is Mine is book 1 in the Harem of the Gods reverse harem series.

Content Warning: Steamy love scenes, dominating alphas who protect their female, and plenty of sexy Greek gods who will leave you breathless.


About Mila Young

Bestselling Author, Mila Young tackles everything with the zeal and bravado of the fairytale heroes she grew up reading about. She slays monsters, real and imaginary, like there’s no tomorrow.

By day she rocks a keyboard as a marketing extraordinaire. At night she battles with her might pen-sword, creating fairytale retellings, and sexy ever after tales. In her spare time, she loves pretending she’s a mighty warrior, walks on the beach with her dogs, cuddling up with her cats, and devouring every fantasy tale she can get her pinkies on.

Mila’s Newsletter | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Group

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Top Ten Books By My Favorite Authors I Still Need to Read

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 26 Comments

This week’s topic is all about the authors you love and the books of theirs you still want to read. Some of my favorite authors have written books I’m actually not interested in, so I’m just going to mention the ones I’m really excited about. Hopefully I get the time to read these soon!

 

Sarah J. Maas

1. A Court of Wings and Ruin

Stephanie Perkins

2. Isla and the Happily Ever After

Christina Lauren

3. Dating You / Hating You

Kasie West

4. Lucky In Love


5. Love, Life, and the List

Tracey Garvis-Graves

6. White-Hot Hack

Tessa Dare

7. Any Duchess Will Do


8. One Dance With a Duke

Jodi Meadows

9. The Orphan Queen

Sarah Morgan

10. Sleepless In Manhattan

What should I read first?
Which books did you put on your list this week?

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The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles (or how I came to love Benadryl) by Sarah McGuire | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 4 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Sarah McGuire, author of The Flight of Swans, to the blog to talk about her new book and a crazy run-in she had with some stinging nettles while she was doing some research for it!


The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles
(or how I came to love Benadryl)

by Sarah McGuire

For me, writing a novel-length fairy tale retelling involves exploring what I love about the tale and what I want to change. In Grimm’s “Six Swans,” I’d loved that a girl did the saving. The young princess single-handedly saves her older brothers by remaining silent for six years and making them shirts out of stinging nettles.

Stinging nettles are the centerpiece of the original tale and there’s just something about the name. They sound like such sinister plants! It was easy to imagine a girl with blistered, perhaps even bleeding, hands weeping as she made six shirts.

And yet…

… it felt like the narrator sat there, saying, “You’re not going to talk? Well, what if you have to live alone? Okay, still won’t talk? What about if I make you work with stinging nettles that destroy your hands? Still won’t talk? You should marry this guy and have two babies–all while you can’t speak.”

“Six Swans” was all about the heroine’s endurance. But in The Flight of Swans, I wanted Andaryn to have agency. I wanted to show all the ways she sought to communicate even when she couldn’t speak, and how hard she worked to save her brothers.

That’s when I realized just what I wanted to change about my retelling. (Well, that and the romantic interest. That man was a mess! But that’s another blog post…) Andaryn wouldn’t just survive the nettles–she’d outwit them. And the more I researched nettles, the more I realized that was possible.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Nettles were a primary source of fabric in Europe before linen. That may be why the Grimms’ version of the tale (gathered as folklore) is fairly matter-of-fact about nettles, while Hans Christian Anderson’s “Wild Swans” involves so much suffering. I doubt Anderson had much experience with stinging nettles except for occasionally being stung by some.
  • There’s a way you can touch nettles so that you don’t get stung. Thank you, YouTube! There were even folks who tore leaves off the nettle plants and ATE them.
  • Stinging nettles are incredibly nutritious.

But research isn’t anything without trying it yourself, right? So I met with Krista, a local farmer whocultivated and harvested stinging nettles. She told me how people with arthritis would use the nettles to sting the affected areas– and that it helped. She told me that you got used to the stings. The first stings of the season hurt, but you’d hardly notice them by the end of the season.

Then she asked if I wanted to try it. And–this was probably me–it seemed like she wondered if I would actually do it.

Oh, I wanted to harvest them. (Because research. Also ego.) I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a handful of nettles (the wrong way- because research!) and started hacking away. When I had an entire grocery bag of nettles, Krista looked at my welt-covered arms and told me that I had the strongest reaction to nettles she’d seen in a while.

I nodded bravely (because, ego) but to be honest, my arms looked worse than they felt.

By the time I’d driven home, the welts had disappeared. My hands and arms looked normal, and the pain was definitely manageable. Perhaps the fairy tale had been overestimating how much stinging nettles hurt.

A few hours later, I’d changed my mind. Every bit of skin that had been stung burned, and even the slight pressure of typing on laptop hurt. The pain was prickly from the inside–the way it feels when you lose circulation in your foot and then stand up. Except it didn’t stop. A few hours later, it still hadn’t stopped.

I chickened out by bedtime and took an antihistamine. Even so, I still felt triumphant. Because while I’d definitely harvested the nettles the wrong way, I’d also realized that I could strip an entire nettle stalk of its leaves without getting stung. I won’t lie–I was proud of that.

Here’s what stinging nettles taught me. Yes, awful things happen, and we writers do awful things to our characters. But it’s also important to concentrate on the way that we (and they!) fight back.

I love that.

The Flight of Swans wasn’t an easy book to write. Andaryn is mute for most of it. I had to cover six years of her life without bogging down the story. And while I’d loved researching nettles, the story needed to be about so much more than the nettles.

But for me the research on nettles allowed me to create the sort of heroine that I love. Yes, Ryn endures a great deal, but she doesn’t just endure this curse. She fights it. And for me, that is always, always, the kind of story I want to read.


The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Published October 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books
Genres: Middle Grade — Fantasy, Retelling
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Based on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn’s journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors–until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bitter bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. She never thought she’d have to discover the secret to undoing the Queen’s spell while eluding the Otherworldly forces that hunt her. And she never thought she’d have to do it alone, without speaking a single word.

As months as years go by, Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech . . . and that she is stronger than the Queen could have ever imagined.


About Sarah McGuire

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

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Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted September 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Firelight by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewFirelight by Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight #1
Also in this series: Hidden
Published by HarperTEEN on September 7, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 323
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it!
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.


Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki, a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away;if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

The story of Jacinda and Will grabbed me from page one and had me reading long into a night I should have spent sleeping instead of reading. I’ve often wondered if my bookishness is detrimental to my health and personal well-being, but I digress! Back to the subject at hand… I’m having a hard time reviewing this book, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written a review probably 5 times already, and I’m still not happy with it. Maybe it’s because the story has a lot in common with other YA Paranormal romances out there. I’m not saying it’s not worth the read, I’m just not sure what I can say about it that’s new, other than the fact that we’re dealing with dragons. I’ll try!

Jacinda’s glowing orange skin and intricate wings are not all she has going for her. All Draki have a special talent. Some can breathe underwater, some can control human minds, and some can fly extremely fast. Jacinda breathes fire—a talent that was thought to have died out long ago before she was discovered. Thus, she is extremely valuable to pride. Things were planned out and set in motion for her to marry the Draki prince, Cassian, and create a ton of little fire-breathers just like herself. This unappealing future, mixed with her rebellious nature, mixed with the fact that she barely came home alive after being tracked and shot by a group of hunters prompted her mother to sneak Jacinda and her non-draki twin sister, Tamra, out of the pride and move to Arizona. Her mother chose Arizona because drakis can’t survive in such dry and barren conditions. Jacinda’s draki would eventually die off just like her mother’s, and they could live normal, safe lives as humans. Jacinda was not ok with this and did everything she could to keep her withering draki alive. Then, she saw Will—one of the hunters she encountered the night her mother forced them to flee. He was the one who stared into her draki eyes that night and let her go, leading his family of hunters away from her. They lock eyes in the hall at school, and an instant connection is made. He ignites the draki within her, and she captivates him for a reason he can’t quite figure out. Even though he’s the one who keeps her draki alive, she has to constantly fight her attraction to him (and resist his to her) and keep her distance. She can never let him know what she is without risking the lives of all those she holds dear. The hunters can never find out their best-kept secret—that draki can take on human form.

I really enjoyed this book! First off, how refreshing is it to finally have the girl be the paranormal one? Yes, there are a few mythical heroines out there, but we all know it’s usually the guy. It was fun to read how a girl deals with being different. Jacinda is SO driven by her emotions. She goes through highs and lows, and she’s always freaking out about everything. She’s not calm, cool, and collected like our mainstream paranormal heroes in other novels. I’m not saying she’s spastic and annoying. She certainly handled things better than I would have. I just enjoyed reading about her inner struggle rather than a guy’s, like I usually do.

This book moved really quickly! The tension built up fast, and I found myself trying to read faster than my brain could handle. There was no lollygagging in this book, and I really enjoyed that about it. I never got bored.

The romance between Will and Jacinda was believable, but maybe not for their age group. I never thought of them as high school juniors. They have a very mature relationship, which I was happy about, as I have a hard time enjoying the whiny teenage romances. Even though the romance did not seem realistic for their ages, the high school life was pretty real to me. I remember when I moved to a new high school, I struggled with fitting in. I was picked on. Jacinda went through the same motions I did, and I felt for her and could relate to how she was feeling. She was a total fish out of water, with only one friend who wasn’t even really a friend—more like a person to sit with and talk to. High school’s really hard, and Jacinda dealt with it.

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of characters to like in this book. There was an overabundance of villains: the alpha of her pride (who wanted her for selfish reasons), her mom (who lied to her frequently, and tried to kill off an important part of Jacinda), her sister (who should have tried to be more supportive of Jacinda’s situation), Will’s family (who were complete and total jerks to Will, and almost perverts towards Jacinda), the school bullies (who tried to make her life a living hell, and even attacked her). I’m not used to only liking the two main people. I guess the author chose to do this in order to emphasize the odds against Will and Jacinda, but I really wanted to like more people!

I loved that Jacinda was so true to herself, against all these odds. She didn’t just sit back and let her mother get what she wanted (a draki-free Jacinda). They argued and fought all the time. Her mom kept so many secrets from her, and then when she finally told Jacinda the truth, she wasn’t even nice about it. This woman is just not a good mother figure—and I found her character to be a bit hard to believe sometimes. I know she was trying to protect Jacinda, but she rarely ever showed any compassion, empathy, or even love.

For the most part, I enjoyed the writing style. Several reviewers have mentioned that the book was laced consistently with sentence fragments, which got rather annoying. I totally agree. This is definitely not a book for people looking for pristine literary writing. I had to re-read and re-think some of the passages, just because my mind was not following the choppy writing style. It helped to add to the suspense, but it detracted a bit from everything else. Other than that, the action scenes were done very well and the author’s descriptions left little to be desired. She gave me enough information to be able to picture everything in my mind, but not so much that my mind couldn’t take a few liberties and allow my creative juices to fill in the gaps.

Regardless of a few complaints, I loved the premise, the story, the character development of both Jacinda and Will, the fact that Jacinda is such a likeable heroine, the descriptive passages that painted pictures in my mind, the fast-paced storyline that kept my eyes glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning, and the fact that now I think dragons are sexy.

This review was originally posted on February 22, 2012, and was re-posted for some extra love.

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